Chatterton's Search for a Patron

Correspondence with

Horace Walpole

Chatterton Age: 16

Still an Apprentice at Lambert's

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Thomas Chatterton

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Chatterton's Home (L)

A Two Up - Two Down

Pile Street, Bristol


Chatterton 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, in truth, these exalted establishments were restricted to those who could afford the fee.

Take a look at this website: British Circulating Libraries.

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Horace Walpole


Walpole's Home

Lots Up - Lots Down

Strawberry Hill

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Walpole in his Library

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!

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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!

While preparing these pages I have developed a new appreciation of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford. This new found pleasure is derived from reading his letters, which are often a joy, but it helps to 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 images below to read them online.  The 1779 edition of  'A Letter to the Editor of the Miscellanies..., is also included in the 1798 edition of 'The Works of Horatio Walpole...'

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The Correspondence

Published 1789 / 1792,

19 / 22 years after Chatterton's Death

Walpole Takes the Bait

Walpole is Excited and Intrigued by Chatterton's Letter.

He writes back same day - no time to lose.

2. Writ 28th March 1769 - Pub European Mag Feb 1792 TP955

Chatterton Presses on with his Plan

Second Letter to Walpole

Histoirie of Payncters yn Englande.

Stanzas by Ecca, & Elmar.

The Warre.

3. Writ 30th March 1769 - Pub Barrett 1789 TP956

Walpole Rejects Chatterton 

Walpole got advice from Thomas Gray & William Mason

They Pronounce the works to be 'Modern Forgeries'.

Walpole sends letter of Rejection to Chatterton.

4. Writ 6th (approx.) April 1769 - Pub by Walpole 1779  TP770

Chatterton is Stunned by the Rejection

He writes back in haste:

...and will go a little beyond it by destroying all my useless Lumber of Literature.

5. Writ  8th April 1769 TP961

The manuscript was missing until it surfaced at an auction in1995.

It was bought by the famous manuscript dealer Roy Davids for £10,400 plus hammer. It now resides at John Hopkins Sheridan Library, USA.

Chatterton demands the return of his letters but is ignored

6. To Walpole:  14th April 1769 TP962

Chatterton Writes Poem to Walpole - Unposted

7. To Walpole:  24th July 1769

Copy from Dix 1837


Walpole Returns Mss to Chatterton

8. From Walpole: 4th August 1769

Published 1797?

Currently rechecking sequence and details

(.QE!.) is currently working on this page