« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
The affectionate and almost paternal attentions of the aged poet Wordsworth and his wife to poor Hartley on his deathbed are retailed by Mrs. Coleridge from her brother Derwent's account. Hartley was followed to the grave sixteen months later by Mr. Wordsworth himself, who had never recovered the effects of grief for his daughter's death, in August 1847. All these touching evidences of mortality struck in Sara's mind the chords habitual to it:
Who can be very gleeful,' she asks, 'for more than a few minutes at a time, in such a world as this, dear friend, so full of sorrow and misery and crushing want, spiritual and physical, and so surrounded by impervious shadow, the awful mystery of the world to come?'
On the death of Dora Quillinan she writes :
For myself I feel as I did in my own great bereavement and affliction; the thoughts and feelings which the event and all its accompaniments induce are, in the poet's own words, too deep for tears; they are deeper than the region of mere sorrow for an earthly loss or temporary parting. Sorrow for the death of those nearest to us, in whom our life has been most bound up, is absorbed in the gulf of all our deepest and most earnest reflections—thoughts about life and existence, here and hereafter, which are more earnest, more real, and permanent, and solid, and enduring, than any particular thoughts and Sorrows and troubles which our course here brings with it, or which contains them all virtually. The particular becomes merged in the general, happily, and when we seem most bereft, most afflicted by the inevitable loss of death and corporeal decay, we are only led to feel that this is but a part of the universal doom, that the loss and calamity which has come upon us at this time, is but what in a very short time, and in some form or other, we must bear.'
In another letter she thus expresses herself:*The more we think of the state after death, the deeper is the awe with which we must contemplate it; and sometimes, in weakness, we long for the happy, bright imaginations of childhood, when we saw the other world vividly pictured, a bright and perfect copy of the world in which we now live, with sunshine and flowers, and all that constituted our earthly enjoyment! In after years we strive to translate these images into something higher. We say, All this we shall have, but in some higher form: “flesh and blood cannot inherit “the kingdom of heaven, neither shall corruption inherit incorrup“tion." All this beauty around us is perishable ; its outward form and substance is corruption; but there is a soul in it, and this shall rise again; and so our beloved friends that are removed, we shall see them again, but changed-altered into what we now cannot conceive or image, with celestial bodies fit for a celestial sphere.
The date of this letter is May 1850. Soon afterwards the vision of the world to come was being pressed upon her by her
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. CCLXXXIII.
own sense of decaying health. And,, mingled with that vision, the yearning for scenes in which her childhood delighted that nostalgia of early association—which so often besets the sick and dying.
To Mr. De Vere she writes, October 1, 1851 :
My dear Friend,- You will regret very much to hear how much worse and weaker I am than when you saw me last. I cannot now walk more than half an hour at a time, when I am at the best. At Margate an hour or hour and twenty minutes did not fatigue me. I still take short walks twice a day; but how long my power of doing this will last I cannot say. You can hardly imagine how my mind hovers about that old well-known churchyard, with Skiddaw and the Bassenthwaite hills in sight; how I long to take away mama's remains from the place where they are now deposited, and when my own time comes, to repose beside her, as to what now seems myself, in that grassy burial ground, with the Southeys reposing close by. My husband I hope to meet in heaven; but there is a different feeling in regard to earlier ties. Hartley and Mr. Wordsworth I would have where they are, in that Grasmere churchyard, within an easy distance of Keswick, as it used to be in old times. These are strong feelings, translated into fancied wishes-not sober earnest. When we are withdrawn from society and the bustle of life, in some measure, and our thoughts are from any cause fixed on the grave, how does the early Life rise up into glow and prominence, and, as it were, call one back into itself! Yet, during that early life, how I looked forward, imagining better things here below than I had yet experienced, and going beyond this world altogether, into the realms above! .... Oh Keswick Isle ! and shall I really die, and never, 'never see thee again ? Surely there will be another Keswick—all the loveliness transferred --the hope, the joy of youth! How wholly was that joy the work of imagination! Oh, this life is very dear to me! The outward beauty of earth, and the love and sympathy of fellow-creatures, make it, to my feelings, a sort of heaven half ruined—an Elysium into which a dark tumultuous ocean is perpetually rushing in to agitate and destroy, to lay low the blooming bowers of tranquil bliss, and drown the rich harvests. Love is the sun of this lower world ; and we know from the beloved disciple that it will be the bliss of heaven. God is love; and whatever there may be that we cannot now conceive, love will surely be contained in it. It will be love sublimed, and incorporated in beauty infinite and perfect.'
Meanwhile, the incurable malady which had fastened upon her made steady progress. She writes on October 13 to Mr. Blackburne, the friend of her brother Hartley :-
"I feel much in saying farewell to you, dear friend of my everlamented brother. You have known me in a sad, shaded stage of my existence, yet have greeted my poor autumn as brightly and genially as if it were spring or summer. Hitherto my head has been “ above 6 water"; ere you return to this busy town the waves may have gone
over my head. My great endeavour is not to foreshape the future in particulars, but knowing that my strength always has been equal to my day, when the day is come, to feel that it ever will be so on to the end, come what may, and that all things except a reproaching conscience are less dreadful than they seem ...
"« Espouse thy doom at once, and cleave
To fortitude without reprieve," are words that often sound in my ear.'
