Romantic Circles is very pleased to announce the publication of a new electronic edition, The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and his Circle, edited by Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt, with Associate Editor John Goodridge and Technical Editor Laura Mandell.
The Suffolk farmhand turned London shoemaker Robert Bloomfield was the most popular poet of the early nineteenth-century before Byron, admired not just for the authenticity that stemmed from his childhood experience as a rural labourer, but accepted as a master of narrative and versification—the living continuation of the Georgic and ballad traditions epitomised by James Thomson and Robert Burns. This edition of Bloomfield’s correspondence makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in what it was like to be a professional poet in the early nineteenth century. Intimate, humorous, self-analytical, Bloomfield’s letters show from the inside what it was like to work in the rapidly expanding book market. They reveal the power of the publisher, and show Bloomfield struggling, as Wordsworth and Clare also did, with gentlemen patrons who resented the independence that sales gave their protègés. Throughout, they demonstrate Bloomfield’s difficulties in straddling the labouring-class culture from which he came and the polite culture of his readers and supporters. This is partly a matter of what they discuss—work in garrets, poor relief, popular songs and political protest, for example. Bloomfield meets the radical shoemaker Thomas Hardy and converses with Hardy’s fellow-accused in the 1794 treason trials, John Horne Tooke; he also corresponds with Paine’s admirer Thomas Clio Rickman.
Invaluable resources for the social historian, like the memoirs of Francis Place and the more passing comments of William Blake, Bloomfield’s letters open up a world not recorded in print at the time, and absent from most twentieth-century histories. With Clare and Rogers among his correspondents, and with Moore and Wordsworth among his admirers, Bloomfield emerges here as a writer who was for a while central to the poetic culture of the Romantic era. Intended as a resource for scholars of Bloomfield and of labouring-class writing, this edition includes an introduction and extensive editorial apparatus and features transcriptions of Bloomfield’s unpublished poems, critical remarks and children’s writings. It incorporates over forty reproductions of illustrations to his poems (Bloomfield was one of the most heavily illustrated poets of the day). Also collected are contemporary reviews of his poems and the texts of poems by his brothers George and Nathaniel.