LETTER TO MISS ROBINSON
(27 December 1802)
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (17721834)
Coleridge objected not only to Gothic novels in general, but to the unmanly perversity of some of their writers. For example, he said that Walpole’s ‘Mysterious Mother is the most disgusting, detestable, vile composition that ever came from the hand of a man. No one with one spark of true manliness, of which Horace Walpole had none, could have written it.’ Mary Robinson’s mother (Mary Robinson, author of Hubert de Sevrac) had included Coleridge’s poem ‘The Mad Monk’ in her collection Wild Wreath (1804), and his poem ‘A Stranger Minstrel’ was included in her posthumous Memoirs (1801). Coleridge objected to this, and wrote to her daughter, a good friend of his, in a manner which seems intemperate.
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Your Mother had indeed a good, a very good, heart and in my eyes, and in my belief, was in her latter life a blameless Woman Her memoirs I have not seen I understood that an excessively silly copy of Verses, which I had absolutely forgotten the very writing of, disgraced one of the volumes This publication of a private letter (an act so wholly unjustifiable, and in its nature subversive of all Social Confidence) I attributed altogether to the man, at whose shop the volumes were published . . . . But, my dear Miss Robinson! (I pray you, do not be wounded rather consider what I am about to say as a pledge of my Esteem, and confidence in your honour and prudence, a confidence beyond the dictates of worldly caution) but I have a wife, I have sons, I have an infant Daughter what excuse could I offer to my conscience if by suffering my own name to be connected with those of Mr. Lewis, or Mr. Moore, I was the occasion of their reading the Monk, or the wanton poems of Thomas Little [pseud. of Moore] Esqre? Should I not be an infamous Pander to the Devil in the Seduction of my own offspring? My head turns giddy, my heart sickens, at the very thought of seeing such books in the hands of a child of mine I neither have or profess an excess of religious Faith or Feeling I write altogether from the common feelings of common Honesty The mischief of these misery-making writings laughs at all calculation. On my own account therefore I must in the most emphatic manner decline all such connection. . . . O dear Miss Robinson! Exert your own Talents do you plant the night violets of your own Genius and Goodness on the Grave of your dear Parent not Hensbane, not Hemlock! Do not mistake me! I do not suspect, that the Poems, you mean to publish, have themselves aught in the least degree morally objectionable; but the names are those of men, who have sold provocatives to vulgar Debauchees, and vicious school boys in no other Light can many of their writings be regarded by a Husband and a Father.
[SOURCE: Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Earl Lesslie Griggs (London: Constable, 1932), vol. 1, pp. 2335]
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