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Title: Cursory Observations on the Poems Attributed to Thomas Rowley (1782)
Author: Malone, Edmond, 1741-1812
Language: English
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          The Augustan Reprint Society

                 EDMOND MALONE


                     on the

                Attributed To
                 THOMAS ROWLEY


               _Introduction by_
                 JAMES M. KUIST

  Publication Number 123
  William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
  University of California, Los Angeles


  George Robert Guffey, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  Earl Miner, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  Maximillian E. Novak, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  Robert Vosper, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_


  Richard C. Boys, _University of Michigan_
  James L. Clifford, _Columbia University_
  Ralph Cohen, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  Vinton A. Dearing, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  Arthur Friedman, _University of Chicago_
  Louis A. Landa, _Princeton University_
  Samuel H. Monk, _University of Minnesota_
  Everett T. Moore, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  Lawrence Clark Powell, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
  James Sutherland, _University College, London_
  H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., _University of California, Los Angeles_


  Edna C. Davis, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_


Edmond Malone’s _Cursory Observations_ was the most timely publication
in the Rowley controversy. His work appeared just as the debate over the
authenticity of the poems attributed to a fifteenth-century priest was,
after twelve years, entering its most crucial phase.[1] These curious
poems had come to the attention of the reading public in 1769, when
Thomas Chatterton sent several fragments to the _Town and Country
Magazine_. The suicide of the young poet in 1770 made his story of
discovering ancient manuscripts all the more intriguing. When Thomas
Tyrwhitt published the first collected edition in March of 1777,[2]
speculation about whether the poems were the work of Rowley or
Chatterton began in earnest. Malone arrived in London two months later
to take up permanent residence, and very likely he soon became in
private “a professed anti-Rowleian.”[3] But during the late 1770’s,
although anonymous writers filled the periodicals with pronouncements on
both sides of the question, there was no urgent need to demonstrate that
the poems were spurious. The essay which Tyrwhitt appended to the third
edition of Rowley poems in 1778[4] and Thomas Warton’s chapter in his
_History of English Poetry_[5] seemed to show with sufficient authority
that the poems could not have been written in the fifteenth century. The
Rowleians, however, were diligently preparing their arguments,[6] and
late in 1781 they at last came forward with massive scholarly support
for the Rowley story.

On the first of December, Jacob Bryant published his voluminous
_Observations upon the Poems of Thomas Rowley: in which the authenticity
of those poems is ascertained_.[7] Some ten days later, Jeremiah Milles,
Dean of Exeter and President of the Society of Antiquaries, brought out
his own “edition” of the poems, with a commentary providing extensive
historical proof of what Bryant “ascertained.”[8] The remarks of Warton
and Tyrwhitt suddenly seemed hasty and superficial. Warton had clearly
outlined his reasons for skepticism, but he offered to show “the
greatest deference to decisions of much higher authority.”[9] Tyrwhitt
had also hesitated to be dogmatic. He saw fit to suggest that, since
Chatterton had always been equivocal, the authenticity of the poems
could be judged only on internal grounds. Merely to show what might be
gleaned from the poems themselves, he examined “_part_ of the internal
evidence,” the language, and specifically “a _part_ only of this _part_,
viz. ... _words_, considered with respect to their _significations_ and
_inflexions_.”[10] Thus, when the apparently exhaustive work of Bryant
and Milles was published, the Rowleians could well feel that the burden
of proof now rested with the other side. Tyrwhitt and Warton had command
of the proof they needed, and eventually they won over all but the
fanatics.[11] But for the moment any answers they could make to Bryant
and Milles would seem to be merely defensive. At this hour, the position
which they represented needed new support from someone who could bring a
fresh perspective into the debate and, if possible, throw the confident
Rowleians into confusion. Edmond Malone’s observations served precisely
these ends.

Malone must have set to work as soon as the books of Bryant and Milles
appeared.[12] At any rate, he rushed his essay into print. His friend
John Nichols published it, over the signature “Misopiclerus,” in the
December issue and yearly Supplement of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_,
which went into circulation early in January.[13] To appear in these
numbers, Malone’s essay had to be in Nichols’ hands not long after the
middle of December, for copy was already going to press by then.[14]
Doubtless he now put to use many ideas which had occurred to him as the
controversy developed. But the origin of the essay was clearly his
response, not simply to the poems and the controversy surrounding them,
but specifically to what Milles and Bryant had written. His questioning
of their competence to settle literary questions is his most basic
justification of his own analysis. His refutations of their arguments
give substance to every stage of his reasoning. And even though in the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_ the essay is divided into two installments, its
continuity and stylistic cohesiveness indicate that Malone wrote it
purposefully at a time when his thoughts were unified by a clear

A letter which Malone wrote to Lord Charlemont in Ireland on 8 January
1782 reveals something of the seriousness with which, beneath their
merriment, Malone and others regarded the Rowleian manifesto:

  The Rowley controversy, about which you enquire, is going on
  ding-dong. Dr. Milles’s quarto and Mr. Bryant’s octavos are on
  my table, ready to be packed in your parcel. They have said
  everything that could be said on their side of the question, and
  have staggered some. Warton is preparing an answer, which will be
  out soon; only a shilling pamphlet. The cautious Tyrwhitt is
  slower in his operations. He means, I belive, to enter deeply into
  the business, and it will therefore be some time before we shall
  see his vindication. I am, you know, a professed anti-Rowleian,
  and have just sent a little brat into the world to seek his
  fortune. As I did not choose to sign my name, I preferred, for the
  sake of a more general perusal, to give my cursory remarks to a
  magazine, in consequence of which they appear rather awkwardly,
  one half in that for December and the other in the supplement,
  which is to be published in a few days. When I can get a perfect
  copy, I will send it to you, for I flatter myself your partiality
  to me will incline you to run your eye over it, notwithstanding
  your leaning to the other side of the question. Tyrwhitt wants me
  still to make a pamphlet of it, in order to bind up with all the
  other pieces which that most wonderful youth, Chatterton, has
  given occasion to.[15]

While his little brat was diverting the wide audience of the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_, Malone was busy arranging for it to make a more
damaging sally. Tyrwhitt may have asked for a more convenient text; what
Malone gave him was a better essay. He seems to have spent the entire
month revising his work, for the pamphlet was not ready until early in
February. As late as 7 February, writers commenting on the essay
referred to and even quoted from the _Gentleman’s Magazine_.[16] On 4
February, Horace Walpole, writing to thank Malone for sending him a copy
of _Cursory Observations_, said that he had been “earnestly wishing”
for such a present because Malone’s remarks were “far too good to be
committed only to the few hours of life of a newspaper.”[17]

The pamphlet was first advertised in the _St. James’s Chronicle_, in
which developments in the Rowley controversy were usually announced
promptly, until No. 3266 (9-12 Feb.). This and all other advertisements
of the pamphlet were for the version of Malone’s essay which the author
sent to Walpole some days earlier: “the second edition, revised and
augmented.”[18] This phrase on the title-page has led scholars to miss
the significance which Malone himself found in the pamphlet. The phrase
does not indicate, as bibliographies have heretofore stated, that the
pamphlet achieved a second printing. It emphasizes that in the pamphlet
Malone revised and expanded considerably the essay which made its first
appearance in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_.

Every page in the pamphlet bears evidence of Malone’s revision.[19] It
was necessary, of course, to re-orient the essay, which after the
formula of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ was addressed to Mr. Urban. At
least one passage, which carried a slur upon publishers, may have been
changed to suit Mr. Nichols.[20] But more indicative of his carefulness
are his revisions of words and phrases. “The whole fabrick” of
Chatterton’s poems became “the beautiful fabrick” (p. 12). The “practice
of knitting,” which Malone wished to show had not developed as early as
the fifteenth century, he now called “the art of knitting” (p. 24). When
he found that he had not questioned emphatically enough “the antiquity
of these MSS,” he added the phrase “not of one, but of all” (p. 31).
Malone attended to the more general stylistic aspects of his essay as
well as to minute details. If he paused to recompute the number of
parchments which could fit into the famous Bristol chests (p. 59),
he also changed the simple declarative “I shall” to the more forceful
“I will” throughout the essay. Although his verbal revisions cannot be
called drastic, they are numerous and are frequently strategic.

Malone’s expansion of his essay, however, was in itself ample reason to
call the pamphlet a “new edition.” The reviewer for the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_ might assure readers that “great part of this pamphlet” had
already appeared there,[21] but there were also “great” additions. What
Malone came to consider Bryant’s “most plausible argument” (“that every
author must know his own meaning--that Chatterton did not know the
meaning of many words and lines in his book, and therefore was not the
author”), he answered in an entirely new passage (pp. 41-45). He
observed later that “almost every writer on the subject” subsequently
“adopted” this rebuttal.[22] Another crucial section (pp. 45-49), in
which Malone compares a modernized passage from “Rowley” with a passage
from Chatterton’s acknowledged poetry translated into Rowleian verse,
was also new. This critical technique, which Malone perfected, became a
standard one thereafter.[23] Malone added six other passages, none of
which is less than half a page in length, as well as five footnotes
documenting or elaborating points which he had made in the magazine.[24]
The most heavily augmented part of the essay is that containing
miscellaneous proofs, but Malone bolstered his initial arguments as
well. In his comparison of “Rowley’s” smooth versification with the work
of authentic late-medieval poets--the passage which, as we shall see,
Tyrwhitt thought so effective--Malone introduced two further quotations
and substituted the first lines from Bradshaw’s _Holy Life_ for those he
had quoted in the magazine.[25] Malone’s additions to his essay, which
taken together amount to some twenty pages (in a pamphlet of sixty-two
pages), represent a careful effort to support with an irresistable
battery of arguments the main line of attack which he had thrown against
the Rowleians.

As his second paragraph and his appeals to “poetical readers” indicate,
Malone’s fundamental message was that the Rowley poems must be judged as
literature and not as historical documents. The poems had, of course,
found many appreciative readers. A correspondent in the _Gentleman’s
Magazine_ in 1777 (XLVII, 361-365), for instance, discussed with frank
admiration the imagery, pathetic sentiment, accommodation of sound to
sense and other aspects of the poems. It was Malone, however, who got to
the heart of the matter in showing that poetry inevitably bears the
hallmark of the era in which it is written. Even to appreciate the
importance of this fact, he insisted, one must have read the early
English poets with perception and taste. In establishing this criterion,
Malone delivered his most devastating blow against the Rowleians: all
their learned arguments were irrelevant.

Malone’s essay helped to awaken some very witty attacks on the
Rowleians. Malone himself made use of wit in occasional passages, such
as his abuse of Milles for relying on Shakespeare’s historical accuracy
(pp. 22-24). The cure for Rowleiomania which he prescribed in the
concluding passage aroused a good deal of comment. Not all readers were
happy that he chose to ridicule respectable scholars,[26] and the
effectiveness of his humor did not go unquestioned. Burnaby Greene,
whose _Strictures_ were the only major attempt to discredit Malone, was
anxious to show that, although Malone seemed to promise humor, he did
not prove to be “a writer abounding in exertions of the risible
muscles.”[27] Among the replies to Greene were some jovial verses in the
_St. James’s Chronicle_ very likely contributed by Malone:

  Says Bryant to Burnaby, what do you mean?
  The Cause of old Rowley you’ve ruin’d quite clean.
  I had taught Folk to think, by my learned _Farrago_,
  That Drydens and Popes wrote three Centuries ago;
  Though they stared at my Comments, and sometimes might slumber,
  Yet the Truth they might fancy beneath all my Lumber:
  But _your_ stupid Jargon is seen through _instanter_,
  And your Works give the Wits new Subjects for Banter.
  Such _cler_-obscure Aid may I meet again never!
  For now Milles and I will be laugh’d at for ever.[28]

Greene’s criticisms are frequently absurd, but probably even Malone was
ready to acknowledge that humor was not the outstanding feature of the
_Cursory Observations_. His purpose was not to satirize but to refute.

Other writers in 1782, however, exerted their risible muscles much more
vigorously than Malone did. William Julius Mickle wrote _The Prophecy of
Queen Emma; An Ancient Ballad lately discovered, written by Johannes
Turgotus, Prior of Durham, in the Reign of William Rufus_, to which he
added a long satirical postscript about the discovery of the poem.
George Hardinge’s _Rowley and Chatterton in the Shades_ brilliantly
depicts various scenes in the other world after news of the Rowley
controversy is carried there. The most hilarious performance of the
year--indeed, of the entire controversy--was the _Archaeological Epistle
to Dean Milles_, published by John Nichols at the end of March,[29]
which turned the language of the Rowley poems ingeniously against the
two fumbling historians. Such pieces would have appeared whether or not
Malone had written the _Cursory Observations_. The general reader was
likely to find ridiculous the sober effort to document Rowley’s
existence. As a contributor to the _St. James’s Chronicle_ said,
“To mistake the Apprentice of a modern Attorney for an ancient Priest,
too nearly resembles an Incident in the new Pantomime at Covent-Garden,
where a Bailiff, intent on arresting an old Beau, is imposed on by a
Monkey dressed in his Clothes, and employed in an awkward Imitation of
his Manners.”[30] But ridicule could hurt the Rowleians only if their
confidence had been penetrated already. Malone delivered his strokes two
months before any of the others, and the strength of his diversified
attack made it possible for the wits to strike home.

Throughout 1782, the _Cursory Observations_ remained at the forefront of
the reaction to Milles and Bryant. In March, William Mason wrote Walpole
that he understood “a Mr. Malone” was “the proto-antagonist” of the
Rowleians.[31] As late as the August issue of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_
appeared an “Ode, Addressed to Edmond Malone, Esq. on his presuming to
examine the learned and unanswerable Arguments urged by Jacob Bryant,
Esq. and the Rev. Dr. Milles....”[32] Perhaps the fairest contemporary
appraisal of Malone’s work was given in the June issue of the _Critical
Review_. Although the reviewer felt that some of Malone’s proofs, such
as the anachronism of “knitting white hosen,”[33] were as elusive as
those of the antiquaries, he found the method of comparing “Rowley”
and other poets illuminating, and the “miscellaneous observations” he
considered “frequently important, and often decisive.” On the whole, the
reviewer said, “Mr. Malone deserves much praise for his very clear and
comprehensive view” of the controversy.[34]

In their replies to Bryant and Milles, both Warton and Tyrwhitt referred
appreciatively to the _Cursory Observations_. Warton found that he had
duplicated Malone’s method of rewriting Chatterton’s acknowledged
poetry. In a footnote, he said: “The ingenious author of _Cursory
Observations on the Poems of Rowley_, has been beforehand with me in
this sort of tryal. But mine was made, before I had seen his very
sensible and conclusive performance.”[35] Tyrwhitt went so far as to let
Malone speak for him: “From the _Language_, I might go on to examine the
_Versification_ of these Poems; but I think it sufficient to refer the
reader, who may have any doubts upon this point, to the specimens of
really ancient poetry, with which the verses of the pretended _Rowley_
have lately been very judiciously contrasted. Whoever reads those
specimens, if he has an ear, must be convinced, that the authors of them
and of the Poems did not live within the same period.”[36] A century
after Tyrwhitt, in a re-examination of the Rowley poems which is in many
ways the final word on the subject, W. W. Skeat recommended Tyrwhitt’s
_Vindication_, the chapter in Warton’s _History_, and the _Cursory
Observations_ as the three contemporary analyses of the poems which a
reader should consult.[37] The pamphlet is now offered to
twentieth-century readers as an illustration of the mature and versatile
critical powers of one of the eighteenth-century’s great scholars.


