A fellow Bristolian, Robert Southey was in many ways Chatterton’s greatest champion: with Joseph Cottle he edited the three-volume edition of his works at considerable expense, and continually sang his praises in letters and verse. However, even he felt uneasy about Chatterton’s ‘act of madness’; the ‘antique songs’ go hand in hand with his ‘unhappy story’, he writes. And the childish indiscretions required an apologetic footnote: ‘There was a madness in his family’.2 Chatterton’s perceived flaws comprised of youthful hubris, suicidal excess and also selfishness. A recurrent interest in Romantic poetics concerns the impersonality of the artist — think of the Keatsian poetical character or Coleridgean aloofness — but Chatterton was all too present in his works, even when writing pseudonymously.3 ‘A character is now unnecessary’, he posited; ‘an author carries his character in his pen’. The marvellous boy, seating himself in the grimy environs of eighteenth-century Grub Street culture, proved to be utterly inappropriate as a model of the Romantic genius in society.


Anorexia Nervosa Considerable Expense Romantic Death Romantic Poetics Memorable Line 
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Copyright information

© Daniel Cook 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DundeeUK

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