Miscellaneous Prose (from Note Books)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848-1881


◦ Baum, ed., Manuscripts in the Duke University Library, 26-37.

◦ Burnett, The Ashley Library, 81-82

Scholarly Commentary


A distinctive feature of DGR's notebooks is the body of prose and poetic “Scraps” and “Sentences and Notes”, as WMR labelled them in his posthumous editions of his brother's work. Sometimes his prose jottings assume a vesified form, sometimes they remain in prose. The latter comprise an interesting body of material, not the least interesting part of which are the critical observations that DGR makes about his contemporary world and himself. Comments on writers and artists, particularly DGR's contempories, come into the notebooks along with brief philosophical reflections of various kinds. Many of the best of these were printed by WMR in his posthumous collected editions: for example, his remarks on the work of Thackeray, Dickens, his sister Christina, Leighton, and so forth. Some were left out, however, including the brilliant description of Swinburne's prose.

The notebooks also show that DGR's quotidian life and his life as an artist/writer merged and blended together. Merchant bills and appointment dates get jotted down along with draft passages for poems, lists of poetical words, ideas for pictures, quotations that he found interesting. (See the commentaries of DGR's Memoranda, Notebook Sketches, and Poetic Scraps.)

Some of the miscellaneous prose descends to us on loose integral sheets—for instance, the studio painting notes (in the Harry Ransom Center at Texas) with directions for mixing portrait tones and for white undercoat. Various collections have loose pages torn away from different notebooks. Two of these collections are especially notable. The Duke University Library has the disjecta membra of what the library describes as four notebooks, but which seem to comprise pieces of perhaps as many as six. Second, the Ashley Library (British Library) has a set of four small notebooks containing a large corpus of draft material and poetical scraps.

These materials are various and widely scattered in the Archive's manuscripts. They can also be located by searching Manuscripts under the term “miscprose”.

Printing History

WMR printed portions of this material in his posthumous editions under different headings. In the first of these, the 1886 edition, they come in at the end of volume I under the title “Sentences and Notes”, a grouping that was kept through the 1911 edition. In addition, however, he added several brief sections for fragmentary materials—he called them “Scraps: Essays written in the interval of lock-jaw &c.”; “Sentences and Notes”; “Scraps: The Press-gang &c.”; “Scraps: There are certain passionate phases &c.”; and “Scraps: Round Tower at Jhansi &c.”;.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: miscprose.raw.xml