« AnteriorContinuar »
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 Chat 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 little 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 harlots 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.
“O, 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 losty looks, our clerk began Curse the base threat'ning—" “ Nay, child, never His grave rebuke, as he assumed the mancurse;
There is no devil," said the hopeful youth,
mprove I not in manner, speech, and grace ? Your Bible mentions Egypt, where it seems
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 formas ** 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 ; How 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, He fear'd a crisis, and he shunn'd 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,
"0! 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 Still 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 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-O! 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 favonrites must for ever sleep: Quick as the patient's pulse, who trembling cried, Each yields his poison to the fame 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 iwigs 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 : O! 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 ?
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, Chatterton, says Dr. Gregory, in his life of the sub- being left 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 parchmanuscript, 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 to 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 before he was five years old ; and not long after- of poctical 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 litetrumpet, 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 tied, A Description of the Fryars first passing over imbibed such a relish, that he devoted his little the Old Bridge, taken from an ancient manuscript. 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 re. volumes 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 gift. Among these verses, were probably had found it, with several others, in 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. Catcout, 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 possessed 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 supletter 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. Catcott, 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 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. Thistlethwayle 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 expecTown 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 to of one not much beyond seventeen years of age ; furnish Horace Walpole with some accounts of a certainly, as Dr. Aikin observes, not 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 polile reply, requesting further in- At 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 mulher 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 Eng might 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 estays for the daily nounced the poems sent to Walpole to be forgeries, papers would more than support me. What a glo the latter, who, nevertheless, could not, as he him. rious prospect!" His engagernents, in fact, appear self confesses, help admiring the spirit of poetry w have been numerous and profitable ; but we are displayed in them, wrote a cold monitory letter to cautioned, by Dr. Gregory, against giving implicit our author, advising him to apply himself to his credence to 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, howenclosed 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 Chatterton, 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; bui the death of Beckford, at use him so, had he not been acquainted with the which he is said to have gone almost frantic, and narrowness 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. He observed alone is the charge founded against Mr. 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, Chatterton. 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-set 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 mayor's death. Our author now entered into politics ; and, in Lost by his death on this essay.. March, 1770, composed a satirical poem of one Gained in elegies..
£2 2 thousand three hundred lines, entitled Kew Gar
5 50 dens, in which he abused the Princess-dowager of Wales and Lord Bute, together with the partisans Am glad he is dead by.....
.£l 11 6
£3 13 6
His hopes of obtaining eminence as a political lyric and heroic poems, pastorals, epistles, ballads, writer now became extravagantly sanguine, and &c. Sublimity and beauty pervade many of them ; be already seems to have considered himself a and they display wonderful powers of imagination man of considerable public importance “My and facility of composition; yet, says Dr. Aikin, company," he says, in a letter to his sister, “is there is also much of the commonplace fatness courted everywhere; and could I humble myself and extravagance, that might be expected from a to go into a compter, could have had twenty places juvenile writer, whose fertility was greater than before now; but I must be among the great ; state his judgment, and who had fed his mind upon matters suit me better than commercial.” These stores collected with more avidity than choice. bright prospects, about July, appear to have been The baste and ardour, with which he pursued his suddenly clouded; and, after a short career of various literary