1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 1:105-07.



This gentleman, whose fame as a Poet has lately arisen with such splendour above our literary horizon, is a native of Bristol, and was formerly a member of Jesus College Cambridge. While resident of that learned seminary, he was recognized by the discerning few, as an embryo-Genius, likely one day to illuminate the age in which he lived, though not then distinguished by any unprecedented marks of Academical Greatness. He founds his present reputation upon a duodecimo volume of Poems, which was first printed at his native place, and has since been augmented and republished in the metropolis. It has experienced a very flattering reception, and is eminently distinguished by those loftier displays of boldness and novelty of sentiment. His Monody on his townsman Chatterton, which is the first piece of this volume, has been particularly admired. Mr. Coleridge also contributed about four hundred lines, at the beginning of the second book, of his friend Mr. Southey's epic poem, Joan of Arc, with whom he shares the poet's wreath.

Ambo florentes Aetatibus, Arcades ambo,
Et cantare pares, et respondere parati.

Though so much may in justice be said of Mr. Coleridge's Genius and Poetical Talents, there are certain marks of haste, negligence, and sometimes affectation, which cannot but impair the credit of his compositions with many readers. When he wrote the preface to his volume of poems, he might have had Dryden in his eye, and been enamoured of the character of a Genius; yet should he have reflected that it was not the foibles, eccentricities and careless ebulitions of that character, which deserved his imitation, but, that to preserve its spirit without partaking its delinquencies, would have redounded most truly to his honour. Mr. Coleridge also published, in 1795, a pamphlet entitled, Conciones ad Populum, or Addresses to the People: The Fall of Robespierre, an Historic Drama: and another pamphlet, entitled A Protest against certain Bills, or the Plot discovered. An Address to the People against ministerial Treason, published November the 28th, 1795. In the year following he published a weekly Miscellany, entitled, The Watchman, an undertaking in which he appears not to have estimated his talents with peculiar felicity: and the Watchman beat his last round after ten weeks service. He has also published a poem, entitled, A Prospect of Peace. Every true friend to Genius and Worth must lament that the early prospects of Mr. Coleridge have been darkened and despoiled of their extent: that he has experienced the discouragement of disappointed hope and felt the anguish of distressed adversity.