TQM: Notes 2 – to Page 131

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The title:  “The Quickening Maze”

Could the title be a take on  Section  CXV of Tennyson’s In Memoriam?

“Now fades the last long streak of snow,
Now burgeons every maze of quick
About the flowering squares, and thick
By ashen roots the violets blow.”

The structure of the book is in seasonal parts over a period of 18 months.  If John Clare left Beech House in July of 1841 then the book takes place between Autumn 1839 and Spring/Summer 1841.

The setting for The Quickening Maze is Doctor Matthew Allen’s  High Beach asylum at Epping Fields, London:

Prologue: The World’s End
An unnamed John Clare at an early age – a bit dreamy,  childlike,  normal? – maybe?  Very interested in nature but when he wanders away from known areas is scared.

Seasons by James Thomson

Early on,  Clare had bought a copy of Thomson’s Seasons and began to write poems and sonnets.  In an attempt to hold off his parents’ eviction from their home,  Clare offered his poems to a local bookseller named Edward Drury.  Drury sent Clare’s poetry to his cousin John Taylor of the publishing firm of Taylor & Hessey, who had published the work of John Keats.  Taylor published Clare’s Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery in 1820. This book was highly praised, and in the next year his Village Minstrel and other Poems were published.

Chapter 1    p. 13   – Woodford – is a large suburban town in northeast London, England, occupying the north-western part of the London Borough of Redbridge.

Photo from:  John Clare Ephemera
http://johnclareephemera.blogspot.com/p/john-clare-and-high-beech.html   (great site!)

Charles Dickens began Barnaby Rudge (1841) with a description of the Forest in 1775. Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived at Beech Hill House, High Beach, from 1837 until 1840, where he wrote parts of In Memoriam (1850), on the death of Arthur Hallam.  (It took 17 years to write and it’s a very long poem – LINK.)

A.H.H. was Tennyson’s friend Arthur Henry Hallam and the poet used the elegy to pose questions about the apparent conflict between love as the basis of the Christian religion and the callousness of nature. If nature is purposeless and heartless, how can we believe in creation’s final law? But, as a Christian, how could he not?

Suffering from depression, Tennyson stayed for two weeks as a guest of Allen’s asylum and would have encountered Clare at Leopard’s Hill (Lippitts Hill) Lodge or perhaps walking in the Forest. He reported that the mad people were ‘the most agreeable and most reasonable persons’ he had met.

Both Tennyson and Clare could see the lights of London ‘flaring like a dreary dream’ from their hilltop position. Edward and Helen Thomas settled at High Beech cottage from October 1915 until 1917, when Edward was stationed at Loughton Camp and they were studying John Clare.  Photo at right of John Clare by William Hilton.  More HERE:

Clare was at Dr. Matthew Allen’s High Beach Asylum from July 1837 until he walked home to Helpston and Northborough in July 1841. He stayed at the Leopard’s Hill Lodge and was free to work the fields and walk the Forest.    http://www.thewordtravels.com/johnclare.html

Photo on right of Alfred Lord Tennyson as a youngish man by Samuel Lawrence.  He was really quite handsome.  He would have been about 28 years old when he visited High Beach.   Melancholia apparently ran in Tennyson family.  (p.28)

“In a modern context, ‘melancholy’ applies only to the mental or emotional symptoms of depression or despondency; historically, ‘melancholia’ could be physical as well as mental, and melancholic conditions were classified as such by their common cause rather than by their properties.”        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia

And what was Melancholia in the Victorian era?  From:
Mania, dementia and melancholia in the 1870s: admissions to a Cornwall asylum

All but a few patients were labelled as having
mania (38%), dementia (35%),or melancholia (26%.
Diagnoses such as 'moral insanity', popular in
other parts of the country, were not used in pro-
vincial Cornwall. The following case record of an
admission for St. Lawrence's illustrates the use
of all three terms ina single patient, possibly a
 case of bipolar disorder.


And about John Clare and the Romanies:
John Clare loves to go walking in the woods and when he is allowed to he runs into some Romany gypsies (they’re all named Smith) on the property.   This is fascinating – 
Epping Forest Gypsies  – then scroll down past the picture.

Some Romany words:
“hatchintan”  (p.  45)  -little space,  nest? – TinyURL.com/76csmfo
Google-books example 

” hotchiwitchi “(p. 46)  hedgehogs
“Articles I’d meant to point people to (and which people have now started sending in to me) include a fascinating one on the disappearance of the hotchiwitchi”

“duckering”  (p. 46)  fortune telling

“chavvies: (p. 46) term of endearment for a child

From “Rokkering to the Gorjios: in the early nineteen seventies British Romany Gypsies Speak of their Hopes, Fears and Aspirations”   by Jeremy Sandford  (see Google Books or Amazon)

“yog” (p. 46) – fire – camp fire



“latitudinarianism” (p. 70) –  the belief that specific theological, liturgical and church structures didn’t matter to God.  Condemned by most orthodox religions,  Catholicism, Anglicanism, etc.

“Sandimanians”  – a religious sect of the times from Scotland which tried to practice Christianity as the early Christians did.   Matthew and Oswald’s father was a Sandimanian missionary to their city of Gayle in Wensleydale where the brothers were born.

Tennysons and gossip (p. 78)

“His brother Charles was an opium addict, a condition that led to marital breakdown, and

Charles Tennyson – Alfred’s older brother

Alfred was troubled by accusations that he was also a user.  He wrote of his opposition to opium use in his 1832 poem “The lotos-eaters”, but his artistic temperament, habitual pipe-smoking, and trance-like appearance fuelled speculation of opium use.  He was once described as “a dirty man with opium-glazed eyes and rat-taily hair”.

The article “Like dull narcotics numbing pain,”  from JSTOR – is the source of the info here.  At the time Alfred went to lengths to disprove it.

Again,  stated a bit differently –  http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/blogs/tennyson-and-attitudes-to-opium/10972288.blog

A reading of Tennyson’s The Lotus Eaters

“Menagerie”  Tennyson’s son Hallam wrote a memoir of his father which includes a monkey-pet belonging to Alfred’s mother as well as an owl and some dogs.

“Spirits” –  “Lionel’s death was the climax of Tennyson’s sense of loss, and from that time until his own death he became increasingly troubled in his search for the proofs of immortality, even experimenting with spiritualism. ”  This was Alfred’s son and it happened much later –  1886.

“The lurid history of Tennyson’s family is interesting in itself, but some knowledge of it is also essential for understanding the recurrence in his poetry of themes of madness, murder, avarice, miserliness, social climbing, marriages arranged for profit instead of love, and estrangements between families and friends.”

London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR),1836


“train”  (p. 82) – and this was in winter of 1837 – 38  (I think this may be an anachronism as I can’t find reference to any train station in walking distance of Epping Forest in 1837.)

“In 1836 …    the coaches were in their heyday, providing local services to London from Waltham Cross and Loughton, while the long-distance mail-coaches from Newmarket and beyond used the Epping New Road, completed in 1834.” http://highbeachchurch.org/WhosWhoatHolyInnocents.aspx 

“London’s first railway line opened in February 1836 between Spa Road in Bermondsey and Deptford. The extension to the terminus at the south end of London Bridge opened on 14 December 1836 and to Greenwich on 12 April 1840:”

So there was no rail available near Epping Forest until 1873.

Arthur Hallam as a young man.

“Arthur Hallam”  Tennyson’s best friend and fellow poet who died quite young – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Hallam
Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam” was written for/about Hallam

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”  (p. 97)
The Shakespeare theme was inspired by the story that “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” was written for and first performed at a wedding in Copped Hall near Epping. The Hunting Lodge was built for King Henry VIII in 1543 and has wonderful views out over Epping Forest.   http://tinyurl.com/863yo8x

“Gypsy Baron” a Romani fighter – (p. 101)

It would seem that this is a fairly common nick-name – I found many sources for different people or characters in operas,  etc.
Jack Randall – (p. 108) A famous English boxer of the times – died of alcohol related ailments in 1828.


Thomas Rawnsley (p. 119) based on a good friend of Alfred Tennyson by that name but fictionalized a fair amount, I think –
http://www.antonymaitland.com/hanbry01.htm#_Toc174202195   (top of page)


(pg 119) “Sylvia the fair, in the bloom of fifteen,
Felt an innocent warmth as she lay on the green:
She had heard of a pleasure, and something she guessed
By the towsing and tumbling and touching her breast:
She saw the men eager, but was at a loss
What they meant by their sighing and kissing so close;”
Dryden –


Epping Church:

Church of the Holy Innocents, High Beach, Essex, England.

The church is in the heart of Epping Forest. Tennyson, the poet, wrote part of the poem “In Memoriam” in the churchyard.


“Weep daughters of Israel weep over Saul…” (p. 125)
From “David’s Lament”
found at:
This site contains the works of John Clare written while he was at High Beach.

One of the best sources for all things concerning the historical aspects of the The Quickening Maze is: History of Holy Innocents Church


                                                      TO NOTES 1                                                     TO NOTES 3

2 Responses to TQM: Notes 2 – to Page 131

  1. Dr Roger Evans says:

    There is no foundation for saying Tennyson’s brother Charles was “addicted” to opium or that it was the “cause” of his marriage problems.


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