REVIEWS (of all books)

We feel so honoured to have received these words of praise for our books - The Lovers Meeting and The Poet in Love - from Ronald Blythe and Professor Eric Robinson.

Here is Ronnie Blythe on the book, "I read, and re-read The Poet in Love... it is a delight; beautifully presented and even revolutionary in its demand that we should look at Clare 'passionately and practically'. You have re-instated Patty... and you have dethroned Mary Joyce. The book makes us look at Clare in a fresh way, and this is no easy matter considering the stream of Clare criticism. Anne Lee's illustrations are fascinating - a kind of poetry in themselves."
"Your limited editions of both The Lovers Meeting and The Poet in Love are stunning. So beautiful, such treasures for my John Clare bookcase. Perhaps they should lie on a table where everyone can see them, pick them up and delight in your artistry. The end-papers themselves are a treat. And your decision to publish Clare as he spelt adds a poetic dimension to these publications. They really are very beautiful.

From Eric Robinson : "No one can read this book (The Poet in Love) without learning much of Clare's courtship of Patty during these formative years. It is a very strange story, but it reveals much of the essential character of a poet who had at last been recognised as a very great writer.  Roger Rowe and Anne Lee have made an important contribution to Clare studies. And I am pleased to know that more is yet to come from their joint efforts."

Other comments:
From ‪Anthony Lewis : "My copy of the The Lovers Meeting is a delight to have and to hold, it rests on my table centre of room, and sooner or later without any prompting from me it is picked up by visitors, eventually they say where did you get this from... then I explain... I always like to evangelise and share about John Clare at any opportunity when on walkabout... I am looking forward to receiving in due course the 2nd Volume... thanks to all those involved for bringing these well crafted books out."

From ‪Pat Blalock (on The Lovers Meeting) : "I've read the poem three times now & love it more each time. Clare expresses so beautifully the feelings of urgency that the young feel about love & sex... & I also love the way Clare has included the feelings of the young woman & her fears & her hope of marriage, but also, & shockingly for the time, her enjoyment of 'shame in secret'. Anne Lee's photographs are perfect for the text & the quality of the book itself is a joy. I'm very pleased to have the book & will return to it again & again.  You have truly liberated this poem. Thank you!

From ‪Tony Lanfranchi : "Have just received my copy. Well what can I say to you and Anne but thank you, thank you thank you!! Absolutely stunning!! I feel very privileged to own a limited edition!! Thank you Thank you very much indeed for the painstaking work that has clearly gone into this totally unique product! Looking forward to the next one already!"

From Isobel AlexanderI have a copy of the leather version of the Lover's Meeting, with the chemise cover as per the photo here.  The poem is a cracking read.  I'm still fairly new to John Clare in comparison with reading the work of other Romantic poets, and have learned from my short time in this group that there is a lot of Clare poetry I don't have access to.  So I'm thrilled to have this special edition of a poem I had not read before.

The extra special thing about this book is it's presentation.  I have been a member of the Folio Society for over 10 years.  They produce 'Beautiful Books' as a recent exhibition called them.  It is heartening to see books still being produced in a traditional way.  This is what I have in The Lover's Meeting.
  The materials selected for the cover, the endpapers, the leather spine with gold lettering, then the pages themselves with a stylish font, all combine to make this particular beautiful book.  
The photographs which enhance each facing page of type appear almost 3 dimensional, as if they have been placed on top of the paper.  The chemise cover is a clever and appropriate finishing touch.  Very simply, I love this book and will treasure it, and remember how as it came into being, I came to know the people who created it.

From Barry Sheerman MP : Many "John Clare love poems were presumed too "steamy" to be published in his lifetime -- now newly rediscovered & soon to be published. I’m privileged to have a copy of The Lovers Meeting a beautiful limited edition copy of a previously unpublished John Clare love poem. Anyone who is not getting a limited edition copy of The Lovers Meeting ... is being seriously neglected"

From ‪John Lincoln : "Just got back from my meeting at the John Clare cottage, where I picked up my copy of the handmade book - The Lovers Meeting. An excellent production and it was good to meet up with Roger and Anne again."

