Basil Champneys.

Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

. (page 24 of 36)
Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 24 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Elwes, a girl about twenty-one living in the next village to
my Father and the Turners ? My sister knows her well and
likes her. But I am wandering a long way from what I
meant to have said. Our hearty congratulations to Mr.
Patmore and yourself on your having recovered so far, and
most sincere wishes that you may soon be perfectly restored.
I am very glad Mr. Patmore likes the bust so much. It
is really delightful. Mr. Woolner should reap something of
his due meed of praise, as he is doing ; I only hope something
more may come to him.

I cannot write more than our love and best wishes,

Most sincerely yours,

Emily Tennyson.

The next two letters refer to the work which Mrs.
Patmore was doing in copying at the British Museum
material for the "Idylls of the King" (see vol. i.,
pp. 178-179). The first letter was probably written
shortly after the Patmore's visit to Sir John and
Lady Simeon in 1857 (see vol. i., p. 156).

Nov. 6th, [1857].
My Dear Mrs. Patmore,

I cannot bear to think of Mr. Patmore and yourself
toiling away for us. I do hope we may get a copy of

Tennyson's sister.


Geraint ap yErbyn, and so stop you. It is the Elegy on
Geraint Ally wants, you know. You speak as if there were
several Elegies that you are copying. I hope not. How
are you both now? We have the same continuance of
splendid weather, only colder.

The Simeons spent Monday evening with us alone and
much we enjoyed having them. They were as well pleased
with you as you with them, which was very pleasant hearing.

Pray, pray do not over-work yourselves. You belong to
each other and your children first of all remember, and you
have both a great deal to do of your own work. All kindest
remembrances and best wishes from us both.

Most sincerely yours,

Emily Tennyson.

Nov. 8th, [1857].

My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Patmore,

Accept our best thanks for the Elegies so beautifully
written. Directly we are alone we hope to begin studying
it ; at present Dr. and Mrs. Mann are with us, and we have
no opportunity. I shall write or get Ally to write the
history of your having done it, for it seems to me a proof of
friendship worthy of record in these days. I am writing in
the midst of talk ; but I will not let a post go without some

Our kindest remembrances to you both,

Most sincerely yours,

Emily Tennyson.

Most of the following letters from Carlyle were
published in the "Athenaeum" of July 17, 1886.
The first, containing Carlyle's encomium on "Tamer-
ton Church Tower," is alluded to in vol. i., p. 114;
the second, referring to the "Betrothal," the first
instalment of the "Angel," is summarised in a letter
from Patmore's first wife to Mrs. Gemmer, printed
vol. i., p. 167. It is clear from a letter of Patmore's
to Rossetti, printed vol. i., p. 87, that Carlyle had
read the Odes, and though he seems to have given


their author no opinion of them in writing, probably
because their personal intercourse was at that time
frequent, it may be inferred (see vol. i., p. 281) that
his judgment of them was not less favourable :


7 June, 1853.
My Dear Sir,

Accept many thanks for the beautiful little volume
you sent me. I have read " Tamerton Church " and had
surely no difficulty in detecting a great deal of fine poetic
light, and many excellent elements of valuable human
faculty, in that delicate and brilliant little piece ; nor am I
so intolerant as to give such qualities a stingy welcome on
account of the vehicle they come in ! I am glad of such in
any vehicle. Nor in fact (except for my own private use)
do I take upon me to prescribe, or forbid, any particular
kind of vehicle for them. Go on, and prosper, in what
vehicle yon find, after due thought, to be the likeliest for

For the rest, I hope you mean to come and see me again.
I am often at home in the evenings : 7 o'clock, or a little
after, is the time of Tea.

With many thanks and regards,

Yours always truly,

T. Carlyle.
Coventry Patmore, Esq.
&c., &c.


18 Jany., 1855.
My Dear Sir,

Cannot you and Woolner come down to us some
evening again, — say Monday Evng. next, unless you prefer
some other ? I have read your fine new volume long ago,
— and I never thanked you for it, ungrateful that I am ! —
a most cheery, sunshiny, pleasant volume (pure, fresh,
quaintly comfortable, — like a Cathedral Close, with its old
red-brick buildings and trim lawns) : truly I could not but
perceive good talent there ; — and regret, in my heretical
way, that you did not strike boldly with it into the rough
field of Fact (getting so dreadfully rough, and even hide-
ous and horrid, for want of the like of you so long), which


seems to me the real field of the poet too, in so far as he is
a " real " one ! — Forgive me for my heresies, if you can do
nothing more with them.

