(The Coleridge Bulletin  New Series No 1, Winter 1992/03, pp 15-21)


First, two anecdotes from Henry Crabb Robinson, made after a conversation with the Morgan family, who were supporting S.T.C. in 1812. They recall how, when his father died, young Coleridge was patronised by Judge Buller and taken to London.


“It was expected he would have a presentation to the Charterhouse. He was however sent by Buller to the Blue Coat School. His family were proud and considered this a degradation.”


And again:


“He used to dine with Buller on the Sundays, but one day there being company, the Blue Coat boy was sent to dine at the Second Table, and though but nine years old he would not go again.”


Christ's Hospital had been founded in 1552 to take needy children from the London streets. But by Coleridge's day its position was socially ambiguous. In 1676. the Governing body had decreed that all needy children taken should be children of Freemen of the City of London, and by the end of the eighteenth century a distinction could be drawn between these and the “Charity Children” of Blake's HOLY THURSDAY, walking to St. Paul's: “...two & two, in red & blue & green”. The issue was delicate; a very English matter of fine social distinctions. Even Bluecoats themselves might find it confusing.


Lamb at one moment declares resonantly: “the Christ's Hospital boy feels that he is no charity boy”. Yet at another moment he recalls the eloquent young Coleridge as “the inspired Charity boy”. A fellow literary Bluecoat, the Unitarian minister and novelist William Pitt Scargill (1787—1837) in his RECOLLECTIONS OF A BLUECOAT BOY (1829), dedicated to Charles Lamb, mentions how many former Blues returned as young gentlemen to exhibit themselves at the school on public supper nights, but continues:


“there were many who felt ashamed of having been brought up in a school which was a charitable foundation, and they avoided all mention of the place, and seldom were seen again there; and even avoided speaking to their former companions if by any chance they met them in the streets.”


Coleridge's letters show that he was not in this latter category. But those who bandied together and those to be identified as Old Blues laid themselves open to social -prejudice. Writing to his brother George (an Oxford man) in 1792, Coleridge laments how such prejudice is being shown there to his friend Robert Allen, newly arrived as Christ's Hospital sizar at University College.


“Poor Allen...complains of the great distance with which the Men treat him” – though Coleridge goes on to claim that he has felt no such prejudice at Cambridge.


In the literary world such attitudes were common. Byron, writing to Tom Moore about that Bluecoat literary upstart James Leigh Hunt, declared:


“He is a good man, with some poetical elements in his chaos; but spoilt by the Christ-Church Hospital and a Sunday newspaper.”


And when Thomas Barnes, the great future editor of THE TIMES, was beginning to make his journalistic career a pseudonymous attack on him by one “Abel Funnefello” appeared entitled: A SHY AT THE GREAT GUN. THE BLUECOAT BOY: OR DOMESTIC REMINISCENCES OF MISTER T.BOUNCE... which included a totally




fictitious cartoon of Barnes as an apprentice draper, dreaming at the counter of advancement, like some prefigured Kipps.


That was one kind of social pressure. Another came from within. Boys like Coleridge knew when they came to C.H. that they had fallen on hard times. While there, whatever their origins, they received a charity which provided everything from their small clothes outwards, and which, in the ringing tones of the Upper Master, James Bowyer, insisted on its price:


“Boy! the school is your father! Boy! the school is your mother! Boy the school is your brother! the school is your sister! the school is your first-cousin, and your second-cousin, and all the rest of your relations! Let's have no more crying!'


Individual psyches would, naturally, absorb the shock of such treatment in different ways. But, socially (and all too often physically), Bluecoat boys might say, as Charles Lamb did in another context: “We are in a manner marked.”


Not surprisingly, those who were marked became a tribe. So it is with those who were of the Tribe of Sam that I shall deal in this paper. I want to suggest a few tribal markings.




