Introductory Material


Editorial Introduction

Bloomfield’s most famous poem, one of the greatest as well as latest Georgics to be written in English, was also his most popular. In his lifetime, it went through fourteen official editions (pirated editions were published in France and America), was translated into Latin, and sold an estimated 51000 copies – putting it on a par with Childe Harold and The Lay of the Last Minstrel as one of the bestselling poems of the Romantic era. This popularity lasted: new editions regularly appeared until 1877; only in the twentieth century did interest decline. Admired by poets, including Southey and Wordsworth, as well as by the public, the poem was a critical success. It was also a seminal piece for labouring-class writers, including John Clare; its representation of Suffolk, meanwhile, influenced John Constable’s art.


Bloomfield himself is the main source concerning the history of the poem’s composition. In the Preface he wrote for the edition that appeared in the 1809 Poems of Robert Bloomfield, he quoted a letter he had written from London to his brother George in Suffolk on 16 September 1798 sending the manuscript he had completed in June, and declaring

When I began it, I thought to myself that I could compleat it in a twelvemonth, allowing myself three months for each quarter; but I soon found that I could not, and indeed I made it longer than I at first intended. Nine tenths of it was put together as I sat at work, where there are usually six of us; no one in the house have any knowledge of what I have employed my thoughts about when I did not talk.

I chose to do it in rhime for this reason; because I found allways that when I put two or three lines together in blank verse, or something that sounded like it, it was a great chance if it stood right when it came to be wrote down, for blank verse have ten syllables in a line, and this particular I could not adjust, nor bear in memory as I could rhimes. Winter, and half of Autumn were done long before I could find leisure to write them. In the Harvest Home you will find the essence of letters you have wrote formerly to London.

These remarks date the poem’s origins to between May and December 1796; they also reveal the extraordinary circumstances of its composition: Bloomfield produced it not on the farm in Suffolk but in a crowded shoemakers’ garret in London -– the mental process hindered, or perhaps helped, by the repetitive noises of hammering and stitching, and by the patterns of his workmates’ conversation. This origin in urban labour and in labourers’ sociability, so different from the leisure and solitude in which the typically gentlemanly activity of poetic composition usually occurred, had its effect on the poem’s form and content: Bloomfield chose rhyming couplets because they helped him not only to attain prosodic regularity but also to memorise the verse; he depicted the harvest home not from first hand experience as a reaper but because his brother George, who had left London for Suffolk in 1784, had described it to him in letters.

Despite its paperless origin, the poem was not affiliated to oral poetry. It was not based on the work songs or folk ballads that were performed on city street and in village pub, but on the highly literary form of the Georgic as represented by James Thomson’s The Seasons (issued in parts between 1725–30 and first collected in 1748) which had been among Bloomfield’s favourite reading since he had acquired a copy from a fellow London shoemaker in 1783 or 1784. His poem had, he explained, begun in set-piece episodes:

The parts of the poem first composed, before any thought was entertained of going through with the Seasons, were the morning scene in Spring, beginning ‘This task had Giles,’ and the description of the lambs at play.

From these initial scenes, the poem grew to four books, one for each season, totaling, by November 1797, just over 1500 lines. Initially committed to memory, these were transcribed in the manuscript that Bloomfield patiently compiled and sent to George, warning him, in a letter of 7 November 1798, that ‘Having never been instructed in grammar, it may abound in faults of that kind which I am not aware of. The management of stops I don’t pretend to’ (a disclaimer also made by Wordsworth about the manuscript of Lyrical Ballads). The MS survives and is held at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Eng FMS 776. [1] 


By November 1798, Bloomfield had already hawked the manuscript around London publishers without success. One, probably William Bent, declined and suggested magazine publication in instalments; another, most likely William Lane, refused because he specialized in pulp novels (see letters 6, 7, 8, and 9 of the Letters of Robert Bloomfield)

