(This information is linked to the article ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge and The Beauty of Tiverton’ in the Tiverton Civic Society Newsletter for April 2020)
Following a major fire in 1788 this house was built for James and Frances Coleridge in 1789 and they lived here until 1796. James was an older brother of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was a frequent visitor from 1789 to 1794. Sir John Taylor Coleridge was born here in 1790. This house is listed as Grade II . The listing information suggests that parts of earlier buildings may be incorporated.
WHO WAS FANNY NESBITT?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote at least four poems extolling the attractions of Fanny Nesbitt, ‘The Beauty of Tiverton’, but details of her life have eluded Coleridge scholars. They have now been convincingly researched, and revealed, by Peter Maunder, the author of ‘Tiverton Cloth’ and a Tiverton Civic Society member.
Francis (‘Fanny’) Blundell Nesbitt was the eldest daughter of Major Richard Nesbitt and Ann Blundell, and she was born in Ireland in 1773, when her father was serving there as an officer in the 63rd Regiment of Foot . In Tiverton the family lived in a large house on the north side of Gold Street, Tiverton, just below the Cross Keys inn. Fanny married Richard Henry Strong in 1802 and they had at least three children. Her husband died at the age of 43 in 1822, but she lived for a further thirty years: in the 1851 census she was living at 89, Bampton Street with her son Charles Blundell Strong, a solicitor, and she died at the age of 79, being buried at St George’s Church on 16th October, 1852.
Many thanks to Peter for his important research, which he has offered to summarize in much greater detail in the Autumn Newsletter.
FURTHER POEMS FOR FANNY NESBITT
Cupid Turned Chymist (1793)
Cupid, if storying Legends tell aright,
Once fram’d a rich Elixir of Delight.
A Chalice o’er love-kindled flames he fix’d,
And in it Nectar and Ambrosia mix’d:
With these the magic dews, which Evening brings,
Brush’d from the Idalian star by faery wings:
Each tender pledge of sacred Faith he join’d,
Each gentler Pleasure of th’ unspotted mind–
Day-dreams, whose tints with sportive brightness glow,
And Hope, the blameless Parasite of Woe.
The eyeless Chemist heard the process rise,
The steamy Chalice bubbled up in sighs;
Sweet sounds transpir’d, as when the enamour’d Dove
Pours the soft murm’ring of responsive Love.
The finish’d work might Envy vainly blame,
And ‘Kisses’ was the precious Compound’s name.
With half the God his Cyprian Mother blest,
And breath’d on Nesbitt’s lovelier lips the rest.
Lines from ‘Absence: A Poem’ (1793)
No lovelier maid does love’s wide empire know,
No lovelier maid e’er heav’d the bosom’s snow,
A thousand loves her gentle face adorn,
Fair as the blushes of a summer morn.
A thousand loves around her forehead fly,
A thousand loves sit melting in her eye:
Love lights her smile – in joy’s red nectar dips
The opening rose, and plants it on her lips. (Lines 38-46)
Lines from ‘To a Painter’ (?1798/99)
Ah baffled artist! could thy toil
Depaint the light’ning of her smile,
Her soften’d sense, her wit refin’d,
The blameless features of her mind,
Not such should Titian’s colours shine,
Nor Rafael’s magic equal Thine
Whose art could breath along the canvas warm
An Angel’s Soul in Nesbitt’s kindred form! (Lines 19 – 26).
(‘On Presenting a Moss Rose to Miss F.Nesbitt’ is included in the Newsletter).
LETTER TO CAPTAIN JAMES COLERIDGE.
February 20, 1794.
In a mind which vice has not utterly divested of sensibility, few occurrences can inflict a more acute pang than the receiving proofs of tenderness and love where only resentment and reproach were expected and deserved. The gentle voice of conscience which had incessantly murmured within the soul then raises its tone and speaks with a tongue of thunder. My conduct towards you, and towards my other brothers, has displayed a strange combination of madness, ingratitude, and dishonesty. But you forgive me. May my Maker forgive me! May the time arrive when I shall have forgiven myself!
With regard to my emancipation, every inquiry I have made, every piece of intelligence I could collect, alike tend to assure me that it may be done by interest, but[Pg 62] not by negotiation without an expense which I should tremble to write. Forty guineas were offered for a discharge the day after a young man was sworn in, and were refused. His friends made interest, and his discharge came down from the War Office. If, however, negotiation must be first attempted, it will be expedient to write to our colonel—his name is Gwynne—he holds the rank of general in the army. His address is General Gwynne, K. L. D., King’s Mews, London.
My assumed name is Silas Tomkyn Comberbacke, 15th, or King’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, G Troop. My number I do not know. It is of no import. The bounty I received was six guineas and a half; but a light horseman’s bounty is a mere lure; it is expended for him in things which he must have had without a bounty—gaiters, a pair of leather breeches, stable jacket, and shell; horse cloth, surcingle, watering bridle, brushes, and the long etc. of military accoutrement. I enlisted the 2d of December, 1793, was attested and sworn the 4th. I am at present nurse to a sick man, and shall, I believe, stay at Henley another week. There will be a large draught from our regiment to complete our troops abroad. The men were picked out to-day. I suppose I am not one, being a very indocile equestrian. Farewell.
S. T. Coleridge.
Our regiment is at Reading, and Hounslow, and Maidenhead, and Kensington; our headquarters, Reading, Berks. The commanding officer there, Lieutenant Hopkinson, our adjutant.
To Captain James Coleridge, Tiverton, Devonshire.