Christina Rossetti



December 5, 1830 - December 29, 1894

Christina Rossetti Notes

Christina Rossetti wrote over one thousand poems and though she was largely ignored after her death she can today be considered, along with Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson, one of the best English-writing women poets.

She was the youngest of four children. Her father, Gabriele, was a Dante scholar, poet, and Italian political exile. Christina inherited his passion. From her mother, Frances Polidori, she inherited religious devotion. This split between passion and devotion is a constant theme throughout her work.

Her brother, Dante Gabriele, was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The P.R.B., with which Christina was acquainted and associated, was a Victorian aesthetic movement that rejected the conventional dictates of the dominant art establishment.

In fact, Christina's first love affair was with James Collinson, a member of the P.R.B. She became engaged to Collinson in 1848, however by 1850 the relationship was broken due to religious differences. (Collinson became a Catholic). Her religious devotion again impacted on her romantic life when she ended a relationship with Charles Cayley, an introverted and tongue-tied linguist, because he was an agnostic.

In the war between the love of men and the love of her god, the latter ostensibly won. However the various battles fought during the campaign that represents Christina Rossetti's life have been transcribed in her poetry.

The most famous of her poems is Goblin Market, first published in 1862. It is both a children's fairy tale and a narrative of transgression and redemption. Two sisters are tempted by the goblin men who offer fruits of a most delicious variety. One sister succumbs and the other sacrifices herself to liberate her fallen sibling.

Goblin Market was written shortly after Christina had spent a month visiting William Bell Scott and his wife in Newcastle. One of Christina's biographers has theorized that she was in love with the unattainable Scott and that the inner tension this frustrated desire created fueled much of her creative output. The theme of physical denial replaced by spiritual faith flows throughout her poetry. She is forever exploring the dialectic between passion and denial, pleasure and sacrifice, desire and faith and especially love and death.

There is a lot of repression in her work. Another biographer speculates that Christina was a victim of sexual molestation, most likely at the hands of her father. However fashionable it is now to point to this type of cause for maladjustment, there is no evidence to support the speculation. It is likely that Christina's erotic repressions were simply consistent with her environment. That she experienced the effects of such repression more intensely than others is probably what makes her such an interesting poet.

Described as delicately beautiful as a young woman her surface beauty was dissipated by the onset of Grave's disease (exophthalmic bronchocele) in 1871. The symptoms of this disease include distinctive protrusion of the eyes, skin discoloration and hair loss. Adding to her own problems would be the illness and death of her beloved sister, Maria, and the growing mental depression and physical deterioration of her brother Dante Gabriel. Despite periods when she was too weak to work she continued to write poetry that continued to explore consciously or not the dialectics of her life: the tension between passion and faith, love and death.

The theme of death as a release or liberation occurs over and over again in Christina Rossetti's poetry. The "death of love" is a recurrent topic. A poem entitled The End appeared in the first issue of the Pre-Raphaelite journal, The Germ:

Love, strong as Death, is dead.
Come, let us make his bed
Among the dying flowers;
A green turf at his head;
And a stone at his feet,
Whereon we may sit
In the quiet evening hours.


Christina Rossetti's corporeal death occurred on December 29, 1894. She died with three rings on her wedding finger. The rings, according to instructions to her executors were to be put into a Church offertory. Among her papers was found her last poem:

Sleeping at last, the trouble and tumult over,
Sleeping at last, the stuggle and horror past,
Cold and white, out of sight of friend and of lover,
Sleeping at last.

No more a tired heart downcast or overcast,
No more pangs that wring or shifting fears that hover,
Sleeping at last in a dreamless sleep locked fast.

Fast asleep. Singing birds in their leafy cover
Cannot wake her, nor shake her the gusty blast.
Under the purple thyme and the purple clover
Sleeping at last.


Georgia Battiscombe, Christina Rossetti: A Divided Life. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York. 1981

Derek Stanford, Editor, Pre-Raphaelite Writing. Rowman & Littlefield: Totowa, New Jersey. 1973

Lionel Stevenson,, The Pre-Raphaelite Poets. W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.: New York. 1972

Official Cosmic Record YEAR TEAM ERA IP ER BB K W L
Christina Rossetti 1997 Pre-Raphaelites 2.94 187 61 72 149 15 9
Total Season(s) 1

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Christina Rossetti 1998 Cosmic Player Plate
Published: November 15, 1997
Copyright © 1997, 1998 by the Cosmic Baseball Association