Patronage and Poetic Form: Henry Kirke White, Capel Lofft, and the Monthly Mirror

Christopher Catanese

In a sonnet sequence in Henry Kirke White’s debut volume of poetry, Clifton Grove, a pair of linked poems appears which reflect on the form and nature of the sonnet itself. The first is an ‘admonishment’ (written not by Kirke White but by the literary critic Capel Lofft) which seems rather paternalistically to chide Kirke White on supposed formal improprieties in his sonnet-making; the second poem is a reply by Kirke White himself, entitled ‘recantatory, in reply to the foregoing elegant admonition:’

———————————————————————————–

Sonnet VI. by Capel Lofft, Esq.

This Sonnet, was addressed to the Author of this volume, and was occasioned by several little Quatorzains, misnomer’d Sonnets, which he published in the Monthly Mirror. He begs leave to return his thanks to the much-respected Writer, for the permission so politely granted to insert it here, and, for the good opinion he has been pleased to express, of his productions.

Ye whose aspirings court the Muse of lays,
   ‘Severest of those orders which belong,
   Distinct and separate, to Delphic song,’
Why shun the Sonnet’s undulating maze?
And why its name, boast of Petrarchian days,
   Assume, its rules disown’d? whom from the throng
The Muse selects, their ear the charm obeys
   Of its full Harmony:—they fear to wrong
The Sonnet, by adorning with a name
   Of that distinguish’d import, lays, tho’ sweet,
   Yet not in magic texture taught to meet
Of that so varied and peculiar Frame.
   O think!—to vindicate its genuine praise
Those it beseems, whose Lyre a favouring impulse sways!

Sonnet VII. Recantatory, in reply to the foregoing elegant admonition

Let the sublimer Muse, who, wrapt in Night,
     Rides on the Raven pennons of the storm,
     Or o’er the field, with purple havock warm,
Lashes her steeds, and sings along the fight;
Let her, whom more ferocious strains delight,
     Disdain the plaintive Sonnet’s little form,
     And scorn to its wild cadence to conform,
Th’ impetuous tenor of her hardy flight.
But me, far lowest of the sylvan train,
     Who wake the wood-nymphs from the forest-shade
     With wildest song;—Me, much behoves thy aid
Of mingled melody, to grace my strain,
And give it pow’r to please, as soft it flows
Thro’ the smooth murmurs of thy frequent close.
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This sonnet exchange is motivated by Lofft’s apparent disapproval, as a presumed authority on the sonnet form, of Kirke White’s versification: ‘Why shun the Sonnet’s undulating maze?’ Lofft asks, ‘And why its name, boast of Petrarchian days, / Assume, its rules disown’d?’ As Kirke White glosses in the poem’s headnote in Clifton Grove, Lofft’s reprimand in sonnet form ‘was addressed to the Author of this volume, and was occasioned by several little Quatorzains, misnomer’d Sonnets, which he published in the Monthly Mirror.’

If today it seems unusual that an author would include this exchange in their book—with one of the poems, composed by another poet, amounting to a critical attack on the author’s own work—such a poetic dialogue demonstrates a mode of literary patronage that would have been familiar to both writers and that had already begun months or even years prior in the pages of the London magazine the Monthly Mirror. In this essay I trace the early relationship between Kirke White and Lofft, as it unfolded in the pages of the Monthly Mirror, and read the poetic form of the Clifton Grove sonnets against the background matrix of patronage and publicity that is in play: first, in Lofft’s evolving self-positioning as a literary authority, specifically with regard to the sonnet form; second, in Kirke White’s self-positioning as an untutored talent seeking a patron; and thirdly, in the modesty topos through which Kirke White establishes his own poetic autonomy even while performing his deference to Lofft’s supervision.

