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Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

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culture ! " I believe there is nothing more fatal to the free
spirit of verse, which " blows as it listeth." As for me, I
have done with poetry for the present. There are only a
few copies left of the " Angel," and I have carefully pre-
pared the second edition of the two vols, in one. The
success has not been bad, as things go. I have received
altogether i^ 1 40 from Parker, and shall have to receive £40
or ^50 more next Xmas. But, as I have spent from five
to seven hundred pounds' worth of time, you see that is not
satisfactory in the worldly point of view, which is a point I
am bound not to neglect. However I do not despair of
doing something else some day or other — ten years hence
perhaps. My regular income is likely to be raised, so that
I shall be able to live without the degradation of review-

Alexander Smith. - William Bell Scott.

' " Edinburgh Review."


writing for money — a degradation only not so great as that
of not paying one's debts. I propose so to retrench ex-
penses, by giving up housekeeping and living again as I did
in order to write the " Angel," that I may be able to live
entirely on my professional income, and have time to make
honest use of my faculties. But I do not think it will be in
the direction of poetry, but in some prose work, which will
be both useful and paying, so that we may be able to resume
housekeeping by the time it becomes important to the
children that we should do so. That is my present pro-

I have no thought of visiting Manchester. I fancy that
the display will be a very unprofitable one to most, even of
those who have some feeling for painting. Not only is
gorging of any kind a bad thing, but even the opportunity
of doing so is demoralising — at least with me — and I should
get far more artistic profit by spending my five pounds in
half a dozen Albert Durer prints or a good sketch, than by
a week's, however judicious, contemplation of the desert of
treasures at Manchester.

The article in the National on " Aurora Leigh " is not
mine. I should never have called it " a great poem " in any
other than a material sense. It reminds me of an ill-con-
ditioned child jumping at the stars and stamping on the

" Standing on the head makes not
Either for ease or dignity,"

some one says, and the operation becomes still more un-
dignified when the performer wears flounces.
Ever faithfully yours,

Coventry Patmore.

British Museum,

Aug. 25, '57.
My Dear Allingham,

I had no opportunity of getting your opinion before
you left as to the passages of the " Angel " you thought it
would be well to omit. I am now engaged on the final
revision of the poem, and should be very grateful for any of
your well-considered opinions. I have expunged the " Sen-
tences " entirely, as such, and have incorporated what is
most important in them with other parts of the poem, or


have fused them together into short pieces, or in some cases,
have left them standing as independent pieces with titles
Hke the other accompaniments. So that, at present, there
are only two divisions, i.e., narrative pieces and reflective
pieces, instead of three as before. This I find renders the
poem much simpler, and improves it more than I could
have anticipated.

Have you seen " City Poems ? " ' " Squire Maurice "
seems to me to be full of good stuff, but the rest not much
better than the "Life Drama." The plagiarisms are as
numerous and more barefaced than before.

Ever faithfully yours,

Coventry Patmore.

British Museum,

Nov. 8, '60.
Dear Allingham,

I am glad to be able to answer your kind enquiries
by saying that my wife is now convalescent after having
been given up by four physicians. The approach of winter
has not at all checked the progress towards recovery, and
I have the strongest hope that all will go right.

I myself have had some weeks of sharp ill health, pro-
duced by long watching and anxiety, the doctors say. I
have been recruiting at Farringford for the last ten days
and am sorry to hear that you have been so long out of
sorts. Why don't you resolve on cheering yourself with the
comforts and perils of the wedded state ?

When a man of your age gets out of sorts for a whole
year together it's a sure sign that his condition does not
suit him, and requires a radical change of some sort.

I never see any of " our mutual friends " and so can give
you no news whatever of them.

Ever yours,

C. Patmore.

British Museum.

Oct. 22, '61.
My Dear Allingham,

May I reprint your " Fairy Hunting Song," " Up the
breezy mountains," and one or two other short pieces, should

By Alexander Smith.


I desire to do so, in a book of children's poetry from good
poets which I am now collecting ? I should like to have
also your Robin Song, but I do not know where to find it.
Perhaps you will kindly send me a copy of that and of any-
thing else you may think suitable among your recent pub-
lications in periodicals, etc.

