It fell to my lot to publish, with the assistance of my friend Mr. Cottle, the first collected edition of the works of Chatterton, in whose history I felt a more than ordinary interest, as being a native of the same city, familiar from my childhood with those great objects of art and nature by which he had been so deeply impressed, and devoted from my childhood with the same ardour to the same pursuits. It is now my fortune to lay before the world some account of one whose early death is not less to be lamented as a loss to English literature, and whose virtues were as admirable as his genius. In the present instance, there is nothing to be recorded but what is honourable to himself, and to the age in which he lived; little to be regretted, but that one so ripe for heaven should so soon have been removed from the world.
Henry Kirke White, the second son of John and Mary White, was born in Nottinghham, March 21st, 1785. His father is a Butcher; his mother, whose maiden name was Neville, is of a respectable Staffordshire family.
From the years of three till five, Henry learnt to read at the School of Mrs. Garrington; whose name, unimportant as it may appear, is mentioned, because she had the good sense to perceive his extraordinary capacity, and spoke of what it promised with confidence. She was an excellent woman, and he describes her with affection in his poem upon Childhood. At a very early age his love of reading was decidedly manifested; it was a passion to which everything else gave way. "I could fancy," says his eldest sister, "I see him in his little chair, with a large book upon his knee, and my mother calling, 'Henry, my love, come to dinner;' which was repeated so often without being regarded, that she was obliged to change the tone of her voice before she could rouse, him." When he was about seven, he would creep unperceived into the kitchen, to teach the servant to read and write; and he continued this for some time before it was discovered that he had been thus laudably employed. He wrote a tale of a Swiss emigrant, which was probably his first composition, and gave it to this servant, being ashamed to show it to his mother. The consciousness of genius is always at first accompanied with this diffidence; it is a sacred, solitary feeling. No forward child, however extraordinary the promise of his childhood, ever produced anything truly great.
When Henry was about six, he was placed under the Rev. John Blanchard, who kept, at that time, the best school in Nottingham. Here he learnt writing, arithmetic, and French. When he was about eleven, he one day wrote a separate theme for every boy in his class, which consisted of about twelve or fourteen. The master said he had never known them write so well upon any subject before, and could not refrain from expressing his astonishment at the excellence of Henry's. It was considered as a great thing for him to be at so good a school, yet there were some circumstances which rendered it less advantageous to him than it might have been. Mrs. White had not yet overcome her husband's intention of breeding him up to his own business: and by an arrangement which took up too much of his time, and would have crushed his spirit, if that "mounting spirit" could have been crushed, one whole day in the week, and his leisure hours on the others, were employed in carrying the butcher's basket. Some differences at length arose between his father and Mr. Blanchard, in consequence of which Henry was removed.
One of the ushers, when he came to receive the money due for tuition, took the opportunity of informing Mrs. White, what an incorrigible son she had, and that it was impossible to make the lad do any thing. This information made his friends very uneasy; they were dispirited about him, and had they relied wholly upon this report, the stupidity or malice of this man would have blasted Henry's progress for ever. He was, however, placed under the care of a Mr. Shipley, who soon discovered that he was a boy of quick perception and very admirable talents, and came with joy, like a good man, to relieve the anxiety and painful suspicions of his family.
While his school-masters were complaining that they could make nothing of him, he discovered what Nature had made him, and wrote satires upon them. These pieces were never shown to any except his most particular friends, who say that they were pointed and severe. They are enumerated in the table of Contents to one of his manuscript volumes, under the title of School-Lampoons; but, as was to be expected, he had cut the leaves out and destroyed them.
One of his poems written at this time, and under these feelings, is preserved.
ON BEING CONFINED TO SCHOOL,
ONE PLEASANT MORNING IN SPRING.
WRITTEN AT THE AGE OF THIRTEEN.
The morning sun's enchanting rays
Now call forth every songster's praise;
Now the lark with upward flight,
Gaily ushers in the light;
While wildly warbling from each tree,
The birds sing songs to Liberty.
But for me no songster sings,
For me no joyous lark up-springs;
For I, confin'd in gloomy school,
Must own the pedant's iron rule,
And far from sylvan shades, and bowers,
In durance vile must pass the hours;
There con the scholiast's dreary lines,
Where no bright ray of genius shines,
And close to rugged learning cling,
While laughs around the jocund spring.
How gladly would my soul forego
All that arithmeticians know,
Or stiff grammarians quaintly teach,
Or all that industry can reach,
To taste each morn of all the joys
That with the laughing sun arise;
And unconstrain'd to rove along
The bushy brakes and glens among;
And woo the muse's gentle power
In unfrequented rural bower!
But all! such heav'n-approaching joys,
Will never greet my longing eyes;
Still will they cheat in vision fine,
Yet never but in fancy shine.
Oh, that I were the little wren
That shrilly chirps from yonder glen!
Oh, far away I then would rove,
To some secluded bushy grove;
There hop and sing with careless glee,
Hop and sing at liberty;
And till death should stop my lays,
Far from men would spend my days.
About this time his mother was induced, by the advice of several friends, to open a Ladies' Boarding and Day School, in Nottingham, her eldest daughter having previously been a teacher in one for some time. In this she succeeded beyond her most sanguine expectations, and Henry's home comforts were thus materially increased, tho' it was still out of the power of his family to give him that education and direction in life, which his talents deserved and required.
