We are grateful to the British Library (Department of Manuscripts), the Houghton Library at Harvard University, Northamptonshire Central Library, and Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton Library for allowing us to consult materials in their keeping; to Ronald Blythe, Averill Buchanan, Julia S. Carlson, Dick Ellis, David Fairer, Bob Heyes, Bridget Keegan, Scott McEathron, Andrew Rudd, Hugh Underhill, and the late Barry Bloomfield for their help. We are grateful to our colleagues at De Montfort University and Nottingham Trent University for their support. To John Lucas, whose enthusiasm for Bloomfield helped make Bloomfieldhands of the editors, and who co-edited the Selected Poems for Trent Editions, we are especially grateful.
Chronology of Bloomfield’s Life
|1766 (3 December)||Bloomfield born in Honington, Suffolk. His father George is a poor tailor, his mother Elizabeth a village schoolteacher.|
|1777||Sent to work on the farm of his uncle, William Austin, in nearby Sapiston.|
|1781 (29 June)||Joins his brothers George (a shoemaker) and Nathaniel (a tailor) in London, staying with George, running errands and learning his trade.|
|1784||Trade dispute over apprenticeships among the shoemakers; Bloomfield returns to the country, staying with William Austin; later returns to London.|
|1786 (24 May)||‘A Village Girl’ printed in Say’s Gazetteer; sets up on his own as a ladies’ shoemaker.|
|1790 (12 December)||Marries Mary Ann Church.|
|1796 (May)||Begins composing The Farmer’s Boy.|
|1800 (1 March)||The Farmer’s Boy: A Rural Poem published by Vernor and Hood, with an Introduction by Bloomfield’s patron, Capel Lofft.|
|1802||Rural Tales, Ballads and Songs published; befriended by Edward Jenner.|
|1803||Given a clerical post by his patrons, but his health forces his resignation after just a few months. Sings a ‘Song’ specially composed for Jenner’s birthday.|
|1804||The vaccination poem Good Tidings published; in December his mother dies.|
|1806||Wild Flowers; or, Pastoral and Local Poetry published.|
|1807||Tour of the Wye valley and the Welsh border country.|
|1808||Nature’s Music: Consisting of Extracts from Several Authors, with Practical Observations and Poetical Testimonies, in Honour of the Harp of Aeolus published, edited by Bloomfield, who designed and made Aeolian harps in this period.|
|1811||The Banks of Wye: a Poem published.|
|1812||Leaves London and moves to Shefford, Bedfordshire.|
|1815||The History of Little Davy’s New Hat published, a prose work for children.|
|1822||May-Day with the Muses published, his final volume of poetry.|
|1823||Hazelwood-Hall, a Village Drama, in Three Acts published; on 19 August, dies after a period of chronic illness, in some poverty and distress but showing no signs of mental illness (pacé DNB).|
|1824||Bloomfield’s friend Joseph Weston edits the Remains of Robert Bloomfield (2 vols, 1824) for the benefit of Bloomfield’s family.|
Bloomfield’s poems were reprinted many times throughout the nineteenth century. The 1809 stereotype edition (reprinted 1817) of Bloomfield’s first three collections is the most important of these, since he had editorial control over it. Post-1900 editions are far fewer, and those we are aware of are listed here in chronological order (not including recent generic print-on-demand reprints).
The Farmer’s Boy (London: Staples Books, 1941).
A Selection of Poems by Robert Bloomfield, edited with an Introduction by Roland Gant (London: The Grey Walls Press, 1947).
Selections from the Correspondence of Robert Bloomfield, ed. W. H. Hart (London: Spottiswoode, 1870, privately reprinted by Robert F. Ashby, 1968).
Collected Poems (1800–1822), ed. J. N. Lawson, five volumes in one, facsimiles (Gainesville: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1971).
The Farmer’s Boy: The Story of a Suffolk Poet, Robert Bloomfield, His Life and Poems 1766–1823, ed. William Wickett and Nicholas Duval (Lavenham: Terence Dalton, 1971), a selected edition and biography.
The Poems of Robert Bloomfield , facsimile (Farnborough: Gregg International, 1971).
The Farmer’s Boy, Rural Tales, Good Tidings, with An Essay on War [by Nathaniel Bloomield], introduced by D. H. Reiman, facsimiles (New York and London: Garland, 1977).
Wild Flowers, The Banks of Wye, and May Day with the Muses, introduced by D. H. Reiman, facsimiles (New York and London: Garland, 1977).
