[Glinton Church]

I am writing about the more or less penniless John Clare, whose publishers have sent him a dateless “Student’s Journal” in which they hope he will make notes for a natural history book rather like that written by Gilbert White. It has no printed dates; so Clare can start it in September.
He is ravished by its paper. Being prolific, he has never possessed nearly enough paper for his needs. Those who could well afford to do so never think of giving him a ream or two. Instead, they give him ad­vice. And when finally he collapsed, the Lunacy Board put it down to covering too much paper.
Before this tragedy, Clare got out. He walked the fields and woods. He socialised in the pub. He would, on a fine day, lie low, and, out of the eye of the labouring world, would be out sensuously watching butter­flies, or sniffing wild flowers. Sometimes with a girl.
Those who understood money doled out his slender royalties in case he blued them all at once. The seasons passed; the Glinton bells rang; the new profitable farming wrecked his village; the boardrooms had him in mind. Having read and met Hazlitt, he refused to stick to poetry, and now and then went into the economy-protest business, showing more knowledge of money than he was entitled to — not to say nerve.
The clear white pages of the “Student’s Journal” grew dark with ink....

Ronald Blythe ~ Church Times
20 February 2009

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