(Coleridge Bulletin New Series 17, Summer 2001, pp 58-75)
It has often been remarked that, once
you start looking, you find that most things in Scottish culture come in pairs
or doubles, usually antagonistic: Jekyll and Hyde would be only the most
sensational example; and Coleridge’s
First the real
for the young Wordsworth as the more Southerly Fells, only later his home and inspiration. He later recalled, as a schoolboy, climbing the Border Beacon and ‘looking wistfully toward Scotland’; and, in middle age, wrote in a letter that,
since the days of childhood, when I became familiar with
the phrase, “They are killing geese in
Arthur’s bower has broken his band,
And he comes roaring up the land;
King o’ Scots wi’ a’ his power
Cannot turn Arthur’s bower,
I have been indebted to the North for more than I shall ever be able to acknowledge.
For all his sense of its romance,
Wordsworth’s first visit to Scotland was not till 1801, a trip of ten days or
so when Basil Montagu got married; he went to Glasgow and visited Cora Linn
(the Falls of the Clyde), and returned home via Hamilton and Ecclefecchan.
The visit evidently whetted his appetite, and plans for a longer, six-week
excursion finally came to realisation in the summer of 1803. Wordsworth seems
to have sought advice from Richard Sharp (who had toured
Coleridge did not look
forward to the trip with unmixed pleasure: he was unhappily in love with Sara
Hutchinson (thoughts of her would come to him on the tour: CN, i.1451) besides being ill that summer, and depressed that his
plans for work had come to nothing: ‘I am weary & ashamed of talking about
my intended works’, he told Southey (CL,
ii.943). He was seriously planning a stay in
Coleridgean, or perhaps Micawberish fashion:
Mr Moore has sent me a Letter which makes it scarcely possible for me to buy the Jaunting Car under 15£. He expresses the utmost sorrow, that his finances relatively even to mine would make it unjust and pusillanimous in him to give way to his habitual Feelings, which would impel him to insist on my accepting it—that he had repeatedly refused 15£—but that I might deduct from that what I chose … I begin to find that a Horse & Jaunting Car is an anxiety—& almost to wish that we had adopted our first thought, & walked: with one pony & side saddle for our Sister Gift-of-God (CL, ii.957-8)
—that last a high-spirited pun on
‘Dorothea’, the female form of ‘Theodore’. A few days later, Coleridge manages
one of his paradoxically eloquent letters to Southey lamenting his habitual
‘sense of weakness—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’; but he is expecting to go North, ‘If no strange
Accident intervene’ anyway (CL, ii.959, 960). A week later, a
downturn in his health seemed to have provided just such an accident: ‘I am not
even certain whether I shall not be forced to put off my Scotch tour’, he told
Southey (CL, ii.963); and a few days
later still, he communicated to Sir George and Lady Beaumont his
self-diagnosis: ‘I have now no doubt that my Complaint is atonic Gout—& tho’ the excitement & exercise, which the
Journey will afford, would be of service to me, yet the chance of Rainy Weather
& damp Beds is a very serious Business’ (CL, ii.965). He was still toying with quite a different plan: to
save his health by transplanting himself to
Inflation: & that if I can only get on, the Exercise & the Excitement will be of so much service as to outweigh the chances of Injury from Wet or Cold. I will therefore go: tho’ I never commenced a Journey with such inauspicious Heaviness of Heart before. We—Wordsworth, Dorothy, and myself—leave Keswick tomorrow morning’ (CL, i.974-5). Not only was Coleridge desperate about his stomach; he was also waking most nights from terrible nightmares—what he called ‘frightful Dreams & Hypochondriacal Delusions’ (CL, ii.974), which he took to be symptoms of the same pathological condition. And, as though that were not enough, his relationship with Wordsworth was beginning to grow more and more fraught, as his own sense of failure and inadequacy, and his futile obsession with Asra, drew him to perceive in Wordsworth an antithesis to his own needy self that could appear monstrously achieving: self-resolved and autonomous, productive and strong, devotedly attended by a house-full of women, and happily married to a Hutchinson. ‘I trembled’, Coleridge would soon recall, ‘lest a Film should rise, and thicken on his moral Eye’, a cataract provoked by his constitutional ‘Self‑involution’ (CL, ii.1013).
