Baum, House of Life, 80-81.◦
Marillier, DGR: An Ilustrated Memorial, 149
Masefield, Thanks Before Going, 50-51.◦
WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 191-192.◦
Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné vol. 1, 121.
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Poems
The sonnet can stand alone as an expression of
the process of idealization that art undertakes. In DGR's imagination,
only the artistic representation of a beloved person approaches the reality of
that person as she or he is a subject (and object) of love. Reciprocally, only
the work of art approaches the ideal reality of the lover/poet/artist: this thought
is clearly expressed in the concluding line, where the word “me”
identifies the work of art with the person of the artist/lover.
In the House of Life sequence this is the first sonnet to draw
a firm connection between Love and Art. Because the sequence lays out a kind of
story of the artist/lover's life, each sonnet figures more or less explicitly in
the narrative action. So here one is drawn to decide the “identity” of the
sitter—specifically, whether she is the Beloved or the Innominata (or, in
biographical terms, Elizabeth Siddal or Jane Morris, or someone else). The sonnet
leaves the matter undecided. In doing so, it underscores the extreme process of
idealization driving DGR's imaginative works (poetic as well as pictorial). In DGR's
imaginaton, the ideal lover is drawn to a transcendent place and condition through all
actual love-experiences; and the making of art works devoted to love is the most
intense and ideal of those experiences.
The sonnet forms part of a double work, but the ambiguity of the
precise pictorial element makes it a unique instance of this Rossettian
genre. Three different pictures are associated with the sonnet (see
commentary below) as well as three different women, most importantly
DGR's wife and Mrs. Jane Morris. The ambiguity of reference here
underscores the ideality of the aesthetic situation.
WMR dates it “c. 1868” and Fredeman concurs
WMR, DGR: Classified Lists, 6
Fredeman, “Rossetti's ‘In Memoriam’”
. But Tisdel dates it ?1860-61 and Baum
1863-66, while Frederick Page dated it 1868
Baum, House of Life,
). Needless to
say, the dating is most uncertain, though its terminus ad quem is
mid-September 1869, when the sonnet was printed in the
A2 Proofs for the
1870 volume. Furthermore, the apparently deliberate allusion
to line 13 of “Love's Lovers” in line 11 of this sonnet strongly suggests that the two are closely related.
Furthermore, one is aware of the connection of the sonnet to the colored
chalk portrait of Jane Morris, which is dated 1869. All these evidences argue
that the sonnet was written in 1869, and probably in late August or early September. This
date is supported strongly by a pencil draft of the sonnet that is written on the
verso of the Huntington Library manuscript of “The
Orchard Pit”, which dates from 1869.
Besides the early pencil draft, two other integral manuscripts exist: a corrected draft in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript; and a fair copy at Princeton.
Except for a revision in line 9, the text of the sonnet remains
stable from its first appearance in print. One of DGR's notebooks in the Ashley Library (Notebook II) records this revision.
DGR executed a chalk drawing of Jane Morris in 1869
that is inscribed with lines 4 and 8 of the sonnet. The two
other pictures associated with the sonnet are Beata Beatrix (1864-1870) and the portrait of Mrs. Morris in a blue dress (1866-1868).
First printed in mid-September 1869 in the
A2 Proofs for the 1870
and kept through all subsequent proofs and
authorized printings. It is The
House of Life Sonnet IX in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet X in
The sonnet is associated with three specific pictures by DGR and with
three distinct women. No hard evidence connects the sonnet to the famous picture
Beata Beatrix, the memorial
reconstruction of DGR's wife as his visionary
Beatrice, but this connection is commonly made. The
portrait in colored chalks of Jane Morris, signed and
dated by DGR 1869 and called The Portrait,
was exhibited in 1883 at the Royal Academy Exhibition.
According to Ford Madox Brown, however, the sonnet “was
written to accompany
Mrs. Morris in a
Blue Dress” (see
Newman and Watkinson, Ford Madox Brown, 155). Finally,
Stephens says that the sonnet referred chiefly to Alexa Wilding (
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Although it has the same title as the poem “The Portrait”, the two works have little in
common beyond their respective committments to the idealizing function of art.
This work should be compared with Fazio degli Uberti's
“Canzone”, translated by DGR, and the
painting that doubles the translation, Fazio's Mistress