To begin at a more general level, the publication of Kirke White’s Clifton Grove represented not only a poetic debut but a relatively explicit bid by the seventeen-year-old poet for further future patronage: the volume’s prefatory opening ode ‘To My Lyre’ suggests that Kirke White’s ambition was ‘to dwell / Where Cam, or Isis winds along,’ and that a longed-for access to a higher social and cultural station (via Cambridge or Oxford) could transform his poetic output from a ‘little dirge’ to ‘happier lays.’ The brief review of the volume published in the Monthly Review, too, emphasizes this particular aspect of the publication’s paratext, and, indeed, White’s efforts would eventually succeed in gaining him a scholarship to begin study at Cambridge.[1]

And yet, if the publication of Clifton Grove represented on one hand a bid for future patronage, on the other it represented the fruition of an earlier bid for patronage of a different sort, one mediated through print periodicals and which we might instead call publicity. As early as December 1800, when Kirke White was barely fifteen, he had begun regularly submitting work for publication in the Monthly Mirror—the magazine wing of the same publishers, Vernor and Hood, who would eventually produce Clifton Grove.[2]  Over the next few years, the teenage Kirke White waged a sustained campaign to gain recognition in the pages of the Monthly Mirror—publishing miscellaneous short pieces of literary criticism, a successful series of prose anecdotes called ‘Melancholy Hours,’ and many of the poems that would later appear in Clifton Grove—courting not only the general literary readership of the magazine, but eventually more specifically the well-known patron Capel Lofft, whose reputation was then at a peak due to the runaway success of his previous protégé Robert Bloomfield’s Farmer’s Boy (1800).

Capel Lofft was a retired lawyer and a well-known Whig legal and political correspondent, amateur astronomer, and belletristic poet and critic. After being removed from his post due to unseemly sympathy toward a lower-class convict condemned to the gallows, he gave himself over to his literary pursuits. From 1800 onward, he featured regularly in the Monthly Mirror as a translator, sonneteer, and observer of celestial phenomena—and also as the object of much acclaim in his role as a patron of the ‘peasant poet’ Robert Bloomfield and other aspiring poets.[3] Bloomfield’s Farmer’s Boy had become a surprise bestseller on an unprecedented scale, and in the ensuing years Kirke White was not the only one to court Lofft’s favour: a Reverend John Black, for example, is lightly rebuffed in the pages of the Mirror, in an otherwise favorable November 1801 review of his poem The Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, for including unsolicited praise of Lofft in the poem as part of his own bid for patronage.[4] From Kirke White’s earliest appearance in December 1800 until the notice of Clifton Grove’s publication in May 1803, both he and Lofft published regularly in the Monthly Mirror, their work often appearing on the same or consecutive pages, and from Lofft’s close engagement with the magazine’s contents, and especially with the way his own public image was represented therein, he would certainly have been aware of Kirke White’s writing prior to the culminating sonnet exchange.[5]

With regard to the sonnets at hand, and to the accusation that Kirke White’s poems were actually ‘Quatorzains, misnomer’d Sonnets,’ it is important to note that the ostensible distinction between sonnet and ‘quatorzain’—a French-derived term, arcane even then, denoting a poem of fourteen lines—is not one that would have been widely recognized at the time. And yet, in addition to providing a pretext for Lofft’s paternalistic tutorship of a would-be poet, the distinction would also become an important compass point in Lofft’s larger personal campaign to establish himself as a literary authority on the sonnet. The three Kirke White sonnets under scrutiny first appeared in the Monthly Mirror in September 1802, each following an identical pattern of end rhymes [abab cdcd efef gg]. A few issues later, along with his admonitory sonnet, Lofft included the explanatory note, ‘the structure of the true Sonnet . . . has too much been confounded with the Elegiac Quatrain of fourteen lines, closing with a couplet.’[6] Though this pedantic insistence on distinguishing the ‘true Sonnet’ would go on to become a pet cause for Lofft, the pattern used by Kirke White (which we today refer to casually as the ‘Shakespearean’ sonnet) was by far the more common form at the time.[7]

