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The Rowley Poems by Thomas Chatterton

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P. 26. v. 9. The Brytish Merlyn oftenne _hanne_
The gyfte of inspyration.

Ba. 2. The featherd songster chaunticleer
_Han_ wounde hys bugle horne.

AE. 685. Echone wylle wyssen hee _hanne_ seene the daie.

734. Bryghte sonne _han_ ynne hys roddie robes byn dyghte.

650. Whanne Englonde _han_ her foemenn.

1137. ----Mie stede _han_ notte mie love.

1184. _Hanne_ alle the fuirie of mysfortunes wylle
Fallen onne mie benned headde I _hanne_ been AElla stylle.

G. 20. _Hane_ Englonde thenne a tongue butte notte a stynge?

M. 61. A tye of love a dawter faire she _hanne_.

H. 1. 74. Ne doubting but the bravest in the londe
_Han_ by his foundynge arrowe-lede bene sleyne.

182. Where he by chance _han_ slayne a noble's son.

184. And in the battel he much goode _han_ done.

188. He of his boddie _han_ kepte watch and ward.

207. His chaunce in warr he ne before _han_ tryde.

281. The erlie felt de Torcies trecherous knyfe
_Han_ made his crymson bloude and spirits floe.

319. O Hengist, _han_ thy cause bin good and true!

321. The erlie was a manne of hie degree.
And _han_ that daie full manie Normannes sleine.

337. But better _han_ it bin to lett alone.

If more instances should be wanted, see H. 1. 396. 429. 455. H. 2.
306. 703.--p. 275. ver. 4.--p. 281. ver. 63.--p. 288. ver. 1.

In the same irregular manner the following verbs are used

E. I. 10. Then _fellen_ on the grounde and thus yspoke.

H. 2. 665. Bewopen Alfwoulde _fellen_ on his knee.

P. 287. ver. 17. For thee I _gotten_ or bie wiles or breme.

H. 1. 252. He turned aboute and vilely _souten_ flie.

H. 2. 339. Fallyng he _shooken_ out his smokyng braine.

H. 2. 334. His sprite--Ne _shoulden_ find a place in anie songe.

AE. 172. So Adam _thoughtenne_ when ynn paradyse----

1136. Tys now fulle morne; I _thoughten_, bie laste nyghte--

Ch. 54. Full well it _shewn_, he _thoughten_ coste no sinne.

See also H. 2. 366. where _thoughten_, with the additional syllable,
not being quite long enough for the verse, has had another syllable
added at the beginning.

Ne onne abash'd _enthoughten_ for to flee.

And (what is still more curious) we have a participle of the present
tense formed from this fictitious past time, in AE. 704.

_Enthoughteyng_ for to scape the _brondeynge_ foe--

Which would not have been a bit more intelligible in the XV Century
than it would be now. _Brondeynge_ will be taken notice of below.

Many other instances of the most unwarrantable anomalies might be
produced under this head; but I think I have said enough to prove,
that the language of these poems is totally different from that of the
other English writers of the XV Century; and consequently that they
were not written in that century; which was my first, proposition. I
shall now endeavour to prove, from the same internal evidence of the
language, that they were written entirely by Thomas Chatterton.

For this purpose it will only be necessary to have recourse to those
interpretations of words by way of Glossary, which were confessedly
written by him[4]. It will soon appear, if I am not much mistaken,
that the author of the Glossary was the author of the Poems.

Whoever will take the pains to examine these interpretations will
find, that they are almost all taken from SKINNER'S _Etymologicon
Linguae Anglicanae_[5]. In many cases, where the words are really
ancient, the interpretations are perfectly right; and so far
Chatterton can only be considered in the light of a commentator, who
avails himself of the best assistances to explane any genuine author.
But in many other instances, where the words are either not ancient
or not used in their ancient sense, the interpretations are totally
unfounded and fantastical; and at the same time the words cannot be
altered or amended consistently with any rules of criticism, nor can
the interpretations be varied without destroying the sense of
the passage. In these cases, I think, there is a just ground for
believing, that the words as well as their interpretations came from
the hand of Chatterton, especially as they may be proved very often to
have taken their rise either from blunders of Skinner himself, or from
such mistakes and misapprehensions of his meaning as Chatterton, from
haste and ignorance, was very likely to fall into.

I will state first some instances of words and interpretations which
have evidently been derived from blunders of Skinner.

ALL A BOON. E. III. 41. See before, p. 315. _A manner of asking a
favour_, says Chatterton.

Now let us hear Skinner.

