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Some unpublished letters from Thomas Henry Hall Caine to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (July 1879 - July 1881) Dolman, Florence Janet Lucy Caple

Abstract

This thesis is a selected edition of thirty-six unpublished letters and fragments from Thomas Henry Hall Caine to Dante Gabriel Rossetti with an introduction and explanatory notes. The letters have been chosen to illustrate Caine's typical interests and concerns as these appear in the body of eighty-six unpublished letters and fragments contained in the Angeli Papers in Special Collections at the University of British Columbia Library. Although the letters are far from being masterpieces of epistolary art, they are of historical interest as a chronicle of the friendship which was initiated by letter. The introduction provides a background for the letters, using, in so far as possible, unpublished contemporaneous material from the Angeli and Penkill Papers. Hall Caine knew Rossetti for less than three years; for two of those years the friendship was conducted almost exclusively by letter, but for the last ten months of Rossetti1s life they lived together. The friendship began when Caine published a eulogistic article on Rossetti's poetry, and sent a copy to him. Caine was then an eager, ambitious, and very naive twenty-six year old Liverpudlian; Rossetti, a known painter and poet of fifty-one, was lonely, frightened, filled with morbid phantasies and a chloral hydrate addict. He was virtually a recluse in his gloomy London house, but Caine's letters revived his interest in literary criticism and during the last years of his life Rossetti taught Caine about literature. His "pupil's" interest and energy also helped to inspire Rossetti on his own behalf, for in 1881 he published a revised edition of Poems and a new book, Ballads and Sonnets. Very shortly after Rossetti*s death, Caine published his Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1882), a biography of his friend which included some seventy-five fragments of the "nearly two hundred letters" he had received from Rossetti. In 1908 Caine included a large section on Rossetti in My Life, and in 1928 he produced a considerably altered version of his first biography. Caine became a prolific and popular novelist and playwright, was knighted for his war effort, and made a Companion of Honour "in recognition of his distinction in literature," but in spite of his successes, skepticism remains concerning his reliability as Rossetti's biographer. The doubts must have sprung from Caine's character—he had a romantic sensibility, a flair for seeing the simplest events dramatically, and a distinct taste for self-aggrandizement. However, although contemporaneous materials indicate that he inspired a certain wariness among Rossetti’s intimates, there are no concrete reasons to doubt his veracity in matters of fact.

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