John Clare and Poetic ‘Genius’



The first half of this essay is an analysis of John Taylor’s Introduction to John Clare’s Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. It argues that Taylor—Clare’s editor and publisher—made claims for Clare’s special poetic ‘genius’ by combining an emphasis on his unpropitious personal and social circumstances with a thus far under-scrutinised presentation of the Romantic aspects of his poetic practice and verse. The second half of the essay connects Taylor’s Introduction to Clare’s own writing on ‘genius’. Clare wrote a number of poems to, or about, his Romantic contemporaries. In the particular cases in question here, Clare treats the ‘genius’ of Lord Byron’s ‘sublime’ work and poetic status and the ‘genius’ of William Wordsworth’s attention to the beauties of nature and ‘human kind’. A defining quality of Romantic genius, then, is imagined by Clare in aesthetic terms. Taylor constructed a very influential idea of Clare’s genius, but the poet also shows himself to participate in significant ways in a contemporary debate on the nature of poetic genius.

Keywords: John Clare, Romantic authorship, poetry, genius, reception

How to Cite: White, A. (2014) “John Clare and Poetic ‘Genius’”, Authorship. 3(2). doi: