John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

96.

John Wilson, unsigned review, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

July 1835, xxxviii, 231-47

John Wilson—or ‘Christopher North’—(1785-1854) was a wayward, temperamental critic, and Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh. His review, important for its basic seriousness, did not please Taylor who told Clare on 3 August 1835 (Eg. 2249, fol. 295):

The Review is a very poor one, very Scotch & very much inferior to what it should have been. Its author has no conception of the Imaginative Faculty in Poetry, in which your Genius excels, & which is the highest Faculty of the Poet. He therefore fails to estimate properly your character as a Poet, and advises you to imitate Bloomfield! This is sad Foolery, but we must be content. I hope the Review will help the Sale of the Work—Everybody says it is the best Volume you have yet published & I am sure it is. —Had you heard what James Montgomery said of yourself & your Poems one day lately to me, you would have been very much pleased. The praise of such a man is worth having.

On the other hand Mrs Emmerson exclaimed on 10 August, I am rejoiced to find “The Rural Muse” meets with such gracious notice—all the Journals I have seen speak of your “Poems” in terms of high commendation—“Blackwood” has a very ample notice…the article is written with great good feeling in judgement. ’ The review reappeared, substantially the same, in Recreations of Christopher North, 1864, i, 313-21, with one significant alteration: ‘His mind is an original one, and this volume proves it’ becomes ‘His mind is an original one, and his most indifferent verses prove it. ’ See Introduction, pp. 12-13.

It is with heartfelt pleasure that we take up a new volume of Poems by John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant. Some fifteen years or thereabouts, we believe, have elapsed since he earned that title which,

-225-

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