Chatterton in Brooke Street

1st June 1770 - 25 August 1770

Lodging with Mrs Angel

Age 17,  (he won't reach 18)

Brooke St Holborn EHWM 1
Brooke St Holborn EHWM 1

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NO 4 BROOKE STREET WYKHAM BRITISH MUSEUM
NO 4 BROOKE STREET WYKHAM BRITISH MUSEUM

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house chatterton holbor 2
house chatterton holbor 2

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Three images of Mr's Angel's house?,  4 Brooke Street, London:

1. John Wykeham Archer (coloured image, 1825/30).

2. Illustrated London News (1857).

3. Meyerstein' Life of Chatterton (image dated 1825).

Chatterton moved from the restrictions and lack of privacy of Shoreditch, to his own attic room in Brooke Street, Holborn, London, but which house did he actually live in? 

 

The 1842 edition of Chatterton's Life and Works, has it as number 4, which Meyerstein states to be the route of the confusion and, in his own, A Life of Thomas Chatterton, 1930, using the researches of Moy Thomas (see below), shows that it was actually number 39. 

 

Masson's 1856 essay, 'Chatterton: A story of the Year 1770,' also has it as number 4.  Masson must have been shocked when in a magazine 'The Train,' dated 1858, a writer demolishes some of his claims and states that the house was actually number 39.  It took Masson until 1874 to publish his 'Chatterton: A Story of the Year 1770,' as a stand alone book, where he corrects his errors.

 

The British Museum has a drawing by John Wykeham Archer, which dates to around 1825/30. Archer states the house to be No.4, and that Chatterton died in the garret (attic room) top left of the image. The curator at the BM corrects this, stating that No. 39, on the opposite side of the road, is where Chatterton lived and died

Moy Thomas, with some clever detective work, finally resolved the tricky question of the location and number of the house, and shows it to be No. 39.  He also clearly shows that the coroners report created by Dix is a forgery.  See his detailed letter covering both subjects, in the:  Athenaeum, December 1857.

Nothing remains of the house in Brooke Street, so it hardly matters which house it was, apart from helping to determine which sources a particular editor has used in the production of his/her work.

The exact date Chatterton moved to Holborn is not known, but I have settled on June 1st as  his first day, based on the following: his letter to his mother dated the 14th May, states 'Direct for me, at Mr. Walmsley's, at Shoreditch - only, so at that point in time he had no plans to be anywhere else; The Death of Nicou, was dated Brooke-Street, 12th June - so a date in-between the two dates seems reasonable enough.

Chatterton can now control what his family in Bristol might be told about his situation - nobody can belie him now, but he has just 12 weeks and 1 day to live.

Brooke Street, it is said, was a somewhat sleazy and run-down area but now, at last, Chatterton had the privacy he craved. The privacy he needed to put pen to paper and bring to light the works filling his head - that's how I see it - for what it's worth!

Hunter of Oddities.jpg

One of Chatterton's earliest works while in Brooke Street.

It's part of letter VI from A Hunter of Oddities, which appeared in the Town & Country Magazine, June 1770.

It is reminiscent of an anecdote/story in the Town and Country magazine for 1769, about Samuel Derrick challenging someone to a duel.

Chatterton's Works in Brooke Street 

NOTE: Manuscripts are large images and really must be viewed on a laptop.

You might try viewing them on a tablet, but do avoid viewing on a mobile.