by Linda Kelly Print book : Biography
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the marvellous chatterton   (2010-10-31)
I glanced at this biography of Thomas Chatterton and thought little of it. I always supposed Chatterton a cult poet with very little substance and a biography about him was not high on my list of importance. I put the biography on my side table, next to my bed thinking I'd return it unread to the lbarary. However, I picked it up again up one evening out of boredom and was fascinated by Chatterton's life, and the myth, that Kelly explores.
I was unfamiliar with Chatterton and his work, so there was just enough of his poetry for me to understand its importance. I was amused at the way he managed to upll the woo over the eyes of those who thought his aged manuscripts to be the real thing, to be medieval works.
But the real interest came from the discussion of the poets and writers who followed. The passion that many had for him, including Keats and Byron, is astounding - and extreme as in the case of the poet, Francis Thompson, who copied Chesterton's life in London, living on the streets, refusing charity, and starving himself nearly to death; then on the verge of suicide, having a vision of Chatterton who told him he must not take his life.
I loved the story of the Romantics and how the myth of the young suffering poet took hold of their imaginations. The pre Raphaelites, too, took Chatterton's life and work to portray and worship the artist whose soul was too good for this world.
A very good read. Recommended to anyone who is interested in Chatterton and those who were influenced by him.
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