Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Author: Ernest Radford
Date of publication: 1905
Publisher: George Newnes Limited
Printer: Ballantyne & Co, Ltd. at the Ballantyne Press
Edition: 1

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

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Photo, Hollyer


from the painting by D. G. Rossetti

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nd ST.

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Editorial Note (page ornament): Page header depicting four cupids, with scrolls. Ornamented capital N begins text.
N0 artist entirely of the last century has had so much

written about him as Rossetti, so the trouble is with

the superabundance rather than the paucity of the

material, and attempting within the limits of space,

to give not only the main facts of his life once more,

but to pay the tribute of an Art-lover to Genius, is

in reality very much harder than it would be to write

at great length.
Between certain young writers in the year of Rossetti's death, there

was a most spirited race from Birchington where the dead lay to the

nearest publishing houses, and their books stood alone for some time.

Then came one in the “Great Writers” series, the author of which, Mr.

Joseph Knight, took Rossetti's poetical works as his main subject. To

books must be added the articles which have flowed like a stream through

the press, but of the man as we know him now, there was little in the

biographies published before the appearance in 1892 of Wm. Bell Scott's

“Autobiography,” which made a great stir in its day; so great that the

consequence was the immediate call for more to which Wm. Rossetti

responded in 1895 with the “Memoirs and Family Letters” of his late

brother. “He would be wrongly described,” said the writer, “as a

sentimentalist, a dreamer, and æsthete, and the like, without making allow-

ance on the other side for attributes of a very opposite character, for the

fact is that he was full of buoyancy, vigour, élan; well-alive to the main

chance, capable of enjoying the queer as well as the graver aspects of life;

and whatever else he may have been, a quick-blooded, straight-speaking

man who hated nothing so much as humbug,” and was extraordinarily

quick to detect it. These desirable masculine traits are not very com-

monly found with the emotional and intellectual characteristics of poets,

but Rossetti was started in life with them all : as prone at the age of
page: viii
eighteen to make the most impious jokes, as to paint, or compose his

But with humour there was solicitude always, and whether as critic

of writings by brother and sister, or their adviser on other occasions,

he never spared trouble at all. What the reader will notice in the majority

of the home letters is their simplicity, and the sanity of his advice. As for

“moods,” he had his share of them, but remembering that Rossetti,

besides being one of ourselves, was “in the essence of his mind and

temperament,” both poet and artist in one, the wonder will seem to be not

that the balance of parts in a mind so strangely composed was upset, but

that it was maintained so long. Nowhere do we seem so near to the

Rossetti who lives in Art as in Lady Burne-Jones's lately published Life of

her husband wherein the names of Rossetti, Morris, and Jones occur more

frequently than any others. “I wish,” she says, “it were possible to

explain the impression made upon me as a young girl whose experience

had so far been quite remote from Art, by sudden and close intercourse

with those to whom it was the breath of life. The only approach I can

make to it, is by saying that I felt the presence of a new religion.” There

is more to the same effect than can be quoted, and in the particular case

of Rossetti there is evidence from all quarters of the strength of the hold

which his genius gave him over others. “In these first years,” said

Burne-Jones, “I never wanted to think but as he thought, and in the

miserable ending years of his life, I never forgot this image of him in his

prime, and upbraided the fate that could change him.” “Rossetti

was the planet round which we revolved,” said Mr. Prinsep in his account

of the Oxford days. The picture I have in my mind has been formed

as the reader will see, by comparing the impressions of those who actually

knew the man, or by accident of birth or marriage were drawn into the

circle to which he belonged. One such is Helen M. M. Rossetti , who

says : “I have purposely laid stress on Rossetti's possession in very full

measure of humour because of its infinite value to the possessor in as

much as he is an artist at all.”
The argument is, that there should be a sufficiency of it where there

is genius ; but in Rossetti's peculiar case the combination produced a man

so far from perfect according to ordinary standards of manners that a

very liberal allowance for his eccentricity had to be made wherever he

pitched his tent. For confirmation of this, and entertainment, the reader

should turn to the pages of Madox Brown's Diary which tells us how the

time passed whilst Rossetti was with him at Finchley. Also to some of

John Ruskin's letters. But it is possible to have too many laughable

anecdotes where the main object is to insist on an artist's genius, and

throughout the whole course of the story to keep that clearly in view.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, born May 12, 1828, had for father a poet,

scholar, and patriot whose name is honoured in Italy. As his grand-

mother on his mother's side was English, it follows that Dante was only

three parts Italian, but a very strong mixture indeed can be so composed,
page: ix
and it would be impossible to overrate the importance of the foreign

element in his constitution. His father, as professor of Italian in King's

College, had for a long while been settled here, and the home of the

Rossettis in London has been described as a “little Italian Colony where

the native language was spoken.”
“It is interesting to note,” said Helen Rossetti, “that whereas so many

artists and writers have started life heavily handicapped by their families

and domestic relations, the early surroundings of Dante were in every

way calculated to encourage and foster the development of his intellectual

powers.” Simple living, and only such luxury as was consistent with the

most rigid economy, seems to have been the rule, and not often in history

do we find records of a family at once so gifted and so entirely united.

