Prefaces and Appendices

Prefaces and Appendices


THE

FARMER’S BOY;

A RURAL POEM,

IN FOUR BOOKS

BY

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD.


‘A Shepherd’s Boy....he seeks no better name.’


With Ornaments engraved in Wood by Anderson.


LONDON:

PRINTED BY T. BENSLEY, BOLT-COURT, FLEET-STREET;

FOR VERNOR AND HOOD, POULTRY;

T.C. RICKMAN, UPPER MARY-LE-BONE-STREET; INGRAM, BURY;

AND BOOTH, NORWICH.


MDCCC.


PREFACE [1] 

Having [2]  the satisfaction of introducing to the Public this very pleasing and characteristic Poem, the Farmer’s Boy, I think it will be agreeable to preface it with a short Account of the manner in which it came into my hands: and, which will be much more interesting to every Reader, a little History of the Author, which has been communicated to me by his Brother, and which I shall very nearly transcribe as it lies before me.

In November last year [3]  I received a MS. which I was requested to read, and to give my opinion of it. [4]  It had before been shewn to some persons in London: whose indifference toward it may probably be explained when it is considered that it came to their hands under no circumstances of adventitious recommendation. With some a person must be rich, or titled, or fashionable as a literary name, or at least fashionable in some respect, good or bad, before any thing which he can offer will be thought worthy of notice.

I had been a little accustomed to the effect of prejudices: and I was determined to judge, in the only just and reasonable way, of the Work, by the Work itself.

At first I confess, seeing it divided into the four Seasons, I had to encounter a prepossession not very advantageous to any writer, that the Author was treading in a path already so admirably trod by Thomson; and might be adding one more to an attempt already so often, [5]  but so injudiciously and unhappily made, of transmuting that noble Poem from Blank Verse into Rhime;…from its own pure native Gold into an alloyed Metal of incomparably less splendor, permanence, and worth.

I had soon, however, the pleasure of finding myself relieved from that apprehension: and of discovering that, although the delineation of Rural Scenery naturally branches itself into these divisions, there was little else except the General Qualities of a musical ear; flowing numbers, Feeling, Piety, poetic Imagery and Animation, a taste for the picturesque, a true sense of the natural and pathetic, force of thought, and liveliness of imagination, which were in common between Thomson and this Author. And these are qualities which whoever has the eye, the heart, the awakened and surrounding intellect, and the diviner sense of the Poet; which alone can deserve the name, must possess.

But, with these general Characters of true Poetry, ‘The Farmer’s Boy’ has, as I have said, a character of its own. It is discriminated as much as the circumstances and habits, and situation, and ideas consequently associated, which are so widely diverse in the two Authors, could make it different. Simplicity, sweetness, a natural tenderness, that molle atque facetum [6]  which Horace celebrates in the Eclogues of Virgil, will be found to belong to it.

I intend some farther and more particular Critical Remarks on this charming Performance. But I now pass to the Account of the Author himself, as given me by his Brother:… a Man to whom also I was entirely a stranger:… but whose Candor, good Sense, and brotherly Affection, appear in this Narrative; and of the justness of whose Understanding, and the Goodness of his Heart, I have had many Proofs, in consequence of a correspondence with him on different occasions which have since arisen, when this had made me acquainted with him, and interested me in his behalf.

In writing to me, Mr. George Bloomfield, who is a Shoemaker also, as his Brother, and lives at Bury, thus expresses himself.

‘As I spent five years with the Author, from the time he was thirteen years and a half old [7]  till he was turned of eighteen, [8]  the most interesting time of life (I mean the time that instruction is acquired, if acquired at all), I think I am able to give a better account of him than any one can, or than he can of himself: for his Modesty would not let him speak of his Temper, Disposition, or Morals.

Robert was the younger Child of George Bloomfield, a Taylor, at Honington. [9]  His Father died when he was an infant under a year old. [10]  His Mother [11]  was a Schoolmistress, and instructed her own Children with the others. He thus learned to read as soon as he learned to speak.

Though the Mother was left a Widow with six small Children, yet with the help of Friends she managed to give each of them a little schooling.

Robert was accordingly sent to Mr. Rodwell, [12]  of Ixworth, to be improved in Writing: but he did not go to that School more than two or three months, nor was ever sent to any other; his Mother again marrying when Robert was about seven years old.

By her second Husband, John Glover, she had another Family. [13] 

When Robert was not above eleven years old, the late Mr. W. Austin, of Sapiston, [14]  took him. And though it is customary for Farmers to pay such Boys only 1s. 6d. per week, yet he generously took him into the house. This relieved his Mother of any other expence than only of finding him a few things to wear: and this was more than she well knew how to do.

She wrote therefore,’ Mr. G. Bloomfield continues, ‘to me and my Brother Nat (then in London), to assist her; mentioning that he, Robert, was so small of his age that Mr. Austin said he was not likely to be able to get his living by hard labour.’

Mr. G. Bloomfield on this informed his Mother that, if she would let him take the Boy with him, he would take him, and teach him to make shoes: and Nat promised to clothe him. The Mother, upon this offer, took coach and came to London, to Mr. G. Bloomfield, with the Boy: for she said, she never should have been happy if she had not put him herself into his hands.

“She charged me,” he adds, “as I valued a Mother’s Blessing, to watch over him, to set good Examples for him, and never to forget that he had lost his Father.” I religiously confine myself to Mr. G. Bloomfield’s own words; and think I should wrong all the parties concerned if in mentioning this pathetic and successful Admonition, I were to use any other. [15] 

Mr. G. Bloomfield then lived at Mr. Simm’s, No. 7, Fisher’s-court, Bell-alley, Coleman-street. “It is customary”, he continues, “in such houses as are let to poor people in London, to have light Garrets fit for Mechanics to work in. In the Garret, where we had two turn-up Beds, and five of us worked, I received little Robert.

As we were all single Men, Lodgers at a Shilling per week each, our beds were coarse, and all things far from being clean and snug, like what Robert had left at Sapiston. Robert was our man, to fetch all things to hand. At Noon he fetched our Dinners from the Cook’s Shop: and any one of our fellow workmen that wanted to have any thing fetched in, would send him, and assist in his work and teach him, for a recompense for his trouble.

Every day when the Boy from the Public-house came for the pewter pots, and to hear what Porter was wanted, he always brought the yesterday’s Newspaper. [16]  The reading of the Paper we had been used to take by turns; but after Robert came, he mostly read for us,…because his time was of least value.

He frequently met with words that he was unacquainted with: of this he often complained. I one day happened at a Book-stall to see a small Dictionary, which had been very ill used. I bought it for him for 4d. By the help of this he in little time could read and comprehend the long and beautiful speeches of Burke, Fox, or North.

One Sunday, after an whole day’s stroll in the country, we by accident went into a dissenting Meeting-house in the Old Jewry, where a Gentleman was lecturing. This Man filled little Robert with astonishment. The House was amazingly crowded with the most genteel people; and though we were forced to stand still in the Aisle, and were much pressed, yet Robert always quickened his steps to get into the Town on a Sunday evening soon enough to attend this Lecture.

The Preacher lived somewhere at the West End of the Town…his name was Fawcet. [17]  His language,’ says Mr. G. Bloomfield, ‘was just such as the Rambler is written in; his Action like a person acting a Tragedy; his Discourse rational, and free from the Cant of Methodism.

Of him Robert learned to accent what he called hard words; and otherwise improved himself; and gain’d the most enlarged notions of Providence.

He went sometimes with me to a Debating Society [18]  at Coachmaker’s-hall, but not often; and a few times to Covent-garden Theatre. These are all the opportunities he ever had to learn from Public Speakers. As to Books, he had to wade through two or three Folios: an History of England, British Traveller, and a Geography. But he always read them as a task, or to oblige us who bought them. And as they came in sixpenny numbers weekly, he had about as many hours to read as other boys spend in play’.

I at that time,’ proceeds his Brother, ‘read the London Magazine; and in that work about two sheets were set apart for a ReviewRobert seemed always eager to read this Review. Here he could see what the Literary Men were doing, and learn how to judge of the merits of the Works that come out. And I observed that he always looked at the Poet’s Corner. And one day he repeated a Song which he composed to an old tune. I was much surprised that a boy of sixteen [19]  should make so smooth verses; so I persuaded him to try whether the Editor of our Paper would give them a place in Poet’s Corner. And he succeeded, and they were printed. And as I forget his other early productions, I shall copy this.’

THE MILK-MAID.

ON THE FIRST OF MAY. [20] 

I.

Hail, May! Lovely May! how replenish’d my pails!
The young Dawn overspreads the East [21] streak’d with gold!
My glad heart beats time to the laugh of the Vales,
And Colin’s voice rings through the woods [22]  from the fold.

II.

The Wood to the Mountain submissively bends,
Whose blue misty summits first glow [23] with the sun!
See thence a gay train by the wild rill descends
To join the glad [24] sports:…hark! the tumults begun.

III.

Be cloudless, ye skies!…Be my [25] Colin but there,
Not the [26] dew-spangled bents on the wide level Dale,
Nor Morning’s first blush [27] can more lovely appear
Than his Looks, since my wishes I could not [28] conceal.

IV.

Swift down the mad dance, while blest health prompts to move,
We’ll count [29] joys to come, and exchange Vows of truth;
And haply when Age cools the transports of Love,
Decry like good folks the vain pleasures [30]  of youth. [31] 

V.

No, no; the remembrance shall ever be dear!
At no time Love with Innocence ceases to charm:
It is transport in Youth....and it smiles through the tear,
When they feel, in their children, it’s first soft alarm. [32] 

The Writer of this Preface doubts whether he has been successful in adding the last Stanza to this beautiful and simply expressive Song. But he imagined that some thought of this kind was in the mind of the Author: and he was willing to endeavour to express it. The Breast which has felt Love, justly shrinks from the idea of its total extinction, as from annihilation itself. And there is even an high social and moral use in that order of Providence which exalts Sensations into tender and benign Passions; those Passions into habitual Affections yet more tender; and raises from those Affections Virtues the most permanent, the most necessary and beneficent, and the most endearing: thus expanding the sentiment into all the Charities of domestic and social Life. [33] 

“I remember,” says Mr. G. Bloomfield, continuing his Narrative, “a little piece which he called The Sailor’s Return: [34]  in which he tried to describe the feelings of an honest Tar, who, after a long absence, saw his dear native Village first rising into view. This too obtain’d a place in the Poet’s Corner.

And as he was so young,’ his Brother proceeds, ‘it shews some Genius in him, and some Industry, to have acquired so much knowledge of the use of words in so little time. Indeed at this time myself and my fellow workmen in the Garret began to get instructions from him, though not more than sixteen years old. [35] 

About this time there came a Man to lodge at our Lodgings that was troubled with fits. Robert was so much hurt to see this poor creature drawn into such frightful forms, and to hear his horrid screams, that I was forced to leave the Lodging. We went to Blue Hart-court, Bell-alley. In our new Garret we found a singular character, James Kay, a native of Dundee. He was a middle-aged man, of a good understanding, and yet a furious Calvinist. He had many Books,…and some which he did not value: such as the Seasons, Paradise Lost, and some Novels. These Books he lent to Robert; who spent all his leisure hours in reading the Seasons, which he was now capable of reading. I never heard him give so much praise to any Book as to that.

I think it was in the year 1784 that the Question came to be decided between the journeymen Shoemakers; whether those who had learn’d without serving an Apprenticeship could follow the Trade. [36] 

The Man by whom Robert and I were employ’d, Mr. Chamberlayne, of Cheapside, took an active part against the lawful journeymen; and even went so far as to pay off every man that worked for him that had joined their Clubs. This so exasperated the men, that their acting Committee soon looked for unlawful men (as they called them) among Chamberlayne’s workmen.’

They found out little Robert, and threatened to prosecute Chamberlayne for employing him, and to prosecute his Brother, Mr. G. Bloomfield, for teaching him. Chamberlayne requested of the Brother to go on and bring it to a Trial; for that he would defend it; and that neither George nor Robert should be hurt.

In the mean time George was much insulted for having refus’d to join upon this occasion those who called themselves, exclusively, the Lawful Crafts. George, who says he was never famed for patience, (it is not indeed so much as might be sometimes wish’d, very often the lot of strong and acute minds to possess largely of this virtue,) took his pen, and addressed a Letter to one of the most active of their Committee-men (a man of very bad character). In this, after stating that he took Robert at his Mother’s request, he made free as well with the private character of this man as with the views of the Committee. ‘This,’ says George, ‘was very foolish; for it made things worse: but I felt too much to refrain.’

What connects this episodical circumstance with the character of our Author follows in his Brother’s words.

Robert naturally fond of Peace, and fearful for my personal safety, begged to be suffered to retire from the storm.

He came home; and Mr. Austin kindly bade him take his house for his home till he could return to me. And here, with his mind glowing with the fine Descriptions of rural scenery which he found in Thomson’s Seasons, he again retraced the very fields where first he began to think. Here, free from smoke, [37]  the noise, the contention of the City, he imbibed that Love of rural Simplicity and rural Innocence, which fitted him, in a great degree, to be the writer of such a thing as the Farmer’s Boy.

Here he liv’d two Months:…at length, as the dispute in the trade still remained undecided, Mr. Dudbridge offered to take Robert Apprentice, to secure him, at all events, from any consequences of the Litigation.’

He was bound by Mr. Ingram, of Bell-alley, to Mr. John Dudbridge. His Brother George paid five shillings for Robert, by way of form, as a premium. Dudbridge was their Landlord, and a Freeman of the City of London. He acted most honourably, and took no advantage of the power which the Indentures gave him. George Bloomfield staid with Robert till he found he could work as expertly as his self.

Mr. George Bloomfield adds, ‘When I left London he was turned of eighteen; [38]  and much of my happiness since has arisen from a constant correspondence which I have held with him.

After I left him, he studied Music, and was a good player on the Violin.

But as my Brother Nat had married a Woolwich woman, it happened that Robert took a fancy to a comely [39]  young woman [40]  of that Town, whose Father is a boat-builder in the Government yard there. His name is Church. [41] 

Soon after he married, Robert told me, in a Letter, that “he had sold his Fiddle and got a Wife.” Like most poor men, he got a wife first, and had to get household stuff afterward. It took him some years to get out of ready furnished Lodgings. At length, by hard working, &c. he acquired a Bed of his own, and hired the room up one pair of stairs at 14, Bell-alley, Coleman-street. The Landlord kindly gave him leave to sit and work in the light Garret, two pair of stairs higher.

In this Garret, amid six or seven other workmen, his active Mind employed itself in composing “The Farmer’s Boy”.

In my correspondence I have seen several poetical effusions of his; all of them of a good moral tendency; but which he very likely would think do him little credit: on that account I have not preserved them.

