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Memoir of John Murray
Samuel Taylor Coleridge to John Murray, 23 August 1814

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.
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Josiah Wade’s, Esq., 2, Queen’s Square, Bristol.
August 23rd, 1814.
Dear Sir,

I have heard, from my friend Mr. Charles Lamb, writing by desire of Mr. Robinson, that you wish to have the justly-celebrated ‘Faust’ of Goethe translated, and that some one or other of my partial friends have induced you to consider me as the man most likely to execute the work adequately, those excepted, of course, whose higher power (established by the solid and satisfactory ordeal of the wide and rapid sale of their works) it might seem profanation to employ in any other manner than in the development of their own intellectual organization. I return my thanks to the recommender, whoever he be, and no less to you for your flattering faith in the recommendation; and thinking, as I do, that among many volumes of praiseworthy German poems, the ‘Louisa’ of Voss, and the ‘Faust’ of Goethe, are the two, if not the only ones, that are emphatically original in their conception, and characteristic of a new and peculiar sort of thinking and imagining, I should not be averse from exerting my best efforts in an attempt to import whatever is importable of either or of both into our own language.

But let me not be suspected of a presumption of which I am not consciously guilty, if I say that I feel two difficulties; one arising from long disuse of versification, added to what I know, better than the most hostile critic could inform me, of my comparative weakness; and the other, that any work in Poetry strikes me with more than common awe, as proposed for realization by myself, because from long habits of meditation on language, as the symbolic medium of the connection of Thought with Thought, and
of Thought as affected and modified by Passion and Emotion, I should spend days in avoiding what I deemed faults, though with the full fore-knowledge that their admission would not have offended perhaps three of all my readers, and might be deemed Beauties by 300—if so many there were; and this not out of any respect for the Public (i.e., the persons who might happen to purchase and look over the Book), but from a hobby-horsical, superstitious regard to my own feelings and sense of Duty. Language is the sacred Fire in this Temple of Humanity, and the Muses are its especial and vestal Priestesses. Though I cannot prevent the vile drugs and counterfeit Frankincense, which render its flame at once pitchy, glowing, and unsteady, I would yet be no voluntary accomplice in the Sacrilege. With the commencement of a Public, commences the degradation of the Good and the Beautiful—both fade and retire before the accidentally Agreeable. ‘
Othello’ becomes a hollow lip-worship; and the ‘Castle Spectre,’ or any more peccant thing of Froth, Noise, and Impermanence, that may have overbillowed it on the restless sea of curiosity, is the true Prayer of the Praise and Admiration.

I thought it right to state to you these opinions of mine, that you might know that I think the Translation of the Faust a task demanding (from me, I mean), no ordinary efforts—and why? This—that it is painful, very painful, and even odious to me, to attempt anything of a literary nature, with any motive of pecuniary advantage; but that I bow to the all-wise Providence, which has made me a poor man, and therefore compelled me by other duties inspiring feelings, to bring even my Intellect to the Market. And the finale is this. I should like to attempt the Translation. If you will mention your terms, at once and irrevocably (for I am an idiot at bargaining, and shrink from the very thought), I will return an answer by the next Post, whether in my present circumstances, I can or cannot undertake it. If I do, I will do it immediately; but I must have all Goethe’s works, which I cannot procure in Bristol; for to give the ‘Faust’ without a preliminary critical Essay would be worse than nothing, as far as regards the Public. If you were to ask me as a Friend, whether I think it would suit the General Taste, I should reply that I cannot
calculate on caprice and accident (for instance, some fashionable man or review happening to take it up favourably), but that otherwise my fears would be stronger than my hopes. Men of genius will admire it, of necessity. Those must, who think deepest and most imaginatively. Then ‘
Louisa’ would delight all of good hearts.

I remain, dear Sir,
With every respect,
S. T. Coleridge.