Chatterton's Search for a Patron
Chatterton Age: 16
Still an Apprentice at Lambert's
Chatterton's Home (L)
A Two Up - Two Down
Pile Street, Bristol
Chatterton in his Library
Lots Up - Lots Down
Walpole's collection of Chattertoniana can be seen on the top shelf of the bookcase to the right of the window - It's true, honestly!
The majority of Walpole's Chattertoniana (collection of books and letters) eventually ended up in the possession of Wilmarth 'Lefty' Lewis. He bought most of it from the New York Mercantile Library - now there's a man with perseverance in his blood!
Walpole in his Library
A little 'poetic' licence is at play here, obviously, but you get the idea.
Chatterton's life was a struggle from start to finish. He had to mix in circles above his pay grade to get sight of or borrow books.
It is said that Chatterton used the circulating libraries but, generally, these exalted establishments were restricted to those who could afford the fee.
According to Meyerstein, Chatterton visited a number bookshops, where he was allowed to read the books without payment, and he would transcribe sections of interest to him.
It is also said that his mother paid the quarterly fee to allow him to use a circulating library - more on this to follow.
Take a look at this website: British Circulating Libraries.
Walpole was 51 when he received 16 year old Chatterton's first letter, containing his The Ryse of Peyncteynge, yn Englande.
Walpole died 2nd March, 1797, aged 79.
The contents of Strawberry Hill went to auction in April of 1842. The sale lasted 24 days.
Chatterton died 24th August, 1770, at 17 years & nine months of age. There was nothing left in his attic room but the clothes he died in; a pocket book; some scraps of paper; his pens & ink and other such 'worthless' paraphernalia and, on the windowsill,....an empty phial of kill or cure medicine.
It is clear that Walpole was not responsible for the death of Chatterton and, in any case, it is accepted
by those of us willing to read the facts, that Chatterton's death was caused by an accidental overdose and not by suicide!
I have recently developed an improved appreciation of the works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, although I do like to keep in mind that he was in a massively privileged position. It seems to me that he truly believed he was a step or two (or three or more) above the likes of Chatterton, which gave him the right to pass judgment and then to offer advice - basically, keep to your station.
I believe that every 'class' of person will face a personal 'struggle' of some sort or other, and that we should make allowances for this, but you simply must smile when you read the following excerpt from his: 'A Letter to the Editor of the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton, 1779':
‘My fortune is private and moderate; my situation, more private; my interest, none. I was neither born to wealth, nor to accumulate it: I have indulged a taste for expensive baubles, with little attention to economy; it did not become me to give myself airs of protection; and, though it might not be generous, I have been less fond of the company of authors, than of their works.'
Click the page to read volume IV, 1798, The Works of Horatio Walpole, complete with the letters; Click the page to read A Letter to the Editor of the Miscellanies of Thomas Chatterton. (first published in 1779 but without the letters).
Published 1789 / 1792,
19 / 22 years after Chatterton's Death
Walpole's 2nd Letter to Chatterton - Rejects Chatterton Letter is lost.
Walpole got advice from Thomas Gray & William Mason who pronounced the works to be 'modern forgeries'.
Writ. 6th April 1769 (approx.)
Pub. A Letter to the Editor of the Miscellanies of T. Chatterton 1779 TP770
Demanding the return of his letters but is ignored
To Walpole: 14th April 1769 TP962
Note regarding the original manuscripts:
Three drafts of this letter were written:
1st draft : Chatterton's handwriting : Pub. 1803.
2nd draft : Barrett's handwriting : Pub. 1803.
3rd draft : Chatterton's handwriting : Pub. Walpole's Works, 1798.
'Sir, I cannot reconcile your behaviour to me'
Writ. 24th July 1769 - Manuscript is missing.
Chatterton in his pique wrote this: 'Walpole! I thought not I should ever see...' with the annotation 'Intended to have sent the above to Mr. Walpole but my Sister perswaded me out of it.
The first printing was in Dix 1837, p.102
(Waiting for the original in Chatterton's autograph, B20930)
'Sir, I do not see, I must own, how those precious MSS. of which you have sent me a few extracts, should be lost to the world by my detaining your letters. Do the originals not exist,...'
Walpole supposedly wrote this letter to go with the Rowley papers he was returning to Chatterton, but decided to send the papers in a plain cover without the letter (The original letter is missing).
Writ. 4th August (or 12 October) 1769 - First Published 1798, p.237.