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13 November 2014

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You are in: Cornwall > History > Local History > Clemo's Love Letters

Jack Clemo and his wife Ruth

Clemo's Love Letters

Heartfelt Valentines cards written by the Cornish poet Reginald John 'Jack' Clemo have been uncovered by researchers at Exeter University as part of the Archive Awareness Campaign. Clemo didn't find true love until he reached his early '50s.

Jack Clemo was born in Goonmarris Slip in the heart of St Austell's clay country, in 1916 and was the son of an illiterate clay-kiln worker. 

Clemo came from a humble background, endured several periods of complete blindness as a child and left school at the age of just twelve.

Rith and Jack

Ruth and Jack in clay country

However he became known as a prolific writer, who later in life became permanently blind and almost deaf but still managed to become nationally recognised for his poetry and prose.

Clemo was deeply religious and fervently believed it was God's will for him to marry; however he didn't find true love until he reached his early 50's when he met and married Ruth Peaty, a laundry woman from Weymouth. 

As a result Clemo was also able to rediscover a lighter side to life and his poetry. His love for Ruth and self-expression through his poetry, and his mischievous wit, are encapsulated in the little romantic cards he composed each year for his 'sweet little Pixie': 

This Valentines comes chirping
Amid a roar of mail,
But it will reach dear Pixie's heart,
And warm it without fail.

Following the death of his wife, Clemo bequeathed these delightful cards and personal documents to his archive of literary papers at University of Exeter. His relationship with the University goes back to the 70's when Special Collections bought a few of his literary note books; and later in 1981 he received an honorary doctorate.

Causley and Clemo

Two Cornish greats - Causley and Clemo

Amongst Jack Clemo's personal papers which have recently been catalogued, are the diaries in which he documented the many hardships in his life. His correspondence, especially the Valentine's cards provide a welcome contrast showing the joy he experienced and could express in the written word. 

Helen Jones, Special Collections Project Archivist, University of Exeter said:

"I hope that these sweet, very personal, little cards will serve as a reminder of what can be expressed with just a small sheet of paper, a little imagination and a lot of love."

Jack Clemo's personal papers are being catalogued alongside those of seven other authors as part of a National Cataloguing Grants Scheme funded project. 

last updated: 25/02/2009 at 14:03
created: 16/02/2009

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