What is the mystery of Thomas Chatterton? A young poet and elderly female novelist try to decode the clues found within an eighteenth-century manuscript, only to discover that their investigation is disclosing other secrets for which there is no solution. But they are not alone in their quest: the mystery is being revived in an earlier age, as in ...
What is the mystery of Thomas Chatterton? A young poet and elderly female novelist try to decode the clues found within an eighteenth-century manuscript, only to discover that their investigation is disclosing other secrets for which there is no solution. But they are not alone in their quest: the mystery is being revived in an earlier age, as in the mid-nineteenth century, Henry Wallis paints his celebrated portrait of Chatterton lying dead in an attic room. And Chatterton himself, the young man who was described as the originator and inspiration of the Romantic movement, steps forward with his own story of the events that happened in August 1770.
Publishers Weekly, 1988-11-11 The ``manifestly clever, darkly humorous'' novel limns an impoverished poet in modern-day London, who discovers that another poet, Chatterton, faked his own death in 1770, and continued to write poetry that was attributed to Cowper, Blake et al. PW called this an ``eminently satisfying tale.'' (Jan.)
Publishers Weekly, 1987-11-13 With this inventive, larky novel, British author Ackroyd's (Hawksmoor) reputation here should be enhanced. Though the characters at first seem to be excessively eccentric, Dickensian to a fault, eventually they become credible as an ingenious plot fuses their lives. Revolving around the eponymous English poet who committed suicide in 1770 when he was 18, the story begins in modern-day London where another impoverished poet, Charles Wynchwood, discovers a painting that appears to depict Chatterton at an age older than he was when he died. Intrigued, Charles travels to Bristol, Chatterton's birthplace, where he acquires a manuscript that suggests that Chatterton faked his own death and continued to write poetry that was attributed to Cowper, Grey and Blake, among others. Meanwhile, elderly novelist Harriet Scrope employs Charles to help her write her memoirs, which she hopes will not reveal the fact that her novels have all been plagiarized from obscure authors. Simultaneously, the owners of an art gallery where Charles's wife Vivien works are made aware that paintings they have sold are actually fakes. As Charles's life begins more and more to resemble Chatterton's, whom we meet in flashback, Ackroyd unrolls further surprises, capturing the reader in a spiraling series of events, all of which relate to the nature of truth and reality, and the role of art in assuring immortality. Manifestly clever, darkly humorous (although sometimes overdone: the poet Charles eats the pages of books), increasingly suspenseful, sometimes lyrical (as befits its subject), cunningly complex, this eminently satisfying tale has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. (January 28)
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