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dwelt too much, in describing it, on the symbolic details and
so made it seem as piecemeal in idea as it as yet is in finish.
Its chief claim to interest, if successful when complete, would
be as a subject which must have actually occurred during
every year of the life led by the Holy Family, and which I
think must bear its meaning broadly and instantly — not as
you say " remotely " — on the very face of it, — in the one
sacrifice really typical of the other. In this respect — its
actuality as an incident no less than as a scriptural type — I
think you will acknowledge it differs entirely from Herbert's
some years back, Millais' more recently, or any other of the
very many both ancient and modern which resemble it in
so far as they are illustrations of Christ's life " subject to His


parents," but not one of which that I can remember is any-
thing more than an entire and often trifling fancy of the
painter, in which the symbolism is not really inherent in the
fact, but merely suggested or suggestible, and having had
the fact made to fit it. However, I fear I have scarcely the
right to trouble you with so much justification of my design,
unless I were fully to carry it out as a picture on a more
complete scale.

Your quietus for the " Asinoeum " is a " bare bodkin "
which one likes to see thrust down that long ear ; only as
there are no brains to reach there by such means, how is
death to be ever counted on ?

I hope you found all well at Brighton, and remembered
me kindly to all. I may, most likely I believe, be going on
Friday to Paris, to save the last week or so of the Exhibition.
I shall not stay more than a week though ; and on my
return, or sooner if I don't go, will positively get together
those translations and send them you in a lump. I copied
one or two first-rate ones out the other night, on the strength
of your interest in them.

Yours sincerely,

To Thomas Woolner.

Hastings, Jany. 14 [1884?].

My Dear Woolner,


I was disappointed with the Reynolds' Exhibition.
Every exhibition I have seen of the whole or great part of
an artist's work has greatly lowered him in my mind. One
sees all the mannerisms and repetitions, and how much he
should have left undone, and how the mine-rubbish has all
been worked over again, after the true lode has been ex-
hausted. Therefore poets, whose works are always ex-
hibited all together, should be more careful than any other
artists how they gratify the cry of the public horse-leech
for " more, more."

Yours ever truly,

C. Patmore.

For the occasion of the two following letters, see
vol. i., p. 201.


Hastings, Oct. i8, 1886.
My Dear Woolner,

We have been hunting about for some one to do the
figure vignettes for the " Angel," and have actually been
consulting the only man who could do them — yourself.
The dignity, sweetness, and originality of your vignettes to
the " Golden Treasury Series " and one or two drawings I
have seen of yours, show that you and no other are capable
of the thing wanted.

I have mentioned it to Bell, who has asked me to write
to you about it. Don't say " no " in a hurry. If the work
is done, it will be done handsomely in all respects.

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.

Hastings, Oct, 25, 1886.
Mv Dear Woolner,

I cannot tell you how much I am pleased by the
hope that you will undertake the figure pieces for the
" Angel." So long as there was talk of anyone else doing
them, I did not feel a grain of interest in the project, ex-
cept in so far as it seemed likely to put money in my

pocket. But it will be very different if you do it

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore,

The following letter shows how Patmore was pre-
pared to associate Pagan with Christian art, and may-
be compared with what I have recorded above,
Vol. ii., p. 19, as to his regarding the Venus of Milo
as being not less " Catholic " than the Sistine Ma-
donna :

The Mansion, Hastings,

December 13, '75.
My Dear Woolner,

Can you tell me whether and where I could get a
slab or two of the Parthenon frieze in plaster-of-Paris? I
have taken a fine old house here, with a big drawing-room,
at one end of which I have hung a vast " autotype " — I
think they call it — of the Dresden Virgin and Child. I can
think of nothing that will go into the same room with this


except a bit of the Elgin Marbles. If I remember rightly,
the frieze is about three feet high. It would take about
eight feet of the length of it to suit the place I want it for.
Can you tell me not only where I can get it but what par-
ticular group, or groups, I should choose ?

The storm the other day was unspeakably grand. A
whole terrace of houses was so ruined by the waves that
they will have to come down. The sea was raging in the
heart of the town, far away from the beach.

Yours ever,

C. Patmore.



MRS. GEM ME R, known to the public as
" Gerda Fay," was for many years an
intimate friend of Patmore and of his first
wife (see vol. i., p. 167).

