Coventry Patmore Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

The prose works of Coventry Patmore (PAHT-mohr) include essays, a biography, numerous letters, and aphoristic collections. His Essay on English Metrical Law was published in 1856 (a critical edition was published in 1961). More than twenty years later, he published his first book of prose, a biography of the poet Barry Cornwall titled Bryan Waller Procter (1877). He published an account of his success in managing his estate at Heron’s Ghyll in How I Managed and Improved My Estate (1888). His major collections of prose are: Principle in Art (1889); Religio Poet (1893); and Rod, Root, and Flower (1895).

A five-volume edition of his Works was published in London in 1907. No edition of his letters exists, but many can be found in Basil Champneys’s Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patmore (1900) and in Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1956, Claude C. Abbott, editor), the latter volume containing Patmore’s correspondence with Hopkins.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Coventry Patmore has often been referred to as a man and a poet of contradictions, and his achievements—as both—are equally contradictory. He was one of the most popular of all Victorian poets. The Angel in the House had gone into a sixth edition by 1885, and by the time of his death in 1896, it had sold more than 250,000 copies. He was widely read throughout the British Empire as well as in the United States and other countries. He was also, however, one the most quickly forgotten of Victorian poets. His reputation went into eclipse in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, enjoyed a brief revival in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, and then fell into a critical and popular decline that has never been reversed.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Anstruther, Ian. Coventry Patmore’s Angel: A Study of Coventry Patmore, His Wife Emily, and “The Angel in the House.” London: Haggerston Press, 1992. A short biographical study of Patmore and his wife. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Crook, J. Mordaunt. “Coventry Patmore and the Aesthetics of Architecture.” Victorian Poetry 34, no. 4 (Winter, 1996): 519-543. Crook discusses Patmore as an architectural critic of extraordinary power and perhaps the most eloquent expositor of architectural style.

Fisher, Benjamin F. “The Supernatural in Patmore’s Poetry.” Victorian Poetry 34, no. 4 (Winter, 1996): 544-557. An examination of supernaturalism in Patmore’s work. Suggests that careful readers will discover ghosts, vampires, and hauntings recurring in Patmore’s poetry.

Fontana, Ernest. “Patmore and Dickinson: Angels, Cochineal, and Polar Expiation.” Emily Dickinson Journal 13, no. 1 (2004): 1-18. Discusses Emily Dickinson’s familiarity with Patmore’s The Angel in the House and several poems she may have written in response to what she read in that collection.

Gosse, Edmund. Coventry Patmore. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905. The earliest book-length critical study published on Patmore, designed to complement the “official” biography of the Patmore family published by Basil Champneys. Full of anecdotes and personal accounts, it is nevertheless an important critical work on Patmore.

Oliver, E. J. Coventry Patmore. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1956. A short, accessible biography on Patmore. Discusses love as the focus of his life, his family, and his mystical leanings that put him at odds with clericalism. Examines the importance of place and background in his poems.

Pinch, Adela. “Love Thinking.” Victorian Studies 50, no. 3 (Spring, 2008): 379-397. This article on love in the Victorian era uses “The Kiss” from The Angel in the House as a starting point. Pinch does not like Patmore’s poetry and criticizes his choice of meter.

Reid, John Cowie. Mind and Art of Coventry Patmore. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957. This full-length study of Patmore explores the influences on Patmore and his thought, and his “doctrine” of love as expressed in his poems. Particularly noteworthy is the chapter on the odes. Includes an extensive bibliography.

Weinig, Mary Anthony. Coventry Patmore. Boston: Twayne, 1981. An appreciative introduction to Patmore, noting that his poems are “rooted in immediate experience of life and love and marriage.” Contains strong critical commentary on The Angel in the House and Faithful for Ever. Includes a separate section on his odes, which Weinig considers the best access to Patmore for the modern reader.