Coleridge and Tom Wedgwood


Neil Vickers


(Coleridge Bulletin, New Series 14, Autumn 1999, pp87-97)




HE IS GONE, my friend! my munificent co-patron, and not less the benefactor of my intellect!—He who, beyond all other men known to me, added a fine and ever-wakeful sense of beauty to the most patient accuracy in experimental Philosophy and the profounder researches of metaphysical science; he who united all the play and spring of fancy with the subtlest discrimination and an inexorable judgment; and who controlled an almost painful exquisiteness of taste by a warmth of heart, which was indeed noble and pre-eminent, for alas! the genial feelings of health contributed no spark to it . . .  Were it but for the remembrance of him alone and of his lot here below, the disbelief of a future state would sadden the earth around me, and blight the very grass in the field.[1]


Was Tom Wedgwood (1771-1805) really the benefactor of Coleridge’s intellect, or was he, when all is said and done, just a friend? On the whole, Coleridgeans have inclined to the latter view. By virtue of his personal friendships with many eminent men of the day—Priestley, Darwin, Tooke, Godwin, Daniel Stuart, James Mackintosh, to name only a handful—he has come to be seen as a ‘link character’ in Coleridge’s life, with little dramatic importance of his own. Only when attention turns to opium is he given, as it were, a ‘speaking part’. Desmond King-Hele has conjectured that Coleridge might have become addicted himself as a result of taking over the deadly regimen Erasmus Darwin prescribed for Wedgwood: up to four grains of the drug per night, equivalent to twice the legal daily maximum permitted in the United States today under physician supervision.[2] This suggestion is rich in implications, drawing our attention to the role of illness in the dynamic of their friendship. But few scholars have taken it up in this broad spirit, preferring to use it to motivate the less generous claim that their friendship was primarily a vehicle for narcotic binges.[3]

       Students of Wedgwood, by contrast, usually avoid mention of opiates (except to implicate Coleridge in their subject’s demise), emphasising instead Coleridge’s respect for Wedgwood in ‘the profounder researches of




metaphysical science’. They point to the impressive range of interests the two men shared: metaphysics, natural philosophy and psychology. But a cursory survey of the two men’s opinions throws into relief irreconcilable differences.

The disparity between their opinions on psychology is particularly wide. When they first met in 1797, both men based their claims on the David Hartley’s doctrine of the association of ideas.[4] But even then, subtle differences of emphasis presaged the disagreements which eventually came to light in 1801. Coleridge used Hartley’s theories to give the higher functions of the mind the same necessity and the same objectivity as ordinary sense perceptions. But he never doubted the superior value of the higher functions of the mind. Wedgwood, by contrast, was a genuine materialist and as such wanted to explode the hierarchy between higher and lower mental functions. In his view, the former were merely extended versions of the latter. ‘Accurate Met[aphysics]’, he wrote, ‘should account for every thing without even mentioning I will, this, that, &c. or the mind—It should expound a series of perceptions which should resolve the question’.[5] Coleridge’s response to assertions of this kind is preserved in one of his autobiographical letters to Poole:


From my early reading  . . .  my mind had been habituated to the Vast—and I never regarded my senses in any way as the criteria of my belief. Those who have been led to the same truths step by step thro’ the constant testimony of their senses seem to me to want a sense which I possess—They contemplate nothing but parts—and all parts are necessarily little—and the Universe to them is but a mass of little things . . .  I have known some who have been rationally educated, as it is styled. They were marked by microscopic acuteness; but when they looked at great things, all became a blank & they saw nothing . . .  & [they] called the want of imagination Judgment, & the never being moved to Rapture Philosophy![6]


Wedgwood, of course, had been ‘rationally educated’ under a scheme devised by Erasmus Darwin and some other members of the Lunar Society.[7]

