Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Letter to William Allingham, August 1854, manuscript
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1854 August 1?
Type of Manuscript: letter
Scribe: DGR

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

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Tuesday. Aug. 54. Blackfriars
Dear Allingham
I have got out my work this morning, but it looks so hopelessly beastly, and I feel so hopelessly beastly, that I must try to revive myself before beginning, by some exercise that goes quicker than the Fine Arts. So I'll e'en begin my answer to your last, wishing heartily that instead of writing to you I could have you here this glorious morning, that I might take a run with you somewhere & try to feel a little lively.
Two or three fellows were here last night, & among them Cayley, to whom I notified the call for my MSS translations. I'll get them either to–day or to-morrow & send them to you — I suppose by post, as I know of no other way. You will receive only those which have been copied by William, as my own first
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drafts are in a hopeless limbo of scrawl. W. has put no names of authors to them, on account of the necessity of classing them when all copied and only putting the name to the first production of each poet.
Of the two ballads you sent me I prefer the one I knew already and which is one of the very few really fine things of the kind written in our day. The other has many beauties though—indeed is all beautiful except I think the last couplet which seems a trifle too homely,—a little in the broadsheet–song style. The subject you propose for my woodcut from it is a first rate one & I have already made some scratches for its arrangement. I have got one of the blocks from Hughes, & hope soon to tell you it is done. What a pity they will not let the blocks be a little larger. Is not the “Maids of Elfen Mere” founded on some Northern legend or other? I
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seem to have read something about it in Keightley or somewhere. Tell me whether I shall send you back the copy of it you sent, and the one of S. Margaret's Eve.
I don't bully the last lines of your ballad, by the bye, because you didn't like the last lines of my sonnet, which are certainly foggy. Would they be better thus:
  • “So in that soul—a mindful brotherhood,—
  • (When silence may not be) they wind among
  • The Its bye–streets, knocking at the dusty inns.”
or I should like better
  • “they fare along
  • Its high street, knocking” &c
But fear the rhyme long & along is hardly admissable. What say you or can you propose any other improvement?
I've referred to my note–book for the above alteration, & therein are various sonnets & beginnings of sonnets written at crisises (?!) of happy inspiration. Here's one which I remember writing in great glory on the top of a hill which I reached one [?] sunset in Warwickshire last year. I'm afraid
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though it isn't much good.
  • This feast-day of the sun, his altar there
  • In the broad west has blazed for vespersong,
  • And I have loitered in the vale too long,
  • And gaze now, a belated worshipper.
  • Yet may I not forget that I was 'ware,
  • So journeying, of his face at intervals,—
  • Where the whole land to its horizon falls,
  • Some fiery bush with corruscating hair.
  • And now that I have climbed & tread this height,
  • 10 I may lie down where all the slope is shade,
  • And cover up my face, & have till night,
  • With silence, darkness; or may here be stayed
  • And see the gold air & the silver fade,
  • And the last bird fly into the last light.
It strikes me in copying, what a good thing I did not adopt the first alternative, or I mightn't be here to copy. Here's a rather better sonnet, I hope, written only two or three days ago. I believe the affection in the last half was rather “looked up” at the time of writing, to suit the parallel in the first. Do you not always like your last thing the best for a little while?
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  • Have you not noted, in some family
  • Where two remain from the first marriage bed,
  • How still they own their fragrant bond, though fed
  • And nurst upon an unknown breast & knee:
  • That to their father's children they shall be
  • In act and thought of one goodwill; but each
  • Shall for the other have, in silence speech,
  • And in one word, complete community?
  • Even so, when first I saw you, seemed it, love,
  • 10 That among souls allied to mine was yet
  • One nearer kindred than I wotted of.
  • O born with me somewhere that men forget;
  • And though in years of sight & sound unmet,
  • Known for my life's own sister well enough.
What you say about my printing & your reviewing &c. is very kind & may be very true; but the fact is I think well of very little I have written, & am afraid of people agreeing with me which I should find a bore. I believe my poetry & painting prevented each other from doing much good for a long while — & now I think I could do better in either, but can't write for then I shant paint. However
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one day I hope at least to finish the few rhymes I have by me that I care for at all, & then there they'll be at any rate. Your plan of a joint volume among us of poems & pictures is a capital one — and how many capital plans we have!
I've got the Folio here. It contains a design by Millais, of the “Recall of the Romans from Britain” — one by Stephens of “Death & the Rioters” — one by Barbara S[mith] – a glen scene — and one by A. M. H[owitt] called the “Castaways” which is a rather strong minded subject, involving a dejected female, mud with lilies lying in it, a dust–heap & other details; and symbolical of something improper. Of course, seriously, Miss H. is quite right in painting it if she chooses, & she is doing so. I dare say it will be a good picture. William, Christina & I were there lately. The Howitts asked me for your address as they wanted to write to you.
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I don't know what design I shall put into the Folio. I'm doing one of Hamlet & Ophelia which I meant for it — deeply symbolic & farsighted, of course — but I fear I shall not get it done in time to start the Folio again soon, so may perhaps put in a design I have made of Found. Only certain consequences haunt me, which may be shadowed forth in a rapid dramatic action—
Miching Mallecho—it means mischief.
Scene 1 (Aug. 1854)

