Untimely Lost (Oliver Madox Brown Born 1855; Died 1874)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1874 November
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Marsh, DGR: Painter and Poet, 485-487


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

Scholarly Commentary


The poem is written on the occasion of the death of Oliver (“Nolly”) Madox Brown, the brilliant son of Ford Madox Brown. The young man of nineteen died of septicaemia on 5 November 1874 and DGR wrote his memorial verses sometime before the funeral on 12 November.

The death of his son desolated Brown. In the Texas manuscript the sonnet is titled “Dis Manibus”—an extremely interesting choice since DGR would later use the same Latin allusion as a title for his epigrammatic lines on the death of Flaubert. The tag is a common funerary inscription, “to the sacred spirits of the departed”.

Textual History: Composition

Written around 10 November 1874, DGR must have revised the sonnet shortly thereafter since the The Athenaeum text differs from the fair copy manuscript. The Texas manuscript is a holograph fair copy that DGR may well have given to his friend Brown as a gift. The other integral manuscript, an untitled fair copy, is in the Bodleian.

Printing History

First published in The Athenaeum (no. 2456, 21 November 1874, page 678). Published again in the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets and collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1874.raw.xml