1898 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Capel Lofft

Rowland E. Prothero, in Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 1:337n.



Capell Lofft (1751-1824), educated at Eton and Cambridge, was called to the Bar in 1775. Succeeding in 1781 to the family estates near Bury St. Edmund's, he lived for some years at Troston Hall. Crabb Robinson (Diary, vol. i. p. 29) describes him, in 1795, as "a gentleman of good family and estate — an author on an infinity of subjects; his books were on Law, History, Poetry, Antiquities, Divinity, and Politics. He was then an acting magistrate, having abandoned the profession of the Bar. He was one of the numerous answerers of Burke; and, in spite of a feeble voice and other disadvantages, was an eloquent speaker." His boyish figure, slovenly dress, and involved sentences were well known on the platforms where he advocated parliamentary reform. On May 57, 1784, Johnson dined at Mr. Dilly's. Among the guests was "Mr. Capell Lofft, who, though a most zealous Whig, has a mind so full of learning and knowledge, and so much in exercise in various exertions, and withal so much liberality, that the stupendous powers of the literary Goliath, though they did not frighten this little David of popular spirit, could not but excite his admiration." Lofft held strong opinions in favour of the French Revolution, which he admired. He, "Godwin, and Thelwall are the only three persons I know (except Hazlitt) who grieve at the late events;" so writes Crabb Robinson, after the battle of Waterloo (Diary, vol. i. p. 495). He published numerous works on law and politics, besides four volumes of poetry: The Praises of Poetry, a Poem (1775); Eudosia, or a Poem on the Universe (1781); The first and second Georgics of Virgil (in blank verse, 1803); Laura, or an Anthology of Sonnets (1814). He also edited Milton's Paradise Lost. In November, 1798, Lofft read the manuscript of The Farmer's Boy, written by Robert Bloomfield in a London garret, where he worked as a shoemaker. Interested in the poem and the Suffolk poet, Lofft had it published in 1800, with cuts by Bewick, and a preface by himself.