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By Peter Ackroyd

What's the secret of Thomas Chatterton? a tender poet and aged woman novelist try and decode the clues came across inside of an 18th-century manuscript, purely to find that their research is disclosing different secrets and techniques for which there's no answer.

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The old man put one hand upon his hip. 'She's gone to think, she's gone to seed, she's gone to hell. ' He paused. ' He pointed towards 'Beware of the Bitch'. 'I thought of it last night. ' With this he beckoned Charles into the house. ' He had a peculiar wheedling, intimate voice and his breath smelt of throat lozenges. 'I hope you don't smoke,' he said, taking Charles affectionately by the arm and leading him into the hallway. ' He took one more look down both ends of the street before closing the door.

Fired by this knowledge and by his love of the past, he began composing his own medieval poetry. ' Charles snatched the pamphlet from Philip. ' He raised his voice. ' In fact it depressed him. ' 'True,' murmured Philip gloomily. ' With a grimace he flung the pamphlet at Philip; then he tore another strip from a page of Great Expectations, rolled it into a ball and popped it into his mouth. He settled back into his warm seat and murmured to himself, with increasing cheerfulness, 'New and happy combinations.

I can't see doctors all the time. ' This was at least what he wanted to say as he gestured towards the papers, but the murmured words which Vivien heard were 'Ejis doxon. ' He tried to stand up but he could not do so, and a few minutes later Vivien had to lead him towards their bed. 'He's not himself,' she said to Philip. ' But by the following morning he seemed to have recovered and, when Vivien tried to explain how alarmed she had become, he merely patted her cheek and laughed. There were times when she thought her husband to be strangely insensitive, but she realised that the insensitivity was principally directed towards himself.

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