October 30, 1854.
My Dear Patmore,
Many thanks for your volumes. I still hold that you have written a poem which has a fair chance of immortality; tho' I have praised (Landor-like) so many poems that perhaps my praise may not be thought much of: but such as it is, accept it, for it is quite sincere. There are passages want smoothing here and there; such as: "Her power makes not defeats but pacts," a line that seems to me hammered up out of old nail-heads. Others want correcting on another score as "I slid / My curtain," which is not English. You mean I made my curtain slide and that (even so exprest) would not be good. There is nothing for it but "I drew my curtain." Little objections of this calibre, I could make; but, as for the whole, I admire it exceedingly, and trust that it will do our age good, and not ours only. The women ought to subscribe for a statue for you.
2nd Nov. 1854
I cannot tell you how much I admire your book. I had no idea you had power of this high kind. I think it will at all events it ought to become one of the most popular books in the language — and blessedly popular, doing good wherever read.
With sincere regards to Mrs. Patmore,
Yours ever faithfully,
[Undated, Most likely from 1855]
I am more and more pleased with the "Angel." You have neither the lusciousness nor the sublimity of Tennyson, but you have clearer and finer habitual expressions and more accurate thought. For finish and neatness I know nothing equal to bits of the Angel: "As grass grows taller round a stone" . . . "As moon between her lighted clouds," and such other lines. Tennyson is often quite sinfully hazy.
-- J. Ruskin
Gill, Cummertrees, Annan, N.B.,
31 July, 1856.
My Dear Sir,
I have received your beautiful little Book, "The Angel in the House," Book II., some time ago; and reserved it for a good opportunity, which I saw ahead. I brought it with me into these parts, the only modern Book I took that trouble with; and last night I gave myself the pleasure of a deliberate perusal. Upon which, so favourable was the issue, I now give you the superfluous trouble of my verdict — prior to getting in the Solway for a little swim, the sound of which I also hear approaching.
Certainly it is a beautiful little Piece, this "Espousals"; nearly perfect in its kind; the execution and exception full of delicacy, truth, and graceful simplicity; high, ingenious, fine, — pure and wholesome as these breezes now blowing round me from the eternal sea. The delineation of the thing is managed with great art, thrift and success, by that light sketching of parts; of which, both in the choice of what is to be delineated, and in the fresh, airy, easy way of doing it, I much admire the genial felicity, the real skill. A charming simplicity attracts me everywhere: this is a great merit which I am used to in you. — Occasionally (oftenest in "the Sentences") you get into an antique Cowleian vein, what Johnson would call the "Metaphysical" a little; but this too, if well done, as it here is I like to see, — as a gymnastic exercise of wit, were it nothing more. Indeed, I have to own, the whole matter is an "ideal"; soars high above reality, and leaves the mud of fact (mud with whatever stepping stones may be discoverable therein) lying far under its feet. But this you will say is a merit, its poetic certificate — well, well. Few books are written with so much conscientious fidelity now-a-days, or indeed at any day; and very few with anything like the amount of general capability displayed here. I heartily return many thanks for my share of it.
I am here in a kind of "retreat" for four or three weeks, in the most silent country I could get, near my native Solway, and apart from all mankind, — really a kind of Catholic "retreat" minus the invocations to the Virgin, etc . . . I am about ten miles from my Birthplace, know all the mountain tops 50 miles round since my eyes first opened; and I do not want for objects of a sufficiently devotional nature, sad and otherwise. But the tide is in' or nearly so: time and tide will wait on no man!
Yours with many thanks and regards,
9 August, 1856.
My Dear Sir,
The public of readers, now that everybody has taken to read, and whosoever has twopence in his pocket to pay into a Circulating Library, whether he have any fraction of wit in his head or not, is sovereign Rhadamanthus of Books for the time being, has become more astonishing than ever! Probably there was such a Plebs before, entitled to hold up its thumb with vivat or pereat to the poor fencers in the Literary Ring. The only remedy is, not to mind them; to set one's face against them like a flint: for they cannot kill one, after all, tho' they think they do it: one has to say, "Dull, impious canaille, it was not for you that I wrote; not to please you that I was brandishing what weapons the gods gave me!" Patience, too, in this world, is a very necessary element of victory.
It is certain, if there is any perennial running Brook, were it the smallest rill coming from the eternal fountains, whole Atlantic Oceans of froth will not be able to cover it up for ever; said rill will, one day, be seen running under the light of the sun, said froth having altogether vanished no man knows whither. That is the law of Nature, in spite of all blusterings of any Plebs or Devil; and we must silently trust in that.
Unhappily the reviewer too is generally in the exact ratio of the readers, a dark blockhead with braggartism superadded; probably the supreme blockhead of blockheads, being a vocal one withal, and conscious of being wise. Him also we must leave to his fate: an inevitable phenomenon ("like people, like priest"), yet a transitory one, he too.
You need not doubt but I shall be ready, of my own accord, to recommend this Book by all opportunities for what I privately perceive it to be. I am considering also whether there is not some exceptional reviewer, whom I might endeavor to interest in it, with some hope of profit; shall perhaps hit on such a one by and by: unhappily my connexion with that guild of craftsmen is almost null (or less) this long while. You may depend upon it I will neglect no good occasion — recommending perseverance in the mean time and at all times, and what the Scotch call "a stout heart to a steep hill," I remain always,
Yours very sincerely,
Champneys, Basil. Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore. 2 vols. London, G. Bell & Sons, 1900.
Last updated 6 July 2004