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us incorrectly raised upon right foundations ; that is, he seldom failed to hit the weak point of a character; but through exclusive attention to that weakness, and by adopting a peculiar canon for judging of the relative importance of different mental qualifications, his general estimate is frequently biassed, and very rarely such as the public would adopt along with him. His prejudices were lasting as well as rigorous. He seldom, for instance, rendered any credit, or even justice, to those who had been the objects of his political opposition in early life; although he had himself long abandoned his old opinions, and adopted those against which he had contended. But his prejudices were not founded on politics only, although undoubtedly his strong sentiments and stronger fears on that subject tended to warp his judgment in some instances. Much less were they connected with religion : on that topic he was almost always candid with respect to men, even when intolerant of opinions. They were, as we have said, connected with his own solitary and eremitical habits of thinking. He rejected the vulgar idols of the market and the tribe, in order to fall down and worship his own idols of the den, * which his proper hands had erected. Burke is only mentioned, in these volumes, with general disparagement, as a shallow thinker. Canning, as a mere eloquent rhetorician, who “flashed such a light around - the constitution, that it was difficult to see the ruins of the * fabric through it. Mackintosh is spoken of as follows :
Sir James Mackintosh is the king of the men of talent. He is a most elegant converser. How well I remember his giving breakfast to me and Sir Humphrey Davy, at that time an unknown young man, and our having a very spirited talk about Newton and Locke, and so forth! When Davy was gone, Mackintosh said to me “ That's a very extraordinary young man : but he is gone wrong on some points.” But Davy was at that time at least a man of genius ; and I doubt if Mackintosh ever heartily appreciated an eminently original man. He is uncommonly powerful in his own line ; but it is not the line of a first-rate man. After all his fluency and brilliant erudition, you can rarely carry off any thing worth preserving. You might not improperly write on his forehead * Warehouse to let.” He always dealt too much in generalities for a lawyer. He is deficient in power in applying his principles to the points in debate. I remember Robert Smith had much more logical ability; but Smith aimed at conquest by any gladiatorial shift; whereas Mackintosh was uniformly candid in argument. I am speaking now from old recollections.'-Vol. I. p. 24.
Here, perhaps, some weak points are pointed out; but not a word is said respecting many great qualities of Mackintosh's
* Bacon, Nov. Organ, Lib. I. VOL, LXI. NO. CXXIII.
mind; particularly his inestimable equability of judgment, and that truly philosophical power, in which he surpassed all, even those who were in other respects his superiors, of viewing and calmly weighing both sides of a question, in politics, history, or morals, and stating arguments without deciding on them ;-a quality so widely different from Coleridge's own rapidity and dogmatism of judgment, as to have excited probably little corresponding sympathy.
Nor were "Coleridge's observations on the lighter literature of his time in general favourable. He had little similarity of mind or taste with most of his fellow poets, except Wordsworth and Southey. With these he was closely allied in the relations of life, as well as in the course of his mental education and progress. Nor was it without reason that the public, in general, classed the three writers together, under the well-known title of the · Lake School;' although they all, and Coleridge more especially, were in the habit of protesting against being joined under the same denomination. In fact, the only title to fame about which he seemed particularly anxious, was originality; and it was his undoubtedly in an eminent degree. If in that tempestuous period, when the exploding Revolution scattered its new-created store of feelings and ideas over the literary as well as the political world—when national genius was aroused from the indolent calm in which it had so long lain entranced-when
• The upper air burst into life,
And an hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about'many of these brilliant meteors encountered, and became confounded together in their casual wanderings, no one could justly affirm that either borrowed its light from a companion. Coleridge learnt little from others, and wrought out the principles and elements of his composition, both in prose and poetry, from the stores of his own singnlar genius; although in details he was at times, like Lord Byron, an unconscionable plagiarist. The supernatural imagery of his • Christabel,' for example, is something of a peculiar and exquisite cast, which stands unrivalled in modern poetry. By the side of the mysterious Geraldine, the familiar spirits of Scott and Byron seem as corporeal and robust, as the sturdy theatrical ghost which used to occupy the chair of Banquo at Macbeth's haunted feast. But the originality of the form of versification, first introduced to English readers by that poem, seems a little more questionable, although contended for by the admirers of the writer. Whether the first edition of Goëthe's
published in 1790, could have been known to the author Tristabel' before his visit to Germany, (the first part of it having been written, according to himself, in 1797), we do not know: probably the forthcoming account of his life will clear up all doubts on that point. If not, it is a curious coincidence that the two writers should have been each the first to produce, in his respective country, that singular metre now so fashionable, in which the verse is measured, not by syllables, but by cadences; and that both should have dedicated it to similar subjects of wild, unearthly interest. This would not be the only unacknowledged debt due from Coleridge to Goëthe. There is in the Friend' a splendid passage, describing the temptations of Luther in his cell at Wartburg, which, although more high wrought, more varied and animated, is entirely borrowed, in substance, from that scene in Faust where the doetor is introduced labouring on a translation of the New Testament. Such plagiarisms are, we fear, common enough throughout Coleridge's works. In some recent papers respecting him, published in one of the Monthly Magazines, the writer (one of the few to be found in England who is qualified to detect thefts from a store so little explored) asserts that whole passages in the Biographia Literaria' are mere translations, without acknowledgment, from Schelling.
In one point, Coleridge was not unnaturally severe in his criticisms on modern poets-that utter neglect of harmony in versification, so characteristic of some of the greatest amongst them, who seem to have imagined that verses are only meant for the eye; or that, provided the requisite number of syllables is closed by the requisite rhyme, the ear has no right to demand any farther pleasure. Coleridge's own perception and power of melody was peculiar and incomparable. We think we have read somewhere of the nice critics in Roman Catholic theology, that they have a method of denoting the merits of preachers and writers by a scale of corresponding numbers : thus, fervency is noted by so many units, unction by so many, elegance, perspicuity, &c., in proportion. If any one were to construct such a scale for arranging the merits of our modern poets, whatever rank might be assigned to Coleridge in other respects, he ought to be placed far above the highest of his rivals as to the mechanical enchantments of versification. The charm of his rhythm was like the charm of his voice—inexplicable in its depth, its sweetness, its continuity. The very sense aches with the perfect modulation, the almost over-wrought harmony of some portions of
Christabel, for example ; and of the unfinished, and incomprehensible lines, entitled Kubla Khan. We do not know whether so high a character will be extended by most readers to his blank verse. Unrelieved by the artificial strength of rhyme, this most difficult of all our metrical forms requires to be diversified by
breaks and irregularities. That continued equability of flow, the "linked sweetness of Coleridge's long periods, with their prolix and involved succession of ideas, here becomes monotonous, and were it not for the shortness of his poems, would be wearisome. This remark, however, only applies to the descriptive poetry of the • Sibylline Leaves.' In the drama, Coleridge's blank verse is bold, manly, and varied, although not so peculiarly his own in its excellencies and defects. In lyrical melody, Campbell, perhaps, is the only writer who can be put in competition with him for accuracy of metrical tact. But Campbell's best compositions, besides being of a more artificial character, appear finished and complete in themselves; they satisfy the mind's ear, as a common tune, a regular succession of cadences, which forms a perfect whole, and excites no range of associations beyond itself. Coleridge's are like the long unmeasured tones of irregular melody, which we imagine in dreams, and to which some German composers have almost given reality ;-beautiful in themselves, but still more so from calling up a thousand visionary images, not only carrying the spirit along with them, but giving it an impulse and a direction far beyond themselves, into realms full of imaginable, but inimitable sights and sounds of loveliness.
Some of the criticisms on earlier literature, interspersed throughout these volumes, are expressed with infinite taste and accuracy of perception. We have often seen cause to regret that this branch of composition did not occupy more of Coleridge's time and thoughts. Had his indolence permitted, he would have made an editor or a commentator of our chief British classics such as they never yet have found. His refined perception of beauty, and power of seizing the prevailing characteristics of the mind and style of an author, were almost unsurpassed ; whilst his vast store of miscellaneous study would have furnished him with a fund of illustration to support a theory, or to enliven a subject. His most valuable critical dissertations are, like the other beauties of his writings, so imbedded in a farrago of unconnected matter that it is no easy task to disinter them. But his readers will recollect, that the distinction between fancy and imagination in poetry, now so generally recognised and admitted; the most complete and satisfactory refutation of Wordsworth's poetical theory; and many other received doctrines of criticism, are all to be found first collected in the Biographia Literaria.'
Respecting his lectures on Shakspeare, delivered many years ago, but never published, considerable difference of opinion appears to prevail among those who have recently noticed his life and writings.
some maintain that their non-publication was one of the
asses recent literature has sustained, others affirm that