When in 1868 Coventry Patmore settled down at Heron's Ghyll to lead a new existence as a landed proprietor in Sussex, he was only forty-five, but he was already well into the second half of his life. He had written his most considerable work, The Angel in the House, which the literary world was content to accept as his masterpiece and a classic of the period, passing on to enjoy the excitements of Swinburne, the more readily because The Angel was now selling in its thousands and acquiring the sort of popularity that inclines critics to lose interest, both in a book and in its author. Patmore had his reputation. He was popular and no longer fashionable. It was time for him to retire and rest on his poetic laurels; and when it was known with what zeal he was. cultivating his estate, people assumed that he had retired.
Yet if he had died then, his character would have small interest for posterity, while The Angel might have been forgotten or mistaken for society verse less lively than Praed's. Hardly a line of his prose or those brief sentences which contain his most characteristic thought would even have been written. Little regret would have been expressed for a career cut short, because it appeared complete enough -- and in fact one of his three lives had indeed ended with the death of Emily Patmore.
In that same year in which Heron's Ghyll was finished,