Though not so remarkable, many will think, as the astonishing command

of language which was acquired so early; he had together with that, a

noteworthy taste for drawing, and it was “always understood in his family

that he would be an artist when he grew up.”
“Towards the end of 1841 at the age of thirteen years and some

months, he left King's College School for Sass's Academy, a class for

drawing conducted by Mr. F. S. Cary, a son as it happened of the trans-

lator of Dante.” After spending some four years with Cary he obtained

admission, July 1846, to the Antique School of the Royal Academy,

remaining about two years, at the end of which time Rossetti according

to Mr. Stephens, who writes with a teacher's knowledge, was “notably

weak in anatomy, and without any scientific knowledge of perspective.”

This may seem “sad and bad ” to the lover of orderly progress in study,

but Rossetti, already a poet, could hardly have given his whole mind to

the routine work of the school, and it seems pretty certain that neither

the Girlhood of Mary Virgin , nor Ecce Ancilla Domini , would have been

painted at that particular time if he had been kept toiling at what passes

for Art with the many who had none of his genius for it. He seems to

have left the Academy thinking it time he had other teachers, and to

that end approached Madox Brown whose work he admired immensely,

but when it appeared that his task-work under that master was only to

be what he was tired of, he became irregular in his attendance, and

presently gave it up. There never were men more unlike than these two,

for we see in the elder the master of an unmistakably English, as well

as a strangely unpoetical Art, and in Rossetti the utter reverse of all

that: an artist whose gift to his lovers was the flower of a southern clime.

It ought never to be forgotten though that Brown was a splendid friend,

and the most steadfast he ever had. Nor does it follow that his influence

was not very great, for the impressions of youth are the strongest, and what

Rossetti had looked for in vain he saw in his new friend's work.
After only a few months with Madox Brown, he began to share a

studio with Holman Hunt. So ended the painter's pupilage, and we have

the record of more thas thirty years work in the accompanying illustrations.

In the pen drawings of Goethe's Gretchen, and Coleridge's Genevieve,
page: x
both of the year 1848, there is evidence of Flaxman's influence; also,

most probably Retzsch's whose illustrations of Faust were famous.

Towards the end of 1849, accompanied by Holman Hunt, he visited

Paris and Belgium, and in the Laboratory, a water-colour painted soon

after his return, Mr. Marillier notices not only the influence of Madox

Brown in the drawing, but in the brilliant and striking colour, that of the

Italian and Flemish painters whose works he had studied lately.
It would be as well to pause at this point to consider what manner

of youth it was who at the age of twenty years only, was to achieve

immortality with Ecce Ancilla Domini .
His activity in literature had up to that time been something astonish-

ing, says his biographer, for, apart from his other poems, his book of

translations from the Italian poets,
though not published until 1861, was

actually written between 1845 and 1859. Though we have had from the

author of Euphorion her remarkable study of Mediæval Love, and are being

told what to deduct on the score of conceit from the sonnets in imitation of

the Italian which were as the sands of the sea without number in the

“spacious days” which gave birth to them, the knowledge of Italy's genius,

which would help to the understanding of the poet we had in Rossetti, is

not by any means common, and failing that it may seem a pity that so

much should be written about him. Suffice it for the moment to say that

only by devoting his youth to the poets of his own country did he discover

in English the music we have in his verse, and all of a sudden appeared as

the master of what must have seemed a new instrument; striking no un-

certain note on it either, nor mistaking his power of bringing his Heaven

so near as it seems to the reader of the imperishable Sonnet in which we

are told what he saw in the Virgin Mary
. The world must then have

seemed young to Rossetti, with only one mystery in it.
Though actually it is impossible to think of this painter apart from the

poet, the business of the present moment is with his pictures chiefly, and

what remains of my space has to be devoted to the illustrations. After

the point we have reached, the appearance of Ruskin as the champion

of the Pre-Raphaelites is the most important event to be noticed. Ros-

setti's undoubtedly was the inspiring force of this movement, but actually

there is not a painting of his so characteristic of it* as some of Millais's

were; and Madox Brown's, and Holman Hunt's. In the Girlhood of

Mary Virgin
there is all the sincerity that could be desired, and all

the devotion to Nature, but these are virtues to be sought after, rather

than idiosyncracies to be avoided, and the painter of Ecce Ancilla Domini

had really as much in common with our impressionists as, with the men

of the set, he was in. No painting of the same subject has ever made

a profounder impression; and no writer, excepting the painter himself,

has ever done justice to it. So it remains the “world's choice” among

paintings treating of that subject; yet Rossetti's by all accounts was

rather the poet's religion than that of any particular church, and though
Transcribed Footnote (page x):

