These are photos of the indefatigable Dan Chatterton - atheist, commune-ist, anarchist, propagandist ... and bill poster. He was born in Clerkenwell in 1820 and died amid the slums of Covent Garden 75 years later. The photo on the left seems to have been produced to sell at a shilling each for his burial fund.
I've long been fascinated by Chatterton and his uncompromising and rebellious polemics self-published as pamphlets and in his (roughly) quarterly entirely self-produced news sheet, Chatterton's Commune. There's more about him and his writings here.
And I've just found a new and rather wonderful account of Chatterton by a contemporary in the Charles Bradlaugh papers at the Bishopsgate Institute - with many thanks to Bob Forder for the reference.
It's in a letter to Bradlaugh's daughter, Hypatia Bradlaugh-Bonner, from Charles W. Barker of Lavender Hill, undated but clearly written shortly after Bradlaugh's death in January 1891 and one of hundreds of condolence letters.
Here are the relevant pages:
And here's a transcript of Barker's comments:
'My opinion of your father is not unlike that expressed to me by old Dan Chatterton in August last. I made Dan's acquaintance twelve or thirteen years ago under the St Pancras Arches, + since then have had many a free + easy conversation with him. He was looking very bad when I saw him last August: so I remarked "Dan; if you were to die who would bury you?" "That hardly concerns me" replied the old man "perhaps the parish thieves might put the old boy (himself) under the turf or he might be buried at Charlie Bradlaugh's expense". "Look here Dan" I remarked "I don't see why you should think Bradlaugh would bury you. You preach doctrines the exact reverse of those he favours. You are a regular bloodthirsty, impractical old anarchist Bradlaugh is a methodicial revolutionist". "That's right enough" said the old man "+ many a wigging - many a wigging old Charlie (your father) has given me" but - + here the old man dropped his gay + reckless tone + put not a little rough pathos into his style "but old Charlie has given the old man (Dan) other things beside a wigging. When all the -- -- thieves hadn't a crust or a good word for Old 'Chat', Charlie Bradlaugh could generally give the old man a dinner. Yes, my boy, Charlie's has fed me more than once; + I believe rather than let the parish thieves touch my carcase, he'd bury me if I were to die before him."
'The last words of the old man sound painfully now: for when I looked at him + called before my mind's eye the stalwart figure of your father, I thought within myself "Well Dan we shall doubtless see whether Charlie Bradlaugh will or will not bury you" little thinking that whilst the old irreconcilable (Chatterton) continued to throw the shadow of his bent + wasted figure on my path, Charles Bradlaugh, massive as Dan is meagre, would be resting beneath a hillock from which no shadows of the dead beneath it spread themselves across the landscape.'
Old Chat outlived Bradlaugh by more than four years, Bradlaugh wasn't around to bury him. His burial fund clearly didn't amount to much.
Chatterton was buried in a pauper's grave and the burial spot remains unmarked.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!