Frustrated, Bloomfield sent the manuscript to George so that his mother should be able to read it. George, however, took it to a local gentleman who was unknown to Bloomfield – Capel Lofft (1751–1824). Lofft was a radical Whig, and as such believed himself to be a ‘friend of the people’, an opinion that recommended the poem to him. He was an astute choice on George’s part, for he was not simply a traditional patron, prepared to offer a local man of talent a small donation or pension as part of his duty, but also an author and editor with influence in the expanding publishing market in which magazines and journals—the new means of publicizing books—had begun to flourish. He had commercial experience as well as the paternalist attitudes of a traditional Whig squire. He wrote to Bloomfield, declaring that ‘the example, as well as the Poem, may teach the rich, and the highly born or educated, not unnaturally to urge harsh and overbearing lines of distinction; but to be more attentive to the gifts bestowed by the common Father on mankind, than to an overweening conceit of their own privileges and advantages’ (see Preface to the stereotype Poems of Robert Bloomfield, 1809). Impressed by the poem both in its own right and as evidence that the poor and poorly educated were not naturally inferior, he sent it to Thomas Hill (1760–1840), a man of letters who was well-connected on the London literary scene. Hill arranged to have it published by the firm of Vernor and Hood, publishers of the journal he edited, The Monthly Mirror. While little direct information survives as to the terms of the arrangement, a dispute that arose between Lofft and Hood in November 1800 suggests that the firm spent £190 on the printing, giving Bloomfield £20 as an advance, and taking, it considered, a half interest in the copyright not just for the first but also for subsequent editions (meaning that royalties would be split 50/50 with Bloomfield). This, as Hood told Lofft when Lofft argued that the firm’s half interest did not outlast the first edition, was a handsome arrangement (see Letter 45, 26 November 1800, of LRB). It was more typical for unknown, first-time writers either to pay the costs of printing themselves, with the bookseller/publisher handling distribution, or to publish by subscription. That this was not the case with The Farmer’s Boy must have been a result of Lofft’s strategy of showing the poem to Hill, an experienced editor of magazine verse with influence over a publishing house. Hill’s imprimatur assured Vernor and Hood that it would find a sale sufficient to repay their costs – not least because it could be puffed in the magazines they also published and in which Hill and Lofft reviewed. It was a bargain that Bloomfield, advised by James Swan (d. 1818), a London printer, accepted at a meeting with Hood.

What Hood published on 1 March 1800 was not quite the manuscript as submitted by George Bloomfield to Lofft in 1798. Lofft took it upon himself to revise what he read, as he noted in his Preface to the first edition:

My part has been this, and it has been a very pleasing one: to revise the MS. Making occasionally corrections with respect to Orthography, and sometimes in the grammatical construction. The corrections, in point of Grammar, reduce themselves almost wholly to a circumstance of provincial usage, which even well educated persons in Suffolk and Norfolk do not wholly avoid; and which may be said, as to general custom, to have become in these Counties almost an established Dialect:…that of adopting the plural for the singular termination of verbs, so as to exclude the s. But not a line is added or substantially alter’d through the whole Poem. (Preface)

As Peter Cochran has pointed out, [2]  Lofft’s final sentence here was not quite correct. In fact, he did alter phrases that he found too colloquial or too earthy, in favour of a more conventional and polite language. The effect of these changes was to make the poem more ‘tasteful’, more detached from the labouring-class locutions, and more generic (because its language was deracinated from the language community of rural Suffolk). Although these changes were not extensive, Bloomfield himself having largely mastered the gentlemanly style of his model James Thomson, they were significant. In Summer, for example, Bloomfield’s focus on the ‘writhing loins’ of the ‘sturdy Mower’ proved all too close-up: Lofft changed ‘loins’ to ‘form’ (142–3). In Autumn Bloomfield’s description of the mad girl who left her cottage each night ‘in filth to lie, / Where the swine grunting yields up half his sty’ became ‘unhous’d to lie, / Or share the swine’s impure and narrow sty’ (136–8). Lofft’s farm was to have no hint of sex or shit about it.