Woolner's address I have lost ; and he has not been here
this long time. I am terribly busy and to little purpose ;
sinking ever deeper in confused dust-vortexes which seem
to have no bottom, — and have time left for nothing, hardly
even for a walk or run in the winter dusk. At night I read,
— but will, with pleasure and advantage too, suspe?id, on
the night you come. Monday at half-past 7, if you say
nothings we will count on your telling Woolner, and appear-
ing with him.

Yours ever truly,

T. Carlyle.

Coventry Patmore, Esq.

Gill, Cummertrees, Annan, N.B.,

31 July, 1856.

My Dear Sir,

I had received youf beautiful little Book, " Angel in
the House," Book II., some time ago ; and reserved it for
a good opportunity, which I saw ahead. I brought it with
me into these parts, the only modern Book I took that
trouble with ; and last night I gave myself the pleasure of
a deliberate perusal. Upon which, so favourable was the
issue, I now give you the superfluous trouble of my verdict
— prior to getting into the Solway for a little swim, the
sound of which I also hear approaching.

Certainly it is a beautiful little Piece, this " Espousals " ;
nearly perfect in its kind ; the execution and conception
full of delicacy, truth, and graceful simplicity ; high, in-
genious, fine, — pure and wholesome as these breezes now
blowing round me from the eternal sea. The delineation
of the thing is managed with great art, thrift and success,
by that light sketching of parts ; of which, both in the
choice of what is to be delineated, and in the fresh, airy,
easy way of doing it, I much admire the genial felicity,
the real skill. A charming simplicity attracts me every-
where : this is a great merit which I am used to in you. —
Occasionally (oftenest in " the Sentences ") you get into an
antique Coivleian vein, what Johnson would call the " Me-
taphysical," a little ; but this too, if well done, as it here is,


I like to see, — as a g'ymnastic exercise of wit, were it no-
thing more. Indeed, I have to own, the whole matter is an
" ideal " ; soars high above reality, and leaves the mud of
fact (mud with whatever stepping stones may be discover-
able therein) lying far under its feet. But this you will
say is a merit, its poetific certificate — well, well. Few
books are written with so much conscientious fidelity now-
a-days, or indeed at any day ; and very few with anything
like the amount of general capability displayed here. I
heartily return many thanks for my share of it.

I am here in a kind of " retreat " for four or three weeks,
in the most silent country I could get, near my native
Solway, and apart from all mankind, — really a kind of
Catholic " retreat " minus the invocations to the Virgin, etc.
I am about lO miles from my Birthplace, know all the
mountain tops 50 miles round since my eyes first opened ;
and I do not want for objects of a sufficiently devotional
nature, sad and otherwise. But the "tide is in" or nearly
so : time and tide will wait on no man !

Yours with many thanks and regards,

T. Carlyle.

9 Augt., 1856.

My Dear Sir,

The Public of readers, now that everybody has taken
to read, and whosoever has twopence in his pocket to pay
into a Circulating Library, whether he have any fraction of
wit in his head or not, is a sovereign Rhadamanthus of
Books for the time being, has become more astonishing
than ever ! Probably there never was such a Plebs before,
entitled to hold up its thumb with vivat or pereat to the
poor fencers in the Literary Ring. The only remedy is,
not to mind them ; to set one's face against them like
a flint : for they cannot kill one, after all, tho' they think
they do it : one has to say, " Dull, impious canaille, it
was not for you that I wrote ; not to please you that I
was brandishing what weapons the gods gave me ! " Pa-
tience, too, in this world, is a very necessary element of

It is certain, if there is any perennial running Brook,
were it the smallest rill coming from the eternal fountains.


whole Atlantic Oceans of froth will 7ioi be able to cover it
up for ever ; said rill will, one day, be seen running under
the light of the sun, said froth having altogether vanished
no man knows whither. That is the law of Nature, in
spite of all blusterings of any Plebs or Devil ; and we must
silently trust in that.

Unhappily the reviewer too is generally in the exact
ratio of the readers, a dark blockhead with braggartism
superadded ; probably the supreme blockhead of block-
heads, being a vocal one withal, and conscious of being
wise. Him also we must leave to his fate : an inevitable
phenomenon (" like people, like priest"), yet a transitory one,
he too.

You need not doubt but I shall be ready, of my own
accord, to recommend this Book by all opportunities for
what I privately perceive it to be. I am considering also
whether there is not some exceptional reviewer, whom I
might endeavour to interest in it, with some hope of profit ;
shall perhaps hit on such a one by and by : unhappily my
connexion with that guild of craftsmen is almost null (or
less) this long while. You may depend upon it I will
neglect no good occasion — recommending perseverance in
the mean time and at all times, and what the Scotch call
" a stout heart to a steep hill," I remain always

Yours very sincerely,

T. Carlyle.

5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea,

22 July, i860.
My Dear Sir,

Thanks for your two Essays ; both of which I have
looked over, and find to abound in studious exactness, dis-
cernment and ingenuity : two Papers very welcome in-
deed, I should think, to all architects and critics of archi-
tecture. To myself, as to every one, the spiritual qualities,
manifest in what you say are very welcome. Unhappily
I have next to no knowledge of architecture ; and in late
years (must I blush to own ?) absolutely no care whatever
about it, — except to keep well out of the way of it, and of
the twaddle too commonly uttered upon it ! So that,
except on general grounds, I am a very bad reader for


On Friday unluckily I am not to be home : do not come
that day. Your best time is about 3 in the afternoon,
— almost any afternoon ; — in the evening also about 7
o'clock, there is free ingress, and little chance of a dis-

Believe me

Yours with many thanks and regards,

T. Carlvle.

The essays on architecture sent to Carlyle must
have been those alluded to vol. i., p. 109. Carlyle's
disclaimer of any knowledge of architecture is pro-
bably true in a merely technical sense ; but he w^as
undoubtedly sensitive to architectural effect, and
especially to the moral qualities which it evinced.
I remember his speaking to me of Sir Christopher
Wren's Chelsea Hospital in some such words as
these : " I had passed it, almost daily, for many
years without thinking much about it, and one day
I began to reflect that it had always been a pleasure
to me to see it, and I looked at it more attentively,
and saw that it was quiet and dignified and the
work of a gentleman, and I have always thought
highly of Sir Christopher Wren since then." This
was followed by a characteristic tirade against the
ordinary run of design and workmanship and its
perpetrators, concluding with " But there is a certain
Bottomless Pit to which they will all have to go,
they and their works." In the ** Life of William
Morris" this passage occurs: "This brought Carlyle
out with a panegyric on him (Sir C. Wren), who
was, he said, a very great man, of extraordinary
patience with fools ; and he glared round at the
company reproachfully."


14 Oct., i860.
Dear Sir,

I am very glad to be reminded of you in this glad
and victorious way ; and return you many thanks for your


welcome Gift. Last night I read the new Poem (First
part of " Victories of Love "), I can truly say with a great
deal of pleasure; — and, as you know my aversion to that form
of composition when 7iot inexorably necessary, and with
what horror I avoid the things commonly entitled "Poems,"
you may fairly take to yourself a very considerable credit
out of that fact alone ! The question whether it had not
been better that a man of your powers had trained himself
to prose as exquisitely as you have to verse, and stood by
the rigorous fact as the gods have unalterably made it,
instead of floating, in this light beautiful way, rods and
miles above it ; the question whether, even in verse itself,
with this admirable power of execution, you should not
now take some more robust class of subjects, and close the
Troubadour Enterprise as well finished — these and other
questions are still open with me (and I hint them to you at
a venture, and because you are no common object to me,
nor to the world's interests in this time) : but the above
truth is beyond question with me, That I spent such an
evening over your Book as I have not had for a long time
from any other. Refinement of feeling, purity, tenderness,
mild magnanimity, — seasoned too with a dash of fine
humour, and with plenty of discernment, acuteness, pic-
turesqueness : — these are a pretty element and an unusual,
to pass one's evening in ! I admire the cleverness with
which you have made a few touches tell your story:, the
style is wrought to the highest pitch (in this age of slovenli-
ness), and fills a fellow-workman with respect ; keeps wisely
unshackled, too, and with wonderful dramatic aptitude for
the several characters each with his proper dialect. In short
there is a great deal of talent in this book ; the execution
of it nearly perfect ; and the sentiments and doctrines set
forth in it generally exalted and noble : — what a pity they
went soaring miles above the rugged, contradictory facts,
instead of standing amid them, toilsomely constraining them
into melody.

