John Clare and the Folk Tradition

John Clare and the Folk Tradition offers a unique insight into the culture and tradition that inspired one of England’s finest poets. As a collector of folk-song, John Clare was recording, earlier than anyone else in Southern England, the oral and music traditions of his home village, Helpston, a pre-industrial village. As a fiddle player he left a permanent record of the nearly 300 tunes he collected and played for his own enjoyment and, as a villager, he has given us a wonderful evocation of the custom, folklore and beliefs he shared with his contemporaries in Helpston, Northamptonshire (now Cambridgeshire), in the early years of the nineteenth century. In this book George Deacon brought this material together for the first time and shows how powerful an influence the folk tradition had on the development and maturity of John Clare the poet.


This is also a rare opportunity to understand how the villagers of a pre-industrial village entertained, cheered and consoled themselves given to us by one the finest descriptive poets in the English Language. Clare collected dance tunes and recorded the words to many ballads and songs as well as reporting on customs and games. Collecting in the early years of the 19th Century. Clare was the earliest collector of folk song in southern England. His collection is a unique and invaluable record of the culture and entertainment of a rural village in pre-industrial England


John Clare and the Folk Tradition is widely acknowledged as the definitive study of the relationship between one of England’s finest poets and the music, song dance and drama of his native Northamptonshire village. The book contains transcripts of all of Clare’s fiddle tune manuscripts and the words of the songs he collected set to appropriate song tunes together with the text of the Helpston Mummer’s Play and all of the Dance instructions. It is illustrated with examples of Clare’s poetry and photographic reproductions of Clare manuscripts and contemporary broadsides. The Paperback edition is currently sold out but the author has a number of signed copies of the hardback first edition available as well as Dream Not of Love his CD recording of 17 of the songs. To order see Contact and Orders page.