1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Clare

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 452.



Clare (1793-1864) was a native of Helpstone, England. His parents were peasants — his father a helpless cripple and a pauper. John got some education by his own extra work as a ploughboy. At thirteen he hoarded up a shilling to buy a copy of Thomson's Seasons. In 1820 he published Poems descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, by John Clare, a Northamptonshire Peasant. The work was kindly received, and soon he was in possession of a little fortune. But his prosperity did not last. His discretion was not equal to his fortitude. He speculated in farming, wasted his little hoard, sank into nervous despondency and despair, and was finally placed in a lunatic asylum. He remained there about four years, and then effected his escape. He was retaken, and worried out twenty years more of his unfortunate life in confinement. He was a faithful painter of rustic scenes, and keenly sensitive to the beauties of nature. The last words of poor Clare, as he closed his mortal eyes forever, were, "I want to go home!"