Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Stealthy School of Criticism (Huntington Library unique proof)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1871
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strasngeways and Walden

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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( AliasThomas Maitland, Esq.)



  • As a critic, the poet Buchanan
  • Thinks the Pseudo worth two of the Anon—
  • Into Maitland he's slunk;
  • Yet what gift of the skunk
  • Guides the shuddering nose to Buchanan?



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Castle St. Leicester Sq.
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The Contemporary Review for October 1871. (Article: ‘The Fleshly

School of Poetry: Mr. D.G. Rossetti.’ By Thos. Maitland.)

Strahan and Co.

Sir, or Sirs,
It is necessary at times, I believe, for the

guardians of public safety to search all kinds of unsavoury

accumulations; and doubtless it must be no uncommon

case for two dead dogs to lie there, one beneath the other.

Were the hidden one conceivably wanted for some purpose

of judicial evidence, the task of digging it out would not be

a pleasant one; and more time would inevitably be lost than

if the upper carcass, perhaps purposely paraded, happened

to be the one required. A kindred operation to this is the

cause why my present favour has not reached you earlier;

but I still trust that, for all that, you may prove no loser

by the delay.
The expedients of ordinary delinquency might furnish

many illustrations to my present subject. For instance,

‘It worn't me, it were 'im,’ is not an elevated plea of self-

defence; nor does it suggest, at first hearing, either the

expression of truth or the protection of honesty. It is

generally heard by a policeman; and his usual answer is a

grip of the speaker's collar, resulting finally, as the case may

be, in a roll in the gutter, a night in the station-house, or a
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term of penal servitude. Every man, Sir, must be his own

‘Force’ on occasion. As you read this, you feel the first

clutch; and I assure you I am going to ‘run you in.’
It is now some years since a good deal began to be said

as to the irresponsible nature of anonymous criticism; and

some literary journals were established in which the man

who spoke for or against another was no more nameless at

length than the man he spoke of. Such journals there are

still, honestly pursuing their new course; and among these,

the Contemporary Review might, for anything I know to

the contrary, have been fairly reckoned till now. But in

October of this year at any rate (whether or not for the

first time I do not know,) this Review seems desirous to

prove that, if the anonymous in criticism was but a creeping

caterpillar stage, the nominate too was no better than a

homely transitional chrysalis, and that the ultimate butterfly

form for a critic who likes to sport in sunlight and yet to

elude the grasp, is after all the pseudonymous. And yet,

capitally as this seems to combine apparent fearlessness with

real safety, there are dangers too even here. What cap ,

flung at random, brought the gay wings down? I cannot

tell; but I know that they have somehow come into my

hand for dissection, and that I find the interests of entomo-

logical science too much concerned to let the creature

go again.
With the odds on this footing, I feel there is no great

merit on my part if I at once give you one or two points at

the outset of the game. Accordingly, for one thing, I shall

abstain from all opportunities of calling you a Stealthy

Person. I know, and you know, and the reader knows that

such you are; and it is only untruths or uncertainties that

call for repeated proclamation. One other point I have no

choice but to forgo. I have never read a single line of

your acknowledged works, or even set eyes on one of them;
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therefore whatever sport they might afford I must cheerfully

resign, feeling no more able to claim such a privilege than

would a sportsman who had a glorious day's hunting offered

him on condition of his repeating the Church Catechism one

hundred times. Nevertheless, when I take up your pseu-

donymous writings, and, as it were, glance from my seat in

the saddle over a fine hunting country, teeming everywhere

with the Common Skunk and the Scotch Fox, I feel that,

with such game before me, I have no cause to complain.
The two animals above-named present no very salient

points of generic distinction; yet the question between

Thomas Maitland and Robert Buchanan, as spokesman in

this instance, was doubtless of some moment to you. I

am not the only individual attacked in your article; and

(taking advantage of my commended modesty to put my-

self out of the question for the moment,) I am disposed to

concur heartily in your own view, that what Robert

Buchanan might have to say about Algernon Swinburne

or William Morris was exactly what no mortal out of

Bedlam could be expected to listen to. A wild whirl

towards the fire-grate, amid an atmosphere highly charged

with the more explosive parts of our language, would be

the fate, with most readers, of any Review which should

furnish, in an undisguised form, that particular commodity

to its public. Thomas Maitland, on the other hand,—

unheard-of and indeed non-existent, — merely embodied

himself unobtrusively with the obvious features of the situa-

tion: as, firstly, — a Publisher who has some expensive

poetic copyrights to uphold, and is quite indifferent to

their author's dignity or wishes in the means he takes for

their supposed advantage: secondly, — some other poetry,

published elsewhere, and causing palpitations to this Pub-

lisher: thirdly, — a Review at command, to abuse such poets

in: and lastly, — a Critic just suited to serve the Publisher's
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turn, and be paid for it. The proceedings of all parties

here seemed of a kind too well known in the ‘literary’

world to excite much remark.
However, as it is, by help of some new electric light, we

have both Robert and Thomas, — Scotch Bard and English

Reviewer in one, — to contemplate; and what better fun

than to interpret between you and your double, now that

one can see the puppets dallying? In the very first page,

Thomas, having vowed Fee Fo Fum against certain poets,

thinks it wise, by the first law of nature, to give Robert a

gentle slap too, all of course for self-preservation and for his

own good in the end. Poor anxious little soul! What

man that has a laugh in him but must half forgive you?

For does one not here see you lying back for a moment with

a rapid rub of the hands, and hear you chuckle, ‘Catch them

nosing me out after that!’ Further on, Robert, having

stood in his corner like a good boy for some time, gets a

sudden pat on the back from Thomas at my expense, and is

informed that whatever merit may exist in an otherwise

worthless poem called ‘Jenny,’ he alone is responsible for.

This question can, no doubt, be easily settled by others

who have read your acknowledged writings. For me, not

being in that position, I must rank myself with those — pro-

bably a minority — who cannot pretend to an opinion on

the subject. You tell me, however, that the poem of yours

thus plagiarized by me is entitled, ‘Artist and Model.’

This reminds me that my ‘true profession’ is that of an

Artist; and without ever having seen you, I would venture

to predict that, as a Model for certain characters, you would

be invaluable. Thus, should it chance to be the case that

your calling as poet had somewhat failed you before you took

to criticism, and that your calling as critic were to languish

a little henceforward, I would invite you to drop in on me

some light day in the slack season, when I would at once
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gladly commence a ‘Leprosy of Gehazi’ or a ‘Death of

Ananias.’ You already know that I am shy of exhibiting

my pictures; so I need not remind you that the above pseu-

donyms, while profitable (a shilling an hour is the profes-

sional fee), might really pass unnoticed.
I observe that, on reading this poem of ‘Jenny,’ Robert-

Thomas ‘fairly lost patience.’ Why, you sorry trickster!

Do you think anyone will believe, with the facts and your

precious farrago of malice before him, that you ever lost

patience in your life? You are nothing but patience, to

your own little ends. What man but yourself would not

indeed have lost patience much less than midway, when he

found himself betrayed by envy into skulking and shuffling

behind a wretched mask, and all to traduce another man

because he too writes verses as best he may?
So this brings us to our true ground, Robert-Thomas;

and I will now tell you what I mean and do not mean. I do

not mean to object for a moment to whatever any well-

hidden Scotch head, or ‘well-known American hand’ ap-

proved by it, may have to say against the poetic value of

what I write for my own satisfaction. I publish it, and

there it is as a prey for the gods and dogs. Whether at

present any accepting fire descend on it, or it be merely

digested by the consumers of carrion, that can matter

little. It has a soul to be blessed or damned, and one

fate or the other it will meet in the long run, quite inde-

pendently of what may be said or done to it now. It is

amusing, doubtless, to see the very same contempt now

brought to bear on one's own writings that one has long ago

seen lavished on the same poets who are now cited against

one in scornful comparison: yet is not this also written in

the book of Dishonest Mediocrity, and has not every one

read it there too often to pay it much attention now?

‘Morbidity,’ ‘Self-consciousness,’ ‘Affectation’—why, these

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are catch-words that have been almost identified by turns, in

the mouths of fools and liars (and that but yesterday), with

every name one most warms to, — Shelley, Keats, Coleridge,

Browning, Tennyson, and who not else besides? If one has

no pretension to share the fulness of their glory, this at least

is something that one clearly has attained to in common with

them. It is pitiful enough to see the would-be successors of

such a critic as Christopher North, — that ‘bantam Thun-

derer,’ as ‘a modern writer’ has called him, — now reduced to

exorcising new verse-makers in the very name of the great

poet who wrote —
  • ‘When I heard from whom it came,
  • I forgave you all the blame,
  • Musty Christopher;
  • I could not forgive the praise,
  • Fusty Christopher.’
Another silly device which has been tried a thousand

times is the one which you re-exemplify by calling all poetic

work of this immediate day ‘sub-Tennysonian.’ This, if

it has any meaning, must mean that, were it not for

Tennyson's exemplar, this English generation would present

the unusual phenomenon of giving birth to no leading

faculty in verse. This is improbable on the face of it;

and as ‘mute inglorious Miltons’ are also improbable in

these days of increased opportunity, it is most likely that the

poets who have written with Tennyson in the field are the

very same who would have written without him. Besides,

real analogies are easy to trace, in every poet, to his pre-

decessors, and especially his immediate ones; in addition

to that other large class of critical accusations of plagia-

rism which are mere untruth and nothing else.
To dwell on any charges against myself of poetic in-

feriority, is what, as I have said, I do not intend doing.

Any one has a perfect right to make these, so long as he
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confines himself to the literary question; and if he does

so under a mask, that merely shows timidity and lack of

self-confidence from one cause or another, and need not of

itself invalidate his criticism, though it must of course,

when discovered, place him at a disadvantage with the reader.
But in this instance, under the guise of criticism, the

use made by me of poetic means has been grossly and

unscrupulously misrepresented; and it is my intention to

show that your article in the Contemporary Review, put

forward as it is under an outer cover of falsehood, is no less

in itself throughout an example of literary duplicity. I

need hardly say that it is not for your benefit that I take

this course, since you know just as well as I do how true

it is that you have spoken in great measure untruly; but

certain honest people will read what you have said without

any means of discovering its bad faith; and that means

I will afford them if they like to hear me.
In many phases of outward nature, the principle of chaff

and grain holds good, — the base enveloping the precious

continually; but a lie was never yet the husk of a truth.

Thresh and riddle and winnow it as you may, — let it fly

in shreds to the four winds, — falsehood only will be that

which flies and that which stays. Thus the sheath of deceit

which this undertaking of yours presents at the outset

insures in fact what we shall find to be its real character

to the core.
[But here, parenthetically, let me address the general

reader; for a certain impatience soon becomes inevitable in

speaking on points of moment to one whose personal conduct

makes it impossible to address him without some contempt.
The primary accusation, on which this writer grounds all

the rest, seems to be that others and myself ‘extol fleshliness
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as the distinct and supreme end of poetic and pictorial art;

aver that poetic expression is greater than poetic thought;

and by inference that the body is greater than the soul, and

sound superior to sense.’ As my own writings are alone

formally dealt with in the article, I shall confine my an-

swer to myself; and this must first take unavoidably the

form of a challenge to prove so broad a statement. It is

true, some fragmentary pretence at proof is put in here

and there throughout the attack, and thus far an oppor-

tunity is given of contesting the assertion; so let this be

undertaken as rapidly as possible.
A Sonnet entitled ‘Nuptial Sleep,’ is quoted and abused

at page 338 of the Review, and is there dwelt upon as a

‘whole poem’ describing ‘merely animal sensations.’ It

is no more a whole poem in reality than is any single stanza

of any poem throughout the book. The poem, written in

sonnets and of which this is one sonnet stanza, is entitled

‘The House of Life;’ and even in my first published in-

stalment of the whole work (as contained in the volume

under notice,) ample evidence is included that no such

passing phase of description as the one headed ‘Nuptial

could possibly be put forward by the author of the

House of Life as his own representative view of the subject

of Love. In proof of this, I will direct attention (among

the love-sonnets) to Nos. 2, 8, 11, 17, 28, and more espe-

cially 13, which, indeed, I had better print here.
  • Sweet dimness of her loosened hair's downfall
  • About thy face: her sweet hands round thy head
  • In gracious fostering union garlanded;
  • Her tremulous smiles; her glances' sweet recall
  • Of love; her murmuring sighs memorial;
  • Her mouth's culled sweetness by thy kisses shed
  • On cheeks and neck and eyelids, and so led
  • Back to her mouth which answers there for all:—
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  • What sweeter than these things, except the thing
  • 10In lacking which all these would lose their sweet:—
  • The confident heart's still fervour; the swift beat
  • And soft subsidence of the spirit's wing,
  • Then when it feels, in cloud-girt wayfaring,
  • The breath of kindred plumes against its feet?
Any reader may bring any artistic charge he pleases