It was now determined to breed him up to the hosiery trade, the staple manufacture of his native place, and at the age of fourteen he was placed in a stocking-loom, with the view, at some future period, of getting a situation in a hosier's warehouse. During the time that he was thus employed, he might be said to be truly unhappy; he went to his work with evident reluctance, and could not refrain from sometimes hinting his extreme aversion to it; but the circumstances of his family obliged them to turn a deaf ear. His mother, however, secretly felt that he was worthy of better things; to her he spoke more openly; he could not bear, he said, the thought of spending seven years of his life in shining and folding up stockings; he wanted "something to occupy his brain," and he should be wretched if he continued longer at this trade, or indeed in anything except one of the learned professions. These frequent complaints, after a year's application or rather misapplication (as his brother says), at the loom, convinced her that he had a mind destined for nobler pursuits. To one so situated, and with nothing but his own talents and exertions to depend upon the Law seemed to be the only practicable line. His affectionate and excellent mother made every possible effort to effect his wishes, his father being very averse to the plan, and at length after overcoming a variety of obstacles, he was fixed in the office of Messrs. Coldham and Enfield, attorneys and town-clerks of Nottingham. As no premium could be given with him, he was engaged to serve two years before he was articled, so that though he entered this office when he was fifteen, he was not articled till the commencement of the year 1802.
On thus entering the law, it was recommended to him by his employers, that he should endeavour to obtain some knowledge of Latin. He had now only the little time which an attorney's office, in very extensive practice, afforded; but great things may be done in "those hours of leisure which even the busiest may create," and to his ardent mind no obstacles were too discouraging. He received some instruction in the first rudiments of this language from a person who then resided at Nottingham under a feigned name, but was soon obliged to leave it, to elude the search of government, who were then seeking to secure him. Henry discovered him to be Mr. Cormick, from a print affixed to a continuation of Hume and Smollet, and published with their histories, by Cooke. He is, I believe, the same person who wrote a life of Burke. If he received any other assistance, it was very trifling; yet, in the course of ten months, he enabled himself to read Horace with tolerable facility, and had made some progress in Greek, which indeed he began first. He used to exercise himself in declining the Greek nouns and verbs as he was going to and from the office, so valuable was time become to him. From this time he contracted a habit of employing his mind in study during his walks, which he continued to the end of his life.
He now became almost estranged from his family; even at his meals he would be reading, and his evenings were entirely devoted to intellectual improvement. He had a little room given which was called his study, and here his milk supper was taken up to him; for, to avoid any loss of time, he refused to sup with his family, through earnestly entreated so to do, as his mother already began to dread the effects of this severe and unremitting application. The law was his first pursuit, to which his papers show he had applied himself with such industry, as to make it wonderful that he could have found time, busied as his days were, for anything else. Greek and Latin were the next objects; at the same time he made himself a tolerable Italian scholar, and acquired some knowledge both of the Spanish and Portuguese. His medical friends say that the knowledge he had obtained of chemistry was very respectable. Astronomy and electricity were among his studies: some attention he paid to drawing, in which it is probable he would have excelled. He was passionately fond of music, and could play very pleasingly by ear on the piano forte, composing the bass to the air he was playing; but this propensity he checked, lest it might interfere with more important objects. He had a turn for mechanics, and all the fittings up of his study were the work of his own hands.
At a very early age, indeed soon after he was taken from school, Henry was ambitious of being admitted a member of a Literary Society, then existing in Nottingham, but was objected to on account of his youth; after repeated attempts, and repeated failures, he succeeded in his wish, through the exertions of some of his friends, and was elected. In a very short time, to the great surprise of the Society, he proposed to give them a lecture, and they, probably from curiosity, acceded to the proposal. The next evening they assembled, he lectured upon Genius, and spoke extempore for above two hours, in such a manner, that he received the unanimous thanks of the Society, and they elected this young Roscius of oratory their Professor of Literature. There are certain courts at Nottingham, in which it is necessary for an attorney to plead; and he wished to qualify himself for an eloquent speaker, as well as a sound lawyer.
With the profession in which he was placed, he was well pleased, and suffered no pursuit, numerous as his were, to interfere in the slightest degree with its duties. Yet he soon began to have higher aspirations, and to cast a wistful eye toward the universities, with little hope of ever attaining their important advantages, yet probably not without some hope, however faint. There was at this time a magazine in publication, called the Monthly Preceptor, which proposed prize themes for boys and girls to write upon; and which was encouraged by many schoolmasters, some of whom, for their own credit, and that of the important institutions in which they were placed, should have known better than to encourage it. But in schools, and in all practical systems of education, emulation is made the mainspring, as if there were not enough of the leaven of disquietude in our natures, without inoculating it with this dilutement — this "vaccine-virus" of envy. True it is that we need encouragement in youth; that though our vices spring up and thrive in shade and darkness, like poisonous fungi, our better powers require light and air; and that praise is the sunshine, without which genius will wither, fade, and die; or rather in search of which, like a plant that is debarred from it, will push forth in contortions and deformity. But such practices as that of writing for public prizes, of publicly declaiming, and of enacting plays before the neighbouring gentry, teach boys to look for applause instead of being satisfied with approbation, and foster in them that vanity which needs no such cherishing. This is administering stimulants to the heart, instead of "feeding it with food, convenient for it;" and the effect of such stimulants is to dwarf the human mind, as lapdogs are said to be stopped in their growth by being dosed with gin. Thus forced, it becomes like the sapling which shoots up when it should be striking its roots far and deep, and which therefore never attains to more than a sapling's size.
To Henry, however, the opportunity of distinguishing himself, even in the Juvenile Library, was useful; if he had acted with a man's foresight, he could not have done more wisely than by aiming at every distinction within his little sphere. At the age of fifteen, he gained a silver medal for a translation from Horace; and the following year a pair of twelve inch globes, for an imaginary Tour from London to Edinburgh. He determined upon trying for this prize one evening when at tea with his family, and at supper he read to them his performance, to which seven pages were granted in the magazine, though they had limited the allowance of room to three. Shortly afterwards he won several books for exercises on different subjects. Such honours were of great importance to him; they were testimonies of his ability, which could not be suspected of partiality, and they prepared his father to regard with less reluctance that change in his views and wishes which afterwards took place.
