Website Under Construction:
This is our home page. The rest of the website will be available by 24th August 2020, the 250th Anniversary of the Death of Chatterton
The Gathering has Started
The Thomas Chatterton Manuscript Project welcomes you to the Muniment Room (Our Home Page), where we detail the idea behind the Manuscript Project and guide you towards the next page, which we call Canynges Coffer, the main Gateway to the Project.
The little menu below relates to the panels on this scrolling page:
All of the images on this page are simply samples from the full documents, which can be viewed using the links in the panels on the Canynges Coffer page.
The Point of the Project:
All Chattertonian Manuscripts to be Available Online for Study & Collaboration
Genius Conducting the Child Chatterton to Her Altar
Early Transcript of Songe to Ella
The project aims to overcome the fact that Chatterton related manuscripts are scattered far & wide, with some rarely seeing the light of day; making it difficult in the extreme for most of us to view or study them. We either live too far away or we don't have the accreditation that gets us into some of the hallowed libraries of massy knowledge; this is a great shame because, as a result, we lose the valuable input of potential collaborators.
A large number of Chatterton related manuscripts are located in Bristol & London but some are held in American universities and elsewhere around the world. Even Horace Walpole, via his shade, has his hands on a Chatterton manuscript, thanks to the collecting zeal and amazing work of Lefty-Lewis and his Lewis Walpole Library (a department of Yale University).
Then there are the various private collections, the contents of which surface now and again to be sold at auction, and then disappear for a few more years, and so it goes on.
The simple idea of The Thomas Chatterton Manuscript Project, is to offer high-quality, zoomable, online images of the originals via this website. I have made a good start by photographing thousands of pages of Chatterton related manuscripts, mainly in Bristol collections, both private and institutional.
Another equally important problem is that some of the manuscripts are degrading, so there really is no time to lose. We really do need to get this show on the road. It is time to collaborate; the Chatterton Manuscript Project needs You! So, if you are local to a hoard of Chattertonian manuscripts or artefacts you can help move the project along - read more...
On a personal note, I can say from experience that there is nothing quite like holding and reading an original Chatterton related manuscript. It certainly makes my senses tingle and puts me in touch with an actual, a real, a true moment in time from a quarter of a millennium ago! 'When Raving in the Lunacy of Ink, I catch the pen, and publish what I think.' never has anything been said with such foresight for the present 'enlightened' times!
The Lost Books & Manuscripts - The Dreaded Deluge or Infernal Inferno - Get Thee to the Cloud!
I am sure you remember how you felt when you heard the news about the Notre Dame fire? Or the shock when the news broke about the Cutty Sark; and what of the horrendous Windsor Castle fire in 1992, which cost £35 million just for the repairs; it is said the water did as much damage as the flames.
Fire consumes too often for us to remain complacent.
We must photograph all Mss. as soon as we can.
Chattertonian documents have been destroyed by fire on a number of occasions.
Daniel Wilson, in his 1869 biography of Chatterton, mentions the 'fire [8th Feb, 1860, in Kerslake's shop, Park Street]. It destroyed "Manuscript Chattertoniana" collected by J. M. Gutch, and William Tyson; and further augmented by Thomas Kerslake'. It also consumed the famous Fust manuscript.
Then, only 20 years later, on October 9th, 1881, the 'Great Fire' in Canynges' House, Redcliffe, Bristol, destroyed the stock of C. T. Jefferies, Printer & Bookseller. The fireplace in the house, shown in the painting by E. H. Parkman, survived the fire and is shown in the image below.
Jumping forward to the 1940s, we find that Chattertonian documents and A.S.Catcott's fossil collection were destroyed when the bombs landed on Temple Church and Bristol Museum.
Heads up! Get your irreplaceable manuscripts photographed now. Don't wait for funds to do it professionally, instead opt for the interim answer of a Smart Phone with a decent camera function - the proof of what can be achieved with this basic setup lies within, along with a description of my own method.
The Boy Bandying Parts with Shakespeare!
