Anthropomorphism and the Critique of Liberal Rights in John Clare’s Enclosure Elegies

Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


Marketed as a “peasant poet,” John Clare’s poetic identity is marked by his relationship to the natural world. His poems detail the vanishing topos of his childhood spent on common land; enclosure interrupts his walking paths with fences, cuts down beloved trees, and radically alters the visible landscape. “All my favourite places have met with misfortunes,” Clare laments in his “Autobiographical Fragments” (BH 41). Describing the fate of particular, beloved places altered by enclosure, Clare uses the word “misfortune,” a word that hints at his penchant for anthropomorphism, since “misfortune” is almost always used in connection with human social existence. Clare’s middle period poetry records his native Helpston’s natural and social history through a “language that is ever green,” which has been described by James McKusick as a unique “ecolect” that attempts to conserve what is left of his native Helpston.1


Human Life Natural World Human Freedom Liberal Conception Representational Strategy 
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  1. 5.
    Although often this view was put forth to highlight the threat of liberal rights, such as in Thomas Taylor, A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes (London: Edward Jeffrey, 1792).Google Scholar
  2. Perkins, Romanticism and Animal Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Katey Castellano 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.James Madison UniversityUSA

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