178. The Earl of Buchan to Messrs. Longman, 11 March 1806


178. The Earl of Buchan to Messrs. Longman, 11 March 1806* 

Edinburgh: March 11,1806.


Considering the interest I took in Robert Bloomfield on the coming forth of his rural Tales, I am prompt to promote the sale of his Wild Flowers which I think very interesting. I therefore send you a very extraordinary letter which Bloomfield wrote to me if I remember right on the 2. of January, 1802; [1]  together with a short address to the readers of his last publication, [2]  which you are at liberty to prefix to your next edition of the Flowers [3] 

I am, gentlemen, your ob. Hble servt,


Address: Messrs. Longman & Co., / Booksellers, / Paternoster Row, / London.

Enclosure No. 1


After a long absence of sixteen years, having visited London with a view to proceed to Paris on a survey of the fine arts, and of that extraordinary accumulation of the monuments of ancient arts which war and opulence had occasioned to be gathered together in France and Britain, at the expense of Italy, I took up my residence in the Adelphi, where I invited all those who might happen to favour my design kindly to resort and to favour me with their advice.

The Admirable Barry, ex-professor of painting in the Royal Academy, the Michael Angelo of my country, a man destined to go from the sunshine of Burke's favour and friendship to the Cimmerian darkness of his fan-painting enemies; [4]  Apostool, that singular instance of an acute, refined, and elegant Dutchman knowing in the fine arts, and capable of relishing the sublime and beautiful; [5]  Richard Cooper, the engraver, whose knowledge of what is excellent in painting and sculpture is surpassed by few of his contemporaries; [6]  Singleton Copley, that first production of a new world in his beautiful art, [7]  handed by me anciently to the notice of the great Pitt, of the great age of Britain, father of the lamented and unfortunate first minister who has so lately descended to an untimely grave; [8]  and various other artists whom I esteem, resorted to my abode on Sunday mornings, when I opened my doors, and when they honoured me with their confidence and advice.

Along with these interesting visitors I am proud to recollect the presence of many other men high in the first esteem of a discerning few, who are capable of shutting their eyes against the glare of popular delusion, and of seeing things as they are, or as they ought to be. 'Dis cari ipsis' [9]  The time was delightfully spent on such an errand and with such a groupe.

Among these there was brought to me by Dyer the poet—honest George Dyer —Bloomfield, the ladies' shoemaker in the City Road, who was then about to publish his rural Tales, of which he recited to me, and to my company, his old Richard [10]  and several other select pieces, which he accompanied with a symphony of broken expression and with frequent tears. We were highly pleased, and invited him to return. He returned with the first copy of his book and recited other tales. We forwarded the sale of his book, of which he afterwards informed me that in the rapid editions that followed he sold five thousand copies.

I was, while in the Adelphi, to sit for my portrait to the Rev.d William Gardiner, then become bookseller in union with Mr. Harding, engraver, &c., in Pall Mall, [11]  and having made a sentimental visit to the birth-place of Newton, at Woolsthorp, I was to be represented venerating the spot and the orchard where that great man first conceived by the falling of an apple the theory of gravitation, in its application to the motions of the heavenly bodies. While I sate for my picture I happened to mention the sudden and extraordinary manner of my mother's death, accompanied with circumstances preceding it, which are of too sacred and too private a nature to be revealed at present.

I invited him down into Scotland that I might have him at Dryburgh Abbey, and shew him the pastoral scenes that adjoin to it, the pure parent stream of Eden, and of Tweed, where Thomson first tuned his pastoral pipe, and I asked him to come to the Adelphi next day, to honour my sitting for the painting of my portrait. Prevented by a head-ache he could not come, but sent me an apology hastily written, of which the following is a copy, and which being, as he frankly says in it, a picture of his own mind, I have thought it a proper introduction to his 'Wild Flowers,' and recommend it accordingly to the readers of that little volume.


Messrs. Longman & Co., Booksellers,

Paternoster Row, London

Enclosure No. 2.


* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 197, 199–202 (Enclosure No. 1), 203–210 (Enclosure No. 2), (enclosed in Letter 181) BACK

[1] Enclosure No. 2. BACK

[2] Enclosure No. 1. BACK

[3] The letter and Buchan's remarks are not in the1806, 1809 or 1827 editions of Wild Flowers. BACK

[4] James Barry (1741–1806) painter of sublime scenes from history, was expelled from the Royal Academy: hence Buchan's remark about fan-painting enemies. It was not unusual, at an early stage of an artist's career, for him to earn money painting ladies' fans. BACK

[5] Cornelis Apostool (1762–1844) was a Dutch artist, museum director, and artist-politician who spent periods of time in London. BACK

[6] Richard Cooper (d. 1814) was an etcher and engraver, well known especially for landscapes. BACK

[7] The brilliant American painter John Hamilton Copley (1738–1815), who came from Boston to London and dazzled Reynolds with a painting called 'Boy with a Squirrel'. Reynolds sent him to Europe for further study, after which he settled in London. BACK

[8] William Pitt the elder (1708–78), Foreign Minister during the Seven Years' War, later Prime Minister, father of William Pitt, Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–6. BACK

[9] Horace Odes Book 1, 31, line 13, 'Dis carus ipsis' — 'dear to heaven'. BACK

[10] i.e. 'Richard and Kate: a Suffolk Ballad' from Rural Tales. BACK

[11] William Nelson Gardiner (Dublin, 1766–London, 1814), the Irish engraver who, his sight failing, became in 1803 a bookseller in concert with E. and S. Harding, publishers of engravings, in Pall Mall. BACK

[12] The text has been removed to its chronological place: see Bloomfield to Buchan, 19 January 1802 (Letter 75). BACK