Devon Notes & Queries, vol. I, (January 1900 to January 1901), p.109.
Prepared by Michael Steer
Brushfield’s Note provides speculative information and scraps from the records, about Christopher Jones, (active 1775-1782) Crediton’s woolcomber and poet. Nothing is known of his background. Many of his poems offer patriotic sentiments in times of war and Dr Johnson was a patron for several years. Brushfield became a member of the Devonshire Association in 1882, was elected to the council in 1883, and was president in 1893–4. The extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.
Note 75. CHRISTOPHER JONES (par. 43, p. 69). An interesting brief autobiography of this Devonshire poet in the Town and Country Magazine for 1775, pp. 325-6, is introduced in a some- what curious manner. There are, in the first place, some "Stanzas addressed to Christopher Jones, a Journeyman Woolcomber, with a large Family, at Crediton in Devonshire, Author of several elegant little Poems." The set of seven four-line verses is signed "J. Jones," but whether he was related to the poet is not mentioned. This is followed by an "Ode to Benevolence. By Christopher Jones," commencing:
"Let Fame her thousand temples raise,
Her ardent sons to charm," etc.
This is succeeded by a long foot-note containing the auto- biographical fragment:
"Extract from a letter sent by the author of the above to John Jones, of Kidderminster : 'Born in obscurity, I lived in rural innocence about eleven years; my father having a numerous family, took me at that age from a very good country school to assist him by my labour, and it happened, unfortunately, to be the last advantage I ever reaped in that manner. At fourteen it pleased heaven to deprive me of a father, when I was taken by the friends of my mother, who was also dead, and put apprentice to a woolcomber. A genteel premium was given, and a considerable sum, the gift of my grandfather, was lodged in my master's hands, on his own bond, for the purpose of putting me into business, the interest of which served to purchase books, etc., as I always delighted in reading; but, alas, I never enjoyed a penny of the principal, my master dying, honestly poor, about the expiration of my term. Our trade, ever unhappily fluctuating, has occasioned me many a painful pilgrimage. From the great decline in our branch, I have been more than twelve months of the last three years in want of labour; to amuse these painful intervals I have made some trifling attempts in poetry, but truly sensible of my inability, my diffidence frequently gains the precedence of my desires. A trifle of mine, written at a time when I was forced to repast on an ideal dinner, occasioned my being noticed by Dr. Downman, a benevolent physician in Exeter; he has frequently assisted me in my distress, and has lately given me many books, such as Johnson's Dictionary, Lowth's Grammar, "The Seasons" " Night Thoughts, some volumes of Swift's prose works, etc., etc. Indeed, without assistance, and that of a few other benevolent friends, life would ere now have been quite a burthen to me, as I have a wife and two small children. The difficulties in which I am involved frequently destroy that serenity of mind I should otherwise enjoy, and which is absolutely necessary to be felt by those who would pay their address to the muses, etc."
In the same year as the above (1775) was issued by him, anonymously, a poem entitled" Sowton; a Village Conference," noteworthy for being the earliest work supposed to have been printed and published at Crediton. There is a short account of him, with a transcript of one of his poems, "The Lamb Forgot," in West Country Poets, pp. 278-9.
The concluding history of this local poet is thus narrated in the Gent's Magazine for August, 1792:
"At Keynsham, near Bristol, C. Jones, well known through that extensive county by the name of the Crediton Poet. His death, after a lingering and tedious sickness, was attended with all that penury and distress which too frequently accompany true poetic genius. While resident in Devonshire he published a little volume of poems, by subscription, which was honoured with the names of very many literary characters, and obtained the approbation and patronage of the late Dr. Johnson."
T. N. BRUSHFIELD.