Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti - 1883
by T. Hall Caine
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I forgot to say—Don't, please, spread details as to story of Rose Mary. I don't want it to be stale or to get forestalled in the travelling of report from mouth to mouth. I hope it won't be too long before you visit town again,—I will not for an instant question that you would then visit me also.

Six months or more intervened, however, before I was able to visit Rossetti again. In the meantime we corresponded as fully as before: the subject upon which we most frequently exchanged opinions being now the sonnet.

By-the-bye [he says], I cannot understand what you say of Milton's, Keats's, and Coleridge's sonnets. The last, it is true, was always poor as a sonnetteer (I don't see much in the Autumnal Moon). My own only exception to this verdict (much as I adore Coleridge's genius) would be the ludicrous sonnet on The House that Jack built, which is a masterpiece in its way. I should not myself number the one you mention of Keats's among his best half-dozen (many of his are mere drafts, strange to say); and cannot at all enter into your verdict on those of Milton, which seem to me to be every one of exceptional excellence, though a few are even finer than the rest, notably, of course, the one you name. Pardon an egotistic sentence (in answer to what you say so generously of Lost Days), if I express an opinion that Known in Vain and Still-born Love may perhaps be said to head the series in value, though Lost Days might be equally a favourite with me if I did not remember in what but too opportune juncture it was wrung out of me. I have a good number of sonnets for The House of Life still in MS., which I have worked on with my best effort, and, I think, will fully sustain their place. These and other things I should like to show you whenever we meet again. The MS. vol. I proposed to send is merely an old set of (chiefly) trifles, about which I should like an opinion as to whether any should be included in the future.

I had spoken of Keats's sonnet beginning

To one who has been long in city pent,

with its exquisite last lines—

E'en like the passage of an angel's tear That falls through the clear ether silently,

reminding one of a less spiritual figure—

Kings like a golden jewel Down a golden stair.

After his bantering me, as of old he had done, on the use of long and crabbed words, I hinted that he was in honour bound to agree at least with my disparaging judgment upon Tetrachordon, if only because of the use of words that would "have made Quintillian stare."

I further instanced—

"Harry whose tuneful and well-measured song;" and "Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son,"

as examples of Milton at his weakest as a sonnet-writer. He replied:

I am sorry I must still differ somewhat from you about Milton's sonnets. I think the one on Tetrachordon a very vigorous affair indeed. The one to Mr. H. Lawes I am half disposed to give you, but not altogether—its close is sweet. As to Lawrence, it is curious that my sister was only the other day expressing to me a special relish for this sonnet, and I do think it very fresh and wholesomely relishing myself. It is an awful fact that sun, moon, or candlelight once looked down on the human portent of Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Hannah More convened in solemn conclave above the outspread sonnets of Milton, with a meritorious and considerate resolve of finding out for him "why they were so bad." This is so stupendous a warning, that perhaps it may even incline one to find some of them better than they are.

Coming to Coleridge, I must confess at once that I never meet in any collection with the sonnet on Schiller's Robbers without heading it at once with the words "unconscionably bad." The habit has been a life-long one. That you mention beginning—"Sweet mercy," etc., I have looked for in the only Coleridge I have by me (my brother's cheap edition, for all the faults of which he is not at all answerable), and do not find it there, nor have I it in mind.

To pass to Keats. The ed. of 1868 contains no sonnet on the Elgin Marbles. Is it in a later edition? Of course that on Chapman's Homer is supreme. It ought to be preceded {*} in all editions by the one To Homer,

"Standing aloof in giant ignorance," etc. which contains perhaps the greatest single line in Keats:

"There is a budding morrow in midnight."

* I pointed out that it was written later than the one on Chapman's Homer (notwithstanding its first line) and therefore should follow after it, not go before.

Other special favourites with me are—"Why did I laugh to- night?"—" As Hermes once,"—"Time's sea hath been," and the one On the Flower and, Leaf.

It is odd that several of these best ones seem to have been early work, and rejected by Keats in his lifetime, while some of those he printed are absolutely sorry drafts.

I had admired Coleridge's sonnet on Schiller's Robbers for the perhaps minor excellence of bringing vividly before the mind the scenes it describes. If the sonnet is unconscionably bad so perhaps is the play, the beautiful scene of the setting sun notwithstanding. Eventually, however, I abandoned my belligerent position as to Milton's sonnets: the army of authorities I found ranged against the modest earth-works within which I had entrenched myself must of itself have made me quail. My utmost contention had been that Milton wrote the most impassioned sonnet (Avenge, O Lord), the two most nobly pathetic sonnets (When I consider and Methought I saw), and one of the poorest sonnets (Harry, whose tuneful, etc.) in English poetry.

At this time (September 1880) Mr. J. Ashcroft Noble published an essay on The Sonnet in England in The Contemporary Review, and relating thereto Rossetti wrote:

I have just been reading Mr. Noble's article on the sonnet. As regards my own share in it, I can only say that it greets me with a gratifying ray of generous recognition. It is all the more pleasant to me as finding a place in the very Review which years ago opened its pages to a pseudonymous attack on my poems and on myself. I see a passage in the article which seems meant to indicate the want of such a work on the sonnet as you are wishing to supply. I only trust that you may do so, and that Mr. Noble may find a field for continued poetic criticism. I am very proud to think that, after my small and solitary book has been a good many years published and several years out of print, it yet meets with such ardent upholding by young and sincere men.

With the verdicts given throughout the article, I generally sympathise, but not with the unqualified homage to Wordsworth. A reticence almost invariably present is fatal in my eyes to the highest pretensions on behalf of his sonnets. Reticence is but a poor sort of muse, nor is tentativeness (so often to be traced in his work) a good accompaniment in music. Take the sonnet on Toussaint L'Ouverture (in my opinion his noblest, and very noble indeed) and study (from Main's note) the lame and fumbling changes made in various editions of the early lines, which remain lame in the end. Far worse than this, study the relation of the closing lines of his famous sonnet The World is too much with us, etc., to a passage in Spenser, and say whether plagiarism was ever more impudent or manifest (again I derive from Main's excellent exposition of the point), and then consider whether a bard was likely to do this once and yet not to do it often. Primary vital impulse was surely not fully developed in his muse.

I will venture to say that I wish my sister's sonnet work had met with what I consider the justice due to it. Besides the unsurpassed quality (in my opinion) of her best sonnets, my sister has proved her poetic importance by solid and noble inventive work of many kinds, which I should be proud indeed to reckon among my life's claims.

I have a great weakness myself for many of Tennyson-Turner's sonnets, though of course what Mr. Noble says of them is in the main true, and he has certainly quoted the very finest one, which has a more fervent appeal for me than I could easily derive from Wordsworth in almost any case.

Will you give my thanks to Mr. Noble for his frank and outspoken praise?

Let me hear of your doings and intentions.

Ever sincerely yours.

Three names notably omitted in the article are those of Dobell, W. B. Scott, and Swinburne.

The allusion in the foregoing letter to the work on the Sonnet which I was aiming to supply, bears reference to the anthology subsequently published under the title of Sonnets of Three Centuries. My first idea was simply to write a survey of the art and history of the sonnet, printing only such examples as might be embraced by my critical comments. Rossetti's generous sympathy was warmly engaged in this enterprise.

It would really warm me up much [he writes] to know of your editing a sonnet book You would have my best cooperation as to suggesting examples, but I certainly think that English sonnets (original and exceptionally translated ones, the latter only perhaps) should be the sole scheme. Curiously enough, some one wrote me the other day as to a projected series of living sonneteers (other collections being only of those preceding our time). I have half committed myself to contributing, but not altogether as yet. The name of the projector, S. Waddington, is new to me, and I don't know who is to publish.... Really you ought to do the sonnet-book you aspire to do. I know but of one London critic (Theodore Watts) whom I should consider the leading man for such a purpose, and I have tried to incite him to it so often that I know now he won't do it; but I have always meant a complete series in which the dead poets must, of course, predominate. As to a series of the living only, I told you of a Mr. Waddington who seems engaged on such a supplementary scheme. What his gifts for it may be I know not, but I suppose he knows it is in requisition. However, there need not be but one such if you felt your hand in for it. His view happens to be also (as you suggest) about 160 sonnets. In reply to your query, I certainly think there must be 20 living writers (male and female—my sister a leader, I consider) who have written good sonnets such as would afford an interesting and representative selection, though assuredly not such as would all take the rank of classics by any means. The number of sonnets now extant, written by poets who did not exist as such a dozen years ago, I believe to be almost infinite, and in sufficiently numerous instances good, however derivative. One younger poet among them, Philip Marston, has written many sonnets which yield to few or none by any poet whatever; but he has printed such a large number in the aggregate, and so unequal one with the other, that the great ones are not to be found by opening at random. "How are they (the poets) to be approached?—" you innocently ask. Ye heavens! how does the cat's-meat-man approach Grimalkin?—and what is that relation in life when compared to the rapport established between the living bard and the fellow-creature who is disposed to cater to his caterwauling appetite for publicity? However, to be serious, I must at least exonerate the bard, I am sure, from any desire to appropriate an "interest in the proceeds." There are some, I feel certain, to whom the collector might say with a wink, "What are you going to stand?"

