The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 29. John Bampfylde

In passing from groups or batches to individuals, an accidental link to the last-mentioned writer, in madness and in sonnet writing, may be found in a curious person, who, like others, owes his survival in literary history to Southey, and who might, perhaps, have been dealt with in the last volume. Among the “disdained and forgotten” ones who were included in Specimens of Later English Poetry, was John Bampfylde, a member of one of the best Devonshire families, a Cambridge man and a suitor of Reynolds’s niece Miss Palmer, who figures often in Madame d’Arblay’s Diary and in other books of the Johnsonian library. Bampfylde led an unhappy and disorderly life, and died mad; but, a decade before Bowles, he had published a tiny volume of sonnets, two of which Southey reprinted as “among the most original in English,” with a couple of other pieces from manuscript. The phrase “original” would seem to have attracted surprise from some of the very few persons who have dealt with Bampfylde; but Southey was not wont to use words lightly, and it is clear what he meant. Except for Warton (who was a friend of Bampfylde, was made the subject of one of his sonnets and was clearly his host at a dinner at Trinity, Oxford, which forms the subject of another), there were few sonneteers in 1779, and Bampfylde may well share some of the praise which has been given to Bowles, as an “origin.” His own language is frankly Miltonic (“Tuscan air” actually appears in the Trinity piece), but the greater number of his sonnets are entitled Evening, Morning, The Sea, Country enjoyment and so forth, and the opening of the poem To the River Teign, first printed by Southey, though classicised (after Milton and Gray) in diction, does not ill carry out the latter poet’s example (in his letters if not in his poems) of direct attention to actual “vales and streams.”