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selves to impress his readers. It may have been that as a practical man, under the imperious necessity of producing what would sell, helfelt that he could not afford to wait and watch for moments of inspiration, but must go in search of subjects capable of impressive treatment. This at least was what he did, and his poetry has not one quality in common with Wordsworth’s. Rebellion against the tyranny of the couplet, it might be said, for Southey threw himself with presumptuous energy into metrical experiments, and his epics abound in irregular freaks of rhythm. But such vagaries were no part of Wordsworth's system, although at the time there is no doubt that, forming as they did the most superficially striking feature of Southey’s “ Thal. aba,” they confirmed the impression that he was leagued with Wordsworth and Coleridge in a conspiracy to propagate the heresies of the Preface to the "Lyrical Ballads."
It was, in fact, in a review of “Thalaba” in the first number of the Edinburgh Review, in 1802, that the existence of the Lake School was first proclaimed to the world. The reviewer had probably heard that all three poets were domiciled in the Lake Country, and, looking to the obtrusive irregularities of “Thalaba” and the startling paradoxes of Wordsworth's poetic gospel, it was natural, perhaps, that he should jump to the conclusion that this band of brothers had retired from the world to work out in secluded companionship the doctrines of the Preface. It was a circumstance in favor of a conclusion recommended by its dramatic effectiveness that, some years before, Southey and Coleridge had published a volume in conjunction, while Wordsworth and Coleridge were the joint authors of the “ Lyrical Ballads.” The truth was that Southey was not at the time a resident in the Lake Country, though Coleridge was established there for the sake of Wordsworth's companionship, and Coleridge and Southey had married sisters, and Mrs. Southey had spent some
COLERIDGE'S INFLUENCE ON WORDSWORTH
months with Mrs. Coleridge while Southey, not yet settled down to his life-work as a man of letters, was wandering about in vague prospect of diplomatic employment. It was not till 1803 that Southey finally resolved to look to literature for a livelihood, and fixed his residence at Greta Hall near Keswick ; and it was for domestic reasons rather than for the sake of Wordsworth's society that he chose this residence in the Lake country-his acquaintance with Wordsworth being, in fact, slight, and his sympathy with Wordsworth's poetical theories far from intimate. The ordinary cares of this world had a paramount hold on Southey in those years, and his foremost anxiety was to find the means of reconciling them with his poetic ambition ; far from his thoughts was any idea of sharing as a sworn confederate in another man's mission. It was chance, and not community of aim or community of sentiment, that brought the three poets together in their early manhood. There can be no confederacy without a leader, and these three were too strong in their energies and distinct in their individualities to submit one to another's purposes in life. The links between them were slight and transient, and had all been accidentally formed by Coleridge, the man of many projects and quickly kindled generous sympathy with the works of others, all the freer in its play that he had no very definite work of his own. But the contemporary
Edinburgh Reviewer could not be aware of these details which have been disclosed to posterity; and several superficial facts were in his favor when he coined the nickname of the Lake School.
