The Life and Times of Coventry Patmore

By Derek Patmore | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The Bride of Heaven

O how oft shalt thou complain
Of a sweet and subtle pain!
Of intolerable joys!
Of a death, in which who dies
Loves his death, and dies again . . .

-- Crashaw. A Hymn to the Name and Honour of the Admirable Saint Teresa.

THE Mansion House at Hastings, its old red-brick front covered with magnolia branches, stands at the top of a road leading from the sea and the old port. The house itself is protected from intruders by a high terraced garden on the side which faces the sea. Here Patmore and his family lived in happy and quiet Victorian domesticity. Life was decidedly gayer than at Heron's Ghyll. With the easy access from London, Patmore's friends could come down for week-ends. There were pleasant neighbours such as Julian Hawthorne, the son of the famous American writer, and Dykes Campbell, the biographer of Coleridge, and the painter, Inchbold.

A few miles away, looking across the old town, is the adjoining town of St. Leonard's-on-Sea. Here, at the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus, which stands on the hill overlooking the sea, discreetly veiled from the outer world by banks of hydrangeas and grassy lawns, lived his daughter Emily, now a novice in the Convent, and known as Sister Mary Christina. It is probable that the proximity of the Convent may have been yet another reason why Patmore was happy to live in Hastings.

The story of Emily Patmore's life and death is one of the saddest and strangest in all the annals of my family.

An immature daughter of the Muse [as Osbert Burdett writes in hiss able study], she stands beside Emily Brontë and


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