As I spent five years with the Author, from the time he was
thirteen years and a half old till he was turned of eighteen, 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. His Father died when he
was an infant under a year old. His Mother 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, 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 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.
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 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
Bloomfield then lived at Mr.
Simm's, No. 7, Fisher's-court, Bell-alley, Coleman-street.] It is customary 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
The Preacher lived somewhere at the West End of the Town... his
name was Fawcet. 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 gained 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 has 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 came 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 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.
ON THE FIRST OF MAY.
Hail, MAY! lovely MAY! how replenish'd my pails!
The young Dawn overspreads the East streak'd with gold!
My glad heart beats time to the laugh of the Vales,
And COLIN'S voice rings through the woods from the fold.
The Wood to the Mountain submissively bends,
Whose blue misty summits first glow with the sun!
See thence a gay train by the wild rill descends
To join the glad sports:... hark! the tumult's begun.
Be cloudless, ye skies!... Be my Colin but there,
Not the dew-spangled bents on the wide level Dale,
Nor Morning's first blush can more lovely appear
Than his looks, since my wishes I could not conceal.
Swift down the mad dance, while blest health prompts to
We'll count joys to come, and exchange Vows of truth;
And haply when Age cools the transports of Love,
Decry, like good folks, the vain pleasures of youth. 
[...] I remember a little piece which he called the Sailor's Return: 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
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, though not more than sixteen years old.
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
I think it was in the year 1784 that the Question came to be
decided Between the journeyman 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
[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 refused to join upon this
occasion those who called themselves, exclusively, the Lawful
Crafts. George, who
says he was never famed for patience, 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
This was very foolish; for it made things worse: but I felt too much to
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 the
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.
[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.]
When I left London he was turned of eighteen; and much of my
happiness since has arisen from a constant correspondence which I have held with
After I left him, he studied Music, and was a good player on the
But as my brother Nat had married a Woolwich woman, it happened that Robert took a fancy to a comely
young woman of that Town, whose Father is a boat-builder in the Government yard
there. His name is Church.
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
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 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.
concludes in praying]: ... that God, the Giver of thought, may, as mental light
spreads, raise up many who will turn a listening ear, and not despise
The short and simple Annals of the Poor.