Northend, Hampstead, Feb. 9th, 1863.

Dear Mrs. Gemmer,

Many thanks for your kind enquiries after us all.
The children, you will be pleased to hear, were never
better, and apparently never happier than they are just now.

The four little ones are most fortunately placed in charge
of some ladies at Finchley. I see them almost daily, and
Emily spends much of her time here with me. My eldest
boy Milnes is a naval cadet on board the " Britannia," and
is getting on better than I at first hoped that he would
have done. It is just the life for him, with its strict re-
straints alternating with intervals of almost unbounded
liberty. Little Tennyson is doing well, and promises fair
to take the highest honors of his school. I am myself in
tolerably fair health. , . .

I hope that you are not letting your poetic talent lie idle.
I think you ought to reckon your first appearance a decided
success, and that you should be encouraged by it to do
more, Mrs. Browning is gone, and Miss Procter is, I fear,
unlikely ever to leave her bed again. You and Miss
Rossetti are the only representatives of the late remarkable
school of English poetesses.

I fear that the criticisms I ventured to give at Finchley
were hard and unappreciating, and very possibly have dis-
couraged you. . . .

Believe me, dear Mrs. Gemmer,

Yours very truly,
C. Patmore.


To Mrs. Gemmer.

March i6, 1869.
My Dear Mrs. Gemmer,

. . . You should not be surprised at seeing nothing
about your poems in the papers. No book that is good for
anything is likely to get noticed unless it is a novel,,
biography, travels, or expressly utilitarian. As (or payment
I wonder you venture to dream of such a thing.

I see that you respect children more than I do. I have
indeed very little respect for children. Their so-called
innocence is want of practice rather than inclination, and
all bad passions seem to me to be more violent in children
than in men and women, and more wicked because in more
immediate conjunction with the divine vision.'

Second childhood — to which I dare say you will think I
am approaching — is the only childhood that seems to me
to be often respectable or amiable. . . .

Yours ever,

C. Patmore.

Old Lands Hall,

Uckfield, Sussex.

Nov. 8, 1869.
My Dear Mrs. Gemmer,

... In answer to your kind wish to know something
of how things have gone since '65, I have little to reply.
Things have gone on so smoothly, and each day and month
has been so much like the last. I never write nor read.
My whole time has been taken up in " improving " one
little bit of England. I have built a pretty house and have
turned fifty acres of field into park and garden. Besides
that I have managed my farm, and planted up my woods.
In such employments I have been occupied ten hours a day
for two years. We never see a newspaper — except to learn
the price of wheat and hops ; and know nothing and care
nothing of how the world — which went to the dogs long
ago — is getting on.

^ This view of childhood must have been due to a temporary fit
of morbidity. It does not represent Patmore's usual opinion.


The boys and girls are growing up as well as can be
expected. Emily is at a Convent (full of old friends of my
wife) at Bayswater. She likes the place greatly, and
always comes home for her holidays the better for her
training. Gertrude is there also. Bertha and Henry are
at home. I don't think you ever saw Henry. He is a
wonderfully pretty and sharp little fellow. . . .

The immense superiority of girls over boys strikes me
more and more. . . .

Yours most truly,

C. Patmore.

The following letter gives proof of the despond-
ency caused by inadequate appreciation of the
"Odes," privately circulated in 1868. (See vol. i.,
pp. 243-245.)

The last sentence in the letter alludes to Swift's
poem, " The Day of Judgment," which concludes as
follows :

-I to such blockheads set my wit ?

I damn such fools ! Go, go, you're bit."

Heron's Ghyll, Aug. 8th, '70.
Dear Mrs. Gemmer,

I have read " Heart's Delight," and have found in it
the qualities I have before admired in your poetry, only at
once more lively and more mature. I am glad to see that
you have still heart and hope enough left to write and
print — when you see what it is the public likes. . . . / am be-
come utterly idle through utter hopelessness. A youth of
hearty endeavour to be useful seems to have been quite a
failure, and to have done neither myself nor others any
good. The gods have made us for their laughter, especially
such of us as aim, in youth, at doing and being something
not ignoble. They shall laugh at me no more ; for hence-
forth I aim at nothing, and can " wait to die," abstaining in
the meanwhile from either flippancy or gloom, and hoping,
with Swift, that God will not damn such fools as we are.

Yours always truly,

C. Patmore.


Hastings, Nov. 5, 1879.

Dear Mrs. Gemmer,

I thank you very much for " Baby Land " and the
sight of the " Reverie." The last is a great advance upon
the best that I have yet seen of your writing. The move-
ment of the verse is beautiful throughout, and the thought
and images of a high class. " Baby Land " seems to me
better than any modern book of nursery rhymes I know.
I should think that it has a fair chance of a wide popu-
larity. I don't think you have got a bad hundred pounds'
worth in the pictures. Children care for quantity more
than quality, and you have got plenty.

I have no news worth telling of self and family. We go
on from year to year without any event. One boy is
married and is a doctor, getting on fairly well. Another is
at sea. My eldest girl is leading a very happy and enviable
life as a nun, and the others are at home. We do not
trouble ourselves about Lord Beaconsfield or Mr. Glad-
stone or anything else. The " burning " questions of the
day do not burn us ; for we have made up our minds that
to attend to our own business exclusively is the best way of
serving not only ourselves, but other people.

You may imagine, therefore, what an uninteresting lot we

With best wishes for your literary success, which you so
well deserve, Believe me.

Yours very truly,


Hastings, Feb. 25, 1882.
Dear Mrs. Gemmer,

I am very glad that you have received a good ap-
preciation of your poem from Mr. Browning. With his
praise and Matthew Arnold's you ought to be able to do
without much recognition from the lower regions.

It seems to me that you ought to think yourself very
lucky if you find life only " something like a term of mild
penal servitude."

My poetic glimpses of the possible have not left me so
great a resignation to the actual.
Believe me.

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.


Mrs. Bishop is best known as the writer of the
biography of Mrs. Craven, authoress of the " Recit
d'une Sceur."

Hastings, March 2, 1877.

Dear Mrs. Bishop,

Thank you for sending me — I suppose you did — the
" Contemporary Review," with your very interesting article.
I cannot share even your very moderately implied hope that
modern civilization is capable of being revived, even by the
Catholic Faith. The process of rotting has gone too far.
Our only and far-off hope lies in the completion of that
process, and in the abundant supply of inamtre ^ thence re-
sulting for the future garden of God. In the meantime
Catholic Truth and Love — the lily and the rose of the old
garden — must die out yet further ; must die down to the
ground. But the roots will remain ; and when the inconceiv-
ably horrible winter, of which we now feel the first breath,
is passed, they will shoot up, with much multiplied life.
Many " dark ages " — darker than the world has ever known
— must first come.

So, as for you and me, and our children and grand-children
and their grand-children,

" We will not say

There's any hope, it is so far away." ^

Yours very truly,
C. Patmore,

Hastings, February 22.

My Dear Mrs. Bishop,

I am very glad that the result of your first glance
over the Odes is so favourable. I fear that few Catholics will
think of them as you do. To be otherwise than merely
conventional and commonplace in expression is to be
suspected, by the immense majority of Catholics, of verging

Compare the following from " The Merry Murder "

..." Bad corpses turn into good dung
To feed strange features beautiful and young."

Quoted from " A Farewell."


at least on the unsound in substance. I expect that mv
audience will be limited almost wholly to persons of the In-
visible Church . . .

Believe me,

Yours very truly

C. Patmore.

A friend of Dr. Newman's showed me a letter in which he
spoke with very gratifying warmth of " The Standards "
which appeared in the " Pall Mall Gazette."

The following letter is no doubt that alluded to in
the preceding postscript :

The Oratory, March 28, 1875.

My Dear Morris,

Let me first present to you our Congratulations on
the recurrence of this Great Feast. Having done this, I go
on to say that we were much struck with the Poem in the
Pall Mall, and wondered who the author was : we felt the
great compliment paid to us unworthy ; and most we felt
the depth and seriousness of the appeal itself. I have been
prophesying a great battle between good and evil, truth and
falsehood, for this forty or fifty years — but I suppose it is
ever going on — and there will be no crisis, till towards the
end of the world. In the time of Arianism the great men
of the Church thought things too bad to last. So did Pope
Gregory at the end of the Seventh ^ Century, St. Romuald
in the eleventh, afterwards St. Vincent Ferrar, and I think
Savonarola — and so on to our time. And it must be so ; for
the times and the moments are known only to God alone.
That does not interfere with our duty to be ever thinking of
the end, or the wholesome warning given us by such a
remarkable Poem as the one you speak of

As to your question, I wish I was a mystical theologian to
help you. I showed it to Father St. John, and he thought
you would like to have a passage from a great Spanish
Mystic, which he has translated for you.

