A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Rossetti, Dante Gabriel

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Rossetti, Dante Gabriel (1828-1882).— Poet and painter, was b. in London. His f. was Gabriele Rossetti, an Italian scholar, who came to England in 1824, and was Prof. of Italian in King's Coll., London. His mother was Frances Polidori, English on her mother's side, so that the poet was three-fourths Italian, and one-fourth English. He was ed. at King's Coll. School, and began the systematic study of painting in 1842, and in 1848, with Holman Hunt, Millais, and others, founded the pre-Raphaelite school of painting. In 1849 he exhibited the "Girlhood of Mary Virgin," and among his other pictures are "Beata Beatrix," "Monna Vanna," and "Dante's Dream." Simultaneously with art he worked hard at poetry, and by 1847 he had written The Blessed Damozel and Hand and Soul (both of which appeared in the Germ, the magazine of the pre-Raphaelites), Retro me Sathanas, The Portrait, and The Choice, and in 1861 he brought out a vol. of translations from the early Italian poets under the title of Dante and his Circle. The death of his wife in 1862, after a married life of less than two years, told heavily upon him, as did various attacks upon his poetry, including that of Robert Buchanan (q.v.)—The Fleshly School of Poetry—to which he replied with The Stealthy School of Criticism. His Poems which, in the vehemence of his grief, he had buried in the coffin of his wife, and which were afterwards exhumed, appeared in 1870; and his last literary effort, Ballads and Sonnets, containing the sonnets forming The House of Life, in 1881. In his later years he suffered acutely from neuralgia, which led to the habit of taking chloral. Rossetti was fastidious in composition; his poems are as remarkable for condensation, finish, and exact expression of the poet's thought as for their sumptuous colouring and rich concrete imagery. In later years he was subject to depression, and became somewhat embittered, and much of a recluse.

Life by A.C. Benson (English Men of Letters). Family Letters and Memoir by W.M. Rossetti. Poetical Works with preface by the same, etc.