Pre-Raphaelite Poet: Christina Rossetti
Portrait of Christina by Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti
“She is the finest woman-poet since Mrs. Browning, by a long way; and in artless art, if not in intellectual impulse, is greatly Mrs. Browning’s superior.” ~ William Sharp in The Atlantic Monthly (June 1895)
Drawing of Rossetti
Christina Georgina Rossetti entered the world in 1830 and was destined for a life of literary influence. As the daughter of an exiled Italian poet, Gabriele Rossetti and sister to a rising artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Christina had every advantage to succeed, while living at Charlotte Street in the brownstone rows of upper-class London.
Here she learned the foundations that would propel her on an unusual journey for a woman of her day. Not many females in Victorian England at that time had the opportunity to separate themselves from the confines of society's restrictions when it came to the proper expectations of a well-bred young woman where women were seen and not heard. However, Christina managed to walk the boundaries of societal acceptance and her questionable role overlooked given the fame of her artist brother.
Rossetti started her literary excellence at an early age. Before her parents had ever tutored her in the arts of writing she had already dictated her stories, showing her aptitude for literature. Influenced by the works of Keats and Dante Alighieri, Christina developed her own writing style that would later on set the tone in her work, placing great importance on poetry.
Christina found love in her late teens. James Collinson, an artist and member of her brother Dante's Pre-Raphaelite movement was the first of several suitors to win over her hand. Engaged in 1850, the union did not last long due his choice in religious pursuit which did not align with Christina's revolutionary stance. Another suitor, Charles Cayley, a Linguist whom she had a brief romance, but also ended the relationship on the grounds of his religious pursuit. Though not much has been documented about her romance with the artist John Brett, the relationship ended with her resolute refusal and most likely due to the fact that Christina wanted to concentrate on her future writing career.
"Rossetti's work is unequaled for its objective expression of happiness denied and a certain unfamiliar, steely stoicism." ~ Phillip Larkin
Critical Analysis of Rossetti's Literary Career
Career and Recognition
Rossetti's first real break in the literary world happened in 1862 when she entered her early thirties. Goblin Market and Other Poems, which the critics praised her work and set the stage for a literary career as a female poet. Stuck in the shadows of her greatest poetic work, Rossetti found it hard to overcome the rave review success of Goblin Market, and following, any other poems which she published did not measure up to her first work. As an alternative, she took another path, writing children's stories and Christian themed prose. Some of her recognized work in these genres included: Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (1872) and Called to be Saints (1876). Even though Rossetti switched the tone of her literary career, she did not completely stop writing poetry. In 1881, she compiled and published A Pageant and Other Poems, which gained notoriety after years focusing on the later craft.
Examples of Published Works
Macabre Painting Inspired By Rossetti's Poem
"Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun." ~ Christina Rossetti
Rossetti's Final Days
Like her brother and father, Rossetti suffered from bouts of depression. It has been suggested by literary historians that the poet might have been a victim of incestuous relations with her father, which may have triggered her emotional inconsistency. Whether or not an unwanted liaison between daughter and father had ever occurred, the theorist's rumors have never been recorded or proven although much of her poetry hints at its possibility and leaves us questioning the reason as to why she never married. In later years, the poet also suffered from Graves Disease which eventually wore her down along with a reoccurring breast tumor which ultimately caused her death in 1893.
- Christina Rossetti - Poet | Academy of American Poets
Christina Rossetti - Poet - Born in 1839 in London, Christina Rossetti, the author of Goblin Market and Other Poems, is increasingly being considered a major Victorian Poet
- Christina Rossetti | Poetry Foundation
Of all Victorian women poets, posterity has been kindest to Christina Rossetti. Her poetry has never disappeared from view, and her reputation, though it suffered a decline in the first half of the twentieth century, has always been preserved to some
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