Chatterton in Shoreditch

25 April 1770 - 31 May 1770

A total of 37 Days

Age 17, Lodging with Mrs Ballance

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St Leonard's Church Shoreditch

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Tom King's Coffee House. Hogarth 1730s.

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Tom King's Coffee House, interior, Hogarth

It is Thursday 26th April, 1770. Chatterton is now in Shoreditch and on a mission. It is clear that he intends to do all he can to make a success of his new start. It seems he arrived in time to visit four magazine editors. He mentions them all in a letter to his Mother: Mr Edmunds of the Middlesex Journal; Mr Fell of the Freeholder's Magazine; Mr Hamilton of the Town & Country Magazine; and Mr Dodsley of the Annual Register.

 

The Hogarth engravings give a taste of what Chatterton had to look forward to when he started visiting the coffee shops of London. 

In the small engraving, a young man holding a book heads for the door of a coffee house, it certainly resembles a stocky Chatterton (as described by his sister), but it can't be Chatterton as the image dates to before Chatterton arrived in London. 

It has been said that Hogarth sketched Chatterton, perhaps this refers to Hogarth's picture of 'The Distrest Poet,' which is also impossible as Hogarth was dead by 1764.

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Shoreditch in 1755

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No. 48 Shoreditch built on the site of the house Chatterton lived in.

Chatterton lodged in Shoreditch with Mrs Ballance, a relative, who was herself a lodger of the main tenant, Mr Walmsley, who lived in the house with his wife and a nephew and niece.

Chatterton needed space and privacy, instead he shared the nephew's bed.

No Wonder he sat up writing into the early hours; writing, writing, forever writing.

It can't have been much of a surprise when, 37 days later and desperate for privacy, he moved to a private, attic room, in Brooke Street. 

Coincidentally, the landlord of the Shoreditch house was Herbert Croft, author of Love and Madness - and so, the plot thickens!

In a letter that Croft wrote to Stevens in 1782, he states he got much of his knowledge

about Chatterton from his tenants. He mentions Walmsley specifically. 

 

Croft used the knowledge he gained, along with Chatterton's personal letters to thicken his plot of Love and Madness. The book became irresistible to 18th century readers, going through five or more editions in the 1780s alone.

 

It is obvious that Croft was not always a man to be trusted. He convinced Chatterton's sister

to lend him Chatterton's letters & promised to return them forthwith, instead, he left town with the letters - the Devil. His methods were devious and underhand, it's true, but so much of what we know of Chatterton is thanks to Herbert Croft.

Chatterton's Works in Shoreditch 

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.