The Love-Letter

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1870
Rhyme: abbaabbacddccd
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, ed., The House of Life. A Sonnet-Sequence, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 82-83

◦ Lewis, The Trial Book Fallacy 190

◦ WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer. 192

Scholarly Commentary


This extremely artificial piece was one of the last sonnets added to the sequence for the 1870 volume. If it were not part of the sequence of The House of Life it would hardly be missed, for it has little technical or structural interest. DGR probably wrote it to underscore the close relation that the sequence has to the poetic tradition of Italian love verse.

Textual History: Composition

“Before April 1870” (WMR, Classified Lists 6 ). It was in fact written in March 1870— one of the sonnets that formed part of the “sheet” of work he had written at Scalands (see DGR's letter to Alice Boyd, 15 March 1870: Letters II. 817 ).

The only surviving manuscript is not holograph but C. F. Murray's copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” manuscript.

Printing History

This is one of the last sonnets added to the sequence for the 1870 Poems volume. It was printed in a separate proof along with some other sonnets: “For The Wine of Circe, by Edward Burne Jones”, “The Monochord”, “Barren Spring”, and “The Stream's Secret”. It is The House of Life Sonnet X in the 1870 volume, and Sonnet XI in 1881.


Baum rightly notes (and criticizes) the Marinistic character of this sonnet: “Petrarchanism drawn out to the most extreme state” (see Baum, The House of Life 82-83 ). It is a manner that one finds in all writers who function within this idealizing verse tradition. English poetry in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is replete with it, and it may be found in the most distinguished writers. When it is revived at the end of the eighteenth-century by the English Della Cruscan poets, the tradition gains a new life in the orbit of the romantic movement.


The letter of the poem is surely related to one of Jane Morris's love letters to DGR—and may in fact be one that she wrote to DGR in March 1870, before she joined him for a brief visit at Scalands, the home of Barbara Bodichon (near Hastings). Her intimate correspondence with DGR has not survived, and we have only a truncated number of DGR's letters to her: see Bryson and Troxell 35-36 .

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 4-1870.raw.xml