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Sonnet LXXXIX. The Trees of the Garden.

Sonnet LXXXIX. The Trees of the Garden.

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The House of Life

[MS of sonnet 101 written verso on this letter, now in LC (Misc. MSS 1390)

but not printed by WEF]

(3) ACS to DGR 28 Feb 70 (Lang II: 105):

‘Thanks for your new sonnet, which is lovely. It will make no difference to

my critical work that you have – very rightly I think – re-arranged the cycles

of sonnets.’ [The ‘new sonnet’ could also be either 16 or 36, which were also

inserted in Proof State 13, but ACS seems to be responding to the fact that

DGR had highlighted 101 by copying it to him in Letter (2)]

(4) DGR to Alice Boyd [25 Mar] 70 (WEF 70.70):

‘[Sonnet 101 refers] to the longing for accomplishment of individual desire

after death.’

(5) DGR to WMR [25 Mar] 70 (WEF 70.71):

WMR detected a resemblance between the first line of Sonnet 101, ‘When

vain desire at last and vain regret’ and the sixth line of Petrarch’s first

sonnet, ‘Fra la vana speranza e il van dolore’, although by 1903 WMR had

forgotten about it when he came to edit this letter in RP (526–27):

‘I’ve been rather worried by your discovery about the resemblance

to Petrarch’s first sonnet, which I verily believe I never read. Would

you mind copying it for me?’

(6) DGR to F.S. Ellis [30 Mar] 70 (WEF 70.77):

Both MSS of this sonnet read ‘vain … vain’ in line 1 but, alarmed by WMR’s

suggestion about seeming to borrow from Petrarch, DGR changed his printer’s

copy to ‘all . . . all’. However, a few days later, as this letter shows, he had

decided to change back, but now it was too late and the return to ‘vain …

vain’ did not appear in print until the second ed. of Poems (see next letter):

‘I forgot to mention one last change – which is in fact a change back

again – to make if not too late.

Page 238 line one

When vain desire at last and vain regret

Alter as above – If too late, no matter.

(Ellis loq: G–d d––n!)’

(7) DGR to Sidney Colvin 22 Apr 70 (WEF 70.113):

‘I ought to have directed your attention to the changes made at the last

moment in the last sonnet of the House of Life which you quote. I suppose

they escaped you (since no doubt Ellis sent you a complete copy), though

indeed I shd not be much surprised in your seeing no improvement in them,

as this was not the reason of their being made. They consist in the first line

which now stands

“When all desire at last and all regret”

and in line 12 which I have altered to

“Ah! let none other written spell soe’er.”

Text and Notes


The first was changed because my brother drew my attention to a

certain likeness between its original form & a line in Petrarch’s first sonnet –

“Fra la vana speranza e il van dolore,”

though I am sure this was not in my head, nor indeed could have been; for I

was never a great reader of Petrarch & had no memory of the sonnet. Line

12 I altered because of its likeness to line 11 of the Sonnet preceding it (also

quoted by you). This change I think necessary; but rather regret the other, &

shall probably restore it if a second edition should be the result of such

favorable views of the book as you are taking.’

(8) DGR to T.G. Hake 10 May 70 (WEF 70.152):

‘I myself prefer the original line in Sonnet 50 [101], but it is too like a

line towards the end of Sonnet 49 [100]. That was my reason for the

change; as, especially at the close of the series, the monotony had to

be avoided.’

[DGR means the original reading of line 12 in 101,

‘Let no such joys as other souls count fair’

and line 11 in 100, Newborn Death II,

‘And Art, whose eyes were worlds by God found fair;’]

‘P.S. The two “vains” in line 1 of sonnet 50 [101] instead of “all”, I have now

restored. I turned them out originally because of resemblances pointed out

to a line in first Sonnet of Petrarch.’

(9) DGR to HC [8 Mar] 81 (WEF 81.104):

‘The One Hope is fully equal to the very best of my sonnets or I should

not have wound up the series with it. But the fact is, what is peculiar

chiefly in the series is that scarcely one is worse than any other.’

(10) WMR to Olivia Rossetti Agresti 28 Jan 1906 (UBC: Angeli–Dennis Papers):

In this letter to his daughter, who was expert in translating English to Italian,

WMR refers to the translation of HL being attempted by Romualdo Pàntini,

who had published an article on ‘La Casa di Vita’ in 1904:

‘Pantini wrote me lately about translations of his from Gabriel,

which it appears you will give some attention to. Pray take care that

he does not blunder, as every one else seems determined to do, over

the sonnet called The One Hope. G[abriel] here speaks of “the one

hope’s one name”, which of course (and I presume you see it for

yourself) means the name of the one woman whom he hopes to reunite with in eternity. And yet 2 or 3 foreign translators, and even

Wm. Sharp (which would have seemed next to impossible) suppose

G[abriel] to mean the mere emotion of hope – a condition of

unending hopefulness! – which would be next door to nonsense.’

