Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

Our Silver Jubilee

Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

Our Silver Jubilee

Article excerpt

I may be biased, of course, but I doubt if there is a literary society in this country which can look back on an achievement comparable to that of the John Clare Society. There has been such a constant growth and revelation, such enthralling scholarship, such an increase of understanding of this writer by what Virginia Woolf would have called the Common Clare Reader, that we are allowed in 2006 to celebrate our part in making him known as he is today. For twenty-five exciting years the Society has been the means of widening a knowledge of Clare, one that reaches out and inspires some of the best poets and naturalists of our own day. Often when we are reading Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, and Richard Mabey, we are also hearing Clare's voice. As for the social history of the English countryside, Clare's contribution has been incalculable.

Now that we have reached this auspicious date I find myself a bit vague about the Society's beginnings. I know that the Rector of Helpston, the Reverend Brian Blade, Daphne Faux, George Dixon, Edward Storey, Rodney Lines and others had come together in 1981 to create a little group in Clare's birthplace where his work could be read and his fields visited, and that Charles Causley was invited to be President. Charles had done his teacher training after the War at Peterborough and used to cycle to Helpston, hence his famous poem. 'But', he said, 'I live in Cornwall-ask Ronnie'. Thus arrived my favourite literary outing of all the year, to the Clare Society's festival on the poet's birthday, 13 July. Twenty-five happy journeys from Wormingford to a village I have never seen in winter. …

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