Ok, let me get this straight: Thomas Chatterton didn’t commit suicide. It’s just that, when he was poisoning himself, he poisoned himself too much.
It was on the night of August 24-25 that Chatterton died in his garret in London. It was established that the cause of death was arsenic poisoning and an inquest declared he had committed suicide in a fit of madness.
A popular and enduring image arose of a neglected genius who took his own life at a young age – driven to despair by poverty and bitterness at his failure to get published.
However, Dr. Nick Groom of Bristol University’s Department of English has begun to challenge that image, arguing instead that all the evidence suggests the overdose was accidental.
“Reports of Chatterton’s madness by Robert Southey and other Romantic poets were gradually exaggerated in the years after his death,” explained Dr. Groom.