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Revenge a Burletta

The Revenge, A Burletta. Acted at Marybone Gardens 1770

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

Main Page for this Work

3 The Revenge, A Burletta, page 1 of 2 reduced.jpg
4 The Revenge, A Burletta, page 2 of 2  reduced.jpg

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 (see the two pages above), and two manuscript pages consisting of 53 lines are missing.  It really is time to bring what remains together again! 

  • The Bristol Library Manuscript :- B20932  :  View

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

        No Songs.

  • 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.

         Including the six additional songs:

  • 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

  • Later edition : 1803, vol 1 :  View 

        This edition takes the text of The Revenge from 1795,, along with five of the songs.

         However, the sixth song, Betsy of the Hill, is shown separately but with the name Betsy replaced by Fanny of           the Hill : View

        The editor adds a note :  "The name of Fanny, which was first written, was afterwards cancelled, and that of            Betsy substituted in its stead; but for what reason was best known to the author." 

​        Then we have the 1784, A supplement to the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton, which can't make its mind             up and so includes Betsy and Fanny on the same page : View

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

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, honest Tom King bought the MS from Luffman Atterbury for £5 5.

  • 1794 : Tom King handed the Ms 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 : Manuscript is now part of British Museum collections as 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. 



Still very much working on this

Upcott - London Institution 

Rev. Samuel Butler - 

The following two cuttings cover the story quite nicely but will be added to over the next few weeks or so.

gentleman's magazine 1825 revenge burletta.jpg
chatterton cheesemonger the revenge The Crypt Receptacle 1827.jpg

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

 Collaborator Challenge


The British Library Manuscript

Lines 1-24; 53-443; 496-576

Plus the first two songs

BL Ref No. Add. 12050

I digress -for the hell of it ! 


Let me start with an SMac, and there is so much to choose from, but  A Rainy Night in Soho  fits the bill here, for no reason other than it creates a wonderful backdrop to this page, specifically because the music suits the mood (my mood anyway; and I should add that the green words are a link to a Youtube Video).

Ok, the backdrop is not the only reason for including A Rainy Night in Soho ; for it is usually a combination of the knowledge of the Singer and the Song, or of the Poet and the Poem, that takes the experience to a new level.  A Rainy Night in Soho wins because the words and music flow from start to finish, and the whole thing is the hook; there is not a word or note out of place.  The writer of this wonderful song is Shane MacGowan. He has his demons, it is true, but he is loved in spite of them, or perhaps it is because of them!  When a song can make people weep you know the higher plain has been reached.

So, Shane gets my vote as the embodiment of a true poet, a modern day Thomas Chatterton. The ability to weave a story that touches your heart does not fall to many people, but Shane and Chatterton stand equal with the best.

The video link above is of the original performance by young Shane. Click the next link to see a rendition from 2009, where Shane was a little the worse for wear (aren't we all sometimes), but the emotion wrapped up in it is a joy to behold during A Rainy Night in Soho.

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