Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), [Review of S. T. Coleridge's Table Talk], American and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Baltimore, MD), vol. LXXII, whole no. 12185, July 22, 1835, p. 2, cols. 2-3


[page 2, column 2, middle:]

Specimens of the Table Talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Two volumes in one. Harpers — New York.

In reading these thought-teeming pages, our thankfulness grows as we proceed towards the editor, as towards one who has rescued for us from perdition an invaluable treasure. The world is indebted for them to the foresight and industry of a nephew and son-in-law of Coleridge, who was himself gifted enough to appreciate the wealth which his great relative profusely scattered in social converse. For the last ten or twelve years of his life the Poet was confined by bodily suffering mostly to his room and often to his bed, and here by his side would his nephew, and others of his friends and relatives, listen to the outpourings of his glorious mind, which delighted especially in unburdening itself in this oral extemporaneous manner. What a mind was his! How fine and delicate in its texture, and yet how wide in its sweep and powerful in its grasp! How copious and yet how precise — how poetical and yet how metaphysical — how speculative and yet — how practical and above all, how truth-loving!

Like his great written prose works, ‘The Friend,’ ‘Aids to Reflection,’ and his ‘Literary Autobiography,’ these volumes abound in illustrations of all these qualities, but the chief characteristic of his conversation as reported here, is the freshness and striking effect given to comments on every-day topics by the depth and brightness of the medium through which they pass. — Upon common place things the mind of Coleridge often acts like the solar microscope, under whose magnifying and illuminating power the wings and beaks of the tiniest insects become endowed with wonderful dimensions and a surpassing glory, undergoing, as it were, transfiguration.

We will make a few extracts, from which our readers will perceive that any one who has a dollar where-with to buy food for the mind, will not mis[[-]]spend it in purchasing this volume. In the following we have our American practice as to the mode of appointing diplomatic functionaries strongly vindicated:

“The sure way to make a foolish ambassador is to bring him up to it. What can an English minister abroad really want but an honest and bold heart, a love for his country and the ten commandments! Your art diplomatic is stuff — no truly great man now would negotiate upon any such shallow principles.”

How pregnant are the following. We have particular pleasure in giving circulation to the opinion on Burke’s essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, a work which once cost us hearty self-reproaches because we could learn nothing from it:

“The very greatest writers write best when calm, and exerting themselves upon subjects unconnected with party. Burke rarely shows all his powers unless where he is in a passion. The French Revolution was alone a subject fit for him. We are not yet aware of all the consequences of that event. We are too near it.”

“A rogue is a roundabout fool; a fool in circumbendibus.”

“The Earth, with its scarred face, is the symbol of the Past; the Air and Heaven, of Futurity.”

“Burke’s Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful seems to me a poor thing; and what he says upon Taste is neither profound nor accurate.”

“Holland and the Netherlands ought to be seen once, because no other country is like them. Every thing is artificial. You will be struck with the combinations of vivid greenery, and water and building; but every thing is so distinct and rememberable, that you would not improve your conception by visiting the country a hundred times over. It is interesting to see a country and a nature made, as it were, by man, and to compare it with God’s nature.

If you go, remark (indeed, you will be forced to do so, in spite of yourself,) remark, I say, the identity (for it is more than proximity) of a disgusting dirtiness in all that concerns the dignity of, and reverence for, the human person; and a persecuting painted cleanliness in every thing connected with property. — You must not walk in their garden; nay, you must hardly look into them.

The Dutch seem very happy and comfortable, certainly; but it is the happiness of animals. In vain do you look for the sweet breath of hope and advancement among them.”

“Poetry is certainly something more than good sense, but it must be good sense, at all events, just as a palace is more than a house, but it must be a house, at least.”

“Thelwall thought it very unfair to influence a child’s mind by inculcating any opinions before it should have come to years of discretion, and be able to choose for itself. I showed him my garden, and told him if was my botannical garden. “ [[‘]]How so?” [[’]] said he, “ [[‘]]it is covered with weeds.” [[’]] “ [[‘]]Oh,” [[’]] I replied, “ [[‘]]that is only because it has not yet come to its age of discretion and choice. The weeds, you see, have taken the liberty to grow, and I thought it unfair in me to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries.[[’]] ”

“Most women have no character at all,” said Pope, and meant it for satire. Shakspeare, who knew man and woman much better, saw that it, in fact, was the perfection of women to be characterless. Every one wishes a Desdemona or Ophelia for a wife, — creatures who, though they may not always understand you, do always feel you, and feel with you.”

We presume the blank in the following should be filled up with the name of Brougham:

[[“]]——— never makes a figure in quietude. He astounds the vulgar with a certain enormity of exertion; he takes an acre of canvass, on which he scrawls every thing. He thinks aloud; every thing in his mind, good, bad, or indifferent, out it comes; he is like the Newgate gutter, flowing with garbage, dead dogs, and [column 3:] mud. He is pre-eminently a man of many thoughts, with no ideas: hence he is always so lengthy, because he must go through every thing to see any thing.”



This review was first attributed to Poe by Thomas Ollive Mabbott in “A Few Notes on Poe,” Modern Language Notes, XXXV, June 1920, pp. 373-374. In that article, however, Mabbott misdates this item as July 16, 1835. The correct date was established by searching through issues in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

The American & Commercial Daily Advertiser was “published every morning” by “Dobbin, Murphy & Bose” at “No. 2 South Gay Street” in Baltimore.


[S:0 - BAM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of S. T. Coleridge's Table Talk [Text-02]