My wife's health is neither better nor worse than it was
six months ago. I may at least, therefore, hope that the
progress of her malady may be rendered very slow by great

Ever truly yours,

Coventry Patmore.

British Museum,

Nov. 25, 1861.

Mv Dear Allingham,

Thank you very much for the two poems ; I fear it
will be impossible to send you proofs ; but your manuscript
is very clear, and I can see to their being exactly printed.
The book is being hurried through the press to catch the
Xmas sale. I think you will like it ; I have taken great
pains to make it what it should be, and I think there is no
collection at all resembling it.

" The Victories of Love " is the completion of " Faithful
for Ever," which was abandoned by me in an unfinished
state when my wife's condition of health seemed quite
hopeless. I hope you will not read it till it appears as part
of the second and revised edition of " Faithful for Ever "
which will probably appear in the spring.

We are in London for the winter. My wife's broken
health has been destructive to home. We are obliged to
live half the year in the country and half in town, and, as I
cannot afford two houses, we have to put up with all the
wretchedness of lodgings. We were too comfortable before
all this happened. Providence takes care to startle people
out of the dream that this world is a place to be jolly in.

Yours ever,

C. Patmore.



THE occasion of these letters is noted, vol. i.,
p. 208. There are numerous allusions to
Mrs. Jackson's friendship for the Patmores
in vol. i. She had been a friend and correspondent
of Emily Augusta Patmore, (vol. i., pp. 157, 158),
and was Patmore's neighbour while he lived at
Heron's Ghyll (pp. 236 and 239). "Julia" is Mrs.
Jackson's youngest daughter, who married first, Mr.
Herbert Duckworth, and later Mr. Leslie Stephen.
The eldest daughter married Mr. Henry Halford
Vaughan (vol. i., p. 157) : the second became Mrs.
Herbert Fisher who has furnished these letters.

Hotel de la Grande Bretagne, Nice.

February 21, 1864.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

I know that you will be glad to hear that the first
four days of my journey have passed pleasantly. Julia
will toss her head and laugh at the resolved expectation
not to be pleased at anything with which I set out. Explain
to her, please, that there is more to be said for this way of
setting about things than, at eighteen, she may be disposed
to believe. I have found it work admirably. Never expect-
ing any pleasure from untried sources, I have actually
derived from them a great deal.

A little reflection on my four days' experience shews me
that, by good chance, my first (and last) continental tour is
begun under very fair conditions,

I have no plans, beyond the general intention of seeing
the best art and the best scenery in the world : I am under


no compulsion to " do " the places I visit in the wasteful
haste of most modern tourists : I no longer regret that I
could not find a travelling companion, for none (save one^
whom I cannot have) but would have been sometimes a
burthen ; even the somewhat strict economical limits I have
to keep are, I think, necessary elements of metrical character,
so to speak, in all such pleasures as are to be had for money:
finally, I am bound by promise to write often and fully to
you, and this duty will save me from the sense of loneliness
in many a solitary evening.

Your having been over much of the same ground will
make it all the more pleasant to me to tell you what strikes
me. You know what I think about the choice of subject
in landscape-painting, and the uselessness of art which
attempts to shew us what we have not seen or felt. It is
just the same with writing. Who ever got from a descrip-
tion any true idea of any unseen place ? But, if you have
seen the place, then the picture or the description adds the
painter's or the writer's perceptions, if he has any, to yours.
In accordance with this opinion, I have scarcely at any time
read anything about the places to which I am going. What
I write to you will, therefore, not be bookish. Nor will
you suspect me of admiring anything because everybody
admires it, or of not admiring it for that reason.

At London Bridge I found that Mr. Marshall and his
family were starting also for Rome, and by the same route.
As my style of travelling was to be different from theirs,
which no doubt they guessed, I thought it friendly that they
did nothing to invite companionship. I lost sight of them
at Paris, but I shall most likely meet them here again, at
Sir Vere de Vere's, or elsewhere ; for they also proposed to
stay awhile at Nice.

