Chatterton Lecture

Chatterton Lecture

Chatterton Lectures on Poetry

The Chatterton Lecture is given by an early career scholar, on the life and works of a deceased poet who had written in the English language. The lecture series was established through a bequest from E H W Meyerstein, and named after the poet Thomas Chatterton. It was first delivered in 1955.

The lecture is given every two years.  I gave the 2018 lecture, on Edward Thomas.

‘I should want nothing more’: Edward Thomas and Simplicity

Thu 1 Nov 2018 18:30 to 19:45

The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH

Hear the audio here.


Read a report here.

My Chatterton Lecture was published (open access) in the Journal of the British Academy.

Abstract: In the years before the First World War, the ‘Simple Life’ became somewhat fashionable, and Edward Thomas (1878–1917) was one of those Edwardians who were attracted to simplicity, both as a way of life and as a way of writing. As a book reviewer and biographer, he greatly admired simplicity in literature (as seen in, among others, William Cobbett, W. H. Davies, J. M. Synge and Robert Frost). His prose moved towards plainness, and his poetry is beautifully simple. This simplicity has been problematic, however. His poetry is unsuited to the decoding and exegesis (which might be suited to Modernism) that universities seek to conduct. Academics studying his poetry have allowed themselves to believe that they have found complexity, hidden beneath superficial simplicity, whereas in fact Thomas is a poet of genuine bareness, clear-as-glass honesty, magical brevity and childlike simplicity. His simplicity has been popular, and seems to suit some 21st-century fashions.

(Edward Thomas Fellowship)