35. Robert Bloomfield to William Vaughan, 22 July 1800


35. Robert Bloomfield to William Vaughan, 22 July 1800* 

London July 22d — 1800 —


I have written a long letter to Mr Lofft, great part of which I shall copy to you, and beg pardon for my intrusion when I see you,

'Mr Vaughan has given me the new edition of Burns, his life and letters, &c 4 vols. [1]  I know not how much I am oblidged to Mr Vaughan for the favour. I cannot read three pages of his life without walking across the room to relieve my stomach. I wish he was alive that I might see him for the small trouble of walking to Scotland for that purpose.'

'A kind of enchantment took possession of my mind and sences too on Friday evening, from eight till twelve O'clock. The hot breezes of a summer's day were gone to rest; and a Water expanded itself before me that seem'd to have no motion but the swelling of a slow rising tide; the western clouds lay still; and Echo was ready to answer every word and every breath. I floated on its surface allmost before I was aware, and saw the busy world dusty, and fateagued travelling in two distinct tracks over my head. The oblique shadows pointed at me from the shore; gladness was the ruler of all present, and was obey'd. At last landing, I left the pleasant waters to go on, to catch new shadows and wash other shores, and had scarcely felt my feet before a Fairy Vision extended itself that defied the eye of indifference. The Magic power that had caused and seem'd to govern the whole scene had hung ten thousand lighted sparks twinkling like stars around the boughs of trees, so that the under side of the foliage became illuminated and gave to the eye an ashcolour'd green; every leaf as still as the trunk on which it grew, for not a breath of air passd over them. On the illuminated sand below appear'd a mixd society of creatures, apparently mortal who either actually were happy or had left for a time the appearance of unhappiness behind them. A great proportion of those wore a female garb, but, as they were not fateagued with labour or exposed to the sun I could not discover why it was that their necks and shoulders were bare. I was meditating on these things when a fresh and sudden kind of enchantment set the whole assembly in motion, for who moves not at the sound of musick? As the bodies of trees growing near to the eye sometimes intercept and cut parts of a distant landscape, so did they here, as it were, cut the vibrations of the musick traveling from the centre of the scene to its confines. Somtimes it was sweetly melancholy, and a voice made the shades ring with,

Faithless Edward is not here

Then at intervals in a remote part of the enchanted grove, a delightfull thrill came through the bosom from the roll of the fife and the "spirit stirring Drum". The fantastick bounces of the Tamborine invited the heart to mirth and every note going to the boundary of the grove, seem'd to return in search of others but that instant struck from the instrument or voice. Smiles of hilarity were on every countenance, and particularly on those of the Fairies who with a waving plume and bosoms heaving to the sounds they gave, stood and pour'd forth spirit of song. Six voices caught from each other the words

Lads and lasses lets be gay
For this is Nature's holyday [2] 

I also observed that round the whole scene were distributed a great variety of tables set with the choicest and most tempting refreshments; such they apeard to be; but whither on being touch'd as in some other enchanted woods and castles they would have vanished from before me I cannot tell as I did not put it to the trial. I could not help admiring much as assemblage of younger Fairies who, cloathed in white, and full of mirth, danced to the Tamborine, and ran in parties from the illuminated to darker shades, from tree to tree, and seemd as ignorant of what we mortals call care and pain, as if they had never heard of them.

Musick and Beauty are powerfull allurements. If the mere scene had been shewn without them, I should have prefer'd the view of the evening sky on the water, to the Fairies lamps, their grassless groves, and their publick tables. And Fairy Visions in my estimation must still yield to a green grass bank; the soul-chearing balm of the morning air; leaves brightened by Natures Luminary; and violets peeping through the long grass as if to see how high he has mounted. Nor are those cheap, those common scenes without the charm of Musick. When I heard the uncage'd Blackbird and the Nightingale last May, and tried to bear in mind the amazing variations of the latter bird, tried to draw near the twig, that supported him, and saw the little feathers on his throat fall smooth at every pause, I felt Musick's most bewitching power. If ungovernable sighs rise at such a moment who would try to check them? If gratefull reflection joins the ear and the eye's feast and should produce a tear, an empassion'd stamp of the foot; or, an exulting skip upon a molehill, that tear, and that triumph is the triumph of Nature. — '

Pray Sir forgive me these long digressions, and I surely need not add that I have seen Vauxhall.

Mr Rogers finding I had not seen that celebrated place of amusement proposed the treat, and was accompanied by Mr Tuffen and Mr Sharp, to whom I was greatly oblidged for the unexpected and agreeable treat. I know that Mr Vaughan will particularly ask me what I think of Vauxhall, and I know of no better way of telling him than by sending him a copy of the contrast I have here given.

I have the 4 vols of Burns [3]  according to your order for which, Sir, and for all other favours I remain your

Most Obedient Servant

Robert Bloomfield

Mr Vaughan, Mincing Lane, London

Address:Mr Vaughan / Dunster Court / Mincing Lane / Fenchurch Stt.

* Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MA 4500 BACK

[1] The Works of Robert Burns; with an Account of his Life and a Criticism on his Writings, 4 vols. (Liverpool, 1800). BACK

[2] Bloomfield quotes from 'May Day' by Peter Pindar (John Wolcot), whose works he comments on in Letter 32):

The daisies peep from ev'ry field,
And vi'lets sweet their odour yield;
The purple blossom paints the thorn,
And streams reflect the blush of morn.

Then lads and lasses all, be gay,
For this is Nature's holiday.

Let lusty Labour drop his flail,
Nor woodman's hook a tree assail;
The ox shall cease his neck to bow,
And Clodden yield to rest, the plough.

Then lads, &c.

Behold the lark in ether float,
While rapture swells the liquid note!
What warbles he, with merry cheer?
Let Love and Pleasure rule the year?

Then lads, &c.

Lo, Sol looks down, with radiant eye,
And throws a smile around his sky;
Embracing hill and vale and stream,
And warming Nature with his beam.

Then lads, &c.

The insect tribes in myriads pour,
And kiss with Zephyr ev'ry flow'r;
Shall these our icy hearts reprove,
And tell us we are foes to Love?

Then lads, &c.

[3] The works of Robert Burns; with an Account of his Life and a Criticism on his Writings, 4 vols. (Liverpool: printed by J. M'Creery for T. Cadell and W. Davies, London; and W. Creech, Edinburgh, 1800). BACK