'THE Troubadour of St. Mary had become a fine old English gentleman.' This remark of Sir Shane Leslie's symbolises the transition that was now to take place in Coventry Patmore's life.
Towards the end of 1865, a slight weakness in one lung, and the cessation of the necessity to earn a living, caused Patmore to resign his appointment at the British Museum. He decided to live in the country, and soon found an estate that appealed to him situated in his favourite county--Sussex.
He had always longed to play the rôle of the landed country gentleman. A medieval Tory at heart, his ideal had always been the cultured Englishman who administered his estates with a wise benevolence, and yet, at the same time, interested himself in life and the arts. A fierce individualist, he had little patience with the reforms and the growing socialism of his day. He summed up his political views in a later essay called Courage in Politics:
All men are born believers in aristocracy. Who is there--out of the House of Commons--who does not hold the fundamental dogma of politics that the best should govern? Modern democracy means nothing but the possession of the elective power by ignorant aristocrats, by those who desire that the best should govern but have no sufficient means of discovering the best.
Patmore, in announcing the above, used the word 'aristocracy' in its widest sense. He believed in an aristocracy of talent rather than of birth. But his early contact with the literary and social salons of the early nineteenth century had left him with a deep respect for that great eighteenth-century tradition of an educated aristocracy--the remnants of which