119. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Lloyd Baker, 23 December 1803


119. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Lloyd Baker, 23 December 1803* 

City Road. London. Dec 23. 1803

To Mrs Baker


You have indeed surprised and delighted me by your very interesting and very unexpected communication. I have thought about it ever since. But to talk about it is a difficulty which though I feel it a duty to perform I do not like to set about. The moment that the worthy Charcoal-burner is canvass'd over in conversation he appears to my fancy to loose a part of that singular interest he so promptly and forcibly claims in your recital of his history. Madam the story must stand alone as you have drawn it and it is a serious question with me whither poetry itself can make it more truly interesting, except it could be poetised by one who knows the spot, and who knows in some degree the provincial dialect. Granting Madam your priority as to knowledge of the spot, and of local circumstances, you certainly have the great advantage of first sight, and first impressions, and I have by your kindness a kind of second sight, by virtue of which I plainly see water rushing down, the man striding with a child under each arm, the rescued children asleep (a good picture,) the destress'd Mother wading up to her neck; and I can very plainly see the Lanthorn upon her head, it throws a light upon the subject. The very singular coincidence of the names of Richard and Kate endears the couple still more to my mind, but having succeeded so much beyond my expectation in my Suffolk Ballad, I have the following scruples on that head. I think most attempts at amplifications, or second parts, are unsuccessfull, and when they relate to what have eminently succeeded it appears to my mind like 'more last words of Mr Baxter.' [1]  Yet I am very sure that this simple truth of the Venerable Richard Brooks would make a figure as a Ballad and might be highly acceptable, at least to those of the neighbourhood. Should I ever persuade myself that I have better'd the description by giving it the dress of Rhime, I hereby engage to send it to you immediately; but I have small hopes of success.—

The scetch of the Hut would indeed be considere'd here as a prize and I should keep it as such. [2] 

Within these few days I have been haunted night and day by the unsought recolections of an old tragical tale which had its origin perhaps fifty years ago at Bury, and I suppose I must rid myself of it by making a kind of dying-speech Ballad, and then I can attend to Richard Brooks.

By the association of ideas, (of which I know somthing less that [sic] Mr Locke,) I always bring you to my mind in the attitude of flying. It seems that the Heathen Goddesses had a knack of flying just when and where they pleased, but as I have very little knowledge of, or acquaintance with these lasses I do not think it unpoetical to declare that I had much rather see a real bonafida, terrestreal lady swinging between two Trees.

Have the goodness to remember my self and family to Mr and Mrs Sharp, and to Mrs Prowse, and to the Lord of your vows.

And now Madam for the most insipid part of a letter—self—which should her form no part did I not feel a lash from my conscience when I reflect that I let slip all the last summer without calling at Fullham. Anticipating some kind questions, I say that I have some time ago busied my brain and workd up my feelings to a great pitch in poetically celebrating the great victory obtain'd over the desease that kill'd my Father; and in which your neighbour and my friend Dr Jenner is so immediately concern'd. The piece is still in existence, and I have allmost offended some worthy members of the medical world by keeping it unpublish'd. [3] 

Last spring the Muses struck a light for me, not on parnassus, but on Shooter's-Hill, and sooth'd my vanity exceedingly. [4]  Thus madam I jog on with poetry much the same as I did with my whistle and my song in the Bird-Field, for amusement.

I have had some trouble, and my partner much care and much work occasioned by the affliction of our only son who in February last became lame with a swelling on his knee. By surgical assistance it appeared quite well in August, but has return'd since, and is again diminishing with the appearance of a speedy restoration.

That kind of inspiration so common in the world at all times, attacked my wife some time ago, and we expect a fifth pledge of love and poetry every day.—

To have done trifling—we join with truth and great sincerity madam in the wish for present and eternal happiness,

Your most Obed Servt

Rob Bloomfield

Address:Mrs Loyd Baker, / Stouts Hill / Uley / Gloucestershire.

* Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MA 4500 BACK

[1] Bloomfield is recalling Joseph Addison's remarks in The Spectator: 'I remember upon Mr. Baxter's death, there was published a sheet of very good sayings, inscribed "The last words of Mr. Baxter." The title sold so great a number of these papers, that about a week after there came out a second sheet, inscribed, "More last words of Mr Baxter"' (No. 445, Thursday, July 31, 1712). BACK

[2] A sketch of the rustic hut that Jenner had built in his garden at Berkeley, near Bristol, as a place to administer vaccination. BACK

[3] A reference to Good Tidings; or, News from the Farm and to Jenner's eagerness to see it printed. It was published in 1804. BACK

[4] Bloomfield's 'Shooter's Hill' was published in Wild Flowers, pp. 75–81. BACK