Basil Champneys.

Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 36)
Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



's-ffclru l-'ngrai tnq ( '*"

Lovtniry ^latniojx .

t/ie jicrtrait I'V J.J..Jargcnt. ^A^Af1oQ4J now m ^ 'Vahcmal . 'crfracf t/allerv.

/ Memoirs
and Correspondence of

Coventry Patmore


Basil Champneys


Vol. II


George Bell and Sons






List of Illustrations , ix



Principles and Ideals — Self-expression in poetry, prose,
and conversation — Similarity in thought to Plato — In-
tuition — Man, the only worthy study — Love and the
nuptial tie, the main natural revelation and the precursor
of religion — Deity comprehensible only by concentration
on the individual soul — The doctrine of the Trinity
metaphorically explained — Doctrine of Virginity — Re-
ligion "an experimental science" — Solitude needed for
introspection and spiritual development — Depreciation of
active benevolence — Views as to relation of sexes —
Political views due to same idea i


The Church — Function of dogma — Freedom in service —
Special use of the word " Catholic " — Opinions on non-
Catholic writers and Greek Mythology — The Salvation
Army — Special advantages of Roman Catholicism — Dis-
like of wholesale proselytism — Dogma of value only as
leading to spiritual apprehension — Spiritual interpretation
of Transubstantiation and other dogmas — Also of cere-
monial — Also of Bible — Political duties of " Catholics " —
Resentment against abuse of authority — Hell — The future
of Christianity 17


The Priesthood — Quarrel with the Pious Society of
Missions discussed — Morality and functional efficiency
of priests — Paradoxical view — Censures of priests — Papal
infallibihty — Cardinal Manning — Patmore's unfavourable
view of his character and policy — Manning's letters to
Mary Patmore — Possibility of over-statement discussed . 31



Autobiography 40


Aphorisms and Extracts. — I. " Unpublished Lines" and
"Jottings for Poems" — H. "Thoughts for Poetry and
Meditation "—in. "Notes for Prose"— IV. Extracts
from letters, occasional writings, and memoranda . . . 57



Extracts on Poetry and Art — I. Metrical fragments —
II. Extracts from letters — III. Extracts from occasional
writings 95

Extracts from correspondence referring to general subjects . 104



Family Letters — To Emily Augusta Patmore — To Emily
Honoria Patmore — To Mary Anne Caroline Patmore —
To Harriet Patmore — To Bertha Patmore — To Francis
Joseph Mary Epiphanius Patmore 115

Letters to Mr. H. S. Sutton — To Mrs. Sutton 141

Letters to and one from William Allingham 166


Letters to Mrs. Jackson and to her son-in-law and daughter,

Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Fisher 189


Letters toDr. Garnett, R. Monckton Milnes(Lord Houghton),
Rev. William Barnes, D. G. Rossetti and Thomas
Woolner; also letters from Miss Agnes Lambert and
from D. G. Rossetti 219



Letters to Mrs. Gemmer and Mrs. Bishop ; also a letter from

Cardinal Newman to Father Morris 236


Letters to Robert Bridges and to (and one from) Edmund

W. Gosse 246


Letters to Thomas Hardy, Mr. and Mrs. Dykes Campbell,
St. Clair Baddeley, Sidney Colvin, J. W. Inchbold,
John Dennis, H. Buxton Forman, W. E. Henley, and
Basil Champneys 261



Letters from John Ruskin, with one from John James

Ruskin, and one from Patmore to John Ruskin . . . 277


Letters from Alfred and Mrs. Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle

and Robert Browning 301


Letters from Holraan Hunt, Thomas Woolner, J, E. Millais,

D. G. Rossetti and E. Burne-Jones 318


Letters from Aubrey de Vere, R. Garnett and Father Gerard

Hopkins, S. J 331


Letters from W. AUingham, W. B. Scott, Rev. William
Barnes, B. W. Procter, Anne B. Procter, H. Taylor,
F. and Mrs. Locker-Lampson, Austin Dobson, W. J.
Courthope, Alfred Austin, St. Clair Baddeley, and R.
Bridges 35^


