The greatest mistake John Clare made was to forsake his first love, Mary Joyce; her memory was to inspire many of his poems. Clare was the son of a labourer. He was deeply attached to his locality in Northamptonshire, and lived simply as thresher, ploughboy and limeburner. His first volume of poems, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, was published in 1820. Having given up Mary Joyce, he soon after married Martha Turner, but it was not a happy affair. He found solace and occupation in poetry: a number of volumes quickly appeared: The Village Minstrel (1821), The Shepherd’s Calendar (1827).
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