« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Virtue, perhaps, had conquer'd, or his shame
Alas!" he sigh'd, "I never can contrive,
Now to a play the friendly couple went,
"Come, you shall purchase books," the friend
There is no dealing with a lack of brains."
But not till first he paper'd all the row,
The love of order,-I the thing receive
By order sovereigns hold more steady reign:
For rustic youth could I a list produce
Of Stephen's books, how great might be the use;
"You are bewilder'd, and you want a guide;
This soon appear'd-within a single week
The cooler clerks exclaim'd, " In vain your art
Nay, when at length he strikes with manly force,
But what, my friend, can flow from all these The daring act, though daunted and afraid;
In the cold miser, of all change afraid,
"You need not lay the good old book aside;
And Stephen read undaunted, undismay'd:
Succeeding now, though partial his success,
"True I am hopeless to behold him man, But let me make the booby what I can: Though the rude stone no polish will display, Yet you may strip the rugged coat away."
Stephen beheld his books-"I love to know How money goes-now here is that to show: And now," he cried, "I shall be pleased to get Beyond the Bible-there I puzzle yet."
Two years had pass'd; the youth attended sul!
He spoke abash'd-" Nay, nay!" the friend (Though thus accomplish'd) with a ready quill;
He sat th' allotted hours, though hard the case,
He kept their virtuous precepts in his mind,
My most obedient-this can I allow?
Can I with pleasure or with patience see
But soon the kinsman heavy tidings told,
Stephen with grief and anger heard his doom"Go to the farmer? to the rustic's home?
There soon a trial for his patience came;
She brought, with many a pious boast, in view
He fear'd a crisis, and he shunn'd dispute;
Ere this the father at his leisure read
The sacred Name appear'd; and could rehearse
And so employ'd the hours that others waste.
Such wert thou once; and now, my child,
Thy faith like water runneth fast away;
On this, with lofty looks, our clerk began
Curse the base threat'ning-" "Nay, child, never His grave rebuke, 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 books describe The arts of priests and all the canting tribe? Your Bible mentions Egypt, where it seems Was Joseph found when Pharaoh dream'd his dreams :
Corrupted long, your case is growing worse."-
Stephen, though vain, was with his father To feel disturb'd, and to my Bible ran;
I now am wiser-yet agree in this,
Now in that place, in some bewilder'd head
They came to frighten and afflict mankind,
"Why so amazed, and so prepared to pray?
The book has things that are not much amiss;
I hate to hear it treated as a jest:
The book has wisdom in it, if you look
"O! wicked! wicked! my unhappy child, How hast thou been by evil men beguiled!"
"How! wicked, say you? you can little guess The gain of that which you call wickedness: Why, sins you think it sinful but to name Have gain'd both wives and widows, wealth and fame;
And this because such people never dread
Love is our nature, wealth we all desire,
So say my books-and what besides they show
-4 Hold, in hold-" mercy Father, O! father! throw the whip away; I was but jesting, on my knees I prayThere, hold his arm-O! leave us not alone: In pity cease, and I will yet atone
For all my sin-" In vain; stroke after stroke,
Driveller and dog, it gave the mind distress
"O! I shall die-my father! do receive My dying words; indeed I do believe; The books are lying books, I know it well, There is a devil, O! there is a hell; And I'm a sinner: spare me, I am young, My sinful words were only on my tongue; My heart consented not; 'tis all a lie : O! spare me then, I'm not prepared to die." Vain, worthless, stupid wretch!" the father cried,
"Dost thou presume to teach? art thou a guide ?
The wicked cause a helping hand to lend?
"Lo! yonder blaze thy worthies; in one heap Thy scoundrel favourites must for ever sleep: Each yields his poison to the flame in turn, Where whores and infidels are doom'd to burn; Two noble fagots made the flame you see, Reserving only two fair twigs for thee; That in thy view the instruments may stand, And be in future ready for my hand : The just mementos that, though silent, show
are done when doctors know the Whence thy correction and improvements flow;
Beholding these, thou wilt confess their power,
Hadst thou been humble, I had first design'd By care from folly to have freed thy mind; And when a clean foundation had been laid, Our priest, more able, would have lent his aid: But thou art weak, and force must folly guide, And thou art vain, and pain must humble pride: Teachers men honour, learners they allure; But learners teaching, of contempt are sure; Scorn is their certain meed, and smart their only cure!"
THOMAS CHATTERTON, the posthumous son of a schoolmaster in Bristol, was born there on the 20th of November, 1752. At the age of five years, he was placed at the school which his father had superintended; but he showed such little capacity for learning, that he was sent back to his mother as a dull boy, incapable of improvement. Mrs. Chatterton, says Dr. Gregory, in his life of the subject of our memoir, was rendered extremely unhappy by the apparently tardy understanding of her son, till he "fell in love," as she expressed herself, with the illuminated capitals of an old musical manuscript, in French, which enabled her, by taking advantage of the momentary passion, to initiate him in the alphabet. She afterwards taught him to read out of a black-letter Bible; and this circumstance, in conjunction with the former, is supposed to have inspired him with that fondness for antiquities which he subsequently displayed. At eight years of age, he was removed to Colston's charity-school, where he remained for some time undistinguished, except by a pensive gravity of demeanour, and a thirst for pre-eminence over his playmates. This he exhibited, says his sister, even before he was five years old; and not long afterward, her brother being asked what device he would have painted on a small present of earthenware about to be made to him, " Paint me," he is said to have replied, “an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world."
