In July, 1896, the year of his death, Patmore made an offer of service memorable from a man, called arrogant and harsh, to a man who might well, in personal matters, have stirred his prejudices :-
" You were looking so unwell when we parted, that, not having heard from you, I am somewhat alarmed. Pray let me have a post-card.
" If, at any time, you find yourself seriously ill, and do not find the attendance, food, etc, sufficiently good, tell me and I will go to Pantasaph to take care of you for any time you might find me useful. It would be a great pleasure and honour to serve you in any way."
Thompson answered :-
"... You have been most generously kind to me ; and I can truly say that I never yet fell from any friend who did not first fall from me. I thank you for the great honour you have done me by your offer to come up and look after me if I needed nursing. Fortunately it has not come to that yet.
" I have not seen Meredith's article1-I am so entirely cut off from the outside world."
When the Laureateship fell vacant Patmore wrote to the Saturday Review proposing my mother's name. Francis wrote to him :-
" I think your Saturday letter very felicitously put. But alas! small are the chances of any government acting on it. I fear the compliment to 'journalism' points too surely to Edwin Arnold. I have not received the
1 "Mrs. Meynell's Essays" in the National Review, Aug. 1896.
Selections.1 A. M. has only once in ray life sent me a book of hers-her essays. I should indeed like to see the book. The selections in themselves must possess a peculiar interest for me; and the Preface I am most eager to read."
The appointment made, Francis again wrote to the point:-
" What a pity you could not uphold the dignity of the Laureateship in the eyes of Europe."
Patmore died in November, 1896. To Mrs. Patmore Francis wrote:-
" I am shocked and overcome to hear of your-and my-bereavement; there has passed away the greatest genius of the century, and from me a friend whose like I shall not see again; one so close to my own soul that the distance of years between us was hardly felt, nor could the distance of miles separate us. I had a letter from him but last Monday, and was hoping that I might shortly see him again. Now my hope is turned suddenly into mourning.
"The irrevocableness of such a grief is mocked by many words; these few words least wrong it. My friend is dead, and I had but one such friend.-Yours in all sympathy of sorrow, Francis Thompson."
At the same time he wrote to Palace Court:-
" Creccas Cottage, Pantasafh.
" Dear Wilfrid,-I send you my lodging account for the last two months.
" Of nothing can I write just now. You know what friends we had been these last two years. And I heard from him but the Monday before his death. There is no more to say, because there is too much more to say. Yours always, Francis Thompson."
1 Poetry of Pathos and Delight, being selections made by Alice Meynell from the poetry of Coventry Patmore.
" P.S.-I am fearful about the Athenceum project. I told Coventry I had altered the sub-title to prevent identification, lest the poem1 should offend his friends ; and since he did not dispute it, I conclude he took my view that it might give displeasure. To dwell on the harsher side of his character now has an ungracious air."
Of the same poem he wrote again to W. M.:-
" I am sorry I could not wire the correction in time. I did not see your letter till too late on Thursday to do anything. I would rather have had the phrase altered, and hope Mrs. Meynell may have taken on herself to do so, since it only affected the poem temporarily. In my book I shall retain the original phrase, which Coventry would have objected to have altered in permanent record. He accepted and justified my use of the phrase, in a poem drawing only an aspect of his character. But where it was connected with him as a funeral poem, I would certainly have wished it replaced by something else. About all things I trust soon to have personal talk with you. Always yours affectionately,
The high-pitched phrases of the obituary poems confess the strain he put upon himself to publish his grief. He dropped into private prose while he was at the task. " Age alone will grasp in some dim measure what must have been the unmanifested powers of a mind from which could go forth this starry manifestation; and what 'silence full of wonders' interspaced his opulent frugality of speech." " It remains a personal (and wonderful) memory that to me sometimes, athwart the shifting clouds of converse, was revealed by glimpses the direct vision of that oceanic vast of intellect." " The basic silence of our love" and the "under-silence of love" are other phrases that tell of something not to be expresssed in the obituary column. There are scraps, also, of private verse which tell his sorrow:-
1 " A Captain Oi Song," addressed to Patmore before his death, and at his death published in the Athenceum, December 5, 1896.
O how I miss you any casual day !
And as I walk
Turn, in the customed way,
Towards you with the talk
Which who but you should hear ?
And know the intercepting day
Betwixt me and your only listening ear;
And no man ever more my tongue shall hear,
And dumb amid an alien folk I stray.
He grieved for Patmore as a wife grieves for the husband who dies before the birth of her child. " This latest, highest, of my work," he says of a portion of New Poems, "is now born dumb. It had been sung into his sole ears. Now there is none who speaks its language." His loss made a visit to his friends in London desirable.
Of the dedication he had previously written to Patmore:-
" The book (A. M.'s The Colour of Life) is dedicated to you, and just a fortnight ago I sent to London a volume of poems-the product of the last three years-which I had also (knowing nothing then of her intention, or even that she had a book on the point of appearing) taken the liberty of dedicating to you."