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Archive for August 18th, 2009

Products_330_371_9780330371063_m_f Thomas Inskip, a watchmaker and clockmaker from Shefford in Bedfordshire was an interesting man.  He was responsible for the clock at Greenwich Observatory, left his archaeological collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and was a friend to labouring-class poets, Robert Bloomfield (who Thomas is buried next too in Campton Churchyard), and later John Clare.

Bloomfield and Clare are also known as ‘peasant or pastoral poets’ and are currently enjoying a revival: I recently met Jonathan Bate, author of a new biography on Clare which has used Thomas’ correspondence with Clare as a source.  (Unfortunately,  the correspondence of Clare to Inskip is lost.)

It seems Thomas befriended Robert Bloomfield when Robert, down on his luck, moved to Shefford in 1812. Thomas met Clare in London around 1820 “amongst the Cockneys, whom we both equally admire!”.  Clare related to Bloomfield as a kindred spirit, and Thomas tried to organize a meeting between them, as he regarded them as “the nation’s great poets of humble life”; but Bloomfield died “in pain and poverty” in 1821 before the wished for meeting could take place; much to John Clare’s regret.

Described in a poem by John Dalby as “kind Inskip”, Thomas  promoted John Clare’s work in the Northampton Mercury.  When Clare was  in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum “the elderly” Thomas became his outside advisor and confident.  They shared discussions about poetry and sexual desire, “the days when we were young! And the arms-full of Petticoats we rumpled!”. Thomas was also instrumental in the publication of Clare’s poetry in the Bedford Times between 1847 and 1849.  “Inskip offered what Clare always craved from his editors: a mixture of practical advice and confidence-building encouragement.”

Thomas Inskip was born in Kimbolten, Northamptonshire in 1780, the son of Edward Inskip a Farmer from Old Warden, and Mary Handscombe from Clifton. He married twice, the last to Isabella Wright in 1815, and died in 1849 in Brighton of Cholera.  His watchmaking business was taken on by son Hampden Inskip, and eventually grandson Alfred Inskip.

Book – John Clare, A Biography by Jonathan Bate ISBN 978-0-330-37112-4

Correspondence from Inskip to Clare is in Northampton Central Library.

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