1877 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Lisle Bowles

Bryan Waller Procter, in Procter: An Autobiographical Fragment (1877) 130-32.



Long before I mixed with literary men, I knew and saw a good deal of the Rev. Wm. Lisle Bowles, the poet. He was at that time rector of Bremhill, in Wiltshire. This was in the year 1805-1806. I frequently went to see him at his parsonage, and joined him (my flute with his violoncello) in practising duets. He knew much more of music than I did, and appeared to be a certain though not very rapid performer. A schoolfellow of mine, when at Harrow, had given me Mr. Bowles' Sonnets, which I then greatly admired; and I was therefore very ready, perhaps not a little proud, to join the reverend poet in his harmonious interludes. As far as our acquaintance went, he was simply a player on the violoncello; for I never heard him speak of his sonnets, or refer to poetry on any occasion. When I saw him again, after the lapse of many years, at Mr. Rogers' house in Saint James's Place (1821 or 1822), he at once recognized me; and he seemed pleased at my having obtained a little popularity.

On this occasion, I remember that after breakfast he walked with Mr. Rogers and myself to Lansdowne House, in Berkeley Square (to see the pictures), he having the privilege of introducing friends there.

Mr. Bowles had a blunt, almost a rough manner, which did not quite answer my preconceived (immature) idea of a poet. I had imagined that I should see a melancholy man, pressed down by love disappointed, and solemn with internal trouble; I found a cheerful married man, with no symptom of weakness or sentiment about him. He had a pretty garden at his Bremhill parsonage, where he erected a hermitage, and was unwise enough to endow it with a multitude of inscriptions; at which his neighbours were fond of laughing, as instances of affectation. For myself, I never saw anything affected or fantastic in this gentleman. His wife was a lady, tall, and of good manners; not ill adapted to a poet who had previously exhausted all his sorrows in song.

Mr. Bowles eventually became a prebendary of Salisbury, and died within the shadow of that lofty Cathedral.