Good be with you always,
T. Carlyle.

The interest of the following letter from Robert
Browning turns largely on the question of date.
This however may be approximately fixed by the


following considerations. It cannot be later than
1861, in which year Mrs. Browning died. It was
evidently written when there had been a considerable
interval between Patmore's publications. But he
published in 1853, 1854, 1856, and i860. The date
therefore must be earlier than 1853. Browning was
in London in 185 1, 1852, and 1855. Consequently
1 85 1 or 1852 must be the date of the letter, and it
must refer to the early poems, published in 1 844.

Patmore's answer to the second letter is printed in
vol. i., p. 193.

Dear Mr. Patmore,

I had the favor of your call some time ago — the
miserable hurry in which the few weeks of my stay here
have been spent must be the only excuse to your kindness
for having failed altogether in more than one honest inten-
tion to get to you and acknowledge it in person. But I
hope ere very long to return to England (which I leave to-
morrow) and to enjoy that and many other pleasures that
circumstances have made impossible now. My old admira-
tion for your genius continues unabated of course ; but why,
wliy have you not ere this turned it pale, as only yourself
could, by the side of some as genuine new delight at some
as unmistakable manifestation as the first? So wonders
my wife, too, who is as truly your well-wisher, dear Mr.
Patmore, as yours ever faithfully

R. Browning.

19 Warwick Crescent, W.

Oct. 12, '84.
My Dear Patmore,

Through the kindness of Mr. Gosse, I was put in
possession yesterday of the very interesting and pathetic
little collection of Poems.' I had heard of, and sincerely
grieved for the calamity which prevents fruit from being
matured from the delicate blossoms of such promise.

Henry Patmore's Poems. (See vol. i., p. 294.)


On any other occasion, I should have felt happy at the
opportunity of assuring you that the many years which
have gone by since I first became acquainted with you have
in no way altered my impression of the genius which came
on us all by surprise in your first volume.
With all best wishes, believe me ever.

My dear Patmore,

Cordially yours

Robert Browning.




HE part which Patmore had taken in in-
stigating Ruskin's defence of the Prae-Ra-
phaeHtes is explained in vol. i., pp. 85, 86.

5, Prospect Place, Cheyne Walk.

[May, 1 85 1.]
My Dear Patmore,

I am delighted to hear that Ruskin has taken the
field in defence of Millais and myself, for I had almost
despaired of overcoming the violent opposition to our style
which the example of the " Times " and other influential
papers were breeding. If they had merely confined their
remarks to a just spirit of criticism it would have been all
fair ; but, when they endeavoured to ruin our interest with
the Academy and the patrons, it was necessary that some
notice should be taken, and to have that done by Ruskin is
of all things what I could most desire.

With most respectful compliments to Mrs. Patmore and
sincere thanks to yourself for your kind exertions.
Believe me to be

Yours most faithfully,

W. HoLMAN Hunt.
Coventry K. Patmore, Esq.

[May, 185 1.]
My Dear Patmore,

I have thought, as there is a promise of a second
letter, that it would be better not to thank Mr. Ruskin until
that has appeared, so that he would, if necessary, be able to
say that he is not in communication with us, which fact, it


is evident, gave his first letter so much more importance
than if it could have been said to result solely from friendly
motives. If you think it will be better to write at once, send
me one word, and I shall consider it a kind of privilege to
be allowed to thank him for his able defence — which already
I perceive has had a great effect in our favour, and without
which I feel certain we should have been positively ruined.

Yours faithfully,

W. HoLMAN Hunt.

Monday night, Dec. 1853,

My Dear Patmore,

I doubt not in any case I shall be able to call upon
you before I leave : should it be impossible however, you
will I am assured not the less accept my unaccomplished
desire to thank you in person for the great service you have
been to me as a friend, and to say how anxious I shall
always feel to be held in your good esteem and affection.

