Coventry Patmore

Coventry Patmore

Coventry Patmore

Coventry Patmore

Excerpt

Independence, the quality that comes to a man who fully exercises his free will, may sometimes appear primitive and even savage in a civilised society. As its only unity is one of character, more difficult to grasp than an idea, it may seem contradictory or absurd to those unacquainted with the man in whom it is embodied.

The contradictions of which Coventry Patmore has been accused are hardly less than the contradictions in the charges themselves. A popular view of him has noticed only a minor poet, a lesser Tennyson, but even more Victorian than Tennyson; yet Gerard Manley Hopkins saw a list of popular Victorian poets which did not even mention Patmore and commented that "nothing so profound" as some poems of his could be found "in the poets of this age." Hopkins has come to be regarded as an almost twentieth-century poet, but that is one answer to the charge that Patmore was typically Victorian. On the other side it can be said that his Angel in the House was immensely popular and sold a quarter of a million copies in his lifetime.

Some have viewed him as a weak sentimentalist, a purveyor of sickly verses set in a Cathedral close to edify the Victorian middle class, while to others he has seemed an angry and intolerant mystic, glaring harshly at an age he hated.

These are literary aspects. His religion has been accused of similar contradictions. He has been regarded as the most . . .

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