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Chatterton - Peter Ackroyd 'The Death of Chatterton' by Henry Wallis (1856) is historically inaccurate Photo: Bridgeman Art Libra"False to reality was Wallis's smash-hit painting of 1856, The Death of Chatterton. Here we see the 'proto-Romantic suicide of a starving poet in a friendless garret, his genius cruelly unrecognised', in the words of one biographer – except that Chatterton died by an accidental drug overdose and was doing rather well professionally.The picture wowed the Victorians all the more since the writer George Meredith had posed for the dead poet's face, at a time when Wallis was having an affair with his wife."Read by.................. James WilbyAbr/Unabr.............. UnabridgedGenre................... Fiction - Mystery (1987)Source................... CDSynopsis:In this remarkable detective novel Peter Ackroyd investigates the death of Thomas Chatterton, the eighteenth-century poet-forger and genius, who died at the tender age of eighteen under extremely strange circumstances. Fusing themes of illusion and imagination, delusion and dreams, the author weaves strands from three centuries. This story takes place at several points in time simultaneously. It is based on a famous portrait of the 18th century poet Chatterton, supposedly painted just after he'd committed suicide, aged 18, because of lack of recognition and poverty in London. He'd been successful (though unrecognised) in Bristol by writing in the guise of a 14th century monk.We are with Chatterton in his boyhood in Bristol and later when he dies in London, though it transpires that he died after all by giving himself, when drunk, the wrong dose of arsenic to cure his VD.Interfolded with all this is the story of the painter of the famous picture, who had an affair with the wife of the model he used (a bit closer to the present); and, in the present day, the story of another dying poet who finds some old papers that seem to be by Chatterton, and a mysterious portrait which seems to be of a middle-aged Chatterton.The book explores the nature of forgery and the nature of history and time. Does it matter that the picture of the dead Chatterton is not really of him, but of a model, and that for all posterity the model will be seen as the real Chatterton? And if Chatterton's writings were so like those of a 14th century monk as to be indistinguishable, are they any less valuable than the real thing? And why should the dead poet not visit the live one on his deathbed - are these things really all happening at once, though we only see bits of them? (A.Sheridan )