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Birthday lecture on Bristol poet

Press release issued: 14 November 2003

The Bristol-born poet, Thomas Chatterton will be the subject of a lecture, Chatterton: Signposts to Romanticism, by the Rt. Hon Chris Smith MP at St Mary Redcliffe Church on Thursday, November 20.

The Bristol-born poet, Thomas Chatterton will be the subject of a lecture to be held at St Mary Redcliffe Church on Thursday, November 20

Called Chatterton: Signposts to Romanticism, the lecture will be given by the Rt. Hon Chris Smith MP who has a PhD on the Romantic poets, Wordsworth and Coleridge.

The lecture is sponsored by the Thomas Chatterton Society, founded last year to mark the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth.  The Society aims to celebrate the life and works of Chatterton, and to broaden awareness of this remarkable poet who died at the age of 17.  Honorary Members of the Society include the distinguished biographer, Professor Richard Holmes and the punk impresario, Malcolm McLlaren.  

The St Mary Redcliffe Lecture is an annual event held on November 20, Chatterton’s birthday.  It is co-sponsored by St Mary Redcliffe Church, the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and the University of Bristol.

Thomas Chatterton was born in 1752 and grew up in the shadow of St Mary Redcliffe.  Inspired by the church, he wrote poems in a mock-medieval style, ascribing many to ‘Thomas Rowley’, supposedly a fifteenth-century monk.  By his mid-teens he had completed most of his ‘Rowley’ cycle of poems and prose, and had convinced a number of his fellow-citizens that these were genuine medieval works.

After leaving Bristol for London in April 1770, Chatterton began to establish himself as a professional writer, publishing in many journals and in all manner of styles.  However, he also faced difficulties and, on 24 August 1770, he died in his attic room, either through suicide or an accidental overdose of drugs.

Dr Nick Groom, Reader in English Literature at Bristol University and Secretary of the Thomas Chatterton Society, said: “Chatterton is one of the most interesting, inspiring, and influential poets in English literature, yet until recently has remained in relative neglect , considered at best to be a maverick, at worst a literary forger. 

“But opinions are changing and he is now being taken much more seriously – seen more and more as a wild card and a daring innovator.  Events such as the St Mary Redcliffe Lecture will further raise awareness of his life and work and encourage Bristol to feel justly proud of one of its most intriguing literary icons.“

The lecture will take place at 6.30pm (doors open 6pm) in St Mary Redcliffe Church.  Admission is free. 

The Thomas Chatterton Society aims to bring together all those who are interested in Chatterton’s writing and his extraordinary life-story.  Membership of the Society entitles you to receive the Newsletter, come to Society events, and contribute to activities and meetings.  If you would like to join, please contact the Membership Secretary at <a href=""></a>


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