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JOHN STERLING.

John Sterling (1806-44): author.  Picture Internet Text Archive.

"A pard-like spirit, beautiful and swift."


JOHN STERLING seems to have been one of those beautiful natures that carry about with them a charm to captivate all beholders.  They are full of young genius, full of promise, full of enthusiasm; and seem to be on the high road towards honour, fame, and glory, when suddenly their career is cut short by death, and their friends are left lamenting.  Just such another character was Charles Pemberton, a man of somewhat kindred genius to Sterling, who had done comparatively little, but had excited great hopes among a circle of ardent friends and admirers, whom he had riveted to him by certain indefinable personal and intellectual charms; when he was stricken down by death, and, like Sterling, left only a few scattered "Remains" to be judged by.  Poor Keats, too, died just as he had given to the world the promise of one of its greatest men, but not before he had sent down into the future strains of undying poesy.  Shelley, too!  What a loss was there!  What glorious promise of a Man did he not offer!  But the names of the great, who have died in youth, are more than can be told: as Shelley sang,—


                                            "The good die first,
 While they whose hearts are dry as summer's dust
 Burn to their socket."


    But what of Sterling?  What did he do?  What has he left as a legacy to us by which to know and remember him?

    We have now two Lives of him, written by two of his many intimate friends and devoted admirers,—Archdeacon Hare and Thomas Carlyle.  That two such men should have written a Life of Sterling would argue of itself something in his character and career more than ordinary.  Archdeacon Hare's came first: his work was in two volumes, containing the collected Essays and Tales of John Sterling, with a Memoir of his Life.  On reading that Life, interesting and beautiful though it was, one could not help feeling that there was a good deal remaining untold, and that the tone adopted in speaking of John Sterling's opinions on religious subjects was unnecessarily apologetic.  It seems to have been this circumstance which has drawn forth the Life by Carlyle.  "Archdeacon Hare," says Carlyle, "takes up Sterling as a clergyman merely.  Sterling, I find, was a curate for exactly eight months.  But he was a man, and had relation to the Universe for eight and thirty years; and it is in this latter character, to which all the others were but features and transitory hues, that we wish to know him.  His battle with hereditary Church-formulas was severe; but it was by no means his one battle with things inherited, nor indeed his chief battle; neither, according to my observation of what it was, is it successfully delineated or summed up in this book."  And so Carlyle determined to give his portraiture of his deceased friend.

    Sterling was born at Kaimes Castle, in the island of Bute, Scotland, in 1806, of Irish parents, who were both of Scotch extraction.  The mother was somewhat proud of being a descendant of Wallace, the Scottish hero.  Edward Sterling, the father, pursued farming; he had been a militia captain, and took to it as a calling, by way of helping out the family means.  From Bute, he removed to Llanblethian, in Glamorganshire, in 1809.  Here the young Sterling's childhood was nurtured amid forms of wild and romantic beauty.  But his father, the captain, was an ardent-minded, active man, and could ill confine himself to the small details of Welsh farming.  His thoughts were abroad.  He corresponded with newspapers.  He wrote a pamphlet.  He sent letters to the Times, signed "Vetus," which were afterwards thought worthy of being collected and reprinted.  The captain went further.  He left his farm in Wales, and proceeded to Paris, with the project of acting as foreign correspondent for the Times newspaper.  His family accompanied him to Paris, where they stayed some eight months, until the sudden return of Napoleon from Elba, when they had to decamp to England on the instant.  Captain Sterling returned to London, where he settled; and before long became a very notorious, if not a distinguished personage.  His connection with the Times newspaper grew closer; until at length he became extensively known as "The Thunderer," and was publicly lashed by O'Connell in that character; Sterling, on his part, returning the great agitator's compliments with full interest.

    The boy was schooled in London, and grew as boys like him will grow; he was quick, clever, cheerful, gallant, generous, self-willed, and rather difficult to manage.  From a little letter of his to his mother, which has been preserved, written when he was twelve years old, it appears that he "ran away" from his home at Blackheath, to Dover.  The cause was some slight or indignity put upon him which he could not bear.  But he was brought home, and, like other child's "slights," it was soon forgotten.  As a boy, he was a great reader in the promiscuous line; reading Edinburgh Reviews, and cart-loads of novels.  At sixteen he was sent to Glasgow University, where he lived with some of his mother's relations.  Then, at nineteen, he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he had for his tutor Julius Hare, the archdeacon, one of his biographers.

    Though not an exact scholar, Sterling became well and extensively read, possessing great facilities of assimilation for all kinds of mental diet.  His studies were irregular and discursive, but extensive and encyclopædic.  At Cambridge he was brought into friendly connection with Frederick Maurice, Richard Trench, John Kemble, Charles Buller, Monckton Milnes, and others, who were afterwards in life his fast friends.  Sterling was a frequent and a brilliant speaker at the Union Club; and already began to exhibit strong "Radical" leanings, displaying no small daring in his attacks upon established ideas and things.

    It was Sterling's intention to take a degree in Law at Cambridge, but, like many other of his intentions, it came to nothing; and after a two years' residence, his university life ended.  What to do next?  He has grown into manhood, and must have a "profession."  What is it to be?  Is it to be the Law, or the Church? or, is he to enter the career of trade, and make money in it, thereby to secure "the temporary hallelujah of flunkeys."  His "Radical" notions gave him a deep aversion to the pursuit of the Law; and as for the Church, at that time, it was clear that his leanings were not that way.  The true career for Sterling, in Carlyle's opinion, was Parliament, and it was possibly with some such ultimate design in view that Sterling engaged himself as secretary to a public association of gentlemen, got up for the purpose of opening the trade to India.  But the association did not live long, and the secretaryship lapsed.

    One other course remained open for Sterling,—the career of Literature,—and he plunged into it.  Joining his friend Maurice, the copyright of the Athenæum (which Silk Buckingham had some time before established) was purchased; and there he printed his first literary effusions,—crude, imperfect, yet singularly beautiful and attractive papers, as, for instance, "The Lycian Painter," containing seeds of great promise.  Yet, as Carlyle observes, "a grand melancholy is the prevailing impression they leave; partly as if, while the surface was so blooming and opulent, the heart of them was still vacant, sad, and cold.  The writer's heart is indeed still too vacant, except of beautiful shadows and reflexes and resonances; and is far from joyful, though it wears commonly a smile."  He himself used afterwards to speak of this as his "period of darkness."

    The Athenæum did not prosper in Sterling's hands.  He did not understand commercial management, which is absolutely necessary for the success even of a literary journal.  So the Athenæum was transferred to other hands, under which it throve vigorously.  But the Athenæum had introduced Sterling into the literary life of London, which tended to confirm him in his pursuit.  Among the celebrities with whom he now had familiar intercourse was Coleridge, whose home at Highgate Hill he often visited, and there he listened to that eloquent talker playing the magician with his auditors,—"a dusky, sublime character, who sat there as a kind of Magus, girt in mystery and enigma, whispering strange things, uncertain whether oracles or jargon."  The influence which Coleridge exercised upon the religious thinking of his day was unquestionably great, dreamy and speculative though he was; but whether it will survive, whether the religious life of the world will be advanced in any way by Coleridge's lofty musings, is matter of great doubt to many; because, glorious though the rumbling of his sonorous voice was, you too often felt that it died away in sound, leaving no solid, appreciable, practical, intelligible meaning behind it.  But on this wide question we shall not enter.  Certain it was that Sterling, notwithstanding his "Radical" notions, was for the time deeply influenced by his intercourse with Coleridge, and by what Carlyle calls his "thrice-refined pabulum of transcendental moonshine."  This sufficiently appears in the novel of "Arthur Coningsby," which Sterling wrote in 1830,—his only prose book.

    About this time, Sterling deeply interested himself in the fate of some poor Spanish émigrés, driven out of their own country by some revolution there, and then vegetating about Somer's Town, and frequently beating with their feet the pavement in Euston Square.  Their chief was General Torrijos, with whom Sterling had become intimate, and in whose fortunes he took a warm interest.  Torrijos was zealous in the cause of his country; he would effect a landing, revolutionize and liberalize Spain; but he wanted money.  Sterling was interested by the romance of the thing, and he also warmly sympathized with the sentiments of the old general.  He proceeded to raise money among his friends; money was collected; arms were bought; a ship was provided by Lieutenant Boyd, an Irishman; the ship was in the Thames, taking in its armament, when, lo! the police suddenly appeared on board, and the vessel was seized and its stores confiscated.  Torrijos, Boyd, and some others, did afterwards manage to land in Spain; where they met with an exceedingly tragical ending.

    But something else issued from this Spanish misadventure, of interest to Sterling.  He had become acquainted with the Misses Barton, the daughters of Lieutenant-General Barton of the Life Guards,—very delightful young ladies.  He seems to have excited something more than merely friendly feelings in Susannah's bosom; for when he went to take leave of her, to embark in the projected Spanish invasion, a scene occurred from which it appeared clear that he had won the girl's heart, and then marriage was the result.

    But scarcely was he married ere he fell seriously ill,—so ill that he lay utterly prostrate for weeks, and his life was long despaired of.  His career after this was a constant alternation of health and illness, rampant good spirits and prostrate feebleness.  His lungs were affected, and consumption began to show indications of its coming.  The doctors, however, gave hopes of him,—only it was necessary he should remove to a warmer climate.  His family had inherited a valuable property in the West Indies, at St. Vincent, Whither he went to reside in 1831, and remained in that beautiful island, under the hot sun of the tropics, for about fifteen months, returning to England greatly improved in health.  From thence he went to Bonn, in Germany, where he met with his old friend and quondam tutor, the Rev. Julius Hare, and with him Sterling had much serious talk on religious matters.

    Still under the influence of the Coleridgian views which had been working within him at St. Vincent and since, Sterling expressed to Mr. Hare a wish to enter the Church as a minister, which Mr. Hare "strongly urged" him to do, offering to appoint him to his own curacy at Herstmonceux, which was then vacant.  Shortly after, he returned to England, was ordained deacon at Chichester in 1834, and was appointed curate immediately after, entering earnestly on the duties of that calling.  He occasionally preached in the metropolis, and Carlyle describes his appearance on two of such occasions:—


    "It was in some new college chapel in Somerset House; a very quiet small place, the audience student-looking youths, with a few elder people, perhaps mostly friends of the preacher's.  The discourse, delivered with a grave sonorous composure, and far surpassing in talent the usual run of sermons, had withal an air of human veracity, as I still recollect, and bespoke dignity and piety of mind; but gave me the impression rather of artistic excellence than of unction or inspiration in that kind.  Sterling returned with us to Chelsea that day; and in the afternoon we went on the Thames Putney-ward together, we two with my wife; under the sunny skies, on the quiet water, and with copious, cheery talk, the remembrance of which is still present enough to me.

    "This was properly my only specimen of Sterling's preaching.  Another time, late in the same autumn, I did indeed attend him one evening to some church in the City,—a big church behind Cheapside, 'built by Wren,' as he carefully informed me;—but there, in my wearied mood, the chief subject of reflection was the almost total vacancy of the place, and how an eloquent soul was preaching to mere lamps and prayer-books; and of the sermon I retain no image.  It came up in the way of banter, if he ever urged the duty of 'Church extension,' which already he very seldom did, and at length never, what a specimen we once had of bright lamps, gilt prayer-books, baize-lined pews, Wren-built architecture; and how, in almost all directions, you might have fired a musket through the church, and hit no Christian life.  A terrible outlook, indeed, for the apostolic labourer in the brick-and-mortar line!"


