The Author is certainly at liberty to fancy cases, and make whatever comparisons he thinks proper; his suppositions still continue as distant from fact, as his wild discourses are from solid argument. JUNIUS.


[Price One Shilling.]


IN the Annual Register for 1778, Mr. Dodsley has resumed the subject of Rowlie's Poems. The whole of this second publication is taken, as he tells us, from Mr. Warton's History of English Poetry; whose opinion, from his knowledge as an antiquarian, and judgment as a man of taste, he looks upon as decisive. These extracts made me desirous of reading the whole section from which they were taken. I accordingly read it very care­fully; and I am sorry to say, that the in­formation I gained from it, was by no means answerable to what I had a right to expect from the reputed abilities and character of that author.

[Page 4]The method the Professor there lays down to himself is, to give us,

Ist. Some account of the manner in which Rowlie's Poems were brought to light. 2dly. Some specimens of them. He then adds his own opinion, viz. That Rowlie was not the author, that Chatterton was.

That Rowlie was not the author, he en­deavours to prove, 1st, By external argu­ments; 2dly, By internal. Some levelled against the collection of Poems in ge­neral; others against particular pieces.

The external arguments are as follow: That the form of the letters essentially dif­fers from every one of our ancient manuscripts; that the characters were not uniform; that care had been evidently taken to tincture the ink with a yellow cast; that the parchments themselves had been stained with ocre, which was easily rubbed off. The manuscript too, which he had examined carefully him­self, bad, it seems some heraldic delineations, not suitable to the time, which confirm him still more in his opinion.

The internal arguments are these: An affectation of obsolete words and spellings; [Page 5]improper combinations of them, and improper contexture with the present modes of speech. The inconsistency of the style in different pieces; the consistency, spirit, and excel­lence of the collection in general.

The particular pieces whose authen­ticity he questions, are, the Song to Aella, &c. J. Lydgate's Answer; Sir C. Bald­win; the Battle of Hastings; the Ac­counte of W. Canynge's Feast; the Epis­tle prefixed to the Tragedy, and through that, the Tragedy itself.

Having now proved them, to his own satisfaction at least, not to be Rowlie's, he at once determines them to be Chat­terton's; whom he conceives to have been very capable of such an imposture, from his natural abilities and turn of disposi­tion; from his situation and connections; and from the little difficulty which such a forgery as this would be attended with.

These, I believe, are the chief grounds upon which our author argues, and as far as can be collected from a treatise which is not always so regular as it might have been, the amount of every thing he says.

[Page 6]Having thus given the reader this short view of the Professor's arguments, I shall now proceed to examine them particu­larly. As to the method observed by me, I shall say nothing, that being entirely the Professor's own.

First, therefore, of the narration, or ac­count he gives of the manner in which the Poems were brought to light. How far this is distinct and clear, and agreeable to the general laws of narrative, it is not my pre­sent business to inquire. The accuracy of it, in regard to truth and fact, is all that comes under my notice; in which it certainly fails, at least if credit is to be given to persons who have examined the matter on the spot; with whose accounts the Professor does not always seem to agree. Sometimes the difference be­tween them is trifling; such as calling the wooden chest an iron one, &c. and indeed would hardly be worth mention­ing, were they not proofs that the Pro­fessor had never been at Bristol, though I believe he was once within sixteen miles of it. The age of Chatterton is a very [Page 7]material circumstance; he is said by the Professor to have been about seventeen when the Poems were discovered; but as he was born at the latter end of 1752, and the Poems were discovered at latest in the autumn of 1768, he could not then have been quite-sixteen. The difference of this year will be of more importance than appears at first sight, when we consider that he was not known as an author till after fifteen, the time at which he left school, where his necessary employment was such, that he could hardly have much leisure for other stu­dies.

