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November 13, 2008


coleridge_life_mask.jpg [Coleridge, Life Mask, from Joanna Kane, The Somnambulists: Photographic Portraits From Before Photography]

Do the pieces cohere? This is Keats's description (in a letter written on 15 April 1819 to George and Georgianna Keats) of meeting Coleridge:

"Last Sunday I took a Walk towards Highgate and in the lane that winds by the side of Lord Mansfield's park I met Mr [Joseph] Green our Demonstrator at Guy's [Hospital] in conversation with Coleridge -- I joined them, after enquiring by a look whether it would be agreeable -- I walked with him a[t] his alderman-after dinner pace for near two miles I suppose. In those two Miles be broached a thousand things -- let me see if I can give you a list -- Nightingales, Poetry -- on Poetical sensation -- Metaphysics -- Different genera and species of Dreams -- Nightmare -- a dream accompanied by a sense of touch -- single and double touch -- A dream related -- First and second consciousness -- the difference explained between will and Volition -- so many metaphysicians from a want of smoking the second consciousness -- Monsters -- the Kraken -- Mermaids -- [S]outhey believes in them -- [S]outheys belief too much diluted -- A Ghost story -- Good morning -- I heard his voice as he came towards me -- I heard it as he moved away -- I had heard it all the interval -- if it may be called so. He was civil enough to ask me to call on him at Highgate Good Night! ..."

And this is Coleridge himself on apparent divagatoriness or triviality, writing in one distended paragraph in The Friend: A Literary, Moral, and Political Weekly Paper, originally issued between 1809 and 1810:

"What is that which first strikes us, and strikes us at once, in a man of education, and which, among educated men, so instantly distinguishes the man of superior mind, that (as was observed with eminent propriety of the late Edmund Burke) 'we cannot stand under the same archway during a shower of rain, without finding him out'? Not the weight or novelty of his remarks; not any unusual interest of facts communicated by him; for we may suppose both the one and the other precluded by the shortness of our intercourse, and the triviality of the subjects. The difference will be impressed and felt, though the conversation should be confined to the state of the weather or the pavement. Still less will it arise from any peculiarity in his words and phrases. For if he be, as we now assume, a well-educated man as well as a man of superior powers, he will not fail to follow the golden rule of Julius Caesar, insolens verbum, tanquam scopulum, evitare. Unless where new things necessitate new terms, he will avoid an unusal word as a rock. It must have been among the earliest lessons of his youth, that the breach of this precept, at all times hazardous, becomes ridiculous in the topics of ordinary conversation. There remains but one other point of distinction possible; and this must be, and in fact is, the true cause of the impression made on us. It is the unpremeditated and evidently habitual arrangement of his words, grounded on the habit of foreseeing, in each integral part, or (more plainly) in every sentence, the whole that he then intends to communicate. However irregular and desultory his talk, there is method in the fragments."

What blogger dare hope as much?

Posted by njenkins at November 13, 2008 04:49 PM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins