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deavouring for the past week to arrive at any clear notion
of what can be justly said about him, and all, I suppose,
because I have got into so deep a rut of my own. But
perhaps, now that I have done with poetry and have taken
to newspaper writing, I may become more liberal and
larger minded — though it is somewhat late for me to begin.
I hope that we may meet again before very long ; but I
am unable as yet to say that I can leave home in the
summer, I have already one engagement, and I find it
more and more difficult to leave my fireside, my pipe, and
my " musings on things to come."

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.

Hastings, June 7, 1889.

My Dear Bridges,

How could you expect anybody to recognize you,
when you were alternately stretched and cramped on the
Procrustes' bed of the Sonnet ? However, I did more than
once strongly suspect it was you, though my suspicion was
again sent to sleep by the dilettante form of your publica-
tion. Why should an established poet print only 22 copies .-*
I do not discover in the sonnets themselves any sufficient
reason for such maidenly reserve.

None of the sonnets seemed " dull," nor can I point out
any that especially pleased me. What I like in your poems
best is the quality which I have always tried, though I
fear not with your success, to attain in my own (which
however I think I remember your saying that you have
never read), namely such an equality throughout as makes
it impossible to pick here and there, and say " how fine."

I am sorry to hear of the illness of Gerard Hopkins.

I will send you a copy of my " St. James's Essays " in a
week or two.

Yours ever truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, Aug. 12th, 1889.
My Dear Bridges,

I can well understand how terrible a loss you have
suffered in the death of Gerard Hopkins — you who saw so


much more of him than I did. I spent three days with
him at Stonyhurst, and he stayed a week with me here ;
and that, with the exception of a somewhat abundant
correspondence by letter, is all the communication I had
with him ; but this was enough to awaken in me a reverence
and affection, the like of which I have never felt for any
other man but one, that one being Frederick Greenwood,
who for more than a quarter of a century has been the sole
true and heroic politician and journalist in our degraded
land. Gerard Hopkins was the only orthodox, and as far
as I could see, saintly man in whom religion had absolutely
no narrowing effect upon his general opinions and sym-
pathies. A Catholic of the most scrupulous strictness, he
could nevertheless see the Holy Spirit in all goodness, truth
and beauty ; and there was something in all his words and
manners which were at once a rebuke and an attraction to
all who could only aspire to be like him. The authority of
his goodness was so great with me that I threw the manu-
script of a little book — a sort of " Religio Poetae " ^ — into
the fire, simply because, when he had read it, he said with
a grave look, " That's telling secrets." This little book had
been the work of ten years' continual meditations, and could
not but have made a greater effect than all the rest I have
ever written ; but his doubt was final with me.

I am very glad to know that you are to write a memorial
of him. It is quite right that it should be privately printed.
I, as one of his friends, should protest against any attempt
to share him with the public, to whom little of what was
most truly characteristic in him could be communicated.

Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, Aug. i6, 1890.
My Dear Bridges,

Thank you for confiding to me your reasons for not
writing the memorial — at least yet. Should you ever do so,
I have a considerable number of letters, which \'ou might
possibly like to see, and which would be at your service. I
should much like to talk this and other matters over with
you : if you would like it, I would try to make a night or

"Sponsa Dei " (see vol. i., pp. 315-319)-


two at Yattenden, if it fits in with a visit which I shall be
paying with a friend near Oxford in the course of this
autumn. The coincidences pointed out in your note are
very remarkable ; but I should hesitate before I concluded
from them that Calderon had seen the " Tempest." Did
dates justify the suspicion ? I should rather have suspected
that Shakespeare had read Calderon.^ These fancies of the
" Tempest " seem to me to savour more of the latter than
the former. Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, March 4, 1891.
Mv Dear Bridges,

I am very sorry to have to disclaim any right to your
thanks for the article in the " Anti-Jacobin." All my articles
are signed. I congratulate you on the way — slow but sure
— that your poems are making.

As to your evil news: life, wdth the happiest of us, unless
we get out of it early, is a deep tragedy, or a succession of
tragedies, and the end of each of us is to be the subject of
a tragedy. There is nothing so consoling about such evils
as their inevitability.

With kind regards to Mrs. Bridges,
Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Hastings, Aug. 7, 1891.
My Dear Bridges,

Thank you for your " Eden," which I have read with
as much pleasure as I am well able to derive from poetry
of that kind, which always, even in Milton, makes me feel
as if I was trying to breathe in a vacuum. No blame to
the kind of poetry, but to me, who can only breathe and see
in the " valley of vision." Have pity on me for an earth-
grubber, and do not altogether withdraw your friendship,
though your respect for my understanding may be shattered.

I remain.

Your much ashamed
Coventry Patmore.

' Impossible. Shakespeare died when Calderon was sixteen
years old.


Lymington, Oct. 2, 1891.
My Dear Bridges,

. , . We like the new home better and better every
day. I have never seen a better planned or more character-
istic house. It is a good size — some 33 rooms — about four
times as large as we want — but somehow we have swelled
our five selves out so as to fill it all — that is to say, to have
an appointed use for every part. You need never fear that
there may not be a spare room for you. We have a lovely
wild garden of about 3 acres, and the views from the
windows are more like the shores of Maggiore or Lucerne
than anything else I have seen in England.
Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Lymington, Hants, Nov. 23, 1892.

My Dear Bridges,

I congratulate you — though late — on the birth of
your son, which I had not heard of I lead a hermit's life
here, as I have done always, and am not in the way of
hearing anything. I take in the " Morning Post," indeed, but
only because my servants complain, if I take no paper in,
that they cannot light the fires. I never read it.^ This
place suits me in every way better than Hastings. No
country I have ever seen in England or elsewhere is, to my
mind, to be compared to the New Forest. I am very much

of your opinion about . His is a high mediocrity —

just the thing to make a great reputation. I suppose that he
is the most likely Laureate. Gladstone, of whom a certain
poet of your nation has said,

" His leprosy's so perfect that men call him clean," '"

admires him greatly. Best regards to Mrs. Bridges.

Yours truly,

Coventry Patmore.

^ He did however almost daily walk to the " Angel " and read
the "Times " (see vol. i., p. 391).

■ Quoted from " The Merry Murder."


Lymington, May i, 1895.

My Dear Bridges,

I am reading with great pleasure and admiration
your book on Keats. Nothing can surpass the artistic
quality of Keats, at his best ; but I am perpetually
reminded, in Endymion and Hyperion, that he is writing
about things he does not understand. No man can be fit
to write such psychological parables as Keats attempts till
he is past forty and has devoted many and many years to
contemplation of his own soul and its relations. . . .

Yours ever,

Coventry Patmore.

Lymington, Hants, May 30, 1895.
My Dear Bridges,

I read your book on Keats with great attention,
pleasure and admiration, except in a few parts in which I
thought you gave him too high a place among the great
poets, and did not sufficiently dwell upon the predominance
of the emotional character in his poetry. He is full to
overflow with fine imagery, yet he seems to me to be
greatly deficient in first-rate imaginative powers. Some of
the greatest imaginative poems of the world have been
almost totally free from imagery. This is the highest test
of great imagination.

Yours ever truly,

Coventry Patmore.

The following letter refers to " English Odes
selected by Edmund Gosse " (Kegan Paul and Co.,
1 881), which Mr. Gosse was then compiling. The
term " Pindarique " is used in allusion to Cowley's
Odes, two of which are translations, the rest imita-
tions of Pindar. Apparently Cowley fell into the
same error, with regard to the metrical construction
of Pindar's Odes, as Horace. (See vol. i., p. 243.)

Hastings, Nov. 19, 1880.
Dear Sir,

The Ode called the " Unknown Eros " is at your
service for your selection. Your volume is likely to be a


valuable one, provided that you extend it so as to include
such Odes as Spenser's "Epithalamium" (the one on his own
marriage) ; but if you limit it to Odes proper, according to
the " Pindarique " notion, I do not see where you are to get
enough for even a small volume.

Trusting you will not think this remark obtrusive,

I remain,

Dear Sir,

Yours truly,

C. Patmore.

Hastings, June 21, 1881.
My Dear Mr. Gosse,

Many thanks for Crashaw, with most of whose poems
I was unacquainted.

I have not yet found anything equal to " Music's Duel,"
which is perhaps the most wonderful piece of word-craft
ever done.

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.

The " really splendid little poem " alluded to in
the following letter is " Renunciation," printed in
" Firdausi in Exile," 1886. The poem which Pat-
more incloses is called in the manuscript copy
"■Scire Te-ipsumy It was published in the editions
of his poems of 1886 and 1890 under the title, " The
Three Witnesses." It is notable as being, in all
probability, the most condensed expression of one of
Patmore's most characteristic apprehensions ; also as,
with the exception of a short poem called " A
Retrospect" (see vol. i., p. 245), the last serious
poem he wrote.

Hastings, July 25, 1882.
My Dear Gosse,

I thank you for sending me your really splendid
little poem, which expresses with the vigour and joy of
experience the Catholic doctrine that Virginity is not the
denial but the consummation of love.


On the next leaf is the copy of verses you asked for.
They may be taken as the complement of yours, as express-
ing the rewards of virginity — attainable even in this life —
in the supernatural order.

I would that, with such remarkable powers of expression
and so many years before you, you could become a worker
in the inexhaustible poetic mine of Catholic psychology.

Yours ever truly,

Coventry Patmore.

Patmore's next letter alludes to a sonnet written
by Mr. Gosse on Henry Patmore. It was printed,
entitled " H. P.," in the volume of Henry's poems
mentioned vol. i., p. 294, and was reprinted in
" Firdausi in Exile " with the same heading. The
following is Mr. Gosse's letter offering this poem.

21. I. 84.

My Dear Patmore,

I come back, as I always do from a visit to you,
strongly moved and quickened in spirit, dazzled with glimpses
of a stronger light than common day. I have already written
to Oxford about the printing of Henry's Poems, and shall
let you know as soon as I have an answer. You will also
let me know, will you not, directly you hear from Woolner ?
I shall be seeing Thornycroft on Wednesday night — perhaps
by then I shall have heard from you.

As I lay awake last night thinking of what you had told
me about Henry, and what I had read of his writing, I
composed some verses which I venture to send you. If they
do not seem to you below what is creditable, I would offer
them as a slight tribute of mine to his memory, and, if you
chose, they might be printed, in italics, between your memoir
and the first of his verses ; and this might recover the page
which was abandoned on account of my criticism — the
.'\ntigone fragment ! But this is only if you really like them
a little, or wish to see them there.

With kindest greetings to all your household, from the
Poet to the tiny Epiphany with his grave eyes, believe me.
My dear Friend,

Yours very sincerely

Edmund Gosse.


Hastings, Jany. 22, 1884.
My Dear Gosse,

I do not know how to thank you for the beautiful
verses. Of course they will be a most welcome addition to
the little volume.

Yours ev'er truly,

C. Patmore,

Mr. Gosse's poem, " The Renunciation," has
already been mentioned. The poem which raised
the ire of the orentleman in Dublin must have been
" The Cruise of the Rover."

Hastings, Nov. 18, 1885.
My Dear Gosse,

My best thanks for " Firdausi in Exile." I have
already read most of the volume, and admire in it the easy
and cultivated evenness which is so rare in modern poetry.
It is always good, and sometimes, as in the small piece
called " A Portrait " for example, very good. I was glad
to recognize in print that beautiful little poem " Renuncia-
tion," of which I have a copy in your handwriting. I must
say I sympathise with your correspondent the " gentleman
resident in Dublin," whenever you touch on Monks, Popish
Images, &c,; but if you will come down here from Saturday
till Monday, any time that suits you, you will find your life
safe at least, and — to heap coals on your head — comfortable,
if we can make it so.

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.

The two following letters allude to two out of
three articles which Mr. Gosse wrote on the 1886
edition of Patmore's poems. They appeared on the
following dates : "Athenaeum," June 12, " St. James's
Gazette," June 13, "Saturday Review," June 19, 1886.
It is fair to Mr. Gosse to record that this multiplica-
tion of reviews had for its sole motive the desire to
produce a reaction against the unfair criticism to
which Patmore had for some time been subject.
The review in the " Athenaeum " must have been a


special gratification to Patmore, as it was this journal
which had printed Mr. Chorley's parody on " The
Angel" (see vol. i., p. 170), the only critical insult
which gave him lasting pain. It may be noticed that
in this triplet of critiques Mr. Gosse has avoided re-
petition, and that they severally approach the sub-
ject from different points of view. Though they
*' mingled praise and blame," they were none the
less calculated to fulfil their writer's intention. Pat-
more indeed fully realized that unmeasured praise
was apt to defeat its object. " D. V." alludes to the
following lines from " The Victories of Love " :


"Also I thank you for the frocks
And shoes for baby. I (D.V.)
Shall soon be strong." ....

