80a. Nathaniel Bloomfield to George Bloomfield, 21 February 1802


80a. Nathaniel Bloomfield to George Bloomfield, 21 February 1802 * 

London Febr 21, 1802

My Brother I ought to have wrote to you when I Wrote to Mr Gedge, I wish I had writ to you instead of writing to Kitty. I have with Roberts advice, and without yours, consign’d my pieces to Mr Gedge. I want to know how you approve of that step. I have likewise without your leave made you a party concern’d, concluding my letter to Mr Gedge (which perhaps you have seen) thus, terms and conditions I leave to be agreed on between Mr Lofft and you and my brother george.  [1]  if the publication goes on I wish still further to employ your Friendship to look over the coppies and the proofs occasionally, and see if Mr Lofft has inserted an alteration I sent in a letter wich runs thus: ‘That there is neither boughs nor mud nor straw

‘That he may take to make himself a Hutt
‘No, not in all his native Land a twig
‘That he may take, nor spot of green-grass turf
‘Where without trespass he may set his foot’  [2] 

and in the Episode or ode to Gunpowder the word poises should be poising.  [3]  I want you to exclude the word taylor let there be no such a word in the Book,  [4]  but perhaps I am to late if Mr Gedge has mention’d it in the paper perhaps he has already said that the author is a taylor.  [5]  I know there is in the publick mind as great a Contempt for him who bears the appelation of Taylor, as Stern has made old Shandy have for the Names, Simken, Nicky or tristram, ‘how many Ceasars and pompy’s (sais he) by mere inspiration of the Names have been render’d worthy of them, and how many are there who might have done exceeding well in the World, had not their Characters and spirits been totally Depress’d and Nicodemus’d’  [6]  and I will add Taylor’d ‘into nothing’ in the rehearsal (professedly written for ridicule) the author to make the most ridiculous part of it still more riddiculous, tells us that it was written to a Taylor and by a Taylors wife.  [7]  even the deserning spectator has given into this common-place railery, in the monkey’s letter to his mistress on the transmigation of souls, he he has made the soul which inhabited pug’s body (in recounting the humiliating state it had formerly been in,) say that he had been a Taylor, a shrimp, and a tom-tit.  [8]  it is from these causes as well as from the Effeminate habits and appearance contracted by a recluse and sedentary life, that in every mind, the enlighten’d as well as the ignorent the Ideas of Taylor and Insignificance are insepperably linkd together

if it is ever printed let there be nosuch word in the Book if you can help it

your Brother Nat

I find that in uttering the above cited passage I have introduced tautology which may be amended thus

That there is neither boughs, nor mud, nor straw,
That he may take to make himself a hut;
No not in all his Native Land a twig
His hand may pluck,  [9]  nor spot of green grass turf
Where without trespass he may set his foot

Address: Mr Bloomfield Shoe-maker/ great Market place/ Bury St. Edmonds/ Suffolk

* MS: private collection. Published in part in the preface to An Essay on War, in Blank Verse; Honington Green, a Ballad . . . and Other Poems (London, 1803), pp. xxv–xxvii. This letter was forwarded by George to James Burrell Faux, probably late 1819 or early 1820. See Letter 339a. BACK

[1] An agreement for Gedge to print Nathaniel’s poems, published in 1803 by Vernor and Hood in London, as An Essay on War, in Blank Verse; Honington Green, a Ballad . . . and Other Poems. See Letter 81. Lofft’s part in the arrangement extended to supervision of proof copy: see Letter 100. BACK

[2] These lines were incorporated in An Essay on War, p. 5. BACK

[3] Neither word appears in the published An Essay on War, in which the episode concerning gunpowder appears on pp. 15–16. BACK

[4] Nathaniel’s fears of publicity—tailors had, since Shakespeare’s time, been the butt of jokes—were justified. His profession was revealed in An Essay on War when Lofft included this very entreaty, quoted verbatim from this letter, in his preface to the volume (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). BACK

[5] Nat feared that Gedge had already identified him as a tailor in advertisements for the forthcoming book published in Gedge’s newspaper, the Bury and Norwich Post. See Letter 77 for notices of the Bloomfields in this newspaper in 1802. BACK

[6] From Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (London, 1759), I, 19, ‘How many Cæsars and Pompeys . . by mere inspiration of the names have been rendered worthy of them; and how many … might have done … well in the world … had they not been Nicodemused into nothing.’ BACK

[7] Tailors are mocked for their lack of virility and as cuckolds in George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, The Rehearsal (1672), Act III, scene i. BACK

[8] The Spectator, 343, 3 April 1712, includes a ‘A Letter from Pugg the Reincarnated Monkey’: ‘I might tell you of many other Transmigrations which I went thro’: how I was a Town-Rake, and afterwards did Penance in a Bay Gelding for ten Years; as also how I was a Taylor, a Shrimp, and a Tom-tit’. BACK

[9] This revised version of the lines that Nat wished to be added to An Essay on War was not adopted. See note 3 above. BACK