Thomas Chatterton

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Thomas Chatterton
Henry Wallis - Chatterton - Google Art Project.jpg
Born20 November 1752
Bristol, England
Died24 August 1770(1770-08-24) (aged 17)
Holborn, England
Pen nameThomas Rowley, Decimus
Occupation Poet, forger

Thomas Chatterton (20 November 1752 – 24 August 1770) was an English poet whose precocious talents ended in suicide at age 17. He was an influence on Romantic artists of the period such as Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Percy Bysshe Shelley English Romantic poet

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets, who is regarded by some as among the finest lyric and philosophical poets in the English language, and one of the most influential. A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron, John Keats, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

John Keats English Romantic lyric

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25.


Although fatherless and raised in poverty, he was an exceptionally studious child, publishing mature work by the age of 11. He was able to pass off his work as that of an imaginary 15th-century poet called Thomas Rowley, chiefly because few people at the time were familiar with medieval poetry, though he was denounced by Horace Walpole.

Literary forgery is writing, such as a manuscript or a literary work, which is either deliberately misattributed to a historical or invented author, or is a purported memoir or other presumably nonfictional writing deceptively presented as true when, in fact, it presents untrue or imaginary information.

Horace Walpole 18th-century English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, also known as Horace Walpole, was an English writer, art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician.

At 17, he sought outlets for his political writings in London, having impressed the Lord Mayor, William Beckford, and the radical leader John Wilkes, but his earnings were not enough to keep him, and he poisoned himself in despair. His unusual life and death attracted much interest among the romantic poets, and Alfred de Vigny wrote a play about him that is still performed today. The oil painting The Death of Chatterton by Pre-Raphaelite artist Henry Wallis has enjoyed lasting fame.

William Beckford (politician) Lord Mayor of London

William Beckford was a well-known political figure in 18th-century London, who twice held the office of Lord Mayor of London. His vast wealth came largely from his plantations in Jamaica and the large numbers of slaves working on these plantations. He was, and is, often referred to as "Alderman Beckford" to distinguish him from his son William Thomas Beckford, the author and art collector.

John Wilkes 18th-century English radical, journalist, and politician

John Wilkes was a British radical, journalist and politician. He was first elected a Member of Parliament in 1757. In the Middlesex election dispute, he fought for the right of his voters—rather than the House of Commons—to determine their representatives. In 1768, angry protests of his supporters were suppressed in the St George's Fields Massacre. In 1771, he was instrumental in obliging the government to concede the right of printers to publish verbatim accounts of parliamentary debates. In 1776, he introduced the first bill for parliamentary reform in the British Parliament.

Alfred de Vigny French poet, playwright, and novelist

Alfred Victor, Comte de Vigny was a French poet and early leader of French Romanticism. He also produced novels, plays, and translations of Shakespeare.


Chatterton was born in Bristol where the office of sexton of St Mary Redcliffe had long been held by the Chatterton family. The poet's father, also named Thomas Chatterton, was a musician, a poet, a numismatist, and a dabbler in the occult. He had been a sub-chanter at Bristol Cathedral and master of the Pyle Street free school, near Redcliffe church. [1]

Bristol City and county in England

Bristol is a city and county in South West England with a population of 463,400. The wider district has the 10th-largest population in England. The urban area population of 724,000 is the 8th-largest in the UK. The city borders North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with the cities of Bath and Gloucester to the south-east and north-east, respectively. South Wales lies across the Severn estuary.

A sexton is an officer of a church, congregation, or synagogue charged with the maintenance of its buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard. In smaller places of worship, this office is often combined with that of verger. In larger buildings, such as cathedrals, a team of sextons may be employed.

St Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol, England

St Mary Redcliffe is an Anglican parish church located in the Redcliffe district of Bristol, England. The church is a short walk from Bristol Temple Meads station. The church building was constructed from the 12th to the 15th centuries, and it has been a place of Christian worship for over 900 years. The church is renowned for the beauty of its Gothic architecture and is classed as a Grade I listed building by Historic England. It was famously described by Queen Elizabeth I as "the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England."