I was two full days in Paris, and should have remained
longer but for the bitter cold. I never felt anything like it
in England, even when the thermometer has been many
degrees lower. It was only a commonly hard frost, coating
the fountains with ice an inch thick ; but a high and very
dry wind made the cold insupportable, and a pain in the
chest soon warned me that my "sick-leave" did not con-
template a stay in Paris in February.

The city was wholly new to me. I was under sixteen

His late wife.


when I went to school at St. Germain, to learn to speak
French (which I did not learn to do), and I had forgotten
everything, except the Place Vendome, where I used to go
to spend my Sundays at Mrs. Gore's. It was just what you
told me to expect. A very " imposing " city. But the
imposition soon wears off. The cumulative element of
effect is not artistic unless in combination with better things.
Architectural beauty cannot be got by multiplying one tall
house by ten thousand, as we may learn without going
farther than Belgravia. An impressive effect is certainl)-
created, but it is rather a natural than an artistic one. A
billion cart-loads of earth in a heap is a grand sight, even
when the outline of the mountain is insignificant ; I was
pleasantly surprised, however, to find how much I had been
led, by my memory and by bad representations, to under-
rate " Notre Dame." I have never seen anything in pointed
architecture so completely beautiful as " Notre Dame " seen
from the Quay on the south-east.

I spent about five hours in the Louvre, and was rather
humiliated to find that I could get little or no pleasure from
many paintings which are considered to be among the finest
in the world. Some of the greatest Raphaels and Titians
scarcely touched me : the mighty scenes of Rubens dis-
gusted me as the works of no artist of less wonderful power
could have done : the grinning woman, in every canvas of
Leonardo, still haunts my mind's eye like a disagreeable
dream. On the other hand, my old admiration for certain
French painters was confirmed and increased. There is a
"Deluge" by Nicolas Poussin which is, to my feeling, the
most thoughtful and imaginative picture I have seen. A
full comparison of this painting with our John Martin's
" Deluge " would be a valuable lesson on true and false art.
I could not give to this picture more than a minute or two
out of my five hours, but that was time for me to learn
enough of it to explain to you, if you do not remember it,
how greatly the subject is handled. In the distant centre
of the picture is a boat full of people, dropping perpen-
dicularly over a cataract : some have fallen out, and are
drowning : one, who is unobstrusively the principal figure in
the piece, stands against the heaved-up prow, with his arms
stretched to heaven in an agony of prayer. It is too late
for prayer, which cannot even delay his fate until the waters
have covered the ground ; and the boat — the best safet)- in


a deluge — is the one point of premature destruction and
despair. Everywhere else there is hope. A man on horse-
back and another on a plank are urging their way earnestly
and confidently, through quiet waters, towards a high and
promising shore : others are helping their friends to land,
with apparently a fair likelihood of escape ... A single
huge snake is gliding out of the way of the rising flood, and
is made too conspicuous for doubt as to the painter's inten-
tion of suggesting the primal cause of the evil which is
come upon the earth. The whole meaning is expressed, by
these and other details, with so entire an absence of false
emphasis, that no one need see anything at all in the picture
unless he likes ; indeed, he may deny, if he chooses, the
meaning, even when it is declared to him. No high power,
whether of religion, human affection, or art, assaults the
moral freedom of those it would serve ; but demands, and
imputes the merit of the service to, our own active choice,
and indeed looks to that act of free election as the chief
blessing intended.

That is a sadly involved sentence, but I think you will
catch my thought.

Certainly love has never been expressed with more force,
delicacy, and spiritual science than in the Cupid and Psyche
of Gerard. As I mean to have a vignette of this picture
for the title-page of the next edition of the " Angel in the
House," I will say no more about it.

After these, I think I was most impressed by the three
vast Giulio Romanos and one or two queer allegories by
Mantegna. With the famous Venus of Milo I was not so
much pleased as I hoped to be. We have a comparatively
unknown Venus very much like it, but I think better, in
the British Museum ; and all the sculptures in the Louvre
put together are not worth our " Theseus " or the " Fates."
I intend to spend several mornings in the Louvre on my
way home.