Letters from Cardinal Manning, R. Monteith, Cardinal

Newman, and Father Angelo 375



Letters from J. J. Garth Wilkinson, Richard H. Hutton,
R. W. Emerson, Mrs. Gore, G. S. Venables, John
Forster, Henry Sidgwick, Sidney Colvin, F. Greenwood,
W. E. Henley, J. Dykes Campbell and H. D. Traill . 380


Some tributes to Coventry Patmore — Verses by J. H.
Goring — Letter of condolence from F. Greenwood —
Verses by Henry Doman — Verses by Francis Thompson
on Sargent's portrait — Extract from " Sister-Songs " by
F. Thompson — Dedication of " New Poems " by F.
Thompson — Letter of condolence from F. Thompson
to Mrs. Patmore 398


Appendix I — Colburn v. Patmore and Patmore v. Colburn

(see vol. i., p. 7) 409

Appendix II — Letters from Mrs. John Scott to P. G.

Patmore (see vol. i., p. 14) 411

Appendix III — Letters from John Hamilton Reynolds to

P. G. Patmore (see vol. i., p. 15) 420

Appendix IV — P. G. Patmore's Apologia (see vol. i., p. 16) 426

Appendix V — William Blackwood's letters to P. G. Pat-
more (see vol. i., p. 22) 430

Appendix VI — Account of Works of St. Thomas Aquinas,
presented by Coventry Patmore to the British Museum
(see vol. i., p. 80) 443

Index 447



Coventry Patmore. From the portrait by J. S. Sargent,
R.A., 1894, now in the National Portrait Gallery Front.

St. Mary Star of the Sea. From a sketch by Bertha
Patmore 32

Coventry Patmore. From sketch for Subject Group by
J. S. Sargent, R.A., 1894 58

"A Farewell." By Coventry Patmore. Facsimile of MS. 82

Emily Honoria Patmore. From medallion by Miss Julia
Marshall, 1863 124

Bismarck. From a water-colour sketch by B. Patmore, 1883 138



p. 40, 1. 2. I have given Patmore's own date for his auto-
biography. It appears however, from a letter from Father G.
Hopkins (printed p. 349), that it must have been written, at least
in part, as early as 1885.

P. 72, 1. i^,for "long animous" read "long-animous."

P. 179, near end, for "Vane " read " Fane."

P. 356, 1. 2, for " is evidently an answer to that printed vol. i.,
pp. 155, 156" read "refers to his first poems printed in 1850
(see p. 166)."

P. 361, near end, for " Caine " read " Came."

P. 371, footnote,^/- "Commumia" read " Communia."

P. 374, omit semi-colon at end of 1. 5.






"Who is this Fair

Whom each hath seen ?

What if this Lady be thy Soul, and He

Who claims to enjoy her sacred beauty be

Not thou, but God ? "

IT has very rarely happened that a poet has been
able or willing fully to reveal the secrets of his
inner life, the sources of the inspiration of his
work : for the analytic faculty is seldom found to be
compatible with the synthetic, and, even where such
union might have been possible, there has usually
been some reluctance to remove the veil from the
innermost shrine. Poetical expression, where " more
is meant than meets the ear," affords but a partial
manifestation of the ideas and convictions by which
it is inspired, and generally leaves much to conjec-

Patmore's poetry gives an unusual amount of in-
sight into his philosophical and religious ideals ; and,
even had he limited his self-revelation to verse, there
would, as it seems to me, be little of importance left
to indicate or explain. But his prose writings,
especially those of later date — the " Religio Poetae "
and " Rod, Root and Flower " — seem so to com-
plete the manifestation of the poet's mind as to make
any attempt at explanation almost superfluous. That
which had been already indicated by the poems in


no dark or doubtful manner is by these carried into
still greater lucidity.

Nevertheless there is nowhere in his writings any
reasoned exposition of his philosophical ideas. His
several apprehensions are declared in various re-
lations of subject and context. Their consistency is
solely the result of their birth from a mind of pro-
nounced individuality, and in no degree due to any
conscious development of a system. He did not
himself consider any co-ordination or even obvious
coherence to be necessary, believing that the recon-
ciliation of ideas, apparently incongruous, might, so
long as they were genuine and sincere, be left to time
or perhaps to eternity. I think however that it
might prove possible to do for him what he never
attempted or desired to do for himself — to place his
apprehensions and convictions in such relation to
each other as to present, to some extent at least, a
reasoned system of thought ; at any rate to show
more clearly the essential coherence of his ideas ;
and this even if there were no material to work on
but his writings. But his conversation, at its best,
was at least as characteristic as these, — was even
more abundant in intimate confidences, often afford-
ing clues and explanations which served largely
to elucidate what miofht have been obscure in his
written work. And though the task of formulating
a philosophical system from his written and spoken
words is too ambitious a task for me to attempt, I
may at least endeavour to group his more important
ideas in some other than a mere fortuitous order.