    For reasons which Archdeacon Hare does not clearly state, but which Carlyle in a rather mystical way indicates, Sterling left his curacy at Herstmonceux, and removed to London, where he took a house at Bayswater.  At this time he was, in personal appearance, thin and careless-looking,—his eyes kindly, but restless in their glances,—his features animated and brilliant when talking,—and he was always full of bright speech and argument.  He did not give you the idea of ill-health; indeed, his life seemed to be bounding, and full of vitality; his whole being was usually in full play;—it was his vehemence and rapidity of life which struck one on first seeing him.

    Carlyle says, that he wore holes in the outer case of his body by this restless vitality, which could not otherwise find vent.  He seems now to have been in the thick of doubts and mental discussions,—probing the foundations of his faith,—and, it is to be suspected, losing one by one the pillars on which it had rested.  It is a terrible "valley of the shadow of death," this which so many young minds have to pass through in these days of restless inquiry into all subjects,—religious, social, and political.  As Shelley writes,—


"If I have erred, there was no joy in error,
 But pain and insult, and unrest and terror."


    Sterling's views began to diverge more and more from those formerly held by him, yet this never interfered with a single one of his friendships.  Tolerant and charitable, there was an agreement to differ; and certainly it is better for men to differ openly and honestly, than hypocritically to agree and conform,—even for "peace's sake."  And why should men quarrel about such matters, respecting which no one man can have more positive or certain knowledge than any other man?  Says Tennyson:—


                         "What am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry!"


    Sterling read many German books at this time, such as Tholuck and Schleiermacher, from which he diverged into Goethe and Jean Paul Richter.  But his health was still delicate, and a residence in the south of France was determined on.

    He reached Bordeaux, and while there he worked at various literary enterprises.  Poetry occupied his attention, and he there wrote "The Sexton's Daughter;" he also stored up a number of notes and memoranda respecting Montaigne, whose old country-house he visited, and these shortly after appeared, in a very able article from his pen, in the London and Westminster Review.  After a year's stay, he returned to England, and occupied himself in writing occasional articles for Blackwood's Magazine.  His health being still delicate, he wintered at Madeira in 1837; speaking of it in one of his letters, he says that, "as a temporary refuge, a niche in an old ruin, where one is sheltered from the shower, the place has great merit."  He continued writing papers for Blackwood, of which the best was "The Onyx Ring."  Wilson early recognized Sterling's merit as a writer, and lavished great praise upon him in his editorial comments.  Indeed, he seems to have possessed the gift of literary improvising to a great extent.  He was a swift genius: Carlyle likened him to "sheet-lightning."  He had an incredible facility of labour, flashing with most piercing glance into a subject, and throwing his thoughts upon it together upon paper with remarkable felicity, brilliancy, and general excellence.  While at Madeira, Sterling busied himself with reading Goethe, of whom he gives the following striking opinion, in many respects true:


"There must, as I think, have been some prodigious defect in his mind, to let him hold such views as his about women and some other things; and in another respect, I find so much coldness and hollowness as to the highest truths, and feel so strongly that the heaven he looks up to is but a vault of ice,—that these two indications, leading to the same conclusion, go far to convince me he was a profoundly immoral and irreligious spirit, with as rare faculties of intelligence as ever belonged to any one."


    His health improved by Madeira, he returned to England, still fragile, but radiant with cheerfulness; "both his activity and his composure he bore with him, through all weathers, to the final close; and on the whole, right manfully he walked his wild, stern way towards the goal, and like a Roman wrapt his mantle round him when he fell."  He went on writing for Blackwood, contributing the "Hymns of a Hermit," "Crystals from a Cavern," "Thoughts and Images," and other papers of this sort.  Then he engaged as contributor to the London and Westminster Review, for which he wrote several fine papers.  The raw winter air of England proving too much for his weak lungs, he went abroad again,—this time to Italy,—where he revelled in its picture-galleries and collections of fine art.  He did not like the religious aspect of things there, and spoke freely about it.  He was home again in 1839, considerably improved in health; but still he continued to lead a nomadic life, for the sake of his health.  Now at Hastings, then at Clifton; and again he had to fly before worse symptoms than had yet shown themselves,—spitting of blood and such like,—taking flight late in the season for Madeira.  But when he reached Falmouth, the weather was so rough that he could not set sail; so he rested there for the winter, the mild climate suiting his feeble lungs better than Clifton had done.  By this time, during his residence in the last-named place, he had written his fine paper on "Carlyle," for the Westminster Review, and also published a little volume of poems, containing some noble pieces.  Carlyle speaks in rather a slighting strain of poetry in general, and has a strong dislike to what he calls the "fiddling talent."  "Why sing," he asks, "your bits of thoughts, if you can contrive to speak them?  By your thought, not by your mode of delivering it, you must live or die."  Besides, he denies to Sterling that indispensable quality of successful poetry,—depth of tune; his verses "had a monotonous rub-a-dub, instead of tune: no trace of music deeper than that of a well-beaten drum."  But let any one read Sterling's "Dædalus," and they will be satisfied of his tunefulness, as well as his true poetic feeling.  We know no verses fuller of music in every line.  These are a few stanzas:—


"Wail for Dædalus, all that is fairest,
 All that is tuneful in air or wave!
 Shapes whose beauty is truest and rarest,
 Haunt with your lamps and spells his grave.

"Statues, bend your heads in sorrow,
 Ye that glance amid ruins old,
 That know not a past, nor expect a morrow,
 On many a moonlit Grecian wold!

"By sculptured cave, and speaking river,
 Thee, Dædalus, oft the nymphs recall;
 The leaves, with a sound of winter, quiver,
 Murmur thy name, and murmuring fall.

"Ever thy phantoms arise before us,
 Our loftier brothers, but one in blood;
 By bed and table they lord it o'er us,
 With looks of beauty and words of good."


    The volume of poems, however, attracted no notice; yet Sterling laboured on, determined to conquer success.  He met with some delightful friends at Falmouth, among others, with John Stuart Mill, and an intelligent Quaker family,—the Foxes,—with whom he spent many happy hours.  In the following spring, he was by his own hearth again at Clifton, now engaged on a long poem called "The Election," which was published: he had also commenced his tragedy of "Strafford," when he left to winter at Torquay.  Thus he journeyed about, flying from place to place for life.  Then to Falmouth again, where he delivered an excellent lecture on "The Worth of Knowledge," before the Polytechnic Institution of that place.  Soon after, he was off to Naples and the sunny south, his health still demanding warmth.  He was home again in 1843; and one day, while helping one of the servants to lift a heavy table, he was seized with sudden haemorrhage, and for long lay dangerously ill.  By dint of careful nursing, he recovered, but the seeds of death must have been planted in him by this time.  This year his mother died, and in a few days after, his beloved wife,—terrible blows to him.  But weak and worn as he was, he bore up manfully, making no vain repinings, and with pious valour fronting the future.  He had six children left to his charge, and he felt the responsibility deeply.  Falmouth, associated as it now was in his mind with calamity and sorrow, he could endure no longer; so he purchased a house at Ventnor, in the Isle of Wight, and removed thither at once.  Sterling visited London for the last time in 1843, when Carlyle dined with him.  "I remember it," says he, "as one of the saddest of dinners; though Sterling talked copiously, and our friends—Theodore Parker one of them—were pleasant and distinguished men.  All was so haggard in one's memory, and half consciously in one's anticipations; sad, as if one had been dining in a ruin, in the crypt of a mausoleum."

    Carlyle saw Sterling afterwards at his apartments in town, and the following is the conclusion of his last interview with him:


"We parted before long; bedtime for invalids being come, he escorted me down certain carpeted back-stairs, and would not be forbidden; we took leave under the dim skies; and, alas! little as I then dreamt of it, this, so far as I can calculate, must have been the last time I ever saw him in the world.  Softly as a common evening, the last of the evenings had passed away, and no other would come for me forevermore."


    Sterling returned to Ventnor, and proceeded with his "Coeur-de-Lion."  But the light of his life had gone.  "I am going on quietly here, rather than happily," he wrote to his friend Newman; "sometimes quite helpless, not from distinct illness, but from sad thoughts, and a ghastly dreaminess.  The heart is gone out of my life."  This brittle existence of his was at length about to be shivered.  Another breakage of a blood vessel occurred, and he lay prostrate for the last time.  The great change was at hand,—the final act of the tragedy of life.  He gathered his strength together to quit life piously and manfully.  For six months he had sat looking at the approaches of the foe, and he blanched not nor quailed before him.  He had continued working and setting all his worldly affairs in order.  He wrote some noble letters to his eldest boy, then at school in London, full of affectionate counsel.  "These letters," says Carlyle, "I have lately read: they give, beyond any he has written, a noble image of the intrinsic Sterling,—the same face we had long known; but painted now as on the azure of eternity, serene, victorious, divinely sad; the dusts and extraneous disfigurements imprinted on it by the world now washed away."

    About a month before his death, he wrote a last letter to Carlyle, of "Remembrance and Farewell," wherein he says:


"On higher matters there is nothing to say.  I nothing tread the common road into the great darkness, without any thought of fear, and with very much of hope.  Certainty, indeed, I have none.  With regard to You and Me, I cannot begin to write; having nothing for it but to keep shut the lid of those secrets with all the iron weights that are in my power.  Towards me it is still more true than towards England, that no man has been and done like you.  Heaven bless you!  If I can lend a hand when THERE, that will not be wanting.  It is all very strange, but not one hundredth part so sad as it seems to the standers-by."


    "It was a bright Sunday morning when this letter came to me," says Carlyle;


"and if in the great Cathedral of Immensity I did no worship that day, the fault surely was my own.  Sterling affectionately refused to see me; which also was kind and wise.  And four days before his death, there are some stanzas of verse for me, written as if in star-fire and immortal tears; which are among my sacred possessions, to be kept for myself alone.  His business with the world was done; the one business now to await silently what may lie in other grander worlds.  'God is great,' he was wont to say: 'God is great.'  The Maurices were now constantly near him; Mrs. Maurice (his sister) assiduously watching over him.  On the evening of Wednesday, the 18th of September, his brother—as he did every two or three days—came down; found him in the old temper, weak in strength, but not very sensibly weaker; they talked calmly together for an hour; then Anthony left his bedside, and retired for the night, not expecting any change.  But suddenly, about eleven o'clock, there came a summons and alarm; hurrying to his brother's room, he found his brother dying; and in a short while more, the faint last struggle was ended, and all those struggles and strenuous often-foiled endeavours of eight and thirty years lay hushed in death."


――――♦――――

 
LEIGH HUNT.

James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784–1859), critic, essayist, poet and author.


WHAT reader of books is there who does not feel that he owes a debt of gratitude to Leigh Hunt, for his many beautiful thoughts, his always cheerful views of life, and his generous efforts, extending over a period of half a century, on behalf of the freedom and happiness of the human family?  His name is associated in our minds with all manner of kindness, love, beauty, and gentleness.  He has given us a fresh insight into nature, made the flowers seem gayer, the earth greener, the skies more bright, and all things more full of happiness and blessing.  By the magical touch of his pen, he "kissed dead things to life."  Age, which dries up the geniality of so many, brought no change to him.  To the last he was spoken of as the "grey-haired boy,"—"the old-young poet, with grey hairs on his head, but youth in his eyes,"—and the perusal of his Autobiography, written in his old age, serves to bring out charmingly the prominent features of his life.