against the above sonnet; but one charge it would be im-

possible to maintain against the writer of the series in which

it occurs; and that is, the wish on his part to assert that the

body is greater than the soul. For here all the passionate

and just delights of the body are declared — somewhat

figuratively, it is true, but unmistakably — to be as nought

if not ennobled by the concurrence of the soul at all times.

Moreover, nearly one half of this series of Sonnets has

nothing to do with love, but treats of quite other life-

influences. I would defy any one to couple with fair quo-

tation of Sonnets 29, 30, 31, 39, 40, 41, 43, or others, the

slander that their author was not impressed, like all other

thinking men, with the responsibilities and higher mysteries

of life; while Sonnets 35, 36, and 37, entitled ‘The Choice,’

sum up the general view taken in a manner only to be evaded

by conscious insincerity. Thus much for the House of Life,

of which the Sonnet ‘Nuptial Sleep’ is one stanza, embody-

ing, for its small constituent share, a beauty of natural uni-

versal function, only to be reprobated in art if dwelt on (as I

have shown that it is not here) to the exclusion of those other

highest things of which it is the harmonious concomitant.
At page 342 an attempt is made to stigmatize four short

quotations as being specially ‘my own property,’ that is, (for

the context shows the meaning,) as being grossly sensual;

though all guiding reference to any precise page or poem in

my book is avoided here. The first of these unspecified

quotations is from the ‘Last Confession,’ and is the descrip-

tion referring to the harlot's laugh, the hideous character of
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which, together with its real or imagined analogy to the

laugh heard soon afterwards from the lips of one long

cherished as an ideal, is the immediate cause which makes

the maddened hero of the poem a murderer. Assailants

may say what they please; but no poet or poetic reader will

blame me for making the incident recorded in these seven

lines as repulsive to the reader as it was to the hearer and

beholder. Without this, the chain of motive and result

would remain obviously incomplete. Observe also that these

are but seven lines in a poem of some five hundred, not one

other of which could be classed with them.
A second quotation gives the last two lines only of the

following sonnet, which is the first of four sonnets in the

House of Life, jointly entitled ‘Willowwood.’
  • I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
  • Leaning across the water, I and he;
  • Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
  • But touched his lute wherein was audible
  • The certain secret thing he had to tell:
  • Only our mirrored eyes met silently
  • In the low wave; and that sound seemed to be
  • The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.
  • And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
  • 10And with his foot and with his wing feathers
  • He swept the spring that watered my heart's drouth.
  • Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
  • And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
  • Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
The critic has quoted (as I said) only the last two

lines, and he has italicized the second as something un-

bearable and ridiculous. Of course the inference would

be that this was really my own absurd bubble-and-squeak

notion of an actual kiss. The reader will perceive at once,

from the whole sonnet transcribed above, how untrue such

an inference would be. The sonnet describes a dream or
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trance of divided love momentarily reunited by the longing

fancy; and in the imagery of the dream, the face of the

beloved rises through deep dark waters to kiss the lover.

Thus the phrase, ‘Bubbled with brimming kisses, &c.’ bears

purely on the special symbolism employed, and from that

point of view will be found, I believe, perfectly simple

and just.
A third quotation is from ‘Eden Bower,’ and says,
  • “What more prize than love to impel thee?
  • Grip and lip my limbs as I tell thee!”
Here again no reference is given, and naturally the reader

would suppose that a human embrace is described. The em-

brace, on the contrary, is that of a fabled snake woman and

a snake. It would be possible still, no doubt, to object on

other grounds to this conception; but the ground inferred

and relied on for full effect by the critic is none the less

an absolute misrepresentation. These three extracts, it will

be admitted, are virtually, though not verbally, garbled

with malicious intention; and the same is the case, as I

have shown, with the sonnet called ‘Nuptial Sleep,’ when

purposely treated as a ‘whole poem.’
The last of the four quotations grouped by the critic as

conclusive examples consists of two lines from ‘Jenny.’