Robert St. Adelphi.

Michael Halliday Esq. solus
Hal. (writes) “I've got the Folio back at last from that lazy wretch Rossetti. In spite of your prophecy, he really has put in a design. The subject is “—(Halliday promises to describe subject & design at length:— then goes on)—“I hope you'll be back as you promise, this day week, & that we'll see you at Collins's in the evening. Meanwhile, I am yours sincerely M.H.” (He folds letter and addresses it, “John Everett Millais, Esq. [?] A.R.A., Chatsworth, Derbyshire.”

Scene closes.)
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Scene 2. (Sept. 1854)

Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park.

Charles Collins Esq. Michael Halliday Esq. John Everett

Millais Esq. A.R.A. P.R.B., &c.

Mil. Ah Halliday, how [?] about that design of Gabriel's.

Hal. What's [?]?
Mil. Why, that he should have got the same subject that I'm going to paint. Did I show you my sketch for it? O didn't I?
Hal. No. That is odd.
Mil. Ah, you Collins, it was you that knew it, just before I went into the country.
Col. Let's see — I don't remember — at least I'm not sure — I don't know —
Mil. Well, if you don't know, what's the use of your talking about it? What's the good of your sitting in the corner of that sofa with all your clothes on, if you've nothing to say? Stupid little fellow — you're as bad as my mother. Go and get me one of your pocket handkerchieves and wake up. (Exit Collins) And
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I say, just tell your mother to get tea.
Enter Frederick George Stephens Esq PRB
Steph. (shakes hands with Millais) How are you old fellow? Looking stunning. Where's Collins?
Mil. O he's gone out. I'm very glad to see you, old boy. What are you doing?
Steph. (shakes hands with Halliday) How are you old fellow? ( to Millais) Design.
Mil. Going to paint it?
Steph. Yes.
( a pause)
Mil. Going to put your design in the Folio?
Steph. Put one in.
Mil. What is it?
Steph. “Death and the Riotours” from Chaucer.
Mil. O of course, I remember you beginning that when I painted “Isabella.”
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Steph. Yes.
( a pause.)
Steph. Ah! Have you seen Gabriel's design in the Folio. Stunning!
Mil. No, but Halliday told me. We were talking about that. Ah, it was you Stephens that I showed that design of mine to.
Steph. Which? that in the Folio? Ah Yes! Stunning!
Mil. No – one I did some time ago like Gabriel's, about a woman and a market gardener—finding her in the street.
Steph. O. No. Ah O. Let's see though. Wasn't it one that wasn't mounted yet?
Mil. Yes, that was it.
( Reenter Collins with handkerchief ).
Steph. O Yes, I remember. Stunning. (to Collins) How are you, old fellow?
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Col. (shakes hands with Stephens) How are you?
Mil. There, Collins, Stephens remembers that design of mine. ( Takes handkerchief from Col. ) Ask him—don't you, Stephens? There, go & Steph. Yes. sit down again. When's that tea coming?
Col. Soon I hope.
Hal. Are you going to paint that design of yours then?
Mil. Yes, I've got the canvas. My brother couldn't come to–night because he's drawing the perspective for me.
Hal. It'll be a bore for Rossetti.
Steph. Ah! Sorry for old Gabriel.
Mil. Lord bless you, he'd never have painted it you know. You know him. Is he coming here tonight, Collins? Ah! he always keeps out of my way. I'll tell you who saw my design & said it was the finest thing he
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ever saw in his life. Allingham. Ask him.
Steph. He's gone to Ireland.
Mil. Ah! when's he coming back?
Steph. Don't know.
(a pause.)
Mil. ( to Steph). O my dear fellow, you'll see when I paint this picture, it'll come the loveliest thing you ever saw in your life. [?] I know of a brick wall to paint in it that's perfectly heavenly. ( Goes on to describe brick wall at length .) Ah! you wait till it's finished, Stephens — You'll say it's wonderful I know.
Steph. Stunning, old fellow.
Servant. (entering) If you please, Sir, tea's ready.
( Scene closes)
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Scene 3. (May 1855)

