COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834). Wallenstein. A Drama in two parts, Translated from the German of Frederick Schiller. London: T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800; signed by Coleridge, and containing autograph poetic drafts, notes on the text, and annotations throughout.
2 works in one volume, octavo (229 x 144mm). Engraved frontispiece, general title, half-title in first work, title in second work, with the advertisement leaves (lacking title in first work), autograph notes on three pages. 19th-century boards (rebacked in cloth); untrimmed. Provenance: Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Sadworth H. Hodgson, O.R. (1832-1912; bookplate, two presentation notes) – Rugby School, Temple Reading Room (ink stamp, library label on upper cover).
Coleridge’s own copy of his translation of Wallenstein, containing his autograph notes – mostly critical – on Schiller’s text, as well as autograph poetry: a draft for Pysche (c.1808), showing divergence from the final version of 1830, and two untitled lines for an unknown work. Coleridge opens by summing up his thoughts on Schiller’s work – ‘These Dramas have had grievous faults: they are prolix in the particular parts, and slow in the general movement. But they have passion, distinct & diversified characters, & they abound in passages of great moral & poetic beauty’ – and signs his copy of Wallenstein, before going on to list in more detail the ‘defects […] which are all of an instructive character; for tho’ not the product of genius, like those of Shakspere, they result from an energetic and thinking mind’. Briefly, these comprise ‘speeches seldom suited to the characters’; the weight given by the author to astrology; his failure in tragicomedy, which Shakespeare perfected; the character of Thekla; and that of Wallenstein (‘Shakespeare draws strength as in Richard the third […] when he blends weakness, as in Macbeth, yet it is weakness of a specific kind’, which Schiller fails to achieve). On the final blank flyleaf, two untitled lines of poetry – ‘Or like the Swallow, I by instinct taught/ Could track the sun, & still find Summer food!’ – appear above a draft for Pysche (‘The Butterfly the ancient Grecians made…’).
In 1784 Coleridge wrote breathlessly to Robert Southey after reading a translation of Schiller’s first play, Die Räuber (1782): ‘My God! Southey! Who is this Schiller? This Convulser of the Heart?’. This early ardour apparently did not preclude a critical reading of Schiller’s Wallenstein – sent to him for translation in manuscript copies personally checked by the author himself – as his notes accompanying this first edition in English clearly attest, but Coleridge ‘later considered [his translation] one of his finest achievements’ (Holmes). Coleridge’s autograph draft for Pysche, added at the end of the volume, is one of a number of recorded versions committed to paper across the decades: variations between the texts suggest that it may have been composed and held in his head, written down only as occasion called for it.