5. Robert Bloomfield to Elizabeth Glover, 22-[29] October 1797


5. Robert Bloomfield to Elizabeth Glover, 22–[29] October 1797* 

Sunday night, October 22d. 1797

Dear Mother

I have constantly seen your letters to Nat, and have always been anxious to hear of your wellfare, whenever you have appeared full of hopes and domestic peace I have read your letters with pleasure, when you have been under the pressure of ill health or bad prospects, the natural though painful conclusion is, I cant help you; you I believe often think over those things, you know the difficulty of keeping afloat in the dirty stream of the world, and I think you know too the hearts of us all, that the power, and not the will, is wanted. — It is sixteen years last June since I washed my old hat in the Horse-pond and sold my smock for a shilling to Sam Shelver's boy, and set off to London to turn shoemaker, and I always remark that though I am aquainted with the principle alterations and deaths and changes, children grown to Men and Women since &c, the first thought that is, I mean whenever not thinking of other things my mind returns to the country, for the first moment, it always presents the old picture. I see my uncle master of the farm instead of my cousin, and can see in imagination my old neighbours and things just as they were; fixing the memory thus, brings in a strong point of view the quick successions and changes amongst us; for if I had 16 years ago fixt my attention on a flourishing oak, or a whole grove of oaks, the alteration might be disernable, but not striking. Ridlesworth hallNat tells me is not far beyond Fakenham wood, I sometimes allmost envy Kitty her situation, being always shut up in a garrot I am debard from the pleasures for which I have so strong a relish, but let me not grumble neither, for I have other pleasures, perhaps quite my share; for at this very time I have pleasure in telling you that my wife is now fast recovering from a short indisposition that alarmd me a good deal at first, by the simtoms her disorder showd we could not but suppose that the [illegible word] pain she felt must proceed from the Gravel, but on applying to a surgeon it did not appear to be that and he was obliged to use instrumental as well as phisical help, whereby she is now almost well, and we shall again meet the winter cheerfully. Our chief visitor is my Wifes Father; he generally comes from Woolwich once or twice in a summer, and again at Christmas. He is always doubly welcome, for as well as being a chearful, smiling man he is sure to more than pay for his entertainment by some means or other, he works at boatbuilding in the king's yard at Woolwich, he is 64 years old, is quite harty, and when useless to work he is sure of being put on the superannuated list, and receive 20£ a year as long as he lives, but this will not keep him and he don't much like the prospect good as it is, for he is fixd upon independence, he comes regularly the first Sunday in every month to his sisters at Rotherhithe, I believe I have spoke of those people before, they are well able to keep him, but he would rather trust to himself, — My Hannah goes to school, and I think shows signs of a good memory, the mistress teach them to repeat by heart, hymns, and moral verses, I like the method vastly; and like to hear them spoken by such young tongues, Hannah have learnd the morning hymn 'Awake my soul and with the Sun', [1]  and the evening hymn, 'Glory to thee my God this night', [2]  she likewise recites Pope's 'Universal Prayer', [3]  and Goldsmith's beautiful verse, 'pitty the sorrows [of] a poor old Man', [4]  my children give me a deal of pleasure now and I hope they always will, — there are times, when the fire burns clear, and we are all well, and our beer drawn good, and the candle fresh snuffd, that I feel myself quite happy, when the muddy stream of the world, as I before calld it, seem quite clear and palatable, indeed I always admired some verse I have somewhere seen, beginning, 'The hearth was clean, the fire clear, the kettle on for tea', [5] ——You seem to dispair of hearing from Bet, but I think it very likely that we shall, and that shortly; because when she went away she was to write from New York if she could; she did not even know that she should go on shore there, but perhaps sent coastways to philadelphia, in which case we were not to hear from her till Autumn; my Landlady has a young brother who went for a soldier, and was drafted off to go to the East Indies, they received a letter from him to day (Oct 29) dated as far back as last february; Bets will not be so long on its passage, we are expecting news every week, —

Give our respects and remembrance to my Father, tell Isaac I have not happened to have a musical shopmate for some years past, I have therefore made no progress that way, my love to his wife and little ones; and I remain your affectionate and dutiful Son

