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THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

AT CHAPEL HILL 




ENDOWED BY THE 

DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 

SOCIETIES 



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PR5246. 
.A51 




This book is due at the WALTER R. DAVIS LIBRARY on 
the last date stamped under "Date Due." If not on hold it 
may be renewed by bringing it to the library 



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Dante Gabriel Rossetti 



VOL. I. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://archive.org/details/dantegabrielross01ross 




By Himself. 



1855. 



Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 



V, \ 



Dante Gabriel Rossetti /"£«■ 



HIS FAMILY-LETTERS 



WITH A MEMOIR 



WILLIAM MICHAEL ROSSETTI 



WAN US ANIMAM PINXIT 



VOL. I. 




BOSTON 

ROBERTS BROTHERS 
1895 



DEDICATED TO 

MY FOUR CHILDREN 

WITH A FATHER'S HOPE 
THAT RELATIVES OF 

DANTE AND CHRISTINA ROSSETTI 

AND DESCENDANTS OF 

GABRIELE AND FRANCES ROSSETTI 

WILL UPHOLD THE CREDIT OF 

THEIR PATRONYMIC. 



■? r 518880 

v. / 



PREFACE. 



IN his Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1882) Mr. 
Hall Caine has informed us : " It was always known to 
be Rossetti's wish that, if at any moment after his death it 
should appear that the story of his life required to be written, 
the one friend who, during many of his later years, knew him 
most intimately, and to whom he unlocked the most sacred 
secrets of his heart, Mr. Theodore Watts, should write it, 
unless indeed it were undertaken by his brother William." 
Dante Rossetti died on 9 April 1882; and after the lapse 
of a few months I decided to put his Family-Letters into shape 
for early publication. Mr. Watts acquiesced in the wish 
which I then entertained, and which I should still entertain, 
that he, rather than myself, should be the biographer, writing 
a Memoir to accompany the Letters. Doubtless he saw 
reason for not producing his Memoir so soon as I had been 
expecting it ; therefore, after a rather long interval of years, 
I resolved in July 1894 that the Letters must now come 
out, and, as they could not be unlinked with a Memoir, that 
I myself would write it. The result is before the reader. 
If he would have preferred a Memoir from Mr. Watts, I 
sympathize with him, but the option had ceased to be mine. 
There are several reasons why a brother neither is nor can 
be the best biographer. Feeling this, I had always intended 



X PREFACE. 

not to write a Life of Dante Rossetti. But circumstances 
have proved too strong for me, and I submit to their 
dictate. 

Had the book been published towards 1883, the Letters 
would have extended very little beyond those addressed to 
my Mother and to myself. There were then also a couple 
to my Father, and a very few to my Sister Christina. I am 
now enabled to add some to my Grandfather Gaetano 
Polidori, my Uncle Henry Francis Polydore, my Aunt 
Charlotte Lydia Polidori, and my Wife Lucy Madox 
Rossetti ; also some others to Christina which, as they 
contain expressions of approval with regard to her writings, 
she had herself with-held. No letters to other members of 
the family appear to be in existence, though several must 
have been written. 

The technical arrangement of the printed correspondence 
can easily be understood. The letters are all thrown into a 
single sequence, according to the order of date : they are 
lettered from A to H, for the persons respectively addressed, 
and each sub-division is progressively numbered within its 
own limits. In every case where a letter seems to require 
any explanatory note or observation, I have supplied this 
in a few preliminary words. The dates, when not written 
by my brother himself, were in most cases jotted down at 
the time by the recipient : in a few instances, where this was 
omitted, the dates now given are approximate. Addresses 
are also frequently inserted in like manner. I have preserved 
(and must ask the reader to pardon my mentioning so minute 
a point) one instance of each form of subscribed name ; and 
have also reproduced the name in other cases where it seems 
more apposite to do so. In contrary instances I omit both 
the name and the words of subscription which precede it. 
Some other Family-Letters exist, addressed to the same 



PREFACE. xi 

persons ; but these are such as even a brother cannot suppose 
to be of any public interest. From those here collected 
some passages are omitted which, on one ground or another, 
are considered to be unsuited for printing; but on the whole 
I have been sparing of excisions. Of the items admitted, 
several are indeed short and scrappy ; I have not however 
included anything which appears to me to be entirely unin- 
teresting to persons interested in Dante Rossetti. Some 
letters, otherwise slight, fix the date of a picture or poem ; 
others show some trait of character, or contain some pointed 
or diverting expression. 

The letters, such as they are, shall be left to speak mainly 
for themselves. Their language is constantly unadorned, 
often colloquial ; the tone of mind in them, concentrated ; 
the feeling, while solid and sincere, uneffusive. Their 
subject-matter is very generally personal to the writer, 
without discursiveness of outlook, or eloquent or picturesque 
description ; yet the spirit is not egotistical or self-assertive. 
If I am wrong in these opinions, the reader will decide the 
point for himself. 

My brother was a rapid letter-writer, and on occasion a 
very prompt one, but not negligent or haphazard. He always 
wrote to the point, without amplification, or any effort after 
the major or minor graces of diction or rhetoric. Multitudes 
of his letters must still presumably be extant in private 
hands : a representative collection of them might be found 
to confirm the impression which I should like to ensue from 
the present series — that as a correspondent he was straight- 
forward, pleasant, and noticeably free from any calculated 
self-display. " Disinvolto " would be the Italian word. 

Some persons may approve, others will disapprove, of the 
publication of these Family-Letters. I print them because 
the doing so commends itself to my own mind. At a very 



xii PREFACE. 

childish age I was familiar with the old apologue of the Man 
and his Son and the Donkey : it impressed me as equally 
true and practical. I have always been conscious that 
opinions will be as numerous as readers, and prefer to suit 
the opinions of those who happen to agree with myself. 

Recently I have had a painful reason for realizing to 
myself a very pleasurable fact — that of the high estimation 
in which my brother, himself no less than his work, is now 
publicly held, some thirteen years after he passed away. The 
death of my beloved sister Christina, on 29 December 1894, 
called forth a flood of not undeserved but assuredly very 
fervent praise ; and in the eulogies of her were intermixed 
many warm tributes to my brother — I might say, without a 
dissentient voice. 

As regards my Memoir, I, having large knowledge and 
numerous materials, have not consulted a single person 
except Christina, who, during the earlier weeks of my under- 
taking, gave me orally the benefit of many reminiscences 
relating chiefly to years of childhood, and often kept me right 
upon details as to which I should have stumbled. On her 
bed of pain and rapidly approaching death she preserved a 
singularly clear recollection of olden facts, and was cheered 
in going over them with me. 

Some readers of the Memoir may be inclined to ask me — 
" Have you told everything, of a substantial kind, that you 
know about your deceased brother ? " — My answer shall be 
given beforehand, and without disguise : " No ; I have told 
what 1 choose to tell, and have left untold what I do not 
choose to tell ; if you want more, be pleased to consult some 
other informant." 

One word in conclusion. In case the present book should 
find favour with the public, I should be disposed to rummage 



PREFACE. Xlll 

among my ample stock of materials, and produce a number 
of details relating not only to my brother, but also to other 
members or connexions of the family. But at the age of 
sixty-five a man finds the horizon of his work narrowed, and 
rapidly narrowing ; and possibly this will not be. 



W. M. ROSSETTI. 



St. Edmund's Terrace, London. 
April 1895. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

Dedication vii 

Preface ix 

Memoir 3 

I. 

BIRTH. 

Dante Rossetti's birth in London, 1828— His Godfathers 3 

II. 

PARENTAGE. 

Gabriele (Father of Dante) Rossetti — His birth in Vasto— His Parents 
and Brothers — His drawings, studies, and writings, in Italy — 
His political lyrics and exile — Malta and John Hookham Frere — 
Life in London — His death — His character, opinions, person, etc. — 
His writings in England on Dante, etc. — Carducci's opinion of 
his poetry — The centenary of his birth, Vasto — Descriptions of 
him by Bell Scott and Frederic Stephens — Mrs. Gabriele Rossetti, 
her life, character, and person — Some versicles of hers ... 3 

III. 

RELA TIVES. 

Dante Rossetti's Great-grandfathers — His maternal Grandfather, Gae- 
tano Polidori, Secretary to Alfieri, and Italian teacher in London — 
Anecdotes of the Frencli Revolution and of Alfieri — Polidori's 
person, character, and writings — Mrs. Polidori — Her Father, 
William Pierce — Connexions of the Pierce family, Mrs, Bray, 



xvi CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

etc. — Mrs. Polidori's closing years — Her sister and children — 
Dr. John William Polidori and his writings — Teodorico Pietro- 
cola-Rossetti — Extinction of the Rossetti family in Vasto — 
Instances of longevity ......... 24 

IV. 

CHILDHOOD. 

The four children of Gabriele Rossetti — Houses in Charlotte Street — ■ 
Dante Rossetti and his Sister Maria — Walks about London, etc. — 
Pet animals — Sights and entertainments in London — Singing, 
card-playing, illness, etc. — First attempt at drawing, and resolve 
to be a painter — Theatrical and other prints . . . . .36 

V. 

ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 

The Potters and other British friends — Numerous Italian friends of 
Gabriele Rossetti — Pistrucci, Sangiovanni, etc. — Protestantizing 
Italians — Mazzini and Panizzi — Talks on politics — John Stuart 
Mill on Continental and English Life 44 

VI: 

CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 

Dante Rossetti's early training — The Bible, Shakespear, Gothe, Walter 
Scott, etc. — Childish drawings from Henry VI. — Rossetti's opinion 
of Scott's novels, 1871 — Books of prints and the National Gallery 
— Dante's poems read later on — Childish drama, The Slave, etc.- — 
Childish drawings— Dante Rossetti fortunate in his family 
surroundings ........... 57 

VII. 

SCHOOL. 

Dante Rossetti's first school, Mr. Paul's, 1836 — School-life not favour- 
able to his character — To King's College School, 1837 — The Cayley 
brothers — What Dante Rossetti learned — His various Masters, 
including John Sell Cotman the painter — Mr. Caine's account of 
Rossetti's school-life discussed — Parallel with Edgar Poe's school- 
life — School-fellows — School-exercise on China, and Christina 
Rossetti's verses thereon ........ 68 



CONTENTS. XV11 

VIII. 
HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL— SIR HUGH THE HERON. 

PAGE 

Polidori's country-house at Holmer Green, and his house in London — 
Accident with a chisel — Boyish drawings from the Iliad — Dante 
Rossetti reads Byron, Dickens, Brigand Tales, French novels, etc. 
— He writes a prose tale, Roderick and Rosalba, and a ballad- 
poem, Sir Hugh the Heron, which is privately printed, also 
William and Marie — His note on Hugh Heron — Boyish draw- 
ings — Studies German under Dr. Heimann — Intimacy with the 
Heimann family . . . . . . 79 

IX. 

STUDY FOR THE PAINTING PROFESSION— CARY'S AND 
THE R.A. 

Dante Rossetti leaves school, 1842, and goes to Cary's Drawing 
Academy — His American friend, Thomas Doughty, and his family 
— Charley Ware, and his portrait-group — Bailey's Festus, and 
verses The Atheist — Studies and habits at Cary's — Sonnets from 
the Italian, and Bouts-rimes sonnets — The Westminster Hall 
cartoon-competitions — Proceeds to the R.A. antique school, 1846 
— Disinclination to any obligatory study or work — Millais, Hol- 
man Hunt, Stephens — The Ghiberti Gates — Hunt on Rossetti's 
appearance and demeanour — A fellow-student's reminiscence — ■ 
Rossetti's immethodical habits — Theatre-going . . . .88 

X. 

STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 

Rossetti's early sketches influenced by Gavarni — Lithographed play- 
ing-cards, etc. — Designs to Christina Rossetti's Verses, 1847 — 
His first uncompleted oil-picture, Retro me Sathana — Reads 
Shelley, Charles Wells, Maturin, Thackeray, etc., and with great 
predilection Browning — No solid reading — His prose tale, Sor- 
rentino, 1843 — Translations from the German, The Nibelungen- 
lied, Henry the Leper, etc. — Translations from the Vita Nuova, 
and lEarly Italian Poets — Tennyson's opinion of these — The 
printed opinions of Swinburne and Placci — Writes The Blessed 
Damozel, 1847 — Admiration of Edgar Poe — Other poems, My 
Sister's Sleep, Ave, Dante at Verona, Jenny, etc. — The unpublished 
Ballad, Jan van Hunks, now begun, and finished on his deathbed 
■ — Political burlesque poem, unprinted — Purchase of the MS. 
book by Blake — Rossetti's work, towards 1862, on Gilchrist's 
Life of Blake .......... 97 

VOL. I. b 



xviii CONTENTS. 

XI. 

FRIENDS TOWARDS 1847. 

PAGE 

Major Calder Campbell, Alexander Munro, William Bell Scott — Meets 
Ebenezer Jones — Rossetti's first letter to Scott, 1847 — Observa- 
tions on his poems — Rossetti sends The Blessed Damozel, and 
other Songs of the Art Catholic, to Scott — His turn of mind in 
religious matters — Scott's first visit — Rossetti writes to Browning 
about Pauline, and knows him afterwards . . . . .110 

XII. 

MADOX BROWN, HOLM AN HUNT, MILLAIS. 

Letter to Madox Brown, 1848, asking to be allowed to study painting 
under him — Rossetti's relation to the course of study at the R.A. — 
Details about Brown, and his first call on Rossetti — Rossetti set 
to still-life painting, etc. — He calls on Hunt, and consults him as 
to further painting-work — His design of Gretchen in the Church — 
The Cyclographic Society — Opinions of Millais and Hunt on the 
Gretchen — Rossetti's indifference to perspective, in which Stephens 
gives him some lessons — Forwards some poems to Leigh Hunt, 
who (letter quoted) praises them, but dissuades him from trusting 
to literature as a profession — Head of Gaetano Polidori, June 1848 
— Rossetti adopts Holman Hunt's advice as to painting, and 
shares a studio with him in Cleveland Street — Stephens's descrip- 
tion of it — Hunt takes Rossetti round to Millais in Gower Street. 1 1 5 

XIII. 

THE PRAZRAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 

Lasinio's engravings from the pictures in the Campo Santo of Pisa 
lead on directly to the Prseraphaelite movement, 1848 — Remarks 
on Millais, Hunt, and Rossetti, in this connexion — The British 
school of painting in 1848, and the term Prasraphaelite — The 
three inventors of the movement equally concerned in bringing 
it to bear — Rossetti's letter to Chesneau on this point — -Their 
close attention to detail subsidiary to other objects in the move- 
ment— Madox Brown's relation to the Brotherhood — Four other 
members of it — Details as to Woolner, Collinson, Stephens, and 
myself— Great intimacy among the P.R.B.'s. — Hunt on Rossetti's 
literary attainments — The aims of the Brotherhood discussed — 
Not a religious movement, nor directly promoted by Ruskin — 
Rossetti, in later life, disliked the term Praeraphaelite — Diary of 
the P.R.B. kept by me as Secretary — Defaced by Dan-te Rossetti 



CONTENTS. XIX 

PAGE 

— Details from this Diary as to election of Deverell, etc. — The 
P.R.B., as an organization, dropped in January 185 1 — Christina's 
sonnet The P.R.B, — " The Queen of the Praeraphaelites " — Rules 
adopted 1851 — The pictures of Millais, Hunt, and Rossetti, 
exhibited in 1849 — Rossetti's Girlhood of Mary Virgin — Three 
sonnets of his bearing on the movement — His portrait of Gabriele 
Rossetti, 1848 125 



XIV. 
FIRST EXHIBITED PICTURE, 1849. 

Rossetti sends The Girlhood of Mary Virgin to the Free Exhibition — 
The works of the Praeraphaelites favourably received by critics 
and others in 1849, but very adversely afterwards — The Athenaeum 
notice of Rossetti's first picture quoted — Sale of the picture, and 
its general success — -Treatment in this book of his pictures etc. 
in later years, and reference to another book, Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti as Designer a?id Writer . 144 

XV. 

THE GERM. 

Rossetti bent upon starting a magazine, July 1849 — Proposed titles 
and publisher — He writes the prose story Hand and Soul — 
Meeting at his studio, and choice of the title The Germ — Contents 
of No. 1, and its sale — Nos. 3 and 4 appear under the title Art 
and Poetry — Notices of the magazine — Debt upon its issue — 
Anecdotes relating to Hand and Soul — Rossetti makes an etching 
(destroyed) for this story, and begins another story An Autopsy - 
chology (or St. Agnes of Intercession} — His various contributions 
to the magazine — Verses by John L. Tupper on its expiry . .149 

XVI. 

PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1849-53. 

Trip with Holman Hunt to Paris and Belgium — Paintings and 
Designs— Rossetti's attainments in draughtsmanship, etc. — Details 
as to Ecce Ancilla Domini — Press-criticism of this picture, and 
other Prseraphaelite works of 1850 — Extract from the Athenaeum 
— The Queen and Millais's Carpenter 's Shop — Details as to 
Giotto painting Dante's Portrait, Head of Holman Hunt, Mary 
Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee, and Found — 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

Discussion as to the statement that Found is an illustration of 
Bell Scott's poem Rosabell — Rossetti's sonnet to Woolner in 
Australia — Collinson's picture of St. Elizabeth of Hungary — 
Sketching-club proposed in 1854 — Poems, Dante at Verona, 
Burden of Nineveh, Sister Helen, etc. — Rossetti desultory in 
youth, and sometimes at odds with his Father — He drops writing 
poetry, 1852 — Project of his becoming a telegraphist on the 
railway — Notion of renting No. 16 Cheyne Walk — His studios 
in Newman Street and Red Lion Square — Brown paints Rossetti's 
head as Chaucer — Rossetti settles in Chambers in Chatham 
Place, 1852 157 



XVII. 

MISS SID DAL. 

Rossetti falls in love with Miss Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, 1850 — 
Walter H. Deverell first sees her as assistant in a bonnet-shop — 
Her appearance — Deverell gets her to sit for the head of Viola 
in his picture from Twelfth Night — She also sits to Hunt and 
Millais — Her family — She sits to Rossetti for Rossovcstita, and a 
subject from the Vila Nziova, and many other paintings — An 
engagement between Miss Siddal and Rossetti dating towards 
1851 — Her tone in conversation, etc. —Her paintings and verses 
— Swinburne's estimate of her quoted, also her poem A Year 
and a Day — Her extreme ill-health — She is introduced to the 
Howitt family — Rossetti as a lover — Death of Deverell, 1854 . 171 



XVIII. 

JOHN RUSK IN. 

Ruskin not connected with the Prseraphaelite movement when first 
started — In 1851 Patmore suggests to him to write something 
on the subject, and he sends a letter to the Times — In 1853 
MacCracken calls his attention to Rossetti, and Ruskin praises two 
of his water-colours— Ruskin calls on Rossetti, April 1854 — Their 
intimacy begins, partly interrupted by the death of Gabriele 
Rossetti, and the absence of Dante Rossetti at Hastings, and of 
Ruskin abroad — Affectionate and free-spoken relations between 
Ru~kin and Rossetti — Madox Brown's dislike of Ruskin, who 
becomes the chief purchaser for a while of Rossetti's works — 
Rossetti ceases to exhibit — Ruskin's opinion of Rossetti after his 
decease — Extracts from Ruskin's letters, 1854-7 — His high regard 



CONTENTS. XXI 

PACE 

for Miss Siddal — He settles on her ^150 a year, taking her 
paintings in proportion — Cessation of this arrangement, 1857 — 
She goes abroad with Mrs. Kincaid, 1855, returning 1856 — Decline 
of her health — My own acquaintance with Ruskin — Rossetti 
admires him as a lecturer— Letter from Rossetti to MacCracken, 
Extract . . . . . .178 



XIX. 

WORK IN 1854-5-6. 

Water-colours from Dante, etc. — Paolo and Franccsca, Passover in 
Holy Family, Head of Browning, Dante s Dream, Designs from 
Tennyson, etc. — The Seed of David, Triptych in Llandaff Cathe- 
dral — General characteristics of Rossetti's style at this period — - 
Troubles with the Tennyson designs, and Tennyson's own views 
of them — Sketches of Tennyson reading Maud — The Seddon^ 
and the Triptych — The Elite Closet, water-colour, and William 
Morris — The Wedding of St. George — James Smetham, and his 
remarks hereon 187 



XX. 

OXFORD MEN AND WORK—BURNE-JONES, MORRIS, 
SWINBURNE. 

Friends of Rossetti between 1847 and 1855 — Burne-Jones calls upon 
him, June 1856, and is advised by Rossetti to adopt painting as 
a profession — Afterwards Rossetti knows Morris and Swinburne 
— The architect of the Oxford Museum, Woodward, invites 
Rossetti in 1855 to undertake some decorative work there— He 
does not do this, but in 1857 begins painting in the Union Debat- 
ing-Hall from the Morte d' Arthur — Morris co-operates — Details 
as to the Union-work — In 1856 Rossetti publishes The Burden of 
Nineveh and some other poems in the Oxford and Cambridge 
Magazine — Ruskin on The Burden of Nineveh — Other painters 
in the Union Hall — Ultimate spoiling of the work — Swinburne's 
introduction to Rossetti — Rossetti and his friends see in Oxford 
Miss Burden, who becomes Mrs. Morris, and from whom Rossetti 
paints many heads — The Praeraphaelite Exhibition in Russell 
Place, 1857 — Miss Siddal's ill-health takes Rossetti to Bath, etc. 
— Proposal, not carried out, for a " College," in which he and 
other artists would settle — Miss Siddal's dissent — Hunt's state- 
ment as to an " offence " by Rossetti . . . . . . 193 



xxii CONTENTS. 

XXI. 

WORK IN 1858-59. 

PAGE 

Water-colour of Mary in the House of John, oil-picture Bocca Baciata, 
etc.— Bell Scott's reference to the sitter for Bocca Baciata — Miss 
Herbert — Poems, Love's Noctum, and The Song of the Bower — 
The Hogarth Club, 1858, and paintings there exhibited . . 202 



XXII. 

MARRIAGE. 

Reasons for postponing marriage — Mr. Plint and other purchasers of 
Rossetti's pictures — Extreme ill-health ofMissSiddal at Hastings, 
April i860 — Marriage, 23 May — Wedding-trip to Paris— Enlarge- 
ment of Rossetti's views of pictorial art — His designs in Paris, 
How They Met Themselves, etc. — He returns with his wife to 
the Chambers, afterwards enlarged, in Chatham Place . . . 204 



XXIII. 

MARRIED LIFE. 

Bell Scott on Rossetti's unsuitableness for married life — Remarks 
hereon — Mrs. Rossetti intimate with the Brown, Morris, and 
Burne-Jones families — Ruskin on drawings made by Rossetti from 
her — Rossetti's intimacy with Swinburne — also with Meredith, 
Sandys, Gilchrist, etc. — Death of Gilchrist, 1861 — Mrs. Madox 
Brown's offer to help during his illness — Mrs. Rossetti's infirm 
health, and birth of a stillborn infant — Death of Mrs. H. T. Wells 
— Rossetti speaks of " getting awfully fat and torpid " . . . 208 



XXIV. 

WORK IN 1860-61— THE EARLY ITALIAN POETS— THE 
MORRIS FIRM. 

Death of Plint, and embarrassment ensuing to Rossetti, i860 — The 
Plint sale — Water-colours of Lttcrezia Borgia and of Swinburne, 
design of Cassandra, oil-picture of Fair Rosamund, etc. — Pre- 
parations for publishing The Early Italian Poets — Opinions of 
Ruskin and Patmore — Published by Smith and Elder, with some 
subsidizing from Ruskin — Favourable reception of the book, and 
result of its sale — Proposed etchings to it not produced — Rossetti 



CONTENTS. XXlll 

I'AOF. 

shows some original poems to Ruskin, with a view, unsuccessful, 
to publication in The Cornhill Magazine — -He announces a volume, 
Dante at Verona and other Poems, not actually published — 
Foundation in i860 of the firm, Morris, Marshall, Falkner, & Co. 
— Seven members, including Rossetti — Details as to Webb, 
Marshall, and Falkner — Money ventured on the firm — Good- 
fellowship of Rossetti and his partners— Methods of business, 
more especially of Morris as leading partner and manager— 
Warrington Taylor — Rossetti's designs for stained glass, etc. . 213 



XXV. 

DEATH OF MRS. DANTE ROSSETTI. 

Her illness, phthisis and neuralgia — The last painting for which she 
sat — 10 February 1862, she dines at an hotel with her husband 
and Swinburne — My contemporary note as to her death next 
morning from taking over-much laudanum — Dr. John Marshall — 
Newspaper-paragraph, showing inquest, and verdict of accidental 
death — Rossetti's sorrow and agitation— Ruskin calls, and exhibits 
a change in religious opinion — The funeral — Rossetti consigns to 
the coffin his book of MS. poems — Caine's account of this incident 
— Rossetti's letter to Mrs. Gilchrist on his wife's death . . . 220 



XXVI. 

SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 

Rossetti resolves to leave Chatham Place, and proposes to combine 
with his family and Swinburne in getting a new house — He fixes 
on No. 16 Cheyne Walk — Relinquishes the proposal as to the 
family — His water-colour, Girl at a Lattice, and crayon-head of 
his Mother — Takes chambers provisionally, 59 Lincoln's Inn 
Fields — New arrangement for Cheyne Walk, Dante Rossetti as 
tenant, with Swinburne, Meredith, and myself, as sub-tenants — 
Condition of Cheyne Walk in 1862 — Caine's account of the house 
in 1880 — Further details as to the drawing-room etc. — Taking 
possession of the house, October 1862 — Rossetti not constantly 
melancholy after his wife's death — Meredith and Swinburne as 
sub-tenants for the first two or three years — Meredith's opinion 
of Rossetti — Extracts from letters from Ruskin and Burne-Jones, 
1862 — Rossetti makes acquaintance with Whistler and Legros — 
His art-assistant Knewstub — Advance in Rossetti's professional 
income ..,.,.....,. 227 



XXIV CONTENTS. 

XXVII. 
WORK FROM 1862 TO 1868. 

PAGE 

Oil-pictures, Joan of Arc, Bcata Beatrix, The Beloved, Lilith, Venus 
Verticordia, Sibylla Palmifera, Monna Vanna, Mrs. Morris, etc. 
— Water-colours, Paolo and Fra?icesca, Return of Tibullus to 
Delia, Tristram and Yseult, etc. — Designs, Michael Scoff s Wooing, 
Aurea Catena, etc. — Details as to most of these works, also Helen 
of Troy, Aurelia, The Boat of Love, The Blue Bower, II Bamo- 
scello, La Pia, Heart of the Night, Washing Hands, Socrates 
taught to Da?ice by Aspasia, Aspecta Medusa — Erroneous impres- 
sion that Rossetti painted only from Mrs. Morris — Other sitters 
named, Christina Rossetti, Lizzie Rossetti, Mrs. Hannay, Mrs. 

Beyer, Mrs. H , Miss Wilding, Miss Mackenzie, Keomi, Ellen 

Smith, Miss Graham, Mrs. Stillman, Mrs. Sumner, etc. — Remarks 
on Mrs. Morris as his type — His letter to the Athenceum as to 
his being a painter in oils — Shields on Rossetti's use of com- 
pressed chalk — Purchasers of his works, Leathart, Rae, Graham, 
Leyland, Valpy, Mitchell, Craven, Lord Mount-Temple, Colonel 
Gillum, Trist, Gambart, Fairfax Murray — Insufficiency of Rossetti's 
studio, and its ultimate alteration — Dunn succeeds Knewstub as 
his art-assistant — Large income made by Rossetti in 1865 and 
other years — His friendly relations with purchasers — His work 
1862-3, in connexion with Gilchrist's Life of Blake . . . 238 



XXVIII. 

INCIDENTS, 1862 TO 1868. 

Rossetti's animals at Cheyne Walk — His notions about ghosts — The 
wombat, woodchuck, and zebu — Attempts to communicate with 
his deceased wife by table-turning — The Burlington and other 
Clubs — The Bab Ballads — Rossetti houses Sandys for a while, 
and George Chapman — Other friends — Charles Augustus Howell, 
who becomes Ruskin's secretary — Bell Scott and Woolner — 
Intimacy with Ruskin comes to an end — Extracts from Ruskin's 
letters in 1865 — Rossetti collects works of decorative art, especially 
blue china and Japanese prints — Buys a picture by Botticelli . 251 

XXIX. 

BEGINNINGS OF ILL-HEALTH— PENKILL CASTLE. 

Rossetti generally healthy in youth— 1866, a complaint requiring 
surgical treatment — 1867, insomnia, and failure of eyesight — 



CONTENTS. XXV 

PACE 

Doctors consulted — Trip to Warwickshire in 1868, and stay at 
Penkill Castle, Ayrshire, with Miss Boyd, Miss Losh, and Bell 
Scott — The Leeds Exhibition of Art — Loan made by Miss Losh 
— Return to Cheyne Walk, and details as to eyesight — Resumes 
art-work in December ... . . . . . . . 264 



XXX. 

PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 

Rossetti re-visits Penkill, 1869 — Urged, in 1868, by Scott to "live 
for his poetry" — Sonnets previously published in 1868, others 
in 1869 — Estimate for printing — Poems written at Penkill, 1869 
— Alleged impulse towards suicide — Fancy about a chaffinch — " A 
curiously ferocious look " — Poems printed, not for immediate 
publication — -The unburying of the MS. deposited in his wife's 
coffin — Arrangement with Ellis as publisher — Rossetti's com- 
bination of self-reliance and self-mistrust — He is anxious to 
secure a favourable critical reception of the Poems at starting 
— Extracts on this point from my Diary and from Scott's book 
— Rossetti's habits as to drinking — Death of Michael Halliday 
— Acquaintance with Nettleship, Hake, and Hueffer — Hake's esti- 
mate of Rossetti's character ........ 270 



XXXI. 

ART-WORK FROM 1869 TO SUMMER 1872. 

Oil-pictures of Pandora, Mariana, Dante's Dream, Veronica Vero- 
nese, etc. — Water-colour of Michael Scott — Designs of Penelope, 
Dr. Hake, etc. — Details as to some of these works, especially 
Dante's Dream — W. A. Turner becomes a purchaser . . . 282 

XXXII. 

THE POEMS, 1870— CHLORAL— KELMSCOTT MANOR-HOUSE. 

The Poems forthcoming — Sojourn at Scalands — Rossetti's American 
friend Stillman, who recommends chloral as a soporific — Rossetti's 
excess in chloral-dosing, washed down by whiskey, and the bad 
effects resulting — Publication of the Poems, April 1870 — Rapid 
sale — Swinburne's review, extracts — Other reviews, The Catholic 
World, etc. — Letters from acquaintances — Adverse criticism in 
Blackwood's Magazine, coolly received by Rossetti— Republica- 



xxvi CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

tion of the Italian translations as Dante and his Circle, 1873 — 
Rossetti in 1871 at Kelmscott Manor-house, which he shares with 
the Morris family — Philip Bourke Marston and Edmund Gosse on 
Rossetti — Turguenieff — Poems written at Kelmscott . . .285 



XXXIII. 

THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETRY. 

Robert Buchanan, as Thomas Maitland, publishes in the Contemporaiy 
Review an attack thus entitled on Rossetti's Poems, October 1871 
— His previous attack on Swinburne, 1866, and my Criticism — 
Review of my edition of Shelley, 1870 — The Fleshly School en- 
larged and re-issued as a pamphlet — Extracts from it — Rossetti 
not much troubled by the review-article— A dinner at Bell Scott's 
— Rossetti replies, publishing, in the Athenceum, The Stealthy 
School of Criticistn, and writing a pamphlet, which is withheld — 
Aggravated imputations in the pamphlet form of The Fleshly 
School — Buchanan's retractation, 188 1-2, extracts — Summary of 
the facts — Quitter's article The Art of Rossetti, 1883, extract . 293 



XXXIV 

HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 

Dividing line in Rossetti's life, spring 1872 — He is perturbed by The 
Fleshly School of Poetry in its book-form, and has fancies of a 
conspiracy against him — Other adverse critiques — Evidences of 
mental unsettlement on 2 June — Browning regarded with sus- 
picion — Rossetti not insane, but affected by hypochondria, result- 
ing largely from chloral — Physical delusions — Mr. Marshall and 
Dr. Maudsley — Extract from the Memoirs of Eighty Years, written 
by Dr. Hake, who takes Rossetti off to his house at Roehampton 
— Scott's remarks — Attempt at suicide by laudanum on the night 
of 8 June — Mistake as to serous apoplexy — I fetch my Mother 
and Sister Maria, Christina being ill — Brown calls-in Marshall, 
who, along with Hake, saves Rossetti's life — Mental disturbance 
continues, and Rossetti moves into Brown's house, followed by 
three houses in Perthshire— Hemiplegia — Rossetti's companions in 
Perthshire — Extracts from Scott and Hake — Resumption of paint-' 
ing, and gradual recovery — Surgical treatment — Money-affairs 
— Sale of the collection of china, and removal of pictures to Scott's 
house .,....,,..,. 303 



CONTENTS. XXV11 



XXXV. 



STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1872-4— THEODORE 
IV A TTS. 

PAGE 

Rossetti, with George Hake, returns from Scotland, and re-settles at 
Kelmscott Manor-house — His health and spirits at first good, 
afterwards re-injured by chloral — Personal details — -Knows Theo- 
dore Watts as a lawyer, and soon as an intimate literary and 
personal friend — Fixes upon Howell as his professional agent — 
Advantages accruing from this connexion — J. R. Parsons, Howell's 
partner — Rossetti paints Proserpine, also La Ghirlandata, The 
Bower Maiden, The Blessed Damozel, Dante's Dream (smaller 
replica), The Roman Widow — Re-publishes Dante and his Ciixle 
— Nonsense-verses — Recurrence of gloomy fancies— Scott's cheque 
for ^200 — Quarrel with anglers — Rossetti leaves Kelmscott in 
July 1874, and never returns thither . . . . . .321 

XXXVI. 

LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1874-8. 

Discussion of Bell Scott's statements about Rossetti's seclusion, his 
desertion by old friends, George Hake, Browning, his new friends, 
his want of candour — Rossetti's condition of health and mental 
tone — Theodore Watts — Rossetti goes to Aldwick Lodge, Bognor 
— Libel-case, Buchanan v. Taylor — Goes to Broadlands — The 
Mount-Temples and Mrs. Sumner — "Deafening" of Rossetti's 
studio — Mesmerism — Surgical operation, as narrated by Watts — 
Stay at Hunter's Forestall — Disappearance of letters — Details as 
to chloral — Brown ceases to see Rossetti for some months — 
Renewal of lease in Cheyne Walk — Death of Oliver Brown, and 
Rossetti's impression as to his posthumous writings — Death of 
Maria F. Rossetti 331 

XXXVII. 

INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1874-81— HALL CAINE. 

Dissolution of the Partnership, Morris, Marshall, Falkner, & Co., 1874 
— Rossetti obtains possession of the portrait of him painted by 
G. F. Watts, R.A.- — He drops his connexion with Howell, 1876, 
and the reasons for this — Drawings falsely attributed to Rossetti 
— Fluctuations in his income — Funds for the families of James 
Hannay and J. L. Tupper, and exertions to benefit James Smetham 
— Declines to exhibit in the Grosvenor Gallery, 1877 — An excep- 
tion, for the benefit of an art-institution, to his system of not 



XXV111 CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

exhibiting — Unfounded report as to a visit from the Princess 
Louise — Rossetti's correspondence with Hall Caine begins, 1879 
— Extract from Caine's Recollections as to his first visit to Rossetti, 
1880 — Reference to various details given by Caine as to Rossetti's 
opinions, etc. — His view debated as to Rossetti's natural irresolu- 
tion and melancholy — -Friends who arranged to visit Rossetti from 
day to day — Continued activity in painting, along with poetry, 
and the re-edition of Gilchrist's Life of Blake .... 346 

XXXVIII. 

PAINTINGS AND POEMS, 1874-81. 

Pictures of The Blessed Damosel, Dante's Dream (replica), La Pia, La 
Bella Mano, Venus Astarte, The Sea-spell, Mnemosyne, Beata 
Beatrix (finished by Madox Brown), A Vision of Fiammetta, La 
Donna delta Finestra, The Daydream — Designs of The Sphinx, 
The Spirit of the Rainbow, Perlascura, Desdemonds Death-song, 
Sancta Lilias, The Sonnet — Water-colour, Bruna Brunelleschi — 
Details as to The Sea-spell, Vision of Fiammetta, Daydream — 
Scott's narrative as to The Sphinx — Details as to Desdemona's 
Death-song and Bruna B? unelleschi — Haydon's Etching of Hamlet 
and Ophelia — Caine's account as to how Rossetti resumed poetical 
composition towards 1878 — Sonnet on Cyprus — Other Sonnets — 
The historical ballads, The White Ship and The King's Tragedy — 
The Beryl-songs in Rose Mary ....... 362 

XXXIX. 

DANTE'S DREAM— BALLADS AND SONNETS. 

In July 1881 Hall Caine becomes an inmate of Rossetti's house — His 
somewhat trying position there — Dunn leaves the house — Dante's 
Dream returned to Rossetti, at his own wish, by Valpy, who 
is to receive other works in exchange — Caine suggests to the 
authorities of the Walker Gallery, Liverpool, the purchase of this 
picture — Alderman Samuelson favours the proposal — Mr. R. and 
his proceedings in the same matter — Purchase carried out for 
,£1,650, September 1881 — Recognition by Rossetti of the friendli- 
ness of Caine and Samuelson — Transactions with Valpy and 
Graham — March 1 88 1, Rossetti contemplates bringing out a new 
volume, Ballads and Sonnets, and re-issuing, in a modified form, 
the Poems of 1870 — Publishing-arrangements, and rapid sale of 
Ballads a?id Sonnets in October — Proposed ballads on Joan of 
Arc, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander III. of Scotland— Critics 
favourable to the new volume— Rossetti derives little pleasure 
from these successes .,.,-..,,. 369 



CONTENTS. XXIX 

XL. 

CUMBERLAND AND LONDON— FINAL ILLNESS. 

PAGE 

Rossetti's state of health : blood-spitting, etc. — He goes with Caine to 
the Vale of St. John, Keswick, September 1881 — Returns worse 
than he went — "Absolution for my sins": Scott's narrative, and 
observations on Rossetti's opinions upon religion — Paintings : 
Salutation of Beatrice, duplicates of Proserpine and of Joan of 
Arc, Donna delta Fincstra— Visit from Dr. and Philip Marston — 
Quasi-paralytic attack and discontinuance of chloral — Account by 
Caine, and extracts from my Diary — Scott and Morris on the 
same subject — The Medical Resident Henry Maudsley, and the 
Nurse Mrs. Abrey — Rossetti, with Caine and Miss Caine, goes to 
Birchington-on-Sea — Scott's remarks on Rossetti's later years — 
Miss Caine's reminiscences ........ 375 

XLI. 

B1RCHINGTON-ON-SE. 1 . 

Birchington and Westcliff Bungalow — Rossetti's condition there — He 
is joined by his Mother and Sister — Other friends — Paintings of 
Proserpine and of Joan of Arc, and sketches of his Father for 
Vasto — Ballad oijan van Hunks, and Sonnets on The Sphinx — 
Novel-reading — Correspondence with Joseph Knight and Ernest 
Chesneau — Extracts from Mrs. Rossetti's Diary .... 390 



XLII. 

DEATH AND FUNERAL. 

My visit to Birchington, 1 April 1882 — Extracts from my Diary, show- 
ing Dante's very grave condition of health — Extracts from Mrs. 
Rossetti's Diary, 4 to 9 April — Rossetti's death, 9 April— My 
memorandum of it — His will — Arrival of Lucy Rossetti and 
Charlotte Polidori — The funeral, further extracts from Mrs. 
Rossetti's Diary, and letter from Judge Lushington — The tomb- 
stone, stained-glass window, and monument in Cheyne Walk . 395 



XLIII. 

PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 

Rossetti's character — Canon Dixon's statement — Remarks by Knight, 
Patmore, and Watts — His appearance — His feeling as to the 



X CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

beauties of Nature — His views on politics — Various remarks of 
his on fine art, literature, and other matters, along with observa- 
tions by Hunt, Caine, Sharp, Oliver Brown, and myself . . 404 



XLIV. 

ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 

Decision not to offer my own criticism on this matter — Extracts : upon 
Fine Art, Leighton, Royal Scottish Academy, Hunt, Stephens, 
Ouilter, Ruskin, Smetham, Shields, Hake, Rod, Mourey, Sartorio 
— Upon Literature, Swinburne, Watts, Caine, Forman, Knight, 
Hueffer, Sharp, Mrs. Wood, Patmore, Myers, William Morris, 
Pater, Madame Darmesteter, Skelton, Sarrazin, Gamberale — 
other Translators and Critics named ...... 423 



LIST OF PORTRAITS. 

VOL. I. 



I. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1855. By Himself . Frontispiece 
II. Gabriele Rossetti, 1853. By D. G. Rossetti . To face p. 20 

III. Gaetano Polidori, 1848. By D. G. Rossetti . „ 123 

IV. Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Rossetti), 1854. By 

Herself „ 1 75 

V. Christina G. Rossetti, 1848. By D. G. Rossetti „ 342 



ERRATA. 

Vol. I. 

;e xxi, line 12 from bottom, for Morte read Mort 
14, line 1 1, for dark-speaking read dark speaking 
54 „ 8, for Rufini read Ruffini 
59 >< 6) f or Fitz-Eustace read De Wilton 
119, lines 14, 15, for I have not the least recollection of what it was read the 

Study in the manner of the Early Masters 
135, line $,for Fuhrich read Steinle 
166 ,, 11, for never read hardly 

199 ,, 17 etc., for I do not know — etc. to end of paragraph, read These ex- 
pressions occur in a letter to Mr. Skelton 
2 35 11 I 9if or the earlier days of 1864 read August 1863 
254 ,, 21, for perhaps in 1863 read in 1864 

274 „ 17 etc., for I cannot say — down to prominent among them read Two of 
these friends were Mr. Scott and Mr. Howell ; perhaps also Mr. 
Henry Virtue Tebbs — down to Doctors' Commons 
290 ,, 6 from bottom, for forgot read forget 
304 ,, 16, for while read wile 
336 ,, 22, for public read published 
359 ,, 4 from bottom, for latter read former 
401 ,, 21, /or if not read and indeed 
409 „ last, /or XXX read IX 
418 ,, 17, for Ikely read likely 
436 11 2, for reputations read reputation, 
11 11 9> for object read objects 



MEMOIR 



DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 



BY 

WILLIAM MICHAEL ROSSETTI. 



Be sure that Love ordained for souls more meek 
His roadside dells of rest. 



VOL. 1. 



BIRTH. 

GABRIEL CHARLES DANTE ROSSETTI, com- 
monly known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was born on 
12 May 1828, at No. 38 Charlotte Street, Portland Place. 
London. This house is the last or most northerly house, 
but one, 1 on the right-hand or eastern side of the street, as 
you turn into it to the left, down Weymouth Street, out of 
Portland Place. Charlotte Street, beyond No. 39, forms a 
cul-de-sac. The infant was baptized at the neighbouring All 
Souls' Church, Langham Place, as a member of the Church 
of England. From his father he received the name Gabriel ; 
from his godfather the name Charles ; and from poetical and 
literary associations the name Dante. His godfather was Mr. 
Charles Lyell, of Kinnordy, Kirriemuir, Forfarshire ; a keen 
votary of Dante and Italian literature, a helpful friend to 
our father, and himself father of the celebrated geologist, Sir 
Charles Lyell. Some living members of the Lyell family 
continue to be well known to the present generation. 

II. 

PARENTAGE. 

Our parents were Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti 
(always called Gabriele Rossetti), and Frances Mary Lavinia 

1 No. 39 is now to the right hand of No. 38. It appears to me that this 
was not the case when we lived in No. 38, but that that was then the last 
house of all. The closed-up end of the street has been wholly altered 
since my boyish days. 

3 



4 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Rossetti, nee Polidori ; and, before proceeding further with 
my narrative, I shall give some particulars about them, and 
about other members of the family. 

Gabriele Rossetti was born on 28 February 1783, in the 
city of Vasto, named also (by a corruption from Longobard 
nomenclature) Vasto Ammone, in the Province of Abruzzo 
Citeriore, on the Adriatic coast of the then Kingdom of 
Naples. Vasto is a very ancient place, a municipal town 
of the Romans, then designated Histonium. We are not 
bound — though some enthusiasts feel themselves permitted — 
to believe that it was founded by the Homeric hero Diomed : 
its patron saint is the Archangel Michael. Gabriele was 
the youngest son of Nicola Rossetti, and his wife Maria 
Francesca, nee Pietrocola. Nicola Rossetti was a Black- 
smith, of very moderate means ; x a man of somewhat severe 
and irascible nature, whose death ensued not long after the 
French-republican invasion of the Kingdom of Naples in 
1799. The French put some affront upon him — I believe 
they gave him a smart beating for failing or neglecting to 
furnish required provisions ; and, being unable to stomach 
this, or to resent it as he would have liked, his health declined, 
and soon he was no more. His wife belonged to a local 
family of fair credit : but, like other Italian women of that 
period, she received no scholastic training ; she could not 
write nor even read. The name Rossetti might be trans- 
lated into " Ruddykins " or " Redkins " as an English 

1 A Vastese connexion of mine, Signor Giuseppe Marchesani, favoured 
me, early in 1895, with a number of mortuary and other inscriptions which 
he had composed to various members of the family. I will give here 
the one relating to Nicola Rossetti, who probably remains otherwise 
unrecorded, unless by some " forlorn hie jacet." Of course anything 
written in a lapidary style reads less well in my English than in Marche- 
sani's Italian. "Nicola Rossetti, Blacksmith poor and honourable, lovingly 
sent in boyhood to their first studies his sons, carefully nurtured in 
childhood. If Fortune neglected him, provident Nature ultimately dis- 
tinguished, in the obscure Artizan, the well-graced Father, who, to the 
strokes of his hammer on the battered anvil, sent forth the sonorous and 
glorious echo, beyond remote Abruzzo, into Italy and other lands." 



PARENTAGE. 5 

equivalent. My father used to say that the Rossetti race 
was an offshoot of the Delia Guardia family, well known and 
still subsisting in Vasto ; and that at some date or other 
certain children of the Delia Guardia stock were noted for 
florid complexion and reddish hair, and thus got called " the 
Rossetti," in accordance with the Italian hobby for nicknames, 
and that this name gradually stuck to them as a patronymic. 

Nicola and Maria Francesca Rossetti had a rather large 
family, four sons and three daughters, and three of the sons 
earned distinction. There was Domenico, who was versed 
(as a local historian records) " in medical science, in civil and 
canonical law, and in theology," writing in Italian, Latin, 
French, and to some extent Hebrew, and was " the first 
among mortals who daringly descended into the Grotto of 
Montecalvo near Nice." On this theme he wrote a poem 
in three cantos, besides other poems (two volumes, printed 
in Parma) and prose : he was besides an Improvisatore. 
Born in 1772, he died comparatively young in 18 16. There 
was also Andrea, the eldest brother, who became a Canon 
of San Giuseppe in Vasto ; and thirdly, Gabriele, whom I 
may be excused for regarding as a more important writer 
than even the polyglot Domenico. I might include, as 
showing that verse-writing ran in the family, the fourth son, 
Antonio, who exercised the humble calling of a wig-maker 
and barber : he likewise versified in an off-hand popular 
manner, and was of some note to his fellow-townsmen. 

Gabriele Rossetti came into the world well endowed for 
the arts. As it turned out, he took to poetry and other 
forms of literature ; but he might equally have excelled in 
drawing or in vocal music. I have before me as I write 
three MSS. containing specimens of his early skill as a 
draughtsman, done when he was twenty years old or there- 
abouts. The drawings are illustrations to poems (juvenile 
enough) of his own composition, and are surprisingly precise 
and dainty in execution. One would have little hesitation 
in calling them copper-engravings ; but they are, in fact, 
pen-designs done with sepia, which he himself extracted 



6 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

from the cuttlefish or " calamarello," so dear to Neapolitan 
gourmands. An ornamental headpiece, two decorative title- 
pages, and two landscapes founded on traditions of Claude 
or Gaspar Poussin, are his own inventions. One drawing is 
a group of two women after Mignard ; and two or three 
others may also be copies. From my earliest childhood I 
have looked with astonishment on these performances as 
pieces of manipulation ; and, after a lifetime spent among 
artists, I hardly know what to put beside them in their own 
limited line of attempt. Then, as to music, Gabriele had 
a beautiful tenor-voice, sweet and sonorous in a high degree. 
It received no regular cultivation, but was such that he was 
more than once urged to train himself for the operatic stage 
— a mode of life, however, for which he had no sort of 
inclination. 

The local magnate was the Marchese del Vasto, of the 
great historic house of D'Avalos, into which the famous 
Vittoria Colonna married. He was feudal Lord of the 
Vastese, and they acknowledged themselves his " vassals," 
though this state of things, in the epoch of a Robespierre 
and a Napoleon, was not destined to continue long. The 
attention of the Marchese was soon called to the uncommon 
promise of his growing-up vassal Gabriele Rossetti, and, after 
some well-conducted schooling in Vasto, the youth was sent 
in 1804, under the patronage of this nobleman, to study in 
the University of Naples. His education here was cut short 
after a year and a month, and consequently had not a very 
wide range. In middle life he read Latin with ease, and 
retained some remnant of geometry and mathematics, but 
of Greek he had no knowledge. In French he was well 
versed, speaking the language with great fluency and an 
amusing assumption of the tone of a Frenchman. English 
he acquired by practice in Malta and in this country, and 
could both read and talk it tolerably enough, though he 
never did so when he had the option of Italian. 

Rossetti was just twenty-three years of age when the 
Bourbon king, Ferdinand I., was turned out of his con- 



PARENTAGE. 7 

tinental dominion, and had to retire into Sicily, and Joseph 
Bonaparte reigned in his stead. With Ferdinand vanished 
the Marchese del Vasto, who was his Court-Majordomo. Thus 
all the years of Rossetti's early manhood were passed in 
association with a Napoleonic and not a Bourbon order of 
ideas. As a sequel to his first volume of poems, published 
in 1807, he obtained an appointment as librettist in the 
operatic theatre of San Carlo, writing three or more opera- 
books, one of them named Giulio Sabino. He was kept in 
hot water, however, by the exigencies of managers and 
vocalists, and got transferred to the Curatorship of Ancient 
Marbles and Bronzes in the Museum of Naples. He figured 
in the Academy of the Arcadi as " Filidauro Labidiense." 
There used to be a catch, — 

" Rossini, Rossetti, 
Divini, imperfetti " ; 

but whether my father was ever linked with Rossini in any 
operatic production I am unable to say. Rossetti was well 
received at the Court of King Joachim (Murat), the successor 
of Joseph. I have heard him say that he knew some- 
thing of almost all the Bonapartes, except only the great 
Napoleon. I possess a slight portrait of him done by the 
Princess Charlotte Bonaparte ; and another of the family, 
Lady Dudley Stuart, acted as godmother to his daughter 
Christina. In my own time Prince Pierre Bonaparte (too 
notorious as the homicide of Victor Noir) was frequently in 
our house ; occasionally also Prince Louis Napoleon, the 
unduly glorified and duly execrated Napoleon III., of whom 
my father would emphatically declare that he could never 
trace in him one grain (iieppure un* ombrd) of Liberalism. 
King Joachim fell in 181 5, and King Ferdinand was restored 
to his capital city, Naples ; a state of things not likely to be 
much to the taste of Gabriele Rossetti— who in 181 3 had 
acted as Secretary to that part of the provisional government, 
sent by Joachim to Rome, which looked after public instruc- 
tion and the fine arts. He did not, however, under the 



8 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

restored Bourbon, lose his post in the Museum. An agitation 
ensued for a constitution similar to that which the Spaniards 
established in 1819 — the secret society of the Carbonari, in 
which Rossetti was a member of the General Assembly, being 
especially active in this direction. In 1820 there was a 
military uprising, and Ferdinand had to grant the consti- 
tution — probably with a fixed intention of revoking it at the 
first opportunity. Rossetti's ode to the Dawn of the Con- 
stitution-day, " Sei pur bella cogli astri sul crine " (" Lovely art 
thou with stars in hair "), was in every Neapolitan mouth. 
In 1821 the king, then sojourning in Austria, abolished the 
constitution, and suppressed it with the aid of Austrian 
troops. Carbonarism was made a capital offence, and the 
leading constitutionalists were denounced and proscribed, 
among them Rossetti. He is said to have been viewed by 
the king with especial abhorrence, partly because various 
writings, not really his, were attributed to him, and partly 
because one of his lyrics contained the lines — 

" I Sandi ed i Luvelli 
Non son finiti ancor," 

(Sands and Louvels are not yet extinct.) The reference, 
it will be perceived, is to the political assassination of 
Kotzebue by Sand, and of the Due de Berri by Louvel, 
with a suggestion that a like fate might easily befall King 
Ferdinand. Rossetti did not say that it ought to befall 
him ; but the king was not inclined to take a good-natured 
view of the matter, or to construe the phrase rather as a 
loyal warning than as an incitement to a deed of blood. 
The peccant poet lay concealed in Naples for three months, 
beginning in March 1821 ; finally the British admiral, Sir 
Graham Moore, pressed by his generous wife who knew and 
liked Rossetti, furnished him with a British uniform, got him 
off in a carriage to the harbour, and shipped him to Malta. I 
have before me a printed proclamation of King Ferdinand — 
the original document, dated 28 September 1822 — granting 
an amnesty to persons concerned in the revolutionary or 



PARENTAGE. 9 

constitutional movement, with the exception of thirteen men 
expressly named. My father is the thirteenth. In Malta 
he remained about two years and a half, holding classes (as 
indeed he had previously done in Naples) for instruction in 
the Latin and Italian languages and literature, and most 
liberally befriended by the English poet and diplomatist, John 
Hookham Frere, the translator of Aristophanes : their ami- 
cable relations continued after distance had separated them. 
Deep indeed were the affection and respect which Rossetti 
entertained for Frere. One of my vivid reminiscences is of 
the day when the death of Frere was announced to him, 1 in 
1 846. With tears in his half-sightless eyes and the passionate 
fervour of a southern Italian, my father fell on his knees, and 
exclaimed, " Anima bella, benedetta sii tu, dovunque sei ! " 2 

Rossetti had long been a noted Improvisatore, as well as 
a poet in the accustomed way (he continued to improvise 
to some extent for a while, even after coming to London), 
and this, with his other gifts, made him popular in Maltese 
society. After a while, however, he was harassed by the 
spies or other emissaries of the Bourbon Government, which 
embittered his position so much that he resolved to have 
done with Malta, and settle in England. Here he arrived 
in January or February 1824, and fixed himself in London. 
He soon made acquaintance with the Polidori family, and a 
mutual attachment united him in marriage with the second 
daughter, Frances Mary Lavinia, in April 1826. He subsisted 
by teaching Italian, and held perhaps the foremost place in 
that vocation. In 183 1 he was appointed Professor of Italian 
in King's College, London. This professorship was not a 
sinecure ; but the students were few, and became fewer from 
about 1840 onwards, when the German language began 
decidedly to supersede the Italian in public favour. My 

1 The person who announced it was Mr. Edward Graham, the associate 
of Shelley in early youth. He had taken to the musical profession, and 
was a man of uncommonly handsome presence : his bodily were superior 
to his mental endowments. 

2 " Noble soul, blessed be thou wherever thou art." 



10 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

father made at the best a very moderate income ; yet this 
sufficed for all the requirements of himself, and his wife and 
four children, and no man could be more heartily contented 
with what he got — more strenuous and cheerful in working 
for it, or more willing " to cut his coat " (he never turned it) 
" according to his cloth." The British religion of " keeping up 
appearances " was unknown— thank Heaven — in my paternal 
home ; my father disregarded it from temperament and foreign 
way of thinking and living, and my mother contemned it 
with modest or noble superiority. The tolerably thriving 
condition of our household declined with my father's decline 
in health, which began towards 1842 : interruption of pro- 
fessional work, waning employment, inability to take up such 
employment as offered, necessarily ensued. In 1843 (having 
hitherto had uncommonly keen eyesight) he suddenly lost 
one eye through amaurosis, and the other eye was greatly 
weakened and in constant peril, though he was never bereft 
of sight totally. A real tussle for the means of subsistence 
now arose, but by one method or other all was tided over. 
Our scale of living, if somewhat more threadbare and dingy, 
did not materially dwindle from its unassuming yet comfort- 
able average ; and no butcher nor baker nor candlestick- 
maker ever had a claim upon us for a sixpence unpaid. In 
his closing years my father had more than one stroke of 
paralysis. Some of these were of a formidable kind ; yet he 
got over them to a substantial extent, lived on in a suffering 
state of body, and with mental faculties weakened, though 
not impaired in any definite and absolute way, and continued 
diligent in reading and writing almost to the last day of his 
life. His sufferings, often severe, were borne with patience 
and courage (he had an ample stock of both qualities), though 
not with that unemotional calm which would have been 
foreign to his Italian nature. For nearly a year before his 
death he lived, with his wife and daughter Christina, at 
Frome Selwood in Somerset ; but finally he returned to 
London, and died at No. 166 Albany Street, Regent's Park, 
on 26 April 1854, firm-minded and placid, and glad to be 



PARENTAGE. 1 1 

released, in the presence of all his family. His young cousin, 
Teodorico Pietrocola-Rossetti, was also there. He lies buried 
in Highgate Cemetery. 

Gabriele Rossetti was a man of energetic and lively 
temperament, of warm affections, sensitive to slight or rebuff, 
and well capable of repelling it, devoted to his family and 
home, full of good-nature and good-humour, a fervent patriot, 
honourable and aboveboard in all his dealings, and as pleasant 
and inspiriting company as one could wish to meet. Though 
sensitive as above stated, he was not in the least quarrelsome, 
and never began a conflict about either literary or personal 
matters : this disposition he transmitted to his son Dante 
Gabriel. For some years after settling in London he went 
a good deal into society, and was welcomed in several houses. 
This had diminished at the date of my earliest reminiscences, 
and soon it had wholly ceased. He could tell an amusing 
story most capitally — I have hardly known his equal at that 
— with good dramatic "take-off"; and, though his ordinary 
speech was, to the best of my judgment, very pure Italian, 
he could readily throw himself back, when he liked, into the 
Neapolitan dialect, or the Abruzzese, which is not a little 
provincial. 1 He always spoke Italian in the family, never 
English ; and his children from the earliest years, as well 
as his wife, answered in Italian. Apart from domestic 
simplicity or sportiveness, his conversation was always high- 
minded, implying a solid standard of public and private 
virtue : nothing about it mean or sly or worldly, or tampering 
with principle. There was indeed a certain tinge of self- 
opinion or self-applause in his temperament ; he rather liked 
" to ride the high horse " (as I have heard my brother phrase 

1 I possess two good books showing the dialect of Vasto, sent to me by 
the courtesy of their authors: the Vocabolmio dell Uso Abruzzese, by 
Gennaro Finamore, and the Fujf Ammesche, by Luigi Anelli. The latter 
volume is a series of sonnets, which appear to me highly excellent of their 
popular kind. When I say that the Vastese words "Fujj' Ammesche" 
represent the Italian words "Foglie Miste," my English reader will be 
able to judge whether Vaatese is a pure or impure form of Italian. 



12 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

it) ; but this was quite free from envy or disparagement of 
others, and did no one any harm. Of what one calls " personal 
vanity " he had a plentiful lack, and was indeed very careless 
(like many other Italians) in all matters of the outer man. 
As a father he was most kind, and would often allow his four 
children to litter and rollick about the room while he plodded 
through some laborious matter of literary composition. He 
always retained, however, a perceptible tone of the patria 
potestas. Rossetti was a splendid declaimer or reciter, with 
perfect elocution. He put his heart into whatsoever he 
did. His MSS. are models of fine and minute penmanship, 
and show enormous pains in the way of revision and re- 
casting. 

He was an ardent lover of liberty, in thought and in the 
constitution of society. In religion he was mainly a free- 
thinker, strongly anti-papal and anti-sacerdotal, but not 
inclined, in a Protestant country, to abjure the faith of his 
fathers. He never attended any place of worship. Spite of 
his free-thinking, he had the deepest respect for the moral 
and spiritual aspects of the Christian religion, and in his 
later years might almost be termed an unsectarian and undog- 
matic Christian. As a freethinker, he was naturally exempt 
from popular superstitions — did not believe in ghosts, second 
sight, etc. ; and the same statement holds good of our mother. 
In this respect Dante Gabriel, as soon as his mind got a 
little formed, differed from his parents ; being quite willing 
to entertain, in any given case, the question whether a ghost 
or demon had made his appearance or not, and having indeed 
a decided bias towards suspecting that he had. One point, 
however, of popular superstition, or I should rather say of 
superstitious habit, my father had not discarded. A fancy 
existed in the Abruzzi (I dare say it still exists) that, if one 
steps over a child seated or lying on the ground, the child's 
growth would be arrested ; and I have more than once seen 
my father divert his path to avoid stepping over any one of 
us. In politics he belonged more to the party of constitu- 
tional monarchy than to that of republicanism, but welcomed 



PARENTAGE. 1 3 

anything that told for freedom. He always advocated the 
unity of Italy, long before that aspiration was considered a 
very practical one ; indeed, I have seen him described, on 
good authority, as the first apostle of unity, but am not 
clear that this is strictly accurate. 

In estimating Rossetti's work as a national or patriotic poet, 
and his general attitude of mind in matters of politics, or of 
government in State and Church, we should remember the 
conditions (already referred to) under which his life had been 
passed. He was born under the feudal and despotic system of 
the Neapolitan Bourbons ; his youth witnessed the more open- 
minded but still despotic Napoleonic rule; the Bourbon restora- 
tion brought-on a constitution sworn to by the sovereign, 
who soon after perjured himself in suppressing it ; lifelong- 
exile ensued to Rossetti and other constitutionalists. Then he 
lived through many abortive insurrections against the temporal 
and ecclesiastical dominators of Italy ; through the brilliant 
promise and the retrogression of Pope Pius IX. (whom at 
first he acclaimed with unmeasured fervour) ; through the 
high deeds, glorious prospects, and dolorous collapse, of the 
revolutionary years 1848-49, and through the fuliginous 
beginnings of the Neapolitan King Bomba ; followed by a 
genuinely liberal government in Piedmont under Victor 
Emmanuel and Cavour, by the coup d'etat of Napoleon III., 
and by general stagnancy of political thought and act 
throughout Europe. He died five years before 1859, which 
produced the alliance between France and Piedmont, the 
expulsion of the Austrians from Lombardy, and the com- 
mencement of the unification of Italy. When he died in 
1854 the outlook seemed extremely dark; yet heart and 
hope did not abate in him. The latest letter of his which 
I have seen published was written in September or October 
1853, and contains this passage, equally strong-spirited and 
prophetic — 

" The Arpa Evangelica . . . ought to find free circulation through 
all Italy. I do not say the like of three other unpublished volumes, 
which all seethe with love of country and hatred for tyrants. These 



14 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

await a better time — which will come, be very sure of it. The 
present fatal period will pass, and serves to whet the universal desire. 
. . . Let us look to the future. Our tribulations, dear madam, 
will not finish very soon, but finish they will at last. Reason has 
awakened in all Europe, although her enemies are strong. We shall 
pass various years in this state of degradation ; then we shall rouse 
up. I assuredly shall not see it, for day by day, nay hour by hour, 
I expect the much-longed-for death ; but you will see it." 

In person Gabriele Rossetti was rather below the middle 
height, and full in flesh till his health failed ; with a fine brow, 
a marked prominent nose and large nostrils, dark-speaking 
eyes, pleasant mouth, engaging smile, and genuine laugh. 
He indulged in gesticulation, not to any great extent, but of 
course more than an Englishman. His hands were rather 
small — not a little spoiled by a life-long habit of munching his 
nails. As to other personal habits, I may mention free 
snuff-taking without any smoking ; and a hearty appetite while 
health lasted, with more of vegetable diet than Englishmen 
use. In his later years teeth and palate had failed, and all 
viands " tasted like hay." Fermented liquors he only touched 
seldom and sparingly. He had liked the English beer, but 
had to leave it off altogether in 1836, to avoid recurrent 
attacks of gout. In fact, he liked most things English — the 
national and individual liberty, the constitution, the people 
and their moral tone, though the British leaven of social 
Toryism was far from being to his taste. He certainly pre- 
ferred the English nation, on the whole, to the French, and had 
a kind of prepossession against Frenchwomen, which he pushed 
to a humorous over-plus in speech — saying for instance that, 
if a Frenchwoman and himself were to be the sole tenants 
of an otherwise uninhabited island, the human race on that 
island would decidedly not be prolonged into a second genera- 
tion. My father also took very kindly to the English coal- 
fires, and was an adept in keeping them up ; he would 
jocularly speak of " buying his climate at the coal-mer- 
chant's." In all my earlier years I used frequently to see 
my father come home in the dusk rather fagged with his 



PARENTAGE. 1 5 

round of teaching, and after dining he would lie down flat 
on the hearthrug close by the fire, and fall asleep for an hour 
or two, snoring vigorously. Beside him would stand up our 
old familiar tabby cat, poised on her haunches, and holding 
on by the fore-claws inserted into the fender-wires, warming 
her furry front. Her attitude (I have never seen any feline 
imitation of it) was peculiar, somewhat in the shape of a 
capital Y — "the cat making the Y" was my father's phrase 
for this performance. She was the mother of a numerous 
progeny ; one of her daughters — also long an inmate of our 
house — was a black-and-white cat named Zoe by my elder 
sister Maria, who had a fancy for anything Greekish ; but 
Zoe never made a Y. 

Rossetti had produced a tolerable amount of verse in Italy, 
also the descriptive account (which passes under the name 
of Cavalier Finati) of the Naples Museum ; but all his more 
solid and voluminous writing was done after he had settled 
in London. The principal works are as follows : 1826 — 
Dante, Commedia (the Inferno alone was published), with a 
Commentary aiming to show that the poem is chiefly political 
and anti-papal in its inner meaning. A great deal of con- 
troversy was excited at the time by this work, and by others 
which succeeded it. 1832 — Lo Spirito Antipapale che pro- 
dusse la Riforma (The Anti-Papal Spirit zvhich produced the 
Reformation), following up and extending the same line 
of thought. An English translation was also published. 
1833 — Iddio e I'Uomo, Salterio {God and Man, a Psaltery), 
poems. The two last-named books have the honour of being 
in the Pontifical Index Librorum Prohibitorum, edition 
1838, and perhaps others are there now. 1840 — // Mistero 
delV Amor Platonico del Medio Evo {The Mysterious Platonic 
Love of the Middle Ages), five volumes ; a book of daring 
and elaborately ingenious speculation, enforcing the analogy 
of many illustrious writers, as forming a secret society of 
anti-Catholic thought, with the doctrines of Gnosticism and 
Freemasonry (Rossetti was himself a Freemason). This book 
was printed and prepared for publication, but was withheld 



1 6 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

(partly at the instance of Mr. Frere) as likely to be accounted 
rash and subversive. 1842— La Beatrice di Dante, contending 
that Dante's Beatrice was a symbolic personage, not a real 
woman. 1846—// Veggente in Solitudine {The Seer in 
Solitude), a poem of patriotic aim, in a discursive and rhap- 
sodical form, embodying a good deal of autobiography and 
of earlier material. It circulated largely though clandestinely 
in Italy, and a medal of Rossetti was struck there in com- 
memoration. 1847 — Versi (miscellaneous poems). 1852 — 
LArpa Evangelica {The Evangelic Harp), religious poems. 

As regards my father's writings on Dante and other 
authors — the outcome of an immense amount of miscellaneous, 
often curious and abstruse, reading — I may be allowed to 
say that I regard his views and arguments as cogent, without 
being convincing. They affect one more in beginning one 
of his books than in ending it. He certainly made some 
mistakes, and urged some details to a wiredrawn or futile 
extreme, and in especial he was not sufficiently master of 
the happy instinct when to leave off, so that his longest 
and most important book, the Mistero deW Amor Platonico, 
becomes cumbrous with subsidiary matter. In his poems 
also he was over-fond of amplifying and loading, being too 
unwilling to leave a composition as it stood ; though he wrote 
with great mastery and ease, and a brilliant command of 
metre, rhythm, and melody. Many snatches of his verse 
are forcible and moving in a high degree, and rouse a con- 
tagious enthusiasm. He has left in MS. a versified account 
of his life, written between 1846 and 1851. It is not long, 
nor yet very short, and is about the completest as well as 
the most authentic account that exists of his career. I should 
like to translate it some day, and publish it in England. 

To give some idea of Rossetti's poetry, I cannot do better 
than extract here one of the remarks upon it made by the 
pre-eminent Italian poet of our own day, Giosue Carducci, 
in a selection from Rossetti which he edited in 1861. 
Carducci, after contrasting him with some of his contemporary 
writers, terms him — 



PARENTAGE. 1 7 

"The singer who, notwithstanding his defects, conforms the most 
to the poetic taste and the hacmonic faculty of the Italian people. 
No plethora of murky inventions, and of recondite and strange 
forms, and of versified disquisitions, and of nebulous swathings ; but 
a daring and serene fancy, impetus of emotion, plenteousness and 
sometimes superabundance of colouring, facility, harmony, melody, 
make these poems truly Italian, make them singable. Singable, I 
say; and I know that this praise may, in the opinion of some, 
amount to blame, now that for the most part singable poetry is 
of the worst." 

Not in Vasto alone, but in all Italy, Rossetti's reputation 
as a patriotic poet stood high — more perhaps among the 
men of action and the ardent youth than among the critical 
assessors of literary merit. A proposal was made to transfer 
his remains to a sepulchre in Italy, as an act of national 
recognition. My mother having demurred, an inscription 
was set up to him in the Florentine cloister of Santa Croce, 
which counts as the Italian Walhalla or Westminster Abbey. 
In Vasto the centenary of his birth was celebrated in 1883 
with much evidence of enthusiasm. The principal Piazza 
(del Pesce, as first entitled) and the Communal Theatre are 
named after him ; and it has long been proposed — though 
perhaps rather half-heartedly — to erect his statue, and to 
purchase for the town the house in a part of which he was 
born — an ancient and somewhat stately-looking though 
plain edifice, battered by time and neglect. I am tempted 
to extract here a few of the many eulogiums pronounced 
upon Rossetti at the centenary — not unconscious, however, 
of the caution with which any utterances on such an occasion 
are to be received. 

From the speech of Professor Francesco di Rosso : — 

" He then conceived that love of his oppressed country, and that 
indignation against the oppressors, which were to be (as I may say) the 
religion of his entire life, and were to dictate to him the most beautiful 
strains, and make him the Tyrtaeus of the battles of the Italian 
liberty, unity, and independence, the poet sacred to Italy and Europe 
labouring under tyranny, under political and religious re-action." 

VOL. I. 2 



1 8 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

From the speech of the sub-prefect Cavalier Domenico 
Fabretti : — 

" Many were the public-spirited poets of Italy : but none con- 
jectured the cycle of her evolution, shadowed forth its agents, designed 
its forms, with the forecasting precision, the exact intuition, of your 
Rossetti. He was not only the sweet poet of the Arcadian stylus, 
was not only the studious and elegant verse-writer, was not only the 
fervent patriot, but was the seer of the Italian re-arising." 

From a pamphlet by signor Adelfo Mayo, 1 addressed to 
the workmen of Vasto : — 

" You, citizens and workmen, will deserve well of your country if 
you will imitate the domestic and civil virtues of that great man, 
if you strive with all your efforts to preserve intact the sacred deposit 
of the Italian liberties under the sceptre of the Kings of Savoy, and 
if you also co-operate, as best you may, in raising a worthy monument 
to one who, conferring honour upon our city, has honoured likewise 
the Abruzzi and the entire peninsula." 

In England very little has got into print showing Gabriele 
Rossetti " in his habit as he lived." There are, however, two 
recent books which give an idea of him in his later years, and 
in each instance the idea is a true one as far as it goes. Mr. 
William Bell Scott's Autobiographical Notes (1892) contain 
the following passage, relating to the close of 1847 or 
beginning of 1848 : — 

" I entered the small front parlour or dining-room of the house 
[50 Charlotte Street], and found an old gentleman sitting by the 
fire in a great chair, the table drawn close to his chair, with a thick 
manuscript book open before him, and the largest snuff-box I ever 
saw beside it conveniently open. He had a black cap on his head 
furnished with a great peak or shade for the eyes, so that I saw his 
face only partially. . . . The old gentleman signed to a chair for 

1 With this fine-minded and cultivated gentleman, well meriting his 
high position in the Vastese community, I have had the pleasure of 
keeping up some correspondence ever since the date of the centenary 
meeting. 



PARENTAGE. 1 9 

my sitting down, and explained that his son was now painting in the 
studio he and a young friend had taken together : this young friend's 
name was Holman Hunt. 1 . . . The old gentleman's pronunciation 
of English was very Italian ; and, though I did not know that, both 
of them — he and his daughter [Christina] — were probably at that 
moment writing poetry of some sort, and might wish me far enough, 
I left very soon." 

The second portrait of my father, and a very good one it 
is, is traced by Mr. Frederic George Stephens in his mono- 
graph named Daiite Gabriel Ross&tti ( 1 894) : it shows a 
memory highly retentive of characterizing details : — 

" As might be expected of one possessing so many accomplish- 
ments, and whose career had been marked by so much courage, the 
Professor was a man of striking character and aspect ; so that, when 
I was introduced to him in 1848 [some few months perhaps after 
Mr. Scott's first visit to our house], and his grand climacteric was 
past, and (as with most Italians) a life of studies told upon him 
heavily, I could not but be struck with the noble energy of his 
face, and by the high culture his expression attested, while a sort 
of eager, almost passionate resolution seemed to glow in all he said 
and did. To a youngster, such as I was then, he seemed much 
older than his years ; and, while seated reading at a table with two 
candles behind him, and (because his sight was failing) with a wide 
shade over his eyes, he looked a very Rembrandt come to life. 
The light was reflected from a manuscript placed close to his face, 
and, in the shadow which covered them, made distinct all the 
fineness and vigour of his sharply moulded features. It was half 
lost upon his somewhat shrunken figure wrapped in a student's 
dressing-gown, and shone fully upon the lean, bony, and delicate 

1 According to Mr. Scott, this was his first call at No. 50 Charlotte 
Street, and the interview took place "about Christmas 1847-48." I 
consider that the correct date of his first call was in December 1847 or 
January 1848. But Mr. Scott's memory must have been entirely wrong as 
to his then hearing about the studio shared by Holman Hunt and Dante 
Rossetti, for there was no such sharing of any studio until late in August 
1848, and the words put into our father's mouth, if spoken at all, must 
have been spoken later than " about Christmas 1847-48." Ex tiuo disce 
multos. 



20 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

hands in which he held the paper. He looked like an old and 
somewhat imperative prophet, and his voice had a slightly rigorous 
ring, speaking to his sons and their visitors." 

I am not sure that the word " rigorous " would here convey- 
quite the right impression. My father's address in such cases 
was clear and emphatic, and as if no dissent were expected 
to ensue ; but it was not marked by anything hard or 
brusque. 

Good-natured and indulgent' though he in fact was, and 
animated with the most resolute desire to do his very best for 
the present and future of his children, our love nevertheless 
was chiefly concentrated upon our mother — and never did 
mother deserve it better. This preference may have been 
rather less marked in my elder sister Maria than with the 
rest of us. Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori was born in 
London, 42 Broad Street, Golden Square (the same street in 
which William Blake had been born forty- three years before), 
on 27 April 1800. Thus she was seventeen years younger 
than her husband. Of her parents I shall say something in 
my next Section. She was brought up with a view to her 
becoming a governess ; and at the early age of sixteen she 
took charge of her first pupil, the adopted daughter of Mr. 
Thomas Dickins, of Vale Lodge, Leatherhead, Surrey. I 
have heard my mother say that in this house she used to see 
from time to time John Shelley, the brother of the poet. He 
was a very handsome youth, aged then some thirteen or four- 
teen, and all mention of the name of that world-abandoned 
rebel, the versifying atheist, was strictly forbidden. Hence 
my mother passed into the families of Mr. Justice Bolland 
(whom she highly respected), and of Sir Patrick Macgregor. 
One of her pupils, Miss Georgina Macgregor, became the 
second godmother of my sister, Christina Georgina. A brother 
of Sir Patrick, a Colonel, fell not a little in love with Miss 
Polidori. Whether this highly estimable gentleman (as such 
he was always represented to me) would have made up his 
mind to " proposing for the governess " I am unable to say ; 
but anyhow he was forestalled by the Neapolitan refugee 




By D. G. Rossetti. 



Gabriele Rossetti. 



PARENTAGE. 21 

Rossetti, who rapidly won the damsel's heart, and was 
promptly accepted. The marriage proved a truly happy one, 
spite of narrow circumstances, and the harrassing troubles 
of my father's long illnesses and decay. On his side there was 
deep unwavering affection, and the most absolute esteem and 
confidence ; on hers, affection and confidence in no less 
measure, and a cordial admiration for his uncommon gifts 
and attainments. 

Mrs. Rossetti was well bred and well educated, a constant 
reader, full of clear perception and sound sense on a variety 
of subjects, and perfectly qualified to hold her own in society ; 
a combination of abnormal modesty of self-estimate (free, 
however, from the silliness or insincerity of self-disparage- 
ment), and of retirement and repose of character, and of 
devotion to home duties, kept her back. The idea of " making 
an impression " never appeared to present itself to her mind — 
still less the idea of outshining or rivalling any one else. I 
doubt whether in the whole course of my life I once saw her 
go out to an ordinary " evening party." Perfect simplicity of 
thought, speech, and manner, characterized her always ; I 
venture to think that it was dignity under another name. For 
conscientiousness, veracity, the keeping confidences inviolate, 
the utter absence of censoriousness or tittle-tattle, she was an 
absolute model : all this came so natural to her that it passed 
almost unnoticed, or seemed a matter of course. Day and 
night she attended to the household — doing needlework, 
teaching her girls, keeping things in order, etc. In all the 
central years of her life there was only one servant in the 
house. She was deeply but unpretentiously religious, a 
member of the Church of England, very constant in church- 
attendance. In my earlier years she might be regarded as 
belonging rather to the " Evangelical " branch of the Church, 
but later on her associations grew to be of the " high church " 
kind. This only made a difference of habitude, not of 
essentials. She took a reasonable interest in matters of 
politics, her sympathies being on the Liberal side. She wrote 
correctly in prose, and some few times even in verse ; but 



22 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

without having, at any time of her life, any notion of doing 
aught for publication. I have heard that in youth she was 
considered rather a " quiz " (as the phrase then ran), or a 
person with a sharp eye for 'the ridiculous in others. Of this 
I myself remember few symptoms or none ; but certainly she 
knew a pretender or a humbug when she saw one, and could 
express her perception by clear word of mouth. With all 
the reserve of her character, her total want of forwardness, 
her mostly unspoken scorn of semblances which have not 
realities behind them, there was nothing about her of the 
merely stolid or negative ; her feelings were warm, and even 
her temper might have been less unruffled than it was, but 
for a life-long practice of moderating self-control. She was 
just, liberal, kind, forgiving, steadfast. A son who has any 
evil to say of his mother might feel embarrassed until he had 
managed to say it mildly : I am spared any such embarrass- 
ment. To sum up — she was one of the most womanly of 
women. 

My mother once said — it may have been towards 1872 or 
1873 : " I always had a passion for intellect, and my wish was 
that my husband should be distinguished for intellect, and 
my children too. I have had my wish [and this she might 
well say in reference to her elder son and her younger 
daughter, not to bring the remaining two into question] ; and 
I now wish that there were a little less intellect in the family, 
so as to allow for a little more common sense." I have 
always set store by that utterance of my mother, as equally 
sound and characteristic. 

Frances Rossetti was of an ordinary female middle height, 
or a trifle less than that, 1 with a full-sized head, fresh com- 
plexion, features more than commonly regular, shapely 

1 Miss Hall Caine, in her pleasant article A Child's Recollections of 
Rossetti, in the New Review for September 1894, describes my mother 
as "very little." This is a mistake. Miss Caine only saw my mother in 
the early part of 1882, when the latter was nearly eighty-two years of 
age. Her figure had then fallen in, and she looked short ; but the state- 
ment in my text is the correct one. 



PARENTAGE. 23 

Madonna-like eyelids, and an air of innate composure. Her 
general aspect was English, not Italian. Her eyes were grey, 
her hair in youth abundant and pretty, worn then in long 
ringlets, of a full-tinted brown. It altered colour but little, 
even in her extreme old age ; and she always looked to me — 
and I believe to others— some five or six years younger than 
she was. Her voice was extremely clear and uniform, excel- 
lent for reading. There is a good likeness of her in one of 
Sir John Millais's pictures — the Departure of the Crusaders, 
painted towards 1856. 

After the definite failure of my father's health, or from 
about 1844 until his death in 1854, the chief support of the 
family devolved upon my mother — the eldest child, Maria, 
being in 1844 only seventeen years of age. My mother 
made great and most laudable efforts — going out to teach 
French and Italian (both of which she knew and spoke 
perfectly well) and other things, and afterwards holding 
precarious day-schools — at No. 38 Arlington Street, Morn- 
ington Crescent (our residence for a year or two beginning 
in 1 851), and at Frome Selwood. The schools produced no 
income of any account ; and my mother's small 'expectations 
(from the property left by her maternal grandfather), and 
then her small capital, had to be trenched upon. After her 
return however from Frome, in 1854, it no longer became 
necessary for her to exert herself ; she continued living with 
me and my two sisters, and in 1876 removed with Christina 
to another house, 30 Torrington Square. In her later years 
her hearing was imperfect, though by no means gone, and 
her general strength abated considerably. Her mind remained 
always clear, but necessarily less strong with the inroads of 
age. She died, rather of gradual decline than of anything 
else, on 8 April 1886, the very day which completed four 
years after the death of Dante Gabriel. Had she lived a few 
more days, she would have been eighty-six years of age. She 
rests by her husband's side in Highgate Cemetery. 

I have observed that my mother " wrote correctly in prose, 
and some few times even in verse." It has lately been my 



24 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

melancholy task to hunt through drawers, pigeon-holes, etc., 
in the house (30 Torrington Square) occupied by my sister 
Christina — of memory gracious to many — up to the date of 
her death, 29 December 1894. I came upon a little red 
writing-case, given by Dante Rossetti to our mother in 1849 > 
in the writing-case were these verses of her composition. 
They are dated 1876, the year when my sister Maria Francesca 
died ; after Dante's death in 1882 a final couplet was added. 
To me the lines, recording a succession of family losses, are 
pathetic ; they come from a heart full of affection. Perhaps 
the reader will think it ridiculous that I should print them ; 
at worst, the ridicule will apply to me alone, and not to the 
writer, who in youth and age kept all such things very much 
to herself. 

" No longer I hear the welcome sound 

Of Father's foot upon the ground ; 

No longer see the loving face 

Of Mother beam with kindly grace ; 

No longer hear ' how I rejoice ' 

At sight of me, from Sister's voice ; ' 

No more from Husband loved will be a 

' Cara Francesca, moglie mia ' ; 

And from dear Daughter sore I miss 

'My dearest Dodo,' 2 and her kiss: — 

I never more shall hear him speak, 

The dearly loved who called me ' Tique.' " 3 

III. 

RELATIVES. 

FRANCES ROSSETTI was the daughter of Gaetano Polidori, 
and of Anna Maria Polidori, nee Pierce. 

My maternal great-grandfathers were both born an immense 
time ago ; Agostino Ansaldo Polidori in 17 14, and William 
Pierce in 1736: strange to think of. Even my maternal 

1 This was Margaret, who died in 1867. 

2 A pet name much used by Maria for her mother. 

3 Dante Gabriel was addicted to calling his mother, in her later years, 
"the Antique," or simply " Antique," shortened sometimes into " Tique." 



RELATIVES. 2$ 

grandfather dates as far back as 1764, and my grandmother 
as far back as 1769. The year 17 14 witnessed the accession 
of George I. to the British throne ; 1736, the death of Prince 
Eugene; 1764, the death of Hogarth; 1769, the publication 
of the first Letter of Junius. 

The name Polidori is of course Greek, not Italian ; but of 
any Greek ancestry which there may possibly have been I 
know nothing. The Polidori family, so far as I ever heard 
of it, was Tuscan, the profession of medicine being customary 
from father to son ; authorship was also frequent in the race, 
at any rate in the later generations. Agostino Ansaldo, 
author of two poems, Tobias and Osteology (the latter has been 
privately printed), was a Doctor settled at Bientina near 
Pisa : here was born his son Gaetano. There was also a 
brother of Agostino, named Francesco. He produced a poem 
entitled Losario (privately printed), more or less in the vein 
of Ariosto. Gaetano was intended. for the law, which he 
studied in the University of Pisa. In 1785, however, he deserted 
the law, and, on the recommendation of the Abate Fassini, 
became secretary to the famous tragedian Conte Alfieri, with 
whom he stayed at Brisach, Colmar, and Paris. Naturally 
he saw, along with Alfieri, the Countess of Albany, whose 
husband, "the Young Pretender," was then still living. 
Polidori was in Paris at the taking of the Bastille in July 1789 ; 
and a little anecdote which he relates of that day may deserve 
reproduction here : — 

" I was passing by the Palais Royal while the populace were 
running to assault the fortress ; and, having encountered a highly- 
powdered wig-maker, with a rusty sword raised aloft, I, not expecting 
any such thing, and hardly conscious of the act, had the sword 
handed over to me, as he cried aloud — ' Prenez, citoyen, combattez 
pour la patrie? I had no fancy for such an enterprise ; so, finding 
myself sword in hand, T at once cast about for some way to get rid 
of it ; and, bettering my instruction from the man of powder, I stuck 
it into the hand of the first unarmed person I met ; and, repeating, 
' Prenez, citoyen, combattez pour la patrie] I passed on and returned 
home." 



26 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Polidori (as he intimates) had no taste for political 
convulsions, and little for politics of any sort. Almost 
immediately afterwards Alfieri got put out at finding that 
on a single occasion his secretary was not at home when 
summoned, and the Count wrote him a note, asking him " to 
change his style, or else his dwelling." Polidori, one of the 
least pliable of mortals, closed at once with the second alter- 
native, and determined to clear out of France, and repair to 
England to teach Italian. He asked for and readily obtained 
three letters of introduction from Alfieri and the Countess of 
Albany. These were addressed to Mrs. Cosway, the painter, 
Captain Masseria, a relative of Napoleon, and the famous 
Corsican General De' Paoli. The last remained up to his 
death on intimate terms with Polidori, and left him a mourning 
ring, which I now possess. In 1791 Alfieri, then in France, 
wished to get Polidori back as his secretary ; but the latter 
declined with thanks, preferring conservative England very 
much to revolutionary France. 

In February 1793 Polidori married -Miss Anna Maria 
Pierce, who had acted as a governess. He taught Italian for 
a great number of years, retiring in 1836, after having made 
a fair moderate competence. He then lived for a while wholly 
in Buckinghamshire — Holmer Green, near Little Missenden, 
in a house which he had purchased years before for personal 
and family convenience — but in 1839 he returned to London, 
Park Village East, Regent's Park. There he died of apoplexy 
in December 1853, aged eighty-nine. 

My anecdote about the wig-maker and the sword is taken 
from a little narrative which Polidori wrote, as an appendix 
to one of his privately printed books ; for he kept a printing- 
press in Park Village East, and there he produced, with some 
aid from practical hands, several volumes of his own works, 
and a few others. Dante Rossetti's boyish poem Sir Hugh 
the Heron, and Christina's Verses, were among these — printed 
respectively in 1843 and 1847. Another was the poem by 
Erasmo di Valvasone, L Angeleida .; with passages extracted 
by Polidori from Milton's Paradise Lost, presumably founded 



RELATIVES. 27 

more or less upon this Italian poem. The personal narrative 
above mentioned relates chiefly to Alfieri, and contains 
several particulars of some interest. I give here a few of the 
general observations upon him : — 

" Curious and strange was the character of that singular man : 
proud as Milton's Satan, and more choleric than Homer's Achilles. 
He esteemed himself far beyond his real worth, and very few were 
the poets or men of letters for whom he had any regard. He was 
proud of his reddish hair, which he always wore studiously curled 
and tended ; of his fine and speckless apparel, and especially of his 
uniform as a captain in the Piedmontese Infantry, which he donned 
for more solemn occasions ; of his pure gold buckles for shoes 
and breeches, as then worn ; of his handsome English horses, of 
which, counting together saddle and carriage horses, he had sixteen ; 
and of his fine and elegant phaeton, which he generally drove four- 
in-hand, and went in pomp, taking the air in city and high-road. 
Yet, amid many defects, Count Alfieri had some good qualities : 
that of paying his debts most punctually, of limiting his outlay so 
that at the end of the year some money remained over, rather than 
be indebted for a penny, and of being just, when justice was clear to 
him. As I never had to dispute with him, in four years that I was 
in his house, save with the reason on my side, and, whenever we 
had disputed, he, upon recognizing that he was in the wrong, had 
confessed it and taken the blame to himself, I esteemed and loved 
him [various anecdotes had been previously given in the narrative, 
amply confirming this statement as to disputes between Alfieri and 
his secretary]. . . . In 1789 began the French Revolution, in which 
he exulted, and I saw him leap with joy upon the ruins of the 
Bastille." 

It is matter of notoriety, however, that after a while Alfieri 
entirely altered his view of French affairs, and became a 
Gallophobist of prime virulence. 

Polidori was a man of good stature and very vigorous 
build ; his health was strong, and his faculties not seriously 
impaired by age. He liked almost any occupation — writing, 
reading, cabinet-work (he produced many pretty boxes, 
tables, etc., in wood-mosaic, after the Florentine manner), 



28 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

and miscellaneous country work. He was a man of the most 
sturdy and independent character, a sworn enemy to pretence 
and frivolity of all sorts ; for instance, he would not allow any 
of his daughters to learn dancing. He always remained 
nominally a Roman-catholic, but without taking any part in 
religious observances of whatsoever kind. For his son-in- 
law Rossetti he had a sincere liking, and owned his great 
superiority to himself as a poet. But the divergence between 
them was frequently marked in little things : Polidori solid, 
unbending, somewhat dogged ; Rossetti not any less earnest 
in essentials, but vivacious, facile, with more grace of manner 
and feeling, and comparatively mercurial. As a grandfather 
Polidori was both kind and tolerant, and was looked up to 
by us with much warmth of regard. 

Gaetano Polidori had all the habits and likings of a literary 
man, and was more decidedly bookish than my father. 
Like the latter, he was a member of the Academy of the 
Arcadi, and bore the high-sounding designation of " Fileremo 
Etrusco." I possess his Arcadian diploma, a curious docu- 
ment. He wrote a large number of things in prose and verse, 
both published, privately printed, and unprinted. His first 
work was a poem, U Infedelta Punita {Faithlessness Punished). 
Among the others are — Novelle Morali {Moral Tales) ; 
Grammaire de la Langue Ltalie?me ; A Dictionary in three 
v61umes, Italian with French and English, French with 
Italian and English, and English with Italian and French — 
a very handy little book, and no doubt no small labour to 
its compiler ; Translation of all Milton's Poems ; Trans- 
lation of Lucan's Pharsalia. with a sequel of his own ; 
Tragedie e Drammi. Unprinted is a Life of Boccaccio, 
written in English, which my grandfather knew and spoke 
well. This MS. I possess ; likewise an Italian Life of 
General de Paoli, up to his return to Corsica during the 
French Revolution — a work which, considering Polidori's 
intimacy with his hero, might be of some worth. 

As I have already said, the wife of Gaetano Polidori was 
Anna Maria Pierce ; and I will now give some few particulars 



RELATIVES. 29 

about the Pierce family, which is, as will be perceived, the 
only source from which Dante Gabriel Rossetti had any 
English blood in his veins. 

I know nothing of the Pierces beyond Richard Pierce, my 
great-great-grandfather, who was a schoolmaster in Burlington 
Gardens, London. He had a son, William, a writing-master, 
who maintained himself from the age of sixteen onwards, 
married twice, and had ten children. William Pierce (I 
referred to this at the beginning of the present Section) was 
born as far back as 1736 ; and it would appear that the 
vocation of a writing-master must in his prime have been far 
more lucrative than it is at present, for he made a very com- 
fortable competence (the chief source of whatever money 
there has been in the family since his time), and "kept his 
carriage." Possibly his first marriage (which seems to have 
been into a grade somewhat above his own) had to do with 
this result. He was always represented to me as a curiously 
well-preserved specimen of " the old school " ; formal, precise, 
upright, rather formidable to a younger generation, yet kind 
too in his way. Among his grandchildren he had a special 
predilection for my mother ; though like a good British Tory 
as he was, he thought it " very odd " that, after his daughter 
Anna Maria had married one foreigner, his grand-daughter 
Frances should marry another foreigner. It looked like flying 
in the face of the blessed shades of a Chatham, Wolfe, Nelson, 
and George III., and truckling to the far from blessed shades 
of a Voltaire, a Mirabeau, and a Bonaparte, not to speak of 
the Pope of Rome. Mr. Pierce had in fact a strong feeling 
against marriages with foreigners, as his favourite sister had 
made a marriage of this kind which proved very unhappy 
He died in 1829, aged ninety-three, shortly before my birth ; 
and after him I was named William. His ten children, other 
than Mrs. Polidori, shall not concern us here ; except to say 
that one of his sons, Frederick, became a Brigadier-General, 
and was highly esteemed, I believe, in the Army of India. 
I will also observe in passing that, through the first wife of 
William Pierce, Jane Arrow, and a brother and sister of hers, 



30 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the present generation of Rossettis are some sort of cousins 
to that distinguished cleric, the Rev. J. E. Kempe, of St. 
James's Church, London, and also to the late Mrs. Eliza 
Anna Bray, whose first husband was a son of the painter 
Thomas Stothard. She published a Life of Stothard, various 
romances, tales of Devonshire life, an Autobiography, and 
other works. My uncle Henry Polydore once took the pains 
of drawing out a scanty pedigree of the Pierce and Arrow 
families ; and I find in it, as connected by marriage, the 
surnames Wrather, Hunter, Maunsell, Le Mesurier, Jump, 
Lester, Porter, Hutchins, Mose, Kitchener, Austin, Cooper, 
Sandrock, and Brown (nothing to do with Madox Brown). 
These surnames — except Wrather, Austin, and Brown — repre- 
sent nothing to my memory. Of the Austins I have some 
direct or collateral knowledge. There was a Bishop Austin 
in the West Indies, and an Austin Governor of Honduras ; 
and in 1887 at San Remo I met a very pleasant young lady, 
Miss Burrows (now Mrs. Martin), who informed me that she 
was some connexion of mine — I believe through the Austin 
family. 

As I have said, my great-grandfather, William Pierce, 
married a Miss Jane Arrow. My own knowledge of the 
Arrow family is of the scantiest ; but I find it mentioned in 
Mrs. Bray's Autobiography that James Arrow, the father 
of Jane, belonged to an old race, much damaged in the cause 
of Charles I. He had a small landed estate in Berkshire, and 
married an Irish lady, Elizabeth Jerdan, " related to the 
Whartons." She died at the age of ninety-nine ! 

To return to Anna Maria Pierce, Mrs. Polidori, whom, as 
she lived on to May 1853, I remember perfectly well. Before 
my recollection begins she had already become an invalid, 
owing to an internal complaint, and she never left her bed- 
room, and not often her bed. Her youngest daughter, Eliza 
Harriet, was her constant and devoted attendant, sacrificing 
for this purpose all the pleasures and interests of youth. 
Mrs. Polidori was a fine old lady, with very correct features, 
and an air which, in spite of her age and infirmity, was 



RELATIVES. 3 1 

comely as well as reverend. Her bed-room had to me 
all the dignity of a presence-chamber, which I entered at 
sparse intervals with a certain awe. She was, like several 
others of her race, a high Tory, and an earnest member of 
the Church of England ; and the arrangement made at her 
marriage was that any daughters should be brought up in 
that Church, while any sons should belong to the Roman 
communion. It comes apposite to say here that in the 
Rossetti family the understanding was different, and all the 
children were trained in their mother's faith. Mrs. Polidori 
had attained her eighty-fourth year at the date of her death. 
The only other member of her generation of the Pierce family 
whom I knew was her elder sister Harriet, who, though 
unmarried, was always in my time styled Mrs. Pierce, and 
we children were admonished to term her " Granny." After 
passing many years as governess in the family of the Earl 
of Yarborough, she spent the evening of her life in nice 
apartments in London, which she made a model of spick-and- 
span comfort, not unmixed with elegance. I have just now 
said that she was unmarried ; but there ran a rumour, not 
totally uncorroborated, that Lord Yarborough had in fact 
wedded her without publicity. He had become a widower 
in i8i3,and lived on to 1846. This rumour I of course in no 
sort of way avouch. " Granny " was the liberal purveyor of 
many a serviceable household-present to my mother, her 
favourite niece. She inherited all the faultless precision and 
imposing decorum of her father, and was the most nitid little 
old lady you could easily pick out in London. She died 
in 1849 — the first time that I looked upon the visible face 
of death. 

The Polidoris had a family of four daughters and four sons 
— one of the latter dying in infancy. In my notes to my 
brother's letters sufficient details will be given about three 
of these — Charlotte Lydia, Philip Robert, and Henry Francis 
(the latter modified his surname into Polydore). There 
remain the eldest daughter, Maria Margaret, and the youngest 
(whom I have just now mentioned), Eliza Harriet. Maria 



32 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Margaret — or Margaret, as she was always called — was in 
her youth a governess, but retired pretty early, and lived with 
her family, and finally in my house, 166 Albany Street, 
where she died in 1867. She was much affected with nervous 
tremor, and troubled by hysterical fits, in which she would 
fall into peals of long-continued quasi-laughter, which rang 
over the house— more like the vocal gymnastics of a laughing 
hyena than like anything else I know. No other symptom 
of the hyena appeared about my aunt, who, apart from a 
touchy temper, was a good old soul, much addicted to " daily 
service" twice a day in church. The youngest daughter, 
Eliza Harriet, had always a housekeeping managing turn, 
without any literary leanings. In 1854, the year succeeding 
her mother's death, she determined to make her knowledge 
of nursing useful to the nation, and went out with Miss 
Nightingale to the Crimean expedition, being then about 
forty-five years of age. To her disappointment no actual 
nursing was assigned to her, but she had the supervision of 
the hired nurses, and the management of bedding-stores 
etc., at the Barrack Hospital, Scutari, and rendered excellent 
service, which was recognized by the bestowal of a Turkish 
medal. I remember that after her return to England some 
case relating to the nursing transactions came into a London 
police-court, and she had to give evidence ; and we were 
amused at finding her, in the newspaper reports, designated 
as " Miss Polly Dory." The Crimean affair was about the 
only " adventure " of her long life. She died in London in 
1893, aged nearly eighty-four. Eliza was the last of the 
English Polidoris ; some of the name are still in Florence. 

Only one other Polidori has to be accounted for in my 
narrative — Dr. John William Polidori, who lives faintly in 
some memories as the travelling physician of the famous Lord 
Byron. He was born in London on 7 September 1795, 
educated at some Catholic schools and at the Benedictine 
Ampleforth College near York, and took his degree as M.D. 
in Edinburgh at the singularly youthful age of nineteen. He 
was only twenty when, on the recommendation of, Sir Henry 



RELATIVES. 33 

Halford, he became the travelling physician of Byron, who 
on 24 April 18 16 left England for the last time. They 
went along the Rhine to Geneva, where Polidori made 
acquaintance also with Shelley and his two companions, 
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (the second Mrs. Shelley) and 
Clare Clairmont. Polidori, who had poetical and literary 
ambitions of his own, took too much upon him to suit Byron 
for long ; so on 16 September the two parted company, 
and the young Doctor travelled on alone to Pisa, and then 
returned to England. He became one of the physicians in 
the Norwich Hospital ; but soon gave up medicine, partly 
because he would not have been allowed to practise in 
London before completing twenty-six years of age, and he 
began studying in London for the Bar. It has been said that 
in Norwich Miss Harriet Martineau was somewhat in love 
with him ; and this would not be unlikely, as Polidori — apart 
from his intellectual gifts, which were by no means so flimsy 
as some people seem now to suppose — was a noticeably fine 
young man, of striking feature and presence. In August 1821 
the end came in a melancholy way : he committed suicide 
with poison — having, through losses in gambling, incurred a 
debt of honour which he had no present means of clearing off. 
A coroner's jury was summoned ; the jurors took, probably 
through good-nature towards the family, no steps for eliciting 
requisite evidence, and returned a verdict of " Died by the 
visitation of God." His death was a grievous blow to his 
father, all whose leading hopes centred in this son. Gaetano 
Polidori, to the end of his long life, a lapse of thirty-two years, 
was never equal to hearing any mention of him, and we 
children of a younger generation were strictly warned not 
to name him, however casually, in our grandfather's presence. 

John Polidori published two volumes of verse : Ximenes, 
a Tragedy, and Other Poems, 18 19 ; and The Fall of the 
Angels, 1 821. It may at once be admitted that his poetry 
was not good. Two prose tales are much better — Ernestus 
Berchtold, and The Vampyre, both published in 18 19. 
The Vampyre has continually been misascribed to Byron, 

VOL. I. 3 



34 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

who in reality wrote the mere beginning of another tale 
(quite different in its incidents) named likewise The Vampyre. 
Polidori left some other writings, both published and un- 
published. The latter include a diary, partly detailed and 
partly mere jottings, of his sojourn with Byron and Shelley, 
and his subsequent tour. It was commissioned by Murray 
for publication at no less a price than £525, and contains 
some particulars of substantial interest. 1 

I have now finished all that I need say about the relatives 
of Dante Rossetti on the mother's side. The only relative 
on our father's side whom we have personally known — with 
some others I have corresponded — was Teodorico (or properly 
Teodoro) Pietrocola, who adopted the compound surname of 
Pietrocola-Rossetti. He was a Vastese, and studied medicine 
to some extent. In 1851, being then about twenty-four years 
of age, he came to London, hoping to find an opening of 
some kind ; but found nothing except semi-starvation, which 
he bore with a cheerful constancy touching to witness. In 
1856 or thereabouts he returned to Italy, practised for a 
moderate while medicine as a Homceopathist, married a 
Scotch lady (originally Miss Steele, now Mrs. Cole, an amiable, 
accomplished, and admirable woman), and, with her co-opera- 
tion, devoted himself to preaching evangelical Christianity, 
somewhat of the Vaudois type, in Florence and elsewhere. 
He died very suddenly in 1883, just as he was giving out 
a hymn or text to his small congregation. He published 
a few things — among others, a biography of my father, a 
translation of Alice in Wonderland, and one of Christina 
Rossetti's- poem, Goblin-Market, A man of more native 
unselfish kindliness, of stricter morals, or of nicer concientious- 
ness, never breathed. 

Since writing the above, I have observed in the book of 
Mr. W. G. Collingwood, The Life and Work of John Ruskin, 
a reference to Pietrocola-Rossetti which is of so much interest 

1 On the details about Shelley in this diary I wrote a few years ago, and 
delivered to the Shelley Society, a lecture which has not as yet been 
printed. 



RELATIVES. 3 5 

to me, and in itself so noticeable, that I extract it here ; it 
relates to the year 1882 : — 

"Miss [Francesca] Alexander . . . was as friendly, not only in 
society but in spiritual things, with the worthy village priest as with 
T. P. Rossetti, the leader of the Protestant ' Brethren,' whom she 
called her pastor — a cousin of the artist, and in his way no less 
remarkable a man. It is hardly too much to say that he did, for 
evangelical religion in Italy, what Gabriel Rossetti did for poetical 
art in England : he showed the path to sincerity and simplicity. 
And Mr. Ruskin, who had been driven away from Protestantism by 
the Waldensian at Turin [this refers to an incident in the year 1858], 
and had wandered through many realms of doubt, and voyaged 
through strange seas of thought alone, found harbour at last with 
the disciple of a modern evangelist, the frequenter of the poor little 
meeting-house of outcast Italian Protestants." 

If this statement is literally accurate, it would appear that 
the latest development of Mr. Ruskin's religious opinions was 
mainly influenced by Miss Alexander, who was not a little 
influenced by Pietrocola-Rossetti : a matter worth remember- 
ing for many a day to come. 

I have often reflected how utterly different this cousin of 
mine was from the ordinary English notion of a Southern 
Italian. My father also was very different from that notion ; 
my grandfather, a Central Italian, quite the reverse of it. 
Peace be with the honoured and honourable memory of all 
three. 

The Rossetti family in Vasto became extinct while I was 
composing this Memoir : the latest survivor was Vincenzo 
Rossetti, who died, aged forty, on 11 November 1894. "With 
him," so runs a billet de /aire part which was sent to me, 
" was lost the last germ of so glorious a stem in Italy." 
I presume, but cannot say for certain, that in the female line 
the race of Nicola and Maria Francesca Rossetti may still 
subsist. 

The reader may have observed, in the course of my 
family narrative, several instances of longevity in the races 
of Arrow, Pierce, and Polidori. I have under my eye a list 



36 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

of nine persons, among whom the lowest age was eighty- 
three, the highest ninety-nine — average eighty-eight. Nothing 
of the sort appears in the Rossetti race, though my father 
attained a not inconsiderable age — seventy-one. It may also 
be noted that in the three lines from which Dante Rossetti 
came — Polidori, Pierce, and Rossetti — the work of tuition 
held a very large place. Hence perchance he inherited a 
certain readiness at linguistics, and at seeing literary matters 
from a literary point of view ; but there was little or nothing 
in him of the man born to teach by ordinary teaching 
methods. 

IV. 

CHILDHOOD. 

My mother, marrying on 10 April 1826, had four children- 
there were never any more — in four successive years : Maria 
Francesca, born on 17 February 1827 ; Gabriel Charles 
Dante, 12 May 1828 ; William Michael, 25 September 
1829; and Christina Georgina, 5 December 1830. The 
famous Surgeon and Physician, Dr. Locock — afterwards Sir 
William Locock, the Queen's accoucheur — ushered, I believe, 
all of us into the world ; for our father — though a man of 
thrift, and in personal expenses heedfully sparing — grudged 
no cost needed for the well-being of his household. To 
Gabriel Charles Dante I shall here generally apply the name 
" Dante," which he adopted as if it had stood first in order ; 
in his own family, however, he was invariably termed Gabriel 
— or, by our sister Maria, " Gubby," a pet name which other 
members of the household did not affect. 

Our house, No. 38 Charlotte Street, was a fairly neat but 
decidedly small one : it is smaller inside than it looks viewed 
from outside. I can remember a little about it, but not 
much. Towards 1 836 the family had outgrown it, and removed 
to No. 50 in the same street — a larger but still far indeed 
from being a spacious dwelling. This house is now the office 
of a Registrar of births, deaths, and marriages; and, singularly 



CHILDHOOD. 37 

enough, when I had to record in 1876 the death of my 
sister Maria, I found that the place for doing this was the 
very house in which she had so long resided. Soon after 
Gabriele Rossetti settled in Charlotte Street it began to go 
down in character, and at times it became the extreme reverse 
of " respectable." Dante Rossetti in his early childhood was 
a pleasing spirited-looking boy, with bright eyes, auburn hair, 
and fresh complexion. He remembered in after-years nothing 
distinctly earlier than this : That there used to be a Punch 
and Judy show which came at frequent intervals to perform 
just before our house, but for the delectation of our opposite 
neighbours, so that he himself only saw the back of the show. 
This was not at all what he wanted ; so he motioned to go 
out into the street, and turn round and see the front of the 
Punch and Judy (there was no Dog Toby in those distant 
days), but was wofully disconcerted at being told that such 
a proceeding would be infra dig, and not to be condoned. 
Dante shared with Maria the ascendency over his two juniors : 
but Maria, in these opening years, was not easily to be 
superseded — being of a very enthusiastic temperament and 
lively parts ; and indeed she always remained the best of the 
four at what we call acquired knowledge. In her fifth year 
she could read anything in either English or Italian, and 
read she did with tireless persistency. Our early years 
were passed wholly at home in London, with occasional visits 
to our grandparents at Holmer Green, our Aunts Margaret 
and Eliza, and our Uncle Philip, being continuously there as 
well. Our daily walks were with our mother in and about 
Regent's Park, which was opened to the public much towards 
the date of my birth. I can still recollect how palatial I 
used to consider the frontage of the Terraces facing the Park, 
and how our mother would explain to us which of the 
columns or pilasters was Ionic, which Corinthian, and so on. 
The Colosseum, a big Exhibition building pulled down 
towards 1870, was then in existence, and was occasionally 
visited by us. It comprised a Camera Obscura, in which we 
viewed with wonder the groups of people disporting them- 



38 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

selves in the Park. Primrose Hill was ascended every now 
and then. It led immediately on into fields (how different 
from now !) which brought one into the rural village of 
Hampstead, to which our father escorted us at rare intervals. 
Railways were just beginning not far from Regent's Park ; 
to see the puffs of their steam as the trains rolled onward 
appeared little short of magic. 

Two of my childish reminiscences of my brother relate to 
animals. Some one gave him a dormouse, which he named 
" Dwanging," and, on the approach of winter, he shut it up 
in a drawer to hibernate. In its long sleep he looked at it 
from time to time, but was careful not to disturb it ; and his 
glee was proportionate when the little creature revived in the 
spring. Later on there was a hedgehog, to whom Dante's 
conduct was not equally correct. The hedgehog was wont 
to trot about on the table in our dining and sitting room, or 
" parlour " as we mostly termed it (the drawing-room was 
little used, save by our father in his literary work, or occa- 
sionally with a pupil) ; and one day my brother insisted on 
leaving upon the table some beer for his prickly favourite. 
The latter freely partook of the beverage, and his unsteady 
gait evinced the effects of it. Our mother forbade the repeti- 
tion of any such experiments ; and I think Dante himself had 
no wish to recur to them, for at no period of his life did he 
relish the sight of anything repellent or degrading. One of 
my brother's first books was Peter Parley's Natural History, 
which he enjoyed, both text and cuts. We went pretty often 
to the Zoological Gardens, then a very recent foundation, and 
would run shrieking through its tunnel, to rouse the echo. 
The animals were at that date much fewer than now, yet still 
numerous — their housing very inferior. There was a striated 
monkey, whose designation was explained to us (I have not 
seen any such animal of late years) ; also a singsing antelope, 
of whom my father would say (in English), " Sing, sing, 
antelope ; antelope, sing, sing ; but he never sang." Arma- 
dilloes, and a sloth walking with his head downwards, were 
among our favourites — not to speak of screaming parrots, 



CHILDHOOD. 39 

bears, lions, tigers, and elephants. A collared peccary gave 
Christina a vicious bite, which came to nothing. No wombat 
figured at that early date ; but several dogs used to be there, 
more or less domestic, which were tethered in a rather 
dejected and yell-abounding file. They were afterwards 
abolished, on the ground that such a treatment of them was 
not far remote from cruelty. 

Another amusement, as Dante progressed in childhood, 
was the Adelaide Gallery, close to St. Martin's Church, now 
occupied by Gatti's Restaurant. It was a semi-scientific enter- 
tainment, exhibiting inter alia fearsome microscopic enlarge- 
ments of the infusoria in a few drops of water. The Adelaide 
Gallery was succeeded by the Polytechnic Institution in 
Regent Street, with a more varied programme of like kind — 
diving-bell, electric shocks, dissolving views, chemical demon- 
strations, etc. This also is now gone, the present Polytechnic 
being quite a different sort of establishment. The Soho 
Bazaar, and more especially the Pantheon Bazaar in Oxford 
Street (now Gilbey's liquor stores), were often our resort. 
The Pantheon exhibited many pictures from time to time, 
including Haydon's Raising of Lazarus. Astley's Riding 
Circus, with dramatic entertainments (such as Mazeppd), we 
saw once or twice, but in childhood we hardly at all entered 
a regular theatre. To pay for going to the Italian Opera 
(the building near Charing Cross, now gone) was what we 
could not afford. Occasionally, however, the great singer 
Lablache, whom my father had known in Naples, would 
give us a ticket for that house, and we enjoyed the perform- 
ance vastly. My recollections carry me back to the first (or 
may-be the second) London season of the celebrated Madame 
Julia Grisi, whom I saw in the Gazza Ladra. The appear- 
ance of her husband Mario was a matter of some years later 
on. I remember also the first season of Madlle Rachel, 
who was acting Chimene in the Cid of Corneille. There 
was likewise a ballet, The Daughter of the Danube, with 
various " fiends " in it. This hit our fancy uncommonly, and 
we made at home some kind of pretence at " the Blue Demon " 



40 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

and other of its characters in 1838. My first (and for years 
it must have remained my sole) pantomime is also a lively 
reminiscence. There was a race run by jockeys on pigs, and 
each touch of the whip raised a shower of sparks out of the 
porcine steeds, to my uncontrollable laughter and delight. 
My brother must have been with me, but I forget his 
demeanour. 

Beyond an opera or a concert at rare intervals, we heard 
little music as children ; except that our father, with his rich 
voice and fine declamation, would at times, unaccompanied, 
strike up a stave of some glorious chant of the French 
revolutionary epoch — 

"La Victoire en chantant nous ouvre la barriere" — 

or (sung to the same spirit-stirring air) — 

" Romain, leve les yeux. La fut le Capitol," 1 

or the Marseillaise. Another customary song of his was a 
popular and rather long grotesque tirade about a Jewish 
wedding, Bdruccaba, from which he sang several snatches. 
Our mother also would frequently play on the pianoforte, for 
our delectation, The Battle of Prague, with the " groans of the 
wounded," and other less lugubrious details. She had an 
agreeable voice for singing ; but it had received no sort of 
cultivation, as singing was, like dancing, one of the worldly 
vanities which my grandfather discountenanced. In my first 

1 This Lyric must belong to the year 1798, when the French army 
entered Rome, and set up a short-lived Republic ; perhaps it is now a 
curiosity. I can recall the opening lines — being all, 1 think, that my father 

sang : — 

' ' Romain, leve les yeux. La fut le Capitol : 
Ce pont fut le pont de Codes : 
La Brutus immola sa race : 
Et C6sar dans cette autre place 
Fut poignarde' par Cassius. 
Rome, la Liberte' t'appelle ; 
Sache vaincre ou sache perir : 
Un Romain doit vivre pour elle, 
Pour elle un Romain doit mourir. " 



CHILDHOOD. 41 

years I often heard her sing these lines, and the tune still 
lingers with me : — 

" The sun sets by night and the stars shun the day, 
But glory remains when their lights fade away : 
Begin, ye tormentors, your threats are in vain, 
For the sons of Alnomuk shall never complain. 

"Remember the arrows we shot from our bow, 
Remember the chiefs by our hatchets laid low: 
Now, the flames rising fast, we exult in our pain, 
For the sons of Alnomuk shall never complain." 

Where do these mediocre lines come from ? My mother 
(it seems to me) associated them with the story of Guatimozin 
and the Spaniards under Cortes, but that does not look 
correct. 

I hardly think that I ever saw my father touch a pack of 
playing cards ; he played pretty often at chess. My mother 
would at times take part in a family game without any stakes. 
Upon us children nothing was more strongly impressed than 
a horror of gambling, which had led to the death of Dr. John 
Polidori : but we were allowed to play at simple games ; 
Patience, and Beggar my Neighbour, and (what I never hear 
of now) The Duchess of Rutland's Whim. The last I asso- 
ciated in my mind with the notion of arithmetical subtraction, 
as contrasted with addition, which the other two games might 
be held to represent. Later on there came Whist, and the 
Italian game of Tre Sette. We identified ourselves in a sort 
of way with the four suits of cards ; and clubs were thus made 
the appurtenance of Maria, hearts of Dante, diamonds of 
Christina, and spades of myself. I may here say that the 
dislike to the idea of gambling clung to us through life ; and 
neither Dante nor any other of us ever played for money, in 
any sense worth naming. Besides cards, a rocking-horse, a 
spinning-top, a teetotum, ball, ninepins, blindman's buff, and 
puss-in-the-corner, used to amuse us — hardly anything else 
in the way of games. Even marbles we never rightly learned, 
nor efficient kite-flying, still less anything to be called athletics. 
As to mental games, we were much addicted to what is called 



42 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

" animal, vegetable, or mineral " ; and there must occasionally 
have been some " capping verses," but this (which seems odd 
under the circumstances) was quite infrequent. 

Of events in the opening years of Dante Rossetti I find 
none to record ; unless it be that, at the age of five, he 
suddenly became weak on his legs, and, after the celebrated 
surgeon Sir Benjamin Brodie had been consulted, he had to 
wear splints for a longish while — say three or four months. 
I can recollect the look of him, carried, or afterwards hobbling, 
upstairs. One day he thought he would try how he could 
do without the splints ; he did very well, and the affair was 
at an end. He was a sprightly little fellow, and liked to 
play a trick or two. One trick he played more than 
once was walking in the street in a huddled-up attitude, as 
if he were crippled or almost hunchbacked. When a pas- 
senger looked at him sympathetically, the limbs suddenly 
straightened, and perhaps an impish laugh accompanied the 
change of form. In our unluxurious household he was regarded 
as rather " dainty " in his diet ; inclined to eat such things as 
he liked, and doing without those he disliked. For beer he 
had a marked distaste ; there was no wine going to speak of, 
so he stuck to water. Meat also he would scarcely touch 
until turned of eight years. 

I believe the first attempt at drawing made by the future 
painter of Beata Beatrix was on this wise. At the age of 
about four he stationed himself in the passage leading to the 
street-door, and with a pencil of our father's began drawing 
his rocking-horse ; later on in his childhood and boyhood he 
seldom made any attempt at drawing from any real object, 
but only " out of his own head." A milkman came in at the 
moment, and was not a little surprised : " I saw a baby 
making a picture," he said to the servant. I have here 
mentioned " the age of about four," because that is the age 
which my brother himself named to me one day in April 1 872 
when we were talking over our earliest reminiscences. I still 
possess a drawing by him of the rocking-horse, on which our 
mother has marked the date 1834, when he was at least five 



CHILDHOOD. 43 

years of age. I could believe this to be that very first 
drawing of all, were it not that the performance comes so 
near to being pretty tolerably good that I find some difficulty 
in conceiving that he had never before taken pencil in 
hand. 

Having once begun, Dante never dropped this notion of 
drawing — of handling a pencil or a brush ; and I cannot 
remember any date at which it was not understood in the 
family that " Gabriel meant to be a painter." He, and also I, 
were incessantly buying sheets of slight engravings of actors 
and actresses in costume — " Skelt's Theatrical Characters " 
was the name of one leading series of them. I do not think 
any such engravings are now produced, which seems strange 
in this period of dramatic activity. There was a good-natured 
little stationer named Hardy, perhaps in Clipstone Street, 
from whom we bought these things ; and another named 
Marks, in Great Titchfield Street, who was a trifle less accom- 
modating, and on one occasion nonplussed us both by 
insisting that we should ask for the required " characters " 
by the number printed on the sheet, and not by the title 
of the play or the personage. The quantity of these figures 
which Dante and I coloured is marvellous to reflect upon — he 
in chief, but I was a good second ; our sisters counted for 
little. We also " tinselled " the figures, but this was com- 
paratively rare. Now and then we made some attempt at 
acting a play with such personages on a toy-stage ; but, as 
none of us had the least manual or mechanical dexterity, this 
came to nothing. I seem to recollect The Miller and his 
Men and Der Freiscliutz. In colouring our taste was all 
for bright hues — red, blue, yellow, etc. Neither of us had the 
least of a colourist's sympathy for fused, subdued, or mottled 
tints. 

In those days another amusement was current, which has, 
I fancy, died out entirely. It might well be revived. " Magic 
Shadows " was the name of it. One bought full-sized sheets of 
paper, on which heads, figures, or groups, were rudely printed, 
in coarse outline, and with numerous half-formless splotches 



44 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

of black. One had to cut out a figure etc. along its outline, 
and to cut out also the splotches of black ; and then one held 
up the figure between a candle and the wall, so that the 
shadow of the unexcised portions was cast on to the wall. 
This shadow looked surprisingly neat and expressive in 
comparison with the original aspect of the printed figures. 
We all — but principally myself — enjoyed this ocular amuse- 
ment, and practised it diligently for various years. 



V. 
ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 

Mr. Hall CAINE has cited from one of Dante Rossetti's 
letters the phrase, " Our household was all of Italian, not 
English, environment." This is wholly correct. 

The only English family that we used to see pretty 
frequently was that of Mr. Cipriani Potter, the Pianist, and 
Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. He was one of 
my godfathers, and had children of much the same age as 
ourselves ; an excellent undersized man, with a somewhat 
saturnine expressive face, an abundance of shrewd sense, 
and a bantering habit of talk. Mr. Charles Lyell, though 
intimate with my father, was seldom in London. There was 
also Mr. Thomas Keightley, the historian, and author of The 
Fairy Mythology — a book which formed one of the leading 
delights of our childhood. He likewise was in London only 
occasionally — a scholarly, shortsighted Irishman, of a high 
sense of honour, rather easily nettled now and again. He was 
a great believer in my father's views concerning Dante. At 
a much later date, towards 1849, Mr. Keightley settled in a 
suburb of London ; and his nephew and adopted son, Mr. 
Alfred Chaworth Lyster, became, and still remains, one of my 
most affectionate friends. Two of the families in which my 
father taught Italian — those of Mr. Swynfen Jervis, and of 
Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid — had a particular regard for him, 
and on some high occasions we children were inside their 



ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 45 

doors. Mr. Jervis, a relative of Lord St. Vincent, took some 
minor part in verse-writing and Shakespearean comment. 
He was father of Mrs. George Henry Lewes, and I remember 
her well before her marriage, but never saw her afterwards ; 
her unfortunate story shall not here be touched upon. To Sir 
Isaac Goldsmid, one of the wealthiest Hebrew stockbrokers in 
London, I may record my obligation, which proved to be a 
life-long one. He it was who, when my father, in failing health 
and waning employment, was looking out for some career into 
which I could be introduced, spoke a word in season to one 
of his colleagues on the Council of the London University, 
Mr. John Wood, then Chairman of the Board of Excise — and 
Mr. Wood lost no time in giving me employment there 
which, though temporary at first starting, lasted in fact from 
February 1845 to August 1894. These seem to be about the 
only English people whom I need mention in this connexion, 
allowing besides for the English family of an Anglo-Italian 
music-master, Signor Rovedino. This family, like that of 
Mr. Potter, comprised children of our own age. With Mrs. 
Rovedino resided an aunt, whom I mention for the sake of 
her sounding old Saxon name, Miss Waltheof, which was 
always pronounced Walthew. 

We knew in childhood a perfect specimen of the " Poor 
Relation," who used to call upon our mother at regular 
intervals for purposes easily surmisable. She was named 
Miss Sarah Brown — a middle-aged spinster tending to the 
elderly, of that order of faculty which is termed " weak-minded." 
At a very early age we became, in some casual way, familiar 
with Charles Lamb's excellent little essay called Poor Relations, 
containing the words (as near as I remember them) : — 

"There is one person more embarrassing than a male Poor 
Relation, and that is a female Poor Relation ; no woman dresses 
below her station from caprice." 

I used to ponder these words in regard to Sarah Brown, and 
to think, " Is it or is it not true that no woman dresses below 
her station from caprice ? " 



46 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

If English acquaintances were at a minimum with us, 
Italian acquaintances were at a maximum. It seems hardly 
an exaggeration to say that every Italian staying in or pass- 
ing through London, of a Liberal mode of political opinion, 
sought out my father, to make or renew acquaintance with him ; 
not to speak of numerous relays of tatterdemalions, who came 
principally or solely for alms. If they made the Masonic 
knock at the door, or a Masonic digital sign on entering, 
they were immediately relieved, as an act of obligation on 
the part of my father as a Freemason ; and many were 
relieved who had no claim of that particular kind. There 
were two terms which I have heard my father apply — how 
often ! — to persons of this class : " un cercatore " was an appli- 
cant or beggar, " un seccatore " was an intrusive person, or bore. 
Others, to whom these designations did not relate (though 
some of these also were manifest seccatori, and perhaps on 
occasion cercatori as well), would come evening after evening, 
and almost all evenings, to our house — in various instances, 
for months or years together. My father, as the offspring of 
a blacksmith in a country town, was not entitled to have any 
caste-prejudices, and in fact he had none. To be an Italian 
was a passport to his good-will ; and, whether the Italian was 
a nobleman, a professional gentleman, a small musical hanger- 
on, a maccaroni-man, or a mere waif and stray churned by the 
pitiless sea of expatriation, he equally welcomed him, if only 
he were an honest soul, and not a spia (spy) — the latter being 
a class of men much rumoured of among the Italian refugees 
and Londoners, and abhorred with a loathing indignation. 
Hardly an organ-man or plaster-cast vendor passed our street- 
door without being interrogated by my father, " Di che paese 
siete?" ("What part of Italy do you come from?") The 
plaster-cast vendor is seen no more in London streets, but 
the organ-man remains. The natives of the Sunny South 
who frequented our house seemed all to be indifferent — 
singularly indifferent, in British eyes — to any form of social 
entertainment ; what they came for was talk — chiefly on 
political topics, mingled at moments with a little literature, 



ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 47 

and constantly with a liberal sprinkling of my father's poems, 
which were received with sonorous eulogy, founded at least 
as much on political or national as on literary considerations. 
Gabriele Rossetti's noble declamation, taken along with his 
subject-matter, was indeed enough to carry any sympathizer 
away on the wave and whirl of excitement. I seldom heard 
him read any of his prose-writings on such occasions. His 
auditors hardly appeared to have any fleshly appetites. Such 
a thing as a solid supper was never in question, neither did 
they ever propose to smoke. They would come into our small 
sitting-room, greet the " Signora Francesca " and their host, 
and sit down, as the chance offered, amid the whole family, 
adult and semi-infantine. A cup or two of tea or of coffee, 
with a slice of bread and butter, was all the provender wont 
to be forthcoming. 

It would be difficult to give an idea of the atmosphere of 
thought and feeling in which Dante Rossetti grew to boyhood 
and to youth, unless I were to say something about the 
foreign visitors. I shall endeavour to be reasonably brief. 
Some he remembered a little, but I, his junior, scarcely or not 
at all. Such were Angeloni, a literary purist, 1 who became 
blind in his last years ; General Michele Carrascosa, who was 
my second godfather ; the famous prima donna Giuditta 
Pasta ; Guido Sorelli, who maligned in a book the character 
of Italian women, and was gibbeted by my father in a sonnet ; 
Dragonetti, a leading violoncellist at the Italian opera ; 
Petroni, compiler of a dictionary. The celebrated author Ugo 
Foscolo was barely known to my father in London ; well known 
was the not less celebrated violinist Paganini. There was a 
Conte Faro, who took, I believe, to coal-dealing. " Faro " 
means in Italian " I will do" ; and my father (possibly 

1 Purism in the use of the Italian language was a great controversy 
among Italians in all those years. The purists insisted upon recurring to 
the standard of literary diction, mainly the Tuscan of the fourteenth 
century, to the exclusion of everything modern, provincial, or imported 
from abroad. Gabriele Rossetti cared little for such niceties, but was 
willing to write much as he thought and spoke. Polidori was stricter, yet 
not a purist. 



48 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

without any reason beyond the purport of the name) used to 
call him " Faro, faro, e nonfard mai niente " (" I will do, I will 
do, and never will he do anything "). One curious character, 
fearfully addicted to drawing the long bow, was named the 
Marchese Moscati, who actually persuaded the very eminent 
physician, Dr. Elliotson, that Moscati had a double stomach, 
and was a ruminating animal. Elliotson introduced him to 
Rossetti, and was (I may take this opportunity of saying) our 
accustomed family doctor, resolutely refusing — for he was a 
most kind and generous man — to accept any fees for his 
valuable advice. Thackeray dedicated Pendennis to him. 
After a while my father left Moscati to ruminate by himself, 
and they -became avowed enemies. 

Among Italians well remembered by me, some are men- 
tioned in my Notes to Dante Rossetti's letters : — Filippo 
Pistrucci (I recollect also, though faintly, his brother Benedetto 
the eminent medallist, who designed our " George-and-the- 
Dragon " coinage) ; Sangiovanni, the clever modeller in clay, 
the most picturesque figure of all, who had, I believe, " knifed " 
somebody in early youth, and had later on (chiefly after the 
suppression of the Neapolitan constitution in 1821) had many 
a romantic adventure in the kingdom, as captain of a band for 
the suppression of brigandage, which bore a partly politico- 
reactionary character ; the Cavalier Mortara ; Baron Calfapietra. 
Other intimates in our early childhood were — Janer (he subse- 
quently called himself Janer-Nardini), a Tuscan, scholarly and 
courteous, keen in politics, and of a very biting tongue ; Cici- 
loni, a teacher of Italian, of high character in all respects, who 
took up Rossetti's work at some times when the latter was laid 
aside, and especially during his very severe illness in 1843 \ 
Foresti, who had been in China ; Sarti, the plaster-cast vendor; 
De' Marsi, a teacher ; Ferrari, an aged musician whom blindness 
had overtaken ; Sir Michael Costa, the musician and conductor, 
and his brother Raffaele, both of whom we saw occasionally ; 
Count Carlo Pepoli, a good-looking, cultivated Bolognese of 
high honour and ancient family, regarded in our retired 
household as rather a dandy — he had been addressed in a 



ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 49 

striking poetical epistle by the great poet Leopardi, and 
eventually an English lady of some fortune " proposed to 
him," and he married her, returned to Italy when liberal 
politics prevailed there, and died a Senator of the realm ; 
Rolandi, the bookseller, a very worthy man of small stature ; 
Count Giuseppe Ricciardi, a South Neapolitan, an ardent 
patriot of the revolutionary-republican type. I remember 
seeing once or twice in our house a handsome stately lady, 
rather advanced in years, who called herself, I think, Ida 
Saint Elme. She was the daughter of a Hungarian nobleman, 
Leopold de Tolstoy, had led an agitated and far from correct 
life, and was authoress of the Memoires d'une Contem- 
poraine, published in Paris in 1827. Two old friends passed 
some days in my father's house, vaguely remembered by me — 
Dr. Curci, and Smargiassi, the latter a Vastese, and a land- 
scape-painter of considerable name in the Neapolitan kingdom. 
Curci had quite a passionate attachment to my father, and I 
believe visited England for the express purpose of seeing him 
once again. Later on were Cornaro, a descendant (and I 
think I was told the sole remaining descendant) of the great 
Venetian family — a noticeable man, in early middle age, with 
long nose and reddish hair — he was said to be an inveterate 
gambler, and he died accidentally by drowning ; Parodi, a 
dancing-master, who gave us lessons in dancing, in return for 
Italian lessons imparted to his son by my father — he was a 
man not wanting in good sense, but uninstructed in a marked 
degree, and spoke the most curious lingo that I ever heard — 
French, German, and English, grafted on to his native Italian ; 
Aspa, a vigorous Sicilian, pianoforte-tuner in Broadwood's 
house ; Gallenga, the political and miscellaneous writer, as 
expert in the English as in the Italian tongue ; Dr. Maron- 
celli, brother of a well-known exile who suffered a rigid 
imprisonment ; the musician Sperati ; Signora Monti (after- 
wards Monti-Baraldi), to whom some of Rossetti's latest 
letters were written. Dr. Maroncelli gave him some medical 
advice towards 1843 ; and later on another doctor, Gilioli, 
seemed to have some partial success in treating his eyesight. 
VOL. 1. 4 



50 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Of one of these Italians, Sangiovanni, I will say a few words 
further, as he and his had more to do with our early family life 
than any of the others ; Pistrucci came next Sangiovanni 
was a tall gaunt man, with an air of having gone through 
a deal of wearing work, aged about fifty-two when I first 
remember him. It is rather a curious fact that two Spanish 
painters, having to depict St. Joseph, adopted a type of 
visage not at all unlike Sangiovanni's, but in each instance 
(especially the second) less strained and rugged. I refer 
to the pictures in our National Gallery, The Adoration of 
the Shepherds, by Velasquez, and The Holy Family, by 
Murillo v Of school knowledge Sangiovanni had little, but 
plenty of intelligence ; of religious belief (I should say) 
nothing ; but in this respect he was on a par with a large 
proportion of his London compatriots. My father once 
narrated to him the story of the Patriarch Joseph, from the 
Book of Genesis, which came perfectly new to him, and 
interested him extremely. In 1833 he went over to America, 
on business proper to Achille Murat, to look after an estate 
and its slave-labourers. In the United States he saw an 
Anglo-American young woman whom he liked ; he proposed 
for her, and brought her back to England as his wife. She 
became the mother of an ailing boy, Guglielmo. Sangiovanni, 
as a husband, was not unkind in his way, but had all the 
jealousy (perfectly gratuitous in this instance) and the 
dominance of a Southern Italian ; and his wife was almost 
a prisoner in her dingy tenement, Nassau Street, Marylebone, 
where her spouse carried on his clay-modelling art. My 
mother, with some of us children, often looked in upon her 
solitude, and held her in deserved esteem. After some years 
she came to understand (I know not how) that Sangiovanni 
was already a married man, having a wife still living in Italy. 
This was, I suppose, true ; and not less true that Sangiovanni 
had heard nothing of his first wife for many years, and had 
genuinely believed her to be no more. About the same time 
our Mrs. Sangiovanni got to know something about the 
Mormons ; so one day she vanished with her son to Mormon- 



ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 5 1 

land, and was never again traced. This may have been in 
1846. Sangiovanni, after much agitated inquiry, resumed his 
ordinary work, and he died at Brighton in 1853. 

Other names and reminiscences crowd upon me as I 
write. There was an odd personage, Albera, whom we con- 
sidered not entirely sane. He was a great believer in one 
of the professing Dauphins of France, Louis XVII. — I think 
this one was the so-called Naundorf — and he insisted 
upon taking my father to see him, and believe in him too. 
My father saw him, but did not believe in him ; though he 
allowed that Naundorf looked very like a Bourbon, 1 and had 
a daughter resembling Marie Antoinette. After a while Naun- 
dorf took to a sort of religious revelation, as well as to 
Gallic royalty, and my father, regarding him as a decided 
impostor, visited him no more. Then came a little snuffy 
senile Frenchman, the Comte de Neubourg, who was, I sup- 
pose, a Legitimist or Carlist. If his linen was not spotless, 
his manners were exquisitely polite. He had a mania for 
puns ; and, when my father was conversing on some subject 
with his usual energetic zest, the Comte would at times both 
embarrass and exasperate him by interjecting something 
which, on reflection, proved to have no raison d'etre beyond 
punning. Another singular person was the " Babylonish 
Princess " (introduced into our house by Cavalier Mortara), 
" Maria Theresa Asmar, daughter of Emir Abdallah Asmar," 
who published her Memoirs in two volumes in 1844. She 
was a small, very dark woman, of middle age and subdued 
manners, and decidedly plain. A Vastese named Rulli 
appeared in our house towards 1842, and made some pretence 
at bringing Dante Rossetti on in his artistic studies. I believe 
his instruction was limited to propounding to the youth, for 
copying, a drawing or engraving of an architectonic ram's 

1 This question of Naundorf, or of other persons who claimed to be 
Louis XVII., has of late acquired added importance, as it seems to be 
established, by the investigation ordered by the French Government, that 
the remains which were produced and medically inspected in 1795 as being 
those of the deceased Louis XVII, cannot really have been his. 



52 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

head. Rulli appeared to us an unmeaning and not easily 
intelligible sort of character ; he had something in him, how- 
ever, for he died in a battle for Italian liberation. An 
Avvocato Teodorani adopted, and even wrote or lectured on, 
some of Rossetti's ideas concerning Dante and other Italian 
poets ; and a cultivated gentleman, De' Filippi, saw a good 
deal of his closing years. A native of the Kingdom of Naples 
was generally to be known (apart from dialect or physiog- 
nomy) by his addressing my father as " Don Gabriele "—for 
that mode still subsists from the old days of the Spanish 
occupation. To other Italians my father was " Signor 
Rossetti," or (if on a formal footing, which was not wont to 
last long) " Signor Professore." 

The determined character of some of these men may be 
illustrated by a passage from a letter written by Gabriele 
Rossetti in April 185 1. I can hardly have failed to see the 
Galanti here mentioned, but I do not remember his person. 

" Hither had fled from Naples, after the infamous treason of 
15 May 1848, a man of great talent, the Avvocato Giacinto 
Galanti, who piqued himself on a spirit of prophecy. At that time 
our national affairs were flourishing ; but he foresaw disasters which, 
since then, have come but too true. One evening he called to read 
me a writing of his entitled The Three Years, 1848 (it was just in 
June of that year), 1849, an< ^ 1850. The first of these three years 
he defined as a Year of Roses and Thorns (and you will take note 
that the thorns had not yet begun) ; the second, Year all Thorns ; 
and the third, Year of Death. And such, haplessly, they all turned 
out. He arraigned the Roman Popedom as the principal cause of 
all the reverses which he foresaw ; and Pius IX. was, at that date, still 
enacting the comedy which he afterwards turned into a tragedy. 
On hearing that writing I was staggered ; and yet, not being able 
then to give credence to it, I smiled incredulously, and, shaking my 
head, I called Galanti a bird of ill omen and a visionary. He rose 
incensed, and exclaimed : ' You will see whether I speak the truth, 
and you will confess it ; but not to me, for I will not await the 
direful time that is coming upon us.' Saying this, he departed, 
returned to his house, not far from mine, and cut his throat. This 
terrible event produced the deepest impression on me ; and soon 



ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 53 

afterwards began our disasters. The days of Novara, Verona, and 
Mantua, ensued ; and then the flight of the Impius who is called 
Pius, and so to the roses succeeded the thorns. Of the other two 
years I do not speak ; you know what they were." 

Towards the close of my father's life various protestantizing 
Italians, most of them ex-Catholic priests, got about him, and 
worked the anti-papal side of his opinions and writings. 
They started a review called the Eco di Savonarola. We 
did not relish them much, though we thought Crespi and 
Di Menna (the latter a' very feeble-minded personage) honest 
in their views. There were also Ferretti and Mapei — the last 
little to our taste. I cannot recollect that we ever saw Gavazzi, 
the admired pulpit orator, but we certainly did see Dr. Achilli 
— whose character came much bespattered out of his action 
against Cardinal Newman for libel — a heavy beetle-browed 
man, who looked fit for most things evil. 

I have not yet named the two foremost London-dwelling 
Italians of my boyhood, Mazzini and Panizzi. That great 
man, Mazzini, was naturally well known to my father, and 
highly esteemed by him — a feeling which Mazzini recipro- 
cated. They dissented however, to some extent, as to what 
should be regarded as practical aims to work for, and practical 
means of working. Mazzini was, of course, for a republic, 
and for any number of revolutionary attempts, even though 
manifestly destined to present failure ; whereas Rossetti was 
fundamentally for a unified constitutional monarchy, and for 
a plan of action which would preserve rather than sacrifice 
valuable lives. Mazzini was perhaps, of the two, the more 
nearly in the right ; for it seems as if the result would not, 
without his ceaseless incitements, have been attained nearly 
so soon as it was. I do not think that I ever set eyes on 
Mazzini in my father's house ; but I well remember seeing 
him, towards 1842, at a meeting attended by a number of 
poor Italians, organ-grinders and others, for whom a school 
was being started. He spoke after my father ; and the noble, 
simple utterance of the word with which he began his address 
— " Fratelli " — still sounds upon my ear. As to Panizzi, my 



54 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

father knew him likewise in the early years ; but he under- 
stood (I believe correctly) that Panizzi was the writer of an 
adverse and partly sneering critique on his theories concerning 
Dante and other writers ; this he resented, and they met no 
more. Garibaldi and Saffi, who came into fame when my 
father was declining and withdrawn from society, he never 
saw ; nor do I think he saw the patriot-assassin Felice Orsini, 
nor Rufini, author of the admired tale Doctor Antonio. 
General Guglielmo Pepe he had known very intimately in 
Naples, and they kept up some correspondence to a late date, 
when Pepe was acting as one of the heroic defenders of 
Venice, 1848-49 ; but the General, so far as I am aware, never 
came to England. 

The bete noire of the political Italians whom we so con- 
stantly saw was the King of the French, Louis Philippe, or 
Luigi Filippo, as they called him. He was more abhorred, 
because more powerful for good or for evil, than even the 
Pope, the King of Naples, or the pettier tyrants of Italy. Of 
course too he was regarded as a traitor, having come to the 
throne by a popular revolution, and then reinforced the cause 
of retrogression and coercion. There were also the Austrians 
— " Gli Austriaci " — and their hell-hound Metternich. The 
number of times' I have heard Luigi Filippo denounced would 
tax the resources of the Calculating Boy. My mind's eye 
presents a curious group, though it seemed natural enough at 
the time. My father and three or four foreigners engaged in 
animated talk on the affairs of Europe, from the point of 
view of patriotic aspiration, and hope long deferred till it 
became almost hopeless, with frequent and fervent recitations 
of poetry intervening ; my mother quiet but interested, and 
sometimes taking her mild womanly part in the conversation ; 
and we four children— Maria more especially, with her dark 
Italian countenance and rapt eyes — drinking it all in as a 
sort of necessary atmosphere of the daily life, yet with our 
own little interests and occupations as well — reading, colouring 
prints, looking into illustrated books, nursing a cat, or what- 
ever came uppermost. The talk was essentially of a serious 



ACQUAINTANCES IN CHILDHOOD. 55 

and often an elevated kind, but varied with any amount of 
lively banter, anecdote, or jest, and with those familiar reminis- 
cences of the old days and the old country so poignantly 
dear to the exile's heart. . As has already been partly indicated, 
no period passed, even in our infancy, at which we were much 
less capable of following a conversation in Italian than in 
English ; and we could pick out tolerably something of 
French in talk, even before being set to learn the language 
grammatically. Italian grammar we — with the exception of 
Maria — hardly looked into at all as a matter of system, and 
English grammar was counted as pretty well explaining itself. 

I regard it as more than probable that the perpetual excited 
and of course one-sided talk about Luigi Filippo and other 
political matters had something to do with the marked aliena- 
tion from current politics which characterized my brother in 
his adolescent and adult years. He was not of a long-suffering 
temper, and may have thought the whole affair a considerable 
nuisance at times, and resolved that he at least would leave 
Luigi Filippo and the other potentates of Europe and their 
ministers, to take care of themselves. 

I find some remarks in John Stuart Mill's Autobiography 
(1873) which appear well worth attention ; here I quote them 
as indicating the kind of intellectual savour which we absorbed 
in childhood, and which I conceive to have been eminently 
well adapted for ripening the faculties and keeping the 
feelings undebased. Mill, it will be perceived, is speaking of 
French (as contrasted with English) society, but what he 
says would apply in a general way to those Italians whom we 
were in the habit of seeing ; though it must be allowed that 
several of them were commonplace persons in the fullest sense 
of the term. Mill says, speaking of the fifteenth year of his 
life — I abridge the passage here and there : — 

" The greatest perhaps of the many advantages which I owed 
to this episode in my education was that of having breathed for 
a whole year the free and genial atmosphere of continental life. 
Having so little experience of English life, and the few people 
I knew being mostly such as had public objects, of a large and 



56 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

personally disinterested kind, at heart, I was ignorant of the low 
moral tone of what in England is called Society ; the habit of, not 
indeed professing, but taking for granted in every mode of implica- 
tion, that conduct is of course always directed towards low and 
petty objects. I could not then know or estimate the difference 
between this manner of existence, and that of a people like the 
French, whose faults, if equally real, are at all events different; 
among whom sentiments, which by comparison at least may be 
called elevated, are the current coin of human intercourse, both in 
books and in private life ; and, though often evaporating in pro- 
fession, are yet kept alive in the nation at large by constant exercise, 
and stimulated by sympathy, so as to form a living and active part 
of the existence of great numbers of persons, and to be recognized 
and understood by all. Neither could I then appreciate the general 
culture of the understanding which results from the habitual exercise 
of the feelings, and is thus carried down into the most uneducated 
classes of several countries on the continent, in a degree not equalled 
in England among the so-called educated, except where an unusual 
tenderness of conscience leads to a habitual exercise of the intellect 
on questions of right and wrong. I even then felt, though without 
stating it clearly to myself, the contrast between the frank sociability 
and amiability of French personal intercourse, and the English mode 
of existence, in which everybody acts as if everybody else (with few 
or no exceptions) was either an enemy or a bore. In France, it is 
true, the bad as well as the good points, both of individual and of 
national character, come more to the surface, and break out more 
fearlessly in ordinary intercourse, than in England ; but the general 
habit of the people is to show, as well as to expect, friendly feeling 
in every one towards' every other, wherever there is not some 
positive cause for the opposite." 

I will add here one word or two on the contrary side. 
I think that the base passion of envy is more common among 
Italian than among English people ; likewise a certain penu- 
rious or stingy habit, which may however — among the 
Italians I knew in boyhood — have been chiefly due to the 
much greater expense of living which they found in England, 
beyond what they had known in Italy. To spend a pound 
sterling wore, in their eyes, a different aspect from what it 



CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 57 

does in a Londoner's. As to what is commonly called 
" morality," those Italians (so far as I can review them now) 
look to me, as a class, quite up to the British level ; but of 
course the point could not be estimated by me in boyhood, 
and since the close of my father's life my knowledge of 
Italians in England is practically a blank ; and the same was 
the case with my brother. 



VI. 
CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 

Dante Rossetti's earliest education was conducted by our 
mother ; little or not at all by our father, apart from the 
general mental incitement (and this assuredly counted for a 
good deal) which his conversation, his using the Italian 
language, and his readings of his poems, supplied. I may 
say in this connexion that my own education — allowing 
for the moderate difference of age — proceeded pari passu with 
my brother's ; and that my two sisters owed everything in the 
way of early substantial instruction to our mother. To school 
they never went at all. Thus all four of us were constantly 
together in infancy and childhood. Wherever one was, there 
the other was — and that was almost always at home. In 
what I have next to say I shall aim at confining myself to 
Dante Gabriel, but it will be understood that what is true 
of him applies mainly to the other three children as well. 

Of course our religious mother gave Dante some rudiments 
of Christian knowledge, from the Bible and the " Church 
Catechism," and at a suitable age took him to church. He 
got to know the whole Bible fairly well, and necessarily 
regarded it with reverence as one of the greatest and 
sublimest books in the world. Job, Ecclesiastes, and the 
Apocalypse, were the sections of the Scripture which, before 
he attained manhood and ever afterwards, he viewed with 
peculiar interest and homage. He must have been able to 
read currently, and to write with moderate neatness, soon 



58 DANTE GABRIEL R0SSETT1. 

after completing five years of age. His early reading seems 
to have been all in English ; although, as he spoke Italian, 
for ordinary household purposes, about as readily as English, 
and as the reading process in Italian is incomparably the 
easier of the two for a beginner, no reason is apparent to me 
why this was the case. 

I lately came across two letters addressed by my father to 
my mother, August and September 1836, which give a clear 
indication as to the knowledge of Italian then possessed 
by Dante, in his ninth year. The first expresses some 
surprise at finding that Dante and his two juniors (Christina 
was not yet six) had perfectly understood a letter in Italian 
from their mother, read out to them. In his second letter, 
my father says that Dante and I, having received notes from 
Maria, chanted aloud, with great demonstrations of glee, the 
following stave : — 

" L'amabile Maria 
Ringraziata sia 
De' due biglietti suoi 
Mandati ad ambi noi." 1 

This extemporized effusion must, I suppose, have been the 
performance of Dante Gabriel. These seem to be the first 
rhymes he ever concocted, and, if so, he rhymed in Italian 
earlier than in English. My father of course smiles over 
verses of such a calibre — which are, nevertheless, correct in 
rhyme and rhythm, and not (I should say) wrong in diction. 

I think that the very first book my brother took to with 
strong personal zest was Shakespear's Hamlet — i.e., certain 
scenes of Hamlet, giving a fairly complete idea of the story, 
which were printed to accompany the outlines to that tragedy 
engraved after the then universally celebrated German artist, 
Retzsch. Both outlines and scenes interested him vastly 
at the age of five, or it may be even of four ; and soon a 
relative (probably one of our aunts) gave him a Bowdler's 
Shakespear, in which he read numerous plays — and indeed 

1 Thanks to good-natured Maria for her two notes sent to both of us. 



CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING, 59 

he read, unchecked, in un-Bowdlerised editions as well. A 
little incident serves to fix my memory as to dates etc. in 
this matter. Before T was six years of age, and therefore 
before the close of September 1835, I had a dangerous gastric 
illness ; and, while I was recovering from that, Dante pro- 
duced for my diversion, " out of his own head," a little series 
of drawn and coloured figures of the leading personages in 
the three parts of Henry VI. I need not say that these 
were childish performances in the most absolute sense. He 
can then have been at the utmost seven years and four months 
old, and was, I fancy, some months younger. The trilogy 
of Henry VI. was a great favourite with all of us ; but, 
by the time when Dante was familiar with that drama, he 
was not less versed in several other plays of Shakespear. I 
might with confidence specify The Tempest, Midsummer 
Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Henry IV., 
Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and there were 
others as well. Of four of these we had outline-books 
similar to that of Hamlet — the designs by Retzsch, or by 
a less prominent German artist, Ruhl. There were also 
Retzsch's famous outlines to Gothe's Faust. Through these, 
with their accompanying text in English, my brother got to 
know, and to admire, something of Faust, not very long after 
Hamlet. Here was, at any rate, a good beginning for taste 
in poetry. Two other books with similar outlines were 
Fridolin, translated from Schiller (which we thought feeble 
stuff), and the Dragon of Rhodes. 

The next immense favourite was Walter Scott. Some rela- 
tive presented a pocket-edition of Marmion to Dante Rossetti 
at a very childish age. He ramped through it, and recited 
whole pages at a stretch — the death of Constance, the battle 
and death of Marmion, etc. Fitz-Eustace was regarded as a 
tame and correct-minded character rousing no interest. The 
Lay of the Last Minstrel and The Lady of the Lake excited 
fully as much delight as Marmion ; The Lord of the Isles and 
Rokeby only a little less. I can still recollect that one after- 
noon the junior master at our first school, the younger Mr. 



60 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

Paul, called at our house for some purpose, and found us all 
four racing and tumbling about the floor, repeating in semi- 
drama the Battle of Clan Alpin, from The Lady of the Lake, 
Dante was then just about nine years of age. Along with 
Scott's poems the Arabian Nights went on at a great rate ; 
the old English translation after Galland, and not long after- 
wards Lane's very different version. TJie Waverley Novels 
ensued pretty soon after the poems — Ivanhoe (the prime 
favourite), Kenilworth, Quentin Durward, etc. It may perhaps 
be as well to give here the opinion which, at a mature age, 
Dante Rossetti entertained of Walter Scott's novels. It is 
expressed in a letter of October 1871, addressed to Mr. 
William Bell Scott :— 

" I have read several of Scott's novels here, and been surprised 
both at their usual melodramatic absurdities of plot, and their 
astounding command of character in the personages by whom all 
these improbabilities are enacted. The novels are wonderful works, 
with all their faults. Guy Mannering and St. Ronarts Well — 
neither of which I knew before — delighted me extremely. Another 
I read is The Fair Maid of Perth ; which is on a level with the 
Victoria drama in some respects, but, in some points of conception 
and vivid reality in parts, can only be compared to the greatest 
imaginative works existing." 

These books — Shakespear, Faust, Scott, and the Arabian 
Nights — and, along with these, Keightley's Fairy Mytho- 
logy (mentioned in a previous section), Monk Lewis's verse- 
collection Tales of Wonder {Alonzo the Brave, etc.), and the 
stirring ballad of Chevy Chase — may certainly be regarded 
as the staple and the fine fieur of what Dante Rossetti 
revelled in up to the close of his tenth year or there- 
abouts. He always discerned the difference between the 
"Ghost in Hamlet" and a ghost by Monk Lewis. Other 
things are present to me as well : Carleton's Traits and 
Stories of the Irish Peasantry, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver, 
Gay's Fables, Pascal Bruno (a tale translated from Dumas) } 
Fitzgreene Halleck's short poem of Marco Bozaris, an in- 



CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 6 1 

cident of the Greek War of Independence. Of Burns he 
had a kind of idea, through looking into an edition sparsely 
illustrated by Westall ; but the dialect was a bar to his 
taking very kindly to the poems. Lamb's Tales from 
Shakespear he skimmed and slighted. Of directly "funny" 
things I remember only John Gilpin and some jocosities 
of Hood in a Comic Annual. Naturally, too, there were the 
old nursery-rhymes in infantine years, and The Peacock at 
Home ; and the old Fairy-tales, such as Puss in Boots, Blue- 
beard, Cinderella, Jack the Giant-Killer, Beauty and the 
Beast, etc. Our mother kept us adequately supplied with 
books having a directly religious or didactic aim — stories 
about " good little boys and girls," or the alternative naughty 
ones, and other such matter ; but she, like a sensible woman, 
did not tie us down to liking them, in case we happened to 
dislike them — which we generally did. There were some 
of Miss Edgeworth's stories for children, such as Frank ; 
Day's Sandford and Merton ; The Fairchild Family, by Mrs. 
Sherwood, which last we were far from relishing. The one 
which I recollect as best esteemed was The Son of a Genius, 
by Mrs. Hofland ; a companion story was The Daughter of a 
Genius. A minute edition of Stories from English History, 
by James Mill, was very frequently in our hands, with prints 
— the Druids burning victims in wicker cages to their gods, 
Queen Margaret and the Robber, and so on. 

Illustrated books and engravings were not very numerous 
in our house, but still in fair quantity. One that Dante and 
the rest of us looked at continually, beginning well nigh in 
infancy, was an old-fashioned little book (1700) in the Dutch 
language, named Metamorphosis Naturalis, by a painter 
(Goedaerdt), with coloured prints of insects and their trans- 
formations. Blank wonderment, with much of stimulating 
pleasure and something of repulsion, was the result. Later 
on, and never tired of, came Martin and WestaWs Illus- 
trations of the Bible ; and to his last day Dante would have 
told you that Martin was an imaginative pictorial genius of 
no mean power. Afterwards some one gave him a book of 



62 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

rather large outline engravings from Scripture, after the Old 
Masters — emptyish-looking things which he frequently in- 
spected, with little real sympathy. I have always thought 
that his indifference to the respectable conventions of Old- 
Masterhood, leading on to the Praeraphaelite movement, had 
something to do with this book. Our grandfather had at 
Holmer Green some engravings after Rubens, the subjects 
from the story of Achilles. They met his fancy in a certain 
way, but he did not like their fleshy forms and florid manner. 
Also (belonging probably to Eliza Polidori) a book of English 
engravings from Raphael's Cartoons, with highly laudatory 
descriptions. Another of our grandfather's possessions was 
a fine large edition of Ariosto, with French engravings of 
last century. These were an endless delight to Dante, from 
the age of eleven or so onwards. He owned much earlier, as 
a present from the same relative, a little book of French or 
Flemish woodcut-illustrations to Bible history, dating towards 
1580. They were probably artistic things of their kind, and 
he enjoyed their arbitrary treatment and unreasonable 
costumes. Among our father's books were a Poliphili 
Hypnerotomachia ; Gombauld's Endymion, in English, with 
engravings, dated 1639 ; and a volume of pagan mytho- 
logy with startling woodcuts of about the early seventeenth 
century- — I presume it to have been the De Naturd Deorum 
of Boccaccio. All these Dante inspected from time to time } 
with some gusto not unmingled with awe — each book being 
pronounced by our father to be a " libro sommamente mistical" 
according to his system of interpretation of mediaeval and 
renaissance literature. In his opening years no prints were 
more frequently in Dante's hands than a series of litho- 
graphs from Roman history, the work of Filippo Pistrucci 
(there was also a different series, coloured allegorical designs) ; 
not very superior efforts of art, but far from being amiss in 
treatment of the subjects. At one time, after Dante had 
passed out of mere childhood, some one brought into our 

1 Book in the highest degree mystical. 



CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 6$ 

house Pinelli's outlines from Roman history. These we 
admired most heartily, and I suppose with good reason. 
Some of Pinelli's subjects of Italian peasant and street life 
we knew already. Various other prints and drawings occur 
to my mind ; but somewhere I must stop, and I stop here. 
Occasionally — it seems to me by no means often — he went 
to the National Gallery in childhood. Mr. Frederick J. 
Shields has recorded an interesting point that he heard from 
Dante Rossetti, who mentioned it to show the sound direction 
which, in many instances, his mother gave to his taste. On 
his first visit to the National Gallery — he may, I suppose, have 
been then just ten years of age 1 — he was inclined to admire 
the big, showy, and (to an untrained eye) somewhat telling 
picture by Benjamin West, Christ Jiealing the Sick ; but his 
mother, who made no pretence to technical knowledge in art, 
at once set him right by remarking that it was " common- 
place and expressionless." What two epithets could go closer 
to the root of the thing ? 

It has often been said, by writers who know nothing very 
definite about the matter, that Dante Rossetti was, from 
childhood or early boyhood, a devoted admirer of the 
stupendous poet after whom he was christened. This is a 
mistake. No doubt our father's Dantesque studies saturated 
the household air with wafts and rumours of the mighty 
Alighieri ; therefore the child breathed Dante (so to speak), 
but he did not think Dante, nor lay him to heart. On the 
contrary, our father's speculations and talk about Dante — 
which, although he highly valued the poetry as such, all took 
an abstruse or theoretic turn — rather alienated my brother 
than otherwise, and withheld him from " looking up " the 
Florentine, to see whether his poems were things readable, 
like those of Shakespear, Scott, or Gothe. With all of us 
children the case was the same. I question whether my 

1 The National Gallery, in its present building, opened to the public in 
April 1838. The first nucleus of the collection had previously been 
housed in Pall Mall, but I surmise that none of my family ever went 
there. 



64 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

brother had ever read twenty consecutive lines of Dante until 
he was some fifteen or sixteen years of age ; no doubt after 
that he rapidly made up for lost time. Our father, when 
writing about the Comedia or the Vita Nuova, was seen 
surrounded by ponderous folios in italic type, " libri mistici" 
and the like (often about alchemy, freemasonry, Brahminism > 
Swedenborg, the Cabbala, etc.), and filling page after page of 
prose, in impeccable handwriting, full of underscorings, inter- 
lineations, and cancellings. We contemplated his labours with 
a certain hushed feeling, which partook of respect and also of 
levity, but were assuredly not much tempted to take up one 
of his books, and see whether it would " do to read." The 
Convito was always a name of dread to us, as being the 
very essence of arid unreadableness. Dante Alighieri was a 
sort of banshee in the Charlotte Street houses ; his shriek 
audible even to familiarity, but the message of it not 
scrutinized. 

As to all this, a passage in my brother's Preface to his 
book Dante and his Circle ought to have prevented any 
misapprehension concerning the supposed constant reading of 
Alighieri in very childish years. He says : — 

"The first associations I have are connected with my father's 
devoted studies, which, from his own point of view, have done so 
much towards the general investigation of Dante's writings. Thus, 
in those early days, all around me partook of the influence of the 
great Florentine ; till, from viewing it as a natural element, I also, 
growing older, was drawn within the circle." 

There was an English artist named Seymour Kirkup, 
domiciled in Florence. He was made a Barone of the Italian 
Kingdom, and must be remembered by many persons now 
living, as he only died towards 1879, aged ninety-two or 
thereabouts. He was an enthusiast for Dante, and was a 
profound believer in my father's scheme of Dantesque inter- 
pretation. He began corresponding with my father towards 
1837, and kept this up for several years. It was in 1839 that he 
took a leading part in discovering the portrait of the youthful 



CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 65 

Dante, by Giotto, in the Bargello of Florence, long lost under 
whitewash. He made at once a good full-sized coloured 
drawing of this invaluable portrait (now, sad to say, no longer 
in a perfectly authentic state), and sent the drawing as a 
present to my father ; from him it came to my brother, and 
was only disposed of in the sale of his effects which followed 
his death in 1882. The receipt of this portrait probably put 
the mind and feelings of Dante Rossetti as much en rapport 
with the Florentine poet as any incident which had preceded 
it ; but even so he did not take any immediate steps for 
acquainting himself with the poems. 

My brother's first " poem " — his almost solitary drama x — 
was written in his own handwriting, towards the age of five. 
He may have been just six, rather than five, but I am not 
certain. It is entitled The Slave, and it lies before me at 
this moment. Why he wrote The Slave, or what he sup- 
posed himself to mean in writing it, is not clear to me. One 
can, however, form one safe inference — that his inspiration 
derived from seeing, passim in Shakespear, the words "Slave, 
Traitor, Villain," and what not. The Slave consists of three 
Scenes in two " Acts " ; it only fills nine small pages of large 
writing. The writing begins by imitating print, but goes on 
into an ordinary (very childish) cursive hand. Probably 
Dante Gabriel learned how to write cursively while the drama 
was in course of composition. It surprises me to note that the 
spelling is strictly correct : the blank verse (when it occurs, 
for some parts are in truncated verse, or practical prose) is 
also correct enough — as here : — 

"Ho, if thou be alive, come out and fight me!" 

" Down, slave, I dare thee on ! Coward, thou diest ! " 

"But yet I will not live to see thee thus." 

This matter of versification correct in accent and number of 
feet, however puerile in other respects, may to some readers 
seem stranger than it does to me ; for I cannot, with reference 

1 I say "almost solitary," because I possess another trifle in the dramatic 
form— a mere piece of grotesque banter — of a late date, 1878, 
VOL. I. 5 



66 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

to any one of us four, remember any time when, knowing 
what a verse was, we did not also know and feel what a 
correct verse was. The early reading of really good poetry, 
and perhaps quite as much the constant hearing of our 
father's verses recited with perfect articulation and emphasis, 
may account for this. 

The Dramatis Personcz of The Slave are set down 
thus : — " Don Manuel, a Spanish Lord ; Traitor, an Officer ; 
Slave, a Servant to Traitor; Mortimer, an. English Knight; 
Guards, Messengers, etc." No plot is apparent, only constant 
objurgation and fighting. The utmost stretch of conjecture 
as to a plot would amount simply to this : Don Manuel is 
entitled to the allegiance of Traitor, who has deserted him, 
and sides with Mortimer ; Slave is viewed with suspicion by 
all three ; Traitor, getting the worst of it in a fight, kills him- 
self ; Mortimer, as an act of condolence for Traitor, kills 
himself ; Slave is killed by Don Manuel, who is left surviving, 
faute de mieux. It will be observed that there is no " female 
interest " in the The Slave ; and in fact the " gushing or 
ecstatic female " was, to all us infants, a personage less provo- 
cative of sentiment than of mirth. Often and fatuously did 
we laugh over Coleridge's poem of Love [Genevieve) — the 
very poem which, in an edition of Coleridge that I possess, 
my brother, in one of his latest years, marked with the word 
" Perfection." 

In the same minute paper-book which contains The Slave 
Dante followed on, in a rather less rudimentary handwriting, 
with The Beauties of Shakespeare. These consist singly of 
Portia's speech, " The quality of mercy is not strained." 
Then comes Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp, by Gabriel 
Rossetti, Painter of Play-Pictures (this refers to his constant 
industry in colouring prints of stage-characters). Aladdin 
is in prose, and only a few lines were written, totally 
uninteresting. The sole amusing point about it is the List 
of Personages, which are assigned to such minor performers 
as " Mrs. Siddons, Mr. Kemble, Mr. Kean," and others whose 
names he got no doubt from his theatrical prints. The three 



CHILDISH BOOK-READING AND SCRIBBLING. 6y 

above named were already dead at the time. Mrs. Siddons, 
and more particularly Kemble (John Philip), had been well 
known — I may here observe — to Gaetano Polidori. After 
Aladdin, a few pages of the book are filled with drawings 
(of a kind). One is Guy Fawkes, with lantern and dagger. 
He is done in heavy ink-silhouette, which is blotted down 
upon the page that faces him. 

And so much for The Slave and its adjuncts ; which I 
might barely have mentioned, but for the fact that this 
" drama " has been adverted to in print before now, and it 
seemed desirable to settle once for all what it amounted to. 

I must say a little more about infantine drawings — some 
in pencil, most in pen and ink, many of them coloured. Two 
represent his dormouse " Dwanging " ; and, as Dwanging (so 
it appears to me) hardly existed at a date later than the 
completion of Dante's sixth year (12 May 1834), these 
must be extremely early affairs, not wholly unlike the look 
of the animal. To 1834 belongs also (as I have said) a 
portrait of his rocking-horse. These three are so far tolerable 
as to show that it was a pity he did not draw a little oftener 
from actual objects, but almost always mere inventions 
(such as they were), prompted to a large extent by his 
theatrical-character prints, with straddling legs and irrational 
pretences at costume. One that seems to my memory very 
early indeed is Macbeth contemplating the aerial dagger. 
A little book of childish drawings exists, chiefly from various 
plays. I will only name one subject from each play, as 
marked in our mother's handwriting — a pretty good indica- 
tion that Dante himself was barely competent to write neatly 
at the time. These comprise Talbot rescuing his son John 
from Orleans (Shakespear's Henry VI.); Buckingham and 
Catesby presenting the crown to RicJiard ; Prince Henry throw- 
ing Falstajfs bottle of sack at him ; Combat between Macbeth 
and young Siward ; Casca stabbing Ccesar ; Rolla carrying off 
the Child (from Sheridan's Pizarro). 

In concluding this account of Dante Rossetti's earliest 
years, I must observe that he was certainly fortunate in his 



68 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

family surroundings. His father was a poet and man of 
letters, his grandfather the same ; his mother had a good 
appreciation of literary matters ; his sisters and brother all 
watched with interest and seconded with zest whatever he 
did as a beginning at writing and at drawing. He had also 
the vast advantage of speaking two languages, of which one 
served as a direct introduction to Latin. In no quarter did 
he encounter anything to thwart his inclinations, to divert 
his steps, or to throw cold water on his small performances. 
He was not wilfully spoiled nor absurdly petted, nor was any 
difference made between him and the other children ; but he 
felt himself to be encouraged as well as loved, and in most 
matters he had his own way. This, with the temper which 
was innate in him, he would perhaps have got anyhow ; as 
things went, he got it unenforced. Naturally this favourable 
condition of family relations continued to grow with his 
growth. 



VII. 
SCHOOL. 

It must have been after the midsummer holidays of 1836 
that Dante Rossetti first went to school ; I followed him 
after the Christmas holidays. The school was that of the 
Rev. Mr. Paul, in Foley Street, Portland Place — a day- 
school for most of the pupils, or perhaps all. There was, I 
think, only one assistant master, Mr. Paul's son. The pupils 
were not numerous — say twenty-five to thirty-five. They 
must chiefly have been sons of local tradesmen. I remember 
one set of boys — three brothers^of gentle birth and breeding, 
the Cummings ; also Aikman, who (I have an impression) 
became an officer of some distinction in the Indian army. 
We were instructed in some rudimentary matters — writing, 
arithmetic (Dante Gabriel was always bad at this, and to the 
end of his days I fancy he would have been at fault here and 
there in the multiplication table), English grammar, geography, 



SCHOOL. 69 

history, and the first steps in Latin. We also had to do 
a " theme " once or twice — a composition upon some given 
subject ; 1 and we received some little drawing tuition from 
a French Master, M. Abeille, whom we considered deft in 
his touch of foliage. We liked the younger Mr. Paul ; 
to the elder we had — and ought to have had — no objection, 
but I remember little of him. One of my few individual 
recollections of the school is that of hearing there the tolling 
bell which announced the death of King William the Fourth. 
Among our school-books was a volume of selections, prose 
and poetry, named The Rhetorical Class-book, containing such 
pieces as Campbell's LochieVs Warning, and his Last Man, 
with marginal directions as to the proper tone, inflexion, 
gesture, etc., for reciting them. We enjoyed a great deal of the 
text in this book, and giggled over the directions — having 
always had in our father, and indeed in our mother too, 
models that would have bettered that form of instruction. 

An English school such as that of Mr. Paul (and I must 
say the same of King's College School, to which we went 
afterwards) is not an academy of good manners, nor yet of 
high thinking ; and it would be too true to acknowledge that 
Dante Rossetti rapidly deteriorated here. I would add the 
same very emphatically of myself, but that I am not exactly 
in question, and need not intrude my small personality. At 
home he had witnessed nothing but resolute and cheerful 
performance of duty, and heard nothing that was not pure 
right, high-minded, and looking to loftier things. School first 
brought him face to face with that which is " common and 
unclean." There is always some nasty-thinking boy to 
egg-on his juniors upon a path of unsavouriness. A certain 

1 If the reader would like a laugh, he may perhaps get it out of the 
following. One of the schoolboys (I do not mean either Dante or myself) 
was told to do a theme on Candour, His theme — I have never forgotten 
it — was in the following words, as near as may be : " My dear father — -I 
want to write to you on the subject of Candour. He is a most benevolent, 
candid, honourable, sordid, and surly young man. His friends love him 
dearly." 



yo DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

A. (his initial shall stand instead of his name), who sat next 
to Dante Gabriel, beset him with promptings of a worse than 
useless kind. One thing was pointing out phrases in the Bible 
which he held to be vastly amusing, but which little Dante did 
not want to be teazed with. Dante mentioned the matter to 
his father, who conferred with Mr. Paul ; and A. was ordered 
to take a different seat in the school, and stick to it. This is 
nearly all that I remember in a definite way about Mr. Paul's 
school. Dante was a ready learner, and a willing one enough. 
The last performance, as the school was breaking up for the 
holidays, was an evening of recitations in the presence of 
parents and friends. Dante delivered (from Shakespear's 
Julius CcEsar) the speech of Antony over the body of Caesar, and 
I the speech of Brutus. We were clapped to our heart's content. 
As a Professor in King's College, Gabriele Rossetti was 
entitled to send one son to the day-school there free of charge, 
and a second son at reduced fees. It had therefore always 
been intended that we boys should go to that school as soon 
as a little preliminary instruction had been gained at Mr. 
Paul's establishment ; and thither accordingly we went after 
the midsummer holidays of 1837. Dante was rightfully ad- 
missible, having attained the regulation age of nine ; I was 
not so, being not quite eight, but was allowed to pass muster. 
As this is a day-school (although a few pupils were housed 
as boarders), we went daily to and fro. At first we took the 
route by Regent Street and the Strand to Somerset House, 
but afterwards preferred the more plebeian, and to us more 
amusing, shops of Tottenham Court Road and St. Giles's 
(no New Oxford Street then existed). The Head Master 
was the Rev. Dr. Major, of whom, in Dante Gabriel's time, 
we saw little. The Principal was Dr. Lonsdale, Bishop of 
Lichfield. The school was then, as it is now, of strict Church- 
of England principle, and most of the masters were clergymen. 
On one or two occasions I saw prizes distributed by the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Howley — a little old man, 
still wearing the episcopal white wig, of the gentlest manner 
and address, almost apologetic to the students (so it seemed) 



school. yi 

for so far putting himself forward. He was — in regard at least 
to aspect and demeanour — anything but one of those vescovi 
pettorati (bishops high in flesh) who were frequently in my 
father's mouth ; for the latter disliked the worldly well-being 
and brow-beating respectability of the Anglican clergy only 
a little less than the arrogant bigotry of their Roman com- 
peers. The great prize-receiver in those days was Arthur 
Cayley, the pre-eminent Cambridge Mathematician, who 
would come up for three or four successive prizes in one 
afternoon. His younger brother, Charles Bagot Cayley, was 
one of my father's pupils in Italian, and learned the language 
admirably, as shown by his fine translations of Dante and 
Petrarca — a most estimable scholarly man, without a taint 
of mundane self-seeking. I forget how many languages he 
knew. If he did not know one, he only had to learn it. 
He was once asked, by some missionary or other society, 
to translate the Gospels for the Iroquois. He went to the 
British Museum Library, looked up an Iroquois grammar or 
two, and, at the end of six weeks or so, he undertook the 
task, and performed it. 

My brother and myself entered King's College School in 
the lowest class — the Lower First — of which the Rev. Mr. 
Hayes was the Master. Some schoolboy called him " Ban- 
tam," from his red complexion and facial angle ; and every 
other schoolboy followed suit. To us he was kind ; and he 
perhaps stretched a point by returning our " characters," in 
the first quarterly report, as "in every respect satisfactory " for 
Dante, and for myself " in the highest degree commendable." 
Some other good reports of us may have followed, but 
certainly none so flowery as that. 

Dante Rossetti's school-life at King's College lasted just 
five years, from the autumn of 1837 to the summer of 1842. 
He had no further schooling of any kind, except some German 
lessons taken at home, and his instruction for the pictorial 
profession. When he left school, he wrote an excellent hand ; 
knew Latin reasonably well, up to Sallust, Ovid, Virgil, etc. ; 
had the beginning of a knowledge of Greek, but I can hardly 



72 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

say whether, after a few years' interval, he could even read 
the Greek characters with any readiness ; understood French 
well — well enough to begin forthwith, which he did, reading 
any number of French novels for himself; and had some 
inkling on subjects of history, geography, etc. He always 
saw easily into linguistic and grammatical matters, so far as 
he cared to pursue them. He had also been brought on a 
little in drawing, of a more or less sketchy kind. In the 
classes generally (but not in the drawing-class) the boys had 
to be seated in the order of their proficiency, one of them 
" taking the place " of another as occasion arose ; and Dante 
was usually pretty near the head of a class. Of anything 
even distantly tending to science — algebra, geometry, etc. — 
he learned nothing whatever. The religious instruction at 
King's College School counted for little : there were some 
prayers and a chapter of the Bible in the morning. But all 
this time he continued going to church en famille, without 
much liking or any serious distaste. In early childhood came 
Trinity Church, Marylebone Road ; then St. Katharine's, 
Regent's Park ; then Christ Church, Albany Street. 

I will run over a few other particulars — I hope, with due 
brevity. The Upper First Class was conducted by the Rev. 
Mr. Cockayne, who became — or possibly then was — a good 
scholar in Early English. The Second, by the Rev. Swinburne 
Carr, author of a serviceable History of Greece. The Third, 
by the Rev. Mr. Hodgson, an ungainly little man whom the 
boys did not like. I cannot say that Dante or myself had 
any reason to complain of him. There was a legend that he 
knew very little about the matters on which he instructed 
the boys, and that he had to prepare his own lessons over- 
night. As to this I of course know nothing. In the Fourth 
Class, the last which Dante Gabriel entered, the Master was 
the Rev. Mr. Fearnley. Of him also a legend was current, 
purporting to account for a seam visible in his throat. It 
was really, I presume, a seam of a scrofulous nature ; but the 
legend ran that he had once cut his throat with suicidal inten- 
tion, and had only been saved at the last gasp. Mr. Fearnley, 



SCHOOL. 73 

a large stalwart man, was considered severe, and the boys 
were not very fond of being promoted into his class — which 
may be a reason why some one concocted the legend. Each 
of these classes numbered some thirty boys, more or less ; 
perhaps one or two of them attained to forty. 

There were also the Writing and Arithmetic Masters, the 
French Masters, and the Drawing Masters. Mr. Allsop, the 
Head Writing Master, was a great adept in his craft, and 
would at times come round to one class or another displaying 
a chef cTceuvre of caligraphy, full of the most astonishing 
flourishes. He was odd, and left the school not long after we 
entered it ; and I fear that the story I was told, that he had 
gone out of his mind, was a true one. His successor was a 
small old man, Mr. Hutton, of venerable grandfatherly aspect, 
with white hair. He was easily put out, and some of the boys, 
being as pitiless as other boys, put him out when they could. 
Dante held aloof from this indignity. The French Masters 
were Mm. Gassion and Wattez, and Professor Brasseur, all 
very competent men ; the first two considerate to their pupils, 
and the third, who could be sarcastic as well as considerate, 
a scholar of some rank. He was afterwards French Preceptor 
to the Prince of Wales, and died at a recent date, aged, I 
think, about ninety. The Drawing Master was the most 
interesting personage of all — the celebrated member of the 
Norwich School of Painting, John Sell Cotman. He was 
aged fifty-five when Dante Rossetti entered King's College 
School — an alert, forceful-looking man, of moderate stature, 
with a fine well-moulded face, which testified to an impulsive 
nature somewhat worn and wearied. He seemed sparing of 
speech, but high-strung in whatever he said. In fact, the 
seeds of madness lurked in this distinguished artist, although, 
apart from a rather excitable or abrupt manner in ruling his 
bear-garden, I never noticed any symptoms of it. Pretty soon 
he left the school, and, just as Dante also was leaving it, in 
July 1842, he died insane. Mr. Cotman's course of instruc- 
tion did not extend far beyond giving us pencil-sketches, 
often of his own, to copy — fisher-folk, troopers, peasants, 



74 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

boating, etc. Dante's copies were, I suppose, considered to 
count among the more satisfactory, but I am not aware that 
Cotman ever fixed particular attention upon him. As 
Drawing Master he was succeeded by his son, Miles Edward 
Cotman. The latter died in 1858, aged only forty-seven ; and 
I fancy that he also, though perfectly quiet and collected in 
manner, was a little peculiar. 

In Mr. Hall Caine's book — Recollections of Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti, 1882 — there is a passage which deserves quotation 
here : — 

" He is described, by those who remember him at this period, as 
a boy of a gentle and affectionate nature, albeit prone to outbursts of 
masterfulness. It is said that he was brave and manly of tempera- 
ment, courageous as to personal suffering, eminently solicitous of the 
welfare of others, and kind and considerate to such as he had claims 
upon. This is no doubt true portraiture ; but it must be stated 
(however open to explanation, on grounds of laudable self-depre- 
ciation) that it is not the picture which he himself used to paint 
of his character as a boy. He often described himself as being 
destitute of personal courage when at school, as shrinking from the 
amusements of school-fellows, and fearful of their quarrels — not 
wholly without generous impulses, but in the main selfish of nature, 
and reclusive in habit of life. He would have had you believe that 
school was to him a place of semi-purgatorial probation." 

All this is put in a very fair spirit by Mr. Caine, and it 
merits a little reflection. No one now alive perhaps, except 
myself, could, with any clear knowledge and recollection, say 
whether Dante Rossetti was " destitute of personal courage 
when at school." I do not consider that he was by any means 
thus destitute. I have seen him fight with a proper degree 
of tenacity when the occasion arose ; but it is strictly true 
that he was " fearful of the quarrels " of schoolfellows, in the 
sense that he totally disliked that loutish horse-play and that 
scrambling pugnacity which are so eminently distinctive of 
the British stripling. The meaningless defiance, the bullying 
onset, and the mauling scuffle, looked to him ugly, base, 
detestable, and semi-human. If he was mistaken, I should 



SCHOOL. 75 

like to know wherein. The bull-dog propensity to pin some- 
body by the muzzle, whether deserving to be so pinned or 
not, was not any part of his character, inborn or acquired. 
Neither had he any liking for being set up by his school- 
fellows, without quarrel of his own, to fight a boy two or 
three inches taller than himself, and with half as much again 
in thews and sinews. That he was " in the main selfish of 
nature " is true when the statement is properly understood, 
but it might easily be misconstrued. He was selfish, in the 
sense of self-centred. His own aims, his own opportunities, 
the working-out of such faculty as he found within himself 
— these were always his chief concern. To term him " self- 
willed " — which he most eminently was from first to last- — 
would give a much more correct idea than to term him 
" selfish." He was not selfish in the sense of being dull in 
affection to others, indifferent to their welfare, or unwilling 
to exert himself to do them a benefit. He had a theory, 
which I have heard him express at various periods of life, 
that men who have an originating gift — or, in a broad sense, 
what we call men of genius — are all selfish in that same mood 
of being self-centred. He would say it of such poets as 
Dante, Milton, Gothe, Wordsworth, Shelley, or of Shake- 
spear if the facts of his life were adequately known — of such 
painters and sculptors as Titian, Cellini, Rembrandt, Blake, 
and Turner. And here again I apprehend that he was remote 
from being wrong. That " school was to him a place of 
semi-purgatorial probation" is, I dare say, nearly true. It is 
a fact however that, if in reality he felt this at the time 
deeply, be passed it off lightly ; for to me, who was his 
daily colleague and confidant, he never, so far as I can 
remember, unbosomed himself to any such effect. That 
contact with school-life did the reverse of good to the 
character of the boyish Rossetti is what I have already 
avowed. His regard for veracity, the strictness of his sense 
of honour, his readiness to brave inconvenience for principle, 
were subject to daily undermining ; for the moral atmosphere 
around reeked too perceptibly of unveracity, slipperiness, and 



j6 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

shirking. His temper too, which was always an arbitrary and 
peremptory one, did not improve ; but he retained unimpaired 
two valuable qualities — an easy good-nature, and a facility at 
forgiving and forgetting. From infancy onwards he was 
always a great favourite with servants, shoe-blacking men, 
organ-grinders, and people of the like class. Brightness of 
parts and brightness of manner ensured this. 

I have not yet referred to the statement reported by 
Mr. Caine about " shrinking from the amusements of 
schoolfellows." This is entirely true, if " shrinking " means 
" abstaining." He cared nothing for rough pastimes — though 
he would race about in the scanty playground with others, 
bear a hand in snowballing, and so on ; but anything which 
would derive from personal liking, and would require time, 
pains, and practice — such as skating, fishing, or cricket — he 
left entirely aside. He did not want it ; therefore he did not 
pursue it. To learn swimming, boating, and riding, would, 
no doubt, at school and after school, have been a benefit to 
him — a benefit which the habits and circumstances of the 
family and his own indifference withheld. 

I was interested lately at finding, in a little Memorial 
Volume on Edgar Allan Poe, a poet of my brother's marked 
predilection, an account of that singular genius as a schoolboy 
which might almost have been penned for Dante Rossetti. 
The volume was published at Baltimore in 1877, and cannot 
be widely known on this side of the Atlantic. The writer 
of the passage is Poe's schoolfellow at Richmond, Virginia, 
Colonel J. T. L. Preston. He says : — 

" Poe, as I recall my impressions now, was self-willed, capricious, 
inclined to be imperious, and, though of generous impulses, not 
steadily kind or even amiable." 

For Rossetti, the last clause should rather run — " not 
definitely amiable, nor even always steadily kind." 

The punishments in King's College School were of a mild 
character. There was no flogging. Now and again an 
irritated master would cuff a boy, or give him a bang on the 



school. 77 

head with a book. This was an extempore, and I suppose an 
unsanctioned, performance. An offender was made to stand 
out in the middle of the room, or to stand upon a form for 
a while ; or he was " kept in " during playtime ; or he had to 
do an " imposition," such as copying out the same line from 
Virgil fifty times over. An ingenious boy would brace 
together two or three pens at a proper gradient, and thus 
write two or three lines with one turn of the hand. 

There was no schoolfellow with whom Dante Rossetti 
contracted an intimate acquaintance, far less a life-long friend- 
ship ; but two or three were in our house at times, or we in 
theirs. One of these was young Lockhart, a grandson of Sir 
Walter Scott, aged about thirteen when Dante was nine ; 
a handsome, slim, straight-built youth, with very correct 
features. He was a great hand at cutting out little models of 
boats. He became the Lieutenant Walter Scott Lockhart- 
Scott, owner of Abbotsford, and died in 1853, aged only 
twenty-seven. Another boy was a son of William Westall 
the Landscape-painter (brother of the Richard Westall so 
well-known to Dante Rossetti through Martin and WestalPs 
Illustrations of the Bible, a painter of some note in his day, 
who gave instructions to the Princess Victoria). This boy had 
a brother of weak mind and sometimes rather dangerous (not 
in King's College School), who went by the undignified name 
of " Sillikin." Another boy was Geldart Evans Riadore, who 
became a clergyman, and (I believe) Domestic Chaplain to 
the Duke of Buccleuch, a lad of good parts and refinement, 
son of a Doctor. Also the Wrays, sons of a deceased Colonial 
Judge ; Boys, son of a leading printseller ; Capper, whose 
father was a coal-merchant ; Charles Anderson, who became 
a clergyman, doing good service in the East End of London ; 
and the Willoughbys, sons of a legal gentleman living in 
Lancaster Place, close to King's College. Their family had 
the entree to the Terrace of Somerset House overlooking the 
river ; and we would sometimes join them on a half-holiday 
or holiday, taking possession of a little lodge there, burning 
shavings in an empty grate, and making an amount of noise 



78 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

which was not kindly taken by the Government Clerks whose 
windows opened on to the Terrace. These several boys are 
about all I could specify. I make no mention of a very few 
others who were little or not at all known to my brother in 
his schooldays, but only to myself while my schooling was 
prolonged beyond his. 

Dante Rossetti had a certain faint repute among his class- 
fellows as being addicted to drawing or sketching — making, 
on an exercise-book or the margin of a school-book, some- 
thing that was understood to figure a knight, cavalier, trooper, 
brigand, or what not — or as buying and colouring theatrical 
characters, illustrated serials, and the like. To this small 
extent, therefore, he was noted as a little uncommon ; and of 
course his foreign name and comparatively unschoolboy-like 
habits counted for something. I suppose also — though I do 
not recollect precise instances in point — that he was known for 
reciting verses. A certain schoolfellow, probably after Dante 
had left, handed over to me three or four poetical compositions 
which he himself had produced, one of them beginning with 
the words, " I would I were a smiling bird." Dante laughed over 
the term, and made a portrait of the bird in the act of smiling. 

The year 1842, when he quitted school, was the year of 
the Anglo-Chinese Opium War. He and I were told by 
a Master to make an original composition on the subject of 
China, and I think the composition had to be in verse. What 
he or I wrote I have totally forgotten : seemingly each of us 
must have produced some lines. Christina saw us at work, 
and chose to enter the poetic lists. She was then eleven years 
of age. She indited the following epical lines, which must 
(I apprehend) have been nearly the first verses she ever 
wrote. 1 Will the reader pardon my printing them ? 

1 There was a neat couplet which may have been earlier : — - 

" ' Come cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer ! ' 
As the soldier remarked whose post lay in the rear." 

Two stanzas, dated 27 April 1842, for our mother's birthday (our grand- 
father printed them on a card) were, I consider, earlier also. The original 
MS. — of a very childish aspect — is now in the British Museum. 



HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL — SIR HUGH THE HERON. 79 

THE CHINAMAN. 

" ' Centre of Earth ! ' a Chinaman he said, 
And bent over a map his pig-tailed head, — ■ 
That map in which, portrayed in colours bright, 
China, all dazzling, burst upon the sight : 
' Centre of Earth ! ' repeatedly he cries, 
' Land of the brave, the beautiful, the wise ! ' 
Thus he exclaimed ; when lo his words arrested 
Showed what sharp agony his head had tested. 
He feels a tug — another, and another — 
And quick exclaims, ' Hallo ! what's now the bother ? ' 
But soon alas perceives. And, ' Why, false night, 
Why not from men shut out the hateful sight ? 
The faithless English have cut off my tail, 
And left me my sad fortunes to bewail. 
Now in the streets I can no more appear, 
For all the other men a pig-tail wear.' 
He said, and furious cast into the fire 
His tail : those flames became its funeral-pyre." 



VIII. 
HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL— SIR HUGH THE HERON. 

I HAVE already said that Dante Rossetti (as well as the rest 
of us) used in early childhood to get some countrifying at 
our grandfather's house, Holmer Green in Buckinghamshire. 
There he loitered about a little, doing nothing particular. His 
chief amusement was to haunt a pond in the grounds, and 
catch frogs. It concerned him to notice that, if he held a 
frog any considerable while in his hand, the skin of the 
amphibian's throat, lacking its proper quota of moisture, 
would split across. This did not cure him of catching frogs ; 
but he was fain to hope that his captive, on being restored 
to its pond, would find its throat "sewing itself up again." 
All his life he liked most animals (though he had little ado 
with dogs, and none with horses), and was not ill-natured 
to any. Even a black beetle was regarded with a certain 
indulgence ; it was an animal, much like another. 



So DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

These little and never frequent country excursions came 
to an end in 1839, when our grandfather resettled in London ; 
and then Dante Rossetti, for two or three years, went out 
of London not at all, for our father had not the habit of 
making any annual seaside or rural trip. Dante's holidays, 
when school closed, were "spent at home in London, varied 
by casual walks up to Hampstead, or the like. He painted 
theatrical characters, read books, and amused himself as the 
chance offered ; and now he had at least the resource of going 
to his grandfather's house near Regent's Park whenever he 
felt so inclined. The house contained many books. It had, 
at the back, a moderate-sized garden, sloping down towards 
Regent's Canal ; and in this garden a shed or summer-house 
sheltered the private printing-press which Polidori used. 
The fact — such I believe it to be — that Dante never once 
tried what he could do as a compositor is one more symptom 
of his great inaptitude at anything of a mechanical or directly 
practical kind. The workaday world was not his world. 

In this house occurred a small incident which Mr. Caine 
has related — not with perfect accuracy. It did not take place 
when Dante was " rather less than nine years of age," for he 
was already eleven when our grandfather entered the house. 
The incident may really belong to his twelfth, or possibly 
his thirteenth, year. He did not deliberately set-to at reciting 
the closing scene of Othello ; but, taking up a chisel, he play- 
fully motioned to strike Christina with it. As Maria had 
sense enough to object that it might hurt, he insisted that 
it would not ; and (then for the first time speaking a few 
lines from Othello, ending — 

" I took by the throat the circumcised dog, 
And smote him thus") 

he struck the chisel forcibly against his chest. Naturally 
there was an incision, but not a serious one. Sangiovanni 
probed it, and pretty soon it was healed. The small matter 
is hardly worth adverting to, but may as well be set right. 
Another small matter, a little more symptomatic as to the 



HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL — SIR HUGH THE HERON. 8 1 

boyhood of Rossetti, is the following. Maria was, as pre- 
viously intimated, of an uncommonly enthusiastic temper, 
which eventually settled down into religious devotion. As 
she read very early and very constantly, her enthusiasms 
developed in divers directions : British tars, Napoleon, English- 
men versus Scotchmen (in relation to Walter Scott's writings), 
Grecian mythology, and the Iliad. Pope's translation alone 
was known to her. When Dante and I began learning Greek 
she resolved to learn some too, partly to help us in our 
lessons ; and she made her way into the Greek New Testa- 
ment, and could in her later years still read it fairly with the 
aid of a dictionary. While the Iliad fit was at its height, 
Dante, to please her, undertook to do a series of pen-and-ink 
designs for the epic, on a small scale, one design to each 
Book. This was in February 1 840, when he was eleven years 
of age. These drawings— they still exist — are not in any 
tolerable degree good, nor even distinctly promising ; but 
they may count for something as showing the lad's ambitious 
temper in design, and his willingness to take up any attempt 
that offered, however ludicrously inadequate his means for 
coping with it. I may add that Dante at this time, although 
he had not that glowing love of the Iliad which his sister 
entertained, liked it highly, and read it much. In later years 
he knew, and he also preferred, the Odyssey. 

From the Iliad I pass to other books read by Dante in 
his school-days, as a sequel to the details previously given 
relating to a still earlier period. The poet who superseded 
Walter Scott as prime favourite (always allowing for Shake- 
spear, who was never superseded though he may have been 
less constantly read) was Byron. The Siege of Corinth came 
first in the boy's esteem, and next Mazeppa and Manfred, 
with The Corsair and others to follow. Childe Harold he 
read, but without special zest ; in fact, throughout his life, 
the poetry of sentimental or reflective description had a very 
minor attraction for him. Of Dickens's Pickwick, which came 
out in 1836, he seems to me to have known comparatively 
little ; but Nicholas Nickleby, 1838-9, was very potent with 

VOL. I. 6 



82 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

him, followed by Oliver Twist, The Old Qiriosity Shop, 
Barnaby Rudge, etc. An illustrated serial named Tales of 
Chivalry (but chivalry is not more prominent in its pages than 
some other things) was constantly read, and its woodcuts 
inspected and coloured ; also another serial, of earlier date, 
called Legends of Terror, full of ghosts, fiends, and magic, 
in prose and verse. There was likewise The Seven Champions 
of Christendom, abounding in dragons, enchanters, and other 
marvels of pseudo-chivalry. Hone's Every -day Book, with its 
amusing woodcuts, and the Newgate Calendar, were marked 
favourites. The mere thieves in the last-named repertory 
excited but a languid interest, but the murderers, and their 
" last dying speeches and confessions," were conned with 
decided gusto. Of highly-reputed romances there were 
Bulwer's Rienzi and Last Days of Pompeii, and, of minor 
romances, three serials — Robin Hood and Wat Tyler, both 
by Pierce Egan the younger, and Ada the Betrayed, or The 
Murder at the Old Smithy, by some obscure author whose 
name did not transpire. Gil Bias and Don Quixote were 
enjoyed, though not in any extreme degree. But perhaps 
in his earlier school-days — or from the age of nine to eleven — 
nothing delighted Dante quite so much as a small-sized 
series entitled Brigand Tales, with coloured illustrations. 
A subsequent series appeared, which he relished somewhat 
less, whether because he was growing out of them, or on 
account of their being more forced and worked up in incident 
The opening series comprised Moriano the Outlaw, or the 
Bandit of the Charmed Wrist ; Beauty and the Bear, or The 
Bandits Stratagem ; The Female Brigand, or The Lover's 
Doom; and a number of others : with such illustrations as 
Desperate Encoitnter between Benedetto the Brigand and 
Jeronymo Arondini ; Guillen Martino plundering the Monks of 
the Abbey of San Lsidor ; Pietro d'Armorelli, Captain of Ban- 
ditti, refusing to stay the Execution of his own Son, etc., etc. 
This publication was followed by Dramatic Tales, a set of 
narratives from popular plays, contemporary or antecedent. 
These also were highly appreciated by Dante Rossetti. By 



HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL— SIR HUGH THE HERON. 83 

the time he left school — turned of fourteen — he had devoured 
numerous novels, poems, and dramas, apart from those here 
specified, almost all of. them being in English. In Italian 
there was little beyond Ariosto ; in French, it may be that 
Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris preceded the close of his 
schooling, but I am not sure. At any rate this, and many 
other works of Hugo, both prose and verse, fascinated him 
hugely very soon afterwards ; and French novels by a 
variety of authors were greatly in the ascendant for two or 
three years. It may be feared there was no solid reading 
— whether history, biography, or anything else — irrespectively 
of the few and fragmentary things that he had to get up 
as a part of the school course. His intellectual life was 
nurtured upon fancy and sympathy, not upon knowledge or 
information. 

Dante Rossetti did not write much in boyhood, but he 
wrote something. I question whether The Slave and Aladdin 
had any successor until in 1840 a grand scheme was started 
that every one of us four should write a romantic tale. I 
suppose each made a beginning, but I cannot affirm that any 
one of the quartette made an ending, unless it was Dante. 
His tale alone has been preserved, and it is so far completed 
as to bring a single set of incidents to a climax, without 
implying that anything else remains to be added. The tale 
is named Roderick and Rosalba, a Story of the Round Table. 
Its first chapter is headed, The Knight, the Messenger, the 
Departure, the Hostelry, the Quarrel ; and it begins with the 
following sentence : — 

" It was a dark and stormy night in the month of December when 
a figure, closely wrapped in the sable folds of his cloak, and mounted 
on a jaded steed, was seen hurrying across a bleak common towards 
a stately castle in the distance, whose lofty towers and time-worn 
battlements frowned over the wide expanse beneath." 

This may suffice ; with the bare addition that the tale nar- 
rates how a lady was captured by a " marauder " who wanted 
to wed her perforce, and how she was rescued by her affianced 



84 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

knight. At some later date — it was 1843, or possibly just 
afterwards — Dante took up his old MS., and evidently regarded 
it as much behind the time. He altered its title to The Free 
Companions, a Tale of the Days o'f King Stephen, cut it 
down freely, revised the phraseology of several remaining 
passages, and added a concluding sentence. 

Rossetti's first printed " poem," Sir Hugh the Heron, a 
Legendary Tale in Four Parts, seems to have been begun and 
nearly completed much about the same time as Roderick and 
Rosalba, or not later than May 1841. It is founded on a 
prose story by Allan Cunningham, which Rossetti had read 
in the Legends of Terror, and I think elsewhere as well. 
His zest in writing this ballad-poem waned, and he laid it 
aside : but later on his grandfather Polidori told him that, if 
he would finish it, the luxury of print should be his at the 
private printing-press. So it was wound up, and printed 
in 1843, when Dante was either fourteen or fifteen years 
of age. The title-page is marked " for private circulation 
only " ; and even private circulation was more than com- 
mensurate, to the merit of Sir Hugh the Heron. The story 
is substantially that of a knight who quits England for a 
foreign war, leaving his betrothed to the care of his cousin. 
While abroad, he discovers, by a vision in a magic mirror, 
that the cousin has betrayed his trust, and is offering violence 
to the lady. The knight hastens home, slays the aggressor, 
and recovers his bride. The ballad is versified with ease and 
correctness, in three or four different metres, and is not wholly 
destitute of spirit in its boyish way ; but the way is boyish 
in the fullest sense, and the poem cannot be said to show 
any express faculty or superior promise. Rossetti, when 
he grew up, hated to hear this puerile attempt alluded to. 
I used to have a large remainder-stock of Sir Hugh the 
Heron ; but at his particular request, somewhere towards 1875, 
I rather reluctantly destroyed the whole impression, with 
the exception of a very few copies, and the ballad exists 
only for a dozen or so of curious collectors here and there, and 
for readers in the British Museum Library. My brother left 



HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL— SIR HUGH THE HERON. 85 

behind him a little memorandum (the handwriting indicates a 
date towards 1881), which runs as follows : — 

" I make this note after a conversation with a friend who had 
been reading in the British Museum a ridiculous first attempt 
of mine in verse, called Sir Hugh the Heron, which was printed 
when I was fourteen, but written (except the last page or two) at 
twelve — as my family would probably remember. When I was 
fourteen my grandfather (who amused himself by having a small 
private printing-press) offered, if I would finish it, to print it. I 
accordingly added the last precious touches two years after writing 
the rest. I leave this important explanation, as there is no knowing 
what fool may some day foist the absurd trash into print as a 
production of mine. It is curious and surprising to myself, as 
evincing absolutely no promise at all — less than should exist even 
at twelve. When I wrote it, the only English poet I had read 
was Sir W. Scott, as is plain enough in it." 

This last statement is not wholly correct. There had been 
Shakespear, and I am sure, before my brother was twelve, 
a good deal of Byron as well. 

I have by me a MS. of an effusion, William and Marie, 
shorter than Sir Hugh the Heron, written when my brother 
was fifteen, in a style which is compounded of Walter Scott 
and the old Scottish ballads ; it may also present some trace 
of Burger's Lenore. This may be accounted a trifle inferior 
even to the performance denounced by its author in such 
vigorous terms. It narrates how a wicked Knight slew a 
virtuous one, hurled into a moat the virtuous one's lady-love, 
and got killed by an avenging flash of lightning. This my 
brother offered for publication to the Editor of some magazine 
— I fancy Smallwood's Magazine — along with an outline 
design to illustrate it. The outline, not so greatly amiss, is 
adapted from a group in one of Filippo Pistrucci's lithographs 
from Roman history, the Rape of the Sabines. The Editor 
was too sensible to publish either poem or design. It will be 
perceived that this small transaction belongs to a date a little 
later than that when Rossetti left school ; but it is mentioned 



86 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

here so as to close my references to these very early efforts 
in verse. There may possibly have been a few others, but I 
fail to recollect any. The reader may have noticed that the 
times of chivalry always furnished his boyish inspiration ; 
in fact, he thought of little else about this date. Neither the 
antique nor the modern exercised the least sway over his 
fancy. 

A few words more may be bestowed upon childish draw- 
ings ; I mention such only as I find inscribed with a distinct 
date. Two are coloured designs, October 1836 (age eight), 
from Monk Lewis's thrilling drama of The Castle Spectre. 
One is Percy and Motley, the other Osmond and Kenrick, each 
personage being in full face, which may suggest that little 
Dante hardly knew how to set about a profile. In 1838 he 
produced a scene of school-life from his " Lower First " class. 
It is lettered Bantam battering {i.e., pummelling a boy) ; 
Lower Division — Upper Division. These two Divisions of the 
schoolboys are represented as indulging in a free fight. The 
design is not quite so bad as might be expected, the actions 
having a certain degree of natural spirit and diversity. Then 
comes, 1840, an illustrated title-page, forming a neat and 
rather prettyish decorative combination, for the four juvenile 
stories of which Roderick and Rosalba was one. Anyhow he 
got a great deal into the small space of a page of note-paper. 
There are four circular half-figures of armoured knights, and 
four oblong compositions exhibiting incidents in the tales. 
The four knights are inscribed thus : A Romance of the 14th 
Century, Sir Aubrey de Metford; Roderick and Rosalba, Sir 
Roderick de Malvon ; Raimond and Matilda, Sir Raimond de 
Meryl ; Retribution, Sir Guy de Linton. And the four compo- 
sitions thus: Sir Aubrey killing Herman Rudesheim ; Sir 
Roderick rescuing Rosalba de Clare; Sir Raimond conquering 
Sir Richard; Sir Guy finding the letter of AH. Next are 
three small designs, 1840, from the Arabian Nights — The 
Genius about to kill the Princess of the Lsle of Ebony, and two 
others. Three largeish separate figures from Bulwer's Rienzi, 
May to July 1840, come next; done with pen and ink in a 



HOME-LIFE DURING SCHOOL— SIR HUGH THE HERON. 87 

painstaking manner, though not with anything, in character 
or costume, above the types which Dante derived from his 
beloved theatrical characters. November 1840 witnessed the 
production of Earl Warenne (dictating, it would seem, the 
signing of Magna Charta). This is a companion-drawing to 
the Rienzi trio, but perceptibly better. Last we find a 
modern subject of a patriotic turn, taken, I assume, from a 
little volume of naval anecdotes which Maria used to cherish. 
Its theme is inscribed as follows : — 

" ' As you are not of my parish,' said a gentleman to a begging 
sailor, ' I cannot think of relieving you.' 'Sir,' replied the tar with 
an air of heroism, ' I lost my leg fighting for all parishes.'" 

This is dated August 1841, and certainly shows some 
increased degree of facility in putting a couple of figures 
together so as to form a group and tell a story. 

It must have been, I think, just before Dante Rossetti left 
school that he began learning German. He learned it well up 
to a certain point, yet not so as to read freely ; and I suppose 
that, by the age of twenty-five to thirty, he may have for- 
gotten four-fifths of what he had acquired. One day Dr. 
Adolf Heimann, the Professor of German at University 
College, presented himself in our house, saying that he 
wished to learn Italian from our father, and would be pre- 
pared in recompense to teach German to the four children. 
He was a German-Jew, an excellent little man of considerable 
acquirements, and as kind-hearted, open, genial a person as 
any one could wish to know. The arrangement was assented 
to ; and Dante, with the rest of us, set to at German, learning 
the grammar and pronunciation, reading the Sagen und 
Mdhrchen (folk-stories), some easy things in Schiller, etc. 
For several years after this date — or up to 1848 or there- 
abouts — we saw more of the Heimann family than of any 
other. The Doctor married towards 1843, and soon there 
were children in his house. 



DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 



IX. 



STUDY FOR THE PAINTING PROFESSION— CARY'S AND 

THE R.A. 

DANTE ROSSETTI now — summer of 1842— craved to launch 
into the definite study of pictorial art. Of ordinary schooling 
he supposed himself to have had about as much as would 
serve his turn. Our father's health was already so far broken 
as to give cause for serious anxiety ; he therefore concurred 
with Dante in holding that the sooner artistic studies were 
undertaken the better. My brother did not return to King's 
College School after the summer vacation, but looked out for 
an Academy of Art. 

Gabriele Rossetti had known the Rev. Mr. Cary, the trans- 
lator of Dante, whose son, F. S. Cary, a painter of no great 
mark, kept at this time that well-reputed drawing academy 
which was termed " Sass's," in Bloomsbury Street, Bedford 
Square. To this institution my brother betook himself — 
perhaps as soon as he left King's College School, but at all 
events not long afterwards. Our father's acquaintance in the 
world of art was far from extensive. He knew pretty well 
Mr. Eastlake, afterwards Sir Charles Eastlake, P.R.A., Mr. 
Severn the friend of Keats, and Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomew 
the flower-painters ; he also saw once or twice John Martin, 
and Mr. Solomon Hart, R.A., but this latter may have been 
at a date rather after that of which I am now speaking. 
These appear to have been all. 

Of what my brother did at Cary's, and whom he knew 
there, I can give but a meagre account ; his Family-letters 
throw a little, but only a little, light on the subject. He and 
I were still always together in the evening ; but in the day, 
while he was at the drawing academy, I continued in attend- 
ance at King's College School, up to February 1845, and 
then I went to the Excise Office in Old Broad Street. He 
drew from the antique and the skeleton, with immense liking 
for the profession of art, but with only moderate interest in 



STUDY FOR THE PAINTING PROFESSION. 89 

these preliminaries. He also studied anatomy in some books, 
but never, I think, in the actual subject, human or animal. 
Of his class-fellows we saw little. I can vaguely recollect 
Sintzenich, a youth whose sympathies were shared between 
painting and music, and who finally took to the latter. There 
was also a youth named Thomas Doughty, son of a self- 
taught American Landscape-painter, who had come over to 
London in quest of fortune, which did not smile upon him. 
I cannot say with certainty that the younger Doughty was 
a student at Cary's rather than the Royal Academy, but I 
am pretty sure that so he was. For a year or two he was 
my brother's chief intimate. I have not unfrequently accom- 
panied Dante to drink tea and spend the evening in the 
house of the Doughtys, a small semi-villa residence close to 
Gloucester Gate, Regent's Park. The father was a rather 
convivial plain-spoken man ; the mother a pleasant bright- 
mannered little lady, who had, I dare say, more than enough 
of domestic disquietude. The intimacy with young Doughty 
may have begun early in 1846, and, lasting through- 
out 1847, was brought to a close by the return of the 
family to America — presumably before the middle of 1848. 
We saw them off on their ship. Thomas Doughty must 
have been two years or more older than my brother, and 
had seen a good deal more of " life." I recollect he introduced 
us to two odd characters. One was a semi-artistic working 
shoemaker, living near Westminster Bridge. The other was 
a quick-witted lively young American, Charley Ware, leading 
a harum-scarum kind of life in lodgings off Leicester Square. 
I will not here tread rashly into his domestic penetralia. 
He had literary likings, much concerned with Edgar Poe, 
which was a bond of sympathy with my brother ; and he 
was the first person to reveal to the latter the glories of 
Bailey's Festus (which Dante read over and over again for 
a while) by reciting the sublime opening — 

" Eternity hath snowed its years upon them ; 
And the white winter of their age is come, 
The world and all its worlds, and all shall end." 



90 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Charley Ware had some hankerings also after pictorial art, 
without any training. He produced a little oil-picture of a 
queer kind. I would give something to see it now, but pre- 
sume it has long since " ended " among the " world and all its 
worlds." It represented the Devil, with Ware himself, Doughty, 
and Dante Gabriel ; possibly one or two others. They were 
either playing whist at Ware's lodgings, or enjoying a light 
symposium. Each head was a tolerably characteristic like- 
ness. Mr. Ware returned to America, perhaps before the 
Doughtys. I have often been rather surprised that, in all 
my miscellaneous readings, I never came across the name of 
him as doing something or other — for his sharpness of faculty 
was a good deal beyond the average. Thomas Doughty, I 
believe, remained in America quite undistinguished. I take 
him to be dead for many years past. 

It may have been through the Doughty connexion that my 
brother got to see, in an American journal, a little copy of 
verses whose monumental imbecility delighted him beyond 
measure. It is named The Atheist, by Flora M elver. Often 
and to many an auditor have I heard my brother repeat The 
Atheist, and I suppose he could have done so to his dying 
day. " The idea," he would say, " of a confirmed Atheist who 
has never yet considered whether or not a flower was made 
by a God ! " I am tempted to extract the poem here ; it may 
perhaps again excite some of that glee with which I have 
often seen it greeted aforetime. 

" The Atheist in his garden stood 
At twilight's pensive hour ; 
His little daughter by his side 
Was gazing on a flower. 

" ' Oh pick that blossom, Pa, for me,' 
The little prattler said ; 
' It is the fairest one that blooms 
Within that lowly bed.' 

" The father plucked the chosen flower, 
And gave it to his child ; 
With parted lips and sparkling eye 
She seized the gift, and smiled. 



STUDY FOR THE PAINTING PROFESSION. 9 1 

" ' Oh Pa, who made this pretty flower, 
This little violet blue ? 
Who gave it such a fragrant smell 
And such a lovely hue ? ' 

" A change came o'er the father's brow, 
His eye grew strangely wild ; 
New thoughts within him had been stirred 
By that sweet artless child. 

" The truth flashed on the father's mind, 
The truth in all its power ; 
' There is a God, my child,' he said, 
1 Who made that little flower.' " 

This matter of Thomas Doughty and his circle has led me 
somewhat out of my track of date. I now return to the days 
of Cary's Academy, which lasted for my brother from about 
July 1842 to July 1846. As to what he did there I am unable 
to distinguish much between the earlier and the later years. 
In Mrs. Esther Wood's book, Dante Rossetti and the Prce- 
rapliaelite Movement (1894), 1 some anecdotes are given upon 
the authority of a fellow-student, Mr. J. A. Vinter. They 
speak of waywardness as a pupil, irregular attendance, " a 
certain brusquerie and unapproachableness of bearing," com- 
bined with warm affection and generosity, fondness for 
practical jokes, boisterous hilarity, loud singing, especially of 
a song about Alice Gray, the sketching of caricatures of 
antiques, and attractive outlining produced by a process con- 
trary to his master's precepts. Some of these points I know, 
and others I readily surmise, to be correct ; am not however 
so sure about " practical jokes." A practical joke played off 
by one young student upon another is usually something 

1 This book has been loudly and widely praised, and also severely criti- 
cized. It is very laudatory of Rossetti, a fact which I cannot view without 
some favourable bias towards the book. In other respects I may perhaps 
be permitted to say that Mrs. Wood, having commendably lofty ideals and 
ideas of her own, reads these (in my opinion) far too freely into the per- 
formances of the so-called Praeraphaelite painters and poets, and has not 
much notion of the sort of thing that comes uppermost with a painter when 
he sets to work. 



92 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

which either mortifies the victim, or traverses his work in a 
troublesome and annoying way ; and to jokes of this sort I 
should say that Dante Rossetti was not at any time given, 
but rather noticeable for shunning and censuring them. 
However, Mr. Vinter ought to know best, and I am sure that 
he does not mean to lead to any mistaken inference ; more- 
over, one practical joke is clearly traceable in my Letter B. 8. 
At home my brother never played any such jokes ; neither 
was he addicted to them at school, nor in the slightest degree 
at any period of his fully adult life. For singing he had 
naturally a more than tolerable voice ; but, apart from mere 
juvenile outbursts, he never cared to use it, still less to train 
it, and was even put out if the subject was alluded to. 

One of the principal anecdotes developes the following 
dialogue. Cary : Why were you not here yesterday ? Ros- 
setti : I had a fit of idleness — this reply being succeeded by 
the distribution among the students of" a bundle of manuscript 
sonnets." Mr. Vinter (or else Mrs. Wood) assumes that these 
sonnets were juvenile affairs, which Rossetti, at a later date, 
would have been sorry to see forthcoming. To the best of 
my recollection, Rossetti, up to July 1846 when he left Cary's, 
did not produce any sonnets of his own — unless possibly (and 
even these seem to me to have begun rather later) sonnets 
written to bouts rimes, of which at one period he rattled off 
a very large number. The Vinter sonnets may perhaps have 
been some of his translations from Dante and other Italian 
poets ; these commenced as early as 1845. They were, from 
the first, good work — indeed excellent work — of which he 
would not at any date have been ashamed ; although it is true 
that at starting the youthful translator indulged in some 
mannerisms and quaintnesses which he corrected before the 
versions appeared in print in 1861. 

Apart from the direct course of his studies, the greatest 
artistic event to Dante Rossetti during his time at Cary's was 
the opening of the Exhibitions, at Westminster Hall, of 
Cartoons, prior to the pictorial decoration of the new Houses 
of Parliament. These d isplays took place in 1843, '44> ar >d '45- 



STUDY FOR THE PAINTING PROFESSION. 93 

His letter of 7 July 1843 bears testimony to the extreme 
interest he took in the first of these Exhibitions ; the second 
was a still more marking event in his career, as it made known 
to him, by the Cartoons of Wilhelmus Conquistator (the Body 
of Harold brought to William of Normandy), and Adam and 
Eve after the Fall, the genius of Mr. Ford Madox Brown ; 
the third contained the Cartoon of Justice and some examples 
of fresco-painting by the same artist. 1 Rossetti also saw at 
an early date two of Brown's oil-pictures, The Death-bed of 
the Giaour, and Parisina. 

In July 1 846, having sent-in the requisite probation-drawings, 
Rossetti was admitted as a student in the Antique School 
of the Royal Academy, and Cary's knew him no more. Mr. 
George Jones, R.A., was the Keeper of the Antique School ; 
a rather aged painter, noted as resembling, on a feeble scale, 
the great Duke of Wellington, whose costume he imitated. 
Towards this date he chiefly exhibited sepia-drawings of 
scriptural or military subjects. A gradual and reasonable 
amount of progress was made in the Academy School, but 
only (I apprehend) on the same general lines as in the initial 
stages at Cary's ; in other words, Rossetti worked with a 
genuine sense of enthusiasm as to the end in view, but with 
something which might count as indifference and laxity with 
regard to the means dictated to him as conducing to that end. 
He once said to me — it may have been towards 1857 or later — 
" As soon as a thing is imposed on me as an obligation, my 
aptitude for doing it is gone ; what I ought to do is what I 
can't do." This went close to the essence of his character, 
and was true of him through life. As the years rolled on, 
what he ought to do was very often what he chose and liked 
to do, and then the difficulty vanished ; but in his student 
days it consisted in attending assiduously to matters for 
which, in themselves, he cared little or not at all, and a real 
obstruction was the result. As his gift for fine art was indis- 
putably far superior to that of the great majority of his fellow- 

1 I believe I am correct as to these several dates ; far wrong I cannot be. 



94 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

students, and as his drawings from the antique etc. were (I 
presume) in reasonable proportion to his gift, I know of no 
reason why he did not rapidly complete his course in the 
Antique School, and proceed to the Life and the Painting 
Schools — which he never did — except this same : — That the 
obligation which lay upon him was to fag over the antique 
and cognate first steps in art, and that, being obliged, he 
found the will to be lacking. A resolute sense of duty, firm 
faith in his instructors, and a disposition to do what was 
wanted in the same way as other people, might have furnished 
the will. But all these qualities were also at that time lack- 
ing, or present in a scanty degree. He liked to do what he 
himself chose, and, even if he did what some one else pre- 
scribed, he liked to do that more or less in his own way. 

We are now approaching, though we have not yet reached, 
the period when the " Praeraphaelite idea " developed itself 
in the minds of three Academy students — John Everett 
Millais and William Holman Hunt, each of whom had 
already exhibited some pictures of his own, and Dante 
Gabriel Rossetti, who had not exhibited. It will be well 
therefore that I should guide my narrative of Rossetti's 
student-days, as far as manageable, by the details published 
by Mr. Hunt, and also by another of the original Praeraphael- 
ites, Mr. Stephens. 1 Rossetti preceded Hunt as an Academy 
student. Up to May 1848, as Mr. Hunt says,— 

" I had only been on nodding-terms with him in the school. He 
had always a following of noisy students there, and these had kept 
me from approaching him with more than a nod, except when once 
I found him perched on some steps drawing Ghiberti, whom I also 
studied ; that nobody else did so had given us subject for five 
minutes' talk." 

The statement that Rossetti was " drawing Ghiberti " 

1 Mr. Hunt's contribution consists of three articles in The Contemporary 
Review for 1886, The Praraphaelite Brotherhood. Mr. Stephens's mono- 
graph has been already referred to. Mr. Hunt has also published an 
able article Praraphaelitism, in Chambers's Encyclopaedia. 



STUDY FOR THE PAINTING PROFESSION. 95 

means, of course, that he was drawing from a cast of 
the famous Florentine bronze doors, Ghiberti's work in the 
early fifteenth century. I remember that he used to speak 
to me with great fervency of the grace of motive, the 
abundance of artistic invention, and the fine handling, of 
the doors ; and Mr. Hunt's statement on this small point 
is of substantial interest, as showing that both he and 
Rossetti had gravitated towards this mediaeval work at a 
date possibly a full year before Praeraphaelitism took any 
sort of definite shape. 

I will also extract (with a few comments) Mr. Hunt's 
description of Rossetti's person and manner. It is better — 
at any rate, in some respects — than any which I could supply, 
and will moreover be more readily believed in by the public. 