What is important for our purposes here is that Lofft would continuing waging his sonnet purification campaign for another decade or more, as part of a reactionary (male) current trying to wrest the sonnet back from its sentimental and Della Cruscan revivals of the previous decades. This effort culminated in the publication of Lofft’s massive five-volume Laura, or an Anthology of Sonnets (on the Petrarcan Model,) and Elegiac Quatuorzains in 1814, which, as the pedantic title would suggest, includes a headnote on each page distinguishing each poem as either ‘sonnet’ or ‘quatorzain.’ His exchange with Kirke White on this subject therefore intersects with, and is one of the earliest public salvos in, a campaign that would come to define Lofft’s belletristic career. In this sense, we can read in Lofft’s sonnet a dual motivation: to publicly demonstrate his tutelage of, and an implied offer of patronage to, Kirke White, while at the same time advancing his own authority to dictate the proper bounds of the sonnet form.

The overarching gesture of Lofft’s admonishment is the suggestion that knowledge of the ‘true Sonnet’s’ form is analogous to the secret at the heart of a select order or mystery cult—a particular ‘charm’ and ‘magic texture’ must be achieved—with the implication, of course, that Lofft himself is able to discourse knowingly on the subject as one of the already initiated. The opening octet [abba abab] poses the problem, or rather poses a pair of alternatives to Kirke White: does he wish to ‘belong’ to the order of the ‘song,’ or will he instead remain among the ‘throng,’ those who are ‘wrong.’ The direct quotation in lines 2–3 pose the problematic in exactly the terms Lofft wishes, and in adverting to lines written by the well-known sonneteer Anna Seward, Lofft adduces testimony by an established authority that confronts Kirke White with an explicit, if coded, bit of oneupsmanship: one of Kirke White’s sonnets had been titled ‘Sonnet Written on a Blank Leaf at the End of a Volume of Poems by Miss Seward’; Lofft’s quotation seems to ask whether Kirke White had actually finished reading the book before picking up his pen.[8]

The sestet [cddc aa], beginning with ‘The Sonnet . . .,’ as if to signal the beginning of a proper definition,[9] lays out first the necessary imperative (the would-be poet must ‘meet . . . that so varied and peculiar Frame’) and then the admonishment (‘O think!’), along with the stakes at hand: in order to receive ‘favour,’ the poet must ‘vindicate’ his praise—vindicate in this case playing on the meaning ‘to provide justification for,’ but also ‘assert a right to,’ ‘maintain against opposition,’ and ‘to clear of a suspicion or criticism.’ The extreme convolution of the final alexandrine might simply show Lofft struggling to express something not easily rendered in a single line, but the subject/object confusion (among Lofft, Kirke White, the Sonnet, the Lyre, and ‘those,’ who is doing the favouring? the vindicating?) can also play into a productive ambiguity in the poetic fiction undergirding the poet-patron relationship, as we shall see below.

The final thing to note in Lofft’s sonnet is the preponderance of a vocabulary, or ‘diction’ in Donald Davie’s sense, of ownership and hierarchy—the elevated ‘distinction’ of insular orders and hereditary names; ‘aspiring’ and ‘assuming’ on the one hand, ‘ruling’ and ‘owning’ on the other; and the ‘obedience,’ ‘meetness,’ and ‘beseeming’ of propriety. The separation of these two orders is permeable, in the case of genuinely praiseworthy accomplishment, but then still only as an elevation bestowed: the ‘Muse selects,’ a ‘favouring impulse sways.’ This implication of favour, of a selection that might elevate and distinguish from the throng, is the hint of potential patronage in what otherwise amounts to a reprimand. Lofft makes the terrain for the engagement quite explicit—one on which he stands to increase his authority on the sonnet form and his status as a patron—and leaves it to Kirke White whether, as would-be beneficiary, he is willing publicly submit to Lofft’s authority in order dialectically to gain status for himself as a poet with Lofft’s valuable imprimatur.

