Page images

Virtue, perhaps, had conquer'd, or his shame But not till first he paper'd all the row,
At least preserved him simple as he came. And placed in order, to enjoy the show;
A year elapsed before this clerk began

Next letter'd all the backs with care and speed, To treat the rustic something like a man;

Set them in ranks, and then began to read. He then in trifling points the youth advised, The love of order, -I the thing receive Talk'd of his coat, and had it modernized ; From reverend men, and I in part believe,Or with the lad a Sunday walk would take, Shows a clear mind and clean, and whoso needs And kindly strive his passions to awake;

This love, but seldom in the world succeeds ; Meanwhile explaining all they heard and saw, And yet with this some other love must be, Till Stephen stood in wonderment and awe: Ere I can fully to the fact agree : To a neat garden near the town they stray'd, Valour and study may by order gain, Where the lad felt delighted and afraid ;

By order sovereigns hold more steady reign: 'There all he saw was smart, and fine, and fair. - Through all the tribes of nature order runs, He could but marvel how he ventured there : And rules around in systems and in suns : Soon he observed, with terror and alarm,

Suill has the love of order found a place, His friend enlock'd within a lady's arın,

With all that's low, degrading, mean, and base, And freely talking—“But it is," said he,

With all that merits scorn, and all that meels dis“A near relation, and that makes him free;"

grace : And much amazed was Stephen, when he knew In the cold miser, of all change afraid, This was the first and only interview:

In pompous men in public seats obey'd ; Nay, had that lovely arm by him been seized, in humble placemen, heralds, solemn drones, The lovely owner had been highly pleased : Fanciers of flowers, and lads like Stephen Jones; “ Alas!" he sigh'd, “I never can contrive, Order to these is armour and defence, At such bold, blessed freedoms to arrive ;

And love of method serves in lack of sense. Never shall I such happy courage boast,

For rustic youth could I a list produce I dare as soon encounter with a ghost."

Of Stephen's books, how great might be the use; Now to a play the friendly couple went, But evil fate was theirs-survey'd, enjoy'd But the boy murmur'd at the money spent ; Some happy months, and then by force destroy'd : “ He loved," he said, “ to buy, but not to spend - So willid the fates—but these, with patience read, They only talk a while, and there's an end.” Had vast effect on Stephen's heart and head. Come, you shall purchase books," the friend This soon appeard-within a single week replied ;

He oped his lips, and made attempt to speak; “ You are bewilder'd, and you want a guide; He fail'd indeed—but still his friend confess'd To me refer the choice, and you shall find The best have fail'd, and he had done his best : The light break in upon your stagnant mind !" The first of swimmers, when at first he swims,

The cooler clerks exclaim’d," In vain your art Has little use or freedom in his limbs ; T'improve a cub without a head or heart; Nay, when at length he strikes with manly force, Rustics though coarse, and savages though wild, The cramp may seize him, and impede his course. Our cares may render liberal and mild ;

Encouraged thus, our clerk again essay'd But what, my friend, can flow from all these The daring act, though daunted and afraid ; pains !

Succeeding now, though partial his success, There is no dealing with a lack of brains.” And pertness mark'd his manner and address,

“True I am hopeless to behold him man, Yet such improvement issued from his books, But let me make the booby what I can:

That all discern'd it in his speech and looks; Though the rude stone no polish will display, He ventured then on every theme to speak, Yet you may strip the rugged coat away." And felt no feverish tingling in his cheek ;

Stephen beheld his books--" I love to know Ilis friend approving, hail'd the happy change, How money goes--now here is that to show : The clerks exclaim'd--“ 'Tis famous, and 'tir And now," he cried, “I shall be pleased to get

strange!" Beyond the Bible—there I puzzle yet."

Two years had passid ; the youth attended sul! He spoke abash'd—“Nay, nay!" the friend (Though thus accomplishd) with a ready quill; replied,

He sat th' allotted hours, though hard the case, “ You need not lay the good old book aside ; While timid prudence ruled in virtue's place : Antique and curious, I myself indeed

By promise bound, the son his letters penn'd
Read it at times, but as a man should read; To his good parent, at the quarter's end.
A fine old work it is, and I protest

At first he sent those lines, the state to tell
I hate to hear it treated as a jest ;

Of his own health, and hoped his friends were The book has wisdom in it, if you look

well; Wisely upon it, as another book :

He kept their virtuous precepts in his mind, For superstition (as our priests of sin

And needed nothing—then his name was sign'd: Are pleased to tell us) makes us blind within: But now he wrote of Sunday walks and views, of this hereafter-we will now select

Of actors' names, choice novels, and strange news : Some works to please you, others to direct : How coats were cut, and of his urgent need Tales and romances shall your fancy feed, For fresh supply, which he desired with speed. And reasoners form your morals and your creed.” The father doubted, when these letters came, The books were view'd, the price was fairly To what they tended, yet was loath to blame: paid,

“ Stephen was once my duteous son, and now And Stephen read undaunted, undismay'd: | My most obedient—this can I allow?

