Feast of Adelaide Anne Procter (February 9)   Leave a comment

Flag of England

Above:  Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER (OCTOBER 30, 1825-FEBRUARY 2, 1864)

English Poet and Feminist

Adelaide Anne Procter was the daughter of Bryan Waller Procter (November 21, 1787-October 5, 1874), a London lawyer and published poet.  Family friends included Charles Dickens, a frequent guest in the Procter home.  Adelaide initially wrote poems under the pseudonym “Mary Berwick.”  Dickens, who published many of her early poems in Household Words, assumed for a long time that “Mary Berwick” was a household servant.  The discovery of the truth was a pleasant surprise for him.

Adelaide became a Roman Catholic in 1851.  She devoted her short life (one which tuberculosis ended) to worthwhile pursuits.  She was a skilled linguist, for she was proficient in French, German, and Italian.  Adelaide’s poetry was a worthy artistic vocation, of course.  She published two volumes of Legends and Lyrics, A Book of Verse (1858 and 1862) and was Queen Victoria’s favorite poet.  Adelaide also had the distinction of being the second-bestselling Victorian poet; Alfred, Lord Tennyson was number one.  James Moffatt, in his 1927 companion volume to the Scottish Presbyterian Hymnary, praised the poet while criticizing her Roman Catholicism:

…but her spirit was in the true sense catholic, and it is difficult to tell from her hymns to which communion she belonged.  (Page 463)

The 1962 Encyclopedia Americana was less kind:

While her work is not great, it is marked by deep feeling and tenderness.  (Volume 22, page 631)

Adelaide was a feminist.  In the English Victorian context that meant, for her, advocating for the cause of women becoming professionals.  In 1858 she co-founded The English Woman’s Journal (ceased publication in 1864) for that purpose.  And, beginning in 1859, she worked with the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science to do more to advance the noble cause.

Adelaide died in her mother’s arms.  Her final words were

It has come at last.

Dickens wrote effusively of her and contributed a biographical sketch of her to the tenth edition (1866) of Legends and Lyrics.

One method by which one might encounter some of the poet’s work is to pay to attention to hymns at a church with good musical taste.  One hymn which Adelaide wrote follows:

My God, I thank Thee, who hast made

The earth so bright,

So full of splendor and of joy,

Beauty and light,

So many glorious things are here,

Noble and right.

I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made

Joy to abound,

So many gentle thoughts and deeds

Circling us ’round,

That in the darkest spot of earth

Some love is found.

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept

The best in  store;

We have enough yet not too much,

To long for more;

A yearning for a deeper peace

Not known before.

I read those words and wonder why one would heap faint praise on the poet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Adelaide Anne Procter

and all those who with words and image have filled us with desire and love for you,

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Revised on November 29, 2016

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