Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from a letter to Tom Wedgwood, September 16, 1803:

For 5 months past my mind has been strangely shut up. I have taken the paper with the intention to write to you many times; but it has been all one blank Feeling, one blank idealess Feeling. I had nothing to say, I could say nothing. How dearly I love you, my very Dreams make known to me. I will not trouble you with the gloomy Tale of my Health. While I am awake, by patience, employment, effort of mind, and walking I can keep the fiend at Arm's length; but the Night is my Hell, Sleep my tormenting Angel. Three nights out of four I fall asleep, struggling to lie awake--and my frequent Night-screams have almost made me a nuisance in my own House. Dreams with me are no Shadows, but the very Substances and foot-thick Calamities of my Life. Beddoes, who has been to me ever a very kind man, suspects that my stomach "brews vinegar." . . . I myself fully believe it to be either atonic, hypochondriacal Gout, or a scrophulous affection of the Glands. In the hope of drawing the Gout, if Gout it should be, into my feet, I walked, previously to my getting into the Coach at Perth, 263 miles in eight Days, with no unpleasant fatigue: and if I could do you any service by coming to town, and there were no Coaches, I would undertake to be with you, on foot, in 7 days. I must have strength somewhere; my head is indefatigably strong; my limbs too are strong; but acid or not acid, Gout or Scrofula, something there is [in] my stomach or Guts that transubstantiates my Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of the Devil.

Poor man. And yet his words are so so clean and clear.

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