The wall at the right of the house where Chatterton was raised is that of the c. 1739 school where Chatterton's father was master. The school was demolished in 1939 to widen Pile Street into Redcliff Way, but the facade was rebuilt on the line of the former back wall. Chatterton house Bristol.jpg
The wall at the right of the house where Chatterton was raised is that of the c.1739 school where Chatterton's father was master. The school was demolished in 1939 to widen Pile Street into Redcliff Way, but the façade was rebuilt on the line of the former back wall.

After Chatterton's birth (15 weeks after his father's death on 7 August 1752), [2] his mother established a girls' school and took in sewing and ornamental needlework. Chatterton was admitted to Edward Colston's Charity, a Bristol charity school, in which the curriculum was limited to reading, writing, arithmetic and the catechism. [1]

Edward Colston British slave trader, merchant, philanthropist and politician

Edward Colston was a Bristol-born English merchant, philanthropist, slave trader, and Member of Parliament. He supported and endowed schools, almshouses, hospitals and churches in Bristol, London and elsewhere, and his name is commemorated in several Bristol landmarks, streets, three schools and the Colston bun. Many of his charitable foundations still survive. A significant part of his wealth was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves.

Charity school School supported as charity

Charity schools, sometimes called blue coat schools, or simply the Blue School, were significant in the history of education in England. They were built and maintained in various parishes by the voluntary contributions of the inhabitants to teach poor children to read and write, and for other necessary parts of education. They were usually maintained by religious organisations, which provided clothing and education to students freely or at little charge. In most charity schools, children were put out to trades, services, etc., by the same charitable foundation. Some schools were more ambitious than this and sent a few pupils on to university, as depicted in the illustration.

Catechism A summary or exposition of doctrine

A catechism is a summary or exposition of doctrine and serves as a learning introduction to the Sacraments traditionally used in catechesis, or Christian religious teaching of children and adult converts. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals – often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorised – a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. According to Norman DeWitt, the early Christians appropriated this practice from the Epicureans, a school whose founder Epicurus had instructed to keep summaries of the teachings for easy learning. The term catechumen refers to the designated recipient of the catechetical work or instruction. In the Catholic Church, catechumens are those who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Traditionally, they would be placed separately during Holy Mass from those who had been baptized, and would be dismissed from the liturgical assembly before the Profession of Faith (Creed) and General Intercessions.

Chatterton, however, was always fascinated with his uncle the sexton and the church of St Mary Redcliffe. The knights, ecclesiastics and civic dignitaries on its altar tombs became familiar to him. Then he found a fresh interest in oaken chests in the muniment room over the porch on the north side of the nave, where parchment deeds, old as the Wars of the Roses, lay forgotten. Chatterton learned his first letters from the illuminated capitals of an old musical folio, and he learned to read out of a black-letter Bible. His sister said he did not like reading out of small books. Wayward from his earliest years, and uninterested in the games of other children, he was thought to be educationally backward. His sister related that on being asked what device he would like painted on a bowl that was to be his, he replied, "Paint me an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world." [3] [1]


A Muniment or Muniment of Title is a legal term for a document, title deed or other evidence, that indicates ownership of an asset. The word is derived from the Latin noun munimentum, meaning a "fortification, bulwark, defence or protection". Thus "muniments of title" means the written evidence which a land owner can use to defend title to his estate.

Nave main body of a church

The nave is the central part of a church, stretching from the main entrance or rear wall, to the transepts, or in a church without transepts, to the chancel. When a church contains side aisles, as in a basilica-type building, the strict definition of the term "nave" is restricted to the central aisle. In a broader, more colloquial sense, the nave includes all areas available for the lay worshippers, including the side-aisles and transepts. Either way, the nave is distinct from the area reserved for the choir and clergy.

Wars of the Roses Dynastic civil war in England during the 15th-century

The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, associated with the Red Rose of Lancaster, and the House of York, whose symbol was the White Rose of York. Eventually, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, but there was related fighting before and after this period between the parties. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years' War, unfolding the structural problems of bastard feudalism, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of King Henry VI which revived interest in the House of York's claim to the throne by Richard of York. Historians disagree on which of these factors to identify as the main reason for the wars.

From his earliest years, he was liable to fits of abstraction, sitting for hours in what seemed like a trance, or crying for no reason. His lonely circumstances helped foster his natural reserve, and to create the love of mystery which exercised such an influence on the development of his poetry. When Chatterton was age 6, his mother began to recognise his capacity; at age 8, he was so eager for books that he would read and write all day long if undisturbed; by the age of 11, he had become a contributor to Felix Farley's Bristol Journal . [1]

His confirmation inspired him to write some religious poems published in that paper. In 1763, a cross which had adorned the churchyard of St Mary Redcliffe for upwards of three centuries was destroyed by a churchwarden. The spirit of veneration was strong in Chatterton, and he sent to the local journal on 7 January 1764 a satire on the parish vandal. He also liked to lock himself in a little attic which he had appropriated as his study; and there, with books, cherished parchments, loot purloined from the muniment room of St Mary Redcliffe, and drawing materials, the child lived in thought with his 15th-century heroes and heroines. [1]

First "medieval" works

The first of his literary mysteries, the dialogue of "Elinoure and Juga," was written before he was 12, and he showed it to Thomas Phillips, the usher at the boarding school Colston's Hospital where he was a pupil, pretending it was the work of a 15th-century poet. Chatterton remained a boarder at Colston's Hospital for more than six years, and it was only his uncle who encouraged the pupils to write. Three of Chatterton's companions are named as youths whom Phillips's taste for poetry stimulated to rivalry; but Chatterton told no one about his own more daring literary adventures. His little pocket-money was spent on borrowing books from a circulating library; and he ingratiated himself with book collectors, in order to obtain access to John Weever, William Dugdale and Arthur Collins, as well as to Thomas Speght's edition of Chaucer, Spenser and other books. [1] At some point he came across Elizabeth Cooper's anthology of verse, which is said to have been a major source for his inventions. [4]

Chatterton's "Rowleian" jargon appears to have been chiefly the result of the study of John Kersey's Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum , and it seems his knowledge even of Chaucer was very slight. His holidays were mostly spent at his mother's house, and much of them in the favourite retreat of his attic study there. He lived for the most part in an ideal world of his own, in the reign of Edward IV, during the mid-15th century, when the great Bristol merchant William II Canynges (d.1474), five times mayor of Bristol, patron and rebuilder of St Mary Redcliffe "still ruled in Bristol's civic chair." Canynges was familiar to him from his recumbent effigy in Redcliffe church, and is represented by Chatterton as an enlightened patron of art and literature. [1]

Adopts persona of Thomas Rowley

Chatterton soon conceived the romance of Thomas Rowley, an imaginary monk of the 15th century, and adopted for himself the pseudonym Thomas Rowley for poetry and history. According to psychoanalyst Louise J. Kaplan, his being fatherless played a great role in his imposturous creation of Rowley. [5] The development of his masculine identity was held back by the fact that he was raised by two women: his mother Sarah and his sister Mary. Therefore, "to reconstitute the lost father in fantasy," [6] he unconsciously created "two interweaving family romances [fantasies], each with its own scenario." [7] The first of these was the romance of Rowley for whom he created a fatherlike, wealthy patron, William Canynge, while the second was as Kaplan named it his romance of "Jack and the Beanstalk." He imagined he would become a famous poet who by his talents would be able to rescue his mother from poverty. [8]

Chatterton’s search for a patron

To bring his hopes to life, Chatterton started to look for a patron. At first, he was trying to do so in Bristol where he became acquainted with William Barrett, George Catcott and Henry Burgum. He assisted them by providing Rowley transcripts for their work. The antiquary William Barrett relied exclusively on these fake transcripts when writing his History and Antiquities of Bristol (1789) which became an enormous failure. [9] But since his Bristol patrons were not willing to pay him enough, he turned to the wealthier Horace Walpole. [10] In 1769, Chatterton sent specimens of Rowley's poetry and "The Ryse of Peyncteynge yn Englade" [11] to Walpole who offered to print them "if they have never been printed." [12] Later, however, finding that Chatterton was only 16 and that the alleged Rowley pieces might have been forgeries, he scornfully sent him away. [13]

