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LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.-NO. 1140.-7 APRIL, 1866.
From the Eclectic and Congregational Review.
In the spring of 1864, in the Northamptonshire General County Lunatic Asylum, after a sad incarceration of about twentythree years, an appendix to a previous incarceration in a private asylum, from which he escaped, died John Clare. In the lucid intervals which shone upon him, he had always expressed a wish to sleep his last sleep in the churchyard of his native village, Helpston. Accordingly, when his spirit had fled, the superintendent of the asylum wrote to the Earl Fitzwilliam, one of the great peers of England, and whose property lies immediately in the neighbourhood of Helpston, asking for the grant of a small sum to carry the wish of the poor deceased into effect. The illustrious peer briefly replied by a refusal, implying that the deceased died as a pauper, and should be buried in the pauper's burial-ground. There were others who judged more generously than the noble earl, and it is a satisfaction to feel that this great indignity was not perpetrated towards the remains of one of the sweetest village nightingales that ever warbled the notes of pastoral melody in English verse. A requisite burial-fund was raised in a few days; the poet's body was conveyed to Helpston, and now lies beneath the shade of a sycamore-tree, tombed over only by the green grass and the eternal vault of the sky. It is our purpose to inquire a little, while we glance through Mr. Martin's most affectionate and mournfully interesting biography, into the claims John Clare has to memory and affectionate homage as one who has done honour to our land's language, and to inquire how far the Earl Fitzwilliam was justified in treating as a pauper's, the remains of one who certainly
•1. The Lift of John Clare. By Frederick Martin. Macmillan and Co. 3. The Rural Muse: Poonsbyjohn Clare. Whittaker, 1*15.
3. Poems descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery.
By John Clare, a Northamptonshire peasant.
4. The Village Minstrel, and other Poems. By
John Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant. 2 Tols. Printed for Taylor and Uessey.
FOURTH SERIES. LIVING AGE. VOL. I,
had the sad accidents of pauperism associated with his life. Forty-five years ago, that terrible critic, William Gifford, in the Quarterly Review, expressed his sense of marvelling admiration ovtr the genius of the poor young peasant. The whole review is cast in the appreciative strain of the following words: —
We had nearly overlooked, amidst the bulkier works which incessantly solicit our attention, this interesting little volume; which bears indubitable evidence of being composed altogether from the impulses of the writer's mind, as excited by external objects and internal sensations. Here are no tawdry and feeble paraphrases of former poets, no attempts nt describing what the author might have become acquainted with in his limited reading: the woods, the vales, the brooks —
"the crimson spots
or the loftier phenomena of the heavens, contemplated through the alternations of hope and despondency, arc the principal sources whence the youth, whose adverse circumstances and resignation under them extort our sympathy, drew the faithful and vivid pictures before us. Examples of mind, highly gifted by nature, struggling with and breaking through the bondage of adversity, are not rare in this country; but privation is not destitution; and the instance before us is, perhaps, one of the most striking, of patient and persevering talent existing and enduring in the most forlorn and seemingly hopeless condition, that literature has at any time exhibited.
Our distinguished predecessor of the Eclectic /.euieto for 1820 writes in an equal strain of eloquence and admiration in a review of considerable length, marked by several subtle touches of sympathy ; speaking of the poems as " exquisitely vivid descriptions of rural scenery," characterized by minute "fidelity and tastefulness of description; as far superior in spirit and picturesque beauty, and tasteful expression, to the namby-pamby style of ordinary English pastorals, as the scenes from which he derives his inspirations are to Vauxhall Gardens."
After some quotations, the writer says: —