The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti 3

December 2003
7 black and white, 14 line illustrations
649 pages
24.4x17.2 cm
ISBN: 9780859917827
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC LCO011000, ART015000, ART016000

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti 3

The Chelsea Years, 1863-1872: Prelude to Crisis I. 1863-1867

Edited by William E. Fredeman

Following the death of Elizabeth Siddal in 1862 and his settling in Chelsea, Rossetti entered on a period of his life -- charted in volume 3 -- that was marked by renewed activity as a painter and increased financial prosperity. The years 1868-1870 covered by volume 4 culminate in his return to writing poetry and the publication in June 1870 of his long-anticipated and widely-read Poems. However, despite the satisfaction that he could take from his standing as a painter and from the fact that he was about to establish himself as a poet, 1868-1870 were troubled years for Rossetti. Problems with his eyesight led him to give up painting for long periods, and to fear that, like his father before him, he would end his days blind. He consulted Sir William Bowman and other leading ophthalmologists, who eased his mind sufficiently for him to return to his easel. This was also the time when he declared his love for Jane Morris, the wife of his long-time friend and admirer William Morris. In his long, moving letters to Janey we come face to face with the satisfactions and frustrations of their relationship. The letters to Janey provide a context for understanding the many paintings and drawings from this period for which she was the model, and for gauging the biographical origins of the sonnets, written at this time for the sequence, The House of Life, an early version of which was included in Poems.Probably the most rewarding letters in the volume concern the preparation of Poems. The letters deal at length with Rossetti's decision to have his poems typeset for distribution to friends, the exhumation of Elizabeth Siddal's coffin to recover the manuscript of his poems, his obsessive care over the physical appearance of the volume, especially the binding , and his efforts at "working the oracle," William Bell Scott's description of his methodically lining up sympathetic reviewers.As with all of Rossetti's correspondence, the letters in volume 4 are replete with pointed and sometimes humorous commentary on an array of people and events, ranging from Edward Burne-Jones's affair with "the Greek damzel," Mary Zambaco, and Frederick Sandys's appropriation of subjects from his pictures, to his unease over Swinburne's uncontrollable drunkenness, and his ominous hatred of Robert Buchanan, the author of the "Fleshly School" attack on his poetry in the Contemporary Review of October 1871, which became a major cause of the disastrous events of the years 1871-1872.

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Fredeman's magnificently edited, annotated, appendixed and indexed edition, which is also beautifully produced, is testimony to an immensely impressive editorial labour of love. [...]
Fredeman has reproduced, sourced and annotated every known letter by Rossetti, and provided appendices in which one seems to be reading the story of a whole generation.[...]
This is a magnificent work of scholarship, long overdue and to be warmly welcomed. In it, the story of these turbulent years in Rossetti's life is told again, not by a biographer recharging a well-known legend, but by an editor scrupulously sifting and reassessing small pieces of evidence. TLS

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