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Title: Dante Rossetti and the pre-Raphaelite movement
Author: Wood, Esther
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

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Errors, when reasonably attributable to the printer, have been
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included here, obviously.

                           DANTE ROSSETTI AND
                           THE PRE-RAPHAELITE


                            “THE DAY-DREAM.”

                            From the chalk.

                 _By permission of Mr. Theodore Watts._






The following pages do not afford any material additions to what is
already known of Dante Rossetti, or of the history and purpose of the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The authoritative biography of Rossetti has
yet to be written; and while availing myself fully of such new details
as may cast fresh side-lights upon the dominant personalities of the
Pre-Raphaelite movement, my aim has rather been to present the main
features of that movement in their relation to the larger intellectual
tendencies of the age, and to the moral principles which have determined
the growth of taste and feeling in the nineteenth century. To this end I
have avoided as far as possible the proper domain of the art critic, and
endeavoured to deal with the Pre-Raphaelite movement more as an ethical
than an æsthetic revolution.

“It was always known to be Rossetti’s wish,” says Mr. Hall Caine in his
interesting and graphic “Recollections of Rossetti,” “that if at any
moment after his death it should appear that the story of his life
required to be written, the one friend who during many of his later
years knew him most intimately, and to whom he unlocked the most sacred
secrets of his heart, Mr. Theodore Watts, should write it; unless indeed
it were undertaken by his brother William. But though I know that
whenever Mr. Watts sets pen to paper in pursuance of such a purpose and
in fulfilment of such charge, he will afford us a recognizable portrait
of the man, vivified by picturesque illustration, the like of which few
other writers could compass, I also know from what Rossetti often told
me of his friend’s immersion in all kinds and varieties of life, that
years (perhaps many years) may elapse before such a biography is given
to the world.”

In the meantime, the present writer is indebted to Mr. J.A. Vinter,
Rossetti’s fellow-student at the Royal Academy Schools, for some
interesting reminiscences of class-room and studio life, and to the Rev.
Walter Tuckwell, rector of Stockton, Rugby, for personal recollections
of the Pre-Raphaelites at Oxford. Mr. Gerald Massey has also assisted
with suggestions and notes.

Through the courtesy of present owners of Rossetti’s pictures, several
important drawings and studies are here engraved for the first time.
Lord Battersea and Overstrand has kindly permitted a photograph to be
made from the sketch in his possession, “Mary Magdalene at the Door of
Simon the Pharisee.” A similar privilege has been granted by the
Corporation of Birmingham in regard to their monochrome, “The Boat of
Love,” and the beautiful unfinished study of “Our Lady of Pity.” I have
also to acknowledge the kindness of Mr. Moncure D. Conway, in giving
access to the fine study of the “Head of Christ” in his collection, and,
by no means least, of Mr. Theodore Watts, in the matter of his two
superb crayons, “The Day-dream” and “Pandora.” The “Beata Beatrix” and
“Ecce Ancilla Domini” are from the now familiar paintings in the
National Gallery.

                                                          ESTHER WOOD.


        _February, 1894_.


                           CHAPTER I.



  Constable prophecies the Decay of English Art—The New
    Impulse from Italy—The English Renaissance of 1850—
    Rossetti and the Specialistic Temperament—Classicism of
    the Eighteenth Century—Influence of the French Revolution—
    Revival of Romance—Contrast between Mediæval and Modern
    Romance—Pessimism in Pre-Raphaelite Painting—Nature as a
    Background—Moral Significance of the Change                     1

                          CHAPTER II.


  Childhood of Rossetti—Religious and Literary Influences—Art
    Training—Conflict between Imagination and Technique—
    Friendship with Millais and Holman Hunt—The Westminster
    Hall Competitions—Ford Madox Brown—Influence of Ruskin’s
    “Modern Painters”—The Early Italian Masters—The
    Renaissance in Mediæval Europe—Relation of Paganism to
    Christianity—Revival of Hellenism, and blending of Classic
    with Romantic Art—Growth of Technique and Return to
    Convention—The Rule of the Raphaelesque                        18

                          CHAPTER III.


  The Revolt from the Raphaelesque—Influence of Keats and the
    Romantic Poets—The Pre-Raphaelite Brothers and their Early
    work—Travels of Rossetti with Hunt—Publication of “The
    Germ”—Hunt and Millais in the Royal Academy—Ruskin’s
    letters to the “Times”—Pre-Raphaelitism at Liverpool—The
    Pre-Raphaelites as Colourists                                  56

                          CHAPTER IV.

                     PERIOD OF TRANSITION.

  Influence of Browning and Tennyson—Comparison of Rossetti
    and Browning—Influence of Dante—Introduction to Miss
    Siddal—Rossetti’s Water-Colours—Madox Brown and Romantic
    Realism—The Dispersal of the Brotherhood—Departure of
    Woolner—Ideals of Portraiture—Rossetti and Public
    Exhibitions—Death of Deverell—Rossetti’s Friendship with
    Ruskin—Apostasy of Millais—The Rank and File of the
    Movement—Relation to Foreign Schools                           92

                           CHAPTER V.


  The Pre-Raphaelites as Book-Illustrators—Moxon’s “Tennyson”—
    The “Oxford and Cambridge Magazine”—The Oxford Frescoes—
    Oxford Patrons of Millais and Hunt—Departure of Hunt for
    Palestine—The Pictures of Madox Brown—Further Developments
    of Rossetti’s Painting—Marriage and Bereavement—“Beata
    Beatrix”—Replicas—Life at Chelsea—Later Models—Designs for
    Stained Glass—Visit to Penkill—“Dante’s Dream”—Publication
    and Reception of the “Poems”—Paintings of Rossetti’s Last
    Decade—Death at Birchington                                   136

                          CHAPTER VI.


  The Re-birth of Religious Art—“God, Immortality, Duty”—The
    Pre-Raphaelites and the Reconstruction of Christianity—The
    Halo in Painting—Ideals of Womanhood—“The Girlhood of Mary
    Virgin” and “Ecce Ancilla Domini”—The Problem of
    Suffering—“Christ in the House of His Parents,” ”The
    Passover in the Holy Family,” “The Shadow of Death,” “The
    Scapegoat”—Hunt’s Symbolism—“The Light of the World”—
    Rossetti’s Symbolism—“Mary Magdalene at the Door,” and
    “Mary in the House of John”—The Idea of Victory through
    Suffering—Bethlehem Gate”— “The Triumph of the Innocents”—
    The Spirit of Inquiry—“Christ in the Temple”—The
    Atonement—“The Infant Christ Adored”—Comparison with Madox
    Brown and Burne-Jones—“The Entombment”—“The Tree of Life”     196

                          CHAPTER VII.


  The Christian Element in Neo-Hellenism and Romance—“How they
    Met Themselves” and “Michael Scott’s Wooing”—Mediævalism
    and Romantic Love—“Romeo and Juliet” and “Ophelia”—
    Millais’s Romantic Landscapes—“The Woodman’s Daughter,”
    “The Blind Girl,” “The Vale of Rest,” “Autumn Leaves”—
    Keats’s “Isabella”—Tennyson’s “Mariana” and “Idylls of the
    King”—The Idea of Retribution—“King Arthur’s Tomb,” “Paolo
    and Francesca,” “Death of Lady Macbeth,” “The Awakening
    Conscience,” “Hesterna Rosa,” “The Gate of Memory,”
    “Found,” “Psyche,” “Proserpine,” “Pandora”—The Idea of
    Duty—“The Hugenot,” “The Black Brunswicker,” “Claudio and
    Isabella”—Old and New Chivalry— “Sir Isumbras” and “The
    Rescue”—“The Merciful Knight,” “St. Agnes’ Eve”—Ideal and
    Platonic Love—“The Salutation of Beatrice,” “The Boat of
    Love,” “Beata Beatrix,” “Dante’s Dream,” “Our Lady of
    Pity”                                                         222

                         CHAPTER VIII.


  The “Pre-Raphaelite” in Literature—The Complexity of Talent
    in an Age of Re-birth—The Restoration of Romance in
    England—The Latin and the Saxon in Rossetti—Latin Diction
    for the Sonnets as Reflective Poetry—Saxon Diction for the
    Ballads as Dramatic Poetry—“The House of Life”—Treatment
    of Romantic Love—Illustrations of Sonnet-Structure—
    Miscellaneous Lyrics— “The Portrait,” “The Stream’s
    Secret,” “Dante at Verona,” “The Staff and Scrip,”—The
    Ballads—“The White Ship,” “The King’s Tragedy,” “Sister
    Helen,” “Rose Mary,” “The Bride’s Prelude,” “The Blessed
    Damozel”—“A Last Confession”—“Jenny”—Relation of
    Rossetti’s Poetry to his Painting                             259

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


  THE DAY-DREAM                                        _Frontispiece_

  ECCE ANCILLA DOMINI                                              78


  PANDORA                                                         157

  BEATA BEATRIX                                                   162

  THE BOAT OF LOVE                                                180

  HEAD OF CHRIST (STUDY FOR “MARY MAGDALENE”)                     214

  OUR LADY OF PITY                                                256

                         DANTE ROSSETTI AND THE

                               CHAPTER I.

Constable prophesies the Decay of English Art—The new Impulse from
    Italy—The English Renaissance of 1850—Rossetti and the Specialistic
    Temperament—Classicism of the Eighteenth Century—Influence of the
    French Revolution—Revival of Romance—Distinction between Mediæval
    and Modern Romance—Pessimism in Pre-Raphaelite Painting—Nature as a
    Background—Moral Significance of the Change.

A study of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in England at the zenith of the
nineteenth century opens up perhaps a wider field for controversy in the
ethics of art than is afforded by any other phase of modern painting.
Between the ridicule which, for the most part, greeted Rossetti’s first
picture, “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin,” in 1849, and the enthusiastic
homage which exalted him, thirty years later, to the dominance not
merely of a school, but almost of a religion, lies a ground of infinite
question and dispute, still awaiting the historian who shall adjust the
issues of the strife to the main thought-current of the period.

“In thirty years,” said Constable in 1821, “English art will have ceased
to exist.”

The words were significant of that first stirring of weariness and
discontent which precedes either a collapse or a revolution. It was
impossible that the conventions of the eighteenth century, persisting in
pictorial art long after they had been cast off by literature, should
suffice for an age which had wholly outgrown the conceptions of life on
which they were founded. Landscape and portraiture, however enriched by
the last gleams of a flickering classicism in the genius of a Turner, a
Lawrence, or a Constable, were still in the “bondage of corruption” to
traditional schools. Turner, indeed, is too great to be bracketed with
his contemporaries, or with the pioneers of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
He stands as much alone as Titian. But the thrall of the conventional,
of the accepted canons of what should be perceived and conceived, and
how things ought to look in pictures, lay yet upon English art. One
other painter, a solitary and uncouth herald of the new day, holds a
unique position in that transition period. Blake alone, working his
fantastic will like a sanctified Rabelais run riot in all supernal
things, discerned weird glimpses of the coming light; such glimpses as
Chatterton, in the world of poetry, caught brokenly before the neo-
romantic dawn.

Posterity may decide that the catastrophe thus prophesied by Constable
was only averted by the grafting of an Italian genius upon English
stock, and that to the country of the Great Renaissance England owes—at
least in the field of painting—her own Renaissance of the nineteenth
century. Spontaneous as was the impulse of revolt in kindred minds, and
worthily as it issued in the hands of others, the supreme achievement of
the Pre-Raphaelite movement abides with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Without
him there might have been—and indeed was already begun—a breaking up of
the old pictorial conventions; an experiment both significant and
fruitful in contemporary art. Failing this ready soil, the genius
brought over by Rossetti from a Latin race could hardly have been
naturalized as it was in early life by interchange of thought and method
with fellow-schismatics from the English schools. But whether that vital
change of spirit which found its fullest expression in the Pre-
Raphaelite movement would have produced anything like its present
results independently of Rossetti, is a question still entangled in that
injudicial partisanship of opinion from which no contemporary judgment
can quite shake itself free. A final estimate of Rossetti’s debt to his
comrades, and of the original and intrinsic merit both of their own work
and of his, is beyond the reach of the present century. Meanwhile, a
verdict of no inconsiderable weight is available in the words of Ruskin:
“I believe Rosetti’s name should be placed first on the list of men who
have raised and changed the spirit of modern art; raised in absolute
attainment, changed in the direction of temper.”

Probably, if one were called upon to name a score of typical pictures of
the Pre-Raphaelite School, the first rough catalogue rising to the lips
would be strangely inadequate to the question. Rossetti’s “Girlhood of
Mary Virgin,” “Ecce Ancilla Domini,” “Found,” “Beata Beatrix,” “Dante’s
Dream,” and “The Blessed Damozel;” Madox Brown’s “The Last of England,”
“The Entombment,” and “Romeo and Juliet;” Holman Hunt’s “Christ in the
Temple,” “The Scapegoat,” and “The Light of the World;” Millais’s “Eve
of St. Agnes,” “A Huguenot,” and “Ophelia;”—these, if among the most
familiar to English eyes, are but a small fraction of the product of
that fruitful thirty years, leaving altogether out of count the later
and important work of G.F. Watts and E. Burne-Jones, to say nothing of
such worthy adherents as Arthur Hughes, James Collinson, Henry Wallis,
Walter Deverell, J.M. Strudwick, and others who fairly claim the shadow
of the Pre-Raphaelite wing. Yet even in so imperfect a group the student
may read at least the dominant features of the painting, and especially
in the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Here for the first time in
English art is _colour_ supreme, triumphant, as in Titian; _form_
ethereal and chastened, like the visions of a Fra Angelico; _subjects_,
rather than objects, set forth in so direct and often crude an imagery;
not figures merely, but symbols; fragments of human history, actual and
urgent, full of problems and wonders, weighty with meanings and desires.
The draped and ordered models of the past—the Ladies Sophia, Elizabeth,
and Lavinia as the three Graces, and the Countess Agatha as a species of
Muse—have given place to a new “dream of fair women,” not posing or
self-conscious, but as if caught and painted unaware; knights like young
monks, sad-eyed but alert in a rapt sobriety; Madonnas more human than
angelic, with the sweet cares of womanhood upon them all; Christs
neither new-born nor dying, but seen in full child-life and manhood,
artless and simple and strong. Here, certainly, is the utterance of men
who if they have not looked broadly over life have at least seen deeply
into it, and concerned themselves not so much with its rare crises as
with the permanent conditions and problems of human experience.

It is easily argued that all criticism, all appreciation even, resolves
itself ultimately into a question of temperament. To some minds, and
these not the least discriminate, the very limitations and extravagances
of Pre-Raphaelitism appeal with a peculiar force. There are whole
aspects of life which Romance, if it touch, can never transfigure. The
passionate, brooding loveliness of Rossetti’s women, the remote and
subtle pathos of Holman Hunt, the dreamy and yet vivid tenderness of
Millais’s earlier style,—these are not qualities of universal charm:
they are the outcome of special moods and conditions which find neither
voice nor answer save in the channels they themselves create. It is only
given to a rarely catholic genius—a Shakespeare, a Handel, or a Raphael—
to move, as it were, the broad currents of common feeling, and to
command the general sympathies of the educated world. Artists of more
distinctive and personal quality—a Shelley in poetry, a Chopin in music,
or a Rossetti in painting—will rather gain each an elect circle of
interpreters through whom to sway less immediately the thought of their
generation; the more so since in the realm of the fine arts is felt most
potently the growing tendency to specialize both thought and utterance
in the tension of modern life. “Our age,” it has been aptly said, “has
seen a specialization of emotions as well as of studies and industries.
Let us not then expect all things from any man. Let us welcome the best
representative of every mood of the mind.”[1]

The private life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, though leaving to those who
loved him an inexhaustible harvest of tender and pathetic memories, was
outwardly uneventful enough, save for the one romance and tragedy of his
early manhood by which he is vaguely known to the outer world. But
behind the veil of recordable history, few artists have suffered greater
mental vicissitudes in a lifetime of half a century, or have lived at
such high spiritual pressure and imaginative strain. London-born and
London-bred though he was, the force of his Italian parentage and
temperament isolated him—save for a very few congenial spirits—in an
alien world; and though his work in painting and poetry was largely
Saxonized by training and environment, the man himself was oppressed
with the burden of an imagination steeped in the very soul of mediæval
Florentine romance. His whole nature was overstrung and at the mercy of
physical and social “weather.” Memory, daily experience, his own
conceptions and creations in design and poetry, small incidents of life
woven by his own feverish brain into actual calamity, possessed him with
a power simply incomprehensible to the average mind. Like Sir Bedevere,
striding from ridge to ridge in Lyonness,—

                “His own thought drove him like a goad.”

At the last, his death, it has been affirmed by Mr. Theodore Watts, was
due but indirectly to physical disease; primarily to the prolonged and
terrible fervour of writing “The King’s Tragedy.” Out of such conditions
of artistic expression came a depth and intensity of feeling
incompatible with wide versatility or range of vision. Such a
temperament must either specialize or achieve nothing.

But it is the business of the historian to look behind temperament
towards the deep and primal impulses of a nation and a century. To him
the sum of temperaments becomes the spirit of an age; or rather, the
nation itself, in the grasp of the age, is conceived as a living,
thinking, struggling personality; complex, problematic, self-
contradictory, but strong to inspire the same loyalties, the same
aspirations, as the old world found in Rome, or mediæval Europe in the
great mother-cities which were at once her burden and her pride. To
study a temperament like Rossetti’s in its relation to the intellectual
life of the age, and to ask how such a temperament was in its turn
brought to bear upon some of the problems of that life, is to be
confronted with much more than a personality or a career; is to deal
with a wide and crucial phase in the history of a people.

For the Pre-Raphaelite movement was much more than a revolution in the
ideals and methods of painting. It was a single wave in a great
reactionary tide—the ever rising protest and rebellion of our century
against artificial authority, against tradition and convention in every
department of life. It broke out, socially, with the French Revolution;
it found voice in the poetic impulse which followed it in Coleridge,
Shelley, and Keats; it spread from ethics to politics, it touched all
morality and all knowledge, and it affected the whole literature of
Europe from philosophy to fiction and from the drama to the lyric poem.
Schumann and Chopin breathed it into music; Darwin, re-forming the world
of science, laid in the doctrine of evolution the foundations of the new
cosmogony. It remained for painting, the youngest of the arts, to enter
last into the van of progress and take its stand against the classic and
orthodox scholasticism now discredited and void.

Not that the classicism of eighteenth century art was without a beauty
and a meaning of its own. It was at least the relic of a noble ideal,
the outworn garment of a spirit once vigorous and sincere. The true
classic temper—the mental ordering of the visible world into types and
models according to academic rule—is the natural outgrowth of man’s
effort to select and classify those objects around him which it gives
him pleasure to contemplate. The “choosing-spirit” of an age—its
preference for certain aspects of life and indifference to other
aspects—embodies itself in set forms and modes of artistic expression
which are accepted by that age as sufficient and final, and stereotyped
by common usage into conventions from which, in the progress of a
growing people, all vitality gradually ebbs away. Just as in science or
philosophy the theories and methods of authoritative men are established
as “classic” till fresh facts and fresh problems come to light, so in
literature, in music, and in painting, certain types and modes are
adopted by general consent as the fit vehicles for the thought to be
expressed, and these persist, by force of authority and usage, into a
new age bringing new ideas into play and seeing the _subject-matter_ of
all art—namely life itself—in a new light. Thus the accepted canons of
art, which were at first the natural reflection of the highest culture
of the period, become at last the barren dogmas of an outgrown habit of
mind. The thought of the people has outrun the language of the schools.
The strife of the new thought with the old language is begun.

Such a strife it was that came upon the western world under the outward
turmoil of the French Revolution. Europe was in the mood for great
reactions. The vast and sordid materialism of the eighteenth century,
with its prodigious hypocrisies and its flippant sensuality,—its
sentimentality even, which, as Heine reminds us, is always a product of
materialism—was rudely broken up. The disruption of the settled order of
worldly things awoke men’s dormant questions as to the divine order of
things, the moral government of the universe. Or rather, the rejection
of external authority was but the evidence of the rejection of authority
within—the rejection of traditional standards of right and wrong, beauty
and happiness, wisdom and truth; and the demand for new standards for
the criticism of life, for new ethics, new ideals, new gods.

Now the pure and lofty classicism of the seventeenth century, as
exemplified supremely in the poetry of Milton, was saved from
materialism by the robust piety of a Puritan world. It was not until the
beginning of the eighteenth century, when the accession of imperial and
commercial power brought with it a certain coarsening of the moral fibre
of the nation, that the “grand” style became petrified, as it always
tends to do, into the grandiose. A people nurtured in the somewhat
tawdry luxury of the Hanoverian period was not likely to take very
serious views of life, but was well content with superficial
philosophies. In the blaze of outward prosperity the inward vision grew
dim. Art became the slave of tradition instead of the handmaid of a
living will.

Then the great wave of rebellion, surging through the life of Europe,
swept into the deep backwaters of imaginative and creative thought. Men
born into the storm and stress of revolution, and confronted with the
great problems of practical life, were driven back to question ultimate
things; were thrown once more upon the spiritual world. And as the
outward struggle spent itself, its full significance weighed more upon
the peoples. The deep charm of the contemplative, the reflective, the
critical, fell once more upon the European mind.

So the “classic” temper—the love of order and authority (degraded at
last into mere acceptance of tradition and rule)—gave place to the
“romantic” temper,—the temper of enquiry and experiment, the sense of
the mystery and the reality of life, the openness of the mind towards
spiritual things. And with this new consciousness of the invisible world
and all its significance upon the life of man, comes the utter
discarding of _self_-consciousness; the repudiation of “pose.” Life has
become too real for attitudinizing.

The first result of this change of spirit upon the art of a nation
appears in the choice of subject for artistic treatment. The painter
begins to portray not merely things and persons but incidents and
conditions; to picture men and women as they are in actual life; in
short, to _state the problems_ fairly; to see facts and examine
circumstances, in order to reach the solutions and the meanings, vaguely
guessed and earnestly desired by the soul awakened to the perception of
the supernatural and the divine. This was the initial task of the neo-
romantic revival; in this lay the primary significance of the new school
of painting which appeared soon after the year 1845 on English
exhibition walls.

And to do this it became necessary to set out, as it were, the _terms_
on which life is lived; to deal not merely with the beauty which man
loves and the joy which he desires, but also with the stern conditions
of their attainment. The struggle between the present evil and the
recognized good, the conflict of the soul with earthly bonds, Love
baffled in dire cross-currents of fate and duty, or wasted and despoiled
in sin, Faith shaken by the storms of circumstance, Hope bowed down
before the closing doors of death; and, on the other hand, the glory of
consummated joys (though never without the under-thought of their
transiency), or the strength of human fidelity and endurance—these are
the themes of the second renaissance.

It is hardly surprising that the considerable class of critics (more
numerous in the eighteen-forties than to-day) to whom all seriousness is
melancholy and all mystery painful, should have dismissed much of the
Pre-Raphaelite work under the inaccurate label of “pessimism.” To bring
the mood of awe, of sadness, of perplexity, into art at all, and more
especially to present serious themes with the directness of familiar
life, and without the stage-craft glamour of the heroic and the
exceptional, is, in the judgment of such persons, to be indisputably a
pessimist. Yet from this standpoint we should have to exclude no small
part of the greatest art the world has ever seen. If we accept Heine’s
dictum that no man is truly a man until he suffers, we shall call no
nation great in art until it is great in tragedy. There comes with every
awakening of an age (whether in ancient Greece, Elizabethan England, or
mediæval Italy) to problems new to the world at large, or which the
preceding age had lost sight of, a straining of the vision towards
ultimate meanings and purposes. And the cry for light is answered often
by a lurid dawn.

But the temper of Pre-Raphaelitism differs both from that of Greek
tragedy (in being essentially romantic and ascetic), and from the
mediæval mysticism of which it is to some extent a revival. However
sincerely Rossetti and his comrades may have found their inspiration in
the early and purest period of the Italian Renaissance (as we shall have
to consider in examining the name “Pre-Raphaelite”), it was impossible,
in the middle of the nineteenth century, to return absolutely to the
mediæval habit of mind. All that was best in the romance of the middle
ages, the passionate idealism, the abiding sense of the reality of the
unseen, the self-abandonment of devotion to the transcendental and the
super-sensuous life, the exquisite childlikeness of spirit which comes
of the highest maturity—all these indeed were regained, but with a
difference. For the enigma of the universe, regarded by the mediæval
world as a mystery of faith, has come upon our own age rather as a
mystery of doubt. The silence of the natural world towards man’s
eagerest questionings of the Power behind it, was to those pious souls
only the holy reticence of an all-wise and all-sufficient God. They
accepted with a brave resignation what the modern world endures with a
no less courageous but far less trustful mind.

Therefore the much-debated mysticism of the Pre-Raphaelite School
carries with it a deeper sombreness than that of a purely mediæval type,
and makes the relations between man and external Nature more problematic
and obscure. The sense of the impassive irony of Nature behind the
little drama of man’s life on earth comes again and again into the dim
vistas of landscape behind Rossetti’s loveliest women, and into the
mingling of scenic grandeur with an atmosphere of desolation in some of
the backgrounds of Holman Hunt. Even Millais, the least subjective of
the Brotherhood, achieves, in “The Vale of Rest,” something of that
subtle contrast, half discord and half harmony, between the glory and
absolute peace of sunset and the dumb unquestionable night of death
foreshadowed in the open grave. The classic method of rendering natural
background to human tragedy is rather to adjust the mood of Nature to
the subject in hand; to depict natural forces either as warring (as in
Turner) in the blind anger and fury of the elements against man, or
assuming an aspect in harmony with his own pain. But the romantic method
finds more tragedy in the ironic beauty and indifference of Nature in
the face of human vicissitude, and comes nearer to tears than the
affectation of dramatic sympathy; just as, in great crises of suffering
and doubt, no anger wounds us so deeply as a smile.

Of this special phase of nature-feeling, a later artist, of strong
affinity of spirit with certain undercurrents of Pre-Raphaelite thought—
Frederick Walker—is perhaps a greater exponent. But the old-world
Nature-worship, independent of human interest and moral significance, is
as dead in art as it is in science. Unconsciously perhaps, but surely,
art in all its forms has cast off the yoke of the old cosmogony which
the implacable Time-Spirit has overthrown. The criticism of life has
passed from the self-satisfied, the confident, the epicurean, to the
reflective, the questioning, and the experimental stage.

Where, then, is the secret of the changed attitude of English culture
towards the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood? What was it that was actually
accomplished by this little band of young reformers with their visions
of a world of beauty and meaning undreamed of in Royal Academy
philosophy? The controversy that raged for years round the work of the
leaders—least of all round that of Millais, more round that of Holman
Hunt, and most bitterly round the work of Rossetti—was it primarily over
a technical question, a matter of pigments and perspective, of anatomy
and composition? If so, the house was divided against itself and should
have fallen, for Millais soon forsook (if indeed he ever adopted) the
path of his early comrades, and a total divergence in method and manner
finally separated Rossetti from Holman Hunt. Or was it concerned with
underlying principles and purposes with which English culture had not
for three hundred years been troubled? Was it essentially an ethical
revolt; the first impulse towards that fusion of ethics with æsthetics
which will be the task of the twentieth century; the inmost stirring, at
the nation’s heart, of a new life which the intellect still fails to lay
hold of, and the laggard will, for the most part, yet resists?


Footnote 1:

  F.W.H. Myers, “Rossetti and the Religion of Beauty.”

                              CHAPTER II.

Childhood of Rossetti—Religious and Literary Influences—Art Training—
    Conflict between Imagination and Technique—Friendship with Millais
    and Holman Hunt—The Westminster Competitions—Ford Madox Brown—
    Influence of Ruskin’s “Modern Painters”—The Early Italian Masters—
    The Renaissance in Mediæval Europe—Relation of Paganism to
    Christianity—Revival of Hellenism, and blending of Classic with
    Romantic Art—Growth of Technique and Return to Convention—The Rule
    of the Raphaelesque.

Into this atmosphere of revolt and aspiration, charged as with electric
forces of long-gathering change, a little band of young painters and
poets came, when the time was ripe, to play their part in the great
_Aufklärung_ of the century. Students they were in more than the
conventional significance of the word; men of widely different
endowments, and of the most diverse mental quality, but sensitive at all
points to the drift of thought beneath the surface of the life around
them. Their task it was to translate into art the message already
proclaimed in poetry, and to make, even of the poetic vehicle, a finer
and more exquisite setting for the new evangel.

The greatest poet of their company, if not in a literal sense the
greatest painter also, was born within a year of Blake’s death,—on the
12th of May, 1828, at 38, Charlotte Street, Portland Place, London: the
successor of Blake in English romance, yet an alien in the land of his
birth. Rossetti suffered, as M. Gabrièl Sarrazin has aptly expressed it,
a double banishment; remote alike from his country and his age.
Essentially Italian by heritage and temperament, he belonged no less to
the fifteenth century than to Tuscany, and bore about with him, though
perhaps unconsciously, the burden of the exile as well as of the
reformer and the pioneer. He was as one born out of due time; or rather,
let us say, reborn; a spirit anew-incarnate from the golden age; brought
back, indeed, from a still earlier re-birth, so that men almost deemed,
as they saw his work and dimly understood its purport, that one of the
prophets was risen from the dead.

Beyond his inheritance from the far-off past, from the dormant but
undying influences of the Italian Renaissance, Rossetti held from his
immediate ancestry no mean estate of talent and of character. His
mother, half Tuscan and half English (on her mother’s side), was sister
to the “Dr. Polidori” known to history as Byron’s travelling companion
and friend. These were the children of Gaetano Polidori, an accomplished
and successful _littérateur_. Gabriele Rossetti, the father of Dante
Gabriel, was wholly Italian, of Neapolitan family. He also was a man of
high literary tastes and achievements; a poet of genuine quality, and a
patriot exiled for his political faith. His popular lays, as well as his
personal activities, fanned the flame of democratic insurrection under
Ferdinand of Naples in 1820, and three years later he found himself
compelled to flee in disguise. He left Italy, never to return; but,
happily, not without honour in his own country, for, a quarter of a
century later, a medal was struck in recognition of his services, and a
statue subsequently erected to his memory in the chief piazza of Vasto,
Naples, which also bears his name. In 1824 Gabriele Rossetti settled in
England. He married in 1826, and was shortly appointed professor of
Italian at King’s College, London; in which adopted city—the great
foster-mother of so much of the world’s best genius—his four children,
Dante Gabriel and his brother and sisters, were brought up.

Trained from the first in the Protestant faith, though inheriting on
both sides the mental bias of Roman tradition, the children entered
early into the age-long conflict between the tender mysticism and
spiritual glamour of catholic piety and the robuster spirit of
intellectual truth. Herein lay the key to that strange mingling of
rationalism and superstition which, both in his poetry and in his
painting, has perplexed many critics of Dante Rossetti’s philosophy.
Hence came his insatiable symbolism, and his acutely realistic detail;
his remoteness of vision, and his keen alertness to present and actual
things. His own perpetual struggle between the real and the ideal, his
ceaseless strivings to reconcile the inward spirit with the outward
sense,—or rather, to set them in their right relations to each other,
the sense as the instrument and vehicle of the soul,—these were but the
epitome, in his own many-sided nature, of the larger strife that ceases
not from age to age; only the battle-ground and the weapons of the fight
are altered.

To the simple Christian creed which they professed, was added in the
Rossettis’ household the religion of an ardent and unwavering
patriotism. From their earliest childhood the little ones were
accustomed to hear around their own fireside high talks of national
liberty and the popular cause. Their home, unpretentious but hospitable
as it always was, became the resort of many a political refugee; a
gathering-place for kindred souls oppressed with the same misfortunes,
or fired with the supreme enthusiasm of a common ideal. Hither came
Mazzini, the greatest patriot of the century, and one of her truest
seers. All that was best in the young democracy of the mid-century, its
eager idealism, its narrow but profound hero-worship, its poetry, its
self-devotion, was here brought before the children’s eyes; its coarser
elements eliminated by the personal distinction of such men as Gabriele
Rossetti loved to gather to his side. The little circle was thus open,
in those crucial years, to influences more potent upon art than was then
apparent, since the humanitarian impulse first manifested in political
and social life had not yet adjusted itself to pictorial expression.

Nor was the literary side of Dante Rossetti’s genius less
sympathetically nurtured in the home atmosphere. His father was an
enthusiastic student and commentator of Dante, after whom he named his
eldest son,—a baptism strangely prophetic of his destiny; of that
fortuity of fate by which, in after years, bereft of love, maligned by
criticism, robbed of health and power, he was made partaker in the
sufferings as well as in the glory of the great Florentine poet. Thus
was fostered in the young Dante of a later day that love of old romance
and noble allegory which remained both with him and with his younger
sister—perhaps the choicest of our women-poets—as an abiding passion and
an inspiration to the highest artistic service.

At the age of fifteen Rossetti passed from King’s College School to
Cary’s Art Academy in Queen Street, Bloomsbury, and thence to the
Antique School of the Royal Academy; there to pursue the artistic
training to which a strong inclination and evident talent had long
called him. Rossetti, however, was a very wayward pupil, and extremely
irregular in his attendance. A fellow-student with him at that time, Mr.
J.A. Vinter, well recalls one morning when the truant was taken to task
for his absence on the previous day. “Why,” said Mr. Cary, “were you not
here yesterday?” Rossetti answered coolly, “I had a fit of idleness.”
But when the master’s back was turned, an interesting explanation of the
avowed idleness was soon forthcoming. Rossetti pulled from his pocket a
bundle of manuscript sonnets, which he proceeded, with impartial
generosity, to paste inside all his friends’ hats! Fortunately for the
subsequent peace of the hyper-sensitive and fastidious author, none of
these early effusions seem to have been preserved. Mr. Vinter’s
impression of Rossetti was—like that of many who knew him in youth—that
beneath a certain brusquerie and unapproachableness of bearing there lay
an unbounded warmth of affection and a ready generosity and kindliness
of heart. But his delight in practical jokes, his high spirits and his
boisterous hilarity in the classroom sometimes put Mr. Cary (the son, by
the way, of the eminent translator of Dante) to considerable
embarrassment. There was one song in particular which Rossetti was never
tired of singing; and he sang it with all the vigour of his strong young
voice, almost to the nauseation of his classmates,—in praise of a
certain “Alice Gray.” One morning Mr. Cary, entering the room, besought
him to abate his tune awhile, for a clergyman had called with his son to
see the school, with a view to enrolling the lad as a pupil. Rossetti
lowered his voice, but only for a moment. When the visitors appeared on
the threshold, his thrilling notes were heard again in passionate
protestation of his willingness to die for “Alice Gray.”

The school was visited on Saturdays by Mr. Redgrave, R.A., who speedily
observed Rossetti’s favourite amusement of drawing grotesque caricatures
of antique figures round the margin of his board, and protested that
“such liberties were hardly consistent with the dignity of the antique.”

Rossetti’s outlining is said to have been very beautiful in effect,
though produced in a highly unconventional manner. Mr. Cary forbade
charcoal outlines altogether, but Rossetti, who obeyed no rules,
invariably made a thick, solid charcoal line which he gradually pared
away on either side with pellets of bread till he had reduced it to the
desired minimum. It is noticeable that one at least of Rossetti’s
friends of this period, and intimately associated with him in the
movement which he subsequently led, has always retained the hardness of
outline which Rossetti afterwards outgrew.

Yet it must be admitted that with all his ardour, his real though very
fitful diligence, and his sincere delight in his chosen profession,
Rossetti never fully conquered that imperfection of technique in
draughtsmanship which has been the stronghold of hostile criticism
throughout the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but which in fact arose from the
inevitable deficiency of a mind too impatient for ideas, too eager for
subject-matter, to be steadfastly concerned with the science of

That neither Rossetti nor any other of the Pre-Raphaelites _as such_
have attained to technical greatness, still less to technical
perfection, is a charge weightily preferred, and not without reason, but
hardly of so fatal an import as at first appears. It must be remembered
that no new message comes to the world ready-clothed in the full grace
of accurate and harmonious speech. The voice crying in the wilderness is
apt to be harsh and unmusical. The visions of the seer are at first too
vivid, too bewildering in the fresh glory of revelation, to be told (if
he would set them forth on canvas) in any but broken lights and shadowy
images. In every art, the gospel of a new epoch has been proclaimed with
faltering speech and stammering tongue. The torrent of denunciation
outpoured on Wagner’s transgressions of strict form, yet powerless, as
it has proved, to drown his music, was not more sweeping than the
judgment of authority against the metrical solecisms of Walt Whitman’s
poetry; nor has the storm still raging round the modern Scandinavian
drama been less fierce than that which overtook the leaders of the Pre-
Raphaelite van.

Obviously a certain measure of the faculty of expression is necessary if
the meaning is to be intelligible at all. Our judgment of an artist,
though determined primarily by the nature of his message, must
ultimately rest on his ability to deliver it. In Rossetti’s case it must
depend upon the degree in which the greatness of his material can create
a technique of its own, and take the imagination by storm, as Rossetti
does, with those exquisite surprises of design, those marvellous _tours-
de-force_ among his earlier pen and ink drawings, or those southern,
almost tropical colour-triumphs of his maturity, which were perhaps
rather the divine accidents of genius than its habit, either natural or
acquired. They were, in truth, inspirations of utterance, wielding the
imperfect instrument to their own high purposes. The verdict given upon
such achievements by the thoughtful world outside the charmed circle of
the initiate—by that unlearned but not unworthy “outer circle,” as it
were, who, approaching art with intelligence and sympathy, are yet
without the knowledge to assess its technical worth—will always, as we
have already suggested, be decided by the temperament of the spectator—
whether he be as peculiarly sensitive to beauty of idea as his neighbour
is to beauty of expression. And after all, the supreme mission of art is
to the great world of the _un_initiate. By the authority of its priests
and prophets must its form and practice be directed and controlled; but
the final test of its greatness is not satisfied until the exquisite
consolations of beauty, the moral significances of artistic truth, the
proclamation of noble ideals, are “understanded of the people.”

But the new gospel, when Rossetti entered the Academy Schools, had only
reached the initial stage of a “gospel of discontent.” It was still
negative, indefinite, unpromising. Yet even in that early phase, the
old, simple instincts of the missionary spirit are often potent, and
fruitful in the development of ideas. “Andrew ... first findeth his own
brother Simon,” and “Philip findeth Nathaniel,”—not designedly, perhaps,
but rather by the spontaneous attraction of kindred souls; not
necessarily with the deliberate aim of a propagandist, for it would be
pretentious to credit a group of nineteenth-century young Britons in
their teens with a very exalted conception of their artistic mission.
There is every evidence that they were as unaffectedly boyish, and even
school-boyish, as the most orthodox Englishman could wish them. It was
well that they should not yet know the meaning of their own rebellion,
or guess the effect to be wrought upon English art by Rossetti’s meeting
with the first fellow-student who can in any sense be called his
disciple. Probably it was an impulse of purely personal affection, or
that magnetic charm of character which Rossetti exercised over almost
all impressionable natures around him, rather than any deep affinity of
purpose and ideal, that won to his side a younger and in many respects
more brilliant aspirant, John Everett Millais, who had passed through
his two years’ elementary training at Cary’s at a very early age, and in
technical proficiency was already far ahead of his new friend. Born on
the 8th of June, 1829, in Portland Place, Southampton, the first five
years of his life were chiefly spent in Jersey (his father’s ancestral
home), and the succeeding four at Dinan, in Brittany. In 1838, at the
age of nine, he was entered at Cary’s Academy, then under the direction
of Mr. Sass, where his drawing from the antique soon won a silver medal
from the Society of Arts. In 1840, at the age of eleven, he entered the
Royal Academy Schools; the youngest pupil ever admitted within their
walls. Here he won a silver medal in 1843, and four years later a gold
medal for historical painting with “The Benjamites Seizing their
Brides,” shown at the British Institution in 1848. In 1846 his first
exhibited picture, “Pizarro before the Inca of Peru,” appeared at the
Royal Academy, where “Elgiva Seized by Odo” was shown in 1847.

Millais himself, meanwhile, had made acquaintance with an older and
still more earnest student not yet pursuing the Academy curriculum, but
for whom the future had in store a place second only to Rossetti’s in
the movement which united and inspired them in their youth. William
Holman Hunt, indeed, may claim to have been earlier than any of his Pre-
Raphaelite brethren upon the field of reform; for in the hard solitude
of mercantile life, under the stress of poverty and amid the most
uncongenial surroundings, he had already thought out and pursued those
methods of direct and veracious artistic expression which were
afterwards enforced by Pre-Raphaelite rule. Born in London on the 27th
of April, 1828, and destined by his father for commercial life, the lad
secured from chance companions some occasional help in the artistic
studies which he loved. He took a few lessons from a city portrait-
painter, and at last gave up his business career, and threw himself upon
his own artistic resources for a livelihood.

Admission to the schools of the Royal Academy at that time was by a test
as arbitrary and inadequate as the teaching to which it led. Each
student was required to produce a drawing from the antique, in chalk or
charcoal, laboriously stippled in the conventional style; and in this
task the half-trained and inexperienced Hunt very pardonably failed on
two successive occasions. It was not until the year 1846 that he was at
last admitted as a student, and at almost the same time secured a place
on the Academy Exhibition walls, where he was represented by a small
picture entitled “Hark!”—a little child holding a watch to her ear. It
was in the antique galleries at the British Museum, while toiling
forlornly at his trial-drawing among a host of similar candidates, that
he came across the more successful but sympathetic and genial Millais.
The story of Millais’s friendship with the poor and struggling student
somewhat older than himself, and of the generous pecuniary help afforded
from his own private resources to Hunt at a moment when the magic
portals of Art seemed closed for ever against him, has already been told
by Mr. Harry Quilter in his history of those early years.

In the autumn of 1845 Mr. Cary sent up five students, including Rossetti
and J.A. Vinter, for admission to the Academy Schools. His classes were
held in high esteem as a means of introduction to that orthodox fold,
already regarded by many neophytes with impatience and distrust, but
offering at that time the only possible entrance to professional life.
Both the competitors just mentioned were successful, and the admission
of Holman Hunt was independently gained soon afterwards. Mr. Vinter has
a characteristic reminiscence of the opening day of the ensuing term,
when the freshmen were assembled in a class-room, and required to give
their names to the keeper, Mr. Jones. When it came to his turn,
Rossetti, who was rather proud of his mellifluous designation, greatly
amused his companions and impressed the venerable official by slowly
rolling out, in his rich, sonorous tones, “Gabriel—Charles—Dante—
Rossetti!” “Dear me, sir,” stammered Mr. Jones, in confused amazement,
“Dear me, sir, you _have_ a fine name!”

A probation of three months was necessary, however, before the
candidates were finally accepted as students in the Royal Academy
Schools. It is doubtful whether Rossetti ever finished his probationary
drawings: at all events he never entered the Life School, and does not
appear to have passed beyond the elementary stages of the Antique. But
whatever may have been the deficiencies of their early training in art,
a result of ample significance was now realized by the intercourse which
united in close friendship the illustrious trio—Rossetti, Millais, and
Holman Hunt—who were shortly to be recognized as the prime movers in the
Pre-Raphaelite revolt.

There was yet, however, another reformer at work, unknown to them, upon
the same problems as perplexed themselves, stirred with the same
restless discontent with the vain canons of conventional art, and
pursuing, in his own obscure studio, methods which came upon the younger
trio as the revelation that they needed. Ford Madox Brown, with whom
they now became acquainted, was seven years older than Dante Rossetti,
having been born at Calais, of English parents, on the 16th of April,
1821. He studied first under Van Hanselaer at Ghent, and afterwards
spent two years under Baron Wappers at the Antwerp Academy (1837–1839),
three in Paris, (1841–1844), and one in Rome (1845). In his twentieth
year he married his cousin, Miss Elizabeth Bromley, who died in 1846.
His experiences of the foreign schools seem to have kindled in him the
same dissatisfaction with current standards of perfection as was gaining
ground among his contemporaries at home. At all events, when Rossetti
was vaguely casting about for kindred spirits aflame with revolutionary
fire, Madox Brown was the poor and unknown painter of a few decorative
cartoons exhibited during the eighteen-forties in Westminster Hall, for
a competition organized by the government with a view to selecting the
best available fresco-work for the ornamentation of the new House of
Lords. The competition was carried over several years, and served in a
great measure to define and organize the growing revolt against the
tyranny of the Academy, under which, as early as the year 1840, the
younger generation of painters was already beginning to writhe. The
leading Academicians of that time were men whose names, as far as the
outer world is concerned, have scarcely outlived their owners. Etty,
Mulready, Maclise, Leslie, Herbert, Chalon, Cooper, Collins, Eastlake,
Howard, Hart, Jones, Unwins, Patten, Charles Landseer, Redgrave, Shee,—
who knows them now beyond the student and the connoisseur? Webster,
indeed, has earned a more enduring fame, and gained a secure if
unpretentious rank in the portrayal of village life, fairly comparable
to that of Mrs. Gaskell in fiction. But for the rest, even the few
gifted and sincere aspirants outside the Academy, but still in the
thrall of conventional methods, such as Cope, Dyce, Ward, Egg, Elmore,
Goodall, Pickersgill, Hook, Poole, Stone, Martin, Haydon, and David
Scott, were but a heterogeneous group, without clear aims or common
aspirations. The Westminster competition attracted and developed new
talent from independent quarters. It was the first deliberate effort of
English art to shake itself free from academic control. Its effect was
to revive, for the time being, a decorative method noble in itself, but
still more valuable as a training in breadth and dignity of expression,
especially for the young artist to whom the fresco was practically a
foreign language, full of latent possibility and charm. Practice in
fresco-work had a directly good effect on the technique of new and
unknown men at the precise stage of their studies at which it was
afforded them. Madox Brown’s style in particular was strongly and
permanently influenced by such exercise, and the competitions evoked
from him a series of historical and dramatic _genre_ paintings which won
Rossetti’s special admiration. Chief among them were “The Body of Harold
brought before William the Conqueror,” which still ranks with the
artist’s finest productions of its kind, “Justice,” a widow pleading
before a Norman baron, “Adam and Eve after the Fall,” “Wiclif reading
his Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt,” “Our Lady of Good
Children,” and “The Infant’s Repast.” One fine cartoon from the hand of
another artist also drew Rossetti’s delighted attention, “Caractacus led
Captive in Triumph through the Streets of Rome,” by G.F. Watts, a
painter worthily representative of the noblest phase of Pre-Raphaelite
work, though never openly associated with the movement. He too had
vainly traversed the desert of academic studentship, as we may gather
from his own naïve record: “Finding there was no teaching, I very soon
ceased to attend.” His picture of “Caractacus,” however, was now
rewarded with a first-class prize of £300. Millais also competed in the
exhibition of 1847; taking for his subject “The Widow bestowing her

In the spring of 1848, Rossetti, deeply impressed by the originality and
power of Madox Brown’s designs, wrote to the artist and begged
permission to enter his studio as a pupil. Mr. Brown did not receive
pupils professionally, but, with a generosity which he showed to many an
eager votary at that period, he welcomed Rossetti to his studio as a
friend, and from that time became one of his kindest and most valued

At the date of Rossetti’s self-introduction to Madox Brown, the latter
was engaged upon a somewhat elaborate picture, “Chaucer reading the
Legend of Custance before the Court of Edward III.”; and Rossetti was
invited to sit to him for the head of the poet. Hunt and Rossetti were
now working together in a studio which they shared in Cleveland Street,
Fitzroy Square; whither soon came Madox Brown to encourage their
tentative efforts, and to aid them both with practical and friendly

And now a new influence from the world of literature came upon the
little student-band. It was the inspiration and stimulus of Ruskin’s
“Modern Painters.” For Ruskin also was at war with the old conventions
that lay chill and heavy upon English art; he too was weary of the dead
level of triviality and scholasticism to which painting had sunk, and
saw with prophetic eyes, through the murk of present life and the
shadowy vistas of history, a higher and attainable ideal.

“Modern Painters” struck the keynote of the coming change. A fellow-
student lent the volumes to Holman Hunt, who in his turn shared them
with his friends; and reading together, they found therein, not only a
sympathy for their own revolt, but a definite guidance for their
aspirations. With the authority of the trained draughtsman and
_connoisseur_ as well as with the force and fascination of the literary
artist, Ruskin declared for originality and truth in design, as against
the imitations and artifices of degenerate schools, in a voice that
would brook no compromise. Like Carlyle, his whole being was possest
with that passionate scorn of pretensions and shams, that hatred of
formalism and of every species of cant, which swept like a cleansing
wind over Europe after the French Revolution, and which, if its
immediate results were iconoclastic and disruptive, was so much the
better preparation for the reconstruction to follow.

