MEREDITH, GEORGE (1828-1909)
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF AN UNPUBLISHED AND UNRECORDED POEM ADDRESSED TO JANET [ROSS], 28 lines in four-line stanza, written at the fragmentary end of a letter in which he wishes her good night ('... One can hardly venture upon verse without being sentimental...I might finish with a musical good night. And yet, why not? You will not misinterpret...'), 2 pages, octavo, the beginning of the letter missing, [after 1859]
Sleep well in your starr's chamber, Janet! Nor think your poet hopes to pry,
Tho' might he be its paper planet, He'd forfeit place in yonder sky...'
The recipient of this unpublished poem can confidently be identified as Janet Duff-Gordon with whom Meredith fell in love and referred to himself as 'Your Poet'. On meeting her again (in 1859) after a number of years he exclaimed 'Oh, my Janet! Don't you know me? I'm your Poet'. She became engaged to Henry Ross in October 1860 and they married in December that year. Meredith made the best of it and wrote to her 'He's a lucky fellow to get you and the best thing he can do is to pray that he may always know his luck.' For the next few years Meredith's devotion to her continued though they rarely met, the last time being in 1904. He wrote to her late in life: 'No one knows better than I, that you are the most faithful of souls to old acquaintanceship.' Late in life she re-read his letters to her and cried, 'Good God! my poet must have been in love with me.'
THIS POEM HAS REMAINED UNPUBLISHED: it is not in any of the letters to Janet Ross printed by Cline, in The Poems, or Index of Literary Manuscripts. When Janet Ross asked Meredith if she could publish his letters he refused his permission (30 March 1890). The main collections of Meredith's poetical papers are in the Beinecke Library, Harvard, the Berg Collection, Yale and Austin Texas. Very few of the manuscripts of his novels survive.
PROVENANCE: Mr and Mrs Shutter.
REFERENCES: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Jack Lindsay, George Meredith: His Life and Work, 1956; Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume IV, 1800-1900, Part III, compiled by Barbara Rosenbaum and Pamela White, 1993; The Letters of George Meredith, edited by C. L. Cline, 3 vols. (1970); The Poems of George Meredith, 2 volumes, edited by Phyllis Bartlett, 1978; Location Register of Twentieth-Century Literary Manuscripts and Letters, 2 volumes, 1988.