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The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and His Circle, Edited By Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt

61. Capel Lofft to Robert Bloomfield, 28 October 1801* 

Troston 28 Oct 1801.


I have received your letter which it is impossible for me not to think a very harsh one.

You have undoubtedly the full right of an author over your works and the full privilege of a man to judge & act on your judgment: but I must also feel as a man and I am accustomed as I feel to express myself.

If you reflect you will not find that my idea that Mr Hood had his share in this objection which you have at length stated to my notes could be said to be groundless. You had said yourself that every person who had seen either the MS. or the proofs had objected to the notes. Was I to suppose, could I suppose, consistently with fact and your own letters, that Mr Hood had not seen either.

I never call on anyone, nor did I on you, for a disclosure of names that I have not a right to ask. And you must think I could not be ignorant who had seen the proofs nearly to a man: since nearly all who were likely to have seen them were, I imagine, those whom I introduced to you and whose names I cannot want to ask.

I did say that it was very proper you should write the preface. I had written one: and that was enough. More than sufficient fault was thought necessary to be found with a considerable part of that preface. I was there supposed to have said more than was proper and to have anticipated on the judgment of the public. Perhaps I know what is called the public better than you as yet know it. I know that public is just to authors after their deaths but is commonly too careless to be just to them in their life unless its attention be called to a new author.

My appendix too was blamed; it was said to be too long. My remarks on my removal as a Justice were treated I must say neither with delicacy nor I think with good judgment. [1]  I was justly sick of all this. And it required nothing less than the intrepid zeal of a very sincere friendship to write anything for a future edition after such unpleasant reception of what I had written. Reception not from the public not in general from reviewers who have appeared well contented but from the author and from some of the author's acquaintance: not more friends to him possibly nor better judging friends than myself.

It has at length thus happened that my share as editor has reduced itself to the revision of the press (a task which you will better estimate if you ever undertake it); the suggestion of occasional corrections which have been few there having been few wanted and these very short unfortunate notes. Unfortunate in your reception of them and in the light in which you have been led to consider them. Whether otherwise unfortunate, publication will be the best proof. They assuredly will not appear to lead any judgment which does not wish to be led by them: they are not prefixed but subjoined to the poems. The poem to which each is attached will have been read before the note is seen, if at all seen.

Of course, as to the 8vos & quartos you and Mr Hood do as you please. You will omit the notes entirely if you like better. I only will do nothing with them but what I have. I will put them into no other form. The fable of the man and his three sons travelling over the bridge is a good lesson and my experience confirms it.

The first thing is to do what we think right. If those whom it concerns cannot think with us, life is not to be worn out with fruitless experiments and endeavours at new modes to please. Those who can be pleased are commonly pleased at first by those who endeavour it with sincerity.

I am very glad the Shepherd and his Dog will be in the Mirror. [2]  Though I do not like Mr Hood, I like that publication. I have had the pleasure of seeing a sonnet and a charming one by Miss Finch, transplanted from it into the Morning Chronicle. [3]  Not by me: for I am not connected with the editor, but by the good taste of the editor, and of some who are.

Market Night and the Shepherd and his Dog Rover would furnish two excellent subjects for wood engraving.

I did not say writing notes on your poems deprived me of a pleasure. But I said, or meant to be understood that I wrote them and often revised the proofs at times of such anxiety and agitation that there are not many things but that I would willingly have done in those moments. You introduce the epithet 'scoundrel' in a manner that astonishes me. You will find a parcel for you at Mr Walkers, containing Mr Blacks poem on the Conjunction of Jupiter & Venus with some other poetical pieces which I desire you to accept. [4] 

You say that no doubt I mean your good. I wish my judgment as well as my meaning were somewhat in credit with you. Probably you will be displeased that I should remind you to make the proper entry as author in Stationers' Hall, previously to this publication, and of your transfer of the moiety of your copyright to Mr Hood. I repeat again that without this neither you nor he are protected in the copyright if anyone chooses to interfere.

I remain yours, &c.

C. Lofft

Troston: Oct. 28, 1801.

Address: Mr Bloomfield / near the Shepherd and Shepherdess / Old City Road / London

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 64–65; published in Hart, p. 15 BACK

[1] In the appendix to the third edition of The Farmer's Boy (London, 1800), Lofft complains of his dismissal as a Justice of the Peace after his outspoken support, in person and in the press, of Sarah Lloyd, a servant unjustly condemned to death for her part in a murder. BACK

[2] Bloomfield's 'The Shepherd and his Dog' appeared in The Monthly Mirror, 12 (October 1801), 272, immediately preceding an extract from William Holloway's 'The Peasant's Fate'. BACK

[3] Lofft married Sarah Watson Finch in 1801. There appeared in The Monthly Mirror, 12 (1802), 198 and The Morning Chronicle on 24 October 1801 a 'Sonnet, By a Young Lady, Written in the Evening, in a Retired Village'.

What calm this tranquillising scene pervades,
While Night's fair Regent from her utmost height
Pours forth libations of the tend'rest Light—
Beneath whose beam each grosser Shadow fades!

No longer now the Village Peal I hear,
Which thro the branches of yon spreading Trees,
Borne on the light wing of the Ev'ning Breeze,
With Melody most pleasing touch'd the ear!

SILENCE hath lull'd the darken'd hemisphere;
Nor Sound perceptible the ear can seize,
Save that the lonely Owl, whom these Shades please,
Now pours his plaint—now wheels his low career;
And by his drear and solitary flight
Adds import to the PATHOS OF THE NIGHT!
Bloomfield's own 'Highland Drover' had appeared in the Chronicle a few days earlier on 5 October; sonnets by Lofft were printed there on 6 and 16 October. BACK

[4] The Suffolk curate John Black's The Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, in Leo... a Happy Prelude to a Propitious Peace; a Poem. Mercury's Apology for the Curate's Blunder, an Impromptu... and other Poetical Pieces (Ipswich, 1801). BACK

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Published @ RC

September 2009