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The Life of John Clare   By: (1830-1883)

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THE LIFE OF JOHN CLARE.

by

FREDERICK MARTIN.

PREFACE.

Some forty years ago, the literary world rapturously hailed the appearance of a new poet, brought forward as 'the Northamptonshire Peasant' and 'the English Burns.' There was no limit to the applause bestowed upon him. Rossini set his verses to music; Madame Vestris recited them before crowded audiences; William Gifford sang his praises in the 'Quarterly Review;' and all the critical journals, reviews, and magazines of the day were unanimous in their admiration of poetical genius coming before them in the humble garb of a farm labourer. The 'Northamptonshire Peasant' was duly petted, flattered, lionized, and caressed and, of course, as duly forgotten when his nine days were passed. It was the old tale, all over. In this case, flattery did not spoil the 'peasant;' but poverty, neglect, and suffering broke his heart. After writing some exquisite poetry, and struggling for years with fierce want, he sank at last under the burthen of his sorrows, and in the spring of 1864 died at the Northampton Lunatic Asylum. It is a very old tale, no doubt, but which may bear being told once more, brimful as it is of human interest.

The narrative has been drawn from a vast mass of letters and other original documents, including some very curious autobiographical memoirs. The possession of all these papers, kindly furnished by friends and admirers of the poet, has enabled the writer to give more detail to his description than is usual in short biographies at least in biographies of men born, like John Clare, in what may truly be called the very lowest rank of the people.

London, May , 1865.

CONTENTS.

HELPSTON.

JOHN CLARE LEARNS THRESHING, AND MAKES AN ATTEMPT TO BECOME A LAWYER'S CLERK.

JOHN CLARE STUDIES ALGEBRA, AND FALLS IN LOVE.

TRAVELS IN SEARCH OF A BOOK.

VARIOUS ADVENTURES, INCLUDING THE PURCHASE OF 'LOWE'S CRITICAL SPELLING BOOK.'

FRESH ATTEMPTS TO RISE IN THE WORLD: A SHORT MILITARY CAREER.

TRIAL OF GYPSY LIFE.

LIME BURNING AND LOVE MAKING.

ATTEMPTS TO GET UP A PROSPECTUS.

THE TURN OF FORTUNE.

JOHN CLARE'S FIRST PATRON.

PREPARING FOR PUBLICATION.

SUCCESS.

'OPINIONS OF THE PRESS' AND CONSEQUENCES.

NEW SIGHTS AND NEW FRIENDS.

FIRST TROUBLES OF FAME.

PATRONAGE UNDER VARIOUS ASPECTS.

PUBLICATION OF THE 'VILLAGE MINSTREL.'

GLIMPSES OF JOHN CLARE AT HOME.

JOURNEY TO LONDON.

DARKENING CLOUDS.

PHYSIC AND PHYSICIANS.

NEW STRUGGLES.

PUBLICATION OF 'THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR.'

VISITS TO NEW AND OLD FRIENDS.

THE POET AS PEDLAR.

CLOUDS AND SUNSHINE.

FRIENDS IN NEED.

NORTHBOROUGH.

ALONE.

THE LAST STRUGGLE.

BURST OF INSANITY.

COUNTY PATRONAGE.

DR. ALLEN'S ASYLUM.

ESCAPE FROM THE ASYLUM.

FINIS.

THE LIFE OF JOHN CLARE.

HELPSTON.

On the borders of the Lincolnshire fens, half way between Stamford and Peterborough, stands the little village of Helpston. One Helpo, a so called 'stipendiary knight,' but of whom the old chronicles know nothing beyond the bare title, exercised his craft here in the Norman age, and left his name sticking to the marshy soil. But the ground was alive with human craft and industry long before the Norman knights came prancing into the British Isles. A thousand years before the time of stipendiary Helpo, the Romans built in this neighbourhood their Durobrivae, which station must have been of great importance, judging from the remains, not crushed by the wreck of twenty centuries. Old urns, and coins bearing the impress of many emperors, from Trajan to Valens, are found everywhere below ground, while above the Romans left a yet nobler memento of their sojourn in the shape of good roads. Except the modern iron highways, these old Roman roads form still the chief means of intercommunication at this border of the fen regions. For many generations after Durobrivae had been deserted by the imperial legions, the country went downward in the scale of civilization... Continue reading book >>




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