As to the Professor's specimens of these Poems; whatever his judgment in select­ing them may have been, accuracy in transcribing them seems to be what he has very little attended to. For instance, the description of the morning, which is ascribed by him to the minstrels, is a part of Celmonde's speech after the victory at Watchet. In the Chorus or interlude of the damsel who drowns herself, scarce one line agrees with the printed copy. The Song to Aella he transcribes at length; [Page 8]John Lydgate's Answer he determines to be beneath transcription; but that it may not pass wholly unnoticed, he gives us a long note to prove it a forgery. This ar­gument has certainly the appearance of being misplaced; but it is to be presum­ed, that the Professor had his reasons for it. This parchment which contained the Song to Aella, J. Lydgate's Answer, and the introductory letter, was one of the very few that Chatterton ever pro­duced as originals. The reasons for which its authenticity is doubted by the Professor, are these: That Turgotus and Chaucer are both said to have lived in Norman times; which, as he rightly ob­serves, might be true of Turgotus, who died in 1115, but could not be equally applied to Chaucer, who was nearly co­temporary with Lydgate. Perhaps in those times, the particle "and" might not connect so strongly as it does at present; and Turgot may be joined with Chau­cer only as referring to his excellence, and not to the time in which he lived. But supposing this remark to be just, it will as well prove that Chatterton did not [Page 9]write it, as that Lydgate did not; his antiquarian knowledge, according to the Professor, being such as must have in­formed him better. Besides, Chaucer was his favourite author, whose glossary he continually consulted. It is therefore very near as improbable that such an ana­chronism should come from him, as from Lydgate himself. The Professor's next remark is, that Chaucer and Turgot are oddly coupled in another respect, as the latter only wrote some Latin Chronicles. Now Turgot wrote not in Latin, but, in his mother-tongue, according to Bale; nor were his works, by the same author's account, entirely historical. It is urged likewise by the Professor, as another ob­jection, that Stowe is mentioned as living with Chaucer and Turgot. This Stowe, he says, to shew his learning where rea­sons only are wanted, should be Stone, who was Lydgate's cotemporary. That this Stowe should be Stone is very probable, as the letters n and w were so alike in this very parchment, that Chatterton read the author's name Ronlie, till he was set [Page 10]right by Mr. Barret. As to the other assertion of the Professor's, that Stowe is mentioned as living with Chaucer and Tur­got, the words upon which he founds it, are,

In Norman times Turgotus, and
Great Chaucer did excell,
Then Stowe, the Bristol Carmelyte, &c.

Whether this does not mean directly the contrary to what the Professor says it does, I shall leave to the reader to deter­mine. The Professor's last argument against this piece, is the extreme and af­fected meanness of the composition. The word affected is most probably here foisted in, to avoid the absurdity of supposing this Poem, and the Song to Aella, the serious productions of the same person. Whe­ther the meanness of any composition can be admitted of as a conclusive proof that it is forged, may justly be doubted; but the Professor would have done well to have considered the consequences fully, before he risqued so dangerous a doc­trine. But to return to the extracts; [Page 11]where, among others, he cites a passage from a dialogue between two ladies (viz. a soliloquy of one gentleman). This cir­cumstance is of little or no weight on either side; and I have only mentioned it to exemplify what he himself con­fesses, that his quotations are not always so accurate as they might have been.

Having thus prepared his readers for his opinion, he accordingly gives it, and very decisively, viz. That none of these pieces are genuine. This he rests upon the following circumstances; which are, I presume, his external arguments. Among these, the first is, that Sir Charles Bawdin is allowed to be modern, even by those who maintain all the others to be an­cient. In all the enquiries I have been able to make, I never yet found any body who allowed this. Who they were who did allow it, and of what authority, I could wish the Professor had told us; at present, his proof cannot be of any great weight with those who are not already pre-determined to grant that the Poem is modern. His note upon the passage cer­tainly [Page 12]does not carry much conviction. What is there contained (although, doubt­less, very curious) being in general but little to the purpose; what there is to the purpose, rather in favour of the Poem than the contrary.

The Professor's next objections are drawn from the parchment which con­tained the Song to Aella and J. Lyd­gate's Answer, viz. That the writing was a gross and palpable forgery, not even skil­fully counterfeited; that the letters, though artfully contrived to wear an antiquated appearance, differed from all our ancient al­phabets; that they were not uniform; that the parchment had been stained with ocre, which was easily rubbed off; and that care had been evidently taken to tincture the ink with a yellow cast. Part of this would, if clearly proved, have great weight with many. However, this does not rest, it seems, upon the Professor's authority, but upon his friend's. Perhaps it is not quite fair in him to bring such very positive assertions about manuscripts, which can­not now be referred to, as they are, to [Page 13]use his own expression, unfortunately lost. The manner of their loss was too, as I have heard, extraordinary. This the Professor says nothing of; whether his friend had been tender of giving him any information on so delicate a subject, or whether he thought it might injure his cause, and has therefore slurred it over, it matters not; we must lament, and not enquire. As to their being stained with ocre; I have heard from the best autho­rity, that one of the manuscripts was not stained with ocre, at least when it left Bristol; the yellow roll, as the name im­plies, was originally stained for distinction sake: nor, if there had been any such stain upon the first, would it have proved it modern. As from some notices I have received (to use the Professor's own clas­sical expression) I find, that most of the parchments in many archives throughout the kingdom, have a sort of yellow dust upon them; which the converting fancy of an ingenious critic might, especially if inclined before to do so, easily misinter­pret into ocre. As to the ink; I do not [Page 14]mean to undervalue the abilities of the Professor's friend; it must, however, re­quire a greater degree of sagacity than I can well conceive, to determine exactly whether the yellow cast of the ink was the effect of time, or accident, or art. But after all, to what purpose all this? it is surely unnecessary; for if the Professor's word may be taken, he has already proved Lydgate's answer, which was on the same parchment, and apparently in the same hand, a manifest imposition. What I have above hinted in regard to this same note, will, I hope, make the reader a little scrupu­lous how he receives any thing from the Professor as an unquestionable truth, till he shall have examined it himself pretty carefully, at least put him so far upon his guard as not to take any thing at the Professor's hands intirely upon trust.

But the Professor, not willing to leave the glory of so great a discovery entirely to his friend, and to put things out of all doubt, acquaints us, that his own exami­nation of the parchment containing the account of W. Canynge's Feast, confirms, [Page 15]very fully, all that he has told us of the two other parchments on the authority of his friend. This parchment, he says, with an appearance of sorrow, betrayed all the suspicious circumstances observed in the Ode to Aella. One would imagine, that here at least he must have been uncom­monly accurate, having, by all accounts, had the manuscript in his possession long enough of all conscience to have made himself thoroughly master of it. But I never heard any one, except himself, say that it was stained with ocre, or that care had been evidently taken to tincture the ink with a yellow cast. As to the difference of the hand-writing from that of the age; that, even supposing it to be true, will not, I apprehend, be looked upon by every one as a decisive proof, till the ne­cessity that all cotemporary writers should write the same hand, is made to appear. Even the style and drawing of the armorial bearings, are said by the Professor, to dis­cover the hand of a modern herald. As to these, from all I have been able to learn, they are not reducible to any sort of he­raldry [Page 16]that ever was. But that I may not seem to take a malicious pleasure in disputing every thing he asserts, and ac­cepting and availing myself of those con­cessions which he so generously makes, without making him any in return, I will, if he pleases, give him up this piece. Perhaps it may be a forgery; there are more reasons for thinking so of this than of any other, but the Professor seems not to have hit upon them. The remark with which he concludes these external arguments, is rather unfortunate. He believes, it seems, that this Accounte of W. Canynge's Feast, is the only pretended original of Rowlie's poetry now remaining. To talk in so very heedless a manner, is hardly using his readers fairly. The least attention to the point in hand, even once reading over the Poem, might have shewn him, that Canynge, and not Row­lie, was the reputed author of it.

Having thus finished his external evi­dence, he proceeds, secondly, to the in­ternal. His first proof here is, the unna­tural affectation of ancient spelling and ob­solete [Page 17]words, not belonging to the period as­signed these Poems; which, according to him, must strike us at first sight. What he means by not belonging to the period as­signed these Poems, does not, I own, im­mediately strike me. Does he mean that they belong to any period before Rowlie's time? or any subsequent one? or does he intend to hint by these words, what Mr. Tyrwhitt has told us, that many of them are not to be found anywhere? Whichever is his meaning, he has ex­prest it rather obscurely; but at all events he might certainly have avoided this, with little trouble to himself, and much satisfaction to his readers, by citing some instances. His next mark of forgery is, that combinations of these old words are formed, which never yet existed in the unpo­lished state of the English language. That the antiquated diction is often inartificially misapplied by an improper contexture of the present modes of speech. Here again, as I have observed just now, it were to be wished, that the Professor had given us some instances. It would have saved me, [Page 18]and possibly some others, much trouble. For my own part, I have searched, and with some diligence, for these contextures and combinations, but hitherto with little success. But, what is of more impor­tance, the poet sometimes forgets his assumed character, and does not always act his part with consistency, for the Interlude of the damsel who drowns herself, is much more intelligible, and free from uncouth expressions, than the general phraseology of these compo­sitions. This may be easily accounted for by the genius of elegiac poetry, which is naturally simple and unaffected. There is, however, another way of accounting for this difference, more decisive, though less obvious; which is, that the Professor seems to have modernized it in no less than forty-eight places; which one would imagine was not so very easy a task, as the whole Poem consists only of nine stanzas. Many of his other quotations are inaccurate, as he himself rightly ob­serves, but none so much as this. In other parts, his alterations seem to give the words a more antiquated cast. In the [Page 19]Poem before us, this would have defeated the end he had in view, the modern ap­pearance of the Poem being what he founds his objection upon.

Having now gone through (as I ima­gined at least, for I found myself mistak­en, as the reader will see very shortly) his general proofs, he comes to particular pieces, v. g. In the battle of Hastings, Stonehenge is called a Druidical temple. But about Turgot's time, according to the Professor, no other report prevailed about this miraculous monument, than that it was erected in memory of Hengist's massacre. This, he says, was the established and uni­form opinion of the Welch and Armorican bards, who had it from the Saxon minstrels. That the Druids constructed this stupendous pile for a place of worship, was a discovery reserved for the sagacity of a wiser age, and the laborious discussion of modern antiqua­ries. Let us examine a little upon what foundation this great traditional authority is built. We have it from the Professor, whom we certainly have not too much reason to give implicit credit to—who [Page 20]had it from Geoffry of Monmouth, whose romance is nothing more than a collec­tion of mere fables—who had it from the Armorican bards, none of whose works are now extant, if ever there were any— who had it from the Saxon minstrels, who, I believe, were never extant at all. So that this tradition has its original no­where—is transmitted by people whose testimony does not exist—confirmed by one of the most notorious liars that ever lived, and the last stamp put to its au­thenticity by the Professor. What in­fidels must we be, who do not submit to such irrefragable evidence! But supposing this was the common report, which by no means appears, is it impossible that a man of learning should have known the truth, though contrary to common re­port. He must, at least, have had better materials so much nearer the times, than our modern antiquaries, who are supposed to be the first authors of this discovery, and perhaps as much sagacity to have made use of them. His next proof is from the Epistle to Lydgate (meaning, I [Page 21]suppose, the Epistle to Canynge) in which, he says, some great story of human manners is recommended as the subject most suitable for theatrical representation. This idea, he says, is the result of that taste and discrimination, which could only belong to a more advanced period of society. Sup­posing this quotation was in Rowlie's words, which it is not, what direct proof against the tragedy's being ancient can be built upon it? Is it improbable, that a man of taste should be disgusted at the absurdity of the dramatical representa­tions, which usually prevailed in the age when this was supposed to be written? That his genius, taste, or learning, should point out to him the proper object of dramatic poetry?—The efforts of genius have not always kept exact pace with the state of society; as at some times they have followed it but slowly, so at others they have advanced beyond it. This argument is seconded by a long note, which, however, contains nothing more than some cavils upon two or three words; viz, that by minster must be meant the [Page 22]present cathedral at Bristol; that Bristol is called a city, which it was not till 150 years after Rowlie and that Accounte in his time had not lost its original sense and spelling. But in fact, St. Ewin's church at Bristol was anciently called the minster, and not the present cathedral, However, let us grant that it was the pre­sent cathedral. The present cathedral was, at that time, an Augustine mona­stery, according to the Professor*, and minster is, by the same authority, said, in its simple acceptation to signify monastery. So, that if it was called minster, it was called by its right name. The second word is in the prose writings, where much is very probably interpolated, and about which I never could get any in­formation I could depend upon. The Account of W. Canynge's Feast, as I have before hinted, and shall shew by and by, is much to be suspected; to be suspected in many particulars, and most in the title.

[Page 23]But, to follow the Professor back to his general arguments, and, to use his own very expressive words, Above all, the cast of the thought, the complexion of the sentiment, and the structure of the composition, evidently prove these pieces not ancient. The Ode to AElla, he says, has exactly the air of modern poetry, such as is written at this day, only disguised with antique spelling, and phrase­ology. But if this be really the Professor's opinion, he must have been peculiarly fortunate, as very few things which have been published lately, or perhaps at any time, can stand in competition with them. But supposing the Poems are superior to modern ones, even that can hardly prove them forgeries. Many writers of un­doubted authority, differ much in style from their cotemporaries. Terence and Plautus, who wrote in the same way, as well as in the same age, are as different in point of style, as any two writers who lived in different ages could have been. A similar instance occurs among our own authors. Bishop Hall's Virgidemiae were, I believe, published before Dr. [Page 24]Donne's Satires. The difference between them, when considered as cotemporary writers, is astonishing; as great, certainly, as between Rowlie and Lydgate, or any other, that lived either at or near those times. No positive conclusion can, there­fore, be drawn from this kind of objec­tions.

These, I believe, are all the internal ar­guments which the Professor has vouch­safed to give us; and of these, few seem to make good the point they are designed for, much fewer to be of the least im­portance. Objections of weight seem to have been left purposely unsupported, either by argument, or instance. How­ever high the Professor's authority may be, to have his bare assertions taken for proof, is a greater deference than he can reason­ably expect.

Having thus proved, to his own satis­faction, that Rowlie is not the author of these Poems, he at once ascribes them to Chatterton; whom he represents as a pro­digy of genius, of such talents for poetry, that he would have proved the first of Eng­lish [Page 25]poets, had he reached a maturer age. Whoever will read the Poems published in his name, may, perhaps, doubt this very extraordinary account of his abili­ties. There cannot, in my opinion, be any two collections of Poems more essen­tially different than Chatterton's and Rowlie's. The former have every im­perfection one might expect from the author's age; and excel in those points only, which are more within the reach of a boy. His verses generally flow off in exact cadence and harmony; sometimes the thoughts are better exprest than any one reasonably could have expected. But if any one looks for the propriety, con­sistency, conduct, and spirit of Rowlie, he will be much disappointed. Where does Chatterton observe any one of the rules of good writing? Where does Rowlie fail in one? In short, whatever has been said by the Professor upon the inequality and impropriety of the old English bards, may be applied with much more justice to Chatterton. What his early compositions, written without any de­sign [Page 26]to deceive, were, which the first critic of the present age speaks so highly of, I do not know, any more than who this first critic is. Nor is it, in my opinion, quite fair of the Professor to give so very ex­traordinary a character of these Poems, without specifying which of them they are, or giving us some specimens of them, any more than to overbear us with such irresis­tible authority; without letting us know who this first-rate critic is; this image which he has set up for us all to bow down to. If, however, those Poems the Professor means, are in the above-men­tioned collection, I cannot pay so much deference to this anonymous critic, or even to the Professor himself, as to pro­nounce them so very wonderful. There are certainly marks of genius in them, far beyond his education; but I cannot say that I have yet met with any thing which promises to make him the first of English poets. That by his situation and connections he was a skilful practitioner in various kinds of hand-writing, will be found, perhaps, on inquiry, a mere sup­position [Page 27]of the Professor's. By better au­thority than the Professor's, viz. the au­thority of those who taught him, his common hand was a bad one, and he wrote very slow, or, in the Professor's words, had but little facility in the gra­phic art. The attorney to whom he was articled, never employed him, except in writing precedents. From these circum­stances it cannot but be evident, that the Professor had not sufficient grounds for this assertion. In regard to a sufficient quantity of obsolete words and phrases, those, according to the Professor, were readily attainable from the Glossary to Chaucer, and Percy's Ballads. As for Percy, per­haps, it is barely worth remarking, that very few of the words used by Rowlie (I question if ten) are to be met with in that glossary. As to Chaucer, the edi­tion Chatterton had, was, if I remember, the very first that had a glossary to it, which is shorter almost by half than any other, and does not contain a fifth part so much as the glossary to the last edi­tion. Now surely this must have been [Page 28]a very poor help for any one, much less a sufficient means to have enabled one of his age, his education, and, in many other respects, circumstanced as he was, to write such poems, and to such a num­ber, as these called Rowlie's.

The Professor, pleased with the success of this last argument, makes us, with all the security of a conqueror, a kind of in­sulting concession; and allows, that some poems written by Rowlie might have been preserved in Canynge's chest; but says, that if there were any, they were so enlarged and improved by Chatterton, as to become en­tirely new compositions. What alterations can have so surprising an effect as to make a transcript an original, is, I own, above my comprehension. That Chatterton did corrupt many words, and modernize others, is very certain; and the gross mistakes in many of his explications, have since been discovered. Which mistakes are such as he could never possibly have committed, had he been the author, and followed his glossary. The Professor being tired of concession, returns again to [Page 29]his old way, of taking it for granted that he has proved things before he has made any advances towards it. The account of W. Canynge's Feast, bids, he tells us, the fairest for an original; this he has al­ready proved a forgery. In answer to this, I hope I may, without the imputation of acting too much like the Professor, beg leave to suspend my assent in regard to both these assertions. This poem would be safe enough, if the Professor's objec­tions were all that could be brought against its authenticity; but there are other circumstances which may give us room to suspect its not being genuine. It is very short, there is little poetical merit in it, very little beyond Chatter­ton's abilities; and Mr. Walpole had suggested to him the idea of forgery, and shewn him that he might pass for the au­thor, by doubting the authenticity of the other manuscripts. But what with me is above all, it has not been unfortunately lost, as two, which were thought by some of the best judges, unquestionable origi­nals, have been. But that this circum­stance [Page 30]is alone sufficient to make us suspect, that no originals ever existed, is more than can be granted. The proofs that even this manuscript is a forgery, are by no means incontestable; nor if they were, would it follow of course, that all or any of the other manuscripts must necessarily be so too.

As to the motives which the Professor assigns for such an imposture; these are as extraordinary as his proof of it, viz. first, Lucrative views. This I should appre­hend could hardly have been the case; as, if I remember right, he communicated the two first manuscripts without receiv­ing any thing for them; and the sums which he received for the others, were by all accounts so small, that he probably got more by the meanest of those he sent to the magazines. As to the pleasure of deceiving the world, which is the next motive our Professor assigns; that is what I have no idea of. I do not mean from thence to argue, that it is by any means impossible; upon farther consideration, it seems not wholly improbable, and per­haps [Page 31]may be thought to have had its in­fluence with writers of greater repute than Chatterton. That he should have preferred the private success of his imposture, to the vanity of appearing as an applauded original author, is utterly inconsistent with his general character. It being well known, that he never published any thing which he did not send an account of to all his friends; and he never owned to any of them, that what he had produced under the name of Rowlie, was an im­posture.

The Professor's thoughts seem so in­tirely possessed with his hero, Chatterton, that I own I am somewhat surprised to find him returning so suddenly to Rowlie; and observing, that in the notices which some of the chief patrons of Rowlie's Poetry sent him from Bristol, it was affirmed, that the order for the visitation of the chest.* [Page 32]we have before had occasion to speak of, was in Canynge's will; where, as he rightly observes, there is no such order to be found. I am afraid there must have been some mistake about these no­tices. Every body who has been at Bristol must know, and the Professor, if he had given himself the trouble to have gone thither, might have known, that it was a deed which contained this order; and that he might as well have looked into his friend Geoffrey of Monmouth, or Slawkenbergius upon Noses, for it, as into Canynge's will. Upon this, with much shew of accuracy and learning, he transcribes a great part of the contents of this same will into a note; for what reason, but to prove that he had read it, I cannot conceive. And here, because Canynge was dean of Westbury college, he gives us a short history of the repairs of that college; he might as well, because Canynge was a merchant, have taken oc­casion to digress into a short dissertation upon trade. For, in fact, all this learn­ing, and all this long quotation, would [Page 33]have been just as much to the purpose, and proved as much in one case as it does in the other. Had our Professor be­stowed but half as much care and accu­racy upon the main points in dispute, he might, perhaps, have gone some way to­wards settling this whole affair.

As to the memoirs of Rowlie, I have little to say; much, possibly, may be true, and much interpolated; for which rea­son, and because, as I have said before, I never could get any account of this frag­ment at all satisfactory, v. g. by whom it was first published, through whose hands it first passed, what authority it ultimately rests upon, I shall not attempt to give any opinion at all upon the matter. However, the Professor's* objections, being entirely against words, do not seem to affect its authenticity in any article at all material.

I have now gone through the Pro­fessor's section; and I must say, it has [Page 34]been a very disagreeable task, to which the want of method did not a little con­tribute; and what is worse, it seems to be of very little concern with him, whe­ther he is right or wrong, whether he informs or misleads his reader. Cer­tainly, however, he does not fulfill the promise he made at the beginning of his section, viz. of laying before his reader every internal and external argument, to enable him to determine upon the merits of this controversy. Indeed, he tacitly confesses as much himself, by annexing to it, as he has done, some additions and emendations. From these I had, I own, some hopes of being more fully satisfied; thinking, that by this means he had a fair opportunity of retracting some of those rash assertions which he deals in so very largely; and correcting, at least some of the inac­curacies we so frequently meet with throughout the section. But, I am sorry to say, that I was miserably disappointed; the only addition I could perceive, being that he has added false fact to false argu­ment; the only emendation, that he has [Page 35]corrected himself when he happened, by some mistake or other, rather unusual with him, to be in the right.

The same method I prescribed to my­self in examining the foregoing part of the Professor's work, I shall follow in this also, and give the reader a summary account of its contents, before I examine it particularly. These (as far as the na­ture of the thing will admit of its being reduced to any settled form) seem, to the best of my apprehension, to be as follow: Some additional cavils upon words; some apology for inaccuracies; and some new proofs, for so he chuses to call them, against the authenticity of the Poems in general, and one of them in particular, the Battle of Hastings. His arguments against the Poems in general, are, from their being so excellent in themselves, and so very unlike those of cotemporary writers: against the Battle of Hastings in particular, from the time at which Tur­got (the supposed original author) died, and from the want of some distinguishing circumstances in the Poem itself. After [Page 36]this the Professor enlarges afresh upon the peculiar merit of Chatterton, and the motives which might have tempted him to such a forgery.