Robert is a Ladies Shoemaker, and works for Davies, Lombard-street. He is of a slender make; of about 5. F. 4 I. high; very dark complexion….His Mother, who is a very religious member of the Church of England, took all the pains she could in his infancy to make him pious: and as his Reason expanded, his love of God and Man increased with it. I never knew his fellow for mildness of temper and Goodness of Disposition. And since I left him, universally is he prais’d by those who know him best, for the best of Husbands, an indulgent Father, and quiet Neighbour. He is about thirty-two [42]  years old, and has three Children.’ [43] 

Mr. George Bloomfield concludes this clear, affectionate, and interesting Narrative, by a very kind Address to the Writer of this Preface. But, pleased as I am with the good opinion of a Man like him, I must not take praise to myself for not having neglected or suppressed such a Work when it came into my hands. And I have no farther merit than that of seeing what it was impossible for an unprejudiced Mind not to see, and of doing what it was impossible not to do.

But I join with him cordially in his prayer, ‘that God, the Giver of thought, may, as mental light spreads, raise up many who will turn a listening ear, and will not despise

‘The short and simple Annals of the Poor.’

Very few words will complete what remains to be added.

Struck with the Work, but not less struck with the Remark, which is become a Proverb, of the Roman Satirist, that ‘it is not easy [44]  for those to emerge to notice whose circumstances obscure the observation of their Merits,’ I sent it to a Friend, [45]  whom I knew to be above these prejudices, and who has deserved, and is deserving, well of the Public, in many other instances, by his attention to Literature and the elegant Arts. He immediately expressed an high satisfaction in it, and communicated it to Messrs. Vernor and Hood. [46]  They adopted it upon terms honorable to themselves, and satisfactory to the Author, and to me in his behalf. They have published it in a manner which speaks abundantly for itself; both as to the typographical accuracy and beauty, and the good taste and execution of the Ornaments in Wood. [47] 

My part has been this, and it has been a very pleasing one: to revise the MS. making occasionally corrections with respect to Orthography, and sometimes in the grammatical construction. The corrections, in point of Grammar, reduce themselves almost wholly to a circumstance of provincial usage, which even well educated persons in Suffolk and Norfolk do not wholly avoid; and which may be said, as to general custom, to have become in these Counties almost an established Dialect:…that of adopting the plural for the singular termination of verbs, so as to exclude the s. But not a line is added or substantially alter’d through the whole Poem. I have requested the MS. to be preserv’d for the satisfaction of those who may wish to be satisfied on this head. [48] 

The Proofs have gone through my hands. It has been printed slowly: because most carefully; as it deserv’d to be printed.

I have no doubt of its Reception with the Public: I have none of its going down to Posterity with honor; which is not always the Fate of productions which are popular in their day.

Thus much I know:…that the Author, with a spirit amiable at all times, and which would have been revered by Antiquity, seems far less interested concerning any Fame or Advantage he may derive from it to himself, than in the pleasure of giving a printed Copy of it, as a tribute of duty and affection, to his Mother; [49]  in whose pleasure, if it succeeds, his filial heart places the gratification of which it is most desirous. It is much to be a Poet, such as he will be found:…it is more to be such a Man.

CAPEL LOFFT.

Troston, N. Bury, Suffolk.

21 Dec. 1799.

[all edns from 2nd, except the 8th, add the following, although from the 9th edn the paragraphs continue the Preface and are not entitled ‘Supplement’]

SUPPLEMENT

I have mention’d in the Preface ‘The Sailor’s Return,’ from an intimation by Mr. G. Bloomfield. From the Author himself, Mr. Robert Bloomfield, I am oblig’d with what part he can recollect of this Song, which I was desirous to recover. It was written shortly after the Peace with America and France. Probably some time in the Spring of 1784. The Author thinks the Title of it was ‘The Soldier’s Return,’ and that it was occasion’d by the arrival of some Regiments of British Soldiers from remote parts of the Globe.

He says, ‘I have endeavour’d to bring it back to my mind: but can only remember the following; which is not the beginning nor the finish.’

Round Lybia’s south point, where from toils so late freed,
Sweet Hope cheer’d my soul as we clear’d the rough sea;
I strove midst the Tars to improve the ship’s speed;
Nor thought I of aught [50]  but Anna and Thee.
Here comes the dear Girl! comes with kind arms extended
To welcome me!…limbs numb’d with age fain would move.
My cheek feels the offspring of rapture warm blended,
With answering drops:…this the meed of chaste Love!
Rouse the Fire —

* * * * * * * *

I think every Reader will be of opinion that it is indeed desirable the whole Song, of which this is a Fragment, should be recover’d. It will probably be found (according to the recollection of the Author) either in the General Advertiser, Gazetteer, or Courant. [51]  From these specimens, and some I have since had the pleasure to see in MS. Mr. Bloomfield appears fully to possess the simple, yet elegant, pathetic, and animated flow of Composition, the sweetness of Diction, Thought, and Numbers, which the Song or Ballad in their best character require.

I now quote a little Fragment in Blank verse from the same Letter: with a slight correction in a place or two where the distribution or mechanism of the lines was not exact.

Subject. An Harvest Scene: describing Gleaners return’d from the Field.

——Welcome the Cot’s
Warm walls!…thrice welcome Rest, by toil endear’d;
Each hard bed softening, healing every care.
Sleep on, ye gentle souls….
Unapprehensive of the midnight thief!
Or if bereft of all with pain acquir’d,
Your fall, with theirs compar’d who sink from affluence,
With hands unus’d to toil, and minds unus’d
To bend, how little felt! how soon repair’d! [52] 

The ear of the Author seems as sweetly attun’d to verse without as with Rhime: though his less practice has given him proportionally less exactness.

It reminds one of the simple, tender, and flowing melody of the blank verse of Rowe: or of some of the affecting passages in the Paradise Regain’d of Milton.

Sweetness, pastoral Content, the innocent and benevolent heart ‘with little pleas’d,’ breathe indeed through the Poems, and in the manners and conversation, of the Author of The Farmer’s Boy. [53] 

When the Spirit of Christianity declares ‘blessed are the meek,’ every heart which considers what meekness is, feels the truth of that blessedness. It may smooth the way, and prevent impediments, which a different temper raises to temporal felicity: it certainly assures that Heaven which is within: and is a pledge and anticipation of the Heaven hereafter.

It is pleasing to think on a remark of Mr. Geo. Bloomfield concerning his Brother when he first went to London. ‘I have him in my mind’s eye a little Boy; not bigger than Boys generally are at twelve years old. When I met him and his Mother at the Inn, [54]  he strutted before us, dress’d just as he came from keeping Sheep, Hogs, &c.… his shoes fill’d full of stumps in the heels. He looking about him, slip’d up… his nails were unus’d to a flat pavement. I remember viewing him as he scamper’d up… how small he was. Little thought, that little fatherless Boy would be one day known and esteem’d by the most learned, the most respected, the wisest and the best men of the Kingdom.’

The brotherly overflowing of the heart in this passage I felt when I read the Letter (dated 27 March last), and cannot deny to others the pleasure of feeling it. [55] 

And those who have shewn themselves the Friends of the Farmer’s Boy must excuse me if I mention some of them whose liberal and zealous attention had excited those feelings in the heart of his Brother, and have fill’d his with sentiments of thankfulness. The Duke of Grafton has every way shewn himself attentive to the Genius, the Worth, of Mr. Bloomfield. He has essentially added to his comforts. [56] 

Sir Charles Bunbury has warmly expressed his approbation of the Poem; as not only excellent for a Farmer’s Boy, but such as would do honour to any person, whatever his education: and he also has much contributed to make it early and advantageously known. Mr. Green of Ipswich has spoken of it as a charming composition: reflecting, in a very natural and vivid manner, the series of interesting images which touched the sensibility of a young, an artless, but a most intelligent observer of Nature; plac’d in a situation highly favourable to observation, though in fact not often productive of it. That Originality in such a subject is invaluable: and that this Poem appears to him (I know few men so qualified to judge on such a point) throughout original. And literary characters who have earnt to themselves much of true Praise by their own Productions, Mr. Dyer and Dr. Drake of Hadleigh, have given full and appropriate encomium to the excellence both in Plan and Execution, of this admirable Rural Poem. My Friend Mr. Black of Woodbridge, has noticed it in a very pleasing and characteristic Letter address’d to me in verse. [57]  And a Lady at Bury, whom I wish I were permitted to name, has most truly characteriz’d it by remarking, that ‘the descriptions of Country scenes, occupations, customs, and manners, are as natural as possible: and that the justness, virtue, and tenderness of the sentiments are to be equally admired.’ [58] 

It would be highly gratifying to me could I now transcribe those testimonies to which I have generally referr’d:…but I abstain here from this: and the rather, as I believe Mr. Dyer will probably soon express, in a Publication of his own, his sentiments on this Work; and as Dr. Drake, I know, has been so struck with it as to intend to appropriate to an investigation of its peculiar merit the concluding part of an enlarg’d Edition of his Literary Hours. [59] 

The mention already made of the Farmer’s Boy in the New London Review and in the Monthly Mirror I have seen with pleasure. [60]  I rejoice in that Fame which is just to living Merit, and waits not for the Tomb to present the tardy and then unvalued Wreath: I rejoice in the sense express’d not only of his Genius, but of his pure, benevolent, amiable Virtue, his affectionate Veneration to the Deity, and his good Will to all…. Obscurity and Adversity have not broken; Fame and Prosperity, I am persuaded, will not corrupt him.

I cannot deny myself the satisfaction of mentioning that, after an absence of twelve years, [61]  the Author of the Farmer’s Boy has revisited his native Plains. That he has seen his Mother [62]  in health and spirits: seen her with a joy to both which even his own most expressive and pathetic language would imperfectly describe... Seen other near, affectionate, and belov’d Relatives: review’d, with the feelings of a truly poetic and benevolent Mind, the haunts of his youth; the Woods and Vales, the Cot, the Field and the Tree, which even recollected after so many years and at a distance, had awaken’d in such a manner the energies of his Heart and Intellect, and had inspir’d strains which will never cease to be repeated with pleasure and admiration. [63]  That he has been receiv’d at Bury with an emulous desire of his society; and certainly with the greatest reason. I rejoice that I at length have been made personally acquainted with him: that I have seen him here, and at his Mother’s, and at Bury: that I have discours’d with him: that we have made our rural walks together: that I have heard him read some of those Poems which are not yet printed; but which when they shall, will support fully and extend the Fame he has acquir’d. Though I have spent, occasionally, much of my life among persons worthy of Admiration and of Esteem, I can recollect few days so interesting and so valuable to me as these. [64] 

C. L.

Troston, 25 May, 1800. [65] 

APPENDIX

[In the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns, Lofft added, after the poem, the following Appendix. In the 8th edn, it was subjected to many cuts by Bloomfield, against Lofft’s will. In the 9th and later edns it was absorbed, in the abridged form in which it had appeared in the 8th edn, into the Supplement to the Preface.]

When the First Edition of this Poem appear’d in March last, I intimated a design of accompanying it with some Critical Remarks. With that design various Engagements have since greatly interfer’d. From one of the most laborious and constant of those, that of the office of a Justice of the Peace for the County of Suffolk, I am now discharg’d. Why those who are in power have done this, they have not explain’d: and it being an office from which any one who holds it is removable at pleasure, they are not call’d to explain. Had it been for Crime or Misconduct as a Magistrate, of course Trial and Conviction should have preceded my Removal. As it is, I feel, as I have publicly declar’d, no shame in the removal. I have held an office honorable because extensively useful; because unprofitable and burthensome to the individual; because independently and conscientiously exercis’d, with a devotion, such as it requir’d, of my time, my thoughts, and my best faculties, daily to its discharge. My Colleagues,—and they are and have been, during a course of seventeen years, those of them who now act, and those who are dead or absent, men with whom to have acted was indeed satisfactory and pleasant,—my late Colleagues part with me, and I with them regrettingly. Our reciprocal Esteem is not lessen’d by this abruption of our official intercourse. And as every man who feels what Society is, ought to determine to be serviceable to the Public, my removal from this office neither weakens the determination, nor probably will be found to have impair’d the means of effecting it. I am therefore well content;—as I ought to be. I sought not the office. I have never sought any. It solicited my acceptance; unask’d and unexpected. I owe my appointment to the Duke of Grafton, very soon after I came to reside in this County. He was then Lord Lieutenant. I have not yielded that appointment to disgust; though there were those who were not sparing in their endeavours to disgust me with it: I have not relinquish’d it to suit my convenience; though in times like these an office of no little expence, and which shut me out from sources of professional emolument, was to me certainly not convenient: I have not consulted my ease or health by a voluntary retirement. I am remov’d, I am superseded, I am struck out from an office of incredible and hourly increasing anxiety. Circumstances like this are not new. They have repeatedly taken place in relation to very high offices; and the Public remembers men to whom they have happen’d whose internal dignity and worth is above any official dignity. Had I felt that I merited to be remov’d, I should not have thought myself a fit Editor of the Farmer’s Boy; a Poem which breathes every where modest independence, benevolence, innocence, and virtue. As it is, I think myself no way less fit than ever for any laudable and becoming employ. And I have accordingly announc’d my intention of resuming my profession as a Barrister. [66]  In the mean time, the leisure which has thus been thrown to me may properly and usefully be devoted to the Remarks which I had before meditated; and for which I had in some measure pledg’d myself to the Public. [67] 

The First of these will naturally be that which relates to the manner and circumstances of the Composition. There is such proof in it of Genius disregarding difficulty, and of powers of retention and arrangement, that it will be believ’d I could not overpass it: and that it would have been stated at the first if it had been then in my power to state it. [68] 

I now lay it before the Public in the words of Mr. Swan: who in a Letter address’d to me in The Ladies Museum of this Month, after congratulating me on my ‘successful efforts,’ (and with such a Production to propose to public Attention how could they be unsuccessful?) ‘in rescuing from oblivion a Poem, which for the harmony of its numbers, the beauty of its imagery, originality of thought, elegance and chasteness of diction, (every circumstance consider’d,) stands unrivall’d in the Annals of English Literature, and will descend to Posterity with increasing celebrity,’ states the motive on which he writes: (a motive well meriting a Letter and a public statement:) ‘to throw light upon the manner of the composition of the Farmer’s Boy; which appears to him (and most justly) no inconsiderable addition to the well-earn’d laurels of the Author.’

For the pleasure of the view which it includes of the character and manners of Mr. Bloomfield, I shall, with the Author of this interesting Letter, go beyond the mere fact; and give his narration of the cause and manner of the Discovery, as well as the Discovery itself.

Mr. Swan thus expresses himself:

‘From the pleasure I receiv’d in reading the Farmer’s Boy, and from some strange coincidences in the early part of Mr. Bloomfield’s life with my own, I was naturally enough anxious to become acquainted with the Author. For this purpose I obtain’d his address, and found him … the modest, the unambitious person you describe; wondering at the praise and admiration with which his Poem has been receiv’d; whose utmost ambition was to have presented a fair copy to his aged Mother, as a pledge of filial affection, and a picture of his juvenile avocations. So unexpected was the fame of his production, that the whole of his good fortune appears to him as a dream.—“I had no more idea,” says he, “to be sent for by the Duke of Grafton, and be so kindly and generously treated, than of the hour I shall die.”

I gave him,’ Mr. Swan continues, ‘my card of address, an invitation to my house, and a sincere profession of friendship; if, among his numerous admirers, and noble and royal patrons, the latter was worthy of acceptance.

Last Sunday afternoon [69]  I was highly pleas’d with his company, and gratified and entertain’d with his conversation.—Sir, he is all.. .nay, more than you have describ’d.

Among other subjects of conversation respecting the Farmer’s Boy, I wish’d to be inform’d of his manner of composition. I enquir’d, as he compos’d it in a garret, amid the bustle and noise of six or seven fellow workmen, whether he us’d a slate; or wrote it on paper with a pencil, or pen and ink. But what was my surprize when told that he had us’d neither.—My business, during the greatest part of my life having led me into the line of litterary pursuits, and made me acquainted with litterary men, I am, consequently, pretty well inform’d of the methods us’d by authors for the retention of their productions. We are told, if my recollection is just, that Milton took his Daughters as his amanuenses; that Savage, when his poverty precluded him the conveniency of pen, ink, and paper, us’d to study in the streets, and go into shops to record the productions of his fertile genius; that Pope, when on visits at Lord Bolingbroke’s, us’d to ring up the servants at any hour in the night for pen and ink, to write any thought that struck his lively and wakeful imagination; that Dr. Blacklock, though blind, had the happy faculty of writing down, in a very legible hand, the chaste and elegant productions of his Muse.

With these and many other methods of composition we are acquainted; but that of a great part of the Farmer’s Boy stands, in my opinion, first on the List of Litterary [70]  Phaenomena.—Sir, Mr. Bloomfield, either from the contracted state of his pecuniary resources to purchase Paper, or from other reasons, compos’d the latter part of his Autumn and the whole of his Winter in his head, without committing one line to paper.—This cannot fail to surprize the litterary World: who are well acquainted with the treacherousness of memory, and how soon the most happy ideas, for want of sufficient quickness in noting down, are lost in the rapidity of thought.

But this is not all.—He went still a step farther.—He not only compos’d and committed that part of the work to his retentive memory, but he corrected it all in his head. And, as he said, when it was thus prepar’d, … I had nothing to do but to write it down.

By this new and wonderful mode of composition he studied and completed his Farmer’s Boy in a garret: among six or seven workmen, without their ever suspecting any thing of the matter.

Sir, this to me was both new and wonderful; and induc’d me rather to communicate the information to you through the medium of the Press than by writing; that it may meet the eye of many, who will be equally struck and pleas’d with the novelty of the idea as myself.’

I have on this part of the subject, only, after quoting thus much at present from the Letter of Mr. Swan, to add, that I entirely agree with him, I believe, as to the force, clearness, and comprehensiveness of intellect manifested by this experiment, and its success. [71] 

I now pass to part of what has been fully and excellently said by Dr. Drake of Hadleigh, while investigating the merits of this astonishing Rural Poem.

In a Letter from Hadleigh [72]  Dr. Drake had given me this distinct and vivid representation of his general idea of the Poem.

‘I have read The Farmer’s Boy with a mixture of astonishment and delight. There is a pathetic simplicity in his sentiments and descriptions that does honour to his head and heart.

His copies from Nature are truly original and faithful, and are touched with the hand of a Master.… His versification occasionally displays an energy and harmony which might decorate even the pages of a Darwin. [73] 

The general characteristics of his Style, however, are sweetness and ease. In short, I have no hesitation in declaring, that I think it, as a Rural and descriptive Poem, superior to any production since the days of Thomson.

It wants no reference to its Author’s uneducated poverty to render its excellence the more striking; they are such as would confer durable Fame on the first and most polish’d Poet in the Kingdom.’

I shall now take the liberty of extracting part of the Critique which Dr. Drake, agreeably to his intimation to me, has made of the Farmer’s Boy in his Litterary Hours. [74] 

‘From the pleasing duty of describing such a character’ (meaning the personal character of Mr. Bloomfield) ‘let us now turn our attention to the species of composition of which his Poem is so perfect a specimen. It has been observ’d in my sixteenth number that Pastoral Poetry in this country, with very few exceptions, has exhibited a tame and servile adherence to classical imagery and costume; at the same time totally overlooking that profusion of picturesque beauty, and that originality of manner and peculiarity of employment, which our climate and our rustics every where present.

A few Authors were mention’d in that Essay as having judiciously deviated from the customary plan: to these may now be added the name of Bloomfield, the Farmer’s Boy, though not assuming the form of an Eclogue, being peculiarly and exclusively, throughout a pastoral Composition; not like the Poem of Thomson, taking a wide excursion through all the phaenomena of the Seasons, but merely limited to the rural occupation and business of the fields, the dairy, and the farm yard.

As with these employments, however, the vicissitudes of the Year are immediately and necessarily connected, Mr. Bloomfield has, with propriety, divided his Poem into Four Books, affixing to those Books the Titles of the Seasons.

Such indeed are the merits of this Work, that in true pastoral imagery and simplicity I do not think any production can be put in competition with it since the days of Theocritus. [75] 

To that charming simplicity which particularizes the Grecian, are added the individuality [76]  fidelity, and boldness of description, which render Thomson so interesting to the lovers of Nature.

Gesner [77]  possesses the most engaging sentiment, and the most refin’d simplicity of manners; but he wants that rustic wildness and naivete in delineation characteristic of the Sicilian, and of the composition before us.

Warner [78]  and Drayton [79]  have much to recommend them: but they are very unequal; and are devoid of the sweet and pensive morality which pervade almost every page of the Farmer’s Boy; nor can they establish any pretensions to that fecundity in painting the œconomy of rural life, which this Poem, drawn from actual experience, so richly displays.

It is astonishing indeed what various and striking circumstances, peculiar to the occupation of the British Farmer, and which are adapted to all the purposes of the pastoral Muse, had escaped our Poets, previous to the publication of Mr. Bloomfield’s Work.

Those who are partial to the Country;—and where is the man of Genius who feels not a delight approaching to ecstasy from the contemplation of its scenery, and the happiness which its cultivation diffuses?—those who have paid attention to the process of husbandry, and who view its occurrences with interest; who are at the same time alive to all the minutiae of the animal and vegetable creation; who mark

How Nature paints her colours, how the Bee
Sits on the bloom, extracting liquid sweet, [80] 

will derive from the study of this Poem a gratification the most permanent and pure.’ [81] 

Though I have thus largely extracted, I cannot omit transferring hither the Analysis of the Poem, as given by Dr. Drake.

‘The first Book, intitled Spring, opens with an appropriate invocation. A transition is then made to the artless character of Giles, the Farmer’s Boy; after which the scene near Euston in Suffolk is describ’d, and an amiable portrait of Mr. Austin immediately follows.

Seed-time, harrowing, the devastation of the rooks [82]  wood-scenery, the melody of birds, cows milking, and the operations of the dairy, occupy the chief part of this Season: which is clos’d by a beautiful Personification of the Spring and her attendants, and an admirable delineation of the sportive pleasures of the young Lambs.

The second Book, or Summer, commences with a characteristic sketch of the prudent yet benevolent Farmer. The genial influence of the rain is then welcom’d; to which succeeds a most delicious picture of a green and woody covert with all its insect tribe. The ascension of the sky-lark, the peaceful repose of Giles, a view of the ripening harvest, with some moral reflections on Nature and her great Creator, are introduced: followed by animated descriptions of reaping, gleaning, the honest exultation of the Farmer, the beauty of the Country Girl, and the wholesome refreshment of the field. Animals teazed by insects, the cruelty of docking horses, the insolence of the gander, the apathy of the swine, are drawn in a striking manner: and the Book concludes with masterly pictures of a twilight repose, a midnight storm of thunder and lightning, and views of the ancient and present mode of celebrating Harvest-home.

The third Book, Autumn, is introduc’d with a delineation of forest scenery, and pigs fattening on fallen acorns. Sketches of wild ducks and their haunts, of hogs settling to repose in a wood, and of wheat sowing, succeed. The sound of village bells suggests a most pleasing digression: of which the church and its pastor, the rustic amusements of a Sunday, the Village Maids, and a most pathetic description of a distracted Female, are the prominent features. Returning to rural business, Giles is drawn guarding the rising wheat from birds:—his little hut, with his preparation for the reception of his playmates, their treachery and his disappointment, are conceiv’d and colour’d in an exquisite style. Fox-Hunting, the Fox-hound’s epitaph, the long autumnal evenings, a description of domestic fowl, and a welcome to the snowy nights of Winter, form the concluding topics of this Season.

The fourth Book, under the appellation of Winter, is usher’d in by some humane injunctions for the treatment of storm-pinch’d cattle. The frozen turnips are broken for them: and the cowyard at night is describ’d. The conviviality of a Christmas evening, and the conversation round the fire, with the admonitions from the Master’s chair, are depicted in a manner truly pleasing. The Sea Boy and the Farmer’s Boy are contrasted with much effect:—and the ploughman feeding his horses at night, with the comparison between the cart-horse and post-horse, have great merit. The mastiff turn’d sheep-biter is next delineated; succeeded by a description of a moon-light night, and the appearance of a spectre.

The counting of the Sheep in the fold, and the adopted Lambs, are beautiful paintings: and with the Triumph of Giles on the conclusion of the Year, and his Address to the Deity, the Book and Poem close.

Such are the Materials of which THE FARMER’S BOY is constructed. Several of the topics, it will be perceiv’d are new to Poetry; and of those which are in their title familiar to the readers of our descriptive Bards, it will be found that the imagery and adjunctive circumstances are original, and the effort of a mind practis’d in the rare art of selecting and combining the most striking and picturesque features of an object.’

Dr. Drake after this well accounts for the poetic singularity that the Poetry of Thomson should have past through a mind so enthusiastically enamor’d of it, without impairing the originality of its character, when exercis’d on a subject so much leading to imitation. This he explains, and justly, by the vivid impressions on a most sensible and powerful imagination in his earliest youth, anterior to the study of any Poet.

Dr. Drake expresses his astonishment at the Versification and Diction of this Poem. And says most truly, ‘I am well aware that smooth and flowing lines are of easy purchase, and the property of almost every poetaster of the day: but the versification of Mr. Bloomfield is of another character; it displays beauties of the most positive kind, and those witcheries of expression which are only to be acquir’d by the united efforts of Genius and Study.

The general characteristics of his versification are facility and sweetness; that ease which is, in fact, the result of unremitted labour, and one of the most valuable acquisitions of litterature. It displays occasionally likewise a vigour and a brilliancy of polish that might endure comparison with the high-wrought texture of the Muse of Darwin. [83]  From the nature of his subject, however, this splendid mode of decoration could be us’d but with a sparing hand: and it is not one of his least merits that his diction and harmony should so admirably correspond with the scene which he has chosen.

To excel,’ Dr. Drake continues, ‘in rural Imagery it is necessary that the Poet should diligently study Nature for himself; and not peruse her as is but too common, “through the spectacles of Books. [84]  He should trace her in all her windings, in her deepest recesses, in all her varied forms. It was thus that Lucretius [85]  and Virgil, [86]  that Thomson and Cowper [87]  were enabled to unfold their scenery with such distinctness and truth: and on this plan, while wandering through his native fields, attentive to “each rural sight, each rural sound,” has Mr. Bloomfield built his charming Poem.

It is a Work which proves how inexhaustible the features of the World we inhabit: how from objects which the mass of mankind is daily accustom’d to pass with indifference and neglect, Genius can still produce pictures the most fascinating, and of the most interesting tendency. For it is not to imagery alone, though such as here depicted might ensure the meed of Fame, that the Farmer’s Boy will owe its value with us and with posterity. A Morality the most pathetic and pure, the feelings of a heart alive to all the tenderest duties of humanity and religion, consecrate its glowing landscapes, and shed an interest over them, a spirit of devotion, that calm and rational delight which the goodness and greatness of the Creator ought ever to inspire.’

Dr. Drake confirms, by copious and very judicious Extracts from the various parts of the Poem, as they offer themselves to critical selection, in accompanying the Farmer’s Boy through the Circle of his year, the Judgment which he has form’d with so much ability, taste, and feeling, and has so agreeably express’d, of the Merits of our English Georgic. And he speaks in his third and last Essay on it thus:

‘From the review we have now taken of The Farmer’s Boy, it will be evident, I think, that owing to its harmony and sweetness of versification, its benevolence of sentiment, and originality of imagery, it is entitled to rank very high in the class of descriptive and pastoral Poetry.’

He concludes with an highly animated and feeling anticipation of that public attention to the Poem and to its Author, merited in every view, and which already has manifested itself in such an extent.

I understand there is a Paper on ‘The Farmer’s Boy’ in a Work lately publish’d by Dr. Anderson; and assuredly from its subject well entitled to attention, as well as from the abilities and public spirit of its Editor;—Agricultural Recreations. Where indeed with more appropriate Honor could such a Poem be notic’d? [88] 

In the Critical Remarks I intended I find myself so much agreeing in sentiment with Dr. Drake that I shall attempt little more than merely to offer some few observations. One of these relates to the coincidences of thought and manner in the Farmer’s Boy with other writings. These, as would previously be expected from what has been said, are extremely few indeed. And almost all that are particularly of moment in appreciating the poetical excellences of the Work are most truly coincidences, and cannot be otherwise consider’d.

For the first of these which I shall mention I am indebted to William Smith, [89]  Esq. of Bury, who had largely his share of Public Admiration, when he sustain’d for many years with great skill and judgment, and great natural advantages, almost every character of our Drama which had been eminently favor’d by either Muse; and who now enjoys retirement with honor and merited esteem.

He mention’d to me in conversation, and since by Letter, a passage very closely resembling one in the Idyllia of Ausonius. [90]  It is this in Spring.

Like the torn flower the fair assemblage fly.
Ah, fallen Rose! sad emblem of their doom;
Frail as thyself, they perish while they bloom!

I. v. 3383–40.

The passage to which Mr. Smith referr’d me is this. (It is not in my Edition of Ausonius; but he sent me a Copy.)

Conquerimur, Natura, brevis quod Gratia florum est;
Ostentata oculis illico dona rapis.
Quam longa una dies ætas tam longa rosarum,
Quas pubescentes juncta senecta premit.

Id.xiv.

I am favor’d with a Translation made by Mr. Smith in his very early days. And hope that as a brother Etonian he allows me to quote it.

Nature, we grieve that thou giv’st flowers so gay,
Then snatchest Gifts thou shew’st so swift away.
A Day’s a Rose’s Life.—How quickly meet,
Sweet Flower, thy Blossom and thy Winding Sheet!

In the Procession of Spring there is a fine series of allegorical Images.

Advancing Spring profusely spreads abroad
Flowers of all hues, with sweetest fragrance stor’d:
Where’er she treads Love gladdens every plain;
Delight on tip-toe bears her lucid train;
Sweet Hope with conscious brow before her flies,
Anticipating wealth from summer skies.

I. v. 271–6.

Compare now this of Lucretius.

It Ver, et Venus; et Veneris praenuntius ante
Prunatus graditur Zephyrus vestigia propter.
Flora quibus mater præspergens, ante viaï
Cuncta coloribus egregiis et odoribus opplet.

