John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

89.

John Clare on Southey’s view of uneducated poets

1831

Clare to Taylor, 7 March 1831, LJC, p. 254.s2

Clare was angry at Southey’s account which appeared in Attempts in Verse, by John Jones, an old Servant, with some account of the writer by himself, and an Introductory Essay on the Lives and Works of our Uneducated Poets, 1830. Two reviews in particular of this work are instructive: that by J. G. Lockhart in Quarterly Review, January 1831, xliv, 52-82, and that by Thomas H. Lister (1800-42) in Edinburgh Review, September 1831, liv, 69-84. Lister commented ominously: ‘Experience does not authorize us to regard it as probable, that the world will be favoured with any poetry of very exalted merit from persons in humble life and of defective education. ’

Mr Southey seems to hold uneducated poets in very little estimation & talks about the march of mind in a sneering way—as to education it aids very little in bringing forth that which is poetry—& if it means [a] humble situation in life is to be the toleration for people to praise him I should say much admiration is worth but little.

-216-

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