I do not myself think that a collection of sonnets inserted at intervals in an essay is a good form for the purpose. Such a book is from one chief point a book of instantaneous reference,—it would only, perhaps, be read through once in a lifetime. For this purpose a well-indexed current series is best, with any desirable essay prefixed and notes affixed.... I once conceived of a series, to be entitled,




I still think this a good idea, but, of course, it would be an extensive undertaking.

Later on, he wrote:

I have thought of a title for your book. What think you of this?





That would not be amiss. Tell me if you think of using the title A Sonnet Sequence, as otherwise I might use it in the House of Life.... What do you think of this alternative title:



I think Castalia much too euphuistic, and though I shouldn't like the book to be called simply still I have a great prejudice against very florid titles for such gatherings. Treasury has been sadly run upon.

I did not like Sonnet Sequence for such a collection, and relinquished the title; moreover, I had had from the first a clearly defined scheme in mind, carrying its own inevitable title, which was in due course adopted. I may here remark that I never resisted any idea of Rossetti's at the moment of its inception, since resistance only led to a temporary outburst of self-assertion on his part. He was a man of so much impulse,—impulse often as violent as lawless—that to oppose him merely provoked anger to no good purpose, for as often as not the position at first adopted with so much pertinacity was afterwards silently abandoned, and your own aims quietly acquiesced in. On this subject of a title he wrote a further letter, which is interesting from more than one point of view:

I don't like Garland at all C. Patmore collected a Children's Garland. I think



would be a good title. I think I prefer Present and Past, or of the P. and P., to New and Old for your purpose; but I own I am partly influenced by the fact that I have settled to call my own vol. Poems New and Old, and don't want it to get staled; but I really do think the other at least as good for your purpose—perhaps more dignified.

Again, in reply to a proposal of my own, he wrote:

I think Sonnets of the Century an excellent idea and title. I must say a mass of Wordsworth over again, like Main's, is a little disheartening,—still the best selection from him is what one wants. There is some book called A Century of Sonnets, but this, I suppose, would not matter....

I think sometimes of your sonnet-book, and have formed certain views. I really would not in your place include old work at all: it would be but a scanty gathering, and I feel certain that what is really in requisition is a supplement to Main, containing living writers (printed and un-printed) put together under their authors' names (not separately) and rare gleanings from those more recently dead.

I fear I did not attach importance to this decision, for I now knew my correspondent too well to rely upon his being entirely in the same mind for long. Hence I was not surprised to receive the following a day or two later:

I lately had a conversation with Watts about your sonnet- book, and find his views to be somewhat different from what I had expressed, and I may add I think now he is right. He says there should be a very careful selection of the elder sonnets and of everything up to present century. I think he is right.

The fact is, that almost from the first I had taken a view similar to Mr. Watts's as to the design of my book, and had determined to call the anthology by the title it now bears. On one occasion, however, I acted rather without judgment in sending Rossetti a synopsis of certain critical tests formulated by Mr. Watts in a letter of great power and value.

In the letter in question Mr. Watts seemed to be setting himself to confute some extremely ill-considered remarks made in a certain quarter upon the structure of the sonnet, where (following Macaulay) the critic says that there exists no good reason for requiring that even the conventional limit as to length should be observed, and that the only use in art of the legitimate model is to "supply a poet with something to do when his invention fails." I confess to having felt no little amazement that one so devoid of a perception of the true function of the sonnet should have been considered a proper person to introduce a great sonnet-writer; and Mr. Watts (who, however, made no mention of the writer) clearly demonstrated that the true sonnet has the foundation of its structure in a fixed metrical law, and hence, that as it is impossible (as Keats found out for himself) to improve upon the accepted form, that model—known as the Petrarchian—should, with little or no variation, be worked upon. Rossetti took fire, however, from a mistaken notion that Mr. Watts's canons, as given in the letter in question, and merely reported by me, were much more inflexible than they really proved.

Sonnets of mine could not appear in any book which contained such rigid rules as to rhyme, as are contained in Watts's letter. I neither follow them, nor agree 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.

Dante's sonnets (in reply to your question—not as part of the above point) vary in arrangement. I never for a moment thought of following in my book the rhymes of each individual sonnet.

If sonnets of mine remain admissible, I should prefer printing the two On Cassandra to The Monochord and Wine of Circe.

I would not be too anxious, were I you, about anything in choice of sonnets except the brains and the music.

Again he wrote:

I talked to Watts about his letter. He seems to agree with me as to advisable variation of form in preference to transmuting valuable thought. It would not be afc 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. But in truth, if I have a distinction as a sonnet-writer, it is that I never admit a sonnet which is not fully on the level of every other.... Again, as to this blessed question, though no one ever took more pleasure in continually using the form I prefer when not interfering with thought, to insist on it would after a certain point be ruin to common sense.

As to what you say of The One Hope—it is fully equal to the very best of my sonnets, or I should not have wound up the series with it. But the fact is, what is peculiar chiefly in the series is, that scarcely one is worse than any other. You have much too great a habit of speaking of a special octave, sestette, or line. Conception, my boy, fundamental brainwork, 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 Shakspearean sonnet is better than the most perfect in form, because Shakspeare wrote it.

As for Drayton, of course his one incomparable sonnet is the Love-Parting. That is almost the best in the language, if not quite. I think I have now answered queries, and it is late. Good-night!

Rossetti had somewhat mistaken the scope of the letter referred to, and when he came to know exactly what was intended, I found him in warm agreement with the views therein taken. I have said at an earlier stage that Rossetti's instinct for what was good in poetry was unfailing, whatever the value of his opinions on critical principles, and hence I felt naturally anxious to have the benefit of his views on certain of the elder writers. He said:

I am sorry I am no adept in elder sonnet literature. Many of Donne's are remarkable—no doubt you glean some. None of Shakspeare's is more indispensable than the wondrous one on Last (129). Hartley Coleridge's finest is

"If I have sinned in act, I may repent."

There is a fine one by Isaac Williams, evidently on the death of a worldly man, and he wrote other good ones. To return to the old, I think Stillingfleet's To Williamson very fine....

I would like to send you a list of my special favourites among Shakspeare's sonnets—viz.:—

15, 27, 29, 30, 36, 44, 45, 49, 50, 52, 55, 56, 59, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 68, 71, 73, 76, 77, 90, 93, 94, 97, 98, 99, 102, 107, 110, 116, 117, 119, 120, 123, 129, 135, 136, 138, 144, 145.

I made the selection long ago, and of course love them in varying degrees.

There should be an essential reform in the printing of Shakspeare's sonnets. After sonnet 125 should occur the words End of Part I. The couplet-piece, numbered 126, should be called Epilogue to Part I.. Then, before 127, should be printed Part II. After 152, should be put End of Part II.—and the two last sonnets should be called Epilogue to Part II. About these two last I have a theory of my own.

Did you ever see the excellent remarks on these sonnets in my brother's Lives of Famous Poets? I think a simple point he mentions (for first time) fixes Pembroke clearly as the male friend. I am glad you like his own two fine sonnets. I wish he would write more such. By the bye, you speak with great scorn of the closing couplet in sonnets. I do not certainly think that form the finest, but I do think this and every variety desirable in a series, and have often used it myself. I like your letters on sonnets; write on all points in question. The two last of Shakspeare's sonnets seem to me to have a very probable (and rather elaborate) meaning never yet attributed to them. Some day, when I see you, we will talk it over. Did you ever see a curious book by one Brown (I don't mean Armitage Brown) on Shakspeare's sonnets? By the bye, he is not the source of my notion as above, but a matter of fact he names helps in it. I never saw Massey's book on the subject, but fancy his views and Brown's are somewhat allied. You should look at what my brother says, which is very concise and valuable. I hope I am not omitting to answer you in any essential point, but my writing-table is a chaos into which your last letters have, for the moment, sunk beyond recovery.

I consider the foregoing, perhaps, the most valuable of Rossetti's letters to me. I cannot remember that we ever afterwards talked over the two last sonnets of Shakspeare; if we did so, the meaning attached to them by him did not fix itself very definitely upon my memory.

In explanation of my alleged dislike of the closing couplet, I may say that a rhymed couplet at the close of a sonnet has an effect upon my ear similar to that produced by the couplets at the ends of some of the acts of Shakspeare's plays, which were in many instances interpolated by the actors to enable them to make emphatic exits.

I must now group together a number of short notes on sonnets:

I think Blanco White's sonnet difficult to overrate in thought—probably in this respect unsurpassable, but easy to overrate as regards its workmanship. Of course there is the one fatally disenchanting line:

While fly and leaf and insect stood revealed.

The poverty of vision which could not see at a glance that fly and insect were one and the same, is, as you say, enough to account for its being the writer's only sonnet (there is one more however which I don't know).

I'll copy you overpage a sonnet which I consider a very fine one, but which may be said to be quite unknown. It is by Charles Whitehead, who wrote the very admirable and exceptional novel of Richard Savage, published somewhere about 1840.

Even as yon lamp within my vacant room With arduous flame disputes the doubtful night, And can with its involuntary light But lifeless things that near it stand illume; Yet all the while it doth itself consume, And ere the sun hath reached his morning height With courier beams that greet the shepherd's sight, There where its life arose must be its tomb:— So wastes my life away, perforce confined To common things, a limit to its sphere, It gleams on worthless trifles undesign'd, With fainter ray each hour imprison'd here. Alas to know that the consuming mind Must leave its lamp cold ere the sun appear!

I am sure you will agree with me in admiring that. I quote from memory, and am not sure that I have given line 6 quite correctly....

I have just had Blanco White's only other sonnet (On being called an Old Man at 50) copied out for you. I do certainly think it ought to go in, though no better than so-so, as you say. But it is just about as good as the former one, but for the leading and splendid thought in the latter. Both are but proseman's diction.

There is a sonnet of Chas. Wells's On Chaucer which is not worthy of its writer, but still you should have it. It occurs among some prefatory tributes in Chaucer Modernised, edited by E. H. Home. I don't know how you are to get a copy, but the book is in the British Museum Reading Room. The sonnet is signed C. W. only.

The sonnet by Wells seemed to me in every respect poor, and as it was no part of my purpose (as an admirer of Wells) to advertise what the poet could not do, I determined—against Rossetti's judgment—not to print the sonnet.

You certainly, in my opinion, ought to print Wells's sonnet. Certainly nothing so disjointed ever gave itself the name before, but it ought to be available for reference, and I do not agree with you in considering it weak in any sense except that of structure.

There is a sonnet by Ebenezer Jones, beginning "I never wholly feel that summer is high," which, though very jagged, has decided merit to warrant its insertion.

As for Tennyson, he seems to have given leave for a sonnet to appear in Main's book. Why not in yours? But I have long ceased to know him, nor is any friend of mine in communication with him.... My brother has written in his time a few sonnets. Two of them I think very fine— especially the one called Shelley's Heart, which he has lately worked upon again with immense advantage.... You do not tell me from whom you have received sonnets. The reason which prevents my coming forward, in such a difficulty, with a new sonnet of my own, is this:—which indeed you have probably surmised: I know nothing would gratify malevolence, after the controversy which ensued on your lecture, more than to be able to assert, however falsely, that we had been working in concert all along, that you were known to me from the first, and that your advocacy had no real spontaneity.... When you first entered on the subject, and wrote your lecture, you were a perfect stranger to me, and that fact greatly enhanced my pleasure in its enthusiastic tone. I hope sincerely that we may have further and close opportunities of intercourse, but should like whatever you may write of me to come from the old source of intellectual affinity only. That you should think the subject worthy of further labour is a pleasure to me, but I only trust it may not be a disadvantage to your book in unfriendly eyes, particularly if that view happened to be the proposed publisher's, in which case I should much prefer that this section of your work were withdrawn for a more propitious occasion.... I am very glad Brown is furthering your sonnet- book—he knows so many bards. Of course if I were you, I should keep an eye on the mouths even of gift-horses; but were a creditable stud to be trotted out, of course I should be willing; as were I one among many, the objection I noted would not exist. I do not mean for a moment to say that many very fine sonnets might not be obtained from poets not yet known or not widely known; but known names would be the things to parry the difficulty.

Later he wrote:

As you know, I want to contribute to your volume if I can do so without fear of the consequences hinted at in a former letter as likely to ensue, so I now enclose a sonnet of my own. If you are out in March 1881, you may be before my new edition, but I am getting my stock together. Not a word of this however, as it mustn't get into gossip paragraphs at present. The House of Life is now a hundred sonnets—all lyrics being removed. Besides this series, I have forty-five sonnets extra. I think, as you are willing, I shall use the title I sent you—A Sonnet Sequence. I fancy the alternative title would be briefer and therefore better as



I could not be much concerned about the unwillingness to give me a new sonnet which Rossetti at first exhibited, for I knew full well that sooner or later the sonnet would come. Not that I recognised in him the faintest scintillation of the affectation so common among authors as to the publication of work. But the fear of any appearance of collusion between himself and his critics was, as he said, a bugbear that constantly haunted him. Owing to this, a stranger often stood a better chance of securing his ready and open co-operation than the most intimate of friends. I frequently yielded to his desire that in anything that I might write his name should not be mentioned—too frequently by far, to my infinite vexation at the time, and now to my deep and ineradicable regret. The sonnet-book out of which arose much of the correspondence printed in this chapter, contains in its preface and notes hardly an allusion to him, and yet he was, in my judgment, out of all reach and sight, the greatest sonnet-writer of his time. The sonnet first sent was Pride of Youth, but as this formed part of The House of Life series, it was withdrawn, and Raleigh's Cell in the Tower was substituted The following hitherto unpublished sonnet was also contributed but withdrawn at the last moment, because of its being out of harmony with the sonnets selected to accompany it:


O ruff-embastioned vast Elizabeth, Bush to these bushel-bellied casks of wine, Home-growth, 'tis true, but rank as turpentine,— What would we with such skittle-plays at death % Say, must we watch these brawlers' brandished lathe, Or to their reeking wit our ears incline, Because all Castaly flowed crystalline In gentle Shakspeare's modulated breath! What! must our drama with the rat-pit vie, Nor the scene close while one is left to kill! Shall this be poetry % And thou—thou—man Of blood, thou cannibalic Caliban, What shall be said to thee?—a poet?—Fie! "An honourable murderer, if you will"

I mentioned to you [he says] William Davies, author of Songs of a Wayfarer (by the bye, another man has since adopted his title). He has many excellent sonnets, and is a valued friend of mine. I shall send you, on his behalf, a copy of the book for selection of what you may please.... It is very unequal, but the best truly excellent. The sonnets are numerous, and some good, though the best work in the book is not among them. There are two poems—The Garden, and another called, I think, On a dried-up Spring, which are worthy of the most fastidious collections. Many of the poems are unnamed, and the whole has too much of a Herrick air. . . .

It is quite refreshing to find you so pleased with my good friend Davies's book, and I wish he were in London, as I would have shown him what you say, which I know would have given him pleasure. He is a man who suffers much from moods of depression, in spite of his philosophic nature. I have marked fifty pieces of different kinds throughout his book, and of these twenty-nine are sonnets. Had those fifty been alone printed, Davies would now be remembered and not forgotten: but all poets now-a-days are redundant except Tennyson. ...

I am this evening writing to Davies, who is in Rome, and could not resist enclosing what you say, with so much experimental appreciativeness of his book, and of his intention to fill it with moral sunshine. I am sure he 'll send a new sonnet if he has one, but I fancy his bardic day is over. I should think he was probably not subject to melancholy when he wrote the Wayfarer. However, he tells me that his spirits have improved in Italy. One other little book of Herrickian verse he has written, called The Shepherd!s Garden, but there are no sonnets in it. Besides this, he published a volume containing a record of travel of a very interesting kind, and called The Pilgrimage of the Tiber. This is well known. It is illustrated, many of the drawings being by himself, for he is quite as much painter as poet. He also wrote in The Quarterly Review an article on the sonnet (I should think about 1870 or so), and, a little later, one which raised great wrath, on the English School of Painting. These I have not seen. He "lacks advancement," however; having fertile powers and little opportunity, and being none the luckier (I think) for a small independence which keeps off compulsion to work, though of willingness he has abundance in many directions.

There is an admirable but totally unknown living poet named Dixon. I will send you two small vols, of his which he gave me long ago, but please take good care of them, and return them as soon as done with. I value them highly. I forgot till to-day that he had written any sonnets, but I see there are three in one vol. and one in another. I have marked my two favourites. He should certainly be represented in your book. If I live, I mean to write something about him in some quarter when I can. His finest passages are as fine as any living man can do. He was a canon of Carlisle Cathedral, and at present has a living somewhere. If you wanted to ask him for an original sonnet, you might mention my name, and address him at Carlisle with Please forward. Of course he is a Rev.

You will be sorry to hear that Davies has abandoned the hope of producing a new sonnet to his own satisfaction. I have again, however, urged him to the onslaught, and told him how deserving you are of his efforts.

Swinburne, who is a vast admirer of my sister's, thinks the Advent perhaps the noblest of all her poems, and also specially loves the Passing Away. I do not know that I quite agree with your decided preference for the two sonnets of hers you signalise,—the World is very fine, but the other, Dead before Death, a little sensational for her. I think After Death one of her noblest, and the one After Communion. In my own view, the greatest of all her poems is that on France after the siege—To-Day for Me. A very splendid piece of feminine ascetic passion is The Convent Threshold.

I have run the sonnet you like, St. Luke the Painter, into a sequence with two more not yet printed, and given the three a general title of Old and New Art, as well as special titles to each. I shall annex them to The House of Life.

Have you ever read Vaughan? He resembles Donne a good deal as to quaintness, but with a more emotional personality.

