Letters of Hartley Coleridge

By Grace Griggs Evelyn; Earl Griggs Leslie et al. | Go to book overview

a great defaulter. For having procrastinated the composition till I was unable to complete it in time, I dared not face the College with a fair confession of the fact, but absented myself, to the considerable inconvenience and disorder of the assembled fellows; and this offence being overlook'd, on condition, of a better performance, my production was not such, either as to quantity or quality, as to give satisfaction.

I cannot deny moreover that in two or three instances, I drank somewhat too freely, so as to be visibly disorder'd on my return home--but not so as to produce any deprivation, either mental or bodily, of the power of directing my own words, and actions: two of these instances occur'd at passing parties of my own Pupils; the other, which has been much dwelt upon, arose from my thinking (perhaps erroneously) that I was bound in civility not absolutely to refuse a stranger, who had just taken his Master's degree. As I was not previously acquainted with this man, who, it seems, had not acquired the favour of his superiors while an Undergraduate, my remaining with him, and drinking more certainly than was prudent, has been adduced to prove a love of liquor, and predilection for improper Society. I can only reply, and that with heartfelt confidence, that it was nothing but a fear of seeming inhospitable that prevented me from declining the introduction of more wine after the other fellows had left the Common-room, and that whatever I drank myself--was solely from compliance with what I conceived to be politeness; in fact, my offence was, the not having fortitude enough even tacitly to reprove another. As to my inviting him to dine with me next day, it arose from a mere compliment on my part, which he understood so, as to lay me almost under a necessity of paying him that attention. Of his character I knew nothing--this doubtless made my behaviour towards him imprudent, but I leave you to judge how far the above-mentioned inference from it was fair or candid. In no instance did I continue drinking after I felt myself sensibly affected, nor did any of the cases I have spoken of occur till after I had that conversation with Mr. Whately, in which I denied intemperance to have been the cause of late hours, or College irregularities.

[Letter breaks off thus.]


M
This fragment of a letter in SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE's handwriting, addressed to the WARDEN OF MERTON COLLEGE, was apparently drafted by Coleridge for Hartley's use in formulating the preceding letter.

[ December, 1820.]

. . . to put you in possession as fully as it is in my power to do, of the relation in which I stand at present to my Electors, and in

-320-

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