1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Clare

Anonymous, "John Clare the Poet" Athenaeum (13 October 1832) 666-67.



We stated some time ago, from authority which we thought decisive, that Lord Milton had bestowed on John Clare for life and rent-free, a snug cottage, and garden and orchard; and as we knew that the poet had some skill in flowers and fruit-trees, we thought the present a generous and suitable one. We are sorry both for the Noble Lord and the humble poet to find we were misinformed. The editor of the Alfred, with better information than ours, says that Clare, indeed, "rents a cottage from his Lordship, but has had no reason to believe that his rent will be remitted;" and adds, what we are sorry to hear, that his poems yielded him no profit, and that fifteen pounds a year is all that he has to maintain a wife and six children on. His health too, we have reason to know, will not allow him to undertake any heavy work. All this, and more, the poet has confirmed by issuing proposals to publish volume of what he calls "Cottage Poems," by subscription. These are his words, and they are to us most touching ones:—

"The proposal for publishing these fugitives, being addressed to friends, no further apology is necessary than the statement of facts. The truth is, that difficulty has grown up like a tree of the forest, and being no longer able to conceal it, I meet it in the best way possible, by attempting to publish these for my own benefit, and that of a large family.

"It were false delicacy to make an idle parade of independence in my situation; and it would be unmanly to make a troublesome appeal to persons, public or private, like a public petitioner.

"Friends neither expect this from me, or wish me to do it to others, though it is partly owing to such advice, that I have been induced to come forward with these proposals and if they are successful they will render me a benefit, and if not, they will not cancel any obligations that I may have received from friends, public and private, to whom my best wishes are due; and having said thus much in furtherance of my intentions, I will conclude by explaining them.

"The book will be printed on fine paper, and published as soon as a sufficient number of subscribers are procured, to defray the expenses of publishing.

"The price will not exceed seven shillings and sixpence, and it may not be so much, as the number of pages and the expense of the book, will be regulated by the publisher."

We are sure that our readers will sympathize in the sad condition to which the poet is reduced; and we are sure too that Lord Milton, who is as generous as he is rich, will be gentle in the matter of rent with his brother man. It must not — nay, it shall not be forgotten — that certain men of this earth pushed the poor uneducated youth, whether he would or not, before the world, quoted his verses, got Gifford to review them, kindly called him the Northamptonshire Poet, and held him up as a person of great genius — in short, an English Burns, though he justified their notice by writing better poetry than what they had formed their judgment upon. No sooner did they see that he was not quite the wonder they had imagined, than they shrunk from his side, and left him on the barren eminence to which they had raised him, to wither in the sun and wind, like a plant plucked up by the roots. We hope such success from these proposals as will remedy this.