Portrait frontispiece to Select Poems, etc., by the late John Dawes Worgan of Bristol.
The Remains of Robert Bloomfield (1824), published a year after his death, and edited by Joseph Weston with Bloomfield’s daughter, Hannah, includes as an Appendix to the first volume, “Poetical tributes to Robert Bloomfield”, by a variety of hands, including this sonnet by John Dawes Worgan
TO ROBERT BLOOMFIELD,
Author of “The Farmer’s Boy,” &c. &c.
SWEET poet of the Mead! whose artless Muse,The tribute is taken from Worgan's Select Poems, posthumously published in 1810. (Between the text printed in 1810 and reprinted in 1824 are some trivial differences, mostly of punctuation.) The sonnet, turning from the “artless Muse” of Bloomfield’s poetry to the “beauties of [his] mind”, strongly suggests some personal acquaintanceship between the two poets. Their link is Edward Jenner.
To Virtue sacred, and to Genius dear,
Robed the bright landscape in unfading hues,
And sang the beauties of the varying year:
Long as the wild thrush carols through the wood;
Long as the plough-share cleaves th’indented lea;
So long thy strains shall charm the wise and good,
And Fame shall twine her fairest wreaths for thee.
This be thy glory:—not that Nature’s powers
Thy fancy kindled at her sacred shrine;—
Not that she bade thee sing her rosy bowers,
And breathed a soul along each flowing line,—
But that, by Virtue’s holy flame refined,
Thy pages but reflect the beauties of thy mind.
There is a brief notice of Worgan’s death in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle for Monday, August 7, 1809
DIED.] Aged 19 [actually only 18], John Dawes Worgan, of Bristol, admired and sincerely and deservedly esteemed by all who knew him. His early ripe abilities were of the first rate; he was a Hebrew, Greek, and Latin scholar, and had added the acquirement of the French, Italian and other modern languages. He had been for some time domestic tutor to the sons of Dr. Jenner, who discovered his brilliant talents, but whose sagacity always predicted an early grave to this specimen of premature genius. He was a sincere Christian, of amiable manners, and unimpeachable morals: and would no doubt, had he lived, have done honour to human nature.Worgan was born in Bristol on 8th November, 1790, the son of a watchmaker; his father was an Anglican, but his mother belonged to the Moravian church, long active in Bristol. John was a precocious child; he was placed at Fulneck School, a Moravian establishment near Leeds, where his success was extraordinary, but his health was too delicate, and he was then removed to the establishment of a Mr. Pocock at Bristol. At twelve years of age he entered his father’s business, but when his father died, he returned to school, studying for the church. In his sixteenth year he went as tutor to the son of Richard Hart Davis, M.P. for Bristol, and thence to the family of Dr. Edward Jenner, of Berkeley, the discoverer of vaccination, looking after Jenner’s handicapped son.
John Dawes Worgan was part of Jenner’s household from September 1807. Bloomfield's poem on smallpox vaccination, Good Tidings; or, News from the Farm, dedicated to Edward Jenner, had been published in December 1804. There is every likelihood that they met, though it is disappointing that no copy of Worgan’s book appeared in the sale of Bloomfield’s library, nor is there any mention of him in surviving letters.
“Always delicate, slim and overgrown, Worgan’s health became more and more precarious ; a love affair, opposed by the young lady’s friends, finally landed him in a consumption, and he died in his 18th year, on the 24th [sic] of July, 1809” (Nicholls, 288-89). A memorial volume in 1810 saw the publication of Worgan’s posthumous Select Poems ... with a preface by William Hayley. The selection is prefaced by a biography of the youthful poet, concluding with an account of the manner of his passing (a typically Moravian “good death”)
Observing his mother in tears, he said, “My beloved mother, do not grieve, but rejoice; I am going from a world of sin and sorrow to never-ceasing joy; my dear Saviour hath, in answer to our united prayers, perfectly tranquillized my mind; every cloud is removed. Oh, thou God of compassion, great are thy mercies to me!” On the day preceding the night of his departure, being the 24th of July, he was very particular in an examination of the grounds of his confidence in the Divine favour. In the evening he said, “I am happy, inexpressibly happy; and if it should please God to call me home to-night, I can now go as a poor sinner, relying on my Saviour’s righteousness, and appear in the presence of God without fear or dismay” (58-59).The “Register Book of Births & Baptisms, Deaths & Burials which has been kept for the Chapel of the Protestant episcopal church of the United Brethren, commonly called Moravians, situate in Upper Maudlin Street in the city & County of Bristol founded in the year 1755”, records the death of John Dawes Worgan (aged eighteen years) on 25 July 1809 and his burial that same day.