1. A good general account of the controversy can be found in
  E. H. W. Meyerstein’s _A Life of Thomas Chatterton_ (London, 1930).
  I wish to thank the University of Western Ontario for the grant
  enabling me to work at the British Museum and Bodleian Library. I am
  indebted to my colleague Herbert Berry for his useful suggestions.

2. _Poems, supposed to have been written at Bristol, by Thomas
  Rowley and Others, in the Fifteenth Century; the greatest part now
  first published from the most authentic copies, with an engraved
  specimen of one of the MSS...._ The earliest advertisement that I
  have seen for this edition is in the _London Chronicle_, No. 3158
  (1-4 March 1777).

3. Until Professor James M. Osborn’s biography of Malone is ready,
  Sir James Prior’s _Life_ (London, 1860) remains standard. Concerning
  Malone’s private opinions about Rowley, see his letter to Charlemont
  quoted below.

4. A convenient reprinting of this edition is _The Rowley Poems by
  Thomas Chatterton_, ed. M. E. Hare (Oxford, 1911).

5. II (London, 1778), 139-164--perhaps more accessible in Richard
  Price’s edition of the _History_, II (London, 1840), 338-360.

6. Letters from Francis Woodward to Lord Charlemont on 21 July 1778
  and 8 April 1779 give brief accounts of the progress of Milles’
  research. See the Twelfth Report of the Historical MSS Commission,
  Appendix X: _The Manuscripts and Correspondence of James, First Earl
  of Charlemont_ (London, 1891), I, 340-341 and 345.

7. An advertisement in the _St. James’s Chronicle_, No. 3233 (24-27
  Nov.) says that the _Observations_ will be published “Saturday
  next.” An advertisement in No. 3235 (29 Nov.-1 Dec.) says that the
  _Observations_ “this day were published.” The latter phrase was
  often used in consecutive advertisements of a work during this
  period, but in view of the announcement in No. 3233, it would seem
  that Bryant’s work did appear on 1 Dec.

8. Milles reprinted Tyrwhitt’s edition (except for the “Appendix,”
  Tyrwhitt’s essay against the authenticity of the poems), correcting
  the errata and adding a few new pieces. His commentary includes a
  long answer to Tyrwhitt, a “Preliminary Dissertation,” introductions
  to various poems, and footnotes throughout the text. Since 1782 is
  the year imprinted on the title-page, bibliographies have always
  given this as the year of publication. But No. 3239 of the _St.
  James’s Chronicle_ (8-11 Dec. 1781) advertises the work as
  published. A MS note by Joseph Haslewood in a pamphlet at the
  British Museum (shelf-mark C.39.f.16) mentions his having seen a
  copy of Milles’ work which Richard Gough obtained on 12 Dec. 1781.

9. _History_, ed. Price, II, 340.

10. _Rowley Poems_, ed. Hare, p. 311.

11. See Meyerstein, _Life_, pp. 472-474. Warton’s reply, advertised
  in the _St. James’s Chronicle_ in No. 3280 (14-16 March 1782) to be
  published “in a few Days,” was _An Enquiry into the Authenticity of
  the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley. In which the arguments of the
  Dean of Exeter, and Mr. Bryant are examined_. Tyrwhitt’s reply,
  first advertised in the _St. James_ in No. 3342 (6-8 Aug. 1782), was
  _A Vindication of the Appendix to the Poems, called Rowley’s...._

12. The only earlier replies were obscure squibs in the newspapers.
  See the _St. James’s Chronicle_, Nos. 3238 (6-8 Dec., against
  Bryant), 3240 (11-13 Dec., against Bryant), and 3245 (22-25 Dec.,
  against both).

13. LI (1781), 555-559, 609-615. On its publishing schedule during
  the 18th century, see the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, N.S.,
  I (July-Dec., 1856), 9. Neither the magazine nor the pamphlet
  mentioned Malone’s authorship, but his hand in “the new Pamphlet,”
  at least, was soon recognized (see the _St. James’s Chronicle_, No.
  3268, 14-16 Feb. 1782). One can only speculate whether Malone and
  Nichols were fellow plotters from the beginning. They seem to have
  taken interest in each other’s work as early as 1779, when Nichols
  printed for Malone special copies of some early analogues to
  Shakespeare’s plays. See Albert H. Smith, “John Nichols, Printer and
  Publisher,” _The Library_, 5th Ser., XVIII (1963), 182-183. And
  evidently Nichols had an eye out for anti-Rowleian materials. At his
  solicitation, Horace Walpole allowed the _Letter to the Editor of
  the [Chatterton] Miscellanies_ (Strawberry Hill, 1779) to be
  reprinted in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ in 1782 (LII, 189-195,
  247-250, 300, and 347-348).

14. Nichols’ printing operations are described in a pamphlet by
  David Bond, _Friendship Strikingly exhibited in a New Light_
  (London, 1781).

15. Charlemont Correspondence, I, 393-394. I wish to thank Professor
  Osborn for calling my attention to this letter.

16. See the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, LII (1782), 14-15, and the _St.
  James’s Chronicle_, Nos. 3257 (19-22 Jan.) and 3264 (5-7 Feb.).

17. _The Letters of Horace Walpole_, ed. Paget Toynbee, XII (Oxford,
  1904), 152.

18. Concerning Walpole’s copy, see _Horace Walpole’s Correspondence_,
  Yale Ed., ed. W. S. Lewis _et al._, XVI (New Haven, 1952), 363.
  I have found no trace of any other version of the pamphlet, and it
  is doubtful that there was time for one to be published between
  8 Jan., when Malone wrote to Charlemont, and 31 Jan., the date of
  the “Advertisement” printed in the “revised and augmented”
  edition. We may presume that as editor of the magazine Nichols
  would not be anxious for another printing of the essay during Jan.
  to compete with two numbers in which the essay was a principal
  feature. All copies of the pamphlet which I have been able to
  locate specify “the second edition, revised and augmented.” In my
  examination of six copies (at the Library of Congress, the
  Bodleian, and the British Museum), I found variation only in the
  catchword on p. 32. Although the first word on p. 33 is “comprise”
  in all copies, the catchword in three copies (Bodleian, and
  British Museum shelf-marks 687.g.33 and 78.i.9) is “contain,” the
  word Malone used in the magazine. Since the copies are otherwise
  identical, repeating distinctive flaws and errors (note, for
  instance, “written,” p. 19), I judge that this discrepancy was
  seen and corrected at press, and that all copies are of one

  [[In this edition, the catchword is “comprise”.]]
  [[P. 19: “undoubtedly writtten [_sic_] by one person”.]]

19. Besides the added paragraphs and footnotes, I have noted 235
  separate textual changes. Undoubtedly some deviations in spelling
  and punctuation were the printer’s work. But the number of changes
  in quoted passages (see especially pp. 16 and 60) and the regularity
  of changes (like those noted above) which evidently serve a
  stylistic purpose suggest the author’s meticulous revision.

    [[Page 16: “My love is dead...” and following.]]
    [[Page 60: Footnote X.]]

20. In reference to Bryant’s _Observations_ (advertised at 8s.),
  Malone had said, “by an unwarrentable artifice of the bookseller, it
  is divided into two, to furnish a pretence for demanding an uncommon
  price.” Compare with this the statement on p. 2.

    [[P. 2: “Many persons, no doubt, will be deterred by the size of
    these works...”]]

21. LII (1782), 128.

22. See Malone’s letter of 19 Nov. 1782 in _Charlemont
  Correspondence_, I, 422.

23. See Meyerstein, _Life_, p. 474, and Warton’s comment (n. 35).

24. The other passages are on pp. 19-22, 23, 25, 49-50, 51-57, and
  57-58. The new footnotes are on pp. 10, 24-25, 29, 33, and 50.

    [[Footnotes A, D, F, G, Q.]]

25. That he had quoted out of Warton’s _History_ the passages from
  Hoccleve and Bradshaw, not having other texts readily at hand,
  indicates Malone’s haste to publish the essay originally. He
  retained the Hoccleve passage (p. 6); his point about Warton’s basis
  of selection is effective. But, perhaps feeling that two such
  citations weakened the point, he took the trouble to bring the
  quotation from Bradshaw into conformity with the other examples.

    [[“Aristotle, most famous philosofre...”]]

26. The reviewer for the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ commented that
  Malone’s “levity” and his ridicule of “respectable characters” could
  “only reflect on himself”--LII (1782), 128. According to Joseph
  Haslewood (see n. 8), the magazine’s reviewer at this time was
  Richard Gough, who devoted much of his life to antiquarian studies.
  For the opposite reaction to Malone’s “cure,” see the _St. James’s
  Chronicle_, No. 3289 (4-6 April 1782), and the _Critical Review_,
  LIII (1782), 418.

27. _Strictures Upon a Pamphlet entitled, Cursory Observations on
  the Poems attributed to Rowley, A Priest of the Fifteenth Century_
  (London, 1782), p. 3.

28. No. 3311 (25-28 May). In a vol. of clippings at the British
  Museum relating to the controversy (shelf-mark C.39.h.20), Joseph
  Haslewood wrote “E. Malone” beneath this poem. Haslewood attributed
  certain other items in the _St. James_ at this time to “G. Steevens”
  and appears to have been reporting first-hand information.

29. Today scholars attribute the _Epistle_ to William Mason, whose
  letters to Walpole certainly imply that he wrote it but was zealous
  to conceal the fact. See _Walpole’s Correspondence_, ed. W. S.
  Lewis, XXIX (New Haven, 1955), 168-169, 175, 182, 189-190, 199-200;
  and Philip Gaskell, _The First Editions of William Mason_
  (Cambridge, 1951), p. 26. The man who published the _Epistle_,
  however, says confidently, “this admirable Poem, very generally
  ascribed at the time to Mr. Mason, was written by John Baynes, Esq.
  and handed to the press by his intimate friend John Watson Reed,
  Esq.” Mason’s furtiveness may, of course, have fooled even the
  publisher. The periodicals of the day bear out at least Nichols’
  word (contrary to what Gaskell says) that the work was immediately
  received as Mason’s. Besides this pamphlet and Malone’s, Nichols
  printed Tyrwhitt’s _Vindication_ (for the publishers T. Payne and
  Son). In a letter to Nichols on 18 March 1782, George Steevens
  commented, “Your house seems to be the forge from which
  Anti-Rowleian thunders of every kind are to be issued.” For all of
  the above information, see Nichols’ _Literary Anecdotes_, VIII
  (London, 1815), 113.

30. No. 3257 (19-22 Jan. 1782).

31. _Walpole’s Correspondence_, ed. Lewis, XXIX, 195.

32. LII (1782), 379-381.

33. A series of articles on this very topic in Malone’s article
  illustrates how elusive such proofs were. See the _Gentleman’s
  Magazine_, LI (1781), 609; LII (1782), 76, 168, 229, 434, 471; LIII
  (1783), 38-39, 127.

34. _Critical Review_, LIII (1782), 418-419.

35. _Enquiry_, pp. 92-93.

36. _Vindication_, p. 82. A footnote refers the reader to the
  _Cursory Observations_.

37. _The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton_, II (London, 1890), xlv.


Edmond Malone’s _Cursory Observations on the Poems Attributed to
Thomas Rowley_ is reproduced from a copy at the Beinecke Library of
Yale University.


                     On The

                   P O E M S

                 Attributed To

                 THOMAS ROWLEY,

       A PRIEST of the Fifteenth Century:


                  SOME REMARKS

    On the COMMENTARIES on those Poems,
      by the Rev. Dr. JEREMIAH MILLES, Dean of
      Exeter, and JACOB BRYANT, Esq;



  Addressed to the Friends of those Gentlemen.

  The Second Edition, Revised And Augmented.

           ---- _Ridentem dicere verum
       Quid vetat?_      HOR.

                  L O N D O N

  Printed for J. NICHOLS, and sold by J. WALTER, Charing
    Cross; R. FAULDER, New Bond street; J. SEWELL, Cornhill;
    and E. NEWBERY, Ludgate street.


       [Price One Shilling and Six-Pence]


The following Observations having met with a more favourable reception
than so hasty an Essay had any title to claim, I have endeavoured to
render them less imperfect by a revisal, and by adding such new remarks
as a more attentive examination of a very copious subject has suggested.

In the discussion of any other question, I should have treated the
gentlemen whose arguments I have endeavoured to confute, with that
ceremonious respect to which Literature is entitled from all her sons.
“A commentator (as the most judicious critick of the present age has
observed) should be grave;” but the cause of Rowley, and the mode in
which it has been supported, are “too risible for any common power of

_January 31, 1782._

  on the
  P O E M S
  attributed to

Never surely was the course marked out by our great Satirist-- _And
write about it, Goddess, and about it_-- more strictly followed, than in
the compositions which the present _Rowleiomania_ has produced. Mercy
upon us! Two octavo volumes and a huge quarto, to prove the forgeries of
an attorney’s clerk at Bristol in 1769, the productions of a priest in
the fifteenth century! ----Fortunate Chatterton! What the warmest wishes
of the admirers of the greatest Genius that England ever produced have
not yet effected, a magnificent and accurate edition of his works, with
notes and engravings, the product of thy fertile brain has now obtained.
--It is almost needless to say, that I allude to two new publications by
Mr. Bryant, and the Dean of Exeter; in the _modest_ title of one of
which, _the authenticity_ of the poems attributed to Thomas Rowley is
said to be _ascertained_; the other gentleman indeed does not go so
far-- he only _considers and defends their antiquity_. --Many persons,
no doubt, will be deterred by the size of these works from reading them.
It is not, however, so great as they may imagine; for Mr. Bryant’s book
is in fact only a moderate octavo, though by dextrous management it has
been divided into two volumes, to furnish an excuse (as it should seem)
for demanding an uncommon price. Bulky, however, as these works are,
I have just perused them, and entreat the indulgence of those who think
the discussion of a much controverted literary point worth attention,
while I lay before them some observations on this inexhaustible subject.

