Friday, October 30, 2009

Adelaide Anne Procter

Popular poet Adelaide Anne Procter (October 3o, 1825 - February 2, 1864) was born in London. Her father, Bryan Waller Procter, was also a successful poet who published under the name of “Barry Cornwall.” Family friends included Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens. Her parents saw to it that she received a good education and a love for poetry from an early age. Her first published poem appeared in 1843.

She later submitted poems to Dickens' journal Household Words under the pseudonym “Mary Berwick,” not wanting any special consideration due to the family connection. He did not learn her true identity for more than a year. Dickens eventually printed more than 80 of her poems in his publications. Though Queen Victoria would later declare that Procter was her favorite poet, Adelaide apparently did not share the same high opinion, famously claiming that “Papa is a poet, I only write verses.”

Procter later became the editor of the magazine Victoria Regia, published by the “explicitly feminist” Victoria Press, and helped to found the English Women's Journal. These periodicals advocated for women's education and employment rights, and probably led to the later establishment of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, which Procter supported.

Procter converted to Roman Catholicism in 1851, and much of her poetry took on a devotional theme. The royalties from her 1862 collection, A Chaplet of Verses, went to support a shelter for homeless women and children that had been opened by the Sisters of Mary. Several of the verses from this book were later
printed in hymnals, including this evening hymn.

The shadows of the evening hours
Fall from the dark'ning sky;
Upon the fragrance of the flowers
The dews of evening lie.

Before thy throne, O God of heav’n,
We come at close of day;
Look on thy children from on high,
And hear us while we pray.

Slowly the rays of daylight fade,
So fade within our heart
The hopes in earthly love and joy,
That one by one depart.

Slowly the bright stars, one by one,
Within the heavens shine:
Give us, O God, fresh hopes in heav'n,
And trust in things divine.

Let peace, O God, thy peace, O God,
Upon our souls descend;
From midnight fears and perils, now
Our trembling hearts defend.

Adelaide Anne Procter, 1862; alt.
English carol, 15th cent.

We have already encountered the poem of Procter's that was most popular in the nineteenth century, though it was not a hymn. The musical setting of The Lost Chord by Arthur Sullivan was sung and played everywhere and was one of the earliest recordings made for the phonograph.

One Year Ago: Christopher Wordsworth


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Nice song, nice setting, a bit quiet for my taste. I thought I was reading about Adelaide Addison Proctor (name-saint of the tune ADELAIDE) and was surprised to read that she had converted to Catholicism, and been a feminist, etc, etc, and was further surprised to see no allusion to her most famous hymn text, sung to her namesake, Have thine own way, Lord! Obviously AAP is a much-sought-after set of initials for hymnists named Adelaide!

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Er, I mean, Adelaide Addison Pollard! Sometimes I would give anything for the ability to edit my comments.

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