John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

14.

From an unsigned review, New Monthly Magazine

March 1820, xiii, 326-30

Without the knowledge of these [biographical] facts, indeed, any decision on the productions themselves would be premature; since, if they possess sufficient intrinsic merit to please, they will obtain some additional commendation from a consideration of the circumstances under which they were composed; whilst those circumstances may fairly be pleaded in extenuation of whatever defects they display, and may serve as an apology for the absence of that transcendent excellence which more favoured poets have attained….

[Quotes from Introduction]

Of the subjects of these poems, and the style in which they are composed, two things are chiefly to be remarked: first, that they contain true and minute delineations of external nature, drawn from actual observation; and, secondly, that they abound with provincialisms, and are not unfrequently blemished by grammatical inaccuracies. Clare is strictly a descriptive poet; and his daily occupation in the fields has given him a manifest advantage over those minstrels whose pastoral strains are inspired by the contemplation of the furze and stinted herbage of Hampstead Heath, or the sooty verdure of a London square. In his descriptions we find no ‘sweet buds’ and ‘wavy grass, ’ and ‘leafy glories, ’ twice and thrice and thirty times repeated. He revels in an unbounded luxuriance of epithets; in his minuteness of detail he seems at a loss where to stop; he paints every mode of colour and of form, and when his attention is attracted by objects which he cannot define by ordinary language, he invents new forms of expression, as singular as they are vigorous and appropriate. ‘Thus’, it is observed in the introduction, ‘be frequently makes verbs of substantives, as in the line

Dark and darker glooms the sky.

Or of adjectives, as in the following—

-68-

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