1778 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Thomas Warton, in History of English Poetry (1778-81; 1840) 2:353.



On the whole, I am inclined to believe, that these poems were composed by the son of the school-master before mentioned; who inherited the inestimable treasures of Cannynge's chest in Radcliffe-church, as I have already related at large. This youth, who died at eighteen, was a prodigy of genius: and would have proved the first of English poets, had he reached a maturer age. From his childhood, he was fond of reading and writing verses; and some of his early compositions, which he wrote without any design to deceive, have been judged to be most astonishing productions by the first critic of the present age. From his situation and connections, he became a skilful practitioner in various kinds of hand-writing. Availing himself therefore of his poetical talent, and his facility in the graphic art, to a miscellany of obscure and neglected parchments, which were commodiously placed in his own possession, he was tempted to add others of a more interesting nature, and such as he was enabled to forge, under these circumstances, without fear of detection.