ROSSETTI, Dante Gabriel (1828-1882). Ballads and Sonnets. London: Ellis and White, 1881.
8° (192 x 126mm). Original dark blue cloth, gilt floral mosaic designs after W.M. Rossetti stamped on covers, blue morocco-backed slipcase. Provenance: presentation copy to Jane Morris (inscribed by the author on the half-title: 'To Jane Morris from her Friend D.G. Rossetti 1881'). With one autograph letter signed ('D.G. Rossetti') to Miss. Jones, n.p., n.d. ('Wednesday'), 1 page, 8°, inserted; another autograph letter signed ('D.G. Rossetti') to 'My dear [Fields?], n.p., n.d. ('Tuesday'), 1 page, 8°, also inserted.
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY TO JANE MORRIS INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR. Rossetti had introduced Jane Burden to his Pre-Raphaelite circle in Oxford in 1858, for whom she frequently posed as a model and whose member, William Morris, she married the following year. Famous for her beauty, Mrs. Morris's presence profoundly revealed itself in Rossetti's art, both pictorial and poetic. Later in 1871 William Morris and Rossetti took a joint lease of Kelmscott Manor, where Rossetti continued to paint Jane. There he also wrote the ballad 'Rose Mary' and many of the sonnets for this collection. The environment, where he said 'everything lends itself to poetic composition,' was evidently conducive to his creativity and during this period he wrote 'I hardly ever do produce a sonnet except on some basis of special momentary emotion.' (Doughty, 1963, pp.474-5). The image of Jane Morris was clearly Rossetti's chief source of inspiration for many of the sonnets in this collection, for example 'The Portrait' accurately describes her picture in words, while 'Genius in Beauty' also refers to this same painting, then hanging on Rossetti's studio wall at Kelmscott.
One of the two inserted letters is addressed to another sitter, Miss. Jones, in which Rossetti regrets that he will be unable to draw her tomorrow and defers their appointment to Saturday at midday; he will, however, still pay her for the missed date. In the other undated letter to Fields[?], Rossetti apologises for mistaking their meeting for being on Tuesday, saying that he will be glad to meet tomorrow instead.