Page:William Blake in his relation to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1911).djvu/3

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William Blake

in his Relation to

Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


In the memoir on Dante Gabriel Rossetti which precedes the family letters of this poet[1], William M. Rossetti tells us that his brother had procured a manuscript book with the poems of William Blake from an attendant in the British Museum in the month of April 1847. "He then proceeded", William Rossetti goes on, "to copy-out across a confused tangle of false starts, alternative forms and cancelling all the poetry in the book, and I did the same for the prose. His ownership of this truly precious volume[2] stimulated in some degree his disregard or scorn of some aspects of art held in reverence by dilettante and routine students and thus conduced to the Praeraphaelitic Movement; for he found here the most (and no doubt the most irrational) epigrams and jeers against such painters as Correggio, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Reynolds, and Gainsborough. They were balsam to Dante Gabriel Rossetti's soul and grist to his mill". Thus far William M. Rossetti, and undoubtedly the finding of this little booklet has exercised a great influence on his brother and through him indeed conduced much to the Praeraphaelitic movement. However this influence was exercised not only on account of its sharp criticism on the Venetian and Flemish schools of painting, but more because of its simple and naive poems with their strange metres, through its weird pictures and the daring doctrines it put forth, and most of all through the spirit of mysticism which breathes through the whole and gives it such a wonderful charm. Like German Romanticism the Praeraphaelitic movement was a revolt against the prosaic acceptance, pseudo-classicism, and thoughtless imitation of the foregoing century, and as such, as it were an aftergrowth of the great


  1. W. M. Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his Family Letters. London 1895.
  2. At the sale of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's effects this little book fetched over one hundred guineas. Recollections of D. G. Rossetti and his Circle by Henry F. Dunn (Chapter III). London 1804.