John Clare

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Northamptonshire poet John Clare who, according to one of Melvyn’s guests Jonathan Bate, was ‘the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced’. Clare worked in a tavern, as a gardener and as a farm labourer in the early 19th century and achieved his first literary success with Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. He was praised for his descriptions of rural England and his childhood there, and his reaction to the changes he saw in the Agricultural Revolution with its enclosures, displacement and altered, disrupted landscape. Despite poor mental health and, from middle age onwards, many years in asylums, John Clare continued to write and he is now seen as one of the great poets of his age.

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  • Sir Jonathan Bate 16 episodes
    Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford
  • Mina Gorji No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in the English Faculty and fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge
  • Simon Kovesi No other episodes
    Professor of English Literature at Oxford Brookes University

Reading list

  • John Clare: Selected Poems
    Jonathan Bate (ed.) (Faber & Faber, 2004) Google Books →
  • John Clare: A Biography
    Jonathan Bate (Picador, 2003) Google Books →
  • The Idea of Landscape and the Sense of Place
    John Barrell (Cambridge University Press, 1972) Google Books →
  • Talking About John Clare
    Ronald Blythe (Trent Books, 1999) Google Books →
  • John Clare and the Imagination of the Reader
    Paul Chirico (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) Google Books →
  • Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery
    John Clare (Forgotten Books, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Rural Muse
    John Clare (Andesite Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • The Shepherd's Calendar
    John Clare (Carcanet Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Village Minstrel and other Poems, 2 vols
    John Clare (BiblioLife, 2008)
  • A Champion for the Poor: Political Verse and Prose
    P. M. S. Dawson, Eric Robinson and David Powell (ed.) (Carcanet, 2000)
  • John Clare and the Folk Tradition
    George Deacon (Francis Boutle, 2002) Google Books →
  • The Independent Spirit: John Clare and the Self-Taught Tradition
    John Goodridge (ed.) (The John Clare Society and The Margaret Grainger Memorial Trust, 1994) Google Books →
  • John Clare: New Approaches
    John Goodridge and Simon Kovesi (eds.) (John Clare Society, 2000) Google Books →
  • John Clare, The Trespasser
    John Goodridge (Five Leaves Publications, 2016) Google Books →
  • John Clare and Community
    John Goodridge (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • John Clare and the Place of Poetry
    Mina Gorji (Liverpool University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Class and the Canon: Constructing Labouring-Class Poetry and Poetics, 1780-1900
    Mina Gorji and Kirstie Blair (eds) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) Google Books →
  • John Clare in Context
    Hugh Haughton, Adam Phillips and Geoffrey Summerfield (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • John Clare's Religion
    Sarah Houghton-Walker (Routledge, 2009) Google Books →
  • New Essays on John Clare: Poetry, Culture and Community
    Simon Kovesi and Scott McEathron (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • Clare's Lyric: John Clare and Three Modern Poets
    Stephanie Kuduk Weiner (Oxford University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • John Clare By Himself
    Eric Robinson and David Powell (eds.) (Carcanet, 1996)
  • John Clare: Major Works
    Eric Robinson and David Powell (eds.) (Oxford World's Classics, 2004)
  • John Clare: A Literary Life
    Roger Sales (Palgrave, 2002) Google Books →
  • Edge of the Orison: in the Traces of John Clare's 'Journey out of Essex'
    Iain Sinclair (Penguin Books, 2006) Google Books →
  • Clare: The Critical Heritage
    Mark Storey (ed.) (Routledge, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Midsummer Cushion
    Anne Tibble and R. K. R. Thornton (ed.) (Carcanet, 1990)

Related episodes

Programme ID: b08cstfr

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Auto-category: 821.7 (English poetry)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. John Clare is seen now as one of the great poets of the 19th century and according to one of our guests today, the greatest labouring class poet that England has ever produced.