John Clare (13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864) was an English poet, the son of a farm labourer, who became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and sorrows at its disruption. His poetry underwent major re-evaluation in the late 20th century: he is now often seen as one of the important 19th-century poets. His biographer Jonathan Bate states that Clare was "the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self."
John Clare by William Hilton,
oil on canvas, 1820
|Born||13 July 1793|
Helpston, Northamptonshire, England
|Died||20 May 1864 (aged 70)|
Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Northampton, England
|Notable works||Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery|
Clare was born in Helpston, 6 miles (10 km) to the north of the city of Peterborough. In his lifetime, the village was in the Soke of Peterborough in Northamptonshire and his memorial calls him "The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet". Helpston is now administered by the City of Peterborough unitary authority.
He became an agricultural labourer while still a child; however, he attended school in Glinton church until he was 12. In his early adult years, Clare became a potboy in the Blue Bell public house and fell in love with Mary Joyce; but her father, a prosperous farmer, forbade her to meet him. Subsequently, he was a gardener at Burghley House. He enlisted in the militia, tried camp life with Gypsies, and worked in Pickworth, Rutland as a lime burner in 1817. In the following year he was obliged to accept parish relief. Malnutrition stemming from childhood may have been the main factor behind his five-foot stature and have contributed to his poor physical health in later life.
Clare had bought a copy of James Thomson's The Seasons and began to write poems and sonnets. In an attempt to hold off his parents' eviction from their home, Clare offered his poems to a local bookseller named Edward Drury, who sent them to his cousin, John Taylor of the publishing firm of Taylor & Hessey, who had published the work of John Keats. Taylor published Clare's Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery in 1820. This book was highly praised, and the next year his Village Minstrel and Other Poems was published. "There was no limit to the applause bestowed upon Clare, unanimous in their admiration of a poetical genius coming before them in the humble garb of a farm labourer."
In 1820, he had married Martha ("Patty") Turner in Great Casterton church. An annuity of 15 guineas from the Marquess of Exeter, in whose service he had been, was supplemented by subscription, so that Clare became possessed of £45 annually, a sum far beyond what he had ever earned. Soon, however, his income became insufficient, and in 1823 he was nearly penniless. The Shepherd's Calendar (1827) met with little success, which was not increased by his hawking it himself. As he worked again in the fields his health temporarily improved; but he soon became seriously ill. Earl Fitzwilliam presented him with a new cottage and a piece of ground, but Clare could not settle in his new home.
Clare was constantly torn between the two worlds of literary London and his often illiterate neighbours; between the need to write poetry and the need for money to feed and clothe his children. His health began to suffer, and he had bouts of severe depression, which became worse after his sixth child was born in 1830 and as his poetry sold less well. In 1832, his friends and his London patrons clubbed together to move the family to a larger cottage with a smallholding in the village of Northborough, not far from Helpston. However, he only felt more alienated there.
His last work, the Rural Muse (1835), was noticed favourably by Christopher North and other reviewers, but this was not enough to support his wife and seven children. Clare's mental health began to worsen. As his alcohol consumption steadily increased along with his dissatisfaction with his own identity, Clare's behaviour became more erratic. A notable instance of this behaviour was demonstrated in his interruption of a performance of The Merchant of Venice, in which Clare verbally assaulted Shylock. He was becoming a burden to Patty and his family, and in July 1837, on the recommendation of his publishing friend, John Taylor, Clare went of his own volition (accompanied by a friend of Taylor's) to Dr Matthew Allen's private asylum High Beach near Loughton, in Epping Forest. Taylor had assured Clare that he would receive the best medical care.
Clare was reported as being "full of many strange delusions". He believed himself to be a prize fighter and that he had two wives, Patty and Mary. He started to claim he was Lord Byron. Allen wrote about Clare to The Times in 1840:
It is most singular that ever since he came... the moment he gets pen or pencil in hand he begins to write most poetical effusions. Yet he has never been able to obtain in conversation, nor even in writing prose, the appearance of sanity for two minutes or two lines together, and yet there is no indication of insanity in any of his poetry.
Clare was a professing Anglican. Whatever he may have felt about liturgy and ministry, and however critical an eye he may have cast on parish life, Clare retained and replicated his father's loyalty to the Church of England. He dodged the services in his youth and dawdled in the fields during the hours of worship, but he derived much help in later years from members of the clergy. He acknowledged that his father "was brought up in the communion of the Church of England, and I have found no cause to withdraw myself from it." If he found aspects of the established church uncongenial and awkward, he remained prepared to defend it: "Still I reverence the church and do from my soul as much as anyone curse the hand that's lifted to undermine its constitution".
