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mythical Rowley, or his death by his own hand. I do not associate with the question Horace Walpole, who had no opportunity of judging of his correspondent's ability, except as a half-trained antiquary. My sole regret therein is for the delightful fribble himself, that he should have missed his one grand opportunity. My protest is in the first place against the high moral reprobation, as by Scott of all men, of the 'forgeries'. Chatterton's wonder-working fancy had manufactured Rowley; and to the end it breathed vitality into him. From some curious wrench in his nature his imagination burned more brightly when he masqueraded as another, than when he was his dreary eighteenth-century self. For him Rowley and Canynge actually existed. He insisted upon life for his creatures rather than on glory for himself. Had he survived to be old, I believe he would still never have consented to depose them that he might be himself enthroned. For the death, I like the usual compassionate acquittal on the ground of insanity as little as the condemnation for arrogance or moral cowardice. Think of the lad's plight on that twenty-fifth night of August, 1770. He ought, it is said, to have waited. He who had entered London in the mood of a conqueror, to wait, and for what? To die of hunger in his garret, or be carted thence to St. Andrew's workhouse! He had toiled valiantly; even with death in his heart had struggled for Resignation, and been beaten ; a boy not eighteen, who had never left home till four months before! Read the letter to noble Edmund Burke from Crabbe, a grown man of twentyseven ; and see how near to suicide in despair at a fate scarcely so hard was another poet lost in London eleven
years later !
The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton. Two vols. Cambridge, W. P. Grant, 1842.
1 An Excelente Balade of Charitie, st. 12.
* Goddwyn : A Tragedie, by Thomas Rowlee ; Prologue, by Maistre William Canynge. Chorus.
6 Letter to the Dygne Mastre Canynge, st. 6.
8 Ibid. • Ibid., Minstrelles' Song, stanzas 1-4. 10 Song to Ælla, Lorde of the Castel of Bristowe. 11 Bristowe Tragedy; or, The Dethe of Syr Charles Bawdin, st. 85. 12 Elegy on the Death of Mr. Phillips. 13 Kew Gardens.
14 The Prophecy, st. 13. 15 Resignation.
16 Ibid. 17 The Whore of Babylon. 18 The Art of Puffing ; by a Bookseller's Journeyman. 19 Elegy on the Death of Mr. Phillips. 20 The Revenge: a Burletta.
I RANK Crabbe among great poets ; and I am prepared for the double question : ‘Why do you class him as great ? Is he a poet at all? '
Doubtless he is not a poet after the usual and recognized fashion. He conforms to the standard neither in manner, nor in matter. Adopting the metre of Pope, as if he had no choice, he, in no spirit of independence, and from no theory, commonly misses the melody. The correctness of his versification points its general want of sweetness. He is not above tricks of poetic diction, and plays them awkwardly. Consciously or unconsciously, he follows and outCowpers Cowper, without being of his or any school. When inspired he often is not inspiring. He has no gift of discrimination or selection. Without intention he is diffuse, because such is his subject-matter. Though he deals mainly with the follies and vices of life, he is little or nothing of a satirist. From default of venom, rhetoric, and wit, though not humour-if sometimes unconscious—he has failed beyond all writers of his eminence to contribute to the language either aphorisms or sentiments.
The shortcomings are manifest, on the surface, and limited his popularity in his own time. In consequence of them he may almost be said to have ceased to have a public
In excuse of the popular taste, or want of it, the defects must be admitted to be deep-seated. He has to be read thoroughly in order to be appreciated. Let him
be studied, and then judged. The rule with poets is for them to pass facts through their own minds, and give them forth as mirrored there. The motives for the modifications, if any, for the mental reflections of the reflection, may be embodied in the verse or not. At all events that produces the reflection as the poet's nature has remodelled it. This is Wordsworth’s way, and Scott's, and Byron's, alike. Crabbe delineated just what his bodily eyes saw, and his ears heard, of life's Dantesque Comedy. Never was there so scrupulous, so literal, a draughtsman. Not a detail is missing.
Had he gone no further, he must still have had his lodging in literature, though not exalted, scarcely perhaps in the porch of Poets' Corner. He is far from halting there. With no parade his pencil has Röntgen rays at its instinctive command. It figures to the life selfishness, passion, hope, joy, despair, agony. The thumbscrew is applied to every fact, compelling it to account for its existence. The whole is effected extraordinarily without egotism, without any apparent personal sense in the executioner of the torture in process. Crabbe, in the external circumstances of his narratives from preference, or from inability, availed himself of none of a poet's usual prerogatives of rejection, addition, reconstruction. The circumstances are before us as photographs. In penetrating beneath, his insight is impersonal still. He draws no fancy sketch of emotions. Very brain might be adjusting, balancing very heart as it pulsates. The exactness has operated against his fame. His own part in the composition has always been in danger of being underrated. For the average reader many of the features of the scene are crude, distasteful, or superfluous.
Distasteful, and crude, perhaps ; none of them superfluous for their purpose. What a gallery it is of individual
ities, at once present and representative! All move in an atmosphere of harsh reality, generally dismal or sordid, sometimes deepening into despair or crime, sometimes grimly humorous. We have a sexton of eighty years welcoming the middle-aged successor of the
Rectors five to one close vault conveyed, and with a sly and pleasant glance at the sixth, praying :
Heaven grant I lose no more ! We are introduced to an elderly Curate with an unsated passion for Greek, and a sickly wife ; to rival attorneys, one surly and kind, the other crafty and grasping ; to a learned schoolmaster; and the schoolmistress, whose whole fund of knowledge is
with awe to look In every verse throughout one sacred book ; to a dissolute prodigal, and loose-living flirt, associates as almsman and almswoman now; to the wealthy farmer's daughter transported from her finishing academy to the kitchen meals, where, beside rough hinds, and father and brothers as coarse,
And wonders much to see the creatures dine ; to the solemn parish clerk, superior to all temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, till he succumbs to the ease of robbing the charity plate, and dies of the shame ; to the deserted madwoman waiting in her lonely, turf-built hut on the desolate heath long years for her David, and fleeing from him as an evil spirit, when he returns to find her
Turning her wheel, without its spindles, round,