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John Clare: A Biography

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The definitive biography of John Clare (1793-1864) -- the poet's poet -- from Jonathan Bate. The definitive biography of John Clare (1793-1864) -- the poet's poet -- from Jonathan Bate.


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The definitive biography of John Clare (1793-1864) -- the poet's poet -- from Jonathan Bate. The definitive biography of John Clare (1793-1864) -- the poet's poet -- from Jonathan Bate.

30 review for John Clare: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Keith Taylor

    I have finally had a deep reading of Clare these last couple of months, and this biography has helped significantly. I sort of knew a few Clare poems -- and was more than happy to categorize him -- a rustic, peasant imitating the major Romantics, and then a madman. Oh, here's yet another thing I was so wrong about. Reading this biography along with a generous selection of Clare poems, the poet becomes such a more important figure. Yes, he was a laborer, but a remarkable reader, and someone who ha I have finally had a deep reading of Clare these last couple of months, and this biography has helped significantly. I sort of knew a few Clare poems -- and was more than happy to categorize him -- a rustic, peasant imitating the major Romantics, and then a madman. Oh, here's yet another thing I was so wrong about. Reading this biography along with a generous selection of Clare poems, the poet becomes such a more important figure. Yes, he was a laborer, but a remarkable reader, and someone who had an extraordinary ear for English meters. He would use the meters to remember the poems he composed during his day of walking through the countryside, or of doing hard manual labor in the fields and gardens of his home country. He understood things! He appreciated Keats (with whom he was compared), but was disgruntled that Keats had to find a nymph or a dryad behind every tree. Clare actually looked at the trees, and knew enough about them to fill many lines with exact details. In many ways he was a precursor to Hopkins's idea of "thisness," or even of the integrity of "things" in the poems of William Carlos Williams, despite the fact that Clare's metrics are so traditional. As the Bate biography makes clear, he was also a poet very much shaped by the history of Class in Britain. He was circumscribed by the conditions he was born into. And, interestingly, he didn't really resist those -- those class distinctions, too, were a part of what was. Also I have never really thought enough about the Enclosure Act, and how that changed the British relationship to the countryside (and how it influenced the homesteading of North America). Bate does a great job showing without belaboring the influence of those changes on Clare's imagination. And then there is the question of Clare's madness. Bate does a good job with the life in the asylums and Clare's way of living there, even while continuing to write many wonderful poems. Despite whatever genetic predispositions Clare might have had toward a severe manic-depression, Bate delineates the shock that the poet must have lived with, the dramatic difference between his intelligence, his reading, his abilities to think in poetry, and the social condition to which his moment in history confined him. This was a slow read. Afterall, Clare never left home! So the bits of drama in a life are limited. And the book is over 600 pages long! But since I took the time to read some 400 pages of Clare's poetry at the same time, and a short collection of his prose, it was a tremendous education in poetry, in that time, and that place.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I thought I would love John Clare when I was a teenager because I loved walking and felt out of sorts with the posh and rich kids at school. At the time I was disappointed by the poet's- how can I call it?- well. reverence and respect for aristocrats, for the signs and symbols of success and for money . This biography has helped me to change my opinion about Clare as a man. The society he lived in, however, was unremittingly awful. I thought I would love John Clare when I was a teenager because I loved walking and felt out of sorts with the posh and rich kids at school. At the time I was disappointed by the poet's- how can I call it?- well. reverence and respect for aristocrats, for the signs and symbols of success and for money . This biography has helped me to change my opinion about Clare as a man. The society he lived in, however, was unremittingly awful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    Excellent, comprehensive biography and also a fine work of literary comment and criticism. It is a big slab of the book but well worth the time and effort. I now think even more of the genius that was John clare.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Unlike the upperclass, privileged Shelleys and Wordsworths, Clare was a naif, a sad sweet character out of Hardy, with that same inevitable tragic obliviousness. I am already absorbed. There's also a resemblance to the Fielding character Joseph Andrews. Unlike the upperclass, privileged Shelleys and Wordsworths, Clare was a naif, a sad sweet character out of Hardy, with that same inevitable tragic obliviousness. I am already absorbed. There's also a resemblance to the Fielding character Joseph Andrews.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jay Cowsill

    http://www.jaycowsill.blogspot.ca/201... http://www.jaycowsill.blogspot.ca/201...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia Clare

    this was a long and slow read , very academic and detailed but interesting in spite of this since it put into context much of the social and political issues of his times and how they affected his poetry and I really related to his passions with nature - and his sensitivity to life which gave him that insight but also with his grinding poverty and the social inequality led him into mental breakdowns from which he possibly never recovered - though his writing continued almost until his death. A b this was a long and slow read , very academic and detailed but interesting in spite of this since it put into context much of the social and political issues of his times and how they affected his poetry and I really related to his passions with nature - and his sensitivity to life which gave him that insight but also with his grinding poverty and the social inequality led him into mental breakdowns from which he possibly never recovered - though his writing continued almost until his death. A book to read over time and digest slowly - very insightful and rewarding in the end

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tim Chesterton

    One of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time. Meticulously researched and yet sympathetic and vivid. The definitive portrait of Clare.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Simon Harrison

    Roy Hattersley called John Clare "a necessary part of a civilised education". And that's bang on. This is wonderful biography and convincingly overturns the view of Clare as a minor poet and a simple mind. It also presents a different view on his mental health. The writing is understated, clear and the tone is settled. Perfect. Roy Hattersley called John Clare "a necessary part of a civilised education". And that's bang on. This is wonderful biography and convincingly overturns the view of Clare as a minor poet and a simple mind. It also presents a different view on his mental health. The writing is understated, clear and the tone is settled. Perfect.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bayla

    It takes a village to raise a poet -- in part, many people, but also the village itself, the flowers and birds and sky, all the beauty that is nature. John Clare's is rightly called the "Peasant Poet," because, as Bate explains, his poetry was based in his surroundings, his roots. His story is sad -- a poet driven mad in part by his poetry -- yet his madness did not preclude or erase the beautiful words he wrote. It takes a village to raise a poet -- in part, many people, but also the village itself, the flowers and birds and sky, all the beauty that is nature. John Clare's is rightly called the "Peasant Poet," because, as Bate explains, his poetry was based in his surroundings, his roots. His story is sad -- a poet driven mad in part by his poetry -- yet his madness did not preclude or erase the beautiful words he wrote.

  10. 5 out of 5

    I.W.Toole

    Doy gracias al destino por haber hecho que descubriera a este grande de la literatura inglesa. Entiendo que existan otros más famosos y de renombre, pero John Clare tiene una sencillez y una intensidad en sus palabras que hace que no puedas olvidarle. La obra de John Clare es digna de tener en tu biblioteca si eres un aficionado a la poesía. Luego está su vida, que injusto y triste final.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Interesting biography of the 'peasant poet' who disliked punctuation, and wrote about simple-seeming things beautifully. Corrects some of the more patronising assumptions about him, and fills in the background to his best poems, including his time in the madhouse. Interesting biography of the 'peasant poet' who disliked punctuation, and wrote about simple-seeming things beautifully. Corrects some of the more patronising assumptions about him, and fills in the background to his best poems, including his time in the madhouse.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phil H

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jerome Ellison Murphy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gianmarc Manzione

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lily

  16. 4 out of 5

    Derek Emerson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Darren Hardy

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maxchen

  20. 4 out of 5

    C.R.F.

  21. 5 out of 5

    JubJub

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Ray

  26. 4 out of 5

    A. Bickham

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve Lambert

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Major

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicky Sarti

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nicci Obholzer

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