Neither some thirteen years ago when I wrote this poem,

nor last year when I published it, did I fail to foresee

impending charges of recklessness and aggressiveness, or to

perceive that even some among those who could really read

the poem and acquit me on these grounds might still hold

that the thought in it had better have dispensed with the

situation which serves it for framework. Nor did I fail to

consider how far a treatment from without might here be

possible. But the motive powers of art reverse the require-

ment of science, and demand first of all an inner standing

point. The heart of such a mystery as this must be plucked
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from the very world in which it beats or bleeds; and the beauty

and pity, the self-questionings and all-questionings which

it brings with it, can come with full force only from the

mouth of one alive to its whole appeal, such as the speaker

put forward in the poem,— that is, of a young and thought-

ful man of the world. To such a speaker, many half cynical

revulsions of feeling and reverie, and a recurrent presence

of the impressions of beauty (however artificial) which

first brought him within such a circle of influence, would

be inevitable features of the dramatic relation portrayed.

Here again I can give the lie, in hearing of honest readers,

to the base or trivial ideas which my critic labours to

connect with the poem, as easily as to his pardonable

personal vanity in the attribution of its origin.
It would be humiliating, need one come to serious detail,

to have to refute such an accusation as that of ‘binding

oneself by solemn league and covenant to extol fleshliness

as the distinct and supreme end of poetic and pictorial art;’

and one cannot but feel that here every one will think it

allowable merely to pass with a smile by the foolish fellow

who has brought a charge thus framed against any reasonable

man. Indeed, what I have said already is substantially

enough to refute it, even did I not feel sure that a fair

balance of my poetry must, of itself, do so in the eyes of

every candid reader. I say nothing of my pictures; but

those who know them will laugh at the idea. That I may,

nevertheless, take a wider view than some poets or critics, of

how much, in the material conditions absolutely given to man

to deal with as distinct from his spiritual aspirations, is ad-

missible within the limits of art, — this, I say, is possible

enough, nor do I wish to shrink from such responsibility.

But to state that I do so to the ignoring or overshadowing of

spiritual beauty is an absolute falsehood, impossible to put

forward except in the indulgence of prejudice or rancour.
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I have selected, amid much railing on my critic's part,

what seemed the most representative indictment against me,

and have so far answered it. Its remaining clauses set forth

how others and myself ‘aver that poetic expression is greater

than poetic thought . . . . and sound superior to sense;’

an accusation elsewhere, I observe, expressed by saying that

we ‘wish to create form for its own sake.’ If writers of verse

are to be listened to in such criticism on each other, it might

be quite competent to me to prove from the works of my

friends in question that no such thing is the case with them;

but my present function is to confine myself to my own

defence. This, again, it is difficult to do quite seriously.

It is no part of my undertaking to dispute the verdict of any

contemptuous contemporary on my own executive success or

non-success: but the accusation here is not against the

poetic value of certain work, but against its primary and

(by assumption) its admitted aim. And to this I must

reply that so far, assuredly, not even Shakspeare himself

could desire more arduous human tragedy for development

in art than belongs to the themes I venture to embody, how-

ever incalculably higher might be his power of dealing with

them. What more inspiring for poetic effort than the

terrible Love turned to Hate,— perhaps the deadliest of all

passion-woven complexities,— which is the theme of ‘Sister

and in a more fantastic form of ‘Eden Bower,’— the

surroundings of both poems being the mere machinery of a

central universal meaning? — What again more so than the

savage penalty exacted for a lost ideal, as expressed in the

‘Last Confession’? — than the outraged love for man and

burning compensations in art and memory of ‘Dante at

; than the baffling problems which the face of

‘Jenny’ conjures up; or than the analysis of passion and

feeling attempted in the ‘House of Life’ and others among

the more purely lyrical poems? I speak here, as does my
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critic in the clause cited, of aim not of achievement; and so

