John Clare: The Critical Heritage

By Mark Storey | Go to book overview

102.

Edwin Paxton Hood on Clare

1851

From ‘John Clare, the Peasant Poet’ in Hood’s Literature of Labour, 1851, pp. 128-64.

Edwin Paxton Hood (1820-85), a Congregational minister, contributor to (and for some time editor of) the Eclectic Review, was the first to write so expansively about Clare (see Introduction, pp. 14-15). It was he who wrote the unsigned account of Clare in the Eclectic, August 1865, n.s. ix, 101-38. A chapter on Clare appeared in his Peerage of Poverty, 5th edition, revised, 1870. Both these later accounts leaned heavily on the chapter in Literature of Labour, without adding much. (See Introduction, note 60. )

But never have Literature and Labour been more beautifully combined than in the instance of John Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant. Perhaps none of those who have attained any degree of eminence in literature from the lowly walks of life, ever had to contend with difficulties so stern and severe as this noble soul.

[Biographical details]

At present he is confined in an asylum in the neighbourhood of Northampton. It is not to be supposed that the mind has really tottered from its throne: the fact appears to be that the body is too weak for the mind. Some of the most pleasant and touching verses have been written since his affliction, and in the course of a few pages we shall lay before our readers some of these curiosities of literature. The memory of the Poet has not during his long estrangement passed away from his native village. From its excellent rector, the Rev. Mr. Mossop, we derived much of the information we have detailed above. In a recent pilgrimage to the Poet’s birthplace, he most courteously received and furnished to the writer the mournful details of the swan of Helpstone. And from thence we passed to the cottage of Northborough, and spent a few

-257-

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