I may remark in the outset that those who are
familiar with the works of Plato can scarcely fail to
notice the close resemblance which much of Patmore's
philosophical thought bears to his, not merely in fun-
damental ideas but often in the mode of expression.


To give a single example — one out of many — the
final paragraph of the essay " A people of a stammer-
ing tongue " might easily be mistaken for a free trans-
lation from one of Plato's dialogues ; other passages
vividly recall the " Phaido," " the Symposium " the
" Phaedrus " and the " Republic." He indeed often
spoke of Plato's metaphor of the cave as the most
inspiring idea to be found in philosophy.

The sketch which his father gives of him as a
mere boy (vol. i. pp. 45-48) indicates that at an early
age he had steeped himself in Plato, whom he re-
garded as a supreme poet. I do not however think
that he was much given to reading Plato in later
life, and the references to the dialogues are scanty
in proportion to the influence which is apparent.
He more often alludes to Aristotle, St. Thomas
Aquinas, St. Bernard, St. John of the Cross ; to
Swedenborg, Hegel, Coleridge. I am convinced
that the passages in his prose works which recall
Plato most clearly were for the most part written
without consciousness of the debt, and that he had
in youth so assimilated much of the philosopher's
thought, which was altogether consonant with his
own idiosyncrasy, as to make it natural to him to
think on similar lines, unconsciously to reproduce
Plato's ideas, and even to write with a like turn of
phrase. He was far more conscious of the influence
derived from writers whom he had studied later, his
debt to whom he generally acknowledges. He how-
ever usually succeeds in putting his own stamp on
the thoughts and words of others.

With Patmore everything worth knowing was
apprehended by "pure reason" only ; and by this he
meant intuition. " Reason " he held to be altogether
difl"erent from "reasoning" which could at most deal
with subjects of little moment. His attitude was,


therefore, consistently and deliberately that of a
pure authoritarian, his concepts seeming to him to
need no support of argument.^ Essential ideas were
apprehended by intuition alone, though they might
be confirmed and illustrated by knowledge other-
wise acquired. The universe generally afforded an
infinite number of analogies which might be made
fruitful only as they serve to illustrate the revela-
tions of the inner consciousness. " The proper
study for mankind was man," and that " man "
mainly oneself.^ He often quoted Coleridge's say-
ing about the physical universe, that its use was to
" make dirt cheap," of so infinitesimal importance
did it seem to him in comparison with man, the
" last and greatest work." Within this sphere of
knowledge, it was the conscience and the affections
which were the deepest and most fruitful sources
of enlightenment ; nor of these was any of equal im-
port to that of love between the sexes, culminating
in and developed by the nuptial tie. This was to
him by original tendency and had become through
actual experience the most suggestive, most illuminat-
ing, and most fruitful of natural revelations, and
was the principal if not the exclusive fount of his
inspiration both poetic and religious. There was
scarcely a principle or theory in any branch of
thought which he did not by analogy refer to and
illustrate by this relation. In conduct, it is in the sub-
jection of the emotional or "feminine" conscience

^ Probably no more remarkable instance of this mental attitude
can be found than Patmore's own account of his conversion to the
Roman Cathohc Church (see p. 50). He regards as self-evident
claims which by almost all intellectual converts have been accepted
only after long and deliberate thought.

