Raleigh's Cell in the Tower

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1881
Genre: sonnet


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Sonnets of Three Centuries text.

Scholarly Commentary


The sonnet eulogizes Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), the extraordinary explorer, politician, and poet who was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth. After her death in 1603, the new king James had Raleigh imprisoned in the Tower on suspicion of treason. There he wrote his History of the World, published in 1614 in five volumes. The history only carried forward to approximately 130 b.c.

Textual History: Composition

The date of the sonnet's composition is not known. WMR in his bibliography of 1906 stated that it was composed “Before Autumn 1881”. I judge that it was probably written between January and May 1881, and perhaps in February-March, when DGR was quite involved in discussions with Caine about his own contributions to Caine's volume of sonnets.

The only known autograph manuscripts are the two copies in the library of the Delaware Art Museum, the pencil draft and the corrected copy in ink. A fair copy made by John Schott is also preserved in that library.

Printing History

First printed in February 1882 in T. Hall Caine's edition of Sonnets of Three Centuries (1882) DGR did not reprint it in either of the the 1881 volumes. WMR collected it in his first 1886 edition and kept it in the collected editions that followed.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 13-1881.raw.xml