Basil Champneys.

Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

. (page 11 of 36)
Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

is caught, another is sure before long to take his

Anglers not unfrequently give special names
to fish which are seen day after day in the same

The "Boot" is a little village inn which would
only aspire to provide the simplest food.

Horse-bridge station is on a line which connects
the Salisbury branch of the South Western Railway
with the Bournemouth and Southampton Branch.
One change only is required, either at East Leigh
or at Andover, for the journey to London.

Patmore borrowed my rod one day, no doubt with
a view to one of these letters. Of course he caught


nothing, thereby putting himself on a level with all
other anglers during that impracticable week.

Houghton, Stockbridge,

Thursday Morning.

I have got up early, not being sleepy, and

write before breakfast. Weather exquisite — pretty old
village, but endless marsh on all sides, with a hundred rapid
and broad streams, all called the Test, running about it,
making the air very damp and I should say aguey. I don't
think it will be a success. I begin to feel distinctly melan-
choly . . . and no means of drowning one's cares (when the
supply is consumed) are to be bought within twelve miles.

Friday, May 23rd, 1890

Your yesterday's letter come. Dear. I'm very glad you
feel so well : I am doing splendidly ; the weather is exquisite
and the river the loveliest thing in water I ever saw. I
can look at it all day. I am walking seven hours or so a
day, and feel no fatigue — eat immensely, and am already of
a beautiful brownish-red complexion. Tell Piffie about the
fishing : it is quite unlike anything I have seen. There are
eight miles of river, rented by fifteen gentlemen, each pay-
ing £2^ a year, that is £l7S- No one is allowed to catch
any fish unless it weighs a pound and a half or over. In
the eight miles of river there are thirty-three fish of the law-
ful weight, that is, from lilb. to S^lb. They are all known
by name, and are always to be found in the same place, un-
less one is caught, and then the rest all move up a step, so
that their names are still known. Everybody for ten miles
round knows when a fish is caught, and, if it weighs more
than 3^^ lbs., it is telegraphed to all the London Papers, and
to Portsmouth, where there is a salute fired, one gun for
every half-pound. Seven gentlemen have been fishing there
two days, but Mr. Champneys alone has come off with any
glory. To-day, after four hours' fishing, he hooked " Sir
William Harcourt," a fish of i|; lbs., but looking bigger than
he is. We got him nearly to land, but, by some paltry trick,
he managed to get off the hook, just as we were putting the
landing-net under him. All the gentlemen of the Club are
to have a champagne dinner to-night at the " Boot Inn," to


celebrate this event. Piffie would perhaps like to hear the
names of the thirty-three fish which it is lawful to catch — if
you can. They are, Vernon Harcourt, Tom Browne, Cobden
(6ilbs), Strafford, Pym, Tom Paine, Bright (5 lbs), Palmer-
ston, Holbein, Hobbes (8 lbs.), Cromwell (8^ lbs.), Voltaire,
Bob Sawyer, Boz, Burke, Lever, Tom Thumb (7 lbs.), Victor
Hugo, Macready, Lever, W. Pitt, Kean, Boanerges, (71 lbs.)
Jack Straw, Thurtell, Hookey Walker (so-called because
he has walked off with so many hooks). General Gordon
(61 lbs.), Bismarck (8 lbs.), Talleyrand, Watt Tyler, Pecksniff,
Gladstone, Dr. Manning, Shaftesbury, Labouchere, and Sir
William Temple. All these fish let you stand close by and
stare at them without the least concern. I watched Dr.
Manning and Tom Paine at play together ever so long this
morning. Sir William Temple is the only one of these fish
who has never risen to an artificial fly. Indeed, he is so
prudent, that he will scarcely take a real fly ; so that he is
not so big as he ought to be for his age. A good fisherman
knows all these fish by sight : the only two they can scarcely
distinguish are Shaftesbury and Gladstone. These are both
large fish, but they are habitually what the fishermen call
"unclean" and "lousy"; so they don't try to catch them.
They also leave Bismarck alone, for they know it's of no use
trying. He only winks at the flies, and, once or twice, when
he has been hooked, he has given a jump, and snap goes the
line or the rod.

