After the French Liberation of Italy

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1859
Rhyme: abbaaccadedeff
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Bentley, “Political Themes”, (1979), 176

◦ Gregory, Life and Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti II. 158

◦ Lewis, Thomas James Wise and the Trial Book Fallacy., 137-151

◦ WMR, 1911 667-668n


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Penkill Proof B Text.

Scholarly Commentary


This arresting sonnet was not published until many years after DGR's death (1904). DGR briefly considered printing it in his 1870 volume, but decided otherwise right after he put it in a proof printing in August 1869. Without doubt (as WMR suggested in 1911 ) DGR removed the poem because he judged the imagery would be too shocking. But of course the vigor of the sonnet is exactly a function of the imagery; and the latter works with special effectiveness in DGR's case because physical, erotic love appears in all of his work as an essential element in any ideal love relation. Prostitution in DGR thus becomes the essential sign not merely of debased personal relations, but of an institutionalized set of social disfunctions.

Although the poet is often characterized as devoid of social ideas or conscience, he was far from such. On the other hand, his sense of an indurated social corruption (in England and Europe generally) was so intense that it crippled any impulses he might have had to work against such conditions. In this respect his difference from his friend Morris is profound.

The antithetical similarities between this sonnet and DGR's celebrated “Nuptial Sleep” are remarkable.

Textual History: Composition

Two manuscripts of the poem are extant: DGR's corrected early holograph, dating from 1859 when he composed the sonnet; and the fair copy made by William Sharp, probably dating from 1881. This copy was made from one of the revise proof copies pulled in 1869 (see below, Printing History).


The poem had some private circulation at the time, as we see from the number of surviving copies of the (so-called) revise proof (see Printing History below).

Printing History

The poem was set in type (as page 195) in the Penkill Proofs in August 1869 but then removed by DGR from the subsequent proofs for the 1870 Poems (see DGR's letter to WMR of 21 August 1869, Fredeman, Correspondence, 69. 130 ). He judged that the key metaphor, of prostitution, would strike some readers as indecorous. The sonnet was not published again until WMR's edition of 1904 (I. 34), and was collected thereafter.

Lewis's discussion of its spurious publication history is important and interesting (see Lewis, Trial Book Fallacy 137-151 and 186 ). He argues that the poem was printed by DGR as one of a series of fly-sheet printings (or “printed slips”) of poems that DGR considered for his 1870 volume but finally rejected. Copies of this sonnet in such a “printed slip” form, which I have called the “revise proof” state, are known to exist at: the New York Public Library; Princeton; the Huntington Library (as part of their copy of Trial Book 2 (Lewis's proof state 6); the library of Arizona State University, Mosher collection; the British Library; and the Manx Museum (Isle of Man), the last being a copy DGR gave to Hall Caine.

Lewis also argues that the New York Public Library corrected proof was part of the galley that survives as the Princeton/Troxell galley proof of “Sister Helen”.

Other poems DGR had printed off as fly-sheet or slip printings include “Dennis Shand” and “On the Site of A Mulberry Tree”. DGR gave copies of these privately printed objects to various friends from time to time.

After its 1904 publication, the sonnet was collected in WMR's one volume 1911 edition.


The sonnet reflects mordantly on the 1859 expulsion of the Austrians from Italy by Napoleon III with the help of the Piedmontese army. WMR's comments on the events are important:“Venetia was left unenfranchised from the Austrian yoke, and all the rest of Italy had to shift for itself as best it might, while France secured Savoy and Nice, and garrisoned the Pope in Rome. Rossetti. . .wrote this sonnet to commemorate his forecast of bad times for Europe generally”; ( 1911 667n ).


The most obvious literary reference is to Dante's Purgatorio XXXII. 148-160, where Dante denounces the corrupt Papacy and her supporter, the French royal house. DGR often uses the imagery of prostitution to characterize degenerate social and/or political circumstances: see e.g. “Dante at Verona”, “After the German Subjugation of France, 1871”, and “Jenny”.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1859.raw.xml