CONTAINING SOME OBSERVATIONS UPON THE LANGUAGE OF THE POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO ROWLEY; TENDING TO PROVE, THAT THEY WERE WRITTEN, NOT BY ANY ANCIENT AUTHOR, BUT ENTIRELY BY THOMAS CHATTERTON.
Tum levis haud ultra latebras jam quærit imago,
Sed sublime volans nocti se immiscuit atræ.
VIRGIL, Æ. X.
WHEN these Poems were first printed, it was thought best to leave the question of their authenticity to the determination of the impartial Public. The Editor contented himself with intimating his opinion, that the external evidence on both sides was so defective as to deserve but little attention, and that the final decision of the question must depend upon the internal evidence. To shew that this opinion was not thrown out in order to mislead the enquiries and judgements of the readers, I have here drawn together some observations upon THE LANGUAGE <1> of the poems attributed to Rowley, which, I think, will be sufficient to prove, 1st, that they were not written in the XV Century; and 2dly, that they were written entirely by Thomas Chatterton.
The proof of the second proposition would in effect carry with it that of the first; but, notwithstanding, I choose to treat them separately and to begin with the first.
I shall premise only one postulatum, which is, that Poets of the same age and country use the same language, allowances being made for certain varieties, which may arise from the local situation, the rank in life, the learning, the affectation of the writers, and from the different subjects and forms of their compositions. <2>
This being granted, I have nothing to do but to prove, that the language of the poems attributed to Rowley (when every proper allowance has been made) is totally different from that of the other English writers of the XV Century, in many material particulars. It would be too tedious to go through them all; and therefore I shall only take notice of such as can be reserved to three general heads; the first consisting of words not used by any other writer; the second, of words used by other writers, but in a different sense; and the third, of words inflected in a manner contrary to grammar and custom.
Under the first head I would recommend the following words to the reader's consideration.
1. ABESSIE. E. III. 89.
Whylest the congeon flowrette abessie dyghte.
2. ABORNE. T. 45.
Snett oppe hys long strunge bowe and sheelde aborne.
3. ABREDYNGE. Æ. 334.
Agylted Ælla, thie abredynge blynge.
4. ACROOLE. El. 6.
Didde speke acroole, wythe languishment of eyne.
5. ADAVE. H.2. 392.
The fynest dame the sun or moon adave.
6. ADENTE. Æ. 396. ADENTED. G. 32.
Ontoe thie veste the rodde sonne ys adente.
Adented prowess to the gite of witte.
7. ADRAMES. Ep. 27.
Loughe loudlie dynneth from the dolte adrames.
8. ALATCHE. Æ. 117.
Leave me swythe or I'lle alatche.
9. ALMER. Ch.20.
Where from the hail-stone coulde the almer flie?
10. ALUSTE. H. 1. 88.
That Alured coulde not hymself aluste.
11. ALYNE. T. 79.
Wythe murther tyred he slynges hys bowe alyne.
12. ALYSE. Le. 29. -- G. 180.
Somme dryblette thare you shoulde to that alyse.
Fulle twentie mancas I wylle thee alise.
13. ANERE. Æ. 15. -- Ep. 48.
And cann I lyve to see herr wythe anere?
-- -- -- -- -- -- Adieu untylle anere.
14. ANETE, S.W.C. 64.
Whych yn the blosom woulde such sins anete.
15. APPLINGS. E. I. 33
Mie tendre applynges and embodyde trees.
16. ARROW-LEDE. H.1. 74.
Han by his soundynge arrowe-lede bene sleyne.
17. ASENGLAVE. H.1. 117.
But Harold's asenglave stopp'd it as it flewe.
18. ASLEE. Æ. 504.
That doest aslee alonge ynn doled dystresse.
19. ASSWAIE. Æ. 352.
Botte thos to leave thee, Birtha, dothe asswaie
Moe torturynge peynes, &c.
20. ASTENDE, G.
Acheke the mokie aire and heaven astende.
