DEATH hovered threateningly over Coventry Patmore's household during the beginning of his life at Hastings. Mary Patmore died suddenly during the April of 1880. An invalid, she had been gradually receding into the background of her husband's life, and now she faded rather pathetically out of the picture.
There is no doubt that during the last few years a 'fair stranger' had begun to take her place in her husband's affections. Once installed as the governess, Harriet Robson had soon found her way into the lonely heart of the poet. Her affection for his daughter Emily had been a great bond, and her lively interest in his poetry had been another. Mary Patmore for all her goodness and knowledge of Catholic doctrine had never really understood the later Odes, but the pretty, younger woman displayed a flattering interest in his work. Even in the Heron's Ghyll days, he had got into the habit of writing to Harriet when he was away, and he had come to rely on her judgment about the management of the children and in matters concerning his work. His Muse had always demanded the company and sympathetic understanding of an attractive woman.
A year after Mary Patmore's death, allowing a decent interval for the conventions, Coventry Patmore contracted his third marriage. For on September 13th, 1881, he married Miss Harriet Georgina Robson at the Pro-Cathedral, Kensington. Patmore was obviously sensitive to any criticism of this new marriage, for he wrote to his old friend, Lord Houghton:
Hastings. September 30th, 1881.
My dear Lord Houghton,
My wife is a Catholic lady who was for ten years governess to my daughters. So that I have had good means of ascertaining her fitness for me and for them. They are devotedly attached to