1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Cottle

Henry Crabb Robinson, 28 August 1836; Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence (1870; 1872) 2:178.



I called on Joseph Cottle, residing in a neat house with his maiden sister. I was expected, and the Cottles were prepared to show me every attention. I declined an invitation to dinner, but spent the evening with them. And I rendered him a service by strengthening him in his resolution to disregard all objections to his printing in his forthcoming Recollections of Southey, Coleridge, Wordsworth, &c. the letter of Coleridge to Mr. Wade, giving an account of his sad habit of opium-eating. This letter was given Cottle by Coleridge, with the express injunction to publish it after his death as a warning. Equally clear was it to me that Cottle had not a right merely, but that it was his duty, to make known that De Quincey, in the generosity of youth, had given Coleridge 300. But I advised him to give the facts as they were, without the account he had drawn up respecting objections. He afterwards published a work — more than respecting Coleridge, by which the family of Coleridge were justly displeased. Cottle mistook his vocation when he thought himself a poet. It was from his poem, Malvern Hills, that, in 1808, Amyot and I, fatigued with the steep ascent of one of those hills, amused ourselves by quoting the lines—

It needs the evidence of close deduction
To know that I shall ever reach the top.

But, notwithstanding this weakness, Joseph Cottle was a worthy, and indeed excellent man. For his poem entitled King Alfred his friends called him the Regicide.