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Charles Dickens
1812  - 1870

CHARLES DICKENS.
――♦――

AN INTRODUCTION

TO

LEGENDS AND LYRICS

BY

ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER.

IN the spring of the year 1853, I observed, as conductor of the weekly journal Household Words, a short poem among the proffered contributions, very different, as I thought, from the shoal of verses perpetually setting through the office of such a periodical, and possessing much more merit.  Its authoress was quite unknown to me.  She was one Miss Mary Berwick, whom I had never heard of; and she was to be addressed by letter, if addressed at all, at a circulating library in the western district of London.  Through this channel, Miss Berwick was informed that her poem was accepted, and was invited to send another.  She complied, and became a regular and frequent contributor.  Many letters passed between the journal and Miss Berwick, but Miss Berwick herself was never seen.

    How we came gradually to establish, at the office of Household Words, that we knew all about Miss Berwick, I have never discovered.  But we settled somehow, to our complete satisfaction, that she was governess in a family; that she went to Italy in that capacity, and returned; and that she had long been in the same family.  We really knew nothing whatever of her, except that she was remarkably business-like, punctual, self-reliant, and reliable: so I suppose we insensibly invented the rest.  For myself, my mother was not a more real personage to me, than Miss Berwick the governess became.

    This went on until December, 1854, when the Christmas number, entitled The Seven Poor Travellers, was sent to press.  Happening to be going to dine that day with an old and dear friend, distinguished in literature as Barry Cornwall, I took with me an early proof of that number, and remarked, as I laid it on the drawing-room table, that it contained a very pretty poem, written by a certain Miss Berwick.  Next day brought me the disclosure that I had so spoken of the poem to the mother of its writer, in its writer's presence; that I had no such correspondent in existence as Miss Berwick; and that the name had been assumed by Barry Cornwall's eldest daughter, Miss Adelaide Anne Procter.

    The anecdote I have here noted down, besides serving to explain why the parents of the late Miss Procter have looked to me for these poor words of remembrance of their lamented child, strikingly illustrates the honesty, independence, and quiet dignity, of the lady's character.  I had known her when she was very young; I had been honoured with her father's friendship when I was myself a young aspirant; and she had said at home, "If I send him, in my own name, verses that he does not honestly like, either it will be very painful to him to return them, or he will print them for papa's sake, and not for their own.  So I have made up my mind to take my chance fairly with the unknown volunteers."

    Perhaps it requires an editor's experience of the profoundly unreasonable grounds on which he is often urged to accept unsuitable articles—such as having been to school with the writer's husband's brother-in-law, or having lent an alpenstock in Switzerland to the writer's wife's nephew, when that interesting stranger had broken his own—fully to appreciate the delicacy and the self-respect of this resolution.

    Some verses by Miss Procter had been published in the Book of Beauty, ten years before she became Miss Berwick.  With the exception of two poems in the Cornhill Magazine, two in Good Words, and others in a little book called A Chaplet of Verses (issued in 1862 for the benefit of a Night Refuge), her published writings first appeared in Household Words, or All the Year Round.  The present edition contains the whole of her Legends and Lyrics, and originates in the great favour with which they have been received by the public.

    Miss Procter was born in Bedford Square, London, on the 30th of October, 1825.  Her love of poetry was conspicuous at so early an age, that I have before me a tiny album made of small note-paper, into which her favourite passages were copied for her by her mother's hand before she herself could write.  It looks as if she had carried it about, as another little girl might have carried a doll.  She soon displayed a remarkable memory, and great quickness of apprehension.  When she was quite a young child, she learned with facility several of the problems of Euclid.  As she grew older, she acquired the French, Italian, and German languages; became a clever pianoforte player; and showed a true taste and sentiment in drawing.  But, as soon as she had completely vanquished the difficulties of any one branch of study, it was her way to lose interest in it, and pass to another.  While her mental resources were being trained, it was not at all suspected in her family that she had any gift of authorship, or any ambition to become a writer.  Her father had no idea of her having ever attempted to turn a rhyme, until her first little poem saw the light in print.

    When she attained to womanhood, she had read an extraordinary number of books, and throughout her life she was always largely adding to the number.  In 1853 she went to Turin and its neighbourhood, on a visit to her aunt, a Roman Catholic lady.  As Miss Procter had herself professed the Roman Catholic Faith two years before, she entered with the greater ardour on the study of the Piedmontese dialect, and the observation of the habits and manners of the peasantry.  In the former, she soon became a proficient.  On the latter head, I extract from her familiar letters written home to England at the time, two pleasant pieces of description.


A BETROTHAL.


    "We have been to a ball, of which I must give you a description.  Last Tuesday we had just done dinner at about seven, and stepped out into the balcony to look at the remains of the sunset behind the mountains, when we heard very distinctly a band of music, which rather excited my astonishment, as a solitary organ is the utmost that toils up here.  I went out of the room for a few minutes, and, on my returning, Emily said, 'Oh!  That band is playing at the farmer's near here.  The daughter is fiancée to-day, and they have a ball.'  I said, 'I wish I was going!'  'Well,' replied she, 'the farmer's wife did call to invite us.'  'Then I shall certainly go,' I exclaimed.  I applied to Madame B., who said she would like it very much, and we had better go, children and all.  Some of the servants were already gone.  We rushed away to put on some shawls, and put off any shred of black we might have about us (as the people would have been quite annoyed if we had appeared on such an occasion with any black), and we started.  When we reached the farmer's, which is a stone's throw above our house, we were received with great enthusiasm; the only drawback being, that no one spoke French, and we did not yet speak Piedmontese.  We were placed on a bench against the wall, and the people went on dancing.  The room was a large whitewashed kitchen (I suppose), with several large pictures in black frames, and very smoky.  I distinguished the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, and the others appeared equally lively and appropriate subjects.  Whether they were Old Masters or not, and if so, by whom, I could not ascertain.  The band were seated opposite us.  Five men, with wind instruments, part of the band of the National Guard, to which the farmer's sons belong.  They played really admirably, and I began to be afraid that some idea of our dignity would prevent me getting a partner; so, by Madame B.'s advice, I went up to the bride, and offered to dance with her.  Such a handsome young woman!  Like one of Uwins's pictures.  Very dark, with a quantity of black hair, and on an immense scale.  The children were already dancing, as well as the maids.  After we came to an end of our dance, which was what they called a Polka-Mazourka, I saw the bride trying to screw up the courage of her fiancée to ask me to dance, which after a little hesitation he did.  And admirably he danced, as indeed they all did—in excellent time, and with a little more spirit than one sees in a ball-room.  In fact, they were very like one's ordinary partners, except that they wore earrings and were in their shirt- sleeves, and truth compels me to state that they decidedly smelt of garlic.  Some of them had been smoking, but threw away their cigars when we came in.  The only thing that did not look cheerful was, that the room was only lighted by two or three oil-lamps, and that there seemed to be no preparation for refreshments.  Madame B., seeing this, whispered to her maid, who disengaged herself from her partner, and ran off to the house; she and the kitchenmaid presently returning with a large tray covered with all kinds of cakes (of which we are great consumers and always have a stock), and a large hamper full of bottles of wine, with coffee and sugar.  This seemed all very acceptable.  The fiancée was requested to distribute the eatables, and a bucket of water being produced to wash the glasses in, the wine disappeared very quickly—as fast as they could open the bottles.  But, elated, I suppose, by this, the floor was sprinkled with water, and the musicians played a Monferrino, which is a Piedmontese dance.  Madame B. danced with the farmer's son, and Emily with another distinguished member of the company.  It was very fatiguing—something like a Scotch reel.  My partner was a little man, like Perrot, and very proud of his dancing.  He cut in the air and twisted about, until I was out of breath, though my attempts to imitate him were feeble in the extreme.  At last, after seven or eight dances, I was obliged to sit down.  We stayed till nine, and I was so dead beat with the heat that I could hardly crawl about the house, and in an agony with the cramp, it is so long since I have danced."


A MARRIAGE.