       It has often been suggested that Coleridge can be seen as a forerunner of




psycho-analysis.[8] A similar claim could be made for Wedgwood in relation to the most austere manifestations of twentieth-century behaviourism. Here was a man who thought that the best way to give a child an object lesson in how to avoid danger was for an adult to


invite the attack of a fierce bull, stand with perfect composure until the animal be within two or three paces of him, then suddenly open an umbrella, hold his hat before his face, or to contrive to amuse and terrify the foe, whilst the child on the other side of the stile, shall witness his intrepidity, and by degrees practise the same feat himself with his parent.[9]


The same naïve commitment to the idea of man as machine underpins Wedgwood’s metaphysics. His first biographer, Eliza Meteyard, informs us that he was a follower of the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, Thomas Reid (1710-96).[10] But Wedgwood’s own writings suggest a more radical allegiance.[11] Reid’s central concerns were to establish that the external world exists independently of the act through which it is perceived, and that the judgements of the mind regarding the causality of phenomena could be shown to be true and reliable.[12] Wedgwood takes the independent existence of the external world for granted; and in his philosophic writings, he was concerned only with perception. This narrowing of focus was probably due to another influence. Like many of those associated with the Lunar Circle, Wedgwood was profoundly influenced by John Horne Tooke’s revision of John Locke’s epistemology.[13] Tooke pushed Locke’s epistemology to an extreme to which Locke himself was unwilling to go. He disagreed with Locke’s definition of knowledge as the ‘perception of the connexion and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy, of any of our ideas’.[14] For Tooke, knowledge is simply the consciousness of sense perceptions, either directly, by sensory stimulus, or indirectly, through memory. In his Enquiry into the Origin of Our Notion of Distance, Wedgwood sets out to prove a similar claim that ‘perception and idea have a common nature’.[15] (It is surely this claim which Coleridge has in his




sights in his philosophical ‘letters on Locke’ to Tom’s brother, Josiah, of February and March, 1801.)[16]

       Experimental philosophy is perhaps the only sphere in which a case for Wedgwood’s influence has been made. Kathleen Coburn has conjectured that Coleridge’s distinction between single touch and double touch was prompted by one of Wedgwood’s experiments, a notion developed further by Jerome Christensen and Jennifer Ford.[17] But these concepts are frequently regarded as belonging to the minor arcana of Coleridge studies and so yet again Wedgwood is relegated to the second division. And there the matter is usually left to rest.

In my view, Wedgwood was indeed a shaping force in Coleridge’s intellectual development. But his influence cannot properly be measured using correlations of the kind presented so far, for it is more pervasive than any of them would lead us to suppose. The key to it, adumbrated in King-Hele’s conjecture, lies in the extent to which Coleridge used Wedgwood’s illness career as a ‘template’ through which to understand his own symptoms during the early stages of the ‘dejection’ crisis (1800-1802). The basis of this identification was complex, and some of its determinants had little to do with Wedgwood. In what remains of this paper, I would like to put flesh on these claims which, I believe, shed new and important light on the dejection crisis.

In the Autumn of 1800 Wedgwood returned from Martinique where he had gone in search of a cure for a devastating but curiously diffuse illness. According to one of his biographers,


it was generally agreed [by the numerous physicians he consulted] that it had to do with the digestive system. Some called it a paralysis or a semi-paralysis of the colon. Others considered it to be the sequel of an attack of dysentery he had suffered at Edinburgh. Others would only call it ‘hypochondria’. Whatever the physical cause was, a main feature of the disease was the continual recurrence to fits of depression, sometimes lasting for weeks together. His mental misery at these times, especially towards the close of his life, made his condition hardly distinguishable from one of insanity.[18]


Wedgwood himself thought that experimenting was the cause of his woes. In 1792, when he was 21, he gave up what promised to be a glittering scientific career because of a major breakdown in his health. The nature of the collapse he suffered is unclear but in a characteristically laconic memoir he says that he spent six months trying to suspend a thermometer in vacuo and ‘not succeeding




in my trials  . . .  and finding my health impaired, I resolved to give up experimenting’.[19] So between 1792 and 1800 he abandoned scientific work and tried instead to devote himself to leisure. But acute depression made that difficult.

