Pre-Raphaelite Poet: Christina Rossetti

Updated on August 19, 2017
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Indie author of historical romance and paranormal novellas and a history buff.

Portrait of Christina by Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Portrait of Christina Rossetti Dante Gabriel Rossetti  circa 1866 Colored chalk on blue-gray paper
Portrait of Christina Rossetti Dante Gabriel Rossetti circa 1866 Colored chalk on blue-gray paper | Source

“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)

Childhood Advantage

Christina Georgina Rossetti entered the world in 1830 and 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.

Rossetti Home

50 charlotte st, bloomsbury:
50 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T, UK

get directions

John Brett

Self Portrait 1883
Self Portrait 1883 | Source

Young Love

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.

Drawing of Rossetti

"Portrait of Christina Rossetti; head and shoulders, turned slightly to left, hair drawn up into a plaited chignon."   circa 1848
"Portrait of Christina Rossetti; head and shoulders, turned slightly to left, hair drawn up into a plaited chignon." circa 1848 | Source

Critical Analysis of Rossetti's Literary Career

"Rossetti's work is unequaled for its objective expression of happiness denied and a certain unfamiliar, steely stoicism." ~ Phillip Larkin

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

Poem: "Remember"

"Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun." ~ Christina Rossetti

Later Years

Portrait of Christina Rossetti 1877
Portrait of Christina Rossetti 1877 | Source

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.

Macabre Painting Inspired By Rossetti's Poem

"Oh, What's That in the Hollow, so Pale I Quake to Follow?" by Pre-Raphaelite Artist Edward Robert Hughes who was inspired by Christina Rossetti's poem "Amor Mundi"
"Oh, What's That in the Hollow, so Pale I Quake to Follow?" by Pre-Raphaelite Artist Edward Robert Hughes who was inspired by Christina Rossetti's poem "Amor Mundi" | Source



Submit a Comment

  • ziyena profile imageAUTHOR


    12 months ago from LOST IN TIME

    I've always had a great love for her brother, the Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I must admit that I too had not known nearly enough about her until coming across further research on Dante ... I think this is one of the many reasons that I enjoy HP ... it's a learning process, always :) Thank You

  • Fullerman5000 profile image

    Ryan Fuller 

    12 months ago from Louisiana, USA

    Interesting and a lot great historical facts. I would have never known who this great poet was. Thank you for sharing this. Very educational and thought provoking.


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