EMILY PATMORE was dying. By 1861, her husband knew that there was no hope of her ever recovering. Her ill-health made it necessary that her large family of six children should be divided, as she was not strong enough to look after all of them. So she remained in London with her two elder daughters, Emily and Bertha, whilst the other children were boarded out and sent to school. Meanwhile Coventry Patmore spent all the hours he could spare from the British Museum in visiting his separated families.
The progress of her illness was tormenting in its uncertainty. One month she would feel better, the next she would have a relapse and be even worse than before. Her husband was distracted. He was haunted by the thought that he would not have her with him many years more. Tragically, their great love for each other could not save her, and Coventry Patmore wrote to Allingham:
We were too comfortable before all this happened. Providence takes care to startle people out of the dream that this world is a place to be jolly in.
His slender income was over-taxed in meeting doctor's bills and the expenses of supporting his growing children. However the devoted young couple seemed to bear all these troubles with unusual courage. The thought that they would probably be parted made their love even greater and more tender than when they were first married, and despite the cloud of sadness that hung over the family, there were many moments of exquisite harmony and domestic happiness.