I spent the remainder of my two days in Paris, much as
I should have spent two idle days in London. This is the
only way (for me, at least), to see a place. Express sight-
hunting is quite fatal to the power of seeing anything aright.
If you are to be but two days at a place, behave just as if
you were to be there two years, and do not go to the sights,
but let the sights, or as many of them as will, come to you.
That is my rule. It has these advantages. You see things


with a quiet mind, and in their true proportions as related
to your home " surroundings," with which all your com-
parisons and estimates have to be made ; and you leave the
place still clad, to your memory, with the great charm of
the indefinite, and with much left to be seen in your next
visit, which may never come. Besides, why should one
desire to see more of Paris than of one's own London ? I
have not yet been to the Brompton Boilers.

I had so far forgotten as to be agreeably surprised at the
ways of the French folk — or at least at some of them. It
was pleasant to find the justice of such a remark as // fait
froid recognised with an emphasis and gravity not awarded,
in my own country, to what I consider my most original
observations ; and the countenance which every one kept
while I talked French filled me with gratitude and admira-
tion. For my way of talking French is this : To save time,
I say what I have to say in French words and English con-
struction, and afterwards, at my leisure and for my own
satisfaction, re-arrange the phrase in the Gallic idiom, if I
am able.

I have been to the post again, and have got Julia's letter.
I am very sorry, indeed, that she could not give a better
account of your health, and I shall look anxiously for
further news. If I write any more, I shall miss the next
post. I am not sure that I have not already missed it.

What does Julia mean by hoping the baby's hair will not
remain red ? Is it not the colour of colours, according to
the praeraphaelite and now universally admitted doctrine ?

I will write about Nice, which is pleasant far beyond ex-
pectation, in a day or two. I shall remain here two or three
days longer. My next stoppage will probably be at Rome.

With love to Julia, and very kind remembrances to Mrs.
Cameron, believe me.

My dear Mrs. Jackson,

Ever sincerely yours,

Coventry Patmore.

Nice, February 23rd, 1864.

My Dear Mrs. Jackson,

I have often thought, during the last two or three
days, that Nice, not Freshwater, is the place for you. To-
day has been such a day ! even the men have had their
umbrellas up, to keep off the sun ; and with all my winter



things put aside, I have found a trifling walk of ten miles
or so quite fatiguing.

The changes, on reaching the shores of the Mediterranean,
were almost like those of a pantomime for their suddenness.
From Paris to within twenty or thirty miles of Marseilles
the cold was intense. The breath froze on the windows in-
stantly, in spite of hot-water foot-warmers and well-filled
carriages ; and the snow lay many inches deep, where un-
disturbed, and stood in drifts many feet high along the
banks. The England I had left seemed a paradise of
warmth and life when I looked out upon " the dismal situa-
tion, waste and void," which was my first view of the South
of France.

When we got near Marseilles, the piercing " Mistral "
was blowing so fiercely, that it brought the express train to
a dead stop for about half-an-hour (I have since heard that
it has been known to blow the carriages over), and detained
us for, altogether, an hour and a-half. But once fairly on
the sea-line, and on the way to Nice, I found myself in an
English midsummer, though the snow lay deep on the
mountains at the feet of which we glided.

There was no stoppage between Paris and Nice of more
than fifteen minutes, and that only once, at Lyons, the
nominal stoppage of ten or fifteen minutes being really not
more than half that time, as I found by looking at my
watch. Thus the journey was practically an uninterrupted
one of twenty-four hours. Yet I did not find it so tedious
as I have usually found a railway journey of one-fourth
that time. Perhaps it was that I brought to so great an
evil a great resignation. There was nothing else to make
the time pass well. There were five others in the carriage,
all French, I believe, but one, who looked like an Italian.
I made one faint attempt to break the utter silence, some-
where near Lyons, but was not encouraged, and with that
exception there was not a single word spoken, except by a
lady, who sometimes spoke in a whisper to her husband,
between Paris and Marseilles. That surpasses even English

If my surprise was great at rushing into summer at
Marseilles, you may think what it was on entering the
tropics, at Nice. Such a climate, such scenery, and such
vegetation ! Rocks of white marble with huge aloes and
cactuses growing out of the crevices, groves of lemon and


orange trees in full blossom and full bearing ; grey forests
of olive, with the ground beneath them full of geraniums,
roses, and anemones in flower ; feathery palm-trees and
gigantic reeds and ferns swaying in the soft air ; twenty
sorts of trees and shrubs in leaf and blossom, none of which
I had before seen.