Can I with pleasure or with patience see

There soon a trial for his patience came; A boy at once so heartless, and so free?"

Beneath were placed the youth and ancient dame, But soon the kinsman heavy tidings told, Each on a purpose fix’d—but neither thought That love and prudence could no more withhold : How near a foe, with power and vengeance fraught. “Stephen, though steady at his desk, was grown And now the matron told, as tidings sad, A rake and coxcomb—this he grieved to own ; What she had heard of her beloved lad; His cousin left his church, and spent the day How he to graceless, wicked men gave heed, Lounging about in quite a heathen way;

And wicked books would night and morning read ; Sometimes he swore, but had indeed the grace Some former lectures she again began, To show the shame imprinted on his face : And begg'd attention of her litile man; I search'd his room, and in his absence read She brought, with many a pious boast, in view Books that I knew would turn a stronger head; His former studies, and condemn'd the new : The works of atheists half the number made, Once he the names of saints and patriarchs old, The rest were lives of harlois leaving trade ; Judges and kings, and chiefs and prophets, told ; Which neither man or boy would deign to read, Then he in winter nights the Bible took, If from the scandal and pollution freed :

To count how often in the sacred book I sometimes threaten'd, and would fairly state The sacred Name appear’d ; and could rehearse My sense of things so vile and profligate ;

Which were the middle chapter, word and verse, But I'm a cit, such works are lost on me, The very letter in the middle placed, They're knowledge, and (good Lord!) philosophy.” And so employ'd the hours that others waste.

** 0, send him down," the father soon replied ; “ Such wert thou once; and now, my child, “Let me behold him, and my skill be tried :

they say If care and kindness lose their wonted use, Thy faith like water runneth fast away ; Some rougher medicine will the end produce." The prince of devils hath, I fear, beguiled

Stephen with grief and anger heard his doom- The ready wit of my backsliding child." * Go to the farmer? to the rustic's home?

On this, with lofty looks, our clerk began Curse the base threat’ning—"" Nay, child, never His grave rebuke, as he assumed the man, curse ;

“ There is no devil,” said the hopeful youth, Corrupted long, your case is growing worse." · Nor prince of devils ; that I know for truth : * !!" quoth the youth, “ I challenge all mankind Have I not told you how my books describe To find a fault; what fault have you to find ? The aris of priests and all the canting tribe? Improve I not in manner, speech, and grace ? Your Bible mentions Egypt, where it seems Inquire-my friends will tell it to your face ; Was Joseph found when Pharaoh dream'd his Have I been taught to guard his kine and sheep? dreams : A man like me has other things to keep;

Now in that place, in some bewilder'd head This let him know.”—“It would his wrath excite : (The learned write) religious dreams were bred; But come, prepare, you must away to-night.”— Whence through the earth, with various forms * What! leave my studies, my improvements leave, combined, My faithful friends and intimates to grieve !" They came to frighten and afflict mankind, “Go to your father, Stephen, let him see

Prone (so I read) to let a priest invade All these improvements: they are lost on me.” Their souls with awe, and by his craft be made

The youth, though loath, obey'd, and soon he saw Slave to his will, and profit to his trade: The farmer father, with some signs of awe; So say my books, and how the rogues agreed Who kind, yet silent, waited to behold

To blind the victims, to defraud and lead ; Flow one would act, so daring yet so cold : When joys above to ready dupes were sold, And soon he found, between the friendly pair And hell was threaten'd to the shy and cold. That secrets pass'd which he was not to share ; “Why so amazed, and so prepared to pray? But he resolved those secrets to obtain,

As if a Being heard a word we say: And quash rebellion in his lawful reign. This may surprise you ; I myself began Stephen, though vain, was with his father To feel disturb’d, and to my Bible ran; mute ;

I now am wiser-yet agree in this, fle feard a crisis, and he shunnid dispute ; The book has things that are not much amiss; And yet he long’d with youthful pride to show It is a fine old work, and I protest He knew such things as farmers could not know : I hate to hear it treated as a jest: These to the grandam he with freedom spoke, The book has wisdom in it, if you look Saw her amazement, and enjoy'd the joke : Wisely upon it as another book.”But on the father when he cast his eye,

