John Clare

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‘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.

About Jonathan Bate

Jonathan Bate is Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford and on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is the editor of the highly acclaimed RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works (Macmillan) and the author of many books, including John Clare: A Biography (Picador), which was short-listed for seven prizes and won Britain’s two oldest literary awards, the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. Professor Bate has lectured on Shakespeare throughout the world and has held visiting posts at Harvard, Yale and the University of California. He was made CBE in the Queen’s 80th birthday honours, for his services to literature and higher education.

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Books by Jonathan Bate

The Genius of Shakespeare
The Genius of Shakespeare
Song of the Earth
Song of the Earth