He now became a correspondent in the Monthly Mirror, a magazine which first set the example of typographical neatness in periodical publications, which has given the world a good series of portraits, and which deserves praise also on other accounts, having among its contributors some persons of extensive erudition and acknowledged talents. Magazines are of great service to those who are learning to write; they are fishing-boats, which the Buccaneers of Literature do not condescend to sink, burn, and destroy; young poets may safely try their strength in them; and that they should try their strength before the public, without danger of any shame from failure, is highly desirable. Henry's rapid improvement was now as remarkable as his unwearied industry. The pieces which had been rewarded in the Juvenile Preceptor, might have been rivalled by many boys; but what he produced a year afterwards, few men could equal. Those which appeared in the Monthly Mirror attracted some notice, and introduced him to the acquaintance of Mr. Capel Lofft, and of Mr. Hill, the proprietor of the work, a gentleman who is himself a lover of English literature, and who has probably the most copious collection of English poetry in existence. Their encouragement induced him, about the close of the year 1802, to prepare a little volume of poems for the press. It was his hope that this publication might, either by the success of its sale, or the notice which it might excite, enable him to prosecute his studies at college, and fit himself for the Church. For though so far was he from feeling any dislike to his own profession that he was even attached to it, and had indulged a hope that one day or other he should make his way to the Bar: a deafness, to which he had always been subject, and which appeared to grow progressively worse, threatened to preclude all possibility of advancement; and his opinions, which had at one time inclined to deism, had now taken a strong devotional bias.
Henry was earnestly advised to obtain, if possible, some patroness for his book, whose rank in life, and notoriety in the literary world, might afford it some protection. The days of dedications are happily well nigh at an end; but this was of importance to him, as giving his little volume consequence in the eyes of his friends and townsmen. The Countess of Derby was first applied to, and the manuscript submitted to her perusal. She returned it with a refusal, upon the ground that it was all invariable rule with her never to accept a compliment of the kind; but this refusal was couched in language as kind as it was complimentary, and he felt more pleasure at the kindness which it expressed, than disappointment at the failure of his application: a two pound note, was inclosed as her subscription to the work. The Margravine of Anspach was also thought of. There is amongst his papers the draught of a letter addressed to her upon the subject, but I believe it was never sent. He was then recommended to apply to the Duchess of Devonshire. Poor Henry felt a fit repugnance at courting patronage in this way, but he felt that it was of consequence in his little world, and submitted; and the manuscript was left, with a letter, at Devonshire House, as it had been with the Countess of Derby. Some time elapsed, and no answer arrived from her Grace; and as she was known to be pestered with such applications, apprehensions began to be entertained for the safety of the papers. His brother Neville (who was now settled in London) called several times; of course he never obtained an interview: the case at last became desperate, and he went with a determination not to quit the house till he had obtained them. After waiting four hours in the servants' hall, his perseverance conquered their idle insolence, and he got possession of the manuscript. And here he, as well as his brother, sick of "dancing attendance" upon the great, would have relinquished all thoughts of the dedication; but they were urged to make one more trial: — a letter to her Grace was procured, with which Neville obtained audience, wisely leaving the manuscript at home; and the Duchess with her usual good nature, gave permission that the volume should be dedicated to her. Accordingly her name appeared in the title and a copy was transmitted to her in due form, and in its due morocco livery, of which no notice was ever taken. Involved as she was in an endless round of miserable follies, it is probable that she never opened the book; otherwise her heart was good enough to have felt a pleasure in encouraging the author. Oh, what a lesson would the history of that heart hold out!
Henry sent his little volume to each of the then existing Reviews, and accompanied it with a letter, wherein he stated what his advantages had been, and what were the hopes which he proposed to himself from the publication: requesting from them that indulgence of which his productions did not stand in need, and which it might have been thought, under such circumstances, would not have been withheld from works of less promise. It may be well conceived with what anxiety he looked for their opinions, and with what feelings he read the following article in the Monthly Review, February 1804.
"The circumstances under which this little volume is offered to the public, must, in some measure, disarm criticism. We have been informed, that Mr. White has scarcely attained his eighteenth year, has hitherto exerted himself in the pursuit of knowledge under the discouragements of penury and misfortune, and now hopes, by this early authorship, to obtain some assistance in the prosecution of his studies at Cambridge. He appears, indeed, to be one of those young men of talents and application who merit encouragement; and it would be gratifying to us, to hear that this publication had obtained for him a respectable patron, for we fear that the mere profit arising from the sale cannot be, in any measure, adequate to his exigencies as a student at the university. A subscription, with a statement of the particulars of the author's case, might have been calculated to have answered his purpose; but, as a book which is to 'win its way' on the sole ground of its own merit, this poem cannot be contemplated with any sanguine expectation. The author is very anxious, however, that critics should find in it something to commend, and he shall not be disappointed: we commend his exertions, and his laudable endeavours to excel; but we cannot compliment him with having learned the difficult art of writing good poetry.
Such lines as these will sufficiently prove our assertion:
Here would I run, a vis'onary "Boy,"
When the hoarse thunder shook the vaulted "Sky,"
And, fancy led, beheld the Almighty's form,
Sternly "careering" in the eddying storm.
If Mr. White should be instructed by Alma-mater, he will, doubtless, produce better sense and better rhymes."
I know not who was the writer of this precious article. It is certain that Henry could have no personal enemy; his volume fell into the hands of some dull man, who took it up in all hour of ill humour, turned over the leaves to look for faults and finding that "Boy" and "Sky" were not orthodox rhymes, according to his wise creed of criticism, sate down to blast the hopes of a boy, who had confessed to him all his hopes and all his difficulties, and thrown himself upon his mercy. With such a letter before him, (by mere accident I saw that which had been sent to the Critical Review), even though the poems had been bad, a good man would not have said so; he would have avoided censure, if he had found it impossible to bestow praise. But that the reader may perceive the wicked injustice, as well as the cruelty of this reviewal, a few specimens of the volume, thus contemptuously condemned because "Boy" and "Sky" are used as rhymes in it, shall be inserted in this place [specimens omitted].
