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

70. Robert Bloomfield to George Bloomfield, 30 November 1801* 

London. Novm 30. 1801.

Dear George

With ink from the India-House and good pen, I set about informing you of some of the many particulars that have ocupied my whole attention lately. I have written largely to Mr. Lofft since our last communication, and hope that all will go on smooth yet: he still insists on my leaving out all mention of him in the preface of the large copies; and I (though I dare not tell him so) as certainly mean to disobey the order. Mr. Lofft accuses me of want of firmness. I have had to exert my firmness in a matter and in a manner which with him cannot procure me credit because he is not likely to know it. In this sixth edition of the Farmer's Boy a plan was laid by Mr ___, principaly, and by Mr Hood, to strike out some matters from the Appendix. [1]  this task was undertaken, with a considerable degree of vanity, by Mr ___, who himself, in a copy of Giles markd out a great deal of matter which certainly have been much disapproved; I mean the political notes of Mr Lofft, and what he introduced relative to his dismissal from office; but he did not strike out the high compliment paid by Mr L to himself, though he did the whole of what was written by Swan as to my manner of composition. All this was bold assumption on the part of Mr ___ and I disliked it. At that moment I stood so with Mr. L, that had I permitted it to go on, the blame would have fallen on me, and not on them. Mr. Lofft would have said (perhaps publickly) that I had not only offended in relation to the new Vollm but had most ungratefully set him aside in the original publication. In this situation I had to act, not merely to wish my part. the consequence was weighty; and I had never tried my power before. I wrote on Friday to Mr Hood, stating that any omission now, as my correspondence stood with Mr L, would involve me in censures, which however innocent I might be, would stick to my publick character and damn my reputation; adding that the ensuing Edition by Swan should be a copy of the last Edition, &c. I mentiond nothing about money, but you see his answer (inclosed) mentions it; and is in all points highly satisfactory. The 5th and 6th edition of Giles comprize together 10,000 copies, the new work 7,000, so that I have at any rate to share the profits of 17,000 books, for which (at full price) the publick, if they are goodnaturd enough to buy them, will pay no less than £36,025! I have felt sad, and uncommon trouble of mind; and I doubt it is not over yet. I am writing a fair copy of the Farmer's Boy exactly as you saw it in MS., and marking the alterations made by Mr Lofft; and adding notes of information, &c., this I do that as I have not the original, something in my own hand may be found hereafter, and I do it too to improve my handwriting: I shall have it bound carefully. [2]  I have by me the real original MSS. of the new Vollm, and shall bind them too. The printers say now that it will not be out before Christmas; but I think that it will. I send my Mother a piece of cheese such as she could not get at Honington if she had money. No dying lover in a romance ever longd for the bridal-day more sincerely or fervently than I do for the birth of my Vollm. you can hardly conceive how great a relief it will be to my mind when I can throw it down to them and say; 'there it is' I shall hope to send books in next month's parcel. I have a rhumatick attack in the shoulder which requires patience. I have felt something of my stomach complaint, but of short duration; if they would let one alone I might live as long as any of them; but they place me awkwardly in their quarrells: Genious is not wanted to work my extrication, but jockyship, constitutional vigor, and impudence. And in these matters I feel myself a bad match for ——— Send me Hoods letter again, at ——— A pocket book for next year entitled the 'Pocket Atlas' contains twenty-four beautiful engravings from Giles, designed by Stothard [3]  ——— The letter to Mrs Chinery contains about 8 Guineas you will mind who cary it.

I send you my story of 'Imagination' [4]  I have copied it, and copied what Mr L would have added and withdrawn. I think you will not wonder at my rejecting it. I wish you may find patience to look it through, and return it. —

I think the last money you had of me was out of a Bill for £27 — odd — of which you returnd about £17, to my Wife while I was at Towcester. but how much tis all together I do not pretend to know. perhaps £30 or more. If I had ever had it in my power to advance that sum in a lump it might have done you good. What must the Quaker be paid just at Christmas?? Tell him to Dunn some of your Customers, and mind, if, as Christmas is so near and my mony melts here with a Wife and 4 of them, if you find that your own £90 cannot be brought forward to meet this 20 of the Quakers, don't do nothing rashly in it, I by no means despair of helping you again. My partner is so interested in your success since poor Isaac faild; that her consent will not be wanting. I loose much time in going to the printers dayly. I can do but little work if my mind was happy enugh to try. My present amusement is writing a Child's Book 'the History of Little Davy's new hat,' dedicated to my Mother, but have sent Isaac the remaining profit on Rosy Hannah, I hope it will come seasonably. [5]  I had better defer my 'triumphant letter' till the Reviewers have done with me; but I have now no material fears. ———

My determination to becoming somthing or other to procure a permanent income, somtimes wavers; my prospect is so good that I doubt the propriety of asking any thing at all. I have no objection to shoemaking, but though I now use it allmost as a cloak for I can do nothing at it; I firmly believe that 2 or three years hence I shall have somwhere or other several hundred pounds even if I live upon the Books entirely; and perhaps if the edge of public curiosity should wear off, I may have more uninterrupted leisure; though by my daily increasing popularity I ought not to reason so. I try to select my acquaintance, and there is need of it. You can hardly judge how great a difference there is to be found even amongst professd admirers of me and my Tales. Pedants who dive and peep as a crow would after a Grubb. Labouring poets, who insist that nothing good was ever produced without labouring at it, writing and rewriting, and writing over and over again. Grammaerians who judge more of points and constructions than of sence and spirit and animation; with a dozen other queer fellows and characters, who would plague me confoundedly if I was once to begin to mind them. These I keep in the back ground, and oppose nothing to argument, but fact. When they talk of labour, I produce them Old Kate and her children [6]  if they were to set about labouring them into elegance I doubt they would rub off their polish, the same polish that you see when you break a flint; its Natural colour.

I must leave abruptly.

Good night



Nov 1801

Monday Night

Yours, enclosing one for Mrs Phillips came this morning. — It is curious that I only told Mr Lofft that I would apply to Mr Rogers for a labourer's place in the India warehouses, and he directly understood that Mr Rogers had proposed it, and said as much to the Duke. Mr Rogers dont know one word about the matter. thus it is I stand at present, and have many doubts as to the wisdom of seeking it. I must determine for myself and a previous determination may be affected by fresh circumstances, such as the unbounded success of the new vollm. —

Read my Mothers and seal and Despatch as usual, I doubt I have set you a task in Mr Lofft's Budget, Read it if you can —

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 74–77. Extract in Suffolk Record Office, Bury St. Edmunds, 317/3, ff. 43–44; published in Hart, p. 18 BACK

[1] The person referred to, throughout this letter, as Mr ___, was Thomas Hill. BACK

[2] This manuscript is now in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. BACK

[3] The Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas was a yearly diary and almanac featuring, for each month, engravings after Stothard's drawings of scenes from a literary work. That for 1802 featured designs from The Farmer's Boy; that for 1805 was illustrated by scenes from Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. BACK

[4] Another of Bloomfield's references to this aborted poem. BACK

[5] The History of Little Davy's New Hat was not published until 1815; the profits on 'Rosy Hannah' were for sales of the musical setting of the poem devised by Isaac and published as Rosy Hannah; a Song Written by R. Bloomfield (London, 1801). BACK

[6] 'Richard and Kate: or, Fair-Day. A Suffolk Ballad', published in Rural Tales, p. 1–14. BACK

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Published @ RC

September 2009