294. Robert Bloomfield to Thomas John Lloyd Baker, 4 October 1814


294. Robert Bloomfield to Thomas John Lloyd Baker, 4 October 1814* 

Shefford. Beds. Oct 4. 1814

To T. L. Baker Esq.

Dear Sir,

Some Genius, whether good or evil I cannot discover, has contrived that you are not to find me at home when you honour me with a call. I am realy vexd, and cannot hit on a better method of mitigating that vexation than by stating, as far as a letter will go, what I have been about, and in what state I find myself now.

I think you have heard of the Bankruptcy of my Bookseller, but you cannot be supposed to enter with me into all the troubles consequent thereon.—I have buried a Daughter who possessd all that I could wish in sense and affection. My wife is a staunch diciple of Johanna Southcott, [1]  my four Children at home. The eldest Boy, formerly lame, is growing and healthy, and is making a rapid progress in Arithmatic.—My youngest Boy is Seven and a half, and likewise goes to school. My Eldest Girl is a woman in years, and I hope, in all that may continue her my friend. The Youngest Girl is thirteen, and is growing very fast.

If you calculate dates you will find that last March the Farmers Boy had been publishd fourteen years; and consequently the Bookseller's half of the Copyright reverted to me, and I spent some anxious weeks in London endeavouring to procure from them a Sum for the continuation of their share for fourteen years to come. I obtaind about half the sum which I suppose their chance is worth.

After this, being much out of health, I went with a friend and neighbour to the Coast for a few days; saw the Landing of Alexander at Dover, and came home with an increase of strength and exhilaration. I was not long at home before my Suffolk affairs demanded my attention and presence. A month has past since I joind with the Farmers and old friends in my Native Vale, and while there I heard that Mr Baker had again calld, and found me rambling. The world has gone but moderately with me for three years past. I have a thousand times thought of Uley vally, and of you and Mr Cooper, but always with somthing very like dispair of ever seeing you again.

Since I have had this sheet in hand, Mrs Walker of this Town has brought me news, it is not political I assure you, but it concerns me in some measure, as one of your wellwishers, and if I dare make so free I would say 'And so I find Queen Mab has been with you.'? but as I know too little of Shakespear, and but little of the Lady, I can only wish you joy in the common way, and declare that I am in earnest in my wish [2] 

You would probably, if you saw me, enquire if my mind was still running on new subjects for the Muse? I can give you little satisfaction on that subject, but I somtimes dream that I shall one day venture again before the public somthing in my old manner, some country tales, and spiced with love and courtship might yet please, for Rural life by the art of Cooking may be made a relishing and high flavourd dish, whaever it may be in reality.—

Pray give my best respects to the Seniors of your family, to the Lady of your choice, and the Children, and if you still live near the good folks of Ferney Hill, say that I am amongst the living but sadly remiss in my tasks, for tasks they are, to write long letters. Tell Miss C Cooper, that instead of gliding down the Wye in the character of a Fairy, Time has contrive'd that I should wear a Wig and write with Spectacles. With these double eyes, and a heart that cannot loose its old impressions I Remain Dear Sir. Most Respectfully

Your Humble Servt

Rob Bloomfield

Address: To Mr T. J. Baker Esq., / Stouts Hill, / Uley, / Gloucestershire

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 350–51; extract published in Hart, p. 61; also quoted in part (with minor variants), by Phillips BACK

[1] Joanna Southcott (1750–1814), a Devon servant who proclaimed herself a prophet and the mother of the new Messiah, the returning Shiloh, attracted a cult-following numbering in the tens of thousands. BACK

[2] The reference to Shakespeare's Queen Mab (Romeo and Juliet, act 1, scene 4) indicates that, his first wife (Bloomfield's friend, Mary) having died, Lloyd Baker had now fallen in love with and intended to marry a second. BACK