1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Cyrus Redding, in Fifty Years' Recollections (1858) 3:68-69.



Thelwall, so long known to the public, from having been tried with Horne Tooke and Hardy, for high treason, came to Bath to lecture, while I was there, and was found dead in his bed. He was a consequential man, but had the merit of being politically consistent. He took pupils for the purpose of instructing them in elocution, with a view to qualify them for the senate, soon after I first came to London. Coleridge died at this period, the chief of the Lake school of verse, to my seeming, who sacrificed his eminent abilities to his love of conversation. His powers have not been overrated. He loved subtleties — a passion for which he seemed to have caught from the Germans, whose lives are spent in this kind of trifling. He found an analogy for everything started that was new to him, and into that speedily drew the novel topic, which then disappeared. What was clear to himself he could paint when he pleased, with great vividness. He was a dreamer, who found as much pleasure in the unsubstantial as in the real, but he wasted his powers. Of all the Lake School he was the least of an egotist; or not a hundredth part so magnificent a professor as Southey, or, above all, Wordsworth, who approached self-deification in that respect. His conversation was rich with ideas — soap-bubbles, brilliant with colour, and sparkling with light, which flashed upon the vision a moment and vanished. I remember his play of "Remorse" acted. It had fine passages; but its author was too descriptive for the drama, not identifying himself with his characters. He was master of the tender and profound; and in criticism was more given to censure than praise everything out of the line of his own notion of the fitness of things. He jilted his own fame. He suffered severely during his last illness, which he sustained with equanimity and resignation. He displayed more of the warmth of passion, as a poet, than all the rest of the school, in which and in energy, they were ever exceedingly deficient. In person he was a heavy and full.