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ROSSETTI
AND HIS CIRCLE






Other Books by Max Beerbohm

THE WORKS OF MAX BEERBOHM

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YET AGAIN

AND EVEN NOW

A CHRISTMAS GARLAND

THE HAPPY HYPOCRITE
ZULEIKA DOBSON
SEVEN MEN



CARICATURES OF TWENTY-FIVE

GENTLEMEN
THE POET'S CORNER
THE SECOND CHILDHOOD OF JOHN

BULL

A BOOK OF CARICATURES
FIFTY CARICATURES
A SURVEY



D. G. ROSSETTI, PRECOCIOUSLY MANIFESTING, AMONG THE
EXILED PATRIOTS WHO FREQUENTED HIS FATHER'S HOUSE
IN CHARLOTTE STREET, THAT QUEER INDIFFERENCE TO
POLITICS WHICH MARKED HIM IN HIS PRIME AND HIS

DECLINE.




BY



MAX BEERBOHM




LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN



F irtt printed in 19M by R. Clay & Song, Ltd., Bungay, Suffolk.



A/C /-f-79

-H-






NOTE

Anxious to avoid all occasion of offence, I do hope this book
will not be taken as a slight to men of the moment. Throughout
the past quarter of a century I have been proclaiming by pencil
my great interest in such men ; and the only fault I have found
in them is that (numerous though they always are) they are not
numerous enough to satisfy my interest in mankind. They would
suffice me if I were properly keen on metaphysics, Chippendale,
the beauties of Nature, the latest discoveries in science, the shortest
cut to Utopia, etc. I don't agree that the proper study of mankind
is Man. I do but confess that Man is the study that has been most
congenial to me so congenial that the current specimens of him
have always whetted my appetite for other ones. Lack of imagina-
tion debars me from the pleasure of gazing much at the great Jones
who is to leave so deep an impress on the late twentieth century,
and the even greater Robinson who is to loom so tremendously,
for good or evil, over the thirtieth. It is to the Past that I have
ever had recourse from the Present. Years ago there was a book
entitled ' The Poet's Corner ', in which some of my adventures into
the Past were recorded by me. But in that volume there was
a slight admixture of the (then) Present. In this latest volume
there is nothing of anything that wasn't the Past when I was a
child. Hence the apologetic (but not, I hope, abject) tone of these
prefatory words.

Perhaps I ought also to beg your pardon for having here con-
fined myself to one little bit of the Past. In 'The Poet's Corner'
I ranged back as far as Homer. Here I haven't so much as
shown Rossetti before he passed out of baby-clothes into breeches.
Perhaps you have never heard of Rossetti. In this case, I must
apologise still more profusely. But even you, flushed though you



1 1



vi NOTE

are with the pride of youth, must have heard of the Victorian Era.
Rossetti belonged to that though he was indeed born nine years
before it began, and died of it nineteen years before it was over.
For him the eighteen-fifties-and-sixties had no romance at all. For
me, I confess, they are very romantic partly because I wasn't
alive in them, and partly because Rossetti was.

Byron, Disraeli, and Rossetti these seem to me the three most
interesting men that England had in the nineteenth century.
England had plenty of greater men. Shelley, for example, was
a far finer poet than Byron. But he was not in himself interest-
ing : he was just a crystal-clear crank. To be interesting, a man
must be complex and elusive. And I rather fancy it must be a
great advantage for him to have been born outside his proper
time and place. Disraeli, as Grand Vizir to some Sultan, in a
bygone age, mightn't have seemed so very remarkable after all.
Nor might Rossetti in the Quattrocentro and by the Arno. But
in London, in the great days of a deep, smug, thick, rich, drab,
v/ industrial complacency, Rossetti shone, for the men and women
who knew him, with the ambiguous light of a red torch somewhere
in a dense fog. And so ha still shines for me.

It does not appear that the men and women who knew him
well were many. But the men atoned for their fewness by a
great deal of genius, and the women by a great deal of beauty.
Rossetti had invented a type of beauty ; otherwise perhaps we
should not be regarding these ladies as beautiful. And certainly
the genius of the younger men would not but for him have
expressed itself just as it did. Holman Hunt, Millais, Swin-
burne, Morris, were among those whose early work bore his
stamp. Burne-Jones' work bore it always. Even Whistler's
had it for a time. These men, with a sprinkling of remarkable
elder and younger persons who at one time and another entered
or at any rate impinged on the magic Circle, you will find in the
pages of this book. Rather a ribald book? Well, on se moque
de ce qu'on aime. And besides, there is no lack of antidotes. I
refer you to William Rossetti's biography of his brother a
very thorough piece of work, full of well-ordered facts, and very



NOTE vii

pleasant in tone. Holman Hunt's autobiography is a finely solid
and (between the lines) delightful production. Professor Mackail's
book about Morris is a penetrating work of art. Nor could a
husband and his friends be portrayed more vividly and prettily
than Burne-Jones and his friends were portrayed by his widow.
And if, albeit earnest, you are in a great hurry, there is always
the Dictionary of National Biography, you know.

