Edmund & Hellen (excerpt)

When madness gauls those sorrows to despair
Ah what is hope in sorrows saddest hour
A falling meteor that once seemd a star
A flattering shower on autumns sickly bower
A dewdrop glistning on a withered flower
The fond bird leaves its nest & pines forlorn
When its loved mate becomes the fowlers prey
Een the fair blossom from its partner torn
By maiden choice or childhoods wanton play
Mourns the foul deed & withereth away

Clare's very devotion to write poetry may have been interpreted as madness by his neighbours. Tragically, this seems to be a chief reason why he was eventually confined. As Bate says early on, "In summer he walked in the woods and fields alone, a book in his pocket . . . his love of books began to isolate him from other boys . . . the villagers found this behaviour very odd: `some fancying it symptoms of lunacy.'" Even after reading the book, it is anyone's guess as to whether Clare was insane; but stories of his battles against what illness he may have suffered from as well as the ignorance, incompetence and greed of those purporting to care for him make for a rather heart-breaking read. What we can be sure of, though, is that mad or not, Clare had become more of a liability than a father or husband. "There is no evidence that he was taken to the asylum because he was `mad' in the sense of having lost consciousness of his identity . . . he was taken to the asylum because he needed better care than could be provided by his family," Bate writes.

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