« PreviousContinue »
elegant, gratis, besides no inconsi- them printed; but then you seldom derable premium. He is introduced lose by it. Courtiers are so sensible to Beckford, the Lord Mayor, to of their deficiency in merit, that whom he had addressed an Essay, they generally reward all who know and who received him with all the how to daub them with an appearpoliteness a citizen could assume, ance.” But all his visions of emoluand warmly invited him to come ment and greatness were now beagain. He might have a recom- ginning to melt away. He was so mendation to Sir George Colebrook, tired of his literary drudgery, or an East India Director, as qualified found the returns it made him so infor an office no ways despicable; but adequate to his support, that he he shall not take a step to the sea condescended to solicit the appointwhile he can continue on land. If ment of a chirurgeon's mate to money flowed as fast upon him as Africa, and applied to Mr. Barrett honours, he would give his sister a for a recommendation, which was portion of 50001." The kind-hearted refused him, probably on account of boy did indeed find means out of the his incapacity. It is difficult to trace little profits arising from his writings, the particulars of that sudden tranto send her, his mother, and his sition from good to bad fortune which grand-mother, several trifling pre- seems to have befallen him. That sents.
his poverty was extreme cannot be In July he removed to lodgings doubted. at Mrs. Angel's, a sack-maker in The younger Warton was inBrook-steeet, Holborn. He assigned formed by Mr. Cross, an apothecary no reason for quitting those he had in Brook-street, that while Chatteroccupied in Shoreditch; but Sir ton lived in the neighbourhood, he Herbert Croft supposes, not without often called at his shop; but though probability, that it was in order to pressed by Cross to dine or sup be nearer to the places of public en- with him, constantly declined the intertainment, to which his employ- vitation, except one evening, when ment as a writer for ephemeral pub- he was prevailed on to partake of a lications, obliged him to resort. On barrel of oysters, and ate most vorathe 20th of July, he acquaints his ciously. Á barber's wife who lived sister that he is engaged in writing within a few doors of Mrs. Angel's, an Oratorio, which when finished gave testimony, that after his death would purchase her a gown, and Mrs. Angel told her, that “on the that she might depend on seeing him 24th of August, as she knew he had before the first of January, 1791. not eaten anything for two or three “ Almost all the next Town and days, she begged he would take some Country Magazine," he tells her, “is dinner with her ; but he was offendhis.” He boasts that “ he has an ed at her expressions, which seemed universal acquaintance; that his to hint that he was in want, and ascompany is courted every where; sured her he was not hungry.” The and could he humble himself to go stripling whose pride would not let behind a compter, he could have had him go behind a compter, had now twenty places, but that he must be drunk the cup of bitterness to the dregs. among the great: state matters suit On that day he swallowed arsenic in him better than commercial.” Be- water, and on the following expired. sides his communications to the above His room was broken into, and found mentioned miscellany, he was a fre- strewn over with fragments of papers quent contributor of essays and which he had destroyed. He was poems to several of the other literary interred in the burying ground of journals. As a political writer, he Shoe-lane work-house.
Such was bad resolved to employ his pen on the end of one who had given greater both sides. “ Essays," he tells his proofs of poetical genius than persister, “ on the patriotic side, fetch haps had ever been shown in one of no more than what the copy is sold his years. By Johnson he was profor. As the patriots themselves are nounced “the most extraordinary searching for a place, they have no young man that had ever encountergratuities to spare. On the other ed his knowledge;" and Warton in hand, unpopular essays will not be the History of English Poetry, where accepted, and you must pay to have he discusses the authenticity of the
Rowleian poems, gives it as his opi. himself.” One of his companions at nion, that Chatterton “would have the time that he was an apprentice proved the first of English poets if he to Lambert, affirms, that he one day had reached a maturer age.
