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Biography of John Clare

John Clare

John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet, was born in Helpston, England on July 13th, 1793.

At the age of six Clare began taking care of sheep and geese and just four years later began working on a farm while attending a school where he learned algebra. Later, he became a pot-boy in a public-house where he fell in love with Mary Joyce. However, her father forbid her to see him.

Clare then began work as a gardener at Burghley House. He enlisted into a militia where he tried camp life with gypsies and worked in Picksworth as a lime burner in 1817.

With little money, Clare bought Seasons by Thomson. Later, he began writing poems and soon became published by Taylor & Hussey in 1820. His poem The Setting Sun, written on a scrap of paper, was founded by a bookseller in 1819 who befriended Clare before introducing his poems to John Taylor who later published Clare's Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery.

In 1820 John Clare married and would receive 45 pounds annually, far greater than what he had earned before. However, by 1823 Clare was nearly penniless.

In 1827 Clare wrote The Shepherd's Calendar which had little success. He then became seriously ill before Lord Fitzwilliam presented him with a small cottage and land. However, gradually Clare's mind gave way.

Clare's last work, Rural Muse, was written in 1835. As time went on Clare's insanity grew and by July in 1837 he was moved to a private asylum and later to Northampton general lunatic asylum where he died on May 20th 1864.

Poems by John Clare

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