       When he came back from Martinique he thought he was cured and so he began a series of experiments as part of a new project; but he was quickly forced to abandon it because ‘heart-sickening relapses’. His family presented these as the response of a man of unusually extreme sensibility to a philosophic impasse. Josiah paid James Mackintosh £100 to ‘relieve [Tom] from his distressing perplexities’ by collating a history of philosophic opinions on the nature of time and space.[20]

       Coleridge had many reasons to be interested in Wedgwood’s plight. He was himself struggling with feelings of depression arising from Wordsworth’s decision to exclude ‘Christabel’ from the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1801). Coleridge’s immediate response was to defer to Wordsworth’s judgement, claiming that his primary literary commitment had changed from poetry to philosophy: ‘He is a great, a true Poet. I am only a kind of Metaphysician’.[21] Becoming Wedgwood’s fellow-labourer helped set the seal on this transformation. It would seem, however, that anger which would more properly have been taken out on Wordsworth was directed instead against Wedgwood’s official helper, Macktintosh. In December 1800, Coleridge became Godwin’s adviser in a pamphlet war against Mackintosh.[22] He might also have felt awkward at his failure to produce a word of the Life of Lessing which he had promised the Wedgwoods as the fulfilment of their endowment to him.[23] In November he wrote to Josiah offering to take Tom to ‘Italy or the South of France  . . .  for two or three months’.[24] The offer, made as much on his own account as on Wedgwood’s (he was coming down with a recurrence of rheumatic fever) was refused. A few weeks later, he wrote four letters on philosophy to Tom’s brother, Josiah, to be passed on to Tom when he was well enough to read them.




       Several details relating to Wedgwood’s Enquiry Into the Origin of Our Notion of Distance suggest that it was the work Wedgwood abandoned in 1800 and to which Coleridge was responding in the letters on philosophy. It is a critique of Berkeley’s Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (1709). It is undated and was tidied up after Tom’s death at Josiah’s request, probably by Mackintosh, Tom’s literary executor. We cannot tell where Wedgwood’s labours end and where those of his posthumous collaborator begin.

       At the centre of Wedgwood’s Enquiry is the distinction between visual and tactual ideas which Berkeley had used to make two large claims about the nature of sensory experience: first, what we take to be simple sensory experiences are always the outcome of the interplay of perceptions from different sensory fields; and second, no sensory field on its own can perceive any part of our perceptual world. To prove each one, Berkeley considers the case of visual ideas. Whenever we look at an object, we ascribe to it a certain magnitude, a certain position and a certain distance from other objects. But since all the eye ‘knows’ is the impression on the retina, magnitude, position and distance must be invisible. Although we habitually imagine that we perceive these qualities by sight, they must come to us from a different source. In reality, what happens is something like this. If I take an object, say, a pen, and place it at a distance comfortable for viewing it and then move it nearer to myself and then further away, the interval between my pupils will expand or dilate according to whether the object approaches or recedes. In time I will come to associate different ocular sensations with different distances; and these ocular sensations will inform the ideas I take from sight. ‘But,’ Berkeley writes, ‘there is no natural or necessary connection between the sensation we perceive by the turn of the eyes and the greater or lesser distance’.[25] It is simply that the mind has learnt to associate two experiences, one visual, the other tactual (the movement of the eye muscles is a function of touch). Once this is allowed, distance cannot be conceived of as a physical entity; rather, it is a concept that evolves from the arbitrary but reliable association of two distinct ideas, one visual, the other tactual.