"A young man of decidedly foreign aspect, about 5 feet 7! 
in height, with long brown hair touching his shoulders [this is 
strongly shown in the pencil drawing by Rossetti now in the 
National Portrait Gallery, but it did not continue long], not taking 
care to walk erect, but rolling carelessly as he slouched along, 
pouting with parted lips, staring with dreaming eyes — the pupils not 
reaching the bottom lids — grey eyes, not looking directly at any 
point, but gazing listlessly about; the openings large and oval, the 
lower orbits dark-coloured. His nose was aquiline but delicate, 
with a depression from the frontal sinus shaping the bridge [a very 
observable point] ; the nostrils full, the brow rounded and prominent, 
and the line of the jaw angular and marked, while still uncovered 
with beard [the angularity departed or diminished with advancing 
years]. His shoulders were not square, but yet fairly masculine in 
shape. The singularity of gait depended upon the width of hip, 
which was unusual. Altogether he was a lightly built man [later 
on he was often decidedly but varyingly fat], with delicate hands 
and feet : although neither weak nor fragile in constitution, he was 
nevertheless altogether unaffected by any athletic exercises. He 
was careless in his dress, which then was, as usual with professional 
men, black and of evening cut [this matter of black evening dress 
altered very soon; and indeed, from 1851 or thereabouts, my 
brother ceased to be, in any noticeable way, careless or odd in 
attire, and at times was even rather particular about it]. So superior 



96 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

was he to the ordinary vanities of young men that he would allow 
the spots of mud to remain dry on his legs for several days. His 
overcoat was brown, and not put on with ordinary attention ; and, 
with his pushing stride and loud voice [I feel some doubt as to the 
loud voice — should call it emphatic and full-toned rather than loud], 
a special scrutiny would have been needed to discern the reserved 
tenderness that dwelt in the breast of the apparently careless and 
defiant youth. But any one who approached and addressed him 
was struck with sudden surprise to find all his critical impressions 
dissipated in a moment; for the language of the painter was refined 
and polished, and he proved to be courteous, gentle, and winsome, 
generous in compliment, rich in interest in the pursuit of others, 
and in every respect, so far as could be shown by manner, a culti- 
vated gentleman. ... In these early days, with all his headstrong- 
ness and a certain want of consideration, his life within was untainted 
to an exemplary degree, and he worthily rejoiced in the poetic 
atmosphere of the sacred and spiritual dreams that then encircled 
him, however some of his noisy demonstrations at the time might 
hinder this from being recognized by a hasty judgment." 

Mr. Stephens, quoting from " a fellow-student," says that — 

" Fame of a sort had preceded " Rossetti from Cary's to the 
Academy School. Other Caryites had talked of him " as a poet 
whose verses had been actually printed [this can only mean Sir 
Hugh the Heron], and as a clever sketcher of chivalric and satiric 
subjects, who in addition did all sorts of things in all sorts of 
unconventional ways. His rather high cheek-bones were the more 
observable because his cheeks were roseless and hollow enough to 
indicate the waste of life and midnight oil to which the youth was 
addicted." He, on his first appearance in the Academy School, 
" came forward among his fellows with a jerky step, tossed the falling 
hair back from his face, and, having both hands in his pockets, faced 
the student-world with an insouciant air which savoured of defiance, 
mental pride, and thorough self-reliance." 

The reference here to " waste of midnight oil '' is quite 
true. My brother had already acquired habits, which stuck 
to him through life, of not going to bed until he happened 
to be so disposed, often at two or three in the morning, and 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 97 

of not getting up until necessity compelled or fancy suggested. 
" Always wilful, never methodical, and the consequences to 
take care of themselves," might have been his motto. It is 
true, however, that in mature life he settled down into habits 
of the utmost day-by-day regularity in professional work. 

Rossetti went a great deal to the theatre towards 1845, and 
for some six or seven years ensuing, and again about 1861 ; 
little at other dates, and after 1 868 or so not at all. He liked 
— in its way — almost any theatre, and almost any piece that 
was either genuinely poetical, or exciting, or entertaining ; 
nothing of a dull or stuck-up kind. Miss Woolgar (Mrs 
Mellon) at the Adelphi, and afterwards Miss Glyn at Sadler's 
Wells, were two of his favourite actresses. If Shakespear or 
John Webster was not "going," an Adelphi drama by Buck- 
stone or a burlesque of the Forty Thieves would do perfectly 
well. He was also much amused at thoroughly bad drama and 
acting, such as could be seen at the Queen's Theatre near 
Tottenham Court Road (afterwards Prince of Wales's Theatre). 



X. 

STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 

As we have just seen, Dante Rossetti was known at Cary's 
Academy for sketching " chivalric and satiric subjects." There 
must have been great numbers of these, proper both to the 
Cary period and to the Royal Academy period. Possibly 
some still exist, in the hands of his companions of those days ; 
I myself know of but few. There is nothing in them tending 
to what we call Praeraphaelitism. 

The early letters of Rossetti show that no artist delighted 
him more intensely than Gavarni (Guillaume Sulpice 
Chevalier), the French designer for lithographs and woodcuts. 
Among his series are Les Artistes, Les Coulisses, Le Carnaval, 
Les Enfants Terribles, Les Etudiants de Paris, Les Lorettes, 
Fourberies de Femnies en mature de Sentiment etc. He was 
a designer of supreme facility, with much of elegance and 

vol. 1. 7 



98 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

esprit, and in his way a master ; but naturally the way does 
not tend towards anything castigated or ideal. It will be 
observed in the Letters that in 1843 and 1844 my brother 
spent some time in Boulogne with the Maenza family. This 
served to fix his attention still further upon Gavarni and 
other French designers of a vivacious and picturesque kind ; 
though not wholly to the exclusion of British artists, among 
whom he greatly (and indeed permanently) admired Sir 
John Gilbert as a woodcut-draughtsman, and soon afterwards 
as a painter. In some pen-and-ink designs by Dante Rossetti, 
of the close of 1844 and on to September 1846, I trace much 
of what he saw in Gavarni, and tried to reproduce in his own 
practice. They are sketchy, and rather rough or unrefined 
in execution, but not wanting in spirit — the work now of an 
artist, though only of an artist at the beginning of his career. 
One is termed Quartier Latin, the Modem Raphael and his 
Fornarina. To April 1846 belongs a half-figure of Mephis- 
topheles at the door of Gretchen's cell. The malignant expres- 
sion is telling. Undated, but belonging 1 suppose to 1847, is 
a drawing, clever in its way, of a man seated, and reaching 
towards a flitting ghost ; two other figures are evidently 
unconscious of the apparition. Lady Anne BotJiwell 's Lament, 
from Percy's Reliques, is a drawing, not fully completed, of 
some sentiment and some picturesqueness. At one time, 
I suppose 1845, he tried his hand at lithographing, and pro- 
duced a figure of Juliette, from Frederic Soulier's novel (a 
prime favourite with him in these days) Les Memoires du 
Diable. This is poor enough, yet not destitute of a certain 
cliique. He also lithographed a set of humorous playing- 
cards — Ireland as the Queen of Clubs, Shakespear as the 
King of Hearts, Death as the King of Spades, etc. They 
have some fancy and point, with pleasing arrangement here 
and there, and might perhaps have been popular if published. 
He thought of trying for a publisher, but I doubt whether 
he ever took any practical steps for this end. Death is 
represented as a Grave-digger, wearing a pair of baggy 
breeches, and standing in a grave. One sees only a part of 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 99 

his leg-bones. These may perhaps be meant for his thigh- 
bones ; but it seems quite as likely that they are intended for 
the bones of the lower leg. If so, it is worthy of remark that 
Rossetti gave this skeleton only one bone to each of his 
lower legs, instead of the normal two, and his anatomical 
knowledge could thus have been small indeed towards 1845. 
Strange to say, Holbein, in his Dance of Death, knew no 
better. Of more present interest is an illustrated copy of 
the little privately-printed volume, Verses by Christina G. 
Rossetti, 1847. I possess the copy of this volume bearing the 
inscriptions, " Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti, from her loving 
daughter Christina, 24 July 1854," and then " Fratri Soror, 
C.G.R., Sept. 25, 1890" (my sixty-first birthday). It contains 
five pencil drawings by Dante, all of them produced, I should 
say, before the year 1847 na d closed. The frontispiece is 
a profile portrait of Christina, carefully and delicately done. 
The illustrations are to the poems, A Ruined Cross, Tasso 
and Leonora, The Dream, and Lady Lsabella (who was Lady 
Isabella Howard, a daughter of the Earl of Wicklow, and 
a pupil of our Aunt Charlotte Polidori). These designs, 
though inferior to the portrait, are also handled with nicety 
and good taste. The last-named must have been produced 
a little later than the others, as it is not bound into the 
volume. A noteworthy point about the designs is the total 
absence of any feeling for costume. There are clothes, but 
of that nondescript kind which, in the male figures, is evi- 
denced by little more than a slight line at the throat, and two 
others at the wrists. Tasso and Leonora might be anybody 
or nobody. 

Before Praeraphaelitism came at all into question my brother 
began an oil-picture of good dimensions. It was named 
Retro me Sathana, and formed a group of three mediaeval- 
costumed figures — an aged churchman and a youthful lady, 
and the devil slinking behind them baffled. He was a human 
being with a tail. This must have been undertaken in 1847, 
when my brother had no practice with pigments, and was 
continued for some three or four months. It was not, I 



100 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

apprehend, altogether amiss ; at what date it was destroyed 
I hardly know. He had begun the colouring, and showed the 
work privately to Sir Charles Eastlake, who did not encourage 
him to proceed with any such subject. Soon after this it 
was abandoned. 

Rossetti's taste for reading, in all the days of his youth, 
was never stationary ; it continued shifting and developing. 
Having drunk deep of one author, he went on to another. In 
1844 some one told him that there was another poet of the 
Byronic epoch, Shelley, even greater than Byron. He bought 
a small pirated Shelley, and surged through its pages like a 
flame. I do not think that he ever afterwards read much of 
Byron ; although, as his mind matured, he was not inclined to 
allow that the poet of such an actuality as Don Juan could 
be deemed inferior to the poet of such a vision as Prometheus 
Unbound. (Not indeed that he approved of Don Juan, as 
regards the spirit in which it is written. Early in 1880 he 
went so far as to tell me that he considered it a truly immoral 
and harmful_ book.) Keats followed not long after Shelley, 
in 1846, or perhaps 1845. My brother considered himself to 
have been one of the earliest strenuous admirers of Keats, 
but this can only be correct in a certain sense. The Old 
British Ballads and Mrs. Browning were read with endless 
enjoyment ; also Alfred de Musset (I have previously men- 
tioned Victor Hugo), Dumas (dramas, and afterwards novels), 
Tennyson, Edgar Poe, Coleridge, Blake, Sir Henry Taylor's 
Philip van Artevelde, Thomas Hood — more especially some of 
his serious poems, such as Lycus the Centaur and The Haunted 
House, and the semi-serious Miss Killi nans egg and her Precious 
Leg, though some of his roaring jocularities were also much 
in favour. As to Dr. Hake's nebulous but impressive romance, 
Vates, some details will appear elsewhere. Hoffmann's Contes 
Fantastiques (in French), and in English Chamisso's Peter 
Schlemihl, and Lamotte-Fouques Undine and other stories, 
represented the Teutonic element in romance and legend. 
It may have been towards 1846 that my brother came upon 
the prose Stories after Nature of Charles Wells, and his poetic 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. IOI 

drama of Joseph and his Brethren. These works, already half- 
forgotten at that date, were enormously admired by Rossetti, 
and the ultimate outcome of his admiration, transfused through 
the potent faculty and pen of Mr. Swinburne, was the republi- 
cation of the drama about 1877. Earlier than most of these — 
beginning, I suppose, in 1844 — was the Irish romancist 
Maturin, who held Dante Rossetti spellbound with the 
gloomy and thrilling horrors of Melmoth the Wanderer. He 
and I used often to sit far into the night reading the pages 
one over the other's shoulder ; and, if to stir the imagination 
of an imaginative youth is one aim of such a romance as 
Melmoth, no author can ever have succeeded more manifestly 
than Maturin with Dante Rossetti. There was another grim 
romance of his, named Montorio, which we thought a splendid 
pendent to Melmoth ; not to speak of Women, The Wild Irish 
Boy, and The Albigenses ; Maturin's once-celebrated verse- 
drama of Bertram, and some other poems of his, were eagerly 
inspected, but without any genuine result to correspond. Two 
other English novels which he read in these years with keen 
enjoyment were the Tristram Shandy of Sterne, and the 
Richard Savage of Charles Whitehead ; and in French, by 
Reybaud, Jerome Paturot a la recherche d'une Position Sociale, 
and, by Eugene Sue, the Mysteres de Paris, the JuiJ Errant, 
and Mathilde. In Dickens my brother's interest may have 
been on the wane when Dombey and Son began in 1846, 
though I suppose he also read David Copperfield, 1849. In 
his last days he was much struck with the Tale oj Two Cities. 
To Dickens succeeded Thackeray, who was most highly 
appreciated : his early tales in Frasers Magazine, such as 
Fitzboodle" s Conjessions and Barry Lyndon, and The Paris 
Sketchbook (even before Vanity Fair appeared in 1 846), also 
The Book oj Snobs. Later on, a novel ascribed to Lady 
Malet, Violet or the Danseuse, was a great favourite ; and 
he had a positive passion for Meinhold's wondrous Sidonia 
the Sorceress (translated), which he much preferred to the 
Amber Witch of the same phenomenal author. 

At last — it may have been in 1847 — everything took a 



102 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

secondary place in comparison with Robert Browning. 
Paracelsus, Sordello, Pippa Passes, The Blot on the Scutcheon, 
and the short poems in the Bells and Pomegranates series, 
were endless delights ; endless were the readings, and end- 
less the recitations. Allowing for a labyrinthine passage here 
and there, Rossetti never seemed to find this poet difficult 
to understand ; he discerned in him plenty of sonorous 
rhythmical effect, and revelled in what, to some other 
readers, was mere crabbedness. Confronted with Browning, 
all else seemed pale and in neutral tint. Here were passion, 
observation, aspiration, medisevalism, the dramatic perception 
of character, act, and incident. In short, if at this date 
Rossetti had been accomplished in the art of painting, he 
would have carried out in that art very much the same range 
of subject and treatment which he found in Browning's 
poetry ; and it speaks something for his originality and self- 
respecting independence that, when it came to verse-writing, 
he never based himself upon Browning to any appreciable 
extent, and for the most part pursued a wholly diverse path. 
It should not be supposed that, in glorifying Browning, 
Rossetti slighted other poets previously the objects of his 
homage. He valued them at the same rate as before, though 
he thought Browning a step further in advance. I need 
scarcely add that Shakespear and Dante are to be excepted, 
for at no time would he have denied or contested the 
superiority of these, even to the poet of Sordello. The time 
of Dante had come some three years before that of Browning 
began, and the current of Rossetti's love for the Florentine 
flowed wider and deeper month by month. 

It may be noted that (as in a previous instance) I have 
not specified any books of a so-called solid kind — history, 
biography, or voyages. Science and metaphysics were totally 
out of Rossetti's ken. I do not believe that he read any such 
books at this period — very few at any later period, among 
the few BosweWs Jolmso7i holding a high place. In current 
talk Rossetti did not appear to be much behind other persons 
when history or biography was referred to ; but I hardly 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 103 

know what historical volumes he opened, other than Carlyle's 
French Revolution, Merivale's Roman Empire, and something 
of Plutarch and of Gibbon. The great Duke of Marl- 
borough's English History came out of Shakespear's plays ; 
Rossetti's English and other history derived largely from the 
same source, supplemented by those adust chroniclers, Walter 
Scott, Bulwer, Victor Hugo, and Dumas. This was not to 
our father's liking. I have more than once heard him say, 
" When you have read a novel of Walter Scott, what do you 
know? The fancies of Walter Scott." 

Rossetti had commenced some prose story before he left 
King's College School in the summer of 1842. I am not 
certain whether that story was or was not the same thing 
as Sorrentino. At any rate, a prose tale named Sorrentino 
was in course of composition in August 1843. I remember 
something of it, but not in clear detail. The Devil (a per- 
sonage of great predilection with my brother ever since his 
early acquaintance with Gothe's Faust, which drama he 
read and- re-read afterwards in Filmore's translation) was 
a principal character. There was a love-story, in the course 
of which the Devil interfered in a very exasperating way 
between the lover and his fair one. He either personated 
the lover, or conjured-up a phantom of the lady, and made 
love to her, and was seen by the lover in the act- -or 
something of this kind. There was also a duel in which 
he intermixed. Rossetti wrote some four or five chapters 
of this story, on the scale of chapters in an ordinary novel, 
and he contemplated offering Sorrentino for publication. 
Finally he abandoned it, and I dare say he had destroyed 
the MS. before he was of age. I have always rather 
regretted the disappearance of Sorrentino. To my boyish 
notion, it was spirited, effective, and well told ; and I fancy 
that, were it extant, it would be found by far better than 
his previous small literary attempts. That he entered fully 
into the spirit of a story of diablerie is certain ; and, having by 
this time some moderate command over his pen, he may have 
been not incapable of doing something in that line himself. 



104 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

His next literary incentive arose out of his German studies 
— which began, as already mentioned, towards the earlier 
part of 1 842. Dr. Heimann brought him so far on in German 
that Dante Rossetti made a verse-translation of Burger's 
Lenore, perhaps in 1844. This likewise has perished. I 
suppose it was much on a par with most other versions of 
the ballad. I can recollect two stanzas (and might, were 
there a little prompting, recollect others as well), one close to 
the beginning of the poem, and the other at its end : — 

"The Empress and the King, 
With ceaseless quarrel tired, 
At length relaxed the stubborn hate 
Which rivalry inspired." 

And 

" Patience, patience, while thy heart is breaking — 
With thy God there is no question-making ; 
Of thy body thou art quit and free — 
Heaven keep thy soul eternally ! " 

From Lenore he proceeded to a more ambitious adventure 
— no less than a translation of the Nibelungenlied. This 
mighty old poem seized hold upon him with a vice-like 
clench ; yet I do not suppose he ever read the whole of it, 
his knowledge of German, unaided, being hardly sufficient for 
such an effort. Neureuther's illustrated edition, combined 
with Dr. Heimann's explanations, showed him the course of 
the narrative. The translation was begun in October 1845, 
and went on to the end of the 5 th Geste, or thereabouts, 
where Siegfried first sees Kriemhild. No trace of it remains. 
Speaking from long-past memory, I should say that this was 
really a fine translation, with rolling march and a sense of 
the heroic. The merits of the next translation are not matter 
of conjecture, for it got finally printed in Rossetti's Collected 
Works, 1886. It is from the Anne Heinrich of the twelfth- 
century poet Hartmann von Aue, and belongs probably to 
the year 1846. For simplicity, vigour, perception of the 
character of the original, and tact in conveying this along 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 10$ 

with a certain heightened and spontaneous colouring of his 
own, this version could not easily be excelled. My brother 
put some finishing touches to the translation in 1871. Pro- 
bably he cut out some juvenilities, but it remains substantially 
and essentially the performance of his adolescence. 

Even before the Anne Heinrich Rossetti's translations 
from the early Italian poets must have begun. The dates of 
most of these range from 1845 to 1849. Glowing from the 
flame-breath of Dante Alighieri, Dante Rossetti made con- 
tinual incursions into the Old Reading-room of the British 
Museum, hunting up volumes of the most ancient Italian 
lyrists, and also volumes of modern British poets, and maybe 
of French as well. No doubt this pursuit involved some 
partial neglect of his artistic studies. When he found an 
Italian poem that pleased him he set-to at translating it. He 
had soon got together a good deal of material, and gradually 
the idea of collecting all into a book, including a version of 
Dante's Vita Nuova, grew into shape. Almost all the trans- 
lations from Dante may have been done at home, where of 
course the youth had ready access to his writings, and to 
those of several other old Italians. I cannot say which branch 
of the subject may have been undertaken first ; possibly the 
version of the Vita Nuova, prose and poetry, had been made 
before any researches at the British Museum commenced. 
This version was shown in November 1850 to Tennyson, with 
whom my brother and others of our circle had made some 
acquaintance through Mr. Coventry Patmore. He returned 
the MS., saying that it was very strong and earnest, but 
disfigured by some cockney rhymes, such as " calm " and 
" arm." Rossetti at once determined to remove these. The 
book of The Early Italian Poets did not appear in print until 
1 86 1, and meanwhile my brother had often gone over his 
first MSS., revising, improving, and suppressing crudities or 
quaintnesses. Still (as in the case of the Anne HeinricJi) 
the published translations are, in main essentials, the same 
which Rossetti wrote down in these juvenile years — the 
impulse and the savour of them are the same ; and any praise 



106 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

deserved by and awarded to the man who issued the book in 
1 86 1 appertains rightfully to the youth who worked upon it 
in 1845 and the few following years. The translations have 
been very generally recognized as first-class work of their 
order — re-castings of poems into another language such as 
could only be accomplished by a poet in his own right. 
Instead of expressing any opinion of my own, I will repro- 
duce two verdicts by writers of exceptional competence from 
their respective standpoints. Mr. Swinburne, the most 
lavishly generous of critics when he finds something that he 
can have the luxury of praising, says in that review of the 
Poems of Rossetti which he published in 1 870 : " All Mr. 
Rossetti's translations bear the same evidence of a power not 
merely beyond reach but beyond attempt of other artists in 
language." My other authority is Signor Carlo Placci of 
Florence, who, immediately after Rossetti's death in 1882, 
produced a brochure entitled Dante Gabriele Rossetti. The 
testimony of a native Italian well versed in English may carry 
with it a weight hardly inferior to that of the greatest con- 
temporary master of English verse. I quote it with the more 
pleasure as it does justice also to Mr. Swinburne's own 
powers as a translator : — 

"The collection of the Poets of Italy of the first centuries is a 
work undoubtedly extraordinary. The diverse styles, the opposite 
turns of sentiment, the various and complicated forms, the difficult 
allegories, the intricate rhymes, all is rendered in a surprising way ; 
and the very spirit of our language seems reflected, with all its 
poetry and its pictorial aspect, in these translations — which certainly 
do not yield to the best version of a foreign poet done in our days, 
I mean that of Villon executed by Swinburne. Like him, Rossetti 
has been able not only to enter into that life so different from the 
English, and steal the spark proper to another idiom, in such wise 
as to astound even those who know the original thoroughly; but, 
preserving all the grace and elegance and candour of his model, he 
has sought, and successfully, to re-fashion, without visible effort, 
their metres and repeated rhymes, and all the devices of alliteration, 
assonance, and repetition, which are certainly not less difficult in 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 107 

the canzoni of our thirteenth-century men than in the daring ballades 
of Francois Villon. In the case of both poets this has been not 
merely a masterpiece, but a true struggle crowned with success, 
especially when we reflect on the intrinsic difference which exists 
between the Teutonic and the Latin families of language." 

Not as a translator only but also as an original poet, 
Rossetti's faculty was fully developed by 1847. One proof of 
this suffices — that he wrote The Blessed Damozel before 12 
May of that year, or while still in the nineteenth year of his 
age. By saying that his faculty was now fully developed, I 
do not mean to imply that it did not afterwards ripen — which 
assuredly it did — in several important respects ; but that he 
had now ideas of a memorable kind to express, and could 
and did express them in verse wholly adequate for their 
embodiment. He meant something good — he knew what 
he meant — and he knew how to convey it to others. The 
Blessed Damozel was written with a view to its insertion in a 
MS. Family-magazine, of brief vitality. In 1881 Rossetti 
gave Mr. Caine an account of its origin, as deriving from his 
perusal and admiration of Edgar Foe's Raven. " I saw " 
(this is Mr. Caine's version of Rossetti's statement) " that Poe 
had done the utmost it was possible to do with the grief of 
the lover on earth, and I determined to reverse the conditions, 
and give utterance to the yearning of the loved one in 
heaven." Along with The Raven, other poems by Poe — 
Ulalume, For Annie, The Haunted Palace, and many another 
— were a deep well of delight to Rossetti in all these years. 
He once wrote a parody of Ulalume. I do not rightly 
remember it, nor has it left a vestige behind. 

The poem named My Sister's Sleep was, I think, even 
earlier than The Blessed Damozel; The Portrait and Ave very 
little later, also all the opening portion of Dante at Verona, 
A Last Confession, and The Bride's Prelude. Jenny (in its 
first form, which had none of that slight framework of 
incident now belonging to the poem) was begun almost as 
soon as The Blessed Damozel; only some fifty lines of the 
original draft are retained. The sonnet Retro me Sathana 



Io8 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

must belong to 1847, being intended to pair with his picture 
of the same name ; and the trio of sonnets named The Choice 
appertain to the same year, or perhaps to an early date in 
1848. This trio is important, as indicating Rossetti's youthful 
conception of life as a moral discipline and problem. He 
propounds three theories — 1, Eat thou and drink, to-morrow 
thou shalt die ; 2, Watch thou and pray ; 3, Think thou and 
act. Each sonnet exhibits its own theme, without any direct 
reference to the themes of the other two. It is manifest, 
however, that Rossetti intends us to set aside the " Eat thou 
and drink" theory of life, and not to accept, without much 
reservation, the " Watch thou and pray " theory. " Think 
thou and act " is what he abides by. 

There was another very early poem, begun perhaps in 
1846 rather than 1847, and nearly completed at the time. It 
then remained wholly neglected, until, on his deathbed, my 
brother took it up, and supplied the finishing touches. Its 
final name is Jan van Hunks. For this long ballad-poem 
Rossetti found his main subject (but by no means all his 
incidents) in a prose story, Henkerzvyssel's Challenge, printed 
in his old favourite, the Tales of Chivalry. The ballad relates 
how a Dutchman, celebrated for his prowess in smoking, 
treated certain members of his family with callous cruelty, 
and was then challenged by the Devil in human form to 
engage in a smoking-duel. Of course the Devil's capabilities 
at such an exercise exceeded even the Dutchman's ; so Van 
Hunks, dying of over-smoking, was marched off to hell, where 
his carcass was converted into a pipe for the devil's accus- 
tomed use. The ballad is humorously grim, treated with 
great force and no compromise, and is a pleasant piece of 
unpleasant reading. It is most fully deserving of publication ; 
but has not been included in Rossetti's Collected Works, 
because he gave the MS. to his devoted friend Mr. Theodore 
Watts, with whom alone now rests the decision of presenting 
it or not to the public. 

I may mention yet another " copy of verses," belonging to 
March 1848. It is named The English Revolution of 1848, 



STUDENT-LIFE— SKETCHING, READING, AND WRITING. 109 

and ridicules the street-spoutings of Chartists and others in 
that year of vast continental upheavals. It is more than 
tolerably good in its burlesque way, but is not likely to be 
published. My brother had some feeling for political ideals 
and great movements, but none, except one of annoyance 
and disdain, for noise and bluster. It may well be that he 
did not always appreciate correctly the distinction between 
the noise and the ideals. 

A small incident, of literary and artistic bearing, proved 
to be hardly less important in Rossetti's career than the 
composition of an original poem. He was already a hearty 
admirer of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. 
One day, while attending at the British Museum Reading- 
room on one of his ordinary errands, he received, from an 
attendant named Palmer, the offer of a MS. book by Blake, 
crammed with prose and verse, and with designs. This was 
in April 1847. The price asked was ten shillings. Dante's 
pockets were in their normal state of depletion, so he applied 
to me, urging that so brilliant an opportunity should not be 
let slip, and I produced the required coin. He then proceeded 
to copy out, across a confused tangle of false starts, alternative 
forms, and cancellings, all the poetry in the book, and I did 
the like for the prose. His ownership of this truly precious 
volume certainly stimulated in some degree his disregard or 
scorn of some aspects of art held in reverence by dilettanti 
and routine-students, and thus conduced to the Praeraphaelite 
movement ; for he found here the most outspoken (and no 
doubt, in a sense, the most irrational) epigrams and jeers 
against such painters as Correggio, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, 
Reynolds, and Gainsborough— any men whom Blake regarded 
as fulsomely florid, or lax, or swamping ideas in mere 
manipulation. These were balsam to Rossetti's soul, and 
grist to his mill. The volume was moreover the origin of all 
his after-concern in Blake literature ; as Alexander Gilchrist, 
when preparing the Life of Blake published in 1863, got to 
hear of the MS. book, which my brother then entrusted to 
him, and, after Gilchrist's premature death, Rossetti did a 



110 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

good deal towards completing certain parts of the biography, 
and in especial edited all the poems introduced into the 
second Section. He again did something for the re-edition 
dated 1880. At the sale of my brother's library and effects 
the Blake MS. sold for ;£iio. $s., so that the venture of ten 
shillings turned out a pretty good investment. 



XI. 

FRIENDS TOWARDS 1847 

BESIDES the families which I have already mentioned — Dr. 
Heimann and his wife, a very pretty pleasant young English 
Jewess, whose maiden name was Amelia Barnard, and the 
American Doughtys — Dante Rossetti knew, as he grew up 
towards manhood, two persons more particularly, of whom I 
ought here to give some account. They were Major Calder 
Campbell and Mr. William Bell Scott. 

To Major Campbell Rossetti was, I think, introduced by 
an affectionate friend, a year or two older than himself, the 
sculptor Alexander Munro — an Inverness man who had come 
to London under the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of 
Sutherland, and who, being ingenuous and agreeable in 
manner, and of graceful gift as a sculptor, made some way 
both in society and in art. He died abroad towards the 
beginning of 1871. Calder Campbell was a retired officer 
from the Indian army, a bachelor turned of fifty. He took 
to my brother most heartily ; was a firm believer in his 
future, and watched with the kindliest interest his actual 
stage of development. He was the author of a large number 
of verses, tales, and sketches, in Annuals and other fleeting 
forms of publication, and from time to time produced a 
volume as well. To pretend that he was an author of high 
mark, or capable of something greatly better than what he 
gave forth, would be futile ; but he was a lively writer in a 
minor way, an amusing chatty talker, who had seen many 
things here and there, and knew something of the publishing 



FRIENDS TOWARDS 1 847. Ill 

world, and a straightforward, most unassuming gentleman, 
whose society could do nothing but good to a youth like 
Rossetti. For a couple of years or so my brother and I 
used to pass an evening weekly at his lodgings in University 
Street, Tottenham Court Road. Tea, literature, and a spice 
of bantering scandal, were the ingredients for a light-hearted 
and not unimproving colloquy. Mostly no one else was 
present. On one occasion — to please Dante Rossetti, who 
took a great deal of interest in a rather eccentric but certainly 
able volume of poems entitled Studies of Sensation and Event 
— Major Campbell secured the attendance of its author, 
Ebenezer Jones. He was a well-grown, thin, pale man, still 
young, with decayed teeth and a general air of shaky health, 
which brought him to his grave before many years had 
passed. He seemed pleased in a way, but without any ease 
of manner or flow of spirits. We never saw him again. 
Dante did not, however, lose his interest in Ebenezer Jones. 
As late as February 1870 he made some emphatic observa- 
tions upon this poet in Notes and Queries ; and his remarks 
led ultimately to a re-publication of the Studies, and to a 
good deal of printed matter about Jones in the Athenceum. 

Rossetti was quite inclined now to make a little way in 
the literary world, if he could find an opening. Major Camp- 
bell was more than willing to assist him, and he showed 
My Sister's Sleep to the editress of the Belle Assemblee, a 
philandering magazine which had seen better days. The 
editress expressed great admiration of the poem, but did not 
publish it. Perhaps payment was wanted, and funds were at 
a low ebb. This may have been before the year 1848 was far 
advanced. I cannot recollect that my brother made any 
further endeavour for publication. Pretty soon The Germ 
was projected, and was to be the medium for introducing to 
the public the writings of himself and others. 

Mr. Bell Scott has narrated {Autobiographical Notes) the 
origin of his acquaintance with Dante Rossetti. On 
25 November 1847 the latter took the first step by sending 
to Mr. Scott, then Master of the Government School of 



112 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Design in Newcastle-on-Tyne, a letter of which the Autobio- 
graphist gives an abstract. I condense still further. 

"A few years ago," said Rossetti, "I met for the first time, in 
a publication called The Story-teller, with your two poems, Rosabell 
and A Dream of Love. So beautiful, so original, did they appear 
to me, that I assure you I could think of little else for several days ; 
and I became possessed by quite a troublesome anxiety to know 
what else you had written, and where it was to be found. Seeing 
that the two poems were extracted from The Monthly Repository, I 
went to the Museum, where I found a set of that magazine, but met 
only with a paper on Art. ... At the beginning of the present year 
I fell in with a most inadequate paragraph, in the Art-Union Journal, 
which informed me of the publication of The Year of the World. 
I was about to bid you imagine my delight, but that would not be 
easy. I rushed from my friend's house where I had seen the 
announcement (for the wretched thing was no more), and, having 
got the book, fell upon it like a vulture. You may be pretty certain 
that you had in me one of those readers who read the volume at 
a single sitting. A finer, a more dignitous, 1 a more deeply thoughtful 
production, a work that is more truly a work, has seldom indeed 
shed its light upon me. To me I can truly say that it revealed 

' Some depth unknown, some inner life unlived.' " 

This is the first line of The Year of the World. — Rossetti 
proceeded to say that he was aware of the existence of 
another poem by Scott named Hades or the Transit ; and, 
being unable to light upon this or other works by the same 
author, he ventured to enquire at headquarters. 

It may be questioned whether readers of the present day 
know very much about Mr. Scott's poems. I will therefore 
say a few words about Rosabell and The Year of the World. 
Rosabell — afterwards reissued under the name of Mary Anne — 
is a poem, in irregular form and various metres, about an 
innocent country-girl who becomes a gentleman's mistress, 

1 So in Mr. Scott's book. My brother was not fond of such strained or 
affected words, and was much more likely to write " dignified." Still I 
suppose that the printed word is correct, and that he was misled for a 
moment by the analogy of the Italian adjective dignitoso. 



FRIENDS TOWARDS 1 847. 113 

and finally sinks into the lowest depths of shame and destitu- 
tion. Though deficient in some executive respects, it reads 
an impressive lesson in impressive and poignant terms, and 
deserves to live. The Year of the World is a much longer 
poem in blank verse. The subject extends (to use the 
author's own words) (< from the golden age of the Garden 
of Eden, the period of instinct and innocence, to the end of 
the race, when, all the adverse powers of Nature subjugated, 
Man will have attained a happy and quiescent immortality." 
I have read this ambitious and remarkable poem several times, 
but not of late years. I will, however, undertake to say that 
it contains a large amount of strong thought mixed with ideal 
aspiration ; that it comprises many lines of true poetry, and 
many passages of majestic scope ; and that, if a reading 
public who do not greatly want such productions would con- 
sent to read the work, they would find in it much to reward 
their pains, and to uphold the claims of its author as a poet 
of a high standard, and of some veritable though not uniformly 
realized attainment. I do not coincide with some critics of 
the present day (and of past days as well) who hold that 
Scott's executive touch is so uncertain, and the instances 
where he falls short of his aim so numerous, as to disentitle 
him altogether to the name of poet. On the contrary, I can 
and do still admire his work to a large extent, although far 
from unconscious of its too frequently obvious, and sometimes 
almost unaccountable, blemishes. 

Mr. Scott, now aged thirty-six, naturally had not the least 
idea who " Gabriel Charles Rossetti " might be, beyond what 
appeared in his letter as to his being a student of painting, 
etc. He made some sort of reply, and soon received a further 
letter enclosing a number of verse MSS., which included 
The Blessed Damozel, My Sister's Sleep, and (as Scott 
expresses it) " many other admirable poems, marshalled 
under the title of Songs of the Art Catholic!' I hardly think 
that my brother had by this date completed " many " poems, 
unless translations are to be reckoned in. There may easily, 
however, have been a round half dozen of original composi- 
vol. I. 8 



114 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

tions, comprising, in all probability, Ave — also the beginnings 
of some others, such as The Bride's Prelude (which at this 
time was called Bride-Chamber Talk). My brother's general 
title of Songs of the Art Catholic is worth a moment's 
attention. By " Art " he decidedly meant something more 
than "poetic art." He meant to suggest that the poems 
embodied conceptions and a point of view related to pictorial 
art — also that this art was, in sentiment though not neces- 
sarily in dogma, Catholic — mediaeval and un-modern. He 
never was, and never affected to be, a Roman-catholic, nor 
yet an Anglican-catholic. All the then excited debates 
concerning " Puseyism," Tractarianism, and afterwards Ritual- 
ism, passed by him like the idle wind. If he knew anything 
about "the Gorham Controversy," it was only that Carlyle 
coupled " prevenient grace " with " supervenient moonshine." 
Indeed, by this date — so far as opinion went, which is a very 
different thing from sentiment and traditional bias — he was 
already a decided sceptic. He was never confirmed, professed 
no religious faith, and practised no regular religious observ- 
ances ; but he had (more especially two or three years after 
this) sufficient sympathy with the abstraqt ideas and the 
venerable forms of Christianity to go occasionally to an 
Anglican church — very occasionally, and only as the inclina- 
tion ruled him. 

Not long after this letter-writing (I have already expressed 
the opinion that it was about the new year of 1848) Mr. 
Scott called in 50 Charlotte Street, and saw Dante and other 
members of the family. I well remember his first appear- 
ance, in the evening. He was then a handsome and highly 
impressive-looking man ; of good 9tature, bony and well- 
developed but rather thin frame, pondering and somewhat 
melancholy air, and deliberate low-toned utterance. His 
hair (which he lost entirely some years afterwards) was 
blackish, and of free abundant growth, his eyebrows bushy, 
his eyes of a very pale clear blue. This hue must have been 
too cold and steely for a southern sympathy ; for, when he 
and I were travelling in Italy in 1862, a Pisan female fellow- 



MADOX BROWN, HOLMAN HUNT, MILLAIS. 1 1 5 

traveller felt disconcerted under its influence, and whispered 
to me that he certainly had " the evil eye." We in Charlotte 
Street did not think so, but took very warmly indeed to Mr. 
Scott, and found him not only attractive but even fascinating. 
Some time after he had written to Mr. Scott — it seems to 
have been in the summer of 1850 — Dante Rossetti wrote 
likewise to Robert Browning. In the British Museum he 
had come across an anonymous poem entitled Pauline. He 
admired it much, and copied out every line of it. He ob- 
served one or two verses which he already knew in Browning's 
avowed poems. From this circumstance, and from general 
internal evidence, he came to the conclusion that the author 
of Pauline could be no other than Browning, and he wrote to 
the poet at a venture to enquire whether his inference was 
correct. Browning was at that time in Venice. He replied 
in the affirmative ; and, being two years afterwards back in 
London, he made the acquaintance of Rossetti, who called 
upon him companioned by the poet William Allingham. 

XII. 

MADOX BROWN, HOLMAN HUNT, MILLAIS. 

A CERTAIN day in March 1 848 — I don't know which day — 
formed one of the most important landmarks in the career 
of Dante Rossetti. It was on that day that he wrote to 
Mr. Ford Madox Brown, personally quite unknown to him, 
asking whether he could become Brown's pupil in the practical 
work of painting. He thus commenced the most intimate 
friendship of his life; and the letter led on to his familiar 
companionship with Holman Hunt, and hence to the Prsera- 
phaelite movement, and all subsequent developments of his art. 
It may be questioned — Why did Rossetti look out for 
private instruction in painting, when he might, with moderate 
exertion, have advanced from the Antique School of the 
Royal Academy to the Life School and the Painting School, 
and might, in the last-named section, have obtained, from 



Il6 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

accredited painters, all the training that he could want ? My 
recollections on this point do not supply me with any very 
precise information. Some data are however clear enough 
to me. Few young men were more impetuous or more 
impatient than my brother, or more ambitious to boot. He 
had now been an art-student for nearly six years, and he 
wanted to be a student no longer, but a practising painter, 
testing by actual performance the faculty that was within 
him, and the recognition which the public might be willing 
or compelled to accord thereto. His study in the Academy's 
Antique School had not yet lasted two years. Fully as much 
might still be needed before he would get into the Painting 
School, and, when there, he might find little to respect in 
his instructors (for he had no belief in an R.A., merely as 
such), and little furtherance in that particular line of work 
which attracted him. He had plenty of ideas. What he 
needed was such an immediate knowledge of brush-work as 
would enable him to cover a canvas. I do not say — to cover 
it well or ill ; for the idea of doing the thing ill would at this 
time, as at all others, have been most repugnant to him. He 
wanted to cover the canvas, and to do it as well as his 
utmost endeavour would permit. These considerations were 
amply sufficient to impel him to look out for a prompt 
training in painting elsewhere than by the graduated processes 
of the Royal Academy. As he was not yet twenty years 
of age, it could not be held that he was at all belated, if only 
now he could make a real beginning. 

The letter to Mr. Brown is so important from all points of 
view that I think well to transcribe it here verbatim. 

"March 1848. 
"50 Charlotte Street, Portland Place. 

« Sir,— 

"lama student in the Antique School of the Royal Academy. 
Since the first time I ever went to an exhibition (which was several 
years ago, and when I saw a picture of yours from Byron's Giaour) 
I have always listened with avidity if your name happened to be 
mentioned, and rushed first of all to your number in the Catalogue. 



MADOX BROWN, HOLMAN HUNT, MILLAIS. WJ 

The Parisina, the Study in the Manner of the Early Masters, Our 
Lady of Saturday-night, and the other glorious works you have 
exhibited, have successively raised my admiration, and kept me 
standing on the same spot for fabulous lengths of time. The 
outline from your Abstract Representatation of Justice which appeared 
in one of the Illustrated Papers constitutes, together with an en- 
graving after that great painter Von Hoist, 1 the sole pictorial 
adornment of my room [this was a room, originally our father's 
dressing-room, quite at the top of the house 50 Charlotte Street. 
Small and bare and uncared-for it was, but how many hours, which 
in retrospect seem glorious hours, have I not passed in it with my 
brother ! how many books have we not read to one another, 
how many bouts-rimes sonnets have we not written, over its scanty 
fireplace !]. And, as for the Mary Queen of Scots, if ever I do 
anything in the art, it will certainly be attributable in a great degree 
to the constant study of that work [this was a very large painting, 
The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots, now in the possession of 
Mr. Boddington. My brother had seen it in the Pantheon Bazaar, 
where it hung for years rather than months]. 

" It is not therefore to be wondered at if, wishing to obtain some 
knowledge of colour (which I have as yet scarcely attempted), the 
hope suggests itself that you may possibly admit pupils to profit by 
your invaluable assistance. If, such being the case, you would do 
me the honour to inform me what your terms would be for six 
months' instruction, I feel convinced that I should then have some 
chance in the Art. 

" I remain, Sir, very truly yours, 

"Gabriel C. Rossetti." 

It is somewhat remarkable that, apart from his allusion 
to a print of the Justice, my brother did not here refer to 
Madox Brown's three Cartoons in Westminster Hall — works 
which he assuredly and very rightly admired as much at 
least as any of the paintings specified, and more than most 

1 Von Hoist is not much remembered now. He was an Anglo-German 
painter, greatly addicted to supernatural subjects, which he treated with 
imaginative impulse and considerable pictorial skill — Lord Lyttelton and 
the Ghost, Faust and Mephistopheles in the Wine-cellar, The Death of 
Lady Macbeth, etc, He died towards 1850, in early middle age. 



Il8 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 

of them. Apparently he dwelt on paintings alone, because 
his immediate object was to obtain guidance in the use of 
colour. 

Mr. Brown, born on 16 April 1821, was close upon twenty- 
seven years of age when he received this letter, or about seven 
years older than Rossetti. He was a vigorous-looking young 
man, with a face full of insight and purpose ; thick straight 
brown hair, fair skin, well-coloured visage, blueish eyes, broad 
brow, square and rather high shoulders, slow and distinct 
articulation. His face was good-looking as well as fine ; but 
less decidedly handsome, I think, than it became towards the 
age of forty. As an old man — he died on 6 October 1893 — 
he had a grand patriarchal aspect ; his hair, of a pure white, 
being fully as abundant as when first I knew him, sup- 
plemented now by a long beard. Born in Calais of English 
parents, and brought up chiefly abroad, he was the sort of 
man who had no idea of being twitted without exacting the 
reason why. Such profuse praise as he now received from 
his unknown correspondent was what fortune had not accus- 
tomed him to, and he suspected that some ill-advised person 
was trying to make game of him. From his studio in Clip- 
stone Street, very near Charlotte Street, he sallied forth with 
a stout stick in his hand. Knocking at No. 50, he would not 
give his name, nor proceed further than the passage. When 
Dante came down, Brown's enquiry was, "Is your name 
Rossetti, and is this your writing ? " An affirmative being 
returned, the next question was, " What do you mean by it ? " 
to which Rossetti rationally replied that he meant what he 
had written. Brown now perceived that after all the whole 
affair was bona fide ; and (as the Family-letters show) he not 
only consented to put his neophyte in the right path of paint- 
ing, but would entertain no offer of payment, and made 
Rossetti his friend on the spot — a friend for that day, in the 
spring of 1848, and a friend for life. 

For these details I have relied chiefly on the book of Mr. 
Bell Scott, who relates the interview in the words (such they 
purport to be) of Rossetti himself in conversation with Scott. 



MADOX BROWN, HOLMAN HUNT, MILLAIS. 119 

Mr. Stephens gives a similar though briefer narrative, on the 
authority of Brown's anecdotic discourse, which was often 
of a very amusing kind, and replete with minute particulars. 
For truth's sake I will say that I cannot remember having 
ever heard either Brown or my brother refer to these minor 
incidents of the stout stick, etc. ; but I am bound to believe 
Mr. Scott and Mr. Stephens, and I do believe them. 

After paying a visit or two to the studio of Madox Brown 
— who was then engaged on his important picture of Wiclif 
and John of Gaunt (or possibly it was Cordelia watching the 
bedside of Lear) — Rossetti was informed by his instructor that 
he should set-to at copying a picture, and at painting some 
still-life — pickle-jars or bottles. According to Mr. Holman 
Hunt, he copied the picture (I have not the least recollection 
of what it was), but his aspiring soul chafed sorely against 
the pickle-jars. This, however reasonably enjoined by Mr. 
Brown, was the very sort of drudgery which, in applying to 
him, Rossetti had hoped to avoid. The pickle-jars were 
nevertheless painted. The study remained in the hands of 
Mr. Madox Brown, and, at the sale which was held at his house 
in May 1894, it turned up, and was purchased by Mr. Herbert 
H. Gilchrist. My brother made also many original drawings 
or slight paintings under Brown's eye. These I no longer 
remember ; but I have lately seen one, which is said to be 
the first of all, and which was presented by Brown, only a few 
days before his death, to the young lady who is now Mrs. 
Ford M. Hueffer. It is a drawing of long narrow shape, in 
body-colour barely a little tinted, with a plain gilt ground ; 
and represents a young woman, auburn-haired, standing with 
joined hands. The face seems to be a reminiscence of 
Christina, but the nose is unduly long ; the drapery is deli- 
cately felt and done, and the whole thing has a forecast of the 
" Prseraphaelite " manner. Without being exactly good, the 
work shows distinct promise for a youth, almost a novice 
at handling the brush. 

From the pickle-jars ensued the second stage in this 
pictorial progress, and the beginning of my brother's close 



120 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

intimacy with Hunt, who was about thirteen months his 
senior. Just towards the date when Dante was getting 
adequately, or more than adequately, disgusted with his still- 
life probation, the annual Exhibition of the Royal Academy 
opened at the commencement of May. He saw there Hunt's 
picture — an uncommonly fine one for so youthful a painter — 
of Tlie Eve of St. Agnes (escape of Madeline and Porphyro 
from the castle). He " came up boisterously " (says Mr. Hunt), 
" and in loud tongue made me feel very confused by declaring 
that mine was the best picture of the year." It seems that 
the like had occurred in 1847, when Hunt's exhibited picture 
was from Walter Scott's Woodstock. " Rossetti frankly asked 
me to let him call upon me." When he did call, 1 he bewailed 
the pickle-jars or bottles, and sounded Hunt as to whether 
he need do any more of them. Hunt, without detracting 
from the general correctness of Brown's scheme of training, 
opined that Rossetti might permit himself to select for 
painting some composition of his own, and might begin on 
the canvas with the still-life proper to such a composition ; 
and then this accessory part of the subject would no longer 
be repulsive, for it would be the mere adjunct or preparation 
for the interesting part. No advice could possibly have been 
more reasonable, considering on the one hand the tempera- 
ment and aspirations of Rossetti, and on the other his great 
inexperience in the use of pigment. Mr. Hunt recommended 
that he should at once select for his picture a design recently 
contributed to a Sketching Society, and approved by Millais. 
This design must have been either La Belle Dame sans 
Merci, from Keats, or the scene of GretcJien in Church, from 
Faust ; in all probability the latter. The Belle Dame seems 

1 Mr. Hunt says that the encounter at the Academy exhibition was on 
the opening day (first Monday in May), and the visit to his studio "in a 
few days more." Considering the date when the Gretchen design (men- 
tioned by me in this context) was sent round and criticized, July 1848, and 
the date, 20 August, when Rossetti was finally settled with Hunt in a 
studio, I incline to think that the visit in question must have been about 
a couple of months later than the writer puts it. 



MADOX BROWN, HOLMAN HUNT, MILLAIS. 121 

to have passed out of observation, though 1 suppose not out of 
existence. At any rate, the Gretchen exists, and was exhibited 
in 1883 in the Burlington Club collection of my brother's 
works. 

A word or two must be given to the Sketching Society 
here in question. It was termed the Cyclographic Society. 
Each member produced a design, and sent it round to col- 
leagues in a portfolio, to be inspected and criticized. The 
members, besides Millais and Rossetti, were Hunt, John ■ 
Hancock the sculptor, William Dennis, N. E. Green, J. T. 
Clifton, Walter Howell Deverell, J. B. Keene, T. Watkins, 
James Collinson, Richard Burchett, F. G. Stephens, Thomas 
Woolner, and J. A. Vinter. As Sir John Millais's criticism 
on the Gretchen is interesting on every ground, and especially 
in this connexion, I give it here : — 

"A very clever and original design, beautifully executed. The 
figures which deserve the greatest attention are the four figures 
praying to the left. The young girl's face is very pretty, but the 
head is too large ; the other three are full of piety. The Devil is 
in my opinion a mistake ; his head wants drawing, and the horns 
through the cowl are commonplace, and therefore objectionable. 
The right arm of Margaret should have been shown, for, by hiding 
the Devil's right hand (which is not sufficiently prominent), you 
are impressed with the idea that he is tearing her to pieces for a 
meal. The drawing and composition of Margaret are original, and 
expressive of utter prostration. The greatest objection is the figure 
with his back towards you, who is unaccountably short ; the pleasing 
group of lovers should have occupied his place. The girl and child 
in the foreground are exquisite in feeling, the flaming sword well 
introduced and highly emblematic of the subject, which is well 
chosen, and, with a few alterations in its treatment, should be 
painted. Chairs out of perspective." 

I can easily believe this last item ; for Rossetti never paid 
any attention, worth speaking of, to perspective, and indeed 
— so far as his own interest in matters of art was concerned — 
was at all times almost indifferent to the question whether 



122 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

his works were in perspective or out of it. Mr. Stephens 
did something to arrange the perspective of Rossetti's picture 
(1849-50) of The Annunciation, now in the National Gallery, 
and in 1850 gave him a few lessons — and would not have 
minded giving many more — in this bugbear science. The 
reader will not fail to note the thoroughly practical and well- 
balanced tone of Millais's remarks in all other respects. The 
Cyclographic Society did not last long, as may be gathered 
from Rossetti's letter of 30 August 1848. I think the more 
progressive artists among its members got tired of association 
with some others, and hastened its dissolution. I can remember 
attending one or two meetings of the Society ; though why I 
was admitted — unless it be that Dante sic voluit, sicjussit — 
I fail to see. 

At the interview of which I have been speaking Rossetti 
(according to Holman Hunt) gave the latter to understand 
that, being oppressed by the pickle-jars, he had written to 
Leigh Hunt (whom he did not know), submitting some of 
his poems, original and translated, for courteous perusal, 
and asking whether it might seem feasible for him to 
trust to literature rather than fine art as a profession. 
A copy of Leigh Hunt's letter in reply is still extant. 
The date (it will be perceived) is 31 March, and it was 
written " at length " — i.e., some good while after he had 
received the poems. Rossetti's letter to Brown was only 
sent at some date in March ; and, looking to these dates, 
I rather question whether his communication to Leigh Hunt 
could have been consequent upon his affliction over the 
pickle-jars. Here is the veteran poet's very kind and con- 
siderate letter to a youth in all ways totally unknown : — 

"Kensington, March 31, 1848. 
"My dear Sir, — 

" I have at length had the pleasure of reading your manu- 
scripts, but am still forced to be very brief. I hope the agreeableness 
of my remarks will make amends for their shortness, since you have 
been good enough to constitute me a judge of powers of which you 
ought to have no doubt. I felt perplexed, it is true, at first, by 




'•" 



By D. G. Rossctti. 



Gaetano Polidori. 



t S 4 8. 



MADOX BROWN, HOLMAN HUNT, MILLAIS. 1 23 

the translations, which, though containing evidences of a strong 
feeling of the truth and simplicity of the originals, appeared to me 
harsh, and want correctness in the versification. I guess indeed 
that you are altogether not so musical as pictorial. But, when I 
came to the originals of your own, I recognized an unquestionable 
poet, thoughtful, imaginative, and with rare powers of expression. 
I hailed you as such at once, without any misgiving ; and, besides 
your Dantesque heavens (without any hell to spoil them), admired 
the complete and genial round of your sympathies with humanity. 
I know not what sort of painter you are. If you paint as well as 
you write, you may be a rich man ; or at all events, if you do not 
care to be rich, may get leisure enough to cultivate your writing. 
But I hardly need tell you that poetry, even the very best — nay, 
the best, in this respect, is apt to be the worst — is not a thing for 
a man to live upon while he is in the flesh, however immortal it 
may render him in spirit. — When I have succeeded in finding 
another house, I hope you will give me the pleasure of your 
acquaintance : and meantime I am, Dear Sir, with hearty zeal in 
the welfare of your genius, 

"Your obliged and faithful Servant, 

"Leigh Hunt. 

" P.S. — You will see some pencil-marks at the side of the passages 
I most admired." 

I possess a portrait done by my brother in pencil in June 
1848, representing our grandfather, head and shoulders. It is 
excellently good ; and so strongly and exactly realistic as to 
prove to demonstration that Rossetti, a short while before the 
Prseraphaelite scheme began, required no further prompting 
from outside as to the artistic virtues inherent in a scrupulous 
fidelity to Nature. Mr. Brown had no doubt impressed this 
upon him, if he had not already found it out for himself. In 
one way or another he had laid the lesson thoroughly to heart, 
and was more than a mere apprentice to Truth. My reader 
can judge for himself of this portrait, as it is here reproduced. 

Rossetti closed eagerly with Holman Hunt's suggestion as 
to beginning a picture, to combine practice in still-life and 
accessory with more palatable work ; and he asked to be 



124 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

allowed to become joint-tenant of a studio which Hunt was 
about to take. To this his new friend acceded ; and nothing; 
surely could have been more serviceable to my brother as a 
beginner in the painting-art. The studio selected was a back- 
room on the first floor at No. 7 (now 46) Cleveland Street, 
Fitzroy Square, close to Howland Street. Mr. Stephens has 
given an amusingly cheerless account of this establishment. 
I will borrow a few sentences from him ; though my own 
reminiscences of the place, tinted as they are by the light- 
heartedness of youth, do not present quite so gloomy a 
picture. 

"Dans un grenier qu'on est bien a vingt ans ! " 

And indeed I was not fully nineteen when my brother 
entered upon his studio at No 7 Cleveland Street, his living 
and sleeping rooms being still at No 50 Charlotte Street. 

" It was even then a dismal place, the one big window of which 
looked to the East, and through which, when neither smoke, fog, 
nor rain, obscured the unlovely view, you could see the damp 
orange-coloured piles of timber a neighbouring dealer in that 
material had, within a few yards of the room, piled in monstrous 
heaps upon his backyard. Nothing could be more depressing than 
the large gaunt chamber, . . . where the dingy walls, distempered 
of a dark maroon which dust and smoke stains had deepened, 
added a most undesirable gloom. The approach to it was by a 
half-lighted staircase up which the fuss and clatter of a boys'-school 
kept by the landlord of the house . . . frequently arose." 

And now we come to the third link in this chain of 
acquaintanceship — namely, to Rossetti's close fellowship with 
Millais. Brown had indirectly led on to Hunt, and Hunt led 
on directly to Millais. The latter, born in the summer of 
1829, was Rossetti's junior by more than a year, but vastly in 
advance of him as an artist. I need not enter here upon the 
early career of this great painter ; his quite singular promise 
in mere boyhood, his conspicuous successes in his first youth. 
Miliais was the pattern — the unattainable pattern — for all 



THE PR^RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 125 

Academy-students, and was by this date an exhibiting 
painter of some performance and any amount of promise. 
My brother could not but know him by sight long before 
now, and must have exchanged speech with him more than 
once both at the Royal Academy and at the Cyclographic 
Society. With Millais however he was not as yet on a 
footing of friendship, which Hunt was. " The companionship 
of Rossetti and myself," says Mr. Hunt, " soon brought about 
a meeting with Millais, at whose house one night we found 
a book of engravings of the frescoes in the Campo Santo at 
Pisa." The house was that at which Millais lived with his 
parents, No. 83 (now 7) Gower street, having a long rather 
shed-like studio, built out on the ground-floor along the line 
of a narrow turning. The juncture was a momentous one 
for all the three young painters. 



XIII. 
THE PR^RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 

Mr. HOLMAN Hunt considers, and I would be willing to 
confirm his view if it needed any confirmation, that it was 
the inspection of the Campo Santo engravings, " at this 
special time, which caused the establishment of the Praera- 
phaelite Brotherhood." They are not engravings doing 
justice to the works represented — indeed, Ruskin has some- 
where termed them " Lasinio's execrable engravings." But 
they give some idea of the motives, feeling, and treatment, 
of the paintings of Gozzoli, and of those ascribed to Orcagna 
and other mediaeval masters. It seems that Rossetti was not 
quite prepared beforehand to believe in these very olden 
painters, and Brown specially cautioned him not to undervalue 
them. I well recollect the enthusiasm with which, subse- 
quently to seeing the engravings, Dante spoke to me on the 
subject, and soon afterwards I was allowed an opportunity of 
examining the prints for myself. Most things, whether books 
or ideas, were in common, at this time and for years after- 



126 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

wards, between my brother and myself, and whatever one 
of us lighted upon was rapidly imparted to the other. 
Mr. Hunt makes some valuable observations on the direction 
of mind which started the Prseraphaelite idea, and on the 
respective contributions which the very diverse temperaments 
and gifts of its three initiators brought to the common stock. 
I will not take the liberty of borrowing his remarks en bloc ; 
but, bearing them needfully in mind, I will say what I can 
on the subject from my own standing-point. 

The Lasinio incident may be proper to the month of 
August or of September 1848, when Hunt was twenty-one 
years of age, Rossetti twenty, and Millais nineteen. They 
had thus barely ceased to be big boys ; but Hunt and Millais 
were already very capable and recognized painters, and 
all three were enthusiasts— enthusiasts with a difference. 
Millais perceived within himself powers which far exceeded 
those of most of the acknowledged heads of his profession, 
but which had been exercised as yet without any inbreathing 
of new and original life ; Hunt was not only stubbornly 
persistent, but eagerly desirous of developing something at 
once solid and uncommon ; Rossetti, a beginner in the art, 
was fired with inventive imaginings and a love of beauty, 
and was just as anxious as his colleagues to distinguish 
himself, though as yet not equally certain to do so. All three 
contemned the commonplace anecdotical subjects of most 
British painters of the day, and their flimsy pretences at 
cleverness of execution, unsupported either by clear intuition 
into the facts of Nature, or by lofty or masculine style, or by 
an effort at sturdy realization. There were of course excep- 
tions, some distinguished and some noble exceptions ; but 
the British School of Painting, as a school, was in 1848 wishy- 
washy to the last degree ; nothing imagined finely, nor 
descried keenly, nor executed puissantly. The three young 
men hated all this. They hated the cant about Raphael and 
the Great Masters, for utter cant it was in the mouths of such 
underlings of the brush as they saw all around them ; and 
they determined to make a new start on a firm basis. What 



THE PR/ERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 1 27 

was the basis to be? It was to be serious and elevated 
invention of subject, along with earnest scrutiny of visible 
facts, and an earnest endeavour to present them veraciously 
and exactly. 

This does not fully account for their calling themselves 
Praeraphaelites. Mr. Hunt says — and he must be correct — 
that the word Praeraphaelites " had first been used as a term 
of contempt by our enemies " ; founded, it would seem, more 
upon the talk of the young men than upon anything (apart 
from such minor matters as the study of the Ghiberti Gates) 
which they had actually done. Hunt's pictures as yet had 
no distinctively Praeraphaelite quality, Millais's were quite in 
the contrary line, and Rossetti was not known to have painted 
at all. But they saw, in the Italian painters from Giotto to 
Leonardo, and in certain early Flemish and German painters 
so far as they knew about them (which was little), a manifest 
emotional sincerity, expressed sometimes in a lofty and solemn 
way, and sometimes with a candid nai'vetd ; they saw strong 
evidences of grace, decorative charm, observation and defini- 
tion of certain appearances of Nature, and patient and loving 
but not mechanical labour. In the language of art there is, 
or ought to be, a certain distinction between the terms " con- 
ventionalism " and "conventionality." Of conventionalism — 
an adherence to certain types, traditions, and preconceptions 
— there is assuredly a vast deal in these early masters ; but 
of conventionality, as a lifeless application of school-precepts, 
accepted on authority, muddled in the very act of acceptance, 
and paraded with conceited or pedantic self-applause, there 
is, in the men who carried the art forward from point to 
point, no defined trace. Each of them did his best as he 
best could, and handed on the art to be bettered by his 
successor. 

It was with this feeling, and obviously not with any idea 
of actually imitating any painters who had preceded Raphael, 
that the youths adopted as a designation, instead of re- 
pelling as an imputation, the word Praeraphaelite. The word 
" Brotherhood " was, it seems, Rossetti's term, put forward as 



128 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

being preferable — which it most clearly was — to any such 
term as Clique or Association. And thus was the Praeraphaelite 
Brotherhood constituted as the autumn of 1848 began. 

Some writers have said that Rossetti was the originator 
of Praeraphaelitism. This ignores the just claims of Hunt 
and Millais, which I regard as co-equal with his. Rossetti 
had an abundance of ideas, pictorial and also literary, and 
was fuller of " notions " than the other two, and had more 
turn for proselytizing and " pronunciamentos " ; but he was 
not at all more resolute in wanting to do something good 
which should also be something new. He was perhaps the 
most defiant of the three ; and undoubtedly a kind of 
adolescent defiance, along with art-sympathies highly de- 
veloped in one direction, and unduly or even ignorantly 
restricted in others, played a part, and no small part, in 
Prseraphaelitism. But Hunt, if less strictly defiant, was still 
more tough, and Millais was all eagerness for the fray — 
" longing to be at 'em," and to show his own mettle. The 
fact is that not one of the three could have done much 
as an innovator without the other two. A bond of mutual 
support was essential, and an isolated attempt might have 
fizzed off as a mere personal eccentricity. As it was, 
Prseraphaelitism proved to be very up-hill work. It was 
more abused, as being the principle of a few men in unison, 
than it would have been if exemplified by one of them only ; 
but the very abuse was the beginning of its triumph. Any 
one of them, if acting by himself, might have been recognized 
as a man of genius ; he would hardly have become a power 
in art. If the invention of " the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood " 
was a craze, it was a craze spiced with a deal of long- 
headedness. Some method in that sort of madness. 

But, on these points as to his own relation to other Praera- 
phaelite painters, Dante Rossetti has himself given a very 
distinct explanation. It appears in a letter which he ad- 
dressed on 7 November 1868 to M. Ernest Chesneau, 
consequent on the publication of that able critic's book Les 
Nations Rivales dans I' Art. The passage which I here quote 



THE PR/ERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 1 29 

is printed in Professor Edouard Rod's volume, Etudes sur le 
Dix-neuvieme Steele, 1888, and the Professor leaves unaltered 
Rossetti's " incorrections de langue " : — 

" En ce qui concerne la qualification de ' Chef de l'Ecole Pre- 
raphaelite' que vous m'attribuez d'apres vos renseignements, je dois 
vous assurer le plus chaudement possible qu'elle ne m'est nullement 
due. Loin d'etre ' Chef de l'Ecole ' par priorite ou par merite, je 
puis a peine me reconnaitre comme y appartenant, si le style du 
peu que j'ai fait en peinture venait a etre compare avec les ouvrages 
des autres peintres nommes Preraphaelites. Ainsi, quand je trouve 
un peintre si absolument original que l'est Holman Hunt decrit 
comme etant mon ' disciple,' il m'est impossible de ne pas me sentir 
humilie en face de la verite, et de ne pas vous assurer du contraire 
avec le plus grand empressement. Les qualites de realisme, emoti- 
onnel mais extremement minutieux, qui donnent le cachet au style 
nomme Preraphaelite, se trouvent principalement dans tous les 
tableaux de Holman Hunt, dans la plupart de ceux de Madox 
Brown, dans quelques morceaux de Hughes, et dans l'ceuvre ad- 
mirable de la jeunesse de Millais. C'est la camaraderie, plutot que 
la collaboration reelle du style, qui a uni mon nom aux leurs dans 
les jours d'enthousiasme d'il y a vingt ans." 

The charge that the Prseraphaelite trio applied themselves 
slavishly to mere copyism, microscopic detail, and the like, 
has been so often alleged that it had better be dealt with 
here at once. Mr. Hunt puts the matter plainly, and is a 
final authority upon it. I will therefore extract a few of his 
words : — 

" It may be seen that we were never, what often we have been 
called, ' Realists.' I think the art would have ceased to have the 
slightest interest for any one of the three painters concerned, had 
the object been only to make a representation, elaborate or un- 
elaborate, of a fact in Nature. ... In agreeing to use the utmost 
elaboration in painting our first pictures, we never meant more than 
that the practice was essential for training the eye and the hand of 
the young artist. We should never have admitted that the relinquish- 
ment of this habit of work by a matured painter would make him 
less of a PrEeraphaelite." 

VOL. I. 9 



130 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

To add anything to Mr. Hunt's dictum on this matter is 
almost an impertinence. I will nevertheless confirm it, as 
being a point of which I also was cognizant — and indeed the 
like view was expressed in a kind of declaration of principles 
of the Brotherhood which I drew up at the beginning of 185 1, 
but which seems to be lost this long while. I will however 
concede thus much to the antagonist — that, although it is 
certainly true that the Prseraphaelites looked upon elaboration 
of detail as being rather a discipline for students than a 
necessary practice for proficients, they were not always 
sufficiently careful to affirm this, but, in the heat of con- 
troversy, would sometimes seem to imply that such elabora- 
tion was really requisite, as well as admissible and useful. 

I will advert briefly to one other point. It has been 
said that Madox Brown declined to join the Prasraphaelite 
Brotherhood (and that he did decline is true) on the ground 
partly that he had no faith in coteries, and partly that the 
Praeraphaelites insisted upon copying from a model exactly 
as he or she stood, and without permitting any modification 
of visage, etc., to suit the picture. The objection to coteries 
was, I believe, made by Brown, and was far from unreason- 
able ; but, as for the objection to not deviating from the 
model, I entertain considerable doubt. Some such rule as 
a theory may perhaps have been in some degree of favour 
with the Brotherhood at one time or other ; but I am certain 
it was not acted upon even in their first fervid year. The 
head of Lorenzo, in Millais's picture of 1848-9, Lorenzo and 
Isabella from Keats's poem, was painted from me, but the 
hair was made golden, whereas mine was black. The head 
of the Virgin Mary, in Rossetti's picture of the same year, 
was painted from our sister Christina, and here again the 
hair was made golden instead of dark brown. From Hunt's 
picture I have no doubt that some similar detail might be cited. 
All this 1 say without implying that that notion of strictest 
adherence to the model has no value. I think it has some, as 
conducing to a general air of genuineness and vvaisemblance, 
though it should not be pushed to a pragmatical extreme. 



THE PRAERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 131 

The three youths who founded the Praeraphaelite Brother- 
hood did not aim at confining it to themselves, supposing 
that other eligible men could be discovered and enlisted. 
This was done with four young men — Thomas Woolner the 
sculptor, James Collinson a painter, Frederic George Stephens, 
an Academy-student of painting, and myself. I hardly 
know whether any of the three former had been sounded 
before the Lasinio evening, and the consequent formation of 
a Praeraphaelite Brotherhood consisting of Millais, Hunt, and 
Rossetti. I presume not. Mr. Stephens was a particular ally 
of Mr. Hunt, who must, I apprehend, have been his introducer 
into the Brotherhood. Mr. Woolner was probably known 
to all three, and I could not affirm to which of them most — 
maybe Mr. Millais. Mr. Collinson, and of course myself, 
were nominated by my brother. I will say a little about three 
members of the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood, or " P.R.B." ; the 
" P.R.B.'s," as they called and for a while signed themselves. 
I omit Millais and Hunt, as being living men of renown with 
whom I need not meddle. 

Thomas Woolner was a Suffolk man, born in December 
1825, and was therefore about two years and a half older than 
Rossetti. He studied under the sculptor Behnes, and had 
already exhibited some few works before the P.R.B. was 
formed. Ultimately he became an R.A., and he died in 
October 1892. 3HIe produced some ideal works of superior 
quality, but became chiefly known as a portrait and bust 
sculptor. In this branch of the art, an energetic insight into 
character, and scrupulous skill in modelling and finish, were 
his leading merits. He was a genial manly personage, full 
of gusto for many things in life ; a vigorous believer in himself 
and his performances, and (it may be allowed) rather dis- 
inclined to admit the deservings of any rivals in his art. 

James Collinson, born in May 1825, was a small thick- 
necked man, chiefly a domestic painter, who began with 
careful and rather timid practice ; in demeanour, modest and 
retiring. He had been a steady church-goer in the Anglican 
communion ; but, about the date of the formation of the 



132 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Brotherhood, he became a Roman-catholic, and after a while 
saw fit, as a religionist, to resign his position as a P.R.B. He 
did not rise to distinction in the pictorial art, and died in the 
spring of 1881. 

Frederic George Stephens, a little older than Hunt, ex- 
hibited a very few pictures in the early years of Praera- 
phaelitism ; but, while still young, he relinquished painting 
as a definite profession, and became an Art-critic, capable 
and influential. He had — or rather still has — an uncommonly 
well-moulded and picturesque face ; painted by Millais as 
Ferdinand in the early picture Ferdinand lured by Ariel, and 
by Madox Brown soon afterwards as Jesus in the admirable 
work, now in the National Gallery, of Jesus washing Peter's 
Feet. It is a fact, and a melancholy one, that Dante Rossetti, 
as the years progressed, lost sight of all his " Praeraphaelite 
Brothers " except only of Stephens at sparse intervals — " dear 
staunch Stephens, one of my oldest and best friends," as he 
wrote to Mr. Caine towards 1879. 

Mr. Stephens had a great liking for the early schools of 
art, Italian and other. Possibly his knowledge of them ex- 
ceeded that of any other P.R.B. , and so far he might reason- 
ably be called a " Praeraphaelite." As to Woolner and 
Collinson, neither of them, from natural inclination or from 
course of study and practice, went at all in that direction ; a 
fact which confirms the true view of the matter — that the 
Praeraphaelites had no notion of recurring to or imitating old 
art, but simply aimed at pursuing the art in that spirit of 
personal earnestness and modesty, both as to the treatment 
of ideals and as to the contemplation of natural truths, which 
had animated the earlier Old Masters, and had faltered or 
failed in the later ones, and of which, in the current British 
School, the traces were few and far between. For myself, I 
obviously was, and I remained, an outsider, so far as the 
practice of fine art goes. I was made Secretary of the 
Brotherhood ; and pretty soon I became an Art-critic- — in 
The Critic (a weekly paper something like the Athenceuni) 
from the summer of 1850, and in The Spectator from 



THE PR.ERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 1 33 

November in the same year. I sometimes ponder with 
astonishment the fact that the first of these papers allowed 
me to instruct its public on matters of fine art before I was 
twenty-one years of age, and the second immediately after- 
wards. It is true that The Germ had appeared before I wrote 
in The Critic. 

As soon as the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood was formed it 
became a focus of boundless companionship, pleasant and 
touching to recall. We were really like brothers, continually 
together, and confiding to one another all experiences 
bearing upon questions of art and literature, and many 
affecting us as individuals. We dropped using the term 
" Esquire " on letters, and substituted " P.R.B." I do not 
exaggerate in saying that every member of the fraternity 
was just as much intent upon furthering the advance and 
promoting the interests of his " Brothers " as his own. There 
were monthly meetings, at the houses or studios of the various 
members in succession ; occasionally a moonlight walk or a 
night on the Thames. Beyond this, but very few days can 
have passed in a year when two or more P.R.B.'s did not fore- 
gather for one purpose or another, The only one of us who 
could be regarded as moderately well off, living en famille on 
a scale of average comfort, was Millais ; others were struggling 
or really poor. All that was of no account. We had our 
thoughts, our unrestrained converse, our studies, aspirations, 
efforts, and actual doings ; and for every P.R.B. to drink a 
cup or two of tea or coffee, or a glass or two of beer, in the 
company of other P.R.B.'s, with or without the accompani- 
ment of tobacco (without it for Dante Rossetti, who never 
smoked at all), was a heart-relished luxury, the equal of which 
the flow of long years has not often presented, I take it, to 
any one of us. Those were the days of youth ; and each man 
in the company, even if he did not project great things of his 
own, revelled in poetry or sunned himself in art. Hunt, to 
my thinking, was the most sagacious talker ; Woolner the 
most forceful and entertaining ; Dante Rossetti the most 
intellectual. Such men could not be mere plodders in con- 



134 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

versation : but all — to their credit be it spoken — were perfectly 
free-and-easy, and wholly alien from anything approaching 
to affectation, settled self-display, or stilted " tall talk." And 
this holds good of every member of the Brotherhood. Mr. 
Hunt has done more than ample justice to Rossetti's literary 
acquirements, saying of him, at the, date when he entered 
upon the studio in Cleveland Street : — 

" Rossetti had then perhaps a greater acquaintance with the poetical 
literature of Europe than any living man. His storehouse of treasures 
seemed inexhaustible. If he read twice or thrice a long poem, it 
was literally at his tongue's end ; and he had a voice rarely equalled 
for simple recitations. . . . Sordello and Paracelsus he would give 
by forty and fifty pages at a time. . . . Then would come the 
pathetic strains of W. B. Scott's Rosabell. . . . These, and there 
were countless other examples, all showed a wide field of interest 
as to poetic schools." 

Had the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood any ulterior aim be- 
yond that of producing good works of art ? Yes, and No. 
Assuredly it had the aim of developing such ideas as are 
suited to the medium of fine art, and of bringing the arts 
of form into general unison with what is highest in other 
arts, especially poetry. Likewise the aim of showing by con- 
trast how threadbare were the pretensions of most painters 
of the day, and how incapable they were of constituting or 
developing any sort of School of Art worthy of the name. 
In the person of two at least of its members, Hunt and 
Collinson, it had also a definite relation to a Christian, and 
not a pagan or latitudinarian, line of thought On the other 
hand, the notion that the Brotherhood, as such, had anything 
whatever to do with particular movements in the religious 
world — whether Roman Catholicism, Anglican Tractarianism, 
or what not — is totally, and, to one who formed a link in 
its composition, even ludicrously, erroneous. To say that 
Praeraphaelitism was part of " the ever-rising protest and 
rebellion of our century against artificial authority," as in 
the cases of " the French Revolution " and Wordsworth and 



THE PR^ERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 1 35 

Darwin, etc., 1 is not indeed untrue, but is far too vague to ac- 
count for anything. Again, the so-called German Praeraphael- 
ites — such as Schnorr, Overbeck, and Cornelius — were in no 
repute with the young British artists. They did, however, 
admire very much certain designs by-Fu-kri-eh from the Legend 5"e Inl e 
of St. Genevieve. Neither was Ruskin their inciter, though 
it is true that Hunt had read and laid to heart in 1847 the 
first volume of Modern Painters, the only thing then current 
as Ruskin's work. I do not think any other P.R.B. (with 
the possible exception of Collinson) had, up to 1848 or 
later, read him at all. That the Praeraphaelites valued moral 
and spiritual ideas as an important section of the ideas 
germane to fine art is most true, and not one of them was 
in the least inclined to do any work of a gross, lascivious, or 
sensual description ; but neither did they limit the province 
of art to the spiritual or the moral. I will therefore take it 
upon me to say that the bond of union among the Members 
of the Brotherhood was really and simply this — 1, To have 
genuine ideas to express ; 2, to study Nature attentively, so 
as to know how to express them ; 3, to sympathize with 
what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to 
the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading 
and learned by rote ; and 4, and most indispensable of all, 
to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues. 

After the first fervour of youth was past, Rossetti was 
somewhat impatient of the terms Praeraphaelitism and Praera- 
phaelite. In 1880 he said to Mr. Caine something which that 
author records in the following words : " As for all the 
prattle about Praeraphaelitism, I confess to you 1 am weary 
of it, and long have been. Why should we go on talking 
about the visionary vanities of half-a-dozen boys? What 
you call the movement was serious enough, but the banding 
together under that title was all a joke." And Mr. William 
Sharp says that, to a lady enquiring whether he was the 
Praeraphaelite Rossetti (perhaps towards 1870), he replied, 

1 See Mrs. Wood's Dante Rossetti and the Prceraphaelite Move?ne?it, p. 9. 



136 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

" Madam, I am not an ' ite ' of any kind ; I am only a painter." 
These statements I accept; but it is not the less true that 
in 1848 and for some years afterwards he meant a good deal 
by calling himself Praeraphaelite, and meant it very heartily. 

I will complete here a few details about the Brotherhood, 
although these will lead me some way beyond the date 
which we have as yet reached, the autumn of 1848. In 
May 1849 it was settled that I, as Secretary to the Brother- 
hood, or its only non-professional member, should keep a 
Diary of the proceedings of the Society, and of the art-work 
of the several P.R.B.'s so far as that came within my 
cognizance. This I proceeded to do ; and up to 8 April 1850 
I kept the Diary without the omission of a day. Afterwards 
I was less regular ; but still, allowing for several intervals, the 
Diary goes on to 29 January 1853. In my hands it con- 
tinues ; but I am sorry to say that at some date — possibly 
about 1855 — Dante inspected the MS. when I was not by ; and, 
finding some entries which, for one reason or another, he did 
not relish, he tore the pages up freely here and there — a 
summary proceeding quite in his style. I surmise that he saw 
some particulars about Miss Siddal (shortly to be mentioned) ; 
certainly nothing invidious about her, but he may have 
decreed in his own mind that her name should not appear in 
the record at all. Nevertheless a great deal still remains ; 
and furnishes a very authentic, if also an unentertaining, 
account of what the seven Prseraphaelites were doing in those 
now remote years. There is a copy of Collinson's letter, 
May 1850, withdrawing from the Brotherhood — a step which 
he attributes to religious considerations as a Roman-catholic, 
though these are not defined with any extreme clearness. 
After this, in the autumn of the same year, is an entry pur- 
porting that Walter Howell Deverell " has worthily filled up 
the place left vacant by Collinson " — his nominator (I have 
no doubt, speaking from memory) being Dante Rossetti. But 
it appears that this election was considered not entirely valid 
by some other member or members, and, at a meeting of 
9 February 1851, it was ruled that any such new member 



THE PRAERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 1 37 

must be subjected to annual re-election. At a previous 
meeting, 13 January, Millais expressed a doubt whether the 
name P.R.B. should be continued, as being liable to miscon- 
struction ; and a resolution was passed that each member 
should put down in writing what meaning he attached to the 
name, these declarations to be submitted to the next ensuing 
meeting. I feel considerable doubt whether any member, 
except myself, gave practical effect to the resolution. At any 
rate, the Diary shows nothing further about the matter. These 
were last dying efforts at a continuance of regular meetings, 
which, as recorded on 2 December 1850, had then already 
become " thoroughly obsolete." With virtuous intentions, 
new and stringent rules about meetings, etc., were adopted 
on 13 January 1851 ; but they were forthwith disobeyed, and 
the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood, as a practical working organi- 
zation, and something more than a mere knot of friends, may 
be regarded as from that date sinking into desuetude. For 
this there was at the time no sort of real reason ; only that 
the several members were developing each in his own proper 
direction, were hard at work and scattered in local position, 
and found that any inclination for assembling together was 
subject to too many interruptions and obstacles. I fancy 
that Mr. Stephens and myself were the two members who 
most sincerely regretted this disruption. And so, as a definite 
scheme in the art- world, ended the Praeraphaelite Brother- 
hood. The members got to talk less and less of Praera- 
phaelitism, the public more and more ; and the name still 
subsists in a very active condition — which is also a very lax 
and undefined one, and in many instances wholly misapplied. 
In Rossetti's letter to his sister, dated 8 November 1853, 
a quotation may be observed, consequent upon the election 
of Millais as an Associate of the Royal Academy — 

" So now the whole Round Table is dissolved." 

And so it proved to be — if indeed the dissolution is not 
to be reckoned as dating earlier, which for most practical 
purposes it did. Christina hereupon, 10 November, wrote 



138 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

a sonnet, neat though irregular, to which I will give a niche in 
my narrative : — 

THE P.R.B. 

"The P.R.B. is in its decadence: 

For Woolner in Australia cooks his chops, 
And Hunt is yearning for the land of Cheops ; 

D. G. Rossetti shuns the vulgar optic ; 
While William M. Rossetti merely lops 

His B's in English disesteemed as Coptic ; 
Calm Stephens in the twilight smokes his pipe, 
But long the dawning of his public daj' ; 
And he at last the champion great Millais, 
Attaining Academic opulence, 

Winds up his signature with A.R.A. 
So rivers merge in the perpetual sea; 

So luscious fruit must fall when over-ripe ; 
And so the consummated P.R.B." 

This sonnet had wholly lapsed from my recollection until 
I happened to light upon it during the progress of the present 
Memoir. The only point in it which in our time seems 
rather obscure is the reference to myself — which must mean 
that I, in my press-criticisms, made light of my P.R.B. col- 
leagues (which is joke, not fact), and that my utterances met 
with no public regard (which is partial but not entire fact ; 
for these criticisms, appearing in a paper of such high repute 
as The Spectator, and being, in 1850 to 1852, nearly the only 
press-reviews which upheld the Prseraphaelite cause ; did 
excite some attention, and I suppose some anger. Mr. 
Stephens, who succeeded me on The Critic, must have 
co-operated). I will take this opportunity of saying that the 
statement, which has been constantly repeated in recent 
months, that Christina went among us by the name of " the 
Queen of the Praeraphaelites," is, to the best of my knowledge 
and remembrance, a mere invention. It was first put forward, 
I apprehend, by Mrs. Tooley, in an article on Christina which 
she published, in the autumn of 1894, in a serial entitled The 
Young Woman. I knew nothing of such an appellative ; 
Christina, to whom I mentioned it, knew nothing also ; and 



THE PR^RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 1 39 

Mr. Stephens, who has a long memory on all such details, 
neither knows nor believes anything of it. 

I am minded — and I hope not to the reader's serious dis- 
gust — to insert here those Rules of the Brotherhood which, as 
aforesaid, were adopted on 13 January 185 1, and were never 
carried into effect. They show or suggest not only what 
we then intended to do, but a great deal of what had been 
occupying our attention since the autumn ©f 1848. The day 
when we codified proved also to be the day when no code 
was really in requisition. The document, which is of course 
in my handwriting, runs as follows : — 

"P.R.B. — Present, at Hunt's, himself, Millais, Stephens, and 
W. M. Rossetti, 13 January 1851. 

" In consideration of the unsettled and unwritten state of the 
Rules guiding the P.R.B., it is deemed necessary to determine and 
adopt a recognized system. 

"The P.R.B. originally consisted of seven members — Hunt, 
Millais, Dante and William Rossetti, Stephens, Woolner, and another • 
and has been reduced to six by the withdrawal of the last. It was 
at first positively understood that the P.R.B. is to consist of these 
persons and no others — secession of any original member not being 
contemplated ; and the principle that neither this highly important 
rule nor any other affecting the P.R.B. can be repealed or modified, 
nor any finally adopted, unless on unanimous consent of the members, 
is hereby declared permanent and unalterable. 

"Rule 1. That William Michael Rossetti, not being an artist, be 
Secretary of the P.R.B. 

" 2. Considering the unforeseen vacancy as above stated, Resolved 
that the question of the election of a successor be postponed until 
after the opening of the year's art-exhibitions. This Rule to be 
acted on as a precedent in case of any future similar contingency. 

" 3. That, in case a new election be voted, the person named as 
eligible be on probation for one year, enjoying meanwhile all the 
advantages of full membership, except as to voting. 

"4. That, on the first Friday of every month, a P.R.B. meeting, 
such as has hitherto been customary, be held. 

"5. That the present meeting be deemed the first in rotation 
under the preceding Rule; and that the future meetings be held 



140 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

at the abodes of the several members, in order as follows — Millais, 
Dante Rossetti, William Rossetti, Stephens, Woolner. 

" 6. That, in the event of the absence of the Member at whose 
house any meeting falls due, or other obstacle — to be allowed as 
valid by the others — the Secretary be made aware of the fact ; and 
that the Member next in rotation act for the absent Member : the 
ensuing meetings to follow as before provided. 

" 7. That unjustified absence under such circumstances subject 
the defaulter to a fine of 5^. 

" 8. That a Probationary Member be not* required to take his 
turn in this rotation. 

" 9. That at each such monthly meeting the Secretary introduce 
any business that may require consideration — to the exclusion of 
other topics until such business shall have been dispatched. 

" 10. That any Member unavoidably absent be entitled to send 
his written opinion on any subject fixed for consideration. 

"11. That, failing full attendance at a meeting, or unanimously 
expressed opinion, the members present may adopt Resolutions, — 
to remain in force until a dissenting opinion shall be made known. 

"12. That any member absent from a meeting without valid 
excuse — to be allowed by the others — shall forfeit zs. 6d. ; and that 
no engagement with any other person whatever be held to supersede 
the obligation of a P.R.B. meeting. 

" 13. That the January meeting of each year be deemed the 
Anniversary Meeting. 

" 14. That the application of fines accruing as before specified 
be determined, by majority of votes, at each such annual meeting. 

" 15. That at each annual meeting the conduct and position of 
each P.R.B. during the past year, in respect of his membership, 
be reviewed; it being understood that any member who shall not 
appear to have acted up to the best of his opportunities in furtherance 
of the objects of the Brotherhood is expected, by tacit consent, to 
exert himself more actively in future. 

"16. That the Secretary be required, as one chief part of his 
duty, to keep a Journal of the P.R.B. 

"17. That the Journal remain the property of the Brotherhood 
collectively, and not of the Secretary or any other individual 
member ; that it be considered expedient in ordinary cases to read 
the Journal at each meeting at the Secretary's residence ; and that 



THE PR^ERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD, 141 

any member have the power to require its production whenever he 
may think fit. 1 

"18. That any election which may be hereafter proposed be 
determined by ballot. 

" 19. That any such election be renewable annually by vote of 
the six original members. 

" 20. That any member considered unworthy to continue in the 
Brotherhood cease to be a P.R.B. on the unanimous vote of his 
peers — i.e., of those in the same class, as regards date of election, 
as himself. 2 

"21. That the fines be received by the Secretary. 

"22. That the 23rd of April be kept sacred annually to 
Shakespear, as an obligation equally binding as that of a P.R.B. 
meeting. 

"23. That, in case any P.R.B. should feel disposed to adopt 
publicly any course of action affecting the Brotherhood, the subject 
be in the first instance brought before the other members." 

Having now disposed of the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood 
as an organization, I must revert to the doings of Dante 
Rossetti in the studio which from the latter end of August 
1848 he shared with Mr. Hunt. It seems that the idea at 
starting was that Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti, should each 
produce an etching from Keats's Isabella, and thus show forth 
to the public their close connexion in purpose and in work. 
This intention however did not take effect. Millais, in lieu 
of an etching, proceeded to paint his celebrated picture from 
Isabella ; Hunt undertook Rienzi swearing Revenge over his 

1 Up to this point the Rules are written out by me in a clear deliberate 
script, being evidently a recast, done at leisure, from my first hasty jottings. 
The subsequent Rules are written hurriedly, and must have reached me 
in some different way: I forget the details. The restrictive clause, 17, 
as to the Journal, was proposed by myself. It was not a precautionary 
measure against me taken by some one else. 

2 No doubt this must be imperfectly expressed. The real intention 
must be that, whereas an original P.R.B. could only be discarded by the 
votes of the other original members, a subsequently elected P.R.B. could 
be discarded by the votes of the original members, and also of any 
members of his own standing in point of date. 



142 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Brother s Corpse ; and Rossetti chose as his subject The 
Girlhood of Mary Virgin, painted on panel, 33 inches by 
25. I have no clear recollection of any details leading up 
to this selection. He must have thought that the subject 
was one particularly worthy of a " Praeraphaelite " painter ; 
and perhaps the consideration that he could treat it without 
any strained or difficult actions, and without any plethora 
of accessory, and with a certain reserve of style rather than 
energetic realism in this his first attempt, may have weighed 
with him. Of course however the plan was to paint all parts 
of the picture carefully from Nature, and this he did not fail 
to do. Hunt was of much use to him as an adviser, and 
Madox Brown frequently came in to inspect and control. 
Rossetti, according to Mr. Hunt, displayed "unchecked 
impatience at difficulties " ; and I can remember something 
of this. A remonstrance from Hunt had a good effect, and 
the young painter managed to curb himself somewhat. 
" When he had once sat down," says Mr. Hunt, " and was 
immersed in the effort to express his purpose, and the 
difficulties had to be wrestled with, his tongue was hushed, 
he remained fixed, and inattentive to all that went on about 
him ; he rocked himself to and fro, and at times he moaned 
lowly or hummed for a brief minute, as though telling off 
some idea." He found time also for sitting to Hunt for the 
head of Rienzi, and to Brown for that of the Fool of King 
Lear in the picture (previously mentioned) of Cordelia watching 
the Bedside of Lear. Both of these are good likenesses, and 
must remain of the highest interest to sympathizers with 
Rossetti as showing what he appeared in the birth-year of 
Praeraphaelitism. Moreover he painted in oils a head of 
Christina, which must thus be the very first finished painting 
he produced. 

Perhaps Rossetti had never been forestalled in representing 
an ideal scene of the home-life of the Virgin Mary with her 
parents ; certainly not in the particular invention which this 
picture embodies. The Virgin, aged about seventeen, is 
shown working at an embroidery under the eye of her mother 



THE PRyERAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 143 

St. Anna. The embroidery represents a lily, the emblem of 
purity, which she copies from a plant watered by a child- 
angel. The father St. Joachim l is behind, trailing up a vine. 
The Holy Ghost, in the form of a dove, is also present. The 
head of the Virgin was painted from Christina Rossetti, that 
of St. Anna from our mother : both very faithful likenesses. 
The vase containing the lily is mounted upon six large 
volumes lettered with the names of virtues, Charity being 
the uppermost. There are numerous other details, each with 
a symbolic or spiritual meaning ; and I will venture to say 
that every one of the meanings is well conceived and rightly 
indicated. For the frame of the picture my brother had a 
slip of gilt paper printed (I still possess a copy of it) con- 
taining two sonnets of his composition — the first setting forth 
the general purport of the work, and the second its individual 
symbols. The sonnets have been reproduced elsewhere, and 
with some reluctance I omit them here ; but may observe 
that the leading conception of the picture is expressed in the 
close of the second sonnet — 

" She soon shall have achieved 
Her perfect purity ; yea God the Lord 
Shall soon vouchsafe His son to be her son." 

This picture is painted in rather bright but not crude colours — 
a love for the primary hues, so much affected by painters of 
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, being a very marked 
trait in the practice of the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood at its 
inception. The handling is delicate and finished, aiming at 
nicety rather than strength, but it should hardly perhaps 
be called timid ; the surface is rather thin. If I remember 
right, the only medium used was copal, for the P.R.B.'s had 
a horror of thick and cloggy vehicles. There is certainly not 
the least bravura in the work, neither did its painter wish 
that there should be any ; but it is very far from being 

1 Mr. Bell Scott says " St. Joseph," and laughs at his being occupied 
otherwise than as a carpenter; but, the personage being mis-stated, the 
laugh is misapplied. 



144 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

incompetent, and, considered as the first painting of a youth 
of twenty, it may claim to be highly remarkable. There is 
(or was) some gilding in the hair of the Virgin and in the 
nimbus round the Dove. The forms are pure and simple, 
but not ascetic, and of course with no sort of copyism from 
archaic art. The point most approaching to rigidity is the 
straight contour-line formed by Mary's legs, running parallel 
to the embroidery-frame. This would have been improved 
by some modification. 

There are three sonnets by Rossetti which belong to the 
early days of Praeraphaelitism, and which well deserve to be 
considered by persons who would like to understand that 
movement, and the temper in which Rossetti viewed it. 
They now form a portion of The House of Life, and are 
named collectively Old and New Art. The second and third — 
bearing the titles Not as These, and The Husbandman — were 
written in 1848 ; the first, St. Luke the Painter, in 1849 ; and 
this was intended to illustrate a picture (never painted) of 
Luke preaching, having beside him pictures, his own work, 
of Christ and the Virgin Mary. These three sonnets testify 
to a highly religious (not necessarily dogmatic) view of the 
function of the Art, to love of the old painters, and revolt 
against the more modern ones, and to a modest and yet 
resolute desire to aid in reinstating the Art in its legitimate 
place. The spirit which animates the sonnets is that of a 
man destined to dare and do, and to overcome. 

Another painting — his second oil portrait — was produced 
by Dante Rossetti towards the close of 1848 — the likeness 
of our father, half-length life-size, commissioned by Dante's 
godfather Mr. Lyell. Both as a likeness and as a picture 
this work is creditable and interesting, without being excellent. 

XIV. 

FIRST EXHIBITED PICTURE— 1849. 

As this is a Memoir of Rossetti, and not a Monograph on the 
Praeraphaelite Brotherhood, I shall not apply myself to 



FIRST EXHIBITED PICTURE — 1 849. 145 

following out the course of the several members ; but will 
only say that the three chief painters, Millais, Hunt, and 
Rossetti, were ready with their pictures in time for the 
Exhibiting-season of 1849. Millais and Hunt sent to the 
Royal Academy, Rossetti to the so-called Free Exhibition 
near Hyde Park Corner. This was the second year of that 
Exhibition as a Picture Gallery. Its first year, 1848, had been 
distinguished by the display of Madox Brown's highly 
interesting and important painting, Wiclif reading his 
Translation of the New Testament to John of Gaunt ; a 
painting which, in its bright but rather pale colouring, light- 
ness of surface, and general feeling of quietism, x had beyond a 
doubt served in some respects to mould the ideas and beacon 
the practice of the P.R.B.'s. The Free Exhibition was not 
really free. The exhibiting artists had to pay for their space, 
and a percentage upon sales, and the public had to pay for 
admission. I suppose that it professed to be free on the 
very ground that all artists were free to hang pictures there 
if only they would pay for the space ; and I further suppose 
that this was a principal incentive to my brother for betaking 
himself to that gallery rather than the Royal Academy. Mr. 
Brown's example (for he again exhibited here in 1849) must 
also have influenced him. My brother was proud, and in his 
way prudent as well ; and he must have contemplated with 
revulsion the mere possibility of being rejected at the 
Academy — an institution which (apart from any crudities 
or peculiarities in his first picture) might perhaps view him 
with some disfavour as having abandoned the Academy 
course of instruction, and learned from an outsider how 
to handle pigments and brushes. Next year, 1850, the 
Free Exhibition quitted Hyde Park Corner, and went to 
Regent Street near Langham Place, and was there entitled 
the National Institution, or Portland Gallery. It continued 
for some years, dying out towards 1855. The Girlhood oj 

1 I have not seen this picture in late years ; have some idea that it was 
re-worked upon, and strengthened in tint and tone. 

VOL. I. 10 



146 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Mary Virgin was signed " Dante Gabriele Rossetti, P.R.B.," * 
and the same initials appeared on the pictures of Millais and 
Hunt, and also of Collinson. This year the initials passed 
without exciting~any definite notice. 

It is a fact that the paintings of our three Prasraphaelites 
were well received by press and public, and Millais and Hunt 
were more than tolerably well hung in the Academy. This 
becomes a remarkable fact when we consider the storm of 
disapprobation, rage, and contumely, which the pictures of 
the same men — certainly showing an advance in pictorial 
quality — encountered in the exhibitions of 1850. The reason 
for this differing treatment is obvious enough, and not less 
discreditable than obvious. In 1849 the pictures were judged 
on their merits, as three independent productions of young 
and promising men. In 1850 the initials P.R.B. were under- 
stood ; the young men were discovered to be working on 
a common principle, in antagonism more or less decided to 
established rules and current reputations ; and the floodgates 
of virulence were let loose, not because the pictures were 
bad — they are now well known to be good — but because their 
authors were regarded and detested as pestilent heretics. It 
is a humiliating retrospect, but not for the P.R.B.'s. 

The Free Exhibition opened at the end of March 1849, the 
Academy of course at its usual date, the first Monday in 
May ; and thus, of all the Praeraphaelites, Rossetti happened 
to be the first to challenge a public verdict. As I have 
already intimated, it proved a favourable one. I cannot say 
how many papers criticized him. I have before me five 
extracts, and possibly these — along with The Builder, which 
was also laudatory — were all. They come from the Art 
Journal, Literary Gazette, Morning Chronicle, Observer, and 
Athenaeum. In all of them there is high praise, intermixed 
with blame, more or less mild. Soon after that date I came 
to know something of Art-critics, their ways and means ; and 

1 So Mr. Sharp says. This seems to be the earliest instance in which 
Rossetti used "Dante" as his first christian name. In the printed 
Catalogue the name stands " G. D. Rossetti." 



FIRST EXHIBITED PICTURE — 1 849. 147 

I can safely say that in my youth — I will go no further than 
that — they knew, as a body of men, only a very moderate 
proportion of what they talked about. But clearly Dante 
Rossetti had no reason to complain at this period. The critics 
were more than courteous to a youth as yet totally unknown. 
I will give here the notice from the Athenaeum, being the 
most elaborate of the five. In 1850 it was generally under- 
stood by the Prseraphaelites — -and I believe correctly so — that 
Mr. Frank Stone the painter was the Art-critic of the 
Athenceum. He was then highly abusive. Whether he was 
the same writer who had sounded a very different note in 
1849 I do not profess to know. 

" It is pleasant to turn from the mass of commonplace, the record 
of mere fact or the extravagant conceits exhibited in the illustra- 
tions of some of our most cherished writers, prose and poetic, to a 
manifestation of true mental power, in which Art is made the 
exponent of some high aim, and what is ' of the earth, earthy,' and 
of the Art, material, is lost sight of in a dignified and intellectual 
purpose. Such a work will be found here; not from a long- 
practised hand, but from one young in experience, new to fame, 
Mr. G. D. Rossetti. He has painted The Girlhood of Mary Virgin 
(368) ; a work which, for its invention and for many parts of its 
design, would be creditable to any exhibition. In idea it forms a 
fitting pendent to Mr. Herbert's Christ subject to his Parents at 
Nazareth. A legend may possibly have suggested to Mr. Rossetti 
also the subject of his present work [I am sure this was not the 
fact]. The Virgin is, in this picture, represented as living amongst 
her family, and engaged in the task of embroidering drapery — to 
supply possibly some future sacred vestment [no such intention]. 
The picture, which is full of allegory, has much of that sacred 
mysticism inseparable from the works of the early masters, and 
much of the tone of the poets of the same time. While immature 
practice is visible in the executive department of the work, every 
allusion gives evidence of maturity of thought — every detail that 
might enrich or amplify the subject has found a place in it. The 
personification of the Virgin is an achievement worthy of an older 
hand. Its spiritualized attributes, and the great sensibility with 
which it is wrought, inspire the expectation that Mr. Rossetti will 



148 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTT. 

continue to pursue the lofty career which he has here so successfully 
begun. The sincerity and earnestness of the picture remind us 
forcibly of the feeling with which the early Florentine monastic 
painters wrought ; and the form and face of the Virgin recall the 
words employed by Savonarola in one of his powerful sermons : 
'Or pensa quanta bellezza avea la Vergine, che aveatanta santita 
che risplendeva in quella faccia della quale dice San Tommaso che 
nessuno che la vedesse mai la guardb per concupiscenza, tanta era 
la santita che rilustrava in lei.' Mr. Rossetti has, perhaps un- 
knowingly, entered into the feelings of the renowned Dominican, 
who in his day wrought as much reform in Art as in morals. The 
coincidence is of high value to the picture." 

The whole transaction with The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, 
considered as a first picture, was a most encouraging success. 
Rossetti hung it at his own discretion ; he was complimented 
by the press ; his sonnets passed not unnoticed, Sir Theodore 
Martin in especial being singularly struck by them ; and he 
sold the painting promptly for his own price of £%o. The 
purchaser was the Marchioness Dowager of Bath, in whose 
family our aunt, Charlotte Polidori, was governess, and after- 
wards companion. The Marchioness after a while presented 
the picture to her daughter Lady Louisa Feilding. With this 
lady the work remained until a recent date. Who the present 
owner may be I know not. After getting it back from 
the exhibition Dante painted a fresh head to the girl-angel. 
By 25 August he despatched her purchase to Lady Bath. 
Perhaps the best success of all was that, in 1864, receiving the 
picture for re-framing, he found it to be " a long way better 
than he thought." " It quite surprised me (and shamed me 
a little) to see what I did fifteen years ago," is an expression 
in one of his letters. 

It has appeared to me no other than requisite to dwell at 
some length on the early years of my brother — his family 
surroundings, his beginnings in drawing and writing, his 
sympathies for painters and authors, his studies, and the com- 
mencement of his professional practice. We have now reached 
the point where he is an exhibiting and well-accepted painter, 



THE GERM. 1 49 

and a poet of considerable though as yet not public per- 
formance. Were I to pursue with equal minuteness his 
doings from year to year in art and in literature, I should 
exceed the bounds which I contemplate — should perhaps 
exceed any reasonable bounds. Many matters remain which 
will require copious and free treatment ; but I do not propose 
to turn this Memoir into an accurate — still less an exhaustive — 
record of all the pictures and designs, and all the writings, 
which he continued to produce from year to year. Some 
things stand out as landmarks or milestones in his career, and 
these will receive due consideration ; others will be- passed 
over or summarized. Besides, I have already produced a 
book, Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer} giving 
in chronological order a great number of details, major and 
minor, about his performances, their sales and purchasers, etc. 
etc. ; and some readers of the present narrative, feeling any 
interest in those particulars, can supplement, by reference to 
that volume, anything which they may hold to be deficient 
in this. My present scope is wider and more personal. The 
things which Dante Rossetti produced will indeed be of 
primary importance to it ; but rather as being a symptom 
and outcome of his personality — a portion of his life — than as 
forming my main subject-matter. 

XV. 

THE GERM. 

If Dante Rossetti cannot rightly be credited (in derogation 
of Hunt and Millais) with inventing the Praeraphaelite move- 
ment and Brotherhood, a very significant enterprize, he 
certainly can be credited with inventing The Germ. He was 
eager to distinguish himself in literature, no less than painting, 
and wanted to have some safe vehicle both for ushering his 
writings before the public, and for diffusing abroad the Prasra- 
phaelite principles in art. I feel pretty sure that at first every 

1 Published by Cassell & Co., 1889. It is now out of print. 



150 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

one of his colleagues regarded the enterprize as rash, costly, 
foredoomed to failure, and an interruption to other more 
pressing and less precarious work. But Rossetti was not to 
be denied. The magazine was enacted in his mind ; it was to 
be, and was to enlist the energies of all the P.R.B.'s, and of 
some other persons as well. With varying degrees of reluct- 
ance his friends yielded. As the project progressed, some of 
them seem even to have yielded with willing assent. Among 
these, Hunt, Woolner, and myself, may have stood foremost. 

The " P.R.B. Diary" shall be my chief guide in relating the 
history- of The Germ; several relevant details will be found 
also in the Family-letters. The first entry which I find bearing 
upon this subject is dated 13 July 1849, and runs as follows : — 

" In the evening Gabriel and I went to Woolner's with the view of 
seeing North (whom however we did not find at home) about a 
project for a monthly sixpenny magazine, for which four or five of 
us would write, and one make an etching — each subscribing a 
guinea, and thus becoming a proprietor. [As to North — a very 
familiar figure in those days with Woolner, Dante, and myself, but 
scarcely so with the other P.R.B.'s — some particulars will be found 
in my note to Letter C 8.] The full discussion of the subject is 
fixed for to-morrow at Woolner's." 

The title first thought of was Monthly Thoughts in Litera- 
ture, Poetry, and Art; and it was immediately projected to 
increase the magazine to forty pages, two etchings, and a 
price of one shilling. On 23 September, being in the Isle of 
Wight, I received a letter informing me that I was appointed 
Editor, " as difficulties in keeping back the ardour of our new 
proprietors [not all of them P.R.B.'s] began to rise up " ; and 
a prospectus had been sent off to the printer's, with the title 
altered to Thoughts towards Nature, which was Dante's idea. 
Messrs. Aylott & Jones, of Paternoster Row, were selected 
as publishers. Soon afterwards a different title was proposed, 
The P.R.B. Journal; but to this I objected, partly on the 
ground that some of the writers, and even of the proprietors, 



THE GERM. 1 51 

would not belong to the Brotherhood. In November we 
resolved to do no advertizing, owing to the expense. This 
decision was almost, yet not absolutely, adhered to. There 
was some small amount of ordinary advertizing ; and in May 
placards were posted and carried about in front of the 
Academy exhibition. 

We now come to December, the month which was to be 
devoted to the printing of our opening number, so that it 
might appear at the close of that month, or the beginning 
of January. On 17 December Rossetti resumed writing his 
prose story Hand and Soul, for our No. 1 ; on the 21st he 
was at it all day and all night, 1 and finished the nar- 
rative — the epilogue remaining over till the following day. 
Meanwhile, on the 19th, there had been a meeting of no 
small moment to us at his studio — which was, since 10 October, 
No. 72 Newman Street, the rent £26 per annum. We had 
finally to decide upon the title of our magazine ; and the 
company consisted not only of the seven members of the 
Brotherhood, but also of the painters Madox Brown, Cave 
Thomas, and Deverell, the sculptor Hancock, and two 
brothers Tupper. One of these, George, was a partner in 
the Firm which had undertaken to print the magazine. The 
other, John Lucas, who had been an Academy-student well 
known to Hunt, and aiming at sculpture rather than painting ) 
was now Anatomical Designer at Guy's Hospital, and later 
on he became Drawing-master at Rugby School, where he 
died in 1879 — a very capable conscientious man, quite as 
earnest after truth in form and presentment as any P.R.B., 
learned in his department of art, and with a real gift for 
poetry, which received partial expression, and as yet, it may 
be feared, next to no recognition. 2 The title Thoughts towards 

1 So stated in the P.R.B. Diary; Dante Rossetti, in my Section 43, gives 
a slightly different account. 

2 I believe he has left a large quantity of unprinted verse and prose. 
Some of it ought to be published. He issued anonymously a noticeable 
book, 1869, entitled Hiatus, the Void in Modem Education, by Outis 
There was a little lyric of Tupper's on the Garden of Eden in ruinous 



152 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Nature was not viewed with much predilection. Mr. Cave 
Thomas had some while before proposed The Seed] and he 
now offered (with others) two new names, The Scroll, and 
The Germ. The last was ultimately approved by a vote of 
six to four. 

The Germ No. I appeared on or about I January 1850. 
I do not propose to go minutely into the contents of the 
magazine — still less into its merits and demerits ; but, as 
regards No. 1, I may perhaps as well recite the full contents. 
No authors' names were here given (a point contrary to my 
liking) ; but in subsequent numbers some names, and also 
some pseudonyms, were supplied on the wrappers. No. 1 
opens with Woolner's poem My Beautiful Lady, and Of my 
Lady in Death, accompanied by an etching by Hunt, con- 
sisting of two separate compositions. Then come — The Love 
of Beauty, sonnet, by Madox Brown ; The Subject in Art, 
No. 1, by J. L. Tupper ; The Seasons, by Coventry Patmore 
(known first to Woolner, and by this time to most of us) ; 
Dreamland, by Christina Rossetti ; My Sister's Sleep (being 
No. 1 of Songs of one Household), by Dante Rossetti ; Hand 
and Soul, by the same ; a Review, by myself, of Clough's 
poem, The Bothie of Toper na Fuosich ( Toper-na- Vuolich in 
later issues) ; Her First Season, sonnet, also by myself; A 
Sketch from Nature, by J. L. Tupper ; and An End, by 
Christina Rossetti. On the first page of the wrapper was 
a sonnet, my performance, intended to indicate the point 
of view from which the Prseraphaelites contemplated the 
expression of ideas, and the record of appearances, whether 
in literature or in art. The last page contained a slight pro- 
gramme of what the nature of the contents of the magazine 
generally would be. I cannot say that it is effectively done, 
nor do I now remember who did it. I incline to think that 
Dante Rossetti made the first draft, which, being freely over- 
decay, of which Dante Rossetti thought very highly. He compared it to 
Ebenezer Jones's lyric, " When the world is burning" ; and said that, had 
it been the writing of Edgar Poe, it would have enjoyed world-wide 
celebrity. 



