(270) “The Spaniard, when the lust of sway
Had lost its quickening spell,
Cast crowns for rosaries away,
An empire for a cell!
“A strict accountant of his beads,
A subtle disputant on creeds,
His dotage trifled well:
Yet better had he neither known
A bigot’s shrine nor despot’s throne.” Byron.-E.
I thank you for your notices, dear Sir, and shall remember that on Prince William. I did see the Monthly Review, but hope one is not guilty of the death of every man who does not make one the dupe of a forgery. I believe M’Pherson’s success with Ossian was more The ruin of Chatterton than I. Two years passed between my doubting the authenticity of Rowley’s(271) poems and his death. I never knew he had been in London till some time after he had undone and poisoned himself there. The poems he sent me were transcripts in his own hand, and even in that circumstance he told a lie: he said he had them from the very person at Bristol to whom he had given them. If any man was to tell you that monkish rhymes had been dug up at Herculaneum, which was destroyed several centuries before there was any such poetry, should you believe it? Just the reverse is the case of Rowley’s pretended poems. They have all the elegance of Waller and Prior, and more than Lord Surrey—but I have no objection to any body believing what he pleases. I think poor Chatterton was an astonishing genius-but I cannot think that Rowley foresaw metres that were invented long after he was dead, or that our language was more refined at Bristol in the reign of Henry V. than it was at court under Henry viii. One of the chaplains of the Bishop of Exeter has found a line of Rowley in Hudibras-the monk might foresee that too! The prematurity of Chatterton’s genius is, however, full as wonderful, as that such a prodigy as Rowley should never have been heard of till the eighteenth century. The youth and industry of the former are miracles, too, yet still more’ credible. There is not a symptom in the poems, but the old words, that savours of Rowley’s age—change the old words for modern, and the whole construction is of yesterday.
(271) See in Walpole’s Works, vol. iv. the Papers relative to Chatterton; see also vol- i. P. 61 of this collection.-E.
Don’t be alarmed at this thousandth letter in a week. This is more to Lady Hamilton(272) than to you. Pray tell her I have seen Monsieur la Bataille d’.Agincourt.(273) He brought me her letter yesterday: and I kept him to sup, sleep in the modern phrase, and breakfast here this morning; and flatter myself he was, and she will be, content with the regard I paid to her letter.