"=All a bone=, exp. Preces, Supplex Libellus, Supplicatio, vel ut jam
loquimur Petitio viro Principi exhibita, ni fallor ab AS. Bene, unde
nostrum _Boon_ additis particulis Fr. G. A _la_. Ch. Fab. Mercatoris
fol. 30. p. i. Col. 2."

The passage of Chaucer which is referred to, as an authority for this
word, is the following, Canterb. Tales, ver. 9492.

"And alderfirst he bade them _all a bone_," i.e. he made a request to
them all. So that Skinner is entirely mistaken in making one phrase of
these three words; and it is surely more probable that the author of
the poems was misled by him, than that a really ancient writer mould
have been guilty of so egregious a blunder.

AUMERES. E. III. 25. is explained by Chatterton to mean _Borders of
gold and silver_, &c. And AUMERE in AE. 398, and Ch. 7. seems to be
used in the same sense of _a border of a garment_. And so Skinner has
by mistake explained the word, in that passage of Chaucer which has
been mentioned above [See p. 316, where the true meaning of _Aumere_
is given].

"=Aumere= ex contextu videtur _Fimbria_ vel _Instita_, nescio an a
Teut. =Umbher=, Circum, Circa, q. d. Circuitus seu ambitus. _Ch_. f.
119. p. I.C. I."

BAWSIN. AE. 57. _Large_. Chatterton. M. 101. _Huge, bulky_. Chatterton.

Without pretending to determine the precise meaning of Bawsin, I think
I may venture to say that there is no older or better authority for
rendering it large, than Skinner. "=Bawsin=, exp. _Magnus, Grandis_,

BRONDEOUS. E. II. 24. _Furious_. Chatterton. BRONDED. H. 2. 558.
BRONDEYNGE. AE. 704. BURLIE BRONDE. G. 7. _Fury, anger_. Chatterton.
See also H. 2. 664. All these uses of _Bronde_, and its supposed
derivatives, are taken from Skinner. "Bronde, exp. _Furia_, &c."
though in another place he explains Burly brand (I believe, rightly)
to mean _Magnus ensis_. It should be observed, that the phrase _Burly
brand_, if used in its true sense, would still have been liable to
suspicion, as it does not appear in any work, that I am acquainted
with, prior to the _Testament of Creseide_, a Scottish composition,
written many years after the time of the supposed Rowley.

BURLED. M. 20. _Armed_. Chatterton. So Skinner, "Burled, exp.
_Armatus_, &c."

BYSMARE. M. 95. _Bewildered, curious_. Chatterton. BYSMARELIE. Le. 26.
_Curiously_. Chatterton. See also p. 285. ver. 141. BISMARDE.

It is evident, I think, that all these words are originally derived
from Skinner, who has very absurdly explained Bismare to mean
Curiosity. The true meaning has been stated above, p. 318.

CALKE. G. 25. _Cast_. Chatterton. CALKED. E. I. 49. _Cast out,
ejected_. Chatterton. This word appears to have been formed upon a
misapprehension of the following article in Skinner. "Calked, exp.
Cast, credo Cast up." Chatterton did not attend to the difference
between _casting out_ and _casting up_, i.e. _casting up figures in
calculation_. That the latter was Skinner's meaning may be collected
from his next article. "Calked for Calculated. Ch. the Frankeleynes
tale." It is probable too, I think, that in both articles Skinner
refers, by mistake, to a line of _the Frankelein's tale_, which in the
common editions stands thus:

"Ful subtelly he had _calked_ al this."

Where _calked_ is a mere misprint for _calculed_, the reading of the
MSS. See the late Edit. ver. 11596.

It would be easy to add many more instances of words, _either not
ancient or not used in their ancient sense_, which repeatedly occur
in these poems, and must be construed according to those fanciful
significations which Skinner has ascribed to them. How that should
have happened, unless either Skinner had read the Poems (which, I
presume, nobody can suppose,) or the author of the Poems had read
Skinner, I cannot see. It is against all odds, that two men, living
at the distance of two hundred years one from the other, should
accidentally agree in coining the same words, and in affixing to them
exactly the same meaning.

I proceed to state some instances of words and interpretations which
are evidently founded upon misapprehensions of passages in Skinner.

ALYSE. Le. 29. G. 180. _Allow_. Chatterton. See before, p. 314.

Till I meet with this word, in this sense, in some approved author, I
shall be of opinion that it has been formed from a mistaken reading
of the following article in Skinner. "Alised, Authori Dict. Angl. apud
quem folum occurrit, exp. Allowed, ab AS. Alised, &c." In the Gothic
types used by Skinner f might be easily mistaken for a long s.

