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By Himself

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This volume brings together, in definitive form, all of John Clare's important autobiographical writings. His Autobiographical Fragments, Journal, and Sketches are set alongside his famous Journey out of Essex. Maps of Clare's countryside, his will, and extracts from his asylum letters are also included, presenting the author in all his guises—ploughboy, gardener, and militiaman; lover and husband; acquaintance of Hazlitt, Lamb, and Coleridge; and finally, inmate in an asylum.

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Sketches in the Life of John Clare

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JOHN CLARE BY HIMSELF

matter those who (strangers to the writer) that it displeases need not be startled at the dissapointment 1

I was born July 13, 1793 at Helpstone, a gloomy village in

Northamptonshire, on the brink of the Lincolnshire fens; my mothers maiden name was Stimson, a native of Caistor, a neighboring village, whose father was a town shepherd as they are calld, who has the care of all the flocks of the village my father was one of f.ates chance-lings who drop into the world without the honour of matrimony he took the surname of his mother, who to commemorate the memory of a worthless father with more tenderness of love lorn feeling than he doubtless deservd, gave him his sirname at his christening, who was a

Scotchman by birth and a schoolmaster by profession and in his stay at this and the neighboring villages went by the Name of

John Donald Parker this I had from John Cue of Ufford,2 an old man who in his young days was a companion and confidential to my run-a-gate of a grandfather, for he left the village and my grandmother soon after the deplorable accident of misplaced love was revealed to him, but her love was not that frenzy which shortens the days of the victim of seduction, for she liv' d to the age of 86 and left this world of troubles Jan. 1. 1820.

 

More Hints in the Life etc

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MORE HINTS IN THE LIFE ETC

I have dipt into several sorts of Studies at several times in my boyish days my vanity was such that whatever Book on art or

Science I could come at I fancied I could learn it and Instantly with as much ardour and Enthuiseism (perhaps) as the author that wrote it.

I have sat down studying it page by page with an anxious delight not to be describd but where any thing happened to come above my Comprehension it was a Painfull task

I have had repeated t[o]uches at a Mathematics Question for a month together and while it remaind a Secret I have had with out knowing the cause such a longing Sickness on me that I could eat

(in the time) little or nothing

In this manner I eagerly dipt into

Most arts and Sciences that came in my way

These where Mathematics Particulary Navigation and Algebra

Dialling Use of the Globes Botany Natural History Short Hand with History of all Kinds Drawing Music etc etc

I had once a very great desire to learn the Latin Language but the happy fate of not meeting with proper Books in that age of Vanity saved me the trouble of Expeirencing many an aching head (Study always left a sinking sickening pain in my head otherways unaccountable) and many an Envious Staring throbbing thro my bosom which always was the case when I found my attempts in vainetc etc

 

Autobiographical Fragments

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AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FRAGMENTS

scarcly came without a promise of some fresh delight

Hopes were always awake with expectations the year was crowned with holidays

[B5, 46] and then the year usd to be crownd with its holidays as thick as the boughs on a harvest home there was the long wishd for christmass day the celebrated week with two sundays when we usd to watch the clerk return with his bundle of ever greens and run for our bunch to stick the windows and empty candlesticks hanging in the corner or hasten to the woods to gett ivy branches with its joccolate berrys which our parents usd to color with whitening and the blu[e]bag sticking the branches behind the pictures on the walls then came valentine tho young we was not without loves we had our favourites in the village and we listend the expected noises of creeping feet and the tinkling latch as eagerly as upgrown loves wether they came or not it made no matter dissapointments was nothing in those matters then the pleasures of anticipation was all- then came the first of april o how we talkd and harpd of it ere it came of how we woud make april fools of others and take care not to be catchd our selves when as soon as the day came we were the first to be taken in by running unconsiously on errands for Piegons milk glass eyd needles or some such april fool errands when we were undecievd we blushd for shame and took care not to be taken in till the day returnd again- when the old deceptions were so far forgotten as to decieve us again then there was the first of may we were too young to be claimants in the upgrown sports but we joind our little interferances with them and run under the extended hankerchiefs at duck under water with the rest unmolested then came the feast when the cross was throngd round with stalls of toys and sweets horses on w[h ]eels with their flowing manes and lambs with their red neckla ces box cuckoos and we lookd on these finerys till the imaganation almost coaxd our itching fingers to steal and seemd to upbraid our fears for not daring to do it then the sweet meats was unbounded