By chance I went to Reilly's last week, and was induced
to purchase a small revolver which I have sent off to Cairo.
I am sorry, now that it makes it unnecessary to accept your
most considerate and friendly offer, that I did so. Without
this to remember you by I must feel driven to cultivate
Christian virtues in my absence that I may not be entirely
without a present of yours. With kind remembrances to
your wife and children — trusting that she will not forget

I am, my dear Patmore,

Yours ever truly,

W. Holm AN Hunt.

Jerusalem, March 26, 1855.
My Dear Patmore,

Let me spend a line or two in explaining that the
author of this missive was once intimately known to you as
an eccentric artist living in a house on the water-side at
Chelsea, who, after some six or seven years experience of
desert life in London, was led by a truant disposition to turn
nomad in a less limited circle and for a time yet unexpired.
Not to last much longer however : if all goes according to
my plan, in another month or two I am to pack up my
tent, etc., and move to the seaside on a circuitous journey


homeward. Tho' that last word stamps me for a dweller in
a city, I must tell you that I have lost a great many of
my few social aspirations in a twelve months' journey. I
could tell how I had to smother childish longings after
familiar corners and habits when I was first away, and how
difficult it was to persuade myself that such yearnings did
not come from the voice of deliberate prudence, and how
these abided with me through my quiet day to be tired out
at night, but to rise refreshed and strengthened for the
morrow, to sit with me at work and draw more vivid pictures
of England than I could do of Egypt or Syria, and so make
my subject seem unworthy. Beautiful as the hills might
be as I left off tired at sundown, or gentle as the plain on
which I walked — but these all fell away one by one like the
clothes I have worn out, and now I think I could remain
away for many a year, were it not that certain family atten-
tions trouble my conscience to return. This blue sky, this
hot sun, and the graceful mountains make me rejoice as
with new wine, and deafen me to all that comes merely to
my outer ears. Yet there is din enough in the world, and
truly more than enough to leave one for long in such a
mood ; and to be honest I must confess my peace is only a
sort of intoxication which I caught to escape the great con-
fusion. I wonder whether you try your skill at this great
riddle — whether it is the same riddle to all, or a different
one to each. Shall we take it to pieces ? or give it up and
wait the sequel ? or each work according to our best inter-
pretation to an end ? Why do we live so darkly ? work
and think so vainly ? There is a key to all God's secrets,
given to make His servants privy to His course ; and yet
we know nothing, perhaps because we believe nothing ; for
truly I think the world has come to this. I see myself
always intending, hoping to believe and do ; but always
excusing myself for the present : and thus I find all others.
There is nothing serious in the world — Religion, Politics,
and — yes — even War, are only played at.

April 23rd.

I have several times heard news of yourself and family
which have served to let me know that affairs were going
on peaceably and well with you. I have been expected to
write to everybody, while they kept silent at home — and


sometimes I have felt rebellious ; but most generally un-
equal to this arrangement of etiquette. It seems to me
unfair that, between friends at home and abroad, the latter —
amid all the confusion of railway-stations, doiianiers, steam-
boat-wharves, douaniers, steamboat-ports, douaniers, etc. etc.,
and a thousand objects at each stopping-place which de-
mand investigation and study — should be expected to open
the correspondence with the former, who is all the while
snug at home with his pen and ink always at hand and
every material for delighting the poor wanderer. You have
a good rule never to write excepting about some real matter
of business, which saves you from any reflection in this case,
and myself from any charge of forgetfulness, I hope. I
heard with much pleasure of your brother's marriage to
Miss Andrews ^ and I must take this late opportunity of
paying my proper compliments. I have heard also of a
poem which you have published, the title of which delights
me very much." I have made many guesses as to the
manner in which you have illustrated the subject, but am
quite abroad in all but the general purport as told by the
name. When I began this epistle I hoped to send a picture
home to the forthcoming exhibition at the R.A., but I had
miscalculated ; and, when the time came, it was so far from
finished that it has lasted even till now, and even yet not
quite done. As a year will go by before it will be exhibited,
I must not let the subject get very well known, but I will
tell to you — as no great favour of course — for I should not
be surprised if you had already heard — that the picture on
which I have been working of late is the " Scapegoat " —

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 24 of 36)