       There is insufficient space here to discuss Wedgwood’s response to Berkeley’s work in detail. But two points can be made. First, he confuses Berkeley’s claim that simple perceptions apparently deriving from one sense are really aggregates derived from more than one with a different claim that Berkeley does not make: that we use each of our senses to validate the evidence which comes to us from all the others and in so doing we filter out inconsistencies and make increasingly accurate judgements about the world. This latter position is in fact incompatible with Berkeley’s view that no sense on its own could perceive anything. Second, Wedgwood seems astonishingly ignorant of the wider aims of Berkeley’s metaphysics, with which Coleridge




was much in sympathy. Berkeley’s philosophy was thoroughly anti-mechanical. It rejected many of the core claims on which the great scientific achievements of the seventeenth century rested; specifically, that the universe was a system of bodies mechanically interacting in space; that these operate on our sensory organs either directly or indirectly; and that operations of this type are the cause of our ideas. Coleridge, like Berkeley, saw ideas such as these as leading to materialism and, by way of universal causal determinism, to atheism also. There was nothing in Locke’s philosophy to suggest that matter was not eternal. It was compatible with the claim that consciousness itself was merely one of the properties of matter, and thus required only physical conditions in order to be maintained. It thus permitted a denial of God’s existence and the immortality of the soul. In Berkeley’s view, this could only result in the collapse of religion and might also undermine the foundations of morality.

       Coleridge responded to Wedgwood’s work in two stages. First he wrote his philosophic ‘letters on Locke’ which drive home the point that sensory data on their own could never be the source of an idea. Ideas ‘must be the joint product of [the] Mind, [the] Senses, and an unknown Tertium Aliquid’.[26] Summing up a central theme in the letters, Coleridge writes:


It is possible that in consequence of some Hints which your Brother gave me, & my after Meditations on subjects connected with them, I may have formed in relation to visible & tangible Ideas opinions, which are not at present the same, but which would coalesce with his instantaneously / but I am certain from the Habits of my mind, that my opinions and my modes of representing those opinions to my own mind would be comparatively gross, drossy as it were  . . .  We may have the same point in view, but he is sailing thither and I am swimming.[27]


Second, Coleridge devised a series of experiments on his own senses to prove what he took to be this Berkeleian position. These, he felt sure, had taken a heavy toll on his nervous system and were hindering him from making a full recovery from his rheumatic fever; but he thought they would eventually make an important contribution to science and metaphysics. But half way through, ‘at Wordsworth’s fervent entreaty’, he ‘intermitted the pursuit’:


the intensity of thought, & the multitude of minute experiments with Light & Figure, have made me so nervous and feverish, that I cannot sleep as long as I ought and have been used to do.[28]

       This retreat into illness replicated Wedgwood’s own fate. Wedgwood had written a critique of Berkeley’s ideas and devised a set of experiments to




vindicate his case, but found himself sunk in a depressive stupor. Now the same thing was happening to Coleridge. Even the cures that Coleridge proposed to try out suggest strong identification with Wedgwood. In March 1801, for example, he proposed to ‘go & settle near Priestly’, in America, or if that failed, to go and live in the Azores.[29] Shortly after his original breakdown, Wedgwood too had planned to emigrate to America to live with Priestley.[30] And the plan to settle in the Azores is surely modelled on Wedgwood’s recent trip to Martinique, another tropical island in the West Atlantic.[31] And, because of the opium, his symptoms soon came to resemble to Wedgwood’s to a degree that must have seemed uncanny.

       Experimental failure was not without its consolations, however. With Wedgwood’s example already established, and credited by men such as Darwin and Banks, at the very pinnacle of scientific eminence, the miscarriage of the abstruse researches offered Coleridge a means of presenting himself as a scientific visionary, more sublimely insightful than the experimentalists of the Pneumatic Institution, the Royal Society or (most importantly of all, in the light of Wordsworth’s recent rejection of ‘Christabel’) Grasmere.[32]

       In the ‘Preface’ (1800) to Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth invited his reader to consider most of the poems in that volume as ‘experiments’ and he went on to argue that experiments of the kind that he had carried out were better than those conducted by men of science. Science is ‘a personal and individual acquisition, slow to come to us, and by no habitual and direct sympathy connecting us with our fellow-beings’. It has not yet ‘put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood’ and so cannot be admitted as ‘a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man’. This contrasts with poetry which reveals ‘the primary laws of our nature’ and brings as much order as we ‘may rationally endeavour to impart’ to ‘vivid sensation’.[33] Coleridge’s accounts of his scientific experiments suggest that be that as it may, science could take us a much greater insight into ultimate truths.