So the prospects for an effortless holiday were hardly rosy. Still, they’d managed to secure the Jaunting Car, which, as Sara told Southey, Wordsworth was to drive the whole way, ‘for poor Samuel is too weak to undertake the fatigue of driving’ (CL, ii.975, n.). They must have made quite a sight: ‘We have bought a stout Horse’, Coleridge reported to Southey, ‘aged but stout & spirited—& an open vehicle, called a Jaunting Car—there is room in it for 3 on each side, on hanging seats—a Dicky Box for the Driver / & a space or hollow in the middle, for luggage—or two or three Bairns.—It is like half a long Coach, only those in the one seat sit with their back to those in the other / instead of face to face.—Your feet are not above a foot—scarcely so much—from the ground / so that you may get off & on while the Horse is moving without the least Danger’ (CL, ii.975); which sounds keen enough about a new gadget. In his notebook he recorded the price of horse and car: £1, 2 and 12; and £10 (CN, i.1424).
And so, on 15 August, at twenty past eleven, they set off for Scotland, heading first for Threlkeld: a hot day, according to Dorothy’s journal, and the horse played up; but they reached an inn at Hesket Newmarket for the night, where Coleridge’s room struck him, as he said to the notebook, in a blithe little allegory, as ‘Cleanliness quarreling with Tobacco Ghosts’ (CN, i.1426). They took an evening walk to the nearby Falls at Caldbeck; Coleridge had been here three years before, and now took the opportunity to add to his notebook some supplementary observations, pleased to find another instance of opposites meeting: ‘What a self-same Thing a waterfall if you like / if you look at it stedfastly, what fits & starts & convulsive Twitches of Motion’ (CN, i.1426). (Something like the moving coincidence of opposites in Wordsworth’s ‘stationary blasts of water-falls’ (Prelude, VI, l.558).) As we shall see, Coleridge was to spend much of the next month looking stedfastly, and seeking to write up and remember what he saw: it is one of the great periods of his notebook descriptive writing, an unofficial and informal mini-epic of the attentive eye.
They pressed on the next day, arriving at
The next night they spent in Dumfries; they discovered in the morning that the poet Rogers and his sister were staying there as well: not good news for Coleridge, who had endured a visit from them in Keswick a few days previously, just before setting off for Scotland: ‘the envy, the jealousy, & the other miserable Passions, that have made their Pandaemonium in the crazy Hovel of that poor Man’s heart’ (CL, ii.964). The Wordsworths went off to search out Burns’s grave and cottage; Mrs Burns was away at the seaside. Coleridge didn’t go, and made some oblique remarks in the notebook about a personality that needed ‘kindness & stateliness & gentlemanly Dignity’ (CN, i.1435), so it seems that relations with Wordsworth were already beginning to fray: he was certainly irritated by Wordsworth’s respectful attentions to Rogers (CN, i.1434). They stayed at an inhospitable inn at Brownhill, which Coleridge didn’t much like; and after dinner, rather than walking with the Wordsworths, he went to bed, reflecting (he told the notebook) ‘how little there was in this World that could compensate for the loss or diminishment of the Love of such as truly love us / and what bad Calculators Vanity & Selfishness prove to be in the long Run’ (CN, i.1436). Off on their walk, meanwhile, the Wordsworths were talking about ‘Coleridge’s children and family’ (DWJ, i.202); Coleridge may well have felt himself surrounded by a Wordsworthian atmosphere of moral reproach, which would hardly have improved his mood.