From a long review by Jacqueline Cosby (whole review is available if anyone would like sight) : "By promoting Clare’s voice, Roger Rowe and Ann Lee not only validate Aristotle’s concept of the ‘pleasure’ of ‘man and nature’, but together, they demonstrate (through John Clare’s work) that there is no ‘object standing between the Poet and the image of things.’ It is the image contained within Clare’s work that is the truth, whether literary or visually. No-one can truly censor it. It is a part of humanity. The Lovers Meeting marks a simple truth of the natural force of human desire. It cannot be quashed."

From ‪Pat Blalock : "Have spent the last couple of days reading the poems in The Poet In Love. Each one is a gem and I love the way Clare uses the landscape and the natural world to describe Patty and the intimacy between them. In fact each time you re-read a poem you find more and more revealing itself and more of Clare revealing himself. Wonderful of Roger Rowe and Anne Lee to have unearthed these poems. I feel as if you have opened the locked door for John Clare."

From ‪Tony Lanfranchi : "Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Anne and Roger. My copy of The Poet In Love was waiting for me when I got home from work about an hour ago!! Stunning work indeed... "Thy breasts so white thy cheeks so red, O sweet the morning wakes in thee"... fantastic!!!"

From David Morley : "So glad I bagged a copy!"

From ‪James Murray-White : My copy sitting beautifully on my desk, awaiting my attentions, but a delight to have it here. Offer still stands to make a short film about the entire trilogy...

From Frances Kiernan : "Now a happy owner of The Poet in Love - beautiful book from Roger Rowe and Anne Lee. Great to meet you both on Saturday. I enjoyed the day tremendously."

Other Books
I have received "Solitude". More words seem superfluous - but I've got to say something! A perfect concept in every way. It is already precious but not so that it has to be put away on a shelf. It cries out to be opened and touched and read. The pleasure I am getting from its pages is already extraordinary. Thank you for making something so beautiful. I must add that I am full of respect for you that something so lovely has been issued with such modesty. I count myself very lucky to be one of the first 20 to have the care of this consummate edition of "Solitude". Thank you. (Norman Goodman)

Better than a birthday - Shadows and Solitude arrived in the same post today - how amazing is that ! So beautiful - I've been absorbed but only really brushed the surface so far! I so enjoyed opening them, touching them and experiencing how lovely they are, even more than imagined. so many moving and beautiful lines! I can't wait to share them with my dissertation supervisor - he will be so impressed!   Thank you so, so much, the packaging on Solitude was so lovely I almost didn't want to open it!  (Gilli Driver)

"Hidden Treasures" has / have arrived ! Thank you, Roger.  I thought I'd skim it, to read properly later. But I couldn't put it down.  There are lines and images that may well be familiar.  However, I find the selection so fresh and newly thought-provoking.  So many images just brought me up short.  The shepherd boys "ankle deep in grass" who " print their wild tracks till the dews are gone".  Brilliant !  

Then, in "Solitude" ( which I read as a "walking poem"" ) there are so many wonderful observations and one made me realise again the range of John Clare's imagination.  It encompasses so much. Early on in the poem, the speaker pauses and thinks on "... nature's spells // From the silt picks out the shells ".  Is he contemplating geological age ? Mentioning shepherds, made me realise that if there is anything about modern farming that still connects with Clare's time, it is shepherding, especially at lambing time. 

Reading " Content thy home be mine" was extraordinary at this time, when we have just been reading about the execrable misuse [again] of the Honours system. Uncanny !

"I went to see her" I found unbearably beautiful. It could have been mawkish and sentimental, but it isn't; it's so honest and true.  

So much to enjoy. I hope that "Hidden Treasures" reaches a very wide readership. 