* Captain Ruxton of New York to W. M. Rossetti.

page: xi
his fame as a painter brought him orders for ecclesiastical work, the

amount he actually did was not great.
The Girlhood of Mary Virgin brought £80 to the painter at once,

whereas the Annunciation, that “Blessed white daub,” as he called it,

remained unsold for the next three years, during which he had hoped

to be earning. So painting in oil was given up for some time, and subjects

for somewhat more popular pictures had to be sought far and wide.

Rossetti's had to be poetical subjects though, since he cared for so little

else, and Dante, Boccaccio, Malory, Tennyson, Browning and others have

had something to thank him for. Nor was Shakespeare entirely neglected,

and that his mind at that time was simply packed full of ideas for pictures

there remains very ample proof.
“The statement could be easily verified,” says Mr. Marillier, “that

many, if not most, of Rossetti's later pictures were planned during these

early strenuous years of his life. No one will ever know what piles of

unused studies and drawings were destroyed in the periodical excavations

of his studio, or during his frequent removals; and a visitor of about this

time, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, has recorded his amazement at the number

which littered the floor, and every available corner.”
Thus with ideas enough to last him his life-time, we see him started

as a professional painter, and it will be convenient to divide the years

of his active life into decades. Whilst the quality of the original must

necessarily be lost in the reproduction, the design is at any rate there by

means of which we are brought almost as close to the artist on his intel-

lectual side as we should have been by the original, and with illustrations

so arranged as to take us through the stages of his career are not altogether

without guides.
It would be difficult to over-estimate during the first of these periods,

the importance of Ruskin's enthusiastic admiration of the young painter,

for without his solicitous friendship, and very substantial help during

the years of the engagement to Miss Siddall, there might have been hard

times for them both. Next after this in importance, came the meeting

at Oxford over that celebrated work at the Union with Morris and his

confederates. Though it was little he really did, his eloquence fired the

others, and the fact seems to be that what they most wanted in Art, they

actually had in this man with whom it was a living thing. What wonder

that he had Morris's worship, or that of Morris's friend, Burne-Jones?

Fortunately the biography of the latter is at hand to refer to now, and

no one who reads it can doubt the strength of the master's influence,

or fail to be deeply moved.
Since so much of his genius found its fullest expression in colour, there

must necessarily be disappointments where it is lacking, and unqualified

admiration of all here shown is not required of the reader. The object

has been to make the illustrations instructive, and of that they can hardly

fail. Allowance must also be made for the fact that no idea of the scale

of a work can be conveyed by the reproduction, nor can any one tell
page: xii
Note: This page gives the date of Beata Beatrix as 1883. This is probably a misprint for 1863, although the actual date of the painting is 1864.
from illustrations by means of “process” in what medium the painter

worked. I think it as well to say this at once, because Rossetti during

this period was working chiefly in water-colour on drawings of no great

Though associated with the pre-Raphaelites, he produced nothing

so excessively laboured as the most characteristic work of the Brethren.

In the exceptional case of the picture called Found where everything had

to be “life-like,” the task proved altogether too hard, and though

commenced in 1853, it was still in hand when he died. What we have to

look for then in the work of these few years is not the pre-Raphaelitism

which he had preached, but rather the indications of genius which,

though often obscured by the subject-matter, are never entirely lost.
Borgia , 1851. Water-colour. (The reproduction is from a replica.) For

a painter so young perhaps too much is attempted. Two sweetly pretty

figures in a not very attractive group are those of the little dancers ; note the

face and pose of the boy, recalling the Primitives in their naiveté, though

otherwise modern entirely. The light that comes from his favourite window

is enough to give an idea of what the Borgia's attractions were, and his fond-

ness of gorgeous attire in women may account for his choice of this

Carlisle Wall , 1853. Water-colour. In this the “elimination of the

immaterial” was carried as far as any two lovers could wish, and the

painter was fortunate in having a subject belonging to no particular time

or place.
King Arthur's Tomb , 1854. Water-colour. The mannerism which

is remarkable in this little drawing may be attributed partly to the Pan-

Anglican Medævalism of a particular period, and like most of the work

that bears witness to the seriousness of that obsession, appears to be

anything but true to the life—either that which was lived of old, or ours

of the present day. Rossetti was led out of his course sometimes, but took

one of the “seven lamps” with him, and carried it into dark places.

Since it illustrates Malory also, the drawing of Tristam and Iseult , though

of much later date (1867) may as well be compared with the other. The

painting here reproduced is a copy in water-colour of a cartoon for stained

glass which was done for Morris's Firm, 1862.
Excepting the artist's daring there is nothing very remarkable in the

first of these three paintings, for again he attempts too much. In Paolo

and Francesca
he had a far more congenial subject than he had found in

Dante before, and it shows in other respects an advance on the work of

the previous years. He had learned amongst other things to concentrate

the spectator's attention on the main object, and this in his latter work

is what he most constantly aimed at. So the objective in this painting

is “Love,” and in Beata Beatrix , as he portrayed her, “Grief.” It was

towards the realisation by means of his Art of these and other ideals
page: xiii
that he was tending throughout his life, and this is the clue we should

The years we are in were ones of amazing fertility. Drawings of very

great beauty were Dante's Vision of Ruth and Leah , 1855, and his design

for the Frontispiece
of Wm. Allingham's “Day and Night Songs,” wherein

Rossetti made his first appearance as a book illustrator. The original

of the great picture Dante's Dream , was made in the following

year, 1856. In 1857 came what another writer describes as a “charming

little series of water-colours,” purchased by Morris, of which the Blue

, being the loveliest, has attracted the most attention.
Other important undertakings of the same period (1856-1860) were

the illustrations to Moxon's Tennyson, and the Reredos for Llandaff

Cathedral, wherein The Seed of David is represented. There is proof in

the “Tennyson” that his genius was as much at home on the page of

a poet's book as elsewhere in the field of Art, while in the Nativity we see

for the first time the face of the lady who inspired so much of his later

work. So Mr. Marillier says very truly that Rossetti's connection with

Oxford where they had met “did not end with the Union paintings.”

As to the suggestion that he painted but one type of face thereafter, it

must be taken for what it is worth. Mr. William Rossetti has given us

a nearly complete list of his brother's models, and we shall make their

acquaintance here.
The Meeting of Dante with Beatrice in Florence and Palestine , 1859.

Two panels in oils painted in Red Lion Square for Morris's house at

Upton. Something that seems to have escaped notice is the likeness

of Beatrice in Florence to Mary at the House of Simon , which belongs

to the previous year. (Both from the same model clearly, and of both

faces the three-quarter view.) Though completed during this year,

it is known that he had had the latter in hand since 1853, and

after allowing for the painter's own strength, there remains a good

deal of a remarkable work to be attributed to the influence of Madox

Brown, and to what he had noticed most in the practice of that painter's

A letter he wrote to Wm. Bell Scott towards the close of that period

may or may not refer to Bocca Baciata , a painting in oils of that time,

but since a very marked change will be noticed in his painting from

that time forward, is of quite sufficient importance to be quoted at

length :
November 13, 1859.

I have painted a figure in oils, in doing which I have made an effort

to avoid what I know to be a besetting sin of mine, and indeed rather

common to painting—that of stippling on the flesh. I have succeeded

in quite keeping the niggling process at a distance this time, and am very

desirous when I can find leisure and opportunity, of painting various

figures of this kind chiefly as studies of rapid flesh painting. I am sure
page: xiv
that among the many botherations of a picture where design, drawing,

expression, and colour have to be thought of all at once . . . one can

never do justice to what faculty of mere painting may be in one. Even

among the old good painters, their portraits and simpler pictures are

nearly always their masterpieces for colour and execution, and I fancy

if one kept this in view one would have a better chance of learning to paint

at last
I have purposely underscored the words which bear witness, to Ros-

setti's knowledge of his own failings, for it ought to be generally known

that he was at all times aware of them. As a youth he had that prodigy

Millais at his right hand to make him despair of being his equal; but

Millais at the same time had the painter of Ecce Ancilla Domini with

In the above-quoted letter to Scott we see very clearly on what the

mind of the painter was bent, but it does not appear that he had any idea

at that time of practising one kind of painting only. It will also be noticed

that he proposed to make “studies chiefly,” but neither the leisure nor

the opportunity came with the desire to have them; consequently, not

all at once do we notice this change, and though paintings of the kind

he had promised became more frequent, he was still producing beautiful

work along the same lines as before, and some of the best must be

To commence with the year 1861, Rossetti is credited by Morris's

biographer with the idea of starting the business now so very well known

under the name of Morris and Co. If it be true that he originated this

as well as the earlier movement of the pre-Raphaelites, the amount of

work the world owes to Rossetti's inspiring force must be very much

greater than that which he completed himself, and in the reckoning

which is to come it will have to be duly considered. For the evidence

of his association with that adventure the catalogues showing what he

accomplished during 1861 and the following year should be consulted.
King René's Honeymoon . The panel devoted to Music in the Gothic

Cabinet executed by Morris and Co. for Mr. Seddon. In this admired

little painting there is amusement for the spectator in the attitude of the

lady performer whilst being kissed by her lord and master.
A notable event was the appearance (1861) of Rossetti's “ Early Italian

,” and a beautiful title-page designed for that volume remains. The

artist always had stores of previous studies at hand, and the idea in this

case was taken, from the panel called Love's Greeting , which had been

painted in Red Lion Square.
As if in fulfilment of his promise to make studies in oils from single

figures his business so far as he could, came Burd Alane ,* Fair Rosamund ,

Regina Cordium , and others, in none of which are we as yet amongst the

ideals of a later day.
Transcribed Footnote (page xiv):

*The Ballad of Burd Helen. or Childe Waters.

page: xv
The following year (1862), is represented by a reproduction of

Rossetti's Joan of Arc , a painting deservedly popular, and for reasons not

far to seek. The act of kissing the Sword of Deliverance is being per-

formed by a woman who with our modern apprehension of Death, has

yet the determination to face it which has won battles time out of mind.

All he had ever preached of sincerity was put into practice here, and its

having been painted in the year of his wife's death may account for the

depth of the feeling in it.
We shall presently come upon paintings appealing more directly

to the lovers of “Art for Art's sake ” than to the generality, but before

reaching that point the Beata Beatrix , the Lady Lilith , the Beloved , and

other works of the second period will have to be noticed (1861-1866).

Of the first it would be hard to say much, and Rossetti's own words are

the best : “while the bird, a messenger of Death, drops the poppy between

her hands, she through her shut lids is conscious of a new world; gazing

continually on His countenance qui est per omnium sæcula benedictus.”
“What Rossetti thought and felt about this picture himself we may

gather from the fact that, for some years he refused to send out any replica

of it even when replicas had become a regular and lucrative branch of

business to the detriment of his better Art.”
There is nothing so good in times of distress as hard work, and Rossetti

was not at all idle that year. To see what else he accomplished we have

to descend from the spiritual plane to the one below that upon which more

ordinary subjects abound, but chiefly we have to remember that we had

in that year his Beatrix : a painting like nothing which had preceded it,

nor like anything yet to come. In ordinary life a man, even such as

Rossetti was, may repeat himself many times, but not when he has already

surpassed himself, as we say. So though there were other Annunciations ,

the like of Ecce Ancilla Domini was not to be seen again, and so once

and for all in Beata Beatrix he painted the visitation of Death to his

Lady Lilith , 1863. The subject has been objected to on the ground

that the like of her is not in nature, but is not the type preserved in what

is commonly called “the dangerous woman,” and preserved for all time

in this subtly wonderful painting? Rossetti was wont to describe it as

a “Toilet Piece,” and his having called her Lady Lilith rather than Lilith

only makes it even pretty clear that he had in his mind's eye some modern

descendant of hers. Let that be compared with the Venus Verticordia of

the same year. If ever any one was, she is pure, designed simply to

look Life in the face and be glad; counting Love as but one of God's

gifts when it comes. As usual with Rossetti's works there are different

versions of it to choose from, but none so much to my liking as the one I

have in my mind.
The paintings which followed from 1863 onwards, were mostly of beauty

in the reality as it was shown him by sitters and models. Belcolore,

Brimfull , A Lady in Yellow, &c. “Rossetti about this time ceased
page: xvi
painting the head only and began to devote himself to larger single figure

subjects,” one of the earliest of which was his Lilith , which, with Venus

, were the principal paintings in oils of that year. By means

of such pictures as these, and one as lovely as any, Il Ramoscella , the way

was prepared for The Beloved , which is usually considered the finest

production of Rossetti's life and art. Nor should it be otherwise consider-

ing he was then in the prime of life. “Surrounded by her maidens she

advances to meet the bridegroom, and at his approach she unveils her

face, which for radiant beauty and purity is almost without parallel

in the annals of pictorial art. Rich and splendid in colour beyond all

description is the bride's gorgeous robe which is a wonderful Rossettian

green, embroidered with red and gold.” The Virgins that be her fellows

shall bear her company
, as the Song says.
In Joli Cœur , one of the “Beloved's” attendants can hardly fail to be

recognised, and another, I think, in the Loving Cup . The painter in these

works of his prime was absolute master of his resources such as they

were. His feeling for pure brush drawing found expression amongst these

fair women in their contours, and particularly where it is loveliest, in

the line of the lids, and the lips and the hands.
Rosa Triplex , 1869. There are several versions of Rosa Triplex

