Florence Earle Coates

American writer and poet (1850-1927)

Florence Earle Coates (1 July 18506 April 1927)—American poet born in Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania poet laureate who gained notoriety both at home and abroad for her works of poetry—nearly three-hundred of which were published in literary magazines of her day such as the Atlantic Monthly, Scribner's, The Literary Digest, Lippincott's, The Century Magazine, and Harper's.

The business of art is to enlarge and correct the heart and to lift our ideals out of the ugly and the mean through love of the ideal...The business of art is to appeal to the soul.

Quotes edit

  • A democrat by conviction rather than by temperament, urging democracy as 'the only method consistent with human instinct toward expansion,' he was yet an educator, and believed in equality upon a high, not upon a low plane. Like Ruskin, he demanded of men their best, and with less than their best refused to be satisfied.
    • Mrs. Coates on Matthew Arnold—Literary and social critic who both encouraged and inspired Mrs. Coates' writing, and was a guest on several occasions at the Coates' Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania home during his stays in Philadelphia (31 March 1894). From The Critic, 31 March 1894.
  • My "Poems" were written without a purpose, other than the expression of faiths and ideals strongly realized and emotions keenly felt. They were written for the joy of writing, and for the satisfaction of an irresistible impulse. It is my belief that it is not the business of art either to teach or to preach.
    • Written at Camp Elsinore, Upper St. Regis Lake, New York, June 24, 1898. From Book News, Aug 1898.
  • The question of perpetual copyright is, in my judgement, entitled to the full and favorable consideration of the Congress of an enlightened republic. There would seem to be every reason for the equitable protection, without limit as to time, of the unquestioned property rights of its citizens.
They live indeed—the dead by whose example we are upward led.
  • They live indeed—the dead by whose example we are upward led.
  • The business of art is to enlarge and correct the heart and to lift our ideals out of the ugly and the mean through love of the ideal...The business of art is to appeal to the soul.
  • Maeterlinck says that compared with ordinary truths mystic truths have strange privileges—they can neither age nor die. Beauty is eternal and ugliness, thank God, is ephemeral. Can there be any question as to which should attract the poet?

On poetry edit

From "The Strenuous Life to Blame" in The Critic and Literary World (March 1905):

  • Existence has little repose, and the cultivation and love of poetry require a detached spirit and a certain amount of leisure.

From "Poetry Necessary to All" in Book News Monthly (June 1906):

  • Of all the arts poetry is the most intimate and personal.
  • poetry in some form is necessary to all—save, perhaps, to those who are content to live upon bread alone.
  • Poetry belongs to the real things—to the realm of the ideal which is "the only real."
  • In education poetry is invaluable; the study of it cultivates the memory, the imagination, and the heart.

From "Godlessness Mars Most Contemporary Poetry" in The New York Times Magazine (10 December 1916):

  • poetry, which is the voice of the soul's aspirations, has for it, of all the arts, the most natural and immediate appeal.
  • Sculpture and painting are moments of life. Poetry is life itself.
  • The future of poetry should be, must be, in the hearts of children, lifting them above mean desires and helping them to believe, with Socrates, that they who have the fewest wants are nearest to the gods.
  • poetry needed no renascence. It was not young, it is not old.
  • The atmosphere of poetry today seems strained and unnatural. There is an attempt to force the growth of poetry.
  • Many modern poets seem to think that poetry should be sensual. It should not—it should be sensuous.
  • there is a higher truth and a lower truth, and it is the higher truth that is the proper subject of poetry.
  • There is no true poetry that is not dedicated to the soul and to joy.
  • Ugliness in poetry they may find clever and interesting. But it is only beauty that "snatches the breath and fills the eyes with tears."

Quotes about Florence Earle Coates edit

  • I am told [Mrs. Coates] bears me in mind and is of a disposition to look with something of favor on my work—which I might say, quoting one of William's playful quips, 'shows her good sense.' They tell me Mrs. Coates is quite a woman among women—is beautiful, shines with great brightness, and, by those who know her well, is admired and cherished...(93) I don't know Mr. Coates but I know the wife—a beautiful, true woman, I have always believed her. We have had several talks together—or maybe only one talk: I am not clear about that now—but I shall always remember what she said—the effect of her talk, which was mainly about Matthew Arnold, who was her guest in Germantown. Arnold is a man for whom I never seem to be able to get up any stir—with whom I never have had and never could have a thorough-going affinity. But Mrs. Coates gave me the other side of him—the social side, the personal side, the intellectual side—the side of deportment, behavior—the side which I ought perhaps most to hear about and did willingly and gladly hear of from her. For every man has that better thing to be said of him—is entitled to all it may mean, signify, explain...(112) Yes, tell the Coates people—Mrs., Mr. Coates—to come over: I will see them...(156) I saw [Mr. and Mrs. Coates]—was glad to see them: both of them are so good, cordial, sincere—she particularly. It does my old eyes good to look at such a woman...(215) The letter [Mrs. Coates had sent to me] that came with [the poem, "The Promised Land"] was very hospitable, forth-giving: I liked it: indeed, the letter was a better poem than the poem: a real poem, in fact...(396)
    • Walt Whitman, as told to Horace Traubel in With Walt Whitman in Camden: July 16, 1888-October 31, 1888 [numbers above refer to pages].
  • Mrs. Coates is the very incarnation of contradiction. The action of her life is cast along the lines of conventional routine; but the hidden and real existence of the woman is carried on miles beyond and above all the material concerns, in the pure ether of the poet's realm. She will shut herself up with the "wide-eyed muse" to round a sonnet of majestic reach, or she will merge into the gay world, the laces of a dutchess about her, precious stones at her throat and glowing roses on her breast, there to dazzle all listeners to her conversation, in which bon mot, persiflage, eloquence and philosophy are interwoven. She is a "fine lady," and yet her poetry is never tainted by "fine ladyism." She is a bluestocking, but with none of the unlovely signs of bluestockingism about her. Another woman with Mrs. Coates' voice, mobile face, and evident histrionic instinct would have dashed away from the conventional life and sought vent for the "tempest within" in the mimic world of the stage, but Mrs. Coates is mistress of a perfectly ordered home.
    • Marianna F. McCann, from The Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 May 1894: her first impression upon meeting Mrs. Coates some years earlier at a reception in honor of French author Madamme Henry Gréville.
  • Some day, it is to be hoped, we may look for a book of lyrics from Mrs. Florence Earle Coates, whose store of music increases with each month's magazines. Where there is so much sweetness in single notes, there must needs be an unusual charm in a complete opus.
    • The Literary World, 26 March 1892; p. 109.
  • As generous as a woman and as inspiring as a poet as she is discriminating in hero worship, this appreciation of "the noblest man that ever lived in the tides of time" is dedicated by her friend, THE AUTHOR.

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