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  • The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, vol. 4: The Chelsea Years, 1863–1872: Prelude to Crisis, 1868–1870
  • David G. Riede (bio)
The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, vol. 4: The Chelsea Years, 1863–1872: Prelude to Crisis, 1868–1870, ed. William E. Fredeman. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004. $195.00; £125.00.

In his appropriately laudatory review of the first volumes in this monumental nine-volume edition of the Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Anthony Harrison rightly noted that the collection has been long awaited and that a good edition of Rossetti's letters was long overdue (VP 42 (2004): 201-205). Fortunately it is not necessary to rehearse here the tale of the woefully inadequate four-volume Doughty-Wahl edition (1965-1967) that inspired Dick Fredeman to undertake the massive and laborious project now posthumously appearing. The tale is told well by Harrison and by Fredeman himself in his introduction to volume one. Still, it is worth re-emphasizing that this edition more than doubles the number of letters published by Doughty-Wahl, brings those letters together with others subsequently published, and adds hundreds of previously unpublished letters as well as correcting the many errors incorporated in the Doughty-Wahl edition. Fredeman was, of course, a major critical force (perhaps the major critical force) in the recovery of Pre-Raphaelitism over the last third of the twentieth century, and his immense learning and prodigious scholarship are evident in the impeccable presentation, dating, and contextualization of the letters as well as in the thorough, vastly informative, and utterly reliable annotations.

The present volume continues the second third of the edition's tripartite structure: volumes 1 and 2 constituted "The Formative Years: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk (1835-1862)"; volumes 3-5 constitute "The Chelsea Years: Prelude to Crisis (1863-1872)"; and the final installment will consist of volumes 6-9, "The Last Decade: Kelmscott to Birchington (1873-1882)." The present volume, dealing with the years 1868-1870, covers a particularly crucial period in both Rossetti's personal relationships and in his professional life as both a poet and a painter, and the contrast with the Doughty-Wahl edition is particularly striking for this period. Numbers alone tell part of the story; Doughty-Wahl published only 368 letters from these years compared to the 680 in the present volume. The hundreds of additional letters include many published in volumes subsequent to Doughty-Wahl, but include also a very substantial trove of letters published for the first time. By the end of the 1860s Rossetti had long been the acknowledged (if not actual) leader of a movement in painting including his early Pre-Raphaelite brethren, Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and James Collinson, and also hosts of other artists associated with Pre-Raphaelitism such as Walter Deverell, Charles Allston Collins, [End Page 263] Edward Burne-Jones, Arthur Hughes, William Lindsay Windus, William Dyce, Henry Wallis, Simeon Solomon, and even his own early mentors, William Bell Scott and Ford Madox Brown, but the Doughty-Wahl letters offer surprisingly little insight into his professional development. Subsequent editions of letters filled in major lacunae, conspicuously with Francis L. Fennell, Jr.'s The Rossetti-Leyland Letters: The Correspondence of an Artist with his Patron, which shed valuable light on Rossetti's business practices and his artistic development (or decline, in Fennell's view) by publishing both sides of the correspondence. Perhaps even more revealing is Rossetti's correspondence with his unofficial man of business, Charles A. Howell. These letters, reflecting both a degree of shrewd business practice and of carelessness amounting to recklessness on Rossetti's part, are barely reflected in Doughty-Wahl, but were generously supplemented by C. L. Cline in 1978 in The Owl and the Rossettis, which included all sides of the correspondence among Rossetti, Howell, Christina Rossetti, and William Michael Rossetti. Fredeman has, of course, incorporated the work of Fennell and Cline to eliminate the need to seek Rossetti's letters in multiple sources, but he has also found new letters to Leyland and Howell as well as unpublished letters to other patrons and to such representatives of the Victorian art world as Richard Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton). Fennell...


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