Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The snob

SNOB. A nick name for a shoemaker.

Trade card of Bloomfield, Boot & shoe maker, c. 1790:

<Bodleian Library. John Johnson Collection; British Museum. Prints & Drawings, Heal 18.8>

There is some doubt whether this trade card is Robert Bloomfield's or that of his brother George.

By the time Bloomfield was thirteen or fourteen, it was apparent that he was not cut out for the rigours of farm labour. Bloomfield’s mother was advised to find him a situation more suited to his physical capabilities. Her eldest sons, George and Nathaniel, then living in London, offered to take their younger brother into their charge. George, a shoemaker, would take in Robert and teach him the trade, while Nathaniel, a tailor, would provide him with clothing. Accordingly, on 29 June 1781, Bloomfield and his mother completed the stagecoach trip to London, where he was left in his brothers’ keeping. Bloomfield lived with his brother George and four other cobblers in a small, low-rent garret (which also doubled as their workshop) at 7 Pitcher’s Court, Bell Alley, Coleman Street.

The house in Pitcher’s Court, Bell Alley. Bloomfield’s workshop in garrett:

A row of three terraced houses, one said to be the residence of Robert Bloomfield; clothes hanging from a washing line in foreground, two women stand to the left, two boys playing marbles to the right; illustration to the Gentleman’s Magazine.
Etching and engraving, lettered with title below image, followed by “Once the Residence of Robert Bloomfield”, and at top right “Gent. Mag. Dec. 1823 Pl II p.497”.
Height: 171 millimetres. Width: 119 millimetres

About 1783, Robert and George decamped and took up residence at Blue Hart Court, Bell Alley.

In 1784, fearing prosecution by the Committee of the Lawful Crafts for illegally cobbling without having been officially apprenticed, Bloomfield returns to Suffolk. Despite ongoing legal difficulties Bloomfield returned to London after a two-month retreat and managed to finagle a quasi-legal standing as a cobbler by paying 5s. to John Dudbridge, who acted as his pro forma journey-master.

Bloomfield sets up on his own as a shoemaker. His brother George leaves London.

It was also about this time that the earliest evidence that Bloomfield was composing poetry surfaces. Poems that he had apparently composed in his mind while engaged in cobbling and later copied down were dispatched to the London Magazine for publication in the “Poet’s corner”, but his earliest published poem, “A Village Girl”, appeared in another periodical, 24 May 1786.

On 12 December 1790 Bloomfield married Mary-Anne Church, the daughter of a shipbuilder from Woolwich. In the following year the Bloomfields took up residence at 14 Bell Alley, Coleman Street, where the growing family lived and struggled to make ends meet for the next seven years.

May: Bloomfield began 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”.

His last years were spent as a shoemaker at Shefford-cum-Campton, Bedfordshire where he died in 1823.

The shoemaker, from L’encyclopédie: "Cordonnier et cordonnier-bottier," Planche 1ére.


La vignette ou le haut de la Planche représente la boutique d'un cordonnier.

Fig. 1. Cordonnier qui prend mesure.
2. Ouvrier qui cherche la forme qui convient.
3. Ouvrier qui coud une semelle
4. Ouvrier qui enforme une botte.
5, 6. Deux compagnons.
7. Un savetier sous son échoppe.
a, b, c, rangs de différentes formes.
d, formes de bottes.
e, e, bottes toutes faites.
f, mesures.
g, patron d'empeigne.
h, table chargée de différentes outils.

Bas de la Planche.

Fig. 1. Pince.
2. Tenaille.
3. Chausse - pié anglois.
4. Range - trépointe de derriere.
5. Bésaiguë ou buis.
6, 6. Tranchets.
7. Botte renvoyée à la fig. 48 de la seconde Planche.
8. n. 1. Astic de buis.
8. n. 2. Couteau à pié.
9. Astic d'os.
10. Clou à trois têtes.
11. Clou à deux têtes.
12. Clou à monter.
13. Clou d'épingle.
14. Compas ou mesure.
15. Carrelet.
16. Marteau.
17. Claques d'homme.
18. Claques de femmes.
19. Range - couture anglois.
20. Tranchet à ficher.
21. Etoile.
22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, A, B, C, D, E, F, alenes à l'angloise.
28. n. 1. Forme à monter.
28. n. 2. Forme brisée.
28. n. 3. Autre forme brisée.

(A work in progress: corrections and suggestions for improvement gratefully accepted.)

The vignette or upper part of the plate represents a shoemaker's shop.

Fig. 1. Shoemaker who takes measure.
2. Worker looking for the right shape.
3. Worker who sews a sole
4. Worker who wraps a boot.
5, 6. Two companions.
7. A cobbler under his stall.
A, b, c, rows of different shapes.
D, forms of boots.
E, e, ready made boots.
F, measures.
G, uppers pattern.
H, table loaded with different tools.

Lower part of the plate.

Fig. 1. Pliers
2. Pincers
3. Lasting pliers

4. Rear thrust.
5. Bésaiguë or boxwood.
6, 6. Paring knives

7. Boot as shown in Fig. 48 of Plate 2.
8. n. 1. Boxwood burnisher
8. n. 2. Half-moon knife.
9. Bone burnisher
10. Nail with three heads.
11. Nail with two heads.
12. Nail to be mounted.
13. Pin nail.
14. Shoemaker's rule or caliper measure
15. Square section needle
16. Hammer.
17. Vamp (men)
18. Vamp (women)
19. English stitching.
20. Cutting edge.
21. Etoile.
22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, A, B, C, D, E, F, English awls
28. n. 1. Last to be assembled.
28. n. 2. A broken
28. n. 3. Another broken last.


Bloomfield left an epitaph for himself, which was not used:
First made a Farmer’s Boy, and then a snob,
A poet he became, and here lies Bob.
                                                     April 1823.
<BL Add MS 30809 f.11, quoted in Selected Poems, page 131.>

Sources and further reading

Robert Bloomfield.—Selected Poems; edited by John Goodridge and John Lucas.—Nottingham: Trent Editions, 1998.

Denis Diderot & Jean le Rond d'Alembert.—L’Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.—Planches.—3e vol.—Paris, 1763.

Le grand dictionnaire terminologique

Francis Grose.—A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue.—3rd ed., corrected & enlarged.—London: printed for Hooper & Co., 1796.

David Kaloustian, “Bloomfield, Robert (1766–1823)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/2676]

William Edward Winks.—Lives of illustrious shoemakers.—New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1882.

No comments:

Post a Comment