Hepworth. Athenaeum Office.

Hepworth Dixon Esq. solus.

Dix. ( writes) “Our readers will remember that there was one picture in the Royal Academy last year, in reviewing which, while we stated our strong objections without reserve, we did full justice at the same time to the striking originality of the artist's conception. We allude to Mr. Holman Hunt's work entitled The Awakened Conscience. Yesterday, at the private view of this year's exhibition, there was no picture that attracted more notice than one to which the same objections present themselves, but to which also it would be impossible to deny the merit of striking perfect originality in the artist. We speak of Mr. Millais' “ Found.” Our readers know that we are not defenders of the school,
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but it must be universally acknowledged that no living painter except Mr. Hunt and Mr. Millais, could have conceived the subjects of these two powerful works,” &c &c.
( Dix. finishes article, and rings bell. Enter servant . [?])
Dix. Is the boy waiting for copy?
Serv. Yes Sir.
Dix. Give him this.
( Scene closes.)
The End
What say you to my dramatic powers? — not to speak of historical truth, prophetic verve &c.
I'm finishing this late in the day x, & must go out to that meal which combines the sweets of an assignation. I enclose a copy of an extract about Woolner, in case you can make use of it. I'll send you one of Hunt's letters with the M.S.S.
Transcribed Note (page 14):

(x N.B. I've done no good & had better have cut work for the day)

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The other day, looking over papers, I turned up those sheets of Sutton's poetry, about which I remember a slight shrug of shoulders & contraction of eyebrows on your part, under the idea that the Fleet Ditch had engulfed them. I'll enclose them too.
What do you think of Mac Crac having been again in town. I fear he is taking to wild habits. The epithet one eyed in his sonnet had better stand downy, as the other is certainly ambiguous. By the bye, that is a kind accompaniment to his visit & my most cordial reception, isn't it.
I'll keep an eye on all whom I know who have contracted the bad habit of
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picture buying, with a view to their ultimately finding themselves possessed of a Millais or a Boyce, as per instructions.
Write soon & believe me
Yours affectionately,

DG Rossetti
P.S. I hear this Wentworth (the “model” of Woolner's statue) is now in London, & I dare say anything in the papers would meet his eye & do good. Millais & I have done all that could be done about the affair.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: dgr.ltr.0536.rad.xml