Chatterton as Imagined by Dix
Chatterton's short life lasted from 1752 to 1770, a total of 17 years 9 months. Such a bald and stark statement of a tiny existence - 17 years and 9 months - but when you break it down it becomes truly stark:
7 years 8 months, as a pre-school child, in Bristol.
6 years 11 months, 'imprisoned' as a pupil at Colston's Hospital School, Bristol.
2 years 10 months, as an unpaid scrivener at Lambert's Solicitors, Bristol.
5 weeks 2 days, with a relative, Mrs Ballance, in Shoreditch, London.
12 weeks 1 day, at Mrs Angel's, a Sacque Maker, in Holborn, London.
A short life indeed! But, as short as his life was, his imaginative touch, sense of fun, and his influence, has stretched across the centuries and reached many countries; not bad for a poet who was but a boy!
One of Chatterton's most famous works, his Bristows Tragedy or the Death of Sr Charles Bawdin, was published in the 1776 edition of The Annual Register, the first British periodical to print the American Declaration of Independence, along with State Papers, which runs from page 261 to 270. A review of Chatterton's life and works run from page 155 to 165, with his Bristows Tragedy running from page 211 to 221 inclusive. So, 10 pages for the Declaration but 21 for Chatterton.
Bristows Tragedy or the Death of Sr Charles Bawdin.
Written by Chatterton in 1768.
Is this the original MS by the hand of Chatterton?
A good one to investigate within the Project.
From Old Ballads 1784, printed as Rowlie's
With no mention of Chatterton
It is time we saw Chatterton for what he actually was, a loving son and brother, with an Accelerated Mentality
(apparently a modern (1920s) Bristolian phrase?) to truly appreciate the affect he had on the people around him, and indeed to appreciate the influence he wielded after he died. We know that he had exceptional and extraordinary abilities and, although he was only a working-class boy from Bristol, we should also note that his life is as important as his works: For to truly appreciate the song, you must also appreciate the singer!
It is time to reclaim Chatterton, an amazing young poet, storyteller, journalist, playwright, wit, and a bit of a wag - a villain with wings - for the whole of Bristol; and for his story to be recognised with warmth and admiration.
Memorials of Walpole v Chatterton v Tom the Church Cat
Memorials to Walpole
Yale, & Strawberry Hill - Now that's what I call a Memorial!
I must admit to being a little shocked that millions of dollars have been spent on saving Horace Walpole (sometimes called a privileged dilettante) from obscurity - totally against Chatterton's expectations; 'I shall live and stand by Rowley's side, when thou art dead and damned' but then Chatterton could not possibly have imagined a man like Lefty Lewis becoming infatuated with Walpole. It is thanks to Lefty's deeply obsessive character, that a grand and expensive library, containing Walpole's manuscripts and artefacts, has been created at Yale. While back in England, Horace's Strawberry Hill House, which he claimed was 'little more than a cottage', (cheeky devil), was refurbished in 2010, at a cost of £9 million, and stands as another memorial to him and his 'twaddling Letters to some Fair indite', as Chatterton once exclaimed.
Memorials to Chatterton
The house Chatterton was born in still stands and it has a rather grand little plaque, but these days the house is a cafe and coffee shop, rather than a memorial to Chatterton. As a coffee shop it is well worth a visit, with great coffee and nice buns, but so much more needs to be done to associate it with Chatterton before it can be seen as a memorial.
All that remains of Pile Street School is the facade butted up against the house, but at least it also has a plaque to Chatterton. The imbeciles managing the affairs of Bristol, thought it was a good plan to demolish the school and further destroy the setting for St Mary Redcliffe - it was complete madness. The house where Chatterton was born was left to fall into disrepair and remained practically derelict for many years. If that's not enough, they add insult to injury by allowing his manuscripts to moulder away - nothing special is, unless it can turn a penny!
There is currently an opportunity for the site to be incorporated into the plans for the redevelopment of the setting around St mary Redcliffe; perhaps they should rebuild the school as a memorial, which would give more space to present the Chatterton story.
There is also a rather pathetic oval plaque to his memory in St Mary Redcliffe church; it must have cost all of £17.52, not enough money to pay for the cleaning of the windows of Strawberry Hill House.
