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The Rowley poems by Thomas Chatterton

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THE ROWLEY POEMS

by

Thomas Chatterton

BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE

The text of this edition of The Rowley Poems is taken

from a facsimile of the 3rd Tyrwhitt edition ( 1778),

edited and with an introduction by Maurice Hare,

published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1911.

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION.

I. CHATTERTON'S LIFE AND DEATH AND THE GENESIS OF THE

ROWLEY POEMS.

THOMAS CHATTERTON was born in Bristol on the 20th of

November 1752. His father -- also Thomas -- dead three

months before his son's birth, had been a subchaunter

in Bristol Cathedral and had held the mastership in a

local free school. We are told that he was fond of

reading and music; that he made a collection of Roman

coins, and believed in magic (or so he said), studying

the black art in the pages of Cornelius Agrippa. With

all the self-acquired culture and learning that raised

him above his class (his father and grandfathers before

him for more than a hundred years had been sextons to

the church of St. Mary Redcliffe) he is described as a

dissipated, 'rather brutal fellow'. Lastly, he appears

to have been 'very proud', self-confident, and self-

reliant.

Of Chatterton's mother little need be said. Gentle and

rather foolish, she was devoted to her two children

Mary and, his sister's junior by two years, Thomas the

Poet. Of these Mary seems to have inherited the

colourless character of her mother; but Thomas must

always have been remarkable. We have the fullest

accounts of his childhood, and the details that might

with another set down as chronicles of the nursery will

be seen to have their importance in the case of this

boy who set himself consciously to be famous when he

was eight, wrote fine imaginative verse before he was

thirteen, and killed himself aged seventeen and nine

months.

Thomas, then, was a moody baby, a dull small boy who

knew few of his letters at four; and was superannuated

-- such was his impenetrability to learning -- at the

age of five from the school of which his father had

been master. He was moreover till the age of six and a

half so frequently subject to long fits of abstraction

and of apparently causeless crying that his mother and

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