Prince's Progress (frontispiece design)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1865 December


◦ Kooistra, Christina Rossetti and Illustration, 76-80

◦ Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 117-118

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, 107-109 (no. 185).

Scholarly Commentary


It is impossible not to see a strong personal reference in this and the other illustration for DGR's sister's book The Prince's Progress and Other Poems (1866), and especially in the drawing for this frontispiece. DGR chose for his text line 526 of the title poem, “The Prince's Progress”: “You should have wept her yesterday”. A recollection here of the loss of DGR's wife Elizabeth is emphasized by the text DGR wrote beneath one of the studies for this woodcut, which quotes line 1 from CR's “Bride Song”: “Too late for love, too late for joy”.

Production History

DGR's work on these two small drawings dragged out for more than a year. As we see from his letters to Christina's publisher, Alexander Macmillan, of 4 and 26 April 1865, he had at that point committed himself to making two drawings for her book of poetry, a title page and a frontispiece, and to sending the publisher his design for the binding (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 65. 55, 67.). On 3 December he had still not sent the two drawings to Macmillan but promised them “before many days”. The same letter calls for “some few small changes” to the binding design: “all the lines must be made half their present thickness (from the outside in each instance) and the gold balls turned into rings. The colour I chose is a green one which I have by me” ( Fredeman, Correspondence, 65. 170.). He was still working on “Christina's second block”—presumably the frontispiece— on 23 February 1866 and had not completed the work by 2 March, as he told the woodcut engraver William James Linton. DGR wrote to Macmillan on 29 March that “the block is done and gone to Linton, who has my request to be as expeditious as may be. Now then is the time for the binder to correct the binding. I send him with this a cover representing the colour which I wish adopted among those I received, and the necessary alterations”. On 19 April he told his mother he had “a proof of the title page of Christina's book” and finally, on 21 April, he wrote to Macmillan that he was satisfied with both the cuts and the binding and that he wanted to see final proofs (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 66. 39, 44, 63, 83, 84.). The book was published in early June. more than a year after the text of the poems was sent to the publisher.

See also W. J. Linton's finished woodcut made from DGR's drawing for the frontispiece to CR's book of poems.


Surtees' summary of the action of CR's poem is revealing: “The story [of “The Prince's Progress”] is that of the Prince setting out to seek his bride but lingering so long on the way that he finds her dead when he arrives” ( Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, 108 ). The import of this tale for DGR is underscored by the illustration itself, which depicts a grief-stricken prince being attended by a woman, with the bier of his bride in the background attended by six praying women.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s185.raw.xml