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The Thomas Chatterton Manuscript Project

Updated: Aug 30

The Thomas Chatterton Manuscript Project Website https://www.thomaschatterton.com remains under construction - in fact this is how it will be going forward; under construction and in a state of flux - developing exactly the way a website of this type should.


I hope to have the layout complete by the deadline of the 24th August 2020, but most, if not all segments of the website, will be toyed with and changed daily. This throws the website on mobiles into confusion for a short time, while I make the same changes on the mobile version to match the main site. I use Wix to create the website but, I must say, they have a lot to do to make the design process seamless between the PC and mobile versions.


The Thomas Chatterton Manuscript Project is a personal altruistic endeavour, in as much as I get no pecuniary reward, but that does not really matter, as this is an endeavour for me and Chatterton, rather than for you, unless, of course, you choose to join the endeavour, in which case this is a project for me and for you! ooh!


The project will present photographic images of original Chatterton related manuscripts for educational and research purposes, as well as early printings of his works and correspondence. It aims to be entertaining as well as educational, and to offer the possibility to use your investigative skills to solve the many riddles in the Chatterton story.


For example, there was an auction of a Chatterton related manuscript at one of the top auction houses recently, part of which is shown in the image below. The auction catalogue stated that the Ms. was by an unknown hand - well that's a difficult challenge to resist.


I do believe that I know who the scribe is and the story behind the creation of the manuscript, but this is just the trailer, you will be able to investigate it for yourself by visiting the website from the 24th August 2020 - or at least when that section of the website is ready, during the latter part of 2020.


With any luck you might bring fresh insight and come to a different conclusion. By the way, I did ask the auction house to pass my details on to the buyer but got no response - which is a bit strange because I feel it can only increase the value of the manuscript.


Chatterton's short life lasted from 1752 to 1770, but his reach stretches from the early years of Bristol to the present time. It also extends across the world from Bristol to Germany to France to America and beyond. One of Chatterton's most famous works, Bristows Tragedy or the Death of Sr Charles Bawdin, was printed in one of the earliest of the British periodicals to publish the American Declaration of Independence (in the 1776 edition, published in 1777). Chatterton's poem is at page 211, the American Declaration starts at page 260/ - more about this on the website.


Chatterton's story has been told and retold, sometimes with too much of an academic slant, but it should be remembered that although he had exceptional and extraordinary abilities, and although he was only a working-class boy from Bristol and from an ordinary family to boot, his life is just as important as his works. For to appreciate the song, you must also appreciate the singer!

It is time to reclaim Chatterton, an amazing young poet, storyteller, journalist, playwright, wit, and a bit of a wag - a villain with wings - for the whole of Bristol; and for his story to be recognised with warmth and admiration.

Update 5th May 2020: I continue to struggle to get the website ready for the deadline of 24th August 2020. I work on the website every single day and it is consuming too much time, so I have to be sensible and must break the day for other daily tasks, including mundane stuff like mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges.


Update 12th May 2020: It seems to be going well! Although, having watched the Mel Gibson film about the creation of Oxford English Dictionary, I now feel like cutting off my own giver of life; because there is so much to be done argh!


So, yesterday, instead of excommunicating my best friend, I bought the 1792 February edition of The European Magazine (only a Chatterton Loon would do this!). It contains Horace Walpole's letter to Chatterton (mentioned on the title page below); it is winging its way to Katie's door to be added to the other various Chatterton items that I can only find in America.

And then the virus struck my daughter Katie, it knocked her sideways with a desperate struggle for breath and extreme exhaustion. A few weeks later and she is through the worst, although she still struggles with her breathing each day and remains exhausted. We will have to visit Katie and her partner, Katja, when the virus has eased, unless of course they can be persuaded to visit us instead - this is preferred because of my intense dislike of air travel.


I have to thank both of my daughters for helping me with the project by being my post boxes, Katie in America and Sarah in Bristol. It's often much cheaper having lots shipped to them than direct to me. Sarah too, for driving me to Bristol library so I can carry on with my researches and photographing documents.


Note: If you are buying books on ABE or Ebay, do always make an offer: The European Magazine was on sale for $40, but I offered $25 and got it for that amount with free delivery, which is less than the price of a decent paperback - and it is a true antique, which actually has a 238 year old voice!

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