Ruskin bade men turn, from the Art of the past, to Nature, and seek
fresh inspiration at its primal source. Through Nature alone, he said,
they would reach truth, and finding it, gain also the power to interpret
and reveal. And Nature was a jealous mistress; only to a faithful lover
would she unveil the exquisite mysteries of her beauty; unto his ear
alone would she whisper the high secrets of her soul; she would endure
no translator, no partial and distorted reflection of her face: the man
himself must worship at her inmost shrine, and learn her lesson there
direct and clear.

—A truism, it seems to us, who have seen the swinging of the pendulum
still further in the naturalistic direction, since the reaction in
divers quarters against convention and precedent has carried many to the
opposite extreme. Yet, in the history of the world, the demand for
precedent and conformity, the love of imitation, the morbid hatred of
novelty and the dread of original experiment, which appear in almost
every crisis of man’s development, exhibit one of the most curious
phases of the human mind. Psychologists might argue at length as to the
relation between indolence and cowardice in the strange game of “follow-
my-leader” played by humanity from age to age,—and might attribute both
to a vague and deep sense of the bitter cost of all knowledge, and a
consequent and not wholly vain tenacity towards things apparently
knowable and known.

Ruskin, with a vision large enough to retain all that was eternally
precious in the past, began by recognizing the elements of real vitality
even in the outworn classicism which was the occasion of his readers’
revolt; and led them thence to the higher places of refreshment and
advance. “We must be careful,” said he, “not to lose sight of the real
use of what has been left us by antiquity, nor to take that for a model
of perfection which is, in many cases, only a guide to it. The young
artist, while he should shrink with horror from the iconoclast who would
tear from him every landmark and light which has been bequeathed him by
the ancients, and leave him in a liberated childhood, may be equally
certain of being betrayed by those who would give him the power and the
knowledge of past time, and then fetter his strength from all advance,
and bend his eyes backward on a beaten path; who would thrust canvas
between him and the sky, and tradition between him and God.”

Again, Ruskin insisted continually upon the essential and supreme moral
purpose of art as a “criticism of life”—as a later authority has called
it. He made clear the relation between _thought_ and _language_ in
painting, wherein lies for ever the crux of art; and pointed to examples
of the contrast and the conflict between those two principles whereof
the right adjustment is art’s final aim. “Most pictures,” said Ruskin,
“of the Dutch school, for instance, excepting always those of Rubens,
Vandyke, and Rembrandt, are ostentatious exhibitions of the artist’s
power of speech, the clear and vigorous elocution of useless and
senseless words; while the early efforts of Cimabue and Giotto are the
burning messages of prophecy, delivered by the stammering lips of
infants. It must be the part of the judicious critic carefully to
distinguish what is language and what is thought, and to rank and praise
pictures chiefly for the latter, considering the former as a totally
inferior excellence, and one which cannot be compared with, nor weighed
against thought in any way or in any degree whatsoever. The picture
which has the nobler and more numerous ideas, however awkwardly
expressed, is a greater and a better picture than that which has the
less noble and less numerous ideas, however beautifully expressed.”

Thus the author of “Modern Painters” did for his readers what was more
helpful than all precept,—he showed them the high paths trodden
aforetime by men of like aspirations after a similar revolt. He led them
back to an age which had seen the same struggle between the old art and
the new; an age in which the difficulty of presenting human life and its
environment in faithful colours and in natural images had already been
met, and in some measure overcome. That age was the mother of modern art
in Europe. The fourteenth century, waking from mediævalism, felt the
first quickenings of the Renaissance in Italy.

To that momentous impulse of new life wherein lay, deep-rooted in the
laws of reaction and development, the destinies of modern Europe, the
historian of the Pre-Raphaelite movement must turn if he would read
aright the motive and the message of to-day. For the impulse sought in
the records of the past by the reformers of a later age was of a spirit
kindred with their own, though grappling with its problems under a
somewhat different guise. It was a revolt, not from materialism as we
commonly understand it, namely, the acceptance of matter as the sole and
ultimate reality, and a tacit or open disavowal of the spiritual life;
but rather from that more subtle and insidious form of materialism so
often mistaken for its opposite—the asceticism of mediæval Christianity.
To deny the dignity and sanctity of the physical as the garment of the
spiritual world is surely as blank a materialism as that which makes the
physical sufficient and supreme. To see no spirit in the flesh is to be
no less blind than they who see no spirit _beyond_ the flesh. The innate
cynicism of the monastic idea—its radical _faith_lessness, its utter
distrust of the Spirit’s power to transfigure and ennoble the noble life
of man—is sufficiently evidenced by the fact that the results of that
idea upon the art of the nation were almost identical with the results
wrought upon England by the materialism of the eighteenth century. Art
became a fashion instead of a mission, a cult instead of a worship; it
became the prerogative of a ruling class which conventionalized—as such
must ever do—the spontaneous utterance of the many into the vain
repetitions of the few. That class in modern England was the
_bourgeoisie_: in mediæval Italy it was the priesthood. Herein arose the
narrow religiosity of the early Italian painters, no less than the
ascetic barrenness of the dark ages which preceded them. Art had been
subsidized by a ruling class, however beneficent, for its own purposes,
however sincere and high. The gradual establishment of Christianity as
the state religion of the later Roman period involved the repudiation—or
at least the effort to repudiate—the whole intellectual or æsthetic
heritage of the Græco-Roman world.

There is a curious pathos in the attempt of every vigorous outgrowth of
human endeavour to disown the prior activity which gave it birth. The
ancient fable of the chick and the egg-shell is of perennial meaning and
pertinence. Militant Christianity marched forward wholly unconscious of
its own vast debt to the very paganism upon which it thrust itself in
holy war. The novel fervour of asceticism had extinguished science
before the end of the third century, art in the sixth and seventh, and
the Greek language by the ninth. But the transition of Italy from
paganism to Christianity was not a substitution of wholly new ideals for
old. It was the gradual absorption of all the permanent elements in
pagan culture into a religion of which the germ only was brought from
the Hebrew world, and which owed most of its strength and much of its
weakness to the rich and heterogeneous soil in which it was planted. The
extravagances of mediæval Christianity—its austere intolerance and
contempt of the natural and obvious, its demand, in the first strenuous
tension of novelty and triumph, for the subjective and the
transcendental life—breaking up, when the strain was relaxed, into a
hard formalism of thought and practice—these were but the inevitable
reaction from the grossness of a degenerate paganism whose vital force
was spent. The immense lapse of time occupied by the transition from
paganism to Christianity, as Mr. Bernard Bosanquet ably points out in
dealing with the issues of that change, gave room for as many secondary
waves of action and reaction within itself as did the movement of the
Renaissance which succeeded it. “From the first distinct breach in naïve
or natural paganism to the assumption of a definitely doctrinal and
orthodox form of Christianity, there is an interval which cannot be
reckoned at less than seven hundred years, from the death of Socrates to
the triumph of Christianity under Constantine. So far from being a new
thing, contrasting with the degradation of the pagan world, the
establishment of Christianity was the issue of the advance of that world
during four centuries, and it was not thoroughly completed until, in a
further development of five centuries, it had adopted from paganism the
germs of almost all permanently valuable elements that the latter
contained.... The Dark Ages are not a proof that the great classical
culture had lost its power for human welfare; they prove only how long a
discipline was needed by the mass of humanity before it could appreciate
more than the first stammering misapprehension of its great

The dawn, then, of the Renaissance in Italy, was the waking of the
mediæval world to the sense of this lost inheritance, yet to be
regained; this hidden dower of beauty and gladness, and of strong and
abundant life. The old message of the Galilean Christ had to be re-
translated, as it has to-day: “I am come that they might have life, and
that they might have it more abundantly,”—not a one-sided life, not a
spiritual life at the cost of the body, any more than a bodily life at
the cost of the soul, but a life robust, many-sided, catholic;
harmonized at all points with what is good and sweet and fair in the
physical world as well as what is high and pure and noble in the life
within. And that message led men back to the great first principles of
conduct and consciousness, till they were confronted afresh with the
want of equipoise between physical instinct and moral law which is the
root-problem of human history. The struggle for _existence_ in the
animal world rises in humanity from a physical to a moral sphere, and
passes into a struggle for _life_.

“History,” says Buckle, “is a record of tendencies, not of events.” The
first tendency of the people thus waking, as we have said, to the sense
of their own birthright and heritage, partook rather of the first of
these two impulses. It was a revolt against the spiritual exclusiveness
of the monastic ideal, and a recoil upon Nature,—especially upon the
apotheosis and worship of Nature already achieved for them in the
Hellenic world. The imperious demands of the physical life, so long
starved and neglected, drove men back upon external things; slowly to
re-discover, through outward and visible realities, the deeper meanings
of which they were in search. The end of the twelfth and the beginning
of the thirteenth century saw a new turn of the current of feeling
towards liberty and expansion of the whole life of man. The painters set
themselves to humanize religion; to bring it into relation with the
vital interests of the so-called secular sphere. And as the fine arts
became emancipated from sacerdotal control, the spirit of free culture
spread into other departments of intellectual activity. In the next
century, the revival of learning followed upon the emancipation of art.
Literature, religion, painting and sculpture, were infused with the same
spirit of experiment and research. Art was brought into touch with
scholarship, and scholarship in its turn graced and dignified by art.
The essence of romance lies in its utter fidelity to immediate and
present life. Its concern is with particular instances, not with
abstractions and generalities. Romance is primarily analytic and
experimental; classicism, synthetic and positive. Romance is inductive,
classicism deductive in its reasoning. Herein romance—deemed for the
most part antagonistic to reason and science, approaches more nearly to
the scientific spirit than any canons of classic art. Its root and base
is in that patient observation of actual things, that sure simplicity
and directness of vision, which is the narrow way to knowledge. Hence
comes the realism of romance,—the realism both of the early Renaissance
and of its later maturity. A dominant characteristic (for instance) of
Michaelangelo—the greatest and most fascinating personality of the whole
Renaissance period—was, as his latest biographer, Mr. John Addington
Symonds, has pointed out, that “he invariably preferred the particular
to the universal, the critical moment of an action to suggestions of the
possibilities of action.” This feature of the highest Renaissance work,
though it seem at first sight to disprove the general theory of romance
as the meditative, contrasted with the classic or dramatic form of art,
is really consonant with it, since one example of one action is more
analytic and reflective in quality than the suggestion of action
generally. Our assertion, then, that the first manifestation of the
break-up of the monastic system was a return to Nature as revealed and
worshipped in the Hellenic ideal, must be qualified by a recognition of
another tendency modifying and chastening the first.

The second tendency was towards the reconciliation of the superb
naturalism of Grecian art with the Christian spirit of self-discipline
and heroic denial. It was an effort after that ultimate balance and
harmony prophesied (to bring a modern instance) in Ibsen’s “Third
Kingdom;” the kingdom in which the realism of the flesh and the idealism
of the spirit shall be blended into one perfect humanity. “It was a
movement,” to quote again from Mr. J.A. Symonds, “towards that further
point outside both Paganism and mediæval Christianity, at which the
classical ideal of a temperate and joyous natural life shall be restored
to the conscience educated by the gospel.” The vision of this union was
the inspiration of Pre-Raphaelite art. It quickened the hands of the
painters to great tasks; it stirred the scholars to a new energy of
labour and of hope. The poets, interpreting its meaning for the life of
a future Italy, began to speak one to another across the mediæval gloom,
as waking birds call and answer, while it is yet dark, with a sure
instinct prophetic of the dawn.

Thus the unruffled calm and dignity of Hellenism was troubled, in its
re-birth, with a sense of moral conflict and perplexity unknown to the
ancient world. A peculiar mysticism resulted upon literature from that
revival of the Platonic spirit which was initiated by Pico della
Mirandola and his successors in metaphysical thought. Throughout the
Pre-Raphaelite epoch, from Cimabue (124O) to Perugino, the master of
Raphael (1446), the impulse of naturalism is seen adjusting itself,
through much crudeness of expression, through many blunders, solecisms
of taste, errors of selection, to the great spiritual passion of
Christianity which was still warm at the heart of the thinking world.
There is, especially in early Renaissance work, an effect as of divided
aims, or of methods long habituated to the old ideal and brought
suddenly into the service of the new,—like Heine’s “decayed gods, who,
to maintain themselves after the fall of paganism, took employment under
the new religion.” The physical loveliness of the saints and angels of
Botticelli and Fra Angelico—the last of the purely “religious” painters,
in the common acceptance of the word—is hardly congruous with the
loftiness of their themes, and almost belies the spiritual intensity and
rapture of thought which Botticelli, in later life, drew largely from
the influence of Savonarola, and infused increasingly into his own work.
Giotto, the pride of the Florentine school and the dominant genius of
the fourteenth century, was no less profoundly religious than these; but
in the final roll of art he ranks rather as the first great _Nature_-
painter than as one of a distinctly Christian lineage. Taken, like
David, from the sheepfold, he brought into art a breezy, pastoral air,
and painted before a wide horizon under an open sky. Fra Lippo Lippi
added to that wholesome strength and sanity of sight an even clearer
perception of natural beauty and grace. The glories of the physical
realm, in landscape, in the power of men and in the loveliness of women,
were handled now with a growing boldness which outran the delicate
timidity that had restrained it in the shadow of the Church. And with
the enlargement of intellectual range there came a steady increase of
technical power. The skill of choice, of selectiveness in art, of
composition, draughtsmanship, colouring,—in a word, the science of
_expression_, was brought to bear upon the ready message waiting for the
perfecting of its vehicles. The adaptation of language to thought, which
was the task of the fifteenth century, was achieved by the immediate
predecessors of Raphael in a measure unequalled in the history of the
modern world. And that such an adjustment should resolve itself, as it
did, into a fresh conflict between the forces momentarily reconciled,
proves, not that the success of the effort was spurious, but rather that
the struggle between thought and language in art is but one
manifestation of the eternal striving of the Spirit with the imperfect
medium of the flesh.

But this rare consummation of harmony between the erstwhile conflicting
principles of classicism and romance, though reaching its highest point
in Leonardo and Michaelangelo, achieved in the Venetian school a
technical effect which appealed even more strongly to the æsthetic
passion re-born in Rossetti and his friends, as they looked back across
the ages in their search for example and light. In Giorgione, the
creator of idyllic _genre_ painting in the fourteenth century, and in
Titian, of whom Rossetti himself was in due course the natural
successor, they found all the mystic sensuousness of the new Paganism in
a setting which, to adapt a well-worn phrase, revealed instead of
concealing the soul within. Here, at least, was the apotheosis of
_colour_, which is itself a characteristic quality of all romantic
revivals: wherefore painting has always been specifically the romantic
medium in art, while the classic temper finds in sculpture its most
congenial sphere. Classicism invariably compromises with the tints of
nature; it resolves the ever-varying hues of earth and sky into the
formula of the spectroscope; it tends, in its purest and noblest phases,
towards marble and the statuesque. Here was the perfection of artistic
language, as Ruskin would call it; the delight in strong and full
utterance for its own sake, wherein lurks the perennial danger of
greatness in technique. With all its glow and glory of natural life, the
Venetian school was primarily decorative in character, and therefore
merged the more readily into the gradual substitution of form for
matter, the general deterioration of naturalism into sensuality, which
overtook Italian art after the decadence of Raphael.

Together with the more robust conception of the physical life which
supervened in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there came a
change, partial indeed, but progressive, in the ideals of womanhood. The
Madonnas of Botticelli were instinct with a warmth and sensitiveness
unknown before in Christian art. If they were immaculate, their
perfectness was that of a God-possest humanity rather than of a
humanized Godhead. Their faces shine with natural pity and awe and
tenderness and love,—the love of the true _Mater Dolorosa_, sad with

                       “The burden of the mystery,
                   ... the heavy and the weary weight
                   Of all this unintelligible world.”

They see the shadow of the Cross upon the holy Child, and their
passionate life quivers before the Death to be. The same brooding sense
of mystery, the same large and intense compassion for the “world-
sorrow,” yet mingled with a certain austerity of outlook upon its
strife, is the dominant note of Leonardo’s masterpiece of a later date,
“La Gioconda” (“Our Lady of the Rocks”); often compared with that
triumph of a more modern Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer’s “Melancholia,”
with which it shares in the attainment of perfect harmony between
classic and romantic art.

Yet the return of art in the fourteenth century from the angelic to the
human world did not go far enough to affect the ideals of womanhood
beyond this single aspect—the aspect of maternity. The early Renaissance
painters did indeed humanize, in conception and presentment, the virgins
and the venerable mother-saints of Christendom; but their imagination
never concerned itself with what may be termed the independent humanity
of womanhood. They painted always under the sway of that central and
dominant _motif_ of the Christian mythology,—the idea of woman as the
receptive and passive vehicle of the God-man; and never presented woman
as daughter, sister, lover, or wife, apart from the concurrent idea of
potential motherhood. This limitation—unfortunately for art—instead of
being removed by a further broadening of thought and vision as the
Renaissance proceeded, was emphasized in the fifteenth century by the
influence of Raphael, who cultivated and stereotyped his own ideal of
the “for-ever-motherly” until—so subtle is the influence of fixed types
in pictorial art upon the current standards of truth and beauty—the
maternal function came to be regarded as the sole and sufficient object
of a woman’s existence; and the conventional Madonna-face of Raphael
became a bondage from which Christianity has taken more than three
centuries to set itself free.

For the advent of Raphael into Italian art marked the beginning of the
degradation of the pure and wholesome naturalism achieved in the
Renaissance into a coarse materialism which in its turn degenerated into
a false and shallow conventionality, and had an effect infinitely
mischievous upon Italy, still more so upon France, and through France
upon the England of the Stuart and Hanoverian periods. It might almost
be said that the greatness of Raphael was the weakness of modern art.
The immediate result of a triumph in technique—of a great success in the
wedding of perfect utterance to noble thought—is sometimes to produce,
in the moral atmosphere around it, a sense of finality, a relaxing of
tension, in which the soul is overpowered by its own conquest of the
medium, and loses itself in the facile freedom thus attained. The
disciples of Raphael, counting him to have achieved the highest
perfection, modelled themselves upon his manner, and thence upon his
mannerisms, without question or reserve; just as, in metaphysics and
philosophy, the schoolmen argued from Aristotle without any reference to
the external world, and, bound in the thrall of his genius, followed
implicitly the narrow trend of his reasoning, until, entangled in
theoretical cobwebs of their own spinning, they lost altogether the use
of the inductive method, founded upon observation and experiment, which
is the only true basis of knowledge. Imitation may be the sincerest form
of flattery, but it is sometimes a fatal hindrance to progress. Its
maleficence in the world of mental science is not greater than the
mischief wrought in art by a spirit which does as much harm to the work
of the copyist as to the reputation of the model. As Ruskin says, “All
that is highest in art, all that is creative and imaginative, is formed
and created by every great master for himself, and cannot be repeated or
imitated by others.” Raphael at first-hand was always great, often
sublime. Raphael second-hand,—stereotyped, formalized, degraded by three
centuries of imitations, each more laboured than the last,—became vapid,
artificial, meaningless. The original inspiration was destroyed. Art
lost its hold on Nature; and, severed from that sole source of power,
fell into inevitable decay.

History repeats itself, but with a difference. Man’s struggle, as we
have said, for balance, for self-adjustment to the forces around him,
and to the greater forces within, recurs in every age of the world’s
life, but under conditions ever new. The nineteenth century supplied
such new conditions for the old task. The ground that had long lain
fallow was not wasted in its time of barrenness, but made ready in
unfruitful autumns for fresh seed; prepared by silent and secret forces
for a new harvest. Shaken by social revolution, roused by the pressure
of intellectual problems on every side, Art was confronted once more
with the great realities of life and death, good and evil, and turned
for guidance to the witness of the past: as a soul, once quick to action
but long sunk in apathy, awakes again to the mystery of the ideal, and
gathering itself together for fresh strife, calls urgently upon the old
wisdom and the remembered strength of yore.

In such a spirit did Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his comrades turn from
the dull abstractions of academic tradition, and lift their eyes towards
that golden age whose dawning answered their own cry for light. Not to
the material and redundant splendours of Raphaelesque art did they look
for the inspiration of the hour; not to the pseudoclassicism of the
later Renaissance, but to the pristine freshness and purity of its
youth: just as we now look for the true significance of the romantic
revival, not to the Postlethwaite of fashionable society, or to the weak
sensuality of a drawing-room æstheticism; not to the latter-day
apotheosis of lust which is but a gross travesty of the vigorous
naturalism of Hellenic and early Renaissance art, but to the gracious
innocence and seriousness of Rossetti’s “Virgin,” the noble beauty and
pathos of his dying “Beatrice,” and the austere tenderness of Hunt’s
sore-tempted “Isabella,” confronting Claudio’s painful face with the set
resolve of her impregnable womanhood. So, seeking and following all that
was best in the past, and facing, with vision clarified by that high
discipline, the intellectual, social, and moral strife of the nineteenth
century, the young painters set themselves “to disengage,” as Sainte-
Beuve says, “the elements of beauty,” and to put them forth in some sort
of order and lucidity, even if it were but in a tentative formula, yet
to be subjected to the tests of time.


Footnote 2:

  “Some Thoughts on the Transition from Paganism to Christianity.”

                              CHAPTER III.

The Revolt from the Raphaelesque—Influence of Keats and the Romantic
    Poets—The Pre-Raphaelite Brothers and their Early Work—Travels of
    Rossetti with Hunt—Publication of “The Germ”—Hunt and Millais in the
    Royal Academy—Ruskin’s Letters to the “Times”—Pre-Raphaelitism at
    Liverpool—The Pre-Raphaelites as Colourists.

The impulse thus given by Ruskin, in the minds of the young painters,
towards the larger spiritual life and vision of the Pre-Raphaelite
period, was strengthened, as Mr. Holman Hunt has told us, by the almost
accidental sight of a book of engravings from the frescoes in the Campo
Santo at Pisa, which fell into the hands of Rossetti and his friends
while spending an evening together at Millais’s house. To such aspirants
as they, “crying bitterly unto the gods for a kingdom wherein to rule
and create,” the work of the early Italian masters here set forth,
though already partially known to them in the National Gallery, opened
up a new world to be conquered and explored. In the suggestive rather
than successful achievements of Cimabue, Giotto, Ghiberti, and Masaccio,
they discerned the wealth of _thought_ to which Ruskin had directed
them, though the _language_ was still in the course of adjustment to the
meaning within. One cannot but think with a half-amused tenderness of
the eager experimentalism of the young schismatics, shaking off from
their feet the dust of academic propriety, and wandering back, half in
jest, half in earnest, in the buoyant prowess of their youth, to the
free fields wherefrom

                                      —“the harvest long ago
            Was reaped and garnered in the ancient barns.”

It is a pleasant picture which rises in the memory, of the diverse trio,
destined in after years for widely different paths of effort and
success, yet welded at first in the glow of a common enthusiasm of
revolt. It was impossible that they should perceive, at this early age,
that the reaction in which they were united was but a preparing of the
way for an artistic reconstruction which would demand from its leaders
congruity of ideal as well as community of protest. The principle of
non-conformity may embrace almost opposite poles of doctrine and
practice, but the positive elements of a faith must possess alike the
minds of its prophets if they are to pursue in permanent fellowship the
goal at which they aim. As George Eliot has said, “If men are to be
welded together in the glow of a transient feeling, they must be made of
metal that will mix, else they will inevitably fall asunder when the
heat dies out.”

But there was as yet a strong practical cohesion between the grave and
gentle Hunt, the brilliant, warm-hearted, and impressionable Millais,
and the ardent, mercurial, and passionately imaginative Rossetti, whose
personal magnetism was the immediate welding-force of the Pre-Raphaelite
movement. Rossetti’s proselytizing powers, and his inexhaustible
enthusiasm (at least in youth) for dogmatic propaganda, were indeed a
source of some embarrassment and many disappointments in the progress of
artistic reform. The doctrine of Pre-Raphaelitism, however, if we may so
call it—namely that in the age preceding Raphael would be found the
touchstone of art, grew up too imperceptibly through mutual influences
and interchange of thought to be attributed as a special tenet to
Rossetti or any other of the student-band.

It was in the year 1847, before the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood, that the spell of Keats had come with special power upon
its future leaders. Rossetti, an omnivorous reader of poetry, had
already perceived both in Keats and Coleridge the essential elements of
the highest romance. It is the more remarkable that Chatterton, now
acclaimed as the herald of the romantic revival in poetry, as was Blake
in art, had no such charm for Rossetti until quite late in life, when
the tardy discovery led to an exaggerated worship. But in Keats, whose
life (by Lord Houghton) Rossetti, Holman Hunt, and Millais had been
reading together about this time, they found the supreme example in
English poetry of that attainment of harmony between the classic and the
romantic temper which was their aim in art. Eager as they now were for
subject-matter whereon to exercise the artistic principles as yet but
crudely formulated in their minds, they turned with new delight to the
wonder-world revealed to them by the spirit of Keats, and looked with
him through

                   —“magic casements, opening on the foam
               Of perilous seas in faëry lands forlorn.”

They saw that the reconciliation of the flesh to the spirit, which is
the task of the second Renaissance as of the first, had already been
achieved in poetry, and was waiting its translation into pictorial art.
Keats had attained that perfect blending of the Greek spirit with the
temper of romance which Rossetti was to reach in “Venus Astarte” and

The first organized union of workers imbued with the Pre-Raphaelite
ideal, and further knit together by a common enthusiasm for the poetry
of Keats, appears to have taken the form of a cyclographic society, in
which the dominant spirits—Rossetti, Millais, and Holman Hunt—were soon
surrounded by a group of more or less gifted companions and friends. The
members were pledged to contribute original drawings in regular
succession to a portfolio which was passed round for criticism by their
fellows. Rossetti, who liked to rule his little kingdom with an absolute
sway, seldom disputed by those who deemed submission to his imperious
ways but a small price to pay for his friendship, selected from Keats’s
“Isabella” the following series of subjects to exercise the talents of
the society:—1. “The Lovers;” 2. “The Brothers” (of Isabella); 3.“Good-
bye,” (the parting of Isabella and Lorenzo); 4. “The Vision” (Isabella
sees in a dream the murder of her lover by her brother); 5. “The Wood”
(Isabella visits the scene of the crime and secretly bears away the head
of her lover); 6. “The Pot of Basil” (she buries the head in her flower-
pot); 7. “The Brothers discover the Pot;” 8. “Madness of Isabella.”

It does not appear that any member executed this exhaustive series of
proposed sketches in its entirety. The suggestion of subjects from
Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” seems to have been no less barren of
results. The only drawings from Rossetti’s hand that remain to us from
that portfolio are an illustration of Keats’s “Belle Dame sans Merci;” a
study from Coleridge’s “Genevieve,” over which he sat up a whole night,
completing it at daybreak, and a sketch of “Gretchen in the Chapel” from
Goethe’s “Faust.” The society included Walter Howell Deverell, an artist
of rare delicacy and grace, and a man of singular personal charm,
destined to play a memorable part in the life-history of Rossetti; F.G.
Stephens, an intimate friend of Holman Hunt; Thomas Woolner, a young
sculptor whose acquaintance Rossetti had made at the Academy Schools;
J.A. Vinter, now well known as a portrait painter; and such lesser
though by no means insignificant lights as J.B. Keene, F. Watkins,
William Dennis, John Hancock, J.T. Clifton, and N.E. Green. It was
evident that among the rising generation of painters, long before the
formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,—even before Hunt or
Rossetti had entered definitely upon such art training as they ever had—
the revolt against the tyranny of the Academy was already begun, and
even those least in sympathy with the Pre-Raphaelite idea found
themselves drawn towards Rossetti and his friends in a common
disaffection with the existing _régime_. Moreover, the success of
Millais, who at the age of seventeen had gained the highest academic
prize for historical painting, and was already earning well with his
book-illustrations in black and white, afforded a valuable connecting-
link with a larger circle of critics and sympathizers from whom were
drawn some of the most faithful aides-de-camp of the Pre-Raphaelite

The poetry of Keats afforded at all events an inexhaustable treasure-
house of subject-matter for the young painters, not only in their first
efforts towards the romantic revival, but for many years then to come.
“The Eve of St. Agnes,” for example, afterwards yielded the theme of the
picture regarded by some critics as Millais’s greatest work, as well as
of the first important painting by Holman Hunt, “The Flight of Madeline
and Porphyro.” This was completed at Millais’s studio, at his home in
Gower Street, early in 1848, and exhibited in the Royal Academy of that
year; Millais having been at work meanwhile upon his “Cymon and

It was not until the autumn of 1848 that a definite attempt was made to
band together, in a common purpose and under a distinctive name, those
of the little company of students and friends who were prepared to
accept and follow openly the principle of fidelity to Nature in general
and to the romantic conception of Nature in particular,—the conception,
namely, of the physical world as the veil and vehicle of an immanent
spirit, fateful, mysterious, and occult. An informal meeting was held at
Rossetti’s studio, then at 83, Newman Street, and seven members enrolled
themselves under the name of “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.” The union
consisted of Rossetti, Millais, Holman Hunt, William Michael Rossetti,
the younger brother of the painter, Thomas Woolner, F.G. Stephens, and
James Collinson—the least stable of the Brotherhood and the first
seceder from its ranks. In the Academy of that year a picture by
Collinson had already been exhibited, entitled “The Charity Boy’s
Début.” He was a painter of uncertain artistic _calibre_, and of a
lethargic and mystical temperament; converted to Pre-Raphaelitism by the
ardour of Rossetti, but shortly forsaking his art studies and joining
the Roman Catholic communion with a view of qualifying for the
priesthood. This ambition also was subsequently given up, and, thus
vacillating between the church and the studio, his probation ended in no
particular career. The remaining members of the Brotherhood—apart from
the leading painters—may be said to represent the minor literature of
the movement. F.G. Stephens and W.M. Rossetti have attained permanent
distinction as art-critics, while Thomas Woolner, before winning his
later fame as a sculptor, gave in the form of poetry his chief
contribution to the early propaganda of the Brotherhood.

The rules laid down as to method in painting,—such as, that every
subject and accessory should be studied direct from nature, and from one
model—do not seem to have been stringently enforced: indeed in one of
Rossetti’s most rigidly Pre-Raphaelite pictures, “Ecce Ancilla Domini,”
the face of the Virgin was avowedly painted from several models, while
in that of the Angel the artist has produced a curious blending of his
brother’s features with those of another sitter.

It is improbable that an aversion to the one-model rule, which has been
attributed to Ford Madox Brown as a reason for holding aloof from the
Brotherhood, had very much to do with his decision to remain independent
of it. Mr. Madox Brown was from the first in cordial sympathy with the
movement, and on terms of intimate friendship with its leaders, but he
foresaw the dangers of an artistic clique, and, perhaps, the
impossibility of permanent consonance of method between temperaments so
diverse as those of the seven members enlisted. Nor was his own strong
and individualistic style of painting quite in harmony with the manner
of his younger friends. He was pre-eminently an historical painter; and
the critical and romantic treatment of history, though bordering very
closely on Pre-Raphaelite ground, hardly came within the immediate scope
of the Brotherhood. Though frequently acknowledged by his later critics
as the father—or sometimes the grandfather—of the Pre-Raphaelite
movement, Mr. Madox Brown consistently disclaimed any such title, and
did so with no less justice than modesty. At the same time, his work was
so intimately connected with that of the men whom he powerfully
influenced and inspired that it may fairly be studied side by side with
theirs in illustration of the dominant principles common to all.

In the autumn of 1848 it was agreed that the three chief painters should
select their next subjects from Keats’s “Isabella.” Millais, at that
time under the influence of Hunt rather than of Rossetti (who indeed was
still far from adopting any definite line of _technique_), decided upon
a scene depicting Lorenzo at supper with Isabella and her brothers. The
pensive and earnest face of Lorenzo was painted from W.M. Rossetti. Mrs.
Hodgkinson, the wife of Millais’s half-brother, sat for Isabella. It
would not be easy to disprove Holman Hunt’s generous but weighty verdict
on the finished picture, as “the most wonderful painting that any youth
still under twenty years of age ever did in the world.”

Hunt and Rossetti, however, were not so steadfast in their adhesion to
the agreement as to the choice of subjects from Keats. Hunt indeed
planned, and probably commenced about this time, his afterwards notable
picture, “Isabella and the Pot of Basil;” but this, though taking rank
among the best examples of his earlier style, was not finally painted
until 1867. He decided to finish, for the next Academy, a picture
already in hand, “Rienzi swearing revenge over the body of his brother.”
In this design the figure of Colonna, who endeavours to pacify the
would-be avenger, was painted from W.M. Rossetti, while Dante Rossetti
sat for the head of Rienzi,—and neglected, in spite of much urging from
his comrades, to fulfil his own share in the “Isabella” project; but
pursued work upon the most original and remarkable of his early
pictures, “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.” Prior to this, he had proposed,
and partly sketched, a design entitled, “Retro me, Sathana,”
representing a young girl walking, and earnestly reading, in a cloister,
in the company of a venerable priest, while the retreating figure of
Satan threatens her from the shade. This conception was never carried
out; but it is probable that the now familiar sonnet bearing the same
title was written about this time. The only painting of any note
hitherto accomplished by Rossetti was a life-size and nearly half-length
portrait of his father, finished in this same year 1848, and
commissioned and bought by his godfather, Mr. Charles Lyell, of
Kinnordy, Forfar, the father of the eminent geologist. This was the only
male portrait Rossetti ever did in oils. In his new picture, “The
Girlhood of Mary Virgin,” (called at first “The Education of the
Virgin”) the face of the lovely child-angel was painted from a young
half-sister of Woolner (though greatly modified, if not wholly re-
painted, afterwards); while St. Joiachim was taken from an old family
servant, and Saint Anna and St. Mary from Mrs. Rossetti and Miss
Christina Rossetti respectively.

In the spring of 1849 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood held their first
“private view” with three important pictures, Rossetti’s “Girlhood,”
Hunt’s “Rienzi,” and Millais’s “Lorenzo and Isabella,” duly signed and
monogramed with the initials P.R.B. after the painters’ names, ready for
exhibition; the first appearing at the Free Gallery (formerly known as
the Chinese Gallery), Hyde Park Corner, then under the management of the
Association for Promoting the Free Exhibition of Modern Art, the other
two at the Royal Academy, where they were favourably hung. Rossetti’s
picture was sold to the Marchioness of Bath on “private view” day for
£80, and Hunt’s “Rienzi” found a purchaser soon afterwards. “Lorenzo and
Isabella,” sold for £100 in 1849, was bought in 1883 by the Corporation
of Liverpool for £1,120.

A tour on the Continent with Holman Hunt in September, 1849, gave
Rossetti fresh inspiration from the early Italian masters and the best
representatives of the Dutch school. The impressions made upon him in
his twenty-first year by travel in France and Belgium are recorded for
us in the wonderfully vivid and sharply-cut vignette-poems of this
period. Eager as ever for emotional experience, and with the divine
passion of hero-worship strong upon him, his holiday among the great
painters was a delightsome pilgrimage, full of suggestion and stimulus
for future work. In Paris, the sight of Giorgione’s great idyll in the
Louvre, “A Venetian Pastoral,” drew from the young tourist a sonnet
unsurpassed for sheer verbal colour and atmosphere by any of his later
poems. Here, too, were written the great memorial sonnets, “Place de la
Bastille,” and “The Staircase of Notre Dame.” On the cliffs at Boulogne
Rossetti wrote “Sea-Limits.” He

                  —“climbed the stair in Antwerp church,
                  What time the circling thews of sound
                  At sunset seem to heave it round.
                Far up, the carillon did search
                The wind, and the birds came to perch
                  Far under, where the gables wound.”

Van Eyck and Memmeling at Bruges, Leonardo, Fra Angelico, Giorgione, and
Titian in Paris, lacked no due meed of homage from Rossetti and Hunt.

It is remarkable that Rossetti never visited Italy, nor even retained,
in later years, the patriotic sentiment which had so strongly pervaded
the home life of his boyhood.

On the return of the travellers to London, a new development was
proposed and accomplished in the public propaganda of the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood. It was decided to issue a monthly magazine for the
promulgation of Pre-Raphaelite principles in painting and poetry.
Members and sympathizers met at Rossetti’s studio in Newman Street to
discuss the project, and decide upon the title and contents of the
manifesto. The suggestion of Mr. Cave Thomas was ultimately adopted,
that it should be called “The Germ.” The first number, extending to
forty-eight large octavo pages, illustrated with etchings, appeared in
January, 1850, published by Messrs. Aylott and Jones, of 8, Paternoster
Row. The primary tenet with regard to art was thus enunciated in the
preface: “The endeavour held in view throughout the writings on Art will
be to encourage and enforce an entire adherence to the simplicity of
nature.” It would be captious, perhaps, to argue, in the face of so
ingenuous an implication, that nature is not simple, but, alas!
infinitely and fatefully complex without and within; presenting to the
seer’s eye a tangled web of visible phenomena no less intricate than the
secret woof of destiny whose threads are the lives of men. To young
minds, as to a young world, the vision of nature broadly outlined in
generalities and clear with purpose is one of the fairest of illusions.
The sternest discipline of life is to discover chaos where we imagined
order and lucidity: to find interminable mazes and cross-roads for our
bewilderment where in the morning mirage we had seen a plain path, an
open road to the Ideal. Then we cry that Nature, and not ourself, is
altered: that “there hath passed away a glory from the earth.”

Happily, this disillusionment was yet far off in the future of the Pre-
Raphaelite Brotherhood. In the preface to “The Germ,” a special claim
was made for poetry in its relation to the principles of simplicity of
expression already enforced in painting; and with better reason, since
painting must perforce speak exclusively by the representation of
visible things, while poetry reaches directly to their inner
significance. For while the painter strives so to order and depict the
phenomena around him as to arrive at some sort of moral simplicity in
the effect of his picture, the poet—if he be a seer—penetrates at once
to the spirit of his theme, and clothes it at his own will with symbolic
or dramatic expression. Hence the application of the Pre-Raphaelite
principle to the writing of poetry was even more fruitful than in
painting; and produced in modern English ballad and lyric verse, and
even in the best prose of our own generation, a swift and incisive
directness of touch, a broad and vivid clarity of impression, never so
fully effected in the pictorial medium.

The first literary _débutant_ in “The Germ” was Mr. Woolner, who
occupied the opening pages of the January number with two short poems
admirably illustrative, within their unpretentious scope and modest aim,
of that naïve simplicity in the handling of complexities—the eternal
childlikeness of pure romance—which is inherent in almost all great art.
“My Beautiful Lady” and “Of my Lady in Death” were accompanied by an
etching in two parts by Holman Hunt. Then followed an unsigned sonnet by
Ford Madox Brown, and a paper by Mr. J.L. Tupper on “The Subject in
Art.” Mr. Coventry Patmore contributed anonymously a poem called “The
Seasons,” and Mr. Tupper was also represented in verse. Criticism of
contemporary poetry was afforded by W.M. Rossetti’s paper on Arthur Hugh
Clough. The remaining pages were worthily filled by the two greatest
poets of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Dante Gabriel and Christina
Rossetti: the latter with “Dreamlands” and another short lyric, signed
“Ellen Alleyn,” the former with “My Sister’s Sleep,” a characteristic
example of his earliest manner, written in the then uncommon metre since
naturalized in our language by Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” and the
wonderful prose allegory “Hand and Soul.” This poem—as verily it should
be called, with its rich and haunting diction and its magical rhythm of
imagery—is almost the sole example of Rossetti’s strength in prose, only
paralleled by a similar composition, entitled “St. Agnes of
Intercession,” of a later date. “Hand and Soul” is largely
autobiographical in its narrative, being the story of a young art
student of Arezzo, named Chiaro dell’Erma, possessed by new and high
ideals of the painters mission, and stimulated to the better application
of his own talents by the success of a younger comrade,—as we may well
believe Rossetti to have been stirred and impelled by the progress of
the more studious and at the same time more fortunate Millais. The
speech of Chiaro in “Hand and Soul” may be taken as a declaration of
Rossetti’s artistic faith and principles at that period.

The second number of “The Germ,” though no less interesting and
significant in subject-matter, did not increase the scant support
accorded to the venture by the public at large; and since the expense of
such an issue was too heavy to be borne by the little band of young and
struggling aspirants responsible for its existence, the future of the
magazine had to be seriously reconsidered by the Brotherhood. Mr.
Tupper, however, to whose hands the printing had been entrusted, came to
the rescue, and gave “The Germ” a new lease of life under the title of
“Art and Poetry.” The change did not serve to commend the somewhat crude
propaganda to the mind of the British Philistine, and after the April
number the issue was reluctantly given up; but not until its pages had
glowed with the first fires, at least, of Rossetti’s noblest poetic
inspiration. Here first appeared “The Blessed Damozel,” for which we
might surely paraphrase the words of Holman Hunt on Millais, and call it
“the most wonderful poem that any youth still under twenty years of age
ever did in the world.” Here, too, were the lyric first-fruits of his
continental tour (if sonnets may, by elasticity of definition, be
included in lyric poetry), “The Carillon,” “From the Cliffs—Noon,”
afterwards called “Sea-Limits,” “Pax Vobis,” largely rewritten later and
entitled “World’s Worth,” and the sonnets on “A Virgin and Child,” “A
Marriage of St. Katherine,” “A Dance of Nymphs” (from Andrea Mantegna,
in the Louvre), “A Venetian Pastoral” (from Giorgione, in the Louvre),
and “Ruggiero and Angelica” (from the picture by Ingres).

Among other contents of “The Germ” and “Art and Poetry” may be mentioned
Ford Madox Brown’s paper on “The Structure of an Historical Picture,”
John Orchard’s “Dialogue on Art,” and Coventry Patmore’s “Criticism of
Macbeth.” Mr. F.G. Stephens wrote under the pseudonym of “John Seward,”
and the publication was edited by W.M. Rossetti, then twenty years of
age. Yet one more poet remains in the list of contributors, James
Collinson, whose somewhat desultory but genuinely imaginative lines,
“The Child Jesus: a record typical of the five sorrowful mysteries,”
together with an etching by the same hand, illustrate very markedly the
peculiar phase of religious symbolism, combined with half-ascetic, half-
æsthetic melancholy, upon which the Pre-Raphaelites were entering at
this period, and which remained with one, at least, of their leaders, as
a permanent and dominating element in the artistic work of a lifetime.

But while “The Germ” was speeding through its brief career, and
achieving at all events some sort of _apologia_ for the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood, the leading band of painters were further expressing and
developing their principles on canvas. For the Royal Academy Exhibition
of 1850, Millais had prepared two pictures destined to draw down upon
himself the concentrated fury of that storm of vituperative criticism
from the public press which raged unabated for five years around the
work of the Brethren, and ultimately spent itself on their more or less
worthy disciples and successors. It is remarkable that the chief burden
of the abuse heaped upon the Pre-Raphaelites by the art censors of the
period should have been borne in the first instance by one, in some
respects the most brilliant of the band, who in after years departed
more entirely from his early principles in painting than any other
member of the Brotherhood, and gained thereby a far greater measure of
general popularity than has been won, or is likely to be won at present,
by any of his former comrades. Upon no example of Pre-Raphaelite work
were the diatribes of the press more scathing than upon Millais’s two
pictures of 1850, “Christ in the House of His Parents,” (often called
“The Carpenter’s Shop”), and “Ferdinand Lured by Ariel.” “Men who knew
nothing of art,” says a fellow-member of the Brotherhood, Mr. F.G.
Stephens, “reviled Millais because he was not of the art, artistic.
Dilettanti, who could not draw a fingertip, scolded one of the most
accomplished draughtsmen of the age because he delineated what he saw.
Cognoscenti, who could not paint, rebuked the most brilliant Gold Medal
student of the Royal Academy on account of his technical proceedings.
Critics of the most rigid views belaboured and shrieked at an original
genius, whose struggles and whose efforts they could not understand.
Intolerant and tyrannical commentators condemned the youth of twenty
because he dared to think for himself.... Intense and unflinching
fidelity to nature, ardent love for colour, and a rigid resolution to
paint the light of day as brightly as pigments could allow him, were
among the aims of Millais, who, following the principles he championed
with all his heart, found his models among his friends of English birth,
and failing Eastern types, employed all his skill on British materials,
relying on the really devout spirit in which he worked, and the poetic
quality of his design, to produce the effect desired. He was sorely
disappointed in this reliance.” No less sane a journal than Charles
Dickens’s “Household Words,” thus wrote on June 15:—“In coming before
this Holy Family you must discharge from your mind all religious
aspirations, all elevating thoughts, all tender, awful, sorrowful,
ennobling, sacred, graceful, or beautiful associations, and prepare
yourself for the lowest depth of what is mean, odious, repulsive, and
revolting. You behold the interior of a carpenter’s shop. In the
foreground is a hideous, wry-necked, blubbering, red-headed boy in a
bed-gown, and at his side a kneeling woman so horrible in her ugliness
that she would stand out from the rest of the company as a monster in
the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest gin-shop in England. The two
almost naked carpenters might be undressed in any hospital where dirty
drunkards in a high state of varicose veins are received. Their very
toes have walked out of St. Giles’s.” Another writer likened the figure
of the boy Christ, whose hand, in the picture, has been wounded at his
task, to “a miserable child scratching itself against a rusty nail in
Seven Dials.” To such criticism it might easily be retorted that the
world is more deeply concerned to-day with the dark problems of Seven
Dials and St. Giles’s than with the life of any child in history, save
in so far as the latter may illumine and interpret the mysteries of the
importunate hour; and that the painter who so translates into present-
day life the eternal tragedy of toil and pain as to press home to the
conscience of a nation the daily re-crucifixion of the Christ in its own
vast labour-houses,—whose modern reading of the ancient tale suggests
the divine potentialities of all childhood and the universal pathos of
human love “wounded in the house of friends,”—has given us a greater
picture, and a more religious picture, than if he had painted for us all
the angels in Heaven.

“Ferdinand Lured by Ariel” may be taken as the first landscape produced
by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It was painted—according to the rule—
directly from nature. The background was taken from a spot in a park
attached to Shotover House, near Oxford, where Millais was staying as
the guest of Mr. Drury. A lady who saw the young artist at work upon
this subject distinctly recalls his application of a magnifying-glass to
the branch of a tree he was painting, in order to study closely the
veins of the leaves. This was a literal following of that patient
analysis of minutiæ in nature which characterized the Italian Pre-
Raphaelites, and is especially noticeable in the early landscapes of
Leonardo da Vinci; though he departed in his maturity from his former
love of detail, and began to conventionalize items into generalities.
Even the lizards in the foreground of “Ferdinand and Ariel” were
faithful portraits of certain small favourites brought by Millais from
Jersey to serve their turn among his sitters. The friend who sat for
Ferdinand relates that the painting of the face, though a marvel of
finish, and perfect in technique, was accomplished in a single sitting.
A detailed pencil drawing was already on the canvas, and the laying on
of the colour occupied only five hours. The vivid colouring of the whole
picture, and the use of metal instead of pigment for the gold-cloth worn
by Ferdinand (after the method of the early Italian masters, followed
also by Rossetti in “Ecce Ancilla Domini”), were the subject of scarcely
less vehement denunciation by the critics than the painter’s treatment
of the Holy Family. “We do not want,” they said, “to see Ariel and the
Spirits of the enchanted isle in the attitudes and shapes of green
goblins, or the gallant Ferdinand twisted like a posture-master by
Albrecht Dürer.... A Ferdinand of most ignoble physiognomy is being
lured by a pea-green monster, intended for Ariel, whilst a row of
sprites, such as it takes a Millais to devise, watch the operation with
turquoise eyes. It would occupy more room than the thing is worth to
expose all the absurdity and impertinence of this work.”



  _From the National Gallery._

From such extravagance of hostility the efforts of Holman Hunt were
spared for the present; and his contribution to the Academy of 1850,
“Christian Priests Escaping from Druid Persecution” (better known as
“The Christian Missionary,”) though sharing in the general condemnation
of the Pre-Raphaelite “heresy and schism,” was not singled out for
special objurgation. Rossetti’s great achievement of the year was the
most beautiful, and at the same time the most dramatic, of his strictly
Pre-Raphaelite work, the “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (“The Annunciation,”) now
in the National Gallery. The first rough sketch for this picture—a small
water-colour not more than six inches by four—was painted as early as
1847 in the Cleveland Street studio shared with Hunt. The completed work
was rejected by the Academy, and seen only in the obscure little
Portland Gallery in Regent Street.