There is one more plaque to mention and that is the one on an office building in Holborn, close to the house where Chatterton died.
Finally, as far as existing memorials are concerned, there is a rather peculiar statue of Chatterton, which is sat on a park bench in Millenium Square, Bristol - what the fudge! I like the idea but dislike the execution - a personal opinion, obviously, but to me it is more Disney than Chatterton!
The Thomas Chatterton Society has made calls to suggest that the Colston Hall, which stands on the site of Colston's Hospital School, originally Colston's Great House, should be renamed as a memorial to Chatterton. The controversy surrounding the use of Colston's name is huge and understandable, but they must not bow to the loudest voices, instead they should take the name of a working-class Bristol boy, and be his angel with a trumpet. It is worth bearing in mind that Chatterton was an entrapped pupil of the school, and that he wrote the African Eclogues which shows his strong anti-slavery opinions. Chatterton was a Lyricist, a dramatist and a poet, which is an ideal fit for the ex-Colston Hall.
Ok, you must have worked out that I was having a bit of fun with some of the remarks in this panel but, for all that, there is some truth in it. Yes, I have read the odd Walpole letter and found some of them worth the reading - they, apparently, give insights into how people lived and communicated in the 18th century - really? And, by the way, have you ever tried to read Otranto? I have two editions, both are small books with one being a miniature and not easy to read - and I am not only talking about the size of the type!
So, fair-do's, we must ensure we offer a counterbalance to the untold riches of the Walpolean behemoth! Chatterton's wish of an Angel with a Trumpet to Blow His Name About has been granted!
Memorial to Tom, the Church Cat
Tom, the Redcliffe Church Cat.
The headstone says all that needs to be said about the cat; it was a cat and the cat is dead!
However, we do know a little more about this illustrious cat. For a start, it went by the name of Tom and lived for nearly as long as Chatterton. But wait, all is not as it seems, there are claims that the cat's name was Blackie and not Tom. So what are we to believe? What I can add is that I have seen a photograph of the cat and it looks like a tabby to me.
There is the rumour that the cat's headstone secretly hides the grave of Chatterton - you can't blame this one on Dix - more within on this thorny subject!
Project Development & Status
I have to say, so you know where you stand with me, that I have a real fondness for all of the many Chattertonian writers, biographers, editors, and chancers, whether their work be large or small, derivative or not - at least they had a go! I simply love antiquarian books, especially if they contain anything regarding Chatterton, so the more the merrier, as far as I am concerned.
As I write this, I am surrounded by an array of Chatterton related books and periodicals, all of which I have used to work up the project. So many books and so many writers, and yet the project is driven, primarily, by two: Edward Harry William Meyerstein's overarching knowledge of everything Chattertonian, via his 'A Life of Thomas Chatterton,' and by the forensic insights of Donald S. Taylor, via his 'The Complete Works of Thomas Chatterton', and also for his interpretation of what is genuine or WODA (Works of Doubtful Authenticity), LOW (Lost Works), and WWAC (Works Wrongly Attributed to Chatterton), etc.
The list of books and other materials consulted for the project is long, here is a short list of some of them: Croft's, Love and Madness, 1780; Gregory 1789; Davis, 1806; Wilcox, 1842; Pryce, 1853; Martin (Lovely gold titles and delightful engravings), 1865; Wilson, 1869; Mason, 1874; Russell, 1907; Stanley Hutton, 1907 (with its facsimile of the Will); Ingram, 1910; Ellinger, 1930; Meyerstein, 1931 (The favourite of most Chattertonians); Basil Cottle, 1963; Linda Kelly, 1971 (even though she got Chatterton's date of birth wrong), and yes, I must include the Dix editions of 1837 & 1851.
In fact the short list above and all of the other editions I have consulted, are listed in an indispensable bibliography from 1971. It's a thesis by Jean C. Rowles, A.L.A, 'Thomas Chatterton 1752-1770, An Annotated Bibliography', - a wonderful piece of work. If anyone knows the whereabouts of Jean do let her know that I would love to hear from her.
