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MEMOIRS OF THOMAS CHATTERTON.
WENTY-SIX years have now elapsed, since the and fince thirteen publications contested or supported the authenticity of Rowley's poems. At this distance of time, when the interests and rancour of controversy are supposed to rest, guided by the light of candour, it may be possible to form
an unbiased opinion on the merits and pretensions of Chatterton.
His short but eventful life commenced on the zoth of November, 1752, in Pyle-street Bristol. At five years old, he was committed to the care of a Mr. Love, and by him remanded to his mother as a dull boy, incapable of improvement. Nothing is more fallacious, says Dr. Gregory, than the judgments which are formed, during infancy, of the future abilities of youth. Mrs. Chatterton was rendered extremely unhappy by the apparently tardy understanding of her son, till he fell in love, as the expressed herself, with the illuminated capitals of an old musical manuscript, in French, which enabled her, by taking advantage of his momentary, passion, to initiate him in the alphabet. She taught him afterwards to read from an old black-lettered teftament, or bible. Perhaps the bent of most men's studies may, in some measure, be determined by accident, and frequently in very early life ; nor is it unreasonable to suppose that his peculiar
attachment to antiquities may, in a considerable degree, have resulted from this little circumstance."
The narrow means of his parents, precluded him from the advantages of liberal instruction; and be. tween the years of seven and eight, he was admitted into Colston's charity-school at Bristol. In July 1767, he left school, and his acquirements are thus described. Some knowledge of music, probably, derived from the rudiments of vocal music taught to charity boys. A taste for drawing, which he afterwards greatly im. proved; and the usher of the school asserted he had made a rapid progress in arithmetic. During this period, Chatterton had manifested a strong inclination for fatirical poetry, in several detached pieces; and, from his confirmation by the bishop, which took place before he quitted the school, some specimens of a sacred kind, in verses on the last day, a paraphrase of the ninth chapter of Job, and some parts of Isaiah. None of these compositions, however, indicated the muse of Rowley; though viewed as the efforts of childhood, they are marks of real talent. But it is in his disposition we trace the strong characteristics of genius Spirited, melancholy, and dignified, he could not brook the indignities of his new situation. Apprenticed by the parish, to Mr. Lambert, attorney of Bristol, he slept in the fame room with the foot-boy, exposed to the usual jeers of ignorance. Yet, from eight in the morning till eight at night, he constantly attended the bufiness of his master's office, who gave him an exemplary character for temperance and industry; and, in the poffeffion of Mr. Lambert, is a large folio book, containing 344 pages of precedents, closely written, and another of 30 pages, both the work of Chat
About a year after his apprenticeship, in October 1768, on completing the new bridge at Bristol, there appeared in Farley's Bristol Journal, “ Description of the Fryars passing over the Old Bridge, taken from an
ancient manufcript.” So singular a memoir excited much curiosity; but the printer, Mr. Farley, could give no account of it. After great enquiry, it was discovered that the manuscript was brought by a youth between fifteen and fixteen years of age, of the name of Thomas Chatterton. « To the threats of those who treated him (agreeably to his appearance). as a child, he returned nothing but haughtiness, and a refusal to give any account. By milder usage he was somewhat softened, and appeared willing to give all the information in his power. He at first alledged, that he was employed to transcribe the contents of certain ancient manuscripts by a gentlemen, who had also engaged him to furnish complimentary verses, inscribed to a lady with whom that gentleman was in love. On being further pressed, he at last informed the enquirers, that he had received the paper in queftion, together with many other manuscripts, from his father, who had found them in a large cheft, in the upper room over the chapel, on the north side of Redcliffe church.” This account has been mostly confirmed by a laborious examination of facts. Chatterton's father had covered the school books with several pieces of parchment, taken from Canynge's chest, which first led his son to a discovery of their value. When sensible of the importance of the acquisition, Chatterton searched every part of the house for any remaining, papers, and even visited the room from whence his father had first taken them, to secure the ungathered fragments. For a circumftantial, account of “ Canynge's cofre, we must refer the reader to Dr. Gregory's Life of Chatterton.
The appearance of the paper in Farley's Journal becoming the subject of general conversation, procured Chatterton many acquaintances; to one of whom, Mr. Catcott, he readily gave, without any reward,
" The Bristow Tragedy, Rowley's Epitaph on Mr. Canynge's