By Peter Ackroyd
Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802134806, 244pp.
Publication Date: October 1996
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Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), apparently a suicide at 18, posthumously astonished literary England when he was revealed as the author of a sequence of famous and influential "medieval" poems he claimed to have discovered. An authentic talent as well as a literary counterfeiter, he is the guiding spirit of Peter Ackroyd's brilliant novel. In today's London, a young poet and an elderly novelist engage the mystery of Chatterton by trying to decode the clues found in an old manuscript, only to discover that their investigation discloses other riddles for which there are no solutions. Chatterton is at once a hilariously witty comedy; a thoughtful and dramatic exploration of the deepest issues of authenticity in both life and art; and a subtle and touching story of failed lives, parental love, doomed marriages, and erotic passions.