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INSCRIPTION FOR A BUST OF SHAKSPEARE.
O Youths and virgins: O declining eld:
your own estate, The secrets of your bosom? Here then, round His monument with reverence while
stand, Say to each other: “ This was Shakspeare's form Who walk'd in every path of human life ; Felt every passion; and to all mankind Doth now, will ever, that experience yield Which his own genius only could acquire."
BORN NOV. 17.52.-DIED AUG. 1770,
THOMAS Chatterton was the posthumous chila of the master of a free school in Bristol. At five years of age he was sent to the same school which his father had taught; but he made so little improvement that his mother took him back; nor could he be induced to learn his letters till his attention had been accidentally struck by the illuminated capitals of a French musical MS. His mother afterwards taught him to read from an old black letter Bible. One of his biographers has expressed surprise that a person in his mother's rank of life should have been acquainted with black-letter. The writer might have known that books of the ancient type continued to be read in that rank of life, long after they had ceased to be used by persons of higher station. At the age of eight he was put to a charityschool in Bristol, where he was instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic. From his tenth year he discovered an extraordinary passion for books ; and before he was twelve, had perused about seventy volumes, chiefly on history and divinity. The prematurity of his mind, at the latter period, was so strongly marked in a serious and religious cast of thought, as to induce the bishop to confirm him, and admit him to the sacrament at that early age. His piety, however, was not of long duration. He had also written some verses sufficiently wonderful for his years, and had picked up some knowledge of music and drawing, when, at the age of fourteen, he was bound apprentice to a Mr. Lambert, a scrivener, in his native city. In Mr. Lambert's house his situation was very humble; he ate with the servants, and slept in the same room with the footboy; but his employments left him many hours of leisure for reading, and these he devoted to acquiring a knowledge of English antiquities and obsolete language, which, together with his poetical ingenuity, proved sufficient for his Rowleian fabri. cations.
It was in the year 1768 that he first attracted attention. On the occasion of the new bridge of Bristol being opened, he sent to Farley's Journal, in that city, a letter, signed Dunhelmus Bristoliensis, containing an account of a procession of friars, and of other ceremonies which had taken place, at a remote period, when the old bridge had been opened. The account was said to be taken from an ancient MS. Curiosity was instantly excited; and the sages .of Bristol, with a spirit of barbarism which the monks and friars of the fifteenth century could not easily have rivalled, having traced the letter to Chatterton, interrogated him, with threats, about the original. Boy as he was, he
haughtily refused to explain upon compulsion ; but by milder treatment was brought to state, that he had found the MS. in his mother's house. The true part of the history of those ancient papers, from which he pretended to have derived this original of Farley's letter, as well as his subsequent poetical treasures, was, that in the muniment room of St. Mary Redcliffe Church, of Bristol, several chests had been anciently deposited, among which was one called the “ Cofre” of Mr. Canynge, an eminent merchant of Bristol, who had rebuilt the church in the reign of Edward IV. About the year 1727 those chests had been broken open by an order from proper authority: some ancient deeds had been taken out, and the remaining MSS. left exposed, as of no value.
Chatterton's father, whose uncle was sexton of the church, had carried off great numbers of the parchments, and had used them as covers for books in his school. Amidst the residue of his father's ravages, Chatterton gave out, that he had found many writings of Mr. Canynge, and of Thomas Rowley (the friend of Canynge), a priest of the fifteenth century. The rumour of his discoveries occasioned his acquaintance to be sought by a few individuals of Bristol, to whom he made presents of vellum MSS. of professed antiquity. The first who applied to him was a Mr. Calcot, who obtained from him the Bristowe Tragedy, and Rowley's Epitaph on Canynge's ancestor. Mr. Barret, a surgeon, who was writing a History of Bristol, was also presented
with some of the poetry of Rowley; and Mr. Burgum, a pewterer, was favoured with the “ Romaunt of the Knyghte," a poem, said by Chatterton to have been written by the pewterer's ancestor, John de Berghum, about 450 years before. The believing presentees, in return, supplied him with small sums of money, lent him books, and introduced him into society. Mr. Barret even gave him a few slight instructions in his own profession. Chatterton's spirit and ambition perceptibly increased; and he used to talk to his mother and sisters of his prospects of fame and fortune, always promising that they should be partakers in his success:
Having deceived several incompetent judges with regard to his MSS. he next ventured to address himself to Horace Walpole, to whom he sent a letter, offering to supply him with an account of a series of eminent painters, who had flourished at Bristol. Walpole returned a polite answer, desiring farther information; on which Chatterton transmitted to him some of his Rowleian poetry, described his own servile situation, and requested the patronage of his correspondent. The virtuoso, however, having shewn the poetical specimens to Gray and Mason, who pronounced them to be forgeries, sent the youth a cold reply, advising him to apply to the business of his profession. Walpole set out soon after for Paris, and neglected to return the MSS. till they had been twice demanded back by Chatterton; the second time in a very indignant letter. On