THE GERM. I 53 

hauled by others, got muddled more or less. It contains the 
following deliverance regarding Fine Art — a deliverance 
which shows to a certain extent the principle of the P.R.B., 
but in a very meagre and stunted condition : — 

"The endeavour held in view throughout the writings on Art will 
be to encourage and enforce an entire adherence to the simplicity 
of Nature ; and also to direct attention, as an auxiliary medium, to 
the comparatively few works which Art has yet produced in this 
spirit." 

A different programme — which was not however much 
more than a topsy-turvy of the original one — appeared on 
the wrappers of Nos. 3 and 4, which were less directly under 
the control of myself as editor, or of the other members of 
the Brotherhood. 

The issue of No. 1 of The Germ was 700 copies, for No. 2 
only 500. About 100 of No. 1 were sold by the publishers, 
besides nearly or quite as many through our own exertions 
among friends and sympathizers ; No. 2 went off even less 
well than this. There was a' fancy in our circle for speaking 
of the magazine as " The Gurm." I am not quite sure how 
this originated, but believe that some outsider, seeing the 
magazine in a shop, and not realizing to himself what the 
title meant, asked for it in that form of pronunciation. For 
Nos. 3 and 4, which were brought out at the risk of our 
friendly printing-firm, a new title, Art and Poetry, was in- 
vented by a member of the firm, Mr. Alexander Tupper. I 
hardly know how these numbers sold, but am sure it was very 
little. With No. 4, issued towards the close of April 1850, 
the magazine came to an end. If not before, it was behind, 
its time. There were some laudatory notices of the various 
parts — in The Dispatch, John Bull, The Guardian, The Critic, 
Howitt's Standard of Freedom ; a faintly patronizing one in 
the Art Journal, which disappointed us, as the editor, Mr. S. 
Carter Hall (whom Madox Brown was wont to call " Shirt- 
Collar Hall," as designating the high respectability of his 
exterior) had previously written to one of us speaking of our 



154 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

band as " the future great artists of the age and country " ; 
others in The Morning Chronicle, The Spectator, and else- 
where. After balancing receipts and expenditure, we had to 
meet a printer's bill of ,£33 odd. This seems now a very 
moderate burden ; but it was none the less a troublesome one 
to all or most of us at that period. In course of time it was 
cleared off, with the result — perhaps a salutary one — that 
none of us ever again made any proposal for publishing a 
magazine. For many years past The Germ has been a 
literary curiosity, fetching high fancy-prices ; and more 
publishers than one have made proposals for re-printing it, 
but, owing to the dissent of one or other contributor, these 
proposals have had to be set aside. Even a single contribu- 
tion to The Germ — the Hand and Soul of Dante Rossetti, as 
privately re-printed towards 1869 — has been priced at no less 
than six guineas. 

I will add here a couple of anecdotes about Hand and Soul, 
which is, from all points of" view, a very interesting specimen 
of my brother's early work. The motto on my title-page is 
taken from it, and seems to me very appropriate, both to my 
brother's intrinsic quality as painter and poet, and to the 
material of these volumes. Readers of this tale may 
remember that it relates to a supposed Italian painter of the 
thirteenth century, Chiaro dell' Erma, who in 1239 saw his 
own soul in a visible female form, and painted her ; a matter, 
by the way, which shows that Rossetti's knowledge of art- 
history was at this period extremely slight (unless indeed he 
voluntarily chose to go wrong, in the interest of his idea for 
the story), as it is totally impossible that, at so remote a date 
as 1239, any painter whatever should have produced a work 
at all corresponding with the details given concerning this 
picture. The Epilogue to the tale is written in a highly 
realistic tone, and contains many particulars about the picture, 
purporting for instance that it is to be found in the Pitti 
Gallery of Florence (had Rossetti known more about the 
likelihoods of such a case, he would have substituted the 
Accademia). There was a young lady of some fortune in 



THE GERM. I 55 

Worcestershire — Kidderminster, I think — who became the 
first wife of the landscape-painter Mr. Andrew McCallum ; 
one of the prettiest and pleasantest little women I ever saw, 
with a most beaming splendid pair of eyes. She read Hand 
and Soul in The Germ, admired it, and believed it to be 
substantially true. Either before or after her marriage she 
was in Florence, and enquired at the Pitti for this picture, 
and was grievously disconcerted to find that nobody knew 
anything about it. In Mr. Sharp's book there is a story of 
some other lady who, at a much later date, professed to 
Rossetti that she had actually seen the picture at the Pitti, 
adding other relevant but not rigidly veracious details. This 
story also may be true ; but I know (or at any rate remember) 
nothing about it, whereas I do know the story about Mrs. 
McCallum to be correct. My second anecdote relates to an 
etching which my brother undertook to do for The Germ. 
It has been more than once stated in print that this etching 
was to illustrate a different tale which he began writing, 
called An Autopsy chology, suggested to him by an image of 
his own introduced into his poem The Brides Prelude. The 
tale was not finished, but its beginning appears in his 
Collected Works, under the title St. Agnes of Intercession. 
The fact is that Millais offered to do for The Germ an etching 
for The AutopsycJiology ; and he did it, and prints from the 
etching are still in existence. But the etching which Dante 
contemplated was for Hand and Soul, to be published in a 
number of The Germ later than that in which the tale itself 
had appeared. This etching — representing Chiaro in the act 
of painting his Soul — he drew in March 1850, and he got it 
bitten-in by Mr. Shenton the engraver ; but, upon seeing a 
print of it on 28 March, he was so displeased with the result 
that, in his vehement mood, he tore up the impression, and 
scratched the plate over. I hardly think that I ever saw the 
design ; would gladly do so now, were that but possible. 

Though I do not want to dwell at any further length upon 
The Germ, I will specify the contributions of Dante Rossetti 
to Nos. 2, 3, and 4. They are — The Blessed Damozel, The 



156 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

Carillon, From the Cliffs — Noon, Pax Vobis, and six Somiets 
for Pictures (Memling, Mantegna, Giorgione, and Ingres). 1 
The Blessed Damosel, as I have said, had been written in his 
nineteenth year. Of that first form of the poem no copy 
appears to be now extant. Before printing it in The Germ 
he added four stanzas. I might make some guess as to 
which they are ; but it would only be a guess, and it shall 
not here trouble my readers. 

Perhaps some of them might be amused to hear the dirge 
of The Germ, as it was chanted at the time by Mr. John 
Tupper. 

" Dedicated to the P.R.B. on the Death of ' The Germ,' otherwise 
known as ' Art and Poetry.' 

" Bring leaves of yew to intertwine 

With ' leaves ' that evermore are dead, 
Those leaves as pallid-hued as you 

Who wrote them never to be read : 

And let them hang across a thread 
Of funeral-hemp, that, hanging so, 
Made vocal if a wind should blow, 

Their requiem shall be anthemed. 

" Ah rest, dead leaves ! — Ye cannot rest 

Now ye are in your second state ; 

Your first was rest so perfect, fate 
Denies you what ye then possessed. 
For you, was not a world of strife, 

And seldom were ye seen of men : 
If death be the reverse of life, 

You never will have peace again. 

" Come, Early Christians, bring a knife, 

And cut these woful pages down : 

Ye would not have them haunt the town 
Where butter or where cheese is rife ! 

No, make them in a foolscap-crown 
For all whose inexperience utter 

Believes High Art can once go down 
Without considerable butter. 



1 Mr. W. M. Hardinge published, in Temple Bar, a very suggestive 
article on these sonnets. 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1 849— 53. I 57 

" Or cut them into little squares 

To curl the long locks of those Brothers 

Prseraphaelite who have long hairs — 

Tremendous long, compared with others. 1 

As dust should still return to dust, 
The P.R.B. shall say its prayers 
That come it will or come it must — a 

" A time Sordello shall be read, 

And arguments be clean abolished, 
And sculpture punched upon the head, 

And mathematics quite demolished ; 
And Art and Poetry instead 

Come out without a word of prose in, 
And all who paint as Sloshua did 

Have all their sloshy fingers frozen." 3 



XVI. 
PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1849—53. 

From the early autumn of 1849 to the late spring of 1850 
was a busy time with Dante Rossetti. Besides all the 
eagerness of planning and the flurry of working for The 
Germ, there was his small continental trip with Holman 
Hunt in the autumn, along with the production of a new 
picture for exhibition. Of the continental trip his Family- 
letters bear ample record in prose and verse. It was a 

1 This, I suppose, is a hit at my brother and Stephens, rather than 
other members of the P.R.B. The after reference to abolishing arguments 
and mathematics, and disliking sculpture, would also relate principally to 
my brother. He did not really dislike sculpture, but he much preferred 
painting. 

2 A line seems to be wanting in this stanza. I am copying from a 
transcript made at the time by myself, but I don't think the oversight 
can be mine. 

3 I have noted elsewhere that "slosh" was a term much in vogue with 
the Praeraphaelites in their early days, to indicate a hasty, washy, in- 
determinate manner in painting, neglectful of severe form and accurate 
detail, and lavish of unctuous vehicle. "Sloshua" was Sir Joshua 
Reynolds (!) 



I 58 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

valuable experience to him, but not one which he unreservedly- 
enjoyed. He liked England and the English better than 
any other country and nation ; and he never crossed the sea 
without severe discomfort, or contemplated the crossing of 
it without repulsion. The few acquaintances that he made 
abroad played no part in his after-life. Strange to say, this 
small trip to Paris and Belgium was the longest, in point of 
duration and space combined, that he ever undertook. 

I shall give here a brief account of the painting and design- 
ing work of Rossetti between the date in 1849 when he 
exhibited his first picture, and the date in 1854, 13 April, 
when Mr. Ruskin became personally known to him ; followed 
by a similar summary of his writing-work between the same 
dates. I name both in order of time as nearly as I can. 

There was the beginning of a large oil-picture, with 
numerous figures, from a song in Browning's dramatic poem 
Pippa Passes, entitled Hist, said Kate the Queen. It was not 
finished, but a water-colour of the full composition exists. 
A pen-and-ink drawing, 1849, given to Millais, of Dante 
drawing an Angel in Memory of Beatrice — quite a different 
design from the subsequent water-colour, 1853, of the same 
subject. This pen-and-ink drawing is perhaps more decidedly 
marked by the " Prasraphaelite " peculiarities of that date 
than anything else which Rossetti produced ; it is likewise 
his earliest subject taken from the Vita Nuova, to which he 
so frequently recurred afterwards. The Laboratory (from 
Browning's poem), which may be called his first water-colour. 
The pen-and-ink design Hesterna Rosa, with a motto from 
a song in Henry Taylor's Philip van Artevelde. The oil- 
picture, his second exhibited work, Ecce Ancilla Domini (or 
The Annunciation), now in the National Gallery. The land- 
scape of trees etc. which he painted at Sevenoaks, while 
Mr. Hunt was in the same neighbourhood, in the very rainy 
autumn of 1850. I cannot recollect what was to have been 
the subject of this oil-picture. Long afterwards, 1872, he 
completed it under the title of The Bower-meadow. A water- 
colour, Beatrice at a Marriage-feast denies Dante her Salutation, 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1 849 — 53. I 59 

exhibited. The pen-and-ink design, How they met Themselves 
— a lover and his lady encountering their own wraiths in a 
forest, an incident ominous of approaching death. A crayon 
portrait of William Bell Scott. An exhibited water-colour, 
Giotto painting the Portrait of Dante. The scene, water- 
colour, from Dante's Purgatorio, where Beatrice says, " Guar- 
dami ben, ben son ben son Beatrice " He repeated this 
subject more than once, but always, I think, in varying 
compositions. A very interesting attempt at the beginning 
of 1853, not long persisted in, being an oil-picture in two 
compartments, life-sized half-figures, representing Dante's 
resolve to write the Comedia in memory of Beatrice. A 
pencil-head of Holman Hunt. The elaborate pen-and-ink 
design (begun in 1853, but not finished till 1858) of Mary 
Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee. The beginning 
of the oil-picture named Found. 

These are the chief, but by no means the only, products 
of the years of which we are speaking. They show a con- 
siderable range in choice of subject and mode of treatment. 
Regarding execution, it may be said in general terms that 
Rossetti continued to progress, both in force and in facility, 
but did not evince any great disposition for attaining strenuous 
mastery in draughtsmanship, or resource in the management 
of perspective, or of architectural or landscape accessory. 
As to draughtsmanship of human and animal form, he of 
course always recognized the high importance of this, whether 
he fully achieved it or not. But for the other matters he 
retained till the last a large measure of personal indifference, 
though necessarily conscious — none more so — that these also 
are required in order to make a picture conformable to the 
modern standard. The fact is that he preferred the tone of 
mind which governed the treatment of such elements of the 
subject in Olden art. That they should convey their message 
in a suggestive way he thought fully requisite ; that they 
should be rigorously realized by scientific rule or naturalistic 
presentment he did not care ; and, if under a system of that 
sort they usurped the place of the main idea or of human 



l60 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

emotion and expressional force, he wished them well away. 
I do not aver that he was right in this view — the reader 
may judge for himself — but only that his view it assuredly 
was. 

As to five of these works I may add a few details. 

For Ecce Ancilla Domini Rossetti began a sketch on 25 
October 1849. To supplement this picture of the Annuncia- 
tion he intended to execute a companion-subject, the Death of 
the Virgin. The latter he never even began, having come to 
the conclusion that such themes were " not for the market." 
Both pictures were to be chiefly white in hue. For the 
Annunciation — " The Virgin," so he told me, " is to be in bed, 
but without any bedclothes on, an arrangement which may 
be justified in consideration of the hot climate ; and the 
Angel Gabriel is to be presenting a lily to her." This last 
point connects the picture with The GirlJwod of Mary Virgin ; 
and the remark as to bedclothes testifies that, even in so ideal 
a subject as this, Rossetti was not unheedful of the Prae- 
raphaelite doctrine that the treatment should be consistent 
with probable facts. More persons than one sat for the head 
of the Angel — two models named Maitland and Lambert, and 
myself, at any rate ; for the Virgin's head, Christina, and also 
a Miss Love, who was I suppose a model. The head 
resembles Christina sufficiently to be accounted a likeness, 
but it is less like her than the head in The Girlhood of Mary 
Virgin. Rossetti had all along purposed sending this picture 
to the Royal Academy ; but at the last moment he altered 
his mind, and recurred to the National Institution (Free 
Exhibition). Its price was .£50, but it remained unsold until 
the opening of 1853 ; when Mr. Francis McCracken, a ship- 
owner or packing-agent of Belfast, prompted by a friendly 
suggestion from Holman Hunt (from whom and from Madox 
Brown he had already bought some works), became the 
purchaser. At the end of 1850, on receiving the picture back 
from the National Institution, my brother again worked upon 
it, improving it materially by showing the Angel's left hand — 
for at first the Angel, like the Virgin herself, had only one 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1 849— 53. 161 

hand visible. He did some further work when Mr. McCracken 
settled to buy the picture ; and to him he despatched it on 
29 January 1853, altering the Latin title into The Annunciation, 
as a precaution against any charges (then equally rife and 
gratuitous) of " popery." " The blessed white eyesore " and 
" the blessed white daub " had come to be his terms for this 
now national possession, so long left on his hands. But his 
real sentiment on a question of art-work may have received 
truer expression in one of his Family-letters (September 1853) 
— " I shall never, I suppose, get over the weakness of making 
a thing as good as I can manage." Even as late as 1874 
something was again done to the " white daub," but I think 
very little. He wrote : " It is best left alone, except just for 
a touch or two. Indeed, my impression on seeing it was that 
I couldn't do quite so well now ! " 

I have already referred to the very different reception which 
the Praeraphaelite pictures of 1850 encountered from artists, 
press, and public, from that which had been accorded to the 
works of 1849. The pictures were still signed " P.R.B. " ; and 
my brother had explained to his friend the sculptor Alexander 
Munro the meaning of those mysterious initials, which were 
not intended to be unduly pressed upon the attention of 
Academicians. Munro, a man of easy access to all sorts of 
people, divulged the matter to a brother-Scotchman, Angus 
Reach, 1 who was a light writer of those days ; and the latter 
published it in the Illustrated London News. Hence much of 
the fluster, and much of the virulence. When Ecce Ancilla 
Domini appeared in the National Institution, prior to the 
opening of the Royal Academy, the Athenmim came down 
upon it on 20 April, in the following terms — and even these 

1 I need scarcely say that I bear no sort of grudge against Mr. Reach, 
who died a great number of years ago ; but, to give my reader a moment's 
amusement, I will here retail a joke of Douglas Jerrold's which had, so far as 
I know, not yet got into print. Reach is a Gaelic name, properly pronounced 
as a dissyllable, Ree-ach ; but naturally Londoners were wont to read it 
as a monosyllable, Reech. Jerrold, being admonished to pronounce the 
name accurately, rejoined — " He is Ree-ach if you hear him, but Reech 
[retch, spue] if you read him." 

VOL. I. II 



l62 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

were mild in comparison with what befell the Christian 
Missionary persecuted by the Druids of Holman Hunt, and 
the so-called Carpenter's Shop of Millais : — 

" But what shall we say of a work hanging by the side of Mr. 
Newenham's historical picture — which we notice less for its merits 
than as an example of the perversion of talent which has recently 
been making so much way in our school of art, and wasting the 
energies of some of our most promising aspirants ? We allude to 
the Ecce Ancilla Domini of Mr. D. G. Rossetti (225). Here a 
certain amount of talent is distorted from its legitimate course by a 
prominent crotchet. Ignoring all that has made the art great in the 
works of the greatest masters, the school to which Mr. Rossetti 
belongs would begin the work anew, and accompany the faltering 
steps of its earliest explorers. This is archaeology turned from its 
legitimate uses, and made into a mere pedant. Setting at nought all 
the advanced principles of light and shade, colour, and composition, 
these men, professing to look only to Nature in its truth and sim- 
plicity, are the slavish imitators of artistic inefficiency. Granted 
that in these early masters there is occasionally to be seen all that 
is claimed for them of divine expression and sentiment, accompanied 
by an earnestness and devotion of purpose which preserved their 
productions from oblivion — are such qualities inconsistent with all 
subsequent progress in historical excellence, or do these crotchet- 
mongers propose that the art should begin and end there? The 
world will not be led to that deduction by such puerilities as the one 
before us ; which, with the affectation of having done a great thing, 
is weakness itself. An unintelligent imitation of the mere tech- 
nicalities of old art — golden glories, fanciful scribblings on the 
frames, and other infantine absurdities — constitutes all its claim. A 
certain expression in the eyes of the ill-drawn face of the Virgin 
affords a gleam of something high in intention, but it is still not the 
true inspiration. The face of the Angel is insipidity itself. One 
arm of the Virgin is well drawn, and there is careful though timid 
workmanship in the inferior and accessorial part of the work, but 
this is, in many places, where it would have been better left out. 
Yet with this we have exhausted all the praise due, in our opinion, to 
a work evidently thrust by the artist into the eye of the spectator 
more with the presumption of a teacher than in the modesty of a 
hopeful and true aspiration after excellence." 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1 849— 53. 1 63 

It is a pity that the authorities of the National Gallery 
have not yet seen their way to purchasing " Mr. Newenham's 
historical picture" (which represented The Princes in the 
Tower) ; the British public would then have the opportunity 
of realizing to themselves its marked superiority over Ecce 
Ancilla Domini. — The Times wrote in a tone partially resem- 
bling that of the Athenceum, but on the whole agreeable, 
recognizing the picture as " the work of a poet." 

There is a little anecdote of this year which has never, I 
believe, been recorded, but which I understand to be indis- 
putably true. About the time of the opening of the Academy- 
exhibition the Duke of Connaught had been born, and Queen 
Victoria could not visit the gallery ; but, noticing all the 
hullaballoo in the newspapers about Millais's Carpenter's 
Shop, she required to have the picture sent to the Palace for 
her inspection. Whether Her Majesty liked it or not I have 
no idea. 

As for the other four works which I have specified, the 
water-colour of Giotto painting the Portrait of Dante is in 
itself a noticeably complete invention, illustrating Dante's 
relation to painting and to poetry, present and future, and his 
love for Beatrice. But it was intended to be only the centre 
in a triptych, one wing representing Dante, as Priore in 
Florence, banishing the chiefs of both contending factions, 
and the other wing the exiled Dante and the Jester at the 
Court of Can Grande della Scala (the incident introduced 
into Rossetti's poem Dante in Verona}. Rightly executed, 
this picture would have been his greatest work. The pencil 
head of Holman Hunt was done on 12 April 1853, when the 
Praeraphaelites met together at Millais's house to produce 
portraits of one another, to be presented to their absent 
brother Woolner, who in July 1852 had gone to Australia; 
Millais doing Stephens and myself, and Hunt doing Millais 
and Dante Rossetti (I now possess the last). The design of 
Mary Magdalene was begun as a large picture towards i860. 
This proceeded not very far, and was ultimately laid aside for 
good, nor do I know what became of the painted com- 



164 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

mencement. A moderate-sized oil-sketch was completed 
about a year later. The oil-picture Found was a source of 
lifelong vexation to my brother, and to the gentlemen — some 
three or four in succession — who commissioned him to finish 
it. This work was nearly completed, but not quite, towards 
the close of Rossetti's life. An oil-monochrome, produced in 
May 1879, and showing the full composition, is extant. So 
far as the painting is concerned I will not here enter into 
further detail, but may spare a few words to a question 
often mooted — whether Rossetti did or did not take the 
subject of the picture from Mr. Bell Scott's poem of Rosabell. 
The facts are these. 

Scott's poem relates to a country-girl, Rosabell (afterwards 
named Mary Anne), who, having gone to town as a milliner's 
assistant, becomes the mistress of a gentleman, Archer, and 
afterwards of another gentleman, Thorn, who supplies her 
with every luxury. Eventually he leaves her, and she goes 
from bad to worse, and dies a human wreck in a hospital. 
Before Thorn had left her, and therefore while she was still 
in high prosperity, her old rustic lover saw her. This scene is 
not introduced into the poem at all, but it is hinted at in an 
interview which the lover has with Rosabell's parents. One 
may surmise that the young man saw her flaunting in the 
Park or some such place, and did not so much as speak 
to or accost her. Now what does Rossetti's picture repre- 
sent ? It represents a rustic lover, a drover, who finds his 
old sweetheart at a low depth of degradation, both from vice 
and from penury, in the streets of London. He endeavours to 
lift her as she crouches on the pavement. This is an incident 
wholly diverse from Scott's incident. It may be said — If 
Rossetti had never read Scott's poem, he would not have 
thought of any such subject for his own picture. This may 
or may not be correct — I see no reason for thinking it correct ; 
but at all events he has not taken his subject out of Rosabell. 
Mr. Scott's account of this matter, in his Autobiographical 
Notes, is highly inaccurate. He thinks that Rossetti trifled 
with him in June 1853 (the date of my brother's first visit to 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1849 — 53. 165 

Mr. Scott in Newcastle) by professing an intention of there- 
after painting this subject as coming from Rosabell (which it 
does not) ; whereas (says Scott) he had already begun the 
picture, and had already painted the drover's cart and calf. 
The truth is that he had not then begun the picture, and did 
not paint the cart and calf until the end of 1854 ; but he had, 
I fancy, designed the subject towards 1852, if not earlier. 
To sum up — Rossetti did not borrow his subject from Scott, 
and did not mislead Scott as to any details pertaining to the 
subject or the picture. 

I was referring just now to the departure of Mr. Woolner 
to Australia in July 1852, and to the meeting of his Prsera- 
phaelite Brothers, in April 1853, to draw portraits of one 
another as a gift to him. Intermediate between these dates 
was a sonnet addressed by Dante Rossetti to Woolner. It 
has never yet been published, but deserves to find a place 
among his poems, and I give it here. 

TO THOMAS WOOLNER. 
First Snow, 9 February 1853. 

Woolner, to-night it snows for the first time. 

Our feet know well the path where in this snow 
Mine leave one track : how all the ways we know 

Are hoary in the long-unwonted rime ! 

Grey as their ghosts which now in your new clime 
Must haunt you while those singing spirits reap 
All night the fields of hospitable sleep — 

Whose song, past the whole sea, finds counter-chime. 

Can the year change, and I not think of thee, 
With whom so many changes of the year 

So many years were watched — our love's degree 

Alone the same ? Ah still for thee and me, 
Winter or summer, Woolner, here or there, 

One grief, one joy, one loss, one victory. 

I find in Mrs. Wood's book a statement on another point, 
not better founded (so far as I am aware) than Mr. Scott's 
allegation. She says that Rossetti seceded from " sacred art " 
because he was repelled by the morbid character of a picture 



1 66 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

of religious bearing by James Collinson, St. Elizabeth of 
Hungary. I do not know from whom Mrs. Wood derived 
this information, nor have I the least recollection of any such 
fact. My impression is that the prolonged lack of any 
purchaser for the Annunciation picture had much more to do 
\vith his resolve. 

A letter from Rossetti, dated 24 February 1854, and 
printed by Mr. Scott, is of some interest as showing a certain 
cohesion between the Praeraphaelite Brothers at that compara- 
tively late time. Millais is here mentioned as the prime 
mover in a plan — which never came to anything — to get up 
a sketching-club on much the same system as that of the 
long-defunct Cyclographic Society. There were to be four 
Praeraphaelite members — Millais himself, Hunt, Stephens, 
and Rossetti ; also their close allies — Madox Brown, Charles 
Collins, Scott, Arthur Hughes, and Munro. In addition to 
these came the landscape-painters, Mark Anthony (a fine 
genius, not adequately valued now), Inchbold, and Carrick ; 
the renowned designers Leech and Richard Doyle ; the 
excellent animal-painter Wolf ; the painter-amateur Michael 
Halliday ; and two ladies, the Marchioness of Waterford and 
the Honourable Mrs. Boyle (known as E.V.B.). I was to be 
secretary. " The two ladies " — said Rossetti, and with good 
reason — " are both great in design." 

The writings of most importance belonging to this period 
are — The Bride's Prelude, Dante at Verona, A Last Con- 
fession, Jenny, Dennis Sband (a ballad of a rather light kind, 
not published), The Burden of Nineveh, Stratton Water, 
Wellington's Funeral, The Staff and Scrip, Sister Helen. 
Some of these however were not finished so early as the 
beginning of 1854. For instance, Jenny appears to have 
reached substantial completion about 1858, and something 
further was done to the poem in 1869, soon before its 
publication. Sister Helen, which may have been written in 
185 1 or early in 1852, was first printed in a Magazine — 
German, with an English issue supervised by Mrs. Mary 
Howitt, whom Rossetti now knew well — named The Dussel- 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1 849 — 53. 167 

dorf Artists' Annual — I believe, the Part for 1854. It 
appeared with the initials H.H.H. (the letters stamped upon 
lead pencils of exceptional hardness), because, as once jotted 
down by Rossetti, " people used to say that my style was 
hard " — surely a stricture which does not come very near 
the mark, and has not been confirmed by a later generation 
of readers. Dr. Gordon Hake the poet has termed Sister 
Helen " the strongest emotional poem as yet in the language." 
The sonnet Known in Vain 

("As two whose love, first foolish, widening scope") 

was written in January 1853, and presents the conception 
(to repeat my own words used elsewhere) " 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." This must be more or less autobio- 
graphical. It may be as well to say here that my brother 
was, in the years of his studentship and first practice as 
a painter, very much what is defined by the word " de- 
sultory" (a word which figures in this very sonnet); partly 
because he disliked routine-work and plodding application, 
and partly because he was divided between literary and 
pictorial interests, and often wanted to write when, to all 
appearance, he ought to have been drawing. I say " to all 
appearance," because it is now only reasonable to admit that 
in the long run his readings and writings in these early years 
proved to be of no less import in his career than drawing- 
work could have been. This state of things was irritating to 
our invalided and anxious father, who every now and then 
found occasion to reprehend Dante sharply, and even se- 
verely ; and to reprehension my brother was at all times more 
than sufficiently stubborn. These rifts in cordial family- 
affection were always distressing when they occurred, though 
they soon healed over again. My brother, more than our 
father, was in the wrong ; yet not so much in the wrong as 
at first sight he seemed. He grieved over the matter of our 
father's displeasure to his dying day. 



168 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Among letters addressed by Rossetti to Madox Brown, 
the latest which bears the cipher P.R.B. on the envelope is 
dated before March 1853. It has been stated that in this 
same year he first definitely decided to adhere to painting as 
his profession, to the comparative neglect of poetry. Perhaps 
it was before this, for the phrase " I have abandoned poetry " 
appears in a Family-letter dated 13 August 1852. An 
article in the Atliencsum, 15 September 1894, mentions the 
fact that at one time he was near to undertaking the work 
of Telegraphy on the North- Western Railway, owing to his 
indifferent prospects, some while after the Praeraphaelite 
movement began, of making a subsistence as a painter. This, 
which I had never previously seen stated in print, is correct. 
I do not remember much in detail about the matter, nor the 
exact date, which, but for the statement about Praeraphaeli- 
tism, I should have fixed in a still earlier year. Perhaps it 
was in 1 851, or the later part of 1850, when the want of any 
customer for the " white daub " was becoming irksome. If so, 
it is curious that the very same picture which first represented 
Rossetti in the National Gallery had gone nigh to ousting 
him from the profession. Of course the very straitened 
money-condition of the family generally was the main con- 
sideration. In 1 85 1 there was our father incapacitated; our 
mother and Christina fagging over an unremunerative attempt 
at a day-school ; Maria giving lessons in Italian etc., at two 
or three houses ; myself with a small salary in the Excise- 
office, and another smaller stipend from the Spectator. I 
can recollect that Dante Rossetti went round once to some 
suburban station to see what a telegraph was like. The sight, 
and the moderate amount of information given to him, 
afforded him no satisfaction ; but, feeling the family diffi- 
culties, he did not refuse to entertain the project. For one 
reason or another, and luckily for all parties concerned — 
including maybe the railway passengers — it very rapidly 
came to nothing. 

Another curious circumstance is that in October 1849 
Rossetti and his associates were pretty near settling in the 



PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS, 1 849 — 53. 1 69 

house, 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, which he did actually rent 
from Michaelmas 1862 onwards. Mr. Hunt and Mr. Stephens, 
along with Rossetti, looked over the house, and were much 
taken with it. The idea was that some P.R.B.'s and one or two 
of their closest friends — such as Munro and Deverell — should 
jointly tenant the house, and set up studios. To inscribe 
P.R.B. somewhere or other on the premises' seemed a sine 
qua non. A suggestion of mine that it might be written near 
the bell-pull, and interpreted by the uninitiated as " Please 
Ring Bell," was hailed as an opportune solution of the pro- 
blem. The rent required was singularly low, £jO ; but we 
were so far impecunious that even this was regarded as 
beyond our conjoint means, and the idea of taking the house 
only lasted two or three days. It is moreover a fact that 
the building contained not a single good studio. 

This reference to the studio which Rossetti did not take 
after leaving the one which he shared with Hunt in Cleveland 
Street leads me on to speaking of those which he did take. 
As I said, he was first at No. 72 Newman Street, a house 
where the ground-floor was occupied as a Dancing- Academy. 
The Dancing- Master failed to pay his rent; and, according 
to the oppressive system of those days, the goods of his sub- 
tenant Rossetti were seized to make good the default. The 
landlord was Mr. McQueen, a Printer in Tottenham Court 
Road. Dante and I carried away a considerable number of 
books, and I suppose some other things as well. This was 
probably not strictly legal — although, as regards the books, 
they were in fact as much mine as his, for all books were in 
common between us. Anyhow, the bulk of Dante's small 
belongings was confiscated, and appeared to his eyes no 
more. He then took a studio at No. 74, next door but 
one. It had a sort of slanting skylight, and few places were 
dismaller when a brisk rain came down pattering upon the 
glass. My brother was in this studio (still sleeping at No. 50 
Charlotte Street) in October 1850, and perhaps for some 
while previously. At the beginning of 185 1 he took, along 
with Deverell, the first floor at No. 17 Red Lion Square, a 



1 70 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

house which happened to belong to Mr. North, the father of 
our eccentric literary crony. In May he gave notice to 
leave this apartment ; and he accepted Madox Brown's 
obliging offer to accommodate him for a while in his own 
large studio, which was now in the house in Newman Street, 
No. 17, occupied by the sculptor Baily. Here he sat to 
Brown for the head of Chaucer in the very large picture — 
now in the museum of Sydney, Australia — of Chaucer reading 
to the Court of Edward 3 the Legend of Custance. The head 
was painted in one night, 1 1 P.M. to 4 A.M., and was never 
afterwards touched upon. This is recognizably like Chaucer, 
and is also a very fair portrait of Rossetti. It is held by 
some writers that Rossetti at this time resembled Chaucer ; 
by others that he was like the Stratford bust of Shakespear ; 
while Mr. Joseph Knight (who knew him later on) considers 
that the nearest affinity was to the great Italian actor Salvini 
— and I am more disposed to acquiesce in this last opinion. 
It was, I gather, on 23 November 1852 that Rossetti finally 
removed into Chambers of his own, and thus ceased to 
belong to the household at Charlotte Street, or rather then 
at Arlington Street. These Chambers were on the second 
floor of No. 14 Chatham Place, Blackfriars Bridge, a line of 
street demolished now many years ago. He had a very fine 
outlook on the river, and remained in this house until after 
the death of his wife in February 1862. There were a 
spacious painting-room, a commodious living-room, a small 
but well-lighted bedroom, and a little dusky passage-room 
between these two, chiefly used for storing books. In these 
Chambers I very frequently passed the evening with my 
brother, going thither from my office at Somerset House. 
Not seldom, up to the date of his marriage in i860, I passed 
the night there as well. 



MISS SIDDAL. 171 

XVII. 
MISS SIDDAL} 

Dante ROSSETTI — though there was nothing of the Puritan 
in his feelings, nor in his demeanour or conversation — had 
no juvenile amours, liaisons, or flirtations. In 1850 he fell 
seriously in love. 

Outside the compact circle of the Prseraphaelite Brother- 
hood there was no man he liked better than Walter Howell 
Deverell, a youthful painter, son of the Secretary of the 
Government Schools of Design — artistic, clever, genial, and re- 
markably good-looking. One day — early in 1850, if not late 
in 1849 — Deverell accompanied his mother to a bonnet-shop 
in Cranborne Alley (now gone— close to Leicester Square) ; 
and among the shop-assistants he saw a young woman who 
lifted down a bandbox or what not. She was a most beautiful 
creature, with an air between dignity and sweetness, mixed 
with something which exceeded modest self-respect, and 
partook of disdainful reserve ; tall, finely formed, with a 
lofty neck, and regular yet somewhat uncommon features, 
greenish-blue unsparkling eyes, large perfect eyelids, brilliant 
complexion, and a lavish heavy wealth of coppery-golden hair. 
It was what many people call red hair, and abuse under that 
name — but the colour, when not rank and flagrant, happens 
to have been always much admired by Dante Rossetti, and 
I dare say by Deverell as well. All this fine development, 
and this brilliancy of hue, were only too consistent with a 
consumptive taint in the constitution. Her voice was clear 
and low, but with a certain sibilant tendency which reduced 
its attractiveness. Deverell got his mother to enquire whether 
he might be privileged to have sittings from this beauty, and 
the petition was granted. He painted from her the head 
of Viola in the picture, which he exhibited in the early spring 
of 1850, from Shakespear's Tivelfth Night, The Duke with 

1 My brother always spelled the name thus. Some members of the 
family wrote " Siddall." 



172 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Viola listening to the Court Minstrels ; he also drew from her 
the head of Viola in the etching of Olivia and Viola which 
appeared in the final number of The Germ. In the oil-picture 
Rossetti sat for the head of the Jester. It is a fair likeness, 
but rather grim. 1 I may as well add here that Hunt, not 
long afterwards, painted from the same damsel the Sylvia 
in his picture from the Two Gentlemen of Verona, and 
Millais his drowning Ophelia — but I fancy that both these 
heads, or at any rate the first, have been a good deal altered 
at a more recent date. This milliner's girl was Elizabeth 
Eleanor Siddal. When Deverell first saw her, she was, I 
believe, not fully seventeen years of age. 2 

The father of Miss Siddal was a Sheffield Cutler (Mr. 
Stephens says a watchmaker, but I hardly suppose that to be 
correct), who had removed to the neighbourhood of Newington 
Butts. His wife was alive in 1850, but not I think himself. 
I never saw her ; but I did see once or twice Elizabeth's 
younger sister, a pleasing unmarried woman, and once her 
brother, who seemed a sensible well-conducted man, perhaps 
a trifle hard in manner. There was also a younger brother, 
said to be somewhat weak-minded. I find it stated that 
Mrs. Siddal. had in some way been intimately associated with 
Madox Brown's second wife, a Miss Hill. This must have 
promoted a more than common cordiality which (after 
Elizabeth Siddal had, through a different train of circum- 
stances, come into the artistic circle) subsisted between 
Mrs. Brown and herself, and only terminated with death. 
A neighbouring tradesman in Newington Butts, in Miss 
Siddal's infancy or early childhood, was named Greenacre. 

1 This picture, a large one, belonged, some while after Deverell's death, 
to Mr. Bell Scott. He sold it not very long before his decease, and I do 
not know who may be its present possessor. 

2 My brother, when his wife died on 11 February 1862, believed her to 
be twenty-nine years old ; but I can distinctly recollect that her younger 
sister (whom they were wont to call " the Roman," from her aquiline nose, 
quite different from the rather noticeably rounded one of Elizabeth Eleanor) 
told him in my presence that the correct age was twenty~eight. 



MISS SIDDAL. 173 

To the British public he is a murderer, more than commonly 
execrable, and duly hanged. To Miss Siddal he was a good- 
natured neighbour, who would on occasion help her toddling 
steps over a muddy or crowded crossing. Such is the difference 
in " the environment." Miss Siddal — let me say here once 
for all — was a graceful lady-like person, knowing how to 
behave in company. She had received an ordinary education, 
and committed no faults of speech. In our circle she was 
always termed " Lizzie," and I shall sometimes speak of her 
under that name. 

Not long after Miss Siddal had begun to sit to Deverell, 
Dante Rossetti saw her, admired her enormously, and was 
soon in love with her — how soon I cannot- exactly say. She 
had a face and demeanour very suitable indeed for a youthful 
Madonna ; but I presume the head of the Virgin in the 
Annunciation picture had been painted before he knew her — 
and, under any circumstances, he would perhaps have taken 
this head from Christina, to keep the work in harmony with 
The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. The first painting in which 
I find the head of Miss Siddal is the rich little water-colour 
of 1850 (presented to Madox Brown) called Rossovestita (Red- 
clad). This is not greatly like Lizzie, but it can hardly have 
been done from any one else. Soon followed a true likeness 
in the water-colour, Beatrice at a Marriage Feast denies Dante 
her Salutation, which was exhibited in the winter of 1852-53. 
Here the Beatrice is Miss Siddal, and every other Beatrice he 
drew for some years following is also, I think, from her — like- 
wise the Virgin in a water-colour of The Annunciation, 1852. 
She is here represented bathing her feet in a rivulet, and the 
composition bears of course no analogy to that of the oil- 
picture. 

I do not know at what date a definite engagement existed 
between Miss Siddal and my brother — very probably before 
or not long after the close of 185 1. That she was sincerely 
in love with him — he being most deeply and profusely in love 
with her — is readily to be presumed. Her character was 
somewhat singular — not quite easy to understand, and not 



174 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

at all on the surface. Often as I have been in her company 
— and yet this was less often than might under the conditions 
be surmised — I hardly think that I ever heard her say a single 
thing indicative of her own character, or of her serious under- 
lying thought. All her talk was of a " chaffy " kind — its tone 
sarcastic, its substance lightsome. It was like the speech of 
a person who wanted to turn off the conversation, and leave 
matters substantially where they stood before. Now and again 
she said some pointed thing, which might cast a dry light, 
but ushered one no further. She was not ill-natured in talk, 
still less was she scandal-mongering, or chargeable with 
volatility or levity personal to herself; but she seemed to 
say — " My mind and my feelings are my own, and no out- 
sider is expected to pry into them." That she had plenty 
of mind is a fact abundantly evidenced by her designs and 
water-colours, and by her verses as well. Indeed, she was a 
woman of uncommon capacity and varied aptitude. In what 
religious denomination she had been brought up I know not. 
Of her own, I fancy she had no religion. I should feel the 
more confident of this, were it not that Dante Rossetti, un- 
defined as his faith was, had no sort of liking for irreligion 
in women. He had even a certain marked degree of prejudice 
against women who would not believe. 

When one wants chivalrous generosity, one goes to 
Algernon Swinburne for it. This is what he once said of 
Miss Siddal 1 :— 

"It is impossible that even the reptile rancour, the omnivorous 
malignity, of Iago himself, could have dreamed of trying to cast a 
slur on the memory of that incomparable lady whose maiden name 
was Siddal and whose married name was Rossetti. To one at least 
who knew her better than most of her husband's friends the memory 
of all her marvellous charms of mind and person — her matchless 

1 In The Academy, 24 December 1892. Mr. Swinburne is here writing 
about Bell Scott's Autobiographical Notes, and about an interpretation — 
more or less fanciful — which had been put upon a couple of phrases in 
that book. 




By Herself. EuzABETH ELEANOR SlDDAL (RoSSETTl). 



1853- 



MISS SIDDAL. 175 

grace, loveliness, courage, endurance, wit, humour, heroism, and 
sweetness — is too dear and sacred to be profaned by any attempt at 
expression. The vilest of the vile could not have dreamed of trying 
£ to cast a slur on her memory.' " 

In these years, 1850 to 1854, Dante Rossetti was so 
constantly in the company of Lizzie Siddal that this may 
even have conduced towards the break-up of the P.R.B. as 
a society of comrades. He was continually painting or 
drawing from her, and pretty soon his example and incite- 
ment brought her on to designing and painting for herself. 
He gave her some instruction ; but, of systematic training 
of the ordinary kind, she appears to me to have had scarcely 
any. Certain it is that she had a gift very superior, in its 
quality if not in its actual outcome, to that which belongs 
to most female debutantes. The tone of her work was 
founded on that of Rossetti, with much less draughtsmanship, 
limper forms, and cruder colour. His own was partly crude, 
as well as brilliant, in the water-colours to which he chiefly 
confined himself in these years. On the other hand, she had 
much of sweet and chastened invention, and an ingenious 
romantic turn in it as well, and a graceful purity is stamped 
upon everything she did. One of her first productions was, 
I think, We are Seven, from Wordsworth's poem. It is 
mentioned in a letter dated 12 January 1853. Then came 
a pen-and-ink design, rather large, of Pippa and the Women 
of loose Life, from Browning's drama, one of Miss Siddal's 
best drawings, and in essence a very good one ; the water- 
colour of the Wailing Ladies on the Seashore from the old 
ballad of Sir Patrick Spens ; another from St. Agnes' Eve, 
by Tennyson ; another from the same great poet's Lady 
Clare ; and not a few more. Her portrait was painted by 
herself in 1853-4. It is an absolute likeness, and the readers 
of this book may judge whether it is a laudable work of art. 
" Lizzie," said my brother, writing to Madox Brown on 
25 August 1853, "has made a perfect wonder of her portrait, 
which is nearly done, and which I think we shall send to the 
Winter Exhibition." But this, I take it, was not carried out. 



1/6 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

And again, in 1854 : " Her fecundity of invention and facility 
are quite wonderful — much greater than mine." This may 
have been a lover's exaggeration, but it was not mere non- 
sense. She continued designing and painting for some years, 
not perhaps to any very large extent beyond 1857. Ill-health 
interfered, and stopped the settled practice. She did some- 
thing however even after marriage ; for a letter from Rossetti 
to Mr. Alexander Gilchrist, 18 June 1861, says: "She has 
been working very hard these few days, and made a beautiful 
water-colour sketch." 

Of her verse — which is but scanty in quantity, so far as 
any traces remain to me — I will present one specimen. 
Possibly it had never yet been read by any one out of my 
family. 

A YEAR AND A DAY. 

Slow days have passed that make a year, 

Slow hours that make a day, 
Since I could take my first dear love, 

And kiss him the old way: 
Yet the green leaves touch me on the cheek, 

Dear Christ, this month of May. 

I lie among the tall green grass 

That bends above my head, 
And covers up my wasted face, 

And folds me in its bed 
Tenderly and lovingly 

Like grass above the dead. 

Dim phantoms of an unknown ill 

Float through my tiring brain; 
The unformed visions of my life 

Pass by in ghostly train ; 
Some pause to touch me on the cheek, 

Some scatter tears like rain. 

The river ever running down 

Between its grassy bed, 
The voices of a thousand birds 

That clang above my head, 
Shall bring to me a sadder dream 

When this sad dream is dead. 



MISS SIDDAL. 177 

A silence falls upon my heart, 

And hushes all its pain. 
I stretch my hands in the long grass, 

And fall to sleep again, 
There to lie empty of all love, 

Like beaten corn of grain. 

The letter from which I lately quoted, 25 August 1853, 
contains the first reference that I find to Miss Siddal's ill- 
health. It says, following the praise of her portrait, " she 
has been very ill though lately." The consumptive turn 
of her constitution became apparent ; and from this time 
forth the letters about her are shadowed with sorrow which 
often deepens almost into despair. In a letter of March 
1854 it is stated that Dante had introduced Lizzie to the 
Howitts — William and Mary Howitt, with their daughter 
Anna Mary (the painter, who afterwards became Mrs. Alfred 
Alaric Watts), then living in Highgate Rise ; and that the 
Howitts were quite fond of her, and admired her pro- 
ductions. He had also introduced her to Christina ; but 
was at times a little put out with the latter, thinking that 
her appreciation of Lizzie was not up to the mark. The 
Howitts had got her to see Dr. Wilkinson (the distinguished 
Homceopathist and writer), who pronounced that there was 
curvature of the spine, and the case was an anxious one, 
but not at all hopeless. From one of the Family-letters, 
June 1853, it will be observed that she was then painting in 
the Chatham Place Chambers, while Dante was in Newcastle. 

My brother was a lover of boundless enthusiasm and 
fondness. He made no secret of his condition in the close 
circle of his nearer intimates. To all other persons he 
wrapped himself in impenetrable silence, not without some 
defiant tone ; and he employed pet names for his fair one, 
of which Guggum, Guggums, or Gug, was the most frequent, 
if not the most euphonious. His Family-letters bear adequate 
marks of all this, but more especially his correspondence 
with Mr. Madox Brown. I observe, from some of her very 
few still extant letters, that Lizzie also addressed Rossetti 

VOL. I. 12 



178 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

as " Gug." Possibly she invented the term, using it as a 
sort of short for " Gabriel." 

I will here finish up with our lovable friend Deverell. 
He died on 2 February 1854, having for some months 
previously been a victim to Bright's disease. His age appears 
to have been only twenty-six. Had he lived a few years 
longer, he would not have failed to distinguish himself. 
Dante Rossetti was his chief intimate, but he was a favourite 
with all of our circle, and deserved to be so. He painted 
himself as the Duke in the Twelfth Night picture ; Mr. 
Brown painted him finely as the gallant page in the Chaucer 
subject ; and Mr. Holman Hunt made a very careful drawing 
of his handsome, head. 1 cannot remember that my brother 
ever did the like. 



XVIII. 

JOHN RUSKIN. 

The relation of Mr. Ruskin to the Praeraphaelite Brother- 
hood has often been misunderstood or mis-stated. It has 
been alleged — and this, in substance, I have already denied — 
that the young artists who called themselves Praeraphaelites 
were prompted to their enterprise by reading some writing 
of Ruskin's ; also that he encouraged them from the first. 
This is an error. There is nothing to show that he paid the 
least attention to their works while these were on exhibition 
in 1849 and 1850: in 1849, praised for the most part; in 
1850, greeted with little other than extreme and envenomed 
abuse. 

In 1 85 1 Rossetti did not contribute to any of the Exhibi- 
tions. Sir John Millais sent to the Royal Academy three 
oil-pictures — The Woodman's Daughter (from a poem by 
Coventry Patmore), The Return of the Dove to the Ark, and 
Mariana (from Tennyson). Mr. Holman Hunt sent thither 
Valentine rescuing Sylvia from Proteus. It appears that 
Mr. Ruskin's father (a wealthy wine-merchant, whom I 



JOHN RUSKIN. 179 

remember well) liked The Return of the Dove to the Ark, 
and was minded to purchase it ; but the picture was already 
sold. Mr. Patmore suggested to John Ruskin to write some- 
thing about Millais and Hunt. Ruskin complied ; and on 
13 May a letter of his appeared in The Times, and was no 
doubt of very high service to the Prseraphaelite cause. 
Neither this letter, nor the pamphlet PrcerapJiaelitism published 
in the same year, referred in any way to the pictures of 
Rossetti exhibited in the two preceding years. It may be 
worth observing here that Mr. Ruskin, who was at that time 
a very earnest Protestant Christian, had had a vague idea, 
fostered by public rumour, that the Prseraphaelites were 
leagued in some Puseyite or Roman-catholic propaganda. 
This error was now dispelled from his mind. 

The first trace which I find of Ruskin in connexion with 
Rossetti comes in a letter which my brother addressed to 
Madox Brown on 1 March 1853. He here speaks of Mr. 
McCracken, the Belfast Packing-Agent who had bought 
the Annunciation picture, and who was a profound believer 
in " the Graduate " (as he constantly termed Ruskin) ; and 
Rossetti refers to " those sketches now exhibiting " — which 
were the Giotto painting the Portrait of Dante, the Beatrice 
at a Marriage-feast denies Dante Ji&r Salutation, and the 
Rossovestita. He then proceeds : — 

" 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." 

I presume the water-colour in question was most probably 
the Beatrice subject. Afterwards McCracken bought from 
my brother the water-colour (now in the Fine-Art Gallery 
of Oxford) named Dante drawing an Angel in Memory of 
Beatrice ; and the sequel was this, as noted in another letter 
to Brown, 14 April 1854 : — 

"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 



l8o DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

in my answer, and yesterday he called. His manner was more 
agreeable than I had always expected. . . . He seems in a mood 
to make my fortune." 

Ruskin was then thirty-five years old, while my brother 
was not quite twenty-six. He called again very soon after- 
wards ; and my brother was dining with him en famille on 
25 April at Denmark Hill, Camberwell, when he had to be 
summoned away to attend the death-bed of our father, who 
expired on the 26th. These were days of great trouble to 
Dante Rossetti. Immediately after our father's funeral he 
found it necessary to run down to Hastings for a while, to 
join Miss Siddal, who was in a very suffering state of health. 
They were also days of trouble to Mr. Ruskin, for a different sort 
of reason, on which I need not dwell here. He went abroad 
much about the same time when my brother left for Hastings, 
and for three or four months they met no more, but inter- 
changed some letters. 

Mr. Ruskin took keen delight in Rossetti's paintings apd 
designs. He praised freely, and abused heartily, both him 
and them. The abuse was good-humoured, and was taken 
good-humouredly ; still it was enough to nettle many a nature 
more enduring than that of Rossetti. Mr. Ruskin found 
him over-confident in the use of unsafe pigments, capricious 
in his character and his products, and careless of his sur- 
roundings : his room was never orderly. Dante Rossetti, 
like most artists of any inventive genius, was at bottom 
scornful of art-critics. He was not in the least self-satisfied 
as to his own performances — on the contrary, he looked upon 
most of them with a good deal of disfavour, as being inade- 
quate expressions of the adequate idea which was within 
him ; still he considered that an artist generally knows what 
he is about much better than an outsider can instruct him. 
Besides, the idea, and the method of presenting it, were his 
own, and, for better for worse, his own they must remain. 
I consider that in these years there was no irritation what- 
ever between Ruskin and Rossetti. They were heartily 



JOHN RUSKIN. l8l 

friendly, and indeed heartily affectionate, and took in good 
part, with mutual banter and amusement, whatever was 
deficient or excessive in the performances of the painter, 
or in the comments of the purchaser and critic. The only 
counteraction to their entire cordiality lay in the fact that 
Madox Brown soon got to hate the very name of Ruskin. 
He considered himself both slighted and damnified by the 
absolute silence which that pre-eminent and most influential 
art-critic, in all his published writings, preserved as to Brown's 
works, while lauding some other painters who might be 
deemed fully equal to himself, and several who were most 
manifestly inferior. Rossetti, who was zealous in friendship, 
endeavoured to bring about a different condition of things, 
but did not succeed ; so he had, in some degree, to steer a 
middle course between his warm feelings for Brown on one 
side and for Ruskin on the other. Ruskin and Rossetti saw 
each other constantly, and kept up an active correspondence 
as well. The letters of the former are still rather numerous, 
and are full of diverting " digs " at Rossetti's designs and 
paintings. Rossetti's responses are not within my cognizance, 
but, if they did not " give as good as he got," I have mis- 
apprehended his character, and his settled habits of mind 
and act. 

From an early date in their acquaintance Mr. Ruskin 
undertook to buy, if he happened to like it, whatever 
Rossetti produced, at a range of, prices such as the latter 
would have asked from any other purchaser, and up to a 
certain maximum of expenditure on his own part. If he did 
not relish a work, Rossetti could offer it to any one else. 
I cannot imagine any arrangement more convenient to my 
brother, who thus secured a safe market for his performances, 
and could even rely upon not being teazed to do on the nail 
work for which he received payment in whole or in part. In 
this respect Ruskin appears to have been always friendly and 
accommodating, and Rossetti not unduly troublesome. He 
availed himself of Ruskin's easy liberality, without abusing 
it. In fact he was made comfortable in his professional 



1 82 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

position ; though it should be understood that his prices were 
very moderate, and his income was small in proportion, and 
he was often enough in straits to meet some current demand. 
He now ceased to exhibit in any of the ordinaiy galleries, 
and to this system he ever afterwards adhered. The arrange- 
ment with Mr. Ruskin set him free to consult his own likings 
in the matter, and may have had much to do with his 
resolve. 

Ruskin's permanent opinion of Rossetti as a painter appears 
in the following words : — 

" I believe Rossetti's name should be placed first on the list of 
men, within my own range of knowledge, who have raised and 
changed the spirit of modern art; raised in absolute attainment, 
changed in direction of temper." 

And again : — 

" Rossetti was the chief intellectual force in the establishment of 
the modern Romantic School in England." 

I will extract here a few passages from the letters which 
Mr. Ruskin wrote to my brother. They are scrappy, but 
tend to show how the two very diverse natures were getting 
on together ; and here and there comes a touch of that tender 
and exquisite amiability which has made Ruskin (if his genius 
had not done it for him) a man apart. He hardly ever dated 
his letters ; but I shall add dates which are nearly enough 
right for the present purpose. 

(October 1854) " I forgot to say also that I really do covet your 
drawings as much as I covet Turner's ; only it is useless self- 
indulgence to buy Turner's, and useful self-indulgence to buy yours. 
Only I won't have them after they have been more than nine times 
rubbed entirely out — remember that." — (24 April 1855) " It may be 
as well that you should keep this letter, if you can keep anything 
safe in that most disreputable litter of yours." — (June 1855) "At the 
eleventh hour I am going to put off my lesson of to-morrow [i.e., a 
little friendly instruction, pretty frequently repeated, which, at Mr. 
Ruskin's request, Rossetti gave him in the use of water-colour. I 



JOHN RUSKIN. 183 

think the instruction extended not much beyond the attendance of 
Ruskin at times when my brother was in the act of painting, with 
question and answer as to the why and wherefore of his modes of 
work] ; for I find my eyes to-day quite tired with an etching I 
expected to have finished, and haven't. But, as you have that 
drawing to finish, you will still be kept in town now ; so I may have 
my lesson when this nasty etching is done."— (July 1855) "Can you 
dine with us on Thursday at 6? (and not be too P.R.B., as Stanfield 
is coming too !). But I've no other time for a chat." — (November 

1855) "Please oblige me in two matters, or you will make me ill 
again. Take all the pure green out of the flesh in the Nativity 
I send, and try to get it a little less like worsted-work by Wednes- 
day. I want The Passover in such a state as it may be in, and the 
sketch of Passover." — (November 1855) "It's ail your own pride, 
not a bit of fine feeling, so don't think it. If you wanted to oblige 
me, you would keep your room in order, and go to bed at night. All 
your fine speeches go for nothing with me till you do that." — (May 

1856) "I forgot to say to you when I saw you that, if you think 
there is anything in which I can be of any use to Miss Siddal, you 
have only to tell me. I mean, she might be able, and like, as the 
weather comes finer, to come out here sometimes to take a walk in 
the garden, and feel the quiet fresh air, and look at a missal or two ; 
and she shall have the run of the house. And, if you think she 
would like an Albert Durer or a photograph for her own room, 
merely tell me, and I will get them for her. And I want to talk to 
you about her, because you seem to me to let her wear herself out 
with fancies, and she really ought to be made to draw in a dull way 
sometimes from dull things." — (January 1857) " I was put out to-day, 
as you must have seen, for I can't hide it when I am vexed. I don't 
at all like my picture now [possibly the oil-picture of St. Katharine 
— a mediaeval painter painting a lady as this saint]. The alteration 
of the head from the stoop forward to the throw back makes the 
whole figure quite stiff and stupid ; besides, the off-cheek is a 
quarter of a yard too thin. That Magdalene is magnificent to my 
mind in every possible way; it stays by me." [This is the design of 
The Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee.] 

In one of these passages the reader will have observed the 
reference to Miss Siddal. Soon after Ruskin had returned 



184 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

to London from his visit to the Continent in 1854, Rossetti 
brought him acquainted with Miss Siddal, and with the 
designs and water-colours she was producing. Ruskin admired 
her much, and liked her intensely ; and he took a most hearty- 
interest and pleasure in the refinement and feeling displayed 
in her designs, although far from blind (as will have been 
perceived) to their executive shortcomings. A letter from 
Rossetti to Madox Brown, 13 April 1855, says that she and 
he had been spending a day at the house of the Ruskin 
family : — 

" All the Ruskins were most delighted with Guggum. John 
Ruskin said she was a noble, glorious creature, and his father said 
by her look and manner she might have been a Countess." 

Immediately afterwards Mr. Ruskin committed one of 
those unnumbered acts of generosity by which he will be 
remembered hardly less long than by his vivid insight into 
many things, and his heroic prose. He wanted to effect 
one of two plans for her advantage— either to purchase all 
her drawings one by one, as they should be produced, or 
else to settle on her an annual ^150 — he taking in exchange 
her various works up to that value, and retaining them, or 
(if preferred) selling some of them, and handing over to her 
any extra proceeds. This latter plan was carried into actual 
effect by 3 May. It will easily and rightly be supposed 
that Rossetti used to find funds for Miss Siddal whenever 
required ; but his means were both small and fitful, and 
Ruskin's scheme was of some relief and of great satisfaction 
to him. How long it continued I am not sure. There is a 
letter from Mr. Ruskin, dated I fancy in or about 1857, con- 
taining the following passage, which I need only preface by 
saying that he constantly applied the fancy-name "Ida" to 
Miss Siddal, taking it no doubt from Tennyson's Princess : — 

" I shall rejoice in Ida's success with her picture, as I shall in 
every opportunity of being useful either to you or her. The only 
feeling I have about the matter is of some shame at having allowed 



JOHN RUSKIN. 185 

the arrangement between us to end as it did ; and the chief pleasure 
I could have about it now would be her simply accepting it as she 
would have accepted a glass of water when she was thirsty, and never 
thinking of it any more." 

From this I infer that Miss Siddal had then discontinued 
delivering her designs or paintings to Mr. Ruskin — probably 
because her very frail state of health prevented her pro- 
ducing them with any regularity ; and that, being thus unable 
to fulfil her part in the scheme, she, and also my brother as 
her adviser, renounced the money-benefit hence accruing to 
her. 

Meantime, for health's sake, she had been abroad. I have 
already referred to the medical opinion obtained from Dr. 
Wilkinson. Towards June 1855 another opinion was obtained 
from Dr. Acland of Oxford, to whom Ruskin recommended 
her. The Doctor and others, including a lady of the Pusey 
family, received her with great attentions. He opined that 
her lungs were nearly right, the chief danger consisting in 
" mental power long pent up, and lately overtaxed." He 
advised her to leave England before cold weather set in ; and 
this she did towards the latter end of September, having as 
companion a Mrs. Kincaid, a cousin of ours, who knew some- 
thing of French and Continental life. This lady was only 
recently known to us. She had (I think) been discovered by 
my uncle Henry Polydore as being a member of the Pierce 
family, at a time when, in consequence of an informality in 
the will of my grand-aunt Harriet Pierce (who died in 1849), 
it became requisite to ferret out her various next of kin. I 
remember Mrs. Kincaid pretty well towards 1855 — a matronly 
sort of person, aged forty or upwards ; her husband much 
better, a sharp-looking solicitor. He took a decided fancy to 
Dante Rossetti, and haunted not a little his studio and his 
dinner-hour — his dinner, while he tenanted his Chambers in 
Chatham Place, being almost invariably taken at some eating- 
house. Miss Siddal with Mrs. Kincaid went to Nice ; she 
was also for a while in Paris, and Dante, with his friend 



1 86 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Munro, saw her there in connexion with the Great Exhibition 
of that year, he returning in October. For some reason or 
other — I am not sure that I ever understood it well — she lost 
her liking for Mrs. Kincaid. Dante of course sided with 
Lizzie, and we saw the married couple no more. It may 
have been in the late Spring of 1856 that Miss Siddal returned 
to London, without any such material renovation of health 
as had been hoped for. From this time onward variations 
occurred at intervals ; but as a whole it must be said that 
there was a continual decline of vital force, and often she was 
distressingly ill. 

I may here add that my own first sight of Mr. Ruskin was 
on 25 November 1854, when he was delivering a lecture at 
the Architectural Museum. I afterwards saw him pretty 
frequently, often in company with my brother, and I regarded 
him with warm liking and respect both as man and as writer 
and critic. As a public speaker, Ruskin was a subject of 
highest admiration to my brother, who never, I think, 
addressed a general audience at all. That Rossetti wholly 
avoided and shrank from any such form of self-display is 
certain. It is not by any means equally certain to me that, 
if he had chosen to make the attempt, he would not or could 
not have succeeded. His address was good, his voice excellent, 
his manner adapted for exciting sympathy and warmth, his 
ideas were clear and well to hand, and he could converse 
extremely well whenever he liked. 

Some years ago a copy of a letter from my brother to 
Mr. McCracken, 15 May 1854, came into my hands. It shows 
so clearly the opinion which he entertained upon various 
questions of art, about the time when he first knew Ruskin, 
that I shall here introduce a few sentences of it : — 

" I believe colour to be a quite indispensable quality in the highest 
art, and that no picture ever belonged to the highest order without 
it ; while many, by possessing it — as the works of Titian — are raised 
certainly into the highest class, though not to the very highest grade 
of that class, in spite of the limited degree of their other great 
qualities. Perhaps the only exception which I should be inclined to 



WORK IN 1854-55-56. 187 

admit exists in the works of Hogarth, to which I should never dare 
to assign any but the very highest place, though their colour is 
certainly not a prominent feature in them. I must add however 
that Hogarth's colour is seldom other than pleasing to myself, and 
that for my own part I should almost call him a colourist, though 
not aiming at colour. On the other hand, there are men who, 
merely on account of bad colour, prevent me from thoroughly 
enjoying their works, though full of other qualities. For instance, 
Wilkie, or Delaroche (in nearly all his works, though the Hemicycle 
is fine in colour). From Wilkie I would at any time prefer a 
thoroughly good engraving — though of course he is in no respect 
even within hail of Hogarth. Colour is the physiognomy of a 
picture ; and, like the shape of the human forehead, it cannot be 
perfectly beautiful without proving goodness and greatness. Other 
qualities are its life exercised ; but this is the body of its life, by 
which we know and love it at first sight. ... I have once seen a 
small picture by the H. Wallis you ask about, and should venture 
to say that any work of his must have some degree of value, if not a 
very high one — at any rate something preferable to any Mill by any 
Brandard, to any ' vacant ' thing whatever by John Bridges, or even 
to anything I could suppose likely to fall under Redgrave's notice 
while ' returning from church.' " 



XIX. 

WORK IN 1854-55-56. 

In these years the painting-work of Rossetti had its source 
principally in Dantesque or in general romantic themes, with 
some sacred subjects interspersed, and his method was 
water-colour. He produced a triptych of Paolo and Francesca ; 
The Passover in the Holy Family ; a portrait of himself ; 
Launcelot and Guenevere at the Tomb of Arthur; a head of 
Browning, a fine likeness, doing justice to so great a sitter ; 
The Chapel before the Lists ; Dante's Dream ; the five 
designs to Tennyson's Poems ; Eliza Polidori (oil-portrait) ; 
The Blue Closet ; The Wedding of St. George ; Bonifa.zws 
Mistress ; The Tune of Seven Towers ; and several other 



1 88 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

works. Some of them were prolonged into the year 1857. 
He also made the water-colour preparatory to his oil-triptych 
for Llandaff Cathedral — The Seed of David. Mr. Ruskin 
became the owner of a good proportion of these productions — 
by no means of all. 

Rossetti's invention was fertile, and — according to the 
varying and sometimes merely fanciful themes — appropriate ; 
his colour high and brilliant, and, though at whiles a little 
over-positive, not forced. Allowing himself very free scope 
in his treatment of the subjects, he yet seldom if ever painted 
a figure without taking it from Nature. Miss Siddal was his 
model for all the leading female personages. Of thoughtfully 
considered or elaborately realized light and shade, or of 
diversified planes in the composition, there is very little in any 
of these works. Rossetti's sympathies did not go in such 
directions, and he was never an adept at these highly impor- 
tant processes of the art — and at this period still less an 
adept than he became later on. 

To some of the above-named works a few details may here 
be spared. 

The Paolo a?id Francesca triptych, begun as a design in 
October 1849, shows the Lovers' Kiss, and their souls in Hell, 
and in the centre Dante or some other figure. He repeated 
these compositions more than once. Mr. James Leathart, of 
Gateshead-on-Tyne, owns the best version of them, and a 
very fine example it is of Rossetti's power in pathos and in 
colour. The Passover in the Holy Family, a prime favourite 
with Mr. Ruskin, had also been invented as far back as July 
1849. This likewise was intended to be part of a triptych; 
the other subjects were to be — The Virgin planting a Lily 
and a Rose, and The Virgin in the House of JoJin. The 
central subject remained uncompleted, though moderately 
advanced ; the second was (I think) never done ; the third 
was eventually treated as a separate water-colour painting, 
one of his very best. The portrait of Rossetti himself, in 
Indian ink executed with pen or brush, is dated 20 September 
1855, and is now the property of Mr. Charles Fairfax Murray. 



WORK IN 1854-55-56. 189 

I think it superior to all other renderings, and, by Mr. Murray's 
obliging permission, it forms our frontispiece. The Dante s 
Dream, which was purchased by Miss Heaton of Leeds (who 
died at Christmas 1894), is the same subject as the large oil- 
picture now in the Walker Gallery of Liverpool, but not at 
all the same composition. 

The Tennyson designs, which were engraved on wood, and 
published in the Illustrated Tennyson in which Millais, Hunt, 
Mulready, and others, co-operated, have in the long run done 
not a little to sustain my brother's reputation with the public. 
At the time they gave him endless trouble, and small satisfac- 
tion. Not indeed that the invention or the mere designing 
of these works was troublesome to him. He took great pains 
with them, but, as what he wrought at was always something 
which informed and glowed in his mind, he was not more 
tribulated by these than by other drawings. It must be said 
also that himself only, and not Tennyson, was his guide. He 
drew just what he chose, taking from his author's text 
nothing more than a hint and an opportunity. The trouble 
came in with the engraver and the publisher. With some 
of the doings of the engraver — Dalziel, not Linton whom 
he found much more conformable to hrs notion — he was 
grievously disappointed. He probably exasperated Dalziel, 
and Dalziel certainly exasperated him. Blocks were re- 
worked upon, and proofs sent back with rigour. The 
publisher Mr. Moxon was a still severer affliction. He called 
and he wrote. Rossetti was not always up to time, though 
he tried his best to be so. In other instances he was up to 
time, but his engraver was not up to his mark. I believe that 
poor Moxon suffered much, and soon afterwards he died ; 
but I do not lay any real blame upon my brother, who 
worked strenuously and well. As to our great poet Tennyson 
— who also ought to have counted for something in the whole 
affair- — I gather that he really liked Rossetti's designs when 
he saw them, and he was not without a perceptible liking and 
regard for Rossetti himself, so far as he knew him (they had 
first met at Mr. Patmore's house in December 1849); but 



190 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the illustration of St. Cecilia puzzled him not a little, and he 
had to give up the problem of what it had to do with his 
verses. If I may be allowed to express my opinion of so 
great a man as Tennyson — whom I met on several occasions, 
and who honoured me by much freedom of converse — I 
should say that he had not any particular insight into matters 
of pictorial art as such, although he appreciated and prized 
the art as one of the forms in which the mind of man 
expresses beautiful ideas. I did not observe him to be at all 
a " connoisseur." Rossetti put this affair of the wood-blocks 
in entertaining terms in a letter to Mr. Bell Scott dated 
February 1857 : — 

" I have designed five blocks for Tennyson, some of which are 
still cutting and maiming. It is a thankless task. After a fortnight's 
work my block goes to the engraver, like Agag delicately, and is 
hewn to pieces before the Lord Harry. 

" ADDRESS TO THE DALZIEL BROTHERS. 

"O Woodman, spare that block, 
Oh gash not anyhow ! 
It took ten days by clock; 
I'd fain protect it now. 

" Chorus — Wild Laughter from Dalziel's Workshop." 

As I am here speaking of Tennyson, I take occasion to 
mention two sketches of him which my brother made ; not 
of superior import as works of art, yet from all points of view 
highly interesting. It was on 27 September 1855 that the 
Brownings, being then for a while in London, invited two or 
three friends to the house they were occupying, 13 Dorset 
Street, to meet Tennyson, who had undertaken to read aloud 
his poem of Maud, recently published. The audience was a 
small one, the privilege accorded to each individual all the 
higher : Mr. and Mrs. Browning, Miss Browning, my brother, 
and myself, and I think there was one more — either Madox 
Brown, or else Hunt or Woolner. The latter had returned to 
London from Australia in the autumn of 1854. Tennyson, 



WORK IN 1854-55-56. IQI 

seated on a sofa in a characteristic attitude, and holding the 
volume near his eyes (for he was decidedly short-sighted, 
though one would hardly think so from his descriptive poems), 
read Maud right through. My brother made two pen-and-ink 
sketches of him, and gave one of them to Browning. So far 
as I remember, the Poet Laureate neither saw what Dante 
was doing, nor knew of it afterwards. His deep grand voice, 
with slightly chaunting intonation, was a noble vehicle for 
the perusal of mighty verse. On it rolled, sonorous and 
emotional. Rossetti, according to Mr. Hall Caine, spoke of 
the incident in these terms : " I once heard Tennyson read 
Maud; and, whilst the fiery passages were delivered with a 
voice and vehemence which he alone of living men can 
compass, the softer passages and the songs made the tears 
course down his cheeks." I remember that on a later occa- 
sion Tennyson told me that he knew no one so well-fitted 
as himself for reading Milton aloud ; as he had a deep chest 
and long-drawn breath, and could finish the weighty periods 
of many lines together without a second inhalation. After 
Tennyson and Maud came Browning and Fra Lippo Lippi 
— read with as much of sprightly variation as there was in 
Tennyson of sustained continuity. Truly a night of the 
gods, not to be remembered without pride and pang. 

The Seed of David was an important matter in my brother's 
professional life. The Cathedral at Llandaff was in 1856 
undergoing a complete restoration. One of the Architects 
employed was Mr. John P. Seddon, who had already become, 
and always continued, a very steady friend to Rossetti, alert 
in promoting his interests whenever he could. A painting 
was wanting for the reredos of the renewed Cathedral ; and 
Mr. John Seddon, seconded by his elder brother Thomas the 
painter, bethought himself of Rossetti. Mr. Thomas Seddon 
had lately been abroad in the East with Mr. Holman Hunt, 
and had painted, among other things, an admirably faithful 
view of Jerusalem, which is now in the National Gallery, 
consigned thither by a public subscription in which my brother 
bore an active part. This subscription took place after the 



192 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

melancholy death of Mr. Seddon in Cairo, to which city he 
had gone in the autumn of 1856. There he died of dysentery 
very soon after his arrival, and a life full of brightness, and 
a career full of high promise, were suddenly cut short at the 
early age of thirty-five. In March 1856, prior to starting for 
Egypt, Mr. Thomas Seddon brought round to Rossetti's 
studio a Member of Parliament connected with Llandaff, Mr. 
Henry Austin Bruce (the late Lord Aberdare) ; and it was 
agreed that my brother should undertake the painting of the 
reredos for a sum of ^400. The subject — named by himself 
The Seed of David, though other titles have often been applied 
to it — had to take the form of a triptych. In the centre is 
the Infant Christ adored by a Shepherd and a King ; on one 
side His ancestor the shepherd David standing forth to battle 
with Goliath ; on the other side, the same ancestor as King 
harping to the glory of Jehovah. The work was completed 
in 1864, and continues to occupy its place in the Cathedral. 

The water-colours of The Blue Closet, The Wedding of St. 
George, and The Tune of Seven Towers, bring us into a 
different relation of life and work. They may be referred 
to that phase of Rossetti's painting which more especially 
fostered his connexion with certain young men — now of 
world-wide fame — at Oxford University, and which led to 
his own pictorial experiments in Oxford. One of these 
young men, William Morris, took from Rossetti, as titles for 
poems, the first and the third of these titles for pictures : 
the poems however are not founded on the pictures in any 
material degree. Both pictures and poems are pure phantasies, 
and independent phantasies. 

To some eyes Rossetti's chivalric-romantic inventions are 
mere knell-echoes of chivalry, or mere fleeting suggestions of 
romance. It is interesting to observe what was one quarter 
in which they were very differently construed. There was 
a deeply devout Methodist, James Smetham, who was also a 
painter. Painting was his profession and his enjoyment ; 
religion was his life. He produced many works, not of large 
dimension, full of fine threads of imagination, and of refined 



OXFORD MEN AND WORK. 1 93 

though not powerful art. He is at present better known by 
his remarkable Letters, published in 1892. He appears to 
have seen something of Rossetti in 1 843, at Cary's Academy ; 
again after 1851 ; and more especially from 1863 through all 
the ensuing years, until his own mental and physical break- 
down, owing to overstrained religious notions, withdrew him 
from all society. This, expressed in a letter of December 
1865, is what he thought of Rossetti's works of the class 
referred to : — 

" Your St. Georges and Sir Galahads are almost the only modern 
pictures of heroes that reach the Christian ideal, in my judgment, as 
to expression. Not to be invidious in naming artists, the modern 
knight is a proud, vain, truculent rascal. Yours are ' renewed in the 
spirit of their minds ' — couldn't do a mean or wrong thing — fear 
nothing and nobody ; but would not hurt a fly or strike an un- 
necessary blow. So I greatly esteem and respect them." 

An earlier letter, September i860, relates in detail to the 
water-colour lately mentioned of The Wedding of St. George : — 

"One of the grandest things, like a golden dim dream. Love 
' credulous all gold,' gold armour, a sense of secret enclosure in 
'palace-chambers far apart ' ; but quaint chambers in quaint palaces, 
where angels creep in through sliding-panel doors, and stand behind 
rows of flowers, drumming on golden bells, with wings crimson and 
green. There was also a queer remnant of a dragon's head which 
he had brought up in a box." 

As to writing, there was not in these years anything of 
such importance as to claim record here. Dante Rossetti 
adhered faithfully to his resolve that he would for the present 
be a painter and not a poet. 



XX. 

OXFORD MEN AND WORK—BURNE-JONES, MORRIS, 
SWINBURNE. 

The circle of Rossetti's intimacies had gradually changed, 
and by the middle of 1856 a new and stimulating environ- 
VOL. 1. 13 



194 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

ment was his. I will go back upon my steps a little, prior 
to going forward again. 

As friends towards the year 1847 I specified the Heimanns, 
Munro, Major Calder Campbell, and Bell Scott. Then came 
Madox Brown, Hunt, and Millais ; and, in the train of the 
last two, the other Praeraphaelites — Collinson, Woolner, and 
Stephens, along with Deverell and the Tuppers, or more 
especially John L. Tupper. There were also — William 
North; James Hannay; the Seddons, with the portrait-painter 
Lowes Dickinson, and the glass-painter John R. Clayton ; the 
Howitts and Miss Barbara Leigh Smith (Mrs. Bodichon) ; 
the Patmores, along with the Orme family (Mrs. Orme being 
sister to Mrs. Patmore), and the Irish poet William Ailing- 
ham ; the painters George Price Boyce and Arthur Hughes ; 
and the Brownings. Then came Ruskin and his connexion — 
including the Working Men's College, in which my brother 
took a drawing-class for two or three years, ending towards 
the close of 1858. Madox Brown then conducted it for 
a while ; yet Rossetti's link with the College was not 
entirely broken, and he was still doing something there in 
February 1862. 

Some of these were now dead : Deverell, North, and 
Thomas Seddon. Major Campbell and the first Mrs. Patmore 
did not long survive. Others, for one reason or another, had 
passed wholly or chiefly out of my brother's ken — Millais, 
Collinson, and the hospitable Orme family. Hannay, the 
brilliant novelist, writer, and talker, was now or soon after- 
wards settled in Edinburgh, with his beautiful and admirable 
wife (highly valued by Rossetti), and his young family. The 
Brownings were mostly in Florence, John Seddon in Wales, 
Allingham in Ireland, and Scott in Newcastle. Hunt, owing 
to his absences in the East and other circumstances, was not 
very often seen ; nor yet the Heimanns, Stephens, Tupper, 
Dickinson, Clayton, the Howitts, Miss Barbara Smith, or 
Patmore. There remained Madox Brown and Ruskin con- 
stantly but separately ; Munro, Woolner, and Boyce, pretty 
frequently. Of course there were others as well, but hardly 



OXFORD MEN AND WORK. 195 

any who counted as more than casual and pleasant acquaint- 
ances. Robert Brought, Charles Bagot Cayley, Whitley 
Stokes, and George Augustus Sala, were among these. 

The first mention which I find of Burne-Jones — the Sir 
Edward Burne-Jones of our present day — is in a letter from 
my brother to Brown, dated 6 June 1856. This young 
Oxford student — a Birmingham man destined for the Church, 
but with a strong bias towards art, which found vent at this 
time in romantic pen-and-ink designs of remarkable richness 
and quality — had conceived a high idea of Rossetti's powers. 
He called upon him, showed a design or two, and was forth- 
with recognized by Rossetti — with an instinctive power, in 
which he had few rivals, of seeing at a glance what is 
intrinsically excellent, as well as what is predestined to remain 
second-rate — as a born artist of quite exceptional faculty, and 
capable of doing consummate work. He urged Mr. Jones to 
become a professional painter. Jones obeyed .the external, 
and also the internal, monitor, and the world is the richer for 
his decision. 

Through Burne-Jones my brother soon came to know 
William Morris, and soon afterwards — but this I think was 
only in Oxford — Algernon Charles Swinburne. It is a 
natural temptation to say something in detail about these 
three most highly distinguished men — their looks in youth, 
their character, demeanour, and attainments. I shall however 
forbear. Their personality, along with their work, forms part 
of the annals of England, and indeed of Europe, in the 
nineteenth century, and my hand might prove infirm to limn 
them as they were and are. 

Prior to his knowledge of Burne-Jones, my brother had 
already been invited to take some part in art-work in Oxford. 
In 1855 the Oxford Museum was in course of erection, much 
under the influence of Mr. Ruskin, and his theories in archi- 
tecture and decoration ; and the architect, Mr. Benjamin 
Woodward, in July 1855, asked Rossetti to do some of the 
designing-work in connexion with it. Mr. Woodward was 
an Irishman, of excellent ability and highly refined taste. 



196 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

He was the very reverse of what Irishmen are currently 
assumed to be, and was (without any exception, unless it be 
that of Mr. Cayley, the translator of Dante, Petrarca, and 
Homer) the most modest, retiring, and shyly taciturn man 
of noticeable talent whom it has ever been my fortune to 
meet. He was of handsome and rather stately presence, 
eminently gentle and courteous. His health was poor, and 
he died in 1861, when he had barely attained middle age. 
Among other edifices, he built a very elegant Insurance- 
office, in Venetian Gothic, almost opposite my brother's 
Chambers in Chatham Place. It has long been demolished, 
and London contains perhaps nothing equal to it in its own 
way. I do not think that my brother did anything for the 
Oxford Museum, to which some of his friends contributed 
statues— Woolner being the sculptor of Lord Bacon, Munro 
of Galileo, and John Tupper of Linnaeus, a work of observably 
faithful naturalism. Rossetti however soon undertook some 
work for another Oxford structure with which Mr. Woodward 
was concerned, the Union Debating-rooms. The proposal 
was Rossetti's own. He had accompanied Mr. Woodward to 
the building at the outset of the Long Vacation of 1857, and 
he thought the bays of the Debating-room would be suitable 
for wall-paintings, and suggested that they should be covered 
with tempera-pictures from the Romance of King Arthur. 
Thfs was not a specially appropriate theme, but Rossetti had 
not at that time any very clear notion of the purpose which 
the room was to serve. Malory's Morte (T Arthur is a book to 
which, so far as memory serves me, he had not paid any 
marked attention in earlier years. Perhaps Mr. Morris, rather 
than his self-directed readings, had impressed its interest upon 
him, and Morris, at the same time as Rossetti, offered to 
paint something in the Union Room. At any rate my 
brother was now in a vigorously Arthurian mood, which 
lasted some years, and never left him entirely. 

Mr. (Lord) Bowen was then the President of the Union, 
and took an active part in bringing the project to bear. 
Rossetti gave his work gratis, lasting for several months, 



OXFORD MEN AND WORK. 197 

beginning in that Long Vacation, and so did the other 
artists who co-operated with him ; but all costs, including 
travelling expenses and the living of the artists (or of those 
who were not Oxford residents), were borne by the Society ; 
and I have understood that — as the young men made them- 
selves much at their ease — these charges finally amounted to 
a heavy sum, more very possibly than would have been 
demanded and paid as mere commissions for painting. 

Rossetti's work in the Union Building was done after he 
had contributed something to a monthly publication, The 
Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, in which Morris was a 
leading writer. This serial, under the editorship of the Rev. 
William Fulford, was started in January 1856, and lasted a 
year. Towards the summer of 1856 Rossetti published here 
The Burden of Nineveh, and The Staff and Scrip ; he also 
re-printed The Blessed Damozel, slightly altered from the 
form which it bore in The Germ. Most readers may agree 
with me in thinking that all these three poems are among 
the very best that Rossetti ever produced. The Burden of 
Nineveh was begun, and probably completed, in the autumn 
of 1850; The Staff and Scrip may date in 1852. The 
Nineveh struck Ruskin most forcibly, and he wrote the 
following letter : — 

" Dear Rossetti, — 

" I am wild to know who is the author of The Burden of 
Nineveh, in No. 8 of Oxford and Cambridge. It is glorious. . 
Please find out for me, and see if I can get acquainted with him." 

The uncertainty here expressed appears, from the con- 
cluding phrase, to be genuine, but it was hardly needful. 
Rossetti must of course have written back that he was the 
author ; and I fancy that a very large " Bravo ! " which forms 
the commencement of another letter from Mr. Ruskin may 
be the response to this avowal. The word is shaped out of 
a series of notes of admiration. 

For the painting-work at the Union Rossetti associated 
several young painters with himself besides Morris — Burne- 



198 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Jones, Arthur Hughes, Valentine Prinsep (whom he got to 
know about this time, visiting at the pleasant and fashionable 
residence of his parents, Little Holland House), Spencer 
Stanhope, and J. Hungerford Pollen. He asked Bell Scott 
to join, but this did not take effect. Munro carved in stone, 
from a design by Rossetti, the bas-relief of the tympanum, 
King Arthur and the Round Table. Rossetti undertook a 
large subject, Sir Launcelot before the Shrine of the Sangrael ; 
and, at a later date, a second, Sir Galahad receiving the 
Sangrael. Some good work was done in the room, and some 
other work which, without being exactly good, was at least 
interesting and noticeable ; but the whole affair ended in 
material failure. Not one of these artists knew much — 
hardly one of them anything — about wall-painting. They 
worked with reckless self-confidence, and one might almost 
say upon a mere system of " happy-go-lucky." The walls 
were new, and not properly prepared — not even flattened. 
The tempera-process adopted was little more than water- 
colour painting, and of course the pictures flaked off — be- 
coming a phantom, and then a wreck. After a while things 
did not go entirely smooth with the Union Committee. Most 
of the pictures — including the two by Rossetti — were not 
brought to completion. In 1869 Mr. Thursfield renewed 
negociations. They were entertained with some good-will, 
but came to nothing. Before this, a local painter had been 
called in, and tried his hand. That also proved to be in 
vain ; and for many years past the painted surface of the 
Union walls has been a confused hybrid between a smudge 
and a blank. 

There is a letter from my brother to Madox Brown, which 
forecasts one of the morals of this enterprise. He says that 
he is doing the work in a more painstaking method than he 
had anticipated. " It is very jolly work in itself, but really 
one is mad to do such things." 

If I am not mistaken, it was while Rossetti was painting in 
the Union room that an under-graduate, looking equally 
youthful and brilliant, came forward, and was introduced to 



OXFORD MEN AND WORK. 199 

the painter, or possibly introduced himself. This was 
Algernon Charles Swinburne. So my brother's sojourn in 
Oxford had at least one good result — that of bringing him 
into personal contact, and soon into very intimate friendship, 
with the greatest figure in our poetical literature since the 
advent of Tennyson and of Browning. Mr. Swinburne 
dedicated to him his first volume, The Queen Mother, and 
Rosamund ; Mr. Morris the like with The Defence of Guenevere, 
and other Poems. In fact Rossetti was now in the position of 
what the French term a Chef d 'E 'cole. He had not only borne 
a leading part in founding and guiding the Praeraphaelite 
movement, but he had formed a totally different group of 
believing admirers in the very diverse centre of Oxford 
University. It has been stated that Rossetti called Mr. 
Morris " the greatest literary identity of our time," and Mr. 
Swinburne " highest in inexhaustible splendour of execution." 
I do not know where these expressions occur ; but can 
believe that they intimate exactly, or pretty nearly, what he 
felt on the subject. 

Another incident of importance took place in Oxford. 1 
give some details which I find in Mr. Scott's book, and 
I regard them as correct. The Union artists, or some of 
them, went to the Oxford Theatre one evening, and saw, in 
the front box above them, a very youthful lady whose aspect 
fascinated them all. My brother was the first to observe her. 
Her face was at once tragic, mystic, passionate, calm, 
beautiful, and gracious — a face for a sculptor, and a face for 
a painter — a face solitary in England, and not at all like that 
of an Englishwoman, but rather of an Ionian Greek. It was 
not a face for that large class of English people who only 
take to the " pretty," and not to the beautiful or superb. 
Her complexion was dark and pale, her eyes a deep pene- 
trating grey, her massive wealth of hair gorgeously rippled, 
and tending to black, yet not without some deep-sunken 
glow. Soon she was traced to be Miss Burden, daughter of 
a business-man in the University-city. My brother obtained 
the privilege of painting from her, and several of his paintings 



200 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

and designs in Oxford bear trace of her countenance. In later 
years hers was the ideal face which speaks to you out of very 
many of his principal works. Others among the Oxford 
band of painters secured the like privilege ; and soon Miss 
Burden became Mrs. William Morris. If Rossetti had done 
nothing else in painting (and some people seem to suppose, 
most erroneously, that he did little else) except the ideal, and 
also very real, transcription of this unique type of female 
beauty, he might still, on that ground alone, survive in the 
chronicles of the art. 

In 1857 a semi-public exhibition, which came to be 
termed " the Prasraphaelite Exhibition," was got up at No. 4 
Russell Place, Fitzroy Square (now embodied in Charlotte 
Street). My brother contributed to it the water-colours of 
Dante s Dream, Dante drawing an Angel in Memory of 
Beatrice, Mary Nazarene (which is I suppose the Annunciation 
water-colour previously mentioned), and The Blue Closet ; 
along with Hesterna Rosa, and The Magdalene at the Door 
of Simon the PJiarisee — being presumably the pen-and-ink 
designs — and photographs of the Tennyson designs, taken 
before the engraving process. This small display, by himself 
and his colleagues, excited a considerable amount of atten- 
tion, more among those critics and visitors who were well- 
disposed towards the school than among those who were 
hostile. It served to confirm the impression that something 
was still going on in the country very different from what 
could be seen in the ordinary picture-shows. Other con- 
tributors were Messrs. Millais, Hunt, Brown, Hughes, Inch- 
bold, Collins, Brett, William Davis, and Windus, with the 
late Thomas Seddon. 

Miss Siddal's health continued a subject of great anxiety 
in these years, and she repaired to' one or another health- 
resort from time to time — Dante Rossetti joining her there. 
In one instance they were in Bath (I think towards the end 
of 1856) ; in a second instance, 1857-8, at Matlock, where 
they made a stay of several months, getting on towards a 
year. In February 1857 there was a scheme of a sort of 



OXFORD MEN AND WORK. 201 

joint establishment, or " College," for various artists. Burne- 
Jones and Morris entered into the project, and at least one 
other painter was proposed, besides Rossetti, who was under 
the impression that, before the plan could take actual effect, 
he and Lizzie would be married. He found however, on 
speaking to her, that she was decidedly indisposed to enter 
into any plan which would domicile her in the same place 
with the third painter here referred to ; and Rossetti himself, 
writing to Madox Brown, said — " I do not think he has lately 
acted as a friend towards me in her regard." These are 
circumstances which I need not speak of further, and indeed 
they are not clearly within my knowledge or recollection. 
The project never came to anything ; nor was it perchance, 
in itself, a very feasible one. 

Those readers who have perused Mr. Bell Scott's book 
with diligence will have observed in it a letter from Mr. 
Holman Hunt written within a few days after the close of 
my brother's life. It contains the following passage :— 

" Rossetti's death is ever in my mind. ... I had long ago for- 
given him, and forgotten the offence, which in fact, taken altogether, 
worked me good rather than harm. Indeed, I had intended in 
recent times to call upon him. . . . Our talk over the past is 
deferred until our meeting in the Elysian Fields, when ... we may 
talk over back history as having nothing in it not atoned for and 
wiped out long ago, and as having value only as experience which 
has done its work in making us both wiser and better." 

I understand perfectly well what it is that Mr. Hunt terms 
" the offence," but will not dwell upon any details ; only 
remarking that, if my reader chooses to ask the old question 
" Who was the woman ? " he will not be far wrong, though 
his query may chance to remain for ever unanswered. She 
was not any person whose name occurs in these pages. The 
incident belongs to the year 1857. It behoves me to add 
that Mr. Hunt was wholly blameless in this matter ; not so my 
brother, who was properly, though I will not say very deeply, 
censurable. This transaction left no trace in his after career. 



202 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

XXI. 

WORK IN 1858-59. 

The tale of work in these years is not very extensive ; 
but naturally some things were going on which have been 
previously mentioned — more especially the Triptych for 
LlandafT Cathedral. There were — the pen-and-ink design 
of Hamlet and Ophelia ; the water-colour Mary in the House 
of John ; Salutatio Beatricis, representing Dante meeting 
Beatrice in Florence, and in the Garden of Eden, painted in 
oil in a week on a door in Mr. Morris's residence, The Red 
House, Upton, near Bexley Heath, Woolwich ; a water-colour, 
A Christmas Carol, in which a lady is shown chaunting as her 
hair is combed out ; and a small oil-picture, Bocca Baciata. 
Some other examples can be here passed over ; though I 
might specify the very beautiful head, Indian ink, of Mrs. 
Morris, before her marriage, entitled Queen Guenevere, and 
now in the Dublin National Gallery. 

" Bocca Baciata " is a phrase occurring in Boccaccio, 
meaning " kissed mouth," or " a mouth that has been kissed." 
This picture, a very complete and elegant specimen of the 
skill which Rossetti had by this time, the autumn of 1859, 
attained in the painting-art, is a bust fancy-portrait of a 
woman, with a number of marigolds. The sitter was the 
one whom Mr. Bell Scott describes in the following terms : — 

" The paradoxical conclusion that women and flowers were the 
only objects worth painting was brought about by the appearance 
of other ladies besides Miss Siddal coming within his [Rossetti's] 
orbit. Among these the most important was one who must have 
had some overpowering attractions for him, although I never could 
see what they were. He met her in the Strand. She was cracking 
nuts with her teeth, and throwing the shells about. Seeing Rossetti 
staring at her, she threw some at him. Delighted with this brilliant 
naivete, he forthwith accosted her, and carried her off to sit to him 
for her portrait." 

I knew this person extremely well, and shall call her Mrs. 



WORK IN 1858-59. 203 

H- , which was the correct initial at, or soon after, the time 

when my brother first met her. I cannot recollect ever 
hearing anything about the nuts, but do not contest Mr. 
Scott's statement on that point. I do contest the allegation 
that my brother concluded that " women and flowers were the 
only objects worth painting," and several of his works, executed 
later than 1859, are there to confute it. That he often did 
paint beautiful women with floral adjuncts is however quite 
true. The gentlemen who commissioned or purchased his 
pictures are chiefly responsible for this result ; as he, on the 
contrary, would in several instances have preferred to carry 
out as paintings some of his more important designs, includ- 
ing sometimes numerous figures of both sexes. If Mr. Scott 

" never could see " what were the attractions of Mrs. H , 

his eyesight must have differed from that of many other 
people. She was a pre-eminently fine woman, with regular 
and sweet features, and a mass of the most lovely blonde hair 
— light-golden or "harvest yellow." Bocca Baciata, which is 
a most faithful portrait of her, might speak for itself. If 

Mr. Scott meant not so much to deny that Mrs. H was 

" fair to see," but rather to intimate that she had no charm 
of breeding, education, or intellect, he was right enough. 
Another lady of whom my brother saw a great deal in 1859, 
and for some little while after, was Mrs. Crabb, known as an 
actress by the name of Miss Herbert. He greatly admired 
her refined and stately classical face, was pleased with her 
company, and got her to favour him with sittings in various 
instances. 

In the way of verse, I think Love's Nocturn and The Song 
of the Bower belong to 1859 — two lyrics of passion, and in 
the former case of fancy as well, which stand at about the 
summit of Rossetti's lyrical performance. TJie Song of the 
Bower I regard as relating to Miss Siddal. Circumstances 
had kept him more apart from her than had been the case 
in earlier years, and he gave voice to his feelings in this poem. 
So at least I regard it. 

In 1858 Rossetti and some other artists, along with a few 



204 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

amateurs or outsiders (myself one of them), promoted the 
formation of a body called the Hogarth Club — quite a differ- 
ent body from the one which now bears the same name. 
One object was to hold exhibitions of works by members. 
These exhibitions, being visited by card of admission, and 
thus not strictly public, were convenient to such members as 
did not want to run counter to a rule of the Royal Academy 
whereby any works previously exhibited in public are ex- 
cluded from the Academy shows. The first meeting of the 
Club was in July 1858, at No. 178 Piccadilly; later on the 
meetings were at No. 6 Waterloo Place, and the Club con- 
tinued until April 1861. There were two or three exhibi- 
tions, to which my brother contributed. He was not much 
contented with these displays, being of opinion that some 
of the artists elected into the Club, and sending works of 
their own, were not partakers in the pictorial aims, nor in 
harmony with the style, of himself and his leading associ- 
ates, such as Madox Brown and Burne-Jones. I hardly 
know now why the Club was dissolved, or allowed to drop. 
Perhaps its chief promoters found that it did not fully answer 
their expectations, and that the endeavour to "keep things 
coins " cost them more trouble than it was worth. 



XXII. 
MARRIAGE. 

My brother, as I said before, was in love with Miss Siddal as 
far back as 1850, and soon after that year there had been 
a definite engagement between them. Nevertheless we have 
now come up to the year i860, and they remained as yet 
unmarried. There were two principal reasons for this delay. 
First and foremost came her deplorable ill-health, which was 
often such as to prevent either of them from entertaining the 
idea of matrimony at a time when other circumstances would 
have been propitious to it. She looked delicate, and to a 
skilled eye probably very ill, but had not in the least degree 



MARRIAGE. 205 

lost her beauty, nor even her comeliness. Second, his money- 
position, though by no means so bad orjwith so little outlook 
as that of many another young painter, continued for some 
while precarious ; his receipts small, his habits, if not exactly 
extravagant, unthrifty to the extent of improvidence, his 
purse often empty, and needing to be replenished by some 
expedient or other apart from that of the regular day's work. 
A pawnbroker was a frequent resource — necessarily a very 
scanty one, and ultimately on the losing side. Besides all 
this, it may be true that, when a moment came for making 
the plunge, he hesitated, temporized, and lost it ; and this 
would be only natural for a man immersed in pictorial and 
partly in literary projects and doings, to whom every hour 
was precious and bespoken, and who moreover — such was my 
brother's case — was very difficult to be stirred out of his daily 
groove of habit and association. 

By the beginning of i860 Rossetti's position, as regards 
commissions and consequent income, had improved ; though 
it was still far from being so prosperous and secure as it 
became some years later. The Triptych for Llandaff was 
going on. The arrangement with Mr. Ruskin had probably 
come to an end, or was proceeding languidly and intermit- 
tently. Mr. Boyce remained an occasional purchaser, and 
Colonel Gillum, who first came to my brother with an intro- 
duction from Browning, and who is now well known as a 
zealous philanthropist, the founder and director of a " Boys' 
Home." Mr. Leathart of Newcastle-on-Tyne took several 
specimens of Rossetti's art ; and more particularly Mr. 
Thomas E. Plint, of Leeds, a stockbroker and prominent 
Nonconformist leader. He began purchasing towards the 
end of 1856, and seemed ready to acquire, on terms more 
than tolerably liberal, almost anything that the painter had 
to offer him. I do not remember how he first came into this 
particular artistic circle. He bought from several so-called 
Praeraphaelite painters, and possibly Mr. Holman Hunt, as 
having exceptional hold on the religious world, may have 
come foremost. Rossetti, with his constant alertness for his 



206 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

friends' interests, got Mr. Plint to purchase from Madox 
Brown, Burne-Jones, and Morris. This professional advan- 
tage however was not to continue long, for in the course of 
i860 Mr. Plint died very suddenly, leaving Rossetti's affairs 
with his estate much embroiled, what between payments made 
and pictures due but not yet brought to completion. 

In April i860, and also in May, my brother was down 
with Lizzie at Hastings. The reader of these Family-letters 
will observe one addressed to me on 17 April, showing the 
very alarming condition of her health at that time, as well as 
the fact that he had then in his possession an ordinary license 
for marriage. A letter to Madox Brown, 22 April, is couched 
in still stronger terms, saying that Lizzie " has seemed ready 
to die daily, and more than once a day." At last however 
the moment arrived, and on 23 May they were married at 
St. Clement's Church, Hastings. It is pleasant to observe, 
from the note which Rossetti addressed to Brown on this 
very day, that he had beforehand paid his bride the little 
attention of getting her initials, E. E. R., stamped in cipher 
on the notepaper. 

They went away at once on a wedding-trip by Folkestone 
and Boulogne to Paris — a city which had in previous instances 
seemed favourable to Lizzie's health. At Boulogne Rossetti 
saw again his good old friends the Maenzas, and his bride 
viewed them both, but more especially Signor Maenza, with 
great predilection. Her constitution rallied to some extent, 
and they stayed in Paris until near the close of June, my 
brother continuing there to do something in the way of his 
profession. His ideas on matters of art were now considerably 
different from what they had been when he visited Paris with 
Holman Hunt in 1849. He had shed the prejudices — a 
compound between the juvenile, the half-informed, the wilful, 
and the humoursome — of P.R.B'ism, and no longer scampered 
through the Louvre until he found some picture of the less 
fully matured period of art which hit his fancy. In i860 he 
pronounced the gorgeous Paul Veronese of The Marriage in 
Cana to be " the greatest picture in the world." This again, 



MARRIAGE. 207 

if free from clear perversity, was rash for a pictorial student 
and practitioner whose " world " of art consisted only of 
London, Paris, and Belgium, to the exclusion of all those 
masterpieces of which one knows nothing solid until one 
has been elsewhere — more especially in Italy. And later on, 
1 87 1, he had got to think Veronese (and also Tintoret) 
" simply detestable without their colour and handling " ; but, 
as the colour and handling are in the Marriage of Cana 
picture, he must have retained a very vivid admiration for 
that. 

As I have said, Rossetti did some amount of art-work in 
Paris. He brought into its present form the pen-and-ink 
design named How they met Themselves, and designed, if he 
did not partly paint, the subject of Dr. JoJinson and tJie 
MetJwdistical Young Ladies at the Mitre Tavern. As he 
was not a little superstitious, and sensitive to ill omens, I 
am somewhat surprised that he took up the former of these 
drawings. Here the lady — studied from Lizzie, and very 
like her — is represented swooning away as she encounters 
her own wraith — not to speak of her lover or husband, who 
grasps his sword on seeing the wraith of himself. To meet 
one's wraith is ominous of death, and to figure Lizzie as 
meeting her wraith might well have struck her bridegroom 
as uncanny in a high degree. In less than two years the 
weird was wofully fulfilled. 

From Paris the bride and bridegroom returned to the old 
quarters in London, 14 Chatham Place — enlarged later on 
by breaking through the wall of an adjoining house, and 
adding some apartments on the same floor. With this 
addition the domicile became compact, comfortable, sightly, 
and fully sufficient for all present wants. They also took 
for a while part of a house in Downshire Hill, Hampstead, 
where they were near the Madox Browns. This was princi- 
pally or w r holly with a view to Lizzie's health. 



208 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

XXIII. 

MARRIED LIFE. 

Mr. Bell Scott has expressed the opinion that Rossetti 
was not well adapted for married life. He terms marriage 
" an even way of life the most unlikely possible to suit his 
late development." By the phrase " his late development " 
Mr. Scott means apparently that Rossetti, not having in- 
dulged in any juvenile amours or entanglements, had in the 
process of years become more susceptible to influences of 
that character. On this point I have already had my say, 
and have made my reader aware that Rossetti was in love 
with his future wife as far back as his twenty-third year, 
and had deferred marriage for reasons all of them intelligible, 
and some cogent. I do not, however, dissent from Mr. 
Scott's opinion that my brother, at the age of thirty-two, 
was less likely to settle down into the ordinary habits of 
married life than many other men would have been. 

His poetical and artistic temperament, his devotion to the 
ideas and practice of an artist and poet, his now rooted 
bachelor-customs of working when he could or when he liked, 
of keeping any hours or no recognized hours, of living in 
chambers without a regular home-dinner, of seeing any people 
he chose just as they happened to come, most of them men, 
of eschewing the minor observances of society in the way of 
visiting and dressing, etc. — and in short his propensity for 
doing whatever he liked simply because he liked it, and 
without any self-accommodation to what other people might 
like instead — all this made it improbable that he would prove 
a complaisant or well-matching husband on the ordinary lines 
of complaisance. He was not what I should call " Bohemian " 
— he neither drank nor gambled nor betted nor smoked nor 
amused himself in any rough-and-ready manner ; but certainly 
he did not belong to the tribe of those decorous citizens whose 
highest ambition seems to be that they should demean them- 
selves the one like the other, and all in some conformity to 



MARRIED LIFE. 200, 

" the upper classes." Besides, he had long been inured to 
having things his own way, and to a certain ungrudgingly 
conceded leadership even among the men of genius who 
formed his inner circle. 'He might have modified Iago's 
phrase, and said, " For I am nothing if not dominant." It is 
to be remembered that his wife was perfectly accustomed to 
his habits, had much of tendency and feeling in the same 
direction as himself, and, from her constant and severe ill- 
health if from no other cause, was very little in the way of 
polite visiting or elegant sight-seeing. 

Two families she did very frequently visit with — the Madox 
Browns and the Morrises ; and I suppose in a minor degree 
the Burne-Joneses, for Mr. Jones had married (Miss Georgina 
Macdonald) very soon after my brother's wedding. The 
Macdonalds were a rather numerous family, all or most of 
whom were in some degree known to my brother, and were 
probably not unknown to his wife. Two of the sisters are now 
Mrs. Poynter, wife of the Director of the National Gallery, 
and Mrs. Kipling, mother of Mr. Rudyard Kipling. With 
the Brown and Morris families Mrs. Rossetti stayed every 
now and then along with her husband, and at some other 
times without him. The Ruskins they saw occasionally, but 
not so regularly as might have been expected. For one 
reason or another I happen to have witnessed very little of 
my brother's married life. We lived at opposite ends of the 
town — he by Blackfriars Bridge, and I, with my mother and 
sisters, near Regent's Park (166 Albany Street), and each of 
us had his separate unavoidable occupations. 

There is a pretty little letter from Mr. Ruskin, congratulating 
Dante and Lizzie on their marriage. It is dated 4 September 
i860, as he had been away at a prior date. I extract the 
postscript : — 

" I looked over all the book of sketches at Chatham Place yester- 
day [the book of sketches was a large handsome volume given to 
Rossetti by Lady Dalrymple, a most obliging friend of his, sister 
to Mrs. Prinsep. He inserted into its commodious leaves a great 

VOL. I. 14 



2IO DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

number of pencil and other drawings, many of which remained 
undisposed-of up to the date of his death. Mr. Ruskin, it is to be 
inferred, had called in Chatham Place on some day when the 
Rossettis were staying at their lodgings at Hampstead]. I think 
Ida should be very happy to see how much more beautifully, per- 
fectly, and tenderly, you draw when you are drawing her than when 
you draw anybody else. She cures you of all your worst faults when 
you only look at her." 

These drawings of Lizzie, very considerable in number from 
first to last, were made some before and some after marriage. 
There is a substantial measure of truth in what Mr. Ruskin 
said as to their quality, pure and exquisite in a high degree, 
as pitted against even the finest drawings which my brother 
made from other sitters at any period of his pictorial career. 

After allowing for the three married couples whom I have 
named, there was not, I think, any person whom Rossetti 
saw, during his wedded life, so constantly and so delightedly 
as Mr. Swinburne. This poet's first volume — the two dramas 
of The Queen MotJier and Rosamund — came out in the only 
completed year, 1861, of my brother's marriage. It did not 
create any particular stir, but Rossetti knew perfectly well 
what to think of the volume, and of its author and his future. 
Mr. Swinburne's brilliant intellect, his wide knowledge of 
poetry and astonishing memory in quotation, his enthusiasm 
for whatsoever he recognized as great, his fascinating audacity 
and pungency in talk, and the singular and ingenuous charm 
of his manner to any one whom he either liked or respected, 
made him the most welcome of comrades to Rossetti. For 
what this archimage of verse thought of Mrs. Rossetti I may 
refer back to a previous section, XVII. At this time my 
brother came also into habits of some intimacy with Mr. 
George Meredith the celebrated novelist, and with Mr. 
Frederick A. Sandys the painter — of whom Rossetti had' 
heard something in 1857, when Mr. Sandys published a 
caricature of Millais's picture Sir Isumbras at the Ford, 
containing figures of Millais himself, along with Hunt and 
Rossetti, but intended chiefly as a pasquinade against Ruskin, 



MARRIED LIFE. 2 1 I 

Another person who was often in Rossetti's apartments was 
Mr. James Anderson Rose, a solicitor and art-collector,- who 
continued on easy and pleasant terms with my brother for 
several years, though the latter eventually (whatever the 
cause) preferred to lose sight of him. Yet another was Mr. 
Alexander Gilchrist, author of The Life of Etty, who was at 
this time engaged in writing his most praiseworthy Life of 
Blake. For Gilchrist the feeling of Rossetti, who first met 
him in the spring of 1861 in relation to the Blake work, was 
one of genuine friendliness. He liked the writer and his 
writings, and had a high regard for his insight as a critic of 
art. Few of the events occurring at any time of his life seem 
to have affected Rossetti as a more staggering blow than the 
sudden death of Gilchrist from scarlet fever, 1 at the age of 
only thirty-three, on 30 November 1861. While his short 
and fierce illness lasted, Rossetti wrote to Mrs. Gilchrist 
offering that either himself or I would keep up the invalid's 
current literary work ; and he made another nearly similar 
offer immediately after Gilchrist's death. But soon a far 
crueller blow was to strike him. 

Let me repeat here, from The Life of Anne Gilchrist — her- 
self a noble-natured woman, whom my brother knew and 
appreciated from 1861 until his life closed in 1882 — a trait 
which does honour to a lady occasionally mentioned in my 
pages, the second Mrs. Madox Brown. It should be under- 
stood that scarlet fever was then raging in the Gilchrist 
household — not only Gilchrist himself, who succumbed, but 
also two of his children, who recovered, being dangerously 
attacked : — 

" In the tragedies of life there seem to be among our fellow- 
beings always one or two with a dash of heroism in their natures. 
Mrs. Madox Brown offered to come and help. Anne Gilchrist, even 
then, remembered that Mrs. Brown possessed children — a thought 
which made her decline the noble offer." 