 

Appendix: Clare's Notes for his Autobiography

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CLARE'S NOTES FOR HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY

living at Wilders- acquaintance with Patty first acquaintance with Henson Deeping

Burning lime at Pickworth

Playing the fiddle -Gardening at Wilders etc

Pattys Lodge

Beautiful Scenery

Huge caverns in the woods there

My first visit to London

Lincoln

Drury

Taylor

London

Stamford

Gilchrist

Revd Holland- Mrs Emmerson

London

Lord Radstock

Marriage etc etc cutting pictures from books

Going to Lord Milton to get him to procure me a writers place Pomfrets poems etc his failure his long enduring kindness to my father the wish to dedicate my first poems to his Lor[d]ship the reasons for not doing so first Visit to Milton

Visit to Burghley

Old Hopkinson and wife -Morton their characters

'Rumour and the popular voice'

'Some look to more then truth and so confirm Opinion'

Carey's Dante first visit to London - going to Mr Carys chiswick - Visiting

Thompsons grave at Richmond church- Wainwright

Visit to holliwell house mistake i n - a young governess spending sundays in woods fetching bags flower maxey robbing orchards nights love affairs

 

John Clare's Journal

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THE JOURNAL

Monday

Tuesday

6th Day of Septr 1824

I have determind this day of beginning a sort of journal to give my opinion of things I may read or see and set down any thoughts that may arise either in my reading at home or my musings in the Fields and this day must fill up a sort of Introduction for I have nothing else to set down all I have read to day is Moores Almanack for the account of the weather which speaks of rain tho its very hot and fine .

I have read Foxes book of Martyrs 1 and finishd it to day and the sum of my opinion is that Tyrany and

Cruelty appear to be the inseperable companions of Religious Power and the Aphorism is not far from truth that says' All priests are the same'- The great moral prescept of a meek and unoffending teacher was 'Do as ye would be done unto' and 'love those that hate you' 2 if religious opinions had done so her history had been praiseworthy

Wednesday The rainy morning has kept me at home and I have amusd my self heartily sitting under Waltons Sycamore tree hearing him discourse of fish ponds and fishing what a delightful book it is the best

 

Some Brief Observations

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SOME BRIEF OBSERVATIONS

1807

In the field called the Barrows as a man was digging a

Grip over one of the lands he found the remains of a human body one foot deep -lying with the legs doubled up beneath it and a short time after I found several beads of a variety of beautiful colours there was also a fine locket found and the remains of several other ornaments

Some men digging along on Copper [i.e. Cowper] green found several bones of the human species lying all their length in one grave- 1813 May

[A48, R43]

Monday 101h August 1828

A Favourite Tabby Cat Got killed to day either purposly or by accident I cannot make out which

Jany Jrd 1829

Paid to Joseph Henderson Milton The sum of

12s/. on account and for J. Taylor for roman coins

[N17, inside front cover]

Oct 81h

Friday 1830 Recieved 6 sets of Poems

6 Do of Village Minstrel

And 12 Do of Shepherds Calender

[N29, 10]

April19

The last of my Poor Stock Doves got murdered in the cage under the Eldern Tree in the Garden by a Dog after I had kept it seven years

 

Memorandums

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MEMORANDUMS

[Clare's Appendix no. 5]

There is £400 in the Funds or at least was before it was put in said to be in the joint Names of Taylor and Hessey

I know nothing more

I have had no settlement with Taylor and Hessey yet for neither of the Volumnes and have gone on in a very foolish manner

I am sorry now tho its not too late - one of the best Counselors tells me to 'put no confidence in Man' and I believe Expirience is reminding me that wroldly faith is of less worth then nothing but

Experience sells her advice very dear and makes every body pay for it. I understand that 7000 of the Poems on Rural Life and Scenery and the Village Minstrel was struck off up to the 4 Edition of the one and 2nd Edition of the other 5000 of the first and 2000 of the Second

I was to have half the profits but I wish I had sold them out and out as others do and then I shoud have had the principal out at use and the interest to live on and now I get nothing as it were

