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who attached himself to me from my first arrival at Bristol, who has continued my friend with a fidelity unconquered by time or even by my own apparent neglect; a friend from whom I never received an advice that was not wise, or a remonstrance that was not gentle and affectionate.
Conscientiously an opponent of the first revolutionary war, yet with my eyes thoroughly opened to the true character and impotence of the favourers of revolutionary principles in England, principles which I held in abhorrence (for it was part of my political creed, that whoever ceased to act as an individual by making himself a member of any society not sanctioned by his government, forfeited the rights of a citizen)-a vehement anti-ministerialist, but after the invasion of Switzerland a more vehement anti-gallican, and still more intensely an anti-jacobin, I retired to a cottage at Stowey, and provided for my scanty maintenance by writing verses for a London Morning Paper. I saw plainly, that literature was not a profession by which I could expect to live; for I could not disguise from myself, that whatever my talents might or might not be in other respects, yet they were not of the sort that could enable me to become a popular writer ; and that whatever my opinions might be in themselves, they were almost equi-distant from all the three prominent parties, the Pittites, the Foxites, and the Democrats. Of the unsaleable nature of my writings I had an amusing memento one morning from our own servant girl. For happening to rise at an earlier hour than usual, I observed her putting an extravagant quantity of paper into the grate in order to light the fire, and mildly checked her for her wastefulness; la, Sir! (replied poor Nanny,) why, it is only “WATCHMEN.”
I now devoted myself to poetry and to the study of ethics and psychology; and so profound was my admiration at this time of Hartley's Essays on Man, that I gave his name to my first born. In addition to the gentleman, my neighbour, whose garden joined on to my little orchard, and the cultivation of whose friendship had been my sole motive in choosing Stowey for my residence, I was so fortunate as to acquire, shortly after my settlement there, an invaluable blessing in the society and neighborhood of one, to whom I could look up with equal reverence, whether I regarded him as a poet, a philosopher, or a man. His conversation extended to almost all subjects, except physics and politics; with the latter he
One of the many
never troubled himself. Yet neither my retirement nor my utter abstraction from all the disputes of the day could secure me in those jealous times from suspicion and obloquy, which did not stop at me, but extended to my excellent friend, whose perfect innocence was even adduced as a proof of his guilt. busy sycophants * of that day (I here use the word sycophant in its original sense, as a wretch who flatters the prevailing party by informing against his neighbours, under pretence that they are exporters of prohibited figs or fancies! for the moral application of the term it matters not which) —one of these sycophantic law-mongrels, discoursing on the politics of the neighbourhood, uttered the following deep remark : “ As to Coleridge, there is not so much harm in him, for he is a whirlbrain that talks whatever comes uppermost; but that ! he is the dark traitor. You never heard HIM say a syllable on the subject.”
Now that the Land of Providence has disciplined all Europe into sobriety, as men tame wild elephants, by alternate blows and caresses; now that Englishmen of all classes are restored to their old English notions and feelings, it will with difficulty be credited, how great an influence was at that time possessed and exerted by the spirit of secret defamation, (the too constant attendant on party zeal!) during the restless interim from 1793 to the commencement of the Addington administration, or the year before the truce of Amiens. For by the latter period the minds of the partizans, exhausted by excess of stimulation, and humbled by mutual disappointment, had become languid. The same causes that inclined the nation to peace, disposed the individuals to reconciliation. Both parties had found themselves in the wrong. The one had confessedly mistaken the moral character of the revolution, and the other had miscalculated both its moral and its physical resources. The experiment was made at the price of great, almost we may say, of humiliating sacrifices; and wise men foresaw that it would fail, at least in its direct and ostensible object. Yet it was purchased cheaply, and realized an object of equal value, and, if possible, of still more vital importance. For it brought about a national unanimity, unexampled in our history since the reign of Elizabeth; and Providence, never wanting to a good work when men have done
* Euxis Pasver, to show or detect figs, the exportation of which, from Attica, was forbidden by the laws.
their parts, soon provided a common focus in the cause of Spain, which made us all once more Englishmen, by at once gratifying and correcting the predilections of both parties. The sincere reverers of the throne felt the cause of loyalty enuobled by its alli. ance with that of freedom ; while the honest zealots of the people could not but admit that freedom itself assumed a more winning form, humanized by loyalty, and consecrated by religious principle. The youthful enthusiasts, who, flattered by the morning rainbow of the French revolution, had made a boast of expatriating their hopes and fears, now disciplined by the succeeding storms, and sobered by increase of years, had been taught to prize and honour the spirit of nationality as the best safeguard of national independence, and this again as the absolute prerequisite and necessary basis of popular rights.
