Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer
Author: William Michael Rossetti
Date of publication: 1889
Publisher: Cassell & Company, Limited
Printer: Cassell & Company, Limited

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

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti




Figure: Photomechanical reproduction of photograph of DGR by Lewis Carroll. Nearly full-length of DGR seated, facing front, head tilted slightly left. He is wearing an overcoat, and holds the brim of a hat in his bent left arm, which rests on the back of the chair.

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  • As though mine image in the glass
  • Should tarry when myself am gone.



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There would not under any circumstances be any great occasion for saying much by way of Preface to this book, and the occasion becomes all the less through my having put a few introductory remarks to the several sections of the work. The reader will readily perceive that the life-work of Dante Rossetti is here considered in two branches:—(1) his Paintings and Designs, to which the Tabular List of Works of Art serves as an Appendix; and (2) his Writings, supplemented by an Index of Writings, and also by the prose paraphrase of The House of Life . Mine is a book of memoranda and of details; perhaps some readers will prefer to say, “of shreds and patches.” The materials were authoritative and mostly in my own hands, and it may fairly be averred that no one else can have at his command, at the present time, any the like quantity of materials out of which a similar book could be constructed. Such being the case, I have thought it well to turn to account, in the interest of my brother's memory, the matter which lay under my control. As to the use made of it, I will only add that I view with some regret the very frequent mention of prices charged and paid; for the works themselves, and their intellectual, artistic, or personal associations, interest me more than any question of prices, and I should like to consult the taste of readers who regard the affair in the same light:
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but a professional man acts professionally, and prices are not unnaturally debated or recorded in his correspondence, and I reproduce such details as I find, whether on this or on other topics.
Though the present is the only volume which I have yet issued regarding my brother, there are some other minor performances of mine relating to him which it may be excusable here to specify. Since his death in 1882 I have compiled (1883) the Catalogue of his Remaining Works sold at Christie's, and have written (1884) three articles in the Art Journal named Notes on Rossetti and his Works; the Preface and Notes (1886) to the edition of his Collected Works ; and three articles (1888 and 1889) in the Magazine of Art on Portraits of Rossetti. Several details which appear in these various writings might naturally, if not already published there, have found a place in the present volume.
It seems more incumbent upon me to advert to what I have not done in this book than to what I have done. I have not attempted to write a biographical account of my brother, nor to estimate the range or value of his powers and performances in fine art and in literature. I agree with those who think that a brother is not the proper person to undertake work of this sort. An outsider can do it dispassionately, though with imperfect knowledge of the facts; a friend can do it with mastery, and without much undue bias; but a brother, however equitably he may address himself to the task, cannot perform it so as to secure the prompt and cordial assent of his readers. His praise will only pass muster as a brother's praise; and his dispraise, even if extreme and pushed to the point of captiousness, keeps the taint of
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consanguinity. It runs more chance of being censured as unkind than of being frankly accepted as impartial. My decided inclination therefore is not to put myself forward, now or hereafter, as the biographer of my brother; nor as the critic, still less as the direct panegyrist, of his works. I do not even attempt to describe them otherwise than in a very brief and restricted way. In a spirit of intimate knowledge of what he was and what he did, I undertake to present a synopsis of his works in art and in literature, based upon certain materials which my familiarity with the whole subject enables me to amplify and illustrate on occasion. If I had not a deep regard for Dante Rossetti's memory, I should show myself “no more worthy to be called” his brother; but, whatever my own feeling, I leave it to the admirers and students of his career, or if need be to those who regard it with more severity than sympathy, to form their own judgment both of his performances and of this contribution to a more precise acquaintance with them.
W. M. ROSSETTI. London, February 1889.
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ON examining the correspondence of my brother Dante Rossetti—the letters addressed to him, and those which he himself addressed to members of his family, and to his friends Ford Madox Brown and George Rae, along with some drafts of his letters to other persons—I find a considerable mass of details regarding his pictures and designs, and his literary work. The details could hardly be recorded in a more authentic form than in these letters of concurrent date. I propose therefore to throw together, into something approaching to a consecutive narration, the various particulars which I have thus collected—or rather I should say the more salient and substantial particulars out of a miscellaneous multitude. I am aware that it is possible to be entertaining in any performance of this sort, and possible to be “graphic”—and very possible to be neither the one nor the other. My own forte perhaps is not the entertaining nor the graphic; in default of these valuable qualities, I may at least endeavour to compile with care and fulness, and present the results with precision and perspicuity. From personal knowledge and reminiscence I shall be able here and there to eke out a detail, or supply a
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missing link: but in the main I shall not seek to travel beyond the record, nor to enter into subjects, however relevant, which do not appear upon the face of the documents with which I undertake to deal. It should be premised that the bulk of correspondence which my brother left behind him was only a fragment of what had passed through his hands during life; on more occasions than one he must have destroyed the entire stock, with very few exceptions, of letters in his possession: from 1864 onwards, or more especially from about 1871, they remain comparatively copious.
I propose to make one principal division in my treatment of the subject—the division between details concerning pictures and designs, and details concerning poems or other writings; and within each of these sections I shall proceed under headings of the successive years, although every now and then I may continue writing about some particular work irrespectively of the date-intervals. The former section, that of pictures and designs, is much the fuller of the two; as the reader who bears in mind that my brother was professionally a painter, not a man of the literary calling, will be well prepared to expect.
I add here a very few personal particulars, simply as memoranda for guidance and reference. Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, who from 1850 or thereabouts called himself Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was the son of Gabriele Rossetti, a political exile from the Neapolitan kingdom, and of Frances Mary Lavinia (Polidori), an Englishwoman of parentage Italian (Tuscan) on the father's side. He was born in London on 12th May 1828. Gabriele Rossetti was Professor of Italian in King's College, London, and subsisted by teaching his
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language; in letters he was known as a patriotic poet, and as a speculative commentator upon Dante's writings, and upon other kindred branches of literature. Dante Gabriel had an elder sister, Maria Francesca (who died in 1876), and a younger brother and sister, William Michael and Christina Georgina. He was educated in King's College School, which he quitted in or about 1843 to study as a painter, becoming a student in the Antique School of the Royal Academy, and afterwards benefiting from the friendly guidance of the painter Ford Madox Brown. In 1848 he associated himself with three rising artists— William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Thomas Woolner—in founding the so-called Præraphaelite Brotherhood, with a view to a reform or re-development of art. There were three other members of the Brotherhood, Frederic George Stephens, James Collinson, and William Michael Rossetti; Collinson seceded after a while, and Walter Howell Deverell filled his place. Rossetti exhibited his first oil-picture, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin , in 1849; he soon afterwards resolved to withhold his works from exhibition altogether. In 1860 he married Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, daughter of a Sheffield cutler— she died in 1862. Rossetti, who had already made some mark as a poet by compositions printed in The Germ , 1850, and in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , towards 1856, published his first volume, the translations named The Early Italian Poets , in 1861; in 1870 appeared the volume Poems , and in 1881 the same volume with some modification of its contents, and the Ballads and Sonnets . He died on 9th April 1882, at Birchington-on-Sea, near Margate. The final stage of his disease was uræmia; but insomnia
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dating from about 1867, and consequent abuse of chloral as a soporific, were the root of the evil. At Birchington he lies buried, under a figured Irish cross monument designed by Madox Brown.


This was, I think, the year in which Dante Rossetti left school, and entered a drawing academy; it was the academy in Queen Street, Bloomsbury, known as Sass's, but kept at this time by Mr. F. S. Cary, an oil-painter of moderate attainment, son of the well-reputed translator of Dante's Commedia. Rossetti was a member in 1843 of some sketching club. I cannot remember who his colleagues may have been—presumably other students in the same drawing-school; certainly not any of the remarkable young artist-students with whom he afterwards became associated in the Præraphaelite movement, for these only became known to him after he had passed from Cary's to the antique school of the Royal Academy. In July he made for the sketching club a design of the Death of Marmion , and two designs, from Goldsmith's Deserted Village, of the old soldier recounting his battles to the parson. One of these latter he regarded at the time as his most finished, and perhaps his best, pen-and-ink design. His next subject for the club was to be a parting of two lovers; this he treated in August in six varying compositions. In the same
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month he drew, from As You Like It, Orlando and Adam in the Forest , and also the Death of Virginia . The latter subject did not inspire him to original invention, so he borrowed (I should fear, contrary to the rules of the club) the composition which he found in a series of lithographed subjects from Roman history by an old family friend, Filippo Pistrucci, brother of the celebrated medallist. These subjects by Pistrucci are generally well invented and composed, though of no high mark in point of execution. It fell to Rossetti to fix the next subject for design; he selected, from Byron's Siege of Corinth, Minotti firing the train of gunpowder. I can still recollect something of this last-named drawing, which was mainly in outline; and remember that in this instance also he recurred, for some of his accessory figures or groupings, to the Pistrucci lithographs, although the composition as a whole was his own.
Walter Scott, I may here take occasion to observe, was, along with Shakespeare, one of the very earliest poets in whom my brother delighted; Byron came a little later, and for a while reigned supreme. Shelley he read with enthusiasm in 1844, but he had probably no knowledge of him in 1843. Afterwards followed Mrs. Browning, Tennyson, and, eclipsing all predecessors for some years, Browning. Towards 1846 Bailey's Festus, and from a rather earlier date Keats, also ranked with the highest. The poems of Dante were not (contrary to a prevalent supposition) impressive to my brother in mere boyhood. It can hardly, I think, have been earlier than 1844 that he looked into them with serious attention or awakened admiration; they then at once rooted deeply and germinated rapidly in his mind.
The above, proper to the year 1843, is the only
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record I have by me of the boyish period of my brother's art. We next come to
before the middle of which year the Præraphaelite movement had already been fairly started in the minds and practice of its founders, and Rossetti was working as a professional painter at his first oil-picture. This was the now somewhat celebrated work The Girlhood of Mary Virgin . He exhibited it in 1849 in the Free Exhibition, Hyde Park Corner; Millais and Hunt appearing at the same time in the Royal Academy with their first “Præraphaelite” works—Keats's Isabella, and Rienzi swearing Revenge over his Brother's Corpse . This was, I think, literally my brother's first oil-picture; having only been preceded by a subject begun, but never nearly completed, on a good-sized canvas, to be entitled Retro me, Sathana , representing, as a mediæval-costumed group, an aged ecclesiastic, a youthful lady, and the fiend. The Girlhood of Mary was commenced, though not finished, prior to the oil-portrait of our father, also a work of 1848. Of this portrait I find the artist's own judgment recorded at a much later date, perhaps 1861. He terms it “a funny piece of painting, but no doubt considerably though not perfectly like.” It was painted for his godfather, Mr. Charles Lyell, of Kinnordy, an elegant Dantesque scholar, and is now the property of Mr. Leonard Lyell. On August 20th Rossetti wrote that he had made one study for the colour of his symbolic picture, and was then essaying a second; he had also made a nude study for the figure of St. Anna. By November 22nd he had painted this saint's head into the picture; it was done from our mother, and is indeed a
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very accurate likeness of her at her then age of forty-eight. The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (my brother particularly objected to the inclination which some people evinced to call it “The Education of the Virgin”) is a canvas 33 inches tall, containing four figures—the Virgin, her mother and father, and a girl-angel—also the dove, symbolizing the Holy Ghost. The dominant idea is that the Virgin advances in purity and virtue, until, at the appointed moment, she becomes fit to be the Bride and the Mother of Deity. Thus she is represented embroidering from a lily (emblem of purity) set up upon six volumes, each inscribed with the name of a special virtue. Two sonnets were written to exhibit this idea. As the St. Anna was painted from our mother, so was the Mary painted from our sister Christina.
Other artistic schemes were going on concurrently. On August 28th Rossetti sat up all night, and made, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., an outline of Coleridge's Genevieve —“certainly the best thing I have done,” as he wrote at the time. It represented the lute-playing lover and his lady, was given to Mr. Coventry Patmore, and appeared in the Rossetti Exhibition at the Burlington Club in 1883. He also re-designed The Death of Marmion about the same date, and made out the composition—an extensive and ambitious one— from a song in Browning's drama Pippa Passes. This he called Hist, said Kate the Queen ; the subject being the queen seated among her maidens and tire-women, her attention aroused by the song which her enamoured page is singing in an opening apart. The watercolour of this composition is extant, dated 1851; the oil-painting was begun, but never nearly finished.
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The Girlhood of Mary Virgin , and its successor, Ecce Ancilla Domini (the Annunciation ), had now been completed and exhibited. Following these, another oil-painting was undertaken, with a landscape background, which, according to the severe (and I think highly salutary) Præraphaelite rule of that period, was to be faithfully and assiduously painted on the spot. I cannot remember what was the intended subject of this new picture. Late in the summer or early in the autumn of 1850 my brother went down to Sevenoaks, found a background which be regarded as suitable, made a sketch of it, and in due course painted it on to the canvas. Holman Hunt was there at the same time, executing in Knole Park the landscape of his picture (from the Two Gentlemen of Verona) Sylvia Rescued by Valentine from Proteus. Rossetti's background was a sylvan scene of a somewhat mournful aspect. For some reason or other, which I cannot well define to myself, my brother, after painting this portion of the background, laid the canvas aside, and could not be got to resume work upon it; the thing remained untouched for some twenty years. Finally, he took it up again, painted as its subject-matter a group of girls dancing al fresco, gave it the title of The Bower Meadow , and sold it to a firm of picture-dealers for a very handsome amount in the summer of 1872—little or nothing further, beyond the very careful handiwork of 1850, being done to that original section of its background. The dealers did not keep the work long on hand, but disposed of it for nearly £1000 to Mr. Dunlop, whose unsatisfactory transactions with Rossetti direct find some record here
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under the date of 1864. This gentleman was at the time the owner of two other works by Rossetti, the Roman de la Rose and Ophelia ; and he parted with these two as equivalents to a portion of the price of The Bower Meadow .
In the earlier part of 1850 Rossetti had hoped to get his composition Hist, said Kate the Queen , which was well approved by Millais, ready as an oil-picture for the ensuing exhibition, but by the end of the summer he found this not to be manageable. He then designed the last scene of Much Ado About Nothing, where Benedick stops with a kiss the tart and cavilling mouth of his Beatrice. I still possess the pencil sketch, which is neatly but rather slightly handled, and with not much in it to suggest to connoisseurs of the present day that it is a Rossetti. My brother intended to carry it out as an oil-picture, but he never in fact made a beginning of it on canvas.
I recur for a moment to the two sacred symbolic pictures— The Girlhood of Mary Virgin , painted in 1848-49, and The Annunciation , painted in 1849-50. Rossetti was open-minded enough as to what claimed permanent recognition in these works, so unlike the current product of their day, and what called, on the contrary, for some degree of apology. In the late summer of 1851, while laying stress on the fact that they were original inventions, independent of any previous treatment, he acknowledged that the mediævalisms in them were absurd, though only superficial. Perhaps he need hardly have extended this stricture to The Annunciation , which, while marked by a peculiar tinge of semi-ascetic abstraction, has little or nothing that can be fixed upon as mediæval. Visitors to the National
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Gallery, where this picture now hangs, can judge as to that point for themselves. Later on, at the end of 1864, he wrote of The Girlhood of Mary Virgin , then re-consigned to him for a while for re-framing, “I can look at it a long way off now, as the work of quite another ‘crittur,’ and find it to be a long way better than I thought.” In another letter to a different friend he spoke still more strongly: “I assure you it quite surprised me (and shamed me a little) to see what I did fifteen years ago, when I was twenty.”
In the latter part of this year my brother made a sketch from life of our cousin Teodorico Pietrocola-Rossetti. I mention it less for any importance it might have (which indeed was little) as a work of art than because it gives me an opportunity of bringing into my record the name of this warmly affectionate relative and most worthy and excellent person. He was a young man in 1852, something less than thirty years of age, and was a native of the same city as our father, Vasto in the Abruzzi, in the then Kingdom of Naples. After spending some few years in England without getting into any successful groove of employment, he returned to Italy, and entered with single-minded zeal into the promulgation among his compatriots of an evangelistic or semi-Protestant form of the Christian religion. He died in Florence of apoplexy in June 1883, just as he had given out the text for a discourse to his small congregation, and was about to address them from it.
In a letter of my brother, dated December 4th, I observe the statement—“My sketches are kicked out at that precious place in Pall Mall.” The “place in Pall
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Mall” was, I think, an exhibition (one of the earliest of its class) of water-colour sketches and studies; what the offered and rejected contributions by my brother may have been I no longer recollect. Possibly they were hung after all, as seems to be suggested in a letter quoted under the next ensuing year.
was the last year whose close our father witnessed. My brother did, on a small scale, a delicate characteristic pencil-drawing of him, as he was wont to sit at his writing-table, with a broad-peaked cap for his failing eyesight, holding close up for perusal some page of his own writing. In May my brother added a background to this portrait, representing an angle of the dining-room in the house in which the sketch had been made—No. 38 Arlington Street, Mornington Crescent (all the family except Dante himself had resided there in 1851 and 1852); and he sent off the drawing to Frome, in Somerset, where our parents, with our sister Christina, were then settled for several months.
On the very first day of 1853 Rossetti thought he had finished some alterations which he had undertaken in his old oil-picture of The Annunciation , dubbed “the blessed white eyesore” in one of his familiar letters, and in another “the blessed white daub.” He proceeds— “Yesterday, after giving up the angel's head as a bad job (owing to William's malevolent expression) at about one o'clock, I took to working it up out of my own intelligence, and got it better by a great deal than it has yet been. I have put a gilt saucer behind his head—which crowns the China-ese character of the picture.” However, the work done on January 1st proved to be
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not quite final; the picture was still in hand up to the 15th of the month, or thereabouts.
The person most interested towards this time in my brother's art-work was Mr. McCracken, a merchant or ship-broker of Belfast, who had already had some purchasing transactions with Madox Brown and with Holman Hunt. Rossetti's first picture, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin , had been bought by the Marchioness Dowager of Bath (an aunt of ours, Miss Charlotte Polidori, being for several years a governess in that family); his second picture, The Annunciation , remained unsold for some while, but in January 1853 was purchased by Mr. McCracken. The improvements in the work had been made with a view to its delivery to this purchaser. The only other outsider who had put himself forward as a patron prior to McCracken was Mr. Cottingham, an architect in Waterloo Road; he finessed and shilly-shallied, and finally bought nothing. McCracken was really hearty, and even enthusiastic; he had conceived a high idea of Rossetti's powers, and from Belfast plied him with letters, pointing every now and then to a personal meeting: but time passed, Rossetti never saw McCracken in the flesh, and at a not very advanced date in their correspondence the liberal Irishman died. I remember that he used to amuse my brother by constantly writing of Mr. Ruskin under the designation “The Graduate”; and that my brother (who was by no means, as some recent writers will have it, destitute of a sense of humour and frolic) parodied in November 1853 an early sonnet of Tennyson's about The Kraken, for which word he substituted McCracken .
A letter addressed by Rossetti to Madox Brown on
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1st March gives several details which may as well appear in his own words:—“I think you have never seen my Giotto's Dante here [he must mean the watercolour of Giotto painting the Portrait of the youthful Dante ], which I shall not have much longer. Not that I have made any direct use of it as yet, nor am likely to do so just now, as I have got a £150 commission from McCracken, and am in a fair way to get one from Miller of Liverpool—perhaps a better one. However, I may nail him for the Dante and Beatrice . Please let me know in your answer (as soon as possible) whether you ever named to McCracken anything regarding the prices which I took for those sketches now exhibiting. Ruskin has written him some extravagant praises (though with obtuse accompaniments) upon one of them—I cannot make out which—and McCracken seems excited, wanting it, and not knowing (or making believe not to know) that it is sold. I therefore want to be sure whether he is really acquainted with the price I had; as, in answering him, were I to propose to do him a similar one, I should not think of undertaking it at anything like a similar price, and want to know whether it is necessary to specify that these sketches were sold to friends.”
In this letter some details are not quite clear, even to myself, at this distance of time. Mr. Miller here mentioned was Mr. John Miller of Liverpool, a leading merchant and picture-buyer there, of Scotch nationality, one of the most cordial, large-hearted, and lovable men I ever knew; neither my brother nor myself had any personal acquaintance with him for three or four years following 1853. I do not think that the proposed commission from Mr. Miller, a comparatively large one,
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took effect. “The Dante and Beatrice” was, I suppose, some work in prospect, not already executed; perhaps the “Dantesque watercolour”” which, as we shall see, was ultimately sold to McCracken, not Miller. “Those sketches now exhibiting I am quite uncertain about. Beatrice and Dante at a Marriage-feast , and Giotto painting the Portrait of Dante , had been exhibited in 1851-52, but can hardly be referred to here. The tone of this letter, as my readers may be apt to observe, shows that my brother was not likely to neglect his own interest in a bargain; and indeed he constantly laid his plans well in such matters, and effected them with tenacity and acuteness.
A few words may here be spared to the watercolour Giotto painting the Portrait of Dante ; which I have always considered one of the most important pictorial inventions of my brother, at any period of his career. It was intended to represent the life and work of the great Florentine in a triple relation. (1) It shows Giotto painting, on a wall of the Chapel of the Bargello in Florence, that portrait of the youthful Dante which was rediscovered towards 1839, chiefly through the exertions of Mr. (afterwards Barone) Seymour Kirkup, an English painter settled in the Tuscan capital. Kirkup made at once a watercolour copy of the head of Dante, and sent it as a gift to my father; from whom it came to my brother, and with him it remained up to the date of his death. In Rossetti's picture, as in the original, Dante is represented holding a pomegranate. (2) The picture shows also the relation of Dante to his love—Beatrice, who is passing below in a church-procession—to the poetry of the time in his friend Guido Cavalcanti, and to its fine art in Giotto. (3) It embodies the celebrated
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passage of Dante's Purgatorio in which the rise and fall of great reputations in art and letters are expressed by the waning of Cimabue's art before Giotto's, and of the poetry of Guido Guinicelli before that of Guido Cavalcanti, with a suggestion that Cavalcanti also might be superseded by Dante himself: Cimabue therefore is introduced looking on at Giotto's painting, and Cavalcanti holds the poems of Guinicelli.*

  • “Credette Cimabue nella pintura
  • Tener lo campo, ed ora ha Giotto il grido,
  • Sì che la fama di colui s'oscura.
  • Così ha tolto l'uno all' altro Guido
  • La gloria della lingua; e forse è nato
  • Chi l'uno e l'altro caccerà di nido.”

But this subject, triple though itself was in reference, was only intended to be the first member of a triptych picture. The second member was to show Dante, as one of the Priori of Florence, adjudging both Cavalcanti and a member of the opposite political faction to banishment— the act which gave a pretext for Dante's own exile from the country of his birth. The third and last section of the triptych was to portray that incident of Dante in exile and the court-jester, in the palace of Can Grande della Scala, which Rossetti versified in his poem Dante at Verona . This was truly a large and a comprehensive scheme of work: it remained unrealized.
I now return to Mr. McCracken. In July 1853 he was corresponding with Rossetti about some further work which he wished to commission. The subject of The Madonna in the House of John (of which my brother
Transcribed Footnote (page 17):

* These remarks on the Dante and Giotto watercolour are partly reproduced from what I wrote, as printed in the sale-catalogue (Christie's) of my brother's remaining works in 1883.

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eventually made a watercolour ranking among his best-conceived and most impressive works) had been proposed; but for some reason or other it was set aside, and Rossetti then named two other contemplated subjects. These were Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee , and what a letter of his termed “ the town-subject”—being no doubt the composition which he entitled Found , representing a rustic lover, a drover, who finds in London streets his early and long-lost sweetheart, sunk in a life of shame and degradation. He also offered to Mr. McCracken, at the price of £36,* a Dantesque watercolour which he had begun. This I consider to have been the subject, from the Vita Nova , of Dante drawing an Angel in memory of Beatrice . Dante relates that, on the first anniversary of his lady's death, he was engaged in drawing an angel, in memory of her, when he found that certain persons had entered his chamber unperceived; and he then saluted them, saying “Another was with me.” Rossetti, when the offer of his Dantesque subject was made to McCracken, was staying near Newcastle-on-Tyne, on a visit to his valued friend Mr. William Bell Scott, the painter and poet, then Master of the Government School of Design in Newcastle; he proposed to send for the watercolour from London, and finish it in the North. He had done during his visit sketches for an etching from Scott's poem of Mary Anne, and for the Magdalene subject. That my brother's prices were at this time the reverse of high, and had recently been extremely low, may be
Transcribed Footnote (page 18):

* The exact price was 35 guineas, or £36 15s. I think it more convenient, in the long run, to notify prices in pounds, rather than guineas; but where (as in the present instance) there are some odd shillings beyond the pounds I suppress mention of the shillings.

