Bouts Rimés

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

William Michael Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848
Genre: sonnet


◦ Baum, Analytical List of Manuscripts in the Duke University Library, 14-16, 56-65

◦ McGann, The Game that Must be Lost, 63-64

◦ WMR, “Some Scraps of Verse and Prose” (1898), 480-496

◦ Winwar, “Dante Gabriel's or William Michael's?” (1833), 312-315

Scholarly Commentary


DGR and WMR honed their verse skills in 1848 by challenging each other to produce a sonnet in a few minutes to a rhyme scheme supplied by the other. (We know that CR also performed these exercises.) The sonnets are especially interesting as an example of a type of quasi-automatic writing. They also supply another indication of the early maturity of DGR's verse skills. A manuscript for a previously unpublished bout rimé work also exists and shows that DGR and WMR must have played the game with other verse forms.

The largest cache of surviving manuscripts of these works is preserved in the Duke University Library—a set of eighteen sonnets, all copied in DGR's hand and many carrying his corrections and glosses. Paull Baum published twelve of these in 1931 (see bibliography) after WMR had earlier published fourteen in his 1911 edition. The Duke manuscripts all carry numbers with their titles that indicate there must have been, originally, at least forty-four sonnets in the collection. Between WMR and Baum, we have a set of twenty-six of the sonnets. The Duke manuscripts also carry DGR's notations after each sonnet indicating in how many minutes the sonnet was composed. Eight minutes was typical.

The authorship of nine of the sonnets is problematic. These nine are signed “WMR”, which would seem to settle the matter. But Baum attributed all of the sonnets to DGR because all are copied in his hand and, more interestingly perhaps, because many of the problematic sonnets also carry revisions added in DGR's hand as well.

For further commentary see the commentary on one of the most important of the group, “Another Love”. The other surviving sonnets are the following:

“The Sin of Detection”

“Concentered Companionship”


“One of Time's Riddles”

“The World's Doing”

“Almost Over”

“Hidden Harmony”

“An Altar-Flame”

“Height in Depth”

“At Issue”

“Praise and Prayer”

“The Turning-Point”

“A Foretaste”

“Idle Blessedness”

“A Long Road but with an End”

“On with Two Shadows”

“A Bloom in Hope's Garden”

“Fruit from Hope's Garden”

“The Steel's Temper that is Cold”

“On One Condition”

“The Blood's Winter”

“The Cloud before the Stgorm”

“A Soul Singing”

“Happy and Thankful”

“The One Dark Shade”

Textual History: Composition

According to WMR, who was a participant, these sonnets were produced largely in 1848, but the exercises may have begun in 1847 and continued into 1849 (see WMR's note to the selection of these sonnets that he published in his 1911 edition).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 42-1848.raw.xml