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which, I think, must be obvious to all persons as being even more effective than any of the three which he mentions, namely, actual observation
“Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem-Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus”-and of this no people have more opportunities of profiting than military men. It is certain that the impression received by hearing a topic conversed upon, and then proceeding to view it, is more vivid, and more likely to retain its place in the memory,
any treatise on the subject which you can read, however ingeniously written, although I allow that a certain amount of book-knowledge is requisite previous to any person deriving much intellectual benefit from it. He had lived so long without having taken to himself a wife to share his fortunes, chiefly because he found that a military life was most unsuited for a married man, and the experience which he had of officers' wives from the specimens of such which some of the young men of the regiment to which he belonged had allied themselves to—had not led him to feel anxious to follow their example. But with regard to the party with
. whom he was stationed, those whom he commanded at the time that I speak of, were unmarried, and he was a great favourite with them all.
Soon after Mrs. Dallas's return to the cottage, she received a note from her friend Mrs. Moore, saying that she hoped she would come and stay with her for a week previous to the time of her leaving her house to go to England, and she would send the carriage for her on the following Monday, and would not hear of any excuse. Mrs. Dallas could not think of refusing this invitation; she decided upon going, and knew that she would be welcome, and it is such a feeling that can alone reconcile one to entering a house which is owned by those who are in more affluent circumstances than oneself. But the undeniable proofs of kindness which she had received from the mistress of Charlesfort were too unmistakable to admit of her doubting the reality of Mrs. Moore's affection, so she answered it to say that she would be most happy.
Very much has been said by writers, and much is talked by all who travel in Ireland, of the Irish hospitality. Now, the fact is, that it is the tourists, the military, the gifted who write well, and the grandees who are always welcome everywhere, that laud this characteristic of the Irish, for I must say, that it is to them mostly that such hospitality is shown; to the poor relation, or to the connexion from whom nothing is to be gained, they are as cold and heartless as any people on the face of the earth, but the éclat of entertaining a distinguished stranger, the rage for welcoming any person who is of foreign celebrity, is much more apparent with them than with other natives of the United Kingdom, unless it be those who are indeed of the richest class in England and Scotland. It is true that the old-fashioned, homely virtue, the “ παντας γάρ φιλεέσκεν όδώ έπι οικία ναίων,” which the primitive inhabitants of all countries nearly are found with, and the wandering tribes of the desert rejoice in, is very much to be found amongst the poorest of the peasantry in Ireland, and is now so much the normal usage of the inhabitants of barbarous countries, that it might be called a
“savage virtue.” But whether it has now died away in a great measure from the country, or that the numerous instances of families, who in a past generation have ruined themselves by it, have acted as a warning to the Irish of the present generation, they certainly are not so generally hospitable to one another as their grandfathers were.
JOHN CLARE THE POET.*
MORE than twenty years have elapsed since we saw the name of the poet at the head of this article, having read his charming productions while their author was in an asylum for the insane. His name stands high, very high, on the list of the untutored English poets in humble life. We pass by Chatterton, who cannot be considered as ranking with the wholly untaught, like Clare and Bloomfield, who were poetic children of nature. No one of the class has ever approached the poet of Scotland in his own country. Burns stands alone in advance of all in the same order of bards here. In England, Clare ranks before Bloomfield, and in rural themes has been excelled by no other rustic poet. He stands, too, a remarkable example of that unmerited public neglect which is certain in the present day to follow the writer who, destitute of attraction to the common-place intellect, has too narrow a purse to be kept before the public eye by the arts of trade. It may be objected, on the other hand, that a real affection for country life and rural scenes is on the decline. Large towns and rapidly increasing cities, with their glitter, unnatural fashions, and set modes of thinking, are grown out of rural habits, wear harlequin disguises, and sneer at country life. The very railroads, in other respects so useful, are but bridges over rural nature, having their terminations in some huge conglomeration of bipeds, the echo of each other, however distantly situated. The love of the country has as little charm for the flutterers of fashion as fashion has for truth and reason. Simplicity and fidelity to nature are not tenants of large urban constituencies, and the love of the country and its pure
and beautiful scenes we must be resigned to see grow more distasteful to the “ general,” as the desire of imaginary good ceases to act upon the popular mind in native purity. That a poet in these days who follows nature, and it may be added the higher order of nature even in classical poetry, should have few readers except the select and tasteful, is not wonderful. The book of nature was never less read than now, that of fashion, in the extreme of its inanity, was never more an object of guidance even to idolatry. It is not extraordinary that the same mediocrity which is deemed by the mode the perfection of art, should rule in the more fashionable literature of the day to the exclusion of that which a refined taste would reject with disdain.
