On the 12th July 1824 Clare found himself in the throng witnessing Lord Byron's funeral procession.  Here is an excerpt from Clare writing about Lord Byron just after this date, and as part of an essay on "Popularity" which was published in 'The European Magazine' in November 1825 (his only published essay).  As has been recorded elsewhere, there are dozens of manuscript texts of the essay, which Professor Eric Robinson and I have been working upon for some years. I am hoping to publish a complete essay in due course.  We have been particularly struck by Clare's line, "He had an ambition of attaining papularity either at discount or interest" which was overlooked in the published article.

He was an Oliver Cromwell with the critics he broke up their long standing parliment & placed his own will in the speakers chair which they humbly accepted     they submitted to one that scorned to be shackeld & changed the bit in his stead they praised & respected him    nay & worshiped him    he was all in all in their mouths & their writings   but I suspect their hearts had as much love for him as the peasantry had for witches in the last century     who spoke well of them to their faces because they dare not do otherwise for fear of meeting an injury

He had an ambition of attaining popularity either at discount or interest     he was singular in his genius by sporting with subjects that time has rendered {so} sacred as to become the universal hopes of {all} human existances     to him they appeared as the common infirmities of earthly happiness – universal doubts & visions of unrealizing happiness – he won the applause of popularity less by his sterling merit as a poet then by his odditys as a man (...)  there were his infirmities – they are but as spots in the sun – his merits & his excellences out shine them & make them of less consequense then shadows – his powers are beyond my pen & I shall not venture to praise them – the sun does want the light      the light of a lamp or candle to show its glory – he is enrolled among the immortals & shines as the jewel in the crown of modern literature

Pet MS A49 p6-7

No comments: