The reader will not be displeased with the following interesting exemplification from Bishop Jeremy Taylor. "St. Lewis the King sent Ivo Bishop of Chartres on an embassy, and he told, that he met a grave and stately matron on the way with a censer of fire in one band, and a vessel of water in the other; and observing her to have a melancholy, religious, and phantastic deportment and look, he asked her what those symbols meant, and what she meant to do with her fire and water; she answered, My purpose is with the fire to burn paradise, and with my water to quench the flames of hell, that men may serve God purely for the love of God. But we rarely meet with such spirits which love virtue so metaphysically as to abstract her from all sensible compositions, and love the purity of the idea."Here's what Nigel Leask says:
Adapted from Jeremy Taylor's Sermons Preached at Golden Grove, XII (1688), but the last sentence seems to be Coleridge's own. Let's not blame Leask; all he's doing is copying the information from Engell and Bates's standard Princeton Univ. Press's edition. But this is all wrong. Some of it is wrong in a silly way (quoting from a sermon supposedly delivered more than twenty years after Taylor died). Some of it is wrong in a slapdash way. The ‘But we rarely meet with such spirits … love the purity of the idea’ sentence is assumed to be Coleridge's own composition, since it doesn't follow the '...love of God' sentence in Taylor's original. That Coleridge made this bit of his quotation up is a notion I've seen repeated blithely in secondary criticism. But it's not Coleridge's sentence, it's Taylor's. I'm now going to quote the original passage. See if you can spot the rogue sentence. Pay attention, now:
But we rarely meet with such spirits which love virtue so metaphysically as to abstract her from all sensible and delicious compositions, and love the purity of the idea. St. Lewis the king sent Ivo bishop of Chartres, on an embassy, the bishop met a woman on the way, grave, sad, fantastic and melancholic, with fire in one band, and water in the other. He asked her what those symbols meant. She answered, My purpose is with the fire to burn paradise, and with my water to quench the flames of hell, that men may serve God without the incentives of hope and fear, and purely for the love of God.That's right! It's at the beginning of the passage! The fact that Coleridge has reordered the order of these sentences has completely bamboozled Coleridge scholarship! This does not reflect glory upon Coleridge scholarship.
More interesting, I think, is just how flowery Coleridge, via misty remembrance or deliberate craft, renders Taylor's plainer prose in quotation. It's a means, formerly, of embodying his point about the sensible and the delicious.