I stop here, not because the other Letters of the alphabet would not afford a proportionable number of words which might be referred to this head, but because I think these sufficient for my purpose. I proceed therefore to set down an equal number of words under the second general head.
1. ABOUNDE. H. 1. 55.
His cristede beaver dyd him smalle abounde.
The common sense of Abound, a verb, is well known; but what can be the meaning of it here?
2. ALEDGE. G. 5.
Lette notte thie agreme blyn ne aledge stonde.
Aledge, or Alege, v. Fr. in Chaucer signifies to alleviate. It is here used either as an adjective or as an adverb. Chatterton interprets it to mean idly; upon what ground I cannot guess.
3. ALL A BOON. E. III. 41. -- Songe to Alla. 4.
All-a-boon, syr Priest, all-a-boon.
Thys ys the onelie all-a-boone I crave.
Here are three English words, the sense of which, taken separately, is clear. As joined together in this passage they are quite unintelligible.
4. ALLEYN. E. I. 52.
Mie sonne, mie sonne alleyn ystorven ys.
Granting alleyn to be rightly put for alone, no ancient writer, I apprehend, ever used such a phrase as this; any more than we should now say -- my son alone for my only son.
5. ASCAUNCE. E. III. 52.
Lokeynge ascaunce upon the naighboure greene.
The usual sense of ascaunce in Chaucer, and other old writers, has been explained in a note on ver. 7327. of the Canterbury Tales. It is used in the same sense by Gascoigne. The more modern adverb ascaunce, signifying sideways, obliquely, is derived from the Italian a schiancio, and I doubt very much whether it had been introduced into the Englith language in the time of the supposed Rowley.
6. ASTERTE, G. 137.
-- -- You have theyr worthe asterte.
I despair of finding any authorised sense of the word asterte, that will suit this passage. It cannot, I think, signifie neglected or passed by, as Chatterton has rendered it.
7. AUMERE. Æ. 398. -- Ch. 7. AUMERES. E. III. 25.
Depycte wyth skylled honde upponn thie wyde aumere.
And eke the grounde was dighte in its moste defte aumere.
Wythe gelten aumeres stronge ontolde.
The only place in which I remember to have met with this word is in Chaucer's Romant of the Rose, ver. 2271. and there it undoubtedly signifies a purse; probably from the Fr. Aumonniere. Aumere of silk is Chaucer's translation of Bourse de soye. In another place of the same poem, ver. 2087. he uses aumener in the same sense. The interpretations given of this word by Chatterton will be considered below.
8. BARBED, Æ. 27. 219.
Nott, whan from the barbed horse, &c.
Mie lord fadre's barbde halle han ne wynnynge.
Let it be allowed, that barbed horse was a proper expression, in the XV Century, for a horse covered with armour, can any one conceive that barbed hall signified a hall in which armour was hung? or what other sense can barbde have in this passage?
9. BLAKE. Æ. 178. 407.
Whanne Autumpne blake and sonne-brente doe appere.
Blake stondeth future doome, and joie doth mee alyse.
Blake, in old English, may signifie either black, or bleak. Chatterton, in both these passages, renders it naked; and, in the latter, some such signification seems absolutely necessary to make any sense.
10. BODYKIN. Æ. 265.
And for a bodykin a swarthe obteyne.
Bodekin is used by Chaucer more than once to signifie a bodkin or dagger. I know not that it had any other signification in his time. Swarthe, used as a noun, has no sense that I am acquainted with.
11. BORDEL. E. III. 2. -- Æ. 147. BORDELIER. Æ. 410.
Goe serche the logges and bordels of the hynde.
We wylle in a bordelle lyve.
Hailie the robber and the bordelyer.
Though bordel, in very old French, signifies a cottage, and bordelier a cottager, Chaucer uses the first word in no other sense than that of brothel or bawdy-house; and bordeller with him means the keeper of such a house. After this usage of these words was so established, it is not easy to believe that any later writer would hazard them in their primitive sense.
