John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

23.

From an unsigned review, Eclectic Review

April 1820, n.s. xiii, 327-40

It is possible that this review, and also that of The Village Minstrel in the Eclectic Review (No. 60), was by the poet Josiah Conder (see No. 81). See Introduction, p. 7.

If it be the characteristic privilege of genius, as distinguishable from mere talent, ‘to carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of the man, ’—to combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with the every day appearances of nature,

With sun and moon and stars throughout the year,
With man and woman, —

and if there be any truth in the assertion, that, ‘so to represent familiar objects as to awaken the minds of others to a like healthy freshness of sensation concerning them, is its most unequivocal mode of manifestation, ’1 —there can be no hesitation in classing the Author of these poems, to whatsoever rank in society he should prove to belong, among the most genuine possessors of this dangerous gift. That a peasant should write verses, would, in the present day, afford no matter of astonishment; and did the individual challenge attention in the character of a prodigy, the wonder would soon be over. There is nothing prodigious in real genius, under whatsoever circumstances it has been developed. But a genuine and powerful interest, that does more honour to its object, cannot fail to be excited by the perusal of these exquisitely vivid descriptions of rural scenery, in every lover of nature, who will feel a sort of affinity to the Author; and the recollection that the sensibility, the keenness of observation, and the imaginative enthusiasm which they display, have discovered themselves in an individual of the very humblest station in society, in a day-labourer, whose independence of spirit alone has sustained him above actual pauperism, will be attended by sensations similar to those with which he would recognise some member

1 Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ch. iv.

-88-

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