Whether Bloomfield knew of these changes while the work was in production, is unclear, for he did not supervise the printing (by Thomas Bensley, who would print all of the first six editions), and relied on the press to discover details about the forthcoming volume. In a letter to George of 8 September–6 October 1799 (Letter 16), he noted

I shall see in what manner the Farmer’s Boy is advertised, not in the papers but on the covers of the monthly publications from that house, the ‘Monthly Mirror,’ ‘Ladies’ Museum,’ &c. — they insert their advertisements in the Chronicle, &c. — Relative to its ornamental part, the Cuts, I send the following from the ‘Monthly Magazine.’. . . ‘That the art of engraving on Woodden Blocks, which formerly constituted the only ornaments for Books; have lately been revived by the “Bewicks” of Newcastle; one of them is dead, but the art is not dead; for we understand that a son of Dr. Anderson, and several other young men have carried the art to very great perfection; their performances rival in brilliancy and spirit the finest productions on copper. Every one acquainted with the trouble and delays of printing with plates of Copper is sensible of the advantages and convenience of this way, as the prints are impressed at the same time with the letter-press.

The first he saw of the published poem, which did indeed feature woodcuts by John Anderson, a pupil of Thomas Bewick, [3]  was in March 1800, when he was invited to meet the Suffolk landowner and former Prime Minister, the 3rd Duke of Grafton, at his townhouse in Piccadilly. The Duke, as a rich nobleman, had received a copy—perhaps from Lofft—before the humble author and was impressed enough to want to patronise him. He gave Bloomfield a five pound note and invited him to stay at his country estate in Northamptonshire. For his part, Bloomfield looked over the Duke’s luxury edition [4]  and encountered, for the first time, the Preface that Lofft had added to the verse. This told Bloomfield’s life story using information provided by George, emphasising his rural naivety and natural gentility. It prepared bookbuyers to encounter a work of natural genius achieved by a sensitive, humble family man: Bloomfield, it showed, was not an uncouth ale-drinking farmhand and nor was he a radicalised artisan (thus banishing the spectres of the democrat campaigners Thomas Paine, a corsetmaker born near Bloomfield in Norfolk, and Thomas Hardy, like Bloomfield a London shoemaker, tried for treason in 1794). It also incorporated the praise of several literary gentleman, assuring the upper and middle-classes who were the poem’s likely purchasers that it would meet their taste. This was an early use of the marketing technique of name recognition. Lofft’s prefatory framing patronised Bloomfield, but thereby made him suitable both for aristocratic patrons who wished to reward natural genius from their regions and for middle-class patrons of booksellers’ shops who could support him by buying the poem. It left Bloomfield embarrassed, however, because it put his private life on parade and used the rural simplicity that he had shown when he first came to London as a boy to define his character as a man.

Lofft’s publicity strategy worked: the reviews followed the lead of the Preface, agreeing that the poet was ‘the untutored bard, who paints, and paints vividly, from nature’, [5]  that the verse abounded with ‘beautiful lines of accurate and minute description’ [6]  and a ‘harmony of numbers which could not be expected from an uncultivated mind’. [7]  They relayed the story of Bloomfield’s deserving life. In doing so, they were responding to Lofft’s presentation of the poet, and also to Bloomfield’s own choice of a child narrator, highly unusual for a locodescriptive and Georgic poem in the Thomsonian tradition. Instead of Thomson’s disembodied, distant narrator, Bloomfield chose not simply a farmworker, as in Stephen Duck’s and Mary Collier’s labouring-class revisions of the Georgic tradition, but a boy. This choice gave him a narrator who could be present without being wholly involved in the grown-up world he witnessed—as if an unobserved observer. In the gap between the adult writer and his boy narrator, and between the boy and the adults within the poem, distance, loneliness and pathos enter. This is not the pathos of time having past—the Wordsworthian lost hour of splendour in the grass that the Prelude was written to record and redeem (the temporal distance between the urban, adult author and the rural, child narrator was fundamental to Bloomfield’s writing but is not explicitly discussed). It is more a matter of a certain alienation in situ: unlike Duck, who conveyed rural life directly to the reader as a man’s personal and collective experience of labour, Bloomfield’s boy stands at a remove, looking on. He is not quite one of the lads and certainly not a man, and when he speaks of work with the authority born of experience he does so not to challenge the poetic idealisations that depict peasants as fortunate sons of the soil who are contented in their labour, but to record his misery and fear when tasked with spending hour after hour alone in the field scaring crows. Rural labour, this implies, can be isolating and soul destroying even if not backbreaking. Unlike the ploughmen and the threshers, or the milkmaids and the washerwomen, the boy does not get to be one of a team that communally takes pride in its strength, skill and usefulness. Thus part of the poem’s appeal lay in its narrator’s ability to mobilise pity, whereas an adult narrator might have raised awkward issues of class difference, seeming either obsequious or truculent—anxious to soothe or keen to shock the feelings of a polite reader brought face to face with the uncouth farmyard and the uncouth bodies—human and animal—that it places side by side in the muck.

