Page images

low the salt. Always ? No. Here and fore, he wrote and put in his own strong there occur instances in which the light protest against the account of himself in that shone from his pages dissolve the the London Magazine, containing also the social distinction. A month or two after announcement of his dissolution of friendthe publication of his volume, he was in- ship with Mr. Holland, the only satisfaction vited to Holywell Park, the seat of General he received was the announcement that he Reynardson; he was only permitted to sit was a most ungrateful young man. Meandown with the servants in the hall, but time there was a rush upon the publisher for there was a young governess who did not the poems: from their publication, or from hesitate to pour upon him simple, unaf- any of his subsequent publications, we do fected admiration, waited for him, met him not see that much benefit resulted to him. in the park, procured him an invitation to The noblemen, however, in his neighbourtea in the housekeeper's room, and probably hood - Viscount Milton, the son of Earl gave to him, for the first time, that which Fitzwilliam, and the Marquis of Exeter is dearer than all the homages of criticism, sent for him. Earl Fitzwilliam and Lord not to say the invitations of the parvenue Milton gave him an earnest warning to or the nobleman, a gentle, loving woman's mind what he was about with the booksellearnest admiration and unselfish praise. lers. Lord Milton frightened him by taking Love verses are not much in our way, but out of his pocket a handful of seventeen some the young governess admired very golden sovereigns. Poor Clare never had a heartily, seem to us very poetically and distinct comprehension that there was that sweetly turned. They also found their way amount of money in the world before. to the pianos of so many drawing-rooms, When he got outside the park gates he took that they should have saved their author off his necktie, perhaps to breathe a little from a dinner in the kitchen.

more freely, certainly to tie up the sove

reigns in it; and he ran as fast as he could My love, thou art a nosegay sweet,

the miles intervening between him and My sweetest flower I prove thee;

Helpston. We may be sure there was some And pleas'd I pin thee to my breast, merry-making in the poor little cottage And dearly do I love thee.

that night; not unadulterated; we fancy, by And when, my nosegay, thou shall fade,

certain lumps in the throat of the poor, overAs sweet a flower thou'lt prove thee;

sensitive, nervous man. We have a fancy And as thou witherest on my breast,

that true poets cannot take sovereigns exFor beauty past I'll love thee.

actly like beggars; but peers have shown

themselves very wise about these matters. And when, my nosegay, thou shalt die, Great was the amazement in Helpston when

And heaven's flower shalt prove thee; the poor neighbour, John Clare, was inMy hopes shall follow to the sky,

vited to Milton Park; but greater still was And everlasting love thee.

their amazement when a messenger in all

the gorgeousness of scarlet and gold came Clare never saw his governess again. over from Burleigh; the Marquis of Exe She met him by the park gates; “I could ter would also see the poet

for the great not hear of your going,” she said, “ without Tory organ, The Quarterly, had given in its saying good-bye. There were a wife and verdict in very marked words to the genlittle one with his father and mother in the uineness of genius in his lowly neighbour. poor cottage at home. Perhaps the reader He was to make his appearance in Burleigh will forgive the peasant if he turned some- Hall “to-morrow morning at eleven.” 'It is times a glance back upon the young enthu- many a long generation since any person siast of Holywell Park, though, indeed, within twenty miles of Stamford would much as he felt it at the moment, it never dare to resist the will of a Marquis of Exeagain appears.

