Sue Young Histories

Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore 1823 - 1896

April 08, 2009

Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore 1823 - 1896 was an English poet and critic.

Coventry Patmore was a Swedenborgian, and a friend of Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Lewis Carroll, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and James John Garth Wilkinson (Patmore’s name is listed in both James John Garth Wilkinson’s address books at The Lodge, Lymington, Hants (Swedenborg Archive Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson dated 1895. _See also _Swedenborg Archive __Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson ‘Where is it’ dated 1.10.1892). James John Garth Wilkinson gave Nathaniel Hawthorne a letter of introduction to Patmore at the British Museum (Nathaniel Hawthorne, The centenary edition of the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Volumes 15-18, Center for textual studies (Columbus, Ohio) (Ohio State University Press, 1987). Page 134).

The eldest son of author Peter George Patmore, Coventry was born at Woodford in Essex. He was privately educated. He was also his father’s intimate and constant companion and inherited from him his early literary enthusiasm.

It was Coventry’s ambition to become an artist. He showed much promise, earning the silver palette of the Society of Arts in 1838. In the following year he was sent to school in France for six months, where he began to write poetry. After returning, his father planned to publish some of these youthful poems; Coventry, however, had become interested in science and the poetry was set aside.

He soon returned to literary interests, moved towards them by the sudden success of Alfred Lord Tennyson; and in 1844 he published a small volume of Poems, which was original but uneven. Patmore, distressed at its reception, bought up the remainder of the edition and destroyed it. What upset him most was a cruel review in Blackwood’s Magazine; but the enthusiasm of his friends, together with their more constructive criticism, helped foster his talent.

The publication of this volume bore immediate fruit in introducing its author to various men of letters, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, , through whom Patmore became known to William Holman Hunt, and was thus drawn into the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, contributing his poem “The Seasons” to The Germ.

At this time Patmore’s father was financially embarrassed; and in 1846 Richard Monckton Milnes 1st Baron Houghton obtained for Coventry the post of assistant librarian in the British Museum, a post he occupied for nineteen years, devoting his spare time to poetry.

In 1847 he married Emily, daughter of Dr. Andrews of Camberwell. At the Museum he was instrumental in 1852 in starting the Volunteer movement. He wrote an important letter to The Times upon the subject, and stirred up much martial enthusiasm among his colleagues.

In the next year he republished, in Tamerton Church Tower, the more successful pieces from the Poems of 1844, adding several new poems which showed distinct advance, both in conception and treatment; and in the following year (1854) appeared the first part of his best known poem, The Angel in the House, which was continued in The Espousals (1856), Faithful for Ever (1860), and The Victories of Love (1862).

In 1862 he lost his wife, after a long and lingering illness, and shortly afterwards joined the Roman Catholic church.

In 1865 he married again, his second wife being Marianne Byles, daughter of James Byles of Bowden Hall, Gloucester; and a year later purchased an estate in East Grinstead, the history of which he wrote in How I managed my Estate (1886). In 1877 appeared The Unknown Eros, which unquestionably contains his finest work in poetry, and in the following year Amelia, his own favourite among his poems, together with an interesting essay on English Metrical Law.

This departure into criticism continued in 1879 with a volume of papers entitled Principle in Art, and again in 1893 with Religio poetae. His second wife died in 1880, and in the next year he married Harriet Robson. In later years he lived at Lymington, where he died. He was buried in Lymington churchyard…

Patmore is today one of the least known, but best regarded Victorian poets.

His son, Henry John Patmore (1860-1883), was also a poet.


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