But the following season brought a larger measure of opprobrium to
Holman Hunt. In the autumn of 1850 he had spent some weeks with Rossetti
at Sevenoaks, Kent, and there painted the greater portion of his picture
for the next year’s Academy, “Valentine rescuing Sylvia from Proteus;” a
scene from Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” The beech-tree
forest background was painted in Lord Amherst’s park at Knowle, and Mr.
James Lennox Hannay (who died in 1873) was the model for Valentine. The
whole work was characterized by the same bold colouring and exuberance
of highly wrought detail, the same rugged unconventionality of pose and
gesture in the composition of the figures, that had so incensed the
organs of Academic tradition in the previous year. Its appearance in the
Academy of 1851 evoked a fresh outburst of official contumely, in which
the painter of “Valentine and Sylvia” (as it was ultimately called), was
no less severely dealt with than his comrade Millais, who exhibited at
the same time “The Return of the Dove to the Ark,” “Mariana of the
Moated Grange,” and “The Woodman’s Daughter”—one of the finest
combinations of Pre-Raphaelite landscape with the peculiar intensity of
figure-drawing and character-study which was a dominant motive with the
Brotherhood at this period. The assailant critics again sought to cover
insinuations of gracelessness and deformity of conception beneath the
looser charge of defective technique.

It was at this juncture that Mr. Ruskin, then personally unknown to the
Pre-Raphaelites, and hearing privately of their aims and endeavours
through Mr. Coventry Patmore, took upon himself to espouse their cause,
perhaps with more ardour than discrimination, and wrote, in the spring
of 1851, the now famous Letters to the “Times” which constituted the
first public and authoritative vindication of the Pre-Raphaelite

That Mr. Ruskin may have taken the early achievement and promise of the
young painters a little too seriously, and attributed to them a more
exalted conception of their mission as prophets and reformers than they
actually cherished, and that he did undoubtedly misinterpret certain
aspects of their religious paintings, is now widely acknowledged; nor
need we hesitate to say that his influence upon the movement from first
to last has been considerably exaggerated. Yet it is unquestionable that
the first inspiration of Pre-Raphaelitism was largely due to his
writings, and that his open championship of Hunt and Millais at a crisis
of popular feeling rendered immense service to their crusade against the
blind Philistinism of the British _bourgeoisie_. Replying at once to the
technical indictments, Mr. Ruskin said:—“There was not a single error in
perspective in three out of the four pictures in question [‘The
Woodman’s Daughter,’ ‘Mariana of the Moated Grange,’ ‘The Return of the
Dove to the Ark,’ and ‘Valentine and Sylvia’].... I doubt if, with the
exception of the pictures of David Roberts, there were one architectural
drawing in perspective on the walls of the Academy; I never met with but
two men in my life who knew enough of perspective to draw a Gothic arch
in a retiring plane, so that its lateral dimensions and curvatures might
be calculated to scale from the drawing. Our architects certainly do
not, and it was but the other day that, talking to one of the most
distinguished among them, I found he actually did not know how to draw a
circle in perspective.... There is not a single study of drapery in the
whole Academy, be it in large works or small, which for perfect truth,
power, and finish, could be compared with the black sleeve of Julia, or
with the velvet on the breast and the chain mail of Valentine, of Mr.
Hunt’s picture; or with the white draperies on the table of Mr.
Millais’s ‘Mariana.’ And further: that as studies both of drapery and of
every minor detail, there has been nothing in art so earnest or so
complete as these pictures since the days of Albrecht Dürer. This I
assert generally and fearlessly.” “Let us only look around at our
exhibitions,”—continued the writer, proceeding to compare the work of
the Pre-Raphaelites with the current standard of academic art—“and
behold the cattle-pieces, and sea-pieces, and fruit-pieces, and family-
pieces, the eternal brown cows in ditches, and white sails in squalls,
and sliced lemons in saucers, and foolish faces in simpers, and try and
feel what we are, and what we might have been.”

Mr. Ruskin’s letters to the “Times” were revised and republished a few
years later in pamphlet form, introduced by the following statement in
the preface:—“Eight years ago, in the close of the first volume of
‘Modern Painters,’ I ventured to give this advice to the young artists
of England: That they should go to Nature in all singleness of heart,
and walk with her, laboriously and trustingly, having no other thought
but how best to penetrate her meaning; rejecting nothing, selecting
nothing, and scorning nothing: advice which, whether bad or good,
involved infinite labour and humiliation in the following it; and was
therefore, for the most part, rejected. It has, however, at last been
carried out, to the very letter, by a group of men who, for their
reward, have been assailed with the most scurrilous abuse which I ever
recollect seeing issue from the public press.”

Upon this endorsement of the Pre-Raphaelite aim there followed an
indictment of the Raphaelesque tradition still surviving in the
training-schools of British art, in a passage which, through much
quotation, has now become a familiar example of the controversial
literature of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. “We begin,” said Mr. Ruskin,
“in all probability, by telling the youth of fifteen or sixteen that
Nature is full of faults, and that he is to improve her; but that
Raphael is perfection, and that the more he copies Raphael the better;
that after much copying of Raphael he is to try what he can do himself
in a Raphaelesque but yet original manner; that is to say, he is to try
to do something very clever, all out of his own head, but yet this
clever something is to be properly subjected to Raphaelesque rules, is
to have a principal light, occupying one-seventh of its space, and a
principal shadow, occupying one-third of the same; that no two people’s
heads in the picture are to be turned the same way, and that all the
personages represented are to possess ideal beauty of the highest order,
which ideal beauty consists partly in a Greek outline of nose, partly in
proportions expressible in decimal fractions between the lips and the
chin; but partly also in that degree of improvement which the youth of
sixteen is to bestow upon God’s work in general.”

It is not difficult to trace, in the light of those utterances, the
point of departure between Mr. Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites in their
conception of that universe of Nature which they had studied with the
like faithful care. Revolting from the quasi-perfection of Raphaelesque
art, Ruskin had thrown himself upon Nature with the confidence of
finding in her the absolute perfection vainly sought in the work of man.
He had embraced without question the monistic theory of Nature as
essentially beneficent and beautiful, and had never faced the principal
of dualism which has been and must yet remain the crux of modern
philosophy. Hence he failed to grasp the more romantic and subtle
conception of the physical world as the scene, and not the drama, of
life, which was immanent in the beginnings and revealed with the
maturity of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. It has been remarked by an
astute critic that three of the greatest writers of the Victorian age—
Ruskin, Carlyle, and Browning—have been ruined as thinkers by their
ignorance of the law of Evolution, with all that it implies of waste and
suffering, of sacrifice and conflict and loss. Ruskin’s philosophy of
nature was founded upon an old and discredited cosmogony; and however
remote may have been the thought of the Pre-Raphaelite painters from the
purely intellectual conclusions of physical and mental science in the
nineteenth century, however apart they may have lived from theological
and ethical controversy, it can safely be said that no contemporary
artist save Tennyson, in poetry or painting, has imbibed more completely
that spirit of mystical and irresponsible conflict with Nature which
they drew from the atmosphere of mediæval romance. They understood that
he who returns to Nature, returns, as another writer has bluntly
expressed it, to a great many ugly things. “We need,” says Mr. Frederic
Harrison, “as little think the natural world all beauty as think it all
horror. It is made up of loveliness and ghastliness, of harmony and
chaos, of agony, joy, life, death. The nature-worshippers are blind and
deaf to the waste and the shrieks which meet the seeker after truth.
What a mass there is in Nature which is appalling—almost maddening to
man, if we coolly resolve to look at all the facts, as facts!”[3] It was
well that the Pre-Raphaelite painters should return, as they did, to the
reverent and unbiassed portrayal of the natural world as it presented
itself to their eyes. That they should follow with absolute fidelity the
phenomena around them, “rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and
scorning nothing,” was the essential preparation for artistic reform.
But that they should advance from such a discipline to something of the
selectiveness of fine art, was a step from the analytic method to a
constructive effort based on that analysis and not—as in the
Raphaelesque convention—independent of it. In all the highest Pre-
Raphaelite work we feel instinctively that Nature is not the subject,
but only the accessory, of the painting. Undoubtedly the new note struck
in 1849 was, as Ruskin says, a note of resistance and defiance. But the
revolutionary impulse had yet to be developed on reconstructive lines;
and this development, though powerfully stimulated by the independent
genius of Millais in the first four years of the Brotherhood, passed
ultimately into the hands of Rossetti and Holman Hunt.

But Ruskin’s championship of Hunt and Millais when the powers of
orthodoxy were against them and their friends were few, and his no less
generous patronage of Rossetti in the succeeding years, did much to turn
the current of critical favour in the direction of the Pre-Raphaelite
ideal. Hunt’s picture, “Valentine and Sylvia,” after its merciless
ordeal of ridicule and abuse in London, was rewarded by a £50 prize at
the Academy of Liverpool,—the first English city to give public
recognition and support to the rising school. The story of the steadfast
encouragement accorded to the Pre-Raphaelites by the Liverpool Academy
during the next six years, in which the annual prize of £50 was granted
in every instance to pictures either by Millais, Holman Hunt, Ford Madox
Brown, or a painter of kindred aims—Mark Anthony,—and of the dissensions
which arose in and round the Academic Council when in 1857 the prize was
once more won by Millais, affords an interesting side light upon the
artistic controversy of the period. A leading literary newspaper
attacked the Liverpool Academy in the bitterest terms for what it called
“the Pre-Raphaelite heresy,” and Mr. Ruskin again came forward in the
press to the defence of the painters. In the following year another
nomination of Madox Brown by the Council for the award in question
brought the strife to a crisis; the Town Council withdrew its financial
support from the Academy, and rival exhibitions were opened, resulting
in failure on both sides. Time, however, worked a significant revenge.
Not long after the press attack upon the Academy Council, one of the
original members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Mr. F.G. Stephens,
was appointed art-critic of the very journal that had so violently
forsworn “the Pre-Raphaelite heresy.” Twenty years later, the finest
English art gallery outside London was erected in Liverpool through the
munificence of Mr. (afterwards Sir) A.B. Walker, recently deceased; and
yielded some of the most important spaces on its walls to pictures of
the highest level of the English Pre-Raphaelite school.

The history of the last two decades has indeed wrought a sufficient
vindication of the general methods of these young painters, and
supremely of their practice as colourists; and it is in the sphere of
the colourist that their influence upon contemporary art has made itself
felt more deeply, perhaps, than in any other branch of technique. But to
the vindication of history has been added in recent years, by the
painter most bitterly attacked at the time for his innovations in
colour—Sir John Millais—a defence which has now become almost an
aphorism in English studios. “_Time_ and _Varnish_ are two of the
greatest Old Masters,” says the artist, writing in 1888 under the title
“Some Thoughts on our Art of To-day”; “and their merits are too often
attributed by critics to the painters of the pictures they have toned
and mellowed. The great artists all painted in _bright_ colours, such as
it is the fashion now-a-days for men to decry as crude and vulgar, never
suspecting that what they applaud in those works is merely the result of
what they condemn in their contemporaries. The only way to judge of the
treasures which the old masters of whatever age have left us, is to look
at the work and ask oneself ‘What was that like when it was new?’ Take
the ‘Bacchus and Ariadne’ in the National Gallery, with its splendid red
robe and its rich brown grass. You may rest assured that the painter of
that red robe never painted the grass brown. He saw the colour as it was
and painted it as it was—distinctly green; only it has faded with time
to its present beautiful mellow colour. Yet many men now-a-days will not
have a picture with green in it; some even going so far, in giving a
commission, as to stipulate that the canvas shall contain none of it.
But God Almighty has given us green, and you may depend upon it, it’s a
fine colour.”[4]

The writer then describes the gradual fall of Sir Joshua Reynolds before
the short-sighted demand for “subdued colour” which had become current
among the art _connoisseurs_ of his day, and which at last induced him,
against his better judgment, to create immediate “tone,” at the
sacrifice of durability, by the use of that pernicious medium,
asphaltum; with the result that all his extant work so accomplished is
now in a deplorable state of decomposition and ruin.

With such examples before them of the evil of yielding to the demands of
ignorance, and lowering in any way one’s standard of practice before a
popular cry, the Pre-Raphaelite Brothers, whose first word in art
sounded, as Ruskin said, the note of resistance and defiance, did not
scruple to make merry over the weaknesses of a school of painting
founded on Sir Joshua Reynold’s “Discourses.” Mr. Madox Brown tells us
how Rossetti loved to quote from the diary of B.R. Haydon:—“Locked my
door and dashed at my picture with a brush dripping with asphaltum.” But
of Rossetti’s cordial admiration for Haydon’s genius a contrasting
anecdote is evidence:—A friend, discussing with him the relative merits
of Haydon and Wilkie, contended that the head of Lazarus was the only
fine thing Haydon ever produced. “Ah!” burst out Rossetti, “but that one
head is worth all the puny Wilkie ever produced in his life!”

Rossetti’s practice, it may here be said, differed from that of his Pre-
Raphaelite comrades in the matter of varnish. The strong impulse towards
the fresco-method, which was initiated in him, in his student days, by
Madox Brown and the Westminster Cartoon competitions, resulted in his
avoidance, throughout the best years of his work, of glaze and sheen in
painting. From the first, Rossetti hated varnish: hence were developed
the fresco-like, pure, and lustreless depths of colour which mark his
finest technical level. But his entire confidence in the “Old Master,”
Time, to enhance and vindicate his rich green glories in drapery and
background is sufficiently attested by his unhesitating and masterly use
of green in nearly all his greatest pictures. Not even the verdant
gorgeousness of “Ferdinand and Ariel” can compare with the deep,
chastened splendour of the green in “Beata Beatrix” and “Mnemosyne,” or
in “The Beloved,” “Veronica Veronese,” “La Ghirlandata,” “The Blue
Bower,” or, more daring still, in the wonderful series of water-colours
which occupy the transition period of Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite work.


Footnote 3:

  “On Pantheism and Cosmic Emotion.”

Footnote 4:

  “The Magazine of Art,” 1888.

                              CHAPTER IV.
                         PERIOD OF TRANSITION.

Influence of Browning and Tennyson—Comparison of Rossetti and Browning—
    Influence of Dante—Introduction to Miss Siddal—Rossetti’s Water-
    colours—Madox Brown and Romantic Realism—The Dispersal of the
    Brotherhood—Departure of Woolner—Ideals of Portraiture—Rossetti and
    Public Exhibitions—Death of Deverell—Rossetti’s Friendship with
    Ruskin—Apostasy of Millais—The Rank and File of the Movement—
    Relation to Foreign Schools.

While Millais and Holman Hunt were outwardly dominant in the region of
reform, and, in the exhibitions of 1850–51, were leading the Brotherhood
Militant boldly into the enemy’s camp, Rossetti was entering upon a
phase of doubt and perplexity, of self-distrust and hesitation, which
resolved itself into an important crisis in his artistic development. A
variety of circumstances diverted him in 1850 from the special line of
religious painting, exemplified in “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin” and
“Ecce Ancilla Domini,” which had been the chief outlet of his early
enthusiasms in art,—if indeed so inadequate a phrase be permissible in
regard to pictures which must rank with the purest products of his
genius in its pristine robustness and simplicity. An incident in the
studio-annals of the Brotherhood now turned him aside from the mediævo-
religious manner adopted directly and literally from the early Italian
masters. Rossetti’s convert and disciple, James Collinson, striving to
imitate afar off the sincere habit of his leader, set to work upon a
congruous subject, “The Renunciation of St. Elizabeth,” and produced a
picture so mystical in conception and so hysterical in sentiment, albeit
not without a certain grace and beauty of its own, that the sound and
practical good sense which tempered the mysticism of Rossetti revolted
at once from the extravagance of such a style. He now perceived the
danger of pursuing too exclusively a path bordering on the metaphysical
and occult, and quickly sought to brace and strengthen both his own
imagination and that of his comrade, by departing for a time from the
field of what is commonly called “sacred” art, and seeking fresh
inspirations in a less rarefied air.

Other influences, chiefly of a personal kind, began to play around
Rossetti at this time. He had moved, early in the year 1850, to a suite
of rooms at 14, Chatham Place, Blackfriars; a block of houses since
demolished, but then hospitable enough in a sober charm of environment;
within view of the river and the historic horizon of its shores, and of
certain grim but not wholly unromantic vistas of the great metropolis.
In this home was spent the happiest decade of Rossetti’s life. Here
began, soon after his settlement in the new abode, his friendship with
the greatest poet of the Victorian age, and with another conspicuous in
the second rank of its singers,—Tennyson and Browning,—both destined to
exercise a strong influence on Rossetti’s art, though (singularly as it
happened) not on his poetry; which remained, through years of
intellectual intercourse and the reading together of each other’s verse,
absolutely unaffected by either of the widely different poetic styles of
the then Laureate and his great contemporary.

It is not easy for a succeeding generation to understand with what
enthusiasm, with what delight and invigoration, the little company of
painter-poets plunged into the writings of Browning when, following
Rossetti, who was first on the track of the new fount of refreshment,
they discovered therein the tonic which they needed. No better antidote
to the sensuous mysticism into which some of the Pre-Raphaelites were
threatening to lapse could have been found than the wholesome modernity
and salutary brusquerie of the author of “Pauline” and “Bells and
Pomegranates.” It was probably because they stood most in need of his
gospel that the influence of Browning was at first more strong upon the
readers than that of Tennyson, who affected them in the direction of
pure romance, and distilled for them all that was sanest and noblest in
the mediæval world.

In the autumn of 1850 Rossetti began, during his stay with Hunt and F.G.
Stephens at Sevenoaks, a number of sketches with a view to a large and
elaborate picture of “Kate the Queen,” from Browning’s well-known lyric.
But he could never satisfy himself with the design, and after much toil,
disheartenment, and perplexity, the subject was abandoned, like many
more promising themes which from time to time inspired Rossetti. The
entire year, save for the success of “Ecce Ancilla Domini,” had been one
of disappointment to him, and of disconsolate struggles for a new
departure. He had made many futile attempts at designs for “The Germ,”
but none pleased him, and now he was casting about for new matter and
media. For, as his standard of excellence rose higher, he began to feel
more acutely his technical shortcomings,—the results partly of his
incomplete training and desultory study in youth, partly of singular
ill-luck in his figure-models, and partly also of a curious
constitutional deficiency—not of industry _per se_, but of the faculty
to direct and apply his industry along right lines. No modern artist has
disproved more completely than Rossetti the barren platitude which
defines genius as “the capacity for taking infinite pains.” Comparison
between Rossetti and Browning in their struggle with mental tendencies
unfavourable to lucid and well-ordered art is too obvious to demand
pursuit in detail. Both took the prescribed “infinite pains,” but
neither in the most profitable directions. Browning was over-charged
with thought; Rossetti with imagination; and both were cumbered with the
difficulties of artistic speech. The art of Browning has frequently been
pronounced crude, raw, and “undigested.” One would hesitate to apply
such terms to any work of Rossetti’s; for his, even at its most
elemental stages, generally erred in the direction of strained and
laboured purism, being over-wrought rather than unripe in conception or
performance. In both artists, an exuberant activity of output was
combined with a curious inability to undergo the full discipline of just
and coherent expression. Browning’s prolific and incorrigible chaos of
diction and metre, and Rossetti’s want of balance and sobriety in
draughtsmanship, are but instances of the too frequent impediments of
genius in the process of transmission. Rossetti, when he attained
perfection in technique—and that he did so absolutely and repeatedly can
no longer be questioned—seemed to stumble on it, as we have already
suggested, by a sort of exquisite chance, a divine surprise, rather than
a logical issue. And, manfully as he strove to recover in technical
science, and did indeed recover to a marvellous degree, the lost ground
of early days in a splendid maturity, his sense of perfect drawing was
too fine for him not to suffer keenly—so long as that sense remained
unimpaired—from that inability to realize at will his own ideals of
perfection, which to every true worker is the only thing to be called

Distracted as Rossetti was throughout his life by the very richness and
fertility of his own genius, torn ever between divided aims and
conflicting purposes, the more mutually obstructive because of the
restless and hyper-sensitive nature which was the field and victim of
their strife, the difficulty of concentrating that genius upon the
highest aim and purpose within its proper sphere was never more stubborn
than at this period. So largely did the poetic impulse, in his youth,
predominate over the pictorial method, that, as he himself declares in a
letter written in retrospect, it was not until 1853, when he was twenty-
five years of age, that he definitely adopted painting as his life-study
and profession, and relegated his literary efforts to a subordinate
place. Subordinate they were in name and for a time only: to be put
forth with fresh ardour and greater mastery at intervals of his
painting, and to surpass it in some respects in the essentials of fine
art. Rossetti had yet to learn that he, even more than Hunt and Millais,
was primarily and supremely a colourist in the broadest sense of the

But a still deeper and more abiding influence from the literature of the
past was by this time ascendant in Rossetti’s mind. The love of Dante,
already inherent in him, was nurtured by many tender associations of
youth: it now increased and swayed him as a direct and urgent spiritual
power. In 1845 the vague spell of the old name upon the young namesake
had changed, for the latter, into an eager study of his great poetic
inheritance. The magic and majestic visions of the “Purgatorio” and
“Paradiso,” and still more, the unforgettable life-tragedy of their
seer, had sunk deeply into Rossetti’s thought, until, from his own
recreative alembic of fantasy, he began, about 1850, to bring them forth
again on paper and canvas, in a rich and profuse miscellany of rough
sketches and brilliant vignettes and colour-studies, too often left
unfinished at a point of high promise and alluring suggestions of

It is not difficult to trace, through the strange parallels of
circumstance and destiny, the sombre charm that bound the exiled poet of
the fourteenth to him of the nineteenth century. It has been said that
no ascendancy of a great poetic personality over one born in a later age
has been more potent and fruitful in art than that of Dante Alighieri
over Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1849–50 we find the latter sketching,
first in ink and then in colours, the historic or legendary meeting of
Dante and Beatrice Portinari at a marriage feast, when Beatrice is said
to have laughed with her companions at the shyness and confusion of the
young patriot-guest. The second of these sketches was severely
criticised when exhibited in 1851–52, on account of a daring
juxtaposition of bright light green and bright light blue in the colour
scheme. This bold experiment was afterwards defended by Ruskin by
analogy with the natural disposition of green grass, etc., against a
summer sky.

It was at this time also that another new and important personal
influence came upon Rossetti’s life. James Collinson had now separated
from the Brotherhood, and was succeeded, at all events probationally, by
Walter Howell Deverell, through whom, by one of those strange chances
which sometimes modify in a moment the destinies of a lifetime, Rossetti
made the acquaintance of Miss Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal; a young girl of
such remarkable beauty that Deverell at once asked her to sit to him as
a model, and introduced her to Rossetti for the same purpose. The story
runs to the effect that Deverell, who was himself of singularly handsome
and winning presence, accidentally caught sight of Miss Siddal’s face,
with its regular, delicate features and profusion of rich, dark auburn
hair, in the background of a shop-window where she—the daughter of a
Sheffield cutler—was engaged as a milliner’s assistant. To Deverell,
being at that time in search of a model for his new picture, “Viola,”
from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” the sight of such a face was doubly
welcome. He quickly made such frank and honourable advances as his
graces of person and character facilitated, and Miss Siddal’s _début_ in
the studios of the Brotherhood brought not only to Deverell a perfect
Viola, but to Rossetti an ideal and actual Beatrice. For the young
artists soon found their model to be—in the old fairy-tale phrase—“as
good as she was beautiful.” Of that goodness and beauty, that
incomparable charm of talent and of character, of manner and
temperament, which soon made her the centre of the warmest admiration
and affection, enough has long since been written, by those who knew
her, to render the tardy praise of less qualified historians alike
needless and impertinent. The members of the Brotherhood vied with each
other in the endeavour to immortalize her in their paintings. Rossetti,
Hunt, and Millais did so with unqualified success. Rossetti, in his
turn, discovered that she herself possessed extraordinary aptitude for
art. He gave her lessons in drawing and painting, and the two worked
together upon kindred ideals. Her presence in the studios was soon upon
the footing of equal friendship and pleasant _cameraderie_. The vigour
of her imagination is best seen in a water-colour drawing, “Sir Patrick
Spens,” in Mr. Theodore Watts’s collection. It represents the wives of
the men on the doomed ship waiting in agonized expectancy upon the

Soon a different and deeper attachment sprang up between teacher and
pupil. Her exquisite spirit, her gracious ways, appealed as deeply to
Rossetti’s sensitive and passionate nature as did her beauty to his
æsthetic judgment. His love for her was as the gathering up of all the
scattered forces of his being into one consecrated worship. It may well
be that the progress of courtship was not invariably favourable to the
progress of art, but several rough portraits by Rossetti of himself and
Miss Siddal, and of Rossetti by his fair companion, remain as pleasant
witnesses of idle hours, and are at the same time drawn with singular
vividness and force.

Early in 1851, or perhaps at the close of the previous year, Miss Siddal
appears to have given sittings to Holman Hunt for the face of Sylvia in
his picture of “Valentine and Sylvia,” already referred to. Rossetti sat
with her as the Jester in Walter Deverell’s “Viola”—his most successful
picture; taken from the scene in which the Duke asks the Jester to “sing
again that antique song he sang last night.” The artist served as his
own model for the Duke.

It appears probable that Rossetti and Miss Siddal were engaged as early
as 1853, though the relationship was not openly avowed for a
considerable period, and did not terminate in marriage until 1860.
Rossetti’s pecuniary position, at the outset of his career, was
naturally uncertain; nor did it materially improve with subsequent
prosperity and fame; for his tastes and habits, according to the
traditions of artistic Bohemia, were as luxurious and improvident as his
earnings were precarious. Miss Siddal, too, was delicate in health. An
early sketch of her, from Rossetti’s hand, and now in the South
Kensington Museum, representing her as she stands by a window, in a gown
of quaint simplicity and soberness, gives perhaps the truest impression
of her personality that could be selected from the portraits of that
period. The artless and yet somewhat austere pose, the fragile grace and
slightly languid sweetness of aspect, afford a key to the criticism once
passed to the effect that “she would have been a Puritan if she had not
been an invalid.” The latter she never was in the sense of chronic
inactivity, but of such delicacy as to give a peculiar tenderness to her
service as a model, and unhappily both to delay and abbreviate the short
period of married life.

To some critics it has been a source of regret that Rossetti should have
come in youth so unreservedly under the spell of a type of beauty as
exclusive as that of this well-beloved model. The rare blending of
spiritual with sensuous charm which she presented in feature and
expression so fully satisfied his own ideal of that harmony as to make
him dwell upon, and perhaps specialize it, in a way which constituted a
danger to his art; inducing him to read into other feminine types the
individual characteristics of the one. Fortunate as he was in after life
in obtaining for his models some of the most beautiful and cultured
women in the artistic and literary circles of London, his tendency was
almost always to look at them, as it were, in the light of that
established ideal, and to conceive them as versions merely of that
elemental loveliness which so dominated his thought. But it was
inevitable that a temperament like Rossetti’s should specialize, through
their very intensity, the dominant characteristics most familiar to his
pencil and his brush. The case of Miss Herbert, an accomplished actress
who gave him a number of sittings in the next decade, is perhaps the
most striking exception to the rule; but her style of beauty was in too
complete a contrast to that of Miss Siddal (being of a severe, robust,
and Hellenic type) to allow of any compromise between the features of
the two.

The combined influence of Browning and Tennyson among contemporary
poets, and the increasing sway of Dante over the young painter,
inclining him the more strongly in the direction of historic romance,
produced, as we have seen, a somewhat desultory course of pen-and-ink
sketches and water-colour studies during the next few years. The
interval from 1850 to 1858 may be reckoned as Rossetti’s second period.
After the completion of “Ecce Ancilla Domini,” he painted no important
oil picture until the Llandaff “Triptych” of 1859, and the contemporary
“Bocca Baciata,” which stands first in point of time, and high in point
of merit, among the masterpieces of his maturity.

Yet the water-colours of the second period, capricious and experimental
in treatment as many of them are, include some of the most valuable,
because the most characteristic and significant, of Rossetti’s work in
the realm of pure romance. In these rough and often hasty sketches,
sometimes less than twelve by twenty inches in size, his imagination
seems to have been exercising itself upon the poetic subjects that
haunted him by turns with the vividness of actual life, more vital and
urgent than the realities of every day. Several, indeed, of the finest
of these water-colours are now dated, on good authority, as early as
1848–49; such as the lovely little sepia sketch, “The Sun may Shine and
we be cold,” given to his friend, Alexander Monro, a young Scottish
sculptor of high promise, whose early death from consumption removed an
artist who could ill be spared from the small and never very strong
sculpture-branch of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. To this period also
belong some of the most important of the Dante subjects. From 1849 is
dated “A Parable of Love,” one of the best of Rossetti’s early drawings
in pen and ink. The lady is seated at an easel on which she has been
painting her own portrait from a mirror at her side. Her lover, bending
over her from behind, lays his hand upon hers to guide the brush anew.
Mr. Woolner served as the model for the lover. A pen-drawing from
Browning’s “Sordello,” entitled “Taurello’s First Sight of Fortune,”
also belongs to 1849, together with the powerful little sketch, “The
Laboratory,” from the same poet, showing a strange, brilliant, witch-
like or almost serpent-like woman in an alchemist’s shop, procuring from
him some fateful elixir wherewith to play upon her rival and avenge
herself upon the lover, once her own.

One of the most beautiful water-colours of 1850 is the “Morning Music;”
a dainty little half-length figure of a white-clad girl seated at her
toilet, another maiden brushing her long bright hair, while her lover
stands, making music from some archaic instrument, at her side. At this
time also Rossetti made the first sketch of a subject which fascinated
him with peculiar force almost throughout his artistic career, and to
which he returned again and again in several media, even within a short
time of his death, but without ever achieving a finished picture—
“Michael Scott’s Wooing.”

In 1851 were made the best of several water-colour drawings from the
subject of “Lucretia Borgia,” and the first pen and pencil sketches of a
subject suggested by the famous Döppelgänger legends of northern Europe.
The design for “How they met themselves” remains among the very highest
of Rossetti’s conceptions in pure romance. The final pen-and-ink version
was not done till 1860, nor the water-colour till 1864. The subject
demands further study in a separate chapter, together with the principal
Dante sketches in this group. Several drawings from Shakespearean
subjects, including “Benedick and Beatrice” (“Much Ado about Nothing”)
and “Orlando and Adam in the Forest” (“As You Like It”), were also
executed about this time.

Mr. F.G. Stephens traces some interesting modifications of Rossetti’s
technique between the years 1850 and 1853 to the influence of his
comrades in the course of associated work. From Millais he seems to have
gained something of the easy grace and suavity of style which was
lacking in his first too strenuous work; from Holman Hunt, the
scrupulous and laboured detail which readily became as exhaustively (and
sometimes exhaustingly) symbolic as Hunt’s own; and from Ford Madox
Brown a certain robust breadth and dramatic mastery which was needed to
lift his subjective creations into a large and quickening atmosphere.
Probably it was the influence of Madox Brown that led him to the field
of stern and practical social problems, of everyday romance; to deal
with the eternally crucial relationship of frail womanhood to passionate
manhood, and all its sweet and bitter and profound significance upon the
life of humanity, as he dealt with it in the wonderful “Hesterna Rosa”
(“Yesterday’s Rose”) of 1851, in “The Gate of Memory” six years later,
and in the great realistic picture, “Found,” which was begun in 1852,
but which, after many vicissitudes of neglect, spasmodic effort, and
frequent despair, remained still unfinished at the painter’s death. It
may be wished that Rossetti had pursued more thoroughly the _motif_
which thus yielded some of the most remarkable and suggestive of his
designs. This group, however, again affords a subject for consideration
on a future page.

But the year 1853 saw also the first outward signs of the breaking-up of
the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Thomas Woolner, the oldest member of the
Brotherhood, at this time twenty-eight years of age, being still unable
to earn a living in London by his art, now determined to emigrate to
Australia, where some friends of his family were already established at
Melbourne, and to try his luck at the gold-diggings, which were at that
time a source of much excitement and speculation in English circles.
Woolner had already achieved some unpretentious but exceedingly
thoughtful and conscientious work in sculpture, but he had not met with
much academic recognition, nor with any substantial favour from the art-
patronising public. For many years a pupil of Behnes, he entered the
Academy Schools in 1842, and contributed a large composition of life-
size figures representing “The Death of Boadicea” to the Westminster
Cartoon Competition of 1844. His contributions to the Royal Academy
exhibitions in Trafalgar Square had included “Eleanor Sucking the Poison
from the Wound of Prince Edward” (1843), “Alastor” (from Shelley, 1846),
“Feeding the Hungry” (bas-relief, 1847), “Eros and Euphrosyne” and “The
Rainbow” (1848), and portraits of Carlyle and Tennyson. At the British
Institution he had also exhibited a statuette of “Puck” (1847) and
“Titania Caressing the Indian Boy” (1848). He sailed for Australia in
the spring of 1853, accompanied by a promising young sculptor named
Bernhard Smith (who died somewhat prematurely in 1885), and followed
shortly afterwards by E.L. Bateman, another close sympathizer with Pre-
Raphaelite aims. Woolner returned to England early in 1857, and then
executed the fine bust of Tennyson recently placed in Poets’ Corner,
Westminster Abbey. His later work, however, can hardly be classed with
that of the Pre-Raphaelite band. He died on the 7th of October, 1892.

In the summer of the same year the Brethren agreed to paint together a
group of their own portraits, in order to send them over as a gift to
their distant comrade on the gold-fields of the Antipodes. Accordingly,
they met one day at Millais’s studio in Gower Street. There were present
Dante and W.M. Rossetti, F.G. Stephens, Millais, and Holman Hunt. Mr.
W.M. Rossetti, ranks the results in the following order of merit:—The
portrait of Stephens by Millais, of Millais by Hunt, of W.M. Rossetti by
Millais, of Dante Rossetti by Hunt, and of Hunt by Dante Rossetti.

Rossetti himself, as we have already seen, produced but very few male
portraits. The large oil-painting of his godfather, Mr. Charles Lyell,
and the pencil drawings of his father and grandfather; the water-colour
sketches of Browning and Swinburne, and the admirable life-size chalks
of Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Theodore Watts (said by Mr. Swinburne to be his
masterpiece in portraiture), Mr. F.R. Leyland, Dr. Gordon Hake, Mr.
George Hake, and Mr. W.J. Stillman, two or three pencil drawings of
Madox Brown, and the painting of Holman Hunt, as above recorded, seem to
exhaust the list of his efforts in that field, if we exclude the
consideration of many excellent likenesses which occur among his
_genre_-pictures. W.M. Rossetti, for instance, sat more than once to his
brother for the head of Dante, and many other important figures; in
fact, there was a general practice of mutual accommodation among the
Brothers in serving as models one to another.

Yet the immense influence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement upon English
portraiture in the latter half of the nineteenth century would be
difficult to over-estimate. It must be remembered that the first
principle of Pre-Raphaelitism—namely, that nature, including human
nature, is to be painted truthfully and unflinchingly as it presents
itself to the painter’s eye—strikes directly at the root of the
conventional habit, which aimed at “idealizing” the subject into
something far superior to the present reality. Still, as “the eye sees
what it brings the power to see,” so the rightly-trained artist sees
infinitely more than the casual observer, and his purest realism becomes
the highest ideality. For in order to represent nature truly, something
more is demanded than imitation. Diderot tells a story of a painter well
known to him and to fame, who, on beginning work upon a new subject,
always went down upon his knees and prayed to be delivered from the
model. There was a grain of truth in his notion. To be delivered from
the letter in order to apprehend the spirit, yet to follow faithfully
the visible in order to attain the invisible, is the task of the
portrait-painter. The mistake of the pseudo-classic idealists, as of the
impractical folk in other walks of life, is to suppose that by aiming at
the spirit they are absolved from the letter altogether; not perceiving
that to gain the spirit they must reach _through_ the letter, and
_beyond_ it. Every true portrait-painter is an idealist in this highest
sense, that he perceives and reproduces the inmost and essential Self of
his sitter, and in supreme moments resolves, as Spinoza would have it,
the “potential human” into the “actual divine.” He portrays scrupulously
the outward aspect, but interprets the whole by that pervading spirit
from within to which the outward aspect has given him—as a seer—the key.
The face he paints is not transfigured by his own imagination, his own
conceit, however fair, of what that face might or ought to be; but it is
revealed in its own distinct and actual being by a witness which, if
truthful, must be as generous as stern. It is the immortal and
inevitable “Thou Thyself” of which Rossetti sings:

                “I am Thyself—what hast thou done to me?
                —And Thou Thyself to all eternity!”

Yet if we may risk a paradox, it is precisely in the _reality_ that
there lies the _potentiality_ of the life within; behind the physical
_is_ abides the spiritual _may be_; the “everlasting no” of the
uncompromising realist, sifting, limiting, and analyzing down the human
unit into bare and rigid matter, often conceals the hidden hope and
promise of the idealist’s “everlasting yea.” Hence a great portrait is
charged to the full with latent possibilities of character and destiny.
It suggests forces as well as phenomena, causes as well as effects,
inherent tendencies as well as facts. Someone has said that a human face
should be either a promise or a history. The definition is too narrow.
Every face, save perhaps in childhood, and not always with that
exception, contains both promise and history inextricably blended each
with each. A great portrait must be passionately personal, intensely
individual; presenting one single, complete, and separate identity to
the eye and mind, and yet in a very real sense _im_personal, having a
certain universal, humanitarian significance. For the artist’s hand sets
the human unit in its place in the great Family; lifts it on to the
broad planes of the world’s common life. As his eye sees all things,
like Spinoza, _sub specie eternitatis_—sees Time in the light of
Eternity—so it sees one Man in the light of Humanity. He knows no
isolations of being, conceives no man as “living to himself;” but is
concerned ever with relationships and imperative sympathies between the
subject of his portrait and the rest of mankind; so that the personality
that looks forth from his canvas, faithfully and profoundly interpreted
by his own, has in it the elements of appeal and challenge, and sends
out a radiance of vitality to its spiritual kin.

In this ideal of portraiture the young Pre-Raphaelites had been
confirmed by Ruskin long ago; and he had pointed them to the
incomparable portraits of Dante by Giotto, of Petrarch by Simon Memmi,
and of Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo, as examples among the Italian Pre-
Raphaelites of the attainment of such success. Rossetti and his comrades
in their turn, more especially some of the younger and more independent
spirits not actually or permanently connected with the Brotherhood,
developed and perfected the ideal to a degree incalculably fruitful in
contemporary art. It will hardly be disputed that in Mr. G.F. Watts, one
of the truest Pre-Raphaelites in aspiration and temper, though utterly
distinct from them in original genius and intellectual range, England
has found at last her greatest portrait painter, while to Millais, one
of the original members of the Brotherhood, the judgment of posterity
will attribute a scarcely less exalted place. They found the art of
portraiture degraded, almost without exception, to the lowest level of
trivial prettiness as regards women, and vulgar affectation in dealing
with men. “The system to be overthrown,” as Ruskin said, “was one of
which the main characteristic was the pursuit of beauty at the expense
of truth.” And such pursuit leads in all ages to the same inexorable
fatality,—the beauty so gained is always of a false and spurious kind.
The ancient allegory of Pandemos and Urania is for ever true in art. The
seeker for ideal beauty seeks it only in visible forms, pursues it
through the physical world alone, awaits it at the doors of sense
merely, and is straightway ensnared by the earthly Pandemos, the Venus
of the flesh. But let him steadfastly set his soul to the higher
worship, let him seek reverently the moral and spiritual loveliness of
human character in the great _is_ and the greater _may be_ of the
throbbing, actual life around him, and surely he will be brought into
the near presence of the heavenly Urania; surely he will pass, with
Rossetti, through “Body’s Beauty” to “Soul’s Beauty,” and worship with

            —“that Lady Beauty in whose praise
            Thy voice and hand shake still,—long known to thee
              By flying hair and fluttering hem,—the beat
              Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
            How passionately and irretrievably,
          In what fond flight, how many ways and days!”

The attention of Mr. Ruskin had meanwhile been diverted to some extent
from the work of Millais and Hunt by his entrance in 1854 upon a close
personal friendship with Rossetti, which lasted in cordial fidelity for
some ten or twelve years. At the time of his first public championship
of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Mr. Ruskin had known nothing of
Rossetti’s work, inasmuch as it had never yet appeared on the walls of
the Academy or in any of the popular exhibitions of the period. But, for
such unintentional and unconscious neglect of the real leader of the
movement which he so warmly endorsed, the great critic now made ample
reparation. He became a constant and generous patron of Rossetti’s
pictures until the painter passed, about the year 1865, into his third
artistic period, and developed methods less in accordance with Ruskin’s
especial tenets. That the gradual severance of intimacy between artist
and buyer should have been brought about by the former’s independence of
spirit and resolute adherence to his own inspirations and aims, in the
face of some, perhaps, over-officious criticism and counsel from his
patron, is certainly no discredit to Rossetti. At the same time, the
art-world owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Ruskin for having so long
encouraged, by his support and sympathy, the production of those
exquisite water-colours which Rossetti, unsettled as he then was in
habits of painting, might not otherwise have accomplished in such
splendour and cogency during his transition period.

And to these years of intimacy with Ruskin belong nearly all the finest
drawings of his “Morte D’Arthur” series, such as “King Arthur’s Tomb”
(called sometimes “The Last Meeting of Launcelot and Guinevere,” though
the design by no means gives the impression of a meeting in the flesh),
“The Damozel of the Sanct Grael,” “The Chapel before the Lists,” “The
Meeting of Sir Tristram and Iseult,” “Sir Galahad in the Ruined Chapel,”
“Sir Galahad and Sir Bors,” “Launcelot Escaping from Guinevere’s
Chamber,” and “The Death of Breuse sans Pitié;” together with a fresh
and important group of Biblical subjects treated in a more daringly
romantic manner than before, including “The Passover in the Holy
Family,” “Bethlehem Gate,” “Ruth and Boaz,” “The Crucifixion,” “Mary in
the House of John,” and the first sketch for “Mary Magdalene at the Door
of Simon the Pharisee;” also the “Triptych” for the altar-piece of
Llandaff Cathedral, “The Infant Christ Adored by a Shepherd and a King.”
The Dante subjects again appear in 1854–55, with “Francesca di Rimini,”
“Paolo and Francesca,” “Matilda Gathering Flowers” (from the
“Purgatorio”), “Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah,” “Dante at Verona,”
and the first version of the picture afterwards among Rossetti’s
masterpieces, “Dante’s Dream.” The little drawings of “The Tune of the
Seven Towers” in 1850, “Carlisle Tower,” “Fra Angelico Painting,” and
“Giorgione Painting” in 1853, “The Queen’s Page” (from Heine) in 1854,
“Fra Pace” and “Monna Rosa” in 1856, “The Blue Closet,” “The Blue
Bower,” “The Bower Garden,” and the first design for a favourite subject
variously known as “Aurelia” and “Bonifazio’s” or “Fazio’s Mistress” in
1857; these, together with some further sketches for “La Belle Dame sans
Merci,” a number of portraits of Miss Siddal, Browning, Tennyson, and
Swinburne, whom he knew in 1857, are but a selection from the almost
countless studies, in pencil, pen and ink, neutral tint, water-colour,
and occasional oil, scattered over Rossetti’s transition period.


                            From a drawing.

           _By permission of Lord Battersea and Overstrand._

[Illustration: Mary Magdalene]

“St. Luke the Painter,” in 1857, is notable as being Rossetti’s first
success in coloured chalk; a medium which he affected more freely in
after years, and with extraordinary power and felicity; the medium, in
fact, in which some of the noblest of his later half-length symbolic
figures were executed.

After the year 1850 Rossetti almost ceased to exhibit in picture
galleries. A very few of his pictures, including the “Bocca Baciata” and
a version of “Lucretia Borgia,” were thenceforth seen in the Hogarth
Club, a small society of artists and amateurs to which he belonged, and
others afterwards in the Arundel Club, which he joined in 1865. An
important exception, however, was made to this rule of seclusion in
1856, when a small but highly representative Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition
was opened at 4, Russell Place, Fitzroy Square. Among Rossetti’s
contributions were the first water-colour draft of “Dante’s Dream,”
already alluded to, and its pendant, “The Anniversary of the Death of
Beatrice,” “Hesterna Rosa,” “The Blue Closet,” and “Mary Magdalene.” The
other exhibitors were Millais, Holman Hunt, Madox Brown, Arthur Hughes,
Charles Collins, William Davis, W.L. Windus, Inchbold, Seddon and Brett.
The “Dante’s Dream” re-appeared at the Liverpool Academy in 1858,
together with “A Christmas Carol,” and “The Wedding of St. George”;
“Fair Rosamund,” and “The Farmer’s Daughter” (study for “Found”) went to
the Royal Scottish Academy in 1862; and “Mary in the House of John”
appeared at the Fine Art Society’s Galleries in 1879. A version of
“Pandora,” in 1877 or 1878, and a lovely little water-colour, “Spring,”
in 1879, were lent by their purchasers to the Glasgow Institute of Fine
Arts; “Tibullus’s Return to Delia” was similarly lent to the Albert
Gallery Exhibition at Edinburgh in 1877; and in 1881 the Loan Exhibition
at the Royal Manchester Institution included four important water-
colours—“Proserpine,” a “Lucretia Borgia,” “Hesterna Rosa,” and “Washing
Hands;” and five oils—“Proserpine,” “Two Mothers,” “Joli Cœur,” “A
Vision of Fiametta,” and “Water-Willow.” These instances complete the
brief list of Rossetti’s pictures exhibited in public galleries during
the lifetime of the artist.

In the year 1854, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, already practically
broken up by divergence of method in the leading painters, and changes
of aim and sphere among the lesser lights of the revolutionary dawn, may
be said to have been finally dispersed by the lamented death of Walter
Deverell, and the departure of Holman Hunt for a lengthy sojourn in the
East, there to paint directly from nature—according to the much boasted
but oft-broken rule—the backgrounds and appurtenances of those Biblical
subjects to which he was now strongly drawn. The death of Deverell at an
early age was a heavy personal bereavement to Rossetti, and an occasion
of genuine grief to all the Brotherhood, with whom he was exceedingly
popular. Nor was the loss to art easily reparable, or the work of his
surviving comrades unaffected by the removal of a painter of such
singular purity and grace. He was a son of the Secretary of the Schools
of Design, which were the precursor of the South Kensington Science and
Art Department.

Rossetti and Millais were thus, in 1854, left alone as practical
painters; W.M. Rossetti having been from the first exclusively a
_littérateur_, while F.G. Stephens, after having produced in youth some
work of high quality on strictly Pre-Raphaelite lines, had by this time
adopted the same sphere of energy, especially in the realm of the art-

But the phase of doubt and hesitation, of compromise (in no invidious
sense) between the first inflexible attitude of revolt and the further
impulse of re-construction, which had overtaken the Brotherhood in 1851,
was by no means the special ordeal of Rossetti. It came soon afterwards
upon Millais with an equal import and significance; as though each must
pass, in individual experience, through the several stages of
destructive and re-creative energy, first of protest, then of reform,
and afterwards of reconciliation and progress, which they had recognized
in the history of the past, and which their own work as a whole afforded
to the history of the nineteenth century. They had to exemplify, each
for himself, the resolute overthrow of partial and degenerate
principles, and the pursuit, more or less successful, of a further and
perhaps undefined ideal, or the reaction towards that very order against
which their own strenuous protest had been set. And it is remarkable
that, in the case both of Rossetti and of Millais, the painter should
have reached his highest level of excellence in art precisely at the
moment when his methods were the most unsettled and his principles the
least assured. The most discerning critics now agree in placing the
high-water mark of Rossetti’s genius in the midst of this transition
period, ranging from 1850 to 1860, or, if the decade may be stretched by
a license of etymology, covering the “Beata Beatrix” of 1863. And it is
scarcely disputable that the supreme achievements of Millais lie within
a narrower space, comprising chiefly the “Hugenot” and “Ophelia” of
1852, “The Order of Release” of 1853, “Autumn Leaves” and “The Blind
Girl” of 1856, and “The Eve of St. Agnes” in 1863, which really belongs
in conception and spirit to the Keats epoch, if we may so call it, which
gave birth to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Just as in the dawn of the
Italian Renaissance the point of absolute greatness in art was gained at
the momentary coalition of the old forces with the new, when the classic
spirit was conquered and absorbed by the spirit of romance, and the
romantic spirit still beat tremulously about the new world’s doors, so
in the struggle of the modern Pre-Raphaelites to reconcile the new
impulse with the heritage of the past, the triumph came in the midst of
the conflict rather than after the victory. Just as Leonardo and
Michaelangelo gathered up and combined the discordant elements of the
strife around them into a noble harmony of art, so did the Pre-
Raphaelites attune and interpret the diverse forces of their own
revolution when they felt its import most acutely, and least knew
whither it would lead them. And to almost opposite poles of thought and
sentiment were Millais and Rossetti led.

The extraordinary change which gradually came over the work of Millais
after his election to the Associateship of the Royal Academy in 1854—the
youngest painter, with the exception of Lawrence, ever admitted to that
rank—has been the subject of much criticism and controversy. It has been
contended by several writers that Millais lacked original imagination,
and could not sustain his early level without the constant inspiration
and stimulus of Rossetti and Hunt, both of whom were by this time
absorbed in fresh developments of their own. More ardent apologists have
claimed that his Pre-Raphaelite period was but a curious episode in
Millais’s career; a mere incident in the growth of a genius too
brilliant to submit for long to bias from without; and that his
impressionable nature was only temporarily swayed by the proselytizing
enthusiasm of his comrades. It is hard to attribute the qualities of his
finest work—qualities of a high imaginative order, as in “The Eve of St.
Agnes,” or “The Enemy Sowing Tares,” to any genius but his own, or to
believe that the painter of “Ophelia” and the “Blind Girl” was not
himself profoundly moved by the pathos and tragedy which he therein
conceived. Nor can it be urged that the exigencies of ill-fortune, the
stress of poverty, or any of those dire necessities of fate which have
driven many a true artist on the downward road, drove Millais to paint
as unblushingly for the Philistine market as he had formerly done for an
obscure and despised coterie of artistic revolutionists. Free as he
always was of pecuniary care, and favoured by destiny with all the
pleasures of domestic and social prosperity, if he was spoilt, it was by
success, not failure; if corrupted, it was by popularity, not neglect:
though it must be remembered that none of the Pre-Raphaelites can justly
pose as martyrs in the matter of a livelihood.

Nor is it permissible to urge that fame, at first well earned and richly
justified, entitles any great painter to repudiate the convictions and
ideals on which that fame was built, or to play with a reputation won at
a heavy cost to himself and others. It can only be assumed that Millais,
in forsaking the high and steep paths which he had once chosen,
sincerely followed what he felt to be a more excellent way, and honestly
believed his decadence to be an advance upon his maturity. To doubt this
would be to pass the sternest moral condemnation on an artist of
incomparable endowments, and to brand him as the wanton betrayer of a
sacred trust, the deliberate concealer of a divine talent, for which, at
the ultimate judgment-seat of art, the inevitable account must at last
be given.

Speaking of this turning-point in Millais’s career, Mr. Ruskin said in
1857:—“The change in his manner from the years of ‘Ophelia’ and
‘Mariana’ to 1857 is not merely Fall; it is Catastrophe; not merely a
loss of power, but a reversal of principle; his excellence has been
effaced ‘as a man wipeth a dish—wiping it and turning it upside down.’”

But the Pre-Raphaelite movement, so far from being at an end, was now
only emerging from the first tentative phase of its activity. It had yet
to be absorbed in a larger reformation, and to act thereby even more
potently than if it had remained the specific crusade of a clique or
faction. The difficulty which the historian finds at this crisis in the
artistic career of Rossetti and his friends, and still more so in their
subsequent developments,—the difficulty of defining strictly Pre-
Raphaelite work, and of deciding as to who of the now rapidly expanding
circle of painters may justly be claimed as Pre-Raphaelites, is itself
evidence of the permeating force of the initial movement, and of the
ready soil which was prepared for the dissemination of its dominant
ideas. For the circle of literary and artistic aspirants, patrons,
students, amateurs, and connoisseurs of many grades and varied gifts who
now surrounded Dante Rossetti, included men whose names afterwards
became honoured in fields of art quite untouched by Pre-Raphaelitism in
its distinctive form, but imbued through their influence with fresh and
quickening impulses of revival.

One of the most poetic of the painters intimately associated with the
Brotherhood was Arthur Hughes, who, though only eighteen at the time of
its formation, took an active share in its practical work, and painted,
according to its main tenets, with a rare facility and tender charm. He
was born in London in 1832, passed through the Academy Schools without
much recognition, but won cordial admiration among the limited company
who could then appreciate his work, by his beautiful “April Love” in the
Academy of 1854. He was also singularly successful at a later date in a
subject from Keats’s “Eve of St. Agnes”—the source of inspiration for
some of the finest work of the Pre-Raphaelite leaders at various times.
Like Millais and several others of the band, he attained considerable
popularity as an illustrator of books. His religious paintings,
moreover, will demand attention among those of his more illustrious
friends. “The Cottager’s Return” and “The Reaper and the Flowers” may be
remembered, among others of his always graceful pictures, by those who
recall the first decade of Pre-Raphaelite propaganda in public
exhibitions. He sat as the model for the hero in Millais’s “Proscribed
Royalist” of 1853.

Charles Allston Collins, a son of William Collins, R.A., and brother of
Wilkie Collins, painted for some time in the manner of the Pre-
Raphaelites, but subsequently devoted himself to literature. His first
exhibited picture, “Convent Thoughts,” in the Academy of 1850, shared
with Millais’s “Christ in the House of His Parents,” the torrent of
opprobrium showered on the innovators in that eventful year. Yet three
of his works were accepted by the Academy the following season,—“Lyra
Innocentium,” on a verse from Keble; representing a young girl in a
white gown against a background of blue; “May in the Regent’s Park,” a
wonderfully minute study of foliage, as if seen through a window opening
close upon the trees; and “The Devout Childhood of Saint Elizabeth of
Hungary,” calling to mind the treatment by James Collinson of the
familiar renunciation-legend anent the same much-maligned saint. The
Elizabeth of the “Childhood” is depicted as a homely-looking little girl
of thirteen, kneeling at the iron-barred oaken door of a chapel in the
Palace grounds. Her missal is laid on the doorstep beside her, and she
is imagined, according to the account of her early piety, to be at
prayer on the inhospitable threshold of the shrine to which she cannot
for the moment gain access. Charles Collins acted as Millais’s model for
“The Hugenot” and “The Black Brunswicker.” He married a daughter of
Charles Dickens, who posed with him as the lady in the “Hugenot.”

William L. Windus, a Liverpool artist and member of the Academy of that
city, made his modest but genuine fame chiefly through his powerful
romantic picture of “Burd Helen,” the “burd” or sweetheart of the
Scottish border ballad, who swam the Clyde in order to avenge herself
upon a faithless lover. The work was pronounced by Ruskin to rank second
only in order of merit to Millais’s “Autumn Leaves” in the Royal Academy
of 1856. He painted altogether some eight or ten pictures of a very
earnest and imaginative kind, of which one of the finest was entitled
“Too Late,” and represented a dying girl whose lover had forsaken her
and returned too late for reparation. “The Surgeon’s Daughter” is also
remembered as a composition of much chastened and subdued power. Windus
ceased painting at an early age, and was lost sight of by the

Robert B. Martineau was a pupil of Holman Hunt, but painted, among some
three or four pictures which constitute the brief total of his
achievements, only one of striking merit,—“The Last Day in the Old
Home,” which for sincerity and depth of feeling won considerable
appreciation in 1865. His career was cut short by untimely death soon

Cave Thomas, who so infelicitously christened “The Germ,” had gained a
prize in the Westminster Cartoon competition, and was the painter of one
very beautiful picture, “The Protestant Lady,” exhibited in the Academy,
and greatly admired by the Brotherhood. He published in 1860 a monograph
entitled “Pre-Raphaelitism Tested by the Principles of Christianity;”
and subsequently became art professor to the Princess of Wales.

Mr. Frederick Sandys was not personally known to the leading Pre-
Raphaelites until 1857, and was by that time too original and
accomplished an artist to be claimed by them as a disciple, but his work
was for some time intimately associated with theirs. He was to the last
a valued friend of Rossetti, who always affirmed that while in
draughtsmanship he had no superior in English art, his imaginative
endowment was of the richest and rarest kind.

Mr. Henry Wallis is justly remembered by his one great picture, “The
Death of Chatterton,” which touched popular feeling as its true pathos
and dignity deserved to do, and won universal praise.

Mark Anthony is rightly regarded by the Pre-Raphaelites as the most
poetic of their landscape painters. His grandly simple and reposeful
“Old Churchyard” will compare even with Millais’s “Vale of Rest,” and
his “Nature’s Mirror” with Mr. Burne-Jones’s “Mirror of Venus” in later
years. Mr. John Brett, now famous in seascape, was for some time
intimate with the Brotherhood; and among friends and sympathizers on a
similar footing may be mentioned Val Prinsep, Thomas Seddon, J.D.
Watson, J.F. Lewes, W.S. Burton, Spencer Stanhope, M.F. Halliday, James
Campbell, J.M. Carrick, Thomas Morten, Edward Lear, William Davis, W.P.
Boyce, J.W. Inchbold, and, by no means least, John Hancock, a young
sculptor who won an Art Union prize in 1848 with a bas-relief of
“Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem.” He was a friend and fellow-worker with
Woolner, and fell so far (with Rossetti) under the fascination of the
Dante legends as to accomplish a very fine statue of “Beatrice” in or
about 1852. One other artist of the first rank in his generation remains
to be named,—Frederick Shields, an intimate and warmly-loved friend of
Rossetti, cherished by him in close and unbroken companionship even to
the hour of death; and in point of critical estimate pronounced by him
to be one of the greatest of living draughtsmen, taking rank with Sir
Frederick Leighton, Sir Noel Paton, and Mr. Sandys.

Such were a few of the personalities that gathered between 1848 and 1858
around the three prime movers in the Pre-Raphaelite revolt. To claim
them as merely, or chiefly, satellites drawn into the orbit of genius,
or as forming a distinct and coherent school, would be both foolish and
unjust. To attempt an estimate of their relative merit independent of,
or in proportion to, the artistic work of the Brotherhood, would be no
less invidious than unprofitable. The glory of Pre-Raphaelitism was that
it gave the utmost play to individual methods, and even idiosyncrasies,—
nay, that its very first principle was “each for himself”—painting his
own impressions, his own ideals—and no imitation of one artist by
another. Its primary insistence lay on the watchword of all
Protestantism—the authority of the individual conscience as against that
of a class or a system, and the immediate access for every soul to the
source of its highest inspiration. Therefore the “diversities of gifts”
which flourished and increased under the sway of the Pre-Raphaelite
spirit were the best evidence of that spirit’s quickening power. “A man
will always emphasize,” says Mr. P.G. Hamerton, writing on the ultimate
effects of the movement, “those truths about art which most strongly
recommend themselves to his own peculiar personal temperament. This
comes from the vastness of art and the variety of human organizations.
For art is so immense a study that no one man ever knew the whole truth
about it.” In other words, all the Pre-Raphaelite painters in any sense
worthy of the name are intensely individual in quality, and cannot be
classed, arranged, or compared together in the order of a system or a
school. Each artist must make his original and distinctive contribution
to the sum-total of artistic truth; must paint the single aspect, or the
most familiar aspect, of the life around him which presents itself to
his mind. The more honest he is, and the more true to his own
observations and convictions, the more inevitably will he see the world
through his own spectacles—well for his superficial happiness, at all
events, if they be rose-coloured, and not of a more sombre hue. “We
all,” says another art-critic,[5] “have a sense of some particular
colour, and because we can paint this colour best we do so at all times
and in all places. This may be unconscious on our part—this predilection
for a particular colour; but we all unconsciously blab the fact to
others; we talk in our dream of art, and tell all our secrets. Old David
Cox, when out sketching with his pupils, would go behind them while at
work and say to one, ‘Ah, you see green;’ to another, ‘You see purple,’
‘You see red,’ ‘You see yellow.’ So it is with the colour vision of many
who are called Masters. We can identify almost any landscape of our more
prominent painters by their special idiosyncrasy of colouring, such as
Cuyp with his evening yellows, Linnell with his autumnal browns, or
Danby with his sanguinary sunsets. These colours, which are exceptional
with external nature, are the rule with them. Not only is this so with
regard to colour, but, more or less, we put ourselves, form and feature,
into our work, and paint our own character, physical as well as mental,
in all we do. Raphael, on being asked where he obtained the type of his
Madonna, replied, ‘out of his own head,’ which really meant that he had
unconsciously painted his own fair features: and this ideal was what he
eternally repeated. So was it with Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Murillo,
Rubens, Vandyke—they all portrayed themselves recognizably. There is a
picture of Jesus and the twelve Apostles in which the whole thirteen
faces are all alike, and every one an identifiable copy of the painter’s
own. Of course where the face and form are noble we have the less to
object to.”

This indeed is the crux of the whole matter. As the man is, so will his
work be. To portray one’s very self—and first to have such a self as can
dignify the portrayal; to paint faithfully what one sees—and first to
see the true and the beautiful in the familiar and the commonplace; to
depict the world in which one lives—living in a world apart, noble and
fair, full of opportunities, if also of mysteries, with bright horizons,
however low the sun; and yet to be ever conscious of wider worlds than
the imagination can compass though the heart may yearn over them like
the heart of him who said _Homo sum; nihil humana mihi alienum puto_:
this is fine art; this is “the vision and the faculty divine.” “Produce
great Persons!” cries Browning,—“the rest follows.” Therefore it is safe
for those who in any real sense know Rossetti to prophesy, with Mr.
Harry Quilter, that “the day will surely come when it will be seen that
the essence of what is now known as Pre-Raphaelitism was not the
influence of a school or a principle, but simply the influence of one
man, and that man Dante Gabriel Rossetti.” Personal ascendency, says
Emerson, is the only force much worth reckoning with. And if that
ascendency, over many who never saw Rossetti on earth, has become an
intimate and precious inspiration, a motive-impulse abidingly sacred and
high, what must it have been to those who knew him in the flesh?

Mr. W.M. Rossetti thus succinctly sums up the immediate issue of the
movement which his brother inspired:—“As it turned out, the early phases
of the movement did not repeat themselves on a more extended scale.
Partly, no doubt, through the modification of style of the most popular
Pre-Raphaelite, Mr. Millais, and partly through the influx of new
determining conditions, especially the effect of foreign schools and of
Mr. Leighton’s style (this was written in 1865), Pre-Raphaelitism
flagged in its influence towards the production of what are
distinctively termed Pre-Raphaelite pictures just at the time when it
had virtually won the day. But the movement had broken up the pre-
existing state of things, and the principles and practices which it
introduced took strong root, and germinated in forms not altogether
expected. Pre-Raphaelitism aimed at suppressing such styles of painting
as were exemplified by Messrs. Elmore, Goodall, and Stone at the time of
its starting; _and it did suppress them_.”[6]

The relation of Pre-Raphaelitism to the “foreign schools” here referred
to is as much a matter of historical controversy as the relation of
Rossetti to Italy is of biographical criticism; nor is it easy to
determine how far the Pre-Raphaelite movement in England was the effect
or the cause of similar waves of experiment in France and Germany, and
how far all such impulses were but the symptoms of a great social and
ethical development in European life. But while the Barbizon School must
be seriously recognized as working side by side with the Pre-Raphaelites
upon kindred ideals, and even surpassing them at some points in a
certain largeness of outlook on humanitarian themes, the influence of
Cornelius and Overbeck in Germany, with the very crude and sickly
mediævalism which they affected, has no doubt been greatly overrated,
and may be dismissed as having very little to do with the main current
of the romantic revival. In France, Corot and Millet, Daubigny and
Rousseau, had taken their stand against the old Heroic School in art,
just as Théophile Gautier and Victor Hugo had taken it against the
Academies of literature. In England, it was the task of Rossetti and his
comrades “to force,” as it has been aptly expressed, “an artificial art
backed upon nature’s reality; and they did it amid neglect,
misunderstanding, and even coarse vituperation.”


Footnote 5:

  Gerald Massey: “Lectures on Pre-Raphaelitism,” 1858.

Footnote 6:

  W.M. Rossetti: “Fine Art; Chiefly Contemporary.”

                               CHAPTER V.

The Pre-Raphaelites as Book-Illustrators—Moxon’s “Tennyson”—The “Oxford
    and Cambridge Magazine”—The Oxford Frescoes—Oxford Patrons of
    Millais and Hunt—Departure of Hunt for Palestine—The Pictures of
    Madox Brown—Further Developments of Rossetti’s Painting—Marriage and
    Bereavement—“Beata Beatrix”—Replicas—Life at Chelsea—Later Models—
    Designs for Stained Glass—Visit to Penkill—“Dante’s Dream”—
    Publication and Reception of the “Poems”—Paintings of Rossetti’s
    Last Decade—Death at Birchington.

The first and most fruitful decade of Pre-Raphaelitism in painting and
poetry saw also the excursion of several of its leaders into the realm
of book-illustration. In 1855 Rossetti, Millais, and Arthur Hughes
combined to make a series of drawings for the second edition of a little
volume of verse entitled “Day and Night Songs,” by William Allingham, a
young poet well known to the Brotherhood since 1849. The efforts were
not of an ambitious character. The weird little group of fairies dancing
in the moonlight, by Arthur Hughes, reflected vividly the influence of
Blake. Rossetti’s “Maids of Elfinmere” were of his most angelic-mediæval
type, ascetically beautiful, and yet, if the phrase may be permitted,
with a certain sensuous severity of look, a delicate and half-mystic
passion, as of pure spirits newly wakened to the tenderness of the

A more important experiment in the same direction was made in 1857, when
Rossetti, Millais, and Holman Hunt appeared among the illustrators of
Moxon’s edition of “Tennyson.” Intimately charmed as they had all been
with the “Idylls of the King,” and with such entirely “Pre-Raphaelite”
poetry as “The Lady of Shalott,” the draughtsmen could hardly have found
a more congenial sphere for design. The volume affords one of the most
interesting records of the transitional work of the three painters.
Woolner’s fine medallion of the young laureate formed the frontispiece.
Then followed Millais’s “Mariana”—a composition wholly distinct from,
and far inferior to, his “Mariana in the Moated Grange,” which had been
shown in the Academy of 1851. The face of this Mariana is hidden in her
hands as she turns with bowed head from the window, and from the sunset
that mocks her grief with its imperturbable glory heedless and afar.
Much less conventional in spirit is the passionate, strained figure of
Rossetti’s “Mariana in the South,” crouching on her unrestful bed, and
kissing the feet of the crucifix above her as she draws from her bosom
the “old letters breathing of her worth.”

In the design for “The Lady of Shalott” Holman Hunt exhibits traces—very
unusual for him—of the influence of Rossetti upon his own work. For
pathetic dignity and sensuous grace, the entangled lady, girt about with
the web of dreams, might well stand among Rossetti’s children, and not
be detected as of other birth. Rossetti’s own “Lady of Shalott” is much
less fair a type, and belongs to the earliest and most archaic manner of
his Arthurian period. Much more characteristic of the painter’s
individuality is Holman Hunt’s “Oriana,” a grave, strong woman like his
later Madonnas, whose mien belies the conventional sex-theory which
ascribes to man alone the “wisdom-principle,” and assigns to womanhood
the principle of “love.”

Rossetti, again, seems to have been largely influenced by Madox Brown in
his illustration to “The Palace of Art,” save for the highly
characteristic drawing of the girl at the organ, whose pose is almost
identical with that of the dead Beatrice in “Dante’s Dream,” of a much
later date. “Sir Galahad” is, however, entirely original in manner, and
represents the best level of Rossetti’s Arthurian designs. It shows the
knight halting, weary but not dispirited, at a wayside shrine, and
bending with worn and yet resolute face over the holy water that awaits
the pilgrim-worshippers. His horse, bearing the white banner marked with
the red cross of sacred chivalry, stands at the gate, and a group of
nuns are seen within, ringing the chapel bell.

The facile simplicity and grace of Millais, who was more accustomed to
the task of book-illustration than his collaborateurs, found favourable
scope in “Edward Grey” and “The Day-dream,” in which the figure of the
half-awakened girl in the Sleeping Palace is drawn with exquisitely
tender charm.

The edition, on the whole, probably tended to increase the reputation of
the Pre-Raphaelites as draughtsmen, and to dispel some hard-dying
illusions as to their distinguishing qualities in design, though its
independent merits were not of exceptional mark.

Only once again does Rossetti appear in the field of book illustration.
In 1862 he executed two designs for the first volume of poems published
by his sister, Miss Christina Rossetti, under the title of “Goblin
Market.” These drawings (“Buy from us with a golden curl” and “Golden
head by Golden head”) were followed in 1866 by two more of a similar
character (“The long hours go and come and go,” and “You should have
wept her yesterday”), to illustrate the second volume of poetry from the
same pen, entitled, “The Prince’s Progress.”

But the fame of the Pre-Raphaelites as poets was already enhanced,
within an increasing circle of appreciators, by the publication, in
1856, of a journal which may, to some extent, be regarded as a successor
to the “The Germ.” “The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine,” edited by Mr.
Godfrey Lushington, had the better fortune to survive for a year, in
monthly numbers; though all its contents were anonymous, and its issue
involved no less labour and anxiety on the part of its sponsors, if not
so much pecuniary onus as in the case of the more luxuriously printed
and illustrated “Germ.” The new publication contained several of
Rossetti’s finest poems, such as “The Staff and Scrip,” and “Nineveh,”
and a series of mediæval romances and poems by two young artists
destined henceforth to be intimately associated with the Pre-Raphaelite
movement, and to exert important influence on its later developments—
William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Both were Oxford men, and had
been close friends at Exeter College, whence in 1856 came Burne-Jones to
London with the express desire of meeting and knowing Dante Rossetti,
his senior by five years; he having been born in Birmingham on the 28th
of August, 1833, and educated at King Edward’s School in that city,
proceeding to Oxford in 1853.

It was at the Working Men’s College in Great Ormond Street that Burne-
Jones first saw Rossetti, and, through the introduction of Mr. Vernon
Lushington, entered upon the friendship which was to save him (as his
friend William Morris was similarly saved) from adopting, as had been
intended, the Church as his profession, and thus depriving, the world of
a service no less religious in the highest sense, and no less potent a
factor in the ethical awakening of to-day.

The Working Men’s College, now rich in annals of some of the most
significant intellectual movements of the mid-century, was at that time
a centre of enthusiastic work in art and literature. Rossetti and his
friends took a considerable share in the lecturing and class-teaching of
which Charles Kingsley and F.D. Maurice were the popular and
indefatigable leaders. Hither also came Ruskin, of whom Rossetti records
with loyal admiration how one night, being asked in an emergency to
address the drawing-class, he made, without any preparation, “the finest
speech I ever heard.”

Rossetti’s growing intimacy with Oxford collegians, and the ties of
sympathy already formed in Oxford round the Pre-Raphaelite painters by
the _clientèle_ of Millais and Hunt, now led him into an enterprise
which has been the subject of much Philistine mirth, and of some
laboured apologetics on the part of the too-serious historian. There is
no doubt that Rossetti and his collaborateurs made quite as merry as any
of their critics over the ludicrous failure of their _début_ as fresco-
painters in 1857. But it was very natural that Rossetti, with his early
enthusiasm for the fresco style yet awaiting an outlet, should have
seized eagerly at the chance of trying his ’prentice hand on so
engagingly favourable an area as the new hall of the Oxford Union
Debating Society. Visiting the city in company with William Morris
during the summer months, Rossetti was shown over the freshly completed
building by his friend Mr. Woodward; and observing the blank spaces of
the gallery window-bays, impulsively offered to paint on them a series
of the “Morte D’Arthur” subjects which had so much engrossed his fancy
during the past three years. The suggestion was readily agreed to, and
Rossetti began to collect recruits for the campaign, which he perceived
would afford ample scope for other labour than his own. Accordingly, at
the commencement of the long vacation, a company of six young
enthusiasts, embarrassingly ignorant of the first technical elements of
mural painting, but unabashed by any such details in the path of
success, fell confidently upon their fascinating task. The party
consisted of Rossetti, Burne-Jones, William Morris, Arthur Hughes, Val
Prinsep, Spencer Stanhope, Alexander Monro, and J. Hungerford Pollen,
then Proctor at the University, who had already won some distinction by
his painting of the beautiful roof in Merton College Chapel. The roof of
the Debating Hall was now successfully painted, in a grotesque design,
by William Morris, who also undertook one of the window-bays, and
proposed as his subject “Sir Palomides’ Jealousy of Sir Tristram and
Iseult.” Alexander Monro, the sculptor of the party, executed the stone
shield over the porch. Burne-Jones selected for his fresco “Nimuë brings
Sir Peleus to Ettarde after their Quarrel;” Arthur Hughes proposed
“Arthur Conveyed by the Weeping Queens to Avalon after his Death;” Val
Prinsep, “Merlin Lured into the Pit by the Lady of the Lake,” and J.
Hungerford Pollen, “King Arthur Receiving the Sword Excalibur from the
Lady of the Lake.” Rossetti’s subjects were “Sir Galahad Receiving the
Sangrael” and “Sir Launcelot before the Shrine of the Sangrael.” The
knight, in this last design, has just attained the sacred goal of his
pilgrimage, and in his weariness has sunk down in sleep upon the
threshold; but his sleep, even in that hour, is haunted by the face of
Guinevere. So powerful was this composition in romantic force and
imaginative fervour, especially in the haunting, passionate face of the
Queen, as to make the speedy obliteration of this and its companion
frescoes the more deplorable, in spite of the obvious crudities and
incompetencies that blemish the whole series of designs. Obliterated
they became, however, and hopelessly beyond restoration, within a very
short time of their commencement;—finished they never were. Incredible
as it seems, in these days of superior wisdom in the Young Person anent
matters of Art, these brilliant young painters of 1857—three at least of
them now in the first rank of fame in their several spheres—had not even
attempted to prepare the raw brick surface for the reception of their
pigments, but had cast their ordinary oil-colours direct upon the
inhospitable wall. Time and the atmosphere made short work of such
artless challenges of decay; and before any of the frescoes had attained
completion the ardent little band were obliged to confess themselves
defeated, and to retire somewhat ignominiously from the field. The
enterprise had its pathetic, its humorous, and its entirely delightful
side. The financial arrangement with the Oxford Union Council was that
they should defray all necessary expenses incurred by the artists; and
of this advantage the young Bohemians appear to have availed themselves
to the full. Anecdotes abound to tell of the hilarious but very harmless
festivities which mitigated the discouragements of their task. A
contemporary undergraduate well recalls the mirth and chatter which he
heard day by day as he sat in the adjacent library. Such a group of
congenial spirits could not fail to enjoy the conditions of their
companionship as much as the audacity of their task. They were favoured,
further, with a new acquaintanceship of a very welcome kind; for it was
here that another young poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, was now
introduced, as an undergraduate at the university, to the artists at
their work, and added an important link to the chain of memorable
friendships woven in these early years among the galaxy of genius which
has illumined the England of to-day. It was in Oxford also, at the
theatre one evening, that Rossetti saw, and succeeded in getting
introduced to, the beautiful lady who afterwards became William Morris’s
wife, and Rossetti’s most cherished friend through all his troubles. She
was the model for his “Day-dream” and several others of the finest of
his maturer works.

The hapless frescoes are now hardly recognizable upon the Oxford walls,
but their dim ghosts linger, like the kindly witnesses of days fruitful,
at least, in loves and friendships of sacred import on the lives of the
young sojourners in that “home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and
unpopular names, and impossible loyalties,” as Matthew Arnold called it.

Moreover, it was at Oxford that the Pre-Raphaelite movement, five or six
years earlier, had found some of its first and most generous patrons;
such as Mr. James Wyatt, the well-known picture-dealer, who was among
Millais’s readiest buyers, but died in 1853, and Mr. Thomas Combe, the
University printer, who, through Millais’s influence, purchased Holman
Hunt’s youthful and little-known picture, “Christian Priests Escaping
from Druid Persecution,” in 1850. About three years later, Holman Hunt
was on a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Combe while his greater work, “The Light
of the World,” was in process; and at their house he became acquainted
with the young curate of St. Paul’s, Oxford; Venables by name. He was a
man saintly in face and character; afterwards Bishop of the Bahamas, and
long since dead. Whether he actually gave sittings to Hunt, or was
avowedly the model for the Christ of the picture, does not appear, but
those who knew Venables at the time insist upon the absolute
faithfulness of the portraiture. This face it was which certain critics,
unable to dissociate their conception of the Saviour from the
conventional Raphaelesque type, condemned instantly as “the face of a
Judas.” The picture was purchased by Mr. Combe, and subsequently
presented by his widow to Keble College, Oxford, where it hangs to-day.
Of the difficulties which attended the painting, and of the
extraordinary labour bestowed upon it as it slowly grew beneath his hand
in the little studio then at Chelsea, Mr. Hunt has given us his own
significant record,—how, night after night, when the moon was in a
favourable quarter, he would so dispose his curtains and draperies,
easels and lamps, as to yield him the peculiar light for which he was
striving, and at the same time to afford for curious observers an
endless speculation as to the mysterious proceedings of the eccentric
young artist within. “The Light of the World” is now perhaps the most
familiar, to English eyes, of any Pre-Raphaelite pictures, unless we
except the less esoteric “Hugenot” of Millais.

The “Hugenot,” indeed, would undoubtedly be taken by general estimate to
point the high-water mark of Millais’s fame and genius, in spite of the
splendour of the “ninth wave”—if one may push the metaphor so far—which
issued ten years later in “The Eve of St. Agnes” and “The Enemy Sowing
Tares.” The “Hugenot” appeared with “Ophelia” in 1852; Hunt’s “Light of
the World” in 1854. And the “Hugenot” it was that first took
unmistakable hold upon the public taste, and created a higher taste than
it appealed to, carrying the emotion awakened with it on to higher
planes than had yet been reached in English criticism. “The Order of
Release,” in the following year, consummated the triumph of the young
painter, and was enhanced in fame by Kingsley’s allusion to it in “Two
Years Ago.” “The Proscribed Royalist” and the “Portrait of Ruskin” may
be regarded as the last products of Millais’s rigidly Pre-Raphaelite
period, which terminated, with Rossetti’s, about 1853. “The Rescue” and
“The Random Shot,” or “L’Enfant du Regiment,” in 1855, “Sir Isumbras at
the Ford: A Dream of the Past,” or “Knight Crossing a Ford,” in 1857,
and “The Vale of Rest,” in 1858, are purely transitional works, while,
with the notable exception of the two later masterpieces specified
above, “The Black Brunswicker” of 1860, may be said to mark the final
merging of the Pre-Raphaelite heretic into the popular Royal
Academician. His formal election as R.A. took place in 1863. He was
made, in 1883, a member of the Institute of France, and was, in 1885,
the first English artist to be offered and to accept a baronetcy of the
United Kingdom. He has also become a member of the Academies of
Edinburgh, Antwerp, Rome and Madrid, and has been honoured at Oxford
with the complimentary degree of D.C.L. His marriage in early life with
Miss Euphemia Chalmers Gray was anticipated in one of the most pleasing
of his female portraits in 1853.

Meanwhile the companion of his student days had entered upon a path of
more obscure and arduous toil, in the pursuit of an ideal too exalted to
endure compromise with any standards of the merely picturesque, or to
lend itself readily to fluent and attractive expression. The work of
Holman Hunt, among all the Pre-Raphaelite painters, has remained the
most consistent and exclusive in its aims and methods, and the least
affected by surrounding influences, either from his comrades or from the
critical world. His artistic development has been the most faithful to
its origins, and has presented the most unbroken continuity of thought
and sentiment in its progress from the first “note of resistance and
defiance” to the larger harmony of maturer years. The boundaries of his
transition-period are more difficult to define than in the case of
Millais and Rossetti; but, at the same time, the pictures that issued
from his studio while Rossetti was dabbling in experimental water-
colours, and Millais compromising brilliantly between original genius
and the sweet laxities of fame, were of a passion and mastery which he
never exceeded. Before the completion of “The Light of the World,” in
1854, Hunt had already painted “The Awakening Conscience” (1853),
“Claudio and Isabella” (1851), “The Hireling Shepherd” (1852), and “The
Strayed Sheep,” called also “Our English Coasts” (1853). He now departed
to commence those long, solitary, and most fruitful sojourns in
Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and less frequented parts of Palestine, which gave
us, at the cost of years of intense and continuous labour, such great
imaginative creations as “The Scapegoat” in 1855, “Christ in the Temple”
in 1860, “The Shadow of Death” in 1874, and “The Triumph of the
Innocents” in 1885. “The Shadow of Death” was purchased for £10,500; a
price unparalleled for the work of any other living painter. The picture
now hangs in the Manchester Corporation Gallery. Seven years were spent
over “The Triumph of the Innocents,” pronounced by Ruskin to be “the
greatest religious picture of the age.” The final version, completed in
1885, has recently been acquired by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool,
where it completes, with Millais’s “Lorenzo and Isabella” and Rossetti’s
“Dante’s Dream,” a noble trio of the best Pre-Raphaelite type.
Reverting, as he did but once, to more purely romantic subjects, and to
that haunting theme of Keats which first inspired the young Brotherhood,
Mr. Holman Hunt produced in 1867 the finest of his work in that
direction, in the brilliant “Isabella and the Pot of Basil,” which was
the outcome of a visit to Florence in that year. His only important
picture of later years has been the “May Morning on Magdalen Tower,” a
fascinating reminiscence of Oxford life, exhibited in 1889.

Even more obscure and remote from the general routine of the modern
studio, more independent of criticism or of patronage, was the earnest
and thoughtful work of Madox Brown. In his case the early discipline of
art study, and the isolation of unconventional ideals, had been
courageously survived before he knew Rossetti, and his path already
chosen on the heights of original thought. “He was,” says Mr. W.M.
Rossetti, “distinctly an intellectual painter; intellectual on the side
chiefly of human character. The predominant quality in all his works is
a vigorous thinking out of the subject, especially as a matter of
character, and of dramatic incident and expression thus resulting. This
is the sort of intellect peculiarly demanded by pictorial art.”

It is noticeable also that the two senior members, if they may be so
claimed, of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, though not of the actual
Brotherhood—Ford Madox Brown and George Frederick Watts—were the only
painters who brought into the movement any direct training from the
continental schools. The latter, one year older than Madox Brown, was
born in London in 1820, and succeeded in getting a picture into the
Royal Academy as early as 1837. The prize of £300 gained in 1843 in the
Westminster Hall Competitions enabled him to spend three years in Italy,
after which, on his return, he won a prize of £500 in the same contest,
with two more colossal frescoes of a similar kind.

Madox Brown, meanwhile, was entering upon the more uncompromising phase
of reform. It was during his studies in Rome and Paris, when the Gothic
traditions of Belgium had been strongly tempered by the Latin heritage
of the south, that the Pre-Raphaelite idea began to shape itself in his
mind, and to develop in him an original art which should create its own
conditions and methods, yield a rich harvest of artistic if not of
professional success, and exercise an immense power for good over the
movement which his own single-handed battle with convention largely
stimulated and inspired.

“Wicliff Reading his Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt” was
afterwards acknowledged by Madox Brown as his first distinctly Pre-
Raphaelite picture; begun in 1845, and shortly followed by “Pretty Baa-
Lambs”—the only other work which the artist claimed as being painted
implicitly in the early Italian style. The latter was subjected to much
derisive criticism in the press. Yet the later work of this
unquestionably great painter, maintained as it was on his own rigidly
independent lines, and never merging into the fervid neo-Romanticism of
Rossetti, Millais, and Hunt, may justly be accepted, like theirs at its
best, as a consistent and superb development, in a modern atmosphere and
in the face of modern problems, of the principles followed by the
Italian Pre-Raphaelites, and which _as principles_ are adaptible in
infinite variety to the fresh needs and new perplexities of successive
generations of men.

In 1849 the work of Madox Brown appeared for the first time beside that
of Rossetti. “Cordelia’s Portion,” a highly imaginative and nobly
dramatic composition, was hung in the Free Exhibition at Hyde Park
Corner, in company with Rossetti’s “Girlhood of Mary Virgin.” His next
important picture, “Chaucer at the Court of Edward III.,” occupied the
painter for several years, and was produced at the Royal Academy of
1851—the memorable season of Hunt’s “Valentine and Sylvia,” and
Millais’s “Woodman’s Daughter.” The “Chaucer,” now in Australia,
received the Liverpool Academy’s annual prize of £50 in 1852, and was
selected by Government for the Paris Exhibition Loan Collection of
English paintings in 1855.

The departure of his young friend Woolner for Australia in 1854
suggested to Madox Brown the subject of his most popular and in some
respects his most successful picture, “The Last of England,” finished in
1855, and now exhibited in the Art Gallery of the Corporation of
Birmingham. It was his visit to Gravesend, to bid farewell to Woolner as
he embarked for the Antipodes, at the time when the emigration movement
was at its height, that inspired the elder painter with that homely
idyll of emigrant life—that masterpiece in the dramatic and emotional
presentment of modern and familiar romance. In 1857 he painted his great
symbolic picture “Work,” which has been pronounced “the finest Pre-
Raphaelite picture in the world;” a verdict not without justification,
but bordering on those facile abstractions of criticism wherein the
sense of comparative excellence is apt to lose itself in the confusion
of diverse methods in art. The picture now hangs with the masterpieces
of Rossetti, Millais, and Holman Hunt, in the Walker Art Gallery at
Liverpool. Among the many friends of that period who gave sittings to
the artist for the principal figures were Frederick Denison Maurice and
Thomas Carlyle.

Of the achievements of Madox Brown in the more obviously romantic and
naturalistic fields, perhaps the best known is the intensely passionate
and brilliant “Romeo and Juliet” parting at daybreak in the loggia to
Juliet’s chamber. In the same category, though of various range and
style, may be briefly mentioned “Waiting” (1855), a fine study of
firelight and lamplight, which appeared in the Russell Place Pre-
Raphaelite Exhibition of 1856, “The Death of Sir Tristram,” “King René’s
Honeymoon,” the much earlier “Parisina and Manfred on Jungfrau,” and
“The Dream of Sardanapalus,” a work of recent years. The romantic
treatment of historical subjects is represented by the cartoons before
mentioned, executed prior to 1848, and by such later compositions as
“Cromwell Dictating to his Secretaries,” “Milton and Marvel,” and
“Cromwell on his farm at St. Ives,” completed in 1873. Of his religious
pictures perhaps the most familiar is the austerely beautiful
“Entombment;” but it is not easy to excuse the discreditable oblivion
permitted in this country to such paintings as “Jesus Washes Peter’s
Feet,” “The Transfiguration,” “Our Lady of Good Children,” or “Elijah
and the Widow’s Son;”—oblivion only too explicable by a single trait of
national character: that the average Briton will accept any innovation
of taste or doctrine that will allow him to take his pleasure with the
least amount of intellectual disturbance, but he will never forgive the
artist who calls upon him to _think_. Happily some worthier, though very
far from adequate, recognition has been accorded to the almost colossal
task of the painter’s later years—the great series of historical
frescoes on the walls of the Town Hall, Manchester, commencing with the
building of Manchester by the Romans, and bringing the history of the
city pictorially down to the present day. Outliving many younger leaders
of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Madox Brown died on the 6th of October,

The artistic development of Madox Brown does not, then, offer any abrupt
or marked transition from the first crude workings to the perfected
application of the Pre-Raphaelite idea. This he pursued steadfastly, and
with an unhasting diligence and quiet independence of spirit which
indicates his kinship of temperament to Holman Hunt rather than to his
impulsive and volatile pupil Rossetti, or to the impressionable Millais
of early days. The complete outward divergence between the art of Madox
Brown and that of Rossetti after, let us say, the “Triptych” for
Llandaff Cathedral, painted by the latter in 1859–1860, illustrates not
only the consistent progress of the former in his own distinctive line,
but also the extraordinary fertility and cumulative splendour of
Rossetti’s genius, which could create for itself during the next fifteen
years so much more original and versatile a habit wherewith to clothe
the noble and exquisite visions that thronged his imagination, each with
the urgency of “a presence that is not to be put by.”



  From the chalk.

  _By permission of Mr. Theodore Watts._

For the last twenty years of Rossetti’s artistic life he was known, and
should be judged, supremely as a colourist; and from 1862 to 1874 his
technical power reached its highest level. After completing in oils the
“Triptych” for the Llandaff altar-piece, “The Infant Christ Adored by a
Shepherd and a King,” Rossetti began to pursue more carefully, and with
increasing success both from the æsthetic and the professional point of
view, the system of half-length or three-quarter length female figure-
studies, chiefly symbolic in motive, which he had already attempted
brilliantly in the “Bocca Baciata” (“The Kissed Mouth”) of 1859, and
which afterwards yielded such imaginative and technical triumphs as
“Beata Beatrix” (1863), “The Blue Bower,” one of the most brilliant and
sensuous of his paintings (1864); “Lady Lilith,” the type of purely
physical loveliness, described in his sonnet “Body’s Beauty” (1864); “Il
Ramoscello” (“The Branchlet”), or “Bellebuona” (“Fair and Good”), a gem
of pearl-white colouring (1865); “Monna Vanna,” a superb study in white
and gold (1866); “Venus Verticordia,” personifying again the earthly
Pandemos, with the apple of temptation in her hand (1864–1877); “The
Beloved, or the Bride of the Canticles;” and “Sibylla Palmifera”
(“Beauty the Palm-giver”), both typifying intellectual and spiritual
beauty (1866–1873); “The Loving Cup” (1867); “Aurelia,” or “Fazio’s
Mistress” (Angiola of Verona, loved by Fazio degli Uberti, mentioned by
Dante), another somewhat sensuous model (1863–1873); “La Pia,” the
unhappy and captive wife of Nello della Pietra (from Dante’s
“Purgatorio”), seen in her prison overlooking the Maremma (1868–1881);
“Mariana,” from Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” (1869–1871);
“Pandora opening her fatal casket” (1869–1875); “Proserpine,” empress of
Hades, enchained to the nether world (1872); and “La Ghirlandata”—“The
Garland Girl”—(1873). Into these splendid and highly finished studies of
the mystic beauty of womanhood, Rossetti poured the full soul of his
gospel of romantic love—the love of absolute Beauty absolutely
worshipped to the utmost reaches of a consecrated sense,—“Soul’s Beauty”
and “Body’s Beauty” now analyzed and set in contrast each with each, now
reconciled and made at one in the last harmony of perfect life. And in
these great creations—revelations rather, and perceptions of the inmost
verities of things, Rossetti attains the consummation of imaginative
art—the crowning of romanticism with the purged inheritance of the
classic ideal. It has been claimed that romance treats of characters
rather than types; prefers, as we have said, the particular to the
universal; and that Rossetti’s women are but splendid models, lovely
sitters brought by a happy chance into his path, and used by him as the
illustrations of that individual beauty which appealed most strongly to
his taste. But in these rich harvests of his technical maturity the very
realism has discovered the ideal, and as in pure portraiture, the
sincere essence of classicism is regained.

A peculiar pathos must for ever be associated with one of the first,
and, in the judgment of many, the most beautiful, of these half-length
oils, the exquisite “Beata Beatrix,” now in the National Gallery. It is
the supreme pictorial record of that central tragedy of Rossetti’s life,
even more intimately revealed to us in his verse, which set him at the
side of Dante among mourning poets. On the 23rd of May, 1860, Rossetti
married, at Hastings, the beautiful and gifted woman of whom his
courtship had lasted nearly ten years. The wedding had been delayed
again and again through the uncertain health of Miss Siddal and the
precarious circumstances of the brilliant but wayward young painter’s
life. It was now accomplished with every augury of long-anticipated joy.
The honeymoon was spent in a brief tour through Belgium, concluding with
a few days in Paris, where Rossetti made his little impromptu sketch—so
entirely out of his wonted trend of themes—“Dr. Johnson and the
Methodist Ladies at the Mitre;” a pen-and-ink drawing which he
afterwards repeated in water-colours.

Thence to the old rooms in Chatham Place, Blackfriars, partially rebuilt
and redecorated for the happy event, Rossetti brought home his bride.
The face of the long-desired wife now haunts the painter’s easel more
continually than before, and recurs with ever-varying charm in nearly
all his sketches and the very few finished pictures of the next two
years. To this period belong “Lucretia Borgia” (entirely distinct from
the “Borgia” of 1851); “The Heart of the Night” (from Tennyson’s
“Mariana in the South”); the beautiful “Regina Cordium”—“Queen of
Hearts” (a title also used for other portraits at different dates);
“Bethlehem Gate,” and the best of several subjects dealing with the
legend of “St. George and the Princess Sabra,” together with “Monna
Pomona” and “The Rose Garden” of 1864, “Sir Tristram and Iseult Drinking
the Love Potion” (1867), “Washing Hands” (1865), and many replicas of
the Dante pictures of the previous decade. And in the numerous rough and
half-finished portrait sketches, nameless but unmistakable, of
Rossetti’s “Queen of Hearts” during those two brief years, the shadow of
the coming bereavement can be traced in the gradually sharpened
features, the more and more fragile hands, the look of increasing pallor
and weariness in the earnest face which rests, in one of the latest
drawings, on the pillow all too suggestive of its habitual place. On the
2nd of May, 1861, Mrs. Rossetti gave birth to a still-born son. From the
consequent illness she rallied considerably during the autumn of that
year, and the immediate cause of her death in February, 1862, was,
unhappily, an overdose of laudanum, self-administered after a day of
fatigue, during the brief absence of her husband from the house. Of the
circumstances of the fatal mischance, in so far as they can ever be
gleaned from that calamitous hour, of the utterly unexpected shock
awaiting Rossetti’s return, and of the grief-stricken apparition which
aroused the household of Mr. Madox Brown on Highgate Hill at dead of
night with incoherent news of the fatality, enough has already been
written by those whose sad privilege it was to share in some measure
with the overwhelmed sufferer the long pain of that supreme bereavement.
The pathetic incident that added to the sadness of the burial, when the
young widower hastily gathered up all his poetic manuscripts of the past
ten years and laid them beside the fair face in the coffin, a symbol of
that best part of himself which he felt must go also to that untimely
grave, has become an oft-told tale; and may now be laid in the reverent
silence of affection and regret. Nor can the agony and prostration of
the succeeding months be fitly recorded save in his own chronicles of
song—the great elegiac “Confessio Amantis” of the “House of Life”

Recruiting at last in slow degrees his powers upon brush and canvas, he
dedicated their first-fruits to the painting of that most beautiful and
faithful memorial of the beloved dead—“Beata Beatrix,” the Blessed
Beatrice—Dante’s Beatrice; for the immortal story loved in youth had now
redoubled its hold upon his heart. The picture was commissioned by Lord
Mount Temple, who was from this time one of Rossetti’s most generous
patrons and intimate friends. It was begun at Mr. Madox Brown’s house,
“The Hermitage,” on Highgate Hill, but finished at Stobhall, in
Scotland, whither Mr. Brown and an equally devoted friend, Dr. John
Marshall, had taken the painter in the hope of restoring his now
shattered health and assuaging the sorrow that had occasioned its
collapse. Rossetti afterwards said of the “Beata Beatrix” that no
picture had ever cost him so much to paint, but that in no other task
had he been conscious of so perfect a mastery of his instruments.

                            “BEATA BEATRIX.”

                      _From the National Gallery._


It should be remembered that of this picture, and indeed of several of
Rossetti’s finest and best-known works, certain indifferent replicas
exist which have been frequently mistaken for their originals. The
“Beata Beatrix” in the Birmingham Art Gallery was only half painted by
Rossetti, and finished by Madox Brown. Again in the case of “The Blessed
Damozel” of a much later date, the more familiar version is the inferior
one. There was also a smaller replica of “Dante’s Dream,” shown in
London at the Guildhall Loan Exhibition of 1892. Moreover, it was
Rossetti’s habit to execute most of his pictures in more than one
medium; thus many of his early pen-and-ink drawings were presently
reproduced in water-colour; the water-colour designs of 1852–1862 were
afterwards transferred to oils; and most of the important oil-paintings
of his maturity were duplicated in coloured chalk; some even passing
through the pencil, ink, and water-colour stages also. Not infrequently
it happened that the chalk version surpassed all the others, as, for
instance, in the grand “Pandora” of 1878–79, the most powerful of all
his drawings in that medium, and perhaps the greatest of his symbolic
figures. Very often, too, he would begin a picture on a very small
scale, and gradually enlarge it through successive stages to its final
size, as in the case of “Monna Rosa,” concerning which he writes on the
18th of June, 1867, to his patron, Mr. F.R. Leyland, one of the most
constant and sympathetic of his buyers and friends,—“The picture is much
advanced and in every way much altered, as I have again had it
considerably enlarged! To begin a fresco as a pocket-miniature seems to
be my rule in Art.”

The domestic calamity of 1862 rendered a change of residence imperative
to the young widower, left desolate amid surroundings charged to the
utmost with poignant memories of the past. The old rooms in Chatham
Place became unbearable to Rossetti, full as they were of associations
of courtship as well as of married life. He sojourned for a time in
chambers in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and in the autumn of the same year he
moved to No. 16, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, where he lived intermittently up
to the time of his death. It was a fine old house, well suited to be an
artist’s abode; and especially fortunate in a large garden, which became
a valuable resource to Rossetti in those sad days in store for him when
any emergence from the seclusion of home grew more and more distasteful
to his mind.

By the end of October Rossetti seems to have been established in his new
dwelling, which thenceforth it was his pleasure to adorn with all the
quaint old curios he could lay his hands on. In the natural revulsion of
overwrought feeling, he threw himself upon decorative hobbies of many
kinds; developed a passion for blue china and antique pottery;
cultivated oriental textures and old oak; and haunted second-hand
furniture warehouses with the pertinacious enthusiasm of the devout
lover of a bargain. His shelves groaned under their picturesque load of
reliquary wares and studio-properties gathered from every age and clime.
Here, too, flourished a whole colony of curious animals, such as he
delighted to indulge with unbridled license in his domains,—to the
produce of countless anecdotes of their pranks, and of the embarrassment
of their victims.

The house was shared for some time with three brother-poets,—Swinburne,
George Meredith, and W.M. Rossetti. The last-named was for a
considerable period a constant inmate; the others, less domesticated,
and of strong peculiarities (as is the way of genius) of habit and of
taste, presently departed, and their places knew them only as visitors
to the brilliant haunt of many other literary celebrities of the day. It
has been observed that the most intimate friends of Rossetti’s later
years were drawn from the ranks of literature rather than art,—a
circumstance which need not, however, be too closely paralleled with his
own frequent and increasingly successful reversions to the poetic field.
It must be remembered that the Pre-Raphaelite movement presents a
combination of the highest poetry with the highest pictorial and
decorative art incomparable with anything since the days of
Michaelangelo. It was natural that the poetic wing of Pre-Raphaelitism,
so to speak, should attach itself more and more firmly to the great
group of independent and specialistic poets of the age, of whom no
counterparts in original genius are to be found outside Pre-Raphaelitism
in modern English art. As early as 1855 we find Rossetti well acquainted
with Tennyson and in close friendship with Browning and Mrs. Browning;
afterwards with William Morris, several of whose poems were inspired by
Rossetti’s pictures; whose first volume, “The Defense of Guenevere,” was
dedicated “To my Friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Painter,” in 1858; and
whom Rossetti pronounced to be “the greatest literary identity of our
time;” then with Swinburne, whom he placed “highest in inexhaustible
splendour of execution,” and whose first-fruits in the tragic drama,
“The Queen Mother,” in 1860, were similarly inscribed; and later still
with Philip Bourke Marston, the blind poet; with George Meredith, Edmund
Gosse, John Payne, and many others of the choicest if not the most
popular qualities of song. From among the earliest of those memorable
friendships there is preserved to us a fascinating record of one autumn
evening, typical of many more, when the Rossettis and the Brownings
assembled together to listen to Tennyson as he read from manuscript his
latest poem;—it is the now familiar pen-and-ink sketch of “Tennyson
Reading Maud;” one of those marvellously vigorous and convincing thumb-
nail drawings which it was Rossetti’s wont to evolve, in his inimitable
method, from the initial focus of a single blot.

In 1865 we find Rossetti writing to the “Athenæum” to correct a
statement which seems to have been made to the effect that he, known
chiefly as a water-colour painter, was now attempting a return to oils.
The artist protested that he was then, and always had been, an oil-
painter; and indeed, as we have seen, he was just now at his zenith of
power in that medium, though the contrary impression made on the public
is easily explicable in the light of his water-colour work of the
previous decade, and of the Russell Place Exhibition of 1856.

By this time the irreparable loss of the one loved model of his early
prime was in some degree mitigated, from the artistic side, by the good
fortune which secured for him henceforward some of the most beautiful
sitters known to the artistic world of the day; women of high culture
and distinction, who added to their willing service in the studio the
grace of personal friendship and, in several instances, of patronage of
the most sympathetic kind. The austere and robust beauty of Miss
Herbert, the accomplished actress to whom he was introduced in 1859,
lay, as has been already said, entirely apart from his most cherished
ideals, and seldom appears in his symbolic paintings. But Mrs. Aldham
Heaton, a frequent and valued purchaser, and a lady of presence more
congruous with his favourite type, sat for what appears to have been a
second “Regina Cordium” in 1861; while in 1864 was commenced his long
and most artistically fruitful acquaintance with Miss Wilding, the
beautiful girl who served as the model for “Sybilla Palmifera,” “La
Ghirlandata,” “Dis Manibus,” “Veronica Veronese,” “The Sea-Spell,” and
several others of his most delicate and spiritual faces, including a
third “Regina Cordium” in 1866. Miss Spartali, afterwards Mrs. Stillman,
was also a favourite model for some years, and sat for “Fiametta”
(distinct from “A Vision of Fiametta” in 1878), and for the lady on the
right of the funeral couch in “Dante’s Dream,”—a work which remained on
hand throughout this period.

Apart from the models of his principal pictures, Rossetti painted at
different times a goodly number of female portraits, commencing the list
of sitters with his mother and younger sister (the elder died at a
somewhat early age), and including Lady Mount Temple, who became, with
her husband, one of the few intimate friends of his seclusion in later
years, Miss Alice Boyd, the kindly hostess of some of his happiest
visits to Scotland, yet to be recorded, Mrs. William Morris and her
daughters—among them Miss May Morris, now Mrs. Halliday Sparling, who
also appears in the “Rosa Triplex” of 1869 and 1874, Mrs. Burne-Jones,
Mrs. Dalrymple, Mrs. H.T. Wells, Mrs. Leathart, Mrs. Lushington, Mrs.
Virtue Tebbs, Mrs. C. A. Howell, Mrs. Coronio, Miss Heaton, Miss
Williams, Miss Kingdon, the Misses Cassavetti, Miss Baring, and Mrs.

Twice during these years of the gradual maturing of his technical power
in oils did Rossetti make excursions into a distinctive branch of
decorative art, the practice of designing for stained-glass. As early as
1860, William Morris, Burne-Jones, and a few others interested in this
much-neglected craft established a firm which was known for some time
under the name of Morris and Co., and for which in 1861 Rossetti
executed a series of seven effective cartoons for church windows
illustrating the “Parable of the Vineyard,” or the “Wicked Husbandmen.”
Both designs are of extraordinary vigour and dramatic intensity;
strongly mediæval in directness and simplicity, but with a large
coherence and fulness of conception, and a harmonious richness of
workmanship breathing a more modern spirit into the ancient tale. The
dignity and earnestness of the drawing places it on a level with the
best work of his purely romantic period, but its technical finish shows
the more perfect balance between conception and execution which he was
rapidly attaining in his maturity. The designs are now to be seen in the
church of St. Martin on the Hill, Scarborough.

A similar work was undertaken by Rossetti six years later, when it was
proposed to dedicate a memorial window to his aunt, Miss Margaret
Polidori, in Christchurch, Albany Street, Regent’s Park, where she had
long been a regular attendant until her death in 1867. Rossetti chose
for his subject “The Sermon on the Plain.” This design also was executed
in stained-glass by the firm of Morris and Co., and placed in the church
in 1869.

By this time Rossetti’s commissions for pictures had happily become so
numerous as to justify his seeking competent assistance in his studio.
His friend Mr. Knewstub, at first a pupil, filled for some time the
office of assistant. Then Mr. Henry Treffry Dunn was engaged in 1867,
and remained with Rossetti almost up to the date of his death. It seems
to have been in the years 1867–68 that his health, never fully re-
established after the physical and mental prostration of 1862, began to
give way beneath that most terrible and relentless of nervous maladies,
the special curse of the artistic temperament—insomnia. To that slow and
baffling torment, by which Nature sometimes seems to be avenging herself
in a sort of frenzied jealousy upon her own handiwork, Rossetti’s highly
wrought sensibilities and overwhelming imagination made him the more
easy prey. His whole being was constitutionally endowed with that fatal
faculty of visualizing the invisible, of suffering more acutely under
imagined than under realized pains (though both were laid upon him)
which, like an all-consuming fire, burns itself out only with the life
that feeds it. Of such sleepless nights as thus become the terror of
their victims, haunted with all memories and all fears, Rossetti has
left us many a painfully vivid word-picture in his poetry; supremely,
perhaps, in that most tragic sonnet, “Sleepless Dreams”—

         “Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one star,”

ending with the despairing cry upon the deaf goddess of repose—

          “O Night, Night, Night! art thou not known to me,
          A thicket hung with masks of mockery,
              And watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?”

Many such nights Rossetti bore, we may well believe, before he fled at
last, when rational means seemed of no avail against his malady, to that
most dangerous source of ease, the too free use of chloral. Several
times he partially shook off the habit, and intervals of comparative
comfort and cheerfulness were frequent until 1872, when other phases of
illness, independent of it though still of nervous origin, further
undermined the constitution already weakened by years of abnormal
strain. A respite of a very pleasant kind was afforded him in the
successive autumns of 1868–69 by his visits to Miss Boyd at Penkill, in
Perthshire, where, in company with other congenial spirits, he spent
some weeks of comparative happiness and ease. Here he was induced to
resume his poetry, which, save for a few significant sonnets, had lain
in abeyance since that sad day on which he had buried his manuscripts in
the grave of his early love. Now, yielding with much reluctance and
conflict of heart to the persuasion of friends who knew the value of the
poems thus lost to literature, he gave permission for the coffin to be
exhumed, and the manuscripts removed. The story of this delicate task,
and of its judicious and successful fulfilment under the personal
superintendence of two or three intimate friends of the widower, has
already been related in detail by one of the eye-witnesses aforesaid.
The poems, after seven years’ concealment in the quiet grave in Highgate
Cemetery, were duly restored to their author’s hand. This having been
done, he set to work arranging, re-writing, and adding some of the
finest work of his poetic maturity to a collection of poems which should
be an immortal record and perpetuation of his love.

Towards the close of 1869 Rossetti began to share with his friend
William Morris the romantic and picturesque old manor house of
Kelmscott, near Lechdale, in Gloucestershire; a district full of
interesting landscape, and haunted by the inspiring shade of Shelley,
who there wrote his characteristic fragment, “A Summer Evening in
Lechdale Churchyard.” The scenery of the surrounding country is brought
in vivid glimpses here and there into Rossetti’s poetry, as, for
instance, in “Down Stream” (“Between Holmscote and Hurstcote”) and other
lyrics of his later life. Here he painted “The Bower Maiden”—a pretty
country lass with marigolds. But a great part of his time was still
spent at home in Chelsea, where in 1871 he at last completed the finest
oil version of “Dante’s Dream.” Save for the incomparable “Beata
Beatrix,” it is the summing-up of all his highest interpretations of the
Dante spirit; the consummation of his gospel of romantic love. His
friend Mr. Val Prinsep quotes Rossetti as writing in a letter about this
time:—“I should like of all things to show you my big picture ‘Dante’s
Dream’ now, if you are ever in town. Indeed, I should probably have
written to you before this of the picture being in a state to see, on
the chance of its accelerating your movements townwards, but was
deterred from doing so by the fact that every special appointment I have
made to show it has been met by the clerk of the weather with such a
careful provision of absolute darkness for that day and hour, that I
tempt my fate no more in that way, as the picture cannot absolutely be
seen except in a fair light, and one’s nerves do not hold out for ever
under such onslaughts.... Everyone who has seen the ‘Dante’s Dream’ (not
yet quite finished, but close upon), has seemed so thoroughly pleased
with it that I think I may hope without vanity some progress has been
made, and this I feel sure I shall carry on in my next work. Of course I
have only shown the ‘Dante’ to a few, as otherwise I might spend my time
in nothing else, the picture blocking up the whole studio when

Ten years later, in 1881, the “Dante’s Dream” gained for the painter one
of the very few popular triumphs of his lifetime. It was exhibited at
Liverpool, bought by the Corporation of that city for £1,500, hung in
the Walker Art Gallery, where it now remains; and instantly took rank
among the greatest masterpieces of modern art. “Fifty years hence,” said
Sir Noel Paton, “it will be counted among the half-dozen supreme
pictures of the world.”

The story of the last ten years of Rossetti’s private life, clouded by
frequent ill-health, and disturbed by that most intolerable of a poet’s
trials, a literary controversy, remains yet to be told by him who shared
most intimately the seclusion and the affliction of that troublous
period, Mr. Theodore Watts; whose oft-quoted sonnet to his friend, as
Mr. Coulson Kernahan has said, gives a fuller picture of Rossetti than
volumes of prose could do, and therefore commands insertion here:

          “I told thee of an island, far 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 lonely island evermore.”

The mingled pain and privilege of Mr. Watts’s ministry was shared to a
great degree by Lord and Lady Mount Temple, Mrs. Sumner, Dr. Gordon Hake
and his son, Mr. George Hake, Mr. Madox Brown, Mr. Frederick Shields,
and Mr. Sandys. Mr. Leyland also saw him frequently, and added generous
and unremitting friendship to his patronage of the wayward painter’s
work. He was the purchaser of some of the most important pictures of
Rossetti’s last decade, including the beautiful “Dis Manibus,” or “The
Roman Widow,” (1874), which remains unsurpassed for delicate purity and
depth of colour by any of the masterpieces of his prime; “Mnemosyne,” or
“La Ricordanza,” or “The Lamp of Memory” (1876–78), one of his most
noble and impressive symbolic figures; “The Sea-Spell,” (1875–77), and a
replica of “The Blessed Damozel” (1873–77), which he painted for Mr.
William Graham in illustration of his own poem:

                “The Blessed Damozel leaned out
                  From the gold bar of heaven;
                Her eyes were deeper than the depths
                  Of water stilled at even:
                She had three lilies in her hand
                  And the stars in her hair were seven.”

The publication, in 1870, of Rossetti’s volume of “Poems,” containing,
together with some of his loveliest short lyrics, “The Blessed Damozel,”
and the “House of Life” sonnets, led the way for that unfortunate attack
upon him in the critical press which undoubtedly contributed to the
shortening of his days, however regrettable may have been the hyper-
sensitive manner in which the poet met his arraignment. In 1871 an
article signed “Thomas Maitland” was published in the “Contemporary
Review,” entitled “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” in which Rossetti’s
poems were attacked, from an avowedly moral point of view, on the ground
of sensuality. Ignoring the essential principles of all Rossetti’s work—
the sacredness of the senses as the instruments of the soul—the meaning
of all physical beauty as the witness of an immanent God—the writer
deliberately charged him with pandering to the lowest instincts of his
readers, and being, in short, the prophet of that later and grossly
materialistic phase of European art of which the very name _Pre_-
Raphaelite was a repudiation. It is not surprising that to a deeply (if
undefinedly) religious nature like Rossetti’s this should have seemed
the hardest blow that could have been dealt at his art and at him. The
publication of the magazine article, however, seriously disconcerted him
at the moment. It was not until the offensive and wholly unfair
indictment was re-issued in the following year in pamphlet form that it
began to assume a more serious aspect in the victim’s eyes. Criticism of
his poetic methods he could have borne with equanimity. Indifference and
neglect seldom troubled him. He cared little for popularity, and was no
seeker after fame, although he naturally desired the appreciation of
those whose judgment was of real account in literature. But he did care
for his general reputation as a clean-lived and pure-minded man. This
charge assailed the ethical foundations of all his work. He had seen in
the loveliest things of earth the vessels and channels of the loveliness
of heaven. And that this should be counted to him for sensuality—that
the love which had been to him “a worship and a regeneration” should be
held up to scorn as a gross and carnal passion—that was the intolerable

Not that he lacked defenders. His own answer, under the title of “The
Stealthy School of Criticism,” in the columns of the “Athenæum,” was
more than supported by Mr. Swinburne’s indignant challenge, “Under the
Microscope;” and other loyal friends contributed to a sufficient
vindication. Save in the too morbid imagination of the poet, the attack
soon lapsed, for the most part, into the oblivion it deserved; more
especially since the writer, a few years later, had the manliness to
retract his charge, and to make a candid apology, though a tardy one,for
having uttered it. But not so easily could the pain given to Rossetti be
overcome. He now began to shrink intensely from society, fearing at all
points to encounter that suspicion of his artistic work. Suffering
acutely from nervous prostration and insomnia, he yielded himself the
more fully to the fatal chloral habit which only aggravated his
condition. In the autumn of 1872 he spent some weeks at the house of Dr.
Gordon Hake at Roehampton, and proceeded thence with Mr. Madox Brown,
Mr. George Hake, and Mr. Bell Scott to Stobhall in Perthshire, on the
Tay. Returning to the south in improved health, Rossetti and Mr. George
Hake proceeded at once to Kelmscott Manor, where they settled for a
considerable time. Rossetti indeed remained for nearly two years,
gradually resuming his artistic work, and regaining at times something
of his old vivacity and high spirits: only a few friends went to and fro
in visits full of mutual delight and inspiration. The beautiful old
house, and the quaint, romantic chamber that served for studio, became
the resort of poets and artists, critics and connoisseurs, disciples and
aspirants, in companies small indeed, but brilliant and memorable as any
that gathered round the young Pre-Raphaelites in Newman Street or the
maturer masters of art and song that assembled in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.
Mr. William Morris and his family were there frequently; Dr. Gordon Hake
made a visit, and afterwards embodied his memories in his sequence of
sonnets addressed to Mr.Theodore Watts, “The New Day,” one of which
deserves quotation:

            “O happy days with him who once so loved us!
              We loved as brothers, with a single heart,
            The man whose iris-woven pictures moved us
              From Nature to her blazoned shadow—Art.
            How often did we trace the nestling Thames
              From humblest waters on his course of might,
            Down where the weir the bursting current stems—
              There sat till evening grew to balmy night,
            Veiling the weir whose roar recalled the strand
              Where we had listened to the wave-lipped sea,
            That seemed to utter plaudits while we planned
              Triumphal labours of the day to be.
            The words were his: ‘Such love can never die;’
            The grief was ours when he no more was nigh.”

And as his health continued to improve, Rossetti’s poetry and painting
rose again to their highest level. The former, indeed, is thought by
some sound critics to reach at this juncture a superb merit unattained
before; for it was here that he wrote the first of the three great
romantic ballads which mark the zenith of his poetic power. “Rose Mary”
stands supreme in this incomparable category. Nor did he ever far
surpass, if at all, his pictures of this period,—“The Bower Maiden”
(1873) for frank and vigorous natural beauty in the pretty child with
the fresh-blowing marigolds, “Dis Manibus” or “The Roman Widow” (1874)
for delicate and simple pathos in the treatment of the classic world;
and “Proserpine” (1874) for the sombre moral tragedy symbolized in the
classic story, seldom, if ever, so interpreted on canvas before.

In these years also he painted the beautiful “Garland Girl,” “La
Ghirlandata” (1873), and “Veronica Veronese” (1872), called at first
“The Day-dream,” but wholly distinct from the later work of that date;
reverted, or endeavoured to revert in sketches, to his old fantasy of
“Michael Scott’s Wooing,” and resumed a subject begun in 1864, but never
quite fully worked out, “The Boat of Love,” suggested by Dante’s second
Sonnet,—“Guido, vorrei che tu e Lapo ed io,” and representing Dante and
Beatrice embarking in a boat with his friend and brother-poet Guido
Calvacanti, and his lady Giovanna, and Lapo degli Uberti and his love.

                          “THE BOAT OF LOVE.”

           _By permission of the Corporation of Birmingham._


In the autumn of 1874 Rossetti returned to Chelsea, and again made his
headquarters at 16, Cheyne Walk, where he remained, save for two visits
to the seaside, until 1880. Here he worked from time to time at the
picture illustrative of his own early poem, “The Blessed Damozel,”—the
sole instance, by the way, of Rossetti’s completion of a subject in
verse before attempting it on canvas; and began what promised to be
among the most profound of his mystical creations, “The Sphinx” or “The
Question,” and also the last subject he ever took from the “Vita Nuova”
of Dante, “La Donna della Finestra,” or “Our Lady of Pity.” These two,
as well as “The Boat of Love,” remained unfinished in his studio. To
this fruitful decade belong an excellent replica of an early water-
colour, “The Damozel of the Sanct Grael” (1874); the exquisite crayon
drawing “The Spirit of the Rainbow” (1877); and four splendid oils, “The
Sea Spell” (1876), “A Vision of Fiametta” (1878), “The Day-dream” and
“Mnemosyne” or “The Lamp of Memory” (1880). To 1875 is due “La Bello
Mano” (“The Beautiful Hand”). In 1879 he made a crayon drawing, which he
called “Sancta Lilias,” for an Annunciation; depicting a girl unfolding
a white scarf from a tall lily which she carries in her hand; but the
sketch was never finished, nor advanced beyond the crayon stage.

In 1875 Rossetti took for a time a pleasant and secluded house near
Bognor,—Aldwick Lodge, standing in its own grounds, wellnigh buried in
shrubbery, in a lane west of the town, and near (as Dr. Hake tells us in
some delightful reminiscences of a visit there) “to the roughest bit of
beach on the Sussex coast.” Here, gathering together his mother, sister,
and aunts, and such intimate friends as Dr. Hake and Mr. Theodore Watts,
he enjoyed at the close of this year a Christmas week to which he
afterwards looked back as to one of the happiest he ever spent.

It was at Bognor that Rossetti, influenced, no doubt, by his
companionship, woke for the first time to the magic of the sea. It is
extraordinary that so passionately romantic a spirit as his should have
remained, until the eve of his fiftieth year, absolutely unaffected by
that profound and intimate sway which the sea holds over the poetic
nature once brought, however distantly, within even the rumour and echo
of its majestic voice. Now the spell he had so long eluded was cast upon
him with irresistible force. He began to haunt the shore with a child’s
eagerness for the grandeur and the urgent mystery of tides. Day after
day he paced the beach for miles together, pursuing the new vision, the
new rapture of the stimulated sense. The surf, tumultuous and loud on
that wild coast, enthralled him like a charm; the waves drove his fancy
to new spheres; his poetry was turned to fresh scenes and subjects; he
began to write “The White Ship,” the first, though perhaps not the
greatest, of his historic ballads. For the time, he was absorbed almost
wholly in that revelation of splendour and power,—in the primal glories
of sea and sky; “two symbols of the infinite,” as the captive Mazzini
called them.

But when we wonder at the lateness of this æsthetic development on
Rossetti’s part, we must remember that he was naturally without that
love of terrestrial and cosmical Nature for her own sake that is the
commonly-accepted attribute of poets. There was in his whole being no
trace of Pantheism, no worship of external loveliness apart from
conscious life. To him the sole joy of life was in the human; the
supreme tragedy of life was in the sexual. The conception of the two
elemental principles—the man-principle and the woman-principle—striving,
uniting, prevailing, against all the forces of destiny, sufficed him for
his conception of the universe. He was utterly alien to the Wordsworth
spirit; its serene monism was abhorrent to him. Apart as he lived from
intellectual speculation, he was, in his unformulated and unconscious
philosophy, dualistic to the core; as all true Romance must ever be. For
the essence of Romance is in its recognition of the conflict between
matter and spirit, between Nature and Man. Even its joy and exultation
in the physical life as the channel of the Higher Spirit takes its glory
from the sense of conquest over the Lower Spirit which threatens it from
the same unknown world behind all. Therefore there lies always beneath
the awe and wonder of romance towards the natural and the supernatural
world a deep instinct of rebellion, of antagonism, which debars it from
the Wordsworth spirit, at peace with earth and heaven. Resignation there
may be in romance; acquiescence, never. There may come, indeed, a
passionate and whole-hearted love of natural scenery, a frank delight,
as in the Celtic temper, in every external object that can minister to
man’s æsthetic enjoyment of beauty as a revelation of the divine. But
the limits of the divine grow more perceptible as man emerges from the
childhood of the world. “There hath passed away a glory from the earth.”
Rossetti knew this—“knew” it, not in the intellectual sense of the word;
and therefore he could never turn to Nature for that regenerating rest
and peace which in some moods—not quite the highest—she can give. He
never gained that next stage of spiritual emancipation and enrichment at
which the sense of conflict is its own reward; as when the soldier, with
“his soul well-knit” and every nerve schooled and chastened on the eve
of a great battle, feels a profound repose, a diviner calm than that of
the acclaimed victor. “The man who, though his fights be all defeats,
still fights”—as Coventry Patmore sang while Rossetti was yet young—has
verily seen “the beginnings of peace.”

It was at Bognor, too, that he began work upon the most ambitious of all
his great symbolic figures, the “Venus Astarte,” or “Astarte Syriaca,”
in which he strove—vainly perhaps, but with a superb effort towards a
superhuman task—to combine and express all the mystic sensuousness and
occult magic of Orientalism with the clear and scientific wisdom of the
Western world. The Syrian Venus stands “between the sun and moon a
mystery,” attended by winged and torch-bearing choristers; eloquent of
the painter’s long and last struggle to reconcile sense, emotion, and
intellect in the highest consummation of pictorial art.

In the following summer (1876) Rossetti paid a pleasant visit, at the
invitation of Lord and Lady Mount Temple, to their house at Broadlands,
in Hampshire, where he made some progress with the best version of “The
Blessed Damozel.” The predella to this work, in which the lover left on
earth is seen waiting beside a river for the vision of the Beloved, was
painted from the beechwoods of the neighbourhood.

In 1876 Rossetti went with Madox Brown, Mr. George Hake, Mr. Theodore
Watts, and his mother and sister to Herne Bay. Ill health had now
settled permanently upon him, and painting became more difficult and
intermittent, yet his technical power remained for the most part
singularly unimpaired. In 1878 he completed “A Vision of Fiametta,”—an
admirable and wholly new version of the subject from Boccaccio which he
had treated some years back. Fiametta is in the painter’s thought an
angel of immortality:

       “Gloom-girt ’mid Spring-flushed apple-growths she stands”

—his bright Easter-maiden, with the crimson bird on the bough beside
her, the symbol of warm, full-blooded life, as is the soft red robe she
wears,—of life so rich and sweet as to yield the guarantee of victory;
the spirit that can defy death and be its own assurance of resurrection.
The apple-blossoms fall in scattered petals to the ground as she pushes
the boughs apart with her lifted hand. Behind her is a stormy April sky,
but around her head there plays a light, as of hope beyond the grave.
She is the covenant of eternal spring, for she

           —“with re-assuring eyes most fair,
           A presage and a promise stands; as ’twere
             On Death’s dark storm the rainbow of the soul.”

But now the time was nigh when “Death’s dark storm” must break upon
Rossetti. The last great and sane strength of his genius was spent upon
poetry,—in the crowning of his romantic ballads with the masterpiece of
their class, “The King’s Tragedy.” This was published, in a volume
entitled “Ballads and Sonnets,” in 1881. The previous year had seen the
completion of the last important picture that ever came fully finished
from his hand,—an oil version of the almost full-length figure
replicated several times, under the name of “The Day-dream,” and
consisting of the most beautiful and perfect of his portraits of Mrs.
William Morris.

Of the laborious conscientiousness of Rossetti’s practice in painting it
may here be said that it has been greatly under-estimated by those who
only saw the less serious side of his complex and self-contradictory
nature. That “the capacity for taking infinite pains” developed with the
genius which gave it scope is abundantly attested by those who witnessed
not only his restless roving from one task to another, but also the
ungrudging concentration of toil which he bestowed in turns upon them
all. Mr. Shields, who for years was a constant companion in Rossetti’s
studio, says in his too-brief record of that intimacy:—“One evening when
the fine full-length figure, holding an open book and honeysuckle,
called ‘The Day-dream,’ was nearly completed, I found him standing far
off from it in the dusky light and searching it critically. ‘It seems to
me, that the lower limbs are too short: what do you think?’ An
examination compelled me to endorse his fears. It was enough.
Condemnation to the effacement of half the picture was instantly passed.
Long sprays of young sycamore, rich with the ruddy buds of early spring,
crossed before the lady’s green skirt. That sacrificed, it was not
possible to save the foliage, and the season was too far advanced for
fresh reference to nature. The first necessary step therefore was to
copy these on to a clean canvas; that done, he determinately scraped out
the large erring surface, corrected the proportions of the figure, and
then calmly re-painted all, striking lastly the sycamore boughs into
their new places from the rescued studies.” An even more laborious re-
painting, says the same authority, was effected in the final oil version
of “Dante’s Dream,” completed in 1871. The figure of one of the ladies
attendant at the bedside of the dead Beatrice failed to satisfy him in
the disposition of her drapery. At the last moment he set to work to
make entirely new studies for the robe in question, and almost wholly
re-painted the figure that wore it.

In the autumn of 1881, which witnessed the publication of his second
volume of original poetry, Rossetti went with his friend Mr. Hall Caine,
the eminent novelist, to spend some weeks at a little farmhouse in the
Vale of St. John, near Keswick, Cumberland. The surrounding scenery was
of a wildly beautiful kind, well calculated to soothe and inspire the
city-pent poets; but Rossetti was by this time too ill to find relief
from nervous strain in the long walks which he had enjoyed at Bognor. He
paced instead, for hours together, the quaint little sitting-room where,
night after night, he would read aloud from the treasures of modern
fiction. Of Rossetti’s acute critical faculty, and his sound literary
judgment alike in poetry and prose romance, abundant testimony has been
given by the many privileged to enjoy from year to year, especially in
the period of his prime, the inestimable help and delight of his
enthusiastic counsel and his frank, outspoken, but never ungenerous
criticism. Such witness is fully endorsed by Mr. Caine’s records even of
this last autumn of his life, when, through shattered health and failing
hopes for his own future, he retained in a great measure the mental
vision and acumen of happier days, as well as his own creative power in
design and poetry. Rossetti never tired of these nightly discussions of
the inexhaustible topics of literary art: he loved to prolong them far
into the morning hours; and often, as his friend has told us, they saw
the sunrise break over the great hills as they went at last to rest.

Nor was the year without fruit in painting. The pathetic picture of “La
Pia,” a new design in oils, though with a title used for a sketch in
1867, ranks high among his later performances. The subject, briefly
broached in Dante’s “Purgatorio,” deals with the imprisonment of the
young wife of Nello dell’ Pietra of Siena in a fortress in the Maremma,
in the midst of a noxious swamp. Rossetti was still at work, too, upon
the great symbolic picture in which he was endeavouring to sum up all
that he had implied in his maturer treatment of womanly beauty,—the
mystic and solemn “Venus Astarte” or “Astarte Syriaca” (the Syrian
Venus). The “Cassandra” proposed by him somewhile previously was never
far advanced, but he had painted in 1880 a somewhat inferior oil version
of a subject which had been the favourite of his youth, “The Salutation
of Beatrice.”

One of the very few public triumphs which came to Rossetti in his
lifetime stands in the annals of 1881. His great picture, “Dante’s
Dream,” painted ten years earlier, was purchased by the Corporation of
Liverpool for £1,500, and hung in the Walker Art Gallery, where it was
at once hailed with general and almost unalloyed praise.

Early in February, 1882, prostrated by an attack of a semi-paralytic
character, Rossetti was removed to Birchington-on-Sea, near Margate,
where his old friend, Mr. John P. Seddon, had generously placed a house
known as West Cliff Bungalow at his disposal. Mr. Hall Caine went with
him, and they were soon joined by the artist’s mother, sister, and
brother, and visited frequently by Mr. Watts, and by the young poet Mr.
William Sharp, Mr. Shields, and Mr. Leyland, who brought with him
Rossetti’s long-trusted medical adviser, Dr. John Marshall, to add his
counsels to the unremitting care of the local physician, Dr. Harris.

Even within sight of the fast-approaching end, his earnest spirit did
not falter in its aspirations, nor was the grasp of the busy hand upon
its loved work relaxed altogether. He now executed a beautiful little
oil sketch of a subject which he had attempted many years before—“Joan
of Arc Kissing the Sword of Deliverance;” a striking and pathetic
allegory of his own soul’s attitude, as he stood ready to greet with
glad and fearless reverence the long-impending sword of the last
Deliverer. He was one of those to whom, as George Eliot once said, early
death takes the aspect of salvation.

At Birchington he reverted also to his picture of ten years back,
“Proserpine.” His last poetry was written less than a week before his
death, in two sonnets illustrative of his yet unfinished picture, “The
Question,” or “The Sphinx,” in which the figures of Youth, Manhood, and
Age appear before the Mother of Mystery. Early in youth Rossetti had
made a resolution that no day should pass without some piece of work,
however imperfect, issuing from his hands, and amid much pain and
weakness, sorrow and discouragement, he kept that resolution almost till
his dying day.

On Good Friday, the 7th of April, he became rapidly worse, but remained
cheerful and composed. On Easter Day the shadow of death hung over the
little household. In the evening the group of watchers gathered with
increasing apprehension round the bed. “I think I shall die to-night,”
said Rossetti quietly, some hours before the end. Soon after nine
o’clock a momentary struggle gave warning of the approaching rest. His
mother, sister, and brother, Mr. Theodore Watts, Mr. Shields, Mr. Hall
Caine, Dr. Harris and the nurse were with him, when, twenty minutes
later, he passed away, meeting the Deliverer in perfect calm; seeing, as
he himself expressed it, “on Death’s dark storm the rainbow of the

On Easter Monday Mr. Shields, at the request of the bereaved family,
made a careful and accurate pencil drawing of the head of his late
friend as he lay ready for the last sad rites. A plaster cast of the
head, by Brucciani, was also made, but was not considered satisfactory.

It was decided that the funeral should take place at Birchington; and
there, in the quiet little graveyard on the cliffs, Rossetti was laid to
rest. Mr. William Sharp and Philip Bourke Marston (who died five years
later) were among the mourners, besides those already gathered in the
house of grief.

The quiet hamlet of Birchington-on-Sea is now a well-loved place of
pilgrimage. The quaint, un-English-looking house in which the poet-
painter died is honoured as “Rossetti Bungalow.” In the old, shingle-
towered, ivy-grown church, a stained-glass memorial window, his mother’s
gift, shows, in the one light, his own design, “The Passover in the Holy
Family,” and, in the other, Christ giving sight to a blind minstrel,—the
work of his old friend, Mr. Shields. In the churchyard, opposite the
south-west porch, the old verger shows, with touching pride and
enthusiasm, a beautiful Runic cross, on the face of which is this

                              HERE SLEEPS
                       HONOURED UNDER THE NAME OF
                        DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI,
                      AMONG PAINTERS AS A PAINTER,
                       AND AMONG POETS AS A POET.
                            BORN IN LONDON,
               OF PARENTAGE MAINLY ITALIAN, 12 MAY, 1828.
                  DIED AT BIRCHINGTON, 9 APRIL, 1882.

And at the back the following:

                        THIS CRUCIFORM MONUMENT,
                           FORD MADOX BROWN,
                     EXECUTED BY J. & H. PATTESON,
  _And erected by his brother William and sister Christina Rossetti_.

Another interesting memorial has since been established in the form of a
drinking fountain, designed by Mr. Seddon, with a bronze bust modelled
by Mr. Madox Brown, erected by subscription in 1887 in front of the old
house, 16, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, which was Rossetti’s home for twenty

An estimate of the disposition and character of such a man as Rossetti
will not be lightly attempted by those who can only honour his memory
from afar; having never added to the deep enjoyment of his art the
privilege of personal intercourse with the artist. His tender and
passionate affection, his chivalrous loyalty, his gracious _bonhomie_,
his winning dignity, are matters so familiar to all who really knew him,
as to render eulogy alike superfluous and impertinent. Of the other side
of that magnetic personality,—of his hyper-sensitive pride, his morbid
isolation of his suffering self from those healthy breezes of broad
intellectual life which it is so easy to prescribe, so bitterly hard for
a nature such as his to stand against,—of these things it may be said
with all sympathy and reverence that they were the price of his
greatness. There are some temperaments so finely organized, so
delicately strung, that even joy is painful to them. They cannot lose in
the sense of delight the consciousness of what that delight has cost
them. They perceive so acutely the realities, the conditions, of life,
that an hour of rapture makes them more quick to the pain behind and
before. Such was Shelley, such were Keats and Byron; such was Dante
Gabriel Rossetti. It is the curse of the artistic temperament: it is the
blessing of Art.

“There are some of us,” said Shelley, “who have loved an Antigone before
we visited this earth, and must pursue through life that unregainable
ideal.” “I think,” he added, in words that might well be applied to
Rossetti, “one is always in love with something or other; the error
consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is, perhaps,
eternal.” In other words, Rossetti was an idealist, and for the idealist
there is no primrose path to heaven. His soul was too open to the ideal
to be proof against the actual. His whole nature was like an Æolian
harp, responsive through the whole gamut of thought and sense to every
breath of circumstance or destiny that played about the world around it.
For him there was no life without emotion. He craved sensation, as one
craves a narcotic, to destroy its own results. _Ennui_ was his bane.
Nothing in his history is more pathetic than his need, in later years,
of the perpetual ministry of close friends. The delicate instrument that
could never be silent was hard to keep in tune. It demanded a firm and
tender hand laid upon all those quivering strings of being to merge the
discords into some sort of harmony, even if it were always in a minor
key. Such a hand he found more than once among those that knew and loved
him, but he found it supremely in the friendship of Mr. Theodore Watts,
to whom his last poems were dedicated.

                              CHAPTER VI.

The Re-birth of Religious Art—“God, Immortality, Duty”—The Pre-
    Raphaelites and the Reconstruction of Christianity—The Halo in
    Painting—The Responsibility of Womanhood—The “Girlhood of Mary
    Virgin” and “Ecce Ancilla Domini”—The Problem of Suffering—“Christ
    in the House of His Parents,” “The Passover in the Holy Family,”
    “The Shadow of Death,” “The Scapegoat”—Hunt’s Symbolism—“The Light
    of the World”—Rossetti’s Symbolism—“Mary Magdalene at the Door,” and
    “Mary in the House of John”—The Idea of Victory Through Suffering—
    “Bethlehem Gate”—“The Triumph of the Innocents”—The Spirit of
    Inquiry—“Christ in the Temple”—The Atonement—“The Infant Christ
    Adored”—Comparison with Madox Brown and Burne-Jones—“The
    Entombment”—“The Tree of Life.”

“God—Immortality—Duty;” such were the weighty words chosen by one of the
greatest women of our century as the text of a now historic conversation
in the shadow of St. John’s College, Cambridge. The student to whom she
spoke has told us with what a tender solemnity she approached the great
postulations which those words conveyed, and challenged them in her
inflexible judgment one by one;—to her, how inconceivable the first, how
unbelievable the second, but yet how imperative and irresistible the

The attitude of George Eliot, even in the phase of intellectual
scepticism from which she then spoke, was deeply significant of that
fundamental change in the constitution of religion, that entire
transference of Christian or non-Christian “evidences,” from the
intellectual to the moral sphere, from the argument to the instinct,
which is now largely accepted as the supreme result of modern thought in
Europe. For the repudiation of prior conceptions of “God” and
“Immortality,” so far from precluding a reconstructive faith, rather
prepared the way for it; making the belief in unseen goodness a
deduction from instead of a premise to the recognition of visible
goodness in the present world, and leaving the more scope for that
growing reverence for the physical nature of man which,—having its
origins in Paganism and its highest sanction in the Gospel of Galilee,
and revealing itself in a passionate exaltation of bodily beauty as a
symbol of the divine, a resolute acceptance of the laws of nature and
destiny, and a strenuous blending of resignation to those laws with
conquest of them by spiritual powers,—has inspired the great
humanitarian movement of to-day, wherein the faith of the future finds
the witness and the justification of its ideal.

To what degree, then, has the Pre-Raphaelite movement in English art
affected, or reflected, that momentous revolution? The pictures of
Rossetti, Millais, and Holman Hunt have been by turns exalted and
condemned by the apologists of contending theological schools, and the
painters stigmatized, now as followers of Tractarianism and instruments
of Popery, now as leaders of the coarsest rationalism in sacred art, now
as apostles of a sensual neo-Paganism brought over from the Renaissance,
and credited to hold mystic and sceptic in equal defiance. One clerical
critic, indeed, in 1857, sought in an ineffectual volume to prove the
essential atheism of all Pre-Raphaelite work. His protest was but
typical of that still extant species of mind to which the worship of the
body implies the profanation of the soul. It remains to be decided
whether such paintings touched the deepest religious principles which
underlie all change of creed or ritual, and if so, in what way the art
of the Pre-Raphaelites has joined or swayed the general current of
humanitarian feeling which is slowly absorbing all forms of religion
into a universal spirit and will.

These questions bring us to the great group of pictures in which English
artists for the first time have aspired to deal in all simplicity and
earnestness with the bases and principles of the Christian religion. It
should not be difficult to discern the dominant idea, the moral keynote,
so to speak, of the highest utterances of art in an age of such
religious revolution as has been suggested by the proposition of George
Eliot. The philosophy of “Duty,” presented by her in its sternest
aspect, but brought more into line with the common heritage of religious
thought by Browning, Tennyson, F.D. Maurice, and other contemporaries of
the Pre-Raphaelite band, has in fact led in art, as it has led in
religion, directly, if unconsciously, to that reverent re-discovery of
“God,” that transfiguration of the ideal of “Immortality,” which the
revival of the spirit of romance has made possible to modern England. It
has been said that “the romantic temper is the essentially Christian
element in art.”[7] Let us rather say that it is the medium through
which Christianity itself has been renewed and quickened into a richer
and fuller life. The romantic temper, in Pre-Raphaelite art, takes hold
of the eternal verities of the Christian faith, and humanizes its whole
cycle of history and legend in the atmosphere of the real and present
world. It ignores any sort of dividing line between sacred tragedy and
the great problems of modern time. It abjures for ever the “glass-case
reverence” of relic-worship, the superstition which isolates Christian
history as a record of exceptional events, instead of an interpretation
of universal experiences. Ruskin justly says that “imagination will find
its holiest work in the lighting-up of the Gospels;” but the
illumination must have a reconstructive as well as an analytic
consequence; must be, as the late Peter Walker Nicholson expresses it in
his fine critique on Rossetti,[8] _instinctively synthetic_—which is the
quality of genius: and all true art is synthetic in its essence and its
end. The tendency of modern religious science to discredit the
exceptional and the unique, and set the basis of morals in universal and
familiar things,—in other words to deduce “God” and “Immortality” from
the instinct of “Duty” and not “Duty” from the arguments for
“Immortality” and “God,”—finds its correlative in the tendency of
romantic art to subject the remote specialities of classicism to the
test of known conditions and actual character.

Therefore the four gospels, to the Pre-Raphaelite painters, do not stand
alone as “religious” history, distinct from the world-wide record of
human aspiration and struggle from age to age. They merely afford the
supreme examples of man’s apprehension of “God, Immortality, Duty,” and
of his capability of heroic labour and self-sacrifice in the pursuit of
an ideal. The Pre-Raphaelites draw their first principle of religion
from the beauty and glory of the natural world, and the intrinsic
dignity and sacredness of human life. Their Christ is re-incarnate in
the noblest manhood of all time; their Virgin Mary lives again in every
pure girl that wakes to the solemn charm, the mysterious power and
responsibility of womanhood. In humanity itself, with all its
possibilities, in its triumphs and in its degradations, its labours and
its sufferings, they re-discover “God,”—an “unknown God,” it may be;
“inconceivable,” if we will; but evident in the quickened conscience of
a growing world, and in the invincible instincts of human pity and love.
Millais sees a young Christ in the delicate boy with the wounded hand in
the dreary and comfortless carpenter’s shop. Hunt sees a crucified
Christ in the tired workman, over-tasked and despairing amid the calm
sunlight of eventide. Rossetti sees a risen Christ in the noble poet
whose great love could conquer death and enter upon the New Life in the
present hour. The true Pre-Raphaelitism does not take the halo from the
head of the Christ of history; but it puts the halo on the head of every
suffering child, of every faithful man and woman since the world began.
It is not that the historic Christ is less divine; but that all humanity
is diviner because He lived and died.

In such a spirit does Rossetti conceive “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin,”—
not as a miraculous but an exquisitely natural thing; miraculous, at
least, in Walt Whitman’s sense of the word,—the sense in which all
beauty and all goodness are miracles to man. He shows us the up-growing
of a simple country girl, in a home full of the sweetness of family
love; remote and quiet, yet with no artificial superiority or isolation
from the average world. The maiden in the picture, with an innocent
austerity of face, sits at an embroidery-frame by her mother’s side. In
front of her is a growing lily, whose white blossoms, the symbol of her
purity, she is copying with her needle on the cloth of red, beneath St.
Anna’s watchful eye. The flower-pot rests on a pile of books, inscribed
with the names of the choicest virtues, uppermost of which is Charity.
Near to these lie a seven-thorned briar and a seven-leaved palm-branch,
with a scroll inscribed “Tot dolores tot gaudia,” typical of “her great
sorrow and her great reward.” The lily is tended by a beautiful child-
angel, the guardian both of the flower and the girl who is herself, in
Rossetti’s words,

                 “An angel-watered lily, that near God
                       Grows and is quiet.”

Around the balcony trails a vine, which St. Joiachim is pruning above;
significant of the True Vine which must hereafter suffer “the
chastisement of our peace.” The dove that broods among its branches
promises the Comforter that is to come. The realism of the picture is a
realism of the mediæval kind, that takes possession of, instead of
ignoring, the spiritual world, and overleaps the boundaries of visible
things; depicting the invisible with the daring confidence of
imaginative faith. The child-angel with her crimson pinions is as
substantial on the canvas as the soberly-clad virgin at her symbolic

In the companion-picture, “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (“Behold the handmaid of
the Lord!”) Rossetti repeats and develops much of the same symbolism in
the accessories of the painting, but the universal meaning of the
Virgin’s call is far more clearly brought out. The design differs from
all familiar versions of the Annunciation in that the message is
delivered to Mary as she wakes out of sleep, and that she is depicted,
not among beautiful and well-ordered surroundings, but in a poor and
bare chamber, rising, half-awake, in a humble pallet-bed, and sitting
awed before the angel whose presence, perhaps, is but the visualized
memory of her dream. The rapt stillness of her look recalls the pregnant
line in which Byron speaks of a troubled waking,—“to know the sense of
pain without the cause.” In Mary’s mind there should rather be a sense
of joy without the cause; but even in her joy there lies a mystery, a
burden of responsibility and foreboded sorrow, that makes it heavy to
bear. It is as if some simple girl, waking to the golden glories of a
summer morn, should wake at the same time to the thought of the world’s
pain, and realize, in a sudden exaltation of pity and love, that
somehow, by whatever path of grief and loss, her purity, her goodness,
must help humanity and bless the race to be. The angel at her side is a
girl-child no longer, but a youth, full of strength and graciousness, as
if to suggest that the sanctities of manhood are now to be revealed to
the maid. In his hand the radiant Gabriel holds the full-grown and
gathered lily, whose image is now completed on the embroidered cloth,
which hangs near the bed. The dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, flies
in at the window, and the light is soft and warm from the sun-bathed
landscape without.

Once again did Rossetti attempt the subject of “The Annunciation,” but
only in a water-colour sketch, which found a place, however, in the
small but choice collection in the Burlington Club. Here also the lily
affords the symbolic keynote of the design,—the Virgin is seen bathing
among the water-lilies in a stream; but the singularly fine conception
of the angel’s salutation gives a special value and interest to the
work. The figure that appears before her on the bank assumes for the
moment the aspect of a cross; being so enfolded with his golden wings
that the Virgin sees not only the glory of her visitant but the dire
portent of the message which he brings. “The Annunciation” of Mr. Arthur
Hughes is more conventional in spirit, with its veiled Virgin and its
stiffly self-conscious Gabriel, and lacks the note of prescience which
gives solemnity to Rossetti’s designs. Mr. Burne-Jones, on the other
hand, gives us a more mature and stately maid. His Mary, nobly simple
though she is, seems better prepared for the sacred honour of her
destiny, and does not touch us so deeply as the shrinking girl in “Ecce
Ancilla Domini,” or even as the poor beggar-maiden (for so she appears)
in Mr. Hughes’s “Nativity,” bending timid and reverent on her knees in
the straw before the Holy Child.

But the note of prescience, as we have seen,—the prophetic symbolism
which brings to mind in every incident of the Saviour’s life the whole
scheme of sacrifice and redemption, dominates all the greatest Pre-
Raphaelite work. The suggestions of the inevitable Cross recur in
Rossetti’s early picture, “The Passover in the Holy Family,” in
Millais’s “Christ in the House of His Parents,” and in Holman Hunt’s
“Shadow of Death,” with a force and urgency that points at once to the
universal significance of the history. “The Passover in the Holy Family”
shows us the boy Christ carrying a bowl filled with the blood of the
newly-slain Paschal lamb, and gazing at it with a mysterious foreboding
in his eyes. In the dim background St. Joseph and St. Anna (or,
according to Mr. William Rossetti, and as seems more probable, St.
Elizabeth), are seen kindling a fire for the ritual. Mary is gathering
bitter herbs, and Zacharias is sprinkling the door-posts and lintel with
the lamb’s blood. The youthful John Baptist is kneeling at the feet of
Christ, binding His shoe.

Rossetti, however, does not attempt quite so bold a translation of the
Biblical narrative into modern form as does Millais when, depicting
“Christ in the House of His Parents,” he sets the poor and mean-looking
child in the midst of almost wholly English surroundings, in a
carpenter’s workshop, looking out upon a landscape of thoroughly English
meadow-land;—a literalism of method since adopted with more daring
fidelity to local colour in their respective fields by such later
realists as Fritz von Uhde and Vassili Verestchagin, and others of the
German and neo-French schools, but never pursued to the same length in
any later experiment from the studios of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Critics probably will long be divided as to the legitimacy of such a
process, and its success must be judged largely by the intention of the
painter,—whether he seeks merely to present an historical incident with
vividness and force, and employs familiar scenery to emphasize the hard
reality of his narrative, and whether he rather aspires to interpret the
universal truth beneath the incident, and to illustrate its bearing upon
present life; in other words, whether he desires to impress us (for
example) with the reality of the sufferings of Christ, or with the
problem of human suffering in all ages, of which the sacred story is at
once the type and the key. It can scarcely be argued that the latter
object does not come within the scope of art. The point at issue,
however, seems to be that the sense of anachronism aroused by the
presentation of great historical or legendary figures in present-day
garb, amid the surroundings of contemporary life, is apt to endanger the
solemnity of the theme, and to some extent defeat the object of the
painter,—in which case it may be urged that the failure is quite as
likely to lie upon the spectator’s side.

But the literalism of Millais’s picture is eclipsed by the exhaustive
symbolism which he uses in common with his colleagues of the
Brotherhood, though never carrying it into the elaborate detail
cultivated by Mr. Holman Hunt. The “house” of Christ’s Parents is a
wooden shed, strewn with shavings and hung with tools. The young Christ
has torn his hand on a nail, and St. Joseph, turning from his bench,
holds up the wounded palm, which Mary hastens to bind with a linen
cloth. John the Baptist brings water to bathe the hurt before she covers
it, and the elder woman bends forward to remove the tools with which the
boy, perhaps, has carelessly played.

The nail-mark in the palm is an obvious presage of the coming Cross. The
rough planks and the half-woven basket convey the idea of unfinished
work; and on a ladder overhead broods the ever-present dove. The picture
is inscribed from the verse in Zechariah,—“And one shall say unto him,
‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then shall he answer, ‘Those
with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’”

To recover the actual conditions of the early life of Christ—to
reproduce the aspect of a Nazarene cottage eighteen centuries ago—and
yet to charge the historic figure with a vitality and emotion that
brings it home with irresistible significance to the heart of the
spectator of to-day, is perhaps a higher triumph of art than could be
achieved by Millais’s neo-realistic method. Rare as is success in this
dual effort—the union of archæological accuracy with profound insight
into the eternal meanings of the ancient tragedy—it has been attained
beyond question by Holman Hunt in his greatest picture, “The Shadow of
Death.” Sojourning for four years at Nazareth and Bethlehem (the latter
on account of the alleged resemblance of its people to the ancient House
of David), the painter equipped himself with knowledge of every detail
of domestic life, furniture, custom, and dress that could heighten the
literal truthfulness of his work. To that scientific fidelity he added
the elaborate symbolism of which he made a studious art, and through
that symbolism he poured a wealth of imagination, a dignity of thought
and an intensity of feeling which steeped the subject in a moral glow
hitherto unknown to English painting. The scene is laid at sunset in the
carpenter’s shop. The Christ, whose face and form, now grown to manhood,
speak utter weariness of body and soul, seems to stand there for all
humanity, confronting the whole problem of labour and suffering and
death. There is something more than physical exhaustion, though that is
paramount, in the drooping figure of the tired workman as He lifts His
arms from the tools and stretches them out in the evening sunlight, all
unconscious that as He does so, the slant rays cast His shadow, in the
semblance of a crucifix, upon the cottage wall behind, where a wooden
tool-rack forms as it were the arms of the cross on which the shadow of
His arms is cast; and near it a little window, open to the east, makes
an aureole of light around His head. His mother, kneeling on the floor,
examining the casket in which she keeps the long-treasured gifts of the
Magi—gold, and frankincense, and myrrh, glances up and sees the terrible
image on the wall. It is the cross of a daily crucifixion, rather than
of the final death, that weighs upon the soul of Christ;—the crucifixion
of unhonoured labour in obscurity; the hard, despised routine of toil
endured by the uncomplaining workers of all time. He knows both the
dignity of labour and its shame;—the dignity, that is, of all honest,
healthy, and profitable toil; the shame of that industrial slavery which
in any land can make a man too weary to enjoy the sunset glories or to
revel in the calm delights of eventide.

In turning to Hunt’s earlier picture, “The Scapegoat,” we pass from the
problem of the slavery of labour to the deeper question of vicarious
sacrifice. The solitary figure of the dumb and helpless animal, dying in
the utter desolation of the wilderness, the unconscious and involuntary
victim of human sin, speaks more eloquently than any words of the
reality and pathos of the suffering of innocence for guilt. Seldom if
ever has the problem been so directly urged upon us in pictorial art,—
Can the law of vicarious sacrifice be reconciled with our highest ideals
of moral justice? Can a beneficent and omnipotent God permit one
innocent being, without choice or knowledge, to pay another’s penalty?
Or, on the other hand, can we formulate any other method by which
humanity could be taught its own solemn power, and its absolute
community and interdependence of soul with soul? The painter’s business
is to state that problem, not to solve it; and this Hunt does with the
utmost simplicity, sincerity, and earnestness. Pitching his tent in the
most inhospitable region on the shores of the Dead Sea, the artist
painted the actual landscape upon which the ancient victim was cast
adrift, to perish slowly in the desert without the camp; and from that
strange, wild studio his picture came full-charged with the loneliness
and terror of the scene, and the momentous meaning of the scapegoat’s

“The Light of the World,” frequently regarded as Holman Hunt’s greatest
work, though more mystical and appealing less directly to common
sentiment than “The Shadow of Death,” is purely symbolic in design and
character; and indeed may be taken to represent the high-water mark of
abstract symbolism, as distinct from Biblical history, in the paintings
of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The circumstances of its execution,
partly at Oxford, and partly in his studio at Chelsea by moonlight, have
already been referred to. The picture tells no story; deals with no
incident or condition of the human life of Christ, but presents the
ideal figure in the threefold aspect of prophet, priest, and king. The
Saviour appears in the guise of a pilgrim, carrying a lantern, and
knocking in the night at a fast-closed door. He wears the white robe of
inspiration, typical of prophecy; the jewelled robe and breastplate of a
priest; and a crown of gold interwoven with one of thorns. The legend
from Revelation, iii. 20, gives the keynote of the work: “Behold I stand
at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I
will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” The fast-
barred door, with its rusty nails and bolts overgrown with ivy, and its
threshold blocked up with brambles and weeds, is the door of the human
soul. The light from the lantern in Christ’s hand is the light of
conscience (according to Mr. Ruskin’s well-known description of the
picture), and the light which suffuses the head of the Saviour, issuing
from the crown of thorns, is the hope of salvation. The lamp-light rests
on the doorway and the weeds, and on a fallen apple which gives the
suggestion of hereditary sin. The thorns in the crown are now bearing
fresh leaves, “for the healing of the nations.”

It has been charged against many Pre-Raphaelite paintings that their
elaborate symbolism, and the highly subjective development of the
designs, require not merely titles and texts, but footnotes also, for
their explanation. In the pictures of Holman Hunt especially, this
charge may have some weight; but it may be fairly met by the
consideration of the close and deep thought, the prolonged spiritual
fervour—unexampled since the Italian Pre-Raphaelites—in which each
masterpiece is steeped, and which surely brings a claim upon such
intelligent study as would enable all but those wholly ignorant of
Christian symbology to interpret the details for themselves. Rossetti
said of one of Hunt’s pictures that “the solemn human soul seems to
vibrate through it like a bell in a forest.” That sound, once caught,
yields the keynote to the pictorial scheme, and attunes all the latent
music to its perfect end.

Rossetti, however, in no case employed the symbolic-figure method, so
triumphantly used in “The Light of the World,” for his Biblical
subjects; but reserved it for the realm of romantic allegory and classic
myth. His illustration of the eternal truths of penitence and
aspiration, of “the awakening conscience” and the resurrection of the
soul, is given us in his beautiful drawing of “Mary Magdalene at the
door of Simon the Pharisee.” The scene is laid amid the revelry of a
village street at a time of festival. Mary, passing with a throng of gay
companions, sees, through the window of a house, the face of Christ; and
with a sudden impulse leaves the procession and tears the flowers
passionately from her hair, seeking to enter where He sits; the while
her lover, following, strives to dissuade her, and to lead her back to
the mirthful company. The appeal of passion and the answer of the
repentant woman, beautiful in her mingled shame and triumph, are best
recounted in Rossetti’s own words, from the most successful of his
sonnets on his own designs:

        “Why wilt thou cast the roses from thine hair?
          Nay, be thou all a rose,—wreath, lips, and cheek.
          Nay, not this house,—that banquet-house we seek;
        See how they kiss and enter; come thou there.
        This delicate day of love we too will share
          Till at our ear love’s whispering night shall speak.
          What, sweet one,—hold’st thou still the foolish freak?
        Nay, when I kiss thy feet they’ll leave the stair.”

        “Oh loose me! Seest thou not my Bridegroom’s face
          That draws me to Him? For His feet my kiss,
          My hair, my tears, He craves to-day:—and oh!
        What words can tell what other day and place
          Shall see me clasp those blood-stained feet of His?
          He needs me, calls me, loves me, let me go!”

                           “HEAD OF CHRIST.”

                  Finished study for “Mary Magdalene.”

               _By permission of Mr. Moncure D. Conway._


The face of the Magdalene has been said to present Rossetti’s ideal of
spiritual beauty, in contrast with the physical beauty of “Lilith” and
the intellectual beauty of “Sibylla Palmifera;” but as Rossetti himself
afterwards applied the title of “Soul’s Beauty” to “Sibylla Palmifera,”
the distinction can hardly be pursued very far. The head of Christ (for
which Mr. Burne-Jones is said to have sat as a model) is of a more
peculiar interest and value; being the only serious attempt at the
portrayal of the central figure in Christian art which remains to us
from Rossetti’s hand. Some highly-finished studies were made by him for
this head, from one of which the present illustration is taken.
Rossetti’s Christ differs markedly in conception from that of Holman
Hunt. The Christ of the older painter is pre-eminently the “Man of
Sorrows,” the martyr whose whole life was a crucifixion. Rossetti shows
us rather the Galilean dreamer, the peasant poet, the gentle idealist
whom women and children loved. The realism of suffering, though
delicately suggested by the slightly-drawn brow, the quiet tension of
the features, and the bright, glowing depths of the eye, is here in
abeyance. Christ is for the time an honoured guest, receiving the
hospitality of the Pharisee with a gracious self-possession and an
exquisite simplicity of mien. The sole suggestion, in the surrounding
objects, of the tragedy that is to come, is given in the vine that
trails on the walls of the house, symbolic of the great Sacrifice.

The shadow of the Cross—no longer cast into the future, but abiding on
the mourners after the death of Christ—is figured by a device of
singular beauty in Rossetti’s sketch of “Mary in the House of John.” In
a small drawing of “The Crucifixion” he had depicted St. John leading
the Madonna from the foot of Calvary. Now he shows us the new home, so
strangely ignored by painters of the sacred tale, wherein the Mother and
the adopted son are together at eventide. Through the window is seen a
distant view of Jerusalem, and in the uncertain light the window-bars
assume the form of a cross, which thus appears to rest upon the Holy
City, and to stand between that quiet household and the outer world. St.
John has been writing a portion of his Gospel, and pauses to strike a
light, with which the Mother of Jesus kindles a lamp, hanging at the
intersection of the bars; so that the light shines from the centre-point
of the Cross, where the Head of Christ should be. This delicate emblem
gives the touch of hope, the promise of glory through sacrifice, which
lightens the darkness of the hour. So fine a use of simple imagery, so
perfect an adjustment of the hope to the penalty, admirably illustrates
the highest triumph of Pre-Raphaelite art,—the reconciliation of the
“crucifixion principle,” the essentially Catholic element in religion,
with the “resurrection principle,” peculiar to Protestantism. Mr.
Forsyth, whose essays on the Pre-Raphaelites have already been quoted,
makes the suggestive remark, that “In Hunt’s technique shadow always
means colour as well as darkness: to see colour in shadow is the last
triumph of a great painter,” and adds that “Rossetti’s colour is not
merely luminous matter; it is transfigured matter.” This conception of
the dual truth of Christianity—the necessity of suffering and the
assurance of victory—is consistently presented both by Rossetti and
Hunt; and it is not merely victory _over_ suffering, as Protestantism
insists on, which they teach; but rather victory _through_ suffering;
which is the fusion of Catholic ethics with Protestant faith.

And it is remarkable that the Pre-Raphaelites find as much inspiration
for the thought of victory through suffering in the incidents of
Christ’s childhood as in the story of His martyrdom. Rossetti, in his
early picture of “Bethlehem Gate,” in which the Holy Family are seen in
flight from the massacre of the Innocents, depicts at the side of the
Virgin Mother an angel bearing a palm-branch,—the symbol of deliverance
and reward. Holman Hunt begins the Resurrection with “The Triumph of the
Innocents,” applies, that is, the principle of Immortality to universal
life; and by the ruddy, healthy faces of his angel-children watching
from Heaven over the child-Christ, he insists, as Rossetti insisted in
“The Blessed Damozel,” that the unknown world must be something
intimately related to the one we know, and that immortal life must be
something more than the continuance of spiritual being in an immaterial
sphere,—must, in short, afford real and eternal activities beyond the

This recognition of the relation of sacrifice to victory leads the
painters beyond the reconciliation of the individual man with God to the
reconciliation of the social man with man. Something of this idea of
“peace on earth” is suggested by Rossetti’s picture, “The Infant Christ
Adored by a Shepherd and a King,” which now forms a triptych in Llandaff
Cathedral,—the only picture directly from his hand which occupies a
permanent position in an English church. In the left compartment is seen
the young David as a shepherd before Goliath; in the right, the psalmist
is depicted in old age, crowned as a king before God. In the centre, the
Infant Christ appears as the mediator between the high and the lowly,
the rich and the poor; the messenger of the “at-one-ment” of all ranks
of men, united in a common worship of the Divine Child, and a common
love of that Humanity of which He is the type.

A similar interpretation of the childhood of Jesus, as typical of the
growth of all humanity, may fairly be drawn from Holman Hunt’s picture
of “Christ in the Temple,”—a work now thoroughly familiar to English
eyes, and perhaps the most popular because the least mystical of his
masterpieces. The bright, bold, ingenuous face and figure of the boy,
confronting with his eager questions the venerable Rabbis of the
congregation, seems instinct with the life of the present age, charged
with the very essence of the spirit of inquiry—of sceptical inquiry
even—before which the apologists of tradition and legalism are
dumfounded, and through which, from the dogma of the old world, is
wrested the faith of the new.

It would be impracticable here to follow in detail the influence of the
Pre-Raphaelites upon the religious paintings of their contemporaries and
successors, or to estimate the exact relation of their work to that of
their nearest precursor, Madox Brown. But a single example from the
last-named artist, and another from the youngest of the Pre-Raphaelite
group, but never numbered with the Brotherhood—Mr. Burne-Jones—may serve
to illustrate still further the great religious principles of which
these painters steadfastly took hold. “The Entombment” remains among the
finest works of Madox Brown, and embodies, in its simple austerity, its
direct pathos, a spiritual fervour akin to the highest inspirations of
Holman Hunt. The dignity of the human body, the solemnity and awfulness
of physical death, the tender charm of child life and child innocence,
the mystery of immortality, and the apprehension of a “risen” life,—all
these things are brought within the range of thought opened up by that
sombre and majestic design. Seldom in modern art has the intense realism
of death been so delicately handled, and yet with such uncompromising
force. The faces of the women bending over the loved corpse are full of
grief and perplexity, yet even in the atmosphere of death there is a
subtle breath of triumph and of hope, a sense that the body is not all,
that what is left is but the shell, the “house of Life;” the true Life
is not dead, but gone—whither? The tender light that plays around the
mourners, and the contrast of the vigorous little body of the young
child with the aged and shattered frame of the dead martyr, seem to
voice the eternal protest of the heart against annihilation, the
irrepressible demand of the soul for a future life.

Thirty years apart from “The Light of the World” and “Mary in the House
of John,” but akin to both in motive and spirit, is “The Tree of Life,”
one of the latest and noblest of Mr. Burne-Jones’s paintings. This
sombre monochrome, so absolutely original in design, so chastened and
restrained in execution, ranks with the highest symbolic work of the
Pre-Raphaelites in its grasp of the idea of victory through suffering.
For “The Tree of Life” is the Cross. Its roots are in the very
foundations of the earth; its branches are fed with the heart’s blood of
humanity, and its fruit reaches unto Heaven. The Figure that hangs upon
it is brooding in benediction over the whole world; the supreme type of
that immortal love which fulfils the divine law of sacrifice; embodying
in one great symbol the lesson of all history,—

                   “Knowledge by suffering entereth,
                   And Life is perfected by Death.”

Man, woman and children are gathered beneath the shadow of the Tree. On
the one side is a garden of flowers, and on the other a harvest of corn.
Along the margin of the earth is the inscription:—“In Mundo pressuram
habebitis; sed confidite; ego vici mundum.” (“In the world ye shall have
tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”) The
painting is carried out in a very low key of colour, and a kind of
austere and grave conventionalism restrains the sweeping outlines and
the sober light. The accessories of the landscape are of the simplest
character; no extraneous detail intrudes upon the perfect harmony of the
at-one-ment; no over-elaboration mars the calm of that absolute
resignation, that unquenchable hope. The Christ upon the Cross is at
once the interpretation of the mystery of pain, and the covenant of a
complete redemption wherein man at last “shall see of the travail of his
soul and shall be satisfied.”


Footnote 7:

  Rev. P.F. Forsyth: “Religion in Recent Art.”

Footnote 8:

  The Round Table Series: “Rossetti,” by P.W. Nicholson.

                              CHAPTER VII.

The Christian Element in Neo-Hellenism and Romance—“How They Met
    Themselves” and “Michael Scott’s Wooing”—Mediævalism and Romantic
    Love—“Romeo and Juliet” and “Ophelia”—Millais’s Romantic Landscapes—
    “The Woodman’s Daughter,” “The Blind Girl,” “The Vale of Rest,”
    “Autumn Leaves”—Keats’s “Isabella”—Tennyson’s “Mariana” and “Idylls
    of the King”—The Idea of Retribution—“King Arthur’s Tomb,” “Paolo
    and Francesca,” “Death of Lady Macbeth,” “The Awakening Conscience,”
    “Hesterna Rosa,” “The Gate of Memory,” “Found,” “Psyche,”
    “Proserpine,” “Pandora”—The Idea of Duty—“The Hugenot,” “The Black
    Brunswicker,” “Claudio and Isabella”—Old and New Chivalry—“Sir
    Isumbras” and “The Rescue”—“The Merciful Knight”—“St. Agnes’ Eve”—
    Ideal and Platonic Love—“The Salutation of Beatrice,” “The Boat of
    Love,” “Beata Beatrix,” “Dante’s Dream,” “Our Lady of Pity.”

It is but an arbitrary classification that divides the so-called
“religious” art of the Pre-Raphaelites from their portrayals of that
half historic, half legendary wonder-world we vaguely called “romance.”
Rossetti, it has been rightly said, “was a pilgrim who had got out of
the region of shrines, but who at every cross-like thing knelt down by
the force of thought and muscle.”[9] Above all other qualities of Pre-
Raphaelite painting, it is the instinctive perception of “cross-like
things” that gives nobility and tenderness to the work of Rossetti and
his colleagues. By the light of that inward vision do they choose and
transfigure every theme. The haunting sense of the mysteries of
existence, of the immanence of the supernatural in the natural sphere,
and of the divine possibilities of human nature; the apprehension of the
moral law, of sacrifice, reward and penalty, and of the consummation of
earth’s good and evil in an immortal realm;—these abide with the
painters when they pass from the holy ground of Judea and Galilee to the
Pagan splendours of the Hellenic age, the later glories of mediævalism,
and the hard prose conditions of modern life. The same great drama of
humanity is set before us, but on another stage, with other players. The
ideas which dominate the minds of the artists, the principles by which
they interpret alike the history of Jerusalem and the problems of
London, are of universal application. A classic myth to them is as rich
in meaning as a Christian parable; a legend of chivalrous manliness or
heroic womanhood as sacred as if written in a canonical gospel. Holman
Hunt’s “Awakening Conscience” and “Claudio and Isabella” are as
profoundly religious as “Mary Magdalene at the Door;” Rossetti’s “Lady
of Pity” and “Beata Beatrix” glow with a spiritual fervour as pure as
that of “Ecce Ancilla Domini;” the lessons of Burne-Jones’s “Merciful
Knight” and of Millais’s “Hugenot” are as clear as any that “The Light
of the World” can teach us;—and this, not that the painters have
secularized the highest things, but that they have sanctified the lower;
have pierced to the common sources of religious thought and feeling, and
have brought into the labour of the present hour the wide and eternal
meanings of the past.

In the most naïve phase of romantic mysticism, with its devout faith in
the presence of spiritual forces in play at all points upon the human
soul, and in the power of the imagination to visualize conjectured
things, Rossetti conceived the finest of his early dramatic sketches,—
“How They Met Themselves” and “Michael Scott’s Wooing;” the former
showing the influence of Blake in a more marked degree perhaps than any
other drawings of the same period. The lovers that “meet themselves” are
confronted, while walking in a wood, with the apparitions of their own
persons, reflected, as it were, in the air before them, in exact and
startling similitude,—a conception found in the well-known Döppelgänger
legends of German folk-lore, which credit a dual existence to every
human soul, endowing it with a sort of spectral “double” after the
manner of the Buddhistic “astral body,” save that the Döppelgänger
appear to be independent of the subject’s consciousness and will. The
sudden terror of the lovers,—the lady sinking to the ground, the knight
drawing his sword in her defence against the mysterious phenomenon, yet
hesitating, like Marcellus on the ramparts of Elsinore, to “offer it the
show of violence,” is shown with a force that emphasizes the reality of
the vision to those who see it. In this picture, as in Rossetti’s
treatment of a more exalted theme, “The Girlhood of Mary Virgin,” the
barrier is over-leaped that separates the visible from the unseen; the
outer and inner worlds are merged naturally and imperceptibly the one
into the other—an hypothesis in which the previsions of art may yet be
vindicated by scientific discovery; and the forms of the spectral lovers
are scarcely more shadowy than those who stand aghast before them in the
flesh. It has been suggested that the design may typify the meeting of
the human soul with its prototype in ages long gone by; the recognition
of unknown kinships (as if brought over from a prior existence) through
that strange sense of familiarity which sometimes surprises us when we
wander in spirit through the dim mazes of the historic past.

In the sketch for “Michael Scott’s Wooing,” the wizard-hero conjures up,
for the entertainment of his lady-love, a magical pageant of Life, Love,
and other symbolic figures, which appear before her in a glass. Here the
purely subjective nature of the vision is brought out; the lady alone
can see the pageant; her attendants are as blind to it as Hamlet’s
mother to the ghost of the murdered king.

From this initial belief in the potency of the unseen there comes the
apprehension of the mystery of fate, of the burden of impenetrable
destiny, of the evil powers that assail mankind from within. Something
even of the ancient fear of the jealousy of the gods against men’s
happiness returns in the mediæval awe of human joys or triumphs, and its
ascetic suspicion of prosperity, more especially in the field of
romantic love. A profound insight of the dualism of nature keeps the
romantic spirit in remembrance of the cost of all earthly pleasure, and
of the price set by the laws of being upon all aspiration and desire.
This it is that gives its subtlest charm to the “Romeo and Juliet” of
Madox Brown, with its embracing lovers on the balcony at break of day,
full of the passionate poetry of protest against the pitiless caprice,
as it seems, of the fate that tears them asunder; and to the “Ophelia”
of Rossetti,—now sitting troubled and half-frightened before Hamlet’s
earnest gaze, now offering him the treasured letters from the casket at
her side, now led away in her “first madness,” by the hand of Horatio,
from the presence of the king and queen; or of Hughes,—singing dreamily
to herself as she sits by the waterside on a fallen tree; or of Watts,—
gazing down with yearning eyes into the pool beneath the willow; or—best
of all—of Millais, floating downstream to her death, with her slackening
hands full of flowers, the very embodiment of the pathetic helplessness
of weak and isolated womanhood against the tide of the world’s strife,—
weak, indeed, through the isolation of ages, having never known, in life
or ancestry, the bracing discipline of a free and responsible existence.
No one of the Pre-Raphaelites has equalled Millais at his best in the
landscape setting of the struggle between the human soul and the
circumstance that hems it in; and the scenery of “Ophelia” is among the
most exquisite of his work. The beauty of the river and its richly
wooded banks, its overhanging branches, and its current-driven weeds,
gives the greater pathos to the dying girl’s face, on which the wraith
only of its past and lost beauty lingers to mock the sadness of her end.
“The Woodman’s Daughter” suggests even more finely the contrast of the
unimpassioned glory of nature and the tragedy of romantic love; for here
it is not death but life, the complexity of life and duty, that
separates the lovers each from each. Between the rough and uncomely
peasant girl and the shy young aristocrat who stands so awkwardly before
her with his proffered gift of hothouse fruit, there is a gulf fixed
which will take a higher civilization than ours to bridge over. And
again, in treating of the broader and more common loves and joys of
humanity, does Millais set before us the same contrast in “The Blind
Girl” and “The Vale of Rest.” The Blind Girl is a poor and uncomely
vagrant halting by the road-side, wrapping her shawl round her child-
guide, who nestles against her in the April weather. But around her is
the loveliness of an English village landscape after rain. The warmth of
the bursting sun consoles her as she turns her face to its light; the
rainbow which she cannot see gives radiance to the humble cottages; the
wet grass is cool to her hand, and the peace of resignation seems to
fill her maimed and darkened life. But the contrast of her sorrow with
nature’s joy is very real, though for the moment she forgets it in the
little comfort that may yet be hers. The same resignation in the face of
the unanswered problem transfigures the mourners in “The Vale of Rest,”—
the two calm, almost stoical nuns in a convent garden at sunset time.
The younger woman is digging a grave; the elder, who sits on a recumbent
tombstone hard by, is gazing at the burning gold and crimson of the
west, and sees in the midst of its splendour the darkness of the coffin-
shaped cloud which, by a widespread superstition, was long deemed the
omen of approaching death. The superb “Autumn Leaves,” which Mr. Ruskin
pronounces “among the world’s masterpieces,” may perhaps be added to
this great group of romantic landscapes, inasmuch as the pathos of its
poetry is no less deep, though more subtle, than that of “Ophelia,” “The
Woodman’s Daughter,” “The Blind Girl,” and “The Vale of Rest.” A group
of children are burning dead leaves in the twilight of a mellow autumn
day. Oblivious of the changing seasons, realizing nothing of the
solemnity of autumn, or the sad significance of the waning year, they
revel merely in the bonfire they have made, and are troubled by no fear
for the winter, or for the chance of spring.

In the several paintings from Keats’s “Isabella”—that favourite subject
of the early days of the Brotherhood—the contrast lies mainly in the
direction of individual character; the tragedy, in the power of such
character to work for evil against the good. Especially in Millais’s
masterpiece, “Lorenzo and Isabella,” are the beauty and graciousness of
Isabella and her lover set with a passionate intensity against the icy
cynicism and sensuous brutality of the brothers and their guests, and
the conflict is felt to be directly between malicious cruelty and
innocent love. On the other hand the devotion and self-abandonment of
Isabella’s thwarted passion find noble expression in the picture by
Holman Hunt. The figure of the weeping girl, who has risen from her bed
to worship at her strange and terrible shrine,—the Pot of Basil
containing her murdered lover’s head, is seen in the early light of
dawn, that almost quenches, in its pitiless coldness, the more tender
light of the lamp that burns in the little sanctuary of secret love. The
altar-cloth spread for the sacred relic is embroidered with a design of
passion-flowers, and every accessory is symbolic of Isabella’s grief and
despair. The same unique subject, it may here be noted, has inspired one
of the finest paintings of an artist worthily representative of the
younger generation of Pre-Raphaelites (if the name may be perpetuated
beyond its immediate and temporary significance)—Mr. J.M. Strudwick;
whose design, however, deals with the culmination of the tragedy, the
theft of the Pot of Basil by the guilty brothers, and the on-coming
madness of Isabella.

A stronger moral element is soon perceptible in the work of Rossetti and
Millais when they approach the poetry of Tennyson for subject matter,
and begin to draw upon the great cycle of Arthurian legends which he
restored in modern garb to English literature. Even outside the “Idylls
of the King,” in their paintings of Tennyson’s “Mariana,” the passion
and the mystery of romantic love are tempered with the growing
consciousness of moral responsibility, of Love’s heroic power to conquer
destiny—if only the appeals of the lower nature were not so urgent and
so sweet. In other words, the lower dualism has given place to the
higher; the conflict is not so much between the earthly joy and the
misfortune that threatens it in death or any calamity from the physical
sphere, but rather between the baser and the better life within. Of such
a spirit is the “Mariana” of Rossetti, kneeling and weeping in her
dimly-lit chamber in “The Heart of the Night,” or of Millais, wearily
casting away her unfinished work in the close prison of the “moated
grange”—that perfect allegory of modern love, pent in by the mire of
indolence and conventionality, and vainly dreaming of an unearned ideal;
waiting for the deliverance which, as Mariana scarcely comprehends, must
be a self-deliverance into nobler aims and higher standards of duty and
of intelligent sacrifice. The sense of a lofty spiritual destiny re-
enters at this point into Pre-Raphaelite art; the meaning of the search
for the Holy Grail is apparent still more clearly in Rossetti’s “Sir
Galahad in the Ruined Chapel,” and later, in Burne-Jones’s more severe
and chastened types of the pilgrim-knight. It has been charged against
both these painters that the physical beauty and glory of manhood was
almost wholly absent from their conception of life. Even in the nearest
approach to such a concession, in the latest romantic masterpiece of the
younger artist, “The Legend of the Briar Rose,” the asceticism learnt at
the Arthurian shrines persists, indeed, in the mellowness of his
maturity. The heroes of the Pre-Raphaelites are no muscular warriors, as
conventional art would portray them. They are concerned with inward
conflicts rather than with outward foes. They are the knights-errant of
a new chivalry,—to whom moral righteousness is a higher thing than
physical courage; self-conquest a nobler triumph than the routing of
armies. For they “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of
this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The whole
series of the Arthurian designs, from the illustrations to Moxon’s
“Tennyson” and the frescoes at Oxford, onward to the latest work of
Burne-Jones and his followers, are dominated by this idea of a spiritual
pilgrimage, as of beings exiled from a higher realm, which to regain
they must needs pass through the lower. “Their sojourn on earth,” says
M. Gabriel Sarrazin,[10] “oppresses these Pre-Raphaelites, lost among
our pre-occupations of business and of ease.”

And further, the sense of the supernatural world, of the struggle
between the spiritual and the physical in man, leads onward to the
conception of retribution and punishment, “not” (as Hegel puts it) “as
something arbitrary, but as _the other half of sin_.” The inexorableness
of the moral law could hardly be more finely suggested than in
Rossetti’s treatment of the guilty love of Lancelot and Guinevere. “King
Arthur’s Tomb,” despite its crudity and harshness of drawing, remains
among the most superb of his early drawings. The aged queen, now an
abbess honoured and revered, is visiting the tomb of the dead Arthur.
But not all her long atonement of remorse and piety can avail wholly to
blot out the sin of her youth. For even here, as she kneels to pray, the
dark and terrible ghost of Lancelot thrusts itself between her and the
pure effigy whose marble face she seeks in penitence and tears. The
converse of the picture was that of which Rossetti sought to make a
fresco on the ill-fated walls of the Oxford Debating Union. The design
represents “Sir Lancelot before the Shrine of the Sangrael.” He seems to
have almost attained the goal of his pilgrimage; the Holy Grail is just
within his grasp; but in the hour that might have brought victory, the
old sin brings mockery and defeat: the face that looks out at him from
the place of his hope is the sad, reproachful face of Guinevere.

With scarcely less of tragic force and direct solemnity does Rossetti
carry this thought of retribution into the world of mediæval Italy, into
the cycle of legend and romance that gathers round the name of Dante.
The love-story of “Paolo and Francesca da Rimini,” recorded by Dante in
the “Divina Comedia,” has been the theme of poets and painters for many
a year, and is the subject of one of the finest water-colour drawings
made in Rossetti’s transition period. Francesca, the wife of Lanciotto,
the deformed son of the lord of Rimini, fell in love with her husband’s
brother Paolo; and Lanciotto, discovering the two in guilty
companionship, put them both to death. In the fifth canto of the
“Inferno,” Dante describes the terrible sight permitted to him of the
condemned lovers in the second circle of Hell. Rossetti’s picture is in
triptych form, and in the centre are the figures of Dante and Virgil,
his guide. Above them is the brief inscription, “O Lasso!” In the left
compartment is depicted the fatal embrace of Paolo and Francesca at the
moment of the avowal of their love, when in reading together the story
of Lancelot, the book suddenly fell from their hands, and, as the
narrator simply confesses, “that day we read no more.” In the right-hand
space are seen the lovers, clasping each other wildly in the darkness
and among the furious storms of hell, unable to release themselves from
that fixed embrace. The characteristic idea of making the penalty
consist in the involuntary perpetuation of the sin,—the guilty love
becoming, as it were, its own sufficient punishment, belongs, of course,
to Dante, but is worked out with singular power in Rossetti’s design.
Not only is the stern and relentless fate portrayed with the utmost
sincerity in the sequel, but even in the first panel the thought of the
coming retribution is finely suggested by the introduction of one
sufficient touch at the background of the scene. Beneath the edge of a
curtain is seen the foot of the approaching husband, bringing his
vengeance and the lovers’ doom. The same subject has been more
elaborately and completely treated by Mr. G.F. Watts, whose picture
shows Francesca telling her sad tale to Dante and Virgil as they pass;
and the poet who is said to have known her on earth, and to have written
the record quoted from the “Inferno” in the house at Rimini in which she
was born, is depicted sinking in a swoon before her, overcome with pity
and with awe.

Again, and in a widely different field of dramatic narrative, does
Rossetti bring this passionate sense of retribution into play. His
drawing for the never-finished picture, “The Death of Lady Macbeth,” is
full of the same half-pitiful and half-triumphant spirit of righteous
vengeance, and the same perception of inexorable penalty. The aged and
dying woman crouching on her bed has once been comely and of commanding
countenance; and in her last hour the remembered beauty of her face, the
lingering majesty of her figure, seem to overawe her attendants, one of
whom presses a sponge to her head. In that changed face the conflict
between remorse and pride, ambition and terror, is still fierce and
strong; but she is dying utterly alone: there is no love, no tenderness,
in the ministry of those who gather round the murderess.

Still more clearly and resolutely is this perception of moral issues
sustained by the Pre-Raphaelites when they pass from history and legend
to classic mythology, to allegorical type, or to the dramatic
presentation of modern life. In the “Awakening Conscience” of Holman
Hunt, in the exquisitely pathetic “Psyche” of G.F. Watts, in the
“Hesterna Rosa,” “Gate of Memory,” and “Found” of Rossetti, the bitter
cost of sin is realized with unfaltering consistency. Rossetti’s long-
laboured and yet uncompleted “Found” may be taken as the companion, if
not the sequel, to his poem, “Jenny.” It shows us the last humiliation
of a ruined girl who is “found”—dying on the streets of London—by the
lover of her youth,—a countryman who has driven in with his milk-cart
through the chill light of a London dawn. All the pride and struggle of
the past is written on her once lovely face, and she shrinks in shame
and terror from his touch.

          “Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge,
          Under one mantle sheltered ’neath the hedge
            In gloaming courtship? And, O God! to-day
          He only knows he holds her;—but what part
          Can life now take? She cries in her locked heart,—
            ‘Leave me—I do not know you—go away!’”[11]

It might almost be the same sad girl that stands at “The Gate of
Memory,” watching a group of young and innocent maidens at play beside a

                “She leaned herself against the wall
                And longed for drink to slake her thirst
                And memory at once.”

A more original and striking composition is “Hesterna Rosa”—“Yesterday’s
Rose.” All the weird realism of Rossetti’s most mediæval manner pervades
this painfully impressive design;—mediæval in spirit, and yet almost
Hogarthian in its bold handling of human degradation and debauchery. The
motive is taken from “Elena’s Song” in Sir Henry Taylor’s “Philip van
Artevelde,” Part II., Act v.:

                “Quoth tongue of neither maid nor wife
                  To heart of neither wife nor maid,
                ‘Lead we not here a jolly life,
                  Betwixt the shrine and shade?’

                “Quoth heart of neither maid nor wife
                  To tongue of neither wife nor maid,
                ‘Thou wag’st, but I am worn with strife,
                  And feel like flowers that fade.’”

The scene is in a tent at early daybreak, amid a group of gamblers and
depraved women throwing dice. But one of them is a girl still beautiful,
and not yet hardened by the coarseness of her new life. She shrinks from
the kiss of the player who bends over her hand. “Yesterday’s Rose” is
not wholly faded; only her first fresh bloom is gone; she has bartered
it irretrievably for her chance in the desperate game of passion, like
the vengeful woman in “The Laboratory,” offering her pearls to buy
poison for her enemy. The contrast between the shamed “rose” and her
brutalized companions is emphasized by the tender light of the dawn,
which creeps through the orchard trees outside, and makes the lamp
within appear more yellow and dull and weak.

Entirely modern in spirit and execution is Holman Hunt’s treatment of a
similar theme. The “Awakening Conscience” is that of a girl idling with
her paramour in a newly and luxuriously furnished room. He has been
singing to her, not noticing the change in her face, and his hands still
pass carelessly over the pianoforte keys. But the words of the song—
Moore’s “Oft in the Stilly Night”—have stirred a sudden anguish in her
heart; she has started up, tortured with long pent memories and overcome
with shame and despair. The utter falsity of her new surroundings seems
to strike her as she gazes round the cruelly unhomelike home. A terrible
symbolism confronts her on every side; the showy tapestry is woven with
a design of ripe corn on which the carrion birds are feeding; the
picture hanging above the mantelpiece represents the woman taken in
adultery. The tragic intensity of the painting is hardly surpassed by
any other of the artist’s work.

Far back in the golden ages of classic myth, the ever-significant story
of “Psyche” suggests the same stern lesson,—of the irretrievable loss
which comes by violation of the moral law or disobedience to the dicta
of those “gods” by which the men of old time knew the divine and
imperative instincts of the soul. The fall of Psyche has its message for
to-day. It was made known to her that the god Eros should come to earth
to be her husband. In the darkness of the night he should visit her bed,
and there he should vouchsafe to her the sacrament of his love,—but on
one condition: that she should never seek to look upon his face, or lift
the veil of mystery by which Nature shrouded the sanctities of the
godhead from her eyes. But Psyche’s curiosity overcame her reverence and
trustfulness. In her eagerness to know Love’s sacred secrets and lay
bare the holiest of holies upon earth, she took a lamp, and would have
looked boldly at her visitant. But immediately the spell was broken; the
heavenly Eros fled from her, never to return. The widowed Psyche, in Mr.
Watts’s picture, stands ashamed and broken-hearted, knowing too late the
prize that she has forfeited. Her drooping figure is the embodiment of
dazed remorse. She has dared to trifle with the divinest things, to be
familiar with that which is rare, to probe too curiously into the mystic
borderland between earth and heaven. The devout sense of the limitations
of man’s knowledge, and of the penalty attaching to any impious
familiarity with the supernatural world, has thus its roots in
Hellenism, but attains its finest flower in the spirit of romance. It is
the blending of the sensuous dignity of classicism with the subtle
tenderness of romance that gives so fine a pathos to this poor
“Psyche,”—typical as she is of the modern age, mourning the lost mystery
which its own thirst for knowledge at all hazards has dispelled; or
again, that places Rossetti’s “Pandora” and “Proserpine” in the highest
rank of contemporary art. For Proserpine too has eaten the forbidden
fruit of the lower knowledge, whereby the higher wisdom is driven away.
She has eaten one grain of the fatal pomegranate of Hades, which
enchains her to the lower world; and only at rare seasons can her
sullied spirit attain the upper air. Her troubled face, as she stands in
the picture, in a gloomy corridor of her prison-palace, with the broken
fruit in her hand, seems to tell of the long struggle of a soul that,
having once tasted the coarser joys, has become less sensitive to the
higher, and is torn between the baser enchantment and the pure delights
which it longs to regain. A critic already quoted[12] has pointed out
that there is “always in Rossetti’s women the kind of sorrow that
ennobles affection.” The painter never loses the sense of conflict
between the dangers of the physical nature and the glories of the spirit
which it serves. The sorrow of his great “Pandora,” even more than of
the beautiful “Proserpine,” is the sorrow of a goddess over her own
infirmity. She has opened the mystic casket which she was bidden to keep
sealed, and now she stands helpless before the witness of her deed. The
potent spirits are escaping from the box, and she can never undo the
mischief she has done. “The whole design,” says Mr. Swinburne, “is among
Rossetti’s mightiest in its godlike terror and imperial trouble of
beauty, shadowed by the smoke and fiery vapour of winged and fleshless
passions crowding from the casket in spires of flame-lit and curling
cloud round her fatal face and mourning veil of hair.”

          “What of the end, Pandora? Was it thine,
            The deed that set these fiery pinions free?
            Ah! wherefore did the Olympian consistory
          In its own likeness make thee half divine?
          Was it that Juno’s brow might stand a sign
            For ever, and the mien of Pallas be
            A deadly thing? And that all men might see
          In Venus’ eyes the gaze of Proserpine?

          What of the end? These beat their wings at will,
          The ill-born things, the good things turned to ill,—
            Powers of the impassioned hours prohibited.
          Ay, clench the casket now! Whither they go
          Thou may’st not dare to think: nor canst thou know
            If Hope still pent there be alive or dead.”[13]

It follows, then, that the earnest apprehension of the spiritual sphere,
and of a divine justice and retribution for sin, will give a special
power and reality to pictures dealing with a crisis of duty, or a moment
of choice between martyrdom and sin. Such a choice, such a
responsibility, is the motive of some of the finest work of Millais’s
transition period,—“The Hugenot,” “The Proscribed Royalist,” “The
Rescue,” and “The Black Brunswicker.” “The Hugenot” is probably the most
popular, as it is the most perfect, of the painter’s earlier
masterpieces. The story which it tells is explained in its full title:
“A Hugenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, refusing to shield himself from
danger by wearing the Roman Catholic badge.” “When the clock of the
Palais de Justice shall sound upon the great bell at daybreak” (so ran
the order of the Duke of Guise), “then each good Catholic must bind a
strip of white linen round his arm, and place a fair white cross in his
cap.” A Catholic lady is beseeching her Protestant lover to wear the
white scarf which will preserve him from the coming massacre. Her
beautiful face is drawn with anxious terror as she tries to bind the
kerchief round his arm, but he, embracing her, draws it resolutely away;
the mental struggle is not his, but hers; in spite of the tenderness of
his face, there is a certain sternness and solemnity in it which tells
that nothing will move him from his purpose; that he is ready, and
gladly ready, for martyrdom. The girl’s love pleads vainly against his
duty and his doom. In “The Black Brunswicker,” which formed the pendant
to “The Hugenot,” the same drama of conflicting love and duty is set
forth, though with less convincing fervour and exalted passion than
before. The lady seems to be of French family, and is somewhat pettishly
delaying the departure of her lover, an officer of the Black Brunswick
corps, before the Battle of Waterloo. The converse of the choice of man
and woman between disloyalty and death is nobly given us by Holman Hunt
in his “Claudio and Isabella” (from Shakespeare’s “Measure for
Measure”), where the heroism and the devotion lie on the woman’s side.
Claudio has been condemned to death, and his sister’s honour is asked as
the price of his release. She visits him in prison, clad in her nun’s
garb, and Claudio—the human craving for life conquering for the moment
his better nature, cries out in a half shamed appeal, “O Isabel, ...
death is a fearful thing.” But Isabella, standing before him, pressing
her hands against his heart, her face full of pity and distress, gives
back her resolute answer, “And shaméd life a hateful!”

Together with the conception of duty in its relation to romantic love is
linked the ideal of chivalry,—of the immediate glory of duty and its
supreme rewards, especially when exercised in championship of the weak,
of a defenceless foe, or of womanhood. The splendour of physical courage
tends always to give place to the power of moral courage, as in mercy
and forgiveness rather than in revenge; or if the physical courage be
brought into play, it will, in progress of civilization be applied to
deeds of helpfulness instead of cruelty. The nobility of true
knighthood, which Rossetti conceived almost exclusively in the mediæval
spirit, and presented with exquisite verve and passion in his little
sketches of “St. George” and the “Princess Sabra,” and of which the
converse—the potential knightliness of woman—was suggested both by
Rossetti and Millais in their “Joan of Arc” designs, finds full
expression in the latter’s picture of “Sir Isumbras at the Ford.” An
aged knight, clad in splendid armour, and bearing with courtly dignity
his honours and his years, is fording a river on his war-horse, and
pauses to lift up two little peasant children who have asked him to
carry them to the other side. The simple graciousness and humility of
the act seem to transfigure the old warrior’s face, which is further lit
by the rich light of the landscape in the setting sun. By the side of
this great painting should be set the earlier, but in great measure the
companion work, “The Rescue,” in which the same artist translates the
thought of beneficent chivalry into modern and familiar life. For the
knight of “The Rescue” is a London fireman, in the act of saving three
children from a burning house. The light that suffuses his calmly heroic
face is not the natural radiance of a sunset glow, but the fierce glare
of flames around the staircase, down which he brings his precious burden
safe and sound. “The Rescue” is a poem of modern chivalry in a great
crisis: “Sir Isumbras” celebrates mediæval chivalry in common things.
The strong self-possession of the fireman in the midst of imminent
peril, beset on all sides by heat, smoke, water, and burning brands, not
callous or insensible to fear, but superior to it, gives us, as it were,
the other side of that perfect knighthood suggested by the simple
kindness of “Sir Isumbras at the Ford.” In both these pictures, as
indeed in “The Hugenot” and in Hunt’s “Claudio and Isabella,” the
impression conveyed is not merely of a momentary heroism of choice or
deed, but of the long discipline which must have gone to produce it, and
of what all goodness costs to the life and lives behind it. It is in
these aspects that the Pre-Raphaelites portray, as we have already
contended, not merely action but character; not drama only, but the
hidden forces of human struggle and circumstance which give the drama
its meaning for all time.

But great as are these pictures in thought and emotion, excellent as are
most of them in technical quality, they are even surpassed, in the sheer
passion of romantic worship, in the purest essence of religious
chivalry, by one of the earliest and, technically, crudest paintings of
Burne-Jones in what may fairly be called his Rossettian period. “The
Merciful Knight” stands apart, in its desperate realism, its mystic
exaltation and fervour, its emotional abandonment, from all the ethereal
and chastened ideals of his imaginative maturity. It represents a phase
of feeling very transitory, for the most part, with the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood,—a return to the most devout and ascetic mediævalism,
untempered by the larger Hellenic spirit which re-awoke in modern
romance. And, full charged as it is with the inspiration of Rossetti in
drawing and colour, its religious severity links it rather to the manner
of Holman Hunt. It tells the story “of a knight who forgave his enemy
when he might have destroyed him, and how the image of Christ kissed
him, in token that his acts had pleased God.” Low at a wayside shrine
bends the Merciful Knight, prostrated by the spiritual struggle between
magnanimity and vengeance which he has just passed through. And as he
kneels in mingled prayer and thankfulness over his own self-conquest and
moral victory, the image of Christ, rudely carved and hanging on a
simple cross, bends down, miraculously moved, to kiss his cheek. Rarely
if ever have the Pre-Raphaelite painters surpassed in any field the
emotional power of this great design. The conflict between loyalty to a
cause and charity towards its fallen enemy was for some years a
favourite subject with the Pre-Raphaelites of every grade. It yielded
the motive, for instance, of Millais’s “Proscribed Royalist,” in which a
Puritan lady secretly conveys food to her lover, a Cavalier, who is in
hiding in a woodland oak; of W.S. Burton’s “Puritan,” where the austere
lady, walking with her lover, takes pity on a dying Cavalier, wounded by
Roundhead soldiers in a wood; and of W.L. Windus’s “Outlaw,” similarly
hurt and tended in an equally sylvan scene. But in none of these cases
is the spiritual struggle of the ministering visitant portrayed with an
intensity at all to be compared with the exalted passion that dominates
“The Merciful Knight.”

Such are the principal stages of thought and feeling through which the
Pre-Raphaelite painters pass—in no given order indeed, but with a wholly
intelligible sequence of ideas—from the first impulses of romance—the
apprehension of the supernatural, of the mystery of fate, of the moral
order, and the divine possibilities of human life—to that highest
idealism of romantic love, and of its power over death and destiny,
which we find in their interpretation of Keats’s “Eve of St. Agnes,” and
supremely in Rossetti’s imaginative treatment of the love of Dante for
Beatrice. Something of the mystical glory of a pure and lofty passion,
and of the power of perfect womanhood to raise, as in Keats’s poem, the
earthlier elements of love into the very essence of worship, appears in
Hunt’s early picture, “The Flight of Madeline and Porphyro,” and in the
triptych of “The Eve of St. Agnes,” by Arthur Hughes; but its most
complete expression, apart from Rossetti, must be sought in Millais’s
“St. Agnes’ Eve,”—in the opinion of many, the greatest of his paintings;
the consummation of that wonderful aftermath of poetic genius which
followed a full decade later than what seemed to be his prime. For the
beauty of Madeline, by a significant paradox, is that she is not
beautiful. Her attitude is daringly simple; she is standing by her bed
in the moonlight, half-unclad; her gown has slipped from her waist to
her feet, and the keen, silver-blue rays creep softly about her slender
figure and shed a faint light into the foreground of the deep-shadowed
room. Yet with all the mellow tenderness of colour and atmosphere that
wrap her round, there is in no detail of her form or gesture, or the
aspect of her averted face, the slightest appeal to the sensuous
possibilities of the scene. There is about her an extraordinary
spiritual loveliness, born of the utter artlessness and sincerity of her
pose and the girlish innocence of her look, as if the absolute
naturalness of the situation were its own protection from all thought of
ill. Everything around her speaks of her simple holiness and purity, and
seals, as it were, the pledge of the answering purity of Porphyro’s

But it is in the presence of the greatest romantic passion known to
European poetry—the ideal, immortal love of Dante for Beatrice—that Pre-
Raphaelite painting reaches, in the art of Rossetti, the acme of its
power to transfigure and interpret the highest experiences of the human
soul. With the most chastened symbolism, the finest selectiveness of
design and colouring, the loftiest fervour of thought and expression,
Rossetti unfolds to us the inmost glories of Platonic love, as Dante
knew it, and Michaelangelo; and as our own age vaguely but with
increasing aspiration seeks it through many an error and much pain. He
leads us in imagination through the sacred course of that all-embracing
worship which upheld the soul of Dante through every vicissitude of toil
and trial, from the first hour in which the smile of the Blessed
Beatrice made the boy’s heart tremble for joy, until the solemn moment
of resignation when “it was made known to him that his beloved Lady must
die.” Again and again did Rossetti attempt the unwearying subject of
“The Salutation of Beatrice.” The most important that remain to us of
those efforts, which in one medium or another cover nearly the whole of
his artistic career, are the early water-colour sketches in which the
scene of the fateful meeting is laid in the portico of a church; the
diptych showing in one compartment Beatrice saluting Dante in a street
in Florence, while in the other she appears to him in a field of lilies
in Paradise (“Il Purgatorio,” canto 30); the triptych repeating the same
designs, but having in the centre panel a figure of Love holding a dial
whereon is marked the date (June 9, 1290) of the salutation; and a much
later version in single form, representing Beatrice, walking alone in
Florence, within sight of Dante, but watched over by the guardian figure
of Love, with crimson robe and wings. Of these works, the triptych is
perhaps the most perfect. The left compartment is inscribed with Dante’s
words, “E cui saluta fà tremar lo core,” and the right with those of the
salutation in Paradise, “Guardami ben; ben son, ben son Beatrice”
(“Behold and see if I am truly Beatrice”).

Again we see the gracious lady passing before the eyes of her young
lover in a procession through the chapel at Bargello, while above her is
depicted “Giotto painting the portrait of Dante,”—a portrait actually
discovered five centuries later on the chapel wall. Once more, Rossetti
pictures Beatrice embarking with Dante in “The Boat of Love.” The motive
of this work is taken from Dante’s sonnet to Guido Calvacanti, his poet-
friend (who figures, together with Cimabue, the master of Giotto, in the
sketch above mentioned), beginning:

         “Guido, I would that Lapo, thou, and I
           Were taken by some skilled enchanted spell,
           And placed on board a barque that should speed well
         Through wind and wave, and with our will comply.”

With reverent humility and tenderness Dante is leading Beatrice into the
enchanted boat of which he dreamed. She yields her hands to him and
seems to pause beneath his earnest gaze as she steps down. Around her
are the companions of their voyage,—Guido Calvacanti with his lady
Giovanna, also known as Primavera, and Lapo degli Uberti and his love.

“Beata Beatrix,”—“The Blessed Beatrice,”—depicts, not the actual death
of Dante’s beloved, but rather a mystic trance in which is made known to
her the nearness of her end. She sits on a balcony overlooking the city
of Florence, which is already shadowed by the coming loss. Before her is
a sundial, marking the fatal hour. A dove, flying into her lap, carries
a poppy-blossom, the symbol of sleep. The lovely face of Beatrice is
upturned, as if to greet the unseen messenger, and full of perfect
peace. She seems to have attained the sight of blessedness, and to be
yielding her spirit to a deep and sweet content, but the earthly
weariness lingers about her brows and on her pale and parted lips. In
the background, Dante and the figure of Love are seen passing in the
street below. Love holds a flaming heart in his hands, and they both
gaze in grief and awe at the rapt countenance which the dignity of the
coming death suffuses with exquisite pathos and transcendent charm. In
the features of this Beatrice, more than in any other, Rossetti has
regained and embodied the thought that found superlative expression in
Michaelangelo,—“the notion of _inspired_ sleep, of faces charged with

A more familiar passage from the “Vita Nuova” is illustrated by the
largest, and in many respects the finest, of Rossetti’s completed
pictures, “Dante’s Dream;” dealing with the poet’s record of the vision
in which “it was revealed to him that the Lord God of Justice had called
his most gracious lady unto Himself.” “Then feeling bewildered,” says
Dante, writing of that strange experience, which occurred to him at the
age of twenty-five, “I closed mine eyes, and my brain began to be in
travail, as the brain of one frantic. And I seemed to look toward
Heaven, and to behold a multitude of angels who were returning upwards,
having before them an exceedingly white cloud. Then my heart, that was
so full of love, said unto me, ‘It is true that our lady lieth dead;’
and it seemed to me that I went to look upon the body wherein that
blessed and most noble spirit had had its abiding place. And so strong
was this idle imagining that it made me to behold my lady in death;
whose head certain ladies seemed to be covering with a white veil, and
who was so humble of her aspect that it was as though she had said, ‘I
have attained to look on the beginning of peace.’” On a red-draped couch
in the chamber of death lies the Blessed Beatrice, clad in white robes,
her hands folded on her bosom, and her bright hair spread about her
pillow. Her maidens, at her head and feet, are hanging over her a purple
pall, filled with May-blossoms, the emblem of the spring-time of her
life, in which she died. The floor is strewn with poppies, symbolizing
again the sleep in which she takes her unbroken rest; and on the frieze
above are roses and violets, suggestive of the beauty and purity of the
departed soul. Over the couch hangs a lamp, glimmering with a fast-
expiring flame; and high up in air, through an opening in the roof, is
seen a flight of angels, garbed in the deep red of a damask rose,—
symbolic of the Platonic love which should immortalize the beloved in
the sight of all men,—and bearing the white cloud that represents the
life that has fled. The crimson doves, of which Rossetti made his
constant symbol of heavenly ministries, flutter up and down the
staircases on either side of the room. Before the couch stands the
figure of Love, with his flame-coloured robes fastened at the shoulder
by a scallop-shell, signifying pilgrimage. In one hand he holds a winged
arrow—his weapon for the heart—and a bunch of rosemary; with the other
he leads Dante, who, clad in the black garb of mourning, tinged with the
purple of consecration, advances as if in a dream, and shrinks, dazed
and awed, before the beauty of the dead Beatrice. And Love, still
holding Dante by the hand, bends forward and kisses the face of the
beloved, thus making himself the mediator between Dante and Beatrice,
and the reconciler of life with death. It is as though the poet’s life-
long worship were summed up and presented at the gate of heaven by a
higher power than his own, and a benediction wrested for him, by the
very humility and devoutness of his passion, from the glorified spirit
beyond the grave. The dominant note of the design is one of resignation
and hope; the passionate, strenuous, mystical resignation which
Platonism brought into Christianity at the dawn of the Renaissance, and
hope, born of the quickened fervour and resolution of romantic love.

In two notable subjects Rossetti deals with incidents recorded by Dante
of himself after the death of Beatrice. In a early water-colour of
singular dignity and elevation of feeling, he celebrates “The
Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice.” “On that day,” says Dante in the
“Vita Nuova,” “which completed the year since my lady had been made of
the citizens of eternal life, I was sitting in a place apart, where,
remembering me of her, I was drawing an angel upon certain tablets; and
as I drew, I turned my eyes, and saw beside me persons to whom it was
fitting to do honour, and who were looking at what I did: and according
as it was told me afterwards, they had been there awhile before I
perceived them. Then I arose for salutation and said, ‘Another was
present with me.’” The poet, kneeling at a window overlooking the Arno,
absorbed in his memorial task, has suddenly become conscious of his
visitors, and is overwhelmed with delicate pride and shame.

                          “OUR LADY OF PITY.”

                       From an unfinished study.

           _By permission of the Corporation of Birmingham._


Again, among the latest of Rossetti’s unfinished works, we have the
illustration of another passage in the “Vita Nuova,” telling of Dante’s
mourning for his lady’s death. “La Donna della Finestra” (“The Lady of
the Window”), better known as “Our Lady of Pity,” represents the
beautiful woman who looked down on Dante from a window when, as he
passed weeping through the streets, and fearing lest the passers-by
should mock him, he glanced up, craving for some sign of sympathy, and
was consoled by her calm and pitying gaze. Sketches for this design were
made in several media, but the head in the unfinished painting at
Birmingham is the most perfect of the series, and in fact ranks among
the finest of the female heads in all Rossetti’s single-figure pictures.
The artist has caught with rare felicity the expression so acutely
described by the poet:

              “Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,
              Her eyes directed towards me with that look
              A mother casts on a delirious child.”

All the depth, all the tenderness, all the heroic strength of a divine
sorrow that sees the end of sorrow, shines in this full-souled face. It
is the ideal of the highest womanhood, and indeed of the highest
humanity; of the love that has attained to be godlike, redeeming the
world by infinite compassion; a love that “hopeth all things and
endureth all things,” and in whose steadfast courage lies the conquering
principle of the life to be. It is the companion picture—and in some
respects it is a nobler, healthier version—of “The Blessed Damozel,”
leaning from the bar of heaven to console the mourner on the earth
below. The love that can so take hold of immortality, bring comfort even
from the gates of death, and bridge over, by the sweet persistence of
its ministry, by the passionate reality of its inspiration, the gulf
between the physical and the spiritual world, is the love which of old
was the source of the “Vita Nuova,” and which springs anew in our own
age through “Our Lady of Pity” and “The Blessed Damozel.” In such
designs Rossetti has restored to us all that was best in the mediæval
thought of womanhood,—adding the “ever-motherly” to the “ever-womanly”
of the Hellenic model, and the Divine Motherhood to the Divine
Fatherhood of the Christian ideal; and enriched it with the whole wealth
of psycho-sensuous beauty brought over from the region of romance. And
in this consummation is justified the verdict of Ruskin: that “Rossetti
was the chief intellectual force in the establishment of the modern
romantic school in England.”


Footnote 9:

  William Tirebuck: “D.G. Rossetti; his work and influence.”

Footnote 10:

  Gabriel Sarrazin: “Poètes Modernes d’Angleterre.”

Footnote 11:

  Rossetti’s sonnet, “Found.”

Footnote 12:

  Rev. P.F. Forsyth: “Religion in Recent Art.”

Footnote 13:

  Rossetti’s sonnet, “Pandora.”

Footnote 14:

  Walter Pater, “The Renaissance: Studies of Art and Poetry.”

                             CHAPTER VIII.
                     THE POETRY OF DANTE ROSSETTI.

The “Pre-Raphaelite” in Literature—The Complexity of Talent in an Age of
    Re-birth—The Restoration of Romance in England—The Latin and the
    Saxon in Rossetti—Latin Diction for the Sonnets as Reflective
    Poetry—Saxon Diction for the Ballads as Dramatic Poetry—“The House
    of Life”—Treatment of Romantic Love—Illustrations of Sonnet
    Structure—Miscellaneous Lyrics—“The Portrait,” “The Stream’s
    Secret,” “Dante at Verona,” “The Staff and Scrip”—The Ballads—“The
    White Ship,” “The King’s Tragedy,” “Sister Helen,” “Rose Mary,” “The
    Bride’s Prelude,” “The Blessed Damozel”—“A Last Confession”—“Jenny”—
    Relation of Rossetti’s Poetry to his Painting.

The poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti lies apart from the main current of
contemporary verse, both in its highly specialized quality of thought
and language, and in the conditions and circumstances of its production.
Inasmuch as he followed openly the profession of a painter, pursuing
poetry, for the most part, as a recreative rather than a principal study
(though never with less seriousness than his accepted vocation), and
publishing his first volume of original poems in his forty-second year,
he is exempt to some extent from the standards of criticism applied to
him whose creative energies are concentrated in the field of literature.
Whether Rossetti’s genius, as he himself believed, found its highest and
most perfect embodiment in poetry rather than in painting,—whether the
essential qualities of his art will be more evident to posterity in the
modest volume of his collected poems than in the pictures now dispersed
through England and America—is still an open question. It may, however,
be admitted that his mastery of the verbal medium was almost always more
complete, his discipline in metrical structure more thorough, and his
natural habit of diction more facile, than any skill which he attained
in brush and pencil. To estimate his final influence upon contemporary
thought in the one realm as against the other is yet more difficult than
to assess the relative merit of his actual work in either sphere: so
intimately was the poet incarnate in the painter; so largely did the
painter’s vision inspire and dominate the poet.

But it would be a poor analysis that should divide too finely the
interwoven threads of a radiant and many-coloured genius. In an age of
intellectual re-birth, of artistic and social revolution, the re-
adjustment of forces and functions in the ethical and æsthetical realms
is apt to produce a strange complexity of talent, not always beneficial
to a single art, not always well for the diversely endowed artist, but
often tending to the unification of many activities into one effective
stream of purpose, moved by the impulse that infused the nation with a
Time-Spirit potent for immortal things. Such a combination of talent in
single personalities, in a period of rare national fertility in
scholarship and creative power, reveals at the same time the basic unity
of the æsthetic life and its inseparable interdependence with the moral
ideal. Michaelangelo, at the zenith of the Italian Renaissance, standing
at the parting of the ways, gathered up, as it seemed, the several arts
into his representative genius, and left to the land that was soon to
swamp the æsthetic spirit in the mire of a materialistic decadence the
threefold heritage of his painting, his sculpture, and his song.
Rossetti, at the zenith of the English Renaissance, drew a twofold
inspiration from the struggle of the modern world, and left the double
dower of painting and of poetry, to urge the coming generation to the
higher issues of fine art, or to stand, the witness of rejected ideals
to ages recalcitrant to the vision and the impulse of to-day.

For the first greatness of Rossetti’s poetry is that it assumes for ever
the reality and the immanence of a spiritual—and more—a moral world. Not
that he ever misuses the vehicles of art as tools of philosophy, or
stoops to a didactic application of æsthetic truth. But his art is all
moral (as Mr. Ruskin would put it) because it is all fine art. And the
moral purpose of art is the better secured when art is trusted to effect
that purpose in its own way. The consciously didactic poet is less sure
to mould the will and character of a people, than he the form and
substance of whose utterance are so perfected in truth and virility of
thought, in majesty and grace of speech, as to be a fit oblation to his
own ideal. Not “how can I best teach others and influence them aright?”
but “how can I best express the highest things I know and feel?” is the
self-examination of the true artist. Rossetti’s poetry is self-
expressive, self-revealing to the very heart’s core. The ultimate test
of poetry is not “what did this man intend to teach us?” but “of what
sort is the manhood here revealed? what are the visions by which it
lived? what the ideals in which it grew? Is such a soul’s experience
wide, deep, typical, and profitable to the rest of mankind?”

In applying such a test to the writings of Rossetti, it is necessary to
distinguish between what may be roughly termed the “personal” and the
“impersonal” poems. In the one class, supremely exemplified by the
“House of Life” sonnets, but including also “Dante at Verona,” “The
Stream’s Secret,” “The Portrait,” and many of the shorter lyrics, the
personal note of love or grief, of memory or hope, is wholly dominant;
the poet’s soul is absorbed with its individual being, and sees in all
the life around him the illustration and interpretation of his own. In
the other class, in the great romantic ballads, in “Rose Mary” and “The
Blessed Damozel,” in “The White Ship” and “The King’s Tragedy,” in “The
Bride’s Prelude” and “Sister Helen,” the imagination takes a higher and
a larger range; the one soul interprets others, waiting not to be
interpreted. The art becomes impersonal in this sense only—that the
thought of self is merged in the full and immense life of humanity,
laying hold of the universal consciousness through its own initiative
experience; the heart beats with the world’s heart, shares its eternal
struggles, contributes to its eternal growth; and the spirit knows
itself one fragment of an infinite whole. In such a sphere the art
remains the more vitally personal, in that the poet brings the mysteries
of existence, the abiding problems and realities of the conscious world,
to the touchstone, as it were, of his own spirit, and submits himself
thereby to the more crucial test,—of how he can interpret humanity to
man, and make more clear the knowledge, more possible the realization,
of his highest ideals.

With this general division of the subject-matter of Rossetti’s poetry,
the classification of its metrical cast and forms of diction will be
singularly parallel. Most of his finest compositions might be
distinguished as purely Saxon or pre-eminently Latin poems; and it is
notable that the more intimately subjective and analytic the thought
within, the more persistently does it assume the Latin garb; while as
the imagination ranges from the introspection of the hyper-conscious
self, and finds, on the heights of common human feeling and aspiration,
a larger and a freer air, the mode passes into the more keen and
rarified Saxon speech. No other English poet has resolved the breadth
and simplicity of the Gothic, and the depth and intensity of the Italian
habit of expression, into such distinctive poetic vehicles. But at the
same time few have blended the diverse elements of the modern English
tongue into the harmony and sonority with which Rossetti’s music thrills
when he tempers the sharper Saxon with a deep undertone of polysyllabic
song; or stirs the languorous pulses of a sonnet with some swift cadence
of familiar words. He had the finest perception of national and racial
properties of form and rhythm; and discerning the characteristics of the
poetry of action in the literature of the north, and the poetry of
reflection in the literature of the south, he cast his great historical
lyrics in the highest narrative—that is to say, the ballad form; and
chose the sonnet—the most remote, chastened, and exclusive vehicle—for
the meditative, and yet sensuous, self-delineative love-poetry.

These broad generalizations, however, cannot be closely pressed upon the
entire sequence of Rossetti’s poems. The exigencies of the English
language alone elude their literal application. They will rather serve
to illustrate the duality of his endowments, and the singular power of
his genius both to conserve and specialize the characteristics of his
Italian heritage, and also to waive them in the Saxon mode as utterly as
though the latter were more native to his tongue.

Nor does such a superficial distinction affect the spiritual qualities
which pervade Rossetti’s poetry as a whole. From first to last, in
dramatic description or narrative, in sonnet-argument or meditative
questioning, his verse remains full-charged with the very essence of
romance. As a poet, he is neither less nor more Pre-Raphaelite than as a
painter. The vivid and intense simplicity of his Saxon diction, the
verbal lightnings of his ballad-style, seem to correspond with the tone
and method of his water-colour painting, and the more laboured splendour
of the sonnets with the properties of his work in oils. Nor is it
difficult to detect an analogy between that stage of his painting in
which the pristine lucidity of expression was partially lost in the
painful tension of his later thought, and the tendency of some few of
his sonnets towards decadence into the over-laborious and the obscure.
Yet if by “Pre-Raphaelite” we understand that fusion of the naïve
mysticism of romance with austere Platonic Hellenism which we discern in
the best Renaissance art, Rossetti never falls in spirit from that
standard of beauty and truth; and rarely lapses, through the very
richness and fecundity of the language at his command, into the
redundant verbiage towards which his sensuous imagery was easily led. It
has remained for a brother-poet of the romantic revival to cultivate a
more marvellous dexterity of rhyme and rhythm, and to develop the
technical resources of our language to the utmost limits of intelligible
song. The lyrics of Mr. Swinburne, like the superb decorative
extravagances of the later Renaissance, represent that culmination of
mastery over the forms of expression wherein to-day, as of yore, the
purity of the thought is lost in the splendour of the setting, and
poetic power wastes itself in a magic facility of verse.

The poetry of Rossetti, modern as it is in its passionate grasp of human
interests, its deep insight into present and perpetual things, links
itself nevertheless to an English past; takes up, as it were, the
dropped threads of Elizabethan glory; re-inspires the circling breath of
life which passed round Europe in the fifteenth century, kindling
England from the fires of re-awakened Italy in the golden age of song.
It has already been pointed out by one of Rossetti’s biographers that
“the malign influence over our literature in post-Shakespearean times
has been French.” It was reserved for a second Renaissance, heralded by
Chatterton and Blake, led by Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge, and
culminated by Dante Rossetti, to blot out two centuries of foreign
tradition and control, and take us back to the broad simplicity and
dignity of Shakespeare’s England.

Our reiteration, therefore, of the term “Pre-Raphaelite” in approaching
Rossetti’s work as a poet, leads us to expect, not mysticism merely, but
a certain robust sensuousness, as of Pagan origin, in his interpretation
of life and destiny. The romantic temper in its highest manifestations,
absorbing and transfiguring, rather than conflicting with, the classic
ideals, implies much more than receptivity to newer beauty and truth. It
has a moral basis and an intellectual range: it apprehends the spiritual
world as something closely bound up with familiar things: it finds the
human soul striving for expression through material forms: it recognizes
the divine possibilities of individual and social life, the force and
responsibility of personal character, and the solemnity of the choice
between good and evil daily made by man.

But the controversy excited by Rossetti’s pictures has been neither more
intemperate nor more significant than that which has raged around his
poems;—interpreted by one section of his critics as a pæan of sensuality
and materialism, by another as the most spiritual and chastened love-
poetry of the age. The laureate of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood indeed
summed up, in what now affords but one volume of original verse, the
inmost vicissitudes of a spirit so rare and rich of vision as to
transcend at once the canons of conventional experience. But the
personal note, in the self-delineative poems, is struck with a peculiar
dignity of reserve; and even while the most sacred depths of individual
consciousness are laid bare, the actual _ego_ is never intruded upon the
surface of the speech,—never portrays directly its own character, seldom
describes its own sensations as Byron or Shelley would; but veils
itself, even in the profusion of luminous imagery and searching analysis
of thought and sense.

The eternal mysteries and sanctities of sexual love, conceived in its
highest aspects and known as a revelation and a sacrament, afford the
theme of nearly all Rossetti’s autobiographic poetry. The conditions of
its production were ordained by the stern fate that linked him afar off
to Dante among his countrymen, and near at hand to two brother-mourners
among minor English bards—James Thomson and Philip Bourke Marston—in the
sad fraternity of poets whom death has prematurely robbed of the beloved
object that once inspired their song. The exalted spirituality which
marks Rossetti’s treatment of this theme was doubtless largely due to
the influence of Dante, and especially to the fruitful inspiration and
discipline of the great literary task of his youth—the translation of
the “Vita Nuova” and kindred examples of the early Italian poets—than
which Rossetti could have hardly found a better preparation for his work
that was to come.

Into his great sonnet-sequence, “The House of Life,” Rossetti poured the
full passion of his mystic love,—partially inherent in his own sensuous,
imaginative, and introspective nature, partially instilled at the feet
of Dante; and learned—a bitter and a costly lesson—at the school of
experience also; fraught with inestimable joy and sorrow to his own
soul. “At an age,” says one writing of that hard probation, “when most
men have outlived the romances of their youth, Rossetti was laying, in
‘The House of Life,’ the foundations of a new school of love-poetry.” He
was in fact re-creating the æsthetic life of a nation; restoring to it,
through the alembic of mediæval and Renaissance thought, the lost glory
of all that was abidingly precious in the Platonic world. For in this
wondrous cycle of sonnets is re-coined the whole language of ideal love.
From the last echo of the “Vita Nuova” it takes up the same pure strain,
and sings again the song of Dante for the Blessed Beatrice; hymning the
very apotheosis of spiritual passion, and harmonizing once more in
English poetry the intellectual with the sensuous world. Never, in the
superb visions of “The House of Life”—in which the soul of man is
pictured sojourning awhile during its solemn and fateful passage through
eternity—never does the physical love become the stumbling-block to the
spiritual, but always the key to it. The “body’s beauty” is only
precious as the witness of the “soul’s beauty;” the physical bond is
nothing if not the symbol of a spiritual affinity, a sacred kinship,
fore-ordained, if not eternal, sealed in Heaven and consecrated to the
divinest purposes; the sensuous rapture is but a symbolic worship,—“the
outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” which to
reject or betray is to profane the inmost sanctuary of the God of Love:

            “Even so, when first I saw you, seemed it, love,
              That among souls allied to mine was yet
            One nearer kindred than life hinted of.
              O born with me somewhere that men forget,
              And though in years of sight and sound unmet,
            Known for my soul’s birth-partner well enough!”

Love the revealer of unseen verities, the binder of invisible bonds;
Love the deliverer from material trammels, the opener of the gate of
life; these are to him the gracious manifestations of the same deity:

           “O what from thee the grace, to me the prize,
             And what to Love the glory,—when the whole
             Of the deep stair thou tread’st to the dim shoal
           And weary water of the place of sighs,
           And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes
             Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!”

In the large atmosphere of such a worship, seeing all things, as we have
said, _sub specie eternitatis_, the poet portrays the sweetest
intimacies of communion, soul with soul; questioning, recording,
comparing from time to time the recurring phases of joy and hope, memory
and regret. “When do I see thee most?” he asks in the exquisite sonnet
called “Lovesight”:

           “When do I see thee most, beloved one?
             When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
             Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
           The worship of that love through thee made known?
           Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
             Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
             Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
           And my soul only sees thy soul its own?”

“What of her glass without her?” he cries again after the great
bereavement which has removed the visible presence of the beloved:

          “What of her glass without her? The blank grey
            There where the pool is blind of the moon’s face.
            Her dress without her? The tossed empty space
          Of cloud-rack whence the moon has passed away.
          Her paths without her? Day’s appointed sway
            Usurped by desolate night. Her pillowed place
            Without her? Tears, ah me! for love’s good grace,
          And cold forgetfulness of night or day.”

And with what fine insight does Rossetti pierce the tender subtleties of
the woman’s responsive heart! Has any other English poet discerned so
well that retrospective instinct which clings to the early semblances of
pure and non-sexual love?

         —“She loves him, for her infinite soul is love.
                 *        *        *        *        *        *
                           With wifely breast to breast
         And circling arms, she welcomes all command
         Of love,—her soul to answering ardours fanned:
         Yet as morn springs or twilight sinks to rest,
         _Ah! who shall say she deems not loveliest
           The hour of sisterly sweet hand-in-hand?_”

In that hint lies the acknowledgment of the Platonic ideal,—that
whatever dignifies and ennobles the affections must lie not in the
outward conditions but within; that the senses are but the accessories
of Love; the temporary channels, not the eternal stream. And this
insistence on the spiritual aspects of passion affects the whole tone
and temper of Rossetti’s poetry; raising it, in moments of intense
feeling, almost to the mystic exaltation of a Pascal, and transfiguring
all the world of consciousness by the knowledge and memory of an
overmastering love. From the first to the last of the hundred sonnets we
are shown steadfastly the outlook upon life of one to whom all life has
been sanctified by that supreme experience. “Who can read ‘The House of
Life’” (says Mr. F.W.H. Myers in his essay on “Rossetti and the Religion
of Beauty”[15]) “and not feel that this poet has known love as love can
be, not an enjoyment only or a triumph, but a worship and a

In such a spirit does the poet take account of time and opportunity, and
recognize the solemnities of passing hour. Life has become more sacred,
the man more responsible, the imperative forces of character and destiny
more urgent than before. The sense of personal possibilities and
shortcomings weighs upon him. “Lost days” and wasted chances oppress his
mind. The actualities of evil in his own sphere of being look darker in
the face of the recognized good:

            “The lost days of my life until to-day,
              What were they, could I see them on the street
              Lie as they fell? Would they be ears of wheat
            Sown once for food but trodden into clay?

            Or golden coins squandered and still to pay?
              Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet?
              Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat
            The throats of men in Hell, athirst alway?

            I do not see them here, but after death
              God knows I know the faces I shall see,
            Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.
              ‘I am thyself,—what hast thou done to me?’
            ‘And I—and I—thyself,’ (lo! each one saith,)
              ‘And thou thyself to all eternity!’”

And in a similar strain the poet prays:

           “O Lord of work and peace! O Lord of life!
             O Lord, the awful Lord of will! though late,
               Even yet renew this soul with duteous breath:
           That when the peace is garnered in from strife,
             The work retrieved, the will regenerate,
               This soul may see thy face, O Lord of death!”

This sense of destiny it is, this keen perception—characteristic of all
true romance—of the reality of the spiritual world, the transiency of
earthly joys and the insufficiency of external things, that gives the
persistent undertone of melancholy to Rossetti’s love-sonnets, and more
or less, indeed, to all his poetry. He does not, perhaps, sustain the
peculiar minor key which the resigned and pensive fatalism of William
Morris imparts. His grasp of fate is firmer, and with all his despair
and doubt and grief he keeps a greater dignity of front than any of his
surviving brother-poets. But his pessimism, if it must be called so, had
its source in a hyper-sensitive and self-conscious personality, and was
drawn, as one has said of Michaelangelo, from “the struggle of a strong
nature to attune itself.” It is an absorbing struggle, on which to look
with reverent reserve; carried on within the sorely-shaken spaces of a
spirit too proud to vent itself, as Swinburne’s, in a broad and vigorous
iconoclasm; too isolated to find relief, as the poet of “The Earthly
Paradise” was presently to do, in the vanguard of a social revolution
promising the heaven of his dreams. Nor could Rossetti’s wayward heart
find permanent rest in the fervid religious faith which sustained the
poetess of the Pre-Raphaelite movement—his sister, Miss Christina

Yet the sadness that tinges Rossetti’s verse is nearly always of a kind
that chastens without enervating, and strengthens while it subdues.
Intimately personal and subtly introspective as it is, it lifts us on to
the highest planes of living poetry. We feel that the writer has learnt
that first great lesson which indeed Rossetti himself has urged in these

             “By thine own tears thy song must tears beget,
             O Singer!”

And by that baptism of tears he rises to the rank of those whose
individual loss and grief have blessed the world, as the death of Edward
King blessed it in Milton’s “Lycidas,” and in far greater measure the
death of Arthur Hallam blessed it in Tennyson’s “In Memoriam.” For while
sometimes the expression of personal pain may be put into such perfect
art as to afford in its very poignancy of feeling a sort of æsthetic
consolation, the test of the highest poetic grief is that it shall lose
the smart of personal injury in a strong sense of brotherhood with
fellow-sufferers, and shall translate the revolt against individual pain
into a wide compassion with the sorrows of a nation or of all humanity.

Nor can we avoid comparison of “The House of Life” with the two great
kindred cycles of love-sonnets in the English language,—the sonnets of
Shakespeare, and Mrs. Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese;” the one
celebrating a hopeless and desolating passion, the other a fortunate and
consummated love. Rossetti touches both these precedents, in that he
knew alike the depths and heights, the hell and heaven, of that passion
of which the poets say,—

             “All other pleasures are not worth its pain.”

He enjoyed happiness, and suffered despair, not merely in the outward
circumstances of his love, but in a more subtle and irretrievable way.
The fallacy dies hard, that leads us to imagine that the unvaryingly sad
and gloomy natures are the supreme sufferers of the world. On the
contrary, the acuteness of pain is measured by its victim’s capacity for
mirth. And there are some natures so finely organized, so highly-strung,
that even joy is almost painful to them. They cannot lose themselves in
a moment’s rapture, but are beset with contrasts behind and before; are
haunted with the cost of every ecstasy, and rarely learn that calm and
self-possessing wisdom which is the fruit of the knowledge of good and
evil, and through which may come at last, in many channels of
temperament, in many forms of faith and duty, the power to subdue the
evil to the good. Such were Shelley and Keats, Leopardi and Heine, James
Thomson and Philip Bourke Marston: such also was Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

It would be superfluous to dwell at length on the extraordinary richness
of Rossetti’s metaphor and simile. The imagery in the “House of Life” is
for the most part sensuous, fervid, and almost tropical in colour and
atmosphere. Here are a crowd of variously portentous spirits,—

            ... “Fame, whose loud wings fan the ashen Past
            To signal fires;”

            ... “Song, whose hair
            Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath;”

            ... “Love, smiling to receive
            Along his eddying plumes the auroral wind;”


           ... “Life herself, the spirit’s friend and love,
             Even still as Spring’s authentic harbinger
               Glows with fresh hours for hope to glorify;
           Though pale she lay when in the winter grove
             Her funeral flowers were snowflakes shed on her
               And the red wings of frost-fire rent the sky.”

We follow the soul of the lover—

            ... “where wan water trembles in the grove,
            And the wan moon is all the light thereof,”

            ... “o’er the sea of love’s tumultuous trance,”

            “Upon the devious coverts of dismay”

across “death’s haggard hills”; among

                “Shadows and shoals that edge eternity,”

and through

                                ... “that last
              Wild pageant of the accumulated past
              That clangs and flashes for a drowning man.”

The superb climax just quoted terminates one of the most vivid and
haunting of the “House of Life” series,—“The Soul’s Sphere,”—
illustrative of the vast range of consciousness known to one

             “Who, sleepless, hath ... anguished to appease
             Tragical shadow’s realm of sound and sight
             Conjectured in the lamentable night,”

and probes the memory for images whose calm splendour may bring
forgetfulness of self. The subject is that of Wordsworth’s well-known
sonnet, “A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by;” and the contrast
between the visions conjured up by the two very diverse poets exactly
illustrates the difference of temperament which set them at opposite
poetic poles. The mind of Wordsworth rests in the contemplation of
familiar things, gains peace in the common incidents of pastoral life,
loves Nature best in her ordinary moods, and seeks always the homeliest
of consolations, the most universal joys. The mind of Rossetti craves
ever for the superlative, the exceptional, the intense, and can find no
ease in anything very simple and quiet.

The value of a poet’s verdict on his own poems is not always to be
measured by his critical faculty when applied to general literature. The
friends of Rossetti have been unanimous in his praise as a critic both
of prose and of poetry, though his desultory reading and vehemence of
judgment led him sometimes into extravagances of worship or
condemnation, and blunted his discrimination of relative merits in
divergent schools. Hence his persistent and quite explicable antipathy
to Wordsworth, and his exaggerated estimate of Chatterton in later life.
But in his criticism of his own work it is inevitable that a poet should
be somewhat biassed by associations and memories bearing upon its
production. It is difficult to take seriously Rossetti’s admission to
the indiscreet admirer of one of his shorter poems,—“You are right: ‘The
Cloud Confines’ _is_ my very best thing.” Lyrically unimpeachable indeed
it is, though not more so than the exquisite “Autumn Song,” “A New
Year’s Burden,” “Insomnia,” “Three Shadows,” or “Sunset Wings;” and
therefore are we fain to take Rossetti’s judgment as based largely on
technical considerations when, in selecting his own favourites from
among the “House of Life” series, he adds to the noble sonnet “Lost
Days” (already quoted) the less impassioned but more coherent and
melodious “Still-born Love,” “The One Hope,” and “Known in Vain.” These
certainly excel in some of the highest qualities of the sonnet form—
unity of idea, and the steady set of the rhythmic flow and ebb in motive
and application; though in none of these does the sestet conform to the
pure Guittonian model on three-rhyme-sounds, blending the first and
fourth, second and fifth, and third and sixth lines in a double tercet,
as it does with signal success in “Lost on Both Sides,” “The Portrait,”
and “Hope Overtaken;” and in only one out of his chosen four (“The One
Hope”) does Rossetti attain what he personally preferred as the most
perfect order of sestet rhymes, based upon two terminal sounds, and
rhyming the first, fourth, and fifth lines against the second, third,
and sixth; thus opening the sestet with a quatrain harmonizing in
structure with the octet above, and yet avoiding the rhymed couplet at
the close which would remove the whole poem from the Italian mould in
which, despite many irregularities, nearly all Rossetti’s sonnets are
cast. The sestet of “Lost Days” (like several others in the series)
exemplifies what is generally held to be the best arrangement of the
two-rhymed sestet in the Guittonian form,—that in which the first,
third, and fifth terminals chime against the second, fourth, and sixth.
Admirable as these four sonnets are, however, in clarity of thought and
cumulative power, it is doubtful whether they should rank higher, from
the broadest standards of poetry, than “Lost on Both Sides,”
“Lovesight,” “Mid-rapture,” or “Supreme Surrender;” in all of which the
gathering force of the motive sweeps in a fine torrent—mournful,
searching, tender, or triumphant—to its eddying close, and the best
tribute to the metrical art of each is that it conveys so perfectly the
inmost fulness of the thought. Frequently, indeed, Rossetti ends a
sonnet with a rhymed couplet on a new terminal sound, following a
Guittonian quatrain, as in “Mid-Rapture,” “True Woman,” “Her Heaven,”
and “The Song-Throe;” or in some cases following a Shakespearean
quatrain after a Guittonian octet, as, for instance, in “Venus Victrix”
and “The Love-Moon.” Very rarely does he compose a whole sonnet in the
Shakespearean measure, namely, that in which the two rhyme-sounds of the
doubled-quatrained octave occur in alternate lines, and the former of
them is carried forward with a new rhyme for the similarly alternated
quatrain of a sestet clenched with a rhyming couplet on another note, as
in “Willow-Wood” (No. III.). The question of the legitimacy of a rhymed
couplet at the close of anything but a wholly Shakespearean sonnet has
been much debated by conflicting authorities on poetic form. The sonnet
is at once the most elastic and the most arbitrary of vehicles for the
concise embodiment of a single thought and its accessory similes. From
the scholar’s point of view, no indiscriminate grafting of one
essentially national and historic growth of form upon another is
theoretically defensible. But, since no European language is of
exclusive stock, the fusion of Latin and Saxon speech in the varied
beauty of modern English seems hardly less anachronistic than the
adaptation of traditional metres to the new requirements of the poetic
faculties of the age.

Akin to the “House of Life” in spirit and substance is “The Portrait;” a
reminiscence, after the death of the loved model, of hours which saw the
painting of the picture on a stormy summer day. Here the sonnet’s long-
drawn strain gives place to a quicker measure:

         “But when that hour my soul won strength
           For words whose silence wastes and kills,
         Dull raindrops smote us, and at length
           Thundered the heat within the hills.
         That eve I spoke those words again
         Beside the pelted window-pane;
           And there she hearkened what I said,
           With under-glances that surveyed
         The empty pastures blind with rain.

                 *        *        *        *        *        *

         “Last night at last I could have slept,
           And yet delayed my sleep till dawn,
         Still wandering. Then it was I wept:
           For unawares I came upon
         Those glades where once she walked with me.
         And as I stood there suddenly,
           All wan with traversing the night,
           Upon the desolate verge of light
         Yearned loud the iron-bosomed sea.”

In “The Stream’s Secret” the verse assumes a still more lyrical rhythm,
as the poet communes with the familiar waters concerning his lost love,
and desires—

         “The wind-stirred robe of roseate grey
         And rose-crown of the hour that leads the day
           When we shall meet once more,”

                 .        .        .        .        .        .

         “As on the unmeasured height of Love’s control
           The lustral fires are lit.”

The flow of the monologue gleams with such images as these:

               “And on the waste uncoloured wold
               The visible burthen of the sun grown cold,
                 And the moon’s labouring gaze;”


             “The soul hears the night’s disconsolate cry,
               And feels the branches, wringing wet,
               Cast on its brow, that may not once forget,
             Blind tears from the blind sky.”

In “Dante at Verona” Rossetti portrays in a somewhat diffuse and
irregular string of descriptive stanzas, some incidents, historic and
imaginary, but always congruous with our best ideals of Dante,—of his
exile from Florence and his sojourn at the Court of Verona after the
death of Beatrice. The poem lacks balance and unity of plan, but abounds
in passages of exquisite feeling, wrought through the keen vision of
those significant accessories that make a great, if fragmentary picture
of the commanding personality so near akin in many aspects to his modern
namesake and disciple, yet strangely removed from him in temperament and
character. How far in either case the lover’s worship was fulfilled and
consummated in a single earthly embodiment of the ideal, or whether such
a brief apparent gain served but to feed the fires of the insatiable
idealism behind it, is hardly for the historian to estimate. But
whatever the actual channels found by the dominant passion of their
poetry, however diverse the conditions under which it sought its outlet
towards the infinite sea, both Dante and Rossetti may be counted with
the isolated band of dreamers, who, as Shelley once said aptly of
himself, “are always in love with something or other; their error
consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is, perhaps,
eternal.” They “have loved Antigone before they visited this earth, and
are ever demanding of life more than it can give.”

On such a pilgrimage the sombre figure of “Dante at Verona” passes
before us, through the palaces and gardens of Can Grande della Scala,
ever remote, self-absorbed, austere; “with set brows lordlier than a
frown;” and we are shown his vigils, his spiritual isolation among the
gross luxuries and corruptions of the table, the chamber, and the hall;
and how his presence half won, half awed the women of the court;

                “And when the music had its sign
                To breathe upon them for more ease
                Sometimes he turned and bade it cease.”

And he who followed steadfastly the inward vision of the lost Beatrice,
to be regained in Paradise, cherished with the more integrity his love
for the city of Beatrice,—Florence, that “sat solitary” when Beatrice
died, and now seemed lost also. And he answered them that would win back
the exiled patriot-poet,—

                “That since no gate led, by God’s will,
                  To Florence, but the one whereat
                  The priests and money-changers sat,
                He still would wander; for that still,
                  Even through the body’s prison-bars
                  His soul possessed the sun and stars.”

Here again is struck the keynote of romance, “the note of resistance and
defiance” of external trammels and material bonds; the note of spiritual
courage which can pierce through the finite to the infinite life, and
“possess” what this world cannot remove or bestow. And in this high
strain the personal accent, the autobiographic undertone, loses itself
in a loftier music, and “Dante at Verona” is brought within measurable
distance of Rossetti’s finest work—his great romantic ballads, “Rose
Mary,” “The White Ship,” “The King’s Tragedy,” “Sister Helen,” “The
Bride’s Prelude,” “The Staff and Scrip,” and “The Blessed Damozel.”

“The Staff and Scrip,” perhaps, ranks next above “Dante at Verona,” to
which it links itself as a kind of companion poem; celebrating the life-
long faithfulness of a lady to her knight-errant, perished in defence of
her cause. Coming as a pilgrim through her wasted lands, the hero seeks
the queen in her dim palace, where,—

                      “The sweetness sickened her
                      Of musk and myrrh,”

and dedicates himself to the redemption of the country from her foe.

                “She sent him a sharp sword, whose belt
                  About his body there
                As sweet as her own arms he felt.
                  He kissed its blade, all bare,
                    Instead of her.”

The knight wins in the battle, but dies in the victory, and his body is
brought to the queen.

                “‘Uncover ye his face,’ she said.
                  ‘O changed in little space!’
                 She cried; ‘O pale that was so red!
                   O God, O God of grace!
                     Cover his face.’

                “His sword was broken in his hand
                  Where he had kissed the blade.
                 ‘O soft steel that could not withstand!
                   O my hard heart unstayed,
                     That prayed and prayed!’”

The exaltation of spirit is more sustained, the diction more finely
distilled, the air clearer, the whole balance and setting of the
narrative more perfect than in “Dante at Verona.” The passion of
chivalric love, worship, heroism, loyalty, burns at a white-heat from
the first line to the last. Every phrase is purged, chastened, and full-
charged; and flies swiftly with its portentous burden of meaning
straight to the mark. It breathes the very soul of that romantic
chivalry to which the modern world is turning with a shaken conscience
and a regenerate will; impelled to a larger application of its
principles than the golden ages knew. The glory of true knighthood in
its championship of the weak, its resistance of tyranny, its heroic
self-sacrifice, its contempt of ease, its defiance of pain, its devotion
to principle, is as yet a tardy sunrise brokenly discerned through the
long reaches of historic years; an unsteady dawn of world-light clouded
by men’s lust of private power; a scant and partial gleam of what it
must involve for the social life to be.

“The White Ship” and “The King’s Tragedy” stand together as Rossetti’s
sole and supreme achievements in the realm of historical romance. They
stand, in fact, alone in conception and treatment among modern English
ballads: unequalled even by Tennyson’s “Revenge,” and crowning the lyric
with something almost of the epic quality. The theme of “The White Ship”
is found in the familiar story of Henry I. of England, who is said to
have “never smiled again” after the loss of the “white ship” in which
his son and heir—not mentioned by name in the poem—perished in crossing
the channel from Normandy. “The King’s Tragedy” relates, through the
mouth of Catherine Douglas (“Kate Barlass”), the assassination of James
I. of Scotland by Sir Robert Graeme. In neither ballad is the action
lifted to an unfamiliar or phantasmal world; in both it is transfused,
as it passes across the stage of actual history, with a glow and glamour
of supernatural light; brought near to us with a direct realism of
incident and detail as convincing as it is transparent, and yet shrouded
in an atmosphere of mysticism and reserve, pervaded with a sense of doom
and fatality, that holds us in a mingled awe and exaltation such as we
feel in the purest Greek tragedy, amid the strivings of the gods with
men. The narrative of “The White Ship” is told bluntly, vividly,
incoherently, by the humblest of the king’s retinue and the sole
survivor of the royal train, “the butcher of Rouen, poor Berold;” and
the movement seems to gather the more power and sincerity from his
untutored lips. Its dominant motives, its finer touches,—the withholding
of the hero’s name and the allusions to him merely as “the Prince,” the
emphasis on the manner of the death of the “lawless, shameless youth”
who died, after all, for his sister’s sake—the emphasis throughout on
character rather than on incident—these are true marks of romantic

But “The King’s Tragedy” far surpasses the earlier ballad in sustained
and unfaltering dignity of passion, in the tender humanness of the
narrative setting, the grandly simple presentation of the climax, and
the weird portent of the earlier scenes. None but the two or three who
saw the writer in the course of his task can know what the poem cost
Rossetti in his dying year,—the last great product of a literary genius
still ascendant when obscured by death, and if not the finest of all his
ballads, sharing at least the rank of “Sister Helen,” “Rose Mary,” and
“The Blessed Damozel.” Never does he use the supernatural machinery with
a more masterly restraint or yet with a more powerful effect of dread
and presage, than when he brings the aged woman of the sea, like one of
the witches of “Macbeth,” to confront the King with her fourfold vision
of his doom:

         “Four years it is since first I met,
           ’Twixt the Duchray and the Dhu,
         A shape whose feet clung close in a shroud,
           And that shape for thine I knew.

         “A year again, and on Inchkeith Isle
           I saw thee pass in the breeze,
         With the cerecloth risen above thy feet
           And wound about thy knees.

         “And yet a year, in the Links of Forth,
           As a wanderer without rest,
         Thou cam’st with both thine arms i’ the shroud
           That clung high up thy breast.

                 *        *        *        *        *        *

         “And when I met thee again, O King,
           That of death hast such sore drouth,—
         Except thou turn again on this shore,—
         The winding-sheet shall have moved once more,
           And covered thine eyes and mouth.

         “For every man on God’s ground, O King,
           His death grows up from his birth
         In a shadow-plant perpetually;
         And thine towers high, a black yew-tree,
           O’er the Charterhouse of Perth!”

Then, in strange contrast to the wild scenery of the “black beach-side”
in winter, we are shown the king and queen at home and keeping festival
in the ill-fated house. The revelry of the halls, and the quiet joy of
the hearthside, seem to avert for a time the coming woe. The king takes
his harp, and sings to the queen an old love-song which he had written
to her from prison long ago. But soon the boded fate falls on them

                “’Twas a wind-wild eve in February,
                  And against the casement pane
                The branches smote like summoning hands,
                  And muttered the driving rain.”

The entrance of the traitors, with “three hundred armèd men,” urges on
the climax of the tragedy, until at last the king, discovered in the
vault where he had hastily hidden:

               “Half-naked stood, but stood as one
                 Who yet could do and dare.
               With the crown, the King was stript away,—
               The Knight was ’reft of his battle array,—
                 But still the man was there!”

The poem ends on a stern note of revenge and retribution, for, when the
shameful deed is done, the queen keeps watch for a whole month beside
the royal body; refusing to permit the burial till every one of the
“murderous league” is put to a more terrible death than his lord.

             “And then she said,—‘My King, they are dead!’
               And she knelt on the chapel floor,
             And whispered low with a strange proud smile,—
               ‘James, James, they suffered more!’”

There is, perhaps, a higher aspect to this passion of revenge, this
fierce, imperative, triumphant sense of moral justice and supernatural
retribution, than the somewhat partial and personal form which it
assumes in mediæval poetry. Beneath the crude worship of arbitrary rule,
behind the primitive conception of a Power that for ever vindicates the
brave and puts the coward to confusion, lies the germ of that larger
sense of divine vengeance which inspires and dominates all great
tragedy. Something of this higher strain of feeling, this perception of
the futility of merely human punishments and personal judgments, yet
mingled with an instinctive acceptance of the human measures as the
instruments of the divine, finds expression in the ballad of “Sister
Helen.” The theme is based upon an ancient superstition to the effect
that the death of a wrong-doer could be supernaturally procured by the
injured person, by making a waxen image in his semblance and melting it
for three days and nights before a fire. Sister Helen’s lover has been
unfaithful to her, and in her anger against him she melts his image and
keeps her dreadful watch relentlessly through the appointed hours, till
the spell is completed, and her vengeance achieves its purpose in the
death of her enemy. The poem is cast in the form of a dialogue between
Sister Helen and her little brother, whose childish wonder at the
mysterious process distracts him from his play; and he looks by turns at
the fatal fire and at the wintry landscape without.

             “‘Why did you melt your waxen man,
                           Sister Helen?
              To-day is the third since you began.’
              ‘The time was long, yet the time ran,
                             Little brother.’
                           (O Mother, Mary Mother,
              Three days to-day, between Hell and Heaven!)”

She bids the child watch from the balcony while she, within, proceeds
with her incantation. Presently messengers ride hastily up the road,
calling upon Helen, and pleading with her for mercy upon the dying man:

             “‘But he calls for ever on your name,
                             Sister Helen,
             And says that he melts before a flame.’
             ‘My heart for his pleasure fared the same,
                             Little brother.’
                           (O Mother, Mary Mother,
             Fire at the heart, between Hell and Heaven!)”

The contrast between the boy’s innocent, eager reports and observations,
and Helen’s bitter, mocking answers, carries with it all the solemn
terror of the Greek, and all the mystic naïveté of the mediæval world.
At last the unfaithful lover’s aged father, and finally his three days’
bride, arrive to add their entreaties for his life, and the lady falls
fainting at Helen’s inhospitable door.

            “‘They’ve caught her to Westholm’s saddle-bow,
                          Sister Helen,
            And her moonlit hair gleams white in its flow.’
            ‘Let it turn whiter than winter snow,
                              Little brother!’
                            (O Mother, Mary Mother,
            Woe-withered gold, between Hell and Heaven!)”

It is not until too late that Helen learns that by seeking revenge for
her own sorrow she has only doubled the sin. Absorbed in her own heart’s
bitterness, she cannot know that the only anger worthy to play a part in
the divine retribution is that which burns not so much for the sin
against self as for the sin against love; which draws from the smart of
personal injury a righteous indignation for others’ wrongs, a profound
and passionate pity for fellow-victims of a too common evil, a too
familiar grief. But in Helen’s vengeance lies her own despair:

            “‘Ah! what white thing at the door has crossed,
                          Sister Helen?
            Ah! what is this that sighs in the frost?’
            ‘A soul that’s lost as mine is lost,
                          Little brother!’
                        (O Mother, Mary Mother,
            Lost, lost, all lost, between Hell and Heaven!)”

The same thought of reciprocal sin, if we may so express it,—of the
mutual responsibility of soul to soul,—that subtle action of the law of
vicarious suffering by which every soul that falls short of its own
highest and best inevitably drags down some other soul with it,—and the
converse thought of individual redemption through mutual love: these
afford the motive of “Rose Mary.”

               “Shame for shame, yea, and sin for sin:
               Yet peace at length may our poor souls win
               If love for love be found therein.”

The story turns upon the magic properties attributed to the Beryl-stone,
into which the pure in heart might look and read the future, and be
forewarned against all danger or calamity. Rose Mary’s mother bids her
read the mysterious crystal on the eve of her lover’s journey to a
distant shrine, whither he rides to seek shrift for his soul before the
wedding-day. The mother fears some ambush of foes by the way, and trusts
the Beryl to reveal where the danger lies. Unknown to her, however, Rose
Mary and her lover have joined in sin; and their sin dispossesses the
good spirits from the stone, and yields their place to evil spirits, so
that the spell works by contraries, and the oracle speaks falsely; the
lover is betrayed and killed on the road at night. But, unknown to Rose
Mary, her lover has been faithless, even to her own love. The sin is
threefold,—his with her, hers with him, and his with another; and Rose
Mary learns that only by an heroic forgiveness and self-sacrifice which
shall cost her very life can she atone for her own and his greater sin,
win pardon for both, and cast out the evil tenants from the Beryl stone.
The ballad moves throughout at Rossetti’s highest poetic level; its
majestic rhythm sweeps from verse to verse in a torrent of swift,
strong, lyric narrative, almost too cohesive for quotation, save in such
descriptive stanzas as these:

         “Even as she spoke, they two were ’ware
         Of music-notes that fell through the air;
         A chiming shower of strange device,
         Drop echoing drop, once, twice, and thrice,
         As rain may fall in Paradise.
                 *        *        *        *        *        *
         As the globe slid to its silken gloom,
         Once more a music rained through the room;
         Low it splashed like a sweet star-spray,
         And sobbed like tears at the heart of May,
         And died as laughter dies away.”

But the imagery from first to last is of extraordinary tenderness and
power; as, for instance, in describing the first lightning-flash before
a storm,—

              “Ere labouring thunders heave the chain
              From the flood-gates of the drowning rain,”

or when,—

               “The dawn broke dim on Rose Mary’s soul,—
               No hill-crown’s heavenly aureole,
               But a wild gleam on a shaken shoal,”

and in the past night,—

               “She knew she had waded bosom-deep
               Along death’s bank in the sedge of sleep.”

It is impossible to adequately criticise “Rose Mary” without reference
to the question already raised by Mr. Theodore Watts, as to whether in
future editions of Rossetti’s poems the “Beryl Songs” should not be
removed from their present places in the interludes of the poem and
relegated to a note at the end. Writing on this point in the “Athenæum,”
Mr. Watts said:—“The only case in which Rossetti’s changes were not
improvements was the case of the changes in ‘Rose Mary,’ made, not
after, but before, it appeared in type,—changes which can only be called
lamentable. It had lain in its perfect form for years, and although it
had been read in manuscript to scores of friends, no line in it had been
altered. But when passing ‘Ballads and Sonnets’ through the press in
1881, at a time when he was out of health, Rossetti called to mind
certain remarks upon a supposed lack of clarity in his work which had
fallen not only from some critics but from certain friends; and in an
evil moment it occurred to him that it would be a gain to ‘Rose Mary’ if
the three parts were knit together by lyrics, and he set to work to
write the ‘Beryl Songs’ which now appear in the ballad. The lyrics
themselves are not good, for his endowment of metre was not equal to his
other poetical gifts; but had they been as good as the lyrics in ‘Maud’
the disaster to the poem would have been none the less grievous. A
friend whom at that time he consulted upon everything strongly fought
against the introduction of these incongruities, but Rossetti was too
ill to be persistently opposed, and only became conscious of the mistake
when it was too late, the book being then before the public.”

It is obvious that the friend here alluded to is Mr. Watts himself, and
it must be remembered that inasmuch as every line of the ballad
_without_ the lyrics had been familiar to him for years, his verdict can
hardly be accepted as that of an unbiassed judge. It is, at all events,
dubious whether any editor would now presume to disturb the sequence of
the poem.

In one other ballad of kindred structure does Rossetti sustain a similar
flow of exquisite imagination, in verbal beauty and subtlety of idiom
hard to surpass in modern English verse. “The Bride’s Prelude” is indeed
but a lovely fragment, a delicate vignette, a little character-sketch
bathed in the warmest and finest of mediæval colouring; a prelude only,
as it modestly claims to be; but, like Chopin’s preludes in music, so
perfect in its limited range that the ear craves no further melody for a
long while after its brief passion has sung itself to rest. It is a
bride’s confession to her younger sister on her wedding morn; and,
taking the form of a broken monologue interspersed with descriptive
passages of the highest poetic order, its movement is more deliberate,
its ornament more richly wrought, perhaps, than that of the more
dramatic ballads. It might almost be said that nowhere else does
Rossetti so oppress the reader with the actual feeling of the atmosphere
in which the tale is told. The intense and sultry stillness of the
chamber at mid-noon, where the two women sit together probing for the
first and only time the one dire secret of the past, weighs upon us like
veritable glare and burning silence, save for the bride’s difficult
speech, and the shocked sister’s faint answers, and the keen, far-off
sounds in the courtyard below, till the last word is said. Every minute
detail of sight and sound heightens the effect of warmth and colour in
contrast to the bare simplicity and hard tragedy of the narrative.

               “The room lay still in dusty glare,
                   Having no sound through it
               Except the chirp of a caged bird
               That came and ceased: and if she stirred,
               Amelotte’s raiment could be heard.

               “Although the lattice had dropped loose,
                   There was no wind; the heat
               Being so at rest that Amelotte
               Heard far beneath the plunge and float
               Of a hound swimming in the moat.

               “Some minutes since, two rooks had toiled
                   Home to the nests that crowned
               Ancestral ash-trees. Through the glare
               Beating again, they seemed to tear
               With that thick caw the woof o’ the air.”

Such fragments afford the merest glimpses of the background, the pure,
delicate, ultra-refined, and yet intensely naturalistic setting of the

And indeed it is this highest refinement of naturalism, this perfect
idealization of realities, this raising of the simplest and commonest
accessories of life into universal beauty and significance, that remains
Rossetti’s inmost, utmost charm. This it is that sends us back, again
and again, from all the splendours of his maturity, from the vivid
glories of the ballads and the long-drawn passion of the sonnets, to the
primal sweetness and utter simplicity of “The Blessed Damozel;” the
easiest to love, the hardest to place in a just order, amid all that
came from the hand and heart of Rossetti.

Written in his nineteenth year (though re-touched with important
improvements afterwards), while the ballads above referred to were the
work of his maturity,—and as remote from them in spirit as in date, the
poem is unique among unique poetry. “The Blessed Damozel” is no product
of precocity. It has not the laboured archaism, the studied originality,
which mark most of the travel-poems of 1849 (“Paris and Belgium,”
“Antwerp and Bruges,” etc.). Superb as are the sonnets of that early
period—such noble utterances as “The Staircase of Notre Dame,” “Place de
la Bastille,” and “The Refusal of Aid between Nations” remaining
unsurpassed by anything in the “House of Life” series—the irregular
lyrics and blank-verse chronicles of those journeys are apt to keep us
in mind of those etymological researches at the British Museum by which
Rossetti is said to have stored his vocabulary with the purest Saxon,
preparatory to ballad-work. “The Blessed Damozel,” on the contrary, is
the most spontaneous and convincing of all his shorter poems. It seems
to have sprung straight from the heart of the boy-poet in a sort of
prophetic rapture, ere he knew the sorrow which he sang, and which his
song should ease, as the most perfect art can sometimes ease, in other
souls, for generations to come. Its strength lies in the very acme of
tenderness; its source in the purest strain of common human feeling—the
passionate, insatiable craving of the faithful heart for the continuity
of life and love beyond the tomb, and the deep sense of the poverty of
celestial compromises to satisfy the mourner on either side of the gulf
that Death has set between. Here again is the true romantic note—the
insistence on the joy and glory of the physical world, the delight in
the earthly manifestations of affection, and the awed, plaintive
conflict of impatience with resignation under the mystery of parting and
transition to an unknown state. It is the same thought which an American
poet has expressed in “Homesick in Heaven,”—the thought that the beloved
departed must in some way share the sorrow of separation, and await the
last reunion with scarcely less longing than theirs whom they have left
behind. “The Blessed Damozel” is one whom Death has thus removed from
her lover’s side, and she is pictured leaning out of Heaven, watching
with tears and prayers for some sign of his coming. It is the lover
himself who sees her thus, as in a dream, and tells us how,—

                    “She bowed herself, and stooped
                      Out of the circling charm,
                    Until her bosom must have made
                      The bar she leaned on warm,”

and how, on the mystic borderland between earth and heaven,—

                    “The souls mounting up to God
                      Went by her like thin flames.”

The glories of the upper air have no charm for her until he shares them.
Still gazing downward from “the ramparts of God’s house,” she sees—

                  “The tides of day and night
                    With flame and darkness ridge
                  The void, as low as where this earth
                    Spins like a fretful midge;”

she knows the angels who “sit circlewise”—

                  “To fashion the birth-robes for them
                  Who are just born, being dead!”

Her one prayer is for the old companionship, the old, simple, earthly

                     “Only to live as once on earth
                       With Love,—only to be,
                     As then awhile, for ever now,
                       Together, I and he.”

It was not until many years later that “The Blessed Damozel” afforded
the subject of the picture by which Rossetti is most popularly and
superficially known to the outer world. It was his habit to inscribe his
pictures with some original verse, generally in sonnet form; and some of
his best descriptive sonnets, such as “Pandora,” “Fiametta,” “Found,”
“Astarte Syriaca,” and “Mary Magdalene,” had such an origin. “The
Blessed Damozel” is said to be only instance of a picture executed after
instead of before the correlative poem.

Two important works stand yet apart, alike from what we have classed as
introspective and personal poetry, and from the splendid ballads in
which consists Rossetti’s most immortal contribution to English
literature. “Jenny” and “A Last Confession” exemplify his use of the
dramatic monologue, and alone among his compositions bear in a marked
degree the influence of Browning. Especially is this influence notable
in “A Last Confession.” The Italy of this wonderful fragment—placed by
critics of authority in the front rank of Rossetti’s work—is, _par
excellence_, Browning’s Italy, with all the intense humanness and
distinction of character which dominates its furies and its loves, with
all the Saxon intellect and reason stamped into and burning through the
irresponsible passion of the South. Just as in his ballads and sonnets
Rossetti grafted the clean-cut Saxon diction on to the long and
languorous habit of the Latin tongue, so in “A Last Confession” does he
graft vivid thought and piercing argument upon the deep pathos and
terror of the theme. It is a death-bed story told in a priest’s ear; a
story of passion and crime, and of a girl’s shallow laugh that drove her
lover to kill her in a frenzy of despair. For he remembered how, awhile

                     ... “A brown-shouldered harlot leaned
         Half through a tavern window thick with wine.
         Some man had come behind her in the room
         And caught her by the arms, and she had turned
         With that coarse empty laugh on him....
                     ... And three hours afterwards,
         When she that I had run all risks to meet
         Laughed as I told you, my life burned to death
         Within me, for I thought it like the laugh
         Heard at the fair....
         And all she might have changed to, or might change to,
         Seemed in that laugh.”

Somewhat akin in spirit (though less dramatic in treatment), in that it
deals with the problem of sexual love in its darkest form, is the rhymed
monologue entitled “Jenny;” and put into the mouth of one who has
followed, half in pity, half in curiosity, a beautiful courtesan to her
home, and sits with her in the luxurious chamber which is the purchase
of her shame. The poem is to some extent in obvious relation to
Rossetti’s long contemplated but never completed picture, “Found;” but
the latter shows the end of poor Jenny in after years,—

            “When, wealth and health slipped past, you stare
            Along the streets alone, and there,
            Round the long park, across the bridge,
            The cold lamps at the pavement’s edge,
            Wind on together and apart,
            A fiery serpent for your heart,”—

whereas her visitor in the poem finds her in all her prime and pride,
and asks,—

         “What has man done here? How atone
         Great God, for this which man has done?
                 .        .        .        .        .        .
         But if, as blindfold fates are tossed
         Through some one man this life be lost,
         Shall soul not somehow pay for soul?”

“Jenny,” perhaps, being cast in a more meditative form, lacks the
poignancy and fervour of the utterance which comes, in “A Last
Confession,” from the lips of the sinner himself instead of from the
spectator merely, but it surpasses all contemporary studies of its kind
in its bold and masterly handling of a difficult theme. Both, however,
are distinct from the lyric poems in that their abruptness of movement
and irregularity of structure are the abruptness and irregularity of
quick dramatic thought, impatient of metrical elaboration, surcharging
the poetic vehicle with subject matter; an effect which must not be
confused with the ruggedness of the true ballad-form, whose broken music
haunts the ear by its very waywardness and variety of rhythm, and gains
its end by a studied artlessness the more exquisite for its apparent
unconstraint. Nor is the effect of Rossetti’s universal preference for
assonance over rhyme—a special characteristic of romantic poetry—
identical in the ballads, sonnets and monologues just quoted. In the
sonnets it relieves the rigid tension of the rhyme-system with an
overtone of delicate caprice. In “Jenny” and “A Last Confession” it
heightens the suggestion of impulse, and even haste of thought and
emotion outrunning the metrical order which it chose. In the ballads, it
is the result of the finest workmanship, not of accident or pressure of
thought upon speech; it is the rich inlaying of the most highly-wrought
woof of imaginative language with the brilliance of a perpetual

Rossetti is too near to us for a final estimate of his place among the
century’s poets. Enough has been said to illustrate the range and
consistency of his art, as a whole, and the intimate relation of his
poetry to his painting. The dominant æsthetic motives are the same in
“Dante’s Dream” and “The House of Life,” in “Dis Manibus” and “The
King’s Tragedy,” in “Beata Beatrix” and “The Blessed Damozel.” He was
the prophet of a natural idealism, based upon the frank acceptance and
pursuit of the highest earthly good, subject only and absolutely to
moral and spiritual law. He stood apart, as we have seen, from the
intellectual struggles of his day. Philosophical controversies seldom
troubled him. To theological speculation and historical discovery he was
alike indifferent. But his isolation, his specialism even, are but
evidences of the intensity of the new life to which he was awakened, and
the reality of the visions which he saw. He sets before us in all its
significance the problem of the dual possibilities of womanhood, by the
simple, irresistible, pictorial statement of the contrast between the
shameful actuality of “Found” and the noble ideal of “Sibylla Palmifera”
and “Monna Vanna.” His lamentation for the manhood of his age is that,—

          ... “Man is parcelled out in men
            To-day; because, for any wrongful blow,
              No man not stricken asks, ‘I would be told
          Why thou dost strike’; but his heart whispers then,
                ‘_He is he, I am I._’”

Such words are but the reiteration of that moral collectivism, that
principle that “soul must somehow pay for soul,” which Rossetti
maintains unbrokenly as an assumption needing neither emphasis nor
reserve. The problem which his work leaves to the next generation lies
in the application of that principle to social and national ideals. The
task of the twentieth century will be to do for society what Rossetti
has done for art,—to restore to it the dignity and glory of a free life,
embracing all that nature has to give, under the dominion of associated
reason, and conscience, and will. And when Rossetti’s genius shall have
fulfilled its share in that unification of all knowledge to which the
paths of science and poetry, art and scholarship, tend alike in the
progress of time, England and Italy may join in worthier recognition of
his life-work, whose face was set towards the final triumph of humanity—
the reconciliation of the physical with the spiritual world.


Footnote 15:

  F.W.H. Myers, “Essays: Modern.”

                                THE END.


 Academy, The Royal, 33, 74-75, 80-81, 108, 122, 126-128, 161.
 Academy Schools, 23, 27-31.
 Academicians of last generation, 33.
 “Adam and Eve,” 34.
 “Alastor,” 108.
 Albert Gallery, Edinburgh, 118.
 Allingham, William, 136.
 “Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice,” 118, 255.
 “Annunciation, The,” 204-205.
 Anthony, Mark, 87, 128-129.
 “April Love,” 125.
 “Art and Poetry,” 72.
 “Arthur conveyed to Avalon,” 143.
 Art Union, The, 129.
 Arundel Club, The, 117.
 “Astarte Syriaca,” or “Venus Astarte,” 59, 184-185, 189.
 “Aurelia, or Fazio’s Mistress,” 117, 157.
 Australia, 108.
 “Autumn Leaves,” 121, 127, 229.
 “Awakening Conscience, The,” 149, 224, 236, 239.

 “Ballads and Sonnets,” 186, 298.
 Banks, Mrs., 168.
 Barbizon School, 134.
 Baring, Miss, 168.
 Bateman, E.L., 109.
 “Beata Beatrix,” 4, 91, 121, 157, 159, 161-162, 224, 252-253.
 “Beatrice,” 129.
 Behnes, 108.
 “Bello Mano, La,” 181.
 “Beloved, The,” or “The Bride,” 91, 157.
 “Benedick and Beatrice,” 106.
 Beryl Songs, 298.
 “Bethlehem Gate,” 116, 160, 217.
 Birchington, 190-192.
 Birmingham Art Gallery, 153, 162.
 “Black Brunswicker, The,” 127, 148, 243-244.
 Blake, 2, 137, 267.
 “Blessed Damozel, The,” 4, 162, 175-176, 180, 185, 217, 257, 263, 287,
    290, 301-304.
 “Blind Girl, The,” 121-122, 228-229.
 “Blue Bower, The,” 91, 117, 157.
 “Blue Closet, The,” 117-118.
 “Boat of Love, The,” 180, 251.
 “Bocca Baciata,” 104, 117, 157.
 “Body of Harold, The,” 34.
 Bognor, 181-182.
 Botticelli, 48, 50.
 “Bower Garden, The,” 117.
 “Bower Maiden, The,” 172, 179.
 Boyce, W.P., 129.
 Boyd, Miss Alice, 168, 171.
 Brett, Mr. John, 118, 129.
 “Briar Rose, The,” 232.
 “Bride’s Prelude, The,” 263, 286, 299-301.
 British Institution, 108.
 Brotherhood, The Pre-Raphaelite, formed, 62-69;
   dispersed, 107, 119.
 Brown, Ford Madox, 32-35, 64, 71, 73, 87, 118, 138, 151-155, 161-162,
    175, 178, 193, 219;
   some characteristics of, 34, 64, 107, 151-155, 219, 226;
   portrait of, 110.
 Browning, Robert, 85, 94-96, 104, 165-166, 199;
   portraits of, 109, 117.
 “Burd, Helen,” 127.
 Burlington Club, 204.
 Burne-Jones, E., 4, 140-143, 214;
   some characteristics of, 205, 219-221, 224, 232, 246-248.
 Burne-Jones, Mrs., 168.
 Burton, W.S., 129, 248.
 Byron, 268.

 Caine, Mr. Hall, 188-189, 190, 192.
 Campbell, James, 129.
 “Caractacus,” 35.
 “Carlisle Tower,” 116.
 Carlyle, Thomas, 85, 154;
   portrait of, 108.
 Carrick, J.M., 129.
 Cary’s Academy, 23, 30.
 “Cassandra,” 189.
 Cassavetti, the Misses, 168.
 “Chapel before the Lists, The,” 116.
 “Charity Boy’s Début, The,” 63.
 Chatham Place, 94, 159, 163.
 Chatterton, 3, 267, 280.
 “Chaucer at the Court of Edward III.,” 35, 153.
 Chelsea, 163, 172, 180, 193.
 Christchurch, Albany Street, 169.
 Christianity in English Art, 5, 76-77, 196-221.
 Christianity in Italian Art, 40-43, 46-48, 50-52.
 “Christian Priests Escaping,” or, “The Christian Missionary,” 76, 146.
 “Christ in the House of His Parents,” 75-78, 126, 205-208.
 “Christ in the Temple,” 4, 150, 218.
 “Christmas Carol, A,” 118.
 “Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem,” 129.
 Cimabue, 39, 47, 57.
 Classicism, characteristics of, 9-12, 45, 49-50.
 Classicism of the Eighteenth Century, 9-10.
 Classicism under the Puritans, 11.
 “Claudio and Isabella,” 149, 224, 244, 246.
 Clifton, J.T., 61.

 Coleridge, 267.
 Collins, Charles, 118, 126.
 Collins, William, 126.
 Collinson, James, 4, 63, 74, 93, 99, 126.
 Combe, Mr. Thomas, and Mrs., 146.
 Constable, 2, 3.
 “Convent Thoughts,” 126.
 “Cordelia’s Portion,” 153.
 Cornelius, 134.
 Coronio, Mrs., 168.
 “Cottager’s Return, The,” 125.
 Cox, David, 131.
 “Cromwell Dictating,” 155.
 “Cromwell on his Farm,” 155.
 “Crucifixion, The,” 116, 215.
 Cumberland, 188-189.
 Cuyp, 132.
 Cyclographic Society, 60-61.
 “Cymon and Iphigenia,” 62.

 Dalrymple, Mrs., 168.
 “Damozel, The Blessed,” 4, 162, 175-176, 180, 185, 217, 257, 263, 287,
    290, 301-304.
 “Damozel of the Sanct Grael, The,” 116, 181.
 Danby, 132.
 “Dante at Verona,” 215, 262, 284-285.
 Dante, influence of, 22, 98;
   illustrations of, 99, 104-105, 116-118, 129, 180, 190, 249-258, 269.
 “Dante’s Dream,” 4, 116, 118, 138, 162, 168, 173, 188, 190, 253-255.
 “Day and Night Songs,” 136.
 “Day-dream, The,” 139, 180-181, 186-187.
 Davis, William, 118, 129.
 “Death of Boadicea,” 108.
 “Death of Breuse sans Pitié, The,” 116.
 “Death of Chatterton, The,” 128.
 “Death of Lady Macbeth, The,” 236.
 “Death of Sir Tristram, The,” 154.
 Dennis, William, 61.
 Deverell, Walter, 5, 61, 99, 119.
 “Devout Childhood of St. Elizabeth, The,” 126.
 “Dis Manibus,” or “The Roman Widow,” 167, 175, 180.
 “Donna della Finestra, La,” or “Our Lady of Pity,” 181, 224, 256-258.
 Döpplegänger Legends, The, 106, 225.
 “Down Stream,” 172.
 “Dream of Sardanapalus, The,” 154.
 Dunn, Mr. H.T., 170.
 Dürer, Albrecht, 51, 82.
 Dutch School, 39.

 “Ecce Ancilla Domini,” 4, 64, 78-79, 92, 203.
 “Edward Grey,” 139.
 “Eleanor Sucking the Poison,” 108.
 “Elijah and the Widow’s Son,” 155.
 Eliot, George, 196-199.
 Elnore, 134.
 “Enemy Sowing Tares, The,” 122, 147.
 English Art in 1850, 2, 3.
 “Entombment, The,” 4, 155, 219.
 “Eros and Euphrosyne,” 108.
 “Eve of St. Agnes, The,” 4, 121-122, 125, 147, 248-249.
 Exhibitions, Pre-Raphaelite, 67, 118.
 Expression in Art, 25-26.

 “Fair Rosamund,” 118.
 “Farmer’s Daughter, The,” 118.
 “Fazio’s Mistress,” 117, 157.
 “Feeding the Hungry,” 108.
 “Ferdinand Lured by Ariel,” 75-78, 91.
 “Fiametta,” 168.
 “Fiametta, A Vision of,” 119, 181, 185.
 Fine Art Society, The, 118.
 “Fleshly School of Poetry, The,” 176.
 “Flight of Madeline and Porphyro,” 62, 248.
 Foreign Schools, 134.
 Forsyth, Rev. P.F., 199, 216, 241.
 “Found,” 4, 107, 236-237, 306.
 Frescoes at Manchester, 155;
   at Oxford, 142-146;
   at Westminster Hall, 33-35, 108, 128, 151.
 Fra Angelico, 5, 48.
 “Fra Angelico Painting,” 117.
 Fra Bartolomeo, 113.
 Fra Lippo Lippi, 48.
 “Fra Pace,” 117.
 “Francesca da Rimini,” 215, 234-235.

 “Galahad, Sir,” 116, 138, 143, 232.
 “Gate of Memory, The,” 107, 236-238.
 “George, St., A Wedding of,” 118.
 “George, St., and Princess Sabra,” 160, 245.
 “Germ, The,” 69-74, 95.
 Ghiberti, 57.
 “Ghirlandata, La,” 91, 158, 167, 180.
 Giorgione, 49.
 “Giorgione Painting,” 117.
 Giotto, 39, 48, 57, 113.
 “Giotto Painting,” 251.
 “Girlhood of Mary Virgin, The,” 1, 4, 55, 66-67, 92, 202, 225.
 Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, 118.
 “Goblin Market,” 139.
 Goodall, 134.
 Gosse, Mr. Edmund, 166.
 Graham, Mr. William, 175.
 Gray, Miss Euphemia Chalmers, 148.
 Green, N.E., 61.
 Guildhall Loan Exhibition, 162.

 Hake, Dr. Gordon, 175, 178-179, 181;
   portrait of, 109.
 Hake, Mr. George, 175, 178;
   portrait of, 110.
 Halliday, M.F., 129.
 Hancock, John, 61, 129.
 “Hand and Soul,” 71-72.
 Hannay, James Lennox, 79.
 “Hark!” 30.
 Harris, Dr., 190, 192.
 Haydon, 90.
 “Heart of the Night, The,” 160, 231.
 Heaton, Mrs. Aldham, 167.
 Heaton, Miss, 168.
 Heine, 11, 14, 117, 277.
 Hellenism in Italy, 42-49.
 Herbert, Miss, 103, 167.
 “Hesterna Rosa,” 107, 118, 236-238.
 “Hireling Shepherd, The,” 149.
 Hogarth Club, 117.
 “House of Life, The,” 161, 262-282.
 Howell, Mrs., 168.
 “How They Met Themselves,” 106, 224-226.
 “Hugenot, A,” 4, 121, 127, 147, 243, 246.
 Hughes, Arthur, 4, 118, 125, 136-137, 142-143, 204-205, 249.
 Hunt, William Holman, 29-31, 35-36, 63-67, 86-87, 92, 95, 100, 101,
    109, 118-119, 122, 137, 146, 148-150;
   characteristics of, 6, 15, 86, 107, 138, 208-213, 215-217, 224, 230,
      236, 239, 244, 246, 248;
   portrait of, 109.

 “Il Ramoscello,” 157.
 Inchbold, 118.
 “Infant Christ Adored, The,” 116, 156, 218.
 “Infants’ Repast, The,” 34.
 “Isabella,” 55, 60, 65, 67, 229.
 “Isabella and the Pot of Basil,” 150.
 “Isumbras at the Ford, Sir,” 148, 245-246.
 Italian Pre-Raphaelites, The, 39-57, 113.

 “Jenny,” 304-307.
 “Jesus Washes Peter’s Feet,” 155.
 “Joan of Arc,” 191, 245.
 Johnson, Dr., and the Methodist Ladies, 159.
 “Joli Cœur,” 119.
 “Justice,” 34.

 “Kate the Queen,” 95.
 Keats, influence of, 58, 267, 277;
   subjects from, 60-62, 65, 117, 229, 248-249.
 Keene, J.B., 61.
 Kelmscott, 172, 178.
 Kernahan, Mr. Coulson, 174.
 “King Arthur Receiving Excalibur,” 143.
 “King Arthur’s Tomb,” 116, 233.
 Kingdon, Miss, 168.
 “King René’s Honeymoon,” 154.
 Kingsley, Charles, 141.
 “King’s Tragedy, The,” 8, 186, 263, 286, 289-292.
 Knewstub, Mr., 170.

 “Laboratory, The,” 105, 238.
 “Lady Lilith,” 157, 214.
 “Lady of Good Children, Our,” 34, 155.
 “Lady of Pity, Our,” 181, 224, 256-258.
 “Lady of Shalott, The,” 138.
 “La Pia,” 157, 159.
 “La Ricordanza” (“Mnemosyne, or the Lamp of Memory”), 91, 175, 180.
 “Last Confession, A,” 304-307.
 “Last Day in the Old Home, The,” 127.
 “Last of England, The,” 4, 153.
 “Launcelot Escaping,” 116.
 “Launcelot, Sir, before the Shrine,” 143, 233.
 Lawrence, 2, 122.
 Lear, Edward, 129.
 Leathart, Mrs., 168.
 Leighton, Sir F., 134.
 Leonardo, 49, 51, 121, 132.
 Leopardi, 277.
 Leyland, Mr. F.R., 163, 175, 190;
   portrait of, 109.
 Lewes, J.F., 129.
 “Light of the World, The,” 4, 146, 211-213.
 Linnell, 132.
 Liverpool Academy, The, 87-88, 118.
 Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 150, 154, 174, 190.
 Llandaff Cathedral, Triptych for, 104, 116, 156, 218.
 “Loving Cup, The,” 157.
 “Lucretia Borgia,” 106, 117-118, 159.
 “Luke the Painter, St.,” 117.
 Lushington, Mr. Godfrey, 140.
 Lushington, Mr. Vernon, 141.
 Lushington, Mrs., 168.
 Lyell, Mr. Charles, 109.
 “Lyra Innocentium,” 126.

 “Maids of Elfinmere,” 137.
 Manchester, Frescoes at, 155.
 “Mariana,” 137.
 “Mariana in the South,” 137.
 “Mariana of the Moated Grange,” 80-82, 124, 231.
 “Mariana” (Shakespeare’s), 157.
 Marshall, Dr. John, 162, 190.
 Marston, Philip Bourke, 166, 192, 269, 277.
 Martineau, R.B., 127.
 Martin’s, St., Scarborough, 169.
 “Mary in the House of John,” 215.
 “Mary Magdalene at the Door,” 118, 213-215.
 Masaccio, 57.
 Massey, Mr. Gerald, 131.
 “Matilda Gathering Herbs,” 215.
 Maurice, Frederick Denison, 141, 199;
   portrait of, 154.
 “May in the Regent’s Park,” 126.
 “May Morning on Magdalen Tower,” 150.
 “Melancholia,” 51.
 Memmi, Simon, 113.
 “Merciful Knight, The,” 246.
 Meredith, Mr. George, 164-166.
 “Merlin Lured into the Pit,” 143.
 Michaelangelo, 45, 49, 121, 132, 165, 261, 275.
 “Michael Scott’s Wooing,” 106, 180, 224-226.
 Millais, Sir John Everett, 28-31, 61, 63, 65, 74-78, 86-87, 92, 100,
    109, 118-120, 136-139, 146-148;
   change of style, 122-124, 133;
   some characteristics of, 6, 15, 17, 65, 86, 106, 113, 120, 137, 201,
   on colour, 88-89;
   portrait of, 109.
 “Mirror of Venus, The,” 129.
 “Mnemosyne, or the Lamp of Memory,” 91, 175, 180.
 Models, 64-67, 79-80, 100-103, 105, 110, 126-127, 145, 154, 167, 186,
 “Modern Painters,” 36-39, 83.
 “Monna Pomona,” 160.
 “Monna Rosa,” 117-163.
 “Monna Vanna,” 157.
 Monro, Alexander, 105, 142-143.
 “Morning Music,” 105.
 Morris, William, 140-145, 165, 168, 172, 178, 274-275.
 Morris, Mrs. William, 145, 168, 186.
 Morris, Miss May, 168.
 Morten, Thomas, 129.
 Mount Temple, Lord and Lady, 161, 168, 175, 185.
 Moxon’s “Tennyson,” 137.
 Murillo, 132.
 Museum, South Kensington, 102.
 Myers, Mr. T.W.H., 7, 273.

 National Gallery, The, 79, 159.
 “Nativity, The,” 205.
 Nature as a Background, 15-16.
 “Nature’s Mirror,” 129.
 “New Day, The,” 179.
 Nicholson, P.W., 200.
 “Nimuë Brings Sir Peleus,” 143.
 “Nineveh,” 140.

 “Old Churchyard, The,” 129.
 “Ophelia,” 4, 121-122, 147, 227, 229.
 Orchard, John, 73.
 “Order of Release, The,” 121, 147.
 “Oriana,” 138.
 “Orlando and Adam,” 106.
 “Our Lady of Good Children,” 34, 155.
 “Our Lady of Pity,” 181, 224, 256-258.
 Outlines, Rossetti’s, 24.
 Overbeck, 134.
 Oxford, 77, 140-141, 145;
   frescoes at, 142-146.
 “Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, The,” 140.

 Painters of the Last Generation, 33.
 “Palace of Art, The,” 138.
 “Palomides’s Jealousy, Sir,” 143.
 “Pandora,” 59, 118, 157, 162, 241-242.
 “Paolo and Francesca,” 215, 234-235.
 “Parable of Love, A,” 105.
 “Parable of the Vineyard, The,” 169.
 “Parisina and Manfred,” 154.
 “Passover in the Holy Family, The,” 116, 192, 205-206.
 Patmore, Mr. Coventry, 71, 73, 80.
 Paton, Sir Noel, 129, 174.
 Payne, John, 166.
 Penkill, 171.
 Pessimism in Art, 13-16.
 Poetry, Rossetti’s, 23, 68, 71-73, 140, 161, 176-177, 179, 259-309.
 “Poetry, Art and,” 72.
 Polidori, Gaetano, 20.
 Polidori, Miss Margaret, 169.
 Pollen, J. Hungerford, 142-143.
 Portraits, Pre-Raphaelite, 66, 102, 108-114, 117, 145-146, 148, 154,
    161, 168, 186, 214.
 “Portrait, The,” 263, 283.
 Pre-Raphaelite Exhibitions, 67, 118.
 Pre-Raphaelitism, Characteristics of, 5-6, 9, 12-17, 58, 63-64, 69, 80,
    84-86, 122, 124, 130, 133-135, 198-201.
 “Pretty Baa-Lambs,” 152.
 Prices of Pictures, 67, 150, 190.
 “Prince’s Progress, The,” 140.
 Prinsep, Mr. Val, 129, 142-143, 173.
 “Proscribed Royalist, The,” 126, 147, 247.
 “Proserpine,” 118-119, 157, 180, 191, 241.
 “Protestant Lady, The,” 127.
 “Psyche,” 236, 239-40.
 “Puck,” 108.

 “Queen’s Page, The,” 117.
 “Question, The,” or “The Sphinx,” 181, 191.

 “Rachel and Leah,” 116.
 “Rainbow, The,” 108.
 “Rainbow, The Spirit of The,” 181.
 “Ramoscello, Il,” 157.
 “Random Shot, The,” or “L’Enfant du Regiment,” 148.
 Raphael, 6, 49, 52-54, 83, 132.
 “Reaper and the Flowers, The,” 125.
 Redgrave, 24.
 “Regina Cordium,” 160, 167.
 Renaissance in Italy, The, 40-55, 121.
 “Renunciation of St. Elizabeth, The,” 93.
 Replicas, 162.
 “Rescue, The,” 148, 245.
 “Retro me, Sathana,” 66.
 “Return of the Dove, The,” 80.
 Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 89-90.
 “Rienzi swearing Revenge,” 66-67.
 Roehampton, 178.
 “Roman Widow, The” (“Dis Manibus”), 167, 175, 180.
 Romance, Characteristics of, 12-16, 45-46, 49-50, 183-184.
 “Romeo and Juliet,” 4, 154, 226.
 “Rosa Triplex,” 168.
 “Rose Garden, The,” 160.
 “Rose Mary,” 179, 263, 286, 290, 296-299.
 Rossetti, Christina, 22, 71, 139, 275.
 Rossetti, Gabriel Charles Dante, commonly called Dante Gabriel,
    Rossetti, 7, 19-28, 30-31, 35, 58-68, 90, 92-107, 109, 115, 136-140,
    141-143, 156-196;
   some characteristics of, 3, 5-8, 15, 24, 28, 58, 86, 96-98, 106-107,
      121, 176, 194-195, 201-206, 213-218, 223-226, 230-238, 241-242,
      245, 250-258, 259-309;
   portraits of, 109, 192-193;
   Rossetti’s Outlines, 24;
   Colour, 91, 99.
 Rossetti, Gabriele, 20.
 Rossetti, William Michael, 63, 71, 73, 109, 120, 164;
   portrait of, 109.
 Royal Academy, 33, 74-75, 80-81, 108, 122, 126-128, 161.
 Royal Scottish Academy, 118.
 Rubens, 132.
 Ruskin, John, 4, 36-39, 56-57, 85-87, 99, 113-115, 127, 141, 150, 200,
   portraits of, 109, 147;
   letters to the “Times,” 80-84.
 Russell Place Exhibition, 118.

 “Sancta Lilias,” 181.
 “Saint Agnes of Intercession,” 72.
 “Saint George, A Wedding of,” 118.
 “Saint George and Princess Sabra,” 160, 245.
 “Saint Luke the Painter,” 117.
 “Salutation of Beatrice, The,” 189-190, 250-251.
 Sandys, Mr. Frederick, 128-129, 175.
 Sarrazin, M. Gabrièl, 233.
 Sass’s Academy, 28.
 “Scapegoat, The,” 4, 150, 210-211.
 Scott, Mr. W. Bell, 178.
 “Sea-Spell, The,” 167, 175, 181.
 Seddon, Mr. J.P., 118, 129, 190, 193.
 “Sermon on the Plain, The,” 169.
 Sevenoaks, 95.
 “Seward, John,” 73.
 “Shadow of Death, The,” 150, 205, 208-211.
 Sharp, Mr. William, 190, 192.
 Shelley, 267-268, 277.
 Shields, Mr. Frederick, 129, 175, 187, 190, 192-193.
 “Sibylla Palmifera,” 157, 167, 214.
 Siddal, Miss (Mrs. D.G. Rossetti), 99-103, 159-161;
   portraits of, 102, 117, 159-161.
 “Sir Galahad,” 116, 138, 143, 232.
 “Sir Isumbras at the Ford,” 148, 245-246.
 “Sir Palomides’s Jealousy,” 143.
 “Sir Patrick Spens,” 101.
 “Sister Helen,” 263, 286, 290, 293-295.
 Smith, Bernhard, 108.
 Sonnets, Rossetti’s, 23, 161, 170, 179, 214, 237, 242, 269-282, 304.
 South Kensington Museum, 102.
 Spartali, Miss (Mrs. Stillman), 167.
 Specialism in Art, 6-8.
 “Sphinx, The,” or “The Question,” 181, 191.
 “Spirit of the Rainbow, The,” 181.
 “Spring,” 118.
 “Staff and Scrip, The,” 140, 287.
 Stained Glass, Designs for, 168-169.
 Stanhope, Mr. Spencer, 129, 142.
 “Stealthy School of Criticism, The,” 177.
 Stephens, Mr. F.G., 61, 63, 73, 75, 88, 95, 109, 120;
   portrait of, 109.
 Stillman, Mr. W.J., 110.
 Stillman, Mrs. (Miss Spartali), 167.
 Stobhall, 162, 178.
 Stone, 134.
 “Strayed Sheep, The, or Our English Coasts,” 149.
 “Stream’s Secret, The,” 263, 283.
 Strudwick, Mr. J.M., 5, 230.
 Sumner, Mrs., 175.
 “Sun may Shine, The,” 105.
 “Surgeon’s Daughter, The,” 127.
 Swinburne, A.C., 145, 164, 166, 177, 242, 266, 275;
   portraits of, 109, 117.

 “Taurello’s First Sight of Fortune,” 105.
 Tebbs, Mrs. Virtue, 168.
 Technique, Imperfect, 25, 39.
 Tennyson, 85, 94-95, 104, 165-166, 199;
   illustrations of, 116, 137-139, 142-143, 154, 160, 230-234;
   portraits of, 108-109, 117, 137.
 Thomas, Mr. Cave, 69, 128.
 Thomson, James, 269, 277.
 “Tibullus’s Return to Delia,” 118.
 “Times,” Ruskin’s letters to the, 80-84.
 Tirebuck, William, 223.
 “Titania,” 108.
 Titian, 2, 5, 49.
 “Too Late,” 127.
 “Transfiguration, The,” 155.
 “Tree of Life, The,” 220.
 “Tristram and Iseult,” 116, 160.
 “Triumph of the Innocents, The,” 150, 217.
 “Tune of the Seven Towers, The,” 116.
 Tupper, Mr. J.L., 71-72.
 Turner, 2, 16.
 “Two Mothers,” 119.

 “Under the Microscope,” 177.

 “Vale of Rest, The,” 16, 129, 148, 228-229.
 “Valentine and Sylvia,” 79-80, 87-101.
 Venables, 146.
 “Venetian Pastoral, A,” 68.
 Venetian School, 49-50.
 “Venus Astarte,” or “Astarte Syriaca,” 59, 184-185, 189.
 “Venus Verticordia,” 157.
 “Veronica Veronese,” 91, 167, 180.
 Vinter, Mr. J.A., 23-24, 31, 61.
 “Viola,” 100-101.
 “Vision of Fiametta, A,” 119.

 “Waiting,” 154.
 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, The, 150, 154, 174, 190.
 Walker, Frederick, 16.
 Walker, Sir A.B., 88.
 Wallis, Henry, 4, 128.
 “Washing Hands,” 118, 160.
 “Water Willow,” 119.
 Watkins, F., 61.
 Watson, J.D., 129.
 Watts, Mr. G.F., 4, 34, 113, 151, 227, 235-236, 239-240.
 Watts, Mr. Theodore, 101, 174, 181, 185, 190, 192, 195;
   portrait of, 109.
 “Wedding of St. George, A,” 118.
 Wells, Mrs. W.T., 168.
 “White Ship, The,” 182, 263, 286, 288-290.
 “Wicked Husbandmen, The,” 169.
 “Wiclif Reading,” 34, 152.
 “Widow’s Mite, The,” 35.
 Wilding, Miss, 167.
 Wilkie, 90.
 Williams, Miss, 168.
 Windus, W.L., 118, 127, 248.
 “Woodman’s Daughter, The,” 80, 228-229.
 Woodward, Mr., 142.
 Woolner, Thomas, 63, 71, 105, 108-109, 129, 137, 153.
 Wordsworth, 279, 183.
 “Work,” 154.
 Working Men’s College, The, 141.
 Wyatt, Mr. James, 145.


                             CHANCERY LANE.



                           Transcriber’s Note

Errors in the text have been corrected where they can be reasonably
attributed to the printer or editor, or where the same word appears as
expected elsewhere. Inconsistencies in punctuation, particularly in the
Index, have been resolved.

The details of each correction are noted below.

  p. xi      “Bethlehem Gate”[—]                      Added.

  p. 4       Ruskin: “I believe [Rosetti’s]           _Sic._

  p. 22      its poet[r]y, its self-devotion          Added.

  p. 30      Mill[ia/ai]s’s                           Transposed.

  p. 67      duly signed and [monogramed]             _Sic._

  p. 71      a poem called “The Seasons,” Mr[.]       Added.

  p. 73      [“]Ruggiero and Angelica”                Added.

  p. 74      _apologia_ for the Pre-Rapha[e]lite      Added.

  p. 74      heaped upon the Pre-R[e/a]phaelites      Corrected.

  p. 79      seen only in the o[b]scure little        Added.
             Portland Gallery

  p. 84      is to [to] have a principal              Removed.

  p. 131     ‘You see purple,’ ‘You see red,’ [‘]You  Added.
             see yellow.’

  p. 224     marked degree perhaps tha[t/n] any other Corrected.

  p. 239     ever-significant story of “Psyche”       Added.
             suggest[s] the same

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