Bristol to Nether Stowey

Sara FrickerRejected by his beloved Mary Evans, he agrees to marry Sara Fricker

Southey! my ideal Standard of female Excellence rises not above that Woman. But all Things work together for Good. Had I been united to her, the Excess of my Affection would have effeminated my Intellect. I should have fed on her Looks as she entered into the Room – I should have gazed on her Footsteps when she went out from me.

To lose her! – I can rise above that selfish Pang. But to marry another – O Southey! bear with my weakness. Love makes all things pure and heavenly like itself: – but to marry a woman whom I do not love – to degrade her, whom I call my Wife, by making her the Instrument of low Desire – and on the removal of a desultory Appetite, to be perhaps not displeased with her Absence! – Enough! – These Refinements are the wildering Fires, that lead me into Vice.    Mark you, Southey! – I will do my Duty.

Letter to Robert Southey, Bath, 29 December 1794


Change of destination for Pantisocracy – from Pennsylvania to Wales

Southey! I must tell you, that you appear to me to write as a man who is aweary of a world, because it accords not with his ideas of perfection – your sentiments look like the sickly offspring of disgusted Pride. Love is an active and humble Principle – It flies not away from the Couches of Imperfection, because the Patients are fretful or loathsome.

Why, my dear very dear Southey! do you wrap yourself up in the Mantle of self-centering Resolve – and refuse to us your bounden Quota of Intellect? Why do you say, I – I – I – will do so and so – instead of saying as you were wont to do – It is all our Duty to do so and so – for such & such Reasons – For God'[s] sake – my dear Fellow – tell me what we are to gain by taking a Welch Farm? Remember the principles & proposed Consequences of Pantisocracy – and reflect in what degree they are attainable by Coleridge, Southey, Lovell, Burnet & Co – some 5 men going partners together? In the next place – supposing that we had proved the preponderating Utility of our aspheterizing in Wales – let us by our speedy & united enquiries discover the sum of money necessary – whether such a farm with so very large a house is to be procured without launching our frail & unpiloted Bark on a rough Sea of Anxieties? – How much money will be necessary for furnishing so large a house? How much necessary for the maintenance of so large a family – 18 people – for a year at least? – I have read my Objections to Lovell – if he has not answered them altogether to my fullest conviction – he has however shewn me the wretchedness, that would fall on the majority of our party from any delay, in so forcible a Light – that if 300 pound be adequate to the commencement of the System which I very much doubt – I am most willing to give up all my other views / and embark immediately with you – / If it be determined that we shall go to Wales – for which I now give my Vote – in what time? Mrs Lovell thinks it impossible that we should go in less than three months – If this be the Case, I will accept the Reporter's place to the Telegraph – live upon a guinea a week – and transmit the [rest] – finishing in the mean time my Imitations.

Letter to Robert Southey, Bath, 19 January 1795

St Mary RedcliffeMarries Sara Fricker

On Sunday Morning I was married – at St Mary's, Red Cliff – poor Chatterton's Church – / The thought gave me a tinge of melancholy to the solemn Joy, which I felt – united to the woman, whom I love best of all created Beings. – We are settled – nay – quite domesticated at Clevedon – Our comfortable Cot! – ! – Mrs Coleridge – MRS COLERIDGE!! – I like to write the name – well – as I was saying – Mrs Coleridge desires her affectionate regards to you – I talked of you on my wedding night –God bless you! – I hope that some ten years hence you will believe and know of my affection towards you what I will not now profess.

Letter to Tom Poole, 7 October 1795


Failure of his periodical  ‘The Watchman’

My dear, very dear Friend! I have sent the fifth, sixth, & part of the seventh number – all as yet printed. Your censures are all right – I wish, your praises were equally so. The Essay on Fasts I am ashamed of: it was conceived in the spirit, & clothed in the harsh scoffing, of an Infidel. – You wish to have one long Essay – so should I wish – ; but so do not my Subscribers wish. I feel the perplexities of my undertaking increase daily – In London, & Bristol the Watchman is read for it's original matter, & the News & Debates barely tolerated: the people [at] Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, &c take [it only] as a Newspaper, & regard the Essays & Poems [as int]ruders unwished for & unwelcome. In short, a Subscriber instead of regarding himself as a point in the circumference entitled to some one diverging ray, considers me as the circumference & himself as the Centre to which all the rays ought to converge. – To tell you the truth, I do not think the Watchman will succeed – hitherto I have scarcely sold enough to pay the expences – no wonder when I tell you, that on two hundred which Parsons in Paternoster Row sells weekly, he gains eight shillings more than I do – Nay, I am convinced, that at the end of the half year he will have cleared considerably more by his 200 than I by the proprietary-ship of the whole Work.

Letter to Tom Poole, Bristol, 11 April 1796


With regard to my own affairs they are as bad, as the most Trinitarian Anathemizer, or rampant Philo-despot could wish in the moment of cursing – After No. 12, I shall cease to cry the state of the political atmosphere – It is not pleasant, Thomas Poole! to have worked 14 weeks for nothing – for nothing – nay – to have given the Public in addition to that toil five & 40 pounds! – When I began the Watchman, I had forty pounds worth of paper given me – yet with this I shall not have received a farthing at the end of the Quarter of the Year – To be sure, I have been somewhat fleeced & overreached by my London Publisher – In short, my tradesmen's Bill[s] for the Watchman, including what Paper I have bought since the seventh number, the Printing, &c – amount to exactly five pounds more than the whole amount of my receipts – Meantime Mrs Coleridge asks about baby-linen & anticipates the funeral expences of her poor Mother.

Letter to Tom Poole, Bristol, 5 May 1796

Hartley ColeridgeBirth of his son Hartley

My Wife was safely delivered of a boy – a fine fellow & stout – on Sept. 19th. I have named him David Hartley Coleridge, in honor of the great Master of Christian Philosophy.

Letter to Benjamin Flower, 2 November 1796


Takes laudanum against pain

On Wednesday night I was seized with an intolerable pain from my right temple to the tip of my right shoulder, including my right eye, cheek, jaw, & that side of the throat–  I was nearly frantic – and ran about the House naked, endeavouring by every means to excite sensations in different parts of my body, & so to weaken the enemy by creating a division. It continued from one in the morning till half past 5, & left me pale & fainty. – It came on fitfully but not so violently, several times on Thursday – and began severer threats towards night, but I took between 60 & 70 drops of Laudanum, and sopped the Cerberus just as his mouth began to open. On Friday it only niggled; as if the Chief had departed as from a conquered place, and merely left a small garrison behind, or as if he evacuated the Corsica,†1 & a few straggling pains only remained; but this morning he returned in full force, & his Name is Legion! – Giant-fiend of an hundred hands! with a shower of arrowy Death-pangs he transpierced me, & then he became a Wolf & lay gnawing my bones.– I am not mad, most noble Festus! – but in sober sadness I have suffered this day more bodily pain than I had before a conception of – . My right cheek has certainly been placed with admirable exactness under the focus of some invisible Burning-Glass, which concentrated all the Rays of a Tartarean Sun. – My medical attendant decides it to be altogether nervous, and that it originates either in severe application, or excessive anxiety. – My beloved Poole! in excessive anxiety, I believe, it might originate! – I have a blister under my right-ear, and I take 25 drops of Laudanum every five hours: the ease & spirits gained by which have enabled me to write you this flighty, but not exaggerating, account –. With a gloomy wantonness of Imagination I had been coquetting with the hideous Possibles of Disappointment – I drank fears, like wormwood; yea, made myself drunken with bitterness! for my ever-shaping & distrustful mind still mingled gall-drops, till out of the cup of Hope I almost poisoned myself with Despair!

Letter to Tom Poole, 5 November, 1796


Gilbards, Nether StoweyArrival at Nether Stowey, December 31 1796

We arrived safe – our house is set to rights – we are all, Maid, Wife, Bratling, & self, remarkably well––Mrs Coleridge likes Stowey, & loves Thomas Poole, & his Mother, who love her––a communication has been made from our Orchard into T. Poole's Garden, & from thence to Cruikshanks's, a friend of mine & a young married Man, whose Wife is very amiable; & she & Sara are already on the most cordial terms – from all this you will conclude, that we are happy.

Letter to Joseph Cottle, 6 January 1797

Intention to achieve self-sufficiency

I raise potatoes & all manner of vegetables; have an Orchard; & shall raise Corn with the spade enough for my family. – We have two pigs, & Ducks & Geese. A Cow would not answer the keep: for we have whatever milk we want from T. Poole.

Letter to John Thelwall, 6 February 1797


His wide-ranging intellect and interests

I should not think of devoting less than 20 years to an Epic Poem. Ten to collect materials and warm my mind with universal science. I would be a tolerable Mathematician, I would thoroughly know Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Optics, and Astronomy, Botany, Metallurgy, Fossilism, Chemistry, Geology, Anatomy, Medicine – then the mind of man – then the minds of men – in all Travels, Voyages and Histories. So I would spend ten years – the next five to the composition of the poem – and the five last to the correction of it.