And, first, I beg leave to lay it down as a fixed principle, that the
authenticity or spuriousness of the poems attributed to Rowley cannot be
decided by any person who has not a _taste_ for English poetry, and a
moderate, at least, if not a critical, knowledge of the compositions of
most of our poets from the time of Chaucer to that of Pope. Such a one
alone is, in my opinion, a competent judge of this matter; and were a
jury of twelve such persons empaneled to try the question, I have not
the smallest doubt what would be their almost instantaneous decision.
Without this critical knowledge and taste, all the Saxon literature that
can be employed on this subject (though these learned gentlemen should
pour out waggon instead of cart-loads of it,) will only puzzle and
perplex, instead of illustrating, the point in dispute. Whether they are
furnished with any portion of this critical taste, I shall now examine.
But that I may not bewilder either my readers or myself, I will confine
my observation to these four points. 1. The verification of the poems
attributed to Rowley. 2. The imitations of modern authours that are
found in them. 3. The anachronisms with which they abound. 4. The
hand-writing of the Mss.-- the parchments, &c.

I. It is very obvious, that the first and principal objection to the
antiquity of these poems is the smoothness of the versification.
A series of more than three thousand lines, however disfigured by old
spelling, flowing for the most part as smoothly as any of Pope’s-- is a
difficult matter to be got over. Accordingly the learned Mythologist,
Mr. Bryant, has laboured hard to prove, either, that other poets of the
fifteenth century have written as smoothly, or, if you will not allow
him this, that Rowley was a prodigy, and wrote better than all his
contemporaries; and that this is not at all incredible, it happening
very frequently. And how, think you, gentle reader, he proves his first
point? He produces some verses from Spenser, written about the year
1571; some from Sir John Cheke, written in 1553; and others from Sir H.
Lea, master of the Armoury to queen Elizabeth. These having not the
smallest relation to the present question, I shall take no notice of
them. He then cites some verses of blind Harry, (who knows not blind
Harry?) written in the time of King Edward IV.; and some from _the
Pilgrimage of the Soul_, printed by Caxton in 1483. I will not encumber
my page by transcribing them; and will only observe, that they do not at
all prove the point for which they are adduced, being by no means
harmonious. But were these few verses ever so smooth, they would not
serve to decide the matter in controversy. The question is not, whether
in Chaucer, or any other ancient English poet, we can find a _dozen_
lines as smooth as

  “Wincing she was, as is a jolly colt,
  “Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt--”

but whether we can find _three thousand_ lines as smooth as these;
containing the same rythm, the very collocation and combination of words
used in the eighteenth century.

Let us bring this matter to a very fair test. Any quotation from
particular parts of old poetry is liable to suspicion, and may be
thought to be selected by the advocates on one side as remarkably
harmonious, or by those on the other as uncommonly rugged and uncouth.
I will therefore transcribe the first four lines of as many ancient
poems as are now lying before me; and I request that they may be
compared with the opening of _the Battle of Hastings_, No. 1, the piece
which happens to stand first in the new quarto edition of Chatterton’s

Divested of its old spelling, which is only calculated to mislead the
reader, and to assist the intended imposition, it begins thus:

  “O Christ, it is a grief for me to tell
  “How many a noble earl and val’rous knight
  “In fighting for king Harold nobly fell,
  “All slain in Hastings’ field, in bloody fight.”

Or, as Chatterton himself acknowledged this to be a forgery, perhaps it
will be more proper to quote the beginning of _the Battle of Hastings_,
No. 2, which he asserted to be a genuine, ancient composition:

  “O Truth! immortal daughter of the skies,
  “Too little known to writers of these days,
  “Teach me, fair saint, thy passing worth to prize,
  “To blame a friend, and give a foeman praise.”

The first four lines of _the Vision of Pierce Plowman_, by William
(or Robert) Langland, who flourished about the year 1350, are as
follows: [I quote from the edition printed in 1561.]

  “In a summer season, when set was the sunne,
  “I shope me into shroubs, as I a shepe were,
  “In habit as an hermet, unholye of werkes,
  “Went wide in the werlde, wonders to here.”

Chaucer, who died in 1400, opens thus: [Tyrwhitt’s edit. 1775.]

  “Whanne that April with his shoures sote
  “The droughte of March hath perced to the rote,
  “And bathed every veine in swiche licour,
  “Of whiche vertue engendred is the flour--.”

The _Confessio Amantis_ of Gower, who died in 1402, begins thus:
[Berthelette’s edit. 1532.]

  “I maye not stretche uppe to the heven
  “Myn honde, ne set al in even
  “This worlde, whiche ever is in balaunce,
  “It stant not in my suffisaunce----.”

Of Occleve’s translation of Egidius _de Regimine principum_, not having
it before me, I cannot transcribe the first lines. But here are the
first that Mr. Warton has quoted from that poet, and he probably did not
choose the worst. I should add, that Occleve wrote in the reign of King
Henry V., about the year 1420:

  “Aristotle, most famous philosofre,
  “His epistles to Alisaunder sent,
  “Whos sentence is wel bet then golde in cofre,
  “And more holsum, grounded in trewe entent----.”

The following is the first stanza of _the Letter of Cupide_, written by
the same authour, and printed in Thynne’s edition of Chaucer, 1561:

  “Cupide, unto whose commaundement
  “The gentill kinrede of goddes on hie
  “And people infernall ben obedient,
  “And al mortal folke serven busely,
  “Of the goddesse sonne Cythera onely,
  “To al tho that to our deite
  “Ben subjectes, hertely greting sende we.”

Of John Lydgate’s _Historie of Troye_, which was finished about the year
1420, this is the beginning: [edit. 1555.]

  “O myghty Mars, that with thy sterne lyght
  “In armys hast the power and the myght,
  “And named arte from easte tyl occident
  “The myghty lorde, the god armipotent,
  “That with the shininge of thy stremes rede
  “By influence dost the brydell lede
  “Of chivalrie, as soveraygne and patron--.”

_The Hystorie of King Boccus and Sydracke_, &c. printed in 1510, and
written by Hugh Campeden in the reign of Henry VI. i.e. some time
between the year 1423 and 1461, begins thus:

  “Men may finde in olde bookes,
  “Who soo yat in them lookes,
  “That men may mooche here,
  “And yerefore yff yat yee wolle lere----.”

Of Thomas Chestre’s poems, entitled _Sir Launfale_, written about the
same time, these are the first lines:

  “Le douzty Artours dawes
  “That held Engelond in good lawe,
  “Ther fell a wondyr cas
  “Of a ley that was ysette----.”

The first lines that I have met with of Hardynge’s _Chronicle of England
unto the reigne of king Edward the Fourth, in verse_, [composed about
the year 1470, and printed in 1543, 4to] are as follows:

  “Truly I heard Robert Ireliffeè say,
  “Clarke of the Greené Cloth, and that to the houshold
  “Came every daye, forth most part alway,
  “Ten thousand folke, by his messes told--.”

The following is the only specimen that I have seen of _The Ordinal_,
a poem written by Thomas Norton, a native of Bristol, in the reign of
King Edward IV.

  “Wherefore he would set up in higth
  “That bridge, for a wonderful sight,
  “With pinnacles guilt, shinynge as goulde,
  “A glorious thing for men to behoulde.”

The poem on _Hawking, Hunting, and Armoury_, written by Julian Barnes in
the reign of the same monarch, (about 1481,) begins thus:

  “My dere sones, where ye fare, by frith, or by fell,
  “Take good hede in this tyme, how Tristram woll tell,
  “How many maner bestes of venery there were,
  “Listenes now to our dame, and ye shullen here.”

The only extract that I have met with from William of Naffyngton’s
_Treatise on the Trinitie_, translated from John of Waldenby, about the
year 1480, runs thus:

  “I warne you first at the begynnynge,
  “That I will make no vaine carpynge,
  “Of dedes of armes, ne of amours,
  “As does Mynstrellis and Gestours----.”

I cannot adhere to the method that I have in general observed, by
quoting the first lines of _the Moral Proverbes of Christyne_ of Pyse,
translated in metre by earl Rivers, and printed by Caxton in the
seventeenth year of Edward IV. (1478), not having a copy of that scarce
book. However, as this is the era of the pretended Rowley, I cannot
forbear to transcribe the last stanza of that poem, as I find it cited
in an account of this accomplished nobleman’s works:

  “Of these sayynges Christyne was the aucturesse,
  “Which in makyn had such intelligence,
  “That thereof she was mireur and maistresse;
  “Her werkes testifie thexperience;
  “In Frensh languaige was written this sentence;
  “And thus englished doth hit reherse
  “Antoin Widevylle therle Ryvers.”

The first stanza of _the Holy Lyfe of Saynt Werburge_, written by Henry
Bradshaw, about the year 1500, and printed in 1521, is this:

  “When Phebus had ronne his cours in sagittari,
  “And Capricorne entred a sygne retrograt,
  “Amyddes Decembre, the ayre colde and frosty,
  “And pale Lucyna the erthe dyd illuminat,
  “I rose up shortly fro my cubycle preparat,
  “Aboute mydnyght, and cast in myne intent
  “How I myght spende the tyme convenyent.”

Stephen Hawes’s celebrated poem, entitled _the Passetyme of pleasure,
or the Historie of Graunde Amour and La bell Pucell_, &c. (written about
the year 1506, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1517,) being now before
me, I am enabled to transcribe the first lines:

  “When Phebus entred was in Geminy,
  “Shinyng above, in his fayre golden sphere,
  “And horned Dyane, then but one degre
  “In the crabbe had entred, fayre and cleare----.”

Of the _Example of Virtue_[A], written by the same authour, and printed
by Wynkyn de Worde in 1530, this is the first stanza:

  “In September, in fallynge of the lefe,
  “Whan Phebus made his inclynacyon,
  “And all the whete gadred was in the shefe,
  “By radyaunt hete and operacyon,
  “When the vyrgyn had full dominacyon,
  “And Dyane entred was one degre
  “Into the sygne of Gemyne----”

    [Footnote A: This very rare poem escaped the researches of the
    learned and ingenious Mr. Warton, who doubted whether it had ever
    been printed. See his _Hist. of Eng. Poetry_, vol. II. p. 211.]

The first piece of Skelton, most of whose poems were written between
1509 and 1529, begins thus:

  “Arrestynge my sight towarde the zodiake
  “The signes xii for to beholde a farre,
  “When Mars retrogaunt reversed his backe,
  “Lorde of the yere in his orbicular----.”

The reader has now before him specimens of ancient poetry, during a
period of near two hundred years; that is, for a century before the
pretended Thomas Rowley is said to have written, and for near a century
afterwards. They are for the most part taken from the commencement of
the works of the several authours; so that there can be no suspicion of
their having been selected, on account of their uncouthness, to prove a
particular point. I know not whether I flatter myself; but by making
these short extracts, I imagine that I have thrown more light upon the
subject now under consideration, than if I had transcribed twenty pages
of Junius, and as many of Skinner’s _Etymologicon_, or Doomsday-book.
Poetical readers may now decide the question for themselves; and I
believe they will very speedily determine, that the lines which have
been quoted from Chatterton’s poems were not written at any one of the
eras abovementioned, and will be clearly of opinion with Mr. Walpole,
(whose unpublished pamphlet on this subject, printed at Strawberry Hill,
shows him to be as amiable as he is lively and ingenious,) that this
wonderful youth has indeed “copied ancient language, but ancient style
he has never been able to imitate:” not for want of genius, for he was
perhaps the second poetical genius that England has produced, but
because he attempted something too arduous for human abilities to
perform. My objection is not to single words, to lines or half-lines of
these compositions (for here the advocates for their authenticity always
shift their ground, and plead, that any particular exceptionable word or
passage was the interpolation of Chatterton); but it is to their whole
structure, style, and rythm. Many of the stones which this ingenious boy
employed in his building, it must be acknowledged, are as old as those
at Stone-henge; but the beautiful fabrick that he has raised is tied
together by modern cement, and is covered with a stucco of no older date
than that of Mess. Wyat and Adams.

To be more particular: In what poet of the time of Edward IV., or for a
century afterwards, will the Dean of Exeter find what we frequently meet
with in the _Battle of Hastings_, No. 1, and No. 2, at the conclusion of
speeches-- “_Thus he_;”-- “_Thus Leofwine_;”-- “_He said_; and as,” &c?
In none I am confident. This latter is a form of expression in heroick
poetry, that Pope has frequently made use of in his Homer (from whence
Chatterton undoubtedly copied it), and was sometimes employed by Dryden
and Cowley; but I believe it will not be easy to trace it to Harrington
or Spenser; most assuredly it cannot be traced up to the fifteenth
century. ----In what English poem of that age will he find similies
dressed in the modern garb with which Chatterton has clothed them
throughout these pieces?-- “_As when_ a flight of cranes, &c.-- _So_
prone,” &c.-- “_As when_ a drove of wolves, &c. _So_ fought,” &c. &c.--
If the reverend Antiquarian can find this kind of phraseology in any one
poet of the time of King Edward IV., or even for fifty years afterwards,
I will acknowledge the antiquity of every line contained in his quarto
volume. Most assuredly neither he nor his colleague can produce any such
instance. Even in the latter end of the _sixteenth_ century, (a large
bound from 1460,) poetical comparisons, of the kind here alluded to,
were _generally_ expressed either thus-- “_Look how_ the crown that
Ariadne wore, &c. _So_,” &c. “_Look how_ a comet at the first appearing,
&c. _So_ did the blazing of my blush,” &c. “_Look how_ the world’s poor
people are amazed, &c. _So_,” &c.-- Or thus: “_Even as_ an empty eagle
sharpe by fast, &c.-- _Even so_,” &c.-- “_Like as_ a taper burning in
the darke, &c. _So_,” &c.-- Such is the general style of the latter end
of the sixteenth century; though sometimes (but very rarely) the form
that Chatterton has used was also employed by Spenser and others. In the
preceding century, if I am not much mistaken, it was wholly unknown.

