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Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

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fun better.

You certainly deserve to be made a Bishop. Won't the
people who live in Closes, and the general Spirits of Musti-
ness preside over your fortunes benevolently — henceforward.
Also all the people who have nothing to do but to be grace-
ful. My word ! when you go out this season you'll be
petted. More than Mr. Punch himself
Ever affectionately yours

With sincere regards to Mrs. Patmore


The following letter was written on October 21,
i860, in Patmore's defence, after an attack upon the
" Victories of Love," and appeared in " The Critic "
the 27th of the same month. It is reprinted in
'* Arrows of the Chase," vol. ii., p. 243, and is re-
ferred to in vol. i., p. 168.

To THE Editor of " The Critic."

Sir, — I do not doubt, from what I have observed of the
general tone of the criticisms in your columns, that, in can-
dour and courtesy, you will allow me to enter protest, bear-
ing such worth as private opinion may, against the estimate
expressed in your last number of the merits of Mr. C.
Patmore's new poem. It seems to me you have read it
hastily ; and that you have taken such view of it as on a
first reading almost any reader of good but impatient judg-
ment would be but too apt to concur with you in adopting
— one, nevertheless, which, if you examine the poem with


care, you will, I think, both for your readers' sake and for
Mr. Patmore's, regret having expressed so decidedly.

The poem is, to the best of my perception and belief, a
singularly perfect piece of art ; containing, as all good art
does, many very curious short-comings (to appearance), and
places of rest, or of dead colour ; or of intended harshness,
which, if they are seen or quoted without the parts of the
piece to which they relate, are of course absurd enough,
precisely as the discords in a fine piece of music would be,
if you played them without their resolutions. You have
quoted separately Mr. Patmore's discords ; you might by the
same system of examination have made Mozart or Mendels-
sohn appear to be no musicians, as you have probably con-
vinced your quick readers that Mr. Patmore is no poet.

I will not beg of you so much space as would be neces-
sary to analyse the poem ; but I hope you will let me — once
for all — protest against the method of criticism which
assumes that entire familiarity and simplicity in certain
portions of a great work destroy its dignity. Simple things
ought to be simply said, and truly poetical diction is nothing
more nor less than right diction ; the incident being itself
poetical or not, according to its relations and the feelings
which it is intended to manifest — not according to its own
nature merely. To take a single instance out of Homer
bearing on that same simple household work which you are
so shocked at Mr. Patmore's taking notice of. Homer de-
scribes the business of a family washing, when it comes into
his poem, in the most accurate terms he can find : " They
took the clothes in their hands ; and poured on the clear
water ; and trod them in trenches, thoroughly, trying who
could do it best ; and when they had washed them and got
off all the dirt, they spread them out on the sea-beach, where
the .sea had blanched the shingle cleanest."

These are the terms in which the great poet explains the
matter. The less poet — or, rather, man of modern wit and
breeding, witJioiit superior poetical power — thus put the
affair into dignified language :

" Then emulous the royal robes they lave,
And plunge the vestures in the cleansing wave.
(The vestures, cleansed, o'erspread the shelly sand,
Their snowy lustre whitens all the strand.)"

Now, to my mind. Homer's language is by far the most


poetical of the two — is, in fact, the only poetical language
possible in the matter. Whether it was desirable to give
any account of this, or anything else, depends wholly on the
relation of the passage to the rest of the poem ; and you
could only show Mr. Patmore's glance into the servants' room
to be ridiculous by proving the mother's mind, which it
illustrates, to be ridiculous. Similarly, if you were to take
one of Mr. George Richmond's perfectest modern portraits,
and give a little separate engraving of a bit of the necktie
or coat-lappet, you might easily demonstrate a very prosaic
character either in the ribband-end or the button-hole. But
the only real question respecting them is their relation to
the face, and the degree in which they help to express the
character of the wearer. What the real relations of the parts
are in the poem in question only a thoughtful and sensitive
reader will discover. The poem is not meant for a song,
nor calculated for an hour's amusement ; it is, as I said, to
the best of my belief, a finished and tender work of very
noble art. Whatever on this head may be the final judg-
ment of the public, I am bound, for my own part, to express
my obligation to Mr. Patmore, as one of my severest models
and tutors in use of English, and my respect for him as one
of the truest and tenderest thinkers who have ever illustrated
the most important, because commonest, states of noble
human life.

I remain, Sir, yours, &c. JOHN RUSKIN.



The following is the first letter written by Ruskin
after Patmore's conversion and second marriage. In
the last sentence Ruskin appears to allude to
Patmore's Turkish sympathies, as well as to these
two events. It ends with a parody of the lines in
the "Angel" in which "Felix" gives a list of the
scenes of his immature loves.

24th Dec, — 64.

My Dear Patmore, ....

I've been quoting you with much applause — at
Manchester, but it is a great nuisance that you have turned


Roman Catholic — for it makes all your fine thinking so in-
effectual to us English — and to unsectarian people gener-
ally — and we wanted some good pious thinkers just now to
make head against those cursed fools of Conservation-of-
Force Germans. But what must be — must be — if it had
been me, I should have turned Turk, and taken sixteen
wives — " At Paris one, in Sarum three."

Ever affectionately yours,


The " Ridiculous Book," alluded to in the following
letter, is "Sesame and Lilies." The lines quoted are
as follows :

" Ah, wasteful woman ! she who may

On her sweet self set her own price.
Knowing he cannot choose but pay.

How has she cheapened Paradise !
How given for nought her priceless gift.

How spoiled the bread and spill'd the wine,
Which, spent with due respective thrift.

Had made brutes men, and men divine."

Ruskin had apparently, in quoting, altered the
seventh line to

" Which, granted all with sacred thrift."

In connection with this quotation Ruskin prints the
encomium on Patmore's writings which has been
given, vol. i., p. 168.

Denmark Hill, S.,

Dear Patmore,

I hope you'll have that ridiculous book of mine next
week. I wish I could feel it a little " pearly " myself — for
the rest, I entirely sympathise with you in that butterfly
notion — (capital in expression by the way)— only I feel it
an Egyptian hailstorm mingled with fire. The lectures
were written for a couple of school-girls in reality — and
only delivered to amuse them, not in the least expecting
they were to be of any use to the public. But I've got
some Billingsgate spoken out in the first lecture, which
relieves one's mind, like swearing, even when there's nobody


to hear. Don't alter your line. I altered it indeed partly
intentionally in reciting^ because I did'nt think people would
understand " spent " etc. — straight off lips, but it is much
better in reading. A woman's influence is not all " granted,"
much of it is spent in small change here and there, — nor is
it all with sacred, but it is all with respectful thrift.
Respectful and quite unthrifty love to your wife,

Ever faithfully yours,


The next letter was w^ritten in acknow^ledgment of
a copy of the nine Odes, privately printed. The book
alluded to was probably some treatise on Roman

Denmark Hill, S.,

26th April, 1868.
My Dear Patmore,

You know that I am bound to write no needless
word. It is needful to thank you for the book you sent
me, and for these odes ; it is I hope needless to tell you
that I recognize the nobleness of the last, and that the first
shall help me, as it may.

Ever faithfully yours,

Coventry Patmore, Esq.

The next letter alludes to Patmore's essay, " Pre-
fatory Study of English Metrical Law," published
with "Amelia." The passages specially referred to
will be found on pages 1 1 and 1 2 of this essay. The
verse quotation is from Byron's " Isles of Greece."

My Dear Patmore,

Your paper has come safe (which I thought it as
well to assure you of), and shall be safe. Though I do
not promise to return it in less than a week, it being intensely
interesting to me, as declaring what I now believe to be
entirely true (though entirely contrary to my — up to this
time — strongly held opinion) that verse must " feel, though
not suffer from " the restraint of metre. My type of perfec-
tion has hitherto been perfect and energetic prose.


" You have the Pyrrhic dance, as yet ; — where is the
Pyrrhic phalanx gone ? — of two such lessons, why forget the
nobler and the manlier one ? " But I believe you are entirely
right. The Gothic simile crushes me. I was afraid — after
our walk yesterday — that you would go home in a rage at
my depressing and degrading enquiries. It must have been
the consciousness of helping that made you feel helped.

I hope to see you again soon and hear that Mrs. Patmore
is better.

With all our best regards.

Yours gratefully.



The following letters refer to Patmore's reviews
of Ruskin's published works. The first is from John
Ruskin's father. This and the two next letters refer
to an article in the " Edinburgh Review" on vol. i.
of the " Stones of Venice." The last two letters
probably refer to Patmore's article, " Ethics of Art."
For references to these reviews see footnote, vol. i.,
p. 109. The last letter refers to " Modern Painters,"
vol. ii. The publication anticipated may be "Stones
of Venice," vol. ii., which was issued July 28, 1853.

Denmark Hill, 15th Oct., 1851.

My Dear Sir,

I beg to thank you for your kind letter of 14 inst. ; —
I was not aware of the Article in the " Edinburgh Review "
being yours, but I regarded it as a very able and kindly
written Essay, and even passed unnoticed the passages you
allude to. After such Reviews as Blackwood, one gets used
to smaller rubs and the editor of the Edinb. would not be
true to his place if he did not shake his Spear or pepper
Box over anything made too mild or bland for his taste.

I deemed the notice so important from the acquaintance
it manifested with the Subject, that I cut it out and sent it
by post to my son at Venice, that he might see it before he
was farther advanced in his second volume. He seldom
entirely reads Critiques on his writings, unless he is told he


can get some information from them. I recommended your
essay to him as a very desirable one for him to consider
well for his own sake. Blackwood's is useless — merely
smart, clever, spiteful and amusing, concocted for a purpose,
it purposely mutilates and perverts.

I send your Letters to my son, which I am sure he will

be much gratified in perusing

I am,

My dear Sir,
Yours very truly,

John James Ruskin.
C. K. Patmore, Esq.

[Probably written from Venice, end of 1851.]

Dear Patmore,

Best thanks for your most kind review — rather too
much influence of friendship in it, I fear, but I think it will
do jou credit also — in several ways : the summary you have
given of the historical views in the first chapter is magnifi-
cent, I should like to substitute it in the book itself

I am surprised at your not having noticed one thing, of
which I am very conceited and which I should have thought
would have interested you, the account of the nature of the
Cusp. Whether it be stated for the first time, I know not —
but I know I found it out for myself — and lived " pavoneg-
giando " for a month afterwards.

Kind regards to Mrs. Patmore

Ever faithfully and gratefully yours,

J. Ruskin.

I will shew fight — entre nous — against your Early
English capitals, but I dare say your objection to p. 484 is
just, I hope it is so. I like your pp. 488 and 489 exceed-

[End of 1 85 1 or beginning of 1852.]

My Dear Patmore,

Many thanks for your kind note, just received. I
was on the point of writing to you to ask if your review
editors gave you a copy of the book — they ought, unques-
tionably — and I have among my artist-friends many who


would I believe be glad to have the book and cannot buy
it — so that my presentation copies are nearly exhausted ;
but if your review don't I will send you one — only then
send me back the sheets you have, that I may get them
bound for somebody else — I hope they sent you the plates
also, or the text would be of little use to you.

I shall be delighted to have a brush with the Edinburgh :
and you may tell the Editor so — with my compliments.
I will keep a corner of Appendix open for him in the
second volume.

Yours most truly


[Spring of 1853 ?]

My Dear Patmore,

I have been much interested by reading your paper,
and concur most heartily in it all except my being fit to
write an essay on Religious Art, which I shall not be these
ten years at least ; and what you say of Spanish painters
— whom I think a thoroughly zVTeligious rascally set — only
Velasquez a noble painter: a great man — but no more
piety in him, I believe than in Lord John Russell — (though
I like his last letter exceedingly — si sic omnia — it is a God-
send indeed — but on his part a mere piece of scientific play)
— I think however from some passages in this paper of
yours, that you cannot have met with and might perhaps
be interested in, some passages in the book I wrote about
Turner — Modern Painters — the second vol. If you have
not seen it, I will send it you as it bears much on my pre-
sent work — marking the bits which I think would interest
you. Never think of calling at D. Hill, my mother never
expects anything of the kind, and your holidays may be
much better spent — when you have time you must come
and dine there again, the best way of calling.

Yours most truly,


Coventry K. Patmore, Esq.

