Authors: John Clare

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works


Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, 1820

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems, 1821

The Shepherd’s Calendar, 1827

The Rural Muse, 1835

The Later Poems of John Clare, 1964 (Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield, editors)

The Shepherd’s Calendar, 1964 (Robinson and Summerfield, editors)

Selected Poems and Prose of John Clare, 1967 (Robinson and Summerfield, editors)

The Midsummer Cushion, 1979

The Later Poems of John Clare, 1837-1864, 1984

The Early Poems of John Clare, 1804-1822, 1988-1989


Sketches in the Life of John Clare, Written by Himself, 1931

John Clare’s Birds, 1982

John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings, 1983

The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare, 1983

The Letters of John Clare, 1985

Selected Letters, 1988 (Mark Storey, editor)


John Clare, who became known as a “peasant poet,” was the son of an almost illiterate farmer, Parker Clare, in Northamptonshire. John was a twin; his twin sister died shortly after birth. As a child he spent his time playing in the countryside with his surviving sister. About three months a year he attended school in the nearby village of Glinton. At the age of twelve he went to work, attending school at night, until he was fourteen. He worked in the fields at haying time and tended cattle, later finding work as a gardener at Burghley House, owned by the marquis of Exeter. This was a life that gave the young man time to wander, to read, and to think. He also found time to write poetry, sometimes nature poems, and sometimes drinking songs.{$I[AN]9810000607}{$I[A]Clare, John}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Clare, John}{$I[tim]1793;Clare, John}

Fame came to Clare immediately after the publication of Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery in 1820. On the title page of this volume the poet was described as “a Northamshire peasant.” The volume brought Clare influential friends as well as fame. It also brought him some friendly reviews in the important periodicals of the time. Lord Radstock became Clare’s patron, and the poet, assured of an income, married Martha Turner, whom he had known for some time prior to his success as a published poet. In 1821, a year after his first volume, he published The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems. As time passed, the poet’s family grew in size, and so did his problems. Quarrels with his publishers, need of more and more money, and poor mental health as well as physical disability plagued the poet. After the publication of The Shepherd’s Calendar in 1827, Clare still found himself in such need of immediate funds that he took to selling his poems from house to house. His mental illness increased in intensity, with attacks recurring with greater frequency until he had to be placed in an asylum in Epping Forest in 1837. His caretakers permitted him to continue to write while in the asylum. After escaping custody briefly in 1841, he was found and placed in another asylum in Northampton, where he remained until his death in 1864. During his last years he wrote several poems, most of which reveal his mental disarray.

Clare’s fame, which declined greatly during the later years of his life, rose again after his death. He has retained some significance as a minor poet for his exact and detailed descriptions of nature.

BibliographyBate, Jonathan. John Clare: A Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003. Scholarly biography of the writer.Blythe, Ronald. Talking About John Clare. Nottingham, England: Trent, 1999. A commentary on the relationship between the English rural writer and the places that inform his work. Includes passages on many writers who are thematically associated with John Clare.Chilcott, Tim. “A Real World and Doubting Mind”: A Critical Study of the Poetry of John Clare. Hull, England: Hull University Press, 1985. The title of this volume is taken from Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar. Chilcott argues that the real world and doubting mind are two distinct aspects of Clare’s poetry. Discusses both his preasylum and asylum periods. A challenging critical study recommended for readers familiar with Clare.Chirico, Paul. John Clare and the Imagination of the Reader. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. This work examines Clare’s poetry, his early periodical publications, and scholarly studies by others about his writing. Also examined are his role in the literary world and his relationship with his publishers.Clay, Arnold. Itching After Rhyme: A Life of John Clare. Tunbridge Wells, England: Parapress, 2000. An in-depth biography with bibliographical references and index.Storey, Edward. A Right to Song: The Life of John Clare. London: Methuen, 1982. A full-length biography sympathetic to Clare that looks at the complexity of his poetic landscapes. The thoroughly researched biography stays close to his works and is recommended for Clare scholars.Storey, Mark. The Poetry of John Clare: A Critical Introduction. London: Macmillan, 1974. Explicitly an introduction, this volume traces the development of Clare’s poetry from his humble beginnings to his maturation. Chooses The Shepherd’s Calendar as the focal point for an examination of Clare’s mature descriptive technique. An appreciative study of Clare that highlights both the appeal and the variety of his work.Vardy, Alan D. John Clare: Politics and Poetry. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. A valuable complement to Bate’s biography, this profile examines the political and philosophical views of the poet and further investigates the role of his editor, John Taylor.
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