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EDWARD VALENTINE BLOMFIELD, M. A.
FELLOW OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE.
THE long interruption which has taken place in this publication, is attributable to a variety of circumstances, the detail of which would hardly be interesting to the reader; they have arisen principally from the other engagements to which the time of its writers has been devoted. But the first occasion of its discontinuance, was the afflicting loss of Mr. Edward Blomfield, one of its original institutors and supporters. This blow was so severely felt by his colleagues, as to break off a pursuit, with which the recollection of this melancholy event was so immediately associated. Other circumstances shortly intervened to prevent its resumption; and thus the publication has been laid aside till the present time. Now, however, upon the revival of this journal, there is connected with it the bitter remembrance of the loss of him, who was once the pride and delight of his friends, and who promised to be an ornament to his country. The memory of such a character ought not to be lost; and this appears the appropriate place for some account of his short but admirable career: we feel moreover a satisfaction in calling the attention of our younger readers to one of the purest models for the imitation of all, who wish to obtain the love and esteem of society, and who aspire to fame by the paths of industry and virtue.
Edward Valentine Blomfield was born at Bury St. Edmund's on the 14th of February 1788, and was the second son of Charles Blomfield, Esq. of that town. He received his classical education at the grammar school of his native place, under the tuition of the Rev. Michael Becher, formerly fellow of King's College. Bury school has at all times maintained
high character, and appears to have been more uniformly distinguished than any seminary in this country, with the exception of the public schools: but never did its fame stand
higher than in the last twenty years, during which time it has supplied the University of Cambridge with no inconsiderable proportion of our ablest scholars. The subject of this Memoir, while laying an excellent foundation at this school for his eminence in the Greek and Latin, made himself master of several modern languages; and was careful to acquire many other accomplishments, which are both useful in the pursuit of knowledge, and ornamental to the scholar and the gentleman. In particular he displayed an early and remarkable genius for Painting; although he had scarcely any instruction in this art, yet his performances both in oil and water colours possessed an extraordinary degree of merit, and sometimes led the best judges to remark, that had he devoted himself more to that pursuit, he might have obtained the highest eminence as an artist.
In 1807, Mr. Edward Blomfield became a student of Caius College. In the open field which the University supplies to the talents and characters of young men, his literary merits soon became known; and his society was much sought, not only from his reputation as a scholar, but from the excellence of his disposition, his engaging demeanour, and his interesting conversation. An animated and sprightly manner, and the fund of varied information, with which his mind was stored, rendered him the delight of his companions; and since the qualifications of his heart corresponded with his mental endowments, since he was sincere and friendly as well as affable and entertaining, he continued remarkably and justly popular: nor did the consciousness of talent, or the fame of scholarship which he speedily obtained, produce in him the least appearance of presumption or vanity.
During the period of his undergraduateship he had the good sense to devote his main attention to the regular and prescribed studies and exercises of the University; reserving other pursuits for the relaxation of a leisure hour. His first public exercise was a copy of Latin Hexameters written for a tripos, the subject of which was his favourite art of Painting. At the decision of Sir William Browne's Medals in 1808, that for the Greek Ode was decreed to Mr. Rennell of King's College; but the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Barnes the Master of 3 X
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Peterhouse, whose classical taste and feeling are well known, thinking that there was among its competitors a composition so beautiful and so scholarlike that it ought by no means to pass undistinguished, resolved to bestow a prize of books upon its author, who proved to be Mr. Edward Blomfield. Ode, which was recited in the Senate-House at the Commencement, gained him great honour, and amply justified the measure of the Vice-Chancellor; who however thought fit in his speech on retiring from office, to advert to this subject, and to mention in neat and elegant terms the uncommon merits of the youth, as an apology for a step which had no precedent. The prize for the Epigrains was adjudged to him in the same year. In 1809 he obtained the medal for his beautiful Greek Ode In Desiderium Porsoni: and in his third year he was again successful in carrying off the prizes for both the Greek and the Latin Odes. It has been remarked that the number of his classical prizes exceeds that obtained by any individual upon record, with the exception of Mr. Jonathan Raine and Mr. John Tweddell. His powers were peculiarly adapted to such performances, which require that poetical taste and ingenuity, should be united with a thorough knowledge of the classical authors of the purest ages. His compositions are among the principal ornaments of the collection of Sir William Browne's prizes; where they continue to have the double effect of recording his name and talents, and of stimulating to emulation the successive generations of academical scholars.
For mathematical pursuits his genius was not equally calculated but his good sense convinced him of the great value of philosophical reading, not only in respect to the knowledge which it imparts, but the exercise which it gives to the powers of reasoning and of memory. He resolved therefore to make himself master of the most important departments of Natural Philosophy, whatever might be the exertion which it cost; and though his intimate friends, could observe that these studies were uncongenial and painful to him, yet he had too much manliness of spirit ever to complain of their irksomeness: and when he took his degree of Bachelor of Arts in January, 1811, he obtained a place among the wranglers of his year. His next trial was the examination for the Chancellor's Medals, an arena
better suited to his talents. His opponents were ripe and able scholars, to triumph over whom appeared no ordinary honour οὔ τοι ῥᾳδίως γε συμβαλὼν Μάχην τις αὐτοῖς καλλίνικον aσeTai-but the result of the contest was, that Mr. Edward Blomfield was declared the first Medallist. The decision happening to take place almost immediately before the election of a Chancellor of the University, the Latin oration which, in consequence of his success, he had to deliver, was postponed till the Installation of his Royal Highness in July. This speech, like all his productions, was elegant, scholarlike, and spirited; and received great additional effect from its manly and impressive delivery, with the advantage of a voice which was extremely pleasing and sonorous. A considerable part consisted of hi remarks upon the Abolition of the Slave Trade, a cause in which the Royal Chancellor had been so honourably distinguished; and contained an elegant apostrophe to the merits of his fellow townsman, Mr. Clarkson. The exercise excited an uncommon sensation in the large assemblage then collected in the University, and drew expressions of applause even from the gravest and most dignified characters present at that splendid celebration.
After this period, he continued to be generally resident in Cambridge, in the constant pursuit of knowledge, for which this place supplies so many facilities. The course of his studies now took a much more extensive range: but whatever occupied his attention, he was always careful to consider the end and the utility of the pursuit: and he shortly entered upon the studies of the sacred profession, for which he designed himself, and to which he intended that his knowledge of ancient and modern languages should be subservient.
The great and numerous academical distinctions which accrued to Caius College upon the system introduced under the auspices of the present master, were attended with some temporary inconvenience: the number of fellowships vacant was not sufficient to reward those students who had obtained high honours in the University; and as seniority under such circumstances could not be overlooked, there was a prospect of Mr. Edward Blomfield having to wait a considerable period, before he could be chosen a fellow. He was induced, therefore, to accept an
invitation to Emmanuel College, where he became classical Lecturer in 1812, and in the following spring, the earliest moment at which by the statutes of that College he was eligible, he succeeded to a fellowship.
In the year 1813, as soon as the successes of the allied powers, and the liberation of Prussia from the French, had opened the continent to English travellers, he determined to avail himself of the opportunity, and in company with two of his intimate friends, he set out upon a tour in Germany. Even then the nearest port of the continent open to Englishmen was Gottenburg: and from hence Mr. Blomfield and his companions traversed Sweden, visited Stockholm, and then crossing the Baltic, found their way into Germany, and reached the head quarters of the Crown Prince's army. It can seldom have happened that a tour has been made at a period more interesting, or affording more objects of attention to the intelligent and enquiring traveller. Under such circumstances, his acquaintance with the German language proved a great advantage : the letters of himself and his companions written to their friends at home, gave the most lively pictures of the state of the countries which they visited, and of the public feeling which they remarked. Their travels extended to Berlin, Breslau and Vienna, and the drawings, sketched by the hand of Mr. Blomfield, displayed so much spirit and ingenuity, that it seems a matter of regret that they should not have been engraved. It was during this summer that he formed a personal acquaintance with Professor Wolf at Berlin, and Professor Schneider at Breslau he took care to inform himself accurately of the state of literature in Germany, a subject of which so little had been known in England for some years. Upon his return, in November, he drew up a paper upon this topic, which appeared in the second number of the Museum Criticum, and was perused with great interest at the time.
The details of an academical life cau seldom supply much variety in this case, it is sufficient to observe, that as Mr. Edward Blomfield became more known, his reputation continually advanced. His extensive knowledge and interesting conversation occasioned his society to be courted by persons of all ages; while the excellence of his disposition and the