But I have perhaps dwelled too long on this point. Every poetical reader
will find instances of modern phraseology in almost every page of these
spurious productions. I will only add, before I quit the subject of
style, that it is observable, that throughout these poems we never find
a noun in the plural number joined with a verb in the singular; an
offence against grammar which every ancient poet, from the time of
Chaucer to that of Shakespeare, has frequently committed, and from which
Rowley, if such a poet had existed, would certainly not have been

With respect to the stanza that Chatterton has employed in his two poems
on the _Battle of Hastings_, Mr. Bryant and the Dean of Exeter seem to
think that they stand on sure ground, and confidently quote Gascoigne,
to prove that such a stanza was known to our old English poets. “The
greatest part of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (says the latter gentleman,
p. 30), and his Legend of Good Women, are in the decasyllabick couplet;
but _in general_ Lidgate’s, Occleve’s, _Rowley’s_, Spenser’s, and a
great part of Chaucer’s poetry, is written in stanzas of _seven_,
_eight_, or _nine_ decasyllabick lines; _to which Rowley _generally_
adds a tenth, and closes it with an Alexandrine_. All these may be
ranked under the title of RITHME ROYAL; of which Gascoigne, in his
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENGLISH VERSE, has given the following description:
“Rithme Royal is a verse of ten syllables, and _seven_ such verses make
a staffe, whereof the first and third do answer acrosse in the
terminations and rime; the second, fourth, and fifth, do likewise answer
eche other in terminations; and the two last combine and shut up the
sentence: this hath been called Rithme Royal, and surely it is a royal
kind of verse, serving best for grave discourses.” I leave it to the
reverend Antiquarian to reconcile the contradictory assertions with
which the passage I have now quoted sets out; and shall only observe,
that we have here a great parade of authority, but nothing like a proof
of the existence of such a stanza as Chatterton has used, in the time of
K. Edward IV.; and at last the Commentator is obliged to have recourse
to this flimzy kind of reasoning: “The different number of lines
contained in the stanza makes no material alteration in the structure of
this verse, the stanza always concluding with a couplet: in that of six
lines, the four first rime alternately; in that of nine, wherein Spenser
has composed his Fairy Queen, the sixth line rimes to the final couplet,
and the seventh to the fifth: _Rowley having added another line to the
stanza, the eighth rimes with the sixth._” --The upshot of the whole is,
that Rowley himself, or rather Chatterton, is at last the only authority
to show that such a stanza was employed at the time mentioned. And it is
just with this kind of circular proof that we are amused, when any very
singular fact is mentioned in Chatterton’s verses: “This fact, say the
learned Commentators, is also minutely described by Rowley in the YELLOW
ROLL, which wonderfully confirms the authenticity of these poems;”
i.e. one forgery of Chatterton in prose, wonderfully supports and
authenticates another forgery of his in rhyme. --To prevent the Dean
from giving himself any farther trouble in searching for authorities to
prove that the stanza of the _Battle of Hastings_ (consisting of two
quatrains rhyming alternately, and a couplet,) was known to our early
writers, I beg leave to inform him, that it was not used till near three
centuries after the time of the supposed Rowley; having been, if I
remember right, first employed by Prior, who considered it as an
improvement on that of Spenser.

II. The second point that I proposed to consider is, the imitations of
Pope’s Homer, Shakspeare, Dryden, Rowe, &c. with which these pieces
abound. And here the cautious conduct of Chatterton’s new commentator is
very remarkable. All the similies that poor Chatterton borrowed from
Pope’s or Chapman’s Homer, to embellish his _Battle of Hastings_,
are exhibited boldly; but then “they were all clearly copied from the
original of the Grecian Bard,” in whom we are taught, that Rowley was
better read than any other man, during the preceding or subsequent
century: but in the tragedy of _Ella_, and other pieces, where we in
almost every page meet with lines and half-lines of Shakspeare, Dryden,
&c. the reverend Antiquarian is less liberal of his illustrations.
Indeed when the fraud is so manifest as not to be concealed, the passage
is produced. Thus in _Ella_ we meet

  “My love is dead,
  “Gone to her death-bed,
  “All under the willow tree----”

and here we are told, “the burthen of this roundelay very much resembles
that in Hamlet:”

  “And will he not come again?
  “And will he not come again?
  “No, no, he is dead;
  “Go to thy death-bed,
  “He never will come again.”

But when we meet-- “Why thou art all that pointelle can bewreen”--
evidently from Rowe-- “Is she not more than painting can express?”--
the editor is very prudently silent.

So also in the _Battle of Hastings_ we find

  “In agonies and pain he then did lie,
  “While life and death strove for the mastery----”

clearly from Shakspeare:

  “That Death and Nature do contend about them,
  “Whether they live or die.”

So also in _Ella_:

  “Fen-vapours blast thy every manly power!”

taken from the same author:

  “As wicked _dew_ as e’er my mother brushed
  “With raven’s feather from unwholesome _fen_,
  “Light on you both!”  [_Tempest._]

  “Ye _fen-suck’d fogs_, drawn by the powerful sun,
  “To fall and _blast_ &c.”  [_King Lear._]

Thus again in _Ella_:

  “O thou, whate’er thy name, or Zabalus or Queede,
  “Come steel my sable spright, for fremde and doleful deed--”

from the _Dunciad_:

  “O thou, whatever title please thine ear,
  “Dean, Drapier, &c.”

But in all these, and twenty other places, not a word is said by the
editor. --I am ashamed of taking up the time of my readers in discussing
such points as these. Such plain and direct imitations as Chatterton’s,
could scarcely impose on a boy of fifteen at Westminster School.

In the _Battle of Hastings_ we meet

  “His noble soul came rushing from the wound--”

from Dryden’s Virgil--

  “And the disdainful soul came rushing through the wound--[B]”

and in Sir Charles Bawdin,

  “And tears began to flow;”

Dryden’s very words in _Alexander’s Feast_. But it was hardly possible,
says the learned Commentator, for these thoughts to be expressed in any
other words. Indeed! I suppose five or six different modes of expressing
the latter thought will occur to every reader.

    [Footnote B: It is observable, that this is the last line of the
    translation of the Æneid.]

Can it be believed, that every one of the lines I have now quoted, this
gentleman maintains to have been written by a poet of the fifteenth
century (for all that Chatterton ever did, according to his system, was
supplying lacunæ, if there were any in the Mss., or modernizing a few
antiquated phrases)? He argues indeed very rightly, that the _whole_ of
these poems must have been written by _one_ person. “Two poets,
(he observes, p. 81,) so distant in their æra [as Rowley and
Chatterton], so different from each other in their age and disposition,
could not have united their labours [he _means_, their labours could not
unite or coalesce] in the same poem to any effect, without such apparent
difference in their style, language, and sentiments, as would have
defeated Chatterton’s intent of imposing his works on the public, as the
original and entire composition of Rowley.” --Most readers, I suppose,
will more readily agree with his premises than his conclusion. Every
part of these poems was undoubtedly written by one person; but that
person was not Rowley, but Chatterton.

What reason have we to doubt, that he who imitated all the English poets
with whom he was acquainted, likewise borrowed his Homerick images from
the versions of Chapman and Pope; in the latter of which he found these
allusions dressed out in all the splendid ornaments of the eighteenth

In the new commentary, indeed, on the _Battle of Hastings_, we are told
again and again, that many of the similies which the poet has copied
from Homer, contain circumstances that are found in the Greek, but
omitted in Mr. Pope’s translation. “Here therefore we have a certain
proof that the authour of these poems could read Homer in the
original[C].” But the youngest gownsman at Oxford or Cambridge will
inform the reverend critick, that this is a _non sequitur_; for the poet
might have had the assistance of _other_ translations, besides those of
Pope; the English prose version from that of Madame Dacier, the
translations by Chapman and by Hobbes. Nor yet will it follow from his
having _occasionally_ consulted _these_ versions, that he was _not at
all indebted to Pope_; as this gentleman endeavours to persuade us in
p. 82. and 106. He availed himself, without doubt, of them all. Whenever
the Commentator can show a single thought in these imitations of the
Grecian Bard, that is found in the original, and not in _any_ of those
translations, I will readily acknowledge that _the Battle of Hastings_,
and all the other pieces contained in his quarto volume, were written by
Rowley, or Turgot, or Alfred the Great, or Merlin, or whatever other
existent or non-existent ancient he or Mr. Bryant shall choose to
ascribe them to. Most assuredly no such instance can be pointed out.

    [Footnote C: To show how very weak and inconclusive the arguments
    of Chatterton’s new Editor are on this head, I shall cite but one
    passage, from which the reader may form a judgment of all the
    other illustrations with which he has decorated the _Battle of

      ----“Siere de Broque an arrowe longe lett _flie_,
      Intending Herewaldus to have sleyne;
      It _miss’d_, but hytte Edardus on the eye,
      And at his pole came out with horrid payne.”

    So Homer (says the Commentator):

      ------ὀϊστὸν ἀπὸ νευρῆφιν ἴαλλεν
      Ἕκτορος ἀντικρὺ, βαλέειν δὲ ἑ ἵετο θυμός·
      Καὶ τοῦ μέν ῥ’ ἀφάμαρθ’ ὁ δ’ ἀμύμονα Γοργυθίωνα
      Υἱὸν ἐῢν Πριάμοιο, κατὰ στῆθος βάλεν ἰῷ.

        Il. Θ. v. 300.

      “He said, and twang’d the string, the weapon _flies_
      “At _Hector_’s breast, and sings along the skies;
      “He _miss’d_ the mark, but pierc’d Gorgythio’s heart.”

        POPE, B. viii. v. 365.

    “The imitation here seems to be very apparent, but it is the
    imitation of Homer, and not of Pope; both Homer and Rowley express
    the intention of the archer, which is dropped by the translator of
    the Greek poet.” Chatterton’s _Poems_, quarto, p. 83. Edit.

    To my apprehension, the intention of the archer is very clearly
    expressed in Pope’s lines; but it is unnecessary to contest that
    point, for lo! thus has old Chapman translated the same passage:

      “This said, another arrow forth from his stiffe string he sent
      “At Hector, _whom he long’d to wound_; but still amisse it went;
      “His shaft smit faire Gorgythion.”

    Of such reasoning is the new Commentary on Chatterton’s poems

I do not however rest the matter here. What are we to conclude, if in
Chatterton’s imitations of Homer, we discover some circumstances that
exist in Pope’s translation, of which but very faint traces appear in
the original Greek? Such, I believe, may be found. It is observable,
that in all the similies we meet with many of the very rhymes that Pope
has used. Will this Commentator contend, that the learned Rowley not
only understood Homer, at a time when his contemporaries had scarcely
heard of his name, but also foresaw in the reign of Edward IV. those
additional graces with which Mr. Pope would embellish him three hundred
years afterwards?

III. The Anachronisms come next under our consideration. Of these also
the modern-antique compositions which we are now examining, afford a
very plentiful supply; and not a little has been the labour of the
reverend Commentator to do away their force. The first that I have
happened to light upon is in the tragedy of _Ella_, p. 212:

  “She said, as her white hands white hosen were knitting.
  “What pleasure it is to be married!”

It is certain that the art of knitting stockings was unknown in the time
of king Edward IV., the era of the pretended Rowley. This difficulty,
therefore, was by all means to be gotten over. And whom of all men,
think you, courteous reader, this sagacious editor has chosen as an
authority to ascertain the high antiquity of this practice? No other
than our great poet Shakspeare; who was born in 1564, and died in 1616.
Poor Shakspeare, who gave to all the countries in the world, and to all
preceding eras, the customs of his own age and country, he is the
authour that is chosen for this purpose! “If this Scotch art (says the
Commentator) was so far advanced in a foreign country in the beginning
of the sixteenth century, can there be a doubt of its being known in
England half a century earlier? At least the art of knitting, and
weaving bone-lace, was _more ancient_ than queen Elizabeth’s time;
for Shakspeare speaks of _old_ and _antick_ songs, which

  “The spinsters and the _knitters_ in the sun,
  “And the free maids that _weave their thread with bone_,
  “Did use to chaunt.”

    _Twelfth Night_, Act II. Sc. 4.

It might be sufficient to observe, that the old songs which were
chaunted by the spinsters and knitters of Shakspeare’s days, do not very
clearly ascertain the antiquity of the _operation_ on which they were
employed; for I apprehend, though the art of knitting had not been
invented till 1564, when the poet was born, the practisers of it might
yet the very next day after it was known, sing ballads that were written
a hundred years before. --In order, however, to give some colour to the
forced inference that the commentator has endeavoured to extract from
this passage, he has misquoted it; for Shakspeare does not say, as he
has been represented, that the spinsters of old time _did_ use to chaunt
these songs: his words are,

  “O fellow, come, the song we had last night;
  “Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain:
  “The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
  “And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,
  “_Do_ use to chaunt it.”

These lines, it must be acknowledged, prove that the art was _as_ old as
the time of Shakspeare, but not one hour _more_ ancient; nor would they
answer the Commentator’s purpose, even if they had been uttered by
Portia in _Julius Cæsar_, by the Egyptian queen in _Antony and
Cleopatra_, or by Nestor in _Troilus_ and _Cressida_; for, as I have
already observed, our great poet gave to all preceding times the customs
of his own age. --If the learned editor should hereafter have occasion
to prove, that _Dick_ and _Hob_ were common names at Rome, and that it
was an usual practice of the populace there, two thousand years ago, to
throw up their caps in the air, when they were merry, or wished to do
honour to their leaders, I recommend the play of _Coriolanus_ to his
notice, where he will find proofs to this purpose, all equally
satisfactory with that which he has produced from _Twelfth Night_,
to show the antiquity of the art of knitting stockings in England.

Many of the poems and prose works attributed to Rowley, exhibit
anachronisms similar to that now mentioned. Bristol is called a city,
though it was not one till long after the death of king Edward IV.
Cannynge is spoken of as possessing a _Cabinet_ of coins and other
curiosities[D], a century at least before any Englishman ever thought of
forming such a collection. _Drawings_, in the modern and technical sense
of delineations on paper or vellum, with chalks or Indian ink, are
mentioned a hundred and fifty years before the word was ever used with
that signification. _Manuscripts_ are noticed as rarities, with the idea
at present annexed to them; and eagerly sought after and purchased by
Rowley, at a time when printed books were not known, and when all the
literature of the times was to be found in manuscripts alone. All these
anachronisms _decisively_ prove the spuriousness of these compositions.
Other anachronisms may be traced in the poems before us, but they are of
less weight, being more properly poetical deviations from _costume_.
However I will briefly mention them. Tilts and tournaments are mentioned
at a period when they were unknown. _God and my Right_ is the word used
by duke William in _the Battle of Hastings_, though it was first used by
king Richard I. after the victory at Grizors; and hatchments and
armorial bearings, which were first seen at the time of the Croisades,
are introduced in other places with equal impropriety.