An author is proof against reviewing when, like myself, he has been reviewed above seventy times; but the opinion of a reviewer upon his first publication, has more effect, both upon his feelings and his success, than it ought to have, or would have, if the mystery of the "ungentle craft" were more generally understood. Henry wrote to the Editor, to complain of the cruelty with which he had been treated. This remonstrance produced the following answer in the next month.
"Monthly Review, March, 1804.
ADDRESS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
In the course of our long critical labours, we have necessary been forced to encounter the resentment, or withstand the lamentations of many disappointed authors: but we have seldom, if ever, been more affected than by a letter from Mr. White, of Nottingham, complaining of the tendency of our strictures on his poem of Clifton Grove; in our last number. His expostulations are written with a warmth of feeling in which we truly sympathize, and which shall readily excuse, with us, some expressions of irritation: but Mr. White must receive our most serious declaration, that we did 'judge of the book by the book itself;' excepting only, that from his former letter, we were desirous of mitigating the pain of that decision which our public duty required us to pronounce. We spoke with the utmost sincerity, when we stated our wishes for patronage to an unfriended man of talents, for talents Mr. White certainly possesses, and we repeat those wishes with equal cordiality. Let him still trust that, like Mr. Giffard, (see Preface to his Translation of Juvenal,) some Mr. Cookesley may yet appear, to foster a capacity which endeavours to escape from its present confined sphere of action; and let the opulent inhabitants of Nottingham reflect, that some portion of that wealth which they have worthily acquired by the habits of industry, will be laudably applied in assisting the efforts of mind."
Henry was not aware that reviewers are infallible. His letter seems to have been answered by a different writer; the answer has none of the common-place and vulgar insolence of the criticism; but to have made any concession, would have been admitting that a review can do wrong, and thus violating the fundamental principle of its constitution.
The poems which had been thus condemned, appeared to me to discover strong marks of genius. I had shown them to two of my friends, than whom no persons living better understand what poetry is, nor have given better proofs of it; and their opinion coincided with my own. I was fully convinced of the injustice of this criticism, and having accidentally seen the letter which he had written to the reviewers, understood the whole cruelty of their injustice. In consequence of this I wrote to Henry, to encourage him; told him, that though I was well aware how imprudent it was in young poets to publish their productions, his circumstances seemed to render that expedient, from which it would otherwise be right to dissuade him; advised him therefore, if he had no better prospects, to print a larger volume by subscription, and offered to do what little was in my power to serve him in the business. To this he replied in the following letter:
"I dare not say all I feel respecting your opinion of my little volume. The extreme acrimony with which the Monthly Review (of all others the most important) treated me, threw me into a state of stupefaction; I regarded all that had passed as a dream, and thought I had been deluding myself into an idea of possessing poetic Genius, when in fact I had only the longing, without the 'afflatus.' I mustered resolution enough, however, to write spiritedly to them: their answer, in the ensuing number, was a tacit acknowledgment that they had been somewhat too unsparing in their correction. It was a poor attempt to salve over a wound wantonly and most ungenerously inflicted. Still I was damped, because I knew the work was very respectable, and therefore could not, I concluded, give a criticism grossly deficient in equity — the more especially, as I knew of no sort of inducement to extraordinary severity. Your letter, however, has revived me, and I do again venture to hope that I may still produce something which will survive me.
"With regard to your advice and offers of assistance, I will not attempt, because I am unable, to thank you for them. To-morrow morning I depart for Cambridge, and I have considerable hopes that, as I do not enter into the University with any sinister or interested views, but sincerely desire to perform the duties of an affectionate and vigilant pastor, and become more useful to mankind, I therefore have hopes, I say, that I shall find means of support in the University. If I do not, I shall certainly act in pursuance of your recommendations; and shall, without hesitation, avail myself of your offers of service, and of your directions.
"In a short time this will be determined; and when it is, I shall take the liberty of writing to you at Keswick, to make you acquainted with the result.
"I have only one objection to publishing by subscription, and I confess it has weight with me — It is, that in this step, I shall seem to be acting upon the advice so unfeelingly and continuously given by the Monthly Reviewers, who say what is equal to this — that had I gotten a subscription for my poems before their merit was known, I might have succeeded; provided, it seems, I had made a particular statement of my case; like a beggar, who stands with his hat in one hand, and a full account of his cruel treatment on the coast of Barbary in the other, and so gives you his penny sheet for your sixpence, by way of half-purchase, half-charity.
"I have materials for another volume, but they were written principally while Clifton Grove was in the press, or soon after, and do not now at all satisfy me. Indeed, of late, I have been obliged to desist, almost entirely, from converse with the dames of Helicon. The drudgery of an attorney's office, and the necessity of preparing myself, in case I should succeed in getting to College, in what little leisure I could boast, left no room for the flights of the imagination."
I have stated that his opinions were, at one time, inclining towards deism. It needs not be said on what slight grounds the opinions of a youth must needs be founded: while they are confined to matters of speculation, they indicate, whatever their eccentricities, only an active mind; and it is only when a propensity is manifested to such principles as give a sanction to immorality, that they show something wrong at heart. One little poem of Henry's remains, which was written in this unsettled state of mind. It exhibits much of his character, and can excite no feelings towards him, but such as are favourable.
MY OWN CHARACTER.
ADDRESSED (DURING ILLNESS) TO A LADY.
Dear Fanny, I mean, now I'm laid on the shelf,
To give you a sketch — ay, a, sketch of myself.
