63. Robert Bloomfield to Capel Lofft, before 31 October 1801 

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

63. Robert Bloomfield to Capel Lofft, before 31 October 1801* 


(Extracts)

Mr Bentley speaks highly of your exertions in my favour at the same time I think I am not transgressing to say that he wishes you could perfect the manuscript now, as to punctuation and whatever else we may agree to do to them, which he says would save much trouble and delay afterwards — And I am further permitted to say, that if it could be of any service to the cause, Mr Park offers to see the proofs, and to correct what might be deemed errors of the printer, &c. I mention these things with the utmost diffidence, and I am quite sure Mr P has no idea of transcending your accuracy and attention.

It is always understood that the expence of the proofs going into the country falling upon you, and your time is always valuable; there are among the particulars that gave rise to the suggestion; nobody wishes me even to change Booksellers, much less to change Editors.

I have just now been with Mr Hill, where I met by accident with Mr Park again. We had a long consultation, as Mr P — has another epistle from Miss Seward, whose remarks they prize; but both gentlemen make no scruple of saying that if her criticisms are given in the future editions, something should be withdrawn to make room for it, or the price will and must be raised, which is thought universally to be wrong, and by all means to be avoided. I say universally because I never yet found one who did not think so. Other people may have their own particular opinions, but I will state my own first.

The note from Cook's Voyage is mine, [1]  but many superficial readers not attending to your initial, L; call it yours, I think it harmless in itself, but I wrote it before I knew for certain that the public would see it, and before I had considered the consequence of introducing even the appearance of politics into a Rural production, (let my own private notions be what they may) and therefore I am willing, nay wish that to be omitted in future. And, as to Mr. Swans letter, you cannot but recollect, Sir, that from the first the person and profession of Mr. Swan was mistaken by you and I question if your friendly and wellmeant statement can now appear to you of importance enough to be retained, [2]  I think not. Mr. Hill says, that the note respecting the debating societies will now be useless, [3]  as the law it alludes to has just ceased, and he suggested to me the propriety of reserving for the first volume the lines on 'Revisiting the Country', [4]  and to shorten the preface by the omission; these, Sir, are the heads of what I am obligated to hear, and almost obligated to repeat.

I solemnly declare that I never heard from any tongue, partisan or not partisan, a word of reproach or discredit to the character of Mr. Lofft, or his wellknown benevolence and attachment to the interest of literature, and will Mr. Lofft be offended with a man whom his own example has taught to be frank and open, if he as solemnly declare, that there exists as well among those of Mr. Lofft's political persuasion and those of a contrary character, a very general, if not universal opinion, that political thoughts and references (however just in themselves) ought not to be seen in this instance where rural poetry only should be found.

They quarrel, not with your (or our) political opinions as such, but at their being found there. It is not in my power, and I hope it is not in my nature to dictate, but I do certainly know Sir that the entire omission of every thing of that tendency would give the majority, if not every reader a fresh interest in the history of the poem, and the commendatory notes from Litchfield, [5]  and from equal authorities would unquestionably benefit the poem; and that to benefit the poem is your sincere and ardent wish, there is not a man or woman in England who doubts it.

When at Mr. Gedge's I wished much to apprize you of the public opinion as to our Boy Giles, [6]  but I dare not then, I shall you may be sure Sir, after such a letter as this, be anxious for your opinion, and I will not damp my spirits with the idea of your being offended. Your conscience I know will acquit you for having done the utmost in your power, and, if the opinion of readers run counter to any part of it, I really do not see why you, of all persons concerned, should not have that matter stated, and be left to act as your good judgement may direct.

* Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds, 317/3 BACK

[1] Bloomfield's note on the comparative equality of ranks in Tahitian society, quoted from George Forster, A Voyage Round the World, in His Britannic Majesty's Sloop, Resolution, Commanded by Capt. James Cook, During the Years 1772, 3, 4, and 5, 2 vols. (London, 1777), I, 365–67, appears in the 1800 edition of The Farmer's Boy, as a note to lines 341–42 of 'Summer' '... life's intercourse; the social plan / That rank to rank cements, as man to man': 'ALLOWING for the imperfect state of sublunary happiness, which is comparative at best, there are not, perhaps, many nations existing whose situation is so desirable; where the means of subsistence are so easy, and the wants of the people so few … The evident distinction of ranks, which subsists at Otaheite, does not so materially affect the felicity of the nation as we might have supposed. The simplicity of their whole life contributes to soften the appearance of distinctions, and to reduce them to a level. Where the climate and the custom of the country do not absolutely require a perfect garment; where it is easy at every step to gather as many plants as form not only a decent, but likewise a customary covering; and where all the necessaries of life are within the reach of every individual, at the expence of a trifling labour; … ambition and envy must in a great measure be unknown. It is true, the highest classes of people possess some dainty articles, such as pork, fish, fowl, and cloth, almost exclusively; but the desire of indulging the appetite in a few trifling luxuries can at most render individuals, and not whole nations, unhappy. Absolute want occasions the miseries of the lower class in some civiliz'd states, and is the result of the unbounded voluptuousness of their superiors. At Otaheite there is not, in general, that disparity between the highest and the meanest man, that subsists in England between a reputable tradesman and a labourer. The affection of the Otaheitans for their chiefs, which they never fail'd to express upon all occasions, gave us great reason to suppose that they consider themselves as one family, and respect their eldest born in the persons of their chiefs. The lowest man in the nation speaks as freely with his king as with his equal, and has the pleasure of seeing him as often as he likes. The king, at times, amuses himself with the occupations of his subjects; and not yet deprav'd by false notions of empty state, he often paddles his own canoe, without considering such an employment derogatory to his dignity. How long such an happy equality may last is uncertain: and how much the introduction of foreign luxuries may hasten its dissolution cannot be too frequently repeated to Europeans. If the knowledge of a few individuals can only be acquired at such a price as the happiness of nations, it were better for the discoverers and the discovered that the South Sea had still remain'd unknown to Europe and its restless inhabitants. / REFLECTIONS ON OTAHEITE, Cook's second Voyage.' BACK

[2] The long quotation from James Swan's letter (Letter 34), first included in the 3rd edition of the 1800 Farmer's Boy (London, 1800), was dropped from some later editions, although Lofft continued to refer to it in a footnote. BACK

[3] Bloomfield refers to the following note which appeared in the Preface to The Farmer's Boy: '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.' BACK

[4] Bloomfield's lines on 'Revisiting the Country' (included in a manuscript fair copy by George Bloomfield in Letter 31) were not omitted from subsequent editions. First printed in the 2nd edition of the poem, from the 3rd they appeared before the first part, 'Spring':

ON REVISITING THE PLACE OF MY NATIVITY.

THOUGH Winter's frowns had damp'd 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 an 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!

LONDON, MAY 30, 1800.                 ROB. BLOOMFIELD.

BACK

[5] Lichfield was the home town of Anna Seward. BACK

[6] Boy Giles: The Farmer's Boy. BACK

Published @ RC

September 2009

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