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Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

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easily spend ;^74,ooo a year, and yet preserve a grand
ascetic severity, which would seem to make the best of
wealth and yet to despise it.

If you want to see how the world is going on you must
live out of it. I have always foreseen the course of political
events with more certainty than any of my friends, except
Frederick Greenwood, who is the only man I have known,
with «;zcommon sense — except, perhaps, H. Halford

Near thirty years ago, when Gladstone was looked upon
as a staunch conservative, I told Aubrey de Vere that he
would prove the Danton of an English revolution.

The largest single day's work I ever did consisted of
three columns of matter for the " Daily News " (it was in
the first year of its appearance) an article eight pages long
for a Scotch periodical called " Lowe's Magazine," and
eighty lines of very fair verse. I could not write so much
now in a month. But tJien I had the faculty of writing
about things — a power which I have long since lost.

I had not noticed the image you speak of in Goethe,
but Shakespeare uses it, I think, in his sonnets, and it was
a favourite idea with the poets of Elizabeth's time. I never
saw myself in anybody's eyes. The image lies, I suppose,
on the surface. When I look into a person's eyes, mine
are focussed four or five inches beyond — that is, into about
the centre of the brain.

Of course, I say what I mean when I say you are so
odd. I never knew anything half so queer and sweetly
perplexing. If a tiger married a dormouse, their offspring
might be something of the sort, but not nearly so fierce o
so gentle or so incalculable in what it would do.


I and Father F. are good friends now ! I have given so
much for Masses lately that I suppose he looks upon me
as a reformed character. He seems a great deal more
amiable now I have seen him a little nearer. It is not
always distance lends enchantment to the view.

I returned, after my pleasant afternoon at Hastings, to
the horrid Chaos of this place (London, Mount St.). There
are never less than three organs playing before the windows:
every book, pen and pocket handkerchief, has been packed
up and sent away no one knows whither. My very bank-
book and manuscript notes for poetry are either at Epsom
or at Hastings and absolutely inaccessible. I have been
constantly unwell ever since I have been back, and am be-
ginning to feel quite shattered in nerves. It is very many
years since I have been so thoroughly and almost hopelessly
uncomfortable. What is to be done during the next three
or four months, I know not. All I can do to keep myself
from impatience is to consider only the day and hour be-
fore me and to do and suffer what is given to that day or
hour, with a dismal effort to conceive that such wretched-
ness may be for my benefit some billion of years hence.
How I envy you the pure air of L., so different from the
exhausted atmosphere of Central London in autumn, and
also your comparative quietness. The incessant varying
roar of carts, carriages and organs, to me, who have never
lived in London, is indescribably maddening. My indi-
vidual life seems merged in this vast coil, and I feel an in-
sane sense of responsibility for it all. I am absolutely at
this moment perspiring with the agony of it. It is however
quite too bad to be endured. I shall make some change
almost immediately, for I certainly should not survive three
months of this. Even my club — where I could have got a
little peace — is being painted and repaired, so that 1 can't
go there to write.

I spent Saturday, as you know, at Frant. The Vaughans
were there. Mr. Vaughan is hy very much the best thinker
I have ever talked with. He thinks from reality to reality;
and one is sure to find in him an understanding listener —
to right thought. He is, among all the men I have met,
what you are among the women ; the only one who is sure-
minded. He and you have the rare right human instincts


which precede, or rather essentially are, all knowledge. " I
write not," says St. John, " these things unto you because ye
know them not, but because ye know them."

I had a very pleasant visit to Heron's Ghyll, where I
wandered for hours alone, over all the walks which were so
dear. I never felt so much about the place before. Tears
came into my eyes at the sight of rooms and places I shall
never forget, but which I shall probably never inhabit again.
The old dog was wild with delight at seeing me, and he
went with me in all my walks. The only place in the world
in which I feel as if I could strike any root again is that
particular old house and garden at Hastings which chance
has so curiously offered to me, after so many years of un-
foreseeing liking for it.