De Nat. Rer. [91]  L. V. v. 736–9.

Ed. Brindley, 1749.

There Spring, and Venus, and her Harbinger,
Near to her moves the winged Zephyrus:
For whom maternal Flora strews the way
With Flowers of every charming scent and hue.

Or in the very words of Bloomfield,

Flowers of all hues with sweetest fragrance stor’d. [92] 

Hope here occupies the place of Zephyrus. Delight on tip-toe supporting the lucid train of Spring,—the image and attitude so full of life and beauty,—is our Poet’s own. And what Poet, what Painter, would not have been proud of it?

In another passage,

The splendid raiment of the Spring peeps forth
Her universal Green——

This of Lucretius will be found to have much similitude:

Camposque per omnes
Florida fulserunt viridanti prata colore.

782, 3.

O’er every plain
The flowery meadows beam with verdant hue.

And that exceedingly fine verse,

All Nature feels her renovating sway,

calls to mind the ever-memorable exordium of the Roman Poet.

If we admire the imitative force of this line in the epic majesty of Virgilian numbers,

Quadrupedante putrem sonitu qualit ungula campum: [93] 
Shakes the resounding hoof the trembling plain:

shall we not admire the imitative harmony of this; attun’d certainly with not less felicity to the sweetness of the pastoral reed,

The green turf trembling as they bound along.

The pause on the first syllable of the verse has been an admir’d beauty in Homer and Milton.

Νυξ. εχ δ’ εσπασεν εγχος. Il. [94] 
And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delay’d to strike.            P. L. [95] 

We have this beauty,—coinciding with the best examples, though underiv’d from them,—in a cadence of most pathetic softness.

Joys which the gay companions of her prime
Sip, as they drift along the stream of time.

III. v. 169, 70. [96] 

The beautiful Description of the Swine and Pigs feeding on fallen Acorns reminds me of a most picturesque one, not now at hand, in Gilpin on Forest Scenery. [97] 

The turn of this thought,

Say not, I’ll come and cheer thy gloomy cell,

III. v. 241, &c.

I believe is from Scripture. Prov. iii. 28.—And so I think certainly is that,

Till Folly’s wages, wounds and thorns, they reap,

III. 37.

But the most remarkable of all, and where I had no expectation of finding a similitude, is in near the close of the Winter.

Far yet above these wafted clouds are seen.
(In a remoter sky yet more serene)
Others, detach’d in ranges through the air,
Spotless as snow, and countless as they’re fair;
Scatter’d immensely wide from east to west,
The beauteous semblance of a Flock at rest.

IV, 255–60.

In Hercules the Lion-slayer there is this passage:

Tαδ’ επηλυθε πιονα μηλα,
Εκ βοτανης ανιοντα μετ’ αυλια τε σηκουςτε.
Αυταρ επειτα βοες, μαλα μυριαι, αλλαι επ’ αλλαις
Ερχομεναι φαινονθ’, ὡσἐι ΝΕΦΕ’ ὙΔΑΤΟΕΝΤΑ
Ὁσσατ’ εν ουρανῳ εισι ελαυνομενα προτερωσε
Ηε Νοτοιο βιῃ ηε Θρῃκος Βορεαο.
Των μεντ’ ουτις αριθμος εν ηερι γινετ’ ἰοντων,
Ουτ’ ανυσις· τοσα γαρ τε μετα πρωτοισι κυλινδει
Ἰς ανεμου, ταδετ αλλα κορυσσεται αυθις επ’ αλλοις·
Τοσσ’ αἰει μετοπισθε βοων επὶ βουκολι’ ηει.
Παν δ’ αρ’ ενεπλησθη πεδιον, πασαιτε κελευθοι
Ληϊδος ερχομενης.

ἨΡΑΚΛ ΛΕΟΝΤΟΦ.

Idyll. Theocrito. Adscriptum. Brunckii Analect. I. 360. [98] 

On came the comely Sheep,
From feed returning to their pens and fold.
And from these the Kine, in multitudes, succeed;
One on the other rising to the eye:
As watery Clouds which in the Heavens are seen,
By Notus driven or Thracian Boreas:
And, numberless, along the sky they glide,
Nor cease; so many doth the powerful Blast
Speed foremost, and so many, fleece on fleece,
Successive rise, reflecting varied light.
So still the herds of Kine successive drew
A far extended line: and fill’d the plain,
And all the pathways, with the coming troop.

I may possibly enlarge these Remarks in a future Edition. At present I am happy to be stopt here, by so good a cause as the urgency of the Publishers to complete a Third Edition; they informing me that the second is entirely out of print. But [99]  it is pleasant to see these Coincidences with Classic Poets of other days and Nations in a Classic of our own, of the best School:

The fields his study, Nature was his book.

C. L.

Troston, 22 Aug. 1800.

SUPPLEMENT

[added in 8th and later editions]

The following statement has been four years before the Public; being first printed in the Monthly Mirror, for Jan. 1802.’ [100] The reader will remember, that it applies to the first edition only of the poem; as all subsequent emendations have been made by the author.

Mr. Park’s Statement

of

verbal variations

Between the MS. Copy and Printed Poem of

The Farmer’s Boy.”

As it is not improbable that some of those invidious spirits who reluctantly allow to any popular writer the credit of having produced his own work, may hereafter report, to the disadvantage of Mr. Bloomfield, that his learned friend and Editor was materially concerned in composing “The Farmer’s Boy,” I have taken the most effectual means in my power, to counteract the injurious tendency of such report, by collating the printed poem with the author’s original manuscript, [101]  which had passed through the hands of Mr. Capel Lofft; and I transmit all the verbal variations which have been observed in the course of such collation, that they may be perpetuated on the pages of a miscellany which has been uniformly zealous in extending the well-earned reputation of our rural bard. I must also premise, what affects not the merits of the composition in any degree, that Capital Letters and Italic Characters were supplied by Mr. Lofft, as were various defects in orthography and punctuation, which arose from the Author’s want of Education, and of leisure fitly to supply that loss.

SPRING.

MS. Copy. Printed Poem.
Page. Line.
3 2 hover hovers and hover’st.
7 lowly tale humble lines.
4 14 those these.
7 65 Summons—plough summon—ploughs.
66 blow blows.
8 93 traverse once once transverse.
98 pierce breaks.
9 116 a centinel such centinels.
11 135 Gave Whence.
144 bright white.
12 155 to clear lighting.
156 And give Giving.
161 a the.
163 Giles he.
13 179 Subordination stage by stage Subordinate they one by one
14 189 and which.
15 217 New milk around Streams of new milk.
17 250 and or.

SUMMER.

Page. Line.
28 23 milder closing.
25 parches pierces.
29 34 Have Has.
44 evince its evinces.
35 143 loins form.
39 209 thy crest of the crest-wav’d.
220 brush them brushes.
40 244 And use Using.
45 318 the their.
48 374 other than now but.

AUTUMN.

57 77 Giles—leisure his—ease to.
58 81 dust bones.
59 105 and the rose that blow hence the tints that glow.
106 with—glow an—know.
60 130 a her.
61 147 With Her.
63 173 and next.
65 216 And place Placing.
71 325 bestrewing round are strewn around.
72 343 capon cockrel.

WINTER.

77 5 or burns with thirst partaking first.
6 trust thirst.
78 17 dependant—low the storm pinch’d—lows,
18 grow grows.
80 47 the world for rest
83 103 ye yon.
116 every all the.
85 152 But Their.
92 264 traverse passes.
96 337 First at whose birth At whose first birth.
97 352 Paternal Maternal.
99 390 Pierce the dark wood Wander the leaf-strewn wood,
and brave the sultry plain the frozen plain
391 Let field and dimpled Let the first flower, corn-waving
brook, and flower and tree field, plain, tree.

It will be seen, from this minute statement, that the Editor’s emendations were very inconsiderable, though most of them appear highly judicious, and many of them absolutely necessary, for the purpose of removing certain grammatical inaccuracies, which may be considered as mere freckles on the natural complexion of our Farmer’s Boy.

I have been indulged with a similar opportunity of inspecting the MS. copy of those admirable ‘Tales, Ballads, and Songs,’ recently published by the same interesting poet; but the Editor’s hints for correction proved too few and too unimportant to authorise any public specification of them.

Mr. Editor, yours, &c.

T. PARK.

Jan.18, 1802

________________

PREFACE (1809)

[In the stereotype Poems of Robert Bloomfield, 1809, Bloomfield heavily revised the Preface, removing Lofft’s voice and addressing the reader in his own person, while preserving some of the biographical information from former editions. He also introduced new material about the circumstances of the poem’s composition and publication.]

Eight years have elapsed since the first publication of ‘The Farmer’s Boy.’ It now assumes, together with the later Poems, a new form; and my friend Mr. Lofft, to whom I am so obviously and so materially indebted for success, with great liberality suggests, that a general publication of the works in connection seems to require something of a general Preface adapted to the occasion, and coming from myself. But as all that I have written will now be comprised in two volumes, some further remarks will be found in my second volume respecting the Tales and Ballads. What is here said relates to the Farmer’s Boy alone.

The plain, candid memoir, which has hitherto preceded the Poem, as given by my Brother to Mr. Lofft, has interested thousands in my favour, and spared me those painful feelings which must have arisen from a perpetual recurrence of the same questions in all companies, and from a perplexing wish to comply with the natural curiosity of strangers. Wherever I have been introduced, almost without exception, my history has been previously known, even to the ‘selling of my fiddle,’ and I have immediately been permitted to take my seat, and to join the conversation, if I found any thing to say; or to remain silent until I did. And this is no small privilege to a man swung at arm’s length into publicity with all his mechanical habits and embarrassments about him. How far such habits are, or ought to be, overcome, is a question upon which I have not decided: but I have been sometimes hurt, or amused, at witnessing the evident disappointment of such persons as appeared to expect in the writer of Pastoral poetry, and literally a Cow-boy, the brilliancy and the vivacity of polished conversation; to which I never had made the slightest pretences.

The memoir above mentioned has not only relieved me personally in many cases, but it has been accompanied by remarks from Mr. Lofft as to the promiscuous gifts which God has bestowed on his creatures, without regard to worldly rank, that I am confident will redound to the credit of the writer, and which came to the public with a thousand times more power and effect than they could have done had I been capable of writing them myself.

Much as I have been benefited by this biographical memoir, and gratified as I have been to find my path cleared before me, it would be ungenerous to the purchasers who may obtain this new and cheaper edition, and who may have no previous knowledge of the Author’s childhood, wholly to omit a narrative of facts which he himself declares to be of importance, and to carry with it an interest both connectedly and peculiarly its own. I will therefore give the substance of that narrative in my Brother’s words, with occasional explanations;—and then resume my own tale.

In Nov. 1798, G. B. writing to Mr. Lofft, says: ‘As I spent near five years with the Author, from the time he was fourteen years and a half years old till he was turned of twenty, the most interesting time of life (I mean the time that instruction is acquired, if acquired at all), I think I am able to give a better account of him than any one can, or than he can of himself: for his modesty would not let him speak of his temper, disposition, or morals.

Robert (born Dec. 3d, 1766,) was the younger child of George Bloomfield, a tailor, at Honington. [102]  His father died when he was an infant under a year old. His mother, Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert Manby, was born at Brandon, 1736. She was a schoolmistress, and instructed her own children with the others. He thus learned to read as soon as he learned to speak.

Though the mother was left a widow with six small children, yet with the help of friends she managed to give each of them a little schooling.

Robert was accordingly sent to Mr. Rodwell, of Ixworth, to be improved in writing: but he did not go to that school more than two or three months, nor was ever sent to any other; his mother again marrying when Robert was about seven years old.

By her second husband, John Glover, she had another family.

When Robert was not above eleven years old, the late Mr. W. Austin, of Sapiston, [103]  took him. And though it is customary for farmers to pay such boys only 1s. 6d. per week, yet he generously took him into the house. This relieved his mother of any other expense than only of finding him a few things to wear: and this was more than she well knew how to do.

She wrote therefore to me and my brother Nat (then in London), to assist her; mentioning that Robert was so small of his age that Mr. Austin said he was not likely to be able to get his living by hard labour.’

The following anecdote must stand in Mr. Lofft’s words, as one of those tender fabrics which it would be very easy to spoil, and impossible to mend.

‘Mr. G. Bloomfield on this informed his mother that, if she would let him take the boy with him, he would take him, and teach him to make shoes: and Nat promised to clothe him. The mother, upon this offer, took coach and came to London, to Mr. G. Bloomfield, with the boy: for she said, she never should have been happy if she had not put him herself into his hands.

“She charged me,” he adds, “as I valued a mother’s blessing, to watch over him, to set good examples for him, and never to forget that he had lost his father”. I religiously confine myself to Mr. G. Bloomfield’s own words; and I think I should wrong all the parties concerned, if, in mentioning this pathetic and successful admonition, I were to use any other.

Mr. G. Bloomfield then lived at Mr. Simm’s, No. 7, Pitcher’s-court, Bell-alley, Coleman-street. “It is customary,” he continues, “in such houses as are let to poor people in London, to have light garrets fit for mechanics to work in. In the garret, where we had two turn-up beds, and five of us worked, I received little Robert.

As we were all single men, lodgers at a shilling per week each, our beds were coarse, and all things far from being clean and snug, like what Robert had left at Sapiston. Robert was our man, to fetch all things to hand. At noon he fetched our dinners from the cook’s shop: and any one of our fellow workmen that wanted to have any thing fetched in, would send him, and assist in his work and teach him, for a recompense for his trouble.

Every day when the Boy from the Public-house came for the pewter pots, and to hear what Porter was wanted, he always brought the yesterday’s newspaper. The reading of the Paper we had been used to take by turns; but after Robert came, he mostly read for us,—because his time was of least value.

He frequently met with words that he was unacquainted with: of this he often complained. I one day happened at a book-stall to see a small dictionary, which had been very ill used. I bought it for him for 4d. By the help of this he in little time could read and comprehend the long and beautiful speeches of Burke, Fox, or North.

One Sunday, after an whole day’s stroll in the country, we by accident went into a dissenting meeting-house in the Old Jewry, where a gentleman was lecturing. This man filled little Robert with astonishment. The house was amazingly crowded with the most genteel people; and though we were forced to stand still in the aisle, and were much pressed, yet Robert always quickened his steps to get into the town on a Sunday evening soon enough to attend this lecture.

The Preacher’s name was Fawcet. [104]  His language was just such as the Rambler is written in; his action like a person acting a tragedy; his discourse rational, and free from the cant of methodism.

Of him Robert learned to accent what he called hard words; and otherwise improved himself; and gain’d the most enlarged notions of Providence.

He went sometimes with me to a debating society at Coachmaker’s-hall, but not often; and a few times to Covent-garden theatre. These are all the opportunities he ever had to learn from public speakers. As to Books, he had to wade through two or three Folios: an History of England, British Traveller, and a Geography. But he always read them as a task, or to oblige us who bought them. And as they came in sixpenny numbers weekly, he had about as many hours to read as other boys spend in play.

