188. Capel Lofft to Robert Bloomfield, June 1806


188. Capel Lofft to Robert Bloomfield, June 1806* 

Dear Sir,

I write too many letters, and generally write them in too much anxiety and hurry to write them elegantly: but still; I write whenever I think my doing so may be more useful or satisfactory to others than my silence.

I received your letter this afternoon, with those from the Earl of Buchan [1] 

You ask my advice: and therefore I frankly give it.

I venerate the Earl of Buchan, and think him & the Chancellor [2]  worthy to be brothers to each other. A friend of poetry and of the fine arts, a friend of liberty & of public virtue, he merits high esteem. I have seen letters of his in Wyvill's Political Correspondence [3]  which confirm and heighten that esteem in my mind, as in Mr. Wyvill's.

That he should be without pride is out of the nature of human mind & circumstances; but of that pride he has made a truly benevolent generous & virtuous life.

Were there no other reasons than his character & affectionate zeal for persons of genius who have worthily employed it I would not disappoint his wish of publishing his letter of yours to him in the next edition of the 'Wild Flowers.' To do thus will be honourable to both. Your not forbidding it would be subject to no imputation of vanity; your forbidding it I think would not be free from something liable to be considered as pride or unkindness or injustice.

His enthusiastic admiration of Barry speaks with me powerfully. What he has said of that astonishingly great man is indeed characteristic.

This & his attachment to the memory of Thomson of Burns of the patriot Fletcher & the sublime Newton are motives of esteem & confidence which I deeply feel.

I do not see that his saying we forwarded the sale is an assertion that he occasioned the sale. A person may increase and accelerate the success of that which he does not deny would have succeeded without him.

Above all let no omissions or retrenchments which you have made of what I had said, whether made on your own views of the subject or the suggestions of others, influence you on this occasion. Be that right or wrong this relative to Earl Buchan, stands on its own ground.

I trust I have as high & as free a spirit as any man; yet, were Earl Buchan to wish to prefix to anything of mine a testimony such as he is desirous of prefixing to your poems, he must write very differently from anything I have seen of his before I should refuse it.

The decision of course rests with you. But I do not think him a man whose talents and virtues & tender of goodwill are of that rate which can be slighted without injury to oneself & one's own feelings

The hand in which your letter is copied is generally admired here. It strikes me as being beautiful and elegant almost beyond example. I think there can be no doubt of its being a female hand & as little of its being a lovely hand and under the guidance of a highly cultivated & amiable mind.

The letter was worthy to be so transcribed. It places its author high among the few men who have excelled in letter writing.

I grieve most truly for the death of the Duchess of Devon shire [4]  & the illness of Mr. Fox.

With such proofs of the uncertain continuance here of the great ornaments & blessings of society, let not little circumstances induce us to neglect the tender of their friendship.

I write immediately, though rather fatigued (a thing almost new to me) that I may return your packet to-morrow. I shall wish to learn that you have received it safe.

I like much Mr. Park's (for so I suppose) sweet quatrain on the Eolian harp constructed by yourself. [5]  This instrument has been always a great favourite with me & Mrs. Lofft. Can you give me a hint in what respect your construction differs? I mean a mere general idea. In every point of view I do not wonder that you have many who wish to be purchasers. Beside Thomson's charming lines in the 'Castle of Indolence,' you have probably read his exquisite 'Ode to the Aeolian Harp' [6] 

Pope's 'Homer' will be worth your reading at your leisure. It has many splendid and beautiful, some few sublime passages & some pathetic. But I rejoice in your affection for Cowper's noble & characteristic translation.

I am much dissatisfied with the proof sent me for the illustrations of your poems. [7]  It is shockingly mangled. If they will not receive the corrections which I have sent them, I had much rather they would not publish any account of Troston at all.

I am, yours sincerely,

Capel Lofft.

I observe you wish for our joint judgment but I cannot give you what I cannot obtain any further than this—that, as far as I can perceive, I think Mrs. Lofft's opinion is with me on this occasion, in favour of adopting the proposal of Earl Buchan.