12. BYSMARE. M. 95.
Roaringe and rolleyng on yn course bysmare.
Bismare, in Chaucer, signifies abusive speech; nor do I believe that it ever had any other signification.
13. CHAMPYON, P.G. 12.
Wee better for to doe do champyon anie onne.
I do not believe that champion was used as a verb by any writer much earlier than Shakespeare.
14. CONTAKE. T. 87. CONTEKE. E. II. 10.
-- I contake thie waie.
Conteke the dynnynge ayre and reche the skies.
Conteke is used by Chaucer, as a noun, for Contention. I know no instance of its being used as a verb.
15. DERNE. Æ. 582. DERNIE. E. I. 19. El. 8. M. 106.
Whan thou didst boaste soe moche of acctyon derne.
Oh Raufe, comme lyste and hear mie dernie tale.
O gentle Juga, heare mie dernie plainte.
He wrythde arounde yn drearie dernie payne.
Derne is a Saxon adj. signifying secret, private, in which sense it is used more than once by Chaucer, and in no other.
16. DROORIE. Ep. 47.
Botte lette ne wordes, whiche droorie mote ne hear;
Bee placed in the same -- .
The only sense that I know of druerie is courtship, gallantry, which will not suit with this passage.
17. FONNES. E. II. 14. Æ. 421. FONS. T. 4.
Decorn wyth fonnes rare --
On of the fonnis whych the clerche have made.
Quayntyssed fons depictedd on eche sheelde.
A fonne in Chaucer signifles a fool and fonnes -- fools; and Spencer uses fon in the same sense; nor do I believe that it ever had any other meaning.
18. KNOPPED. M. 14.
Theyre myghte ys knopped ynne the froste of fere.
Knopped is used by Chaucer to signifie fastened with a button, from knoppe, a button; but what poet, that knew the meaning of his words, would say that any thing was buttoned with frost?
19. LECTURN. Le. 46.
An onlist lecturn and a songe adygne.
I do not see that lecturn can possibly signifie any thing but a reading-desk, in which sense it is used by Chaucer.
20. LITHIE. Ep. 10.
Inne lithie moncke apperes the barronnes pryde.
If there be any such word as this, we should naturally expect it to follow the signification of lithe; soft, limber: which will not suit with this passage.
I go on to the third general head of words inflected contrary to grammar and custom. In a language like ours, in which the inflectons are so few and so simple, it is not to be supposed that a writer, even of the lowest class, would commit very frequent offences of this sort. I shall take notice of some, which I think impossible to have fallen from a genuine Rowley.
1. CLEVIS. H.2. 46.
Fierce as a clevis from a rocke ytorne.
Clevis or cleves is the plural number of Cleve, a cliff. It is so used by Chaucer. I cannot believe that it was ever used as a singular noun.
2. EYNE. E. II. 79. T. 169. See also Æ. 681.
In everich eyne aredynge nete of wyere.
Wythe syke an eyne shee swotelie hymm dydd view.
Eyne, a contracton of eyen, is the plural number of eye. It is not more probable that an ancient writer should have used the expressions here quoted, than that any one now should say -- In every eyes; -- With such an eyes.
3. HEIE. E. II. 15. T. 123. Le. 5. 9. Ent. 2. Æ. 55.
Heie, the old plural of He, was obsolete, I apprehend, in the time of the supposed Rowley. At least it is very improbable that the same writer, at any time, should use heie and theie. indifferently, as in these poems.
4. THYSSEN. E. II. 87.
Lette thyssen menne, who haveth sprite of love.
I cannot believe that thyssen was ever in use as the plural number of this. The termination seems to have been added, for the sake of the metre, by one who knew that many words formerly ended in en, but was quite ignorant of what particular sorts they were. In the same manner coyen. Æ. 125. and Sothen. Æ. 227. are put for coy and sothe, contrary to all usage or analogy.
