Title: Life of John Coleridge Patteson
Author: Charlotte M. Yonge
by Charlotte Mary Yonge
There are of course peculiar advantages as well as disadvantages in endeavouring to write the life of one recently departed. On the one hand, the remembrances connected with him are far fresher; his contemporaries can he consulted, and much can be made matter of certainty, for which a few years would have made it necessary to trust to hearsay or probable conjecture. On the other, there is necessarily much more reserve; nor are the results of the actions, nor even their comparative importance, so clearly discernible as when there has been time to ripen the fruit.
These latter drawbacks are doubled when the subject of the biography has passed away in comparatively early life: when the persons with whom his life is chiefly interwoven are still in full activity; and when he has only lived to sow his seed in many waters, and has barely gathered any portion of his harvest.
Thus what I have written of Bishop Patteson, far more what I have copied of his letters, is necessarily only partial, although his nearest relations and closest friends have most kindly permitted the full use of all that could build up a complete idea of the man as he was. Many letters relate to home and family matters, such as it would be useless and impertinent to divulge; and yet it is necessary to mention that these exist, because without them we might not know how deep was the lonely man’s interest and sympathy in all that concerned his kindred and friends. Other letters only repeat the narrative or the reflections given elsewhere; and of these, it has seemed best only to print that which appeared to have the fullest or the clearest expression. In general, the story is best told in letters to the home party; while thoughts are generally best expressed in the correspondence with Sir John Taylor Coleridge, to whom the Nephew seems to have written with a kind of unconscious carefulness of diction. There is as voluminous a correspondence with the Brother, and letters to many Cousins; but as these either repeat the same adventures or else are purely domestic, they have been little brought forward, except where any gap occurred in the correspondence which has formed the staple material.