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thought, modified by a constitutional indolence, which made it more pleasant to me to continue acquiring, than to reduce what I had acquired to a regular form. Add too, that almost daily throwing off my notices or reflections in desultory fragments, I was still tempted onwards by an increasing sense of the imperfections of my knowledge, and by the conviction that, in order fully to comprehend and develope any oge subject, it was necessary that I should make myself master of some other, whịch again as regularly involved a third, and so on, with an ever-widening horizon. Yet one habit, formed during loug absences from those with whom I could converse with full sympathy, has been of advantage 10 me that of daily writing down in my memorandum or common-place books, both incidents and observations ; whatever had occurred to me from without, and all the flux and reflux of my mind within itself. The number of these notices, and their tendency, miscellaneous as they were, to one common end po guid sumus, et quid futuri gignimur," what we are, and what we are to become ; and thus from the end of our beiug to deduce its proper objects) first encouraged me to undertake the Weekly Essay of which you will consider this letter as the prospectus.'
Being printed on stamped paper, these essays were conveyed by the post, free of expence, to any part of the country. In the mode of publication, therefore, and what may be called the exterior character of the project “The Friend' was an imitation of those sets of essays which, from the Tatler down to the Rambler, and several much later works, had first supplied entertainment and instruction in smal! successive portions, during several months or years, and then taken their rank among books of permanent popularity. Mr. Coleridge has correctly distinguished, in a brief and general manner, the objects to which these works were mainly directed, and rendered a tribute of animated applause to their writers'; at the same time bespeaking the candour of his readers to a series of essays, which should attempt to instruct after a very different me. thod. It was avowed, that they would aim much more at the developement of general principles; it would be inferred, of course, that they would be of a much more abstract and metaphysical character. Mr. C. fairly warned those whom he invited to become his readers, that; though he should hope not unfrequently to interest the affections, and captivate the imagination, yet a large proportion of the essays were intended to be of a nature, which might require a somewhat resolute exercise of intellect.--- It was not proposed to terminate the series at any assigned point; it might be expected to proceed as long as the writer's industry and resources should coinmand the public approbation. With one or two considerable interruptions, it reached as far as twenty-eight numbers, and there ended so abruptly VOL. VII.
that a memoir of Sir Alexander Ball was left unfinished. At several points in the progress of the work, the writer confessed that the public patronage was not suchas to make it probable he could carry it forward to any great length : but 10 explanation was given of the suddenness of its discontinuance.
Perhaps it may be questioned, now after a portion of the intended work has been given, whether the project did not involve some degree of miscalculation. Even the consideration of a rather excessive price was likely to affect the success of work which, though coming with some of the exterior marks of a newspaper, was yet to derive nearly as little aid from the stimulant facts and questions of the day, as if it had been a commentary on Aristotle or Plato. A still more unfavourable augury might, perhaps. have been drawn from the character of Mr. Coleridge's composition, as taken in convection with the haste inseparable from a weekly publication. The cast of his diction is so unusual, his trains of thought so habitually forsake the ordinary tracts, and therefore the whole composition is so liable to appear strange and obscure, that it was evident the most elaborate care, and a repeated revisal, would be indispensable in order to render so original a mode of writing sufficiently perspicuous to be in any degree popular. And it is equally evident that the necessity of finishing a sheet within each week, against a particular day and hour, must be totally incompatible with such patient and matured workmanship. A considerable portion of the short allotment of time might, in spite of every better resolution, be beguiled away in comparative indolence; or it might be consumed by casual aud unforeseen avocations ; or rendered fruitless by those lapses into languor and melancholy, to which genius, especially of the refined and poetic order, is extremely subject; or even: wasted in the ineffectual endeavour to fix exclusively on some one of many equally eligible subjects. It was to be foreseen that the natural consequences would be, some times such a degree of haste as to leave no possibility of disposing the subject in the simplest clearest order, and giving the desirable compression, and lucidness, and general finishing to the composition; sometimes, from despair of doing this, a recourse to shifts and expedients to make up the number, in a slighter way than had been intended, and perhaps promised ; and often a painful feeling of working at an ungracious task, especially if, in addition, the public approbation should be found to be less liberally awarded than had been expected. Such compulsory dispatch would
have been a far less inconvenience in the conducting of a paper intended merely for amusement, or for the lightest kind of instruction, or as a weekly commentary on the contemporary measures and men--a department in which the facility and attractiveness of the topics, and the vora. city of the public, .exempt the writer from any severity of intellectual toil, or solicitude for literary perfection: but it was almost necessarily fatal in a work to be often occupied with deep disquisitions, and under the added disadvantage that the author had been previously much less accustomed to write than to think. When, besides, the work aspired to a very high rank in our permanent literature, there was perhaps an obvious impolicy in subjecting it to such circumstances of publication, as should preclude the minute improvements of even a tenth revision. It should seem probable, on the whole, that a mode better adapted to the effective exertion of Mr. . Coleridge's great talents might have been devised, in the form of a periodical pub
lication to appear in larger portions, at much longer in- terrals.