We think of going to Winchester or Salisbury for a
couple of days, in order to get away from the numerous
visitors and deputations who will be waiting upon us to con-
gratulate us on having hooked Sir William Harcourt. I
come in for a share of the glory, for everyone knows I had
the landing-net ready to land him, had he not behaved so
shabbily. I am sorry I did not bring my dress clothes, for
I am to dine with the club, in recognition of my share in the
event of the week, and everybody else will be in white ties
and swallow-tails. The dinner is to cost 25^-. a head, in-
cluding wine ; — which I do not think is extravagant, con-
sidering the occasion.

Give my love to the girls and tell them I am sure they
will excuse my not writing a separate letter to them, under
these exciting circumstances.

As always your Lover
C. P.


I open my letter to say that at a meeting of the Com-
mittee of the Club, to-morrow, Sir William Clay is to pro-
pose and Captain Head to second the following motions :

" That, in consideration of his eminence as a Poet and of
his intended services in landing Sir William Harcourt, this
Committee do decide that the next fish which shall attain
to the legal weight of one and a half pounds shall be called
' Patmore.' "

Saturday morning.

I am getting on very well now, dear. My first de-
spondency was owing, I think, to Wednesday's fatigue.
The weather has been uniformly splendid, and the air is
quite dry and bracing. I eat twice as much as at home,
and am out by the lovely river nearly all day. To-day we
are going to Romsey, as the wind is too high for fishing.
I did some fly-fishing myself yesterday, and caught as many
trout as the best fisherman here, and he is reported to be
the best hand in England.

Your loving

C. P.


I am rejoiced to hear that you are so much better.
How good it will be if I find you miraculously well when I
come back. I am getting health so fast in this delicious
country that I don't think I shall leave till the end of the
week. C. goes on Tuesday.

We went to Romsey yesterday. I suppose you know
the nice old town and its fine Norman abbey well.

Tell Piff I liked his picture card immensely. I and
Mr. Champneys and a gentleman who has caught the only
fish yet caught since we have been here, laughed over it

Yesterday the news about the was telegraphed to
Portsmouth, and, though it is fifty miles off, we heard the
1 10 ton guns saluting in honour of the event quite clearl)-.
It was like distant thunder.

The asparagus was most welcome.

The heat is tremendous.

Your loving.

C. P.



It is a very cold east wind to-day and I would
gladly be at home, as I do not feel energy enough to spend
any time out of doors, as I did before C. left ; but I sup-
pose I ought to persevere till Friday.

In order to get to Winchester or Salisbury from here
by train, you have to go nearly round the southern end of
England. You have to change at Andover, thence you go
to Crewe, thence you get somehow to St. Ives in Cornwall,
where you have to wait three hours ; then to Havant, a
station which, I think, you may remember ; and from there
you get, after only two more changes, to Salisbury or Win-

Thank Piffie for his kisses. I send some in return.

C. P.

(Very cold with the East wind.)


My Dear Bertha,

Mr. C. is gone and I find myself rather dull. I
spent about eight hours a day out of doors while he was
here, but now I feel as reluctant as ever to leave the fire-
side — for I have a fire, the weather having turned quite
cold, though the sun is bright — as it has been every day

and all day since I left home

I am glad that Piffie patronizes you. The may here is
in the most magnificent flower I ever saw, and in the even-
ing the river damp makes the odour of it fill the air in every
direction. The water-flowers on the river are a glorious
show. Some of them I have never seen before. The river
and the flats are full of wild fowl — dab-chicks, ducks, plovers,
etc., all wonderfully tame, the river being so carefully pre-

Your loving Father,

C. P.

The following letters are to his second daughter.


From water-colour by B. Patmore, 1883.

To face p. 138.



Thursday [1875 or 1879.]
My Dear Bertha,

Mr. Ruskin seemed quite satisfied with your copy,
and praised it very much. He says seriously that I must
bring you here some time ; and I hope I shall be able. The
country is most lovely, and you would enjoy yourself im-

Ruskin is always — until the afternoon — engaged in
drawing just such mosses and things as you like doing.
He has lots of the most lovely pictures by W. Hunt. Mr.
Severn and his wife — Ruskin's cousins — are here, and are

very nice people

Your loving father,

C. Patmore.


Sunday, July 9, 1882.
My Dear Bertha,

I am rejoiced to hear that you are both enjoying
yourselves so much. It must be a very new and pleasant sort
of life to you. I wish you could have more of it than you can.
Emily ' is so much weaker that I do not think you ought
to prolong your visit for more than a fortnight. You had
better arrange to start for home to-morrow week or Tuesday
week at latest.

