Monday, 19 November 2012

Another previously untraced Coleridge quotation

I keep stumbling upon these.  In Chapter 9 of the Biographia Coleridge discusses humble men who are moved by religious vision to write books of theology. After praising German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme (1575 - 1624) and Englishman George Fox (1624-91), founder of the Society of Friends, Coleridge goes on to discuss men who
in simplicity of soul, made their words immediate echoes of their feelings. Hence the frequency of those phrases among them, which have been mistaken for pretences to immediate inspiration; as for instance, "It was delivered unto me," "I strove not to speak," "I said, I will be silent," "but the word was in my heart as a burning fire," "and I could not forbear." Hence too the unwillingness to give offence; hence the foresight, and the dread of the clamours, which would be raised against them, so frequently avowed in the writings of these men, and expressed, as was natural, in the words of the only book, with which they were familiar. "Woe is me that I am become a man of strife, and a man of contention,—I love peace: the souls of men are dear unto me: yet because I seek for light every one of them doth curse me!"
The italicised bits are all from the Bible. But where is the passage "Woe is me ... them doth curse me!" quoted from? James Engell and W. Jackson Bate admit they don't know:
Though untraced, the passage suggests Fox (the use of "Light" and reference to a "man of contention",) whom C. may also refer to, below, as one for whom neither the world nor the world's law was a "friend". [Biographia Literaria (2 vols; Princeton Univ. Press 1984), 1:150]
But this passage isn't Fox, as it happens. It is from an anti-Slavery sermon by an English preacher called George Barrell Cheever:
‘“Woe is me,” exclaimed Jeremiah, “for I am become a man of contention and strife.” I love peace, and I love my people, and I love my country, and out of love I speak to them this word of the Lord. I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury, yet every one of them doth curse me. [George Barrell Cheever, God Against Slavery: And the Freedom and Duty of the Pulpit to Rebuke It, as a Sin Against God (1800), 40].
Cheever's first sentence is quoted from Jeremiah 15:10. There’s no evidence that Coleridge knew Cheever, although Cheever’s book certainly praises Coleridge (‘…as that great writer, Mr.Coleridge, once remarked… [74]). Anti-slavery! The unfriendliness of the world and its laws is thus explained.

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