Baum, ed., The House of Life, 87-88
WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer, 194-195
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1870 Poems First Edition Text.
The date of this sonnet—1854—defines an
important subtextual function. The sonnet argues that an elective affinity
binds the love of the poet and his lady, here (in the context of the sonnet as
part of The
House of Life sequence) the Innominata. The fatality of
their love—its pre-existence, as it were—became clear, the poem
argues, when the
poet first met her. The model for such an idea comes, of course, from
Dante's Vita Nuova, from Dante's relation to Beatrice. But the argument
of the sonnet gains special force when we recall that DGR did not meet Jane
Burden Morris—the unnamed Innominata of the sequence—until
1857, three years after he wrote this sonnet. In the
context of his later employment of the sonnet in The House of Life
sequence, DGR forces it to stand as a prophetic utterance. As such, the
sonnet itself becomes an index or exponent of its substantive
DGR wrote it in late July or possibly early August 1854; he sent a copy in a letter
to William Allingham with a note that it was “written only two
or three days ago”. Another copy, probably earlier, is part of the so-called Notebook II at the Duke University Library. A corrected copy is also gathered in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript.
The text of the sonnet DGR sent to Allingham in 1854
is significantly different from the one he printed in the 1870
DGR also made changes to the text during the 1869-1870 proof process.
First printed in the Penkill Proofs in August 1869, it
passed through all the subsequent pre-publication documents
for the 1870 Poems, where it was first published. It is
The House of Life Sonnet XI in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet XV in 1881.
Lying just below the sonnet's explicit imagery is a
reference to the love-structure made famous by Dante in the
The sestet in particular recalls the opening section of the Vita Nuova.
The autobiographical level of the sonnet changes its
character if it is read as part of The House of Life
sequence or if it is not. In each case the beloved is imagined in
Beatricean terms. But as an integral sonnet (written in 1854), one inclines
to read it in relation to DGR's love for Elizabeth Siddal; whereas if
one reads it in The House of Life sequence, where it is
associated with the Innominata, Jane Morris emerges as the poet's