'■' Cf. Sir Thomas Browne, "The world that I regard is myself:
it is the microcosm of my own frame that I cast my eye on. For
the other, I use it but like any globe,and turn it round sometimes
for my recreation."


to strong and far-sighted wisdom, which is the
" mascuHne " conscience, that moral growth mainly
consists. In poetry " masculine " law controls and
dominates " feminine " sensitiveness, the two being
indissolubly united, but the weaker always in due
subordination to the stronger. Even in criticism he
is apt to group his subjects according to the sexual
idea, making the more emotional writer rank as
"feminine," and him in whom the rational soul pre-
dominates as " masculine." And the same analogy
which he brings to bear upon all the more important
questions of life becomes naturally far more fruitful
when applied to religion, which is always with
him the one vital and almost exclusive subject of

Human affections, of which love and the nuptial
tie appear in the first rank, are a primary and
natural revelation to all. They stand in the same
relation to supernatural revelation in which St. John
the Baptist stood to Our Lord ; and it is by due at-
tention to these, by the apprehension of and fidelity
to their suggestions and inspirations, that man is
prepared for the reception of Christianity. Religion
enters in to spiritualize, to elevate, to complete, and
to fulfil all that the natural affections had suggested.
These are not to be held to be in opposition to
Divine law, but its very basis and foundation. The
Incarnation is not an isolated fact in time, but the
culmination of a universal and eternal process. Man
is, body as well as soul, a partaker of the Divine
nature, which has been imparted to him first in the
form of the human affections and afterwards by
Divine revelation, through which these have their
legitimate consummation. Nothing is more opposed
to his view than the depreciation of the "body" or
natural impulses, as apart from these the religious
idea has no fulcrum on which to work. They are


not to be despised or suppressed, but accepted to
their full legitimate scope, and interpreted in the
light of Revelation, by which they are strengthened,
raised, and sanctified.

If the natural affections are to be explained by
Revelation, of no less value is the light which these
cast upon the essential characteristics of Deity and
on the ways of God to man. The parties to love
are to be regarded as " priest and priestess to one
another of the divine womanhood and divine man-
hood which are inherent in original Deity." If it
were not for the help which this great symbol affords,
contact between the finite and the Infinite would be
unintelligible and incredible ; but just as the lover
realizes love, which otherwise would appear vague
and intangible, only when his affections are centred
on an individual, so the Godhead can only be appre-
hended as it concentrates itself on and manifests
itself in the individual human soul. Infinity is re-
vealed by voluntarily becoming subject to bonds; and
inequality is so far from being an obstacle to the in-
tercourse of Love that it is the very element in
which it subsists. "It is the mystic craving of the
great to become the love-captive of the small, while
the small has a corresponding thirst for the enthral-
ment of the great." " Between unequals sweet
is equal love." And this process of intercourse
between God and man, of which the Incarnation
was the one special crisis and consummation in the
past, as the Sacrament of the Eucharist is in the
present, has been everywhere everlastingly in opera-
tion in various degrees and in various forms — being
adumbrated even in such Pagan mythologies as re-
present deity in the form and fashion of man, and
which so far identify the human with the Divine
life. There is scarcely a limit to his use of the sex-
metaphor in its application to religious mysteries :


even the doctrine of the Trinity is illustrated thereby.
" Nothing whatever exists in a single entity, but in
virtue of its being thesis, antithesis, and synthesis,^
. . . which in natural life takes the form of sex — the
masculine, the feminine, and the neuter, . . . which
is not the absence of the life of sex but its fulfilment
and power." Nay more : Godhead, the heavenly
hierarchy, and mankind are grouped in relations
analogous to those of sex in humanity : the First
Person of the Trinity is alone simply originative or
" masculine," and woman alone purely receptive or
"feminine." Each intermediate order is alternately
of either sex as it presents the passive or receptive
side to the power above, and the active or operative
side to the creature beneath. " Spirits at will can
either sex assume," and man's attitude is towards
the Deity passive, receptive or " feminine," while it
is active or "masculine" towards the woman, to
whom he is a revelation of the Godhead.

In connection with this view a few words must
be said about Patmore's doctrine of "virginity,"
which is so frequently intimated in the " Odes."
Mr. Gosse has given ^ from an early copy of " The

^ The following is from Coleridge's "Table Talk," vol. i.,
p. 77:

" God, the Absolute Will or Ideality =
TheFather = Thesis. TheSon = Antithesis. TheSpirit = Synthesis."
The application of the sex-metaphor is exclusively Patmore's.