Political writings

Badly hurt by Walpole's snub, Chatterton wrote very little for a summer. Then, after the end of the summer, he turned his attention to periodical literature and politics, and exchanged Farley's Bristol Journal for the Town and Country Magazine and other London periodicals. Assuming the vein of the pseudonymous letter writer Junius, then in the full blaze of his triumph, he turned his pen against the Duke of Grafton, the Earl of Bute and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the Princess of Wales. [1]

Leaving Bristol

He had just dispatched one of his political diatribes to the Middlesex Journal when he sat down on Easter Eve, 17 April 1770, and penned his "Last Will and Testament," a satirical compound of jest and earnest, in which he intimated his intention of ending his life the following evening. Among his satirical bequests, such as his "humility" to the Rev. Mr Camplin, his "religion" to Dean Barton, and his "modesty" along with his "prosody and grammar" to Mr Burgum, he leaves "to Bristol all his spirit and disinterestedness, parcels of goods unknown on its quay since the days of Canynge and Rowley." [14] In more genuine earnestness, he recalls the name of Michael Clayfield, a friend to whom he owed intelligent sympathy. The will was possibly prepared in order to frighten his master into letting him go. If so, it had the desired effect. John Lambert, the attorney to whom he was apprenticed, cancelled his indentures; his friends and acquaintances having donated money, Chatterton went to London. [1]


Chatterton's Holiday Afternoon engraved by William Ridgway, after W.B. Morris, pub. 1875 Thomas Chatterton.jpg
Chatterton's Holiday Afternoon engraved by William Ridgway, after W.B. Morris, pub. 1875

Chatterton already was known to the readers of the Middlesex Journal as a rival of Junius under the nom de plume of Decimus. He also had been a contributor to Hamilton's Town and Country Magazine, and speedily found access to the Freeholder's Magazine, another political miscellany supportive of John Wilkes and liberty. His contributions were accepted, but the editors paid little or nothing for them. [1]

He wrote hopefully to his mother and sister, and spent his first earnings in buying gifts for them. Wilkes had noted his trenchant style "and expressed a desire to know the author"; [15] and Lord Mayor William Beckford graciously acknowledged a political address of his, and greeted him "as politely as a citizen could." [16] He was abstemious and extraordinarily diligent. He could assume the style of Junius or Tobias Smollett, reproduce the satiric bitterness of Charles Churchill, parody James Macpherson's Ossian , or write in the manner of Alexander Pope or with the polished grace of Thomas Gray and William Collins. [1]

He wrote political letters, eclogues, lyrics, operas and satires, both in prose and verse. In June 1770, after nine weeks in London, he moved from Shoreditch, where he had lodged with a relative, to an attic in Brook Street, Holborn (now beneath Alfred Waterhouse's Holborn Bars building). He was still short of money; and now state prosecutions of the press rendered letters in the Junius vein no longer admissible, and threw him back on the lighter resources of his pen. In Shoreditch, he had shared a room; but now, for the first time, he enjoyed uninterrupted solitude. His bed-fellow at Mr Walmsley's, Shoreditch, noted that much of the night was spent by him in writing; and now he could write all night. The romance of his earlier years revived, and he transcribed from an imaginary parchment of the old priest Rowley his "Excelente Balade of Charitie." This poem, disguised in archaic language, he sent to the editor of the Town and Country Magazine, where it was rejected. [17]

Mr Cross, a neighbouring apothecary, repeatedly invited him to join him at dinner or supper; but he refused. His landlady also, suspecting his necessity, pressed him to share her dinner, but in vain. "She knew," as she afterwards said, "that he had not eaten anything for two or three days." [18] But he assured her that he was not hungry. The note of his actual receipts, found in his pocket-book after his death, shows that Hamilton, Fell and other editors who had been so liberal in flattery, had paid him at the rate of a shilling for an article, and less than eightpence each for his songs; much which had been accepted was held in reserve and still unpaid for. According to his foster-mother, he had wished to study medicine with Barrett, and in his desperation he wrote to Barrett for a letter to help him to an opening as a surgeon's assistant on board an African trader. [1]