The public’s sympathies were engaged and it began to buy the poem in larger numbers than anyone expected, making Bloomfield the first publishing sensation of the nineteenth-century mass-market press. Vernor and Hood astutely catered to different income levels, selling The Farmer’s Boy in large quartos on fine Whatman paper for the wealthy, in quartos (at half a guinea), and in smaller octavos for those with more modest means. The book’s success, then, owed much to commercial acumen on its editors’ and publishers’ parts. Second and third editions followed later in 1800, in cheaper demi octavo and octavo sizes. In the third, Lofft made a major addition to the paratextual material that would turn out to have severe consequences for his relationship with the poem and its author. He added an appendix in which he complained at length about his having been removed from his role as a justice of the peace on the grounds, he suspected, of his radical politics. The removal had little or nothing to do with Bloomfield’s poem; the appendix therefore did nothing more than reveal Lofft’s egotism and his proprietorial attitude towards the work he had brought to public attention. The Farmer’s Boy was, the appendix suggested, a place for Lofft to parade his goodwill and air his grievances. It was his, the patron’s, work almost as much as that of Bloomfield, who was his client and was to be approached through him, his verse bracketed by Lofft’s prose.

The Appendix distressed Bloomfield and the publisher, Hood, because it put Lofft’s personal affairs between the poet and the reader, and introduced contentious political matters to a volume they had tried to keep free of radicalism so as not to alarm reviewers and purchasers. In the fifth edition (1801), they persuaded Lofft to add this note exculpating Bloomfield:

I wish it to be understood, that neither for my political Sentiments, Opinions, and Conduct, nor for any thing which I have said that personally concerns myself in the introductory part of this Appendix, is Mr. Bloomfield in the smallest degree responsible. Those therefore who dislike either the sentiments or the mode of expression must, in mere justice, impute them to me alone, and in no respect as any way implicating him. He wishes, I believe, to decline Politics and Controversy altogether; and I wish no man to mix in either farther than he feels it to be a Duty.