1 Several letters from Rossetti, on this subject and others, are in the 
book Anne Gilchrist, Edited by Herbert H, Gilchrist. Unwin, 1887. 



212 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Married life cannot be exactly happy when one of the 
spouses is perpetually and grievously ill. Affectionate and 
tender it may be, but not happy ; indeed the very affection 
bars the possibility of happiness. I hardly think that at any 
time in her brief period of marriage was Lizzie Rossetti quite 
so alarmingly ill as she had been just before it commenced ; 
but health was irrecoverably gone, and sickness, more or less 
serious, was her constant portion. She was compelled — no 
doubt under medical advice — to take laudanum or some opiate 
continually, and stimulants alternated with opiates. On 
2 May 1861 she was confined of a stillborn female infant — 
Dr. Babington, the Head Physician of the Lying-in Hospital, 
being called in, as well as another doctor. Immediately before 
this occurrence Rossetti had written, " She has too much 
courage to be in the least downcast herself " ; and she rallied 
from the confinement rapidly enough. 

In the summer of 1 861 another of Rossetti's friends had 
passed away — Mrs. Wells, the sister of Mr. Boyce, and wife 
of the R.A. Portrait-painter. Pier age may have been under 
thirty. She was herself an exhibiting painter of exceptional 
talent, from which my brother and many more hoped much. 
He took a portrait of her as she lay in death ; and Gilchrist, 
so soon to follow her to the grave, wrote an obituary-notice 
of her, highly and deservedly eulogistic. 

A phrase in one of my brother's letters to Madox Brown, 
2 December 1861, may be worth observing : he professes to be 
"getting awfully fat and torpid." In early youth he was slim 
and rather attenuated. This had now for some while ceased 
to be the case ; and the phrase which he used, though ex- 
aggerated, was not repugnant to fact. After this date he 
was sometimes (as for instance in 1873) still fatter than then, 
but with marked variations from time to time. In his closing 
years he might be considered thin again. 



WORK IN 1 860-6 1. 213 



XXIV. 



WORK IN 1860-61— "THE EARLY ITALIAN POETS"— THE 
. MORRIS FIRM. 

At no period of his life was my brother more busily employed 
than during his brief term of marriage, May 1 860 to February 
1862. He was much engaged in painting, in a literary 
project, and in a general scheme of art-work. 

The death in i860 of the then principal purchaser of his 
paintings, Mr. Plint, has been previously mentioned. This, 
at the very outset of married life, was a most serious mis- 
fortune and embarrassment to him — and a sorrow as well, for 
he entertained a cordial liking for this liberal and estimable 
man. Mr. Plint had paid him in advance no less a sum than 
£714., for three pictures not yet completed, perhaps hardly 
begun ; and Rossetti had to execute and send in the works 
without so far neglecting other employment as to wrong 
surviving buyers, or to deprive himself and his wife of the 
means of subsistence from month to month. The details appear 
to some extent in his Family-letters. Some pictures probably 
were completed without any great delay, and my brother re- 
paid also a part of the purchase-money. In 1865 the whole 
of Mr. Flint's collection of art was sold off. It included five 
works by Rossetti : the small oil-picture named Burd Alane, 
and the water-colours of The Lovers (called also Carlisle Toiver), 
The Bower-garden, The Wedding of St. George, and Dr. Johnson 
with the Methodistical Young Ladies at the Mitre Tavern. 
Another small oil-picture of his had belonged to Mr. Plint — 
The Queen of Hearts (or Regina Cordiuni), being a portrait 
of Lizzie Rossetti ; but this, as the sale was determined upon 
very soon after Lizzie's death, was, out of consideration for 
the painter's feelings, withdrawn from the auction under some 
arrangement. There were also paintings by Turner, Etty, 
Burne-Jones, Madox Brown, Millais, Holman Hunt, Hughes, 
Wallis, Windus, Brett, Alfred Hunt, William Hunt, Lewis, 
Holland, Oakes, Hook, Edouard Frere, Leys, and various 
others. This seems a sufficiently tempting list ; but for some 



214 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

reason or other (possibly, but I cannot affirm it, there was 
a combination of picture-dealers inimical to the new school) 
the sale proved a very great failure — so far, at any rate, as 
pictures of the " Praeraphaelite " order were concerned. Scarcely 
any even tolerable prices were realized save by Rossetti's 
pictures, and for these the prices were much less than Mr. 
Plint had not extravagantly given. For years afterwards, or 
indeed for the remainder of his life, my brother mistrusted the 
chances of auction-sales, and did his best to shut out from 
them any works of his own. 

Among the productions of Rossetti in these two years were 
— the water-colour of Lucrezia Borgia (preparing a poison- 
draught) ; the finished oil-sketch of the old Magdalene 
subject ; the crowded pen-and-ink design of Cassandra 
(prophesying the death of Hector) ; The Annunciation, painted 
in oil on a pulpit in the Church of St. Martin-on-the-Hill, 
Scarborough ; a water-colour head of Mr. Swinburne, I suppose 
the most vigorous and finished record of his youth which 
posterity will have to cherish ; a red-chalk life-sized head of 
Ruskin ; the oil-picture Fair Rosamund; and an oil-picture 
named Dautis Amor, of symbolical character. The same 
design appears in a pen-and-ink drawing. There were also 
the two designs for Christina Rossetti's volume (published in 
1862) Goblin Market, and other Poems. The Magdalene 
stands very fully described in a letter which my brother in 
1865 addressed to the wife of the purchaser, Mr. Clabburn 
of Norwich. This is printed in the Pall Mall Gazette of 
16 January 1891. The Cassandra is one of the most important 
among all my brother's inventions. Many a time did he wish 
to set-to at painting it, but something always interfered — chiefly 
the constant run of commissions for pictures of a less exacting 
and less costly kind. It was certainly one of his lifelong re- 
grets that this subject remained only a design, and not a picture. 

The time had now come for Rossetti to appear before the 
public as author of a volume — The Early Italian Poets. I 
have already spoken at some length about this very interesting 
series of translations, the work almost entirely of his 



WORK IN 1 860-6 1. 215 

eighteenth to his twenty-second year ; and I will avow my 
belief that there was not in the United Kingdom another man 
who could have done them half as well — with half the insight 
into the poetic motives and character of the originals, or half 
the personal power of poetic transfusion, which he brought to 
the task. Self-reliant though he was when he made the 
translations, and still more so when he was preparing to 
publish them, and, by his innermost nature, immutably biassed 
in certain directions and not in others, he was nevertheless 
extremely ready to consult well-qualified friends as to this 
book, and to take some practical advantage of the advice 
which they might offer him. In this way he showed his MS. 
to Mr. Allingham, Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Patmore, Count Aurelio 
Saffi (then in Oxford, once the noble Triumvir of Rome along 
with Mazzini and Armellini), and no doubt to Mr. Swinburne 
and some others as well. To myself he committed the MS. 
of the Vita Nuova, asking me to introduce any change of 
diction, etc., which I might judge expedient. 

Ruskin liked the translations, but urged that crudities (and 
there must have been many in MSS. going back to that 
remote period of youth) should be removed. Patmore wrote 
a letter of so much generous elan, and so stringently ex- 
pressed, that I will not scruple to re-produce it here : — 

" 21 May 1861. 

" My dear Rossetti, 

" A thousand thanks for what I see at a glance is one of the 
very few really precious books in the English or any other language. 
It seems to me to be the first time that a translator has proved him- 
self, by his translations alone, to be a great poet. Your book is so 
exquisitely to my taste that I almost dread to read it — as one dreads 
other great enjoyments which will diminish with enjoyment. How 
I envy the iron muscle and the electric nerve which appears every- 
where in your poetic diction ! It would be absurd to wish you 
success after such intrinsic success as the book itself is. 

" Yours ever, 

" Coventry Patmore. 

" I am rejoiced to hear of your wife's health." 



2l6 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Mr. Ruskin's good-will to The Early Italian Poets was not 
confined to words. After another publisher had been con- 
sulted without definite upshot, the MS. was offered to 
Ruskin's publishers Messrs. Smith and Elder, and they 
agreed to undertake the risk, subject (it would seem) to an 
advance or guarantee of .£100 by Ruskin. The book came 
out in 1 86 1, and was extremely well received. I might even 
say it was received with general acclaim, so far as a work of 
poetical translation ever can be welcomed and applauded in 
England. By 1869 about 600 copies of it had sold ; and the 
profits covered the £100 of Mr. Ruskin, and a minute dole of 
less than £9 to Rossetti. A few copies, 64, still remained 
on hand. It has been stated that Mr. Ruskin subsidized 
Rossetti in bringing out not only The Early Italian Poets, 
but also the volume of original Poems, 1870. But this is quite 
erroneous. 

My brother had intended to produce some etchings to 
illustrate the volume. He made a graceful design of two 
lovers kissing, 1 which was engraved, and formed the founda- 
tion of his water-colour entitled TJie Rose-garden. Even as 
late as 18 June 1861 he thought of doing the etchings, 
and giving them in gratis if the publishers would not com- 
pensate him. At last this project was abandoned, and the 
book appeared without any designs. 

At some time — it may have been before 1861 — Rossetti 
showed a number of his original poems to Ruskin, with a 
direct view to the publication of some of them in the Corn hill 
Magazine, issued by Messrs. Smith and Elder, and then 
edited by Thackeray (the latter must have been known to 
my brother by sight, but I question whether they ever 
interchanged a word). Ruskin admired the poems to a large 
extent, but raised objections to one and another, and no 
magazine-publishing ensued. Rossetti however was still bent 

1 To my surprise, I lately saw, in an American journal, this design, 
modernized in costume, adopted to bedeck the advertisement of some 
tradesman for his "washing-powder" — a queer phase of metempsy- 
chosis. 



WORK IN 1 860-6 1. 217 

upon bringing the poems out ; and the volume of The Early 
Italian Poets contained an intimation that Dante at Verona, 
and other Poems, would shortly be printed. This also, as will 
soon be seen, came to nothing. 

It was, I believe, in i860 that an enterprise which has 
proved to be of no less than national importance was set on 
foot. I mean the foundation of the Decorative Firm which, 
known at first as " Morris, Marshall, Falkner, and Co.," is now 
named " Morris and Company." One may note it as rather 
curious that this Firm consisted of the same number of men, 
seven, as the Praeraphaelite Brotherhood. The Brotherhood 
introduced into painting something that might well be called 
a revolution, and the Firm introduced into decoration some- 
thing still more revolutionary for widespread and as yet 
permanent effect. Rossetti was prominent in both adventures. 

The seven members of the Firm — I will name them in 
what appears to me to be the approximate order of chei*' 
importance in bringing this scheme into working-order — 
were William Morris, Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, 
Philip Webb, Peter Paul Marshall, and Charles Falkner. 
Mr. Webb is an architect of much originality of view, and 
practical attainment and skill. He built, among other things, 
the Red House at Upton tenanted by Mr. Morris. He 
has also marked ability in designing for stained glass and 
other forms of decoration, especially in the way of animal 
life. Mr. Marshall was the first originator of the idea of 
such a Firm. He is an engineer (now for many years settled 
in Norwich), son-in-law to Mr. John Miller, the merchant and 
picture-collector in Liverpool, and is besides a capable painter 
who might, under differing circumstances, have passed out 
of the amateur into the professional stage of work. I believe 
Rossetti was the first person to whom he broached his idea ; 
he eagerly caught at it, and imparted it to others. Mr. 
Falkner, an Oxford Mathematician and close friend of Mr. 
Morris, took no part in the practical work of the Firm, but 
gave it his willing support ; and I suppose that he, like each 
of the others, put a modicum of money into it. What this 



218 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 

modicum was — in my brother's or in any case — I do not 
know. As to Rossetti, at any rate, I presume it to have been 
decidedly small. Mr. Morris was on a different footing in 
this respect. He ventured something very substantial, and, 
but for him, it may be safely said that the Firm would not 
have been constituted at all. They set up in the secluded 
but decorous quarters of Queen Square, Bloomsbury ; or I 
think, first of all, in Red Lion Square. 

They were all young men — the senior, Madox Brown, 
being aged thirty-nine in i860; and there was a deal of 
jollity among them. Indeed there was always jollity where 
Rossetti was present — not to speak of Morris and Brown, 
who were the heartiest of the hearty, or of any of the other 
members ; for nothing is more contrary to fact, or more 
absurd to the reminiscence of those who knew him in the 
old days, than the current notion that Rossetti was a vague 
and gloomy phantasist, combined of mysticism and self- 
opinion, who was always sunk in despondency, or fizzing 
with affectation, or airing some intangible ideal. I must 
apologize to his loved memory for even alluding to such 
a trumpery misconception. Winged was the jest and loud 
and contagious the laugh from his full lips. Had there been 
no one else to keep his colleagues in heart and humour, 
his own resources would have sufficed. To some of these 
highly distinguished colleagues it would be unjust to say 
that Rossetti was primus inter pares ; but certainly he was 
nidli secundus. Nature had endowed him in ample measure 
with one of her most precious secrets — that of dominance, 
leadership, and comradeship, each in its proper place. No 
more downright and no more unpretentious man existed 
within the four seas. How long his vigorous temperament 
continued to scintillate into high spirits we shall see as we 
proceed. There were flashes of it till the last. 

The more one reflects upon it, the more surprising it seems 
that three youths, almost boys, started, in great lightness of 
heart and disregard of externals, if also with a most resolute 
purpose at the core, so serious a movement as that of 



WORK IN 1 860-6 1. 219 

Praeraphaelitism ; and that, with some assistance from the 
same quarter, other youths — I mean more especially Morris 
and Jones — founded, in very much the same temper of mind, 
so vast a recasting and reform of decorative art as is 
identified with the name and the fortunes of " Morris, 
Marshall, Falkner, and Co." Clearly, without reality of genius, 
of insight, and of labour, neither of these enterprises would 
have made the least headway. A puff of wind, a treacherous 
sand-bank, a sunken reef, or a rock-bound coast — and more 
than enough of all these were at hand — would have made 
short work of the whole craft. 

Light or boisterous chaff among themselves, and something 
very like dictatorial irony towards customers, were the 
methods by which this singular commercial firm was con- 
ducted, and was turned, after a longish period of uncertain 
probation, into a flourishing success. There was no com- 
promise. Mr. Morris, as the managing partner, laid down 
the law, and all his clients had to bend or break. Frequent 
meetings — of the least business-like aspect of business, and 
yet thoroughly efficient, as the event proved — were held ; and 
the only designation for the undertaking which passed current 
with the partners or their intimates was " the Shop." From 
the first the Firm turrjed out whatever any one wanted in the 
way of decorative material — architectural adjuncts, furniture, 
tapestries, embroideries, stained glass, wall-papers, and what 
not. The goods were first-rate, the art and the workmanship 
excellent, the prices high. No concession was made to indi- 
vidual tastes or want of taste, no question of abatement was 
entertained. You could have the things such as the Firm 
chose that they should be, or you could do without them. 

A detailed history of the Firm of Morris, Marshall, 
Falkner, and Co., or Morris and Company, would by this 
time be an interesting thing ; but it is not my affair to 
write one, nor indeed have I any means of doing so, even if 
the inclination served. I must limit myself to a few particu- 
lars regarding my brother's work in this connexion. As I 
have before implied, he was not the leading spirit in the Firm. 



220 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Mr. Morris came much the foremost, not only by being 
constantly on the spot, to work, direct, and transact, but also 
by his abnormal and varied aptitude at all kinds of practical 
processes. Mr. Madox Brown had always taken a more than 
common interest in decorative art as applied to household- 
requirements ; and his activity, as well as that of Mr. Burne- 
Jones, in designing for stained glass and other such matters, 
far exceeded any that Rossetti was called upon to display. 
Mr. Webb must likewise have done a solid amount of work. 
Towards the beginning of 1865 an acquaintance of my 
brother, Mr. Warrington Taylor, was brought into the busi- 
ness as a manager and accountant. He did excellent service 
in keeping things straight and safe ; but this only lasted a 
few years, as he died young of consumption. He had very 
good perceptions in various matters of art, especially music. 

My brother was entitled to a certain proportional share in 
the profits of the partnership, and besides he was paid at a 
regulated rate for such designs as he produced. With few 
exceptions, these were for stained glass. For St. Martin's, 
Scarborough, he designed two lights — Adam and Eve in 
Paradise. There were also seven glass-cartoons of The 
Parable of the Vineyard (very able compositions, with plenty 
of dramatic character) ; six of St. George and the Dragon ; 
and The Last Judgment, nine subjects within a circle. At a 
later date, 1869, he drew The Sermon on the Plain, for a 
window in Christ Church, Albany Street, in memory of our 
Aunt Margaret Polidori. These are the only designs for the 
Morris firm (besides the pulpit-painting, previously specified, 
of The Annunciatioii) which appear to be known to me. 
There may perhaps be others in a set of glass-cartoons now 
in the possession of Mr. Theodore Watts. 

XXV. 
DEATH OF MRS. DANTE ROSSETTI. 

ROSSETTI'S married life lasted from 23 May i860 to 11 
February 1862. The essence of his wife's illness was, I 



DEATH OF MRS. DANTE ROSSETTI. 221 

apprehend, phthisis, with the accompaniment of a great deal 
of acute and wearing neuralgia. It was for the neuralgia that 
she had been medically authorized or directed to take frequent 
doses of laudanum. The phthisis had not as yet brought on 
any noticeable degree of emaciation ; but it was running its 
course, and he would have been a sanguine person who, at 
the beginning of [862, could anticipate for her more than 
some five or six years of life at the utmost. Though she was 
often kept within-doors by illness, her habits were not those 
of a recluse, and she frequently accompanied her husband to 
dinner at some public dining-room or other. She had very 
little of a housewifely turn. She often sat to him — and did 
this, only a few days before her last, for the figure of the 
Princess Sabra in the water-colour which is called either 
St. George and the Princess Sabra, or St. George and the 
Dragon. She is shown holding the knight's helmet, filled with 
water to lave the bloodstains of his recent conflict. This 
was the latest occasion on which Lizzie sat for any head. 

On 10 February 1862 Rossetti and his wife, with Mr. 
Swinburne, dined at the Sabloniere Hotel in Leicester Square. 
She was not less well than usual, and joined in the talk with 
animation. She returned with her husband to their home 
in Chatham Place. He went out again, and was back late. I 
will quote here the few words which I jotted down on the 
following day, as a memento for my own use. It is of the 
scantiest, but must serve for our present purpose : — 

"February 11. Death of poor Lizzie, Gabriel's wife. Coming 
home last night past it from the Working Men's College, he 
found her almost gone from the effects of laudanum; and, spite 
of the efforts of four doctors, she died towards 7! this morn- 
ing. [One of the doctors was Mr. John Marshall, at that time 
a Surgeon, finally M.D. He became Professor of Anatomy to the 
Royal Academy, and President of the Royal College of Surgeons. 
He was intimate with Madox Brown, and hence with Rossetti, who 
very frequently consulted him on his own account in after years.] 
I was called from Somerset House about 12^ [by Mrs. Birrell, 
the housekeeper of the Chambers 14 Chatham Place, who had 



222 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

been there during the entire duration of my brother's stay]. Brown, 
whom Gabriel had called on before 5 in the morning, was there 
[his residence was then near Highgate Rise], and told me the 
circumstances. Lizzie and Gabriel had dined at a Hotel with 
Swinburne that afternoon. The poor thing looks wonderfully calm 
now and beautiful. 

" ' Ed avea in se umilta. si verace 

Che parea che dicesse, Io sono in pace.' 1 

I could not but think of that all the time I looked at her, it is so 
exactly like." 

The only further particulars I find in any book regarding 
Mrs. Rossetti's death are given by Mr. Bell Scott, who must 
apparently have heard them from the widower. He simply 
says that Rossetti, after taking her back to Chatham Place, 
" advised her to go to bed " ; and " on his next and final 
home-coming he had to grope about for a light, and called to 
her without receiving a reply." 

Of course there was an inquest, of which I shall proceed to 
give the only newspaper account which I possess. It may 
come from the Daily News, but I am not sure. I do not 
think that any other newspaper account, in the least degree 
detailed, appeared — a fact which sufficiently shows that to the 
great bulk of the British public the name of Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti continued practically unknown at the beginning of 
1862. I was present at the inquest, but omitted to keep 
any record of it. My brother braced himself manfully to 

1 This couplet comes from Dante's Vita Nuova, the poem which relates 
his prevision of the death of Beatrice. In my brother's translation it is 

rendered thus : — 

"And with her was such very humbleness 
That she appeared to say, I am at peace." 

This subject had been already painted by Rossetti as a water-colour, and 
it forms the theme of his largest oil-picture, Dante's Dream, now in the 
Walker Art-gallery of Liverpool. In neither of these works was his wife 
represented as Beatrice. Mrs. Hannay sat in the first instance, and Mrs. 
Morris in the second. 



DEATH OF MRS. DANTE ROSSETTI. 223 

the painful effort of giving evidence ; and his deposition was 
followed (though not so shown in the newspaper) by those of 
Mr. Swinburne, and of Mrs. Birrell who testified to uniformly 
affectionate relations between the husband and wife. 
The following is the newspaper-paragraph : — 

"Death of a Lady from an Overdose of Laudanum. — On 
Thursday Mr. Payne held an inquest at Bridewell Hospital on the 
body of Eliza Eleanor Rosetti, aged twenty-nine, wife of Dante 
Gabriel Rosetti, Artist, of No. 14 Chatham Place, Blackfriars, who 
came to her death under very melancholy circumstances. Mr. 
Rosetti stated that on Monday afternoon, between six and seven 
o'clock, he and his wife went out in the carriage for the purpose of 
dining with a friend at the Sabloniere Hotel, Leicester Square [the 
term ' the carriage ' seems to suggest that my brother kept a carriage 
of his own, which was most assuredly not the fact]. When they had 
got about halfway there his wife appeared to be very drowsy, and 
he wished her to return. She objected to their doing so, and they 
proceeded to the Hotel, and dined there. They returned home at 
eight o'clock, when she appeared somewhat excited. He left home 
again at nine o'clock, his wife being then about to go to bed. On 
his return at half-past eleven o'clock he found his wife in bed, snoring 
loudly and utterly unconscious. She was in the habit of taking 
laudanum, and he had known her take as much as 100 drops 
at a time, and he thought she had been taking it before they 
went out. He found a phial on a table at the bedside, which had 
contained laudanum, but it was then empty. A doctor was sent 
for, and promptly attended. She had expressed no wish to die, but 
quite the reverse. Indeed she contemplated going out of town in 
a day or two, and had ordered a new mantle which she intended 
wearing on the occasion. He believed she took the laudanum to 
soothe her nerves. She could not sleep or take food unless she 
used it. — Mr. Hutchinson, of Bridge Street, Blackfriars, said he had 
attended the deceased in her confinement in April with a stillborn 
child. He saw her on Monday night at half-past eleven o'clock, 
and found her in a comatose state. He tried to rouse her, but could 
not, and then tried the stomach-pump without avail. He injected 
several quarts of water into the stomach, and washed it out, when 
the smell of laudanum was very distinct. He and three other 



224 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

medical gentlemen stayed with her all night, and she died at twenty 
minutes past seven o'clock on Tuesday morning. — The jury returned 
a verdict of Accidental Death." 

Our mother and sisters and myself were constantly with 
Dante during those harrowing days which intervene between 
a death and a funeral. His anguish was keen, but his mind 
clear. He was not prostrated in that kind of way which 
makes a man incapable of self-regulation. Brown was often 
there, and the sister of Lizzie playfully nicknamed " the 
Roman." I recollect a moment of great agitation, when my 
brother, standing by the corpse, was crying out, " Oh Lizzie, 
Lizzie, come back to me ! " With a woman's kindly tact the 
sister felt that this was an instant when emotion should be 
seconded, and not controlled ; and she reminded him of some 
old touches of sportive and now pathetic affection, to give 
the freer flow to his tears. Mr. Ruskin called one day, and 
saw the rest of us, but not Dante. He spoke with his usual 
tenderness of feeling, and I then for the first time became 
aware of the great change which had taken place in his views 
on religion. On the second or third day after death Lizzie 
looked still lovelier than before, and Dante almost refused 
to believe that she was really dead — it might be a mere 
trance consequent upon the laudanum. He insisted that 
Mr. Marshall should be called in to decide — with what result 
I need not say. 

The day of the funeral came. On this also I have a very 
brief note : — 

"February 17. The funeral. Grave 5779, Highgate [the same 
grave in which my father lay buried — my mother is now there too, 
and, even since I wrote this very sentence, my dear sister Christina]. 
Gabriel put the book of his MS. poems into the coffin." 

I remember this incident. There were some friends as- 
sembled in one of the rooms in Chatham Place ; the coffin, 
not yet close-shut, was in another. My brother, unwitnessed, 
deposited the MS. in the coffin. He then joined his friends, 



DEATH Of MRS. DANTE ROSSETTf. 22$ 

and informed Madox Brown of what he had done, saying — 
" 1 have often been writing at those poems when Lizzie was 
ill and suffering, and I might have been attending to her, 
and now they shall go." Brown disapproved of such a 
sacrifice to a mere impulse of grief or of self-reproach, and 
he appealed to me to remonstrate. I replied — " Well, the 
feeling does him honour, and let him do as he likes." The 
sacrifice was no doubt a grave one. Rossetti thus not only 
renounced any early or definite hopes of poetic fame, which 
had always been a ruling passion with him, but he also 
abandoned a project already distinctly formulated and noti- 
fied ; for, as we have seen, a forthcoming volume of his 
original poems was advertised in The Early Italian Poets. 

Mr. Caine relates this matter somewhat differently. I do 
not know from whom he obtained his details ; where they 
may be considered incompatible with my reminiscence, I 
abide by my own. He says : — 

" The poems he had written, so far as they were poems of love, 
were chiefly inspired by and addressed to her. At her request he 
had copied them into a little book presented to him for the purpose ; 
and on the day of the funeral he walked into the room where the 
body lay, and, unmindful of the presence of friends, he spoke to his 
dead wife as though she heard, saying, as he held the book, that the 
words it contained were written to her and for her, and she must 
take them with her, for they could not remain when she had gone. 
Then he put the volume into the coffin between her cheek and 
beautiful hair, and it was that day buried with her in Highgate 
Cemetery." 

Probably very few letters from Rossetti are extant written 
immediately after and relating to his wife's death. With his 
closest friends he was in personal communication, and to 
others he would be by no means expansive on such a topic. 
There is, however, one letter in print, addressed to Mrs. 
Gilchrist, and I think it as well to reproduce it here. In 
the opening paragraph he refers to the fact that he had so 
recently had to condole with Mrs. Gilchrist on her husband's 
death, and now she was condoling with himself on his wife's. 

VOL. I. 15 



226 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

"45 Upper Albany Street, 1 2 March 1862. 

" My dear Mrs. Gilchrist, — 

" I thank you sincerely in my turn for the words of sorrow 
and sympathy which, coming from you, seem more terribly real than 
any I have received. I remember clearly the mistrustful feeling of 
insufficiency with which I sat down to write to you so short a time 
ago, and know now what it is both to write and to receive even the 
sincerest words at such a time. 

" I have now to be thankful for obligations connected with my 
work which were a source of anxiety before ; for without them it 
seems to me that I could never work again. But I already begin to 
find the inactive moments the most unbearable, and must hope for 
the power, as I feel most surely the necessity, of working steadily 
without delay. Of my dear wife I do not dare to speak now, nor to 
attempt any vain conjecture whether it may ever be possible for 
me, or I be found worthy, to meet her again. 

" I am staying at my mother's just now, and hope that some of my 
family, if not all, may join with me in seeking a new home together, 
as in any case I cannot any longer bear to remain in the old one. 
I have thoughts of coming if possible to Chelsea, 2 and have already, 
in the impossibility I find of remaining inactive, been seeking for 
fresh quarters in that and other directions. Your photograph [of 
Alexander Gilchrist] I still have, and hope to send you some result 
from it, if I find such possible [he was thinking of drawing some 
likeness of Gilchrist, founded partly on the photograph, but in this 
he did not succeed]. Whenever it may be necessary to be thinking 
about the Life of Blake I hope you will let me know, as my 
brother is equally anxious with myself, and perhaps at the present 
moment better able, to be of any service in his power. 

" While writing this, I have just read your letter again, and again 
feel forcibly the bond of misery which exists between us, and the 
unhappy right we have of saying to each other what we both know 
to be fruitless. Pray believe that I am not the less grateful to you, 
at least for the heartfelt warmth with which it is said." 

1 This was the residence of my mother and sisters and myself. Later 
on it was called 166 Albany Street. 

2 The joint home of Mr. and Mrs. Gilchrist had been in Chelsea, close to 
Carlyle's house. Mrs. Gilchrist was now just about removing into the 
country, Shottermill near Haslemere. 



SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 227 

XXVI. 
SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 

THE letter just cited has shown two points : that Rossetti, 
after his bereavement, did not feel equal to continuing to 
reside at Chatham Place — I hardly believe that he slept there 
even a single night after his wife's funeral — and that he 
thought, upon settling in some new house, of obtaining the 
companionship of some or all of the members of his family. 
These were our mother, our two sisters, myself, and our 
rather aged aunt, Margaret Polidori, now considerably in- 
valided, and living a very secluded life in my house 
166 Albany Street. My brother also particularly wanted 
to have Mr. Swinburne in the same house with himself, 
thinking, not unreasonably, that, in his own depressed state 
of mind, he needed some inspiriting association such as he 
could scarcely obtain from mere family-life, and that he could 
procure this better from Mr. Swinburne than from any other 
available person. The Chambers in Chatham Place were, 
after Rossetti's departure, tenanted by Mr. Boyce, who 
remained there until 1868, shortly preceding the final demoli- 
tion of the building. 

The various members of the family did in fact entertain the 
proposal raised by Dante ; the only serious difficulty arising 
in relation to our sister Maria, who went out giving lessons 
in Italian etc., and for whom any such locality as Chelsea — 
then more suburban than it is now — would have been a very 
remote centre for such purposes. This obstacle was, however, 
set aside ; and, my brother having pretty soon fixed upon 
No. 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, termed Tudor House, as his 
future home, we were all prepared to join there with him and 
with Mr. Swinburne. But this arrangement did not take 
effect. Before the time came for actually removing to Cheyne 
Walk my brother reached the conclusion — a sound one — that 
that would not be the most apposite of homes for his female 
relatives, who therefore remained in Albany Street ; glad to 



228 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

house with and look after Dante, if that had been his ultimate 
wish, and glad also, when the wish was relinquished, to abide 
where they were. 

At first Dante stayed with us in the Albany Street house, 
and he was also at times with Madox Brown. It is stated by 
Mr. William Sharp that the earliest thing which he painted 
after his wife's death was done at Brown's residence — "a 
small but richly toned water-colour, known simply as Girl at 
a Lattice" pourtrayed from a person he saw in this position. 
I think, however, that a crayon head of our mother, which 
bears the date February 1862, may have preceded even the 
Girl at a Lattice. It remains in my possession, and used con- 
stantly to hang in my brother's little breakfast-room in Cheyne 
Walk. Next, pending a definite settlement as to a house, he 
took Chambers, by himself, on the first floor of No. 59 Lin- 
coln's Inn Fields. The first distracting shock of his calamity 
being past, he found himself capable of working and acting 
like other men, and the Chambers proved to be quite suitable 
for his requirements ; so much so indeed that, when he had 
to leave them and take up his engagement in Cheyne Walk, 
he almost regretted that he had assumed so serious, and for 
him so novel, a responsibility, with all the upset (to which he 
was always highly disinclined) of removal and re-settling. 
The die was cast, however, and nothing remained but to meet 
its chances as they came. 

For the Cheyne Walk house a new plan had meanwhile 
been determined. Rossetti was to be the tenant, paying a 
rent (assuredly a very moderate one) of ;£ioo a year, besides 
— if I remember right — a premium of .^225 upon entering. 
As his sub-tenants for defined portions of the building there 
were to be three persons — Mr. Swinburne, Mr. George Mere- 
dith, and myself. Of course each of us three was to pay 
something to Dante ; though the latter did not wish me, 
and in fact did not allow me, to continue any such payment 
after affairs had got into their regular course. We were all 
to dine together, if present together in the house. Mr. 
Swinburne was generally present, Mr. Meredith much less 



SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 229 

constantly. I came on three fixed days of the week, but 
not on any others unless some particular occasion arose. 
Swinburne, and I think Meredith, had their respective separate 
sitting-rooms, in which they received their personal visitors. 
I had, and required, a bedroom only. Dante Rossetti was 
by this time familiar with Mr. Meredith, whom he had seen 
increasingly for some three years past, and whose talents and 
work he seriously, though not uncritically, admired ; familiar, 
yet by no means so much so as with Mr. Swinburne. 

Tudor House got not slightly altered in external appear- 
ance — not perhaps in structural essentials — soon after my 
brother's death. When he entered it, neither Cheyne Walk 
nor any part of London had a Thames Embankment ; in 
front of the house there were all the boating bustle and 
longshore litter of the old days : there was also no Cadogan 
Bridge, and across the river no Battersea Park. Cremorne 
Gardens, at a moderate distance to the West, were still open 
as a place of demi-reputable entertainment — dancing, music, 
fireworks, and assignations, with all their accompaniments 
and sequels. The look of things was far more picturesque 
than now — less of decorum and of stateliness, more of noise 
and movement. The house itself was a fine old solid edifice, 
without anything peculiar or showy in external aspect. Inside 
it was old-fashioned, many-roomed, homelike, and comfortable, 
with any number of wall-cupboards, and needing nothing 
beyond good furniture and proper keeping-up to be a highly 
enjoyable residence. Furniture was supplied by my brother 
— even from the first, but more especially as years went on — 
with profuse abundance and distinguished gusto for whatso- 
ever was good and appropriate. Before going into the house 
he had found out in Buckingham Street, Strand (through 
Mr. Allingham), a retired old gentleman named Minister, 
who had a deal of antiquated and capital furniture, and from 
him he bought largely with a free hand. As to the keeping- 
up of the house, Rossetti did not take the like interest and 
pains ; but still, for several years after his tenancy began, 
there was no defined ground of complaint. 



23O DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Mr. Hall Caine has given several particulars about the 
residence and its garden, and I shall take leave to borrow 
some of them. He has had experience in an Architect's office, 
and knows what he is talking about in matters of this sort. 
It will be understood that he never saw the premises until 
1880; and many of his details indicate a state of neglect 
and gloom which did not exist in 1862, and still less towards 
1865 and for a few years onwards, when Rossetti had accu- 
mulated large quantities of handsome and out-of-the-way 
furniture, blue china, and other articles of curiosity and 
virtu. A great store of such things remained in the house 
in July 1882, when, consequent upon his death, they came 
to the hammer. But even these were but a moderate pro- 
portion of what he had introduced and used from time to 
time. Much had been already sold, much given away or 
otherwise dispersed. Mr. Caine says, and I interpolate a 
remark here and there : — 

" It was called Tudor House when he became its tenant, from 
the tradition that Elizabeth Tudor had lived in it [the statement 
which I always heard as current was that the house had been used 
as a nursery for the children of Henry VIII. ; but this, if true at 
all, can only apply to some previous house on the same site, for the 
existing structure must belong to the Georgian time, or at earliest 
to that of Queen Anne] : and it is understood to be the same that 
Thackeray describes in Esmond as the home of the old Countess 
of Chelsey. A large garden, which recently has been cut off for 
building purposes, lay at the back, . . . dotted over with lime-trees, 
and enclosed by a high wall [the garden, about four-fifths of an 
acre in extent, was partly, but not wholly, cut off towards 1881 : it 
contained a very prolific mulberry -tree, called Queen Elizabeth's 
mulberry-tree]. . . . Old oak then became for a time his passion ; 
and, in hunting it up, he rummaged the brokers' shops round 
London for miles, buying for trifles what would eventually (when the 
fashion he started grew to be general) have fetched large sums. . . . 
No. 16 . . . seems to be the oldest house in the Walk; and the 
exceptional proportions of its gate-piers, and the weight and mass 
of its gate and railings, suggest that probably at some period it stood 



SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 23 I 

alone, and commanded as grounds a large part of the space now 
occupied by the adjoining residences. . . . Rossetti's house had to 
me the appearance of a plain Queen Anne's erection, much mutilated 
by the introduction of unsightly bay-windows [I cannot but think 
this rather hard on the bay-windows — to me, and to my brother 
also, always a pleasant feature of a house to live in] ; the brickwork 
seemed to be falling into decay ; . . . the angles of the steps, and 
the untrodden flags of the courtyard, to be here and there overgrown 
with moss and weeds. . . . The hall had a puzzling look of equal 
nobility and shabbiness. . . . Three doors led out of the hall, one 
on each side and one in front, and two corridors opened into it ; 
but there was no sign of staircase, nor had it any light except such 
as was borrowed from the fan-light that looked into the porch [the 
door to the right led into the small dining-room ; that to the left, 
into the sitting-room first used by Mr. Swinburne, and ultimately by 
Mr. Caine himself; the one in front, into the studio, which, for 
an ordinary tenant, would have been the dining-room]. . . . The 
changes which the building must have undergone since the period 
of its erection had so filled it with crooks and corners as to bewilder 
the most ingenious observer to account for its peculiarities. . . . The 
studio was a large room, probably measuring thirty feet by twenty, 
and structurally as puzzling as the other parts of the house. A 
series of columns and arches on one side suggested that the room 
had almost certainly been at some period the site of an important 
staircase with a wide well ; and on the other side a broad mullioned 
window, reaching to the ceiling, seemed certainly to bear record 
of the occupant's own contribution to the peculiarities of the edifice 
[this window had been enlarged, but not constructed, at Rossetti's 
instance some while after he entered the house]. . . . [Also] a 
window at the side, which was heavily darkened by the thick foliage 
of the trees that grew in the garden beyond. . . . [Rossetti's bed- 
room, which was on the first floor] was entered from another and 
smaller room which he said that he used as a breakfast-room [many 
a breakfast have I eaten in it, but almost invariably without the 
company of my brother, who rose much later than I did]. The 
outer room was made fairly bright and cheerful by a glittering 
[coloured porcelain] chandelier (the property once, he told me, of 
David Garrick), and, from the rustle of trees against the window- 
pane, one perceived that it overlooked the garden ; but the inner 
room was dark with heavy hangings, around the walls as well as 



232 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the bed, and thick velvet curtains before the windows. . . . An 
enormous black-oak chimney-piece of curious design [it was Rossetti's 
own design, and constructed out of decorated slabs, etc., picked up 
here and there by himself], having an ivory crucifix on the largest 
of its ledges, covered a part of one side, and reached to the ceiling. . . . 
When I reached the room that I was to occupy during the night 
[it is on a landing between the ground-floor and first-floor], I found 
it, like Rossetti's bedroom, heavy with hangings, and black with 
antique picture-panels, with a ceiling (unlike that of the other rooms 
in the house) out of all reach or sight; and so dark from various 
causes that the candle seemed only to glimmer in it. ... I strolled 
through the large garden at the back of the house. ... A beautiful 
avenue of lime-trees opened into a grass-plot of nearly an acre in 
extent [it is the grass-plot which, allowing for a small strip retained, 
was afterwards built over ; the avenue continues to be attached to 
the house]. The trees were just as Nature made them, and so was 
the grass, which in places was lying long, dry, and withered, under 
the sun — -weeds creeping up in damp places, and the gravel of the 
pathway scattered upon the verges." 

A few words should still be added to Mr. Caine's expres- 
sive description of the house. On the basement there were 
spacious kitchen-rooms, and an oddly complicated range of 
vaults, which perhaps had at one time led directly off to 
the river-side. The two ground-floor sitting-rooms looked 
out to the front and the river ; the studio had a second door 
opening on the hinder part of the corridor, and conducting, 
down a few steps, into the garden-avenue. Though not 
apparent to Mr. Caine from the front hall, there were two 
staircases, to the right and to the left of the entrance-door 
of the studio. I may here take occasion to give an emphatic 
denial to a statement which Mr. Val Prinsep (writing in 
The Art-Journal about the picture-collection of his father-in- 
law Mr. Leyland) made with regard to the studio or painting- 
room — that it " was a sanctum unvisited by the housemaid." 
It was constantly visited, and adequately attended to, by 
the housemaid ; and a housemaid who might have neglected 
it in a serious degree would not have remained long on the 



SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 233 

premises. Mr. Caine makes no mention of the chief feature 
of the house — the unusually long and sightly drawing-room 
on the first floor, running the whole length of the large 
frontage, and presenting from its three spacious bay-windows 
a most enjoyable view of the river, and of the big old trees 
which yield umbrage to Cheyne Walk. On the second floor 
were a large number of rooms used as bed-chambers, hardly 
less than a dozen, and some of them very pleasant and com- 
modious. There may also, but my recollection is not clear 
as to this, have been two or three lofts under the roof. On 
the roof was a great deal of lead ; and, at one time during 
my brother's occupancy, some thieves attempted to make 
free with it. Mr. Herbert Gilchrist produced a very good 
drawing of the studio before the sale had finished in 1882 ; 
Mr. G. T. Robinson favoured me with a water-colour of the 
drawing-room ; and three rooms were pourtrayed by Mr. 
Henry Treffry Dunn (of whom more anon), and photographs 
were taken from his designs. 

It was on 24 October 1862 that Rossetti first took posses- 
sion of Tudor House. His three sub-tenants were there on 
the same day, or immediately afterwards. On 3 November he 
wrote to Madox Brown, " I have reclaimed my studio from 
the general wilderness, and got to work." 

Some writers have supposed that Rossetti was constantly 
mournful and dejected after his wife's death. If it were so, 
I would be the first to confirm the statement, and to put 
forward reasons partially if not wholly justifying him for such 
a tribute to sentiment, and such a revolt against the irre- 
versible will of Fate. But the fact was not so, and, as a 
faithful biographer, I shall not pretend that it was. He had 
too much energy of mind and character, too many interests 
in the world of thought and art, too many ideas of his own, 
too earnest a desire to turn these into realized work, to be 
perpetually dwelling upon the grievousness of the past, or 
moping over what once had been, and could never be again. 
He found himself capable of living in the ties and associations 
of the present, applied himself vigorously to his professional 



234 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

occupations, and developed much eagerness — of which there 
had been few symptoms in earlier days — in the collection of 
works of decoration or curiosity. To live in the company 
of such men as Meredith and Swinburne, and of many other 
friends older and newer, was not the basis for a life of morbid 
gloom and piteous unavailing retrospect. Certainly many 
tender and some dreadful memories haunted him ; but it 
would be useless to fancy or to suggest that he was at this 
time, or for some years to come, a personation of settled 
melancholy. As we proceed, we shall see what new gusts 
assailed him, and in what mood he encountered them. 
Christina has put into print a few apt words 1 upon the general 
subject. She says : — 

" Family or friendly parties used to assemble at Tudor House, 
there to meet with an unfailing affectionate welcome. Gloom and 
eccentricity, such as have been alleged, were at any rate not the sole 
characteristics of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. When he chose he became 
the sunshine of his circle, and he frequently chose so to be. His 
ready wit and fun amused us ; his good-nature and kindness of heart 
endeared him to us." 

Though my proper date for the present is only that when 
Rossetti started upon his tenancy of Tudor House, I will 
finish here what has to be said of Mr. Meredith and Mr. 
Swinburne as inmates of the same dwelling. Mr. Meredith 
and Rossetti entertained a solid mutual regard, and got on 
together amicably, yet without that thorough cordiality of 
give-and take which oils the hinges of daily intercourse. It 
would have been difficult for two men of the literary order of 
mind to be more decisively unlike. The reader of their works 
— not to speak of the student of Rossetti's paintings— will 
not fail to perceive this. Rossetti was not at all a mere 
recluse, incapable of taking very good care of himself in the 
current transactions of life ; he had, on the contrary, a large 

1 The article, a very brief one, is named The House of Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti, with a woodcut of the house. It appeared in some magazine, but 
I forget which. The date was some little while after my brother's death. 



SETTLING IN CHEYNE WALK. 235 

share of shrewdness and of business aptitude, and a quick eye 
for " the main chance " in all contingencies where he chose to 
exercise it. He understood character, and (though often too 
indulgent to its shadier side) he knew how to deal with it, 
and had indeed a rather marked distaste for that inexpert 
class of persons who waver on the edge of life without ever 
throwing themselves boldly into it, and gripping at the facts. 
But Mr. Meredith was (or I should rather say, is) incom- 
parably more a man of the world and man of society, scrutini- 
zing all sorts of things, and using them as his material in the 
commerce of life and in the field of intellect. Even in the 
mere matter of household -routine, he found that Rossetti's 
arrangements, though ample for comfort of a more or less 
off-hand kind, were not conformable to his standard. Thus it 
pretty soon became apparent that Mr. Meredith's sub-tenancy 
was not likely to stand much wear and tear, or to outlast the 
temporary convenience which had prompted it. I could not 
now define precisely how long it continued — perhaps up to 
the earlier days of 1864. It then ceased, without, I think, any 
disposition on either side that it should be renewed. Friendly 
intercourse between the two men continued for some few 
years, and gradually wore out without any cause or feeling 
of dissension. In Mr. Joseph Knight's pleasant Life of Dante 
Gabriel Rossetti I find some observations made by " a friend, 
himself a poet," which I unhesitatingly (let me hope not 
rashly) attribute to our pre-eminent novelist. I quote them 
here less as throwing light on the character of Rossetti — 
highly deserving though they are of attention in that regard 
— than as pointing to the sort of relation which subsisted 
between the two during their joint sojourn in Cheyne 
Walk:— 

" I liked him much, though I was often irritated by his preju- 
dices, and his strong language against this or that person or subject. 
He was borne too, somewhat, in his interests, both on canvas and in 
verse, and would not care for certain forms of literature and life 
which he admitted were worth caring for. However, his talk was 
always full of interest and of rare knowledge; and he himself, his 



236 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

pictures, and his house, altogether, had I think an immense influence 
for good on us all, and on English art and work — being not insular 
yet not un-English, and bringing into our world new and delightful 
subjects, and a personal character very striking and unusual and 
loveable." 

Mr. Swinburne remained in Tudor House for some con- 
siderable while after Mr. Meredith had left. He composed 
there the stupendous drama of Atalanta in Calydon, and 
wrote or finished Chastelard, and much of the Poems and 
Ballads (first series), and of William Blake, a Critical Essay. 
I hardly remember whether he was still in the house when 
the Poems and Ballads were published, 1866, and (amid the 
leers and the yells of British respectability) immediately 
withdrawn. If not then resident in the house, he was con- 
tinually looking in there, and (I need not say) was received 
with all the welcome of long-standing friendship, and of 
admiration for astonishing genius and attainment. Ultimately 
it suited both himself and Rossetti that his quarters should 
be fixed elsewhere. One element in the case was that the 
painter's professional income continued to augment from year 
to year, and he no longer found any advantage in getting 
friends to share the expense of the house. 

In the summer of 1862 both Ruskin and Burne-Jones 
were abroad in Italy. Ruskin was out of health and out 
of spirits owing to vexations with his studies in Political 
Economy. In July he wrote to my brother from Milan : — 

" I do trust that henceforward I may be more with you, as I am 
able now better to feel your great powers of mind, and am myself 
more in need of the kindness with which they are joined. I've 
been thinking of asking if I could rent a room in your Chelsea 
house." 

I cannot say what answer my brother returned to this 
friendly, and in some respects attractive, proposal. Clearly 
the house was sufficiently full as it was ; and, so far as I 
recollect, no more was heard of Mr. Riiskin as a possible 
inmate. 



SETTLING IJN CHEYNE WALK. Itf 

Mr. Jones wrote to Rossetti from Venice : — 

" The other day I saw a letter of Titian's. The handwriting was, 
absolutely, exactly like yours, as like as a forged letter of yours could 
be ; the whole writing a little bit bigger, I think, but the shapes of 
the letters as exact as could be." x 

In a letter written by my brother soon before he left 
Lincoln's Inn Fields for Cheyne Walk, 21 August, I find 
the first mention of a painter with whom he soon became 
very familiar, Mr. Whistler. For several years ensuing they 
were on terms which, partaking of real friendliness, were 
more especially of great good-fellowship. This must have 
continued till 1872, when there was a wide gap in Rossetti's 
London associations. After that date the two saw little — 
and at last nothing — of one another. Through Mr. Whistler, 
Rossetti after a while came to know the distinguished painter 
from Dijon, Alphonse Legros, who later on held the office of 
Slade-Professor in the London University for some years. 
This also was an intimate connexion, but terminated earlier 
than that with Whistler himself. Another letter belonging 
to 1862 shows that my brother was then about to engage a 
professional assistant, Mr. W. J. Knewstub, who housed with 
him for a year or two, preparing duplicates of pictures, and 
aiding him in various ways. Mr. Knewstub's chief tendency 
at this time — not of direct service to Rossetti — was as a 
sketcher of comic or humorous subjects, for which he had a 
ready gift ; later on, as a painter chiefly in water-colours, he 
developed marked colourist talent. He and Rossetti were 
always on pleasant terms together. 

A painter who seeks the help of an assistant must be 
supposed to be in good employ. Such was already the case 
with Rossetti, as soon as he began to settle down after his 

1 If Sir E. Burne-Jones formed a correct opinion as to this letter from 
Titian, the handwriting of it must have differed entirely from that of 
another letter by the great painter which I saw in the Venetian Exhibition 
in London in 1895. In this last-named letter the writing is singularly pre- 
cise and sharp, presenting no zoxt of resemblance to Rossetti's. 



238 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

wife's death. He produced a good deal, and whatever he 
produced, if not previously bespoken, was soon sold. It is 
true he still was not always in command of ready money 
when this was in requisition, and he continued at times to 
have recourse to a convenient pawnbroker, or an accommo- 
dating relative or intimate. But he was prospering, and 
he prospered more and more, and might soon be regarded 
as one of those (not too numerous) painters who make a 
steady and very sufficient income. What he received he 
liked to spend. Money never clung to his fingers, nor rested 
in his pocket, and he never either accumulated or invested. 
A letter of his, dated in June 1867, shows that even then 
he had no banking account, which seems surprising enough. 
How soon afterwards he began one I am not sure, but it 
was well before 1872. Had the will been there, the power 
of adding money to money would easily have come. It 
should in justice be added that, if he was indulgent to 
himself, he was also liberal and even generous to others. 



XXVII. 

WORK FROM 1862 TO 1868. 

I HAVE lumped together here no less than seven years, when 
my brother's powers — though somewhat less developed than 
they afterwards became in the direction of abstract style — 
■ were truly at their best. The dates extend from the beginning 
of his widowerhood to the time when, from various causes, a 
rather serious decline in his health set in. I shall name the 
several works (and there were of course many others) under 
the headings of Oil-pictures, Water-colours, and Designs, each 
class in order of date, and shall append a few details, such 
as my plan admits of. 

Oil-pictures. — Joan of Arc (kissing the sword of deliverance) ; 
Helen of Troy; Beata Beatrix; Aurelia (called also Fazio's 
Mistress, but this title was finally rejected by Rossetti as 
inapposite) ; The Beloved, or The Bride (from the Song of 



WORK FROM 1862 TO 1 868. 239 

Solomon) ; The Boat of Love (monochrome — from a sonnet 
in the Vita Nuovd) ; Lilith ; Venus Verticordia ; The Blue 
Bower ; 7/ Ramoscello (or Bellebuond) ; Portrait of his Mother ; 
The Loving-cup ; Sibylla Palmifera ; Manna Vanna (called 
also Belcolore) ; Mrs. William Morris ; La Pia (from Dante's 
Purgatorid). 

Water-colours. — Paolo and Fraucesca, triptych (the best 
version of this subject, belonging to Mr. Leathart) ; Heart of 
the Night (or Mariana in the Moated Grange) ; Monna Pomona ; 
The First Madness of Ophelia ; Socrates taught to dance by 
Aspasia ; Washing Hands ; The Return of Tibullus to Delia ; 
Tristram and Yseult drinking the Love-potion ; La Bionda del 
Balcone ; Rosa Triplex. 

Designs. — Designs for Christina Rossetti's poem, The 
Prince s Progress ; Portrait of Christina (head poised on , 
hands) ; Michael Scott's Wooing ; Aspecta Medusa ; Head of 
Madox Brown ; Aurea Catena (has sometimes been incor- 
rectly named La Pia) ; Orpheus and Eurydice. 

Nothing that my brother produced was, to my mind, more 
thoroughly satisfactory than the [o an of Arc — the oil-picture 
which was sold to Mr. Anderson Rose, and by him re-sold 
not many years afterwards. It is somewhat singular that 
this head was painted from a German (not a French) woman — 
named, if I remember right, Mrs. Beyer. She had one of the 
most classically correct and strongest profiles that one could 
see anywhere. Something of the same kind might be said of 
the English original of Helen of Troy — a face less heroically 
but not less exactly moulded. Beata Beatrix — a reminiscence 
of the painter's lost wife, pourtrayed with perfect fidelity out 
of the inner chambers of his soul — is now in the National 
Gallery, the gift of Lady Mount-Temple. It was less well re- 
peated on commission more than once, but always reluctantly. 
Though I have called this a " reminiscence " of his wife, it is I 
believe a fact that some preparation for the picture had been 
made during her lifetime, perhaps as far back as 1856. Aurelia, 
a small half-figure of a lady at her toilet, is one of the most 
finished specimens of Rossetti's execution. The Beloved is 



540 t)ANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTf. 

by many persons accounted his very best work. I would not 
call it the best in the sense of being better than any other ; 
but, in balanced brilliancy of colour, sweetness and variety 
of facial type, and first salient and not the less permanent 
impression of manifest and triumphant beauty, it certainly 
yields to none. Monna Vanna (belonging to the same 
purchaser, Mr. George Rae) has also and deservedly been 
a great general favourite. The Boat of Love, now in the 
Birmingham Art-Gallery, was a preparation for a full-coloured 
picture, never executed, owing partly to fast-and-loose pro- 
ceedings on the part of an intending purchaser in these same 
years. The Blue Bower, a female half-figure done with more 
than wonted rapidity, is perhaps the most forcible piece of 
colour and handling that Rossetti ever produced (or may 
share that praise with La Bella Mano), as the Ramoscello is 
in all respects one of the most delicate. The Portrait of 
Mrs. Morris, in a gown of sumptuous blue, rivals The Blue 
Bower for vigour, and far exceeds it in tone of feeling. Lilith 
and Sibylla Pahnifera are both works of thought as well as 
matured skill, and stand recorded in the painter's sonnets as 
Body's Beauty and Soul's Beauty. L.a Pia was only begun 
in 1868. It was then set aside for several years, and not 
completed until 1881. 

Among the water-colours I may specify as exceptionally 
successful the Paolo and Francesca ; the Heart of the Night, 
which is the same design as in the Tennyson woodcut ; and 
the Tristram and Yseult. The Return of Tibullus to Delia 
is also one of Rossetti's best considered and most energetic 
designs. Washing Hands — a lady, with her lover no longer 
favoured — is noticeable as being one of the very few subjects 
which he treated in the costume of the eighteenth century. 
The Dr. Johnson group seems to be the only other such 
coloured work that is known to me. Equally out of his 
ordinary line is Socrates taught to dance by Aspasia. I recall 
very well a sketch made of this subject, and a very sprightly 
one it was, but I doubt whether I ever saw the water-colour. 

The design of Michael Scott's Wooing was frequently in 



WORK FROM 1862 TO 1 868. 24I 

Rossetti's head, and every now and then tried by his hand 
in different compositions. Aspecta Medusa (Perseus allowing 
Andromeda to contemplate, reflected in a tank, the severed 
head of Medusa) was also designed more than once. But the 
courage of the proposing purchaser failed him — he thought 
the subject too " horrid " — and this again swelled the over- 
long list of paintings which my brother did not do. 

In Section XX., speaking of Mrs. William Morris, I 
have referred to the equally frequent and erroneous assertion 
that this lady constituted Rossetti's one sole type of facial 
beauty. This allegation is not only absurdly incorrect, but 
it amounts to a depreciation of his art. It implies that he was 
far more monotonous than he really was, and also that he had 
little or no discrimination as to the type which would be the 
most suitable according to diversity of subject and treatment. 
I have elsewhere 1 said something on that ill-understood or 
ill-reported matter ; and I will now, without re-producing my 
previous words, enter rather more at large upon the same 
topic. This furnishes, besides the direct object, an oppor- 
tunity of saying something collectively about various persons 
who ought not to pass unmentioned. I shall confine myself 
chiefly, yet not rigidly, to oil-pictures. 

Rossetti began painting in 1848 ; and it is of course impos- 
sible that in the early years of his practice he should ever 
have painted from Mrs. Morris, whom he did not see until 
late in 1857. We have noticed before that his sister Christina 
sat for Mary in The GirlJiood of Mary Virgin, and in Ecce 
Ancilla Domini ; his wife for Beatrice in a number of instances, 
and for Princess Sabra — and for very many other figures as 
well ; Mrs. Hannay for Beatrice in the water-colour of Danle's 
Dream ; Mrs. Beyer for Joan of Arc; Mrs. H. for Bocca 
Baciata. The latter also sat for the woman in Found, 
Aurelia, The Blue Bower, and The Loving Cup, and in the 
first instance for Lilith ; but another head — that of Miss Alexa 
Wilding, soon to be mentioned — was, after an interval of 

1 In the Art-Journal lox June 1884 — Article, Notes on Rossetti and his 
Works. 

VOL. I. 16 



242 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

years, substituted in Lilith, and, to my thinking, very dis- 
advantageous^ so. 

I proceed to other sitters not as yet mentioned. For The 
Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee, and for Helen 
of Troy, an Englishwoman sat, remarkable for beauty, but 
not for depth of expression. Her head appears also in the 
water-colour, just mentioned, of Dante's Dream. In The 
Beloved the chief head is from a young woman who was in 
much request at that time among various artists. She had 
a Scotch name, I think Mackenzie. This is one of the very 
few instances in which my brother painted an important head 
from a professional model, and, as an exceptional case, the 
experiment was conspicuously successful. The dark woman 
to the spectator's right is a pure-blooded gipsy, named 
Keomi, who became known to my brother through Mr. 
Sandys. To the left is a pretty face, of an espiegle rather than 
an exalted order — Ellen Smith, whom Rossetti pourtrayed 
several times, beginning not long after he first knew Mr. 
Boyce. With Sibylla Palmifera we come to Miss Alexa 
Wilding, a damsel of respectable parentage whom he saw 
casually in the street, in April 1865, and whom he at once 
determined to paint from, were it at all possible — which it 
proved to be. Having thus found a head of fine and rather 
peculiar mould, eminently strong in contour and also capable 
of much varying expression, which he regarded as almost a 
sine qua non, Rossetti resolved to secure Miss Wilding to his 
own canvases, and with this object he paid her a regular 
annual salary, which went on for a long time. He was more 
than commonly indisposed, and many artists are to some 
extent the same, to share his discovery with any others, even 
of his intimates. Her face re-appears in Regina Cordium (ot 
which I have seen an unsuccessful woodcut — the same title 
was bestowed upon two or three other pictures from different 
sitters), in Monna Vanna, Rosa Triplex, the oil-painting of 
Dante's Dream (the lady at the foot of the bed), Veronica 
Veronese, The Blessed Damozel, La Ghirlandata, The Roman 
Widow, La Bella Mano, and The Sea-spell. The last six of 



WORK FROM 1862 TO 1 868. 243 



these works were executed at a date beyond the latest, 1! 
which is properly covered by my present section ; but, for 
our immediate purpose, that cannot be helped. It will be 
observed that Rossetti did not see Miss Wilding until several 
years after he had known Mrs. Morris ; and this large 
number of paintings from the former — not to speak of a 
number of minor productions with or without colour — is of 
itself enough to show that he was far from confining his 
pictorial study to the wife of the poet of The Earthly Para- 
dise. Venus Verticordia was painted from yet another person 
— a remarkably handsome cook whom he met in the street ; 
Monna Pomona from a Scotch girl, Jessie — a damsel of no 
rigid virtue who had a most energetic as well as beautiful pro- 
file, not without some analogy to that of the great Napoleon. 
// Ramoscello is a portrait of a daughter of one of his best 
purchasers and friends, Mr. William Graham, M.P. for Glas- 
gow. Mrs. Stillman — a celebrated beauty, and the most 
cordial, accomplished, and amiable of ladies, herself a very 
elegant painter, daughter of Mr. Spartali, Consul-General for 
Greece — appears in the figure at the bed's head in the oil- 
painting of Dante s Dream, and in the Vision of Fiammetta. 
I seem to see also, in The Roman Widow, almost as much of 
her head as of Miss Wilding's. Mrs. Stillman had a rather 
younger sister, Christine (who became the Countess Edmond dc 
Cahen). She also was a beauty, but in a way less sympathetic 
to Rossetti, who did not, I think, ever draw from her. The 
sisters became known to him through Brown, who super- 
intended the artistic studies of the elder Miss Spartali. Mrs. 
Sumner, a daughter-in-law of a late Archbishop of Canterbury, 
was the original of the oil-painting (left unfinished) of 
Domizia Scaligera, and of some other heads produced 
towards 1876. The ideal women of Rossetti were, as a rule, 
always tall and stately persons, and with Mrs. Sumner this 
was especially the case. The pleasant simple picture called 
Fleurs de Marie was done from the niece of the gardener at 
Kelmscott Manor-house — a dwelling to be mentioned in the 
sequel. 



244 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

I have here specified no fewer than seventeen female sitters 
from whom important heads were painted, some of them 
known before Mrs. Morris, and some afterwards. One of 
them, Miss Wilding, seems to have sat at least as often as 
Mrs. Morris for coloured, and barely less often for uncoloured, 
works. To read this account of the facts, and to persist 
afterwards in saying that Rossetti had only one model and 
one ideal, would be a case of wilful uncandour. In affirming 
this, I do not wish at all to derogate from the widespread 
belief that, in the extraordinarily impressive — the profound 
and abstract — type of beauty of Mrs. Morris, he found an 
ideal more entirely responsive than any other to his aspira- 
tion in art. It seemed a face created to fire his imagination, 
and to quicken his powers — a face of arcane and inexhaustible 
meaning. To realize its features was difficult ; to transcend 
its suggestion, impossible. There was one fortunate circum- 
stance — if you could but represent its appearance, you stood 
thereby already high in the region of the typical or symbolic. 
For idealizing there was but one process — to realize. I will 
not conceal my opinion that my brother succeeded where few 
painters would have done other than fail ; he did some 
genuine justice to this astonishing countenance. 

As we have seen, Miss Burden — -before she became Mrs. 
Morris — obliged Rossetti by sitting for several heads while 
he was working in Oxford in and about 1857. In her earlier 
married days she sat also for the Madonna in the Llandaff 
Triptych, and for one or two heads of Beatrice. At the 
beginning of 1862 Rossetti was bereft for ever of another 
exquisite type of beauty — the pure loveliness and self-with- 
drawn suavity of his wife's face, as little matchable, in its 
very different way, as that of Mrs. Morris. Still an interval 
of years ensued ; and (so far as I trace) it was only in 1868 
that Mrs. Morris re-commenced to favour him with sittings. 
To this year appertain the oil portrait of her, and La Pia, 
and the crayon heads named Aurea Catena and Reverie. 
Numerous other examples followed. Some of the crayon 
heads or half-figures are unsurpassed amid Rossetti's work, 



WORK FROM 1862 TO 1 868. 245 

both as consummate likenesses, and as achievements in art ; 
but I will only name the oil- pictures — Pandora, Mariana 
(with the Page singing), Dante s Dream (the head of Beatrice), 
Proserpine, Water-willow (which is practically a portrait), 
Venus Astarte, Mnemosyne (which was originally intended for 
Hero, with her signal-lamp for Leander), La Donna della 
Finestra, The Daydream, and The Salutation of Beatrice (left 
rather less than completed at my brother's death). 

It is apparent that Rossetti — although, as previously 
demonstrated, he did not by any means confine himself to 
the head of Mrs. Morris as his type — found this countenance 
available for subjects of very diverse kinds. And so indeed it 
is. For a Pia, Pandora, Mariana, Proserpine, Venus Astarte, or 
Mnemosyne, there was hardly such another head to be found 
in England. For a Madonna, a Beatrice, a Daydream, or a 
Donna della Finestra (from the Vita Nuova — the same per- 
sonage as " The Lady of Pity," so designated in some other 
works by Rossetti), a different head might have been equally 
appropriate in essence, and, to some eyes and from some 
points of view, even more appropriate : but, as apprehended and 
treated by Rossetti, both the mould of face and the expres- 
sion educed from it seem to be " in choral consonancy " with 
the personages, and to leave nothing at which a reasonable 
mind can cavil. The works are there to tell their own tale. 
Any one who dissents from my view will abide undis- 
turbed in his own. Of course I am not here speaking of any 
executive merit or demerit in the pictures, but only of the 
selection and application of the type. 

As to male sitters — professional hired models — Rossetti 
considered that those of Italian nationality were, as a rule, 
preferable to all others. He used an expression to Christina 
which I have often heard her quote with a laugh : " An 
Italian comes to your studio, and he looks to you very like a 
Guy Fawkes ; but, when you set about drawing him, you find 
that he is much more like the Antinous." 

These considerations about sitters for my brother's works 
have led me a long way beyond our present limit of date, 



246 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

and indeed on to the very end of his life. I must now recur 
to matters proper to the years 1 862-68. 

For Dante Rossetti to figure as the correspondent of any 
newspaper was a rare thing. An occasion did however arise 
on 15 October 1865, when he wrote to the Athenaeum to 
correct a misapprehension into which that paper had fallen, 
as to his being practically a water-colour painter who only 
at times worked in oils. He considered it to be " of great 
professional importance to him " that the point should be 
rightly understood ; and explained that, having originally 
appeared as an oil-painter, and never having abandoned that 
medium although he had sometimes worked in water-colour, 
he had " now, for a good many years past," reverted to oil 
for " all his chief works." 

Another matter of technical practice is brought out in an 
interesting way in a paper which my brother's intimate friend 
Mr. Frederick J. Shields, the distinguished painter, contributed 
to The Century-Guild Hobby-Horse (No. 18). Mr. Shields 
may have been known to Rossetti before 1864, but I cannot 
fix the precise year. My brother always valued much the 
works of this artist, and held him in the highest esteem as a 
devout-natured man of the strictest principle and the warmest 
feeling ; the bond between the two friends being singularly 
close in the last four or five years of my brother's life, when 
Shields became his frequent and unflagging visitor, sparing 
no effort to keep him in heart and hope. Mr. Shields, it 
seems, had towards 1864 lit upon a certain French "com- 
pressed charcoal," which he approved, and showed to 
Rossetti. The latter at once adopted this material alone for all 
his larger studies, which were altogether very numerous, and 
as high in quality as anything he produced, and many of them 
done in varying tints. When the Franco-German war broke 
out in 1870 — "this truly atrocious and insufferable war," as 
Rossetti called it in writing to Shields — that chalk became 
unprocurable, and it has never again been in the market. 
Fortunately Rossetti had previously laid-in a large stock of it, 
which he continued using, and even at his death it was not 



WORK FROM l862 TO 1 868. 247 

nearly exhausted. Mr. Shields describes with some minute- 
ness the method adopted by Rossetti in the execution of his 
crayon-drawings — crayon-pictures several of them might 
deservedly be called ; and he remarks that these works can 
easily be marred if taken out of their protecting glass. Mr. 
Shields's particulars are well worthy of the attention of 
artists ; and, were my Memoir more closely concerned with 
details of technique, they should here be summarized. 

In these years, lasting up to 1868, the circle of the 
purchasers of Rossetti's works got pretty nearly completed. 
Ruskin was no longer among them, nor yet Boyce ; Anderson 
Rose ceased for the time to be in a position to continue ; 
McCracken and Plint, both of them for a while mainstays of 
my brother's fortunes, were dead. I have heretofore had 
occasion to mention Mr. Leathart of Newcastle (afterwards 
of Gateshead), Mr. Rae of Birkenhead, and Mr. Graham of 
Glasgow and London. These three were kind and pleasant 
friends, as well as steady liberal purchasers. They all proved 
to be discerning judges of works of art, and my brother could 
safely commit to their hands anything that he produced — 
satisfied that, if he himself had ground to be fairly content 
with it, their sympathy would rival or even exceed his own. 
The same may be said of Mr. Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy 
ship-owner of Liverpool, and of Mr. L. R. Valpy, a London 
solicitor, both of whom seem to have begun commissioning 
towards the middle of 1867. Mr. Graham came later — about 
the close of 1868. There were also Mr. Mitchell of Bradford, 
who bought the Venus Verticordia ; Mr. Craven of 
Manchester, who bought the Tibullus and Delia, and a large 
number of other works ; Lord Mount-Temple, owner of the 
Beata Beatrix ; Colonel Gillum, for water-colours and drawings ; 
Mr. Trist, a wine-merchant at Brighton ; Mr. Gambart, the 
great picture-dealer, who, after surmounting some tiffs over 
the affairs of the Plint estate, took several of Rossetti's works ; 
and some others as well, whom I do not stay to particularize. 
In course of time the principal collections of Rossetti's art 
came to be those of Leyland, Graham, and Rae. The former 



248 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

two have now been dispersed. With the exception of Mr. 
Rae and Mr. Leathart, I am not certain that there is now any- 
single person owning a large number of the paintings. In the 
way of studies and sketches Mr. Charles Fairfax Murray, of 
London and Florence, is well provided. 

My brother had not been long settled in Cheyne Walk 
before he began to find that his studio was below the range 
of his requirements. As a room it was commodious and 
ample, but it was not properly a studio. He cast about for 
various expedients, consulting his friend the architect Mr. 
Philip Webb. At one time an iron studio in the large garden 
was thought of; at another, a more solid structure in the 
same space ; at another, the resumption of a biggish set of 
cab-stables which formed part of the property, and their 
conversion into a studio. Finally all these more speculative 
projects were given up, and my brother was contented to 
carry out a fair amount of alteration in the lighting etc. of 
his existing studio-apartment. This was in 187 1. It served 
his turn reasonably well, though never quite satisfactory ; 
and, in spite of occasional schemes of a total change of 
residence, he went on upon this plan up to the close of his 
life. 

Rossetti's art-assistant, Mr. Knewstub, left him after a 
while, to try his own independent fortunes as a painter ; and 
Mr. Henry Treffry Dunn (who became known to my brother 
through Mr. Charles Augustus Howell, to be hereafter named) 
was engaged in his stead. Mr. Dunn had 1 a good deal of 
artistic experience and aptitude, and proved to be of no 
small service to Rossetti, both in matters of art, and also, 
as he was a steady-going man of business, in the general 
management of the house. He ceased to be an inmate in 
1 88 1, but remained in communication with my brother. 

The money-affairs of Rossetti, having once become pro- 

1 I speak of Mr. Dunn in the past tense, but not as implying that he is 
no longer alive. I believe him to be alive ; but regret to say that, from 
the year 1884 or thereabouts, I have not seen and have seldom heard 
of him. 



Work from 1862 to 1868. 249 

sperous, continued to be so increasingly for many years ; and 
indeed, notwithstanding some interruptions from ill-health or 
the fluctuations of the picture-market, they never declined 
seriously up to the last. He earned what may be called a 
large income. From notes made at the time I find that in 
1865 he realized about £2,050 ; in 1866, upwards of £1,080 ; 
in 1867, little or not at all less than £3,000. At this last 
date he still owed about £1,000 in one quarter or another. 
In one of the Family-letters, 29 April 1876, it will be seen 
that he had made £3,725 in the preceding twelvemonth, and 
that he regarded this as about his then average. I surmise, 
however, that it was seldom if ever reached again. For a 
non-exhibiting painter, selling his works in a somewhat close 
circle of friends, and (though he was not at all a recluse until 
a late date in his life) mixing little in general society, this 
was really a surprising success. It could not have been 
attained if he had been other than an exceedingly discerning 
man in the conduct of his professional affairs. Eulogist and 
detractor alike confess that there was no better hand at a 
bargain. I incline to think that, on the principle of " diamond 
cut diamond," this was one of the reasons why Rossetti was 
in such special favour with Mr. Leyland, of whom Mr. Prinsep 
testifies " it was the one real friendship of his life." No 
keener man of business existed than Leyland ; and he may 
have relished — and partly disrelished — finding in Rossetti a 
foeman or a friend worthy of his steel. My brother under- 
stood how far he could go — so far he went ; and, having 
fixed the terms, he knew how to stick by them, unregardful 
of dubiety or demur. He was abundantly popular, as well 
as most warmly admired, not only by Mr. Leyland, but 
generally within his own circle. His naturalness, heartiness, 
and good-humour were a standing passport to cordiality ; 
and to these endowments, combined with nous, something 
was probably conceded which would have been denied to the 
mere trafficker in paint. A business-man who is a picture- 
buyer — and for the last half-century almost all our picture- 
buyers have been business-men — has his weak side, and, so 



250 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

far as his relation to art goes, he feels it a privilege to be 
made free of the art-precincts, and promoted into the intimacy 
of a great or a distinguished painter. He is apt to find the 
world of art much more entertaining than the world of 
commerce ; and, while pluming himself upon having converse 
with persons whose names are in all men's mouths, he can 
still feel that, in a certain sense, he himself " rules the roast," 
as all these fine performances would collapse without a 
purchaser to sustain them. No one knew this better than 
Rossetti. His net was spread in the sight, but not too 
obviously in the sight, of several birds. Of the least tinge 
of servility he was by his very nature — but this I need hardly 
say — incapable. 

Of literary product in these times there was but little. 
The poems lay buried in Highgate Cemetery, and for some 
years no more were written, and no .thoughts of poetic 
publicity entertained. So far as I observe, the first fresh 
verses which he wrote were for his design, Aspecta Medusa 
— eight lines — in 1865. In January 1868 he wrote a 
sonnet for his picture of Venus Verticordia, followed by 
a Latin distych for his Portrait of Mrs. Morris, and in 
December by his sonnets named Willozv-wood (and he then 
declared that he ought never to have been a painter, 
but rather a poet), and by the sonnet Newborn Death. In 
prose, as far back as 1862-63, he had done a good deal of 
work upon the Blake book which Alexander Gilchrist had 
left not quite completed. The amount of what he wrote for 
insertion in the text of the Life has sometimes been over- 
rated. Its sum-total appears in his Collected Works. Besides 
this, he edited, with a great deal of pains as well as of insight, 
the poetical compositions of Blake. I will extract, from the 
volume Anne Gilchrist, two of Rossetti's utterances, both 
quite characteristic : — 

" I am working closely this morning at the concluding chapter, in 
hope of sending it off to-night, or, if not, certainly to-morrow. I was 
delayed by the necessity I found of going to the Print-room [of the 



INCIDENTS, 1862— 1868. 251 

British Museum] to study Blake's coloured works there, as all I 
could think of was to dwell on some of these. Facts, and descrip- 
tions of facts, are in my line ; but to talk about a thing merely is 
what I could never well manage. 

" I really found it impossible to know what to say more of the 
poems, individually ; but am sincerely of the opinion I express in 
the text as to the uselessness of doing so. The truth is that, as 
regards such a poem as My Spectre, I do not understand it a bit 
better than anybody else ; only I know, better than some may know, 
that it has claims as poetry apart from the question of understanding 
it, and is therefore worth printing." 



XXVIII. 

INCIDENTS, 1862— 1868. 

It has often been stated that my brother, at Cheyne Walk, 
kept from time to time a large number of animals. This is 
entirely true. Being fond of " beasts," and having a large 
garden, with plenty of space for accommodating them either 
in the open or in corners partitioned off, he freely indulged 
his taste. He had no particular liking for an animal on the 
mere ground of its being " pretty " — his taste being far more 
for what is quaint, odd, or semi-grotesque. Dante's specimens 
of fauna however were often very sightly, as also often 
funny and out-of-the-way. I will name some, as they happen 
to come ; others have passed from memory into the limbo of 
oblivion. 

There were a Pomeranian puppy named Punch, a grand 
Irish deerhound named Wolf, a barn-owl named Jessie, 
another owl named Bobby (described by Christina as "a 
little owl with a very large face and a beak of a sort of egg- 
shell green "), rabbits, dormice, hedgehogs, two successive 
wombats, a Canadian marmot or woodchuck, an ordinary 
marmot, armadilloes, kangaroos, wallabies, a deer, a white 
mouse with her brood, a racoon, squirrels, a mole, peacocks, 
wood-owls, Virginian owls, Chinese horned owls, a jackdaw, 
laughing jackasses (Australian kingfishers), undulated grass- 



252 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTt. 

parrakeets, a talking grey parrot, a raven, chameleons, green 
lizards, and Japanese salamanders. 1 

Persons who are familiar with the management of pets will 
easily believe that several of these animals came to a bad 
end. Punch the puppy would get lost ; one or other bird 
would get drowned ; the dormice would fight and kill one 
another, or would eat up their own tails, and gradually perish ; 
Wolf the deerhound could get no adequate exercise, and was 
given away ; the parrakeets were, neglected at some time that 
Rossetti was absent from home, and on his return they were 
found dead. Other animals, owing to their burrowing or 
reclusive habits, disappeared. An armadillo was not to be 
found ; and the tale went — I believe it to be not far from true 
— that, having followed his ordinary practice of burrowing, 
he turned up from under the hearthstone of a neighbour's 
kitchen, to the serious dismay of the cook, who opined that, 
if he was not the devil, there was no accounting for what he 
could possibly be. The racoon, as winter set in, made up his 
mind to hibernate. He ensconced himself in a drawer of a 
large heavy cabinet which stood in the passage outside the 
studio-door. The drawer was shut upon him, without his 
presence in it transpiring, and after a while he was supposed 
to be finally lost to the house. When spring ensued, many 
mysterious rumbling or tramping or whimpering noises were 
heard in the passage, or in the studio as coming from the 
passage. My brother mentioned them to me more than once, 
and was ready to regard them as one more symptom, by no 
means the first or only one, that the house was haunted. At 
last, and I think by mere casualty, the drawer was opened, 
and the racoon emerged, rather thinner than at his entry. 
What the other stories of ghosts about the old mansion 

1 Some years ago two or three amusing and authentic articles on 
Rossetti's "beasts" appeared in some journal — I forget its name. I have 
the articles somewhere, but have not succeeded in laying hands upon 
them, to be consulted for my present purpose. I think it manifest that 
the author of them must be my brother's art-assistant, Mr. Henry Treffry 
Dunn. 



INCIDENTS, 1862 — 1868. 253 

amounted to I have mainly forgotten, but am aware that a 
servant, a sufficiently strong-minded young woman, saw a 
spectre by a bed-room door in November 1870. The ghost, 
according to Miss Caine, " was a woman, and appeared some- 
times at the top of the second flight of stairs. She retreated 
to the room overlooking the Embankment." My brother 
never beheld any such miscellaneous ghosts, nor did the 
idea of them disturb him in any sort of way, although in 
this and other instances he was not at all hostile to the 
notion that they might possibly be there. I will not here 
start the question whether a belief in ghosts is in itself 
evidence of unreason ; but I will say that, after making 
allowance for belief in their possibility, my brother's attitude 
of mind on the subject was not unreasonable, as he thought 
that, assuming their existence, they are just as much a part 
of the scheme of Nature and the Universe as any other part, 
and therefore not to be regarded with mere panic. A disem- 
bodied spirit is the same, mutatis mutandis, as an embodied one. 
The beasts upon which Dante's affections were prodigalized 
were the first wombat and his successor the woodchuck. 
The second wombat, having died immediately, counts for 
little. No more engagingly lumpish quadruped than the 
first wombat could be found, and none more obese and 
comfortable than the woodchuck. They were both tame, 
especially the woodchuck ; and Dante would sit with either 
in his arms by the half-hour together, dandling them paunch 
upward, scratching gently at their cheeks or noses, or making 
the woodchuck's head and hind-paws meet. With the wombat 
ho such operation was possible. Each of them was his house- 
mate for some time, and each expired without premonition. I 
do not assume that my brother wept over them, but certainly 
" his heart was sair." For the wombat (not having yet seen 
it) he wrote from Penkill Castle the following quatrain : — 

" Oh how the family affections combat 
Within this heart, and each hour flings a bomb at 
My burning soul ! Neither from owl nor from bat 
Can peace be gained until I clasp my wombat." 



2 54 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

The matutinal screeching of one or more of Rossetti's 
peacocks proved so afflictive to his neighbours that Lord 
Cadogan, the Ground-landlord, afterwards introduced into 
all Cheyne Walk leases, as has been stated on good authority, 
a clause to the effect that the tenants were not to keep any 
peacocks. Here, extracted from my Diary for December 
1 87 1, is a curious anecdote about the peacock, which may 
perhaps deserve a moment's attention : — 

" The deer that Gabriel used to have, now dead, one day saw the 
peacock making a great display of his train. . . . The deer followed 
him about ; and, though not displaying any peculiarly marked ill-will, 
systematically trampled out all his train feathers, one after the other. 
Shortly after this, Gabriel gave the peacock away." 

There was one of Rossetti's animals — a zebu, or small 
Brahmin bull — as to which some burlesque particulars have 
got into print. Mr. Knight relates the story, giving as his 
authority Mr. Whistler, who is just the man (and so Mr. 
Knight puts it) for a few humorous embellishments. Mr. 
Prinsep also relates it to nearly the same effect, and he gives 
Rossetti himself as his authority. The zebu was seen by 
my brother and myself, perhaps in 1863, m a beast-show held 
in Cremorne Gardens. He was a beautiful animal, not larger 
than a pony of small size. My brother wanted to buy him 
for some £20, and I co-operated. All that I remember about 
the subsequent circumstances is the following. The zebu 
was brought to Tudor House, and charged at a fine pace 
through the passage into the garden. There he was tethered 
to a tree by Rossetti's man-servant. My brother, after a day 
or two, was engaged in inspecting him, when the zebu, more 
or less irritated by confinement, went in a hostile mood 
towards the painter, who naturally dodged round the tree- 
trunk. As this experience showed that the zebu was not 
a convenient tenant for the garden, Rossetti re-sold him, and 
he departed in peace. I question whether the animal " tore 
up by the roots the tree to which it was attached," though it 
did display a large amount of physical strength ; or that it 



INCIDENTS, 1862 — 1868. 255 

" chased its tormentor round the garden," in any sense rightly- 
belonging to these words. I was not however present on the 
occasion, and cannot aver that I even saw the zebu after he 
had once entered the premises. 

I have just been referring to the superstitious or semi- 
superstitious traits in my brother's character, which were 
very clearly marked. " Thirteen at table " was a contingency 
which did not escape his notice. In a letter of his to Madox 
Brown, dated in 1864, he authorizes his friend to bring, with 
others, his younger daughter to a dinner, if Brown does not 
mind the result of thirteen at table— and he was about the 
last person to mind it. A later dinner was planned for 
fourteen, which number was reduced to thirteen by a defec- 
tion at the last moment, and Rossetti hurried away his 
servant to catch a fourteenth somewhere or other. Mr. Bell 
Scott says that " he began to call up the spirit of his wife by 
table-turning," and relates an incident of the kind happening 
in 1866; and he adds that "long before that year" my 
brother had "gone into spiritualism." I cannot say with 
accuracy how soon such attempts began. I myself witnessed 
some in 1865, '66, '68, and '70. I will not enter into details, 
but will only say that now and again demonstrations occurred 
(especially some in which a Mr. Bergheim was concerned) 
which astonished me not a little, and for which I was and 
am unable to account ; at other times there were mere 
confusion and cross-purposes. Although Rossetti was, as I 
have already said, not plunged into monotonous gloom by 
the death of his wife, the idea of her was in these years very 
constantly present to him. Poignant memories and painful 
associations were his portion ; and he was prone to think 
that some secret might yet be wrested from the grave. 

With the family of his deceased wife my brother did not 
keep up any close personal relations, yet he did not entirely 
lose knowledge of them. I observe that in August 1867 he 
was sending ;£io to her brother Harry ; and evidence of like 
kind goes on as late as 1878. 

His general habits were social enough. He became a 



256 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

member of the Garrick Club before 1865 ; afterwards of the 
Arundel Club ; and, upon its foundation early in 1 866, of 
the Burlington Fine Arts Club. This last membership he 
(and also I) relinquished at the end of 1867, owing to the 
expulsion — which was contrary to his sense of fair play, and 
also to his individual liking — of a fellow-member, a painter 
of much distinction. I do not give the name, nor other 
particulars. The other memberships died out in course of 
time — with no special reason except a change in habits and 
interests on his part. At the Arundel Club he used to meet 
Mr. Knight, Mr. Rose, and others with whom he was on very 
easy terms. Here also he met Mr. W. S. Gilbert, who has 
become the inexhaustible purveyor of laughter to two 
continents. He did not take to Mr. Gilbert personally ; but, 
when the Bab Ballads began appearing in Fun in 1867, 
Rossetti was enormously tickled with their eccentricities of 
humour and gymnastics of the ludicrous, and I have heard 
him recite many of these examples of " excellent fooling " 
in all sorts of companies. He was never tired of them, and 
loud and contagious guffaws attested that neither were his 
auditors tired. I mention this small matter, not so much for 
its own sake as because it illustrates my brother's alacrity at 
doing profuse justice to the talents even of a writer for whom 
he neither professed nor felt the least predilection. Besides 
his general sociality in these years — evidenced by liking to 
see his friends about him, whether to dinner or otherwise, 
and by going out to dine not unfrequently, which was 
perhaps principally towards 1869 — my brother was really a 
good-natured and even an accommodating host to some of 
his familiars, when it served their convenience. Thus Mr. 
Sandys became an established inmate of the house for about 
a year and a quarter, terminating in the summer of 1867 ; 
and another painter, Mr. George Chapman, who was in 
serious ill-health and otherwise " out of luck," was there for 
a shorter period, some three or four months. He died before 
attaining middle age ; viewed by my brother with consider- 
able regard for his facility of invention and grace in 



INCIDENTS, 1862 — 1868. 257 

portraiture, though his loose and haphazard methods of work 
were often the subject of some amicable remonstrance. 
Other friends of this period were Mr. and Mrs. Spartali and 
their beautiful daughters ; some other members of the Greek 
community in London, especially the Dilberoglues, and 
various branches of the Itmides family ; Mr. Dodgson (the 
" Lewis Carroll " of Alice in Wonderland), who, being a good 
amateur photographer, took some few excellent likenesses 
of Rossetti ; and Mr. Charles Fairfax Murray, who, when 
a mere youth, became known to my brother as an artistic 
aspirant, and who developed into a painter of good standing, 
and a vendor and collector of works of art. 

There was another young man who, at one time or other, 
played a considerable part in Rossetti's life, and of whom it 
may behove me here to say something definite. His name 
was Charles Augustus Howell. He survived my brother, but 
has been dead now some few years. It was in or about 1856 
that I casually met a man of some twenty-five years of age, 
of gentlemanly address, who had once been in the army. 
I will designate him by his initials, J. F. H. (the name is not 
Howell). Through me, and through his own rather pushing 
ways, he became known to various members of my circle, 
including my brother ; who, being kind-heartedly anxious to 
help him out of circumstances of great money-embarrassment, 
promoted his interests to the best of his power. J. F. H. 
made acquaintance with Mr. Howell, an Anglo-Portuguese 
young gentleman about seventeen years of age, and intro- 
duced him to us ; a very well-grown, pleasant-spoken, 
sprightly youth, looking some few years older than he then 
was. After a while, but not until some mischief had been 
done in attempts to serve him, J. F. H. was found by Howell 
to be a very disgraceful character. Howell gave us notice 
of this, and J. F. H. was abandoned to his fate — which 
proved to be an equally dismal and well-deserved one. This 
disclosure may have been towards the end of 1857. Mr. 
Howell knew something (we did not) of the Italian patriot 
Felice Orsini, who figures in most memories as more assassin 

VOL. I. 17 



258 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

than patriot, but in fact he was both ; and Howell was in 
some way (but I am sure without any conscious connivance) 
mixed up with the procuring or the dispatching of the 
infernal machine or machines which in January 1858 Orsini 
exploded against Napoleon III. ^Before the explosion took 
place Howell had quitted England, and returned to his 
family in Portugal. In 1864 ne was back in London ; and 
he sought out my brother and myself, who had always liked 
him, and felt much indebted to him for unmasking J. F. H., 
and so preventing us from continuing to countenance the 
latter in any way. 

London can have contained in 1864 few more agreeable 
young men than Charles Augustus Howell. He united the 
attractions of youthfulness and of aplomb. His face was 
handsome though rather outre ; not a little like that of King 
Philip IV. in the magnificent full-length by Velasquez in the 
National Gallery, but superior in manliness, the expression of 
talent, and hair which, being dark chestnut in tint, was free 
from the vapid effeminacy which marks the flaxen locks of 
Philip. Howell had seen a good deal of the world, had many 
accomplishments and a ready insight in fine art, and was 
a capital and most entertaining talker. He had not any 
artistic faculty of his own ; but was nevertheless an excellent 
facsimilist (and as such acknowledged by Ruskin) of water- 
colours and the like. Throughout Rossetti's circle he at once 
became a prime favourite. He thus formed the acquaintance 
of Mr. Ruskin, who engaged him as his secretary, and who, 
I believe, cherished him extremely for some while, and placed 
the most implicit confidence in him. I am neither required 
nor qualified to enter into an account of the relations between 
Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Howell. I know that they came to a 
close towards the end of 1870 ; and my impression is that a 
highly distinguished friend of Rossetti, one who liked Howell 
enormously at first, and disliked him intensely afterwards, 
had something to do with this result. This change of feeling 
put Rossetti into a position of embarrassment, between the 
friend who wanted him to cut Howell, and Howell himself, 



INCIDENTS, 1862— 1868. 259 

who as yet continued to be much to his taste. Mr. 
Collingwood, in his book on Ruskin, 1 makes some statements 
disadvantageous to Howell, impugning his honesty. As I 
know nothing about the details, I will leave them as they 
stand, and will also for the present leave Howell, who will 
more than once re-appear as we proceed. 

Mr. Bell Scott and his wife, leaving Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
settled in London in 1864, and from this date forward 
Rossetti saw his old friend frequently, and continued to value 
him highly. He had visited Scott in Newcastle at the end of 
1862, and then sat (to Mr. Downey) for that photograph 
which is the best known of all his portraits — a standing 
figure, three-quarters length, in an Inverness cape (or Tyneside 
wrapper, as the garment was then frequently called). In the 
autumn of 1863 he revisited with me a few Belgian cities ; 
and in 1864 he was in Paris for a short while — I think, the 
very last of his small foreign trips. Towards the same time 
when Scott settled in London, another old friend, Thomas 
Woolner, dropped out of Rossetti's circle — a matter which I 
always deeply regretted. I cannot say that my brother was 
to blame, although a person much more tolerant or much 
meeker than he might have deserved commendation for 
adopting a different course. He once gave me a very explicit 
account of the facts, to the following effect. He was among 
friends, talking of Woolner with his accustomed cordiality, 
when one of them — the same whom, in referring to Howell, I 
designated as " highly distinguished " — said to him, " I am 
rather surprised to hear you speaking of Woolner in such 
terms, for he, to my knowledge, speaks of you in very different 
terms." This staggered Rossetti, who, pursuing the point, 
became convinced that Woolner, not on one occasion only but 
as the general tone of his speech when the subject arose, 
talked of him in a way quite inconsistent with genuine regard, 
or even with considerate allowance. That my brother had 
his faults is amply true, and it is quite possible that what 

1 Vol. ii., pp. 59-61, 115. 



260 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Woolner commented upon with asperity were real faults, 
and not vamped-up imputations ; but to Woolner himself 
Rossetti had given no cause of complaint at any date, recent 
or remote. My brother hereupon ceased to see Woolner ; he 
got to regard him with antipathy, and sometimes to speak 
of him with bitterness. The sculptor indeed was well known 
for his biting tongue, and there were perhaps few of his 
acquaintances who, present or absent, were not at some time 
subjected to its sharpness. Some while afterwards — in 1868 
— my brother dropped in to see me one evening, quickly 
followed by Woolner (for I never myself was at variance with 
him, although in the course of later years we drifted apart). 
I viewed the encounter with some alarm ; but it passed off 
without anything unpleasant, each of the two now sundered 
friends treating the other with ease which faintly simulated 
good-will. I was then in hopes that they might become 
reconciled ; but no steps were taken by either with such an 
object, and I imagine they never met again. Woolner did 
indeed call at my brother's house in the summer of 1870; but 
the latter on that day was " not at home " to any one, and he 
did not hear of the visit until his once intimate comrade had 
quitted his threshold. 

From Mr. Ruskin also there was a most unfortunate 
severance. The two men liked one another — at one time I 
am sure they even loved one another— but ominous dis- 
crepancies began to appear not very long after Rossetti had 
settled in Cheyne Walk, and gradually these became irre- 
mediable, or at any rate they remained unremedied. There 
is a certain fatal divergence between an autocratic Mentor 
who tells a painter what he ought and ought not to do, and 
the painter himself, who, having an ardent invention, and 
a decided opinion as to the range and the limitations of his 
own powers of work, is expected to conform to the critic's 
notions instead. It is notorious moreover — and therefore I 
need not scruple to say it — that Mr. Ruskin's opinions as to 
what is right or wrong, to be or not to be recommended, in 
artistic execution, have differed very much at different times ; 



INCIDENTS, 1862— 1868. 26l 

and that, with characteristic but embarrassing candour, he 
has unsaid in one year several things which he had said in 
previous years. This may have suited himself, but cannot 
be supposed to have suited the living subjects of his comments. 
I have by me four letters from Mr. Ruskin to my brother, 
proper to the summer of 1865 ; the fourth alone is dated — 
18 July 1865. They must all have been consequent upon 
his seeing, in the painter's studio, the picture of Venus 
Verticordia, with its foreground of roses and honeysuckles. 
They are somewhat long, and I only extract a few sentences 
(not always consecutive in the letters themselves) to show 
how matters stood : — 

" (1) It is very good and pretty of you to answer so. You are, it 
seems, under the (for the present) fatal mistake of thinking that you 
will ever learn to paint well by painting badly — i.e., coarsely. But 
come back to me when you have found out your mistake,, or (if you 
are right in your method) when you can do better. I am very glad, 
at all events, to understand you better than I did, in the grace and 
sweetness of your letters. — (2) I purposely used the word ' wonder- 
fully ' painted about those flowers. They were wonderful to me,, in 
their realism ; awful — I can use no other word — in their coarseness. 
Come and see me now, if you like. — (3) Please come now the first 
fine evening — tea at seven. —(4) I am very grateful to you for this 
letter, and for the feelings it expresses towards me. You meant 
them — the first and second — just as rightly as this pretty third ; and 
yet they conclusively showed me that we could not at present — nor 
for some time yet— be companions any more, though true friends, I 
hope, as ever. I do not choose any more to talk to you until you 
can recognize my superiorities as / can yours. You simply do not 
see certain characters in me. A day may come when you will be 
able ; then — without apology, without restraint, merely as being 
different from what you are now — come back to me, and we will be 
as we used to be." 

Two things are clear from these extracts : 1, That the tone 
of Rossetti's letters was such as Ruskin did not, and probably 
could not, complain of; 2, That Ruskin, after encouraging 
Rossetti to call upon him at once, stringently forbade him 



262 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

to do so. I will in no wise discuss whether Ruskin was right 
or wrong in all this ; but of one thing we may be tolerably 
certain — that Rossetti did not call upon him. I assume that 
he did not in any way reply to the last letter. 

The only sequel that I know of to this correspondence 
of 1865 is that on 4 December 1866 I dined with Mr. 
Ruskin and his family, by invitation, and a very pleasant 
evening did I spend in the house. Ruskin expressed to me 
a wish to resume seeing my brother, and I suggested whether 
he would call in Cheyne Walk, and, if he did so, would be 
cautious in avoiding any topic of possible irritation. On the 
following day Ruskin did, in the friendliest spirit, make the 
visit. I was not present, but learned that " all went off most 
cordially — Ruskin expressing great admiration of the Beatrice 
in a Death-trance " (Beata Beatrix), on which my brother was 
then engaged. I am afraid however that this call was not 
followed up in any sort of way. Rossetti, very likely, did 
not return the visit — partly from general indisposition to any 
such regulated performance, and partly apprehending that 
some new cause of difficulty or dissension might arise. He 
had better have risked the chance, and gone without delay. 
I think that the very last occasion when the old friends met 
was in September 1868. Ruskin then called on Rossetti, 
and raised some question whether the latter would not join 
him in efforts for social ameliorations on a systematic scale ; 
but this was not the painter's line, and he did not take any 
practical steps about it. After this, there was, to the best of 
my belief, no further personal meeting. In August 1869 Mr. 
Ruskin was elected Slade Professor of Fine Art in Oxford 
University ; and his time was at first shared between London 
and Oxford, and ultimately he settled in the latter city. 
Anyhow a sad ending had come to a friendship which had 
once been so affectionate, and which, in the annals of art, 
might some day almost count as historical. At least, their 
parting was not in anger. Moreover, up to 1870 or there- 
abouts, my brother continued to hear a good deal about 
Mr. Ruskin, as Mr. Howell remained as yet his secretary : 



INCIDENTS, 1862— 1868. 263 

and there is a letter from Ruskin to Rossetti, as late as 
August 1870, perfectly amicable, and including a reference to 
the Poems then published. 

In these years Rossetti developed a kind of passion for 
collecting curious objects of art — chairs and tables, cabinets, 
hangings, looking-glasses (he had a special fancy for convex 
mirrors), pictures in a very minor way, and most particularly 
Japanese prints and oddities, and blue china, whether Japanese 
or Chinese. With the European he never concerned himself. 
He built up elaborate fireplaces in his house, with old carved 
oak, antiquated Dutch tiles, and the like. He also raised in 
his garden a large tent or marquee, in which we often dined 
in the summer, beginning with 1868. A friendly rivalry 
subsisted between Mr. Whistler and him, especially as to 
China and Japan. There must of course have been in London 
some fine collections of " blue china " before Rossetti's time. 
Mr. Huth's collection was one ; but my brother's- zeal and 
persistence were such as to send up prices in the market. 
The well-known Art-dealers, Messrs Marks, acted for him in 
many cases. One of his earliest purchases was that of the 
whole collection of blue china formed by the retiring Italian 
Ambassador, the Marquis d'Azeglio. Its cost to my brother 
was I think ^"200. In March 1867 he bought of Messrs. 
Marks two hawthorn-pots (Rossetti invented this name) 
which, with their covers, cost him ^120. He paid in the form 
of a picture, not of money down. In fact, what between free 
expenditure and good taste in choice, he formed a very fine 
display of blue china, which made his big sunlit drawing- 
room a sight to see. As to " the Japanese mania," which has 
by this time half-revolutionized European art of all kinds, I 
hardly know what Londoner preceded Mr. Whistler and my 
brother. They made bids against each other in Paris as well 
as in London, and were possibly a little nettled to learn in 
Paris that there was another painter — the renowned Tissot — 
who outstripped them both in acquisition. Rossetti gave a 
deal of time as well as energy to the collecting of china etc. 
I have seen him come home late, rather fagged from his 



264 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

eager pursuit, with a cargo of blue either actually in hand 
or ordered to arrive ; and, as he dropped into an easy-chair, 
he called out " Pots, pots ! " with a thrilling accent. It spoke 
at once of achievement and of despondency. Such may have 
been the tone of Alexander of Macedon when he deplored 
that there were no more worlds to conquer. 

In the way of pictures his most notable purchase was a 
moderate-sized Botticelli, obtained at Colnaghi's sale in 
March 1867 for the small sum of £20 (towards 1880 he re- 
sold it to a friend for £3 15) — a half-length figure, highly 
characteristic of its painter, of a young woman in whitish 
drapery, in a close architectural background. Botticelli was 
little or not at all in demand at that now remote date. If 
my brother had not something to do with the vogue which 
soon afterwards began to attach to that fascinating master, 
I am under a misapprehension. 

In October 1869 I made a jotting : " The collecting-passion 
seems extinct in Gabriel these several months." I cannot say 
that it had not any recurrences from time to time ; but its 
force was now spent, and never afterwards returned to a 
like level. 



XXIX. 

BEGINNINGS OF ILL-HEALTH— PENKILL CASTLE. 

DANTE ROSSETTl had naturally a strong constitution. His 
muscular strength was only moderate, but neither in this 
respect nor in others was he a weakling. He was not con- 
stantly ailing, on and off, nor frequently laid aside from work 
because the state of his health would not admit of his 
attending to it. He had some decided illnesses, and every 
now and then he was " out of sorts " — an indigestive or 
feverish attack, a violent cold, or what not. On the whole 
he was a healthy child and boy, and, up to the autumn of 
1866, when his age was thirty-eight, a healthy man. Neither 
should it be supposed that after that date he was continually 



BEGINNINGS OF ILL-HEALTH — PENKILL CASTLE. 265 

ill. In various respects he remained well ; and there were 
intervals when one could hardly say that anything distinct 
was amiss with him. He as yet bore attacks of illness well 
enough — impatiently, as was his bent, but not querulously 
nor faint-heartedly. 

Towards the autumn of 1866 he became subject to a com- 
plaint (I do not care to define it) which required surgical 
treatment from time to time. The first instance was in August 
1868. He minded this not at all ; and I have seen him resume 
painting within five minutes of one of the slight operations. 
But there was worse in store for him. 

Insomnia began in 1867. Why did it begin? I consider 
that painful thoughts, partly but not wholly connected with 
his wife and her death, were at the root of it. Rossetti was 
one of the worst men living to cope with this fell antagonist. 
No doubt there must be some persons of a sedate or phlegmatic 
temperament who will make up their minds to do with little 
sleep if they cannot get much, and will wile away the sleepless 
hours in some quiet occupation, such as reading ; or they may 
even fully submit to the inconvenience, and simply make their 
working day all the longer for the privation. Rossetti was 
not one of these, unhappily for himself. His active imagina- 
tion gave him no respite ; and to be sleepless was to be 
agitated and miserable and haggard as well. Haunted by 
memories, harried by thoughts and fantasies, he tossed and 
turned on the unrestful bed. 

Towards the end of the summer of 1867 his eyesight began 
to fail. Sunlight or artificial light became increasingly pain- 
ful to him, producing sensations of giddiness etc. Even the 
gas-lamps in the streets affected him distressingly. He 
consulted the famous oculists, Sir William Bowman and Dr. 
Bader. They both assured him that his eyes were not organi- 
cally wrong, but that the weakness of sight depended upon 
general overstrain and nervous upset. He also consulted Sir 
William Gull and Mr. Marshall, and later on (1870) Dr. 
Critchett, who confirmed the same opinion. Dr. Critchett's 
view was that the eyes were naturally more than duly fiat ; 



266 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

and that unconscious muscular power, which had, when in 
full health, been exerted to counteract this, was now no longer 
at the patient's command in equal measure. All this was 
well, so far as it went ; yet it was hardly capable of re-assuring 
a painter who found himself impeded in painting, and who 
too well remembered that his father had become nearly blind. 
He began using strong spectacles, often two pairs one over 
the other ; and, as the years progressed, he scarcely ever took 
the spectacles off, persisting in wearing them even when he 
was merely seated in talk with friends. In September 1868 
he went with Mr. Dunn on a brief trip to Stratford-on-Avon, 
Warwick, and Kenilworth ; and late in the month he again 
left town for Penkill Castle, Ayrshire, visiting on the way 
Leeds, where a large art-collection had been got up. With 
the authorities of this exhibition he had already had some to- 
do, as they had accepted from the owners certain pictures by 
Rossetti, which he wanted to be withheld, and to this require- 
ment they reluctantly yielded. He did not like that any of his 
productions, possibly of secondary merit, should ever appear 
here and there in a scattered sort of way, but wished to reserve 
himself for any time — if ever this should come — when he might 
collect a number of his best works, to be viewed in their proper 
relation one with another. Such a time never did come, though 
it was often kept in his mind's eye. 

Penkill Castle is the seat of Miss (Alice) Boyd, a Scotch 
lady then verging on middle age, who was on terms of very 
intimate friendship with Mr. Bell Scott. She had been known 
to my brother for some few years. Mr. Scott was then 
staying at the Castle ; and both Miss Boyd and he did a 
great deal to cheer and divert Rossetti. A lady of sweeter 
character and temper than Miss Boyd, or of more delicacy 
and liveliness of address, does not exist. Her intellectual 
power is high, and her gift for painting noticeable. The 
Family-letters show a few details as to this in some respects 
most pleasant sojourn. At a rather later date, in writing to 
Mr. Shields, the term which Rossetti used for Miss Boyd was 
" a rarely precious woman." 



BEGINNINGS OF ILL-HEALTH— PENKILL CASTLE. 267 

Besides Miss Boyd and Mr. Scott, there was a second lady- 
staying in 1868 in Penkill Castle — Miss Losh, who was a 
cousin of Miss Boyd, but much older, sixty-seven years of 
age. Miss Losh took an extraordinary liking for my brother 
— in whose manner, not to speak of his genius, there was 
something singularly fascinating to many and to very diverse 
persons. Mr. Scott, in his Autobiographical Notes, shows that 
he himself had no great predilection for Miss Losh, saying 
that she 

"had somehow or other taken a jealous dislike to me, thinking I 
had too much influence over her younger cousin, who entertained 
me so much, and who lived with us in London in the winter. She 
had therefore looked forward to Rossetti's appearance, fully intending 
to play him off against me, which accordingly she did in the most 
fantastic way." 

Mr. Scott approved as little of Rossetti's dealings with 
Miss Losh as of that lady's dealings with Rossetti. His 
narrative continues as follows : — 

" The old lady's admiration had culminated in an offer of a loan 
of money to any amount, to prevent him using his eyes in painting, 
or in any other trying occupation. He would get better and repay 
her, but till then he might depend on her. . . . She intended indeed 
that this plan should be a secret one between them ; but no sooner 
had we [Scott and Rossetti] started on our daily constitutional than 
he entrusted it to me [his impulsive nature was far from good at 
keeping secrets] with much effusion and gratitude, at the same time 
protesting he would never think of availing hinuelf of her kindness. 
This determination I strenuously encouraged ; and we heard no 
more of the matter until after the old lady's death, when the 
evidences to the contrary were all too clear." 

These "evidences to the contrary" consisted of an I.O.U., 
or some such document, which Rossetti gave to Miss Losh, 
and which was found after her death, and was destroyed (in 
my brother's interest) by a friendly hand — I will not say 
whose. The kind, generous Miss Losh died suddenly in 



268 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

March 1872, after an operation, seemingly quite successful, 
for cataract. That Mr. Scott entertained a very bad opinion 
of my brother in connexion with this whole transaction I 
know as a fact ; for, very soon after Dante's death, he narrated 
the circumstances to me, in a tone and in terms of acrimony 
which startled me not a little. But there may be two sides to 
this affair, as to most others. In my Diary for 3 November 
1 868 I find the following passage : — 

" Gabriel came back to-night from Penkill. He says his eyes are 
decidedly not better, though on the whole I think he seems a little 
less despondent about their essential condition. Miss Losh, the 
aunt [should be cousin] of Miss Boyd, has been at Penkill all this 
time. She pressed Gabriel (whom she had never known before) 
most urgently to accept a loan of ,-£1,000, to keep his affairs in a 
comfortable condition in case of his having to intermit work. He 
had much ado to stave off this offer ; and she has positively made 
him accept ^"ioo loan, for which the cheque is to reach him 
directly." 

This is of course my brother's own account of the matter. 
There is no corroboration of it known to me. Perhaps it 
needs none. At all events, to my own mind, it is transparently 
and absolutely true. I would not dispute that he ought, at 
some time before the death of a benefactress who would take 
no denial, to have made an opportunity for repaying the 
loan ; but her death, as I have said, was sudden, and between 
November 1868 and March 1872 there may have been 
communications passing between the two, unknown both to 
Mr. Scott and to myself. 

At Penkill Rossetti's sleeping, though not his eyesight, 
had improved. Returning to London on 3 November, 1 he 
was unable to paint until the beginning of December ; a 
tolerable proof, were any needed, that his notions about 
failure of sight were not mere fancy. My Diary, 6 

1 "The end of September" as mentioned in Mr. Scott's book, vol. ii., 
p. no, is decidedly a mistake. 