far, the mere summary is instantly subversive of the prepos-

terous imputation. To assert that the poet whose matter is

such as this , aims chiefly at ‘creating form for its own sake,’

is in fact almost an ingen i uous kind of dishonesty; for surely

it delivers up the asserter at once, bound hand and foot, to

the tender mercies of contradictory proof. Yet this may

fairly be taken as an example of the spirit in which a con-

stant effort is here made against me to appeal to those who

either are ignorant of what I write or else belong to the

large class too easily influenced by an assumption of autho-

rity in addressing them. The false name appended to the

article must, as is evident, aid this position vastly: for who,

after all, would not be apt to laugh at seeing one poet

confessedly come forward as aggressor against another in the

field of criticism?
It would not be worth while to lose time and patience in

noticing minutely how the system of misrepresentation is

carried into points of artistic detail; giving us, for example,

such statements as that the burthen employed in the ballad

of ‘Sister Helen’ ‘is repeated with little or no alteration

through thirty four verses,’ whereas the fact is that the

alteration of it in every verse is the very scheme of the

poem. But these are minor matters, quite thrown into the

shade by the critic's more daring sallies. In addition to the

class of attack I have answered above, the article contains of

course an immense amount of personal paltriness; as, for

instance, attributions of my work to this that or the other

absurd derivative source; or again, pure nonsense (which

can have no real meaning even to the writer) about ‘one art

getting hold of another and imposing on it its conditions and

limitations’; or indeed what not besides? To all this, no

more attention is possible than that which Virgil enjoined

Dante to bestow on the meaner phenomena of his pilgrimage.
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Thus far therefore, reader, and no further, my parenthesis

addresses you.]
And now, Robert-Thomas, the question arises, whether

to leave you to seek cover again, or to accept a little more

of the sport you so lavishly afford. The reader who has

kept my side till now may fairly claim you for a closing

run, so I choose the latter course.
I observe, pseudonymous Sir, that one point on which

you feel bound to be inexorable is that of ‘sincerity.’ You

would ‘rather believe that Mr. Rossetti lacks comprehension

than that he is deficient in sincerity.’ He has, for his part,

no pretensions to resemble Mr. Thomas Maitland so strikingly

as the latter deficiency would indicate, and he must once

more leave it to the reader to decide whether he can claim

to comprehend Mr. Robert Buchanan. He thinks he can,

— motive, action, and all; and he had tried to give an oppor-

tunity of judging on some points between himself and you.

Let us see if perhaps a few others may still remain to con-

You are prodigiously alive to the scale of comparison

among poets. Not only can you by this time clearly dis-

cern the greatness of Tennyson and the suggestive value

of Buchanan to the plagiarists of his day, but you are able

to assure us confidently that ‘the great poet is Dante, full

of the Thunder of a great Idea;’ (what gastric antidote may

so serious a case demand?) ‘Milton, unapproachable in the

serene white light of thought and sumptuous wealth of

style; Shakspeare, all poets by turns and all men in suc-

cession; and Goethe, always innovating and ever indifferent

to innovation for its own sake.’ By the bye, might not

these last three powerful definitions of poets furnish us with

some instructive symbolic analogy to our own Poet-Critic?
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Whether the latter is like Shakspeare, ‘all poets in turn,’

I cannot tell, for his lays are unknown to me; but I will

undertake to say that he can sometimes be at least two

‘men in succession,’ and, let us hope, with all deserved

success; that, like Goethe, he sometimes innovates, as when,

for instance, he supersedes anonymity by pseudonymity in

criticism, being also perhaps indifferent to the innovation

for its own sake, but presumably loving it for the sake of

his so beloved mistress Sincerity; and that, like Milton, he

occasionally has some ‘serene white light’ cast upon his

‘sumptuous wealth of style,’ as in the present humble

epistle, which for its own part has no prouder pretension

than to show him unmistakeably as he is.
On the other hand, Sir, a poet of the third or even of the

second order is a thing you cannot tolerate. Indeed, how

could it be hoped that you should view with any degree of

forbearance such poetunculi as some you enumerate, to wit,

Gower, Skelton, Waller, Cowley, Gascoigne, Silvester,

Carew, Donne, or ‘the fantastic Fletcher’? But mercy

upon us, Robert-Thomas, how about Ben Jonson and Pope?

