‘Childish Recollections’: From Lamb to Byron and Clare
Clare’s poetry of childhood constitutes one of the most extensive bodies of lyric writing on this subject. Romanticism itself is often considered to be fundamental to creating the modern sense of childhood’s special status. To understand Romanticism, then, is – from this perspective – to understand its preoccupation with childhood. This chapter surveys a number of lyric poems that address the subject of childhood in the Romantic period, outlining how pervasive the subject was and unpacking some of its key terms. This chapter argues that we should situate Clare in this tradition of lyric, but that Clare’s characteristic and original contribution to this tradition is in his repeated expressions of the joys of childhood, with a pained, peculiar self-conscious reflection that this period of life can never be returned to.