John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

6.

Octavius Gilchrist introduces Clare to the literary world

1820

‘Some Account of John Clare, an Agricultural Labourer and Poet’, London Magazine, January 1820, i, 7-11.

Octavius Gilchrist (1779-1823) a Stamford grocer, poet, critic and journalist (editor of Drakard’s Stamford News), formed, through Taylor, a warm friendship with Clare. He was also an antiquary, an expert on Ford and Jonson, and a friend of William Gifford, editor of the Quarterly Review (see No. 25); he became involved in the Bowles-Byron controversy over Pope, with his Letter to the Rev. William Bowles, 1820. After Gilchrist’s death in 1823, his widow continued to correspond fairly regularly with Clare. Gilchrist was rather apologetic about this introductory article: he wrote on 14 January 1820, ‘In the article in the Magazine I thought it expedient to praise as little as might be, because people don’t like to have their judgment anticipated, and those who know anything of the world know how to contrive their best’ (Eg. 2245, fol. 19). But a week later (21 January) he reported that he had received a ‘satisfactory letter from Taylor, —satisfactory inasmuch as he thinks my article calculated to be of essential service in promoting the sale of the Poems’ (Eg. 2245, fol. 27). But Drury was more critical: he noted, in an undated letter to Taylor, that ‘Mr. G. has picturesqued finely in the London Mag. ’ (NMS. 43); and, hearing that Gilchrist was contemplating another article (see No. 22), he hoped (31 January 1820) that his ‘forthcoming comments will be less far-fetched and less laboured than his former favour—because it looks as if he wrote per force and not voluntarily’ (NMS. 43). See Introduction, p. 5.


Song was his favourite and first pursuit:
His infant muse, though artless, was not mute;

-35-

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