(Norman Goodman)

What a beautiful read. Thank you so much Roger for the collection of poetry and prose. I was taken to a far away land with the words of Clare - again!  

(Jacqui Cosby)

I am loving this book! Every time I open it I am enchanted by the words. Thank you for rescuing them and setting them free.
(Pat Blalock)

Thank you for the your excellent book "Hidden Treasures". Being a Clare fan ( if that's the right word!) for many years, and grew up less than 10 miles from Helpston, this a welcome addition to my Clare library. Living in South Oxfordshire and working shifts I don't get home much or attend the John Clare Festival as often as I'd like or attend John Clare Society events. I'm now more of an armchair Clare addict letting his words transport back to Clare Country that I know so well.

(Peter Bainbridge)

I have finally finished studying the volume (Accursed Wealth), and do agree it is probably one of the most important chapbooks. The strength of the rhetoric alone is great, especially since it is so clearly and powerfully related to his own life experiences. These problems have also remained relevant: that of power taking the place of truth, in that “Truth that coud once its own redresses seek / Is now deemed nothing & forbid to speak / Driven like an exiled king from past renown / Power took its place & keeps it with a frown”, and that wealth has taken the place of love – as in the great image of Cupid looking for his darts among heaps of old coins. I love how he says “the language of love is mere jargon / the gold makes the marriage”, a startlingly modern statement. I recall reading a modern essay arguing that the “jargon of the workplace” had taken over “the vocabulary of love”, hence we are stuck with such phrases as “relationships take work” and “work at your marriage”.
is rhetoric reminds me of William Hazlitt’s political essays (not an unflattering comparison), as when Clare says “Every restraint now adays is laid on poverty & every liberty is given to luxury”, much like Hazlitt contrasting the two: "their power is at the expense of our weakness; their riches of our poverty; their pride of our degradation; their splendour of our wretchedness; their tyranny of our servitude. ... The whole dramatic moral of Coriolanus is that those who have little shall have less, and that those who have much shall take all that others have left. The people are poor; therefore they ought to be starved. They are slaves; therefore they ought to be beaten. They work hard; therefore they ought to be treated like beasts of burden. They are ignorant; therefore they ought not to be allowed to feel that they want food, or clothing, or rest, that they are enslaved, oppressed, and miserable." Clare could be read with those other political writers of his age, such as Hazlitt & Cobbett & Leigh Hunt.
are also shows his gift for humor, as in the lines you have quoted before or the picture of the man who has “neither titles nor money” but boasts of being “descended from a race of heroes as low down as the norman conquest but would not mind declaring that their heraldic origin was royalty itself & that of 470 000 years standing origionating with the monarchry of Babylon”. As always it is also full of lovely phrases, such “a sugard charm still sweets the sours of fate”, or the quip of those who “prefer the court calender to Shakspear”. The latter reminds me of a comment in Thomas Carlyle’s review of Bowswell’s Life of Johnson: “The thing I want to see is not Redbook Lists, and Court Calendars, and Parliamentary Registers, but the LIFE OF MAN in England: what men did, thought, suffered, enjoyed; the form, especially the spirit, of their terrestrial existence, its outward environment, its inward principle; how and what it was; whence it proceeded, whither it was tending.” I would say Clare does provide that, gives a true sense of the LIFE OF MAN in England, the life of the rural man.
Even such clichés as that death levels all, find great expression in Clare’s poetry: “Een kings shall lay their crowns aside / To mix their dust wi’ mine!” (This to me is the mark of true eloquence: clichéd ideas become fresh expressions.) I find Clare displays great acumen when he complains that his poverty and distresses are exaggerated in the papers – that sort of gimmick advertisement remains in place when he is continuously referred to as “peasant-poet”, instead of, as you do, a “great poet”, which he surely is.
My favorite poems are “The Fallen Leaves” and “Content”, short lyrics of Frostian simplicity and power.

Tom van Veenerdall (Netherlands)