Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview
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49.

John Clare, from a letter to H. F. Cary

1829

Successively a shepherd, pot-boy, gardener, vagrant, and, ultimately, a madman, John Clare (1793-1864) enjoyed a few short years as a poet of some esteem.

Having successfully pawned off a composition of his own in 1825 as a poem of Marvell’s, he admitted both the fabrication and his rationale in a letter to H. F. Cary, the translator of Dante.

Extract from The Letters of John Clare, ed. J. W. and A. Tibble (1951), pp. 223-5.

Helpstone Jany 1829

MY DEAR SIR

…I write to beg your opinion of the enclosed Poem as one of those I intended to pass off as the writings of others—this I sent to the Everyday book1 as the production of Andrew Marvel, & the Editor took it for granted that it was so & paid me a compliment in praising it which he would not have done had it passed under my own name & as I still have thoughts of going on with the deception I have sent it to request your opinion of it. I know nothing of the writing of the old Poets further then the ‘Specimens of Ellis’ & the ‘Songs of Ritson’2 but the idea of their manner is all I want to be acquainted with—I had read that Marvel was a great advocate for liberty & as death is a great leveller I thought it would add to the disguise to father upon him that subject. I have written several others for Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Henry Wooton &c &c; the old manner is all that I attempt with sprinkling a few old words [h]ere

1 Edited by William Hone, 1825.

2 The first edition (1790) of Specimens of the Early English Poets, edited by George Ellis, did not, in fact, include any Marvell; the second (1801) included two poems, both abridged: ‘Daphnis and Chloe’ and ‘Young Love. Joseph Ritson’s Ancient Songs (1792) and Ancient Songs and Ballads (1829) also did not include any Marvell, though ‘The Nymph’ is one he did include in his three-volume English Anthology (1793-4).

-148-

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