John Clare was an English Romantic poet best known for his vivid and lyrical descriptions of rural England. He is frequently referred to as a ‘peasant poet’ due to his poverty as an agricultural farm worker forced to live in obscurity, devoid of any joys of recognition. His poems primarily focused on nature’s beauty, rural life, and suffering. He was born into an illiterate farm laborer family and received only a limited amount of formal education. He began working as a farmer at a young age in order to support his family. Along with manual labor, he began writing nature poetry, expressing his admiration for rural England’s pristine beauty and his sadness over its destruction. He fell in love for the first time as a young boy with a girl named Mary whose wealthy father forbade them from meeting. The heartbreak added to the difficulties and tragedies he had already encountered in his youth. His first collection of poems, ‘Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery,’ was a critical and commercial success. He was not, however, destined for fame or prosperity and would never be able to replicate his success with his other works.
Childhood & Adolescence
John Clare was born into a family of farm laborers in the English village of Helpston. Parker Clare was his father’s name. He received a limited formal education and was only in school until the age of 12.
He was forced to work as a farm laborer as a child in order to support his impoverished family.
His family struggled to make ends meet, and young John worked as a waiter, a gardener, and a farm hand to earn a living. Despite his odd jobs, he was forced to accept parish relief.
Career of John Clare
Clare was a voracious reader and possessed a copy of Thomson’s Seasons. He began writing his own poems and sonnets after being inspired by the poet. He sold his first collection of poems to a local bookseller, who forwarded it to Taylor & Hessey, a publishing house.
In 1820, he published his first collection of poetry, ‘Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery.’ This book received widespread critical acclaim and quickly became a bestseller. He was lauded for his lucid prose and vivid descriptions of nature and its elements.
After the success of his first book, he traveled to London and met other writers and poets, including John Keats, William Hazlitt, and Thomas De Quincey.
In 1821, he published ‘Village Minstrel and Other Poems.’ While it was well received by his readers, it fell short of the success of his debut.
Throughout the 1820s, he wrote on a variety of subjects and genres, though the majority of his works were never published. He had begun writing his autobiography, ‘Sketches in the Life of John Clare,’ but was unable to complete it.
As a poet, he was more concerned with the inventiveness of his expressions than with the written word’s formal rules. He rarely used punctuation, frequently misspelled words, and incorporated terms from the local dialect into his poems.
In 1827, he published ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar with Village Stories and Other Poems,’ but only a few copies were sold. By this time, he had a large family to support and was experiencing severe financial strain. He developed a drinking problem, and his health deteriorated as well.
He died in 1835, embroiled in financial and health problems. His final work, ‘The Rural Muse,’ was published in 1835. Although the book received favorable reviews, it did not generate enough revenue to support Clare financially. As a result, his drinking problem deteriorated and he developed mental health problems.
Clare went to Dr Matthew Allen’s private asylum High Beach near Loughton in 1837 on his own accord after realizing he had serious psychological problems. He was assured of the best medical care. In 1841, he escaped from the asylum and returned to his home.
He was later committed to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he continued to write poetry until 1864. He wrote his most famous poem, ‘I Am,’ at this asylum, which was published in 1848.
Significant Works of John Clare
His first published work, ‘Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery’ (1820), was an unexpected success, selling over 3000 copies in its first year—a remarkable feat for a first-time poet. Three times it was reprinted.
Ironically, he wrote his most famous poem, ‘I Am,’ while incarcerated in an asylum for mentally ill patients and feeling isolated from his family and friends. He reasserts in the poem that he will find peace in death as a result of his love of the natural world. The poem was composed between 1844 and 1845 and first published in 1848.
Personal History and Legacies
As a young man, he fell in love with a girl named Mary Joyce, but was unable to pursue a relationship with her due to her father’s opposition. However, he never forgot her, and years later, while in a delirium, he claimed she was his first wife.
In 1820, he married Martha (“Patty”) Turner. The couple had nine children, the majority of whom died during childhood. The family lived in abject poverty, which was exacerbated by his mental health problems and alcoholism.
Estimated Net Worth
John Clare is one of the wealthiest poets and is ranked as one of the most popular poets. John Clare’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
This tragic poet’s life began with tragedy when his twin sister died in infancy despite being born a healthy baby.
He suffered from chronic malnutrition throughout his childhood, which contributed to his poor health throughout his life.
He had delusions in his later years that he was Lord Byron and Shakespeare in previous lives.