Clare, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and the Poetics of Fancy
‘Fancy’ in Clare’s poetry is a complex faculty that controls and directs a series of visual emphases and processes of aesthetic, beautifying association, but one that also deals with thought and feeling. Fancy is generally understood as the poor relation of imagination in Romantic-period writing, as is the case in Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria and in many of Wordsworth’s sonnets and his Preface to Poems of 1815. Clare, however, returns to certain eighteenth-century understandings of fancy – in particular, an emphasis on the visual operations of fancy – and de-trivialises it by making it more than just the province of the playful or frivolous, even as he keeps these aspects of fancy in view. Clare, then, fundamentally enlarges fancy as a creative faculty in the Romantic period.