Bard of Tropes
- Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture by Nick Groom
Palgrave, 300 pp, £55.00, September 1999, ISBN 0 333 72586 7
Chatterton could ‘do’ any poet from Chaucer to the recently dead Charles Churchill; and after his own death poets ‘did’ him. This stanza from ‘Bristowe Tragedie or the Dethe of Syr Charles Bawdin’, is a blend of the Spenserian antique and ballad poetry, a combination which uses phrases that are heard again in Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’:
How dydd I know thatt ev’ry darte
Thatt cutte the airie waie
Mighte nott fynde a passage to my harte
And close myne eyes for aie?
Vol. 23 No. 21 · 1 November 2001
Jonathan Lamb (LRB, 20 September) claims that in his summary of Chatterton’s career Wordsworth ‘skirts the issues of poverty and obscurity’ in favour of ‘pride and poetic self-deification’. This may seem a straightforward gloss on ‘Resolution and Independence’ and that poem’s invocation of the ‘marvellous boy’ and ‘sleepless soul who perished in his pride’, but Wordsworth is careful to couple Chatterton with the unnamed Robert Burns, whose story was a more straightforward one of financial distress. Wordsworth’s view of Chatterton could be more profitably linked to his later remarkable and persistent lobbying for the extension of copyright privileges to authors.