Christine Rosamond Benton and I were drawn into Tolkien’s Trilogy. The artist known as ‘Rosamond’ could not put these books down, nr could I. This caused our mutual friend, Keith Purvis, a British subject, to comment;
“She doesn’t know these books are real.”
We three were original hippies who took the Lord of the Rings to heart as we modified the modern world, made it over more to our liking, we oblivious to what normal folk were about. This is exactly what William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brother and Sisterhood did. They – returned!
I discovered the Pre-Raphaelites in 1969 and let my hair grow long for the first time. I gave up drugs in 1967 and was looking for a spiritual format. I came under the spell of the Rossetti family who were friendly with Joaquin Miller. We Presco children knew Miller’s daughter as ‘The White Witch’ and we would call her for advice. Miller’s home ‘The Abbye’ was above our home in the Oakland Hills. Our kindred were friends of Miller, who was also a friend of Swineburn, who wrote ‘The Queen-Mother and Rosamund’ and ‘Rosamund Queen of Lombards. Tolkien was inspired by the Lombards.
Filed away in Rosamond’s probate is my plea to the executor to allow me to be my sister’s historian. I mention Miller and Rossetti. I saw myself in the role of Michael Rossetti who had his own publishing company. He published Miller and other famous poets. When I was twelve, my mother read evidence I might become a famous poet.
All my imput has been ruthlessly ignored, because petty un-creative minds have forced our families creative legacy down the tiny holes of their hidden agendas, into the mouths of worms and parasites, because these ignorant people sensed I and the real Art World, did not let them in the door – would never admit them into our circle, our ring of genius!
William Morris had a major influence on J. R. R. Tolkien. As John Garth points out, unlike most authors traumatized by the experience of World War I, Tolkien did not “discard the old ways of writing, the classicism or medievalism championed by Lord Tennyson and William Morris. In his hands these traditions were reinvigorated so that they remain powerfully alive for readers today” (40). His love of Morris, in particular, goes back to his undergraduate days when he turned from studying the Greek and Latin classics to the the northern traditions — the language and literature of the Scandinavian and Germanic past. According Garth,
William Morris, from the late 1870s on, decided to “remedy” the defects of the real historical record by producing specific works of “pseudo-history,” fully-fleshed stories that he could present as “re-discovered” manuscripts of ancient tribal lore. So eager were the Germanic speakers of 19th century Europe to know more about their ancestors, that sometimes even academically trained scholars would be fooled by the books Morris wrote, and asked him for his sources, and wanted to read the original saga manuscripts themselves. To which requests Morris replied “Doesn’t the fool realize, that it’s a romance, a work of fiction — that it’s all lies!” (from May Morris, daughter of W. Morris recollections).
JRRT, a generation later than Morris, got in on the tail end of this nationalistic/ romantic period, and became as fully enmeshed in its allures as Morris. Tolkien went on to “sub-create” his own “pseudo-histories,” manufacturing his versions of the source myths that would allow a richer understanding of the Nordic tradition, especially the Anglo-Saxon phenomena of England. Between them, as much by accident as firm intent, Morris and Tolkien established an entire genre of pseudo-history that has, by now in the 21st century, become one of the most popular fields of literature.
“These two men knew either much (Morris) or most (Tolkien) of all that was known about these [northern] people and their lives. They used that wealth of knowledge to create ‘dreamed realities’ (Morris) or an ‘imaginary history’ (Tolkien) about what it might have been like to live in those days. While what they wrote wasn’t necessarily true in a strict sense, both knew enough about the past and were talented enough as writers that what they wrote created a strong sense that they described what might have been.” ( Michael W. Perry, More to William Morris, p. 7, 2003)
So, the question then becomes, for Tolkien readers, how does Morris stand up to JRRT? Is it worth the money to buy Morris’s books? Will I get the same, or at least a very similar thrill from reading them as I get when running through the pages of LotR and The Hobbit? Well, that’s what I am trying to decide in the next few installments of this topic. How do the works of the two authors compare, in what ways are they similar, in what ways do they differ?
