"Coleridge (III)" 1
Your last Sunday's "Literary Notice" has given me some uneasiness on two points.
It was in January, 1798, just 19 years ago, that I got up one morning before day-light to walk 10 miles in the mud, and went to hear a poet and a philosopher preach. It was the author of the "Lay-Sermon.'' Never Sir, the longest day I have to live, shall I have such another walk as this cold, raw, comfortless one in the winter of the year 1798. Mr. Examiner, Il y a des impression que ni le tems ni les circonstances peuvent effacer. Dusse-je vivre des siècles entiers, le doux tems da ma jeunesse ne peut renaitre pour moi, ni s'effacer jamais dans ma mémoire. When I got there, Sir, the organ was playing the 100th Psalm, and when it was done Mr. C. rose and gave out his text, "and he went up into the mountain to pray, Himself, Alone." As he gave out this text, his voice "rose like a steam of rich distill'd perfumes," and when he came to the last two words, which he pronounced loud, deep, and distinct, it seemed to me, Sir, who was then young, as if the sounds had echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and as if that prayer might have floated in solemn silence through the universe. The idea of St John came into my mind, "of one crying in the wilderness, who had his loins girt about, and whose food was locusts and wild honey." The preacher then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with the wind. That sermon, like this Sermon was upon peace and war; upon church and state -- not their alliance, but their separation -- on the spirit of the world and the spirit of Christianity, not as the same, but as opposed to one another. He talked of those who had "inscribed the cross of Christ on banners dripping with human gore." He made a poetical and pastoral excursion, -- and to shew the fatal effects of war, drew a striking contrast between the simple shepherd boy driving his team afield, or sitting under the hawthorn, piping to his flock, as though he would never be old, and the same poor country-lad, crimped, kidnapped, brought into town, made drunk at an alehouse, turned into a wretched drummer-boy, with his hair sticking on end with powder and pomatum, a long cue at his back, and tricked out in the loathsome finery of the profession of blood.
Again, Sir, I ask Mr. Coleridge, why, having preached such a sermon as I have described, he has published such a sermon as you have described? What right Sir, has he or any man to make a fool of me or any man? I am naturally, Sir, a man of plain, dull, dry understanding, without flights or fancies, and can just contrive to plod on, if left to myself: what right then has Mr. C., who is just going to ascend in a balloon, to offer me a seat in the parachute, only to throw me from the height of his career upon the ground, and dash me to pieces? Or again, what right has he to invite me to a feast of poets and philosophers, fruits and flowers intermixed, -- immortal fruits and amaranthine flowers, -- and then to tell me it is all vapour, and, like Timon, to throw his empty dishes in my face? No, Sir, I must and will say it is hard. I hope, between ourselves, there is no breach of confidence in all this; nor do I well understand how men's opinions on moral, political, or religious subjects can be kept a secret, except by putting them in The Correspondent.2
SEMPER EGO AUDITOR
1 Hazlitt's "Coleridge" (III) is to be found in Political Essays (1819). Coleridge came out with a work, "Lay-Sermon" of which Hazlitt was critical. Concerning this, Hazlitt was to write the Editor of the Examiner on Jan 12, 1817.
2 (A paper set up about this time by Dr Stoddart.) The original footnote found in the original work; I have, in turn, placed them in parentheses.