Letter to Robert Southey
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
30 April 1799
Our little Hovel is almost aﬂoat—poor Sara tired off her legs with servanting— the young one fretful & noisy from conﬁnement exerts his activities on all for- bidden Things—the house stinks of Sulphur—I however, sunk in Spinoza, remain as undisturbed as a Toad in a Rock / that is to say, when my rheumatic pains are asleep.
Chapter Seven of Mariner is both information-rich and difficult to summarize, so I hope you’ve enjoyed it with slow, thoughtful reading. If so, you are kin to Coleridge whose love for learning both fed his spirit yet exacerbated his troubled marriage. Throughout his life, he “bolted” from difficulties rather than facing them.
Commenting on today’s excerpt, Malcolm Guite writes in Mariner, Chapter Seven:
There is more to this last remark than meets the eye, and it marks an ominous development. Rheumatic pains had been a constant in Coleridge’s life from the time he had rheumatic fever as a child and had been the occasion, even while he was at Christ’s Hospital, of his being dosed with laudanum. That last image of being sunk in Spinoza and undisturbed as a toad in the rock, suggests a retreat against pain into a combination of opium and metaphysics. It was this combination which Coleridge himself later diagnosed as having been both what killed his poetic spirit and what ultimately rendered him an addict. For now, these were only brief bouts of withdrawal, though it can hardly have been helpful to Sara, having waited so long for his return, to ﬁnd him in the midst of a crisis retreating into reading and opium.
Has your love for reading ever caused a strain on your relationships?
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