A tension was now evident: the power relations of patron and client did not harmonise with those of editor and author. Lofft’s underlying conception of what and who the publication was for (fellow Suffolk gentlefolk who bought the book so as to support worthy local causes) was at odds with Hood’s eye on the wider reading public, whom he supposed to want uncontroversial pastoral pleasure. The split became wider in October 1801, as Vernor and Hood prepared a sixth edition. Hill and Hood pressured Bloomfield to gain Lofft’s consent to drop the appendix (Lofft having by this point been restored to the bench). They also desired the removal of a note approving of the debating societies that, anti-Jacobins believed, were hotbeds of labouring class radicalism. Lofft’s reply to the request, Bloomfield reported, made it clear that ‘The infalible result of any inovation now made in “the Farmer’s Boy”, would infix in the mind of Mr L the deepest and the most rooted dislike to me’ (Letter 69; see also letters 63, 64, 65 and 67). Lofft let him know that if the cuts were made he would ensure Bloomfield became known as an ingrate: Bloomfield, having so little social status, could not risk appearing thus to the gentlemen and aristocrats who had supported the work, and was left pleading with Hill and Hood to leave the appendix and the note in place. Caught between patron and publisher, Bloomfield found himself to be the property of others (Hood retained half the copyright)—his case a symptom of the changes produced by the rapid expansion of the book market and the concomitant diminution of the role of patron and rise of that of the bookseller. Although Bloomfield’s plea worked, and Lofft’s embarrassing grandstanding was left in place in the sixth and seventh editions, printed by James Swan (1802 and 1803), the difficulty was not resolved. By 1803 he and Lofft were estranged, Lofft having been offended by the removal of his footnotes commenting on the poems in Bloomfield’s second collection Rural Tales (1802). In the eighth edition, of 1805, Lofft’s insertions concerning debating societies, concerning his tenure on the bench, and concerning his marriage were removed; Lofft’s voice presenting the biographical account of Bloomfield’s early life was replaced by Bloomfield’s own; some of the flattering commentary on the poem by Lofft’s friends was deleted. Bloomfield did call another literary gentleman to his aid, including in the edition a list compiled by Thomas Park (1759–1834; an editor and antiquarian) of all the alterations that Lofft had, in 1799, made to the manuscript of the poem. The aim, apparently, was not just to strip Lofft from the paratext, but also to chart what he had done to the text. As a result, Lofft’s words no longer prepared the reader to encounter the boyish rustic poet: that poet appeared as an intelligent, straightforward man speaking to men (he had by then read Wordsworth’s preface to that relatively poorly-selling collection of rural poems, Lyrical Ballads).

The tussle was not over: in the ninth edition (1806) Lofft reasserted himself, adding notes indicating his displeasure at the omission of his words from the eighth and again delivering his political opinions. After an earlier remark regretting the restriction of newspapers and popular print was dropped, Lofft now added ‘I spoke in the former Editions of the effect of Newspapers, and other means of popular Information; and I now say, I have no doubt that the opportunity of reading them contributed much to form the mind of the Author of the Farmer’s Boy. Genius profits greatly by small daily aids and excitements. A wise and good Government will render those aids as free and as generally accessible as it can. From such sparks not only the spirit of the former Poet, but of the Artist in various branches, of the future sailor and soldier is awakened’. He also added a new note endorsing debating societies, after his former one was excised, and occasional snide comments such as ‘Mr. Bloomfield having omitted in the eighth Edition what I had said in the seventh, of the satisfaction I had in 1800 in being made personally acquainted with him here at Troston, I shall not restore it against his will’. Thus the struggle for supervision of Bloomfield’s verse and biography, and, still more, the resentment of poet and publisher by patron, was made apparent to all readers. Lofft’s remarks remained in later lifetime stand-alone editions of the poem (1808, 1810, 1811, 1815, 1820): he had, it might seem, the last (and first) word.

Not so: in 1809 the Poems of Robert Bloomfield was published – a collection of all the poet’s major publications to that date. Produced by the new stereotype method, so that it could be reissued again and again without the need to set up new type, this collected edition was supervised by Bloomfield himself, and featured a Farmer’s Boy from which Lofft’s voice was largely excised. For the first time, Lofft’s 1799 alterations of the verse were largely removed in favour of what Bloomfield had written in the original MS. Poem as well as preface was now in Bloomfield’s words, and these words were plainer and more colloquial than anything previously published in his name. For example, in the first edition the phrase about mud, ‘Till dirt usurp the empire of his shoes’, became ‘dirt adhesive loads his clouted shoes’ (Spring 82)—’clouted’ smacking of Suffolk rustic speech. The ‘shepherd idling’ became the ‘idling shepherd’ (Spring 281)—the poetic inversion gone. The phrase about the sheep longing for familiar fields, ‘Instinctively they haunt the homeward gate’ was changed to ‘Bleating around the homeward gate they meet’ (Spring 297). Since the stereotype edition was reissued in 1814, 1817 and 1821 there were effectively two competing versions of The Farmer’s Boy in circulation, vividly demonstrating the contested status of the poem and the inability of a labouring-class author, even when supported by his publisher, to extricate himself from a gentleman patron.


Sales of The Farmer’s Boy were at first good and, soon, enormous and unprecedented. On 29 October 1800 Bloomfield summarized what it had brought in so far (Letter 41 to George Bloomfield):

Total cost of 3 first editions 481 odd shillings
When all sold will produce joint profit 613 odd shillings
Out of Hood’s half of the profits
he proposes to give me for these
three Editions, 50, 0
and another 50, 0

for the next three, this hundred pounds is more than I had expected.

The extra payment of £100 for the first six editions, Bloomfield regarded as generous. But the profits were large. Bloomfield told his brother on 30 November 1801 that ‘The 5th and 6th edition of Giles comprize together 10,000 copies, the new work [Rural Tales] 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!’ (Letter 70). The ninth edition, printed by William Wilson (as were the tenth and eleventh) was of 4000 copies. This brought the total printed to 26100. This success was important to Vernor and Hood, but they nonetheless faced increasing financial difficulties and from the sixth edition of 1802 divided their half share of the profits equally with Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme (this arrangement was still in operation for the twelfth edition of 1811). In 1812, after Hood’s death, the firm failed and the surviving partner, C. Sharpe, sold off his share in the poem to B. Crosby and Co, and unloaded 4500 unsold copies of Bloomfield’s publications at a discount (thus reducing the value of Bloomfield’s half-share of the profits and making the volumes inaccessible to him). The bankruptcy, and Sharpe’s death soon afterwards, meant that Bloomfield, as one of many creditors, received only 4s 6d for each pound of the £372, 12s and 4d owed him in royalties (23%: and this to be staggered into four payments stretching from 1813 to 1816). He took legal advice from Lofft and from the eminent Whig lawyer Samuel Romilly and discovered that copyright for the poem would revert to him, if living, fourteen years after first publication. He hoped that this would be worth ‘not less than £2000’ (Letter 273). The reversion occurred in March 1814, and he then sold to London publishers a half share in the copyright for the next fourteen years, though obtaining only ‘about half the sum which I suppose their chance is worth’ (Letter 294). The publishers’ half share was in turn divided, so that the risk was spread across several firms. Thus in 1815 the thirteenth edition, printed by Samuel Hamilton in Weybridge, was published by a group of booksellers in which Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown took the lead. Both for these editions and for the 1814, 1820 and 1821 stereotype editions of the Poems of Robert Bloomfield Bloomfield kept a half share in the profits; a quarter was held by Longmans, while the remaining quarter was divided between several booksellers (Crosby was named among them for the 1814 Poems only—and went bankrupt in that year of recession in the book trade). Of these Baldwin, Cradock and Joy took responsibility for printing, distribution and payment of royalties (see Letter 310 and Letter 350). They printed 2000 copies of the fourteenth edition of The Farmer’s Boy (1820) and 2000 of the 1821 Poems.

The poem was popular enough for editions to be published beyond the reach of British copyright law. There were two editions in New York, and others in Philadelphia and Leipzig, in 1801; in 1802 an edition was published in Dublin; in 1803 editions appeared in New York, Dublin and Baltimore; further editions came out in Paris in 1804; and in Albany, N.Y., in 1814. After copyright expired in 1828, the poem, either alone or combined with editions of other out-of-copyright works by Bloomfield, was frequently published, throughout the nineteenth century. B. C. Bloomfield reveals that ‘The firm of Milner, for instance, under its various names and in its various series, sold 65,550 copies of Bloomfield between 1835 and 1895, and he was fifth in popularity, as measured by sales, during that period. The figures are:

Burns 183,333

Byron 126,514

Milton 85,296

Pope 69,296

Bloomfield 65,550

followed by, in descending order of sales, Longfellow, Moore, Cowper, Wordsworth, Shelley, Dryden, Scott, Hemans, Thomson, and Kirke White.’ [8]  It is likely that The Farmer’s Boy sold at least 280000 copies before 1900.