While walking along St Pancras Churchyard, Chatterton much absorbed in thought, took no notice of an open grave, newly dug in his path, and subsequently tumbled into it. His walking companion, upon observing this event, helped Chatterton and told him in a jocular manner that he was happy in assisting at the resurrection of genius. Chatterton replied, "My dear friend, I have been at war with the grave for some time now." Chatterton would commit suicide three days later. [19] On 24 August 1770, he retired for the last time to his attic in Brook Street, carrying with him the arsenic [20] which he drank, after tearing into fragments whatever literary remains were at hand. He was 17 years and nine months old. [1]

A few days later, one Dr Thomas Fry came to London with the intention of giving financial support to the young boy "whether discoverer or author merely." [21] A fragment, probably one of the last pieces written by the impostor-poet, was put together by Dr Fry from the shreds of paper that covered the floor of Thomas Chatterton's Brook Street attic on the morning of 25 August 1770. The would-have-been patron of the poet had an eye for literary forgeries, and purchased the scraps which the poet's landlady, Mrs Angel, swept into a box, cherishing the hope of discovering a suicide note among the pieces. [22] This fragment, possibly one of the remnants of Chatterton's very last literary efforts, was identified by Dr Fry to be a modified ending of the poet's tragical interlude Aella. [23] The fragment is now in the possession of Bristol Public Library and Art Gallery.

Awake! Awake! O Birtha, swotie [24] mayde!
Thie Aella deadde, botte thou ynne wayne wouldst dye,
Sythence [25] he thee for renomme [26] hath betrayde,
Bie hys owne sworde forslagen [27] doth he lye;
Yblente [28] he was to see thie boolie [29] eyne,
Yet nowe o Birtha, praie, for Welkynnes, [30] lynge! [31]
How redde thie lippes, how dolce [32] thie deft [33] cryne, [34]
.......................................scalle [35] bee thie Kynge!
...........................................omme the kiste [36]
................................................................ [37]

The final Alexandrine is completely missing, together with Chatterton's notes. However, according to Dr Fry, the character who utters the final lines must have been Birtha, [38] whose last word might have been something like "kisste." [39] [40]

Posthumous recognition

The death of Chatterton attracted little notice at the time; for the few who then entertained any appreciative estimate of the Rowley poems regarded him as their mere transcriber. He was interred in a burying-ground attached to the Shoe Lane Workhouse in the parish of St Andrew, Holborn, later the site of Farringdon Market. There is a discredited story that the body of the poet was recovered, and secretly buried by his uncle, Richard Phillips, in Redcliffe Churchyard. There a monument has been erected to his memory, with the appropriate inscription, borrowed from his "Will," and so supplied by the poet's own pen. "To the memory of Thomas Chatterton. Reader! judge not. If thou art a Christian, believe that he shall be judged by a Superior Power. To that Power only is he now answerable." [1]

It was after Chatterton's death that the controversy over his work began. Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol by Thomas Rowley and others, in the Fifteenth Century (1777) was edited by Thomas Tyrwhitt, a Chaucerian scholar who believed them genuine medieval works. However, the appendix to the following year's edition recognises that they were probably Chatterton's own work. Thomas Warton, in his History of English Poetry (1778) included Rowley among 15th-century poets, but apparently did not believe in the antiquity of the poems. In 1782 a new edition of Rowley's poems appeared, with a "Commentary, in which the antiquity of them is considered and defended," by Jeremiah Milles, Dean of Exeter. [1]

The controversy which raged round the Rowley poems is discussed in Andrew Kippis, Biographia Britannica (vol. iv., 1789), where there is a detailed account by George Gregory of Chatterton's life (pp. 573–619). This was reprinted in the edition (1803) of Chatterton's Works by Robert Southey and Joseph Cottle, published for the benefit of the poet's sister. The neglected condition of the study of earlier English in the 18th century alone accounts for the temporary success of Chatterton's mystification. It has long been agreed that Chatterton was solely responsible for the Rowley poems; the language and style were analysed in confirmation of this view by W. W. Skeat in an introductory essay prefaced to vol. ii. of The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton (1871) in the "Aldine Edition of the British Poets." The Chatterton manuscripts originally in the possession of William Barrett of Bristol were left by his heir to the British Museum in 1800. Others are preserved in the Bristol library. [1]


