This day I excuse thee

Alternately titled: Letter to Frederick Stephens

William Holman Hunt

General Description

Date: 1848 September
Rhyme: couplets (with variations)
Meter: syllabic
Genre: epistle


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the South African National Gallery Manuscript text.

Scholarly Commentary


The addressee of this letter from Hunt is not specifically given but the subject and context indicate that it was almost certainly Frederick Stephens (to whom Hunt had addressed a similar verse letter in December 1848). WMR's pencil notation dates the letter (conjecturally) September 1848; it is certainly 1848 but it might have been written in October or November. The reference to the PRB (line 14) suggests that it was written after the initial meeting at Millais's lodging in Gower Street (sometime in September or October 1848) where the PRB project was first conceived. The first formal meeting of the PRB did not happen until 31 December of that year.

The letter discusses a date Hunt had made to spend a day painting at a marshland by the sea—probably at Deptford or Woolwich (see line 25). Lines 10-31 are apparently recalling a party attended the evening before by Hunt, his correspondent, and other PRB associates. The passage referencing DGR (see line 39) glances ironically at DGR's dislike of en plein air painting.

Like his verse letter of August 1848 to William Smith Williams and the December letter to Stephens, this letter is composed in an amusing doggerel line of syllabic couplets (with variations).

The manuscript itself is badly water and fire damaged so that recovering the text up to line 32 is quite difficult, particularly lines 9-31. Nonetheless, manipulating a digital facsimile of the manuscript with image editing software has recovered a good deal of the obscured text. Some of the readings, however, remain hypothetical.

Printing History

The manuscript poem has never been printed.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: hunt003.raw.xml