With close reference to works by two writers, explore the links between private life and the public realm in Romantic literature.
John Clare and Mary Wollstonecraft were both writing at a time of great social upheaval and change. While Clare struggled with issues relating to enclosure, and personal changes, in his poetry, Wollstonecraft was interested, in Maria or The Wrongs of Woman, with women's rights concerning marriage and education. Clare is largely trying to adapt to change or loss in his life, and Wollstonecraft it may be said was attempting to contribute to a social and legal change in the issues relating to women. .
The General Enclosures Act of 1801 brought about a huge alteration in British agriculture. During John Clare's lifetime he witnessed enclosure alter 'the structure of his village, and radically affect the lives of the people'. (Tibble 25) Clare's reactions to this can be seen in much of his poetry. In 'The Mores' Clare says that 'All sighed when lawless laws enclosure came', (78) and suggests that enclosure has even taken away the freedom of 'sheep and cows'. (23) It may be said that Clare views enclosure as a removal of the 'unbounded freedom' that he experienced before 'fence or ownership crept in between'. (7-8) So it may be said that Clare's suffering of a harsh and bitter personal experience was also a shared historical one.
Clare's considerations of enclosure can equally be seen in 'To a Fallen Elm', in which he talks of enclosure saying that it came in the guise of freedom and destroyed those parts of nature which had survived storms and 'summers of thirst'. (21) This poem was viewed by Clare's contemporaries as too radical and was never published in his lifetime. Clare may be seen to be concerned in 'To a Fallen Elm' with the hypocrisy of those who supported enclosure when 'ruin was her guide', (55) and sought shelter under the Elm but 'when in power would never shelter' (44) it in return.