Enclosure of the English Commons Criticism: Nineteenth-Century Reaction To Enclosure - Essay

John Barrell (essay date 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Clare and the Enclosure of Helpston,” in The Idea of Landscape and the Sense of Place, 1730-1840, Cambridge, 1972, 189-215.

[In the following excerpt, Barrell looks at how critics of Clare have evaluated the role of enclosure in his poetry and then offers his own conclusions.]


Almost every critic who has written about John Clare has seen the importance of relating the enclosure of Helpston to Clare's development as a writer and to the content of his work, and Clare himself makes constant reference to the enclosure in the poems apparently composed between about 1812 and 1825. The difficulty, however, has been to escape from...

(The entire section is 6104 words.)

Johanne Clare (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Vile Invasions’: The Enclosure Elegies,” in John Clare and the Bounds of Circumstance, Kingston, 1987, 36-55.

[In the following essay, critic Johanne Clare examines several of John Clare's “enclosure elegies,” those poems of social protest and lamentation regarding the effects of enclosure on the landscape and its people.]

In his excellent account of the enclosure of Clare's native village, John Barrell has concluded that there is simply not enough evidence to allow us to know for certain whether the landless labourers of Helpston became poorer as a consequence of the enclosure.1 Of course, even if such evidence existed, we would have...

(The entire section is 8158 words.)

John Goodridge (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Pastoral and Popular Modes in Clare's Enclosure Elegies,” in The Independent Spirit: John Clare and the Self-taught Tradition, The John Clare Society, 1994, pp. 139-55.

[In the following essay, Goodridge examines John Clare's use of a variety of popular and literary traditions in what have become known as his “enclosure elegies.”]

I want to look at a group of poems that seem to me to epitomise Clare's ‘Independent Spirit’ as a self-taught poet: they have long been known, considered and admired (by radical critics, at least) as a group, but it took Johanne Clare, in her fine study John Clare and the Bounds of Circumstance, to give them a name...

(The entire section is 6699 words.)

Judith Rowbotham (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “An Exercise in Nostalgia?: John Clare and Enclosure,” in The Independent Spirit: John Clare and the Self-taught Tradition, edited by John Goodridge, The John Clare Society, 1994, pp. 165-77.

[In the following essay, Rowbotham discusses whether John Clare was correct in blaming enclosure for what he saw as the destructive changes in rural society.]

There once was lanes in natures freedom dropt
There once was paths that every valley wound
Inclosure came, and every path was stopt
Each tyrant fixt his sign where pads was found
To hint a trespass now who crossd the ground
Justice is made to speak as they command
The high road now must be each stinted bound...

(The entire section is 5489 words.)

Andrew Phillips (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Society,” in The Rebirth of England and English: The Vision of William Barnes, Anglo-Saxon Books, 1996, pp. 55-67.

[In the following essay, Phillips discusses William Barnes's vision for England and his critiques of mid-nineteenth-century English society in his poetry and prose.]

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.

Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village

The enclosing of the commons robbed the country folk in England of leisure and independence, the coming of the factories took them from the fields and the old communities, and flung them into the...

(The entire section is 4763 words.)