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bright stop in your happier career, that you and Coleridge were once rivals, and for a moment running abreast in the pursuit of honour. I believe that his disappointment at this crisis damped his ardour. Unfortunately, at that period, there was no classical tripos; so that if a person did not obtain the classical medal he was thrown back among the totally undistinguised; and it was not allowable to become a candidate for the classical medal, unless
you had taken a respectable degree in mathematics. Coleridge had not the least taste for these, and here his case was hopeless; so that he despaired of a fellowship, and gave up what in his heart he coveted-college honours, and a college life. When he quitted college, which he did before he had taken a degree, in a moment of mad-cap caprice—it was indeed an inauspicious hour• In an inauspicious hour I left the friendly cloisters and the happy grove of quiet, ever-honoured Jesus College, Cambridge.' Short but deep and heartfelt reminiscence. In a literary life of himself, this short memorial is all that Coleridge gives of his happy days at college. Say not that he did not obtain, and did not wish to obtain classical honours. He did obtain them, and was eagerly ambitious of them; but he did not bend to that discipline which was to qualify him for the whole course. very studious, but his reading was desultory and capricious. He took little exercise merely for the sake of exercise ; but he was ready at any time to unbend his mind in conversation ; and for the sake of this, his room (the ground-floor room, on the right hand of the staircase, facing the great gate) was a constant rendezvous for conversation-loving friends I will not call them loungers, for they came not to kill time, but to enjoy it. What evenings have I spent in these rooms! What little suppers, or singings, as they were called have enjoyed
when Æschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons, &c., to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us; Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim. Frend's Trial was then in progress. Pamphlets swarmed from the press. Coleridge had read them all; and in the evening with our negus, we had them, viva voce, gloriously. O Coleridge! it was indeed an inauspicious hour when you quitted the friendly cloisters of Jesus. The epithet friendly, implied what you were thinking of, when you thought of college. To you, Coleridge, your contemporaries were indeed friendly, and I believe, that in your Literary Life you have passed over your college life so briefly, because you wished to banish from your view the 'visions of long-departed joy.' To enter into a description of your college days would have called up too sadly to your memory the hopes that once shone bright,' and made your heart sink."*
He remained at Cambridge till October, 1794, when, in a luckless hour, he quitted it for ever, without cause assigned, and without taking his degree. The cause of his leaving Cambridge, has been variously stated. In the Beauties of the Anti Jacobin, he is said to have been disgraced at college for preaching Deism ; this charge Coleridge repels with indignation, saying, so far is this from the truth, that he was thought a bigot by the advocates of French philosophy for his ardour for Christianity. The true causes appear to have been pecuniary difficulties, and a heavy disappointment in love for a young lady, sister of a fellow-collegian. These, combined drove him to despair; to dissipate which he set off
* Gentleman's Magazine, Dec. 1834.
for London with a party of collegians, and passed a short time in the gaieties of the metropolis. On his return to Cambridge he remained but a few days, and then left it for ever. He again came to London, and after wandering about the streets in a state of mind approaching to frenzy, enlisted in the 15th Dragoons, under the name of Comberback. Of this singular incident in the life of our poet, the following authentic account, by the poet Bowles, appeared in The Times of August 13th, 1834.
“Sir,-In your paper of the 5th instant, the following passage occurs, quoted from a literary journal (The Athenæum), respecting a singular incident in the early life of the late Mr. Coleridge.
"We have reason to believe that during the early part of his life he enlisted as a common soldier in the dragoons. Of course he did not remain long in the service. Perhaps his then democratical feelings made his officers willing to get rid of him ; perhaps, which is a fact, he could not be taught to ride.'
“Upon this singular fact, or what might be called, in the metaphysician's own language, psychological curiosity,' I trespass for a minute on your time and paper, as I am, perhaps, the only person now living who can explain all the circumstances from Mr. Coleridge's own mouth, with whom I became acquainted after a sonnet addressed to me in his poems; moreover, being intimate from our school days, and at Oxford, with the very officer in his regiment who alone procured his discharge, from · whom also I heard the facts after Coleridge became known as a poet.
“ The regiment was the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons; the officer was Nathaniel Ogle, eldest son of Dr. Newton Ogle, Dean of Winchester, and brother of the late Mrs. Sheridan ; he was a scholar; and leaving Merton College,
he entered this regiment as a cornet. Some years afterwards, I believe he was then captain of Coleridges' troop, going into the stables, at Reading, he remarked, written on the white wall, under one of the saddles, in large pencil characters, the following sentence, in Latin
‘Eheu! quam infortunii miserimum est fuisse felicem!'
“Being struck with the circumstance, and himself a scholar, Captain Ogle inquired of a soldier whether he knew to whom the saddle belonged. Please your honour, to Comberback,' answered the dragoon,-Comberback !! said the captain, 'send him to me.' Comberback presented himself, with the inside of his hand in front of his cap. His officer mildly said, “Comberback, did you write the Latin sentence which I have just read under your saddle ?—Please your honour,' answered the soldier, 'I wrote it.'-' Then, my lad, you are not what you appear to be. I shall speak to the commanding officer, and you may depend on my speaking as a friend. The commanding officer, I think, was General Churchill. Comberback* was examined, and it was found out, that having left Jesus College, Cambridge, and being in London without resources, he had enlisted in this regiment.
soon discharged—not from his democratical feelings, for whatever those feelings might be, as a soldier he was remarkably orderly and obedient, though he could not rub down his own horse. He was discharged from respect to his friends and his station. His friends having been informed of his situation, a chaise was soon at the door of the Bear Inn, Reading, and the officers of the
When he enlisted he was asked his name. He hesitated, but saw the name of Comberback over a shop door near Westminsterbridge, and instantly said his name was "Comberback."
."-Note by Bowles.
15th cordially shaking his hands, particularly the officer who had been the means of his discharge, he drove off, not without a tear in his eye, whilst his old companions of the tap-room* gave him three hearty cheers as the wheels rapidly rolled away along the Bath road to London and Cambridge.
“Having seen the extract mentioned, I communicate this more correct account, which you may publish with or without a name ; and I am, &c.
“ WILLIAM L. Bowles." In 1794, Coleridge published a small volume of poems; they were praised by the critics of the day.
At this time the recent French Revolution had intoxicated most of the enthusiastic minds of Europe. Coleridge did not escape the infection. He had, in 1792, become acquainted with Southey, who, with a third poet and Utopian, Mr. R. Lovell, were equally full of enthusiasm in the cause of ideal freedom, and the regeneration of mankind. They proposed founding a society in the wilds of America, under the name of “ Pantisocracy,” where all the evils of European society were to be remedied, property was to be in common, and every man a legislator. To forward these views, Coleridge, in the winter of 1794-5, delivered, at Bristol, a course of lectures on the French Revolution ; they were well received and much applauded. About the same time Southey and he wrote a drama, entitled, The Fall of Robespierre; they
gan it one evening at 7 o’elock, finished by 12 o'clock noon the following day, and got it printed and published on the next day. In 1795, Coleridge published two pam
* It should be mentioned, that by far the most correct, sublime, chaste, and beautiful of his poems, meo judicio," Religious Musings," was written, non inter sylvas academi, but in the tap-room at Reading. A fine subject for a painting by Wilkie.- Note by Bowles.