Friday, March 21, 2008

preponderating utility

Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Robert Southey

Monday morning, December, 1794.

My Dear Southey,

I will not say that you treat me coolly or mysteriously, yet assuredly you seem to look upon me as a man whom vanity, or some other inexplicable cause, has alienated from the system, or what could build so injurious a suspicion? Wherein, when roused to the recollection of my duty, have I shrunk from the performance of it? I hold my life and my feeble feelings as ready sacrifices to justice. I dismiss a subject so painful to me as self-vindication; painful to me only as addressing you on whose esteem and affection I have rested with the whole weight of my soul.

Southey! I must tell you that you appear to me to write as a man who is aweary of the world because it accords not with his ideas of perfection. Your sentiments look like the sickly offspring of disgusted pride. It flies not away from the couches of imperfection because the patients are fretful and loathsome.

Why, my dear, very dear Southey, do you wrap yourself in the mantle of self-centring resolve, and refuse to us your bounden quota of intellect? Why do you say, " /, /, / will do so and so," instead of saying, as you were wont to do, "It is all our duty to do so and so, for such and such reasons "?

For God's sake, my dear fellow, tell me what we are to gain by taking a Welsh farm. Remember the principles and proposed consequences of pantisocracy, and reflect in what degree they are attainable by Coleridge, Southey, Lovell, Burnett, and Co., some five men going partners together? In the next place, supposing that we have proved the preponderating utility of our aspheterizing in Wales, let us by our speedy and united inquiries discover the sum of money necessary, whether such a farm with so very large a house is to be procured without launching our frail and unpiloted bark on a rough sea of anxieties. How much is necessary for the maintenance of so large a family eighteen people for a year at least?

I have read my objections to Lovell. If he has not answered them altogether to my fullest conviction, he has however shown me the wretchedness that would fall on the majority of our party from any delay in so forcible a light, that if three hundred pounds be adequate to the commencement of the system (which I very much doubt), I am most willing to give up all my views and embark immediately with you.

If it be determined that we shall go to Wales (for which I now give my vote), in what time? Mrs. Lovell thinks it impossible that we should go in less than three months. If this be the case, I will accept of the reporter's place to the "Telegraph," live upon a guinea a week, and transmit the balance, finishing in the same time my "Imitations."

However, I will walk to Bath tomorrow morning and return in the evening. Mr. and Mrs. Lovell, Sarah, Edith, all desire their best love to you, and are anxious concerning your health. May God love you and your affectionate
S. T. Coleridge.

-from Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge in Two Volumes (London: William Heinemann, 1895) vol. 1.

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