1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Clare

A Friend to Deserving Genius, "To the Editor" The New Times (24 May 1820).



SIR — It is to The New Times that I am indebted for my first knowledge of John Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant-poet, as, until then, I was ignorant that ever such a person existed.

The very interesting account given by you of this most worthy and extraordinary man, led me immediately to seek his work, when the admirable Introduction (from the pen of his liberal Publisher, Mr. Taylor, of Fleet-street), not less than the beauty and merits of the poems, made me most solicitous to inquire minutely into the character and conduct of the young poet. After the most satisfactory inquiry into these particulars, I had more than one opportunity of meeting Clare in private, when he convinced me that he was every way deserving the very favourable report I had received concerning him. This opinion has been since strongly confirmed by letters I have seen from him, wherein he unconsciously, and with the simplicity of a child, unfolds such a power of intellect, such a purity, and such a fund of moral rectitude, as would do honour to human nature, however dignified by rank and title might be the happy possessor.

The success of Clare's exquisite little volume must have surpassed his most sanguine expectations, 2000 copies of it having been dispersed amongst a discerning public within the last few months, and the third edition being on the eve of publication.

He has been highly complimented by our very first critics; at the head of these may justly be placed Mr. Gifford and the Rev. Dr. Butler, of Harrow. Some students of Cambridge have honoured Clare with a visit to Helpstone, among others, to his credit be it spoken, is Mr. Chancey Hare Townsend, who has further honoured him with a lively little sonnet, which you will, no doubt, have great satisfaction in communicating to your numerous classical readers.

With regard to more substantial approbations, the accompanying list will sufficiently speak.

Mr. Taylor has, in his introduction, most judiciously suggested, that "those persons who intend to shew Clare kindness, will not do it suddenly or partially, but as it will yield him permanent benefit." That this hint as not been thrown away is most obvious.

Clare's state of health has been so very indifferent for many weeks past, as to compel him to renounce the slightest bodily labour; the poor fellow was born weakly, and has been subject to fits from his very earliest infancy. It will be heard with much satisfaction, that Lord Milton has, consistently with his former noble conduct towards the poor sufferer, placed him under a most eminent physician, in consequence of which he is returning to comparative health, for as to bodily labour, it is for ever out of the question. — I am, Sir, your most obliged humble servant, A FRIEND TO DESERVING GENIUS.

P.S. Should it be considered that the sums already subscribed for Clare are quite sufficient for his support, let it be remembered that he has a wife and two aged parents to maintain; that his mother is sinking under a dropsy, and that his father has been a cripple from rheumatism upwards of seven years. Be it remembered likewise, that permanent relief is required, and that his capital (now in Five per Cents.) is not to be broken in upon.

LIST OF CLARE'S ILLUSTRIOUS AND NOBLE BENEFACTORS, PATRONS, AND PATRONESSES.

Prince Leopold, 20; Duke of Beford, 20; Earl Fitzwilliam, 100; Lord John Russell, 10; Earl of Cardigan, 10; Earl of Brownlow, 10; Earl of Winchelsea, 10; Lord Milton, 20; Lord Kenyon, 10; Lord Northwick, 10; Countess of Derby, 4; Sir Thomas Baring, Bart. 10; E. Lee, Esq. 5; J. Watts Russell, Esq. 5; Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, 100; Marquis of Exeter, annuity for life, 15; Earl Manvers, 10; Lord Rivers, 5; Earl and Countess of Harcourt; Earl and Countess of Liverpool; Earl and Countess of Waldegrave, 8 copies; Countess of Erne; Countess of Normanton, 6 copies; Bishop of Durham, 8 copies; Mrs. Ross, Portland-place, 12 copies; Mr. and Mrs. Bootle Wilbraham, 8 copies; Mrs. Hort, Wimpole-street, 40 copies; Admiral Sir Charles Pole, 6 copies; Sir Thomas Baring, Bart. 20 copies; Sir James Langham, Bart. 6 copies; Thomas Hope, Esq. 3 1 copy; H. P. Hope, Esq. 5 1 copy; Mrs. Hill, 4 copies; Hon. Mr. Fortescue, 4 copies; Wm. Sotheby, Esq. 4 copies; Sundry 1 notes given for one or two copies, 15.