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OF THE MEMOIRS OF
'Twas thus with Giles: meek, fatherless, and poor,
ITH pleasure we sit down to sketch a character
plicity, has attracted the attention of mankind. It is No uncommon thing for individuals, whose education, has been ably conducted, and whose emulation has been powerfully excited, to display that blaze of genius which rouses us into a pleasing astonishment. But to observe a young person rising above every untoward circumstance, even in spite of the disadvan. tages with which labour and poverty are attended,
this is a phenomenon of rare occurrence, and thercfore. particularly calculated to draw forth our admiration.
Robert BLOOMFIELD was born December 3, 1766, at Honington, about eight miles from Bury, in Suffolk. His father was a taylor, and died during his infancy. The mother earned her livelihood by keeping a school, in which of course her own children were instructed. Thus he learnt to read an acquisition which, however humble, lies at the foundation of every species of learning. His writing was obtained at another school, where he staid only a few months, so that his advantages were literally few and inconsiderable. And we hear of no other of the kind which he afterwards enjoyed.
He had reached his seventh year, when his mother again married and he was eleven years old when he left his home, being consigned over to the care of Farmer Austin, of Sapiston, a village near Honington. This master took him into his house, and treated him with kindness. The mother had now no expence with him, excepting the article of cloaths—but Mr. Austin soon remarked, that “ he was so small of his age that he was not likely to get his living by hard labour.”
At this period his brother, Mr. G. Bloomfield, informed his mother that he was disposed to take him, and teach him to make shoes-whilst another brother promised to cloath him. Upon this proposal, the mother brought him. herself in a coach to London, 28th June, 1791, where she delivered him over to the care of Mr. G. Bloomfieldsaying, “ she never should have been happy if she had not put him herself into his hands.” Nor did this satisfy her maternal affec. tion. She even charged her son, to whom she con. signed him, that every due attention should be paid to his welfare and feliciiy. Her words are too remarkable to be forgotten :-“ As you value a mother's blessing--- watch over him-set good examples for him---and never forget that he has lost his father !" This advice appears to have been followed, and attended with its usual good effects. It were fcrvenus
to be wished, that all parents were equally solicitous for the well-doing of their children. This would be the means of securing their present and future felicity.
Mr. G. Bloomfield then lived in Bell-allcy, Coleman-street. He wrote a narrative to Mr. Capel Loft, of Robert's life whence this account is taken-and here an interesting portion must be transcribed It is customary in such houses as are let to poor people in London, to have light garrets fit for mechanics to work in. In the garret, where we had two turn-up beds, and five of us worked, I received little Robert.
“ As we were all single men, lodgers at a shilling per week each, our beds were coarse, and all things far from being clean and snug, like what Robert had left at Sapiston. Robert was our man, to fetch all things to hand. At noon he fetched our dinners from the cook's shop: and any one of our fellow workmen that wanted to have any thing fetched in, would send him, and assist in his work and teach him, for a recompense for his trouble,
“ Every day when the boy from the public-house came for the pewter pots, and to hear what porter was wanted, he always brought the yesterday's newspaper. The reading of the paper we had been used to take by turns ; but after Robert came, he mostly read for us, because his time was of least value.
“ He frequently met with words that he was unacquainted with: of this he often complained. I one day happened at a book-stall to see a small Dictionary, which had been very ill used. I bought it for him for 4d. By the help of this he in liule time could read and comprehend the long and beautiful speeches of Burke, Fox, or North.
“ One Sunday, after an whole day's stroll in the country, we by accident went into a dissènting meeting-house in the Old Jewry, where a gentleman was lecturing. This man filled Robert with astonishment. The house was amazingly crowded with the most genteel people; and though we were forced to stand still in the aisle, and were much pressed, yet Robert al
ways quickened his steps to get into the town on a Sunday evening soon enough to attend this lecture.
“ The preacher lived somewhere at the west end of the town-his name was Fawcet. His language,' says Mr. G. Bloomfield, was just such as the Rambler is written in; his action like a person acting a tragedy ; his discourse rational, and free from the cant of Methodism.'
“ of him Robert learned to accent what he called hard words; and otherwise improved himself; and gained the most enlarged notions of Providence.''
A small mistake shall be here rectified. Mr. FawĈert did no. live at the west end of the town. He preached in the morning at Walthamstow, where he resided. He has now for sume time declined preaching, and is retired into the country. His lectures at the Old Jewry, the writer of this article attended, and he well remembers those beautiful strokes of oratory by which the imagination of Robert was so much des lighted and improved.
At this time the subject of our Memoir frequented the Debating Society at Coachmaker's Hall, and went a few times to Covent-Garden Theatre. The Review of the London Magazine also was a favourite topic of perusal—and the poetical department in that publication cherished and excited his love of poetry. He therefore sat down and wrote his Milkmaid, on the first of May. For a poem, written in his sixteenth year, it is wonderful-it exhibits the same selection of sentiment and delicacy of expression by which his subsequent productions have been distinguished.
About this period he became acquainted with Thomson's Seasons--of which performance he was most devoutly enamoured. He is known to have spoken more highly of that work than of any other which had engaged his attention.
In 1781, a question was agitated between the shoemakers-wheter those who had Icarut without an ajprenticeship could follow the trade. This dispute was carried to great lengths; and Robert was involved in the contest. He, however, at last thought proper to leave London, and to go back to his former situation in the country. Mr. Austin, the farmer, kindly received him, and here for two months he indulged his rural love and rural simplicity. The spirit of the Seasons, which he had read with so much rapture, now animated him. He wandered through the fields with à poet's eye, caught the inspiration of nature, and produced those glowing images of rustic life in his Farmer's Boy, which will not fail of conveying his name to a distant generation !
He, however, again soon returned to London, and was bound to Mr. Dudbridge by Mr. Intğam, of Bello Alley. His master acted towards him very honourably—and here he learnt his business, in a manner against which there could be no future exceptions.
In December, 1790, Robert married a young woman from Woolwich, by whom he has three children. To use his brother's words respecting him—" Like most poor men, he got a wife first, and had to get houshold stuff afterwards. It took him some ycars to get out of ready furnished lodgings. At length, by hard working, &c. he acquired a bed of his own, and hired the room up one pair of stairs at No. 14, Belle Alley, Coleman-street. The landlord kindly gave him leave to sit and work in the light garret, two pair of stairs higher. In this garret, amid six or seven other workmen, his active mind employed itself in com, posing the Farmer's Boy.”
This latter circumstance may, without exaggeration, be pronounced wonderful for such is the divine energy of genius, that it bursts through every impedio ment, shining forth with a peculiar effulgence and glory! The Farmer's Boy was published in 1799, under the immediate superintendence and patronage of Capel Loft, Esq. a gentleman well known in the republic of letters. His discernment enabled him instantly to perceive the merits of the poem, and his benevolence induced him to bring its author forward , with a distinguished degree of liberalily.