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Edward Gardner

2nd Sept 1756 - 1823?

Author, Poet, Friend of Edward Jenner

Childhood Friend of Chatterton

Edward Jenner advising a farmer to vaccinate his family.

Welcome Foundation :  View

Edward Gardner, was a close friend of Edward Jenner, 1749-1823.  He campaigned in support of Jenner and his work, which included the publication of his book Observations on the utility of inoculating for the variolae vaccinae, or cow-pox.  Gardner also wrote a poem demonstrating his high regard for Jenner; it can be seen in his Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, which he dedicated to Jenner; it also includes a chapter on Gardner's childhood friendship with Thomas Chatterton.


I have no image of Edward Gardner but do wonder if this painting represents his friendship with Jenner? We know that it was painted circa 1910, so it is obviously an imaginary scene. The reclining figure, who I like to think is meant to represent Edward Gardner was, supposedly, influenced by the painting of a reclining Sir Brooke Boothby , which is in the Tate Gallery.  The question is, did Edward Jenner know Boothby? If he didn’t then is it more likely that the reclining figure is meant to represent Edward Gardner? This doesn’t help much because as an imaginary and derivative image it shows not the actual physical person of Edward Gardner but it does seem to reference the awe Gardner had for Jenner and his work - OK, that is my excuse for using this rather lovely painting.

A Wonderful Recent Discovery

I was researching Edward Gardner for this page, when a simple Google search presented his name on the JSTOR website. It was included in an essay by Samuel Wood from 1950, which told of an old ledger in the handwriting of Gardner; it also mentioned that the ledger was in the possession of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.  So, knowing that Gardner was a childhood friend of Chatterton I quickly dashed off an email. The reply was eagerly awaited, and when it came it included photographic images of the relevant pages of the ledger. My thanks go to the two delightful ladies, Sue and Saffron, of the RCSE, who helped me with my enquiry and granted permission to publish.

What do we gain from Edward Gardner's Ledger? Well, firstly, we discover that we can trust what Gardner tells us about Chatterton, this is especially important when so much of what we read is tinged with obfuscation and so we often don't know what to believe! 


One important point is whether Chatterton knew and understood Latin. We now have two references to this, one in Gardner's Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, 1798, and one in his Ledger, which dates to some time after 1810.


So, for the first time online here are the four pages regarding Chatterton:

Four pages from Edward Gardner's Ledger.

Patience, a large readable set of images will follow soon.

See Transcript below.

Transcript of the four pages from

Edward Gardner’s Handwritten Ledger c1810

This transcript is generally as written but I have made some minor and obvious changes to the punctuation - I will do the rest of it in due course and will make the verbatim and adjusted copies available. Bear in mind that Edward Gardner wrote this from memory some 40 years after the death of Chatterton - unless, of course, he had the forethought to make notes back in 1770, when he was 14 years old, which seems a little unlikely.


Here bist the four pages: 

'I was at this time about to quit Bristol, my Father had taken a House at Frampton and was determined  to leave the city, this was in 1774 [18 years old].

His advancing age and infirmities rendered this step very proper, we finally quitted the Town and ever since I have resided upon my “Natale Solum”  [native soil] 


But it is inplace to observe before the narrative entirely leaves the city that some years previous I became acquainted with that instance of premature Genius, the ingenious eccentric unfortunate Chatterton. He belonged to a sort of Literary Club which assembled at an obscure public House. It consisted chiefly of young men the greater part of whom were apprentices, who had a desire for information and perhaps not less for distinction. One of its members, a Basket maker / who then worked in my Father's wine : cellar introduced me into this society as a Boy that “understood Latin.”

I shall never forget with what avidity Chatterton rushed forward and seizing my Hand exclaimed "My young man do you really understand Latin? I answered perfectly sir, where were you taught, I said  at the City Grammar school Under Mr Lee. He resumed, I wish I had happened to have had that good fortune suffer me to visit You and do for me what you can…. Chatterton was then an articled Clerk to Mr Lambert an Attorney in Corn street. 

After this first interview he visited me very frequently, but his residence in Bristol was  short Yet so great was his aptitude of intellect joined with an ardent desire for literary acquirements that in less than two Months I pushed him through the Syntax. of the Latin Grammar. I never understood. that he got further forwards after he arrived in London. Hard-pressing penury, and heart = rending care prevented one of the fairest buds of Genius from blossoming. His mind was continually employed in providing for the day that was, passing over him; but Pride high=sould Pride perhaps in too many instances inseparable from the literary character, and that frequent concomitant of Genius prompted this unfortunate Youth to arrest the progress of earthly woe by the rashness of suicide before he had reached his eighteenth Year.

     I had some Idea of introducing some memorials of the Celebrated Controversy concerning the disputed Poems of Rowley. It need not be mentioned to the learned world that they are now almost  universally ascribed to Chatterton and regarded wholly as his forgeries - during my short acquaintance  with him I had many opportunities of knowing more concerning the secret Arcana of this business than most other People. Perhaps at some future day I may give my full sentiments to the world-


William Edwards the Basket : maker was as I have observed oné of this Literary Club

It was divided with some degree of ingenuity into three Classes. Viz. the Poetical, the spouting, and the Critical and with that peculiarity sometimes observable in Youth the Proprieties were generally regarded. Chatterton and Edwards were in the Poetical class. I was thrown into the Critical one as the only Boy (forsooth) that "Understood Latin,” Yet amidst this grave affectation of imitating the modes, of other assemblies, I still remember with some degree of Pleasure the hours which I passed in our little Room, nor can I forget the solemn Countenance which was assumed when the young Orator rose to speak. Henry Pope a Barber was the most when the young Orator rose to speak. Henry Pope a Barber was the most sententious. James Thistlethwaite apprentice to a Book binder the most satirical " but Chatterton excelled them all chiefly by the keenness of his remarks, and the darting lightning of his eye. Lockstone a Journeyman linen draper in Wine street was a young man of strong mind. Smith afterwards a strolling Player composed part of the Society congrégation, Murphy a Barber And Carey an Accomptant in Mr Cruger’s House also belonged to it. Reading was occasionally admitted and I then a meer Boy never presumed to speak but I was always called upon to explain the Latin scraps which frequently presented themselves. –

Concerning Wm Edwards I beg leave to add another sentence as generous and as good natured a Young Man as ever lived. For Poetical talent he ranked very high. In my Opinion not inferior to Chatterton. But Providence cut short the thread of his existence in early life. Fortune did not smile upon him. His mind disdained the drudgery of a mechanical employment, he entered into the Navy about the Year 1779, accompanied Admiral Hughy,

to the East: Indies, and died soon after in that Country. 

When I come to the description? '

[the above is the last sentence on the fourth page, with no relevance to Chatterton]

Works of Edward Gardner

Works of Edward Gardner
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Transcript Ledger
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