256. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Lloyd Baker, 16 January-2 February 1811


256. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Lloyd Baker, 16 January–2 February 1811* 

City Road, Jany 16. 1811.

Dear Madam,

When sure of the goodwill and good wishes of a corispondent, even of a shamefully neglected and illused corispondent, how much easier becomes the necessary resumption of intercourse, and how genuine and how willingly comes forth the required apology? I am in every sense glad that your Cousin Catherine apprised you of my humours and my objects and my griefs as far as she knows them, for it has precluded the necessity of my doing it, and left me to speak of present and future things the more particularly.

Since you saw or heard any part of my Journal, [1]  and I think I remember how far I had then proceeded in my amusement, much alteration has taken place in the plan and divisions &c. As I advanced I began to conceive that it might even eventualy be renderd fit for publication, and this perswasion set me about a thorough examination and revision. I concieved that it was, owing to the careless and hasty manner of its early composition, much too hudibrastic, and containd a vast deal of useless matter which might give way to the superior graces of nature, or to unbridled fancy. I had finished it, as I thought, according to this plan, last summer; and I had the joint opinion of my then companions, Inskip, himself a poet, and a man of strong mind, and my host, Mr. Weston of Shefford, Beds, and as he has read and thought more than any man I ever found in his station of life, and his age, and is an enthusiast in poetry, with a memory truly astonishing considering his mutifarious reading, I consider him highly capable of detecting what were blemishes in a harum scarum story like mine,—We read it for the purpose of criticizing closely, We all doubted the propriety of Giant Scoop in the outset of the piece, yet all agreed that the ridiculous thought was not without merit, only perhaps out of place. [2]  Previous to this I had shown it to Mr Rogers, author of 'The pleasures of memory', and he, even then, in its ruder state, said that it would probably be well recieved if published, but that it was evident that I had not taken the pains with it which might be taken. I then wrote the whole out again with great emendations, in which state Mr. Lofft gave the opinion which I very barely stated to you. I took his hints and the others in conjunction, and wrote the whole out again, still in the mending way with additions and curtailments, and in this new dress, without the personage above mentioned, Scoop, I submited the piece to the calm, judicious, and candid Mr Park of Hampstead (He had seen the giant long ago and said nothing in his praise, which I know how to understand) He was decidedly of opinion that the thing would do me credit, and at the same time pencil'd his doubts and remarks. With this encouragement I once more wrote out the whole; gave the brat a name; and offer'd it to My Bookseller. I know of nothing which can now retard its ultimate appearance before the world. It will be devid'd into 4 Books, and it now contains incidental Ballads, (a great relief to the sameness and length of the tale) entitled 'The Gleaners Song' attatchd to that delicious scene, Coldwell springs—'Morris of Persfield',—'The Maid of Landoga',—and 'a funeral Song', at the Hay.—I wish, as you say, most sincerely that I could submit it still to Mr Cooper, but it will be out of my power. It is intended to engrave 4 plates only, for my Booksellers are averse to the costly and fashionable stile of publishing; One or two of which plates they seem allmost determin'd to take from my own scetches on the spot, this, I fear may appear strange to you, but not surely if you recollect that their object is to lay hold of every thing which can interest or bias in the sale. Remembering what you have said as to your own drawings, I hope, though it is a delicate point, to obtain from Mr Cooper two of his to be the ornaments of my present venture; and, may, I tell you? that the Journal will bear at least an ample record of pleasure, with some starts of fancy, and some of tenderness, whatever may be thought of its general merit, or the merit of the Theme!

Jan. 23. And now, after this rest, I resume my theme again, And have to say that I think my drawings will escape the ordeal of publicity, and I accordingly apply to Mr Cooper for 4. [3]  It is proposd to have the Ballads set to Music, and I am going to lay seige to Mr Shield for his copartnership, and to print the Music with the Book. I should not at all wonder if this part of the plan fails, though I wish it to be accomplished. Depend upon it you will recieve further intelligence in time; and a supply of Copies of the first water: but you need not look out for them untill April, or May.

The letter written by you last summer, I sent down to Bedfordshire to my Daughter. Your remarks therein relative to 'Courtfield' were much approved by all, and not less by him whose business it was to benifit by them. They could not discover the inscription you mention'd in the enclosed area at Chicksands. The Country was charming, but, after failing in my intention of meeting you in time at Clare Hall, I took it for granted that I should have somthing to do in clearing myself; and this I could never find spirits and happiness enough to attempt.

Feb. 2—Another long rest!! My Brother has again walkd to town from Suffolk to meet his children, allready forming a portion of the population of this charming place, and I have in some respects been interrupted and throng'd too, for we have lodged eleven in all, in this splendid mansion of ours.!—

I have not heard from Clare Hall since my reply the substance of which you have of course been apprised of. And now after all this I must still talk of myself, and say that since the latter end of October I have constantly been unwell, and the suffering have arisen from a flatulent and dissorder'd Stomach, with all it accompaniments, such as loss of appitite; broken rest, Dreams, as anty-Wye-ish as even your fancy can picture; indeed I hope you will never have a true conception of them.—I have now resumed my strength in a great measure, and have just conquerd a bad cough which I am not accustom'd to have.

Health seems to stick by the Family as much as vicisitudes of weather will permit.

You percieve that as to myself I have only [words obscured] evils, and taken your good natur'd [words obscured] to silence in what relates to the mind.—You and Mr B. no doubt feel a value attatchd to your Children, but I am strangely decieved if other friends do not feel an equal interest in you; Therefore your seclusion is the wisest way in the world to elbow off old Winter and welcome back the sunshine of May. You need not be again assured that my respects to Mr B. and Children are regularly posted with this, And Adding to the ring your affectionate Mother. I am, Dear Madam, yours at all times

Robt Bloomfield


I direct this according to the information of Miss Ansted, given me so long ago that I ought to be ashamed to make use of it.—

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 294–96; published in Hart, p. 49 BACK

[1] The journal of the Wye tour of 1807. BACK

[2] 'Giant Scoop': at the beginning of MS The Banks of Wye a Poetical Journal. 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 from,
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.

[3] The engravings based on Robert Bransby Cooper's designs can be seen here: [1][2][3][4]. BACK