    "The wedding of the farmer's daughter has taken place.  We had hoped it would have been in the little chapel of our house, but it seems some special permission was necessary, and they applied for it too late.  They all said, "This is the Constitution.  There would have been no difficulty before!" the lower classes making the poor Constitution the scapegoat for everything they don't like.  So as it was impossible for us to climb up to the church where the wedding was to be, we contented ourselves with seeing the procession pass.  It was not a very large one, for, it requiring some activity to go up, all the old people remained at home.  It is not etiquette for the bride's mother to go, and no unmarried woman can go to a wedding—I suppose for fear of its making her discontented with her own position.  The procession stopped at our door, for the bride to receive our congratulations.  She was dressed in a shot silk, with a yellow handkerchief, and rows of a large gold chain.  In the afternoon they sent to request us to go there.  On our arrival we found them dancing out of doors, and a most melancholy affair it was.  All the bride's sisters were not to be recognised, they had cried so.  The mother sat in the house, and could not appear.  And the bride was sobbing so, she could hardly stand!  The most melancholy spectacle of all to my mind was, that the bridegroom was decidedly tipsy.  He seemed rather affronted at all the distress.  We danced a Monferrino; I with the bridegroom; and the bride crying the whole time.  The company did their utmost to enliven her by firing pistols, but without success, and at last they began a series of yells, which reminded me of a set of savages.  But even this delicate method of consolation failed, and the wishing good-bye began.  It was altogether so melancholy an affair that Madame B. dropped a few tears, and I was very near it, particularly when the poor mother came out to see the last of her daughter, who was finally dragged off between her brother and uncle, with a last explosion of pistols.  As she lives quite near, makes an excellent match, and is one of nine children, it really was a most desirable marriage, in spite of all the show of distress.  Albert was so discomfited by it, that he forgot to kiss the bride as he had intended to do, and therefore went to call upon her yesterday, and found her very smiling in her new house, and supplied the omission.  The cook came home from the wedding, declaring she was cured of any wish to marry—but I would not recommend any man to act upon that threat and make her an offer.  In a couple of days we had some rolls of the bride's first baking, which they call Madonnas.  The musicians, it seems, were in the same state as the bridegroom, for, in escorting her home, they all fell down in the mud.  My wrath against the bridegroom is somewhat calmed by finding that it is considered bad luck if he does not get tipsy at his wedding."


    Those readers of Miss Procter's poems who should suppose from their tone that her mind was of a gloomy or despondent cast, would be curiously mistaken.  She was exceedingly humorous, and had a great delight in humour.  Cheerfulness was habitual with her, she was very ready at a sally or a reply, and in her laugh (as I remember well) there was an unusual vivacity, enjoyment, and sense of drollery.  She was perfectly unconstrained and unaffected: as modestly silent about her productions, as she was generous with their pecuniary results.  She was a friend who inspired the strongest attachments; she was a finely sympathetic woman, with a great accordant heart and a sterling noble nature.  No claim can be set up for her, thank God, to the possession of any of the conventional poetical qualities.  She never by any means held the opinion that she was among the greatest of human beings; she never suspected the existence of a conspiracy on the part of mankind against her; she never recognised in her best friends, her worst enemies; she never cultivated the luxury of being misunderstood and unappreciated; she would far rather have died without seeing a line of her composition in print, than that I should have maundered about her, here, as "the Poet", or "the Poetess".

    With the recollection of Miss Procter as a mere child and as a woman, fresh upon me, it is natural that I should linger on my way to the close of this brief record, avoiding its end.  But, even as the close came upon her, so must it come here.

    Always impelled by an intense conviction that her life must not be dreamed away, and that her indulgence in her favourite pursuits must be balanced by action in the real world around her, she was indefatigable in her endeavours to do some good.  Naturally enthusiastic, and conscientiously impressed with a deep sense of her Christian duty to her neighbour, she devoted herself to a variety of benevolent objects.  Now, it was the visitation of the sick, that had possession of her; now, it was the sheltering of the houseless; now, it was the elementary teaching of the densely ignorant; now, it was the raising up of those who had wandered and got trodden under foot; now, it was the wider employment of her own sex in the general business of life; now, it was all these things at once.  Perfectly unselfish, swift to sympathise and eager to relieve, she wrought at such designs with a flushed earnestness that disregarded season, weather, time of day or night, food, rest.  Under such a hurry of the spirits, and such incessant occupation, the strongest constitution will commonly go down.  Hers, neither of the strongest nor the weakest, yielded to the burden, and began to sink.

    To have saved her life, then, by taking action on the warning that shone in her eyes and sounded in her voice, would have been impossible, without changing her nature.  As long as the power of moving about in the old way was left to her, she must exercise it, or be killed by the restraint.  And so the time came when she could move about no longer, and took to her bed.

    All the restlessness gone then, and all the sweet patience of her natural disposition purified by the resignation of her soul, she lay upon her bed through the whole round of changes of the seasons.  She lay upon her bed through fifteen months.  In all that time, her old cheerfulness never quitted her.  In all that time, not an impatient or a querulous minute can be remembered.

    At length, at midnight on the second of February, 1864, she turned down a leaf of a little book she was reading, and shut it up.

    The ministering hand that had copied the verses into the tiny album was soon around her neck, and she quietly asked, as the clock was on the stroke of one:

    "Do you think I am dying, mamma?"

    "I think you are very, very ill to-night, my dear!"

    "Send for my sister.  My feet are so cold.  Lift me up?"

     Her sister entering as they raised her, she said: "It has come at last!"  And with a bright and happy smile, looked upward, and departed.

Well had she written:

 

Why shouldst thou fear the beautiful angel, Death,
Who waits thee at the portals of the skies,
Ready to kiss away thy struggling breath,
Ready with gentle hand to close thine eyes?

Oh what were life, if life were all?  Thine eyes
Are blinded by their tears, or thou wouldst see
Thy treasures wait thee in the far-off skies,
And Death, thy friend, will give them all to thee.

________________________________ 
 
 

Bessie Rayner Belloc
1829-1925


THE PARENTS OF ADELAIDE PROCTER.

FROM

"In a Walled Garden"

BY

BESSIE RAYNER BELLOC (née PARKES)

The father and mother of Adelaide Procter were both highly gifted, and their household was known to so many surviving friends, that it is only fitting their names should precede her own, although she achieved a greater fame; yet there were years when "Barry Cornwall " was known to all, and when his songs were sung all over England.  Two of them, "The sea, the sea, the open sea," and the "Return of the Admiral," have their permanent place, though many of his charming and poetic pages have sunk into comparative oblivion.  In his own person he was a refined and somewhat silent man, with a head said to resemble Sir Walter Scott's in miniature, and he was extremely beloved by the literary world.  But he lived an interior life, into which, I think, none but his wife ever penetrated.  He was profoundly attached to her, and she was for ever shielding him from the wind that blew too roughly.  He had many sorrows, and death twice visited his household under most pathetic circumstances.  To ward off blows from "Brian" and to sustain him with her own abundant strength, was Mrs. Procter's constant care, and in this she showed a side of her character wholly unsuspected by the outer world.

    Mr. Procter was born so long ago as 1787, and was not far from forty when he married the lovely girl, Anne Skepper, who had been brought up in the home of her stepfather, Basil Montagu.  Bryan Walter Procter came from the North of England.  He was educated at Harrow, and spent his holidays at the house of a great-uncle who lived about a dozen miles from London; and his first real instructress in literature was a female servant, born in a better station of life, who had read Richardson and Fielding and worshipped Shakespeare.  She used to recite whole scenes to the boy, and encouraged him to buy a Shakespeare of his own.  "But," says he, "I had not leisure to study and worship my Shakespeare long, for at the end of a month or six weeks my destiny drove me back to school."  There he had two schoolfellows, boys named Robert Peel and George Gordon Byron.  Of Byron, Mr. Procter says that he then showed no signs of poetic grace.  "He was loud, even coarse, and very capable of a boy's vulgar enjoyments.  He played at hockey and racquets, and was occasionally engaged in pugilistic encounters."  Of himself he says he was neither very short nor very tall, neither handsome nor hideous.  He survived Byron for fifty years, seeing the dawn, the zenith, and the partial oblivion of his fame.

    Among Mr. Procter's poems should be especially noticed the fine ring of Belshazzar, and some of deep and tender domestic interest.  The lovely lines to his wife, beginning—

"How many years, my Dove,
     Hast thou been mine!
 How many years, my Love,
     Have I been thine!"

and the exquisite tribute to his dead boy, called "The Little Voice," are among the most poignant utterances of the human heart.  But nothing in his gentle, reserved face betrayed in later life the interior fire.