Kirke White’s role in this exchange need not be seen as an inferior term in the equation, however, but one of a willing and active participant in constructing a public relationship, even courtship, that will redound to the benefit of both Lofft and himself. There is a third sonnet, not included in the final Clifton Grove volume and which had been published the February prior to the back-and-forth, in which Kirke White first opens the channel between them and seeds some of the themes that will be taken up: it is here, for example, that Kirke White first opposes Lofft’s singular merit to the ‘throng’ of the reading public; identifies himself with lower register of a ‘woodland’ muse; and, by representing patronage as ‘foster[ing] kindred worth’ and rescuing ‘misfortune’s child,’ both appeals to Lofft’s paternal authority and also stakes a subtle claim for due sympathy as a younger relation in poetic vocation.

Kirke White’s earlier ‘Sonnet to Capel Lofft’ consists of an elaborate thirteen-line recusatio—detailing the ways Kirke White’s ‘simple Muse . . . fain would bring’ to Lofft a poem that could adequately celebrate his wisdom, philanthropy, and literary skill—concluding with the coy disavowal: ‘But ah! she shrinks abash’d before the arduous theme.’[10] This classical trope of self-assertion via feigned—or perhaps better, performative—humility is part of a larger strategy that we see redeployed tactically in Kirke White’s later ‘Recantatory Sonnet’ (the ‘recantation’ itself will be seen to participate in the same trope), but the classical pedigree and social sophistication of this opening appeal is gauged to engage Lofft’s self-regard and also his self-consciously learned sensibility: Lofft would presumably be more gratified to be compared to the ‘Pylian sire’ than to be praised as ‘wise.’ That Lofft did not acknowledge or respond directly to this cold call but waited six months, and several more publications by young Kirke White, for a different opportunity to reply from a position of stern superiority can be seen as part of the courtship involved, perhaps waiting to judge the merit of Kirke White’s subsequent publications.

In addition to this recusatio or modesty topos, the other strategy developed by the young Kirke White in his longer publicity campaign in the pages of the Monthly Mirror (one which also reappears as part of the tactical gesture of the ‘Recantatory Sonnet’) is to begin to establish himself as a critical authority on the tradition. After his ‘Poem on Music’ was nominally accepted but shelved in December of 1800, and a second poem had been rejected for the February 1801 issue, Kirke White’s first actual bylines appeared in May and June of 1801, not for original poetry but for two short critical essays.[11] His first, in May, notes the ‘true sublimity’ of a passage in Psalm 18—in which the Lord ‘flies upon the wings of the wind’—and purports to trace a lineage of this trope’s imitation through the major English poets, dwelling on variations in Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Thomson, and Chatterton, among others.

Interestingly, in subsequent issues this essay would ignite a series of replies from various correspondents over several months, and Kirke White is drawn into the centre of a minor imbroglio concerning the merits of different translations of the Psalms, whether cherubim is singular or plural, and so forth. While the specifics of the debate are less relevant, two things emerge from the exchange: firstly, that all correspondents agree with Kirke White on the premise of the intrinsic, even unsurpassed, sublimity of the psalm in question; and secondly, that he has made something of a (very small, very temporary, and yet probably still somewhat thrilling for the young Kirke White) public splash in presiding over this debate. The background context of this otherwise passing moment in the monthly periodical’s spotlight, along with the themes and strategies of the original tributary sonnet, do much to explain the unusual shape of Kirke White’s sonnet rejoinder to Capel Lofft’s admonishment.

