Autumn Idleness

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1850
Rhyme: abbaabbacdcdcd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life, 170-171

◦ Doughty, A Victorian Romantic, 105

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 232

◦ Sharp, DGR: A Record and a Study, 426-427


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

Scholarly Commentary


A major problem in reading the sonnet concerns the bibliographical context in which it is read. There are at least three: the original compositional context; the context of its placement in the Sonnets for Pictures, and Other Sonnets section of the 1870 volume; and the context of its position in “The House of Life” in the Ballads and Sonnets edition of 1881. The first two encourage a reading of the sonnet in relative poetic isolation (as a personal expression, in one case, as an integral aesthetic unit in the other). In The House of Life the sonnet is positioned among the group of pieces that DGR recovered from earlier days (Sonnets LXVII-LXX in the 1881 sequence), all of which figure as parts of a travelling sequence (as in a walking tour). These four in their turn comprise a kind of conclusion to the sequence that began in the 1881 sequence with LX, “Transfigured Life”.

Textual History: Composition

Composed in November 1850 when DGR went to Sevenoaks to paint with Holman Hunt. Two integral manuscripts survive: a corrected draft made for the 1881 edition in the Princeton-Taylor composite manuscript book; and a more heavily corrected copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence.

Textual History: Revision

The substantive text in the A Proofs does not change in later printings.

Printing History

First printed in September 1869 in the A Proofs for the 1870 volume of Poems. It was eventually published in the Sonnets for Pictures, and Other Sonnets section of the volume (beginning at page [257]). In 1881 DGR printed it as sonnet LXIX in The House of Life sequence in his Ballads and Sonnets volume.

DGR did not decide to include the sonnet in The House of Life until he saw it in proof in 1881, and just as he was making the decision to break the 1881 publication into two volumes.


The sonnet generally recalls Keats's “To Autumn”, although DGR leads his text to an explicit moralizing conclusion, which Keats does not do.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1850.raw.xml