349a. George Bloomfield to Unknown Correspondent, undated [late summer/autumn 1820?]


349a. George Bloomfield to Unknown Correspondent, undated [late summer/autumn 1820?] * 

Free Thoughts on the Humours of the chase And the Park

In the year 1769 our Esquire at Honington (Mr Quince  [1] ) had a party of Gentlemen Boys at his House On a Visit to Master Quince, the Young Norfords  [2]  from Bury &c,—My Self and Brothers were invited as Mrs Q knew though we were very poor, our Mother took all possible care of our Morals,—The young Gentlemen proposed Squirrell hunting in Euston park,!! — My Brothers and Me were affraid to go, But the young Gentlemen Said they knew Mr King the Keeper would Let us hunt, we went, and Just as my Brother Nat had ascended to the top of the Lofty Oak to dislodge the Squirrel The Duke and Dutches of Grafton in an Open Carriage and pair of poneys drove up, the Duke immediately ordered us out of the park and Desired us to hunt on our own premises !!

There higmightinesses the Critics have converted the free fields of Genious into A park and have long Usurped the sole propriety thereof to themselves, But it some times happen that the unlearnd poor are sufferd to Enter this Literary park to hunt for fame and profit. Bob Burns the ploughman and Nan Yearsley the Milk Woman were very successfull, And Jiles the Farmers Boy did wonders!!  [3]  But poor Nat had the same Luck in the Literary park as we had in Euston park was orderd out by the Lords of the Soil!! Poor Snip [4]  was deemd A poacher!! he saucily enterd the park and Mounted Aloft in Heroics and gave the lie Direct to the new scheme of philosophy!! Tis said that some 40 years ago the frightful brain of A German philosopher found out that by Education &c Mankind might be raised to A State of perfection little short of the perfection of Angells, so that War and all the great Evils of humanity would ceace for ever, !!! ——Nat opposed those Utopian notions in beautifull Blank Verse,  [5]  The Critics could not find fault with the Poetry  [6]  so they seized the augument, Yet if ever Augument had Reason, common Sense, and Scripture  [7]  on its side it is Snips argument, But the Critics cried him down!! Where then said they is Mans free Agency, where his allmost Angelick Mental powers, Virtues &c &c  [8]  In short they soon sent poor Snip packing out of their park, This new Scheme of perfection was call’d the new Light hence sprang The Rights of Man Age of Reason [9]  &c &c, Capel Loffts Nest of poets were markd by the Critics  [10]  My Brother Isaac was A Sinner in Rhyme, but never dared to Enter their park!!——poor old Crispin made his Lowest, most humble Bow, and Crawld into their park on his hands and knees,!!  [11]  And is when arrived on the side of the grave Haild by Giles as A Brother bard !!!!! ———  [12] 

I corisponded with Giles 30 Years, no language can express the pleasure I received from that Corrispondence 5 years ago My Letters were answerd by his Son or Daughter,  [13]  my corrispondence with them soon dropd for I know no more of Genteel Life then  [14]  I do of Astronomy,  [15]  After 5 years Silence I receivd the inclosd  [16]  in his own hand, I did never Expect a Line from him in his own had hand, though 10 years younger than My Self I am Sorry he is older as to health I dont want Gileses letter returnd

* MS: private collection. The letter’s context and its inclusion in a small collection of manuscripts all of which are associated with James Burrell Faux suggests it may have been sent to, or intended for, him. Dating from internal evidence. For the context of this letter, see Letters 339a, 360a, 412 and 423. BACK

[1] Robert Quince, the local squire. BACK

[2] Children of William Norford (1715–1793), physician and surgeon of Bury St Edmunds. BACK

[3] Labouring class poets: Robert Burns (1759–96), Ann Yearsley (1753–1806) and George’s brother Robert, who adopted the persona of Giles in The Farmer’s Boy. BACK

[4] Nathaniel Bloomfield’s volume of poems, An Essay on War, was published in 1803, with a preface by Capel Lofft that revealed the author’s embarrassment about his trade of tailor (‘snip’) (pp. xxv-xxvii). Critics regretted Lofft’s exposure of the author’s embarrassment but declared that Nathaniel’s poems, while exhibiting the recent diffusion of knowledge among the labouring classes, were not good enough for him to give up his trade. See The Annual Review, 2 (1803), 585–88, which 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). 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 text of ‘Honington Green’. BACK

[5] An Essay on War took the grim line argued by Thomas Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) against the philosophy of perfectibility advanced by William Godwin in An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793). Godwin had developed social views about the benefits of rising population; his notion of perfectibility was built upon Enlightenment arguments made by, among others, Immanuel Kant in Idee zu einer allgemeinem Geschichte (1784) and Johann Gottfried von Herder in Ideen (1784/91). Malthus, and Nathaniel, argued that war was to be welcomed because it relieved poverty by keeping population in check. BACK

[6] In fact, many critics did find fault with the versification: see note 4 above. BACK

[7] St James C4th V 1st [Bloomfield’s footnote]. George refers to James 4.1: ‘From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?’ BACK

[8] See The Monthly Review, 42 (1803), 379–81. BACK

[9] Enlightenment and revolutionary works by Thomas Paine (1737–1809), published in 1791 and 1793–94 respectively. These titles are double underlined. BACK

[10] This derogatory term appeared in The Annual Review, 2 (1803), 585–88, which called Lofft ‘mistaken’ in supposing he had ‘found a nest of poets’ (p. 587). BACK

[11] St Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers, so ‘Crispin’ means a shoemaker: here George refers to himself and his own poems, published late in life in pamphlet form with the aid of local gentlemen who wished to relieve his poverty: Thetford Chalybeate Spa. A Poem by a Parishioner of St. Peters (1820) and Friendly Hints Affectionately Addressed, by an Old Man to the Labouring Poor of Suffolk and Norfolk (1822). See Letters 339a, 360a, 412 and 423. BACK

[12] A sarcastic reference to George’s brother Robert who, offended by what he saw as George’s toadying to Lofft, as well as ill and depressed, let their correspondence lapse until on 18 July 1820 he sent George a letter complimenting him on Thetford Chalybeate Spa and hailing him as ‘brother bard’ (Letter 348). BACK

[13] From 1815, Robert’s failing eyesight made letter-writing very difficult. BACK

[14] Corrected from ‘then’. BACK

[15] A science pursued by George’s patron Capel Lofft. BACK

[16] The enclosed letter is no longer with this letter: George probably refers either to Letter 348 or to Letter 363 or 368. BACK