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John Clare

On 13th June 1989 Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, unveiled a memorial to nature  poet John Clare in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. This is an oval mural tablet of LePine limestone and Welsh slate, designed by Donald Buttress, Surveyor of the Fabric at the Abbey. The lettering is by John Skelton and the memorial matches that to Matthew Arnold adjoining it. Above the inscription is a dove with an olive branch and the inscription reads:

"JOHN CLARE 1793-1864 Poet. Buried at Helpston. "Fields were the essence of the song"

Clare was born on 13th July 1793 at Helpston in Northamptonshire, the son of Parker Clare, local wrestler, and his wife Ann (Stimson). He was educated in the folklore of the area but did receive some schooling. Apprenticed to a cobbler he preferred to work on the land and pursue his botanic and birdwatching interests. At the time of the Napoleonic wars he enlisted in the county militia. He married Martha Turner but had several relationships. Seven of his children reached maturity. His fame came in 1820 when his Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery was published. The Village Minstrel, The Shepherd's Calendar and The Rural Muse followed. With deteriorating health he entered a private asylum at Epping and was later committed to Northampton Asylum. He was buried in Helpston churchyard. He is remembered as the finest naturalist of Britain's poets and was a collector of folk songs and dances from his county.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

See the website of the John Clare Society. His cottage is open to the public www.clarecottage.org

 

Born

13th July 1793

Died

20th May 1864

Memorial

13th June 1989

Field

Poet

Location

South Transept; Poets' Corner

Memorial Type

Tablet

John Clare
John Clare

William Hilton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

John Clare
John Clare memorial

© The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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