    Leigh Hunt's temperament doubtless owed something to the warm, sunshiny clime in which his progenitors lived, that of Barbados, in the West Indies.  His grandfather was a clergyman there, and his grandmother an O'Brien,—very proud of her alleged descent from certain mythical Irish kings of that name.  Their son (Leigh Hunt's father) was sent to Philadelphia, then belonging to the English American colonies, to be educated; and there he married and settled.  But on the war of the American Revolution breaking out, he entered so warmly into the cause of the British government, that he was mobbed, narrowly escaped tarring and feathering, and ultimately fled to England, his wife and little family following him.  He was there ordained a clergyman by the Bishop of London, and became famous as a preacher of charity sermons.  He was fond, however, of pleasurable living; drank more than was good for him; got into pecuniary difficulties, from which he never escaped; and lived a life of shifts and expedients, always trusting, like Mr. Micawber, to "something turning up."  He found a brief friend in the Marquis of Chandos, and was engaged by him as tutor for his nephew, Mr. Leigh, after whom Leigh Hunt was subsequently named.

    To be tutor in a duke's family is often a sure road to a bishopric, or some other high promotion in the Church: but the tutor in this case had no such good fortune: his West Indian temperament spoiled all: he had ceased to think the British government perfect, and he did not hesitate to express his opinions freely thereon.  So, after leaving this situation, he lapsed again into difficulties, and afterwards into distress and debt.  Still his happy and joyous nature bore him up, even though he was haunted by duns and became familiar with prisons.  "Such an art had he," said his son, "of making his home comfortable when he chose, and of settling himself to the most tranquil pleasures, that, if she could have ceased to look forward about her children, I believe, with all his faults, those evenings would have brought unmingled satisfaction to her, when, after settling the little apartment, brightening the fire, and bringing out the coffee, my mother knew that her husband was going to read Saurin or Barrow to her, with his fine voice, and unequivocal enjoyment."

    Leigh Hunt's mother was of American birth, a Philadelphian; she had "no accomplishments but the two best of all, a love of nature and a love of books."  She was a woman of great energy of principle, though timid and gentle almost to excess.  Her husband's great dangers at Philadelphia, and the imminent risk of shipwreck which she, with her family, ran on the voyage to England, had shaken her soul as well as frame.  Her son said of her:


"The sight of two men fighting in the streets would drive her in tears down another road; and I remember, when we lived near the Park, she would take me a long circuit out of the way, rather than hazard the spectacle of the soldiers.  Little did she think of the timidity with which she was thus inoculating me, and what difficulty I should have, when I went to school, to sustain all those pure theories, and that unbending resistance to oppression, which she inculcated.  However, perhaps it ultimately turned out for the best.  One must feel more than usual for the sore places of humanity, even to fight properly in their behalf.  One holiday, in a severe winter, as she was taking me home, she was petitioned for charity by a woman, sick and ill-clothed.  It was in Black-friars Road, I think, about midway.  My mother, with the tears in her eyes, turned up a gateway, or some such place, and beckoning the woman to follow, took off her flannel petticoat and gave it to her.  It is supposed, that a cold which ensued fixed the rheumatism upon her for life.  Her greatest pleasure, during her decay, was to lie on a sofa, looking at the setting sun.  She used to liken it to the door of heaven; and fancy her lost children there waiting for her."


As a man is but his parents, or some other of his ancestors, drawn out, so Leigh Hunt, in his own life and history, was but a repetition of his father and mother, and an embodiment of their character in about equal proportions; inheriting from the one a joyous and happy temperament, and from the other tenderness and a deep love of nature and books.

    Leigh Hunt was born at Southgate, in the parish of Edmonton, on the 19th of October, 1784, in the midst of the beautiful pastoral scenery which he afterwards loved to paint in his works.  During his infancy he was delicate and sickly, and was watched over with great tenderness by his mother.  To assist his recovery, he was taken to the coast of France for a short time, and returned improved in health.  He was very nervous, and easily frightened by his elder brothers, who delighted to terrify him by ghost-stories and pretended apparitions.

    The great events which were passing in Hunt's childhood rose up afterwards in his mind like a dream,—the American Revolution completed, the French Revolution beginning; the eloquence of Burke, and the rivalries of Pitt and Fox; the poetry of Cowper and Young, and the novels of Miss Burney and Mrs. Inchbald; the violent politics of Wilkes, and the gallantries of the young Prince of Wales.  These were the days of pigtails and toupees, when ladies wore hoops, and lay all night with their hair three stories high, waiting for the spectacle of next day,—a very different style of living and dressing from the present.
 

    The boy went to school at Christ Church Hospital, where Lamb and Coleridge were also educated about the same time.  The thrashing system, which was then in vogue in all schools, horrified him; his gentle spirit made him the sport of the other boys, and he "went to the wall" till he gained strength and address to stand his own ground.  Even as a boy, he had the reputation of a romantic enthusiast.  He fought only once, beat his opponent, and made a friend of him.

    While only a school-boy, Leigh Hunt fell in love with the Muses,—with Collins and Gray passionately,—and he already began to write verses.  He also fell in love in another way,—with a charming cousin, Fanny Dayrell.


"Fanny was a lass of fifteen, with little laughing eyes, and a mouth like a plum.  I was then (I feel as if I ought to be ashamed of it) not more than thirteen, if so old; but I had read Tooke's Pantheon, and came of a precocious race.  My cousin came of one too, and was about to be married to a handsome young fellow of three and twenty.  I thought nothing of this, for nothing could be more innocent than my intentions.  I was not old enough, or grudging enough, or whatever it was, even to be jealous.  I thought everybody must love Fanny Dayrell; and if she did not leave me out in permitting it, I was satisfied.  It was enough for me to be with her as long as I could; to gaze on her with delight as she floated hither and thither; and to sit on the stiles in the neighbouring fields, thinking of Tooke's Pantheon.  Three fourths of my heart was devoted to friendship; the rest was in a vague dream of beauty, and female cousins, and nymphs and green fields, and a feeling which, though of a warm nature, was full of fear and respect."


In course of time Fanny married, and his first passion died away, but was not forgotten.

    At Christ Church, Hunt formed intimacies with men afterwards famous in literature.  There was Wood, afterwards Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge; Mitchell, the translator of Aristophanes, and a Quarterly Reviewer; and Barnes, the future editor of the Times.  With the last named he learned Italian, and the two went shouting Metastasio together, as loud as they could bawl, over the Hornsey fields.

    At fifteen he took leave of his school books and school friends, and, after going about eight years bareheaded, put on the fatal hat.  He set about writing verses and haunting book-stalls,—the occupation of no small part of his future life.  The first verses he wrote were collected and published by subscription.  These, he confesses, were but "a heap of imitations, all but absolutely worthless."  The book was, however, successful, particularly in the metropolis; and the author found himself a kind of "Young Roscius" in verse.  His grandfather in America, sensible of the young author's fame, wrote to him that, if he would come to Philadelphia, he would "make a man of him;" to which his answer was, that "men grew in England as well as America."

    After joining as a private in the Volunteers, who were called into existence by the rumour of Bonaparte's coming, and going the round of the London theatres, taking his full of pleasures, Leigh Hunt appeared, for the first time, as a prose essayist, in the columns of the Traveller, now the Globe, newspaper, under the signature of "Mr. Town, Junior," for which he received as his reward some five or six copies of each paper in which his essays appeared.  He wrote a long mock-heroic poem about the same time, and made several attempts at farce, comedy, and tragedy reading largely in Goldsmith, Voltaire, novels, and history, promiscuously.  His brother, John Hunt, set up a paper called "The News," in 1805, on which the subject of our memoir, then in his twentieth year, went to live with him, and wrote the theatricals for the journal.  He there commenced the system of independent criticism, and adhered to it, though he afterwards frankly admitted that he then knew nothing of either actors or acting.  In the midst of his labours, he fell into ill-health and melancholy; palpitations, hypochondria, dyspepsia—in other words, the "literary disease" had attacked him.  He recovered, by ceasing his occupation for a time and taking exercise; but he gained more than a cure.  "One great benefit," he says,


"resulted to me from this suffering.  It gave me an amount of reflection such as, in all probability, I never should have had without it; and if readers have derived any good from the graver portion of my writings, I attribute it to this experience of evil.  It taught me patience; it taught me charity (however imperfectly I may have exercised either); it taught me charity even towards myself; it taught me the worth of little pleasures, as well as the utility and dignity of great pains; it taught me that evil itself contained good; nay, it taught me to doubt whether any such thing as evil, considered in itself, existed; whether things altogether, as far as our planet knows them, could have been so good without it; whether the desire, nevertheless, which nature has implanted in us for its destruction, be not the signal and the means to that end; and whether its destruction, finally, will not prove its existence, in the meantime, to have been necessary to the very bliss that supersedes it."


We could not, perhaps, have selected a passage from Leigh Hunt's writings that embodies his philosophy more completely than this does.

    The year 1808 saw him and his brother John afoot with an important enterprise,—the establishment of the since famous Examiner newspaper.  It started as a Radical print,—a bold thing in those perilous times, when a man dared scarcely say the thing he would without risk of Horsemonger Jail, or worse.  The new paper attracted attention, and brought around it many choice and kindred spirits.  Leigh Hunt now mixed among literary men, whom he has described in his Autobiography.  Of Theodore Hook, Thomas Campbell, Horace Smith, Fuseli, Matthews, Godwin, Bonnycastle, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, and others, he furnishes many recollections.  Horace Smith (one of the authors of the "Rejected Addresses") he speaks of as "delicious."


"A finer nature than Horace Smith's, except in the single instance of Shelley, I never met with in man; nor even in that instance, all circumstances considered, have I a right to say that those who knew him as intimately as I did the other, would not have had the same reasons to love him.  Shelley said to me once: 'I know not what Horace Smith must take me for, sometimes; I am afraid he must think me a strange fellow; but it is so odd, that the only truly generous person I ever knew, who had money to be generous with, should be a stock-broker!  And he writes poetry, too,' continued Shelley, his voice rising in a fervour of astonishment,—'he writes poetry and pastoral dramas, and yet knows how to make money, and does make it, and is still generous!'"


    Here is an odd outline of a man!


"Bonnycastle was a good fellow: he was a tall, gaunt, long-headed man, with large features and spectacles, and a deep, internal voice, with a twang of rusticity in it, and he goggled over his plate like a horse.  I often thought that a bag of corn would have hung well on him.  His laugh was equine, and showed his teeth upwards at the sides."


This was the famous algebraist.

    The Examiner, in which the brothers were boldly discussing the politics of the day, very soon drew upon it the keen eyes of men in power, who waited for an opportunity of pouncing upon it.  The remarks on a pamphlet published by Major Hogan, in which the notorious Mrs. Clarke's dispensation of the Duke of York's patronage in return for hard cash was broadly hinted, excited marked attention, and the government commenced an action against the proprietors of the paper, from which they were only saved by a member of the House of Commons (Colonel Wardle) taking up the subject, and bringing up Mrs. Clarke (whose relation to the Duke of York was well known) for examination at the Bar of the House, when the whole thing was exposed by her, with barefaced effrontery.  Before another year was out, the government instituted a second prosecution, for a sentence in an article which, at this time of day, would look exceedingly mild, if appearing in the daily Times.  The Morning Chronicle was first prosecuted for having copied the article, but the jury pronounced an acquittal, and the action against the Examiner again fell to the ground.  A third prosecution was shortly commenced by the government against the proprietors, for having copied an article from the Stamford News, against military flogging; but on a trial, the jury acquitted them.

