Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Letters, Conversations and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IX: Literary Criticism - part 02 (1902), pp. 51-52


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[page 51:]

LETTERS, CONVERSATIONS AND RECOLLECTIONS OF S. T. COLERIDGE. NEW YORK: HARPER AND BROTHERS.

[Southern Literary Messenger, June, 1836.]

WE feel even a deeper interest in this book than in the late Table-Talk. But with us (we are not ashamed to confess it) the most trivial memorial of Coleridge is a treasure of inestimable price. He was indeed a “myriad-minded man,” and ah, how little understood, and how pitifully vilified! How merely nominal was the difference (and this too in his own land) between what he himself calls the “broad, pre-determined abuse” of the Edinburgh Review, and the cold and brief compliments with the warm regrets of the Quarterly. If there be any one thing more than another which stirs within us a deep spirit of indignation and disgust, it is that damnation of faint praise which so many of the Narcissi of critical literature have had the infinite presumption to breathe against the majesty of Coleridge — of Coleridge — the man to whose gigantic mind the proudest intellects of Europe found it impossible not to succumb. And as no man was more richly-gifted with all the elements of mental renown, so none was more fully worthy of the love and veneration of every truly good man. Even through the exertion of his great powers he sought no immediate worldly advantages. To use his own words, he not only sacrificed all present prospects of wealth and advancement, but, in his inmost soul, stood aloof from temporary reputation. In the volume now before us, we behold the heart, as in his own works we have beheld the mind, [page 52:] of the man. And surely nothing can be more elevating, nothing more cheering than this contemplation, to one who has faith in the possible virtue, and pride in the possible dignity of mankind. The book is written, we believe, by one of the poet’s most intimate friends — one too in whom we recognize a familiarity with the thoughts, and sympathy with the feelings of his subject. It consists of letters, conversations, and fragmentary recollections, interspersed with comment by the compiler, and dedicated to “Elizabeth and Robin, the Fairy Prattler, and still Meek Boy of the Letters.” The letters are by far the most valuable part of the compilation — although all is truly so. A portion of one of them we copy as affording a picture, never surpassed, of great mental power conscious of its greatness, and tranquilly submitting to the indignities of the world.

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It has always been a matter of wonder to us that the Biographia Literaria here mentioned in the foot note has never been republished in America. It is, perhaps, the most deeply interesting of the prose writings of Coleridge, and affords a clearer view into his mental constitution than any other of his works. Why cannot some of our publishers undertake it? They would be rendering an important service to the cause of psychological science in America, by introducing a work of great scope and power in itself, and well calculated to do away with the generally received impression here entertained of the mysticism of the writer.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Letters, Conversations and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge)