John Clare

Mark Storey (ed.), The Letters of John Clare

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To Thomas Inskip1         Tuesday, 10 August 1824

Text: Charles Clark2

Address: Mr Thomas Inskip Watchmaker Sheiford near Biggleswade Bedds August 10

Dear Inskip

You will have drawn some unpleasant pictures of my pg 300 carlesness & seeming neglect in not answering your letter ere now but the fact is easily explained   I have been in London 3 months for the benefit of better advice than the country affords & I am sorry to acknowledge that I feel very little better   I have been in a terrible state of ill health six months gradually declining & I verily believe that it will upset me at last   I was taken in a sort of appoplectic fit & have never had the right use of my faccultys since   a numbing pain lies constantly about my head & an acking void at the pit of my stomach keeps sinking me away weaker & weaker    I returned home last Saturday were I found your letter & I have attempted to answer it as soon & as well as I can3   I shall only be at home for a few weeks to try the air    to be sure if it improves my spirits I shall remain if not the next thing for me to try is salt water   I woud have calld on you at Shefford if I had been able but I can get no were by myself I am so ill still I think I feel better since I got home & if I get better I will write you word of my remaining here were I shall be heartily happy to see you but visiting a sick man has no sort of temptation in it as I can do nothing with Sir John Barlycorn now   I have often thought of our London Evening & I have often thought of writing to you—poor Bloomfield I deeply regret now its too late   I had made up my resolution to see him this summer but if he had been alive I shoud have been dissapointed by this coldblooded lethargy of a disease   what it is I cannot tell   it even affects my senses very much by times—I heard of Bloomfields death & it   shockd my feelings   poor fellow   you say right when you exclaim 'who would be a poet'4   I sincerely lovd the man & I admire his Genius & readily (nay gladly) acknowledge his superiority as a Poet    in my opinion he is the most original poet of the age & the greatest Pastoral Poet England ever gave birth too   I am no Critic but I always feel & judge for myself    I shall never forget the pleasures which I felt in first reading his poems   little did I think then that I shoud live to become so pg 301 near an acquaintance with the Enthusiastic Giles & miss the gratification of seeing him at last—I am grievd to hear of his family misfortunes    were are the icy hearted pretenders that came forward once as his friends—but it is no use talking this is always the case—neglect is the only touchstone by which true genius is proved   look at the every day scribblers I mean those nonsense ginglings calld poems 'as plenteous as blackberrys'5 published every now & then by subscription & you shall find the list belarded as thickly with my Lord this & my Lady tother as if they were the choicest geniuses nature ever gave birth too while the true poet is left to struggle with adversity & buffet along the stream of life with the old notorious companions of genius Dissapointment & poverty tho they leave a name behind them that posterity falls heir too & Works that shall give delight to miriads on this side eternity   well the world is as it is & we cannot help it—I wrote 3 Sonnets to his Memory but I did not feel satisfied with them6   if I ever get better I mean to write a Monody whose only reccom[en]dation perhaps will be its sincerity—as soon as I am more able I will write to you again   in the mean time if you feel inclined to answer this letter I shall feel glad to hear from you—I heard that Bloomfields Remains was just published as I left London but I was so ill that I coud make no enquirys about them7   I wish them success &

            I remain sincerely yours &c&c   John Clare

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 Thomas Inskip (1779–1849) was a watchmaker who lived at Sheiford, Bedfordshire, and knew Bloomfield; he wrote Cant, a Satire (1843), and was Clare's most regular correspondent in the early years in Northampton asylum (see NMS 52).
Editor’s Note
2 Three Very Interesting Letters … by the Celebrated Poets Clare, Cowper, and Bird. Printed verbatim From the Original Manuscripts … Great Totham, Essex; Charles Clark's Private Press, 1837. Only 25 copies were printed.
Editor’s Note
3 Inskip had written (n.d., MS Eg. 2250, fol. 238), reminding Clare that they had met in London, when Clare had promised to call on Bloomfield; it was now too late, as Bloomfield had died in 1823.
Editor’s Note
4 Inskip wrote: 'Good God, who need wish to be a Poet … his dear Children are permitted to be the Heirs of his Poverty!'
Editor’s Note
5 A common proverbial expression.
Editor’s Note
7 The Remains, ed. Joseph Weston (1824); see Clare to Weston, 7 March 1825.
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