Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore (23 July 1823 – 26 November 1896)
was an English poet and critic best known for The Angel in the
House, his narrative poem about an ideal happy marriage.
1.2 Major publications
4 References and sources
5 Further reading
6 External links
The eldest son of author Peter George Patmore,
Coventry Patmore was
born at Woodford in
Essex and was privately educated. He was 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
Society of Arts in 1838. In 1839 he was sent to school in France for
six months, where he began to write poetry. On his return, his father
planned to publish some of these youthful poems; Coventry however had
become interested in science, and poetry was set aside.
Drawing of Coventry Patmore, by John Brett, 1855.
At this time Patmore's father was financially embarrassed; and in 1846
Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton
Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton obtained for Coventry the
post of printed book supernumary assistant at the British Museum, a
post he occupied for nineteen years, devoting his spare time to
poetry. In 1847 he married Emily Augusta Andrews, daughter of Dr.
Andrews of Camberwell, and by 1851 they had had two sons, Coventry
(born 1848) and Tennyson (born 1850). Three daughters followed –
Emily (born 1853), Bertha (born 1855) and Gertrude (born 1857), before
their last child, a son (Henry John), was born in 1860.
He later returned to writing however, enthused by the 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 by causing its author to be introduced 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
In his time at the
British Museum Patmore was instrumental in starting
the Volunteer Movement in 1852. He wrote an important letter to The
Times on the subject, and stirred up much martial enthusiasm among his
Patmore's wife Emily, the model for the Angel in the House, portrait
by John Everett Millais.
Patmore's home at 85 Fortis Green, 1858-60.
In 1853 he republished Tamerton Church Tower, the more successful of
his pieces from Poems of 1844, adding several new poems which showed
distinct advance, both in conception and treatment; and in the
following year (1854) the first part of his best-known poem, The Angel
in the House appeared.
The Angel in the House
The Angel in the House is a long
narrative and lyric poem, with four sections composed over a period of
years: The Betrothed and The Espousals (1856) which eulogize his first
wife; followed by Faithful For Ever (1860); and The Victories of Love
(1862). The four works were published together in 1863 and have come
to symbolise the Victorian feminine ideal – which was not
necessarily the ideal amongst feminists of the period.
By 1861 the family was living in Elm Cottage, North End, Hampstead. On
5 July 1862 Emily died after a lengthy and lingering illness, and
shortly afterwards Coventry joined the
Roman Catholic church.
In 1865 he remarried, his second wife being Marianne Byles, daughter
of James Byles of Bowden Hall, Gloucester; a year later he purchased
Buxted Hall in Surrey, the history of which he wrote in How I managed
my Estate (1886). In 1877 he published The Unknown Eros, which
contains his finest poetic work, and in the following year Amelia,
his own favourite among his poems, together with an interesting essay
on English Metrical Law, appeared. 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 Marianne died in 1880, and in 1881 he married Harriet
Robson from Bletchingley in
Surrey (born 1840). Their son Francis was
born in 1882.
Patmore had a deep friendship with the poet Alice Meynell, lasting
several years, which led to his becoming obsessed with her, forcing
her to break with him.
In later years he lived at Lymington, where he died in 1896. He
was buried in
A collected edition of Patmore's poems appeared in two volumes in
1886, with a characteristic preface which might serve as the author's
epitaph. "I have written little", it runs; "but it is all my best; I
have never spoken when I had nothing to say, nor spared time or labour
to make my words true. I have respected posterity; and should there be
a posterity which cares for letters, I dare to hope that it will
respect me." The sincerity which underlies this statement, combined
with a certain lack of humour which peers through its naïveté,
points to two of the principal characteristics of Patmore's earlier
poetry; characteristics which came to be almost unconsciously merged
and harmonized as his style and his intention drew together into
"Spring Cottage, Hamstead, 1860." Caricature by Max Beerbohm.
His best work is found in the volume of odes called The Unknown Eros,
which is full not only of passages but entire poems in which exalted
thought is expressed in poetry of the richest and most dignified
melody. Spirituality informs his inspiration; the poetry is glowing
and alive. The magnificent piece in praise of winter, the solemn and
beautiful cadences of "Departure", and the homely but elevated pathos
of "The Toys", are in their manner unsurpassed in English poetry. His
somewhat reactionary political opinions, which also find expression in
his odes, find less praise today although they can certainly be said
to reflect, as do his essays, a serious and very active mind. Patmore
is today one of the least-known but best-regarded Victorian poets.
His son Henry John Patmore (1860–83) also became a poet.
Principles in Art. London: George Bell and Sons, 1889.
Courage in Politics and other Essays. London: Oxford University Press,
"William Barnes, the Dorset Poet," The Library Magazine, Vol. II,
November 1886/March 1887.
“Distinction,” The Eclectic Magazine, Vol. LII, 1890
"Three Essayettes," The Eclectic Magazine, Vol. LVI, July/December
References and sources
^ "Coventry Patmore, the Poet of Love", The Literary Digest, February
^ "Mr. Coventry Patmore's Poems," The National Review, Vol. VI,
^ McSweeney, Kerry (2000). "The Angel in the House", Victorian Poetry,
Vol. 38, Number 2, Summer.
^ Hartnell, Elaine (1996). "'Nothing but Sweet and Womanly': A
Hagiography of Patmore's Angel", Victorian Poetry, Vol. 34, No. 4,
Coventry Patmore: 1823–1896. In Memoriam.
^ Gosse, Edmund (1897). "The History of a Poem," The North American
Review, Vol. 164, No. 484.
^ Freiwald, Bina (1988). "Of Selfsame Desire: Patmore's The Angel in
the House", Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 30, No. 4.
South Australian Register
South Australian Register (1839–1900). Adelaide. 13
September 1862. p. 2. Retrieved 28 September 2012 – via
National Library of Australia.
^ Page, Frederick (1917). "Coventry Patmore's 'Unknown Eros'," The
Catholic World, Vol. CV, April/September.
^ See Vesica piscis.
^ Badeni, pp. 115–129.
Coventry Patmore Dead," The Catholic World, Vol. LXIV, October
^ Kerrigan, Michael (1998). Who Lies Where – A guide to famous
graves. London: Fourth Estate. p. 74.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Patmore, Coventry
Kersey Dighton". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge
University Press. p. 928.
Meynell, Alice (1911). "Coventry Patmore". In Herbermann,
Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 11. New York: Robert Appleton
Garnett, Richard (1901). "Patmore, Coventry Kersey Dighton". In
Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement.
London: Smith, Elder & Co.
Maynard, John. "Patmore, Coventry Kersey Deighton (1823–1896)".
Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford
University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21550. (Subscription or
UK public library membership required.)
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Coventry Patmore and the Aesthetics of
Architecture", Victorian Poetry, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4,
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Poem of the Week: The Two Deserts by Coventry Patmore
"Archival material relating to Coventry Patmore". UK National
Coventry Patmore Collection at John J. Burns Library, Boston College
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