John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

every Day Life on the other, there is a vast Field for your Genius to roll over in, & frolic, & kick about like a young Colt in a Pasture.


72.

Some comments on ‘The Parish’

1823

Clare’s lengthy attempt at satire forms a companion piece to The Shepherd’s Calendar. It was not published in Clare’s lifetime, although at one stage plans were afoot (Eg. 2247, fol. 102). Clare told Taylor on 12 May 1826 that it was ‘the best thing in my own mind that I have ever written’ (LJC, p. 192). The fullest version available of the poem is in Selected Poems, ed. Elaine Feinstein, 1968.

(a) Eliza Emmerson to Clare, 3 February 1823, Eg. 2246, fol. 152v. (Lord Radstock was clearly thinking along similar lines when he sent Clare some quotations from Hugh Blair on the dangers of Satire: Eg. 2246, fol. 56).

How goes on your ‘Satire’ ‘The Parish’—is it in verse or prose?—though, in any form, I almost hate the name of Satire—however ably indulged, it is an unamiable use of abilities, and often serves to destroy our better faculties & feelings.

(b) Eliza Emmerson to Clare, 23 March 1823, Eg. 2246, foll. 167v-8:

I like your ‘Parish’—very much, it is powerfully written—& you have contrived to admirably blend feeling with severity—your ‘Overseer’ is represented in biting language—and the higher authority of Justice is little less keenly treated by you—however, you temper all this, by tender & pathetic appeals to their human & private characteristics as

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