Things of this nature scarce survive that night
That gives them birth; they perish in the sight;
Cast by so far from after-life that there

Is scarce aught can be said, but that they were."

HIS was a favourite quotation with Mr. Coleridge; he used it more than once in reference to those same newspaper writings, contributions to the Morning Post and the Courier-which are here restored to the Public, or rather presented to a new and somewhat different Public, under the name of Essays on his own Times, a title devised to express, as compendiously as may be, their general character and content. The author himself, I believe, never dreamed of their being fished up from the abysses of the Past, and at times, while engaged in this "pious but not profitable labour," as the preventive criticism of some of my friends has termed it, I have fancied I saw him with a well known smile on his face, affectionate, yet with just a tincture of disdain for the thing done, not the person doing it, at the pains I was taking to recover entire and rescue from oblivion, what he doubtless composed, with far


greater ease and rapidity than I have reproduced it, in a few hours scattered over a few years of his ever-varying life.—Such truly his life was, during all but the last part of it, comprising his abode at Highgate; and this is readily intelligible; for want of sufficient health and sufficient means is apt to render a man restless,-full of tossings to and fro till the dawning of the day,-or to use the words of a later poet than Job,

Simigliante a quella 'nferma,

Che non può trovar posa in su le piume,
Ma con dar volta suo dolore scherma.

-A night it was indeed that gave birth to these writings—a season of comparative obscurity to his fame and of perplexity to his health-seeking steps. That the rolling stone gathers no moss is as true with regard to literary as to pecuniary advancement. But I must not launch out into this theme of my father's difficulties and neglected merits, neglected while he might have enjoyed the recognition of them—which some may describe to themselves as "spreading out before me like a sea without a shore!"

It has been elsewhere observed how he was ever bent on speeding forward, finding the Past renewed and formed anew in the Present, continually casting his old thoughts into the Medean chaldron of energetic reflection; though, in some instances, when the matter could not be modified nor the manner amended, he introduced former sentences into a

fresh publication without attempting, by any disguise or artifice, to make them appear new. Writings for the day by a thinker of this cast, who, though not originally devoid of popular talent, was unfitted to please his day by reason of the nature of his intellect and his irrepressible tendency to systematize on so large a scale, that he could with difficulty adjust and proportion himself to a narrow one, may perhaps be deemed less unworthy of republication than essays, however finished and brilliant, which are for the day in a more exclusive sense, and may have better pleased their day, as more absolutely devoted to its service. With my Father the subject on which he wrote was engrossing and pursued for its own sake, the occasion and immediate object of publication being in some degree lost sight of. But though many will assent to this remark, and some do eagerly assert that nothing which he deliberately composed should be suffered to perish, let it not be imagined that these volumes are published in the expectation of their exciting a general interest even in that class of studious readers, with whom the author's more finished and methodized works find acceptance. It is rather with a view to the wants and wishes of those who now are, or those who hereafter shall be, concerned in my Father's personal history, both his literal descendants and all who are as children to him in affectionate reverence for his mind, that I have brought together what must, at all events, form an

« VorigeDoorgaan »