Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
Autograph letter signed, dated London [1847], to Leigh Hunt
Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2008
MA 7244

Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote this letter, at the age of nineteen, to introduce himself and his poetry to Leigh Hunt, the radical journalist and poet. Hunt was also a friend of Keats, Shelley, and Byron. Rossetti's letter represents an important link between the Romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites.

This four-page letter begins with an account of Rossetti's response to Hunt's writings, and describes the significance and magnitude of his influence. Rossetti tells Hunt that he has "read more and more; and having read once; I have read again." He confides that his writings have "delighted me, strengthened me, instructed me: you do so still."

The letter articulates Rossetti's ambitions as a painter and poet at an early stage of his career: "The study to which I have devoted myself is that of painting; It has been my choice since childhood. Lately, however, my mind has been directed also toward another object whose attainment, I confess, has sometimes interfered with my steadier purpose; this object is the power of expressing my thoughts in poetry."

Rossetti asks if he might submit his Italian translations to Hunt for his appraisal, declaring his ambition to translate Dante's lyrical poems into English. He tells Hunt that he has "often desired, while reading some poetical work in a foreign language, to be able, by translation, to communicate to others at least some part of the pleasure I had myself experienced." After receiving this lengthy and effusive letter Hunt became an ardent admirer and champion of Rossetti's poetry.

This manuscript has been out of view for over eighty years: the editors of the Clarendon edition of Rossetti's letters (in four volumes, published 1965–1967) believed it to be lost. It was formerly owned, transcribed, and published by William Harris Arnold, the great American collector, in his book Ventures in Book Collecting (1923). Arnold's transcription was used as the copytext for William E. Fredeman's edition of the Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Volume 1: The formative years, 1835–1862, (Cambridge, UK, 2002, pp. 49–51). The original manuscript reveals over twenty textual variants to the published text of the letter.

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