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John Clare [Paperback]

Jonathan Bate
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 13.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

18 Jun 2004

‘What distinguished Clare is an unspectacular joy and a love for the inexorable one-thing-after-anotherness of the world’ Seamus Heaney

John Clare (1793-1864) was a great Romantic poet, with a name to rival that of Blake, Byron, Wordsworth or Shelley – and a life to match. The ‘poet’s poet’, he has a place in the national pantheon and, more tangibly, a plaque in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner, unveiled in 1989.

Here at last is Clare’s full story, from his birth in poverty and employment as an agricultural labourer, via his burgeoning promise as a writer – cultivated under the gaze of rival patrons – and moment of fame, in the company of John Keats, as the toast of literary London, to his final decline into mental illness and the last years of his life, confined in asylums. Clare’s ringing voice – quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous – emerges through extracts from his letters, journals, autobiographical writings and poems, as Jonathan Bate brings this complex man, his revered work and his ribald world, vividly to life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (18 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330371126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330371124
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick, chief editor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works and the author of many books, including most recently John Clare: A Biography, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was awarded a CBE in 2006.

Product Description


'The passionate intimacy and grace of Clare's poetry are
beautifully described, and so is Clare's extraordinary and fascinating
life' -- 'Book of the Year', The Tablet

About the Author

Jonathan Bate, born in 1958, is the author of The Genius of Shakespeare, Song of the Earth and a novel, The Cure for Love. He is the Leverhulme Research Professor of English at the University of Warwick and writes regularly for the Telegraph, the TLS and the Independent.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I have spent the last few months gradually reading this wonderful biography before bed at night, and looked forward to every page of it. This is a truly magnificent biography of a man who was a contemporary of Byron, Shelley and Keats but who never quite reached their heights. He did not die young or reach Europe like they did, he came from humble origins, worked as a labourer and sadly ended up in a lunatic asylum for the last years of his life.
Here Bate takes you through Clare's life with sensitivity and real perception. Using his letters, manuscripts and of course poems Bate presents a very troubled man, but all the same still England's finest pastoral poet. I highly recommend this book. I believe this will be the definitive Clare biography for years to come.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, sympathetic and very readable. 12 Aug 2011
I agree wholeheartedly with the review above. This is a great biography of the poet (I bought it in the shop of Clare's birthplace in Helpstone - well worth a visit). I know the poetry of Clare and his autiobiographical writings well and Bate is a good critic of both - defining very well Clare's greatness as a writer and staking a claim for him as a major English poet to match Scotland's Burns. Many things interested me in the biography - perhaps two things in particular: Bates does a wonderful job of exploring the relationship between Clare and his tormented publishers Taylor and Hessey, who published Keats' poetry also. He reveals, too, a whole world of detail about the systems of literary patronage in this period. My only quibble is that it is opague on some of the central relationships in Clare's life - his wife Patty and his parents, presumably because of a lack of documentary evidence surviving. It is difficult to imagine this job being done better and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the period or poetry in general, not just John Clare specialists. A great read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Clare - Prof. Bate 30 Dec 2013
By pearl
I cannot remember reading a better literary biography. Really, Bate's book is so good, you start to think in terms of Boswell's 'Life of Dr. Johnson' for something to compare it with. It is magnificent in every respect. If I have an observation, it's not a criticism, it is that such an important biography has been written about someone who is, sure, important and neglected, but who was just not that important, not as I see it.
Clare was certainly very talented but he ended up in Northampton's mental hospital with days out when he lounged around in the porch of Northampton's imposing central church, cadging for loose change, and composing ditties for passers-by.
He was incredibly feckless. He was poor but didn't shirk his responsibilities of looking after his aged parents and family. But always contrived to make things worse for himself by booze, and other women. The local nobility took him up, helped him financially then dropped him when they saw him making a mess of his life and ignoring their, v. sensible, advice. He went to London a couple of times and seems to have succumbed to its dark allure. He saw Byron's funeral. Time and again he tried to reform his personal life. He just doesn't seem to have had much will-power. He reminds me of Coleridge in that respect.
Bate is right about how he has been neglected but Clare really was his own worst enemy.
He also happened to be alive when England was producing great poets like flies - if you'll excuse the analogy, but it is apt for that period say from 1790 to 1840. Poor old Clare. A very talented guy. But what can you do when there are titans like Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge etc around?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive biography of Clare 19 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Essential reading and reference work for anyone interested in Clare - little more needs to be said. The paperback version is big, and heavy. I have the Kindle edition which works very well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what he always wanted. 18 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having visited John Clare's cottage ( super visit and lovely village) my partner thought he would like this book to find out more about the poet and his troubled life.
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