Monday, 11 November 2013

A Bloomfield chronology


3 December: Robert Bloomfield born in Honington, Suffolk. His father, George, was a tailor; his mother, Elizabeth, a village schoolteacher.


Bloomfield's father dies of smallpox.


Bloomfield sent to Mr Rodwell's school at Ixworth to be 'improved in writing', where he stays for three months.


Bloomfield's mother marries John Glover at Ampton, Suffolk.


Bloomfield sent to the nearby farm of his uncle, William Austin, at Sapiston. Bloomfield was too small and frail for field labour.


Bloomfield joins his brothers, George, a shoemaker, and, Nathaniel, a tailor, in London. He works as shoemaker under his brother George at No. 14 Great Bell Alley, Coleman Street. 


Trade dispute over apprenticeships among the shoemakers. Bloomfield returns to Suffolk, where he first conceives his poem The Farmer's Boy. Bloomfield stays with William Austin for two months, before returning to London as an apprentice.


Bloomfield sets up on his own as a shoemaker.
24 May: Bloomfield's poem 'A Village Girl' printed in Say's Gazette.


12 December: Bloomfield marries Mary Ann Church.


25 October: Birth of Hannah, Bloomfield's first child.


July: Birth of Mary, Bloomfield's second child.


May: Bloomfield begins composing The Farmer's Boy.


His brother George in a biography prefacing the Poems 1809 says that in 1798 'Robert is a ladies shoemaker & works for Mr Davies of Lombard Street'.
22 April: Bloomfield finishes The Farmer's Boy.
June: Bloomfield sends The Farmer's Boy to several London booksellers, hoping they will publish the poem. He is unsuccessful.
15 September: Birth of Charles Bloomfield, Bloomfield's third child.
16 September: Bloomfield sends the manuscript of The Farmer's Boy to his mother as a present. En route it is read by George Bloomfield, who approaches the classical scholar, poet and political activist, Capel Lofft, in the hope of obtaining patronage. Lofft is interested in the poem and his influence helps secure a publisher.


Bloomfield writes to George about his expectations for the poem and the debts incurred by his growing family.


1 March: The Farmer's Boy: A Rural Poem published by Vernor and Hood, with an introduction by Capel Lofft. Bloomfield quickly becomes a literary sensation.
12 September: Third edition of The Farmer's Boy published. 26,000 copies were sold in three years, and translations appeared in French, Italian, and Latin. After this, Bloomfield was unable to repeat his success.


Birth of Charlotte Bloomfield. Publication of Nathaniel Bloomfield's An Essay on War, in Blank Verse; Honington Green, a Ballad; The Culprit, an Elegy; and other Poems, with an introduction by Lofft.
February: Bloomfield learns that Dr William Clubbe has translated the first quarter of The Farmer's Boy into Latin. Bloomfield's son, George, develops 'an unusual swelling' on his right knee, which eventually leads to his becoming lame.
24 May: William Windham refers to Bloomfield during a Parliamentary debate on bull-baiting.
October: Bloomfield and Capel Lofft quarrel over notes intended for Bloomfield's next publication, Rural Tales, and editorial matter introduced by Lofft into editions of The Farmer's Boy.


January: Publication of Bloomfield's second volume of poems, Rural Tales, Ballads and Songs.


The Duke of Grafton secures a clerical post for Bloomfield Under-sealer in the Stamp Office, but a combination of ill health and frustration with the job force him to resign after only a few months. Reports in the press suggest that his appointment to this 'handsome situation' prove 'he has not courted the Muses unsuccessfully.'


21 January: Birth of Robert, Bloomfield's second son, who dies on 27 September.
27 November: Death of Bloomfield's mother.
December: Publication of Bloomfield's poem on smallpox vaccination, Good Tidings; or, News from the Farm, dedicated to Edward Jenner.


Bloomfield's wife, Mary, takes their son Charles to Worthing for the summer in the hope that his leg can be treated there.


9th edition of The Farmer's Boy. Bloomfield begins making Aeolian harps & embarks unsuccessfully in the book-trade. Publication of Views in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Northamptonshire; Illustrative of the Works of Robert Bloomfield; Accompanied with Descriptions: To which is Annexed, A Memoir of the Poet's Life, by Edward Wedlake Brayley, edited by James Storer and John Grieg. Publication of Wild Flowers; or, Pastoral and Local Poetry.
May: Bloomfield quarrels with his brother George, over George's siding with Capel Lofft.
November: After prefatory material he had wished to be included in the latest edition of The Farmer's Boy is omitted, Capel Lofft declares: 'As to the Farmers Boy & all future works of Mr Bloomfield I have done with them'.


