The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 58. H. E. Clarke
Slightly younger than these two, but, as it happened, a friend of Philip Marston, came Herbert Edwin Clarke, whose verse, though always well received by competent critics, had, perhaps, less effect on the public—even such part of the public as reads poetry—than that of any writer of anything like equal merit noticed in this chapter. This might have been partly due to the fact, glanced at in other cases, that his first books, Poems in Exile and Storm-Drift, appeared at an unlucky time (1879–82), when there was a great deal of verse of relative excellence, but, so to speak, “held under” by the eminence of the leaders, old and new; partly to the pessimism which was displayed in some of the poems. Owing, it is believed, to discouragement, and, also, to business occupation, Clarke did not write much for some years, and his later volumes, Poems and Sonnets and Tannhäuser and other Poems, though, apparently, rather more widely read, came into competition, as such competition goes, with a new flight of verse, some realist, some ultratranscendental, beside which it may have seemed out of fashion. But those who read poetry for its own sake will scarcely fail to find it in all his books. Of his earlier work, three poems (which may be conveniently found together in the useful thesaurus to be mentioned in the bibliography)—A Nocturn at Twilight, A Voluntary and Failure—give different aspects of his verse in very high quality. By the Washes, Chant d’ Amour and certain of his latest sonnets, should, also, be sought for. And there may be reckoned to Clarke one signal merit—that, putting a few scattered passages of Tennyson aside, his is the only poetry which has done justice (he was to the manner and matter born, at Chatteris in Cambridgeshire) to the strange and unique beauty of the fen-country, with its command—unequalled save at sea and very different from that given by the sea—of level horizon and unbroken sky.