Poems (1870), Proofs for the First Edition

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1870 March


◦ Troxell 188-189

◦ Fraser 164

◦ Keane 205-207

◦ Lewis 107-120, 187-188

Scholarly Commentary


When discussing the final stage of DGR's elaborate process of production for the 1870 Poems , scholars have regularly written as if these proofs existed in a single state. Several copies of these proofs survive in integral condition: two copies at the Fitzwilliam [copy 1, copy 2], and single copies at the British Library and in the Troxell Collection, Princeton University. Another incomplete proof copy exists—a set of pages from the proof copy that DGR sent on 5 March 1870 to John Skelton, and that Skelton used for his review in Fraser's Magazine (May 1870), 609-622 . (All five of these copies, however, represent a single state of these proofs—one that was completed just before 7 March 1870 (see DGR's letter to Swinburne, 7 March 1870: Fredeman, Correspondence 70. 45 ). These copies are all the first issue, second state. But a mixed state of the proofs for the First Edition which is in the Troxell Collection, Princeton University shows very clearly that the proofs existed in two other printing states. In her discussion of these proofs, Troxell (188-189) writes as if they were composed of a single true first edition proof plus numerous revises. But this view of the matter is not correct.

The proofs for the First Edition went through three distinct printing stages. There was a first issue, first state made from DGR's revised Second Trial Book proofs. This first state was printed and sent to DGR in early March (see his letter to Swinburne of 7 March). The second state of this issue was produced as he changed the lineation in the poem Ave and as he altered the material in the Sonnets for Pictures and Other Sonnets section of the book. The first issue, second state served as the basis for DGR's final set of alterations to these proofs—a complex set of changes through which new poems were added and the ordering of the poems was shifted about. This is the second issue of the proofs for the first edition.

No integral set of this second issue appears to survive. Nonetheless, pieces of it can be found in the set of Mixed Proofs for the First Edition in the Princeton/Troxell collection. That it had to have been pulled is plain from the situation caused by DGR's massive late changes to his forthcoming book. These began around 18 March and continued through the rest of the month, as his letters of that period to his publisher show. The second issue was printed off in pieces in late March 1870 as a result of two factors: first, DGR decided to change the order of the poems in all three sections of the book; second, he added a series of new poems to the volume.

The new poems added to the book were The Stream's Secret, and the sonnets The Wine of Circe, The Love-Letter, Barren Spring, the first of the Old and New Art sonnets “St. Luke the Painter”, The Monochord, Love-Sweetness, and He and I. DGR had these poems first printed separately so that they could be sent to several persons who already had copies of the first issue, second state as pre-publication review copies (see his letter to Ellis of 30 March 1870: Fredeman, Correspondence 70. 75 ). The new poems were then incorporated into the proofs.

Even as the second issue was being constructed DGR made a final set of changes. These did not alter the pagination but required only the reprinting of a few pages in signatures M and N. This last change called for the replacement of The Seed of David by Francesca da Rimini, and proposed shifting Aspecta Medusa to accommodate the change (see his letter to Ellis of 30 March). In the event he chose a new translation of Villon, His Mother's Service to Our Lady, as the replacement poem.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1870.1pr.raw.xml