'Tis a pitiful subject, I frankly confess,
And one it would puzzle a painter to dress;
But however, here goes, and as sure as a gun,
I'll tell all my faults like a penitent nun;
For I know, for my Fanny, before I address her,
She wont be a cynical father confessor.
Come, come, 'twill not do! put that curling brow down;
You can't, for the Soul of you, learn how to frown.
Well, first I premise, it's my honest conviction,
That my breast is a chaos of all contradiction;
Religious — Deistic — now loyal and warm;
Then a dagger-drawn Democrat hot for reform;
This moment a fop — that, sententious as Titus;
Democritus now, and anon Heraclitus;
Now laughing and pleas'd, like a child with a rattle;
Then vexed to the soul with impertinent tattle;
Now moody and sad, now unthinking and gay;
To all points of the compass I veer in a day.
I'm proud and disdainful to Fortune's gay child,
But to Poverty's offspring submissive and mild;
As rude as a boor, and as rough in dispute;
Then as for politeness — Oh! dear — I'm a brute!
I show no respect where I never can feel it;
And as for contempt, take no pains to conceal it.
And so in the suite, by these laudable ends,
I've a great many foes, and a very few friends.—
And yet, my dear Fanny, there are who can feel,
That this proud heart of mine is not fashioned of steel.
It can love, (can it not?) — it can hate, I am sure;
And it's friendly enough though in friends it be poor.
For itself though it bleed not, for others it bleeds;
If it have not ripe virtues, I'm sure it's the seeds;
And though far from faultless, or even so-so,
I think it may pass as our worldly things go.
Well, I've told you my frailties without any gloss;
Then as to my virtues, I'm quite at a loss!
I think, I'm devout, and yet I can't say,
But in process of time I may get the wrong way.
I'm a general lover, if that's commendation,
And yet, can't, withstand you know whose fascination.
But I find that amidst all my tricks and devices,
In fishing for virtues, I'm pulling up vices;
So as for the good, why, if I possess it,
I am not yet learned enough to express it.
You yourself must examine the lovelier side,
And after your every art you have tried,
Whatever my faults, I may venture to say,
Hypocrisy never will come in your way.
I am upright, I hope; I am downright, I'm clear!
And I think my worst foe must allow I'm sincere;
And if ever sincerity glow'd in my breast,
'Tis now when I swear—
About this time Mr. Pigatt, the curate of St. Mary's, Nottingham, hearing what was the bent of his religious opinions, sent him, by a friend, Scott's Force of Truth, and requested him to peruse it attentively, which he promised to do. Having looked at the book, he told the person who brought it to him, that he could soon write an answer to it; but about a fortnight it afterwards, when this friend inquired how far he had proceeded in his answer to Mr. Scott, Henry's reply was in a very different tone and temper. He said, that to answer that book was out of his power, and out of any man's, for it was founded upon eternal truth; that it had convinced him of his error; and that so thoroughly was he impressed with a sense of the importance of his Maker's favour, that he would willingly give up all acquisitions of knowledge, and all hopes of fame, and live in a wilderness, unknown, till death, so he could insure an inheritance in heaven.
A new pursuit was thus opened to him, and he engaged in it with his wonted ardour. "It was a constant feature in his mind," says Mr. Pigott, "to persevere in the pursuit of what he deemed noble and important. Religion, in which he now appeared to himself not yet to have taken a step, engaged all his anxiety, as of all concerns the most important. He could not rest satisfied till he had formed his principles upon the basis of Christianity, and till he had begun in earnest to think and act agreeably to its pure and heavenly precepts, his mind loved to make distant excursions into the future and remote consequences of things. He no longer limited his views to the narrow confines of earthly existence; he was not happy till he had learnt to rest and expatiate in a world to come. What he said to me, when we became intimate is worthy of observation: that, he said, which first made him dissatisfied with the creed he had adopted, and the standard of practice which he had set up for himself, was the purity of mind which he perceived was everywhere inculcated in the Holy Scriptures, and required of every one who would become a successful candidate for future blessedness. He had supposed that morality of conduct was all the purity required; but when he observed that purity of the very thoughts and intentions of the soul also was requisite, he was convinced of his deficiencies, and could find no comfort to his penitence, but in the atonement made for human frailty by the Redeemer of mankind; and no strength adequate to his weakness, and sufficient for resisting evil, but the aid of God's Spirit, promised to those who seek him from above in the sincerity of earnest prayer."
From the moment when he had fully contracted these opinions, he was resolved upon devoting his life to the promulgation of them; and therefore to leave the law, and, if possible, place himself at one of the Universities. Every argument was used by his friends to dissuade him from his purpose, but to no effect; his mind was unalterably fixed; and great and numerous as the obstacles were, he was determined to surmount them all. He had now served the better half of the term for which he was articled; his entrance and continuance in the profession had been a great expense to his family; and to give up this lucrative profession, the study of which he had advanced so far, and situated as he was, for one wherein there was so little prospect of his obtaining even a decent competency, appeared to them the height of folly or of madness. This determination cost his poor mother many tears; but determined he was, and that by the best and purest motives. Without ambition he could not have existed, but his ambition now was to be eminently useful in the ministry.
It was Henry's fortune, through his short life, as he was worthy of the kindest treatment, always to find it. His employers, Mr. Coldham and Mr. Enfield, listened with a friendly ear to his plans, and agreed to give up the remainder of his time, though it was now become very valuable to them, as soon as they should think his prospects of getting through the University were such as he might reasonably trust to; but till then, they felt themselves bound, for his own, sake, to detain him. Mr. Pigott, and Mr. Dashwood, another clergyman, who at that time resided in Nottingham, exerted themselves in his favour: he had a friend at Queen's College, Cambridge, who mentioned him to one of the Fellows of St. John's, and that gentleman, on the representations made to him of Henry's talents and piety, spared no effort to obtain for him an adequate support.
