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JOHN CLARE: POEMS OF THE MIDDLE PERIOD, 1822--1837. Volumes I and II. Edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell, and P. M. S. Dawson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Pp. xxix + 376; xiv + 402. $105; $105.
First, caveat emptor. The Later Poems of John Clare, 1837-1864 (1984) and The Early Poems of John Clare, 1804-1822 (1989) both appeared in two volumes. It would therefore be reasonable to suppose that these two volumes, also appearing simultaneously, complete the edition. Not so: one has to read the fine print to discover that three further volumes for this period will appear in due course ("shortly," the editors announce hopefully in the Introduction). The volumes under review contain poems that first appeared in The Shepherd's Calendar (1828), and related but uncollected and often hitherto unpublished poems and fragments originating in the designated period.
Because the editions of Clare's poetry published during his lifetime were extensively corrected and expurgated by others, notably his publisher John Taylor, the present editors favor manuscript rather than printed versions for their copytexts in an attempt to reproduce as accurately as possible what …