BESTOIKER. AE. 91. _Deceiver_. Chatterton. See also AE. 1064.

This word also seems plainly to have originated from a mistake in
reading Skinner. "Bestwike, ab AS. Berpican, Spican, _Decipere_,
Fallere, Prodere, Spica, Proditor, _Deceptor_." Chatterton in his
hurry read this as Bestoike, and formed a noun from it accordingly.

BLAKE. AE. 178. 407. _Naked_. Chatterton. BLAKIED. E. III. 4. _Naked,
original_. Chatterton. See before, p. 317.

Skinner has the following article. "Blake _and_ bare, videtur ex
contextu prorsus _Nuda_, sort. q. d. Bleak _and_ Bare, dum enim nudi
fumus eoque aeri expositi, prae frigore pallescimus. Ch. sol. 184. p.
i. Col. i."

Chatterton has caught hold of _Nuda_, which in Skinner is the
exposition of _Bare_, as if it belonged to _Blake_.

HANCELLED. G. 49. _Cut off, destroyed_. Chatterton. _Hancelled_ from
erthe these Normanne hyndes shalle bee.

Skinner has the same word, which he thus explains. "Hanceled, exp. Cut
off, credo dici proprie, vel primario faltem, tantum de prima portione
feu segmento quod ad tentandam feu explorandam rem abscindimus, ut ubi
dicimus, _to_ Hansell _a pasty or a gammon of bacon_." Chatterton, who
had neither inclination nor perhaps ability to make himself master of
so long a piece of Latin, appears to have looked no further than
the two English words at the beginning of this explanation; and
understanding _Cut off_ to mean _Destroyed_, he has used _Hancelled_
in the same sense.

SHAP. AE. 34. G. 18. _Fate_. Chatterton. SHAP-SCURGED. AE. 603.
_Fate-scourged_. Chatterton.

_Shap_ haveth nowe ymade hys woes for to emmate. Stylle mormorynge
atte yer _shap_.----There ys ne house athrow thys _shap-scurged_

I never was able to conceive how _Shap_ should have been used in the
English language to signifie _Fate_, till I observed the following
article in Skinner, "Shap, _now is my_ Shap, nunc mihi _Fato_
praestitutum est (i.e.) _now is it_ shapen _to me_, ab AS. Sceapan,
&c." I suppose that the word _Fato_, in the Latin, led Chatterton to
understand _now is my shap_ to mean _now is my fate_.

The passage, to which Skinner refers, is in the Knight's tale of
Chaucer, ver. 1227.

_Now is me shape_ eternally to dwelle
Not only in purgatorie but in helle.

But in the Edit. of 1602, which Skinner appears to have made use
of, it is written _Now is me shap_. The putting of _my_ for _me_ was
probably a mistake of the Printer, as Skinner's explanation shews that
he read _me_. I fancy the generality of readers will be satisfied by
the foregoing quotations, that the Author of these poems had not only
read Skinner, but has also misapprehended and misapplied what he found
in him. If more instances should be wanted, a comparison of the words
explained by Chatterton with the same or similar words as explained by
Skinner, will furnish them in abundance[6]. I shall therefore conclude
this Appendix with a short view of the preceding argument. It has been
proved, that the poems attributed to Rowley were not written in the
XV Century; and it follows of course, that they were written, at a
subsequent period, by some impostor, who endeavoured to counterfeit an
author of that century.

It has been proved, that this impostor lived since Skinner, and that
the same person wrote the interpretations of words by way of Glossary,
which are subjoined to most of the poems.

It has also been proved, that Chatterton wrote those interpretations
of words.

Whether any thing further be necessary to prove, that the poems were
entirely written by Chatterton, is left to the reader's judgement.
If he should stick at the word _entirely_, which may possibly seem to
carry the conclusion a little beyond the premisses, he is desired to
reflect, that, the poems having been proved to be a forgery since the
time of Skinner, and to have been written in great part by Chatterton,
it is infinitely more probable that the remainder was also written by
him than by any other person. The great difficulty is to conceive that
a youth, like Chatterton, should ever have formed the plan of such an
imposture, and should have executed it with so much perseverance and
ingenuity; but if we allow (as I think we must) that he was the author
of those pieces to which he subjoined his interpretations, I can see
no reason whatever for supposing that he had any assistance in the
rest. The internal evidence is strong that they are all from one hand;
and external evidence there is none, that I have been able to meet
with, which ought to persuade us, that a single line, of verse or
prose, purporting to be the work of ROWLEY, existed before the time of

[Footnote 1: I have chosen this _part_ of the internal evidence,
because the arguments, which it furnishes, are not only very decisive,
but also lie within a moderate compass. For the same reason of
brevity, I have confined my observations to a _part_ only of
this _part_, viz. to _words_, considered with respect to their
_significations_ and _inflexions_. A complete examination of this
subject _in all its parts_ would be a work of length.]