The last line had been in earlier editions
"Shall wean him soon."

The original version is a good example of Pat-
more's earlier tendency to physiologico-sentimen-
talism, which I have alluded to in vol. i., p. 176.

In the " Epilogue " to " The Angel " this passage

occurs :

" Passing, they left a gift of wine
At Widow Neale's." ....

Patmore makes a humorous allusion to these lines
in his essay on "Distinction."

The "bread-and-butter " passage from the "Athen-
aeum " review is as follows :

" This laureate of the tea-table, with his hum-drum stones
of girls that smell of bread and butter, is in his inmost heart
the most arrogant and visionary of mystics."

"Hastings, Monday, June 21, 1886.
My Dear Gosse,

Your "clawing" in the "Saturday" duly received.
At first I received an agreeable titillation : I felt inclined


to squall as your endearments acquired a certain feline
ferocity, and you tore out with your talents tufts of bloody
hair — seemly enough in their place — and displayed them to
a discerning public as specimens of my fur ; but I ended by
purring, when I came upon " The Departure," and assured
myself that, although the Saturday readers would look
upon " D.V." and " Widow Neale " as my average, still they
would see that in one or two happy moments, I could rise
above it.

Seriously however I thank you very much, and long for
the opportunity of i-/rt?/^z«^you, in my more mildly amatory
fashion in return.

Yours ever truly,

C. Patmore.

Hastings, Sunday, July 12, 1886.
My Dear Gosse,

I wrote yesterday before getting your note. You
need not dread our indignation. We were greatly pleased
with the praise, and no less amused by the blame. You
should have heard the inextinguishable laughter with which
your description of " Honoria " and " Amelia " as " girls
smelling of bread and butter " was received. My wife sug-
gests that, in the next edition the name of" Honoria" should
be changed to " Butterina." Your criticism almost tempts
me to break my resolution to write no more, in order to
show the world that, if I choose, I can depict a melancholy
whore after the most approved cotemporary type.
Yours with renewed thanks,

C. Patmore.

Mr. Gosse had, with Mr. Thomas Hardy, visited
WilHam Barnes, the Dorsetshire poet, shortly before
his death. The letter alluded to was printed by
Patmore in his article for the " Fortnightly Review,"
(46: 659) "An English Classic — William Barnes."
This essay is reprinted in " Religio Poetae," (there
called "A Modern Classic, William Barnes") but
with many passages omitted, this letter among them.

II. s


Mount Pleasant, Tunbridge Wells,
Sept. 6, 1886.
My Dear Gosse,

Thank you for your interesting letter about dear
old Barnes. I am glad he remembered me. I wonder
whether he feels assured of (if he cares for [it]) the certain
fame which awaits him " beyond these voices." His writ-
ings have all the qualities of — classics; and I don't know
of anyone else living of whom this can be said, except for a
small proportion of their work. He has done a small thing
well, while his contemporaries have been mostly engaged in

doing big things ill

Thanks for inquiring about artists for the " Angel." I
am told that Dicksee and Parsons have got years and years
of work on hand. I have not been able to hear of any
other likely people. Therefore most likely the project will
be dropped — for which I do not much care — indeed I do
not care at all. It is Bell's idea.

Remember me very kindly to your wife, and believe me

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.

When Barnes goes I should like to have the opportunity
of writing something about him. I am not likely to hear,
but you are. Please let me know, should you hear.

The article alluded to in the follow^ing letter must
have been that which appeared in the "St. James's
Gazette" on Oct 9, 1886 :

Hastings, Oct. 8th, 1886.
My Dear Gosse,

I have written and sent short notice of Barnes. I
had only an hour and a half to write it in.

Yours very truly,

C. Patmore.

If you could come down now and then on Saturday and
stay till Monday, it would be a charity.

I live all my days in a wilderness of fair women, and long
for some male chat.

The volume referred to in the followinor letter is


probably the 1890 collection (third revised edition)
entitled " On Viol and Flute."

