Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Walter Scott, in "Living Poets" Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808 (1810) 2:427-28.

We are, in some degree, uncertain whether we ought to view COLERIDGE as subject to our critical jurisdiction, at least under this department. He seems to have totally abandoned poetry for the mists of political metaphysics, — mists which, we fear, the copious eloquence showered from his cloudy tabernacle will rather increase than dispel. With extensive learning, an unbounded vigour of imagination, and the most ready command of expression both in verse and prose, — advantages which none of his predecessors enjoy in a greater, if any possess them in an equal degree; this author has been uniformly deficient in the perseverance and the sound sense which were necessary to turn his exquisite talents to their proper use. He has only produced in a complete state one or two small pieces, and every thing else, begun on a larger scale, has been flung aside and left unfinished. This is not all: Although commanding the most beautiful poetical language, he has every now and then thought fit to exchange it for the gratuitous pleasure of introducing whole stanzas of quaint and vulgar doggrel. These are the passages which render learning useless, and eloquence absurd; which make fools laugh, and malignant critics "dance and leap," but which excite, in readers of taste, grief and astonishment, as evidence of talents misapplied, and genius furnishing arms against itself to low-minded envy. To Mr. Coleridge we owe some fragments of the most sublime blank verse, and some lyric passages of a soft and tender nature, we believe unequalled. The verses addressed to The Memory of a Deceased Friend, and those called An Introduction to the Tale of the Dark Ladie, are sufficient proofs of our assertion. But these are short or unfinished performances, and others, which we could quote from the same author are of a nature so wild, so unrestrained by any rules either in the conception or in the composition; forming such a mixture of the terrible with the disgusting, of the tender with the ludicrous, and of moral feeling with metaphysical sophistry, that we can hardly suppose the author who threw forth such crude effusions is serious in obtaining a rank among the poets of his country, nor do we feel at liberty to press upon him a seat of honour, which, from his conduct, he would seem to hold in no esteem.