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fool enough to believe C. was the only blind, subterraneous channel, through which thefe things were to emerge to day, and float for ever down the stream of fame? This (without merr tioning other objections to such a ridiculous belief) were to suppose two people to determine on the same strange conduct, and two people (the Ical and the foster father) to keep with equal fidelity the same secret. And would the foster father have been as fond and careful of another's fecret, as of the offspring of his own invention ?
It is not clear to me that C.'s life (if such a scrap of existence can be called a life) does not exhibit circumstances still more extraordinary, if possible, than his being the author of Rowley's poeins. But I possess not the abilities which Johnson displayed in his famous life of Savage : nor is this a formal life of Chatterton ; though such a thing might well employ even the pen of Johnson. This is only an idle letter to my dear M. ---Oh, my M. you, who contributed so liberally, last year, to extricate from distress the abilities of a ---; what would you not have done for a Chatterton !
Thomas Chatterton, destin'd to puzzle at least, if not to impose upon, the ablest critics and antiquarians which the most polished age of England
ftas produced, was born at Bristol, Nov. 20, 1752. His father had been master of the free-school in Pile-street in that city, and was sexton of St. Mary Redcliffe church. History condescends not to relate any thing more of such an ignoble family, than that they had been sextons of the same church for near a century and an half.
It seems to have been determined by fortune that this poor lad, I ought rather to say this extraordinary human being, should have no obligation but to genius and to himself. His father, as he was a schoolinafter and is reported to have been a tolerable poet for a sexton, might perhaps have given his son a free-school education, had he lived to see him old enough for instruction. The sexton died very soon after, if not before, the birth of his son; who indisputably received no other education than what he picked up at a charity school at a place called St. Auguftine's Back in Bristol. Reading, writing and accounts, compofed the whole circle of sciences which were taught at this university of our Bristol Shakespear.
On the ist of July, 1767, he was articled clerk to an attorney of Bristol, whom I have not been able to find out. From him, I understand, has been procured a strange, mad MS. of Chatterton, which he called his will.
When the new bridge at Bristol was finished, there appeared, in Farly's Bristol Journal, an account of the ceremonies on opening the old bridge (the piece is prefixed to the volume of Chatterton's Miscellanies), preceded by these words :---" To the Printer. Oet. 1, 1768. The “ following description of the fryars' first paffing
over the old bridge, taken from an old MS. may not at this time be unacceptable to the ge
nerality of your readers. Your's, Dunhelmus “ Bristoliensis.” Curiosity at last traced the infertion of this curious memoir to Chatterton. To the threats of those who treated him (agreeably to his age and appearance) as a child, he returned nothing but haughtiness and a refusal to give any account. To milder usage and many promises the boy, after some time, confessed that he had received that and other MSS. from his father, which he had found in an iron chest placed by William Cannynge (the founder of the church of which C.'s family had so long been sextons) in a muniment room over the northern portico of St. Mary Redcliffe. Warton (in his history of English poetry) says when this appeared he was about seventeen. Days are more material in C.'s life than years in the lives of others. He wanted, you see, something of fixteen.---One fact is curious, that, though it was not possible
for him to have picked up Latin at a charity fchool where Latin was not taught, his note ta the printer has, for no apparent reason, a Latin fignature, Dunhelmus Bristoliensis. This Latin certainly was not Rowley's. It must have been C.'s. The mernoir procured C. the acquaintance of some gentlemen of Bristol, who, because they condescended to receive from him the compositions which he brought them, without giving him much, if any thing, in return, fondly imagined themfelves the patrons of genius. Mr. Catcott and Mr. Barrett, a pewterer and a furgeon, of his obligations to whom you will see him speak in his letters, were his principal, if not his only patrons. To these gentlemen he produced, between Oct. 1768, and April 1770 (besides many things which he confessed to be his own, and many which, in the interval, appeared in the Town and Country Magazine), all Rowley's poems, except the “ballad of Charitie.” Of these only two, I think, and those the shortest, he pretended to be the original MSS. The rest were transcripts, in his own hand ; of
l; fome of which he acknowledged himself the author. Concerning these curiosities no diftinct or 'fatisfactory account, by friend or enemy, by threat or promise, could ever be drawn from him.
For these curiofties how much he received from his Bristol patrons does not appear. His patrons
. do not boast of their generosity to him. They (Catcott at least) received no inconsiderable sum for Rowley's poems; nor has the sale of them turned out badly. In consequence of the money got by poems which Chatterton certainly brought to light, which I firmly believe C. to have written, his mother acknowledges to have received the immense sum of five guineas, by the hands of Mr. Catcott; and Mr. Barrett, without fee or reward, cured the whitlowed finger of the fifter. Talk no more of the neglect of genius in any age or country, when, in this age and country, Rowley's poems have produced such fortunes to the author and his family. Should I ever appear in print on this Tubject, I would publickly call upon the gentlemen concerned in this transaction, to state their accounts.
Has not the world a right to know what Catcott fairly bought of Chatterton (he does not pretend to have bought all), and what was the fair purchase-money of these inestimable treasures ? Let us know what the editors of Rowley's poems gave and received for them, and what the sale of them has produced ? Is the son to be declared guilty of forgery? Are his forge