A tribute to David Powell

          David Powell has been one of the most significant 20th-century scholars to proclaim the genius of John Clare, and it was very appropriate that he was in charge of the Clare manuscripts in the Northampton Central Library.  He wrote his thesis for his B.A. on Clare and published an anthology of Clare’s poems, especially assembled for children.  That book is still the best book published on Clare specifically directed to the young.

          He and I worked together for many years and David always was reliable, and – as a librarian should be – excellent at finding obscure details of Clare’s background.  What Margaret Grainger did for the Helpston Clare, David did for the Northampton Clare.  They were both great champions of the poet because they both drew upon their own roots for sustenance.  David and I worked together in some of the great British and American collections of Clare’s papers – at the British Library, at Oxford and Cambridge, at Harvard and Yale, at the University of Texas, and, of course, at Northampton and Peterborough in England.

          He enjoyed his visits to North America and soon made his way around New York and Philadelphia as if he were a commercial traveler.  I think of him as a loyal friend in a great undertaking.  He is irreplaceable.  I must also add that he was the most loyal fan of the Northamptonshire Cricket Club – and so a man of good taste!  He was an inveterate walker – in that role as well, Clare would have appreciated him.

Eric Robinson
1 October 2012

           In the following pages children — of all ages — can come into the kingdom of the child-like Clare, and even when he speaks of the ways of nature and the inhabitants of the countryside beyond our immediate acquaintance with them we may feel at home. For him beauty certainly was truth, and there was plenty for his watchful, grateful poetic self to receive. It is with particular regard that I view Mr Powell's selection of the poems. He is one who has already done faithful service in another way for Clare, and for those who 'sue to know Clare better', he has indeed, through his access to many manuscripts and books and relics of the poet, been living in his spiritual company for years past. The sensitive quality in the choice of poems will be quickly acknowledged by all who look into the book, town dwellers equally with those who may still notice Clare's birds, flowers, trees, weathers and village children at their threshold or near it.

Edmund Blunden

(from the Introduction to "The Wood is Sweet" - Bodley Head 1966)

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