Date 1852-03-15
Publication London Lit.
Topic Defense of WM Cayley's Dante translation
AP display
RA display
Subject literature
Keywords defend
  ↳ rebut; surprise
  ↳ dismay
Standards ethos
  ↳ authenticity

Annotation details

52 March15 London Literary Journal


Rossetti defends Cayley's "Dante" translation.


Rossetti, William M. "Cayley's Dante." London Literary Journal 11 (March 25, 1852): 161-164. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


Rossetti defends the translation of Dante by W. M. Cayley from The Critic's review of the work. Rossetti's defense of Cayley is based in part on his disagreement with the reviewer's technical points as well as on the basis of Mr. Cayley's personal standing as a translator and a poet.

Rossetti mentions in Some Reminiscences an early acquaintance with Cayley, who had been a student of his father Gabriel Rossetti both at King's College and later, in the Rossetti home when the elder Rossetti's health precluded him from his commuting to the college to teach (Reminiscences 1:26). Clearly, Rossetti felt compelled to take issue with Critic reviewer Wright's comments that impugn Cayley's capability as a translator of Dante, given that his primary study of Dante was conducted by Gabriel Rossetti. William Rossetti also describes a close personal relationship that he shared with Cayley, whom William regarded with respect for his ability to translate languages, particularly Latin (Reminiscences 2:310). There also existed a nearly lifelong bond between Christina Rossetti and Cayley, including a long engagement eventually called off by Christina Rossetti (Reminiscences 2:315).

Rossetti first establishes a group ethos encompassing those who are "dantesque" readers and technically familiar with the structure and essence of Dante's work, then narrows his focus to an individual appraisal of the effectiveness of Cayley's translation, taking issue with The Critic's reviewer who found the translation lacking in both art and accuracy. He proposes consideration of two technical points raised by The Critic's reviewer, but Rossetti's defense is based as much on personal points, including both Cayley's and Rossetti's individual standing as technically proficient readers of Dante.

In his earliest memoir, Rossetti mentions Cayley as a student of his father Gabriel Pasquale Rossetti. Cayley studied Dante in the Rossetti household under the senior Rossetti (Reminiscences 1:26) and later, William Rossetti recalls Cayley as one of the circle of PRB associates, sitting for Ford Madox-Brown's Crabtreewatching the transit of Jesus, and also serving as the model for Oliver Madox-Brown's novel The Dwale Bluth, published in 1875 (Reminiscences 1:101). Rossetti calls Cayley a gifted linguist who produced accurate and brilliant translations of Aeschylus, Homer, Dante and Petrarch (Reminiscences 1:100).


polemicist, critic


Charles Bagot Cayley's Dante", "Dantesque readers", "Cayley has done a service to English literature and . . . to Dante"

Standards of Judgment:

Accuracy, Cayley's ethos. Takes issue with

Writing technique/tone:

Rossetti comes from a perspective of regret for both the under-appreciation of an excellent and aesthetically sound translator of Dante and a sound translation of Dante. A personal ethos as well as group ethos is inserted as justification for rebuttal. Much of the rebuttal is presented in reverse, establishing what both Cayley and

Rhetorical approach:

rebuttal, definition

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael. Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti. Vol. 1. New York: AMS, 1970. Print.

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