I have not only completely extricated the notions of Time, and Space; but have overthrown the doctrine of Association, as taught by Hartley, and with it all the irreligious metaphysics of modern Infidels—especially, the doctrine of Necessity.—This I have done; but I trust, that I am about to do more—namely that I shall be able to evolve all the five senses, that is, to deduce them from one sense, and to state their growth and the causes of the difference—and in this




evolvement to solve the process of Life & Consciousness.


Against this background, Wordsworth’s ‘fervent entreaty’ to Coleridge to suspend his ‘abstruse researches’ takes on a peculiar poignancy. From his sickbed Coleridge was in effect telling Wordsworth that those who restrain speculation do so because their speculative powers are weak enough to be restrained. If Wordsworth was a more successful experimentalist than Coleridge in the field of poetry, it was because he had confined his muse to a narrower compass than Coleridge would or could allow. (The wonder of it all is that, for a time at least, he seems to have succeeded in getting Wordsworth to see the situation in similar lights.)

       As Spring gave way to Summer, Coleridge fell victim to the same intestinal problems which had dogged Wedgwood for so many years. He decided that he must have gout and scrofula, both of which he believed to proceed from the stomach. A significant consequence of this diagnostic shift was that he now saw his sufferings as similar in kind if not in degree to Wedgwood’s. This furnished him with a further means of distinguishing himself from Wordsworth. In a letter to his brother George of July 1802  he described a family predisposition to disorders of the digestive system.

       It seems as if there were something originally amiss in the constitution of all our family—if that can be indeed be called ‘amiss’ which may probably be connected with our moral & intellectual characters—but we all, I think, carry much passion, [& a] deep interest, into the business of Life—& when to this is superadded, as in my Brother James’s Case, great bodily fatigue, the organs of digestion will soon be injured—in weak men this in general produces affections of the Bowels, more or less painful, in strong men spasmodic hypochondria, and that will appear to have it’s head quarters in the Stomach, & the Secretories of Bile  . . . [34]

       The effect of such comparisons was to underline Wordsworth’s superior health for as Coleridge knew well, Wordsworth suffered from ‘spasmodic hypochondria’ as frequently as he and Wedgwood fell prey to ‘affections of the Bowels, more or less painful’. Coleridge embellished this theory further by comparing his own and Wedgwood’s constitutions to those of diseased trees. On Christmas day, 1802 he told Southey of his theory that


Virtue & Genius are Diseases of the Hypochondriacal and Scrofulous Genus—& exist in a peculiar state of the Nerves, & diseased Digestion—analogous to the beautiful Diseases that colour




and variegate certain Trees.—However, I add by way of comfort, that the Virtue & Genius produce the Disease, not the Disease &c.—tho’ when present it fosters them. (CL, ii, 902)


This notion gave rise to numerous comparisons between virtuous and ingenious friends and certain trees. Tom Wedgwood’s genius was ‘blasted by—a thickening of the Gut!—O God! such a Tree, in full blossom—it’s fruits all medicinal and foodful—& a Grub—a grub at the root!’ (CL, ii, 920). The extent to which Coleridge identified with Wedgwood’s state may be gauged from the following letter written in early 1803:


a haunting sense, that I was an herbaceous Plant, as large as a large Tree, with a Trunk of the same Girth, & Branches as large & shadowing—but with pith within the Trunk, not heart of Wood /—that I had power, not strength—an involuntary imposter  . . . ’ The whole History of this Feeling would form a curious page in the Nosologia Spiritualis (CL, ii, 958)


Inevitably, perhaps, Wordsworth figures as a great blossoming tree (CN, i, 925-926).[35]