If in Spain, too, disappointment has nipt our too forward expectations, yet all is not destroyed that is checked. The crop was perhaps springing up too rank in the stalk to kern well; and there were, doubtless, symptoms of the Gallican blight on it. If superstition and despotism have been suffered to let in their wolvish sheep to trample and eat it down even to the surface, yet the roots remain alive, and the second growth may prove all the stronger and healthier for the temporary interruption. At all events, to us heaven has been just and gracious. The people of England did their best, and have received their rewards. Long may we continue to deserve it! Causes, which it had been too generally the habit of former statesmen to regard as belonging to another world, are now admitted, by all ranks, to have been the main agents of our success. We fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” If, then, unanimity, grounded on moral feelings, hạs been among the least equivocal sources of our national glory, that man deserves the esteem of his countrymen, even as patriots, who devotes his life and the utmost efforts of his intellect to the preservation and continuance of that unanimity by the disclosure and establishment of principle. For by these all opinions must be ultimately tried ; and (as the feelings of men are worthy of regard only as far as they are the representatives of their fixed opinions) on the knowledge of these, all unanimity, not accidental and fleeting, must be grounded. Let the scholar who doubts this assertion, refer only to the speeches and writings of EDMUND
Burke, at the commencement of the American war, and compare them with his speeches and writings at the commencement of the French revolution. He will find the principles exactly the same, and the deductions the same; but the practical inferences almost opposite, in the one case, from those drawn in the other; yet in both equally legitimate, and in both equally confirmed by the results. Whence gained he this superiority of foresight? Whence arose the striking difference, and, in most instances, even the discrepancy between the grounds assigned by him, and by those who voted with him, on the same questions? How are we to explain the notorious fact, that the speeches and writings of EDMUND BURKE are more interesting at the present day than they were found at the time of their first publication; while those of his illustrious confederates are either forgotten, or exist only to furnish proofs that the same conclusion which one man had deduced scientifically, may be brought out by another, in consequence of errors that luckily chanced to neutralize each other? It would be unhandsome as a conjecture, even were it not, as it actually is, false in point of fact, to attribute this difference to deficiency of talent on the part of Burke's friends, or of experience, or of historical knowledge. The satisfactory solution is, that Edmund Burke possessed, and had sedulously sharpened, that eye which sees all things, actions, and events, in relation to the laws that determine their existence, and circumscribe their possibility. He referred habitually to principles. He was a scientific statesman; and, therefore a seer. For every principle contains, in itself, the germs of a prophecy; and as the prophetic power is the essential privilege of science, so the fulfilment of its oracles supplies the outward and (to men in general) the only test of its claim to the title.
Wearisome as Burke's refinements appeared to his parliamentary auditors, yet the cultivated classes throughout Europe have reason to be thankful that
- he went on refining, And thought of convincing, while they thought of dining.
Our very sign boards (said an illustrious friend to me) give evidence that there has been a TITAN in the world. In like manner, not only the debates in parliament, not only our proclamations and state papers, but the essays and leading paragraphs of our journals
are so many remembrancers of EDMUND BURKE.
Of this the reader may easily convince himself, if either by recollection or reference he will compare the opposition newspapers at the commencement and during the five or six following years of the French revolution, with the sentiments, and grounds of argument assumed in the same class of journals at present, and for some years past.
Whether the spirit of jacobinism, which the writings of Burke exorcised from the higher and from the literary classes, may not, like the ghost in Hamlet, be heard moving and mining in the underground chambers with an activity the more dangerous because less noisy, may admit of a question. I have given my opinions on this point, and the grounds of them, in my letters to Judge Fletcher, occasioned by his CHARGE to the Wexford grand jury, and published in the Courier. Be this as it may, the evil spirit of jealousy, and with it the cerberean whelps of feud and slander no longer walk their rounds in cultivated society.
Far different were the days to which these anecdotes have carried me back. The dark guesses of some zealous quidnunc met with so congenial a soil in the grave alarm of a titled Dogberry of our neighbourhood, that a spy was actually sent down from the government pour surveillance of myself and friend. There must have been not only abundance, but variety of these “honourable men,” at the disposal of Ministers; for this proved a very honest fellow. After three weeks' truly Indian perseverance in tracking us, (for we were commonly together,) during all which time seldom were we out of doors, but he contrived to be within hearing, (and all the time utterly unsuspected : how, indeed, could such a suspicion enter our fancies ?) he not only rejected Sir Dogberry's request that he would try yet a little longer, but declared to him his belief, that both my friend and myself were as good subjects, for aught he could discover to the contrary, as any in His Majesty's dominions. He had repeatedly hid himself, he said, for hours together, behind a bank at the sea-side, (our favourite seat,) and overheard our con. versation. At first he fancied that we were aware of our danger; for he often heard me talk of one Spy Nozy, which he was inclined to interpret of himself, and of a remarkable feature belonging to him ; but he was speedily convinced that it was a man who had made a book, and lived long ago. Our talk ran most upon books, and we were perpetually desiring each other to look at this, and to