" Bismarck " is now under the hands of two doctors, and
is taking three kinds of medicine. His pills are most im-
posing f^. Thesightofthem is quite humiliatingto humanity,
which is only capable of •. I hope you are having good
weather. Do you intend to go up " the hill," as the inn-
keeper at "Fort William " called " Ben Nevis," when he pro-
posed that I should make the ascent at about four o'clock
one late autumn afternoon ? I believe you can go to the
very summit easily on ponies. How much toddy do you
get through ? You need not be afraid of it. The Scotch
air enables the weakest stomach to take any amount of it.
Give my kind regards to your host and hostess.

Your loving Father,

C. Patmore.

The eldest daughter, who died shortly after this was written.


My Dear Bertha,

.... Tell Trudy^ that the way R"*. mother will try to
catch her for Bayswater will be by pretending to repel her,and
by throwing cold water on her sanctimonious aspirations,
or at least by seeming quite indifferent, whereas she really
desires her more than a cat does a mouse. . . .

The Monastery,

Holywell, Flints.

April 24, '94.

My Dear Piffie,

I am very glad that you have found the stick. Did
you find a dead cat anywhere near ? I am living here on
the top of a little mountain, surrounded with mountains
about twice as high, and in view of Snowdon and other
distant mountains four times as high ; but, like a true monk
who thinks nothing so fine as everything about his own
monastery. Father Joseph seriously maintains that his
little mountain is twice as high as any we can see, except
Snowdon, which, as you know, is the highest in Wales.

Please have the stick varnished, and keep it till I come.
If you still go of an evening to get your toddy at the
" Angel," you had better carry the stick with you, in case
you should come across any persons of advanced political

Your loving father,


' Patmore's third daughter, Gertrude, was staying at a convent
at Bayswater.



MR. H. S. SUTTON is mentioned in vol.
i., p. 59. When Patmore first became
acquainted with him he was studying
medicine, but subsequently adopted literature as his
career. He was for some time editor of " The
Alliance Weekly News."

The work to which the earlier letters allude is Mr.
Sutton's first book, called " The Evangel of Love."
That to which Patmore's letter of March 30, 1896,
refers, is "Five Essays for Students of the Divine
Philosophy of Swedenborg." Besides these, Mr.
Sutton published, in 1854, a work called "Quinquen-
ergia, or Proposals for a new Practical Theology ; "
but shortly afterwards withdrew it from publication,
as it no longer represented his views. He also
published a volume of poems in 1886.

The strictures on Socrates and Plato which occur
in these letters, do not seem to me to be justified,
nor do I think that Patmore would have endorsed
them in later life. Though he had evidently read
enough of Plato to be strongly influenced by his
ideas, he had scarcely enough scholarship to enter
adequately into the ethical and social conditions with
which the Greek philosophers had to deal. Also a
more accurate and comprehensive knowledge of
Plato's writings, especially of the " Laws" (such pass-
ages, for example, as L § 636, and VHL § 836) must
have convinced him that Plato's moral teaching was
occasionally as sound, even from a modern point of


view, as it was always in advance of his time. Nor
are the charges of immorality brought against So-
crates and Plato established. They certainly are
not generally accepted by scholars.

12, Arundel Street, Strand. Feb 15, 1847.

My Dear Sutton,

Business is, just now, a great check to my letter-
writing inclinations, as well as to yours, I have certain ends
in view at present in order to attain which I must, for
some time, work very hard and constantly, for money. I
feel justified in proceeding with my little essay upon art,
only because I think that it will not be quite unproductive
in a pecuniary way.

I am a lover of " Ralph Emerson." I have read all his
" Essays " at least three times over — and yet I have written
and published a long and somewhat elaborate review of his
works from which a careless reader would conclude that I
was rather a hater of him. Loving him so much, I am quite
enraged with him that he will not let me love him more. He
is very inconsistent, which a very great man never is : I
think he lacks the quality of reverence, that he has the
power of rising into the " ocular air of heaven," but by leaps,
and not by wings : I dislike much of his language, for I
think that it shows a want of profound and practical sin-
cerity : I don't think he understands true Christian humility
or repentance : the peace of God which passeth all under-
standing is not, I fear, an abiding guest with him. I do
not agree with him about the passage of poetry you quote.^
I do not wish that anyone were nobler than Christ, who has
loved and does love me : my other quarrels with Emerson
are declared in my article upon him, which I will endeavour
to hunt up, in order that I may send it to you. I do not
think that Tennyson is great enough to have written " The
Lady of Shalott" without having understood it himself
We shall see when Alfred sends me your analysis, which I
returned to him some weeks ago. Give my love to him,

" Have I a lover
Who is noble and free ?
I would he were nobler
Than to love me."


and to all that you may happen to know who are acquainted
with and love me.

Write soon and confute my accusations against Emerson
— if you can. To have one's opinions corrected and to have
them corroborated is equally delightful, or if there is any
difference the first is better than the last. Your friend,

Coventry K. Patmore.

12, Arundel Street, Strand. Feb 26, 1847.

My Dear Sutton,

I am greatly pressed for time just now, having
engaged to do considerably more work than I find I can
get through — I will not delay any longer however to ex-
plain, as briefly as I can, the " serious charges " which I
brought against Emerson, in my last, and which seem to
have been, some of them, so obscurely expressed, that they
have not conveyed my meaning to you.

As to Emerson's inconsistency, I do not think it is of the
kind which, as you say, great men always and necessarily
fall into. The inconsistencies of the Bible and of the
greatest philosophers, for example, are not spiritual but
only literal inconsistencies. But let me ask you which of
these kinds is left uncommitted by Emerson, when in one
page he says that perfect goodness, coming upon the earth,
would be rejected and scouted by all, and in the very next
page he argues that Christ could not have been perfectly
good — i.e., God — for had he been so the very look of him
would have converted his executioners. His want of rever-
ence with regard to God you do not deny, — and yet I think
you might defend it upon the plea that in his brilliant
pantheism there is in truth no real, i.e., personal God. If
you remember, he speaks in one of his essays of the attribu-
tion of personality to one's idea of God as a piece of
enthusiasm and fine fanaticism. I don't want him "to
proclaim his short-comings through a tin-trumpet," but I
do require that he should not deny ^^ positive character of
sin. That religion seems to me to be only half a religion,
which excludes the " devil and all his works." You say he
does not feel his sins so much as you and I do because
probably he has not so many to feel. But my dear Sutton,
is not the smallest sin infinite, and should not the sense of


sin increase with sin's diminution ? But then you affirm'
that man's possible perfection has been attained by Emerson.
Alas ! you take a flight in which I dare not follow you, 1
must, as yet, be contented to think him a liar who says
there is no sin in him ; to fight on the battles that were
fought by Paul, and to "rejoice with trembling,"

By this time you will perhaps have set me down for one
who has been pretty nearly spoilt by a " low-church educa-
tion." Let me, however, assure you that none of my family
besides myself are of any religion, and that I myself was of
none five years ago. Let me assure you that I have not
gathered what religion I have from Scotch Commentaries
or Scotch preachers : I have drawn it mainly from the Bible,
interpreted by that mental eye which I have acquired by
long and laborious study of the writings of Coleridge, I
will say something about Emerson's language and style
another time. Meanwhile I shall be rejoiced to be con-
vinced of any error you may detect in what I have said, or
ever shall say. Yours affectionately,

Coventry K. Patmore.

P.S. — Upon casting my eye over your letter, I see you
ask me what I think of John Keats. I am now about to
shock you again ! Keats one day read his " Ode to Pan "
in " Endymion " to Wordsworth, and asked him what he
thought of it. " It is a very pretty piece of Paganism,"
replied the Christian Poet. Keats's poems collectively are, I
should say, a very splendid piece of paganism. I have a
volume of Keats's manuscript letters by me. They do not
increase my attachment to him. But his power of expression
is truly wonderful. To him

" 'Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stained the white radiance of Eternity,'

May it not do so to you and me.

March 7th, 1847.

