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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER
thing legitimate in the demand? Suppose him to speak the truth, what harm can he be really doing? He ought not, it may be suggested, to reveal a great man's infirmities. What is it to us if Coleridge took opium? The drug had, no doubt, some share in producing Kubla Khan; but may we not enjoy the product without considering the physiological conditions which were implied? The answer is obvious. A man's infirmities are, after all, part of him; they cannot be put aside like his coat or his shoes; and very often they suggest the only excuse for his shortcomings. To compare the estimate of Coleridge's genius formed by his contemporaries with his actual output of work achieved, to judge of the influence which he exercised in philosophy by his fragmentary attempts at possible prolegomena to a system, is to set oneself an insoluble problem, unless we know the facts. He cannot be fairly judged until we know how his astonishing powers were hampered by a weakness which still left him both lovable and capable of stimulating other intellects. The life, no doubt, may be suppressed altogether; but to take only a bit of it, and such a bit as his friends might think edifying, is to turn the whole story into a hopeless conundrum. The