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inferred from his remarking that previous watercolours, on the same scale as the Dante incident now saleable at £36, had been disposed of for £12. But the mercury was rising in the Rossettian barometer; and by the end of September he had come to consider the watercolour, then nearly finished, to be worth much more than even £36, and he thought of telling McCracken so. This gentleman had meanwhile given him a further commission for an oil-picture, I cannot remember what.
Two other projects occupied him in 1853. He was painting, and by the end of October he finished, an oil-portrait of his aunt, Miss Charlotte Polidori, to be given to our grandfather. The likeness came to my brother's satisfaction, and is in fact extremely good: the picture now belongs to another near relative. He was also engaged upon the picture Found , and thought of going to Frome to paint into its background a brick wall, a cart, and a heifer; but Frome was not ultimately chosen for this purpose.
The oil-picture for Mr. McCracken was completed early in March. Rossetti, in one of his family letters, laconically termed it a daub, and attached little importance to it; but I presume it was up to, or not much below, his usual standard of work, for he was never inclined to do injustice to his patrons, nor to himself in their eyes or his own. We lately found him applying this same term “daub” to the Annunciation picture ; and that, whatever else it may be, is assuredly not a daub. I observe in a letter of a much later date—March 1874—a reference to the Annunciation , such as may tend to confirm the authorities of the National Gallery in
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the opinion which they probably entertain that the “white daub” is not a daub et præterea nihil. At that period a fire had destroyed the premises of the Pantechnicon in Pimlico, and a rumour went that all the modern pictures belonging to Mr. Wynn Ellis had perished in the conflagration. My brother believed (for some reason which I do not follow, as I am not aware that the Annunciation ever belonged to Mr. Ellis) that this work was included among the modern paintings in question; and he then wrote of it as “about the best thing I did at that time.”
A letter from my brother to Mr. McCracken, dated 15th May, contains some particulars worthy of attention. He begins by referring to some drawing of his which is not clearly defined, but which I understand to be probably the one named Dante drawing an Angel in memory of Beatrice . Of this subject he made in 1849 a pen-and-ink design, which he presented to Mr. Millais. He had also, as we lately saw, produced a watercolour of it, a wholly different composition, belonging to McCracken. When my brother wrote in May 1854 he had received from McCracken a letter (addressed, I suppose, to that gentleman) from Dr. Anthony, referring to a drawing, seemingly the pen-and-ink design above-named, the property of Millais. Dr. Anthony had supposed it to be Millais's own performance. On this point Rossetti says: “He seems equally abroad as to the authorship and subject of the drawing, and cannot have much perception of variety in style, or he would not have taken my work for Millais's.” Further on Rossetti refers to Dante's Vita Nuova , and he proceeds: “A better and full account you would find in an article in Tait's Magazine some years back.
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The article is called, I think, Dante and Beatrice, and is by Theodore Martin, better known as ‘Bon Gaultier.’ Rather oddly, the subject of my drawing which you have is there suggested for painting. For my own part, I had long been familiar with the book, and been in the habit of designing all its subjects in different ways, before I met with that article. . . I had an idea of an intention of the possibility of a suggestion [the reader will observe the whimsical and clearly intentional vagueness of this phrase] that the lady in my drawing [ i.e., one of the personages looking on while Dante is absorbed in designing the angel] should be Gemma Donati, whom Dante married afterwards; and for that reason meant to have put the Donati arms on the dresses of the three visitors, but could not find a suitable way of doing so. The visitors are unnamed in the text, but I had an idea also of connecting the pitying lady with another part of the Vita Nuova . And in fact the sketch is full of notions of my own in this way, which would only be cared about by one to whom Dante was a chief study.”
The intercourse of my brother with Mr. Ruskin began in the spring of 1854. I find the facts recorded thus in a letter of 14th April to Madox Brown: “McCracken of course sent my drawing to Ruskin, who the other day wrote me an incredible letter about it, remaining mine respectfully (! !), and wanting to call. I of course stroked him down in my answer, and yesterday he came. . . He seems in a mood to make my fortune.” Mr. McCracken, inspirited by Ruskin's praise of the watercolour drawing (seemingly the Dantesque subject), liberally paid for it £50, instead of the stipulated £36. Between the critic and the painter
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the intercourse was for a long while truly affectionate on both sides. With my brother—as I dare say with most other persons—Mr. Ruskin assumed the attitude of a man who could enlighten him on matters of theory and principle in art, and could guide his steps in the right path; but at the same time he amply recognized and honoured his gifts of artistic invention, and deferred to his actual technical attainment—neither overrating its amount nor undervaluing its calibre. For his part, my brother had a very deep regard for the tender and generous traits of Mr. Ruskin's character, and took pleasure in the quaintness as well as the richness of his mind. For some years they saw a great deal of one another, Ruskin being frequently in Rossetti's studio, and Rossetti not seldom in Ruskin's hospitable family-mansion at Denmark Hill, Camberwell. Miss Siddal, with whom my brother had been in love since 1851 or thereabouts, and to whom he introduced Mr. Ruskin, was a bond of union between them; for “the Graduate” took a very sympathetic interest in her, and in her limited but refined artistic faculty, and proved the sincerity of his feeling by more than one munificent act. Gradually the intimacy between the two friends relaxed. Rossetti, as he advanced in years, in reputation, and in art, became less and less disposed to conform his work to the likings of any Mentor—even of one for whom he had so genuine an esteem as he entertained for Mr. Ruskin; while the latter, serenely conscious of being always in the right, laid down the law, and pronounced judgment tempered by mercy, with undeviating exactness. At last the relations between the painter and the critic became strained—one was so earnest to enlighten the other, and that other so difficult
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to be enlightened out of his own perceptions and predilections; and it may have been in 1865 or 1866 that Ruskin and Rossetti saw the last of one another— mutually regretful, and perhaps mutually relieved, that it should be the last. A friendship once so warm, based on such solid grounds of reciprocal esteem suggesting reciprocal concession, should not have terminated thus: but so it did terminate, and it remained unrenewed.
The first letter which I find from Mr. Ruskin is dated 2nd May 1854. It expresses a wish that Rossetti would give him a little drawing in requital for copies of all the critic's books then published. It also commissions a drawing (meaning no doubt watercolour) for £15, being, as the letter proceeds to point out, the same price which had already been paid by Mr. Boyce for another drawing. This gentleman, George Price Boyce, originally destined for the architectural profession, took definitely to watercolour painting somewhere towards 1854, and was a cordial admirer and not unfrequent purchaser of Rossetti's works. I am not aware which was the design adverted to in Mr. Ruskin's letter; perhaps an Annunciation, in which Mary is represented as bathing her feet in a rivulet .
The picture Found , commissioned by Mr. McCracken, was at this time in the forefront. On 11th May Rossetti, then at Hastings, wrote that he would have to come up to London, to replenish his colour-box before beginning Found on the canvas. Soon afterwards, 5th June, Mr. Ruskin wrote, expressing his supposition that Rossetti might be disinclined to paint at present his proposed modern subjects, as Holman Hunt had lately exhibited something in the same line (this points apparently to the then much-discussed and much admired
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picture entitled The Awakened Conscience ). The details of Found were painted chiefly at Finchley (where Madox Brown resided), and at Chiswick (where an old and excellent family-friend Mr. Keightley the historian was settled): at Finchley, the calf and cart; at Chiswick, the brick wall. Along with Found , the subject of The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee is mentioned in this letter from Mr. Ruskin, and another work which was to unite various incidents in one tableau. This latter may probably have been the Paolo and Francesca , a tripartite composition, for another letter of Mr. Ruskin's, of not much later date, speaks of that subject as being in his hands, price £36: it was transferred eventually to some other purchaser. My brother repeated the composition more than once: in its best form, the example belonging to Mr. Leathart, I rate it very high among his productions. In a further letter belonging apparently to 1854 (but Mr. Ruskin was not in the habit of dating his missives) he expresses himself as much struck by two sketches which my brother had made of the Passover, and he commissions that which he terms “the doorway one.” This was The Passover in the Holy Family , a subject which Rossetti had invented as far back as 1849. It represented the family of Zacharias preparing to share the paschal feast with the Holy Family: Mary was gathering bitter herbs, the child John unlatching the shoe of the child Jesus, and Zacharias sprinkling the door-posts with the blood of the lamb. Mr. Ruskin conceived—and has always retained, I believe—a high opinion of this symbolic-realistic invention: he laid more stress on its realism than on its symbolism. Two watercolours were begun of it, but not finished: nor do I think the subject ever received
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completion in any replica. The same composition now appears in the church at Birchington, in the two-light memorial-window commissioned by our mother close to my brother's grave; as his attached friend Mr. Frederick J. Shields chose to carry it out, with some added details of his own, in the form of stained glass. Another composition which was offered to Mr. Ruskin about this time was A Monk illuminating, but it was declined. This may I presume have been much the same as Fra Pace , a watercolour executed or completed at a later date. A “”Matilda (no doubt the subject, from Dante's Purgatory, of Matilda gathering flowers) was also commissioned.
It may be apparent from these details that, at an early stage of their acquaintance, Ruskin had the refusal of pretty nearly everything that Rossetti produced. He accepted many specimens, and some he declined. I cannot at this distance of time define what was the precise nature of the terms. I should say that there was a general understanding that, within a certain annual maximum, Ruskin would buy, if he liked it, whatever Rossetti had to offer him, at a scale of prices such as other purchasers would pay; and under this arrangement funds would be forthcoming at times to meet the painter's convenience, without rigid assessment according to value previously delivered. Any such system was clearly very commodious for Rossetti. The annual amount which he thus made was no doubt moderate, or even small; but it was earned under the most pleasing conditions—those of warm appreciation by a pre-eminent critic and connoisseur, and of easy friendliness in the interchange of work and money. It relieved Rossetti from present anxiety as to the means
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of subsistence, and exempted him from slaving—which he chafed to think about—in the routine of exhibition-rooms.
In one of my brother's letters of this year I observe the following observation, relative to apicture from As You Like It painted by his friend Walter Howell Deverell, then recently deceased: “I have been doing one or two things to poor Deverell's picture; the chief of which has been to attempt getting rid of what I thought unpleasant in Celia's face.”
Miss Heaton, a lady resident in Leeds, appears in or about this year as one of the purchasers of my brother's works. A Beatrice had been begun for her, but was appropriated by Mr. Ruskin; who proposed that Miss Heaton should receive instead the Paolo and Francesca , or, if she preferred it, a Rachel at the price of £26: this title must indicate Dante's vision of Rachel and Leah, of which Rossetti made a watercolour. Towards June of this year he executed for Ruskin, in a week, a watercolour of The Nativity , price £15, and he accounted it one of his best performances: but the critic dissented—as in such details he not unfrequently did—from the painter, who thereupon settled to exchange it. This was probably not done, as a later note from Mr. Ruskin speaks of The Nativity as then improved. The Passover in the Holy Family was still in hand at the beginning of July; the head of Jesus being done after a boy from St. Martin's School. “That drawing of Launcelot is almost finished” appears in a letter of 1855, probably towards September; the watercolour, which was purchased by Ruskin, of Launcelot and Queen Guenevere
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at the effigied tomb of King Arthur: also in September “that drawing with the buttercups,” bought by Ruskin for £30; this may possibly be the Matilda before mentioned.
The first design by Rossetti which got engraved was one which forms the frontispiece to Mr. Allingham's volume Day and Night Songs: it was in hand in June, and represents a youth listening in rapt mood to the chaunt of three mystic or supernatural women, the “Maids of Elfin-mere.” This was engraved on wood in 1855 by Messrs. Dalziel: my brother was highly dissatisfied, and regarded the woodcut as a decided travestie of his work—although I think that spectators of the present day, who have only the woodcut itself to judge by, would be considerably more indulgent to it.
Letters from Mr. Ruskin continue throughout this year. They speak of works by Rossetti, but in terms not always conducive to identification. One design is termed “a duet between Ida and you.” Ida was the fancy-name (allusive I think to Tennyson's Princess) which Ruskin bestowed upon Miss Siddal: he liked this design better than any previous work which Rossetti had produced for him, except the “Man with boots and lady with golden hair”— of which the correct title is La Belle Dame sans Merci .
In March Rossetti “had in hand a large drawing of Dante's vision of dead Beatrice, as well as Passover, and Monk.” He appears to mean the first form, a watercolour, in which he treated the subject commonly called Dante's Dream — this watercolour was bought by Miss Heaton; The Passover in the Holy Family ; and the Fra Pace . He wished to get the picture-dealer Mr. White (of Maddox Street) to visit his studio while these and some other works were visible there—of course with a view to establishing a professional connection with this dealer. I dare say that the visit came off, and that Mr. White purchased something from my brother now and again; but cannot vouch for particulars.
The first hint of his triptych-picture for Llandaff Cathedral, The Infant Christ adored by a King and a Shepherd , appears in the same letter of March. Mr. Thomas Seddon the painter had then earned Rossetti's warm acknowledgment by bringing round to him “a Welsh M.P.,” to put the matter in train, and he was hopeful of a prosperous result. The M.P. was I think Mr. Henry Austen Bruce, now Lord Aberdare.
Woodcut-designs proved again afflictive to Rossetti in 1856. On August 2nd he wrote that he was at the last gasp of time with the designs which he had undertaken to produce, to be engraved on wood in the well-known illustrated edition of Tennyson published by Moxon and Co.: they were then getting a little forward. He foresaw that, with a view to working upon the blocks which yet remained to be done, he would have to fly London and Moxon, as he could not endure the publisher's pestering. I judge that he received £30 per design: as I find in one of his letters the phrase “Moxon owes me £30, as I have done the King Arthur block.” He preferred Linton as a wood-engraver to the Dalziels; and was particularly pleased with his second proof of the Mariana subject. Another letter—addressed this time to Mr. Moxon—sets forth that the design of The Lady of Shalott , though delayed for a week, would be soon ready: “I have drawn it twice over, for the sake
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of an alteration, so you see I do not spare trouble.” He speaks also of the block for Sir Galahad , and of a second Sir Galahad which he intended to do without delay: this intention, it appears, must have miscarried, for there is not, in the Tennyson volume, any second illustration to the poem in question. Another project, equally abortive, was that of doing a design for the Two Voices.“Nothing would please me better,” he adds, “than that Mr. Madox Brown should do the Vision of Sin, as I hear Hunt proposed to you: his name ought by all means to be in the work.” And so it ought, but it is not; more's the pity—for Moxon's Illustrated Tennyson. Mr. Moxon did in fact apply to Mr. Brown to take up the various subjects which Rossetti had at first intended to design, but had, for one reason or another, omitted: but at that late date Brown was unwilling to entertain any such proposal, and it came to nought.
All this matter of designs and blocks, I well remember, became a sore subject between Moxon and Rossetti. Moxon used to write or call frequently, and considered himself aggrieved because the blocks, when he expected or required to have them ready, were still uncompleted. He suffered much worry and disappointment; and I have even heard it said—but I suppose this is only to be construed as a grim joke, not as a sober and grievous reality—that “Rossetti killed Moxon.” It is true that the publisher did not long survive the issue of the illustrated Tennyson. On the other hand, my brother, besides being very fastidious, and therefore somewhat dilatory, over his own share in these designs, found constant reason to be doubly fastidious over the guise which his work
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assumed at the hands of the wood-engravers: he corrected, altered, protested, and sent back blocks to be amended. My brother was, no doubt, a difficult man with whom to carry on work in co-operation: having his own ideas, from which he was not to be moved; his own habits, from which he was not to be jogged; his own notions of business, from which he was not to be diverted. Co-operators, I can easily think, railed at him, and yet they liked him too. He assumed the easy attitude of one born to dominate—to know his own place, and to set others in theirs. When once this relation between the parties was established, things went well; for my brother was a genial despot, good-naturedly hearty and unassuming in manner, and only tenacious upon the question at issue. To play the first fiddle, and have the lion's share—surely that is, as Burns says, “a sma' request,” for a man conscious of genius.
A letter dated 8th December 1856 gives the first trace of a purchaser, Mr. Plint, who will be mentioned again further on. This gentleman wanted to have a Blessed Damozel done (no doubt as a watercolour) for £63; Rossetti, however, was inclined to stick to St. Cecilia for £42—the subject of the death of St. Cecilia which forms one of the Tennyson wood-designs. As to this wood-block he had been earnest in impressing on the engraver that “none of the work is to be left out.”
On Christmas Day he was preparing to exhibit certain works in a small collection got up in the then Hogarth Club, to which he and some of his closest friends belonged. He proposed to send “Lady Trevelyan's drawing” (I am not certain which this is), “the Llandaff sketches,” and, along with these, David Rex , a separate version of the third compartment, but this last would not be ready for a fortnight or so.
In this year Rossetti painted a small oil-picture of St. Katharine for Mr. Ruskin; it represented an exceedingly mediæval artist painting from a lady who poses with a wheel as St. Katharine, and it was exhibited at the Burlington Club, in the collection of Rossetti's works got together there in 1883. The catalogue described it as “the only oil-picture painted between 1853 and 1858,” which is, I presume, nearly correct. Two or three of Mr. Ruskin's letters relate to this work. In one note he expresses a wish to see the St. Katharine as soon as done, adding that he will pay cash for it, and that old debts may stand over; the “old debts” being seemingly arrears of work for which my brother had already received payment. In another note he objects to an alteration that had been made in the picture, which, unless altered back, he would resign. In yet another he pronounces the St. Katharine “an absurdity,” without defining why. It is no doubt a quaint invention, not without a twinkle of humour in the treatment, and the costume of the fifteenth-century artist is probably not such a working-garb as the man would really have assumed to paint in. Mr. Ruskin admired at this time The Magdalene , a term which must designate the subject of The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee , and he would willingly have resigned for that work the “oil-picture [ St. Katharine ] at 50 guineas.” In other letters Mr. Ruskin expresses himself willing to subscribe to a reredos, and a flower-border for it— evidently pointing to the reredos or triptych-
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picture for Llandaff Cathedral; and he speaks disparagingly of a drawing with some male heads. I don't know which drawing this was, nor whether the censure was just; but it emphasizes the fact that, from an early date in Rossetti's painting, his predilection and his mastery were in female heads, those of men being rather wanting in energy and variety of virile type. Ruskin also proposed to exhibit at a lecture in Oxford “the Beatrice” and the Paolo and Francesca .
It was in 1857 that my brother undertook to paint a series of Arthurian pictures in the Hall of the Union Club in Oxford. He must have known something of Mr. Burne Jones, then an Oxford student, in 1856, or possibly 1855; that gentleman having sought him out, and asked his opinion as to some of his romantic pen-and-ink designs, very remarkable in promise and originality of suggestion. Through Mr. Jones, Rossetti came to know Mr. William Morris, and afterwards Mr. Algernon Swinburne, also Oxford students. The decoration-project for the Union Hall was, however, undertaken apart from these acquaintances, and also apart from any direct influence of Mr. Ruskin. It was concerted at the outset of the Long Vacation between Rossetti and Mr. Benjamin Woodward, the architect employed both for the Union Hall and for the Oxford Museum; an Irishman of the most genuine artistic gifts and sympathies, and of a character singularly prepossessing in its retiring modesty. Morris at once tendered his co-operation. Rossetti gave his work gratis, the funds of the Union not admitting, presumably, of any other arrangement; but his materials were paid for, and he lived at free quarters in Oxford. Mr. Burne Jones was soon associated with him as
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painter of some of the subjects; also Mr. Hungerford Pollen, of Oxford, Mr. Spencer Stanhope, Mr. Arthur Hughes, a choice painter and early friend, and Mr. Val Prinsep, a friend of more recent date. These, along with Alexander Munro for sculptural work, were all. Not any one of them was conversant with the processes of solid and permanent wall-painting. The works were executed, I understood, in a sort of watercolour distemper, and were from the beginning predestined, by Fate and Climate, to ruin. My brother allotted to himself two large spaces on the walls; painted one subject more or less completely, Sir Launcelot at the Shrine of the Sangrael , and began or schemed out the other, Sir Galahad receiving the Sangrael . In October 1857 I was minded to go to Oxford, and see what was doing; but my brother, on the 30th of the month, wrote to me that things were then “in a muddle,” and advised me to wait awhile, which I did. The scheme was in active operation in 1857, stagnated in 1858, and was partially revived, and soon afterwards finally dropped, in 1859.
A letter from Mr. Ruskin, which may perhaps belong to this year, informs Rossetti that he need not worry about money which he owed to the writer (rather maybe about work which he owed in return for money paid), but recommends him to attend to commissions given by other persons, and to the one for Llandaff Cathedral. He offers to remit £73 of the debt, provided Rossetti will do another side of the painting-work for the Union Hall, but stipulates that the objects therein must be properly represented—a
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clause which suggests that Ruskin regarded some of the object-painting already done in the Hall as departing not a little from the rigid accuracy of the Præraphaelite dogma. On the last day of this year Rossetti was expecting to receive in a fortnight some money from the authorities in Llandaff. He was engrossed with a picture—which I should presume to be one section of this same Llandaff commission —and was eager to get it finished. This however was not to be accomplished for some time yet to come, so far as the entire triptych is concerned. The price paid for the triptych may probably have been £400. A letter of Rossetti's is extant saying that he had named £400 as the figure for the three compartments, and £200 for the central one singly. At the time he regarded these sums as “impracticable”; but he was not likely to take less, and may possibly even have received somewhat more. As we have seen, Mr. Thomas Seddon, the painter, had been instrumental in procuring this commission for Rossetti; his brother, Mr. John P. Seddon, being one of the firm of architects charged with the restoration and the general oversight of Llandaff Cathedral, was also much concerned in all details connected with the triptych, and did everything which friendly and intelligent zeal could do to smooth the painter's path in the affair.
This may be a convenient place for saying something more definite about the Llandaff triptych, one of the largest pictures which my brother produced, and (apart from easel-pictures, some minor church-decorations, and the now totally faded distemper-work in Oxford) the only one which occupies a permanent position in a public building. The central compartment
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has sometimes (as for instance in the Royal Academy catalogue of 1883) been termed The Adoration of the Magi ; but this is a decided misnomer, and reduces to practical commonplace and insignificance the purport of the entire work. The central compartment represents in fact the Infant Christ adored by a King and a Shepherd; and, taken in connexion with the side-pictures, it indicates the spiritual equality and communion of all conditions of men in the eye of God. The side-pictures show respectively David as a Shepherd about to confront Goliath, and David as a King harping to the Lord. This is substantially another form, or another exemplification, of the same idea—the shepherd and the king being here not only equal in service to the Most High, but actually one and the same man. I venture to say that the triptych, thus understood—and its message is plainly enough conveyed—is something very different from being a three-hundredth version of that hack-subject of mediæval and renaissance painters The Adoration of the Magi.
It was in or about this year that my brother made the personal acquaintance of an actress whom he greatly admired for beauty of face and person, and whose professional talents he also appreciated, though less warmly; her stage-name was Miss Herbert. A letter from Mr. Ruskin expresses a hope that he would soon paint Miss Herbert's head in his picture; the Llandaff triptych is probably meant. Another letter from the friendly but unsparing critic warns Rossetti that, in one of his works, his careless use of pigment has caused a lady in blue to change colour.
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In February Mr. Plint bought two pen-and-ink drawings —a Hamlet [ Hamlet and Ophelia , I suppose] for £42, and a Guenevere [perhaps Launcelot escaping from Guenevere's Chamber ] for £31; “a certain yellow lady” was expected to be returned in exchange for the latter. My brother also joined together into one whole a separate head and a separate landscape, upon which Plint looked with favour. In June Rossetti painted in a week an entire picture upon one of the doors in the house of Mr. William Morris—the Red House, Upton, Bexley Heath. This was, I think, one of the two allied subjects, Dante meeting Beatrice in a Florentine street, and in the Garden of Eden.
In November my brother was setting to work on the centre-piece of the Llandaff triptych. Mr. Leathart, of Newcastle-on-Tyne (now of Gateshead, close to Newcastle), had by this time become one of my brother's purchasers; he continued for some years a steady buyer, and was always a valued friend, and one on whose natural judgment in works of art, more especially as regards a true colour-sense, Rossetti laid considerable stress. Mr. Leathart was by this time the owner of the high-pitched water-colour named A Christmas Carol , and of the recently executed water-colour of Sir Galahad , being the same design which is engraved in the illustrated Tennyson; and he had commissioned the oil-picture Found for £367. The commission given originally by Mr. McCracken for this last-named work had collapsed, perhaps as far back as 1855. My brother had also lately painted a head for Mr. Boyce. This was, I have no doubt, the one entitled Bocca Baciata , in which the marigold-flower figures conspicuously. He hardly painted anything in a more delicate and even style of
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art than that. When one comes to the date of Bocca Baciata , one may fairly say that Rossetti was in his prime, and had well emerged from the tentative or experimental stage, being then in his thirty-second year.
may, I think, be the date of a letter from Mr. Coventry Patmore referring to my brother's watercolour of Lucrezia Borgia , in which the princess is represented washing her hands after concocting a poison-draught; her father the Pope, and with him the destined victim of the plot, are seen by reflection in a mirror. The victim is Lucrezia's own husband, the Duke of Bisceglia; he is propped on crutches, and the scene is his sick-chamber.
In the spring of this year my brother, after a long engagement, protracted partly by the always delicate and often perilous condition of her health, married Miss Siddal, and settled down with her in the chambers, considerably enlarged for the occasion, which he had occupied for several years at No. 14 Chatham Place, Blackfriars Bridge. One small thing which he did about this time was to collect together, into a handsome and solid scrapbook presented to him by a lady friend, a number of the pencil-drawings and sketches which had accumulated on his hands within the last few years. He continued adding to this collection from time to time, and every now and then he sold some of the items. A large number of them, extracted from the scrapbook and mounted singly, remained up to the day of his death, and were disposed of, among other works of his, at the auction-sale at Christie's in May 1883. I find a letter from Mr. Ruskin dated in September 1860, saying that he had been looking over my
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brother's book of sketches, and particularly liked those of his wife, which were numerous, and marked by a peculiar cachet of delicacy and grace.
Somewhere about the same time one of his principal purchasers of recent years—Mr. Plint—died very suddenly. This gentleman was a stockbroker of Leeds, a very worthy man, and a leader in a local dissenting body, and was not a little interested in the new movement in art in which my brother took a principal share. He also bought works from Madox Brown, Holman Hunt, and others. The death of Mr. Plint was severely felt by Rossetti. In him he lost a man whom personally he esteemed and liked; and the event threw his affairs into some considerable confusion at this early stage of married life, as Plint had advanced sums of money for three works not completed, or perhaps hardly begun; and the pressure from executors and their agents was equally inopportune and harassing. The total amount was £714.
A letter from my brother dated 29th September refers to this matter. He speaks also of an offer made by Mr. Gambart the picture-dealer—£52 for “the head,” which he liked less than another head (possibly the Bocca Baciata ) painted for Mr. Boyce; mentions a pen-and-ink Hamlet , due to Colonel Gillum for £50; and suggests whether the pen-and-ink Cassandra , nearly completed, might not be substituted for that, and might not be priced at £60. Were Gillum to take the Cassandra , the beginning of “the Dante series” in watercolour for him might be deferred till the ensuing quarter. Colonel Gillum (now well known in the world of philanthropy) was then a somewhat recent acquaintance of my brother, and a tolerably steady purchaser.
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A note of January 12 records: “Yesterday I sold for £25 a coloured sketch which had taken me about half an hour. That paid.” It may have been towards the same time that Rossetti painted his wife as The Queen of Hearts, or Regina Cordium , a small oil-picture. This seems to have been commissioned by some one—perhaps Mr. Miller—for in February 1862, very soon after Mrs. Rossetti's death, it was about to be offered for sale in an auction, and was withdrawn by friendly intervention in deference to my brother's feelings.
Being bound to complete Found for Mr. Leathart, and the Llandaff triptych due towards the end of August, and other work besides, Rossetti found it impracticable to devote himself exclusively to finishing the three pictures for the Plint estate. He completed in July the watercolour (for this estate) of Dr. Johnson at the Mitre Tavern, with two Methodist Ladies , and he proposed to deliver, instead of the oil-pictures, and before the time already stipulated, different works already in hand; and finally some arrangement, either on this or some other basis, was agreed upon and carried out. A young artist named Wigand sat for the head of Boswell in the Dr. Johnson group. Towards the end of September, Rossetti sent off a picture painted for Captain Goss—I cannot define the subject. He had previously completed a large head named Fair Rosamund .
The first published poetry by our sister Christina, Goblin Market and other Poems, came out in 1862. My brother designed its two illustrations , and also its binding. The principal drawing was cut on the wood
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by Mr. Morris with uncommon spirit—I believe his first attempt in that line, and pretty nearly his only one.
My brother's brief term of married life came to a close in February of this year, when he suddenly found himself a widower. It is no part of my plan to deal with the events of his life, apart from such as concern his works in art and in literature. I therefore pass on at once to the next indication, which I find in September 1862, regarding his paintings.
Mr. Leathart had now undertaken to buy the triple watercolour of Paolo and Francesca , and he expressed a wish that the earlier watercolour of the same subject, once belonging to Ruskin, should not be so altered as closely to resemble the version purchased by himself. Mariana (the Tennyson design as a watercolour) was also offered to him for £50. He likewise mentioned a design of The Crucifixion by Rossetti (where John is trying to draw the Madonna away from the foot of the cross) as praised by Mr. W. Bell Scott. Mr. Leathart asked Rossetti to paint a portrait of Mrs. Leathart, which by the end of the year was done—a small oil-picture. Mr. James Anderson Rose, the solicitor, who had known my brother well for about a couple of years, commissioned Joan of Arc kissing the sword of deliverance—an oil-picture, of which one or two duplicates were afterwards painted. The original remained, to my thinking, unrivalled.
was a year replete with artistic activity on my brother's part. In one letter he asks for some photographs that
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Note: The unknown watercolour version of The Salutation of Beatrice mentioned here as having been commissioned by George Rae may in fact be the version commissioned by Lady Ashburton and later purchased by her. See Marillier 87.
may serve to guide him “in painting Troy at the back of my Helen .” The Helen was, I believe, sold to Mr. Blackmore (of the firm of solicitors, Duncan, Squarey, and Blackmore), at Hooton, Cheshire; it may now perhaps be in the Blackmore Museum in Salisbury. This was a small oil-painting of the Grecian princess—head and shoulders. I thought it then—and should probably still think it, were I to get sight of it again—a very choice specimen of my brother's skill.
Mr. George Rae, of Birkenhead, the manager or managing-director of the North and South Wales Bank, and a great authority in his vocation, as proved by his book published towards 1885, now appears as a purchaser of Rossetti's works. Eventually he formed a very important collection of them, comparable with those belonging to two purchasers of later date—Mr. Leyland and Mr. Graham. Mr. Rae's first transaction with Rossetti occurred in 1862; he then bought the Mariana (or Heart of the Night ), which had been previously offered to Mr. Leathart, and a circular painting in oil of a female head. In June 1863 the painter wrote to enquire whether he might regard a double watercolour named The Salutation of Beatrice , already seen by Mr. Rae, as commissioned by him for £210. This and all other letters from Rossetti to Rae have been liberally and spontaneously placed by the latter at my disposal, for the purpose of my present record. The answer returned was presumably in the affirmative. In December Rossetti wrote again, mentioning two pictures, either of which might probably please Mr. Rae. One of these he had seen begun—the oil-picture named The Beloved . The other was Tristram and Yseult drinking the love-potion, of which Rossetti had shown Mr. Rae a design.
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The former was to cost £315, in case the artist should introduce into its treatment all that he then proposed; if the background were made to contain less matter, as suggested by Rae, the cost would diminish to £262: the painter, however, stipulated that the nature of any change should be left entirely to his own discretion. Miss Heaton, he added, had already a certain claim upon The Beloved , but this would not be likely to prove an obstacle. The Tristram and Yseult , to contain full-length figures, was rated at £367. This was seemingly to be an oil-picture; but I think my brother never did treat this subject in oil, but only in watercolour. It would appear that Mr. Rae did not at the first blush wholly acquiesce in these proposed prices; for there is another letter from Rossetti, also dated in December, saying that he had asked and received from his correspondent very slight prices for “a few small things” some time previously, but the sums now indicated were none the less quite within the artist's present range. Mr. Rae had been willing to give £105 for “the little Lady Greensleeves ,” a watercolour executed in 1859, and the prices now proposed were not out of scale with this. The result was that Mr. Rae commissioned The Beloved , the price being finally settled at £300, and the delivery of the picture being promised for not later than the end of 1864—an undertaking which, as we shall see, was not accurately fulfilled.
The picture of The Beloved , called also The Bride , which has been accounted by some admirers Rossetti's finest work, represents the Bride of the Canticles, duly attended by her women, who unveils as she
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approaches the advancing (but in the picture unseen) bridegroom. The head of the bride is one of the few which my brother painted from a professional model; a sweet-looking beautiful young woman, bearing a Scotch name (Miss Mackenzie, I think): she was in high repute among artists about that time, and sat for the face only, not the figure. Another head, that of the dark energetic-looking woman in profile to the spectator's right, was painted from a gipsy named Keomi. The head of the negro boy may have been begun in December, as Rossetti was then looking out for a proper model. Mr. Rae always rated the picture highly; and indeed the cordial appreciation with which he and his family viewed my brother's art in general was such as to make it a pleasure to work for him.
Scarcely was this matter of The Beloved arranged with Mr. Rae when my brother found occasion to write to him, 24th February, on another subject. Mr. William Morris, he said, would like to dispose of the five watercolours by Rossetti which Mr. Rae had recently seen. These were The Death of Breuse sans Pitié , from the Mort Arthur, The Chapel before the Lists , The Tune of Seven Towers , The Blue Closet , and Francesca da Rimini . The first two were then very far advanced; the next two quite finished; the last, a subject in three compartments, needed a little re-touching. Mr. Morris had also at his own house a watercolour of a single figure, The Damsel of the Sangrael , from the Mort Arthur. For all these six works, in their then actual state, Mr. Morris, as Rossetti understood, would probably accept £262, but not any less. For their completion Rossetti would himself charge £35 at the present time, but more at any other date. “They are all,” he
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added, “good specimens of my work—several, I believe, remarkably so; and two of them are of considerable size.” Mr. Rae having closed with these terms, Rossetti proceeded to complete the watercolours, which was done by the end of March. He pronounced the finishing of the Breuse sans Pitié a “tough job,” and opined that it ought to have been managed with less labour, “as the brilliancy of such effects requires the least work possible.” The Chapel before the Lists satisfied him better, and was spoken of later on as “one of my favourite drawings.” Soon afterwards there was a “double Dante,” a watercolour which Mr. Rae wished to obtain; but Lady Ashburton had forestalled him. Towards 1872 Mr. Rae had a catalogue of his pictures drawn up, and inserted in it certain quotations from the poems of Mr. Morris, as illustrating (I infer) the watercolours named The Tune of Seven Towers and The Blue Closet . Rossetti's remark on this point is worth recording here: “The quotations from Morris should have been left out, as the poems were the result of the pictures, but don't at all tally to any purpose with them, though beautiful in themselves.”
In May Mr. Trist, a wine-merchant at Brighton, asked Rossetti to execute as an oil-picture a composition, King René's Honeymoon , which had been painted some while before on a wood panel for a cabinet belonging to Mr. John P. Seddon; the small oil-picture, which got finished on 1st September, was to match another, of the like theme, painted by Madox Brown for Mr. Trist. In this same month of May another purchaser came forward. This was Mr. Mitchell, of Manchester, who commissioned for £315 a picture, the subject to be at Rossetti's option. Immediately
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afterwards the subject of Venus was fixed upon, and the result was the oil-picture, Venus Verticordia . This was among the largest canvases which my brother had as yet worked upon, and the picture had a greater degree of boldness and freedom of execution—not by any means, however, to the neglect of careful finish—than he had heretofore displayed. I always regarded it as one of his masterpieces; and was disappointed when, seeing the Venus again in a sale-room in 1885, I found that he must at some time or other—probably towards 1873—have got it back from the purchaser, and reworked upon it very extensively, seriously damaging (if I may trust my own judgment) the harmony or keeping between the figure and the floral and other accessories, and impairing the freshness and spontaneity of the entire conception and treatment. This was only one instance out of many of an uneasy over-fastidiousness on my brother's part, prompting him to the refurbishing of finished work of an earlier phase in his practice, and leading to results seldom (I do not say never) wholly approvable, and often detrimental, or even not far from disastrous. About the same time, June 1864, Mr. Mitchell bought from Mr. Gambart a Rossetti watercolour named Brimfull , which, along with another watercolour, The Marriage of St. George , he had seen in the dealer's possession.
The last stage in the triptych for Llandaff Cathedral was reached in this same June. Rossetti announced that his David would soon be sent away, being probably the right-hand figure of the royal and virile David, playing on his harp to the glory of God.
Rossetti was now in full swing of employment and commissions—an artist of high reputation in his own
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circle, although, through his systematic avoidance of exhibition-rooms, the general public of amateurs and connoisseurs was necessarily unaware of his powers and performances, and only vaguely perhaps privy to his existence. His prices, as we have just had occasion to see, were still moderate, and very different from what he commanded in later years; but they were quite sufficient to give him a steady and adequate income, which a man of more prudence in money-matters would have turned into the foundation of a handsome fortune. This was not in my brother's line: money dripped from his fingers in all sorts of ways, unforecast at the time, and not always easily accounted for afterwards. In June yet another purchaser came forward, but he disappeared after a short while in a mysterious form of collapse highly unsatisfactory to Rossetti, and to himself perhaps not altogether pleasurable. I refer to Mr. William Dunlop, a commercial magnate of Bingley, near Bradford in Yorkshire. He purchased for £136 a drawing (no doubt a watercolour) of The Annunciation , which had previously been assigned to Mr. John Miller to clear off a debt. I have no recollection of the composition of this subject; it was probably different both from the early oil-picture known as Ecce Ancilla Domini , and from the watercolour belonging to Mr. Boyce, in which the Virgin is represented as surprised by the apparition of the angel while she is standing in a streamlet. Mr. Dunlop also spoke of another picture which Rossetti was to paint for him—the subject to be settled soon; and ultimately he commissioned that which Rossetti was wont to call The Boat of Love —Dante, Beatrice, and their intimates, embarking in a pleasure-boat, according to a fancy shadowed forth in
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one of the Florentine poet's sonnets, “Guido vorrei” &c. Mr. Dunlop appears to have assented to a very large and wholly exceptional figure named for this picture (or possibly for this and something else beside), £2050, or even £2100. He was closely succeeded by Mr. John Heugh, whose proposed commissions, and their subsequent non-fulfilment, followed in the line of Mr. Dunlop, with equal and puzzling inconsistency. Mr. Heugh agreed to buy two watercolours, Socrates taught to dance by Aspasia , which he saw begun, and some sacred subject. As a more important commission, the subject of The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee —a composition which Rossetti had begun on a large canvas somewhere towards 1860—was proposed. But over this Mr. Heugh hesitated, as he had an obvious right to do so. He wished Rossetti first to paint the head of Christ, on the understanding that, if he were to like that, he would then definitely commission the picture. He admired the heads in “the Ophelia,” which must presumably be the watercolour named The First Madness of Ophelia , where Horatio leads the forlorn maiden away. Such a suggestion as that made by Mr. Heugh regarding the head of Christ was not likely to fall in with the views of Rossetti, who appears to have proposed instead—and to this Mr. Heugh assented—that he would simply go on with the Magdalene picture, and that Heugh might eventually relinquish it if not well pleased with the head of the Saviour. These matters of Dunlop and Heugh hung over till the autumn of 1865, when Rossetti, having his hands comparatively clear of other work, wrote to each of the proposing purchasers, saying that he was ready to take up their respective commissions, and consulting them
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as to what remained to be attended to. Both of them replied with frigid or aggressive superciliousness. Some epistolary sparring ensued, at which my brother was a very dexterous hand whenever occasion compelled: and the commissions never came to anything. It may have been, I suppose, somewhere about this time, or possibly some few years later, that Rossetti sketched out in monochrome on a rather large canvas the composition of The Boat of Love , one of the most considerable and trying groupings which he ever brought to the oil-colour stage. It remained in his studio up to his death, and was bought in 1883 for the Birmingham Public Gallery. My brother, I believe, could never understand—certainly at the time he could not—why these professing patrons had come voluntarily forward in 1864, with all apparent eagerness to obtain some of his work, and afterwards, when the time had ripened for obtaining it, called off in so disputable a manner.
Two of my brother's minor works are mentioned in a letter of July 1864. They are named Sweet-tooth and Monna Rosa , and had for some while past belonged to Mr. Peter Miller, of Liverpool, a son of Mr. John Miller. I notice also a letter from Mr. Ruskin, dating perhaps in the same year, and saying (in reply to some question on the subject) that he had never parted with any drawing by Rossetti, except the Paolo and Francesca and the Launcelot , which I understand to be the group of Launcelot and Queen Guenevere meeting over the effigied tomb of King Arthur. This latter he had given to Mr. Butterworth, as Rossetti “had scratched out the eyes.” The Golden Water ( Princess Parisade in the fairy tale) and The Passover in the Holy Family , also belonging to Ruskin, were then deposited in a
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Sig. E
ladies' school. He retained the portrait of Miss Siddal done by Rossetti, but would be willing to let him have it back some day. The letter closes with a reference to some money owing by the painter to the critic, and suggests that the latter might take, instead of the amount, The Boat of Love—no doubt some version of the composition rateable at a price very different from that which had been named to Mr. Dunlop.
In August 1864 Rossetti was hard at work on the floral foreground—roses and honeysuckles—of his Venus Verticordia . He “lost a whole week, and pounds on pounds,” in hunting up honeysuckles. He also executed a smaller watercolour version of the same subject. Mr. Rae, who bought the replica for £105, referred to “Blackmore's picture” as “the gem of our little exhibition” at Liverpool. I am uncertain what picture is here alluded to—possibly the Helen of Troy ; and I recall the slight detail chiefly as indicating that every now and then, notwithstanding his general and even rigid abstinence from exhibition-rooms, something or other painted by my brother came before the public eye. Rossetti considered that in the watercolour Venus , as compared with the oil-painting, some advantageous alterations had been introduced. These alterations affected “the character of figure, action, and expression, which please me much better as to charm and delicacy. I really” (he added) “do not think the large picture chargeable with anything like Ettyism, which I loathe; but am quite sure the little one has not a shadow of it. Drapery of any kind I could not introduce without quite killing my own idea.” He thought of modifying the larger picture, on the same lines as the smaller one; and I dare say this was actually
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done before the oil-picture reached Mr. Mitchell. The watercolour was sent to Mr. Rae in December, having (as the painter said) “stuck by me more than anything I ever did, I think.” Something had been done with it while Rossetti was on a short visit to Paris in November. Here he had inspected some recent works of the French school, and had been much delighted with the paintings (not then so generally famous as they are now) of Millet; a name, as he observed in writing to Mr. Rae, “curiously identical with that of our best English painter.”
At some time in this year Rossetti made the two designs which were engraved as wood-cuts illustrating our sister's poem, The Prince's Progress. Mr. Frederick J. Shields—whom I have already named in this record—now appears among his correspondents: an artist on whose work Rossetti set a high value, and whom he respected and loved as a man—an affectionate and self-oblivious friend, one of the small group present at my brother's death-bed. The introduction to Mr. Shields, then hardly known to be an artist, was, I believe, one of the benefits which my brother owed to Ruskin.
In January Mr. Shields wrote expressing admiration of the watercolour of Hesterna Rosa belonging to Mr. Craven of Manchester. This is a composition of old date, best known in the form of a pen-and-ink drawing dated 1853. It represents a tent occupied by a group of men and women,—the men throwing dice, one of the women sadly reminiscent of the vanished days of her innocence; and it bears the motto of Sir Henry Taylor's verses,
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Sig. E 2
  • “Quoth tongue of neither maid nor wife
  • To heart of neither wife nor maid,” &c.
In the summer correspondence of the same year three other watercolours executed by Rossetti for Mr. Craven, or still in progress for him, are mentioned. One is “a drawing mainly gold and white,” with which the purchaser was highly pleased (the oil-picture of Monna Vanna orBelcolore has the same combination of tints, but I cannot say whether the watercolour may or may not have been a replica of that). The second subject is “the Aurora drawing,” and the third is Washing Hands —a large watercolour in which, contrary to my brother's usual practice, the costume adopted was that of the eighteenth century. The price of this last was, I gather, probably £157.
The transactions with Mr. Rae in this year related to various pictures. First came, at my brother's own suggestion, some little additional work to the watercolour of Venus Verticordia , and to the armour of the Breuse sans Pitié . In the foreground of The Beloved he had originally painted a mulatto girl; but in March he resolved to take out this figure, substituting for it a black boy. “I mean the colour of my picture,” he said, “to be like jewels, and the jet would be invaluable;” and he spoke of The Beloved as “my present pet among my pictures.” In June he explained that the delay which had occurred in completing this picture was really due to his having enlarged the subject beyond the terms of the original agreement. Early in December the only things which remained as yet undone were the roses in the black boy's cup, and one or two other details. In June he offered to Mr. Rae for £420 a picture just begun, to be named The Queen of Beauty . Mr. Rae
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assented, and paid a first instalment of £100; but by December Rossetti had determined to lay aside The Queen of Beauty — and I think it was never proceeded with—in favour of a different subject from a different sitter. This was first entitled Palmifera , and afterwards Sibylla Palmifera , and was likewise offered to Mr. Rae. So also was a watercolour named A Fight for a Woman . It had been begun for Mr. Gambart, who however considered it likely to prove “unpopular.” Mr. Rae was not disconcerted on hearing this, and he bought the painting for £52. It was finished by 21st December, and went off to Mr. Rae, along with the revised Venus and Breuse sans Pitié .
Two letters from Mr. Ruskin, belonging probably to this if not to the preceding year, are the last which I find from his hand; I hardly think that he and my brother either corresponded or met again. In one letter he says that he still likes the painter's old work, and has just been framing a subject which he terms “the golden girl with the black guitar;” but he disliked a recent (so-called) Flora , evidently in fact the large oil-picture of Venus Verticordia , with its foreground of roses and honeysuckles. In the second letter he explains his view as to this painting: he thought the flowers wonderful but coarse. I cannot say whether my brother ever answered this letter; perhaps he regarded the divergence of view as now radical and irreparable, and therefore fruitful of irritation without compensating advantage, and preserved a moody and a final silence. He was certainly one of those artists who think that their own innate personal turn in invention and in style cannot profitably be pruned and trimmed to suit the dicta of criticism, however enlightened. The
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critic may possibly be right; but the artist has to pursue his own path none the less, and guide himself by his own light. Probably the great majority of creative or inventive painters are of his mind. They could not work out on any other terms such faculty as is within them; and it is well for the art that so it should be, for the levelling and moderating line of criticism is, after all, only a deduction or an equilibrium between the varying and often irreconcilable aims and extra-normal developments of artists of exceptional calibre. The originating minds and hands in art cannot—to use the arithmetical phrase—be “reduced to a common denominator.”
In a letter of October the oil-picture of Fair Rosamond is mentioned, and in one of December that of The Blue Bower , which had been begun in April, and finished in two months; also the designs for stained glass illustrating in seven subjects The Parable of the Vineyard . Of these more anon.
Of The Blue Bower the story was told to my brother by some one that Mr. Gambart, having bought this picture of him for £210, had re-sold it to a collector—Mr. Mendel— for £1680. The picture-dealer wrote to deny this statement, adding that, were the story to get about, the collector would no doubt return the picture on his hands, and £500 would not again be forthcoming for it; also that he presumed the false rumour to have been Rossetti's incentive for recently asking the dealer £525 for a single head, out of scale with his usual prices. This little controversy belongs to the last month of the year. Some years afterwards it was alleged that in fact Gambart had sold the picture to the Agnews for £500, and that the Agnews had re-sold it for a much larger
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sum. The Blue Bower , a half-figure of a woman playing a musical instrument, is one of my brother's most vigorous and brilliant pieces of painting, with much sumptuous accessory. It is however less ideal and more sensuous in feature and treatment than almost any other of his female figures: hence, while it attracts some eyes, it is in comparative disfavour with others.
A letter from my brother to a relative, dated towards the end of the year, states that his diary for the five months ending 31st October shows that only twelve days had passed when he was not working at his easel: a very fair record of professional diligence. I cannot accurately define what this “diary” may have been. To the best of my knowledge and belief, my brother never kept a diary, in the ordinary sense of the term, later than in 1846 or thereabouts, when I can remember that he did so for some few months. His so-called diary in the year 1865 can only, I think, have been a brief jotting-down of work in hand &c. Even that has disappeared, leaving no trace behind. The earlier diary of 1846—which I knew at the time, and thought entertaining—must, I apprehend, have been purposely destroyed within two or three years ensuing. How gladly would I re-examine its pages now!
The picture of The Beloved was in the hands of its purchaser, Mr. Rae, by the 23rd February 1866—a long delay beyond the originally promised date, the end of 1864, yet not unreasonable in proportion to the further development which had been given to its pictorial material. Early in 1873 it was again, at his own invitation, confided to its painter, then living at
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Kelmscott; and he re-worked upon it with zeal and satisfaction. He considered several things in the picture to be out of keeping. When he finished with it towards the end of March, he deemed it to be “worth double the money,” and could say, “It is now as mellow and rich as ever I did, without being a bit darker.” He had modified the tone of colour, and the heads of the bride and the gipsy-woman, and had repainted the bride's left hand.
As mentioned under the preceding year, my brother had offered to Mr. Rae his forthcoming picture Sibylla Palmifera . The price, at first assessed at £577, was reduced to £420, on condition that the instalment of £100 already paid for the relinquished work, The Queen of Beauty , should not count as applicable to Sibylla Palmifera , but should be made good to Mr. Rae by delivery of some additional production as well. The title Palmifera ( Sibylla was an afterthought) was adopted, wrote Rossetti, “to mark the leading place which I intend her to hold among my beauties.” His experience with The Beloved not having been favourable to the prefixing of a definite date for delivery of a picture, he held back from making any stipulation of that kind regarding Palmifera , remarking in a characteristic phrase, “There is no knowing in such a lottery as painting, where all things have a chance against one—weather, stomach, temper, model, paint, patience, self-esteem, self-abhorrence, and the devil into the bargain.”
In May he sent the canvas of this picture to be enlarged, and he wrote: “I have somewhat extended my idea of the picture, and have written a sonnet (which I subjoin and shall have put on the frame) to embody the
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conception—that of Beauty the Palm-giver, i.e., the Principle of Beauty, which draws all high-toned men to itself, whether with the aim of embodying it in art, or only of attaining its enjoyment in life.” This is the sonnet which was first published as Sibylla Palmifera in my brother's volume of Poems, 1870 ; and was afterwards, with the altered title of Soul's Beauty , inserted into the Sonnet-sequence named The House of Life .
There is a letter from Rossetti to Mr. Rae dated in April 1870, saying that he had then undertaken to paint for a friend a replica of Sibylla Palmifera , of the same size as the original work, at rather more than double its price. I should say however that this project was relinquished, and that no such full-sized replica was ever produced.
In August 1866 Lord Mount-Temple, then the Honourable William Cowper Temple, settled to buy the Beata Beatrix , which has often, but not accurately, been termed The Dying Beatrice . It represents Beatrice in a semi-supernatural trance, ominous and symbolic of death, but not in any sense dead; and was painted some while after the death of my brother's wife, probably beginning in 1863, with portraiture so faithfully reminiscent that one might almost say she sat, in spirit and to the mind's eye, for the face. In 1866 my brother was occupied also upon an oil-portrait of our mother— life-sized and three-quarters length.
In February Mr. Craven asked Rossetti to proceed with the watercolour of The Return of Tibullus to Delia , one of the more important compositions which he
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Note: Typo: on page 57, in the third complete sentence on the page (beginning "Mr. Craven speaks likewise"), the phrase immediately following the semicolon reads "and he expressed a that hope".
executed in this medium, some 19 inches by 23 in dimensions. Its price was about £235. It seems to have been finished in July, along with the Aurora watercolour for the same purchaser. Mr. Craven speaks likewise of the watercolour of Morning Music , which he had seen at a dealer's, and of “another toilet-subject,” which he undertook to buy on the understanding that the painter would at some future time produce a pendent to it at the same price; and he expressed a that hope Rossetti would soon set-to in earnest at the large composition—also, I think, a watercolour—of Michael Scott's Wooing . This was an invention of my brother's own, weird in feeling and pictorial in distribution, for which he tried various designs in preparatory stages. It was a subject of predilection with him, and yet, to the best of my knowledge, he never actually produced it in colour. A letter of Rossetti's, of uncertain date, refers to the “bad copy of Tibullus”, evidently implying that there was some other and better copy; the figures in the bad copy were of about the same size as in “the double watercolour of Dante which I sold to Lady Ashburton.” A “companion” to the Tibullus is also mentioned; also a “Beatrice watercolour,” which was priced at £315.
The painting of Found is again referred to in the spring of this year. Rossetti was then proposing to repay to Mr. Leathart the money which had already been advanced for the work, and to relinquish the commission. Mr. Leathart would have preferred to receive his purchase; yet assented to the proposal, in case the painter could not see his way to completing the picture in some moderate space of time. The life-sized crayon-drawing of our sister Christina, poising her head on her
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raised hands, is also referred to in correspondence of this year.
Another abortive commission now appears on the scene. Mr. Michael Halliday, a Parliamentary Clerk who took to painting, and who earned a rather marked reputation as a semi-professional painter, was on friendly terms with my brother—being indeed one of the most companionable and serviceable of men—and he had prompted Mr. Matthews, of the wealthy brewing firm of Ind, Coope, & Co., to commission a life-sized picture from a design which my brother had made, named Aspecta Medusa. The price was to be £1575, as settled in July. This design represents Andromeda, who, having an extreme curiosity to see the severed head of Medusa, is allowed by Perseus to contemplate its reflection in a tank of water—the head itself (it need hardly be remarked) having the fatal property of turning the gazer into stone. Rossetti wrote and published a few verses embodying this conception. He laid much stress on the design, began life-sized studies for it, and was for years very anxious to carry it out as a picture, but never did so. After giving the commission, however, Mr. Matthews felt a great repugnance to the notion of the severed head, as being a horrid and unsightly detail; and on the last day of the year, following not a little debate and uncertainty, he wrote, asking that some different subject might be substituted. The sequel of this affair belongs to the ensuing year.
The photographs taken from a series of designs, seven in number, made by Rossetti from the Parable of the Vineyard , as cartoons for stained glass, are again mentioned in a letter of July 1867; the designs had been done, or at any rate begun, as far back as December 1861.
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The glass is to be seen, I believe, in a church at Scarborough, St. Martin on the Hill, built by Mr. Bodley. This leads me to speak of my brother's connexion with the now celebrated firm of decorative art, Morris & Co., originally Morris, Marshall, Falkner, & Co., which was the name borne by the firm throughout the period of Rossetti's association with it. The firm was certainly in existence in 1861, for a letter from Rossetti of July in that year speaks of his having been at work “on the centre light for the shop glass.” Mr. William Morris, the poet of The Earthly Paradise, had, as we have seen, joined with Rossetti, Burne Jones, and others, in the painting of the Hall of the Oxford Union; he had, from the first, a particular turn for decorative art in its various branches, whether as regards invention, or in relation to the practical processes of work. Another leading member of the group who had always been attentive to decorative art, in such matters as the furnishing of houses &c., was Mr. Ford Madox Brown, my brother's most intimate friend since 1848. The first suggestion for forming some such firm came from Mr. Peter Paul Marshall, an engineer, son-in-law of Mr. John Miller of Liverpool, who has been already mentioned more than once. Rossetti was the first to close with the idea. Through him Madox Brown was enlisted, followed by Burne Jones; also the “Falkner” whose name appeared in the firm, and Mr. Philip Webb the architect. All these seven were in fact the partners constituting the firm. Mr. Morris put some money into the concern to set it going, and each of the others co-operated in a minor degree; Mr. Charles Falkner, an Oxford mathematician, joined, as being an intimate friend of Mr. Morris. The latter
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took the principal part as director and manager of all the firm's practical operations. He himself furnished many designs in the various classes of decorative art; Brown, Jones, and Rossetti, and in a lesser degree Webb, co-operated with designs, confined chiefly to stained glass, receiving payment in proportion to their actual produce. The total number of designs thus executed by my brother cannot have been large; the series from the Parable of the Vineyard was about the most considerable. The firm continued for several years on much the same footing, the partners meeting from time to time in a sufficiently informal manner, and constantly speaking of the enterprise as “the shop.” It gradually advanced in import and influence. Towards the close of 1874 the partnership was dissolved, with the full concurrence of some of the members, but not of all, and Mr. Morris remained for a while in sole possession. Of the great part which the firm of “Morris, Marshall, Falkner, & Co.,” or now “Morris & Company,” has borne in developing, or indeed revolutionizing, decorative design and practice in this country, I need not speak here. It is a portion of the artistic and industrial history of our times, written upon our walls in the guise of wall-papers, spread out beneath our feet in the form of carpets, and patent to the eye in a hundred ways.
It was in 1867 that Mr. Henry Treffry Dunn was engaged by my brother as his artistic assistant, a position which he continued to occupy up to very nearly the end of Rossetti's life—tracing drawings on to canvas, preparing duplicates, and otherwise rendering much valuable and zealous assistance. He worked to some extent also on his own account, with superior perception and skill.
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Mr. Dunn was not my brother's first assistant, having been preceded for two or three years by Mr. W. J. Knewstub, who showed good artistic aptitude. He had from the first a marked gift for comic design (but this was not staple work for Rossetti's studio), and eventually for colour and other graceful qualities in watercolour.
A letter from Mr. Shields, dated in December, refers to a picture of Lilith ; it was then in the possession of Mr. Tong, having been bought from Mr. Gambart. This is a less elaborate version in watercolour of the Lilith to be mentioned in the year ensuing.
begins with further correspondence between Rossetti and Mr. Matthews. In consequence of the objection raised to a necessary detail of treatment in the Aspecta Medusa , Rossetti offered to substitute another subject, Dante's Dream —the same subject of which he had made various years before a watercolour, the property of Miss Heaton of Leeds. For the oil-picture there would be five figures of less than life-size, the price (higher than that of the Medusa ) to be £2100. Mr. Matthews liked the subject, but not the price; and pronounced that some small works would suit him best. Rossetti hereupon undertook to execute the Dante for £1575. But to this also Mr. Matthews demurred: he would not be tied down to any defined price. The correspondence does not show any subsequent stage in this affair. I can recollect that my brother felt hurt and nettled, and made this apparent to Mr. Matthews, who expressed much concern, and, by means of Mr. Halliday (who firmly upheld Rossetti's general view of the transaction), effected a reconciliation. Mr. Matthews did not
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however, to the best of my remembrance, buy anything: certainly not the Dante's Dream —which, as is well known, was not very long afterwards taken in hand and executed in oils on a large scale, far larger than any other picture whatsoever from Rossetti's easel. A different oil-painting from Dante—apparently the monochrome Boat of Love , spoken of under the year 1864—is mentioned in a letter from Mr. Craven dated in January 1867; he had seen and liked it, and wished to have a watercolour of it for “the money paid on account of the larger commission” (perhaps this refers to Michael Scott's Wooing ). I am satisfied that no such watercolour was ever painted.
I find in this year two abortive attempts to induce my brother to recede from his system of abstaining from exhibition altogether. Sir Joseph Noel Paton the painter (now Queen's Limner in Scotland) asked him to exhibit something in the Royal Scottish Academy, saying that, if Rossetti could procure from the owners the pictures of The Beloved and Venus Verticordia , both of which Sir Joseph had seen in a state approaching completion, they would not fail to obtain places of honour. In the following month, February, Mr. Craven said that he had promised to lend to the Great Exhibition at Leeds the Tibullus and Delia and the Washing Hands . He withdrew this offer on learning that it was contrary to the artist's liking, and the Scottish Academy had also to forego the paintings designated by Sir Noel Paton. About the same time Rossetti was engaged in insuring from fire his own paintings and drawings in his house in Cheyne Walk; he assessed their value at £2000.
Mr. Shields, writing in February, said that he had seen at Mr. McConnel's Rossetti's watercolour of
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Note: Typo: on page 63, the final complete sentence on the page (beginning "There is thus in the picture not anything") lacks a puncutation mark separating it from the next sentence (beginning "In Rossetti's").
Tristram and Yseult drinking the love-potion, and he agreed with the painter in rating it highest among all his watercolours. This painting passed out of Mr. McConnel's possession in 1872; as we have seen under the year 1863, Rossetti then contemplated painting the subject in oil, for which the medium of watercolour was substituted in 1867. Mr. Shields added that a Mr. Johnson, after some demur, was desirous of purchasing, for the £100 which had been asked, the designs (already mentioned) from the Parable of the Vineyard .
At the end of February comes the first trace of Mr. Frederick R. Leyland as one of the purchasers of my brother's paintings. He then wrote that “the three pictures” had arrived, without giving any indication of what they were. Mr. Leyland soon became personally intimate with Rossetti, to their mutual satisfaction. He was very attentive to him in his last illness at Birchington; and at the time of my brother's death possessed a collection of his works second to none—or indeed superior to all others. In August he sent some money, on account either of Mrs. Leyland's picture (portrait presumably) or of the Aspecta Medusa ; but the latter, as I have already said, was never executed on canvas. He had commissioned the picture of Lilith , and also a Lucrezia Borgia —one of the variations of the subject (already mentioned) of Lucrezia preparing a poison-draught for her husband. Lilith represents a beautiful blonde woman (the same sitter as in Bocca Baciata and The Blue Bower ) combing out her hair; the accessories are those of an ordinary modern tiring-chamber. There is thus in the picture not anything to connect it with Lilith the first serpent-bride of Adam, nor to indicate a deep occult meaning of any kind In Rossetti's
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intention, however, the picture means “Body's Beauty”, as contrasted with “Soul's Beauty” in the Sibylla Palmifera ; and he wrote two sonnets, now bearing these titles, which develop the intention. This Lilith was begun, I believe, in 1864.