Charles Lamb claimed that Christ's Hospital: “had classics of our own”, books read by the younger boys, even in the great hall of the Grammar School instead of their lesson books. He mentions three books in particular: “PETER WILKINS - THE ADVENTURES OF THE HON. ROBERT BOYLE - THE FORTUNATE BLUECOAT BOY”.


These childhood classics have been little studied. Even the note in Professor Jonathan Bate's admirable World's Classics ELIA merely describes them as :”popular eighteenth-century travel romances”. The classification is inaccurate (since the last named is not a travel romance at all) and somewhat inadequate, as it lumps together three books of quite distinct characters.


To deal with the least interesting first, THE VOYAGES & ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN ROBERT BOYLE certainly is a travel romance, as its title-page goes on to suggest: “... lntermix'd with the STORY OF MRS. VILLARS, an English lady with whom he made his surprising Escape from Barbary...” etc.


We are in a twopence-coloured world of Barbary pirates, shipwreck, slavery, and unbridled sexual fantasy. For this is an 18th century not a Victorian Boys’ Tale. By page 13 a jealous husband, surprising his wife and her young lover “playing at Rantum Scantum”, has the lover castrated on the spot. And Mrs. Villars begins her story by telling how, as a rich merchant's orphan, she was tricked aboard the ship of a lustful sea-captain, whose attempts upon her chastity she only foiled by substituting her maid for herself in a rather implausible bed-trick. The book projects a world of quite literal cut and thrust, where orphans must look to their wits. Its author, William Rufus Chetwood, gained his small measure of literary fame less from the pages of ROBERT BOYLE than from those of Pope's first DUNCIAD, where he appeared as the defeated rival of Edmund Curll in a pissing contest. (Even that distinction was removed from later versions.)


But Chetwood's book expresses a fast-moving crude type of vitality, and helps suggest the vigorous, bigoted, masculine fantasies about adult life upon which 18th century Bluecoat imaginings were bred. Such fantasies may be broadly placed in the English 18th century piratical ethic, an ethic of expediency perhaps not too remote from that shown by the Mariner's shipmates after his shooting of the Albatross.




However that may be, CAPTAIN ROBERT BOYLE remained part of S.T.C.'s mental equipment through life. We find him writing to Godwin in December 1800:


“At present I have six excruciating Boils behind my right Ear, the largest of which I have christened Captain Robert..,”,




Though still a “travel romance”, the second C.H. classic carries a higher imaginative charge, at least in its middle section. The book opens in the world of Captain Robert, with family misfortunes, poverty, captivity (with all of which a Bluecoat might easily identify ): it closes with a long sequence in which the hero's 18th Century English Reason is shown helping to solve the problems of a colony of savages in the best traditions of the new Colonialism. But at the heart of the book something remarkable happens. After African adventures echoing Defoe's CAPTAIN SINGLETON, a shipwreck translates us into another mode, In later life Coleridge thought PETER WILKINS: “a work of uncommon beauty”. He even claimed that were he himself to write travel romances: “I would try the marvellous line of PETER WILKINS, rather than the real fiction of ROBINSON CRUSOE” (a distinction which recalls that better known division of labour in LYRICAL BALLADS described in the BIOGRAPHIA).


It is easy to see what he meant. For Peter Wilkins, on his desert island, finds emotional and domestic fulfilment with a strange flying female Indian or “Glumm”, who may be briefly characterised as a Noble Savage with Wings. This part of the book carried a strong erotic appeal to young Blues. James Leigh Hunt, who must also have encountered it in the C.H. Schoolroom, wrote later that it contained: “a mixture of sentiment & voluptuousness beyond all the bridals we have read”.