Seventeen years earlier, WMR had said in his paraphrase of HL that ‘“the one

Hope’s one name”‘ is ‘the name of the woman supremely beloved upon earth’

(DGRDW 261). Some readers, however, have resisted this biographical

imperative which would require us to name the name of Jane Morris (Elizabeth

Siddal?) here, believing instead with John Masefield that, ‘this Hope has a


The House of Life

different name for each one of us,’ (47), an interpretation supported by Letter (4)

to Alice Boyd, and by the initial reading of line 12 in the LC MSS.


(1) (2) LC Misc. MSS 1390 (3) Poems: Proof States 13, 14 {Princeton}; second

ed. annotated by DGR, Princeton; Beinecke Tauchnitz (4) B&S Proofs Sig. S,

p. 263: DAM 6 May, Ros. 10 May


1. All MSS/B&S

[The earliest LC MS is printer’s copy:

a single leaf 4 1/2 by 7 inches bearing

DGR’s pencilled note ‘Print after A

Superscription page 105,’ a reference

to Sonnet 97 in Proof State 12; the

second LC MS is a transcription of

the first on letter (2) above to ACS

(WEF 70.36)]

11 unknown,/unknown, – all MSS,

Proof States

12 written spell/alien spell Proof


13–14, all eds of Poems

12 Let no such joys as other souls

count fair/ LC(1)

Let no such joys as other souls

count fair/ LC(2)

Ah! let none other alien spell


2. Revisions in proof:

vain regret>

When all desire at last and all


Proof State 13, Prin.

When vain desire at last and

vain regret

Poems, second ed. [see above,

Letter (5)]

count fair>

Ah! let no other written spell


Proof State 14, Prin.

Ah! let none other written spell

soe’er/Poems, all eds

alien spell DGR

second ed., Prin.; Bei. Tauchnitz

Ah! let none other alien spell


[below text]


WMR queries, ‘Is this line to stand?’

(DAM) and ‘Is this to stand?’ (Ros.);

DGR writes ‘Yes’.

3. Instructions written on proofs:

<‘Before this put M.S. He and I’>

Proof State 13, Prin.

This sonnet was inserted in Proof

State 13 as the last one in the

sequence, following A Superscription

[97], but in all subsequent arrangements it was preceded by Newborn

Death [99–100].

Appendix One

Dating and Ordonnance


Rossetti’s reluctance to date his sonnets is well known but

imperfectly understood. His biographers usually assume that he was

anxious to conceal the personal references in The House of Life, but

that is only one of his reasons for not including dates. When he began

to ready his poems for publication in August 1869, he wrote simply

to his brother, ‘I don’t think dating throughout would do’ (WEF

69.144). Shortly after Poems appeared in April 1870, he dealt with the

subject more fully in a letter to Dr T. G. Hake:

One thing in your last letter gratified me particularly. The

three poems to which you gave the preference … are the

only three new ones in the first section though much has

been done quite lately to several others and something to

nearly all. Much the greater proportion of the sonnets in

the House of Life are also written lately. … I daresay you

will agree with me that it is not desirable to mention in

print what I say above of the dates of composition. I have

thought it better to omit dates in the book. (WEF 70.124)

Whatever his reasons were, Rossetti clearly assumes that Dr Hake

would comprehend and endorse them on reading this letter. It is

improbable that Hake was aware of any guilty secrets at this time, for

he was as yet only a literary correspondent rather than the close

friend he became later. The fact that Rossetti took such pleasure in

Hake’s preference for his most recent work is significant. Since he

had been composing and revising at white heat to fill out his volume,

he feared that this undignified haste would be apparent to reviewers.

Late in 1869, he even proposed the desperate stratagem of including

his early short story Hand and Soul in Poems ‘as it is really more a sort

of poem than anything else’, but he finally decided that ‘it looked

awkward there’ (WEF 69.207).

There are many other examples in his letters during this period of

his fear that the poetry he had at hand was too slight to make a book.


