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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Literary significance and critical reputation of William Bell Scott's autobiographical notes Crerar, Patricia Jeanne

Abstract

As a background figure in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, William Bell Scott suffers from an unattractive reputation largely because of attitudes expressed in his Autobiographical Notes. Chapter One of this thesis examines his life and work, but although a chronological approach is used, it is Scott's wide range of activities and friends which is given prominence. In Chapter Two, Scott's Autobiographical Notes is considered. Scott's lifelong interest in journal writing is traced as much as is possible, using manuscript material in the Penkill Papers at the University of British Columbia. The chapter then covers the actual editing of the Notes by William Minto, making the point that even before his book was published Scott's potential readers were prejudging the work. Manuscripts in the Penkill Collection provide the Material for these disclosures. The three parts of the third Chapter are concerned with the shaping of Scott's reputation through prejudice and hearsay. The "Rossetti Legend," as it existed while Scott was writing his Notes and until the time of their publication, occupies the first part of the chapter. Next, the controversy which developed after his book met public view is examined. Finally, Scott's reputation is traced over the eighty years since the publication of his autobiography. The final chapter opens with a survey of Scott's relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Most of the attacks made on Scott's Notes were prompted by his treatment of Rossetti. The survey suggests that Scott was both as friendly and as useful to Rossetti as he claims to have been. The second and longer part of the chapter deals with charges made against Scott by William Michael Rossetti in the Memoir volume of his Family Letters. Information in the Penkill Papers proves on one hand that Scott did not fabricate anecdotes, and that he kept back much information which would have been of interest. On the other hand, this material makes it obvious that William Michael Rossetti, the authority of whose book rests on his filial relationship, did not tell the entire truth about his brother. Scott's Autobiographical Notes, then, should be seriously re-examined as a reference work on Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites.

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