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Can I with pleasure or with patience see
Bat soon the kinsman heavy tidings told,
'* O, send him down,*' the father soon replied; "Let me hehold him, and my skill he tried: If care and kindness lose their wonted use, Some rougher medicine will the end produce."
Stephen with grief and anger heard his doom— "Go to the farmer? to the rustie's home? Curse the hase threat'ning—" " Nay, child, never
curse; Corrupted long, your case is growing worse."— .' I !" quoth the youth, " I challenge all mankind To find a fault; what fault have you to find? mprove I not in manner, speech, and grace? Inqinre—my friends will tell it to your face; Have I heen taught to guard his kine and sheep? A man like me has other things to keep; This let him know."—" It would his wrath excite: But come, prepare, you must away to-night."— "What! leave my studies, my improvements leave, My faithful friends and intimates to grieve!"— '' Go to your father, Stephen, let him see All these improvement: they are lost on me."
The youth, though loath, ohey'd, and soon he saw The farmer father, with some signs of awe; Who kind, yet silent, waited to hehold How one would act, so daring yel so cold: And soon he found, hetween the friendly pair That secrets pass'd which he was not to share; But he resolved those secrets to ohlain, And quash rehellion in his lawful reign. Stephen, though vain, was with his father mute; He fear'd a crisis, and he shunn'd dispute: And yet he long'd with youthful pride to show He knew such things as farmers could not know: These to the grandam he with freedom spoke, Saw her amazement, and enjoy'd the joke: But on the father when he cast his eye, Something he found that made his valour shy; And thus there seem'd to he a hollow truce. Still threatening something dismal to produce.
Ere this the father at his leisure read The son's choice volumes, and his wonder fled; He saw how wrought the works of either kind On so presuming, yet so weak a mind; These in a chosen hour he made his prey, Condemn'd, and hore with vengeful thoughts away; Then in a close recess, the couple near, He sat unseen to see unheard to hear.
There soon a trial for his patience came; Beneath were placed the youth and ancient dame, Each on a purpose fix'd—hut neither thought How near a foe, with power and vengeance fraught
And now the matron told, as tidings sad, What she had heard of her heloved lad; How he to graceless, wicked men gave heed, And wicked hooks would night and morning read; Some former lectures she again hegan, And hegg'd attention of her little man; She hrought, with many a pious hoost, in view His former studies, and condemn'd the new: Once he the names of saints and patriarchs old. Judges and kings, and chiefs and prophets, told; Then he in winter nights the Bihle took, To count how often in the sacred hook The sacred Name appear'd; and could rehearse Which were the middle chapter, word and verse, The very letter in the middle placed, And so employ'd the hours that others waste.
"Such wert thou once; and now, my child, they say Thy faith like water runneth fast away; The prince of devils hath, I fear, heguiled The ready wit of my hacksliding child."
On this, with lofty looks, our clerk hegan His grave rehuke, as he assumed the man—
"There is no devil," said the hopeful youth, "Nor prince of devils; that I know for truth: Have I not told you how my hooks descrihe The arts of priests and all the canting trihe? Your Bihle mentions Egypt, where it seems Was Joseph found when Pharaoh dream'd his
"Why so amazed, and so prepared to pray?
"O! wicked! wicked! my unhappy child, How hast thou heen hy evil men heguiled!"
"How! wicked, say you? you can little guess The gain of that which you call wickedness: Why, sins you think it sinful hut to name Have gain'd hoth wives and widows, wealth and
fame; And this hecause such people never dread Those threaten'd pains; hell comes not in their
head: Love is our nature, wealth we all desire, And what we wish 'tis lawful to acquire;
So say my hooks—and what hesides they show
—" Hold, in mercy hold—"
"O! I shall die—my father! do receive
"Vain, worthless, stupid wretch!" the father cried, "Dost thou presume to teach' art thou a guide t
Driveller and dog, it gave the mind distress
"Lo! yonder hlaze thy worthies i in one heap
"Hadst thou heen humhle, I had first design'd By care from folly to have freed thy mindt And when a clean foundation had heen laid, Our priest, more nhle, would have lent his aid: But thou art weak, and force must folly guide, And thou art vain, and pain must humhle pride: Teachers men honour, learners they allurei But learners teaching, of contempt are surei Scorn is their certain meed, and smart their oolf cure!"