This same year, 1868, bears record of two other new purchasers—Mr. Leonard R. Valpy, a solicitor, and Mr. William Graham, then M.P. for Glasgow. Both these gentlemen were earnest admirers of Rossetti's works— Mr. Valpy mainly in relation to their spiritual significance or suggestiveness, Mr. Graham for their general attraction as works of art in beauty and colour. Mr. Valpy was an estimable gentleman, a little punctilious and fidgeting; he had a particular objection to nudity (to which indeed my brother's pictures show no propensity worth speaking of), and was disquieted even by a pair of bare arms. Mr. Graham showed himself a constant, cordial, and affectionate friend, conspicuously so in 1872, in a dangerous crisis of my brother's health. In May 1868 Mr. Valpy wrote of his possessing a “full bust” (half-length figure in crayons I assume) by Rossetti, and said that he would like to obtain other works of the same calibre. He had heard that the Aspecta Medusa was to be executed, and remarked that Mr. Burton the painter (now Sir Frederick, Director of the National Gallery) greatly admired the crayon design of it. Mr. Graham sent £500 on account of anything which Rossetti might be minded to allot to him from among works then in hand. Rather than the subject of Three Roses (called also Rosa Triplex ,) he would wish to have a version of the Dante's Dream , or of the Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee ; but he was not prepared to commission definitely either of these extensive
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and costly subjects. He also wanted Rossetti to do a crayon-drawing of the Beata Beatrix .
Another letter, belonging I think to this year, is from Miss Spartali (now Mrs. Stillman), herself a painter of uncommon gifts, who more than once favoured my brother with sittings for some ideal head—as for instance the lady at the spectator's right in Dante's Dream , and the Fiammetta . Her letter refers to the oil-portrait of Mrs. William Morris —seated, in a dark-blue dress—as being now finished. There seems to have been some idea of getting this work engraved, but it was never effected.
This year affords evidence of the zeal with which Mr. Graham was animated for my brother's art. He had seen the design of Pandora , but hesitated to commission it at the price required—£682, or £735. This difficulty was solved by an offer from Mr. Graham's uncle, Mr. John Graham of Skelmorlie, to buy the large-sized picture (to be finished that same year, 1869) for £735, or £787, which seems to have been the price eventually paid; the nephew himself taking a smaller duplicate for £367. The latter had by this time (February 1869) made up his mind to the purchase of the Dante's Dream , and in April he assented to the proposed price, £1575, suggesting as dimensions 6 ft. by 3 1/2; I need not remind such readers as know the picture that in point of fact this size was enormously exceeded, somewhat to Mr. Graham's dismay. He wished likewise to have the refusal of any drawings which Rossetti might make as studies for the painting. Dante's Dream (being the same subject of which Rossetti had made an early
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watercolour, as noted under the year 1856, but a different composition) represents the vision which Dante, in the Vita Nova, records himself to have had of the then imminent death of Beatrice. Beatrice has, according to the vision, just expired; two ladies are in the act of lowering a pall over her; Love, kissing her lips, leads Dante forward to gaze and mourn. Mr. Graham also commissioned a replica of the Sibylla Palmifera , in watercolour, or of small size in oil, for £367; bought the Three Roses ; wished for a duplicate of a drawing of Miss Spartali; and undertook to buy a variation in watercolour of the oil-portrait of Mrs. Morris for £367, and the Found for £840, leaving over for further consideration some question as to the copyright of this picture, and a replica of it. He appears to have been, in the early part of the year, the owner of a minor version of the Venus Verticordia ; and of the oil-picture of Mariana in the Moated Grange , into which Rossetti had undertaken to put a second figure, that of the page playing on a lute. The head of this page was painted from Mr. Graham's son William; and a crayon drawing of the youth was executed gratis towards the same time.
In the spring of 1869 my brother made a cartoon for a stained-glass window, The Sermon on the Plain . It was done in memory of our aunt, Miss (Margaret) Polidori, deceased in 1867; and was executed by the Morris firm, and set up in Christ Church, Albany Street, Regent's Park, the place of worship assiduously attended by our aunt for at least a quarter of a century preceding her death. A crayon-portrait of Mrs. Tebbs (a cordial friend, herself a member of the Seddon family) belongs also to this year.
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In a letter addressed to myself by my brother in September I find a reference to one of his pen-and-ink designs, the Cassandra prophesying the death of Hector, for which he wrote a brace of sonnets. This design had (as previously indicated) been done several years before; it was one of those which my brother anxiously wished to carry out some day as a picture, but he never did so. In the autumn of 1869 circumstances had arisen which alarmed him as to the possibility of finding himself forestalled by some other painter in the use of some of the subjects of his own invention which he saw no early opportunity of executing: and it was on this ground that he mentioned to me the Cassandra , along with two other inventions that he viewed with partiality— The Passover in the Holy Family , and The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee .
About the same time he was occupied with the idea of re-working upon the Triptych, in Llandaff Cathedral, of the worship of the Infant Christ by a King and a Shepherd. A letter from the Rev. W. Bruce, of Llandaff, expresses his willingness to support Rossetti's wish to receive back the picture for this purpose, adding that the notion of colouring the frame could not be entertained. I infer, however, that the picture was in fact never sent to London for re-working. In the September of one year or other, perhaps 1869, my brother went to Llandaff, and there re-touched the picture, and “much improved” (as he considered) “the centre-piece by lightening the Virgin and Child.”
Another work of restoration or completion was mooted in the autumn. Mr. Thursfield wrote enquiring whether Rossetti would like to finish his distemper-painting in the Hall of the Oxford Union, or whether
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he could suggest some mode of filling the central blank. This must refer to the second of the two subjects which Rossetti had of old undertaken— Sir Galahad receiving the Sangrael . Subsequently he notified the willingness of the Committee to spend a sum not exceeding £100 for completing the aforenamed painting, on the understanding that Rossetti (from whom no doubt this suggestion came) would send down an artist for the purpose; and in a later letter it was arranged that Mr. Dunn should act. It may be safely said that this scheme never took effect, but I know not why.
A letter to Mr. Rae, dated in August 1869, adverts to two pictures executed in preceding years. Rossetti expressed himself as pleased to hear that Monna Vanna , painted in 1866, “bears not only inspection but possession.” Monna Vanna (which has in practice retained that title, although, as we shall see further on, it ought properly to be called Belcolore ) is a half-figure of a lady holding a feather fan: the tints of the richly patterned dress are white and gold. When this picture appeared in 1883 in Burlington House, in the collection of works by Rossetti which was associated with the display of Old Masters for that year, it proved to be a special favourite with the public: indeed, I consider that according to the taste of most visitors—of whom only a minority gave their predilection to the product of Rossetti's later period dating from about 1872 onwards— Monna Vanna divided with The Beloved the highest praise of all; nor was it undeserving of this preference, so far as sweetness, evenness, and fine simplicity of execution, are concerned, apart from depth of insight or of significance. In the same exhibition was a smaller oil-picture named Aurelia , of very high finish of handling,
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and bearing some analogy, on a minor scale, to the painting entitled Lilith . This Aurelia , painted in 1863, and originally named Fazio's Mistress , is also referred to in the letter of August 1869. “Fazio's Mistress ,” wrote Rossetti, “ought to be renamed. It was always an absurd misnomer in a hurry; and the thing is much too full of queer details to embody the poem quoted, which is a thirteenth-century production. Do have the writing on the frame effaced, and call it anything else. Aurelia would do very well for the golden hair. I don't think it bad; but it was done at a time when I had a mania for buying bricabrac, and used to stick it into my pictures.”
In 1873 Rossetti got back both these pictures, to give them a re-touching: they, as well as The Beloved , came prosperously out of the dangerous ordeal. He then wrote that he had re-named Monna Vanna as Belcolore , which had served as a female name in Venice. This, he wrote, “was the title I originally meant the picture to have; only, when done, I doubted whether it quite deserved the name of ‘Fair Colour’; I think now there will be no misnomer.” Some question had been raised about certain rings painted in this picture. One of them was removed by the artist in 1873. As to another ring, he observed that its strong green was required to balance the colours of the work, and he considered the tint not excessive for a beryl or emerald-matrix. The name of Monna Vanna had (like that of Fazio's Mistress ) a thirteenth-century sound about it, being got by Rossetti out of Dante; and he felt it to be inappropriate for so comparatively modern-looking a picture.
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was one of the marked years of my brother's life. The Dante's Dream was growing into form and colour under his hand, and his volume entitled Poems came out in the Spring, with his own design for the binding, just before he completed the forty-second year of his age.
The year opens with a letter from Mr. Shields, expressing satisfaction that Rossetti had again taken up his old picture Found , and had engaged a male model to sit for it; also that he had resolved to set about painting various subject-pictures already projected or designed. I have often—too often—had occasion to say before now that some important design by my brother, intended as the foundation for a picture, was never carried out in that form—as for instance the Cassandra , the Boat of Love , the Aspecta Medusa , &c. It may be as well here to offer a few remarks as to the reasons for these frequent miscarriages of his inventive projects. The first and most constantly operating reason was that my brother, as a non-exhibiting artist, had necessarily to rely upon a small and close circle of purchasers; and that these purchasers were in general more anxious to secure such specimens of his art as consisted of ideal female half-figures or heads than to commission work of any other class. Steadily occupied as he thus was, Rossetti had little time, though he had earnest inclination, to set-to upon work requiring a large amount of previous reflection and preparation. He often chafed to see the months and the years slipping away without adequate embodiment of his more elaborate and significant inventions; but so fate and opportunity willed it. Something should also be allowed for the fact that
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he had very little natural turn, and had never applied himself to the requisite technical discipline, for carrying out large scenic schemes, whether of open-air landscape or of interior combinations, such as would have been needed for his more crowded compositions, the Magdalene , or the Cassandra , or some others; and intensity of spiritual expression, even in a single face, had to his mind some counterbalancing claims, even against the moving and fascinating qualities of an epic or dramatic story, however vividly grouped, or whatever its depth of meaning. After making every allowance of this kind, the rarity of achievement of his larger projects in art must remain matter of regret, and to some extent of censure.
Mr. William Graham is again in 1870 an active correspondent. On the 10th of March he spoke of Dante's Dream as being “nearly on the stocks;” and reminded Rossetti of a promise of his to paint Amy soon as a companion to Bellebuona , which is the same small oil-picture that was exhibited, under the title of Il Ramoscello , at Burlington House in 1883. Later on, 29th June, Rossetti had offered Mr. Graham ten of the studies made in preparation for the painting of Dante's Dream ; but for these Mr. Graham could not find the requisite space, so he proposed to take only four of them, for which £100 had been paid, or preferably four different female studies. In the middle of September the Pandora then in preparation for Mr. John Graham (the Uncle) is discussed. Rossetti was minded to enlarge it from three-quarters size to full-length: this suggestion was staved off by a proposal that William Graham would himself take a separate full-length version. The picture for Mr. John Graham was completed in February 1871. As to the studies of heads made for the Dante's Dream there is in one of Rossetti's letters the observation: “I have made careful studies of the heads, of a certain size; which should be adhered to in order to trace them, which is the only way of sure work in painting, I find.”“The different nude studies” for the same picture are likewise spoken of, and “the drapery-studies.” The following remarks on the oil-picture are also worth extracting:—“I am quite bent on making the picture thoroughly forcible and well relieved as a primary necessity, without which I could not endure its existence. This has been the case, I feel sure, with all work I have finished lately, and is rapidly becoming the case with this now. Only my habit is to leave these considerations absolutely alone in putting-in the materials of a picture, and to transform it completely afterwards in such respects. The outside parts are getting light again as I go on, and will be quite brilliant eventually.”
A letter from Mr. Gambart the picture-dealer may perhaps belong to this year. It shows that he had at some time bought a head by Rossetti named Fiammetta (I remember nothing of it, but regard it as not in any way closely related to the large oil-picture, A Vision of Fiammetta , painted some years later), and the painter had now made an offer of another head as a pendent to the first. Mr. Gambart would have been disposed to take the head of Christ, executed towards 1859 in watercolour and oil, from sittings given by Mr. Burne Jones, as a study for the head to be introduced into the never-completed oil-picture of The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee . This Rossetti was unwilling to part with: he offered instead a female head for no further payment, or finished with hands for £40.
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In the spring of this year Rossetti spent, to recruit his health, a few weeks at Scalands, near Robertsbridge in Sussex, a house belonging to his hearty friend of many years, Mrs. Bodichon. Here he made a crayon drawing of Mrs. Morris, “which I am sure” (so he wrote) “is the best thing I ever did.” I am not certain which drawing is here spoken of: perhaps the one which served, several years afterwards, as the foundation of his oil-picture The Daydream . There was also a study of a country-girl's head, sold to Mr. Graham for some £52. At a later date, September, a drawing is spoken of, perhaps a crayon-drawing, named Margaret. Whether this had anything to do with the Margaret or Gretchen of Göthe's Faust, and with the picture which Rossetti began some years later (but never finished) of Gretchen looking at the jewels, afterwards entitled Risen at Dawn , I cannot say.
By 17th December the Sibylla Palmifera was finished, all but a little final glazing; and Rossetti could write to its owner, Mr. Rae: “I am well pleased with the work when done; it will quite eclipse my others you have as to force of colour.”
continues the correspondence with Mr. Graham. Early in January the Mariana was completed. On the following day he asked Rossetti for a duplicate of the Beata Beatrix . This work, as I have already said, had been painted as a reminiscence of the artist's wife, and Rossetti showed no little reluctance to undertake a duplicate. He did not actually refuse, however. A beginning was made; and the work hung over, with weak and half-hearted endeavours, until, late in 1872,
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it was taken up with earnestness, and brought to completion. As a work of art, it could not be regarded as coming fully into competition with its original, the property of Lord Mount-Temple. The price fixed for the duplicate was £900, or up to £945. On 14th January Mr. Graham suggested to Rossetti his own poem of The Blessed Damozel as a theme for a picture: as it turned out, the painter had himself projected doing this, and in due course the work was executed. Mr. Graham also enquired whether Rossetti would make a painting, to be offered to Mr. Hamilton, from the crayon-drawing named Silence —one of his principal productions in that medium: this proposal did not take effect. In May Mr. Graham expressed a wish that his Beata Beatrix might be distinguished from its original by the addition of a predella, representing some incident such as the meeting of Beatrice and Dante in the Garden of Eden, a sketch of which subject was in the possession of Mr. Boyce: if such a predella were added to the Beata Beatrix , the other picture, The Blessed Damozel , might be docked of a predella heretofore intended. But in point of fact both predellas were ultimately painted, the one for Beata Beatrix being priced at £157. Meanwhile the Dante's Dream was advancing steadily, or even rapidly. On 17th July my brother was able to announce that, on his returning to London from Kelmscott in Oxfordshire (where for some years he tenanted the Manor-house, jointly with the Morris family), little would be needed for the completion of the picture; and by 7th November it is spoken of as actually finished. The purchaser (it appears) had not been invited or allowed to see it at any stage of its production: my brother being one of those artists who
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shrink from displaying work in an incomplete condition, when the ruling intention is only half expressed, and suggestions or objections are apt to be forthcoming, forestalled, or perhaps advisedly disregarded, by the painter himself.
Another replica of Beata Beatrix —in this instance for Mr. Craven—is spoken of in some letters of this year; painted in watercolour after the original in oil—price some £350. In August my brother expected it to be ready for delivery within three months. Towards November Mr. Craven bought from Agnews the picture-dealers a water-colour of St. George and the Princess Sabra : he thought it wanting in luminosity, and proposed to consign it to the artist for some reworking. This proved to be impracticable, as the colour had been painted over Indian ink. An arrangement was also made that Rossetti should complete the Rosa Triplex , as companion to the watercolour of Hesterna Rosa already belonging to Mr. Craven. But it was soon afterwards settled that the Rosa Triplex , price £236, should form a pendent to the Tibullus and Delia , while something else should be painted as a pendent to Hesterna Rosa . The Morning Music was taken back by Rossetti from Mr. Craven, as the painter fancied that the purchaser was not quite satisfied with it.
In August my brother was getting on with a small picture having a river-background: no doubt this must be the half-figure of Mrs. Morris now entitled Water-willow , which he regarded with predilection. It must be to this picture that a characteristic remark of his applies:—“I have painted the better part of a little picture, but don't know who is to buy it. I can't be
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bothered to stick idle names on things now—a head is a head; and fools won't buy heads on that footing.” He was also making drawings from the two daughters of Mrs. Morris, then children. A letter from Messrs. Pilgeram and Lefévre the picture-dealers, dated in November, shows that another watercolour of Lucrezia Borgia was in progress at that time for them.
The year closes with two letters from Mr. Leyland. They speak of some picture of Michael Scott which he appears to have owned; of The Loving Cup , which Rossetti had in 1870 proposed to take back from him, but this arrangement was not carried out for some while yet; of The Bower-meadow , begun as far back as 1850; and of a picture to serve as a pendent to the Lilith , Mr. Leyland's property. At a later date three watercolour replicas of The Loving Cup are referred to.
opens with a letter from Mr. William A. Turner, a Manchester manufacturer who in course of time bought two or three of Rossetti's leading pictures. This gentleman, between whom and the painter very amicable relations were established, died in 1886. He wrote on the present occasion to say that he was the owner of a small oil-picture of a girl, with a heart-shaped gem-trinket, Joli Cœur , which he had bought from Mr. Ellis the publisher. The colour was tarnishing in parts, and he wished to know what remedy could be applied. This work, it appears, had at one time belonged to Mr. William Graham, and was mentioned by him in 1873 as the only Rossetti he had ever parted with.
At the beginning of the year Rossetti was minded to take up in earnest, as an oil-picture, his design of
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Cassandra prophesying doom to Hector. He offered it to Mr. Leyland for some large price, which (as the correspondence shows) must have exceeded £2100: to this proposal Mr. Leyland did not assent, and he also resigned the idea of purchasing The Bower-meadow . He commissioned, for £840, the Veronica Veronese (the picture of a lady touching a violin in a note suggested by the lilt of a canary). An earlier commission for a similar price was La Pia —the subject from Dante's Purgatorio, begun perhaps as far back as 1868, and only finished towards 1880. La Pia was (as many of my readers will be aware) a Sienese lady, who was kept by her husband, through jealousy or some other motive of malignity, in the pestilential district of the Maremma, and there detained until the climate killed her. In the picture she is represented seated languidly on the battlements of the castle, and fingering her fatal wedding-ring.
A letter from Mr. McConnel, dated in May, shows that he was then the owner of the small oil-picture named Two Mothers , which is an offshoot from that very extensive composition after Browning, Hist, said Kate the Queen , which I have mentioned under the remote years 1849-50. The Two Mothers represents a mother and child before an image of the Madonna and the infant Jesus. It is painted on a small strip of the large canvas which had been destined for the Browning subject: and the head of the human mother is the very same head which, in the full composition, had been intended for a middle-aged lady of the court, reading to Queen Kate as she sits having her hair combed out.
In the same month of May Mr. Rae wrote
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observing that he then possessed a larger number of Rossetti's works than any other purchaser. He enumerated them as follows (my readers must be asked to pardon the repetition involved):— Sibylla Palmifera , Monna Vanna , The Beloved , Venus Verticordia , The Damsel of the Sangrael , Fazio's Mistress ,, The Tune of Seven Towers , The Blue Closet , Mariana , The Chapel before the Lists , Sir Breuse sans Pity , Paolo and Francesca , and The Wedding of St. George . This makes thirteen subjects altogether—presumably all that Mr. Rae then possessed.
In June of this year my brother had a very serious illness, which will be more particularly mentioned when I come to speak of his writings. It compelled him to retreat from London, and for a while to drop all professional occupation whatsoever. He resumed work towards the close of August.
At some time in this year, perhaps September, Mr. Valpy wrote to him asking him to do a crayon portrait of Mrs. Valpy, and observing that he had seen some of his works of the like kind at the house of Mr. Stevenson in Tynemouth. At Trowan, in the Highlands of Scotland, Rossetti had already, towards the beginning of September, taken up (under urgent pressure from Mr. Madox Brown, who, with his usual warmth of friendship, had accompanied him out of London) the replica of his Beata Beatrix for Mr. William Graham, abandoned in the previous year as hopeless. It was finished before he left Scotland. He spoke of this Beata Beatrix as having been completed “tant bien que mal, or plus mal que bien. ” A later notice of this picture occurs in January 1873, when Rossetti varnished it, with most beneficial results in depth and transparency, and was able to pronounce
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“It looks almost tolerable.” There was still one drawback: the painting had been glazed with a mixture of Roberson's and Parris's mediums, and the varnishing produced here and there a sort of whitish soapy bloom. When finally the frame came in February, and the picture could be viewed complete with its predella, it was even dubbed ”quite satisfactory,“ and “up to his usual level.”
Rossetti regretted to learn that, during his absence from London, his crayon drawing named Silence had been sold to Messrs. Heaton and Brayshay, of Bradford; he intended to paint it one day (which however he never did), and resolved to get it back, and this he succeeded in doing soon afterwards. The purchasers rated it at £250. This drawing was resold, towards the end of 1876, to Mr. Councillor Rowley, of Manchester.
On leaving Scotland, Rossetti returned to Kelmscott, and there he remained settled up to the summer or early autumn of 1874. He contemplated undertaking two pictures as soon as he should reach Kelmscott: (1) the subject named The Daydream (or, in the first instance, Monna Primavera ), which nevertheless was not seriously begun on the canvas till some years afterwards; and (2) a full-length Pandora , of small life-size; he considered that this subject would benefit much by being treated in full length, and by some changes of detail. He had also an idea of painting the noble subject of the suicide of Pætus and Arria , but of this no trace remains except a slight but expressive pencil-sketch. I question, moreover, whether he ever produced the full-length Pandora . He had by him, in the house in Cheyne Walk, heads both for the Pandora and for the Daydream , and studies for the background of the latter were
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then being made at Trowan by Mr. Dunn. For each of these pictures he meant to charge a price of £1050, and he thought of offering either of them to Mr. Leathart. Before the end of September he had received at Kelmscott from Chelsea various drawings, including the two heads above-named, and a head of Mrs. Zambaco , a Greek lady of his acquaintance, now known as a sculptress or medallist. Soon afterwards Rossetti got back from Mr. Leyland the picture of Lilith , with a view to making some alteration in it: he thought of refinishing the head from a then very childish sitter, Miss May Morris, who (as he wrote) ”has the right complexion.“ He re-consigned this picture to Mr. Leyland in December, and wrote to a friend: “I have made it, I think, a complete success, quite worthy to hang with the Fiddle-picture” ( i.e., the Veronica Veronese ).
Notwithstanding these various projects and performances, it would seem that a different theme was the first which Rossetti worked upon after settling down at Kelmscott—the Proserpine , which he always looked upon with more than wonted approval. His first experiment upon this subject (I call it the first provisionally, and for convenience sake, but there may have been some attempts even earlier) did not satisfy him; but he thought that it might sell as a separate thing, by cutting out the existing head, and substituting another. The subject was originally intended for Eve holding the apple: it was converted by afterthought into Proserpine holding the pomegranate. Then he began a second Proserpine , for which he received an offer of £577 from two acquaintances of old standing, Mr. Charles Augustus Howell and Mr. William Parsons, who acted as partners in some picture-buying speculations. By the beginning
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of November the second Proserpine promised to be soon completed. A careful chalk-drawing of Miss May Morris had also been done. Mr. Murray Marks, the dealer in works of art, who had been well known to Rossetti for some years past, procured this drawing, and sold it to Mr. Prange for £170, receiving in part-payment the smallish oil-picture of The Christmas Carol ; and he succeeded in re-selling this picture, for a like sum of £170, to Mr. Alderson Smith. In 1876 it passed into the hands of Mr. Rae: there is a letter to that gentleman from Rossetti, saying—“I must make The Christmas Carol all right for you now you have got it.” The oil-picture of The Christmas Carol is a single half-figure of a girl playing, quite different from an earlier watercolour bearing the same title.
My brother had first known Mr. Howell, an Anglo-Portuguese, then an extremely young man, towards 1857, and again, on his return from the Continent, in 1864. For some years following 1864 they were on terms of great intimacy. This had been interrupted for a year or two preceding our present date, the autumn of 1872. The familiarity was then resumed, and, up to the close of 1874 or thereabouts, Mr. Howell was not only a frequent visitor to Kelmscott, and a constant correspondent, but he became also a selling agent for Rossetti's pictures, and in that character did some very vigorous and successful strokes of work, being rich in versatile resource and in attractive personal qualities. The period of Rossetti's business-connection with Mr. Howell must be regarded as that when he was most prosperous as a professional man, with the least amount of trouble to himself. Providently concerting his plans with Mr. Howell, he was able to trust to that gentleman
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to carry them out with abundant savoir faire. In a letter from Mr. Howell, dated in August 1873, I observe the statement that he had readily sold sixty-eight pictures and drawings by Rossetti, which had passed through his hands in a period of six years. Ultimately both the business-connection and the personal intimacy ceased. Mr. Parsons, whom I have mentioned above, was by profession a portrait and landscape painter, who had afterwards taken to photography and also to picture-dealing. His partnership with Mr. Howell was (as I understand it) only partial, for in most of my brother's dealings with Howell Parsons had no share at all, and many such dealings ensued after Parsons had closed his business-transactions with my brother.
The first experimental version of Proserpine , and the drawing of Miss May Morris, were in November bought by Messrs. Howell and Parsons for £300. In the same month Mr. Aldam Heaton asked Rossetti to do for a friend a watercolour head of Christ.
It seems that about this time a so-called Magdalene (which I infer to be an oil-sketch of the frequently mentioned design, Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee ) was in the hands of Mr. Clabburn, a Norwich manufacturer and art-collector, whom my brother had known for several years, and it was likely to be sold off by auction. In this and in most other cases my brother regarded the chances of an auction-room as likely to serve his interests amiss: he was therefore well pleased when Mr. Howell purchased the work from Mr. Clabburn, and sent it to Bradford to find another buyer. Messrs. Heaton and Brayshay became the purchasers, at a price of £220, on the understanding that
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the painter would re-touch the work. Mr. Rae was inclined to buy it in the autumn of 1874: but Rossetti wrote of it in discouraging terms, both as to its then actual value, and as to the sum which would be needed for fully working it up, and the project was dropped. Two auction-sales of works belonging to Miss Bell, a schoolmistress with whom Mr. Ruskin was on friendly terms, took place about the same time. At the first of these sales Mr. Howell bought up for a friend all the Rossetti specimens of minor account, excepting two which had been done at Hastings, representing Miss Siddal: these two (and probably also a Girl playing the Harp, which fetched £10) were purchased, for about £15 each, by Mr. F. S. Ellis, the publisher of Rossetti's poems, and his esteemed personal friend. One subject, termed The Carol , was bought by Mr. Leyland, acting through Howell. On the other hand, Howell had purchased from Leyland a design which his letter names “the Dante,” and the other well-known composition, How they met Themselves (two lovers startled by encountering their own wraiths in a forest); and Leyland was desirous that Rossetti should take back from him, at £200 or £250, the Lucrezia Borgia . The subjects thus obtained by Howell are specified as follows: Luke Preaching ; Dante and Beatrice , a drawing for a water-colour belonging to Mr. Leyland; Dante Seated, in pencil and ink, £11; a man who is being knighted, the head done from Benjamin Woodward, the architect of the Museum and the Union building in Oxford; St. George and the Dragon (a slight specimen); a female sketch. No doubt all these works, sold by Miss Bell, had originally belonged to Ruskin. The latter, according to Mr. Howell's account, had some years before sent
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the Regina Cordium (portrait of Mrs. Dante Rossetti) to America, and now only retained The Passover in the Holy Family , and the Golden Water .
This year opens with a letter (3rd January) from Mr. William Graham, who expresses regret at having missed buying from Rossetti the picture (mentioned aforetime) named The Bower-meadow . Mr. Gambart, who had been concerned in purchasing it from Rossetti, had now offered it to Graham for £1000, or at lowest £900. This tender was declined, and Mr. Dunlop had then become the purchaser. The Boat of Love is here again mentioned—in terms which indicate that Rossetti proposed to execute the subject on a large scale for Mr. Leyland, and on a smaller scale for Mr. Graham. Neither project (as already indicated) took effect. Later on, three of the pictures belonging to Graham were in the hands of Rossetti, who apparently wished to do some additional work on all three. Il Ramoscello was one; also The Annunciation (now in the National Gallery), on which Graham asked Rossetti to do as little as possible; also the Venus Verticordia (a smaller replica from the oil-picture), which Graham wished to receive back unaltered. The Ramoscello returned to him in June. He had bought The Annunciation for £425, from Messrs. Agnew.
On the 17th January Rossetti wrote: “I have pleased myself at last with the Proserpine , having begun an entirely new one, which I feel sure is the best picture I have painted.” All the figure-part was by this time done, and only the drapery remained over. Proserpine is depicted as in Hades, holding the
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fateful pomegranate which debarred her from returning to the living world, with a faint reflection behind her from the light of day. This I regard as Proserpine No. 3 (and may at times find it convenient thus to designate it); the painter had an idea of getting it introduced to the notice of Sir William (now Lord) Armstrong, who was understood to be forming a large collection of pictures; but this idea came to nothing. The two previous essays at Proserpine were now rated as only fit to be made into “little head-pictures,” and the painter counted upon realizing £1050 out of the three. No. 3 was nearly finished by 15th May. One of the others was in the hands of Mr. Parsons by June. Mr. Leyland was willing to buy No. 3 for £840, and offered a similar price for another picture which now first comes in for mention, The Roman Widow . This latter was not perhaps begun until some little while further on; and the final completion of the Proserpine was delayed till August, or indeed later.
Early in March Rossetti wrote of having had down at Kelmscott a female model, found for him by Mr. Dunn; and of having made from her a drawing, nearly down to the knees, of a naked Siren playing on an extraordinary lute—“certainly one of my best things.” This was completed by the end of the month, named Ligeia Siren , and valued by the artist at £210, as, though in strictness only a crayon-drawing, it ranked as “quite an elaborate picture.”
A letter from Mr. Valpy, dated in April, refers to the works by Rossetti which he then possessed. These were the heads of Miss Wilding (the lady who sat for the head of Sibylla Palmifera , and of La Ghirlandata , and for various other pictures); a portrait of Mrs. Valpy ;
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La Pia (more correctly called Aurea Catena ); Beata Beatrix ; Sibylla Palmifera ; Miss Kingdon (a drawing which the owner wished to get draped); Andromeda; and Miss Spartali (who was by this time Mrs. Stillman). Most of these, or probably all of them, must have been crayon-drawings. Another drawing, belonging to Mr. Leyland, is mentioned in a letter from Rossetti dated 15th May. This was The Blessed Damozel —the subject being, of course, from the artist's own poem so named. The crayon-drawing thus spoken of was nearly, yet not absolutely, the first instance in which the theme had been transferred by him from language into form. He referred to the drawing as “a very complete thing,” and added that he was minded to paint a picture right off from it, “as I really believe such pictures have more unity if one does not do them from nature but from cartoons”—an important indication of the growing bent of his mind, at this period, in matters of artistic invention and execution. It would seem that The Blessed Damozel was soon afterwards begun on canvas—or even on two canvases successively.
The large picture named La Ghirlandata was commenced in the early summer of 1873. On 1st July Rossetti wrote of it:—“My new picture of Miss Wilding goes on swimmingly, in spite of two November days created on purpose for the start of it.” The two heads of angels were painted from Miss May Morris. Mr. Graham was willing to give £840 for this picture, or £1000 for the Ghirlandata and the Ligeia Siren together. By the close of August the former was far advanced towards completion, and was about finished in September. The name La Ghirlandata may be translated “The Garlanded Lady,” or “The Lady of
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the Wreath.” The personage is represented singing, as she plays on a musical instrument; two youthful angels listen. The flowers which are prominent in the picture were intended by my brother for the poisonous monkshood: I believe he made a mistake, and depicted larkspur instead. I never heard him explain the underlying significance of this picture: I suppose he purposed to indicate, more or less, youth, beauty, and the faculty for art worthy of a celestial audience, all shadowed by mortal doom.
Some of Mr. Howell's letters of this year speak of “the snowdrop head”—“the white-flower picture” (priced at £210)— Blanzifiore . These I take to be different designations of one and the same performance; it lay for a while in Mr. Howell's own house.
With the end of the summer the large picture of Dante's Dream becomes again a prominent subject of consideration. This work, the property of Mr. William Graham, had always been too large to find convenient housing on his walls, and it remained hung upon a staircase. Consequently Mr. Graham was disposed to relinquish the large picture, and to obtain from the painter a smaller (though still well-sized) replica of it, at the same price, to which was to be added a sum of £300 for a double predella, Mr. Graham's own suggestion; and Mr. Valpy showed a strong inclination to become the purchaser of the large picture, at the same amount which Mr. Graham had given for it. The original was replaced in Rossetti's house in Cheyne Walk, in order that Mr. Dunn might make the preparation for the replica—outlining the subject, and laying-in the background; Rossetti himself undertaking to do the figures throughout, and the entire colouring. The
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Note: Typo: on page 88, the third sentence in the third paragraph begins with the phrase "He laid it all in in green," rather than “He laid it all in green.”
replica was to be got ready, if possible, within eighteen months; but in fact this limit of time was considerably exceeded. Mr. Howell secured Mr. Valpy as purchaser of the larger picture, and he claimed a commission of £200 upon the sale-price of £1575. To this Rossetti assented, but preferred to deliver works of art rather than £200 in cash; and Blanzifiore , along with the Siren (I presume the original drawing of Ligeia Siren ) were agreed upon as an equivalent for £200.
In October Mr. Leyland undertook to send off Monna Rosa as soon as Rossetti might wish to re-work upon it.
Towards the end of October the Proserpine subject is again in the ascendant. My brother had now begun a new Proserpine (No. 4) from the same design. He laid it all in in green, and expected, when he wrote, to get it finished in about ten days; and he regarded this as very greatly the best version of the subject. He had been induced to undertake it because, upon recurring to No. 3, destined for Mr. Leyland, in order to give it a last finishing, he was again mortified by observing in the face some rucks, caused by the lining process. “This design,” he wrote, “is a favourite one with me, and so I determined to have another tussle to make it my best, which I hope it is now sure to be. The head is much better, both in expression and as a likeness [of Mrs. William Morris], than the others; and the whole thing, done in this way, has a unity which is the right thing for a work of the kind.” As this new Proserpine , No. 4, was destined to supersede No. 3 as Mr. Leyland's property, No. 3 was now reduced in price to £500; and Rossetti thought of offering it to Mr. Rae in lieu of the earlier and much less satisfactory version which had previously been in the hands of Mr. Parsons, but which
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had by this time, after some rather irritating correspondence, returned unsold to Rossetti. But this project was also for a while set aside, for, continuing to work at No. 3 simultaneously with No. 4, Rossetti made No. 3 “so completely” (as he expressed it) “of my best work” that he once more decided to consign it to Mr. Leyland as the fulfilment of his £840 commission.
By the end of the year—12th December—Rossetti had agreed to paint as an oil-picture for Mr. Graham The Blessed Damozel , at the price of £1157, including a predella. He also wrote of a “little stained-glass sketch” of Christ in Glory , which was shortly to go to Mr. Graham; and offered to re-work upon The Loving Cup , one of the watercolour replicas which had been made after the original oil-picture belonging to Mr. Leyland. Mr. Graham also suggested that the oil-picture of Mariana in the Moated Grange should be brightened; but Rossetti did not regard this as a judicious proposal, and the Mariana remained, I believe, fortunately untouched. Having assigned the original Blessed Damozel , Rossetti thought of undertaking a second version of that subject, and he offered it to Mr. Rae for £630, but without effect. A letter from Mr. Graham, dated in the same month of December, details the various works by Rossetti which he then possessed. Some of them have been sufficiently mentioned here already. Others are a Francesca da Rimini , the water-colour of Morning Music , Dante and Beatrice in Eden , How they met Themselves , and The Romaunt of the Rose (both as a watercolour and also on panel—this is the design of two lovers kissing, which had been originally drawn to serve as a frontispiece to the volume of translations, The Early Italian Poets ). Rossetti had also
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lately sent Graham a chalk head, “in payment of the unfinished Miss Macbeth,” a phrase which I fail to understand.
Towards Christmas the Proserpine reached Mr. Leyland's hands; not after all No. 3, but the version which I have termed No. 4. In transit the glass and other accessories got much damaged: the picture itself, save for a slight scratch on neck and cheek, escaped scatheless. It was returned to Rossetti, who easily set it to rights. He gives, in one of his letters, a curious catalogue of the numerous repetitions and recurrent disasters of the Proserpine design. It was begun on seven different canvases, to say nothing of mere drawings. Three, after being brought well forward, were rejected; next came the one which had ill-success with Mr. Parsons. That which I have called No. 3 had its glass twice smashed and renewed, and twice it was lined to prevent accidents. No. 4 had its frame smashed twice, and its glass once, besides the last disaster which nearly destroyed it, and it had been nearly spoiled while under transfer to a fresh strainer. My brother had a strong spice of superstition in his character; and I should not be at all surprised if he suspected that there was a “fate” against the Proserpine pictures, germane to their grievous theme.
A letter to Mr. Rae, dated in November, shows in a rather amusing light the dislike with which Rossetti regarded any clumsiness of subsidiary detail in connection with his pictures. It had been proposed to add an inscription upon the frame of Sibylla Palmifera .“An inscription,” he replied, “is much more difficult to do properly than a picture. If it is a bit too large or too black, the picture goes to the devil; and, if you have not
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some one to do it who has an elective affinity for commas and pauses, I will ask you to spare my poor sonnet. I will get it done myself one day.”
At the beginning of this year, 15th January, Rossetti was again occupied with the picture which he had commenced in the preceding spring, entitled The Bower-maiden —a girl in a room with a pot of marigolds and a black cat. It was painted from “little Annie” (a cottage-girl and house-assistant at Kelmscott), and it “goes on” (to quote the words of one of his letters) “like a house on fire. This is the only kind of picture one ought to do—just copying the materials, and no more: all others are too much trouble.” It is not difficult to understand that the painter of a Proserpine and a Ghirlandata would occasionally feel the luxury of a mood intellectually lazy, and would be minded to give voice to it—as in this instance—in terms wilfully extreme; keeping his mental eye none the less steadily directed to a Roman Widow or a Blessed Damozel in the near future. As a matter of fact, my brother painted very few things, at any stage of his career, as mere representations of reality, unimbued by some inventive or ideal meaning: in the rare instances when he did so, he naturally felt an indolent comfort, and made no scruple of putting the feeling into words— highly suitable for being taken cum grano salis. Nothing was more alien from his nature or habit than “tall talk” of any kind about his aims, aspirations, or performances. It was into his work—not into his utterances about his work—that he infused the higher and deeper elements of his spirit. The Bower-maiden was finished early in
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February, and sold to Mr. Graham for £682, after it had been offered to Mr. Leyland at a rather higher figure, and declined. It has also passed under the names of Fleurs de Marie, Marigolds, and The Gardener's Daughter . After the Bower-maiden had been disposed of, other work was taken up—more especially The Roman Widow, bearing the alternative title of Dîs Manibus , which was in an advanced stage by the month of May, and was completed in June or July. It was finished with little or no glazing. The Roman widow is a lady still youthful, in a grey fawn-tinted drapery, with a musical instrument in each hand; she is in the sepulchral chamber of her husband, whose stone urn appears in the background. I possess the antique urn which my brother procured, and which he used for the painting. For graceful simplicity, and for depth of earnest but not strained sentiment, he never, I think, exceeded he Roman Widow . The two instruments seem to repeat the two mottoes on the urn, i“Ave Domine—Vale Domine.” The head was painted from Miss Wilding, already mentioned; but it seems to me partly associated with the type of Mrs. Stillman's face as well. There are many roses in this picture—both wild and garden roses; they kept the artist waiting a little after the work was otherwise finished. “I really think it looks well,” he wrote on one occasion; “its fair luminous colour seems to melt into the gold frame (which has only just come) like a part of it.” He feared that the picture might be “too severe and tragic” for some tastes; but could add (not perhaps with undue confidence) “I don't think Géricault or Régnault would have quite scorned it.”
In the summer of 1874 a head of my wife (Lucy Madox Brown) was executed in coloured chalks, as a wedding-gift (one out of many) to ourselves; also The Triple Rose , a triplicate version of the head of Miss May Morris, purchased by Mr. Craven for £196.
Towards the end of the autumn another oil-picture was finished, The Damsel of the Sangrael , bought for £500 by Mr. Rae, who already possessed a watercolour bearing the same title . Mr. Rae also purchased for £126 the watercolour of Lucrezia Borgia which had previously belonged to Mr. Leyland. The latter gentleman had towards 1870 sold off by auction all the small pictures in his possession, except the Lucrezia , and he now preferred to part with this also. The sale of the Lucrezia (at the same price which it had cost to Mr. Leyland), and of the Damsel of the Sangrael , were, I think, the last money transactions of any importance which passed between Mr. Rae and my brother.
A letter written by a friend in March of this year refers to two designs by my brother, then no doubt of recent date— The Sphinx and Venus Astarte, called also Astarte Syriaca ; the former in pencil, the latter in pen-and-ink. The Sphinx was one of my brother's most important inventions; he wished to carry it out as a picture, but found no feasible opportunity of doing so. On his death-bed he composed two sonnets, as yet unpublished, to illustrate the same idea. In this design the Sphinx represents the mystery of existence, or the destiny of man, unfathomable by himself. Three personages—a youth, a man of mature age, and an old man —are shown as coming to the secret haunt of the Sphinx, to consult her as to the arcana of fate. The
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man is putting his question; the greybeard toils upward towards the spot; the youth, exhausted with his journey, sinks and dies, unable so much as to give words to the object of his quest. With upward and inscrutable eyes the Sphinx remains impenetrably silent. It may be worthy of mention that, in representing the dying stripling, Rossetti was thinking of the premature fate of Oliver Madox Brown, the youth of singular promise, both as painter and as writer, who had ended his brief life of less than twenty years in the November of 1874—a bitter grief to his father, Rossetti's lifelong friend, Ford Madox Brown. This design Rossetti characteristically wrote of as being meant to be a sort of painted Cloud Confines (the name will be recognized as that of one of his poems). “I don't know,” he added, “whether it would do to paint, being moonlight.” The other design referred to, Venus Astarte , was soon afterwards taken up as the subject of one of my brother's leading pictures.
Mr. Howell negotiated for the sale of the forthcoming Venus Astarte , and he induced Mr. Clarence Fry, the eminent photographer, to commission the picture for a sum of £2100, exclusive of the copyright, which the artist retained; although, as the latter explained to Mr. Fry, this reservation was intended, not really for the purpose of preventing the purchaser from getting the work engraved, were he so minded, but in order to provide against any mischance of a bad engraving apart from the painter's own control. My brother's constant practice, in all his later years, was to sell his pictures with reservation of the copyright to himself, and he took certain precautions which he supposed at the time to be sufficient for this object;
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but, as it turned out eventually, the method which he adopted did not fulfil the requirements of the complicated copyright-law, and the result (as I have been given to understand) is that at the present date no copyright, available either to his representatives or to the owners of the pictures, attaches to them, and they remain destitute of legal protection. I gather that the Venus Astarte was begun on the canvas towards the commencement of November 1875—a full-scale outline of it having been prepared by the middle of October.
The first reference which I find to the oil-picture entitled La Bella Mano —or rather to the preparatory work for it—is in a letter from Mr. Howell, dated in June. He speaks of three drawings by Rossetti which he has bought, price £150; one of them being a figure of a Cupid, clearly applicable to La Bella Mano . The picture itself must have been begun many months before this date, for in August it seems to have been in a completed state. Mr. Ellis the publisher became eventually its purchaser; but from its artist's hands the work had passed into those of the dealer Mr. Murray Marks. La Bella Mano —a lady washing her hands, waited on by two Cupids—is one of my brother's most mature and finished works of execution, although many exceed it in strength or depth of meaning.
By the middle of August another oil-picture was advancing—the head and shoulders, with the arms and hands, being then nearly finished. This was The Sea-Spell —which was as yet intended to bear a different title, consisting of the quotation from Coleridge:
  • “A damsel with a dulcimer
  • In a vision once I saw.”
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This was painted from Miss Wilding, who had sat for the Veronica Veronese , and it was intended to serve as a pendent or companion to that. In the Veronica there was a player on a musical instrument listening to a bird (a canary); so in the Dulcimer there was a bird (a dove as at first intended, but finally a sea-gull) flitting fascinated towards the player. Rossetti offered this picture to the owner of the Veronica , Mr. Leyland, who closed with the proposal—the price being, as in some previous instances, £840.
In the autumn of this year, my brother, with a view to health and quietude, went down to Bognor, where he remained some few months. The Venus Astarte was with him to be worked upon, and also The Blessed Damozel .
This matter of The Blessed Damozel is elucidated in a letter from Rossetti to Mr. William Graham, dated 5th April 1876. He says that he began a picture of this subject years ago; afterwards worked upon a second such picture; and is now near to completing a third, which is intended for Graham. Among several other details, aiming to show how large a portion of the painter's time had been given for years past to work commissioned by Graham, it is mentioned that the replica of Dante's Dream is now more than half done, and that some attention, by way of re-work, had been given to The Annunciation picture ( Ecce Ancilla Domini ) since it came into Graham's possession. For this re-work no charge had been made. This is a somewhat interesting point, considering that the picture in question is now in the National Gallery. I am not
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well aware what the recent re-touching may have been, but should say that it was (in accordance with the request made by the owner, as noted under the date of 1873) not by any means extensive, nor of such a kind as to interfere with the genuineness of the picture as representing Rossetti in his early or expressly “Præraphaelite” period. I think the lily in the angel's hand was one of the alterations—or rather an addition.
Nearly at the same date, 11th April, comes a letter from Sir Joseph Noel Paton, always a most generous estimator of Rossetti's art. He says that the picture (I presume the oil sketch) of The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee was then owned by Mr. Laurie, a picture-dealer in Glasgow; and that the painting of Pandora was among the works displayed in the Glasgow Exhibition.
During this same month of April Mr. Fry consulted Rossetti about a drawing which he had purchased of Mr. Howell, and of which he now sent the painter a sketch. Rossetti replied that the drawing represented Madonna Pietra , a lady to whom Dante in his exile addressed a celebrated little poem in the peculiar form named Sestina. The crystal globe in the hand of the figure was intended to present the reflection of a rocky landscape, symbolizing the lady's pitiless heart. In the study, the figure was nude; but in the projected picture she would have been chiefly draped, and her upper hand was to have been holding some of the drapery. Rossetti added that he still proposed to paint the subject, but in a different action: this project remained unfulfilled. In June Rossetti mentioned to Mr. Fry that he had lately finished an oil-picture named La Ricordanza, or The Lamp of Memory (also at times termed Mnemosyne ),
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and he offered it to this gentleman for £500. This work did not, however, pass into Mr. Fry's hands. It lingered a long while in Rossetti's studio, and was at last, towards 1881, sold to Mr. Leyland.
From Bognor my brother returned to his house in Cheyne Walk; and in the summer he paid a visit to two of his kindest and most considerate friends, Lord and Lady Mount-Temple, at their seat of Broadlands in Hampshire. He executed there a portrait in chalks of Lady Mount-Temple. He went on also with the picture of The Blessed Damozel . For the head of an infant angel which appears in the front of this picture he made drawings from two children—one being the baby of the Rev. H. C. Hawtrey, and the other a workhouse infant. The former sketch was presented to the parents of the child, and the latter to Lady Mount-Temple; and the head with its wings was painted on to the canvas at Broadlands. Here he made the acquaintance also of Mrs. Sumner, a lady of commanding presence, who, after his return to London, favoured him with sittings for various heads. One of them was named Domizia Scaligera .
It was towards the beginning of this year, say in the final days of January, that the large picture of Venus Astarte was brought to a conclusion. I think that my brother was always wont to regard this as his most exalted performance; ranking it, in a certain proportionate scale, along with the Dante's Dream and the Proserpine . The Dante's Dream —in point of dimensions, and as a composition of several figures telling a moving story, and moreover from its relation to the supreme
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poet of his special and lifelong homage—naturally took the first place; but he probably accounted it to be less developed in style and execution. The Proserpine , an invention of his own, satisfied him best as a thing achieved—an adequate realization of his conception: it was, however, smaller in size and simpler in subject than either of the others. Into the Venus Astarte he had put his utmost intensity of thinking, feeling, and method—he had aimed to make it equally strong in abstract sentiment and in physical grandeur—an ideal of the mystery of beauty, offering a sort of combined quintessence of what he had endeavoured in earlier years to embody in the two several types of Sibylla Palmifera and Lilith , or (as he ultimately named them in the respective sonnets) Soul's Beauty and Body's Beauty . It may be well to remark that, by the time when he completed the Venus Astarte, or Astarte Syriaca , he had got into a more austere feeling than of old with regard to colour and chiaroscuro; and the charm of the picture has, I am aware, been less, to many critics and spectators of the work, than he would have deemed to be its due, as compared with some of his other performances of more obvious and ostensible attraction. Mr. Fry, who purchased the Venus Astarte , became also the owner of the original and very finished pen-and-ink design of the same composition. He was minded to exhibit the picture in the Grosvenor Gallery, then a new enterprise: but Rossetti raised a decided objection to this proposal, and referred Mr. Fry to a letter which the painter had recently published in The Times regarding his non-appearance in exhibitions generally, and in the Grosvenor Gallery in particular. This letter is certainly not the writing of a self-conceited man; for
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it substantially amounts to saying that Rossetti withheld his pictures from the eyes of the public in exhibition-rooms because they never rightly satisfied his own eye in his studio.
In February one of Rossetti's large chalk heads, the Donna della Finestra (or Lady of the Window , from Dante's Vita Nova ), was being autotyped for sale; and it was soon afterwards followed by the Silence , and by the Head of Dante , a study for the figure in the picture of Dante's Dream . In April mention is made of a large watercolour painted as far back as 1868, and resembling to a great extent the small oil-picture named Bocca Baciata . The watercolour, entitled La Bionda del Balcone , belonged to Sir William Bowman, who wrote that he would like Rossetti to re-inspect it, as some change had occurred in the pigments. In the same month begins an interchange of letters with Mr. Valpy concerning certain works by Rossetti which this gentleman had received from Mr. Howell. It may suffice here to say that an oil head of Beatrice is named as among the works; also a figure termed Beatrice's Maid, which had at one time been erroneously regarded as a study for The Sea-Spell ; two or three of the studies for the picture of Dante's Dream ; and a chalk-drawing of two boy-Cupids for the Bella Mano , which drawing, as being a nudity, was distasteful to Mr. Valpy.
The oil-picture of the Blessed Damozel , commissioned by Mr. Graham, was finished about the end of April.
A letter from Mr. Leyland, dated 31st July, bears record of one of the subjects which my brother intended to paint, but which in fact he never executed—I even think he never began it. This subject is termed Hero ; and the picture was, I believe, to have represented Hero
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standing with her torch to give light to her wave-buffeting lover Leander, perhaps on that very night of storm and doom when the Hellespont engulfed him. It was to have been of like size and price with other pictures for each of which Mr. Leyland had paid £840. A similar sum was indeed actually paid for the Hero , and must have been afterwards transferred to the account for some other picture. I cannot but regret that this work, which seemed highly suited to my brother's powers, was not carried out. The idea of executing it seems to have been finally abandoned—or at least indefinitely postponed—in the autumn of 1880.
In the late summer of 1877, in consequence of an infirmity for which surgical treatment had been required, my brother fell into a state of great languor and prostration; and, under the more than fraternal escort of Madox Brown, he removed to Hunter's Forestal, near Herne Bay, and for some few weeks appeared incapable of resuming the implements of his art. Our mother and our sister Christina were soon with him; and at last, with an uncertain hand and great misgivings as to the result, he made an attempt at a life-sized chalk-portrait group of the two—head and shoulders. Fortunately the experiment turned out a complete success; and he perceived at once that nothing but an effort of will was needed to enable him to continue working at his art with undiminished faculty of head and hand. Two separate chalk heads of Christina were done about the same time, and with a result equally reassuring. His mind now reverted to a head which he had previously done from Mrs. Stillman, as a preliminary to a picture of A Vision of Fiammetta ; and, not long after returning to London in the autumn, he was favoured
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with some further sittings from Mrs. Stillman, and made the Fiammetta picture one of his principal concerns. It seems to have been brought to some degree of completion before the end of the year, but was not finally sent off to its owner—Mr. Turner—until October 1878. Fiammetta , her head encircled (as Boccaccio describes it) by a mystical flame, is shown standing, parting with her hand the bloom-laden boughs of an apple-tree. As had long previously been the case with the roses and honeysuckles in the Venus Verticordia , Rossetti found a great deal of trouble in satisfying his feeling as an artist in procuring good apple-blossom to paint from in the Fiammetta . At last he called in the friendly aid of Mr. Shields as a caterer, writing more than one letter on the subject, and averring that he “would of course be glad to pay anything for good blossom.”
In the autumn another of Rossetti's chalk-drawings was autotyped, entitled Perlascura (Dark Pearl). I hardly think it was placed on sale along with the other subjects previously mentioned.
Mr. Turner bought two more pictures in 1877. One was the small oil-painting entitled Water-willow . The female figure in this painting is (as Rossetti defined it in a letter to Mr. Turner), “as it were, speaking to you, and embodying in her expression the penetrating sweetness of the scene and season.” The second picture was a Proserpine —the same which I have in a previous instance spoken of as No. 3. I have more than once found that opinions differ as to the comparative merits of this No. 3 and the No. 4 disposed of at an earlier date to Mr. Leyland—some persons preferring the one version, and some the other. My own suffrage is for Mr. Leyland's picture; but at any rate the question of superiority has
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to be weighed in a nice balance. My brother finally preferred No. 3. He had, before effecting the sale to Mr. Turner, offered to Mr. Rae both this picture and the Water-willow . In doing so he wrote that the Proserpine —which, although begun earlier than Mr. Leyland's version of the subject, had been still worked on to some extent towards the opening of 1877—was “unquestionably the finer of the two, and is the very flower of my work.” The prices named to Mr. Rae were £315 for Water-willow , and £1050 for Proserpine . Probably enough Mr. Turner disbursed the same sums. After a while a question arose of sending to a public exhibition in Manchester, got up in aid of the Art-Schools building-fund, some of the pictures by Rossetti belonging to Mr. Turner. As usual, the painter expressed a great reluctance to this proposal; finally he waived his objection so far as the Proserpine was concerned, but adhered to it in relation to the other examples.
The pictures by Rossetti which had belonged to Mr. Turner were brought to the hammer at Christie's in 1888. It may not be out of place to note here the prices which they fetched. The largest price—indeed, a disproportionately large one—came to the Fiammetta —£1207. The Proserpine went for £745; Water-willow (far below its value, I think), £126; Joli Cœur , £236; Washing Hands (watercolour) , £152; the Rose (watercolour), £89. There was also a Mnemosyne, £42, which may, I presume, be a crayon head.
The year closes (31st December) with a request from Mr. Graham that Rossetti would take in hand the predella—an afterthought—for the Blessed Damozel . It may be as well to explain that the subject of the picture
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is the Blessed Damozel leaning over “the gold bar of heaven,” and looking earthward with a yearning gaze, while behind her the background is filled with groups of blue-clad lovers embracing, reunited in their eternal mansion. The predella—which got executed in five or six weeks—was to represent the Damozel's lover disconsolate on earth, and looking, through dark autumnal foliage, towards the perturbed sky. I hardly know whether the idea of this predella—certainly very appropriate for completing pictorially the subject-matter embodied in the poem—came from Rossetti himself, or from Mr. Graham; perhaps rather from the latter. He offered to add for the predella, if done without delay, a sum of £150 to the £1000 which had been already paid for the picture.
One of Rossetti's latest watercolours was a female head named Bruna Brunelleschi . It now belonged to Mr. Valpy, who, being in Rome in February of the present year, asked the painter to send it in the first instance to Canon Bell. After a while however Rossetti resumed ownership of the Bruna Brunelleschi , delivering something else in exchange for it. A watercolour Proserpine , costing £262, was sold in the summer to Mr. Ellis.
Another upset now ensued in relation to the larger and earlier version of the Dante's Dream , which we have already seen transferred from the possession of Mr. Graham to that of Mr. Valpy. The last-named gentleman, towards the middle of the year, was contemplating to retire from the active pursuit of his profession as a solicitor, to quit London finally, and to
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settle down in Bath. Rossetti, as he wrote to Mr. Valpy, could not reconcile himself to the removal of this picture to so remote a residence. It had from the first been apparent that Mr. Valpy, after committing himself, at the instance of Mr. Howell, to the purchase of this large work, had regarded it as somewhat out of scale with his moderate establishment, and with the other specimens of art pertaining to that, and that he would not unwillingly have entered into some different arrangement, had he but felt himself free to do so. Rossetti therefore (it must certainly have been he who took the initiative) proposed that Mr. Valpy should resign to him the Dante's Dream , and receive in substitution for it other works, all of minor dimensions, to a total value not only equivalent to that of the relinquished picture, but even definitely larger; thus giving Mr. Valpy an advantage in the terms of exchange, to smooth over any possible asperity incident to such a transaction. Indeed, a value of no less than £1995 is spoken of by Rossetti, as against the £1575 at which the Dante's Dream had been priced; but the £1995 was to be reduced to about £1650 by the return to Rossetti of some secondary works—chalk heads &c.—belonging to Valpy. An even larger value—£2230—is specified at a later date in the letter-writing. From August onward, a good deal of correspondence—at times rather tentative and complicated in detail—proceeded between Rossetti and Mr. Valpy. At one stage two replicas from works belonging to Mr. Leyland were proposed. Afterwards it was felt by the painter that this would not be consistent with Mr. Leyland's liking. He then offered only one such replica— either the Sea-Spell (of reduced size) or the Veronica Veronese , at Valpy's option; along with
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an oil-picture already begun— Gretchen (from Faust ), trying-on the jewels, a subject for which a different title— Risen at Dawn —was soon adopted; a duplicate Blessed Damozel , or something else; and a Proserpine, a reduction in oils, or else a watercolour. Deferring to Mr. Valpy's rooted dislike of any nudity, the painter expressed himself willing to drape the bosom and part of the shoulders of the Gretchen . Afterwards a Joan of Arc kissing the sword of deliverance was offered. Of this subject a watercolour, the property of Lady Ashburton, was at the time lying in the painter's studio; and he proposed to paint another larger version of it in oil. He stipulated that the works to be exchanged for the Dante's Dream would not be deliverable until after he should have succeeded in re-selling that picture; and with a view to re-sale, he at once offered it at a diminished price to Mr. Turner, who however proved irresponsive. In the course of this Valpy correspondence Rossetti observes that he had scarcely ever made a full-sized replica of any life-sized picture—had only done so in the case of the Beata Beatrix , and of one other subject, which I should presume to be the Proserpine. Of the watercolour Joan of Arc he says, “Neither in expression, colour, nor design, did I ever do a better thing.”
In October, having despatched the Vision of Fiammetta to its purchaser Mr. Turner, Rossetti turned his mind to some new subject. He fixed upon Desdemona's Death-Song — where Desdemona sits crooning the willow-song, as Emilia combs out her hair. For this subject he made several studies and designs, the composition being altered more than once. He did not, I think, actually begin painting it on the canvas, but he must
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have come very near to so doing. He was particularly occupied with this theme in the summer of 1881.
In the last month of the year Mr. Valpy arranged with my brother that Miss Williams, the daughter of a lady residing at Shirley Hall, Tunbridge Wells, was to sit to him for a chalk portrait. It was finished in May of the following year.
A letter to Mr. Graham, dated in May, shows that the replica of Dante's Dream , long ago commissioned by that gentleman, was now so far advanced as to be quite ready for glazing. The double predella for this picture was expected to be completed very soon afterwards. The entire work was in fact finished by the end of November; but then the painter avowed himself not satisfied with the figure of Beatrice, and held it over for alteration. The predella represents (1) Dante sick in body and perturbed in mind, dreaming his troublous dream, watched by ladies of his family; and (2) Dante narrating his dream to the same ladies. Both these incidents appertain to the poem which the picture illustrates. A full-sized monochrome of the old subject, Found —also due to Mr. Graham—was in hand in May as an aid towards bringing the picture itself to a conclusion.
About the same date another picture was painted, and was purchased by Mr. Ellis, who received it towards the end of the year. This is La Donna della Finestra , the same subject (sometimes bearing the alternative title of The Lady of Pity ) of which more than one chalk drawing had previously been done; but I think the successive treatments of the theme always varied in
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arrangement. This ranks, I think, among my brother's most mature paintings; the expression being at once deep and reserved. It may be worth mentioning that the Donna della Finestra is (in the narrative in Dante's Vita Nova ) a lady who looked from a window upon Dante when sunk in sorrow for the death of Beatrice, and whose aspect manifested so much pity for him that he was after a while almost lured into falling in love with her. According to the allegorical interpretation of the Vita Nova (an interpretation for which Dante's own statements in the Convito are largely responsible), this same lady really represents Philosophy; but Rossetti had no sympathy with any downright allegory of that sort, and, in representing the Donna della Finestra, he had no notion of representing Philosophy, or any abstract personification of like kind. He contemplated the Donna as a real woman; but neither was her human reality intended to be regarded as the essence of the pictorial presentment—rather her personal reality subserving the purpose of poetic suggestion—an emotion embodied in feminine form—a passion of which beautiful flesh-and-blood constitutes the vesture. Humanly she is the Lady at the Window; mentally she is the Lady of Pity. This interpenetration of soul and body—this sense of an equal and indefeasible reality of the thing symbolized, and of the form which conveys the symbol—this externalism and internalism—are constantly to be understood as the key-note of Rossetti's aim and performance in art. I have emphasized the point here, as the particular subject from the Vita Nova , with its dubious balance (so far as Dante's intention is concerned) between the actual and the allegorical, seemed to invite some such observations; but remarks to the like
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effect might have been made in relation to many of the works of my brother previously specified, and they apply to the general range and scope of his art from first to last.
It may have been in 1879 that Rossetti made a chalk portrait of Mr. Leyland, as a wedding-gift to that gentleman's daughter, Mrs. Hamilton.
The picture which occupied him most towards the end of the year, and for some months ensuing, was the full-length figure entitled at starting Monna Primavera, but afterwards The Daydream —a youthful lady seated in the fork of a sycamore-tree, with a book and a sprig of honeysuckle (the flower had at first been the snowdrop). This is perhaps the only instance in which one of his life-sized ideal female figures was pictured at whole length. Mr. Constantine Ionides, a friendly acquaintance of old standing, saw the painting in progress, or perhaps rather he saw the chalk-drawing which served as foundation for the painting; and he showed a disposition, which took effect, to become its purchaser. Hereupon Rossetti addressed to him on the 5th October a letter which gives some practical details. He says that the price of The Daydream would be £735; being lower (as it certainly was) than the scale of prices which had prevailed in Mr. Graham's commissions. For instance, La Ghirlandata had cost £840, the Beata Beatrix £1102, the Blessed Damozel £1207.* The Fiammetta , sold to Mr. Turner, had brought £840; and its price would have been higher but for the fact that Mr. Turner purchased several works at once. Rossetti added
Transcribed Footnote (page 109):

* This price (apparently through substituting guineas for pounds) exceeds the price named under the year 1877: I fancy the guineas are probably correct.

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that the drawing serving for The Daydream was his favourite among all those which he had done from the same sitter, Mrs. William Morris.
Early in this year Rossetti was occupied in completing the picture of La Pia , commissioned several years before by Mr. Leyland; and his friend Mr. Charles Fairfax Murray, settled in Florence as a painter and agent for works of art, obliged him by sending over a sketch of the scenery of the fever-stricken Maremma, needed for the background of this picture. He afterwards forwarded some photographs of picturesque ancient street-views from Siena, to guide Rossetti in composing the background of a Florentine street, applicable to his later painting of The Salutation of Beatrice , which illustrates more particularly the sonnet of the Florentine poet, “Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare.” This painting was probably begun in 1880, and was continued in 1881: it was purchased by Mr. Leyland for £682, and had reached a stage not very remote from completion at the date when my brother's shaken and failing health passed into the final stages of disease, and he could work no more upon the canvas. The same gentleman also bought towards November the second version of The Blessed Damozel —an oil-painting differing considerably (especially in lacking the background groups) from the first version, in the possession of Mr. Graham. Rossetti accepted for the second version a sum—£500—much below the usual range of his prices in these latter years. The work had remained long on hand, and more than one disappointment had occurred with regard to its sale, and the picture-
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market generally was then in a rather depressed condition.
A design in pen-and-ink of The Sonnet was produced, to be sent as a present to our mother for her eightieth birthday, 27th April. It embodies the same ideas of the typical quality of the sonnet-form of verse which are expressed in a sonnet which my brother wrote to accompany it. An engraving of this design forms the frontispiece to the book on Rossetti which Mr. William Sharp published in 1882, soon after his death.
A letter of this year refers to a painting which Rossetti had executed as far back as 1861. It is an Annunciation , done upon the pulpit in the church built by Mr. Bodley at Scarborough. In 1880 a Manchester picture-buyer, who admired this composition, notified a wish to obtain a duplicate of it: nothing however came of this proposal.
The picture of The Daydream was still proceeding meanwhile. Rossetti worked upon it with earnest assiduity, sparing no pains to bring it up to his highest standard, and altering freely when he found that some improvement could be effected. In July he effaced the head first painted-in, and proceeded to substitute another; the original head had never impressed him as being quite equal to the one in the cartoon.
In August the Beata Beatrix intended for Mr. Valpy was nearly finished, and Rossetti expected to deliver it shortly.
The old picture named Found was again much in my brother's thoughts towards the end of this year. It had long been due to its last commissioning purchaser, Mr. Graham; and would probably about this time have been actually finished, had it not been that an
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unfortunate difference of view arose between the purchaser and the painter with regard to transactions dating several years back. Mr. Graham had at that period commissioned the Dantesque subject The Boat of Love , as well as the Found , each of them at £840; and had made, on account of both of these works, certain payments which he now claimed a right of concentrating on the Found alone, thus dropping altogether the proposed purchase of The Boat of Love . Naturally this variation of plan was not agreeable to Rossetti, who maintained that the payments ought to continue distributed as at first purposed, and that additional sums remained due for each picture, and that his unrelinquished intention of at some time taking up The Boat of Love , and carrying it to completion as a work bespoken by Mr. Graham, should not be thus thwarted. His interests were obviously at stake; and of these, though not inclined to urge them harshly or graspingly, he was always somewhat tenacious. The result of the whole controversy was untoward. Found remained uncompleted, and The Boat of Love , except in its olden form of a large monochrome in oil, was never even begun. There is a letter dated in November from Mr. Arthur Hughes the painter, showing that preparations were then being made for finishing Found . As Mr. Hughes resided in the country, he undertook to oblige Rossetti by looking out for a smock-frock, to be used for painting the costume of the male figure in Found . My brother, living a severely secluded life in his latter years, was out of the way of attending to such matters for himself: it was his good fortune to have various friends who never grudged to render him the requisite aid.
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Of this year, the last which my brother lived to see completed, the principal transaction was the sale, to the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, the municipal or public collection of that city, of the original and larger version of the oil-painting Dante's Dream . As we have already seen, this painting, finished in 1871, was at first sold to Mr. Graham. He, finding it too large for advantageous hanging in his house—spacious though that was—resigned it after a while in exchange for a reduced duplicate. The larger picture was then purchased by Mr. Valpy; who had not long been its possessor when his removal from London to Bath re-opened the question of the location of the picture, and Rossetti then induced him to return it, in exchange for various other and smaller works. The Dante's Dream reverted to Rossetti's house, perhaps at the beginning of 1879; and there it remained unsold, and monopolizing a large space in his studio, until the arrangement for its purchase for Liverpool reached a conclusion. That arrangement was by no means plain sailing: it had its ups and downs, and at one moment seemed to the artist to have failed altogether. However, he had two staunch allies throughout. One of these, and indeed the first suggester of the idea that the authorities of the Liverpool Gallery might be induced to bid for the picture, was Mr. T. Hall Caine; who, having recently given up his connection with an architectural firm in Liverpool, had been received as a resident in my brother's house, 16 Cheyne Walk, doing his endeavour (not too successfully at times, I may admit) to brighten his solitude and relieve his now permanent sense of despondency, and at
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any rate undertaking on his behalf many good offices of a miscellaneous kind. I say “his solitude,” because the attached artistic assistant who had for several years been domiciled with my brother, Mr. Henry Treffry Dunn, had of late ceased to be in the house, although his professional aid was still at times called into requisition. Mr. Caine took a very active part in managing the disposal of the Dante's Dream to Liverpool, revisiting that city more than once on his own affairs, and partly on Rossetti's, and he showed equal perseverance and address in bringing the matter to a head. The second ally was Mr. Edward Samuelson, a leading member of the Liverpool Corporation, who from the first showed a strong inclination to get the picture purchased, and stuck to his text, spite of opposition here or lukewarmness there, until his object was accomplished. In visiting London and my brother's studio on two or three occasions, he secured the painter's personal regard and liking, and he kept up with him an active correspondence as to details.
The first letter which I find on this subject is one from Mr. Samuelson, dated 8th March. It refers to his having called at Rossetti's studio, with a view to treating for the purchase. By 2nd May matters had proceeded so far that Mr. Samuelson expressed in writing his opinion that Rossetti might now begin making certain alterations which the painter himself considered desirable in the picture. These proposed alterations, which he proceeded at once to effect, related to two points in especial: the drapery of the lady who stands at the head of the dead Beatrice, and in this respect a manifest improvement was effected; and the head of Beatrice herself, which Rossetti thought fit to
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change from a brunette to a blonde type. I for my own part never regarded this as an advantage: the head was painted from a brunette, and the change in the colour of the hair, even had it been in itself beneficial, was less in unison with the mould of feature and the personal type. This seems to me one more instance of the rule that, when my brother recurred to and modified an old picture, he seldom bettered it. Before undertaking these alterations, Rossetti stipulated that he could only do so upon the understanding that the picture must be deemed practically sold to the Walker Gallery. On this condition, he would be able to deliver the work by the end of August, if £500, out of the full price of £1575, were previously paid, the balance remaining to be discharged by the close of the year. He could not consent to send the picture to Liverpool at all, unless in the character of a purchased work: this restriction referred to the fact that it had been proposed that the painting should in the first instance figure as a contribution to the ordinary annual exhibition in Liverpool, from which it was to pass into the Walker Gallery—nominally as bought for the Liverpool public out of the annual exhibition, but really under a strict precontract of sale and purchase. Satisfactory assurances being given on these points, the re-painting was actually begun early in June, and was finished before the end of the month, and regarded by the artist as a decided amelioration. Other difficulties however ensued; or perhaps my brother, who in his later years was of anything but a sanguine or buoyant temperament, imagined that spokes were inserted in his wheel when in fact that mechanism was running smoothly enough: at any rate, he wrote to me on 3rd August announcing that the proposed purchase of the
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picture had collapsed. Soon however Mr. Caine was enabled to satisfy Rossetti that there was no ground for discouragement or dubiety: and on 9th August the painter wrote again to Mr. Samuelson quoting Mr. Caine's assurances, and proposing to send the picture to Liverpool—perhaps after an interval of a few days, as he might yet be putting a final touch to it. He required that his own printed description of the work should appear verbatim in the exhibition-catalogue, and pointed out that the picture ought to be hung so as to slope slightly forward. These arrangements were ratified by Mr. Samuelson on the 11th: he stated that the terms of purchase had then been confirmed by the Arts Committee, and would now be completed, and the picture therefore should be forwarded. By the 17th it had arrived in Liverpool. The price was fixed at a sum of £1650, minus the usual commission to the exhibiting gallery. By the 7th of September it was definitively bought for the Walker Collection. My brother was not wanting in a feeling of gratitude to any one who, like Mr. Samuelson, undertook to do him a service in a matter of art, and who held steadily to his purpose. He requested Mr. Samuelson to accept as an acknowledgment a crayon study for the head of Dante in the oil-picture; an offer which was gracefully assented to. It need hardly be said that this disposal of his largest and most important painting, a work which may be termed monumental in subject and size, was entirely pleasing to the artist. That it should obtain a permanent home, and should hold a conspicuous place in a public gallery of only less than metropolitan importance, was the fate he would himself have selected for it. I should add that this was the last salient
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artistic transaction of his life, and was almost coincident with his last appearance in the field of authorship—his new volume entitled Ballads and Sonnets , along with the reissue, in a modified form, of his volume Poems of 1870 , taking place almost directly afterwards. He then, in quest of health and repose, left London for a brief sojourn at Fisher Place, in the Vale of St. John, near Keswick in Cumberland: but health was no more to be his, nor any repose save that of the deathbed and the grave.
Other doings of the year 1881 remain to be mentioned. It may have been early in this year, or perhaps in 1880, that an etching from his old pen-and-ink design of Hamlet and Ophelia , where the lady returns to the prince his love-gifts of less agitated days, was made by Mr. J. S. B. Haydon—a gentleman whom Rossetti in youth had known slightly as a sculptor, and who afterwards engaged in business as a print-seller, and of whom my brother saw a good deal in these closing years. The etching (of which I now possess the copper) was a vigorous effective performance, and very like the original in most essentials, but diverging from it in method by being somewhat heavy and rough, instead of delicately keen. My brother, though anxious to accommodate Mr. Haydon in this and other matters, felt that on the whole he would not wish the etching to be published as a print. Mr. Haydon could but acquiesce, and reconsigned the copper to the designer's keeping.
The oil-picture of La Pia —so many years in hand—must have been finally completed late in the summer of 1881. There is a letter from Mr. Leyland, dated 12th July, asking that the glazing of the picture might
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soon be finished. In August Rossetti was painting some magnolias into a new version of the Donna della Finestra —a work which he did not live to complete, nor even to carry up to any considerable point of advance. Early in August the replica of the Beata Beatrix (it may perhaps have been on a reduced scale) was delivered to Mr. Valpy, as one of the various items which were to serve as an equivalent for the relinquished and now re-sold Dante's Dream . Mr. Valpy found the flesh of the Beatrix somewhat too dark for his liking; and Rossetti consented to receive the picture back for a while, and lighten the tints. Another of the Valpy paintings, the reduced replica of Proserpine , was in hand at the end of September, during my brother's brief stay at Fisher Place, after the Liverpool transaction had reached its conclusion.
The above is the latest detail regarding my brother's works of art which I find recorded in the correspondence. It will not be out of place, however, to say that this smaller Proserpine , and more especially the Joan of Arc kissing the sword of deliverance (another of the Valpy commissions), must have been the very last canvases to which he set his hand, stiffening within the clasp of Death. Early in 1882 he finally left London for Birchington-on-Sea, near Margate, where one of the bungalow-villas (now named Rossetti Bungalow) was liberally placed at his disposal by his old friend, the architect Mr. John P. Seddon, with the assent of its owner, Mr. Cobb. The two pictures in question were taken down by him to the bungalow. They were already nearly finished; and some further touches bestowed upon them at
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Birchington brought them to a state of practical completion, such as to allow of their being delivered, after Rossetti's death, to the purchaser. In his failing state of health, the consideration of the large amount of work which he owed to Mr. Valpy, to compensate for the Dante's Dream , hung weightily on his mind; and his last attempts, spite of disease and pain, were to clear off this obligation. The night, “wherein no man can work,” came on Easter Sunday the 9th of April 1882.
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As it happens, the year 1843, which is the first that we found bearing some record of the work of Dante Rossetti in design, is also the first to which we can advert as respects his writings. On 14th August of this year, his age being then fifteen, he wrote to our mother that he had done a third chapter of Sorrentino . This Sorrentino was a prose tale of the romantic and thrilling kind, in which the Devil bore a conspicuous part. It was narrated in the first person, with considerable detail of incident and emotion. The scene must have been laid in Italy (I think Venice), as deducible from the surname “Sorrentino.” I cannot however recollect that my brother took any particular pains to give an Italian colouring to his story, nor that he concerned himself much as to the date at which it might be supposed to occur; perhaps the first half of the seventeenth century should in a vague way be assumed. The Devil was, for literary and inventive purposes, a great favourite with my brother, before, during, and after, the period when he wrote Sorrentino . I apprehend that Göthe's Faust must have been about the first form in which diabolism became a potent influence on his mind—the outlines of Retzsch from the great drama having been highly familiar to him at a very early age (say six), and, along with the outlines, some relevant extracts from the drama itself. A multitude of fantastic stories—such as Der Freischütz, Peter
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Schlemihl , The Bottle Imp, The Diamond Watch, Fitzball's Devil Stork, and in especial Maturin's romance of Melmoth the Wanderer , along with Manfred and The Deformed Transformed in poetry—passed through the crucible of his mind. The Prince of Darkness was, in his conception, constantly “a gentleman”—not a horrid wild beast of horns, tail, and talons, but a personage mixing in human society, tempting, prompting, and blasting, the actions of the beings upon whom he operated. In Sorrentino the Devil was mainly of the Mephistophelian order—caustic, cynical, and malignant, with a certain Byronic tinge as well. I cannot remember exactly what part he played in the narrative, which began as a love-story, more or less. I rather think he assumed from time to time the person of the hero, and, by his misdeeds in this character, brought the victim into bad odour with his lady-love. There still exists a duplicate design which my brother made (sufficiently boyish) illustrating a scene in the tale: the lady seated, and the lover—or the Devil personating the lover—standing behind her chair. I recollect also an incident—perhaps the last in the unfinished narrative— of a duel; the hero was, I fancy, opposed to his rival in love, and, greatly to his disgust, was turned from an honest duelist into a virtual assassin by the unwished-for aid which the Devil (like Mephistopheles in the affray with Valentine) afforded him. What was written of Sorrentino may have been some four or five chapters, of the length of chapters in an ordinary novel. I thought it extremely good at the time; and even now I believe that, were it recoverable, it would be found vastly superior (this is not saying much) to the early ballad-poem Sir Hugh the Heron , written by my brother
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about the same period. No trace, however, remains of Sorrentino . Its author must have advisedly destroyed it; I dare say, as early as 1848 or 1847.
Another work of diablerie in which my brother delighted intensely—but it must have been some two or three years later than the date of Sorrentino —was Les Mémoires du Diable, by Frédéric Soulié; Contes Fantastiques of Hoffmann, in a French translation, but of these stories there are perhaps few, or hardly any, that deal with the Devil himself.
Among my brother's early efforts in translation (which were chiefly from the German— Bürger's Lenore , the opening chaunts of the Nibelungenlied , Hartmann von Aue's Arme Heinrich , &c.) came one from the French, or presumably from the Italian in a French version—a ballad from Prosper Mérimée's famous Corsican tale, Colomba. On re-inspecting Colomba, I find it to contain three ballads, given in the form of French prose; they begin respectively— “Dans la vallée bien loin derrière les montagnes,”“Charles Baptiste, le Christ reçoive ton âme,” and “L'épervier se réveillera, il déploiera ses ailes.” The translation has lapsed from my memory, but I have no doubt that its original was the last of these three ballads.
I observe, in a letter dated as late as 1873, a reference to the poem of The Blessed Damozel , which may as well find mention here. This poem, as Rossetti informed Mr. Hall Caine, was written in his nineteenth
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year, which terminated with 11th May 1847. In the letter in question he observes that The Blessed Damozel was written to be inserted in a sort of manuscript family-magazine named Hodgepodge , which was concocted, never passing beyond the range of the family circle, during some months or weeks of 1847, or possibly 1846. The poem named The Portrait (which had been considerably altered and improved before it appeared in the Poems published in 1870 ) had a similar origin.
Rossetti wrote two sonnets for his first picture, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin ; one of them was composed on 21st November 1848. It was probably the sonnet which begins—
  • “This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
  • God's Virgin,”
and which was printed in the catalogue of the Free Exhibition , when the picture appeared there in 1849, and reprinted in the volume Poems . The second sonnet, commencing “These are the symbols,” was inscribed on the frame of the painting, but was not otherwise published by the author. As this second composition explains with minuteness the details of the picture, and as these cannot have been far advanced in November 1848, I infer that the sonnet composed in that month must have been the one first mentioned.
Up to this year Rossetti had never been further abroad than to Boulogne and its neighbourhood. The autumn of 1849 was rendered memorable to him by his
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visiting, in company with Mr. Holman Hunt, Paris, and some of the principal cities of Belgium—Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. Short and unextensive and unadventurous as this trip was, it remained nevertheless the least inconsiderable one which my brother ever undertook. He re-visited Belgium, in my company, once afterwards, and Paris two or three times; but he did not again cover, in any single tour, so large a space of ground as in 1849.
On 18th September, just before starting for the Continent, he wrote to me that he had observed in the Gesta Romanorum a story, of which he sent me a modified prose version of his own, naming it The Scrip and Staff : this was the foundation of his poem bearing nearly the same title, and written, I think, not immediately afterwards, but within two or three years ensuing. His letter of September expressed the intention of versifying this tale, and also another story of his own invention, which may, I suppose, have been the Last Confession . He had written but little lately: twelve additional stanzas of Bride-chamber Talk (the long but uncompleted narrative poem which is now entitled The Bride's Prelude ), and three stanzas added “as stop-gaps” to My Sister's Sleep . This last-named short poem had been written some considerable while before, I should think not later than 1847. My brother's object in inserting “stop-gaps” must no doubt have been to make the composition available for the then forthcoming Præraphaelite magazine, The Germ , in whose opening number it appeared. If my memory does not deceive me, it may have been printed once before. As my brother was growing up towards manhood he became acquainted with Major Calder Campbell, an officer
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retired from the Indian army, and a rather prolific producer of verses and tales in annuals and magazines, and at times in volumes: an eminently amiable and kindly old bachelor (or rather then elderly bachelor, as his age may have been about fifty-five), gossipy, and a little scandal-loving, who conceived a very high idea of my brother's powers. He must, I think, have been the first literary man familiar with the ups and downs of London publishing whom Rossetti knew. For a year or two my brother and I had an appointed weekly evening when we called upon Major Campbell in his quiet lodgings in University Street, Tottenham Court Road; and the time passed lightly and pleasantly over a cup of tea, with all sorts of talk, slight or serious, sensible or amusing; our good-natured host assuming no air of stiffness or superiority on the score of age and varied experience, but chatting away with something which, as the months and years lengthened, partook even of deference for the foreseen intellectual initiative and eminence of Dante Rossetti. It was here that on one occasion we met by appointment, to our great delectation, Ebenezer Jones, the author of Studies of Sensation and Event. I well remember that, at the instance of Calder Campbell, My Sister's Sleep was produced to the editress of La Belle Assemblée , a magazine of that date, 1847 or 1848, which must have seen better days aforetime, but was then still tolerably well accepted in the regions of light literature. The editress certainly admired the poem, and perhaps she inserted it; if so, this was the very first appearance of Dante Rossetti in published print.
My brother started on his foreign trip with Holman Hunt at the end of September; and in a letter of the
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27th to the 29th of that month he sent me some poems written en route— London to Folkestone ; Boulogne Cliffs (which began “The sea is in its listless chime,” and is the first form of the lyric now named The Sea-limits , and Boulogne to Amiens and Paris . The first and third are snatches of blank verse, and are partly printed in my brother's Collected Works (1886), although not by himself at any period of his lifetime. On 4th October he wrote that, a day or two before, while he was ascending the stairs of Notre Dame in Paris, a sonnet had come whole into his head, but had afterwards drifted away again. Four days later he sent me this sonnet, beginning “As one who groping in a narrow stair”; also the sonnet On the Place de la Bastille , and that For a Venetian Pastoral by Giorgione (the picture in the Louvre), which had been written on the spot. There were two others in a grotesque strain, which remain unpublished, On the Louvre Gallery, and On a Cancan at the Salle Valentino , a dance which disgusted Rossetti not a little. In a letter of 18th October other verse followed: sonnets on a Last Visit to the Louvre ; three Last Sonnets in Paris ; the couple (published) For Ruggiero and Angelica by Ingres ; some blank verse (partially printed in the Collected Works ) From Paris to Brussels , On the Road , L'Envoi ; and again sonnets, On the Road to Waterloo , The Field of Waterloo , Return to Brussels ; and a lyric, Near Brussels, a Halfway Pause ( Collected Works . He made the remark in this letter that, of all he had written since leaving London, only the two Ingres sonnets and the one On the Road to Waterloo had received any consideration: a remark which, when we take into account the calibre of Boulogne Cliffs and the Giorgione sonnet (not to speak of
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some other items), shows that he was well capable of throwing off good work at a heat.
A letter dated from 24th to 26th October was sent also to our “Præraphaelite Brother” James Collinson. As Collinson did not make the mark which, in the early days of Præraphaelitism, his colleagues had hoped for, and as he is now perhaps nearly forgotten, I will here give a few words of information about him. He was a man of small stature, with a short neck, son of a bookseller at Mansfield in Nottinghamshire; of composed demeanour, retiring and modest. He was brought up in the Church of England, but got converted to the Church of Rome by the influence of Dr. (Cardinal) Wiseman: a relapse to Anglicanism, and a reversion to Catholicism, ensued. As a re-converted Catholic, Collinson became for a while exceedingly strict: he thought that the Præraphaelite Brotherhood was a society more or less secular and latitudinarian, and this formed his principal, perhaps almost his sole, motive for seceding from it. He had begun art as a domestic painter, with subjects of the anecdotic or semi-humorous kind in low life; and save for one ambitious and in some respects very laudable “Præraphaelite” attempt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, he adhered in the main to this line of subject. He died towards 1880. His rather long blank-verse poem in The Germ , named The Child Jesus , shows that Collinson was certainly not without poetical feeling, and even possessed some true poetical aptitude: I am not aware, however, that at any subsequent period he produced anything in verse. To Collinson, as I have said, my brother wrote towards the close of October, enclosing a sonnet Between Ghent and Bruges ; also a lyric, The Carillon , which was
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published with an extra stanza in The Germ , and is now re-named Antwerp and Bruges . He observed that, on leaving London, he had intended to finish Bride-chamber Talk while abroad, but that he had in fact not written one additional line of it. This letter to Collinson is the last of the Franco-Belgian series—the trip itself terminating very soon afterwards.
This year affords some indirect record of the prose tale, St. Agnes of Intercession , which, begun towards 1848, remained unfinished at my brother's death, but is published in the Collected Works . In 1850, the year of The Germ , it was naturally intended that this tale should be completed, and published in that magazine: it was also purposed that my brother should make an etching illustrative of his own story. The etching was in fact begun; but, proving quite disappointing and even exasperating to its artist who had no previous acquaintance with the aquafortis process, it was thrown aside, and then Millais undertook to produce an etching of the same subject. Millais wrote accordingly to Rossetti, stating that he was about to commence his task, and enquiring whether the costume of the figures ought to be modern. The reply must have been in the affirmative. Millais then made his etching, which was included in the great Millais Exhibition held at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1886; it was never used in The Germ , as that magazine died a natural, and at the time an unlamented, death almost immediately. The design represents what would no doubt have been the final incident in the tale—the hero painting the portrait of his affianced bride, who dies while sitting to him: this being a
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recurrence of the events which had happened to the same painter and the same lady in the fifteenth century—for the story is essentially one of metempsychosis.
A few words may here be given to The Germ . It was projected as the organ of the Præraphaelite Brotherhood for promulgating their views in art and in literature— especially poetic literature. The seven members of the Brotherhood were owners of the concern; but they did not wish to be exclusive owners, in case the co-operation of some friends, as sharers in the pecuniary risk, could be secured. Various friends were invited, and one or two were precariously enlisted. The prime mover in the whole affair was certainly Dante Rossetti, who (unlike most of his colleagues in the Brotherhood) was at this date just as keen in literary as in pictorial interest and ambition: without him no such project would have been mooted, and no such risky venture brought to bear. Next to him, Woolner was the most active spirit, and, for artistic purposes, Holman Hunt. I (at the mature age of twenty) was appointed editor. I cannot charge myself with negligence in the practical conduct of the magazine; but may unreservedly avow that, but for my brother's ascendancy, and the contagion of his enterprizing spirit, it would never have entered my head to tempt the malice of Fortune by any knight-errantry of the kind. The title of the magazine, The Germ , was not my brother's invention. I recollect a conclave which was held one evening in his studio, then in Newman Street, with a view to settling the title of the forthcoming publication, and other points affecting it. A great number of titles were proposed, and jotted down on a fly-sheet which I still possess. Mr. William Cave
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Thomas the painter (whom we came to know through Mr. Madox Brown) suggested “The Germ” , and after due pondering this sufficiently apposite title was adopted.
In a letter of 3rd September—dating after the decease of The Germ —my brother sent me the small lyric termed The Mirror —published only in the Collected Works .
bears trace of a few newspaper critiques written by my brother upon works of art, simply, for the most part, as an accommodation to me. In the summer of 1850, consequent upon my performance as editor of The Germ , I became the art-critic of the weekly review named The Critic (a paper of the same class as The Athenæum and The Literary Gazette), edited by Mr. (afterwards Serjeant) Cox. In November of the same year my services were transferred to The Spectator, with which I remained until some time in 1859. In the Royal Academy exhibition of 1851 one of the leading pictures was The Goths in Italy, by Poole: my brother felt inclined to have his say about it—being at that time, and not at that time only, a great admirer of this painter on broad grounds, with considerable exception in some details: he wrote the paragraph, and it was incorporated with my article on the gallery. In August I was out of town, and my brother then obliged me by taking up the pen on my behalf, with the sanction of the editor Mr. Rintoul, and writing a review of an exhibition termed The Modern Pictures of all Nations, at Lichfield House, St. James's . He made few or no notes on the spot, but wrote his critique from recollection. I can remember that on my return Mr. Rintoul (who was a first-rate
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editor, and a man of clear and quick discernment, though not specially conversant with matters of fine art) expressed to me a sense of my brother's uncommon aptitude as a writer: he was probably a little surprised to find that a young man, only just known to him by name as an artist, had but to be tried and to figure well as a press-critic to boot. This article was followed by another on an Exhibition of Sketches and Drawings in Pall Mall East , got up by the picture-dealer Mr. Pocock.
In the letter which my brother wrote to me regarding the Lichfield House exhibition is a reference to his translation, executed towards 1847-48, of Dante's Vita Nova. He had then consigned the MS. to Mr. John Edward Taylor, the printer—an old family friend, and a man of elegant tastes and accomplishments, especially in Italian literature—with a view to its possible publication by the firm of Murray. No such publication, however, ensued: and it was only in 1861 that the Vita Nova translation appeared in print, as a portion of the volume, The Early Italian Poets , published by Smith & Elder. In writing to me about this translation, my brother spoke in a deprecating tone of its defects, real or supposed— especially ruggedness. It is also referred to in his letter (May 1854) to Mr. McCracken, from which some passages were cited in pp. 20, 21. “I made some years ago,” he said, “a translation of the entire Vita Nova, which I have by me, and shall publish one day, as soon as I have leisure to etch my designs from it.” But he never found any leisure, nor possibly any downright inclination, for that particular purpose.
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was the year of the death of the great Duke of Wellington. The funeral took place on 18th November: on the 29th of the same month Rossetti wrote to Madox Brown, saying that he had written the poem Wellington's Funeral , which remained unpublished until, in 1881, it appeared in the second form of the volume entitled Poems . Any one who reads that lyric will perceive that there was a good deal of the Englishman in Rossetti. He was even a sort of typical John Bull in a certain unreasoned and impatient preference of Englishmen and things English to foreigners and things foreign. For Italy and Italians he had necessarily a fellow-feeling—substantial, though by no means indiscriminate or thorough-going: but for France and Frenchmen, or for Belgium or Germany and Belgians or Germans, and so on for other nationalities, he certainly had no bias of predilection: he shared, and in some sense exaggerated, the ordinary type of British sentiment regarding them. To give a clear and comprehensive account of my brother's attitude of mind upon national and political questions would not be altogether easy: I understood it well enough, but to define it briefly is another thing. There was a certain mixture in his mind of solid respect for his own race (I here mean the English, without taking count of the Italian) and its achievements; of sympathy with the working and suffering millions in all countries, and desire for their just treatment, progress, and advancement; of respect for authority exercised with humanity and enlightenment; of impatience of any fussy or frothy clamour, whatever its object and however clamorous its appeal, whether in the direction of
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“liberty, equality, and fraternity,” or of “hearths and homes,” or of “the throne and the altar”; and of genuine and dense indifference to, and practical ignorance of, all the current bustle of politics, Liberal or Conservative, British or foreign. He did not belong, even remotely, to any party in the state; but might in a broad sense be said to have more of the Liberal than of the Conservative in his feelings and opinions, and more of the Conservative than of the Liberal in his practical leanings.
As a poet, Rossetti was, I think, more than commonly free from plagiarisms, conscious or unconscious. Here and there one finds a resemblance to some other writer; hardly an imitation or a borrowing. It is rather curious therefore that in the lyric Wellington's Funeral occurs a decided reminiscence (I do not say a wilful and prepense one) from another poet; and this the poet for whom Rossetti cared least among such as were acknowledged to be very great by his contemporaries—I mean Wordsworth. The eighth stanza of Wellington's Funeral relates to the Battle of Waterloo, and runs thus:
  • “Be no word
  • Raised of bloodshed Christ-abhorred.
  • Say: ‘'Twas thus in His decrees
  • Who himself, the Prince of Peace,
  • For His harvest's high increase
  • Sent a sword!”
The thought here—though not in any degree the form of diction—is obviously allied to that of the lines which Wordsworth wrote about the very same Battle of Waterloo:
  • “We bow our heads before Thee, and we laud
  • And magnify Thy name, Almighty God!
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  • But thy most dreaded instrument
  • In working out a pure intent
  • Is man arrayed for mutual slaughter:
  • Yea, Carnage is thy daughter.”
A letter written by Rossetti on 3rd January in this year shows that The Burden of Nineveh had been composed at some earlier time; the poem may, I think, date back as far as 1851, or at any rate 1852. The letter says that James Hannay wanted to get the Nineveh for a proposed journal named The Pen. Rossetti was minded to assent. I am afraid that the name of James Hannay may be little familiar to the present generation of readers. He was a bright and cherished figure in the literary Bohemia of those days; my brother and I had known him since 1850 or earlier. Hannay was in early youth a naval officer; but, while still quite young, he took to authorship, and published various sketches and novels connected with sea-life— Biscuits and Grog, Singleton Fontenoy, Eustace Conyers, &c. He was busy with reviewing, comic writing, and journalism; a fluent, witty, and telling speaker in private and in public, taking with great zest, as the years lapsed, to whatsoever savoured of high Toryism, whether in politics, or in the minor matters of genealogy and heraldry; a man of attaching qualities of head and heart, with much geniality, and joviality more than enough. Ultimately he obtained an appointment as British Consul in Barcelona; and there he died in middle age, very suddenly, in 1873. Whether Hannay's projected journal The Pen came out I cannot now say; at any rate, The Burden of Nineveh was never printed in it, but was first published
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in 1856 in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , in the opening days of my brother's intimacy with Edward Burne Jones and William Morris.
In the same letter which mentions this matter of The Burden of Nineveh and Hannay my brother observed that some while ago he had consigned the ballad of Sister Helen to Mrs. Howitt, “for an English edition of a German something or other, which will be coming out now.” This German publication was named The Düsseldorf Annual. The ballad appeared in it, without the author's name, but only with the initials “H. H. H.” attached.
From an early date in my brother's acquaintance with Mr. Ruskin, the latter was apprised of Rossetti's performances in writing, as well as in painting. I find a letter from Ruskin, dated 5th June, saying that he had been looking at some of the translations from the old Italian poets. There is also another letter from the same correspondent, observing that he likes “the translation”—probably that of the Vita Nova . A third letter says that he has told Miss Siddal how much he likes “The Witch”—a term which can apparently only mean Sister Helen .
gives evidence of another reader of the poems translated from the Italian—Mr. Coventry Patmore, of whom Rossetti had seen a good deal from the year 1849 onwards. Rossetti was in early youth, and prior to personal acquaintanceship, an ardent admirer of Mr. Patmore's poetry; the admiration continued when they knew one another, and was combined with reciprocal regard and good-will. Gradually they ceased to meet,
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but without any estrangement, or any motive for such, on either side.
As I have already observed, The Burden of Nineveh was published in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1856; no author's name was given. Mr. Ruskin read it there, and wrote to Rossetti that he admired it greatly, and would like to know who was the author—a rather curious instance of praise unconsciously addressed to the right recipient.
A letter from Rossetti to Madox Brown, dated 6th September, indicates his authorship of an article which might now count as a literary curiosity in its small way. I have no recollection of it, and cannot aver that I ever saw it. In the letter in question he says: “The article is to be written to-day, chiefly about the Liverpool pictures, and will no doubt be published in a day or two.” This phrase, it is true, does not show that the article referred to was the writing of Rossetti himself; but there is another letter of several years afterwards, perhaps 1875, which says: “The Elliot and Chronicle question ( was it the Chronicle?)—I now remember almost certainly that I did write the article, and Elliot only fathered it.” Putting these two statements together, I understand that Mr. Elliot, a journalist who was on amicable terms with Madox Brown and Rossetti, allowed the latter to contribute to his newspaper (without raising any overt question of actual authorship, which thus passed as being Elliot's) an article about certain pictures, all or most of them by Brown, including especially some work or works then on exhibition in the gallery of the Liverpool Academy. This Academy was in those days exceptionally noted—and in some quarters highly unpopular—for upholding the pictures of the so-
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called Præraphaelite school: the Liverpool Academy awarded an annual prize, and on more than one occasion gave it to Mr. Madox Brown—in one instance (1856) for the picture of Christ washing Peter's Feet, and in another for the Chaucer reading the Legend of Custance to the Court of Edward III . My brother's reminiscence as to The Morning Chronicle appears to me to be fallacious; if I am not mistaken, the paper with which Mr. Elliot was connected was The Daily News. If a file of that journal for September 1856 were searched, the article thus referred to might probably be traced.
In or about this year Rossetti wrote another little article about Madox Brown—the brief biographical notice which appears in Men of the Time; a notice which has been added to by some other hand at a later date, and which may or may not, in other respects, stand strictly as written by Rossetti.
A letter from Mr. Ruskin may perhaps belong to this year. He says that Rossetti's translations from the early Italians had been well criticized by Mr. William Allingham, the poet; also that Mr. Ruskin himself would have been more severe than Mr. Allingham, and he recommends some excisions. Mr. Allingham, known to Rossetti through Mr. Patmore, was another of the poetical writers with whom my brother maintained a considerable degree of intimacy for many years; what may have been the nature of his criticisms does not appear.
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The translations just mentioned, executed so many years before, were now actually progressing towards publication. Want of the means in ready money was the only cogent reason why they had not been published long before, for neither press of professional and other occupations, though no doubt substantial enough, nor any notion of producing etchings for the work, would have been allowed to stand much in the way, if only—in default of a publisher willing to undertake the risk—the money had been forthcoming on Rossetti's part. There is a letter from Mr. Patmore, written presumably in 1861, giving some advice as to the publication of the book, and saying that he had inspected a proof-sheet of it. The firm of Macmillan was at that time proposed as publishers, but this project was set aside in the spring of the year, and Messrs. Smith & Elder undertook to act. No doubt this latter firm was selected principally on the ground of being Ruskin's publishers. A letter from Ruskin states that the publication would soon be settled; adding that Smith & Elder, if they were to pay £50 for the book, would be likely to make an edition of a thousand copies. As to this matter of payment, it appears that my brother received neither £50 nor any other lump payment for his MS., but was offered some contingent advantages which, in course of time, became a realized fact on a very small scale.
The volume, The Early Italian Poets , was published in the course of this year—the only year which its author both began and ended as a married man. It must have been printed some while before the arrangements for publication were completed. On 18th
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January, while the work was passing through the press, my brother asked me to collate his version of the Vita Nova with the original, and to amend any inaccuracies and mannerisms; also to insert (what he himself had as yet omitted) a translation of those rather minute and formal analyses supplied by Dante of the various poems which form part of the Vita Nova . On 25th January he was enabled to thank me for the completion of this small labour of love, including a few foot-notes which I had inserted; and he thanked also our mother for the help, by way of comparison and advice, which she had rendered (for she knew Italian with more verbal and grammatical precision than either of her sons.) He then expressed the intention of writing a short essay to precede the Dante section of his book; an intention which was approximately, rather than literally, realized. When the book actually appeared, both Ruskin and Patmore expressed themselves by letter as being “delighted” with it. In fact, the volume was generally very well received—so far as a book of translated poems has in this country a chance of welcome and encomium—and gave Rossetti a sufficiently solid position as a scholar in his own line of study, and a poet as well, for it was recognized that none save a poet in his own right could have made such a transfer of poetry from one language into another.
It may have been towards the same time that Rossetti handed-in to Ruskin some of his original poems, with a view to getting the potent aid of that gentleman in offering a few to Thackeray, the original editor of the Cornhill Magazine. To the best of my recollection, my brother did not know Thackeray otherwise than by sight; he may have seen him two or three times in Little Holland House, the hospitable and
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much-frequented home of the Prinsep family. One of the poems produced to Ruskin was Jenny , the first version of which had been written many years before—at least as early, I should say, as 1850.* Mr. Ruskin did not much approve of Jenny . He sent a letter criticizing the poem, one of his objections being that “Jenny” is not a true rhyme to “guinea,” as in the opening couplet. This I regard as the stricture of a Scotchman. He expressed himself indisposed to offer this composition to Thackeray, but was willing to make tender of the lyric named Love's Nocturn , a comparatively recent performance, or of The Portrait , still earlier than Jenny. It seems reasonable to surmise that one or other of these poems was offered accordingly to the Cornhill Magazine through its pre-eminent editor; certain it is that, if offered, neither poem was accepted, for neither of the productions, nor anything else from Rossetti's pen, appeared in that magazine. As is pretty well known, my brother contemplated, at the date when The Early Italian Poets was issued, the early publication of a volume of original verse, to be entitled Dante at Verona and other Poems . It was probably with a view to paving the way for his intended volume that Rossetti sought admission into the Cornhill Magazine. But with the death of his wife in February 1862 died out for the time all his projects of poetic publicity or distinction. I will not here go through any details of the story, so often
Transcribed Footnote (page 143):

* In his article of 1871, The Stealthy School of Criticism , Rossetti spoke of Jenny as having been written “some thirteen years before,” or about 1858. This must be true of the poem as a completed whole; but I am sure the beginning or first draft of it goes back to some years earlier.

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repeated, of how Rossetti consigned to his wife's coffin and grave the poems composed with ardour and ambition during a somewhat long sequence of years, and collected together in the hope of early publication, not unmixed with confident foreshadowings of fame. From that day, for some two or three years ensuing, he relinquished not only his hopes founded upon poems already written, but also the habit of poetic production. The impetus or impulse, the core of poetic thought, remained (we may well conceive) much the same as it had been before; and it is curious to reflect how many ideas may from time to time have passed through his mind, furnishing the potential groundwork of poems to which his settled resolve denied any concrete form.
A letter of March in this year refers to the work contributed by my brother (late in 1862 and early in 1863) to the Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist, consisting of a final chapter upon Blake's position in art, of an account of his Inventions to the Book of Job, and of the critical editing of his works in verse and prose. The writer of this letter was Mr. Charles Eliot Norton, a name now familiar in connection with Carlyle's biography. To Rossetti he was known as a cultivated American man of letters, deeply versed in Dantesque study. Rossetti had met Mr. Norton more than once, and entertained a sincere friendly regard for him.
The first record which I find of verses written by Rossetti since the death of his wife occurs in this year.
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A letter from our mother, dated in July, mentions that she had then received the lines—they are but eight in all—composed by my brother in illustration of his design and projected picture named Aspecta Medusa . I do not say that these were actually the very first verses which Rossetti had written since the date of his widowerhood; probably enough not.
A letter from a painter-friend, Mr. James Smetham, refers to three sonnets by Rossetti which were published in a pamphlet-review, Notes on the Royal Academy Exhibition , 1868, the work of Mr. Swinburne and myself. The three sonnets were those entitled Lady Lilith (now Body's Beauty ), Sibylla Palmifera (now Soul's Beauty ), and Venus Verticordia . I name these sonnets in order as they stand printed in the pamphlet: the pictures to which they apply may be assigned respectively to the years 1864, 1866, and 1864, or thereabouts. It is more than likely that each sonnet was written nearly at the same time when each picture was painted. In that case Rossetti must have resumed the practice of verse towards 1865; and by 1868 he was so far willing to appear in print in the character of a poet as to allow these three sonnets to be published, at Mr. Swinburne's instance, in the pamphlet in question. Mr. Smetham, to whose letter I referred above, is, I think, still living, but has long been withdrawn from the exercise of his profession as a painter. He was first encountered by my brother, I believe, as a pupil, already of mature age, in the drawing-class of the Working Men's College, where Rossetti—prompted thereto more or less by Ruskin—acted for some while as a gratuitous art-instructor;
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the practice may have begun towards 1857, and may have continued some three years or so. Mr. Smetham was esteemed by my brother not only as an artist of high aims and fine invention, but also as a man of deep religious convictions, which swayed and fashioned the entire course of his life. He was a thoughtful and capable writer as well, as proved inter alia by his review-article on William Blake (reprinted in the second edition of Gilchrist's Life of the painter), and more recently by some extracts from his correspondence which appeared in The Century-Guild Hobby-horse.
Rossetti was now rapidly tending towards the natural outcome of the whole affair—that of printing a volume of his original poems. On 1st March he sent to our mother various sonnets, which he described as “a lively band of bogies,” with other grotesque expressions to correspond— i.e. (as one may understand the phrase), sonnets embodying painful thoughts, or fertile of grievous reminiscences. I presume that these were most probably the sonnets which he had then just printed in the Fortnightly Review , including the series of four named Willow-wood . Mr. Browning, writing to him about the same time, referred to this contribution.
In May Messrs. Smith & Elder sent him an account relating to the volume The Early Italian Poets , extending up to the close of 1868. This account shows 593 copies sold, and 64 still on hand. The money realized was £108 11s. 8d., out of which a sum of £100 had been placed to Mr. Ruskin's credit, while the balance, £8 11s. 8d., was due to Rossetti himself. A large
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proportion of copies, no fewer than 93, had been “presented” to reviews and to private friends. The reference to Mr. Ruskin is not further defined: the natural assumption is that that gentleman had, with his wonted liberality, undertaken the expense of the printing up to a limit of £100, with the proviso that he was to be reimbursed out of the sale.
While the volume of The Early Italian Poets was waning, the project of the original poems was waxing, and by the middle of August it had reached the stage of an estimate, furnished by Mr. Strangeways, for the cost of printing such a volume. Proofs were obtained accordingly: the notion being in the first instance that of printing some old and some new poems for private circulation, and for service in a possible future published volume. My brother spent a considerable portion of this summer in the company of his old friend the painter and poet Mr. William Bell Scott, at Penkill Castle, near Girvan, Ayrshire, the seat of a lady of exceptional gifts of mind and character, Miss Boyd, to whom he was indebted, on more than one occasion, for salient evidences of amicable regard. On 21st August, writing from Penkill Castle, he sent me the proofs—such as they then stood—of his poems, asking me to correct anything in them which might be obviously wrong, and to notify any points to which I might demur. The proofs included a very early composition named To Mary in Summer ; the three sonnets entitled The Choice ; and another called The Bullfinch (afterwards, Beauty and the Bird .) All these Rossetti proposed to cut out: the only one, however, which remains finally unpublished is To Mary in Summer . As to inserting Ave (which some of my
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readers will remember as a semi-devotional address to the Madonna, embodying in verse conceptions not unlike those of the early masters in painting) he had hesitated, on the ground that it might lead—and in fact it has in some instances led—to definite misconceptions regarding his ideas about Christian faith and dogma: he had, however, eventually decided to retain the poem—and few perhaps will contest that he did well in coming to this decision. He expressed an inclination to include the sonnet named Nuptial Sleep (or, as originally entitled, Placatâ Venere ), an item in the series The House of Life : an inclination which was carried into effect with a result the reverse of fortunate; as the sonnet, when published, gave rise to severe strictures, on the justice of which I will not here offer any comment, and was ultimately withdrawn when the House of Life reached its completed form in 1881. My own opinion had been expressed in August in favour of retaining the sonnet in print, so long as the collection remained unpublished: I afterwards, and no doubt unwisely, withdrew this qualifying clause. My brother had cancelled (though it was printed in the proofs) another sonnet termed On the French Liberation of Italy ; as this also, though alien in subject-matter from any possible question of sexual morals, dealt with its theme under a physical metaphor open to exception. Another item which was printed in the same form for private circulation was the prose tale Hand and Soul (originally published in The Germ ); it was excluded from the volume, as ultimately issued in 1870. This is the printed Hand and Soul of which a moderate number of copies have got into circulation, and into booksellers' catalogues, since
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Rossetti's death. One rather sanguine bookseller priced it at £6 6s.; whether he obtained his price is a question which I cannot determine, but as to which I should remain sceptical in default of definite assurance.
The interchange of letters between my brother and myself, as to the details of the privately-printed poems, went on at this time rather actively. On 26th August he wrote discussing the metre of his Italian song “La bella donna” (in the Last Confession ); to some laxities in which, as contrary to the scheme of Italian rhythm, I had started an objection. Soon afterwards he decided to cut out this song altogether; but then again relented, and retained it. He proposed to omit a lyric named A Song and Music ; referred to his having added an opening stanza to Sister Helen , for clearness' sake; and expressed the opinion that, as Mr. Buxton Forman had recently, in an article in Tinsley's Magazine, made mention of the early poem My Sister's Sleep , it would become a practical necessity to include this composition in the series, although contrary to my brother's personal preference. Another very early poem was The Card-dealer ; which he modified, and inserted. On 14th September he apprised me that he had been sending to the printer seven new sonnets—including those on his own designs of Cassandra , The Passover in the Holy Family , and Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee . He had also begun two new poems of greater length; one of them being The Orchard-pit (of which he had then done little beyond a prose synopsis, and indeed it never proceeded much further), and the other being probably The Stream's Secret . Next day he expressed a doubt as to inserting the brace of sonnets on Ingres's picture of Ruggiero and Angelica ; finally it found grace in his eyes. By 21st September Rossetti had again written some more verse, including the ballad of Troy Town : “my best thing, I think,” was his comment upon this—but it does not follow that, when the glow of recent composition had faded, he would have re-affirmed the same opinion. Other works of this period, which received the praise of Mr. Scott, were Eden Bower and the sonnet on The Glen .
Although Rossetti had in his hands several of his old poems, and was much in the vein for writing new ones, still a good number of the verses of past years, those which would be most needful for a volume taking the ordinary published form, remained as yet buried with his wife in Highgate Cemetery. He took the extreme resolution of having them unburied. This is a fact which has been frequently stated ere now: I simply re-state it, and leave all my readers to judge for themselves whether the act was laudable, condonable, or otherwise. His object manifestly was the desire of poetic fame, and reluctance that his light should be permanently hid under a bushel: the state of his feeling in relation to his deceased wife had no less manifestly undergone the calming and assuaging influence which comes with the passing of six years and upwards. The MSS. were recovered from the coffin, and were consigned to Dr. Llewellyn Williams, of No. 9 Leonard Place, Kennington, to be properly treated with disinfectants before further use could be made of them. This process was going on in the middle of the month of October, when Rossetti was either still at Penkill Castle, or just returned to London. On the 20th of the month the papers were handed
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over to him. Four days before this he had written to me saying that he had always intended to dedicate to myself his first volume of poems, and would now do so.
Friends and acquaintances evinced an eager interest in the forthcoming volume. Thus Mr. Sidney Colvin suggested an order in which the poems might be printed, differing from that which appears in the published book. Mr. Thursfield undertook to trace back, into its classic sources, the legend about Helen's vow to Aphrodite embodied in the poem of Troy Town , and he found it in Pliny, but not in any earlier author; Mr. Swinburne thanked Rossetti for some new sheets of the volume, and for the tale of Hand and Soul , which by this date (7th December) had been definitely severed from the poems. He expressed also a wish (which was unfortunately not ratified) that Rossetti would take up and complete his other prose story of remote years, St. Agnes of Intercession ; and he referred to some new passages in the poem Jenny .
A letter dated in February from Mr. Patrick Park Alexander shows that Messrs. Blackwood had made an offer for publishing Rossetti's Poems . Mr. Alexander expressed regret that this offer had not been accepted. The publisher selected was (as is well known) Mr. F. S. Ellis, then settled as a bookseller in King Street, Covent Garden, little concerned in publishing: he afterwards published the works of Mr. William Morris, and some few others. My brother had, from first to last, the utmost reason for satisfaction in having come to terms with Mr. Ellis, who acted with
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consistent liberality and friendly zeal, and who relieved him from all trouble in the matter more onerous than that of receiving cheques for author's royalty on sales, at punctual intervals. All my brother's subsequent publishing was done with Mr. Ellis and his then partners in New Bond Street; the reissue of The Early Italian Poets under the title Dante and his Circle ; the reissue in 1881, in a modified form, of the Poems of 1870; and the publication, also in 1881, of the Ballads and Sonnets . In the letter from Mr. Alexander above mentioned another matter is also touched upon: he enclosed an old sonnet by Rossetti, speaking of it as a “vigorous imprecation. ” This must, I presume, have been the sonnet On a Mulberry-tree (planted by Shakespeare, and felled by the Rev. Mr. Gastrell) : it was published in 1881, but not in 1870.
The volume made its appearance towards the end of April. My brother was sufficiently liberal of presentation-copies to friends and acquaintances—not perhaps to any literary magnates who were not personally known to him. I find an acknowledgment of a copy from Sir Henry Taylor, whom Rossetti knew slightly, and whose stately historical drama of Philip van Artevelde had been read and re-read by him with fervent admiration at a very youthful age; another from Sir Theodore Martin, who referred to the sonnet “This is that blessed Mary,” which he recollected from the date, 1849, when he had seen it printed to illustrate the picture of The Girlhood of Mary Virgin , as included in the Free Exhibition at Hyde Park Corner. A letter also came from Mr. Frank A. Marshall, whom my brother had known some years before, but had not seen recently: he asked
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permission to include A Last Confession in a reading which he was to give in May in the Hanover Square Rooms. Alfred Tennyson, well known to be a reluctant and scanty letter-writer, was not wholly silent upon this occasion: his epistle, however, appeared to Rossetti “rather shabby”—which was a matter of opinion.
The success of the book was rapid and conspicuous. As early as 3rd May Rossetti was able to announce that Mr. Ellis had sold the whole of the first issue of 1000 copies, with the exception of 200 (these also were exhausted towards 20th May or earlier), and was about to go to press again at once with a second 1000; 250 of the copies disposed of had been sent to America. As Mr. Ellis's liberal plan was to pay to the author, as soon as an edition or relay was in type, the stipulated royalty (one quarter of the published price of 12s. per copy), the two issues would have brought in to the author £300 in the space of less than a month; another £150 became due by the end of July. Rossetti remarked in the same letter that The Early Italian Poets , the publication of Messrs. Smith & Elder, was then just sold out, and that he would forthwith reprint it through Mr. Ellis, were the latter to assent. And this scheme was in fact carried out, but only after an interval of some three years. The idea was to make the edition in two volumes (and it seems that an advertisement appeared to this effect), with some additional matter. This was abandoned; the arrangement of the contents was altered, and the title along with that.
If readers were numerous, reviewers also were laudatory. Who that read it can have forgotten the gorgeous stream of praise in which Mr. Swinburne indulged his
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generous instincts as critic and as friend? Another critique which Rossetti particularly valued was that contributed to the Athenæum by Dr. Westland Marston, a very cordial acquaintance of more recent years. None of the reviews, however, impressed him more than one which appeared in an American paper, the Catholic World. He thought that its writer had shown remarkable power of penetrating through the printed page into the essential and not wholly self-avowed personality of the author. Naturally he knew nothing either of the Catholic World, or of any person writing, or likely to be writing, in its columns. The interest which he felt in the article was such as to impel him to make what enquiry he could after its author. He addressed him, I think, under cover to the editor of the paper, but without result. He also consulted a Catholic acquaintance—the poet Mr. Aubrey de Vere—who replied that he thought it possible the critic might be a Mr. Rudd. Nothing more definite, I believe, was ever ascertained on this point.
A great literary event, followed by a great European event, gave a numbing shock to men's minds in the summer of 1870. On 9th June Charles Dickens died; and I recollect that my brother told me soon afterwards that the sale of his book seemed to have suffered a sudden decline in consequence. In the middle of the summer war was declared between France and Germany. The Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti ran a bad chance when people who were just ceasing to talk about the author of Pickwick and David Copperfield had to discuss Napoleon III. and King William, Moltke and Macmahon, Gambetta and Bismarck, Empire and Republic. Thus, from the early summer, Rossetti and his friends
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had little more to say about a run of purchasers, and a succession of re-issues; and the book had the fate of most other books of moderate pretensions to popularity— selling now and again with some tolerable degree of steadiness, far in the background from general interest and sensation.
The ballad named Down Stream (originally The River's Record) seems to have been written towards July of this year; its local colouring clearly points to Kelmscott. Soon afterwards Rossetti was invited, through Mr. Madox Brown, to contribute something to a magazine which had but a short lease of life— The Dark Blue . He authorized Mr. Brown to send Down Stream , if so disposed. This was done, and the poem appeared in those pages in October, with the advantage of two woodcut illustrations from Brown's hand. Rossetti did about the same time “a few songs and sonnets;” one of them was in Italian, being, I suppose, the Barcarola which begins “Per carità.” This earned a word of encomium from Mr. Swinburne. The Cloud Confines (a short poem on which my brother not unnaturally laid considerable stress) also received Swinburne's marked approval in the same letter. At Kelmscott likewise, towards this date, my brother began his rather long narrative poem of Rose Mary . Its first part was completed by 10th September, and the remainder proceeded rapidly, being finished by the 23rd of the same month. The Sunset Wings , recording the arboreal evolutions of a flock of starlings at Kelmscott, was done in August. It was published in the Athenæum in the spring of 1873, and he then remarked in a letter “the description is
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most exact.” These details suffice to show that Rossetti, having brought out his volume, was not a little inspirited towards continuous poetic production, which, unless interrupted by untoward circumstance, might probably have proceeded much farther than in fact it did.
The untoward circumstance, however, was not to be wanting. It came in the shape of the article The Fleshly School of Poetry, written by Mr. Robert Buchanan under the pseudonym of Thomas Maitland, and published in the Contemporary Review. To this affair of The Fleshly School of Poetry - an affair equally trumpery in itself and miserable in its consequences—I have made some reference aforetime, in my preface to the Collected Works of my brother. Suffice it here to say that Rossetti was in the first instance annoyed and partly amused—especially amused at the poor figure which the Contemporary , or its editor, or its contributor, or all three, cut in some newspaper correspondence of the time, wherein the authorship or pseudonymity of the article was shuffled over not a little; but in the sequel, when the same article, in an extended form, was republished as a pamphlet, he was unfortunately very much more annoyed, and not amused at all. On the contrary he foolishly and blameably took very much to heart this ill-conditioned attack,* with its many imputations or implications of low and bad moral tone in his writings, and of low and bad moral motives conducing to that tone; and, instead of tossing the whole thing aside—the article or pamphlet into his
Transcribed Footnote (page 156):

* It is perfectly true—and I mention it to Mr. Buchanan's credit—that, after an interval of some years, he himself openly proclaimed that the attack was unjust and wrongful. If he thought so at that rather late date, it is no wonder if I do and always did think the same.

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waste-paper basket, and its author into the limbo of unquiet spirits, actuated by some incentive or other towards detraction—he allowed a sense of unfair treatment, and a suspicion that the slur cast upon himself and his writings might be widely accepted as true, to eat into his very vitals, gravely altering his tone of mind and character, his attitude towards the world, and his habits of life. Constant insomnia (beginning towards 1867), and its counteraction by reckless drugging with chloral, co-operated, no doubt, to the same disastrous end; indeed, I find it impossible to say whether the more potent factors in the case were insomnia and chloral which gave morbid virulence to outraged feelings, or outraged feelings which promoted the persistence of insomnia, and the consequent abuse of chloral. All three had their share in making my brother a changed man from 1872 onwards. I am aware that in stating these details (which have indeed been touched upon with more or less precision by other writers as well as by myself) I am exposing him to some censure for want of that masculine scorn or sturdy indifference which is the right answer to unmerited disparagement; but the cause of truth would certainly not be served by my keeping strict silence either as to the unfairness of the attack, or as to the shock which was inflicted by it upon a nature too proud, too sensitive, and above all perhaps too isolated.
In these remarks I have been anticipating somewhat, for (as already indicated) the publishing of the article in the Contemporary Review (as distinguished from its subsequent re-issue as a pamphlet) was received by my brother light-heartedly enough. The first reference I find to this matter is in a letter which he addressed to
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me on 17th October, saying that he—if Thomas Maitland should turn out to be Robert Buchanan—would write and print a letter in answer to him. I replied dissuading, but without effect; and soon afterwards Rossetti's article in the Athenæum , named The Stealthy School of Criticism , made its appearance. A letter from Mr. Swinburne, and another from Mr. J. T. Nettleship the painter (author of A Study of Browning), advert to this matter. From Mr. Colvin there is a letter regarding a ballad of a burlesque kind which Rossetti wrote on the Buchanan affair. For this ballad Mr. Colvin tendered his good offices with the Fortnightly Review , but he wisely recommended that the effusion should not be published at all, and my brother, acquiescing in this advice, proceeded no further. The MS. ballad is in my possession; but is not likely ever to see the light of publication— not, at any rate, in my time. A letter from Mr. Ellis the publisher, dated 19th December, discloses another Rossettian move on the tarnished chessboard of the Fleshly School of Poetry —he had written a letter to Mr. Buchanan, forming a separate pamphlet; and this pamphlet, according to Mr. Ellis's letter, was then in proof. But the very next day a note from the junior partner in the then firm of Ellis & Green followed the missive of his senior. Mr. Green intimated that the pamphlet might probably be actionable as a libel, and no doubt any notion of publishing it must then have been finally abandoned. I never saw this pamphlet, nor I think any part of the MS. pertaining to it; neither did I ever enquire whether perchance Mr. Ellis or his printer yet owns a copy of it. Were such the case, the pamphlet might yet some day prove a literary curiosity highly
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appetizing to some of those bibliographic zealots who are prompt with cheques for £7 or £10 in exchange even for a copy of Rossetti's boyish, privately printed, and insipid ballad, Sir Hugh the Heron . Whether the brochure really was a libel I have of course no means of judging; nor whether it was more a libel on Mr. Buchanan than the Fleshly School of Poetry , its predecessor, had been on Rossetti; nor yet whether, if it was more a libel as aforesaid, this was or was not dependent on the legal axiom, “The greater the truth, the greater the libel.” My reader, who now knows as much about the pamphlet as I do, may be left to his own conjectures.
The year closes (30th December) with a business-announcement—Mr. Ellis writing to say that he would now advertize a sixth edition of the Poems ; this sixth edition being, in fact, the second five hundred out of a set of a thousand copies which had been printed some while previously. This amounts to six editions (but probably three or four of them were small ones, like this last-named) in a space of about twenty months; not bad for poetry, as poetry rules in the market of the second half of the nineteenth century in England.
Mr. Ellis resumes the correspondence of this year. On 24th January he sent Rossetti the modest sum of £2 16s. 2d., remitted by Messrs. Roberts Brothers from Boston as the author's profit upon the American issue of the Poems (possibly this sum was only applicable to the half-year just expired, but I am unable to determine that point). On 19th March he undertook to reprint The Early Italian Poets at his own cost, on the
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understanding that any profit, beyond expenses recouped, would be halved between himself and the author.
The alarming illness from which my brother suffered in June of this year has been briefly mentioned on page 78. It was the result of the triple combination which I have just been discussing—insomnia, chloral, and the Fleshly School of Poetry in its pamphlet form. The immediate cause was undoubtedly the pamphlet, which, working upon an excitable brain and overstrung feelings, betrayed Rossetti into the belief that he was fast becoming the object of widespread calumny and obloquy, not less malignant and insidious than unprovoked and undeserved:— unprovoked, for he never intermixed in any literary or personal wrangles; and undeserved, for neither his poetry nor his painting was fairly chargeable with any sort of ignoble pruriency. As I have already said, my brother recruited his health by leaving London for the Scottish Highlands, and afterwards he settled down for some while at Kelmscott.
The first record I find of renewed literary work is that on 7th November he sent me his Italian sonnet on his picture Proserpina .
begins with a letter from Rossetti (January 2nd) saying that Mr. Ellis was then about to republish immediately The Early Italian Poets , long out of print. My brother asked me to attend to the proofs, which I did, commencing towards March, and forwarding to him each proof after revision. He dedicated to our mother this reissue, altering its title to Dante and his Circle : the original book had been dedicated to his wife. The
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volume was actually published in December. At the opening of 1873 Mr. Ellis was also prepared to bring out a new volume of original poetry by Rossetti; but the latter hesitated whether to go to press at once with such verse as he had on hand, equal only to some 150 pages of print, or to wait until more should be done. Finally he adhered to the second alternative, and eight more years elapsed until, in 1881, he issued both the Ballads and Sonnets , and the partly reconstituted second form of the Poems of 1870.
In February he sent to the Fortnightly Review a critical notice of the new poetic volume, Parables and Tales, by Dr. Thomas Gordon Hake. It may have been towards 1866 that my brother first made the personal acquaintance of Dr. Hake. They at once became fast friends, and the doctor gave ample testimony of this by his exceeding kindness and attention to my brother throughout the course of his illness in 1872. Though it was only in middle life that Rossetti knew Dr. Hake personally, he had, even in boyhood, felt a particular interest in some of his writings. There was a strange psychological romance published anonymously by Dr. Hake in 1840, in a very large and handsome form, with startling illustrations by Thomas Landseer. It was named Vates, or the Philosophy of Madness—or, in a later reissue, Valdarno, a colourless title which my brother viewed with regretful antipathy. Vates was read and re-read by Rossetti with great delight; not, I suppose, so early as in the year of its publication, 1840, but more towards 1843 or 1844. After a long interval, perhaps about the year 1860, he wrote to ascertain the name of the unavowed author, and learned this to be Hake; but Dr. Hake, I think, was then abroad, and
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some further years passed before a direct acquaintance was possible. At last he presented himself in my brother's house in Cheyne Walk, and the intimacy was established. In youth my brother had something of the same habit which was so marked in Shelley—that of writing at a venture to persons whose performances in the field of literature or of fine art he admired. I remember that towards 1849 he addressed Leigh Hunt, sending some of his own verses, and received a kind and encouraging letter in reply; he wrote to Mr. W. B. Scott, as the author of the poem Rosabell, and thus began a lifelong friendship; to Ford Madox Brown, expressing a great admiration of his art, and a hope that he might be permitted to obtain some artistic guidance from him—this also led to a friendship, the warmest, most intimate, and most continuous, of Rossetti's life; to Robert Browning, to ask whether he had not rightly divined that great poet to be the author of Pauline. This may have been as early as 1848; for in and about that year my brother was greatly in the habit of haunting the reading-room of the British Museum, and there perusing any poetic volumes which caught his fancy, and which he could not readily obtain otherwise. He lit upon Pauline; not only read it through, but copied it all out; recognized some lines which reappeared in some of Browning's acknowledged writings, and perceived moreover that the whole tone of the poem bespoke but one possible authorship; and he then ventured to ask his rather risky question. Mr. Browning was pleased to reply, and in the affirmative; and this again commenced a friendly intercourse, frank and pleasant, continuing through many years, and only curtailed at last by the exceptionally, and indeed morbidly
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recluse habits of my brother in the closing period of his life.
A project which was present to Rossetti's mind from the beginning of 1873 was that of translating and editing the poems of Michelangelo. He got me to send to him at Kelmscott the noble edition of these poems by Guasti, which had then been recently published, and which I possessed. This edition he studied to a certain extent; but press of other occupations, combined perhaps with some reluctance and procrastination over the beginnings of so serious a task, diverted my brother from the project, and I have not found among his MSS. any trace of actual translation. The skilled and scholarly hand of Mr. Symonds performed not long afterwards the work which Rossetti left undone; and probably the English reader now possesses a more accurate and more comprehensively thought-out version of the poems than he could have obtained from Rossetti, although I not unnaturally regret that an undertaking which from some points of view was so peculiarly appropriate for my brother remained unaccomplished.
A very small item of work which he performed in March was the revising, at the request of the Editor of Maunder's Treasury, of the memoir of our father which appears in that publication. In May he wrote a sonnet on the Spring—“the cold Spring, not yet warmed through,” as he expressed it in a letter.
A letter came on 30th January from Dr. Franz Hueffer, saying that the Tauchnitz firm offered £15 to
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Rossetti for the right of including his Poems in their renowned series of English reprints. Rossetti accepted these terms. The book appeared in that series soon afterwards, with a critical preface by Dr. Hueffer—one of the ablest notices which the poetic work of Rossetti ever received. Dr. Hueffer, who died rather suddenly in January 1889, at the comparatively early age of forty-three, was a German, born in Munster, who, coming over to London towards 1869, soon made acquaintance with Madox Brown, with Rossetti, and with various members of the same artistic and literary circle. He became a close family-connection of mine in 1874, when I married the half-sister of the lady, a daughter of Madox Brown, whom Hueffer himself had wedded in 1872. Excluding from consideration a few men of powerful creative genius, I have known no person of more brilliant talents or of wider and more solid cultivation than Hueffer: his range extended to philosophy, linguistics, literature, and music. He became the pioneer in England of the enthusiasm for the once much-belaboured Wagner, and for several years preceding his death he exerted, as musical critic of the Times, a powerful influence over musical taste and enterprise not only in England but throughout the civilized world. In literature he was a man of rapid appreciation, and of catholic taste—which tended, however, with advancing years, to adhere more and more firmly to those great monuments of the past which form the standard of achievement. Soon after settling in England, where he acquired an early and exceptional mastery of the language, Hueffer anglicized himself as much as possible, and was eventually naturalized as a British subject; and it may truly be said that England has now lost, in
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the German son of her adoption, one of the most forcible and luminous of her critical minds.
The letter from Dr. Hueffer to which I have already referred made mention of another subject besides that of the proposed Tauchnitz edition. He spoke of the translation which Rossetti had made in early youth— towards 1847—from the poem, Der Arme Heinrich, by the ancient German poet Hartmann von der Aue. Rossetti, as Hueffer reminded him, had recently thought of publishing the translation, along with an introduction to be written by his German friend. This hint, however, led to no practical result; and the translation from Der Arme Heinrich remained unpublished until I included it, in 1886, in my brother's Collected Works .
In February Rossetti sent to our mother the sonnet on Winter , then lately written. Soon afterwards the sonnet on Proserpina , in its Italian form, was discussed with our sister Maria. She agreed with the author in preferring the Italian to the English version.
In October, in consequence of my having compiled and prefaced the Aldine Edition of the Poems of William Blake, some reference appeared in print to the manner in which those poems of his which were included in Gilchrist's Life of Blake in 1863 had been edited—the writer attributing to myself, as well as to my brother, the rather liberal latitude of editorial revision and adjustment by which the treatment of the verses had been marked. My brother, in writing to me on the subject, justly took upon himself the sole responsibility for what had in that instance been done; and he added—and here again I could not but concur with him—that he would not now, if the work were before him to be done, make so many alterations.
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The death of Oliver Madox Brown, at the age of nineteen, took place on November 5th 1874. Rossetti, who had now resettled in London after a long sojourn at Kelmscott, was among the most earnest believers in the genius of which this extraordinary youth had given evidence both in painting and in literature. He wrote a sonnet expressing his sense of the calamity; and proposed to me (12th November) to publish it, with the consent of the bereaved father, in the Athenæum . This was done without delay.
In the last month of the year Rossetti was proposing to write for the Fortnightly Review a critique on a recent volume of poems, New Symbols, by his friend Dr. Hake. For some reason which I do not now remember this project miscarried.
In January of this year two references occur to musical settings of some of Rossetti's poems. Mr. Moncure D. Conway wrote that he had been hearing Mr. Dannreuther's music to Rossetti's Autumn Song — a very early performance which was not included in any one of the volumes published during its author's lifetime. Mrs. Florence Marshall addressed Rossetti, observing that, about six years before, he had authorized her to publish music to his lyric, A Little While ; and she wished now to do the same for A New Year's Burden —Messrs. Novello being the publishers.
The sonnet Astarte Syriaca is referred to in a letter of 23rd March from Mrs. Fry, wife of the gentleman who had purchased the picture which the sonnet illustrates.
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Mr. Niles, representing the American publishing firm of Roberts Brothers, wrote to Rossetti in February, saying that the American edition of the Poems had then long been out of print, and the firm were now selling imported copies of the English edition. He expected soon to print a new American issue of the work.
Probably the first poem by Rossetti which appeared in a foreign translation was the Last Confession . In July Signor Luigi Gamberale sent over from Italy to the author his Italian version of the poem in question, entitled Un' Ultima Confessione. It will easily be understood that this composition, which embodies a story partly (though only subordinately) related to the Italian revolutionary movements which preceded the attainment of national unity, appealed with especial force to an Italian heart and imagination. Another book was issued by Gamberale in 1881, also including some translations from Rossetti— Poeti Inglesi e Tedeschi: Jenny is one of the poems here translated.
Two letters of the later part of the year refer to some minor writings by Rossetti, of a date not then recent. One is from Mr. Richard Hearne Shepherd, who said that his pamphlet upon Ebenezer Jones, the author of Studies of Sensation and Event, had been mainly suggested by a little notice of this poet which my brother had published in Notes and Queries in February 1870. The other letter is from Mrs. Heaton (the biographer of Albert Durer), who asked permission to reprint, in a memoir of Maclise, Rossetti's description, printed in the Academy in April 1871, of the series of
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portraits which Maclise had of old contributed to Fraser's Magazine. She also proposed to quote Rossetti's “eloquent words” concerning the great works of Maclise in the Houses of Parliament, the Waterloo and Trafalgar,
Mr. Turner, the purchaser of my brother's painting A Vision of Fiammetta , wrote on 5th October, referring to the sonnet illustrating that work which had on the same day been published in the Athenæum . Nearly at the same time, 16th October, Mr. Philip Bourke Marston, the blind poet, acknowledged the receipt of the sonnet addressed to himself—
  • “Sweet poet, thou of whom these years that roll.”
A letter from Mr. Theodore Watts must also, I suppose, belong to this same year, 1878; which was the year when, as a sequel of the Berlin Conference, England came into administrative possession of the Isle of Cyprus. Mr. Watts wrote that he had sent to the Athenæum some lines by Rossetti, presumably a sonnet, regarding Cyprus, but had afterwards withdrawn them, upon finding that the Pall Mall Gazette contained some other lines on the like subject. I know nothing further of Rossetti's composition, which has never seen the light of publication. Perhaps neither Mr. Watts, nor eventually the author himself, deemed it a success. It cannot, I think, have been a very genuine inspiration; for neither the fact that England was to relieve the “unspeakable Turk” from mal-administering Cyprus, nor theprestige hence accruing to Lord Beaconsfield, was an event much in his groove.
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In January Mr. David Main, the Glasgow bookseller, who shortly afterwards brought out a well-selected volume of sonnets (the first-fruits of a veritable sonnet-mania, which has erupted in a number of subsequent volumes), wrote to my brother, asking leave to include in his compilation two specimens from the Poems of 1870— Broken Music and Lost Days . Various letters were afterwards interchanged between Main and Rossetti, who expressed his assent. In June Mr. Eaton Faning sought permission for setting to music the lyric A New Year's Burden —the same composition which had been previously named for a like purpose by Mrs. Marshall; and a similar request came from Mr. T. Anderton in December of the ensuing year.
Rossetti's sonnet on The Sonnet , which now forms a proem to The House of Life , must have been written early in this year. Mr. Hall Caine, with whom he was then carrying on a very active correspondence, principally on literary matters, acknowledged on 24th February the receipt of the MS. Soon afterwards some alternative endings were discussed with our sister Christina; prior to the presentation (as mentioned on p. 111) of this sonnet, with its decorative adjuncts, as a birthday-present to our mother. It was inserted in front of a copy of Mr. Main's sonnet-book. In another of his numerous letters (March) Mr. Caine refers to a statement, recently made by Rossetti, that he had been writing some additions to the ballad of Sister
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, and a sonnet on Keats —the same which appears printed in the Ballads and Sonnets of 1881.
The historical ballad of The White Ship was composed mainly, if not wholly, in 1880; it was in progress during the April of that year. My brother sent the MS. to Madox Brown, then living in Manchester; observing that every point in his treatment of the subject, even down to the incident of the “fair boy dressed in black” who is put forward by the panic-stricken courtiers to announce to King Henry I. the terrible news of his son's death, was derived from the ancient chroniclers. Mr. Brown, who in his youth had known something of naval matters, replied, making various remarks bearing upon the phraseology of the ballad in this respect, and in others as well. Rossetti thanked him for his “most valuable nautical hints,” and undertook to adopt some of them. Undoubtedly he required a little guidance of that sort in any point approaching even distantly to the technique of sea-craft; being one of those men to whom such words as sea, ship, and boat, are generic terms, admitting of little specific, and still less of any individual and detailed, distinction.
Another work which occupied my brother in the Spring of 1880 was that of writing, for the new edition brought out in that year, some additions to what he had done many years before for the Life of Blake by Gilchrist. The added matter was chiefly confined to some observations upon certain of the more grotesque aspects of the “prophetic book,” Jerusalem : but besides this my brother entered freely into communication with Mrs. Gilchrist upon various subsidiary points—illustrations, Blake's letters, &c. The sonnet on Blake and the one on Chatterton were both written towards May;
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that on Coleridge towards July; and near the close of the year Pride of Youth , which finds a place in The House of Life .
Two other sonnets claim mention here—both written probably in January. One is that named Tiber, Nile, and Thames ,—which again refers to Chatterton and Coleridge, and also to Keats; the other is Michelangelo's Kiss , inserted in The House of Life . My brother sent them both to our sister Christina, accompanied by the ominous words, “With me, sonnets mean insomnia.” The long ballad-poem of The King's Tragedy was in progress towards the same time, and may have been finished before Spring had fairly begun. He was at much pains (but not with definite success) to ascertain on what authority the name Barlass had been applied to Catharine Douglas, the supposed narrator of this story; and he beat about a good deal for a suitable title for the ballad before pitching upon the one which he finally selected; he also proposed to me, but soon withdrew, Berold's Story, as a substitute for the name of The White Ship . Another sonnet was that upon Czar Alexander the Second , slaughtered in March: a copy of it was sent to Mr. Caine. I think the trio of sonnets in The House of Life , named True Woman , must have been written at a yet later date; in that case they may be the last sonnets which my brother produced in 1881, and the last which have appeared in type. In writing to our mother on 15th September he spoke of them as written“quite lately.”
When the two ballads had been completed, and when The House of Life had been compiled into the shape
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which it now bears, Rossetti made up his mind to defer no longer the publication of a second volume: the one which bears the title of Ballads and Sonnets The entire MS. for the book appears to have been consigned to the printer before the end of March. The volume of 1870, Poems , had now for a considerable while been out of print. One portion of its contents— i.e., those sonnets which had been printed in it as a part of the then uncompleted House of Life —was transferred to the Ballads and Sonnets. Rossetti thought the present a convenient opportunity for reissuing the Poems , slightly modified: so he filled up—principally by inserting the early and unfinished narrative poem named The Bride's Prelude —the gap left in that volume by the removal of the sonnets in question; and he set the printer to work upon a reprint, thus modified, of the Poems , as well as upon the new volume, Ballads and Sonnets . His attending to this matter in 1881 turned out to be a fortunate circumstance, for Destiny had determined that he should hardly survive the close of that year. The publishing firm of Ellis & White renewed, for the Ballads and Sonnets , the same liberal terms which had been settled for the Poems of 1870: the author's royalty of 25 per cent. was to be paid down in full as soon as the volume should be published. For the reissued Poems the terms were slightly altered: payment of a like royalty half-yearly, according to the number of copies sold. By the middle of May my brother notified that he would send the proofs of the Ballads and Sonnets for me to revise. He himself, in this as in all other instances, attended also diligently to the same matter.
In June Mr. Valpy—the gentleman frequently mentioned in the first section of this book as a purchaser
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of Rossetti's pictures and designs—wrote to him that he was getting up a catalogue of the paintings in his possession by Samuel Palmer; and asked permission to print in that pamphlet some remarks on the paintings contained in a letter which Rossetti had written to him: this was soon afterwards done.
Both the poetic volumes were published towards the middle of September. In October the publishers sent Rossetti £150 (reduced by the cost of cancels &c. to £136) as the royalty for the first 1000 copies of Ballads and Sonnets . This was followed in November by another payment of £112 for 750 copies. The total number published up to that date had been 2000; out of these, 250 had been despatched to the publishing firm of Messrs. Roberts in America.
My brother was very desirous of adding, to the two historical ballads ( The White Ship and The King's Tragedy ) which appear in his volume, a third historical ballad on the great subject of Joan of Arc. He had not been willing to delay the publication of his book until he might find leisure for dealing with this arduous theme; but his mind was seriously bent upon it, as probably the most important thing which he was likely henceforth to undertake. A letter from Mr. Shields, dated 27th September, relates to this matter. He says that a very cultivated lady of his acquaintance, Miss Bradford, was then occupied in some researches at the British Museum, for which Rossetti had commissioned her, on the subject of Joan of Arc; and in fact various transcripts and abstracts, made by Miss Bradford, were in my brother's hands at the date of his death.
The year closes (5th December) with a request from Miss Cécile Hartog, readily granted, to be allowed to
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publish the music which she had composed to the lyric, Three Shadows . This lady is the sister of one who married the distinguished philologist in Hebrew and Old-French, Arsène Darmesteter, brother of Professor James Darmesteter, who in 1888 became the husband of one of the choicest of our English poetesses, Miss Mary Robinson. I dwell upon this association of names with peculiar pleasure; as Miss Robinson (numbered among my most valued friends of recent years, but not personally acquainted with my brother) was almost the first writer who, after his death, published a record of him—a very sympathetic record, full of delicate intellectual insight and of womanly charm: it appeared in 1882 in the pages of Harper's Monthly Magazine.
In January another minor payment, £58, came from the publishers, being the balance due upon the volume Poems up to the close of 1881. Messrs. Roberts also sent a small sum. They had printed in America 1000 copies of the Ballads and Sonnets , and were then engaged in stereotyping the volume Poems in its new form.
About this time Messrs. Kegan Paul & Co. were compiling their book of Selections from living British Poets. They wished to include, as specimens of my brother's work, Sister Helen , Eden Bower , The Song of the Bower , and a sonnet or two. To this my brother—who had recently authorized the Rev. Mr. Langridge to make some other reprint—entertained no objection. The publishers, however, were not unnaturally reluctant to assent to so large a contribution. As the volume did not actually appear until after my brother's death, and as its scope extended only to poets living at the date of
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publication, it does not in fact include anything by Rossetti.
The two last letters in my store come appropriately from Mr. Theodore Watts, the friend whose keenness of intellectual sympathy, and assiduity of personal friendship, did so much to console the despondency of his closing years, and to smoothe the unreposeful pillow to which at length rest came along with death. On 10th March my brother was already at Birchington-on-Sea, tended by our mother and our sister Christina, Mr. Hall Caine being also in his company. Mr. Watts then wrote to say that the publishers were about to print some further copies of the Ballad and Sonnets ; and on the 16th he wrote again, observing that he supposed Rossetti was getting on with The Dutchman's Pipe . This indicates that Rossetti was still active with mind and pen up to almost the last twilight of his life; for the letter was written only twenty-four days before the date of his death, 9th April. The Dutchman's Pipe sounds not very much like the title of a Rossettian poem. The fact is however that at a very early period—perhaps in 1847, or when he was about nineteen years of age— my brother wrote the great majority of a ballad, of a grotesque character not unmingled with horror, about a smoking Dutchman and the devil, founded upon a prose story which he and I had read some years before in a periodical named Tales of Chivalry; and in his last illness he recurred to and completed this ballad.
Here I close the brief and imperfect record of my brother's work: a record which could not but rekindle in my mind many vivid, many tender, and some painful memories of olden and of later years.
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Sig. M
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Sig. M 2

I have more than once been told that the verses by my brother which compose (as he termed it) “a Sonnet-sequence,” under the aggregate title of The House of Life , are very difficult of interpretation. Not long ago one of his most intimate friends put it to me pointedly in the phrase “They cannot be understood.” I should like them to be understood; and, as I appear to myself to understand the great majority of their bulk and contents, I have thought it not inconsistent with respect to my brother's memory, and with a desire to extend the right estimate of his writings, that I should take it upon me to expound their meaning. This I have done in the form of a paraphrase in prose: following at no very great distance the actual diction of the sonnets, but amplifying here, and interpolating there, and from time to time commenting or discussing. The reader who goes through my paraphrase will, I think, acquit me of any attempt to “puff my brother”: the expressions of critical opinion are of the fewest, and, such as they are, they scarcely bear any character of direct eulogy.
The view which I express of the meaning of the sonnets must be taken as simply my own view. I hardly think that my brother ever explained to me, or debated with me, the meaning of any one of them. He and I
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were wont to assume that there was between us a certain community of perception which would enable me to understand what he wrote, either immediately and without close scrutiny of the details, or at any rate in the event of my applying myself seriously to a consideration of the written page. Most of the sonnets of The House of Life have naturally been familiar to me from an early date after they were composed. It is only now, however, and with a view to the present paraphrase, that I have weighed them minutely, line by line, phrase by phrase, and in the sum-total of each composition. This I have done with close and deliberate attention, and the result is before the reader. As might have been expected, I found that several things which I had hitherto regarded with vague and inexpress acquiescence, neither analysing nor pausing over them, were in fact charged with some particular significance, be it valuable or the reverse; and on the whole I now see more clearly than I ever did before the purport of the Sonnets, and whether that purport is important or unimportant.
Some while after I had begun this paraphrase I happened to be talking about it with Mr. Charles Fairfax Murray the painter, who saw a great deal of my brother at times, from about 1867 onwards; and I was pleased to learn from him that my brother had on one occasion expressed a certain inclination to write and publish some sort of exposition of The House of Life . But it was not at all in his line to set-to actually at such a task. No doubt he would never have done so, however long he might have lived; yet the fact that he had thought of it, as a thing not wholly foreign to his personal and literary liking, has made me view my own undertaking with the less mistrust.
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I am aware that a prose paraphrase of poetry—and especially of poetry abstract in thought and ornate in structure, such as is frequent in The House of Life — is not only a prose performance, but a prosaic performance; unalluring to any reader, distasteful, or even intolerable and degrading, in the eyes of some readers. I know that what I have written in my paraphrase looks meagre and jejune; and that even the very words of the sonnets, transcribed verbatim, produce here a dulled and crippled effect. But, as I never expected to view my paraphrase with any feeling of self-applause, so I shall not be disconcerted by any censure which may be applied to its form or diction: content if some persons who are disposed to study Rossetti's poetry in an earnest and confiding spirit find that, after perusing the paraphrase, they apprehend the scope and meaning of the sonnets, or their literal phraseology, better than they did before.
Besides the charge of obscurity, an objection which I have sometimes heard raised against The House of Life is its want of absolute cohesion; the series, it is averred, does not form one consecutive poem, but only so many sonnets of sufficiently diverse subject-matter, grouped together. Now this is abundantly true as a fact: whether it forms a solid objection either to the sonnets regarded as a series, or to the act of the author in thus combining them, is a question which readers will decide for themselves. The sonnets are mostly of the kind which we call “occasional”; some incident happened, or some emotion was dominant, and the author wrote a sonnet regarding it. When a good number had been written, they came to form, if considered collectively, a sort of record of his feelings
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and experiences, his readings of the problems of life—an inscribed tablet of his mind: then, but not before then, he began marshalling them together, and entitled them The House of Life . This is apparent enough on the face of his published books. In the volume named Poems of 1870 there was a section termed Sonnets and Songs towards a Work to be entitled The House of Life : in his subsequent volume, Ballads and Sonnets , 1881, all the “songs” were excluded from The House of Life , and the series was completed by additional sonnets, as we now see the work. It may be true that he included in the series one or two compositions* which he would not have been disposed to publish at all unless as members of a sequence; but he certainly never professed, nor do I consider that he ever wished his readers to assume, that all the items had been primarily planned to form one connected and indivisible whole. The first part of the series, named Love and Change , has clearly some considerable amount of interdependence; the second part, Change and Fate , is wider and more diversified in its range, but it may reasonably be maintained that (to put the question at its lowest) the several sonnets gain rather than lose in weight of thought and in artistic balance by being thus associated.
There is, I fancy, a prevailing impression that the tone of The House of Life is one of constant and little-mitigated gloom. I do not perceive this to be exactly correct. The tone is almost invariably solemn and exalted (terms which I here use not by way of laudation but to indicate a fact): the scale includes melancholy which hardly eludes despair; but it also includes
Transcribed Footnote (page 182):

* There are some remarks on this point in his article The Stealthy School of Criticism , written in 1871.

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Note: Typo: on page 183, first complete sentence begins “I have been at the pains o” instead of “I have been at the pains of”
happiness rising into rapture. I have been at the pains o inspecting the sonnets one by one in relation to this question; and I find 41 sonnets the essential tone of which is happy; 35 the essential tone of which is unhappy; and 26 which, though certainly not unemotional, may be termed neutral in regard to happiness or unhappiness. These figures make up the total number, which (including the proem-sonnet) is 102.
I am not aware that any question has been raised as to the meaning of the title The House of Life ; nor did I ever hear any explanation of it from my brother. He was fond of anything related to astrology or horoscopy— not indeed that he ever paid the least detailed or practical attention to these obsolete speculations; and I understand him to use the term The House of Life as a zodiacal adept uses the term “the house of Leo.” As the sun is said to be “in the house of Leo,” so (as I construe it) Rossetti indicates “Love, Change, and Fate,” as being “in the House of Life”; or, in other words, a Human Life is ruled and pervaded by the triple influence of Love, Change, and Fate.
Mr. Hall Caine is our authority for saying that Rossetti regarded as about the best sonnets of his series Nos. 55, 65, 86, and 101— Still-born Love , Known in Vain , Lost Days , and The One Hope . It would be rather tempting to me to debate this point; but, beyond remarking that the most disputable of the four appears to me to be Known in Vain , I forbear doing so.
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In this introductory sonnet the Poet indicates his conception of the quality and function of the Sonnet as a form of poetic invention and composition.
A Sonnet is a moment's monument—the monumental record of some brief moment of time, or crucial act of thought. It is a memorial, from the eternity of that soul which frames it, to one hour dead yet deathless. Whether the thought which it embodies partakes of the nature of lustral rite or of dire portent, whether it tends to worship or to terror, the writer must be heedful of his art, heedful of the arduous fulness, the compacted concentration, of the form of art which he thus adopts. He must elaborate his sonnet in the spirit of a carver of exquisite nicety—a carver who works in ivory or in ebony, according as his subject comes of light or of darkness, of day or of night. And, as the carving might be studded with orient pearl for crest, so must the sonnet flower with the uttermost refinement of art, for Time to scrutinize and approve. A Sonnet is like a coin. The obverse of the sonnet-coin exhibits the soul of its maker. Its reverse shows the Power to whose service it belongs—as a coin shows the sovereign or state that mints it: be this Power Life, with her august appeals, or Love, or Death—Death, on whose Stygian brink the sonnet-coin pays the toll of the ferryman Charon.
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I marked all kindred Powers the heart finds fair.
I marked all those kindred Powers whom the heart finds fair:—Truth, with awed lips; Hope, with upcast eyes; Fame, whose wings fan the smouldering ashes of the past into signal-fires to scare away oblivion; Youth, in the guise of a young man warm from the embrace of some woman, one of whose golden hairs still clings to his shoulder; and Life, who continues wreathing flowers which Death is to wear. But not among these kindred Powers had Love his throne—Love who is a form of Deity, or is Deity himself. He, far above all passionate wind of welcome and farewell, of the coming and going of human existence, sat in breathless bowers—bowers unstirred by any breeze—which these Powers dream not of. Of these Truth dreams not though she foreknows Love's heart, nor Hope though she foretells of Love, nor Fame though she is desirable for Love's sake, nor Youth though to Love he is dear, nor Life though she is sweet to Love.

As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first.
The birth of love in the heart of the Beloved Woman is here assimilated to the birth of a human infant; and the symbol is prolonged so as to show that, even as Love is born from the human heart, so this same Love becomes ultimately the parent of the human souls born anew into a second and incorporeal life.
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As when prolonged and obscure desire attains its dawning or fruition, and a woman becomes the mother of a child, and looks upon him, so my Lady pondered and smiled when at length her soul became expressly conscious of the Love which it nursed. Like the offspring in the period of gestation, thus had Love lain at her heart, quickening in darkness; till on one memorable day a voice cried on him—[the passion of the Poet was declared, and found a response]—and then the bonds of birth were burst for Love, as it were a newborn infant. Time has passed, and now this Love is full-grown. Now, in the shadow of his wings, our faces yearn together, while the feet of Love range the grove, and his warm hands prepare the couch for us. So will it continue until at last our souls, divested of their bodies, shall in their turn be born anew as the children of this same Love, to the music of his song, and Death's nuptial change shall leave to us as light the halo of his hair —[the light which encircles his head shall guide our step across the dark threshold of death].

O thou who at love's hour ecstatically.
The peculiarity of this sonnet consists in its application of religious or Christian symbols to the passion of love. Thus we find in the earlier part of the sonnet the terms testament, incense, sanctuary; and the later part of it shadows forth by analogy the descent of Christ into hell, and his releasing thence the spirits predestined to salvation.
O thou, my beloved, who at Love's hour dost evermore ecstatically present, unto my heart, thy heart
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which is Love's testament, clothed with his fire; thou whom I have neared, and have felt thy breath to be the inmost incense of his sanctuary; thou who without speech hast owned him, and, intent upon his will, hast blent thy life with mine, and hast murmured, I am thine, thou art one with me: oh how great is from thee the grace, to me the prize, and to Love the glory, when thou treadest the whole of the deep stair or descent down to the dim shoal and weary water of the place of sighs, and dost there work deliverance for me, as thine eyes draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!

When do I see thee most, beloved one?
When do I see thee most, beloved one? Is it when, in daylight, the spirits of my eyes* solemnize, before thy face which is the altar of their cult, the worship of that Love which has been made known to me through thee? Or is it when in the hours of dusk, we two being alone, thy glimmering visage, hidden by twilight, is lying close-kissed and eloquent of voiceless replies, and when my soul only sees thy soul (for my eyes cannot then see thy bodily form) to be its own? But what of the possible time when I may have lost thee by death? O love, my love! if I then should see no more thyself, nor on earth thy shadow, nor in any spring or rivulet the reflection of thine eyes, how then, upon the darkening slope of life, would sound the ground-whirl of the dead leaves of Hope, and the wind of Death's imperishable wing?
Transcribed Footnote (page 187):

* This is a Dantesque expression.

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By what word's power, the key of paths untrod.
Is there any word, serving as a key to untrodden paths, by the power of which I can explore the difficult deeps of Love? some word or words? some utterance of song? until the parted waves of the song yield up, or display to view, the shore or bed of the stream, even as did that Red Sea which the people of Israel crossed dryshod. For I, my lady, would fain tell in some poor rhythmic period how I know not thy soul as distinct from thy body, nor thee from myself, nor our love from God. Yes, in the name of God, of Love, and of thyself, I would desire to draw from my own loving heart such evidence hereon as should signify all things to all hearts; something as tender as the first fire which the hill-top catches from the dawn, and as intense as that sense of old Springs gone-by which comes to one, instantaneous and penetrating, at the birth-hour of a new Spring.

What smouldering senses in death's sick delay.
Can the sluggishness of old age when the senses smoulder as Death delays his stroke, or can any seizure of malign vicissitude, any disease or misadventure, rob of honour this body of mine, or denude my soul of the wedding-garment which it has worn to-day? No! for even now my lady's lips and my own were giving and receiving such mutual kisses as laurelled Orpheus longed for when he wooed with that last lay of his in Hades the hungering face of Eurydice half drawn forth to him. I was as a child beneath her touch; a man when she and I clung breast to breast; as a spirit when her spirit looked through me; I was as a god when all
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the life-breath of both of us met to fan our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran—ran like fire within fire, like desire still unextinguished even in deity (deity which implies the fruition already of all possible desire).

To all the spirits of Love that wander by.
My lady is sleeping by my side. She lies perceptible to all those spirits of Love who wander by along his harvest-field, sown with love as the seed, whose crop is sleep. These spirits see, deep calls to deep; but, of men, none sees save only I. That bliss which for so long was afar off, and which at length came so near to me, has now been attained: there it rests. Methinks Love, for all his pride, must weep when Fate's control— the event actually come to pass—reaps from out his harvest that sacred hour for which past years had been sighing. Her hand is now warm around my neck; that same hand which, when first touched, taught memory long to mock desire—haunted my memory, and inspired desire which remained unappeased; and the abandoned dishevelled hair flows across my breast—my breast in which one shorn tress of that same hair had long stirred the longing ache; and the queen-heart, in sovereign overthrow—subdued to my love, and still supreme over my love—lies next to that heart of mine which was wont to tremble for its sake.

Some ladies love the jewels in Love's zone.
A contrast between the frivolous or self-seeking views of love taken by various women, and the sentiment of love entertained by the Beloved Lady of the Poet.
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Some ladies love the jewels in Love's zone (the social pleasures and shows of love-making), and the gold-tipped darts which he keeps for painless play in idle hours which he throws slightingly away (mere courting and gallantry without depth of passion); and some ladies who listen to the soft tone of Love's lute are fond of vaunting this silvery-sounding praise to be praise of themselves (they sentimentalize as a matter of vanity and self-display); some ladies prize the blindfold sight of Love (they regard love as a thing of amusing haphazard and titillating surprise); and some ladies there are who kissed the wings of Love which brought him round yesterday, and who thank his wings to-day for that he has flown away (they are volatile and inconstant in love). Not so my Lady: she only loves the heart of Love—love is to her a veritable affair of the heart, tender, constant, and profound. Therefore, my Lady, Love's heart proffers to thee his bower of unimagined flower and tree—the inmost sacred recesses of his dwelling. There does he now kneel; and craving for thine eyes which are grey-lit in the shadowing hair above them, he seals with thy mouth his immortality— [he “makes himself immortal with a kiss” given and received].

One flame-winged brought a white-winged harp-player.
The central idea of this sonnet may be thus defined: When love has passed from the stage of desire to the stage of fruition or possession, and when passion is the dominant emotion, that feeling of lowly homage which characterized the earlier stage of love still continues to
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subsist; it has its place, though it has become secondary to passion.
A flame-winged hautboy-player (a personification of Passion of Love, or Passionate Love) brought a white-winged harp-player (a personification of Love's Worship, or Deferential Love) to the spot where my Lady and I lay all alone, saying: “Behold, this minstrel is unknown and an intruder; bid him depart, for I am minstrel here. The only strains which are dear to Love's dear ones—to those who are united in heart and soul—are my own strains.” Then I said to him, “Through the rapturous tones of thy hautboy, the harp of this harp-player still plays a plaintive strain to my Lady, and still she deems the cadence of it deep and clear.” Then my Lady said: “Thou, Hautboy-player, art Passion of Love, and this Harp-player is Love's Worship. Love plights to me the music of both. Thy mastering music walks the sunlit sea—its tone is loud and triumphant, and it declares itself openly, as in the blaze of noon. But where wan water trembles in the grove, and the wan moon supplies all its light, this harp of the harp-player makes my name its voluntary” —it dedicates to me its music, low-toned, as in the dimness of seclusion.

O Lord of all compassionate control.
O Love, thou Lord of all benign sovereignty! vouchsafe that this picture, the picture of my Lady, may glow under my hand to bespeak praise to her name, and may show the perfect whole even of her inner self; so that he who seeks to explore the uttermost of her beauty
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may know—beyond the light which the sweet glances throw, and beyond the refluent wave of the sweet smile—the very horizon-line of her soul.—And see, the portrait is now done. Above the columnar throat the mouth's mould testifies of voice and kiss, the shadowed eyes seem to remember and foresee. Her face is thus made her shrine—by contemplating her face in this picture, people will half-worship her beauty and herself. Let all men note that in all future years they that would look on her must come to me—must see her through this my portrait of her: such is thy gift, O Love!

Warmed by her hand and shadowed by her hair.
Sweet fluttering sheet of paper, which hast been warmed by her hand and shadowed by her hair as she leaned close and poured through thee her heart, of which the inarticulate throbs accompany that smooth black stream of ink which makes thy whiteness all the fairer—sheet conscious even of her very breath—oh let thy silent song, thy words written but unspoken, disclose to me that soul of hers wherewith her lips and eyes agree like blended notes of music in the vibrating air of love. Fain would I have watched her when, at the moment of some fond tender thought, her bosom pressed closer to the writing, and her breast's secrets, as recorded in the written words, peered (as it were) into her breast; when through her eyes, which were raised for an instant, her soul sought my soul, and from that sudden confluence of spirit with spirit caught those words, here written, which made her love the loveliest.
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Sweet twining hedge-flowers wind-stirred in no wise.
This sonnet seems to require no explanation; it may simply be worth noting that each detail of natural scenery is coupled with a somewhat analogous detail indicating the emotions of the lovers.
Sweet twining hedge-flowers which no wind stirs on this day of June; and hand that clings or twines within hand:— still glades; and meeting faces left equally still by the scarcely fanning breeze:—a stream yielding the odour of osiers, and, in its depth, reflecting the sky; and eyes reflected in eyes:—the light and the clouds of heaven forming a constantly fresh canopy of wonder over the summer-land; and two souls softly spanned with one overarching heaven of smiles and sighs:—such is the path of those two whose bodies lean amorously towards one another's visible sweetness; whose passionate hearts lean together, according to Love's high decree, upon his heart which is for ever true; even as the blue of the firmament, foaming with clouds, rests on the blue line of a foamless sea.

“I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn?”
(He) I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn how much I love you? (She) I learn it by loving you in like wise. (He) Sweet, you cannot know how fair you are. (She) If I am fair enough to earn your love, that share of beauty is all my love's concern. (He) My love grows hourly, sweet. (She) Mine also grows; and yet love seemed full-grown so many hours ago.—Thus lovers speak, till kisses claim their turn. Ah
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happy are they to whom such words as these have, in youth, served for speech the whole day long, hour after hour—they remaining remote from the world's throng, from work, contest, and fame, from all the confederate pleas (the many competing exigencies) of life—at the time when Love breathed, in sighs and in silence, through two blent souls one rapturous undersong.

On this sweet bank your head thrice sweet and dear.
I lay on this sweet bank your head thrice sweet and dear, and I spread your hair on either side, and I see the newborn wood-flowers, bashful-eyed, look here and there through your golden tresses. The foot of Spring is half faltering on these debateable borders of the year—debateable between Winter and Spring: scarcely can Spring yet distinguish the leafless blackthorn-blossom from the snow, and the way for the wind is still clear through Spring's bowers. But to-day the sun of April strikes down the glades. So shut your upturned eyes, and feel my kiss creep, as the Spring now thrills through every spray, up your warm throat to your warm lips: for this is the very hour of service sworn to Love, with whom cold hearts are accounted castaway.

Have you not noted in some family?
The Lover and his Beloved have a closer bond of spiritual affinity than either of them can possibly have with any one else.
Have you not noted how, in some family where two of the children were born of a first marriage, these two still own the gracious bond which unites them, though they were fed and nursed on that forgotten breast and
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knee of their dead mother? Have you not noted how these two, while kindly in act and thought to the other children of their father, have nevertheless, each for the other, speech in silence, and in a single word complete community? Even so, my love, did it seem, when first I saw you, that, among souls allied to mine, there was one nearer kindred than life had yet hinted of. Oh my Beloved! born with me somewhere that men forget, and, though unmet in years of sight and sound, known to me well enough as the very birth-partner of my soul!

Those envied places which do know her well.
Those envied places which are accustomed to the presence of my Beloved, and which are therefore so scornful of this lonely place of mine where she seldom comes, are now for once made void of her grace. She is here with me, and nowhere else but here. And, while the spell of Love chases away from his predominant presence all other and alien hours, a discarded throng, the hours of love fill full the echoing space with sweet confederate music favourable. Now do many memories of the past make solicitous the delicate love-lines of her mouth; till the words, lit (as it were) with quivering fire, take wing from it: as here, between our kisses, we sit thus speaking of things remembered, and then anon we sit speechless while things forgotten call to us.

What dawn-pulse at the heart of heaven, or last.
What first gleam of dawn in heaven, like a pulse at its heart—or what splendour of sunset, in which day
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culminates, as the life of a plant becomes incarnate in its flower—or what marvels of natural beauty marshalled in the track of May—or what full-quired song of birds, lauding sweet June—or what glory of change amassed by the hand of Nature (as in the sequence of seasons, or a calm sky after tempest)—which of these can vie with all those moods of varying grace which have passed, even within this hour and within this same room, over the form and face of one supremely lovely woman? Each fine movement of hers was Love's very vesture and elect disguise—wondrously graceful as the latest aspect of a lily, or of a swan, or of a barque carved with a swan at the prow; a joy to the sight of him [myself] who now sighs all the more sadly, being once again parted from her; and destined to be a sorrow yet for eyes, till now unborn, which shall read these words of mine, and which are not privileged to have seen her.

Beauty like hers is genius. Not the call.
Beauty like hers is genius. The utterance of Homer's sublime heart, or of Dante's, or the hand of Michelangelo tracing an imperishable furrow along the zones of time—neither of these is, more than her beauty, musical with compassed mysteries. Nay, not even in the sweet footfall of Spring or of Summer does exuberant life bequeath to us more gifts, richly gathered, than does this sovereign face, whose love-spell breathes even from its contour as shadowed on the wall. Like as many men are poets in their youth, but only for one sweetly-strung soul do the lyre-strings prolong the indomitable song through any and every change, so shall the envenomed
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years, whose tooth ruthlessly rends into ruin grace shallower than hers, wreak no wrong upon the power of this consummate beauty.

Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass.
Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass; the finger-tips peep through the grass like rosebuds; your eyes have the smile of peace. The pasture gleams with light and lours with gloom, beneath billowing skies, whose clouds scatter, and then again amass. All round our nook of rest, as far as the eye can see, are fields of golden king-cups, having an edge of silver at the point where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge. It is visible silence, as still as the hour-glass. Deep in the blossoms, penetrated with sunlight, the dragonfly hangs, like a thread of blue which has been detached from the blue sky—a winged thread, emblem of the winged hour which has been dropped to us by divine grace from above. Oh let us clasp to our hearts, as a deathless boon, this hour, close-companioned and inarticulate, when the twofold silence of Nature and of ourselves was the song of love!

Even as the moon grows queenlier in mid-space.
Even as the moon grows more queenly in mid-space when the sky darkens, and then her chariot of cloud thrills with intenser radiance from afar—thus lambent, my Lady, does thy sovereign grace beam when my drear soul desires thee. Of that face what shall be said? —that face which, like a controlling star, gathers and
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garners from all things their silent penetrative loveliness. Thus have I seen the moon, in a bright ring of cloud above and of wave below—where, over water-daisies and wild waifs of Spring, the iris rears its gold-crowned sheaf, with flowering rush and arrowy leaf, sceptre-like—take wing, and chase night's gloom, as thou chasest the spirit's grief.

Sweet dimness of her loosened hair's downfall.
The sweet dimness of her loosened hair's downfall about thy [ quasi my] face; her sweet hands entwined round thy head in gracious fostering union; her tremulous smiles; her glances with their sweet recall of love; her murmuring sighs reminiscent of the tender past; the sweetness of her mouth culled by thy kisses, and thus shed upon her cheeks and neck and eyelids, and so led back to her mouth, which thereupon responds with a kiss on behalf of all these:—what can be sweeter than these things, except it be the thing which, were it lacking, would bereave all these others of their sweet? That one thing is her confident heart's still fervour; the swift beat of the spirit's wing, and its soft subsidence, then when the spirit, in cloud-girt wayfaring, feels the fanning of kindred plumes against its feet [ i.e., the interchange of thought and emotion between the two kindred souls, hers and mine].

Sometimes she is a child within mine arms.
Sometimes she is as a child within my arms, cowering beneath dark wings (of gloomy thought or appre-
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hended misfortune) which love has to chase away, with still tears showering, and averted face inexplicably filled with faint alarms. And often, on the other hand, I crave her deep embrace as a refuge from the hurtling harms of my own spirit—her embrace, which is the fortified stronghold against all ills, and the sweet store of sovereign counter-charms. And Love, who is our light at night and our shade at noon, lulls us to rest with songs, and turns away from us all the shafts of shelterless tumultuous day. His face gleams through his chaunt, like the moon in her rising; and, as soft waters warble to the moon, so do our spirits, answering to the song of Love, chime one roundelay.

I stood where Love in brimming armfuls bore.
I stood where Love bore in redundant armfuls flowers and fruit, all of slight account; and round him ladies thronged in warm pursuit, and they fingered and lipped portions of the strange store, and proffered these to other persons. Thus proffered by the hand of one, the petal of flower and core of fruit were messengers of sleep; and from another hand the cluster of fruit, with its tendril, seemed like the salute of shame—gifts for which I felt that my cheek was blushing. At last Love bade my Lady give the same; and, as I looked, the dew on them was light and fresh, and, as I took them, at her touch they shone with inmost heaven-hue of the heart of flame. And then Love said: Lo when the hand is hers, follies of love are love's true ministers.
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Even as a child, of sorrow that we give.
Even as a child can find in his heart but little of that sorrow which we bestow upon the dead, since it is apparent to his clear mind, without need of reflection, that it is the turn of those dead ones to die, and his own turn to live; even so the winged new Love smiles to receive the wind of dawn along his eddying plumes, and, straining forward with rapture, he casts not one look behind to where the rack of night shrouds the old Love, flitting away. In every recurrent hour there is a change, and we see in the fields the last cowslip of vanishing spring on the same day with the first corn-poppy of incipient summer. Alas for hourly change! alas for all the loves which proud Youth lets fall from his hand, even as the beads of a rosary which he has told!

Each hour until we meet is as a bird.
Each hour which passes until she and I meet is as a bird that wings from far his gradual way along a rustling covert, the symbol of my soul—his song being ever trilled the loudlier in proportion as the leaves stirred are the deeper. But at the hour of our meeting every note which the bird sings is a clear word in Love's own language. Yet, Love, thou knowest that this sweet strain is treated but ill, as being often unheard athwart our competing joys.—What of that hour, sure to come sooner or later, when no such bird's wing may, for her sake, fly to me, nor any such song flow? when I, wandering round my then leaf-stripped life, shall be aware of the blood-stained feathers scattered in the
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brake; and shall think how she, then far from me, is seeing, with eyes equally sad, the skies, with no wing to cleave them, through the untuneful bough.

Thou lovely and beloved, thou my love.
Thou lovely and beloved, thou my love; whose kiss seems still the first; whose summoning eyes shed even now a very dawn, as for a new sunrise of our world—the world of love; whose voice, attuned more sweetly than any modulation of the deep-bowered dove, is like a hand laid softly on my soul; while thy hand is like a sweet voice, potent to control those worn tired brows of mine of which it has the keeping:—what word of mine can answer to thy word? what gaze to thine, which now absorbs within its sphere my worshiping face, till in those eyes I am mirrored, light-circled in a heaven of deep-drawn rays? What clasp or what kiss of mine can evidence my inmost heart—O lovely and beloved, O my love?

Sometimes thou seem'st not as thyself alone.
Sometimes thou seemest not as thyself alone, but as the inner meaning of all things that exist; a breathless wonder, shadowing forth afar some heavenly solstice hushed and halcyon; a wonder, whose lips, though unstirred, are the visible tone of music; whose eyes unbar the sun-gate of the soul, being oracular of its furthermost fires; the evident heart of all life sown for flourishing and mown for harvest and decay. And indeed Love is all this; and, if Love is so, thou art so, for art not thou, in name and essence, one with Love? Yea,
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by thy hand the Love-god rends apart all gathering clouds of night's insidiousness; he flings these far down, and sets thine eyes above them; and he stakes simply and with a smile the world against thy heart, as it were some gage of flower or glove.

What other woman could be loved like you?
What other woman could be loved like you, or how should love of you obtain full fruition? After the fulness of all rapture of love for you, still (like a tender glamour of day-shine at the end of a deep avenue of trees) there comes to view, far down in your eyes, a thrill of emotion yet more deep and yearning; it is a fire such as the soul-winnowing hands of Love distil even from his innermost rainbow-arch. And as a traveller goes triumphantly along with the sun, glorying in the mid-height of noon-heat, but nevertheless starlight brings to him a new-born wonder, and still fresh transport springs from limpid lambent hours of early morning: even so does your soul, evincing itself through your eyes and voice, move my soul with a changeful light of infinite love.

Lady, I thank thee for thy loveliness.
Lady, I thank thee for thy loveliness, because my own Lady is still more lovely than thou art. Glorying in this comparison I gaze, and with glad good-will I yield to thee thy tribute of praise; to thee, by whose sweet-spun vesture of delicate life Love labours to assess the absolute queendom of my Lady—saying, “Behold how lofty is this beauty; yet, lofty as it is, it only shows as
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being the sovereign votaress of that other, my Lady's beauty.”—Lady, I saw thee along with my Lady, side by side. And as, when the fair fires of the nightly sky surround their queen the moon, some emulous star will float too near her, even so the rays of thy loveliness were no more to be traced within the luminous bound of her beauty. Thy light was drowned in hers, and it was she who was thereby glorified, not thyself.

Love, through your spirit and mine what summer eve.
[The lovely summer-day during which you and I have been together has now reached its close]. My Love, what summer-eve now glows through your spirit and mine with rapture of all things which we enjoyed, since this day's sun of rapture attained the West, and the light of the sky grew all the sweeter as the fire of the sun passed away? Now let your bosom heave softlier awhile, as all care of mine takes refuge in Love's harbour, which is your loving breast, the while we sink to rest, and our mutual dreams re-image the bygone bliss. Many are the days which Winter keeps in store—days sunless throughout, or in which brief glimpses of sun scarcely avail to moisten the heaped snow, and shed it through the denuded trees. This day now passing was none of these: it was the paramour of Summer, sun-tinted to its imperishable core with sweet well-being of love and with full ease of heart.

High grace, the dower of queens, and therewithal.
High grace, the dower of queens; and, along with that, the sweet simplicity of some lovely girl born in the
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Note: Typo: on page 204, the first sentence of the paraphrase for "Equal Troth" begins: "Not by one same measure mayst thou mete our ove,"
woodland; a glance like water in which the sky is mirrored at full, or like the brilliance of hyacinths seen where forest-shadows fall; a thrilling pallor of cheek which enthralls the heart; a mouth whose passionate contours imply all the music and all the silence of which it is capable; deep golden locks, her sovereign coronal; a round and high-reared neck, like a column of Love's shrine meet to be clung to when the heart takes sanctuary; hands which are ever at the bidding of Love, and softly-stirred feet which still answer to his beck:—these are her gifts, poorly worded so far as the tongue can word them. Be not her name told by tongue: breathe it low, my soul,—for that means still more.

“Not by one measure mayst thou mete our love.”
“Not by one same measure mayst thou mete our ove, thine and mine: for how should I be loved as I love thee? I, who am graceless, joyless, and absolutely lacking all such gifts as best befit thy queenship; whereas thou art throned in the recesses of every heart, and art crowned with garlands culled from every tree—garlands which, by Love's decree, all beauties and all mysteries interwove for thy head, and for none else.”—But here, as I am speaking, thine eyes and lips yield soft rebuke. Thou sayest: “Then only could I love thee less than thou lovest me, when thou couldst wrong me by doubting the equality of my love with thine.”—I reply: “Peace, sweet! If we look not to mere amount of love, but to worth of love—to thy heart's transcendence, not to my heart's excess—then indeed is it true that thou lovest a thousandfold more than I do.”
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Could Juno's self more sovereign presence wear.
The Beloved one is Juno, Pallas, and Venus, all in one; and is Helen to boot.
Could Juno herself have a more sovereign presence than thou hast when thou art throned in grace amid other ladies? Or Pallas more than thou when, with soul-stilled face, thou bendest over some poet's page which receives a golden reflection from thy hair? Dost thou seem less heavenly fair than Venus when thy smile (like her smile upon the sea which gave her birth) hovers over the sea of love's tumultuous trance, and when that sweet voice of thine, like the last wave murmuring there, mingles with thy glance? Awe-struck in presence of such triune divine loveliness, I ask—which of the goddesses here most claims the prize which, howsoever it be adjudged, is still thine? Then Love breathes low the sweetest of thy names;* and Venus Victrix brings to my heart herself, the Helen who was the object of her promise.

Not I myself know all my love for thee.
Not even I myself know all my love for thee. How indeed should I reach so far as that, I who cannot forecast the outcome of to-morrow by the result of yesterday? Shall birth and death, and all obscure names which are like doors and windows opened to some loud sea, lash deaf mine ears with spray, and blind my face with it, and shall nevertheless my sense fathom love,
Transcribed Footnote (page 205):

* “The sweetest of thy names” I understand to be“Helen”; or is it “Venus Victrix”?

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which is the last relay and ultimate outpost of eternity? Surely not. What am I to Love, who is the lord of all? I am but as one murmuring shell which he gathers from the sand, or as one little heart-flame sheltered in his hand. And yet he grants me, through the medium of thine eyes, the clearest call and the veriest touch of primordial powers that any mundane life, begirt with time and its hours, can understand.

Sometimes I fain would find in thee some fault.
Sometimes I would fain find in thee some fault, in order that I might love thee still in spite of it. And yet how should our Lord Love curtail one whit the perfect praise of thee, whom most he would exalt? Alas he can but make the low vault of my heart all the unworthier in men's sight, it being lighted by thee, who thereby showest the more exquisite, like fiery chrysoprase fixed in deep basalt. Yet will I no-wise shrink; but at the shrine of Love, and within the beams which his brow darts, I myself will set the flashing jewel of thy heart in that dull chamber where it deigns to shine; for lo in honour of thine excellence my heart takes pride in showing how poor itself is.

Not in thy body is thy life at all.
Not in thy [my] body is thy life at all, but in this lady's lips and hands and eyes: through these she accords to thee life which vivifies that which otherwise would but be sorrow's servant and death's thrall. Look
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on thyself as thou wast without her, and recall in thought the waste remembrance and forlorn surmise which only lived in a dead-drawn breath of sighing over vanished hours and hours in prospect. Even so much life as that of thine has the poor tress, stored apart, of hair from a different head once so dear to thee—the tress which is all that love has now to show for heart-beats and for fire-heats of long ago: even so much life endures unknown in that grave wherein, amid change which the changeless night environs, all that golden hair lies undimmed in death.

“When that dead face, bowered in the furthest years.”
A reproach addressed to the Lover, and his reply in self-vindication. This sonnet follows on upon the concluding passage of the preceding one.
“Now that that dead face, embowered in the years furthest off, which once was all the life that years held for thee, can scarcely bid the tides of memory cast on thy soul a little spray of tears, how canst thou gaze into these eyes of her whom now thy soul delights in, and yet not see, within each of their orbs, Love's philtred euphrasy make them remembrancers of buried troth?”—“Nay, pitiful Love, nay, loving Pity! Well thou knowest that in these two women I have acknowledged two very voices [vibrations, calls] of thy summoning bell. Nay, Master, shall not Death make manifest in these women the culminating changes which approve [justify, give valid evidence of] that moon of love [crescent up to its full circle] which must light my soul to Love—the Love which is one with Deity?”
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“Thou Ghost,” I said, “and is thy name To-day?”
Circumstances have arisen which make the Lover fear that he shall see his Lady no more, and he addresses with indignation the Day which brings him this disastrous prospect. Later on, however, he is partially solaced by learning that he is not to be parted from her at once.
“Thou Ghost,” I said, “can thy name be To-day? Canst thou, with such an abject brow, be the offspring of Yesterday? And can there be some still more pallid and wretched thing, To-morrow, to come after thee?” While yet I spoke, the silence seemed to answer: “Yes, henceforth our issue is to be all grieved and grey; and each one of our issue makes beforehand such a pitiful self-avowal as is that of old withered leaves lying beneath the budding bough, or that of nightly vapour which the sundawn shreds away.” Then I cried out: “O Earth, thou mother of many malisons, receive me to thy dusty bed!” But thereupon the tremulous silence appeared to speak again: “Lo! Love yet bids thy Lady to greet thee once; and even twice, whereby thy life is still to be above-ground, and lit by the sun; and even thrice, whereby the shadow of death is dead and vanished.”

Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one star.
O night, girt with dark growth of foliage, yet glimmering with one star—thou night full of desire as were the nights of youth! why should my heart now beat within thy spell, as the bride's finger-pulses quicken
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within the golden circlet of the wedding-ring? What wings are these which fan my pillow into smoothness? and why does Sleep, motioned to retire by Joy and Ruth, tread softly round and gaze at me from far? Nay, deep-foliaged night! in thee Love would but feign some shadowy palpitating grove which bears rest for man's eyes and music for his ears. Far other is the truth. O lonely night, art thou not too well known to me as being a thicket hung (as in the antique days) with masks of mockery, and watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?

Two separate divided silences.
Two separate divided silences, which, if only brought together, would find loving utterance; two glances, which, if together, would rejoice in love, but are now lost, like stars beyond dark trees; two hands apart, whose touch alone gives ease; two bosoms, which, holding an altar-fire of mutual heart-flame, would, if meeting in one clasp, be made one and the same; two souls, which are like severed shores mocked by the waves of a sundering sea:—Such now are we, thou and I. Ah may our hope be permitted to forecast, in very deed, one hour again when once more the light shall gleam on this stream of darkened love? an hour how slow to come, how quick to pass! an hour which blooms and fades, and which only leaves at last the half-dissolved dream, faint as shed flowers.

Like labour-laden moon-clouds faint to flee.
Like labouring clouds around the moon, which seem faint in fleeing from winds that sweep the winter-bitten
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wold; like the multiform manifold circumfluence of night's flood-tide; like the competing terrors of hoarse-roaring fire and inarticulate sea; even such as these do our hearts discern wild images of Death, shadows and shoals which edge eternity. Our hearts discern them, as if reflected in a glass which our breath dims.* But nevertheless there soars athwart Death's imminent shade one Power, sweeter in gliding around than flow of stream, sweeter in brooding above than flight of dove. Tell me, my heart—what angel-greeted door, or what threshold of a threshing-floor winnowed by an angelic wing,† has a guest so plumed with fire as thine own guest, thine own lord, who is Love?

I deemed thy garments, O my Hope, were grey.
The Lover, now united to his Lady, refers here to the untoward delay which took place before the union was effected. He speaks of his “Hope,” which may at starting be understood as meaning the hope that he entertained for union with the Lady; but this idea merges in the idea of the object hoped for, the Lady herself, and the imagery used develops accordingly.
Transcribed Footnote (page 210):

* The precise position which ought to be logically assigned to that clause, “within some glass dimmed by our breath,” is not quite clear to me: the plainest sense is perhaps given by transferring it, as I have here done, to the end of the whole sentence.

Transcribed Footnote (page 210):

† No doubt the allusions here are to some passages or incidents in the Bible. Of angel-greeted doors several are recorded, and it may be difficult to say which is more particularly meant. The “wing-winnowed threshing-floor” must be that of Ornan (1 Chronicles xxi. 21). The angel, who was stayed from destroying Jerusalem after David had numbered the people, “stood by the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”

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Sig. O 2
O thou Hope of mine, I had been deeming that thy garments were become grey with age and distance, so far off did I view thee. But now, at length, the space between thee and me is passed over; and to-day thou standest garmented in green, fresh and untarnished, even as thou stoodest in days of yore. Ah God! and, had it not been for lingering dull dismay, our footsteps would erewhile have been commingled even thus along all that intermediate road, and our shadows would have been seen blent, as they fell on the hedgerows and the water-way. O thou my Lady, my Hope, whose eyes are living love—no eyes but hers—O my Love and my Hope, one and the same! Lean close to me, for now the sun, which used to warm our feet, has sunk so low as scarcely to gild our hair above. Oh hers thy voice, and very hers thy name! Alas, cling round me, my Love, for the day is done.

Bless love and hope. Full many a withered year.
A sequel to the preceding sonnet.
Bless love and hope. Full many a withered year whirled past us (like a dead leaf), eddying to its chill doomsday; and we, clasped together where the blown leaves lay, have long knelt, and have wept full many a tear. Yet lo! now at last one hour, the Spring's compeer, flutes softly to us from some green byway: those years, those tears, are dead, but only they:—bless love and hope, true soul, my Lady; for we are still here, thou and I. Cling we heart to heart; nor let us question this hour whether in very truth, when we shall be dead, our hearts will
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re-awake to know Love's golden head as sole sunshine of the imperishable land of eternity; or whether rather those hearts shall but discern, through night's featureless space, the illusive eyes of Hope, fired at length with scorn for our long and baseless credulity.

Love, should I fear death most for you or me?
Same train of thought pursued.
My Love, ought I to fear death most for you, or for myself? Yet, if you die, can I not follow you, forcing the straits of change from life to death? But alas who shall wrest a bond, a pledge, from the inveteracy of the unfathomed night—a bond which, ere yet my hazardous soul puts forth, shall be her warrant against all the consequences which her haste might perchance have to rue? Ah what dumb adieu would be legible in your eyes, thus reached by my spirit, what unsunned gyres of waste eternity! If on the contrary I die the first, shall death then be to me like a lampless watch-tower whence I see you weep? or (woe is me!) shall it be as a bed wherein I sleep eternally, and whence in my sleep I can never note—when at last you drain the welcome cup of death—that hour when you too shall learn that all is in vain, and that Hope sows what Love shall never reap?

Because our talk was of the cloud-control.
The reader should observe in this title the epithetsecret. The Lovers have met in secret, and have parted in secret, with an uncertain outlook as to their
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meeting anew. All the imagery of the sonnet is framed to correspond.
Because the talk between my Lady and me had been concerning the journeying face of Fate—that face which is like a moon pursuing her interrupted track athwart the controlling clouds—my Lady's tremulous kisses faltered at love's gate (as they were to meet my lips), and her eyes seemed to dream towards a distant goal. But soon, remembering how brief is the whole of joy, which is quenched by those same short hours during which it lasts, her set gaze gathered, more craving than of late, and, as she kissed, her mouth testified the innermost emotions of her soul. In what paths we wandered from that point, and how we strove to build, with vows tried as by fire, that piteous home (of mutual companionship and faith) which memory haunts thenceforth, and whither sleep may waft us in dream—this can be known to them only for whom the roof of Love (the trysting-place where Love permits his votaries to meet and awhile abide) is the clandestine secret of the grove whence neither spire rises to catch the eye, nor bell sounds to the sense of hearing.

What shall be said of this embattled day?
This sonnet may be construed as a sequel to the preceding one. The Lover and his Lady parted in secret, and have not met again, and he divines no prospect of re-meeting.
This day stands, as it were, in battle-array against me, and this forthcoming night will be like an armed occupation of the stronghold of my being, beleaguered
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by all my [thy] foes. Of this day and night what shall be said, now when neither sight nor sound denotes the loved one, so far away? Of these my vanquished hours what shall I say—while every sense of mine to which she once dealt delight now labours lonely over the stark height of noonday, only to reach the desolate disarray of sunset? Stand still, fond fettered wretch! while the art of Memory parades the rapturous past before thy face, and lures thy spirit onward to those passionate images which she evokes; till the tempestuous tide-gates of desire and emotion, flung apart, flood with wild volition the hollows of thy heart, and thy heart rends thee, and thy body helplessly endures.

The mother will not turn who thinks she hears.
The first section of this sonnet indicates—and no doubt with accurate truth—the mood of emotional contemplation which, for our author, preceded the actual work of poetic composition.
The mother, who thinks she hears her nursling's speech first grow articulate, will not turn round at once, but she sits breathless, with averted and elate eyes, with open lips and open ears, in order that the child may call her twice. In like manner has my soul often hearkened amid doubts and fears, till the song, which for days had been like a central moan, at length found tongue, and the sweet music welled, and the sweet tears. But now, whenever my soul is fain to listen to that wonted murmur, as it were the low importunate strain of a sea-shell struggling towards utterance—now no breath of song is there, but thy
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voice alone, O thou bitterly beloved! and all that my soul gains is but the pang of unpermitted prayer (prayer for a boon not to be granted).

There came an image in Life's retinue.
In this sonnet the imagery is distinct, and the apologue is narrated unambiguously. The thing signified, however, may be less tangible, and open to some difference of interpretation. The title, Death-in-Love, must serve as our guide. It intimates that Earthly Love partakes of the nature of Death. Death dominates and concludes Earthly Love; Love is the thrall of mortality.
In the retinue of Life came a figure who had the wings of Love, and who bore Love's gonfalon: the web of the gonfalon was fair, and nobly wrought thereon were the form and the hue of thee, O soul-sequestered face [face sequestered and isolated from all other faces by depth of soul, speaking through the features]. Bewildering sounds, such as those to which the Spring awakens, shook in the folds of that banner; and its power sped through my heart, trackless as that unrememberable hour when birth's dark portal groaned, and when all was new to the newborn spirit. But a veiled woman followed, and she caught the banner round its staff, making it furl and cling; she then plucked a feather from the wing of the flag-bearer, and she held that feather to his lips, which stirred it not with any breath of life. And she said to me: “Behold, there is no breath; I and this Love are one and the same, and I am Death.”
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49— WILLOW-WOOD (1) .

I sat with Love upon a woodside well.
The four sonnets named Willow-wood represent, in a general sense, the pangs of severance; they need hardly be called obscure, but have what may be termed remoteness of treatment. All is given under forms at once concrete and subtle. By “severance” we might understand “severance by death,” for both the word and the idea extend to that; but severance by untoward conditions on earth appears to be more particularly contemplated in the sonnets. In his article, The Stealthy School of Criticism, Rossetti thus describes the subject of Willow-wood : “a dream or trance of divided love, momentarily re-united by the longing fancy.”
I sat with Love upon a woodside well, I and he leaning across its water. Nor did he ever speak nor look at me, but he touched his lute wherein was audible the certain secret thing he had to tell. Only our mirrored eyes met silently, reflected in the low gush of water. And that sound from his lute came to be the passionate voice which I knew—my Lady's voice; and my tears fell. And, at the fall of them, Love's eyes, reflected beneath, grew to be hers; and with his foot and with his wing-feathers he swept the spring that watered the drought of my heart. Then the dark ripples of the well spread into waving hair, and, as I stooped, her own lips, rising there, bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
50— WILLOW-WOOD (2) .

And now Love sang: but his was such a song.
And now Love sang: but his was such a song, so interwoven with half-remembrance hard to disengage, as souls, disused (from the functions of life) in the
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sterility of death,* may sing when the new birthday tarries long. And I was suddenly made aware of a dumb throng which stood aloof, one form beside every tree—all of them mournful forms, for each of them was either I or she; they were the shades of those our olden days that had no means of utterance. They looked on us, and knew us, and were known by us; while fast together, alive from the abyss, clung that soul-wrung implacable (insatiate) close kiss; and pity of ourselves made broken moan through all, saying, “For once, for once, for once alone!” And still Love sang, and what he sang was this.
51— WILLOW-WOOD (3) .

“O ye, all ye that walk in Willow-wood.”
“ O ye, all ye† that walk in Willow-wood, that walk with hollow faces burning white, what profound fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood shall there be, what hours long and ever growing longer, so as to form one single night lasting a lifetime, ere ye, who so in vain
Transcribed Footnote (page 217):

* A poetical phrase of this kind should not be scrutinized with prosaic and tiresome precision. It may be sufficient to remark here that the basis of the phrase or image evidently is the idea (familiar in religious speculation or meditation) that the human soul remains, after the death of the body, in a state of suspended animation, awaiting “the restitution of all things” at the Day of Judgment. The words of the text are—“As souls disused in death's sterility May sing,” &c. This may possibly mean—“As disused souls may sing in death's sterility”: but I think the construction shown in my paraphrase is the more likely.

Transcribed Footnote (page 217):

† This phrase, “All ye,” might seem to indicate that Love is here addressing the “dumb throng,” the “mournful forms,” named in the preceding sonnet. But I think this is not at all intended. Love addresses the two Lovers of the Willow-wood sonnets, and, along with them, all other lovers in like predicament.

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have wooed your last hope lost, ye who so in vain indulge your lips in that their unforgotten aliment (of kisses), shall again see the light!Alas the bitter banks in Willow-wood, wan with tear-spurge, burning red with blood-wort!*alas if ever such a pillow as these banks could steep deep in sleep† the soul till she were dead! Better were it that all life should forget her than this thing—that Willow-wood should hold her wandering within its bounds.”
52— WILLOW-WOOD (4) .

So sang he; and as meeting rose and rose.
Thus did Love sing; and as two roses, meeting, cling together through the dirge of the wind, and change not at once, yet near the end of day the petals drop off loosened from the point where the ruddy heart-tint glows, so did the kiss sever when the song died away; and the face of my Lady fell back into the well, drowned in its water, and was as grey as its own grey eyes; and whether that face may again meet mine I know not whether Love knows or not. I know but this: that I leaned low, and drank a long draught from the water where she sank—her breath, and all her tears, and all
Transcribed Footnote (page 218):

* “Spurge” and “wort” are of course two familiar plant-names; the poet, for the purposes of his vision of passionate misery, associates these plant-names with “tears” and “blood,” and invents (I suppose it is a mere invention) “tear-spurge” and “blood-wort.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 218):

† The reader may notice, even in this prose version, the reiteration of sounds, apart from actual rhyming of verses. For instance—“again” and “in vain,” and “steep deep the soul in sleep.” The dactylic quasi-rhymes, “Willow-wood, widowhood,” and “pillow could,” are of like quality, and are not, I think, to be approved. Some other examples of this tendency are to be found in Rossetti's poems here and there.

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her soul. And, as I leaned, I know that I felt the face of Love pressing on my neck with a moan of pity and of grace, till the heads of us both were engirt within his aureole.

What of her glass without her? The blank grey.
What can be said of her looking-glass without her? It is like the blank greyness out there, where is a pool which the moon shines not on. Or her dress without her? Like the disordered empty space of cloud-rack whence the moon has passed away. Or her frequented paths without her? Like day's appointed region usurped by desolate night. Or her pillowed place without her? Ah me! my tears are there, in exchange for love's good grace, and I remain coldly forgetful whether of night or of day. What of my heart without her? Nay, poor heart, of thee what shall be spoken ere speech be for ever still? Thou, without her, art as a wayfarer by barren chill ways, steep and weary ways, where the long cloud, outlining the long wood, sheds doubled darkness along the laborious ascent of the hill.

Sweet Love—but oh most dread Desire of Love.
The leading idea of this sonnet appears to be as follows.—Love is in himself free and happy. But Loving Desire, enchained by the necessities and prohibitions of Life, is a dismal captive, and brings Love himself into the same fetters and the same misery.
Sweet is Love; but how dread is the Desire of Love, thwarted by Life! I saw those two—Love and
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Vain-longing (or Desire of Love)—standing linked in gyves, shackled together, hand to hand. One (Love) had eyes blue as the blue vault of heaven. But in the gaze of the other (Desire of Love) hope heaved, tempestuous like a fire-cloud; even as it heaves in the gaze of a treasure-seeker, whose hazel-wand has, with spell-wrought power, spanned in vain, all the night long, the caves of some deep treasure-trove, which yield not up their hoard. His lips also, like two writhen flakes of flame, made moan: “Alas, O Love, thus coupled together with me!Thou wing-footed, wing-shouldered, once born free; whilst I—one with thee, yet coweringly unlike thee—bound to thy body and soul, named with thy name, am grown tame in chains—chains which are the iron heart of Life, even Love's Fatality.” *

The hour which might have been yet might not be.
Briefly stated, the meaning of this sonnet stands thus.—A man and a woman love, but the moment when their love might find actual fruition occurs not in this world nor in time—only in the realm of eternity. That moment is, as it were, a child which, totally secluded
Transcribed Footnote (page 220):

* The lines run thus—

  • “And I, thy cowering self, in chains grown tame,—
  • Bound to thy body and soul, named with thy name,—
  • Life's iron heart, even Love's Fatality.”

According to the structure of the sentence, it might seem that “I” ( i.e., Desire of Love, or Vain-longing) am “Life's iron heart, even Love's Fatality.” But to me this seems hardly consistent with the general drift of the sonnet, especially the opening phrase, “Desire of Love life-thwarted.” I understand rather that “Life's iron heart” is a synonym of the “chains” wherein Desire of Love has grown tame.

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from them in time, hails them in eternity as its parents.
The Hour which might have been, but which nevertheless might not be—which never actually came into being—the Hour which a man's heart and a woman's heart conceived and bore (which the heart-felt longing of a man and a woman forecast), yet of which Life remained barren—on what shore does that Hour await the breaking of Time's weary sea? That Hour has, as it were, become a bond-child to all those consummated joys which have attained a life of freedom: as such it somewhere sighs and serves, and, mute before the house of Love, hears, through the echoing door, the elect Hours of Love singing in choral unison. But lo! what wedded Souls now, hand-in-hand, tread at last together the immortal strand with eyes in which burning memory lights love homeward? Behold how that little outcast Hour has turned and leaped up to them, yearning towards their faces, and crying, “I am your child! O my parents, ye have come!”


To be a sweetness more desired than Spring.
To be a sweetness more desired than Spring; a bodily beauty more cherished than the wild rose-tree's arch which crowns the fell; to be an essence more permeating than the drained juice of wine—a music more ravishing than the passionate pulsations of the nightingale:—to be all this beneath the swell of one soft bosom which is the very flower of all life:—How strange a thing! How strange a thing to be something which
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man can know but as a sacred secret! Heaven's own screen hides the purest depth of Woman's soul, and its loveliest glow; closely withheld are these, as are all the things most concealed from view; such as the pearl environed by waves, or that heart-shaped seal of green which flecks the snowdrop underneath the snow.*


She loves him, for her infinite soul is Love.
She loves him—the man of her election; for her infinite soul is Love, vibrating towards him as the needle towards the pole-star. Passion in her, as related to passion in him, is, as it were, a looking-glass facing a fire—a looking-glass in which the blissful brightness is mirrored, and the heat returned. Yet move that glass from that single fire—move her passion so that it may be exposed to a stranger's amorous flame—and it shall turn, by instant law of contraries, frigid as ice subjected to the moon; while still her pure fire clings close to the fire of him for whom it burns,—close in the heart's alcove. And so they two are now one. With wifely breast to breast, and with circling arms, she welcomes all command of love—her soul fanned to answering ardours. Yet, as morn
Transcribed Footnote (page 222):

* This image will be clear to any one who has looked with ordinary attention at a snowdrop, and it needs no explanation. But it may be worth observing that shortly before the time when Rossetti wrote this sonnet he was painting the picture entitled The Daydream . In that picture the flower now depicted is the honeysuckle; but it had originally been the snowdrop, and no doubt his recent careful observation of the snowdrop, for the purpose of his painting, was what prompted this image of “the heart-shaped seal of green.”

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springs, or as twilight sinks to rest, ah who shall say that she deems not still lovelier the hour of hand-in-hand, sweet and sisterly?


If to grow old in Heaven is to grow young.
If to grow old in Heaven is to grow young (as the seer, Swedenborg, saw and said), then he whose heaven should be true Woman would be blest with youth for evermore—true Woman whom these weak notes of mine have sung. Here and hereafter, choral strains of her tongue, sky-spaces of her eyes, sweet signs that flit about her soul's immediate sanctuary—these would be paradise amid all uttermost worlds. Here on earth the sunrise blooms on the hill, and again withers thereon, like any hill-flower: here even the noblest troth dies into dust.Nevertheless the promise of Heaven shall even yet invest those lovers who have still cherished this test for love:—in every kiss sealed fast, to feel again the first kiss and forebode the last of all.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 223):

* A certain interchangeability of idea and of imagery—the things of time symbolizing the things of eternity, orvice versâ—appears to me to be one of the most ruling qualities of Rossetti's poetry, and a leading source of that difficulty or elusive character which many readers feel in it. The present sonnet is a prominent example. The reader's mind remains in suspense as to whether the poet is speaking of what takes place in heaven (in the ordinary sense of that term), or of what takes place on earth. It appears to me that, by strict attention to the contents of this sonnet, one finds that he only speaks of what takes place on earth. As thus:—1, It has been said that to grow old in heaven is to grow young. 2, Accepting this, and regarding True Woman as the heaven of man on earth, we can conceive the man as perennially youthful, and blest in being so. 3, Whether on earth or in any other condition of being, the heavenly elements of the woman's

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nature would constitute the man's paradise. 4, It is too true that on earth everything is foredoomed to death. 5, And yet that promise of perennial youth, ascribed to life in heaven, is realized by those lovers on earth all whose kisses are reminiscent of their first kiss, and full-charged with a sense of the last. These lovers live in the tender and beautiful past, and also in the tender and solemn future.


Love to his singer held a glistening leaf.
Love held forth to me his singer a glistening laurel-leaf, and said:—“The rose-tree has flowers wherewith to lure the bee, and the apple-tree has fruits to vaunt; and golden shafts of corn are in the plumy sheaf of the great marshal of harvest-time, the year's chief, victorious Summer; aye, and beneath the warm sea strange secret grasses lurk unattainably between the filtering channels of sunken rock-reef. All these are blooms of my own; and to thee, while Spring and Summer were singing, did I give all sweet blooms of love. But now Autumn is pausing to listen, with some pang of those worse things of the impending Winter whereof the wind is moaning. This laurel alone dreads no winter-days. Take it as my last gift; in guerdon for that thy heart has sung my praise.”


As growth of form or momentary glance.
This sonnet sets forth (what Rossetti profoundly believed to be the truth concerning good poetry) that “the song”— i.e., a poem—is the “transfigured life”
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Sig. P
of its author; his essential self developed into words under the control of art. The abundant rain of the conclusion of the sonnet is not, I think, merely “tearful emotion,” but also “fertilizing and purifying influence.” Tearful emotion, however, is clearly indicated in Sonnet 61, which follows on with Sonnet 60.
As the growth of form in a child's features, or some momentary glance in them, will recall to mind the father's face combined with the mother's—a sweet interchange made all the more precious by memories; and yet, as the years of childhood and of youth advance, the gradual mouldings in those same features leave behind them one individual stamp, till now we find in the blended likeness the countenance of a separate and independent man or woman:—So in the Song (in a Poem) do the Singer's Joy and Pain, the very parents of it, expand evermore, to bid the passion's full-grown birth remain, subtly spanned by Art's transfiguring essence; and from that song-cloud, shaped like a man's hand,* there comes the sound as of abundant rain.

By thine own tears thy song must tears beget.
O thou Singer (Poet)! if thy song is to elicit tears from its reader, this can only be consequent upon its having been written with tears of thine own. Thou art
Transcribed Footnote (page 225):

* I suppose it can hardly be requisite to say to English readers that this is a biblical allusion. After the three years' terrific drought, Elijah announced to Ahab that there was “a sound of abundance of rain.” He then sent up his servant to the top of Mount Carmel, to watch: the servant saw “a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand,” and it was followed by “a great rain” (1 Kings, ch. xviii.). The accomplished French translator of The House of Life Madame Clémence Couve, had evidently not perceived the allusion.

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not in possession of any magic mirror, other than thine own heart made manifest in the poem: thou hast no amulet, other than thine own anguish or ardour. Verse, if it has as its well-head or cistern nothing but pride or love of display in its author, is merely like a feathery jet of soul-less fountains flung upon the air. Nay, a song over which its singer's eyelids grew not wet is even more dry than is the Dead Sea for throats that thirst and sigh. Dream not, O Singer, that the God of Song, the God of the Sun, the far-shooting Apollo, is any slave of thine. Far from that. Rather is he thy Hunter, fledging his arrow-shaft for thy soul. Dream not that he has surrendered his quiverful of darts to the control—the august control, forsooth—of thy skilled hand. No: but, if the loud cry of thy lips leap forth as thou hast felt the smarting of his shafts, then, and then only, shall the inspired recoil pierce thy brother's heart.
(The phrase “the inspired recoil” is one of those laconisms of verse which can only be rendered in prose by a tedious circumlocution. The image presented is obviously that of an arrow from the quiver of Apollo which, after striking the poet, recoils so as to strike another person, the reader. The epithet “inspired” belongs rather to the thing imaged forth than to the image itself. It implies that the poem written under the acute poetic and personal emotion is an inspiration from the Poetic Deity.)

Some prisoned moon in steep cloud-fastnesses.
Who has not yearned and fed his heart with visual objects such as these?—a prisoned moon in steep fast-
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Sig. P 2
nesses of cloud, embleming a queen throned and thralled; or a dying sun whose pyre blazed with momentous memorable fire. Who, when sleepless, has not with anguish striven to appease that realm—that tragical shadow's realm—of sound and sight conjectured in the lamentable night? All these, and all such as these, form the soul's sphere of infinite images. What sense shall count them? whether the sense forecasts the rose-winged hours which flutter in the van of Love's unquestioning and unrevealed array*—visions of some golden future; or that last wild pageant of the accumulated past which clangs and flashes for a drowning man.

The changing guests, each in a different mood.
The changing guests, each in a different mood, sit at a roadside table, and then arise and depart: and in like wise every individual life among them is a soul's board set daily with new food. To the father succeeds the son; the maiden and bride passes into the mother. Yet what man has bent over his son's sleep, to brood how that face of the son shall watch his own, lying cold in death? or has thought, as his mother kissed his eyes,
Transcribed Footnote (page 227):

* “Span” (not “array”) in the original. I understand—that section of human life and emotion which pertains to Love, with all its multiplex and varied evolution, equally unquestioned by the human spirit, and unrevealed to it beforehand.

Transcribed Footnote (page 227):

† I question whether the word “Inclusiveness” quite indicates to the reader what the author meant to convey in this sonnet. The uncouth word “many-sidedness” might be more apt. The gist of the sonnet—emphasized more especially in its conclusion—is that one same thing has different aspects and influences to different persons and according to different conditions.

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what manner of kiss was hers when his father was wooing her? Or take this ancient room* in which I [thou] am sitting: may it not have its in-dwelling in separate living souls—in one for joy, in another for pain? Nay, all its corners may be painted plainly to one soul, where heaven shows pictures of a life spent well; and it may on the other hand be stamped, a reminiscence now all in vain, upon the sight of lidless eyes in hell.

The cuckoo-throb, the heart-beat of the spring.
The throbbing note of the cuckoo, which seems like the heart-beat of spring-time; the rosebud's blush, which deserts the bud as it grows into the full-eyed, fair, unblushing rose; the summer clouds which salute every bird with fires of sunrise and of sun-setting;the furtive flickering streamlets which are re-born to light amid new-fledged airs and valorous lusts of morning,† while all the daughters of the daybreak sing:—these things ardour [anticipation] loves, and memory loves them also. And when, in the decline of the year, all joys are flown, and the wind swoops onward through dark and rent forest-boughs, brandishing the light,
Transcribed Footnote (page 228):

* I suppose this refers to an actual room in Rossetti's old-fashioned house, 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.

Transcribed Footnote (page 228):

† These phrases are easier to appreciate undefinedly than to paraphrase precisely. The morning's “airs new-fledged” are (I suppose) airs or breezes as full of fresh animation as are new-fledged birds—or indeed airs wherein new-fledged birds actually disport themselves. “Valorous lusts” might be synonymized as “healthy enjoying activities.” The“daughters of the daybreak” I understand to be in some sense birds—but also, in a more general sense, the powers and ministering spirits of the new day.

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even yet the rose-tree's verdant leafage, left alone by the withered and vanished rose, will flush all ruddy, though the rose itself be gone: a theme for infinite ditties and infinite dirges.

As two whose love, first foolish, widening scope.
The essential point in this sonnet requires reflection rather than explanation. The idea is that of a man who in youth has been feeble in will, indolent and scattered, but who, when too late, wakes up to the duty and the privileges of work. Without insisting overmuch upon its value in an autobiographical relation, one can scarcely doubt that this sonnet was written by its author in a moment of some self-reproach—with a sense of faculties untrained and opportunities slighted.
As a man and a woman whose love, at first foolish but afterwards wider in scope, knows suddenly, to music of the soul, high and soft, the holy of holies; who, because erewhile they scoffed, are now amazed with shame, and dare not cope aloud and overtly with the whole truth—for it seems as if then heaven would open; yet who, at their meetings, laugh not as once they laughed in speech, and indeed at length they speak not at all, but, sitting often together, within hopeless sight of hope, are silent for hours:—Thus does it happen when work and will awake too late, and have to gaze after their life which has sailed by, and to hold their breath. Ah who shall dare to search through what sad labyrinthine maze thenceforth their incommunicable ways [the footsteps of the two never treading together the same path] follow the desultory feet of Death?
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From child to youth; from youth to arduous man.
From a child to a youth; from a youth to an arduous much-endeavouring man; from lethargy of the heart to heart's fever; from a life of mutual troth to lonely days laden with dream;* from trust (faith in the unseen) to doubt; from doubt to the brink of reprobation:—thus much of change ran in one swift cycle until now. Alas for the soul! how soon must she be reinvested with her primal immortality—how soon must the flesh resume its dust whence it began!—O Lord of work and peace, Lord of life, Lord—awful Lord—of will! Even yet, though late, do Thou renew this soul with the spirit of duty! so that, when peace shall be garnered in from strife, when the work shall be retrieved and the will regenerate, this soul may see the face of Thee, O Lord of death!