Rt. Bloomfield

Nat and family are all well

Address: Mrs Glover Hunnington

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 17–18 BACK

[1] 'Awake my soul and with the sun', written by Thomas Ken and included in his Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College (London, 1674). François H. Barthélémon wrote music for Ken's verses, under the title 'Morning Hymn'; this was first published in A Supplement to the Hymns and Psalms Used at the Asylum or House of Refuge for Female Orphans, printed for William Gawler, organist to the Asylum (London, c. 1785):

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven's propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav'n is, dear Lord, where'er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul 'tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

[2] 'Glory to thee my God this night', also written by Thomas Ken:

Glory to thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light:
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath thine own almighty wings.

Forgive me, Lord, for thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done;
That with the world, myself, and thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed;
Teach me to die, that so I may
Rise glorious at the awful day.

O may my soul on thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close;
Sleep that shall me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.

When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

[3] Alexander Pope's 'Universal Prayer' (1738):

Father of All! in every Age,
In every Clime ador'd,
By Saint, by Savage, and by Sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!

Thou Great First Cause, least Understood!
Who all my Sense confin'd
To know but this,—that Thou art Good,
And that my self am blind:

Yet gave me, in this dark Estate,
To see the Good from Ill;
And binding Nature fast in Fate,
Left free the Human Will.

What Conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to doe,
This, teach me more than Hell to shun,
That, more than Heav'n pursue.

What Blessings thy free Bounty gives,
Let me not cast away;
For God is pay'd when Man receives,
T' enjoy, is to obey.

Yet not to Earth's contracted Span,
Thy Goodness let me bound;
Or think Thee Lord alone of Man,
When thousand Worlds are round.

Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume Thy Bolts to throw,
And deal Damnation round the land,
On each I judge thy Foe.

If I am right, oh teach my heart
Still in the right to say;
If I am wrong, Thy Grace impart
To find that better Way.

Save me alike from foolish Pride,
Or impious Discontent,
At ought thy Wisdom has deny'd,
Or ought thy Goodness lent.

Teach me to feel another's Woe;
To hide the Fault I see;
That Mercy I to others show,
That Mercy show to me.

Mean tho' I am, not wholly so
Since quicken'd by thy Breath,
O lead me wheresoe'er I go,
Thro' this day's Life, or Death:

This day, be Bread and Peace my Lot;
All else beneath the Sun,
Thou know'st if best bestow'd, or not;
And let Thy Will be done.

To Thee, whose Temple is all Space,
Whose Altar, Earth, Sea, Skies:
One Chorus let all Being raise!
All Nature's Incense rise!

[4] This line, which was revised in manuscript by Oliver Goldsmith, appears in Thomas Moss's poem 'The Beggar's Petition', published in his Poems on Several Occasions (Wolverhampton, 1769):

Pity the sorrows of a poor old man,
Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door,
Whose days are dwindled to the shortest span;
Oh give relief, and Heaven will bless your store.

[5] 'The hearth was clean, the fire clear, the kettle on for tea'. William Hazlitt also quotes this anonymous lyric, 'The Happy Fireside', in The Round Table: a Collection of Essays on Literature, Men and Manners, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1817):

The hearth was clean, the fire was clear,
The kettle on for tea,
Palemon in his elbow-chair,
As blest as man could be.

Clarinda, who his heart possess'd,
And was his new-made bride,
With head reclin'd upon his breast
Sat toying by his side.

Stretch'd at his feet, in happy state,
A fav'rite dog was laid,
By whom a little sportive cat
In wanton humour play'd.

Clarinda's hand he gently prest;
She stole an amorous kiss,
And blushing modestly confess'd
The fulness of her bliss.

Palemon, with a heart elate,
Pray'd to Almighty Jove,
That it might ever be his fate,
Just so to live and love.

Be this eternity, he cried,
And let no more be given:
Continue thus my lov'd fireside,
I ask no other heav'n.
Hazlitt's source (and most likely Bloomfield's too) was Elegant Extracts: or Useful and Entertaining Pieces of Poetry, Selected for the Improvement of Youth, 2 vols. (London, 1791), II, pp. 282–83. BACK