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men they employed, domiciled in very humble bachelor quarters. A garret, in Bell Alley, Coleman-street, answered to them the treble purpose of workshop, dormitory, and dining-room. Robert being errand-boy, fetched the dinner for the four men and boy from a cook's shop near by. Accompanying the plates which bore the food, were as many pots of porter. The mugs being drained of their contents, were called for by a boy from the public house, who would bring with him the previous day's paper. Until Robert's coming among them, the four young men had taken turns in reading the paper aloud. Now Robert was installed perpetual reader.
But unlooked-for obstacles beset the path of our youthful aspirant. In the columns of the daily journal "words of learned length" presented themselves before him, the signification of which was above his comprehension. But a desideratum was at hand. One day the elder brother, in his street rambles, met with an old and well-worn dictionary, which he purchased, and presented to the young reader. Rarely has the greedy worldling been more elated with his good fortune, when suddenly and unexpectedly announced as heir to a princely estate, than was our ardent student on becoming proprietor of this fourpenny-lexicon.
But in some journeys the "hill difficulty" is frequently looming up before the traveler. Robert's progress in the pursuit of knowledge was by no means over one continuous enchanted plain. He soon made the discovery that to obtain a correct definition of words, and to know how to pronounce those words correctly, were two different affairs. Fortunately for the lad in this extremity, he had been well trained to the good old-fashioned practice of regular attendance upon the public religious services of the Sabbath. The fame of a deservedly noted metropolitan preacher attracted the youth to his place of worship. The Rev. Mr. Fawcet excelled in the use of choice language, and in pronunciation he was generally admitted to be good authority. Under such a teacher Robert found himself in a good school for a desirable acquisition; nor was he slow to profit by his advantages.
Another circumstance occurred about this time, which touched the latent spark of our hero's true genius. His brother George had become a reader of the Lon
don Magazine, and, as a matter of course, he shared such delicious fare with his protégé. Now every reader has his peculiar taste. Robert's bent was always in the immediate direction of the "poet's corner." Even a careless looker-on might have perceived that there was a warm sympathy between the poet and his youthful reader. Aspiration was fired; the latent embers were enkindled; there were soon a glowing and bright scintillation emitted in the form of measured, chiming lines, which were shown to the kindly elder brother, who so far approved the manuscript he read, as to advise its author to" try if our paper will give you a place in the poet's corner." He did "try." The musings were accepted, and duly appeared. We will not try to describe Robert's internal emotions of surprise, joy, encouragement, resolve, anticipations of future renown, etc., while with nervous fingers he held the sheet, and with almost tear-blinded vision and palpitating heart he read, and re-read his own warm effusions in the "poet's corner."
The judgment of able editors had confirmed his own convictions that his Creator had endowed him with true poetic genius. He set himself with resolute intent to cultivate the gift within him.
But the conviction is strong within him that the effusions of his brain are deserving more permanent and enduring record than that afforded in the columns of the common newspaper. Conscious of the possession of the "gift Divine," he forwards to the editors of the London Magazine specimens of the cogitations of his "inborn power." He has not miscalculated his powers, for the judgment of those able editors rejoices to number the unknown shoemaker's apprentice among its able contributors to the poet's departments of that popular magazine.
Passing by brief intervals of time, and not staying to notice minor pieces from our poet's pen, we hasten to notice certain circumstances and incidents attendant upon the production, publication, and career of the masterpiece of his genius-the great poem which created the halo that, for generations to come, will surround the name of Robert Bloomfield.
When about eighteen years of age Robert made the acquaintance of a man of the name of Kaye. Mr. Kaye was a man of some literary taste, and had made,
for those times, quite a collection of books.
sal of these afforded the youth a most de-
Another circumstance, we think, contributed no small share to the forthcoming work. When Bloomfield had about completed his eighteenth year he made a visit of some two months to his beautiful, rural native county, the home of his early youth. Here he again trod the vale, climbed the steep, ascended the mountain, and drank in to his soul's repletion of nature's surrounding beauties. Here he again gave delighted ear to the murmuring stream, the song of the ascending lark, the lowing of the cattle, the bleating of the lambs, the hum of busy insect tribes, the song of the merry milkmaid, and the rough, honest jokes of the plow-boy. Here he inhaled the sweet odor of the new-made hay, the rich clover, the wild flowers of the vale, and the cultivated flowers of the garden. Strange indeed that such a soul, so filled, so overpowered with nature's beauties, should return to the overgrown and bustling metropolis, sit down in the stinted garret, and, amid the din and clatter of the cordwainer's hammer, give birth to poetic effusions rarely equaled.