Why, Sir, Jonson may indeed not be a Shakspeare, nor Pope

a Milton; but for all that, each of them still goes singing

down the path of fame with the Roberts of his day in one

pocket and the Thomases in the other, and feels the weight

of them no more than of a pocket-handkerchief or suchlike

advisable provision.
However I find I have nearly done with you; for indeed,

once identified, do you not become in the sight of all men

your own best ‘sworn tormentor’? Who will then fail to

see clearly all the palpitations which preceded your final

resolve in the great question whether to be or not to be your

acknowledged self when you became an assailant? And

yet you are he who, from behind your mask, ventures to

charge another with ‘bad blood,’ with ‘insincerity,’ and
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the rest of it, (and this where poetic fancies are alone in

question); while every word on your own tongue is envious

rancour, and every stroke from your pen perversion of truth.

Yet after all, there is nothing wonderful in the lengths to

which a fretful poet-critic will carry such grudges as he may

bear, while publisher and editor can both be found who are

willing to make such means available for business purposes,

even to the clear subversion of the first professed principle

of the Review which they conduct. Well, ‘Mr. Rossetti,’

you say, has nothing particular to tell or teach you; yet

he has told you here and there a thing, and others may

prove willing to enforce the teaching still further. He has

‘extreme self-control’ too, as I learn from you, and ‘a

careful choice of diction’; gifts which, you see, he has not

refused to turn to your advantage. Lastly I notice that

‘there is not a drop of piteousness in Mr. Rossetti.’ And

no more there is — for a Stealthy Critic.
It is well to find that great achievements can still call

forth at times the runic fervour of the Skald. The facts of

your pseudonymous career would seem already to have been

thrown into the form of a spirited mono-duologue, which

runs as follows: —
  • I am two brothers with one face,
  • So which is the real man who can trace?
  • (My wrongs are raging inside of me.)
  • Here are some poets and they sell,
  • Therefore revenge becomes me well.
  • (O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)
  • My books aren't bought; it's a burning shame,
  • But it doesn't pay to puff my name:
  • (My wrongs are boiling inside of me.)
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  • 10So at least all other bards I'll slate
  • Till no one sells but the Laureate.
  • (O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)
  • I took a beast of a poet's tome
  • And nailed a cheque, and brought them home;
  • (My wrongs were howling inside of me.)
  • And after supper, in lieu of bed,
  • I wound wet towels round my head.
  • (O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)
  • Of eyelids kissèd and all the rest,
  • 20And rosy cheeks that lie on one's breast,
  • (My wrongs were yelling inside of me.)
  • I told the worst that pen can tell, —
  • And won't the Laureate love me well?
  • (O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)
  • I crowed out loud in the silent night,
  • I made my digs so sharp and bright:
  • (My wrongs were gnashing inside of me.)
  • In our Contemptible Review
  • I stuck the beggar through and through.
  • 30(O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)
  • I tanned his hide and combed his head
  • And that bard, for one, I left for dead.
  • (My wrongs are hooting inside of me.)
  • And now he's wrapped in a printer's sheet,
  • Let's fling him at the Laureate's feet.
  • (O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)
As only three among our living poets, you know, (and

these comparatively recent ones,) were ever so weak as to

write a ballad with a burthen, the above must obviously be,

for once, an original and unsuggested poem by one of the

three; but by which of them, I leave you to determine.
And now, how to conclude? You are fond of a

Shaksperian illustration. Well, Lucio, as you may remem-

ber, was but a foul-mouthed nobody; but in an evil hour he
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lied against things above him, and his sentence was whipping

and hanging. I have whipped you; but you have shown

such a faculty for securing rope enough that you may be left

to hang yourself.
I remain, Sir, or Sirs,

Your obedient humble servant,

D.G. Rossetti. November, 1871.
P.S. I have spared you this much of my time and

patience, and it is all that I can afford. Therefore (turning

for the last time an untruth of yours to truer purposes,) let

me say that you may for the future, in either of your cha-

racters, responsively ‘bite, scratch, scream, bubble, sweat,

writhe, twist, wriggle, or foam,’ to your indignant heart's

content, but neither thought of mine nor lash of mine will

be turned your way again.
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