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2 September 2014
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John Clare

Often described as the "Peasant Poet" Clare was a prolific writer despite suffering from mental illness.

Clare - Fact File

  • 1793: Born in Helpston, Northamptonshire
  • 1806: Works as a pot boy at the Blue Bell Inn
  • 1820: First major works published
  • 1837: Admitted to High Beach Asylum
  • 1864: Dies

John Clare

Known as "the peasant poet" John Clare spent much of his life in and around the small Northamptonshire village of Helpston.

Born in 1793 he worked as a farm labourer and in the local tavern the Blue Bell Inn next door to his home.

His work focused on his natural surroundings, capturing the changing seasons and the nature around him but he struggled to make any impact as a poet in his early life.

Success came in 1820 after completing Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. Visits to literary society London enhanced his reputation and increased his fame, but the tag "peasant poet" remained throughout his life, possibly because he lacked an academic background.

Clare suffered from bouts of depression and after suffering delusions, in 1837, Clare was committed to an asylum where he spent the last 26 years of his life. He left the asylum in High Beach Asylum in Epping Forest in July of 1841 and walked 80 miles back home later described in his book Journey Out of Essex. This didn't stop his writing, however, and he continued to write poetry, becoming increasingly influenced by the work of Byron, until his death in 1864.

Image: National Portrait Gallery, London

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