The House of Life

This fear, of course, was the principal motivation for exhuming his

wife’s coffin to retrieve the MSS of his original poetry that he had

placed in it. Moreover, he wished to retain the reputation as a

precocious poet that he had cultivated, a desire that led him to

conceal his massive rewriting of early poems during 1869–70. His

defensive Author’s Note to Poems illustrates this point:

Many poems in this volume were written between 1847

and 1853. Others are of more recent date, and a few

belong to the intervening period. It has been thought

unnecessary to specify the earlier work, as nothing is

included which the author believes to be immature.

Since William Rossetti published his final and most comprehensive

version of his brother’s Works in 1911, editors, biographers and critics

have generally accepted his dates of composition included there as

part of the Table of Contents. While endorsing these dates as the most

complete and accurate available in any one compilation, I have

changed many of them. There are inaccuracies, omissions and contradictions in William’s House of Life dates, drawn as they are over a

period of sixty-five years from several of his records and publications

and the extensive family archive of which he was the custodian. Perhaps

the most reliable of all these sources are his day diaries (WMRD and

WMR MS Diary), mostly unpublished but available at the University

of British Columbia; in them he recorded literary data from the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood era to the poet’s deathbed compositions.

William also recorded many dates of sonnet composition in his

Collected Works of 1886 (CW), his 1889 Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer

and Writer (DGRDW), his two-volume 1895 Dante Gabriel Rossetti: His

Family Letters with a Memoir (FL/FLM), his Poems with Illustrations

(1904), his Bibliography (1905) and his privately printed Dante Gabriel

Rossetti: Classified Lists of His Writings with the Dates (1906) {ClassLists}.

Successive editors of The House of Life before me have discovered

and corrected some of William’s inaccurate dates. Frederick Page,

who worked on a never-completed critical edition for Oxford

University Press, and Paull F. Baum, who in 1928 published the only

critical edition of the House to appear, eliminated many errors by

reference to letters and dated MSS. Baum revised and augmented his

Appendix on the Dating of the Sonnets in his edition of Rossetti’s Poems,

Ballads and Sonnets (1937). Kathryn I. Gordon and Thomas Delsey,

who edited The House of Life for their Ph.D dissertations, continued

this task. Building on their work and that of the late W. E. Fredeman,

editor of the Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (WEF) who

Appendix One


corrected so many dating blunders in the work of Oswald Doughty

and J. R. Wahl, I offer in this edition the most complete and accurate

set of documented dates that I could compile after my research on

primary materials (see Appendix Seven, Locations of Sources). Dates of

composition and publication, with documentation where available,

are given for each sonnet in the Text and Notes section. It may be

argued, however, that in the light of Rossetti’s habit of massive

revision, certain sonnets may be said to have more than one date of

composition (e.g., Sonnet 69, Autumn Idleness).

In the table that follows forty-four sonnets are dated from external

evidence. A few of them have MS dates in the hand of the poet, his

brother or Jane Morris, to whom many poems were sent in letters.

More appeared as enclosures or in the texts of Rossetti’s letters; the

Doughty-Wahl Letters (DW), however flawed, is a primary source of

dates, as is the Bryson-Troxell Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris:

Their Correspondence. J. R. Wahl’s discussion of dating in his edition of

The Kelmscott Love Sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti is especially pertinent

to The House of Life, dealing as it does with some thirty sonnets the

poet wrote while living with Jane Morris at Kelmscott Manor during

the summer of 1871. Nearly all of them wound up in the House.

For forty-three sonnets where there are no documents to date their

composition and no evidence contradicts them, I have accepted

William’s dates in Works. For fourteen other undocumented sonnets I

have preferred my own calculations to William’s dates based on a

terminus ad quem derived from a sonnet’s initial appearance in one of

the Proof States of Poems (see Appendix Two). For example, William

dates Sonnet 82, Hoarded Joy, 1870, but it appears in Proof State 3 of

Poems, pulled around 13 September 1869, so it was obviously composed

before that date. For two sonnets, Inclusiveness (63) and Lost Days (86),

dating is uncertain. I have changed twenty-eight of William’s dates in

Works and twenty-eight of Fredeman’s dates given in the Appendix

to his ‘Rossetti’s In Memoriam’ (Fredeman 1965: 335–41).

The following table gives all the sonnets arranged chronologically

in groups according to their known or presumed year of composition

(more precise dates are given in the Notes to individual sonnets),

identified with their 1881 numbers (in Arabic; 1870 numbers in

Roman) and titles followed by brief references to documentation. All

citations of Works refer to William’s edition of 1911; Poems means

Rossetti’s collection of 1870.

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Sonnet LXXXIX. The Trees of the Garden.

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