We have no certain means of information as to the length of time the "Farmer's Boy" was in contemplation or preparation. It was probably the result of several years of continuous or intermitted mental toil. Bloomfield's biographers inform us that he composed and committed to memory about six thousand lines ere he committed anything to paper. Either of these, composing or committing, were most astonishing feats to be performed even under the most favorable circumstances, but especially so to have been performed amid the din of hammers, and "confusion of tongues" which belong to the daily routine of a fraternity of cobblers.
But, the "Farmer's Boy" is at length completed; and being transferred from the author's mind to paper, now presents
itself in manuscript form, ready for the publisher's acceptance, the printer's types, the public's judgment and patronage. Who will incur the risk of offering to the But where shall the publisher be found? reading public the cogitations of an unknown cobbler's brain? Ah! there's the rub. guine author goes forth manuscript in But our unsophisticated and sansufficient discernment to determine when hand, intent upon finding a publisher of an article of sterling value and intrinsic worth is presented for his acceptance.
the trials of an author's life; right on the And now commence, in painful earnest, threshold of his first real effort to apprise disciple of the goddess of song. the world of the fact that he is a favorite poem is offered to several publishers, but all, in rapid succession, refuse to publish it. It is offered on very low terms; but daring to speculate in the more than none are found sufficiently adventurous or doubtful property of an indigent mechanic's mental cogitations. the Monthly Magazine has furnished us with the following account of the crestfallen Bloomfield's visit to his office:
The editor of
his unpolished appearance, his coarse handHe brought his poem to our office, and though writing, and wretched orthography afforded no prospect that his production could be printed, yet he found attention by his repeated calls, and by the humility of his expectations, which Magazine. At length, on his name being menwere limited to half a dozen copies of the tioned where a literary gentleman particularly conversant in rural economy happened to be its general aspect excited the risibility of that present, the poem was finally examined, and field was called into the room, and exhorted gentleman in so pointed a manner, that Bloomnot to waste his time and neglect his employin treading on ground which Thomson had ment in making vain attempts, and particularly however, led the editor to advise him to consanctified. His earnestness and confidence, sult his countryman, Mr. Capel Lofft, of Trovton, to whom he gave him a letter of introduc warmly complimented the editor on his sound tion. On his departure the gentleman present advice which he had given the poor fellow, and it was naturally conceived that an industrious man was thereby likely to be saved from a ruinous infatuation.
able editor of the most popular magazine Such, then, was the judgment of the in the world, and of "a literary gentlegive extended renown and enduring fame man," upon a production which was to to its "unpolished" author. Great men sometimes err. The literati do not al
ways discover the fact that there is wrapped up in "coarse handwriting"
Full many a gem of purest ray serene. "The poor fellow" was not the first of his class whom kindly-intentioned men, priding themselves on their literary acumen, had tried by their "sound advice" to save from a ruinous infatuation. Henry Reed says:
It is not to be questioned that there is a right judgment, a sound taste, and a sickly taste. There are opinions which we may hold with a most entire conviction of their truth, an absolute and imperious self-confidence, and a judicial assurance that the contradictory truths are errors. There is a poetry, for instance, of which a man may both know and feel not only that it gives poetic gratification to himself, but that it cannot fail to produce a like effect on every well-constituted and well educated mind. When an English critic, Rymer, some hundred and fifty years ago, disloyal in his folly, pronounced the tragical part of Othello to be plainly none other than a bloody farce, without salt or savor; when Voltaire scoffed at the tragedy of Hamlet as a gross and barbarous piece, which would not be tolerated by the vilest rabble of France or Italy, likening it (I give his own words) to the fruit of the imagination of a drunken savage; when Steevens, an editor of Shakspeare, said that an act of Parliament would not be strong enough to compel the perusal of the sonnets and other minor poems of the bard; when Dr. Johnson remarked that Paradise Lost might be read as a duty, but could not be as a pleasure, and pronounced a sweeping condemnation on Milton's incomparable Lycidas; when, in our own day, a Scotch critic, Lord Jeffrey, declared of Wordsworth's majestic poem, the Excursion, that it would never do; in each of these opinions I know, as anybody may, with a confidence not short of demonstration, that there was gross and grievous falsehood.
Bloomfield did "feel" that his production "not only" gave "poetic gratification to himself," but that it could not, nor should "it fail to produce a like effect on every well-educated mind." This conviction was to him as a coat of mail against the sharpened daggers of literary critics, envenomed scorn, or (un) “sound advice." It was this unshaken conviction of the God-imparted possession of resplendent poetic genius that carried him to Mr. Lofft, who patiently waded through "coarse" manuscript and "wretched orthography," and in so doing did not fail to discover the true germ which lay hidden beneath such rude exterior. Mr. Lofft succeeded in procuring the sale of the manuscript to Messrs. Vernon and Hood for nearly two hundred and fifty dollars.
