The One Hope

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1870
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life, 223-225

◦ Caine, Recollections, 249

◦ Lindberg, “Rossetti's Cumaean Oracle” (1962), 20-21

◦ Rees, The Poetry of DGR., 123-124

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 260-262

◦ Stein, The Ritual of Interpretation, 202-203


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets text.

Scholarly Commentary


A major focus of discussion of this sonnet is the “identity” of “the one Hope's one name”. Stein is acute to emphasize the written/scriptured character of the One Hope. Following the iconographic terms that constellate around the paradisal imagery (and in particular “some sweet life-fountain”), one inclines (after WMR) to read the One Hope as the secret “name” of the Ideal Beloved. Certainly the last lines of the octave recall “The Blessed Damozel”, which is the opening poem in the 1870 Poems. But Stein correctly emphasizes the abstract and allegorical style DGR cultivates—a style that effectively translates all the figural forms into tropes for an aesthetic commitment to “art as the key that unlocks the complex secrets of existence” (see Stein, The Ritual of Interpretation, 202 ). In this perspective, DGR's important fragment “To Art” is obviously pertinent.

DGR's comments on the sonnet to Alice Boyd reinforce Stein's view, for DGR insisted on its general symbolic significance: the sonnet “refers to. . .the longing for accomplishment of individual desire after death” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 70.63 , letter of 22 March 1870). His comment treats this transcendental belief as if it were an ideological fact to be handled in an objective (that is to say, in an aesthetic) fashion. (See the commentaries on the “Mary's Girlhood” sonnets and the pair of “Newborn Death” sonnets.).

That DGR liked the sonnet is clear from what he wrote to Hall Caine: that “It is fully equal to the very best of my sonnets, or I should not have wound up the series with it” (see Caine, Recollections, 249 ).

Textual History: Composition

Added to the 1870 sequence of The House of Life at the very end of the proof process (in March 1870), the sonnet was almost certainly written at that time. DGR sent >a copy in a letter to Swinburne in the spring of 1870, just before his 1870 volume was printed. Another fair copy (the printer's copy) is preserved in the same collection of manuscripts that has these two documents.

Textual History: Revision

DGR made a small but signal change in line 12 in the 1881 text (he substituted “alien” for “written”). In the second edition he also altered the text of the first line to the received text—which had been the original text, but which DGR altered at the last moment of the proof process for the first edition because he thought the reading followed a famous passage in Petrarch too closely (see his letter to WMR, 25 March 1870, Fredeman, Correspondence, 70. 71 : “I've been rather worried by your discovery about the resemblance to Petrarch's first Sonnet which I verily believe I never read. Would you mind copying it for me?”).

Printing History

First printed around 1 March 1870 as part of the Proofs for the first edition of the 1870 Poems. This is one of the “three new sonnets in the last set of proofs” that he mentions in his letter to Alice Boyd of 15 March 1870 ( Letters II. 817 ). It is The House of Life Sonnet L in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet CI in 1881.


The longing for the “one name” of the “one Hope” can scarcely not recall DGR's involvement with his several loves, most especially his wife and Jane Morris, but also with Fanny Cornforth and perhaps several of his models as well. Commentators who focus on the autobiographical dimension of the sonnet and the sequence as a whole usually identify this “one name” with Mrs. Morris. But if autobiography is insisted upon, a plausible case could be made for the name of DGR's dead wife. The key point, however, is that the “one name” is problematic exactly because in real human time, it multiplied.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 16-1870.raw.xml