The Death of Topsy

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1875? 1878?


◦ Burnett, The Ashley Catalogue, I. 83 .

◦ Lindsay and Fredeman, “D. G. Rossetti's ‘The Death of Topsy’”, Victorian Poetry 13 (1975), 177-179

◦ Burnett, The Ashley Catalogue, 83

Scholarly Commentary


DGR composed occasional dramatic skits of this kind all his life. Only three survive, the others being “Miching Mallecho—It Means Mischief” and “Dinner at Queens Square, 1868—It Means Mischief”.

The work parodies Morris's lecturing activities (the first of which came on 4 December 1877 when he spoke on “The Decorative Arts” before the Trades Guild of Learning). Lindsay and Fredeman observe that DGR's skit was “libellous about the Wardles” and that the copy DGR gave to Jane Morris “certainly would have [been] hidden from her husband”.

Textual History: Composition

The holograph draft is in the British Library (Ashley 1412), and so is DGR's fair copy which he may have made for Jane Morris and sent to her in October 1878. According to T. A. J. Burnett, DGR wrote this work early in 1875 when he was “provoked by Morris' insistence on taking over the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Co.” But the work probably belongs to a later date, sometime in 1878, as the fair copy MS suggests and as Jack Lindsay and W. E. Fredeman argue on good historical grounds.

Textual History: Revision

Both manuscripts exhibit small revisions but the draft shows that made several large-scale changes to the work as he was composiong it. He made large changes to the penultimate scene and the final scene was a late addition.


At the end of the play, when Mrs. Guppy says “Well, he is gone my friends, &I dread to think whither”, DGR is echoing the final lines of Byron's Manfred.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 11-1878.raw.xml