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I could not be much concerned about the unwillingness to give me a new sonnet
which Rossetti at first exhibited, for I knew full well that sooner or later the
sonnet would come. Not that I recognised in him the faintest scintillation of
the affectation so common among authors as to the publication of work. But the
fear of any appearance of collusion between himself and his critics was, as he
said, a bugbear that constantly haunted him. Owing to this, a stranger often
stood a better chance of securing his ready and open co-operation than the most
intimate of friends. I frequently yielded to his desire that in anything that I
might write his name should not be mentioned—too frequently by far,
to my infinite vexation at the time, and now to my deep and ineradicable regret.
The sonnet-book out of which arose much of the correspondence printed in this
chapter, contains in its preface and notes hardly an allusion to him, and yet he
was, in my judgment, out of all reach and sight, the greatest sonnet-writer of
his time. The sonnet first sent was
“Pride of Youth”
, but as this formed part of
“The House of Life”
series, it was withdrawn, and
“Raleigh's Cell in the Tower”
was substituted. The following hitherto unpublished sonnet was also
contributed but withdrawn at the last moment, because of its being out of
harmony with the sonnets selected to accompany it:
- O ruff-embastioned vast Elizabeth,
- Bush to these bushel-bellied casks of wine,
- Home-growth, 'tis true, but rank as turpentine,—
- What would we with such skittle-plays at death?
- Say, must we watch these brawlers' brandished lathe,
- Or to their reeking wit our ears incline,
- Because all Castaly flowed crystalline
- In gentle Shakspeare's modulated breath?
- What! must our drama with the rat-pit vie,
10Nor the scene close while one is left to kill?
- Shall this be poetry? And thou—thou man
- Of blood, thou cannibalic Caliban,
- What shall be said to thee?—a poet?—Fie!
- “An honourable murderer, if you will.”
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