Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his Circle/Editorial


The position reached and maintained by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the domain of Art and Poetry, the remarkable influence which he exerted upon the second Renaissance in Art and Letters witnessed by the nineteenth century, and, moreover, the glamour which yet illumines his individuality, and the high esteem in which his accomplishments are justly held, proffer, it is suggested, an ample apology, if such be needed, for rescuing these Recollections from the obscurity of the annals of the family to which the author belonged, and giving them the publicity of print.

Whatever pertains to the mission and conquests of a man of genius—his ideals, methods, and struggles—is of great and permanent value. It necessarily commands universal respect, and sometimes should evoke emulation. But at the same time such knowledge, generally speaking, is beyond the understanding of the non-scientific and insufficiently-versed mind. It is the human side of genius which receives the widest comprehension, and appeals with the larger force to our sympathies, which in fact reveals, through its frailties and idiosyncrasies, the kinship of genius with mediocrity and ineptitude, and indeed, enables us to understand more fully the incidence of genius.

By reason of the homely and personal touches which he is qualified to give, the experiences and knowledge gained of an individuality by a constant and observant companion reveal, when related, far more convincingly than any official life based upon correspondence or posthumous compilation could do, the character, the humanity of the subject. And hence, whatever value these Recollections may possess as such, their chief lies in the fact that they convey the personality, and describe the thoughts and actions of the great poet-painter as they appeared to one long privileged to enjoy familiar association with him, and who had consequently unique opportunities for gauging his weakness as well as his strength.

That they have also a certain illuminating value will, I think, be conceded. It is not difficult to imagine ourselves, as we read, silent but welcome guests at those brilliant gatherings which are so vividly described, to conjure up the dominating figures in Art and Poetry with whom we are brought so frequently into contact, to listen to the sparkling conversation and the flow of wit and reason, or to laugh at the smart repartee; neither is it hard to realise that power of inspiring enthusiasm and making proselytes which Rossetti possessed in so marked a degree, nor the extraordinary magnetism of his complex individuality.

Viewed solely from the literary standpoint, that these memories have a certain charm and quality in this regard, will not, I think, be denied.

I wish to acknowledge the great indebtedness of the surviving sisters of Henry Treffry Dunn and my wife, his niece, as well as of myself, to Mr. William Michael Rossetti for kindly correcting the manuscript of the Recollections and affording valuable information concerning points which were undefined; also, for penning an introductory note, and generously placing at my disposal for the purpose the originals of the illustrations which appear in this volume, and to express to him their and my warm thanks for his interest and generosity.

110, St. Martin's Lane, London.
September, 1903.