If it is slightly ironic in the context of this quibble to note that neither Lofft’s nor Kirke White’s sonnets follow the pattern of what would eventually be regarded as the strict Petrarchan sonnet (the sestet comprising two tercets, rather than the quatrain-plus-couplet), Kirke White matches Lofft’s reply in conserving the rhyme of the opening quatrain over the entire octet [abba abba], the ‘undulating maze’ which seems to have been the sticking point.[12] This strict emulation is in extreme tension, however, with the unexpected subject matter of the octet: an extended characterization of the ‘sublimer Muse,’ who must ‘Disdain the plaintive Sonnet’s little form, / And scorn to its wild cadence to conform.’ On one hand this is quite an insubordinate pose to take, suggesting not only that formal quibbles pale in the light of true inspiration, but further, that the purported domain of Lofft’s authority is itself ‘little’ and ‘plaintive’ compared to the martial virtues of this ‘ferocious’ and ‘hardy’ vision of poetry. What’s more, this sublimer Muse ‘Rides on the Raven pennons of the storm’—directly referencing the trope from Psalm 18 on which Kirke White had previously established himself as a local authority, thereby allowing him to position himself in a much longer and more hallowed lineage of great English poets (not to mention the trope’s ancient prophetic pedigree).[13] A line that without the context of his earlier critical writings in the Monthly Mirror might seem to be something of a non sequitur instead appears to be a tactical, if perhaps brash, deployment of the autodidact Kirke White’s strongest pretensions to literary authority in his own right. Needless to say, the overall effect of the octet is not what one would call ‘recantatory,’ and in fact seems to exult in the opportunity to trivialize both the admonishment and more generally the ground of the debate.  

On the other hand, such a refractory opening does heighten the eventual effect of the sestet’s turn, a sudden reversal making use of the same rhetorical recusatio as in his original tributary sonnet. ‘But me,’ it begins, ‘far lowliest of the sylvan train’—thereby sinking rapidly from the aerial sublime back to the ‘woodland’ register, and (purportedly) disavowing the lofty, out-of-proportion pretensions of the opening. The closing lines, finally, skillfully and ingratiatingly represent the effects of Lofft’s benevolent favour on Kirke White’s poetry, while also accurately portraying the mingling and dialectically reinforcing nature of the patron-poet relationship:

                         Me, much behoves thy aid                                                                      Of mingled melody, to grace my strain,                                                                            And give it pow'r to please, as soft it flows                                                                                  Thro' the smooth murmurs of thy frequent close.

In other words, Lofft’s aid joins and augments the melody of Kirke White’s poetry, to better please Lofft as it flows through Lofft’s domain. The mingled agency of the traditional water metaphor for sweetly flowing verse calls back to the ‘tributary’ image of patronage in the Kirke White’s first sonnet, and the spatial metaphor for sonnet-making as ‘thy frequent close’ returns the domain of the exchange to the proprietary (property) metaphors, and the class implications, governing Lofft’s admonitory sonnet: if Kirke White sings sweetly to the wood-nymphs of the forest, Lofft is lord of the estate.

Aside from this carefully choreographed negotiation of the patron-poet relationship, what is perhaps most climactic about the final sestet is the revelatory discarding of the undergirding poetic fiction of the muse as stand-in for poetic agency. In Kirke White’s tributary sonnet, it was a ‘simple Muse’ who sings to Lofft; in Lofft’s admonishment, it is the Muse who selects from among aspiring poets those will be favored. The turn of the sestet, and its insistent repetition—’But me . . . me . . .’—drops the previously coded, quasi-allegorical figures of creativity and patronage that have populated the previous sonnets, as if to announce, finally, his own arrival on the scene of the poem.

If these two sonnets from Clifton Grove are not the most accomplished in the volume—Lofft’s a bit clunky to the ear, Kirke White’s perhaps unsubtle in pursuing his aims—they nevertheless record traces of the volume’s origin, demonstrate an important aspect of the economic basis of poetry publishing at the time, and gesture toward the shifting nexus of old-fashioned patronage, the dialogic nature of coterie dynamics, and the newer phenomenon of a mass reading public mediated by periodicals. Patronage for working-class writers came to be mediated in new ways in the Romantic age of bestsellers: as Tim Fulford has detailed, Lofft’s previous beneficiary, Robert Bloomfield, often struggled over both the integrity of his own compositions and the representations of his own person in the paratexts Lofft used to sell The Farmer’s Boy.[14]In most cases, having a patron meant being patronized. And yet even if Lofft reaped cultural and literal capital from these engagements, both Bloomfield and Kirke White found ways to assert their own autonomy within the work itself. Bloomfield, though never receiving financial compensation commensurate with his success, went on to a longer career as a published poet and eventually regained textual control of his work in later editions. Though Clifton Grove would not be quite the coup for his publishers, Henry Kirke White—as a teenager corresponding by post from Nottingham—managed to get the attention of a periodical readership, court the attention of a known benefactor, and parlay this exchange into a published volume and eventually a scholarship to Cambridge. Though his writing career was cut short by his untimely death, the outsized influence of his work on other contemporary writers was made possible by his canny navigation of Romantic-era publicity and patronage networks and tactical fashioning of sonnet form.  


