413. George Bloomfield to
William Hone, 5 December 1827*
2, High Baxter Street, Bury St Edmond's,
Dec. 5th, 1827.
A gentleman desires me to write to you, as editor of the
Table Book, it being his wish that a view which he sent of
the little cottage at Honington should
appear in that very curious work  The birth-place of
Robert Bloomfield I think may excite the interest of some of your readers; but,
sir, if they find out that you correspond with a superannuated cold water poet,  your work will smell of poverty.
Lord Byron took pains to flog two of my brothers, as poachers on
the preserves of the qualified proprietors of literature.  It is thought, if he had
not been wroth with the Edinburgh Reviewers, these poor poachers might have
escaped; they, like me, had neither birth nor education to entitle them to a
If, sir, you ever saw an old wall blown down, or, as we have it
here in the country, if the wall 'fall of its own accord,'
you may have observed that the first thing the workmen do, is to pick out the
whole bricks into one heap, the bats into another, and the rubbish into a third.
Thus, sir, if in what falls from me to you,  you can
find any whole bricks, or even bats, that may be placed in your work, pick them
out; but I much fear all will be but rubbish unfit for your purpose.
So much has been said, in the book published by my brothers, of
'the little tailor's four little sons,' who once resided in the old cottage,
that I cannot add much that is new, and perhaps the little I have to relate will
be uninteresting. But I think the great and truly good man, the late duke of Grafton, ought
to have been more particularly mentioned. Surely, after near thirty years, the
good sense and benevolence of that real nobleman may be
mentioned. When in my boyhood, he held the highest office in the state that a
subject can fill, and like all that attain such preeminence, had his enemies;
yet the more Junius  and others railed at him,
the more I revered him. He was our 'Lord of the Manor,' and as I knew well his
private character, I had no doubt but he was 'all of a piece.' I have on foot
joined the foxchase, and followed the duke many an hour, and
witnessed his endearing condescension to all who could run and shout. When
Robert became known as the Farmer's Boy, the duke earnestly
cautioned him on no account to change his habits of living, but at the same time
encouraged him in his habits of reading, and kindly gave
him a gratuity of a shilling a day, to enable him to employ more time in reading
than heretofore. This gratuity was always paid while the duke lived, and was
continued by the present
duke till Robert's death.
Could poor Robert have kept his children in their old habits of
living, he might have reserved some of the profits
arising from his works, but he loved his children too tenderly to be a niggard;
and, besides, he received his profits at a time when bread was six or seven
shillings per stone: no wonder that with a sickly family to sup port, he was
The duke likewise strongly
advised him not to write too much, but keep the ground he
had gained, &c. As hereditary sealer of the writs in the Court of King's
Bench, the duke gave
Robert the situation of under sealer, but his health grew so bad he was obliged
to give it up; he held it several months, however, and doubtless many a poor
fellow went to coop under Robert's seal. It was peculiarly unfortunate be could
not keep his place, for I think Mr
Allen, the master-sealer, did not live above two years, and it is more
than probable the duke
would have made Robert master-sealer, and then he would have had sufficient
income. The duke's
condescension and kindness to my
mother was very great, he learned her real character, and called on
her at her own cottage, and freely talked of gone-by times, (her father was an
old tenant to the duke.)
He delicately left a half guinea at Mr. Roper's, a gentleman farmer, to be given
to her after his departure, and when he heard of her death he ordered a handsome
gravestone to be placed over her, at his expense, and requested the Rev. Mr. Fellowes to write an
inscription. It is thus engraven:—
BENEATH THIS STONE
Are deposited the mortal remains of
who died Dec. 27th, 1803.
Her maiden name was MANBY, and she was twice married. By her
first husband, who lies buried near this spot, she was mother of six children;
the youngest of whom was ROBERT BLOOMFIELD, the pastoral Poet. In her household
affairs she was a pattern of cleanliness, industry, and good management. By her
kind, her meek, her inoffensive behaviour, she had conciliated the sincere good
will of all her neighbours and acquaintance; nor amid the busy cares of time was
she ever forgetful of Eternity. But her religion was no hypocritical service, no
vain form of words; it consisted in loving God and keeping his commandments, as
they have been made known to us by JESUS CHRIST.
Reader, go thou and do likewise.
If ever I was proud of any thing it was of my mother, nor do I think, strong
as is the praise in the above, it is overdone. For solid strength of intellect
she surpassed all her sons, and had more real practical virtues than all of them
put together. Kind Providence spared her to bless me till I was far on the wrong
side of fifty.
I must say a word or two on her sons, because Capel Loftt, Esq., in his preface to
my brother Nat's poems, has said
too much about them, viz. 'Beyond
question, the brothers of this family are all extraordinary
men.' Now, sir, as I am the oldest of these brothers, I will tell first of
myself. I wrote a little poem, when near seventy, on the 'Thetford Spa'; but dreading those
snarling curs, the critics, forebore to affix my name to
it. Mr. Smith, of Cambridge, printed it gratuitously; but as soon as it was
discovered I was the author, my acquaintance styled me the cold
water poet. I think my title will do very well. Brother Nathaniel wrote some poems;  unluckily they were printed
and published here at Bury, and
the pack of critics hunted down the book. Nat has had thirteen children, and
most of them are living, and so is he. Brother Isaac was a machinist.
