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in a man of twenty. He did not shew extraordinary powers of genius, but extraordinary precocity. Nor do I believe he would have written better had he lived. He knew this himself, or be would have lived. Great geniuses, like great kings, hare se much to think of to kill themselves, for their mind to them also " a kingdom is.” With an unaccountable power coming over him at an unusual age, and with the youthful confidence in spired, he performed wonders, and was willing to set a sala his reputation by a tragic catastrophe. He had done his bes, and, like another Empedocles, threw himself into Æn, be sure immortality. The brazen slippers alone remain
I am sorry that what I said in the conclusion of the last Lecture, Tespecting Chatterton, should have given dissatisfaction to some persons, with whom I would willingly agree on all such matters. What I meant was less to call in question Chatterton's genius than to object to the common mode of estimating its magnitude by its prematureness. The lists of fame are not filled with the dates of births or deaths; and the side-mark of the age at which they were done wears out in works destined for immortality. Had Chatterton really done more, we should have thought less of him, for our attention would then have been fixed on the excellence of the works themselves, instead of the singularity of the circumstances in which they are produced. But because he attained to the full powers of manhood at an early age, I do not see that he would have attained to more than those powers, had he lived to be a man. He was a prodigy, because in him the ordinary march of nature was violently precipitated; and it is therefore inferred that he would have continued to hold on his course, "unslacked of motion." On the contrary, who knows but he might have lived to be poet-laureat? It is much better to let him remain as he was. Of his actual productions, any one may think as highly as he pleases; I would only guard against adding to the account of his quantum meruit those possible productions by which the learned rhapsodists of his time raised his gigantic pretensions to an equality with those of Homer and Shakspeare It is amrising to read some of these exaggerated descriptions, each rising above the other in extravagance. In Anderson's Life, we find that Mr Warton speaks of him
as a prodigy of genius," as “a singular instance of prematurity of abilities :"} that may be true enough, and Warton was at any rate a competent judge ; but Mr. Malone "believes him to have been the greatest genius that England has produced since the days of Shakspeare." Dr. Gregory says, “he must rank, as a universal genius, above Dryden, and perhaps only second Shakspeare.” Mr. Herbert Croft is still more unqualified in his praises; he asserts that “no such being, at any period of life, has ever been known, or possibly ever will be known." He runs a parallel between Chatterton and Milton; and asserts that was army of Macedonian and Swedish mad butchers fly before him," meaning, I suppose, that Alexander the Great and Charles the Twelfth were nothing to him; " nor," he adds, s does my men ry supply me with any human being, who, at such an age, with such advantages, has produced such compositions. Under the heathen mythology, superstition and admiration would have plained all, by bringing Apollo on earth ; nor would the God ever have descended with more credit to himself-Chatterton's physiognomy would at least have enabled him to pass agai It is quite different from the look of timid wonder and deligh: with which Annibal Caracci has painted a young Apollo listen ing to the first sounds he draws from a Pan's pipe, under the tatelage of the old Silenus! If Mr. Croft is sublime on the se casion, Dr. Knox is no less pathetic. “ The testimony of De Knox," says Dr. Anderson, (essays, p. 144.) does equal credit to the classical taste and amiable benevolence of the writer, the genius and reputation of Chatterton.” “When I read, says the Doctor, “the researches of those learned antiquaries who have endea voured to prove that the poems attributed to Rowley were really written by him, I observe many ingenious remarles in confirination of their opinion, which it would be tedious, il not difficult, to controvert."
Now this is so far from the mark that the whole controver might have been settled by any one but the learned antiquarien themselves, who had the smallest share of their learning, from this single circumstance, that the poems read as smooth any modern poems, if you read them as modern com pontons; that you cannot read them, or make verse of them at all, of your pronounce or accent the words as they were spoken at the time when the poems were pretended to have been written The whole secret of the imposture, which nothing but a deal of -- learned dust, raised by collecting and removing a great deal of
learned rubbish, could have prevented our laborious critics from - seeing through, lies on the face of it (to say nothing of the bur
lesque air which is scarcely disguised throughout) in the repetition of a few obsolete words, and in the mis-spelling of common ones.
“ No sooner," proceeds the Doctor, “do I turn to the poems, than the labour of the antiquaries appears only waste of time; and I am involuntarily forced to join in placing that laurel, which he seems so well to have deserved, on the brow of Chatterton. The poems bear so many marks of superior genius that they have deservedly excited the general attention of polite scholars, and are considered as the most remarkable productions in modern poetry. We have many instances of poetical eminence at an early age; but neither Cowley, Milton, nor Pope, ever produced any thing while they were boys, which can justly be compared to the poems of Chatterton. The learned antiquaries do not indeed dispute their excellence. They extol it in the highest terms of applause. They raise their favourite Rowley to a rivalry with Homer : but they make the very merits of the works an argument against their real author. "Is it possible,' say they, 'that a boy should produce compositions so beautiful and masterly?' That a common boy should produce them is not possible,” rejoins the Doctor ; " but that they should be produced by a boy of an extraordinary genius, such as was that of Homer or Shakspeare, though a prodigy, is such a one as by no means exceeds the bounds of rational credibility.”
Now it does not appear that Shakspeare or Homer were such early prodigies; sr that by this reasoning he must take precedence of them too, as well as of Milton, Cowley, and Pope. The reverend and classical writer then breaks out into the following melancholy raptures :
“ Unfortunate boy! short and evil were thy days, but thy fame shall be immortal. Hadst thou been known to the munificent patrons of genius. .......
“ Unfortunate boy! poorly wast thou accommodated during thy short sojourning here among us ;-rudely wast thou treated-sorely did thy feelings suffer from the scor of the en thy; and there at last those who wish to rob thee of dry car meed, thy posthumous glory. Severe too are the contents a thy morals. In the gloomy moments of despondency, I am thou hast uttered impious and blasphemous thoughts Dark thy more rigid censors reflect that thou wast fitenlly and me ly but a boy. Let many of thy bitterest enemies reflect when were their own religious principles, and whether they had aer, at the age of fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen Surely it was and an unjust surmise that thou wouldst probably hare med thy life as a victim to the laws, if thou hndst not ended . thou didst."
Enough, enough, of the learned antiquaries, and of classical and benevolent testimony of Dr. Knox Chnserten was, indeed, badly enough off; but he was at least seved from the pain and shame of reading this woful lamentaben over een genius, which circulates, splendidly bound, in the fourtant edition, while he is a prey to worms. As to those who are ally capable of admiring Chatterton's genius, or of feeling an interest in his fate, I would only say that I never beord Tran speak of any one of his works as if it were an old wi known favourite, and had become a faith and a religro in be mind. It is his name, his youth, and what he mght have bee to have done, that excite our wonder and adminton He has the same sort of posthumous fame that an actor of the last og has an abstracted reputation which is independent of my thing we know of his works. The admirers of Calhas seves think of him without recalling to their minds his role in the Evening, or on the Portical Character Gry's Elear, and his popularity, are identified together, and inseparable en°33 imagination. It is the same with respect to Barns when you speak of him as a poet, you mean his works, his Tend er ter, or his ('otter's Saturday Night. But the enthus far Chatterton, if you ask for the proofs of his extraordinary are are obliged to turn to the volume, and perhape find then war they werk, but it is not in their minds; and it is of thout! spoke
The Minstrel's song in Ælla ka, I think, the best