April 13 1816: Coleridge Home

highgate20room

On April 13 Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes to James Gillman of Highgate. Gillman has offered to take in Coleridge, and care for him as his addiction to laudanum. They met on April 12, and the next day Colerige wrote him. Coleridge would move in on April 15 and live in  Gillman’s home for eighteen years until his death. 

’42 Norfolk Street, Strand, Saturday Noon. April 13, 1816.

My Dear Sir :—The first half hour I was with you, convinced me that I should owe my reception into your family, exclusively to motives not less flattering to me, than honourable to yourself. I trust we shall ever, in matters of intellect, be reciprocally serviceable to each other. Men of sense generally come to the same conclusions; but they are likely to contribute to each other’s enlargement of view in proportion to the distance, or even opposition of the point from which thny set out. Travel, and the strange variety of situations and employments, on which chance has thrown me in the course of my life, might have made me a mere man of observation, if pain and sorrow, and self-miscomplacence, had not forced my mind in on itself, and so formed habits of meditation. It is now as much in my nature to evolve the fact from the law, as that of a practical man to deduce the law from the fact.

With respect to pecuniary remuneration, allow me to say, I must not at least be suffered to make any addition to your family expenses, though I cannot offer anything that would be in any way adequate to my sense of the service; for that indeed there could not be a compensation, as it must be returned in kind, by esteem and grateful affection.

And now of myself. My ever wakeful reason, and the keenness of my moral feelings, will secure you from all unpleasant circumstances connected with me, save only one, viz. the evasion of a specific madness. You will never hear any thing but truth from me:—prior habits render it out of my power to tell an untruth, but unless carefully observed, I dare not promise that I should not, with regard to this detested poison, be capable of acting one. No sixty hours have yet passed without my having taken laudanum, though for the last week, comparatively trifling doses. I have full belief that your anxiety need not be extended beyond the first week; and for the first week, I shall not, I must not be permitted to leave your house, unless with you. Delicately or indelicately, this must be done, and both the servants and the assistant must receive absolute commands from you. The stimulus of conversation suspends the terror that haunts my mind; but when I am alone, the horrors I have suffered from laudanum, the degradation, the blighted utility, almost overwhelm me. If (as I feel for the first time a soothing confidence it will prove) I should leave you restored to my moral and bodily health, it is not myself only that will love and honour you; every friend I have, (and thank God! in spite of this wretched vice, I have many and warm ones, who were friends of my youth, and have never deserted me,) will thank you with reverence. I have taken no notice of your kind apologies. If I could not be comfortable in you* house, and with your family, I should deserve to be miserable. If you could make it convenient, I should wish to be with you by Monday evening, as it would prevent the necessity of taking fresh lodgings in town.

With respectful compliments to Mrs. Gillman and her sister, I remain, dear Sir,
Your much obliged
S. T. Coleridge.

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