Title: Christabel in the Edinburgh Review
Bibliographic Citation: “Christabel: Kubla Khan, A Vision. The Pains of Sleep. By S. T. Coleridge Esq. London. Murray, 1816.” Edinburgh Review No. LIII, September 1816. Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1816. 58-59.
Notes: The Edinburgh Review was among the many magazines that panned Coleridge’s slim volume of 1816. Like other reviews, notably William Hazlitt’s caustic appraisal in The Examiner, Frances Jeffrey’s critique is harsh and attacks Coleridge personally: After we had been admiring their [“the writers upon the Bathos,” “the wild or lawless poets”] extravagance for many years, and marvelling at the ease and rapidity with which one exceeded another in the unmeaning or infantine, until not an idea was left in the rhyme—or in the insane, until we had reached something that seemed the untamed effusion of an author whose thoughts were rather more free than his actions—forth steps Mr Coleridge, like a giant refreshed with sleep, and as if to redeem his character after so long a silence. (59) The review also chastises Lord Byron for praising and supporting the poem. In a post-script a letter to John Murray dated 27 December 1816, Byron expresses disdain for the review and explains his reasons for praise: I hear that the E[dinburgh] R[eview] has cut up Coleridge’s Christabel, and me for praising it, which omen, I think, bodes no great good to your forthcome or coming Canto and Castle (of Chillon)[.] (386) Byron, George Gordon Noel. “To John Murray, 27 December 1816.” Byron, A Self-Portrait. Ed. Peter Quennel. Vol. 2. New York: Humanities Press, 1967. 384-86. We the [sic] rather wonder at this bold proceeding in the author, as his courage has cooled in the course of the publication, and he has omitted, from the mere delicacy, a line which is absolutely necessary to the understanding of the whole story. The Lady Christabel, wandering in the forest by moonlight, meets a lady in apparently great distress, to whom she offers her assistance and protection, and takes her home with her to her own chamber. This woman, –––––––––––––“beautiful to see, Like a lady of a far countree,” is a witch. Who she is else, what her business is with Christabel, upon what motives, to what end her sorceries are to work, does not appear at present: but this much we know that she is a witch, and that Christabel’s dread of her arises from her discovering this circumstance, which is told in a single line, which line, from an exquisite refinement in efficiency, is here omitted. When the unknown lady gets to Christabel’s chamber, and is going to undress, it is said— “Then drawing in her breath aloud Like one that shuddered, she unbound The cincture from beneath her breast: Her silken robe and inner vest Dropt to her feet, and full in view Behold! her bosom and half her side— A sight to dream of, not to tell! And she is to sleep by Christabel!” The manuscript runs thus, or nearly thus:— Behold her bosom and half her side— Hideous, deformed, and pale of hue.” This Line is necessary to make common sense of the first and second part. “It is the keystone that makes up the arch.” For that reason Mr. Coleridge has left it out. The surviving manuscript (Sarah Stoddart 1) reads: “Behold! her bosom and half her side – Are lean and old and foul of Hue”
Subject: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834. Christabel.
Publisher: Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University
is Part Of Exhibition: Interactions of Script and Print in the Nineteenth Century
Exhibition Theme: Circulating in Manuscript
Call Number: AP4 E3
Image Identifier: AP4_E3_mc1_stor_p58-59