Edward Drury has most of my M.S.S. and Taylor and Hessey has copys and origionals of them all

 

Clare's Will and Related Observations

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CLARE'S WILL AND RELATED OBSERVATIONS

In the name of God amen, I John Clare of the Parish of Helps tone in the County of Northampton do make this my last Will and

Testament

I give to my Sister Sophia Kettle 1 the Sum of £10, and leave the Sum of 4 shillings a week to my Parents both out of the Copy right of my works if in case they make as much money in interest as here specified if not the sum that they shall make is to be applied as above and if they make more the overplus goes to my childern the £16 interest from the 4 per Cents is to be paid to my family as usual and the principal divided amongst the

Childern at the youngests coming of age tho my wife is to have the benefit of the interest not only to bring up the childern but so long as she continues unmarried all My Books are to be published on the origional terms of half profits to my family

I wish Taylor and Hessey to be the Publishers and I further wish that my friend John Taylor shoud be the Editor of my Remains and that all my writings be submitted to him he was one of the first friends I met and I wish to leave him one of the last

 

Business Dealings with Edward Drury and John Taylor

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BUSINESS DEALINGS WITH EDWARD DRURY

AND JOHN TAYLOR

Ned Drury has got my early Vol of M .S.S .

I lent it him at first but like all my other M.S.S. elsewere I coudnever get it agen-he has a great quantity of Songs written purposly for an intended publication with music by Crouch 1

5 or 6 of them was publishd but what profit they made I cannot tell

I got nothinghe has copys of all my M.S.S. except those written for the Shepherds Calender- the 'early M.S.S. Book' was the one which I bought of J.B.Henson of Market Deeping it is a thin Folio in parchment covers

I gave 8 shillings for it

[D14, 6r]

To E. Drury

As I expect the words of the dead are venerably noticed which they leave behind let me hope then from you (if my survi[v]er) that my wishes may be complied with in publishing no poems which are against my inclination in any improved form what ever but to utterly condemn them to oblivion M.S.S. excepted if I knew such things I dissaprove of shoud appear in print in part after my death it woud be the greatest torture possible therefore all you find in these books mark wi a cross an[y] of the above description this is the only thing I wanted to 2 look the books over for and this is a thing which as a friend I hope one day or other you will see acted according to my wishes

 

The Will o Whisp or Jack a Lanthorn

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THE WILL 0 WHISP OR JACK A LANTHORN

[Clare's Appendix no. 9]

I have often seen these vapours or what ever philosophy may call them but I never wit nessd so remarkable an instance of them as

I did last night which has robd me of the little philosophic reason[in]g which I had- about them I now believe them spirits but I will leave the facts to speak for themselves - There had been a great upstir in the town about the appearance of the ghost of an old woman who had been recently drownd in a well- it was said to appear at the bottom of neighbour Billings close in a large white winding sheet dress and the noise excited the curosity of myself and my neighbour to go out several nights together to see if the ghost woud be kind enough to appear to us and mend our broken faith in its existance but nothing came on our return we saw a light in the north east over eastwell green and I thought at first that it was a bright meoter it presently became larger and seemd like a light in a window it then moved and dancd up and down and then glided onwards as if a man was riding on hors back at full speed with a lanthorn light soon after this we discoverd another rising in the south east on 'dead moor' they wa s about a furlong asunder at first and as if the other saw it it danced away as if to join it which it soon did and after dancing together a sort of reel as it were- it chaced away to its former station and the other followd it like things at play and after suddenly overtaking it they mingled into one in a moment or else one dissapedrd and sunk in the ground we stood wondering and gazing for a while at the odd phenomenon and then left the will o wisp dancing by itself to hunt for a fresh companion as it chose

 

A Remarkable Dream

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A REMARKABLE DREAM

Last night octr 13.1832 I had a remarkable dream- that [my]

Guardian spirit in the shape of a soul stirring beauty again appeared to me with the very same countenance in which she appeared many years ago and in which she has since appeared at intervals and moved my ideas into extacy- I cannot doubt her existance- I thought I was in a strange place and in a rather fine room among strange people yet the host who appeared so paid me much attention and kindness yet I was in low spirits and in despondancy when on a sudJen a lovely creature in the shape of a young woman with dark & rather disordered hair and eyes that spoke more beauty then earth inherits came up to me in a familiar way and leaning her witching face over my shoulder spoke in a witching voice and cherishing smiles sentences that I cannot rcccolect yet I instantly knew her face and the reccolections of her appearance in former dreams came vivid in sleep