My Dear Patmore,

Many thanks for your kind note about arches, etc.
quite what I wanted. I shall tell Smith and Elder to send


you the books, and will write your name in them if you like
to have them — the parts of Modern Painters which I think
will interest you are the chapts : about ideal beauty — 12th
13th and 14th: and the account of Tintoret — pp. 168. et
seq. : and the end of " superhuman ideal."

I will return you the paper on Ethics, but alas ! I have
torn off last page — intending to paste part of it in for a
quotation on one of mine — so excuse fragmentary form.

You shall know time of publication early. I am not yet
in press, and it will take at least a month after I am.

Ever yours,



These letters refer to Ruskin's defence of and
association with the Prae-Raphaelites, an account
of which is given vol. i., pp. 85-86. The last letter
refers to Millais's "Vale of Rest", exhibited 1859.
The quotation which occurs in it is of course from
Tennyson's " Princess."

Denmark Hill,

loth May [1851.]

Dear Patmore,

I wrote to " The Times " yesterday : but the letter
is not in it to-day : it went late, and might have been too
late — but if it is not in in Monday's the letter shall go to
the Chronicle — in a somewhat less polite form — My father
has written to ask if the ark picture be unsold — and what
is its price — I wish Hunt would also let me know his price
for Valentine — I may perhaps be of service to him.

Yours ever faithfully,

Coventry K. Patmore, Esq.


Dear Patmore,

. I am very glad your friends were pleased with the
letter. I wrote a continuation of it, which I have not sent


— because to people who did not know that there are not
ten pictures in the Academy which I would turn my head
to look at — it might have read carping — but I wish — entre
nous — you would ask Millais whether it would have been
quite impossible for him to have got a bit of olive branch
out of some of our conservatories — instead of painting one
on Speculation — or at least, ascertained to some approxima-
tion, what an olive leaf was like : and also, whether he has
ever in his life seen a bit of old painted glass, near ? and
what modern stuff it was that he studied from ?

Pray tell Hunt how happy I shall be to be allowed to
see his picture.

Yours ever faithfully



Dear Patmore,

Thank you for what you suggest about the Millais
— I rather doubt his having any typical intention carried
out so far — though I heard he intended the cloud to be like
a coffin. He has the highest dramatic power — I doubt his
reflective faculty.

The remonstrance about your lines is too late — as you
will see by book now binding and I hope to be soon sent.
I assure you it is true. My gift is wholly rationalistic and
deductive — my descriptions are genuine in emotion — but
wholly wanting in highest quality ; and I am in all matters
of this one mind — that four lines of Best is worth any
quantity of Seconds.

I've written a good deal about waterfalls — pneumatic-
ally enough. But the single line

"That, like a broken purpose, waste in air"

is worth all put together.

With sincere regards to Mrs. Patmore and best wishes
for Tennyson's boy — believe me

Faithfully and affectionately yours.


You'll see I doii't depreciate m}'self in all ways.



The explanation of the following letters is to be
found in " Fors Clavigera," letter Ixvi. appendix 3
(vol. vi., p. 197).

Patmore had written to Ruskin as follows (this
is the only letter of Patmore's to Ruskin which is
recoverable) :

May 15 th.

My Dear Ruskix,

I enclose two extracts cut from the same day's paper,
which contain so grimly humorous a parallel between the
ways in which the " Protestant Church " and " the World "
are engaged in " obliterating all traces of the Virgin Mary,"
that I thought you might possibly use them in "Fors" or

Yours affectionately,

Coventry Patmore.

The extracts referred to are (i) an account of the
destruction at Bristol of figures of the Virgin Mary,
and (2) the description of a boxing-match in New
York between two " lady contestants " —

Ruskin writes in " Fors :"

The following are the two extracts. Before giving them,
I must reply to my greatly honoured and loved friend, that
both the Bristol destroyers of images and New York de-
stroyers of humanity, are simply — Lost sheep of the great
Catholic Church : account of them will be required at her

The above was the *' snap at you " alluded to in
the third of these letters.

Ruskin had written to Patmore (July, 1876?):
" You will see in next ' Fors ' something of Catholic
Faith wider than yours." The letter is undated, but
probably refers to a number of " Fors Clavigera "


which contains a diatribe against usury. This is
no doubt the explanation of the fourth letter.

Easter Monday,
Dear Patmore,

Your letter is of extreme interest to me. Will you
allow me, with, or without your name, to print it, and reply
in my Fors Correspondence ?

I had really no idea that Bertha was so docile ; — you told
me, you naughty papa, that she liked taking her own way,
and I find that so frequent a disposition in young ladies that
I easily credited her with it. Love to her, and I had a most
solemn intention of sending her something by this Post, as
the first that Easter lets go with parcels. But my heap of
letters may take till post time. Ever yrs :

J. R.


Coniston, Lancashire.

[May 1876?]

Dear Patmore,

Yes, those are two notable paragraphs. I've sent
them to the printer with your letter. Keeping "brickmakers"
for another time.

Ever affectionately yours
J. R

Coniston, Lancashire,
7 July, 1876.
My Dear Patmore,

Enclosed letter seems from a more civilized sort of
person than usually writes from the other side of the water.
I have told him that I believed you had some copies of the
" Angel," and recommended him to write to you. I hope
you will be able to give this reference to original sources
some encouragement. Why don't you answer my snap at
you in " Fors " ? I do hope Bertha's drawings will soon come
out of my hands.

Ever affectly. yours,
John Ruskin.


Corpus Christi College,

Dear Patmore,

You are illogical. I did not tell you to look for a
" morass " wider than your faith, but for a rock wider.

Gravely, I think you are too scornful even of the morass,
in which there is much bog, heather and miserable peat.
Ought we not all to be redeeming what we may of it ?

Love to Bertha. If only I could get my book out, but
the days melt like snow.

Ever affectly. yrs.,

J. R.


Patmore.especiallyin the years of his first marriage,
took great pleasure in bringing together such friends
of his as were likely to prove congenial to each other.
I do not know when or where Ruskin made Tenny-
son's acquaintance. Mr. Collingwood states that
Ruskin met Browning in June, 1850, on the invita-
tion of Coventry Patmore. But it seems certain
that the Brownings were not in England in that
year. They were however here in 1851 and 1852,
and met Ruskin, probably at Patmore's, in Sep-
tember, 1852. Mr. Ruskin, as I gather from a note
by his Secretary, was under the impression that his
first meeting with Mrs. Browning was in 1853. This
is certainly an error, as the Brownings were abroad
throughout that year, and there is no record to show
that Ruskin travelled at that time. But I am at a
loss to understand when Ruskin can have been " so
many years " without seeing Mrs. Patmore. It can
scarcely have been so in 1851 or 1852, when their
intercourse had apparently been frequent. I may
point out that the letter does not necessarily imply
that the proposed meeting between Ruskin and Mrs.
Browninor would have been the first.


Denmark Hill,

20th October,

My Dear Patmore,

It would have given me very great pleasure to be
with you to-morrow evening, but I have got a chronic relaxa-
tion of the throat which is beginning to make me cautious —
and I fear I cannot venture out at night during its continu-
ance. I beg your pardon and Mrs. Patmore's for being so
long in answering — but I really could not make up my mind

to refuse It is very curious, I particularly want

to know Tennyson, and whenever I have had an opportunity
of doing so — I have been ill and imprisoned — once at
Leamington and now again here.

Ever most truly yours,

Coventry K. Patmore, Esq.

Friday INIorning.

Dear Mr. Patmore,

I have been waiting to see if I could manage to
get over to you on Saturday evening — and I have got my
matters arranged so that I can have the pleasure of doing
so. I will be with you at the hour you name, and shall
rejoice to meet Mrs. Browning ; but if she does not come, I
shall be equally glad to have seen Mrs. Patmore again —
after so many years.

Yours most truly,

Coventry K. Patmore, Esq.


I have alluded to the great interest which Ruskin
took in Bertha Patmore's drawings when he first saw
them in 1875. (See vol. i., p. 253.)

For some years after this her drawings were sent
to him, and he eave her valuable advice and en-
couraeement. The third letter refers to a water-


colour drawing of a wild rose she had sent him.
The last letter refers to Miss Patmore's " illumina-
tion," which she took up later. Patmore presented
Ruskin with a copy of the " Unknown Eros," for
which his daughter furnished an illuminated title-
page. This explains the last letter of this series.


Coniston, Lancashire,
5th Sept., [1875?].

My Dear Patmore,

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 36)