Exeter, Feb. 17, 1804.
A few days since, I called on a Lady of my acquaintance at Bristol: she happened to be perusing the late octavo edition of Chatterton's Miscellanies. I remarked on that unfortunate youth; and our conversation ran wholly on him and his productions. The Lady knew more of him than has been given to the world; her anecdotes of him are most interesting; she spoke of him with passionate grief; and, past the age at which most females cast off the frivolity of affectation, related, that Chatterton had either loved or flirted with her; she had had a real esteem for him. She shewed me several letters which Chatterton had addressed to her; and told me, she had also a metrical epistle from him, which had never been published, and seemed to be now tenacious of its secresy. I entreated ardently to be made acquainted with it. After much endeavour at persuasion, she yielded to my request, conditionally, that she should expunge some parts, which she affirmed she would not have seen for the world. I begged, in vain, to behold it unmutilated. I transmit to you a transcription of the part I was favoured with the sight of. You have your choice to publish it or not; it may gratify many.
I am, SIR, your obedient servant, and constant reader,
The exordium and succeeding lines, making altogether of forty-six, are completely effaced. I presume, from the part that follows, that he complained of coldness on her side, and interrogatively insinuates the cause.
Does prudery haunt you in —'s blasted form,
With care affected, warning you of harm;
And bridling up, still beat upon your ear,
In stale monotony, of me beware?
All, all she says, is dictated by spite;
She made advances, Cupid fled her lure,
And, since our scornful sex she can't endure,
[Here four lines are blotted out.
Deserves my love this cruel, cold neglect?
Can you my oaths, my solemn vows suspect?
Sooner shall God damn'd Lucifer absolve,
And this eternal orb to air dissolve,
Than I, to frenzy temulent, with love,
False to its palpitating precepts prove;
And in horrific thunders may he dart
The deadly fluid to my faithless heart,
When base, apostate, tasteless, it shall dare,
Aught but your charms' divine impression there.
[The next eight lines are obliterated.
Yes! lovely —, tho' death must be the proof;
Yet — doom'd to soar o'er yon cerulean roof,
If blest beyond all others of the sky,
I e'er inhale your dear memorial sigh,
The ghosts sublime, in highest heav'n afloat,
Heroes immortal! patriot devote;
That from th' ascending and rich freighted gale,
Drink the sweet nectar of sav'd nations' hail,
Ecstatic joy as mine would not imbibe,
E'en angels taste it not, nor can describe.
[Six lines deleted.