I have altered the last line of octave in Lost Days. It now runs—

"The undying throats of Hell, athirst alway."

I always had it in my mind to make a change here, as the in standing in the line in its former reading clashed with in occurring in the previous line. I have done what I think is a prime sonnet on the murdered Czar, which I enclose, but don't show it to a soul.

Theodore Watts is going to print a very fine sonnet of his own in The Athenaeum. It is the first verse he ever put in print, though he wrote much (when a very young man). Tell me how you like it. I think he is destined to shine in that class of poetry.

I knew you must like Watts's sonnets. They are splendid affairs. I am not sure that I agree with you in liking the first the better of the two: the second (Natura Maligna) is perhaps the deeper and finer. I have asked Watts to give you a new sonnet, and I think perhaps he will do so, or at all events give you permission to use those he has printed. He has just come into the room, and says he would like to hear from you on the subject.

From one rather jocular sentence in your note I judge you may include some sonnets of your own. I see no possible reason why you should not. You are really now, at your highest, among our best sonnet-writers, and have written two or three sonnets that yield to few or none whatever. I am forced, however, to request that you will not put in the one referring to myself, from my constant bugbear of any appearance of collusion. That sonnet is a very fine one—my brother was showing it me again the other day. It is not my personal gratification alone, though that is deep, because I know you are sincere, which leads me to the conclusion that it is your best, and very fine indeed. I think your Cumberland sonnet admirable. The sonnet on Byron is extremely musical in flow and the symbolic scenery of exceptional excellence. The view taken is the question with me. Byron's vehement directness, at its best, is a lasting lesson: and, dubious monument as Don Juan may be, it towers over the century. Of course there is truth in what you say; but ought it to be the case? and is it the case in any absolute sense? You deal frankly with your sonnets, and do not shrink from radical change. I think that on Oliver much better than when I saw it before. The opening phrases of both octave and sestette are very fine; but the second quatrain and the second terzina, though with a quality of beauty, both seem somewhat to lack distinctness. The word rivers cannot be used with elision—the v is a hard pebble in the flow, and so are the closing consonants. You must put up with streams if you keep the line.

You should have Bailey's dedicatory sonnet in Festus.

I am enclosing a fine sonnet by William Bell Scott, which I wished him to let me send you for your book. It has not yet been printed. I think I heard of some little chaffy matter between him and you, but, doubtless, you have virtually forgotten all about it. I must say frankly that I think the day when you made the speech he told me of must have been rather a wool-gathering one with you.... I suppose you know that Scott has written a number of fine sonnets contained in his vol of Poems published about 1875, I think.

I directed the attention of Mr. Waddington (whom, however, I don't know personally) to a most noble sonnet by Fanny Kemble, beginning, "Art thou already weary of the way?" He has put it in, and several others of hers, but she is very unequal, and I don't know if the others should be there, but you should take the one in question. It sadly wants new punctuation, being vilely printed just as I first saw it when a boy in some twopenny edition.

In a memoir of Gilchrist, appended now by his widow to the Life of Blake, there is a sonnet by G., perhaps interesting enough, as being exceptional, for you to ask for it; but I don't advise you, if you don't think it worth.

I have received from Mrs. Meynell, a sister of Eliz. Thompson, the painter, a most genuine little book of poems containing some sonnets of true spiritual beauty. I must send it you.

This book had just then been introduced to Rossetti with much warmth of praise by Mr. Watts, and he took to it vastly.

This closes Rossetti's interesting letters on sonnet literature. In reprinting his first volume of Poems he had determined to remove the sonnets of The House of Life to the new volume of Ballads and Sonnets, and fill the space with the fragment of a poem written in youth, and now called The Bride's Prelude. He sent me a proof. The reader will remember that as a narrative fragment it is less remarkable for striking incident (though never failing of interest and picturesqueness) than for a slow and psychical development which ultimately gained a great hold of the sympathies. The poem leaves behind it a sense as of a sultry day. Judging first of its merits as a song (using the word in its broad and simple sense), the poem flows on the tongue with unbroken sweetness and with a variety of cadence and light and shade of melody which might admit of its pursuing its meanderings through five times its less than 50 pages, and still keeping one's senses awake to the constantly recurring advent of new and pleasing literary forms. The story is a striking one, with a great wealth of highly effective incident,—notably the episode of the card-playing, and of the father striking down the sword which Raoul turns against the breast of the bride. Almost equally memorable are the scenes in which the lover appears, and the occasional interludes of incident in which, between the pauses of the narrative, the bridegroom's retinue are heard sporting in the courtyard without.

The whole atmosphere of the poem is saturated in a medievalism of spirit to which no lapse of modernism does violence, and the spell of romance which comes with that atmosphere of the middle ages is never broken, but preserved in the minutest most matter-of-fact details, such as the bowl of water that stood amidst flowers, and in which the sister Amelotte "slid a cup" and offered it to Aloyse to drink. But the one great charm of the poem lies in its subtle and most powerful psychical analysis, seen foreshadowed in the first mention of the bride sitting in the shade, but first felt strongly when she begs her sister to pray, and again when she tells how, at God's hint, she had whispered something of the whole tale to her sister who slept

The dread introspection pictured after the sin is in the highest degree tragic, and affects one like remorse in its relentlessness, although less remorse than fear of discovery. The sickness of the following condition, with its yearnings, longings, dizziness, is very nobly done, and delicate as is the theme, and demanding a touch of unerring strength, yet lightness, the part of the poem concerned with it contains certain of the most beautiful and stirring things. The madness (for it is not less than such) in which at the sea-side, believing Urscelyn to be lost, the bride tells the whole tale, whilst her curse laughed within her to see the amazement and anger of her brothers and of her father, is doubtless true enough to the frenzied state of her mind; but my sympathies go out less to that part of the poem than to the subsequent part, in which the bride-mother is described as leaning along in thought after her child, till tears, not like a wedded girl's, fall among her curls. Highly dramatic, too, is the passage in which she fears to curse the evil men whose evil hands have taken her child, lest from evil lips the curse should be a blessing.

The characterisation seemed to be highly powerful, and, so far as it went, finely contrasted. I could almost have wished that the love for which the bride suffers so much had been more dwelt upon, and Urscelyn had been made somehow more worthy of such love and sacrifice. The only point in which the poem struck me, after mature reflection, as less admirable than certain others of the author's, lay in the circumstance that the narrative moves slowly, but, of course, it should be remembered that the poem is one of emotion, not incident. There are most magical flashes of imagery in the poem, notably in the passage beginning

Her thought, long stagnant, stirred by speech, Gave her a sick recoil; As, dip thy fingers through the green That masks a pool, where they have been, The naked depth is black between.

Rossetti wrote a valuable letter on his scheme for the completion of The Bride's Prelude:

I was much pleased with your verdict on The Bride's Prelude. I think the poem is saved by its picturesqueness, but that otherwise the story up to the point reached is too purely repellent. I have the sequel quite clear in my mind, and in it the mere passionate frailty of Aloyse's first love would be followed by a true and noble love, rendered calamitous by Urscelyn, who then (having become a powerful soldier of fortune) solicits the hand of Aloyse. Thus the horror which she expresses against him to her sister on the bridal morning would be fully justified. Of course, Aloyse would confess her fault to her second lover whose love would, nevertheless, endure. The poem would gain so greatly by this sequel that I suppose I must set to and finish it one day, old as it is. I suppose it would be doubled, but hardly more. I hate long poems.

I quite think the card-playing passage the best thing—as a unit—in the poem: but your opinion encourages my own, that it fails nowhere of good material. It certainly moves slowly as you say, and this is quite against the rule I follow. But here was no life condensed in an episode; but a story which had necessarily to be told step by step, and a situation which had unavoidably to be anatomised. If it is not unworthy to appear with my best things, that is all I hope for it. You have pitched curiously upon some of my favourite touches, and very coincidently with Watts's views.

Early in 1881, he wrote:

I am writing a ballad on the death of James I. of Scots. It is already twice the length of The White Ship, and has a good slice still to come. It is called The King's Tragedy, and is a ripper I can tell you!

The other day I got from Italy a paper containing a really excellent and exceptional notice of my poems, written by the author of a volume also sent me containing, among other translations from the English, Jenny, Last Confession, etc.

I have been re-reading, after many years, Keats's Otho the Great, and find it a much better thing than I remembered, though only a draft.

I am much exercised as to what you mention as to a Michael Scott scheme of Coleridge's. Where does he speak of it, and what is it? It is quite new to me; but curiously enough, I have a complete scheme drawn up for a ballad, to be called Michael Scott's Wooing, not the one I proposed beginning now—and also have long designed a picture under the same title, but of quite different motif! Allan Cunningham wrote a romance called Sir Michael Scott, but I never saw it.

I have heard from Walter Severn about a subscription proposed to erect a gravestone to his father beside that of Keats. I should like you to copy for me your sonnet on Severn. I hear it is in The Athenaeum, but have not seen it. I was asked to prepare an inscription, which I send you. Nothing would be so good as Severn's own words.

