Legends and Lyrics. Procter.

By Adelaide Anne Procter.

Printed: Circa 1880

Publisher: Unkown

Dimensions 12 × 18 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 12 x 18 x 3

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Red grained leather binding with gilt title and decoration on the spine.  Title page missing

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available

            A very well kept edition of this most popular Victorian Poet.

Adelaide Anne Procter (30 October 1825 – 2 February 1864) was an English poet and philanthropist. Her literary career began when she was a teenager, her poems appearing in Charles Dickens’s periodicals Household Words and All the Year Round, and later in feminist journals. Her charity work and her conversion to Roman Catholicism seem to have influenced her poetry, which deals with such subjects as homelessness, poverty, and fallen women, among whom she performed philanthropic work. Procter was the favourite poet of Queen Victoria. Coventry Patmore called her the most popular poet of the day, after Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Few modern critics have rated her work, but it is still thought significant for what it reveals about how Victorian women expressed otherwise repressed feelings.

Procter never married. Her health suffered, possibly due to overwork, and she died of tuberculosis at the age of 38.

Adelaide Anne Procter was born at 25 Bedford Square in the Bloomsbury district of London, on 30 October 1825 to the poet Bryan Waller Procter and his wife Anne (née Skepper). The family had strong literary ties: novelist Elizabeth Gaskell enjoyed her visits to the Procter household, and Procter’s father was friends with poet Leigh Hunt, essayist Charles Lamb, and novelist Charles Dickens, as well as being acquainted with poet William Wordsworth and critic William Hazlitt. Family friend Bessie Rayner Belloc wrote in 1895 that “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.” Author and actress Fanny Kemble wrote that young Procter “looks like a poet’s child, and a poet … [with] a preter-naturally thoughtful, mournful expression for such a little child”.

Dickens spoke highly of Procter’s quick intelligence. By his account, the young Procter mastered without difficulty the subjects to which she turned her attention:

When she was quite a young child, she learnt with facility several of the problems of Euclid. As she grew older, she acquired the French, Italian, and German languages … piano-forte … [and] 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.

Procter was “fabulously popular” in the mid-19th century; she was Queen Victoria’s favourite poet and Coventry Patmore stated that the demand for her work was greater than that for any other poet, excepting Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Readers valued Procter’s poems for their plainness of expression, although they were considered “not so very original in thought; [their merit is that] they are indeed the utterances ‘of a believing heart’, pouring out its fulness.” Procter herself expressed little ambition about her work: her friend Bessie Raynor Belloc thought that Procter was pained that her reputation as a poet had outstripped her father’s, and quoted Procter as saying that “Papa is a poet. I only write verses.”

Procter’s popularity continued after her death; the first volume of Legends and Lyrics went through 19 editions by 1881, and the second through 14 editions by the same year. Many of her poems were made into hymns or otherwise set to music. Among these was “The Lost Chord”, which Arthur Sullivan set to music in 1877; this song was the most commercially successful of the 1870s and 1880s in both Britain and the United States. Composer Hermine Küchenmeister-Rudersdorf set Procter’s text to music in her song “Shadow.” Her work was also published in the United States and translated into German. By 1938, Procter’s reputation had fallen so far that a textbook could mention her poems only to pronounce them “stupid, trivial and not worthy of the subject”. Critics such as Cheri Larsen Hoeckley, Kathleen Hickok, and Natalie Joy Woodall argue that the demise of Procter’s reputation is due at least in part to the way Charles Dickens characterized her as a “model middle-class domestic angel” and a “fragile and modest saint” rather than as an “active feminist and strong poet.” Emma Mason argues that although Dickens’s portrayal of Procter “extinguished modern interest” in her, it also “has helped rescue Procter from the kind of endless conjecture about her private life that has confused studies of women like Letitia Landon.”

Modern critics have given Procter’s work little attention. The few critics who have examined Procter’s poetry generally find it important for the way that she overtly expresses conventional sentiments while covertly undermining them. According to Isobel Armstrong, Procter’s poetry, like that of many 19th-century women poets, employs conventional ideas and modes of expression without necessarily espousing them in entirety. Francis O’Gorman cites “A Legend of Provence” as an example of a poem with this kind of “double relationship with the structures of gender politics it seems to affirm.” Other critics since Armstrong agree that Procter’s poetry, while ladylike on the surface, shows signs of repressed emotions and desires. Kirstie Blair states that the suppression of emotion in Procter’s work makes the narrative poems all the more powerful, and Gill Gregory argues that Procter’s poetry often explores female sexuality in an unconventional way, while also voicing anxiety about sexual desires. Elizabeth Gray criticizes the fact that the few discussions of Procter’s poetry that do exist focus primarily on gender, arguing that the “range and formal inventiveness of this illuminatingly representative Victorian poet have remained largely unexplored.”

Proctors list of works as published.

  • “Three Evenings in the House”, a short story written for A House to Let (1858), one of the collaborative Christmas numbers of the journal Household Words that Charles Dickens published.

  • Legends and Lyrics, first series, 1858

  • Legends and Lyrics, second series, 1861

  • A Chaplet of Verses, 1862

Condition notes

Title page missing

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