Of the three, Coleridge and Wordsworth, though as different as possible in character, had most in common in their views of poetry. The doctrines of the Preface most probably took shape in Wordsworth's mind during those long walks and talks with Coleridge in the summer of 1797 to which I have before alluded. There can be no doubt that his friendship with Coleridge in their early manhood was a most important influence in the development of Wordsworth’s mental and poetic life. There is a marked difference between what he wrote before and after. I would even go so far, arguing from the precision with which Wordsworth uses psychological terms in the Preface, that not a little of his theory was consciously or unconsciously derived from Coleridge. And the basis of my argument would be this : Wordsworth was not a reader of philosophy, and he professed to detest mental analysis; yet the analysis of the creative faculty in the Preface is at once profound and clear. Coleridge, on the other hand, had a passion for philosophy ; bis quick and subtle intellect revelled in its intricacies; it was his delight before poetry even when he was a school-boy, and when he was an old man he could hardly be brought to converse on any other subject. Only the year before he sought the acquaintance of Wordsworth, the first son born to him, the ill-starred Hartley Coleridge, had been named after the English philosopher whose technical language is used throughout Wordsworth's Preface, not without the awkwardness and crabbedness that comes from want of familiarity. Coleridge was saturated with Hartley's psychology when he and Wordsworth first met ; and when he was full of a subject, his eloquence about it was unmatchedly rich and full. A new Plato would find admirable subjects for imaginary dialogues in these conversations between Coleridge and Wordsworth when they met almost daily for a whole year. Only Plato himself could hardly have done justice to the abundance and eloquence, the wide discursiveness, of Coleridge's talk. Carlyle saw and heard him in his old age, and has left a description that is often quoted :
“I have heard Coleridge talk with eager musical energy two stricken hours, his face radiant and moist, and communicate no meaning whatsoever to any individual of his hearers, certain
of whom, I for one, still kept eagerly listening in hope; the most had long before given up and formed, if the room was large enough, secondary humming groups of their own. . . You swam and fluttered in the mistiest, wide, unintelligible deluge of things, for most part in a rather profitless uncomfortable manner. Glorious islets too I have seen rise out of the haze, but they were few, and soon swallowed in the general element again. Balmy sunny islets, islets of the blest, and the intelligible ;- -on which occasions those secondary humming groups would all cease humming and hang breathless upon the eloquent words, till once your islet got wrapt in the mist again, and they would recommence humming. Eloquent, artistically expansive words, you had always; piercing radiances of a most subtle insight came at intervals.”
Part of this unirtelligibility may have been due to the listener, for Coleridge in his Highgate days spoke in what was to Carlyle an unknown tongue—the philosophical dialect of modern Germany. Those who knew him in his youth heard him converse on more intelligible subjects, and speak of his eloquence as a marvel. And that his eloquence quickened Wordsworth's whole poetic nature, and set him thinking with new energy about poetry, I have not the least doubt; and I think it highly probable that the doctrines of the Preface shaped themselves in his mind as he listened to Coleridge's everflowing talk. In restating some of these doctrines in the “Biographia Literaria,” with such fulness of illustration and such explanations and verbal corrections that they have become part of the critical creed, Coleridge was probably only reclaiming what had once been his own. Why, then, you may ask, did he not say so? To answer this question is to recall the character of the man. Absorbed in a subject one day, and violently pouring out his thick-coming thoughts about it, he would have not the slightest remembrance of what he had said a short time afterward, when another subject had taken possession of him. A verbatim report of his conversation one year might have been passed off on
him next year as the production of another mind. He has been accused, and we must admit convicted, of extensive plagiarisms both in his poetry and his philosophy; if any body had plagiarized from himself, he would never have detected the fact. He never paused to think what was his and what was not, but
all his powers of memory and imagination to whatever was uppermost in his thoughts at the time. I do not say that Wordsworth plagiarized from him, but it seems to me impossible to overrate the quickening influence that Wordsworth owed to his contact with this wonderful enthusiast.
The debt was not all on one side. It was during the memorable year of his companionship with Wordsworth that Coleridge wrote nearly every thing that now remains as a measure of bis wonderful poetic gifts. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ” and “ Christabel” both written in that year, besides most of the short poems that make up the small volume of his poetical works. The presence by his side of the steady, resolute will of the Westmoreland dalesman seems to have for the time constrained his imagination from aimless wandering; and the lofty, unwavering self-confidence of his friend inspired bim with a similar energy. Away from Wordsworth after that year he lost himself in visions of work to be done that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one-the will for sustained and concentrated effort.
One cannot help lamenting that the gift of resolute will was wanting in Coleridge. And if we make the lament for him, it is well founded, for all the second half of his life was made unhappy by vainly renewed repentances for wasted opportunities. There is not a more pathetic poem in the language, to those who know the two men, than the poem written by Coleridge when his heart was full after hearing Wordsworth recite to him “ The Prelude ”-on the growth of a poet's mind,