This Edition

This edition is the first ever to collate all the lifetime editions of the poem. It also collates the manuscript that Bloomfield wrote out from memory in 1801 (Houghton Library Eng fMS 776.1) in an effort to recreate the original manuscript that in 1798 he had sent to George Bloomfield, who had passed it to Lofft who emended it and sent it to Thomas Hill and thence to press (now Houghton Library Eng fMS 776). The press set up type from this original manuscript, and it was then kept by Hill and not returned to Bloomfield, who was thus left without a manuscript of his own poem—hence the need to write out a new one from memory, one free of Lofft’s emendations that had made their way into the first published edition (1800). Bloomfield explained his reasons for creating a new manuscript in a letter of 30 November 1801 (Letter 70): ‘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’. By collating this manuscript (fMS 776.1) and all the lifetime editions, and displaying variants, it is for the first time possible to trace the many alterations made to the poem and its paratext as a result of the growing tensions between Bloomfield, Lofft and the publishers Vernor and Hood. We display, in effect, the history of The Farmer’s Boy as a battleground between parties seeking success and authority with an expanded literary public shaped by a commercial book market.

While our copytext is the 1800 first edition, on the grounds it was this that gave the poem its major public impact, it is possible to trace the Lofftian emendations that the 1800 edition made to the original manuscript by examining the variants. Lofft’s additional remarks in successive editions of the Preface and Appendix, and in notes, are now traceable; so are the prunings of these remarks in the eighth edition, and Lofft’s responses to these prunings in the ninth and subsequent editions. The text and paratext as brought under Bloomfield’s control, with much of Lofft’s input excised, in the 1809, 1814, 1817 and 1821 stereotype Poems of Robert Bloomfield is also recorded in variants.


The Houghton Library, Harvard University, holds two manuscripts of the poem.

fMS Eng 776 is the manuscript sent by Bloomfield to George, and taken by George to Lofft, in 1798. It was then transmitted to Thomas Hill, who kept it after its use by the printer. A fair copy of the whole poem, it contains emendations in pen and pencil identified by Bloomfield as the work of Lofft.

MS Eng 776.1 is from 1801. It has no line-numbers, and is of white, laid paper, of higher quality than fMS Eng 776, measuring 31 x 19cm. It begins with an explanation:

City Road, London. Octr 8th 1801. The Original Manuscript of my ‘Farmer’s Boy’ is not likely ever to be in my possession again; it being left, by Mr Lofft’s desire, in the hands of T Hill Esq. of Henrietta Street Covent Garden; where it now remains; except about two hundred and Sixty lines of the commencement of the Poem which are lost. Wishing to possess a Manuscript like the Original, I meen that the right hand page of this Book shall contain a genuine Copy of the Poem As I wrote it at first; and that the left hand page shall shew the amendments and alterations introduced by Mr Lofft. This I can do now while my memory retains the deviations; but, some years hence, I may not be able, and may then wish that I had done it when it was in my power. Robert Bloomfield

Lofft’s verbal emendations of the original, 1798, manuscript are entered on the verso, together with several notes, and Bloomfield’s reconstitution from memory of the original manuscript is written out on the recto.

Editions of The Farmer’s Boy

1st edn London, 1800: Printed for Vernor and Hood, Poultry; by T. Bensley, Bolt-Court, Fleet-Street.

2nd edn London, 1800: Printed by T. Bensley, Bolt-Court, Fleet-Street, for Vernor and Hood, Poultry; and Sold by T. C. Rickman, 7 Upper Mary-le-Bone-Street; Ingam, Bury; Booth, Norwich; Hill, Edinburgh; Archer and Dugdale, Dublin.

