Ann Radcliff and John Clare : two sides of love


To the Visions of Fancy                              Ann Radcliffe   1764-1823

Dear, wild illusions of creative mind!
Whose varying hues arise to Fancy’s art,
And by her magic force are swift combin’d
In forms that please, and scenes that touch the heart:
Oh! whether at her voice ye soft assume
The pensive grace of sorrow drooping low;
Or rise sublime on terror’s lofty plume,
And shake the soul with wildly thrilling woe;
Or, sweetly bright, your gayer tints ye spread,
Bid scenes of pleasure steal upon my view,
Love wave his purple pinions o’er my head,
And wake the tender thought to passion true;

O! still—ye shadowy forms! attend my lonely hours,
Still chase my real cares with your illusive powers!”


First Love – Poem by John Clare      1793 – 1864    (written 1848/49)

I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start —
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice?
Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love’s appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more


No real reason for putting these up except I quite like them.  Their lives overlapped some thirty years though I have never seen that they met.  Quite likely Clare heard of her ‘invention’ of the gothic novel and possibly read some whilst visiting his ‘supporters’ houses and libraries.

Clare’s poem was written in the Northampton asylum having been ‘homed’ in a private asylum in Epping in 1837 then committed to Northampton Asylum having had a gap of just over five months at his Northborough home with wife and family (they having moved away from his Helpston birthplace).   He was always prolific in his writing whether poems, song or prose and his time in the asylums maybe produced much of greater quality.  The fact that he was comfortable, relaxed as may be, fed, given writing materials and had friends to write to or be visited by had freed him from the scraping poverty and trials of failed success in his writings and maybe too in his inability to support his family agriculturally.

Ann Radcliff is an almost blank to me, another gap to be filled.   I have not read any novels but the poems I have read incline me to read further.

mistress of Udolpho pictA brief biog. said she lived in London, was married with no children.  Wrote several, becoming successfu,l novels which have entered our literary stable  and also became noted for her poetry.  Her novels are her claims to fame as she is recognised as inventing the ‘gothic’ genre.  I did note that she had a breakdown in 1812, part of which had her claiming to have written other peoples novels too.  She spent two and a half years in Windsor before returning to her husband in London.  Poor health in some form continuing until her death.

I wonder where in Windsor?

But, eyes right! here is another title for me to search out and read.

PRICE: £17.99 Paperback ISBN 0 7185 0202 7 .
EXTENT: 320pages, 8 plates of illustrations.PUBLISHER: Leicester University Press. Order from the publisher Continuum International.


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