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Coleridge A Soldier

After Coleridge left Cambridge, he came to London, where soon feeling

himself forlorn and destitute, he enlisted as a soldier in the 15th

Elliot's Light Dragoons. "On his arrival at the quarters of the

regiment," says his friend and biographer, Mr. Gilman, "the general of

the district inspected the recruits, and looking hard at Coleridge, with

a military air, inquired 'What's your name, sir?' 'Comberbach!' (the

name he
had assumed.) 'What do you come here for, sir?' as if doubting

whether he had any business there. 'Sir,' said Coleridge, 'for what most

other persons come--to be made a soldier.' 'Do you think,' said the

general, 'you can run a Frenchman through the body?' 'I do not know,'

replied Coleridge, 'as I never tried; but I'll let a Frenchman run me

through the body before I'll run away.' 'That will do,' said the

general, and Coleridge was turned in the ranks."

The poet made a poor dragoon, and never advanced beyond the awkward

squad. He wrote letters, however, for all his comrades, and they

attended to his horse and accoutrements. After four months service,

(December 1793 to April 1794), the history and circumstances of

Coleridge became known. He had written under his saddle, on the stable

wall, a Latin sentence (Eheu! quam infortunii miserrimum est fuisse

felicem!) which led to an inquiry on the part of the captain of his

troop, who had more regard for the classics than Ensign Northerton, in

Tom Jones. Coleridge was, accordingly, discharged, and restored to his

family and friends.

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