[1] ‘Mr. White has scarcely attained his 18th year, has hitherto exerted himself in the pursuit of knowlege under the discouragements of penury and misfortune, and now hopes, by this early authorship, to obtain some assistance in the prosecution of his studies at Cambridge.’ Monthly Review, February 1804.

[2] See ‘Correspondence’ in Monthly Mirror, December 1800, on the acceptance of White’s ‘Poem on Music,’ though it would not appear until a year later in the December 1801 number (and then presumably due to some persistent follow-up nudges from Kirke White [see ‘Correspondence’ in Monthly Mirror, November 1801]).

[3] Lofft published an ambitious, encyclopedic scientific poem called Eudosia in 1781, but by the time of his retirement he was engaged largely as a public figure lending his thoughts and imprimatur to numerous literary projects; a few years later Byron would derisively refer to Lofft as ‘the Maecenas of shoemakers and preface-writer general to distressed versemen.’ Byron, ‘Note’ to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

[4] ‘For the latter part of this poem, with some remarks, Mr. Black acknowledges himself indebted to Mr. Capel Lofft, whom he distinguishes as ‘a bard beloved by all the Muses.’ To this just eulogium we would willingly add our tribute of admiration, but it is now too late. . . As a man of genius, a poet, a critic, and a profound scholar, Mr. Lofft is too well known, at this time of the day, either to suffer by censure, or to benefit by praise.’ Monthly Mirror, November 1801.

[5] Beginning in 1800, Lofft appears in almost every issue of the Monthly Mirror, whether with poems submitted on behalf of other poets, with a two-part autobiographical essay, as the recipient of praise by admirers or of carefully worded censure by detractors, or in the society notices at the death of his wife, his courtship in sonnets of and then his marriage to a new wife. Between December 1800 and December 1801, Kirke White’s and Lofft’s writings appear together in nine issues.

[6] Kirke White’s sonnets are ‘Sonnet Written on a Blank Leaf at the End of a Volume of Poems by Miss Seward,’ ‘Sonnet Written at the Grave of a Friend,’ and ‘Sonnet: Give me a cottage . . .,’ all in Monthly Mirror, September 1802, 199–200. Lofft’s reply appears in Monthly Mirror, December 1802, 407.

[7] In 1796, for example, Coleridge wrote that it had been Charlotte Smith, along with William Lisle Bowles, ‘who first made the Sonnet popular among the present English,’ and both Bowles and Smith almost invariably follow this three-quatrains-and-a-couplet pattern in their sonnets. Quoted in Bethan Roberts, Charlotte Smith and the Sonnet (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019), 1. See Rev. W. L. Bowles, Sonnets and Other Poems, 3rd. ed., 1794; and Charlotte Smith, Elegiac Sonnets, 6th ed., 1792. Smith directly acknowledges the difference between the English sonnet and its ‘Italian model’ (v): ‘I am told, and I read it as the opinion of very good judges, that the ligitimate Sonnet is ill calculated for our language’ (iii).

According to Stuart Curran, Lofft maintains an ‘idiosyncratic’ separation between the Italian and Shakespearean sonnet and ‘denies the latter’s claim to legitimacy,’ despite the fact that ‘such a distinction is seldom encountered in contemporary writing on the sonnet.’ See Stuart Curran, Poetic Form and British Romanticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 37.

