Procter, Bryan Waller
literary death poet
PROCTER, BRYAN WALLER (1787-1874), poet and miscellaneous writer, was born on the 21st November 1787. At an early- age he was sent to a small boarding school near London, and thence in his thirteenth year to Harrow, where he had for contemporaries Lord Byron and Sir Robert Peel. On leaving school he was placed in the office of a solicitor at Caine, Wiltshire, remaining there until about 1807, when he returned to pursue his legal studies in London. By the death of his father in 1816 he became possessed of a small property, and soon after entered into partnershq»vith a solicitor ; but in 1820 the partnership was dissolved, and during the temporary difficulties thus occasioned he supported himself in part by literary work under the pseudonym of Barry Cornwall. After his marriage in 1824 to Miss Skepper, a daughter of Mrs Basil Montague, he returned to his professional work a,s conveyancer, and was called to the bar in 1831. In the following year he was appointed metropolitan com-missioner of lunacy - an appointment annually renewed until his election to the permanent commission constituted by the Act of 1842. He resigned office in 1861. During the last years of his 1I.e. a failure of speech led hitn to withdraw increasingly- from society, and his death took place on October 4,1874. The period 'of his poetic pro-ductiveness had closed many years previously, the larger proportion of his verse having been composed between 1815, when he began to contribute to the Literary Grc.zette, and 1823, or at latest 1832.
His principal works in the verse form were - Draniatie Scenes and other Poems (1819), A Sicilian Story (1820), Miranclola, a tragedy performed at Covent Garden with Macready, Charles Ketuble, and Miss Foote in the leading parts (1821), 77te Ruud uf Thessaly (1823), and English Songs (1832). Ile was also the author of Effigies Pudica (1824), Life V E47nund Kean (1835), Essays and Tales .in Prose (1851), Charles Lamb ; a Memoir (1866), and of memoirs of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare for editions of their works.
A posthumous autobiographical fragment with notes of his literary friends, of whom he had a wide range from Bowles to Browning, was published in 1877. genius cannot be said to have been entirely mimetic, but his works are full of subdued echoes. ll is songs have caught some notes froin the Elizabethan and Cavalier lyrics, and blended them with others from the leading poets of his own time ; and his dramatic fragments show a similar infusion of the early Victorian spirit into pre-Restoration forms and cadences. The results arc somewhat heterogeneous, and without the impress of a pervading and dominant personality to give them unity, but they abound in pleasant touches, with here and there the flash of a higher, though casual, inspiration.
His daughter, An ELAIDE ANNE PROCTER (1825-1864), also attained some distinction as a poet, her principal works being her Legends and Lyrics, of which a first series, published in 1858, ran through nine editions in seven years, and a second series issued in 1860 met with a similar success. Her unambitious verses dealing with simple emotional themes in a simple manner have a charm which is scarcely explicable on the ground of high literary merit, but which is due rather to the fact that they arc the cultured expression of an earnest and beneficent life. Latterly she became a convert to Iloman Catholicism, and her philanthropic zeal appears to have hastened her death, which took place February 3, 1864.