The latter part refers to Patmore's essay " Dis-
tinction" (" Fortnightly Review," 53 : 826) reprinted
in " Religio Poetae." To this Patmore added the
following introductory note, alluded to in vol. i., p.

When this essay appeared in the " Fortnightly Review "
it was taken so much an grand serieux by the newspapers,
especially the " Spectator," that I resolved never thence-
forward to attempt to deal in " chaff" or fun, without clearly
intimating my intention at the outset.


My Dear Gosse,

I have been reading your last volume again with in-
creasing pleasure, and my wife, who is even a severer judge
of poetry than I am, admires it greatly.

Do you chance to have seen the " Spectator " and the
*' Guardian " in their solemn defence of themselves against
my " chaff" in the " Fortnightly " ? They take my rollick-
ing fun for the agonized contortions of a deeply wounded
spirit, and refute my gammon with a gravity worthy

Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.

The next letter refers to the translation of a
Spanish novel (under Mr. Gosse's editorship) " Pe-
pita Jimenez." Patmore reviewed it in the " Fort-
nightly," ^ and reprinted the essay in " Religio
Poetse," entitled "A Spanish Novelette" :

Lymington, Nov. 26, 1891.
My Dear Gosse,

I have just finished reading " Pepita" and must write
at once to tell you how delighted I am with the book. It
is the most charming novel I have ever read. Altogether

July, 1892. The article is entitled " Three Essayettes."


high and right in reh'gion and morals. Yet so absolutely
innocent of cant that it is sure to give scandal to the British
Public, and withal as full of concrete interest as if it were
written by Walter Scott. It has also a prevailing grace
which I have never found even a gleam of except in certain
plays of Calderon. Be sure, however, that that beast, the
British Public, will find nothing in it but an occasion to

Yours ever,

Coventry Patmore.

Mr. Gosse had been instrumental in arranging
that Mr. Sargent should paint Patmore's portrait.
A reproduction of it is given as the frontispiece to
this volume, and the picture and Patmore's own
opinion of it are discussed in vol. i., pp. 389, 390 :

Leamington, May 9, 1894.
My Dear Gosse,

I have not adequately expressed — indeed, I hardly
can express — my pleasure at the offer of Mr. Sargent, made
through you. You know my exceeding admiration of his
work. He seems to me to be the greatest, not only of
living English portrait painters, but of all English portrait
painters ; and to be thus invited to sit to him for my
picture is among the most signal honours I have ever

Yours ever,

Coventry Patmore.

Lymington, Hants, Sept. 7th, '94.
My Dear Gosse,

As you were instrumental in getting the portrait
done, I ought to tell you that it is now finished to the satis-
faction, and far more than the satisfaction of every one —
including the painter — who has seen it.

It will be simply, as a work of art, the picture of the

Yours very truly,

Coventry Patmore.



PATMORE was, during his later life, an om-
nivorous reader of novels and considered that
contemporary fiction reached a very high
level of excellence. The following letter to Mr.
Thomas Hardy is however the only epistolary en-
comium on any novelist's work which has come to
hand. For many years Mr. Hardy's novels were
his prime favourites. " Tess of the d'Urbervilles"
proved altogether distasteful to him. It is unne-
cessary to give a list of the novelists whose work
he admired. It would be a very long one. I will
content myself by recording the strongest opinion I
ever heard him utter. Not long before his death,
when we were discussing novels, I said to him " I
don't know what your opinion of Henry James is ? "
He replied, almost in a tone of reproach — implying
that one who knew him well ought to be in no
doubt — " Think of him } Why, of course I think
that he is incomparably the greatest living writer of

21 Campden Hill Road,

March 29, 1875.

I trust that you will not think I am taking too great
a liberty in writing to tell you with what extraordinary


pleasure and admiration I have read your novels, especially
that called " A Pair of Blue Eyes."

I regretted at almost every page that such almost un-
equalled beauty and power should not have assured them-
selves the immortality which would have been confirmed
upon them by the form of verse. But they deserve and I
hope will obtain an abiding place in the high ranks of
English literature without that aid — which perhaps I am
misled by the prejudice of my own craft in wishing for them.
I am not in the habit of assuming that anything that I
myself have written will be acceptable to strangers, but I

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 36)