Chatterton's genius and his death are commemorated by Percy Bysshe Shelley in Adonais (though its main emphasis is the commemoration of Keats), by William Wordsworth in "Resolution and Independence", by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in "Monody on the Death of Chatterton", by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in "Five English Poets", and in John Keats' sonnet "To Chatterton". Keats also inscribed Endymion "to the memory of Thomas Chatterton". Two of Alfred de Vigny's works, Stello and the drama Chatterton, give fictionalized accounts of the poet; in the former, there is a scene in which William Beckford's harsh criticism of Chatterton's work drives the poet to suicide. The three-act play Chatterton was first performed at the Théâtre-Français, Paris on February 12, 1835. Herbert Croft, in his Love and Madness, interpolated a long and valuable account of Chatterton, giving many of the poet's letters, and much information obtained from his family and friends (pp. 125–244, letter li.). [1]

The most famous image of Chatterton in the 19th century was The Death of Chatterton (1856) by Henry Wallis, now in Tate Britain, London. Two smaller versions, sketches or replicas, are held by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art. The figure of the poet was modeled by the young George Meredith.

Two of Chatterton's poems were set to music as glees by the English composer John Wall Callcott. These include separate settings of distinct verses within the Song to Aelle. His best known poem, O synge untoe mie roundelaie was set to a five-part madrigal by Samuel Wesley. Chatterton has attracted operatic treatment a number of times throughout history, notably Ruggiero Leoncavallo's largely unsuccessful two-act Chatterton; the German composer Matthias Pintscher's modernistic Thomas Chatterton; and Australian composer Matthew Dewey's lyrical yet dramatically intricate one-man mythography entitled The Death of Thomas Chatterton.

There is a collection of "Chattertoniana" in the British Library, consisting of works by Chatterton, newspaper cuttings, articles dealing with the Rowley controversy and other subjects, with manuscript notes by Joseph Haslewood, and several autograph letters. E. H. W. Meyerstein, who worked for many years in the manuscript room of the British Museum wrote a definitive work"A Life of Thomas Chatterton"in 1930. Peter Ackroyd's 1987 novel Chatterton was a literary re-telling of the poet's story, giving emphasis to the philosophical and spiritual implications of forgery. In Ackroyd's version, Chatterton's death was accidental.

In 1886, architect Herbert Horne and Oscar Wilde unsuccessfully attempted to have a plaque erected at Colston's School, Bristol. Wilde, who lectured on Chatterton at this time, suggested the inscription: "To the Memory of Thomas Chatterton, One of England's Greatest Poets, and Sometime pupil at this school." [41]

In 1928, a plaque in memory of Chatterton was mounted on 39, Brooke Street, Holborn, bearing the inscription below. [42] The plaque subsequently has been transferred to a modern office building on the same site. [43]

In a House on this Site
24 August 1770.

Within Bromley Common, there is a road called Chatterton Road; this is the main thoroughfare in Chatterton Village, based around the public house, The Chatterton Arms. Both road and pub are named after the poet. [44]

French singer Serge Gainsbourg entitled one of his songs "Chatterton," stating:

Chatterton suicidé
Hannibal suicidé [...]
Quant à moi
Ça ne va plus très bien.

The song was covered (in Portuguese) by Seu Jorge live and recorded in the album Ana & Jorge: Ao Vivo .


  1. 'An Elegy on the much lamented Death of William Beckford, Esq.,' 4to, pp. 14, 1770.
  2. 'The Execution of Sir Charles Bawdwin' (edited by Thomas Eagles, F.S.A.), 4to, pp. 26, 1772.
  3. 'Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol, by Thomas Rowley and others, in the Fifteenth Century' (edited by Thomas Tyrwhitt), 8vo, pp. 307, 1777.
  4. 'Appendix' (to the 3rd edition of the poems, edited by the same), 8vo, pp. 309–333, 1778.
  5. 'Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, by Thomas Chatterton, the supposed author of the Poems published under the names of Rowley, Canning, &c.' (edited by John Broughton), 8vo, pp. 245, 1778.
  6. 'Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol in the Fifteenth Century by Thomas Rowley, Priest, &c., [edited] by Jeremiah Milles, D.D., Dean of Exeter,' 4to, pp. 545, 1782.
  7. 'A Supplement to the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton,' 8vo, pp. 88, 1784.
  8. 'Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol by Thomas Rowley and others in the Fifteenth Century' (edited by Lancelot Sharpe), 8vo, pp. xxix, 329, 1794.
  9. 'The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton,' Anderson s 'British Poets,' xi. 297-322, 1795.
  10. 'The Revenge: a Burletta; with additional Songs, by Thomas Chatterton,' 8vo, pp. 47, 1795.
  11. 'The Works of Thomas Chatterton' (edited by Robert Southey and Joseph Cottle), 3 vols. 8yo, 1803.
  12. 'The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton' (edited by Charles B. Willcox), 2 vols. 12mo, 1842.
  13. 'The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton' (edited by the Rev Walter Skeat, M.A.), Aldine edition, 2 vols. 8vo, 1876.