Our publishers soon found that their fifty pounds' investment was a shrewd business transaction. When the poem was published it was universally pronounced to be the great poem of the day. The demand for it was clamorous; its sale was tremendous; not less than twenty-five thousand. This was an almost unprecedented circulation for those days. The profits on its sale were such that the publishers, unsolicited, gave Bloomfield two hundred pounds in addition to the price of purchase.
We will not attempt to describe the joy of our poet on thus obtaining his just meed of admiration; finding himself almost in the first rank in his own proper department of an elegant, pleasing, and refining branch of literature. "A stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy." Nor may we attempt to depict the chagrin over loss of funds and forfeiture of reputation for literary acumen of those editors, publishers, and "literary gentlemen," whose "risibilities" had been so funnily "excited" over the "coarse handwriting” and "wretched orthography" submitted to their inspection.
When we first commenced this sketch it was our intention to have scattered brief quotations from the "Farmer's Boy" at intervals along our path. But, on second thought, we concluded it was best to refer the reader's attention to the unmutilated piece, for it requires more poetic taste and judgment than we posses to make quotations of surpassing beauty from a production every line of which is so exquisitely beautiful.
The pecuniary or social reward which the "Farmer's Boy" brought its author was far beneath that to which he was so justly entitled. The learned, the noble, and the rich made him a few presents, some of which were of intrinsic value. Through the intercession of the Duke of Grafton a small annuity was settled on him, and a situation, uncongenial either to his taste or constitution, was procured for him in the seal office, which failing health soon compelled him to relinquish, when he returned to his former vocation of shoemaking. A nervous affection and lowness of spirits hastened his career to the grave. He died in August, 1823, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. Perhaps Professor Wilson is too severe in his reflections upon England's treatment
of her distinguished literary men in the formed partly by water and partly by land, following remarks:
What did England do for her own Bloomfield? He was not, in genius, to be spoken of in the same year with Burns; but he was the best poet that had arisen, produced by England's lower classes. He was the most spiritual shoe
maker that ever handled an awl. The "Farmer's Boy" is a wonderful poem, and will live in the poetry of England. Did England then keep Bloomfield in comfort, and scatter flowers along the smooth and sunny path that led him to the grave? No. He had given him, by some minister or other, we believe Lord Sidmouth, a paltry place in some office or other, most uncongenial with all his nature and all his habits, of which the shabby salary was in sufficient to purchase for his family the bare necessaries of life. He thus dragged out for many long years a sickly existence, as miserable as the existence of a good man can be made by the narrowest circumstances, and all the while Englishmen were scoffingly scorning, with bitter taunts, the patronage that, at his own earnest desire, made Burns an exciseman. Nay, when Southey, late in Bloomfield's life, and when it was drawing mournfully to a close, proposed a contribution for his behoof, and put down his own five pounds, how many pursestrings were untied? how much fine gold was poured out for the indigent son of genius and virtue. Shame shuffles the sum out of sight, for it was not sufficient to have bought the manumission of an old negro slave.
It was no easy matter to deal lightly with such a man as Burns. In those disturbed and distracted times still more difficult was it to carry into execution any designs for his good, and much more was there even to excuse his countrymen then in power, for looking on him with an evil eye. But Bloomfield led a pure, peaceable, and blameless life. Easy, indeed, would it have been to make him happy, but he was as much forgotten as if he had been dead; and when he died, did England mourn over him, or after having denied him bread, give him so much as a stone? No. He dropped into the grave with no other lament we ever heard of, but a few copies of poorish verses in some of the annuals, and seldom or never now does one hear a whisper of his name. O fie! well may the white rose blush red, and the red rose turn pale. Let England, then, leave
Scotland to her shame about Burns; and, thinking of her own treatment of Bloomfield, cover her face with both her hands, and confess that it was pitiful.
so that both a palanquin and a boat had to be provided. When all things were ready, I repaired to the ghaut where my boat was waiting, and about midnight we started, having been detained by a fearful storm of thunder, lightning, and rain, which swept over Dacca that night with terrific violence. I found an excellent bed with musquito curtains, kindly provided for me in my boat, so I soon turned in; the splashing of the oars in the Buree Gunga, or Old Ganges, lulled me to sleep, and the tide and the wakeful efforts of my boatmen carried me along.
