Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Vol. 5

By Earl Leslie Griggs; Samuel Taylor Coleridge | Go to book overview
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she wished to have a party of friends to dine with him. I accordingly engaged myself -- and yesterday I received a note to remind me of my promise --

I have entered into this detail to let you understand, how little I yield to my inclinations in not joining Mr and Mrs W. and Dorothy at your table1 -- anxious as I am to see them -- & obliged by your friendly invitation --

Yours, dear Sir, truly,

S. T. Coleridge


FOREWORD

to the Letters of 1820 concerning Hartley Coleridge's Loss of his Fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford

(Letters 1241-1257)

The following account, which includes the surviving papers concerning Hartley Coleridge's downfall at Oriel, presents the tragic circumstances in some detail, particularly as they relate to Coleridge. It will serve not only to clarify many of the statements in the letters which Coleridge wrote during the latter part of the year 1820, but also to reveal the extent of his activities in his son's behalf.

Wholly untutored in the ways of the world, Hartley Coleridge matriculated at Merton College on 6 May 1815. Awkward, little over five feet in height, and with black hair, thick eyebrows, and a beard 'which a Turk might envy', he was as unprepossessing in appearance as he was eccentric in manners. He was not only painfully conscious of his 'oddities', which in the past had subjected him to ridicule, but he regarded them as an unchangeable part of his nature and harboured a 'feeling or phantasy of an adverse destiny'. He was unusually endowed intellectually, his principles were thoroughly good, his nature open and lovable, but a deeply-ingrained habit of procrastination, an instinctive cowardice as to mental pain, 'an overweening confidence in his own talents', and a tendency to resist authority were ominous forewarnings of the future. At Merton, however, he won the approbation not only of his fellow undergraduates but of the college authorities as well. In the Michaelmas term of 1818 he successfully passed his examination, and early in 1819 he received his degree, being placed in the second class. Somewhat reluctantly he offered himself as a candidate for an Oriel fellowship, 'duty, vanity, and the fear of being shipped off to Brazil' leading him to make the trial. On 14 April 1819 he was elected probationary fellow of Oriel. As one of his examiners reported, he was successful 'against Candidates of powerful Talents and after an examination MOST HIGHLY to his Credit,

____________________
1
The Wordsworths and Dorothy, who were in London at this time, left for the Continent on 10 July. See Middle Years, ii. 877.

-57-

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