John Boys, Esq. gave him in all
twenty pounds, but he died a young man, and left his self-working pumps
unfinished. Eight of his children are living.
The old cottage sold to Robert had been in the family near
fourscore years. It proved a hard bargain to Robert; my mother and Isaac occupied the
cottage, and could not pay rent; and after the death of my mother, poor Robert was in
distress and sold it:—the lawyers would not settle the business, and Robert died
broken-hearted, and never received sixpence!
The lawyers constantly endeavour to make work for the trade. I
believe it to be true, as some say, that we are now as much law-ridden as we were priest-ridden some ages
ago. I like Charlotte Smith's definition of the Law Trade. Orlando, in the 'Old
Manor House,' says to Carr, the lawyer, 'I am afraid you are all rogues
together;' Carr replies, 'More or less, my good friend;—some have more sense
than others, and some a little more conscience—but for the rest, I am afraid we
are all of us a little too much professional rogues: though
some of us, as individuals, would not starve the orphan, or break the heart of
the widow, yet, in our vocation, we give all remorse of that sort to the
winds.'  My last account from
Robert's family says, the lawyers have not yet settled the
poor old cottage!
Nat and I only survive of the
little tailor's 'extraordinary' children—quite past our labour, and destitute of
many comforts we used to enjoy in youth. We have but one step farther to fall,
(i.e.) into the workhouse! Yet in the nature of things it cannot be long ere
death will close the scene. We have had our day, and night must come. I hope we
shall welcome it as heartily as Sancho in Don Quixote did sleep, 'Blessed be he
who first invented sleep, it covers a man all over like a cloak.' 
I shall indeed be agreeably disappointed if any one
should bestow any thing upon Nat, or
Sir, your humble obedient servant.
* Published in William Hone,
The Table Book, of Daily Recreation and Information: Concerning
Remarkable Men, Manners, Times, Seasons, Solemnities, Merry-Makings,
Antiquities and Novelties, Forming a Complete History of the
Year (London, 1827–28), pp. 834–35 BACK
 The view
of the cottage published in The Table Book is available here. BACK
 Byron, English Bards and Scotch
Reviewers (London, 1809), lines 765–94.
When some brisk youth, the tenant of a stall,
Employs a pen less pointed than his awl,
Leaves his snug shop, forsakes his store of shoes,
St. Crispin quits, and cobbles for the muse,
Heavens! how the vulgar stare! how crowds applaud!
How ladies read, and literati laud!
If chance some wicked wag should pass his jest,
'Tis sheer ill-nature—don't the world know best?
Genius must guide when wits admire the rhyme,
And Capel Lofft declares 'tis quite sublime.
Here, then, ye happy sons of needless trade!
Swains! quit the plough, resign the useless
Lo! Burns and Bloomfield, nay, a greater far,
Gifford was born beneath an adverse star,
Forsook the labours of a servile state,
Stemm'd the rude storm, and triumph'd over fate;
Then why no more? if Phoebus smiled on you,
Bloomfield! why not on brother Nathan too?
Him too the mania, not the muse, has seized;
Not inspiration, but a mind diseased;
And now no boor can seek his last abode,
No common be enclosed without an ode.
Oh! since increased refinement deigns to smile
On Britain's sons, and bless our genial isle,
Let poesy go forth, pervade the whole,
Alike the rustic, and mechanic soul!
Ye tuneful cobblers! still your notes prolong,
Compose at once a slipper and a song;
So shall the fair your handywork peruse,
Your sonnets sure shall please—perhaps your shoes.
Byron added a footnote to these lines: 'See Nathaniel Bloomfield's ode,
elegy, or whatever he or any one else chooses to call it, on the enclosure
of "Honington Green."' For the text of Nathaniel's poem, see here
 Hone preceded the published text of this letter with
selections from manuscripts George had enclosed with it, including verse
written after the bankruptcy of William Austin (the younger) of Sapiston
entitled 'The Unfortunate Farmer', and lines to the 'Psalm-singer, Parish
Clerk, and Sexton' of Sapiston, Mr Wisset, entitled 'Dear Old Brother Bard'
(Table Book, pp. 833–34). In a paragraph prefatory to the
letter text, Hone stated: 'The MSS. from whence the present selections have
been hastily made, were accompanied by a letter from George Bloomfield,
written nearly a month ago. They were delayed by the person who transmitted
the parcel till the opportunity of noticing them in this work had almost
passed. All that could be done in an hour or two is before the reader; and
no more has been aimed at than what appears requisite to awaken sympathy and
crave assistance towards an aged and indigent brother of the author of the
Farmer's Boy. George's present feelings will be better
represented by his own letter than by extracting from it.' BACK
 Junius: the Whig
pamphleteer, whose real identity has never been determined, who attacked the
Duke of Grafton and others in his ministry. BACK
 Charlotte Smith, The
Old Manor House (London, 1793). The quotation appears on p. 304
of the 1820 edition, number 37 in the series The British Novelists,
with an Essay, and Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Mrs.
Barbauld, 2 vols (London, 1820), II. BACK
 Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la
Mancha (1605–15), part ii, chapter 48. BACK