During his first few asylum years in High Beach, Essex (1837–41), Clare re-wrote famous poems and sonnets by Lord Byron. His own version of Child Harold became a lament for past lost love, and Don Juan, A Poem became an acerbic, misogynistic, sexualised rant redolent of an ageing Regency dandy. Clare also took credit for Shakespeare's plays, claiming to be the Renaissance genius himself. "I'm John Clare now," the poet claimed to a newspaper editor, "I was Byron and Shakespeare formerly."
In 1841, Clare absconded from the asylum in Essex, to walk some 90 miles (140 km) home, believing that he was to meet his first love Mary Joyce; Clare was convinced that he was married to her and Martha as well, with children by both women. He did not believe her family when they told him she had died accidentally three years earlier in a house fire. He remained free, mostly at home in Northborough, for the five months following, but eventually Patty called the doctors in. Between Christmas and New Year in 1841, Clare was committed to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum (now St Andrew's Hospital). Upon Clare's arrival at the asylum, the accompanying doctor, Fenwick Skrimshire, who had treated Clare since 1820, completed the admission papers. To the enquiry "Was the insanity preceded by any severe or long-continued mental emotion or exertion?", Dr Skrimshire entered: "After years of poetical prosing." He remained there for the rest of his life under the humane regime of Dr Thomas Octavius Prichard, who encouraged and helped him to write. Here he wrote possibly his most famous poem, I Am.
He died on 20 May 1864, in his 71st year. His remains were returned to Helpston for burial in St Botolph's churchyard. Today, children at the John Clare School, Helpston's primary, parade through the village and place their "midsummer cushions" around Clare's gravestone (which bears the inscriptions "To the Memory of John Clare The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet" and "A Poet is Born not Made") on his birthday, in honour of their most famous resident.
In his time, Clare was commonly known as "the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet". His formal education was brief, his other employment and class-origins were lowly. Clare resisted the use of the increasingly standardised English grammar and orthography in his poetry and prose, alluding to political reasoning in comparing "grammar" (in a wider sense of orthography) to tyrannical government and slavery, personifying it in jocular fashion as a "bitch". He wrote in his Northamptonshire dialect, introducing local words to the literary canon such as "pooty" (snail), "lady-cow" (ladybird), "crizzle" (to crisp) and "throstle" (song thrush).
In his early life he struggled to find a place for his poetry in the changing literary fashions of the day. He also felt that he did not belong with other peasants. Clare once wrote:
"I live here among the ignorant like a lost man in fact like one whom the rest seemes careless of having anything to do with—they hardly dare talk in my company for fear I should mention them in my writings and I find more pleasure in wandering the fields than in musing among my silent neighbours who are insensible to everything but toiling and talking of it and that to no purpose."
It is common to see an absence of punctuation in many of Clare's original writings, although many publishers felt the need to remedy this practice in the majority of his work. Clare argued with his editors about how it should be presented to the public.
Clare grew up during a period of massive changes in both town and countryside as the Industrial Revolution swept Europe. Many former agricultural and craft workers, including children, moved away from the countryside to crowded cities, as factory work became mechanized. The Agricultural Revolution saw pastures ploughed up, trees and hedges uprooted, fens drained and common land enclosed. This destruction of a way of life centuries old distressed Clare deeply. His political and social views were predominantly conservative. ("I am as far as my politics reaches 'King and Country' – no Innovations in Religion and Government say I.") He refused even to complain about the subordinate position to which English society had relegated him, swearing that "with the old dish that was served to my forefathers I am content."
His early work expresses delight in both nature and the cycle of the rural year. Poems such as "Winter Evening", "Haymaking" and "Wood Pictures in Summer" celebrate the beauty of the world and the certainties of rural life, where animals must be fed and crops harvested. Poems such as "Little Trotty Wagtail" show his sharp observation of wildlife, though "The Badger" shows his lack of sentiment about the place of animals in the countryside. At this time, he often used poetic forms such as the sonnet and the rhyming couplet. His later poetry tends to be more meditative and uses forms similar to the folk songs and ballads of his youth. An example of this is "Evening".
Clare's knowledge of the natural world went far beyond that of the major Romantic poets. However, poems such as "I Am" show a metaphysical depth on a par with his contemporary poets and many of his pre-asylum poems deal with intricate play on the nature of linguistics. His "bird's nest poems", it can be argued, illustrate the self-awareness, and obsession with the creative process that captivated the romantics. Clare was the most influential poet, apart from Wordsworth, to write in an older style.