The Romantic age saw a major revival of interest in the sonnet in England, even Bloomfield experimenting with the form, and his patron, Capel Lofft, providing a long discussion on the Petrarchan sonnet in the introduction to his anthology, Laura. Roger Meyenberg, the author of the only substantial study on Lofft, points out that it was a lifelong passion which even led Lofft to sign his own copy of Laura with the Italianised form of his name, “Capello Lofft di Trostuna”. Worgan, too, seems to have been keen on the sonnet form, since “Sonnet XXXIV”, dedicated to Robert Bloomfield and the “poetical tribute” of the Remains, is one of forty-three sonnets, some of them translations from Petrarch, in Worgan's Select Poems.
Robert Bloomfield, 1766-1823.—The remains of Robert Bloomfield ... In two volumes.—London: printed by Thomas Davison, Whitefriars, for the exclusive benefit of the family of Mr. Bloomfield; and published by Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1824.—2 v.
Appendices: v. 1, “Poetical tributes to Robert Bloomfield”; v. 2, Letters by members of the Bloomfield family and others.
William LeFanu.—A Bibliography of Edward Jenner, 1749-1823.—2nd ed. Winchester : St Paul's Bibliographies, 1985.—St. Paul's bibliographies ; 2.—ISBN 9780906795194
Previous ed.: published as A bio-bibliography of Edward Jenner, 1749-1823.—London : Harvey & Blythe, 1951.
Compiled by the librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons, discusses all publications by Jenner, and lists all letters known by or to him whether in manuscript or printed form.
Capel Lofft.—Laura : or, an Anthology of Sonnets (on the Petrarcan model) and Elegiac Quatuorzains, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German, original and translated; great part never before publisht. With a preface, critical and biographic, notes and index by Capel Lofft.—London : printed by R. Taylor for B. and R. Crosby, 1813-14.—5 v.
Bloomfield’s sonnet “To fifteen gnats seen dancing in the sun-beams on III Jan. MDCCCIII” is no 92 of vol. I.
Roger Meyenberg.—Capel Lofft and the English sonnet tradition : 1770–1815.—Tübingen : Francke, 2005.—Schweizer anglistische Arbeiten ; Bd. 130.—ISBN 10: 3772081045 / ISBN 13: 9783772081040
F.J. Nicholls and J. Taylor.—Bristol past and present.—Bristol : J.W. Arrowsmith, 1881-1882.—3 v.
Originally issued in 31 parts.
Samuel Wood, “A link with Jenner”, Annals of medical history. New Series, vol. 8, no. 5 (September 1936), 433-441.
Samuel Wood, “A link with Jenner—postscript”, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied sciences, vol. 5 (Summer 1950), 269-79.
John Dawes Worgan.—An address to the Royal Jenner Society, for the extermination of the small pox, by vaccine inoculation [sic] : delivered ... 1808.—London : Longman, 1808.
John Dawes Worgan.—Select Poems, etc., by the late John Dawes Worgan of Bristol, who died on the 25th of July 1809, aged nineteen years. To which are added some particulars of his life and character, by an early friend and associate; with a preface by William Hayley, Esq.—London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row, 1810.
Contents: Dedication (“To Edward Jenner, M.D. F.R.S. &c. &c. &c.”).—Preface.—Particulars of the life of John Dawes Worgan.—Letters, &c., selected from his papers.—Poems.—Six essays on vaccination.—Lines to the memory of John Dawes Worgan