238. George Bloomfield to William Holloway, before 11 June 1809


238. George Bloomfield to William Holloway, before 11 June 1809* 

To Mr Willam Holloway

Dear Sir

I beg leave to give you my sincere thanks for your Minor Minstrel, [1]  I hope you, and all those you love are healthfull and happy, I lent your charming poems to my particular friends, all of whom speak highly of them, Last week I read you every time I took my tea, and great delight I took with you in your rural excursions; You have great variety this time,—I found that sort of pleasure I have so often found in roaming about the flower-deck't meadows at Honington with my Brothers—But all at once I found you gon over the Stile! left the pleasant meadows and peacefull Towns for war. [2]  this bestir'd the water in my brain, and after the agitation ceaced I fell into a rhyme-atical sleep and dream'd of a Brother I dearly love, and of an unknown friend, they were conversing after this sort——

The poets at Odds,
Observe cried Nat and learn the cause,
Of all those fatal cruel wars, [3] 
Men like the Bees in swarms combined,
In hopes each social joy to find,
As they increase their food grow scant,
They reather choose to fight then want;
Too soon they'r formd in Martial bands,
Intent to pillage forign lands,
Wars scythe produced swift decrace,
The cause remov'd men wish for peace,

'Was man a social creature made,
'To thin his race with Murders blade,
'Ah tell us not at Honors call,
'More myriads every age must fall,
'That thus th'encumber'd world has need
'Its victims oft shoud fight and bleed,
'I hear the God of truth reply,
'—Twas Hells arch-fiend devis'd the Lye,'—

Softly dear Will, I pray be civel,
Perhaps thy zeal belye the Devil,
If the satanic King declare,
That mankind still are thin'd by war
Whoever reads the historic page
Of ev'ry climb, of ev'ry age,
This obvious Truth needs must find,
(unless by prejudice they'r blind)
All historians display it,
Truth, is Truth, let who will say it

Think on Gods Word!——
'His Gospel bids our bick'rings ceace,
'And only whispers—love and peace
'Could not the power who life supplied
'For all his creatures wants provide.
'Accomodate th increasing race
'With food, convenience, health and space,
'And in the course of nature give
'Sufficiency for all that live,
'Let truth oppose the Sophist band,
'Lo Sin and Death go hand, in hand,

I made the search of scripture truth,
The study of my early youth,
Tis said to mankind great and small,
Resist not,* injuries atall,
Resist not, says the Law of Love
Yet you defensive war approve!!
No doubt but God the great first cause,
Could force obedience to his laws,
Bid national distinction ceace,
The schemes of patriots Eface,
Self int'rest drown in the great sea,
Of general phylanthrophy,
That peace and Love the world might crown,
The soldier and his trade unknown,
And for room, should men be scanted,
Could make another world and plant it.

'Ungreatfull Time to rob the brave,
'Whom Heaven ordain'd to shield and save,
'Of laurels Worthy to be worn,
'From fierce ambitions trophies torn
'When tyrants rouse the world to arms,
And deck Destructions form with charms,
'But would the proud and mighty hear,
'And listen with impartial ear,
'Whatever system they defend,
'How'er successfully contend,
'Beyond the rule of self defence,
'Unjust is every Vague pretence.

Give me your hand for I protest
My sentiments you have express'd
Nor can there be twixt any two,
More concord then twixt me and you

Hold Hold friend Nat,
'Commissiond War is but the rod
'And scourge of an offended God,—

As each contending state declare,
Theirs the just cause for waging war,
Each warft their prayers to the skies,
For aid to crush their enemies,
Then how shall any mortal white
Dare to decide whose cause is right,
And arrogate the place of God
O're fellow sinners shake the rod
Abstract perfection leads us far,
From what mere mortals realy are,
Proimiscuous, Mans lot may seem
As good, and bad, swim down Lifes stream
But yet there is a choosen race,
Who follow after Love and peace,
Nor do the storms of war destroy,
Their hopes of sollid Lasting joy,
We Deplore what cant be mended
Tis fickle Man, Not God offended,—
Yet I know————————
Here I awoke and Lo it was a Dream!!—


George Bloomfield

* Matthew 5, 39 V,

P.S. Dear Sir I have beg'd of Mr Hill to give these Lines a place in his Mirror I wish I could have Done them better I know Nat would be the last man to defend his opinion, though no one is more Capable. he is to much a Christian to return a blow, he was Cruelly hunted Down by the Critics  [4] and may be considerd as a dead man and I am jealous of any one who Disturb his Ghost

Poor Henry Kirk White did him justice [5] 

But Henry is dead to—

Oh for a scrap of Latin or Greek to tagg this with but Allass I am no scholar——— [6] 

* Houghton Library, Harvard, fMS Eng 776, f. 20 copied by George Bloomfield in his 11 June letter to Thomas Hill, Letter 239. BACK

[1] The Minor Minstrel; or Poetical Pieces, Chiefly Familiar and Descriptive (London, 1808). BACK

[2] Holloway's poem 'War' is on pp. 172-76 of The Minor Minstrel. BACK

[3] This verse-debate about war springs from the differing sentiments expressed in Nathaniel Bloomfield's 'Essay on War', published in An Essay on War, in Blank Verse; Honington Green, a Ballad . . . and Other Poems (London, 1803). Nathaniel’s poem took the grim line argued by Thomas Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) that war was to be welcomed because it relieved poverty by keeping population in check. The argument of Holloway (here referred to as ‘Will’) was that it was an evil, a punishment for humanity’s sinfulness. BACK

