1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:663n.



Thomas Chatterton was born at Bristol, Nov. 20, 1752, and educated at a charity school, in that city. At fourteen years of age, he was articled clerk to an attorney at Bristol, with whom he continued about three years; yet, though his education was confined, he discovered an early turn towards poetry and English antiquities, and particularly towards heraldry. In April, 1770, he left Bristol, disgusted with his profession, and the line of life in which he was placed, and went to London, in hopes of advancing his fortune by his pen; he sunk at once from the sublimity of his views to an absolute dependance on the patronage of booksellers. The exertions of his genius brought in so little profit, that he was soon reduced to extreme indigence; so that at last, oppressed with poverty and disease, in a fit of despair, he put an end to his existence, August, 1770, with a dose of poison. Concerning the authenticity of the poems, under the name of Rowley, (that is, whether they are really written by a person of that name, or were only, what they are generally considered to be, the forgeries of Chatterton) there long existed a mighty controversy; and the war among the critics has even now scarcely subsided.