Thursday, June 21, 2018

Living beneath a shadow …

… The Oakling and the Oak | Lapham’s Quarterly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When I recently mentioned Hartley Coleridge to an English professor at Yale, she said, “Ah yes, Hartley! Didn’t he lose his fellowship at Oriel?” And I thought how strange it was that people who know little else about Hartley have somehow heard of what STC’s friend Harriet Martineau called “the great catastrophe, the ruinous blow.” 
I would like to interject a small reality check. In the academic sphere, Hartley did better than his father, who dropped out of Cambridge. He did better than Wordsworth, who took his degree from Cambridge “without distinction.” He did better than Southey, who dropped out of Oxford. And he did better than Byron, who dropped out of Cambridge, and Shelley, who was expelled from Oxford. Hartley graduated—with a second! 191 years after the fact, why do we continue to associate him with the loss of a job for which he was unsuited? Might the memory of this episode be less adhesive—and might Hartley have been more resilient—had his father viewed it as a disappointment rather than an apocalypse?

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