The Farmer’s Boy (Bury St. Edmunds: Lark Books, 1986).
Selected Poems, ed. John Goodridge and John Lucas (Nottingham: Trent Editions, 1998, revised and expanded edition, 2007).
The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and His Circle, ed. Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt, associate editor John Goodridge (online publication, Romantic Circles Electronic Editions, 2012)
The Banks of Wye, ed. Tim Fulford (online publication, Romantic Circles Electronic Editions, 2012)
Biographical and Critical
The Robert Bloomfield Society Newsletter (henceforth RBSN), ed. John Goodridge (nos, 1–4, 2001–2003), and by Hugh Underhill (nos. 5–30, 2003–16 and ongoing) includes much of interest: a selection of its best articles are listed below. The first 23 numbers are indexed in number 26 (Autumn 2013), 3–7.
E. W. Brayley, Views in Suffolk, Norfolk and Northamptonshire, illustrative of the Works of Robert Bloomfield (London: Vernor, Hood and others, 1806).
Spencer T. Hall, ‘Bloomfield and Clare’, Biographical Sketches of Remarkable People, Chiefly from Personal Recollection; with Miscellaneous Papers and Poems (London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co., 1873), pp. 155–73.
W. E. Wink, Lives of the Illustrious Shoemakers (London: Sampson Low and others, 1883), pp. 100–116.
W. H. Hudson, ‘Troston’, Afoot in England (London, 1909), pp. 266–90. Reprinted in Poetry Criticism, 160 (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2014).
A. H. R. Fairchild, ‘Robert Bloomfield’, Studies in Philology, 16 (1919), 78–101.
Edmund Blunden, Nature in English Literature (1929; reprinted New York: Kennikat Press, 1970), Chapter 5 (on Stephen Duck and Bloomfield).
Rayner Unwin, The Rural Muse (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1954), pp. 87–120.
Graham F. Reed, ‘Bloomfield’s Aeolus’, Notes and Queries, 201 (Oct 1956), 450–1.
The Earl of Cranbrook and John Hadfield, ‘Some Uncollected Authors XX: Robert Bloomfield 1766–1823’, Book Collector, 8 (1959), 170–9, 299, 431–2.
A. J. Sambrook, ‘The Farmer’s Boy: Robert Bloomfield, 1766–1823’, English, 16 (1967), 167–71.
H. H. Bloomfield, ‘The Robert Bloomfield Bicentenary’, Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 10, no. 80 (Spring 1967).
Jonathan Lawson, Robert Bloomfield (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980). Twayne’s English Authors Series, no. 310.
Robert F. Ashby, ‘The First Editions of The Farmer’s Boy’, Book Collector, 41, part 2 (1992), 180–7.
B. C. Bloomfield, ‘The Publication of The Farmer’s Boy’, The Library, 6th ser., 15, no. 2 (June 1993), 75–94.
John Lucas, ‘Bloomfield and Clare’, in The Independent Spirit: John Clare and the Self-Taught Tradition, ed. John Goodridge (Helpston: The John Clare Society and the Margaret Grainger Memorial Trust, 1994), pp. 55–68; see also Ronald Blythe’s remarks on Bloomfield, pp. 181–84, revised in his Talking About John Clare (Nottingham: Trent Books, 1999), pp. 126–30.
Annette Wheeler Cafarelli, ‘The Romantic “Peasant” Poets and their Patrons’, The Wordsworth Circle, 26 (1995), 77–87.
Tim Fulford and Debbie Lee, ‘The Jenneration of Disease: Vaccination, Romanticism and Revolution’, Studies in Romanticism, 39, no. 1 (2000), 139–63.
William J. Christmas, The Lab’ring Muses: Work, Writing, and the Social Order in English Plebeian Poetry 1730–1830 (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2001), pp. 267–82.
John Goodridge, ‘John Clare and Eighteenth-Century Poetry: Pomfret, Cunningham, Bloomfield’, Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 42, no. 3 (2001), 264–78.
Bridget Keegan, ‘Cobbling Verse: Early Modern English Shoemaker Poets’, Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 42, no. 3 (2001), 195–217.
Bridget Keegan, ‘Lambs to the Slaughter: Leisure and Laboring-Class Poetry’, Romanticism on the Net, 27 (2002) (online publication, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7202/006562ar).
John Goodridge, ‘Now Wenches, Listen, and Let Lovers Lie: Women’s Storytelling in Bloomfield and Clare’, John Clare Society Journal, 22 (2003), 77–92.