A fortnight later she writes to Mr. De Vere:
My dear Friend,—I was sorry not to see you yesterday, and the more so lest I should be too weak when you come again;
66 For I'm wearing awa', Friend,
Like snaw when it's thaw, Friend," and I feel as if I should not be long here. There is a torpor ever hanging over me, like a cloud overspreading the sky, only rent here and there by some special force; and my eyes have a heavy, deathy look. I am decidedly worse since I saw you, and I begin to wish to get rid of the mesmerism, which is producing no good effect.
During Mrs. Coleridge's last illness, eight months before her death, she commenced, for her daughter, a sketch of her personal reminiscences. What her intention had been is recorded in the touching introductory sentences :
My dearest E- , I have long wished to give you a little sketch of my life. I once intended to have given it with much particularity; but now time presses-my horizon has contracted of late. I must content myself with a brief compendium. I shall divide my history into childhood, earlier and later; youth, earlier and later; wedded life, ditto; widowhood, ditto ; and I shall endeavour to state the chief moral or reflection suggested by each-some maxim which it specially illustrated, or truth which it exemplified, or warning which it suggested.'
The execution of her project did not advance beyond the first portion, ending with her ninth year. Her pen lingered with fond detail over those earliest Keswick reminiscences. Strength or courage failed her for the remainder of her task.
"After a lingering and painful illness of about a year and a half,' says her daughter in her Introductory Memoir, 'Sara Coleridge was released from much suffering, borne with unfailing patience, on the 3rd of May, 1852, in the forty-ninth year of her age. In the old churchyard of Highgate (now enclosed in a crypt under the school chapel) her remains lie, beside those of her parents, her husband, and her son.'
Happily, she was not doomed to be herself a witness of her son's departure. Herbert Coleridge, to whose education she had devoted herself with such pride and interest, gave her in
her lifetime the best reward of her pains, in his successful progress at school and college. He gained the Newcastle scholarship at Eton in 1847, and a Balliol scholarship in 1848; and in the same year in which his mother died he took a double first-class degree at Oxford. He was passionately devoted to literature, to Philology in particular; and was engaged in preparations for the new English Dictionary projected by the Phisological Society when his career came to an untimely end in 1861. During his fatal illness, his sister tells us, ' learning ' was to him as to her [his mother), a shield from the monotony of the sick room, and an exceeding great reward.
ART. III.-1. Report from the Select Committee on the
Diplomatic Service. Printed 1861. 2. Report from the Select Committee on the Diplomatic and
Consular Services. Printed 1870–71. 3. The Foreign Office List. By E. HertsLET. 1873. Our Diplomatic Service cannot complain of neglect. From
the days of the great Administrative Reform movement it has been constantly attacked, investigated, defended, and remodelled. Whether on the whole it has suffered most from friends or foes is a point upon which its members are apparently much divided; but they are all bound to confess that it has received an immense deal of public attention, and that its history and its hopes are recorded in voluminous Blue Books at the public expense.
The late Lord Clarendon said, when examined before the Committee of 1870: “I think that the sort of stigma that has been thrown upon the Diplomatic Service, and the sort of general disposition that there has been on the part of the • public and the press, resulting simply from want of informa• tion, has been very discouraging to the members of the • diplomatic body; and that they will be just as well satisfied (as I am that the realities of their service and of their work should be brought out in much the best way in which they can be brought out, namely, by examination before an impartial Committee.'
The evidence given before this and a former Committee has been recorded in Blue Books; but Blue Books, however interesting, are generally avoided even by the reading public. We believe therefore that we may serve a good purpose by devoting a few pages to the consideration of the facts elicited
by the Parliamentary Committees, and of the results to which the reports of the Committees have led.
It may not be unnatural to inquire at the outset why the want of information alluded to by Lord Clarendon should have been accompanied by the violent hostility which was exhibited towards the Diplomatic Service. A considerable portion of it was no doubt at one time due to the unenviable notoriety gained by an individual who attacked it wholesale and retail from personal motives, and who threw at it as much mud as he could in the well-founded expectation that some of it would stick. But there are other reasons why the Diplomatic Service should be specially liable to attack and to unpopularity. To many Englishmen the unearthing and hunting down a job is a congenial sport. It is an occupation and an amusement; it has all the interest and ferocity of the chase, and is encouraged by a feeling of patriotism nearly equal to that which sustains a M. F. H. in his arduous duties. We must allow that the job-hunter who has started a diplomatist may easily and not unnaturally persuade himself that he is on the right scent. He sees before him a man enjoying a large salary, giving balls and dinners and living in the best society of a foreign capital; he knows nothing of the duties which the diplomatist has to perform, nor of the expenses which reduce his nominal salary to almost nothing; what then can be more reasonable than to conclude that he is an official favourite who consumes the public money upon his private pleasures—that he is, in short, a job? The job-hunter is, no doubt, a very useful member of society ; but he is gullible; and, as too much knowledge of facts might spoil his sport, his conclusions are no more to be trusted than that of a game-keeper about' vermin.'
Another class from whose ignorance of his proper functions the diplomatist suffers many things are the British tourists. Few persons who have not had some opportunity of verifying the fact can conceive the amount of unnecessary trouble which Brown, Jones, and Robinson give to our representatives abroad. They expect him to recover their lost luggage; to procure the suspension of laws or the alteration of police regulations for their convenience; to ask them to dinner; and, above all, to procure for their wives and daughters introductions into societies far more exclusive than those to which in England neither their social position nor their connexions would permit them to aspire. Our Ministers do, as indeed they should do, much to assist the British tourists in their difficulties; but many of the things demanded of them are simply