Ancient Christmas Carols


Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1850?
Genre: edition

Scholarly Commentary


This little collection of twelve early English Christmas Carols was edited by DGR in the same way he edited the selections from Blake that he chose and arranged for the Gilchrist Life of William Blake . This is an editorial mode no longer current or even approved, since it involves a conscious intervention by the editor, who takes it as his obligation to alter the received documents. The rationale is analogous to that governing DGR's approach to translation (see The Early Italian Poets). In cases where we can be confident about DGR's source text, DGR so modifies his Middle English original for his nineteenth-century audience that the emergent poem amounts to a kind of transliteration.

The handwriting argues that this booklet was copied out sometime early in the 1850s, perhaps even in the late 40s.

The texts are closely related to the various Marian poems that DGR was writing in the late 1840s and early 1850s, and they connect as well to his numerous Marian pictures.

Printing History

This collection of carols has never been published.


DGR executed two pictures that he titled A Christmas Carol, a watercolor of 1857-58 and an oil of 1867. The latter makes specific reference to a pair of the carols in DGR's collection, the second and the fifth.


Texts of all but the last two of the carols can be found in William Sandys, Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: R. Beckley, 1833). However, comparison of DGR's texts with the Sandys texts shows that Sandys was by no means DGR's only source, though it was clearly one of his sources. DGR may possibly have culled the texts, or some of them, from manuscripts in the British Library. He seems not to have used the Percy Society publications or Joseph Ritson's celebrated Ancient Songs (1790, 1829) or any of the various publications of songs and carols made by Thomas Wright.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 12-1851.raw.xml