3rd edn London, 1800: Printed for Vernor & Hood, Poultry; and Sold by T. C. Rickman, 7 Upper Mary-Le-Bone-Street; Ingram, and Dingle, Bury; Booth, Norwich; Hill, Edinburgh; Archer and Dugdale, Dublin.

4th edn London, 1801: Printed for Vernor & Hood, Poultry. Sold by T. C. Rickman, Upper Mary-Le-Bone-Street; Ingram, Dingle, and Rackham, Bury; Booth, Norwich; Hill, Edinburgh; Archer, and Dugdale, Dublin.

5th edn London, 1801: Printed for Vernor & Hood, Poultry. Sold by T. C. Rickman, Upper Mary-Le-Bone-Street; Ingram, Dingle, and Rackham, Bury; Booth, Norwich; Hill, Edinburgh; Archer, and Dugdale, Dublin.

6th edn London, 1802: Printed for Vernor & Hood, Poultry; and Longman & Rees, Paternoster Row; by James Swan, Angel Street, Newgate Street: London, 1802.

7th edn Dublin, 1803: Printed by P. Wogan, 23 Old-Bridge.

8th edn London, 1805: Printed for Vernor and Hood, Poultry; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster Row. By J. Swan, Printer, 76, Fleet Street.

9th edn London, 1806: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, Poultry; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row; at the Union Printing Office, St John’s Square, by W. Wilson.

10th edn London, 1808: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, Poultry; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row; at the Union Printing Office, St John’s Square, by W. Wilson.

The Poems of Robert Bloomfield, London, 1809. 2 vols. Printed for the Author, Vernor, Hood and Sharpe; and Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme. Stereotype edition. In all printings of the stereotype edition, The Farmer’s Boy, together with Good Tidings, make up volume 1.

11th edn London, 1810: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, Poultry; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row; at the Union Printing Office, St John’s Square, by W. Wilson.

12th edn London, 1811: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, Poultry; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme and Browne, Paternoster-Row; by T. Hood & Co, Union Office, St John’s Square.

The Poems of Robert Bloomfield, London, 1814. 2 vols. Printed for the Author; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme and Co; B. and R. Crosby and Co; Darton, Harvey and Darton; Walker; Edwards and Reynolds; and G, Cowie and Co. Stereotype edition.

13th edn London, 1815: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown; Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; Darton, Harvey, and Co; and Walker and Edwards.

The Poems of Robert Bloomfield, London, 1817. 2 vols. Printed for the Author; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown; Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; Darton, Harvey, and Darton, Walker and Edwards; and J. Cowie and Co. Stereotype edition.

14th edn London, 1820: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown; Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; Darton, Harvey, and Co; G. Cowie and Co; and Edwards and Knibb.

The Poems of Robert Bloomfield, London, 1821. 2 vols. Printed for the Author; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown; Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; Harvey and Darton; G. Cowie and Co; and Edwards and Knibb. Stereotype edition.


[1] It is on grey laid paper whose measurements vary, but which average 18 x 14.5cm. BACK

[2]The Farmer’s Boy by Robert Bloomfield: A Parallel Text Edition, ed. Peter Cochran (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2014), p. 19. BACK

[3] On these and the illustrations to later editions see Bruce Graver, ‘Illustrating the Farmer’s Boy’, in Robert Bloomfield: Lyric, Class and the Romantic Canon, ed. Simon White, John Goodridge, and Bridget Keegan (Lewisburg, 2006), pp. 49–69. BACK

[4] The poem was published in octavo, quarto and large quarto—the large quarto being on finer paper. See B. C. Bloomfield, ‘The Publication of The Farmer’s Boy by Robert Bloomfield’, The Library, 6th series 15 (1993), 75–94. BACK

[5]Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, 6 (1800), 435–38 (p. 438). BACK

[6]Critical Review, 29 (1800), 66–77 (p. 70). BACK

[7]Monthly Review, 33 (1800), 50–56 (p. 52). BACK

[8] B. C. Bloomfield, ‘The Publication of The Farmer’s Boy by Robert Bloomfield’, p. 92. BACK