CoventryPatmorepic

Coventry Patmore rejects his uninspiring ‘vegetables’

The poet who composed the long love poem, The Angel of the House, which appeared in four volumes from 1854, became, like many of his generation, a convert to Catholicism, and so his remarks, voiced in a letter to the editor of the Spectator  regarding a bust of Cardinal Newman by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, come as no real surprise.

The original letter, written from Hastings, was discovered in a pile of similar autographed material.

‘It may interest some of the readers of a Paper which has shewn so special an interest in and affection of Cardinal Newman, that by very much the finest likeness of him in existence is the bust which was made of him some ten or fifteen years ago by Thomas Woolner…I was once in a room containing first-rate busts of all the most famous men of the past generation. That of Newman made all the others look like vegetables, so wonderfully was it loaded with the great Cardinal’s weight of thought and character.’

We don’t know who the sitters for other busts were, or the identity of the sculptors, but we do know that as a friend of Woolner, as indeed he was of Dante Rossetti, W. Holman Hunt, and other Pre-Raphaelites, Patmore was bound to defend the merits of the Newman bust over perhaps some more conventional works of art. As a child, Patmore himself wanted to be an artist and at the age of fifteen won the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts. The poverty of his father made such an ambition impossible and Patmore ended up in the British Museum library. In later life, spurred on by his association with the Pre-Raphaelites, he wrote on Art, but he is best known today as the author of The Angel of the House, although it is generally recognised that his best poems, which have strong spiritual qualities, were written towards the end of his life. [R R]
IMG_2120-1024x768-1

Losing his marbles…

Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher. We have had many heavily annotated review copies, some angrily, some with further scholarship, praise or damning criticism.The Hon. Michael  Foot was a good customer at our West End shop and was much liked. He spent money, which is always endearing. He could get behind a cause and was in his way a powerful man...one of the 'great and the good' - like the late, lamented Tony Benn. Thanks for emailing this in:

This letter was discovered in Michael Foot’s review copy of William St Clair’s Elgin Marbles (1998), which was inscribed to the reviewer by the author. Judging by the angry-looking pencil marks  in the margin, Foot was mainly interested in Chapter 24,which focused on the cavalier way in which British Museum ‘cleaners’ under the direction of the egregious Lord Duveen, rightly condemned by St Clair as an  ‘unscrupulous art dealer’, damaged for ever the surface of most of the Marbles back in the mid ‘thirties.

The publication of St Clair’s exposé—particularly  his accusations that  a cover-up by the PR department and curatorial staff of the Museum-- over the past few decades, prevented the scandal emerging much earlier, caused a huge rumpus at the time. Worse still, the subsequent further threats and bullying of external experts and the Press that followed the publication of the book, reverberates even today. St Clair was particularly incensed by the sneering review of his book by one Ian Jenkins, a supposed ‘expert’ at the BM, who referred to the author as an ‘ amateur’ and who stated quite erroneously that only ten percent of the Marbles had been damaged.

The whole truth has yet to be exposed.