THE GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 1834
Charles Valentine Le Grice
Of Christ’s Hospital and Trinity College, Cambridge
What evenings I have spent in those rooms! . . . when Aeschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons etc, to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon, a pamphlet issued from the pen of Burke. There was no need of having the book before us. Coleridge had read it in the morning, and in the evening he would repeat whole pages verbatim.
College was, as a rule, a place of drunkenness, violence, and whoredom. While this might sound like a commentary on contemporary culture, Samuel Coleridge Taylor complained to his brother in a letter that “There is no such thing as discipline at our college. There once was they say, but so long ago that no one remembers it.” The more things change, the more they stay in the same.
Amid this cacophony, Coleridge found his voice. His advanced literacy fed a propensity for linguistics, and he mastered Greek. Also, his focus evolved from an academic appreciation of classical truth to its application to contemporary social issues – namely, the slave trade market.
In the second chapter of Mariner, Malcolm Guite wrote:
We can learn a great deal from this little glimpse, about Coleridge and Cambridge, in the juxtaposition between Greek classics on the one hand, and “the pamphlets of the day” on the other. For Val Le Grice it may well have been a case of pushing the one aside to make room for the other, and like many mediocre students before and after him, he may have kept his academic learning in a sealed compartment which neither admitted light from his contemporary life nor shed any upon it, but not so Coleridge. As he was to demonstrate brilliantly in his Greek ode on the slave trade, for Coleridge the luminous and mystical insights of Plato on the one hand, and the sharp analysis of realpolitik in Thucydides on the other, were always relevant to the way we live now. Throughout his life, Coleridge would react to the great works of the past not as dead monuments of scholarship but (as he would say of the Bible) as “the living educts of the imagination,”constantly bringing new insights to bear on contemporary life.
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In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.