    He led a hard-working life in London as a barrister, and later in a Government office. In looking through the memoir published in his widow's lifetime, I was chiefly struck by a letter in which he describes his study, and says, regretfully, that he has never been abroad, never seen Italy or France, he, the poet and the lover of Italian art; and by another letter about the Indian Mutiny, in which "Our son (the only son I have, indeed) escaped from Delhi."  He tells how this young man, left to him after the death of his eldest boy Edward, had been in Delhi, and how he and four or five other officers, four women, and a child, escaped.  The men were "obliged to drop the women a fearful height from the walls of the fort amidst showers of bullets.  They were seven days and seven nights in the jungle without money or meat, scarcely any clothes, no shoes.  They forded rivers, lay on the wet ground at night, lapped water from the puddles, and finally reached Meerut."

    Montagu Procter married some years later the youngest of the ladies here spoken of.  At the time of the Mutiny she was a girl of fifteen.  He became eventually a general, and, returning to England, survived his father, but predeceased his mother, who, indeed, lost successively all her children save two.

    Of Mrs. Procter much will inevitably be written in future years.  She was a very remarkable person, and lived in possession of almost unbroken health and faculties until nearly ninety.  As a girl ("my dearest girl," writes the poet during his betrothal) she had been extremely pretty.  She was an early playmate of my mother's, but my memory of her dates from her middle age, and extends over nearly fifty years.  She was the daughter by a first marriage of Mrs. Basil Montagu, and always spoke of her mother with the greatest reverence.  But of the race of poets to which she was inextricably bound, she spoke with a half-laughing satire.  One was evidently her life-long lover, and one was her child, and several others clustered about her like bees.  She did not exactly hold a salon; there was no great fortune in the household, nor any sort of pretension whatever, and Mrs. Procter gave one the impression of having her hands very full; but everybody of any literary pretension whatever seemed to flow in and out of the house.  The Kembles, the Macreadys, the Rossettis, the Dickens, the Thackerays, never seemed to be exactly visitors, but to belong to the place.  Three of the daughters became Catholic, and Mrs. Procter, who, I imagine, did not dwell much on the next world, stood between them and the sensitive father, to whom the loss of close union was a great misery.  I used to think it infinitely touching to see Mrs. Procter trying to harmonize the household.  If "Brian" could be kept cheerful, and if nobody was ill (and, alas! somebody was very often ill), then the quick vivid mother of the family seemed content.  She had a habit of going into the world, a habit of dressing fashionably, a habit of writing the neatest and most concise notes possible; but her consistent, steady kindness had assuredly some deep spiritual root, of which she never spoke.  Like her mother; she never abdicated for a moment her great tenue, never kept her room, never lowered the scale of her dress, never lost her composure; I should doubt if in sixty years a meal had ever been placed upon the table which she had not herself ordered.  It was my fate to be very closely associated with her under circumstances in which ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have broken down, and yet when she lost her daughters, it was their friend whom she tried to spare.  I particularly remember her taking me with her to the Catholic cemetery in Kensal Green to plant a quantity of ivy on Adelaide's grave.  I can see her kneeling at the headstone, twisting the sprays, with a face of anxious, steady determination.  That grave is now a place of pilgrimage to American and Colonial travellers.  It is thickly overgrown with ivy, but nobody guesses that the mother planted it herself.

    Many years afterwards, Edythe Procter died very suddenly—indeed, in a manner truly tragical—failure of the heart's action.  Mrs. Procter was then more than eighty; and before the announcement could traverse the Continent in the newspapers, came a careful letter, addressed to a delicate friend at Mentone, and on the corner of the envelope two tiny, neatly-written words, "Bad News:"

