The Poems of Coventry Patmore

By Coventry Patmore; Frederick Page | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION

BORN four years after Princess Victoria and dying five years before Queen Victoria, Patmore should have been a compleat Victorian, and in a sense (to be explained below) he was. In the years when 'midVictorian' was used as a term of contempt -- implying prudery, hypocrisy, snobbery, and dowdiness -- Patmore was derided as 'mid-Victorian', and certainly his lovepoetry was not adulterous, he called himself a Tory, and (except when his theme is timeless) he wrote of his own period. He was not a typical Victorian, for there never was one; every conspicuous Victorian was individual, and no one more so than Patmore. But he could be called the compleat Victorian, for it was almost usual with Victorians to be complete -- to be amateur-practitioners of more than one or two of the arts and sciences. Thus, Patmore was a chemist (he persuaded himself that as a boy he had discovered a new chloride of bromine; as a man he made the family fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day), a mathematician, an astronomer, a most interesting theorist in architecture, a leading theorist in prosody, a successful farmer, an animal-lover, a connoisseur of precious stones. He earned his living -- while he needed to earn it -- as a writer for the reviews and as an assistant librarian at the British Museum.

He was married three times, very happily, and his second wife brought him money which enabled him to consult his own health and to retire from the

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