BEGINNINGS OF ILL-HEALTH. — PENKILL CASTLE. 269 

November, contains the following details, which I may as well 
extract : — 

" Gabriel says his eyes are certainly rather worse than better, in 
comparison with what they were when he left for Penkill. At the 
same time, they are by no means now so bad as his apprehensions 
some little while ago had foreboded. His mind seems more quies- 
cent on the subject altogether. He says the state of the eyes is now 
in detail this :— Objects close by he can only see fairly well with 
spectacles. This however is nothing new, and he has not found it 
needful to adopt spectacles of such high power as some medical 
advice had suggested. Objects a little way off, or distant, he sees 
completely enough ; but invariably as if with a veil interposed, 
which he describes as like a combination of the curling of smoke 
and the effervescing of champagne. By experience he now believes 
that this interposed veil is in fact the spectrum of the last preceding 
object he had been looking at ; for he sees all spectra with extra 
distinctness — would, for instance, after looking at Brown's profile, 
and then at a blank wall, see the profile there distinctly enough 
to know it as Brown, or to know the difference between such a 
spectrum-profile of Brown and a like spectrum-profile of me. The 
uncertainty of objects in a room, to his eyes, is sufficient to make 
him keep on spectacles continually. In painting for a longish time, 
the sight does not get worse at the end than the beginning ; but the 
accumulated irritation of the weak sight makes him leave off." 

About a month after this date, or at the opening of 
December 1868, my brother was so far improved as to be 
able to resume art-work. He began by doing some crayon- 
heads of Mrs. Morris, one of them representing her as 
Pandora. The state of his eyesight continued to give him 
much serious anxiety from time to time. I question whether 
it ever became quite so bad as in the autumn of 1868, unless 
maybe in the spring of 1870. 

From this account of the facts one sees that, long before 
the year 1868 came to a close, and even before it began, 
Rossetti had two formidable foes to his well-being and his 
power of work ; not to speak of the surgical matter, though 
that also was far from bein«; a mere trifle. If we reflect 



270 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

what it must be to a man of high-strung nerves and restless 
imagination to be unable to sleep at night, and what it must 
be to a painter to be wholly or partially unable to paint by 
day, we shall discern some reason for sympathizing with this 
hard-bested artist, and may perhaps be inclined to reject with 
some impatience the notion, put forward in one or other 
book, that there was " nothing whatever the matter with 
him." To suggest that a more or less uneasy conscience 
was at the bottom of it all does not improve the case. This 
only adds a shadowy insinuation of wrongdoing to a direct 
imputation of fractious or pusillanimous fancies. 



XXX. 

PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 

In August 1869 my brother went back on a visit to Penkill, 
first spending a day or two at Ravenshill near Carlisle, with 
Miss Losh. Both Miss Boyd and Scott received him again 
at Penkill. 

Mr. Scott, in his Autobiographical Notes, has given some 
pages to the two Scotch visits, and I must follow him into 
a few details. He considers that it was himself who, on the 
occasion of the first visit, seconded as he was by Miss Boyd 
and Miss Losh, re-aroused the interest of Rossetti in his 
poetry, past and prospective. When Rossetti was downcast 
about the condition of his eyes and other things, Scott said, 
" Live for your poetry " ; and this exhortation, he considers, 
had a marked effect. My brother, being disabled for a while 
from painting, would perchance of himself have bethought 
him to some purpose of his other and not less important 
faculty, that of a poet ; but of course I raise no objection to 
what Mr. Scott here puts forward as a statement of fact. 
Mr. Scott however writes as if he were quite unaware of 
what is also a fact — namely, that in the spring of 1868 
Rossetti had already made an appearance in public print as 
a poet ; introducing, into a pamphlet-review of pictures of 



PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 27 1 

that year, three sonnets recently written for paintings of his 
own — Lady Lilith, Sibylla Palmifera, and Verms Verticordia. 
The two former have since been entitled Body's Beauty and 
Soul's Beauty. This pamphlet-review was the joint work 
of Mr. Swinburne and myself, and the sonnets were inserted 
in Mr. Swinburne's section of the publication. I can re- 
member that the issuing of these sonnets was done with 
some definite idea of following them up by other public 
appearances in verse, and therefore the conception of " living 
for his poetry " was decidedly in Rossetti's mind before he 
went to Penkill in September 1868. The publication in the 
spring of 1868 was a sort of feeler, leading on to the printing 
of several sonnets in the Fortnightly Review for March 1869. 
In this latter year, soon before starting for Penkill, he 
obtained a Printer's estimate for the printing of various 
poems — those old compositions of which some copies remained 
in his hands after the consignment of his chief MS. to his 
wife's coffin, and some few others of later date. At Penkill 
on this second occasion he wrote several other poems — the 
ballad of Troy Town, part of Eden Bower, the beginning 
of the long lyric of The Stream's Secret, The Orchard-pit 
(prose synopsis for poem), etc. For The Stream's Secret he 
appropriated bodily the felicitous title which Scott had already 
bestowed upon a sonnet of his own. Scott was very properly 
annoyed at this ; but Rossetti would have it so, and so it 
was. The " stream " in this poem is (as Mr. Sharp says) 
" the brown-pooled, birch-banked Penwhapple in Ayrshire, 
that gurgles and lapses from slope to slope till it reaches 
Girvan Water " ; and some of the verses were written down 
in a cave going by the name of a Covenanter of the seven- 
teenth century, Bennan's Cave. It has generally been stated 
that The Stream's Secret was composed wholly at Penkill. 
One of the Family-letters shows this to be a mistake, as the 
great majority of the poem was only produced in March 1870, 
at Scalands, Sussex. 

Proceeding with his narrative for the year 1869, Mr. Scott 
relates, not indeed an attempt at suicide on Rossetti's part, 



272 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

but what he regarded as a manifest impulse towards suicide. 
I will give his own words, which are vivid enough : — 

" Miss Boyd sometimes drove us about the country, instead of 
leaving us to take those long walks I found so trying in the previous 
year. One day she took us to the Lady's Glen, a romantic ravine 
in which the stream falls into a black pool round which the surround- 
ing vertical rocks have been worn, by thousands of years of rotating 
flood, into a circular basin, called, as many such have been desig- 
nated, the Devil's Punchbowl. We all descended to the overhanging 
margin of the superincumbent rock; but never shall I forget the 
expression of Gabriel's face when he bent over the precipice, peering 
into the unfathomed water dark as ink, in which sundry waifs flew 
round and round like lost souls in hell. In no natural spectacle had 
I ever known him to take any visible interest ; the expression on his 
pale face did not indicate such interest ; it said, as both Miss Boyd 
and I at the same moment interpreted it, ' One step forward, and I 
am free ! ' But his daily talk of suicide had not given him courage. 
The chance so suddenly and unexpectedly brought within his grasp 
paralysed him. I advanced to him — trembling, I confess, for I 
could not speak. I could not have saved him. We were standing 
on a surface slippery as glass by the wet green lichen. Suddenly he 
turned round, and put his hand in mine, an action which showed 
he was losing self-command, and that fear was mastering him. 
When we were safely away, we all sat down together without a word, 
but with faces too conscious of each other's thoughts. . . . The 
feeble-minded English law declares the suicide to be of unsound 
mind, whereas he is anything but that. It is the privilege of man 
alone, the only reasoning suicidal creature in the world." 

I am not sure that I ever heard this matter in any way 
mentioned during my brother's lifetime, or until the appear- 
ance of Mr. Scott's book (1892). The only serious question 
arising in connexion with it is this — Did Rossetti really 
contemplate suicide ? This I think quite possible, but by 
no means evident. Dismissing the rather unkind remarks 
that certain talk " had not given him courage," and that 
" fear was mastering him," I must observe that a man who 
was " standing on a surface slippery as glass," on the brink 



PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 273 

of a " precipice," above an " unfathomed water dark as ink," 
might very well put his hand into that of a friend, to be 
assisted backwards, without having at the previous moment 
projected self-destruction. For the rest, Mr. Scott seems, by 
the last sentence in my extract, to consider that suicide is, 
under certain conditions, a very rational act — an opinion in 
which I take leave to agree with him. He is of course wrong 
in saying that the " English law declares the suicide to be of 
unsound mind " ; for there is no law whatever to this effect, 
but only, in numerous instances, the opinion or the good- 
nature of a Coroner's Jury. 

Mr. Scott's next anecdote purports that Rossetti found in 
a country road a chaffinch which he picked up, and which 
he supposed at the time to be the spirit of his wife. I will 
not give the details, but am fully satisfied that they are in 
all essential respects perfectly true. I question however 
whether, at one moment of this odd transaction, Rossetti's 
face wore a " curiously ferocious look." To the eye of that 
particular old friend — a friend, in the summer of 1869, already 
of twenty-one years' standing * — there may have been a look 
so describable. For myself, I knew my brother's face pretty 
well. It was a fine face, with " looks " often varying. Most 
of those known to me I should call noble, and not any of 
them " curiously ferocious." Much about the date of the 
"curiously ferocious" incident, or on 27 August 1869, 
Rossetti was writing to Mr. Shields about Scott in the 
following terms : " the best of philosophic and poetic natures, 
a man of the truest genius, and one of my eldest companions." 
" Look here upon this picture, and on this." 

The printing of my brother's poems was now going on 
actively, and he received and revised proofs at Penkill Castle. 
His idea (as I had noted just before he started for the North) 

1 I gather, from certain statements in Mr. Scott's book, that this was 
chiefly written in 1877, and on to 1882, the year of my brother's death. 
Scott himself died in 1890. So he was at that time, when he left his work 
ready for publication, a friend of forty-two years' standing to my brother, 
living and dead. 

VOL. I. lS 



2^4 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSET TX. 

was to have them " printed for future use in any way he may 
like " ; or (to use his own words written from Penkill), " my 
object is to keep them by me as stock for a future volume." 
The prevalent notion appears to be that he wanted to diffuse 
the poems in a limited circle as a privately printed volume. 
This is but partially correct. He wanted to have the poems 
by him in a convenient form, and therefore a printed form, 
and, when he had so got them, to settle what might best be 
done with the sheets. But the whole affair of the privately 
printed copies soon became obsolete. 

For some while past some friends had urged Rossetti to 
recover the MS. buried in his wife's coffin, and thus to obtain 
possession, not only of copies of several poems completer than 
the copies (made up from scraps and reminiscence) which 
were already in his hands, but also of some compositions 
of which he retained no example whatever. The chief among 
these was the important production named Jenny. I cannot 
say with precision who these friends were. The facts seem 
to mark Mr. Henry Virtue Tebbs (John Seddon's brother-in- 
law), who was then a Proctor at Doctors' Commons, and Mr. 
Charles Augustus Howell, as prominent among them. From 
this suggestion Rossetti hung back for a while, but ultimately 
he assented. The feelings which impelled him to hang back, 
and those which induced him to assent, will be manifest to 
any thoughtful and feeling mind. The subject, in all its 
bearings, is a painful one, and I shall not dilate upon it. 
I will only say that, when my brother finally wrote to me 
explaining what had been done, I replied expressing the 
opinion — to which I adhere — that he had acted aright. The 
disinterment of the MS. was effected towards 10 October 1869. 
My brother had returned from Penkill on 20 September. 
Mr. Tebbs managed some legal business ; Mr. Howell was 
present in the cemetery along with the workmen at the 
moment of unearthing the MS. Along with Howell was, I 
suppose, Dr. Llewellyn Williams, of Kennington, who imme- 
diately afterwards undertook the disinfecting of the papers ; 
not any one else, so far as I recollect. Though this affair was 



PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING 1 POEMS. 275 

conducted in all privacy, some gossip about it commenced 
pretty soon, as I observe by a letter, dated in June 1870, from 
Lord Aberdare, the Home Secretary, well known to my 
brother ever since the first project of the Llandaff Triptych, 
from whom it had been necessary to obtain a faculty for 
opening the grave. Mr. Hall Caine's brief account of the 
matter — no other details seem to have appeared in print — is 
as follows : — 

" At length preliminaries were complete ; and one night, seven 
and a half years after the burial, a fire was built by the side of the 
grave, and then the coffin was raised and opened. The body is 
described as perfect upon coming to light. Whilst this painful work 
was being done, the unhappy author of it was sitting, alone and 
anxious and full of self-reproaches, at the house of the friend who 
had charge of it. He was relieved and thankful when told that all 
was over." 

So now at last Rossetti was in possession of the correct 
form of his old poems ; and he proceeded to get these, along 
with some new ones, published in the ordinary mode. In 
copying them out he was actively assisted by Mr. Fairfax 
Murray. He thought of Mr. John Murray as publisher, and 
some one else thought of Messrs. Blackwood, who indeed made 
a direct proffer of their own ; but neither of these schemes came 
to anything, and the publisher with whom an arrangement 
was effected was Mr. F. S. Ellis, then of King Street, Covent 
Garden, more generally known as a leading bookseller. Mr. 
Ellis afterwards removed to the old-established book-shop, 
No. 29 New Bond Street (Shelley's friend Mr. Hookham 
had once been there). Here Mr. Ellis carried on business 
with more than one successive partner, and the firm is now 
represented by Messrs. Ellis (nephew of F. S. Ellis) and 
Elvey, the publishers of the present volumes. My brother, 
for some few years before 1 869, had been a customer of Mr. 
F. S. Ellis for books, and their relation had become one of a 
very friendly character ; and no one could have managed the 
publishing business for Rossetti with more judicious zeal, or 



276 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

in a more thoroughly liberal and confiding spirit, than Mr. 
Ellis — a man of very good literary taste and acquirements, 
as proved of late years by various performances of his own. 

My brother was in some respects a singular compound of 
self-reliance and self-mistrust. He relied on himself so far 
as the working-impulse and the actual work were concerned. 
He mistrusted himself with regard to the effect of his work 
upon other minds. No man was prouder, or more resolved 
to have his way, and make his way as well. Few men were 
more entirely free from vanity — although indeed, in his 
latest years, there was more of a fusion between vanity and 
pride than there had been in all his boyhood, youth, and 
mature manhood. Owing to pride present, and vanity absent, 
he was the most natural of men. You could take him, or 
you could leave him alone ; but, if you took him, you had 
to take him such as he intrinsically was, without any attempt 
on his part at adjusting the mutual relationship by concession, 
compromise, half-measures, or a veneering of attributes not 
his own. With most people he was easy, open, and hearty ; 
with many, tolerant ; with others, intolerant ; with all, he was 
himself. Intellectually he was so frank that it might almost 
be said he blurted himself out. As to poetry, he was perfectly 
conscious of having a special faculty, and of having done some 
good work. In fact, he considered (and I think justly) that his 
executive attainment in verse was riper and surer than in 
painting. To most of us it might appear that a man of this 
description would care next to nought for anything but the 
work produced ; would abide in his own knowledge of where 
he had succeeded to the full, and where he had faltered ; 
and would view with solid or stolid indifference the opinions 
entertained on the subject by other people. Yet this was 
not the case. It was here that his self-mistrust as to the 
effect of his work upon other minds came in. That he had 
cordial admirers he knew very well ; but he thought he might 
also have cordial detractors. As soon as he had decided to 
publish, he became solicitous that persons well-affected to 
the book should give expression to their views in print. I 



PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 277 

have no sort of recollection of the exact steps which were 
taken ; but am sure that something was done, with his cogni- 
zance, so that certain editors might entrust the book to 
certain writers for reviewing, or certain writers might bespeak 
it of certain editors. My diary for 1 1 October 1 869 contains 
the following passage : — 

" Gabriel called, and talked about his intended publication of 
poems in the Spring. He thinks it desirable to make sure of the 
reviewers as far as possible, and thinks he can count upon handsome 
notices in various reviews. His plan therefore would be to send the 
book first to two or three papers that he can count on, and that are 
of leading importance ; wait for the appearance of the critiques in 
these ; and only then send the book to other papers, which it would 
reach, having already a considerable prestige about it. This is 
skilful scheming ; but for my own part (as I told Gabriel) I would 
not diplomatize at all, but just leave the book to take its chance, and 
feel pretty confident of the result into the bargain." 

I have been treating this matter with great plainness, and 

openly showing that, in my opinion, my brother's feeling 

and his line of action, in relation to public criticism, were 

other than they should have been. I am therefore all the 

better entitled to confute over-statements on the same subject 

which appear elsewhere. Mr. Bell Scott (who has gone 

further than other writers in this direction, and has served 

as authority for some repetitions of the allegation) expresses 

himself thus : — 

I 

" He to the last moment would work the oracle, and get all his 

friends to prepare laudatory critical articles to fill all the leading 

journals." 

No reflective person will believe this averment about "all 
his friends " and " all the leading journals." It bears on the 
very face of it exaggeration, and exaggeration with a motive 
the reverse of friendly. But I will go further, and express 
my serious doubt whether Dante Rossetti did " get " any one 
of his friends to prepare a critical article, laudatory or other- 



278 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

wise. He had several ardent admirers who were also friends 
or acquaintances ; and some of these were connected with 
" leading journals," or could easily, in virtue of their own 
eminence, obtain admission for articles of their writing 1 into 
such papers. The names of five who are still living occur 
to me at once — Messrs. Swinburne, Morris, Skelton, Colvin, 
and Knight. I will not insult any one of these gentlemen 
by raising an express question whether he was " got " by 
Rossetti to write an article — in any sense which can, in this 
connexion, be reasonably attached to that word " got." My 
firm belief is that most or all of them volunteered — and 
volunteered, not just because they liked Rossetti personally 
(Mr. Skelton had only a slight knowledge of him), but because 
their critical judgment avouched his poems to be good. And 
I know as a fact that Mr. Swinburne's splendid outburst of 
generous yet sincere eulogy contained at first some passages 
which, while laudatory of my brother, might be considered 
unwelcome to some other writers, and that it was my brother 
who, by not a little pressure, " got " him to retrench these. 
It is not all critics who think, with Mr. Scott, that the mass 
of Rossetti's earlier poems, except Jenny and Sister Helen, 
are " comparatively boyish and worthless." 

Mr. Scott, in a very friendly tone as regards myself, next 
proceeds to quote some words of mine, which (as he puts it) 
I " said," but I fancy that in fact I wrote them, in the year 
1872. I abide by them to the letter; but I do not repeat 
them here, as I have no wish to thrust myself constantly 
forward, and what I said or wrote to Scott appears, more 
precisely defined, in the note already given from my Diary. 
Then, after speaking of Rossetti's sensitiveness to adverse 
criticism when ultimately it came, Mr. Scott says : — 

" He had felt that such would be the effect of adverse strictures, 
and feared them ; else why the reluctance to publish, the desire to 
issue his privately-printed volume when we had prevailed upon him 
to take up poetry again, and why the disagreeable expenditure of 
energy in working the oracle, to furnish all the ordinary channels of 
criticism with articles ready-made under his own eye ? " 



PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 279 

These questions seem a little captious. We have already 
seen that " the reluctance to publish " arose from the fact 
that, prior to the exhuming of the MS., Rossetti was not in 
possession of some poems at all, nor of the final and best 
form of other poems, and that, immediately after the exhum- 
ing, he set about publishing ; also that " his privately-printed 
volume " was prepared with a view quite as much to eventual 
publication as to merely private issue. We have also seen 
how far it was " we " — i.e., Mr. Scott, Miss Boyd, and Miss 
Losh — who " had prevailed upon him to take up poetry 
again." The phrase " articles ready-made wider his own eye " 
can only be termed erroneous (unless we were to substitute a 
stronger expression). An article ready-made under his own 
eye must mean an article which Rossetti regulated, controlled 
and more or less dictated. Whether those articles really were 
so concocted is a question which some eminent living men 
could answer if they deigned to do so. 

I will sum up by saying : The articles were written by 
competent men (some of them about the most competent in 
the country) who considered the critical opinions expressed 
in them to be true ; Rossetti was not part and parcel in the 
writing of them ; they were published under the ordinary con- 
ditions governing critical reviews. But it would have been all 
the better if Rossetti had not cared and had not known who was 
writing or not writing, or who was publishing or not publishing. 

This matter of the critiques which were printed belongs 
properly to a date after the poems themselves had been 
published ; but I have dealt with it here because some steps 
with regard to the critiques had been taken in anticipation, 
and it seemed very requisite to discuss whether those steps 
were underhand or aboveboard. I now go on to some par- 
ticulars about Rossetti's health and his friends. 

In speaking of my brother's first visit to Penkill Castle in 
the autumn of 1868, Mr. Scott observes : — 

" He never got up till near mid-day ; my difficulty every evening 
being to leave him after we had emptied endless tumblers of the 
wine of the country in the shape of whisky-toddy," 



28o DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

" Endless tumblers " is, as the newspaper men say, " a large 
order " ; but, giving a reasonable interpretation to the term, 
I suppose Mr. Scott's statement to be correct. The fact is 
that my brother was, by nature and habit, one of the most 
temperate of mortals. He from the first disliked beer, and 
drank it hardly at all ; spirits he drank very little, and I 
dare say a month or two would often pass without his so much 
as touching them ; wine he liked well, and would drink in 
moderation on and off, as the occasion happened. He had 
not a bad head for drinking, and could dispose of a fair 
ordinary quantity of liquor without its affecting him in any 
degree whatever. I know that at Penkill he found some 
whisky which he relished ; he would speak of it under the 
name of the local purveyor, McKechnie. I think it probable 
that from this time forward a certain increase in the readiness 
to drink was perceptible in him. In 1869, after returning to 
London, troubled by profuse perspirations and by nervous 
symptoms — as well as by weakness of sight, which again 
interrupted his painting at times — he consulted Sir William 
Jenner, who prohibited spirits and opiates altogether, and 
ordered bedtime not later than midnight, and a country-life 
with but little work for a half-year to come. Rossetti wrote to 
Mr. Shields as to this on 24 December, saying that doctors 

" speak most warningly as to hours, exercise, and abstinence from 
spirits — for which, Heaven knows, I have no taste, but had, for a 
year and a half past, fallen into the constant habit of resorting to 
them at night to secure sleep. I have now relinquished them 
entirely." 

In June 1869 Rossetti lost a very friendly acquaintance, 
always glad to do him a good turn — Mr. Michael Halliday, 
who was a Clerk in the House of Lords, and also a painter ; 
at first an amateur painter, but after a while almost pro- 
fessional. He died immediately after attending the funeral 
of a brother-in-law. He was a well-dressed small man, very 
manly in his ways — with high shoulders not much unlike 
a hump. Soon before this, December 1868, my brother had 



PREPARATIONS FOR PUBLISHING POEMS. 28 1 

made the acquaintance of Mr. Nettleship, well known now as 
a painter of wild animals. He was then a young man, but 
rather beyond the usual age for starting in the pictorial 
career ; a great enthusiast for ideal and abstract forms of art, 
such as that of William Blake, and a hardy inventor in the 
like line. In October 1869 Dr. Thomas Gordon Hake 
appeared in my brother's studio. In Section X. I have 
made a brief reference to a romance published anonymously 
by this gentleman, named Vates, much beloved by Rossetti 
towards 1844. Its full title is Vates, or The Philosophy of 
Madness ; or, in a later issue, Valdarno, or The Ordeal of Art- 
worship. It appeared as a serial publication of large size, 
with strange wild etchings by Thomas Landseer, very 
stimulating to a boy's imagination. Vates seethed in my 
brother's head, and towards i860 he took some steps for 
ferreting out the author ; learning that his name was Hake, 
and writing to him, but without any prompt result, as the 
Doctor was then abroad. At last however they met, and 
Rossetti found his visitor to be a poet as well as romancist. 
This was in October 1869 (Dr. Hake, in his Memoirs of 
Eighty Years, has inadvertently given the date as 1871). The 
Doctor was then sixty years of age — a man of more than 
common height, lithe and straight, with very self-possessed 
gentle manners, and clear deliberate utterance. My brother 
took to him at once, and cultivated his company ; and soon 
he had reason to know him for a real friend. Rossetti found 
Dr. Hake's poems singular, but very interesting and to a large 
extent excellent. Only a few specimens had been published 
at the date of the meeting in 1869. 

Dr. Hake had attained a great age when— quite recently, 
in January 1895 — his n T e came to a close. His Memoirs 
contain several details about Rossetti — often eulogistic, but 
not monotonously nor uncandidly so. I will extract a few 
sentences — proper to this opening period of their acquaint- 
ance : — 

" When I saw Rossetti in his prime, a healthy man, he was the 
noblest of men, and had a heart so good that I have never known a 



282 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

better — seldom its equal. . . . He had a very just mind. When an 
author was discussed, whatever might be said against him, he would 
insist on his merits being remembered. From rivalship and its 
jealousies he was absolutely free, and his hospitality was without 
limit. Above all, he was ready at all times to serve a friend, and to 
exert his influence to that end." 

Another person who saw a great deal of Rossetti, beginning 
towards 1869, was Franz Hueffer, Ph.D., a German from 
Mtinster who talked excellent English — a man of learning 
and great talent, equally accomplished at the pianoforte and at 
Schopenhauer. He was a prominent leader in the Wagnerian 
movement, and became musical critic of the Times. In 1872 
he married Madox Brown's younger daughter, Cathy. He 
edited the Tauchnitz issue of Rossetti's poetical writings, 
and died rather suddenly in January 1889, aged only forty- 
three ; a severe loss to some musical and literary causes, 
and to all persons who were closely connected with him. 



XXXI. 

ART-WORK FROM 1869 TO SUMMER 1872. 

My brother's principal works of art of this period were the 
oil-pictures of Pandora, Mariana, Dante's Dream, Water- 
willow, Beata Beatrix (duplicate), and Veronica Veronese ; 
the water-colour of Michael Scott ; and the designs of Penelope, 
The Death of Lady MacbetJi, Silence, La Donna del la Fiamma, 
and Dr. Hake. Of some of these works I have already 
spoken briefly in Section XXVII., in reference to the question 
of my brother's types of feminine beauty. A few further 
observations will now be apposite. 

The Mariana represents Shakespear's Mariana in the 
Moated Grange, with the Page singing to her the song 
" Take oh take those lips away." It was originally schemed 
as simply a portrait of Mrs. Morris, with an idea of music 
annexed to it. This was to have been supplied by intro- 
ducing a nightingale, to which the lady was listening. 



ART-WORK FROM 1 869 TO SUMMER 1 872. 283 

Gradually the conception of the picture was modified or 
expanded, and it assumed its present shape, the head of the 
Page being painted from William Graham, the son of the 
purchaser. Dante's Dream, now in the Walker Art Gallery 
of Liverpool, was also executed for Mr. Graham, and is much 
the largest painting that Rossetti ever produced. Its price 
was £i,S75- Mr. Graham only wanted a picture of the size 
of 6 feet by 3I, his house in Grosvenor Place not containing 
available spaces adapted to works of a really great size ; but 
Rossetti was bent upon doing a magnum opus, and he set-to 
upon a canvas fully 10 feet by 7. As in so many another 
case, he had his way, the purchaser being truly friendly and 
admiring, and, spite of not a little well-grounded demur, 
submissive. My brother had an abortive idea about this 
picture, which is worth recording in his own terms, as con- 
tained in a letter to Mr. Scott : — 

" I should like to try and lithograph myself that big picture of 
mine. If one could do something of this sort with one's inventions 
(much the best quality I have as a painter), one might really get 
one's brain into print before one died, like Albert Durer, and 
moreover be freed perhaps from slavery to 'patrons' while one 
lived." 

The inconvenience which Mr. Graham had foreseen ensued 
as of necessity. The picture, begun in 1869 and finished 
towards the close of 1871, could only be hung on a staircase. 
Afterwards it was transferred, throi.gh the painter's own 
hands, from Mr. Graham to Mr. Valpy. The latter gentle- 
man after a while quitted London, settling in Bath. Rossetti, 
who could not bear the notion that this important example 
of his art should be hidden away in a country-town, took 
it back ; and, after a rather tedious delay, succeeded in 
disposing of it to the Corporation of Liverpool in 1881. In 
anticipation of this sale he again, with his constant desire 
to do the very best for his art and his purchasers, worked 
upon the picture. In some respects he certainly improved 
it ; but I cannot help thinking that he made a serious mistake 



284 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

in altering the colour of Beatrice's hair, from the very dark 
tint proper to the sitter, Mrs. Morris, to a golden hue, which 
is besides not wholly exempt from a pinkish' tendency. Far 
be it from me however to undervalue, in essential respects, 
a picture which may be fairly, and not by a brother alone, 
called great as well as large. The Queen's Limner in 
Scotland, Sir Joseph Noel Paton, is probably quite as 
competent to estimate a painting as the majority of press- 
critics. His opinion of Dante's Dream (which he saw in 
Rossetti's studio in 1881 shortly before its being dispatched 
to Liverpool) is expressed in a letter addressed to Mr. William 
Sharp, which contains, among other enthusiastic utterances, 
the following : " Fifty years hence it will be named among 
the half-dozen supreme pictures of the world." This praise 
may be somewhat excessive ; it is at any rate delightfully 
generous. 

The duplicate of Beata Beatrix was undertaken for Mr. 
Graham, who delighted in the original to a singular degree. 
Rossetti felt the greatest reluctance for this effort — chiefly, 
as may well be surmised, on account of the painful asso- 
ciations of the work with his dead wife. However, he 
yielded, and proceeded with the duplicate at intervals, highly 
dissatisfied with it in all respects. It was made to differ 
from the first version by the addition of a predella, was 
completed late in 1872, and was at last viewed by its author 
with less disfavour than at most stages of its progress. 
Veronica Veronese (an imaginary lady, touching a violin to 
the note lilted by a canary) embodies, to my mind, some of 
his more abstract ideas as to the relation between Nature 
and Art. It might also seem that he put the subject into 
this form after he had transmuted the old nightingale-subject 
into a Mariana. The Veronica was sent to a London ex- 
hibition in 1894, and was then received with loud acclaim as 
a work of exceptional beauty — which indeed it is. 

As to the water-colour of Michael Scott, I cannot recollect 
ever seeing any such coloured work ; but I believe there was 
one, the property either of Mr. Leyland or of Mr. Frederick 



THE POEMS, 1870— CHLORAL. 285 

Craven of Manchester, who owned several of Rossetti's pictures. 
I used to be very familiar with a cartoon-design named The 
Wooing of Michael Scott, which my brother intended to paint. 
It was one of his most fantastic, and in a sense one of his 
most arbitrary, inventions. 

The designs of Penelope and of Silence rank high among 
the works in tinted crayons. Both the Silence and the Donna 
delta Fiannna are from Mrs. Morris. The Portrait of Dr. 
Hake, done in the same medium, may count as the best male 
portrait ever produced by Rossetti, if one excepts — and I 
incline to do so — a head of Mr. Theodore Watts, executed in 
1874. It has been lately stated — and, as it happens, by Mr. 
Watts — that the expression given to Dr. Hake is too heavy. 
It never struck me to that effect, but there has been a lapse 
of several years since I saw the portrait. 

In January 1872 Rossetti first came into correspondence 
with. Mr. W. A. Turner of Manchester, who later on became 
the purchaser of some of his pictures — A Vision of Fiammetta, 
a Proserpine, etc. Their relations were always very cordial. 
The Vision of Fiammetta is not to be confounded with a 
head named Fiammetta which Rossetti had ere now sold to 
Mr. Gambart. This was in fact the head of " Kate the Queen," 
excised from the large canvas on which a picture from 
Browning had been begun towards 1850. 



XXXII. 

THE POEMS, 1870— CHLORAL— KELMSCOTT MANOR-HOUSE. 

TOWARDS the close of 1869 and beginning of 1870, Rossetti's 
attention was chiefly concentrated upon his forthcoming poetic 
volume — the one which is known as Poems, 1870. This date, 
1870, should be borne in mind by any amateurs of Rossetti's 
work; for the volume named Poems of 1 881, though partly 
a re-issue of the book of 1870, is very far from being identical 
with it. At a recent date, 1894, I found that even the 



286 DANTE GABRtEL ROSSETTl. 

authorities of the British Museum Library had allowed this 
fact to slip their observation, and were not in possession of 
any copy of the Poems, 1881, having assumed it to be a mere 
reprint of the volume of 1870 ; and thus one of the author's 
longest compositions, the (unfinished) Bride's Prelude, did 
not then exist in that Library in any form printed during his 
lifetime — not to speak of other and far from unimportant 
alterations. 

My brother's health continued to be not good, and his eye- 
sight bad; and in the spring of 1870 he went down to an 
estate belonging to his kind friend of old standing, Mrs. 
Bodichon, who placed it quite at his disposal for a while — 
Scalands, near Robertsbridge, Sussex. Here, after a period 
of much depression, he at last revived considerably ; and, 
when he came back to town in May, I found him much thinner 
than he had been for years (which was a decided advantage), 
and also much better. By March 1871 he was easier, as to 
both health and eyes, than for some years preceding. 

At Scalands Rossetti was joined by an American acquaint- 
ance of his, a friend more especially of my own — Mr. William 
J. Stillman, who not very long afterwards married Miss 
Spartali. Mr. Stillman was originally a landscape-painter, 
then a literary man and journalist ; and lately he had been 
American Consul in Crete, during the vigorous insurrection 
of that island against Turkish oppression. He openly sided 
with the Cretans ; and, after suffering there many troubles 
and a great domestic calamity, settled in London in the 
autumn of 1869. He has now, for several years past, been 
domiciled in Rome, holding a very important post in jour- 
nalism. Few men could have been better adapted than Mr. 
Stillman — -none could have been more willing — to solace 
Rossetti in his harasses from insomnia and other troubles ; 
but it is a fact that a remedy worse than the disease was the 
result of his friendly ministrations. Chloral, as a soporific, 
was then a novelty. In England little was known of it, and 
not much elsewhere. It was supposed to produce no ill 
effects worth taking into consideration. Mr. Stillman had 



WiE POEMS, 1870— CHLORAL. 287 

heard of its potency in procuring sleep — possibly he had 
himself tested this — and he introduced the drug to Rossetti's 
attention. My brother was one of the men least fitted to 
try any such experiment with impunity. With him it was 
a case of any expedient and any risk to escape a present 
evil ; and sleeplessness was no doubt, to such a temperament 
as his, an evil of prime magnitude. He began, I understand, 
with nightly doses of chloral of 10 grains. In course of 
time it got to 180 grains ! So at least Rossetti supposed ; 
but I have sound reason for thinking, with much thankful- 
ness, that in this he was greatly mistaken. His doctor, 
Mr. Marshall — knowing with whom he had to deal — would 
not, save in some instances of crisis, prohibit the drug 
altogether, but he took care that the chemists should dilute 
it to a degree of which my brother was kept severely in 
ignorance ; and, when he fancied that his dose was 180 
grains, I dare say it was barely half of this, or maybe barely 
a third. Even after the chloral entered his house elaborate 
and clandestine precautions of further dilution were taken 
by Mr. Dunn, Mr. George Hake, and others. It is rather 
surprising to me that my brother never found this out ; for, 
with all his extreme carelessness in many matters of daily 
routine, he was observant, and grew to be suspicious — the 
outcome, I believe, to a very large extent, of the chloral 
itself. Notwithstanding all this dilution, the dosing with 
chloral remained not less monstrous than the effects of it 
were deplorable. " I am told " (says Mr. Edmund Gosse) 
" that no case has been recorded in the annals of medicine 
in which one patient has taken so much, or even half so 
much, chloral as Rossetti took." I am fain to hope that this 
estimate applies, not to the real doses taken, but to the nominal 
doses as supposed by Rossetti himself. " Deep melancholy 
and weakness of will " are set down as two of the detrimental 
results of chloral. Too surely my brother did become at 
times deeply melancholy, and his will — naturally so strong, 
prompt, and indeed overbearing — did get enfeebled — I may 
say, chronically enfeebled ; though there were many intervals 



288 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTt. 

and many contingencies when it reasserted itself in its olden 
vigour. 

Even the chloral was not the whole of the harm done. 
My brother found it nauseous, and after a while not so effica- 
cious as he wanted. Therefore, strictly as he had been warned 
by the best medical advice against any tampering with spirits, 
he took to drams of neat whisky in immediate sequence to 
=v the chloral ; not, I think — unless in the most exceptional 
instances — at any other period in the twenty-four hours. I 
regret to say that I have more than once seen him take his 
dose of chloral, and then forthwith toss down his throat a 
brimming wineglass of the neat whisky, which was gone 
almost in a gulp. Remonstrance was imperative, and also 
futile. I have often surmised that this misuse of spirits was 
at least as noxious to him as the chloral itself. But, while 
he was at Scalands, and for some months ensuing, things had 
no doubt not come to this pass. 

Whatever may have been the evil they wrought in him, 
my brother had good reason for believing in the chloral, 
supplemented by the alcohol, as an opiate. Yet he would 
not admit that they afforded him real natural sleep. Many 
a time have I heard him declare that the so-called sleep could 
only be called a trance. It gave unconsciousness, without 
adequate repose and refreshment. Still, the drug counteracted 
insomnia ; and who shall say what his condition would have 
been if insomnia had persisted with him from week to week 
and from month to month, totally uncounteracted ? How long 
would his brain — how long would his life — have continued to 
struggle on ? 

The volume of Po'ems was published on 25 April 1870, or 
thereabouts. Some advance copies had been sent to leading 
reviews, so that there might be no delay in an expression of 
opinion. The book was a great success. The first issue 
consisted of a thousand copies ; of these, eight hundred were 
sold by 3 May, and the remainder about the 20th. Two 
hundred and fifty out of the thousand went to America. The 
profit to the author was to be a quarter of the published price, 



THE POEMS, 1 870— CHLORAL. 289 

paid as soon as the copies were put on sale, without waiting 
for actual purchase ; and by the end of July Rossetti had thus 
realized ^450. This rate of sale could not, in the nature of 
things, last very long, and two events brought it to an early 
conclusion — although later issues of the book (there were six 
in all) continued going off for some while later. Dickens died 
on 9 June, and the sale declined. France declared war on 
Prussia in the middle of the summer, and the sale almost 
ceased. These occurrences seemed to be, and probably were, 
in the nature of cause and effect. Such are the odd and 
extraneous chances affecting a book about Dante at Verona, 
The Blessed Damozel, and The House of Life. A Tauchnitz 
edition of the volume came out in 1873, with a preface by 
Hueffer. 

The chorus of praise for the Poems was eager, loud, and 
prolonged ; and certainly any steps which Rossetti may have 
taken for " working the oracle " (to recur to Mr. Scott's 
favourite phrase) were not wholly responsible for this — far 
from it. Mr. Swinburne led the van with what may well be 
called a paean in the Fortnightly Review. Now Mr. Swinburne 
is tolerably well known for three qualities : 1, supreme com- 
petence for expressing an opinion on poetic art in general, 
and on particular poems ; 2, gorgeous munificence of praise 
where he sees it to be due ; and 3, rigorous silence as to what 
he deems below the requisite standard, or on occasion resolute 
denunciation of it. I will extract two passages from his 
verdict upon Rossetti : — 

" It [Rossetti's poetry] has the fullest fervour and fluency of 
impulse, and the impulse is always towards harmony and perfection. 
It has the inimitable note of instinct, and the instinct is always high 
and right. What he would do is always what a poet should, and 
what he would do is always done." 

And next upon some matters of detail : — 

" The influence which plainly has passed over the writer's mind, 
attracting it as by a charm of sound or vision, by spell of colour or 
of dream, towards the Christian forms and images, is in the main 

VOL. I. 19 



29O DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

an influence from the mythologic side of the creed. Alone among 
the higher artists of his age, Mr. Rossetti has felt and given the 
mere physical charm of Christianity with no admixture of doctrine 
or of doubt. . . . [And then as to poems in the old-ballad form, 
such as Rossetti's Stratton Water] On this ground Mr. Morris has 
a firmer tread than the great artist by the light of whose genius and 
kindly guidance he put forth the firstfruits of his work, as I did 
afterwards." 

Mr. Colvin spoke of " personal passion " as a leading 
element in Rossetti's poetry. Mr. Buxton Forman held him 
to be remarkable for transfusing Italian blood into a newly 
opened vein of English verse. I could extend my list of 
writers and their encomiums very largely, were I minded to 
do so ; but will content myself with observing that no critique 
afforded the author more marked satisfaction than one which, 
after a lengthened interval, appeared in an American paper, 
The CatJwlic World. This naturally dealt more especially 
with Rossetti's poems in their relation to Christian or Catholic 
ideals, and was regarded by my brother as singularly dis- 
cerning, on the part of a total stranger. One or other name 
was suggested to him as that of the probable author, but he 
did not succeed in obtaining any positive knowledge as to 
this point. The article is now ascribed to Mr. J. J. Earle. 

Among those who wrote letters to him in a laudatory strain 
were Tennyson, Sir Henry Taylor, Dr. Marston (who also 
published a review), Mrs. Lewes, Browning, George Meredith, 
Sir Theodore Martin, Mr. Frank A. Marshall, Munro, Charles 
Wells (of Joseph and his Brethren), Professor Charles Eliot 
Norton, Miss Spartali, and Mrs. Gilchrist. 

In those early days of publication there was, I believe, only 
one review of a more or less distinctly unfavourable kind — 
that in Blackwood's Magazine. I forgot what was said in 
it, or possibly never knew. I will not suggest that the 
publishers or conductors of this magazine were sore because 
(as previously mentioned) Rossetti had not closed with their 
offer of producing the volume ; but one may safely surmise 
that, had that offer been accepted, the tone of the critique 



THE POEMS, 1870 — CHLORAL. 29 1 

would have been different. My brother was not so absolutely- 
thin-skinned about reviews as some people have supposed 
and proclaimed — although it is too true that in one instance, 
to be hereafter commented on, he took the matter to heart in 
a most exaggerated and unreasonable degree. When the 
Blackwood critique appeared, he wrote to his friend Shields 
(August 1870) that he was surprised "to find such things 
producing a much more transient and momentary impression 
of unpleasantness than he would have expected — indeed he 
might almost say none at all." Of course, in the real essence 
of the matter, he was always and in all relations quite 
indifferent to criticism, knowing well for himself what he 
could do, and the worth of it, and what he could not do. 
But this did not exempt him from being sensitive on the 
score of personal attack, or in view of the effect which adverse 
notices might produce upon the minds of others. 

The great success attending the Poems induced my brother 
to think at once of re-publishing his Early Italian Poets. This 
scheme was in his head as soon as May 1870, but there-publi- 
cation did not actually ensue till 1873, when the book came 
out, through Mr. Ellis, with a change in the order of its con- 
tents, and an altered name, Dante and his Circle. He preferred 
now to give the first prominence to Alighieri, and to relegate 
the preceding poets to a secondary position in the volume. 
Mr. Ellis issued the book at his own cost, and halved with 
Rossetti such profits as accrued. 

Before the end of May 1871 Mr. William Morris for himself 
and his family,, and Rossetti on his own behalf, were intending 
to rent a house in the country — Kelmscott Manor-house in 
Oxfordshire. The nearest town was Lechlade in Gloucester- 
shire, famous through an early poem by Shelley. The nearest 
having tolerable resources in the way of provisions etc. was 
Farringdon in Berkshire. The rent was only £j^. Here 
Rossetti stayed for many weeks, beginning towards the middle 
of July 1871. There are in the Family-letters several details 
about this picturesque and pleasurable old house, and my 
brother's vivid enjoyment of it ; and I need not enlarge upon 



292 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the subject here. The building appears painted in the back- 
ground of his small picture entitled Water-willow. Dr. Hake j 
gives a few descriptive particulars : — 

" It is an old place, with its seven, or rather twelve, gables — such 
a sample of antiquity as you don't meet with often. The windows 
are square casements with stone mullions, and the walls very thick. 
The garden has its yew-tree hedges, cut into fantastic shapes. The 
river is flooded like a lake, so that old Thames don't know itself 
again. It is a most primitive village that surrounds the place — a 
few scattered freestone habitations, some ivy-covered. There are no 
neighbours to interfere with the liberty of the subject." 

In my brother's letters to Scott there are amusing references 
to a storied tapestry, one of the old-world house-properties at 
Kelmscott. I combine passages from two different letters : — 

" The subject of the tapestries is the history of Samson, which 
is carried through with that uncompromising uncomfortableness 
peculiar to this class of art-manufacture. Indeed I have come to 
the conclusion that a tapestried room should always be much 
dimmer than this one. These things, constantly obtruded on one 
in a bright light, become a persecution. ... I am getting used a 
little now to the tapestry ; though still the questions — Why a 
Philistine leader should have a panther's tail, or Delilah a spike 
sticking out of her head, or what Samson, standing over a heap of 
slain, has done with the ass's jawbone — will obtrude themselves at 
times between more abstract speculations." 

I have already had occasion to mention Mr. Sidney Colvin 
and Dr. Westland Marston in connexion with my brother's 
Poems. He saw about this time a good deal of both these 
gentlemen, and also of Mr. Marston's family, including his 
blind poet-son Philip Bourke Marstorr; whose natural gift 
Rossetti accounted genuine, and his attainment in the poetic 
art, considering his mournful privation,' a matter for fervent 
praise, and even astonishment. Another friendly acquaintance 
was Mr. Gosse, who first met Rossetti towards Christmas 
1870; and in 1871 the great Russian novelist Turgenieff 
was introduced to the Cheyne Walk house by Mr. William 



THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETRY. 293 

Ralston, and he dined there once or twice, preserving a very- 
pleasant recollection of his visits. Mr. Gosse's opinion of my 
brother has been expressed in print in the handsomest 
terms : — 

" He was the most prompt in suggestion, the most regal in giving, 
the most sympathetic in response, of the men I have known or 
seen ; and this without a single touch of the prophetic manner, the 
air of such professional seers as Coleridge or Carlyle." 

Still more impulsive and indeed quaint in his enthusiasm 
was Philip Marston, who in 1873 wrote thus in a private letter 
to his youthful friend Oliver Madox Brown : — 

" What a supreme man is Rossetti ! Why is he not some great 
exiled king, that we might give our lives in trying to restore him to 
his kingdom ? " 

At Kelmscott Rossetti wrote a large amount of new poetry : 
Cloud Confines (which he termed " my very best thing "), 
Dozvn Stream (first called The River's Record, which was 
written in a punt on the Thames), the beginning of Soothsay 
(originally entitled Commandments), some thirty fresh sonnets 
for The House of Life, Sunset Wings, and Rose Mary, which 
was finished towards 13 September 1871. He began by 
writing a prose synopsis of this poem, which did not as yet 
contain the Beryl-songs. These had better not have been added, 
and so he himself thought eventually. The Cloud Confines, 
and also the old prose story of Hand and Soul, were published 
in the Fortnightly Review. There was also a grotesque ballad 
about Mr. Robert Buchanan, consequent upon the review- 
article to be next mentioned. This slumbers in manuscript. 



XXXIII. 
THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETRY. 

In the Contemporary Revieiv for October 1871 an article 
appeared entitled The Fleshly School of Poetry — Mr. D. G. 



294 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

Rossetti — and signed Thomas Maitland, For the purpose of 
this article Thomas Maitland was non-existent, and the real 
author was the verse- writer — or let us say the poet — Robert 
Buchanan. Some skirmishing in the press rapidly ensued, 
not free from confusion and self-conflicting. Its main upshot 
was this — that Mr. Buchanan had intended to write an 
anonymous attack upon Rossetti, and the publisher of the 
Contemporary Review turned it into a pseudonymous attack. 
One poet who assails another anonymously, in a magazine 
where anonymity is in no degree the rule, does not occupy 
a very graceful position ; and the publisher who pseudony- 
mizes his anonymous and aggressive contributor occupies, I 
apprehend, an ungraceful position. I have very positive 
grounds for affirming (and I will produce them if wanted) 
that Mr. Buchanan was from the first strongly urged, and this 
by a person who had every right to intervene, not to be 
anonymous, and a fortiori not pseudonymous. I shall not 
repeat — what was said in some papers at the time — that 
there was plain mendacity in some of the explanations offered. 
But it seems to behove me to say a little about the antecedents 
of The Fleshly School of Poetry — Mr. D. G. Rossetti, and to 
take to myself any blame which may properly or plausibly 
belong to me ; for I have more than once been told by friends 
that the animus against my brother, apparent in the article of 
Mr. Robert-Thomas Buchanan-Maitland, should be regarded 
as a vicarious expression of resentment at something which I 
myself had written. Thus then. 

Mr. Swinburne's volume of Poems and Ballads having 
excited a fluster in 1866, a burlesque poem appeared in the 
Spectator for 1 5 September 1 866, named The Session of the 
Poets. It was anonymous ; but rumour — since then confirmed 
by himself — ascribed it to Mr. Buchanan. It contained the 
following lines : — 

" Up jumped, with his neck stretching out like a gander, 

Master Swinburne, and squealed, glaring out through his hair, 
' All virtue is bosh ! Hallelujah for Landor ! 
I disbelieve wholly in everything ! There ! ' 



THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETRY. 295 

" With language so awful he dared then to treat 'em, 

Miss Ingelow fainted in Tennyson's arms ; 
Poor Arnold rushed out, crying ' Saecl' inficetum ! ' 

And great bards and small bards were full of alarms : 
Till Tennyson, flaming and red as a gipsy, 

Struck his fist on the table, and uttered a shout : 
' To the door with the boy ! Call a cab ! he is tipsy ! ' 

And they carried the naughty young gentleman out. 

" Then ' Ah ! ' cried the Chairman, ' this teaches me knowledge : 
The future shall find me more wise, by the Powers ! 
This comes of assigning to younkers from college 
Too early a place in such meetings as ours.' " 

About the same time I was writing for an American quarterly 
a review of Mr. Swinburne's poems. It was eventually 
published, not in America, but as a brochure in England, 
under the name of Swinburne 's Poems and Ballads, a 
Criticism, by William Michael Rossetti, 1866. Bearing in 
mind Mr. Buchanan's — as I thought it — gratuitous and in- 
solent attack upon a poet already so illustrious as Mr. 
Swinburne, and entertaining the opinion that much more 
than commensurate laudation had been bestowed by reviews 
upon the volume (or volumes) of verse which Mr. Buchanan 
had up to that time published, I opened my Criticism with 
the following sentence : — 

" The advent of a new great poet is sure to cause a commotion of 
one kind or another ; and it would be hard were this otherwise in 
times like ours, when the advent of even so poor and pretentious 
a poetaster as a Robert Buchanan stirs storms in teapots." 

When my first edition of Shelley appeared in 1870 it was 
severely condemned in the Athenceum, in a criticism which I 
was informed was written by Mr. Buchanan. Whether this is 
correct I cannot affirm. At any rate, Mr. Buchanan considered 
that to be " the worst edition of Shelley which has ever seen 
the light," for so he has told us in The Fleshly School of 
Poetry, adding one or two other partially relevant " digs " at 
me. Somewhat later in 1870 than the Athenmcm article 



296 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

my brother's volume of Poems came out. It remained un- 
criticized by Mr. Buchanan (so far as I am aware) until 
October 1871, when the article in the Contemporary Review 
appeared. 

This article was (to use no other expression) severe against 
Rossetti. It was afterwards considerably enlarged, and its 
severity, direct and implied, was increased, and it was reissued 
as a pamphlet- volume of about 100 pages — The Fleshly School 
of Poetry, and other Phenomena of the Day, by Robert 
Buchanan (Strahan & Co., 1872). I will give some extracts, 
showing what opinion Mr. Buchanan entertained of Rossetti's 
performances. These extracts come direct from the pamphlet, 
and are (practically speaking) verbatim ; but it should be 
understood that the " Thomas Maitland " article was in full 
general conformity with them. 

The Poems (we are told) exhibit morbid deviation from 
healthy forms of life. Nothing is virile, nothing tender, 
nothing completely sane. There is thorough nastiness in 
many pieces. A sickening desire is evinced to reproduce the 
sensual mood. Rossetti has not given us one rounded and 
noteworthy piece of art. He is fleshly all over, from the roots 
of his hair to the tips of his toes. There is bad blood in all 
the poems, and breadth of poetic interest in none. Bad 
rhymes become the rule, and not the exception. The burden 
of Sister Helen is repeated with little or no alteration through 
thirty-four verses (as a fact, it is repeated with invariable and 
essential alteration, and Mr. Buchanan misquotes its close 
"between Hell and Heaven," changing this into "between 
Heaven and Hell," and so spoiling the cadence). Sister 
Helen and Eden Bower are affected rubbish. The House of 
Life is a very hotbed of nasty phrases. Sonnets 11 to 20 are 
one profuse sweat of animalism. Sonnets 29, 30, and 31, are 
very, very silly. 1 The Last Confession positively reeks of morbid 

1 The thirteen Sonnets thus characterized are the following : The 
Birth-Bo?id (Have you not noted in some family) ; A Day of Love 
(Those envied places which do know her well) ; Love Sweetness (Sweet 
dimness of her loosened hair's downfall) ; Love's Baubles (I stood where 



THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETRY. 297 

lust. In Rossetti's poetry there is a veritably stupendous 
preponderance of sensuality and sickly animalism. He and 
Mr. Swinburne merely echo what is vile. I see in Rossetti 
no gleam of Nature, not a sign of humanity. [On a passage 
from The Portrait] Was ever writing so formally slovenly 
and laboriously limp? [Then, in general] Treatment, down 
to the tiniest detail, frivolous, absurd, and reckless. As 
shapeless and undigested as chaos itself. 

On such abuse as this, wholesale and retail, I will not 
express any view of my own, nor solicit the verdict of the 
reader. About twenty-four years have elapsed since Mr. 
Buchanan wrote. If public opinion in that interval has ratified, 
or gone near to ratifying, his dicta, I remain under a mistake. 
If public opinion at the present date should avouch that the 
man who could thus express himself must have had in view 
some object extraneous to the fair and moderate expression 
of a candid conviction, I should be far from astonished. 

According to my recollection of the facts — of which I had 
adequate personal knowledge at the time — my brother was 
but little troubled, and not downcast at all, by the article 
such as it appeared in the Contemporary Review. He had all 
along expected that some one or other would make a point 
of assailing him. He knew himself to be above such an 
assault as was now delivered, and felt moreover that the fact 
of the pseudonym, and the ambiguities which had accompanied 
it, gave him a considerable advantage as a defendant. Mr. 
Scott — with an inaccuracy as to date which is very habitual 
to him — relates how, "as midsummer 1872 was drawing on," 
he gave a dinner-party which Rossetti attended ; and how 

Love in brimming armfuls bore) ; Winged Hours (Each hour until we 
meet is as a bird) ; Life in Love (Not in thy body is thy life at all) ; The 
Love-Moon (When that dead face bowered in the furthest years) ; The 
Morrow's Message (Thou Ghost, I said, and is thy name To-day ?) ; Sleep- 
less Dreams (Girt in dark growths yet glimmering with one star) ; Secret 
Parting (Because our talk was of the cloud-control) ; Lnclusiveness (The 
changing guests each in a different mood) ; Known in Vain (As two 
whose love, first foolish, widening scope) ; The Landmark (Was that the 
landmark ? what, the foolish well). 



298 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

the latter shouted out the name of Robert Buchanan, whom 
" he had discovered to be the writer of the article," and how 
" from this time he occupied himself in composing a long 
reply." It is certain (as one of the Family-letters shows) that 
my brother had been informed about Mr. Buchanan towards 
the middle of October 1871, and that soon after that time he 
undertook a reply for publication. Mr. Scott's date is there- 
fore quite erroneous. To his other statements I raise no 
demur, but he seems to think the whole incident more note- 
worthy than I can. My brother was impulsive and outspoken ; 
and, being (it is to be supposed) among friends well known 
to him, and known to be on his side of any such controversy, 
he may very likely — and very harmlessly — have been a trifle 
more vociferous than those drawing-room and dining-room 
manners for which Dickens gave the formula of " prunes and 
prisms " would dictate. 

It is certainly true that he set-to at writing a reply to Mr. 
Buchanan — a fact which is in no wise inconsistent with what 
I have just been saying about his comparative coolness 
under the Contemporary attack. He was vehemently, not to 
say virulently, assailed ; and this more on the ground of 
imputed moral obliquity than of poetic or literary short- 
comings. To be ridiculed was what he did not like ; to be 
vilified as writing from impure motives and as an incentive 
to public impurity was what he disliked extremely. It 
would have been much better — and I told him so at the 
time — to take no part in the controversy, and to allow the 
anonymo-pseudonymous attack to die out of itself, leaving 
perhaps little general memory of its unsavoury existence, 
and little warning to any one except the parties directly 
concerned ; who would probably have found out that a " poet " 
who abuses another poet under the shield of anonymity had 
better not be loaded, by himself or another, with the thicker 
shield of pseudonymity. However, my brother did not adopt 
my well-meant advice. He wrote a pamphlet, and sent the 
more serious parts of it to the AtJienceum, where these were 
printed with his name appended, and under his own title, 



THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETkY. 299 

The Stealthy School of Criticism. 1 To me The Stealthy School 
of Criticism appears a very sound and telling piece of self- 
vindication. It rectifies some positive mis-statements con- 
tained in Mr. Buchanan's article, and sets the whole question 
in a much more correct light than the latter had succeeded 
in casting upon it, or perhaps had been minded to supply. 
The pamphlet itself, including this extracted portion, was put 
into print, with a view to its being published by Mr. Ellis ; 
but on consideration it was held to be such as might lay the 
author or the publisher open to an action at law— possibly on 
the ground, " the greater the truth, the greater the libel " — 
and it was withheld, and ultimately destroyed. I heard it at 
the time ; but long ago I had quite forgotten its treatment 
and details — which were assuredly not scurrilous, but I dare 
say sarcastic and stinging enough, for my brother was the 
reverse of a bad hand at that sort of thing when he chose 
to take it up. He was displeased, indignant, and perhaps 
incensed, and disposed to " give as good as he got " ; but still, 
as I have said, not seriously wounded nor deeply mortified, so 
far as the Contemporary article went. I can even remember 
that he was frankly amused at some remarks by Mr. Buchanan 
upon certain rhymes in his volume — such as " wet " rhyming 
with " Haymarket " ; and he thought that Mr. Buchanan 
had made a very neat travestie of them as follows : — 

" When winds do roar and rains do pour, 
Hard is the life of the sailor : 
He scarcely, as he reels, can tell 
The side-lights from the binnacle : 
He looketh on the wild water," etc. 

And at a later date, hearing that the anonymously published 
poem, St. Abe and his Seven Wives, was the work of Mr. 
Buchanan, he told me that he had found it to be a production 
of considerable force and spirit. He was indeed (and Dr. Hake 
has told us so), though sufficiently downright in denouncing 
works which he disrelished, whether in literature or in fine 

1 Naturally, it is included in Rossetti's Collected Works. 



300 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

art, always inclined to say a good word for such points in 
them as he thought deserving of this. 

Mr. Buchanan, having made one envenomed attack upon 
Rossetti, was not to be appeased until he had made another 
much more envenomed ; and in the spring of 1872 he issued (as 
I have said) his pamphlet-volume, being a greatly extended, 
more systematic, and more denunciatory version of the 
original review. He here more definitely identified Rossetti, 
as well as some other poets, with a supposed movement for 
the propagation of whatsoever is most foul in vice, and most 
disgusting in vicious display. Possibly this production, like 
its predecessor, is only very partially remembered by the 
living generation of readers. The sooner it is totally for- 
gotten, the better for all concerned, and more especially for 
Mr. Buchanan himself. 

I can say this without any unfair bias towards my brother's 
side. It must likewise be the opinion of Mr. Buchanan, for 
whose feelings in the matter it is not my business to entertain 
or express any especial concern. At the same time I willingly 
acknowledge that, when at last he did retract, he retracted 
straightforwardly, and in a spirit to which my brother might 
perhaps have openly responded, had he then been less near 
his grave. Mr. Buchanan, in 1881, dedicated to Rossetti, as 
to " An Old Enemy," his romance entitled God and the Man ; 
and, besides some other retractation (especially a phrase in TJie 
Academy, 1 July 1882, " Mr. Rossetti, I freely admit now, 
never was a Fleshly Poet at all "), he addressed to Mr. Hall 
Caine, soon after Rossetti's death, a letter containing the 
following phrases. I only extract some expressions relating 
to Rossetti : others which show persistent rancour against 
other people are best left in oblivion : — 

" While admitting freely that my article in the Contemporary 
Review was unjust to Rossetti's claims as a poet, I have ever held, 
and still hold, that it contained nothing to warrant the manner in 
which it was received by the poet and his circle [the poet's only 
overt act, it will be remembered, was to write that very moderate 
self-vindication called The Stealthy School of Criticism}. Well, my 



THE FLESHLY SCHOOL OF POETRY. 3OI 

protest was received in a way which turned irritation into wrath, 
wrath into violence. I was unjust, as I have said ; most unjust when 
I impugned the purity, and misconceived the passion, of writings too 
hurriedly read, and reviewed currente calamo [but several months 
had elapsed between the publication of the review-article and that 
of the pamphlet]. I make full admission of Rossetti's claims to the 
purest kind of literary renown ; and, if I were to criticize his poems 
now, I would write very differently." 

There is another phrase which seems to go near to admit- 
ting that Mr. Buchanan — in 1871, and also in 1872 — abused 
Rossetti just because other critics had praised him :— 

"At the time it [the review-article] was written, the newspapers 
were full of panegyric. Mine was a mere drop of gall in an ocean of 
eau sucree." 

But even this is not quite apposite to the facts. The 
" newspapers " had had their say about Rossetti's Poems 
towards April and May 1870, whereas Mr. Buchanan's 
pseudonymous article appeared in October 1871. 

Let me sum up briefly the chief stages in this miserable, 
and in some aspects disgraceful, affair. 1. Mr. Buchanan, 
whether anonymously or pseudonymously — being a poet, 
veritable or reputed — attacked another poet, a year and a 
half after the works of the latter had been received with 
general and high applause. 2. He attacked him on grounds 
partly literary, but more prominently moral. 3. After he 
had had every opportunity for reflection, he repeated the 
attack in a greatly aggravated form. 4. At a later date he 
knew that the author in question was not a bad poet, nor a 
poet with an immoral purpose. The question naturally arises 
— If he knew this in or before 1881, why did he know or 
suppose the exact contrary in 1871 and 1872? Here is a 
question to which no answer (within my cognizance) has 
ever been given by Mr. Buchanan, and it is one to which 
some readers may risk their own reply. That is their affair. 
If Mr. Robert Buchanan concludes that Mr. Thomas Maitland 
told an untruth, it is not for me to say him nay. 



302 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Not long after Rossetti's death an article named The Art 
of Rossetti was written by Mr. Harry Quilter, and it was 
published in that same Contemporary Review which had 
reviled the man during his lifetime. It is laudatory, but 
very far from being exclusively so. Some of the observations 
in this article appear to me to be among the best and most 
acute which have been spoken on that question of " fleshli- 
ness," and I will give them here. I will only premise that, 
while I regard it as a gross calumny to say that Rossetti was 
in any marked sense an adherent of any " Fleshly School of 
Poetry " (if such there was), I do not contest that there are 
some things in his writings to which a puritan or a purist 
may, from his own point of view, legitimately take exception. 
The real question is not whether Rossetti, as a man or as 
a poet, was " fleshly," but whether certain subjects, and 
certain modes of treatment and forms of expression, are to 
be admitted into poetry as a wide domain, or excluded from 
it as a narrow domain. To this question perhaps the simplest 
and the most sufficient answer is that all or nearly all the 
greatest poets, in all countries and ages of the world, have 
admitted them ; and I will go a step further, and (without 
presuming to rank Dante Rossetti with those greatest poets) 
will say that very few of them have admitted so little as he 
did of those subjects, modes of treatment, and forms of 
expression. I now cite from Mr. Quilter : — 

" It was said once, by a writer anxious to make out a case against 
the Prseraphaelite school of modern poetry, that one of the chief 
characteristics of Rossetti's verse was its sensuality, and certain 
quotations were given to prove this. Time has effectually disposed 
of that charge, and the misrepresentations on which it was founded 
have been adequately confuted ; but it has hardly been sufficiently 
noticed that the real ground of the accusation is due to the fact of 
the poet-painter being unable to dissever his pictorial from his 
poetic faculty. He habitually thought (if such an expression is 
allowable) in terms of painting. He could not dissever his most 
purely intellectual ideas from colour and form ; and it is the intrusion 
of these physical facts into his poetry, in places where they are 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 303 

unexpected and unnecessary, that gives, to hasty readers and super- 
ficial critics, such a wrong impression. And, in the same way as he 
charges a poem with more colour and form than it can well bear 
with reference to its special subject, so does he charge his pictures 
with a weight of idea which their form and colour scarcely realize ; 
and in both he calls upon the spectator to be at once the witness 
and the interpreter of his work. From this there results in his 
poetry the following effect — that he is at his finest when he has to 
tell some plain story, or exemplify some comparatively simple thought, 
the insertion into which of physical facts will heighten the meaning 
rather than jar upon it ; or in verses which treat intellectual ideas 
from a purely sensuous basis, such for instance as in those sonnets 
which are concerned with the passion of love. When however he 
seeks to treat either a purely intellectual or a purely spiritual subject, 
he fails almost inevitably, and that apparently in painting as well as 
in poetry. Like Anteus, if he is held off the earth too long his 
strength fails him. It is this painter-like quality which makes his 
verse so puzzling ; for in idea it is, almost without exception, of a 
singularly pure and intellectual character. Turn from his verse to 
his painting, and the same curious contradiction is forced upon our 
attention. We find continually, in his pictures where the painter's 
individuality is most manifest, that the reproduction of the sensuous 
part of his subject is, so to speak, interfered with by the strange, 
half-refining, half-abstract quality of his intellect. . . . All the other 
physical peculiarities to be traced in his works are all due to the 
passionately sensuous but equally passionately intellectual nature of 
Rossetti. They are the record of a man whose sense of beauty was 
always being disturbed by his sense of feeling." 



XXXIV. 

HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 

We have now reached what may be called "the parting 
of the waters" in Dante Rossetti's life. In earlier years he 
had had his tribulations : difficulties in his professional career, 
the ill-health of his loved Lizzie, with ensuing harasses in 
relation to their engagement, and to their matrimonial life ; 
her early and shocking death, with troublous memories 



304 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

attending it, and anxieties and self-conflicts ensuing ; partial 
failure of eyesight ; insomnia, only combated by perilous 
palliatives. Still, on the whole, as he stood at the middle 
of 1 87 1, and even on to the spring of 1872, he was a 
moderately healthy man, and in many respects a thriving 
if not exactly a happy one. For happiness some fair measure 
of contentment is essential ; and Rossetti, a man of restless 
imagination and vehement desires, better satisfied with his 
surroundings than with himself and his performances, was 
never contented, and therefore never, in a right sense, happy. 
His aspirations, though to some extent assuaged, were by 
no means soothed into serenity ; but this I need not say, 
for no aspirations, properly to be thus called, will be so in 
the little life which is rounded with a sleep. Nature had 
endowed him with an ample stock of high-heartedness and 
high spirits. These served to while the time for his external 
self and for his friends, while moody distaste, and something 
like a surging mist of gloom, were often active within. He 
was a successful man : successful and admired as a painter 
— necessarily in a small circle, as he would not exhibit ; still 
more successful and acclaimed as a poet, and by a much 
wider public. Achievement in art and in poetry he had 
always longed for, for these he had passionately worked ; 
to general recognition he was not indifferent. Fortune had 
thrown in a more than wonted share of her capricious favours. 
Loving and beloved by his family, warmly cherished by his 
friends, acknowledged by his intellectual compeers, sought 
out by strangers as a man of renown, he seemed to have 
attained a singularly enviable position. It was indeed one 
of those positions which Destiny begrudges to men, and 
determines to reverse. 

This was Dante Rossetti viewed from the outside in 1871. 
" But I have that within which passeth show." Mental 
trouble and a too active and unappeased imagination had 
long ago brought on insomnia ; insomnia had brought on 
chloral ; chloral had brought on depression, agitation, and a 
turmoil of fantasies. I think it clear, judging from results, 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 305 

that my brother — being " put out," though not gravely per- 
turbed, by the Contemporary article, and by the announcement 
that it would soon be enlarged and re-published separately — 
must have got even worse sleep than usual, and must have 
exceeded more than usual in his chloral-dosing and its con- 
comitant of alcohol. Certain it is that, when the pamphlet- 
edition appeared (which was towards the middle of May 
1872), with its greatly enhanced virus of imputation and 
suggestion, he received it in a spirit very different from that 
with which he had encountered the review-article, and had 
confuted it in The Stealthy School of Criticism. His fancies 
now ran away with him, and he thought that the pamphlet 
was a first symptom in a widespread conspiracy for crushing 
his fair fame as an artist and a man, and for hounding him 
out of honest society. Most of his friends, myself included, 
combated these ideas. I question whether his closest con- 
fidant, Madox Brown, did so with adequate energy, for he 
himself, though reasonable and clear-headed, was of a very 
suspicious temper in professional matters, and held himself 
and his immediate circle to be not a little ill-used. My 
brother's notions were, as I have said, fancies, and fancies 
bred, not of a temperate consideration of facts, but of the 
constitutional and mental upset caused by a noxious drug. 
Still, it is manifest, upon the face of his booklet, that the 
charges brought forward and reinforced by Mr. Buchanan 
were by no manner of means light ones. They Were sufficient 
— if believed, which I suppose they very scantily were — to 
exclude Rossetti from the companionship of virtuous and 
even of decent people ; and it was no fault of this " accuser 
of sins" (to use Blake's expression) if such a result did not 
ensue. 

I do not remember, and do not wish to remember, all the 
details about Mr. Buchanan's performances, and their reception 
by the press. He had of course his supporters — not perhaps 
extremely numerous. I don't suppose that a single poet of 
renown was among them. Tennyson (as I have reason to 
know positively) was one of the first to object to the attack 

vol. 1. 20 



306 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

that it was by no means a fair appraisement of Rossetti, 
much of whose work he rated extremely high, the sonnets 
especially. In January 1872, midway between the Con- 
temporary article and the pamphlet, there was a critique in 
the Quarterly Review (I have heard it ascribed to Mr. 
Courthope) which was unfavourable to Rossetti, and more 
especially to Mr. Morris, less so to Mr. Swinburne. Mr. 
Hall Caine has spoken of other adverse articles in the 
Edinburgh Review and the British Quarterly. Their dates 
and other details, if ever known to me, have slipped my 
recollection. I can dimly recall a leading article in the 
Echo, one word in which, " coward " or " cowards," disturbed 
my brother unduly. This article — possibly without the least 
reason — has been ascribed to Mr. Buchanan himself. So 
overstrained was the balance of his mind at the time that 
my brother seriously consulted me as to whether it might 
not be his duty to challenge the writer or the editor to a 
duel. I need hardly record my reply — that duels in this 
common-sensible country are equally illegal and risible. Mr. 
Buchanan's own preface to his pamphlet makes use of the 
same offensive word. After referring to " Mr. Rossetti's 
defence, and the opinion of Mr. Rossetti's friends," he is 
pleased to say (and to this also my brother greatly objected) 
— " I have only one word to use concerning the attacks upon 
myself. They are the inventions of cowards, too spoilt with 
flattery to bear criticism, and too querulous and humoursome 
to perceive the real issues of the case." It does not seem 
to have occurred to Mr. Buchanan to ponder whether the 
term " coward " applies more properly to a verse-writer who 
anonymously (not to say pseudonymously) assails another 
verse-writer, intermingling questions of morals with those 
of poetry — or rather to the man who, being thus assailed, 
defends himself under his own name, or to friends (or it may 
be outsiders) who, with or without their names, retort on the 
assailant. 

I am sorry to dwell at so much length upon this really 
contemptible, and by its very author discarded, affair of The 



Hypochondria and illness. 307 

Fleshly School of Poetry ; but, as a biographer, I could not 
from this point onward tell a word of truth unless I gave 
it prominence. In my brother's life it was deplorably 
prominent, though in itself of hardly more importance than 
some one's bad breath passing across a looking-glass and 
slurring it for a moment. The whole matter grieved me 
exceedingly at the time, and will always continue to grieve 
me in reminiscence or record. It is a simple fact that, from 
the time when the pamphlet had begun to work into the 
inner tissue of his feelings, Dante Rossetti was a changed 
man, and so continued till the close of his life. Difficult 
though it may be to believe this of a person so self-reliant 
in essentials as Rossetti — one who had all his life been doing 
so many things just as he chose, and because he so chose, 
and whether other people liked them or not— it is nevertheless 
the truth, as I know but too well. 

On 2 June 1872 I was with my brother all day at No. 16 
Cheyne Walk. It was one of the most miserable days 
of my life, not to speak of his. From his wild way of 
talking — about conspiracies and what not — I was astounded 
to perceive that he was, past question, not entirely sane. I 
went round for Mr. Scott, then living at No. 92 Cheyne 
Walk ; and he (so I noted in my Diary), " as usual, acted 
in a spirit of the truest and kindest friendship." This seems 
to be the occasion of which Mr. Scott speaks in his Auto- 
biographical Notes. He says that " Mr. Marshall and Dr. 
Hake were there," but my own impression is that that was 
on a slightly later day. It is a rather curious coincidence 
that, on this same 2 June, my brother completed the sale 
of the picture of which he had painted the background as 
far back as 1850 at Sevenoaks (see Section XVI.), and which 
he had recently completed under the name of The Bower- 
meadow. Messrs. Pilgeram and Lefevre bought it for the 
large price of £735. When Mr. Lefevre entered, Rossetti 
was in a state of nervous agitation, possessed with the delusion 
that all sorts of people were set against him, and trying to 
undervalue him ; and I can recollect the stare of surprise 



308 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

with which the picture-dealer received Rossetti's suggestion 
that, if the picture were not considered good value for its 
price, the agreement might be cancelled. Indeed such a sugges- 
tion was not less strange as coming from Rossetti, the paragon 
of artists at making a bargain, than as addressed to a picture- 
dealer (Gambart's successor) who was no novice at taking 
care of himself. 

Another most unfortunate circumstance happened about 
the same time — I think a day or two later. Browning had 
just published his singular poem Fifine at the Fair, and he 
sent (as in previous instances) a presentation-copy to my 
brother. The latter looked into the book ; and, to the 
astonishment of bystanders, he at once fastened upon some 
lines at its close as being intended as an attack upon him, 
or as a spiteful reference to something which had occurred, 
or might be alleged to have occurred, at his house. In a 
moment he relented, with an effusion of tenderness to this old, 
attached, and illustrious friend ; but in another moment the 
scarcely credible delusion returned. Browning was regarded 
as a leading member of the " conspiracy " ; and, from first 
to last, I was never able to discern that this miserable bug- 
bear had ever been expelled from the purlieus of my brother's 
mind. He saw no more of Browning, and communicated 
with him no more ; and on one or two occasions when the 
great poet, the object of Rossetti's early and unbounded 
homage, kindly enquired of me concerning him, and expressed 
a wish to look him up, I was compelled to fence with the 
suggestion, lest worse should ensue — no doubt putting myself 
in a very absurd and unaccountable position. Whether 
Browning ever knew that Dante Rossetti had conceived a 
real dislike of him, or supposed himself to have motive of 
definite complaint, I am unable to say. He was certainly 
far too keen to miss seeing that there was something amiss, 
and something which was kept studiously unexplained. 
Another extravagant fantasy took hold of my brother's 
mind at this or some other time — namely, that the wildly 
grotesque verses of Mr. Dodgson (whom he knew fairly well) 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 309 

called The Hunting of the Snark were in fact intended as 
a pasquinade against himself. So Mr. Dodgson was another 
member of the conspiracy. 

Thus then on 2 June I was dismayed to find my brother 
an actual monomaniac. I, who had known him from infancy, 
had never before seen or surmised the faintest seed of 
insanity in him. Wilful indeed he always was, but, so far 
from being mad, his strong idiosyncrasy had never trenched 
even upon what can be called the eccentric. He was 
eminently natural, as very many Italians are ; and in this 
quality he followed, to my thinking, rather the Italian model 
than the English, which latter derives more from sturdy 
straightforwardness than from direct temperament. He was 
easy, abrupt when he liked, and transparently intelligible 
— except in so far as a high and subtle mind baffles 
one of a dull or conventional order. On that fatal 2 June, 
and for many days and months ensuing, I was compelled 
to regard my brother as partially insane, in the ordinary 
sense of that term. It was only after an interval of time, 
and as I had opportunity to compare and consider the 
opinions expressed by medical men and others well qualified 
to judge, that I came to the conclusion that he never had 
been and never became thus insane at all, but was on the 
contrary the victim of chloral, acting upon strained nerves, 
mental disquiet, and a highly excitable imagination — all these 
coupled with a grievous and fully justified sense of wrong. 
For many years past my conviction has been that hypo- 
chondria, consequent upon the over-dosing with chloral and 
alcohol — this, and not anything dependent upon constitutional 
unsoundness of mind — was the real secret of my brother's 
frenzied collapse. Mr. Caine, speaking according to his 
observation, which began in 1880, has expressed a like 
opinion. 

From this point onward I shall assume in good faith (and 
my reader can part company with me if he chooses) that 
my brother's fantasies were those of a hypochondriac, not 
a madman ; and that the hypochondria was directly due to 



310 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the chloral, but without leaving out of account those other 
incentives of which I have just spoken. Meanwhile, whatever 
the cause, his mind was truly not a sound one. He not only 
supposed things contrary to reason, but he had actual physical 
delusions or hallucinations. I cannot remember — then or 
afterwards — any visual delusions ; but there were auditive 
delusions, as I shall have over-much occasion to specify. 

Mr. Marshall was called in ; and by his directions I 
summoned also Dr. Maudsley, the great authority on mental 
diseases. My brother, in his perverse mood, did not like 
Dr. Maudsley, and even went so far as to say that he was 
probably no doctor, but some one foisted upon himself for 
a sinister purpose. Of course I left the room during the 
medical inspection and consultation ; nor can I affirm with 
accuracy what was the precise opinion that Dr. Maudsley 
formed of the case. 1 He agreed with Mr. Marshall that great 
care was requisite, and a cessation from all work and excite- 
ment. 

Dr. Hake, in his Memoirs of Eighty Years, has written 
with much good feeling about these matters, and with that 
scrupulous reserve which marks an honourable medical man 
in any reference to a patient. He was the earthly Providence 
of the Rossetti family in those dark days. I shall borrow 
some of his observations, and supplement them. He says*: — 

" One morning [I consider that this must have been Friday 
7 June] I visited him [Dante Rossetti] at Cheyne Walk, when I saw- 
that the restlessness of the past night had pursued him into daytime. 
Qualifying his request with an expression of great regard, he asked 
me not to stay. His medical attendants were consulting in another 
room. I joined them there, and told them that my house at 
Roehampton was open to Rossetti, if they decided that he needed 
change. [A very pleasant roomy house it was, with a large well- 
kept garden.] On the same evening, in company with his brother 
and Mr. Madox Brown [I suppose Dr. Hake is correct with regard 

1 As to exact dates and details my Diary, which has sometimes stood 
me in good stead, assists me no longer hereabouts. I gave it up in 
despair on 5 June 1872, and did not resume it until 3 November, 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 311 

to Brown, though I do not now realize to myself his presence], he 
came to Roehampton ; and I remember well his saying, as he sat 
in my quiet drawing-room, that he was enjoying what he had so long 
ceased to feel, and that was peace." 

I recollect that dismal cab-journey from Chelsea to 
Roehampton. It brought out the state of physical delusion 
besetting my brother as to sounds ; for he insisted, several 
times during the transit, that a bell was being rung on the 
roof of the cab, to his annoyance ; and, at the moment of 
dismounting at Dr. Hake's door, he tartly apostrophized the 
cabman with the words, " Why did you ring that bell ? " 
The cabman looked blank, as might be expected. He had 
often been called for my brother from a neighbouring rank ; 
and it is probable that, on getting back there, he imparted 
his opinion that " there must be something queer with Mr. 
Rossetti." 

Dr. Hake's next phrase (which" I shall proceed to quote 
anon) is " He sat up late in conversation " etc. ; but to me 
it seems that he here mixes up the transactions of two different 
evenings. We arrived at Dr. Hake's house quite after dark, 
perhaps towards 10 P.M. ; and little, I should say, was done 
beyond settling down for the night. The next day— Saturday 
by my reckoning — happened to be a very untoward one for 
my brother's retirement. It was the day preceding Whit- 
Sunday (or some such holiday-time) ; and, when we walked 
out under Dr. Hake's pleasant escort, we found any number 
of gipsy-vans and other vehicles encumbering the high-road. 
Rossetti's roaming ideas being still in the ascendant, he 
fancied that this might be a demonstration got up in his 
disparagement ; and he was with difficulty restrained from 
running after some of the conveyances, and interchanging a 
wordy war with their drivers. Our walk was abridged ; we 
returned to Dr. Hake's house, and the rest of the day passed 
in comparative quiet. However, after dinner some reading 
was proposed. Merivale's Roman Empire was handed to me, 
and I began reading aloud where I was told ; and, as ill- 



312 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

luck would have it, this passage detailed some of the tiger- 
monkey pranks played by Caligula or Domitian, to drive 
his submissive senators half out of their senses. The scenes 
depicted bore a perilous analogy to the grotesque encum- 
brances of my brother's brain. I came to a full stop, though 
greatly urged by him to proceed, as he wanted to know the 
too-appetizing details. I now recur to Dr. Hake : — 

" He sat up late in conversation with his brother on various 
family-matters ; but his night was the most troubled one that he had 
hitherto passed through." 

The Doctor's laudable reticence as to this matter is partly 
followed by Mr. Bell Scott, who, in his Autobiographical Notes, 
says : — 

" A cab was brought at once. We all thought it strange to see 
him [Rossetti] so willing to go ; but that night it was too evident he 
wanted to be secluded, and for three days he lay as one dead, and 
only by a treatment invented for the moment by Professor Marshall 
was he cured." 

It will be perceived that Mr. Scott shares the mistake of 
Dr. Hake in mixing up the occurrences of Friday evening 
and night with those of Saturday night ; nor is it clear why 
Dante Rossetti should have been more " secluded " in the 
house occupied by Dr. Hake, with one or more of his sons, 
and with my company to boot, than in his own house, in 
which he could command solitude if it so pleased him. 

Putting together the statements made by these two writers, 
the reader may readily infer that something of a very excep- 
tional kind took place in that night, really the night of 
Saturday. Rather than leave the matter open to dubious 
conjecture — which may possibly have been indulged in at 
large ever since the appearance of Scott's book in 1892 — I 
will speak out, and relate the facts. In these, to a large 
extent, I took part at the moment ; others I heard from my 
brother soon afterwards. 

Having gone to bed on the Saturday night, my brother 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 313 

heard (this was of course a further instance of absolute 
physical delusion) a voice which twice called out at him a 
term of gross and unbearable obloquy — I will not here repeat 
it. He would endure no longer a persecution from which he 
perceived no escape. He laid his hand upon a bottle of 
laudanum which, unknown to us all, he had brought with him, 
swallowed its contents, and dropped the empty bottle into a 
drawer. Of course his intention was suicide ; but it was 
a case in which suicide was prompted not only by generally 
morbid and fallacious ideas but by a real hallucination, and 
one therefore in which the constant verdict of " unsound 
mind " would have been both admissible and necessary. 
How he had obtained the laudanum I never knew. Maybe 
he had long had it about him as an opiate, even before he 
began the nightly course of chloral. 

The Sunday opened calmly and hopefully. The fact that 
my brother did not appear at the family-breakfast was only 
conformable to his ordinary habits. Dr. Hake went up in 
two or three instances, and always found him sleeping with 
extreme placidity. He encouraged me to hope that this 
might be the beginning of a new lease of natural sleep, and 
that Dante would soon be taking a marked turn for the 
better. At last — this may have been towards four o'clock 
in the afternoon — he came down again, with an exceedingly 
grave face. He told me that such unusually prolonged sleep 
did not seem natural ; that my brother's appearance was no 
longer satisfying to a medical eye ; and that the symptoms 
might almost point to serous apoplexy. I ran out for a 
neighbouring doctor, who came at once. His name has now 
lapsed from my recollection. He looked at Rossetti, and at 
once confirmed our worst fears. It was an evident case of 
" effusion of serum on the brain," and the sufferer was already 
past all hope. He added that, if by chance he should survive 
at all, his intellect would be irrecoverably gone — a sentence 
far worse than death. 

It became my harrowing duty to go to town as fast as a fly 
would carry me, and fetch my mother and my sister Maria, 



314 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

to whom Dr. Hake forthwith proffered the hospitality of his 
house. Christina could not possibly accompany them. She 
was bed-ridden, and had been so to a great extent ever since 
April 1 87 1, when an illness of great rarity attacked her — one 
of the most distressing in its symptoms I have ever witnessed 
— termed " Exophthalmic Bronchocele," or " Dr. Graves's 
Disease." This illness stuck to her until the earlier months 
of 1873, and all that while her life hung upon a thread. In 
fact some marks of the malady clung to her until, from a 
different cause, she died on 29 December 1894. Mr. George 
Hake, the doctor's youngest son, came up with me from 
Roehampton to Endsleigh Gardens. He was then an Oxford 
student, but some trouble with his eyes had compelled him to 
interrupt the collegiate course — a particularly manly, frank, 
kind-natured young man. Too well do I remember some of 
the incidents of that dreadful drive across London, and of 
my interview with members of the family ; these I suppress. 
The family had advisedly been left uninformed of the sad 
condition of mind and body into which Dante had fallen for 
the last several days, although they knew that he was now at 
Roehampton, and that I had been much along with him of 
late. It is a singular fact that my mother — who was not at 
all a woman of presentiments and panics — had, some half- 
hour or so before I reached the house, been suddenly smitten 
with a sense that something grievous was occurring or 
impending, and with an eager desire to speed to Roe- 
hampton, and make enquiry. 

Hurriedly we packed a few necessaries, and returned to the 
fly — all of us convinced that Dante must have ceased to live 
before we could reach Roehampton. An aunt of mine, Eliza 
Harriet Polidori, occupied separate apartments in the Ends- 
leigh Gardens house, and engaged to look affectionately after 
Christina. At the residence of Madox Brown, 37 Fitzroy 
Square, I got out, and announced the crushing calamity. 
Brown, the warmest and most helpful of friends, refused to 
regard the case as absolutely desperate, and ran off at once 
for Mr. Marshall, in Savile Row. And so — after nightfall in 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 3 I 5 

early June, or towards nine in the evening — we started again, 
and rolled onward to Roehampton. 

Arriving, we learned that Dante was still alive. Dr. Hake 
had stationed himself at his bed-head, and held to his nostrils 
a large bottle of strong ammonia, which staved off his sinking 
into total lethargy ; and I have little doubt that this wise 
precaution was the first and indispensable stage in the process 
which saved my brother's life. Very soon the Doctor took 
me quietly aside, and produced an empty bottle which he had 
found in a drawer. It was labelled " Laudanum — Poison." 
We exchanged few words, but were quite at one as to the 
meaning of this bottle ; and now we could at least dismiss 
the horrible idea of any such mortal illness as serous apoplexy, 
or of idiocy as its alternative, and could address ourselves to 
what was needed to counteract laudanum-poisoning. I will 
here add that the affair of the poisoning was never, from first 
to last, intimated to my mother, my sisters, or any other 
member of the family. They finished their days in ignorance 
of the facts. 

Pretty soon Mr. Marshall arrived. He ordered strong 
coffee as the recognized antidote, which Dr. Hake himself 
prepared and administered, and then, to give no handle to 
prying curiosity, cleared away all the dregs. I do not see 
how Mr. Scott can be correct in regarding this treatment as 
" invented for the moment " by the distinguished surgeon ; 
but certain it is that all his measures were equally simple and 
efficient. Beyond the coffee, he did little or nothing except 
to keep the necessary functions of the body in exercise. 
When he left, our spirits were already considerably revived ; 
for my brother showed no sign of going from bad to worse, 
but something like a steady increase of vitality. His con- 
sciousness returned in the course of Monday, and for some 
hours he seemed free from any serious agitation. Mr. Scott 
therefore is mistaken in saying that " for three days he lay as 
one dead." The lethal trance only lasted from some hour in 
the night between Saturday and Sunday to some hour in the 
afternoon or even forenoon of Monday. 



316 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Unfortunately, when his bodily powers rallied a little, the 
gloomy and exasperating fantasies of his mind recurred as 
well, and by the evening of Tuesday things seemed in this 
respect worse than ever. What to do was a difficult problem. 
Dr. Hake's friendliness would have been equal to almost any 
strain that could be put upon it ; but to propose to leave 
Dante with him indefinitely was what we could not do. To 
return for any length of time to Cheyne Walk, with all its 
distressful memories of the last few weeks, was a notion 
repugnant to my brother, and rejected by Mr. Marshall. In 
my own house, with Christina on a bed of sickness, perhaps 
of death, three other female inmates (not to speak of servants), 
and myself daily called away to a Government-office, Dante 
would just then have caused the most wearing anxiety. 
Ominous colloquies were held as to the benefit which Dr. 
Hake had known as ensuing from treatment in a private 
asylum. But in a day or two the difficulty was solved by 
the friend of friends, Madox Brown. Dante knew all the 
Brown family most intimately ; Brown understood him at 
least as thoroughly as did any member of the Rossetti house- 
hold ; the house in Fitzroy Square was large and central. 
So on the Thursday my brother, not so greatly out of health, 
and in a state of mind passive, despondent, but no longer 
keenly excited, quitted Hake's residence, and was escorted to 
Cheyne Walk: on Monday 17 June to Brown's. In one 
respect his physical state was very disheartening. He suffered 
from hemiplegia, or partial paralysis in the region of the 
hip-joint, brought on, as Mr. Marshall said, by his remaining 
so long in a recumbent position, under the benumbing influ- 
ence of the laudanum. He was in fact quite lame of one leg, 
and could only walk by the help of a stick. This continued 
very perceptible for some five or six months, and was not 
wholly overcome for another year or so. At last it was sub- 
dued — either entirely, or so greatly as not to raise any further 
notice. At Brown's house — though extremely dejected for 
the most part, and wholly unable to do any sort of work — my 
brother proved manageable enough. He caused no trouble 



Hypochondria and illness. 317 

other than what devoted friendship was cheerfully prepared 
for. 

I have given these painful details at some length, but 
shall not pursue with equal minuteness the course of Rossetti's 
troubles up to the date when his health and spirits took a very 
decided rally. He remained at Brown's house not more than 
some six or seven days, and was then, on 20 June, got off to 
Scotland to recruit. Mr. William Graham, M.P., who had 
bought the Dante s Dream and other pictures, placed at his 
unreserved disposal for a while, with great kindness and 
liberality, two mansions which he rented in Perthshire — first 
Urrard, and then Stobhall. It was not considered desirable 
that I should accompany my brother — partly because of my 
official ties, and partly because I might be (and assuredly 
should have been) depressed, and therefore depressing. 
Brown and George Hake took him down to Urrard, where he 
remained, I think, but a few days ; then they removed with him 
to Stobhall, where Scott very considerately joined the party, 
relieving Brown, and, soon before Scott left, arrived Dr. Hake. 
Thus the company came to consist of the two Hakes along 
with Rossetti. After a while, early in September, the Doctor 
departed — from a farmhouse to which they had meanwhile 
removed at Trowan near Crieff — and Mr. Dunn then came 
down. My brother had by that time revived considerably, 
and had resumed painting — completing towards the middle of 
September the long-pending duplicate of Beata Beatrix for 
Mr. Graham. I will give a few details of the Scotch sojourn 
from Mr. Scott's book, and from Dr. Hake's. A very few 
more appear in the Family-letters ; and, from letters addressed 
by my brother's friends to me at the time, I could largely 
increase them, but prefer to limit myself to these general 
outlines of a great downbreak, seething troublous fancies, and 
gradual but at last very marked recovery. Mr. Scott, who 
preceded Dr. Hake, writes as follows (I extract some par- 
ticulars, and omit others) : — 

" The place where we lived — Stobhall, by the Tay near Perth — 
was, two centuries ago, one of the houses of the ancient family of 



jl8 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTi. 

the Drummonds, the head of which— the Duke of Perth, as the 
Jacobites called him — lost everything in the Rebellion of 17 15. 
It was originally a peel-tower, with a very uncommon appendage, a 
chapel of the same early date as the tower; and now it had one of 
the most charming old gardens I have ever seen, with Irish yews 
and hollies, trained by long years of careful shaping into straight 
columns 25 feet high, and roses almost reaching to the same 
height, supported on poles. The part we lived in was more 
modern. He could not take much walking-exercise. He could not 
bear reading, nor would he join us in the old game [whist]. I 
cannot help feeling that his malady was unique— different from other 
maladies, as he himself was different from other men. His de- 
lusions had a fascination, like his personality. In a few months his 
amazing power of resuscitation brought him back to health. He 
still continued to assert that we were under delusions, and not he 
himself, as to the number of his enemies ; and it was difficult to 
make him own he had been ill at all." 

He had in fact not been exactly " ill," apart from the 
laudanum-poisoning, the merely local hemiplegia, the malady 
treated surgically, and the mental disturbance resultant from 
chloral-dosing. And now for Dr. Hake : — 

" It was not long before Rossetti's occupation of the place 
[Stobhall] came to a close. He was fast improving in health. He 
took long walks, but without any enjoyment of the scenery, which 
was made romantic by waterfall and splashed leaves ever fresh, the 
elastic boughs bending under the weight of a torrent. So far 
recovered, he desired to remain in Perthshire, but still craved for 
the utmost solitude. In search of such a home, I took the train 
to Perth, visited St. Andrew's, returned to Perth, and proceeded 
to Crieff, where I remained for some days, and scoured the environs. 
At last it occurred to me to call on the leading practitioner, Dr. 
Gairdner, and was directed by him to a farmhouse two or three miles 
from the town, on the riverside. The house had every requirement, 
and was kept by a lady-farmer, whose manner and person had every 
agreeable trait. We drove to the new home. It was a pleasant 
spot, with a walk into Crieff by the riverside, down to a wilderness 
of waters. There was plenty of mountain-scenery in view. Rossetti 
rapidly improved in health, stumping his way over long areas of 



HYPOCHONDRIA AND ILLNESS. 319 

path and road, with his thick stick in hand, but holding no inter- 
course with Nature. It was not long before he summoned his 
assistant [Mr. Dunn], with the implements of his art, and he was 
once more happy. At this time he made a chalk drawing of me, 
and one of my son. As a domestic trait, I would mention that 
Rossetti was very hearty at all times over his meals. He would 
wear out three knives and forks to my one ; and to me, whose 
breakfast seldom exceeded one cup of coffee, his plate of bacon, 
surrounded by eggs that overlapped the rim, was amazing. [My 
own experience of my brother's breakfasts corresponds with this. 
It should be understood however that he only ate two meals in a 
day. In London he wholly eschewed every sort of lunch, and I 
dare say at Trowan as well. He| breakfasted copiously towards ten 
or eleven ; then set-to at painting, his ordinary allowance of which 
was every ensuing scrap of daylight ; then, more or less late accord- 
ing to season, but often as late as nine in the evening or even 
afterwards, he dined, with abundance of appetite.] I may further 
truly say that he, not being a believer in physiological things, did 
not regard tea as possessing the attributes of totality. [Clearly, by 
this facetious phrase, the doctor means that Rossetti was much the 
reverse of a teetotaller. A teetotaller he never was ; but in youth 
he was abstemious to a very unusual degree, and I question whether 
I ever once saw him exceed in wine or other stimulants at table. 
As to whisky-drams washing-down chloral, and now and then at 
some other time of the day, I have already spoken.] By a careful 
treatment of him I procured him good nights ; effecting this object 
chiefly by remaining at his bedside, and draining my memory of 
every anecdote I had ever heard, and relating to him every amusing 
incident that I had encountered during life in my intercourse with 
the world. Finding him so well recovered, I left him in the hands 
of his assistant and of my son, after an absence of many weeks." 

Here I may as well say that that malady requiring surgical 
treatment of which I made mention in Section XXIX., and 
which was ordinarily attended to by the eminent surgeon 
Mr. Durham (an old acquaintance), troubled my brother a 
good deal about this period ; and, soon after his arrival in 
Scotland, it was even thought that Mr. Marshall might have 
to go down to relieve him. Ultimately, however, a local 



3^0 DANTE GAfeRIEL ROSSETTI. 

surgeon was employed, and with entire success for the 
time. 

Dante Rossetti was one of those men whose money -affairs, 
however prosperous in a general sense, would be sure, at any 
moment of crisis or disablement, to present difficulties and 
complications ; one salient reason for this being that, upon 
undertaking any commission for a picture, he received in- 
stalments of payment to keep him going while the work was 
in progress, and thus, if the work came to a standstill, he 
owed money for paintings undelivered and undeliverable. 
When the great upset of 1872 took place, followed by some 
three months of enforced idleness, with an indisposition, 
amounting to incapacity, for attending to any details of 
business, the care of his money-matters devolved upon me. 
Mr. Scott's reference to this minor affair is highly erroneous. 1 
He thinks that I was " so prostrated with anxiety that F. M. 
Brown took all business-matters out of my hand." Nothing 
of the sort was done. I was not prostrated, though I as- 
suredly was afflicted, and, had I not been so, the more shame 
to me. My brother's money was removed from his own 
bank, and placed in Brown's bank (I had no bank of my own 
until two or three weeks later) in the joint names of Brown 
and myself. We drew joint cheques for my brother's occa- 
sions at first. After a very short time, a different arrangement 
was made, and I myself banked the money, and alone drew 
the cheques ; and, as matters rapidly righted themselves, no 
sort of inconvenience ensued to my brother, his creditors, or 
any one else. One of the first things done, to raise convenient 
funds in hand, was to sell-off Rossetti's beautiful collection 
of blue china. I alone transacted this business, and secured 
an offer of £650. I informed my brother by letter, and he 
replied by letter on 4 July, ratifying the arrangement. Here 
again Mr. Scott was either much misinformed, or else he 
wrote from some mere supposition of his own — speaking of 

1 I said as much in a letter which I got published in The Academy 
towards the close of 1892, soon after the appearance of Mr. Scott's 
volumes. 



STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1 872-4. 32 i 

" the disposal, without his [Dante Rossetti's] knowledge, of 
this assemblage of pots and dishes." On another point Mr. 
Scott is of course right — namely, that, when Dante quitted 
his Cheyne Walk house for Brown's or for Scotland, " it was 
thought proper to have all his pictures, finished or in progress, 
removed elsewhere. They were accordingly taken to my 
[Scott's] house, which was conveniently near, among them 
the huge Dante's Dream." We were naturally very glad to 
get these works out of Rossetti's house, left with no regular 
tenant, and much obliged to Mr. Scott for storing them. 
They were deposited in a large kind of brick-and-glass 
structure which stood in his back-garden, and which he 
himself used at times as a studio. 



XXXV. 

STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1872-4.— 
THEODORE WATTS. 

TRAVELLING southward from Scotland in the company of 
Mr. George Hake, Rossetti reached Kelmscott Manor-house 
on 24 September 1872 ; and, allowance being made for his 
partial lameness, he seemed healthy, robust, full of working- 
energy, and on the whole calm-minded, and even for the 
most part in excellent spirits. The reader will recollect that 
the Manor-house was occupied by Mr. Morris and his family 
jointly with Rossetti. They were not always there ; but one 
or other member of the family, sometimes all of them to- 
gether, were present very frequently ; and thus my brother 
was usually supplied with plenty of congenial society, even 
apart from other friends of his from London who often ran 
down for some days. Mr. George Hake also was permanently 
with him, assisting him in secretarial and other work, at 
which he was equally expert and obliging. I saw my brother 
at Kelmscott for a week or so towards the end of October, 
and found him in very good trim, although occasionally 
something showed in his mind some trace of lurking suspicion 
VOL. I. 21 



322 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

or prejudice. He continued taking chloral. In one instance 
at least, January 1874, I attended, under Mr. Marshall's 
directions, to getting the drug, before its being dispatched to 
Kelmscott, diluted, so that its strength was only half what 
my brother was left to suppose. At Kelmscott he abandoned 
shaving, and grew whiskers and beard all round — as some 
people thought, to the detriment of his appearance ; mous- 
taches he had worn for a long succession of years, though 
not in his very earliest youth. Having once begun a beard, 
he never left it off again. He continued keeping very late 
hours. According to Oliver Madox Brown — his old friend's 
son, then a youth of nineteen, who showed astonishing pre- 
cocious faculty both in painting and in novel-writing, and 
who visited him in March 1874 — the dinner-hour was 1*0 P.M. ; 
and, according to Rossetti himself, on the occasion of a short 
visit from Mr. Howell, " 3 A.M. gave place to 5 A.M. as bed- 
time before the house was clear of him." What could be 
expected for a man of forty-five, recovering from a fearful 
state of nervous prostration and enfeebled health, who, dining 
at 10, went to bed at 3 or 5, and dosed himself with chloral 
and alcohol before hoping for a wink of sleep ? From these 
unnatural conditions a natural consequence had to ensue, 
and, after a longer interval than might have been counted 
upon, it did ensue. 

It is in the opening days of this Kelmscott sojourn that 
I find the first trace of Mr. Theodore Watts in my brother's 
correspondence. As a solicitor, Mr. Watts, a friend of Dr. 
Hake, advised Rossetti in adjusting a provoking matter about 
a forgery which had recently been committed upon him, and 
of which the Family-letters exhibit something. As we all 
know, however, Mr. Watts is much else besides being a 
solicitor — a man of letters, poet, and critic ; and very soon 
my brother found that this gentleman's converse and sym- 
pathy in literary matters were quite as welcome to him as 
his mastery of the law. As years went on, Mr. Watts became 
by far the most constant companion and mainstay of Rossetti, 
whether in relation to literary work, to business-affairs, or 



STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1 872-4. 323 

to daily intercourse — daily, and indeed nightly as well. This 
unweariable friend was by him in all his requirements ; and 
it is difficult to conjecture how Rossetti would, without him, 
have passed his closing years — certainly in some guise and 
under some arrangements very different from those which 
actually obtained. A letter from my brother to Madox 
Brown — dating, it may be, early in 1873 — contains the follow- 
ing words, which he had occasion to repeat inwardly, if not 
outwardly, times out of number : — 

" Watts left yesterday. He is a first-rate companion and a first- 
rate fellow — few equal to him in sterling qualities and cultivation." 

Mr. Charles Augustus Howell was a man of many 
activities, and into all of them he threw himself with great 
vivacity, enterprise, and push. He had ere now ceased to be 
Ruskin's secretary, and had become a speculator and dealer 
in works of art of many kinds. For the last year or two my 
brother had lost sight of him mostly or wholly. The latter 
had settled down at Kelmscott, an out-of-the-way place of 
great seclusion, because he deemed it necessary for his health 
and comfort, and for the avoidance of some of the worry and 
harass which in London seemed certain either to beset him, 
or to be regarded by himself as besetting him ; and he had 
resumed painting with all zest and energy — equal at least to 
what had marked him in any earlier years. His style was 
now larger than aforetime, and his tone of mind for pictorial 
work more tense, though certainly not more inventive, nor 
so much a denizen of the realms of romance. With his 
acute eye for business, he soon saw that his isolation on 
the borders of four shires — Oxford, Gloucester, Berks, and 
Wilts — was not exactly adapted for confirming or improving 
his professional success. He had a few attached and steady 
purchasers — chiefly now Leyland and Graham ; but these 
and others could not be continually running after him, to 
see what work was in hand, and to commission it if falling-in 
with their tastes. Rossetti therefore, soon after housing 
at Kelmscott, determined that he would have an agent in 



324 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

London, to transact the sale of uncommissioned work and 
any other business on hand ; and he decided that Howell 
was his man for such purposes. Howell acquiesced with 
great alacrity. Whatever his faults, he was a man of lively 
feelings, capable of regarding a confiding friend with pre- 
dilection, and even affection ; and I am satisfied that from 
first to last there was a very warm corner in his heart for 
Dante Rossetti. As a salesman — with his open manner, his 
winning address, and his exhaustless gift of amusing talk, 
not innocent of high colouring and of actual blague — Howell 
was unsurpassable ; and he achieved for Rossetti, with ease 
and also with much ingenious planning, many a stroke of 
most excellent professional business, such as other men, less 
capable of playing upon the hobbies or weaknesses of their 
fellow-creatures, would have found arduous or impossible. 
His very voice, with a scarcely perceptible foreign twang 
in it, was a gift of Nature which no art could have rivalled. 
He had a good footing in society, and in the world of art 
many ins and outs of connexion. Howell and Rossetti 
kept up at Kelmscott a very active correspondence ; and 
the painter entrusted to his agent several works, which he 
found to go off very much to his satisfaction. To all this 
there was a less pleasing side, which developed in course of 
time ; but I will here say with emphasis that my brother, 
long after he and Howell had parted company, assured me 
more than once that he had materially benefited in purse 
from Howell's exertions, had at no other time experienced 
equal facilities in disposing of his works, and had never been 
conscious of the least direct unfairness towards himself in 
the dealings of the highly resourceful Anglo-Portuguese. As 
my brother (though in some ways extremely heedless and 
lax in spending money) was always keenly alive to his own 
interests in acquiring it, and not at all the man to be long 
hoodwinked by anybody, and was in his later years more 
than duly suspicious of various persons, this testimony to the 
fair dealing of Mr. Howell — considerably decried in life and 
after death — should in justice not be lost sight of. 



STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1 872-4. 325 

It may be as well to add (without entering into many 
details) that, at the beginning of the business-connexion 
between Howell and Rossetti, the former had a partner or 
quasi-partner, Mr. John R. Parsons, who was a relative of 
our old family friends the Keightleys. Mr. Parsons, a very 
pleasant young gentleman, had a financial backer who re- 
mained unknown to both Howell and Rossetti, and, owing 
to some dispute, mainly fomented or dictated by this backer, 
about an early Proserpine picture which my brother had 
forwarded for sale, the transactions with Mr. Parsons came 
to an end pretty soon, but left quite unaffected the transactions 
with Mr. Howell individually. 

Very few things produced by Rossetti came so near to 
satisfying him as the Proserpine, in those two versions (not 
including the one just mentioned) which, in my other volume, 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer, I have termed 
Nos. 3 and 4. The latter was sold to Mr. Leyland, and the 
former to Mr. W. A. Turner. Mrs. Morris, the ideal sitter 
for such a subject, posed for the head. Proserpine, in perfect 
beauty shadowed with doom, is represented holding the 
pomegranate of which she had eaten in Hades, thereby 
unknowingly sentencing herself to the immortality of the 
nether world. A gleam of light from the outer sky strikes 
upon the background. Rossetti, as in several other instances, 
wrote a sonnet for this picture. It was first in Italian, and 
then in English. Great were the tribulations of the Proserpine 
canvases — seven in all, besides crayon-drawings. The first 
three were rejected ; the fourth had ill-success with Mr. 
Parsons. Then my so-called No. 3 had its glass twice 
smashed and renewed, and twice it was lined to prevent 
accidents. Then No. 4 had its frame smashed twice, its glass 
once ; it was nearly spoiled while under transfer to a new 
strainer ; and, in transit to the purchaser, the glass was again 
much damaged, and some other things as well. Luckily there 
was only a scratch on the neck and cheek. 

Other works proper to this Kelmscott period are : in oils, 
La Ghirlandata, a composition of three figures, in which 



326 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

music is again, as in the Veronica Veronese, a principal 
element ; The Bower-Maiden (or Fleurs de Marie), a pleasing 
picture without ideal quality ; The Blessed Damozel (begun 
in 1873, or even in 1871, but chiefly the product of succeeding 
years on to 1877); Dante's Dream — the smaller, but still 
large, replica for Mr. Graham, after that gentleman had parted 
with the original work— was planned out by Mr. Dunn at 
Chelsea while Rossetti was at Kelmscott, but all the painter's 
own work upon this canvas belongs to a later date — a double 
predella is added to the replica only ; The Roman Widow 
(or Dis Manibus), a lady in a mortuary chamber, playing 
on two harps. In water-colour there was nothing of leading 
importance. In crayons or coloured chalk, Ligeia Siren, 
a portrait of Mr. Theodore Watts, and that (one of our 
illustrations) of my wife Lucy Brown, to whom I was 
married in March 1874. Some of these works have been 
mentioned before in another connexion. I will now only 
say that La Ghirlandata is, more obviously than usual, a 
picture having some symbolic intention, which different 
minds may be disposed to interpret differently ; and that 
The Roman Widow seems to me quite unsurpassed, amid 
my brother's work, for pathetic sweetness and beautiful 
simplicity. If he painted one supremely loveable picture, 
it is, I think, The Roman Widow — even in preference to the 
Beata Beatrix or The Beloved. 

As to poetry, Rossetti produced scarcely anything in this 
term of about two years. I could only name the sonnets on 
the Proserpine and on Winter. Painting kept him busy, along 
with correspondence, and sometimes personal colloquy, rela- 
ting to the painting affairs. He brought out the re-cast of his 
old Italian translations, Dante and his Circle ; thought, at the 
beginning of 1873, of publishing a new volume of original 
poems, but finally decided that these were not as yet suffi- 
ciently numerous ; and projected a translation of all Michel- 
angelo's poems, but never made a real commencement with 
this. Some one has invidiously said that Rossetti was " snuffed 
out by an article." Byron used this phrase erroneously, 



STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1 872-4. 327 

though at that date excusably, about Keats ; but in relation 
to Rossetti it is obviously untrue. We here see that, within a 
few months after the Contemporary article had been re-issued 
as a pamphlet, he was seriously thinking of publishing a new 
volume of poems, and he did in fact publish one in 1881. 
The author of The White Ship and The King's Tragedy was 
not exactly snuffed out, whether critically or morally, whether 
by an article or by a libel. 