    Such were the environments of Adelaide Procter's life—a short life, for she died at the age of thirty-eight. Of outward incidents, apart from the sudden blossoming of her literary fame, there were scarcely any.  The year spent in Italy, where her aunt, Madame de Viry, was attached to the Court circle at Turin, was certainly a determining influence on her life.  Emily de Viry had become a devout Catholic, and at that time the saintly wife of Victor Emmanuel was living.  The example impressed Adelaide's mind, and doubtless contributed to her religious change. At Aix-les-Bains is a large portrait en pied of the young Queen of Sardinia in her bridal dress.  It looks, at first sight, to be a purely conventional picture, but the eyes are of a haunting depth.  They recall a word-picture of the Queen returning from Holy Communion, which Adelaide Procter gave.  The wife of Victor Emmanuel was passing along one of the galleries of the Palace, her face "shining as with an interior lamp," when she was met by the young English girl, who never forgot the sight.  Of this association Adelaide Procter always bore the trace. In her religious attitude she resembled a foreign rather than an English Catholic.  She looked like a Frenchwoman mounting the steps of the Madeleine, or a veiled Italian in St. Peter's.  The one thing she never mentioned was her own conversion.

    One of Miss Procter's sisters, named Agnes, joined the order of the Irish Sisters of Mercy; and in looking back to our childhood I best remember her, as the nearer to my own age.

    In 1840 the Procters lived in St. John's Wood, and used to visit their grandparents in Storey's Gate; and in this house it must have been that two children were sitting by the fireside one evening.  There was no other light in the room, and Agnes Procter (Sister Mary Francis) suddenly made a confidence; saying, in a tone of intense childish conviction, "I do love mama."  These words made an ineffaceable impression on the hearer, for the little speaker was never supposed to be at all imaginative, and certainly Mrs. Procter did not pose before the world as a tender woman—rather the reverse—though her intimates knew her for a very good and kind one.  And the last time that I saw Sister Mary Francis she was kneeling by that mother's open grave at Kensal Green, her sincere, gentle face, under its veil, looking but little changed since the day of her profession some thirty years before.  It may not be irrelevant to add that shortly after her somewhat unexpected death after a few days' illness, the Reverend Mother spoke of Sister Mary Francis' great and unusual affection for her mother as of a profound sentiment rarely noticed either in or out of the religious life.  It was the sweet soul's one earthly romance.  I do not know in what light Mrs. Procter's memory will go down to posterity when the letters and memoirs of the generation in which she played so large a social part come to be written and published; but this image of her as enshrined in her daughter's heart should be recorded, for it is true.

Adelaide, from a painting by
Emma Gaggiotti Richards

    Of the gifted eldest daughter the mother was intensely proud, and well may she have been, for a more vital spirit never inhabited a finely wrought frame.  Adelaide Anne Procter was so curiously unlike her poems, and yet so distinct in individuality, that it is a pity she was not painted by any artist capable of rendering her singular and interesting face.  There was something of Dante in the contour of its thin lines, and the colouring was a pale, delicate brown, which harmonized with the darker hair, while the eyes were blue, less intense in hue than those of Shelley; and like his also was the exquisitely fine, fluffy hair, which when ruffled stood out in a halo round the brow.  A large oil painting of her exists, done, I believe, by Emma Galiotti, and it is like her as she appeared in a conventional dress and a most lugubrious mood, but the real woman was quite different.  She had a forecast of the angel in her face and figure, but it was of the Archangel Michael that she made one think.  There was something spirited and almost militant in her aspect, if such a word can be applied to one so exquisitely delicate and frail.  She was somewhat older than myself, and therefore, while I remember Agnes as a little girl, my first distinct memory of Adelaide dates from a period when she was already grown up, and had returned from Turin.

    In her manner and dress she bore all the marks of a very exquisite breeding. She was conversant with foreign languages, knew French and Italian well, and wrote a peculiarly clear and delicate hand.  One of her minor accomplishments was that of illumination.  Monsignor Gilbert possessed two excellent examples of her skill in this unusual art.   In her youth she danced lightly and well.  All these little details go to make up the portrait of a very charming personality.