" "North American Review," March, 1897. Mr. Gosse con-
jectures " that Mrs. Patmore, in her rigid antagonism to Popery,
would decree that this beautiful and highly characteristic section
savoured too much of Rome to be preserved." The first four lines
however are printed, with only slight alterations, in the earlier
editions ; moreover his ideas on such matters were in entire agree-
ment with Emily Patmore's, as I hope has been sufficiently
shown ; and further, the sentiment is by no means specially asso-
ciated with Roman doctrine. On the contrary, Rome, though not


Angel In the House" containing many of the poet's
emendations the following lines the last four of which
were omitted for subsequent publication :

"The Vestal Fire."

" Virgins are they before the Lord

Whose hearts are pure : ' the vestal fire
Is not,' so runs the poet's word,

' By marriage quench'd, but flames the higher :'
Warm, living is the praise thereof ;

And wedded lives, which not belie
The honourable heart of love.

Are fountains of virginity."

In his view, marriage, in its fullest fruition, exalted
rather than compromised essential purity, so long as
the partners to it preserved a sense of its sacramental
character, of " the never-failing freshness and mys-
tery." Even when actually lost by definite impurity,
virginity may, he thinks, be recovered by penitence,
love, and effort :

" There of pure virgins none

Is fairer seen,

Save One,

Than Mary Magdalene."

And those may take part in the " Heavenly Nuptial
Song " who

" Losing, never slept
Till they reconquered had in mortal fight
The standard white."

It was characteristic of Patmore's thought that
the spiritual should always come in the first order,

formally excluding such a view, has consistently shown a leaning
towards technical "virginity." For instance. Rev. xiv. 4 is inter-
preted in Patmore's sense by but few Roman Catholics, whereas
other Churches would find less difficulty in reading it as he does.
As might be expected, the substance of the passage appears in all
editions issued before Patmore's conversion and in no later ones.


the merely legal or technical in the second. This
is the case no less with his view of marriage than
with his conception of virginity. Though never
undervaluing the formal and religious sanction, he
held that the essence of the sacrament of marriage
was union of soul and body accompanied by a fixed
intention of permanence ; and in this idea I believe
him to have had Catholic theology on his side. No
external sanction seemed to him to justify or make
pure an association founded on any other motive,
and marriage without love and without the desire of
perpetual union was held by him to be scarcely less
immoral than any irregular liaison. It was always
the spirit rather than the letter of the law to which
he grave his assent.

It is Patmore's view that religion is " an experi-
mental science." It is through consciousness of the
struggle between good and evil within his own soul
that man can understand and appreciate the warfare
between the same antagonists in the world at large,
and can anticipate its ultimate result. If anyone
doubts the superior power of good over evil, he will
be at no loss to decide on which side victory will
eventually lie, provided that he has made experiment
in his own personal life. If he has thrown his will
constantly and definitely on the side of good, he
will have found evil, which will often have presented
itself to him as a distinctly personal influence, to
have been constantly vanquished and increasingly
weakened by each successive contest. The victory
of which he has been conscious in the microcosm of
his own soul will lead him readily to believe that
to the less intelligible conflict between the same
powers in the outer world a similar result is assured.
This confidence, which is within the reach of all,
even of those who have none but natural religion,


is precisely consonant to Christian revelation, by
which it is infinitely strengthened and corroborated.

If this is a fair statement of Patmore's position in
religious philosophy (and I am convinced that how-
ever imperfectly stated, the ideas summarized are
at the foundation of nearly all his thought), there
are certain characteristic habits and opinions con-
sistently held by him which seem more or less
logically to follow therefrom. The conviction that
all real knowledge is intuitive necessarily led him to
dwell mainly if not exclusively on the workings of
his own mind. Serious reading, serious companion-
ship were of value to him only as they afforded
opportunities for acquiring corroboration of his own
original concepts. Knowledge of the physical uni-
verse (and, much as he appeared to despise science,
he seemed always to have apprehended the far-
reaching principles and ideas to be derived there-
from) was of use mainly as it afforded analogies to
spiritual thoughts which he had himself conceived.
The study of the Fathers of the Church to which,
with the Bible and the Breviary, he in later years
almost entirely confined his serious reading, was
fruitful to him principally as it afforded confirmation
of his original intuitions ; while personal intercourse
was valued by him for the community of thought or
for the receptivity which he found in his companion.
And as in later life his mind was more and more
exclusively concentrated on spiritual ideas, it is

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 36)