Joaquin Miller looked me up at Somerset House, and left with me
the remaining proofs of his forthcoming volume. He showed me the dedication, ‘To the Rossettis.’ I strongly recommended him to write direct to Gabriel as to the matter before anything further is done. I mentioned the dedication to Christina. She feels some hesitation in sanctioning it, not knowing what the book may contain. If she makes up her mind to object, she is to write to Miller. I looked through the proofs and noted down some remarks on them. They include a series of poems about Christ, named Olive Leaves, implying a sort of religious, or at least personal, enthusiasm, mixed up with a good deal that has more relation to a sense of the picturesque than of the devotional. These poems, though far from worthless from their own point of view, are very defective, and would, I think be highly obnoxious to many readers and Reviewers. I have suggested to Miller the expediency of omitting them altogether. – Christina, I find, has already read these particular poems, and to some considerable extent likes them, which is so far in their favour as affecting religious readers”
The wider world of Victorian London is present: Turgenev comes to dinner, Browning sends his new volumes, Swinburne arrives drunk, and the American poet and adventurer Joaquin Miller makes himself known to the Rossetti circle. Nine appendices include five devoted to Poems and one to the Fleshly School controversy.
Joaquin Miller Cabin is located in Washington, DC. The Hights, the Oakland home Miller built at the end of his life, is currently known as the Joaquin Miller House and is part of Joaquin Miller Park. He planted the surrounding trees and he personally built, on the eminence to the north, his own funeral pyre and monuments dedicated to Moses, General John C. Frémont, and the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Japanese poet Yone Noguchi began his literary career while living in the cabin adjoining Millers’ during the latter half of the 1890s. The Hights was purchased by the city of Oakland in 1919 and can be found in Joaquin Miller Park. It is now a designated California Historical Landmark.
Miller went to England, where he was celebrated as a frontier oddity. There, in May 1871, Miller published Songs of the Sierras, the book which finalized his nickname as the “Poet of the Sierras”. It was well-received by the British press and members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti.
While in England, he was one of the few Americans invited into the Savage Club along with Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The younger Hawthorne referred to Miller as “a licensed libertine” but admitted him “charming, amiable, and harmless”.[
The Savage Club was formed to supply the want which Dr Samuel Johnson and his friends experienced when they founded the Literary Club. A little band of authors, journalists and artists felt the need of a place of reunion where, in their hours of leisure, they might gather together and enjoy each other’s society, apart from the publicity of that which was known in Johnson’s time as the coffee house, and equally apart from the chilling splendour of the modern club.
At present, there are 315 members. The club maintains a tradition of fortnightly dinners for members and their guests, always followed by entertainment. These dinners often feature a variety of famous performers from music hall to concert hall. Several times a year members invite ladies to share both the dinner and the entertainment — sometimes as performers. On these occasions guests always include widows of former Savages, who are known as Rosemaries (after rosemary, a symbol of remembrance).
Born in London, he was a son of immigrant Italian scholar Gabriele Rossetti, and the brother of Maria Francesca Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti.
He was one of the seven founder members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, and became the movement’s unofficial organizer and bibliographer. He edited the Brotherhood’s literary magazine The Germ which published four issues in 1850 and wrote the poetry reviews for it.
It was William Michael Rossetti who recorded the aims of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at their founding meeting in September 1848:
1. To have genuine ideas to express;
2. To study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
3. To sympathize with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote;
4. And most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.
Although Rossetti worked full time as a civil servant, he maintained a prolific output of criticism and biography across a range of interests from Algernon Swinburne to James McNeill Whistler. He edited the diaries of his maternal uncle John William Polidori (author of The Vampyre and physician to Lord Byron), a comprehensive biography of D. G. Rossetti, and edited the collected works of D. G. Rossetti and Christina Rossetti.
Rossetti edited the first British edition of the poetry of Walt Whitman, which was published in 1868; however, this edition was bowdlerized. Anne Gilchrist, who became one of the first to write about Whitman, first read his poetry from Rossetti’s edition, and Rossetti helped initiate their correspondence.
In 1874 he married Lucy Madox Brown, daughter of the painter Ford Madox Brown. They honeymooned in France and Italy. Their first child, Olivia Frances Madox, was born in September 1875, and her birth was celebrated in an ode of Swinburne.
William Michael Rosetti was a major contributor to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica; his contributions on artistic subjects were criticised by many reviewers at the time and since, as showing little evidence of having absorbed the mounting body of work by academic art historians, mostly writing in German.
Dinner at Rossetti’s
by Joaquin Miller
There is no thing that hath not worth;
There is no evil anywhere;
There is no ill on all this earth,
If man seeks not to see it there.
September 28. I cannot forget that dinner with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, just before leaving London, nor can I hope to recall its shining and enduring glory. I am a better, larger man, because of it. And how nearly our feet are set on the same way. It was as if we were all crossing the plains, and I for a day’s journey and a night’s encampment fell in with and conversed with the captains of the march.
But one may not gave names and dates and details over there as here. The home is entirely a castle. The secrets of the board and fireside are sacred. And then these honest toilers and worshippers of the beautiful are shy, so shy and modest. But I like this decent English way of keeping your name down and out of sight till the coffin-lid hides your blushes–so modest these Pre-Raphaelites are that I should be in disgrace forever if I dared set down any living man’s name.
But here are a few of the pearls picked up, as they were tossed about the table at intervals and sandwiched in between tales of love and lighter thoughts and things.
All London, or rather all the brain of London, the literary brain, was there. And the brain of all the world, I think, was in London. These giants of thought, champions of the beautiful earth, passed the secrets of all time and all lands before me like a mighty panorama. All night sol We dined so late that we missed breakfast. If I could remember and write down truly and exactly what these men said, I would have the best and the greatest book that ever was written, I have been trying a week in vain, I have written down and scratched out and revised till I have lost the soul of it, it seems to me; no individuality to it; only like my own stuff. If I only had set their words down on the next day instead of attempting to remember their thoughts! Alas! the sheaves have been tossed and beaten about over sea and land for days and days, till the golden grain is gone, and here is but the straw and chaff.
The master sat silent for the most part; there was a little man away down at the other end, conspicuously modest. There was a cynical fat man, and a lean philanthropist all sorts and sizes, but all lovers of the beautiful of earth. Here is what one, a painter, a ruddy-faced and a rollicking gentleman, remarked merrily to me as he poured out a glass of red wine at the beginning of the dinner:
“When travelling in the mountains of Italy, I observed that the pretty peasant women made the wine by putting grapes m a great tub, and then, getting into this tub, barefooted, on top of the grapes, treading them out with their brown, bare feet. At first I did not like to drink this wine. I did not think it was clean. But I afterward watched these pretty brown women” and here all leaned to listen, at the mention of pretty brown women– I watched these pretty brown women at their work in the primitive winepress, and I noticed that they always washed their feet after they got done treading out the wine.”
All laughed at this, and the red-faced painter was so delighted that he poured out and swallowed another full glass. The master sighed as he sat at the head of the table rolling a bit of bread between thumb and finger, and said, sitting close to me: “I am an Italian who has neven seen Italy. Belle Italia!…”
By and by he quietly said that silence was the noblest attitude in all things; that the greatest poets refused to write, and that all great artists in all lines were above the folly of expression. A voice from far down the table echoed this sentiment by saying:”Heard melodies are sweet; but unheard melodies are sweeter.” “Written poems are delicious; but unwritten poems are divine,” cried the triumphant cynic. “What is poetry?” cries a neighbor. “All true, pure life is poetry,” answers one. “But the inspiration of poetry?” “The art of poetry is in books. The inspiration of poetry in nature.” To this all agreed.
Then the master very quietly spoke: “And yet do not despise the books of man. All religions, said the Chinese philosophers, are good. The only difference is, some religions are better than others, and the apparent merit of each depends largely upon a mans capacity for understanding it. This is true of .poetry. All poetry is good. I never read a poem in my life that did not have some merit, and teach some sweet lesson. The fault in reading the poems of man, as well as reading the poetry of nature, lies largely at the door of the reader. Now, what do you call poetry?” and he turned his great Italian eyes tenderly to where I sat at his side.
To me a poem must be a picture,” I answered.
Proud I was when a great poet then said: “And it must be a picture–if a good poem so simple that you can understand it at a glance, eh? And see it and remember it as you would see and remember a sunset, eh?” “Aye,” answered the master, “I also demand that it shall be lofty in sentiment and sublime in expression. The only rule I have for measuring the merits of a written poem, is by the height of it. Why not be able to measure its altitude as you measure one of your sublime peaks of America?”
He looked at me as he spoke of America, and I was encouraged to answer:”Yes, I do not want to remember the words. But I do want it to remain with me a picture and become a part of my life. Take this one verse from Mr. Longfellow:
“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.’”
“Good!” cried the fat cynic, who, I am sure, had never heard the couplet before, it was so sweet to him; “Good! There is a picture that will depart from no impressible clay. The silent night, the far sweet melody falling on the weary mind, the tawny picturesque Arabs stealing away m the darkness, the perfect peace, the stillness and the rest. It appeals to all the Ishmaelite in our natures, and all the time we see the tents gathered up and the silent children of the desert gliding away in the gloaming.”
A transplanted American, away down at the other end by a little man among bottles, said: “The poem of Evangeline is a succession of pictures. I never read Evangeline but once.” “It is a waste of time to look twice at a sunset,” said Rossetti, sotto voce, and the end man went on: “But i believe I can see every picture in that poem as distinctly as if I had been the unhappy Arcadian; for here the author has called in ail the elements that go to make up a perfect poem.”
“When the great epic of this new, solid Saxon tongue comes to be written,” said one who sat near and was dear to the master’s heart, “it will embrace all that this embraces: new and unnamed lands; ships on the sea; the still deep waters hidden away in a deep and voiceless continent; the fresh and fragrant wilderness; the curling smoke of the camp-fire; action, movement, journeys; the presence–the inspiring presence of woman; the ennobl- ing sentiment of love, devotion, and devotion to the death; faith, hope and charity,- and all in the open air.”
“Yes,” said the master thoughtfully, ‘no great poem has ever been or ever will be fitted in a parlor, or even fashioned from a city. There is not room for it there.”
“Hear! hear! you might as well try to grow a California pine in the shell of a peanut,” cried I. Some laughed, some applauded, all looked curiously at me. Of course, I did not say it that well, yet I did say it far better, I mean I did not use the words carefully, but I had the advantage of action and sympathy.
Then the master said, after a bit of reflection: “Homer’s Ulysses, out of which have grown books enough to cover the earth, owes its immortality to all this, and its out-door exercise. Yet it is a bloody book a bad book, in many respects–full of revenge, treachery, avarice and wrong. And old Ulysses himself seems to have been the most colossal liar on record. But for all this, the constant change of scene, the moving ships and the roar of waters, the rush of battle and the anger of the gods, the divine valor of the hero, and, above all, and over all, like a broad, white-bosomed moon through the broken clouds, the splendid life of that one woman; the shining faith, the constancy, the truth and purity of Penelope–all these make a series of pictures that pass before us like a panorama, and we will not leave off reading till we have seen them all happy together again, and been assured that the faith and constancy of that woman has had it reward. And we love him, even if he does lie!”
How all at that board leaned and listened. Yet let me again and again humbly confess to you that I do him such injustice to try thus to quote from memory. After a while he said: “Take the picture of the old, blind, slobber-mouthed dog, that has been driven forth by the wooers to die. For twenty years he has not heard the voice of his master. The master now comes, in the guise of a beggar. The dog knows his voice, struggles to rise from the ground, staggers toward him, licks his hand, falls, and dies at his feet.”
Such was the soul, heart, gentleness of this greatest man that I ever saw walking in the fields of art….
Miller earned an estimated $3,000 working as a Pony Express rider, and used the money to move to Oregon. With the help of his friend, Senator Joseph Lane, he became editor of the Democratic Register in Eugene, a role he held from March 15 to September 20, 1862. Though no copies survive, it was known as sympathetic to the Confederacy until it was forced to shut down. That year, Miller married Theresa Dyer (alias Minnie Myrtle) on September 12, 1862, in her home four days after meeting her in Port Orford, Oregon.