It was not, however, until his tenth year, that he acquired a taste for reading; for which he suddenly imbibed such a relish, that he devoted his little pocket-money to the hire of books from a library, and borrowed others as he had opportunity. Before he was twelve he had gone through about seventy volumes in this manner, consisting chiefly of history and divinity; and, about the same time, he appears to have filled with poetry a pocket-book, which had been presented to him by his sister as a new year's gift. Among these verses, were probably those entitled Apostate Will, a satire upon his instructers and school-fellows. In 1765, he was confirmed by the bishop; and his sister relates, that he made very sensible and serious remarks on the awfulness of the ceremony, and on his own feelings preparatory to it. In July, 1767, at which time he possessed a knowledge of drawing and music, in addition to his other acquirements, he was articled to Mr. Lambert, an attorney at Bristol, where the only fault his master had to find with him, for the first year, was the sending an abusive anonymous letter to his late schoolmaster, of which he was discovered to be the author, from his inability to disguise his own handwriting so successfully as he did afterward.
As a preface to the history of Chatterton's literary
impostures, which commenced about this time, a short sketch will be necessary of the circumstances which gave rise to them. It was well known at Bristol, that in the church of St. Mary, Redcliffe, an old chest had been opened, about 1727, for the purpose of searching for some title deeds, and that since that time, a number of other manuscripts, being left exposed to casual depredation, had, at various times, been taken away. The uncle of Chatterton's father being sexton to the church, enabled his nephew to enter it freely; and, upon these occasions, he removed baskets full of parchments, of which, however, he made no other use than to cover books. A thread-paper belonging to his mother, which had been 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 obtained 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 subject was, " that he had a treasure, and was so glad nothing could be like it." The parchments, he said, consisted of poetical and other compositions, by Mr. Canynge and Thomas Rowley, whom our author, at first, called a monk, and afterward a secular priest of the fifteenth century.
Thus prepared for carrying on his system of literary imposture, he, on the opening of the new bridge at Bristol, in October, 1768, drew up a paper, entitled, A Description of the Fryars first passing over the Old Bridge, taken from an ancient manuscript. It was inserted in Farley's Bristol Journal, and the authorship was traced to Chatterton; who, being 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 he had received the paper in question from his father, who had found it, with several others, in Redcliffe Church. The report that he was in possession of the poetry of Canynge and Rowley was now spread about; and coming to the ears of Mr. Catcott, an inhabitant 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 above fragments, by the permission of our author, who was, in return, occasionally sup plied with money, and introduced into company. He also studied surgery, for a short time, under Mr Barrett, and would talk, says Mr. Thistlethwayte, "of Galen, Hippocrates, and Paracelsus, with all the confidence and familiarity of a modern empi
of ministry at Bristol, not excepting Mr. Catcott, and other of his friends and patrons. His character, also, in other respects, began to develope itself in an unfavourable light; but the assertion that he plunged into profligacy at this period, is contradicted by unexceptionable testimony. The most 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 become
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, about the same period, gave way to fits of poetical enthusiasm, by wandering about Redcliffe meadows, talking of the productions of Rowley, and 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 got the clever- tion to destroy himself on Easter Sunday, he gladly est thing for you imaginable. It 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 determined 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 way; the promises I have received are sufficient to dispel doubt; but 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 be devised. But if that, too, should fail me, my last and final resource is a pistol." Such was the language of one not much beyond seventeen years of age; certainly, as Dr. Aikin observes, not that of a simple, ingenuous youth, "smit with the love of sacred song," a Beattie's minstrel, as some of Chatterton's admirers have chosen to paint him.
At the 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 he could desire.
In 1769, he contributed 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 subscribed with Chatterton's usual signature of Dunhelmus Bristoliensis. But his most celebrated attempt at imposture, in this year, was an offer to furnish 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 bias of his genius. In the mean time, however, Gray and Mason having pronounced the poems sent to Walpole to be 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 blank 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 he not been acquainted with the narrowness of his circumstances." Here their correspondence ended, and on these circumstances alone is the charge founded against Mr. Walpole of barbarously neglecting, and finally causing the death of, Chatterton. Mr. Walpole, observes Dr. Gregory, afterward regretted that he had not seen this extraordinary youth, and that he did not pay a more favourable attention to his correspondence; but to ascribe to Mr. Walpole's neglect the dreadful catastrophe which happened at the distance of nearly two years after, would be the highest degree of injustice and absurdity.
Our author now entered into politics; and, in March, 1770, composed a satirical poem of one thousand three hundred lines, entitled Kew Gardens, in which he abused the Princess-dowager of Wales and Lord Bute, together with the partisans
I get," he adds, "four guineas a month by one magazine; shall engage to write a history of England, and other pieces, which will more than double that sum. Occasional essays for the daily papers would more than support me. What a glorious prospect!" His engagements, in fact, appear to have been numerous and profitable; but we are cautioned, by 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 been introduced to Mr. Beckford, then lord mayor, and had formed high expectations of patronage from the opposition party, which he at first espoused; but 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 observed to a friend, that " he was a poor author, who could write on both sides;" and it appears that he actually did so, as two essays were found after his death, one eulogizing, and the other abusing, the administration, for rejecting the city remonstrance. On the latter, addressed to Mr. Beckford, is this indorsement: