"The Talk of the Tap-Room: Bloomfield, Politics, and Popular Culture"

This article takes as its point of departure Bloomfield’s repeated and insistent claim that he was a poet, not a politician. Drawing on the fascinating recently published correspondence of Bloomfield and his circle, it examines how the dissociation of poetry and politics in the post-revolutionary decades affected the poet’s public and private identities. In the first instance, the article explores how the ideology of natural genius exerted pressure on Bloomfield and other laboring-class poets to think about poetry as a cultural form that was incompatible with the public sphere of politics, especially the combative world of artisan radicalism. But the article also shows that the polarization of political culture in the aftermath of the French Revolution debate had the effect of politicizing even the most private aspects of Bloomfield’s life and literary productions. Much to the poet’s profound vexation, his public persona was appropriated by radicals, liberals, and loyalists alike, depriving him of the privacy the theory of natural genius assumed he should embrace.