In a foreword to the 2011 anthologyThe Poetry of Birds, broadcaster and bird-watcher Tim Dee notes that Clare wrote about 147 species of British wild birds "without any technical kit whatsoever."
The only Clare essay published (anonymously), in his lifetime was "Popularity of Authorship", a document of his predicament in 1824. Other essays written by Clare appeared in Essays on Landscape, Essays on Criticism and Fashion, Recollections on a Journey from Essex, Excursions with an Angler, For Essay on Modesty and Mock Morals, For Essay on Industry:"Keats", "Byron", "The Dream", "House or Window Flies" and "Dewdrops".
Clare was relatively forgotten during the later 19th century, but interest in his work was revived by Arthur Symons in 1908, Edmund Blunden in 1920 and John and Anne Tibble in their ground-breaking 1935 two-volume edition, while in 1949 Geoffrey Grigson edited Poems of John Clare's Madness (published by Routledge and Kegan Paul). Benjamin Britten set some of "May" from A Shepherd's Calendar in his Spring Symphony of 1948, and included a setting of The Evening Primrose in his Five Flower Songs.
Copyright to much of his work has been claimed since 1965 by the editor of the Complete Poetry, Professor Eric Robinson, although these claims were contested. Recent publishers have refused to acknowledge the claim (especially in recent editions from Faber and Carcanet) and it seems the copyright is now defunct.
The largest collection of original Clare manuscripts is housed at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, where items are available to view by appointment.
Altering what Clare actually wrote continued into the later 20th century; for instance, Helen Gardner amended not only the punctuation but also the spelling and grammar in the New Oxford Book of English Verse 1250–1950 (1972), which she edited.
Since 1993, the John Clare Society of North America has organised an annual session of scholarly papers concerning John Clare at the annual Convention of the Modern Language Association of America.
The thatched cottage where Clare was born was bought by the John Clare Trust in 2005. In May 2007 the Trust gained £1.27 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and commissioned Jefferson Sheard Architects to create a new landscape design and Visitor Centre, including a cafe, shop and exhibition space. The Cottage at 12 Woodgate, Helpston, has been restored using traditional building methods and is open to the public.
In 2013 the John Clare Trust received a further grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help preserve the building and provide educational activities for youngsters visiting the cottage.
In chronological order:
In chronological order:
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1820.Anne Tibble
Anne Tibble (née Mabel Anne Northgrave) was an English writer, who was best known for her studies of the life and work of the poet John Clare in partnership with J.W. Tibble. As well as two novels and a collection of poetry, she wrote three volumes of autobiography, biographies for children of well-known people, a book about African literature and reviews for various journals.Belmont Estate
The Belmont Estate, now the Belmont Manor Historic Park, is a historic estate located at Elkridge, Howard County, Maryland, United States. Known in the Colonial period as "Moore's Morning Choice", it is listed on the Maryland Historic Trust (MHT), Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP), and is on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as part of the Lawyers Hill Historic District, Elkridge, Maryland.
From the late 17th century until 1962, the property was privately owned. The property was then successively owned and maintained as the Belmont Conference Center, by the Smithsonian Institution, the American Chemical Society, and Howard Community College. It is now the Belmont Manor Historic Park, owned by the Howard County and its Department of Recreation and Parks.Helpston
Helpston (also, formerly, "Helpstone") is an English village formerly in the Soke of Peterborough, geographically in Northamptonshire, subsequently (1965–1974) in Huntingdon and Peterborough, then in Cambridgeshire, and administered by the City of Peterborough unitary authority.
The civil parish of Helpston covers an area of 1,860 acres (750 ha) and had an estimated population in 2005 of 870.The parish church is dedicated to St Botolph; the chancel window was created by Francis Skeat and depicts "Christ in Majesty".The poet John Clare was born in Helpston in 1793 and is buried in the churchyard of St Botolph's. The thatched cottage where he was born was bought by the John Clare Trust in 2005. The John Clare Cottage, at 12 Woodgate, has been restored using traditional building methods and is open to the public. In 2013 the John Clare Trust received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help preserve the building and provide educational activities for youngsters visiting the cottage.The name Helpston is Anglo-Saxon in origin and means the farmstead (tun) first settled by Help (an Old English personal name).Helpston is well known for its athletics club, Helpston Harriers AC, who aspire to improve local running standards.I Am (poem)
"I Am" (or "Lines: I Am") is a poem written by English poet John Clare in late 1844 or 1845 and published in 1848. It was composed when Clare was in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum (commonly Northampton County Asylum, and later renamed St Andrew's Hospital), isolated by his mental illness from his family and friends.Janet Todd
Janet Margaret Todd OBE (born 10 September 1942) is a British academic and author. She was educated at Cambridge University and the University of Florida, where she undertook a doctorate on the poet John Clare. Much of her work concerns Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, and their circles.John Clare (journalist)
John Clare (born 1955) is an English author, journalist and chief executive of LionsDen Communications.
