His suspiciousness, reclusiveness, and fear of strangers steadily worsened.Throughout 1870 Rossetti lodged in various country houses with Jane Morris, continuing to write poems and add sonnets to his long sequence, “The House of Life.” Rossetti and Jane Morris's brief period of apparent happiness and (presumably) sexual liaison has attracted biographers by its supposed romantic unconventionality.
As a last tribute Rossetti placed a manuscript of his poems in his wife's grave, a decision he later regretted.
However marked by tragedy, the 1850s and ‘60s saw Rossetti’s reputation grow rapidly.
” Rossetti decided in 1869 to publish a volume of his poems, and in October he employed Charles Augustus Howell and others to exhume the manuscript from his wife's grave.
Rossetti's year of production was not without its shadows: in his 1892 , William Bell Scott related that during a visit to Scotland, Rossetti showed fear at a chaffinch which he felt contained the spirit of his dead wife.
In 1856 several university undergraduates, including William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, began a journal modeled after the , it had a run of twelve issues to which Rossetti contributed three poems.
Through his connection to the magazine, Rossetti met Jane Burden—his life-long muse and mistress—and introduced her to her future husband William Morris.
Members of the group included John Everett Millais, its most skilled painter and future president of the Royal Academy, and William Holman Hunt, Thomas Woolner; Frederic Stephens; and William Michael Rossetti, who as P. Associates of the group included the older painter Ford Madox Brown, the painter and poet William Bell Scott, the poet Coventry Patmore, and Christina Rossetti, six of whose poems appeared in the .
The Pre-Raphaelite Brothers provided each other with companionship, criticism, and encouragement early in their careers and defended each other against initial public hostility.
In addition to about seventeen “House of Life” sonnets, Rossetti worked on revisions to “Dante at Verona,” “Jenny,” and “A Last Confession”; composed the highly erotic “Eden Bower” and “Troy Town”; wrote several more sonnets on pictures; and began “The Stream's Secret,” which he completed the next year.
In the March 1869 , he published the four Willowwood sonnets, whose presentation of erotic frustration and intensity exemplifies his best style, as in Love's song from sonnet three: “O Ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood, That walk with hollow faces burning white; What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood, What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night, Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite Your lips to that their unforgotten food, Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light!
At Scalands Rossetti also began to drink chloral with whiskey to counter his insomnia.