There is a pleasant tradition, not indeed susceptible of conclusive proof, but supported by a fair amount of indirect evidence, that Chaucer in 1373 met Petrarch at Padua. In any case, Troilus and Criseyde, the House of Fame, and the Canterbury Tales mark the beginning of the literary relations between England and Italy; relations which have continued, almost uninterruptedly, down to the present day, although naturally more close and intimate at some periods than at others. The poetry and prose of our early Tudor and Elizabethan age drew copious and noble inspiration from Italian sources; the poetry and prose of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Italy, the epoch that preceded and heralded the Risorgimento, exemplified in Monti and Manzoni, were considerably influenced by English models. Literature has been one of the many links in the chain of gold that has bound the two nations together; but, in this respect at least, England has received immeasurably more than she has given. The gift of the land of Dante to the land of Shakespeare culminated in the nineteenth century, when, in the children of her exiled poet and patriot, Gabriele Rossetti (who escaped from Naples in a British ship and settled in London in 1824), Italy gave us two great poets: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894); two great poets who, if mainly English in their art, were three-fourths Italian in blood.
It is impossible to dissociate Dante Gabriel Rossetti in our thoughts from the supreme poet whose name he so worthily bore. He wrote of himself: "The first associations I have are connected with my father's devoted studies, which, from his own point of view, have done so much towards the general investigation of Dante's writings. Thus, in those early days, all around me partook of the influence of the great Florentine; till, from viewing it as a natural element, I also, growing older, was drawn within the circle."