    About this time, John Hunt started a quarterly magazine, called "The Reflector," which Leigh Hunt edited, and of which only four numbers appeared.  Charles Lamb, Barnes (afterwards of the Times), and some other Christ Church Hospital men, were amongst its contributors.  In it first appeared Leigh Hunt's "Feast of the Poets," in which he satirized many of his Tory contemporaries,—amongst others Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly, the only man for whom he seems to have entertained a thorough dislike.  Amongst the poetical effusions in the Reflector also appeared one on a famous dinner given by the Prince of Wales to a hundred and fifty of his particular friends.  The Prince had just deserted the Whig party, and gone over to the Tories, so that there was a strong savour of political gall in the piece.  About the same time, an article on the Prince, in connection with the annual dinner on St. Patrick's day, was inserted in the Examiner, and on this the government fastened, as the means of crushing the paper and its proprietors.  The point in the article at which the Prince was understood to have taken violent offence was, that he whom his adulators styled "an Adonis in loveliness" should be plainly designated as "a corpulent man of fifty," which he was.  The government prosecution succeeded.  The proprietors of the paper were fined one hundred pounds, and condemned to two years' imprisonment each, in separate jails!

    Leigh Hunt's prison-life was thoroughly characteristic of him.  He was in a very delicate state of health when first imprisoned in Horsemonger Jail, but he determined to make the best of it.  His wife and friends were allowed to be constantly with him.  Owing to his delicate state of health, the doctor proposed he should be removed into the infirmary, and the proposal was granted.  And now see how a happy mind and a sound conscience can make even a prison-house a place of joy.


    "The infirmary was divided into four wards, with as many small rooms attached to them.  The two upper wards were occupied, but the two on the floor had never been used; and one of these, not very providently (for I had not yet learned to think of money) I turned into a noble room.  I papered the walls with a trellis of roses; I had the ceiling coloured with clouds and sky; the barred windows I screened with Venetian blinds; and when my book-cases were set up with their nests, and flowers and a piano-forte made their appearance, perhaps there was not a handsomer room on that side the water.  I took a pleasure, when a stranger knocked at the door, to see him come in and stare about him.  The surprise on issuing from the Borough, and passing through the avenues of a jail, was dramatic.  Charles Lamb declared there was no other such room, except in a fairy-tale.

    "But I possessed another surprise, which was a garden.  There was a little yard outside the room, railed off from another, belonging to the neighbouring ward.  This yard I shut in with green palings, bordered it with a thick bed of earth from a nursery, and even contrived to have a glass-plot.  The earth I filled with flowers and young trees.  There was an apple-tree, from which we managed to get a pudding the second year.  As to my flowers, they were allowed to be perfect.  Thomas Moore, who came to see me with Lord Byron, told me he had seen no such heart's-ease.  Here I wrote and read in fine weather, sometimes under an awning.  In autumn, my trellises were hung with scarlet runners, which added to the flowery investment.  I used to shut my eyes in my arm-chair, and affect to think myself hundreds of miles off.

    "But my triumph was in issuing forth of a morning.  A wicket out of the garden led into the large one belonging to the prison.  The latter was only for vegetables; but it contained a cherry-tree, which I saw twice in blossom.  I parcelled out the ground, in imagination, into favourite districts.  I made a point of dressing myself as if for a long walk; and then, putting on my gloves, and taking my book under my arm, stepped forth, requesting my wife not to wait dinner if I was too late.  My eldest little boy, to whom Lamb addressed some charming verses on the occasion, was my constant companion, and we used to play all sorts of juvenile games together.  It was, probably, in dreaming of one of these games (but the words had a more touching effect on my ear) that he exclaimed one night in his sleep, 'No, I'n not lost; I'm found.'  Neither he nor I were very strong at the time; but I have lived to see him a man of forty, and wherever he is found, a generous hand and a great understanding will be found together."


    The two years slowly passed, during which the visits of many friends, Hazlitt, Lamb, Shelley, Bentham, and others, cheered Leigh Hunt's captivity.  He read and wrote verses; composed the principal part of the "Story of Rimini;" furnished articles and criticisms for the Examiner; and anxiously looked forward to the hour of his release.  Meanwhile, there were generous friends who volunteered to pay the fine for him, but their offer was declined.  The Hunts would bear their own burdens, and maintain their own independence while they could.  At length, on the 3d of February, 1805, they were free.


    "It was now thought that I should dart out of my cage like a bird, and feel no end in the delight of ranging.  But, partly from ill-health and partly from habit, the day of my liberation brought a good deal of pain with it.  An illness of a long standing, which required a very different treatment, had by this time been burnt in upon me by the iron that enters into the soul of the captive, wrap it in flowers as he may; and I am ashamed to say, that, after stopping a little at the house of my friend Alsager, I had not the courage to continue looking at the shoals of people passing to and fro as the coach drove up the Strand.  The whole business of life seemed a hideous impertinence.  The first pleasant sensation I experienced was when the coach turned into the New Road, and I beheld the old hills of my affection, standing where they used to do, and breathing me a welcome.

    "It was very slowly that I recovered anything like a sensation of health.  The bitterest evil I suffered was in consequence of having been confined so long in one spot.  The habit stuck to me on my return home, in a very extraordinary manner, and made, I fear, some of my friends think me ungrateful.  This weakness I have outlived; but I have never thoroughly recovered the shock given to my constitution.  My natural spirits, however, have always struggled hard to see me reasonably treated.  Many things give me exquisite pleasure, which seem to affect other men in a very minor degree; and I enjoyed, after all, such happy moments with my friends, even in prison, that, in the midst of the beautiful climate which I afterwards visited, I was sometimes in doubt whether I would not rather have been in jail than Italy."


    The "Story of Rimini" was published shortly after Leigh Hunt's release from prison.  It was greatly and deservedly admired, but it could not prove very remunerative to him.  In order to meet demands which had been accruing upon him, he also published "The Indicator," but want of funds prevented the publication being advertised and pushed as it deserved.  The Examiner was now declining in circulation and receipts, for the party against which it struggled was entirely in the ascendant.  We fear, also, that its business management must have suffered from the long imprisonment of the two proprietors, as well as from the acknowledged deficiency of at least one of them in business capacity.  "I had never attended," says Leigh Hunt,


"not only, to the business part of the Examiner, but to the simplest money matter that stared at me on the face of it.  I could not tell anybody who asked me what was the price of its stamp!  Do I boast of this ignorance?  Alas!  Alas!  I have no such respect for the pedantry of absurdity, as that.  I blush for it; and I only record it out of a sheer, painful movement of conscience, as a warning to those young authors who might be led to look on such folly as a fine thing; which, at all events, is what I never thought it myself. I did not think about it at all, except to avoid the thought; and I only wish that the strangest accidents of education, and the most inconsiderate habit of taking books for the only end of life, had not conspired to make me so ridiculous.  I am feeling the consequences at this moment, in pangs which I cannot explain, and which I may not live long to escape."


    In the winter of 1821, Leigh Hunt set sail, with his wife and seven children, on a voyage to Italy, to join Byron and Shelley, then residing there.  After a tremendous storm, the vessel in which they sailed was driven into Dartmouth, where they re-landed, and passed on to Plymouth, where they waited until May, 1822, and from thence sailed to Leghorn.  The residence in Italy was not pleasant; it was embittered by the death of Shelley and of Keats, and the obvious alienation of Byron.  The tedium was not relieved by the pleasures which opulence supplies, for, from this time, Leigh Hunt seems to have been haunted by the ghost of Poverty.  Everything that he touched failed.  "The Liberal," a quarterly publication brought out by him while in Italy, reached only the fourth number, though Byron, Shelley, and Hazlitt wrote for it, as well as himself.  The literary Examiner, a new publication, set up by his brother, also failed; and the political Examiner, the newspaper, was now in the crisis of its difficulties: it shortly after passed into other hands, when it prospered.  Leigh Hunt, in the midst of these failures, grew sick of Italy.  "I was ill, unhappy, and in a perpetual low fever," he says.  He longed for the sight of English hedgerows and green fields, to wander through paths leading over field and stile, across bay-fields in June, and through woods full of wild-flowers.  "To me," he says,


"Italy had a certain hard taste in the mouth.  The mountains were too bare, its outlines too sharp, its lanes too stony, its voices too loud, its long summer too dusty.  I longed to bathe myself in the grassy balm of my native fields."


    He reached home in 1823, and commenced anew a struggle with difficulties.  Perhaps "struggle" is too strong a word.  Leigh Hunt seems to have been playing with life, even with its sorrows, all the way through.  He was not a man to grapple with a difficulty and overcome it; but to float alongside of it rather carelessly, and say pleasant things about it.  He had a good deal of his father's West Indian temperament in him, and loved to lie basking in the sun, building castles in the air.  He wrote occasional essays and poems from time to time, for monthly magazines; and, for a bookseller, who had assisted him to return to England, a novel called "Sir Ralph Esher."  He also obtained pecuniary assistance from friends, and struggled on the best way he could.  He started a new periodical, "The Companion," which did not live long; then "The Tatler," a daily literary and theatrical paper, which nearly killed him, as he wrote it all; "Chat of the Week" was tried, and failed too.  A subscription list was got up for a new edition of his poems, which helped him somewhat.  Then he wrote for "The True Sun," which also died; next he edited "The Monthly Reporter," which did not survive long.  "The London Journal" lived through two volumes, and then gave up the ghost; it was too literary, too refined and recherché, for the mass of cheap readers; it aimed too high above their heads.  And yet it contains some of Leigh Hunt's best writings, which will perhaps live the longest.  Next he wrote "Captain Sword and Captain Pen," the "Legend of Florence," (a play,) and several other plays not yet printed.  All this mass of literary work barely enabled him to live, eked out "though it was by frequent writings in the Reviews.  "The Legend of Florence " was his most profitable work, bringing him in about two hundred pounds; and perhaps, too, it helped him to his pension.  He had, before this, on two occasions received two hundred pounds from the Royal Bounty Fund, to enable him to live.  His more recent works were "The Palfrey," "Imagination and Fancy," "Wit and Humour," "Stories from the Italian Poets," the "Jar of Honey," the "Book for a Corner," and "The Town."  Several of these originally appeared as contributions to the magazines and newspapers.  His book entitled "Lord Byron and his Contemporaries" was published many years ago, and it was one that its author himself wished to be forgotten, and we say no more of it here.

    Notwithstanding the life of ill-health, and of difficulty, which Leigh Hunt led, it may be pronounced on the whole to have been a happy life.  It is the heart that makes life sweet, not the purse,—it is pure and happy thoughts, a well-stored mind, and a genial nature, full of sympathy for human kind.  In all these respects, a happy lot has been Leigh Hunt's, though wealth has been denied him.  There are few men who could say, like him, towards the close of life:


"I am not aware that I have a single enemy, and I accept the fortunes, good and bad, which have occurred to me, with the same disposition to believe them the best that could have happened, whether for the correction of what was wrong in me, or for the improvement of what was right.  I have never lost cheerfulness of mind or opinion.  What evils there are, I find to be, for the most part, relieved with many consolations; some I find to be necessary to the requisite amount of good; and every one of them I find come to a termination, for either they are cured and live, or are killed and die; and in the latter case I see no evidence to prove that a little finger of them aches any more."


――――♦――――

 
HARTLEY COLERIDGE.

Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849), English writer and eldest son of the poet
Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


                                         "Nor child, nor man,
    Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey,
For I have lost the race I never ran:
    A rathe December blights my lagging May;
And still I am a child; though I be old,
Time is my debtor for my years untold."

SONNETS.


THE life of Hartley Coleridge reminds one of a painful dream.  There was little health or soundness in it.  The man was conscious of this himself, and was full of lamentations as to his want of purpose and self-control, which he took no pains to amend.  That he had great talents will be conceded,—that he had what is called genius is not so clear.  But what powers he had he grievously misused.  He was always calling on Jupiter, but would not help himself.  In his poems he preached purity, and in his life he practised self-indulgence.  Is such a career excusable in any man,—in a day-labourer or a shopkeeper? then how much less excusable in one who was competent to be a great teacher, and whose talents were equal to the highest vocation?

    We hold that the literary man or poet is as much under obligation to lead a pure and virtuous life as any other man, and that the fact of his talent or his genius is not a palliation, but an aggravation, of offences committed by him against public morality.  Intellectual powers are gifts committed to men to subserve their own happiness, as well as to promote the enlightenment of their kind.  Poetic powers, if employed by the possessor merely in dreamy indolence, and in the indulgence of the luxury of imaginative thinking, are not rightfully, but wrongfully, applied.  In such a case the poet's enjoyment is sensual and selfish. He may spend his time in arranging phrases,—embodying beautiful ideas it may be; but all the while he is not so much discovering, enforcing, or disseminating truth, as luxuriating in his own tastes.  If he spends his life in the meantime wastefully and hurtfully, his great gifts are naught, and might as well not have been.  What is thought or thinking worth, unless it help forward the life, and is illustrated in the life?  What are poetic dreams or imaginings, if the man's daily conduct be at constant variance with them?

    It used to be too much the case with the poets of a former age, to claim a kind of immunity from the ordinary laws of life.  The poet used to be pictured as a man out at elbows.  This old notion might be a vulgar one, but it must have been formed on some basis of experience.  Hogarth's picture of the "Distressed Poet" probably was not far from the truth.  The literary character has become greatly elevated since then, and the lives of Wordsworth, Southey, Moore, Rogers, and others, amply prove that poetic gifts are not incompatible with a fair share of ordinary worldly prudence; that authors, as a class, are not necessarily poor, hungry, and drunken.  But there are still to be met with, here and there, young dapperlings of poets, apt at stringing phrases together about unrequited genius, and ready to cite the fate of Burns, Savage, and Chatterton,—perhaps even to contemplate with sympathy, if not with feelings akin to admiration, the lives of such as Hartley Coleridge.  Their sentimental reveries are full of despair, sighs, cries of revolt, and hopelessness; and if you say a word in deprecation of such a strain, they cry out, "Be still!  I am a poet;—you! you are only flesh and blood; you don't comprehend me:—leave me to my illusions."  But really intelligence and poetry are not to be regarded apart from morality.  It is not enough that a man is intelligent, and writes delicious verse.  If he is a drunkard or immoral, we cannot excuse him any more than an ordinary man.  Genius affords no palliation in such a case; where a man's talents are great, his blame is only the more if he egregiously misuses them.

    And yet we admit that much is to be said in palliation of the life of Hartley Coleridge.  Doubtless, our constitution and character in no small degree depend upon the originators of our being,—and not only so, but our tastes, idiosyncrasies, sympathies, habits, and even modes of thought.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with his abounding gifts, was improvident, feeble of purpose, and self-indulgent to excess; and his son seems to have inherited all his frailties, together with a considerable portion of his genius.  The child was born in dreams, he lived in dreams, and in dreams he died.  He is said to have puzzled himself, when a child, about the reality of existence!  Sitting on the knee of old Jackson, Southey's humble friend, he would pour out the most strange speculations, and weave the wildest inventions.  When only eight years old, he found a spot upon the globe, which he peopled with an imaginary nation, to whom he gave an imaginary name, imaginary language, imaginary laws, and an imaginary senate.  These day-dreams he is said to have in course of time believed as real; and his relations encouraged the dreamy boy, and made a wonder of him.  His dreams even became a more real world to him than the actual world, in which he lived.  Then his father early crammed him with Greek, beginning at ten years old, though his instruction in this, as in other branches of knowledge, was interrupted and desultory.  He had always abundant time to build his castles in the air, and to carry on the affairs of his dream-land, which he called Ejuxria.  He was constantly forming "plans,"—dreaming of doing things which were never to be done,—until the practice became at length habitual with him, and was gradually welded into his life.

    Living in this dream-land of his, the boy became morbidly shy.  He never played with his fellows.  He passed his time in reading, walking, dreaming to himself, or telling his dreams to others.  His uncle, Southey, used to tell him that he had two left hands.  He lived not the life of other boys, but spun romances and tales for them of immense length, and kept them awake for hours together, when they lay in bed at night, during their recital.  For the boy had already the gift of extraordinary powers of speech,—another inheritance from his gifted father.  But he never took a high place at school.  Boys of very commonplace talents, but with application and industry, rarely failed to take the lead of him.  "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel," might be said of his whole life.  "While at school," says his brother,


"a certain infirmity of will, the specific evil of his life, had already shown itself.  His sensibility was intense, and he had not wherewithal to control it.  He could not open a letter without trembling.  He shrank from mental pain,—he was beyond measure impatient of constraint.  He was liable to paroxysms of rage, often the disguise of pity, self-accusation, or other painful emotion,—anger it could hardly be called,—during which he bit his arm or finger violently.  He yielded, as it were unconsciously, to slight temptations,—slight in themselves, and slight to him,—as if swayed by a mechanical impulse apart from his own volition.  It looked like an organic defect,—a congenital imperfection.  I do not offer this as a sufficient explanation.  There are mysteries in our moral nature upon which we can only pause and doubt."


    Hartley went to college at Oxford, where he was supported by his father's friends and relatives,—for his father was at the time in embarrassed circumstances, and could not afford the expense,—could scarcely even maintain himself.  He there distinguished himself chiefly by his extraordinary powers as a converser at "wine-parties," where he would hold forth by the hour on any subject that offered.  He spent his vacations at Highgate or Keswick, where he had the advantages of association with many distinguished literary men.  He was still living in dreams,—reading Wordsworth more than the classics, and fitting himself rather for the career of a dreamer than for the life of a working, active man.  He succeeded, however, in obtaining a fellowship at Oriel, which was the source of no small joy to his friends.  But he enjoyed his position only for a very short time.  "At the close of his probationary year," says his brother, "he was judged to have forfeited his Oriel Fellowship, on the ground, mainly, of intemperance."  This, we shall find, was the great blemish of his after-life.

    Then he went to London, to maintain himself by his pen; but his dreamy, purposeless character accompanied him: he failed to exert himself,—wanted industry,—made plans, which remained such,—procrastinated from day to day,—and of course he failed.  The successful literary man must be a hard worker, and not a mere dreamer; but this young man had never trained himself to habits of industry, nor had any one else so trained him; so he failed,—taking refuge in intoxication, and often disappearing for days together.  For about two years he resided in London, occasionally contributing small pieces to the London Magazine; but this scrambling life only served to aggravate his weaknesses, and the scheme was then proposed of taking a school for him in the north of England.  Hartley's "genius" revolted at the proposal, but at last he consented, commenced the work without heart, without purpose, and failed again.  That was at Ambleside, whither his friends had thought it advisable now to remove him.  His habits remained the same, and he occasionally, though undesignedly, led others into the same excess with himself.  Yet he was not without bodily and intellectual strength, had he but chosen to use it.  In one of his letters to his brother he says: "I cannot find that either my cares or my follies have materially diminished my bodily or intellectual vigour."  He was perfectly conscious of the folly and unworthiness of the course he was pursuing, and often overflowed with wise moral reflections on the subject.  But he would make no effort to rise, and only sunk to lower depths.  One of the most eminent of his friends on the Lakes relates that he latterly ceased to call on him,—


"it was so ridiculous and pitiable to find the poor, harmless creature, amid the finest scenery in the world, and in beautiful summer weather, dead drunk at ten o'clock in the morning."


    A publisher at Leeds having engaged him to write a book on the "Worthies of Yorkshire," found that the work proceeded so slowly,—Hartley procrastinating from day to day, as was his wont,—that he induced him to go over to Leeds and write it there.  While at Leeds, his life was of the usual description, fitful in labour, irresolute, often desponding, and as often breaking off into fits of dissipation and wandering.  He would disappear for days together, and the printer's boys were sent scouring about the country in search for him,—sometimes finding him in a hedge-bottom, at other times in an obscure beer-shop.  When, after one of these wanderings, he retraced his steps home by himself, he would hang about the house at the end of the street, not having the courage to enter, until some messenger, sent out to watch for his return, would lead him back,—often in a pitiable state.  All this was very lamentable: and what is the more extraordinary, during this time his brain was teeming with fancy, with poet's dreams, with beautiful thoughts, such as an angel of purity might have entertained.  Never, perhaps, was there a life more utterly at variance with his thoughts than that of Hartley Coleridge.

    It was so to the end.  He deplored his habits, but did not change them.  He lamented his indolence, but would not work.  His poetry breathed aspirations after purity, but his life remained impure and grovelling.  And yet he was beloved by all,—loved because of his amiability, his inoffensiveness, his almost helplessness.  He remained (to use his own words)


"Yet to the last a rugged wrinkled thing,
 To which young sweetness did delight to cling."


    Children doted on Hartley Coleridge,—himself a child.  Nature in him appeared reversed; for in his infancy he was a man in the maturity of his fancy, and in his advanced years he was as a helpless child among men,—a child with grey hairs, for his head early became silver-white, though the grey hairs brought no wisdom with them.  And yet his literary culture was great; his knowledge of books was immense; and the elegant manner in which he would dilate upon lofty themes charmed all hearers.  In the aspect of nature, his converse was like that of a god.

    The only after incidents that occurred worthy of note in Hartley Coleridge's life were his temporary occupation as a schoolmaster at Sedburgh, and his appearance as a contributor to Moxon's edition of some of the older British Poets,—for which, after great procrastination, he wrote the introduction to the works of Massinger.  A similar introduction to the works of Ford was committed to him, and was in hand for years, but he had not sufficient industry nor application to complete it.  But he occasionally contributed a paper to Blackwood's Magazine, when the fit of writing came upon him.  A collection of these articles, with his "Marginalia," written by him in books while reading them, has recently been published.

    Such is a brief outline of this blurred and blotted life.  A few months before his death, he wrote the following lines in a copy of his poems, alluding to his intention of publishing another volume, which he had bound himself under bond to furnish, and, we have been informed, had even been paid for, but which was never furnished.  The lines are entitled:


"FOLLOWED BY ANOTHER."


"O woful impotence of weak resolve,
 Recorded rashly to the writer's shame!
 Days pass away, and Time's large orbs revolve,
 And every day beholds me still the same;
 Till oft-neglected purpose loses aim,
 And hope becomes a flat unheeded lie,
 And conscience, weary with the work of blame,
 In seeming slumber droops her wistful eye,
 As if she would resign her unregarded ministry."


    It only remains to note the death of this poor fellow-being.  It occurred on the 6th of January, 1849, when in his fifty-third year.  "He died the death of a strong man, his bodily frame being of the finest construction, and capable of great endurance."  The following incident relative to Wordsworth is related in the biography by Hartley Coleridge's brother:—


    "The day following Hartley's death, Wordsworth walked over with me to Grasmere, to the churchyard,—a plain enclosure of the olden time, surrounding the old village church, in which lay the remains of his wife's sister, his nephew, and his beloved daughter.  Here, having desired the sexton to measure out the ground for his own and Mrs. Wordsworth's grave, he bade him measure out the space of a third grave, for my brother, immediately beyond.