I know that I go against the norm with my liking for Dix, but with good reason, for it was the Dix 1837 edition that first brought me to Chatterton; I bought it for £5 from a bricks & mortar shop (remember those) in Bristol, in the 1970s. Ok, it is true that Dix clouded the Chatterton story somewhat, but it is easy enough to discover the rights and wrongs of it, and, in any case, Meyerstein resolves the issues for us. I look at it like this: Dix was to Chatterton what Hofmann was to the Mormons, beyond annoying in so many ways, but at least Dix didn't kill anyone; and he certainly enlivened the Chatterton debate!
Over the last few years, I have taken over 5000 photographs of Chatterton related items, including around 4,800 pages of manuscripts and editions. I am so fortunate, that two of my favourite places of massy knowledge, happen to be Bristol Central Reference Library and Bristol Archives, from where I have gathered the majority of the images.
A large number of the manuscript pages are by the hand of George Catcott who played a central role in bringing Rowley to the masses - old Georgie was very, very prolific, and not afraid to antiquate Chatterton's works. The list also includes manuscripts by Chatterton himself, obviously, as well as William Barrett, Dr Fry, Dr Lort, Tyrwhitt, Richard Smith, William Blake, and others; oh and Horace Walpole too!
Still plenty of manuscripts to photograph here in Bristol and elsewhere around the world, and much more research to be done - hence the need for collaboration. I was scheduled to visit Bristol Reference Library and Bristol Archives during 2020, but that is now on hold. It has to remain as a future treat, thanks to the virus - What it may cost me in the Trial Heaven knows!
In the meantime, I am making headway preparing and uploading the photographs I've already taken. I aim to release the website, ready or not, by the 24th August, 2020, the 250th anniversary of the death of Chatterton.
Hasmot Tnchaorett - Catcott Transcription
In time, I intend to include interesting biographical information about anyone who had the nerve to 'bandy parts' with Chatterton when he was alive, as well as those "sausages" involved in the controversy in the years after that fateful August night in 1770 - in fact anyone who has a link to Chatterton story and worth investigating.
Please note that the images on these panels are simply a sample of the good stuff within the Project's pages! Do click the images for a slightly larger view.
Chatterton's Letter to His Mother
Martha (Patty) More Collection
Collaborate with the Project
Heads Up! So much to do and so little time
Collaborate for Free:
This is one of the key parts of the project; we need to collaborate to make the project work. There is no need to sign-up, to join, to enrol, to enlist, become a member, form a committee, have a meeting, or form a quorum. In fact, nothing formal is required. There are no charges to use this website and there will be no advertising. It matters not who you are or where you live. It matters only that you have had the urge to investigate a truly remarkable individual, a working-class poet, our Chatterton, the Bristowyan.
Please use the blog to discuss anything related to the project.
With your help, the project website will present photographic images of original Chatterton related manuscripts for educational and research purposes. It also aims to be entertaining and to offer the possibility to use our combined investigative skills to solve the many riddles in the Chatterton story.
For example, a Chatterton related manuscript (sample below) was sold by a top auction house recently. They stated that the Ms. was 18th century and by an unknown hand - Oooh, an unknown hand - now that's a challenge difficult to resist!
I believe I know who the scribe was and the interesting story behind the creation of the manuscript, but this is just the trailer; you will be able to investigate what we have of the manuscript for yourself, when the website has been launched. I look forward to hearing your opinions after you have had the chance to compare the various manuscripts uploaded to the project. It is possible that it might improve our knowledge of the role George Catcott played in Chatterton's story.
By the way, I did ask the auction house to pass my details on to the buyer but got no response - which is a bit strange, because I feel it can only increase the value of the manuscript.
The project needs collaborators to delve deeper into the mystery that is Chatterton, and work to put flesh on Chatterton's poor bones, wherever they may be. To achieve this we need to examine all of the editions and periodicals, including Dix. After all, it was Dix who created the first true-false image of Chatterton, when he used the Morris painting as a frontispiece to his 1837 edition - clever indeed! The fact that the portrait was spurious, didn't stop Ingram including it 73 years later, in his edition of 1910.
