Widener Library has just received its first Christmas gift of the season in the form of an unpublished, autographed letter of Coleridge.
This letter was given by Mrs. Norton Perkins in memory of her husband, who died last July. Norton Perkins '98 was the possessor of an unusually valuable library, several of the more interesting books of which he had given to the Harvard Library before his death. Since then Mrs. Perkins has sent to the Harvard Library such of the remainder of her husband's books as the Library might think of use.
This letter is of especial interest in that it has never reached the hands of Coleridge's biographers, although it contains much material which might be used as a further key to his character as shown to his friends.
Written on July 2, 1816, the letter accompanied some of Coleridge's manuscripts which he sent for criticism to one of his friends, the Right Honorable John Hookham Frere, a noted English diplomat and author of humorous poetry, famous for his translations of Aristophanes. The manuscripts sent to Frere included the first volume and a part of the second of Coleridge's work, "My Literary Life", as well as his "Sibylline Leaves", the latter being a collection of his poems, which, as he writes, he "dared consent to be known as of his own will as well as authorship".
Concerning the manuscripts of "My Literary Life", or as Coleridge says it might better be called, "Sketches of My Intellectual Life, and Principles", he writes to his friend that the purpose of this work is to "defend himself (not indeed to his own conscience, but) as far as others are concerned, from the often and public denunciation of having wasted his time in idleness--in short, of having done nothing; and to settle, if possible, and put to rest with all men of sense the controversy concerning the nature and claims of poetic diction".