LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
Peter George Patmore:
My Friends and Acquaintance


Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII

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Peter George Patmore (1786?-1855) is remembered for being John Scott’s incompetent second at the duel at Chalk Farm, for being the addressee of William Hazlitt’s letters in Liber amoris, and for being the father of the poet Coventry Patmore. Not much was recorded of his life. The son of a jeweler, he was a man about town who contributed to Blackwood’s and the New Monthly Magazine, and for many years was a reader and editor for the publisher Henry Colburn. Patmore edited the Court Journal (1829?-1835) and the New Monthly Magazine (1841-53). His one enduring publication is My Friends and Acquaintance: being Memorials, Mind-portraits, and Personal Recollections of Deceased Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century; with Selections from their Unpublished Letters, 3 vols (1854) with its memoirs of Lamb, Campbell, Blessington, R. Plumer Ward, Hazlitt, the Smith brothers, and Laman Blanchard. While this contains much useful information, Patmore usually suppresses the names of the persons and periodicals for whom he wrote.
The work is a sad, catch-penny production. At one time Patmore contemplated a more ambitious collection of essays and to that end published memoirs of notable persons he had known—Lamb, Blessington, Hazlitt—and began work on others. To this recycled matter, which accounts for half the book, he adds letters, diary excerpts, material from notebooks, and excerpts from Sheridan manuscripts in his possession. The interest of these documents was such, he says in the preface, “that would certainly have caused their contents, sooner or later, to see the light in some form or other; and the conviction that, on the one hand, they ought not to do so without my own deliberate preparation and supervision, or, on the other hand, without that personal responsibility which should attend a work of this nature.” The “preparation” seems to have consisted chiefly of censoring the material he chose to publish preparatory to destroying his papers.
While reviewers made the usual complaints about making private matters public Patmore was in fact unusually reticent: of persons whose private lives were not already on the public record, or who were still living, he has nothing to say or blanks out their names. He can be remarkably tactful: while he alludes to Lamb’s drinking problem, Blessington’s financial difficulties, and Blanchard’s suicide, he does so in such an oblique way that those unaware of the facts could easily miss the significance of what they are told. Hazlitt and Lamb were friends; the others were acquaintances Patmore worked with in his capacity as editor; the novelist Plumer Ward was both. Most of the letters are business correspondence, and while Patmore is circumspect, My Friends and Acquaintance does afford occasional glimpses into the inner workings of Henry Colburn’s “shop.”
Patmore was useful to Colburn as someone who could mix in polite society while conducting the often nefarious business of mediating between writers, publishers, and reviewers in the age of the silver fork novel. He was the less-successful rival of William Jerdan of the Literary Gazette, whose Autobiography (1852-1853) may have prompted Patmore to publish his own literary correspondence. If so, the comparison is not very flattering since Patmore’s range of social acquaintances and literary abilities were more limited than Jerdan’s. In the matter of celebrity-management Patmore’s memoir of Thomas Campbell, his predecessor as editor of Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, is obliquely instructive since the catalogue of Campbell’s faults (over-sensitivity, dilatoriness, lack of tact and business acumen) points to what Patmore regarded as his own particular skills. That Patmore was more the journalist than the gentleman is apparent from My Friends and Acquaintance: one is taken aback by the solecisms, mangled quotations, occasional vulgarity, and insistent hucksterism.
Yet there is more to the work than this suggests. While Patmore does not explain what he means by “mind portrait” it seems to involve looking at his subjects from their own points of view. He takes a keen interest in how writers think of themselves and strives to emulate or project this through his own writing. Patmore’s most successful publication had been a collection of comic imitations entitled Rejected Articles (1826) that went through multiple editions. In My Friends and Acquaintance the portraits sometimes verge on parody: the Lamb piece tends to silliness and the Plumer Ward to loquacity; the Thomas Campbell essay is persnickety and the Lady Blessington essay is fulsome. In the valuable William Hazlitt article the emulation is plainly intentional. A Hazlitt-like treatment of Hazlitt is unlikely to be flattering, and Patmore is arguably more damnatory than Hazlitt’s political foes had been.
The charge is made, more than once, that Hazlitt gave scant attention to the books and plays he reviewed:
Other men become acquainted with things progressively, and with more or less quickness and precision, according to their capacity and to the attention they bestow. But Hazlitt felt them at once. They did not gradually engrave themselves upon his perceptive faculties, but struck into them at once as by a single blow. This peculiarity was of universal application in respect to Hazlitt, and it was the secret of his unequalled critical faculties; for if his criticisms themselves were often (perhaps always) more or less defective, on account of the comparatively little of steady attention that he gave to the subject of them, his critical faculties have perhaps never been surpassed. (3:46)
Patmore’s praises resemble nothing so much as those Witwoud bestows on his friend Petulant in The Way of the World: “No, no, hang him, the rogue has no manners at all, that I must own—no more breeding than a bum-bailey, that I grant you.—’Tis pity; the fellow has fire and life.” The long and detailed essay on Hazlitt is a compelling portrait of a brilliant but deeply flawed character pursued relentlessly by a fascinated and jealous Boswell.
My Friends and Acquaintance was puffed by periodicals Patmore was associated with but treated harshly in the Literary Gazette, the Athenaeum, and especially the Eclectic Review: “Shakespeare talks of ‘damning with faint praise,’ but Mr. Patmore throughout these pages has shown us the still heavier doom that may be inflicted by a blind and ignorant determination to praise at all hazards, especially when the eulogy of one who is claimed as an intimate friend reflects a sort of mock glorification upon himself” (December 1854, p. 702).
Much ink was spilt in rebutting Patmore’s charge that Campbell did not write The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence (1831) and Life of Mrs. Siddons (1834). In making the accusation Patmore unwittingly (and uncharacteristically) revealed the suppressed identity of his informant. The Lawrence book—never claimed by Campbell—bears the name “D. E. Williams” on its title page and from what Patmore says one can deduce that this hitherto unidentified biographer was one David Edward Williams (d. 1846), another of Henry Colburn’s writers-for-hire.
Patmore discusses (1:305-06) an untitled manuscript drama by Charles Lamb in his possession that modern scholars do not regard as Lamb’s work; however, the Sheridan dramatic fragments he uses to pad out the third volume are indeed by the Sheridans, father and son; the manuscripts are now in the British Library. The facsimiles mentioned are not reproduced in the several online-versions of My Friends and Acquaintance I have seen. Peter George Patmore died at the age of sixty-nine the year after his book was published.

David Hill Radcliffe