    "'When I lifted up my eyes from my daughter's grave,' he exclaimed, 'he was standing there!' pointing to the spot where my brother had stood on the sorrowful occasion to which he alluded.  Then, turning to the sexton, he said, 'Keep the ground for us,—we are old people, and it cannot be for long.'

    "In the grave thus marked out my brother's remains were laid on the following Thursday, and in little more than a twelvemonth his venerable and venerated friend was brought to occupy his own.  They lie in the southeast angle of the churchyard, not far from a group of trees, with the little beck, that feeds the lake with its clear water, murmuring by their side.  Around them are the quiet mountains.  It was a winter's day when my brother was carried to his last home, cold, but fine, as I noted at the time, with a few slight scuds of sleet and gleams of sunshine, one of which greeted us as we entered Grasmere, and another smiled brightly through the church window.  May it rest upon his memory!"


    We can add nothing to this.  The recital is very touching, and is done throughout with the extremest delicacy and grace by his brother, who would lovingly palliate the errors of the departed.  He sleeps well by Wordsworth's side, Wordsworth having been the model of all his poetry, and standing to him instead of a father through the greater part of his unhappy life.

    Hartley Coleridge's poetry reminds the reader of Wordsworth in nearly every line, though it is Wordsworth diluted; and at its best, the Lake poetry cannot much bear dilution.  Excepting in the sonnets which relate to his own personal unhappiness, the poems sound like the echoes of other poets, rather than welling warm from the writer's own heart.  And though, in the personal sonnets referred to, he paints his purposeless life and blighted career in terse and poetic language, it were perhaps better that they had not been written at all.  His poems addressed to Childhood are perhaps the most charming things in the collection.  For poor Hartley loved children, and they returned his love.  He loved women, too, but at a distance; and his despondency at his own want of personal attractions for them is a frequent theme of his poetry.

    The melancholy history of Hartley Coleridge is not without its moral.  It was perhaps his misfortune to be the son of a poet, who gave little heed to the healthy training of his children.  The child's endowment of fancy, though a rare one, proved only a source of unhappiness in after-life, having been cultivated, as it was, to the entire disregard of those other practical qualities which fit a man for useful intercourse with the world.  Living in a state of dreaminess and abstraction, his mind became unnerved, and his manly powers fatally impaired.  He indulged in poetic thought rather as an effeminate luxury than as a means of self-culture or a relaxation from the severer toils and duties of life.  He was, however, fully aware of the wrongness of his course, as appears from his numerous melancholy plaints in stanzas and sonnets.  But he made no effort at self-help; he met adversity and temptation half-way, and laid himself down at their feet, a willing victim.  Though we ought to be tolerant of the frailties of genius, we cannot overlook its sins and follies, which are but too often seized upon as excuses for excess by those who are less gifted.  We must bear in mind that high powers are committed to man for noble uses,—that from him to whom much is given much shall be required,—that however poetic may be a man's thoughts, he is not thereby absolved from the observance of the practical virtues of life, or from living soberly, purely, and religiously; on the contrary, the man of high thinkings is expected to live thus daily, and to make his life the practical record of his thoughts.  Though there were many things to love about Hartley Coleridge, we trust his sad career may not be without its lesson and its warning to others.


――――♦――――

 
DR. KITTO.

John Kitto (1804-54), English biblical scholar.


NOT long since, we were attracted by the announcement in a second-hand book catalogue, of "Essays and Letters, by Dr. Kitto, written in a Workhouse."  As one of the celebrities of the day, the editor of the Pictorial Bible, the Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature, and many other highly important works, which have obtained an extensive circulation, and are greatly prized, we could not but feel interested in this little book, and purchased it accordingly.  It has proved full of curious interest, and from it we learned, that, besides having endured from an early age the serious privation of hearing, the author has also suffered the lot of poverty, and, by dint of gallant perseverance and manly courage, he was enabled to rise above and triumph over both privations.

    It is indeed true that Dr. Kitto's first book was "written in a workhouse."  And we must here tell the reader something of his early history.  The father of Dr. Kitto was a working mason at Plymouth, whither he had been attracted by the demand for labourers of all descriptions at that place, about the early part of the present century.  John Kitto was born there in 1804.  In his youth he received very little school education, though he learned to read, and had already taken some interest in books, when the serious accident occurred which deprived him of his hearing.  At that time his parents were in very distressed circumstances, and, though little more than twelve years of age, the boy was employed by his father to help him as a labourer, in carrying stones, mortar, and such like.  One day in February, 1817, when stepping from the ladder to the roof of a house undergoing repair in Batter Street, the little lad, with a load of slates on his head, lost his balance, and, falling back, was precipitated from a height of thirty-five feet into the paved court below!

    Dr. Kitto has himself given a most vivid account of the details of the accident in the interesting work by him, on "The Lost Senses,—Deafness," some time since published by Charles Knight.

    "Of what followed," says he,


"I know nothing.  For one moment, indeed, I awoke from that death-like state, and then found that my father, attended by a crowd of people, was bearing me homeward in his arms; but I had then no recollection of what had happened, and at once relapsed into a state of unconsciousness.

    "In this state I remained for a fortnight, as I afterwards learned.  These days were a blank in my life; I could never bring any recollections to bear upon them; and when I awoke one morning to consciousness, it was as from a night of sleep.  I saw that it was at least two hours later than my usual time of rising, and marvelled that I had been suffered to sleep so late.  I attempted to spring up in bed, and was astonished to find that I could not even move.  The utter prostration of my strength subdued all curiosity within me.  I experienced no pain, but I felt that I was weak; I saw that I was treated as an invalid, and acquiesced in my condition, though some time passed—more time than the reader would imagine—before I could piece together my broken recollections, so as to comprehend it.

    "I was very slow in learning that my hearing was entirely gone.  The unusual stillness of all things was grateful to me in my utter exhaustion; and if, in this half-awakened state, a thought of the matter entered my mind, I ascribed it to the unusual care and success of my friends in preserving silence around me.  I saw them talking, indeed, to one another, and thought that, out of regard to my feeble condition, they spoke in whispers, because I heard them not.  The truth was revealed to me in consequence of my solicitude about a book [Kirby's Wonderful Magazine] which had much interested me on the day of my fall.  I asked for this book with much earnestness, and was answered by signs which I could not comprehend.

    "'Why do you not speak?!' I cried; 'pray, let me have the book.'

    "This seemed to create some confusion; and at length someone, more clever than the rest, hit upon the happy expedient of writing upon a slate, that the book had been reclaimed by the owner, and that I could not in my weak state be allowed to read.

    "'But,' said I, in great astonishment, 'why do you write to me, why not speak?!  Speak, speak!'

    "Those who stood around the bed exchanged significant looks of concern, and the writer soon displayed upon his slate the awful words, 'Y
OU ARE DEAF.'"


    Various remedies were tried, but without avail.  Some serious organic injury had been done to the auditory nerve by the fall, and hearing was never restored: poor Kitto remained stone-deaf.  The boy, thus thrown upon himself, devoted his spare time—his time was now all spare time—to reading.  Books gradually became a source of interest to him, and he soon exhausted the small stocks of his neighbours.  Books were then much rarer than now, and reading was regarded as an occult art, in which few persons of the working class could venture to indulge.

    The circumstances of Kitto's parents still continued very poor.  This, with other sources of domestic disquietude, rendered his position for some years very unfortunate.  At length, in 1819, about two years from the date of his accident, on an application for relief from the guardians of the poor of Plymouth, young Kitto was taken from his parents and placed among the boys of the workhouse.  There he was instructed in the art of shoemaking, with the view of enabling him thus to obtain his livelihood.  He was afterwards bound apprentice to a poor shoemaker in the town, where his position was very miserable; so much so, that an inquiry as to the apprentice's treatment was instituted before the magistrates, the result of which was that they discharged Kitto from his apprenticeship, and he was returned to the workhouse, where he continued his shoemaking.  He found a warm friend in Mr. Bernard, the clerk to the guardians, and also in Mr. Nugent, the master of the school.  From these gentlemen he obtained loans of books, mostly of a religious character.

    He remained in the workhouse about four years; his deafness condemned him to solitude; for, deprived of speech and hearing, he had not the means of forming friends among his companions, such as they were.  At the same time, it is possible enough that his isolation from the other occupants of the workhouse may have preserved his purity, and encouraged him to cultivate his intellectual powers to a greater extent than he might otherwise have been disposed to do.  Thrown almost exclusively upon his visual perceptions, he enjoyed with an intensity of delight the beautiful face of Nature,—the sun, the moon, the stars, and the glories of earth.  In after life he said:


"I must not refuse to acknowledge that, when I have beheld the moon, 'walking in brightness,' my heart has been 'secretly enticed' into feelings having perhaps a nearer approach to the old idolatries than I should like to ascertain.  I mention this because, at this distant day, I have no recollection of earlier emotions connected with the beautiful than those of which the moon was the object.  How often, some two or three years after my affliction, did I not wander forth upon the hills, for no other purpose in the world than to enjoy and feed upon the emotions connected with the sense of the beautiful in nature.  It gladdened me, it filled my heart, I knew not why or how, to view 'the great and wide sea,' the wooded mountain, and even the silent town, under that pale radiance; and not less to follow the course of the luminary over the clear sky, or to trace its shaded pathway among and behind the clouds."


An exquisitely keen perception of the beautiful in trees was of somewhat later development, as Plymouth, being by the sea-side, is not favourable to the growth of oaks, and had nothing to boast of but a few rows of good elms.  Another great source of enjoyment with him, at that early period, was to wander about the print-sellers' and picture-framers' windows, and learn the pictures by heart, watching anxiously from day to day for the cleaning out of the windows, that he might enjoy the luxury of a new display of prints and frontispieces.  He scoured the whole neighbourhood with this view, going over to Devonport, which he divided into districts and visited periodically, for the purpose of exploring the windows in each, with leisurely enjoyment at each visit.

    A young man so peculiarly circumstanced, and with such tastes, could not remain altogether overlooked; and he was so fortunate as to attract the notice of two worthy gentlemen, who, when he had reached the age of about twenty years, used every exertion to befriend him.  One of these was Mr. Harvey, a member of the Society of Friends, well known as an accomplished mathematician, who supplied young Kitto with books of a superior quality to anything he had before had access to.  Mr. Harvey, when one day in a bookseller's shop, saw a lad of mean appearance enter, and begin writing a communication to the master on a slip of paper.  On inquiry, he found him to be a deaf workhouse boy, distinguished by his desire for reading and thirst for knowledge of all kinds; and that he had come to borrow a book which the bookseller had promised to lend him.  Inquiries were made about him, interest was excited in his behalf, and a subscription was raised for his benefit.  He was supplied with books, paper, and pens, to enable him to pursue his literary occupations; and in a short time, having secured the notice of Mr. Nettleton, one of the proprietors of the Plymouth Journal, and also a guardian of the poor, several of his productions appeared in the columns of that journal.  The case of the poor lad became the subject of general conversation in the town; several gentlemen associated themselves together as the guardians of the youth; after which Kitto was removed from the workhouse, and obtained permission to read at the public library.  A selection of his writings, chiefly written in the workhouse, was shortly afterwards published by subscription, and the young man found himself in the fair way of advancement.  He made rapid progress in learning, acquiring a knowledge of Hebrew and other languages, which he imparted to pupils whom he shortly after obtained, the sons of a gentleman into whose house he was taken as tutor.  He read largely on all subjects, but his early bias towards theological literature clung to him, and he soon acquired an extensive and profound knowledge of scriptural and sacred lore.  At length he was enabled to turn his stores of learning to rich account, in his Pictorial Bible and Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, which many of our readers may have seen.  In his day, Dr. Kitto has also been an extensive traveller; having been in Palestine, in Egypt, in the Morea, in Russia, and in many countries of Europe.