Some of the consequences thus to be anticipated from the plan of the undertaking, are actually perceptible in the course of the work. The writer manifests great indecision as to the choice and succession of his subjects. After he appears to have determined on those to be treated in the immediately ensuing numbers, those numbers, when they come, may be employed on totally different subjects,-introduced by accidental suggestion-or from their being such as would be more easily worked, in the brief allowance of time, into the required length and breadth of composition. Questions avowedly intended to be argued very early, as involving great fundamental principles, are deferred till the reader forgets what the author has said of their importance. Various subjects are adverted to, here and there in the course of the work, as to be hereafter investigated, and are never mentioned again. In some instances, the number to which the cominencement or the conclusion of an important inquiry has stood over, will be found made up perhaps, for the greater part, of letters, or short fragments, with translations from a minor Italian poet. Several of the numbers, towards the latter end of the series, are employed on the character of the Jate Sir Alexander Ball, which, however meritorious, was not probably, in the opinion of the majority of the readers, of sufficient celebrity to claim so.considerable a space in an expensive work; especially while several most interesting points of inquiry, of which they had been led to expect an early investi.
gation were still, and indefinitely deferred. It is fair, however, to quote the author's apology or vindication, in which, toward the conclusion of the series, he attributes to his readers, the procrastination or relinquishment of the refined disquisitions, which he should hiinself have been happy to prosecute.
• The remainder of my work, therefore, hitherto, has been devoted to the purpose of averting this mistake' (that which had imputed to kim a co-incidence of opinion with the “ French plıysiocratic philosophers”) • as far as I have not been compelled by the general taste of my readers to interrupt the systematic progress of the plan, by essays of a lighter kind, or which at least required a less effort of attention. In truth, since my twelfth number, I have not had courage to renew any subject which did require attention. The way to be admired, is to tell the reader what he knew before, but clothed in a statelier phraseology, and embodied in apt and lively illustrations. To attempt to make a man wiser, is of necessity to remind him of his ignorance : and, in the majority of instances, the pain actually felt is so much greater than the pleasure anticipated, that it is natural that men should attempt to shelter themselves from it by contempt or neglect. For a living writer is yet sub judice ; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride, as well as more agreeable to our indolence, to consider him as lost beneath, rather than as soaring out of our sight above us. Itaque id agitur, ut ignorantia etiam ab ignominiâ liberetur. Happy is that man, who can truly say, with Giordano Bruno, and whose circumstances at the same time permit himn to act on the sublime feeling
“ Procedat nudus, quem non ornant nubila,
Etsi nullus intelligat, .
Id vere plusquam satis est.” p. 385. It may easily be believed that Mr. C. had cause to complain of the impatience of some of his readers, under those demands of a strong mental exertion which some of his essays have made on them; but the degree of this required exertion is greatly under-rated, we think, in the following observations in the same number.
• Themes like these, not even the genius of a Plato or a Bacon could reader intelligible without demanding from the reader, thought sometimes, and attention generally. By thought I here mean the voluntary production in our own minds of those states of consciousness, to which, as to his fundamental facts, the writer has referred us: while attention has for its object, the order and connection of thoughts and images, each of which is in itself already and familiarly known. Thus the elements of geometry require attention only; but the analysis of our primary faculties, and the investigation of all the absolute
grounds of religion and morals, are impossible without energies of thought in addition to the effort of attention. The Friend never attempted to disguise from his readers, that both attention and thought were efforts, and the latter a most difficult and labourious effort ; nor from himself that to require it often, or for any continuance of time, was incompatible with the nature of a periodical publication, even were it less incongruous than it unfortunately is, with the present habits and pursuits of Englishmen. Accordingly, after a careful re-perusal of the preceding numbers, I can discover but four passages which supposed in the reader any energy of thought and voluntary ab. straction. But attention I confess two thirds of the work hitherto have required. On whatever subject the mind feels a lively interest, attention, though always an effort, becomes a delightful effort; and I should be quite at ease, could I secure for the whole work, as much of it as a party of earnest whist.players often expend in a single evening, or a lady in the making up of a fashionable dress. But where no interest previously exists, attention, fas every school. master knows) can be procured only by terror: which is the true reason why the majority of mankind learn nothing systematically, but as schoolboys or apprentices.'
Not to dwell on the arbitrary and rather tenebrious distinction between thought and attention, (which might be given as a fair specimen of the extent of the demand made on the reader's mind in a multitude of passages,) we cannot help saying, that this is a somewhat too reserved acknowledgment—that the 'Friend' has produced a volume, of which a considerable portion is hard to be understood, and some passages of which it may be doubted whether any one reader, after his very best efforts, has felt sure that he did so understand as to be able to put the meaning into other equivalent words of his own. We cannot but think that, in some still later re-perusal, the author himself will have perceived that not a few of his conceptions, taken as detached individual thoughts, are enounced with an obscurity of a somewhat different kind from that which may seem inevitably incident, in some degree, to the expression of thoughts of extreme abstraction. And sometimes the conjunctive principle among several thoughts that come in immediate succession is so unobvious, that the reader must repeatedly peruse, must analyze, we might almost say must excruciate, a considerable portion of the composition, before he can feel any confidence that he is masier of the connexion ;-and at last lie is so little sure of having a real hold of the whole combination, that he would not trust himself to state that particular part of the 'Friend's' opinions and sentiments to an intelligent inquirer. When he could perhaps give, in a very general form, the apparent result