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Christina Rossetti

A gifted poet, artist's model, author, and expert on Dante, Christina Rossetti is regarded as one of the finest poets to emerge from the Victorian age. Here, we will look at some of Christina Rossetti's biographical facts, and learn of some of her greatest contributions to English poetry.

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Christina Rossetti

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A gifted poet, artist's model, author, and expert on Dante, Christina Rossetti is regarded as one of the finest poets to emerge from the Victorian age. Here, we will look at some of Christina Rossetti's biographical facts, and learn of some of her greatest contributions to English poetry.

Christina Rossetti's biography

Christina Rossetti was the youngest of four children born to Italian poet Gabriel Rossetti and half-Italian, half-English mother Frances Polidori. Artistic ambition and talent were strong in all of the Rossetti children. Christina Rossetti's older brothers are the famous poet and artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who she often modelled for; and William Michael Rossetti, who was a critic, writer, and also the editor of the literary magazine The Germ.

As a teacher at King's College, Christina Rossetti's father, Gabriel, prized education. His wife Frances also aided in encouraging education and the cultivation of intellect in their four children. While Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti were formally educated, Christina and her sister Maria received homeschooling from their mother.

Christina's education largely included novels, poems, fairy tales, classics, and religious texts, which played a significant role in shaping her identity as a poet and author, and also as a person. After the death of their father, and being isolated at home, Rossetti suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety. It was at this time that, along with her mother and sister, Rossetti became deeply devoted to the Anglo-Catholic movement.

Rossetti had many correspondents, acquaintances, and friends with whom she often communicated. She published works with a strong religious undertone and she also published children's poetry. Rossetti's later life was fraught with ill health. She was diagnosed with Graves' disease and later developed breast cancer. She died on 29 December 1894 and is buried with members of her family at Highgate Cemetery.

Christina Rossetti: context and facts

Christina Rossetti and religion

Religion played a significant role in shaping Christina Rossetti's life and identity. Due to personal tragedies leading to a nervous breakdown, Christina Rossetti, along with her mother and sister, turned to religion to find solace. Rossetti firmly believed in the Anglo-Catholic movement. Most of Christina Rossetti's poems include religious motifs and themes concerning temptation, sin, and salvation. She broke off her engagement with painter James Collinson and linguist Charles Cayley due to unresolvable differences in religious beliefs. She never married.

Christina Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Christina Rossetti had strong associations with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and is considered to be the Brotherhood's honorary member.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood refers to a group of English authors, artists, critics, and poets who shared the common belief that art was becoming increasingly corrupted by the classical compositions of the artist Raphael and also the mechanistic art composed by the successors of Raphael and Michaelangelo. They laid great emphasis on Christian themes and symbols, mimesis of the natural world and history. The Brotherhood published four volumes of a periodical titled The Germ (1850).

Christina Rossetti's brothers were among the seven founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She often participated in their discussions and gatherings and modelled for the artists of the Brotherhood. She even published poems in The Germ under the pseudonym 'Ellen Alleyne'.

Christina Rossetti's poems

Christina Rossetti published numerous poems and short stories. She was greatly praised by Alfred Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Christina Rossetti tried to mimic the poets she admired, which include John Keats and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Since both of these are Romantic poets, one can often find traces of Romantic tropes in Christina Rossetti's poems. Some of her famous poems are listed below.

The Romantic poets often included themes to do with nature and the natural world, expression of deep and profound emotions and laid great emphasis on individuality.

'Goblin Market' (1862)

Typical of the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 'Goblin Market' is rife with imagery, metaphor and symbolism. The poem features two sisters, Laura and Lizzie. They are lured to the goblin market, where Laura, curious and tempted, eats the goblin fruit, paying for it with a lock of her golden hair. She becomes very sick as a result. Lizzie tries to investigate her sister's wasting health and goes to the goblin market. The goblins try to tempt Lizzie, but fail to do so. She returns home covered in goblin fruit juice, which the goblins try to force-feed her with. Laura licks off some of the fruit juice she is covered in and recovers miraculously. Many years later, the sisters relate the incident to their children as a cautionary tale. The themes are centred around temptation, salvation and sisterly love.

'Up-Hill' (1862)

'Up-Hill' is a poem that is about the metaphorical journey of life. It has two speakers, one of whom asks questions concerning the journey, and the other tries to guide them through this journey as best as they can. This poem too is teeming with religious ideas and the search for truth and deliverance.

'Remember' (1849)

Remarkably, Christina Rossetti wrote this memorable poem at the young age of 19. 'Remember' is a sonnet about the speaker asking their beloved to remember them after they are dead. Love and memory are the key themes of this sonnet.

'A Birthday' (1861)

The poem 'A Birthday,' first published in Macmillan's magazine, also contains numerous religious motifs and symbols. It is a celebration of life, and of finding peace and joy in God, although God is never directly mentioned or addressed in the poem. The speaker mentions that their love has arrived, and refers to them as their 'birthday.' The celebration is marked with Christian symbols such as doves. The Holy Spirit is compared to doves during Jesus' baptism.

Christina Rossetti's influence today

Regarded as one of the most popular poets to emerge from the Victorian period, Christina Rossetti's works are widely read today. She is read by literary scholars and casual readers alike, and numerous composers and musicians have been inspired by her works and put them to music. The calendar of the Church of England commemorates Christina Rossetti on 27 April.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) - Key takeaways

  • Christina Rossetti was born in 1830 and is the youngest of four children.
  • Her parents are Gabriele Rossetti and Frances Polidori.
  • Her brothers were founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with which she had close associations.
  • Christina Rossetti was deeply religious and firmly believed in Anglo-Catholicism.
  • She died of breast cancer in 1894 and was suffering from Graves' disease for a prolonged period before her death.
  • Christina Rossetti's poems include 'Goblin Market', 'Up-Hill', 'Remember' and 'A Birthday'.

Frequently Asked Questions about Christina Rossetti

The poem Remember by Christina Rossetti is a sonnet about the speaker commanding their beloved to keep them in their memory after they are dead.

Christina Rossetti is famous for her poems, particularly the collection Goblin Market and Other Poems. She also has close associations with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Christina Rossetti suffered for a prolonged period from Graves' disease, which greatly altered her appearance and made her ill. She died from breast cancer.

Christina Rossetti wrote 30 poems and numerous works of fiction and non-fiction.

Christina never got married.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

What is the name of the collection that the poem 'Remember' is part of?

Who wrote the poem 'Remember'?

What is the meter of the poem 'Remember'?

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