For the first time in my life I acknowledge an advantage
in railway over coach travelling. No such effect could have
been possible without our new power of traversing astro-
nomical distances (about 700 miles or about one-third of
the moon's face), in twenty-four hours.

At the Bureau at Nice I waited for my portmanteau in
a degree of excitement which, though moderate, was not
consistent with the doctrine of the nothingness of nature
when compared with humanity, which — do you remember ?
— was the last thing we were talking about on the last
evening before I bade you good-bye. But I was happily
rebuked and set to rights by seeing an English gentleman
leading his daughter through the room, which was filled
with Frenchmen and women and Savoyard commissionaires.
I remembered the land of Homeric Goddesses, " beautiful
and tall," which I had left ; and as I observed the innocent
pride and gladness with which the noble young girl passed
through the lane of respectfully admiring eyes — for English
beauty makes the gaze of Frenchmen respectful — snow-
mountains, cactuses, aloes, and orange trees took their
proper proportions in my opinion, and I do not mean to
forget any more my right, if only as the fellow-countryman
of such women, to look down upon all Alps and Apennines.

My first business at Nice was, as usual, to make myself
thoroughly at home, at the same time ignoring totally all
guides and guide-books. I walked about the town, going
through the same streets and squares several times, so as to
get a feeling that I had as good a right as anybody there to
take a country walk for a change ; and yesterday and to-day
I have walked through scenery which, to my homespun
notions, is magnificent. To-day, I went along a road by
the sea to Villafranca, and came back by a different way,
over a mountain path. If the whole of the road to Genoa
is as well worth seeing as the first few miles, the journey
will be a great treat. I am thinking of walking all the way.
It is quite practicable, I am told. Villafranca, as you come
suddenly upon it on turning the corner of a road, looks


like a gem set in a girdle of mountains of beautiful shapes
and exquisitely worked surfaces. Or rather like a toy-town,
adorned with every condition of " picturesqueness " that
can be thought of to give it an almost unnatural unity and

My taste in building is becoming Italianized before I
have reached the Italian frontier. The campanile has a
great advantage over the spire, in its relative effect, har-
monizing much more perfectly with the perpendicular and
the horizontal lines of all the other buildings of the town, and
bringing them all together by a leading point of comparison.
Moreover the campanile has an element of intrinsic beauty
which is conspicuously wanting in the spire, namely utility.
Under this aspect the Gothic spire is as great an anomaly
as the Egyptian Pyramid or the Hindoo Pagoda.

It is curious to see however on how few and trivial
details, continually repeated, the whole vast difference in
appearance of housebuilding here and in England depends.

The tiles lying with their convex faces up, instead of the
concave ; the sun-shutters and the smaller openings for
light, make up almost the whole matter. Unless one is on
one's guard it is easy to be imposed upon in such things by
mere novelty, the most irrational of all sources of admiration.

24 Feb. I have been to the post hoping to see your
handwriting, and to hear that you were better, since Julia's
letter. I shall not hear from you again until I reach Rome,
for I am going to leave Nice early to-morrow. The weather
is too warm for me. I cannot walk even in my summer
things with comfort. I had a mountain ramble yesterday
and was very much oppressed by the heat. The country
seems to abound in beautiful walks. There are three
ranges of hills, the first from one to two thousand feet high,
which they call collines, are just high enough to walk over
and about ; the second range is fairly mountainous, that is
from two to four thousand feet ; and the third is " Alpine,"
covered with snow, and rising. Lady de Vere tells me, to
seven or eight thousand feet.

I went six miles along the nearly dry bed of a mountain
torrent, and back to Nice over a colline which felt very
much like a mountain. A girl from a farm in the valley
guided me, and once or twice risked my neck by jumping
me over what I should, by myself, have thought impossible
ravines. She once leaped like a goat on to a projecting


Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 36)