John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

POWER by whom these were bestowed, he may, without presumption, anticipate a rich reward in the future for the evils endured in the morning of his life.


26.

Unsigned article, Guardian

28 May 1820, i

This article, headed ‘Clare, the Northamptonshire Poet’, is referred to by J. G. Lockhart in his brief discussion of Clare in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (No. 27). The view expressed here may seem unduly harsh, but it was the inevitable result of the publicity Clare had received.

The public efforts which have been made to place this man above the common struggles of his place in life, are honourable to English liberality. Scotland has been reproached, and deservedly reproached, with the fate of Burns, to whom a hundredth part of the money that its opulent ostentation is now lavishing on stones and mortar to his memory, would have been affluence. A more feeling plan seems to be adopted, to secure Clare from penury; and the sums set down in the names of his distinguished patrons, are proofs at once of good sense and timely generosity. But in this, as in all matters where publicity is to be won, there are foolish and noisy intruders, who throw the wisest plans into hazard, and, not unfrequently, conclude by making that absurd or impossible, which was in the commencement, liberal, rational, and humane. Some of those dangerous and active persons have already gone the first downward step, by ‘out-heroding Herod’ in their panegyrics of this poor man as a genius. The natural and most unfortunate result of this folly is, to turn the object of their praise into a fool. The lower orders are singularly apt to place an idle estimate upon their own powers,

-100-

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