The House of Life, A Sonnet Sequence (composite manuscript posthumously arranged, Princeton/Troxell collection)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Production Description

Document Title: The House of Life Etc. The Original Manuscript of the Sonnets
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of composition: 1869-1881
Type of Manuscript: Miscellaneous collection of working MSS and fair copies
Collation: [i-iii], 1, 3-41
Note: The collection is an assemblage of different types of single manuscripts. These are laid separately into the volume, on large leaves that have been hand numbered 1-41. There are, however, 43 separate poems in the collection, or parts of poems—two being on the versos of laid in leaves. There are three manuscript pages containing front matter to the sonnet sequence, and five of the leaves have material on their versos.
Scribe: DGR
Corrector: DGR


Current Location: Princeton University Library, Troxell Collection
Catalog Number: 23288
Note: The bound volume is house in Box 5 folder 3.

Physical Description

Cover: Blue leather, gold stamped
Paper: Blue foolscap (14.2 x 9.7 inches) with DGR's manuscripts laid down
Watermark: E TOWGOOD 1911

Scholarly Commentary


The title on the leather cover of this volume is misleading. The manuscript book is not “the original manuscript of the sonnets” of “The House of Life” in any of its versions. It is an artificial assemblage put together in the twentieth century, and not all of the manuscript leaves contain poems that were part of the sonnet sequence.

The contrast with the Fitzwilliam Manuscript the text of “The House of Life” is sharp. The latter was imagined as a kind of “manuscript version” of the sequence and was put together by DGR's friend Fairfax Murray.

This Troxell manuscript also differs completely from the so called Kelmscott Love Sonnets version of the sequence—that is, the group of twenty-five sonnets that DGR arranged as a manuscript gift book for Jane Morris. The latter is an integral, if highly specialized, version of the sequence.

A good many of the sonnets collected in this volume were printer's copy manuscripts for the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets texts of the poems printed there. All but three of the manuscripts are on sheets of the lined notebook paper that is characteristic of most of DGR's manuscripts. The three exceptions are on leaves 34, 35, and 41. These three manuscripts are small (half sheets) from paper watermarked “G WILMOT”. They measure, respectively (in centimeters) , 11.5 x 18.2, 11.5 x 18.2, and 10.5 x 17.

The remainder of the manuscripts are torn out of DGR's lined notebooks. The manuscripts come from four separate notebooks, two dating from 1869-1873, two from 1880-1881. These are: 1. a notebook (1869-1871) with paper watermarked “J ALLEN & SONS/SUPERFINE” (paper size approx. 17.8 x 22.2 cm), including leaves 5, 6, and 38; 2. a notebook (1869-1873), paper unwatermarked (paper size approx. 18.3 x 21.9 cm), including leaves 3, 8, 14, 22, 30; 3. a notebook (1880-1881), paper watermarked “GURNEY/IVORY LAID” (paper size approx. 17.6 x 22.2 cm), including leaves 2, 4, 7, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 37, 39, 40; 4. a notebook (1880-1881), unwatermarked (paper size approx. 18.2 x 22 cm), including leaves 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 36. The origin of the first leaf (paper size 21.1 x 19.5 cm), containing the title page, is uncertain.

A typescript list of the volume's contents is part of the front matter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1