A Trip to Paris and Belgium

Alternately titled: Travel Sonnets

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849 September - 1849 October
Genre: poem group


◦ Baum, Analytical List of Manuscripts in the Duke University Library, 12-14 .

◦ Bentley, D. M. R., “A Pre-Raphaelite Abroad: Dante Rossetti's 'A Trip to Paris and Belgium'”, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies N.S. 21 (Spring 2012), 12-14 .

◦ McGann, ed., Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Collected Poetry and Prose, 345-362 .

Scholarly Commentary


This series of poems is a significant Pre-Raphaelite document, having been written in letters to and for the members of the recently initiated PRB group back in England during his trip to the continent with Holman Hunt in the fall of 1849. The principal recipient, WMR, was the first to publish the poems as a group in his edition of 1886 under the title “A Trip to Paris and Belgium”. In his subsequent collected editions WMR augmented this initial group (once in his edition of 1895, and again in 1911). The text mentions in passing various PRB members and associates, including James Collinson, Millais, Frederic Stevens, and Thomas Woolner.

Groupings of the poems other than the one(s) made by WMR are both possible and were in fact realized. DGR, for example, made a selection of seven poems for George Tupper from the larger group and sent it as a small packet while he was still abroad with Hunt (see the manuscript of this group in the Duke University library). WMR's sequence does not include any of the so-called “Sonnets for Pictures” even though several important ones were written during his trip, when DGR and Hunt visited a number of important art galleries. The Tupper group has some of these sonnets for pictures, including a copy of perhaps the most important of them, “For an Allegorical Dance of Women”. Indeed, the Tupper grouping is plainly organized as a kind of precis of DGR's (Pre-Raphaelite) judgments about the journey. Gathered together, the poems (in any grouping) make a general statement about how to think about European art in 1849.

Textual History: Composition

Nearly all of the poems that make up this group were originally either written in letters DGR sent to his brother or to members of the PRB. That epistolary context represents an important way of seeing the sequence as a whole as well as various individual texts. DGR may well have selected the sequence in the Tupper manuscript from the larger available corpus as representative of the argument of the group as a whole.

Printing History

First printed as a sequence (comprising very brief selections) in 1886 by WMR, who augmented the corpus in 1895 in his edition of the Family Letters (58-81), where the poems appear as part of an epistolary sequence. The first comprehensive sequence was published in WMR's 1911 edition. This last grouping has served as the basis of all subsequent approaches to the sequence, which was, however, augmented again in McGann's 2003 Yale edition. The most complete epistolary printing comes in Fredeman's Correspondence (102-131 passim).


One of the most interesting aspects of the sequence is its deliberately a-political focus, a fact underscored because of the proximity of the trip to the political upheaval in Paris in 1848, which drew the attention of so many artistic persons. DGR and Hunt are drawn to Paris for its artistic, not its political, importance, and Belgium is regarded as perhaps the more significant destination, in particular the lesser towns of Bruges and Ghent. DGR took a skeptical view of the events of 1848 (see e.g. “On Refusal of Aid Between Nations” ) and his English jingoism is undisguised in these poems.


The poems are important for the way they use poetic style as an argumentative vehicle. The sharply observed details make a running index of an aesthetic program that is specifically opposed to Rubens, Correggio, and others (as DGR says, “non noi pittori”). The stylistic procedure rhymes with DGR's mordant political views, for his vsion of social change was tied to a Shelleyan “revolution of imagination” (see in particular “Boulogne to Amiens and Paris”).

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 54-1849.raw.xml