I at that time read the London Magazine; and in that work about two sheets were set apart for a Review—Robert seemed always eager to read this review. Here he could see what the literary men were doing, and learn how to judge of the merits of the works that come out. And I observed that he always looked at the Poet’s Corner. And one day he repeated a Song which he composed to an old tune. I was much surprised that he should make so smooth verses; so I persuaded him to try whether the Editor of our Paper would give them a place in Poet’s Corner. And he succeeded, and they were printed. And as I forget his other early productions, I shall copy this.

A VILLAGE GIRL

Hail, May! Lovely May! how replenish’d my pails!
The young Dawn overspreads the broad east, streak’d with gold!
My glad heart beats time to the laugh of the vales,
And Colin’s voice rings through the wood from the fold.
The wood to the mountain submissively bends,
Whose blue misty summits first glows with the sun!
See! thence a gay train by the wild rill descends
To join the mix’d sports:—Hark! the tumult’s begun.
Be cloudless, ye skies!—And be Colin but there,
Not dew-spangled bents on the wide level dale,
Nor Morning’s first smile can more lovely appear
Than his looks, since my wishes I cannot conceal.
Swift down the mad dance, while blest health prompts to move,
We’ll court joys to come, and exchange vows of truth;
And haply when Age cools the transports of Love,
Decry like good folks the vain follies of youth.

R.B. [105] 

“I remember,” says Mr. G. Bloomfield, continuing his Narrative, “a little piece which he called The Sailor’s Return: [106]  in which he tried to describe the feelings of an honest Tar, who, after a long absence, saw his dear native Village first rising into view. This too obtain’d a place in the Poet’s Corner. And as he was so young, it shews some genius in him, and some industry, to have acquired so much knowledge of the use of words in so little time. Indeed at this time myself and my fellow workmen in the garret began to get instructions from him.

About this time there came a man to lodge at our lodgings that was troubled with fits. Robert was so much hurt to see this poor creature drawn into such frightful forms, and to hear his horrid screams, that I was forced to leave the lodging. We went to Blue Hart-court, Bell-alley. In our new garret we found a singular character, James Kay, a native of Dundee. He was a middle-aged man, of a good understanding, and yet a furious Calvinist. He had many books,—and some which he did not value: such as the Seasons, Paradise Lost, and some Novels. These books he lent to Robert; who spent all his leisure hours in reading The Seasons, which he was now capable of reading. I never heard him give so much praise to any book as to that.

I think it was in the year 1784 that the question came to be decided between the journeymen shoemakers; whether those who had learn’d without serving an apprenticeship could follow the trade?

The man by whom Robert and I were employ’d, Mr. Chamberlayne, of Cheapside, took an active part against the lawful journeymen; and even went so far as to pay off every man that worked for him that had joined their clubs. This so exasperated the men, that their acting committee soon looked for unlawful men (as they called them) among Chamberlayne’s workmen.’

A part of the Narrative here naturally turned upon the spiteful and contentious bickerings of men who were all angry together; which contentions ultimately forced me from London. At this moment I feel much obliged to them. They treated me with a visit to my friends, and a charming holiday; which George thus describes:

‘Robert naturally fond of Peace, and fearful for my personal safety, begged to be suffered to retire from the storm.

He came home; and Mr. Austin kindly bade him take his house for his home till he could return to me. And here, with his mind glowing with the fine descriptions of rural scenery which he found in Thomson’s Seasons, he again retraced the very fields where first he began to think. Here, free from smoke, the noise, the contention of the city, he imbibed that love of rural simplicity and rural innocence, which fitted him, in a great degree, to be the writer of such a thing as “The Farmer’s Boy”.

Here he lived two months:—at length, as the dispute in the trade still remained undecided, Mr. Dudbridge offered to take Robert apprentice, to secure him, at all events, from any consequences of the litigation.’

The indentures were avowedly for the above purpose only; and, after detailing the transaction, George proceeds thus:

‘When I left London he was turned of twenty and much of my happiness since has arisen from a constant correspondence which I have held with him.

After I left him, he studied music, and was a good player on the violin. [107] 

But as my brother Nat had married a Woolwich woman, it happened that Robert took a fancy to Mary-Anne Church, a young woman of that town, whose father is a boat-builder in the Government yard there. He married 12th Dec. 1790.

Soon after he married, Robert told me, in a letter, that ‘he had sold his fiddle and got a wife.’ Like most poor men, he got a wife first, and had to get household stuff afterward. It took him some time to get out of ready-furnished lodgings. At length, by hard working, &c he acquired a bed of his own, and hired the room up one pair of stairs at 14, Bell-alley, Coleman-street. The landlord kindly gave him leave to sit and work in the light garret, two pair of stairs higher.

In this garret, amid six or seven other workmen, his active mind employed itself in composing ‘The Farmer’s Boy.’

In my correspondence I have seen several poetical effusions of his; all of them of a good moral tendency; but which he very likely would think do him little credit: on that account I have not preserved them.

Robert is a lady’s shoemaker, and works for Mr. Davies, Lombard-street. He is of a slender make; of about five feet four inches high; very dark complexion. His mother, who is a very religious member of the church of England, took all the pains she could in his infancy to make him pious: and, as his reason expanded, his love of God and man increased with it. I never knew his fellow for mildness of temper and goodness of disposition. And since I left him, universally is he praised by those who know him best, for the best of husbands, an indulgent father, and quiet neighbour. He is about thirty-two years old, and has three children’ [108] 

The following conclusion of George’s original Narrative I always thought peculiarly happy; and well might Mr. Lofft join with him cordially in his prayer, ‘that God, the Giver of thought, may, as mental light spreads, raise up many who will turn a listening ear, and will not despise

The short and simple annals of the poor’.

Further information was given soon after by my Brother in the following Letter to Mr. Lofft, and in the anecdote which closes this part of the history:

‘The late Mr. Austin’s wife was a Manby (my mother’s sister). And it may seem strange that, in “The Farmer’s Boy,” Giles no where calls him Uncle, but Master. The treatment that my brother Robert experienced from Mr. Austin did not differ in any respect from the treatment that all the servant boys experienced who lived with him. Mr. Austin was the father of fourteen children by my aunt (he never had any other wife). He left a decent provision for the five children that survived him: so that it could not be expected he should have any thing to give to poor relations. And I don’t see a possibility of making a difference between Giles and the boys that were not related to Mr. Austin: or he treated all his servants exactly as he did his sons. They all worked hard; all lived well. The Duke had not a better man tenant to him than the late Mr. Austin. I saw numbers of the husbandmen in tears when he was buried. He was beloved by all who knew him. But I imagine that Robert thought that when he was speaking of Benevolence that was universal, he had no occasion to mention the accidental circumstance of his being related to the good man of whom he sung.’

_______

‘I have him in my mind’s eye a little boy; not bigger than boys generally are at twelve years old. When I met him and his mother at the inn, he strutted before us, dressed just as he came from keeping sheep, hogs, &c. his shoes filled full of stumps in the heels. He looking about him, slipped up—his nails were unused to a flat pavement. I remember viewing him as he scampered up: how small he was. Little thought, that little, fatherless boy would be one day known and esteemed by the most learned, the most respected, the wisest, and the best men of the kingdom.’

________

Amongst the anecdotes interspersed in the foregoing Narrative, distinguished for ingenuousness and feeling, that which the reader has just seen, if worth correcting in a slight particular, may be done here; and I would not do it but that I find the fact, trifling as it may appear to some, has been repeatedly noticed. George states that he received his brother in London, ‘dressed just as he came from keeping sheep, hogs, &c.’ Now the strict truth of the case is this; that I came (on the 29th of June, 1781) in my Sunday clothes, such as they were; for I well remember the palpitation of my heart on receiving his proposals to come to town, and how incessantly I thought of the change I was going to experience: remember well selling my smock frock for a shilling, and slyly washing my best hat in the horsepond, to give it a gloss fit to appear in the meridian of London. On entering Whitechapel, riding backwards on the coach, a long line of carriages in the centre of the street attracted my particular notice; and I anxiously looked for the principal object in that procession of which I conceived them to be a part: little dreaming that they all stood for hire! But these are surely trifling anecdotes; and I will endeavour to record something more important.

Taking it then for granted, that my history, so far as it has been stated, is fully and sufficiently known, I mean to elucidate a fact or two to which an allusion has been made in the former Preface, so as to throw an additional light on subjects which I am persuaded will not be deemed uninteresting by the lovers of literature.

It cannot be forgotten by any one who has thought of my history and success, that Mr. Lofft has said, when speaking of the MS. of this Poem, that ‘it had before been shown to some persons in London; whose indifference toward it may probably he explained, when it is considered that it came to their hands under no circumstances of adventitious recommendation. With some a person must be rich, or titled, or fashionable as a literary name, or at least fashionable in some respect, good or bad, before any thing which he can offer will be thought worthy of notice’.

Nothing surely can so effectually illustrate this fact as a plain account of my unsuccessful attempts in publicly stating which, on such an occasion as this, I see not the smallest impropriety; as it may teach men in my own station of life not to despair, if they feel themselves morally and intellectually worthy of notice; and at the same time teach them not to rely on an untried and brittle support, by throwing away the honourable staff of mechanic independence.

The following papers, which I now transcribe from originals, and copies in my possession, accompanied the MS. of ‘The Farmer’s Boy’ to my brother George, at St. Edmund’s Bury, to whom they are addressed. I have endeavoured to arrange them so as to make the story as simple and as straight forward as possible.

London, Sunday, Sept. 16, 1798

Dear George,

I gave you a hint long ago that I was making rhymes. [109]  I now send the Poem, as a present to my Mother. It coming through your hands, you will be at liberty to detain it as long as you please; and I have no doubt but some parts of it will please you. I would wish you to observe well the following remarks, and I wish you to be candid if it should ever draw any remarks from you.

When I began it, I thought to myself that I could complete it in a twelvemonth, allowing myself three months for each quarter; but I soon found that I could not; and indeed I made it longer than I at first intended. Nine tenths of it were put together as I sat at work, where there are usually six of us. No one in the house has any knowledge of what I have employed my thoughts about when I did not talk.

I chose to do it in rhime for this reason; because I found always that when I put two or three lines together in blank verse, or something that sounded like it, it was ten to one if it stood right when it came to be written down. Winter and half of Autumn were done long before I could find leisure to write them. In the ‘Harvest Home’ you will find the essence of letters which you wrote formerly to London.

When I had nearly done it, it came strongly into my mind that very silly things are sometimes printed; but by what means I knew not. To try to get at this knowledge, I resolved to make some efforts of that sort; and what encouraged me to go through with it was, that, if I got laughed at, no one that I cared for could know it, unless I myself told them. I sometimes thought of venturing it into the house of some person above a bookseller; but I never could find impudence enough to do it. So I carried it, accompanied with the following letter, to your magazine man. He kept it eight or ten days, and then sent a sober-looking, book faced man back with it, sending therewith the little note which follows the letter.

(Copy)—No. 1.

To Mr. **********.

Sir,

A total stranger, very low, and very obscure, ventures to address you. In my sedentary employment, as a journeyman shoemaker, I have amused and exercised my mind, I hope innocently, in putting the little events of my boyage into metre; intending it as a present to an aged Mother, now living on the spot; to whom the Church, the Mad Girl, the Farm-house, and all the local circumstances of the piece, are intimately known. Before I send it away, something persuades me that I might possibly find some person capable, and possessing condescension enough to satisfy me in a desire I feel of knowing whether the little piece, particularly the latter half, Autumn and Winter, contains any thing like poetical merit; that is to say, to what excellence in others it makes the nearest approaches. I am fully sensible, from my situation in the world, from the nature of this application, and from the better employment of your time, Sir, that silent neglect is what I have most reason to look for. But in that case 1 am determined to rely on your justice so far as to let the copy be returned to me when I call for it, which I mean to do this day fortnight; when, if I should find a word of opinion inserted in the blank leaves, my end would be answered, and it shall always be held in grateful remembrance by one who, with the strictest truth, and with all possible deference and respect, subscribes, Sir,

Your very humble servant,

Robert Bloomfield

No.14, Great Bell-alley,

Coleman-street.

Reply—(No. 2.)

‘THE Farmer’s Boy may afford pleasure to the person for whom it is intended; but it cannot be expected that any stranger should give his opinion of such a literary performance to the Author.’

I next left it with Mr. *****, with the following letter. He sent it back in a few hours with an answer—(No. 4.)

Copy—(No. 3.)

To Mr. *********.

June 21, 1798

Sir,

If the Poem now left in your hands, containing something less than fifteen hundred lines, should be fortunate enough to gain an hour of your leisure, you can then judge whether it is in itself worthy of publication; or, what is perhaps more to the point, whether there is any probability of its repaying you, Sir, or myself, the expense of publication. What that expense would be I know not; therefore can form no judgment by myself without further information. All I can say is, that I could wish to see it printed, if it were possible to have it done. If I hear nothing on these heads, shall conclude that the little piece is unworthy your notice, and shall take care that it be called for again.

With great respect, &c.

Robert Bloomfield

14, Little Bell-alley, Coleman-street.

Reply—(No. 4.);

‘Mr. ******s compliments to Mr. Bloomfield, and is much obliged to him for the offer of his manuscript; but as poetry is quite out of his line, he begs leave to decline it.’

22 June, 1798.

I had now to find somebody who did print poetry. I accordingly left it with Mr. *******, and with it a copy of the letter I had written to Mr. ******* (No. 3.) He kept it so long that I had to call several times before I could get it. At last I went when he was in the way. The shopman, knowing my errand, went into the compting-house, and presently came out with my book in his hand, and asked me to step that way (to the back of the shop). I hesitated—but I had gone too far to retreat. I went and took it, and was told to go into the compting-house. When I went in, Mr. ******* spoke thus, as nearly as I can recollect:—‘Your poetry, Mr. Bloomfield, I am afraid, won’t do for separate publication; unless you can get some person to revise it for you. As you wish to see it printed, I think you had better take it to some person who publishes a magazine. I think your wisest way would be to take it to Mr. ******; and I have no doubt but he will insert it for you,’ &c.

I left him: and, as I should not like to buy my own rhimes, I did not take his advice. I could wish to say more on this subject, but the parcel is waiting for my budget. Pray remember this:—don’t give the book to my Mother, nor to any one else, till you hear from me again.

London, Nov 7, 1798.

Dear George,

I Finished my last rather abruptly for want of time.—If I had given my little piece to Mr. *******, even supposing that he would have accepted it, it would then have taken perhaps six months at least, by monthly continuations, before it would all have been printed. My chief pride would have been to have sent my Mother a printed copy; but, at the above rate, one copy only would have cost six shillings: I therefore send it as it is. I never wrote it out but once. I have no copy of it, except in my memory. You will find the copies of my letters to the parties miserably blotted, they were written in haste: I meant to have transcribed them, but had not time.

Having never been instructed in grammar, it may abound in faults of that kind which I am not aware of. The management of stops I don’t pretend to. I desired you not to show it for this reason; because I think it would look awkward to give it even to my Mother without some kind of introductory letter.

