WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 249.◦
Baum, House of Life, 201-202.◦
Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial,
Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné vol. 1, 144.◦
Fennell, Rossetti-Leyland Letters, 86-89.
The sonnet retells the legend that DGR found in Burton's
Anatomy of Melancholy (Part III sec. ii Mem. v Subsec. 3.) and that he summarized in his prose note to the sonnet. The relevance of the sonnet to the 1881 “House of Life” is oblique at best. DGR seems to hold the legend, and the sonnet, as a mythic or symbolic emblem of what DGR's own experience of love might mean. But the significance remains obscure and ambiguous, since in one sense DGR has been quite successful in his loves, while in another he stands at a kind of perpetual loss. DGR does not allude to what the Burton text goes on to say— hat no man ever relit the lamp because of the inveterate inconstancy of women. For DGR, that ancient misogynist topos seems irrelevant.
The poem seems to have grown from a text DGR found in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and that he copied into the second of the small Ashley note books.
Five integral manuscripts of the sonnet survive: a corrected draft in the Harry Ransom Humanities
Research Center; a fair copy in the Bodleian
composite collection; a fair copy in the Fitzwilliam
composite “House of Life” sequence;
and two other fair copies, one in the Rosenbach Library and
another in the Bancroft collection of the Delaware Art Museum.
First published in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.
The sonnet was written in 1875 to accompany a painting DGR
projected at that time for Frederick Leyland. The picture was never
executed, though Leyland had paid DGR 800 gns. for it. In October 1880
Leyland proposed that DGR do a replica of
The Blessed Damozel
instead, and the arrangement was made for an additional 500 pounds (see
Fennell, Rossetti-Leyland Letters
Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, [T. Wiley, New York] 1850, 540 (Part III sec. ii Mem. v Subsec. 3.).