“O! wicked! wicked ! my unhappy child, Something he found that made his valour shy; How hast thou been by evil men beguiled!" And thus there seem'd to be a hollow truce, “How! wicked, say you ? you can little

guess Sull threatening something dismal to produce. The gain of that which you call wickedness : Ere this the father at his leisure read

Why, sins you think it sinful but to name The son's choice volumes, and his wonder fled ; Have gain d both wives and widows, wealth and He saw how wrought the works of either kind

fame ; On so presuming, yet so weak a mind;

And this because such people never dread These in a chosen hour he made his prey, Those threaten'd pains; hell comes not in their Condemn'd, and bore with vengeful thoughts away; head: Then in a close recess, the couple near,

Love is our nature, wealth we all desire, He sat unseen to see, unheard to hear.

And what we wish 'tis lawful to acquire ;

So say my books—and what besides they show Driveller and dog, it gave the mind distress 'Tis time to let this honest farmer know.

To hear thy thoughts in their religious dress; Nay, look not grave; am I commanded down Thy pious folly moved my strong disdain, To feed his cattle and become his clown?

Yet I forgave thee for thy want of brain: Is such his purpose ? then he shall be told But Job in patience must the man exceed The vulgar insult,"

Who could endure thee in thy present creed ; * Hold, in mercy hold—” Is it for thee, thou idiot, to pretend Father, O! father! throw the whip away ; The wicked cause a helping hand to lend ? I was but jesting, on my knees I pray

Canst thou a judge in any question be? There, hold his arm-0! leave us not alone : Atheists themselves would scorn a friend like In pity cease, and I will yet atone

thee.For all my sin—” In vain ; stroke after stroke, “ Lo! yonder blaze thy worthies; in one heap On side and shoulder, quick as mill-wheels broke ; Thy scoundrel favourites must for ever sleep: Quick as the patient's pulse, who trembling cried, Each yields his poison to the flame in turn, And still the parent with a stroke replied ;

Where whores and infidels are doom'd to burn ; Till all the medicine he prepared was dealt,

Two noble fagots made the flame you see, And every bone the precious influence felt; Reserving only two fair twigs for thee; Till all the panting flesh was red and raw,

That in thy view the instruments may stand, And every thought was turn'd to fear and awe; And be in future ready for my hand : Till every doubt to due respect gave place The just mementos that, though silent, show Such cures are done when doctors know the Whence thy correction and improvements flow;

Beholding these, thou wilt confess their power, “O! I shall die-my father! do receive

And feel the shame of this important hour. My dying words ; indeed I do believe ;

“Hadst thou been humble, I had first design'd The books are lying books, I know it well, By care from folly to have freed thy mind; There is a devil, O! there is a hell ;

And when a clean foundation had been laid, And I'm a sinner: spare me, I am young,

Our priest, more able, would have lent his aid : My sinful words were only on my tongue;

But thou art weak, and force must folly guide, My heart consented not; 'tis all a lie :

And thou art vain, and pain must humble pride : 0! spare me then, I'm not prepared to die.” Teachers men honour, learners they allure ; “ Vain, worthless, stupid wretch!" the father But learners teaching, of contempt are sure ; cried,

Scorn is their certain meed, and smart their only Dost thou presume to teach ? art thou a guide ?



[ocr errors]