I am sorry to be forced to observe, that the Professor seems to set off rather ominously, by correcting himself in one of the few truths and best grounded as­sertions to be met with in his whole sec­tion; viz. that Turgot died in 1115 (forty-nine years after the battle of Hastings) not in 1015 (fifty-one years before it) as he now affirms in this correction, with an intention to build an argument upon it* In the following note he informs us, that he has received notices from St. Ewin's church at Bristol, anciently called the minster; which import, that the pave­ment was washed against the coming of King Edward; which does not at all prove or imply, that the King sat at the great min­ster [Page 37]window to see the gallant Lancastrian pass to the scaffold. That I may not seem to differ from him for cavilling sake, I here intirely agree with him: I believe the washing of the pavement was never urged as a proof that the King sat at the window, but only as a corroborating cir­cumstance of Edward's being at Bristol about that time. The circumstance of his sitting at the window, the Professor objects to as improbable; why, I do not see, as the general character of Edward rather encourages such a supposition, than contradicts it. His next objection is, that St. Ewin's church was formerly called the minster; but that he suspects, that what the poet intended here by the word minster, must have been the pre­sent cathedral; and that he does not think that the minster of our Lady was a common appellation for Worcester cathedral at that time. Till the Professor thinks fit to pro­duce some ground for his suspicion and be­lief, they cannot be considered as arguments of any great weight; and if he really had made out both, I do not see what advan­tage [Page 38]it would have been to him in regard to the point in hand.

In his next note, he confesses very frankly, that he may have been guilty of some inaccuracies in his section; and makes the reader an apology for them. Here again I think the Professor perfectly in the right; and as he has confessed thus much in general, I do not think it would be amiss, if he was to specify and retract all his errors, as well in the additions and, emendations, as in the section itself. It would not be much longer than his sec­tion, which does not seem to have cost him overmuch trouble. But to return to his apology. He had not, it seems, when he wrote this eighth section, seen all the Poems; what he had seen were only extracts, and those extracts not al­ways exact. From these concessions of his own, have we not some right to ask the Professor the following questions? Why he chose to decide upon a subject which he had not thoroughly informed himself of? Why he took upon him to promise his readers every internal and ex­ternal [Page 39]argument, relating to the contro­versy, at a time when, by his own con­fession, he had not read half the Poems? Why, in all the time between the writ­ing of his section, and the publication of his book, he never took the trouble to go to Bristol, and examine the matter on the spot? Why, since he has read the Poems, he has not corrected those errors, which he owns he has committed?— These interrogations are surely natural, and the Professor probably might find some difficulty in answering them. For however great any man's critical abilities and antiquarian knowledge may be, some little acquaintance with the subject he treats of, must at least make his decision more satisfactory. However, even now, since he has seen all the Poems, his opi­nion, we find, is still the same; they have even afforded him some new proofs. The first of which seems to be nothing more than that Rowlie is not like any of our ancient bards. He has told us be­fore, that the Poems are like modern ones, which is pretty much the same [Page 40]thing. But neither the excellence of any composition, any more than the meanness of it, nor indeed the dissimilitude be­tween that and other cotemporary writ­ings, are by any means an absolute proof that it must be a forgery. His next ar­gument is, that the Poems in question appear to have been composed after ideas of discrimination took place. What sort of Poems they must be, which were com­posed before such a period, for my part, I own I am somewhat at a loss to con­ceive; as such ideas seem always to be of some little use, if not absolutely and in­dispensably necessary, in making any poems, whether ancient or modern, in­telligible.

But in the Battle of Hastings there are some great anachronisms, and practices men­tioned which did not subsist till afterwards. The Professor has not, however, pointed out any particular ones; and if there were any, they have escaped my observation, and I am apt to believe, will do the same to most readers. His next proof, and which perhaps, if true, would be quite [Page 41]decisive, is as follows: Turgot, from whose Saxon chronicle (no longer a Latin one) this Poem is said to be translated, died in 1015, and therefore could not have written any account of the Battle of Hastings, which did not happen till 1066, viz. fifty-one years after his death. This I own appeared, at first sight, to have great weight, as I did not conceive it possible that any one could be so very ignorant of the author whom he had ac­tually translated; or that one of the Pro­fessor's character should have misrepre­sented, in so very extraordinary a manner, so material a date as this, especially as he had founded one of his principal ar­guments upon it. Upon looking into Bale, Nicholson, and some others, it ap­pears, that this latter (viz. that the Pro­fessor has misrepresented the case) is the fact, and that Turgot did not die till 1115, as the Professor had rightly ob­served at first in his note upon J. Lyd­gate's Answer, &c. but finding it would stand in the way of this argument, cor­rected it afterwards in his additions and [Page 42]emendations; and has here produced his own error, or whatever else the reader shall think proper to call it, as a proof that the Poem is a forgery. If this be one of those anachronisms the Professor has hinted at before, and they are all no better founded than this, he has certainly shewn great judgment in keeping them to himself. But allowing that Turgot might have lived in the time of the Con­queror, yet it is very extraordinary that a cotemporary writer should mention nothing but what we knew before, and that the in­cidents are such as are common in all battles. What peculiarities would have satisfied the Professor, is not easy to conceive. There are surely distinguishing circum­stances enough in this Poem, to give it every mark of being genuine, that could reafonably have been expected by any one. It agrees with other histories in such a manner, as to prove its authenticity that way; and where it disagrees, it is in such a manner as rather to prove it an ori­ginal that way. Some incidents must be the same in all battles: in this however, [Page 43]there feem to be many very distinguish­ing ones. But it is the hard fate of Rowlie to have his Poems found fault with every way. If a circumstance not mentioned in other writers, occurs, such as Stonehenge's being a Druidical temple, that is urged against him as a proof of forgery; if he agrees with other writ­ers, his Poem is condemned upon that account: as if, in the first case, those who lived some centuries nearer the times of the Druids, might not have been better informed than those who lived so many centuries after; in the latter, as if it was impossible that two writers should agree in the same story.