I will add a word or two here about certain " Nonsense- 
verses " scribbled, or more generally extemporized and recited, 
by Rossetti. A few of them must have got into print here 
and there. In Mr. Scott's book four or more are inserted (one 
at least of these being pitiably mauled by a hand and ear less 
correct at rhythm than Rossetti's). Mr. Scott remarks as 
follows : — 

" The habit of making satirical rhymes like these [two staves by 
Hueffer which had been cited] was an outcome of the appearance 
of Lear's Book of Nonsense. D. G. R. began the habit with us, the 
difficulty of finding a rhyme for the name being often the sole 
inducement. Swinburne assisted him, and all of us ; and every day 
for a year or two they used to fly about." 

This practice may have commenced with Rossetti, I 
suppose, towards 1864 or 1865, and may have lasted up to 
1874, but hardly beyond that. He produced scores of these 
Nonsense-verses, with the greatest ease ; many of them just 
about as good as such things can be made. Now and again 
one or other of them flits fitfully through my mind. If 
nobody preserved a goodish string of them, it is a pity. 
Possibly Mr. Swinburne's miraculous verbal memory, if he 
cared to exercise it on such a trifle, would recover many of 
Rossetti's stanzas, and also of those which other nimble- 
witted heads produced, his own included. My brother was, 
I think, the best of all for odd ear-catching spontaneity. 
One of those given by Mr. Scott is a curious rhyming ingeni- 
osity. It relates to a young poet (his name by this date better 
remembered than his works) whom Rossetti knew and liked 



328 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

well, and whose abilities he esteemed ; so of course the rhyme, 
for all its grotesqueness, is not in the least ill-natured in 
intention. I cite the lines as they appear in Mr. Scott's book, 
but (even apart from the meaningless substitution of the 
word " checkboard " for " chessboard ") am not sure of their 
entire verbal accuracy :• — 

" There's the Irishman Arthur O'Shaughnessy — 
On the chessboard of poets a pawn is he ; 
Though bishop or king 
Would be rather the thing 
To the fancy of Arthur O'Shaughnessy." 

In another instance a lady's Christian name, Olive, was 
named to my brother, and he was defied to rhyme to that. 
Quick as lightning came the response, much to the following 
effect : — 

" There is a young female named Olive — 
When God made her he made a doll live " etc. 

But Rossetti admitted that this was just a rhyme, and not 
an accurate description of the lady, to him (it may or may 
not be) unknown. 

Though my brother was on the whole extremely well 
when he settled at Kelmscott in 1872, and only a little beset 
— hardly perturbed— by those fanciful ideas of widespread 
animosities and conspiracies etc. which had been so marked 
at the close of the spring and during the summer, he relapsed 
after a while, and I assume that chloral was again mainly 
conducive to this unfortunate result. In May 1874 Dr. Hake 
told me that, according to his son George, Rossetti exhibited 
signs of faintness sometimes after a walk or any exertion. 
When my wife and I visited him for a few days in the early 
summer of that year, we perceived that he was once more 
troubled with suspicions of servants and other persons, and 
by no means exempt from disquieting symptoms. Mr. Scott 
has seen fit to publish an anecdote relating to a slightly 
earlier date, arid I will here extract it ; — 



STAY AND WORK AT KELMSCOTT, 1 872-4. 329 

"On 19 April 1874 I received these words by post: 'My dear 
Scotus, I am likely to be needing ,£200 in a few days, and 
happen unluckily at this moment to be run rather dry. Could 
you manage to lend it me ? and if so to oblige me with a cheque at 
once ? ' Knowing his affairs to be prosperous at the time, I could 
not view this request with composure. He was living quietly at 
Kelmscott ; but I came to the conclusion that it was my duty as his 
friend to keep his mind easy. Accordingly by next post the cheque 
was dispatched. By next again it came back to me in a note, saying 
he had 'just received some money, and he returned my cheque no 
less thankfully than if he had needed it.' He had by that time lost 
nearly every old friend save myself. Did he now suspect that I was 
among his enemies, and had he done this to try me ? I fear this 
semi-insane motive was the true one." 

Throughout April 1874 I was abroad, and necessarily I 
knew nothing of what was happening between Scott in 
London and my brother at Kelmscott. Even had I been in 
London, I might probably have remained alike uninformed. 
I cannot therefore elucidate this matter unless by conjecture. 
To me it seems abundantly probable that at some time in 
April my brother found occasion for some such amount as 
,£200, and had it not at his immediate disposal ; and that he 
acted bond fide in asking Scott for the sum, which Scott very 
liberally, though as he shows reluctantly, sent. My brother, 
it seems, returned the cheque forthwith, on the alleged ground 
that he had meanwhile received money from another quarter. 
This was, in itself, an unobjectionable and even a laudable 
proceeding. Moreover the alleged ground seems so likely 
that one might hardly have expected a different surmise to 
be put forward in reference to a " dear friend." And again, 
if the dear friend was really so stricken as to be " semi- 
insane," his conduct might have been construed more in 
sorrow than in anger. That Rossetti had then " lost nearly 
every old friend " save Mr. Scott is a gratuitous and an 
incorrect statement. There were Brown, Stephens, Hughes, 
Seddon, Boyce, Lowes Dickinson, Tebbs, John Marshall, 
Jones, Morris, Peter Paul Marshall, and Howell — not to cast 



330 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

about for others. But it may well be that Scott was more 
likely than some of these to have ready money available, and 
he was the oldest friend of all. 

Mr. Scott — I have more than once had occasion to say and 
to prove it — was extremely shaky in his dates. If it so 
happens that not 19 April, but 9 or 10 April, was the real 
date of Rossetti's first letter, there is a coincidence regarding 
money which seems to come particularly pat. On 10 April 
Mr. Leyland (I possess his letter) sent Rossetti a sum of 
£200 on account of The Roman Widow ; and this sum must 
(assuming my conjecture to be accurate) have reached him just 
about the same time as Scott's cheque for the like amount. 
Of course I cannot affirm that Mr. Scott made here any such 
mistake as to the date, but I can scarcely help regarding it as 
the reverse of improbable. 

Immediately after detailing this matter of the cheque 
Mr. Scott proceeds as follows : — 

" A very short time after, he suddenly left Kelmscott for altogether, 
having got into a foundationless quarrel with some anglers by the 
river, unnecessary to describe." 

This is correct. I never knew with much precision the 
details of the quarrel referred to, but understand it to have 
been much on this wise. My brother was taking a riverside 
stroll along with George Hake, and saw a party of three or 
four anglers. He fancied that they called out to him in an 
insulting way ; which was either a morbid mis-hearing of 
something which they really said, or perhaps an actual 
physical delusion. Ireful, impetuous as usual, and now totally 
reckless of probable consequences, Rossetti ran up to the 
anglers, and with vigorous abuse retorted upon the supposed 
insult. Mr. Hake had to follow as fast as he could, and, 
offering whatever explanation came uppermost, parted the 
antagonists. The anglers could not fail to be astonished ; 
rumours of the strange outburst began to circulate ; and 
Rossetti found that Kelmscott had ceased to be a place of 
comfort for him, and had become or would rapidly be 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 33 1 

becoming a hotbed of discomfort. So he returned to London 
and Cheyne Walk towards the latter end of July. He never 
again set his foot in Kelmscott Manor-house. 



XXXVI. 

LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1874-8. 

I AM now getting on towards the end of the life of that man 
of astonishing genius, ardent initiative, vigorous and fas- 
cinating personality, abundant loveableness, many defects, 
and in late years overclouded temperament and bedimmed 
outlook on the world, whom it was once my privilege to call 
brother. I wish to present a true picture of him to the 
reader. This, not an easy task even in the case of a far more 
ordinary man, is truly difficult when one has to deal with so 
complex a personage — one who, with so much height and 
depth, combined so many excesses of feeling, inequalities of 
impression, and discords of act. In some previous instances 
Mr. Bell Scott's book has served to determine what is the least 
favourable light in which the proceedings of Dante Rossetti 
can be viewed. I will again have recourse to it for opening 
the present Section, which will chiefly concern my brother's 
condition of health mental and physical, and his demeanour 
in that connexion. 

No sooner has Mr. Scott disposed of the incident of the 
anglers at Kelmscott than he continues in the following 
terms : — 

" He sent for me [on re-settling in Cheyne Walk]. I found him 
quiet and taciturn. He only said the change would do him good. 
From that time, till now that I write this, he has lived within the 
house, never even going into the street, never seeing any one." 

This turn of phrase makes it obvious that Mr. Scott was 
writing at some date during Rossetti's lifetime ; and the 
ensuing reference to Mr. George Hake suggests that the date 
was not very long after the parting of my brother, January 1877, 



332 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

from that gentleman. Now it is totally untrue that Rossetti, 
between July 1874, when he returned to London from 
Kelmscott, and some time in 1877, never went into the street. 
It is quite correct that he did not go to and fro in the streets, 
in a casual sort of way, to any extent worth mentioning ; but 
he went out constantly — I believe only occasionally missing 
a day — in the late evening. His habit was to enter a fly from 
his own door with George Hake, and drive up to some airy 
spot, very often the Circles of Regent's Park. There he got 
out, took a longish walk with his companion, and then re- 
entered the fly, and drove home. I am far from saying that 
this was a wholly rational proceeding, or that it did not bespeak 
a certain exaggerated craving for seclusion ; but it is a very 
different thing from " living within the house, and never going 
even into the street." Besides, as we shall see, there were 
three absences in the country, two of them of considerable 
duration, in 1875, 76, and 77. Mr. Scott's addendum, "never 
seeing any one," is, in its literal sense, at least as incorrect as 
the other statement about house and street. I suppose how- 
ever that the real meaning is that Rossetti never went now to 
other people's houses to see them. Even this is not absolutely 
accurate ; but it approaches towards accuracy, and with this, 
from our present author, we may count ourselves content. 

It deserves some consideration moreover that the habit of 
walking out in the late evening, and not in the day, was not 
altogether a novelty with Rossetti, brought on by that general 
change of feeling which resulted from the Buchanan pamphlet 
of 1872. There is a letter of his to Mr. Shields, 24 Decem- 
ber 1869 (published in The Century-guild Hobbyhorse, No. 16), 
which says that he was then, in fine weather, in the practice 
of taking long walks in Battersea Park, " whereas my habit 
had long been to walk only at nights, except when in the 
country." This habit, bad as it was in hygiene, can easily be 
accounted for. He rose late ; painted all day as long as light 
served him ; then dined ; and, whether winter or summer, all 
was darkness tempered by gaslight or moonlight by the hour 
he left the house. 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 333 

Scott proceeds : — 

" Holman Hunt, Woolner, and other artists, had left him long 
ago ; now Swinburne and Morris were not to be seen there. Even 
Dr. Hake deserted him, feeling aggrieved by his patient and long- 
suffering son George being driven away after several years' sacrifice. 
The old Doctor would see him no more." 

About Hunt and Woolner I have already said something ; 
but to speak of " other artists " who " had left " Rossetti, 
without referring to Madox Brown, who continued to see him 
with all the olden affection and much the same as the olden 
frequency (so far as his calls in Cheyne Walk were concerned), 
is, to say the least, an omission. There were others also — 
especially Shields when in London- — and other details could be 
added substantially diminishing the force of what Scott says 
about artists ; but I need not enlarge upon this, nor upon the 
poets Swinburne and Morris, who best know what line of con- 
duct they did or did not adopt. The allegation that Dr. Hake 
" deserted him," and " would see him no more," is not accurate. 
He held aloof for a while ; but in October 1878 he himself 
told me that he had then recently written to my brother, 
intimating the continuance of his friendly feelings ; and it was 
only because Rossetti replied in a tone which (although respon- 
sive in cordiality) appeared to the Doctor like a farewell, that 
he abstained from taking further steps for renewing the inti- 
macy. I think his re-appearance would have been a satisfac- 
tion, and am sure it would have been a benefit, to my brother. 
In December 1878 they exchanged other friendly notes. 

About Mr. George Hake there might be a good deal to 
say. I don't know what his " several years' sacrifice " 
amounted to. He was a young man without a profession, 
and without (so far as I ever saw or heard) any definite 
expectation of employment of whatsoever kind. My brother, 
at the opening of their connexion, liked him much, found 
him extremely pleasant and accommodating, and ready to 
do whatever came to hand, and engaged him as secretary 
at a salary which I suppose to be highly adequate if not 



334 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTL 

liberal, and which was punctually paid. Moreover the 
residence at Kelmscott was quite convenient to Mr. George 
Hake — the place being very near Oxford, where he com- 
pleted his academical course during that interval of time. 
I will openly say that from first to last I never witnessed 
any solid ground of complaint given to my brother by Mr. 
Hake ; but Dante did at times, as the connexion wore on, 
mention circumstances to me which he clearly believed to 
be true, and which, under that belief, he was warranted in 
taking into account. That he was fanciful in these chloralized 
years is plain ; and that he could at all times of his life get 
more angry on a sudden than beseems a philosopher, and 
comport himself with more of abruptness and vehemence, 
is also allowed. For some while before the parting came, 
he thought it had better come pretty soon, yet continued to 
temporize. At last there was an outburst, and the parting 
ensued. I, scanning the matter from my own point of view, 
regretted this upshot not a little. After a while irritation 
abated, and my brother met his late secretary again — at 
any rate in August 1880. — But all this about Mr. George 
Hake is really a private affair, and would not have appeared 
in my pages at all, but that Mr. Scott saw fit to give it 
prominence as derogatory to my brother. 

Mr. Scott next adverts to that matter, proper to the year 
1872, about Browning's Fifine at the Fair. It is noticed in 
Section XXXIV. Scott's reference to it is exaggerated in 
expression, but that need not detain us. One sentence is the 
reverse of the fact — viz., " Browning, as his manner was, 
had never acknowledged Rossetti's presentation-copy of his 
Poems, and now this confirmed him to be among the enemies." 
Browning did acknowledge that presentation-copy, and 
acknowledge it with praise. I have said so in Section XXXII., 
and I still possess his letter. Why did Mr. Scott make this 
allegation ? Apparently because he misremembered a state- 
ment, occurring in a letter from my brother, August 1871, 
that Browning had not acknowledged the volume of 1861, 
The Early Italian Poets. This statement (as its context 



London and elsewhere, 1874-8. 335 

Shows) merely illustrates the thesis that Browning was hostile 
to all translating work ; but one phase of Mr. Scott's inner 
consciousness certified him that his " dearest of friends and 
most interesting of men " * was a remarkably flabby creature, 
and so he introduced this random assertion. It might indeed 
be contended that the allegation that Browning did not reply 
as to the Poems does not convey any imputation upon 
Rossetti ; but it conveys, and appears aimed to convey, 
the imputation that Rossetti's delusive notion about Browning 
and Fifine was the outcome of wounded vanity, occasioned 
by the non-acknowledgment of the recent volume. 
I continue quoting : — 

" Only two quite new men were now to be seen about him. One 
was William Sharp, a poet to be ; the other, Theodore Watts, who, 
being professionally a lawyer, managed everything for him, and who 
was just then beginning to write criticisms in the weekly papers, so 
was looked upon by poor D. G. R. as doubly important. Happily 
Watts has been invaluable since then in many ways ; fascinated by 
Rossetti, ill as he was, and always ready and able to serve him." 

In this passage Madox Brown — not to speak of any one 
else — is again ignored. The designation of date comes in 
the word " now " in the opening sentence, and one does 
not know what the " now " may have been. The suggestion 
that Mr. Sharp was frequently with Rossetti by the date 
when Mr. Watts " was just beginning to write criticisms in 
the weekly papers " appears to me erroneous. But, consider- 
ing that " poor D. G. R " is duly pitied by Mr. Bell Scott, and 
Mr. Watts duly praised, one may excuse this. 

Then comes the conclusion of this chapter of the Autobio- 
graphical Notes : — 

" For myself, Rossetti had been the last of a succession of men 
I had loved, and had tried to make love me. For each of them I 
would have given all but life, and I was again defeated by destiny. 
Equal candour and confidence he never had to give ; but now his 

1 Scott's Illustrations to the King's Quair, p. 19. 



336 bANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

singular manias made ordinary friendly intercourse impossible to 
him. After having been both his banker and his nurse, I could not 
depend upon him either in action or word. Still I remained faithful 
to the old tie, and Miss Boyd agreed in doing so also. We con- 
tinued our occasional visits, either morning or evening, the only two 
of all his old circle." 

All this seems (so far as its diction is concerned) to 
relate to the same period when Mr. Watts was "just begin- 
ning " etc. ; and, if so, it is monstrous to say that Miss Boyd 
and Scott, to the exclusion of Brown, were " the only two of 
all his old circle." It is however true that Brown did not 
see Rossetti for some while at the close of 1877, and during 
1878 and a part of 1879 ; and in August 1881 he settled in 
Manchester, and the two old friends could barely meet again 
some two or three times. Mr. Scott disparages Rossetti's 
" candour and confidence " at all times of their intimacy, and 
later on " could not depend upon him either in action or 
word." As to the candour and confidence, I question whether 
Rossetti showed any deficiency in these. He was cordial, out- 
spoken, and in fact far too communicative of matters which, 
affecting others as well as himself, he ought to have kept 
locked up in his own breast. His public letters to Mr. Scott 
have an air of great frankness and bonhomie joined with 
affection. And, as to the statement that Mr. Scott " could 
not depend on him either in action or word," I may observe 
that Scott's letters to Rossetti, of which several belonging to 
this period are extant in my hands, do not indicate any want 
of such dependence — they have the external marks of free 
interchange of thought and information upon such subjects 
as came uppermost. It is indeed true that my brother 
continued liable to morbid fancies and needless suspicions, 
and, in relation to these, he must often have propounded as 
fact something which was only supposition on his part, and 
unfounded supposition. 

I have now done with this passage in Scott's book ; and 
can only regret having had to point out so much of mis- 
statement and over-statement in the writing of a thoughtful 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 337 

man, of many fine gifts and feelings, upon his " dearest of 
friends," whom he knew moreover to be in some respects an 
invalid, and thus one to whom indulgence might have been 
an acquaintance's duty and an old familiar's prerogative. 

In these years the state of my brother's health, his spirits, 
and his mental impressions upon particular points, was 
frequently unsatisfactory, though there were rallies in respect 
both of physical well-being and of cheerfulness. Mr. Watts 
was certainly much oftener with him than any one else, 
serving to keep him in tone, and endlessly helpful in a variety 
of ways. I regret to say that I myself saw my brother but 
little— living at the other end of London, occupied with 
official work all day, and commonly with literary work in the 
evening, recently married, and with growing family-ties of my 
own. Towards the end of 1875 Rossetti felt a great need of 
changing from London and its associations. He went to 
Bognor, renting a house named Aldwick Lodge, and here he 
remained till about the end of June 1876. He was constantly 
occupied in painting at Aldwick Lodge, and received there 
several friends, and most of the members of his family. No 
doubt my wife and I would have gone likewise at some time, 
but there was a baby, and also a nurse ; and my brother 
expressly said (the question arose in November 1875) that he 
would not house the nurse. Dr. Hake speaks of the Lodge as 

" a commodious villa and grounds, in a lane west of the town, 
and near to the roughest bit of beach on the Sussex coast. The 
villa had good rooms. Upstairs was a gallery, with bedchambers on 
both sides, and ending in a large apartment which became a studio." 
In the afternoons Rossetti " took a violent walk [his pace was 
always a resolute and rather quick one] over the boulders by the sea 
towards Selsey Bay, among the ruined wooden groynes which had 
become sea-weed gardens, hideous of aspect, as if invented and laid 
out by fish made man." 

Dr. Hake holds that Rossetti took no heed of the scene ; 
whereas another writer 1 (I cannot say an authority) assumes 

1 Mrs. Wood. 
VOL. I. 22 



338 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

that he now first took pleasure in the sea and sea-walks. I 
hardly know why this should be affirmed — he had from of old 
known such places as Boulogne, Hastings, and Clevedon — 
but it is true that, whether at Bognor or elsewhere, he indulged 
in sea-trips scarcely at all. As he was a very qualmy sailor, 
sea-sickness assailed him with great virulence and perti- 
nacity. 

During Rossetti's stay near Bognor a libel-case was going 
on in London, Mr. Buchanan suing Mr. Peter Taylor, then 
proprietor of The Examine}'. Rossetti was not in the faintest 
degree concerned in writing or prompting any of the matter 
charged as libellous ; but this matter involved in part an 
attack upon the conduct of Mr. Buchanan in relation to 
his article in the Contemporary Review. My brother was 
extremely desirous of avoiding all sort of intermixture 
in this trial, and that may, I think, have been one reason 
why his stay at Aldwick Lodge was so prolonged. He 
returned to Chelsea almost as soon as the trial was over. 
Let me add, in fairness to Mr. Buchanan, that the jury 
agreed with him in considering he had been libelled, and they 
gave him damages to the amount of ^150. Whether they 
were right or wrong is a question I can leave alone. 

Hardly had my brother returned to London when he went 
to Broadlands in Hampshire, staying there for the better part 
of the month of August. Broadlands was the seat of the 
Right Honourable William Cowper-Temple and his wife (soon 
afterwards Lord and Lady Mount-Temple). The husband 
had some years previously become the owner of Rossetti's pic- 
ture of Beata Beatrix, now in the National Gallery. Of the pro- 
fuse kindness which he received in this mansion, and of his 
ardent admiration of his host and hostess, more especially the 
latter, his Family-letters bear ample record. Here he met 
Mrs. Georgina Sumner, a lady mentioned in Section XXVII. 
Mrs. Sumner also became a greatly attached friend of his, and 
favoured him in London with sittings for some of his works. 
Rossetti was not at all well at Broadlands ; suffering from 
pains in the limbs (which recurred at intervals afterwards), 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 339 

and from " nights of utter unrest." His spirits however 
improved. I apprehend that this flitting to Broadlands — 
highly satisfactory though it proved in some respects — would 
not have been undertaken, but for the fact that my brother 
was now having some alterations effected in his studio. He 
heard — or imagined — objectionable noises from an adjoining 
house ; and he got the room-wall near the fireplace doubled, 
and the space filled in with thick wadding. Mr. Watts and 
Mr. Dunn attended to this cumbrous job, while Rossetti along 
with George Hake was at Broadlands. The adjoining house 
was occupied by a musician, Mr. Malcolm Lawson, and some 
members of the family — Malcolm being a brother of the 
distinguished young landscape-painter Cecil Lawson. I 
have always had reason to suppose that the Lawsons and 
their associates were perfectly well affected to my brother, 
and would indeed have been proud to cultivate intercourse 
with him ; but he did not think so, and fancied that there 
was a large and frequent amount of unnecessary noise from 
that house and its small grounds, audible both in his studio 
and in his garden, and annoying, and intended to annoy, him. 
I remember there was once a thrush hard by, which, to my 
hearing, simply trilled its own lay on and off. My brother 
discerned a different note, and conceived that the thrush 
had been trained to ejaculate something insulting to him. 
Such is perverted fantasy — or I may rather infer such is 
an outcome of chloral-dosing. 

Returned from Broadlands, Rossetti was constrained by 
medical orders to face two nights without any chloral at 
all ; and soon he tried mesmerism, with a result of better 
nights and no pain in the limbs. A Miss Chandos appears 
to have been the mesmerist, associated with Mr. Chandos 
Leigh Hunt, a relative of the poet-essayist. 

I must now recur to that matter which I have mentioned 
before (Sections XXIX. and XXXIV.) of an inconvenience 
from which my'brother suffered requiring surgical treatment. 
This malady — which I surmise had not been at all attended 
to since the late summer of 1872 — came to a severe crisis in 



340 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the middle of June 1877. It is referred to in an article which 
Mr. Theodore Watts published in February 1895, 1 and I 
could not perhaps do better than borrow his clear account of 
the incident : — 

" I cannot refrain from saying here a word about a certain occasion 
in the year 1877 when he was extremely ill — not from the effects of 
insomnia, but from a different cause altogether. He had for years 
been subject to a certain organic disturbance which, though under 
timely and skilful treatment it is not considered to be dangerous, 
will become full of peril, and will indeed end fatally, if, in certain of 
its developments, it is neglected or treated unskilfully. In 1877 this 
ailment took a somewhat serious form. Yet our friend the eminent 
surgeon John Marshall was not greatly alarmed, knowing that, 
should it occur that the symptoms did take an aggravated turn, he 
had but to perform a surgical operation in order to give relief. 
This operation however was one of great delicacy, and the aggra- 
vated symptoms necessitating it were apt to come on suddenly. 
Marshall therefore left instructions with the housekeeper that, should 
Rossetti seem to be suffering from an accession of illness, she was to 
take a cab, and go at once to him at Savile Row. The symptoms 
did come on quite suddenly ; but, as Rossetti was determined that 
he would undergo no operation save in my presence, the house- 
keeper, obeying his commands (which were always given with a 
Napoleonic imperiousness), came to me at Putney, instead of going 
straight to the doctor. On reaching Cheyne Walk, and seeing (as 
I thought) that a serious rupture of internal blood-vessels had taken 
place, I went to Marshall, and at once, and fortunately found him 
in. My description of the state of things alarmed him. We called 
for a chloroformist, and drove off to Cheyne Walk as fast as possible. 
The operation was performed with all Marshall's usual skill, but 
afterwards Rossetti fell into a state of the greatest weakness. I sent 
for his unfailing friend Madox Brown to consult with Marshall, who 
advised that Rossetti should be taken to the seaside. Heme Bay, 
as being near to London, was the place selected, and thither he was 
taken by Brown — or rather to a little place called Hunter's Forestall. 
In a very little time Mrs. Rossetti, Christina, and myself, went down 
to Heme Bay, and found Gabriel in a lamentable state of depression." 

1 Recollections of Christina Rossetti, printed in The Nineteenth Century. 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 34I 

I have only a few remarks to make in amplification of this 
narrative. Although it is entirely true that this upset had no 
direct connexion with insomnia, still Mr. Marshall informed me 
at the time that the heavy doses of chloral retarded recovery 
from the operation, and he once more urged that they should 
be reduced ; and at the seaside they gradually were reduced, 
standing at 30 or 40 grains instead of 180. But the notion of 
leaving it off entirely was what Rossetti would not entertain. 
He wrote to Brown, and not without a certain show of reason : 

" The fact is that any man in my case must either do as I do, or 
cease from necessary occupation, which cannot be pursued in the 
day when the night is stripped of rest altogether." 

The "Napoleonic imperiousness" is a good descriptive phrase 
of Mr. Watts ; yet it should be understood that there was 
always about as much of good-nature as of command in my 
brother's address to servants and dependants, and he was 
throughout life a prime favourite with all such people. They 
would have done for him much more through liking than 
for most other men through subservience. Two full months, 
with a hired nurse in the house, elapsed between the operation 
and the departure from London ; and it was only on 16 August 
that Brown and I succeeded in almost forcing Dante into 
Brown's house, and thence on the following day he proceeded 
with his old friend to Heme Bay itself — Hunter's Forestall, 
as being more peaceful and retired, coming two or three days 
afterwards. The nurse remained with him all the while, only 
leaving when my brother returned to town on 8 November. 
Even after reaching his seaside retreat (at which Mr. Shields 
also was a visitor for a time) Rossetti was for a good while 
incapable of doing a stroke of designing-work, and greatly 
feared that he would never be a painter again. At last the 
power and the determination returned simultaneously ; he 
drew an admirable crayon-group (head and shoulders) of our 
mother and sister, two others equally good of the latter, and 
yet another of our mother. Weather had been favourable, 
spirits and energy revived, and he came back to town nerved 



342 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

once more for the battle of art and of life. Mr. Marshall 
declared that he looked ten years younger. It may be noted 
that, in a letter to Brown from Hunter's Forestall, my brother 
said : — 

" I attribute any possible improvement to my having greatly 
diminished my wine; I now may almost say that I take none in 
daytime/and much less at night." 

It must have been during my brother's stay at Hunter's 
Forestall that he wrote a note to Mr. Dunn asking him to 
collect together all the letters lying about in various receptacles 
in the studio at Chelsea, 

" and lock them in the iron safe outside the studio. The unaccount- 
able wholesale disappearance of large batches of letters some time 
back renders this more advisable." 

This is an odd detail ; and gives me occasion to say that, 
though my brother was, in his later years, unreasonably sus- 
picious of various persons and things, some matter did never- 
theless really occur now and again which suggested serious 
tampering with his concerns, and called for corresponding 
vigilance. I do not recollect — possibly I never heard — about 
the " wholesale disappearance " etc. My brother, all through 
his life, received very large numbers of letters, and at his death 
comparatively few were to be found, belonging chiefly to his 
last eight or nine years. I think that on leaving Chatham 
Place he burned almost all the then extant correspondence. 
In a later instance, which may have been towards 1 871, he got 
Christina to destroy huge bundles of letters which had again 
accumulated. This was quite in her line, for she always 
burned, with the fewest exceptions, every scrap of writing that 
she ever received. I cannot but regard with great regret the 
loss of all the early correspondence of the P.R.B. days, which 
would serve towards setting in its true light that movement 
of not less than historical importance in the British School of 
Art. 

I must recur a little to the pitiable subject of chloral. Mr. 




By D. G. Rossetti. 



Christina G. Rossetti. 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 343 

Marshall, Rossetti's principal medical adviser, was not one of 
those doctors who think it desirable to traverse beyond a 
certain point the wishes and settled habits of their patients ; 
although it is most true that he earnestly and repeatedly 
endeavoured to check and diminish the chloral-dosing. A 
letter of his, in July 1876, intimates that Sir William Jenner 
then tried to reduce Rossetti's chloral to 20 grains a night ; 
but Marshall thought this too restrictive, and sanctioned 36, 
or in exceptional cases even 48, grains. In April 1878 Mr. 
Dunn informed me that my brother was then taking about 
50 grains, besides keeping his usual late hours, and limiting 
his walking to his own garden — a practice which may I think 
have begun soon after his return from Hunter's Forestall, and 
which continued with hardly any interruption ever afterwards. 
In January 1879 the chloral was 92 grains, and had recently 
been even more. In November of the same year Mr. Marshall 
wrote that Messrs. Bell & Co., the chemists, had protested 
against supplying twelve bottles of chloral every eight or nine 
days ; on the previous day they had sent two bottles, and 
would henceforth make it only one per day. In this decision 
Mr. Marshall concurred ; and he pointed out to Rossetti that, 
as Mr. Dunn had then temporarily left the Chelsea house, and 
his regulating influence was thus withdrawn, it became all the 
more imperative to limit the supply of the drug. My brother 
obtained chloral chiefly from two firms, Messrs. Bell and 
Messrs. Dinneford. At his death their outstanding bills came 
in to me. I forget the exact amounts, but am probably not 
far wrong in saying that the two together reached well on 
towards ,£100 ! This was for some months, ending in the 
middle of December 1881. Chloral was then, at length, totally 
abolished, and was never resumed. 

The episode of Hunter's Forestall produced one unfortunate 
result — a passing interruption to the intimate personal 
relations between Madox Brown and Rossetti. Brown 
thought that Rossetti was extravagant and heedless in house- 
hold matters ; and so he was, though he made various 
attempts at control and retrenchment, in which Mr. George 



344 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Hake, and more especially Mr. Dunn, seconded him to the 
best of their power. Brown therefore, at the seaside, recom- 
mended Rossetti to dismiss his two female servants. There 
had recently been also a man named Albert (succeeding 
various other men of earlier years), but he, I fancy, had left 
soon after the nurse came. My brother reflected upon 
Brown's advice, and came to the conclusion that his then 
female servants suited him well enough (which was also my 
own opinion), and he therefore declined to part with them. 
Brown took this in some dudgeon, and determined not again 
to call in Dante's London house while those servants were 
there. He told me he "would not be made the laughing- 
stock of all London " — which I could not but regard as a 
very exaggerated view of the interest which Londoners would 
or could take in any phase of the incident ; but my honoured 
father-in-law was at all times rather sensitive to the actual or 
supposed opinion of " the world." Brown therefore, upon my 
brother's return to London, re-appeared for a while no more. 
Ultimately those servants were gone, and others re-placed 
them. This may have been towards August 1879 ; and it was 
only then that he offered to return — receiving the cordial 
response, " You would of course have been most welcome all 
along, and will be simply the same now." No further 
coolness ensued between the two old friends, and I am clear 
that in this instance my brother had not put himself in the 
wrong. 

For some time past — ever since his health revived in 
Scotland in 1872 — Rossetti had been entertaining projects 
of leaving his Chelsea house, and finding accommodation < 
somewhere else in the outskirts of London. He required 
premises of good size, with a proper studio, spacious grounds, 
retired situation, and none the less convenient access to and 
from the heart of London. House after house was pro- 
pounded and inspected — generally by Dunn or George Hake. 
None of them met all the rather exceptional requirements. 
So at last, in January 1878, Rossetti determined to renew his 
tenancy of Tudor House, though at double his original rent — 



LONDON AND ELSEWHERE, 1 874-8. 345 

i.e., at ,£200 per annum, and with the warning that sooner 
or later his fine garden would for the most part be built over. 
Even £200 was in fact not a very high rent, considering the 
great rise in the value of property in that neighbourhood. 

In the years 1874 and 1876 two deaths occurred which 
afflicted my brother very sensibly. 

The first, 5 November 1874, was the decease of Oliver 
Madox Brown, not yet aged twenty. Rossetti had for years 
entertained the highest opinion of the genius and the future 
of this surprising youth, whether as painter or as novelist, 
and even in part as poet. Pyaemia attacked him from some 
unascertained cause, and he died after several weeks of acute 
suffering. I need scarcely say that my brother was foremost 
among those who came forward to soothe, so far as might, be, 
the anguish of the heart-stricken father and family. I can 
recollect that, on receiving a few lines of sympathy from my 
brother in the first hours of bereavement, Brown said to me, 
" It is always Gabriel who speaks the right word." 

It is however an untoward fact that, when Oliver's 
posthumous writings were published in 1876, Rossetti, then 
at Aldwick, received such a " painful impression " from some- 
thing he read in them that he laid the book aside altogether. 
He must have thought that some character or incident in the 
work was intended to animadvert upon himself. What this 
was I never knew. To press my brother upon such a topic 
was not judicious; "the less said the better." I doubt 
whether there is in the book anything even distantly involving 
my brother. There might have been, for Oliver did avowedly 
base one or two of his personages upon individuals of his 
acquaintance. Whatever his feelings about the young 
novelist's performance, or about the spirit in which he had 
written, my brother did not cease to speak highly of his 
gifts. This is apparent in Mr. Hall Caine's book. 

• The second death was that of our sister Maria, on 
24 November 1876, aged forty-nine. Maria was intensely 
devotional — I think more warmly and spontaneously so than 
any other person I have known. She had long contemplated 



346 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

finishing her days as a member of an Anglican sisterhood — 
the All Saints' Home in Margaret Street, Regent Street. 
When my approaching marriage was notified in the summer 
of 1873, she, considering herself to be thus freer than before 
from family-ties, announced that she would no longer defer 
her project. She became a novice, and later on a professed 
sister. She had before this, in 1871, published one book 
of no little merit and repute, A Shadow of Dante, considered 
very mainly from the religious point of view. In the Home 
she was treated with all kindness and consideration, and 
she delighted beyond measure in the religious life ; but her 
health soon grew uncertain, and by the middle of September 
1876 it became apparent that she was not long to survive. 
There was an internal fibroid tumour, with dropsical com- 
plications. Her severe sufferings were borne with more than 
resignation and fortitude — almost with rapture, for to her 
the promises of religion were the most assured certainties — 
the only perfectly assured ones. With Dante, and also 
with myself, she had more than one earnest colloquy on 
religious subjects as the end approached. On 29 November 
we all attended her funeral, as a " Sister of the Poor," in 
Brompton Cemetery. This was, since the death of my father 
in 1854, the first gap in the Rossetti household. The next 
was to be the death of Dante himself in 1882, followed by 
my mother in 1886, and by Christina in 1894. There were 
also my own losses — an infant son in 1883, and in 1894 my 
wife. Between 1854 and 1876 there had been three deaths 
in the Polidori family — Philip in 1864, Margaret in 1867, 
Henrietta Polydore (my uncle's daughter) in 1874. 

XXXVII. 

INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1874-81.— HALL CAINE. 

After my brother's return from Kelmscott to London in 1874 
one of the first matters which engaged his attention was the 
dissolution of the partnership, Morris, Marshall, Falkner, 
& Co. The firm was by this time fully established as of 



/ 



INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1 874-8 1. 347 

high mark, but it was not yet a flourishing commercial con- 
cern. Mr. Morris, as I have said from the first, was in every 
sense the leading partner, the one who devoted most time 
and energy to the work, and the one who had invested most 
money in it. He now thought that he would like to be sole 
master in the house ; not indeed discarding his old associates 
so far as they might see fit to continue furnishing appropriate 
work for pay, but no longer dividing with them the actual 
profits of the firm. All the others had their own professions, 
and consequent incomes. Mr. Morris had no other definite 
profession — only his admirable work as a poet. In this view 
of the affair most of his partners concurred — Burne-Jones, 
Webb, Falkner, and my brother. Peter Paul Marshall might, 
after the first impulse of irritation, be regarded as nearly 
neutral. Madox Brown however was a determined opponent. 
He saw no reason why he should forego advantages already 
secured to him. He was getting on in years, with a wife and 
son to support ; he had always calculated upon the firm as 
an important eventual accession to his professional earnings ; 
and he had no notion either of retiring voluntarily, or of being 
bought out unless under compulsion. Circumstances were 
too strong for him, and he was bought out, receiving a 
handsome sum. The affair, both at the time and for some 
years ensuing, was a painful one to the friends of Brown and 
of Morris. I am glad to leave it undetailed, apart from the 
one point which immediately concerns my narrative — and that 
is that my brother's attitude was always one of conciliation, 
and a wish to adjust contending claims, had that but been 
possible. He himself retired from the firm without desiring 
any compensation for his own benefit. A sum was however 
assigned to him. He laid it apart for the eventual advantage 
of a member of the Morris family, but, ere his death, circum- 
stances had induced him to trench upon it not a little. 

There is a small matter, detailed in Mr. Bell Scott's book, 
which I would rather not have seen in print at all, 1 but which, 

1 Professor Minto, the Editor of Mr. Scott's book, rightly and necessarily 
asked me, before going to press, whether I would authorize the insertion 



348 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTL 

being in print, must not be left unnoticed here. Mr. Scott 
summarizes a letter which my brother, being then at Aldwick 
Lodge, addressed to Miss Boyd on 3 November 1875. The 
letter relates to various topics having no connexion with that 
which appears in its postscript, and which is thus put by 
Mr. Scott:— 

" In a postscript he says he is forced to reopen his letter to tell 
what he designates a wondrous tale. Some four years ago G. F. 
Watts, R.A., painted a head of him, for which he only gave that 
artist two sittings, and which remained unfinished. His impression 
of it was appalling (though possibly from the exactness of its like- 
ness), and people have ever since kept telling him it was horrible. 
Accordingly he executed a coup de main. He finished a spare 
chalk-drawing, and sent Dunn with it to Little Holland House 
[Mr. Watts's then residence], sending also a note saying that he 
should be very much obliged if Watts would make an exchange, 
as he wanted the picture, not for himself, and that the bearer would 
call next day at same time for it, to save trouble. ' This resulted," 
he continues, ' in my getting the picture next day, though Watts's 
note with it showed plainly that it was even as a tooth out of his 

of certain letters by my brother. He sent me copies of the letters, which 
I read attentively. I cancelled a few sentences or phrases, and returned 
the copies to Professor Minto, fully assenting to the publication of what 
remained. When the published book reached me, I was surprised to 
see in it this statement by my brother about his portrait painted by 
Mr. G. F. Watts. It appeared to me that one of two things was certain : 
first and most probable, that this passage had not been included in the 
copy-letters sent to me ; second, that, if it had been so included, I must 
have marked it for excision. The fact is that this is one of the instances 
in which Mr. Scott does not quote a letter verbatim, but summarizes the 
contents of a letter, merely citing between inverted commas two or three 
of its clauses. He thus cites, for instance, the clause beginning " This 
resulted in my getting" etc. I infer therefore that Professor Minto did 
not regard this as a letter over which I had copyright authority, and so 
did not send me a copy of it — failing to reflect that I had such authority 
over (at any rate) those passages which are cited between inverted commas. 
Admitting this explanation, the Professor (on whose memory I would not 
willingly cast any reproach) only committed a venial oversight. On any 
other assumption, his error would be a somewhat grave one. 



INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, I 874-8 1. 349 

jaws. 1 Now that I have got it, I really think it very fine, and am 
quite ashamed to have played him such a trick.' " 

My brother's contrition may count for something in ex- 
tenuation of his trick — which consisted in obtaining from the 
highly-distinguished painter a portrait (in reality painted 
towards the summer of 1870) which, I presume, had been 
all along intended by its author to stand as Rossetti's property 
in case he liked to claim it, and in tendering as equivalent 
a chalk-drawing, which one may suppose to have been of 
considerably less commercial value. Most likely the reader, 
in perusing this item of Mr. Scott's book, infers also that my 
brother told a positive lie in saying that " he wanted the 
picture, not for himself? This however is not the case. It 
is within my express knowledge that my brother did not 
retain the portrait beyond a certain interval, but consigned 
it to the person whom I have heretofore designated as 
Mrs. H. It never returned to his own possession, and formed 
no part of the estate which passed under his will. In 1883, 
after my brother's death, it was exhibited at the Royal 
Academy, not by any member of the family ; and the 
exhibitor afterwards sold it to Mr. Leyland, with whose 
collection it was, I assume, disposed of some years later. I 
heartily wish that my brother had not " played such a trick," 
prompted by the erroneous impression that the portrait did 
him very scanty justice ; but one must not imagine that the 
trick was a veritable fraud. It was something between sharp 
practice and a boyish prank. 

My brother's business-connexion with Mr. Howell became 
less necessary after his return to London ; towards the close 
of the summer of 1876 it ceased, and all acquaintance with 
the vivacious Anglo-Portuguese ceased at the same time. 
Dante spoke to me on this subject more than once. His 
grounded complaint against Mr. Howell was not that the 
latter had directly wronged him in any money-transaction, 

1 This seems to be a humorous exaggeration. I possess Mr. Watts's 
letter, and do not discern in it what my brother speaks of. 



350 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

but that he played fast and loose with his name in a manner 
which my brother found exceedingly embarrassing, and which 
might easily produce complications of a formidable kind. 
Howell would go to a person known both to himself and to 
Rossetti, and would obtain funds from that person, offering as 
security or equivalent certain drawings by Rossetti which, 
according to Howell, were already due to him for money 
disbursed. Mr. Valpy was more particularly affected by these 
Howellian manoeuvres, and Mr. Clarence Fry, who became 
the purchaser of my brother's picture named Venus Astarte. 
Rossetti thus found himself liable to be called upon by the 
third party to hand in drawings which he had never engaged 
to the applicant, which he had no wish to deliver to him, and 
which perhaps were not due, as individual specimens, even 
to Howell himself. Such a position of risk and uncertainty 
was intolerable to Rossetti, who liked to have full control 
over his own affairs. There was also, in February 1876, a 
most vexatious affair in which a Mr. Levy intended to sue 
Howell for some matters, including a dress which (for artistic 
purposes) had passed into Rossetti's hands ; and Rossetti, 
though wholly uninvolved in the real cause of action, chose, 
rather than appear in the witness-box, to pay a sum of £\o 
to Levy. Soon afterwards he parted company with Howell, 
and, spite of some pleadings from his old acquaintance, and 
some remains of good-will on his own part, he adhered 
unwaveringly to this resolve. They met no more. 

In August 1878 my brother found that a drawing attributed 
to him had been bought at the shop of a London pawnbroker 
and art-dealer, and that other drawings of like character were 
obtainable at the same place. The first-named work was 
submitted to him for verification. He saw it to be spurious, 
and wrote to the Times to say so. There were other instances, 
both during his lifetime and after his death, in which pro- 
ductions to which he had never lifted a finger were put 
forward as being his. I will not lay any blame on Mr. 
Howell which is not proved to pertain to him — -he is no 
longer here to defend himself; but it is a fact (previously 



INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1 874-8 1. 35 I 

stated) that he was an ingenious facsimilist, and there was a 
lady of his acquaintance, known to my brother likewise, who 
was a capable artist ; and many persons have, within my 
knowledge, formed and expressed the opinion that the imita- 
tion-Rossettis had their origin in that quarter. Certain it 
is that a good deal of misdirected activity was displayed by 
some person or persons working in this line. 

I have more than once referred to the handsome scale of my 
brother's professional earnings. In 1879 an d 1880 the picture- 
market was depressed, as well as some other markets ; and 
these were two of his least successful years. He told me 
that in 1879 his income had been .£1,030, whereas, two or 
three years before, it might be estimated at £3,000 per 
annum. However, even £1,030 is far from being greatly 
amiss ; and he took such fluctuations placidly, without allow- 
ing them to add in any serious degree to his general tone of 
disquietude. 

The death of two friends, and the painful condition of a 
third, engaged his sympathy and attention. James Hannay, 
his old intimate towards 1850, died suddenly, as British 
Consul at Barcelona, in 1873 (this was indeed while Rossetti 
was settled at Kelmscott) ; and a subscription was got up for 
the advantage of the family, and more especially the educa- 
tion of the children. My brother was one of the most liberal 
contributors, and was anxious to exert himself outside the 
limits of the subscription. John Lucas Tupper, the friend of 
the P.R.B. and Germ days, died in 1879, as Master of the 
Drawing-classes in Rugby School. Here again Rossetti came 
forward. James Smetham, from being the most industrious 
as well as the most devout of painters, sank into a state of 
religious monomania, and was totally withdrawn, not only 
from the pursuit of his profession, but from almost every form 
of human intercourse. This lasted for several years, until 
death came to his relief. Rossetti took endless pains in 
promoting the sale of his pictures, and succeeded in adding a 
substantial sum to the funds needed by the highly estimable 
and woe-stricken family. It is no more than justice to my 



352 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

brother to say that in any matter of this description his 
conduct was marked by sympathetic open-handedness in the 
first place, and — hardly less valuable — by genuine delicacy of 
method and by the most thorough good-nature. Long ago 
did the character of the " cheerful giver " obtain the highest 
form of praise. 

Rossetti was urgently invited to become an exhibitor in 
the first year of the Grosvenor Gallery in Bond Street, 1 877. 
He reflected on the proposal, conferred with Madox Brown 
and Burne-Jones, and finally declined. Brown likewise de- 
clined ; Burne-Jones, as we all know, assented, and rapidly and 
rightly established a splendid reputation. Rossetti was now a 
painter of eminent performance and repute, about whom there 
was a great deal of public curiosity, and on these grounds 
of course had the invitation been based. He replied in a tone 
of great modesty, as shown by a draft-letter now before me : — 

"What holds me back is simply the lifelong feeling of dissatis- 
faction which I have experienced from the disparity of aim and 
attainment in what I have all my life produced as best I could." 

He found occasion to write a letter to the Times in the 
same strain, 27 March 1877. There might be a good deal 
to say on this general subject. It is undoubtedly true that 
Rossetti, being a painter with high ideals in art, and an 
earnest desire to work in conformity to those ideals, was 
not contented with what he actually produced, He knew 
it to be good and skilful up to a certain point ; but there 
was a loftier point to which his ideal and his conception 
reached, and which his hand had not reached. Few successful 
men would so ingenuously confess this to themselves, still 
less to others. Dissatisfied with the result himself, Rossetti 
thought that some other people would be dissatisfied also, 
and would make some ado in proclaiming their dissatisfaction ; 
and, having undergone, with profound disrelish and permanent 
ill-effect, the inconveniences of a hullabaloo in relation to 
his poetry, he had no wish to encounter the like in relation 
to his painting. The fact is (as I have already intimated) 



INCIDENTS AND f RANSACTioNS, 1874-81. 35J 

that Rossetti had, along with a great deal of pride, only a 
very small modicum of vanity or self-conceit, and, until his 
closing years, I might almost say not any. On his aspirations 
he relied implicitly; on his performances — such as they were, 
and seeing that no better they might be — he rested. Fame 
he cherished ; for notoriety he cared not. That his name 
and his doings should be champed in the mouths of men w^s 
not among his desires. He apprehended that, while any 
shortcoming would be made much of by critics and spectators, 
the intrinsic and somewhat esoteric deservings of the work 
would be overlooked or belittled. Nor should it be forgotten 
that in all his later years he had a serious though fitful 
intention of collecting together on exhibition such specimens 
of painting and designing as he considered to come nearest 
to doing justice to his powers. He was a man who thought 
a great deal about " policy " in all such contingencies ; and 
very generally his views of policy were sound, as the event 
proved. In such a relation he did not regard anything as 
trivial, or deserving to be left to chance. It may be as well 
to add that, whenever any question arose of his exhibiting 
under fair or advantageous conditions, my own wish was 
that he should consent. 

Not only with the Grosvenor Gallery, but in all instances 
when he was invited and pressed to exhibit, sometimes by 
owners of his pictures, my brother steadily refused. There 
was however one exception, perhaps only one. Mr. Turner, 
the purchaser of one of the two leading versions of the 
Proserpine subject, was, in the spring of 1878, a member of 
a Committee in Manchester for promoting the Art Schools 
Building-fund. He asked whether my brother would sanction 
the including of the Proserpine in an exhibition which was 
being organized for the Fund ; and my brother acquiesced, 
taking into consideration " the public object in view, one of 
the greatest importance to all interested in Art." A few 
other cases in which his works were exhibited did from time 
to time occur ; but this was without his authority, and 
contrary to his liking. Even a letter from Sir Noel Paton— ■ 

VOL. 1. 2; 



354 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTt. 

whom, more than almost any other man, he would have liked 
to oblige — could not extort assent. 

Another of my brother's not frequent communications to 
newspapers was made on 28 December 1878. The matter 
is really a very small one, notwithstanding the great rank and 
the personal charm of the lady concerned. It is recorded in 
Mr. Caine's Recollections, and perhaps it should not be left 
without some brief notice here. Some newspaper— I believe 
The World — chose to say that the Princess Louise, having 
called at Rossetti's house with a view to seeing his pictures, 
had been " rebuffed with a ' not at home,' and an intimation 
that he was not at the beck and call of Princesses." I cannot 
think that my brother was (as Mr. Caine says) " deeply 
moved by the imputation " ; but he very properly considered 
that, being publicly charged with such ridiculous clownishness, 
he ought not to leave the falsehood undenied. So he wrote 
to the Times explaining that the Princess had never presented 
herself at his house ; though she had, on two occasions at 
some years' interval, indicated an inclination to do so, and 
had in the second and quite recent instance been assured, 
by Mr. Theodore Watts, to whom she was speaking, that 
Rossetti would feel " honoured and charmed to see her." 
Rossetti concluded his letter by saying :— 

" It is true enough that I do not run after great people on account 
of their mere social position, but I am, I hope, never rude to them ; 
and the man who could rebuff the Princess Louise must be a 
curmudgeon indeed." 

This remark defines very correctly his feeling in relation 
to such questions. He had a real liking, for the ease and 
amenity which ordinarily go with birth and breeding, and 
to these he could respond with proportionate ease,, and with 
an openness from which amenity was not excluded ; but to 
take any trouble in hunting up social di-gnitaries, or in 
humouring them when found, was not at all his way. Mrs. 
Glasse's famous though perhaps legendary recipe did not 
define Rossetti's attitude towards the British aristocracy. 



Incidents and transactions, 1874-81. 355 

He neither caught his hare first, nor put it into his jug 
afterwards. 

To his account of this incident of the visit which was not 
made, and the rebuff which was not administered, Mr. Caine 
adds : — 

" At the very juncture in question Lord Lome was suddenly and 
unexpectedly appointed Governor-General of Canada, and, leaving 
England, Her Royal Highness did not return until Rossetti's health 
had somewhat suddenly broken down, and it was impossible for 
him to see any but his most intimate friends." 

I question whether this is wholly accurate. It seems to me 
that Lord Lome had been appointed some months before 
28 December, the date of Rossetti's letter to the Times, and 
that the Princess was already in Canada before that date. 
She appears to have remained well-affected to Rossetti's 
memory, as a newspaper paragraph in December 1893 P ur_ 
ported that she had sent to a sale of ladies' work "a 
book-cover for a volume of Rossetti's Poems, in green satin, 
with a design of clusters of pomegranates worked in shaded 
pinks and yellows," — the title being in silver thread. 

It was apparently towards the beginning of 1879 that a 
new intimacy of Rossetti's began — that with Mr. Hall Caine — 
which proved of great moment for his closing years. I might 
have more to say about it, but that Mr. Caine has himself 
given so many and such precise details in his Recollections 
of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1882). It seems that Mr. Philip 
James Bailey, the author of Festus, was the person, casually 
encountered by Mr. Caine, who first roused in him an active 
interest in Rossetti's poetry. Mr. Bailey met my brother 
years previously, perhaps at Mrs. Gaskell's, but there was not 
at any time any real acquaintance between the two. Mr. 
Caine lectured twice or thrice in Liverpool, where he then 
resided, on the Poetry of Rossetti ; and after a full year sent 
him the printed discourse, with which my brother was very 
much pleased, more especially on the ground of the lecturer's 
recognition of the moral or spiritual tone marking the poems. 



356 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTt. 

A great deal of correspondence ensued, chiefly on poetic and 
other literary topics. The first personal meeting was in the 
autumn of 1880, when Mr. Caine came for a few days to 
London, and called by appointment in Rossetti's studio. He 
had been warned that he would " recognize the hole-and- 
cornerest of all existences in this big barn of mine." Since 
the time when he met my brother, and since that when he 
published his Recollections, Mr. Caine has had many a literary 
triumph ; and my readers will probably be well pleased if I 
reproduce here his account of the impression which Rossetti 
gave him. I condense and interpolate at will. 

" Very soon Rossetti came to me through the doorway in front, 
which proved to be the entrance to his studio. Holding forth both 
hands, and crying ' Hulloa,' he gave me that cheery hearty greeting 
which I came to recognize as his alone perhaps, in warmth and 
unfailing geniality, among all the men of our circle. It was Italian 
in its spontaneity, and yet it was English in its manly reserve ; and 
I remember with much tenderness of feeling that never to the last 
(not even when sickness saddened him, or after an absence of a few 
days or even hours) did it fail him when meeting with those friends 
to whom to the last he was really attached. Leading the way into 
the studio, he introduced me to his brother, who was there upon 
one of the evening visits which, at intervals of a week, he was at 
that time making with unfailing regularity [at that time, and at all 
times afterwards while both Dante and I were in London, until his 
final departure for Birchington-on-Sea early in 1882 : the practice 
began in October 1879, consequent upon some few days of great 
prostration which affected him after an overdose of chloral]. I 
should have described Rossetti at this time as a man who looked 
quite ten years older [this is wholly contrary to my own view] than 
his actual age, which was fifty-two ; of full [slightly low] middle 
height and inclining to corpulence ; with a round face that ought, 
one thought, to be ruddy, but was pale ; large grey eyes with a steady 
introspecting look, surmounted by broad protrusive brows, and a 
clearly pencilled ridge over the nose, which was well cut', and had 
large breathing nostrils. The mouth and chin were hidden beneath 
a heavy moustache and abundant beard, which grew up to the ears, 
and had been of a mixed black-brown and auburn, and were now 



INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1 874-8 1. 357 

streaked with grey [my brother's beard was of a darkish auburn — 
not I think at all black-brown, though that might, in mature age, be 
called the colour of his other hair]. The forehead was large, round, 
without protuberances, and very gently receding to where thin black 
curls, that had once been redundant, began to tumble down to the 
ears. The entire configuration of the head and face seemed to me 
singularly noble, and from the eyes upwards full of beauty. He 
wore a pair of spectacles, and, in reading, a second pair over the 
first ; but these took little from the sense of power conveyed by 
those steady eyes, and that ' bar of Michelangelo.' x His dress was 
not conspicuous, being however rather negligent than otherwise, 
and noticeable, if at all, only for a straight sack-coat buttoned at the 
throat, descending at least to the knees, and having large pockets 
cut into it perpendicularly at the sides. This garment was, I 
afterwards found, one of the articles of various kinds made to the 
author's own design [and a most comfortable one it was]. When he 
spoke, even in exchanging the preliminary courtesies of an opening 
conversation, I thought his voice the richest I had ever known any 
one to possess. It was a full deep baritone, capable of easy modula- 
tion, and with undertones of infinite softness and sweetness, yet, 
as I afterwards found, with almost illimitable compass, and with 
every gradation of tone at command, for the recitation or reading of 
poetry. I perceived that he was a ready, fluent, and graceful talker, 
with a remarkable incisiveness of speech, and a trick of dignifying 
ordinary topics in words which, without rising above conversation, 
were so exactly though freely enunciated as would have admitted 
of their being reported exactly as they fell from his lips. Dinner 
being now over, I asked Rossetti to redeem his promise to read one 
of his new ballads. He responded readily, and, taking a small 
manuscript volume out of a section of the bookcase that had been 
locked, read us The White Ship. It seemed to me that I never 
heard anything at all matchable with Rossetti's elocution. His 
rich deep voice lent an added music to the music of the verse. It 
rose and fell, in the passages descriptive of the wreck, with some- 

1 This Tennysonian phrase evidently applies to the continuous eyebrow 
of Michelangelo. Mr. Caine must apply it either to the "broad protrusive 
brows " [eyebrows] of Rossetti, which were not however continuous, or 
to the " clearly pencilled ridge over the nose." In either case it does not 
seem to be quite accurately applied. 



358 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

thing of the surge and sibilation of the sea itself. In the tenderer 
passages it was soft as a woman's, and in the pathetic stanzas with 
which the ballad closes it was profoundly moving." 

I shall resist the temptation — though it is considerable — 
to extract in full, and discuss, various points raised in Mr. 
Caine's account of my brother — such as his views on several 
of his own poems ; his "grudging Wordsworth every vote 
he gets " ; his deference to Theodore Watts's opinions on 
questions of poetical execution ; his enormous admiration 
of Chatterton (this was only in his last years, and I regarded 
it as not merely excessive but a trifle fanciful) ; his favourable 
opinion of William Watson as a poet then just beginning, 
and his kindly feeling, both literary and personal, to Joseph 
Skipsey the coal-miner poet, and his good friend Thomas 
Dixon the cork-cutter ; his somewhat too copious contempt 
for some old-fashioned poets, " Addison, Akenside, and the 
whole alphabet down to Zany and Zero " ; his axiom that 
" in painting there is, in the less important details, some- 
thing of the craft of a superior carpenter " (quite sound, I 
think, though liable to be misconstrued) ; his praise of sonnets 
by Theodore Watts and by Bell Scott. There are a multi- 
tude of other details, all stimulating to any biographer coming 
into the field after Mr. Caine. 

I cannot agree with that gentleman in his strong averment 
that " irresolution with melancholy lay at the basis " of Dante 
Rossetti's character. That Mr. Caine witnessed in him 
chronic melancholy and frequent irresolution is indeed indis- 
putable ; but that these qualities really were " at the basis 
of his character " I, from lifelong experience, am far from 
thinking. They developed in his later years, from a train 
of untoward circumstances, viewed through the fumes of 
chloral ; but I cannot imagine that anyone who knew Rossetti 
either throughout his career, or up to and a little after the 
age of about forty, would have said that he was marked by 
irresolution or severely tainted with melancholy. In all his 
earlier years, and beyond them too, he had that sort of 



INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1874-81. 359 

resolution which fashions a man's life upon his own lines, 
and not in subjection to the dicta or the promptings of any 
one else. He was imperative, dominant, self-sustained, and 
stiff-necked, and went straight to his mark. The sort of 
irresolution which Mr. Caine noticed was concerned with 
minor details — whether the terms of an appointment should 
be varied, whether he should adhere to a project of going 
out of town, and much of the like kind. No doubt, as his 
nerves and spirits were unstrung, so was his will seriously 
weakened in these years ; still I should not call him even 
then exactly what is meant by an irresolute man. As to 
melancholy, this also was not uppermost in his less advanced 
years. In any company in which he found himself he was 
generally the leading spirit, full of " go," fertile in bracing 
and diverting sallies, and even jovial not infrequently. True, 
he was always to some extent moody, and liable to the over- 
cloudings of gloom. He had a sufficiency of mauvais quarts 
d'keure, and was an initiate in the " nebular hypotheses " of 
life. Yet this did not amount to a character of which the 
basis was melancholy. The essential quality of his verse and 
of his art is, I conceive, not melancholy but poignancy. 
Certainly, by the time when Mr. Caine knew him personally — 
a period altogether of about a year and a half — these tend- 
encies to sadness had ceased to be mere tendencies, and had 
merged into a settled habit of mind — settled, yet not un- 
broken ; for in appropriate company my brother could still 
command a variety of conversation, show cheerfulness, and 
make himself highly agreeable. Many a pleasant evening 
did I pass with him between the autumn of 1879 and that 
of 1 88 1 ; I alone mostly, but my wife was often with me, 
especially towards the beginning of the last-named year, and 
he enjoyed her conversation — sensible, practical, and coloured 
by high thought and sympathy in the pictorial and the 
poetic arts. In the latter she was herself a considerable 
adept. Dante also was often full of kindly reminiscences 
from the old days, even those of our very early childhood. 
The appropriate company, I am thankful to say, was not 



360 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

wanting to him. Our mother and Christina took care to 
leave him not long unvisited ; and he never dropped the habit 
of calling at times upon them in the evening — these being 
now the only occasions when he left his house, with its large 
garden, which gave him some moderate amount of daily 
exercise after he had abandoned going out otherwise. This 
strict limitation to his house and garden may have begun 
(as I have already said) upon his return to London from 
Hunter's Forestall near the close of 1877, or possibly as soon 
as George Hake had left him, early in the same year. After 
Mr. Hake had departed there was Mr. Dunn in the. house ; 
and, Dunn eventually ceasing to be. a regular inmate, there 
was Mr. Caine. The latter, upon thus entering the Cheyne 
Walk house in July 1881, did indeed induce my brother to 
walk out with him in the evenings ; but this only lasted 
a week; Rossetti was naturally of a sociable turn. He liked 
to be in the company of persons for whom he had either a 
serious regard or a casual predilection ; and, reclusive though 
he became (after his return in 1874 from Kelmscott to 
London) under the influence of chloral, with its exaggerated 
fancies and morbid perturbations, he never enjoyed being 
alone. He grew to dislike and shun it extremely. 

" Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased — 
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow — 
Raze-out the written troubles of the brain, 
And with some sweet oblivious antidote 
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff 
Which weighs upon the heart ? 

" Therein the patient 
Must minister to himself." 

But this was a patient who could not to himself minister 
any oblivious antidote — rather, grievous thought after thought, 
supposition after supposition of disquiet, and a nightmare of 
waking dreams. It became highly desirable therefore that 
his friends — and they were still by no means few, though 
Mr, Scott appears to have supposed that so they were — 



INCIDENTS AND TRANSACTIONS, 1874-81. 361 

should give him the mainstay of their frequent intercourse. I 
myself, in writing to Dante in August 1 876, suggested whether 
he would not get his intimates, now one and now another, to 
call upon him, so that each evening might be provided with 
its friendly converse; and, when I began in October 1879 
my regular series of weekly visits, I found that this plan was 
in steady operation. Besides myself, Mr. Watts had his 
appointed evening (and he very frequently saw my brother 
in other instances as well), and ao had Mr. Shields. The 
other settled visitors were at that time — if my memory serves 
me — Mr. William Sharp, Mr. S. J. B. Haydon, and perhaps 
Mr. Scott. Mr. Sharp first came to my brother with a letter 
of introduction from Sir J. Noel Paton. This ensured him a 
welcome, which his own cordial pleasant ways, and his gift 
for poetry and other literary work, amply confirmed. In his 
visits to Rossetti he was accompanied every now and then 
by Philip Bourke Marston. Mr. Haydon had, towards 1850 
to 1855, been slightly known to Rossetti as a sculptor. He 
was now a dealer in engravings and other works of art ; and 
my brother met him on terms of much familiarity, finding a 
good deal to gossip over in the ins-and-outs of British art, 
present and past. Mr. Brown did not, I think, at any time 
take part in this settled once-a-week plan, but he saw Rossetti 
as opportunity allowed. He could not at any rate have joined 
in the plan after August 1881, as he then left London, and 
resided in or near Manchester, to attend to the very important 
commission which he had received — and for which he was 
better qualified, to my thinking, than any other man in the 
country — to paint the historico-local pictures in the Man- 
chester Town Hall, I have here mentioned six persons who 
provided Dante with company for six days out of the seven. 
I do not remember that there was any seventh person regularly 
bespoken, but there may have been, or the vacant evening 
might very often be filled up by some engagement made for 
the purpose — as for instance with Boyce, Seddon, Tebbs, 
Burne-Jones, Hueffer, or Leyland. Another gentleman who 
rather frequently saw my brother, and was always welcomed. 



362 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

was Mr. William Davies, the author of The Pilgrimage of the 
Tiber, and other works, and of numerous dainty etchings. He 
was not however a constant resident in London. In 1893 
Mr. Davies very kindly presented to me the letters which he 
had received from my brother, forming a small bound volume. 
That Dante Rossetti appreciated his friend's poetry appears 
from a letter (December 1873) in which he terms two of the 
compositions " full-toned and complete things," a third 
" charming in structure," a fourth and fifth " quite lovely and 
sustained poems." 

And so my brother jogged along, more than sufficiently 
depressed in his own mind and feelings, but cheered by 
friendly conversation and attentions, and always (it must be 
remembered) as diligent in his art-work as he had ever been. 
Moreover, early in 1880, his literary activity revived. He paid 
not a little attention to the new edition of Gilchrist's Life of 
Blake, and produced some of his very best poetical work. In 
brief, chloral had little or no power over that part of his mind 
which was purely intellectual or inventive, but only over that 
other part which was emotional, and was applied to the 
construing of himself and his surroundings. 



XXXVIII. 

PAINTINGS AND POEMS, 1874-81. 

In Section XXXV. I have referred to two of the pictures 
which occupied Rossetti in these years — The Blessed Damozel, 
and the replica of Dante's Dream for Mr. Graham, on a scale, 
though not small, considerably less large than the original 
work ; La Pia, begun several years earlier than these, was 
also brought to completion. It is probably true, as stated by 
Mrs. Wood (though I am not clear where she got the infor- 
mation), that the predella of The Blessed Damozel, where the 
heart-stricken lover is represented in a sylvan scene, was 
painted from the beechwoods near Broadlands. This, the 
principal version of The Blessed Damozel composition, was 



PAINTINGS AND POEMS, 1 874-8 1. 363 

owned by Mr. Graham. A somewhat less elaborate version 
was eventually purchased by Mr. Leyland. The double pre- 
della of the reduced Dante's Dream was designed and painted 
without actual recourse to the living model ; my brother — 
whose views upon some questions of art modified as he grew 
older — having come to the conclusion that the treatment 
would thus possess more unity and self-consistency of design. 
The year 1875 produced La Bella Mano, a lady washing 
her hands, attended by boy-Cupids ; and, in point of forcible, 
rich, and harmonious execution, this may be regarded as 
one of the very best of Rossetti's paintings. The Venus 
Astarte (or Astarte Syriaca) was going on from 1875 to 1877 
— a good deal of the work being painted at Aldwick Lodge. 
It is obviously one of my brother's most rapt and abstract 
works, and he considered it (not without fair grounds) nearly 
or quite the best ; but popular taste has pronounced other- 
wise, and the picture is regarded as somewhat strained, and 
gloomy in ideal and in colouring. Of all his productions, 
it was the greatest money-success. Mr. Howell the not 
easily resistible secured for it a commission from Mr. Clarence 
Fry (of the Photographing Firm) at the large price of £2, 100. 
Another of his vigorous strokes was getting Mr. Valpy to 
buy, at its original price of £i,S7S> the larger Dante's Dream, 
after this had been resigned by Mr. Graham. It might almost 
be said that Howell " planted " the spacious canvas upon 
Valpy, who shortly protested that so considerable a venture 
did not suit his purse-strings ; but the thing was done, and 
was not to be undone. In the same years, 1875 to 1877, was 
painted for Mr. Leyland T/ie Sea-spell, for which the title 
first proposed had been Coleridge's couplet — 

" A damsel with a dulcimer 
In a vision once I saw." 

Later on came the Mnemosyne (called also La Ricordanza, 
or The Lamp of Memory) ; a duplicate Beata Beatrix, left 
unfinished by Rossetti, and after his death completed by 
Madox Brown (it is now in the Art Gallery of Birmingham) ; 



364 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

A Vision of Fiammetta, for which Mrs. Stillman was so good 
as to sit; La Donna delta Finestra (or The Lady of Pity, 
from the Vita Nuovd), bought, as was also La Bella Mano, 
by Mr. F. S. Ellis ; and The Daydream, a lady musing, seated 
in the fork of a sycamore-tree. This, like the Venus Astarte, 
was one of Rossetti's largest pictures, purchased by an ac- 
quaintance of several years' standing, Mr. Constantine Ionides. 

There were also some crayon and pencil drawings — The 
Sphinx (pencil), where three men, a youth, a full adult, and 
a greybeard, are shown as coming to consult the Sphinx on 
the mystery of existence — the youth dies ere he can put 
his question (the premature doom of Oliver Brown was in 
the artist's mind as to this point) ; The Spirit of the Rainbow, 
which belongs to Mr. Watts, and illustrates (so Mr. Sharp 
says) a sonnet written by Watts himself ; Perlascura, which 
was autotyped ; Desdemona's Death-song ; Sancta Lilias ; 
a portrait of Mr. Leyland, as a wedding-present to his 
daughter, Mrs. Hamilton ; and the design of The Sonnet, 
illustrating a sonnet of my brother's on that form of poetical 
composition, so often treated by himself. Only one water- 
colour seems to call for mention — Bruna Brunelleschi, which 
was a head of Mrs. Morris, 1877. 

A few special remarks may be needed regarding these 
various works. The Sea-spell was to serve as a pendant to 
the Veronica Veronese, already owned by Mr. Leyland, and 
it presents an inverse to the motive of that picture. Veronica 
finds in the note of a canary an incentive to a musical 
invention ; whereas the Siren of the The Sea-spell charms 
a bird into the magic of her lay. The Vision of Fiammetta 
exhibits Boccaccio's lady, with her head encircled (as in that 
writer's text) by a mystical flame, and parting with her hand 
the bloom-laden boughs of an apple-tree. This brilliant 
joyous picture has proved a great favourite among Rossetti's 
works. In 1888 it sold by auction for .£1,207, although its 
purchaser, Mr. Turner, had obtained it for £840. The Day- 
dream was painted with the most conscientious attention and 
effort. After my brother had completed the head so as to 



PAINTINGS AND POEMS, 1874-81. 365 

satisfy most eyes, he decided that it was not good enough 
for himself. He painted it out entirely, and did it over again. 
Mr. Shields, who was very constantly in Rossetti's studio at 
this period, goes so far as to say that he changed a full half 
of the picture. The pains were not misbestowed, for this — 
the latest of his considerable works that was fully completed 
— ranks also among the best. 

As to the drawing of The Sphinx I must once again have 
recourse to Mr. Scott's book. As my reader will perceive, 
this takes us to a date rather more advanced than that which 
my narrative has yet reached. 

" When our time came for returning to town [I understand the 
date indicated to be towards the middle of November 1881 — at 
any rate between 17 October and n December], I was shocked to 
find the dear old Gabriel prostrate on the old sofa we had so often 
in the earlier times seen filled with the most genial friends. He 
was, it now appeared to me, going down fast ; but I tried to keep 
up the usual deception we apply to invalids. I had gone alone, 
thinking it best to make this first visit so ; but he was by himself, 
no one attending or trying to cheer the man whose spirits were down 
to zero. [Under ordinary circumstances Mr. Caine would have been 
in the house, but he may have been casually absent, lecturing in 
Liverpool.] When he and I were alone [this phrase seems odd, for 
the previous statement is that they two had been alone from the 
first], he wept and complained, and made unkind speeches, or 
showed me things he thought would wound me ; as when he made 
his servant lay before me a large chalk sketch he called Questioning 
the Sphinx. [I think the fixed title of the design was simply The 
Sphinx, or else The Question : I know it as a pencil drawing, rather 
fully elaborated, and have not any recollection of a chalk sketch.] 
This wounded me, because it happened that I had made an illustra- 
tion, in my first issue of The Year of the World (that juvenile ' poem 
with a purpose '), of the hero traveller leaning on an augural staff 
with his ear to the mouth of a Sphinx, which I called by that name, 
and which the beloved D. G. R. of that early time used to make game 
of, as if I had mistaken the ancient fable in which the Sphinx was 
the questioner, not the questioned. [This seems to me to exhibit 
a very strange state of feeling on Mr. Scott's part. He was 



366 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTl. 

"wounded" because Rossetti produced to him in 1881 a drawing, 
executed in or about 1875, bearing in subject-matter some, though 
not any very direct, analogy to a little woodcut design which Scott 
had published in 1846, and had not even reproduced in a later issue 
of his poem.] I had besides written a poem called To the Sphinx 
considered as the Symbol of Religious Mystery [yes, and a very fine 
poem it is in essentials; but why the writing by Scott of such a poem, 
published in 1854, should in any way debar Rossetti from producing 
towards 1875, an d showing to his old friend in 1881, a design 
containing a Sphinx, remains to me almost as great a mystery as the 
Sphinx itself]. 1 Lying on the sofa dying as he was, I saw that 
singular expression of ferocity [see Section XXX.] that used to 
take possession of his face if he surmised a quarrel was coming. I 
laid the sketch aside, but he kept staring at me. I refused to take 
up the gauntlet, and I could not venture to speak of the sketch 
itself, the style of drawing being so bad as to show his illness was 
destroying his work." [The style of drawing — the treatment of the 
nude — in this design (which is tolerably well-known in a photo- 
graphed form, and which, as aforesaid, was produced not late in 
1881, when "illness was destroying his work," but some six years 
earlier) does certainly not display the learned energy of a Michel- 
angelo or a David, nor the suave accomplishment of a Leighton. If 
one were to pit it against Mr. Scott's little " illustration of the hero 
traveller " etc., the verdict might go in the contrary direction.] 

I leave it to the reader to judge whether the spirit shown 
in the foregoing extract is or is not such as might have been 
expected from its author with regard to his " dearest of friends 
and most interesting of men," whom he well perceived to be 
then "dying," and who was dead long before the Aatobio- 

1 Mr. Sharp was perhaps prompted by Mr. Scott to say (p. 241 of his 
book on Rossetti) that my brother's design " is, as the few intimate friends 
at this date are aware, indebted for suggestion to the fine poem by Mr. 
William Bell Scott called The Sphinx, where — for the first time, if I am 
not mistaken — questions are propounded to the Sphinx, instead of the 
latter being the mystic questioner in riddles." This statement is wholly 
fallacious. In Mr. Scott's poem not a single question of a substantial kind 
is propounded to the Sphinx, and only one question by way of rhetorical 
device. 



PAINTINGS AND POEMS, 1874-81. 367 

graphical Notes were put into form for publication. Curious 
indeed are the lurking-places and blind corners in the heart 
of man. Expressions occur in this extract which seem 
dictated by genuine affection, and so I believe they were, for 
Scott was a man capable of true friendship, as no one knows 
better than myself ; and other expressions which look as if 
they were incompatible with anything save a resolute desire 
to disparage and besmirch. But I will for the present leave 
" dear old Gabriel prostrate on the old sofa — going down fast 
and dying " — and resume what has to be said about his works 
of art up to the earlier portion of 1881. 

Desdemonds Death-song was a subject highly germane to 
my brother's sympathies and his powers. He was greatly 
bent upon making a picture of it, and designed it in two or 
three varying compositions ; and it seems more than likely 
that, had he succeeded in producing the painting, the public 
liking of it would have surpassed that for almost any of his 
other works. But he was not destined to make a beginning 
in colour. Bruna Brunelleschi was his last water-colour 
(except a Proserpine replica), and was also one of his best. 

To this record of Rossetti's art-work I may add that 
Mr. Haydon made towards 1880 an etching of the old design 
of Hamlet and Ophelia, doing it with skill and with great 
fidelity, but rather heavy-handedly. My brother preferred 
that if should not be published, and the copper remains in 
my hands. After all this lapse of years it might be quite as 
well to publish the etching some day. 

Mr. Caine gives a rather singular account of how Rossetti 
was induced to resume poetical composition, of which he had 
done nothing considerable since 1871. The friend of whom 
he speaks is clearly Mr. Theodore Watts. I cannot remember 
having heard of the circumstances otherwise than through 
Mr. Caine's narrative, but this I assume to be substantially 
correct : — 

"After one of his most serious illnesses, and in the hope of 
drawing-off his attention from himself, and from the gloomy fore- 
bodings which in an invalid's mind usually gather about his own 






368 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

too absorbing personality, a friend prevailed upon him, with infinite 
solicitation, to try his hand afresh at a sonnet. The outcome was 
an effort so feeble as to be all but unrecognizable as the work of the 
author of the sonnets of The House of Life; but, with more shrewd- 
ness and friendliness (on this occasion) than frankness, the critic 
lavished measureless praise upon it, and urged the poet to renewed 
exertion. One by one, at longer or shorter intervals, sonnets were 
written ; and this exercise did more towards his recovery than any 
other medicine, with the result besides that Rossetti eventually 
regained all his old dexterity and mastery of hand. Encouraged by 
such results, the friend went on to induce Rossetti to write a ballad ; 
and this purpose he finally achieved by challenging the poet's ability 
to compose in the simple, direct, and emphatic style which is the 
style of the ballad proper, as distinguished from the elaborate, 
ornate, and condensed diction which he had hitherto worked in 
[it would be more correct to say " which he had generally hitherto 
worked in," for there were instances to the contrary — such as 
Stratton Water]. Put upon his mettle, the outcome of this second 
artifice practised upon him was that he wrote The White Ship, and 
afterwards The King's Tragedy" 

Perhaps the incident of the ill-concocted sonnet belongs to 
the year 1878, when Rossetti did in fact write some verses — 
I presume a sonnet — about Cyprus, of all places in the world. 
He knew and cared nothing about Cyprus, nor about Lord 
Beaconsfield's supposed stroke of policy in securing in that 
year the administration of the Island, and the sonnet could 
thus hardly escape being a bad one. Mr. Watts undertook 
to send the sonnet to the Athenceum, but withdrew it on the 
alleged ground that the Pall Mall Gazette contained another 
poem on the same theme — a reason which always looked to 
me odd, and which may now yield to the more cogent reason 
that the sonnet was a visibly bad one. My brother did after- 
wards write several good sonnets — as for instance, in April 
1880, The Song-throe (" By thine own tears thy song must 
tears beget"), and, in February 1881, the sonnet for his picture 
named Found. He sent two others in January 1881 to 
Christina, with the dismal message—" With me, sonnets mean 



DANTE'S DREAM — BALLADS, AND SONNETS. 369 

insomnia." I think the trio of sonnets entitled True Woman 
may have been the very latest of his printed works, produced 
before 15 September 1881. On his death-bed he finished (as 
I mentioned before) his old ballad of Jan van Hunks, and 
produced two sonnets on the Sphinx subject. These three 
compositions, which he presented as a gift to Mr. Watts, 
remain as yet unpublished. 

The important ballad of The White Ship was composed 
chiefly in 1880; it was finished towards the end of April in 
that year. Some scraps of it had however been written " long 
ago," as my brother told me. The still more important — but 
I think certainly not superior — ballad of The King's Tragedy 
may have been completed before the spring of 1881 had well 
begun. This also had been undertaken some while before 
the writing of it was attended to with regularity. The work 
strained him severely. " It was as though my own life ebbed 
out with it," he said to Mr. Caine. 



XXXIX. 

DANTE'S DREAM— BALLADS AND SONNETS. 

Mr. Hall Caine was destined to be the last house-mate of 
Dante Rossetti in Cheyne Walk. In the spring of 1881 he 
spent a week with him by invitation ; and in July of that 
year he took up his regular abode in the house. This was 
naturally at my brother's urgency. Mr. Caine, from the 
experience which he had now had of Rossetti's habits, low 
spirits, and fitful impressibility, viewed the adventure not with- 
out some apprehension ; and it would be vain to deny that, 
spite of his sincere admiration of Rossetti's intellect and its 
products, and his warm personal regard, he found the position 
a somewhat trying one. He had free quarters and board in 
the house, and was not bound to look after my brother other- 
wise than as friendship and kind feeling should dictate. He 
had now launched out on the literary profession, and neces- 
sarily wanted to have the majority of his time at his own 
VOL, I. 24 



370 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI, 

disposal. But Rossetti's gifts and his temperament always 
made him a leader in any associateship, and now his infirmities 
reinforced the claim ; and Mr. Caine was soon drawn within 
a vortex from which escape — unless he had decided to escape 
from the house altogether — was not easily manageable. His 
own work got impeded ; his days and evenings were cut up 
by numerous and miscellaneous attentions paid to his highly 
sensitive and not seldom morbidly wayward friend and host. 
If he looks back upon the months from July 1881 to April 
1882 as a period of strain and self-sacrifice, he may at least 
console himself with the reflection that he did a great deal to 
soothe and tend a man of eminent genius and wide renown, 
and that he amply earned the gratitude of those members of 
the family who survived Dante Rossetti. 

When the arrangement for Mr. Caine's settling in the house 
was definitely fixed, Rossetti gave notice to Mr. Dunn — then 
in his native city of Truro — that he would not again be 
required as an inmate ; and Mr. Dunn, on returning to 
London, took lodgings of his own in Chelsea. He still 
received some artistic employment from Rossetti ; and, after 
the death of the latter, he accommodated me by taking 
charge of the house and keeping things straight until the 
sale of the numerous effects was held in July, and for some 
little while afterwards. 

The year 1881 was really one of conspicuous success and 
even triumph for Rossetti, as both painter and poet ; but not 
all this availed to " minister to the mind diseased " — or 
"dis-eased," as we might more appropriately write the word 
for the immediate purpose. He sold his large picture of 
Dante's Dream to the Public or Municipal Gallery of Liver- 
pool, the Walker Art-Gallery ; and he produced, amid lavish 
applause, his new volume of poetry, Ballads and Sonnets, as 
well as a modified reissue of his old volume named Poems. 
The Dante's Dream had now for some while been back in my 
brother's studio, owing to the decision of its second purchaser, 
Mr. Valpy, to leave London and reside in Bath ; and Rossetti 
induced Valpy to re-consign it to him, with an undertaking 



DANTE'S DREAM— BALLADS AND SONNETS. 37 I 

that he would eventually supply other works to an equal 
and indeed a higher money-value. I have made some pre- 
vious brief allusion to this affair. 

Whatever credit may be due for the first suggestion of 
the sale-and-purchase transaction with Liverpool has to be 
assigned to Mr. Caine, followed up by his friendly and zealous 
good-offices, and his tact in conducting a sometimes rather 
thorny negotiation. He it was who, in December 1880, 
wrote to Rossetti, from Liverpool, saying that, as Alderman 
Samuelson had then succeeded another gentleman — whom 
I shall term Mr. R. — as director of the gallery, a chance 
seemed to have opened for bringing the sale to bear. 
Alderman Samuelson did in fact prove a steady and even 
strenuous friend to the project. In March 1881 he proposed 
to call on Rossetti, and look at the picture. But it so hap- 
pened that Mr. R. was to be in his company ; and this was 
supremely distasteful to Rossetti, for a reason which he 
notified thus in a letter to Mr. Samuelson : — 

" Mr. R. thought fit some time ago to express himself, when 
presiding at a public lecture, in the worst possible form of disparage- 
ment respecting me and my art." And, as to his proposing to enter 
the house, " I need hardly say that no question of interest could 
induce me to waive such an objection." 

This affair of Mr. R.'s observations at the lecture was for 
a long while a sore point with Rossetti, who understood that 
the remarks in question had involved a recurrence to the old 
" Fleshly School " imputations upon his morale in the arts. 
He may have taken an exaggerated view of the facts, or may 
have felt unduly touchy concerning them ; but many persons 
would probably agree with me in commending his high spirit, 
which would neither bend nor break, and which made him 
count as dross the coin which — in a business affair that he 
had very much at heart on various grounds — might have 
been earned with some tarnish to his self-respect. 

Alderman Samuelson was thus brought to a standstill for 
a time ; but he proposed anew to make a call, accompanied 



372 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

by two other members of the committee, Mr. Bower and 
Mr. Galloway. This was done, and all three were of one 
mind, in favour of the purchase. Still Mr. R. had to be 
dealt with, for his was an influential voice, without which 
nothing could be securely effected. In July, after seeing and 
admiring the smaller Dante s Dream in the house of Mr. 
Graham, he wrote to my brother, saying that his remarks at 
the lecture had been misunderstood or misreported, and that 
he would like the purchase to come off, and would yet call 
if authorized to do so. After such a disclaimer, any further 
obstruction on Rossetti's part would have been an act of 
mingled obduracy and weakness — and indeed he was bound 
to accept, as a gentleman, the denial of fact tendered to him 
in a gentlemanly spirit. So he made an appointment for 
Mr. R. to call. The call was made, and Mr. R. also pro- 
nounced in favour of the purchase. My brother, in view of 
the probable sale, had already made some modifications in 
the picture. He positively declined however to send it to the 
annual exhibition in Liverpool, unless on the clear under- 
standing that it was, to all intents and purposes, sold to the 
permanent Art-Gallery, and could not under any conditions 
be returned on his hands. At one time, in the beginning of 
August, he concluded that this understanding had failed ; but 
it was immediately renewed. The picture was sent off on the 
16th of the month, and at the private view it stood marked 
as sold. The price he wanted was his own old price, £i,$7$. 
To allow of his receiving this sum unabated, the amount was 
fixed at ^"1,650, thus providing for the usual commission to 
the exhibiting body upon a work sold out of the Exhibition. 
Mr. Caine would no doubt have been too high-minded to urge 
any claim of his own on account of his first suggestion, and 
the great pains he had taken in the matter ; but Rossetti, at 
an early date, proposed to compensate him with a sum of 
£150, and this I presume was done. He also got Alderman 
Samuelson to accept a crayon-study for the head of Dante 
in the painting — one of his finest works of this class. 

Thus, with marked success, terminated the sale of Rossetti's 



dante's dream— ballads and sonnets. 373 

largest picture, which continues to form one of the principal 
features of the Walker Art-Gallery. The purchase being 
now effected, it became incumbent on my brother to see 
about executing and delivering the various works which he 
had undertaken to hand over to Mr. Valpy after the purchase, 
as an equivalent for the Dante s Dream. He made no delay 
in setting to work upon them. But his health was rapidly 
failing, only some months of shattered life remained to him, 
and the tale of work was far from being completed at the 
date of his death. Mr. Valpy had of course a claim for a 
solid money-payment instead, and this was made in due 
course. The like was the case with Mr. Graham, in relation 
to the still unfinished picture Found, begun as far back as 
1854. It may be as well to add that this picture would 
undoubtedly have been brought to completion some months 
before Rossetti's death, but for an unfortunate demur on the 
part of Mr. Graham himself, who wanted to cumulate upon 
the Found certain payments in advance which he had made 
partly upon that work, and partly upon another work not 
yet begun in colour but only schemed out in monochrome, 
The Boat of Love (from the Vita Nuovd). He now wished 
to abandon The Boat of Love altogether. To this Rossetti 
was entitled to object, and he did object ; though, in the 
instance of so old and proved a friend, with very great 
reluctance. 

My brother's volume of 1870, the Poems, went through 
six editions. Towards the beginning of 1879 it was out of 
print, and no further issue of it appeared. He made about 
£700 by it altogether. By March 1881 he had determined 
to re-print the Poems in a somewhat altered form ; and to 
follow it up by a separate volume, containing Rose Mary, 
The White Ship, The King's Tragedy, The House of Life 
in a completed form, and various other compositions. But 
very soon afterwards he decided to reverse the process, and 
bring out first the new Ballads and Sonnets, and then in 
close sequence the revised Poems. Into the latter — to com- 
pensate for the removal of the original and unfinished House 



374 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

of Life — some fresh work was introduced ; especially the 
uncompleted yet rather long poem, chiefly of very early 
years, named The Bride s Prelude. Before the end of March 
the copy for Ballads and Sonnets was sent to the printer, to 
be published by Messrs. Ellis & White. This liberal firm 
offered for it the same terms as for the volume of 1870 — a 
royalty of 25 per cent, to be paid down as soon as the book 
should be published, without waiting for actual sale. For 
the re-issued Poems the terms were to be a like royalty, but 
only accruing in proportion as sales were effected. As in 
the previous instance, I assisted my brother with the proofs. 
The Ballads and Sonnets, very properly dedicated to Mr. 
Watts, were fully in print by 16 September, and various 
copies were distributed. The full publication ensued on 
17 October. The book was a thorough success, for by the 
25th of the latter month the first edition of 1,000 copies 
was exhausted ; and before the end of November 2,000 
copies altogether had been issued and paid for. Rossetti 
wished to write two other historical ballads : foau of Arc, 
for which he took some preparatory steps ; and the Death 
of Abraham Lincoln, which was intended to include a tribute 
to another great American, John Brown, the " faithful unto 
death " ; also, according to Mr. Sharp, The Death Ride of 
Alexander ILL of Scotland (1286). Of this I remember 
nothing, nor does the subject seem to supply much material 
for a ballad. The Poems, in their revised form, came out 
likewise in 1881. This volume sold of course less rapidly, 
but continuously until some while after my brother's 
decease. 

Critics were laudatory, some of them enthusiastic ; and, 
so far as memory serves me, there was no repetition of abuse at 
all resembling The Fleshly School of Poetry, or even following 
on the same lines. " Live it down " is a very sound axiom. 
My brother had lived it down, and might from the first have 
been sure that he would do so. But, unhappily for himself and 
all others concerned, he had supposed that the influence of 
detraction and fallacy is much greater than it really is, and 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON — FINAL ILLNESS. 375 

the votaries of those powers much more numerous than in 
fact they are. 

Painful to say, no scintilla of pleasure or of cheerfulness 
seemed to come to Dante Rossetti from his double achieve- 
ment in 1881. He was of course, in a faint way, gratified that 
his leading picture was sold to a public institution, and that 
his poetry was, by a renewed experiment, recognized as an 
honour to our period. He sometimes expressed to me — and 
he did so particularly in February 1880 — a much higher 
value for his poetical than for his pictorial work. But the 
curtains were drawn round his innermost self, and the dusk 
had closed over him, and was fast darkening into night. Not 
for the applause of a big or a little crowd had he worked all 
his life long, rather for adequate self-expression and attain- 
ment in art. The work was done, but — except in a remote 
or abstracted sense — it did not prove to be its own exceeding 
great reward. 



XL. 

CUMBERLAND AND LONDON— FINAL ILLNESS. 

THAT Dante Rossetti's health was really and very seriously 
undermined in and before 1881 is a fact now too palpable for 
discussion, for his life came to an end in April 1882. People 
who thought that it was " all fancy," or the nervous appre- 
hensions of a hypochondriac, were under a mistake. But it 
is true that his uneasy imagination did at times suggest to 
him — at any rate in his later years — that something particular 
was going wrong, when in fact there was little or no solid 
cause for disquietude. I have heard of more than one instance 
in which, on hearing about the symptoms of a disease affecting 
some one else, he forthwith proceeded to suppose that he him- 
self was subject to the same malady. Mr. Caine relates a 
curious circumstance, which deserves a little reflection. 

It appears that at some time in 1879, before Mr. Caine had 
made personal acquaintance with Rossetti, some troublesome 



376 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

attack of ill-health befell Mr. Caine himself, then in Liverpool. 
He wrote of it to Rossetti, and the latter, never deficient in 
sympathy, replied as follows : — 

" I was truly concerned to hear of the attack of ill-health you 
have suffered from, though you do not tell me its exact nature. I 
hope it was not accompanied by any such symptoms as you men- 
tioned before. I myself have had similar symptoms (though not so 
fully as you describe), and have spat Dlood at intervals for years ; 
but now think nothing of it — nor indeed ever did — waiting for 
further alarm-signals which never came." 

Mr. Caine then says of Rossetti (apparently in 1881) that 

" Upon the periodical recurrence of the symptom, he never failed 
to become convinced that he spat arterial blood, and that on each 
occasion he had received his death-warrant. Proof enough was 
adduced that the blood came from the minor vessels of the throat." 

This, especially as contrasted with Rossetti's own quoted 
words, seems a little exaggerated in expression ; but on that 
I need not dwell. Mr. Caine next proceeds to state that 
" during the two or three weeks preceding our departure for 
Cumberland in the autumn of 1881, during the time of our 
residence there, and during the first few weeks after our return 
to London, Rossetti was afflicted by a violent cough," which 
our author regarded as aggravated " by a conscious giving 
way to it." I remember at that period, and at one or two 
others, this matter of the cough ; and I am quite at one with 
Mr. Caine in thinking that it could have been considerably 
controlled by my brother if he had chosen ; but for one reason 
or another he appeared to me to prefer giving it the freest 
course. Then comes Mr. Caine's narrative of a particular 
incident, which probably pertains to about the middle of 
November : — 

" He told me that during the night of my absence, in the midst 
of one of his bouts of coughing, he had discharged an enormous 
quantity of blood. ' I know this is the final signal,' he said, ' and 
I shall die.' I did not " (adds Mr. Caine) " hold the promise I gave 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON— FINAL ILLNESS. $17 

him as to secrecy sufficiently sacred, or so exclusive, as to forbid my 
revealing the whole circumstance to his medical attendant. I may 
add that from that moment the cough entirely disappeared." 

All this about the blood-spitting " at intervals for years " — 
not to speak of the superabundant coughing — sounds odd, 
and perhaps some of my readers will suppose it was mere 
fantasy or semi-conscious imposture on Rossetti's part. And 
yet I believe it was real in its degree. As far back as 
November 1871 (which was some months before the appear- 
ance of the Buchanan pamphlet, and therefore before any 
obvious disturbance of his mental equilibrium) he told me that 
he had brought up blood that day, and had done so earlier 
in the year at Kelmscott, which was prior to the appearance 
even of the article in the Contemporary Review ; and he made 
a similar statement at the beginning of April 1872. However, 
I have not the least reason to think that his lungs were, from 
first to last, otherwise than sound. 

The departure for Cumberland, mentioned by Mr. Caine, 
took place on 17 September 1881. Mr. Caine was thoroughly 
familiar with the Vale of St. John, near Keswick ; and, as it 
seemed highly desirable that Rossetti should have some break 
in the monotonous course of his existence, and rouse himself 
from habitual and increasing dejection, he was prevailed upon 
to join Caine in an expedition to the Cumberland solitude, 
at the Legberthwaite end of the Vale. As the Family-letters 
show, this change seemed, at the first blush, not a little 
beneficial ; but soon, under the malign influence of chloral, 
with its accompanying whiskey, " the last state of that man 
was worse than the first." Mr. Caine has given some 
depressing details, which I need not draw upon here — the 
sum of the whole being that the change proved visibly 
harmful. Rossetti at last expressed a wish to return to 
London. He was back on 17 October. As he re-entered his 
now gloomy but accustomed and still cherished house, he 
exclaimed, as Mr. Caine has recorded — " Thank God ! home 
at last, and never shall I leave it again." He was indeed to 



378 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

leave it once more, but only as the latest stage towards his 
final resting-place. 

On 24 October I received his letter saying that he was 
" very ill." I went round, and found him in much the same 
state as in October 1879. A nurse was called in, who left 
him towards the beginning of November. On the 27th of that 
month another nurse came, and none too soon, and one rule 
strictly enforced was that my brother should go to bed 
by nine o'clock. By 21 November I observed him to be 
somewhat less shaken in health, but deeply melancholy. 
Matters of very old as well as more recent date agitated his 
mind ; even so old as the year 1847 or 1848, when his desultory 
habits of work, or lack of filial deference, used to annoy our 
father, and elicit some severe expressions from him. It must, 
I think, have been immediately after 21 November that an 
incident occurred, related at some length by Mr. Bell Scott. 
It is singular in itself, and highly symptomatic of my brother's 
then condition of mind and spirits, and I shall extract the 
passage as it stands, only omitting some observations which, 
without being irrelevant, are not quite to the immediate 
purpose. 

" A new idea had taken possession of his mind, which caused us 
painful agitation [" us " would be Scott and Miss Boyd, and I 
suppose some others, especially Shields and Watts : I cannot affirm 
however that Miss Boyd was present on the occasion referred to, 
nor who else was either present or in fact painfully agitated]. He 
wanted a priest to give him absolution for his sins ! I mention this 
hallucination [I cannot see that it was a hallucination, though it 
may have been a weakness] as I have related previous ones ; for 
example, that of the chaffinch on the highway so long ago as 1869 
[see Section XXX.]— not loving him the less but the more, 
sympathizing with him almost mesmerically. But the aesthetic side 
of anything was his exclusive interest. In poetry and in painting the 
mediaeval period of history was necessary to him [this, in its primary 
sense, is remote indeed from the fact]. At first no one took any 
notice of this demand for a confessor. We thought his mind 
wandering, or that he was dreaming. But on its earnest repetition, 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON — FINAL ILLNESS. 379 

with his eyes open v I for one put him in mind of his not being a 
papist, and of his extreme agnosticism. ' I don't care about that,' 
was his puzzling reply. ' I can make nothing of Christianity, but 
I only want a confessor to give me absolution for my sins.' This 
was so truly like a man living or rather dying in a.d. 1300 that it 
was impossible to do anything but smile. Yet he was serious, and 
went on : ' I believe in a future life. Have I not had evidence of 
that often enough ? Have I not heard and seen those that died 
long years ago ? What I want now is absolution for my sins, that's 
all.' 'And very little too,' some outsider in the room whispered, 
as a gloomy joke [I have no idea who this outsider could have 
been : did Mr. Scott possibly mean Mr. Caine ? It is exceedingly 
unlikely that, during such a conversation as this, my brother would 
have had in the room any person whom he himself regarded as an 
outsider]. None of us, the deeply interested few who heard him, 
could answer a word." 

To this narrative — to the general authenticity of which I 
lend full credence — I must add yet a few observations. On 
the occasion to which I lately referred, 21 November, when 
I was alone with my brother, he certainly showed very great 
trouble of mind — the kind of trouble which, had he been a 
Roman Catholic, he would at once have imparted to a priest 
in confession, receiving in return admonition, advice, and 
probably some large amount of consolation. He must then 
have raised — or gone very near to raising — this question of a 
Catholic priest. I say Catholic, because, although he had 
been trained in the Anglican Church, such Christian sym- 
pathies as he had went entirely in the direction of Catholicism, 
and not in the least of Protestantism. Whatever may have 
been the precise terms in which he spoke to me, my reply 
was that, if he really felt any strong inclination that way, I, 
were I in his place, would assuredly act upon it ; but that it 
would be no use seeing a priest unless he were firmly 
resolved to do what the priest should tell him to do, in the 
nature of religious observance, penance, and aught else. 
Were it possible for the like circumstances to arise again, I 
would still give the like advice ; the question being, not what 



380 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

my opinions are — and, as a fact, their current is totally 
opposite — but what a man can rationally do who feels a 
personal need of religious solace. If after this talk my 
brother still wanted " absolution for his sins," the only really 
surprising thing is that he did not take steps for soliciting 
and procuring it. Here the other phase of his mind — that 
which regarded the mysteries of the universe as inscrutable — 
must have exercised the predominance. 

Mr. Scott, it seems, urged upon Rossetti " his extreme 
agnosticism." But Mr. Scott, in conceiving Rossetti to be an 
extreme agnostic, only took count of one half of his mind, 
often — it is true — in evidence. My brother was unquestion- 
ably sceptical as to many alleged facts, and he disregarded 
formulated dogmas, and the practices founded upon them. 
For theological discussions of whatsoever kind he had not the 
faintest taste, nor yet the least degree of aptitude. On the 
other hand, his mind was naturally prone to the marvellous 
and the supernatural, and he had an abiding and very deep 
reverence for the person of Christ. I recollect that one 
evening — it may have been late in 1879 — he wound up a 
conversation with me on this subject by saying, in a tone of 
decisive conviction, " Certainly He was something more than 
man." To pass from the belief of something superhuman in 
Christ to the admission of some more than human authority 
in a minister of Christ is a not very unaccountable step. 

It will be seen that I am not here arguing that my brother 
was either reasonable or self-consistent in wishing to get 
" absolution for his sins " — he was not a man of self-consistency 
in either opinion or act ; but only that, if one understands 
both sides of his mind, one can see how the notion arose, 
whereas, if one erroneously supposes him to have been simply 
and solely an "extreme agnostic," there is no traceable line 
of connexion. When all is said, it must be added that the 
" absolution " had quite as much to do with chloral as with 
creed. 

As to my brother's reported assertion " I believe in a future 
life," this was partially true at all periods of his career, and 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON — FINAL ILLNESS. 381 

was entirely true in his closing years. 1 It depended partly 
upon what we call " spiritualism," <on many of whose mani- 
festations he relied, while ready to admit that some others 
have been mere juggling. In November 1879 I found that 
his mind was much occupied with spiritualism, and that he 
was then fully convinced, or re-convinced, of immortality ; 
and I am sure that from this belief he never afterwards 
receded. I cannot say with any accuracy what he supposed 
immortality to consist of. To all appearance his own surmises 
were but vague. I have little doubt however that, in the case 
of persons so faulty as he knew and acknowledged himself 
to be, yet not ignoble in faculty or aim, he credited neither 
immediate bliss after death nor irrevocable " damnation," but 
rather a period of purgation and atonement, with gradual 
ascent, comparable more or less to the purgatory of Roman 
Catholics. On this momentous subject I never saw him to 
be agitated, timorous, or mentally harassed. He seemed 
willing to accept his fate, such as some eternal decree might 
impose it. 

Mr. Scott states also that Rossetti said — " Have I not 
heard and seen those that died long years ago ? " Perhaps 
this is even verbally accurate ; though I cannot recollect 
having myself ever heard my brother allege that he had seen 
a spiritual appearance, or what we term a ghost. 

Perhaps the reader thinks that I have paid more attention 
than was needed to this transitory craving for " absolution 
for sins " ; but, at some point or other of my narrative, it 
seemed requisite to say something about my brother's opinions 
— or I might rather say feelings — on questions of religion, and 
here the opportunity offered. His opinions on the subject 
were highly indefinite ; his utterances often negative, some- 
times positive ; his interior and essential feelings, a mixture 

1 In my book entitled Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer 
(p. 261) I have called attention to twelve sonnets in The House of Life 
which bear upon the question of the destiny of the soul. Of these, 
eight indicate a belief in immortality ; three a sense of uncertainty ; one 
does not point clearly to anything. 



382 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

of the two, coloured by passion and imagination, hazily 
distinguishable by himself, and by no means to be neatly 
ticketed by others. There is a very efficient phrase in Mr. 
Swinburne's review of Rossetti's Poems of 1870 which comes 
home to me as observably true : " Nor has he ever suffered 
from the distemper of minds fretted and worried by gnatstings 
and fleabites of belief and unbelief till the whole lifeblood 
of the intellect is enfeebled and inflamed." Or take Rossetti's 
own utterance in his short but well-pondered poem Soothsay 
(published in 1881) : — 

" Let lore of all Theology- 
Be to thy soul what it can be ; 
But know — the Power that fashions man 
Measured not out thy little span 
For thee to take the meting-rod 
In turn, and so approve on God 
Thy science of Theometry." 

Mr. Caine regarded Rossetti as, " by religious bias, a monk 
of the middle ages." To this I only very partially assent. 
He may indeed have been so by " bias," but clearly not by 
implicit belief. If we could imagine " a monk of the middle 
ages" whose mind was in a mist as to religious doctrines, 
who conformed to no religious rites, practised no monastic 
austerities, and in profession and act led an anti-monastic life, 
we might obtain some parallel to Dante Rossetti. But such 
a personage would be very little of a monk, of the middle 
or of any ages. It would be more admissible to say that 
Rossetti was intrinsically a man of the middle ages, who, by 
innate bias and by the course of circumstances, might not 
unnaturally have been led to turn himself into a monk. In 
that condition he would have painted a great number of 
missals, written a verse-chronicle beginning with the Garden 
of Eden or the " earth without form and void," indited 
hymns as rapturous as those of Jacopone da Todi, exceeded 
in austerity, exercised a vast influence over his penitents, and 
perchance have become a Cardinal or a Pope — not indeed a 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON — FINAL ILLNESS. 383 

" pagan Pope," but still one who thought his own thoughts 
under the cincture of the triple tiara. 

From these large speculations I must return into the 
hushed atmosphere of 16 Cheyne Walk, and mention what 
were the latest art-productions of my brother. 

In May 1881 his picture of The Salutation of Beatrice, 
commissioned by Mr. Leyland, was in progress. For this 
picture he hesitated for a while between the gracious type 
of Mrs. Stillman and the intense type of Mrs. Morris. 
Eventually he adhered to the latter. Spite of his shaken 
health, the work proved very fully up to his mark. It was 
not far from completed when he had to abandon the palette. 
After the great crisis of illness of which I shall next have 
to speak he resumed painting, though only to a minor extent, 
early in January 1882. For Mr. Valpy he nearly or quite 
finished a duplicate Proserpine, and brought well forward a 
duplicate Joan of A re. There was also (but not so late as 
these) a Donna della Finestra, with magnolia-blossoms, which 
remained uncompleted. 

No one had hailed the volume of Ballads and Sonnets with 
more energetic or more acceptable praise than Rossetti's 
friend now of long standing, Dr. Westland Marston. The 
evening of 1 1 December was fixed for this poet, and his 
blind poet-son Philip, to visit my brother. The only fourth 
person present was Mr. Caine, who relates the facts as 
follows : — 

" For a while he [Rossetti] seemed much cheered by their bright 
society ; but later on he gave those manifestations of uneasiness 
which I had learned to know too well. Removing restlessly from 
seat to seat, he ultimately threw himself upon the sofa in that rather 
awkward attitude which I have previously described as characteristic 
of him in moments of nervous agitation. Presently he called out 
that his arm had become paralysed, and, upon attempting to rise, 
that his leg also had lost its power. We were naturally startled ; 
but, knowing the force of his imagination in its influence on his 
bodily capacity, we tried playfully to banish the idea. Raising him 
to his feet however, we realized that, from whatever cause, he had 



384 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

lost the use of the limbs in question, and in the utmost alarm we 
carried him to his bedroom, and hurried away for Mr. Marshall. 
It was found that he had really undergone a species of paralysis — • 
called, I think, loss of co-ordinative power. The juncture was a 
critical one ; and it was at length decided, by the able medical 
adviser just named, that the time had come when the chloral, which 
was at the root of all this mischief, should be decisively, entirely, 
and instantly cut off. To compass this end, a young medical man, 
Mr. Henry Maudsley, was brought into the house as a resident, to 
watch and manage the case in the intervals of Mr. Marshall's visits. 
It is not for me to offer a statement of what was done, and done so 
ably, at this period. I only know that morphia was at first injected 
as a substitute for the narcotic the system had grown to demand ; 
that Rossetti was for many hours delirious whilst his body was 
passing through the terrible ordeal of having to conquer the craving 
for the former drug ; and that, three or four mornings after the 
experiment had been begun, he awoke calm in body and clear in 
mind and grateful in heart [this favourable result seems to me a 
little ante-dated]. His delusions, and those intermittent suspicions 
of his friends which I have before alluded to, were now gone, as 
things in the past of which he hardly knew whether in actual fact 
they had or had not been." 

I will add here a few extracts from my own Diary. There 
are some others relating to my brother at this period, but of 
less import : — 

" Wednesday, December 14. Called again to see Gabriel, having 
seen him also on Monday [the day following the attack]. He is 
in bed, suffering from a numbness along the left side generally — 
what might be regarded as paralytic numbness, but Marshall has 
assured Watts that it is not really paralytic. To me also Marshall 
spoke on Monday, partly in the same sense, but (to my thinking) 
less positively. [Then follow a few details, forestalled by Mr. 
Caine's narrative.] Of course Gabriel is not a little dispirited. 
Marshall is now very anxious to get rid of the chloral [it would 
appear therefore that chloral was not, as might be inferred from that 
narrative, abolished on the very night of the attack], and he proposes 
to inject morphia as a substitute. He was to have come to-day for 
the purpose, but did not. He also wants to put a young medical 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON — FINAL ILLNESS. 385 

man in charge, to take care that his plan is fully carried out. Watts 
is with Gabriel almost every day. This evening Jones also came, 
and was very affectionate, and promises to return as often as he may 
be wanted. On coming home I found Shields. 

