My primary debt is to the Arts and Humanities Research Board and to the University of Glasgow who between them funded a period of research leave in the academic year 1999–2000 without which this book would not have been written. My colleagues, Dorothy McMillan, Robert Cummings, Seamus Perry, Stephen Prickett, and Nicola Trott, kindly read my manuscript and made valuable suggestions for its improvement. I have also benefited from discussions with two other colleagues, Clifford Siskin and Janet Todd. These are all more than colleagues – they are friends – and if they feel that I have placed rather a high tax on friendship, they have paid it uncomplainingly. Dorothy McMillan has cheerfully accepted even greater impositions: she is not just my colleague and my friend but my wife. I am grateful, too, to the anonymous readers of the manuscript for their generosity, and even more grateful for their strictures. It still may not be the book that they would have liked me to write, but it is a better book for their comments.
This book has been very long in gestation. Early versions of some chapters have been given as conference papers, and some have appeared as articles. I am grateful to the conference organizers who allowed me to try out my work; amongst them, Lilla Crisafulli (three times; at Rome, Bologna, and Lerici), Nora Crook, John Goodridge, Simon Kovesi, Warwick Gould, Nicholas Roe (twice), Rebecca Stott, and John Sutherland. I am also grateful to the editors of John Clare: New Voices, the Keats-Shelley Journal, the Keats-Shelley Review, the Philological Quarterly, and Victorian Poetry for permission to re-use material that appeared in an earlier form in these publications. I am grateful too to all those who responded to those articles and conference papers, especially Stuart Curran, who has saved me from repeating a particularly egregious mistake.