Christina Rossetti (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Christina Georgina Rossetti, like many talented women of the Victorian period, knew great frustration. While she had the exceptional good fortune to live amid the most stimulating artistic and literary influences of that era, she had little formal education. University training remained unavailable to all of her sex. Though her childhood years were without material want, her father’s death clouded her adolescence and a broken engagement her young womanhood. If Jan Marsh’s deductions are correct, paternal sexual abuse scarred the poet’s childhood. (This is in direct conflict with the settled picture that William Michael Rossetti, the poet’s younger brother, evokes in Rossetti Papers .)
Such conjecture aside, it is clear that Rossetti had reached middle age before achieving any substantial recognition. Even then she had to contend with the dominating presence of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (whose epic scope she could not match), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (whose marriage had captured the popular imagination and whose romantic verse resembled her own), and the greater contemporary appeal of more cheerful women poets such as Jean Ingelow.
It may seem that Rossetti was fortunate to have her elder brother, Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, as mentor and critic. It is true that he provided the first venue for her poetry in The Germ, the magazine of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Just as important, he introduced her to the...
(The entire section is 2088 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Christina Rossetti (Magill Book Reviews)
Jan Marsh’s CHRISTINA ROSSETTI: A WRITER’S LIFE clearly situates its subject among the prevailing artistic influences of Victorian England and the poets she most admired and most resembles. Rossetti knew she could not duplicate the epic scope of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Even so, the featured poem of her THE PRINCE’S PROGRESS AND OTHER POEMS (1866) deftly mixes Arthurian elements like those Tennyson favors with Rossetti’s own preference for Bunyanesque allegory.
Rossetti’s lyric poetry resembles that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a poet she admired and with whom Victorian critics compared her. Marsh links several of Rossetti’s lyric works with two disappointments in love which marked the poet’s life. Her arguments for this are cogent despite the poet’s determination during her lifetime to discourage such personal interpretations. Sadly, unlike Barrett Browning, Rossetti’s grand passions remained unfulfilled.
Marsh also discusses at length Rossetti’s place in her famous family. She shows that the influence of the poet’s elder brother, Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, was often domineering as much as constructive. Rossetti’s younger brother William Michael and elder sister Maria Francesca remained lifelong advisers, however, especially in practical matters. A sensational element is Marsh’s contention that Rossetti’s father Gabrielle Rossetti could have sexually abused his daughter during her teenage years. No firm...
(The entire section is 338 words.)