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DGR, Stealthy School (pamphlet v. Athenaeum)

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The Stealthy School of Criticism
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The Stealthy School of Criticism (pamphlet)
499997A number (not in DGR's hand) written in the bottom right corner of the MS. THE STEALTHY SCHOOL OF CRITICISM:
MR
. R. BUCHANAN.
------
The Contemporary Review for October 1871. (Article: ‘The Fleshly
School of Poetry: Mr. D.G. Rossetti.’ By Thos. Maitland.)
Strahan and Co.

--------------------------P1Sir
, or Sirs,
It is necessary at times, I believe, for the
guardians of public safety to search all kinds of unsavoury
accumulations; and doubtless it must be no uncommon
case for two dead dogs to lie there
, one beneath the other.
Were the hidden one conceivably wanted for some purpose

of judicial evidence, the task of digging it out would not be
a pleasant one; and more time would inevitably be lost than
if
the upper carcass, perhaps purposely paraded, happened
to be the one required. A kindred operation to this is the
cause why my present favour has not reached you earlier;
but I still trust that, for all that, you may prove no loser
by the delay
.
P2The expedients of ordinary delinquency might furnish
many illustrations to my present subject. For instance
,
‘It worn't me, it were 'im,’ is not an elevated plea of self-
defence; nor does it suggest, at first hearing, either the
expression of truth or the protection of honesty
. It is
generally heard by a policeman; and his usual answer is a
grip of the speaker
's collar, resulting finally, as the case may
be
, in a roll in the gutter, a night in the station-house, or a
term
of penal servitude. Every man, Sir, must be his own
‘Force’ on occasion. As you read this, you feel the first
clutch; and I assure you I am going
to ‘run you in.’
P3It
is now some years since a good deal began to be said
as to
the irresponsible nature of anonymous criticism; and
some literary journals were established in which the man
who spoke for or against another was no more nameless at
length than the man he spoke of
. Such journals there are
still
, honestly pursuing their new course; and among these,
the Contemporary Review might, for anything I know to
the contrary
, have been fairly reckoned till now. But in
October of this year at any rate (whether or not for the
first time I do not know
,) this Review seems desirous to
prove
that, if the anonymous in criticism was but a creeping
caterpillar stage, the nominate too was no better than a
homely transitional chrysalis, and that the ultimate butterfly
form for a critic who likes to sport in sunlight and yet to
elude the grasp, is after all the pseudonymous. And yet,
capitally as this seems to combine apparent fearlessness with
real safety
, there are dangers too even here. What cap,
flung at random, brought the gay wings down?
I cannot
tell; but I know that they have somehow come into my
hand for dissection, and that I find the interests of entomo-
logical science too much concerned to let the creature
go again.
P4With the odds on this footing, I feel there is no great
merit on my part if I at once give you one or two points at
the outset of the game. Accordingly, for one thing, I shall
abstain from all opportunities of calling you a Stealthy
Person. I know, and you know, and the reader knows that
such you are; and it is only untruths or uncertainties that

call for repeated proclamation. One other point I have no
choice but to forgo. I have never read a single line of
your acknowledged works, or even set eyes on one of them;
The printer has marked an
Xin the right margin at lines 15 and 17 to indicate a spacing problem in the type. therefore whatever sport they might afford I must cheerfully
resign, feeling no more able to claim such a privilege than
would a sportsman who had a glorious day's hunting offered
him on condition
of his repeating the Church Catechism one
hundred times. Nevertheless, when I take up your pseu-
donymous writings
, and, as it were, glance from my seat in
the saddle over a fine hunting country, teeming everywhere
with the Common Skunk and the Scotch Fox, I feel that,
with such game before me, I have no cause to complain.
P5The two animals above-named present no very salient
points of generic distinction; yet the question between
Thomas Maitland and Robert Buchanan, as spokesman in
this instance, was doubtless of some moment to you. I
am not the only
individual attacked in your article; and
(taking advantage of my commended modesty to put my-
self out of the question for the moment,) I am disposed to
concur heartily in your own view
, that what Robert
Buchanan might have to say about Algernon Swinburne
or William Morris was exactly what no mortal out of
Bedlam could
be expected to listen to. A wild whirl
towards the fire-grate, amid an atmosphere highly charged
with the more explosive parts of our language, would be
the fate, with most readers, of any Review which should
furnish, in an undisguised form, that particular commodity
to its public. Thomas Maitland, on the other hand,—
unheard-of and indeed non-existent, — merely embodied
himself unobtrusively with the obvious features of the situa-
tion: as, firstly, — a Publisher who has some expensive
poetic copyrights to uphold, and is quite indifferent to
their author's dignity or wishes in the means he takes
for
their supposed advantage: secondly, — some other poetry,
published elsewhere, and causing palpitations to this Pub-
lisher: thirdly, — a Review at command, to abuse such poets
in: and lastly, — a Critic just suited to serve the Publisher's
turn, and be paid for it. The proceedings of all parties
here seemed of a kind too well known in the ‘literary’
world to excite much remark.
P6However, as it is, by help of some new electric light, we
have both Robert and Thomas, — Scotch Bard and English
Reviewer in one, — to contemplate; and what better fun
than to interpret between you and
your double, now that
one can see the puppets dallying? In the very first page,
Thomas, having vowed Fee Fo Fum against certain poets,
thinks it wise, by the first law of nature, to give Robert a
gentle slap too, all of course for self-preservation and for his
own good
in the end. Poor anxious little soul! What
man that has
a laugh in him but must half forgive you?
For does one not here see you lying back for a moment with
a rapid rub of the hands, and hear you chuckle, ‘Catch them
nosing me out after that!’ Further on, Robert, having
stood in his corner like a good boy for some time, gets a
sudden pat on the back from Thomas at my expense, and is
informed that whatever merit may exist in an otherwise
worthless poem called ‘Jenny,’
he alone is responsible for.
This question can, no doubt, be easily settled by others
who have read your acknowledged writings. For me, not
being in that position, I must rank myself with those — pro-
bably a minority — who cannot pretend
to an opinion on
the subject. You tell me
, however, that the poem of yours
thus plagiarized by me is entitled, ‘Artist and Model.’

This reminds me that my ‘true profession’ is that of an
Artist; and without ever having seen you, I would venture
to predict that, as a Model for certain characters, you would
be invaluable. Thus, should it chance to be the case that
your calling as poet had somewhat failed you before you took
to criticism, and that your calling as critic were to languish
a little henceforward, I would invite you to drop in on me
some light day in the slack season, when I would at once
A2 gladly commence a ‘Leprosy of Gehazi’
or a ‘Death of
Ananias.’
You already know that I am shy of exhibiting
my pictures; so I need not remind you that the above pseu-
donyms, while profitable (a shilling an hour is the profes-
sional fee), might really pass unnoticed.
P7I observe that, on reading this poem of ‘Jenny,’
Robert-
Thomas ‘fairly lost patience.’ Why, you sorry trickster!
Do you think anyone will believe, with the facts and your
precious farrago of malice before him, that you ever lost
patience in your life? You are nothing but patience, to
your own little ends. What man but yourself would not
indeed have lost patience much less than midway, when he
found himself betrayed by envy into skulking and shuffling
behind a wretched mask, and all to traduce another man
because he too writes verses as best he
may?
P8So this brings us to our true ground
, Robert-Thomas;
and I will now tell you what I mean and do not mean. I do
not mean to object for a moment to whatever any well-
hidden Scotch head, or ‘well-known American hand’ ap-
proved by it, may have to say against the poetic value of
what I write for my own satisfaction. I publish it, and
there it is as a prey for the gods and dogs. Whether at
present any accepting fire descend on it, or it be merely
digested by the consumers of carrion, that can matter
little. It has a soul to be blessed or damned, and one
fate or the other it will meet
in the long run, quite inde-
pendently
of what may be said or done to it now. It is
amusing, doubtless, to see the very same contempt now
brought to bear on one's own writings that one has long ago
seen lavished on the same poets who are now cited against
one in scornful comparison: yet is not this also written in
the book of Dishonest Mediocrity, and has not every one
read it there too often to pay it much attention now?
‘Morbidity,’ ‘Self-consciousness,’ ‘Affectation’—why, these

are catch-words that have been almost identified by turns, in
the mouths of fools and liars (and that but yesterday), with
every name one most warms to, — Shelley, Keats, Coleridge,
Browning, Tennyson, and who not else besides? If one has
no pretension to share the fulness of
their glory, this at least
is something that one clearly has attained to in common with
them. It is pitiful enough to see the would-be successors of
such a critic as Christopher North, — that ‘bantam Thun-
derer,’ as ‘a modern writer’ has called him, — now reduced to
exorcising new verse-makers in the very name of the great
poet who wrote —
L1‘When I heard from whom it came,
L2I forgave you all the blame,
L3Musty Christopher;
L4I could not forgive the praise,
L5Fusty Christopher.’