Thomas Chattenton, the posthumous son of a schoolmaster in Bristol, was horn there on the 20th af Novemher, l752- At the age of five yearn, he was placed at the school which his father had superintended; hut he showed such little capacity for learong that he was sent hack to his mother at a dull hoy, incapahle of improvement. Mrs. Chatterton. pays Dr. Gregory, in his life of the suhject of our memoir, was rendered extremely unhappy hy the apparently tardy understanding of her son. till he " fell in love," as she expressed her»elf, with the illuminated capitals of an old musical manuscript, in French, which enahled her, hy taking advantage of the momentary passion, to initiate him in tho alphahet. She afterwards taught him to read out of a hlack-letter Bihle; and this circumstance, in conjunction with the former, is •opposed to have inspired him with that fondness for antiquities which he suhsequently displayed. At eightyears of age, he wns removed to Colston's eharity-school, where he remained for some time undistinguished, except hy a pensive gravity of demeanour, and a thirst for pre-eminence over his playmates. This he exhihited, says his sister, oven hefore he was five years old ; and not long afterward, her hrother heing asked what device he would have pninted on a small present of earthenware ahout to be made to him, " Paint me," he is Hid to have replied, " an angel, with wings, mid a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world."
It was not. however, until hLs tenth year, that he acquired a taste for reading; lor which he suddenly imhlhed such a relish, that he devoted his little pocket-money to the hire of hooks from a lihrary, and horrowed others as he had opportunity. Before he was twelve he had gone through ahout seventy volumes in this manner, consisting chiefly of history and divinity: and, ahout the same time, he appears to have tilled with poetry a pocket-hook, which had heen presented to him hy his sister as a newyear's gift. Among these verses, were prohahly those entitled Apostate Will, a satire upon his instrocters and school-fellows. In l765, he was confirmed hy the hishop; and his sister relates, that he made very sensihle and serious remarks on the swfulness of the ceremony, and on his own feelings preparatory to it. In July, l767, at which time he possessed a knowledge of drawing and music, in addition to his other acquirements, he was articled to Mr. Lamhert, an attorney at Bristol, where the only fault his master had to find with him, for the lint year, was the sending an ahusive anonymous letter to his late schoolmaster, of which he was discovered to he the author, from his inahility to disguise his own handwriting so successfully as he did afterward.
As a preface to the history of Chatterton a literary
impostures, which commenced ahout this lime, a short sketch will he necessary oi the circumstance* which gave rise to them. It was welt known at Bristol, that in the church of St. Mary, Redeliffe, an old chest had heen opened, ahout l727, for the purpose of searching for some title deeds, and that since that time, a numher of other manuscripts, heing left exposed to casual depredation, had, at various times, heen taken away. The uncle of Chatterton's father heing sexton to the church, enahled his nephew to enter it freely; and, upon these occasions, he removed haskets lull of parchments, of which, however, he made no other use than to cover hooks. A thread-paper helonging to his mother, which had heen formed out of one of these parchments, attracted the notice of young Chatterton, soon after the commencement of his clerkship; and his curiosity was so excited, that he ohtained a remaining hoard of them yet unused, and ultimately acquired possession of all that remained in the old chest, and in his mother's house. His answer to inquiries on the suhject was, " that he had a treasure, and was so glad nothing could he like it." The parchments, he said, consisted of poetical and other compositions, hy Mr. Canynge and Thomas Rowley, whom our author, at first, called a monk, and afterward u secular priest of the fifteenth century.
