To Philip Bourke Marston, inciting me to do poetic work

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1878 October 11
Rhyme: iambic pentameter
Meter: abbaabbacddccd
Genre: sonnet
Addressee: Philip Bourke Marston (1850-1887)


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the DGR's fair copy sent to Marston .

Scholarly Commentary


The occasion of the sonnet is important. On 11 October DGR wrote to Theodore Watts that “I heard the other day from Philip Marston with a sonnet addressed to me urging further poetry! This is truly Tuscan, and must be replied to in kind.” ( Fredeman, Correspondence 78.232 ) The comment references the common practice of the Tuscan poets that DGR admired and translated to address and respond to each other's work in sonnets.

It appears that Marston's sonnet may well have had its desired effect, for in the following year DGR began writing poetry in earnest once again.

Marston, blind from birth, met DGR in 1870 and the two became friends. Marston greatly admired DGR's work and his own sonnets, which dominate his poetic forms, are much in debt to DGR's style. It isn't clear what sonnet Marston sent to DGR that inspired DGR's poetic response. When DGR died in 1882 Marston eulogized him with a sonnet.

Textual History: Composition

DGR wrote the poem on 11 or 12 October 1878 as a response to the sonnet Marston had recently sent to him urging him to return to writing poetry, which DGR had largely set aside since 1873. He sent Marston a fair copy in a letter of 12 October with the remark: “Would that my reply in kind to your beautiful and valued sonnet had risen to my mind in a more fully responsive form, but such as it is, I send it” ( Fredeman, Correspondence 78.233 ). Two other fair copies survive at Princeton: one is close to the text as it was first published, the other is cancelled and bears a Latin title. The location of the latter, in a bound volume of manuscripts DGR put together for publication in his 1881 Ballads and Sonnets, shows his initial but later abandoned publication plans.

Printing History

First published in 1882 in Sharp's DGR: A Record and a Study, 405 . WMR then collected it in his 1886 edition (page 340), and it has been collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 3-1878.raw.xml