The next day they passed the Duke of Queensberry’s mansion near
Thornhill; Dorothy noted that though ‘indeed very large ... to us it appeared
like a gathering together of little things’ (DWJ, i.203), which sounds a very Coleridgean remark, and perhaps a
sign of lightening spirits. ‘We now felt indeed that we were in
Our road turned to the right, and we saw, at the distance of less than a mile, a tall upright building of grey stone, with several men standing
upon the roof, as if they were looking out over battlements. It stood beyond the village, upon higher ground, as if presiding over it,—a kind of enchanter’s castle, which it might have been, a place where Don Quixote would have gloried in. When we drew nearer we saw, coming out of the side of the building, a large machine or lever, in appearance like a great forge-hammer, as we supposed for raising water out of the mines. It heaved upwards once in half a minute with a slow motion, and seemed to rest to take breath at the bottom, its motion being accompanied with a sound between a groan and ‘jike’. There would have been something in this object very striking in any place, as it was impossible not to invest the machine with some faculty of intellect; it seemed to have made the first step from brute matter to life and purpose, showing its progress by great power. William made a remark to this effect, and Coleridge observed that it was like a giant with one idea. (DWJ, i.207-8)
He enjoyed the thought: it would later reappear as his description of Thomas Clarkson the slave campaigner.
They stayed at Leadhills that night, the nineteenth; where
Coleridge again remained behind in the inn, while the Wordsworths went off to
find the Falls of the
overhanging the Wall-rock are three firs which had a very fine effect / first they made a new feature, and a striking one, secondly their straightness & tallness gave perhaps some dim association of the human form, at least, they did certainly impress on my mind a distinct breezelet of Fear / & lastly, the Trees with which this whole semicircle of wall-rock is crowned, are so various, that this variety acted upon you without acting so obtrusively as to offend / — O that I had seen this in the evening a thumbsbreadth from Sunset, the solemn motion of the Trees, is on such nights harmonious with the dimmer shape & deeper colour.—
As I write this, I turn my head, & close by me I see a Birch, so placed as among a number of Trees it alone is in full sunshine, & the Shadows of its Leaves playing on its silver Bark, an image that delighted my Boyhood, when I had no waterfalls to see… (CN, i.1449)
The anticipation of
sun—bright green when near from
underneath but higher up they look olive … they chip the sky, and where their
waved edge turns downwards they gleam and blaze like an underlip sometimes will
when seen against the light’).
Coleridge’s vision draws on an entire history of looking (which
Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark’d
Much that has sooth’d me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch’d
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov’d to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine!
Dorothy’s journal records another Coleridgean encounter with eighteenth-century aesthetic categories:
We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country, and saw a ruined tower, called Wallace’s Tower, which stands at a very little distance from the fall, and is an interesting object. A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. ‘Yes, sir,’ says Coleridge, ‘it is a majestic waterfall.’ ‘Sublime and beautiful,’ replied his friend. Poor Coleridge could make no answer, and, not very desirous to continue the conversation, came to us and related the story, laughing heartily. (DWJ, i.223-4)
Coleridge was to get a good deal of mileage out of that story in later years, recycling it, with improvements, in a number of lectures, and in the ‘Essays on the Principles of Genial Criticism’, where it is the lady who speaks, and she is guilty of saying “Yes! and it is not only sublime, but beautiful and absolutely pretty’ (SWF, i.362).
They spent the night of
the 21st at
The party took an excursion to Loch Katrine, Coleridge declining the boat and walking, on his own, along the shore; his solitariness seems to have improved the landscape for him, and he was even enraptured by it: ‘such a visionary Scene!’. He called William his ‘Friend’ in the notebook, and seems to have been actually quite happy in his company, perhaps for the first time on the trip, though for spiky reasons: ‘the pleasantest Evening, I had spent, since my Tour’, he told his wife, ‘for [Wordsworth’s] Hypochondriacal Feelings kept him silent, & [self-]centered’ (CL, ii.978). That is (for Coleridge anyway) a beneficial kind of self-centredness: he admired Wordsworth’s intense selfness a good deal of the time, and thought it intimately allied with the presiding genius of his poetry; but it could have less amiable expressions too. When Coleridge returned to read over these notebook passages in June 1812, after the split with Wordsworth had become irrecoverable, he cancelled his memory of momentary happiness and ease with a sad and terrible interpolation after the word ‘Friend’: ‘O me! what a word to give permanence to the mistake of a Life!’. Coleridge’s physical state must have been worrying, and his company was doubtless trying; Wordsworth suggested Coleridge make his way on his own to Stirling, and catch the coach to Edinburgh; ‘He & Dorothy resolved to fight it out’, Coleridge told Sara, but ‘I eagerly caught at the Proposal’ (CL, ii.978). Samuel Rogers, whom they had met at the inn, and not enjoyed, remembered in his much later Table Talk that ‘Coleridge proved so impracticable a travelling-companion, that Wordsworth and his sister were at last
obliged to separate from him’;
but Coleridge seems to have been more eager than that suggests to work some escape.
