Friday, July 11, 2008

as many I's as Argus

Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham

Sept. 19 [1854].

Dear Allingham,
I've just got your letter this morning. About the woodcut, I fancy the poem and extracts you send to-day are hardly so much in my "line" for illustration as the two others you sent before. The Maids of Elfin Mere will be the one, I dare say, after all. This chiefly because the Nursery Rhyme on which S. M.'s Eve [Saint Margaret's Eve] is founded is included and illustrated in Child's Play by the Hon. Mrs. Boyle, and is there very well done.

I made a sketch for the Maids the first day you sent it--i.e., for the arrangement, and think it would come nice. At any rate of that or of one of the others I hope you will soon hear that a block is drawn, and Hughes has sent me one.

Hughes was here the other evening, and showed me several sketches and wood-blocks he has drawn,--all of them excellent in many ways; but the blocks I think, especially the one of the man and girl at a stile, rather wanting in force for the engraver. He agreed with me, and I believe will do something to amend this. He has made a few very nice little sketches for cuts in the text, if such should prove admissible. One or two for the Fairies are remarkably original. I should really, I believe, have got mine in hand before this, but various troublesome anxieties have interfered with that and other work, among the rest with my duty to the Folio, which is still by me. I shan't put in my modern design, and must finish one of two or three I have going on, instead. I am doing one, which I think will be the one, of Hamlet and Ophelia, so treated as I think to embody and symbolise the play without obtrusiveness or interference with the subject as a subject.

By the bye Hughes showed me a little poem about What it is they say and do, which I think, if treated carefully, would illustrate very well. It was one of my favorites in your old vol.--but I think on reflexion (sic) would not illustrate except in the text. Are you not going to include the Young Man and Death (if that is the title) one of your very best? There is among those translations of mine a longish dialogue with Death by Guido Cavalcant which always reminds me of that poem--i.e. the original.

I've been very unwell this morning, but have taken some physic and am much better. This must account for the flatness of my writing, for it is flat. I fear you must get the Athenaeum rather late. When I began to have it sent on to you, I found, what I knew not, that they were in the habit of sending it to an uncle of mine at Gloucester. I gave you the priority, but it seems he "appealed" (though he does not care a dump about it), and we thought it better not to hurt his feelings. This will account if it reaches you now later than at first. I'll mention to them at Albany St. about the label. No doubt you saw the review of Hannay's excellent book on Satire; it will put him on a first-rate footing with that fool Dixon, and be of use no doubt. The book has proved a hit. I think, if you liked, I could send you it to read--a copy (i.e.) belonging to the Spectator. Hannay has also brought out a little book with Routledge called Sand and Shells and is writing a novel called Hilton of the Lotus, to be published in the Home Circle, and which pays very well. He has just come back to settle in London, and I spent last Wednesday evening with him. William has been back in London a day or two, after walking through a great part of Devon and Cornwall with Paul, and enjoying it vastly. I do not know whether he has yet left again en route for Belgium, where he is to end his holidays.

I wanted to send you a letter Stephens had from Hunt, but it seems there is some mystic matter in it, so he has copied what I enclose for you. It is the latest news, I believe. The Chief of Zanquebar is a lark, but I confess I begrudge him that whole sheet of note paper. The Times on Massey is loathsome indeed. Really some one ought to write to them about that prig from Poe, which has roused Hannay's bile. I've been reading a Spectator copy of Firmilian in its complete state--on second thoughts I'll post it now for you instead of describing it. Please return it soon. I've also read some of the Stones of Venice having received all Ruskin's books from him, really a splendid present, including even the huge plates of Venetian architecture. I've heard again from him at Chamounix. I've been greatly interested in Wuthering Heights, the first novel I've read for an age and the best (as regards power and sound style) for two ages, except Sidonia. But it is a fiend of a book--an incredible monster, combining all the stronger female tendencies from Mrs. Browning to Mrs. Brownrigg. The action is laid in hell,--only it seems places and people have English names there. Did you ever read it?

I think you're quite right about leaving out a few of my translations from the volume, and should like to know which you think. I had thought so myself, but shall copy out all I have done before determining. I am very glad you like them so much, and will send more when copied.

My plan as to their form is, I think, a preface for the first part, containing those previous to Dante, and a connecting essay (but not bulky) for the second part, containing Dante and his contemporaries, as many of them are in the form of correspondence, etc., very interesting, and require some annotation. I think you have few or none of this class. I shall include the Vita Nuova I am almost sure, and then the vol. will be a thick one. I think, if it were possible to bring some or all out first, as you say, in a good magazine, the plan might be a very good one. Indeed, anything that paid would be very useful just now, as I do not forget my debts. I've a longish story more than half done, which might likely be even more marketable in this way. It is not so intensely metaphysical as that in the Germ. If I possibly can manage to copy what I've done of it, I'd like to send it you. By the bye, in my last long letter (a long letter, Allingham) I put two sonnets which I'm afraid you didn't like. Pray tell me, too, about the alteration I there proposed in the last lines of one, which you objected to.

I fear this letter has as many I's as Argus : argal it is snobbish.
Tenez vous bien for the present and good bye.
Yours sincerely,
D. G. Rossetti.

-from Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham, 1854-1870 by George Birkbeck Hill (London: T.F. Unwin, 1897). p. 54-59.

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