Page images
[ocr errors]

by presenting us with some combs purloined from the hive of a foreign worker, calling them by the alluring title of "genial coincidences."

[ocr errors]

We perceive that Mr Gilman, in the one only sentence in which he attempts to defend Coleridge, has, like ourselves, though for a very different purpose, brought forward the bee as an illustration of the case. He thus writes, (Life of Coleridge, p. 245-the italics are his own)" With regard to the charge made by Mr De Quincy of Coleridge's so borrowing the property of other writers as to be guilty of petty larceny ;' with equal justice might we accuse the bee, which flies from flower to flower in quest of food, and which, by means of the instinct bestowed upon it by the all-wise Creator, extracts its nourishment from the field and the garden, but digests and elaborates it by its own native powers." Now this is precisely what we are complaining Coleridge does not do. Unlike the bee, he steals his honey ready made. A friendly naturalist suggests, that bees will steal ready-made honey too, when they can get at it, and that, therefore, the parallel is not exact. But we reply that, even then, they make a point of elaborating it over again within their own internals before they publish it to their neighbours in the hive. But with regard to the transcendental philosophy, Coleridge has done nothing of this sort he has digested nothing by his own native powers. The pots all stand in his Biographia exactly as Schelling elaborated and made them up.

There only remains one other point to be got over it is contained in the last sentence of the defence, where Coleridge strongly deprecates the charge of plagiarism, and endeavours to establish a sort of compact, by which he is to be entitled, without acknowledgment, to make what use he pleases of the works of Schelling. To save space, we beg to refer our readers to the sentence already printed. But even here he artfully leads us away from the idea that he has transferred into his work, almost word for word, many, nay any, of the pages of the German philosopher. Why could he not make his references to Schelling with truth, except on the ground that it was not true that these citations, &c., were actually derived from Schelling?

This is certainly the ground upon which the reader is led to believe that he refrains from giving his references. He is not able to bring himself to admit that all the profounder philosophical observations contained in his work are entirely the German's, but wishes to have it understood that they are all his own "genial coincidences" with Schelling. Genial coincidences, forsooth! where every one word of the one author tallies with every one word of the other! Credat Judæus Apella : non ego. We have already said, and are prepared to show, that Coleridge contributes nothing to the expansion or explanation of Schelling's system; therefore the sentence we are writing about must be brought to stand thus: "For readers in general, let nothing that shall be found in this or any other work of mine be attributed to Schelling, provided no fault be found with me should I ever be discovered to have cabbaged from his works ad libitum." The logic of that provided" baffles us entirely. But even admitting that there are resemblances to Schelling to be found in his works, what right could he have to lay down such an arrangement as this, that he would make all these over to Schelling in the event of their being found to resemble him; provided he, in the mean time, might pay himself secretly what he pleased for them out of the funds of that philosopher, and provided no one would blame him should his doings ever be brought to light? The logical propriety of the "provided" escapes us in this case also. How could he tell how little his resemblances might be worth, and how great might be the value of his purloinings from Schelling? How is any security that this bargain is a fair one to be established? To cut the question short, then, we do not think that any man is entitled to enter such a protestation as this, or that it can be listened to for a moment as a defence, in the event of his being convicted of extensive plagiarism. It appears to us to be much worse than no defence at all; for this is the manner in which it is evidently calculated and designed to cut. So long as these plagiarisms are undetected, this manner of wording the protest will ensure to the author (as it did to Coleridge during the whole of his life) the credit of being original,

and when they are detected, (if that ever happens,) it will give him the benefit of his protestation as a defence: in other words, if the plagiarisms are not detected, Schelling's passages remain Coleridge's, and if they are detected, the latter calculates upon getting out of the scrape by pleading that he had, in a manner, admitted them. Ay! ay! the manner of the admission is precisely the question; how does he admit them? We think we have already made clear what we now repeat, that the manner of his admission of them is such as naturally to lead every reader who trusts to his work, and looks no farther, to believe that nothing can be further from his practice and from his intention than plagiarism, in the way and to the extent which we are now about to point out.

Let us here make a passing remark upon what Coleridge says in reference to his "coincidences" with Schlegel. He tells us (see quotation) that, as in reference to Schlegel, his views upon dramatic art, so in reference to Schelling, his views on transcendental metaphysics, were matured before he knew any thing about either author. On the subject of his resemblances to Schlegel, we are not prepared to speak on our own authority. But as he himself here perils the fact of his priority to and independence of Schlegel upon the truth of what he says respecting his priority to and independence of Schelling, placing both instances upon exactly the same footing, we are entitled to say, that as in the case of Schelling we know him to be a consummate plagiarist, and original in nothing; so in the case of Schlegel, we think it more than probable that he has borrowed ready-made from that author every thing in which he “ nially coincides" with him.