extant in his crayon drawings, but none of more beauty than this, and

Rossetti has given a finish to it to which I wish to draw attention particu-

larly. In the first place the linking of the three figures has been effected

with marvellous art ; and secondly, do we not see in the loveliness of

their attire, and its ornamentation by strings of pearls, the work of an

artist who could not have been kept from adding beauty to beauty while

Nature was calling to him ? Not by preaching as others had, but by paint-

ing as no one had, he anticipated nearly every manifestation of that most

welcome reunion of Art and Craft which has been the happy result of

so much united action in that direction.
The most photographic picture we have of his home during this second

period, his manner of living, his collections, and his menagerie, and of the

entertainment he gave his friends is in a booklet of “Reminiscences” by

Mr. Treffry Dunn who succeeded a previous assistant, Mr. Knewstub :

“It will be apparent to the readers of this narrative.” says Mr. Wm.

, “that in the years which it covers, Mr. Dunn saw as much of

Dante Rossetti as any other person did—he witnessed his comings-in, and

goings-out ; was highly familiar with his methods of work as a painter, and

did a good deal towards keeping things straight in an establishment where

the master's rather thriftless and negligent habits in household affairs

might easily have made them crooked.” Mr. Dunn's account is in the

main of the years which saw Rossetti in the zenith of his career.
In 1867 came the first intimation he had that his constitution would

not stand the strain that was put upon it by his persistent neglect of the

means by which the most of us contrive to keep what passes for health

in London.
page: xvii
Sig. b
  • “The poet could not sleep aright,
  • For his soul kept up too much light
  • Under his eyelids for the night.”
The lines are by Mrs. Browning, and seem as if they had been written

to meet every such case as Rossetti's. Probably insomnia was the first

cause of his trouble, though at the same time there was the utmost anxiety

about his eyesight ; then came the first really serious illness, and though

there were paintings of no less importance to come than that of Dante's

, the whole series of his idealisations of Mrs. Morris, and most

beautiful of all, Veronica Veronese , in too much of his later work there is

evidence not to be wondered at of exhaustion of motive and strength

which some will detect in the painting, others in the comparative weakness

of the conception, and others perhaps in both.
Mr. Colvin, writing in 1883, had the advantage of having very recently

seen these pictures, and his opinion of Rossetti's painting from 1870

onwards was that it could not be compared with advantage with the work

of the previous years ; nor did he make the exceptions in favour of certain

pictures which others are still inclined to, but his contention was sound

in the main. Omitting for want of space his review of the latest years,

I think I cannot do better than quote what he said in praise :
“Beginning, after a few earlier essays like the Bocca Baciata with

the Beata Beatrix , and the Aurelia (both of the year 1863) the productions

of this class and period include certainly all that is most technically

accomplished, if not what is most strikingly interesting and suggestive in

Rossetti's work as a painter. He, by degrees, acquired breadth and ease

and a real mastery in the design of these single female figures and heads.

Certain qualities of oil painting he mastered with entire success. Depth

of tone and chiaroscuro he as yet did not seek, but he attacked and

vanquished the most daring problems of colour in equal and diffused light.

For the combination of keen and flashing intensity with mystery and

delightfulness of quality, his paintings of tissues and jewels and flowers at

this period stands, it is no extravagance to say, alone in Art. Witness the

cornflowers and passion-flowers, the hawthorn tiles and green robes, and

amethyst and ruby and turquoise enamelled jewellery of the Blue Bower

—or the roses and honey-suckle and butterflies of the Venus Verticordia.”

( Magazine of Art, 1883.)
The first meeting with Mrs. Morris, then Miss Burden, was in 1857,

and one of the earliest drawings of her is the Study for Queen Guenevere of

the same date as the design for the Oxford Union called Launcelot Escap-

ing from Guenevere's Chamber
. In the Nativity painted for Llandaff,

is not only the most beautiful portrait of her, but as beautiful a represen-

tation of the Virgin Mother as any we have in Art. From intimacy and

subsequent residence with Morris resulted many more drawings and

paintings. The one here reproduced of the year 1858 was, as Mr. Marillier
page: xviii
says, “the precursor of the long series of canvases by which he has

become best known to the public,” and is at present in the Tate Gallery

with Ecce Ancilla Domini, and the Beata Beatrix. In the Mariana ,

1870, she reappears, but what should be particularly noticed in the re-

production is the sweet face of the boy page with his song :

“Take, oh ! take those lips away . . . .”
The possessors of Mr. Marillier's book will do well to compare the illus-

tration he gives of Dante's Dream from the water-colour of 1856 with that

of the great oil painting now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1870-

1871. The opportunity of instituting the comparison should be seized

upon, since it is offered, but the later painting remains beyond doubt the

greater, not only in scale, and whatever its failings may be, is silencing

in its effect on the witnesses of the last act in this tragedy.
Veronica Veronese, 1872. The Blessed Damosel , 1877. It can hardly

be necessary to call attention to the splendidly decorative qualities of

most of the paintings of these last years, but while others have little else

in them, we have all that in this painting, and a great deal more besides.