He was a producer and reporter at ITN where he covered some of the biggest stories of the 1980s including the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Hungerford Massacre, the
Heysel stadium disaster and trial of the Liverpool fans, the Bradford football stadium fire, the trial of the Brighton Bomber", Patrick McGee, and his associates,
and the Broadwater Farm trials.
He also, with reporter David Chater, covered Tom McClean's historic single-handed rowing across the Atlantic, a feat for which Tom still holds the world speed record.
On the Daily Mail he was a feature writer and commissioning editor.
He is the author of a number of books, including Communicating Clearly about Science and Medicine (Gower, 2012), John Clare's Guide to Media Handling (Gower), and Organ Farm (Carlton Books) – the book of the TV series of which he was executive producer.John Clare (soccer)
John Clare is an American soccer coach. He played professionally in the American Professional Soccer League and National Professional Soccer League.
Clare, the father of Matt Clare, attended the College of Boca Raton, playing on the men's soccer team from 1986 to 1988. In 1989, Clare turned professional with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the American Soccer League. At the end of the ASL season, Clare moved to Germany where he trained, but played no league matches, with the Werder Bremen reserve team. He was back with the Strikers in 1990 as the team played in the American Professional Soccer League which was formed by the merger of the American Soccer League and Western Soccer League that year. Clare remained with the Strikers through the 1993 season. In 1990, he also signed with the Canton Invaders of the National Professional Soccer League. He spent two seasons with Canton. Clare also played for the Charlotte Eagles of the USISL twice, the first time in 1997 and the second in 1999.
Clare coaches with Players Club of Tampa Bay in Brandon, Florida.John Clare Billing
John Clare Billing ARCO (1866 - 1955) was an organist, composer and writer based in England.John Clare Cottage
John Clare Cottage is a cottage and literary museum in Helpston, Peterborough, United Kingdom. The English poet John Clare (1793-1864) was born here.
The thatched Grade II* cottage at 12 Woodgate, Helpston, originally consisted of five smaller tenement buildings, that were joined into a single structure at a later date.The cottage was bought by the John Clare Trust in 2005. In May 2007, the Trust gained £1.27 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fundand commissioned Jefferson Sheard Architects to create a new landscape design and Visitor Centre, including a cafe, shop and exhibition space. The Cottage has been restored using traditional building methods and is open to the public.
In 2013 the John Clare Trust received a further grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help preserve the building and provide educational activities for young people visiting the cottage.The garden behind the cottage is maintained by volunteers, and planted with varieties which would have been seen in Clare's time.The John Clare Cottage forms part of the Fens Museum Partnership, along with Peterborough Museum and Flag Fen.John Taylor (English publisher)
John Taylor (31 July 1781 – 5 July 1864) was an English publisher, essayist, and writer. He is noted as the publisher of the poets John Keats and John Clare.Jonathan Bate
Sir Andrew Jonathan Bate, CBE, FBA, FRSL (born 26 June 1958), is a British academic, biographer, critic, broadcaster, novelist and scholar. He specialises in Shakespeare, Romanticism and Ecocriticism. He is Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, Gresham Professor of Rhetoric, and Honorary Fellow of Creativity at Warwick Business School. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education.Minstrel
A minstrel was a medieval European entertainer. Originally describing any type of entertainer such as a musician, juggler, acrobat, singer or fool, the term later, from the sixteenth century, came to mean a specialist entertainer who sang songs and played musical instruments.Peterborough
Peterborough ( (listen)) is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, with a population of 196,640 in 2015. Historically part of Northamptonshire, it is 75 miles (121 km) north of London, on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea 30 miles (48 km) to the north-east. The railway station is an important stop on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh. The city is also 70 miles (110 km) east of Birmingham, 38 miles (61 km) east of Leicester, 81 miles (130 km) south of Kingston upon Hull and 65 miles (105 km) west of Norwich.
The local topography is flat, and in some places the land lies below sea level, for example in parts of the Fens to the east of Peterborough. Human settlement in the area began before the Bronze Age, as can be seen at the Flag Fen archaeological site to the east of the current city centre, also with evidence of Roman occupation. The Anglo-Saxon period saw the establishment of a monastery, Medeshamstede, which later became Peterborough Cathedral.