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Jacob Bryant (1715–1804) was an English scholar and mythographer, who has been described as "the outstanding figure among the mythagogues who flourished in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."

Edward Harry William Meyerstein was an English writer and scholar. He wrote poetry and short stories, and a Life of Thomas Chatterton.

Joseph Cottle (1770–1853) was an English publisher and author.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Thomas Crofts Welsh explorer

The Reverend and Learned Thomas Crofts FRS FSA was a British bibliophile, Anglican priest, Fellow of the Royal Society and European traveller.

The Reverend Alexander Catcott (1725–1779) was an English geologist and theologian born in Bristol, who became the vicar of Temple Church, Bristol and the author of numerous works on science and theology.

"Monody on the Death of Chatterton" was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1790 and was rewritten throughout his lifetime. The poem deals with the idea of Thomas Chatterton, a poet who committed suicide, as representing the poetic struggle.

Henry Jones (1721–1770), born in Ireland, was a poet and dramatist active in London.

Robert Glynn British doctor

Robert Glynn, afterwards Clobery was an English physician, known as a generous eccentric.

Thomas Canynges

Thomas Canynges was Lord Mayor of London in 1456-57.

Arthur Basil Cottle was a British grammarian, historian and archaeologist. He lived most of his life in Bristol.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Chisholm 1911.
  2. Wikisource. Retrieved 14 March 2014
  3. Kaplan 22
  4. Yvonne Noble, ‘Cooper, Elizabeth (b. in or before 1698, d. 1761?)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 11 Nov 2014
  5. Kaplan 21
  6. Kaplan 100
  7. Kaplan 25
  8. Kaplan 23
  9. Kaplan 247
  10. Kaplan 90
  11. Meyerstein 254-5
  12. Walpole’s letter to Chatterton dated 28 March 1769 quoted in Meyerstein, 256-7
  13. Meyerstein 262
  14. Chatterton’s Last Will and Testament quoted in Meyerstein 342
  15. Chatterton’s letter to his mother dated 6 May 1770 quoted in Meyerstein 360
  16. Chatterton’s letter to his sister dated 30 May 1770 quoted in Meyerstein 372
  17. Kaplan 173
  18. quoted in Kroese 559
  19. Clinch, George (1890). Marylebone and St. Pancras; their history, celebrities, buildings, and institutions. London: Truslove & Shirley. pp. 136–137. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  20. "Thomas Chatterton". Poets' Graves. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  21. Meyerstein 450
  22. Meyerstein 452
  23. Meyerstein 452
  24. 'sweet'
  25. 'since'
  26. renown
  27. 'slain'
  28. 'blind'
  29. 'lovely', 'much-loved'
  30. 'Heavens'
  31. 'stay'
  32. 'soft', 'gentle'
  33. neat
  34. 'hair'
  35. shall
  36. coffin
  37. quoted in Meyerstein 452
  38. Meyerstein 452-3
  39. 'kissed'
  40. Meyerstein 453
  41. Hart-Davis, Rupert ed. Selected Letters of Oscar Wilde Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979. p66-67.
  42. Wright, GW. The London memorial to Thomas Chatterton, Notes and Queries, 15 December 1928, Oxford University Press.
  43. Google Streetview, 39 Brooke St, Camden Town, Greater London EC1N
  44. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 December 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)