‘[P]oor C. being very unwell, determined to send his clothes to
After their separation,
Dorothy records, ‘Our thoughts were full of Coleridge, and […] I shivered at
the thought of his being sickly and alone, travelling from place to place’ (DWJ, i.290). The notebook shows
Coleridge brooding over Wordsworth in return: ‘My words & actions imaged on
his mind, distorted & snaky as the Boatman’s Oar reflected in the Lake –’ (CN, ii.1473); and, a few sheets later,
still turning over unkindness and self-punishment: ‘[A.] did a real injury
& a very great one to B. in order to make his Hatred more natural, less
dæmonish, whereon B. ceases to hate him / soothed by the power of forgiving A. & of feeling himself
the superior’ (CN, i.1480). He returned
to Tarbet for another night, and then struck off; and he found that his spirits
leapt: ‘having found myself so happy alone’, he wrote to his wife two days
later, ‘such blessing is there in perfect
His notebook became his companion, and, though still ill and sleeping badly, he described to it what he was seeing, evoking a terrific sense of presence and presentness: ‘Ben More or the Huge Mountain / One of the highest in the highlands, shaped like a haystack, which dallies with the Clouds, that now touch, now hide, now leave it’ (CN, i.1475). Asked once what he thought the basis of poetry, Larkin replied: ‘I write poems to preserve things I have seen / thought / felt … I think the impulse to preserve lies at the bottom of all art’; and something like the same impulse somehow to retain the intensity of sense experience stirs in these Coleridgean pages too: ‘Among the Beauties of the Highlands in Aug. & Sept. let me not forget the Fumitory with its white flower on the Hovels & Barns / & the Potatoe fields with white Blossoms—appearing to my eye the loveliest & richest flower of Gardens’ (CN, i.1476). Following advice from one Dr Drummond at the Kinghouse Hotel (where he stayed on the 1st of September), Coleridge had determined to
walk through Glen Coe to
‘The Head of Glen Nevish how simple for a Painter / & in how many words & how laboriously, in what dim similitudes & slow & dragging Circumlocutions must I give it’, he complains, ‘O for words to explain how Slate & Limestone lie!’ – ‘Silly words I am vexed with you’. Yet it is a familiar common Coleridgean paradox, for he is also using words wonderfully well: both to describe the visionary topography of this Caledonian Xanadu—‘it is a savage dreamlike, unlively Place’, ‘before me, on my road to F.Aug. it is indeed more of one mass, delved, rifted, channel’d, wrinkled, & with a dipping, leaping, tipsy outline’—and to making minutely new the (supposedly) familiar. Another water-effect:
having mounted a little & seen that there was not probably anything more to be noticed, I turned back — & now my mind being as it were
leisurely and of[f] the stretch with what delight did I look at a floatage of Shadows on the water, made by the wavelets of the Stream, with what delight that most exquisite net at the bottom / sandy + pebbly river, all whose loops are wires of sunshine, gold finer than silk, beside yon Stone the Breeze seems to have blown them into a Heap, a rich mass of light, light spreading from the loop holes into the interstices / O we turn from novelties & rarities to old Delights & simple Beauty!
It is a wonderfully artful and self-delighting piece of writing, which attributes to nature’s appearances a delightful artistry: no wonder, then, that he goes on to object to those people—the Wordsworths, perhaps, as Kathleen Coburn suggests—who ‘hold it undignified to illustrate Nature by Art … how else can we bring the forms of Nature within our voluntary memory!’ (CN, i.1489). Again, the theme is one of withholding these experiences within the mind; and it is not implausible, perhaps, to find an edge of neediness to the impulse: ‘how else…?’
