The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016


In July 1841 the poet John Clare escaped from High Beech asylum in Epping Forest to get home to his beloved Mary Joyce. For three and a half days he walked with broken shoes, sleeping in porches and eating grass from the roadside. In the letter he wrote to Mary Joyce describing the journey, he recalled that, exhausted and foot-foundered, he reached the point where the road forks to Peterborough and was suddenly restored: “I felt myself in home’s way.” The writer Iain Sinclair, who retraced Clare’s journey, used the little-known word “homefulness” to describe Clare’s feeling at this point. He became full with the feeling of home.

The feeling of homefulness surges up at the end of less arduous travels too: it’s there when we step off the airplane after a holiday or turn into our road with shopping bags bulging. It spreads through us with its combination of relief, belonging and the satisfaction of a long journey’s end.

But we all know that home has got less to do with a place than with the people there. In his madness, Clare had forgotten that Mary Joyce was long dead. When the woman who was actually Clare’s wife found the bedraggled poet stumbling along the road to Northborough, she took him to their house and tried to school him in the ways of the sane. And there, he wrote, he realized there was nothing more lonely than feeling “homeless at home.”