We now proceed to particularize Coleridge's plagiarisms, in the order in which they occur in the first volume of the Biog. Lit., for to it our accusation is confined. Of course, our limits will not permit us to make almost any extracts illustrative of our charge; they will permit us to offer little or no criticism on the merits either of the borrowed or the original

passages; and still less will they allow us to enter into any explanation touching the transcendental philosophy in general; but we can at least state the exact pages of Coleridge in which the plagiarisms occur, and the corresponding pages of Schelling from which they are taken. And we pledge ourselves to do this with the most scrupulous accuracy; for not our own credit merely, but the general character of this Magazine, will be, to a certain extent, perilled upon our faithfulness.


The first instance in which we detect Coleridge translating closely from Schelling occurs in p. 130, beginning at the words "how being"-the last clause is interpolated, we think not very wisely. This and the next sentence are to be found in Schelling's Transcendental Idealism, p. 113. The next two sentences (Biog. Lit. p. 131) are to be found (slightly altered from the original) in Transc. ld. p. 112. Then Coleridge interposes a short sentence of his own; after which we come to the words, "Matter has no inward. We remove one surface but to meet with another." This occurs in two places in Schelling's works; vide Phil. Schrift.† p. 240, and Ideen, † Introduction, p. 22. On turning over to p. 133, Biog. Lit., we find that nearly the whole of the first paragraph is taken from the Transc. Id. p. 113, though here the translation is not so close as usual. But the passage is remarkable, as containing a stroke which we daresay many admirers have considered peculiarly Coleridgian. Taking out of Schelling's mouth the words in which he is describing the futility of materialism, as an explanation of the phenomena of thought, Coleridge says, "When we expected to find a body, behold, we had nothing but its ghost!-the apparition of a defunct substance!" Now this illustration, and every thing connected with it, belongs exclusively to Schelling. "To explain thinking," says he," as a material phenomenon, is only possible by making a ghost of matter." Transc. Id. p. 113.

After turning over a few leaves, we come to the only passage in the

* System des Transcendentalen Idealismus. Tubingen: 1800.

+ Philosophische Schriften. (First volume-all ever published.) Landshut: 1809. Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur. (Second ed.) Landshut: 1803.

work which Coleridge distinctly admits to be translated, not however from Schelling, but from a " contemporary writer on the Continent." See Biog. Lit., pp. 140, 141, where upwards of a page and a half are copied (omitting one insignificant interpolation) from Schelling's Darlegung, pp. 154, 155. But even here he cannot admit his obligation plainly and directly; the terms in which he introduces the extract are exceedingly curious, and very much in his usual vein. See Biog. Lit., p. 139, where he thus writes, in reference to p. 140, 141" While I, in part, translate the following observations from a contemporary writer of the Continent, let me be permitted to premise, that I might have transcribed the substance from memoranda of my own, which were written many years before his pamphlet was given to the world; and that I prefer another's words to my own, partly as a tribute due to priority of publication, but still more from the pleasure of sympathy in a case where coincidence (Ital. in orig.) only was possible." Now, how Coleridge could reconcile with ordinary faith his statement, that a paragraph, consisting of forty-nine lines, to which his own contribution was six, was only in part translated from a foreign work-how he could outrage common sense, and the capacities of human belief, by saying that he might have transcribed the substance of it from memoranda of his own, written many years before Schelling's pamphlet was given to the world"-how he could have the cool assurance to tell us that he "prefers another's words to his own"-not, mark you, because these words belong to that other man, and not to him-but as a tribute due to priority of publication-and how he could take it upon him to say that in this case nothing more than coincidence was possible, (except on the ground that it was impossible for any human being to write any thing but what he had written before!)-how he could do all these things, entirely baffles our comprehension.

In B. L., pp. 141-143, are to be found two other long sentences, cu

riously transmogrified from the Darlegung, p. 156.

In B.L., p. 146, Coleridge's obser vation about the Noumenon of Kant, is taken from Schelling's Phil. Schrift. pp. 275, 276. His words here are certainly not exactly Schelling's; but he adds nothing to the original remarks from which his observation is borrowed. For the latter part of his sentence, see also Transc. Id. p. 114.

In B. L., p. 147, we next read— "All symbols, of necessity, involve an apparent contradiction." This is translated from the Phil. Schrift. p. 276.


We now pass on to the opening of Chap. X. B. L., p. 157. It commences in italics thus-the introductory words being put into the mouth of an imaginary reader : “ Esemplastic !—the word is not in Johnson, nor have I met with it elsewhere !"" Neither have I," rejoins the author, Coleridge; "I constructed it myself from the Greek words, sv λTTv, i. e. to shape into one. To this we, taking up the cause and character of the imaginary reader, reply-" We beg your pardon, sir; but you did nothing of the sortyou met with it in Schelling's Darlegung, p. 61. You there found the word In-eins-bildung—“ a shaping into one"-which Schelling or some other German had literally formed from the Greek, TRATTEIV, and you merely translated this word back into Greek, (a very easy and obvious thing to do,) and then you coined the Greek words into English, merely altering them from a noun into an adjective." The word is likewise to be met with in Schelling's Vorlesungen, † p. 313. Such, we will lay our life upon it, is the history of Coleridge's neology in the instance of the word" esemplastic." Readers are generally passive enough mortals in the hands of writers; but an author who ventures upon questionable freaks like this, must lay his account with sometimes catching a Tartar among them.

We now pass on to what is perhaps the most singular case of plagiarism in the whole book. We find that the whole of p. 246, and the greater part of p. 247, B. L., are translated from the Phil. Schrift. pp. 327, 328, omit

* Darlegung des wahren Verhältnisses der Natur-philosophie zu der verbesserten Fichteschen Lehre. Tubingen: 1806.

+ Vorlesungen über die Methode des Academischen Studium.

[ocr errors]

ting three interpolations, which rather detract from than add to the sense of the paragraph. The whole paragraph is occupied with a description of the kind of mind which is unfitted for philosophical speculations; and concludes (B. L., p. 247) in these terms: "To remain unintelligible to such a mind (exclaims Schelling on a like occasion) is honour and a good name before God and man.' Exclaims Schelling on a like occasion !—why, this is the very occasion upon which Schelling utters that exclamation- the whole passage (with the slight exceptions mentioned) being a verbatim translation from him!! Can any thing beat that? this is surely plagiarism outplagiarised. Coleridge puts forth certain remarks as his own, and clenches and corroborates them by an exclamation said to be uttered by Schelling up. on a like occasion. It is then discovered that not only the clenching clause, but that the whole paragraph to which it refers, is Schelling's; and that this is precisely the occasion, upon which, by way of adding force to his own remarks, he gives vent to the exclamation quoted. What can this mean?— is it humour, is it irony, is it dishonesty, or is it simple carelessness on the part of Coleridge? These are questions admitting of a wide solution," and yet well worthy the attention of any student of the eccentricities of human



Passing on to the middle of p. 250, B. L., we fall in with translations from Schelling of much greater bulk than any that we have yet met with. At this place Coleridge thinks "it expedient to make some preliminary remarks on the introduction of POSTULATES into philosophy." Accordingly, he makes these remarks-and every word of them, running through pp. 250, 251, 252, 253, and part of 254, is taken verbatim from Schelling, with the exception of the last sentence, (top of p. 254,) which is somewhat altered from the original: vide Phil. Schrift., pp. 329, 330, 331, 332. It must be admitted that at the beginning of this extract Coleridge introduces the parenthesis ("see Schell. Abhandl. zur Erlaüter. des Id. der Wissenschafslehre.") But would not a reader naturally deduce, from this reference, merely the inference that Coleridge was here referring to Schelling in support of his own views, and not literally

translating and appropriating the German's? Besides, if a reader had written to the Continent for this work, under the title here given to it, it is next to impossible that he could ever have procured it. For this title denotes a tract buried among a good many others in Schelling's Phil. Schrift., which is the name that ought to have been given to the work referred to, if the reader was to derive any benefit from the information, or was to be put in the way of consulting the original source.

Another very long translation from Schelling commences near the foot of p. 254, B. L., and is continued through pp. 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261. Throughout these, six interpolations and variations occur; but they are so very unimportant that we may say the whole of the pages are faithfully transcribed from the Transc. Id., p. 1 to p. 9. In continuation of his translation, left off near the foot of p. 261, B. L., Coleridge, without a break, copies the remainder of this page and pp. 262, 263, as far as the word "entities," from the Phil. Schrift., pp. 273, 274. We must remark, however, that a pretty long interpolation of his occurs in p. 262, B. L. We have also to remark, that the quotation in p. 263, B. L., Doctrina per tot manus tradita tandem in vappam desiit, is employed by Schelling in Phil. Schrift., p. 212.

