Person Male Born 20/11/1752 Died 24/8/1770
Poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. Born Bristol. Largely self-taught, read extensively and began writing verse aged 11. Became besotted with the medieval period and faked the writings of a monk, Thomas Rowley (c.1400 - 1470)and claimed to have found them in amongst his late father's possessions. At 17 he moved to London and for four months continued publishing poetry, both in his own name and Rowley's, and was successful. However he was found dead from arsenic poisoning, aged just 17. This is now thought to have been due to an accidental overdose of medicine for venereal disease. The romantic myth of a starving poet's suicide in a garret, supported by Henry Wallis's painting, has taken a firm grip.
After his death more of 'Rowley's writings were published and the controversy about their authenticity began, involving many of the literary men of the age including Horace Walpole. Chatterton was eventually declared a genius and a forger.