Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Two more Coleridge allusions

Biographia chapter 12: '"I asserted that the world was mad," exclaimed poor Lee, "and the world said, that I was mad, and confound them, they outvoted me."' Engell and Jackson Bate say: 'Nathaniel Lee (c. 1653-92) Restoration dramatist, confined to Bedlam 1684-9, received many visitors, to whom he made epigrammatic remarks that found their way into a number of books. This one has not been traced.' [BL, 1:262].

Actually Coleridge found this anecdote in Priestley: ‘When Lee the tragedian was in a mad-house, and was asked by a stranger how he came there, he said he was outvoted. Being desired to explain himself, he replied, "I said the world was mad, and the world said I was mad, and they outvoted me."’ [John Towill Rutt (ed), The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley (25 volumes, 1797), 17:321].

A couple of paragraphs later, Coleridge quotes 'Doctrina per tot manus tradita tandem in vappam desiit!' It means 'a doctrine passed through so many hands ends up as vapid wine!'. Engell and Bate say: 'the source of untraced' [BL, 1:263]. It's from Thomas Burnet's Archaelogiae Philosophicae, sive Doctrina Antiqua de Rerum Originibus (1692), ch. 7: ‘doctrina illa, per tot manus tradita, & per tot saecula, tanquam vinum saepius transfundum, tandem in vappam desiit.’ (‘That doctrine, having been handed down through so many hands, and over so many centuries, is like wine that has been transfused over and over, and at last been left merely flat wine’).

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