"Théophile Gautier, writing about the effects of Vigny's Chatterton on the youth of Paris"

The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis
Public DomainThe Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis

 Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) was a French Romantic writer. During his prolific writing career he wrote a number of plays, poems, novels, short stories, various works of art and literary criticism and other articles. He was known as a champion of Romanticism in art and literature.

In 1835 Gautier's friend and fellow writer Alfred de Vigny produced a play, Chatterton, based on the life of the English Romantic poet Thomas Chatterton, who poisoned himself with arsenic, aged seventeen. Chatterton wrote a number of false 'Medieval' poems in Chaucerian English, which were published as genuine discoveries. He was an extremely gifted mimic of other people's styles of writing. After his death, however, suspicions arose as to the true origins of the works he claimed to have 'transcribed'. He came to be seen as an archetypal Romantic poet, a poverty-stricken genius unappreciated during his lifetime whose life was cut terribly short. Vigny's play about him is considered a masterpiece, and is still regularly performed today.