So I offer to all feminist critics of S.T.C. Peter Wilkins' Glumm along with Robert Boyle's Mrs. Villars : I merely suggest there may be an echo of female Glumms in those hovering Spirits who intrude into Part Six of THE MARINER, as well as in those other half-angelic Asras who came to populate his emotional life,




This book, published anonymously in the 1770s but clearly the work of someone who knew the school intimately in the 1720s, reveals C.H. male fantasies at their most materialistic. It can briefly be described as a male Cinderella story. With well-observed details of everyday C.H. and London life it blends a fairy story - the tale of Ben Templeman, a handsome Senior boy, who is observed by a rich young City widow at a supper night, where he sings an anthem. The plot is. of child-like simplicity: the widow falls in love with him, and, once it has been established that her intentions are honourable, she is permitted to marry the lad and carry him to a life of opulence, first in London's newly-built West End, and, ultimately, in a country house of his native county Kent.


It is hardly possible quickly to suggest the particular flavour of this little-known book. On the one hand, there is a perennial Cockney hard-headed toughness and sharpness in the daily tenor of London and Christ's Hospital life. On the other, there is the blatant make-believe of a world of wealth and privilege into which the boy is translated. Such unabashed Tory Optimism may well have been the very thing against which young Coleridge later rebelled. Yet in its pastoral form such idealism has always been potent, even among writers who account themselves Liberals. Here is the young Bluecoat, now known as “Mr. Templeman”, returning in triumph to his Kentish homeland, where his family and the local peasantry have gathered to greet him:


“When they came to the gate of the field which led to Mr. Templeman's house, they were there received by his workmen and servants, some with plow-shares and




hammers, which they rang, as butchers in London do their marrow-bones and cleavers, others with small hand-hells, ringing alternatively, all the way before them to the mansion....”


The harsh, menacing world of London, commercial and competitive, is being changed into a timeless ideal of benign pastoral order.


“When they arrived at the courtyard-gate, which never opened but to receive particular company, they were, in consequence of Mr. Templeman's speaking to the women in the village, met by several poor women, with what flowers the season of the year produced in their laps, who strewed them quite through the court, into the house, whilst the occupiers of the place joined in the general salute. The peacock displayed his pride; the turkey quacked, and the cock crowed....”


I wonder whether this picture ever occurred to Coleridge when he planned his country retreats in Pantisocracy or the Quantocks, or lay behind his wishes for his baby son Hartley in FROST AT MIDNIGHT. One further point. Mr Templeman arrives home to meet his mother in this setting after his marriage to the London widow. The Christ's Hospital authorities have settled the whole marriage without reference to Templeman's widowed mother at all. That was a pattern of behaviour Coleridge himself would have recognised.




I want to consider briefly a book warmly recommended by Lamb, especially to his friend Coleridge in 1796, but, again, little read today. It is, in some sense, another C.H. classic.


At the time of its publication Lamb was actually sharing lodgings with its author, James White (1775--1820). Like Lamb, White had been at C.H., but had left without becoming a Grecian or University boy. Like Lamb, he was now a City Clerk. His sole literary work, THE LETTERS OF FALSTAFF, is dedicated ironically to Samuel Ireland, father of the precocious William, whose Shakespeare forgeries were the talk of literary London in 1796. White's book is an intelligent spoof. (“’Tis a truly laughable book,” claimed Coleridge to a friend in 1796.) It contains a series of letters purporting to be by members of the Falstaff circle, dealing with moments behind the action of the Henry and Windsor plays. Here is an extract from the servant Davy, telling Shallow his master of the death of Master Slender for unrequited love of “sweet Anne Page”:


“Master Abram is dead, gone, your Worship - dead'...a' took delight in nothing but his book of songs and sonnets - a' would go to the Stroud side under the large beech tree, and sing, till 'twas quite pity of our lives to mark him; for his chin grew as long as a muscle.... I beseech your Worship to think he was well tended....Alice Shortcake craves, she may make his shroud.'


Such writing by a London clerk of the 1790s tells us something about the education in the English classics he had received at C.H, It tells us, also, how literary pastiche might become a form of escapism for Blues. Slender, disadvantaged, hopeless Slender, is one aspect of White himself, and by laughing at Slender's pretensions White may transcend his own. What is more, the young forger Ireland, and behind him, the altogether larger figure of the young forger Chatterton (the Bristol Bluecoat) were potent images for C.H. boys. To his book of bogus letters White added an archaic literary preface commenting upon the work in a way that might have suggested a prototype for the later and incomparable glosses of THE ANCIENT MARINER. For faking seems to have been an important part of a Bluecoat writer's art.