produced a piece of parchment on “ He was proud,” says his sister, which he wrote several words if not “ and exceedingly imperious;" but lines, in a character that appeared both she and his school-fellow This. to his companion totally unlike Engtlethwaite, vindicated him from the lish, that he then held it over charge of libertinism, which was candle to give it the appearance of brought against him by some who antiquity, which changed the colour thought they could not sufficiently of the ink, and made the parchment blacken his memory. On the con- appear black and contracted. Antrary, his abstemiousness was un- other person declares, that he saw common; he seldom used animal him rub a piece of parchment in sefood or strong liquors, his usual diet veral places in streaks with yellow being a piece of bread and a tart, ochre, and then rub it on the ground and some water. He fancied that which was dirty, and afterwards the full of the moon was the most crumple it in his hand. Having conpropitious time for study, and would cluded the operation, he said it often sit up and write the whole would do pretty well, but he could night by moonlight. His spirits were do it better at home. The first part extremely uneven, and he was sub- of the Battle of Hastings, he conject to long and frequent fits of ab- fessed to Mr. Barrett, that he had sence, insomuch that he would look written himself. steadfastly in a person's face without Some anachronisms as to particuspeaking or seeming to see him for a lar allusions have been pointed out. quarter of an hour or more. There The irregular, or Pindaric measure is said to have been something pe- as it has been called, used in the culiarly pleasing in his manner and song to Ælla, in the verses on the address. His person was marked by Mynster, and in the Chorus in Godan air of manliness and dignity that dwyn, was not employed till a much bespoke the superiority of his mind. later æra. There are also in the Ælla His eyes, one of which was more some lines in blank verse, not introremarkable than the other, were of duced among us till the time of Surrey, a grey colour, keen, and brilliant, who adopted it from the Italian. especially when any thing occurred to Another criterion of a more geneanimate him.
ral nature, which has not yet, at Of all the hypotheses concerning least that I am aware, been applied those papers which have been the to those compositions, is, I think, subject of so much controversy, none very strongly against the antiquity of seems more probable than that sug- them; and that is, that the intention gested by Warton, who in the His and purpose of the writer in the tory of English Poetry, admits that longer pieces is not sufficiently marksome of the poems attributed to ed and decisive for the remoter ages. Rowley might have been preserved to which they are ascribed. In the in Canynge's chest; and in another early stages of a language, before publication allows, that Chatterton conventional phrases have been * might have discovered parchments formed, and a stock of imagery, as it of humble prose containing local me- were provided for the common use, moirs and authentic deeds illustrating we find that the plan of a work is the history of Bristol, and biographical often rude and simple indeed, but diaries, or other notices, of the lives of that it almost always bears evident Canynge, Ischam, and Gorges. But signs of having subsisted anteriorly that many of the manuscripts were not in the mind of the writer as a whole. genuine, is proved not only by the dis- If we try Ælla, the longest of the similitude of the style to any composi- poems, by this test, we shall distion of the age of Henry VI. and Ed- cover strong evidence of its being ward IV. and by the marked resem- modern. A certain degree of uniblance to several passages in modern formity is the invariable characterpoets, but by certain circumstances istic of the earlier productions of art; which leave little or no doubt of their but here is as much desultoriness and having been fabricated by Chatterton incoherence, as can well be possible
in a work that makes any pretensions terly style of versification which they
O sing unto my roundelay.
Where he is much inspirited by heart; but a command of numbers his subject, being thrown off his would seem to be an art capable of guard, he forgets himself and be being perfected only by long conticomes modern, as in these lines, from nued and diligent endeavours. It which I have removed nothing but must be recollected, however, that the old spelling,
much might be done in the time First Dane.
which was at Chatterton's disposal, Fly, fly, ye Danes, Magnus the chief is when that time was undivided by the slain ;
study of any other language but his The Saxons come with Ælla at their head ; own. We see in the instance of Let's strive to get away to yonder green; Milton's juvenile poems in Latin, not Fly, fly, this is the kingdom of the dead. } to mention others, to what excellence Second Dane.
this species of skill may be brought; O Gods ! have Romans at my anlace bled? even in boyhood, where the organs And must I now for safety fly away? are finely disposed for the perception See! far besprenged all our troops are of musical delight; and if examples spread,
of the same early perfection be rarer Yet I will singly dare the bloody fray.
in our own tongue, it may be beBut no; I'll dy, and murder in retreat ; Death, blood, and fire shall mark the go
cause so much labour is seldom or ing of my feet.
