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TO S. T. COLERIDGE, ESQ. MY DEAR COLERIDGE, You will smile to see the slender labors of your friend designated by the title of Works ; but such was the wish of the gentlemen who have kindly undertaken the trouble of collecting them, and from their judgment could be no appeal.
It would be a kind of disloyalty to offer to any but yourself a volume containing the early pieces, which were first published among your poems, and were fairly derivatives from you and them. My friend Lloyd and myself came into our first battle (authorship is a sort of warfare) under cover of the greater Ajax. How this association, which shall always be a dear and proud recollection to me, came to be broken, who snapped the three-fold cord, -whether yourself (but I know that was not the case) grew ashamed of your former companions, or whether (which is by much the more probable) some ungracious bookseller was author of the separation, I cannot tell ;—but wanting the support of your friendly elm (I speak for mysell), my vine has, since that time, put forth few or no fruits; the sap (if ever it had any) has become, in a manner, dried up and extinct.
Am I right in assuming this as the cause ? or is it that, as years come upon us (except with some more healthy happy spirits), life itself loses much of its Poetry for us? we transcribe but what we read in the great volume of nature; and, as the characters grow dim, we turn off, and look another way. You yourself write no Christabels, nor Ancient Mariners, now.
Some of the Sonnets, which shall be carelessly turned over by the general reader, may haply awaken in you remembrances, which I should be sorry should be ever totally extinct—the memory
Of summer days and of delightful years even so far back as to those old suppers at our old ***** Inn,—when life was fresh, and topics exhaustless, --and you first kindled in me, if not the power, yet the love of poetry, and beauty, and kindliness.
What words have I heard
Spoke at the Mermaid ! The world has given you many a shrewd nip and gird since that time; but either my eyes are grown dimmer, or my old friend is the same, who stood before me three-and-twenty years ago—his hair a little confessing the hand of time, but still shrouding the same capacious brain,-his heart not altered, scarcely where it “alteration finds."
One piece, Coleridge, I have ventured to publish in its original form, though I have heard you complain of a certain over-imitation of the antique in the style. If I could see any way of getting rid of the objection, without rewriting it entirely, I would make some sacrifices. But when I wrote John Woodvil, I never proposed to myself any distinct deviation from common English. I had been newly initiated in the writings of our elder dramatists; Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger, were then a first love ; and from what I was so freshly conversant in, what wonder if my language imperceptibly took a tinge? The very time, which I had chosen for my story, that which immediately followed the Restoration, seemed to require, in an English play, that the English should be of rather an older cast, than that of the precise year in which it happened to be written. I wish it had not some faults which I can less vindicate than the language. I remain, My dear Coleridge, Your's, with unabated esteem,
SiR WALTER WOODVIL.
his sons. Simon, LOVEL
pretended friends of John. GRAT,
SANDFORD, Sir Walter's old steward.
Thank you, Francis. And here's to thoe. (Drinks A Servants' Apartment in Woodvil Hall.
I shall be fuddled anon.
And drunkenness ) hold to be a very despicable vice " When the King enjoys his own again."
ALL 0! a shocking vice. [They drink round
PETER A delicate song. Where didst learn it, fellow?
Inasmuch as it taketh away the understanding.
DANIEL. Even there, where thou learnest thy oaths and thy
And makes the eyes red. politics—at our master's table.-—Where else should a
PETER serving-man pick up his poor accomplishments ?
And the tongue to stammer.
DANIEL Well spoken, Daniel. O rare Daniel !—his oaths And to blab out secrets. and his politics! excellent !
[During this conversation they continue drinking. FRANCIS.
PETER. And where did'st pick up thy knavery, Daniel ? Some men do not know an enemy from a friend PETER
when they are drunk. That came to him by inheritance. His family have
Now I know I am going to be drunk.
DANIEL Good thieves, and bad serving-men! Better and how canst tell, dry-bones? better. I marvel what Daniel hath got to say in reply.
Because I begin to be melancholy. That's always I marvel more when thou wilt say anything to the
a sign. purpose, thou shallow serving-man, whose swiftest conceit carries thee no higher than to apprehend with
Take care of Martin, he'll topple off his seat else difficulty the stale jests of us thy compeers. When
(Martin drops asleep. wast ever known to club thy own particular jest
Times are greatly altered, since young master took Most unkind Daniel, to speak such biting things of
upon himself the government of this household.
Greatly altered. See-if he hath not brought tears into the poor fellow's eyes with the saltness of his rebuke.
I think everything be altered for the better since
His Majesty's blessed restoration.
In Sir Walter's days there was no encouragement been pleased to bestow upon me a nimble invention given to good house-keeping. to the manufacture of a jest; and upon thee, Martin, an indifferent bad capacity to understand my meaning. None.
MARTIN Is that all ? I am content. Here's my hand. For instance, no possibility of getting drunk before FRANCIS.
two in the afternoon. Well, I like a little innocent mirth myself, but
PETER. never could endure bawdry.
Every man his allowance of ale at breakfast-his
[In derision And what is that?
Nothing left to our own sweet discretions. 'Tis Greek, and argues difference of opinion.
Whereby it may appear, we were treated more I hope there is none between us.
like beasts than what we were discreet and reasonDANIEL
able serving-men. Here's to thee, brother Martin.
among us ?
MARTIN (opening his eyes).
You lazy feasters at another's cost,
That eat like maggots into an estate,
And do as little work,
Being indeed but foul excrescences,
And no just parts in a well-order'd family ; I marvel all this while where the old gentleman You base and rascal imitators, has found means to secrete himself. It seems no Who act up to the height your master's vices, man has heard of him since the day of the King's But cannot read his virtues in your bond: return. Can any tell why our young master, being Which of you, as I enter'd, spake of betraying? favored by the court, should not have interest to pro- Was it you, or you, or, thin-face, was it you ? eure his father's pardon ? DANIEL
Whom does he call thin-face? Marry, I think 't is the obstinacy of the old Knight,
SANDFORD. that will not be beholden to the court for his safety. No prating, loon, but tell me who he was,
That I may brain the villain with my staff, Now that is wilful.
That seeks Sir Walter's life?
You miserable men, But can any tell me the place of his concealment? With minds more slavish than your slave's estate,
Have you that noble bounty so forgot, That cannot I; but I have my conjectures. Which took you from the loorns, and from the plows,
Which better had ye follow'd, fed ye, clothed ye, Two hundred pounds, as I hear, to the man that And entertain'd ye in a worthy service, shall apprehend him.
Where your best wages was the world's repute,
That thus ye seek his life, by whom ye live? Well, I have my suspicions.
Have you forgot, too,
How often in old times And so have I.
Your drunken mirths have stunn'd day's sober ears,
Carousing full cups to Sir Walter's health ? —
Whom now ye would betray, but that he lies
Out of the reach of your poor treacheries.
[Aside. This learn from me,
Our master's secret sleeps with trustier tongues, Perhaps not.
Than will unlock themselves to carles like you.
Go, get you gone, you knaves. Who stirs ? this staff Nearer perhaps.
Shall teach you better manners else. I say nothing.
Well, we are going.
Young mistress Margaret coming this way.
(Exeunt all but SANDFORD. O Lord ! surely not. [They drink to SIR WALTER's safety.
Enter MARGARET, as in a fright, pursued by a GenFRANCIS.
tleman, who, seeing SANDFORD, retires muttering a I have often wondered how our master came to
curse. be excepted by name in the late Act of Oblivion.
Good morrow to my fair mistress. "T was a chance
I saw you, lady, so intent was I Ay, do.
On chiding hence these graceless serving-men, DANIEL
Who cannot break their fast at morning meals Tis thought he is no great friend to the present Without debauch and mistimed riolings. happy establishment
This house hath been a scene of nothing else
But atheist riot and profane excess, 0! monstrous !
Since my old master quitted all his rights here. PETER Fellow-servants, a thought strikes me.—Do we, or
MARGARET. do we not, come under the penalties of the treason. Each day I endure fresh insult from the scorn act, by reason of our being privy to this man's con. And free discourses, of the dissolute men
Of Woodvil's friends, the uncivil jests, cealment?
That haunt this mansion, making me their mirth. Truly, a sad consideration.
Does my young master know of these affronts ?
I cannot tell. Perhaps he has not been told;
Perhaps he might have seen them if he would. Maintained for state, not use;
I have known him more quick-sighted. Let that pass.
All things seem changed, I think. I had a friend Portray without its terrors, painting lies (I can't but weep to think him alter'd wo),
And representments of fallacious liberty— These things are best forgotten; but I knew You know not what it is to leave the roof that shel. A man, a young man, young, and full of honor,
ters you. That would have pick'd a quarrel for a straw,
MARGARET. And fought it out to the extremity,
I have thought on every possible event, E'en with the dearest friend he had alive,
The dangers and discouragements you speak of, On but a bare surrnise, a possibility,
Even till my woman's heart hath ceased to fear them, That Margaret had suffer'd an affront.
And-cowardice grows enamour'd of rare accidents Some are too tame, that were too splenetic once. Nor am I so unfurnish'd, as you think, SANDFORD.
of practicable schemes. 'T were best he should be told of these affronts.
Now God forbid; think twice of this, dear lady. I am the daughter of his father's friend,
MARGARET. Sir Walter's orphan-ward.
I pray you spare me, Mr. Sandford, I am not his servant-maid, that I should wait
And once for all believe, nothing can shake my purpose. The opportunity of a gracious hearing,
SANDFORD. Inquire the times and seasons when to put
But what course have you thought on? My peevish prayer up at young Woodvil's feet,
MARGARET. And sue to him for slow redress, who was
To seek Sir Walter in the forest of Sherwood. Himself a suitor late to Margaret.
I have letters from young Simon,
Of their concealment, place, and manner of life. And joyful mistress of his youth.
And the merry hours they spend in the green baunis None once so pleasant in his eyes as Margaret :
Or Sherwood, nigh which place they have ta'en a house His conscience, his religion, Margaret was,
In the town of Nottingham, and pass for foreigners, His dear heart's confessor, a heart within that heart, Wearing the dress of FrenchmenAnd all dear things summ'd up in her alone.
All which I have perused with so attent As Margaret smiled or frown'd, John lived or died: And child-like longings, that to my doting ears His dress, speech, gesture, studies, friendships, all
Two sounds now seem like one, Being fashion’d to her liking.
One meaning in two words, Sherwood and Liberty. His flatteries taught me first this self-esteem, And, gentle Mr. Sandford, His flatteries and caresses, while he loved.
"T is you that must provide now The world esteem'd her happy, who had won
The means of my departure, which for safety His heart, who won all hearts ;
Must be in boy's apparel. And ladies envied me the love of Woodvil.
Since you will have it so, He doth affect the courtier's life too much,
(My careful age trembles at all may happen), Whose art is to forget,
I will engage to furnish you : And that has wrought this seeming change in him, I have the keys of the wardrobe, and can fit you That was by nature noble.
With garments to your size.
I know a suit "T is these court-plagues, that swarm about our house, Have done the mischief, making his fancy giddy
Of lively Lincoln green, that shall much grace you With images of state, preferment, place,
In the wear, being glossy fresh, and worn but seldom. Tainting his generous spirit with ambition.
Young Stephen Woodvil wore them, while he lived
And ere day-break will rise and let you forth.
What things soe'er you have need of I can furnish you, A cold protector is John grown to me.
And will provide a horse and trusty guide,
To bear you on your way to Nottingham.
That once this day and night were fairly past!
For then I'll bid this house and love farewell; Both sanction'd and provoked: a mark'd neglect,
For with the morning's light will Margaret be gone And strangeness fast’ning bitter on his love,
Thanks, courteous Mr. Sandford.His love which long has been upon the wane.
[Ereunt divers 2007
An apartment in Woodvil Hall.
(Reading Parts of a Letter.) To your abused fancy, as 't is likely,
“When Lovegrows cold, and indifference has usurp
ed upon old esteem, it is no marvel if the world begin to account that dependence, which hitherto has To say the truth, my love for her has of late stopt been esteemed honorable shelter. The course I have short on this side idolatry. taken (in leaving this house, not easily wrought there
LOVEL unto), seemed to me best for the once-for-all releasing As all good Christians' should, I think. of yourself (who in times past have deserved well of me) from the now daily, and not-to-be-endured, I am sure, I could have loved her still within the tribute of forced love, and ill-dissembled reluctance limits of warrantable love. of affection. MARGARET." A kind of brotherly affection, I take it.
WOODVIL. Gone! gone! my girl ? so hasty, Margaret!
We should have made excellent man and wife in And never a kiss at parting ? shallow loves, time. And likings of a ten days' growth, use courtesies,
LOVEL. And show red eyes at parting. Who bids “ farewell” A good old couple, when the snows fell, to crowd In the same tone he cries "God speed you, Sir?” about a sea-coal fire, and talk over old matters. Or tells of joyful victories at sea,
WOODVIL. Where he hath ventures ? does not rather muffle While each should feel, what neither cared to acHis organs to emit a leaden sound,
knowledge, that stories oft repeated may, at last, come To suit the melancholy dull “farewell,"
to lose some of their grace by the repetition. Which they in Heaven not use ? So peevish, Margaret ?
Which both of you may yet live long enough to But 't is the common error of your sex,
discover. For, take my word for it, Margaret is a When our idolatry slackens, or grows less, bird that will come back to you without a lure. (As who of woman born can keep his faculty
WOODVIL. Of Admiration, being a decaying faculty,
Never, never, Lovel. Spite of my levity, with tears For ever strain'd to the pitch? or can at pleasure I confess it, she was a lady of most confirmed honor, Make it renewable, as some appetites are, of an unmatchable spirit, and determinable in all As, namely, Hunger, Thirst?-) this being the case, virtuous resolutions ; not hasty to anticipate an afThey tax us with neglect, and love grown cold, front, nor slow to feel, where just provocation was Coin plainings of the perfidy of men,
given. Which into maxims pass, and apophthegms To be retail'd in ballads.
What made you neglect her, then ? I know them all. They are jealous, when our larger hearts receive Mere levity and youthfulness of blood, a malady More guests than one (Love in a woman's heart incident to young men : physicians call it caprice. Being all in one). For me, I am sure I have room here Nothing else. He, that slighted her, knew her value: For more disturbers of my sleep than one. and 't is odds, but, for thy sake, Margaret, John will Love shall have part, but Love shall not have all. yet go to his grave a bachelor. Ambition, Pleasure, Vanity, all by turns,
[A noise heard, as of one drunk and singing. Shall lie in my bed, and keep me fresh and waking;
LOVEL. Yet Love not be excluded.-Foolish wench,
Here comes one, that will quickly dissipate these I could have loved her twenty years to come, humors. And sull have kept my liking. But since 't is so,
(Enter one drunk.) Why fare thee well, old playfellow! I'll try
DRUNKEN MAN. To squeeze a tear for old acquaintance sake. Good-morrow to you, gentlemen. Mr. Lovel, I am I shall not grudge so much.
your humble servant. Honest Jack Woodvil, I will
get drunk with you to-morrow.
And why to-morrow, honest Mr. Freeman ?
I scent a traitor in that question. A beastly ques
tion. Is it not his majesty's birth-day? the day of all WOODVIL. Nothing is the matter, only the wench has forced days in the year, on which King Charles the second some water into my eyes, which will quickly disband. was graciously pleased to be born. (Sings) “Great
pity 't is such days as those should come but once a I cannot conceive you.
Drunk a moming! foh! how he stinks! Margaret is flown.
And why not drunk in a morning ? can'st tell, bully? Upon what pretence ?
Because, being the sweet and tender infancy of the WOODVIL Neglect on my part: which it seems she has had day, methinks, it should ill endure such early blightings. the wit to discover, mangre all my pains to conceal it.
I grant you, 't is in some sort the youth and tender LOVEL
nonage of the day. Youth is bashful, and I give it a Then, you confess the charge ?
cup to encourage it. (Sings) “ Ale that will make