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if so,

We hope we have by this time amply sub-| among the poorest persons in the village. stantiated the opinion we gave at the outset, as He first saw the light in one of the most to the extraordinary merit of these productions: wretched mud-hovels. It is impossible to

if, instead of thinking them very clever imagine circumstances more adverse than considering they are by a day-labourer, our readers those in which the poor child first unfolded agree with us in conceding to them a high degree of poetical merit quite independent of the existence. Mr. Martin says, “ the house was circumstances of their author, they will be pre

more like a prison than a human dwelling. pared to enter, with the requisite sympathy, The hut stood in a dark, gloomy plain, covinto the simple details of his history:

ered with stagnant pools of water, and over

hung by mists during the greater part of and closes by saying, “ Society owes it to it- the year. Yet from out of these surroundself to prevent the author of these poems ings sprang a being to whom all life was from adding another name to the annals of golden, and all nature a breath of paradise.” unbefriended genius.” In those years poor The poor little lad was born a dreamer, Clare was petted and patted by the chief seems to have been stirred by dangerous, reviews of England. Unfortunately, few undefined, unpractical consciousness from people seem to have remembered that he was his very childhood. There is a story of a a poor labourer, almost in pauper circum- wild yearning he had, when a child, to see stances, able only to earn a few shillings a what was to be seen yonder where the sky week. Marquises and earls wrote to him, call- was touching the earth, and, one hot day in ing him to their palaces that they might look June, he set off to see, not saying a word at him; and well they might, for we scarcely to father or mother. Through the hot, close, know where to find such another prodigy sultry air he hurried on, through the gossamer among poets, such an entire severance from mists ; in the morning he set out, a poor every advantage of education resulting in little fellow, trotting on mile after mile, to such melody and sweetness of language; but reach that point where the sky seemed nearmarquises and earls all sent him to dine in est to the earth ; tantalizingly, it seemed to the kitchen with the servants — all, except recede farther from him, the farther he went, one truly beautiful and noble exception, a till, hungry, exhausted, wearied out, he real, hearty, and tender friend, Lord Rad- sunk down. Some labourers gave him a crust stock, who took a deep interest in him and of bread, and sent him on his homeward in his affairs; and which is more, as mark- journey; late at night he arrived home, ing his respect, sat with him and talked fa- and had to endure a thorough good beating miliarly, from time to time, at his table. for his romantic excursion. This was not The nobleman, however, was in his last pleasant, but he often said that his real grief years, and died in the midst of an effort he was that he had been unable to find the was making for Clare's benefit. There is country where heaven and earth met; he really much in this life of Clare which re- found that, nearly seventy years afterwards, calls Moore's vividly true verses :

in spite of Earl Fitzwilliam, in the little

village churchyard ; but that first ramble In the woods of the North there are insects was not a bad parable of his whole future

life. The “ Fen country

was not then On the brains of the elk, till his very last sigh; what it is now - what it has been made by Oh genius ! thy patrons, more cruel than they, the enterprise of some of the finest and First feed on thy brains, and then leave thee

heartiest farmers in England, - it was perto die!

haps really uninteresting; and there, upon Clare's verses had been set to music by the hard fare of agricultural labourers, po-, Rossini; sung, in her palmiest days, to tatoes and water porridge, and perhaps a crowded audiences by Vestris. He had been piece of wheaten bread and pork on Sunlauded and lionized as the English Burns; days, he grew. The old women of the but it is the old tale — battling off hunger place initiated him a little into letters ; one and anxiety until, in their marriage, they carried him through the difficulties of A, B, bring forth madness ! -- then a pauper's ex- C; and another, old Granny Bains,” an istence; and an English earl thinking that ancient lady filling the dignified post of a pauper's grave is good enough for his ob- cowherd of the village, who spent almost all sequies !

her time out of doors, in heat or cold, storm Helpston is a little village on the borders or rain, - a wonderful weather prophetess of the .. Fen country

- a place not famous a perfect oracle in the village, blessed for the production of genius, or of poetic with an amazing memory, filled with every inspiration. Here John Clare was born on variety of merry and plaintive song the 13th of July, 1793. His parents were storehouse of traditions always of a joy

which prey


ous nature, and never having known ill- rural lanes and places; and John used to ness, it is not wonderful if, in the ancient tell her how he loved the beautiful earth of body, John Clare found his guide, instructor, trees, and flowers, and larks, and insects, and friend.

