Coventry Patmore's literary literary friendships and career divides sharply into two periods. According to the New Advent Catholic Enclopedia, from the later 1840s until the death of his first wife in 1864, Patmore "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." After he converted to Roman Catholicism, married the wealthy Marianne Byles, and moved to Sussex, he seems to have much less to do with the London literary world, though he did carry out a correspondence with Gerard Manley Hopkins.
According to the section on the poet in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, The Angel in the House reveals the direct influence "of more than one of Tennyson's poems, especially The Miller's Daughter." In strictly avoiding poetic diction, however, Patmore appears to both reject Tennyson and to follow William Wordsworth and George Crabbe. Later in life he changed his poetic style so radically that his poetry seems to be by someone else:
Many years later, after changes of family, faith and circumstance, Patmore produced a book of odes, entitled The Unknown Eros, which, as was said above, might, but for certain evidence, have seemed the work of an entirely different person. Instead of the regular and too often monotonous flow of the Angel poems, abrupt Pindaric measures were tried, challenging, and sometimes attaining, splendour but, at the same time, risking — and sometimes falling into — harshness and dissonance. The simple, almost lisping language was changed, likewise (indeed, some hint had been given of this in The Victories), into a grandiose diction, sometimes violent and bombastic, but, at other times, really grand; and the subjects, instead of being those of ordinary and domestic prattle — "personal talk" of the most commonplace kind — were always elevated or deeply pathetic, at least in intention. [Online Source]
In The Unknown Eros, Patmore's turned from his contemporaries and immediaste predecessors to "Donne, Vaughan, Milton, even Aeschylus."
Patmore, whose The Angel in the House gained him a considerable contemporay reputation, seems to have been all but forgotten for most of the twentieth century until feminist criticism used him as a whipping boy, in part because it too easily assumed that his ideal of feminine domesticity characterized the age.
"Coventry Patmore." New Advent Catholic Encylopedia.
"Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century." The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. Volume 13. (1907�21). [Online at bartleby.com]
Last updated 13 June 2004