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When Thomas Chatterton was looking for a publisher (or a patron) for his work, he turned very quickly to Horace Walpole, who he knew of, presumably through his associations with the historian William Barrett.

Chatterton was then writing under the name of Thomas Rowley, supposedly a 15th century monk. His forgeries were quite good, so good that the controversy over the authorship of the Rowley poems lasted for years after Chatterton died. It is perhaps significant, then, that Chatterton would choose Walpole to view his work, since Walpole had used a similar hoax with his The Castle of Otranto.

Walpole was very interested in the documents Chatterton sent him, and requested more. When Chatterton told Walpole the truth regardig his station in life (i.e., tht he was a 16 year old scrivner's apprentice), Walpole's demeanor changed entirely. Poetry and antiquity, he believed, were pursuits only for men who had ample leisure time and plenty of money. He showed the poems to several acquaintances of his, who declared them forgeries, and he discontinued his association with Chatterton.

Chatterton was clearly stung by Walpole's dismissal of him, and wrote a number of satyrical verses denouncing Walpole.

The following was written shortly after Walpole returned his manuscripts, and Chatterton intended to send it to Walpole, but his sister talked him out of it.

There is a convention in English literature, whereby the writer proclaims the immortality of a lover through his verse. Edmund Spenser's "One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand" and William Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" are two such examples. Chatterton uses a slightly different, and more bitter, approach here, where he declares his own immortality through Thomas Rowley, and damns Walpole. There is perhaps some truth in Chatterton's prediction; Walpole became increasingly suspect about his encounter with Chatterton after the boy died, and public awareness of the matter grew. He seemed to think he was being mistreated by the media, when the truth of his dismissal came out, and it seemed to preoccupy him even shortly before his own death.

Walpole! I thought not I should ever see
So mean a Heart as thine has proved to be;
Thou, who, in Luxury nurs'd behold'st with Scorn
The Boy, who Friendless, Penniless, Forlorn,
Asks thy high Favour,--thou mayst call me Cheat--
Say, didst thou ne'er indulge in such Deceit?
Who wrote Otranto? But I will not chide,
Scorn I will reply with Scorn, and Pride with Pride.
Still, Walpole, still, thy Prosy Chapters write,
And twaddling letters to some Fair indite,--
Laud all above thee,--Fawn and Cringe to those
Who, for thy Fame, were better Friends than Foes
Still spurn the incautious Fool, who dares--

Had I the Gifts of Wealth and Lux'ry shared,
Not poor and Mean--Walpole! thou hadst not dared
Thus to insult. But I shall live and Stand
By Rowley's side--when Thou art dead and damned.

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