P9Another silly device which has been tried a thousand
times is the one which you re-exemplify by calling all poetic
work of this immediate day ‘sub-Tennysonian.’ This, if
it has any meaning, must mean that, were it not for
Tennyson
's exemplar, this English generation would present
the unusual phenomenon of giving birth
to no leading
faculty in verse. This is improbable on the face of it;
and as ‘mute inglorious Miltons’ are also improbable in
these days of increased opportunity, it is most likely that the
poets who have written with Tennyson in the field are the
very same who would have written without him. Besides,
real analogies are easy to trace, in every poet, to
his pre-
decessors, and especially his immediate ones; in addition
to that other large class of critical accusations of plagia-
rism which are mere untruth and nothing else.
P10To dwell on any charges
against myself of poetic in-
feriority, is what, as I have said, I do not intend doing.
Any one has a perfect right to make these, so long as he
#The printer has a hash mark in the margin at line 27 to indicate that the words “
me address”, which are run together in the text, should be spaced apart. confines himself to the literary question; and if he does
so under a mask, that merely shows timidity and lack of
self-confidence from one cause or another, and need not of
itself invalidate his criticism, though it must of course,
when discovered, place him at a disadvantage with the reader.
P11But in this instance, under the guise of criticism, the
use made by me of poetic means has been grossly and
unscrupulously misrepresented; and it is my intention to
show that your article in the Contemporary Review, put
forward as it is under an outer cover of falsehood, is no less
in itself throughout an example of literary duplicity. I
need hardly say that it is not for your benefit that I take
this course, since you know just as well as I do how true
it is that you have spoken in great measure untruly; but
certain honest people will read what you have said without
any means of discovering its bad faith; and that means
I will afford them if they like to hear me.
P12In many phases of outward nature, the principle of chaff
and grain holds good, — the base enveloping the precious
continually; but a lie was never yet the husk of a truth.
Thresh and riddle and winnow it as you may, — let it fly
in shreds to the four winds, — falsehood only will be that
which flies and that which stays. Thus the sheath of deceit
which this undertaking of yours presents at the outset
insures in fact what we shall find to be its real character
to the core.
P13[But here, parenthetically, let me address the general
reader; for a certain impatience soon becomes inevitable in
speaking on points of moment to one whose personal conduct
makes it impossible to address him without
some contempt.
P14The primary accusation, on which this writer grounds all
the rest, seems to be that others and myself extol fleshliness
as the distinct and supreme end of poetic and pictorial art;
aver that poetic expression is greater than poetic thought;
and by inference that the body is greater than the soul, and
sound superior to sense.’ As my own writings are alone
formally dealt with in the article, I shall confine my an-
swer
to myself; and this must first take unavoidably the
form of a challenge to prove so broad a statement. It is
true, some fragmentary pretence at proof is put in here
and there throughout the attack, and thus far an oppor-
tunity
is given of contesting the assertion; so let this be
undertaken as rapidly as possible
.
P15A Sonnet entitled ‘Nuptial Sleep,’
is quoted and abused
at page 338 of the Review, and is there dwelt upon as a
whole poem describing merely animal sensations.’ It
is no more a whole poem in reality than is any single stanza
of any poem throughout the book. The poem, written in
sonnets and of which this is one sonnet stanza, is entitled
‘The House of Life;’
and even in my first published in-
stalment
of the whole work (as contained in the volume
under notice,) ample evidence is included that no such
passing phase of description as the one headed ‘Nuptial
Sleep’
could possibly be put forward by the author of the
House of Life as his own representative view of the subject
of Love. In proof of this, I will direct attention (among
the love-sonnets) to Nos. 2, 8, 11, 17, 28, and more espe-
cially 13
, which, indeed, I had better print here.
LOVE-SWEETNESS.

