COLERIDGE (HARTLEY) Three autograph letters signed, to his uncle George, 1815-1820
Lot 292
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Lot Details
Property of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's direct descendant
Three autograph letters signed ("Hartley Coleridge" and "H. Coleridge"), to his uncle George, the first and longest letter written while an undergraduate at Merton and before Hartley had met his uncle or set foot in Ottery, describing himself as "when I came down from the north, a perfect child in respect of all practical things", giving news of his family ("...Mr Southey is, or has been in Flanders, seeing Brussels Jenappe, Waterloo &c. Mrs Southey, and her eldest daughter accompany him; I have heard lately from my mother, she is well; little Sara is not so strong as could be wished but is improving in her health. Derwent is still at Ambleside, and studies Euclid very diligently..."), and outlining his course of study ("...Herodotus, Aristotle's Ethics, and Poetics in Greek; Tully and Horace in Latin, and I intend to devote an hour every day to Mathematics, and an hour and a half to Latin composition, in which last I feel my self principally deficient..."); the second letter, written when a junior fellow at Oriel, giving news of his brother Derwent and cousins (especially George's son and namesake, then at Oxford); the third, opening with characteristic self-denigration: "The passion of shame, which ought to induce us to correct our faults, too often makes us persevere in them, as for instance I am ashamed to write to you, when I ought to be ashamed of not having written before – but the truth is, your last kind favour found me just setting off for town, and while there I was so much taken up with seeing present friends, that I am afraid the absent slipt my memory", and giving news of his family ("...I found my father on the whole pretty well, and left Derwent with him..."); autograph address leaves ("The Rev.d George Coleridge/ Ottery St Mary/ Devon"), postmarks and seals, 7 pages, light spotting but overall in fresh and attractive condition, 4to, Merton College and Oriel College, Oxford, 4 November 1815, 31 March and 20 April 1820


  • 'A WORK, WHICH IS NOW FINISHED AND IN THE PRESS, CALLED, AUTO-BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA' – EARLY LETTERS BY COLERIDGE'S ELDEST CHILD, and subject of his experiments in education: 'He was a remarkably precocious child, but Coleridge actively encouraged his inherent strangeness and powerful imagination. He watched and questioned him, trying to find in the behaviour of his child confirmation of his own theories of language and the imagination. Such overwhelming attention alternating with the bleakness of his father's frequent departures began to damage Hartley's ability to function in the real world' (Cherry Durrant, ODNB).

    The first of these letters is of note not only for the vivid picture it provides of Hartley's social isolation, never even having visited his father's family in Ottery St Mary (a result of course of the row between the brothers, see their respective letters above); but also of the ties that existed with his father at the time of writing his Biographia Literaria: "You probably know, that I spent the vacation with my father in Wiltshire. He was busily employed during the whole of it, in a work, which is now finished and in the press, called, Auto-biographia Literaria, being a history of his own literary life and opinions, with remarks on some living writers, particularly Southey and Wordsworth, Afterwards he intends to bring out a Tragedy, and then he will devote his principal attention to the great, philosophical work he has been collecting materials for so long, a treatise on the Logos, human and divine, in which he purposes to confute the Socinians, and to defend the Doctrine of the Trinity and of Redemption. I have received a letter from him, since my return to Oxford, which took place on the 20th ult" (no corresponding letter is known to E.L. Griggs, Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, iv).

    None of these letters is published by G.E. and E.L. Griggs, Letters of Hartley Coleridge, 1937 (although Griggs presumably later had access), where only three letters predating that of 1815 and ten predating the others of 1820 are printed.
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