[ John Moffatt, Lancashire poet. ] Nine unpublished Autograph Poems (six signed 'J. M.'), including abolitionist poem titled 'Lords and Slaves'. Eight contained in two Autograph Letters Signed to Elijah Ridings, the ninth annotated by Ridings.
Moffatt is an interesting minor figure. In a 1924 piece titled 'Brief History of the Failsworth Pole', Rev. James Smith writes: 'The Jacobins' Club Library was kept in a room next to that in which Ben Brierley was born, and old John Moffatt, tailor, of "Crockey Hall," opposite the Pole, had charge of the Library'. Smith quotes lines which he considers 'remarkable for their patriotism', noting: 'He must have been a mild sort of Jacobin.' A total of sixteen pages, on eight leaves. On aged and worn paper, with loss at head of the first leaf of the second letter, resulting in some loss of text. ONE: ALS to 'Mr. E R.' Dated '1825, April 7th.' 6pp., 12mo. The text of the letter - signed 'J. M.' - covers one page, with the six poems (each signed 'J. M.') on the other five pages. Noting that they are 'newly composed', Moffatt lists the poems, with dates of composition, as follows: '1. The Strategy of an Oxford Scholar. 1824. Decr: 31st. | 2. Vanitas Vanissima. 1825. Feb: 22d. | 3. Temperance and Fortitude. [1825.] March 31st. | 4. Books. [1825.] April 3d. | 5. Lords and Slaves. [1825.] Apr: 5th. | 6. Time hath Wings. [1825.] Apr: 6th.' (The abolitionist poem 'Lords and Slaves' begins: 'The making use of Slaves, and o'er them Lords, | With Whips to whip them, and to tie with Cords; | Though practis'd and receiv'd, yet is abhorr'd, [...]'.) He considers the poems 'worthy of printing'. He asks for a poem previously sent, titled 'Let Sin go to Diabolus', to be left out of 'the Collection of Poems to be printed by your order; [...] Although I thought well of it once, I do not think so well of it now; because by exerting my Talent, I find I can write Poems far preferable. Neither let that Cantilena which I wrote in 1814, and made you a present of, be one of the Poems in the Poetical Lyre; so be sure to let it be left out also. The Song upon Liberty you are sensible it will be an Ornament to the Lyre; yet I think it would look better without Figure, Word, or Letters, at the end of it by way of Signature'. He concludes: 'The last time you were at our House I told you there was a good Poem in Manuscript at J. W's and for us to go to there; it is "The Stratagem of an Oxford Scholar." As I composed it I wrote down in Short-hand the Poem: at the House of J.W, I writ it for him; it being newly composed I bore every word in my Memory, for I had lost my yShort-hand, but now I am so fortunate as to find it.' TWO: ALS to 'Mr. Elijah Rydings'. Sent from Failsworth, but with details of date torn away. 8pp., 12mo. The text of the letter - signed 'John Moffatt.' - covers two pages, with the two poems (neither signed) on six pages. The poems are titled 'The Story of a Sheriff having his Life preserved through the management of a Widow Lady. | Versified by John Moffatt of Failsworth.' and 'Old Sin Personify'd.' At the end of the last page: 'These two aforeing [sic] Originals are written for to be printed in a New poetical publication which is to be entituled in this Manner | The Lancashire Lyre; | for the year, | 1825.' Regarding the poems, he considers Ridings 'a competent judge of their propriety'. After discussing the poems he discusses the fact that 'J. S. of Hollinwood' has complained 'of your last publication being too high in price; one thing to be considered, there are a great deal more empty Pockets than there used to be, and Money not so easy to be obtained; yet Merit will have Fame.' He discusses 'the Title of the set of Volumes (and subject matter)' which he has shown Ridings, considering them 'very suitable to the Book-club, or Literary Society'. The letter ends with a reference to 'The Disaster which has taken place in our House', which 'cuts off a deal of my spare time, and prevents copy any more Poetry, and it is very uncertain when I can get to go a few Miles from home.' THREE: Poem titled 'Sweet Liberty; a Song sung in the Union Room, Hollinwood, on the Birth-day, and during the Imprisonment of Mr. Henry Hunt Esqr.' (Begins: 'Old Time take wing! and hither bring, | Bright Liberty to be our Queen.') 2pp., 16mo. Annotated by Ridings at end 'written by John Moffatt'. With three notes by Ridings, all signed 'E. R.' One reads: 'I have often heard this song sung in the years 1818, 19, 20 etc., to a simple and pleasing tune.' Another reads: 'I perceive no initials to this song, as in the other manuscript, but we always considered it to be the production of John Moffatt.'