He stayed at Letter Finlay on the fourth; and went on to Fort Augustus, where, as he later explained to his wife, and to Southey (CL, ii.982, 984), he was taken for a spy, and seized by the Governor and his Constable, who locked him up for the night—a story which, in later life (in 1812), Henry Crabb Robinson heard him tell, suitably embellished:
He related anecdotes of himself. Once he was arrested as
a spy at Fort St. George. The Governor, as soon as he saw him, muttered, ‘an
ill-looking fellow.’ At first everything that Coleridge could say for himself
was ingeniously perverted and applied against him; but at length a card he
accidentally had by him, from a person of quality, convinced the Governor that
he was a gentleman, and procured for him an invitation to breakfast next
morning. Coleridge then took an opportunity of asking the Governor what it was
in his appearance that induced him to say ‘an ill-looking fellow.’ ‘My dear
sir,’ said the Governor, squeezing him by the hand, ‘I nearly lost my sight in
It is a comic turn, of course, of a kind Coleridge specialised in; but, like many of his comic turns, it has more business than being simply amusing; and in the recollected context of the Scottish tour you can see it enjoys an odd sort of antithetical imaginative logic: mid-way through this epic journey of the eye, what could be a more natural source of comic relief than an encounter with someone who can scarcely see at all. Seeing properly, from yourself to the world without, and not being able to see outside yourself at all: these were the imaginative poles between which Coleridge’s Scottish tour made its wavering,
The Governor of Fort
Augustus had the goodness to give him a decent breakfast anyhow; and he was
off, via a night at a mysterious place (now disappeared) which he calls the
General’s Hut, to
By his own calculation, Coleridge had walked 263 miles in eight days (CL, ii.982). But if he was hoping for the cure of his several symptoms he was disappointed: he was troubled once again by appalling dreams—as he wrote to
Southey, enclosing the most unexpected production of the Scottish tour, ‘The Pains of Sleep’.
… yesternight I pray’d aloud
In Anguish and in Agony,
Awaking from the fiendish Crowd
Of Shapes & Thoughts that tortur’d me!
Desire with Loathing strangely mixt
On wild or hateful Objects fixt:
Pangs of Revenge, the powerless Will,
Still baffled, & consuming still,
Sense of intolerable Wrong,
And men whom I despis’d made strong …
Deeds to be hid that were not hid,
Which, all confus’d I might not know,
Whether I suffer’d, or I did:
For all was Horror, Guilt & Woe,
My own or others, still the same,
Life-stifling Fear, Soul-stifling Shame!
‘I do not know how I came to scribble
down these verses to you’, he told Southey, ‘my heart was aching, my head all
confused—but they are, doggerel as they may be, a true portrait of my
nights.—What to do, I am at a loss:—for it is hard thus to be withered, having
the faculties & attainments, which I have.—’ (CL, ii.984). ‘It has been an instructive tho’ melancholy Tour’, he
wrote to his wife from Perth, preparing to catch the 4 a.m. coach to Edinburgh
(CL, ii.985); and, reflecting on his
last few days (if Coburn’s arrangement of entries is right), he told the
notebook: ‘There have been times when looking up beneath the sheltring Trees, I
could Invest every leaf with Awe’ (CN,
i.1510). He found Edinburgh ‘a wonderful City!’, a bizarrely elongated place,
he thought, ‘a city looked at in the polish’d back of a Brobdignag Spoon, held
lengthways—so enormously stretched-up
are the Houses’, ‘a sort of bastard Sublimity’ as he called it (CL, i.988), after (I suppose) his
protracted exposure to the genuine article. Four things were worth seeing in
If we were to try and describe his
extraordinary experience of
might begin by considering its two main productions, and their startling diversity: the intensely vivid, hugely idiosyncratic travelogue of the notebook, on the one hand, and ‘The Pains of Sleep’, on the other. You can make out beneath his witness throughout the tour the intense version of a life-long tussle, one which was (as I began by saying) finding itself, in the summer of 1803, mounting to a form of crisis: a hectic swinging between the horrors of an unchecked inwardness and the solace of reconnection with outward realities. Sleep and dreams, often in Coleridge a positively-intended metaphor for the self-sufficiency of the imagination (as in the ‘Preface’ to ‘Kubla Khan’) are transformed in ‘The Pains of Sleep’ into a terrible, inescapable inwardness: what he calls in the original version of the poem sent to Southey, ‘The self-created Hell within’. The once pervasive goodness of God, in Creation at large as in Coleridge in particular—the belief that ‘round me, in me, every where / Eternal Strength & Goodness are!’