Thomas CHATTERTON, the posthumous son of a impostures, which commenced about this time, a schoolmaster in Bristol, was born there on the 20th short sketch will be necessary of the circumstances of November, 1752. At the age of five years, he which gave rise to them. It was well known at was placed at the school which his father had su. Bristol, that in the church of St. Mary, Redcliffe, perintended ; but he showed such little capacity an old chest had been opened, about 1727, for the for learning, that he was sent back to his mother purpose of searching for some title deeds, and that as a dull boy, incapable of improvement. Mrs. since that time, a number of other manuscripts, Chatterion, says Dr. Gregory, in his life of the sub- being lest exposed to casual depredation, had, at ject of our memoir, was rendered extremely un various times, been taken away. The uncle of happy by the apparently tardy understanding of Chatterton's father being sexton to the church, enher son, till he “ fell in love," as she expressed her abled his nephew to enter it freely; and, upon self, with the illuminated capitals of an old musical these occasions, he removed baskets full of parchmanuscrips, in French, which enabled her, by ments, of which, however, he made no other use taking advantage of the momentary passion, to ini- than to cover books. A thread-paper belonging 10 tiate him in the alphabet. She afterwards taught his mother, which had been formed out of one of him to read out of a black-letter Bible; and this these parchments, attracted the notice of young circumstance, in conjunction with the former, is Chatterton, soon after the commencement of his supposed to have inspired him with that fondness clerkship ; and his curiosity was so excited, that for antiquities which he subsequently displayed. he obtained a remaining hoard of them yet unused, At eight years of age, he was removed to Colston's and ultimately acquired possession of all that recharity-school, where he remained for some time mained in the old chest, and in his mother's house. undistinguished, except by a pensive gravity of His answer to inquiries on the subject was, “ that demeanour, and a thirst for pre-eminence over his he had a treasure, and was so glad nothing could playmates. This he exhibited, says his sister, even be like it.” The parchments, he said, consisted belore he was five years old ; and not long after- of poetical and other compositions, by Mr. Canynge ward, her brother being asked what device he and Thomas Rowley, whom our author, at first, would have painted on a small present of earthen called a monk, and afterward a secular priest of ware about to be made to him, “ Paint me,” he is the fifteenth century. said to have replied, “an angel, with wings, and a Thus prepared for carrying on his system of lite. trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world.” rary imposture, he, on the opening of the new bridge

It was not, however, until his tenth year, that he at Bristol, in October, 1768, drew up a paper, entiacquired a taste for reading; for which he suddenly tled, A Description of the Fryars first passing over imbibed such a relish, that he devoted his little the Old Bridge, laken from an ancient manuscrip!. pocket-money to the hire of books from a library, and It was inserted in Farley's Bristol Journal, and the borrowed others as he had opportunity. Before authorship was traced to Chatterton ; who, being he was twelve he had gone through about seventy questioned in an authoritative tone, haughtily revolumes in this manner, consisting chiefly of history fused to give any account. Milder usage at length and divinity; and, about the same time, he appears induced him to enter into an explanation ; and, to have filled with poetry a pocket-book, which after some prevarication, he asserted that he had had been presented to him by his sister as a new received the paper in question from his father, who year's gitt. Among these verses, were probably had found it, with several others, Redcliffe those entitled A postate Will, a satire upon his in- Church. The report that he was in possession of structers and school-fellows. In 1765, he was con the poetry of Canynge and Rowley was now spread firmed by the bishop; and his sister relates, that about; and coming to the ears of Mr. Catcott, an he made very sensible and serious remarks on the inhabitant of Bristol, of an inquiring turn, he proawfulness of the ceremony, and on his own feelings cured an introduction to Chatterton, who furnished preparatory to it. In July, 1767, at which time he him, gratuitously, with various poetical pieces under poseessed a knowledge of drawing and music, in the name of Rowley. These were communicated addition to his other acquirements, he was articled to Mr. Barrett, a surgeon, then employed in writing to Mr. Lambert, an attorney at Bristol, where the a history of Bristol, into which he introduced seveonly fault his master had to find with him, for the ral of the above fragments, by the permission of first year, was the sending an abusive anonymous our author, who was, in return, occasionally sup. leuer to his late schoolmaster, of which he was plied with money, and introduced into company. discovered to be the author, from his inability to He also studied surgery, for a short time, under Mr disguise his own handwriting so successfully as he Barrett, and would talk, says Mr. Thistlethwayte, did afterward.

“ of Galen, Hippocrates, and Paracelsus, with all As a preface to the history of Chatterton's literary the confidence and familiarity of a modern empi.

ric.” His favourite studies, however, were herald- of ministry at Bristol, not excepting Mr. Caicott, and ry and English antiquities; and one of his chief other of his friends and patrons. His character, occupations was in making a collection of old also, in other respects, began to develope itself in English words from the glossaries of Chaucer and an unfavourable light; but the assertion that he others. During these pursuits, he employed his pen plunged into profligacy at this period, is contrain writing satirical essays, in prose and verse; and, dicted by unexceptionable testimony. The most about the same period, gave way to fits of poetical prominent feature in his conduct was his continued enthusiasm, by wandering about Redcliffe mea- and open avowal of infidelity, and of his intention dows, talking of the productions of Rowley, and to commit suicide as soon as life should become sitting up at night to compose poems at the full burdensome to him. He had also grown thoroughof the moon. He was always," says Mr. Smith, ly disgusted with his profession; and purposely, it “extremely fond of walking in the fields; and is supposed, leaving upon his desk a paper, entitled would sometimes say to me, Come, you and I will his Last Will, in which he avowed his determinatake a walk in the meadow. I have wot the clever. tion to destroy himself on Easter Sunday, he gladly est thing for you imaginable. Il is worth half-a. received his dismissal from Mr. Lambert, into crown merely to have a sight of it, and to hear whose hands the document had fallen. He now me read it to you.'” This he would generally deiermined to repair to London; and on being do in one particular spot, within view of the questioned by Mr. Thistlethwayte concerning his church, before which he would sometimes lie plan of life, returned this remarkable answer: - My down, keeping his eyes fixed upon it in a kind first attempt," said he, “shall be in the literary of trance.

