The third phase of Patmore's life, that of his third marriage, in the 'eighties and the 'nineties up to his death in 1896, was perhaps his most productive, certainly his most characteristic, for it was in those years that he became the figure which confronts posterity, the figure in the National Portrait Gallery painted by Sargent in the summer of 1894, with its erectness of carriage and its independence, with its extravagant contradictions of austerity and sensuality, acknowledging them and observing the vanishing world with a humourous droop of the left eye-lid. Maeterlinck said that it was only of the dead that portraits should be painted, as only in death were men truly themselves. Close to death, Patmore was himself.
In the achievements and in the serenity of these last years his third wife, Harriet Patmore, played an important part. At the time of his marriage to her Patmore wrote, in reply to a note of congratulation from Monckton Milnes, "You are one of the very few who can discern the seemingly obvious fact that a man probably knows his own business best in matters which concern him infinitely more than they concern anyone else." This third marriage certainly proved, as Valéry Larbaud has remarked, that the poet of marriage could not remain a widower for long. Others have accepted that fact, admitting that the third marriage was in character, but have criticized Harriet Patmore, perhaps because, while