My Dear Sutton,

I think it perfectly possible, that as you say, my
sphere of belief is not the highest, nor will I affirm that it
is the best — although I think best and highest are not

" Not affirm, nothing of the kind," Note by Mr, Sutton.


necessarily one, as yet. But I hold that my species of faith
is the best for jue. It is that which exercises the greatest
and most permanent influence upon my actions. It is there-
fore my truth, though it may be your falsehood. For I
conceive that absolute Truth is the element of God, and
not, as yet at least, of man. I say that my species of faith
is the best for me, from experience. I have tried your faith
and found it insufficient for me. But, to come to purely
speculative matters, I cannot agree with you in thinking
that God is alone infinite. Plato says, you should not call
God the Infinite, but rather the measure of the infinite ; I
can never believe but that the slightest sin, which is (or it
is not a sin) a wilful disobedience to the will of God, is
infinite in its wrong, and only pardonable by the infinite
mercy of the Unspeakable Father. I have often thought
in desponding moods that, if my soul is finally lost, it will
be some consolation to remember how thoroughly and over
and over again I have deserved it — so profoundly am I
persuaded of the infinitude of sin. I do not, however, wish
you to understand that I assert anything. You may be
right absolutely, but I do not and will not believe that you
are right — no, not if you can prove to me you are as
certainly as any geometrical theory can be proved. " Man's
belief is active and a matter of the will;" and the reason is
that he may be able to believe what is best for him to be-
lieve, even in contradiction to the light of the bare intellect
which I have followed too frequently ever to trust or follow
it again.

I also care not what name you worship God under, so
long as you do worship God. I trust that you know best
what name and form is the most effectual with regard to
yourself, and I shall not like you much the less for differing
with me upon a few points. I will remember the many
points on which we agree.

I assure you I understand very well what you mean when
you say that Pantheism, etc., etc., etc., is all true religion
with you, if it be religion. But I hope you allow some
difference in degree of excellence between your religions.
Do you think that Plato and Socrates would have fallen
into sensualities, which one does not even utter, had they
known Christ, the Son of God, crucified ?

I write in the midst of pressing work, and must therefore
conclude before I have said one-tenth of what I desire to



say. One thing however I will add. Never let us hope
to agree upon the main questions which have now been
slightly discussed by us, and then we shall, I think, get on
very well. We never can agree, I believe, because it is in
the very constitution of our souls that we disagree upon
these points. I shall be delighted to study your book, but
if it convinces me you know that

" A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still ; "

which, I hold, is not only a fact, but with regard to certain
matters ought to be the fact.

Yours affectionately,

Coventry K. Patmore.

P.S. — I shall look anxiously for your next letter, as I
long to know to what extent these declarations have
alienated me from your affections.

Library, British Museum,

March ii, 1847.

My Dear Sutton,

I fancy that we agree more profoundly than we yet
appear to do. Let me see if we do not after all agree upon
the subject of the office of the Will in belief My conviction
is that we can do nothing — not even remain passive — with-
out the consent of the image (sometimes perverted) of God
which is in us. I mean that mysterious Trinity — the Intel-
lect, the Will, and Affections. The Will is, I think, inca-
pable of producing belief without the concurrence of the
other two — but they in their turn are equally so without
the Will. This doctrine is most precious to me. About
this time last year, my faith was fearfully shaken, because,
upon one day honestly examining it, I found that it was
not based upon pure intellectual conviction. Not knowing
the true nature of belief, I thought I was wrong in believing
any longer ; so, to my infinite anguish, I suspended my be-
lief till such time as I should see better reason for holding
it. Several months of inexpressible misery were spent by
me. I could arrive at nothing beyond the strongest proba-
bility in favour of Christianity. At length it seemed to me
that Bishop Butler had taught that mere probability is the
foundation of all our belief. Set in the right train of thought


by this recollection, I soon arrived at what to me is an ines-
timable truth, and my faith has never been in the slightest
degree shaken since. Directly a doubt suggests itself, I say,
" Is all probability in favour of Christianity ? " My intellect
answers in the affirmative. My heart loves that of whose
existence my intellect allows the probability, and my will
puts the seal to the blessed compact which produces faith.
What is there that we should believe if we insisted upon
absolute proof of the intellect ?

Let me meet you half way about Keats. After your

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 36)