John Clare: an Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography. (Volumes I and II).
This annotated bibliography of John Clare (1793-1864) contains primary and secondary material from 1819 through 1983. Chapter One lists all editions and collections of Clare's poetry and prose. Chapter Two lists anthologies which contain one or more selections of Clare's work. Chapter Three is devoted to those bibliographies which contain relevant Clare material. Chapter Four provides material written about Clare and includes reviews, scholarly notes, biographical sketches, articles, and book-length critical studies and biographies. An examination of Clare scholarship over the last 165 years reveals the difficulty in assessing his strengths and emphasizes the broad range of critical comment and editorial response to his work. Critical reception has varied considerably--from the initial warmth generated by Clare's celebrity status as the "peasant poet" to the long years of relative neglect. Beginning most notably with the efforts of Blunden and Porter in the 1920's, Clare's reputation as a "real" poet has been promoted by numerous critics. Nevertheless, despite much recent sympathetic critical attention, Clare still remains difficult to assess. The four volumes published during his lifetime abound in nature description, which many readers throughout the years have found to be "pretty" at best--at worst, unappealing and mindless. In contrast, Clare's so-called asylum verse reaches heights of introspection, revealing a darker edge, a greatly altered and broadened vision; and some critics find in the best of these romantic tapestries of ego, agony, and light a lyricism akin to Blake's and Wordsworth's. But if ever Clare's abilities as a poet and his place in English literature are to be determined, he must be studied unfragmented and unencumbered by the labels "peasant," "sane," and "mad," as several scholars in the last decade have attempted. But further study needs to be done on the relationship of the early poetry as well as the prose to his later work. In addition, Clare's prose and its effects on his poetry need to be assessed. The Oxford edition of Clare's complete works is now in progress, a work which will ultimately prove indispensable in studying and assessing Clare's development and achievement.