The Stream’s Secret: The Symbolism of Dante Gabriel Rossetti

By Rodger Drew

A study of the art and poetry of one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, exploring the nature and the origins of his use of symbolism.

ISBN: 9780718830571


Dante Gabriel Rossetti is amongst the most famous figures of the Victorian era. An eminent artist and a founder member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, his art and life have fascinated scholars for decades. However, despite an existing acknowledgement of Rossetti’s use of symbolism, specialists have neglected to analyse its nature and its sources, as well as its content.

In The Stream’s Secret, Rodger Drew highlights a facet of the artist’s work that has hitherto gone largely unexplored. By offering a comprehensive analysis of Rossetti’s paintings and poetry, Drew shows that the artist widely employed themes and motifs drawn from the Hermetic magical system which later developed into Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry.

The author connects this symbolism to a comprehensive European tradition dating from Plato and Pythagoras, through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance and later periods. This deep insight into Rossetti’s works allows the reader to gain a better understanding of the existing bond between Rosseti’s paintings and his poetry, as well as to appreciate the importance of symbolism as a language in the artist’s ouvre. More generally, Drew gives his reader an overall view of the use of symbolism in the art of the Aesthetic Movement.

Drew’s work is a fully original study of Rossetti’s Symbolism, and an essential resource for teachers, researchers, and Art History students, and for anyone interested in the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. This is a fundamental guide to a proper understanding of late 19th century art.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 320

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Rodger Drew was born in London in 1951, and obtained his PhD in Art History and English Literature at Glasgow University. The Stream’s Secret was developed from his doctoral thesis.

He worked for many years as a designer, as well as lecturing at the Glasgow School of Art. He currently divides his time between art and writing.



Part 1 – ‘What . . . Wouldst Thou Convey, – What Secret Thing?’
1. The Significance of the Title The House of Life
2. Love Enthroned: The Presiding Powers of The House of Life
3. The Willow-wood Sequence
4. The Portrait: Rossetti’s ‘New Life’
5. Love’s Testament: Rossetti’s Religion of Love
6. Beauty’s Pageant: Rossetti’s Allegory of Love

Part 2 – ‘Such Fellowship of Wands’: Rossetti and the Rose Cross
7. Brotherhoods and Symbols
8. ‘The Shadow of Dante’ and Occult Music
9. The Mediaeval Mysticism of Rossetti’s Early Paintings

Part 3 – ‘The One Hope’
10. The Goddess Figure of Rossetti’s Later Paintings

Picture Sources


Endorsements and Reviews

Having read Drew’s book I feel I understand the mind of this remarkable man a good deal better.
Journal of William Morris Studies