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spot in particular, full in view of the church, where he would often lay himself down, and fix his eyes, as it were, in a trance. On Sundays, as long as daylight lasted, he would walk alone in the country around Bristol, taking drawings of churches, or other objects that struck his imagination. The romance of his character is somewhat disenchanted, when we find him in his satire of “ K'ev Gardens,” which he wrote before leaving Bristol, indulging in the vulgar scandal of the day upon the characters of the Princess Dowager of Wales and Lord Bute, whatever proofs such a production may afford of the quickness and versatility of his talents.
As he had not exactly followed Horace Walpole's advice with regard to moulding his inclinations to business, he felt the irksomeness of his situation in Mr. Lambert's office at last intolerable, and he vehemently solicited and obtained the attorney's consent to release him from his apprenticeship. His master is said to have been alarmed into this concession by the bints which Chatterton gave of his intention to destroy himself ; but even without this fear, Mr. Lambert could have no great motive to detain so reluctant an apprentice from the hopes of his future services.
In the month of April, 1770, Chatterton arrived in London, aged seventeen years and five months. He immediately received from the booksellers, with whom he had already corresponded, several important literary engagements. He projected a History of England, and a History of London, wrote for the magazines and newspapers, and contributed songs for the public gardens. But party politics soon became his favorite object, as they flattered his self-importance, and were likely to give the most lucrative employment to his pen. His introduction to one or two individuals, who noticed him on this account, seems to have filled his ardent and sanguine fancy with unbounded prospects of success.
Among these acquaintances was the Lord Mayor, Beckford, and it is not unlikely, if that magistrate had not died soon after, that Chatterton might have found a patron. His death, however, and a little experience, put an end to the young adventurer's hopes of making his fortune by writing in hostility to government; and with great accommodation of principle he addressed a letter to Lord North, in praise of his administration. There was perhaps more levity tiian profligacy in this tergiversation, though it must be owned that it was not the levity of an ingenuous boy.
During the few months of his existence in London, his letters to his mother and sister, which were always accompanied with presents, expressed the most joyous anticipations. But suddenly all the flush of his gay hopes and busy projects terminated in despair. The particular causes which led to his catastrophe have not been distinctly traced ; his own descriptions of his prospects were but little to be trusted; for, while apparently exchanging his shadowy visions of Rowley for the real adventures of life, he was still moving under the spell of an imagination that saw everything in exaggerated colors. Out of this dream he was at length awakened, when he found that he had miscalculated the chances of patronage and the profits of literary labor. The abortive attempt which he made to obtain the situation of a surgeon's mate on board an African vessel, shows that he had abandoned the hopes of gaining a livelihood by working for the booksellers, though he was known to have shrewdly remarked that they were not the worst patrons of merit. After this disappointment his poverty became extreme, and though there is an account of a gentleman having sent him a guinea within the few last days of his life, yet there is too much reason to fear that the pangs of his voluntary death were preceded by the actual sufferings of want. Mrs. Angel, a sack-maker, iu Brook Street, Holborn, in whose house he lodged, offered him a dinner the day before his death, knowing that he had fasted a long time, but his pride made him refuse it with some indignation. On the 25th of August he was found dead in his bed, from the effects of poison, which he had swallowed. He was interred in a shell in the burial ground of Shoe Lane workhouse.
The heart which can peruse the fate of Chatterton without being moved is little to be envied for its tranquillity ; but the intellects of those men must be as deficient as their hearts are uncharitable, who, confounding all shades of moral distinction, have ranked his literary fiction of Rowley in the same class of crimes with pecuniary forgery, and have calculated that if he had not died by his own hand, he would have probably ended his days upon a gallows. This disgusting sentence has been pronounced upon a
youth who was exemplary for severe study, temperance, and natural affection. His Rowleian forgery must indeed be pronounced improper by the general law which condemns all falsifications of history; but it deprived no man of his fame, it had no sacrilegious interference with the memory of departed genius, it had not, like Lauder's imposture, any malignant motive, to rob a party, or a country, of a name wbich was its pride and ornament.