You will perceive that the information I principally wanted to gain, I could not gain; that is, how to go about printing such a thing, and what it would cost. But as I could not send my Mother a printed copy, I don’t trouble myself much to know whether it was want of merit, or want of patronage, that made me fail.

You say you find pleasure in reading it; perhaps it arises principally from this: you know all the situations, circumstances, and persons introduced into it. I wish that pleasure may continue to you, and such of our friends as may happen to get hold of it.—All well.

Your affectionate Brother,

Robert Bloomfield

Such were the efforts which I found courage enough to make; and here my efforts ended. Not so with my Brother. With the foregoing information in his hands, he asked me by letter whether I had any objection to his showing the Poem to his neighbour Mr. Lofft, whom I had never seen, nor of whose readiness to assist the poor or the ignorant had an equal knowledge with my Brother, who lived on the spot. I left it to him to do as he proposed, and not to miss so fair a chance of getting a sound critical opinion, and that accompanied with feeling and good manners. George immediately carried the Poem to Troston, with the following paper, which I now copy from his own hand-writing.

To Capel Lofft, Esq.

Bury, Nov. 1798.

Sir,

Common fame speaks of the willingness that you show in giving your counsel and advice to the poor. This benevolent trait in your character has emboldened me to approach you, to petition you to give your opinion on the enclosed piece. I fancy I see beauties in it, and was thinking of applying to one of our printers to know, if, from the locality of it, it would pay for printing (for ’tis a Suffolk piece); but it struck my mind forcibly, that I should stand a better chance of meeting with that ingenuousness I wish for, by begging the opinion of a man of genius and taste, than by applying to a tradesman.

Since I have had the Poem in my hands I have never shown it to any one, nor spoke of it; nor does any one here know of this application.

If, Sir, you will deign to give your opinion, I will never mention your name, unless by your permission. This, I hope, will not be deemed an impertinent intrusion; for ’tis the high rank you hold in the literary world prompted me to this, because on your judgment I can rely with satisfaction.

Let the result of this be what it may, your petitioner will ever revere your name.

Your most devoted servant,

George Bloomfield.

P. S. The late Mr. Wm. Austin, of Sapiston, took the Author, when very young, and kept him, from motives of charity.’

The consequences which arose from this application are too well known to be repeated; yet there were circumstances attending the progress of the Poem through the press which are not known, but might be made known with honour to all the parties concerned.

The first letter I received from Mr. Lofft was to me a cordial not to be described. In others which immediately followed I found the ensuing remarks:

‘At the same time the example, as well as the Poem, may teach the rich, and the highly born or educated, not unnaturally to urge harsh and overbearing lines of distinction; but to be more attentive to the gifts bestowed by the common Father on mankind, than to an overweening conceit of their own privileges and advantages.

Their privileges and advantages would amply gain in good will and security, what they might thus sacrifice from the cold and degrading claims of unfeeling ostentation.’

In another letter I read:—

‘It is truly a rural Poem, more so than any with which I am acquainted in our language; except Allan Ramsay’s Gentle Shepherd, [110]  and Burns’ Poems.’

The first extract the reader will perceive to be of a nature highly grateful to the feelings of the mechanic who had been setting his mind to work as well as his hands; but with the second I felt otherwise; and I remember the feeling with the utmost precision. I had been charmed with Ramsey, but knew nothing of Burns, except by trifling quotations and by name. [111]  I believed that my generous, and then only patron, had, in the warmth of his heart, overrated my performance; and I was even then prepared, for disappointment.

The printing was now going on, and that I knew little of its progress (which was the case) I have only to blame myself. I seldom called to enquire after it. I knew it to be in good hands. Yet, during the fifteen months which elapsed before its publication, the latter part of which time was attended by very bad health, I felt much anxiety; and, (having the Poem then perfect in my memory,) after a hard day’s work, with my back to the fire, and in the stillness of the night, I have often repeated aloud the whole, or greater part of the Poem, until my wife was fast asleep, before I could find resolution to put out the candle. The reader who disdains such little anecdotes had better lay down the book; for I shall proceed in my own way.

At length, in March 1800, my brother Nathaniel (with whom I wish the world was better acquainted) called to say that he had seen, in a shop window, a book called The Farmer’s Boy, with a motto. I told him I supposed it must be mine; but I know nothing of the motto: and I the more believed it to be mine, having just received through the hands of Mr. Lofft a request to wait on the Duke of Grafton, in Piccadilly. I had a very slight personal remembrance of the Duke from my childhood; and I felt as most men would feel in my circumstances on a similar occasion. [112]  I met with condescension in its noblest features, and even with congratulations; and amongst the conversation was very naturally asked, ‘How I liked the execution of the work? Was it not beautifully printed?’&c. I replied, that I had not yet seen it. The Duke himself then brought from the library one of the large paper copies, and spread it on the table. Giles never was so hard put to it in his life to keep his face in order as at that moment. At that moment the Preface was as new to me as the Poem was to the world. I could not read it there; but on my return home I saw the high praise which my Brother had given me, and which had been so advantageously laid before the public by Mr. Lofft. I thanked them both for having spared me the task of telling my own story, thanked God for his providential interposition, and felt my heart at ease.

And here I trust I shall not be thought guilty of any impropriety in giving, from its immediate relation to the foregoing interview, an extract from a book of memorandums which I keep by me; [113]  as but a short time after the above date I spent a delightful month at Wakefield Lodge, in Whittlebury Forest, Northamptonshire; upon which visit I find recorded the following remark:

‘When I was at Wakefield Lodge I conceited that I saw the workmen and neighbours look at me as at an idle fellow. I had nothing to do but to read, look at them, and their country and concerns. They did not seem to know how to estimate me. I was not a constant companion at the Duke’s table, [114]  nor was I much in his company; yet, seeing me noticed with attention by the family, that attention was caught, and dealt out to me at second-hand. I sometimes thought of the Spectator when at Sir Roger De Coverly’s, and of the silent gentleman whom nobody knew much about. Six months only before that time I was in sickness and trouble; sometimes two, sometimes three days in a week racked with a head-ach that nearly drove me distracted. To lie down almost destitute of the necessaries of life, tortured with pain till I cried out, and that pain augmented by the sight of a wife and three children whom I could not help, was certainly a hard trial for my philosophy. The Poem became public in two months after, and my first relief was from the hand of the right worthy owner of Wakefield Lodge. What a glorious thing is a present of ——— to a man in distress! If hundreds should arise from my writings, I question if hundreds will produce the exquisite sweetness of that ———.’

From the above date I found, however unfit to meet prosperity, and a total change of company and connections, that such a change could not be avoided. I became known to the literary, and esteemed by the good. Sir Charles Bunbury, and many worthy characters in Suffolk, gave me the welcome of a friend and a countryman. At Troston, under the hospitable roof of Mr. Lofft, I was every way at home. My London and country wellwishers have increased, until to name them would wear the appearance of ostentation, which I much wish to avoid. And yet, while I boast in my possession the hand-writing of the late Mr. Fox, I hardly know whether I am justified in altogether refraining. Let not then any of them imagine that I have failed to cherish a grateful regard for the zeal and endeavours of them all. I write with an overflowing heart: and could I feel otherwise than I do, should unquestionably be unworthy of their attention.

Very trifling emendations have taken place in this Stereotype Edition. One, however, may seem worthy of notice. In the description of the Mad Girl I had originally called her Poll; but on my visit to Suffolk, after an absence of twelve years (which gave rise to the Lines that follow this Preface), I learned that her name was Ann. I conversed with her, and found her greatly recovered, and sensible of her past calamity. Instead of giving this information in a note, I have, partly from choice, and partly from the nature of the printing, inserted Ann for Poll in the text.

I have the gratification to know that this Poem has given pleasure to thousands, and to make a contrary pretence would be something worse than affectation. Upon this conviction I rest my claim (with all due submission to the learned) of exhorting all persons of acknowledged taste and ability, when they receive a poor man’s production, to read it with candour, and to judge of it with truth: so that, if it be found entitled to a share of public attention, the unlettered and the unfriended may not lose their chance of communicating instruction or entertainment to the world.

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD.

City Road, June, 1808.

SUPPLEMENT.

On revisiting the place of my Nativity, May 1800.

Though Winter’s frowns had dampt the beaming eye,
Through twelve successive Summers heav’d the sigh,
The unaccomplish’d wish was still the same;
Till May in new and sudden glories came!
My heart was rous’d; and Fancy on the wing,
Thus heard the language of enchanting Spring:—
‘Come to thy native groves and fruitful fields!
Thou know’st the fragrance that the wild-flow’r yields;
Inhale the Breeze that bends the purple bud,
And plays along the Margin of the Wood.
I’ve cloth’d them all; the very Woods where thou
In infancy learn’d’st praise from every bough.
Would’st thou behold again the vernal day?
My reign is short;—this instant come away;
’Ere Philomel shall silent meet the morn;
She hails the green, but not the rip’ning corn,
Come, ere the pastures lose their yellow flow’rs:
Come now; with heart as jocund as the hours.’
Who could resist the call?—that Giles had done,
Nor heard the birds, nor seen the rising sun;
Had not Benevolence, with cheering ray,
And Greatness stoop’d, indulgent to display
Praise which does surely not to Giles belong,
But to the objects that inspir’d his song.
Immediate pleasure from those praises flow’d;
Remoter bliss within his bosom glow’d!
Now tasted all:—for I have heard and seen
The long-remember’d voice, the church, the green;—
And oft by Friendship’s gentle hand been led
Where many a hospitable board was spread.
These would I name—but each, and all can feel
What the full heart would willingly reveal:
Nor needs be told; that at each season’s birth,
Still the enamell’d, or the scorching Earth
Gave, as each morn or weary night would come,
Ideal sweetness to my distant home:
Ideal now no more;—for, to my view
Spring’s promise rose, how admirably true!
The early chorus of the cheerful Grove
Gave point to Gratitude, and fire to Love.
O Memory! shield me from the World’s poor strife;
And give those scenes thine everlasting life!

Robert Bloomfield.

[The Preface in Poems [Stereotype] concludes with the ‘Statement of Verbal Variations’ given above.]

Notes

[1] [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add, before the Preface, notes by Capel Lofft:]

A SONNET has come to my hands, the production,—and nearly the first poetical Production,—of a very young Lady. I have not the Author’s consent to publish it: and there is no time to ask it. But I cannot omit adding such a flower to the Wreath of Glory of my Friend. I have therefore ventured to publish it without waiting permission; with one or two slight alterations.

C.L.

Aug. 25, 1800

To The Author of

THE FARMER’S BOY.

I.

If wealth, if honour, at command were mine,
And every boast Ambition could desire,
The pompous Gifts, sweet Bard, I would resign
For the soft Music of thy tuneful Lyre,

II.

Which speaks the soul awake to every charm,
That Nature opened from thy humble cot:
Speaks powers chill Indigence could not disarm;
Proof to Humanity’s severest lot.

III.

Thou Friend to Nature, and of Man the Friend;
Of every generous and benignant cause;
The accents of thy glowing worth, unfeign’d,
Live in the cadence of each feeling pause.
Here thought, alternate, in the noble Plan
Admires the POET, and reveres the Man.

25 Aug. 1800

[8th edn adds, before the Preface:]

ADVERTISEMENT. By the Author.

Hitherto the biographical narrative, as given originally by my brother, in letters to my good friend Mr. Lofft, has gone undisturbed. Though I have often doubted the accuracy of the dates, the facts themselves remain unimpeachable. I had, indeed, convinced my brother, that he inadvertently mis-stated my age, on coming to London; and, by my wish, the reader was told, in the preface to the former editions, that my juvenile pieces, there referred to, and of which fragments are given, were written in the year 1784. As I certainly transgressed in rhyme from the age of fifteen years and a half until twenty, writing pieces of various descriptions, the doubt on my mind was, whether my brother, who saw them all, could tell, any more than myself, on being questioned fourteen years after the time, at what particular date the pieces were actually written or published, which he had mentioned to Mr. Lofft; for I well remember, more than once, to have received the sentence of, ‘R. B. is inadmissible.’

To satisfy my curiosity, and arrive at the truth, I have examined the files of old newspapers, as they are preserved at Peel’s Coffee-house, Fleet-street; beginning with 1784; at which time, in my seventeenth year, I supposed them to have been written. My trouble was repaid, by finding the objects of my search under the date of 1786. Whatever merit or puerility may be found in the pieces I have thus unexpectedly regained, and which I had endeavoured to recollect, they appear to have been written, or at least published, between the ages of nineteen and twenty; and, consequently, any reader of taste will believe, on perusing them, that they are here given to the world, more from the love of truth than the love of praise; and will, at the same time, observe, that the copy of ‘A Village Girl,’ as given from memory by my brother, was not quite correct.

I lay down all reputed juvenile excellence with infinite satisfaction; and, though some may blame this kind of self exposure, I can make up the account to my own conscience, and am determined to believe, that, whatever different opinions may be entertained as to the nature and proper limits of biography, to rectify mistakes is to do right; and to tell truth, the first duty of us all.

If it should be asked, why I did not make the search before the publication of the ‘Farmer’s Boy’ I answer, that I did well to trust to the kind hand which was about to lift me from obscurity and distress; that I had then no doubt of the accuracy of the dates, nor the least knowledge that such newspapers were any where in existence; and, lastly, I had not then a Coffee-house coat to my back, to carry me through the enquiry.

There will be found in these little pieces, obscurities and bad grammar, they are exact copies from the papers, and as I wrote them; except in the instances marked at the foot of each piece, the editors of the papers not thinking it worth their while to correct them. The reader will recognise in them the ‘provincial usage’ mentioned by Mr. Lofft, at page xvi. of the following preface.

A VILLAGE GIRL*.

Hail, May! lovely May! how replenish’d my pails!
The young Dawn o’erspreads the broad east, streak’d with gold!
My glad heart beats time to the laugh of the vales,
And Colin’s voice rings through the wood from the fold.
The wood to the mountain submissively bends,
Whose blue misty summit first glows with the sun!
See! thence a gay train by the wild rill descends
To join the mix’d sports :…Hark! the tumult’s begun.
Be cloudless, ye skies!…And be Colin but there;
Not dew-spangled bents on the wide level dale,
Nor Morning’s first smile can more lovely appear
Than his looks, since my wishes I cannot conceal.
Swift down the mad dance, while blest health prompts to move,
We’ll court** joys to come, and exchange vows of truth;
And haply, when age cools the transports of love,
Decry, like good folks, the vain follies of youth.

R. B.

* Copied from ‘Say’s Gazetteer’ for Wednesday, May 24, 1786. [The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, pub. Charles Say, London, 1764–1796].