As soon as these hopes were held out to him, his employers gave him a month's leave of absence, for the benefit of uninterrupted study, and of change of air, which his health now began to require. Instead of going to the sea coast as was expected, he chose for his retreat the village of Wilford, which is situated on the banks of the Trent, and at the foot of Clifton Woods. These woods had ever been his favourite place of resort, and were the subject of the longest poem in his little volume, from which, indeed, the volume was named. He delighted to point out to his more intimate friends the scenery of this poem; the islet to which he had often forded when the river was not knee deep; and the little hut wherein he had sate for hours, and sometimes all day long, reading or writing, or dreaming with his eyes open. He had sometimes wandered in these woods till night far advanced, and used to speak with pleasure of having once been overtaken there by a thunder storm at midnight, and watching the lightning over the river and the vale towards the town.
In this village his mother procured lodgings for him, and his place of retreat was kept secret, except from his nearest friends. Soon after the expiration of the month, intelligence arrived that the plans which had been formed in his behalf had entirely failed. He went immediately to his mother: "All my hopes," said he, "of getting to the University are now blasted; in preparing myself for it, I have lost time in my profession; I have much ground to get up, and as I am determined not to be a mediocre attorney, I must endeavour to recover what I have lost." The consequence was, that he applied himself more severely than ever to his studies. He now allowed himself no time for relaxation, little for his meals, scarcely any for sleep. He would read till one, two, three o'clock in the morning; then throw himself on the bed, and rise again to his work at five, at the call of a "Larum," which he had fixed to a Dutch clock in his chamber. Many nights he never laid down at all. It was in vain that his mother used every possible means to dissuade him from this destructive application. In this respect, and in this only one, was Henry undutiful, and neither commands, nor tears, nor entreaties, could check his desperate and deadly ardour. At one time she went every night into his room, to put out his candle; as soon as he heard her coming up stairs, he used to hide it in a cupboard, throw himself into bed, and affect sleep while she was in the room; then, when all was quiet, rise again, and pursue his baneful studies.
"The night," says Henry in one of his letters, "has been everything to me; and did the world know how I have been indebted to the hours of repose, they would not wonder that night images are, as they judge, so ridiculously predominant in my verses." During some of these midnight hours he indulged himself in complaining, but in such complaints that it is to be wished more of them had been found among his papers.
ODE ON DISAPPOINTMENT.
Not in thy terrors clad;
Come in thy meekest, saddest guise;
Thy chastening rod but terrifies
The restless and the bad.
But I recline
Beneath thy shrine,
And round my brow resign'd, thy peaceful cypress twine.
Though Fancy flies away
Before thy hollow tread,
Yet Meditation in her cell,
Rears with faint eye, the ling'ring knell,
That tells her hopes are dead;
And though the tear
By chance appear,
Yet she can smile, and say, My all was not laid here.
Come, Disappointment, come!
Though from Hope's summit hurl'd,
Still, rigid Nurse, thou art forgiven,
For thou severe wert sent from heaven
To wean me from the world;
To turn my eye
And point to scenes of bliss that never, never die.
What is this passing scene?
A peevish April day!
A little sun — a little rain,
And then night sweeps along the plain,
And all things fade away.
Man (soon discuss'd)
Yields up his trust,
And all his hopes and fears he with him in the dust.
Oh, what is Beauty's power?
It flourishes and dies;
Will the cold earth its silence break,
To tell how soft, how smooth a cheek
Beneath its surface lies?
Mute, mute is all
O'er beauty's fall;
Her praise resounds no more when mantled in her pall.
The most belov'd on earth
Not long survives to-day;
So music past is obsolete,
And yet 'twas sweet, 'twas passing sweet,
But now 'tis gone away.
Thus does the shade
In memory fade,
When in forsaken tomb the form belov'd is laid.
Then since this world is vain,
And volatile and fleet,
Why should I lay up earthly joys,
Where rust corrupts, and moth destroys,
And cares and sorrows eat?
Why fly from ill
With anxious skill,
When soon this hand will freeze, this throbbing heart be still.
Come, Disappointment, come!
Thou art not stern to me;
Sad Monitress! I own thy sway,
A votary sad in early day
I bend my knee to thee.
From sun to sun
My race will run,
I only bow, and say, My God, thy will be done.
On another paper are a few lines, written probably in the freshness of his disappointment.
I dream no more — the vision flies away,
And Disappointment * * *
There fell my hopes — I lost my all in this,
My cherish'd all of visionary bliss.
Now hope farewell, farewell all joys below;
Now welcome sorrow, and now welcome woe.
Plunge me in glooms * * *
His health soon sunk under these habits; he became pale and thin, and at length had a sharp fit of sickness. On his recovery, he wrote the following lines in the church-yard of his favourite village [omitted].
His friends are of opinion that he never thoroughly recovered from the shock which his constitution had sustained. Many of his poems indicate that he thought himself in danger of consumption; he was not aware that he was generating or fostering in himself another disease, little less dreadful, and which threatens intellect as well as life. At this time youth was in his favour, and his hopes, which were now again renewed, produced perhaps a better effect than medicine. Mr. Dashwood obtained for him an introduction to Mr. Simeon, of King's College, and with this he was induced to go to Cambridge. Mr. Simeon, from the recommendation which he received, and from the conversation he had with him, promised to procure for him a Sizarship at St. John's, and, with the additional aid of a friend, to supply him with £30 annually. His brother Neville promised twenty; and his mother, it was hoped, would be able to allow fifteen or twenty more. With this, it was thought, he could go through College. If this prospect had not been opened to him, he would probably have turned his thoughts towards the orthodox dissenters.
