This book is a comprehensive critical introduction to one of the most original contemporary British writers, providing an overview of all of Iain Sinclair's major works and an analysis of his vision of modern London. It places Sinclair in a range of contexts, including: the late 1960s counter-culture and the British Poetry Revival; London's underground histories; the rise and fall of Thatcherism; and Sinclair's writing about Britain under New Labour and Sinclair's connection to other writers and artists, such as J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock and Marc Atkins. The book contributes to the growing scholarship surrounding Sinclair's work, covering in detail his poetry, fiction, non-fiction (including his book on John Clare, Edge of the Orison), and his film work. Using a generally chronological structure, it traces the on-going themes in Sinclair's writing, such as the uncovering of lost histories of London, the influence of visionary writings, and the importance of walking in the city, and more recent developments in his texts, such as the focus on spaces outside of London and his filmic collaborations with Chris Petit. The book provides a critically informed discussion of Sinclair's work using a variety of approaches.
Customary society and oral culture in rural England, 1700–1900
The spoken word
‘Things said or sung a thousand times’
‘Things said or sung a thousand times’:
customary society and oral culture in
rural England, 1700–1900
Things cleared away then down she sits
And tells her tales by starts and fits
Not willing to lose time or toil
She knits or sews and talks the while 1
JohnClare’s long poem sequence The Shepherd’s Calendar celebrates English
rural popular culture or, at least, that part of it represented by the local
customs of his own village of Helpston in Northamptonshire in the late
to the nest, specifically as
it figures in the work of the Romantic poet JohnClare and is refigured
in the ecopoetic experimentation of the contemporary writer (and erstwhile
conservation biologist) David Morley.
The interpretive frame that I bring to this discussion is informed by
several further lines of theorisation which enrich Plumwood’s proposal
for a ‘radical green writing project’: ecophilosopher Freya Mathews’s
transpecies ethic of ‘bioproportionality’ (2014), which I relate to Derrida
and Dufourmantelle’s notion of ‘radical hospitality’ (2000), and
Pun and pleasure: Hood’s tied trope
Hood mercy on us has he not grown into a jiant with his puns . . . I sometimes think he has suffered a metamorphosis & become altogether a pun
is his I’s & his no’s & his air’s & his here’s about his head as formerly or
are they gone into the waggerys of his pen . . .
(JohnClare, letter to Allan Cunningham, circa 1830)1
Admitting, however, the viciousness, the felonious sinfulness of punning,
it is to be apprehended that the liberty of the pun is like the liberty of the
press, which, says the patriot, is like the
have seen an opportunity to return a favour to the son of his old
employer. Contributors to the London Magazine whom Hood would
meet professionally and socially in a period he later recalled with delight
included Thomas De Quincey, William Hazlitt, Bryan Waller Procter,
Allan Cunningham, JohnClare, John Hamilton Reynolds, and Charles
Lamb, who became ‘almost a father’ to him. His editorial position at
the London Magazine enabled Hood to experiment with writing and
publishing anonymously short pieces in a variety of styles. His first book
of poetry, Odes and
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below – above the vaulted sky.
JohnClare’s poem is sombre and impressive in tone, and gains
extra poignancy when we know that it was written in the 1840s
during his long confinement in the Northampton Asylum, where
he felt himself long forgotten, indeed, almost buried alive. In
reading this and the other poems considered in the present chapter,
I will make use of what I see
by a series of characters that recall this: the crippled nun Alfgiva
dragging herself on her elbows (‘November Saints’), the
lame knight Simon de Senlis (‘Limping to Jerusalem’),
JohnClare’s bad foot (‘The Sun Looks Pale upon the
Wall’), the burned-through leg in ‘I Travel in
Suspenders’ and, finally, Uncle Chick and Big John Weston
(‘Phipps’ Fire Escape’). Similarly, Moore
mimesis, a representation of the fractured social, economic and political landscape of modernity. The Romantic poet most alluded to in Sinclair is not P. B. Shelley, however, it is William Blake, particularly Jerusalem , whose apocalyptic imagination of London and Albion (echoed in Sinclair’s own Albion Village Press) recurs in several texts, particularly in lines about ‘the Isle of Leutha’s Dogs’. In Sinclair’s 2005 non-fiction text, Edge of the Orison , he turns from Blake to JohnClare, the later Romantic poet, whose own outsider status was assured by his
Century, Harper Collins, London, 1997, pp. 182–183.
37 ‘Proposals for printing by Subscription for the Benefit of the Author’, Jopson’s Coventry
Mercury, 24 November 1788, p. 3.
38 Rizzo, ‘Patron as poet maker’; Stott, Hannah More, p. 73; Jonathan Bate, JohnClare.
A Biography, Pan Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2004, pp. 143–192 and passim. Fergus,
‘Provincial Servants’, pp. 223–224.
39 Carolyn Steedman, ‘Lord Mansfield’s women’, Past and Present, 176 (2002), pp. 105–143.
40 Jopson’s Coventry Mercury, 14 September 1789, p. 3.
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