Thomas Chatterton

1752-1770

 

Thomas Chatterton was buried in the Shoe Lane Workhouse Cemetery, Holborn, London. When the ground was built over in the 1880s all the remains were moved to St Andrew's extra-parochial ground which is on the eastern side of Gray's Inn Road and is now known as St Andrew's Gardens.

On August 24th 1770 Chatterton's body was found in the attic of 39 Brooke Street. He died as a result of arsenic poisoning. However, it is not known for certain whether he committed suicide or whether he was attempting to cure himself of venereal disease. He was only 17 years old.

Chatterton is famous for fabricating the existence and poetry of a 15th century Bristol monk called Thomas Rowley. So convincing were his forgeries that even Horace Walpole temporarily regarded Rowley as an genuine writer.

The Death of Chatterton
 by Henry Wallis (Tate Gallery)

Statue of Chatterton in Bristol.

Chatterton's tragic early death had a profound effect on the Romantic Poets. Wordsworth  referred to him as the "marvellous boy" and Keats dedicated Endymion to him. 

The fascination surrounding Chatterton's premature death was further fuelled by Henry Wallis' famous portrait of 1856. However, the portrait was not based on a real likeness of Chatterton but was modelled instead on a young man called George Meredith. 

There are statues to Chatterton in Bristol (his home town) and in the grounds of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.

O! Synge untoe mie roundelaie,
O! droppe the brynie teare wythe mee,
Daunce ne moe atte hallie daie,
Lycke a reynynge ryver bee;
              Mie love ys dedde,
              Gon to hys death-bedde,
              Al under the wyllowe tree.

From Song from AElla

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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