Item #01362 Poems, Thomas CHATTERTON.


London: Printed for T. Payne and Son at the Mews-Gate, 1778. Item #01362

One of the Great Literary "Forgeries"

[CHATTERTON, Thomas]. Poems, Supposed to Have Been Written at Bristol, by Thomas Rowley, and Others, in the Fifteenth Century. The Third Edition; to Which is Added an Appendix, Containing Some Observations Upon the Language of These Poems; Tending to Prove, That They Were Written, Not by Any Ancient Author, but Entirely by Thomas Chatterton. London: T. Payne and Son at the Mews-Gate, 1778.

Third edition. Octavo. [2], xxvii, [1], 333, [1, blank] pp. One plate.

Contemporary tree calf. Gilt-tooled borders. Gilt ornamented and decorated spine. Morocco spine label, gilt-lettered. Joints, spine head and tail, label and corners near invisibly restored. Contemporary signature to titlepage. A very good copy.

One of the great literary "forgeries," the mythical Thomas Rowley was created by Chatterton shortly after he began writing poetry at the incredible age of 11. The manuscript was not published until seven years after Chatterton's death and sparked a controversy over the authenticity of the poems, caused in large part by critics who could not believe that such expertly crafted poems could have come from a half-educated apprentice barely in his teens. Samuel Johnson called him "the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge," and Keats dedicated ENDYMION to his memory. He was admired by Coleridge, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Rossetti who said that he had "Shakespeare's manhood in a boy's wild heart." Walking with a companion in a London churchyard one day, the impoverished Chatterton stumbled into a newly dug grave. His friend came to his rescue and, attempting to make light of the matter, claimed he was glad to be present at the resurrection of a genius. Chatterton replied: "I have been at war with the grave for sometime, and I find it not so easy to vanquish it as I imagined. We can find an asylum to hide from every creditor but that." Three days later, three months shy of his eighteenth birthday, he destroyed all of his manuscripts, swallowed arsenic, and paid his debt. The next day he was shoveled ...  

Cf. Rothschild 589. Cf. Hayward 188.

Price: $450.00