Most examples of sonnets published in the Monthly Mirror follow this ‘Shakespearean’ pattern, including sonnets published by Lofft before this exchange took place. See, for example, Monthly Mirror, October 1800, 249–251.

[8] The sonnet in question—much more accomplished than Lofft’s—is Seward’s ‘LXIV. To Mr. Henry Cary, On The Publication Of His Sonnets’; Seward tackles the same problematic head-on, and by comparison Lofft’s production looks quite diffuse. While Seward’s sonnet authoritatively poses the issue as a normative one, the main differences in Lofft’s version involve his inclusion of his rather defensive gatekeeping vocabulary, as described below.

Prais’d be the Poet, who the Sonnet’s claim,
        Severest of the orders that belong
        Distinct and separate to the Delphic Song,
        Shall venerate, nor its appropriate name
     Lawless assume. Peculiar is its frame,
        From him deriv’d, who shunn’d the City Throng,
        And warbled sweet thy rocks and streams among,
        Lonely Valclusa! – and that Heir of Fame,
     Our greater MILTON, hath, by many a lay
        Form’d on that arduous model, fully shown
        That English Verse may happily display
     Those strict energic measures, which alone
        Deserve the name of Sonnet, and convey
        A grandeur, grace and spirit, all their own.

[9] This distinction is less evident in the Clifton Grove volume, in which the awkwardness of Lofft’s syntax and enjambment somewhat mitigate the effect, but in the original printing in the Monthly Mirror, the sestet is set off as a separate stanza with its own numerical heading. See Monthly Mirror, December 1802, 407.

[10] See Monthly Mirror, February 1802, 126. Kirke White’s other sonnets all conclude in iambic pentameter, and so it is possible that, in it’s metre, the final alexandrine in Lofft’s admonishment signals his acknowledgment of this initial sonnet—though this may be giving Lofft too much credit.

SONNET TO CAPEL LOFFT, ESQ.

Lofft, unto thee, one tributary song,
  The simple Muse, admiring, fain would bring;
She longs to lisp thee to the list’ning throng,
  And with thy name to bid the woodlands ring.
Fain would she blazon all thy virtues forth,
  Thy warm philanthropy, thy justice mild,
Would say how thou didst foster kindred worth,
  And to thy bosom snatch’d Misfortune’s child:
Firm she would paint thee, with becoming zeal,
  Upright, and learned, as the Pylian sire,
  Would say how sweetly thou could’st sweep the lyre,
And shew thy labours for the public weal:
  Ten thousand virtues tell with joys supreme,
  But ah! she shrinks abash’d before the arduous theme.

[11] Before Kirke White’s ‘Poem on Music’ finally appeared in December of 1801, Kirke White also received rejections for an elegy on Cowper (September 1801) and for some remarks in Latin on the Iliad and Odyssey (which ‘would not be generally interesting to our readers’); another piece, a ‘translation from Bion,’ is apparently lost in the mail (November 1801). His piece on the sublimity of the Psalms (May 1801), along with the further replies and debate it generates (July, August, September, and November 1801) therefore represent by far the greatest public exposure yet for the writing of the still-teenaged Kirke White.

[12] See Lofft’s Petrarchan sonnets in the Monthly Mirror in October 1801 [abab abab cddc ee], December 1801 [abba abba cde cde], March 1802 [abba aaba cdcd aa], and April 1802 [abba abba cdcd aa]—as well as his ‘Sonnet, which, in the structure of its rhimes, and in all respects, appears to me to be most correctly and most happily form’d on the best Italian model’ in January 1801 [abba baba cddc ee].

[13] It is also interesting to note that Kirke White seems, from among the pantheon discussed in his critical essay on the trope, to have chosen ‘the unfortunate Chatterton’ as his particular patron: his line adopts its particular word choice from Chatterton’s ‘And rides upon the pinions of the wind.’ See Monthly Mirror, May 1801, 296.

[14] See ‘Editorial Introduction’ to The Farmer’s Boy, in The Collected Writings of Robert Bloomfield, Romantic Circles Electronic Editions.