The Natural Histories of Helpstone
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Margaret Grainger collected, transcribed and edited much of Clare’s writing on natural history as The Natural History Prose Writing of John Clare. Only one fault mars her otherwise wonderful volume — an overemphasis on the ‘natural history letters’ Clare produced in correspondence with Hessey as the foundation of any coherent prose project. Otherwise, she edited the various notes and fragments scattered through the Clare manuscripts as a series of beautifully delineated moments of perception and description — what we might call poetic field notes. Following the model of Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne, the natural history letters look like a literary conceit constituting the substance of the work. White’s own treatise evolved from his ‘Garden Kalendar’ which he commenced in 1751 to his more expansive ‘Naturalist’s Journal’ to his final ‘Natural History’ written in epistolary form. Following Hessey’s lead Clare created the series of letters and clearly intended them to be published on the model of White. For his part, Hessey followed his own enthusiasm for White’s natural history, and his own deeply held faith in the spiritual power of the natural world in pursuing the project.
KeywordsNatural History Journal Entry Hide Capacity Previous Autumn Wild Flower
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