One final point about White's Falstaff. Professor Bate pointed out in 1985 that, judging by the activity of cartoonists and squib-writers, the Falstaff plays were highly-charged satirical and political material: the Prince Regent as Hal was really too big a target to miss. When, at his coronation in 1821, George commanded a free performance at Covent Garden of HENRY IV PART TWO, he was certainly reminding us that he was the last truly literate monarch of these shores as well as, in Professor Bate's words giving a “final rejoinder to the satirists”. White's LETTERS are wholly innocent of such innuendo. They remain resolutely, almost virginally, a-political. In the troubled decade of the 1790s, that form of escapism is also noteworthy.




Seeing Sam Coleridge among his tribe, one is tempted to suggest that nothing distinguished him from them except his genius. But perhaps we can discriminate further than that. Broadly, among the literary Blues, two main camps can be defined. First, those like White who withdrew into thickets of antiquarianism and used their literature as an escape from the harsher social realities. Second, the radicals, who camped openly under banners, proclaiming that literature was a means of changing the times. Of course it was among the second group that Coleridge disported himself, Consider briefly the letter written to Southey in September 1794, from London, just before his final return to Cambridge, at the height of the Pantisocratic period.


Having declared to Southey that he has just finished the first act of their joint play, THE FALL. OF ROBESPIERRE, Coleridge describes how Franklin, a young ex-Grecian now at Pembroke College, Cambridge, had called and persuaded him to breakfast with George Dyer, Old Blue author of THE COMPLAINTS OF THE POOR: “I went- explained our System - he was enraptured - pronounced it impregnable - He is intimate with Dr. Priestley - and doubts not, that the Doctor will join us.”


The importance of the Unitarian radical George Dyer for Coleridge at this time has been recently emphasised by Nicholas Roe, and I need not elaborate it. But it worth stressing how, within a sentence or so, Coleridge is describing how Dyer went immediately to several publishers on his behalf with the aim of publishing THE FALL OF ROBESPIERRE - of which so far only one act was written!


That was only one strand of the support S.T.C. was being given by the Tribe. A paragraph later he explains how, because he is short of funds, he is living with the Grecians at Christ's Hospital, and even writing the letter in one of their studies.


Each evening he spends nearby at The Salutation and Cat, Newgate Street (where he was to lurk a few months later, drinking hot grog with Charles Lamb rather than returning hot-foot to Bristol and Miss Fricker). But now he has been meeting: “A most intelligent young Man who has spent the last 5 years of his life in America - and is lately come from thence as an agent to sell Land. He was of our School - I had been kind to him - he remembers it - & comes regularly every Evening to 'benefit by conversation' he says....”


The young man's advice was to settle near the Susquehannah, and we may be left wondering just what kind of “benefit” it was he hoped to gain from Coleridge's conversation. But the support of fellow Blues did not stop there.


“The younger le Grice (a sweet- tempered Fellow - he goes with me to Cambridge) and Favell, who goes to Cambridge next October twelve month - have intreated that they may be allowed to come over after us when they quit College...”:


Sam Le Grice it was, the younger of two talented C.H. brothers, who gave Charles Lamb the most practical help at Lamb's crisis two years later; Robert Favell, who




(like Sam Le Grice) died young , was the writer to whom Southey later even attributed S.T.C.'s own Pantisocracy Sonnet. If the commune on the banks of the Susquehannah was a piece of youthful idealism, that on the banks of the City Ditch at Newgate was a piece of equally youthful practical reality.


But not all the tribe of Sam were retiring literary antiquarians or aspiring young democrats. There were other role-models S.T.C. might have chosen. Consider, finally, those chosen by the two Grecians who were probably closest to him in his time at C.H.: one, his immediate senior; the other, his immediate junior.




Middleton, famously, introduced the young S.T.C. to Bowles' SONNETS in 1788. He also literally introduced him to Cambridge, for it was to Middleton's rooms in Pembroke that S.T.C. went when he first arrived at the university, and it was during Middleton's remaining time at Cambridge that S.T.C. achieved some of the academic success that had been expected of him. When Middleton left having failed to secure a Fellowship it was a double blow to Coleridge, Instead, mirroring other Coleridgean hopes, Middleton attempted to run a provincial journal, THE COUNTRY SPECTATOR, of which he produced 35 weekly issues almost single-handed. Again here was a role model and a timely warning, too, in his final number, which the future writer of THE WATCHMAN and THE FRIEND might have heeded:


“The Country Spectator enjoyed few of the advantages, which have contributed to the excellence of most of his predecessors. He could not depend on assistance when he was weary, or promise variety to his speculations from the number of his Correspondents.... Whoever has encountered the task of writing at stated periods, will readily testify, that the burthen is heavier than is generally believed, or, perhaps, than he himself had imagined.”


The Anglican Church provided Middleton with his route to preferment. He became the first Bishop of Calcutta. It was a route Coleridge must have seemed well-qualified to travel in, say, 1792 - and how tantalising it is to imagine him bearing his mitre among the Brahmins....


His younger contemporary Val Le Grice took another route. Having played the nimble English pinnace to S.T.C.'s more ponderous Spanish galleon in their wit-sallies at school, Le Grice quickly began to make a literary reputation for himself at Cambridge, prompting some rather catty comments in Coleridge's letters. Like S.T.C. he seems to have been fascinated by Chatterton and collaborated on the 1794 Cambridge edition of the Rowley poems in which S.T.C.'s MONODY first appeared. Later in life he contributed an original and scholarly essay on Chatterton's use of Language to the GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE (Aug., 1838). But he largely abandoned the world of letters after Cambridge. Instead, he took a post in Cornwall as tutor to the son of  a land-owning Cornish widow, and ended up marrying the widow and acquiring her estate near Penzance. For Val Le Grice, at least, THE FORTUNATE BLUECOAT BOY seems to have been a formative book. Then, until 1858, he sat in his country house at Trereife, occasionally publishing tracts to try and persuade the Cornish to become orthodox Anglicans and uncomplaining subservient citizens. And perhaps he, too, sometimes thought about routes not taken, and compensated by making notes like those in his copy of the BIOGRAPHIA, where, amid other markings, he wrote:


in the Edinburgh Review for October 1837... is a letter of Coleridge's to Cottle which makes the heart bleed. Think of Lamb and Coleridge! Who would ask for genius as a blessing to a child!





1. SCARGILL, William Pitt: RECOLLECTIONS OF A BLUE-COAT BOY, Swaffham: Printed by and for F.Skill....1829 was reprinted by S.R. Publishers Limited Johnson Reprint Corporation (U.S.A.) in 1968.


2. Of the “Christ's Hospital classics” only PETER WILKINS is easily available, in PALTOCK, Robert: PETER WILKINS, The World's Classics, O.U.P. p.b., 1990.


“ORPHANOTROPHIAN”: THE FORTUNATE BLUE-COAT BOY, London, 1770 was republished as No. 3 of Christ's Hospital Papers in 1987, and is available from The Counting House, Christ's Hospital, Horsham, West Sussex, England while stocks last.


CHETWOOD, William Rufus: CAPTAIN ROBERT BOYLE... London, 1726, had a considerable vogue, being reprinted in New York as late as 1852, but the book has not, as far as I know, received an authoritative modern edition.


3. WHITE, James: FALSTAFF's LETTERS, London,G.G.Robinsons...etc.1796, is available in later reprintings, e.g. London, B. Robson,1877 ; London. Alexander Moring, “The King's Classics”, 1904.