Bruce Graver, ‘Illustrating The Farmer’s Boy’, Romanticism, 9, no. 2 (2003), 157–75.
Hugh Underhill, ‘“Nature’s Music”: Bloomfield’s not so artless song’, RBSN, 5 (March 2003), 7–14.
Simon J. White, ‘Rural Medicine: Robert Bloomfield’s “Good Tidings”’, Romanticism, 9, no. 2 (2003), 141–56.
Tim Burke, ‘The Poetry of Friendship: Robert Bloomfield, John Clare, and the Labouring-class Tradition’, RBSN, 5 (March 2003), 3–6, 6 (October 2003), 10–13, and 7 (Spring 2004), 10–13.
Robert Druce, ‘“While Fields Shall Bloom, Thy name Shall Live”: Robert Bloomfield’s Short-Lived Fame’, in ‘A Natural Delineation of Human Passions’: The Historic Moment of Lyrical Ballads (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004), pp. 169–88.
Donald Zimmerman, ‘The Medium of Antipastoral: Protest between the Lines in Robert Bloomfield’s The Farmer’s Boy’, ANQ, 17, no. 2 (2004), 35–39.
Bridget Keegan, ‘Giles’s Duty: Poetry, Husbandry, Sustainability’, RBSN, 9 (Spring 2005), 2–8.
Hugh Underhill, ‘“The Broken Crutch”: Bloomfield and Narrative’, RBSN, 9 (Spring 2005), 8–16.
Sam Ward, ‘Brother Bards: John Clare and Allan Cunningham on Bloomfield’, RBSN, 10 (Autumn 2005), 6–12.
Simon J. White, ‘The Triumph of the Gander and Power Relations in The Farmer’s Boy’, RBSN, 11 (Summer 2006), 2–6
David Woodward, ‘Perfect Rhyming’, RBSN, 11 (Summer 2006), 6–7. A short article on dialect with advice on how to pronounce Bloomfield’s poetry.
Simon White, John Goodridge and Bridget Keegan (eds), Robert Bloomfield: Lyric, Class, and the Romantic Canon (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2006). A collection of essays with contributions from John Barrell, B.C. Bloomfield, Kevin Binfield, Tim Burke, William J. Christmas, Tim Fulford and Debbie Lee, John Goodridge, Mina Gorji, Bruce Graver, Bridget Keegan, Donna Landry, John Lucas, Hugh Underhill, and Simon White.
John Goodridge, ‘“That deathless wish of climbing higher”: Robert Bloomfield on the Sugar Loaf’, in Wales and the Romantic Imagination, ed. Damian Walford Davies and Lynda Pratt (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007), pp. 161–79.
Simon White, Robert Bloomfield, Romanticism and the Poetry of Community (Aldershot and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2007).
— ‘Rethinking the History of the Wye: Robert Bloomfield’s “Banks of Wye”’, Literature and History, 16, no. 1 (2007), 46–58.
Keri Davies, ‘Robert Bloomfield Set to Music’, RBSN, 16 (Autumn 2008), 2–15. 17 (Spring 2009), 4–15.
Tim Fulford, ‘To “Crown with Glory the Romantick Scene”: Robert Bloomfield’s ‘To Immagination’ and the Discourse of Romanticism’, Romanticism 15, no. 2 (2009), 181–200.
Simon J. White, ‘Otaheite and the Farmer’s Boy’, RBSN, 18 (Autumn 2009), 4–9.
Angus Whitehead, ‘“The Poem Angling”: An Anecdote Concerning Robert Bloomfield and a Previously Unrecorded Epigram’, RBSN 19 (Spring 2010), 7–16.
John Lucas, ‘Sauce for the Daw’, RBSN, 20 (Autumn 2010), 5–11, on Bloomfield and birds.
Angus Whitehead, ‘“The rude inelegance of poverty / Reigns here alone”: Robert Bloomfield’s Portrait of St Andrew’s Church, Sapiston, in The Farmer’s Boy’, RBSN, 21 (2011), 3–4.
John Goodridge and Bridget Keegan (eds), Robert Bloomfield: The Inestimable Blessing of Letters, ed. John Goodridge and Bridget Keegan (essay collection, with contributions by Peter Denney, Tim Fulford, John Goodridge, Ian Haywood and Bridget Keegan, online publication, Romantic Circles Praxis series, 2012).
Andrew Rudd, ‘The Bloomfieldian Imagination and the Sublime: Notes on “To Immagination” (1800)’, RBSN, 23 (Spring 2012), 11–17.