and clouds; but he never told her that be Before he was twelve years old, he was thought her more beautiful than all the sent to learn to thresh, and, about the same great and beautiful works of nature. Then time, the instincts of scholarship strongly came the terrible father, and prudently, and proclaimed themselves. At Glinton, a little rightly enough, looking upon them both as village five miles from Helpston, lived a cer- mere children, told Mary she must not see tain schoolmaster, a Mr. Merrishaw, a thin, the “ beggar-boy.” again. The blue-eyed tall old man, with white hair hanging over Mary was compelled to listen to her father, his shoulders, in the fashion of ancient days and so the lad lost her, and went carving - passionately fond of long walks and his her name about upon a hundred trees. Poor violin. Him John sought out to receive some Mary is thought to have carried with her rudimental lessons in writing and arithmetic. through life affection for her rude and illAlso he ambitiously looked up to algebra. dressed, but eloquent and shrinking lover; The algebraic studies, however, soon came to she never married, dying a spinster. People an end. Also came about a disappointment point still to an inscription on the porch of in an attempt — in which, however, he nev- Glinton Church known to be theirs," J. C., er believed — to procure employment in a 1808,” and underneath it, in fainter lines, lawyer's office in Peterborough, about the "Mary." One day, while tending his catyear 1807; his mother persuaded him, and tle in the field, a farmer's big boy showed he consented. We do not wonder that his ap- him a copy of Thomson's Seasons ; a glance pearance in Peterborough, as he walked revealed to him the quality and character down the old street, created excitement and of the book; he implored the possessor for astonishment. His mother had ransacked a loan of it, if only for an hour. Its owner her wardrobe to supply him. She had made was a brutish character, and he refused; it him a pair of breeches out of an old dress, was but a trumpery book, he said ; he a world too large for his slender legs ; a had bought it for eighteenpence, people many-coloured shawl had been transformed who wanted it might buy it. Clare heard into a waistcoat; an old threadbare coat. there was a copy at a bookseller's in Stamwas a world too small for his tall figure; his ford to be sold for a shilling; through a vahat was half a century old. In white neck- riety of romantic difficulties, he at last protie and black woollen gloves, this remarka- cured the shilling, and going early to rest ble figure made his entrance into the epis- got up soon after midnight to walk over to copal city, exciting admiration in curious Stamford from Helpston to make his pureyes. He soon learned from Mr. Council-chase; as it was, he made a grave mistake, lor Bellamy, whose office he had sought, that for it was on a Sunday, and the shop was all his mother's efforts were vain; yet his not open. He started again on the Monday mother cried with joy as she saw her poor morning, arrived before the bookseller's shop plucked crow come back again. He conti- was open, and sat down in quiet resignation nued to study algebra, and ever so early he for an hour and a-half on the shop steps, seems to have plunged headlong into his counting the quarter chimes ; at length came dangerous kingdom of dreams. He had no a turning of keys and drawing of bolts, books - no Shakespeare, Milton, Thomson, and never, we suppose, was bookseller more nor Cowper ; neither had he science; nor, amazed than when the thin, haggard, counwe fear, much common-sense, to direct him. try lad, with great, wild, gleaming eyes, He peopled the world with real spirits. The pounced upon him for the copy of Thomstories he read, or which were told to him, son's Seasons. It was eighteenpence, but were literal. The earth swarmed with ghosts the bookseller let him have it for a shilling. and hobgoblins, fairies, and dwarfs, and The poor lad set forth on his journey again ; giants; hallucinations, as of lunacy, seem to the sun was just rising in his strength; the have held him in their spell. Then he fell larks and linnets were abroad; the landin love ; but Mary Joyce, the “ Mary” of scape was illuminated; he passed beneath

quite as ideal to him as Laura the walls of Burleigh Park ---- it was more to Petrarch, Beatrice to Dante, or Mary to tempting than the road — he bounded over Burns — was the daughter of a well-to-do the wall, and there, among the stately trees, farmer at Glinton. Quite a wonderful world the ragged laddie, his eye running from the of love and beauty seemed to wrap the two book to nature herself and from nature heryoung, people round; they used to meet du- self back again to the book, first felt, himring six months by the stiles and fields, and self, the ambitions of verse striving with

