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Life and Remains of John Clare "The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"   By:

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First Page:

LIFE AND REMAINS

of

JOHN CLARE

The "Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"

INCLUDING:

LETTERS FROM HIS FRIENDS AND CONTEMPORARIES,

EXTRACTS FROM HIS DIARY,

PROSE FRAGMENTS, OLD BALLADS (COLLECTED BY CLARE).

By J.L.CHERRY

"And he sat him down in a lonely place, And chanted a melody loud and sweet." Tennyson.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY BIRKET FOSTER

DEDICATION

To HIS EXCELLENCY, THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND.

MY LORD:

Among the papers which John Clare, the "Peasant Poet" of our county, left behind him, was one in which he desired that the Editor of his "Remains" should dedicate them "to Earl Spencer, with the Author's last wishes."

That memorandum was written in the year 1825, when the poet was anticipating, to use his own words, a speedy entrance into "the dark porch of eternity, whence none returns to tell the tale of his reception."

These melancholy forebodings were not realized, for although in a few years Clare became dead to the world, he lived on in seclusion to a patriarchal age. Meanwhile the Earl Spencer to whom he desired that his "Remains" should be dedicated passed away, and the title descended first to your lordship's uncle, then to your lordship's father, and lastly to your lordship. But through all these years the Earls Spencer were the steadfast and generous friends of the unhappy Poet, nor did your lordship's bounty cease with his life, but was continued to his widow.

In dedicating this volume to your lordship, as I now do, I am complying with the spirit and almost with the very letter of poor Clare's injunction.

I am, with unfeigned respect,

Your lordship's most obedient servant,

THE EDITOR.

INTRODUCTION

The Editor begs the reader to believe that he under took the compilation of this volume with diffidence and trepidation, lest by any defect of judgment he might do aught to diminish the reputation which John Clare has always enjoyed with the lovers of pastoral poetry. He trusts that the shortcomings of an unskilful workman will be forgotten in admiration of the gems for which he has been required to find a setting.

Shortly after Clare's death his literary "Remains" came into the possession of Mr. Taylor, of Northampton. The MSS included several hundreds of hitherto unpublished poems, more than a thousand letters addressed to Clare by his friends and contemporaries, (among them Charles Lamb, James Montgomery, Bloomfield, Sir Chas. A. Elton, Hood, Cary, Allan Cunningham, Mrs. Emmerson, Lord Radstock, &c), diary, pocket books in which Clare had jotted down passing thoughts and fancies in prose and verse, a small collection of curious "Old Ballads" which he says he wrote down on hearing them sung by his father and mother, and numerous other valuable and interesting documents.

This volume has been compiled mainly from these manuscripts. The contents are divided into five sections, namely: Life and Letters, Asylum Poems, Miscellaneous Poems, Prose Fragments, Old Ballads.

For much of the information relating to the Poet's earlier years the Editor is indebted to Mr. Martin's "Life of Clare," and the narratives of his youthful struggles and sufferings which appeared in the "Quarterly Review" and other periodicals at the time of the publication of his first volume. From that time the correspondence already mentioned became the basis of the biographical sketch, and was of the greatest value. In the few pages which relate to Clare's residence at Northampton, the Editor was enabled to write principally from personal knowledge.

It is almost incumbent upon him to add, that in several important particulars he dissents from Mr. Martin, but he will not engage in the ungracious task of criticizing a work to which he is under an obligation.

While an inmate of the Northampton County Lunatic Asylum, Clare wrote more than five hundred poems. These were carefully preserved by Mr. W. F. Knight, of Birmingham, a gentleman who for many years held a responsible office in that institution, and was a kind hearted friend of the unhappy bard... Continue reading book >>




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