Review of John Payne's Lautrec

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1878 November
Genre: review


◦ John Payne, Lautrec. A Poem (London, 1878).

◦ John Payne, The Masque of Shadows and other Poems (London, 1870)


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Princeton draft manuscript.

Scholarly Commentary


DGR drafted this review shortly after he received a gratis copy of John Payne's book Lautrec. A Poem (London: Pickering and Co., 1878) in late November 1878. Writing to William Davies on 27 November DGR asked: “Do you know Mr. John Payne? And have you seen his tasteful Poem which is called Lautrec but might be called the Anatomy of Vampyrism? I have received a copy but couldn't read it for the horrors, and really don't know what to say to it. What will the Bardic Faculty do next?“ (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 78.270 ).

It is difficult not to think that DGR's recoil from Payne's work is in part connected with his pained recollections of his dead wife and the exhumation that took place in 1869.

The slurring reference in DGR's review to Payne's translation of Villon, which was printed to private subscription in 1878, probably tells much about why DGR did not publish this review. (He had been invited in April 1878, through H. Buxton Forman, to add his name to the subscriber list, but refused to do so.) DGR's comments here would have exposed his mind on this matter to Swinburne, whose incomparable translations of Villon's “putridities” (as DGR called them in his review) DGR at one time must have judged very differently. He and Swinburne planned to do a complete translation of Villon together in the 1860s (see commentary for DGR's Three Translations from Francois Villon, 1450). DGR always held much more conservative views than Swinburne did (or than his brother did!) on the question of what is or is not “moral” in poetry and art. This unpublished review shows just how much more conservative DGR had become after the furor that exploded around the supposed “fleshly” character of his work in his 1870 volume.

Textual History: Composition

Composed in late November or early December 1878. The only surviving witness of this work seems to be DGR's rough draft in the Princeton/Troxell collection.

Printing History

DGR did not have the review printed, and it has never before been published.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 16p-1878.raw.xml