That he gave us nothing more purely beautiful than the Veronica is an

opinion which gains in strength, for there is poetry in the idea of flooding

the canvas with song : a lady while listening to the sweet notes of a bird

tries to strike them on the violin. Since we see in this picture the model

for the Blessed Damosel , it may seem a pity that all the spiritual loveliness

of the Veronica was not bestowed on the damsel as well. The painting

was nobly planned however, and it would be hard to find fault with Ros-

setti's representation of the Damosel as a humanly beautiful creature

with the yearning for earth in her heart that is so finely expressed in the

poem. When the last word has been said about the painting and all it

means, will not somebody venture to say how well it would look in

La Bella Mano , 1875. To come at this date upon such pure studies

and paintings from Nature as we have in the sweet face of the child who

is holding the bracelet up, and in the beautiful face of the Magdalene

(1876) is very refreshing indeed. Either because others seem to deserve

it better than others, or because the allowance of space has been exceeded

already, some of these illustrations must pass without notice at present.

Dr. Richard Garnett has said of Rossetti truly: “that many departments

of human activity had no interest for him,” and that being so, a correspond-

ing limitation of intellectual range in his art is to be expected of course.

A poet among painters, mostly of the commonplace, he should never have

lowered himself to their level only to imitate what they did better, but

fortunately he did that seldom, and because the ‘Subject’ was every-

thing then. In none of his character paintings is there a gleam of the

genuine humour which he actually had in great measure; not that which

has given the painter of Uncle Toby and Widow Wadman his place among
page: xix
the immortals, nor for paintings like Washing Hands could he be given a

place on the ground which painters like Orchardson hold. Rossetti's

admiration of Hogarth and Morland shows how thorough was his

appreciation of the technique of those masters, and that he well understood

the Englishman's feeling for them. He it was who said to Watts-Dunton

that “Millais's executive power was paralysing to look upon,” but whose

“hand and soul” moved in a sphere which none of those masters entered,

and only because it has been overpraised do I care to notice the work which

he did on the lower plane.
Though he could not have known that nothing was wanted so much,

nor that it would shortly become his main business, he had decided, as we

have seen, to fill his gallery with paintings of women chiefly, and putting

the question of health aside, it seems to be pretty certain that his talent

would have run to seed among the ideals of his latter days. It does

happen to be the fact that his life was shortened by his constant recourse

to chloral, but he was already committed in Art to the pursuit of a narrow

course, and it does not seem that his mind was very gravely affected

by it, for he could write in this wise to his old friend Madox Brown

about the habit he had acquired: “the fact is that a man in my

case must either do as I do or cease from necessary occupation which

cannot be pursued in the day when the night is robbed of its rest.”

Anxiety about his eyesight had reminded him that after all he was a poet,

and may be held to account for his having consented, though with the

utmost reluctance, to the exhumation (in 1869) of the manuscript which

he had laid by his wife when she died.
When he returned to the composition of verse it was with unabated

powers, and tlere is truth in what the friend of his last years has said :

“In style the most direct and masculine of his poetic work is his very

latest, as will be found by referring to the volume of ‘ Ballads and

, 1881; ’ ” and no less convincing than that is the evidence of his

latest letters to the members of his own family to whom he seemed ever

the same.
Whatever the cause of it was, the leave-taking at Kelmscott must have

greatly increased his loneliness, and no less unfortunate probably was

the breaking up of the Firm to which he had belonged from the first,

for nothing could have been better for him at that time than to seek rest

in design.
It would be hard to imagine a life more happily started, or to find

any one moving in such a circle as his, yet Rossetti, alternately worshipped

and worshipping, was the sort of man who must have congenial spirits

about him or none, feeling it better to be alone than to converse with

the common sort ; and during his busiest years, those which followed

the death of his wife, must have found company almost as much to

his liking in the various things he collected as in most of the people

about him.
page: xx
In the letter which has been quoted he said, “he would have a better

chance of learning to paint at last if he kept but one object in view.”