And this leads me to the capital blunder, which runs through all these poems, and would alone be sufficient to destroy their credit; I mean, the termination of verbs in the singular number in n. <3> I will set down a number of instances, in which han is used for the present or past time singular of the v. Have; only premising, that han, being an abbreviation of haven, is never used by any ancient writer except in the present time plural and the infinitive mode.
Answer to the Songe of Ælla.
9. The Brytish Merlyn oftenne hanne
The gyfte of inspyration.
The Dethe of Sir C. Bawdin.
2. The featherd songsteer chaunticleer
Han wounde hys bugle horne.
650. Whanne Englonde han her foemenn.
685. Echone wylle wyssen hee hanne seene the daie.
734. Bryghte sonne han ynne hys roddie robes byn dyghte.
1137. - -- Mie stede han notte mie love.
1184. Hanne alle the fuirie of mysfortunes wylle
Fallen onne mie benned headde I hanne been Ælla stylle.
Goddwyn; A tragedie.
20. Hane Englonde thenne a tongue butte notte a stynge?
61. A tye of love a dawter faire she hanne.
The Battle of Hastings (1).
74. Ne doubting but the bravest in the londe
Han by his soundynge 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. 465. -- H.2. 306. 703. -- Onn Oure Ladies Chyrche 4. -- S.W.C. 63. -- W. Canyng's Feaste. 1
In the same irregular manner the following verbs are used singularly.
E. I. 10. Then fellen on the grounde and thus yspoke.
H.2. 665. Bewopen Alfwoulde fellen on his knee.
Gouler's Requiem. 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.
Æ. 172. So Adam thoughtenne when ynn paradyse --
1116. 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 fictitions past time, in Æ. 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 Glosary 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 Linguæ Anglicanæ. <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 above.
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 viri Principi exhibita, ni fallor ab AS. bene, unde nostrum Boon additis particulis Fr. G. A la. Ch. Fab. Mercatoris fol. 30. p. 1. 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 should 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 Æ. 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 where the true meaning of Aumere is given.
"Aumere ex contextu videtur Fimbria vel Instita, nescio an a Teut. Ambher, Circum, Circa. q. d. Circuitus seu ambitus. Ch. f. 119. p. 1. C. 1."
BAWSIN. Æ. 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. Æ. 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 Magnum 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.
BURLDE. M. 20. Armed. Chatterton. So Skinner, "Burled, exp. Armatus, &c."
BYSMARE. M. 95. Bewildered, curious. Chatterton. BYSMARELIE. Le. 26. Curiously. Chatterton. See also. S.W.C. 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.
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 disserence between casting out and casting up, i.e. casting up figures in calculation. That, the latter, was Skinners meaning may be collected from his next article. "Calked for Calculated. Ch. the Frankeleynes tale." lt 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 assigning 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 above.
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 solum occurrit, exp. Allowed, ab AS. Alifed, &c." In the Gothic types used by Skinner f might be easily mistaken for a long s.
BESTOIKER. Æ. 91. Deceiver. Chatterton. See also. Æ. 1064.
This word also seems plainly to have originated from a mistake in reading Skinner. "Bestwike, ab AS. Besthican, Sthican, Decipere, Fallere, Prodere, Sthica, Proditor, Deceptor." Chatterton in his hurry read this as Bestoike, and formed a noun from it accordingly.
BLAKE. Æ. 178. 407. Naked. Chatterton. BLAKIED. E. III. . Naked, original. Chatterton. See above.
Skinner has the following article. "Blake and bare, videtur ex contextu prorsus Nuda, fort. q. d. Bleak and Bare, dum enim nudi fumus eoque aeri expositi, præ frigore pallescimus. Ch. fol. 184. p. 2. Col. 1."
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 saltem, tantum de prima portione seu segmento quod ad tentandam seu explorandam rem abscindimus, ut ubi dicimus, to Hancell 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. Æ. 34. G. 18. Fate. Chatterton. SHAP-SCURGED. Æ. 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 præstitutum 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 my 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 CHATTERTON.