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treme poverty and disappointment. fponds with what has been just related. My first attempt,' faid he, fhall be in the literary way: The promises I have received are fufficient to difpel doubt; but should I, contrary to my expectation, find myfelf deceived, I will in that cafe turn Methodist preacher: Credulity is as potent a deity as ever, and a new fect may eafily be devised: But if that too fhould fail me, my last and final resource is a pistol.'
It appears, however, that, long before he left Bristol, he had repeatedly intimated to the fervants of Mr Lambert, his intention of putting an end to his existence. Mr Lambert's mother was particularly terrified, but he was unable to perfuade her fon of the reality of his threats, till he found by accident upon his desk a paper, entitled, "the Laft Will and Teftament of Thomas Chatterton," in which he feriously indicated his defign of committing fuicide on the following day, namely, Eafter Sunday, April 5th, 1770. The paper was probably rather the refult of temporary uneafinefs, than of fixed averfion to his fituation, which he conftantly manifested; but with principles and paffions fuch as Chatterton difplayed, Mr Lambert confidered it as no longer prudent, af ter fo decifive a proof, to continue him in the house; he accordingly difmiffed him immediately from his fervice, in which he had continued two years, nine months, and thirteen days.
If there was any fincerity in the intentions of committing fuicide, which he expreffed in the paper above alluded to, he was diverted from it for the prefent by the golden profpects with which he flattered himself from a new plan of life, on which he entered with his ufual enthufiafm. A few months before he left Bristol, he had written letters to feveral book fellers in London, 'who,' Mr Thistlethwaite fays, finding him of advantage to them in their publications, were by no means fparing of their praifes and compliments; adding the moft liberal promifes of affittance and employment, fhould he choose to make London the place of his refidence.' To the interrogatories of this gentleman concerning the plan of life which he intended to purfue on his arrival at London, his anfwer was remarkable, and corre
There are three great æras in the life of Chatterton, his admiffion into Colfton's fchool, his being put apprentice to Mr Lambert, and his expedition to London. In the latter end of April, 1770, he bade his native city (from which he had never previously been abfent further than he could walk in half a Sunday) a final adieu. In a letter to his mother, dated April 26th, he describes in a lively style the little adventures of his journey, and his reception from his patrons, the booksellers and printers with whom he had correfponded. From all of them he profeffes to have received great encouragement, adding, that all approved of his defign, and that he should probably be foon settled.
But his fplendid vifions of promotion and confequence foon vanithed. Not long after his arrival in London, he writes to his mother,
The poverty of authors is a common obfervation, but not always a true one. No author can be poor who understands the arts of bookfellers; without this neceffary knowledge the greateft genius may starve, and with it the greatest dunce may live in fplendour. This knowledge I have pretty well dipped into.' This knowledge, however, instead of conducting to opulence and independence, proved a delufive guide. The most uncommon exertions of industry and genius were infufficient to ward off the approach of poverty; and he feems to have funk almost at U 2
once from the highest elevation of hope and illufion, to the depths of defpair. Pride was the ruling paffion of Chatterton, and a too acute fenfe of fhame is ever found to accompany literary pride.
Of Mrs Angel, with whom he laft refided, no enquiries have afforded any fatisfactory intelligence; but there can be little doubt that his death was preceded by extreme in digence. Mr Crofs, an apothecary in Brook-ftreet, informed Mr Warton, that while Chatterton lived in the neighbourhood, he frequently called at the fhop, and was repeatedly preffed by Mr Crofs to dine or fup with him in vain. One even ing, however, human frailty fo far prevailed over his dignity, as to tempt him to partake of the regale of a barrel of oysters, when he was obferved to eat moft voraciously. Mrs Wolfe, a barber's wife within a few doors of the houfe where Mrs Angel lived, has also afforded ample teftimony, both to his poverty and his pride. She fays, that Mrs Angel told her, after his death, that on the 24th of Auguft, as fhe knew he had not eaten any thing for two or three days, he begged he would take fome dinner with her; but he was offended at her expreflions, which feem ed to hint he was in want, and affured her was not hungry.' In thefe defperate circumftances, his mind reverted to what (we learn from Mr Thiftlethwaite, and other quarters) he had accustomed himfelf to regard as a last resource-Over his death, for the fake of the world,' fays the author of Love and Madness, would willingly, draw a veil. But this must not be. They who are in a condition to patronife merit, and they who feel a consciousness of merit which is not patronifed, may form their own refolutions from the catastrophe of his tale;-thofe, to lofe no opportunity of befriending genius; thefe, to feize every oppor
tunity of befriending themselves, and, upon no account, to harbour the moft diftant idea of quitting the world, however it may be unworthy of them, left defpondency should at laft deceive them into fo unpardonable a ftep. Chatterton, as appears by the Coroner's Inqueft, fwallowed arfenick in water, on the 24th of Augaft 1770, and died in confequence thereof the next day, at the age of feventeen years and nine months. He was buried in a shell, in the burying ground of Shoe-lane work-houfo.