We are having a prodigious storm here. It has lasted
three days and nights and it is still at its height. Although
the tides are at their lowest, the sea has been right across
the streets, and piled heaps of shingle against the houses,
and done a good deal of damage to the sea-walls. In the
height of the storm yesterday, a gentleman sent a splendid
Newfoundland dog into the sea after a stick. The poor
creature could not get to shore again, and was drowned, in
the presence of a great crowd, the gentleman offering ^5 to
any one who would go, and get drowned too in trying to
get out the dog.

I think I never remember such lovely " Valentine's Day "
weather. The birds are as happy and as noisy as a school
of little children let loose. The garden, which no one cares
for at this season, is more touchingly lovely than at any
other season. The damp, fresh-turned mould swells with
life. Solitary patches of crocuses, in the brown borders,
blaze joyfully in the sun ; and fifty other lovely little lives
begin to show — the lovelier because they require to be
looked for.

What a tremendous pull women have over men in dress !
You are six or seven different kinds of birds every year —
so that there is no getting tired of you. But how you can
be constant to a black velveteen coat and brown wide-
awake, year after year, is more virtue than I can imagine.


As Mr. Moore wished to see Bodiam before he leaves
here, we went yesterday by train. I was really astonished.
I suppose it must be by far the finest castle in England,
after Windsor, and from a distance of some miles it looks
larger and much finer than Windsor, It is square — con-
sists of ten large battlemented and machicolated towers
about 70 ft. high, connected with walls nearly of the same
height, all of which walls and towers look quite perfect
from outside. It is surrounded by a moat or lake of im-
mense breadth, full of pike and water-lilies, and is ap-
proached by a road through the lake having two bridges
fortified. The interior is ruined, but full of architectural
beauty. 500 men would easily have been lodged comfort-
ably in it, besides horses and ladies. Kenilworth is nothing
to it. Is it not wonderful that there should be such a place
within fifty miles of London and scarcely anyone ever
heard of it ?

I think brown and " gold like a tiger " would be best,
because that would remind me more of a tigress. I shall
see you before Easter, and then you can have the rings and
acorns from the old purse — which is however not nearly
worn out: it is indeed still quite handsome. Are you enjoy-
ing this lovely weather, and are you practising " holy obe-
dience " (to me) by walking once at least in the garden a
day ? I fear not : you are the greatest little rebel, without
exception, I ever knew ; but such, when they do become
good and obedient, always make the greatest saints. I
expect daily to hear of some fearful change in you — for I
like you too much as you are, not to be afraid of any
change. Fancy my feelings, if some day I should get a
letter in your handwriting dated from Stone and signed
Sister Jehoram Melchizedeck, or something equally pro-

Last night we went to Mr. Prince's ' to see the new comet
through the great telescope. It was very beautiful : it
looked like a theatrical fairy, clad in a long white veil
illuminated with blue fire — an image which you will under-
stand better when you remember that in the telescope
everything is inverted, and the robe of fire, instead of flying

' * See vol. i.j p. 236.


up from the head of the comet, flows decorously down over
her invisible feet.

Mr. Prince also shewed us several clusters and double
stars, and Saturn.

You must certainly go when you return and see some of
those fine things.

Mr. de Vere, as he walked back from the Observatory,
in the morning, was in a very elated frame of mind about
the bigness of the starry heavens : but I maintained my view
that they were only created " to make dirt cheap," as was
Coleridge's theory also ; but de Vere would not see it.

We are now on the very verge of a single-handed war
with Russia, which promises to be the greatest and most
perilous struggle we have ever had with any power. This
will put poetry out of all people's thoughts for a long time,
and I shall have to look forward for my readers to the
Yankees of a century hence. An order has just been sent
to Woolwich Arsenal for forty millions of ball-cartridges to
be ready by February. If we kill only one Russian to
forty bullets, we shall make a good bag.

I have asked Dr. Ashenden what has been the matter
with me for the last three weeks, and he says that it has
been a slight attack of gout ! Does not that make me
venerable in your eyes ? I shall soon feel too proud ! I
have written a book that does not sell, and have had the
gout. I scarcely hoped ever to have been so respectable a
person. However, my gout is going off, and I have some
fears my book may do so too.

Henry tells me that a youth — educating for a priest at
Ushaw — being asked what Easter was, replied (with perfect
simplicity and no thought of a joke) that it was the time
when " Easterly winds blew."

I have no plans for the future. My world seems break-
ing up, and no other is forming about me. I wonder if I
shall ever get settled again in a happy /io};ie-\ike home ! I
must soon get into some line of work to save myself from
dying of vacuity. But work itself seems so vain and empty
— work that, in my youth, seemed so glorious and joyful.
There seems no assurance of good from any sort of effort.


How happy and only happy are those who must labour for
their bread in the wholesome fields.

Did you see the Conjunction of Mars and Saturn on the
23rd ? It was very curious to see two great planets mixed
in each other's rays. The stars are now on their trial. If
nothing terrible happens during the next few days, nobody
will ever believe in them any more.

We are having a series of considerable storms. Yester-
day at the height of the storm — a great ship — at least 2,000
tons — passed within about two miles of the shore firing
minute-guns, clearly heard from this house, though not on
the shore, for the noise of the waves. I called the attention
of the Coast-guard who had not heard the guns. The
sailors agreed she was in great danger, but no one seemed
moved to do anything. I looked about 5 minutes after-
wards and she was nowhere to be seen.

M is gone to Scotland to settle about the ship. I fancy

he is pretty sure to get it, and I hope that the fulfilment of
his wish will do him good. But young men are queer
creatures, and are more apt to think of what further they
imagine might be done for them, than to be grateful for
what they have got. A very good discipline for fathers !

I hope your kind trouble about M will be successful ;

but we must not expect immediate results from our efforts.
If we do justly and kindly to people who are in the wrong,
it often affects their feelings and actions a long time
afterwards, and when we have come to despair of doing
them any good. My chief reason for wanting to make
some great saving in our way of living, during the next
two or three years, is that I may be able to make M — some
offer of help on such a scale as shall convince him of his
mistake as to my feelings towards him. I have an idea
that all parties would like a sort of Robinson Crusoe life,
for a time at least, and that if I could find a large old
cottage near a mission, we might do with one servant and
save at least ;^500 a year.





THE following letter was written by Patmore
to his first wife on his way back from a visit
to the Tennysons at Coniston. Some letters
written during the same visit have been given in
vol. i. pp. 195-7. As this throws no special light on
his opinion of Tennyson, it was not included with

the others.


Aug., '5o._

.... Yesterday Tennyson and I went up the mountain,
called " Coniston Old Man." It is 2,700 ft. high. The
ascent was five hours' hard work from the foot, but the sight
from the top was worth ten times the labour. Stormy skies
rolled below us, and through splits and gulphs in them we
saw all the most conspicuous mountains in Westmoreland,
Lancashire and Yorkshire, with great tracts of sea and many

Being obliged to take a great deal of spirits to keep up
our strength, we both became rather glorious, and descended
the mountain "charioted by Bacchus and his pards" at any
rate six times faster than we had ascended.

I longed for [you] to be with us as we were refreshing
ourselves by a cataract that fell from a tarn, some hundreds
of feet above our heads and roared down a couple of thou-
sand feet below us to the lake


The following letters to Patmore's eldest daughter
were mostly written shortly after his first wife's death.
They are valuable as they describe his life at a period
concerning which few other records remain, and indi-
cate his relations to his children.


Coniston, Lancashire,

September 28th, 1862.

My Dear Little Girl,

I was much pleased at receiving your nice letter,
and to hear of your pleasant return to Finchley with " all
the dogs."

I will, some day, try to bring you to the beautiful country
where I am staying. The edge of a great lake — nearly
twenty miles round — makes one side of the garden of the
house where I am staying, and just opposite my window
stands a mountain which would require a ladder just half-
a-niile high to get to the top of it, supposing it did not slant
at all, but stood quite upright.

I am staying with a very kind and beautiful lady, who
used to be one of the Queen's maids of honour — who are
always chosen from among the finest and most beautiful
and noble ladies in England. Your Mama was just like
one of these great and gentle ladies, and I hope you will be
like one of them some day. This lady often talks to me
about you, and particarly advised me to get you to learn to
sew and heni^ — as useful learning ought always to come
before learning things that only give pleasure, like music.
I told her that you had promised to learn, and that I had
perfect confidence in your keeping your promise.

Kiss Bertha, Gertrude and Henry for me.

Your affectionate Father,
Coventry Patmore.


June nth, 1863.
My Dear Little Girl,

I should like you to write me a nice long letter every
day till you see me again ; for, though I may return any
day, it may possibly be several days, as I shall not
come back till I feel a little better in health.

I am staying at the very same hotel and in the very same
rooms where I and your dear mother were, the first days
we were married. You may fancy that it makes me feel very
happy and also very sad.

Go every morning to my room at eight o'clock until
you find me there. I like to think of you and dear little


Bertha at some particular hour, when I know what you are
doing and where you are sitting.

I shall bring you all some little sea-side remembrance.

Good-bye, dear little girl,

Coventry Patmore.

14, Percy Street, Bedford Square,

November 19th, 1863.

My Dear Little Girl,

I saw the little ones yesterday, and gave Henry your
letter. He seemed greatly delighted and ran about with it
in his hand, without appearing to care to know what was
in it. They are all very well and happy.

Tennyson ' spent the afternoon and evening with me on
Tuesday. He works very hard, and does a great deal of
fighting besides. The two black eyes he came home with
last time are nearly well however.

I dined at Brent Lodge yesterday. Mrs. Jackson and
Julia and Mary asked all about you, and seemed very much
pleased to hear you were so happy.

Write to Tennyson soon. Not a short letter ; but one
three or four sheets long ; for there is nothing he likes more
than having letters ; and, like all people who care for their
friends, when he gets letters from them, he looks first to see
how long they are, and cares more for the love shown in
taking the trouble to write fully, than for all else that the
letter may contain.

If you find that you want anything — such as more hand-
kerchiefs, socks or clothes — tell me, and I will send them.

In your next letter, give me a full and exact account of
how you have spent the day before — beginning at getting
up, and ending with going to bed.

Give my very kind remembrances to Julia and Miss

Your loving Father,

Coventry Patmore.

British Museum,

Nov. 26 [1863].
My Dear Little Girl,

I send you two shillings in stamps for paper and

^ Tennyson Patmore. * Miss Marshall's governess.


I am very glad to hear that you are getting on so nicely
with your new friends. Be sure that you never forget
anything that Mrs. Marshall or Miss Murray tell you to do,
or not to do. You ask what my motto is. " Faint, yet
pursuing " (from the Book of Judges). You will not think
it a very pretty one, but you will like it better when you
are older.

You will be glad to hear that I am very comfortable in
my new place. It is so much more like home than the
the other was, and feels so much more as if dear Mama
was in it, though I cannot see her.

I have had to call the policemen many times to the organ
boys, who prevent me from reading and writing and think-
ing. One was very rude and would not go away, and I
could not find a policeman ; so I had to go out to him and
pour some water over him, and that made him go away.
The street will soon be quite quiet.

Your loving Father,

Coventry Patmore.

14, Percy Street,

December 7 [1863].

My Dear Little Girl,

I am delighted to hear that you are getting on so
well and happily. Nothing, now, can make me so happy
as the knowledge that my little ones are happy. Your
new companions must be a great addition to your pleasure.
I only hope you do not get so very happy as you did at
Dorchester. We ought never to get so boisterously happy
ourselves as to forget the respect we owe to older people.
And noisy happiness is disrespectful to them. But I trust
you have remembered all I said about this too well to need
any more advice.

Tell me, in your next letter, whether you say your
prayers and read quite as willingly and long and deliberately
as you did at home. . . .

Tennyson will spend his holidays with me at Percy
Street. They begin on the 22nd of this month.

You should begin to write to Milnes soon, as the letter
ought to be a very long one — at least ten times as long as
those you write to me — and will therefore take you several
days. It ought to be written on foreign ruled paper, which


you can get in Leeds, and should be in very small writing,
so that all you have to say may go into two large sheets.

Your loving Father,

Coventry Patmore.

14, Percy Street,

December loth.
My Dear Little Girl,

I am beginning to want very much to see you again.
I shall think it a great treat to kiss your dear little face
when Mrs. Marshall brings you to London in January.
My evenings are rather dull. I generally take a long walk,
after Museum time, in the dark, to some place in the
country where I have been with Mama. But that does
not take up the whole evening, and I often want somebody
to talk to, for part of the time. You must make haste and
grow up, and then we will patch up another " home."

I have just heard from Tenny's Master at school. He
will be promoted again this Xmas, and will probably be
" Deputy-Grecian " at Midsummer. The little ones at
Finchley have slight colds, but they seem very happy not-
withstanding. Your " Children's Garland " ^ is going to be
printed again ; that is, for the third time in less than two
years. That shews the people like it very much.

Give my very kind regards to Mrs. Marshall and all your

Your loving Father,

Coventry Patmore.

14, Percy Street, Bloomsbury,

My Dear Little Girl,

I have just time before post to say that your box of
beautiful presents is come safely, and to ask you to tell
Julia that the medallion is a great treasure. I think it an
admirable likeness, and it would not have been possible to
desire a more acceptable Christmas gift.

The children are not coming to town. I and Tenny are
going to spend the afternoon with them at Finchley, and

^ Emily's favourite poems formed the " Children's Garland."
(See vol. i., p. 200.)


afterwards to dine at Mr. Worsley's^ at Hendon. Miss
Claridge and Mrs. Jackson thought this plan the best. You
can fancy Bertha's face, when the things are given to her.
She will look as if she were quietly melting into honey with

Tenny is quite overpowered with his Shakespeare : he
never had anything so fine before. He cannot say much
about it. He grins first at it and then at me, and then
again at the book. I hope he will have recovered himself,
before post-time, enough to write a line to you,

Your fond Father,

Coventry Patmore.

Christmas Eve.

British Museum,

December 26, 1863.
My Dear Little Girl,

Xmas Day went off excellently yesterday, notwith-
standing your forebodings that Bertha would be dis-
appointed. You may be quite sure that I am as tender
about Bertha's feelings as you are.

The presents were received with rapture. Bertha put on
her beautiful dress, before we had the Xmas Tree, and
Henry embraced his book for two whole hours in a quiet

I have posted your letter to Milnes. Poor fellow, I fear

he has had a sad Xmas, among his swearing, grog-drinking

shipmates. Next Xmas, however, he will probably spend

with us, and we will make it so happy to him, will we not ?

Your loving Father,

Coventry Patmore.

14, Percy Street,

December, 1863, near Midnight.

My Dear Little Girl,

I am seeing the Old Year out and the New Year in,
sitting up by myself, or, at least, with no visible companion.
So I will write to you to tell you how much I wish and
pray that the coming year may be, in all ways, happy to
you. I am rejoiced to think that you know and feel too

^ Probably Philip Worsley, known for his translation of the
Odyssey and part of the Iliad into Spenserian stanzas.


thoroughly that the only way to be happy is to be good
and true for it to be necessary to say anything about that
— except to remind you that the way to be continually
more happy is to be continually more entirely good, and
that the only way to be really good is to love Christ, and
to have the power of His goodness (whose name is " The
Lord our Righteousness ") in yourself.

I hope that you thank God, at this season, for all the
good He has done you. He took away dear Mama, a year
and a half ago, because she had grown too good for it to be
of any use for her to live longer in this world. That was a
terrible misfortune for you ; but think how many things
God has done towards making up for that evil. What good
friends He has given you ; what a quiet, kind home He has
given you with those good Miss Claridges ; and much more
good besides.

Give Julia ^ my love and tell her I see no fault in the me-
dallion. I have ordered a pretty frame of oak and gold for
it, to be hung up underneath the medallion of Mama by
Mr. Woolner.

My cough is a little worse again, so I am keeping indoors
at night. Tenny is enjoying his holidays immensely. He
has a tutor and works four hours a day.

Your loving Father,

Coventry Patmore.

Percy Street,

January nth, 1864.

My Dear Little Girl,

I have been laid up for several days with a bad cold
and have not been able to write to you. I am a little better
now, but still quite unwell. I have often wished, during

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 36)