    [Footnote D: Chatterton in his description of Cannynge’s love of
    the arts, &c. seems often to have had Mr. Walpole in his eye;
    which was very natural, that gentleman being probably the first
    person who was at once a man of literature and rank, of whose
    character he had any knowledge. --Thus, Mr. W. having a very
    curious collection of pictures, prints, &c. Cannynge too must be
    furnished with a cabinet of coins and other rarities; and there
    being a private printing-press at Strawberry-Hill, (the only one
    perhaps in England,) the Bristol Mayor must likewise have one.
    It is in one of his letters that has not yet been printed, that
    Chatterton mentions his having read an account in the Rowley Mss.
    of Cannynge’s intention to set up a _printing-press_ at Westbury!
    This merchant died in 1474; during the greater part of his life
    printing was unknown; and even at the time of his death there was
    but one printing-press in this kingdom, namely, that set up by
    Caxton, in the Almonry of Westminster Abbey, about the year 1471.]

One of Chatterton’s earliest fictions was an ode or short poem of two or
three stanzas in _alternate rhyme_, on the death of that monarch, which
he sent to Mr. Walpole, informing him at the same time, that it had been
found at Bristol with many other ancient poems. This, however, either C.
or his friends thought proper afterwards to suppress. It is not,
I believe, generally known, that this is the era which was originally
fixed upon by this wonderful youth for his forgeries, though afterwards,
as appears from Mr. Walpole’s pamphlet already mentioned, having been
informed that no such metres as he exhibited as ancient, were known in
the age of Richard I., he thought proper to shift the era of his
productions. It is remarkable, that one line yet remains in these poems,
evidently written on the first idea:

  “Richard of lion’s heart to fight _is_ gone.”

“It is very improbable, as the same gentleman observes, that Rowley,
writing in the reign of Henry VI., or Edward IV., as is now pretended,
or in that of Henry IV., as was assigned by the credulous, before they
had digested their system, should incidentally, in a poem on another
subject, say, _now_ is Richard &c.” Chatterton, having stored his mind
with images and customs suited to the times he meant originally for the
era of his fictitious ancient, introduced them as well as he could in
subsequent compositions. One other singular circumstance, which I learn
from the same very respectable authority, I cannot omit mentioning.
Among the Mss. that Chatterton pretended to have discovered in the
celebrated chest at Bristol was a painter’s bill[E], of which, like the
rest, he produced only a copy. Great was the triumph of his advocates.
Here was an undoubted relick of antiquity! And so indeed it was; for it
was faithfully copied from the first volume of the _Anecdotes of
Painting_, printed some years before; and had been originally
transcribed by Vertue from some old parchments in the church of St. Mary
Redcliffe at Bristol (a person, by the by, who was indefatigable in the
pursuit of every thing that related to our ancient poets, and who
certainly at the same time would have discovered some traces of the
pretended Rowley, if any of his poetry had been lodged in that
repository). Can there be a doubt, that he who was convicted of having
forged this paper, and owned that he wrote the first _Battle of
Hastings_, and the _Account of the ceremonies observed at the opening of
the Old Bridge_, was the authour of all the rest also? Were he charged
in a court of justice with having forged various notes, and clear
evidence given of the fact, corroborated by the additional testimony of
his having on a former occasion fabricated a Will of a very ancient
date, would a jury hesitate to find him guilty, because two purblind old
women should be brought into court, and swear that the Will urged
against him had such an ancient appearance, the hand-writing and
language by which the bequests were made was so old, and the parchment
so yellow, that they could not but believe it to be a genuine deed of a
preceding century? --But I have insensibly wandered from the subject of
Anachronisms. So much, however, has been already said by others on this
point, that I will now hasten to the last matter which I meant to
consider, _viz._ the Mss. themselves, which are said to have contained
these wonderful curiosities.

    [Footnote E: This fraud having been detected, we hear no more of
    it; but in the room of it has been substituted _A List of skyllde
    Payncterrs and Carvellers_, which is now said to have been found
    along with the other Mss. and to be in the possession of Mr.
    Barret, of Bristol.]

IV. And on this head we are told by Mr. B. that the hand-writing,
indeed, is not that of any particular age, but that it is very difficult
to know precisely the era of a Ms., especially when of great antiquity;
that our kings wrote very different hands, and many of them such, that
it is impossible to distinguish one from the other; and that the
diminutive size of the parchments on which these poems were written,
(of which, I think, the largest that these Commentators talk of is eight
inches and a half long, and four and a half broad[F],) was owing to the
great scarcity of parchment in former times, on which account the lines
often appear in continuation, without regard to the termination of the

    [Footnote F: At the bottom of each sheet of old deeds (of which
    there were many in the Bristol chest) there is usually a blank
    space of about four or five inches in breadth. C. therefore found
    these slips of discoloured parchment at hand.]

Most of these assertions are mere _gratis dicta_, without any foundation
in truth. I am not very well acquainted with the ancient Mss. of the
fourteenth or fifteenth century: but I have now before me a very fair
Ms. of the latter end of the sixteenth century, in which the characters
are as regular and uniform as possible. If twenty Mss. were produced to
me, some of that era, and others of eras prior and subsequent to it,
I would undertake to point out the hand-writing of the age of queen
Elizabeth, which is that of the Ms. I speak of, from all the rest; and I
make no doubt that persons who are conversant with the hand-writing of
preceding centuries, could with equal precision ascertain the age of
more ancient Mss. than any that I am possessed of. But the truth is,
(as any one may see, who accurately examines the _fac simile_ exhibited
originally by Mr. Tyrwhitt in his edition of these poems, and now again
by the Dean of Exeter in the new edition of them,) that Chatterton could
not, accurately and for any continuance, copy the hand-writing of the
fifteenth century; nor do the Mss. that he produced exhibit the
hand-writing of _any_ century whatever. He had a turn for drawing and
emblazoning; and he found, without doubt, some ancient deeds in his
father’s old chest. These he copied to the best of his power; but the
hand-writing usually found in deeds is very different from the current
hand-writing of the same age, and from that employed in transcribing
poems. To copy even these deeds to any great extent, would have been
dangerous, and have subjected him to detection. Hence it was, that he
never produced any parchment so large as a leaf of common folio.
--What we are told of the great scarcity of parchment formerly, is too
ridiculous to be answered. Who has not seen the various beautiful Mss.
of the works of Gower and Chaucer, in several publick and private
libraries, on parchment and on vellum, a small part of any one of which
would have been sufficient to contain all the poems of Rowley, in the
manner in which they are pretended to have been written? --But any
speculation on this point is but waste of time. If such a man as Rowley
had existed, who could troul off whole verses of Shakspeare, Dryden, and
Pope, in the middle of the fifteenth century, he would have had half the
parchment in the kingdom at his command; statues would have been erected
to him as the greatest prodigy that the world had ever seen; and in a
few years afterwards, when printing came to be practised, the presses of
Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde would have groaned with his productions.

Much stress is laid upon Chatterton’s having been seen frequently
writing, with old crumpled parchments before him. No doubt of the fact.
How else could he have imitated old hands in _any_ manner, or have been
able to form even the few pretended originals that he did produce? But
to whom did he ever show these old Mss. when he was transcribing them?
To whom did he ever say-- “Such and such characters denote such letters,
and the verse that I now show you in this old parchment is of this
import?” Whom did he call upon, knowing in ancient hands, (and such
undoubtedly he might have found,) to establish, by the testimony of his
own eyes, the antiquity, not of one, but of all these Mss? If an
ingenuous youth (as Mr. W. justly observes), “enamoured of poetry, had
really found a large quantity of old poems, what would he have done?
Produced them cautiously, and one by one, studied them, and copied their
style, and exhibited sometimes a genuine, and sometimes a fictitious
piece? or blazed the discovery abroad, and called in every lover of
poetry and antiquity to participation of the treasure? The characters of
imposture are on every part of the story; and were it true, it would
still remain one of those improbable wonders, which we have no reason
for believing.”

What has been said already concerning forged compositions, cannot be too
often repeated. If these Mss. or any part of them exist, why are they
not deposited in the British Museum, or some publick library, for the
examination of the curious? Till they are produced, we have a right to
use the language that Voltaire tells us was used to the Abbé Nodot.
“Show us your Ms. of Petronius, which you say was found at Belgrade, or
consent that nobody shall believe you. It is as false that you have the
genuine satire of Petronius in your hands, as it is false that that
ancient satire was the work of a consul, and a picture of Nero’s
conduct. Desist from attempting to deceive the learned; you can only
deceive the vulgar.”

Beside the marks of forgery already pointed out, these poems bear yet
another badge of fraud, which has not, I believe, been noticed by any
critick. Chatterton’s verses have been shown to be too smooth and
harmonious to be genuine compositions of antiquity: they are liable at
the same time to the very opposite objection; they are too old for the
era to which they are ascribed. This sounds like a paradox; yet it will
be found to be true. The versification is too modern; the language often
too ancient. It is not the language of any particular period of
antiquity, but of _two entire_ centuries. --This is easily accounted
for. Chatterton had no other means of writing old language, but by
applying to glossaries and dictionaries, and these comprise all the
antiquated words of preceding times; many provincial words used perhaps
by a northern poet, and entirely unknown to a southern inhabitant; many
words also, used in a singular sense by our ancient bards, and perhaps
by them only once. Chatterton drawing his stores from such a copious
source, his verses must necessarily contain words of various and
widely-distant periods. It is highly probable, for this reason, that
many of his lines would not have been understood by one who lived in
the fifteenth century. --That the diction of these poems is often too
obsolete for the era to which they are allotted[G], appears clearly from
hence; many of them are much more difficult to a reader of this day,
without a glossary, than any one of the metrical compositions of the age
of Edward IV. Let any person, who is not very profoundly skilled in the
language of our elder poets, read a few pages of any of the poems of
the age of that king, from whence I have already given short extracts,
without any glossary or assistance whatsoever; he will doubtless meet
sometimes with words he does not understand, but he will find much
fewer difficulties of this kind, than while he is perusing the poems
attributed to Rowley. The language of the latter, without a perpetual
comment, would in most places be unintelligible to a common reader. He
might, indeed, from the context, _guess_ at something like the meaning;
but the lines, I am confident, will be found, on examination, to contain
twenty times more obsolete and obscure words than any one poem of the
age of king Edward IV, now extant.

    [Footnote G: Mr. Bryant seems to have been aware of this
    objection, and thus endeavours to obviate it. “Indeed in some
    places the language seems more obsolete than could be expected for
    the time of king Edward the Fourth; and the reason is, that some
    of the poems, however new modelled, were prior to that æra. For
    _Rowley himself_ [i.e. Chatterton] tells us that he borrowed from
    Turgot; and we have reason to think that _he_ likewise copied from
    Chedder.” This same Chedder, he acquaints us in a note, was
    “a poet mentioned in _the_ Mss., [that is, in Chatterton’s Mss.,
    for I believe his name is not to be found elsewhere.] who is
    supposed to have flourished about the year 1330. He is said [by
    Chatterton] to have had some _maumeries_ at the _comitating_ the
    city.” _Observations_, p. 553. I wonder the learned commentator
    did not likewise inform us, from the same _unquestionable
    authority_, what wight _Maistre_ Chedder copied.]

Before I conclude, I cannot omit to take notice of two or three
particulars on which the Dean of Exeter and Mr. Bryant much rely. The
former, in his Dissertation on _Ella_, says, “Whatever claim might have
been made in favour of Chatterton as the author [of _the Battle of
Hastings_], founded either on his own unsupported and improbable
assertion, or on the supposed possibility of his writing these two
poems, assisted by Mr. Pope’s translation [of Homer], no plea of this
kind can be urged with regard to any other poem in the collection, and
least of all to the dramatick works, or the tragedy of _Ella_; which
required not only an elevation of poetic genius far superior to that
possessed by Chatterton, but also such moral and mental qualifications
as never entered into any part of his character or conduct, and which
could not possibly be acquired by a youth of his age and inexperience.”
“Where (we are triumphantly asked) could he learn the nice rules of the
Interlude, by the introduction of a chorus, and the application of their
songs to the moral and virtuous object of the performance?”-- Where?--
from Mr. Mason’s _Elfrida_ and _Caractacus_, in which he found a perfect
model of the Greek drama, and which doubtless he had read. But ELLA
“_inculcates the precepts of morality_;” and Chatterton, it is urged,
was idle and dissolute, and therefore could not have been the authour of
it. Has then the reverend editor never heard of instances of the purest
system of morality being powerfully enforced from the pulpit by those
who in their own lives have not been always found to adhere rigidly to
the rules that they laid down for the conduct of others? Perhaps not;
but I suppose many instances of this kind will occur to every reader.
The world would be pure indeed, if speculative and practical morality
were one and the same thing. “That knowledge of times, of men, and
manners,” without which, it is said, _Ella_ could not have been written,
I find no difficulty in believing to have been possessed by this very
extraordinary youth. Did he not, when he came to London, instead of
being dazzled and confounded by the various new objects that surrounded
him, become in a short time, by that almost intuitive faculty which
accompanies genius, so well acquainted with all the reigning topicks of
discourse, with the manners and different pursuits of various classes of
men, with the state of parties, &c. as to pour out from the press a
multitude of compositions on almost every subject that could exercise
the pen of the oldest and most experienced writer[H]? He who could do
this, could compose the tragedy of ELLA[I]: (a name, by the by, that he
probably found in Dr. Percy’s _Reliques of Ancient Poetry_, Vol. I.
p. xxiv.)

    [Footnote H: The following notices, which Mr. Walpole has
    preserved, are too curious to be omitted. They will give the
    reader a full idea of the professed authorship of Chatterton. In a
    list of pieces written by him, but never published, are the

    5. “TO LORD NORTH. A Letter signed the MODERATOR, and dated May
    26, 1770, beginning thus: “My Lord-- It gives me a painful
    pleasure, &c.-- This (says Mr. W.) is an encomium on administration
    for rejecting the Lord Mayor Beckford’s Remonstrance.

    6. _A Letter to Lord Mayor Beckford_, signed PROBUS, dated May 26,
    1770. --This is a violent abuse of Government for rejecting the
    Remonstrance, and begins thus: “When the endeavours of a spirited
    people to free themselves from an insupportable slavery”----. On
    the back of this essay, which is directed to Chatterton’s friend,
    Cary, is this indorsement:

    “Accepted by Bingley-- set for and thrown out of _The North
    Briton_, 21 June, on account of the Lord Mayor’s death.