    "For many years," he says,


"I had no views towards literature beyond the instruction and solace of my own mind; and under these views, and in the absence of other mental stimulants, the pursuit of it eventually became a passion which devoured all others.  I take no merit for the industry and application with which I pursued this object,—none for the ingenious contrivances by which I sought to shorten the hours of needful rest, that I might have the more time for making myself acquainted with the minds of other men.  The reward was great and immediate, and I was only preferring the gratification which seemed to me the highest.  Nevertheless, now that I am in fact another being, having but slight connection—excepting in so far as 'the child is father to the man'—with my former self; now that much has become a business which was then simply a joy; and now that I am gotten old in experiences, if not in years,—it does somewhat move me to look back upon that poor and deaf boy, in his utter loneliness, devoting himself to objects in which none around him could sympathize, and to pursuits which none could even understand.  There was a time—by far the most dreary in that portion of my career—when an employment was found for me, [it was when he was apprenticed to the shoemaker,] to which I proceeded about six o'clock in the morning, and from which I returned not until about ten at night.  I murmured not at this, for I knew that life had grosser duties than those to which I would gladly have devoted all my hours; and I dreamed not that a life of literary occupations might be within the reach of my hopes.  This was, however, a terrible time for me, as it left me so little leisure for what had become my sole enjoyment, if not my sole good.  I submitted; I acquiesced; I tried hard to be happy; but it would not do; my heart gave way, notwithstanding my manful struggles to keep it up, and I was very thoroughly miserable.  Twelve hours I could have borne.  I have tried it, and know that the leisure which twelve hours might have left would have satisfied me; but sixteen hours, and often eighteen, out of the twenty-four, was more than I could bear.  To come home weary and sleepy, and then to have only for mental sustenance the moments which, by self-imposed tortures, could be torn from needful rest, was a sore trial; and now that I look back upon this time, the amount of study which I did, under these circumstances, contrive to get through, amazes and confounds me, notwithstanding that my habits of application remain to this day strong and vigorous.

    "In the state to which I have thus referred, I suffered much wrong; and the fact that, young as I then was, my pen became the instrument of redressing that wrong, and of ameliorating the more afflictive part of my condition, was among the first circumstances which revealed to me the secret of the strength which I had, unknown to myself, acquired.  The flood of light which then broke in upon me not only gave distinctness of purpose to what had before been little more than dark and uncertain gropings; but also, from that time, the motive to my exertions became more mixed than it had been.  My ardour and perseverance were not lessened; and the pure love of knowledge, for its own sake, would still have carried me on; but other influences, the influences which supply the impulse to most human pursuits, did supervene, and gave the sanction of the judgment to the course which the instincts of mental necessity had previously dictated. I had, in fact, learned the secret, that knowledge is power; and if, as is said, all power is sweet, then, surely, that power which knowledge gives is, of all others, the sweetest."


    In conclusion, we may add, that Dr. Kitto continued to lead a happy and a useful life, cheered by the faces of children around his table,—though, alas! he could not hear their voices.  He resided until his death, in 1854, in the beautiful environs of London, that he might be within sight of old trees, without which his heart could scarcely be satisfied.  Indeed, with such love and veneration did he regard them, that the felling of a noble tree caused him the deepest emotion.  But he delighted in the faces of men, too, and nothing gave him greater delight than to walk or drive through the crowded thoroughfares of the metropolis.  In this respect he resembled the amiable Charles Lamb, to whom the crowd of Fleet Street was more delightful than all the hills and of Westmoreland.  "How often," said Dr. Kitto,


"at the end of a day's hard toil, have I thrown myself into an omnibus, and gone into town, for no other purpose in the world than to have a walk from Charing Cross to St. Paul's on the one hand, or to the top of Regent Street on the other; or from the top of Tottenham Court Road to the Post-Office.  I know not whether I liked this best in summer or winter.  I could seldom afford myself this indulgence but for one or two evenings a week, when I could manage to bring my day's studies to a close an hour or so earlier than usual.  In summer there is daylight, and I could better enjoy the picture-shops and the street incidents, and might diverge so as to pass through Covent Garden, and luxuriate among the finest fruits and most beautiful flowers in the world.  And in winter it might be doubted whether the glory of the shops, lighted up with gas, was not a sufficient counterbalance for the absence of daylight.  Perhaps 'both are best,' as the children say; and yield the same kind of grateful change as the alternation of the seasons offers."


Thus, what we, who have our hearing entire, regard as a great calamity, in Dr. Kitto ceased to be regarded as such.  The condition became natural to him, and his sweet temper and steady habits of industry enabled him to pass through life honourably and usefully.  His life was a noble and valuable lesson to all young men.


――――♦――――

 
EDGAR ALLAN POE.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49): American writer, poet, editor and literary critic.
A daguerreotype taken on 9th Nov. 1848.  Picture Wikipedia. [p.334]


RICHTER, writing from Weimar, whither he had gone to see, eye to eye, the great men with whose fame all Europe was ringing, said: "On the second day I threw away my foolish prejudices about great authors: they are like other people.  Here, every one knows that they are like the earth, which looks from a distance, from heaven, like a shining moon; but when the foot is upon it, it is found to be made only of Paris mud (boue de Paris)."

    Alas! it is so.  Those lofty gods whom we had worshipped and bowed down before,—those gifted children of genius whose eyes gazed eagerly into the unseen, and penetrated its depths far beyond our ken,—when we approach them closer, and know them more intimately, become stripped of their halo of glory.  We find that they are but men,—fallible, frail, and erring,—tempest-tossed by passion and desire,—stumbling and halt, and often blind and decrepit.  We worship no more.  The earth which, seen from a distance, looks a beautiful moon, when the foot is on it, is but rocks, clods, and "Paris mud"!

    Sad indeed is the impression left on the mind by reading the brief records of some of these unhappy children of genius: gifted, but unhappy; loftily endowed, but fitful and capricious; with the aspirations of an angel, but the low appetites of a brute; daringly speculative, but grovellingly sensual;—such, in a few words, was the life of Edgar Allan Poe: a being full of misery, but all beaten out upon his own anvil; a man gifted as few are, but without faith or devotion, and without any earnest purpose in life.

    You have read his "Raven."  You see the gloom and despair of that unhappy youth's life written there.  What a dismal, tragic, remorseful transcript it is!—the croaking raven, bird of ill omen, perched above its master's chamber-door, responding with his doleful "Nevermore" to all his deep questions and impatient feelings:—


"'Prophet,' said I, 'thing of evil!   Prophet still, if bird or devil!
      Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tost thee here ashore,
  Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted,
      On this home by horror haunted,—tell me truly, I implore,
  Is there—is there balm in Gilead?   Tell me, tell me, I implore!
                                                       Quoth the raven,—'Nevermore!'

"'Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked, upstarting;
      Get thee back into the tempest, and the Night's Plutonian shore!
  Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
      Leave my loneliness unbroken! quit the bust above my door!
  Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
                                                      Quoth the raven,—'Nevermore!'

"And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting,
     On the pallid bust of Pallas, just above my chamber-door;
 And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
     And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
 And my soul from out the shadow that lies floating on the floor,
                                                       Shall be lifted—nevermore!"


    By this light, read the following brief record of the poet's blurred and blotted life.

    Edgar Allan Poe was born at Baltimore, in 1811, of an old and respectable family.  His father was a lawyer, but having become enamoured of an English actress, he married her, and followed her profession for some years, until his death, which shortly followed.  Poe's mother died about the same time, and three children were left destitute.  But a wealthy gentleman, named Allan, who had no children of his own, adopted Edgar, it was understood with the intention of leaving him his heir.  In 1816 Mr. Allan took the boy to England with him, and placed him in a boarding-school at Stoke Newington, near London, where he remained some four or five years, under the Rev. Dr. Bransby, returning to America in 1822.

    It will be obvious that the circumstances of Poe's early life were very unfavourable to his healthy moral development.  Deprived of the blessings" of maternal nurture, without a home, brought up among strangers, there is little cause to wonder at the subsequent heartlessness towards others which he displayed, and the excesses in which he indulged.  Returned to America, he entered the University of Charlottesville, in Virginia, in 1825.  Unfortunately, the students of that University were then distinguished for their dissoluteness and their excesses in many ways; and Edgar Poe was one of the most reckless of his class.  Although his talents were such as to enable him to master with ease the most difficult studies, and to take the highest honours of his year, his habits of gambling, intemperance, and general dissipation were such as to cause his expulsion from the University.

    Mr. Allan, his benefactor, had made him a liberal allowance; but Poe nevertheless ran deeply into debt, chiefly to his gambling friends; and when his drafts were presented to Mr. Allan for payment, be declined to honour them; on which Poe wrote him an abusive letter, left his house, abandoned his half-formed plans of life, and suddenly left the country to take part as a volunteer, like Byron, in the Greek Revolution.  But he never reached Greece.  Whither he wandered, Heaven knows.  Nothing was heard of him until, after the lapse of a year, the American Minister at St. Petersburgh was one morning summoned to save him from the penalties incurred in a drunken debauch over night.  Through the Minister's intercession, he was set at liberty and enabled to return to the United States.

    His friend, Mr. Allan, was still willing to assist him, and, at his request, Poe was entered as scholar in the Military Academy at West Point; but again his dissipated habits displayed themselves.  He negleglted his duties and disobeyed orders, on which he was cashiered, and once more returned to Mr. Allan's house, who was still ready to receive him and treat him as a son.  But a circumstance shortly occurred which finally broke the connection between the two.  Mr. Allan married a second time, and the lady was considerably his junior.  Poe quarrelled with her, and, it is said, ridiculed Allan.  The lady's friends have averred that the real cause of the rupture was, that Poe made disgraceful overtures to the young wife, which throws another dark stain upon his character.  Whatever the real cause may have been, certain it is, that he was now expelled from his patron's house in anger; and when Mr. Allan died, some years after, he left nothing to Poe.

    The young man had in the mean while published a small volume of poetry, when he was not more than eighteen years of age.  This was very favourably received, and a little perseverance might have enabled him to maintain himself creditably as a literary man.  But in one of his hasty and reckless fits, he enlisted as a private soldier.  He was recognized by some of his old fellow-students at West Point, and they made efforts to obtain him a commission, which promised to be successful; but, fitful in everything, before the result of their kind application could be known, he deserted!

    We next find Poe a successful competitor for certain prizes offered by the proprietor of the Baltimore Visitor for the best story and the best poem.  Poe competed for both, and gained both.  The author was sent for, and made his appearance in due time.  He was in a state of the utmost destitution, pale, ghastly, and filthy.  His seedy frock-coat, buttoned up to his throat, concealed the absence of a shirt, and his dilapidated boots disclosed his want of stockings.  Mr. Kennedy, the author of "Horse-shoe Robinson," who was the adjudicator of the prize, took an immediate interest in the young man, then only twenty-two years old; and he accompanied him to a clothing store, where he provided him with a respectable suit, with changes of linen, and, after taking a bath, Poe once more appeared in the restored guise of a gentleman.