On his return to Nottingham, the Rev. — Robinson, of Leicester, and some other friends, advised him to apply to the Elland Society for assistance, conceiving that it would be less oppressive to his feelings to be dependent on a Society instituted for the express purpose of training up such young men as himself (that is, such in circumstances and opinions) for the ministry, than on the bounty of an individual. In consequence of this advice, he went to Elland at the next meeting of the Society, a stranger there, and without one friend among the members. He was examined, for several hours, by about five-and-twenty clergymen, as to his religious views and sentiments, his theological knowledge, and his classical attainments. In the course of the inquiry, it appeared that he had published a volume of poems: their questions now began to be very unpleasantly inquisitive concerning the nature of these poems, and he was assailed by queries from all quarters. It was well for Henry that they did not think of referring to the Monthly Review for authority. My letter to him happened to be in his pocket; he luckily recollected this, and produced it as a testimony in his favour. They did me the honour to say that it was quite sufficient, and pursued this part of their inquiry no farther. Before he left Elland, he was given to understand that they were well satisfied with his theological knowledge; that they thought his classical proficiency prodigious for his age, and that they had placed him on their books. He returned little pleased with his journey. His friends had been mistaken; the bounty of an individual calls forth a sense of kindness, as well as of dependence: that of a Society has the virtue of charity perhaps, but it wants the grace. He now wrote to Mr. Simeon, stating what he had done, and that the beneficence of his unknown friends was no longer necessary: but that gentleman obliged him to decline the assistance of the Society, which he very willingly did.
This being finally arranged, he quitted his employers in October, 1804. How much he had conducted himself to their satisfaction, will appear by this testimony of Mr. Enfield, to his diligence and uniform worth. "I have great pleasure," says this gentleman, "in paying the tribute to his memory, of expressing the knowledge which was afforded me, during the period of his connexion with Mr. Coldham and myself, of his diligent application, his ardour for study, and his virtuous and amiable disposition. He very soon discovered an unusual aptness in comprehending the routine of business, and great ability and rapidity in the execution of everything which was entrusted to him. His diligence and punctual attention were unremitted, and his services became extremely valuable a considerable time before he left us. He seemed to me to have no relish for the ordinary pleasures and dissipations of young men; his mind was perpetually employed, either in the business of his profession, or in private study. With his fondness for literature, we were well acquainted, but had no reason to offer any cheek to it, for he never permitted the indulgence of his literary pursuits to interfere with the engagements of business. The difficulty of hearing, under which he laboured, was distressing to him in the practice of his profession, and was, I think, an inducement, in co-operation with his other inclinations, for his resolving to relinquish the law. I can, with truth, assert, that his determination was matter of serious regret to my partner and myself."
Mr. Simeon had advised him to "degrade" for a year, and place himself, during that time, under some scholar. He went accordingly to the Rev. — Grainger, of Winteringham, in Lincolnshire, and there, notwithstanding all the entreaties of his friends, pursuing the same unrelenting course of study, a second illness was the consequence. When he was recovering, he was prevailed upon to relax, to ride on horseback, and to drink wine; these latter remedies he could not long afford, and he would not allow himself time for relaxation when he did not feel its immediate necessity. He frequently, at this time, studied fourteen hours a day; the progress which he made in twelve months was indeed astonishing; when he went to Cambridge he was immediately as much distinguished for his classical knowledge as his genius: but the seeds of death were in him, and the place to which he had so long looked on with hope, served unhappily as a hot-house to ripen them.
During his first term, one of the University Scholarships became vacant, and Henry, young as he was in College, and almost self-taught, was advised, by those who were best able to estimate his chance of success, to offer himself as a competitor for it. He past the whole term in preparing himself for this, reading for College subjects in bed, in his walks, or, as he says, where, when, and how he could, never having a moment to spare, and often going to his tutor without having read at all. His strength sunk under this, and though he had declared himself a candidate, he was compelled to decline; but this was not the only misfortune. The general College examination came on; he was utterly unprepared to meet it, and believed that a failure here would have ruined his prospects for ever. He had only about a fortnight to read what other men had been the whole term reading. Once more he exerted himself beyond what his shattered health could bear; the disorder returned, and he went to his tutor, Mr. Catton, with tears in his eyes, and told him that he could not go into the Hall to be examined. Mr. Catton, however, thought his success here of so much importance, that he exhorted him, with all possible earnestness, to hold out the six days of the examination. Strong medicines were given him, to enable him to support it, and he was pronounced the first man of his year. But life was the price which he was to pay for such honours as this, and Henry is not the first young man to whom such honours have proved fatal. He said to his most intimate friend, almost the last time he saw him, that were he to paint a picture of Fame, crowning a distinguished under-graduate, after the Senate-house examination, he would represent her as concealing a Death's head under a mask of beauty.
When this was over he went to London; London was a new scene of excitement, and what his mind required was tranquility and rest. Before he left College, he had become anxious concerning his expenses, fearing that they exceeded his means. Mr. Catton perceived this, and twice called him to his rooms, to assure him of every necessary support, and every encouragement, and to give him every hope. This kindness relieved his spirits of a heavy weight, and on his return he relaxed a little from his studies, but it was only a little. I found among his papers the day thus planned out: — "Rise at half-past five. Devotions and walk till seven. Chapel and breakfast till eight. Study and lectures till one. Four and a half clear reading. Walk &c. and dinner, and Woollaston, and chapel to six. Six to nine, reading — three hours. Nine to ten, devotions. Bed at ten."
Among his latest writings are these resolutions:—
"I will never be in bed after six.
I will not drink tea out above once a week, excepting on Sundays, unless there appear some good reason for so doing.
I will never pass a day without reading some portion of the Scriptures.
I will labour diligently in my mathematical studies, because I half suspect myself of a dislike to them.
I will walk two hours a day, upon the average of every week.
'Sit mihi gratia addita ad haec facienda.'"
About this time, judging by the hand-writing he wrote down the following admonitory sentences, which, as the paper on which they are written is folded into the shape of a very small book, it is probable he carried about with him as a manual.