      Lost by his death on this Essay  1 11 6
      Gained in Elegies                2  2 0
      ------ in Essays                 3  3 0
      Am glad he is dead by            3 13 6”]

    [Footnote I: Chatterton wrote also “a _Monks_ Tragedy,” which, if
    his forgeries had met with a more favourable reception than they
    did, he would doubtless have produced as an ancient composition.
    With the ardour of true genius, he wandered to the untrodden paths
    of the little Isle of Man for a subject, and aspired

                      _petere inde coronam,_
      _Unde prius nulli velarint tempora Musæ._]

Almost every part of the Dissertation on this tragedy is as open to
observation as that now mentioned. It is not true, as is asserted,
(p. 175.) that the _rythmical tales_, before called _tragedies_, first
assumed a regular dramatick form in the time of king Edward IV. These
melancholy tales went under the name of tragedies for above a century
afterwards. Many of the pieces of Drayton were called _tragedies_ in the
time of Queen Elizabeth, though he is not known to have ever written a
single drama. But without staying to point out all the mistakes of the
reverend critick on this subject, I recommend to those readers who wish
to form a decided opinion on these poems, the same test for the tragedy
of _Ella_ that I have already suggested for the _Battle of Hastings_. If
they are not furnished with any of our dramatick pieces in the original
editions, let them only cast their eyes on those ancient interludes
which take up the greater part of Mr. Hawkins’s first volume of _The
Origin of the English Drama_ (the earliest of them composed in 1512);
and I believe they will not hesitate to pronounce _Ella_ a modern
composition. The dramas which are yet extant (if they can deserve that
name), composed between the years 1540 and 1570, are such wretched
stuff, that nothing but antiquarian curiosity can endure to read a page
of them. Yet the period I speak of is near a century after the era of
the pretended Rowley.

The argument of Mr. B. on this subject is too curious to be omitted:
“I am sensible (says he, in his _Observations_, p. 166,) that the plays
mentioned above [the Chester Mysteries] seem to have been confined to
religious subjects. --But though the monks of the times confined
themselves to these subjects, it does not follow that people of more
learning and genius were limited in the same manner. As plays certainly
existed, the plan might sometimes be varied; and the transition from
sacred history to profane, was very natural and easy. Many generous
attempts may have been made towards the improvement of the rude drama,
and the introduction of compositions on a better model: but the
ignorance of the monks, and the depraved taste of the times, may have
prevented such writings being either countenanced or preserved. It may
be said, that we have no examples of any compositions of this sort. But
this is begging the question; _while we have the plays of _Ælla_ and
_Godwin_ before us. The former is particularly transmitted to us as
_Rowley’s_[K]._” I believe no reader will be at a loss to determine,
who it is that in this case _begs the question_. Here we have another
remarkable instance of that kind of circular proof of which I have
already taken notice.

    [Footnote K: In the same manner argues the learned pewterer of
    Bristol, Mr. George Catcott. These poems are certainly genuine,
    “for Rowley himself mentions them in the YELLOW ROLL.” See his
    letter in the Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. XLVIII. p. 348.]

In the multitude of topicks agitated by these commentators, I had almost
forgot one, much relied upon by the last-mentioned gentleman. It is the
name of _Widdeville_, which, we are informed, (p. 317.) is written in
all the old chronicles _Woodville_; and the question is triumphantly
asked, “how could Chatterton, in his _Memoirs of Cannynge_, [_Miscell._
p. 119.] vary from all these chronicles? --Where could he have found the
name of _Widdeville_ except in one of those manuscripts to which we are
so much beholden?” If the learned commentator’s book should arrive at a
second edition, I recommend it to him to cancel this page (as well as a
former, in which he appears not to have known that “_happy_ man _be his
dole_!” is a common expression in Shakspeare, and for his ignorance of
which he is forced to make an awkward apology in his Appendix); and beg
leave to inform him, that Chatterton found the name of _Widdeville_ in a
very modern, though now scarce, book, the _Catalogue of the Royal and
Noble Authors of England_[L], by Mr. Walpole, every one of whose works
most assuredly Chatterton had read.

    [Footnote L: See the first volume of that entertaining work,
    p. 67; art. _Antony_ Widwille, _Earl Rivers_.]

The names of the combatants in _the Battle of Hastings_, an enumeration
of which takes up one third of this commentator’s work, and which,
he tells us, are only to be found in Doomsday-book and other ancient
records that Chatterton could not have seen, have been already shown by
others to be almost all mentioned in Fox’s _Book of Martyrs_, and the
_Chronicles_ of Holinshed and Stowe. And what difficulty is there in
supposing that the names not mentioned in any printed work (if any such
there are) were found in the old deeds that he undoubtedly examined, and
which were more likely to furnish him with a catalogue of names than any
other ancient muniment whatsoever? It is highly probable also, that in
the same chest which contained these deeds, he found some old Diary of
events relating to Bristol, written by a mayor or alderman of the
fifteenth century, that furnished him with some account of Rowley and
Cannynge, and with those circumstances which the commentators say are
only to traced in William de Wircester. The practice of keeping diaries
was at that time very general, and continued to be much in use to the
middle of the last century. This, it must be owned, is a mere
hypothesis, but by no means an improbable one.

I cannot dismiss this gentleman without taking notice of a position
which he has laid down, and is indeed the basis of almost all the
arguments that he has urged to prove the authenticity of the Bristol
Mss. It is this; that as every authour must know his own meaning, and as
Chatterton has sometimes given wrong interpretations of words that are
found in the poems attributed to Rowley, he could not be the authour of
those poems.

If Chatterton had originally written these poems, in the form in which
they now appear, this argument might in a doubtful question have some
weight. But although I have as high an opinion of his abilities as
perhaps any person whatsoever, and do indeed believe him to have been
the greatest genius that England has produced since the days of
Shakspeare, I am not ready to acknowledge that he was endued with any
miraculous powers. Devoted as he was from his infancy to the study of
antiquities, he could not have been so conversant with ancient language,
or have had all the words necessary to be used so present to his mind,
as to write antiquated poetry of any considerable length, off hand.
He, without doubt, wrote his verses in plain English, and afterwards
embroidered them with such old words as would suit the sense and metre.
With these he furnished himself, sometimes probably from memory, and
sometimes from glossaries; and annexed such interpretations as he found
or made. When he could not readily find a word that would suit his
metre, he invented one[M]. If then his old words afford some sense, and
yet are sometimes interpreted wrong, nothing more follows than that his
glossaries were imperfect, or his knowledge inaccurate; (still however
he might have had a confused, though not complete, idea of their
import:) if, as the commentator asserts, the words that he has explained
not only suit the places in which they stand, but are often more
apposite than he imagined, and have a latent and significant meaning,
that never occurred to him, this will only show, that a man’s book is
sometimes wiser than himself; a truth of which we have every day so many
striking instances, that it was scarcely necessary for this learned
antiquarian to have exhibited a new proof of it.

    [Footnote M: In Chatterton’s poems many words occur, that were
    undoubtedly coined by him; as _mole_, _dolce_, _droke_, _glytted_,
    _aluste_, &c. All these his new editor has inserted in a very
    curious performance which he is pleased to call a Glossary, _with
    such interpretations at the context supplied_, without even
    attempting to support them either by analogy or the authority of
    our ancient writers.]

Let it be considered too, that the glossary and the text were not always
written at the same time; that Chatterton might not always remember the
precise sense in which he had used antiquated words; and from a confused
recollection, or from the want of the very same books that he had
consulted while he was writing his poems, might add sometimes a false,
and sometimes an imperfect, interpretation. --This is not a mere
hypothesis; for in one instance we know that the comment was written at
some interval of time after the text. “The glossary of the poem entitled
_the Englysh Metamorposis_ (Mr. Tyrwhitt informs us) was written down by
C. extemporally, without the assistance of any book, at the desire and
in the presence of Mr. Barrett.”

I have here given this objection all the force that it can claim, and
more perhaps than it deserves; for I doubt much whether in Chatterton’s
whole volume six instances can be pointed out, where he has annexed
false interpretations to words that appear when rightly understood to
suit the context, and to convey a clear meaning: and these mistakes, if
even there are so many as have been mentioned, are very easily accounted
for from the causes now assigned.

Perhaps it may be urged, that when I talk of the manner in which these
poems were composed, I am myself guilty of the fault with which I have
charged others, that of assuming the very point in controversy; and the
observation would be just, if there were not many collateral and
decisive circumstances, by which Chatterton is clearly proved to have
written them. All these concurring to show that he forged these pieces,
an investigation of the _manner_ in which he forged them, cannot by any
fair reasoning be construed into an assumption of the question in

Great stress is also laid by this commentator on some variations being
found in the copies of these poems that were produced by Chatterton at
different times; or, to use his own words, “there is often a material
variation between the copy and the original, which never could have
happened if he had been the author of both[N]. He must have known his
own writing, and would not have deviated from his own purpose.” ----Thus
in one copy of _the Song to Ella_, which C. gave to Mr. Barrett, these
lines were found:

  “Or seest the hatched steed,
  “_Ifrayning_ o’er the mead.”

    [Footnote N: So that an authour cannot revise or correct his
    works without forfeiting his title to them! --According to this
    doctrine, Garth was the authour of only the _first_ copy of _the
    Dispensary_, and all the subsequent editions published in his
    life-time, in every one of which there were material variations,
    must be attributed to some other hand.]

Being called upon for the original, he the next day produced a
parchment, containing the same poem, in which he had written
_yprauncing_, instead of _ifrayning_; but by some artifice he had
obscured the Ms. so much, to give it an ancient appearance, that Mr. B.
could not make out the word without the use of galls. --What follows
from all this, but that C. found on examination that there was no such
word as _ifrayning_, and that he substituted another in its place? In
the same poem he at one time wrote _locks_-- _burlie_-- _brasting_-- and
_kennest_; at another, _hairs_-- _valiant_-- _bursting_-- and _hearest_.
Variations of this kind he could have produced without end. --These
commentators deceive themselves, and use a language that for a moment
may deceive others, by talking of one reading being found in the _copy_,
and another in the _original_, when in fact all the Mss. that C.
produced were equally originals. What he called originals indeed, were
probably in general more perfect than what he called copies; because the
former were always produced after the other, and were in truth nothing
more than second editions of the same pieces[O].

    [Footnote O: “_Bie_,” which he wrote inadvertently in the tragedy
    of ELLA, instead of “_mie_,” (on which Mr. B. has given us a
    learned dissertation)---- “_Bie_ thankes I ever onne you wylle
    bestowe”---- is such a mistake as every man in the hurry of writing
    is subject to. _By_ had probably occurred just before, or was to
    begin some subsequent line that he was then forming in his mind.
    Even the slow and laborious Mr. Capel, who was employed near forty
    years in preparing and printing an edition of Shakspeare, in a
    Catalogue which he presented to a publick library at Cambridge,
    and which he probably had revised for many months before he gave
    it out of his hands, has written “_Bloody_ Bloody,” as the title
    of one of Fletcher’s Plays, instead of “_Bloody_ Brother.”]

The inequality of the poems which Chatterton owned as his own
compositions, when compared with those ascribed to Rowley, has been much
insisted upon. But this matter has been greatly exaggerated. Some of the
worst lines in Chatterton’s _Miscellanies_ have been selected by Mr.
Bryant to prove the point contended for; but in fact they contain the
same even and flowing versification as the others, and _in general_
display the some premature abilities[P]. --The truth is, the readers of
these pieces are deceived insensibly on this subject. While they are
perusing the poems of the fictitious Rowley, they constantly compare
them with the poetry of the fifteenth century; and are ready every
moment to exclaim, how much he surpasses all his contemporaries. While
the verses that Chatterton acknowledged as his own, are passing under
their eyes, they still recollect that they are the productions of a boy
of seventeen; and are slow to allow them even that merit which they
undoubtedly possess. “They are ingenious, but puerile; flowing, but not
sufficiently correct.” ----The best way of convincing the antiquarian
reader of the merit of these compositions, would be to disfigure them
with old spelling; as perhaps the most complete confutation of the
advocates for the authenticity of what are called Rowley’s poems would
be to exhibit an edition of them in modern orthography. --Let us only
apply this very simple test,-- “handy-dandy let them change places,”
and I believe it would puzzle even the President of the Society of
Antiquaries himself to determine, “which is the justice, and which is
the thief;” which is the pretended ancient, and which the acknowledged

    [Footnote P: The observations on this subject, of the ingenious
    authour of the accurate account of Chatterton, in a book entituled
    _Love and Madness_, are too pertinent to be here omitted. “It may
    be asked why Chatterton’s own Miscellanies are inferior to Rowley?
    Let me ask another question: _Are_ they inferior? Genius,
    abilities, we may bring into the world with us; these rare
    ingredients may be mixed up in our compositions by the hand of
    Nature. But Nature herself cannot create a human being possessed
    of a complete knowledge of our world almost the moment he is born
    into it. Is the knowledge of the world which his Miscellanies
    contain, no proof of his astonishing quickness in seizing every
    thing he chose? Is it remembered when, and at what age, Chatterton
    for the first time quitted Bristol, and how few weeks he lived
    afterwards? Chatterton’s Letters and Miscellanies, and every thing
    which the warmest advocate for Rowley will not deny to have been
    Chatterton’s, exhibit an insight into men, manners, and things,
    for the want of which, in their writings, authors who have died
    old men, with more opportunities to know the world, (who could
    have less than Chatterton?) have been thought to make amends by
    other merits.”-- “In London (as the same writer observes) was to
    be learned that which even genius cannot teach, the knowledge of
    life. Extemporaneous bread was to be earned more suddenly than
    even Chatterton could write poems for Rowley; and, in consequence
    of his employments, as he tells his mother, publick places were to
    be visited, and mankind to be frequented.” --Hence, after “he left
    Bristol, we see but one more of Rowley’s poems, _The Ballad of
    Charitie_, and that a very short one.”]

Of this double transformation I subjoin a short specimen; which is not
selected on account of any extraordinary spirit in the lines that
precede, or uncommon harmony in those that follow, but chosen (agreeably
to the rule that has been observed in all the former quotations) merely
because the _African Eclogue_ happens to be the _first_ poetical piece
inserted in Chatterton’s acknowledged _Miscellanies_.

I. _CHATTERTON in Masquerade._


[From Chatterton’s _Miscellanies_, p. 56.]

