March 7 1815: Poor Coleridge

On March 7 1815, Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes to  Joseph Cottle.

Calne, March 7, 1815.

Dear Cottle, You will wish to know something of myself. In health, I am not worse than when at Bristol I was best; yet fluctuating, yet unhappy! in circumstances “poor indeed!” I have collected my scattered, and my manuscript poems, sufficient to make one volume. Enough I have to make another. But till the latter is finished, I cannot without great loss of character, publish the former on account of the arrangement, besides the necessity of correction. For instance, I earnestly wish to begin the volumes, with what has never been seen by any, however few, such as a series of Odes on the different sentences of the Lord’s Prayer, and more than all this, to finish my greater work on Christianity, considered as Philosophy, and as the only Philosophy. All the materials I have in no small part reduced to form, and written, but, oh me! what can I do, when I am so poor, that in having to turn off every week, from these to some mean subject for the newspapers, I distress myself, and at last neglect the greater wholly to do little of the less. If it were in your power to receive my manuscripts (for instance what I have ready for the press of my poems) and by setting me forward with thirty or forty pounds, taking care that what I send, and would make over to you, would more than secure you from loss, I am sure you would do it. And I would die (after my recent experience of the cruel and insolent spirit of calumny) rather than subject myself, as a slave, to a club of subscribers to my poverty.

If I were to say I am easy in my conscience, I should add to its pains by a lie; but this I can truly say, that my embarrassments have not been occasioned by the bad parts, or selfish indulgences of my nature, I am at present five and twenty pounds in arrear, my expenses being at £2 10s. per week. You will say I ought to live for less, and doubtless I might, if I were to alienate myself from all social affections, and from all conversation with persons of the same education. Those who severely blame me, never ask, whether at any time in my life, I had for myself and my family’s wants, £50 beforehand.

Heaven knows of the £300 received, through you, what went to myself.[90] No! bowed down under manifold infirmities, I yet dare to appeal to God for the truth of what I say; I have remained poor by always having been poor, and incapable of pursuing any one great work, for want of a competence beforehand.

S. T. Coleridge.

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