The first dream in which she appeared to me was when I had not written a line- I thought she suddenly came to my old house led me out in a hurried manner into the field called maple hill and there placed me on the tope where I could see an immense crowd all around me - in the south west quarter of the field towards hilly wood & swordy well appeared soldiers on horse back moving in evolutions of exercise the rest were crowds of various descriptions on foot as at a large fair where ladies in splendid dresses were most numerous but the finest ladie in my own hearts opinion was the lady at my side- I felt shamed into insignificance at the sight and seemed to ask her from my own thoughts why I had been so suddenly brought into such immense company when my only life and care was being alone and to my self

 

'Closes of greensward ... '

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Journey out of Essex

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JOHN CLARE BY HIMSELF

followed but being careless in mapping down the rout as the Gipsey told me I missed the lane to Enfield town and was. going down

Enfield highway till I passed 'The Labour in vain' Public house 2 where A person I knew comeing out of the door told me the way

I walked down the lane gently and was soon in in Enfield Town and bye and bye on the great York Road where it was all plain sailing and steering ahead meeting no enemy and fearing none I reached Stevenage where being Night I got over a gate crossed over the corner of a green paddock where seeing a pond or hollow in the corner I forced to stay off a respectable distance to keep from falling into it for my legs were nearly knocked up and began to stagger

I scaled some old rotten paleings into the yard and then had higher pailings to clamber over to get into the shed or hovel which I did with difficulty being rather weak and to my good luck I found some trusses of clover piled up about 6 or more feet square which I glady mounted and slept on there was some trays in the hovel on which I could have reposed had I not found a better bed

 

Asylum Observations

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ASYLUM OBSERVATIONS

God almighty bless Mary Joyce Clare and her family now and forever - Amen

God almighty bless Martha Turner Clare and her family now and forever-Amen

[N8, 21]

Fern hill at the back of the chapple a beautifull retreat from a mad house

[N8, 25]

Jack Randalls Challange To All The World

Jack RandalP The Champion of the Prize Ring Begs Leave To

Inform The Sporting World That He Is Ready To Meet Any Customer In The Ring Or On The Stage To Fight For The Sum Of £500

Or £1000 Aside

A Fair Stand Up Fight half Minute Time Win

Or Loose he Is Not Particular As To Weight Colour Or Country

All He Wishes Is To Meet With A Customer Who Has Pluck

Enough To Come To The Scratch

Jack Randall

May 1st 18412

[N8,42]

Note for 'Child Harold'

Easter Sunday - 1841

Went In The Morning To Buckhurst

Hill Church And Stood In The Church Yard- When A Very

Interesting Boy Came Out While Organ Was Playing Dressed In

A Slop Frock Like A Ploughboy And Seemingly About Nine

Years Of Age

He Was Just Like My Son Bill When He Was

About The Same Age And As Stout Made - He Had A Serious

 

Letter to Matthew Allen, c. 27 August 1841

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LETTER TO MATTHEW ALLEN

To MATTHEW ALLEN

[c.27 August 1841]

My dear Sir

Having left the Forest in a hurry [I h]ad not time to take my leave of you and your family but I intended to write and that before now but dullness and dissapointment prevented me for I found your words true on my return here having neither friends or home left but as it is called the 'Poets cottage' I claimed a lodging in it where I now am- one of my fancys 1 I found here with her family and all well- they meet me on this side Werrington with a horse and cart and found me all but knocked up for I had travelled from Essex to Northamptonshire without ever eating or drinking all the way save one pennyworth of beer which was given me by a farm servant near an odd house called the plough one day I eat grass to humour my hunger- but on the last day I chewed Tobacco and never felt hungry afterwards- where my poetical fancy is I cannot say for the people in the neighbourhood tells me that the one called 'Mary' has been dead these 8 years 2 but I can be miserably happy in any situation and any place and could have staid in yours on the forest if any of my friends had noticed me or come to see me- but the greatest annoyance in such places as yours are those servants styled keepers who often assumed as much authority over me as if I had been their prisoner and not likeing to quarrel I put up with it till I was weary of the place altogether so I heard the voice of freedom and started and could have travelled to York with a penny loaf and a pint of beer for I should not have been fagged in body only one of my old shoes had nearly lost the sole before I started and let in the water and silt the first day and made me crippled and lame to the end of my journey