I strongly urge you to go on with your book on the Supernatural. The closing chapter should, I think, be on the weird element in its perfection, as shown by recent poets in the mess—i.e. those who take any lead. Tennyson has it certainly here and there in imagery, but there is no great success in the part it plays through his Idylls. The Old Romaunt beats him there. The strongest instance of this feeling in Tennyson that I remember is in a few lines of The Palace of Art:

And hollow breasts enclosing hearts of flame; And with dim-fretted foreheads all On corpses three months old at morn she came That stood against the wall.

I won't answer for the precise age of the corpses—perhaps I have staled them somewhat.


It is in the nature of these Recollections that they should be personal, and it can hardly occur to any reader to complain of them for being that which above all else they purport to be. I have hitherto, however, been conscious of a desire (made manifest to my own mind by the character of my selections from the letters written to me) to impart to this volume an interest as broad and general as may be. But my primary purpose is now, and has been from the first, to afford the best view at my command of Rossetti as a man; and more helpful to such purpose than any number of critical opinions, however interesting, have often been those passages in his letters where the writer has got closest to his correspondent in revealing most of himself. In the chapter I am now about to write I must perforce set aside all limitations of reserve if I am to convey such an idea of Rossetti's last days as fills my mind; I must be content to speak almost exclusively of my personal relations to him, to the enforced neglect of the more intimate relations of others.

About six months after my first visit, Rossetti invited me to spend a week with him at his house, and this I was glad to be able to do. I found him in many important particulars a changed man. His complexion was brighter than before, and this circumstance taken alone might have been understood to indicate improved bodily health, but in actual fact it rather denoted in his case a retrograde physical tendency, as being indicative chiefly of some recent excess in the use of his pernicious drug. He was distinctly less inclined to corpulence, his eyes were less bright, and had more frequently than formerly the appearance of gazing upon vacancy, and when he walked to and fro in the studio, as it was his habit to do at intervals of about an hour, he did so with a more laboured sidelong motion than I had previously noticed, as though the body unconsciously lost and then regained some necessary control and command at almost every step. Half sensible, no doubt, of a reduced condition, or guessing perhaps the nature of my reflections from a certain uneasiness which it baffled my efforts to conceal, he paused for an instant one evening in the midst of these melancholy perambulations and asked me how he struck me as to health. More frankly than judiciously I answered promptly, Less well than formerly. It was a luckless remark, for Rossetti's prevailing wish at that moment was to conceal even from himself his lowered state, and the time was still to come when he should crave the questionable sympathy of those who said he looked even more ill than he felt. Just before this, my second visit, he had completed his King's Tragedy, and I had heard from his own lips how prostrate the emotional strain involved in the production of the poem had first left him. Casting himself now on the couch in an attitude indicative of unusual exhaustion, he said the ballad had taken much out of him. "It was as though my life ebbed out with it," he said, and in saying so much of the nervous tension occasioned by the work in question he did not overstate the truth as it presented itself to other eyes. Time after time while the ballad was in course of production, he had made effort to read it aloud to the friend to whose judgment his poetry was always submitted, but had as frequently failed to do so from the physical impossibility of restraining the tears that at every stage welled up out of an overwrought nature, for the poet never existed perhaps who, while at work, lived so vividly in the imagined situation. And the weight of that work was still upon him when we met again. His voice seemed to have lost much in quality, and in compass too to have diminished: or if the volume of sound remained the same, it appeared to have retired (so to express it) inwards, and to convey, when he spoke, the idea of a man speaking as much to himself as to others. More than ever now the scene of his life lacked for me some necessary vitality: it breathed an atmosphere of sorrow: it was like the dream of a distempered imagination out of which there came no welcome awakening, to say it was not true. On the side of his intellectual life Rossetti was obviously under less constraint with me than ever before. Previously he had seemed to make a conscious effort to speak generously of all contemporaries, and cordially of every friend with whom he was brought into active relations; and if, by force of some stray impulse, he was ever led to say a disparaging word of any one, he forthwith made a palpable, and sometimes amusing, effort so to obliterate the injurious impression as to convey the idea that he wished it to appear that he had not said anything at all. But now this restraint was thrown aside.

I perceived that the drug by which he was enslaved caused what I may best characterise as intermittent waves of morbid suspiciousness as to the good faith of every individual, including his best, oldest, and truest friends, as to whom the most inexplicable delusions would suddenly come, and as suddenly go. He would talk in the gravest and most earnest way of the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of a dear friend, and then the moment his eloquence had drawn from me an exclamation of sympathy for him, he would turn round and heap upon the same individual an extravagance of praise for his fidelity and good faith. And now, he so classed his contemporaries as to leave no doubt that he was duly sensible of his own place amongst them, preserving, meantime, a dignified reticence as to the extent of his personal claims.

His life was an anachronism. Such a man should have had no dealings with the nineteenth century: he belonged to the sixteenth, or perhaps the thirteenth, and in Italy not in England. It would, nevertheless, be wrong to say that he was wholly indifferent to important political issues, of which he took often a very judicial view. In dismissing further mention of this second and prolonged meeting with Rossetti, it only remains to me to say (as a necessary, if strictly personal, explanation of much that will follow), that on the evening preceding my departure, he asked me, in the event of my deciding to come to live in London, to take up my quarters at his house. To this proposal I made no reply: and neither his speech nor my silence needs any comment, and I shall offer none.

A month or two later my own health gave way, and then, a change of residence being inevitable, Rossetti repeated his invitation; but a London campaign, under such conditions as were necessarily entailed by pitching one's tent with him, got further and further away, until I seemed to see it through the inverse end of a telescope whereof the slides were being drawn out, out, every day further and further. I determined to spend half a year among' the mountains of Cumberland, and went up to the Vale of St. John. Scarcely had I settled there when Rossetti wrote that he must himself soon leave London: that he was wearied out absolutely, and unable to sleep at night, that if he could only reach that secluded vale he would breathe a purer air mentally as well as physically. The mood induced by contemplation of the tranquillity of my retreat over-against the turmoil and distractions of the city in which, though not of which, he was, added to the deepening exhaustion which had already begun when I left him, had prevailed with him, he said, to ask me to come down to London, and travel back with him. "Supposing," he wrote, "I were to ask you to come to town in a fortnight's time from now—I returning with you for a while into the country—would that be feasible to you?"

Once unsettled in the environments within which for years he had moved contentedly, a thousand reasons were found for the contemplated step, and simultaneously a thousand obstacles arose to impede the execution of it. "They have at length taken my garden," he said, "as they have long threatened to do, and now they are really setting about building upon it. I do not in the least know what my plans may be." And again: "It seems certain that I must leave this house and seek another. Is there any house in the neighbourhood of the Vale of St. John with a largish room one could paint in (to N. or NE.)?" The idea of his taking up his permanent abode so far out of the market circle was, I well knew, just one of those impracticable notions which, with Rossetti, were abandoned as soon as conceived, so I was not surprised to hear from him as follows, by the succeeding post: "In what I wrote yesterday I said something as to a possibility of leaving town, but I now perceive this is not practicable at present; therefore need not trouble you to take note of neighbouring houses." Presently he wrote again: "Bedevilments thicken: the garden is ploughed up, and I 've not stirred out of the house for a week: I must leave this place at once if I am to leave it alive." {*}

* It is but just to say that, although Rossetti wrote thus peevishly of what was quite inevitable,—the yielding up of his fine garden,—he would at other times speak of the great courtesy and good-nature of Messrs. Pemberton, in allowing him the use of the garden after it had been severed from the property he hired.

"My present purpose is to take another house in London. Could you not come down and beat up agents for me? I know you will not deny me your help. I hear of a house at Brixton, with a garden of two acres, and only L130 a year." In a day or two even this last hope had proved delusive: "I find the house at Brixton will not do, and I hear of nothing else.... I am anxious as to having become perfectly deaf on the right side of my head. Partial approaches to this have sometimes occurred to me and passed away, so I will not be too much troubled at it." A little later he wrote: "Now my housekeeper is leaving me, her mother being very ill. Can you not come to my assistance? Come at once and we will set sail in one boat." I appear to have replied to this last appeal in a tone of some little scepticism as to his remaining long in the same mind relative to our mutual housemating, for subsequently he says: "At this writing I can see no likelihood of my not remaining in the mind that, in case of your coming to London, your quarters should be taken up here. The house is big enough for two, even if they meant to be strangers to each other. You would have your own rooms and we should meet just when we pleased. You have got a sufficient inkling of my exceptional habits not to be scared by them. It is true, at times my health and spirits are variable, but I am sure we should not be squabbling. However, it seems you have no intention of a quite immediate move, and we can speak farther of it." I readily consented to do whatever seemed feasible to help him out of his difficulties, which existed, however, as I perceived, much more in his own mind than in actual fact. I thought a brief holiday in the solitude within which I was then located would probably be helpful in restoring a tranquil condition of mind, and as his brother, Mr. Scott, Mr. Watts, Mr. Shields, and other friends in London, were of a similar opinion, efforts were made to induce him to undertake the journey which he had been the first to think of. His oldest friend, Mr. Madox Brown (whose presence would have been as valuable now as it had proved to be on former occasions), was away at Manchester, and remained there throughout the time of his last illness. His moods at this time were too variable to be relied upon three days together, and so I find him writing:

Many thanks for the information as to your Shady Vale, which seems a vision—a distant one, alas!—of Paradise. Perhaps I may reach it yet.... I am now thinking of writing another ballad-poem to add at the end of my volume. It is romantic, not historical I have a clear scheme for it and believe your scenery might help me much if I could get there. When you hear that scheme, you will, I believe, pronounce it precisely fitted to the scenery you describe as now surrounding you. That scenery I hope to reach a little later, but meantime should much like to see you in London and return with you.

The proposed ballad was to be called The Orchard Pits and was to be illustrative of the serpent fascination of beauty, but it was never written. Contented now to await the issue of events, he proceeded to write on subjects of general interest:

Keats (page 154, vol. i., of Houghton's Life, etc.) mentions among other landscape features the Vale of St. John. So you may think of him in the neighbourhood as well as (or, if you like, rather than) Wordsworth.

I have been reading again Hogg's Shelley. S. appears to have been as mad at Keswick as everywhere else, but not madder;— that he could not compass.

At this juncture some unlooked-for hitch in the arrangements then pending for the sale of the Dante's Dream to the Corporation of Liverpool rendered my presence in London inevitable, and upon my arrival I found that Rossetti had fitted out rooms for my reception, although I had never down to that moment finally decided to avail myself of an offer which upon its first being broached, appeared to be too one-sided a bargain (in which of course the sacrifice seemed to be Rossetti's) to admit of my entertaining it. In this way I drifted into my position as Rossetti's housemate.

The letters and scraps of notes I have embodied in the foregoing will probably convey a better idea of Rossetti's native irresolution, as it was made manifest to me in the early part of 1881, than any abstract definition, however faithful and exact, could be expected to do. Irresolution was indubitably his most noticeable quality at the time when I came into active relation with him; and if I be allowed to have any perception of character and any acquaintance with the fundamental traits that distinguish man from man, I shall say unhesitatingly (though I well know how different is the opinion of others) that irresolution with melancholy lay at the basis of his nature. I have heard Mr. Swinburne speak of a cheerfulness of deportment in early life, which imparted an idea as of one who could not easily be depressed. I have heard Mr. Watts speak of the days at Kelmscott Manor House, where he first knew him, and where Rossetti was the most delightful of companions. I have heard Canon Dixon speak of a determination of purpose which yielded to no sort of obstacle, but carried its point by the sheer vehemence with which it asserted it. I can only say that I was witness to neither characteristic. Of traits the reverse of these, I was constantly receiving evidence; but let it be remembered that before I joined Rossetti (which was only in the last year of his life) in that intimate relation which revealed to my unwilling judgment every foible and infirmity of character, the whole nature of the man had been vitiated by an enervating drug. At my meeting with him the brighter side of his temperament had been worn away in the night-troubles of his unrestful couch; and of that needful volition, which establishes for a man the right to rule not others but himself, only the mockery and inexplicable vagaries of temper remained. When I knew him, Rossetti was devoid of resolution. At that moment at which he had finally summoned up every available and imaginable reason for pursuing any particular course, his purpose wavered and his heart gave way. When I knew him, Rossetti was destitute of cheerfulness or content. At that instant, at which the worst of his shadowy fears had been banished by some fortuitous occurrence that lit up with an unceasing radiation of hope every prospect of life, he conjured out of its very brightness fresh cause for fear and sadness. True, indeed, these may have been no more than symptoms of those later phenomena which came of disease, and foreshadowed death. Other minds may reduce to a statement of cause and effect what I am content to offer as fact.

Upon settling with Rossetti in July 1881, I perceived that his health was weaker. His tendency to corpulence had entirely disappeared, his feebleness of step had become at certain moments painfully apparent, and his temper occasionally betrayed signs of bitterness. To myself, personally, he was at this stage as genial as of old, or if for an instant he gave vent to an unprovoked outburst of wrath, he would far more than atone for it by a look of inexpressible remorse and some feeling words of regret, whereof the import sometimes was—

I wish you were indeed my son, for though then I should still have no right to address you so, I should at least have some right to expect your forgiveness.

In such moods of more than needful solicitude for one's acutest sensibilities, Rossetti was absolutely irresistible.

As I have said, the occupant of this great gloomy house, in which I had now become a resident, had rarely been outside its doors for two years; certainly never afoot, and only in carriages with his friends. Upon the second night of my stay, I announced my intention of taking a walk on the Chelsea embankment, and begged him to accompany me. To my amazement he yielded, and every night for a week following, I succeeded in inducing him to repeat the now unfamiliar experience. It was obvious enough to himself that he walked totteringly, with infinite expenditure of physical energy, and returned in a condition of exhaustion that left him prostrate for an hour afterwards. The root of all this evil was soon apparent. He was exceeding with the chloral, and little as I expected or desired to exercise a moral guardianship over the habits of this great man, I found myself insensibly dropping into that office.

Negotiations for the sale of the Liverpool picture were now complete; the new volume of poems and the altered edition of the old volume had been satisfactorily passed through the press; and it might have been expected that with the anxiety occasioned by these enterprises, would pass away the melancholy which in a nature like Rossetti's they naturally induced. The reverse was the fact, He became more and more depressed as each palpable cause of depression was removed, and more and more liable to give way to excess with the drug. By his brother, Mr. Watts, Mr. Shields, and others who had only too frequently in times past had experience of similar outbreaks, this failure in spirits, with all its attendant physical weakness, was said to be due primarily to hypochondriasis. Hence the returning necessity to get him away (as Mr. Madox Brown had done at a previous crisis) for a change of air and scene. Once out of this atmosphere of gloom, we hoped that amid cheerful surroundings his health would speedily revive. Infinite were the efforts that had to be made, and countless the precautions that had to be taken before he could be induced to set out, but at length we found ourselves upon our way to Keswick, at nine p.m., one evening in September, in a special carriage packed with as many artist's trappings and as many books as would have lasted for a year.

We reached Penrith as the grey of dawn had overspread the sky. It was six o'clock as we got into the carriage that was to drive us through the vale of St. John to our destination at the Legberthwaite end of it. The morning was now calm, the mountains looked loftier, grander, and yet more than ever precipitous from the road that circled about their base. Nothing could be heard but the calls of the awakening cattle, the rumble of cataracts far away, and the rush and surge of those that were near. Rossetti was all but indifferent to our surroundings, or displayed only such fitful interest in them as must have been affected out of a kindly desire to please me. He said the chloral he had taken daring the journey was upon him, and he could not see. At length we reached the house that was for some months to be our home. It stood at the foot of a ghyll, which, when swollen by rain, was majestic in volume and sound. The little house we had rented was free from all noise other than the occasional voice of a child or bark of a dog. Here at least he might bury the memory of the distractions of the city that vexed him. Save for the ripple of the river that flowed at his feet, the bleating of sheep on Golden Howe, the echo of the axe of the woodman who was thinning the neighbouring wood, and the morning and evening mail-coach horn, he might delude himself into forgetfulness that he belonged any longer to this noisy earth.

Next day Rossetti was exceptionally well, and astounded me by the proposal that we should ascend Golden Howe together—a little mountain of some 1000 feet that stands at the head of Thirlmere. With never a hope on my part of our reaching the summit, we set out for that purpose, but through no doubt the exhilarating effect of the mountain air, he actually compassed the task he had proposed to himself, and sat for an hour on that highest point from whence could be seen the Skiddaw range to the north, Haven's Crag to the west, Styx Pass and Helvellyn to the east, and the Dunmail Raise to the south, with the lake below. Rossetti was struck by the variety of configuration in the hills, and even more by the variety of colour. But he was no great lover of landscape beauty, and the majestic scene before us produced less effect upon his mind than might perhaps have been expected. He seemed to be almost unconscious of the unceasing atmospheric changes that perpetually arrest and startle. the observer in whom love of external nature in her grander moods has not been weakened by disease. The complete extent of the Vale of St. John could be traversed by the eye from the eminence upon which we sat. The valley throughout its three-mile length is absolutely secluded: one has only the hills for company, and to say the truth they are sometimes fearful company too. Usually the landscape wears a cheerful aspect, but at times long fleecy clouds drive midway across the mountains, leaving the tops visible. The scenery is highly awakening to the imagination. Even the country people are imaginative, and the country is full of ghostly legend. I was never at any moment sensible that these environments affected Rossetti: assuredly they never agitated him, and no effort did he make to turn them to account for the purposes of the romantic ballad he had spoken of as likely to grow amidst such surroundings.

