Finchley, November, 1854.
My Dear Allingham,
Your last letter has been carried carefully in my pocket all this time, with the view of its being answered, as it ought to have been long ere now. To-night I search my pockets for it at last for that immediate purpose, and of course it has somehow flown. I hope I shall not have forgotten anything that ought to be spoken of in this. One thing I must not forget is to say how very busy and bothered I have been, and to beg that may plead my excuse for delay, not only with the letter, but with the more important wood-block, which is not yet sent in. It would have been so before now, but that staying out here, I am prevented from working on it from nature except by flying visits to London on Sundays, and I am loth to finish it without nature. The delay in this has kept me from writing, as I wanted to say it was done, as I trust it now will be very soon. I shall like, if at all practicable, to do another, but meanwhile Hughes is drawing the last block to prevent disappointment, and my second, if done, must take its chance with the publishers as an additional illustration. I hope, above all, they mean to have the drawings well cut. For my part I should like to tell them that they had better in my own case give the price of the drawing as an extra bonus to the engraver, and that then they must let me see a proof as soon as cut--the thing to be cancelled altogether if not approved of by me. I expect this might partly impress upon them that some care was necessary, and that there was a reputation of some sort in some quarters that I had to take care of.
Do you see any objection to my following this plan ? I feel it both pleasure and credit to be associated at all with your volume, and should not like to cut too sorry a figure there, as it is a book which every one will be sure to see.
I have had a hasty look (such as my leisure lately has left possible) through your MS., much of which is as exquisite as can be or ever has been--pure beauty and delight. The Queen of the Forrest, Hughes tells me, is to be withdrawn, as capable of fuller treatment. I am quite of your mind about it, and chiefly because it is already so peculiarly lovely as to be worthy of any elaboration. The Aeolian Harp in long lines is equal to any of that series, and I should have many things to say of many others, if the MS. were only by me. I must write of them when they are printed, and I hope talk of them too with you by that time. You mention having sent a copy of Day and Night Songs to Ruskin: did you remember that I had already given him one? I trust he and you will meet when next in London. He has been back about a month or so, looking very well and in excellent spirits. Perhaps you know that he has joined Maurice's scheme for a Working Men's College, which has now begun to be put in operation at 31, Red Lion Square. Ruskin has most liberally undertaken a drawing-class, which he attends every Thursday evening, and he and I had a long confab about plans for teaching. He is most enthusiastic about it, and has so infected me that I think of offering an evening weekly for the same purpose, when I am settled in town again.
At present I am hard at work out here on my picture, painting the calf and cart. It has been fine clear weather, though cold, till now, but these two days the rain has set in (for good, I fear), and driven me to my wits' end, as even were I inclined to paint notwithstanding, the calf would be like a hearth-rug after half an hour's rain; but I suppose I must turn out to-morrow and try. A very disagreeable part of the business is that I am being obliged to a farmer whom I cannot pay for his trouble in providing calf and all, as he insists on being good natured. As for the calf, he kicks and fights all the time he remains tied up, which is 5 or 6 hours daily, and the view of life induced at his early age by experience in art appears to be so melancholy that he punctually attempts suicide by hanging himself at 3 1/2 daily p.m. At these times I have to cut him down, and then shake him up and lick him like blazes. There is a pleasure in it, my dear fellow: the Smithfield drovers are a kind of opium-eaters at it, but a moderate practitioner might perhaps sustain an argument. I hope soon to be back at my rooms, as I have been quite long enough at my rhumes. (The above joke did service for MacCrac's benefit last night.)
Before I came here I had been painting ever so long on a brick wall at Chiswick which is in my foreground. By the bye, that boating sketch of yours is really good in its way, and would bear showing' to Ruskin as an original Turner--and perhaps selling to Windus afterwards.
Many thanks for your minute criticism on my ballad, which was just of the kind I wanted. Not, of course, that a British poet is going to knock under on all points;--accordingly, I take care to disagree from you in various respects--as regards abruptnesses, improbabilities, prosaicisms, coarsenesses, and other esses and isms, not more prominent, I think, in my production than in its models. As to dialect there is much to be said, but I doubt much whether, as you say, mine is more Scotticised than many or even the majority of genuine old ballads. If the letter and poem were here, I might perhaps bore you with counter-analysis. But in very many respects I shall benefit greatly by your criticisms, if ever I think the ballad worth working on again, without which it would certainly not be worth printing.
I have read Patmore's poem which he sent me, and about which I might say a good deal of all kinds, if I felt up to it to-night; but I don't. He was going to publish (and had actually printed the title) with the pseudonym of C. K. Dighton; but was induced at the last moment to cancel the title, as well as a marvellous note at the end, accounting for some part of the poem being taken out of his former book by some story of a butterman and a piece of waste paper, or something of that sort! (I see my description is as lucid as the note.)
Did you see a paragraph in the Illus. Lond. News headed Americans at Florence, and giving a longish account of a backwoods poem called The New Pastoral, to be immediately published by Read? Have you seen anything of W. B. Scott's volume? I may be able to send it you sooner or later, if you like. The title-page has a vignette with the words Poems by a Painter printed very gothically indeed. A copy being sent to old Carlyle, he did not read any of the poems, but read the title "Poems by a Printer." He wrote off at once to the imaginary printer to tell him to stick to his types and give up his metaphors. Woolner saw the book lying at Carlyle's, heard the story, and told him of his mistake, at which he had the decency to seem a little annoyed, as he knows Scott, and esteems him and his family. Now that we are allied with Turkey, we might think seriously of the bastinado for that old man. on such occasions as the above.
This is the last of Brown's note-paper (I am staying with him here), so I must leave some other thing till next time, especially as it is fearfully late. Miss Siddal is moderately well and making designs, etc.
D. G. ROSSETTI.
P.S.--Hughes asked me for Millais' address from [? for] you. The surest way I know of reaching him is to address to him at M. Halliday. Esq., 3. Robert St., Adelphi.
-from Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham, 1854-1870 by George Birkbeck Hill (London: T.F. Unwin, 1897). p. 81-86.