Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Letter to William Bell Scott, September 15, 1871
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1871 September 15
Type of Manuscript: letter
Scribe: DGR

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

Dearest W.B.,
I hope I shan't disgust you by saying that I miss the spirited start of Sonnet I in your present version, though of course it elucidates the sense. Moreover the first line now seems of a Browningian ruggedness rather, and suggests a very rutty carriage-road. Also (alas!) I miss the original plan of bringing Burns and ourselves in contact in the last line. This seems a great loss.
Top only stayed a few days here, but is coming back. He has kept a diary in Iceland, but not for publication, and his stories (as far as I have heard) are not so funny as I hoped. The best is to the effect that Faulkner and Magnusson, at one hospitable mansion which they visited, had their breeches deferentially removed by the lady of the house on retiring to refresh themselves and prepare for dinner! Of this national custom they had heard before starting, but it was only actually observed on this occasion. I do not know how Topsy escaped, and he was silent on that point, but I should think most likely the evident imminence of a defensive bootjack flying through the air may have caused his kind hostess to think twice about this time honoured tradition in his case. He seems to have been much the best traveller of the four, though he declares now that he feels no yearning towards a second experience of the same kind. One day he was here, he went for a day's fishing in our punt, the chief result of which was a sketch I inscribed as follows—
  • Enter Poet, moored in a punt,
  • And Jacks and Tenches exeunt.
and this seemed to be the course of events.
My poem [i.e., “Rose Mary”] has not a comic side, Scotus, or at least not an intentional one: indeed it is so consumedly tragic that I have been obliged to modify the intended course of the catastrophe, to avoid an unmanageable heaping up of the agony. I have made a complete prose version beforehand, and so get on with it easily, and shall finish I hope before leaving here. I hope it is a good thing, but there is so much incident that it is necessarily much more of a regular narrative poem than is usual with me, and thus lacks the incisive concentration of such a piece as “Sister Helen.” I have had to make three Parts of it, though the whole will not, I hope now, exceed 150 five-line stanzas. I shall be glad to make it less if possible, as this I think should be the great aim of all poetry which has not absolutely epic proportions, nor should these be undertaken at all if avoidable.
Your suggestion about chiaro-scuro engraving is one I should like to talk over. Two things sent me by Norton from Italy, and which I have stuck on my bedroom wall here, are I think of that class, done some one hundred years ago perhaps. They are from Veronese and Tintoret, painters whom I have got to think simply detestable without their colour and handling. The Veronese is by an engraver named Jackson - the Tintoret I suppose to be Italian. I presume the line part in such work is wood-engraving is it not? This at once calls in a hand not one's own, and I must confess the general effect seems to me wanting in depth and colour, though it might conceivably include both perhaps.
I am delighted to hear of the progress of the Nativity subject, from which I shall expect real results - and surprised to hear that the Burns picture has actually been accomplished. Howell is at Northend I believe, and has actually got his father with him at last I hear! The Tadémas will be lucky if they get the Rainy Day, which however is rather an ominous wedding present. The Portfolio you asked after is not worth sending I think. It contains an article on Mason by Colvin, one on Unprofessional Taste by Laurenny, one on Children in Italian and English Design by Colvin, and one on London Churches by Champneys. If these tempt you I'll send it.
With love to Miss Boyd, of whose work you tell me not, I am
Ever yours,

D. G. R.
P.S. Discontent again! I think the “and” before “lo!” in line 12 Sonnet 2, is wanted. Could it not run:
  • Of stream and hopper's hushed; and lo! this one &c.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: dgr.ltr.0544.rad.xml