  “Recyte the loves of Narva and Mored,
  “The preeste of Chalmas trypell ydolle sayde.
  “Hie fro the grounde the youthful heretogs[a] sprunge,
  “Loude on the concave shelle the launces runge:
  “In al the mysterke[b] maizes of the daunce
  “The youths of Bannies brennynge[c] sandes advaunce;
  “Whiles the mole[d] vyrgin brokkyng[e] lookes behinde,
  “And rydes uponne the penyons of the winde;
  “Astighes[f] the mountaines borne[g], and measures rounde
  “The steepie clifftes of Chalmas hallie[h] grounde.”

    [Text Notes:
    a: _Warriors_.
    b: _mystick_.
    c: _burning_.
    d: used by Chatterton for _soft_ or _tender_.
    e: _panting_.
    f: _ascends_.
    g: _brow_, or _summit_.
    h: _holy_.]

II. _CHATTERTON Unmasked._


[From Rowley’s Poems, quarto, p. 391.]

  “When England smoking from her deadly wound,
  “From her gall’d neck did twitch the chain away,
  “Seeing her lawful sons fall all around,
  “(Mighty they fell, ’twas Honour led the fray,)
  “Then in a dale, by eve’s dark surcoat gray,
  “Two lonely shepherds did abruptly fly,
  “(The rustling leaf does their white hearts affray,)
  “And with the owlet trembled and did cry:
  “First Robert Neatherd his sore bosom struck,
  “Then fell upon the ground, and thus he spoke.”

If however, after all, a little inferiority should be found in
Chatterton’s acknowledged productions, it may be easily accounted for.
Enjoin a young poet to write verses on any subject, and after he has
finished his exercise, show him how Shakspeare, Dryden, and Pope, have
treated the same subject. Let him then write a second copy of verses,
still on the same theme. This latter will probably be a _Cento_ from the
works of the authours that he has just perused. The one will have the
merit of originality; the other a finer polish and more glowing imagery.
This is exactly Chatterton’s case. The verses that he wrote for Rowley
are _perhaps_ better than his others, because they contain the thoughts
of our best poets often in their own words. The versification is equally
good in both. Let it be remembered too, that the former were composed at
his leisure in a period of near a year and a half; the latter in about
four months, and many of them to gain bread for the day that was passing
over him.

After his arrival in London, if his forgeries had met with any success,
he would undoubtedly have produced ancient poetry without end; but
perceiving that the gentleman in whom he expected to find at once a dupe
and a patron, was too clear-sighted to be deceived by such evident
fictions, and that he could earn a livelihood by his talents, without
fabricating old Mss. in order to gain a few shillings from Mess. Barrett
and Catcott, he deserted his original plan, and we hear little more of
Rowley’s verses.

With regard to the time in which the poems attributed to this priest
were produced, which it is urged was much too short for Chatterton to
have been the inventor of them, it is indeed astonishing that this youth
should have been able to compose, in about eighteen months, three
thousand seven hundred verses, on various subjects; but it would have
been still more astonishing, if he had transcribed in that time the same
number of lines, written on parchment, in a very ancient hand, in the
close and indistinct manner, in which these poems are pretended to have
been written, and defaced and obliterated in many places[Q]:-- unless he
had been endued with the faculty of a celebrated solicitor, who being
desired a few years ago in the House of Lords to read an old deed,
excused himself by saying that it was _illegible_, informing their
lordships at the same time that he would make out a fair _copy_ of it
against the next day. Chatterton, I believe, understood better how to
make fair copies of illegible parchments, than to read any ancient
manuscript whatsoever.

    [Footnote Q: Let those who may be surprised at this assertion,
    recollect the wonderful inventive faculties of Chatterton, and the
    various compositions, both in prose and verse, which he produced
    after his arrival in London, in the short space of four months;
    not to mention the numerous pieces, which he is known to have
    written in the same period, and which have not yet been
    collected-- Let them likewise examine any one of the defaced Mss.
    of the fifteenth century, in the Cotton Library, and see in what
    time they can transcribe a dozen lines from it.]

It is amusing enough to observe the miserable shifts to which his new
editor is forced to have recourse, when he is obliged to run full tilt
against matters of fact. --Thus Chatterton, we find, owned that he was
the authour of the first _Battle of Hastings_; but we are not to believe
his declaration, says Mr. Thistlethwaite, whose doctrine on this subject
the reverend commentator has adopted. “Chatterton thought himself not
sufficiently rewarded by his Bristol patrons, in proportion to what his
communications deserved.” He pretended, therefore, “on Mr. Barrett’s
repeated solicitations for the original [_of the Battle of Hastings_],
that he himself wrote that poem for a friend; thinking, _perhaps_, that
if he parted with the original poem, he might not be properly rewarded
for the loss of it,[R]” --As if there was no other way for him to avoid
being deprived of a valuable ancient Ms. but by saying that it was a
forgery, and that he wrote it himself! --What, however, did he do
immediately afterwards? No doubt, he avoided getting into the same
difficulty a second time, and subjecting himself again to the same
importunity from his ungenerous Bristol patrons, by showing them no more
of these rarities? Nothing less. The very same day that he acknowledged
this forgery, he informed Mr. Barrett that he had another poem, the copy
of an original by Rowley; and at a _considerable interval of time_
(which indeed was requisite for writing his new piece) he produced
_another_ BATTLE OF HASTINGS, much longer than the former; a fair copy
from an undoubted original. --He was again, without doubt, pressed by
Mr. B. to show the original Ms. of this also; and, according to Mr.
Thistlethwaite’s system, he ought again to have asserted that _this_
poem likewise was a forgery; and so afterwards of every copy that he
produced. --Can any person that considers this transaction for a moment
entertain a doubt that all these poems were his own invention?

    [Footnote R: Chatterton’s Poems, quarto, edit. Milles, p. 458.

    It was not without good reason that the editor was solicitous to
    disprove Chatterton’s frank confession, respecting this poem; for
    he perceived clearly that the style, the colouring, and images,
    are nearly the same in this, and the second poem with the same
    title, and that every reader of any discernment must see at the
    first glance, that he who wrote the first _Battle of Hastings_ was
    the authour of all the other poems ascribed to Rowley. --It is
    observable that Chatterton in _the Battle of Hastings_, No. 2,
    frequently imitates himself, or repeats the same images a second
    time. Thus in the first poem with this title we meet

      ----“he dying gryp’d the recer’s limbe;
      “The recer then beganne to flynge and kicke,
      “And toste the erlie farr off to the grounde:
      “The erlie’s squier then a swerde did sticke
      “Into his harte, a dedlie ghastlie wounde;
      “And downe he felle upon the crymson pleine,
      “Upon Chatillion’s soulless corse of claie.”

    In the second _Battle of Hastings_ are these lines:

      “But as he drewe his bowe devoid of arte,
      “So it came down upon Troyvillain’s horse;
      “Deep thro hys hatchments wente the pointed floe;
      “Now here, now there, with rage bleedinge he rounde doth goe.
      “Nor does he hede his mastres known commands,
      “Tyll, growen furiouse by his bloudie wounde,
      “Erect upon his hynder feete he staundes,
      “And throwes hys mastre far off to the grounde.”

    Can any one for a moment doubt that these verses were all written
    by the same person? ----The circumstance of the wounded horse’s
    falling on his rider, in the _first_ of these similies, is taken
    directly from Dryden’s Virgil, Æn. X. v. 1283. --Chatterton’s new
    editor has artfully contrasted this passage of Dryden with the
    _second_ simile, where that circumstance is _not_ mentioned.]

Again:-- We have the positive testimony of Mr. John Ruddall, a native
and inhabitant of Bristol, who was well acquainted with Chatterton, when
he was a clerk to Mr. Lambert, that _the Account of the ceremonies
observed at the opening of the Old Bridge_, published in Farley’s
Journal, Oct. 1. 1768, and said to be _taken from an ancient Ms._, was a
forgery of Chatterton’s, and acknowledged by him to be such. Mr.
Ruddall’s account of this transaction is so material, that I will
transcribe it from the Dean of Exeter’s new work, which perhaps many of
my readers may not have seen:-- “During that time, [while C. was clerk
to Mr. L.] Chatterton frequently called upon him at his master’s house,
and soon after he had printed the account of the bridge in the Bristol
paper, told Mr. Ruddall, that he was the author of it; but _it occurring
to him afterwards_, that he might be called upon to produce the
original, he brought to him one day a piece of parchment about the size
of a half-sheet of fool’s-cap paper: Mr. Ruddall does not think that any
thing was written on it when produced by Chatterton, but he saw him
write several words, if not lines, in a character which Mr. Ruddall did
not understand, which he says was totally unlike English, and as he
apprehends was meant by Chatterton to imitate or represent the original
from which this account was printed. He cannot determine precisely how
much Chatterton wrote in this manner, but says, that the time he spent
in that visit did not exceed three quarters of an hour: the size of the
parchment, however, (even supposing it to have been filled with writing)
will in some measure ascertain the quantity which it contained. He says
also, that when Chatterton had written on the parchment, he held it over
the candle, to give it the appearance of antiquity, which changed the
colour of the ink, and made the parchment appear black and a little

    [Footnote S: See the new edition of Chatterton’s poems, quarto,
    p. 436, 437.]

Such is the account of one of Chatterton’s intimate friends. And how is
this decisive proof of his abilities to imitate ancient English
handwriting, and his exercise of those abilities, evaded? Why truly, we
are told, “the _contraction of the parchment_ is no discriminating mark
of antiquity; the _blackness_ given by smoke appears upon trial to be
very different from the _yellow_ tinge which parchment acquires by age;
and _the ink does not change its colour_, as Mr. Ruddall seems to
apprehend.” So, because these arts are not always _completely
successfull_, and would not deceive a very skilful antiquary, we are to
conclude, that Chatterton did not forge a paper which he acknowledged to
have forged, and did not in the presence of Mr. Ruddall cover a piece of
parchment with ancient characters for the purpose of imposition, though
the fact is clearly ascertained by the testimony of that gentleman!
--The reverend commentator argues on this occasion much in the same
manner, as a well-known versifier of the present century, the facetious
Ned Ward (and he too published a quarto volume of poems). Some
biographer, in an account of the lives of the English poets, had said
that “he was an ingenious writer, considering his low birth and mode of
life, he having for some time kept a publick house in the City.” “Never
was a greater or more impudent calumny (replied the provoked rhymer); it
is very well known to every body, that my publick house is not in the
City, but in _Moorfields_.” --In the name of common sense, of what
consequence is it, whether in fact _all_ ancient parchments are
_shrivelled_; whether smoke will give ink a _yellow_ appearance or not.
It is sufficient, that Chatterton _thought_ this was the case; that he
made the _attempt_ in the presence of a credible witness, to whom he
_acknowledged_ the purpose for which the manœuvre was done. We are asked
indeed, why he did not prepare his pretended original before he
published the copy. To this another question is the best answer. Why is
not fraud always uniform and consistent, and armed at all points?
Happily for mankind it scarcely ever is. Perhaps (as Mr. Ruddall’s
account seems to state the matter) he did not think at first that he
should be called upon for the original: perhaps he was limited in a
point of time, and could not fabricate it by the day that the new bridge
was opened at Bristol. --But there is no end of such speculations. Facts
are clear and incontrovertible. Whatever might have been the cause of
his delay, it is not denied that he acknowledged this forgery to his
friend Mr. Ruddall; conjuring him at the same time not to reveal the
secret imparted to him. If this had been a mere frolick, what need of
this earnest injunction of secrecy? --His friend scrupulously kept his
word till the year 1779, when, as the Dean of Exeter informs us, “on the
prospect of procuring a gratuity of ten pounds for Chatterton’s mother,
from a gentleman who sought for information concerning her son’s
history, he thought so material a benefit to the family would fully
justify him for divulging a secret, by which no person living could be a

I will not stay to take notice of the impotent attempts that
Chatterton’s new commentators have made to overturn the very
satisfactory and conclusive reasoning of Mr. Tyrwhitt’s Appendix to the
former edition of the fictitious Rowley’s Poems. That most learned and
judicious critick wants not the assistance of my feeble pen: _Non tali
auxilio, nec defensoribus istis----._ If he should come into the field
himself (as I hope he will), he will soon silence the Anglo-Saxon
batteries of his opponents.

The principal arguments that have been urged in support of the antiquity
of the poems attributed to Rowley, have now, if I mistake not, been
fairly stated and examined[T]. On a review of the whole, I trust the
reader will agree with me in opinion, that there is not the smallest
reason for believing a single line of them to have been written by any
other person than Thomas Chatterton; and that, instead of the towering
motto which has been affixed to the new and splendid edition of the
works of that most ingenious youth---- _Renascentur quæ jam cecidere_--
the words of Claudian would have been more “germane to the matter:”

      --------_tolluntur in altum,_
  _Ut lapsu graviore ruant._

    [Footnote T: I take this opportunity of acknowledging an error
    into which I have fallen in a former page (13), where it is said,
    that no instances are found in these poems of a noun in the plural
    number being joined to a verb in the singular. On a more careful
    examination I observe that C. was aware of this mark of antiquity,
    and that his works exhibit a _few_ examples of this disregard to
    grammar. He has however sprinkled them too sparingly. Had these
    poems been written in the fifteenth century, Priscian’s head would
    have been broken in almost every page, and I should not have
    searched for these grammatical inaccuracies in vain.]

