In Tennyson I perceive a nature higher and wider than my own; at the feet of which I can sit happily and with love . . . . Coventry Patmore, writing to Emily Patmore,
Ambleside, August, 1850.
A CONSPIRACY of silence surrounds the friendship of Tennyson and Coventry Patmore. Most of the biographers pass over the subject. The two poets themselves never saw each other in later life, and all documents that would have thrown light on what must have been one of the most interesting friendships of the Victorian era have been destroyed. This is unfortunate, for it was a great friendship while it lasted, and Tennyson exerted a profound influence over all Patmore's early work and in particular over The Angel in the House.
The only biographer who has attempted to unravel the mystery of this veiled and much-discussed friendship is Mr. Harold Nicolson, whose study, Tennyson, is one of the most brilliant books of its kind. But even he cannot prove his suppositions for lack of documents, and many of his ideas on the subject remain unpublished. However, two facts are certain. Both Tennyson and Coventry Patmore burnt all their intimate private letters dealing with their friendship; and it was a passionate and deeply-felt relationship on both sides whilst it lasted.*
Coventry Patmore first met Tennyson in the winter of 1845. He was then a young man of twenty-two, and had published his first poems the year before. Basil Champheys thinks that this meeting probably took place at the Procters' house.
Tennyson was thirty-six, and sunk deep in what Harold Nicolson in his book calls 'The Ten Years Silence'. His repu-____________________