My Father (who had so little of parental ambition in him, that he had destined his children to be Blacksmiths &c, & had accomplished his intention but for my Mother’s pride & spirit of aggrandizing her family) my father had however resolved, that I should be a Parson. I read every book that came in my way without distinction — and my father was fond of me, & used to take me on his knee, and hold long conversations with me. I remember, that at eight years old I walked with him one winter evening from a farmer’s house, a mile from Ottery — & he told me the names of the stars — and how Jupiter was a thousand times larger than our world — and that the other twinkling stars were Suns that had worlds rolling round them — & when I came home, he shewed me how they rolled round —. I heard him with a profound delight & admiration; but without the least mixture of wonder or incredulity. For from my early reading of Faery Tales, & Genii &c &c — my mind had been habituated to the Vast — & I never regarded my senses in any way as the criteria of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions not by my sight — even at that age. Should children be permitted to read Romances, & Relations of Giants & Magicians, & Genii? — I know all that has been said against it; but I have formed my faith in the affirmative. — I know no other way of giving the mind a love of ‘the Great’, & ‘the Whole’. — Those who have been led to the same truths step by step thro’ the constant testimony of their senses, seem to me to want a sense which I possess — They contemplate nothing but parts — and all parts are necessarily little — and the Universe to them is but a mass of little things. — It is true, that the mind may become credulous & prone to superstition by the former method — but are not the Experimentalists credulous even to madness in believing any absurdity, rather than believe the grandest truths, if they have not the testimony of their own senses in their favor? — I have known some who have been rationally educated, as it is styled. They were marked by a microscopic acuteness; but when they looked at great things, all became a blank & they saw nothing — and denied (very illogically) that any thing could be seen; and uniformly put the negation of a power for the possession of a power — & called the want of imagination Judgment, & the never being moved to Rapture Philosophy!
(letter to Tom Poole, October 1797)