ter; but at this moment, when the invitaNow came the ovations of the press; but tion came, poor John was only possessed of with some of them the ungrateful Clare was one pair of shoes in the world, and they not well pleased. The London Magazine, were at the cobbler's. It was a matter of the property of the publisher of his poems, grave discussion that night in Helpston cotmade a most undignified appeal to public tage, but it was ultimately decided that he charity, and invoked the aid of the nobility could not go without shoes before the marand gentry on behalf of the poor young quis; the cobbler was away threshing; the man. Nobody seemed to suppose for a mo- visit must be postponed until the next day. ment that the poor young man might be When he presented himself, inwardly trema most sensitive young man; when, there- / bling at the idea of the interview with the great marquis, whose very valet was looked maid, or a footman. It is to the honour upon as a man of high estate, he gave his of the Scotch nobility that they did not name to the porter, and was told that he treat Burns thus; in days when his hands ought to have come the day before. Poor were holding the plough, duchesses permitClare made some apologies founded on the ted him to conduct them to their carriage, state of the weather. The weather!” ex- and were proud of the ploughman's escort. claimed the porter, in a high state of excite. The reader will say, perhaps, character ment, “ do you mean to say that you have made all the difference; one was a bold, not obeyed his lordship's commands simply daring, and graceful, and the other a shrinkbecause it was a wet day? I tell you, you ing, retiring creature ; but it was scarcely ought to have come if it had rained knives for noblemen and gentlemen to read the and forks.” Frightened and alarmed, Clare difference; both were peers in their own was about to turn his back and run away kingdom. We are not presenting these when he was stopped by a footman; his feeble outlines with any idea that they will name had somehow been conveyed to the satisfy the curiosity of our readers; we trust marquis, and there was an order to admit they will for themselves obtain and read the him instantly; so he was hurried up the biography by Mr. Martin. It is a romancemarble staircase, through the maze of halls life ; it is characterized by a quiet persistand corridors, in his cloddish shoes and ent individuality which, long before its fatal mud-besprinkled garments, among all the climax of sorrow and calamity, looks like splendid upholstery and pictured halls - hallucination; wild flashes come and go and at last he stood before the great man ; along the incidents of the life, innocent, but the great man was a kind and amiable but unnatural, like sheet-lightning; no misyoung man, not at all the terrible ogre that chief, no wild outbreaking ; scarcely even either footman - or porter had been. He what one likes to designate disease; but the did his best to put the poor poet at his ease; manifestations are surely those all along of a he had seen the review in The Quarterly, sensibility which, in such circumstances, knew something of his humble neighbour's could only be synonymous with sorrow. He verses and difficulties, and told the astound-went to London in 1820, and saw the sights ed and astonished lime-burner that he in- and lions, expressing, on the whole, his distended to give him fifteen guineas a-year. appointment with it altogether - boldly deClare was perfectly bewildered, and, unable clared that in “ Poet's Corner” he could see to say much, stumbled out of his presence, no poetry, while the great enchantment of but lost his way among the rooms; the all London in that day, Vauxhall, stirred kind marquis found him, and himself, with only his supreme and utter contempt. The out calling for the footman, led him to the wooden bowers, and oil-lamps, and paper outskirts, and then handed him over to the flowers stirred him to astonishment, that servant to be entertained in the kitchen. people could go and stare at such childish The admirers of Clare differed in their things when they were not far from green ideas of his peculiar genius, and in their fields. The guides of John Clare revenged sense of his worth; but his noble patrons themselves by declaring their opinion that all seem to have agreed in one particular- he was a very foolish fellow. În London the conducting him to the kitchen. We he met several eminent persons, and was inquite suppose that Clare was no fitting com- vited to many distinguished parties, of which panion for the stately parties and drawing- the best result was the kind, sympathetic rooms of Milton or Burleigh; assuredly he friendship of Lord Radstock; this nobleman had no taste for such society, and in after was not of Clare's county, but was induced years the bare possibility of such a penance to befriend him by simple feelings of adset him upon devising means of escape ; miration and generosity; and a volume but we — who are not noble, and who do richly bound with the inscription on the not know what the usage is when a noble- title-page- “ The gift of Admiral Lord man discovers a rare poetic creature in Radstock to his dear and excellent friend, lowly lanes, and desires to pet him - should John Clare, August 1st, 1822”- speaks of have supposed that if he were worthy to be the terms of friendship on which he stood called from his cottage in his own right to with that kind nobleman. Returning home, an iuterview in the palace, entertainment his cottage was visited by several disand refreshment should be provided for him tinguished persons. certainly not in the kitchen. We are that ignorant and uncivilized, that a poet seems

The poet, at his humble home, was visited, to us something nobler and higher in first by Lady Fane, eldest daughter of the Earl rank than a scullion, or a cook, a house of Westmoreland ; secondly, by Viscount Milton, coming high on horseback, in the midst of Devonshire, and Northumberland, and red-coated huntsmen; and, finally, greatest of Prince Leopold - - now King Leopold of honours, by the Marquis of Exeter. The vil. Belgium - and the Earl Fitzwilliam, were lagers were awe-struck when the mighty lord, in his emblazoned coach, with a crowd of glit- Walter Scott treated the poor peasant, we

among the promoters of the design. Sir tering lackeys around, came up to the cottage think, with a very ungracious contempt; of Parker Clare, the pauper. Mrs. Clare was atterly terrified, for she was standing at the but he probably thought that it was a danwashing-tub, and the baby was crying. Her gerous experiment to withdraw so humble greatest pride consisted in keeping the little and helpless a being from the paths and cottage neat and tidy; but, as ill-luck would pursuits of toil: and successful in life he hæve it, she was always washing whenever visi- was not; it could hardly be expected that tors dropped in. The marquis, with aristo- he could continue, through these years, cratic taet, saved poor Patty from a fresh hu- lime-burning, or merely hedging or ditchmiliation. Hearing the loud voice of the baby ing. It is true that he had acquired tastes footmen to inquire whether Clare was at home. and ideas which had placed him above that The man in plush carefully advanced to the lowest rung of the ladder, and, with his cottage door, and holding a silk handkerchief friends and patrons, the truth slowly dawnbefore his fine Roman nose, summoned John ed upon his mind that he must remain a before him. Old Parker Clare thereupon hob- farmer's drudge and a poetical pauper, to bled forward, trembling all over, and, in a faint plough and thresh — something better than voice, told the great man that his son was mow- a clown, something less than a lackey in ing corn, in a field close to Helpston Heath. uniform.

He too often had quite insuffiThither the glittering cavalcade proceeded, and cient food; he got into a habit of absenting, John was soon discovered, in the midst of the himself from his family, at meal-times going other labourers, busy with his sickle. Though into the fields and munching a dry crust; somewhat startled on being addressed by his lordship, he was secretly pleased that the inter- breaking down at last with hunger and faview was taking place in the field instead of in tigue, although he did his best to provide his narrow little hut. It seemed to him that meals for his family, and usually, somehow, here, among the sheaves of corn, he himself succeeded. Fantastic visions crowded more was somewhat taller and the noble marquis constantly and hurriedly through his brain, somewhat smaller than within the four walls of his health failed altogether, and his mind any cottage or palace; and this feeling encour- began to fail. From his sick-bed he fled to aged him to speak with less embarrassment to the fields, and was found sitting as in a his illustrious visitor. His lordship said he had heard rumors that a new volume of poetry illumined by the setting sun.

trance, in a favourite hollow oak, his face was forthcoming, and wanted to know whether

But again he it was true. Clare replied that he was busy visited London, and was an involuntary writing verses in his spare hours, and that he spectator of the funeral procession of Lord intended writing still more after the harvest, Byron. Returning home, he attempted to and during the next winter, which would, prob- obtain a situation as assistant-gardener ? ably, result in another book with his name on the Marquis of Exter; and then he tried the title-page. The marquis expressed his the Earl Fitzwilliam ; with him he had an satisfaction in hearing this news, and, after a interview; he was very kind to him in few kind words, and a hint that he would be glad to see some specimens, in manuscript, of manner, but he supposed that he received a the new publication, took his farewell. John good income from the sale of his books, and Clare was not courtier enough to understand did not find till long afterwards, what was the hint about the manuscripts in all its bear- the truth, that he received very little from ings. For a moment, the thought flashed them; that, in fact, they had been of little through his mind of asking his lordship to allow use to him but to remove him from his stathe new volume to be dedicated to him; but the tion in life, and to barrow his feelings. At idea was as instantaneously. crushed by, a re- home he sighed over the absence of all conmembrance of the fatal article in the London genial society. "I live here,” he wrote to Magazine, in which it was said, “We really do his publisher, Mr. Taylor, “ among the ignonot see what noblemen have to do with the sup- rant like a lost man;" and he was literally port of poets more than other people.” The remark had left a deep impression upon his

through months and years — starving. mind, and he felt its truth more than ever The truth came out once when on an excurwhile standing face to face with a great lord, sion with Mr. Artis, the intelligent and sickle in hand, among the yellow corn. even learned butler of Earl Fitzwilliam :

he fainted and fell from sheer starvation and However, earnest efforts were made to exhaustion; yet bis cottage seemed neat and procure an annuity for him to save him tidy, and on his shelves there were many irom want, and the Dukes of Bedford, and beautifully bound books, but they were mostly presentation copies; and there were robbed him of the profits of his works ; that many appearances which seemed to indicate some noble patrons, alluded to in no complitolerable prosperity to those who did not mentary terms, kept feeding him with compli. know how bitterly poverty consumed with ments, but left him to starve; and much more in. Lord Radstock urged him to obtain a hurt his feelings, and he at once sent a letter to

to the same effect. The whole account deeply distinct statement and settlement from his

a friend at Stamford, contributor to Mr. Clark's publishers. At this his publishers were of- magazine. The letter ran : “My dear friend, fended; they wished to regard Clare as an - 1 am obliged to write to you to contradict orphan and protégé, to whom they were not the misrepresentations in your paper of Octoresponsible, and for whom they had already ber 5th, which I received on Saturday.

As done sufficiently. Lord Radstock was not long as my own affairs are misrepresented, I satisfied, and insisted that even if Clare had care nothing about it; but such falschoods as roceived more than was due to him, yet it are bandied about in this article not only hurt

Mr Clark in makwould be better to furnish regular accounts, my feelings but injure me. and so to foster bis self-reliance ; the publish- ing these statements must have known that he ers yielded his point to the peer, but at this aware of his intentions to meddle in my affairs,

was giving circulation to lies; and had I been juncture Lord Radstock died, and Clare's I should most assuredly have treated him as a only really true friend, able to help, was foe in disguise. For enemies I care nothing ; removed. His publishers then advised him from friends I have much to fear, it seems. to bawk his own volumes over the county; There never was a more scandalous insult to this step failed, of course; it was an utter my feelings than this officious misstatement. failure, and ought never to have been coun

I am no beggar; for my income is selled; yet some people no doubt meant £36, and though I have had no final settlement kindly to him, but they took injudicious The letter, after going into the de ails of his

with Taylor, I expect to have one directly." methods to show that kindness. Mr. Martin, we think, writes too bitterly, and Mr. Taylor, not altogether complimentary

commercial transactions both with Mr. Drury in the warmth and earnestness of his affec- to the former, ended with a positive demand tion. Mrs. Marsh, the wife of the eminent that the statements made in the magazine Dr. Marsh, Bishop of Peterborough, sought should be retracted. to befriend him, would have him visit at the But no attention was paid to this demand. episcopal palace, and made arrangements The result was that Clare got more gloomy and for a large party, to introduce him. The melancholy than ever, hiding himself for whole nervous poet, when the party arrived, was

days in the neigbhouring woods, and refusing found missing. His whole nature and frame to see even the most intimate of his friends. were unfitted to bear such excitements. article and officious misstatement,” of which

The publication of the unfortunate magazine We pity Cowper. Have we no pity for there appeared no public contradiction, was Clare ? When he spoke to, or was intro- likewise not without effect upon the demeanour duced to a beautiful woman, he trembled of Clare's patrons. Earl Fitzwilliam, after with nervous excitement. He had, the providing him with a suitable dwelling in an unreader will say, an unbalanced being. Yes, expectedly generous manner, subsequently left all kinds of beauty, all the relations of this him to his fate. Thus the poet sank deeper mystical world, became to him the magical and deeper into poverty and wretchedness, unti affinities which disturbed him. Is not this he could sink no further. the very sensation and faculty of the poet ? But what was his life in itself? a drudgery At last, after weary years, insanity came, and a wretchedness, a hunger and a want; and in 1837 he became an inmate of Dr. a sense of patronage and of benefit, a per- Allen's private lunatic asylum in the centre sistent remembrance on all hands that he of Epping Forest; thence, after several

no better than a child. Officious years' confinement, he escaped. He was friends did him harm; of course he was able afterwards to give some account of his proud and sensitive, the more so from the wanderings. There is no reason to doubt feeling of his weakness in the hands of cir- its perfect accuracy; among all the stories cumstances. Some man, an editor, called of the sad race of poets and their sufferupon him, extracting from him his trials and ings, never was there a more sad story told. life, and hastened from his cottage to pub- Here are some singular and pathetic lish and to profit.

touches in the writing of Mr. Martin :


The poet was immensely astonished when, He rested for the night in an old barn, at the beginning of October, he received a on some trusses of clover, taking the singular paper containing an account of himself and his precaution, before lying down, of placing his troubles. It was stated that his publishers had head towards the north, so as to know in which


direction to start the next morning. This day, July, utterly exhausted, and in a state border-
the 21st of July, he rose early, pursuing his ing upon delirium.
way northward, and crawling more than walk-
ing along the road. A man threw him a
penny which he used to get a glass of ale ; but Here are some touches in his own lan-
beyond this he had again no refreshment. After guage.
a second night, spent in the open air, he rose
once more to crawl onward, slowly but steadily. “I went on mile after after mile, almost con-
To stifle the torments of hunger, he now took vinced I was going the same way I had
to the frightful expedient of eating grass with come. These thoughts were so strong upon
the beasts in the field. The grass served to ap. me, and doubts and hopelessness made me turn
pease the dreadful pains of his stomach, yet so feeble, that I was scarcely able to walk.
left him in the same drowsy condition in which Yet I could not sit down or give up, but shuf-
he was before. His feet were bleeding, the dry fled along till I saw a lamp shining as bright as
gravel of the road having penetrated his old word. the moon, which, on nearing, I found was sus.
out shoes; but he heeded it not, and steadfastly pended over a toll-gate. Before I got through,
pursued his way northward. Alternately sleep- the man came out with a candle, and eyed me
ing and walking, sometimes wandering about narrowly; but having no fear I stopped to ask
in a circle, lying down in ditches at the road. him whether I was going northward. He said,
side, and continuing to eat grass, together with When you get through the gate you are. I
a few bits of tobacco which he found in his thanked him, and went through to the other
pocket, he at length reached the neighbour- side, and gathered my old strength as my
hood of Peterborough and scenes familiar to doubts vanished. I soon cheered up, and hum-
his eye. But he was now fast breaking down med the air of ` Highland Mary' as I went on.
under hunger and fatigue, having had no food I at length came to an odd house, all alone,
for more than ninety hours. Nearing the well- near a wood; but I could not see what the sign
known place, he could get no further, but sank was, though it seemed to stand, oddly enough, in
down on the road, more dead than alive. A a sort of trough, or spout. There was a large
great many people passed — people rich and porch over the door, and being weary I crept
poor, on foot and in carriages, in clerical habit in, and was glad enough to find I could lie with
and in broadcloth ; but not one gave alms, or my legs straight. The inmates were all gone
even noticed, or had a kind word for the dying to rest for I could hear them turn over in bed,
man at the roadside. There was not one good while I lay at full length on the stones in the
Samaritan among all the warfarers from the rich porch. I slept here till daylight, and felt very
episcopal city.

much refreshed. I blest my two wives and
At last there passed a cart, containing some both their families when I laid down and when
persons from Helpston. They recognized I got up in the morning.
their old neighbour, although he was terribly "I have but a slight recollection of my jour-
altered, with the livid signs of starvation im- ney between here and Stilton, for I was
pressed upon his face. The wanderer, in a knocked up, and noticed little or nothing. One
faint voice, told those friends his tale of woe; night I laid in a dyke-bottom, sheltered from
but even they were not Christians enough to the wind, and went asleep for half-an-hour.
lift him into their vehicle and take him home. When I awoke, I found one side wet through
All that they did was to give him a few pence; from the water; so I got out and went on. I
not even placing the money in his hand, with, remember going down a very dark road, hung
perhaps, a kindly greeting, but throwing it at over on both sides with thick trees; it seemed
him from their cart. The wretched poet crept to extend a mile or two. I then entered a town,
along the road to gather the coppers, and then where some of the chamber windows had lights
crawled a little farther on to a public-house, shining in them. I felt so weak here that I
where he procured some refreshment. The was forced to sit on the ground to rest myself,
food the first he had taken for nigh four days and while I sat here a coach that seemed heavi.
– enabled him to pursue his journey slowly, ly laden came rattling up, and splashing the
and he hobbled on through Peterborough, inud in my face, wakened me from a doze. When
the blood still trickling from his wounded feet. I had knocked the gravel out of my shoes I start-
At every stone-heap at the roadside he rested ed again. There was little to notice, for the
himself, until he came to the hamlet of Wer- road very often looked as stupid as myself. I
rington, where a cart ran up against him, out was often half asleep as I went on.
of which sprang a woman who took him in her “The third day I satisfied my hunger by

It was Patty, who had heard from the eating the grass on the roadside, which seemed charitable Helpston people that her husband was to taste something like bread. I was hungry, lying on the road, and had come in search of and eat heartily till I was satisfied; in fact, the him. But Clare did not know her. He refused meal seemed to do me good. The next and even to take a seat at her side, until he was told last day I remembered that I had some tobacco, that she was his " second wife.” Then he al- and my box of lucifers being exhausted, I could lowed himself to be taken to Northborough, not light my pipe. So I took to chewing towhere he arrived in the evening of the 23d of bacco all day, and eat it when I had done. I


« PreviousContinue »