way ; the promises I have received are sufficient In 1769, he contributed several papers to the to dispel doubt; but should I, contrary to expec. Town and Country Magazine, among which were tation, find myself deceived, I will, in that case, some extracts from the pretended Rowley, entitled turn Methodist preacher. Credulity is as potent a Saxon poems, written in the style of Ossian, and deity as ever, and a new sect may easily be desubscribed with Chatterton's usual signature of vised. But if that, too, should fail me, my last and Dunhelmus Bristoliensis. But his most celebrated final resource is a pistol.” Such was the language attempt at imposture, in this year, was an offer 10 of one not much beyond seventeen years of age ; furnish Horace Walpole with some accounts of a certainly, as Dr. Aikin observes, noi that of a simseries of eminent painters who had flourished at ple, ingenuous youth,“ smit with the love of sacred Bristol, at the same time enclosing two small spe. song," a Beattie's minstrel, as some of Chatterton's cimens of the Rowley poems. Mr. Walpole re- admirers have chosen to paint him. turned a very polite reply, requesting further in Al the end of April, he arrived in the metropoformation ; and, in answer, was informed of the lis; and, on the 6th of May, writes to his mother circumstances of Chatterton, who hinted a wish that he is in such a settlement as he could desire. that the former would free him from an irksome I get," he adds, “four guineas a month by one profession, and place him in a situation where he magazine ; shall engage to write a history of Engmight pursue the natural bias of his genius. In the land, and other pieces, which will more than mean time, however, Gray and Mason having pro- double that sum. Occasional essays for the daily nounced the poems sent 10 Walpole to be forgeries, papers would more than support me. What a glothe latier, who, nevertheless, could noi, as he him. rious prospect!" His engagements, in fact, appear self consesses, help admiring the spirit of poetry to have been numerous and profitable; but we are displayed in them, wrote a cold monitory leitor to cautioned, by Dr. Gregory, against giving implicit our author, advising him to apply himself to his credence 10 every part of Chatterton's letters, profession. Incensed at this, he demanded the im- written at this time, relative to his literary and pomediate return of his manuscripts, which Walpole litical friends in the metropolis. It seems, how enclosed in a blank cover, after his return from a ever, that he had been introduced to Mr. Beckford, visit to Paris, when he found another letter from then lord mayor, and had formed high expectations Chatierion, peremptorily requiring the papers, and of patronage from the opposition party, which he telling Walpole" that he would not have dared to at first espoused; but the death of Beckford, at use him so, had he not been acquainied with the which he is said to have gone almost frantic, and narrow ness of his circumstances." Here their the scarcity of money which he found on the opcorrespondence ended, and on these circumstances position side, altered his intentions. Ile observed alone is the charge founded against Mi. Walpole to a friend, that “ he was a poor author, who could of barbarously neglecting, and finally causing the write on both sides ;” and it appears that he acdeath of, Charterion. Mr. Walpole, observes Dr. tually did so, as two essays were found after his Gregory, afterward regretted that he had not seen death, one eulogizing, and the other abusing, the this extraordinary youth, and that he did not pay a administration, for rejecting the city remonstrance. more favourable attention to his correspondence; On the latter, addressed to Mr. Beckford, is this but to ascribe to Mr. Walpole's neglect the dread-indorsement : ful catastrophe which happened at the distance of

Accepted by Bingley-get for, and thrown out of the nearly two years after, would be the highest de

North Britain, 21st of June, on account of the gree of injustice and absurdity.

lord mayur's death. Our author now entered into polities; and, in Lost hy his death on this resay..

ki 11 6 March, 1770, composed a satirical poem of one Gained in clogies.. thousand three hundred lines, entitled Kew Gar

in essays..

..33 dens, in which he ahused the Princess-dowager of Wales and Lord Duie, together with the partisans Am gland he is dead by......

5 50

£3 13 6

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »