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John Clare

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss John Clare, the 'Northamptonshire peasant poet', whose writing was as celebrated as his life was humble.

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.


Sir Jonathan Bate
Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford

Mina Gorji
Senior Lecturer in the English Faculty and fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge


Simon Kövesi
Professor of English Literature at Oxford Brookes University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

48 minutes

Last on

Thu 7 May 2020 21:30


Ode to a Nightingale by John  Keats

The Nightingale's Nest by John Clare

John Clare Society  

Centre for John Clare Studies

John Clare – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

John Clare Society Journal (from 1982) – first 30 issues now freely available online

John Clare Cottage

John Clare – Wikipedia



Jonathan Bate (ed.), John Clare: Selected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2004)

Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography (Picador, 2003)

John Barrell, The Idea of Landscape and the Sense of Place, 1730-1840: An Approach to the Poetry of John Clare (Cambridge University Press, 1972)

Ronald Blythe, Talking About John Clare (Trent Books, 1999)

Paul Chirico, John Clare and the Imagination of the Reader (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

John Clare, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (first published 1820; Forgotten Books, 2016)

John Clare, The Rural Muse (first published 1835; Andesite Press, 2015)

John Clare, The Shepherd’s Calendar (first published 1827; Carcanet Press, 2006)

John Clare, The Village Minstrel and other Poems, 2 vols (first published 1821; BiblioLife, 2008)

P. M. S. Dawson, Eric Robinson and David Powell (ed.), A Champion for the Poor: Political Verse and Prose (Carcanet, 2000)

George Deacon, John Clare and the Folk Tradition (Francis Boutle, 2002)

John Goodridge (ed.), The Independent Spirit: John Clare and the Self-Taught Tradition (The John Clare Society and The Margaret Grainger Memorial Trust, 1994)

John Goodridge and Simon Kövesi (eds.), John Clare: New Approaches (John Clare Society, 2000)

John Goodridge, John Clare, The Trespasser (Five Leaves Publications, 2016)

John Goodridge, John Clare and Community (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Mina Gorji, John Clare and the Place of Poetry (Liverpool University Press, 2009)

Mina Gorji and Kirstie Blair (eds), Class and the Canon: Constructing Labouring-Class Poetry and Poetics, 1780-1900 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

Hugh Haughton, Adam Phillips and Geoffrey Summerfield (eds.), John Clare in Context (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Sarah Houghton-Walker, John Clare’s Religion (Routledge, 2009)

Simon Kövesi and Scott McEathron (eds), New Essays on John Clare: Poetry, Culture and Community (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, Clare’s Lyric: John Clare and Three Modern Poets (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Eric Robinson and David Powell (ed.), John Clare By Himself (Carcanet, 1996)

Eric Robinson and David Powell (ed.), John Clare: Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics, 2004)

Roger Sales, John Clare: A Literary Life (Palgrave, 2002)

Iain Sinclair, Edge of the Orison: in the Traces of John Clare’s ‘Journey out of Essex’ (Penguin Books, 2006)

Mark Storey (ed.), Clare: The Critical Heritage (first published 1973; Routledge, 2013)

Anne Tibble and R. K. R. Thornton (ed.) The Midsummer Cushion (Carcanet, 1990)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Jonathan Bate
Interviewed Guest Mina Gorji
Interviewed Guest Simon Kovesi
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 9 Feb 2017 09:00
  • Thu 9 Feb 2017 21:30
  • Thu 7 May 2020 09:00
  • Thu 7 May 2020 21:30

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