       In the Autumn of 1801, Coleridge resumed work on the distinction between visual and tactual ideas. I have argued elsewhere that it lies at the heart of the distinction between fancy and imagination and that it was a key element in Coleridge’s philosophic development between 1801 and 1806.[36] But in developing his own understanding of it, Coleridge seems to have been more influenced by Wedgwood’s physician, Erasmus Darwin than by Wedgwood. Wedgwood can nevertheless retain the credit for setting the course of Coleridge’s itinerary even if, as a result of his efforts, the two men moved ever further away from each other philosophically.

       By the time he came to write the Friend in 1809, Coleridge had many reasons to be imprecise about the nature of Wedgwood’s intellectual benefaction to him. As is well known, he always preferred to emphasise the continuities in his thought. Through the Friend, he hoped to persuade people that the best part of his endeavours had always been directed at saying something which he found to be expressed perfectly in Kant’s transcendental idealism; to admit to having been influenced by so fierce a mechanist as Wedgwood would have endangered this exercise. Worse, it might have required him to explain in detail how he ‘rose above’ the mechanical




philosophy—and that would have led him seamlessly into a discussion of the ‘atheist and mechanist’ Erasmus Darwin.

       Not acknowledging Wedgwood, however, entailed costs equally high, not only to Coleridge himself but also to students of his life. Perhaps the most conspicuous of these was that it prevented him from being able to give an account of the ‘abstruse researches’ he undertook during the ‘dejection’ crisis and so gave succour to detractors who saw the abstruse researches as a dishonest attempt to claim credit for something which had not been achieved. If my brief account of Wedgwood’s influence here has succeeded, then he can at least be exonerated from that charge.


[1]   S. T. Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara Rooke, 2 vols (London and Princeton, N. J., 1969), ii, p. 118.

[2]   Desmond King-Hele, Erasmus Darwin (London, 1963), p. 248. Taking this figure in combination with tables published by L. S. Goodman and A. Gillman, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 4th revision (New York, 1970), this is equal to about twenty-four milligrams of oral morphine. Modern therapeutic regimens range from six to fifteen milligrams.

[3]   For an uncompromisingly severe view, see Molly Lefebure, Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Bondage of Opium (London, 1974).

[4]   For Coleridge’s early associationism, see e.g. the praise for Hartley in ‘Religious Musings’: ‘he of mortal kind | Wisest, he first who marked the ideal tribes | Up the fine fibres through the sentient brain’ (ll. 368-70). Wedgwood called association the ‘Principle of Action that regulates Idea, Feeling and Muscular Action’ (The Value of a Maimed Life: Extracts from the manuscript notes of Thomas Wedgwood), ed. by Margaret Olivia Tremayne (London, 1912), p. 52).

[5]   Quoted in Francis Doherty’s excellent article ‘Thomas Wedgwood, Coleridge and “Metaphysics” ’, Neophilologus, 71 (1987), 305-315, p. 314.

[6]   S. T. Coleridge, Collected Letters, ed. E. L. Griggs, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956-71), i, pp. 354-355.

[7]   Except where otherwise indicated, all of the biographical information presented in this paper is taken from in R. B. Litchfield, Tom Wedgwood: The First Photographer (London, 1903).

[8]   See e.g. Kathleen Coburn, Inquiring Spirit: A New Presentation of Coleridge from his Published and Unpublished Writings (London, 1951), p. 27.

[9]   Litchfield, Tom Wedgwood, p. 209. Litchfield comments that this scheme was modelled on an original by Thomas Day, a friend of the Wedgwood family. Day had in his care two orphan girls and was determined to marry the sturdier of the two. To find out which of them that was, he would ‘drop hot sealing-wax on their bare arms, or suddenly fire pistols at their petticoats’ (ibid).

[10]             Eliza Meteyard, A Group of Englishmen (1795 to 1815); Being Records of the Younger Wedgwoods and their Friends (London, 1871), p. 295.

