I mentioned this in the comments but I will say, again, here, in the open, that I feel disappointed whenever I realise that those two facts can't be mated closely together – I mean that one can't be turned into the consequence of the other – 1. the fact that John Clare read Charlotte Smith's phrase, "mossy nest," and 2. the fact that he wrote about a mossy nest. I do not have the satisfaction of John Livingston Lowes who notices that when Dorothy Wordsworth walks at night with Coleridge "the moon which she sees is the Mariner's moon" because in her journal entry for that day it is "horned," when everywhere else it is "crescent;" and from that Lowes deduces that her friend has recited
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Almost atween the tips
I see my desire reflected in Fromm, who is so tempted by the proximity of upheaval in Dorothy Richardson's life to the upheaval of the Second World War that she shoves them together: "yet just as England was to withstand the terrible blitz, Dorothy Richardson's strength of character would pass the supreme test: the failure of an edition that Richard Church had represented to her as 'the final bid for fame.'" (The Selected letters of Dorothy Richardson.)
In Fromm's phrase the importance of Dorothy Richardson is being asked to reside not in herself and her private reaction but in her synonymity with an international event: the biographer is longing to see Richardson's fortitude mount grandly outwards, and I think of a related longing in Smith, several times, in her sonnets, when she decides that a human being's emotion or fate is as the landscape is.
But the wind rises, and the turf receives
The glittering web:--So, evanescent, fade
Bright views that Youth with sanguine heart, believes:
So vanish schemes of bliss …
(from Sonnet LXIII)
Or in the turbid water, rude and dark,
O'er whose wild stream the gust of Winter raves,
Thy trembling light with pleasure still I mark,
Gleam in faint radiance on the foaming waves!
So o'er my soul short rays of reason fly,
Then fade …
(from Sonnet XXIII)
Some of this romantic "mellancholly" in Clare's first published book of poems too (whereas in the later work a more precisely nostalgic sadness, if I'm right). "I began to write Sonnets at first from seeing two very pretty ones in an old news paper I think they were by charlotte Smith [sic]" he says in Autobiographical Fragment A32. The first were begun when he was fourteen or fifteen.