 

Self Identity

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SELF IDENTITY

A very good common place counsel is Self Identity to bid our own hearts not to forget our own selves and always to keep self in the first place lest all the world who always keeps us behind it should forget us all together - forget not thyself and the world will not forget thee - forget thyself and the world will willingly forget thee till thou art nothing but a living-dead man dwelling among shadows and falshood

The mother may forget her child

That dandled on her lap has been

The bridegroom may forget the bride

That he was wedded to yestreen 1

But I cannot forget that I'm a man and it would be dishonest and unmanly in me to do so

Self Identity is one of the finest principles in everybodys life and fills up the outline of honest truth in the decision of character- a person who denies himself must either be a mad man or a coward

I am often troubled at times to know that should the world have the impudence not to know me but willingly forget 2 me wether any single individual would be honest enough to know me such people would be usefull as the knocker to a door or the bell of a cryer to own the dead alive or the lost found there are two impossibillities which can never happen - I shall never be in three places at once nor ever change to a woman and that ought to be some comfort amid this moral or immoral 'changing' in life

 

Autumn

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AUTUMN

Autumn hath commenced her short pauses of showers calms and storms and sunshine and shadow and with all her bustle she is nothing but a short preface before a large volume of 'Winter' though not yet come to drive us to the fireside

He is giving us daily notice by dirty paths brimming dykes and naked fields that he is already on the way - it is now very pleasant to take walks in the morning and in fact at any time of the day though the mornings are misty and 'the foggy dew' 1 lies long on the grass - here is a drove leads us on its level sward right into the flaggy fens shaded on each side with white thorn hedges covered with awes of different shades of red some may be almost called redblack others brick red and others nearly scarlet like the coats of the fox hunters - now we have a flaggy ditch to stride which is almost too wide for a stride to get over - a run and jump just lands on the other side and now a fine level bank smooth as a bowling green curves and serpentines by a fine river whose wood of osiers and reeds make a pleasant rustling sound though the wind scarcely moves a single branch - how beautifull the bank curves on like an ornament in a lawn by a piece of water the map of ploughed field and grass ground in small alotments on the left hand with an odd white cottage peeping some where between the thorn hedges in the very perfection of quiet retirement and comfort and on the right hand the clear river with its copses of reeds and oziers and willow thickets and now and then a house peeps through where the willows are not so thick and showing trees loaded with apples of a dull red and too thick for lodges shows we are near the approach of a town and now the church spire 2 looking rather large dimensions catches the eye like a jiant overtopping trees and houses and showing us his magnitude from half way up the tower to the weathercock and looks noble above his willow woods nothing looks so noble among country landscapes as church steeples and castle towers as fine houses and public edifices do among city scenery- tis pleasant as I have done to day to stand upon a length of Bridges3 and notice the

 

Letters and Notes of the Northampton Period

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LETTERS AND NOTES OF

THE NORTHAMPTON PERIOD

To CHARLES CLARE

Northampton Asylum June 15 1847

My dear Boy

I am very happy to have a letter from you in your own hand writing and to see you write so well

I am also glad that your

Brothers and Sisters are all in good health and your Mother also besure to give my love to her but I am very sorry to hear the

News about your Grandfather but we must all die- and I must

[say] that Frederic and John had better not come unless they wish to do so for its a bad Place and I have fears that they may get trapped as prisoners as I hear some have been and I may not see them nor even hear they have been here

I only tell them and leave them to do as they like best - its called the Bastile by some and not with [out] reasons- how does the Flowers get on

I often wish to see them- and are the young Childern at home

I understand there are some I have not yet seen kiss them and give my love to them and to your Mother and Brothers and Sisters and my respects To John Bellars and to your Neighbours on each side of you Mr and Mrs Sefton 1 and Mr and Mrs Bellars and others who enquire after me

 

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