[Footnote 2: Of these varieties all, except the first, are more
properly varieties of _style_ than of _language_. The _local
situation_ of a writer may certainly produce a _provincial dialect_,
which will often differ essentially from the language used at the same
time in other parts of the same country. But this can only happen in
the case of persons of no education and totally illiterate; and such
persons seldom write. It is unnecessary however to discuss this point
very accurately, as nobody, I believe, will contend, that the poems
attributed to Rowley are written in any _provincial dialect_. If there
should be a few words in them, which are now more common at Bristol
than at London, it should be remembered that Chatterton was of

[Footnote 3: It is not surprizing that Chatterton should have been
ignorant of a peculiarity of the English language, which appears to
have escaped the observation of a professed editor of Chaucer. Mr.
Urry has very frequently lengthened _verbs in the singular number_, by
adding _n_ to them, without any authority, I am persuaded, even from
the errors of former Editions or MSS. It might seem invidious to point
out living writers, of acknowledged learning, who have slipped into
the same mistake in their imitations of Chaucer and Spenser.]

[Footnote 4: This is a point so material to the following argument,
that, though it has never hitherto, I believe, been made a question,
it ought not perhaps to be assumed without some proof. It may be said,
that Chatterton was only the _transcriber_ of the Glossary as well
as of the Poems. If to such an attention we were to answer, that
Chatterton always declared himself the _author_ of the Glossaries,
we should be told perhaps, that with equal truth he always declared
Rowley to have been the author of the Poems. But (not to insist upon
the very different weight, which the same testimony might be allowed
to have in the two cases) it has happened luckily, that the Glossary
to the Poem, entitled "_Englysh Metamorphosis_," [See p. 196.] was
written down by Chatterton extemporally, without the assistance of any
book, at the desire and in the presence of Mr. Barrett. Whoever will
compare that Glossary with the others, will have no doubt of their
being all from the same hand.]

[Footnote 5: Printed at London, MDCLXXI. The part, which Chatterton
seems to have chiefly consulted, is that, which begins at Sign. U u u
u, and is entitled "_Etymologicon vocum omnium antiquarum Anglicarum,
quae usque a Wilhelmo Victore invaluerunt, &c._"]

[Footnote 6: I will state shortly some of those words, which have
been cited above, p. 313. as _either not ancient or not used in their
ancient sense_, with their corresponding articles in Skinner.

ABESSIE; _Humility_. C.--Abessed;--_Humiliatus_. Sk.

ABORNE; _Burnished_, C.--Borne; _Burnish_. Sk. It was usual with
Chatterton to prefix _a_ to words of all sorts, without any regard to
custom or propriety. See in the Alphabetical Gloss. _Aboune, Abreave,
Acome, Aderne, Adygne, Agrame, Agreme, Alest_, &c.

ABOUNDE. This word Chatterton has not interpreted, but the context
shews that it is used in the sense of _good_. So that I suspect it was
taken from the following article in Skinner. Abone,--a Fr. G. Abonnir;
_Bonum_ facere.

ABREDYNGE: _Upbraiding_. C.--Abrede, exp. _Upbraid_. Sk.

ACROOL; _Faintly_. C.--Crool, exp. _Murmurare_. Sk. See the remark
upon ABORNE.

ADENTE, ADENTED: _Fastened, annexed_. C.--Adent;--_Configere,
Conjungere_. Sk.

ALUSTE has no interpretation: but it is used in the sense of _raise_.
Perhaps it may have been derived from a mistaken reading of Alust,
which is explained by Skinner to mean _Tollere_. See the remarks upon
_Alyse_ and _Bestoiker_, p. 328, 329.

DERNE, DERNIE; _Woeful, lamentable, cruel_. C.--Derne; _Dirus,
crudelis_. Sk.

DROORIE; _Modesty_. C.--Drury; _Modestia_. Sk.

FONS, FONNES; _Fancys, Devices_. C.--Fonnes; _Devises_. Sk.

KNOPPED; _Fastened, chained, congealed_. C.--Knopped; _Tied_. Sk.

LITHIE: _Humble_. C.--Lithy; _Humble_. Sk. But in truth I do not
believe that there is any such word. Skinner probably found it in his
edition of Chaucer's _Cuckow and Nightingale_, ver. 14. where the MSS.
have LITHER (_wicked_), which is undoubtedly the right reading.]

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