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William Michael Rossetti Papers

Date range: 1888–1913

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William Michael Rossetti (1829–1919), art critic and literary editor, was introduced to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood by his brother Dante Gabriel in 1848. He acted as secretary of the Brotherhood between 1849 and 1853, and kept a record of their proceedings, known as the P.R.B. Journal. He managed and edited The Germ and did much to promote the work of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Rossetti wrote extensively on art, Italian literature, and his hero Shelley. He also published the collected works of his brother after Dante Gabriel’s death in 1882, and edited Christina Rossetti’s New Poems (1896), Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti with a Memoir (1904), and Family Letters (1908).

The collection comprises letters from William Michael Rossetti to his literary agent, William Morris Colles (1855–1926), and to the novelist Anna Steele (d. 1914). These revealing letters contain Rossetti’s reminiscences of artists and writers and his evaluations of their work.

Shelley, Tennyson and George Meredith are among those mentioned, as well as others, like Swinburne, who were close associates of the Pre-Raphaelites. Members of the Brotherhood themselves occur frequently throughout the correspondence, and naturally Dante Gabriel Rossetti figures prominently; references to his work, and particularly his paintings and drawings, are especially detailed. William Michael Rossetti also writes of his own activities, for during these years he was engaged in the editorial and biographical work for which he is best remembered.

The collection is an important source for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and for wider studies of art history in Britain in the 19th century.

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Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

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