Love’s Cold Returning


Paperback, 410 pages, 220+ illustrations, maps and colour photographs.


In July 1841, the poet John Clare escaped a lunatic asylum in Epping Forest and embarked on a four-day journey to find his adored wife and muse, Mary Joyce. Without money or provisions, and lamed by a broken shoe, he endured extreme hardship to be reunited with her. But Mary had died three years earlier, a spinster. Clare was toiling home to a truth he would struggle to acknowledge – that his cherished memory of their marriage was a delusion.

His brief account of the 85-mile trek to find her, known as ‘The Journey out of Essex’, has fascinated readers. By turns lucid and incoherent, prosaic and poetic, it invites interpretation and reinterpretation, argument and conjecture. Using it as a guide, the authors shed new light on Clare’s journey and the world in which it took place, seeking out the remains of that world in the twenty-first century.