"1. Death and judgment are near at hand.
2. Though thy bodily part be now in health and ease, the dews of death will soon sit upon thy forehead.
3. That which seems so sweet and desirable to thee now, will, if yielded to, become bitterness of soul to thee all thy life after.
4. When the waters are come over thy soul, and when, in the midst of much bodily anguish, thou distinguishest the dim shores of Eternity before thee, what wouldest thou not give to be lighter by this one sin?
5. God has long withheld his arm; what if his forbearance be now at an end? Canst thou not contemplate these things with the eyes of Death? Art thou not a dying man, dying every day, every hour?
6. Is it not a fearful thing to shrink from the summons when it comes? — to turn with horror and despair from the future being? Think what strains of joy and tranquillity fall on the ear of the saint who is just swooning into the arms of his Redeemer; what fearful shapes, and dreadful images of a disturbed conscience, surround the sinner's bed, when the last twig which he grasped fails him, and the gulf yawns to receive him.
7. Oh, my soul, if thou art yet ignorant of the enormity of sin, turn thine eyes to the man who is bleeding to death on the cross! See how the blood from his pierced hands trickles down his arms, and the more copious streams from his feet run on the accursed tree, and stain the grass with purple! Behold his features, though scarcely animated with a few remaining sparks of life, yet how full of love, pity, and tranquillity! A tear is trickling down his check, and his lip quivers. He is praying for his murderers! O, my soul! it is thy Redeemer — it is thy God! And this too for Sin — for Sin! and wilt thou ever again submit to its yoke?
8. Remember that the grace of the Holy Spirit of God is ready to save thee from transgression. It is always at hand: thou canst not sin without wilfully rejecting its aid.
9. And is there real pleasure in sin? Thou knowest there is not. But there is pleasure, pure and, exquisite pleasure, in holiness. The Holy Ghost can make the paths of religion and virtue, hard as they seem, and thorny, ways of pleasantness and peace, where, though there be thorns, yet are there also roses; and where all the wounds which we suffer in the flesh, from the hardness of the journey, are so healed by the balm of the spirit, that they rather give joy than pain."
The exercise which Henry took was no relaxation; he still continued the habit of studying while he walked; and in this manner, while he was at Cambridge, committed to memory a whole tragedy of Euripides. Twice he distinguished himself in the following year, being again pronounced first at the great College examination, and also one of the three best theme writers, between whom the examiners could not decide. The College offered him, at their expense, a private tutor in mathematics, during the long vacation; and Mr. Catton, by procuring for him exhibitions to the amount of £66 per annum, enabled him to give up the pecuniary assistance which he had received from Mr. Simeon and other friends. This intention he had expressed in a letter, written twelve months before his death. "With regard to my college expenses, (he says,) I have the pleasure to inform you, that I shall be obliged, in strict rectitude, to waive the offers of many of my friends. I shall not even need the sum Mr. Simeon mentioned, after the first year; and it is not impossible that I may be able to live without any assistance at all. I confess I feel pleasure at the thought of this, not through any vain pride of independence, but because I shall then give a more unbiassed testimony to the truth, than if I were supposed to be bound to it by any ties of obligation or gratitude. I shall always feel as much indebted for intended as for actually afforded assistance; and though I should never think a sense of thankfulness an oppressive burthen, yet I shall be happy to evince it, when in the eyes of the world the obligation to it has been discharged." Never, perhaps, had any young man, in so short a time, excited such expectations; every University honour was thought to be within his reach; he was set down as a medallist, and expected to take a senior wrangler's degree; but these expectations were poison to him; they goaded him to fresh exertions when his strength was spent. His situation became truly miserable: to his brother, and to his mother, he wrote always that he had relaxed in his studies, and that he was better; always holding out to them his hopes, and his good fortune: but to the most intimate of his friends, (Mr. Maddock), his letters told a different tale: to him he complained of dreadful palpitations — nights of sleeplessness and horror, and of spirits depressed to the very depth of wretchedness, so that he went from one acquaintance to another, imploring society, even as a starving beggar intreats for food. During the course of this summer, it was expected that the Mastership of the Free-School at Nottingham would shortly become vacant. A relation of his family was at that time mayor of the town; he suggested to them what an advantageous situation it would be for Henry, and offered to secure for him the necessary interest. But, though the salary and emoluments are estimated at from £400 to £600 per annum, Henry declined the offer; because, had he accepted it, it would have frustrated his intentions with respect to the ministry. This was certainly no common act of forbearance in one so situated as to fortune, especially as the hope which he had most at heart, was that of being enabled to assist his family, and in some degree requite the care and anxiety of his father and mother, by making them comfortable in their declining years.
The indulgence shown him by his College, in providing him a tutor during the long vacation, was peculiarly unfortunate. His only chance of life was from relaxation, and home was the only place where he would have relaxed to any purpose. Before this time he had seemed to be gaining strength; it failed as the year advanced: he went once more to London, to recruit himself, — the worst place to which he could have gone; the variety of stimulating objects there hurried and agitated him, and when he returned to College, he was so completely ill, that no power of medicine could save him. His mind was worn out, and it was the opinion of his medical attendants, that if he had recovered, his intellect would have been affected. His brother Neville was just at this time to have visited him. On his first seizure, Henry found himself too ill to receive him, and wrote to say so; he added, with that anxious tenderness towards the feelings of a most affectionate family which always appeared in his letters, that he thought himself recovering; but his disorder increased so rapidly, that this letter was never sent; it was found in his pocket after his decease. One of his friends wrote to acquaint Neville with his danger: he hastened down; but Henry was delirious when he arrived. He knew him only for a few moments; the next day sunk into a state of stupor, and on Sunday, October 19th, 1806, it pleased God to remove him to a better world, and a higher state of existence.