Was that the landmark?—What—the foolish well?
Was that the landmark?—What—that insignificant well whose water, low-lying, I did not stoop to drink, but I sat and flung the pebbles from its brink, sending into a pell-mell of confusion, in sport, the sky reflected in it (and, had I but noted that, doing the like with the reflection of myself)—was that properly my turning-point? I had thought instead that the stations of my
Transcribed Footnote (page 230):


  • “From faithful life to dream-dowered days apart.”

This sonnet reads throughout as being an intense personal utterance: I assume it to be so. The precise bearing of the above line may be disputable. It seems to me to refer to the change which came over the author's life with the death of his wife—yet I can by no means assert this.

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course should rise unsought and conspicuous, like some altar-stone or some ensigned citadel.—But lo! the path has been missed by me: I must now go back, and shall thirst to drink when next I reach that same spring which previously I stained, and which may by this time have grown black. Yet, though now no light is left and no bird sings as here I turn backwards—none the less, hastening on, I will thank God that the same goal is still on the same track.

The gloom that breathes upon me with these airs.
The gloom which breathes upon me with these breezes is like the rain-drops which strike the brow of the traveller, who, being in darkness or shadow, knows not whether the rain-drops are now bringing him a fresh storm, or on the contrary are but old rain which the covert bears. Ah does this present hour bode some harvest of new tares (tribulations and disappointments)? or does it merely retain the memory of that day whose plough once sowed hunger in my heart—of that night when at length thou, O prayer of mine found vain, didst drop from among my prayers? [Perhaps there is room for some better hope: for consider.] How prickly were those growths which yet, now so smooth, shed along the hedgerows of this journey [this actual present journey, and, symbolically through that, the past journey of my life], are lying, by Time's grace, until night and sleep may afford their solace! Even as the thistledown, gleaned from path-sides of the time dead and past, by some girl, in autumn-seasons of her youth,—thistledown which, in some new year, is to make soft her marriage-bed.
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This sunlight shames November where he grieves.
This sunlight puts to shame November, where he grieves in dead red leaves, and it will not let him shun the day, though in the forest bough be thickly over-run with bough. But every glade receives with a blessing high salutation; while the deer, calling, gaze from the crests of hillocks: they are dappled with white and dun, as if, being foresters of old, the sun had marked them with the shadow of forest-leaves. Here, to-day, did dawn unveil her magic glass: here noon now gives the thirst, and takes the dew: and next, when other good things shall have passed, eve will bring rest. And here the lost hours renew the lost hours [here do I lose hour after hour *], while I still lead my shadow over the grass, nor know, for longing, that which I should do—[present sense of pleasure, mixed with vague desire and reverie, absorb me from all definite action or occupation].

This feast-day of the sun, his altar there.
In its immediate primary meaning, this sonnet manifestly describes a resplendent day nearing its close, and the poet, on a day-long journey, contemplating the sunset from a height: and I have no doubt the sonnet was the direct outcome of such an incident. On the other hand, I am equally satisfied that the implied or analogous meaning is likewise intentional—that of a
Transcribed Footnote (page 232):

* I apprehend this to be the direct sense: but there may be something implied to the following effect also—Here do I lose hours dreaming over other hours lost in the distant past. Madame Couve puts this sense tersely—“On revit ainsi les défuntes heures.”

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career which, having reached its shining culmination, has thereafter to decline into the shade, and close in the night of the tomb.
On this feast-day of the sun, his altar there in the broad west has blazed for vesper-song; and I have already loitered too long in the vale, and now I gaze at the splendour, a belated worshiper. Yet may I not forget that, while thus journeying, I had at intervals been aware of the sun's face transfigured where the leaf-fringed horizon falls,—a fiery bush with coruscating hair. And, now that I have climbed and won this height, I must next tread downward through the sloping shade, and must travel the dusk-bewildered tracks till nightfall. Yet, for this present hour, I may still stay here, and may see the gold air [sky-tints] fade, and then the silver air, and see the last bird fly into the last light.
71— THE CHOICE (1).

Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
I need scarcely point out to the reader that in this trio of sonnets, The Choice , three theories of human life are presented. Each of the three theories is based on one simple and irrefragable consideration, “To-morrow thou shalt die.” In Sonnet 1 the deduction is “Eat and drink”—the theory of physical enjoyment. In Sonnet 2 the deduction is “Watch and fear”—the theory of religious asceticism. In Sonnet 3 the deduction is “Think and act”—the theory of self-development. These sonnets were written at a very early age; probably about 1847, or when the author was from eighteen to nineteen years of age, at a time when
  • “The world was all before him, where to choose.”
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From the tone of the sonnets it will be obvious that he gave, in anticipation, the preference to “Think and act” in performance he gave the same preference. But this was never because he ignored the other two theories; he only refused them co-equal rank.
Eat thou and drink; for to-morrow thou shalt die. Surely the earth (which, being very old, is also presumably wise) needs not the help of thee and me: we need not devote ourselves to its instruction or improvement. Then loose me, my love, and hold thy sultry hair up from my face; so that I may pour for thee this golden-hued wine, brim-high, till round the glass thy fingers shall glow like gold. We will drown in wine and love all these hours which are passing over us: thy song, while hours are tolled, shall leap forth, as fountains veil the changing sky. Now kiss me; and think on this—that there are really some people, my own high-bosomed beauty, who increase useless gold and useless lore, and who yet might choose our way—how far better a way! Through many years they toil: then, some day or other, they—— I cannot say they die, for in fact their very life was a death; but at any rate they cease to exist, and then close falls the mould round their narrow lips.
72— THE CHOICE (2).

Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
Watch thou and fear; for to-morrow thou shalt die. Or indeed art thou sure that thou shalt have time even to die? Is not that day which God's word promises, the Day of Judgment, to come at some time which man knows not of? Now while we speak the sun is speed-
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ing forth in yonder sky: can I or thou warrant him to reach his goal in the West? Perhaps, even at this very moment, God's breath may be quickening the air into a flame; till spirits, who are always nigh us though screened and hidden, shall visibly walk the daylight here. And dost thou nevertheless prate of all that man shall do upon this earth at some future date? Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to be glad in the gladness of him who is to come after thee? Will his supposed strength slay thy worm, thou being in hell? Go to: cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
73— THE CHOICE (3).

Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
Think thou and act; for to-morrow thou shalt die. Outstretched in the sun's warmth upon the shore, thou sayest, “Man's measured path is by this time all gone over. Man has been climbing up all his past years, steeply, with strain and sigh, until at last he touched the truth; and I, even I, am he for whom that truth was destined.” But how should this be? Art thou then of so much more account than they who sowed the seed that thou shouldst reap from this their sowing? Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed mound, look with me to the furthest rim of the ocean-flood; then reach on thence with thy thought till it be drowned. Miles and miles distant though the last sea-line be, and though thy soul sail in imagination leagues and leagues beyond that—still, leagues beyond even those leagues, there is more sea. (And as with the material sea, so with the sea of Truth, which man is charged to endeavour after.)
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Give honour unto Luke Evangelist.
This trio of sonnets also, like the Choice trio, is very early work. They belong, I think, to the dawn of the Præraphaelite movement (as their tone clearly enough testifies)—say from the summer of 1848 to that of 1849.
Give honour to Luke the Evangelist; for he it was (so say the aged legends) who first taught Art to fold her hands and pray (first made Art, in its Christian form, the handmaid of Religion). Scarcely did Art dare at once to rend the mist of devious symbols; but—having soon divined how (such natural beauties as) the breadth of the sky, the silence of the fields, and this daylight which visits us all, are symbols also, in some way far deeper than those other direct or arbitrary symbols—she looked through these natural beauties up to God, and became God's priest. It may be that, when noon was past [when Art was halfway through her course], her toil began to irk, and she sought out talismans [unhallowed and unauthorized substitutes for the devotion of the spirit], and turned in vain to soul-less reflections [re-imagings] of man's self through the medium of man's skill: yet now, in this the twilight or evening of her days, she might still kneel in the latter-time grass to pray again, ere the night cometh and she may not work.


“I am not as these are,” the poet saith.
“I am not such as these men are;” so says the poet, and so says the painter, in the pride of youth, when at bay
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among men in some society where never comes pencil nor pen, and shut about with his own frozen breath (frozen by the chilly atmosphere which there surrounds him). Then, in the cold silence, this poet or painter turns to some other men—men for whom rhyme alone wins credit as poets, or paint alone as painters; and again he says, shrinking, “I am not as these are.” And allow that this is so, what follows it? If thine eyes were set backwards in thy head, such words were well; but thine eyes, on the contrary, see onward, far onward. Instead of looking to these mediocrities of the present day, look to those lights of the great past, lit new and fair for the track of the future. Instead of that former self-applauding speech, say thou,I am not as these are.


Though God, as one that is an householder.
Though God, as one that is an householder [according to the proverb spoken by Christ], called these men [“the lights of the great past”] to labour in His vineyard first, bidding them, before the husk of darkness was well burst, to grope their way out and bestir themselves (and they, being questioned of their wages, answered, “Sir, unto each man a penny”); though the worst burden of heat was theirs, and the dry thirst; though God has since found none such as these were, to do their work like them—yet do not ye, because of this, stand idle in the market-place. Which of you can know that he is not that last man who may, by faith and will, become the first? Yea, his may be the hand which, after the appointed interval of days and hours, shall give a future to the past of those first workers.
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Note: On page 238, fifth sentence, WMR writes "Poems and Ballads (1881)," where he apparently intends "Ballads and Sonnets (1881)."

Under the arch of Life, where Love and Death.
This sonnet, and the sonnet succeeding named Body's Beauty , were at first entitled respectively Sibylla Palmifera and Lilith . They were in fact written to illustrate the two pictures by Rossetti bearing those titles. In the present sonnet the phrases “the arch of Life,”“her shrine” guarded by “Love and Death, Terror and Mystery,”“her palm and wreath,” all have direct relation to the symbolic material of the picture. In the volume of Poems (1870) these sonnets were published with their original titles, in the section named “Sonnets for Pictures, and Other Sonnets” . It was only when he completed “The House of Life”, and published it as it now stands in the Poems and Ballads (1881) , that Rossetti saw fit to re-name the two sonnets, thus lending them a more obviously wide and abstract significance. And it may be well to observe that by this same process he lends also a wider and more abstract significance to the two pictures themselves; and clearly gives us to understand that his picture of Sibylla Palmifera shadows forth Soul's Beauty, while his other picture of Lilith shadows forth Body's Beauty.
Under the arch of Life, where Love and Death, Terror and Mystery, guard her shrine, I saw Beauty enthroned; and, though her gaze inspired awe, I drew it in as simply as I drew in my breath. Hers are the eyes which above thee the sky, and beneath thee the sea, bend upon thee*; the eyes which can draw to one same
Transcribed Footnote (page 238):

* It will be observed that this sonnet begins with the first person, “I.” Here we come to “thee,” which may mean “men in general,” or at any rate all such men as are keenly susceptible to the influence

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of Beauty. When soon afterwards we reach thy voice and hand, the author appears clearly to be addressing himself primarily, and others in a subordinate degree.

law [or loyalty], by sea or by sky or by woman, the destined bondman of Beauty's palm and wreath. This is that Lady Beauty in whose praise thy voice and hand are shaking still—long known to thee by flying hair and by the fluttering hem of her garment [for Beauty cannot be caught and captured—it is ever illusive and beyond the grasp]; while the beating of thy heart and of thy feet follows her—how passionately and irretrievably—in what fond flight, how many ways and days!

Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told.
Rossetti's picture of Lilith represents a beautiful woman in modern dishabille, combing out her profuse golden locks. His poem of Eden Bower presents Lilith as a serpent (this is, I believe, a Talmudic legend) who had been changed into the form of woman, and had been the wife of Adam prior to the creation of Eve; being discarded for Eve's sake, she re-consorts with her old serpent-mate, and plots with him the temptation which is to expel Adam and Eve from Eden. All these points should be borne in mind as one reads the sonnet, Body's Beauty . Nor should the reader forget a passage in Göthe's Faust—I give it as translated by Shelley. On the Walpurgis-night Mephistopheles points out to Faust
  • “Lilith, the first wife of Adam.
  • Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
  • All women in the magic of her locks;
  • And, when she winds them round a young man's neck,
  • She will not ever set him free again.”
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Of Adam's first wife, Lilith—the witch whom he loved before he had received Eve as a gift—it is told that her sweet tongue could deceive before the snake's tongue did, and her enchanted hair was the first gold known to man. And still does she sit, young though now the earth is old; and, subtly contemplative of herself, she draws men to watch the bright web she can weave [her outcombed hair], till their heart and body and life are tangled in its hold. The rose (love) and poppy (sleep) are her flowers; for where is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent (perfume, as of the hair), and softly-shed kisses, and soft sleep, shall snare? Lo, as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so did thy spell go through him, and it left his straight neck bent, and round his heart one strangling golden hair.

Is it this sky's vast vault or ocean's sound.
Of all the sonnets in the House of Life , this is the one which seems to me most obscure. In fact, I do not think that its meaning can be seized by a reader unfurnished with some information which the sonnet itself does not supply. I had forgotten (or possibly I never knew) what the inspiring motive of the verses had been; and I was considerably baffled by them until, consulting Mr. Theodore Watts, I was apprised that the idea of the sonnet had come to my brother on an occasion when he was listening to music. Hence the adoption for the title of the musical term Monochord, which is defined as “an instrument of one string, used to ascertain and demonstrate the several lengths of the string required to produce the several notes of the
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Sig. Q
musical scale.” Evidently, however, the word Monochord is not here applied in this literal sense, but may rather indicate “the power of music in eliciting and meting out the emotions of the human soul.” Even after one knows the primary subject-matter of the sonnet, it remains (to me at least) a very difficult one in its particular images and form of expression. Its theme might perhaps be briefly expressed thus—“The mutual response of music and of the human soul.” In the opening lines the poet seems to intimate that the grand strains of the music conjure before his mental eye a vision of sky and sea. Or, taking a larger view of the whole subject, we might say that the point of the sonnet is the common essence of all these outward and inward matters; as if one thread (monochord) ran through all—vibrated through all. With these rather dubious preliminaries I proceed.
Is it this sky's vast vault, or is it this ocean's sound, which is Life's self, and which draws my life from me, and which, by instinct [self-inherent] ineffable decree, holds my breath quailing on the bitter bound? Nay, is it Life, or Death, thus thunder-crowned [crowned with the thundrous raptures of music], which, amid the tide of all emergency, now notes my separate wave [appeals to my individual consciousness, “finds me out” as a single personal existence], and notes towards what sea its difficult eddies labour in the ground? Oh what is this that knows the road along which I came [evokes so many reminiscences of my past emotional life], the flame turned cloud, the cloud re-turned to flame [light and obscurity, happiness and unhappiness], the lifted shifted steeps, and all the way? this which draws round me at last this wind-warmed space [lulls
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me into meditative quietude], and turns my face, in regenerate rapture, upon the devious coverts of dismay [lifts me out of despondency, and makes me contemplate even past sorrow with a thrill of bliss]?

As the child knows not if his mother's face.
As a child knows not whether his mother's face is fair or otherwise, nor can yet deem, regarding his elders, what is the leading quality of each, but all glimmering life surrounds him and his environments, much like the glimmering life of a hill or stream at dawn; and yet this same child, towards the noon of his life-journey, with the half-weariness already attending it, pausing awhile beneath the high sunbeam, and gazing steadily backwards, can now trace, as through a dream, new features in things long past:—even so the thought which is at length full-grown turns back to note the sun-smitten paths where first it walked alone—those paths once all grey [dim] and marvellous; and haply the thought doubts, amid the unblenching day, which of the—two impelled the more or the less its onward way—whether those unknown things, or these other overknown things.
This sonnet is not, I think, difficult; but it requires a certain amount of reflection, which may best be condensed into a free paraphrase.—When a man's thought, some act of creative or inventive thought, has attained its full development, the man remains dubious whether the tentative stage, when the thought still remained obscure to himself, or the realizing stage, when the thought assumed express and definite form, was the more important factor in the result. This is
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Sig. Q 2
like the experience of a child now grown up, who in childhood does not analyse any of his impressions as to the persons that surround him, but in adult age can recall the impressions, and can through these analyse the motive causes of them.

What place so strange, though unrevealèd snow.
The Poet here contemplates some house in which some event of supreme importance in his past life occurred: the most wondrous natural phenomena would be less wondrous to him than the mysterious interconnection of this house, and of his own destiny, past, present, and in all future time irreversible.
What place can be so strange—even though it were a place at the last extremity of earth, with unrevealed snow and unimaginable fires*—as scenes of long ago, frost-bound and fire-girt [reminiscent of anguish and passion]? What passion of surprise can compare with that? Lo, I am here at this hour, I am myself; and lo, this is the very place which those mortal hours, hours of the past, immortalize in vain to mine eyes with what I alone know—I here present amid hurrying crowds. O thou city, one single simple house-door within thy circuit,
Transcribed Footnote (page 243):

* I surmise that Rossetti may have been thinking of the conclusion of Edgar Poe's strange story, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym: Pym is represented as approaching the Antarctic Pole, and witnessing marvellous appearances, partly in the nature of an aurora borealis. This story—and many of the other stories and the leading poems by Poe—proved singularly fascinating to Rossetti in his youth: indeed he always entertained a very high estimate of the powers of Poe, and of his best performances.

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reduplicated by some new Power,* must be even yet my life-porch in eternity, this door filled there, as here once of yore, even with one presence: or, if otherwise, mocking winds must whirl round a chaff-strown floor thee, and thy years, and these my words, and myself [we shall be connected throughout all eternity, or else all wrecked in annihilation].

I said—“Nay, pluck not: let the first fruit be.”
One may postpone fruition till the time for fruition is well-nigh past.
I did once say: “Nay, pluck not the first fruit—let it be. It is indeed sweet and red, as thou sayest: yet let it ripen still. The fruit-tree's bent head sees mirrored in the rivulet its own fecundity, and it bides the forthcoming day of fulness. Shall not we, at the sun's hour on that day, take our pleasure in the shade, and claim our fruit before its ripeness may fade, and eat it from the branch, and praise the tree?” But now I say: “Alas, our fruit has wooed the sun too long: it has at length fallen, and it floats adown the stream. Here are the last remaining clusters of it. Pluck them every one, and let us sup with summer; ere the gleam of autumn shall set free the pent sorrow of the year, and the woods shall wail like echoes from the sea.”
Transcribed Footnote (page 244):

* I.e., this doorway is associated with my past life on earth: this same doorway—the events of my life related to this doorway—must fashion my fate in eternity. See, for a cognate thought, the close of Sonnet 63, Inclusiveness .

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Once more the changed year's turning wheel returns.
Once more does the changed year's turning wheel return. And as a girl sways balanced in the wind, and, now before and now again behind, stoops as it swoops, her cheek laughing and burning, so does Spring come merrily towards me here; but she earns no answering smile from me, whose life is twined with the dead boughs which winter still must bind, and whom to-day the Spring no more concerns. Behold, this crocus of the early springtime is but like a flame flickering to extinction; this snowdrop is but like snow; the function of this apple-blossom is but to breed that fruit [the apple of the Garden of Eden] which in its turn breeds the serpent's malice. Nay, as for all these spring-flowers, turn thy face from them, nor stay till on the year's latest lily-stem the white cup shall shrivel round the golden heart.

Sweet stream-fed glen, why say farewell to thee.
Sweet stream-fed glen, why should I say “fare-well” to thee who dost already fare so well, and who findest for ever smooth and placid the brow of Time, that brow whereon man may read no ruth? Rather would it be for thee to say “fare-well” to me, who now fare forth in fantasy bitterer than erst was mine in spots where another shade soothed me by other streams, when in fragrant youth the bliss of being sad made up the sum of my melancholy. And yet “fare-well” to thee! For better shalt thou fare in hours to come, when children shall be bathing sweet faces in thy flow, and when happy lovers shall be blending sweet
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shadows there, than when, an hour ago, thine echoes had but to bear one man's sighs, and thy trees whispered what he feared to know.

What is the sorriest thing that enters Hell?
The drift of this sonnet is no doubt clear enough. But it may be worth while to call attention to its double character—(1) as an ethical meditation, and (2) as an apologue, or spiritual impersonation.—(1) The ethical meditation is to the effect that the damnation or eternal condemnation of sin is not so dreadful a thing to reflect upon as the fact that a soul, sinful at last, may have been virtuous at first, and thus, when the soul is finally condemned, its virtues may be regarded as damned along with its sins.—(2) The apologue can be presented thus. A virtuous deed, the offspring of a human Soul, is a fair Virgin, who, were the Soul then to pass out of earthly life, would become a saint in heaven. But the Soul afterwards commits a mortal sin—links itself to Sin. The destiny of the Sin is that, when the Soul dies, she shall become the bride of the Devil: but, even while the Sin is “still blithe on earth,” the fair Virgin, the virtuous deed, has her prospective sainthood forfeited, and is sucked down helpless into the pit of doom.
What is the sorriest thing that enters Hell? Not any of the sins—but this and that fair deed which a soul's sin could at length supersede and nullify. These fair deeds are yet virgins, whom death, had but his knell sounded in time, might once have sainted; but whom now the fiends compel together, in snake-bound shuddering sheaves of anguish, while the pit's pollution
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leaves their refuse maidenhood abominable. Night sucks them down, the tribute of the pit of hell,—them whose names, half entered in the book of Life, had been God's desire at noon. And, as their hair and eyes sink last, the Torturer, the King of Hell, deigns not to gaze on them, but he yearningly awaits his destined wife—that Sin, still blithe on earth, that sent them to the pit.

The lost days of my life until to-day.
To lose one's days, to squander one's time, is like committing suicide in instalments. Every lost day is a part of oneself—a self—a murdered self.
The lost days of my life until to-day—what would they be like, could I see them lying on the street, just as they fell? Would they present the image of ears of wheat, which were once sown for food, but have now been trodden into clay? or of golden coins, squandered, and still due for payment? or of drops of blood dabbling my guilty feet? or of such spilt water as in dreams must cheat the undying throats of souls in hell, athirst for ever? I do not see those days here on earth; but, after death, God knows I know what are the faces which I shall see, each one of them a murdered self, with low last breath. Lo, each of them says to me: ““I am thyself—what hast thou done to me?—“And I—and I—thyself.”” “And thou thyself to all eternity.”

When first that horse within whose populous womb.
The application of this sonnet is not entirely clear to me. It will be observed that, except for its last two
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lines, the sonnet consists entirely of a reference to two acts of heroic self-discipline recorded of Ulysses. Then in the last two lines comes the application. This application, as I apprehend it, is an appeal of the Poet to his own moral conscience, and relates to the question of a noble or degrading tone in the poetry which he affects, as writer or reader. Will he, like Ulysses, disregard and disdain the blandishment of the song of the Sirens, and of the wiles of Helen?
When first that [wooden] horse, within whose peopled cavity the death of the Trojans was being prepared (as though the offspring of the womb were to be death), overshadowed Troy with her approaching fate, the Trojan elders, having some suspicion that it might be freighted with Greeks, brought Helen thither to sing the songs of her Grecian home. She accordingly whispered: Friends, I am alone: come, come! Then Ulysses, crouched within the horse, waxed afraid of what might ensue; and he laid his hands on his comrades' quivering mouths, and held them tight till Helen's voice was silent. This same Ulysses, lashed to the mast of his own ship, there where the sea-flowers screen the charnel-caves, passed beside the island of the song of the Sirens, until the sweetness of their chaunt had ceased to be audible along the inveterate waves [the waves whose clang mingled with the voice of the Sirens, and finally overpowered it]. . . . Say, my soul!—to thee also, as to Ulysses, are songs of death no celestial melody [as in the incident of the Sirens]? and does the lip of victory call up no blush of shame upon her cheek [as in the incident of Helen]?
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That lamp thou fill'st in Eros' name to-night.
[Rossetti's note—After the deaths of Leander and of Hero, the signal-lamp was dedicated to Anteros, with the edict that no man should light it unless his love had proved fortunate].*
O Hero, the Sestian augurs† shall to-morrow take that lamp which thou fillest to-night in the name of Eros, and, for drowned Leander's sake, they shall plight to Anteros its fireless lip. Ay, waft thou the unspoken vow; yet dawn's first light must break on ebbing storm, and on life twice ebbed—Leander's life and thine own; and meanwhile lo where Love, Death's pallid neophyte, walks beneath no sunrise, by the Avernian lake. That lamp shall stand unlit within the shadowy shrine of Anteros (for so the gods decree) till some one man shall see a happy issue to a life's love, and shall thereupon bid its flame to shine. And the lamp may still remain unfired; for, O my brother, what did love—the love of Leander and Hero, or thine own love—bring either to them or to thee?

Ye who have passed Death's haggard hills, and ye.
O ye who have passed Death's haggard hills [ye the dead], and ye [the now living] whom trees which erewhile knew your sires shall cease to know, and shall still
Transcribed Footnote (page 249):

* Rossetti intended to paint a picture of Hero with her lamp: it remained unexecuted. This sonnet may probably have been written to serve as an adjunct to the picture.

Transcribed Footnote (page 249):

† Augurs, as being a Latin and not a Grecian appellation, is not quite correct here.

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Transcribed Footnote (page 250):

* A good deal of meaning seems condensed into the single epithetunabashed. It indicates (1) that no response is vouchsafed, and (2) that the “sphinx-faced decree” continues as portentously calm and inscrutable as if no question had been asked and left unanswered.

stand silent! is it all a mere show? a will-o'-the-wisp that laughs [glints and shimmers] upon the wall? the decree of some inexorable supremacy which ever, as man strains his blind surmise from depth to ominous depth, looks past his eyes, Sphinx-faced with unabashed* augury. Nay, rather do thou question the Earth's self [rather than the generations of the dead and the living.] Invoke the storm-felled forest-trees, moss-grown to-day, whose roots form hillocks on which the children play; or ask the silver sapling what is the yoke beneath which those stars, the clustering gems which bedeck his crown of spray-like foliage, shall still fare upon their journey when his boughs shall have shrunk with age.

Get thee behind me. Even as, heavy-curled.
Get thee behind me, Satan. Even as a charioteer, with long heavy ringlets, when stooping against the wind, can be snatched out of his chariot by the force of the blast upon his hair, so shall Time finally be; and as the void car, hurled abroad by reinless steeds, even so the world: yea, even as chariot-dust upon the air, it shall be sought and not found anywhere. Get thee behind me, Satan. Thy perilous wings, often unfurled, can beat and break like lath much mightiness of men, so winning thee praise. But do thou leave these weak feet
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of mine to tread in narrow ways.*Thou still, upon the broad vine-sheltered path,† mayst for certain years and certain months and days await the turning of the phials of divine wrath.

As when two men have loved a woman well.
As when two men have loved a woman well, each hating the other, through‡ Love's and Death's deceit; since not for either of them is this stark marriage-sheet of hers [the death-shroud], and the long pauses of this wedding-bell [funeral-bell]; yet over her grave the night and day, with cold and heat, dispel at last their forlorn feud, and the two lives which can tell the most of her may fleet to death not other than dear friends:—Thus separate hopes, which in a soul had wooed the one same Peace [object of desire, goal of aspiration], strove with each other long, and Peace ultimately perished before their faces [the aspiration remained unfulfilled]; thus do those hopes, in restless brotherhood, now roam together through that soul, and wind among its bye-streets, knocking at the dusty inns.
This seems to me one of the most singular of the sonnets, both in thought and in some parts of its diction—particularly the close; one of the most readily remembered, but hardly of the most satisfying. I do not know what train of thought or of feeling impelled my
Transcribed Footnote (page 251):

* “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 251):

† “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 251):

‡ It may be questioned whether in this passage through means “because of” (motive), or “throughout” (duration).

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brother to write the sonnet, but should conjecture that it was composed at some moment of discontent with his own endeavours, whether as painter or as poet. According to this view, the “separate hopes which in a soul had wooed the one same Peace” would be his efforts, partly in the form of painting and partly in that of poetry, at obtaining eminence (by which I do not mean worldly reputation so much as adequate self-development). This hoped-for eminence is now contemplated as unattainable, or at any rate unattained; and the efforts themselves “roam together through that soul,” its obscurer bye-ways and disused halting-places.
92— THE SUN'S SHAME (1).

Beholding youth and hope in mockery caught.
Beholding youth and hope caught away, as in mockery, from life; and pulses of life which mockingly remain when the soul's death has already come to crave for bodily death; honour unattained by one who deserves it, and attained by another who neither deserved nor sought it; and penury's sedulous self-torturing thought on gold, which meanwhile is possessed by one who buys therewith only his own bane; and the longed-for woman longing all in vain for the man who, lonely, is distraught with love's desire; and wealth and strength and power and pleasantness given to bodies of men as to whose souls people say—“None are so poor, weak, slavish, and foul, as they are”:—beholding all these things, I behold no less the blushing morn and blushing eve confess the shame which loads the intolerable day.
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93— THE SUN'S SHAME (2).

As some true chief of men, bowed down with stress.
As some true chief of men, bowed down with the stress of disastrous old age, may gaze on blossoming youth, and may murmur with self-pity and ruth—“Might I but possess thy fruitless treasure [that treasure of youth and opportunity which thou possessest, without turning it to any good account], then all coming years would bless the blessing thus conferred upon me;” then he sends one sigh forth to the unknown goal, and bitterly does he feel breathe against his soul the swift-winged hour of nearer nothingness [death]:—Even so must the world's grey soul, perchance, cry at some hour to the green world: “Woe's me, for whom inveteracy of ill portends the coming doom—me whose heart's old fire is furled [flickering to extinction] in the shadow of shame; while thou, even as of yore, art journeying, all soulless now, yet merry with the Spring!”

Great Michelangelo, with age grown bleak.
Great Michelangelo, grown bleak with age and uttermost labours, having on one occasion recounted all grievous memories shed upon his long life, spoke out to one true heart* this worst of all his regrets:—That, when, with sorrowing love and meek reverence, he stooped over the dying bed of sweet Vittoria Colonna, his Muse and dominant lady, espoused to him in spirit, he kissed only her hand, but not her
Transcribed Footnote (page 253):

* This was Condivi, the scholar and biographer of Michelangelo: it is from Condivi that the statement in the text comes.

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brow or cheek.—O Buonarruoti, good at Art's fire-wheels,* to urge-on her chariot—even thus the soul, touching at length some goal attained only with sore chastening, earns oftenest but a little. Her appeals were deep and mute: her claim—that which she succeeds in securing—is but lowly.—But let this be. What does Death's garner [as distinguished from the mundane Life] hold for her? and what for thee?

Around the vase of Life at your slow pace.
This sonnet (which is a comparatively early performance) is made up entirely of imagery, and requires a little scrutiny preparatory to our reading it off.—1, Human Life is figured as a vase sculptured with a bas-relief: the bas-relief represents a youth running a race, which he wins, and stands crowned. 2, A certain person, whom we may regard as a man rich in faculty and bold in enterprise—a man of genius—does not, like other less finely-endowed men, creep
Transcribed Footnote (page 254):

* Rossetti here takes the surname Buonarruoti, and assumes that it is compounded of the words buon-a-ruote— i.e, “good at wheels.” I think this is decidedly incorrect. The true derivation of the name Buonarruoti—or Buonarruoto, for it would be preferable to consider the name in its singular number—must beBuon-arruoto, which means “Good adjutant”—the primary meaning of the word arruoto being “addition, supplement.” According to the constitution of the Florentine Republic, the sixteen Gonfalonieri were assisted, or supplemented, by eighty citizens of the plebeian class, who had to supervise suffrages and elections, and declare their result. These eighty men were termed Arruoti, or Adjutants. It seems more than probable that some ancestor of Michelangelo Buonarruoti may have distinguished himself by probity in this employ, and may hence have earned the name of Buon-arruoto, which devolved upon his descendants.

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around this vase; but turns it from side to side, and masters its imaged significance. 3, He fills it with the rapid and ardent experiences of his career, and it is finally to receive his own ashes.—These are the principal contents of the sonnet: but some details, perhaps rather obscurely expressed, will remain to be considered as we proceed.—I never knew whether my brother was thinking of some particular “man of genius” when he wrote this sonnet: but have always suspected that he had in his eye his own early colleague in the race of life and of art, the illustrious painter whom we now know by the name of Sir John Millais.
He has not crept at your slow pace around the vase of Life; but he has turned it about with his hands, and he already understands all its sides, with their sculptured imagery. In that imagery—there, one personage, with his loins girded, is breathing alert for some great race; his road runs far, now by bare sands, now along fruitful spaces; he laughs, but, pausing not, he has passed through the jolly throng who are intent on their pastimes; he weeps, but he stays not for weeping; at last, still a youth, he stands somewhere crowned, with silent face.And now the man who turned this vase about has filled it with wine for blood;* with blood for tears; with spice to
Transcribed Footnote (page 255):


  • “And he has filled this vase with wine for blood,
  • With blood for tears, with spice for burning vow,
  • With watered flowers for buried love most fit.”
The use of the word “for” in these lines is not quite clear to me. In the first line “for” appears to mean “instead of,” and so perhaps in the earlier instance in the second line: wine instead of blood, and blood instead of tears. The next “for” appears to mean “on account of,” or “by way of”: spice by way of burnt-offering. In the last line “for“ has its natural primary sense, following the adjective
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“fit.” Madame Couve translates thus: “De sa coupe déborde plus de vin que de sang; puis plus de sang que de larmes.” If the reader thinks that, even after these explanations, the total drift of the passage is not plain, I do not dissent from him.

be burned in fulfilment of a vow; with watered flowers, most fit for a love now buried: and he would have cast it shattered to the flood, yet, in Fate's name, has kept it whole: and now the vase stands empty, until the man's own ashes shall fall into it.

As thy friend's face, with shadow of soul o'erspread.
As the face of a friend of thine, when overspread with shadow of soul (deep gloom and melancholy), may perchance, at some time or other, have been ghastly and strange to thy sight, and yet his face, when thou art thinking of it, is never seen under this aspect, but wedded to all fortunate favour (with a cheerful and serene semblance); or as the features of thy love, now death-bound, do not ever return to memory's glass under the aspect of death, but they contravene frail fugitive days, and always preserve* a loveliness more living than all later life:—so does Life herself, thy spirit's friend and love, still glow, as Spring's authentic harbinger, with fresh hours for hope to glorify; though she lay pale when in the wintry grove her funeral-flowers were but snow-flakes shed on her, and the red wings of frost-glow rent the sky.
Transcribed Footnote (page 256):

* I miss out the phrase “I ween.“ It is a mere sorry make-rhyme here, and so it always is whenever it occurs at the end of a rhyming line. My brother certainly did not succumb to it often; perhaps not in any passage other than this.

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Sig. R

Look in my face: my name is Might-have-been.
The subject of this sonnet is “the Sense of Loss.” Chiefly, the sense of loss in the death of one supremely beloved is referred to; but we should not wholly exclude from the purview the sense of loss in any lost opportunity, any duty irrecoverably neglected, and the like (compare Sonnet 86, Lost Days ). In the present sonnet the Sense of Loss is spoken of as remaining comparatively dull and passive, under the ordinary conditions of life; but as re-asserting itself with direful force at moments when the soul feels beguiled into happiness or contentment. Then comes the re-action—the feeling of what “might have been”—the ache of unforgiving memory.
Look in my face: my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell. I hold to thine ear the Dead-Sea shell cast up between the foam-fretted feet of thy life.* I hold to thine eyes the glass wherein is seen that which once had the form of Life and Love, but which, by my spell, has now become a shaken intolerable shadow, the frail screen of ultimate things unuttered. Mark me, how still I am. But, if for one moment there should dart through thy soul the soft surprise of that winged Peace which lulls the breath of
Transcribed Footnote (page 257):

* This image is worded with great condensation, and may bear some expanding. The person addressed—whom we may identify with the poet himself—is figured (or in strictness his “life” is figured) as standing on the margin of the Sea of Death, here, by a rapid verbal analogy, fused into the “Dead Sea.” His feet are fretted with the foam from the Sea of Death. A shell, cast up from this sea, is held to his ear by the embodied “No-more,” and it drones out to him the murmurous dirge of one already sunk in the Sea of Death—the one loved and lost.

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Note: Typo: on page 258, in the fourth sentence of the second paragraph of the "He and I" section, the word "atmophere" is printed rather than "atmosphere."
sighs, then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart thy visage to the ambush which I maintain at thy heart, lying sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
98— HE AND I.

Whence came his feet into my field, and why?
This sonnet exhibits the dismal surprise with which a man finds that he is no longer himself, and yet is himself. He used to be youthful and buoyant: how is it that he is now ageing and dejected?
Whence came his feet [the feet of this new and melancholy occupant] into my field [of life], and why? How is it that he sees it all so drear? How do I see his seeing,* and how hear the name by which his bitter silence knows it? This was the little fold of separate sky whose pasturing clouds, within the soul's atmophere, drew living light from one continual year. How should he find it lifeless? Is it he who finds it lifeless, or is it I? Lo, this new Self now wanders round my field, with plaints for every flower, and for each tree a moan, the sighing wind's auxiliary; and he weeps over sweet waters of my life, which yield to his lips no draught save only tears unsealed—even in my place he weeps. He? No, I—not he.

To-day Death seems to me an infant child.
This is the utterance of a man who feels himself growing old, or for some other reason nearing the close
Transcribed Footnote (page 258):

* I.e., How do I see some object—any and every object—under the same aspect in which he sees it? and how do I hear it named or designated accordingly, although he, in his bitter silence, leaves it unnamed?

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Sig. R 2
of his career. My brother was not in fact old when he wrote the verses, the date of which is not later than 1869, when his age was forty-one. Death is figured as the child of Life. The child is as yet an infant—it is only incipient Death: Life sets it to dally with the man, so that the two may familiarize themselves one with the other before they depart together from this world. When the moment for departure comes, will Death be still a mere child, or will she be full-grown, and welcome to the man like a helpful daughter? In other words—is he to die soon, or only after a long interval of decadence, by the end of which he shall wish for death?
To-day Death seems to me (as it were) an infant child which her worn mother Life has set upon my knee, so that it may grow to be my friend, and may play with me; if haply my heart might thus be beguiled into finding no terrors in a face so mild—if haply my weary heart might thus, O Death, be reconciled to thy newborn milky eyes, before resentment ensues. How long is it to delay, O Death? Shall thy feet depart along with mine, still the feet of a young child? or, on the contrary, wilt thou stand full-grown, the helpful daughter of my heart, at that time when I, together with thee, shall indeed reach the strand of the pale wave which knows thee for what thou art, and when I drink that wave out of the hollow of thy hand?

And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss.
In the preceding sonnet we found Death spoken of as the child of Life—an image which requires no laboured
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explanation; as Life obviously brings forth, or results in, Death. In the present sonnet the same image receives further development. Life and the speaker had of yore been the parents of Love, and Song, and Art: or (literally expressed) the speaker had in his prime been lover, poet, and painter. As his existence dwindles and decays, so those three children have dwindled and decayed. His Love and Song and Art are now contemplated as dead: and the only offspring which remains from his union with Life is this newborn Death.
And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss, with whom, when thy youthful heart and mine beat full and fast, I wandered till the haunts of men were passed, and in fair places found all bowers amiss till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,* while we cast to the winds all thought of Death:—ah Life! and must I have from thee at last no smile to greet me, and no babe but this?—Lo, Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose hair blew like a flame, and blossomed like a wreath; and Art, whose eyes were as worlds found fair by God. These, with neck-twined arms, mixed their breath over the book of Nature, as we often watched them there: and did these die that thou mightst bear me Death?

When vain desire at last and vain regret.
This final sonnet seems to me clear. Still, the imagery is a little complex, and may bear some words of
Transcribed Footnote (page 260):

* Our kiss is certainly—according to the scheme of the imagery and of the diction—the kiss of the speaker and of (his allegorical bride) Life. But here—as in so many other cases in poetry—it is fair

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to understand a something implied, as well as a something defined; and one perceives the poet to be thinking more of some actual experience in love than of his symbolic union with Life.

exposition. The poet first asks himself the question: “When I die, the puppet to the last of desire and regret, how will my soul stand in relation to these feelings?” He looks forward to final peace of soul—not annihilation*; but he queries whether this peace will be attained soon, or after long delay. Then comes (occupying the residue of the sonnet) the image under which he figures the possibility of an early attainment of peace. He imagines the Soul, in its new condition, stooping “through the spray of some sweet life-fountain,” and culling a flower inscribed (as the Greek fancy assumed the hyacinth to be inscribed) with some lettering, indicating what is to be the boon accorded to the Soul as its portion in eternity. What he longs to find inscribed upon the flower is “the one Hope's one name”—that is, the name of the woman supremely beloved upon earth.
When at last vain desire and vain regret shall go hand-in hand to death, and all shall be vain, what shall assuage the unforgotten pain, and teach the unforgetful Soul to forget? Must Peace be still for a long while unmet like a stream sunk in the soil? or may the Soul, in
Transcribed Footnote (page 261):

* Other sonnets which bear upon this point are Nos. 37, The Love-Moon ; 43, Love and Hope ; 44, Cloud and Wind ; 50, Willow-wood ; 55, Stillborn Love ; 63, Inclusiveness ; 66, The Heart of the Night ; 81, Memorial Thresholds ; 85, Vain Virtues ; 86, Lost Days ; and 99, Newborn Death . In Nos. 37, 50, 55, and 66, an expectation of immortality is sufficiently indicated; so also (though here the phrases might be more open to be regarded as poetical or conventional terms) in 63, 85, and 86. No. 99 does not afford any clear intimation. Nos. 43, 44, and 81, express uncertainty—a mind in suspense.

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a green plain, stoop at once through the spray of some sweet life-fountain, and cull the dew-drenched amulet-flower? Ah when the wan Soul, in that golden air, peers breathless between the scriptured petals softly blown for the unknown gift of grace—ah let no other alien spell whatsoever be there, but only the one Hope's one name—not less nor more, but even that word alone!
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