his poems

him, and, in some way, in obedience to some crust of bread. It is the story as of a cominstinctive movements, upon a crumpled bit pletely ill circumstanced soul :- a gardenof paper, with a pencil he happened to pos- er's lad, then again a farm-labourer, in the sess, he wrote, we believe, his first piece. midst of his labours in the fields, Thomson's Its, verses, of course, received subsequent Seasons never out of his pocket, read and retouchings, but do not these form exqui- read again when eating his humble meal at site and, the circumstances remembered, noonday under a hedge; in the evenings in truly wonderful lines of rural beauty ? —: lonely places he enjoyed the pursuit of that

provoking jade, poetry, under difficulties The cocks have now the morn foretold, scribbling upon all scraps of paper which The sun again begins to peep;

came in his way, much to the horror of his The shepherd, whistling to his fold,

old father, whose loftiest idea of poetry was Unpens and frees the captive sheep.

of halfpenny ballads sold or sung at public

houses, and who had an idea that producFor every leaf that forms a shade,

tions sold so cheaply could not be of much And every flowret's silken top,

profit to the composer. His mother also And every shivering bent and blade,

discovered his propensities - discovered Stoops, bowing with a diamond drop. also where he was in the habit of hiding

the scraps of paper on which he had writBut soon shall fly those pearly drops,

ten, and, to make an end of the miserable The red, round sun advances higher; business at once, with a true and righteous And stretching o'er the mountain tops, maternal instinct consigned all on which Is gilding sweet the village spire.

she could lay her hands to the fire; and yet, without knowing it, the poor lad was

pursuing a path of culture like that pursued Now let me tread the meadow paths,

and prescribed by, and for, noblest minds. While glittering dew the ground illumes,

He had a thought that his father had not so As, sprinkled o'er the withering swaths,

much want of faith in his writings as in Their moisture shrinks in sweet perfumes;

himself, the writer; so he committed one of And hear the beetle sound his horn ;

his longest and most effective poems to And hear the skylark whistling nigh,

memory, and pretending to read it from Sprung from his bed of tufted corn,

print, had the satisfaction of hearing his A hailing minstrel in the sky.

father exclaim, “ Ah John! my boy, if thou

couldst make such like verses, that would First sunbeam, calling night away,

do;" but he did not disclose the secret, but To see how sweet thy summons seems, henceforth made a regular habit of reading Split by the willow's wavy grey,

his own poetry to his parents as if reading And sweetly dancing on the streams ;

it from a book or printed sheet of paper. How fine the spider's web is spun,

Thus he had the pleasure of hearing praise Unnoticed by vulgar eyes ;

from lips to which the poor fellow was not Its silk thread glittering in the sun

indifferent, although it was not of much Art's bungling vanity defies.

critical value; but he was also wise enough when he was asked for explanation of a

word or a line to note it down as ill expressThe swallow wheels his circling flight, ed, and to alter it; and so also, when, as

And o'er the water's surface skims; was sometimes the case, laughter came Then on the cottage chimney lights,

where he had intended pathos, he carried And twittering chants his morning hymns. that verse with him into the fields next

day, and set it to simpler and more natural

words. So the poor fellow was really doing As slow the hazy mists retire,

the best with himself, and was at school and Crampt circle's more distinctly seen;

college without knowing it. Did not Thin scatter'd huts, and neighbouring spire, Molière make his inimitable comedies perDrop in to stretch the bounded scene.

fect in the same way? and so it happened,

that John Clare came to write verses, some Brisk winds the lighten'd branches shake, By pattering, plashing drops confess'd;

of which have the sweet and perfect simAnd, where oaks dripping shade the lake,

plicity of the best days of the “ English Print crimpling dimples on its breast. undefiled.” It is true, when it was found

that he was engaged in the sinful practice The poor lad passed through a variety of of verse writing, the sin reached the ears adventures in order to procure his little of a certain village dignitary, a Mr. Thomas

Porter; to him he was persuaded to show to be left so entirely to a life of mere vagathe poetry, on little pieces of paper, blue, bondage ; in some way life would open a and red, white, and yellow._Mr. Thomas side-door for him, if not its great gates. Porter's first question was, “ Do you know For a time he haunted the fields and lanes as grammar ?” John was compelled to con- a gypsy, but gypsy life filled him with utter fess that he could scarcely even tell what disgust; finally, he settled down to the loftiest grammar was, whether a person or a thing; occupation he had yet obtained; he became thereupon Mr. Thomas Porter handed him a lime-burner; at this he wrought fourteen back his little bits of paper, and, with a hours a day, and sometimes through the frown, exclaimed, You cannot write night. We have ourselves seen, in a pilpoetry before you know grammar.” Poor grimage we paid to the cottage of Patty John, horrified, did, for a time, give up his Clare some sixteen years since, some relics propensities, procured a well known school of the writing of the old days of the brick. room-companion of those days, a critical kiln. The lines are a heap of most inconspelling-book ; but this did not help him gruous caligraphies, in which Roman and much, and, to the end of his days, he who Italian letters run about and dodge each could enjoy nature so profoundly, read with other, even in the same word. His inspirasuch sympathy and appreciation some of our tion seemed, in those days, to reach its best English authors, write verse so sweetly, height in the neighbourhood of the limeand use words so graphic and descriptive, kiln, and to the poet there came the first never knew much either of grammar or miraculous dream of himself becoming an spelling He is also in very dignified com- author - a wild, ridiculous ambition, inpany, however, in this. A poor country deed, when it is remembered that at this lad, upwards of half a century since, with time he was earning nine shillings a-week. not a guide or a friend, it is not to be sup- By this time he was twenty-five years of posed that his life could run along alone age; he was also in love. England, at that without its own burden of temptation. time, had a strong fit upon

her conscience, Viciousness could never have dwelt long and was, perhaps, desirous of doing penwith, or have been at all akin to, such a ance for some sins in the way of neglect of spirit; he was able to resist the temptation genius by patronizing a peasant poet. of poaching - a wild, romantic pursuit - Southey had a large and tender heart for not, perhaps, because he either dreaded the such poor bodies. Bloomfield bad written danger or cared much for the sin, but be- some very sweet and winning verses. cause he was too tender a lover of all the Strong Allan Cunningham was working his creatures God had made to hurt or destroy way up to fame from his stone-mason's them wilfully. Sometimes, we are afraid, yard; the wonder of Robert Burns was in he became a little too excited at the Hole- the full strength of its sudden meridian in-the-Wall, or the more dangerous roister- light. Somehow, the idea entered Clare's ings of Bachelors' Hall: also, in the times mind that he might publish. His first efforts when the country was at the fever-heat of with a bookseller at Market Deeping did excitement against Bony, he enlisted in the not seem very promising, but, circuitously, Northampton Militia, and was stationed his prospectus, which he had managed to get for a little while at Oundle; the warriors, printed, met the eye of Mr. John Taylor of however, with whom he was allied, seem to the eminent publishing firm of Taylor and have created more fear than confidence, Hessey, of London; he was attracted by for the good people of Oundle felt their it, and still more impressed and attracted property more insecure in their presence when he saw the utterly unpromising manuthan in their absence, and petitioned that script, written on dirty bits of coarse pathey might be disbanded. Before this, how- per, ill spelt, without a note of punctuaever, John had expressed plainly his dislike tion; he saw, however, that Clare was one to the military profession; his regimentals of the born poets of the earth, a man who seem to have been of the quaintest and could no more help writing than birds can most comical ; and when they provoked the help singing, and he signified his intention laughter of his corporal, a dandybody, he of editing and publishing them. One or knocked him down. Somehow this did not two kind friends now made their appearget him into trouble, and shortly after he ance in Clare's life; Mr. Octavius Gilreturned to Helpston, enriched by an old christ, a kind, local, literary friend; but second-hand copy of Paradise Lost, and even so early we are compelled to notice some fragmentary leaves of Shakespeare's that which keeps itself before us to the Tempest. It would now be scarcely possible close, that Clare's self-respect was never for a lad with John Clare's mental qualities cultivated, yet he never lost it. What, then, could be the consequence? He was 1, Day after day passed, yet no news, till in the always treated as a poor unhappy miracle last week of January, the smiling face of a of a creature, that made verses. On all friend suddenly lighted up the gloom. It was hands we notice the apparent inability to a rainy day, and Clare was unable to take his guide this poor, ignorant, yet marvellous usual ramble through the fields, when the clatgenius into what might be a way of peace tering

of hoofs was heard outside the little for himself. The person who at this time door, and shaking off the dripping wet, rushed

cottage. A man on horseback alighted at the seems to have taken the most downright, into the room, where Clare and his father and thorough, truly human, and genuine inter- mother were sitting round the little fire. It est in John Clare, was the Reverend John was the Rev. Mr. Holland. “Am I not a good Holland, the Congregational minister of prophet?” he cried, running towards John, Market Deeping. About him there was and shaking him warmly by the hand. John nothing of the patron ; a man of culture, looked up in astonishment;

he had not the and mind, and character, meets a poor alluded to. But

Mr. Holland kept on laugh

slightest notion of what his friend meant or brother marked by higher genius, and instantly acknowledges his equality; he dia ing and dancing, shaking himself like a wet his utmost to serve Clare, encouraged him peated again. The long face of his melancholy heartily, and as he heard him read some of young friend at last brought him to a sense of his own verses, he said, “ If this do not the actual state of affairs. “ You have had no succeed, the world deserves a worse opinion letter from your publishers ?” he inquired. than I'm inclined to give it." Clare, natur- | “None whatever,” was the reply. “Then let ally enough, looked upon Mr. Holland as me be the first herald of good news,” cried one of his best friends, and was rather Mr. Holland; "I can assure you that your utpleased and proud to proclaim the fact. most expectations have been realized. I have Is it not sad to think that at this very mor morning, telling me that your poems are talked

had a letter from a friend in London, this ment the poor young man, so scant of of by everybody; in fact, are a great success.” friends, had to learn that the fact of the How the words cheered the heart of John Calvinistic minister taking him by the hand Clare! He fancied he had a slight touch of would be a bar to his success ? John him- the ague in the morning; but it seemed to fall self was surprised by the publication of like scales off his body, and he thought he had some account of his life at this time, in never seen so well all his life. Mr. Holland which he was told that “Mr. Holland, a was about getting into his wet saddle again. Calvinistic preacher in an adjoining ham

“Oh do stop a little longer,” said John, imlet, had paid him some attention, but his ploringly; " have something to eat and drink. means of aiding the needy youth were father and mother looked at him. Alas! they

And he looked at his father and mother; and small, whatever might have been his wish, all knew too well that there was nothing in and he has now quitted his charge." Mr. the house to eat; and no money wherewith to Holland was not stationed in a hamlet, not purchase food. Good Mr. Holland, at a glance, what is understood in that country, by a perceived the actual state of affairs. “Well," “ Calvinistic preacher,” and he had not he exclaimed, “I intended having some dinner given up his charge, that is, his interest in at the inn round the corner ; but if you will and friendship for Clare. Although Mr. allow me, I will have it sent here, and take it Gilchrist insisted that all communications in your company.” And in a twinkling of the should cease between the peasant and the eye, he was out of doors, leading his horse, preacher, John could not understand the which had been tied to a post, towards the

“Blue Bell.” He was back in ten minutes; prejudices of the former student of Magda- and in another ten minutes there appeared the len College; but he had the pride of genius potboy from the “Blue Bell” carrying a huge and independence here, farm-labourer and tray, smoking hot. Thrice the messenger from line-burner as he was. He, on his part, the "Blue Bell” came and returned, each declared that his friendship with Mr. Hol- time carrying something heavy in his fat, red land was literary and personal, and not hands, and going away with empty. trays, founded on religious opinions; and so the When he had turned his back for the third and friendship and confidence of Mr. Gilchrist last time, they all sat down around the little were scorched. As it was, when the sun of ricketty table, the Rev. Mr. Holland, John, his his fame rose, Mr. Holland seems to have every perfect gift is from above, and cometh

father and mother. “Every good gift, and been the first to convey to the poor poet down from the Father lights," said the the good news from London, widely separ- minister. “Amen!” fervently exclaimed John. ated then from Helpston, compared with its distance now. Mr. Martin tells the So he was in print; found himself soon story so pleasantly that we shall borrow his beckoned up into the circles of good society, own words :

of course always occupying the place be

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