** The original word was ‘count,’ to reckon on it, to enjoy by anticipation. The printer changed it to court.

AN HARVEST SCENE*

Now, not a shadow’s left; meek Twilight spreads
Her mantle o’er the meads, and scarce a cloud
Retains the sun’s low beams. The rural breeze—
How exquisitely sweet, the prospect fair!—
Resounds the winding way with voices loud,
Where, blithe, from distant yellow fields to dales
Obscure, the village throng returns with loads
Of grain, the gift of Heaven, and the prop
Of life. On pendent boughs too lodg’d, ripe ears
Attract an infant, restless train, best form’d
To drive thick wheeling clouds of dancing gnats,
Or wonder at their sound extremely shrill;
Or start, when bursts the pheasant from the brake,
Or timid field-mouse hurries o’er the path,
To where, beneath cool plantain leaves, the toad,
Dire staring, shows his speckled head. See too
The blooming widow, the industrious dame,
And sweet engaging maid, whose potent smile
Cause many a deep-felt sigh, at church or
Fair—Tales often told, where waves the crop, and
Where the morrow’s dawn their steps must light, their
Long discourse compose. Oft turn’d on such as
Far behind them creep, with burthens less, and
Looks of conscious knowledge, whose grey-grown locks
Significantly shake, when some one, with
Unjust comparison, depreciate the
Conduct of the age. A sacred pleasure springs
At sight of home; welcome the cot’s warm walls—
Thrice welcome rest, by toil endear’d, each hard
Bed soft’ning, healing every care. Sleep on
Ye gentle souls! Unapprehensive of
The midnight thief; and, if bereft of all
By industry acquir’d, your fall, to theirs
Compar’d, who sink from affluence, with hands
Unused to toil, how little felt, how soon repair’d!

* Copied from ‘Almon’s General Advertiser,’ for Thursday, October 5, 1786 [The General Advertiser pub. by John Almon, London, 1784–1790].

This was once thought to be blank verse; and though nineteen years have amended my judgment, rather than my proficiency in that kind of composition, the only just way in the present case, is to give the disjointed thing precisely as it was written.

THE SOLDIER’S RETURN*

Beat up my fond heart, the worn veteran soft cries,
His dear native village quick opening to view;
Here parents, here Anna, from love’s tender ties
Will sooth every care, every kindness renew.
Hail woodlands! Though leafless, ye streams so long lost!
My home too; by friendship! the cottage in sight;
Ye mansion of bliss, screen my scars from the frost;
I’ve gold, which with love, is the zest of delight.
O’er kingdoms to thee rapid Fancy oft flew;
Thy low-mossy roof, in fond memory surviv’d;
Oft homeward, at eve, when I took a long view,
I’ve sigh’d with a tear, for the hour now arriv’d.
Round Libya’s south point, when from toils so late freed,
Sweet Hope cheer’d my soul, whilst we clear’d the rough sea;
I strove, midst the tars, to improve the ship’s speed,
Nor thought I of ought** but Anna and thee.
Here comes the dear girl! comes with kind arms extended
To welcome me. Limbs numb’d with age, fain would move;
My cheek feels the flow** of rapture warm blended,
With answering drops; this the meed of chaste love.
Come, friends, rouse the fire; joy enlivens each face;
The wild banks of Ganges ne’er feel a keen blast,
Yet, who’d not return to love, parents, and peace,
And hope to possess them as long as life last!

Nov. 6th, 1786.

R.B.

* Copied from ‘Almon’s General Advertiser,’ for Nov. 11, 1786.

** The above lines were suggested by the return of some regiments from the East Indies, as the verses themselves will evince. The word ‘flow,’ was substituted by the editor of the paper for the original word ‘offspring.’ This I remembered, and gave the original in the fragment I sent to Mr. Lofft. But, in the 4th stanza, the original word had escaped all recollection, until this unexpected sight of the piece, and of its connection, so that if ‘hardships’ be read for ‘ought,’ all the meaning I had will be seen. I perfectly remember feeling rather indignant, at seeing myself so badly corrected; and this feeling, perhaps, engraved those trifles on my mind much deeper than they deserved.

March 2, 1803.

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD.

BACK

[2] Having] Having had 9th and later edns BACK

[3] [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th edns add note:] This was written in 1799. [9th and later edns delete note and emend ‘last year’ to ‘1798’] BACK

[4] [9th and later edns add:] It was left for me by MR. George Bloomfield, the Brother of the Author, and he had recommended it with a very modest, sensible, and candid Letter. BACK

[5] [9th and later edns add note:] It is not meant that attempts have been often made to turn the whole Poem into rhyme: but that there have been many imitations of it in rhyme, or parts of it. C.L. BACK

[6] [‘tenderness and playfulness’: a comment on Virgil’s Eclogues by Horace, Satires, I, 10: 44.] BACK

[7] [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th edns add note:] This by farther recollection has since been discover’d and stated by Mr. G. and Mr. R. Bloomfield not to be quite exact. See p. viii C.L. [‘p. viii’ refers to the date of Bloomfield’s coming to London: 29 June 1781] BACK

[8] thirteen … eighteen] fourteen years and a half old till he was turned twenty 8th edn, which adds note: Here, and elsewhere through the narrative, the true dates are introduced according to the foregoing ‘Advertisement’. [9th and later edns have the same emended text as the 8th but a different note]: ‘The Dates are corrected since the earlier Editions by the farther recollections of Mr. G. and R. Bloomfield. – C.L.’] BACK

[9] [all edns add note:] This Village is between Euston and Troston, and about eight miles N.E. of Bury. L. [8th and later edns add to the note]: There are three other sons; George, Nathaniel, and Isaac: and two Daughters. C.L. BACK

[10] [all edns add note:] Our Author was born, as his Mother has obligingly informed me, 3 Dec. 1766. L. BACK

[11] 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] Elizabeth, Daughter of Robert Manby. Vide Note at the end of this Preface. [9th and later edns delete note and emend text to:] His Mother, Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas Manby, was born at Brandon, 1736. She was a schoolmistress, BACK

[12] [all edns add note:] This respectable Man is senior Clerk to the magistrates of the Hundred of Blackbourn, in which Honington is situated, and has conducted himself with great propriety in this and other public employments. L. BACK

[13] [9th and later edns add note:] I have seen Verses by Mr. R. Bloomfield on the Death of his half-brother, which strongly manifest the affectionate Disposition of the Writer, and are among other proofs of his early poetic Genius. C.L. BACK

[14] [all edns add note:] This little Village adjoins to Honington. L. BACK

[15] [2nd and later edns add:] He came from Mr. Austin’s 29 June 1781. [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] This date of his coming to Town is added by Mr. Bloomfield himself since the first Edition [8th and later edns add this note, but omit ‘since the first Edition’ and add ‘C.L.’]. BACK

[16] [1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] There was then, neither as a resource for the exigencies of finance, nor as a Principle of supposed Policy, that unhappy Check which prevails now on the circulation of Newspapers, and other means of popular Information. L. [9th and later edns add note]: I spoke in the former Editions of the effect of Newspapers, and other means of popular Information; and I now say, I have no doubt that the opportunity of reading them contributed much to form the mind of the Author of the Farmer’s Boy. Genius profits greatly by small daily aids and excitements. A wise and good Government will render those aids as free and as generally accessible as it can. From such sparks not only the spirit of the former Poet, but of the Artist in various branches, of the future sailor and soldier is awakened. C.L. BACK

[17] [5th and all later edns add note:] Author of a justly esteem’d Poem on War. BACK

[18] [1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] It is another of the Constitutional Refinements of these times to have fettered, and as to every valuable purpose, silenced these Debating Societies. They were at least, to say the lowest of them, far better amusements than drunkenness, gambling, or fighting. They were no useless Schools to some of our very celebrated Speakers at the Bar and in Parliament: and, what is of infinitely more importance, they contributed to the diffusion of Political Knowledge and Public Sentiment. L. [9th and later edns add note:] These Debating Societies, long gagg’d and fetter’d as they have been, seem now a little reviv’d. They were at least, to say the lowest of them, far better amusements than drunkenness or gambling, boxing, cock-fighting and cock-throwing, badger-hunting or bull-baiting. They were no useless schools to some of our very celebrated speakers at the Bar and in Parliament. And, what is of infinitely more importance, they contributed to the diffusion of Political Knowledge and Public Sentiment. C.L. BACK

[19] a boy of sixteen] he 8th and later edns [1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] He was probably 17; as appears on the statement from the Author himself. See N. to p. xvii. BACK

[20] 8th and later edns retitle this poem as ‘A VILLAGE GIRL.’ BACK

[21] East] broad East 8th and later edns BACK

[22] woods] wood 8th and later edns BACK

[23] summits first glow] summit first glows 8th and later edns BACK

[24] glad] mix’d 8th and later edns BACK

[25] Be my] And be 8th and later edns BACK

[26] the] 8th and later edns omit BACK

[27] blush] smile 8th and later edns BACK

[28] could not] cannot 8th and later edns BACK

[29] count] court 8th and later edns BACK

[30] pleasures] follies 8th and later edns BACK

[31] [9th and later edns add notes:] Mr. Dignum, when here, Sept. 1800, composed a pleasing spirited extempore air to this song.—Troston. C.L. / Copied by the Author from Say’s Gazeteer, 24 May, 1786. Mr. B. observes the Printer had chang’d ‘count’ to ‘court.’ C.L. BACK

[32] No, no… alarm] 8th and later edns omit BACK

[33] The MILK-MAID … social Life] 8th edn omits the poem and the following paragraph in the Preface and substitutes for it a note: ‘See “Village Girl,” in the Advertisement.’ [9th and later edns omit ‘The Writer of this Preface … social Life.’] BACK

[34] [1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] It is much to be wished that this may be discovered. L. [in the 8th edn, this note is replaced by ‘“Soldier’s Return,” see Advertisement’] BACK

[35] And as he was so young … sixteen years old] omitted in the 8th and all later edns [all edns except 8th add note:] What simple magnanimity and benevolence in the Remark. L. BACK

[36] [all edns except 8th add note:] That is as journeymen: for there was no question that they could not as Masters on their own account. That a person may work as a journeyman without having served an apprenticeship, had already been determined, T. 9. G. 3. Beach v. Turner. Burr. Mansf. 2449. A person also who has not served an Apprenticeship may be a partner, contributing money, or advice and attention to the accounts and general concerns of the Trade, provided that he does not actually exercise the Trade, and that the acting partner has served. Vide Reynolds v. Chase, M. 30. G 2. Burr. Mansf. 2. I Burn. J. P. Apprent. §12. L. BACK

[37] [all edns add note:] But one word is altered in this Description; which reminds one of the Omitte mirari beatæ / Fumum et opes Strepitumque Romæ. L. [Horace, Odes III, 29: ‘No more bemused by gorgeous Rome / City of smoke and wealth and cries’, The Odes of Horace in English Verse with Latin Text, trans. W.S. Marris (Oxford, 1912)]. BACK

[38] [2nd and 3rd edns add note:] This should seem to require correction by setting Age forward according to the Dates above stated. C. L. BACK

[39] a comely] Mary-Anne Church, a comely 2nd and later edns add BACK

[40] [1800 adds note:] Mary. Her surname before marriage is mentioned in the next page. BACK

[41] [2nd and later edns omit ‘His name is Church’ and add:] He married 12th Dec. 1790. [2nd and later edns add note:] This Date from the Author. C. L. BACK

[42] thirty-two] thirty-three and four 2nd and later edns, which also add note: Corrected from the above Date, p. vi, to his present Age, May 1800. C.L. BACK

[43] [2nd and later edns add:] two Daughters and a Son. [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th edns add note:] Added from the information of Mr. R. Bloomfield. Hannah, born 25 Oct. 1791. Mary Anne, 6 Sept. 1793, Charles, 15 Sept. 1798. [8th and later edns:] Added from the information of Mr. R. Bloomfield. Now four. Hannah, born 25 Oct. 1791. Mary Anne, 6 Sept. 1793, Charles, 15 Sept. 1798. Charlotte, 20 Apr. 1801] BACK

[44] [all edns add note:] Haud facile emergent quorum virtutibus obstat Res angusta domi. [9th and later edns add]: Juv. [Juvenal, Satire 3, lines 164–64: ‘It’s not easy to climb the ladder when cramped personal resources block your talents’, Juvenal and Persius, ed. and trans. Susanna Morton Braund (Cambridge, MA, 2004)] BACK

[45] [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] This Friend, Thomas Hill, Esq. I hope will forgive my mentioning him without asking his consent. [8th and later edns revise note to:] This Friend is Thomas Hill, Esq. BACK

[46] Messrs. Vernor and Hood] The Publishers 2nd and later edns BACK

[47] They have published … Wood] 8th and later edns omit BACK

[48] [8th edn adds note:] See the end of the Supplement, p. xxvii. [9th and later edns revise note to:] See the end of the Preface BACK

[49] [note to all edns:] Elizabeth Manby, the Mother of the Author of this Poem, was sister to the wife of Mr. William Austin. I had written to Mr. George Bloomfield to request the name, before Marriage, of his Mother. This gain’d me an Answer, which I have great pleasure in adding [in the 9th and later edns this first paragraph (i.e. ‘Elizabeth … adding’) is emended to ‘Mr. George Bloomfield says in a Letter to me,—’]

‘The late Mr. Austin’s wife was a Manby (my Mother’s sister). And it may seem strange that, in the Farmer’s Boy, Giles no where calls him Uncle, but Master …The treatment that my Brother Robert experienc’d from Mr. Austin did not differ in any respect from the treatment that all the Servant Boys experienc’d who lived with him. Mr. Austin was Father of fourteen Children by my Aunt (he never had any other wife). He left a decent provision for the five Children that surviv’d him: so that it could not be expected he should have any thing to give to poor Relations. And I don’t see a possibility of making a difference between Giles and the Boys that were not related to Mr. Austin: for he treated all his Servants exactly as he did his Sons. They all work’d hard; all liv’d well. The Duke had not a better Man Tenant to him than the late Mr. Austin. I saw numbers of the Husbandmen in tears when he was buried. He was belov’d by all who knew him. But I imagine Robert thought that when he was speaking of Benevolence that was universal, he had no occasion to mention the accidental circumstance of his being related to the Good Man of whom he sung.’
BACK

[50] [4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] There is a little roughness which time and leisure might have polish’d in the collision of thought and aught: and an high authority in poetic Diction, giving at the same time most honourable testimony to the surprising excellence of the Farmer’s Boy, has objected to the sweetness which I have ascribed to the Ballad composition of Mr. Bloomfield, thinking this specimen not a proof. But the proof was not confined by me to this specimen, though I thought, and still think it, as the production of such early years, and under such unfavourable circumstances, very worthy of preservation. / I have since reason to think this collision is imputable to a correction made by the Publisher of the Newspaper, in room of some word of the Author not now to be recover’d. L. BACK

[51] The poem was included in full in the ‘Advertisement’ to the 8th edn, together with the following note: Copied from ‘Almon’s General Advertiser,’ for Nov. 11, 1786. [The General Advertiser pub. by John Almon, London, 1784–1790]. BACK

[52] This poem was also included in full in the ‘Advertisement’ to the 8th edn, along with the following note: Copied from ‘Almon’s General Advertiser’ for Thursday, October 5, 1786. BACK

[53] I have mention’d … The Farmer’s Boy] In the 8th edn these paragraphs are omitted, and the supplement begins with ‘When the Spirit of Christianity’. In the 9th and later edns the paragraphs are replaced by the sentence ‘Temper is of more importance to the Felicity of ourselves and others than Genius.’ BACK

[54] [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add note:] In Bishopsgate-street. BACK

[55] The brotherly … feeling it] omitted in all editions from 8th. BACK

[56] [3rd and later edns add:] His R. H. the Duke of York, by Capt. Bunbury, has made a liberal present, as an acknowledgement of the pleasure receiv’d from the perusal of his excellent Poem. This attention of his R. H. liberal and amiable in itself, has been the cause of like liberality in others. It suggested to Dr. Drake, and other Gentlemen at Hadleigh, the idea of a local subscription of a Guinea each in that town and Neighbourhood. This has been carried into effect by himself and eleven other Friends: [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns here add; 8th and later edns omit: ‘who may be said in this instance to sustain, in a manner, the honorable function of a kind of literary jury. The Names who have given this testimony of their high esteem to the character of Mr. Bloomfield, and of the pleasure they have received from the perusal of his Poem, are

  • Thomas Sherlocke Gooch, Esq.
  • Major Pocklington,
  • Dr. Gibbons, M.D.
  • The Rev. J. Plampin,
  • The Rev. T. Knottesford,
  • The Rev. R. Pritchett,
  • Abraham Reeve, Esq.
  • Geo. Archer, Esq.
  • J. Mills, Esq.
  • Mrs. Trail,
  • Mrs. Leake,
  • Nathan. Drake, M.D.
I have transcribed the names in the order in which they were transmitted to me.’] with a large proportion of those who have thus stood forth the Friends of Genius and Worth I have the pleasure of being acquainted. [8th and later edns omit the following]: It gives me much satisfaction to mention this notice: welcome to the Author as a Gift; and far more so as a testimony of good opinion unexpectedly offer’d. Several instances of similar attention to the disproportion between the circumstances of the Author and the excellence of his poetical Talents and moral Qualities have spontaneously manifested themselves from different quarters. Those, as the separate act of individuals, I have not particularized otherwise than by this general acknowledgement: though many such have been mention’d to me by the Author. This, as a collective act, I hope I may be allow’d the gratification of thus noticing. BACK

[57] [3rd and later edns add:] I believe I shall not be just to the Farmer’s Boy if I omit to notice that the Taste and Genius of Mrs. Opie, born to do honour to every department of the Fine Arts, have given her an high sentiment of its merits. [4th and later edns add a note to ‘merits’:] It is highly pleasing to add, that the Poetic Wreath has been given to the Farmer’s Boy by the Muse of Lichfield [Anna Seward]. BACK

[58] [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add:] Were I to name all the Friends and Admirers of the Poem and the simple and amiable manners and character of the Author, I should name, I believe, nearly every person in this Island who I respect, esteem, and admire. BACK

[59] [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add note:] This has been since excellently perform’d by him. See the Appendix. BACK

[60] And a Lady at Bury . . . with pleasure] 8th and later edns omit BACK

[61] [8th and later edns add note] Written in 1800. C. L. BACK

[62] [9th and later edns add note] That Mother is since dead. And the Author of the Farmer’s Boy had the consolation of soothing her last moments: after having greatly contributed to the comfort of her life; and particularly of those years of it which most wanted comfort. Her Epitaph, written by the Rev. Robert Fellowes, is in Fakenham Church-yard. It has been printed in Bloomfield Illustrated. [Edward Brayley, Views in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Northamptonshire; Illustrative of the Works of Robert Bloomfield; Accompanied with Descriptions: to which is annexed, A Memoir of the Poet’s Life (London: Vernor, Hood, and others, 1806), pp. 38–39] BACK

[63] [9th and later edns add note:] Mr. Bloomfield having omitted in the eighth Edition what I had said in the seventh, of the satisfaction I had in 1800 in being made personally acquainted with him here at Troston, I shall not restore it against his will. C. L. BACK

[64] That he has been receiv’d … as these] omitted in the 8th and later edns and replaced with: ‘I would add, that, I believe, few Works of such Nature and Extent ever were so little altered from the first as this has been: and that few indeed, have been such as to require and properly admit of so little alteration. Some few Corrections, however, and Improvements have progressively been made. They are very few: but those who possess the First Edition, and have sufficient critical Taste to prompt them to the Enquiry, may readily trace them; and it was proper to notice this becoming attention of the Author to his Work. / I understand there is a Prose Translation of The Farmer’s Boy into French*; and it is translating into Italian. The first Book was early translated into Latin. [9th and later edns add:] This is one instance of its immediate celebrity. Another will be that in 1800 [corrected to ‘1802’ from 10th edn], when the seventh Edition was printed, 26,000 Copies had been printed in two years and three quarters. To which two large Impressions have since been added. * I have seen this Translation, entitled Le Valet du Fermier; accompanied with neat Copper-plate Copies of the Wooden Engravings. It is handsomely printed: and the Translation is spirited, easy, not unmusical in the cadence of its periods; and except some passages which are omitted as intractable, generally correct. Proper names, as usual, suffer strange metamorphoses; Rodwell into Rodwen: Bunbury into Bomberg: and, by being too literal, ‘O dear,’ in the pathetic exclamation of the poor Girl, becomes ‘O Cher,’ instead of ‘helas.’ BACK

[65] [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add:] What I have said in prose, p. ix of this Preface, is charmingly expressed in the language of the Muses by Mr. Collier, in his Miscellaneous Poems lately publish’d.

O where on earth can he a pleasure find
Whose heart th’ extactic sweets of Love has known,
When in the jarring chaos of his mind
The gentle God no longer holds his throne!
[William Collier (1742–1803), Poems on Various Occasions; with Translations from Authors in Different Languages, 2 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1800), 1, p. 98.] BACK

[66] [5th, 6th, and 7th edns add note:] Since this was written I have accordingly resum’d it. And I cordially thank my Brethren of the Profession, and my late Brethren of the Bench, and the Public, for a reception which has made my return to the Bar very pleasant after so long an Absence. And here I have to remark, that whatever political Sentiments or personal Feelings I have exprest, either in the Preface or the Appendix, I trust they have not occupied a disproportion’d Space; nor have been unsuitable either to the place in which they are introduced, or to the subject or the occasion. That occasion, I am convinced, is just and urgent: and that it is becoming of a man, and of me in particular, and consonant to the whole course of my life, to speak openly even in these times what I think of moment to my Country and to human Society. As to what is personal to myself, I should have passed it entirely here, if that also did not concern the Public; and if it did not concern the Farmer’s Boy on account of the relation in which I stand to it as Editor. But I wish it to be understood, that neither for my political Sentiments, Opinions, and Conduct, nor for any thing which I have said that personally concerns myself in the introductory part of this Appendix, is Mr. Bloomfield in the smallest degree responsible. Those therefore who dislike either the sentiments or the mode of expression must, in mere justice, impute them to me alone, and in no respect as any way implicating him. He wishes, I believe, to decline Politics and Controversy altogether; and I wish no man to mix in either farther than he feels it to be a Duty. L. BACK

[67] With that design … the Public] From the 8th edn, Lofft’s remarks on his being dismissed as a Justice of the Peace were omitted and replaced by ‘When the First Edition of this Poem appear’d in March 1800, I intimated a design of accompanying it with some Critical Remarks.’ BACK

[68] [8th and later edns add note:] The communication here introduced in the former edition was by Mr Swan; and related to the retentive memory of the Author in composing, without committing to paper, the whole of his ‘Winter,’ and great part of his ‘Autumn;’ a fact which is perhaps still worthy of being recorded; at the same time it is the Author’s express wish that the Reader may, in this edition, be referred to a note in the 2d vol. page 128, of Poems by the late Hector Macneil, where it will at least be found that the boast belongs not wholly to himself. He will find that ‘the beautiful ballad of “Will and Jean,”—“the Waes o’ War,”—“the Links o’ Forth,”—and “The Scottish Muse,” were all compos’d by memory, previously to the commitment of a single line to paper.’ [9th and later edns add:] The same circumstance applies to Crebillon; the French Georgic Poet. C. L. BACK

[69] [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add note:] The Letter is dated 12 July, 1800. BACK

[70] [3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add note:] I have ventured to restore litterary to that mode of spelling, with the double t, which the Analogy of our language seems to require. BACK

[71] I now lay … and its success] In the 8th and later edns, these paragraphs derived from Mr. Swan are omitted. BACK

[72] [3rd and later edns add note:] 9 March 1800. BACK

[73] [Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), physician and natural philosopher, grandfather of Charles Darwin.] BACK

[74] [3rd and later edns add note:] Vol II, Ess. Xxxix, p. 444. BACK

[75] [3rd and later edns add note:] Much of these qualities indeed is certainly in Theocritus also. L. BACK

[76] [3rd and later edns add note:] I have heard that the opinion of no less a Judge than Dr. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, is by no means short of the encomium implied in this comparison, high and ample as it is. L. BACK

[77] [Johann Matthias Gesner (1691–1761), German classical poet and scholar.] BACK

[78] [William Warner (1558?–1609), author of Albion’s England (1586).] BACK

[79] [Michael Drayton (1563–1631), author of many pastoral and topographical poems.] BACK

[80] [Milton, Paradise Lost, V, 24–25.] BACK

[81] Though I have thus largely extracted … picturesque features of an object.] Omitted in 8th and later edns [9th and later edns add a note by Lofft:] ‘In the seventh Edition I inserted Dr. Drake’s Analysis of the Farmer’s Boy. And it is not agreeably to my wish or judgement that it has been since omitted. C. L.’ BACK

[82] 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th edns add note:] I will not say much: but I was glad to see since the second Edition of this Poem the cause of the Rooks had again been advocated, in the Newcastle Chronicle. L. BACK

[83] [Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), physician, natural philosopher and poet of The Botanic Garden (1791).] BACK

[84] [3rd and later edns add note:] The happy illustration of Dryden in his admirable character of Shakespere. BACK

[85] [Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 BC–c. 55 BC), the Roman poet of De Rerum Natura.] BACK

[86] [Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC–19 BC), Roman poet of the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid.] BACK

[87] [William Cowper (1731–1800), poet of The Task.] BACK

[88] I understand … be notic’d] Omitted in the 8th and later edns. BACK

[89] [William ‘Gentleman’ Smith (1730–1819), a noted Shakespearian actor also renowned for the part of Charles Surface in School for Scandal. Smith had retired to Bury St Edmunds in 1789.] BACK

[90] [Decimius Magnus Ausonius (310–95), whose Idylls dealt with rural life.] BACK

[91] [De Rerum Natura.] BACK

[92] [8th and later edns add:] Flowers of all hues; and without thorn the Rose. P. L BACK

[93] [Aeneid, VIII, 596.] BACK

[94] [Iliad, XII, 395 (Sarpedon kills Alcmaon): ‘He stabbed him, then drew out his spear.’] BACK

[95] [Paradise Lost, XI, 491–92.] BACK

[96] [8th and later edns add:] And this:

Her tender offspring dead, the Dam aloud
Calls, and runs wild amid th’ unconscious crowd.

IV. 345, 6.

BACK

[97] [William Gilpin, Remarks on Forest Scenery, and Other Woodland Views, (Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty): Illustrated by the scenes of New-Forest in Hampshire, 3 vols (London, 1794), II, 111–15 describes the swine-herds in the New Forest lovingly summoning the swine with their horns to a ‘repast’ of acorns.] BACK

[98] [‘Hercules, the Lion Slayer’: Idyll XXV by Theocritus (fl. C. 270 BC). Lofft cites the passage from the standard anthology edited by Richard Franz Philipp Brunck, Analecta Veterum Poetarum Graecorum, 3 vols (1772–76).] BACK

[99] I may possibly … But] Fewer Coincidences are perhaps not to be found in any poem of the same length: and Imitations, properly so called, it may be doubted whether there be any. 3rd and later edns BACK

[100]Monthly Mirror, 13 (January, 1802), 13–15. BACK

[101] [8th and later edns and Poems [Stereotype] add note:] Now in the possession of Mr. Hill [Monthly Mirror adds note:] Now in the possession of Mr. Hill of Henrietta Street BACK

[102] [Bloomfield’s note:] This Village is between Euston and Troston, and about eight miles N. E. of Bury. There are three other sons, George, Nathaniel and Isaac, and two daughters. BACK

[103] [Bloomfield’s note:] The little village adjacent to Honington. BACK

[104] [Bloomfield’s note:] Author of a justly esteem’d Poem on War. [‘A War Elegy’, published in Joseph Fawcett, The Art of War, a Poem, the Second Edition, to Which Is Added a War Elegy (London, 1799).] BACK

[105] [Bloomfield’s note:] This is a correct copy since taken by the Author from Say’s Gazetteer, May 24, 1786. The printer changed ‘count’ to ‘court’. [The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, pub. Charles Say, London, 1764–1796] BACK

[106] [Bloomfield’s note:] This, by a reference to the same papers, I find was entitled ‘The Soldier’s Return.’ It has been printed in a former edition of this work. [The full poem was included in the ‘Advertisement’ to the 8th edn] BACK

[107] [Bloomfield’s note:] This statement is rather too strongly worded; ‘a good player’ means a great deal, and probably more than the writer meant to express. The reader may qualify it with what he pleases. BACK

[108] [Bloomfield’s note:] Now five; Hannah, born 25 Oct. 1791. Mary-Anne, 6 Sept. 1793, Charles, 15 Sept. 1798. Charlotte, 20 Apr. 1801. Robert-Henry 23 Mar. 1807. BACK

[109] [Bloomfield’s note:] The parts of the poem first composed, before any thought was entertained of going through with the Seasons, were the morning scene in Spring, beginning ‘This task had Giles,’ and the description of the lambs at play. And if it be lawful for an author to tell his opinion, they have never lost an inch of ground in my estimation from that day to this. BACK

[110] [Allan Ramsay (1686–1758), the Scots poet who inspired both Burns and Bloomfield. The Gentle Shepherd (1725) was a pastoral drama.] BACK

[111] [Bloomfield’s note:] It may possibly be acceptable to some readers to know that I had been married six years, when, (after weathering the storm of domestic sickness described in the ‘Address to my Old Table’, in Vol. II.,) I began composing this Poem, which I find, by comparing dates, happened to be during the last illness of Robert Burns, and about three months before his death. If it should be suspected that I mention this with a view of strengthening an apparent approximation to so illustrious an example of intellect and poetic excellence, the reader will do a great injustice to me, and to the notions I entertain of his powers, and of his works. BACK

[112] Presumably, Bloomfield has in mind the childhood incident in which he went squirrel hunting on the Duke’s land. See Letter 349a. BACK

[113] Not found, but presumably the basis for the ‘Anecdotes and Observations, Reflections, and Critical Remarks’ from The Remains of Robert Bloomfield (1824). BACK

[114] [Bloomfield’s note:] This was my choice; for it gave me the calm enjoyment of liberty in my own way. See ‘Lines written on a Visit to Whittlebury Forest, addressed to my children.’ Vol. II. BACK

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