The perfon of Chatterton, like his genius, was premature; he had a manlinefs and dignity beyond his years, and there was fomething about him uncommonly prepoffeffing. His most remarkable feature was his eyes, which, tho' gray, were uncom monly piercing; when he was warmed in argument, or otherwife, they fparkled with fire; and one eye, it is faid, was ftill more remarkable than the other. His genius will be moft completely estimated from his writings. He had an uncommon ardour in the purfuit of knowledge, and uncommon facility in the attainment of it. It was a favourite maxim with him, that man is equal to any thing, and that every thing might be atchieved by diligence and abstinence.' His imagination, like Dryden's, was more fertile than correct; and he feems to have erred rather through hatte and negligence, than through any deficiency of taste. He was above that puerile affectation. which pretends to borrow nothing he knew that original genius confifts in forming new and happy combinations, rather than in fearching after thoughts and ideas which never had occurred before; and that the man who never imitated, has feldom acquired a habit of good writing, It thofe poems, which pass under the name of Rowley, be really the productions of Chatterton, he pof-. feff ed
feffed the strongest marks of a vigo- meafure, depend upon the fairness rous imagination and a found judg- of his views, or the diffipation of his ment, in forming great, confiftent, projects. His melancholy was exand ingenious plots, and making treme on fome occafions, and, at choice of the most interefting fub- thofe times, he conftantly argued in. jects. If Rowley and Chatterton be favour of fuicide. Mr Carcott left. the fame, it will be difficult to fay him one evening totally depressed; whether he excelled moft in the fu- but he returned the next morning. blime or the fatirical; and as a uni- with unufual fpirits. He faid, he verfal genius, he must rank above had fprung a mine,' and produced a Dryden, and perhaps only ftand fe- parchment, containing the Sprytes, cond to Shakespeare. If, on the o- a poem, now in the poffeffion of Mr ther hand, we are to judge altogether Barrett. from thofe pieces which are confefsedly his own, we must undoubtedly align the preference to thofe of the fatirical clafs. In most of his ferious writings, there is little that indicates their being compofed with a full relish; when he is fatirical, his foul glows in his compofition.
His natural melancholy was not corrected by the irreligious principles, which he had fo unfortunately imbibed. To thefe we are certainly to attribute his premature death and, if he can be proved guilty of the licentiousness which is by fome. laid to his charge, it is reafonable to believe that a fyftem, which exonerates the mind from the apprehenfion of future punishment, would not contribute much to restrain the crimininal exceffes of the paflions. Had Chatterton lived, and been fortunate enough to fall into fettled and faber habits of life, his excellent underftanding would, in all probability, have led him to fee the fallacy of thofe principles, which he had hastily embraced; as it was, the only prefervatives of which he was poffeffed againft the contagion of vice, were the enthufiafm of literature, and that delicacy of fentiment which taste and reading infpire. But tho thefe auxiliaries are not wholly to be defpifed, we have too many inftances of their inefficacy in fupporting the caufe of virtue, to place any confident reliance on them.
Mr Catcott affirms that Chatterton understood no language but his mother tongue; the fame fact feems to be implied in his own confeffion, that he spoke no tongue but his own.' When we confidert he variety of his engagements while at Bristol, his extenfive reading, and the great knowledge he had acquired of the ancient language of his native country, we cannot wonder that he had not time to occupy himself in the study of other languages; and after his arrival in London, he had a new and neceffary fcience to learn, the world; and that he made the moft advantageous ufe of his time is evident from the extenfive knowledge of mankind difplayed in the different effays which he produced occafionally for periodical publications. The lively and vigorous imagination of Chatterton contributed, doubtless, to animate him with that fpirit of enterprife, which led him to form fo many impracticable and vifionary fchemes, for the acquifition of fame and fortune. His ambition was evident from his earlieft youth; and perhaps the inequality of his fpirits might, in a great
His temperance was in fome refpects exemplary. He feldom eat: animal food, and never tafted any ftrong or fpirituous liquors: he lived chiefly on a morfel of bread or a tart, with a draught of water. His high fenfe of dignity has been already noticed; but the most amiable feature in his character, was his generofity
and attachment to his mother and relations. Every favourite project for his advancement in life was accompanied with promifes and encouragement to them; while in London, he continued to fend them prefents, at a time when he was known himself to be in want: and indeed, the unremitting attention, kindnefs, and respect, which appear in the whole of his conduct towards them, are deserving the imitation of thofe in more fortunate circumstances, and under the influence of better principles of faith than Chatterton poffefsed. It can never be fufficiently lamented, that this amiable propenfity was not more uniform in Chatterton. A real love for his relations ought to have arrefted the hand of fuicide; but when religion is loft, all uniformity of principle is loft.