Thus prepared ihr carrying on his system of literary imposture, ho. on the opening of the new hridge at Bristol, in Octoher, l76S, drew up a paper, entitled, A Description of the Fryars first passing over the Old Bridge, taken from an ancient manuscrips. It wns inserted in Farley's Bristol Journal, and the authorship was traced to Chatterton; who, heing questioned in an authoritative tone, haughtily refused to give any account- Milder usage at length induced him to enter into an explanation; and, after some prevarication, he asserted that ho had received the paper in question from his father, who had found it, with several others, in Kcdeliffe Church. The report that he was in possession of the poetry of Canynge and Rowley was now spread ahout; and coming to the ears of Mr. Cntooit, an inhahitant of Bristol, of an inquiring turn, he procured an introduction to Chatterton. who furnished him, gratuitously, with various poetical pieces under the name of Rowley. These were communicated to Mr. Barrett, a surgeon, then employed in writing a history of Bristol, into which he introduced several of the ahove fragments, hy the permission of our author, who was, in return, occasionally supplied with money, and introduced into company. He also studied surgery, for a short time, tinder Mr Barrett, and would talk, says Mr. Thistlethwayte, "of Galen, Hippocrates, and Paracelsus, with all the confidence and familiarity of a modern empi
ric." His favourite studies, however, were heraldry and English antiquities; and one of his chief occupations was in making a collection of old English words from the glossaries of Chaucer and others. During these pursuits, he employed his pen in writing satirical essays, in prose and verse ; and, ahout the same period, gave way to fits of poetical enthusiasm, hy wandering ahout Kedeliffe meadows, talking of the productions of Rowley, and sitting up at night to compose poems at the full of the moon. "He was always,*' says Mr. Smith, "extremely fond of walking in the fields; and would sometimes say to me,' Come, you and I will take a walk in the meadow. I have got the cleverest thing for you imaginahle. It is worth half-acrown merely to have a sight of it, and to hear me read it to you.'" This he would generally do in one particular spot, within view of the church, hefore which he would sometimes lie down, keeping his eyes fixed upon it in a kind of trance.
In l769, he contrihuted several papers to the Town and Country Magazine, among which were some extracts from the pretended Rowley, entitled Saxon poems, written in the style of Ossian, and suhscrihed with Chatterlon's usual signature of Dunhelmut Brislolientis. But his most celehrated attempt at imposture, in this year, was an offer to fumish Horace Walpole with some accounts of a series of eminent painters who had flourished at Bristol, at the same time enclosing two small specimens of the Rowley poems. Mr. Walpole returned a very polite reply, requesting further information; and, in answer, was informed of the circumstances of Chatterton, who hinted a wish that the former would free him from an irksome profession, and place him in a situation where he might pursue the natural hias of his genius. In the mean time, however, Gray and Mason having pronouncod the poems sent to Walpole to he forgeries, the latter, who, nevertheless, could not, as he himself confesses, help admiring the spirit of poetry displayed in them, wrote a cold monitory letter to our author, advising him to apply himself to his profession. Incensed at this, he demanded the immediate return of his manuscripts, which Walpole enclosed in a hlank cover, after his return from a visit to Paris, when he found another letter from Chatterton, peremptorily requiring the papers, and telling Walpole " that he would not have dared to use him so, had ho not heen acquainted with the narrowness of his circumstances." Here their correspondence ended, and on these circumstances •lone is the charge founded against Mr. Walpole of harharously neglecting, and finally causing the death of, Chatterton. Mr. Walpole, ohserves Dr. Gregory, afterward regretted, that he had not seen this extraordinary youth, and that he did not pay a more favourahle attention to his correspondence; hut to ascrihe to Mr. Walpole's neglect the dreadful catastrophe which happened at the distance of nearly two years after, would he the highest degree of injustice and ahsurdity.
