Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Coventry Patmore
One of the major poets of the nineteenth century, in spite of the small bulk of his verse, born at Woodford, Essex, 23 July, 1823; died at Lymington, 26 Nov., 1896. His father was a man of letters, and a writer of ability and fancy, who lived among writers, making one of the company that included Lamb, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, "Barry Cornwall", and others of less well-remembered names. Meeting with financial reverses late in life, P. G. Patmore unavoidably left his son, carefully educated but unprepared for any profession, to gain a difficult livelihood. Coventry Patmore married, in his early twenties, Emily Augusta Andrews, daughter of a Nonconformist clergyman who was Ruskin's tutor in Greek before the young student went to the university. Monckton Mimes (later Lord Roughton), meeting Coventry Patmore at Mrs. Proctor's house, and interested by his intellectual face and his evident poverty, recommended him for employment in the British Museum Library, and this it was that made his marriage possible. Coventry Patmore's early poems were published by the zeal of his father, and gained prophecies of future greatness from Leigh Hunt and others. In 1853 was published his first mature work, "Tamerton Church Tower and other Poems", and in 1854 appeared the first part of a more deliberate work, "The Angel in the House", a versified love-story of great simplicity, interspersed with brief meditations, now grave, now epigrammatically witty, on the profounder significances of love in marriage. The book became quickly famous. In 1862 the poet's wife died, leaving him with six young children. As happy love had been his earlier, the grief of loss became in great measure his later theme; poignantly touching and also most sublime thoughts upon love, death, and immortality are presented under greatly poetic imagery in the odes of "The Unknown Eros". Coventry Patmore became a Catholic in Rome very soon after his first wife's death. His second wife, Marianne Byles, was of the same faith. She was a woman of considerable fortune as well as beauty. Bringing him no children, she died after some twenty years of marriage, and the poet, somewhat late in life, made a third alliance, his wife being Miss Harriet Robson, also a Catholic; she became the mother of one son.
Patmore's prose works are the essays collected under the title "Principle in Art", and "Rod, Root, and Flower". They belong to the latter half of his life. The volume named second is in great part deeply and loftily mystical. During the period of his first marriage Patmore had lived in the intimacy of Ruskin, Browning, Tennyson, Dobell, Millais, Woolner, Rossetti, and Holman Hunt, and was associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, especially in the production of the "Germ", to which he contributed poetry and prose. During his last years he withdrew into the country, and gave his time almost entirely to meditation. His unique lot was to be at first the most popular, and later the least popular of poets. Between the periods of composition occurred long spaces of silence. Yet there was no change in the spirit of the poet. He smiled to see such different estimation wait upon poetry that was as starry and divine in the trivial-seeming and much-read "Angel" as in the "Unknown Eros", hardly opened by the public, and only now beginning to take its place as a great English classic in the minds of students.