Thus did this more exclusive devotion to Art help to intensify that

personal loneliness the feeling of which was deepened (can any one

doubt it) immensely by the irreparable loss of the one in whom he saw

Beatrice :—on Earth as Dante had seen her, and in Heaven again and

page: 1 [recto]

The Girlhood of Mary the Virgin


page: [1 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 2 [recto]

Ecce Ancilla Domini


page: [2 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 3 [recto]

The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice


page: [3 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 4 [recto]

Carlisle Wall (The Lovers)

CARLISLE TOWER [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [4 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 5 [recto]

The Writing on the Sand


page: [5 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 6 [recto]


FOUND [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [6 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 7 [recto]

King Arthur's Tomb

KING ARTHUR'S TOMB [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [7 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 8 [recto]

The Gate of Memory

THE GATE OF MEMORY [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [8 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 9 [recto]

The Bower Garden

THE BOWER GARDEN [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [9 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 10 [recto]

Head of Christ

HEAD OF CHRIST [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [10 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 11 [recto]

The Salutation of Beatrice


page: [11 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 12 [recto]

The Salutation of Beatrice


page: [12 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 13 [recto]

The Seed of David

[ Photo, Hollyer




page: [13 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 14 [recto]

The Seed of David

[ Photo, Hollyer



page: [14 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 15 [recto]

The Seed of David

[ Photo, Hollyer




page: [15 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 16 [recto]

Love's Greeting

LOVES GREETING [ Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [16 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 17 [recto]

Francesca da Rimini


page: [17 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 18 [recto]

Burd Alane

BURD ALANE [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [18 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 19 [recto]

King Rene's Honeymoon


page: [19 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 20 [recto]

The Story of St. George and the Dragon: the Princess Sabra Drawing the Lot


page: [20 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 21 [recto]

Paolo and Francesca


page: [21 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 22 [recto]

Fair Rosamond

FAIR ROSAMOND [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [22 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 23 [recto]

Joan of Arc

JOAN OF ARC [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [23 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 24 [recto]

Beata Beatrix

BEATA BEATRIX [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [24 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 25 [recto]


BORGIA FAMILY [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [25 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 26 [recto]

Lady Lilith

LADY LILITH [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [27 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 27 [recto]

Washing Hands

WASHING HANDS [ Photo, Mansell

page: [27 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 28 [recto]
Note: Although Radford does not mention it in the preface, the photograph here reproduced is of an early (ca. 1873) state of the picture. Rossetti later added details such as a necklace and ring adorning the bride, roses in the child's vase, and stems of flowers in the hands of the attendants.

The Bride

THE BELOVED [ Photo, Mansell

page: [28 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 29 [recto]

Joli Coeur

JOLI CŒUR [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [29 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 30 [recto]

Monna Rosa

MONNA ROSA [ Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [30 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 31 [recto]

The Loving Cup


page: [31 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 32 [recto]

Sir Tristram and La Belle Yseult Drinking the Love Potion


page: [32 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 33 [recto]

Mrs. William Morris


page: [33 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 34 [recto]

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice

DANTE'S DREAM [ Reproduced by permission from the original painting in the possession of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

page: [34 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 35 [recto]

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice


page: [35 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 36 [recto]

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice


page: [36 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 37 [recto]

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice


page: [37 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 38 [recto]

Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice


page: [38 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 39 [recto]

How They Met Themselves


page: [39 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 40 [recto]

Lucretia Borgia


page: [40 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 41 [recto]

Veronica Veronese

VERONICA VERONESE Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [41 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 42 [recto]


PROSERPINE Photo, Hollyer

page: [42 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 43 [recto]

A Roman Widow

A ROMAN WIDOW Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [43 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 44 [recto]

Rosa Triplex

ROSA TRIPLEX [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [44 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 45 [recto]

Sancta Lilias


page: [45 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 46 [recto]

La Bella Mano

LA BELLA MANO [ Photo, Dixon


page: [46 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 47 [recto]

The Blessed Damozel

THE BLESSED DAMOZEL [ Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [47 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 48 [recto]

The Blessed Damozel


page: [48 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 49 [recto]

The Blessed Damozel


page: [49 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 50 [recto]


THE LAMP OF MEMORY [ Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [50 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 51 [recto]

Astarte Syriaca

ASTARTE SYRIACA [ Photo, Hollyer

page: [51 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 52 [recto]

The Sea Spell


page: [52 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 53 [recto]

La Donna Della Finestra


page: [53 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 54 [recto]

The Question

THE SPHINX [ Photo, Mansell

page: [54 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 55 [recto]

The Day Dream

THE DAY DREAM [ Photo, Newnes

page: [55 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: 56 [recto]

La Pia

LA PIA [ Photo, Caswall Smith

page: [56 verso]
Note: Blank page.
page: [57 recto]






Electronic Archive Edition: 1