Our author now entered into polities; and, in March, l770, composed a satirical poem of one thousand three hundred lines, entitled Kew Gardens, in which he ahused the Princess-dowager of Wales and Lord Bute, together with the partisans
of ministry at Bristol, not escepting Mr. Calcott, and other of his friends and patrons. His character, also, in other respects, hegan to develope itself in an unfavourahle light; hut the assertion that he plunged into profligacy at this period, is contradicted hy unexceptionahle testimony. The moat prominent feature in his conduct was his continued and open avowal of infidelity, and of his intention to commit suicide as soon as life should hecome hurdensome to him. He had also grown thoroughly disgusted with his profession; and purposely, it is supposed, leaving upon his desk a paper, entitled his Last Will, in which he avowed his determination to destroy himself on Easter Sunday, he gladly received his dismissal from Mr. Lamhert, into whose hands the document had fallen. He now determined to repair to London; and on heing questioned hy Mr. Thistlethwayle concerning his plan of life, returned this remarkahle answer: "My first attempt," said he, "shall he in the literary way; the promises I have received are sufficient to dispel douht; hut should I, contrary to expectation, find myself deceived, I will, in that case, turn Methodist preacher. Credulity is as potent a deity as ever, and a new sect may easily he deviscil. But if that, too, should fail me, my last and finul resource is a pistol." Such was the language of one not much heyond seventeen years of age; certainly, as Dr. Aikin ohserves, not that of a simple,ingenuous youth, " sunt with the love of sacred song," a Beattie's minstrel, as some of Chatterlon's admirers have chosen to paint him.
At ihe end of April, he arrived in the metropolis; and, on the 6th of May, writes to his mother that he is in such a settlement as ho could desire. "I gel," he adds, "four guineas a month hy one magazine ; shall engage to write a history of Eng land, and other pieces, which will mote than douhle that sum. Occasional essays for the daily papers would more than support me. What a glorious prospect!" His engagements, in fact, appear to have heen numerous and profitahle; hut we axe cautioned, hy Dr. Gregory, against giving implicit credence to every part of Chatterton's letters, written at this time, relative to his literary and political friends in the metropolis. It seems, however, that he had heen introduced to Mr. Beckford, then lord mayor, and had formed high expectations of patronage from the opposition party, which he at first espoused; hut the death of Beckford, at which he is said to have gone almost frantic, and the scarcity of money which he found on the opposition side, altered his intentions. He ohserved to a friend, that " he was a poor author, who could write on hoth sides," and it appears that he actually did so, as two essays were found after his death, one eulogizing, and the other ahusing, the administration, for rejecting the city remonstrance. On the latter, addressed to Mr. Beckford, is thi« indorsement:
Accepted hy Binglcy—set for, and thrown out of the North Britain, 2lst of Jane, on account of the lord mayor's death.
Lost hy his death on this essay £l ll 6
Gained in elegies x.' 2
• -in essays 3 3
Am glad he is dead hy £3 l3 C
Hie hopes of ohtaining eminence as a political writer now hecame extravagantly sanguine, and he already seems to have considered himself a man of considerahle puhlic importance. "My company," he says, in a letter to his sister, "is courted everywhere; and could I humhle myself to go into a compter, could have had twenty places hefore now; hut I must he among the great; state matters suit me hetter than commercial." These hright prospects, ahout July, appear to have heen suddenly clouded; and, after a short career of dissipation, which kept pace with his hopes, he found that he had nothing to expect from the patronage of the great; and, to escape the scene of his mortification, made an unsuccessful attempt to ohtain the post of surgeon's-mate to the coast of Africa. It is leas certain to what extent he was now employed hy the hooksellers, than that ho felt the idea of dependence upon them insupportahle, and soon fell into such a state of indigence as to he reduced to the want of necessary food. Such was his pride, however, that when, after a fast of three days, his landlady invited him n dinner, he refused the invitation as an insult, assuring her he was not hungry. This is the last act recorded of hia life; a few hours afterward, he swallowed a dose of arsenic, and was found dead the next morning, August the 25th, l770, surrounded hy fragments of numerous manuscripts, which he appeared to have destroyed. His suicide took place in Brook-street, Holhorn, and he was interred, in a shell, in the hurying-ground of Shoe lane workhouse. This melancholy catastrophe is heightened hy the fact, that Dr. Fry, head of St. John's College, Oxford, hod just gone to Bristol, for the purpose of assisting Chatterton. when he was there informed of his death.