We know no more striking sign of the time in this respect than the little success which has attended the poetry of John Clare. The praise of the Quarterly Review, and the notice taken elsewhere of the works of this genuine poet, so true to nature and feeling, as far as it went, produced little effect on the taste of the multitude. It was not sufficiently flashy, or senseless, or unmeaniug for the crowd, that would fain double its position in progress, and still have its own wild and shallow notions become the test of the poetic art. If this be not the correct view of the matter, we do not know where it is to be found.
Mr. Martin has presented us with a most entertaining, but we cannot avoid saying not a cheerful work. Still, the task so useful and so full of matter for thought, painful thought, as adding another detail to that of preceding "pariahs" in literature, will not be without its usefulness. It will show that time has made little difference in the state of those who possess marks of great genius as to the mode of their treatment in an era more advanced in other things than any upon record. In past time, as now, the lot of the man of unbefriended genius might not be envied by him who earned his living by the sweat of his brow.
* The Life of John Clare. By Frederick Martin. Macmillan and Co.
Mr. Martin has taken up his biography with commendable earnestness. He has shown that he felt the subject on which he wrote, and that the unmerited neglect and suffering which the poet Clare underwent, in the end broke his heart. He was released from the burden of a melancholy existence, in Northamptonshire, in 1864. He had struggled with sorrow and want, with a temperament more than commonly susceptible of the effect of such evils. He had met with some encouragement, but it seems to have existed only to render his future mental suffering more keen through baffled hope. He was one taught by nature, with a nicelybalanced frame open to every external impression. Nature, when she formed the man, adapted him for his end in a singular way, fully bearing out the remark that a poet is made so by birth, not by instruction. It would be a worthy study for those who follow the operations of the human mind, and the bias which appears born with some individuals, to discover, if possible, the origin of the tendency to certain mental pursuits which seem inherent in the physical formation of the individual. Whence could a humble peasant like Clare have imbibed that love of “accommodating things to the desires of the mind,” which appeared so early in one comparatively uninstructed ? Here is a great mystery only understood in its effects.
It is almost impossible for an unimaginative individual to read the present volume, and not thank his Maker that he has no lofty mental tendencies, that he lives on from day to day, and builds no airy castles ; that the world he takes as he finds it, and whether good or evil as regards the many, is content with the
of the hours of his life in scraping up a provision for the age he may never attain, or that if he does not attain he will not want. This is the temper of the happy man of the world, who lives for himself and has no other anxiety. But what if nature, as with Clare, has gifted an individual with a desire to break the trammels of such a selfish content, and to vindicate his temperament? Is he to be blamed, especially when the influence, so overpowering, assumes the garb of a pleasure a participation in which is no longer to be resisted?
Mr. Martin has given us a melancholy picture, we must repeat it, and unfortunately a picture stamped with the seal of truth. Describing Helpston first, its streets and church, he proceeds :
“Farther down stretch, in unbroken line, the low huts of the farm labourers, in one of which, lying on the High-street, John Clare was born on the 13th July, 1793. John Clare's parents were among the poorest of the village, as that little cottage was among the narrowest and most wretched of its hundred hovels. Originally, at a time when the race of peasant proprietors had not become quite extinct, a rather roomy tenement, it was broken up into meaner quarters by subsequent landlords, until at last the one house formed a rookery of not less than four human dwellings. In this fourth part of a hut lived the father and mother of John, old Parker Clare and his wife.”
Clare's parents were the poorest among the poor, in ill health, and, to a certain degree, dependent upon charity. Mr. Martin then describes the peculiar circumstances of the family origin, which were singular enough, and for which reference must be made to the volume itself. It would appear that Parker Clare married in 1792, and among his offspring, weak and sickly, was John Clare. It is justly remarked by the author, that circumstances less congenial to produce an individual like John Clare could scarcely be imagined. Yet was be a poet almost as soon as he was conscious of his being. His mind harmonised with nature in all its glories, and in all its endless variety of beauty. The sickly boy could not be kept out of the fields. He had an early sense of the wonders of the world into which he had been introduced. He was ever among the herbs and Aowers, and at one time the distant horizon in outline led him to a determination to explore it. He actually hunted after the horizon line, which still receded, until, fatigued and hungry, he was fortunately relieved by some labourers with a crust, and reached home exhausted, to meet punishment for the alarm he had caused his parents. The family fare was hard enough, while their son from his weakly state could contribute little to aid them in his support, and yet the father did contrive to send him to a humble school, kept by a female. John Clare left school in his seventh year, and was thus early sent to tend sheep and geese. Here it appears he met with a woman called Granny Bains, who lived much in the open air, studied the weather, and was a perfect Sibyl. She used to sing ditties, and her recitations and snatches of songs, it would appear, first awoke the spirit of poetry in the head of Clare.