Publication by subscription of Isaac Bloomfield's Six Anthems: for the use of Choirs where there is
no Organ.
23 March: Birth of Robert Henry, Bloomfield's third son.
August: Bloomfield tours the Wye Valley and the Welsh border country with his Mr and Mrs T. J. Lloyd Baker and their friends.


Publication of Nature's Music: Consisting of Extracts from Several Authors, with Practical Observations and Poetical Testimonies, in Honour of the Harp of Aeolus assembled and edited by Bloomfield.


Bloomfield brothers satirised in Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Publication in two volumes of the stereotype edition of Bloomfield's Poems, containing new prefaces and revised texts of some of his work.


Death of Bloomfield's brother Isaac. Publication of The Banks of Wye, a poem based on Bloomfield's tour of Wales.
14 March: Death of Bloomfield's patron, the Duke of Grafton.
August: Death of the bookseller Thomas Hood.


Death of Mary Lloyd Baker.
April: Bloomfield leaves London and moves to Shefford, Bedfordshire.


Death of Bloomfield's daughter, Mary.
June: Travels to Dover with his friend Joseph Weston, where he witnesses the landing of Tsar Alexander, ruler of Russia, and other leaders after the defeat of Napoleon.
October: Bloomfield informs T. J. Lloyd Baker that his wife has become a disciple of Joanna Southcott.


His last years are dogged by illness and partial blindness. Although temporarily corrected through the use of spectacles, his sight continues to deteriorate until the end of his life. Publication of The History of Little Davy's New Hat, a prose-work for Children.


September: Sir Egerton Brydges issues an appeal for a public subscription to aid Bloomfield who finds himself in financial distress, owing largely to 'the failure of his former booksellers'. This proves less successful than planned, and in November Bloomfield writes to his daughter, Hannah: 'I am afraid that my friends have been too sanguine in their hopes of the subscription'.


20 January: William Wordsworth writes to Benjamin Haydon about the 'considerable distress' Bloomfield finds himself in, and laments the current state of patronage.
February: The Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, involves himself in raising funds to aid Bloomfield and his family.


William Cobbett's Political Register incorrectly reports that Bloomfield has been 'taken in tow' by the government and 'pensioned for fear he should write for the people'.
April: Bloomfield spends time in London with his son Charles, who has been appointed as a teacher at the National School in Putney.
November: An application on Bloomfield's behalf is made to the Royal Literary Fund. The Fund awards him £40.


8 March: Bloomfield writes to Samuel Rogers, informing him that he has 'composed nearly a thousand lines of a new work'.
July: Despite his failing eyesight, Bloomfield finishes writing a new work, a play. This was finally published in 1823.
September: Bloomfield travels to London to search for lodgings for his family and to find a publisher for his latest work. 


George Bloomfield anonymously publishes Thetford Chalybeate Spa: a Poem by a Parishioner of St. Peters.
July: John Clare receives a letter from Bloomfield addressing him as 'Brother Bard, and fellow labourer'. 'Nothing upon the great theatre of what is called the world (our English world)', wrote Bloomfield, 'can give me half the pleasure I feel at seeing a man start up from the humble walks of life and show himself to be what I think you are.'


Bloomfield is forced to defend himself to T. J. Lloyd-Baker over rumours of his radical sympathies and lack of religious attendance.


Publication of May Day with the Muses, Bloomfield's final volume of poetry.
February: Bloomfield writes to his brother Nathaniel, to inform him that the 'old house at Honington is going, or gone to the hammer'. In fact, the sale did not go smoothly and added to Bloomfield's worries during his final years.
October: Bloomfield tells George: 'I have lost both my sons from my fireside, and though they are not buried I miss them sorely, and feel as if I had killd them both, and I cannot yet get over it!' 


Publication of Hazelwood-Hall, a Village Drama, in Three Acts.
26 January: death of Edward Jenner.
19 August: Bloomfield dies at home in Shefford.
September: Bloomfield's literary reputation is attacked in the Monthly Magazine.


Bloomfield's friend Joseph Weston edits the Remains of Robert Bloomfield for the benefit of the Bloomfield family, though sales are poor.
28-29 May: Bloomfield's family are forced to sell their possessions, including manuscripts and books belonging to Bloomfield, in order to pay off their debts. The family leave Shefford for London.

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