Letter to Joseph Cottle, April 1797

Meeting with Wordsworth

I had been on a visit to Wordsworth's at Racedown near Crewkherne – and I brought him & his Sister back with me & here I have settled them – . By a combination of curious circumstances a gentleman's seat, with a park & woods, elegantly & completely furnished – with 9 lodging rooms, three parlours & a Hall – in a most beautiful & romantic situation by the sea side – 4 miles from Stowey – this we have got for Wordsworth at the rent of 23£ a year, taxes included!! – The park and woods are his for all purposes he wants them – i.e. he may walk, ride, & keep a horse in them – & the large gardens are altogether & entirely his.––Wordsworth is a very great man – the only man, to whom at all times & in all modes of excellence I feel myself inferior – the only one, I mean, whom I have yet met with – for the London Literati appear to me to be very much like little Potatoes – i.e. no great Things! – a compost of Nullity & Dullity.

Letter to Robert Southey, 17 July 1797

The genesis of ‘This Lime-tree Bower my Prison’

Charles LambCharles Lamb has been with me for a week – he left me Friday morning. – / The second day after Wordsworth came to me, dear Sara accidently emptied a skillet of boiling milk on my foot, which confined me during the whole time of C. Lamb's stay & still prevents me from all walks longer than a furlong. – While Wordsworth, his Sister, & C. Lamb were out one evening; / sitting in the arbour of T. Poole's garden, which communicates with mine, I wrote these lines, with which I am pleased.

Letter to Robert Southey, 17 July 1797


Accepts annual allowance of £150 from the Wedgwoods

Yesterday morning I received the letter which you addressed to me in your own and your brother's name. Your benevolence appeared so strange & it came upon my mind with such suddenness, that for a while I sat and mused on it with scarce a reference to myself, and gave you a moral approbation almost wholly unmingled with those personal feelings which have since filled my eyes with tears – which do so even now while I am writing to you. What can I say? I accept your proposal not unagitated but yet, I trust, in the same worthy spirit in which you made it. – . I return to Stowey in a few days. Disembarrassed from all pecuniary anxieties yet unshackled by any regular profession, with powerful motives & no less powerful propensities to honourable effort, it is my duty to indulge the hope that at some future period I shall have given a proof that as your intentions were eminently virtuous, so the action itself was not unbeneficent.

With great affection & esteem

Letter to Josiah Wedgwood, 17 January 1798

Attitude towards government and revolution

As to THE RULERS of France, I see in their views, speeches, & actions nothing that distinguishes them to their advantage from other animals of the same species. History has taught me, that RULERS are much the same in all ages & under all forms of government: they are as bad as they dare to be. The Vanity of Ruin & the curse of Blindness have clung to them, like an hereditary Leprosy. Of the French Revolution I can give my thoughts the most adequately in the words of Scripture – 'A great & strong wind rent the mountains & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a Fire – & the Lord was not in the fire:' and now (believing that no calamities are permitted but as the means of Good) I wrap my face in my mantle & wait with a subdued & patient thought, expecting to hear 'the still small Voice,' which is of God. – In America (I have received my information from unquestionable authority) the morals & domestic habits of the people are daily deteriorating: & one good consequence which I expect from revolutions, is that Individuals will see the necessity of individual effort; that they will act as kind neighbours & good Christians, rather than as citizens & electors; and so by degrees will purge off that error, which to me appears as wild & more pernicious than the pagcrusounpagchrusoun and panacaea of the old Alchemists – the error of attributing to Governments a talismanic influence over our virtues & our happiness – as if Governments were not rather effects than causes. It is true, that all effects react & become causes – & so it must be in some degree with governments – but there are other agents which act more powerfully because by a nigher & more continuous agency, and it remains true that Governments are more the effect than the cause of that which we are. – Do not therefore, my Brother! consider me as an enemy to Governments & Rulers: or as one who say[s] that they are evil.

Letter to George Coleridge, 10 March 1798


Latest News

Event with Prof. Tim Fulford at the Thomas Poole Library, Nether Stowey, 13 July - Tom Poole and Tom Wedgwood, in the Quantocks and the Alps

Event with Prof. Tim Fulford at the Thomas Poole Library, Nether Stowey, 13 July - Tom Poole and Tom Wedgwood, in the Quantocks and the Alps