[11]             See especially the samples in Doherty, ‘Thomas Wedgwood, Coleridge and “Metaphysics” ’.

[12]             See e.g. Thomas Reid, Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (Edinburgh, 1764).

[13]             John Horne Tooke, Epea pteroenta; Or, the Diversions of Purley, 2 vols (London, 1786-98). For Tooke’s influence on Wedgwood’s sometime physician, Thomas Beddoes, see my article, ‘Coleridge, Thomas Beddoes and Brunonian Medicine’, European Romantic Review, 8 (1997), 47-94.

[14]             John Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, ed. by Peter H. Nidditch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 525.

[15]             Reproduced in Meteyard, A Group of Englishmen, pp. 395-404.

[16]             Coleridge, Collected Letters, ii, pp. 677-703.

[17]             S. T. Coleridge, Notebooks, eds. Kathleen Coburn et al., 5 vols (London and Princeton, N.J., 1957-), 1827n. Jerome Christensen, Coleridge’s Blessed Machine of Language (Ithaca, N.Y., 1981), p. 88; Jennifer Ford, Coleridge on Dreaming: Romanticism and the Medical Imagination (Cambridge, 1998), pp. 114-115.

[18]             R. B. Litchfield, Tom Wedgwood, pp. 23-24.

[19]             He had just submitted two papers on light to the Royal Society which were read out by its president, Sir Joseph Banks. Banks’ sponsorship indicates that this event should have marked the beginning of a brilliant scientific career. What remained of his professional life was given over to philanthropy, supporting the work of John Leslie (1766-1832), the physicist, William Godwin and Thomas Beddoes, as well as Coleridge.

[20]             Litchfield, Tom Wedgwood, p. 158.

[21]             Collected Letters,i, p. 658.

[22]             ibid, p. 636. In spite of this background of hostility (or, just possibly, because of it), Mackintosh seems to have made Coleridge his fellow-labourer in October 1801, when he visited him in Keswick. Coleridge reported that he was finishing work for Mackintosh in February 1802 (ibid, ii, 787). A second flurry of experiments is described in the Notebooks as well as a library survey of ancient and seventeenth-century sources on the subject, appropriate to a written summary (ibid, ii, 778n). The ebb and flow of Wedgwood’s recovery and Mackintosh’s progress co-incide with crucial moments in the ‘Dejection’ crisis.

[23]             Coleridge, Collected Letters, ii, p. 609.

[24]             ibid, p. 642.

[25]             George Berkeley, An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision in George Berkeley, Philosophical Writings, ed. M. A. Ayers (London, 1975), p. 11.

[26]             Coleridge, Collected Letters, ii, p. 688.

[27]             ibid, p. 702.

[28]             ibid, p. 707.

[29]             ibid, p. 714.

[30]             Litchfield, Tom Wedgwood, p. 26.

[31]             Coleridge, Collected Letters, ii, p. 726.

[32]             In the Advertisement to the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth invited his readers to consider his poems as ‘experiments’ (The Prose Works of William Wordsworth, eds. W. J. B. Owen and Jane Worthington Smyser, 3 vols (Oxford, 1974), iii, p. 65).

[33]             ibid, pp. 80-81.

[34]             Coleridge, Collected Letters, ii, p. 805.

[35]             It would be interesting to trace a source for Coleridge’s idea that some human diseases are shared with plants. The idea is consistent in a general way with the project of pneumatic medicine; but I have not been able to find a precendent for it in the writings of Beddoes or Davy. Throughout the eighteenth century, it was fairly common for medical writers to draw a connection between the distribution of plants and animals globally and the distribution of diseases. I owe this point to Alan Bewell (personal communication).

[36]             For a full account of Coleridge’s abstruse researches, see my ‘Coleridge, Tom Wedgwood and the ‘Dejection’ Crisis’ in Nicholas Roe, ed., Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Sciences of Life (Oxford, forthcoming).