I must warn you, before parting, not to regard as perfectly
authentic any of the portraits that I here present to you. Rossetti
' to my gaze was ne'er vouchsafed.' Nor did I ever set eyes on
Coventry Patmore or Ford Madox Brown or John Ruskin or
Robert Browning. Nor did I see any one of the others until
he had long passed the age at which he knew Rossetti. Old
drawings and paintings, early photographs, and the accounts of
eye-witnesses, have not, however, been my only aids. I have
had another and surer aid, of the most curious kind imaginable.
And some day I will tell you all about it, if you would care
to hear.

M. B.

Rapallo, 1922.



CONTENTS

Frontispiece. Rossetti in Childhood.

1. British Stock and Alien Inspiration.

2. Rossetti 's Courtship.

j. A Momentary Vision that once befell Young Millais

4. A Remark by Benjamin Jotvelt.

5. Coventry Patmore at Spring Cottage.

6. Ned Jones and Topsy.

7. John Ruskin meets Miss Cornforth.

8. Blue China.

g. Woolner at Farringford.

io. Ford Madox Brown patronised by Hounan Hunt.

it. The Small Hours in the 'Sixties at 16, Cheyne Walk.

12. Gabriel and Christina.

jj. George Meredith! s Hortation.

14.. William Bell Scott wondering.

9 f

/J. Robeit Browning introduces a Great Lady.

16. George Augustus Sala with Rossetti.

if. Swinburne and Mr. Gosse.

18. Mr. Morley brings Mr. Mill.

19. Mr. Leighlon suggests Candidature.

20. Air. Watts> Mr. Shields, ana Mr. Caine.

21. The Touch of a Vanishea Hana.

22. Rossettfs Name is heard in America.



BRITISH STOCK AND ALIEN INSPIRATION.

FIRST COUNTY MEMBER ~l

HOLMAN HUNT / " Ver y clever > no doubt ~

SECOND COUNTY MEMBER j , FuU ofwonder f u i ideas, but

JOHN MILLAIS J

FIRST COUNTY MEMBER ^

SECOND COUNTY MEMBER ... ,

" Not to be trusted for one moment.
HOLMAN HUNT

JOHN MILLAIS



ROSSETTI'S COURTSHIP. CHATHAM PLACE, 1850 1860.



A MOMENTARY VISION THAT ONCE BEFELL YOUNG MILLAIS.



THE SOLE REMARK LIKELY TO HAVE BEEN MADE BY
BENJAMIN JOWETT ABOUT THE MURAL PAINTINGS AT
THE OXFORD UNION.

" And what were they going to do with the Grail when they found it,
Mr. Rossetti?"



SPRING COTTAGE, HAMPSTEAD, 1860.

COVENTRY PATMORE VERY VEHEMENTLY PREACHES TO THE ROSSETTIS
THAT A TEA-POT IS NOT WORSHIPFUL FOR ITS FORM AND COLOUR,
BUT AS A SUBLIME SYMBOL OF DOMESTICITY.



TOPSY AND NED JONES, SETTLED ON THE SETTLE
IN RED LION SQUARE.



Ax INTRODUCTION.

Miss CORNFORTH : "Oh, very pleased to meet Mr. Ruskin, I'm sure.



BLUE CHINA.



WOOLNER AT FARRIXGFORD, 1857.

MRS. TENNYSON: "You know, Mr. Woolner, I'm one of the most
un-meddlesome of women ; but when (I'm only asking), when do
you begin modelling his halo ? "






FORD MADOX BROWN BEING PATRONISED BY
HOLMAN HUNT.




(^^^^^^^^^^^vr.



THE SMALL HOURS IN THE 'SIXTIES AT 16, CHEYNE
WALK. ALGERNON READING " ANACTORIA" TO GABRIEL
AND WILLIAM.



ROSSETTI, HAVING JUST HAD A FRESH CONSIGNMENT OF
"STUNNING" FABRICS FROM THAT NEW SHOP IN REGENT
STREET, TRIES HARD TO PREVAIL ON HIS YOUNGER
SISTER TO ACCEPT AT ANY RATE ONE OF THESE AND
HAVE A DRESS MADE OF IT FROM DESIGNS TO BE
FURNISHED BY HIMSELF.

