Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Biographical Study

By E. K. Chambers | Go to book overview

II
CAMBRIDGE October 1791-December 1794

COLERIDGE came up to Cambridge in October 1791. His exhibition was soon augmented by a Rustat Scholarship, tenable at Jesus by sons of clergymen, and he had the promise of some help from his family. His destiny was still regarded as the Church, and Bishop William Buller of Exeter had promised him a title to Orders.1 At Jesus he as yet knew no one, and was rather shocked to find that Dr. William Pearce, the Master, and the tutors were still on vacation. But he was befriended by Middleton at Pembroke. Rooms were assigned to him, and he was approached by an upholsterer, who asked him how he would like them furnished. 'Just as you please, Sir,' said Coleridge, supposing the man to be employed by the College. It was, he maintained, the fons et origo of all his misfortunes. Three or four rush chairs and a deal table would have served his turn.2 Unfortunately, the source lay deeper. The first year, however, seems to have been one of steady reading, more in classics than mathematics. He took to writing Greek verse, and planned to compete for all the University prizes. His nights were spent with Middleton over their books for some hours, and then became Noctes Atticae over size and college ale until midnight. He lived soberly, avoiding for the most part convivial suppers and wine parties, although he does describe one, at which several freshmen got drunk. His chief friend at Jesus was George Caldwell, who seems also to have been a good influence. Middleton, however, left Cambridge in the spring of 1792, having been disappointed in his hopes of obtaining a Fellowship.3

There are several letters to George. Coleridge has rheumatism, and here we get the first reference to opium, which he

____________________
1
C.9; G. I , 365, 374; Carlyon, i. 242.
2
C.8; G.316; Gillman, 41.
3
C.9-12; G. 1, 2, 323; Gillman, 43, 49, 51; C. W. Le Bas, Life of Middletown.

-17-

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