In an attempt to hold off his parent’s eviction, Clare offered his poems to a local bookseller. Amazed by the profound craftsmanship of the poetry, the bookseller sent the work to his cousin who was partner at Taylor & Hessey publishing firm. Ironically, the same firm who was responsible for publishing John Keats. Without hesitation, Taylor published Clare's Poems; Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery in 1820 and by the following year Taylor published his Village Minstrel and other Poems.
John married Martha Turner in 1820 and was granted an annuity of 15 guineas from the Marquess of Exeter for his extensive service. Unfortunately, his income became insufficient and by 1823 they were almost penniless. In 1827, Clare gave Taylor The Shepherd's Calendar which was released soon after. Unfortunately, it was met with little success. Clare didn’t allow this to shake him; he jumped right back into work and took to the fields with no issues. However, after a short time of working he fell ill with malnutrition on top of severe depression and anxiety. Fortunately, Earl Fitz William presented John with a new cottage and a piece of ground, but Clare couldn’t comfortably settle in his new home. He was torn between the two worlds of literary London and his illiterate neighbors. He struggled with the desire to follow his heart and write poetry over the need for money to feed and clothe his family. His health began to deteriorate at an increasing rate after the birth of his sixth child in 1830. Five years later, the Rural Muse was released, getting noticed by Christopher North and other reviewers. As it turns out, it was not enough to support his wife and seven children.
Sadly, John’s depression didn’t get better. By July of 1837, under the recommendation of his publishing friend, John Taylor, and his doctor, Clare admitted himself into the private asylum, High Beach near Loughton, in Epping Forest. During his first few asylum years, Clare re-wrote famous poems and sonnets by Lord Byron. Then, in 1841 John escaped from the asylum to find his first love Mary Joyce who he thought he was married to. After finding out she had died in an accidental house fire 3 years prior, John remained free for 5 months. Sometime between Christmas and New Years, Clare was committed to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum where he spent the remaining 23 years of his life. While there he wrote possibly his most recognized and famous poem, “I Am”. He died on May 20, 1864 at the age of 71. Clare was returned to Helpston for a formal burial at St Botolph’s churchyard.
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest--that I loved the best--
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below--above the vaulted sky.