By G. C. Thornley, Gwyneth Roberts
A survey of the English prose, poetry and drama of serious Britain and eire from earliest instances to the Nineteen Eighties.
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In politics I never dabbled to understand them thoroughly with the old dish that was served to my forefathers I am content. but I believe the reading a small pamphlet on the Murder of the french King many years ago with other inhuman butcheries cured me very early from thinking favourably of radicalism the words 'revolution and reform' so much in fashion with sneering arch infidels thrills me with terror when ever I see them - there was a Robspiere, 49 or somthing like that name, a most indefatigable butcher in the cause of the french levellers, and if the account of him be true, hell has never reeked juster revenge on a villian since it was first opened for their torture - may the foes of my country ever find their hopes blasted by dissappointments and the silent prayers of the honest man to a power that governs with justice for their destruction meet always with success.
Deeping, wishing him to begin the proposals and address the public himself, urging he coud do it far better then myself but his Answer was that I must do it, after which I made some attempts but having not a fit place for doing any 21 JOHN CLARE BY HIMSELF thing of that kind, lodging at a public house and pesterd with many other inconviniences, I coud not suit myself with doing it in a hurry, so it kept passing from time to time till at last I determined good or bad to produce somthing and as we had another lime kiln at Ryhall about 3 miles from Pickworth I often went there to work by myself were I had leisure to study over such things on my journeys of going and returning to and fro; and on these walks morning and night I have dropd down 5 or 6 times, to plan this troublsome task of An address etc in one of these musings my prosing thoughts lost them selves in rhyme, in taking a view as I sat neath the shelter of a woodland hedge of my parents distresses at home and of my laboring so hard and so vainly to get out of debt and of my still added perplexitys of ill timed love - striving to remedy all and all to no purpose I burst out in an exclamation of distress, 'What is Life', 38 and instantly reccolecting such a subject woud be a good one for a poem I hastily scratted down the 2 first Verses of it as it stands as the begining of the plan which I intended to adopt and continued my jorney to work, but when at the kiln I coud not work for thinking about what I had so long been trying at; so I set me down on a lime skuttle and out with my pencil for an address of some sort, which good or bad I determind to send off that day and for that purpose when finished I accordingly started to Stamford about 3 miles from me still along the road I was in a hundred minds wether I shoud throw all thoughts up about the matter or stay while a fitter oppertunity to have the advice of some friend or other but on turning it over in ones mind agen a second thought informd me that I had none I was turnd 22 SKETCHES IN THE LIFE OF JOHN CLARE adrift on the broad ocean of life and must either sink or swim: so I weighd matters on both sides and fancied let what bad woud come they coud but ballance with the former if my hopes of the Poems failed I shoud be not a pin worse then usual - I coud but work then as I did already- nay i considerd I shoud reap benefit from disapointment their downfall woud free my mind from all foolish hopes and let me know that I had nothing to trust to but work, so with this favourable idea I pursued my intention, dropping down on a stone heap before I got in the town to give it a second reading and correct what I thought amiss as I found my printer had little abilitys that way, I was feign to do my best at it to escape being laughd at When I got to the Post Office they wanted a Penny as I was past the hour, but as I had none and hating to look so little as to make the confession I said with a little petteshness that it was not mine and that I shoud not pay for other peoples letters the man lookd a little supprisd at the unusual garb of the letter which I was half ashamd of- directed with a pencil, written on a sheet of paper that was crumpled and grizzld with lying in ones pocket so long and to add to its novelty sealed with shoemakers wax.
Y useful to me at somethings they woud laugh here I distinguishd Affectation and consiet from nature some verses they woud desire me to repeat again as they said they coud not understand them here I discoverd obscurity from common sense and always benefited by making it as much like the latter as I coud, for I thought if they coud not understand me my taste shoud be wrong founded and not agreeable to nature, so I always strove to shun it for the future and wrote my pieces according to their critisisms, little thinking when they heard me read them that I was the author My own Judgment began to expand and improve, at least I consieted so, and thinking my critisisms better then theirs I selected my pieces approvd of by them and even found most of em fit for nothing but my mothers old purposes, for as I kept sorting them over and over there was few that escaped that destiny in the end.
An Outline of English Literature by G. C. Thornley, Gwyneth Roberts