    She was already thirty before her name had been heard, except as that of Barry Cornwall's "sweet, beloved First Born."  Her poems circulated among friends, just as Rossetti's used to do, being copied from hand to hand.  Then one was sent by her anonymously to Charles Dickens, and inserted by him in a Christmas number of Household Words.  Dickens thus tells the story: "Happening one day to dine with an old and dear friend, distinguished in literature as 'Barry Cornwall,' I took with me an early proof of the Christmas number of Household Words, entitled 'The Seven Poor Travellers,' and remarked, as I laid it on the drawing-room table, that it contained a very pretty poem, written by a certain Miss Berwick.  Next day brought me a disclosure that I had so spoken of the poem to the mother of the writer in the writer's presence; that I had no such correspondent in existence as Miss Berwick, and that the name had been assumed by Barry Cornwall's daughter, Miss Adelaide Anne Procter."

    From this time forward, I forget the year, she continued to write in Household Words, and the poems attracted so much attention that people used to pretend they had written them.  When they were at length collected into a volume, with the writer's name attached, they rushed into fame, and circulated all over the kingdom; and Miss Procter received a pathetic appeal from a young lady, who asked her could it be true that these lovely verses were all hers, for her lover had been in the habit of assuring her, as each poem successively appeared, that it was his own!  Twelve editions followed one another, and five years after, the demand for her poems was still "far in excess of that for the writings of any living poet except Mr. Tennyson:" I think it caused her a feeling of shyness amounting to pain to have so far outstripped her poet-father in popular estimation.  "Papa is a poet. I only write verses."

    A very few years after this wide recognition of her genius the end came.  Her health began to fail in 1862, and by the end of that year she was confined to her bed.  So great was the fragility of her frame, that when once the lungs were attacked there seemed to be no chance of saving her.  Then began a battle which the two or three surviving people who witnessed it can assuredly never forget—a battle royal with the power of Death.  I do not mean that she consciously tried to live a longer life, but that she did not give way an inch to the Destroyer.  The only time I ever saw her quail was one day when I got a little pencil note, "They say the second lung is attacked."  I hurried off to the house, and found her sitting up in bed, her pretty fair hair standing out in a halo, her blue eyes fastening on mine with an anxious, wistful look.  But the momentary panic passed away, and she recovered her cheerfulness, repeated her prayers, talked of Jean Ingelow's poems (and particularly of the "High Tide in Lincolnshire"), made her gentle jests—she was naturally extremely witty—and faced the Destroyer with the most pathetic mixture of resignation and pluck imaginable.

    At last, one day—it was the 1st of February, 1864 (Thackeray had died on Christmas Eve)—I went to her in the evening, and found her greatly oppressed. But she was very eager about a poem of mine, "Avignon," and would sit up in bed holding it in her slender, trembling hands, and trying to correct the proof.  The last line ran—


"Ora pro nobis, Sainte Marie."


The evening wore on—nine—ten—eleven o'clock. It was not possible for me to remain later without greatly alarming my parents, and I had to leave.  After an anxious consultation with Edythe, I returned to the sick-room and kissed her forehead, saying, "Good-night, dear."  She looked up at me quickly and gravely, and said, "Good-night."  After I had left, they sat beside her—the mother, the sister, and the maid who had been with them very many years.  About two in the morning of the Feast of the Purification her breathing became oppressed.  She looked up in her mother's face, and said, "Mamma, has it come?"  And Mrs. Procter said, "Yes, my dear," and took her in her arms.  And so, while Edythe knelt by her side, reciting the prayers for the dying, my dear Adelaide passed away in peace.

    It remains to say a few words about her poems.  Since for years they had a larger sale than those of any other poet save Tennyson, they must have penetrated into every reading household in Great Britain.  Of late, however, their popular fame seems chiefly to repose on the "Lost Chord," nobly set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan.  It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm infused by this song.  The vast audience of St. James's Hall thrills as one man when it is given.  But in the beauty of the narrative poems, and in the profound depth of feeling of those which have an autobiographical source, the student of Victorian literature will, I am convinced, find permanent delight; and that many verses and many lines will survive may be inferred from that perfection of form which is essential to lasting fame.  Miss Procter always used the plainest words to convey her thought, the simplest, choicest words to express her feeling.  Some of those which deal with the human heart are wonderfully sweet and subtle.

    One of the most striking of the personal poems is "A Woman's Question," beginning—


"Before I trust my fate to thee."

