Wednesday, July 16, 2008

some thoroughly fine day

Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham

Blackfriars Bridge, [Postmark, March 22, 1855].

Dear Allingham,
I have been looking at the mangled remains of my drawing again by the light of your friendly letter, but really can only see it, in its present state, as a conceited-looking failure, and as to the execution, it is on a par with woodcut "Executions" in general; only in such cases the "copy of verses" ought to be made to match.

My wish was, and is, to make you a small water-colour, or pen and ink drawing, of the subject, as I should feel pleasure in doing it, and in your having it, in some shape; and that, since we cannot hang the engraver, the drawing, at any rate, should receive no quarter. By the bye, I have written to Dalziel, and though my letter was not indited, at a severe crisis of punning, it seems to have treated the subject in a manner to make him crusty, as he has never answered. . .

. . . Perhaps before this reaches you I shall get from you Ruskin's letter to Miss S., but if you have not posted it before, pray do so at once on receiving this, as I think I may want it. Ruskin's interest* in her continues unabated, and he is most desirous of benefiting her in any way in his power, and of her becoming a frequent visitor at his house. Some thoroughly fine day she and I are to pay him our first visit together.

Now to answer your question about Dr. Polidori. The fact of his suicide does not, unfortunately, admit of a doubt, though the verdict on the inquest was one of natural death; but this was a partly pardonable insincerity, arising from pity for my grandfather's great grief, and from a schoolfellow of my uncles happening to be, strangely enough, on the jury. This death happened in the year '21, and he was only in his 26th year. I believe that, though his poems and tales give an impression only of a cultivated mind, he showed more than common talents both for medicine, and afterwards for law, which pursuit he took to, in a restless mood, alter his return from Italy. The "pecuniary difficulties" were only owing, I believe, to sudden losses and liabilities incurred at the gaming-table, whither, in his last feverish days, he had been drawn by some false friend, though such tastes had always, in a healthy state, been quite foreign to him. I have met accidentally, from time to time, persons who knew him, and he seems always to have excited admiration by his talents, and with those who knew him well affection and respect by his honourable nature; but I have no doubt that vanity was one of his failings, and should think he might have been in some degree of unsound mind. He was my mother's favourite brother, and I feel certain her love for him is a proof that his memory deserves some respect. In Medwin, in Moore, and in Leigh Hunt, and elsewhere, I have seen allusions to him which dwelt on nothing but his faults, and therefore I have filled this sheet on the subject, though, of course, as far as your proposed criticism goes, I am only telling you that the book tells truth in this particular. Write soon, and believe me
Yours affectionately,
By the bye, I am delighted at your appreciation of Scott. I shrewdly suspect that the last time I heard you talk of him there "was nothing in him." [Allingham grates a little.] I think myself that Maryanne, with all its faults, is better worth writing than The Angel in the House. As exemplified in this poem, as well as in other respects, Scott is a man something of Browning's order, as regards his place among poets, though with less range and even much greater incompleteness, but also, on the other hand, quite without affectation ever to be found among his faults, and I think, too, with a more commonly appreciable sort of melody in his best moments.

* Ruskin, upon seeing the drawings and sketches of Elizabeth Siddal, began to purchase all of them. He later provided her with an annual sum of 150 pounds in exchange for her drawings up to that value.

-from Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham, 1854-1870 by George Birkbeck Hill (London: T.F. Unwin, 1897). p. 113-17.

No comments: