Date 1876-03-01
Publication Macmillan's
Topic How W.S. Bell sets the poetic standard since Byron
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Subject literature
Keywords Byronic
  ↳ Shelleyan poetics; poetics and art
Standards aesthetic value
  ↳ success
Notes Ref. letters 31 May 75: right of remonstrance
  ↳ intent 23 Aug 75.

Annotation details

76 March Macmillan's Magazine


Bell-Scott's poetry; British poetry since Byron.


Rossetti, William M. "William Bell-Scott and Modern British Poetry." MacMillan's Magazine (March 1876): 418. Web. 21 Sept. 1876.


Near the close of this essay, Rossetti reveals his purpose in writing: "Here I must end this rather scrambling attempt to indicate what phases British poetry has been passing through since the death of Byron; and how one poet worthy of honour, Mr. William Bell-Scott, has comported himself as successor, colleague, and predecessor, of various others eminent in the same sort."

This matches closely what he wrote to Swinburne a year earlier, describing his intentions for the article:

. . . I am now occupied in writing (for MacMillan's Magazine) an article on Scotus's poems, which I mean to make a kind of rapid resume of British poetry of the last half-century-since the death of Byron-so as to exhibit in some degree Soctus's relation to the poets who preceded and those who have succeeded him. Shall have to pick my steps a little when I come to speak of you, Gabriel, Christina, etc., but I must do what I can (Letters 326).

Scott, a frequent visitor at Cheyne Walk, was included in Rossetti's inner circle of literary and aesthetic associates(Reminiscences 2:327) Rossetti first introduces Scott's newly published volume of poetry, Poems by William Bell Scott: Ballads, Studies from Nature, Sonnets, &c.: Illustrated by 17 Etchings by the Author and L. Alma-Tadema then he sets the time period as the post-Byronic period of poetry.

This benchmark becomes Rossetti's basis of comparison between other poets in relation to Byron, and Scott's effectiveness as a poet (largely comparable) is also compared to Byron. Rossetti explains the devices and components of Scott's poetry and thus good poetry in general. Rossetti explains the motivating force of religious thought as it pertains to true and authentic poetic expression. Also, Rossetti describes Shelleyean poetic attributes, many of which are shared by Scott.

Though not an explicit connection between art and poetry, eventually Rossetti's discussion of Scott's poetry overlaps with some minor consideration of some of his painting. Sourcing, motivation and aesthetics are the same, allowing the reader to make the connection of universality between the expressive media. There is a quick survey of other poets but with the exception of a few female poets, most hardly receive attention beyond a mention of their name and some works.

Readers are considered and it is significant to note Rossetti pinpointing the "limit to the power of readers" as a factor that diminishes the motivation of poets to extend themselves. There is an echo of Matthew Arnold's "The Function of Criticism at The Present Time" in Rossetti's comment that W. Bell Scott has an affinity to Bailey because "the minds of both reach out by natural and irrepressible tendency to the highest things in the world of thought and contemplation."

Rossetti presents a whirlwind survey of contemporary British poets and their comparative achievement, concluding with the statement that Dante Rossetti led all of the mentioned poets as the first to achieve the success that their collective work represents. One of Rossetti's overarching conclusions is that poetry successfully executed is the intellectual resolution of problems through the perfection of contemplation.

There is a brief mention of the spasmodic movement, then a listing of American and British poets of note.

Also, Rossetti reports to Bell in a letter dated 31 May 1876 that he us unhappy with Macmillan's editor George Grove's stipulation that he had "the right of remonstrance" over the manuscript, which to Rossetti felt like "schoolmastering me on a subject of which perhaps I know as much as he does . . ." (324). Rossetti expresses his resentment that Grove doesn't "schoolmaster" other contributors to Macmillan's, but he also assures W. Bell Scott that he will handle the matter with Grove in such a way that will not cause any "calling-off" on Groves' part.



Standards of Judgment:

The essentials of effective poetry


Blake, Crabbe, Rogers, Wordsworth, Southey, Landor, Walter Scott, Coleridge, Moore Campbell, Schiller, Goethe, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Hood, W.B. Scott


Definitive, evaluative

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael. Selected Letters of William Michael Rossetti. Ed. Roger Peattie.University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1990. Print.

Rossetti, William Michael. Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner, 1906. Print.