I awoke early next morning, and had time and opportunity to mark the arrangements made for my conveyance and comfort. The deputy-magistrate of Moonshegunge had very generously sent me his guard-boat to take me to Doudcondy. It was a long, light, native boat, with a mat chopper, or cover, above, having two rooms fitted up with every convenience, and sixteen Bengalee boatmen to ply the oars. My palanquin was placed in front, and all my gear was arranged around me. This is the land of broad rivers and streams, which in the rainy season swell into seas; and on the smooth bosom of one of these splendid rivers we were gliding onward, when I came out in the early morn to view the scene and observe our progress. The sky was unsettled; dark, rolling, threatening clouds were flitting across the heavens. The morning was hazy, hot, oppressive, and uncomfortable. The tide was now against us, and my men were tired with their night's toil. We made but little way; so I was glad to land and walk on the shore, leaving my boat to wind its weary course round the churs and sandbanks which so abound at that season of the year in these broad majestic streams.
After a fatiguing walk I reached Moonshegunge, and was most kindly received by the deputy-magistrate. His house was a singular residence, an old fort, built in years gone by to defend these parts from the hostile incursions of the Mughs from Arracan. A winding path leads to its approach.
You ascend a flight of steps, broad, massy, hoary with age, some parts crumbling to pieces, yet all neat and tidy, with splendid aloes on each step, and bearing marks all round of the taste and talent of the enterprising Resident. You pass under a venerable archway, where numer
felt bound to give them, since their master, with true Indian generosity, had let me have his boat and boatmen free of any charge whatever. This is only a specimen of the genuine, generous kindness Europeans always meet with from their brother exiles in India, in whatever part of that vast land they may happen to meet. In a little while my baggage was stowed outside and inside my palkee; my bearers took their places before and behind; my mussalshee lighted his torch, as the shades of evening were rapidly gathering round us; and when all was ready to start I threw myself into my little box, to be carried jog, jog, jogging along, for two whole nights and a day, a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles. I made myself as snug as I could in my confined abode; mused much on the past and the future; committed myself to the protection of Him who alone can keep us safe "in the wide waste, or in the city full;" and,
ous prolific Oriental trees entwine their | kushie (greatly delighted) with the chout roots, stems, and branches in a way most buckshees-the rather liberal gratuity I fantastic and picturesque. You enter a court where tame rabbits, beautiful birds, a splendid cockatoo, arms and armor, and numerous curiosities attract your attention. The rooms were all well enough for a bachelor, living here alone far from any European society; but his verandah and the panoramic view from thence were sublime. The verandah formed three quarters of a circle, all around decorated with rare plants and sweet flowers, displaying the gorgeous charms of an Indian flora. Below were rich cultivated rice-fields, where I saw the ryot, the native cultivator of the soil, actually manuring his land, a rare thing in India. Here and there were native villages, and clumps of trees, the mango, the tamarind, the cocoa, and the palm; and an immense expanse of water, cut into numerous channels by Nature's caprice; and boats of all sizes and shapes, passing hither and thither, as far as the eye could reach. Had there been only mountains with snowy peaks as the bound-after a time, dropped to sleep. ary beyond, the scene had been perfect. When the morning dawned I was in The visit was a rich treat; but soon I had to embark and pursue my solitary journey. The wind rose and became dead against
We several times stuck fast on sandbanks, which are very numerous in these rivers, and very dangerous in a storm. The boat dashes upon them suddenly, sticks fast, the waves beat over you till the frail bark goes to pieces; thus many every year are lost. Through mercy, though the wind was high and contrary, we had no storm, and reached Doudcondy as the sun began to sink in the west.
When nearing the shore my boatmen beat their donga, a kind of rude native drum, to announce our approach, and, at the same time, to intimate that it was no common boat that was drawing nigh, but one belonging to a magistrate-saheb, as no boats but those connected in some official way with the Company Sirdar may beat a drum. My palkee-bearers were ready and waiting for me on the bank of the river, my dâk having been laid from this place to Chittagong. No house was visible, except a native hut or two in the distance, almost hid by the dense jungle that abounded in this region of dreary isolation from the busy haunts of men. My palkee was landed, and all my little stores, and my boatmen were made uncommonly
the neighborhood of Tipperah, a part of the country under an independent rajah, a great hunting region, where wild elephants especially abound, and whence the elephants belonging to the East India Company are obtained. I got out and walked, as it was a splendid morning, and the sleep you can get in a palkee is not very refreshing. A few biscuits and oranges, which I had with me, were my breakfast. I felt grateful I had passed over the great and dangerous River Megna in safety, and that I had the prospect of getting a government steamer to take me from Chittagong to Calcutta; so that this, I trusted, was to be the last of my traveling by dâk in a palkee, which to most persons is always tedious and trying. However, on we went. The country became more and more interesting. On my left the Tipperah hills ranged in the distance, and the plains right and left seemed tolerably well cultivated. About noon my bearers set down my palkee in the midst of a large native bazaar. I had reserved liberty in arranging my dâk to remain quiet two hours during the heat of the day, and this was the place where I was to rest. A kind friend in Dacca-another proof of considerate kindness among Europeans in India-had furnished me with a patent apparatus for