Yours Affectionately,
John H. Newman.

' An error for " Sixth."


Hastings, Sept. i6, 1878.

My Dear Mrs. Bishop,

Thank you for shewinf^ me the verses and Mrs.
Latouche's criticism, to which, I think, httle can be added.
The feeHng and thought are dehcate and beautiful ; but
the Authoress has not danced long enough in the fetters of
some ordinary and formal metre to be able to trust herself
with safety to the perilous liberty of the iambic ode.

It is only after writing for half my life in two of the very
simplest metres — as a student of the piano is kept half his
life to the practice of the scales — that I have come to feel
myself free to try the wider harmony ; and no one knows
better, or, perhaps, so well as I do, how seldom I have yet
attained to do so with the success that justifies the attempt.
It is only by a long and laborious apprenticeship to external
law that one attains, either in life or poetry, to have the
law in the heart. . . .

Believe me, my dear Mrs. Bishop,

Yours ever truly,


The two follow^ing letters refer to the division of
opinion concerning certain of Patmore's " Odes,"
which followed their publication. The point has
been fully discussed in vol. i., pp. 315-319, where
Mr. de Vere's judgment on them has been recorded.
He is, of course, the friend alluded to. The " fun "
seems to have been somethingr of this sort : Mr. de
Vere's objection to what he considered an excessive
development of the analogy between human and
Divine love was, by those who supported Patmore's
view, taken to imply a depreciation of the " body "
or natural affections. Mr. de Vere was dubbed by
them " the Sylph," and it was said that " he could
not go to heaven, having ' no body.' " Though Pat-
more, as a loyal friend, took no part in this satire,
it can do no harm to record it in explanation of these
letters, especially as very many readers will to some
extent endorse Mr. de Vere's view.


Hastings, May 28 [1878 or 1879.]

My Dear Mrs. Bishop,

... I pity you if you have committed yourself to a
discussion of them [the " Odes "] with our friend. I refused
absolutely from the first to discuss the matter with him,
knowing the hopelessly different points of view from which
we looked at things. . . .

Yours most sincerely,

C. Patmore.

Hastings, Nov. 12 [1878 or 1879.]

My Dear Mrs. Bishop,

I shall never mention Mrs. 's fun to anybody

else, Mrs. J. is the only person with whom I have done
so ; and she had already heard it. I should be as sorry as
you would be to vex the subject of it. I have a sincere
liking and admiration for him, notwithstanding the very bad
names he called my poor little " Psyche."

I don't think you need fear writing about " Eros," if you
have a mind to. There is no one living that I know of who
could write about it with so much insight. But, if you wish,
as I know you do, to extend the influence of the Poem, don't
expatiate much on the deeper meaning of it, for which the
public is altogether unprepared. Get people to read it on
account of its literary qualities, and those who can will get
the other good out of it for themselves. You will only pro-
voke a most formidable opposition if you endeavour too
zealously and openly to make others sharers of the good
which you can get out of it, . . .

Yours ever truly,

C. Patmore.

The following letter was no doubt occasioned by
the issue of the translation of St, Bernard on the
" Love of God." (See vol, i., p. 216.)

Hastings, April 10, 1881.
My Dear Mrs. Bishop,

I can answer your inquiries best by sending you the
volumes of the Works of St. Bernard (eight in all) which


contain his life and the " Sermons on the Canticles," of
which the second part of the Httle book you have received
is a series of connected extracts. St, Bernard, though a
great man, is practically unknown even to educated
Catholics — who ought, I think, as a body, to be profoundly
ashamed of their utter neglect of the great storehouses of
pure food which are to be found in the Doctors of their
Church, while they feed instead on the vulgar garbage of
modern books of devotion.

St. Bernard is not, as you seem to think, one of the
especially mystical writers. The two books translated con-
tain nothing but plain doctrine and the experience of any
devout soul.

If the Catholic Church in England were not deader than
ditch water, I should anticipate a great popularity for this
little book.

It will probably find many more readers among High-
Church people than Catholics.

Yours ever truly,

C. Patmore.

Hastings, Jany. 29, 1881.

My Dear Mrs. Bishop.

The Meditations ^ are so good that I find it im-
possible to " read " them, except as I read a Kempis — a
page or two at the time, and half an hour about it. The
vigour of the spiritual life in them is such that one no more
thinks of their " literary " quality (which however is perfect)
than one does of a rushlight in presence of sunlight.

The present form of publication will not be any test of
their popularity. They should be published in a small
pocket volume. I shall certainly mention the volume when-
ever I find opportunity

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, Aug. 15, 1887.
My Dear Mrs. Bishop,

Of course I recognize your hand in Saturday's
" Tablet." In the forty years I have been writing I have

^ Probably those by Mrs. Craven.


had plenty of praise as well as blame, but I do not re-
member to have felt really gratified by any praise but
yours ; for yours alone has declared that I have succeeded
in the special points in which I desired success, all others
commending me only for qualities in which I know I was
equalled or excelled by other writers.

Yours very truly,




THE following letters may be more interest-
ing for a few words of explanation. Mr.
Bridges' work is too well known to need any
comment. The sonnets alluded to are in a volume
issued anonymously in 1889, entitled "The Growth
of Love." Patmore wrote a review of " Prometheus
the Fire-giver " in '* The St. James's Gazette "
(March 9, 1885), which is not republished in his
collected essays.

Patmore's friendship for Father Gerard Hopkins,
S.]., has been alluded to in vol. i., p. 175 and p. 318.
In the latter passage I have told how he was inno-
cently responsible for the destruction of the " Sponsa
Dei " ; and one of the followinof letters g-ives an ac-
count of this. A memoir of Father Hopkins by
Robert Bridges and specimens of his verse are to
be found in " The Poets and the Poetry of the
Century," vol., viii. pp. 161-170. Some of Father
Hopkins's letters to Patmore will be found further
on in this vplume.

Hastings, May 2, 1884.
Dear Mr. Bridges,

I beg heartily to congratulate you on the news you
tell me of. Some day in the summer I expect to be able
to arrange a visit to Oxford and Cambridge in company
with Basil Champneys, whom I believe you know ; and you
will perhaps then be able to give me the double pleasure of
making your acquaintance and that of your wife that will
be. I am very glad to find that my feeling about my son's


verses is supported by your opinion, to which, as I told
Mr. Hopkins, I attach so much weight that I hesitate to
give so absolute a verdict of dissent from some of his
(Hopkins's) poetical novelties as I otherwise should give.
To me his poetry has the effect of veins of pure gold im-
bedded in masses of unpracticable quartz. He assures me
that his " thoughts involuntary moved " in such numbers,
and that he did not write them from preconceived theories.
I cannot understand it. His genius is however unmistak-
able, and is lovely and unique in its effects whenever he
approximates to the ordinary rules of composition.

Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, May 7, 1884.
My Dear Sir,

I thank you very much for " Prometheus." I have
already read it two or three times, having bought a copy
from Mr. Gee soon after it came out. My future readings
of it will be all the pleasanter for being out of your presen-
tation copy, and I shall take care that my other copy finds
a place in some worthy library. I do not like to tell you
how thoroughly I like the poem. If you wish to know, you
can ask one or two of our common acquaintances. I wish
I had not had to tell Hopkins of my objections. But I had
either to be silent or to say the truth ; and silence would
have implied more difference than I felt.

I have seldom felt so much attracted towards any man
as I have been towards him, and I shall be more sorry than
I can say if my criticisms have hurt him.

Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, Jany. 4, 1887.
My Dear Bridges,

I am glad to hear that Canon Dixon is writing —
especially lyrics, which are more in my line than epics or
dramas — unless these also, like " Prometheus the Fire-
giver," are lyrical. I begin to think that writing poetry
tends to make one a very narrow-minded reader of poetry.
I have rashly undertaken to give my verdict in " The St.


James's Gazette " on Rossetti. I have been hopelessly en-

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 36)