Having, I fear, trespassed too long on the patience of my readers,
in the discussion of a question that to many may appear of no great
importance, I will only add the following serious and well-intended
proposal. I do humbly recommend, that a committee of the friends of the
reverend antiquarian, Dr. Jeremiah Milles, Dean of Exeter, and the
learned mythologist, Jacob Bryant, Esq., may immediately meet; --that
they may, as soon as possible, convey the said Dr. M. and Mr. B.
together with Mr. George Catcott, pewterer, and Mr. William Barrett,
surgeon, of Bristol, and Dr. Glynn of Cambridge, to the room over the
north porch of Redcliffe church, and that on the door of the said room
_six_ padlocks may be fixed:-- that in order to wean these gentlemen by
degrees from the delusion under which they labour, and to furnish them
with some amusement, they may be supplied with proper instruments to
measure the length, breadth, and depth, of the empty chests now in the
said room, and thereby to ascertain how many thousand diminutive pieces
of parchment, all eight inches and a half by four and a half, might have
been contained in those chests; [according to my calculation,
1,464,578; --but I cannot pretend to be exact:] that for the sustenance
of these gentlemen, a large peck loaf may be placed in a _maund_ basket
in the said room, having been previously prepared and left in a damp
place, so as to become mouldy, and the words and figures _Thomas Flour,
Bristol_, 1769, being first impressed in common letters on the upper
crust of the said loaf, and on the under side thereof, in Gothick
Characters, _Thomas Wheateley_, 1464 (which Thomas Wheateley Mr.
Barrett, if he carefully examines Rowley’s PURPLE ROLL[V], will find was
an _auncyent_ baker, and “_did use to bake daiely for Maister Canynge
twelve manchettes of chete breade, and foure douzenne of marchpanes_;”
and which custom of impressing the names of bakers upon bread, I can
prove to be as ancient as the time of king Edward IV., from
Doomsday-book, William de Wircestre, Shakspeare, and other good
antiquarians, as also from the Green and Yellow Rolls, now in Mr. B’s
custody)[X]:-- that a proper quantity of water may be conveyed into the
forementioned room in one of Mr. Catcott’s deepest and most ancient
pewter plates, together with an ewer of Wedgwood’s ware, made after the
oldest and most uncouth pattern that has yet been discovered at
Herculaneum;-- that Dr. Glynn, if he shall be thought to be sufficiently
composed (of which great doubts are entertained), be appointed to cut a
certain portion of the said bread for the daily food of these gentlemen
and himself; and that, in order to sooth in some measure their unhappy
fancies, he may be requested, in cutting the said loaf, to use the
valuable knife of Mr. Shiercliffe (now in the custody of the said
Dr. G), the history[Y] of which has so much illustrated, and so clearly
evinced the antiquity of the poems attributed to Thomas Rowley. And if
in a fortnight after these gentlemen have been so confined, they shall
be found to be entirely re-established in their health, and perfectly
composed, I recommend that the six locks may be struck off, and that
they all may be suffered to return again to their usual employments.

    [Footnote V: ROWLEY’s _Purple Roll_, Mr. Bryant very gravely tells
    us, it yet extant in manuscript in his _own hand-writing_. “It is
    (he adds) in _two_ parts; _one_ of the said parts written by
    Thomas Rowley, and _the other by Thomas Chatterton_.”]

    [Footnote X: A learned friend, who, by the favour of Mr. Barrett,
    has perused the YELLOW ROLL, informs me, that Rowley, in
    a treatise dated 1451, and addressed “to the dygne Maister
    Canynge,” with the quaint title, DE RE FRUMENTARIA, (chap. XIII.
    _Concernynge Horse-hoeing Husbandrie, and the Dryll-Ploughe_) has
    this remarkable passage: “Me thynketh ytt were a prettie devyce
    yffe this practyce of oure bakerres were extended further.
    I mervaile moche, our _scriveynes_ and _amanuenses_ doe not gette
    lytel letters cutt in wood, or caste in yron, and thanne
    followynge by the eye, or with a fescue, everyche letter of the
    boke thei meane to copie, fix the sayde wooden or yron letters
    meetelie disposed in a frame or chase; thanne daube the frame over
    with somme atramentous stuffe, and layinge a thynne piece of
    moistened parchment or paper on these letters, presse it doune
    with somme smoothe stone or other heavie weight: by the whiche
    goodlye devyce a manie hundreth copies of eche boke might be
    wroughte off in a few daies, insteade of employing the eyen and
    hondes of poore clerkes for several monthes with greate attentyon
    and travaile.”

    This great man, we have already seen, had an idea of many of the
    useful arts of life some years before they were practised. Here he
    appears to have had a confused notion of that noble invention,
    the printing-press. To prevent misconstruction, I should add, that
    _boke_ in the above passage means _manuscript_, no other books
    being then known; In other parts of his works, _as represented by
    Chatterton_, he speaks of Mss. as contradistinguished from books;
    but in all those places it is reasonable to suppose some
    interpolation by Chatterton, and _those who choose it_, may read
    _book_ instead of _manuscript_; by which this trivial objection to
    the authenticity of these pieces will be removed, and these
    otherwise discordant passages rendered perfectly uniform and

    This valuable relick shows with how little reason the late Mr.
    Tull claimed the merit of inventing that useful instrument of
    husbandry, the drill-plough.

    I make no apology for anticipating Mr. Barret on this subject; as
    in fact these short extracts will only make the publick still more
    desirous to see his long-expected _History of Bristol_, which I am
    happy to hear is in great forwardness, and will, I am told,
    contain a full account of the YELLOW ROLL, and an exact inventory
    of _Maistre William Cannynge’s_ Cabinet of coins, medals, and
    drawings, (among the latter of which are enumerated many, highly
    finished, by Apelles, Raphael, Rowley, Rembrant, and Vandyck)
    together with several other matters equally curious. --It is hoped
    that this gentleman will gratify the publick with an accurate
    engraving from a drawing by Rowley, representing the ancient
    Castle of Bristol, together with the square tower ycleped the
    DONGEON, which cannot fail to afford great satisfaction to the
    purchasers of his book, as it will exhibit a species of
    architecture hitherto unknown in this country; this tower (as we
    learn from unquestionable authority, that of the Dean of Exeter
    himself,) “being remarkably decorated [on paper] with images,
    ornaments, tracery work, and crosses within circles, _in a style
    net usually seen in these buildings_.” --Chatterton, _as soon as
    ever he heard that Mr. Barrett was engaged in writing a History of
    Bristol_, very obligingly searched among the Rowley papers, and a
    few days afterwards furnished him with a neat _copy_ of this
    ancient drawing.]

    [Footnote Y: This very curious and interesting history may be
    found in Mr. Bryant’s _Observations_, &c. p. 512. The learned
    commentator seems to have had the great father of poetry in his
    eye, who is equally minute in his account of the sceptre of
    Achilles. See _Il._ Α. v. 234. He cannot, however, on this account
    be justly charged with plagiarism; these co-incidences frequently
    happening. Thus Rowley in the 15th century, and Dryden in the
    17th, having each occasion to say that a man wept, use the same
    four identical words-- “_Tears began to flow._”]

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  University of California, Los Angeles
  The Augustan Reprint Society
  Publications in Print

The Augustan Reprint Society


University of California, Los Angeles

Publications in Print

  [Where available, Doctrine Publishing Corporation e-text numbers are shown in


15. John Oldmixon, _Reflections on Dr. Swift’s Letter to Harley_ (1712),
and Arthur Mainwaring, _The British Academy_ (1712).  [25091]

16. Henry Nevil Payne, _The Fatal Jealousie_ (1673).  [16916]

17. Nicholas Rowe, _Some Account of the Life of Mr. William Shakespear_
(1709).  [16275]

18. Anonymous, “Of Genius,” in _The Occasional Paper_, Vol. III, No. 10
(1719), and Aaron Hill, Preface to _The Creation_ (1720).  [15870]


19. Susanna Centlivre, _The Busie Body_ (1709).  [16740]

20. Lewis Theobald, _Preface to the Works of Shakespeare_ (1734).

22. Samuel Johnson, _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ (1749), and two
_Rambler_ papers (1750).  [13350]

23. John Dryden, _His Majesties Declaration Defended_ (1681).  [15074]


26. Charles Macklin, _The Man of the World_ (1792).  [14463]


31. Thomas Gray, _An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard_ (1751), and
_The Eton College Manuscript_.  [15409]


41. Bernard Mandeville, _A Letter to Dion_ (1732).  [In Preparation]


77-78. David Hartley, _Various Conjectures on the Perception, Motion,
and Generation of Ideas_ (1746).


79. William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke, _Poems_ (1660).
[In Preparation]

81. Two Burlesques of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters: _The Graces_ (1774),
and _The Fine Gentleman’s Etiquette_ (1776).  [In Preparation]


85-86. _Essays on the Theatre from Eighteenth Century Periodicals._


93. John Norris, _Cursory Reflections Upon a Book Call’d, An Essay
Concerning Human Understanding_ (1690).

94. An. Collins, _Divine Songs and Meditacions_ (1653).
[In Preparation]

96. _Ballads and Songs Loyal to the Hanoverian Succession_ (1703-1761).


97. Myles Davies, [Selections from] _Athenæ Britannicaæ_ (1716-1719).

98. _Select Hymns Taken Out of Mr. Herbert’s Temple_ (1697).

99. Thomas Augustine Arne, _Artaxerxes_ (1761).

100. Simon Patrick, _A Brief Account of the New Sect of Latitude-Men_

101-102. Richard Hurd, _Letters on Chivalry and Romance_ (1762).


103. Samuel Richardson, _Clarissa_: Preface, Hints of Prefaces, and
Postscript.  [In Preparation]

104. Thomas D’Urfey, _Wonders in the Sun: or, The Kingdom of the Birds_

105. Bernard Mandeville, _An Enquiry into the Causes of the Frequent
Executions at Tyburn_ (1725).  [In Preparation]

106. Daniel Defoe, _A Brief History of the Poor Palatine Refugees_

107-108. John Oldmixon, _An Essay on Criticism_ (1728).
[In Preparation]


109. Sir William Temple, _An Essay Upon the Original and Nature of
Government_ (1680).

110. John Tutchin, _Selected Poems_ (1685-1700).  [In Preparation]

111. Anonymous, _Political Justice_ (1736).

112. Robert Dodsley, _An Essay on Fable_ (1764).

113. T. R., _An Essay Concerning Critical and Curious Learning_ (1698).

114. _Two Poems Against Pope_: Leonard Welsted, _One Epistle to Mr. A.
Pope_ (1730), and Anonymous, _The Blatant Beast_ (1742).  [21499]


115. Daniel Defoe and others, _Accounts of the Apparition of Mrs. Veal_.

116. Charles Macklin, _The Covent Garden Theatre_ (1752).
[In Preparation]

117. Sir Roger L’Estrange, _Citt and Bumpkin_ (1680).  [In Preparation]

118. Henry More, _Enthusiasmus Triumphatus_ (1662).

119. Thomas Traherne, _Meditations on the Six Days of the Creation_

120. Bernard Mandeville, _Aesop Dress’d or a Collection of Fables_
(1704).  [In Preparation]

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library: University of California,
Los Angeles


  _General Editors_: George Robert Guffey, University of California,
    Los Angeles; Earl Miner, University of California, Los Angeles;
    Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles;
    Robert Vosper, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

  _Corresponding Secretary_: Mrs. Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark
    Memorial Library

The Society’s purpose is to publish reprints (usually facsimile
reproductions) of rare seventeenth and eighteenth century works. All
income of the Society is devoted to defraying costs of publication and

Correspondence concerning subscriptions in the United States and Canada
should be addressed to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 2520
Cimarron St., Los Angeles, California. Correspondence concerning
editorial matters may be addressed to any of the general editors.
Manuscripts of introductions should conform to the recommendations of
the _MLA Style Sheet_. The membership fee is $5.00 a year for
subscribers in the United States and Canada and 30/- for subscribers in
Great Britain and Europe. British and European subscribers should
address B. H. Blackwell, Broad Street, Oxford, England. Copies of back
issues in print may be obtained from the Corresponding Secretary.


HENRY HEADLEY, _Poems_ (1786). Introduction by Patricia Meyer Spacks.

JAMES MACPHERSON, _Fragments of Ancient Poetry_ (1760). Introduction by
John J. Dunn.  [8161]

EDMOND MALONE, _Cursory Observations on the Poems Attributed to Thomas
Rowley_ (1782). Introduction by James M. Kuist.  [Present Text]

Anonymous, _The Female Wits_ (1704). Introduction by Lucyle Hook.
[In Preparation]

Anonymous, _The Scribleriad_ (1742). LORD HERVEY, _The Difference
Between Verbal and Practical Virtue_ (1742). Introduction by A. J.
Sambrook.  [In Preparation]

_Le Lutrin: an Heroick Poem, Written Originally in French by Monsieur
Boileau: Made English by N. O._ (1682). Introduction by Richard Morton.


The Society announces a series of special publications beginning with a
reprint of JOHN OGILBY, _The Fables of Aesop Paraphras’d in Verse_
(1668), with an Introduction by Earl Miner. Ogilby’s book is commonly
thought one of the finest examples of seventeenth-century bookmaking and
is illustrated with eighty-one plates. The next in this series will be
JOHN GAY’S _Fables_ (1728), with an Introduction by Vinton A. Dearing.
Publication is assisted by funds from the Chancellor of the University
of California, Los Angeles. Price to members of the Society, $2.50 for
the first copy and $3.25 for additional copies. Price to non-members,

Seven back numbers of Augustan Reprints which have been listed as
out-of-print now are available in limited supply: 15, 19, 41, 77-78,
79, 81. Price per copy, $0.90 each; $1.80 for the double-issue 77-78.


William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Make check or money order payable to THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF

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As noted above, errors in the primary text (_Cursory Observations_) were
left as printed except when the error was unambiguous.


  viz. ... _words_  [viz..._words_]
  But for the moment any answers  [ansers]
  He means, I belive,  [_spelling unchanged: quoted material_]
  has led scholars to miss the significance  [sifnificance]
  his ridicule of “respectable characters”  [riducule]
  “written”  [_spelled as shown, though reference is to “writtten”_]
  12. The only ... and 3245 (22-25 Dec., against both).
    [_close parenthesis missing_]

Title Page:
  and JACOB BRYANT, Esq;  [_semicolon as shown_]

Main Text:
  Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt--”  [_close quote missing_]
  Le douzty Artours dawes
    [_text unchanged: some editions read “Be douzty”_]
  Wherefore he would set up in higth
    [_text unchanged: error for “hight”?_]
  Arrestynge my sight towarde the zodiake  [Arrectynge]
    [_printed with “ct” ligature instead of “st”_]
  Mr. Bryant and the Dean of Exeter  [_period (full stop) missing_]
  _... and closes it with an Alexandrine_.
    [_close quote may belong here_]
  His noble soul came rushing from the wound--”  [_close quote missing_]
  “And tears began to flow;”
    [_quotation reformatted to match rest of text: printed as part of
    following paragraph, without indent_]
  undoubtedly writtten by one person
    [_unchanged: see Introduction, Note 18_]
  by Nestor in _Troilus_ and _Cressida_
  Mr. Mason’s _Elfrida_ and _Caractacus_
    [_both printed as shown: should be _Troilus and Cressida_,
    _Elfrida and Caractacus_._]
  are only to traced in  [_text unchanged: missing “be”?_]
  he invented one[M].  [_period (full stop) missing_]
  display the some premature abilities
    [_text unchanged: error for “same”?_]
  serious and well-intended proposal  [and and]
  being remarkably decorated  [remakably]

  the other more approved SCOTTISH BALLADS  [BALLLADS]

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