Dante and His Circle

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1874
Genre: anthology

Scholarly Commentary


This is the second edition of The Early Italian Poets. It displays substantial changes from the first edition of 1861. Most noticeable is the reversal of the order of the two principal parts of the book—a move that reflects DGR's explicit purpose to make Dante and his work the focus of everything in the volume. But the 1874 edition has numerous other changes: two new poems are added, “A Complaint of his Lady's scorn” (attributed to Dante) and the prolonged sonnet attributed by DGR to Cecco D'Angiolieri “When his Clothes were gone” (it is actually by Cecco Nuccoli); and the text shows important and interesting revisions in various poems. Elisabeth Gitter in her thesis on Rossetti and “The Early Italian Poets” supplies a collation of the 1861 and 1874 editions in an Appendix. In addition to various substantive changes, DGR corrected various typos, introduced certain alternative spellings, and thoroughly revised the method of elision in the unaccented past participles of verbs.

DGR's first practical move toward a second edition of his book comes in a letter to his publisher Ellis (18 March 1872), where he proposes to “re-arrange [the book] under the title of Dante and his Circle as projected some time ago” ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 72. 25 ). Nothing more is said of this matter until the beginning of 1873, but at that point DGR writes to Madox Brown (2 January) that “Ellis is going immediately to reprint my Italian Poets and is ready to bring out a new vol. of original things” Fredeman, Correspondence, 73. 3 ). (The latter project, a new book of original poetry, remained a possibility only for a while, however.) Ellis began some proof printing for design purposes by 5 January and by the 8th DGR had asked his brother to help with the proofing. The book was being set from disbound printed pages of the original 1861 edition. DGR had proofs from Ellis in January but didn't get through the correcting until late February (as he wrote to his brother on 26 February). At that point WMR was to check and correct further.

He wrote to his mother on 7 March that “I am bringing out again my Italian Poets, as William may have told you; and he will help me in looking over proofs. This time I am calling the book Dante and his Circle, to direct attention primarily to its Dantesque relation. Proofs will come in soon I believe, but as yet have not appeared. I wish you would ask W[illia]m, when he goes to Chelsea, to look into that very old portfolio of MSS. of mine, and find a canzone of Dante which I translated but omitted from the first edition. The portfolio is in the bottom drawer, furthest from the corner wall, of the big bookcase in the studio, and the Canzone is I think the one beginning in Italian ‘Perchè ti piace, Amore, ch'io ritorni,’ etc. I think now I am bringing the book out again, I may as well insert this, which I omitted formerly as bearing on no special event. It should be sent to me here, to insert wherever seems best in the proofs” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 73. 73 ). (DGR's source text incorrectly attributed this canzone to Dante).

WMR's proofing was finished by 21 March, at which point DGR sent all the textual revisions to Ellis (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 73. 85 ).

The 1861 volume was dedicated to DGR's wife, but he dedicated this edition to his mother. For further information see the commentary for the first edition.

Printing History

For some reason the publication of this book hung fire during 1873, though it seems to have been largely ready by late spring. DGR was still looking for a copy in December (see his letters to William Davies and Philip Bourke Marston of 4 and 12 December, Fredeman, Correspondence, 73. 355, 366 ). The title page is dated 1874 but it may be that the book appeared in late December 1873, perhaps around 18 December (see his letter to his mother of 18 December, Fredeman, Correspondence, 73. 376 ). A postcard to Ellis of 3 January 1874 suggests, however, that the book had yet to appear at that point ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 74.3 ). The book was published sometime before July—indeed, as a letter to Watts-Dunton suggests, sometime well before July (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 74.158 ).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1874.raw.xml