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 211–12; published Hart, p.41, misdated 1802 BACK

[1] For Buchan's letter see Letters 178 and 181. BACK

[2] Buchan's brother, Thomas Erskine (1750–1823), was the great advocate who defended Horne Tooke at the 1794 treason trials and who went on to become, in 1806, Lord Chancellor. BACK

[3] Buchan's measured yet sympathetic letters to the reformer Christopher Wyvill, who organised County Associations of electors to petition parliament, can be found in Christopher Wyvill, Political Papers, Chiefly Respecting the Attempt of the County of York, and Other Considerable Districts, ... to Effect a Reformation of the Parliament of Great Britain, 6 vols. (York, 1794–1802), I, 322–27. BACK

[4] Georgiana Cavendish (1757–1806), Duchess of Devonshire: society beauty, political campaigner for Fox and the Whigs, author. BACK

[5] 'Addressed to an Eolian Harp, constructed by the Author of "The Farmer's Boy", "Wild Flowers", &c.', by Mrs. Park, was published in The Monthly Mirror, 21 (1806), 196:

What magic sweetness charms my raptur'd ear,
Like choirs of airy spirits heard on high?—
Now as some cherub-voice each note is clear,
Now swells into celestial harmony!—
'Tis charmed zephyr makes the varied sound,
As on each string he breathes a trembling kiss;
His viewless pinion wafts the music round,
Whose swell is ecstasy, whose close is bliss!
Oh sweetly raise thy more than mortal tone
To him who gave thy frame melodious birth,
The bard whom Nature greets as all her own,
And Virtue honours for his inborn worth,
For him, sweet harp! They dulcet strains prolong,
Since pure and artless is, like thine, his song.

Maria Hester Park


[6] James Thomson's Castle of Indolence: An Allegorical Poem. Written in Imitation of Spenser (London, 1748) discusses the Aeolian Harp, then a new-fangled instrument, in Canto I, lines 352–69:


A certain music, never known before,
Here lull'd the pensive, melancholy mind;
Full easily obtain'd. Behoves no more,
But sidelong, to the gently waving wind,
To lay the well tuned instrument reclined;
From which, with airy flying fingers light,
Beyond each mortal touch the most refined,
The god of winds drew sounds of deep delight:
Whence, with just cause, the harp of Æolus it hight.


Ah me! what hand can touch the string so fine?
Who up the lofty diapasan roll
Such sweet, such sad, such solemn airs divine,
Then let them down again into the soul:
Now rising love they fann'd; now pleasing dole
They breathed, in tender musings, thro' the heart;
And now a graver sacred strain they stole,
As when seraphic hands a hymn impart:
Wild warbling nature all, above the reach of art!

Thomson's 'An Ode On Æolus's Harp' (1748):


Ætherial race, inhabitants of air!
Who hymn your God amid the secret grove;
Ye unseen beings to my harp repair,
And raise majestic strains, or melt in love.


Those tender notes, how kindly they upbraid?
With what soft woe they thrill the lover's heart?
Sure from the hand of some unhappy maid
Who dy'd of love, these sweet complainings part.


But hark! that strain was of a graver tone,
On the deep strings his hand some hermit throws;
Or he the sacred Bard! who sat alone,
In the drear waste, and wept his people's woes.


Such was the song which Zion's children sung,
When by Euphrates' stream they made their plaint:
And to such sadly solemn notes are strung
Angelic harps, to sooth a dying saint.


Methinks I hear the full celestial choir,
Thro' heaven's high dome their aweful anthem raise;
Now chanting clear, and now they all conspire
To swell the lofty hymn, from praise to praise.


Let me, ye wand'ring spirits of the wind,
Who as wild Fancy prompts you touch the string,
Smit with your theme, be in your chorus join'd,
For 'till you cease, my Muse forgets to sing.

[7] Lofft refers to the proofs of J. Storer and J. Greig, Views in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Northamptonshire, Illustrative of the Works of Robert Bloomfield; Accompanied with Descriptions: to which is Annexed a Memoir of the Poet's Life by E. W. Brayley (London, 1806). There is an account of Troston Hall on pages 44-45, with an illustration of the same interleaved. BACK