Bridget Keegan, ‘Bloomfield as Occasional Poet’, RBSN, 24 (Autumn 2012), 2–10.
Ed Fordham, ‘A Collection of 33 Books from the Inskip Family of Shefford’, RBSN, 24 (Autumn 2012), 10–21.
John Goodridge, John Clare and Community (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Bloomfield is central to two chapters and is more briefly discussed elsewhere in the book.
— ‘Sociable or Solitary? John Clare, Robert Bloomfield, Community and Isolation’, Class and the Canon: Constructing Labouring-Class Poetry and Poetics, 1750–1900, ed. Kirstie Blair and Mina Gorji (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 55–76.
Angus Whitehead, ‘“very unpleasant, and a violation of [...] modest propriety”: Regency Reviewers’ Encounters with Bonaparte in Robert Bloomfield’s “The Shepherd’s Dream: or, Fairies’ Masquerade”’, RBSN, 25 (Spring 2013), 2–20.
Walter Bloomfield, ‘Charles Bloomfield, A Biography’ and ‘Robert Bloomfield, the Suffolk Poet’, RBSN, 28 (Autumn 2014), 2–23.
Angus Whitehead, ‘“I anticipate a smile at my adventures”: An Unrecorded Letter from Robert Bloomfield to Sir Charles Bunbury’, Notes and Queries, 61, no. 1 (2014), 73–76.
— ‘“A relish for hedge-row poetry”: A Newly Discovered Letter from Robert Bloomfield to Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges’, Notes and Queries, 61, no. 1 (2014), 77–80.
— ‘“Thou gem of the ocean, that smils’t in thy power”: The Full Text of Robert Bloomfield’s “Address to the British Channel” (1806) Restored’, Notes and Queries, 61, no. 1 (2014), 81–83.
Tim Fulford, ‘The Production of a Poet: Robert Bloomfield, His Patrons, and His Publishers’, Romantic Poetry and Literary Coteries: The Dialect of the Tribe (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 131–63.
— ‘Bloomfield and John Dyer: The Poetry of Hill Country’, RBSN, 29 (2015), 9–12.
Angus Whitehead, ‘Good Tidings, or News from the Farm: A Note’, RBSN, 30 (2016), 29–31.
Andrew Rudd, ‘The “Other” Robert Bloomfield: “To Immagination” (1800) and the Quest for an Authentic Poetic Voice’, Studies in Romanticism, 55. no. 2 (2016), 239–56.
Katie Osborn, ‘Dibdin and Robert Bloomfield: Voicing the Clown in the Town’, in Charles Dibdin and Late Georgian Culture, ed. Oskar Cox Jensen, David Kennerley and Ian Newman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 59–63.
A Note on the Text
The copytext for the works in this, the first ever edition of Bloomfield’s collected writings, is that of first publication, collated with later lifetime editions and the 1824 Remains of Robert Bloomfield. Spelling and punctuation have been retained from the first publication. Verbal variants have been recorded; variants of spelling and punctuation have not. One wholesale change has been made: the eighteenth-century practice of beginning each line of a quotation with an inverted comma has not been retained.
In the case of the major work, The Farmer’s Boy, we have collated the two extant MSS – the 1798 MS of the poem sent by Bloomfield to his patron Capel Lofft and, emended by Lofft, sent thence to Thomas Hill and to the printer (Houghton Library fMS Eng 776); also that of the poem as reconstructed from memory by Bloomfield in 1801, so as to preserve (in effect reconstitute) a version of the text as he first wrote it, free of Lofft’s alterations (Houghton Library fMS Eng 776.1). This constitutes the first ever variorum text of the poem, tracing all the manifold alterations in the lifetime editions, not least the changes in the Preface that reflected a battle for control of the text between Lofft, Bloomfield and the publishers Vernor and Hood.
A similar battle is preserved in the variants we record across the editions of Rural Tales. Here, for the first time, we make it possible to trace the imposition by Lofft of critical remarks on each poem in the volume’s first printing and their subsequent removal; the reviewers’ derision endorsed Bloomfield’s prophecy that such comments would attract ridicule.
Minor poems first collected after Bloomfield’s death in The Remains of Robert Bloomfield are presented in chronological order of composition and publication, where the date has been determined. Where we have been unable to establish the date of writing and/or publication, we have presented the poems in a section ‘Poems Published in The Remains of Robert Bloomfield’.