Setting aside the opinion of those uncharitable biographers whose imaginations have conducted him to the gibbet, it may
be owned that his unformed character exhibited strong and conflicting elements of good and evil. Even the momentary project of the infidel boy to become a Methodist preacher, betrays an obliquity of design, and a contempt of human credulity, that is not very amiable. But, had he been spared, his pride and ambition would have come to flow in their proper channels; his understanding would have taught him the practical value of truth and the dignity of virtue, and he would have despised artifice when he had felt the strength and security of wisdom. In estimating the promises of his genius, I would rather lean to the utmost enthusiasm of his admirers, than to the cold opinion of those who are afraid of being blinded to the defects of the poems attributed to Rowley, by the veil of obsolete phraseology which is thrown over them. If we look to the ballad of Sir Charles Bawdin, and translate it into modern English, we shall find its strength and interest to have no dependence on obsolete words. In the striking passage of the martyr Bawdin standing ereot in his car to rebuke Edward, who beheld him from the window, when
“The tyrant's soul rushed to his face," and when he exclaimed,
"Behold the man! he speaks the truth,
He's greater than a king;'' in these and in all the striking parts of the ballad, no effect is owing to mock antiquity, but to the simple and high conception of a great and just character, who
"Summ'd the actions of the day,
Each night before he slept." What a moral portraiture from the hand of a boy! The inequal. ity of Chatterton's various productions may be compared to the disproportions of the ungrown giant. His works had nothing of the definite neatness of that precocious talent which stops short in early maturity. His thirst for knowledge was that of a being taught by instinct to lay up materials for the exercise of great and undeveloped powers.
Even in his favorite maxim, pushed it might be to hyperbole, that a man by abstinence and perseverance might accomplish whatever he pleased, may be traced the indications of a genius which nature had meant to achieve works of immortality. Tasso alone can be compared to him as a juvenile prodigy. No English poet ever equalled him at the same age.
283.–THE HALL OF EBLIS.
BECKFORD. (WILLIAM BECKFORD, remarkable for his literary ability, his taste, his wealth, and his eccentricity, was the son of the famous Alderman Beckford. He was born in 1764, and died in 1844. His Arabian tale of “ Vathek” was written originally in French, and its author affirmed that he wrote it at one sitting, of three days and two nights. The translation from which our extract is given was done by some unknown person ; Beckford thought well of it. At a late period of his life, Mr. Beckford published several volumes connected with his early travels, which confirmed the reputation which he had long before acquired by “ Vathek."]
A deathlike stillness reigned over the mountain and through the air. The moon dilated on a vast platform the shades of the lofty columns, which reached from the terrace almost to the clouds. The gloomy watch-towers, whose number could not be counted, were veiled by no roof; and their capital, of an architecture unknown in the records of the earth, served as an asylum for the birds of darkness, which, alarmed at the approach of such visitants, fled away croaking.
The chief of the eunuchs, trembling with fear, besought Vathek that a fire might be kindled. “No!" replied he, “there is no time left to think of such trifles ; abide where thou art, and expect my commands. Having thus spoken, he presented his hand to
Nouronihar; and, ascending the steps of a vast staircase, reached the terrace, which was flagged with squares of marble, and resembled a smooth expanse
of water, upon
whose surface not a leaf ever dared to vegetate. On the right rose the watch-towers, ranged before the ruins of an immense palace, whose walls were embossed with various figures. In front stood forth the colossal forms of four creatures, composed of the leopard and the griffin ; and, though but of stone, inspired emotions of terror. Near these were distinguished, by the splendor of the moon, which streamed full on the palace, characters like those on the sabres of the Giaour, that possessed the same virtue of changing every moment. These, after vacillating for some time, at last fixed in Arabic letters, and prescribed to the caliph the following words :
· Vathek, though hast violated the conditions of my parchment, and deservest to be sent back; but, in favor to thy companion, and as the meed for what thou hast done to obtain it, Eblis permitteth that the portal of this palace shall be opened, and the subterranean fire will receive thee into the number of its adorers."
He scarcely had read these words before the mountain, against which the terrace was reared, trembled ; and the watch-towers were ready to topple headlong upon them. The rock yawned, and disclosed within it a staircase of polished marble, that seemed to approach the abyss. Upon each stair were planted two large torches, like those Nouronihar had seen in her vision, the camphorated vapor ascending from which gathered into a cloud under the hollow of a vault.
This appearance, instead of terrifying, gave new courage to the daughter of Fakreddin. Scarcely deigning to bid adieu to the moon and the firmament, she abandoned, without hesitation, the pure atmosphere, to plunge into these infernal exhalations. The gait of those impious personages was haughty and determined. As they descended, by the effulgence of the torches, they gazed on each other with mutual admiration ; and both appeared so resplendent that they already esteemed themselves spiritual intelligences. The only circumstance that perplexed them was their not arriving at the bottom of the stairs. On hastening their descent, with an ardent impetuosity, they felt their steps accelerated to such a degree that they seemed not walking, but falling from a