L1Sweet dimness of her loosened hair's downfall
L2About thy face: her sweet hands round thy head
L3In gracious fostering union garlanded;
L4Her tremulous smiles; her glances' sweet recall
L5Of love; her murmuring sighs memorial;
L6Her mouth's culled sweetness by thy kisses shed
L7On cheeks and neck and eyelids, and so led
L8Back to her mouth which answers there for all:—


499997A number (not in DGR's hand) written in the bottom right corner of the MS. L9What sweeter than these things, except the thing
L10In lacking which all these would lose their sweet:—
L11The confident heart's still fervour; the swift beat
L12And soft subsidence of the spirit's wing,
L13Then when it feels, in cloud-girt wayfaring,
L14The breath of kindred plumes against its feet?

P16Any reader may bring any artistic charge he pleases
against the above sonnet; but one charge it would be im-
possible
to maintain against the writer of the series in which
it occurs; and that is, the wish on his part to assert that the
body is greater than the soul. For here all the passionate
and just delights of the body are declared — somewhat
figuratively, it is true, but unmistakably — to be as nought
if not ennobled by the concurrence of the soul at all times.
Moreover, nearly one half of this series of Sonnets has
nothing to do with love, but treats of quite other life-
influences
. I would defy any one to couple with fair quo-
tation
of Sonnets 29, 30, 31, 39, 40, 41, 43, or others, the
slander that their author was not impressed, like all other
thinking men, with the responsibilities and higher mysteries
of life; while Sonnets 35, 36, and 37, entitled ‘The Choice,’

sum up the general view taken in a manner only to be evaded
by conscious insincerity. Thus much for the House of Life,
of which the Sonnet ‘Nuptial Sleep’
is one stanza, embody-
ing
, for its small constituent share, a beauty of natural uni-
versal
function, only to be reprobated in art if dwelt on (as I
have shown that it is not here) to the exclusion of those other
highest things of which it is the harmonious concomitant.
P17At page 342 an attempt is made to stigmatize four short
quotations as being specially my own property,’ that is, (for
the context shows the meaning,) as being grossly sensual;
though all guiding reference to any precise page or poem in
my book is avoided here. The first of these unspecified
quotations is from the ‘Last Confession,’
and is the descrip-
tion
referring to the harlot's laugh, the hideous character of
which, together with its real or imagined analogy to the
laugh heard soon afterwards from the lips of one long
cherished as an ideal, is the immediate cause which makes
the maddened hero of the poem a murderer. Assailants
may say what they please; but no poet or poetic reader will
blame me for making the incident recorded in these seven
lines as repulsive to the reader as it was to the hearer and
beholder. Without this, the chain of motive and result
would remain obviously incomplete. Observe also that these
are but seven lines in a poem of some five hundred, not one
other of which could be classed with them.
P18A second quotation gives the last two lines only of the
following sonnet, which is the first of four sonnets in the
House of Life, jointly entitled ‘Willowwood.’

L1I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
L2Leaning across the water, I and he;
L3Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
L4But touched his lute wherein was audible
L5The certain secret thing he had to tell:
L6Only our mirrored eyes met silently
L7In the low wave; and that sound seemed to be
L8The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.

L9And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
L10And with his foot and with his wing feathers
L11 He swept the spring that watered my heart's drouth.
L12Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
L13And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
L14Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.

P19The critic has quoted (as I said) only the last two
lines, and he has italicized the second as something un-
bearable
and ridiculous. Of course the inference would
be that this was really my own absurd bubble-and-squeak
notion of an actual kiss. The reader will perceive at once,
from the whole sonnet transcribed above, how untrue such
an inference would be. The sonnet describes a dream or
trance of divided love momentarily reunited by the longing
fancy; and in the imagery of the dream, the face of the
beloved rises through deep dark waters to kiss the lover.
Thus the phrase, Bubbled with brimming kisses, &c.’ bears
purely on the special symbolism employed, and from that
point of view will be found, I believe, perfectly simple
and just.
P20A third quotation is from ‘Eden Bower,’
and says,
L1
What more prize than love to impel thee?
L2 Grip and lip my limbs as I tell thee!”

Here again no reference is given, and naturally the reader
would suppose that a human embrace is described. The em-
brace
, on the contrary, is that of a fabled snake woman and
a snake. It would be possible still, no doubt, to object on
other grounds to this conception; but the ground inferred
and relied on for full effect by the critic is none the less
an absolute misrepresentation. These three extracts, it will
be admitted, are virtually, though not verbally, garbled
with malicious intention; and the same is the case, as I
have shown, with the sonnet called ‘Nuptial Sleep,’
when
purposely treated as a whole poem.’
P21The last of the four quotations grouped by the critic as
conclusive examples consists of two lines from ‘Jenny.’

Neither some thirteen years ago when I wrote this poem,
nor last year when I published it, did I fail to foresee
impending charges of recklessness and aggressiveness, or to
perceive that even some among those who could really read
the poem and acquit me on these grounds might still hold
that the thought in it had better have dispensed with the
situation which serves it for framework. Nor did I fail to
consider how far a treatment from without might here be
possible. But the motive powers of art reverse the require-
ment of science, and demand first of all an innerstanding
point
. The heart of such a mystery as this must be plucked
from the very world in which it beats or bleeds; and the beauty
and pity, the self-questionings and all-questionings which
it brings with it, can come with full force only from the
mouth of one alive to its whole appeal, such as the speaker
put forward in the poem,— that is, of a young and thought-
ful
man of the world. To such a speaker, many half cynical
revulsions of feeling and reverie, and a recurrent presence
of the impressions of beauty (however artificial) which
first brought him within such a circle of influence, would
be inevitable features of the dramatic relation portrayed.
Here again I can give the lie, in hearing of honest readers,
to the base or trivial ideas which my critic labours to
connect with the poem, as easily as to his pardonable
personal vanity
in the attribution of its origin.
P22It would be humiliating, need one come to serious detail,
to have to refute such an accusation as that of binding
oneself by solemn league and covenant to extol fleshliness
as the distinct and supreme end of poetic and pictorial art;’
and one cannot but feel that here every one will think it
allowable merely to pass with a smile by the foolish fellow
who has brought a charge thus framed against any reasonable
man. Indeed, what I have said already is substantially
enough to refute it, even did I not feel sure that a fair
balance of my poetry must, of itself, do so in the eyes of
every candid reader. I say nothing of my pictures; but
those who know them will laugh at the idea. That I may,
nevertheless, take a wider view than some poets or critics, of
how much, in the material conditions absolutely given to man
to deal with as distinct from his spiritual aspirations, is ad-
missible
within the limits of art, — this, I say, is possible
enough, nor do I wish to shrink from such responsibility.
But to state that I do so to the ignoring or overshadowing of
spiritual beauty is an absolute falsehood, impossible to put
forward except in the indulgence of prejudice or rancour.

499997A number (not in DGR's hand) written in the bottom right corner of the MS. P23I have selected, amid much railing on my critic's part,
what seemed the most representative indictment against me,
and have so far answered it. Its remaining clauses set forth
how others and myself aver that poetic expression is greater
than poetic thought . . . . and sound superior to sense;’
an accusation elsewhere, I observe, expressed by saying that
we wish to create form for its own sake.’ If writers of verse
are to be listened to in such criticism on each other, it might
be quite competent to me to prove from the works of my
friends in question that no such thing is the case with them;
but my present function is to confine myself to my own
defence. This, again, it is difficult to do quite seriously.
It is no part of my undertaking to dispute the verdict of any
contemptuous contemporary on my own executive success or
non-success:
but the accusation here is not against the
poetic value of certain work, but against its primary and
(by assumption) its admitted aim. And to this I must
reply that so far, assuredly, not even Shakspeare himself
could desire more arduous human tragedy for development
in art than belongs to the themes I venture to embody, how-
ever incalculably
higher might be his power of dealing with
them. What more inspiring for poetic effort than the
terrible Love turned to Hate,— perhaps the deadliest of all
passion-woven complexities,— which is the theme of Sister
Helen,’
and in a more fantastic form of Eden Bower,’
— the
surroundings of both poems being the mere machinery of a
central universal meaning? What again more so than the
savage penalty exacted for a lost ideal, as expressed in the
Last Confession
?
— than the outraged love for man and
burning compensations in art and memory of Dante at
Verona
;
than the baffling problems which the face of
Jenny
conjures up; or than the analysis of passion and
feeling attempted in the ‘House of Life
and others among
the more purely lyrical poems? I speak here, as does my
critic in the clause cited, of aim not of achievement; and so
far, the mere summary is instantly subversive of the prepos-
terous
imputation. To assert that the poet whose matter is
such as this, aims chiefly at creating form for its own sake,’
is in fact almost an ingeniuous kind of dishonesty; for surely
it delivers up the asserter at once, bound hand and foot, to
the tender mercies of contradictory proof. Yet this may
fairly be taken as an example of the spirit in which a con-
stant
effort is here made against me to appeal to those who
either are ignorant of what I write or else belong to the
large class too easily influenced by an assumption of autho-
rity
in addressing them. The false name appended to the
article must, as is evident, aid this position vastly: for who,
after all, would not be apt to laugh at seeing one poet
confessedly come forward as aggressor against another in the
field of criticism?
P24It would not be worth while to lose time and patience in
noticing minutely how the system of misrepresentation is
carried into points of artistic detail; giving us, for example,
such statements as that the burthen employed in the ballad
of ‘Sister Helen’
is repeated with little or no alteration
through thirty four verses,’ whereas the fact is that the
alteration of it in every verse is the very scheme of the
poem. But these are minor matters, quite thrown into the
shade by the critic's more daring sallies. In addition to the
class of attack I have answered above, the article contains of
course an immense amount of personal paltriness; as, for
instance, attributions of my work to this that or the other
absurd derivative source; or again, pure nonsense (which
can have no real meaning even to the writer) about one art
getting hold of another and imposing on it its conditions and
limitations’; or indeed what not besides? To all this, no
more attention is possible than that which Virgil enjoined
Dante to bestow on the meaner phenomena of his pilgrimage.
Thus far therefore, reader, and no further, my parenthesis
addresses
you.]
P25And now, Robert-Thomas, the question arises, whether
to leave you to seek cover again, or to accept a little more
of the sport you so lavishly afford. The reader who has
kept my side till now may fairly claim you
for a closing
run, so I choose
the latter course.
P26I observe, pseudonymous Sir, that one point on which
you feel bound to be inexorable is that of ‘sincerity.’ You
would ‘rather believe that Mr. Rossetti lacks comprehension
than that he is deficient in sincerity.’ He has, for his part,
no pretensions to resemble Mr. Thomas Maitland so strikingly
as the latter deficiency would indicate, and he must once
more leave it to the reader to decide whether he can claim
to comprehend Mr. Robert Buchanan. He thinks he can,
— motive, action, and all; and he had tried to give an
oppor-
tunity of judging on some points between himself and you.
Let us see if perhaps a few others may still remain to con-
sider.
P27You are prodigiously alive to the scale of comparison
among poets. Not only can you by this time clearly dis-
cern the greatness of Tennyson and the suggestive value
of Buchanan to the plagiarists of his day, but you are able
to assure us confidently that ‘the great poet is Dante, full
of the Thunder of a great Idea;’ (what gastric antidote may
so serious a case demand?) ‘Milton, unapproachable in the
serene white light of thought and sumptuous wealth of
style; Shakspeare, all poets by turns and all men in suc-
cession; and Goethe, always innovating and ever indifferent
to innovation for its own sake.’ By the bye, might not
these last three powerful definitions of poets furnish us with
some instructive symbolic analogy to our own Poet-Critic?
Whether the latter is like Shakspeare, ‘all poets in turn,’
I cannot tell, for his lays are unknown to
me; but I will
undertake
to say that he can sometimes be at least two
‘men in succession,’ and, let us hope,
with all deserved
success; that, like Goethe, he sometimes innovates, as when,
for instance, he supersedes anonymity by pseudonymity in
criticism, being also perhaps indifferent to
the innovation
for its own sake, but presumably loving it for the sake
of
his so beloved mistress Sincerity; and that, like Milton, he
occasionally has some ‘serene white light’ cast upon his
‘sumptuous wealth of style,’ as in the present humble
epistle, which for its own part has no prouder pretension
than to show him unmistakeably as he is
.
P28On the other hand, Sir, a poet of the third or even of the
second order is a thing you cannot tolerate. Indeed, how
could it be hoped that you should view with
any degree of
forbearance such poetunculi as some you enumerate,
to wit,
Gower, Skelton, Waller, Cowley, Gascoigne, Silvester,
Carew, Donne, or ‘the fantastic Fletcher’? But mercy
upon us,
Robert-Thomas, how about Ben Jonson and Pope?
Why, Sir, Jonson may indeed not be a Shakspeare, nor Pope
a Milton; but for all that, each of them still goes singing
down
the path of fame with the Roberts of his day in one
pocket and the Thomases in the other
, and feels the weight
of them no more than of a pocket-handkerchief or suchlike
advisable provision.
P29However I find I have nearly done with you; for indeed,

