Bristows Tragedy or
The Death of Sr Charles Bawdin
Written 1768 - Published 1772
Age: 15, Colston's School
One of Chatterton's most famous works.
Written when he was not quite 16!
A Bit of a Conundrum!
There is no doubt that the Bristows Tragedy or the Death of Sr Charles Bawdin was written by Chatterton.
(Note: Bristowe Tragedie or the Dethe of Syr Charles Bawdin is the way the title is shown in the Perceval transcript; D.S.Taylor follows Perceval. I choose to use the title from the Bristol Library 'original,' B20928).
The challenge here features two early Mss:
Is C53-21 (below) in the handwriting of Chatterton? If not Chatterton's writing then who is the scribe?
Which of the two versions is the earliest composition? Take a good look at the two manuscripts, which is the original work, as written by Thomas Chatterton; Is it C53-21, the Bristol Library Ms., or is it C53-22, the mysterious Perceval transcript of the missing Ms?
The above could be resolved if we were fortunate enough to find the missing 'Perceval' notebook.
Bristol library holds and lists the B20928 manuscript as in Chatterton's own writing. Meyerstein agrees that it is in Chatterton's hand. However, Taylor is sure that it is copied by an unknown scribe, from an unknown original by Chatterton - perhaps the copy in the missing Perceval notebook.
The Missing 'Perceval' Notebook: Perceval wrote about his discovery of this Ms. in the Bristol Times and Mirror in 1904, but it hasn't been seen since (unless you know better, and why wouldn't you!). Taylor seems to think that this is the original.
There is more to add here when time allows - in the meantime, click the images above to view a manuscript / edition.
In 2022 (delayed by the pandemic), I hope to upload a copy of the famous edition printed in 1772. It is one of the earliest printings of one of Chatterton's works in book form.