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Bryan Waller Procter

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Published : 21 Articles
Pen Names : BarryCornwall
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
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Procter, Bryan WaIler I Mr. Procter, W. B. Procter, Procter l, 1787–1874, poet. Educated at Harrow. Studied law. Practised as solicitor in London; served as commissioner of lunacy, 1832–61. Contributed to Literary Gazette, London Magazine, Athenaeum, Fraser's, Edin. Rev., and other periodicals; also to annuals. Published, under pseudonym "Barry Cornwall," Dramatic Scenes and Other Poems, 1819; and, in next four years, three additional volumes of dramatic, narrative, and lyric verse; Mirandola, 1821, a tragedy, performed at Covent Garden; English Songs, 1832. Wrote Life of Edmund Kean, Memoir of Lamb; prefatory memoir to works of Ben Jonson and of Shakespeare. With Forster, edited Selections from the Poetical Works of Robert Browning, 1863. Knew almost all his literary contemporaries – from William Lisle Bowles, whom he met in 1805, to Swinburne, who in 1868 sent him a tribute in verse; much loved for his kindliness, his generosity, his unassuming good nature.

       Dickens was yet "a young aspirant" in the literary world, he wrote, when he was honoured with Procter's friendship ("Introduction" to A. A. Procter, Legends and Lyrics). The two men remained friends throughout Dickens's life. In his letters to Procter, Dickens conveyed his thanks for copies of Procter's books and expressed his admiration of them. In a letter to Forster and in one to Thomas Mitton, he quoted from Procter's poem "The Sea." Procter, in his old age, reread Dickens's novels. "Tell Dickens – ," he wrote to Forster, "I have been improving my mind by reading Pickwick again. ... It is cheerful healthy reading." While Forster was working on his biography of Dickens, Procter wrote to him: 'To me, [Dickens] was always a kind, good genial fellow, and I liked him much" (Armour, Barry Cornwall, pp. 281, 285, 338).
      Procter obviously intended his contributions to H.W. to be gratuitous. The Office Book entry for the first of his poems is accompanied by the notation "Mr. P. would not be paid"; the words are marked out and substituted by the notation "Cheque CD." The Office Book records payment of £1.1.0 for each of the poems assigned to Procter, though they range in length from less than ½ col. to 1¾ cols.
       In a letter to Forster, Aug. 1, 1850, Procter wrote, obviously with reference to H.W.: "If you think the verses on the other side will suit Dickens, they are at his service" (Armour, p. 230). The Office Book records no poem by Procter for the months of 1850 following the date of the letter. If the poem was published in H.W. (and it probably was), it may be a poem wrongly assigned in the Office Book; or it may be "Battle with Life!", Sept. 21, recorded without author or payment notation. It cannot be either of the two unassigned poems (" A Lesson for Future Life," "A Memory") with payment recorded as £0.10.6 – that being but half the honorarium regularly made to Procter (Procter, moreover, could never have been guilty of the bathos of "A Lesson for Future Life"); and it is of course not the unassigned "Outcast Lady" (payment also £0.10.6), which arrived at the editorial office "per Mrs. Gaskell."
      On Dec. 19, 1858, Dickens wrote to Procter : "A thousand thanks for the little song. I am charmed with it, and shall be delighted to brighten Household Words with such a wise and genial light." The Office Book assigns no poem to Procter in the H.W. numbers that follow the date of the letter, nor are there in those numbers any poems listed in the Office Book without author's name. It seems likely that Procter's "little song" is "Hidden Chords," ¼, col., £1.1.0 payment, published Jan. 8, 1859, less than three weeks after the date of Dickens's letter. The Office Book assigns "Hidden Chords" to Miss Procter. Since she did not reprint it among her collected poems, it is probably not her writing; it is unlikely that in 1858 she would have contributed to a periodical a poem that she did not think worthy of collecting.
      His "One Spot of Green," published in H.W. in 1854, Procter reprinted in a collection of 1857 [Dramatic Scenes. With Other Poems, Now First Printed. By Barry Cornwall. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1857)] among "Miscellaneous Poems," which he stated in his preface had "never been before printed." In Feb. 1853, he had sent a copy of the poem, titled "A Song with a Moral," to his friend James T. Fields (Fields, Yesterdays with Authors, p. 406).
      For the early numbers of A.Y.R. Procter wrote a series of "Trade Songs," which Dickens found "simply ADMIRABLE" (to Procter, March :19, 1859). Procter must have discussed the songs with Dickens some months before he submitted them to him for publication, for Dickens, in his letter of Dec. 19, 1858, reminded him: " ... I still hope to hear more of the trade-songs, and to learn that the blacksmith has hammered out no end of iron into good fashion of verse, like a cunning workman, as I know him of old to be." The reference is obviously to the second of the "Trade Songs," titled "The Blacksmith," A.Y.R., April 30, 1859. Dickens's reciting two lines of that poem in conversation with John Bennet Lawes (Forster, Life, Book VIII, sect. v) has been taken to mean that the poem was composed by Dickens. In view of Dickens's letter to Procter, it is clear that Dickens was reciting lines that he remembered from Procter's poem, not lines that he himself had composed.
      Procter's high contemporary reputation as a song writer is reflected in Mrs. Unton's H.W. article "Street Minstrelsy": Barry Cornwall's songs, wrote Mrs. Linton, are loved and sung by ""the million," while at the same time they are esteemed by the cultivated – charming "the most critical taste" and delighting "the finest ear." Mackay, in "An Emigrant Afloat," recorded that he had, before experiencing "the disagreeables" of shipboard life, listened with "a sort of enthusiasm" to such songs as Procter's "The Sea." Morley, in "Constitutional Trials," quoted  Procter's lines in praise of beer.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 

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