Mark Mitchels was the guest speaker at May’s meeting and he told the rather sad story of the life of the poet John Clare.
The next meeting of Diss U3A will take place at Diss United Reformed Church on June 7th commencing at 10.30. The guest speaker will be Peter Maggs who will be giving a talk about Henry John Hatch (first chaplain of Wandsworth Prison).
For further information about Diss U3A please visit our website or telephone 01379 642674.
Born in 1793 in rural Northamptonshire the son of illiterate peasant parents, Clare’s life could have followed the same pattern had it not been for the few years of formal education that he received at the village school. Empowered with the ability to read and write Clare discovered a love of poetry and romantic verse, this coupled with his love and observation of the countryside around him turned Clare into one of England’s finest poets. A reputation sadly not bestowed on him until long after his death.
For a brief period Clare’s work was so popular and highly praised that he received the lifetime patronage and support of the Marquess of Exeter for whom he had once worked as a gardener. Sadly his popularity was not destined to last and when public taste changed Clare took to drink and began to suffer the start of his mental health problems. In 1841 Clare was admitted to the first of the two lunatic asylums where he would spend the rest of his life,a period of twenty three years broken only on one occasion when he decided to undertake a journey of 80 miles to walk home to his wife and family.
Throughout his life Clare’s obsession with poetry never waned, continuing to write almost to his dying day leaving a legacy of over 3500 poems.
Following his death in 1864 Clare and his work were largely forgotten, it was only the inclusion of one of his poems many years later, in the Oxford Book of Verse, that led to the rediscovery of John Clare the man who today is regarded as one of England’s most important 19th century poets.