The lad was set at work earlier than in general is the case, owing to the poverty of his parents. He had a sister, with whom he numbered all the children that remained alive. John was sent to thrash before he was twelve years old. He was eager to work to aid his family, but his strength did not second his intellect. He became ill, but was obliged to leave his bed, and then he led the horses in ploughing, and thus soon began to earn a few pence. He went to school for a certain number of evenings in the week, and thus got a little more insight into the details of instruction. We must refer the reader to the work itself for the particulars, which is as circumstantial in these respects as can be desired. An uncle, the footman of a lawyer, endeavoured to get the lad the place of a clerk at Wisbeach, a thing not agreeable to his feelings. He went, accordingly, about 1807. It appears that the lawyer did not like his appearance, and he was sent home again, not at all to his own dissatisfaction. He began to lead the plough once more, to cart manure, and to study algebra, assisted by an old schoolfellow, who gave him some paper and pencils ; and here began his studies in a line for which he never felt much affection.
How he proceeded, was more than ever delighted with nature, and fell in love, must be learned from our author, who has laid the public under a heavy obligation for a work not only exceedingly entertaining, but making no mean addition to those we possess, of works which tend to display more the varieties of intellect and the causes which seem to incline to particular intellectual predispositions, while describing those adverse circumstances to the display of talents that excite wonder how they could ever have been fostered. In one who possessed a poetical Aug.- VOL. CXXXIV. NO. DXXXVI.
temperament the passion of love was almost certain to develop itself at an early period; the alliance of love and the muses being an ancient story. The ploughing and harrowing of John Clare did not hinder him from attempts at verse, which were corrected by a rural critic, who initiated him into the mystery of a book till then new to him, namely, a grammar. Clare now saved his pence to buy books, and some of the earlier works he perused seemed to have puzzled him not a little. The efforts of the man to raise himself, his anxieties and mortifications, are a painful, but we have no doubt a faithful picture of poor Clare's struggles in early life, or, in fact, all through life, to the time he was attacked with insanity. Mr. Martin's account of this part of Clare's history is full and satisfactory, but painful, when we consider that we read the narrative of the struggles of genius, ever at war with the usages and modes of thinking of every-day life. We have an attempt of poor Clare to obtain patronage, and the result ; also of the poet commencing soldier among the volunteers, and of his return home with Paradise Lost and the Tempest of Shakspeare, after a breach of discipline which escaped the black hole-how he became a lime-burner as well as a lover-how he raised money for the purpose of printing a prospectus, and what discouragements he encountered in endeavouring to publish his verses as “ John Clare of Helpston,” all are narrated with great interest by the author of this biography, who evidently feels what he writes in the way of observation upon as melancholy an example of the misfortune of genius as we ever remember to have met with. Clare's prospectus only brought him seven subseribers, and he became despondent. He found a patron at last, connected with the Stamford Mercury newspaper, and a bookseller of Stamford, named Drury. Here the work becomes particularly interesting in the hope it seemed to hold out that the poor poet had at last met with something like success. Soon after this affair" Clare became known to Taylor and Hessey, of Fleet-street, who published the London Magazine. By their means it was that Clare's poems made their appearance in London.
We have followed the work thus far in a general way, for space will not permit us to do justice to the remainder of the volume, to the hopes of genius destined to disappointment, and to that mysterious order of things that, while villains flourish in society till
Grey with crime, those who are destined to enlighten and adorn our humanity are almost always unhappy.
Clare was mainly indebted for his being known beyond the limits of his own neighbourhood to Mr. Gilchrist, who, we find, made his acquaintance in a casual way. At first the poet was shy in company, but the aid of wine rendered him bold, and this being discovered, he was induced at times, while visiting his friend in London, to indulge a little too freely, which by no means showed him to advantage, besides making him moody. An attempt to interest Lord Milton in his favour succeeded no better than a present of five pounds as an alms! An anecdote of Mr. Gilchrist rebuking Clare for his acquaintance with a dissenting minister of good reputation and acquirements, exhibits an excellent picture of a bigot who would fain be a tyrant over the minds of others if he could. It is true, this might not be unexpected in a friend of Gifford. The hopes and fears of the poor poet are carefully detailed, and it is painful