ever exacted at that age in the use
of it. The following repetitions are, if I
Tyrwhitt, whose critical acumen mistake not, quite modern:
had enabled him to detect a suppositiNow Ælla look’d, and looking did ex. tious passage in a tragedy of Euriclaim.
pides, was at first a dupe to the imand,
posture of Chatterton, and treated the He falls, and falling rolleth thousands down. he cited them for the elucidation of
poems as so decidedly genuine that As is also this antithetical compa- Chaucer; but seeing good grounds rison of the qualities of a war-horse for changing his opinion, as Mr. to the mental affections of the rider: Nichols informs us, he canceled seBring me a steed, with eagle-wings for veral leaves before his volume was fight,
published. Walpole was equally deSwift as my wish, and as my love is, strong. ceived; though his vanity afterwards There are sometimes single lines, had been so. Mr. Tyson, in a letter
would not suffer him to own that he that bear little relation to the place in which they stand, and seem to be to Dr. Glynn,t well observed, that brought in for no other purpose than he could as soon believe that How their effect on the ear. This is the garth painted the cartoons, as that contrivance of a modern and a youth
Chatterton wrote Rowley's poems : yet (he adds) they are as unlike any
thing ancient, as Sir Joshua's flowing Thy words be high of din, but nought contour is unlike the squares and beside,
angles of Albert Durer. is a line that occurs in Ælla, and The poems that were written after may sometimes be applied to the au-: his arrival in London, when his mind thor himself.
was agitated by wild speculations, Nothing indeed is more wonderful and thrown off its balance by noise in the Rowley poems than the mas- and bustle, were, as might be ex
# Illustrations of Literature, vol. i. p. 158. :
pected, very unequal to those which application of it is designedly luhe had produced in the retirement of dicrous. his native place. Yet there is much See Hope, array'd in robes of virgin white, poignancy in the satires. The three Trailing an arch'd variety of light, African eclogues have a tumid gran- Comes showering blessings on a ruin'd deur. Heccar and Gaira is the best realm, of them.
And shows the crown'd director of the helm. The following verses are strong With him poetry looks best, when and impassioned:
she is The children of the wave, whose pallid race
All deftly mask'd as hoar antiquity. Views the faint sun display a languid face, Scarcely any of these later poems From the red fury of thy justice fled are free from grammatical incorrectSwifter than torrents from their rocky bed. or ambiguity of expression. Fear with a sicken'd silver tinged their hue. Some are debased by the more seriThe guilty fear where vengeance is their due.
ous faults of ribaldry and profaneMany of the pieces, confessedly his ness. His irreligion, however, seems own, furnish descriptions of natural to have been rather the fluctuating objects, equally happy with those of a mind that had lost its hold on so much admired in the Rowleian truth for a time, than the scepticism poems.
of one confirmed in error. He acWhen golden Autumn, wreath'd in ripen'd Creator, though he casts off his be
knowledges his dependence on a corn, From purple clusters pour'd the foamy wine, lief in a Redeemer. His incredulity Thy genius did his sallow brows adorn, does not appear so much the offspring And made the beauties of the season thine. of viciousness refusing the curb of With rustling sound the yellow foliage flies, moral restraint, as of pride unwilling And wantons with the wind in rapid whirls, to be trammeled by the opinions of The gurging rivulet to the vallies hies, the multitude. We cannot conceive Whilst on its bank the spangled serpent curls. that with a faculty so highly imagi
native, he could long have continued Pale rugged Winter bending o'er his tread; His grizzled hair bedropt with icy dew;
an unbeliever, or, perhaps, that he His eyes a dusky light congeald and dead, But he is a portentous example of
could ever have been so in his heart. His robe a tinge of bright ethereal blue.
the dangers to which an inexperiHis train a motley'd, sanguine, sable cloud, enced youth, highly gifted by nature, He limps along the russet dreary moor, Whilst rising whirwinds, blasting keen and midst of greedy speculators, intent
is exposed, when thrown into the loud, Roll the white surges to the sounding shore. only on availing themselves of his re
sources for their own advantage, and The lofty, elm, the oak of lordly look, without any care for his safety or his The willow shadowing the babbling brook, peace. The hedges blooming with the sweets of
Some years ago the present laureat May, With double pleasure mark'd tlie gladsome works for the benefit of his sister,
undertook the office of editing his way.
Mrs. Newton. It is to be lamented, In Resignation,” from which that a project so deserving of enthese lines are taken, there is a fine couragement does not appear to have personification of Hope, though the been successful.
VERSES WRITTEN BY KING HENRY VI. AND KING HENRY VIII.
The power of poesy is by no Oblivion, prevailed on to display the means a royal qualification. The poetic furniture of his shelves and bay-tree will flourish in a garret, but depositaries, there would, probably, it withers on a throne of marble. but few of the articles be found imWere Time, or Time's treasurer- pressed with the crown and sceptre,
Kings have been historians; witness seldomer still that they find themJulius Cæsar and Frederic of Prussia. selves in the humour to take adKings have been orators; witness vantage of it. As for the encouragethe same Cæsar and Pericles, amongst ment, all the poetic faculty with many others. They have been, even which a prince can be gifted, must to a respectable degree, mathemati- be born with him; he can imbibe cians, metaphysicians, theologians; nothing of it from education, or exsuch as Charles XII. James I. and perience. For, first; the face of Henry VIII. Nay, the law has had nature is seldom familiar to them; its imperial expounders; the long her beauties are generally regulated robe has been garnished with ermine, for the eye of royalty by a brownand the professional wig has re- bill or a pruning-hook ; and instead strained its curls with a diadem. In of God, it is his majesty's gardener, as much as legislation may be con- whose works are worshipped. At sidered as the nobler branch of the all events, the diversities of nature law, kings have been lawyers. We do not continually revolve before have an illustrious instance here in him ; neither has he time nor opporour own Alfred; not to go so far tunity for a minute inspection of her back as Justinian, Numa, or Solo- latent charms, her secret operations,
Peter the Great was a mecha- or her more rustic features. Hence nician, Frederic the Great a musi- is his mind barren of natural imagery, cian; the one could build a ship for the great store from which poetry is his amusement, the other compose a furnished with all that is beautiful, waltz ; the one could direct a ves- magnificent, and impressive. Again; sel better than any pilot in his domi- the world of the heart becomes, alas! nions, the other could play a march invisible, according as the spectator, better than any piper in Prussia. mounts above his fellow-mortals. It There is scarcely any science or art is covered with a dense atmosphere which may not boast a royal pro- formed by the noxious breath of fessor of some note, but the one we adulation, hypocrisy, and falsehood, have excepted, the Art of Poetry, which conceals it from his view; Whether princes in general have and when he ascends to the emidespised the Muse, or have been of nence of a throne, the world beneath her despised, may be a question. appears dim and distorted through We are rather inclined to suspect the haze of artifice and dissimulathe latter member of the alternative tion which floats between him and to be the true answer. And for this his footstool. The sycophant, who reason: By the very nature of their in the fervor of loyal servility, will education, and their manner of life, kiss the hem of his rohe, will not princes are less subject to those im- pay the object of his idolatry the pressions and excitements which are simple respect of speaking to him the most fruitful source of poetry. in the language of truth and of the The circumstances of their situation heart. are often such as to nourish in them We have been led into these rethe faculties of oratory, legal sub- flections by the circumstance of tlety, &c.; and frequently exact from having accidentally met with some them a knowledge of those arts verses of our ancient kings, which, which may be turned to practice. although curious as such, and moreBut the nature of poetry is abstract, over of some intrinsic beauty, are and not only a king, but less worldly not sufficient either in quantity or men, may live all their lives, without merit, to refute our opinion as to the finding the least necessity to culti- humble pretensions of Earth's rulers vate their genius in this unprofitable towards the sovereignty of one poor art, or any encouragement in sur, turf in the domains of Parnassus. A rounding circumstances to incite them single flower, and that almost hidden towards displaying it. This is, how, in the obscurest angle of those ever, an especial truth with regard realms, owns itself the property of to princes. As for the necessity,– King Henry VI.; it is emblematic of it is but seldom that kings have an the temper and condition of its royal opportunity, like Alfred, of entering master :an enemy's camp as a minstrel; and