The population grew rapidly after the railways arrived in the 19th century, and Peterborough became an industrial centre, particularly noted for its brick manufacture. After the Second World War, growth was limited until designation as a New Town in the 1960s. Housing and population are expanding and a £1 billion regeneration of the city centre and immediately surrounding area is under way. As in much of the United Kingdom, industrial employment has fallen, with a significant proportion of new jobs in financial services and distribution.Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery
Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery houses the historical and art collections of the city of Peterborough in the United Kingdom. It is part of the Greater Fens Museum Partnership.Spring Symphony
This article is about the composition by Benjamin Britten. "Spring Symphony" is also the nickname of Schumann's Symphony No. 1The Spring Symphony, a choral symphony, is Benjamin Britten's Opus 44. It is dedicated to Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was premiered in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, on Thursday 14 July 1949 (not 9 July which is quoted by many sources) as part of the Holland Festival, when the composer was 35. At the premiere the tenor soloist was Peter Pears, the soprano Jo Vincent and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier. The conductor was Eduard van Beinum. A recording of the performance survives and was first issued by Decca in August 1994.
In October 1950, the Spring Symphony was performed at the Leeds Triennial Musical Festival with a choir of 100 boys.The Spring Symphony is written for soprano, alto and tenor soloists, mixed chorus, boys' choir (often performed by a children's choir instead) and orchestra. Britten sets several poets' words, chiefly from the 16th and 17th century such as Edmund Spenser, John Clare and George Peele. A notable exception is 'Out on the lawn I lie in bed' by his friend W. H. Auden.
In the composer's own words, the work represents 'the progress of Winter to Spring and the reawakening of the earth and life which that means'.The Fool (play)
The Fool is a play by the English playwright Edward Bond. It traces the life of the poet John Clare against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, from his roots in rural East Anglia via literary success in London to his final years in a lunatic asylum. The play was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in November 1975 in a production directed by Peter Gill and featuring Tom Courtenay, David Troughton and Nigel Terry among others.
After a 35-year hiatus, The Fool was revived in the UK in late 2010 as part of the six-play Edward Bond Season at The Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn, London. Bond himself directed the production, with Ben Crispin playing the role of John Clare.The Quickening Maze
The Quickening Maze is a 2009 historical fictional novel by British poet and author Adam Foulds and published by Jonathan Cape. The book received the Encore Award (2009), European Union Prize for Literature (2011) and was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize (2009) and Walter Scott Prize (2010). The book is based on the historical backdrop of a mental asylum run by Matthew Allen at High Beach in late 1830s and 1840s which had English poet John Clare admitted therein. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, another notable poet of the era, moves to High Beach to get his brother Septimus treated and Alfred, himself, has to overcome depression after the death of his close friend Arthur Hallam. The book narrates Clare's life, the asylum's effects on both poets and bases its storyline on the popular speculation of whether Clare and Tennyson had ever met.Yellowhammer
The yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a passerine bird in the bunting family that is native to Eurasia and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. Most European birds remain in the breeding range year-round, but the eastern subspecies is partially migratory, with much of the population wintering further south. The male yellowhammer has a bright yellow head, streaked brown back, chestnut rump and yellow underparts. Other plumages are duller versions of the same pattern. The yellowhammer is common in open areas with some shrubs or trees, and forms small flocks in winter. Its song has a rhythm like "A little bit of bread and no cheese". The song is very similar to that of its closest relative, the pine bunting, with which it interbreeds.
Breeding commences mainly in April and May, with the female building a lined cup nest in a concealed location on or near the ground. The 3–5 eggs are patterned with a mesh of fine dark lines, giving rise to the old name for the bird of "scribble lark". The female incubates the eggs for 12–14 days prior to hatching, and broods the altricial downy chicks until they fledge 11–13 days later. Both adults feed the chick in the nest and raise two or three broods each year. The nest may be raided by rodents or corvids, and the adults are hunted by birds of prey. Yellowhammers feed on the ground, usually in flocks outside the breeding season. The diet is mainly seeds, supplemented by invertebrates in the breeding season. Changes to agricultural practices have led to population declines in western Europe, but its large numbers and huge range mean that the yellowhammer is classed as being of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
This conspicuous yellow bird has inspired poems by Robert Burns and John Clare, and its characteristic song has influenced works by Beethoven and Messiaen. The children's writer Enid Blyton helped to popularise the standard English representation of the song.