Let poetic voice speak

August 20, 1999

Simon Kovesi's handy new edition of John Clare's Love Poems, which I have just adopted for the first-year core course in English at the University of Exeter, does not challenge the integrity of Eric Robinson's editions ("Dead poet's propriety", THES, August 13). Rather, it simply deploys a different set of editorial principles - some would say better editorial principles.

While Robinson has mystified Clare as an eccentric poet whose wayward spelling and scattered punctuation risk alienating modern readers from the poetry, Kovesi makes him readable again.

Moreover, Robinson's claim to possess the copyright of Clare, a poet who died 135 years ago, is in dispute. Whatever the rights or wrongs in both legal and academic terms, there had already been two scholarly editions of Clare this century before Robinson commenced his.

Robinson's editions may be particularly exacting, but his claim to "own" Clare on account of a 100-year-old letter has yet to be decided.

It would be infinitely more appropriate for Robinson now to be debating how best to edit John Clare than shouting the odds over his claim to copyright.

Nick Groom Lecturer in English University of Exeter

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