245. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Lloyd Baker, 31 October-1 November 1809


245. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Lloyd Baker, 31 October–1 November 1809* 


Oct 31. 1809.

Dear Madam,

I should indeed be sadly ashamed of this long disrespectful silence had I not unfortunately a tolerable excuse to urge, which, though I write in extreme pain, shall not make its appearance until the fag end of the epistle.

The first thought that came across my mind on the receipt of yours was, a glow of self approbation, for having by some means or other so far obtain'd your good wishes as to induce you in hurry, and on business, and in the midst of a journey to think of me and to steal time to write. You must certainly take a pleasure in oblidging, and that is the very essence of all that is good upon earth, as far as earth is concernd.

The Cheddar Cliffs have taken up a nook in my heart, and imagination scratches a picture of her own, like an old Hen in a garden.

I had taken a momentary dislike to Old Scoop, [1] * but you strengthen my original feeling and I begin to think that He may be a personage not altogether to be ridiculed. I have a great mind to keep him alive.

Have you ever seen two or three local publications by Mr Heath a printer at Monmouth? A fund of information may be glean'd from them all immediately relating to our late expidition to paradice. Historical and minute descriptions relative to Kyrle, to Ross, Willton Castle, Goodrich, Coldwell, &c &c told in a plain tradesman like stile. [2] 

Nov. 1st I have no summer excursions to relate, No Rocks to describe but the rocks of expenditure and taxation, and I'll be bound for it they are not so sublime or picturesque as those of Cheddar.

My eldest Daughter has just return'd from an eight weeks residence in Suffolk at the very Farm that employ'd me in my childhood. She has seen the Harvest, and was present at the 'Horkey' and with many of the persons who figured there thirty years ago when I was 13 years old. There is a fund of gossip cut out for me during the winter coming. She return'd on the 24th, the next day you may recollect is sacred to our Leather Saint, and is besides her birthday. [3]  It was a high holiday in London as a Jubilee, and to crown it all my brother's family postponed on her account the celebration of a Christning. Thus, by having a family meeting we beat all the Doctors for we killd more than two birds with one stone.

I have been forced to read a large Volumn which has in the end given me much pleasure. Dr Parkinson's 'Organic Remains of the Antediluvian World,' treating of the transformation of vegetable substances into stone and Cole &c. [4]  I have besides borrowed old Stowe [5]  and been diving into the former state of this great city with very great satisfaction. When I last wrote to your Cousin Catherine I told her I could not read; it was true but I have greatly got over it since. I have even, (being inspired by Heath's books) new modelled my journal, and hope to fetch up what I have lost by idleness or by indisposition, and to make a somthing of it yet. I am better pleased with it than I ever have been before.

What joy it must be to you to come home to your children and find them well! For yourself it appears that travelling agrees with you, and you should take the remedy upon all possible occasions.

One day in the Winter Summer when for a long time I had heard nothing from Clare Hall or from Fullham, I trudged to the latter place and found that Mrs Sharp had much recoverd, and that the family were then at Wicken. While on the bridge I saw a most beautiful sight. A Rain bow of most singular strength and breadth of colours; it appeared in the east, the right foot resting on the surry shore, just on the bank, so that the tide being full, and the water unruffled, its shadow was quite as perfect as itself and form'd nearly a circle, thus. [sketch of a circle]. The house on the right bank has a white front which the prismatic colours renderd more striking than any thing I ever observed of the kind. I have had a very kind letter from Mr Cooper pray put in a word for me there if I should be mention'd. I look with much anxiety towards the health of Charlotte. And how is Mr Baker? Will he change his Gout for my Rhumatism? You see here that grumbling must come in at last. November is a trying month to me. I have been a week totally disabled from work, or from resting above ten minutes in a place. I hope nevertheless to tell you a better story soon. My sincere respects are due to Mr & Mrs Baker, and tell Catharine and Mary Ann that if my back does not mend shortly I shall for a certainty forget all my dancing. And with welsh scenery in my imagination and welsh [word deleted] flannel to my skin I am, Dear Madam your very much oblidged, but tardy friend,

Rob Bloomfield

P. S. I have this minute been reading your letter to my daughter and she naturally ask'd on the mention of your Aunt James S. 'which Mrs S. is that'. I reflected for the first time, and that for the first time carried me to Clare Hall, for I had fixd the reference to Durham, and your friends there—It may be possible that Mrs Sharp and Catharine are now with you. If they are what a most brilliant figure I should make at an apology at the table! I have rather wonderd that I have heard nothing from Barnett, and been sadly unwilling to believe that any other cause for it than absence could have been found, where people write so frankly as we do, This is however a hole in a dark staircase; a light thrown on the subject. I therefore charge you with my love to All tog together —

* See the beginning of the original MSS of Banks of Wye T J Ll B [note added by T. J. Lloyd Baker]

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 275–76 BACK

[1] In the MS The Banks of Wye a Poetical Journal. Aug. 17. 1807 [BL Add. MS 28265 ff. 48–49], the opening lines of the poem read

When Time's young curls embower'd his brow
And infant streams began to flow,
Huge giant Scoop with spade in hand,
And all the Island at command,
With puffing breath and monstrous stride
Came thundering on by Severn's side.
Fancy still hears his foot rebound,
When Stinchcombe trembled at the sound.
Here Cambrian mountains caught his eye
Towring to meet the distant sky
Jealous he mark'd them one by one
And dreading much to be sore the work out-done
'Out-done' he cried, 'Tis true I'm warm'
But this bright prospect nerves my arm
I too the mountain pile can rear
Outdone, there shall be just such here.'
Then stript at once to set about it,
(Look at the spot and who can doubt it,)
But, at the moment he was speaking
His limbs were stiff, his back was aching,
For Mendip, and the western shore,
The marks of recent labours bore:
Weary he rested, full of pain,
By Nympsfield, on the upland plain,
And with a gnashing envious smile
There stuck his spade upright the while,
And chang'd his mind.—Then sprewing first,
O'er Severn's Vale a cloud of dust,
Again he pluck'd it from the ground,
The crumbling earth flew wizzing round;
Then dashing sternly to and fro,
He cut a casual hole or two;
In one of which (a sweet one truly)
Some modern pigmies built up Uley
And Owlpen, by the dark wood side,
Which none can find without a guide.
And here, the happy natives stroll
Around their green illshapen Bowl,
A Bowl all zigzagg'd round about
With one large gap to let them out.

[2] Probably Monmouthshire: historical and descriptive accounts of the Ancient and present state of Chepstow Castle: ... Interpersed with curious biographical anecdotes relating to the life and public character of Henry Marten, one of the judges of King Charles I: Confined twenty years in this castle: Collected from original papers and unquestionable authorities (Monmouth, 1801). BACK

[3] St. Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers. BACK

[4] James Parkinson, Organic Remains of a Former World. An Examination of the Mineralized Remains of the Vegetables and Animals of the Antediluvian World; Generally Termed Extraneous Fossils, 3 vols. (London, 1804–11). BACK

[5] John Stowe's Survey of London was first published in 1598 and reprinted several times. BACK