—is twisted into the ubiquity of shame and fear: ‘all was Horror, Guilt & Woe, / My own or others, still the same, / Life-stifling Fear, Soul-stifling Shame!’. Faced with the nightly prospect of nightmare’s claustrophobic persecution, the diverse world of external reality is clung to as a check to the self-creations of the unhappy self: external things are, as he puts it in a later notebook entry, the ‘outward Forms and Sounds, the Sanctifiers, the Strengtheners!’ (CN, ii.2543). The subtext to the Scottish tour, then, is strangely close to something mysterious that Wordsworth expresses in ‘Tintern Abbey’: the intense love of nature that is inspired in ‘a man / Flying from something that he dreads, [rather] than one / Who sought the thing he loved’—for Wordsworth, perhaps, the horrors of his implication in the violence of France; for Coleridge, the horrors of his own mind. And you can see here, too, how the contemporary thickening film on Wordsworth’s eyes might fit into the patterns of thinking that are establishing themselves: the (alleged) distortions of Wordsworth’s egotism—the oar refracted through the dense medium of the lake’s water—are a kind of incipient blindness, here of an ethical kind: a lack of connection or transparent openness to the world outside him—a world which, in this case, happens to consist of S.T. Coleridge.
But what of Scottishness? Well, as it happens, Coleridge’s thoughts were on the kind of Scottishness I began by describing on the very eve of his departure into the North: ‘The pain I suffer & have suffered, in differing so from such men, such true men of England, as [ . . . ], & their affectionate love of Locke / Left no room in my heart for any pain from Scotch Reviwers—’ (CN, i.1418). It is not entirely obvious which true Englishmen Coleridge is talking about, but the gist seems to be clear enough: I have been dismayed by good Englishmen, who have abandoned ‘the spiritual platonic old England’ (CN, ii.2598) for the sandy sophisms of Locke, so the born Lockeans of Scotland aren’t able to hurt me with their barbed remarks (he must be referring to
Jeffrey’s review of the
A lot of this bad feeling settled around the figure of Sir
James Mackintosh, prominent lawyer, prominent Lockean, and Coleridge’s only
rival for the best talker in
With a waxy Face and a blabber Lip,
And a black Tooth in front, to show in part
What was the Colour of his whole Heart!
This Counsellor sweet! This Scotchman compleat!
Apollyon scotch him for a Snake—
I trust he lies in his Grave awake!
‘[A] humane Wish’ Coleridge emphasised facetiously to Davy (CL, i.633). It is almost certainly Mackintosh who provoked one of Coleridge’s more celebrated anti-Scotticisms: ‘Sir, he is a Scotchman, and a rascal, and I do not lay the emphasis on rascal’. The Scotchmen, he told the table, are either dull Frenchmen, or superficial Germans (TT, 315).
The fun is scarcely PC, nor even much fun I suppose; but it does have a Coleridgean point of a kind to it; which is that the kind of empiricism represented by the Scottish philosophical school, and pre-eminently Hume, leads (in Coleridge’s view), and paradoxical as it may seem, to abstraction and egotism. Paradoxical, because empiricism seems most common-sensically to insist on the precedence of our experience of the world; but, in practice, it insists only upon the reality of our experiencing minds; and so, ultimately, as Coleridge protests in Biographia, it ‘banishes us to a land of shadows, surrounds us with apparitions … removes all reality and immediateness of perception, and places us in a dream-world of phantoms and spectres, the inexplicable swarm and equivocal generation of motions in our own brains’ (BL, i.262, 137). There is the metaphor of the bewildering and disorientating dream again: it is not at all dissimilar from the terrible kind of self-imprisoned dream he described in the nightmare poem sent to Southey. In both cases—though in the case of the caricature Scotsman, with egotistical self-complacency—the predicament is one of ego-bound disconnection. As often, you find a brilliant and comic Coleridge commentary in Lamb: the portrait of the Caledonian in Lamb’s essay ‘Imperfect Sympathies’—‘He does not find, but bring. You never witness his first apprehension of a thing’ — is a fine turn on the Coleridgean type; and the point at issue is a kind of damaging blindness to the external world, to all that is not the self.
