ROSSETTI, CHRISTINA (1830-1894)
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF HER CELEBRATED SONNET 'REMEMBER ME WHEN I AM GONE AWAY', signed ('Christina G. Rossetti'), 1 page, oblong octavo, light discoloration round blank edges where formerly mounted, not dated
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
This rightly famous sonnet was composed on 25 July 1849 during the time Christina Rossetti was engaged to the Pre-Raphaelite painter James Collinson. She had first declined his offer of marriage after he joined the Roman Catholic Church, but accepted when he renounced Rome to be able to marry her. He then changed his mind again and went back to Rome and the engagement was broken off. Christina Rossetti had been forewarned by the Collinsons and his vacillation must have been frequently discussed by the couple. Though the engagement went on until 1850 she wrote this fine valedictory sonnet in the middle of 1849, evidently anticipating the possible course of events and giving leave to Collinson to follow his conscience without her. She was emotionally maimed by the experience.
When Thomas Woolner wanted pieces by her she withheld permission for some (surely including 'Remember') through her brother William: 'I must beg that you will not fix on any which the most imaginative person could construe into love personals [sic]; you will feel how more than ever intolerable it would now be to have my verses regarded as outpourings of a wounded spirit; and that something like this has been the case I have too good reason to know.' The poem was first published in 1862.
RARE: only three poetical manuscripts by Christina Rossetti have been sold at auction in the last forty years at least; the present manuscript is the only one of this poem to have been sold.
Only one other manuscript of this famous sonnet was known to R.W. Crump - in the Bodleian Notebook.
REFERENCES: The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti; A Variorum Edition, edited by R.W. Crump, 1979; Georgina Battiscombe, Christina Rossetti; A Divided Life, 1981; Frances Thomas, Christina Rossetti, 1992; Jan Morris, Christina Rossetti: A Writer's Life, 1994.