Having thus shewn this piece to be spurious, he proceeds from this very piece to demonstrate the spuriousness of the rest. Chatterton allowed the first part to be a forgery of his own: the second part, from what has been said, cannot be genuine; and he who could write the second part, could write every line in the whole collection. This train of consequences is, I own, more than I can comprehend: the con­clusion [Page 44]he means to draw from it, is, pro­bably, that Chatterton did write every line in the whole collection. How this is made out, the reader may possibly see; I do not, and can therefore do no more than object to the parts separately. And first of Chatterton's declaration; how far we can rely upon this is much to be doubted. The Professor, however, as it serves his turn, has chosen to give credit to him. But sure any one else has at least as much right to believe him, when he assirmed the second part to be Row­lie's, as the Professor has, when he af­firmed the first part to be his own. Nor is the second part proved a forgery, from any thing that has been said by the Pro­fessor; except Chatterton's declaring the first was his own, proves the second was so too. If this be what the Professor would have us believe, his conclusion can hardly be allowed. If he would insinu­ate, that his own arguments have proved it a forgery, that, I think, is still less likely to be admitted of.

After this, the Professor, in another: [Page 45]most gracious mood of concession—whe­ther from some misgivings of the force of his arguments, or from confidence in the strength of them, or for any other reason known only to himself, I shall not pre­sume to say—with his usual candour, grants that it is possible Chatterton may not be the author; but if it was so, he says, it is no proof that the Poems are not forged. But this is a new and another question. I cannot help observing, how­ever, how extremely improbable it is, that any man who could write such Poems as these, should be against owning them, when neither life, nor safety, nor interest of any kind, was in the case; but that he should usher his imposture into the world by means of a boy, who had just left a charity-school, and whose veracity, from his known character, every one would be inclined to suspect, is every thing but impossible. It is also equally increadible, that a boy of little more than fifteen, whose avowed works have not such marks of genius in them as the Professor would make us believe—who had never learnt [Page 46]any thing except reading, writing, and ac­counts—whose time, from the day he left school, was mostly taken up in writing for an attorney—whose leisure hours were wasted in debauchery—who died, want­ing upwards of three months of eigh­teen—should have either time or abilities to contrive and execute such a forgery. I hope those few pieces in the Magazines, which the Professor has been so kind as to point out, and whose peculiar merit might otherwise have escaped the gene­rality of readers, are not instances of that astonishing prematurity of abilities, com­prehension of mind, and vigour of under­standing, which predominated over his situ­ations in life, and opportunities of instruc­tion; many of them are very bald, and, in my opinion, at most, very unsuccess­ful imitations of Ossian, without any great marks of genius or spirit. That he wished to put off some of his own poems for Rowlie's is certain; I myself have seen some written with such a design, but so unlike Rowlie, that, to unbiassed readers, it must appear impossible, that [Page 47]the same person should have written those and the collection printed in Rowlie's name. They are the worst even of Chat­terton's own compositions; and shew, that however antiquarian imagery had possessed his imagination, it communicated no share of excellence to his composition.

This, to the best of my judgment, is the sum of every thing at all material, that the Professor has advanced by way of argument. In any of which, I should be sorry to have omitted or misrepre­sented the minutest circumstance. The latter I have endeavoured to guard against on all occasions, as strictly as I possibly could, by using, as much as possible, his own words. And if I do not flatter my­self too much, I have, I hope, made it appear to every unprejudiced reader, that his narrative is by no means exact, nor his quotations faithful: that his ex­ternal arguments are far from being sa­tisfactory; his internal neither fair nor conclusive: that Chatterton was not equal to the composition of such Poems, either by his natural or his acquired [Page 48]abilities; in a word, that the Professor's system throughout, is not supported by a single argument that holds good, or a single fact that may not be questioned.


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