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This highly romanticised picture created
a sensation when it was first exhibited
at the Royal Academy in 1856. Thomas Chatterton was a poet whose 'gothic' writings, melancholy life and youthful suicide fascinated artists and writers
of the nineteenth century. At an early
age, he wrote fake medieval histories
and poems, which he copied onto old parchment and passed off as manuscripts from the Middle Ages. The fraud was
later discovered. In London he struggled to earn a living writing tales and songs
for popular publications. Penniless, he took his own life by swallowing arsenic
at the age of seventeen.

August 2004