    And another, named "Beyond," of which the two last stanzas run thus:

If in my heart I now could fear that, risen again, we
    should not know
What was our Life of Life when here—the hearts we
    loved so much below;
I would arise this very day, and cast so poor a thing
    away.
But love is no such soulless clod ; living, perfected it shall
    rise
Transfigured in the light of God, and giving glory to the
    skies.
And that which makes this life so sweet shall render
Heaven's joy complete."

    Another delicately subtle poem is entitled "Returned—Missing," and how strong and noble, is "A Parting." And lastly, the charming "Comforter."

"If you break your plaything yourself, dear,
 Don't you cry for it all the same?
 I don't think it is such a comfort,
 One has only oneself to blame.

"People say things cannot be helped, dear,
 But then that is the reason why ;
 For if things could be helped or altered,
 One would never sit down to cry."

    The more specially religious poems are to be found in a small volume entitled "A Chaplet of Verses," published for the benefit of the Night Refuge originally established close to the church in Moorfields.  It opens with the trumpet call of the "Army of the Lord," a splendid piece of verse.  But "Give me thy heart " is to be found in the first volume of "Legends and Lyrics."  Both of them are surely equal to any of Father Faber's.  What nobler prayer, more perfectly expressed, than that contained in the eight lines:

"Send down, O Lord, Thy sacred fire!
     Consume and cleanse the sin
 That lingers still within its depths;
     Let heavenly love begin.
 That sacred flame Thy Saints have known,
     Kindle, O Lord, in me!
 Thou above all the rest for ever,
     And all the rest in Thee."

    The "Chaplet" has been stereotyped, and has had a wide circulation. One poem, entitled "Homeless,"* was written at Monsignor Gilbert's special request, and was for years inserted in the annual report and appeal for funds.  Of the seven stanzas, I quote two.  The concluding lines of each exemplify the vigour with which Miss Procter rounded a thought where weaker poets fail:—

"Why, our criminals all are sheltered,
     They are pitied, and taught, and fed;
 That is only a sister—woman,
     Who has got neither food nor bed—
 And the Night cries, 'Sin to be living,'
     And the River cries, 'Sin to be dead.'"
       *        *        *        *        *        *
"Nay; goods in our thrifty England
     Are not left to lie and grow rotten;
 For each man knows the market value
     Of silk, or woollen, or cotton . . .
 
But in counting the riches of England,
     I think our Poor are forgotten!"

The profits of this little book, of which the sale still continues, were so considerable that Monsignor Gilbert founded a bed in the Refuge called the "Adelaide Procter Bed," a permanent memento and reminder of prayer for her soul.

    And lastly, I have been told upon the highest authority that her personal habits of piety were of the most fervent and consistent kind.  The intensity of her susceptible nature found expression and support in her faith.  She was strengthened in much suffering, and consoled in much grief, by ardent love of God.  She never failed in courage when to publicly confess obedience to the Catholic Church demanded strength of no usual sort, for her lot was cast among those who did not acknowledge the claim; and she, who was eminently delicate in fibre and subject to many fears, went down by slow degrees into the "valley of the shadow of Death," with a cheerful heroism rarely seen.

    It was on the 2nd of February, 1864, that Adelaide Procter's wasted frame was laid within the coffin. The snow lay on the ground in patches outside the old church in Spanish Place, full of the lighted candles held by a dense congregation.

"And we know when the Purification,
     Her first feast, comes round,
 The early spring flowers to greet it
     Just opening are found;
 And pure, white, and spotless, the snowdrop
     Will pierce the dark ground."

So we laid masses of snowdrops all about her, and for years the recurring sight of them brought back the vision of that calm spiritual face amidst the flowers.  But of her, more than of others, it truly appeared that only the frail worn envelope lay there.  While on earth she had habitually dwelt in the spiritual world; and into its inner depths, behind the veil, the Lord, whom she so well loved, had led her, by a long and painful path, so that it seemed to those who knew her as if by an almost imperceptible vanishing she had been withdrawn from their eyes.  Edythe now lies in the same grave in the catholic Cemetery at Kensal Green, and the names of their two sisters are folded in the ivy which their mother planted there.

* Now that Monsignor Gilbert has been withdrawn from our midst, there is no reason for refraining to say that he, who was her confessor, and whom she certainly trusted above all, read through this paper and ratified it with his approval.

 



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