Academic journal article Wordsworth Circle

"Married at Last": A New Source for Clare's "Don Juan"

Academic journal article Wordsworth Circle

"Married at Last": A New Source for Clare's "Don Juan"

Article excerpt

The references to Queen Victoria and to Prince Albert in Clare's "Don Juan" (Early Poems I 92-94), while echoing Byron's poem in several particulars, are usually interpreted as expressions of Clare's mental illness, as they mostly are:

  --Prince Albert goes to Germany & must he
  Leave the queens snuff box where all fools are strumming
  From addled eggs no chickens can be coming

  Whigs strum state fiddle strings until they snap
  With cuckoo cuckold cuckoo year by year
  The razor plays it on the barbers strap
  --The sissars grinder thinks it rather queer
  That labour wont afford him 'one wee drap'
  Of ale or gin or half & half or beer
  --I wish Prince Albert & the noble dastards
  Who wed the wives--would get the noble bastards

  I wish prince Albert on his german journey
  I wish the Whigs were out of office &
  Pickled in law books of some good attorney
  For ways & speeches few can understand
  They'll bless ye when in power--in prison scorn ye
  & make a man rent his own house & land--
  I wish prince Albert's queen was undefiled
  --& every man could get his wife with child

Clare's preoccupation with marital infidelity (harping back to his suspicion of Patty's infidelity during their courtship) is a principal motivation for these lines, but is it the only one?

In A Ballad History of England (1979), Roy Palmer published a song called "Married at Last" (1840), on which he comments: "I am sure that the ballad is grossly unfair to Victoria and Albert, but the portrayal of the chaste queen as a harridan with gross sexual appetites has vigour, rough humour, and a little affection. However, Victoria would certainly not have been amused" (20-121). Here it is:

  I am a damsel gay and bright,
  Who likes to do the thing that's right,
  The secret I don't like to mince,
  I have married a buxom German prince,
  He brought me sausages so fine,
  He kiss'd me well and used me kind,
  Thirty thousand pounds he has got a year
  I am married at last and I don't care.

Lines 64-5 of Clare's "Don Juan" read:

  Children are fond of sucking suger candy
  & maids of sausages--larger the better

Nor is this the only resemblance between Clare's poem and "Married at Last". …

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