Bodleian Notebook (for Jane Morris)

Alternately titled: The Kelmscott House of Life
Alternately titled: The Kelmscott Love Sonnets

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1871-1874


◦ John Robert Wahl, ed., The Kelmscott Love Sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Capetown(1954)

Scholarly Commentary


This is a volume of fair copied manuscript texts that DGR gave to Jane Morris as a gift in 1874. The material is arranged in the book in two sections, with each section forming an integral unit that begins at either end. The most important of these two parts is the material at the front end—a collection of thirty works, including twenty-eight sonnets and two songs (or lyrics), all written to and about Mrs. Morris. All these works are “love poems”, and in this respect they are unlike the heterogeneous group of texts that he copied into the same notebook but at the other end, separated off from this group .

The front section of love poems appear in the following order: “Heart's Hope ”; “Love Enthroned ”; “Through Death to Love ”; “Love's Fatality ”; “Hope Overtaken ”; “My Lady's Gifts ” (received title, “Her Gifts”); “Genius in Beauty ”; “Love's Pageant ” (received title, “Beauty's Pageant”); “Between Kisses ” (received title, “Mid-Rapture”); “Threefold Homage ”; “The Dark Glass ”; “Love's Compass ”(received title, “Heart's Compass”); “Lovelight ” (received title, “Soul-Light”); “Love-Measure ” (received title, “Equal Troth”); “Heart's Haven ”; “Without Her”; “Love's Antiphony ” (received title, “Youth's Antiphony”); “The Lovers' Walk ”; “The Moonstar ”; “Love and Hope ”; “At Last ”; “Cloud and Wind ”; “Spring Tribute ” (received title, “Youth's Spring-Tribute”); “Venus Victrix ”; “The Love Lamp ” (received title, “The Lamp's Shrine”); “Severed Selves” (here titled “Between Meetings”); “A Death-Parting” (here titled “The Water Willow”); “Parted Presence”, “Disio” (here this sonnet and the next are copied together and numbered I and II in a pair titled “Disio e Compenso”); “Compenso”.

Of the twenty-eight sonnets in this group, four were never published in DGR's lifetime (“Threefold Homage”; “At Last” “Disìo” “Compenso”). The remainder were incorporated into the version the The House of Life that DGR put together for his Ballads and Sonnets volume in 1881.

These thirty poems comprise a distinct version of DGR's “House of Life Project”. The material stands in a close historical relation to the 1870 version of “The House of Life”, which DGR published in his celebrated volume of Poems the year before he wrote most of these new works. Moreover, each of these poetical gatherings includes both “Sonnets and Songs” (using the descriptive term DGR gave in his 1870 volume). But there the similarities end, for this collection of texts is distinctive in its freedom from the darknesses that bewilder and trouble both the 1870 version of “The House of Life” project and the 1881 version.

That DGR wanted Mrs. Morris to receive this collection as a distinct unit of gratulent and celebratory sonnets is indicated by the other group of sonnets gathered into the manuscript book starting at the end. These are all poems that DGR worked on after he and Mrs. Morris broke up their love idyl in the autumn of 1871.

The poems that are grouped together in the section that begins at the end of the book include the following: “Barcarola” (here titled “Serenata”); “The Sun's Shame II” (here titled “World's Worth”); “Memorial Thresholds”; “From Dawn to Noon”; “Life the Beloved”; “The Lady's Lament” (here titled “A Lament”); “Down Stream”; “Gioventu e Signoria” (here titled “Giovenie e Signoria”); “Youth and Lordship”; “Commandments” (received title “Soothsay”); “Sunset Wings”; “The Cloud Confines”.

Textual History: Composition

A version of one of the poems was written as early as 1848, at least two others were written as early as March 1868, and another was written in the late spring, 1870. But most were composed in the summer-autumn of 1871, though the works in the second group date from 1872-1874. Both groups were copied fair into the notebook probably in August 1874.

Printing History

The integral collection was first published, with notes and a commentary, by John Robert Wahl in 1954 as The Kelmscott Love Sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 9-1874.raw.xml