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London, in hopes of advancing his fortune by his talents for writing; but he was fo miferably disappointed, that, in a fit of despair, he put an end to his life, about the twenty-fourth of Auguft following, by a dofe of poifon, at the age of feventeen years and three quarters.
• With respect to Rowley's poems, fays the editor of these Mifcellanies, the prevailing opinion feems to be, that they were actually written, by Chatterton [the fon]: for though the antique manner, in which they were clothed, had ferved greatly to dif guife them, yet it could not but be obferved, that the fmoothnefs of verfification, and the frequent traces of imitation of later writers, were utterly inconfiftent with the idea of their being the production of the 15th century. Thefe circumftances did not escape the obfervation of many gentlemen at their first appearance. But that forgeries fhould be attempted by one, who had not reached the age of feventeen years; and that those attempts fhould be conducted with a degree of fkill and judgement, which obliged the moft intelligent to doubt, and at the fame time almost compelled the most doubtful to affent, seemed to be hardly within the reach of probability; in the opinion of many, it rather bordered on impoffibility.'
The argument against the authenticity of thefe poems, from the coincidences, which might be pointed out between them and others of a more modern date, is very properly urged and fupported, in a letter published in the St. James's Chronicle, May 21, 1778, and reprinted in this volume; from which we fhall take the liberty to extract the following parallel paffages:
And teares beganne to flowe.'
Mie love ys dedde,
Gone to hys death-bedde.'
No, no, he is dead,
Gone to his death-bed.'
Syr Charles Bawdin. Dryden's Alex. Feast. Ella. King Hen. V.
• Ye goddes how ys a loverres temper formed!
With what unequal tempers are we form'd ;
• That he the fleeve unravels all theire fate.'
Ravell'd fleeve of care.'
The grey-goofe pynion, that thereon was fett,
The grey-goose wing, that was thereon,
• His noble foule came roufhyng from the wounde.'
And the difdainful foul came
•Like cloudes of carnage.'
• He clos'd his eyne in everlastynge nyghte.'
As oupbant faieries, whan the moone fheenes bryghte,
All living creatures flie far from their syghte,
For what he be that ouphant faieries ftryke,
-He who speaks to them shall die.
I'll wink and couch, no man their works muft eye.'
As it is hardly probable, that these coincidences fhould be the effects of chance, we may reasonably conclude, that the poems afcribed to Rowlie, are the productions of an author, pofterior to Shakespeare, Dryden, and Gray: for these poets could not imitate a writer, who was never heard of before the year 1768.
If it should be faid, that thefe imitations may be the additions of Chatterton, and that the rest may be Rowlie's, we must observe, that this notion is improbable, and unsupported by any evidence; and that, if it were admitted, it would obviate the greateft difficulty attending the contrary opinion: for it would prove, that this young literary adventurer was able to produce the compofitions in queftion. It may be farther obferved, that Chatterton's abilities for a work of this nature can hardly be doubted, if we attend either to his comments on the poems attributed to Rowlie, or to the prefent collection of pieces, which, we are affured, are nuine and acknowledged productions.'
It has been prefumed, that it would be a wild conjecture to fuppofe a young man of fifteen or fixteen, capable of conducting such a complicated fraud. But it should be recolleaed,
lected, that he was, as Dr. Warton observes, a fingular inftance of prematurity of abilities;' that he was remarkably fond of poetry and English antiquities; and that there have been many such early geniufes in the republic of letters *.
Cafper Bartholinus compofed very elegant orations in Latin and Greek at the age of thirteen. Boxhornius published feveral volumes, and particularly an edition of the Hiftoriæ Auguftæ Scriptores, with notes, before he was twenty. Da niel Heinfias, at the age of eighteen, read public lectures on Latin and Greek authors, and published his Crepundia Siliana, which is full of critical learning, foon afterwards. Peter Heylin wrote a tragedy at fixteen, which was acted in public. The poet Lucan wrote a poem on the combat between Achilles and Hector, and Priam's redeeming his fon's body, before he had attained eleven years of age. His fubfequent works were numerous, though he died before he was twenty-feven. Aldus Manutius was but fourteen, when he compofed his treatise on Orthography. Johannes Olivarius taught the Greek language, and wrote two comedies, in an elegant style, before he was eighteen. Dionyfius Voffius, the fon of Gerard Voffius, acquired a critical knowledge of Latin and Greek at ten, of Hebrew at fourteen, of Arabic at fixteen, of the Armenian, Ethiopic, Spanish, and other languages, at eighteen or nineteen; and wrote a translation of Maimonides on Ido. latry, and other voluminous works, before he was twenty-one. His brother Ifaac was very little inferior to him in the early exertion of his talents. " Dr. Wotton, at the age of fix years, acquired a confiderable knowledge in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues. Dr. Johnfon has given us the life of one (John Philip Barretier +), who mastered five languages at the age of nine years.' But what may feem more to the purpofe, Mr. Pope in his fourteenth year tranflated the first book of Statius's Thebaid, with fo much accuracy and beauty; and, in about two years afterwards, difplayed such strength of imagination, fuch delicacy of fentiment, and fuch harmony of numbers, in his Paftorals, that he aftonished the greatest poets and critics of the age.
Thefe examples, collected extempore, may ferve to fhew, that there is nothing, but what is very poffible, in Chatter
* See Klefekeri Bibliotheca Eruditorum præcocium. Des Enfans devenus celebres par leurs études, ou par leurs écrits, par M. Baillet.
Barretier was a Pruffian, Hebrew lexicographer at ten years of age, master of the mathematics at twelve, author of Enquiries concerning Egyptian Antiquities, &c. died 1740, aged 19 years and 8 months.
ton's knowledge of the obfolete language of the 15th century; especially as he had devoted his attention to ftudies of that nature.
The pieces contained in this collection are, A Defcription of the Fryars first paffing over the old Bridge at Bristol; Ethelgar, a Saxon Poem; Kenrick, a Saxon Poem; Cerdick, a Saxon Poem; Godred Crovan, a poem; the Hirlas, tranflated from the ancient British of Owen Cyfeliog, prince of Powys; Gorthmund, tranflated from the Saxon; Narva and Mored, an African Eclogue; the Death of Nicou, an African Eclogue; February, an Elegy; an Elegy on W. Beckford, Efq. the Copernican Syftem; the Confuliad, an heroic poem; Fragment of a Sermon by Thomas Rowlie; Memoirs of Sir William Canynge; the Antiquity of Christmas Games; Defcription of fome curious Saxon Achievements; Account of the Tinctures of Saxon Heralds; Copy of an ancient M S. written by Rowlie; the Adventures of a Star; Memoirs of a Sad Dog; the Hunter of Oddities; and about nineteen other fmall pieces in profe and verfe.
The Saxon and British poems are imitations of Offian, in this descriptive and pompous language:
• Kenrick. Tranflated from the Saxon.
When winter yelled through the leaflefs grove; when the black waves rode over the roaring winds, and the dark-brown clouds hid the face of the fun; when the filver brook stood still, and fnow environed the top of the lofty mountain; when the flowers appeared not in the blafted fields, and the boughs of the leafless trees bent with the loads of ice; when the howling of the wolf affrighted the darkly glimmering light of the western sky; Kenrick, terrible as the tempeft, young as the fnake of the valley, ftrong as the mountain of the flain; his armour fhining like the ftars in the dark night, when the moon is veiled in fable, and the blafting winds howl over the wide plain; his fhield like the black rock, prepared himself for war.
• Ceolwolf of the high mountain, who viewed the first rays of the morning ftar, fwift as the flying deer, ftrong as a young oak, fierce as an evening wolf, drew his fword: glittering like the blue vapours in the valley of Horfo; terrible as the red lightning, bursting from the dark-brown clouds: his swift bark rode over the foaming waves, like the wind in the tempeft; the arches fell at his blow, and he wrapt the towers in flames; he followed Kenrick, like a wolf roaming for prey.
Centwin of the vale arofe, he feized the maffy spear; terrible was his voice, great was his ftrength; he hurled the rocks into the fea, and broke the ftrong oaks of the foreft. Slow in the race as the minutes of impatience. His fpear, like the fury of a thunderbolt, fwept down whole armies; his enemies melted
before him, like the ftones of hail at the approach of the fun.
Awake, O Eldulph! Thou that fleepest on the white mountain, with the fairest of women; no more purfue the dark-brown wolf; arife from the moffy bank of the falling waters; let thy garments be ftained in blood, and the ftreams of life difcolour thy girdle; let thy flowing hair be hid in a helmet, and thy beauteous countenance be writhed into terror.
Egward, keeper of the barks, arife like the roaring waves of the fea purfue the black companies of the enemy.
• Ye Saxons, who live in the air and glide over the stars, act like yourselves.
• Like the murmuring voice of the Severn, fwelled with rain, the Saxons moved along; like a blazing ftar the fword of Kenrick fhone among the Britons; Tenyan bled at his feet; like the red lightning of heaven he burnt up the ranks of his enemy.
• Centwin raged like a wild boar. Tatward fported in blood, armies melted at his ftroke. Eldulph was a flaming vapour, deftruction fat upon his fword. Ceolwolf was drenched in gore, but fell like a rock before the fword of Mervin.
• Egward purfued the flayer of his friend; the blood of Mervin fmoked on his hand.:
• Like the rage of a tempeft was the noife of the battle; like the roaring of the torrent, gushing from the brow of the lofty mountain.
The Britons fled, like a black cloud dropping hail, flying before the howling winds.
Ye virgins! arife and welcome back the pursuers; deck their brows with chaplets of jewels; fpread the branches of the oak beneath their feet. Kenrick is returned from the war, the clotted gore hangs terrible upon his crooked fword, like the noxious vapours on the black rock; his knees are red with the gore of the foe.
Ye fons of the fong, found the inftruments of mufic; ye virgins, dance around him.
• Coftan of the lake, arife, take thy harp from the willow, fing the praise of Kenrick, to the sweet found of the white waves finking to the foundation of the black rock.
Rejoice, Oye Saxons! Kenrick is victorious.'
This and the other pieces, which are called Saxon poems, may stand in competition with the heroic rhapsodies of the Caledonian bard. Their characters are equally apocryphal; the style and images are perfectly fimilar; and there feems to be fomething congenial in the two tranflators.
The following extract, from the beginning of one of our author's Eclogues, may ferve as a fpecimen of his poetical abilities in the modern style.