Swinburne Meets Joaquin Miller.” New York Times (10 May 1931) [Online: BR5]
Picture with the text: “Once Joaquin Miller and a British Writer Called on Swinburne, Whom the Englishman Claimed as an Intimate Friend. They Announced Themselves as Joaquin Miller, the American Poet, and a Friend. Swinburne Sent Down Word to ‘Bring the American Poet Up and Tell the Friend to Go to Hell.’” [MCK]
Algernon Charles Swinburne (London, April 5, 1837 – London, April 10, 1909) was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in every year from 1903 to 1907 and again in 1909.
At Oxford Swinburne met several Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. After leaving college he lived in London and started an active writing career, where Rossetti was delighted with his ‘little Northumbrian friend’, a reference to Swinburne’s diminutive height—he was just over five feet tall.
The first of Rosamond’s five scenes is the most forceful in demonstrating Swinburne’s debt to troubadour conventions as well as to Pre-Raphaelite stylistic influences. Courtly love preoccupations and the medieval setting overshadow elements of Jacobean revenge tragedy throughout the play. Swinburne’s Rosamond, rather than the historical queen of the Courts of Love, espouses the religion of love and, as a result of her lived creed, is poisoned by Eleanor out of jealousy.
Swinburne’s choice of the “rose of the world” as one of his first subjects for verse suggests that he associated his conception of Rosamond with courtly love allegory, specifically the Roman de la Rose, in which the rose is the eternal symbol of the beloved and of the perfect beauty that is fearfully transient but simultaneously immortal.3 As in Swinburne’s later lyrics “Before the Mirror” and “The Year of the Rose,” Rosamond’s central symbol is the rose, and, like them, this play recapitulates the major preoccupations of courtly love poetry: the apotheosis of beauty; love as the necessary consequence of beauty fear of mutability; and a final insistence on the immortality of both love and beauty, which can be attained, paradoxically, only through death.
[39/40] The first scene of Rosamond characterizes its heroine as simultaneously enchanted with her own beauty, exalted by her love affair with Henry, and insecure about the permanence of her beauty and her love. Surrounded by the ephemeral rose blossoms with which she identifies in the maze at Woodstock, she is alone with her maid, Constance. Here Rosamond reveals her concern with the world’s slanderous gossip about her, and as the scene progresses she attempts gradually to rebuild her self-confidence-in her beauty, in Henry’s continuing devotion, and in the unassailable value of beauty and of love. At first, she is defensive:
If six leaves make a rose, I stay red yet
And the wind nothing ruins me; who says
I am at waste? (Tragedies, I, 231)
Is thy name
Babe? Sweet are babes as flowers that wed the sun,
But man may be not born a babe again,
And less than man may woman. Rosamund
Stands radiant now in royal pride of place
As wife of thine and queen of Lombards–not
Cunimund’s daughter. Hadst thou slain her sire
Shamefully, shame were thine to have sought her hand
And shame were hers to love thee: but he died
Manfully, by thy mightier hand than his
Manfully mastered. War, born blind as fire,
Fed not as fire upon her: many a maid
As royal dies disrobed of all but shame
And even to death burnt up for shame’s sake: she
Lives, by thy grace, imperial.
I know it.
I leave thee not the choice. Keep thou thy hand
Bloodless, and Hildegard, whom yet I love,
Dies, and in fire, the harlot’s death of shame.
Last night she lured thee hither. Hate of me,
Because of late I smote her, being in wrath
Forgetful of her noble maidenhood,
Stung her for shame’s sake to take hands with shame.
This if I swear, may she unswear it? Thou
Canst not but say she bade thee seek her. She
Lives while I will, as Albovine and thou
Live by my grace and mercy. Live, or die.
But live thou shalt not longer than her death,
Her death by burning, if thou slay not him.
I see my death shine in thine eyes: I see
My present death inflame them. That were not
Her surety, Almachildes. Thou shouldst know me
Now. Though thou slay me, this may save not her.
My lines are laid about her life, and may not
By breach of mine be broken.
From 1902 Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale worked both as a painter and illustrator of fine books, among them Alfred Tennyson’s Poems in 1905 and Robert Browning’s Pippa Passes in 1908. She was the first female member of the Institute of Painters in Oils in 1902, a member of the RWS and also taught at the Byam Shaw School of Arts.