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The Revenge, A Burletta

Acted at Marybone Gardens 1770

Written 1770 - Published 1795. Age: 17, Brooke Street,  Holborn


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Revenge a Burletta
Chatterton's manuscript The Revenge, A Burletta, page 1 of 2
Chatterton's manuscript The Revenge, A Burletta, page 2 of 2

The Revenge, A Burletta, comes with six additional songs - all the work of Thomas Chatterton. He wrote it sometime around the middle of 1770, while living in Brooke Street, Holborn, London.

The original manuscript in Chatterton's handwriting has been broken into three parts - would they do this with Shakespeare?  The British Library has 495 lines; Bristol Library has just 28 lines (two images above). And, finally, two manuscript pages consisting of 53 lines are still missing.  It really is time to bring what remains together again! 

Note:  Lines 444-496 are missing from the original manuscript held by the British Library, but are included in the published edition of 1795.

  • Original Manuscripts - The Bristol Reference Library Manuscript :- B20932  :  View

    • The Revenge, A Burletta : Lines 25 - 52 only. 

    • No Songs.

  • Original Manuscripts - The British Library Manuscript :-  Add. 12050  :  No View yet

    • The Revenge, A Burletta : Lines 1-24; 53-443; 497-576

    • A Bacchanalian sung by Mr Reinhold 

    • The Invitation to be sung by Mrs Barthelemon and Master Cheney

    • The above two songs only in this MS.

               Published in 1795. The additional songs are :

  • A Bacchanalian sung by Mr Reinhold

  • The Invitation to be sung by Mrs Barthelemon and Master Cheney

  • A Bacchanalian

  • The Virgin’s Choice

  • The Happy Pair

  • Betsy of the Hill

Additional Links : 

  • 1784 : A supplement to the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton  :  View

    •  The 1784 editor presents both Betsy and Fanny in the same line. 

  •  1803, vol 1 :  View

    • Has the text of The Revenge from 1795, along with five of the songs.

    •  The 6th song, Betsy of the Hill, is shown separately with Betsy replaced by Fanny  : View


It looks to me that Chatterton was writing The Revenge to order, a proper job of work with a return of £5 5s. (equivalent to £766 in 2023). It is likely that he was giving Mr Luffman Atterbury a good deal with the expectation of ongoing work, but it is also clear that young Chatterton was a novice dealing with a hard-nosed and experienced businessman.

The Strange Story of the Discovery of the Lost Manuscript

The story of the recovery of the 'lost' manuscript of The Revenge, A Burlettta, is strange indeed. 

A timeline might look like this:

  • 1769 : August 12th : Chatterton writes Amphitryon. A Burletta  (precursor to The Revenge)

  • 1770 : July 6th : Chatterton, sells his copyright of The Revenge, A Burletta to Mr Luffman Atterbury for £5 5s.

  • 1794 : According to John Haslewood, a man known as 'honest Tom King' bought the MS from Luffman Atterbury for £5 5.

  • 1794 : Tom King handed the manuscript to John Eggerton to oversee publication.

  • 1795 : John Eggerton died Jan 1795.

  • 1795 : According to Tom King, the manuscript goes missing or is lost at the Printing House.

  • 1795 : The printed copies, due to the death of Egerton, were not published - this accounts for their rarity.

  • 1824 : William Upcott saves the manuscript from destruction when he discovers it in a pile of scrap paper on  on the counter of a cheesemonger.  I assume that at this point the Ms. is still complete. 


  • 1837 : John Dix's Life of Chatterton is published, raising the interest in Chatterton. Here's another assumption: Rev Samuel Butler, the then owner of the manuscript, gives a few pages of the manuscript to friends - a strange thing for a collector to do.


  • 1839 : The manuscript is now part of the British Museum collection. It is a part of the Rev Samuel Butler's vast collection. The manuscript is now missing 3 or 4 pages. 

  • 1973 : British Library separates from the British Museum.

The above, is paraphrased from my general gleanings, but especially from Warren, Meyerstein, & Taylor.  In addition the musings are meant to encourage further investigation to tighten the dates. It is a start towards a complete timeline for the manuscript of The Revenge, A Burletta. 


The following two cuttings cover the story quite nicely but will be added to as and when time allows.

The Gentleman's magazine 1825 receipt for the revenge and Chatterton's signature facsimile burletta.

The following article is from the strangely named periodical 'The Crypt, Or Receptacle for Things Past: An Antiquarian, Literary, & Miscellaneous Journal, dated 1827  :  View online

Chatterton's The Revenge A Burletta discovered in cheesmonger's.  The Crypt, or receptacle for Things Past 1827

 Can You Help the Chatterton Manuscript Project ?

  1. Pop into The British Library 

  2. Photograph the Manuscript : British Library Ref No. Add. 1205

  • ​​Lines 1-24; 53-443; 496-576, Plus the first two songs.


    3.  Forward the photographs to me, Risteard QE!, for inclusion on this page, with our thanks & acknowledgment.

Links to Chatterton's Works & Correspondence

   Call it what you will, authentic, doubtful, lost, or plainly wrong - if it was linked with Chatterton it will be included in Chatterton's Works & Correspondence.  This will be the base point from which we can examine every piece of work, and add notes and links accordingly.  

Authentic Works  : View

Lost Works  :  View                                                

Works of Doubtful Authenticity   :  View

Wrongly Attributed Works   :   View

All Correspondence in Chronological Order  :   View

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