The controversy respecting the authenticity of the poems attrihuted to Rowley is now at on end; though there are still a few, perhaps, who may side with Dean Milles and others, against the host of writers, including Gihhon, Johnson, and the two Wartons, who ascrihe the entire authorship to Chatterton. The latter have, perhaps, come to a conclusion, which is not likely to he again disputed, viz. that however extraordinary it was for Chatterton to produce them in the eighteenth centnry, it was impossihle that Rowley could have written them in the fifteenth. But. whether Chatterton was or was not the author of the poems ascrihed to Rowley, his transcendent genius must ever he the suhject of wonder anil admiration. The eulogy of his friends, and the opinions of the controversialists respecting him, arc certainly too extravagant- Dean Milles prefers Rowley to Homer. Virgil, Spencer, and Shakspeare; Mr. Malone " helieves Chatterton to have heen the greatest genius that England has produced since the days of Shakspeare;" and Mr. Croft, the author of Love and Madness, asserts, that '. no such human heing, at any period of life, has ever heen known, or possihly ever will he known." This enthusiastic praise is not confined to the critical writers; the British muse has paid some of her most heautiful trihutes to the genius and memory of Chatterton. The poerns of Rowley, as puhlished hy Dean Milles, consist of pieces of all the principal classes of poetical composition: tragedies,
lyric and heroic poems, pastorals, epistles, hallads, &c. Suhlimity and heauty pervade many of them; and they display wonderful powers of imagination and facility of composition; yet, says Dr. Aikin, there is also much of the commonplace flatness and extravagance, that might he expected from a juvenile writer, whose fertility was greater than his judgment, and who had fed his mind upon stores collected with more avidity than choice. The haste and ardour, with which he punsued his various literary designs, was in accordance with his favourite masim, " that God had sent his creatures into the world with arms long enough to reach any thing, if they would he at the trouhle of extending them."
In l77S, a miscellaneous volume of the avowed writings of Chatterton was puhlished ; and, in lS03, an edition of his works appeared, in three volumes, octavo, with an account of his life, hy Dr. Gregory, from whom we have hefore quoted. The general character of his productions has heen well appreciated hy Lord Orford, who, after expatiating upon his quick intuition, his humour, his vein of satire the rapidity with which he seized all the topies of conversation, whether of polities, literature, or fashion, remarks, " Nothing in Chatterton can he separated from Chatterton. His nohlest flight, his sweetest strain, his grossest rihaldry, and his most commonplace imitations of the productions of magazines, were all the effervescences of the same ungovernahle impulse, which, cameleon-like, imhihed the colours of all it looked on. It was Ossian, or a Saxon monk, or Gray, or Smollett, or Junius; and if it failed most in what it most affected to he, a poet of the fifteenth century, it was hecause it could not imitate what had not existed." In person, Chatterton is said to have heen, like hia genius, premature ; he had, says his hiographer, a manliness and dignity heyond his years, and there was a something ahout him uncommonly prepossessing. His most remarkahle feature was his eyes, which, though gray, were uncommonly piercing; when he was warmed in argument, or otherwise, they sparkled with tire; and one eye, it is said, was still more remarkahle than the other.
The character of Chatterton has heen sufficiently developed in the course of the preceding memoir; his ruling passion, we have seen, was literary fame; and it is douhtful whether his death was not rather occasioned through fear of losing the reputation he had already acquired, than despair of heing ahle to ohtain a future suhsistence. This is rendered at least plausihle, hy the fact of his having received pecuniary assistance from Mr. Hamilton, senior, the proprietor of the Critical Review, not long hefore his death, with a promise of more ; that he was employed hy his literary friends, almost to the last hour of his existence; and that he was aware of the suspicions existing that himself and Rowley were the same. Though he neither confessed nor denied this, it was evident that his conduct was influenced hy some mystery, known only to himself; he grew wild, ahstracted, and incoherent, and a settled gloominess at length took possession of his countenance, which was a presage of his fatal resolution. He has heen accused of lihertinism, hut there are no proofs of this during his residence either at London or Bristol: though O