'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 his poetry.