D. G. R. "What is the use, Christina, of having a heart like a singing
bird and a water-shoot and all the rest of it, if you insist on getting
yourself up like a pew-opener? "

C. R. "Well, Gabriel, I don't know I'm sure you yourself always
dress very quietly."



ROSSETTI INSISTENTLY EXHORTED BY GEORGE MEREDITH
TO COME FORTH INTO THE GLORIOUS SUN AND WIND
FOR A WALK TO HENDON AND BEYOND.



MR. WILLIAM BELL SCOTT WONDERING WHAT IT is THOSE

FELLOWS SEEM TO SEE IN GABRIEL.



MR. BROWNING BRINGS A LADY OF RANK AND FASHION
TO SEE MR. ROSSETTT.



i6



ROSSETTI IN HIS WORLDLIER DAYS (CIRCA l866 1868) LEAVING
THE ARUNDEL CLUB WITH GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA.

MR. SALA: "You and I, Rossetti, we like and we understand each
other. Bohemians, both of us, to the core, we take the world as
we find it. / give Mr. Levy what he wants, and you give Mr. Rae
and Mr. Ley-land what they want, and glad we are to pocket the
cash and foregather at the Arundel."



RIVERSIDE SCENE.

ALGERNON SWINBURNE TAKING HIS GREAT NEW FRIEND GOSSE TO
SEE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.



i8



MR. MORLEY OF BLACKBURN, ON AN AFTERNOON IN THE
SPRING OF '69, INTRODUCES MR. JOHN STUART MILL.

" It has recently," he says, "occurred to Mr. Mill that in his lifelong
endeavour to catch and keep the ear of the nation he has been
hampered by a certain deficiency in well, in warmth, in colour, in
rich charm. I have told him that this deficiency (I do not regard it
as a defect) might possibly be remedied by you. Mr. Mill has in
the press at this moment a new work, entitled ' The Subjection
of Women.' From my slight acquaintance with you, and from all
that I have seen and heard of your work, I gather that women
greatly interest you, and I have no doubt that you are incensed at
their subjection. Mr. Mill has brought his proof-sheets with him.
He will read them to you. I believe, and he takes my word for it,
that a scries of illustrative paintings by you would" etc., etc.



A MAN FROM HYMETTUS.

MR. FREDERIC LEIGHTON : "Think not for one moment, my dear
Mr. Rossetti, that I am insensible to the charm of a life recludecl,
as yours is, from the dust of the arena, from the mire of the market-
place. Ah no ! I envy you your ivory tower. How often at some
Council Meeting 1 of the R.A. have I murmured within me that
phrase of Wordsworth's, ' The world is too much with us ' ! Hut
alas, in all of us there is a duality of nature. You, O felix nimium,
are poet as well as painter. I, separated from my easel, am but a
citizen. And the civistic passion yes, passion, dear Mr. Rossctti-
restrains the instinct of the artist in me towards solitude, and curbs
the panting' of the hart in me for tin- \vatrr-brooks. I feel that I
have, in conjunction with my colleagui-s, a duty to the nation. To
improve the taste of the Sovereign, the taste of her ever-genial
first-born and of his sweet and gracious consort, of the Lords
Spiritual and Temporal of the faithful Commons, of the Judicial
Bench, of those who direct the Army and Navy and Reserve
Forces, of our merchant princes in Threadneedle Street and of
our squires in the Shires, and through all these to bring light and
improvement to those toiling millions on whom ultimately the glory
of Great Britain rests all this is in me an ambition not to be stifled
anil an aspiration not to be foregone. You smile, Mr. Rossetti, yet
1 am not disemboldened to say to you now, as I have often wislu-d
to say to you, in the words of the Apostle Paul, ' Come over and
help us ! ' Our President I grant you in confidence is not of all
men the most enlightened. But I, in virtue of what is left to me ot
youth and ardour, conjoined with the paltry gift of tact, have some
little influence at Burlington House. Come now ! let me put your
name down in our Candidates' Hook."



QUIS CUSTODIET IPSUM CUSTODEM?

THEODORE WATTS : "Mr. Cainc, a word with you ! Shields and I have
been talking matters over, and we are agreed that to-night and
henceforth you must not and shall not read any more of your
literary efforts to our friend. They are too what shall I say ?
too luridly arresting, and are the allies of insomnia. "



MR. - - AND MlSS - - NERVOUSLY PERPETUATING THE
TOUCH OF A VANISHED HAND.



THE NAME OF DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI is HEARD FOR
THE FIRST TIME IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
TIME: 1881. LECTURER: MR. OSCAR WILDE.



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