designs, was in accordance with dissipation, which kept pace with his hopes, he his favourite maxim, " that God had sent his creafound that he had nothing to expect from the pa- tures into the world with arms long enough to tronage of the great ; and, to escape the scene of reach any thing, if they would be at the trouble of his mortification, made an unsuccessful attempt to extending them." obtain the post of surgeon's-mate to the coast of In 1778, a miscellaneous volume of the avowed Africa. It is less certain to what extent he was writings of Chatterton was published ; and, in 1803, now employed by the booksellers, than that he an edition of his works appeared, in three volumes, felt the idea of dependence upon them insup- octavo, with an account of his life, by Dr. Gregory, portable, and soon fell into such a state of indi. from whom we have before quoted. The general genee as to be reduced to the want of necessary character of his productions has been well apprefood. Such was his pride, however, that when, ciated by Lord Orford, who, after expatiating upon after a fast of three days, his landlady invited him his quick intuition, his humour, his vein of satire to dinner, he refused the invitation as an insult, the rapidity with which he seized all the topics of assuring her he was not hungry. This is the last conversation, whether of politics, literature, or aci recorded of his life ; a few hours afterward, fashion, remarks, “ Nothing in Chatterton can be he swallowed a dose of arsenic, and was found separated from Chatterton. His noblest Alight, his dead the next morning, August the 25th, 1770, sweetest strain, his grossest ribaldry, and his most surrounded by fragments of numerous manuscripts, commonplace imitations of the productions of which he appeared to have destroyed. His sui- magazines, were all the effervescences of the same cide took place in Brook-street, Holborn, and he ungovernable impulse, which, cameleon-like, imwas interred, in a shell, in the burying-ground bibed the colours of all it looked on. It was Os. of Shoe lane workhouse. This melancholy ca- sian, or a Saxon monk, or Gray, or Smollett, or tastrophe is heightened by the fact, that Dr. Fry, Junius ; and if it failed most in what it most affect. head of St. John's College, Oxford, had just gone to ed to be, a poet of the fifteenth century, it was beBristol, for the purpose of assisting Chatterton, cause it could not imitate what had not existed." when he was there informed of his death.
In person, Chatterton is said to have been, like his The controversy respecting the authenticity of genius, premature ; he had, says his biographer, a the poems attributed to Rowley is now at an end ; manliness and dignity beyond his years, and there though there are still a few, perhaps, who may
was a something about him uncommonly preposside with Dean Milles and others, against the host sessing. His most remarkable feature was his of writers, including Gibbon, Johnson, and the two eyes, which, though gray, were uncommonly piercWartons, who ascribe the entire authorship to ing; when he was warmed in argument, or otherChatterton. The latter have, perhaps, come to a
wise, they sparkled with fire; and one eye, it is conclusion, which is not likely to be again dis- said, was still more remarkable than the other. puted, viz. that however extraordinary it was for
The character of Chatterton has been sufficiently Chatterton to produce them in the eighteenth cen developed in the course of the preceding memoir ; tury, it was impossible that Rowley could have his ruling passion, we have seen, was literary fame; written them in the fifteenth. But, whether and it is doubtful whether his death was not Chatterton was or was not the author of the poems rather occasioned through fear of losing the reputaascribed to Rowley, his transcendent genius must tion he had already acquired, than despair of being ever be the subject of wonder and admiration. able to obtain a future subsistence. This is renThe eulogy of his friends, and the opinions of the dered at least plausible, by the fact of his having controversialists respecting him, are certainly too received pecuniary assistance from Mr. Hamilton, extravagant. Dean Milles prefers Rowley to Ho senior, the proprietor of the Critical Review, not mer, Virgil, Spencer, and Shakspeare ; Mr. Ma- long before his death, with a promise of more ; that lone "believes Chatterton to have been the great he was employed by his literary friends, almost to est genius that England has produced since the the last hour of his existence; and that he was days of Shakspeare ;” and Mr. Croft, the author aware of the suspicions existing that himself and of Love and Madness, asserts, that " no such hu. Rowley were the same. Though he neither conman being, at any period of life, has ever been fessed nor denied this, it was evident that his conknown, or possibly ever will be known.” This duct was influenced by some mystery, known only enthusiastic praise is not confined to the critical to himself; he grew wild, abstracted, and incohewriters; the British muse has paid some of her rent, and a settled gloominess at length took posmost beautiful tributes to the genius and memory session of his countenance, which was a presage of Chatterton. The poems of Rowley, as published of his fatal resolution. He has been accused of by Dean Milles, consist of pieces of all the prin- libertinism, but there are no proofs of this during cipal classes of poetical composition : tragedies, his residence either at London or Bristol : though