At p. 264, et seq., B. L., certain Theses occur, which are mainly taken from Schelling, though here the sentences of the original are so garbled, mutilated, and transposed, as to be in general quite unintelligible. Some of the smaller disjecta membra have probably escaped us: but we may particularize the second sentence of p. 268, B. L., as occurring in the Transc. Id., p. 48. Then the whole of Theses vii. viii. (B. L., pp. 269, 270, 271) are taken bodily from Phil. Schrift., pp. 223, 224, 225, with some slight variations that add nothing to the sense. In Thesis ix., the first and fifth sentences are copied nearly verbatim from Transc. Id., pp. 26, 27. Two full pages of Thesis x. are copied from Transc. Id., pp. 27, 28, 29-a few alterations being introduced, which we may say, in Hibernian fashion, are decidedly improvements for the worse. The last instance, with which we conclude this strange catalogue of plagiarisms from Schelling, occurs in B.

L., p. 279, the greater part of which page is to be found in the Phil. Schrift., pp. 203, 204.

On looking back over the result of our researches, we perceive that we have traced the palpable presence of Schelling in thirty-three of Coleridge's pages. From these we will deduct two-rather more than the quantity he admits to have been translated in part from a 66 contemporary writer of the Continent;"-thus leaving thirty-one pages faithfully transcribed, either wholly or partially, from Schelling. We perceive that the continuous whole pages so transcribed, amount to thirteen; that the continuous half-pages so transcribed amount to six; and that the smaller passages under half a page interspersed throughout the work, amount to twelve. These latter may be calculated, on a very moderate computation, at three pages. So that we have the extraordinary number of nineteen full pages, copied almost verbatim from the works of the German philosopher, without one distinct word of acknowledgment on the part of the transcriber an event in the history of literature altogether unprecedented, we believe; and in reference to the party chiefly concerned, we think we may add, quite unsuspected until now.

Are our readers aware how the first volume of the Biographia Literaria ends? They must understand that the whole of it is intended to stand merely as an introduction to some grand theory of the "Imagination," discovered and to be propounded by Mr Cole. ridge. Near the end of the volume, however, when our curiosity is on the point, as we imagine, of being gratified, the work suddenly breaks down in the middle of a sentence, in consequence of Coleridge's receipt of a letter from a friend-evidently written by himself-informing him that the world is not yet ripe for his discovery; that his "Treatise on Real-idealism," (the very name by which Schelling's system is known,)" holding the same relation in abstruseness to Plotinus, as Plotinus does to Plato," would be too much for ordinary readers; and accordingly," in consequence of this very judicious letter," Coleridge allows his work to break down as we have said. Now, our view is, that it

was not at all in consequence of the considerations conveyed in this letter that he stopped short. The way in which we account for the stoppage is this. Interspersed throughout the works of Schelling, glimpses and indications are to be found of some stupendous theory on the subject of the imagination. These shadowy intimations, we think, Coleridge expected to be able to catch and unriddle; but after proceeding a certain length in his work, he found himself unable to do so. When he came to try, he found himself incompetent to think out the theory which the German philosopher had left enveloped in shadows, and yawning with many hiatuses; and not being able to swim in transcendental depths without Schelling's bladders, and Schelling's bladders not being sufficiently inflated to support him here, he had nothing else for it but to abandon his work altogether, and leave his readers in the lurch. That is our explanation of the matter.

Had Schelling been more explicit and tangible on the subject of the imagination, Coleridge would have been so too. Had Schelling fully worked out his theory, Coleridge would have done the same; and we should have had the discovery of the German thinker paraded, for upwards of twenty years, as a specimen of the wonderful powers of the English philosopher.

Before taking leave of the Biographia, we must plead, in a very few words, the cause of another German philosopher, pointed out to us by a friend, as having been very scurvily treated by Coleridge. In Vol. I., p. 107, we find the name "Maasse" (Maasz, it should be) once mentioned by Coleridge, without however any commentary upon it, or any hint that he lay under the smallest obligation to the philosopher of that name. On looking, however, into this author's work,* we find that all the real information and learning put forth in Biog. Lit., Chap. V., is stolen bodily from him. In B. L., pp. 100, 101, et seq., a considerable show of learning is exhibited on the subject of the association of ideas; and of course the reader's impression is, that Coleridge is indebted for the

* Versuch über die Einbildungskraft. Halle and Leipzig: 1797.

« PreviousContinue »