The Rowley Poems Part 75

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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 fict.i.tious 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 a.s.sistances 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 pa.s.sage. 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 Pet.i.tio 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 pa.s.sage 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 pa.s.sage of Chaucer which has been mentioned above [See p. 316, where the true meaning of _Aumere_ is given].

"=Aumere= ex contextu videtur _Fimbria_ vel _Inst.i.ta_, nescio an a Teut. =Umbher=, Circ.u.m, 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_, &c."

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, n.o.body 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 pa.s.sages 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_ isle.

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_ praest.i.tutum 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 pa.s.sage, 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 h.e.l.le.

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 a.s.sistance 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 CHATTERTON.

[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 compa.s.s. 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.]

The Rowley Poems Part 75

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