The Life and Times of Coventry Patmore

By Derek Patmore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Return of a Victorian

THE story of a family can be as fascinating as any novel. What books could have been written by turning over the family albums if only the families had allowed it! But, as a rule, the relatives of a man who has achieved public eminence are loath to publish facts which will destroy a long-cherished legend. With the eternal desire for respectability, they would rather leave their ancestors alone than know the more exciting truth.

Coventry Patmore, like other famous men, has suffered from this family desire to conceal unpleasant truths. The official biography, published in 1900, The Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patmore by Basil Champneys, was a monumental work in two volumes into which the discreet author, an architect by profession, gathered practically all the facts that are known about the poet, his ancestry, his three wives and his seven children. Champneys was given access to all the Patmore papers by Coventry Patmore's widow, but he deliberately suppressed all details concerning the poet's passionate friendship with Alice Meynell for fear of offending the last Mrs. Patmore. He also omitted many letters showing the less flattering sides of Coventry Patmore's character. Indeed, the complex, contradictory and fascinating personality of the poet was drowned in a mass of family documents.

Sir Edmund Gosse, who was Patmore's original choice as his literary executor, somewhat redressed the balance with his Life published in 1905, but he, too, had his hands tied by the existence of the last Mrs. Patmore, who watched over her husband's literary fame and her own reputation with a watchful care. Later writers have dealt with many aspects of Patmore's work, especially his poetry, but few attempted to set the poet against his family background. This, I, as a direct descendant,

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The Life and Times of Coventry Patmore
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter One - the Return of a Victorian 1
  • Chapter Two - the Beginning 7
  • Chapter Three - Peter George Patmore and William Hazlitt 18
  • Chapter Four - the Duel 28
  • Chapter Five - Boyhood of Coventry Patmore 32
  • Chapter Six - First Poems 42
  • Chapter Seven - Disaster 51
  • Chapter Eight the Married Lover 58
  • Chapter Nine the Pre-Raphaelites 67
  • Chapter Ten the Angel in the House 77
  • Chapter Eleven Tennyson--The Friend 89
  • Chapter Twelve Departure 100
  • Chapter Thirteen Tired Memory 107
  • Chapter Fourteen Journey to Rome 121
  • Chapter Fifteen Second Marriage 132
  • Chapter Sixteen the Squire 140
  • Chapter Seventeen the Unknown Eros 154
  • Chapter Eighteen the Bride of Heaven 164
  • Chapter Nineteen Third Marriage 177
  • Chapter Twenty the Meeting of Two Poets 188
  • Chapter Twenty-One Lymington 203
  • Chapter Twenty-Two Alice Meynell 217
  • Chapter Twenty-Three London Life 226
  • Chapter Twenty-Four the End of the Journey 237
  • Bibliography 243
  • Index 245
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