[4] Critical reaction to Nathaniel’s An Essay on War was hostile. The Critical Review, 37 (1803), 406–15 criticised the Malthusian argument of An Essay as a perversion of Christian doctrine and suggested Nathaniel lacked the strength of mind required to write blank verse. Other reviews focused on the poem’s awkwardness and suggested that the hyperbolical praise that Lofft heaped upon it in his preface did the author a disservice. The Annual Review, 2 (1803), 585–88, called Lofft ‘mistaken’ in supposing he had ‘found a nest of poets’ and remarked, ‘the poem being bad, Mr. Capel Lofft is ignorant. Q.E.D, lamentably ignorant, and presumptuously obtrusive in his ignorance’ (p. 587). Cf. The Monthly Review, 42 (1803), 379–81. The British Critic, 22 (1803), 81–82 declared ‘Another Bloomfield, and a poet! Are all the Bloomfields poets?’ (p. 81). All noted that Lofft had drawn attention to Nathaniel’s embarrassment at being a tailor and, while disavowing any snobbery about this profession, argued that he was not a good enough poet to give it up. Byron was crueller about labourer poets, and Nathaniel in particular, in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (London, 1809), lines 765–94.

When some brisk youth, the tenant of a stall,
Employs a pen less pointed than his awl,
Leaves his snug shop, forsakes his store of shoes,
St. Crispin quits, and cobbles for the muse,
Heavens! how the vulgar stare! how crowds applaud!
How ladies read, and literati laud!
If chance some wicked wag should pass his jest,
‘Tis sheer ill-nature—don’t the world know best?
Genius must guide when wits admire the rhyme,
And Capel Lofft declares ‘tis quite sublime.
Here, then, ye happy sons of needless trade!
Swains! quit the plough, resign the useless spade!
Lo! Burns and Bloomfield, nay, a greater far,
Gifford was born beneath an adverse star,
Forsook the labours of a servile state,
Stemm’d the rude storm, and triumph’d over fate;
Then why no more? if Phoebus smiled on you,
Bloomfield! why not on brother Nathan too?
Him too the mania, not the muse, has seized;
Not inspiration, but a mind diseased;
And now no boor can seek his last abode,
No common be enclosed without an ode.
Oh! since increased refinement deigns to smile
On Britain’s sons, and bless our genial isle,
Let poesy go forth, pervade the whole,
Alike the rustic, and mechanic soul!
Ye tuneful cobblers! still your notes prolong,
Compose at once a slipper and a song;
So shall the fair your handywork peruse,
Your sonnets sure shall please—perhaps your shoes.
Byron added a footnote: ‘See Nathaniel Bloomfield’s ode, elegy, or whatever he or any one else chooses to call it, on the enclosure of “Honington Green.”’ See the text of ‘Honington Green’. BACK

[5] Henry Kirke White wrote positively about Nathaniel Bloomfield's poetry in his 'Melancholy Hours', which appeared in the November 1803 number of The Monthly Mirror (301–4). BACK

[6] In a document dated 28 December 1822, George copied this letter, with variants, and provided a commentary upon it (which should be compared with his remarks in Letter 423). The commentary runs as follows:

In this happy Country bless’d as we are with A free press. The Rich and the poor acquire A degree of knowlege, unknown in less happy Lands
The poorest Men have oppinions of their own, and however silly those oppinions may be, they will if able express them.—
My Brothers and my self placed amongst the poorerest of the poor, have through Life been much amused by the bustle and strife amongst The higher classes of society for wealth and power,
But poor Nat who have some talent wrote A poem, an Assay on War indeavouring to prove that War is a natural consequence of the rapid increase of Man, And though to be deplored, is mercifully suffered by kind providence, as War is mercy itself compared with famine
Poor Nat little thought what A dressing he would receive from the snarling Critics !! Those Nameless Critics seemed to have A rancorous spite at Capel Lofft, The Editor (Than whom a better meaning man never existed)
And sneering said, another Bloomfield poor Mr L thought he had found A whole Nest of poets !!! — Nats poems certainly possess Merit of A poetic kind but those Gentlemen would admit of no species Merit as to his augument they Scouted it as Derogatory to the human Charracter !!!
:: Are mankind then like the brute creation, !! – forced by instinct into propogate their Species, blindly, as if they were not endowed with reason !!—
In short they hunted him down as if he were A mad Dog,
And yet since that when the Revd Mr Malthurst proposed to Check the increase of population that Gentleman was as Roughly handled as Nat—
When Mr Holoway published his Minor Minstrel he made me a present of A Coppy, And as I had Corrisponded with that author Very freely I wrote the following Letter to him, I felt hurt to find A poem in that collection extreemly severe against Nats augument, holding up War as the most dreadfull and sinfull of all the curses attendant on humanity It struck me that as Mr H and Nat are both admirers of the Christian Morality and are certainly as far as they can practical Christians it were a pity they seemd to differ, Had Mr H been placed Like Nat amongst the poor, his Views Might have been like Nats, he never had a near View of real positive want of employment or in other word the real want of the nessaries Nescessaries of Life, had he seen this he would not wonder that the thousands Of poor fly to Arms and with joy take up the Terrible Trade of Soldier,
Dec 28th1822