You are Invited to Collaborate with the Project by:
Photographing Chattertonian manuscripts local to you.
Researching Chattertonian manuscripts on this website, or wherever you can find them.
Contributing to the research & discussion via the blog.
Encouraging remote custodians of Chattertoniana to supply us with high-quality reproductions.
Encouraging the City of Bristol to create a permanent focal point dedicated to Chatterton and his circle/followers.
Investigating original, handwritten manuscripts and determine the scribe or transcriber - the project aims to supply zoomable manuscripts for this purpose.
Discovering and researching lost works - one way is by reading the periodical magazines from 1700 to 1800 - Chatterton was a Time-Lord - I supply links to all available online magazines.
Investigating the death of Chatterton - don't be put off by people convinced his death was suicide and that he was buried in Shoe lane Workhouse, or by those convinced he wasn't and that he was actually buried in the family grave in St Mary Redcliffe - I wonder if a romantic turn of mind is as important as an open mind.
Discovering lost images - where is the John Cranch painting of the 'first' death of Chatterton?
Discovering lost artefacts - where is the 'Angel with a Trumpet' cup.
Locating, photographing & listing 'missing' manuscripts, wherever they might be; some are in the vaults of institutions (Libraries, Universities and the like), others are in private collections.
Investigating and researching the people involved in the Chatterton story, whether they be a 'Sausage', a vulture, or an altruist. Chatterton's mother, Sarah, was for certain an altruist, but has been called a nonentity, which is very rude and very wrong! William Barrett is possibly a bit of a sausage, but what about the rest; the three Catcotts; Henry Burgum; Dix; Walpole (not an altruist); Dr Fry; Dr Lort; Meyerstein; Taylor; Dampier; Ingram; William Blake; Cottle; Southey; Keats; Wilde and the other poets;....the list goes on and on, but each addition simply adds to the fun.
To fully engage with the project you will be best served by reading the website using a PC or a laptop, rather than a smartphone. As far as this website is concerned, Tablets & Mobiles are for the casual observer - this is either because of my own shortcomings or, more likely, the shortcomings of the Wix website program when it comes to making the website work on smaller formats.
Heads Up! Please use the blog to discuss any aspect of the Chatterton Manuscript Project and to offer anything you believe should be included on this website. The blog can be accessed from within.
The Muniment Room, Redcliffe Church
From the novel Bristol Bells by Emma Marshall
You wanted an Angel, well now you have a bevvy of Angels.
Navigating the Website
So, you've read everything and now the Game is afoot:
I make no apologies for the fact that your next step, after you have finished reading the Muniment Room page, is to be Chatterton and find the hidden link, which will take you to the Canynges' Coffer page, where access to the whole of The Thomas Chatterton Manuscript Project. will be laid out before you (there are at least two clues in this paragraph).
The Canynges' Coffer page does not have a conventional menu, instead there are buttons beneath each article or image. One of the buttons will take you to a specific manuscript, while the other buttons will take you to anyone or anything of interest mentioned in the article. You can also avail of the search function at the top of the Canynges' Coffer page, which, be assured, will only look for stuff within the project website.
Heads Up! Green Buttons v Red Buttons
Not all buttons will be Live (Green = Live) on the day of launch, this is because the project is a huge undertaking and meant to be a living thing! - that is, growing and changing, adding and deleting as it rolls along.
So, if the button is Green it is live and ready to go, but if it is Red it is still being worked on and will be changed to Green when it is ready to go live. You can click it anyway and see what happens - but do remember that Red is in a state of flux and probably not ready.
Bristol Central Reference Library: for their help in locating documents and for permission to include them in the project.
Bristol Archives: for their help in locating documents and for permission to include them in the project.
Bristol Museum: I live in the hope that they will one day respond to my request to view and photograph Chatterton related items for this project.
Books and Periodicals: all as mentioned in the website.
Mr Ellis Genge, Rugby player, Old Redcliffian, plays for England, a true Bristolian, for giving us all a really good laugh with his 'Sausage' comment.
Under Construction; but suffice it to say that I totter on the shoulders of giants (and the odd ogre).