Poems. (Privately Printed.), Second Trial Book

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1869 October 30 - 1869 November 25


◦ Troxell, “The Trial Books”, 184-188 .

◦ Fraser, “The Rossetti Collection of Janet Camp Troxell”, 163-164 .

◦ Keane, “D. G. Rossetti's Poems 1870”, 200-206 .

◦ Lewis, The Trial Book Fallacy, 107-120, 187 .

◦ Burnett, The Ashley Catalogue I. 71-72 .

Scholarly Commentary


The Second Trial Book designates the sixth integral pre-publication printing event of the poems that would eventually be published in April 1870 as DGR's Poems.

There seem to have been two proof states of this trial book printed off before its final printing on 25-26 November 1869. But it is possible that only one proof was pulled, and that DGR called for revises of selected portions of this proof before he had the trial book printed off again in its entirety around 25 November. Whatever the case, we can see from the surviving materials that DGR had at least one complete proof copy in early November and that he corrected this copy and saw corrections before he had the entire book printed off again around 25 November. At that point he had several copies made and sent them out to his brother and friends for comments and suggestions for revision. Corrected copy of this Second Trial Book was the basis for the 1870 Poems' final pre-publication printing, the so-called Proofs for the First Edition. The Second Trial Book was itself constructed out of the two previous integral pre-publication printings: the Exhumation Proofs and the First Trial Book.

On 5 October 1869 DGR recovered the manuscript volume of his poetry that had been buried in his wife's coffin. He immediately set to copying and revising five poems from the manuscript book. Four of these—A Last Confession, Jenny, The Portrait, and Dante at Verona—would be printed in the Second Trial Book from the Exhumation Proofs. The fifth poem, titled at that point “Bride Chamber Talk”, was left unprinted at this time. It would eventually be recast and titled The Bride's Prelude. DGR finished the copying and revising process by 26 October, and the Exhumation Proofs were printed off around 30 October.

At the same time he continued to work on the poems printed in the First Trial Book, and he had proofs of the Second Trial Book printed up during the first few weeks of November 1869, perhaps in two distinct states.

Scholarly discussion of the second trial book has been somewhat confused and inaccurate so a survey of the extant materials is important. The first stage of the printing of Trial Book Two came about in the initial weeks of November 1869. That early state of this trial book is represented by three sets of surviving materials: 1) a heavily corrected partial proof set of 116 pages which I designate DGR's Working Copy (this is in the Princeton/Troxell Collection); 2) three gatherings of this printing (Signatures I, N, and O), uncorrected, now in the Duke University Library, the Duke Proofs; 3) another partial set of corrected proofs in the Princeton/Troxell Collection of 30 pages, a Revise of DGR's Working Copy which may represent the remains of a full second state.

What scholars have called the Princeton/Troxell copy of the Proofs for the Second Trial Book is an uncorrected set of proofs comprising 123 pages. It properly belongs with the materials comprising the second state of the Second Trial Book, the state printed around 25 November. Four integral copies of this second state survive: one in the Fitzwilliam Museum (WMR's copy), one in the British Library (Swinburne's copy), one in the Princeton/Troxell collection (this seems to be the publisher's copy), and Alice Boyd's copy (now in the Lasner collection, where it passed from the library of Simon Nowell-Smith). The so-called Proofs for the Second Trial Book are probably a set of materials that DGR kept as he went on with his revision process over the next few months.

The poems included in the Second Trial Book (as originally printed in all states) are the same number and in the same order as those in the First Trial Book, but with the following exceptions: St. Luke the Painter is added after Dantis Tenebrae, and A Last Confession, Jenny, The Portrait, and Dante at Verona are all printed at the end of the Trial Book from pages 172-231. All of these added poems were picked up from the Exhumation Proofs.

The Fitzwilliam and the British Library copies have a revise of the text of Jenny (pages 201-206) bound up at the end of their complete Second Trial Books. These revise pages are not in the Princeton/Troxell copy of the complete Second Trial Book nor in Alice Boyd's copy. DGR sent them to Swinburne on 8 December 1869, and presumably sent his brother a set around the same time, since both of their copies have a set of these revises.

The two heavily corrected partial sets of proof materials for this trial book in the Princeton/Troxell collection represent the remains of various materials that DGR sent to the printer with changes to the texts, and that must have been sent back to him. They represent the remains of what must have been DGR's working copy. The poet clearly kept at least two sets of the 25-26 November printing, but he also clearly kept pages from the early November settings. The revisions on these proof pages record changes made over several months. The 116-page copy is particularly important. It shows very clearly some of the major shifts in DGR's thinking about how to organize the book that was evolving. Among the most notable of these is the decision to separate The House of Life into the two sections of sonnets and songs, respectively, and the numbering of the units in each section. Also here is the first effort to organize the Sonnets for Pictures, and Other Sonnets into a coherent order.

The Alice Boyd copy of the Second Trial Book is particularly interesting because of the additional proof materials bound up with it. The whole bound volume has a manuscript index of its contents: the index for the Second Trial Book is in Alice Boyd's hand, the index for the subsequent proof materials is in DGR's hand. These proof materials include: 1. Pages 187-190, 221-222 (with corrections) of the Proofs for the First Edition; 2. a copy (with corrections) of Lewis's Proof State 16; 3. a copy (uncorrected) of Lewis's Proof State 15.

A mixed set of proofs containing pages from the A Proofs, the A2 Proofs, and the first and second trial books—none of the pages with any manuscript markings—is housed in the Troxell collection as well. These proofs are bound into the second volume of the 1901 edition of DGR's Collected Works.

Textual History: Revision

Proofs for the Second Trial Book were pulled in early or mid-November and sent to DGR for correction. DGR must have sent a copy with his corrections to the printer. The latter does not survive; what does come down to us are the two sets of proofs DGR kept by him as working copy. They went to the printer and then must have been returned to DGR because the revisions on these proof pages record changes made over several months. DGR's working copy— a copy (partial) that carries various kinds of corrections and suggestions for corrections by DGR, shows that DGR changed his mind about many of his ideas for revision. For example, he writes a note on these proofs above the text of Sister Helen (pages 48-49) calling for its printing late in the text, following A Last Confession, Jenny, The Portrait, and Dante at Verona. Such a configuration never entered the text, however. These working proofs have several examples of this kind of unexecuted revision. The fact that the note is uncancelled in the proof suggests that it was never sent to the printer. This presumption is corroborated by other features of this set of proof materials, which carry revisions that DGR must have made seriatim and over a period of many weeks. DGR must have kept these proofs as a place to try out revisions, which he would then transfer to his printer as he kept receiving proof copy carrying the changes he was calling for.

So DGR's working copy proof pages for the Second Trial Book contain, paradoxically, revisions that are very early (mid-November 1869) as well as revisions that must have been quite late, perhaps as late as February 1870. The texts record a double evolution: out of the state of the text as it existed in the First Trial Book, and into the state of the text as it was emerging in the Proofs for the First Edition. The Mixed Proofs for the First Edition in the Princeton/Troxell Collection illustrate this convergence of the proofs very clearly.

The Princeton/Troxell Collection also preserves another partial set of proof pages for the Second Trial Book. Like DGR's working copy, this is a partial text of the Second Trial Book, and probably a set of revises, carrying further DGR revisions to the 26 November printing.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1870.tb2.raw.xml