"Monday, December 19. Called on Gabriel. A young medical 
man, Maudsley, nephew of the celebrated doctor, is now in the 
house, and the system of injecting morphia near the wrist has been 
begun. The chloral is wholly discontinued, and the whiskey which 
accompanied it reduced to about a wineglass a day. Under this 
system Gabriel gets a fair moderate amount of sleep ; but it is 
perturbed by painful opium-dreams, and the same impressions 
remain with him when awake. This was markedly the case to-day. 
Throughout the evening he was under all sorts of delusions of a 
more or less unpleasant character — seeing writings and printed 
sheets where none existed, replying to questions which were not 
asked, etc. Maudsley says that the real cause of these hallucina- 
tions is not the morphia but the cessation of the chloral, which 
seems to me odd. He re-affirms what Marshall said — that the 
numbness of the left side of the body is not really paralysis. This 
numbness seems slightly abated now, especially so far as the arm 
and hand are concerned. 

"Thursday, December 22. Called round at Gabriel's, and spoke 
to Watts, Maudsley being absent at the time. Watts says that 
Gabriel was sleepless on Monday and Tuesday nights ; but on 
Wednesday night, without either chloral or morphia administered, 
he got some five or six hours' sleep, and was this morning sensibly 
better ; knew Watts, and conversed sensibly for the most part. 
The numbness may have diminished a little. I was not minded to 
see Gabriel, surmising that the best thing for him is to be left as 
quiet as possible ; and in this Watts agreed with me." 

Between the above date in my Diary, 22 December 
1 88 1, and the next ensuing date, 6 January 1882, I shall 
interpolate a professional memorandum by Mr. Maudsley, 
which I found among my brother's papers after his death. 
It is worded as follows : — 

"Thursday, December 15-16. — 90 grains of chloral and | pint 
of brandy in 2 doses, at intervals of 4 hours, 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. — 
Friday [16] 4 minims of morphia at 9 p.m. ; sleep 4 hours; restless 

VOL. I. 25 



386 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

and craving for whiskey and chloral till 3 a.m. ; i| whiskey at 5 a.m. 
— Saturday [17] restless, but condition much better. At 9 p.m. 
5 minims of morphia ; dozing and sleep for one hour, and quiet 
until 12. At 1 a.m. craving for whiskey and chloral; 3 minims of 
morphia. At 2 a.m. doze for a short time ; then restless, craving 
for whiskey; 2 oz. of whiskey at 4 a.m. — Sunday [18] horrible 
dreams ; restless until 9 a.m., then sleep for 2 hours ; delusions 
towards evening. — Monday [20] 9 a.m., 6 minims of morphia; 
quiet sleep till 12. 1 a.m., restless, violent, and irritable; 
delusions etc. ; 2 minims of morphia. Restless with delusions all 
day; delusions etc., night. — Tuesday [21] 4 minims of morphia; 
restless, no sleep, but quiet ; delusions. No chloral or whiskey. — 
Wednesday [21] ether and bromine; quiet, delusions. No morphia; 
sleep 8 hours. — Thursday [22] 3 minims of morphia at 9 p.m. ; sleep 
quiet ever since." 

My own Diary now resumes : — 

"Friday, January 6, 1882. In the evening I went to Gabriel's. 
He has for some days past been down in his studio, and the numb- 
ness in the left leg is now greatly diminished ; in fact he walks about 
the studio without any sort of assistance, and very much as before 
the attack. The left arm he still regards as in the same state and 
much the same degree of numbness. I suspect however that, by 
a proper exertion of will, he would find it not so very much amiss. 
Maudsley urges him to set his palette to-morrow, and see what he 
can do. Gabriel's spirits are still extremely low — the uncertainty as 
to his being able to resume his profession as a painter weighing 
painfully upon him. I saw (copied out by Sharp) the verses ' To 
an Old Enemy,' which Buchanan has prefixed to his latest novel 
God and the Man. They are generally, and I think correctly, 
assumed to be addressed to Gabriel, and they certainly form a 
handsome retractation of past invidious attacks. Gabriel thinks the 
verses may really be intended for Swinburne [but I don't believe that 
he long persisted in any such supposition]. 

"Friday, January 13. Evening with Gabriel. He can now 
make a little use of his left hand for helping himself at meals etc. ; 
and during the greater part of the evening he was conversible and 
fairly cheerful, though always much depressed when he speaks of his 
blighted professional prospects etc. 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON — FINAL ILLNESS. 387 

" Monday, January 23. Evening with Gabriel. He is now, I 
think, somewhat better, in body and mental tone combined, than at 
any time since his return from Cumberland ; yet his spirits are still 
low, and his left arm partially numbed. Morphia — water." [This 
last jotting means that by this date the injections of morphia had 
been so far reduced that at last mere water was substituted ; but 
my brother was not allowed to know that fact.] 

Mr. Scott, in speaking of this attack of quasi-paralysis, 
says : " He was carried upstairs to bed, and never came down 
again." This, as will be seen from my Diary, is one more 
instance of a rooted habit of inaccuracy. My brother was 
carried upstairs on 11 December. He was down " some 
days " before 6 January (it was in fact on 29 or 30 December), 
and he continued coming down. Not only this, but he called 
in our mother's house, in Torrington Square, Bloomsbury, 
no less than four times between 14 January and I February. 
A fair inference from Mr. Scott's statement is that he can 
never have gone round from his own house in Cheyne Walk 
to that of my brother after the close of 188 1 or so. He says 
also that Mr. Morris asked him " if I really thought Rossetti 
so ill, or was he only acting, to keep those about him in 
suspense." It would be for Mr. Morris to say whether he 
has here been correctly reported. I am not myself aware of 
any reason he could have had for conjecturing that Rossetti 
might be " acting," though he had, like other old friends, 
sufficient cause for knowing that the invalid was fanciful. 
But, as Mr. Caine has told us, Rossetti ceased even to be 
fanciful when the origin of the fancies, the chloral-dosing, 
had ceased, and my own experience of the facts mainly 
confirms Mr. Caine's. 

Mr. Maudsley, his beneficial work being done, finally 
quitted my brother's house on 27 January. The nurse, Mrs. 
Abrey, still remained, and she continued with the patient till 
his dying^ day, always efficient, kindly disposed towards him 
and others, and cheerful-tempered. As Mr. Marshall con- 
sidered that my brother ought now to get change of air, 
I suggested to the latter that a desirable place might be 



388 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Birchington-on-Sea, near Margate — a new marine health- 
resort where our excellent and long-tried friend Mr. John 
P. Seddon had built a number of bungalows, or one-storied 
residences. Dante liked the idea. He wrote to Mr. Seddon, 
and received a prompt response that a bungalow would be 
placed at his disposal, and even, by sanction of the owner 
Mr. Cobb, free of expense. This last item was really not 
needed. Still, it was, from all points of view, pleasing, and 
my brother gratefully accepted the offer. Mr. Caine, ever 
ready to accommodate him, went down to Birchington at 
the end of the month to make requisite arrangements, and 
on 4 February he and Rossetti travelled thither in company. 
There was also Caine's sister, a nice girl of thirteen, now an 
actress of repute. As my brother's letter of 3 February shows, 
he had hoped that our mother and Christina could come as 
well ; but both were in a risky state from colds, and the 
family-doctor, Mr. Stewart, would not for the present allow 
it. The house was at that time named Westcliff Bungalow 
— now Rossetti Bungalow, in Rossetti Road ; and I might 
add here that the houses built along my brother's old garden- 
space in Cheyne Walk are termed Rossetti Mansions. Mr. 
Scott must surely be mistaken in saying that " the young 
Doctor " (Mr. Maudsley) was along with Rossetti on his road 
to Birchington. 

Mr. Scott gives another sentence — but not quite his final 
one — to Rossetti. 

" The picture I have drawn had been a painful one to witness in 
the original, and has been only less so to indicate in narrative, even 
carefully omitting the most repulsive elements of the scene." 

What these " most repulsive elements of the scene " may 
have been I confess myself unable to surmise. To me it 
seems that Mr. Scott was at some pains to make the scene 
more repulsive than in fact it was. But, if he found " the 
picture a painful one to indicate in narrative," a very obvious 
question arises — Why did he indicate it ? He was professing 
to write " Autobiographical Notes," and the doings or mis- 



CUMBERLAND AND LONDON— FINAL ILLNESS. 389 

doings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti — apart from the aid which 
he most constantly and determinately lent to this friend's 
reputation as poet and painter, among acquaintances and 
with the pubfic — formed no part of the Autobiography of 
William Bell Scott. 

Let me briefly recur to Miss Lily Hall Caine, and her 
published reminiscences of my brother. These are only, it 
is true, the reminiscences of a child ; but they are evidently 
vivid, and I recognize in them several points which I know 
to be accurately put. They bear strong testimony to the 
fact that Dante Rossetti, even in the closing months of his 
life, was very far other than harsh or morose, or so much as 
invariably gloomy and despondent. Miss Caine was first 
introduced to him in Cheyne Walk, shortly before the 
departure for Birchington. She says, inter alia : — 

" He chatted quite gaily [at the first introduction] until dinner 
was ready. I had never met a man so full of ideas interesting and 
attractive to a child ; indeed, now that I look back on it, I feel that 
Mr. Rossetti was wondrously sweet, tender, and even playful, with a 
child. . . . On this journey [for Birchington] from Cheyne Walk to 
the Station he talked all the way, and had tales to tell me of every 
conspicuous object that came into view. We travelled by the 
London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, and, as the porter was 
labelling the luggage, Mr. Rossetti took me by the hand. We were 
interested in the porter's operations, and Mr. Rossetti was amused 
at the Company's initial letters — ' L. C. D. R.' ' Why, Lily,' said he, 
' they knew we were coming. That stands for Lily Caine and Uante 
Rossetti.' " x 

1 As regards the house in Cheyne Walk Miss Caine makes a statement 
which I do not well understand. She says that somewhere in the house 
(one might infer in the studio) there was a very large and bad picture, " as 
vulgar as a signpost " (signboard must be meant), which Rossetti, when 
" a student of art," had bought for ^3, although the upset-price ironically 
demanded was ,£3,000. I cannot recollect any picture corresponding to 
this description. There was, however, in the dining-room (not the studio), 
a well-sized picture, which my brother bought some while after he had 
settled in Cheyne Walk ; and as to the purchase of some picture or other 
(I believe it was this one) he used to tell an amusing story not much unlike 



390 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

XLI. 

BIRCHINGTON-ON-SEA. 

The village or " ville " of Birchington, in the Isle of Thanet, 
is an ancient locality, traceable into Saxon times. I see the 
name recorded in a map of Kent dated 1645. The oldest 
portions of the church belong to the later twelfth century. 
As a seaside resort however the place is very recent — little 
having been done for tourist or residential purposes until 
Mr. Seddon took the work in hand. The Bungalow which 
Rossetti tenanted is a good-looking wooden erection, without 
being a beautiful one. Its interior is conveniently laid out 
for an invalid — "a long corridor, and rooms on either side. 
At the further end was the drawing-room, running the width 
of the house." It stands conveniently near the railway- 
station, yet not so close as to interfere with habits of retire- 
ment. Here Rossetti, spite of some wayward distaste at the 
first alighting, settled down, without (I should say) any 
troublesome craving to get away again. 

" The sands are numbered that make up my life : 
Here must I stay, and here my life must end." 

At Birchington my brother at first took some short walks ; 
and he continued free from delusions, though not always, I 
consider, from some rather fanciful or oblique impressions. 
These may have been due to the morphia which he took to 
a moderate extent — no longer injected, but as a dose. 
Digestive inconveniences which now gave him a great deal 
of harass are likely to have depended largely on the same 
cause. The weather was not severe for the season, but at 
times there was a great deal of wind ; and this wind, a most 
untoward circumstance, constantly blew from the land, so 

the above. It was a well-painted picture, though hard — Flemish or Dutch, 
towards 1600; the subject being a woman (with two or three other figures) 
making gaufres or hearth-cakes. At the sale of Rossetti s effects it fetched 
fifty guineas. 



BIRCHINGTON-ON-SEA. 391 

that Rossetti got no restorative sea-breezes. His health, it 
is manifest, was really always going from bad to worse. Yet 
this was not so clearly apparent from day to day as might 
have been expected. The local physician, Dr. Harris, proved 
attentive and discerning, and he acted in concert with written 
advice received from Mr. Marshall. After a while (more 
especially, I believe, from indications to which Christina had 
called his notice) he pronounced that kidney-disease had 
supervened. From the middle of March my brother had to 
keep his bed to a great extent, though not by any means 
without intermission. 

On 2 March our mother and Christina, being at length 
under medical leave to do so, went down to Birchington, 
and there they stayed until all was over. Our mother was 
now not far from eighty-two years old. Christina, aged fifty- 
one, was always more or less an invalid in these years. 
The effort therefore on their part was a somewhat serious 
one, willingly, or rather gladly, as it was undertaken. It 
would be superfluous for me, and only derogatory to them, 
to speak of the devotion with which they ministered to the 
beloved son and brother. Mr. Caine was almost always there ; 
his sister left not long before the end ; Mr. Watts went from 
time to time, and was more than welcome ; Mr. Shields also 
once or twice, and Mr. Sharp ; Mr. Leyland, who was spending 
the time on and off at Ramsgate, was also an assiduous and 
a highly sympathizing visitor. " Watts is a hero of friend- 
ship " was, according to Mr. Caine, one of my brother's last 
utterances, easy enough to be credited. 

Rossetti continued painter and poet to the last. At Birch- 
ington he went on with the pictures for Mr. Valpy, Proserpine 
and Joan of Arc, but I doubt whether this can have been 
persisted in beyond the month of February. Possibly the 
very last thing he produced in art was a sketch or two 
aiming to show the characteristic aspect of our father ; for 
some such memento was asked for, through Teodorico 
Pietrocola-Rossetti, from Vasto, with a view to the designing 
and erection of a statue (a project not yet actually carried 



392 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

out), and Dante would not entirely neglect the request, 
though he knew that he could no longer do justice to it. I 
possess the slight sketches — not wholly unlike, but too 
shakily done for any practical service. As to poetry, he 
finished at the end of March his old grotesque ballad Jan 
Van Hwtks ; and even later than that, 5 April, he dictated 
to Caine two sonnets relevant to his design of The Sphinx. 
I have always considered that his taking up on his deathbed 
that extremely grim and uncanny though partly bantering 
theme of Jan Van Hunks — a fatal smoking-duel with the 
devil, who trundles soul and body off to hell — furnished 
a strong attestation of the resolute spirit in which my 
brother contemplated his own end, rapidly approaching 
and (by himself still more than by any others) clearly fore- 
seen ; for a man who is in a panic as to his own prospects in 
any future world would be apt to drop any such subject like 
a hot coal. He enjoyed immensely writing the ballad, so 
Miss Caine says, " and laughed with us as he read it bit by 
bit every night." At some other times also, according to this 
lady, he was in high spirits ; and on one occasion he told her 
some tales from the Arabian Nights, which he saw her 
reading, and other amusing stories. It is only too obvious 
however that at some other times his spirits were low — as 
low as his sorely obstructed energies, and his life fast 
flickering to extinction. 

He read various books at Birchington, or got them read 
to him by Christina — most or all of them novels — Miss 
Braddon's Dead Men's Shoes, Dickens's Tale of Two Cities, 
Wilkie Collins's Dead Secret, and others. 

Two of the last things my brother did consisted in holding 
a little correspondence with his old and highly genial friend 
Mr. Joseph Knight (afterwards his biographer), 1 and with the 

1 In his Life of D. G. Rossetti, p. 109, Mr. Knight says that the letter 
which he received from my brother was " the last letter ever written by 
Rossetti, dated 5 April 1882": but on p. 179 he quotes the letter 
verbatim, giving its date as " 5 March '82." I have no doubt that 
" March " is correct. In that case, it might still be that this was the last 



BIRCHINGTON-ON-SEA. 393 

French art-writer, M. Ernest Chesneau. Mr. Knight had 
published, in the French serial Le Livre, a very handsome 
article on Rossetti's Ballads and Sonnets. My brother wrote 
in cordial acknowledgement on 5 March, signing with the 
pathetic phrase — " With love from all that is left of me, yours 
affectionately." With M. Chesneau the correspondence 
opened with a letter from that very accomplished writer 
and worthy gentleman (whom I knew personally later on) at 
some date in February, and concluded with his letter of 
2 April, only a week prior to my brother's death. As far 
back as 1868 M. Chesneau had sent to Rossetti his book 
Les Nations Rivales dans I'Art, and had received a reply at 
some length, from which a quotation is made in Section XIII. 
He was now bringing out another book, La Peinture 
Anglaise, and sought some information from Rossetti, not 
only about his own works in painting, but generally about 
the Prasraphaelite movement. My brother furnished several 
details in answer ; and, being favoured with a copy of 
Chesneau's remarkable romance named La Chimere, bearing 
a striking frontispiece by Gustave Moreau, he wrote to the 
French author expressing a very high opinion of the inventive 
and artistic value of this design. I think it must have been 
the first thing of Moreau's that he ever saw ; for, in or about 
1880, having heard Moreau spoken of as a man of mark, he 
had enquired of me what his paintings were like, and I 
replied that they had something of the quality of Burne- 
Jones intermixed with that of the Flemish painter Wiertz. 
This, his last letter to Chesneau, was (I assume) his last letter 
in this world, and, save for the two sonnets on The Sphinx, 
about the latest thing he did at all except to resign himself 
into the arms of Death. There is some pleasure in reflecting 
that he was thus true till the end to one of his most con- 
spicuous qualities — that of praising with eagerness and energy 

letter written by Dante with his own hand, though I hardly suppose so ; 
but it was certainly not the last which he composed and dictated. The 
last of this kind (for 1 cannot assume it to have been holograph) was to all 
appearance the one which M. Chesneau acknowledged on 2 April. 



394 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the work of such contemporaries as he at all valued, were 
they painters or poets. 

Our mother in these years kept a short Diary. From the 
opening days of 1881 it stands in Christina's handwriting. 
Its terms are neither much detailed nor strongly emotional, 
but it furnishes some particulars not uninteresting in this 
connexion. I extract here and there : — 

" 2 March, Thursday. I and Christina went to Westcliff Bunga- 
low, Birchington-on-Sea (a large one-storied commodious residence 
lent by Mr. John Seddon), to visit Gabriel, who is staying there with 
his trained nurse Mrs. Abrey, and Mr. Hall Caine, and his sister 
Lily (thirteen years old), endeavouring to gain health and strength, 
and in particular to recover the use of his left hand. But I was 
grieved indeed to find him much wasted away, suffering, and in a 
measure depressed, though making us most welcome, and chatty 
enough on general subjects. 

" 4 March, Saturday. Fuller particulars from Mrs. Abrey about 
poor Gabriel's very ailing state. Mr. Watts came down. 

" 6 March, Monday. Gabriel complains of something new in his 
foot, which Mr. Watts confidently pronounces a touch of gout. In 
the evening Mr. Martin, our very kind and helpful neighbour, 
looked in. He is a builder in connexion with Mr. John Seddon, 
and also keeps the Westcliff Hotel and Boarding-house close by. 

" 7 March, Tuesday. Gabriel, suffering from his foot, kept his 
bed nearly all day, and so doing was fairly comfortable. 

" 10 March, Friday. Lily Caine returned home to Liverpool. 

"18 March, Saturday. Mr. John Seddon, and his brother Major 
Seddon, called ; Mr. Sharp came down. 

" 24 March, Friday. Gabriel consulted Dr. Harris, who says 
there is no paralysis, and nothing he judges irremediable, but a 
serious condition of nerves. He prescribed at once, and will 
communicate with Mr. Marshall. He resides near the Birchington 
Railway-station, and was highly spoken of by Mr. Alcock [the 
Rector]. 

" March 26, Sunday. Christina went to Holy Communion. 
While in church, the wind rose so that she got home with difficulty, 
helped by a good-natured man, three times taking refuge in cottages, 
and at last taking a fly. Mr. Leyland called. 



DEATH AND FUNERAL. 395 

• " March 28, Tuesday. Mr. Watts came down ; Gabriel rallied 
marvellously." 

This is the last cheerful item which it is allowed me to 
record concerning my brother ; I am glad that it stands 
associated with the name of Theodore Watts. 



XLII. 

DEATH AND FUNERAL. 

The final sentence in my brother's Family-letters runs, " It is 
quieter now." It was soon to be still quieter for him, and 
that for ever. 

On 25 March, the day after I had returned to London from 
a little lecturing at Wolverhampton, I received from Christina 
a letter giving decidedly bad news of our brother. I deter- 
mined to go to Birchington on Saturday, I April, and mean- 
while I consulted Mr. Marshall. What followed was set 
down by me in terms dismal enough : — 

" Saturday, April 1. Went to Birchington. Found Gabriel in a 
very prostrate condition physically, barely capable of tottering a few 
steps, half blind, and suffering a good deal of pain. At least he 
feels all this, whether it is or is not dependent on a morbid state of 
the perceptions. In spirits he is not worse than might be expected ; 
talks with reason, though not with animation, on any subject that 
offers. He is writing some tale, but I don't know details [I have 
since learned that he had taken up anew his old story St. Agnes of 
Intercession, but he did not finish nor even progress with it] ; has 
not attempted any painting-work for some weeks. 

" Sunday, April 2. Gabriel, feeling a sensation (I believe delusive) 
of oppressed breathing, sent round for the local doctor, Harris, who 
has attended him various times. I was present at the conference, 
and afterwards spoke at some length to Harris in private. His 
opinion — as had before been intimated to me — is that the brain is 
affected, probably some degree of softening of the brain, consequent 
upon abuse of chloral etc. He regards this as the one nucleus of 
all the symptoms — bad sight, moveless arm, etc. — which are in 



396 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

themselves delusions, but not at all delusions as being impressions 
deriving from the wrong condition of the brain. He thinks — as 
we all do — that the great thing would be to get Gabriel occupied; 
but how to attain this point is the unsolved problem. Thinks also 
that some such treatment as that of a physician at Malvern, among 
other patients, would be better than the dull seclusion of Birching- 
ton. But, when I explained Gabriel's detestation of new faces etc., 
he admitted this to be an obstacle. He thinks it quite possible that 
Gabriel may again do good intellectual work, but of course the 
tendency of the disease is to weaken the mind. All this is very 
disheartening — not to me surprising. I shall probably soon speak 
again to Marshall on the subject. Left Birchington about 7 — all of 
us sufficiently low-spirited." 

I came away from the Bungalow with a firm conviction 
that my brother had not long to live, coupled with the feeling 
(I do not scruple to admit it) that, rather than that so luminous 
an intellect should be reduced to feebleness or torpor, it were 
far better to die. My Diary shows a few other particulars, 
as especially that there was an idea of calling in Sir Andrew 
Clarke for consultation ; but it aids me little now, as I only 
kept it on with regularity to 5 April, and then broke it off till 
9 August. In leaving Birchington on 2 April, 1 had settled 
to return for some days beginning on the 7th, which was 
Good Friday. I did so, Mr. Watts bearing me company. 
Mr. Marshall also had undertaken to attend, for the case was 
then known to be urgent, as too clearly shown by the following 
brief extracts from my mother's Diary : — 

" April 4, Tuesday. After Gabriel had passed a very suffering 
day in his own room, Christina sat up till about 1 o'clock, reading to 
him. Dr. Harris came twice. 

"April 5, Wednesday. Dr. Harris, after investigation, gives a 
most serious opinion of poor Gabriel's state. 

" April 6, Thursday. Gabriel so drowsy and sinking that William 
and Mr. Watts were telegraphed to. I sat up till about midnight, 
when Christina took my place till past six in the morning. 

" April 7, Good Friday. The drowsiness continues. William in 
great grief, and Mr. Watts, arrived. Mr. Leyland called, affectionately 



DEATH AND FUNERAL. 397 

concerned at the unforeseen alarm. In consequence of Gabriel's 
having one night expressed to Mrs. Abrey some inclination to see 
Mr. Alcock, the Rector, having been informed of this, called late in 
the evening, and prayed with him — I and Mr. Watts uniting. 

" April 8, Saturday. Kind Mr. Martin had an awning put up to 
keep the sick-room cool. Mr. Shields hurried down, but could not 
see Gabriel at once, and slept here. Mr. Marshall arrived ; met Dr. 
Harris in consultation ; declared all the present urgent symptoms to 
point clearly to uraemia (blood-poisoning from uric acid) ; and took 
instant vigorous measures to expel, if possible, the poison from the 
system. To produce perspiration, Gabriel was wrapped in a hot 
sheet, and made very hot in bed, besides medicine being adminis- 
tered. The blessed result ensued of his regaining a more natural 
appearance, and rallying to a less inert general condition. Food, 
heat, and medicine (though no solid food), were kept up through the 
night, the greater part of which Christina passed keeping Nurse 
company at the bedside. Mr. Marshall missed his up-train, and so 
remained on the spot for the night. Mr. Alcock called, and read, 
and we think prayed, alone with Gabriel, exhorting him to simple 
trust in God and our Saviour. 

" April 9, Easter-day. Mr. Marshall left soon after 9 o'clock, 
leaving word for me (I was not yet up) that Gabriel continued to 
hold his own. He also says that, as soon as manageable, Gabriel 
ought to quit Birchington as being too cold for him, and had best 
simply return to Chelsea. I gather that the illness is very serious, 
but not hopeless. Christina missed church, after sitting up towards 
seven in the morning. Mr. Leyland came ; Mr. Alcock paid Gabriel 
a short bedside visit. 1 — We had arranged to sit up, I till 10, William 
till 2, Christina last ; when suddenly, just after nurse and Mr. 
Watts together had put a poultice on Gabriel's back (Mr. Watts 
had but just left the room, nurse was attending to the fire, I was 
by the bed, rubbing Gabriel's back), Gabriel, who was sitting, fell 
back, threw his arms out, screamed out loud two or three times close 
together, and then lay, breathing but insensible. Nurse raised the 
alarm. Mr. Watts hurried back, and, one on each side, they held 
Gabriel down ; but there was not the slightest struggle or return of 

1 These preceding words for 9 April must have been written at some 
moderately early hour of that day ; what follows was evidently written on 
10 April. 



398 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

consciousness. All assembled round the bed. Mr. Shields flew for 
Dr. Harris, and in the shortest time returned with him. Gabriel 
still breathed, but that was all. Dr. Harris once or twice said he 
still lived — then said he was dead. This took place shortly after 
nine o'clock p.m. Gabriel had scarcely breathed his last when Lucy, 
having travelled all day from Manchester, arrived. The instant cause 
of death, assigned by Dr. Harris, was that the urasmic poison touched 
the brain ; and he afterwards assured us that there was no pain." 

I also, on the evening of 10 April, jotted down an account 
of our great loss. It runs as follows : — 

" Marshall, having stayed over Saturday night, saw Gabriel along 
with Dr. Harris ; but I did not see Gabriel until after Marshall had 
left Birchington. Went in to Gabriel soon afterwards, and sat with 
him a considerable while — the nurse Mrs. Abrey in and out of the 
room. His complexion was much more natural and less livid than 
the previous day, but the lips not a good colour ; less wheezing 
than on Friday, and not more than on Saturday; eyes somewhat 
clearer. He talked but little at any time of the day. Did not seem 
extremely melancholy, but languid, and not roused to any serious 
effort of attention ; utterance indistinct (same on two previous days). 
He said twice during the day to me, " I believe I shall die to-night,' 
in a calm voice, not emotional. Also said, ' Yesterday I wished to 
die, but to-day I must confess that I do not.' I replied that he 
ought not to wish to die, but rather to continue working with 
energy, and producing fine things. Every now and then he would 
sit up and forward on the bed, and I — sometimes nurse — rubbed 
his back with a circling motion of the hand. I was in and out of 
the room various times, with Leyland once or twice. Went up on 
the roof with Caine, to remedy the flapping of a tarpaulin which lay 
along there, being part of an awning which Martin had on previous 
day erected outside Gabriel's window. I asked more than once to 
read to Gabriel (intending to propose Ecclesiastes), but he did not 
wish it ; said ' Perhaps later.' \Ecclesiastes had been profoundly 
impressive to my brother in boyhood and early youth ; and this 
book, along with the more moving and spiritual portions of 
the Gospels — I say nothing of dogmatic matter deducible from 
the Epistles — may be said to have formed the staple of his religious 
faith, such as it was.] Towards 5 I assisted nurse to put on his 



DEATH AND FUNERAL. 399 

loins a large linseed-and-mustard poultice, and his drawers were put 
on at same time — -both processes much against his will, as he 
disliked and dreaded the heat in bed. He often demanded to have 
both off; but this was wrong, and could not be granted. Nurse 
and I both reasoned with and coaxed him on the subject. I was 
called to dinner towards 7 ; and, lingering afterwards in talk 
with friends, did not re-enter Gabriel's room till (say) 10 minutes 
to g — my mother, Watts, and nurse, then with him. The poultice 
had by that time been renewed, but I was not aware of the fact. 
He was drowsy, and not taking any particular part in what was 
going on. My mother having said that she was to leave the room 
at ro, and Christina to succeed her through the night, I said I 
would come at 10, and stay till 2, and then Christina could succeed 
me; and meanwhile I would lie down till 10. Entered drawing- 
room just about 9, lay down on sofa, and pretty soon dozed. Was 
roused towards 9.20 by Shields rushing into the room, and loudly 
summoning me to come at once to Gabriel. Found him with head 
leaning over towards right, eyes starting but nearly closed, mouth 
open and twitching. He drew hard breaths at intervals. Shields 
ran for Dr. Harris, who came in towards 9.30. On entering he 
replied to our enquiries that Gabriel was still alive. He then 
proceeded to use the stethoscope, but it did not give the indication 
of breathing, and Harris pronounced Gabriel dead. Gabriel had, 
just before Shields entered the drawing-room for me, given two 
violent cries, and had a convulsive fit, very sharp and distorting the 
face, followed by collapse. All this passed without my personal 
cognizance. He died 9.31 p.m.; the others — Watts, mother, 
Christina, and nurse, in room ; Caine and Shields in and out ; 
Watts at Gabriel's right side, partly supporting him." 

To these details — painful to write, to remember, and to 
transcribe — I am only disposed to add that on the evening 
of Good Friday my brother had, under the guidance of Mr. 
Watts, made his will, and I fancy he had never done the 
like before. He left all his property in equal shares between 
Christina and myself. Christina, being at once apprised of 
this, absolutely refused to have her name, rather than that 
of our mother, in the will. It was explained to her that this 
had been done merely as the more convenient practical 



400 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

arrangement of the two — the mother and daughter being 
inseparably united in life, and the daughter being the more 
probable survivor. But Christina was immoveable in her 
resolve, and so the name of our mother was immediately 
substituted for Christina's in the will. As to any money- 
details arising out of the will, I limit myself to saying that, 
after paying off my brother's debts (chiefly sums due to 
Mr. Valpy and Mr. Graham in relation to pictures unfinished), 
and after the sales of his household and decorative effects and 
of his remaining works of art, there was a substantial sum 
divisible between the legatees. Two exhibitions of his paint- 
ings and designs, covering the whole of his career, were held, 
but not under the control of the family ; one being at the 
Royal Academy's winter exhibition of 1883, and the other at 
the Burlington Fine-Arts Club in the same year ; there was a 
third, a private speculation, called the Rossetti Gallery, in 
Bond Street. 

As mentioned in my mother's Diary, my wife arrived at 
Westcliff Bungalow almost as soon as Dante had drawn his 
latest breath. She had been on a visit to her father in 
Manchester ; but, receiving my intimation of the precarious 
and almost desperate condition of her brother-in-law, she 
hurried southwards. On 13 April also Charlotte Polidori, 
the aunt to whom some of the Family-letters are addressed, 
and who had so often established a claim to Dante's gratitude, 
joined the mourners in the Bungalow. These arrivals were 
a great boon to all of us ; my wife's of course to me more 
especially, and Charlotte's to my mother — for the dear tie of 
sisterhood between these two had always been peculiarly 
close. 

I proceed with some extracts from my mother's Diary : — 

"April 10, Easter Monday. A telegram sent by William brought 
from London a man from Brucciani's to take a cast of Gabriel's 
face and hand [these casts were taken with no less skill than that 
which the Brucciani firm always command ; but it is a fact that the 
head proved extremely disappointing to all of us, and seems barely 
to suggest what my brother was like]. Gabriel looked quite peaceful, 



DEATH AND FUNERAL. 401 

with a tendency towards a smile. Mr. Shields made a drawing of 
him [this was done at my request, and it was a truly self-sacrificing 
act of Shields, the most high-strung and susceptible of men, and my 
brother's devoted friend, to whom such a task was a wrench indeed : 
I possess the drawing, and the artist afterwards made a copy of it, 
presented to Christina]. Lucy went with Christina and William to 
the Rectory, for the purpose of meeting Mr. Alcock, who accom- 
panied the three to the churchyard, where a spot was chosen for the 
dear grave. Mr. Martin, with his usual kindness, undertakes to 
make arrangements for the funeral. 

"April 12, Wednesday. Mr. Sharp arrived, bent on having a 
last look. 

" April 14, Friday. Mr. Alcock performed the funeral simply and 
solemnly. Besides myself, Christina, William, Lucy, and Charlotte, 
there were present — Messrs. Graham, Leyland, Watts, Caine, Hueffer, 
John Seddon, Stephens, Boyce, Aldam Heaton, 1 Martin, Sharp, 
Philip Marston, and Shields, and Dr. Harris. Herbert Gilchrist and 
two others attended spontaneously [the two others were Judge 
Vernon Lushington, and Mr. Murray Marks, the art-dealer : the 
former had been an admirer and genial acquaintance of my brother 
ever since, if not before, the days of the Oxford and Cambridge 
Magazine]. In the evening, Charlotte, William, Lucy, Christina, and 
Mr. Shields, returned to the churchyard, to place on the grave 
(already closed and peaceful, under a turf mound) a most beautiful 
wreath of flowers which we believe was the one sent by Lady 
Mount-Temple, and brought by Mr. Graham. A number of floral 
decorations were contributed by different friends. Philip Marston 
presented a wreath of bay ; the Leylands, wreaths and a lovely 
white cross ; Mr. Sharp, a cross of primroses. I placed on the grave 
a bunch of simple flowers, among which were woodspurge [this was 
of course in memory of Dante's poem The Woodspurge] and forget- 
me-nots. Christina had gathered these in the grounds and con- 
servatory." 

1 Mr. John Aldam Heaton, now well known as p. Decorative Artist in 
London, had, while settled at Bradford in Yorkshire, known my brother on 
an intimate footing from about 1861 to 1874. A serious difference then 
arose between them. My brother had right on his side, but he showed 
more of permanent resentfulness than should be unreservedly approved. 
We at all events were glad to make peace with Mr. Heaton over the 
open grave. 

VOL. I. 26 



402 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Besides the persons above mentioned as attending the 
funeral, some others had been asked, but, for one reason or 
another, could not attend — Mrs. Hueffer, Eliza Polidori, 
Burne-Jones, Bell Scott, Swinburne, Dunn, Dr. Hake, John 
Marshall, Tebbs, and Valpy. Madox Brown was known to 
be unavoidably so engrossed with his painting-work in Man- 
chester that it would only have been unkind to ask him. He 
had been in London towards Christmas, and had then seen 
my brother two or three times with his unfailing affection. 

I take leave to borrow from Mr. Scott's book the feeling 
letter which Judge Lushington wrote to him on this occasion. 
The few words given to the church and the churchyard 
realize the scene well. 

"14 April. 

" Dear Mr. Scott, 

" I think you will like to hear how your dear friend Gabriel 
Rossetti was buried, so I will tell you — for, thanks to your kind 
telegram, I was there. I had hoped to see you there, and was 
grieved to hear that you were prevented by illness. 

" The church at Birchington stands back about three-quarters of 
a mile from the sea, on slightly rising ground which looks over the 
open land and the sea. It is of grey country flint, built in the twelfth 
or thirteenth century, and restored a few years ago — I thought, 
simply. It is nicely kept, and to-day was full of Easter flowers. It 
has an old grey tower, and grey shingle spire, which went up, as I 
noticed during the ceremony, into a pure blue sky. The church- 
yard is nicely kept too ; it was bright with irises and wallflowers in 
bloom, and close to Gabriel's grave there was a laurestinus and a 
lilac. The grave is on the south side, close to the porch. It was cut 
so clearly it seemed carved out of the chalk. Altogether it was a 
sweet open spot, I thought. 

" At the graveside, wonderful to say, was the old mother, supported 
by William on one side and Christina on the other — a most pathetic 
sight. She was very calm, extraordinarily calm, but whether from 
self-command or the passivity of age I do not know — probably from 
both j but she followed all the proceedings with close interest. Then 
around was a company of about fifteen or twenty • many of them 
friends of yours, and several whom I did not know. The service was 



DEATH AND FUNERAL. 403 

well read by the Vicar. Then we all looked into the resting-place 
of our friend, and thought and felt our last farewells. Many flowers, 
azaleas and primroses, were thrown in. I saw William throw in his 
lily of the valley. This. is all I have to tell you. Sad it was, very 
sad, but simple and full of feeling, and the fresh beauty of the day 
made itself felt with all the rest. I shook hands with William, and 
came away with Mr. Graham. Dear Gabriel, I shall not forget him. 
" I hope you are getting better. Pray remember me to Mrs. 
Scott." 

There are three commemorations of Dante Rossetti — his 
tombstone in Birchington churchyard, the stained-glass in 
the church itself, and the fountain-and-bust monument out- 
side his house in Cheyne Walk. 

The tombstone, an Irish Cross, was designed by Madox 
Brown, and is a work of observable excellence. It bears 
three bas-reliefs — the Temptation in the Garden of Eden, 
the Spiritual Marriage of Dante and Beatrice, and the Death 
of St. Luke, the patron of painters. The inscription, which 
is mine, is thus worded : — 

" Here sleeps Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, honoured, under 
the name of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, among painters as a painter, 
and among poets as a poet. Born in London, of parentage mainly 
Italian, 12 May 1828. Died at Birchington, 9 April 1882. This 
Cruciform Monument, bespoken by Dante Rossetti's mother, was 
designed by his lifelong friend Ford Madox Brown, executed by 
J. and H. Patteson, and erected by his brother William and sister 
Christina." 

The stained-glass window, near the font, was commissioned 
by my mother, and carried out by Shields. It has two lights, 
the first being Rossetti's own design of The Passover in the 
Holy Family, and the second by Shields himself, Christ leading 
the Blind Man out of Bethsaida. 

The monument in Cheyne Walk was erected by a sub- 
scription of friends and admirers, my wife being the chief 
subscriber. The fountain is the design of John Seddon ; 



4^4 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

the bust of Rossetti was executed by Madox Brown in all its 
details, and cast in bronze. 

And so Dante Rossetti rests for ever, in the quiet Kentish 
churchyard, within sight and distant rumour of the waves. 

" Consider the sea's listless chime ; 
Time's self it is, made audible — 
The murmur of the earth's own shell. 
Secret continuance sublime 

Is the sea's end : our sight may pass 
No furlong further. Since time was, 
This sound hath told the lapse of time. 
* # # # 

"As the world's heart, of rest and wrath, 
Its painful pulse is in the sands. 
Last utterly, the whole sky stands, 
Grey and not known, along its path." 



XLIII. 

PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 

So much has been said about Dante Rossetti's character in 
the preceding pages, here and there, and he comes out so 
transparently himself in the Family-letters, that I do not feel 
it necessary to attempt any elaborate portrait of him in 
conclusion. Still, a few words of condensed summary may 
be desirable. 

My brother was essentially a man of the artistic, not the 
ethical, type. From day to day and from year to year his 
mind was occupied much more with ideas of art — and in 
especial how to paint good pictures, and write good poems, 
in both of which efforts he was as fastidious in execution as 
he was free and energetic in invention — than with rigid or 
nice considerations of morals or conduct. None the less, his 
moral sense was just, if somewhat elastic. He prized rectitude, 
disliked and shunned meanness, and understood, and mostly 
conformed to, the fine impulses of honour. He appreciated 
the generous far more than the regulative virtues. It may 
indeed be said that he was replete with generosity of mind, 



PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 405 

feeling, and act. The very core of his character was self-will, 
which easily shelved into wilfulness. As his self-will was 
sustained by very high powers of intellect and of performance, 
he was not only a leader but a dominator all his life long. 
On that footing he was easy and agreeable ; any other footing 
would have been troublesome to himself, and not long to be 
pursued by others. He would do and say odd things, 
unreasonable things, and wrongful things. This was in his 
nature — and, until he was reduced to subjection (not a facile 
performance, nor accomplished by any one), he would persist 
in this, car tel est won vouloir. In thought, deed, manner, 
and speech, there was nothing of the precisian about him 
If there had been somewhat at times, that would have been 
all the better. Not scrupulosity was his, nor moveless fixity 
of principle ; but warmth and breadth of feeling and of 
perception. He was impetuous and impatient, but by no 
means difficult to get on with if one approached him from 
the right side. He could be managed too, but not driven. 
Nothing in him stands clearer to my mind than his total 
freedom from pretence, pretension, attitudinizing, and " tall 
talk." He impressed you certainly as a man of genius, but 
not in the least as one who made his genius his stalking- 
horse. People of all kinds liked him, and, on seeing him 
close, loved him. And I could not fix upon one who 
genuinely disliked him, though there were assuredly several 
who got ruffled and angry, and of these some may even, on 
occasion, have dogged him with a certain animosity. 

I have sometimes heard it suggested that Dante Rossetti 
was " a spoilt child " ; but on this score I must acquit our 
parents of blame. He was reasonably and heedfully trained 
to whatsoever is of good report. His tendencies, for good 
or evil, were innate, and developed according to the circum- 
stances of his life. His faults were his own. He neither 
would nor could be a leopard without leopardine spots. To 
avoid being a jackal or a hyaena was what he could do, and 
that he did. 

No better portrait of my brother has been given, I think, 



406 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

than that by the Reverend Canon Richard Watson Dixon, 
which appears in Mr. Caine's book — possibly a too fully 
laudatory portrait. Rossetti, writing to Caine towards 1880, 
described the Canon as " an admirable but totally unknown 
living poet. His finest passages are as fine as any living man 
can do." The Canon is now not " totally unknown " as a 
poet, but still is less known than he ought to be. I will 
extract from his narrative what serves my present purpose. 

" My knowledge of Dante Gabriel Rossetti was begun in connexion 
with the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, a monthly periodical 
which was started in January 1856. Rossetti contributed to it The 
JBtirden of Nineveh, The Blessed Damozel, and The Staff and Scrip. 
The Staff and Scrip is, in my judgment, the finest of all Rossetti's 
poems, and one of the most glorious writings in the language. 
It exhibits in flawless perfection the gift that he had above all 
other writers — absolute beauty and pure action. I saw Rossetti 
for the first time in his lodgings over Blackfriars Bridge. It was 
impossible not to be impressed with the freedom and kindness of 
his manner, not less than by his personal appearance. His frank 
greeting, bold but gentle glance — his whole presence — produced 
a feeling of confidence and pleasure. His voice had a great charm, 
both in tone and from the peculiar cadences that belonged to it. I 
chink that the leading features of his character struck me more at 
first than the characteristics of his genius ; or rather that my notion 
of the character of the man was formed first, and was then applied 
to his works, and identified with them. The main features of his 
character were, in my apprehension, fearlessness, kindliness, a 
decision that sometimes made him seem somewhat arbitrary, and 
condensation or concentration. He was wonderfully self-reliant. 
These moral qualities, guiding an artistic temperament as exquisite 
as was ever bestowed on man, made him what he was — the greatest 
inventor of abstract beauty, in form and colour, that this age, 
perhaps that the world, has seen. They would also account for 
some peculiarities that must be admitted in some of his works — 
want of Nature, for instance. I heard him once remark that it was 
' astonishing how much the least bit of Nature helped if one put it 
in ' ; which seemed like an acknowledgment that he might have 
gone more to Nature. Hence, however, his works always seem 



PERSONAL DETAILS — EXTRACTS. 407 

abstract, always seem to embody some kind of typical aim, and 
acquire a sort of sacred character. 

" I saw a good deal of Rossetti in London, and afterwards in 
Oxford during the painting of the Union Debating-room. I saw 
him occasionally almost to the time of his lamented death. My 
recollection of him is that of greatness, as might be expected of one 
of the few who have been ' illustrious in two arts,' and who stands 
by himself and has earned an independent name in both. His work 
was great ; the man was greater. His conversation had a wonderful 
ease, precision, and felicity of expression. He produced thoughts 
perfectly enunciated with a deliberate happiness that was indescri- 
bable ; though it was always simple conversation, never haranguing or 
declamation. He was a natural leader because he was a natural 
teacher. When he chose to be interested in anything that was 
brought before him, no pains were too great for him to take. His 
advice was always given warmly and freely, and, when he spoke of 
the works of others, it was always in the most generous spirit of 
praise. It was in fact impossible to have been more free from 
captiousness, jealousy, envy, or any other form of pettiness, than 
this truly noble man. The great painter who first took me to him 
[Burne-Jones, I have no doubt] said, ' We shall see the greatest 
man in Europe.' I have it on the same authority that Rossetti 's 
aptitude for art was considered amongst painters to be no less 
extraordinary than his imagination. For example, that he would 
take hold of the extremity of the brush, and be as certain of his 
touch as if it had been held in the usual way ; that he never painted 
a picture without doing something in colour that had never been 
done before ; and in particular that he had a command of the 
features of the human face such as no other painter ever possessed. 
I also remember some observations by the same assuredly competent 
judge to the effect that Rossetti might be set against the great 
painters of the fifteenth century [rather perhaps the sixteenth ?], as 
equal to them though unlike them ; the difference being that, while 
they represented the characters whom they painted, in their ordinary 
and unmoved mood, he represented his characters under emotion, 
and yet gave them wholly. It may be added perhaps that he had a 
lofty standard of beauty of his own invention, and that he both 
elevated and subjected all to beauty. Such a man was not likely 
to be ignorant of the great root of power in art ; and I once saw 
him very indignant on hearing that he had been accused of irreligion, 



408 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

or rather of not being a Christian. He asked with great earnestness, 
' Do not my works testify to my Christianity ? ' " 

This last detail is interesting. I should like to know what 
date it applies to. That my brother was a strict doctrinal 
Christian is not a fact ; but he had an earnest reverence for a 
Christian ideal, and a delight in Christian legend and symbol, 
and an antipathy to mere arid or disputatious negation. If 
he had been " accused of not being a Christian," in such a 
sense as to imply that he reviled the religion, and dissociated 
himself from it root and branch, I can well understand that 
he may have gone rather to an opposite extreme in repelling 
the imputation. On the general bearings of this matter I 
have already had something to say. 

Mr. Joseph Knight aptly observes, " To be his friend was 
in a sense to be his disciple." He found Rossetti " essentially 
virile and robust, a little stubborn, and dogmatic in tone — 
joyous if not absolutely mirthful." 1 question however 
whether the epithet " dogmatic " hits the mark exactly. I 
should prefer " determined," or even " peremptory." Rossetti 
was always wont to deal in concretes, and not in theoretic 
system. " In his youth especially," says Mr. Coventry 
Patmore, "he had the sweet and easy courtesy peculiar to 
his nation " — i.e., the Italian nation. This I think correct ; 
and in fact I must always regard my brother — spite of some 
ultra-John-Bullish opinions and ways — as more an Italian 
than an Englishman— Italian in temper of mind, in the quasi- 
restriction of his interest to the beautiful and the passionate, 
in disregard of those prejudices and conventions which we 
call " Philistine," in general tone of moral perception. And 
yet he was mentally very far from being like his Italian father, 
and was wholly unlike his Italian grandfather.— And now for 
a few words from Mr. Watts x : — 

" Even at the time Mr. Caine depicts, when Rossetti was ill, his 
intellectual brilliance showed as little real abatement as did his 

1 From his article The Truth about Rossetti, in The Nineteenth Century, 
March 188^. 



PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 409 

genius. Late in the night, when the exhaustion of production was 
recovered from, he would, even to the last, brighten up into his old 
self— a self that had hardly a match, I should imagine, among his 
contemporaries. The rapidity of his perceptive powers was some- 
times bewildering. Before his interlocutor had well begun his 
sentence, Rossetti had taken in the idea, and was ready with his 
answer ; an answer clothed always in language so apt and so perfect 
that no after-revision could have improved it. His wit, though not 
abundant and not of ' the rarest water,' was quite unique. It 
always had an intellectual basis, and seemed a singular combination 
of those real analogies sought by the logician and the superficial and 
fanciful analogies which are the quest of the mere wit." 

To my brother's appearance I have referred casually in 
some preceding pages, and I shall add but little now. As in 
mind, so in body, he looked to me rather Italian than English, 
though many persons entertained a contrary notion. Mr. 
Knight (as we have seen) thinks that he was fairly like 
Salvini, and so do I ; and I remember that Hueffer, on 
returning from an Italian trip towards 1872, told me that, 
rather to his surprise, he had found the type of my brother's 
face to be a very usual, almost a commonplace, one in Italy — 
an opinion to which I assent, with a certain demur. My 
brother became eventually — not in boyhood and youth — 
something like our father, yet not in such a way as would 
have struck an ordinary eye. His complexion, 1 clear and 
warm, was also dark — not dusky or sombre. The hair was 
dark, and somewhat silky ; the full-sized eyes blueish-grey ; 
the brow grandly spacious and solid ; the mouth moderately 
well-shaped, but with a rather thick and unmoulded under- 
lip ; the chin unremarkable ; the line of the jaw, narrow and 
rather tapering in youth, was, after youth had passed, full, 
rounded, and sweeping ; the ear well-formed, and rather small 

1 Some of these items of description are repeated, without much modifica- 
tion, from my Preface to Dante Rossetti's Collected Works; being true 
there, they must be equally true here, and I need not beat about the bush 
to vary them. Other telling details were given by Mr. Holman Hunt, as 
in Section XXX. 



4 TO DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

than large. His bands and feet were small ; the hands quite 
in character for an artist or author — white, delicate, plump, 
and soft as a woman's. Miss Caine correctly notices that he 
had a rather fidgeting habit of nicking (she says " cracking," 
but I think that less accurate) his right thumb-nail with the 
nail of the first finger ; also a habit of shaking very rapidly, 
and for long whiles together, the foot of one leg crossed over 
the other. His general aspect was compact and determined, 
with the facial expression of a fiery and dictatorial mind 
concentrated into repose. Some people regarded him as 
eminently handsome, and no one could call him other than 
a well-looking noticeable man. In habit of body he was more 
than sufficiently indolent and lounging (" lolling about, and 
behaving like a seal on a sandbank," as Smetham expressively 
worded it), disinclined to any prescribed or trying exertion, 
yet not at all wanting in active promptitude whenever it 
suited his liking. He often seemed merely unoccupied, 
especially of an evening ; the brain continued busy enough. 
A reader, to be sure, he was, but not a great reader. 

" Unto the man of yearning thought 
And aspiration, to do nought 
Is in itself almost an act, — 
Being chasm-fire and cataract 
Of the soul's utter depths unsealed. 
Yet woe to thee if once thou yield 
Unto the act of doing nought." 

Various writers will have it that Rossetti cared nothing for 
the beauties of Nature — was indifferent to scenery etc. I 
think this an exaggeration. Italians however are not, as a 
rule, so minute in observation of scenery, so full of " gush " 
over hills and trees, so Wordsworthian in co-ordinating 
phenomena and emotion, as some English people have 
become : the Italians are open rather to the total impression 
of a scene — whether it is cheerful, gloomy, homely, sublime, 
or what not. In this relation again I consider my brother to 
have been much more Italian than English. To the beauties 
pf Nature he was not insensitive, but he was incurious, and 



PERSONAL DETAILS — EXTRACTS. 4II 

he valued them more as being so much fuel to the fire of the 
soul than as being objects of separate regard and analysis. 
For him the Human Being was always the Lord of Creation 
— the recipient and transformer and transmitter of the natural 
influences. That he cared very little for descriptive poetry is 
perfectly true — and just on that account ; that it exhibits and 
extols objects instead of turning them into the " medium 
of exchange " between the material world and the soul. Still 
he saw for himself several things in Nature, both in mass and 
in detail ; and his work in painting and in poetry testifies 
no less. 

Rossetti took no part, and belonged to no party, in politics. 
He had ideas, and applied them to national as well as other 
problems ; but he paid no attention at all to the hourly and 
yearly scuffle over questions of practical legislation and 
administration, whether in this country or in others. He 
liked enlightenment, justice, and mercy, in public affairs ; he 
disliked obtuseness, oppression, injustice, and ruthlessness. 
I cannot call him either Liberal or Conservative, in the 
current acceptation of those terms. He could see that there 
was right in liberty, and right in conservation. In British 
politics he was neutral ; in Italian politics — apart from a 
general conviction that there was no reason why Austrians 
should, as in the days of his youth, be lording it over Italians 
— he was neutral also. And so in relation to other nations. 
I can recollect one instance — there may have been others, but 
certainly few — in which he expressed a decided opinion upon 
a foreign national transaction. It was when all the hubbub 
arose as to the shooting of Maximilian, the so-called Emperor 
of Mexico. He asked me what it was all about ; and I feel 
pretty sure that the whole affair came new to him. I ex- 
plained to him that Maximilian was an Austrian prince whom 
Napoleon III., for reasons of his own, had imposed upon the 
Mexican Republic as an Emperor ; that Maximilian, in this 
character, made military expeditions against Mexican Re- 
publicans, and shot them when caught ; and that the ousted 
Mexican President, Juarez, finally caught Maximilian, and 



412 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

shot him as well. My brother replied, " I think it was just," 

an opinion which entirely coincided with my own. Mr. 
Caine's impression is that "It would be wrong to say that 
he was wholly indifferent to important political issues, of 
which he took often a very judicial view." And indeed I 
think that, if Rossetti had been at the pains of forming and 
formulating opinions on current questions of policy, they 
would frequently have been found correct after the lapse of 
a few years. 

1 shall now proceed to give from various sources some of 
his most marked observations on divers subjects. It would 
perhaps be of little use to classify them, beyond a rough 
division into those which relate respectively to fine art, to 
literature, and to other topics. My extracts are of course 
faithful, but they are frequently much curtailed. 

Fine Art. — Mr. Holman Hunt says with regard to the early 
days in the Cleveland Street studio : — 

" We spoke of the improvement of design in household objects — 
furniture, curtains, and interior decorations — and dress ; of how we 
would exercise our skill, as the early painters had done, not in one 
branch of art only, but in all. For sculpture, Rossetti in private 
expressed little regard. He professed admiration for the minds of 
many men engaged in it ; but he could scarcely understand their 
devotion to work which seemed, in modern hands, so cold and 
meaningless, and which was so limited in its power of illustration. 
He confessed however that so far he had not thought of it enough. 
Music he regarded as positively offensive " [and I regret to allow 
that he never much receded from this narrowness of view in relation 
to abstract or elaborate music, though he could enjoy an opera, or a 
simple tuneable song]. 

Mr. Caine reports : — 

" I asked if his work usually took much out of him in physical 
energy. ' Not my painting, certainly,' he replied, ' though in early 
years it tormented me more than enough. Now I paint by a set of 
unwritten but clearly-defined rules, which I could teach to any man 
as systematically as you can teach arithmetic' " 



PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 413 

In Paris, in 1864, he was much delighted with the paintings 
of Millet, who was not then of the world-wide fame which he 
afterwards attained ; and he spoke of this name, in writing to 
Mr. George Rae, as " curiously identical with that of our best 
English painter." 
. Mr. Sharp says : — 

" I once asked him how he would reply to the asseveration that he 
was the head of the ' Art-for-Art's-sake ' school ; and his response 
was to the effect that the principle of the phrase was two-thirds 
absolutely correct, and one-third so essentially wrong that it negatived 
the whole as an aphorism." 

From letters to Mr. Scott, 1871 : — 

" Your sorrows in connexion with that infernal word quaint recall 
my own. Only quite lately I had it revived by a friendly critic on 
my work, though a lapse of years had occurred since I last heard 
it in such relation, and I had hoped it and I had parted company. 
However, it will be ' in at the death ' with both of us. Good God, 
I cannot see the faintest trace of this adjective in either of your 
etchings which you mention. By the bye, on this point I have 
always meant, and always forgotten, to ask if you noticed an 
astounding controversy raised in Notes and Queries about a wretched 
little daub of mine called Greensleeves. Bad the thing is, probably 
enough ; but how it should suggest to any human mind the maniacal 
farrago conjured up in these letters is incomprehensible, except as 
revealing to one the degree to which the world considers oneself 
insane. 1 On reading them my brain whirled, and I sent to Agnew 

1 The utterances in Notes and Queries about Greensleeves are certainly 
surprising enough. They begin on 3 June 1871. A lady, M. M. C, had 
seen the picture in Messrs. Agnew's Exhibition in Manchester. She was 
fascinated by it, but could not make it out, as one hand of the personage 
seemed to be living, and the rest of her figure dead. She got a friend to 
write on the subject to Notes and Queries. He conjectured that the living 
hand must be touching emblems of the lady's lover, while the rest of her 
figure indicated a state of suspended vitality. In a later number, 29 July, 
Mr. William Chappell opined that as a "Greensleeves" was, in Tudor 
times, a sort of demirep, the lady pictured by Rossetti was meant to have 
" one side fair, and the other on the verge of the grave." 



414 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTL 

for the thing, to see if it bore any internal explanation with it. It 
seemed a poor daub when examined, but certainly innocent of the 
special enormities charged to it. However, once having laid hands 
on it, I gave it a good daubing all over, and transmogrified it so 
completely (title and all) as to separate it for ever, I hope, from this 
Bedlam correspondence — which, by-the-bye, I find revived this 
week, to end God knows when or where. ... It would really be 
worth your while one day, if you keep Notes and Queries, to look 
back at the first of these Greensleeves letters : it would enlarge your 
ideas as to the gaping astonishment and perverse misconstruction 
of which we were writing lately." 

Again, 1871 : — 

"Your article on Leys takes, I think, quite the true view, and is 
equal to its important theme. However, I am not sure that you 
dwell quite strongly enough on the fascination which Leys's intensity 
as antiquarian and colourist gives him even to the most ideal class 
of poetic minds— though, as you say, it be quite questionable 
whether there were any absolute poetry in his springs of action. I 
am much concerned to find that you have alluded in no way 
whatever to Wiertz, whose works I never saw (with one large excep- 
tion, quite noteworthy enough to increase curiosity), but who, I am 
sure, must have been the greatest mental genius (except Leys in his 
very different walk) whom they [the existing Belgian school] have 
had yet." 

Phrases reported by Mr. Shields : — ■ 

" The man who, on seeing a work with claims to regard, does not 
perceive its beauties before its faults, is a conceited fool. I am 
ashamed to belong to a profession in which the possession of 
intellect is rather a disqualification than an advantage. The men 
of imagination in England have always been as a persecuted sect." 

Literature. — From a letter to Mr. Caine : — 

1 ' Surely you are strong enough to be English pure and simple. 
I am sure I could write ico essays (I once did project a series 
under the title, Essays written in the Intervals of Elephantiasis, 
Hydrophobia. a?id Penal Servitude) without once experiencing 
the ' aching void ' which is filled by such words as myt/wpceic and 



personal details — extracts. . 415 

anthropomorphism. I do not find life long enough to know in the 
least what they mean. They are both very long and very ugly 
indeed — the latter only suggesting to me a Vampire or Somnam- 
bulant Cannibal. To speak rationally — would not 'man-evolved 
Godhead ' be an English equivalent ? [This shows that my brother 
did really not accurately know what anthropomorphism means.] 
Simple English, in prose-writing and in all narrative poetry (how- 
ever monumental language may become in abstract verse), seems to 
me a treasure not to be foregone in favour of German innovations." 
[The context relieves Rossetti from the suspicion that he could have 
supposed the two impugned words to be of Teutonic stock.] 

From another letter to Mr. Caine : — 

" I wrote the tale of Hand and Soul (with the exception of an 
opening page or two) all in one night in December 1849, beginning 
I suppose about 2 a.m., and ending about 7. In such a case a 
landscape and sky all unsurmised open gradually in the mind — a 
sort of spiritual Turner, among whose hills one ranges and in whose 
waters one strikes out at unknown liberty. But I have found this 
only in nightlong work, which I have seldom attempted, for it leaves 
one entirely broken ; and this state was mine when I described the 
like of it at the close of the story, how long ago ! " 

Mr. Caine observes : — 

" ' The three greatest English imaginations,' he would sometimes 
add, ' are Shakespear, Coleridge, and Shelley.' I have heard him 
give a fourth name, Blake. He thought Wordsworth was too much 
the high-priest of Nature to be her lover." [Shelley has implied 
much the same in his admirable Peter Bell the Third — a poem 
which my brother read for the first time in 1880; and he then 
expressed to me his astonishment at its brilliant handling of a theme 
so little Shelleyan.] 

Again from letters to Mr. Caine : — 

" You must take care to be on the right tack about Chatterton. 
I am very glad to find the gifted Oliver Madox Brown already an 
embryo classic, as I always said he would be ; but those who com- 
pare nett results in such cases cannot know what criticism means. 
Oliver was the product of the most teeming hotbeds of art and 



416 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

literature. Moreover Chatterton, at his death, was two years 
younger than Oliver ; a whole lifetime of advancement at that age 
frequently — indeed always, I believe, in leading cases. ... I must 
protest finally about Chatterton that he lacks nothing, because lack- 
ing the gradual growth of the emotional in literature which becomes 
evident in Keats— still less its excess, which would of course have 
been pruned, in Oliver. In the matter of Oliver (whom no one 
appreciates more than I do), remember it was impossible to have 
more opportunities than he had, or on the other side fewer than 
Chatterton had." 

I recur to Mr. Caine's narrative : — 

" Reverting to my enquiry as to whether his work took much out 
of him, he remarked that his poetry usually did. ' In that respect,' 
he said, ' I am the reverse of Swinburne. For his method of pro- 
duction inspiration is indeed the word. With me the case is 
different. I lie on the couch, the racked and tortured medium, 
never permitted an instant's surcease of agony until the thing on 
hand is finished.' It was obvious that what Rossetti meant by 
being racked and tortured was that his subject possessed him. 
Assuredly impulse was, to use his own phrase, fully developed in his 
Muse. [I fancy my brother's very strong expressions were a little 
overstrained, partly to give glory to Mr. Swinburne by contrast. I 
never witnessed such " agony," nor heard him speak of it. His 
sonnet The Song-throe however proves how deeply impressed he 
was with the conviction that, in order to move his reader, the poet 
must himself be moved.] ' One benefit I do derive,' Rossetti 
added, ' as a result of my method of composition. My work becomes 
condensed. Probably the man does not live who could write what 
I have written more briefly than I have done. All poetry, that is 
really poetry, affects me deeply, and often to tears. It does not 
need to be pathetic or yet tender to produce such a result.' " 

From letters from Rossetti to Caine, in reference to that 
gentleman's proposed volume, Sonnets of Three Centuries : — 

" Sonnets of mine could not appear in any book which contained 
such rigid rules as to rhyme as are contained in Watts's letter. 
[Rossetti was afterwards satisfied that Watts had not intended the 
degree of rigidity here supposed.] I neither follow them, nor agree 



PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 417 

with them as regards the English language. Every sonnet-writer 
should show full capability of conforming to them in many instances ; 
but never to deviate from them in English must pinion both 
thought and diction, and (mastery once proved) a series gains 
rather than loses by such varieties as do not lessen the only absolute 
aim — that of beauty. The English sonnet, too much tampered 
with, becomes a sort of bastard madrigal ; too much, invariably, 
restricted, it degenerates into a shibboleth. I would not be too 
anxious, were I you, about anything, in choice of sonnets, except 
the brains and the music. It would not be at all found that my 
best sonnets are always in the mere form which I think the best. 
The question with me is regulated by what I have to say. You 
have much too great a habit of speaking of a special octave, 
sestett, or line. Conception, my boy, fundamental brain-work — that 
is what makes the difference in all art. Work your metal as much 
as you like, but first take care that it is gold and worth working. 
A Shakespearean sonnet is better than the most perfect in form 
because Shakespear wrote it." 

From a letter (apparently) addressed by Rossetti to Mr. 
William Sharp : — 

" Above all ideal personalities with which the poet must learn 
to identify himself there is one supremely real which is the most 
imperative of all — namely, that of his reader. And the practical 
watchfulness needed for such assimilation is as much a gift and 
instinct as is the creative grasp of alien character. It is a spiritual 
contact hardly conscious yet ever renewed, and which must be 
a part of the very act of production. . . . The quality of finish in 
poetic execution is of two kinds. The first and highest is that when 
the work has been all mentally ' cartooned,' as it were, beforehand, 
by a process intensely conscious but patient and silent — an occult 
evolution of life." 

From a letter to Scott, 1853 : — 

"The Life-drama [of Alexander Smith] has nothing particular 
to say, except that it seems to bear vaguely towards the favourite 
doctrine that scoundrelism is a sacred probation of the soul. But I 

VOL. I. 27 



41 8 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

find this everywhere. I am reading Wilhelm Meister, where the 
hero's self-culture is a great process, amusing and amazing one. 
On one page he is in despair about some girl he has been the death 
of; in the next you are delighted with his enlarged views of 
Hamlet. Nothing, plainly, is so fatal to the duty of self-culture as 
self-sacrifice, even to the measure of a grain of mustard-seed. The 
only other book I have read for more than a year is St. Augustine's 
Confessions, and here you have it again. As soon as the Saint is 
struck by the fact that he has been wallowing, and inducing others 
to wallow, it is all horrible together, but involves no duty, except 
the comfortable self-appeasement of getting out of it for himself. 
As for the women, no doubt they are nascent for hell." 

From another letter to Scott, 1871 : — 

" Browning's poem, Balaustion's Adventure, looks alarming before- 
hand. I have written to have it sent me, when out. However, no 
doubt there will be plenty to admire and enjoy. Browning seems 
Ikely to remain, with all his sins, the most original and varied mind, 
by long odds, which betakes itself to poetry in our time." 

Again, 1871 : — 

" Another happy man, after all, seems to be Allingham, for all 
his want of 'success.' Nothing but the most absolute calm and 
enjoyment of outside Nature could account for so much gadding 
hither and thither on the soles of his two feet. Fancy carrying 
about grasses for hours and days from the field where Burns ploughed 
up a daisy ! Good God, if I found the daisy itself there, I would 
sooner swallow it than be troubled to carry it twenty yards. ... I 
hardly ever do produce a sonnet except on some basis of special 
momentary emotion. But I think there is another class admissible 
also, and that is the only other I practise — viz., the class depending 
on a line or two clearly given you, you know not whence, and 
calling up a sequence of ideas. This also is a just raison d'etre 
for a sonnet ; and such are all mine when they do not in some 
sense belong to the ' occasional ' class. As for Commandments 
[the poem now called Soothsay], the three verses came into my 
head during a walk, and I think of carrying it further probably — 



PERSONAL DETAILS— EXTRACTS. 419 

only such-like verses do not interest me much. ... I had some 
painting task-work to do, and have set about a little, not task-work, 
also ; and these have kept me from the other Muse, who, I believe, 
after all is my true mistress. I am sure, when one has once got used 
to brush-work, one cannot somehow do without it." 

To Mr. Gosse, 1873 :— 

" It seems to me that all poetry, to be really enduring, is bound 
to be as amusing (however trivial the word may sound) as any other 
class of literature ; and I do not think that enough amusement to 
keep it alive can ever be got out of incidents not amounting to 
events, or out of travelling-experiences of an ordinary kind, however 
agreeably, observantly, or even thoughtfully treated. I would 
eschew in writing all themes that are not so trenchantly individu- 
alized as to leave no margin for discursiveness." 

Oliver Madox Brown, writing to his father from Kelmscott 
in 1874, reports : — 

" Rossetti seems in a wonderfully good temper at present. He 
has had several long discussions with me on the subject of novel- 
writing, from which I see plainly that he has great facility of ex- 
pression, but that he would be a dangerous preceptor. Thackeray 
he will hardly hear the name of; George Eliot is vulgarity personi- 
fied ; Balzac is melodramatic in plot, conceited, wishywashy, and 
dull. Dumas is the one great and supreme man, the sole descendant 
of Shakespear." 

These are slightly surprising utterances, and I am sure they 
lost nothing, in the way of downrightness, at the hands of 
their reporter. That my brother, in his maturer manhood, 
read Dumas with vastly more zest than the other three 
novelists named, is decidedly true : that he here made a 
mistake is, to some others besides myself, by no means 
obvious. Thackeray, I consider, he always valued within 
certain limitations ; perhaps he hardly read him at all after 
1855 to 1858 or thereabouts. I scarcely know why — or 
whether — he regarded George Eliot as " vulgarity personified." 



420 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

He may have thought that there was in her a considerable 
infusion of the commonplace tempering the stuck-up ; and 
I remember that, when Romola first appeared, he spoke of 
it to me as totally misapprehending the moral temper of 
those times — which (but I never read the romance) is probably 
true. Balzac he most highly admired from certain points 
of view, and he certainly rated him as one of the most 
intellectual and deep-probing men of our age : yet he may, 
in a one-sided mood, have been prepared to apply to his 
writings the epithets set forth by Oliver Brown, with the 
possible exception of " wishywashy." 

From a letter to James Smetham, consequent on his review 
of Alexander Smith (in the London Quarterly Review), 1868 : — 

" I was equally delighted with what you say about DobelPs 
Keith l of Ravelston — not only because you have so flatteringly 
lugged-in my name in connexion with it, but because I have always 
regarded that poem as being one of the finest, of its length, in any 
modern poet — ranking with Keats's La Belle Dame sans Merci, 
and the other masterpieces of the condensed and hinted order 
so dear to imaginative minds. What a pity it is that Dobell 
generally insists on being so long-winded, when he can write like 
that ! There is a snatch of sea-song (about the Betsy Jane) in 
Balder which is fifty times as good as anything in Dibdin, who 
is nevertheless not contemptible." 

Two notes from my Diary, May 1869 and December 
1879:- 

" Gabriel has written several new sonnets. His practice with 
poetry is first to write the thing in the rough, and then to turn over 
dictionaries of rhymes and synonyms so as to bring the poem into 

1 Some persons seem to suppose that Rossetti took his surname 
" Keith" in Sister Helen from Dobell's Keith of Ravelston (in which, had 
he done it, there could be no harm) ; but in fact Sister Helen was written 
— I think it was even published — before Dobell s admirable ballad was 
in print. 



PERSONAL DETAILS — EXTRACTS. 421 

the most perfect form. . . . Gabriel's view of the subject-matter of 
my Lectures, The Wives of Poets, is that those poets who have 
been happy with their wives were, although truly poets in perform- 
ance, personally of an unpoetic character, conventionally compliant 
etc. — such as Wordsworth and Walter Scott." 

General Subjects. — From letters from Rossetti to Caine, 
following an offer from the latter to dedicate to him a 
Lecture On the Relation of Politics to Art :• — 

" I must admit, at all hazards, that my friends here consider me 
exceptionally averse to politics ; and I suppose I must be, for I 
never read a Parliamentary Debate in my life. At the same time 
I will add that, among those whose opinions I most value, some 
think me not altogether wrong when I venture to speak of the 
momentary momentousness and eternal futility of many noisiest 
questions. However, you must simply view me as a nonentity in 
any practical relation to such matters. You have spoken but too 
generously of a sonnet of mine, in your Lecture just received 
[this must be the sonnet On Refusal of Aid between Nations]. I 
have written a few others of the sort (which by-the-bye would not 
prove me a Tory), but felt no vocation — perhaps no right — to print 
them. I have always reproached myself as sorely amenable to the 
condemnations of a very fine poem by Barberino, On Sloth against 
Sin, which I translated in the Dante volume. Sloth, alas, has but 
too much to answer for with me ; and is one of the reasons (though 
I will not say the only one) why I have always fallen back on 
quality instead of quantity in the little I have ever done. Volition 
is vain without vocation ; and I had better really stick to knowing 
how to mix vermilion and ultramarine for a flesh-grey, and how 
to manage their equivalents in verse. To speak without sparing 
myself — my mind is a childish one if to be isolated in Art is child's 
play. ... I have been thinking yet more on the relations of politics 
and art. I do think seriously on consideration that not only my 
own sluggishness, but vital fact itself, must set to a great extent 
a veto against the absolute participation of artists in politics. When 
has it ever been effected? True, Cellini was a bravo, and David 
a good deal like a murderer ; and in these qualities they were not 
without their political use in very turbulent times." 



422 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

To Mr. Scott, apropos of the poem Cloud Confines, 1871 : — 

" I cannot suppose that any particle of life is extinguished, 
though its permanent individuality may be more than questionable. 
Absorption is not annihilation ; and it is even a real retributive 
future for the special atom of life to be re-embodied (if so it were) 
in a world which its own former identity x had helped to fashion for 
pain or pleasure." 

To Mr. Smetham, 1865 : — 

" I am afraid you will think no better of me for pronouncing the 
commonplace verdict that what you lack is simply ambition — i.e., 
the feeling of pure rage and self-hatred when any one else does 
better than you do. This, in an ambitious mind, leads not to envy 
in the least, but to self-scrutiny on all sides, — and that, to some- 
thing, if anything can. You comfort yourself with other things, 
whereas Art must be its own comforter, or else comfortless." 

To Alexander Gilchrist, 1861, relative to the death of 
Benjamin Woodward, the Architect of the Oxford Museum, — 
also in 1862 to Mrs. Gilchrist on her husband's death : — 

" I must have been the last friend who saw Woodward in 
England, as he called here [14 Chatham Place], after we had long 
been unseen by each other, on his way to the Station, going this 
last time to Paris. I am sitting now in the place, and I think in the 
chair, he sat in — to write this. If I am ever found worthy to meet 
him again, it will be where the dejection is unneeded which I 
cannot but feel at this moment ; for the power of further and better 
work must be the reward bestowed on the deserts and checked 
aspirations of such a sincere soul as his. . . . What can be done 
except to trust to what is surely a natural instinct in all ? — that is, 
that such terrible partings from love and work must be, unless all 
things are a mere empty husk of nothing, a guide to belief in a 
new field of effort, and a second communion with those loved and 
lost." 

1 The word stands printed " ideality " ; but surely that is a mistake. 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET — EXTRACTS. 423 

XLIV. 

ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 

THROUGHOUT the writing of my Memoir no question has 
been more present to my mind than this — whether it would 
or would not behove me to offer in concluding some remarks 
of my own upon the general measure of attainment of Dante 
Rossetti as painter and poet, and upon the quality and value 
of his work in the two arts. Having been a critic of fine 
art and of poetry all my life, I could address myself to the 
task with some degree of self-confidence ; and I can safely 
say that my praise would be less extreme, and my strictures 
not less frank, than those of some other writers on the subject. 
But finally I have decided to abstain altogether, and to leave 
readers to surmise for themselves the opinions which one 
brother, of very minor pretensions, entertains of another who 
has made a considerable figure in the records of his time. 
I shall limit myself to extracting a few observations from the 
large amount of writing of which Dante Rossetti has been 
the subject — writing done in some instances by the men who 
themselves stand foremost as painters or as poets. Of opinions 
unvouched by the author's name I shall take no count, 
though some of these also are well known, to myself and to 
others, to emanate from persons of the highest qualifications. 
I do not, in my extracts, omit some comments much less 
than eulogistic ; but I do omit such abuse as that of Mr. 
Robert Buchanan (long ago recanted by himself), and such 
theoretic depreciation as that of Herr Max Nordau. 

Fine Art. — From the speech of Sir Frederick Leighton, 
P.R.A., at the banquet of the Royal Academy, 1882 : — 

" The other [he had already said something about John Linnell, 
then also recently deceased] was a strangely interesting man, who, 
living in almost jealous seclusion as far as the general world was 
concerned, wielded nevertheless at one period of his life [at all 
periods might well have been said] a considerable influence in the 



424 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

world of Art and Poetry — Dante Gabriel Rossetti, painter and 
poet. A mystic by temperament and right of birth, and steeped l in 
the Italian literature of the middle age, his works in either art are 
filled with a peculiar fascination and fervour, which attracted to him, 
from those who enjoyed his intimacy, a rare degree of admiring 
devotion." 

The Royal Scottish Academy passed the following resolu- 
tion, 1882. Probably Sir Noel Paton could say of its terms, 
" Quorum pars magna fui " : — 

" The Council have heard with much regret of the death, on 
Sunday last, of Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose many-sided and 
original genius and high accomplishments, not only as a painter 
but as a poet also, have shed a lustre on the artistic profession. 
From his super-sensitive aversion to exhibitions, his thoughtful and 
imaginative pictures are but little known to the general public ; 
but his influence on contemporary English art has confessedly been 
very great, while that of his poetry has been more widely and 
markedly felt. Probably few artists of more distinct individuality 
and intellectual force ever appeared; and his removal in the full 
maturity of his power cannot but be regarded as a heavy loss to 
art and literature." 

Holman Hunt — with regard to Rossetti at the outset of 
Prseraphaelitism : — 

" Rossetti, with his spirit alike subtle and fiery, was essentially 
a proselytizer, sometimes to an almost absurd degree, but possessed, 
alike in his poetry and painting, with an appreciation of beauty of 
the most intense quality." 

Frederic G. Stephens : — 

"Excepting one or two later works of the master, where sentiment 
of a more exalted sort, as in Proserpina, inspired the designs, The 
Beloved appears to me to be the finest production of his genius. 
Of his skill, in the high artistic sense, implying the vanquishment 

1 Thus printed. But perhaps it ought to run- — " A mystic by temperament, 
and by right of birth steeped in the Italian literature " etc. 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET — EXTRACTS. 425 

of prodigious difficulties — difficulties the greater because of his 
imperfect technical education — there cannot be two opinions as 
to the pre-eminence of Mr. Rae's magnificent possession. It in- 
dicates the consummation of Rossetti's powers in the highest order 
of modern art, and is in perfect harmony with that poetical inspira- 
tion which is found in every one of his more ambitious pictures. 
This example can only be called Venetian, because of the splendid 
colouring which obtains in it. The intensity of Venetian art is 
exalted (if that term be allowed) in a modern strain ; while its 
form, coloration, and chiaroscuro, are most subtly devised to 
produce a whole which is thoroughly harmonized and entirely self- 
sustained. Of how few modern instances could this be said ! 
Rossetti's Beloved is in English art what Spenser's gorgeous and 
passionate Epithalamiam is in English verse, and, if not more 
rapturous, it is more compact of sumptuous elements." 

Harry Ouilter : — 

"In an age when painters have few beliefs, and hold those very 
lightly, this man scarcely stirred a step in art except in obedience 
to his own inspiration, and was strong enough, despite all his fail- 
ings, to modify the practices, if he did not actually change the 
creeds, of half the artists of his time. To him Millais owed his 
poetical inspiration, and his most beautiful pictures were painted 
under that influence ; to him Holman Hunt was even more indebted 
[this I think highly disputable, or indeed erroneous] ; from him, 
though soon able to strike out a line for himself, sprang Mr. Burne- 
Jones, fully equipped for the fight, like a second Minerva from the 
brain of a second Jove ; to his early friendship with William Morris 
at Oxford we probably owe the determining influence [also disputable] 
which set the author of The Earthly Paradise on the road to that 
decoration which has changed the look of half the houses in London, 
and substituted art for ugliness all over the kingdom ; and to him 
probably, if we could trace it back, we owe, almost equally with 
Ruskin who defended him, the growth of the feeling that art was 
more than a mere trade, and that an artist has duties to himself 
and his art, as well as to his pocket and his public. In the minds 
of hundreds of young men who never even saw him there lurked 
a satisfaction that down at Chelsea a man was living, painting, and 



426 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

writing, without caring a brass farthing what any one thought of his 
works ; and, though I do not mean to defend the morality or the 
wisdom of such indifference, I do mean to assert that it is the 
one temper that produces good artistic work. The place of his 
painting is even harder to determine [than that of his poetry]. 
Many artists would tell us that it is not painting at all, and from 
one point of view they would be right. But is this really the 
question ? Who shall decide what is and what is not painting, 
if we once leave the broad track of beautiful colour applied to 
a canvas so as to produce a beautiful result ? And, if the decision 
can be made so as to exclude the work of which we are talking, 
we should have to consider whether, if this be not painting, it is 
not something else than painting which we require. It is at all 
events — Art. There is no doubt of that ; and in the best examples 
it possesses three qualities, which it is excessively rare to find in 
combination. It is at once passionate, poetical, and refined, and 
defies the spectator to associate it with ideas of manufacture. 
Such as it is, the work has evidently grown from its author's cha 
racter, like a flower from the earth, and bears scarcely a trace of 
another's influence. As poems in colour, the world has seen 
nothing finer since the days of Titian." 

In this passage Mr. Quilter has spoken strongly of the 
influence produced by Rossetti upon painting and the deco- 
rative forms of art. His influence upon poetry was hardly 
or not at all less considerable. Our two greatest living poets, 
Swinburne and William Morris, allow this ; and I am fully 
of opinion that his early preaching-forth of Browning counted 
in the long run for a great deal. And so with blue china, 
Japanese art, and the modern taste in bookbinding. It may 
to some seem absurd — and yet I believe it to be quite true — 
that he modified for some years the British taste in female 
beauty ; promoting the possessors (or the imitators) of auburn- 
golden hair, those who wore the hair low down on the 
forehead, and the owners of strong-set profiles — rich lips, and 
vigorous chiselled sweep of jaw and chin — also stateliness of 
height and tall throats. " No Roman noses need apply." 
Along with all this went fashions of dress. But of course 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 427 

fashions are fleeting, and there is a new generation which 
" knows not Joseph." It may be said, and I think truly, 
that the actual style of his paintings has not, since his death, 
left any such traces on the British School as might by his 
upholders have been looked for. But Burne-Jones remains 
in the ascendant (long may he so continue !) — and this 
betrays the vestiges of Rossetti. 

Ruskin wrote, in a letter to Rossetti dating probably early 
in 1855 :— 

" It seems to me that, among all the painters I know, you on the 
whole have the greatest genius ; and you appear to me also to be — 
as far as I can make out — a very good sort of person. I see that 
you are unhappy, and that you can't bring out your genius as you 
should. It seems to me then the proper and necessary thing, if I 
can, to make you more happy ; and that I shall be more really 
useful in enabling you to paint properly, and keep your room in 
order, than in any other way." 

James Smetham, towards 1871 :— 

" In two different ways I see and admire the stern toil of Ford 
Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. No one knows what 
work costs these men, and how profitable it is to see their example." 

Frederick J. Shields : — 

" The mere sum of work often accomplished in a day was 
astounding ; for, when once he grappled with his picture, he never, 
when in health, let go his grip till daylight failed him." 

Dr. Hake :— 

" The Manor-house [at Kelmscott] was adequately furnished ; but 
some exquisite chalk-drawings — one especially — of female heads 
gave it a charm. I thought that no one ever could paint a woman's 
eyes like Rossetti. There was a softness, a delicacy, a life, a soul, 
in them, never seen elsewhere but in living beings, and that how 
rarely ! " 



428 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Professor Edouard Rod : — 

"Je ne crois pas qu'on trouverait dans l'histoire des arts un cas 
plus curieux que cette retraite d'un artiste tout jeune, celebre avant 
l'age, doue des facultes les plus exceptionnelles, et qui, pendant plus 
de trente ans, inconnu de la foule, exerca sur une partie conside- 
rable de l'elite intellectuelle de son pays une sorte d'occulte royaute. 
Rossetti a ce trait commun avec les grands peintres de la Renais- 
sance italienne, qu'il s'attache plus a la peinture de Phomme qu'a 
celle de la nature. Mais — et voici ou il est bien du Nord — ce n'est 
pas l'homme physique qui l'attire, 1'animal humain (comme dit 
M. Taine), c'est l'homme interieur. Aussi, dedaigneux des belles 
jormes du corps, ne recherche-t-il que l'expression, et le genre de 
beaute qui peut le mieux la faire ressortir. Ce qu'il y a de religieux 
en lui ce n'est done pas la foi au surnaturel, l'ideal transcendental, 
le besoin d'etablir la vie sur des bases fixes : c'est une disposition 
toute subjective, une faculte tres moderne, l'extase. Ses figures ont 
une immobilite, un silence, une attitude presque suspendue, une 
hesitation lente dans leurs rares mouvements, qui les font ressembler 
a ces figures de reve qui demeurent comme posees devant l'imagina- 
tion, sans cependant se preciser entitlement. Parfois il se plait a, les 
entourer de brillants accessoires, sans que pour cela elles perdent un 
instant leur apparence surnaturelle, le je ne sais quoi qui montre 
qu'elles n'ont pas d'existence reelle — que, meme fixees sur la toile, 
elles sont encore en union profonde et discrete avec Fame de l'artiste. 
Religieux, profanes, mythologiques, les sujets ne sont pour Rossetti 
que des pretextes. Sous des formes diverses, il n'exprime jamais 
que son reve : les attitudes, les traits, les couleurs, changent — et 
c'est toujours lui. Rossetti, d'un bout a l'autre de son oeuvre, 
demeure un pur poete. Son dessin est souvent mediocre, avec des 
fautes evidentes. Presque toutes ses femmes ont des mains trop 
grandes : tres souvent les etoffes qui les drapent paraissent reveler 
d'etranges imperfections physiques — un bras trop court ou une 
epaule rentree. Mais le coloriste fait pardonner les negligences du 
dessinateur. L'art du peintre demeure intact, en dehors de la 
technique, dans cette intensite supreme d'expression qu'il parvient 
a donner a ses figures, sans le secours de grands gestes ni de mouve- 
ments violents. C'est la, me semble-t-il, qu'est la valeur artistique 
des toiles de Rossetti, dont la haute valeur poetique ne supporte 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 429 

aucun doute : il a compris qu'en une epoque toute intellectuelle la 
peinture elle-meme devait obeir au courant general, et poursuivre 
un autre ideal que celui de la forme pure, et que cet ideal ne 
pouvait etre que /'expression. II a vu que l'attitude la plus calme et 
le geste le plus lent sont parfaitement compatibles avec la plus 
grande intensity de la vie interieure ; et il a rendu a Fart des qualites 
qu'il avait perdu depuis la Renaissance." 

Gabriel Mourey : — 

" Au sortir de mes longues haltes devant la divine Beata Beatrix 
et l'enchanteresse Rosa Triplex [both in the National Gallery], apres 
tant de visites a travers tant de galeries privees recelant quelque chef- 
d'oeuvre signe destrois initiales benies [D. G. R.], toujours je me suis 
senti oppresse par le sentiment de Fineluctable impuissance des 
mots a traduire la complexity des sensations, les extatiques vertiges, 
ou venait de me ravir l'irresistible magie de ce genie exceptionnel 
et radieux. Quel poete en effet, quel artiste, parla langage plus 
profond, plus passionne ? Art plein de mystere et d'ardeur, debor- 
dant de melancolie ; art mi-religieux, mi-profane ; art qui atteint les 
limites dernieres de l'expression verbale ou plastique par la seule 
valeur de Fame qu'il reflete (en dehors meme de toute realisation 
technique, parfois incomplete ou avortee) ; art inquietant de com- 
plexite, qui mele, a Finspiration renouvele du plus grand visionnaire 
des temps, Dante, avec telles reminiscences de Fantiquite et d'un 
paganisme lumineux, les inquietudes, les exasperations vers Fideal, 
de Fhomme moderne ; art qui se cree a la fois d'images simples, 
presque na'ives, jaillies d'un cour primitif, voiles de mystere septen- 
trional, parmi la fougue epanchee d'un pur sang latin, et les 
obscurites subtiles d'une nature raffinee d'Anglo-Saxon." 

The following is by G. A. Sartorio, a very capable painter, 
writing in the Italian magazine // Convito. Signor Sartorio 
(so I gather from his article) has seen not many of the 
pictures of Dante Rossetti, but judges of him partly from 
photographs, books, and narratives. I should have regretted 
to omit from my selection some utterance by a fully qualified 
Italian upon his semi-compatriot Rossetti, considered as an 
artist : — 



430 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

"The struggle arose in the Exhibition of 1850. The picture 
which Rossetti contributed was The Annunciation, now in the 
National Gallery. The figure of the Virgin, the true gem of the 
picture, is a very refined figure of a modern Virgin, of child-like 
garb, painted with rare and loving perfection of form. I incline to 
trace the ideal descent of this pure physiognomy, of impeccable 
expression, from the early Flemish paintings, and notably from the 
works of Memling. Just at that period Dante Gabriel had carried 
out his tour in Flanders, and had written his sonnets in The Germ 
on Memling and Bruges ; and, as I find in the art of the Nether- 
lands a considerable portion of the inspiration, not only of the 
Prseraphaelites but of much English art in general, I conceive 
that the almost feminine nature of the genius of D. G. Rossetti 
must necessarily have coalesced with the sentiment of Memling. 
Rossetti, in all his subsequent works, shows himself imbued with 
such sentiment — windows from which are to be seen belfries, close 
gardens, silent canals, fruit-laden plants in damp orchards. The 
turn of such compositions has no precedents in the English School ; 
and the paintings of Rossetti, with veiled and calm light, with a 
pious atmosphere which almost brings into the silence of the 
dwellings the odour of candle and incense, show a clear filiation 
from the sentiment divined from Memling. . . . While Millais 
and Hunt were seeking, in the landscape of Surrey or of Palestine 
copied in the open air, strong but not dusky tones, Rossetti obtained 
them by daring essays in his studio through improvised overlayings 
and continual experiments with the palette, animated by the 
recollection of the brilliant pictures observed in Flanders and in the 
Louvre. From that period began in him the personal evolution. 
Rather than search for his design in the fact, he finds it in his own 
idealisms. Hence, if Hunt may be called the fervid and constant 
adherent of the first [Praeraphaelite] ideal, the evolution in Rossetti, 
who developed his originality by working his brain in pursuit of his 
dreams and his passion, penetrates into the laws of the cinquecento, 
defers to the eclectic of Leonardo, and he becomes (in a strict sense 
of the word) a Raphaelist. Looking to his successive changes of 
style, one can easily perceive how rooted in the artist was a tendency 
to overload his pictures with symbols. The myths and legends 
are outlived by an aesthetic and moral significance, all the deeper 
and more human the more it is devoid of self-regarding creed. 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET — EXTRACTS. 43 I 

Painter and poet, he animates the plastic product with an intimate 
psychological sense ; and his effort, crowned with achievement, has 
greater depth than a continuous and personal perfecting of the 



Literature. — A poet praised by the Author of Atalanta in 
Calydon must have something of the same sensation as a king 
diademed by an emperor ; a fair-minded man — and Dante 
Rossetti was one — loaded and almost assailed by the sublime 
rage of generosity of Algernon Swinburne, may perhaps have 
felt the consciousness of his own blemishes more keenly than 
that of his powers. At any rate his brother can, on his 
behalf, feel something of that. Here are a few words 
extracted from the 29 large pages in which Mr. Swinburne 
testified of the Poems of 1870: — 

"In all great poets there must be an ardent harmony, a heat 
of spiritual life, guiding without constraining the bodily grace of 
motion, which shall give charm and power to their least work ; 
sweetness that cannot be weak, and force that will not be rough. 
There must be an instinct and a resolution of excellence which will 
allow no shortcoming or malformation of thought or word. There 
must also be so natural a sense of right as to make any such 
deformity or defect impossible, and leave upon the work done no 
trace of any effort to avoid or to achieve. It must be serious, 
simple, perfect ; and it must be thus by evident and native impulse. 
In all these points the style of Mr. Rossetti excels that of any 
English poet of our day. Much of Mr. Rossetti's work is so intense 
in aim, so delicate and deep in significance, so exuberant in offshoot 
and undergrowth of sentiment and thought, that even the sweet 
lucidity and steady current of his style may not suffice to save it 
from the charges of darkness and difficulty. He is too great a 
master of speech to incur the blame of hard or tortuous expression ; 
and his thought is too sound and pure to be otherwise dark than 
as a deep wellspring at noon may be, even where the sun is strongest 
and the water brightest. Colour and sound are servants of his 
thought, and his thought is servant of his will. The subject-matter 
of his work is always great and fit; nothing trivial, nothing illicit, 
nothing unworthy the workmanship of a master-hand, is to be swept 



43 2 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

up from any corner of the floor. There is no misuse or waste of 
good work on stuff too light or hard to take the impression of his 
noble style. Among English-speaking poets of his age I know of 
none who can reasonably be said to have given higher proof of the 
highest qualities than Mr. Rossetti — if the qualities we rate highest 
in poetry be imagination, passion, thought, harmony and variety 
of singing-power." 

From Theodore Watts, who is here writing as much about 
Rossetti's fine art and his personality as about his poetry : — 

" In permanence of the romantic feeling, in vitality of belief in 
the power of the unseen, Rossetti stands alone. Even the finest 
portions of his historical ballad The King's Tragedy are those which 
deal with the supernatural. In all matters of taste Rossetti's in- 
fluence has been immense ; it is doubtful whether any other Victorian 
poet has left so deep an impression upon the poetic methods of his 
time. . . . To eliminate asceticism from romantic art, and yet to 
remain romantic ; to retain that mysticism which alone can give 
life to romantic art, and yet to be as sensuous as the Titians who 
revived sensuousness at the sacrifice of mysticism — was the quest, 
more or less conscious, of Rossetti's genius. Throughout his life 
he had taken an interest in only four subjects — poetry, painting, 
mediaeval mysticism, and woman. But then how passionate and 
how deep had been his interest in all these ! There is not one 
love-sonnet in his book which is a merely literary production. He 
was the slave of his own imagination — an imagination of a power 
and dominance such as I have never seen equalled. Of its vividness 
no artistic expression of his can give any notion. He had not the 
smallest command over it." 

Hall Caine : — 

"Rossetti's sonnets are of varied metrical structure; but their 
intellectual structure is uniform, comprising in each case a flow and 
ebb of thought within the limits of a single conception. In this 
latter respect they have a character almost peculiar to themselves 
among English sonnets. Rossetti was not the first English writer 
who deliberately separated octave and sestett ; but he was the first 
who obeyed, throughout a series of sonnets, the canon of the 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 433 

contemporary structure requiring that a sonnet shall present the 
twofold facet of a single thought or emotion. 27ie House of Life 
touches many passions, and depicts life in most of its changeful 
aspects. It would afford an adequate test of its comprehensiveness 
to note how rarely a mind in general sympathy with the author 
could come to its perusal without alighting upon something that 
would be in harmony with its mood." 

Harry Buxton Forman : — 

" It is a great treat to come upon a volume bearing a weight of 
earnestness in every page, and a burden of bestowed care in every 
line ; and such a book must every reader of intelligence find Mr. 
Rossetti's to be, even in a first skimming perusal. From title-page 
to imprint no trivial thing is to be found ; and from first to last 
word of each poem, be it never so small or modest, no syllable can 
be detected standing in its present position without the deliberate 
sanction of the authors thoughtful consideration visibly stamped 
upon it. The whole collection is of that rare order that commands 
immediate admiration, in the occult way wherein an admirable person 
commands it. . . , An artist whose ideas are thus cut out as it were 
with a red-hot blade on his very heart cannot always pick and choose 
his subject; he must often be chosen by his subject; but, whatever 
that be, we may feel sure of large affluent handling, and true human 
tendencies, and just and masculine views of life." 

Joseph Knight : — 

"Taken as a whole, this series of sonnets [The House of Life] 
constitutes, in its class, the greatest gift that poetry has received 
since the days of Shakespear. Individual sonnets as fine as any in 
The House of Life are to be found in Milton, Wordsworth, Mrs. 
Browning, and some other poets. A series such as this — which is 
in fact a life's utterance and a life's story — modern literature does 
not possess. That passages are obscure, and that the sequence of 
idea is not always to be traced, is true. The same however holds 
good of every poem written under similar conditions, and in an 
approximately similar form." 

VOL. I. 2S 



434 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Franz Hueffer : — 

" Rossetti has been called a Literary Poet — a poet writing for 
poets ; and this is true in the sense that his work is never likely 
to become popular, as Mr. Tennyson's work is, and Byron's was, 
popular. For that purpose he lacks the immediate rapport with 
contemporary feeling, and that broad human sympathy which Mr. 
Tennyson alone among living English poets combines with the 
highest degree of literary refinement. Rossetti, as a rule, takes 
refuge among the idealized men and women of a remote age, whose 
thoughts he has fathomed, and whose very language has to some 
extent become his own. Hence the tone of the popular mediaeval 
ballad struck with rare power in The -King's Tragedy. Even Rossetti's 
warmest admirers would hardly have given him credit for the power 
to grapple with a historical subject displayed in this remarkable 
work — perhaps his masterpiece in narrative poetry, even as Cloud- 
Confines is his highest effort in the field of contemplative, not to 
say philosophic, verse. The defects of 'literary poetry,' in the 
sense above alluded to, are most apparent in the lyrical portion of 
the present volume, more especially in the sonnets. The poet is 
supposed to utter his individual feelings ; and our faith in the 
genuineness of those feelings is somewhat severely shaken if we find 
that they are clad in a mode of expression which a poet of Dante's 
age might have used if he had been able to read Shakespear." 

William Sharp : — 

"The ballad can still remain a choice form for expression in more 
than one direction. It can be an historical or legendary poem treated 
with the simple directness of the old method, or it can be a dramatic 
lyric dealing with imaginative creations in place of real personalities 
and actual facts. The ballad is the lyrically dramatic expression 
of actions and events in the lives of others. Of the seven published 
ballads by Rossetti, three belong to the historical or legendary 
section, three to the section of individual imaginative creation, and 
one stands midway between these two sections. The three that 
more or less accurately conform to ballad-requirements are Stratton 
Water, The King's Tragedy, and The White Ship; those that are 
so strongly marked by individual characteristics and by general style 
as to be better embraced by the freer term 'dramatic lyrics,' or 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 435 

lyrically dramatic poems, are Troy Town, Eden Bower, and Rose 
Mary; and the seventh is Sister Helen." 

Mrs. Esther Wood :— 

" No other English poet has resolved the breadth and simplicity 
of the Gothic, and the depth and intensity of the Italian, habit of 
expression, into such distinctive poetic vehicles. But at the same 
time few have blended the diverse elements of the modern English 
tongue into the harmony and sonority with which Rossetti's music 
thrills when he tempers the sharper Saxon with a deep undertone 
of polysyllabic song, or stirs the languorous pulses of a sonnet with 
some swift cadence of familiar words. . . . Jenny perhaps, being 
cast in a more meditative form, lacks the poignancy and fervour of 
the utterance which comes, in A Last Confession, from the lips of 
the sinner himself, instead of from the spectator merely ; but it 
surpasses all contemporary studies of its kind in its bold and masterly 
handling of a difficult theme. . . . Nor is the effect of Rossetti's 
universal preference for assonance over rhyme — a special charac- 
teristic of romantic poetry — identical in the ballads, sonnets, and 
monologues, just quoted." % 

I am not quite sure which are the poems to which Mrs. 
Wood here more especially refers ; but I understand that 
The Brides Prelude, the sonnets Pandora, Fiammetta, Found, 
Astarte Syriaca, and Mary Magdalene, Jenny, and the trans- 
lated song in A Last Confession, are at all events some of 
them. Feeling a little startled at the notion that my brother 
evinced a " universal preference for assonance over rhyme," 
I looked through the sonnets and the song, and through the 
first three pages of The Bride's Prelude and of fenny. The 
result is that I find 91 instances of true rhyme, and only 26 
instances of what can, even by a stretch of phrase, be called 
assonance. I concluded by quoting to myself the words in 
Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much me-thinks." If 
she had limited herself to saying that, in his various classes 
of composition, Rossetti showed a liking for mingling as- 
sonance amid rhyme, no exception could be taken to that 
statement. 



436 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

Coventry Patmore writes : — 

" In Rossetti, as in several other modern poets of great reputations 
we are constantly being pulled up, in the professedly fiery course 
of a tale of passion, to observe the moss on a rock or the note of 
a chaffinch. High finish has nothing to do with this quality of 
extreme definiteness in detail ; indeed, it is more often exercised by 
the perfect poet in blurring outlines than in giving them acuteness. 
It must be admitted however that Rossetti had an unusual temptation 
to this kind of excess in his extraordinary faculty for seeing object, 
in such a fierce light of imagination as very few poets have been 
able to throw upon external things. He can be forgiven for spoiling 
a tender lyric by a stanza such as this, which seems scratched with 
an adamantine pen upon a slab of agate — 

' But the sea stands spread 
As one wall with the flat skies, 
Where the lean black craft, like flies, 

Seem wellnigh stagnated, 

Soon to drop off dead.' 

In much of his work there is a rich and obscure glow of insight 
into depths too profound and too sacred for clear speech, even if 
they could be spoken; a sort of insight not at all uncommon in the 
great art of past times, but exceedingly rare in the art of our own." 

F. W. H. Myers:— 

" He is not a prophet, but an artist ; yet an artist who, by the 
very intensity of his artistic vision, and by some inborn bent towards 
symbol and mysticism, stands on the side of those who see in 
material things a spiritual significance, and utters words of universal 
meaning from the fullness of his own heart." 

William Morris : — 

"It is certainly to be wondered at that a master in the supremely 
difficult art of painting should have qualities which enable him to 
deal with the other supremely difficult one of poetry; and to do 
this not only with the utmost depth of feeling and thought but also 
with the most complete and unfaltering mastery over its material ; 
that he should find in its limitations and special conditions, not 
stumbling-blocks or fetters, but just so many pleasures, so much 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET — EXTRACTS. 437 

whetting of invention and imagination. In no poems is the spon- 
taneous and habitual interpenetration of matter and manner, which 
is the essence of poetry, more complete than in these. Among 
pieces where the mystical feeling is by necessity of subject most 
simple and most on the surface, The Blessed Damozel should be 
noticed ; a poem in which wild longing, and the shame of life, and 
despair of separation, and the worship of love, are wrought into a 
palpable dream, in which the heaven that exists as if for the sake 
of the beloved is as real as the earthly things about the lover, while 
these are scarcely less strange, or less pervaded with a sense of his 
passion, than the things his imagination has made. ... I think 
these lyrics, with all their other merits, the most complete of their 
time. No difficulty is avoided in them — no subject is treated vaguely, 
languidly, or heartlessly. As there is no commonplace or second- 
hand thought left in them, to be atoned for by beauty of execution, 
so no thought is allowed to overshadow that beauty of art which 
compels a real poet to speak in verse and not in prose. Nor do 
I know what lyrics of any time are to be called great if we are to 
deny that title to these." 

Walter Pater : — 

"The reader of to-day may observe already, in The Blessed 
Damozel written at the age of eighteen, a prefigurement of the chief 
characteristics of that [Pra^raphaelite] school. Common to that 
school and to him [Rossetti], and in both alike of primary signifi- 
cance, was the quality of sincerity — a perfect sincerity, taking effect 
in the deliberate use of the most direct and unconventional ex- 
pression for the conveyance of a poetic sense which recognized no 
conventional standard of what poetry was called upon to be. Here 
was certainly one new poet more, with an accent which might count 
as the very seal of reality on one man's proper speech — as that 
speech itself was the wholly natural expression of certain wonderful 
things he really felt and saw. The lovely little landscapes scattered 
up and down his poems — glimpses of a landscape not indeed of 
broad open-air effects, but rather that of a painter concentrated upon 
the picturesque effect of one or two selected objects at a time — 
attest, by their very freshness and simplicity, to a pictorial or 
descriptive power, in dealing with the inanimate world, which is 
certainly still one half of the charm in that other, more remote and 



438 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

mystic, use of it. For with Rossetti this sense of (after all, lifeless) 
Nature is translated to a higher service in which it does but in- 
corporate itself with some phase of strong emotion. A sustained 
impressibility towards the mysterious conditions of man's every-day 
life, towards the very mystery itself in it, gives a singular gravity to 
all his work. For Rossetti the great affections of persons to each 
other — swayed and determined, in the case of his highly pictorial 
genius, mainly by that so called ' material ' loveliness — formed the 
great undeniable reality in things, the solid resisting substance in 
a world where all beside might be but shadow. One monumental 
lyrical piece, Soothsay, testifies — more clearly even than the Nineveh 
— to the reflective force, the dry reason, always at work behind his 
imaginative creations, which at no time dispensed with a genuine 
intellectual structure. His characteristic, his really revealing, work 
lay in the adding to poetry of fresh poetic material, of a new order 
of phenomena — in the creation of a new ideal." 

Madame Darmesteter (Miss Mary Robinson) : — 

" A very few weeks after publication [of the Poems, 1870] he was 
generally admitted to be one of the greatest of living English poets. 
In passing, I would point out the chief features of this work by a 
poet of great imaginative penetration who had the signal good 
fortune to express his subtle and rare ideas with the vivid presentation 
of the painter. Even the descriptions of unearthly phenomena 
convey a sense of actual vision. The solemn pity and tenderness 
of Jenny ', the angelic beauty of The Blessed Damozel, the tragic force 
of Sister Helen, are qualities that only great poets possess. But 
more solemn, more beautiful, more full of a finer force, than these 
poems, are the unrivalled sonnets which build-up The House of Life. 
Here, for the first time since Milton, the English language is used 
with a sonority and power rivalling the natural harmonies of Italian 
or Greek. A singular value is given to the motive of these sonnets 
by the poet's belief in the eternal effect and continual existence 
of the thoughts and deeds of man." 

James Skelton : — 

" Mr. Rossetti is never desultory nor garrulous. His poems 
display the highest concentration of the poetic faculty. They are 
terse as epigrams. Mr. Rossetti seldom uses a metaphor. There 



ROSSETTI AS PAINTER AND POET— EXTRACTS. 439 

is little or no colour in his poems. He never indulges in elaborate 
portraiture. But the pure idea is presented to us with surpassing 
clearness. He realizes the emotion in the most absolute way. The 
fire of his imagination is a spiritual flame which consumes whatever 
is not essential." 

Gabriel Sarrazin : — 

"Voici done qu'elle reparait, mais plus endolorie et comme 
rajeunie d'alanguissement tout moderne, l'antique extase de Dante. 
De longues visions claires, d'une plastique achevee, ou de courtes 
exaltations, d'une quintessence de reve presque nebuleuse, nous 
en deroulent les mystiques peripeties. A une epoque ou l'idee de 
l'amour s'est appauvrie ou materialisee, ou l'invasion des mille petits 
besoins de l'esprit bourgeois, s'implantant sur la ruine totale des 
deux ou trois grands instincts de l'esprit chevaleresque, a tue pour 
jamais les passions dont vivaient les amoureux de la Renaissance ; 
dans un age, en outre, ou l'amour platonique n'est plus qu'une 
affectation, ou qui ' veut faire l'ange fait la bete ' ; dans cet age-la 
Rossetti est un des seuls (avec Lamartine) a oser rearborer, en 
parfaite sincerite de cceur, le grand Amour extatique des moines et 
des chevaliers. Non pas qu'il n'y ait dans son ceuvre des adorations 
teintees de sensualite : il y en a, et la plus exquise pudeur y preside. 
Mais dans les grandes pieces, dans les pieces tout a fait significatives, 
dans celles ou Fame travaille a se detacher des entraves terrestres 
qui l'empechent d'atteindre au divin, e'est a dire a l'lmmateriel, 
on sent qu'elle dchappe, vers par vers, a ses tyrans, et qu'un dernier 
effort va liberer son vol." 

Luigi Gamberale, who has translated into Italian verse 
Rossetti's Last Confession, Jenny, and some other composi- 
tions, expresses himself thus with regard to Mr. Swinburne's 
criticism, already cited in this section : — 

"This is simply the reasoned impression of a great poet, who 
sees realized the ideal which he had conceived of a perfect writer. 
And, since the ideal is very high, and the critic bears the name of 
Swinburne, we may securely rest upon the truth and the soundness 
of his judgment. Yet in some points he has gone beyond the mark. 
I too fancy that I have sometimes observed the obscurity of Rossetti ; 



440 DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. 

and, if Swinburne explains and excuses it with his image of the 
' wellspring,' it might perchance, following that same image, be 
remarked that no eye in the world can without blinking scan a deep 
water which glisters in the rays of a meridian sun." 

There are other translations of Rossetti's works to which 
I ought to spare a word of acknowledgment : into Italian, 
The Blessed Damozel, by Signor Ettore Ciccotti ; into French, 
The House of Life, by Madame Clemence Couve ; into Danish, 
some sonnets by Herr Adolf Hansen. And assuredly these 
are not all. I should have liked moreover to quote some- 
thing, about either pictures or poems, from Messrs. Comyns 
Carr, Symonds, Ashcroft Noble, Hardinge, Colvin, and 
Frederick Cooper, Professor Dowden, and Dr. Westland 
Marston ; but considerations of space have admonished me 
to the contrary. 



Here I close. I have tried to pay my fraternal debt to 
the memory of Dante Gabriel Rossetti ; a memory and a 
name honoured throughout and beyond the precincts of the 
two noble lands of his origin.