This highly romanticised picture created a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. Thomas Chatterton was a poet whose 'gothic' writings, melancholy life and youthful suicide fascinated artists and writers of the nineteenth century. At an early age, he wrote fake medieval histories and poems, which he copied onto old parchment and passed off as manuscripts from the Middle Ages. The fraud was later discovered. In London he struggled to earn a living writing tales and songs for popular publications. Penniless, he took his own life by swallowing arsenic at the age of seventeen.