Procter, Adelaide (1825–1864)

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Procter, Adelaide (1825–1864)

English poet and feminist. Name variations: (pseudonym) Mary Berwick. Born Adelaide Anne Procter at 25 Bedford Square, London, England, on October 30, 1825; died in London on February 3 (some sources cite 2), 1864; eldest daughter of Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874, an English poet who wrote under the pseudonym Barry Cornwall) and Anne Skepper Procter; studied at Queen's College, London; never married.

Born in London in 1825, Adelaide Procter was the eldest daughter of Bryan Waller Procter, an English poet who wrote under the pseudonym Barry Cornwall, and Anne Skepper Procter . Adelaide showed an early fondness for poetry, growing up in surroundings calculated to develop her intellectual tastes. Throughout her life, she was the center of her father's literary gatherings. Friends of her own included Mary Howitt .

Under the pseudonym Mary Berwick, Procter contributed verse to Charles Dickens' periodical Household Words. In 1858, her poems were published in two volumes under the title Legends and Lyrics; they would go through nine editions in seven years. A second series had a similar success in 1861.

Though at one time her poetry was in more demand than that of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Dickens noted that Procter never thought she was "among the greatest of human beings." If not a major poet, she had a gift for verse and expressed herself with distinction, charm, and sincerity. "The Angel's Story" is one of her best-known poems, and many of her songs and hymns, notably "The Lost Chord" (set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan), were very popular.

A dedicated feminist, Procter helped Barbara Bodichon and Jessie Boucherett to found the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women; she also contributed the proceeds of a volume of poems to a night shelter for homeless women, and had her anthology Victoria Regina published by Emily Faithfull 's Victoria Press (1861). But Fanny Kemble had once said that her appearance was one of "doom." In 1862, the always frail Procter took the water cure at Malvern for her health. She died in 1864, age 39, having spent her last 15 months in bed. Dickens supplied the foreword to her Complete Works.