'The resurrection of Child Harold' : a transcription of Nor, MS6. and a reconsideration of John Clare's Child Harold and related writings.
There is, to date, no facsimile edition of John Clare's 1841 Folio manuscript,
Nor, MS6 or the earlier octavo notebook known as Nor, MS8. My intention in this
thesis is to redress this situation by firstly presenting a transcription of the entire
contents of Nor, MS6, while secondly incorporating an account of Nor, MS8 and its
compositional relationship with Nor, MS6. As a direct result of this transcription I have
offered a full account of the layout and sequential order of Nor, MS6, which I go on to
argue requires critical commentators to reconsider not only Clare's long poem Child
Harold but the entire contents of this manuscript. My thesis challenges a number of
assumptions made about the construction and sequential order of the stanzas which
make up Child Harold that have arisen as a result of previous editorial decisions.
Chapter One serves to contextualise the manuscript's contents within the framework
of Clare's confinement at High Beech asylum in Essex, most particularly the impact of
confinement on the growth and development of Clare's two long poems of 1841, Don
Juan and Child Harold.
Chapter Two. This Chapter raises some issues about the responsibility an editor owes
to a Folio manuscript such as Nor, MS6. I ask a rhetorical question; 'How to edit Nor,
MS6?' and explore some of the problems which face the editor ofC1are's later work in
the absence of any clear authorial intention. I also offer a Textual and Critical History
of the poetry of 1841, which inevitably and not always justifiably, has been centred on Child Harold and Don Juan. During the course of this history I trace the slow but
discernible development of interest in Clare's asylwn poetry written during his first
confinement as it moves from a biographical preoccupation with Clare's insanity to a
more coherent appreciation of its significance.
Chapter Three. This Chapter describes the physical and stylistic characteristics of Nor,
MS6. I offer a detailed account of the makeup of this manuscript at the same time
outlining the differences between Nor, MS6 and Clare's earlier manuscript Nor, MS8.
During the course of this discussion I describe the importance of a nwnber of stanzas
written at home in Northborough after Clare's escape from High Beech and suggest
the impact of freedom on Clare's creative output. I also explore the function and
significance of the Songs and Ballads in the construction of the Child Harold stanzas
and the remaining material of Nor, MS6.
Chapter Four. This Chapter contains notes to the text of the entire contents of Nor,
MS6. I explain the editorial principles behind the transcription and offer a detailed
description of Nor, MS6.
Chapter Five. A transcription of the entire contents of Nor, MS6. The transcription is
accompanied by endnotes and a photographic reproduction of the pages of the original
manuscript held at Northampton.
Chapter Six. 'A Reading of Child Harold'. This Chapter offers a reading of Child
Harold in the context of the remaining material in Nor, MS6. I suggest that there is
evidence of an autobiographical presence in all the writings in Nor, MS6 which reconstructs or reworks a central autobiographical account of loss, confinement and
escape. I go on to argue that although there appear to be three different narratorial
personae within the manuscript they are in fact bound together by one dominant
speaker. Clare's obsessive reconstruction of one central account, his relentless quest to
find permanence, home, loved woman and a particular truth implicit to these
associations would appear to shape and control the contents ofhis notebook.
Conclusion. I briefly consider two opposing contemporary views on the editing of
Clare's poetry and consider the implication these different approaches hold for the
contents of Nor, MS6 in particular. I conclude by examining the impact present
copyright may have upon new readings of Clare's work and upon proposed editions of