Baum ed., The House of Life
Doughty, A Victorian Romantic
WMR, DGR as Designer and Writer
Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1881 Ballads and Sonnets text.
In The House of Life DGR forces this sonnet to pair with the previous one,
“Vain Virtues”. As such it
becomes something more than a lament for the passage of time and lost
opportunities. Both octave and sestet accumulate a set of distinct (absent)
presences: loss figured in (as it were) a transitive
not an intransitive mode, loss that appears not as a failure to act but
as a set of specific events (“this or that fair deed”,
according to “Vain Virtues”). When the sestet personalizes
these losses, it simultaneously reimagines them in psychological
terms—specifically, as a dismembered identity.
The sonnet looks forward to “A Superscription” and “He and I”.
WMR assigns various dates to this sonnet: “Before
1863” (see Peattie,
Letters of William Michael Rossetti
; 1858? (in
DGR as Designer and Writer, 293
). W. F. Prideaux in 1904 said that CR had a copy of the sonnet before Elizabeth died (see
W. F. Prideaux, “Rossetti Bibliography”, Notes and Queries 10th series II (10 Dec. 1904), 464
). Scholars now generally accept 1862 as the date of composition: that is
to say, shortly after the death of his wife.
One manuscript is extant, a fair copy in the Fitzwilliam composite “House of Life” sequence.
The text of the Fortnightly Review is followed in all printings
through the 1870 Poems, but in 1881
DGR made a signal change in line 8.
First printed in Emily Faithfull's
Welcome, a collection of verse and prose she printed in 1863.
It was next printed as Sonnet XII in the
Fortnightly Review sequence of sonnets (March 1869) of
“The House of Life” project. The group was printed again in
the Penkill Proofs in
August and kept through all prepublication
texts until its publication in the 1870 Poems. The sonnet is numbered XL in
“The House of
Life” as published in the 1870 volume, and
LXXXVI in the sequence
as published in 1881.
The title recalls the “perduti giorni” of
Petrarch's Rime sparse LXII. 1.
The poem has regularly been read in an autobiographical
context, as Doughty's commentary shows. DGR spoke cryptically to Hall
Caine about “in what but too opportune juncture it was wrung out of
me” (see Caine,
). WMR's uncertainty about the
poem's date—and in particular his conjecture that it might belong to 1858—suggests that
he thought the poem might have reference not to DGR's wife Elizabeth but to Jane
DGR as Designer and Writer,