TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING ; 19 October 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18471019-TC-TSS-01; CL 22: 134-136
TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING
Chelsea, 19 Octr, 1847
Thanks for your Letter; thanks for all your kindnesses to me, in late days, and in days long past! I too am very glad to have seen you all again; I too hope, and purpose if I live long “that it may not be the last time.” Greta Bank, under your and the kind Lady's1 good stewardship, I can reckon always as one of my possessions in this Earth: a place where Friends live and work, clear-headed, clear-hearted; where, in elegant simplicity, in quiet fulness, solacement for soul and body gratefully offers itself, when my wanderings tend that way. Such possessions are not to be slighted, in so poor a world, by so poor a man. Here and there such a spot, to which our thoughts turn, “first makes this waste Earth,” says one of Goethe's personages, “into a peopled Garden for us.”2 My thanks, and my blessings, be with you all always.
I had a beautiful drive that Tuesday morning; the weather, the scene, the equipage altogether agreeable. Your new Farm and Farmhouse in Naddale (is that the name?) was duly pointed out to me; all lay silent, serene in the moist sunny October; the swift Brooks, clear as liquid diamonds, sang their best song for me,—the last I was to hear of Brooks for a twelvemonth to come: Helvellyn and the everlasting hills, Grasmere steeple and the transitory villages and chapels; things seen for the first time, and things seen long years ago, preached equally a mild and wholesome sermon for me. In silence too, and no reply needed,—no falsity, except one volunteered it! I shall long remember that mild solitary morning, and its doctrines and melodies. Once swallowed into the belly of the rail-train, there was of course nothing more to be said or thought, nine hours of tempestuous deafening nightmare,—like hours of Jonah in the whale's belly, I suppose,—and one was flung out in Euston Square, glad to have escaped, but stupefied for a week to come. Absolutely I think ether must come in vogue,3 if men persist in that mode of travelling. To a man who has still his senses left, the operation is too painful. At Chelsea I found my Wife better than I had expected, and nothing at all gone wrong in my absence; my Wife, I rather judge, continues to amend: I am charged with kind remembrances to Mrs Spedding and you from her, and thanks for your goodness to me.
At Windermere Station, while the tumult of packing went on, a foolish Lady with noisy foolish children in the carriage beside me, pointed out to one of them a figure on the platform as “Mr. Coleridge, whom you saw this morning, my dawling!” The figure, hoary, small, and in clothes too small for it; with a little switch in its hand, an almost idiotic stereotype simper on its face; apparently taking leave of some female Lakers,—instantly arrested all my attention: poor Hartley Coleridge himself, and no mistake!4 I have seldom contemplated a more tragic spectacle: surely if there be a tragedy, it is that of celestial genius sunk together as a sordid ruin. The eyes and eyebrows of the man, except that the former were as if besooted and half-extinct, had still a prophetic meaning,—the rainbow hanging over a world all drowned in deluges and ooze; for the rest of the man reminded me, in a painful manner, of the most abject kinds of men. Poor fellow, and he is decidedly like his Father; and another Brother whom I know, also like his Father, has ripened in a much fatter but hardly less tragic way;5 and indeed old Samuel Taylor himself ripened very oddly, into Puseyisms, into lazy metaphysical air-castles, continents of orthodox cobweb, and Heaven for the coward that can keep his shovel-hat on:6—how, “like flies in a gluepot,”7 do poor mortals welter bewildered in this world! In few minutes the steam whistled, and I left poor Hartley, with sympathy, with brotherly sorrow; and rumbled on my way, and saw him no more.
What I am now to do at home, besides sit silent, and hold my peace, is by no means clear hitherto. Probably in time I shall be obliged to rally again, in some form or other: at present I feel very much as if annihilated; the bewildering nonsense of mankind, rising gradually this twelvemonth back like an accumulating mud-lake around me, has as it were almost reached my lips; I must either perish (that is to say, intellectually conform to it, for peace's sake), or else shovel it back from me again,—not probably in the mildest disposition of mind! It is a horrible task: however we will not complain of it, for as you say, it will and must be useful in the end. Adieu, dear Spedding; do not forget me. Yours ever
The Cap was missed within a mile of Greta Bank, but there was no return. Do with it as you say: I had already sent a similar message to James about it.