Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere
and Other English Poets. Ed. T. Ashe. London: George Bell and Sons, 1897. Shakespeare Navigators. <http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/hamlet/Coleridge>
24  LECTURES ON SHAKSPERE AND MILTON.


In his sixth lecture he was, by advertisement, to speak of 'Romeo and Juliet' and Shakspere's females; unhappily, some demon whispered the name of Lancaster in his ear: and we had, in one evening, an attack on the poor Quaker, a defence of boarding-school flogging, a parallel between the ages of Elizabeth and Charles, a defence of what is untruly called unpoetic language, an account of the different languages of Europe, and a vindication of Shakspere against the imputation of grossness!!! I suspect he did discover that offence was taken at this, for his succeeding lecture on Monday, was all we could wish.He confined himself to 'Romeo and Juliet' for a time, treated of the inferior characters, and delivered a most eloquent discourse on love, with a promise to point out how Shakspere had shown the same truths in the persons of the lovers. Yesterday we were to have a continuation of the theme. Alas! Coleridge began with a parallel between religion and love, which, though one of his favourite themes, he did not manage successfully. Romeo and Juliet were forgotten. And in the next lecture we are really to hear something of these lovers. Now this will be the fourth time that his hearers have been invited expressly to hear of this play. There are to be only fifteen lectures altogether (half have been delivered), and the course is to include Shakspere and Milton, the modern poets, &c.!!! Instead of a lecture on a definite subject, we have an immethodical rhapsody, very delightful to you and me, and only offensive from the certainty that it may and ought to offend those who come with other expectations. Yet, with all this, I cannot but be charmed with these splendida vitia, and my chief displeasure is occasioned by my being forced to hear the strictures of persons infinitely below Coleridge, without any power of refuting or contradicting them. Yet it is lucky he has hitherto omitted no lecture. Living with the Morgans, they force him to come with them to the lecture-room, and this is a great point gained."

"December 16th. -- Took Miss Flaxman to Coleridge's lecture. Very desultory again at first, but when about half way, through, he bethought himself of Shakspere; and though he forgot at last
                  INTRODUCTORY.            25


what we had been four times in succession to hear, viz. of Romeo and Juliet as lovers, yet he treated beautifully of the 'Tempest,' and especially Prospero, Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban. This part excellent."
     December 30th. -- Attended Coleridge's lecture, in which he kept to his subject. He intimated to me his intention to deliver two lectures on Milton. As he had written to me about his dilemma, having so much to do in so little time, I gently hinted in my reply at his frequent digressions -- those splendida peccata which his friends best apologized for by laying the emphasis on the adjective."

 

"H. C. R. to MRS. CLARKSON.
                      "56, Hatton Garden,
                                "3rd January, 1812.

     "My dear Friend,
          "I received your letter last night, and will write the answer immediately, though I cannot forward it till I have seen your brother for your address. I have a better, much better, account to give of Coleridge's lectures than formerly. His last three lectures have, for the greater part, been all that his friends could wish -- his admirers expect. Your sister heard the two last, and from her you will learn much more than I could put in a letter, had I all the leisure I now want, or the memory I never had. His disquisitions on the characters of Richard III., Iago, Falstaff, were full of paradox, but very ingenious, and in the main true. His remarks on Richard II. and Hamlet very excellent. Last night he concluded his fine development of the Prince of Denmark by an eloquent statement of the moral of the play. 'Action,' he said, 'is the great end of all; no intellect, however grand, is valuable, if it draw us from action and lead us to think and think till the time of action is passed by, and we do nothing.' Somebody said to me, 'This is a satire on himself.' -- 'No,' said I, 'it is an elegy.' A great many of his remarks on Hamlet were capable of a like application. I should add that be means to deliver several lectures beyond the promised number."