once identified, do you not become in the sight of all men
your
own best sworn tormentor’? Who will then fail to
see clearly all the palpitations which preceded your final
resolve in the great question whether to be or not to be your
acknowledged self when you became an assailant? And
yet you are he who, from behind your mask, ventures to
charge another with bad blood,’ with insincerity,’ and
499997A number (not in DGR's hand) written in the bottom right corner of the MS. the rest of it, (and this where poetic fancies are alone in
question); while every word on your own tongue is envious
rancour, and every stroke from your pen perversion of truth.
Yet after all, there is nothing wonderful in the lengths to
which a fretful poet-critic will carry such grudges as he may
bear, while publisher and editor can both be found who are
willing to make such means available for business purposes,
even to the clear subversion of the first professed principle
of
the Review which they conduct. Well, ‘Mr. Rossetti,’
you say, has nothing particular to tell or teach you; yet
he has told you here
and there a thing, and others may
prove willing to enforce the teaching still further. He has
‘extreme self-control’ too, as I learn from you,
and ‘a
careful choice
of diction’; gifts which, you see, he has not
refused
to turn to your advantage. Lastly I notice that
‘there is not a drop of piteousness in Mr
. Rossetti.’ And
no more there is — for a Stealthy Critic
.
P30It is well to find that great achievements can still call
forth at times the runic fervour of the Skald
. The facts of
your pseudonymous career would seem already to have been
thrown into
the form of a spirited mono-duologue, which
runs as follows: —
THE BROTHERS
.

L1I am two brothers with one face,
L2So which is
the real man who can trace?
L3(My wrongs are raging inside
of me.)

L4Here are some poets and they sell
,
L5Therefore revenge becomes me well.
L6(O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)

L7My books aren't bought; it's a burning shame
,
L8But it doesn't pay to puff my name:
L9(My wrongs are boiling inside
of me.)


L10So at least all other bards I'll slate
L11Till no one sells but
the Laureate.
L12(O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)

L13I took a beast
of a poet's tome
L14And nailed a cheque
, and brought them home;
L15(My wrongs were howling inside
of me.)

L16And after supper
, in lieu of bed,
L17I wound wet towels round my head.
L18(O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)

L19Of eyelids kissèd and all
the rest,
L20And rosy cheeks that lie on one's breast,
L21(My wrongs were yelling inside
of me.)

L22I told the worst that pen can tell,
L23And won't
the Laureate love me well?
L24(O Robert-Thomas
is dread to see.)

L25I crowed out loud in
the silent night,
L26I made my digs so sharp and bright:
L27(My wrongs were gnashing inside of me.)

L28In our Contemptible Review

L29I stuck the beggar through and through.
L30(O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)

L31I tanned his hide and combed his head
L32And that bard
, for one, I left for dead.
L33(My wrongs are hooting inside of me.)

L34And now he
's wrapped in a printer's sheet,
L35Let's fling him at the Laureate's feet.
L36(O Robert-Thomas is dread to see.)

P31As only three among our living poets
, you know, (and
these comparatively recent ones,) were ever so weak as to
write a ballad with a burthen, the above must obviously be,
for once, an original and unsuggested poem by one of the
three; but by which of them, I leave you to determine
.
P32And now, how to conclude? You are fond of a
Shaksperian illustration
. Well, Lucio, as you may remem-
ber, was
but a foul-mouthed nobody; but in an evil hour he
lied against things above him, and his sentence was whipping
and hanging
. I have whipped you; but you have shown
such
a faculty for securing rope enough that you may be left
to hang yourself.
I remain
, Sir, or Sirs,
Your obedient humble servant,
D
.G. Rossetti.November, 1871.
P33P.S. I have spared you this much of my time and
patience
, and it is all that I can afford. Therefore (turning
for the last time an untruth
of yours to truer purposes,) let
me say that you may for the future, in either of your cha-
racters, responsively ‘bite, scratch, scream, bubble, sweat,
writhe, twist, wriggle, or foam,’ to your indignant heart's
content, but neither thought of mine nor lash of mine will

be turned your way again.


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