By the accounts of all who were acquainted with him, there was fomething uncommonly infinuating in his manner and converfation. Mr Crols informed Mr Warton, that in Chatterton's frequent visits while he refided at Brook-street, he found his converfation, a little infidelity excepted, most captivating. His extenfive, though in many inftances fuperficial knowledge, united with his genius, wit, and fluency, muft have admirably accomplished him for
the pleafures of society. His pridė, which perhaps fhould rather be termed the ftrong consciousness of intellectual excellence, did not deftroy his affability. He was always acceffible, and rather forward to make acquaintance, than apt to decline the advances of others. There is reafon however to believe, that the inequality of his fpirits, affected greatly his behaviour in company. His fits of absence were frequent and long. He would often look ftedfaftly in a perfon's face without fpeaking, or feeming to fee the perfon, for a quarter of an hour or more.'
Defcription of the Country between Quebec and Montreal. From Travels through the interior Parts of America-l'y an Officer (in General Burgoyne's Army.)'
foldier is a pretty good initiation into the toils of his profeffion, I am fafe arrived at this place.
Chatterton had one ruling paffion which governed his whole conduct, and that was the defire of literary fame; this paffion intruded itself on every occafion, and abforbed his whole attention. Whether he would have continued to improve or the contrary, muft have depended in fome meafure on the circumftances of his future life. Had he fallen into profigate habits and connections, he would probably have loft a great part of his ardour for the cultivation of his mind; and his maturer age would only have diminished the admiration which the efforts of his childhood have so justly excited.
Montreal, Nov. 16. 1776.
A three weeks, which for a young Quebec.
As we could not march many miles in a day, through the feverity of the weather, bad roads, and the shortnefs of the days, I am enabled to
give you fome little defcription of the country between this city and
Both fides of the river are very well fettled, which affords a pleafing profpect. The farms moftly lie clofe to the water-fide, and at fome diftance from each other, fo that each farmer has his poffeffions entirely diftinct from thofe of his neighbour's. But
But had an edict, which was paffed in the year 1745, when this province was under the French government, been obferved, it would have been one continued street from Quebec to this place, as it forbade the Canadians from extending their plantatious more than an acre and a half in front, and thirty or forty acres in depth; by which means indolent heirs would not have waited for the inheritance of their fathers, as they would have been under the neceflity of forming new plantations, and fuch vaft fpaces of wood would no longer have been feparated from each other.
But whether that indolence they then poffeffed proceeded from nature, or the rigor of their Government, they feem now to have entirely loft it, and are become more in duftrious; as I perceived, in many places, they were clearing away the woods to form new plantations.
Most of the farm houfes are built of stone, confifting of three or four rooms, which are heated with a ftove, nearly upon the fame conftruction as thefe I defcribed to you. Some of them have orchards annexed, though in general they are with out fuch an accommodation, but all have exceeding good kitchen gar
Every three leagues there is a church, with a kind of little village, confifting of the parfonage, the auberge, the fchool for boys and girls, and a few houfes belonging to tradesmen, thofe but few indeed, and fo thinly scattered, that it fcarcely gives you the idea of a village. Trade is confidered by any defcendant of the nobleje a difgrace, yet there are few inhabitants but what claim fome affinity to one Seigneur or another, who, though they think it no derogation to plow, fow, and reap upon their plantations, deem it ignominious in the extreme, to be a mechanic or tradefman. Notwithftanding which, I was much furpii
zed to find, that the principal inhabitant in each village, who generally belongs to fome nobleffe, was the post-mafter, and kept the only au berge in the place; nay, did not think his nobility offended, with providing horfes and entertaining travellers, which I remember to have heard you fay is the cafe in many parts of Italy.
Between each church, or village, there are feveral croffes put up on the road-fide, parallel to the fhores of the river, and which are common throughout Canada. They are made of wood, about fifteen or twenty feet high, and proportionably broad: In that fide towards the road is a fquare hole, in which they place fome wax images, either of our Saviour on the crufs, or of the holy Virgin, with the child in her arms, and before that, a piece of glafs to prevent its being injured by the weather. These croffes are ornamented with all the inftruments they think the Jews employed in crucifying our Saviour, fuch as the hammer, tongs, nails, 2 flask of vinegar, with many more things than one would fuppofe were really made ufe of, or even invented; and frequently the figure of a cock is placed at the top, which appeared to me rather fingular, as it could not have the leaft affinity to the crucifixion, and muft rather be fuppofed an allufion to the cock's growing when St Peter denied our Saviour.
Thefe croffes, however good the intention of erecting them may be, are continually the caufes of great delays in travelling, which to perfons not quite fo fuperftitiously dif pofed as the Canadians, are exceedingly unpleafant in cold weather; for whenever the drivers of the calathes, which are open, and nearly. fimilar to your one-horfe chaifes, come to one of them, they alight, either from their horfes or carriage, fall on their kaces, and repeat a long prayer,