Adelaide Anne Procter's book of verses


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Potrait of Adelaide Anne Procter by Emma Gaggiotti Richards.Wikimedia Commons.

Adelaide Anne Procter was born October 30th, 1825 in London to poet Brian Waller Procter, who published under the pseudonym Barry Cornwall. Growing up, Procter was surrounded by literature as "everybody of any literary pretension whatever seemed to flow in and out of the house" (Belloc 162). According to Belloc, the Rossettis, Dickens and other notable poets and writers of the time belonged in the Procter's house. Despite having a close relationship with her father, he did not read any of her writing until after its publication (Dickens xvi). In his introduction to Legends and Lyrics, Dickens recounts that Adelaide had a small book of poetry her mother had copied out for her that she carried around "as another girl might have carried a doll" and describes her as being skilled in piano, drawing, and languages (Dickens xvi). Procter was also a women's activist and was involved in the Langham Place group, where she founded the Society for the Promotion of Employment for Women with Jessie Boucherett in 1859, in addition to teaching classes in arithmetic and bookkeeping (Rendall par. 4). Procter died in 1864 of tuberculosis after being bedridden for 15 months (Gregory par. 3).

Procter published poems in Heath's Book of Beauty, Household Words, and All The Year Round and was the poet whom Charles Dickens published the most. She first sent her poems to Dickens under the pseudonym Mary Berwick, so that the reception and publication of her poems would not be influenced by her father and his success. Aside from Tennyson, Procter's poetry was the highest in demand out of all the English poets during the time and were often sung as hymns (Gregory par. 2). The Athenaeum claimed that Procter's poetry was unlike any other poetry that other poets and poetesses were publishing at the time (194). Her poetry only began to be recognized in the late nineteenth century after starting to receive critical attention, despite being so popular during their time of publication. Procter's poetry reflected issues she encountered with her involvement in the Langham Place group and concerned themes of homelessness and displacement (Gregory par. 3), which she would have encountered when helping the homeless and the ill (Dickens xxiii). Contemporary critics have recognized the originality of Procter's work and her unusual representation of female sexuality (Gregory par. 4). The study of Procter's poetry should be more widespread as it was extremely popular in the Victorian Era and would provide insight to the average Victorian reader and it would further contribute to a women's perspective of poetry.


Legends and Lyrics was published by George Bell and Sons in London in 1895. Inside, it is indicated that it is a Crown 8vo edition and was first published in 1881 and has been reprinted many times up until 1895, when this edition was published. The front page indicates that this particular edition contains additional poems as well as illustrations by Ida Lovering. The book has an introduction by Charles Dickens, who knew Procter and her family personally, and contains a few personal letters of Procter's that she had written home when travelling abroad. It contains over 150 poems written by Procter, including "A Legend of Bregenz", "The Sailor Boy", "The Angel's Story", and "A Legend of Provence". The book is large enough that it would not be carried around in the pocket of the reader.
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Cover of AA Procter's Legends and Lyrics
The book has gilt-edged pages and presents a blue and green botanical-print cover with gold type. The book of verses is dedicated to Matilda M. Hays, with whom Procter worked at the Langham Place group. Underneath the dedication in the book, is a quote from Emerson's Essays: "Our tokens of love are for the most part barbarous. Cold and lifeless, because they do not represent our life. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Therefore let the farmer give his corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; and the poet, his poem." A publishers note indicates that this edition contains popular poems and hymns from "A Chaplet of Verses", which Procter wrote for the Night Refuge for the Homeless Poor. This particular copy has an inscription in the front that indicates it belonged to Hilda G. MacEwen in 1898.
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Front cover of Legends and Lyrics with inscription from original owner.
It also has an untitled poem that has been penned directly into the inside cover of the book. The inscription appears to be select fragments of Procter's poem 'A Letter', which is present in Legends and Lyrics, indicating the importance of this poem to the original owner. The particular passages chosen by the owner give insight to how important this particular poem was to her and reflects what this poem might have meant to them. It gives both personal insight to the owner's reading of the poem and how she might have applied it to herself as well as how Victorians read and cherished their poetry. The selected fragments of 'A Letter' are as follows:
"And I thought: "Loves soul is not in fetters,
Neither space nor time keeps souls apart;
Since I cannot - do not - write her letters,
Through the silence will send my heart.

"She will hear while twilights shades enfold her
All the gathered love she knows so well-
Deepest love my words have ever told her,
Deeper still - all I could never tell.

"Wondering at the strange mysterious power
That has touched her heart then she will say:-
'Someone whom I love, this very hour,
Thinks of me, and loves me, far away.'

So the Star of trust rose bright and tender,
Through the twilight shadows of my heart." (Legends and Lyrics, 305-307)
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Illustration from Legends and Lyrics by Ida Lovering.


Works Cited
"Adelaide Anne Procter." The Athenaeum 6 February 1864: 1893. Print.
Belloc, Bessie Raynor. In A Walled Garden. London: Sands & Co, 1900. Print.
Gregory, Gill. "Procter, Adelaide Anne (1825-1864)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2007.
Procter, Adelaide Anne. Legends and Lyrics. 8th ed. London: George Bell and Sons, 1895. Print.
Dickens, Charles. Introduction. Legends and Lyrics. by Adelaide Anne Procter. 8th ed. London: George Bell and Sons, 1895. xiii-xxiv. Print.
Rendall, Jane. "Langham Place group (act. 1857-1866)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.
UVic call number: PR5191 L4 1895

DSSE.Engl386.Uvic.Spring2016