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    Adelaide Anne Procter

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    Chapter 7
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    ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER
    INTRODUCTION TO HER "LEGENDS AND LYRICS"

    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.
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