But if Scottishness represented for Coleridge a kind of egotism, philosophical and ethical, then Scotland had proved itself a redeeming source of diverse, savingly external, natural delight—‘O we turn from novelties & rarities to old Delights & simple Beauty! —’. And at least one Scot had recognised that, as Coleridge knew:
Who has not a thousand times seen snow fall on water? Who has not watched it with a new feeling, from the time that he has read Burns’ comparison of sensual pleasure
“To snow that falls upon a river
A moment white — then gone forever!” (BL, i.81)
It was a favourite example: Coleridge claimed that he would have rather written those two lines ‘than all the poetry that his countryman Scott … is likely to produce’. And what matters about it is not the aptness of Burns’s metaphor, but the sharpness of the recollected image which it utilises: evidence of Burns’s gift for the external. As he writes in Biographia, quoting himself from The Friend:
To carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood; to combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with appearances, which every day for perhaps forty years had rendered familiar;
With sun and moon and stars throughout the year,
And man and woman;
this is the character and privilege of genius, and one of the marks which distinguish genius from talents. And therefore is it the prime merit of genius and its most unequivocal mode of manifestation, so to represent familiar objects as to awaken in the minds of others a kindred feeling concerning them and that freshness of sensation which is the constant accompaniment of mental, no less than of bodily, convalescence. (BL, i.80-1)
The recuperation effected by ‘freshness
of sensation’ occurs several times, in biography, in literary criticism, and in
theory, during Biographia: it is one
of the recurrent motifs of that poetically structured work: the book
practically begins with Coleridge saved from the self-involution of metaphysics
by reading the sonnets of Bowles, which reawaken his ‘love of nature, and the
sense of beauty in forms and sounds’ (BL,
i.17). Just such restoration is what
Seem to have made up my mind to write my metaphysical works, as my Life, & in my Life—intermixed with all the other events / or history of the mind & fortunes of S.T. Coleridge (CN, i.1515).
So, besides being an attack on philosophical Scottishness, we could perhaps claim Biographia, with its formative rhythm of resort from the troubled self to the redemptive world, as the greatest, if long delayed, fruit of Coleridge’s Scottish excursion, its protracted and intense episode of ‘feeding abroad’.
© Contributor 2001-2005
by John Glendening, The High Road:
 Quoted by Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth: A Biography: The Early Years 1770-1803 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), i.10-11.
L. Reed, Wordsworth: The Chronology of
the Middle Years, 1800-1815
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975), 122-3. I am much indebted
to Mark Reed’s reconstruction of the party’s early travels in
 Reed, Middle Years, 221-2, n..
 The Letters of William and Dorothy
Wordsworth: The Early Years, 1787-1805, ed. Ernest de Selincourt, rev.
Chester L. Shaver (
 For the principles of the treatment of gout, I am indebted to a paper given by Neil Vickers at the 2000 Coleridge Conference at Cannington.
 See my Coleridge: Interviews and Recollections (Basingstoke/NY: Palgrave, 2000), 99, n.23.
 The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Humprhy House and Graham Storey (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), 152.
 See Coleridge: Interviews and Recollections, 99, n.24.
 Coleridge: Interviews and Recollections, 96.
 Philip Larkin, Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 (London: Faber, 1983), 79.
 Coleridge: Interviews and Recollections, 134.
 ‘(The Larch, which pushes out in tassels green / It’s bundled Leafits)’: ‘Letter to Sara Hutchinson’, ll.26-7. Coleridge had looked appeciatively at larches earlier in the tour (CN, i.1460).
 Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989), 354.
 Reminiscences of Alexander Dyce, ed.
Richard J. Schrader ([n.p.]:
 Coleridge: Interviews and Recollections, 58.
 ll.13-20; in Poems, ed. John Beer (London: Everyman, 1999), 361.
 Reminiscences of Alexander Dyce, 178.
 See A.D. Nuttall, A Common Sky: Philosophy and the Literary Imagination (London: Chatto and Windus for Sussex University Press, 1974).
 Coleridge: Interviews and Recollections, 143.
 CN, iii 3420