    Mr. Kennedy further used his influence in obtaining for Poe some literary employment, and he was shortly engaged as joint editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, published at Richmond.  He was now a literary man, living by his pen.  The literary profession is an honourable one, even noble, inasmuch as it is identified with intellectual culture and high manly gifts.  The literary man exercises much power in the world.  He helps to form the opinions of other men; indeed, he makes public opinion.  All other powers have in modern times become weaker, while this has been waxing stronger from day to day.  Kings are being superseded by books, priests by magazines, and diplomatists by newspapers.  Perhaps bookmen and editors now wield more intellectual power than all the other crafts combined.  Literary men have taken the place of the feudal barons, and the pen has become the ruling instrument instead of the sword.  The man of letters is an altogether modern product, the like of whom was unknown to former ages.  Never, before the last century, was there any class of men in society who made a profession of thinking for others, or who earned a subsistence by writing and publishing their thoughts in books and journals.  Soldiers, law-givers, and priests may have taken up the pen to write and give an account of their lives and times, or have written books of philosophy or meditation; but never before has there been a special class of men who made it their sole business and profession to write for the general public.

    The question has been discussed whether this purely professional literary life is compatible with the simple and straightforward duties of a man.  His position is certainly very different from that of the great non-professional writers of former times,—the Homers, Shakespeares, Miltons, Bossuets, Pascals, Bacons, Fénelons: these wrote to satisfy an earnest desire, in answer to some strong inward call,—to do a certain work, though not for money,—that was not their main work,—but to fulfil a duty,—it might be, to fill up a vacant hour.  Modern literary men may, however, have no special, distinct, or well-defined call to write; with them it is a business, a calling, a craft, self-chosen.  They write that they may live.  They may have no sense of responsibility as to what they write; and the gift may thus be abused as well as used.  To enter upon what is called a "literary career," may even be a merely instinctive and irrational act, performed without deliberation, the choice being determined by taste rather than by reflection.  In other professions experience and character are required; but in this profession they are not regarded as at all requisite.  The literary man may be dissolute, spendthrift, without any business habits or any moral stamina; and yet he may succeed as a public writer.  This must be regarded as a curious feature of the literary character.

    Here we have Edgar Poe installed at twenty-two as a public teacher through the medium of the press; a young man incompetent to manage a small store, unable to manage himself, and yet a public writer.  Not many months pass before he lapses into his old habits of drunkenness.  Fatal bottle!  What manifold curses have been poured from that narrow neck of thine!  Poe fell a victim like thousands more.  For a whole week he was drunk and unable to write; then he was dismissed.  Next followed entreaties, intercessions, pleadings, professions of abstinence for the future from the fatal bottle.  He was taken back for a time; but the habit had become rooted; the character was formed, and the demon had wound his fetters about the doomed man.  Finally dismissed from his situation, he went from Richmond to Baltimore, and thence to Philadelphia, where he proceeded to lead the life of a literary "man about town."

    It was while he resided at Philadelphia, in 1839, that Poe published his two volumes of Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque.  These tales exhibit extraordinary metaphysical acuteness, and an imagination which delights to dwell in the shadowy confines of human experience, among the abodes of crime, gloom, and horror.  They exhibit a subtle power of analysis, and a minuteness of detail and refinement of reasoning remarkable in so young a writer.  He anatomizes mystery, and gives to the most incredible inventions a wonderful air of reality.

    While Poe was engaged in writing these striking tales, he was pursuing his old round of dissipation.  To his other imprudences he had added that of marrying,—the most imprudent thing a determined drunkard can do.  For, instead of one miserable person, there is then two, following in whose wake are usually a train of little miseries, at length becoming agonies, eating into a man's flesh as it were fire,—that is, if he have any sense of responsibility still surviving within him.  The woman Poe married was his cousin, Virginia Clemm, amiable and lovely, but poor and gentle, quite unfitted to master the now headstrong passion of her husband for drink.

    Poe managed to eke out a slender living for himself and wife by writing for the magazines and the newspapers.  For a time it seemed that he would reform; he wrote to one friend that he had quite "overcome the seduction and dangerous besetment" of drink, and to another, that he had become a "model of temperance."  But shortly after, he again fell off as before into his old habits, and for weeks was regardless of everything but the ways and means of satisfying his morbid and insatiable appetite for drink.  All this shows how little intellectual power avails without moral goodness, and of how small worth is genius without the common work-a-day elements of sober, manly character.  For it is life, not scripture, that avails,—character, not literary talents, that brings a man happiness, and tells on the betterment of the world at large.

    Poe could appreciate the glorious thoughts contained in books, yet he failed to apply their precepts of wisdom.  He could rejoice in his own thoughts, but had not learned to respect his own life.  His mind was full of riches, yet, wanting in moral good, he remained poor and without resources.  His life did not embrace duty, but pleasure.  Intoxicated with essences and perfumes, he neglected wisdom, which is the true balm of life.  Poor unfortunate, thus worthlessly eating and drinking out of the sacred vessels of knowledge!  Many and poignant must have been the distresses suffered by poor Poe in the dreary and miserable state in which he lived,—distress not only about money and worldly well-being, but about God and duty.  Then followed new catastrophes, family disasters, domestic misery,—teaching him, if he would but learn, the same lessons of duty, but of which, through life, he seemed to be altogether ignorant.  Man cannot lead an egotistic and selfish life without suffering.  For life, from time to time, tells him that he is not alone, and that he owes much to those of his own blood and household.  Love itself, smiling and celestial love, in such a case, becomes a source of torments and calamities to him.  The brave only, live through this state; the heartless despair, utter loud cries of revolt, blaspheme, and precipitate themselves into extreme courses.  Their originality and genius may astonish the world, but originality is nothing unless it includes the realities of life; they are but dreamers, unless, as poets, they also do the daily living of true men.  But you are a poet!  Well, show me the practical issue of knowledge and beauty in your life and character.  Unless you do, I say you have adopted the profession merely to indulge in the luxury and fascination of thinking,—not so much to discover and propagate truth as to gratify your own selfish tastes.

    We wish there had been no more than this in Poe's case; but there was positive dishonour in the course of life he pursued.  While admitted into the confidence of Mr. Burton, proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine, at Philadelphia, at the very time that he was neglecting his own proper work of writing for the Magazine, he was nevertheless engaged in preparing the prospectus of a new rival monthly, and obtaining transcripts of his employer's subscription and account books, to be used in a scheme for supplanting his periodical.  Of course, on this scurvy trick being discovered, Poe was at once dismissed; but only to start a rival Graham's Magazine, with which he was connected for a year and a half, leaving it, as usual, because of his drunken habits.  While writing in Graham's Magazine, Poe published several of his finest tales, and some of his most trenchant criticisms.  These last were disfigured, however, by a tone of morbid bitterness, such as a man who misconducts himself towards the world so often affects.  In his capacity of critic, Poe not infrequently assumed an air of bitter sarcasm, and made the air blatant with his cries of rage and his implacable anathemas.  Burton, his former employer, often expostulated with him because of the havoc which he did upon the books of rival authors, and tried to tame down his severity to a moderate tone, but without avail.

    In 1844 Poe removed to New York, where he published his wonderful poem, "The Raven,"—perhaps the very finest and most original single poem of its kind that America has yet produced.  It indicates a most wayward and subtle genius.  It takes you captive by its gloomy, weird power.  Of his other poems, "Annabel Lee" and "The Haunted Palace" are especially beautiful.  But the radiance which they give forth is lurid; and the fire which they contain scorches, but does not warm.  As in his "Haunted Palace," we


    "Through the red-linen windows see
 Vast forms, that move fantastically,
     To a discordant melody;
 While, like a ghastly rapid river,
     Through the pale door,
 A hideous throng rush out forever,
     And laugh—but smile no more."


    At New York, Poe was admitted into the best literary circles, and might have made for himself a position of influence, had he possessed ordinary good conduct.  But his usual failing again betrayed him.  What was worse, he was poisoned in his principles: indeed, he had no principles.  He was false, and a coward.  Take this instance: he had borrowed fifty dollars from a lady, on a promise given by him that he would return the money in a few days.  He did not return it; and was then asked for a written acknowledgment of the debt: his answer was a denial that he had ever borrowed the money, accompanied with a threat, that, if the lady said anything more about the subject, he would publish a correspondence of hers, of an infamous character, which would blast her forever.  Of course, there was no such correspondence in existence; but when Poe heard that the lady's brother was in search of him for the purpose of obtaining the satisfaction considered necessary in such cases, he sent a friend to him with a humble apology and retractation, and an excuse that he had been "out of his mind at the time."

    His habits of intoxication increased, and his pecuniary difficulties, as might have been expected, became more urgent.  Often, after a long-continued debauch, he was without the ordinary necessaries of life.  His wife, and mother-in-law, who were dependent upon his exertions for their means of living, went a-begging for help.  Not improbably, the distress which his wife suffered from the irregularity of her husband's career, and the frequent privations which she endured, had something to do with causing the illness from which she eventually died.  A number of friends voluntarily contributed towards the support of the distressed family when their case became known through the newspapers, but the help came too late to be of any service to Mrs. Poe.

    In 1848 Poe delivered a public lecture on the Cosmogony of the Universe,—an extraordinary rhapsody, very imaginative, but quite unscientific.  His object was to raise money for the purpose of establishing a monthly magazine, and we believe several numbers were published; but his unsteady habits soon proved its ruin.  He also quarrelled with the editors of the principal magazines for which he had formerly written, and made enemies all round.  About the same time, he formed the acquaintance of one of the most brilliant women of New England, sought her hand, and the day of marriage was fixed.  They were not married, and the breaking of the engagement affords a striking illustration of his character.  His biographer thus relates the circumstances connected with it:—


"Poe said to a female acquaintance in New York, who congratulated him upon the prospect of his union with a person of so much genius and so many virtues, 'It is a mistake; I am not going to be married.'  'Why, Mr. Poe, I understand that the banns have been published!'  'I cannot help what you have heard, my dear madam, but, mark me, I shall not marry her!'  He left town the same evening, and the next day was reeling through the streets of the city which was the lady's home; and in the evening that should have been the evening before the bridal, in his drunkenness he committed at her house such outrages as made necessary a summons of the police."


    He pursued a course of reckless dissipation for some time, after which he went to Virginia, on means raised from the charity of his few remaining friends.  He delivered some lectures there; then he joined a temperance society, and professed a determination to reform his evil habits.  But it was too late; his bad genius prevailed over all his better resolutions.  Again he contracted an engagement to marry a lady whom he had known in his youth, and returned to New York to fulfil a literary engagement, and prepare for his marriage.  In a tavern he casually met some of his old acquaintances, who invited him to drink.  He drank until he was deplorably drunk.  He was afterwards found in the streets, insane and dying, and was carried to the public hospital, in which he expired on the 7th of October, 1849, in his thirty-eighth year.

    Thus miserably perished another of the most gifted of earth's sons.  What a torn record of a life it is! more sorrowful by far than that of our own Otway or Chatterton.  Alternately a seraph and a brute,—an inspired poet and a grovelling sensualist,—a prophet and a drunkard,—his biography unfolds a tale of mingled admiration and horror, such as has been told of very few literary men.  It is painful to think of it; but it is right that such a history should be known, were it only as a beacon to warn susceptible youth from the horrible fascination of drink, which lures so many to their destruction.


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[THEODORE HOOK]

 



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