Being much more than ordinarily cheerful during the first evenings of our stay in the North, he talked sometimes of his past life and of the men and women he had known in earlier years. Carlyle's Reminiscences had not long before been published. Mrs. Carlyle, therein so extravagantly though naturally belauded, he described as a bitter little woman, with, however, the one redeeming quality of unostentatious charity: "The poor of Chelsea," he said, "always spoke well of her." "George Eliot," whose genius he much admired, he had ceased to know long before her death, but he spoke of the lady as modest and retiring, and amiable to a fault when the outer crust of reticence had been broken through. Longfellow had called upon him whilst he was painting the Dante's Dream. The old poet was Courteous and complimentary in the last degree; he seemed, however, to know little or nothing about painting as an art, and also to have fallen into the error of thinking that Rossetti the painter and Sossetti the poet were different men; in short, that the Dante of that name was the painter, and the William the poet. Upon leaving the house, Longfellow had said: "I have been glad to meet you, and should like to have met your brother; pray, tell him how much I admire his beautiful poem, The Blessed Damozel" Giving no hint of the error, Rossetti said he had answered, "I will tell him." He painted a little during our stay in the North, for it was whilst there that he began the beautiful replica of his Proserpina, now the property of Mr. Valpy. I found it one of my best pleasures to watch a picture growing under his hand, and thought it easy to see through the medium of his idealised heads, cold even in their loveliness, unsubstantial in their passion, that to the painter life had been a dream into which nothing entered that was not as impalpable as itself. Tainted by the touch of melancholy that is the blight that clings to the purest beauty, his pictured faces were, in my view, akin to his poetry, every line of which, as he sometimes recited it, seemed as though it echoed the burden of a bygone sorrow—the sorrow of a dream rather than that of a life, or of a life that had been itself a dream. I also then realised what Mr. Theodore Watts has said in a letter just now written to me from Sark, that, "apart from any question of technical shortcomings, one of Rossetti's strongest claims to the attention of posterity was that of having invented, in the three-quarter-length pictures painted from one face, a type of female beauty which was akin to none other,—which was entirely new, in short,—and which, for wealth of sublime and mysterious suggestion, unaided by complex dramatic design, was unique in the art of the world."

On one occasion the talk turned on the eccentricities and affectations of men of genius, and I did my best to-ridicule them unsparingly, saying they were a purely modern extravagance, the highest intellects of other times being ever the sanest, Shakspeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Coleridge, Wordsworth; the root of the evil had been Shelley, who was mad, and in imitation of whose madness, modern men of genius must many of them be mad also, until it had come to such a pass-that if a gifted man conducted himself throughout life with probity and propriety we instantly began to doubt the value of his gifts. Rossetti evidently thought that in all this I was covertly hitting out at himself, and cut short the conversation with an unequivocal hint that he had no affectations, and could not account himself an authority with respect to them.

With such talk a few of our evenings were spent, but too soon the insatiable craving for the drug came with renewed force, and then all pleasant intercourse was banished. Night after night we sat up until eleven, twelve, and one o'clock, watching the long hours go by with heavy steps; waiting, waiting, waiting for the time at which he could take his first draught, and drop into his pillowed place and snatch a dreamless sleep of three or four hours' duration.

In order to break the monotony of nights such as I describe I sometimes read from Fielding, Richardson, and Sterne, but more frequently induced Rossetti to recite. Thus, with failing voice, he would again and again attempt, at my request, his Cloud Confines, or passages from The King's Tragedy, and repeatedly, also, Poe's Ulalume and Raven. I remember that, touching the last-mentioned of these poems, he remarked that out of his love of it while still a boy his own Blessed Damozel originated. "I saw," he said, "that Poe had done the utmost it was possible to do with the grief of the lover on earth, and so I determined to reverse the conditions, and give utterance to the yearning of the loved one in heaven." At that time of the year the night closed in as early as seven or eight o'clock, and then in that little house among the solitary hills his disconsolate spirit would sometimes sink beyond solace into irreclaimable depths of depression.

It was impossible that such a condition of things should last, and it was with unspeakable relief that I heard Rossetti express a desire to return home. Mr. Watts, who at that time was at Stratford-upon-Avon, had promised to join us, but now wrote to say that this was impossible. Had it been otherwise, Rossetti would willingly have remained, but now he longed to get back to London. His life had lost its joys. The success of his Liverpool picture was almost as nothing to him, and the enthusiastic reception given to his book gave him not more than a passing pleasure, though he was deeply touched by the sympathetic and exhaustive criticism published by Professor Dowden in The Academy, as well as by Professor Colvin's friendly monograph in The World. At length one night, a month after our arrival, we set out on our return, and well do I remember the pathos of his words as I helped him (now feebler than ever) into his house. "Thank God! home at last, and never shall I leave it again!"

Very natural was the deep concern of his friends, especially of his brother and Mr. Shields, at finding him return even less well than he had set out. With deeper reliance on past knowledge of the man, Mr. Watts still took a hopeful view, attributing the physical prostration to hypochondriasis, which might, in common with all similar nervous ailments, impose as much pain upon the victim as if the sufferings complained of had a real foundation in positive disease, but might also give way at any moment when the victim could be induced to take a hopeful view of life. The cheerfulness of Mr. Watts's society, after what I well know must have been the lugubrious nature of my own, had at first its usual salutary effect upon Rossetti's spirits, and I will not forbear to say that I, too, welcomed it as a draught of healing morning air after a month-long imprisonment in an atmosphere of gloom. But I was not yet freed of my charge. The sense of responsibility which in the solitude of the mountains had weighed me down, was now indeed divided with his affectionate family and the friends who were Rossetti's friends before they were mine, and who came at this juncture with willing help, prompted chiefly, of course, by devotion to the great man in sore trouble, but also—I must allow myself to think—in one or two cases by desire to relieve me of some of the burden of the task that had fallen so unexpectedly upon me. Foremost among such disinterested friends was of course the friend I have spoken of so frequently in these pages, and for whom I now felt a growing regard arising as much out of my perception of the loyalty of his comradeship as the splendour of his gifts. But after him in solicitous service to Rossetti, at this moment of great need, came Frederick Shields (the fine tissue of whose highly-strung nature must have been sorely tried by the strain to which it was subjected), Mr. W. B. Scott, whose visits were never more warmly welcomed by Rossetti than at this season, the good and gifted Miss Boyd, and of course Rossetti's brother, sister, and mother, to each of whom he was affectionately attached. Strange enough it seemed that this man who, for years had shunned the world and chosen solitude when he might have had society, seemed at last to grow weary of his loneliness. But so it was. Rossetti became daily more and more dependent upon his friends for company that should not fail him, for never for an hour now could he endure to be alone. Remembering this, I almost doubt if by nature he was at any time a solitary. There are men who feel more deeply the sense of isolation amidst the busiest crowds than within the narrowest circle of intimates, and I have heard from Rossetti reminiscences of his earlier life that led me to believe that he was one of the number. Perhaps, after all, he wandered from the world rather from the dread than with the hope of solitude. In such pleasant intercourse as the visits of the friends I have named afforded, was the sadness of the day in a measure dissipated, but when night came I never failed to realise that no progress whatever had been made. I tried to check the craving for chloral, but I could as easily have checked the rising tide: and where the lifelong assiduity of older friends had failed to eradicate a morbid, ruinous, and fatal thirst, it was presumptous if not ridiculous to imagine that the task could be compassed by a frail creature with heart and nerves of wax. But the whole scene was now beginning to have an interest for me more personal and more serious than I have yet given hint of. The constant fret and fume of this life of baffled effort, of struggle with a deadly drug that had grown to have an objective existence in my mind as the existence of a fiend, was not without a sensible effect upon myself. I became ill for a few days with a low fever, but far worse than this was the fact that there was creeping over me the wild influence of Rossetti's own distempered imaginings.

Once conscious of such influence I determined to resist it, but how to do so I knew not without flying utterly away from an atmosphere in which my best senses seemed to stagnate, and burying the memory of it for ever.

The crisis was pending, and sooner than we expected it came. A nurse was engaged. One evening Dr. Westland Marston and his son Philip Bourke Marston came to spend a few hours with Rossetti, For a while he 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 realised that from whatever cause, he had 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. 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. Christmas Day was now nigh at hand, and, still confined to his room, he begged me to promise to spend that day with him; "otherwise," he said, "how sad a day it must be for me, for I cannot fairly ask any other." With a tenderness of sympathy I shall not forget, Mr. Scott had asked me to dine that day at his more cheerful house; but I reflected that this was to be my first Christmas in London and it might be Rossetti's last, so I put by pleasanter considerations. We dined alone, but, somewhat later, William Rossetti, with true brotherly affection, left the guests at his own house, and ran down to spend an hour with the invalid. We could hear from time to time the ringing of the bells of the neighbouring churches, and I noticed that Rossetti was not disturbed by them as he had been formerly. Indeed, the drug once removed, he was in every sense a changed man. He talked that night brightly, and with more force and incisiveness, I thought, than he had displayed for months. There was the ring of affection in his tone as he said he had always had loyal friends; and then he spoke with feeling of Mr. Watts's friendship, of Mr. Shields's, and afterwards he spoke of Mr. Burne Jones who had just previously visited him, as well as of Mr. Madox Brown, and his friendship of a lifetime; of Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Morris, Mr. Stephens, Mr. Boyce, and other early friends. He said a word or two of myself which I shall not repeat, and then spoke with emotion of his mother and sister, and of his sister who was dead, and how they were supported through their sore trials by religious resignation. He asked if I, like Shields, was a believer, and seemed altogether in a softer and more spiritual mood than I remember to have noticed before.

With such talk we passed the Christmas night of 1881. Rossetti recovered power in some measure, was able to get down to the studio, and see the friends who called—Mr. F. E. Leyland frequently, Lord and Lady Mount Temple, Mrs. Sumner, Mr. Boyce, Mr. F. G. Stephens, Mr. Gilchrist, Mr. and Mrs. Virtue Tebbs, Mrs. Stillman, Mrs. Coronio, and Mr. C. and Mr. A. Ionides occasionally, as well as those previously named. A visit from Dr. Hueffer of the Times (of whose gifts he had a high opinion), enlivened him perceptibly. But he did not recover, and at the end of January 1882 it was definitely determined that he should go to the sea-side. I was asked to accompany him, and did so. At the right juncture Mr. J. P. Seddon very hospitably tendered the use of his handsome bungalow at Birchington-on-Sea, a little watering-place four miles west of Margate. There we spent nine weeks. At first going out he was able to take short walks on the cliffs, or round the road that winds about the churchyard, but his strength grew less and less every day and hour. We were constantly visited by Mr. Watts, whose devotion never failed, and Rossetti would brighten up at the prospect of one of his visits, and become sensibly depressed when he had gone. Mr. William Sharp, too (a young friend of whose gifts as a poet Rossetti had a genuine appreciation, and by whom he had been visited at intervals for some time), came out occasionally and cheered up the sufferer in a noticeable degree. Then his mother and sister came and stayed in the house during many weeks at the last. How shall I speak of the tenderness of their solicitude, of their unwearying attentions, in a word of their ardent and reciprocated love of the illustrious son and brother for whom they did the thousand gentle offices which they alone could have done! The end was drawing on, and we all knew the fact. Rossetti had actually taken to poetical composition afresh, and had written a facetious ballad (conceived years before) of the length of The White Ship, called Jan Van Hunks, embodying an eccentric story of a Dutchman's wager to smoke against the devil. This was to appear in a miscellany of stories and poems by himself and Mr. Watts, a project which had been a favourite one of his for some years, and in which he now, in his last moments, took a revived interest strange and strong.

About this time he derived great gratification from reading an article on him and his works in Le Livre by Mr. Joseph Knight, an old friend to whom he was deeply attached, and for whose gifts he had a genuine admiration. Perhaps the very last letter Rossetti penned was written to Mr. Knight upon the subject of this article.

His intellect was as powerful as in his best days, and freer than ever of hallucinations. But his bodily strength grew less and less. His sight became feebler, and then he abandoned the many novels that had recently solaced his idler hours, and Miss Rossetti read aloud to him. Among other books she read Dickens's Tale of Two Cities, and he seemed deeply touched by Sidney Carton's sacrifice, and remarked that he would like to paint the last scene of the story.

On Wednesday morning, April 5th, I went into the bedroom to which he had for some days been confined, and wrote out to his dictation two sonnets which he had composed on a design of his called The Sphinx, and which he wished to give, together with the drawing and the ballad before described, to Mr. Watts for publication in the volume just mentioned. On the Thursday morning I found his utterance thick, and his speech from that cause hardly intelligible. It chanced that I had just been reading Mr. Buchanan's new volume of poems, and in the course of conversation I told him the story of the ballad called The Lights of Leith, and he was affected by the pathos of it. He had heard of that author's retractation{*} of the charges involved in the article published ten years earlier, and was manifestly touched by the dedication of the romance God and the Man. He talked long and earnestly that morning, and it was our last real interview. He spoke of his love of early English ballad literature, and of how when he first met with it he had said to himself: "There lies your line."

* The retractation, which now has a peculiar literary interest, was made in the following verses, and should, I think, be recorded here:

To an old Enemy.

I would have snatch'd a bay-leaf from thy brow, Wronging the chaplet on an honoured head; In peace and charity I bring thee now A lily-flower instead. Pure as thy purpose, blameless as thy song, Sweet as thy spirit, may this offering be; Forget the bitter blame that did thee wrong, And take the gift from me!

In a later edition of the romance the following verses are added to the dedication:

To Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

Calmly, thy royal robe of death around thee, Thou Bleekest, and weeping brethren round thee stand— Gently they placed, ere yet God's angel crown'd thee, My lily in thy hand! I never knew thee living, O my brother! But on thy breast my lily of love now lies; And by that token, we shall know each other, When God's voice saith "Arise!"

"Can you understand me?" he asked abruptly, alluding to the thickness of his utterance.


"Nurse Abrey cannot: what a good creature she is!"

That night we telegraphed to Mr. Marshall, to Mr. W. M. Rossetti, and Mr. Watts, and wrote next morning to Mr. Shields, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Madox Brown. It had been found by the resident medical man, Dr. Harris, that in Rossetti's case kidney disease had supervened. His dear mother and I sat up until early morning with him, and when we left him his sister took our place and remained with him the whole of that and subsequent nights. He sat up in bed most of the time and said a sort of stupefaction had removed all pain. He crooned over odd lines of poetry. "My own verses torment me," he said. Then he half-sang, half-recited, snatches from one of Iago's songs in Othello. "Strange things," he murmured, "to come into one's head at such a moment." I told him his brother and Mr. Watts would be with him to-morrow. "Then you really think that I am dying? At last you think so; but I was right from the first."

Next day, Good Friday, the friends named did come, and weak as he was, he was much cheered by their presence. The following day Mr. Marshall arrived.

That gentleman recognised the alarming position of affairs, but he was not without hope. He administered a sort of hot bath, and on Sunday morning Rossetti was perceptibly brighter. Mr. Shields had now arrived, and one after one of his friends, including Mr. Leyland, who was at the time staying at Ramsgate, and made frequent calls, visited him in his room and found him able to listen and sometimes to talk. In the evening the nurse gave a cheering report of his condition, and encouraged by such prospects, Mr. Watts, Mr. Shields, and myself, gave way to good spirits, and retired to an adjoining room. About nine o'clock Mr. Watts left us, and returning in a short time, said he had been in the sickroom, and had had some talk with Rossetti, and found him cheerful. An instant afterwards we heard a scream, followed by a loud rapping at our door. We hurried into Rossetti's room and found him in convulsions. Mr. Watts raised him on one side, whilst I raised him on the other; his mother, sister, and brother, were immediately present (Mr. Shields had fled away for the doctor); there were a few moments of suspense, and then we saw him die in our arms. Mrs. William Rossetti arrived from Manchester at this moment.

Thus on Easter Day Rossetti died. It was hard to realise that he was actually dead; but so it was, and the dreadful fact had at last come upon us with a horrible suddenness. Of the business of the next few days I need say nothing. I went up to London in the interval between the death and burial, and the old house at Chelsea, which, to my mind, in my time had always been desolate, was now more than ever so, that the man who had been its vitalising spirit lay dead eighty miles away by the side of the sea. It was decided to bury the poet in the churchyard of Birchington. The funeral, which was a private one, was attended by relatives and personal friends only, with one or two well-wishers from London.

Next day we saw most of the friends away by train, and, some days later, Mr. Watts was with myself the last to leave. I thought we two were drawn the closer each to each from the loss of him by whom we were brought together. We walked one morning to the churchyard and found the grave, which nestles under the south-west porch, strewn with flowers. The church is an ancient and quaint early Gothic edifice, somewhat rejuvenated however, but with ivy creeping over its walls. The prospect to the north is of sea only: a broad sweep of landscape so flat and so featureless that the great sea dominates it. As we stood there, with the rumble of the rolling waters borne to us from the shore, we felt that though we had little dreamed that we should lay Rossetti in his last sleep here, no other place could be quite so fit. It was, indeed, the resting-place for a poet. In this bed, of all others, he must at length, after weary years of sleeplessness, sleep the only sleep that is deep and will endure. Thinking of the incidents which I have in this chapter tried to record, my mind reverted to a touching sonnet which the friend by my side had just printed; and then, for the first time, I was struck by its extraordinary applicability to him whom we had laid below. In its printed form it was addressed to Heine, and ran:

Thou knew'st that island far away and lone Whose shores are as a harp, where billows break In spray of music and the breezes shake O'er spicy seas a woof of colour and tone, While that sweet music echoes like a moan In the island's heart, and sighs around the lake Where, watching fearfully a watchful snake, A damsel weeps upon her emerald throne.

Life's ocean, breaking round thy senses' shore, Struck golden song as from the strand of day: For us the joy, for thee the fell foe lay— Pain's blinking snake around the fair isle's core, Turning to sighs the enchanted sounds that play Around thy lovely island evermore.

"How strangely appropriate it is," I said, "to Rossetti, and now I remember how deeply he was moved on reading it."

"He guessed its secret; I addressed it, for disguise, to Heine, to whom it was sadly inapplicable. I meant it for him."


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