The Bride's Prelude

Alternately titled: Bride-Chamber Talk

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848
Date: 1870 (circa)
Rhyme: a4b3c4c4c4
Meter: iambic
Genre: narrative verse


◦ Baum's Rossetti. Poems, Ballads and Sonnets, 123-124n.

◦ Bentley, “Rossetti's ‘Bride Chamber Talk’ ” (1976), 83-97.

◦ Fontana, “Fragment and Disease”, 5-11.


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Poems. A New Edition (1881).

Scholarly Commentary


DGR tried to complete the textual work, begun in 1848 or 1849, in the late 1850s and again in 1869, but around 1878 he decided to leave it unfinished. In the end he published it as an extensive fragment, with the example of Coleridge very much in his mind, as his proposed conclusion for the story, probably written in 1871, indicates (in his notes to the text WMR dates the prose fragment 1878). It may be that Elizabeth Siddal's picture The Woeful Victory was intended to illustrate the poem's conclusion.

Baum's introductory note to the poem in his 1937 edition is an acute and useful commentary on the poem's versification and it relation to the poem's subject (see Baum's Rossetti. Poems, Ballads and Sonnets, 123-124n. ).

The whereabouts of the primary pictorial example of the work, a pencil sketch sold recently at Sotheby's, is not known. DGR also made a more detailed crayon study of one of the seated women.

Textual History: Composition

The poem was begun in 1849, perhaps as early as the spring. Only a fragment of this original work survives. DGR had completed 120 stanzas by late in September, when he noted that he intended to publish the poem in The Germ (see his letter to William Bell Scott, 23 Sept. 1849, Fredeman, Correspondence 49. 12 ). Further composition was interrupted by his trip to the continent with Holman Hunt. By the following May DGR writes to Scott that he has “given up” his poem and the idea of publishing it because “the proprietor” of the journal he offered it to had judged it “immoral” (see Fredeman, Correspondence I. 144 ). He thought again about publishing the poem in 1860, when he was putting together his (aborted) volume of poems Dante at Verona and other poems. But even before the volume was abandoned he had decided against the idea.

Textual History: Revision

Two prose descriptions of the poem's conclusion were drafted by DGR: the earlier one comes at the end of the British Library manuscript, the other—more finished—is held in the Princeton University Library. A set of slip proofs prepared by the printer Strangeways and Walden for the 1881 Poems, with DGR's revisions, is preserved in the Princeton-Taylor collection. These proofs represent a first revise from the first proof text of the poem that DGR had printed off in early May 1881. A duplicate first revise is housed in the British Library. The initial proof state is represented by the corrected slip proofs housed in the library of the Delaware Art Museum.

Printing History

First published in the 1881 Poems and collected thereafter.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1848.s221.raw.xml