- The Pre-Raphaelites
The year has brought several books as well as two new editions and a number of articles. In order to do justice to all its contributors, I will retain the important collection Outsiders Looking In: The Rossettis Then and Now, edited by David Clifford and Lawrence Rousillon, for review next year, and begin this year's overview with the new editions.
"The Chelsea Years . . . Prelude to Crisis, 1863-1867," volume three, part one of William Fredeman's edition of The Correspondence of Dante [End Page 390] Gabriel Rossetti, has now appeared under the imprint of D. S. Brewer. This 601-page book (the first of the "volume"'s two "parts") is prefaced by a memoir of Fredeman by Allan Life, one of seven coeditors (listed below) who joined together to complete Fredeman's edition after his death in 1999. Life also knew Fredeman as teacher, mentor, and friend, and accompanied him on several of his research trips to repositories and other sources of information in Great Britain.
Mindful perhaps of A. S. Byatt's mordant but wryly equable parody in Possession, Life's reminiscences of Fredeman provide a surprisingly direct and probing sketch of the latter's complex life, which included survival of an automobile accident which killed his parents when he was two, childhood in an Arkansas orphanage, three marriages, a taste for pornography, and a marked and growing ambivalence toward the principal subject of his painstaking and exhaustive research. Life recalls with affection Fredeman's gift for extended recitation of Victorian poetry, alludes to the pleasure he took in his contacts with an extended network of British and North American scholars and booksellers, and concludes with a eulogy of him as "a true successor of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a worthy student of his life and art" (p. xxi).
The volume's scope and presentation testify to the effective cooperation of its editorial heptarchy of Carolyn Hares-Stryker, Lorraine Janzen-Kooistra, Allan Life, Julian Moore, Andrew Stauffer, David W. Thomas, and Christopher Whittick. The illustrations and annotations are briefer than the ones Fredeman himself prepared, but they suffice for clarification of Rossetti's complicated personal, artistic, and financial contacts in 1863-67, a period in which he focused more effort on his painting (and the income it brought him) than he did on his poetry.
In particular, the volume's many "new" letters bring into clearer relief Rossetti's frequent dependence for social companionship on his lawyer James Rose, his fellow painter George Boyce, and his sometime assistant Charles Howell. They also document his familial hospitality, lavish spending habits, eagerness to collect art, china, and unusual pets, recurrent failures to meet deadlines, and frequent appeals for more money from buyers who had already given him down payments. He was neither the first nor the last to blend these with declarations of determination to avoid distractions and achieve the best that was in him.
Rossetti became more reclusive in the period immediately following Elizabeth Siddal's death. He did remain in near-weekly contact during much of this period with Ford Madox Brown, his closest friend, and wrote him apologetically on one occasion that "nothing on reflection could pain me more . . . than to inflict the slightest pain on you, whom I regard as so much the most intimate and dearest of my friends that I might call you by [End Page 391] comparison the only one I have" (February 9, 1866). William Allingham and the members of the Firm, by contrast, gradually seem to have faded from view, and even Allingham's suggestion at one point that he might bring Tennyson to visit evoked alarm, for "I have no finished work to show at present, and have moreover so fallen out of the habit of seeing any but intimates, that I feel like a fool with others" (July 6, 1864).
Despite moments of such diffidence, he had joined a couple of artists' clubs by 1866 (Arundel and Burlington Fine Arts), and his letters throughout the period bear witness to the steadiness of his attempts to help poetic and artistic friends and acquaintances. He tried to persuade Alexander Macmillan to publish Swinburne's...