The publication of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market and Other Poems in 1862 marked the first literary success of the Pre-Raphaelites. This heralded a form of poetry which had no lack of readers. Rossetti often found herself caught between the claims of worldly passion and celestial faith - this schism was central to her life and her poetry and may have its origin in the tension between her Italian and English ancestry.
In her early years she spent much time with her grandfather in the country which allowed her to be exposed to nature and the wilderness. These themes are recurrent in her poetry. Ironically, she spent most of her life in gloomy London houses. She was healthy as a child, but was often ill during adolescence. She was diagnosed with "a kind of religious mania" which was probably psychosomatic in nature.
Rossetti became engaged to James Collinson, a young painter and member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, in the fall of 1848. The engagement was broken off because he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1850. Great things were expected from Collinson, but his contemporaries later refered to him as a ridiculous figure of mediocre talent, likely to go to sleep at the slightest provocation.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was able to convince Alexander Macmillan to publish three of Chrisina's poems in Macmillian's Magazine. One of the poems "Uphill" was the first to receive wide attention and remains one of her finest works. This poem is a parable about salvation, the steep ascent with comfort at the end represented by an inn.
One of Christina Rossetti's more innovative poems, "The Iniquity of the Fathers Upon the Children," is a dramatic monologue in which the poet addresses the issue of illegitimate children by imagining that she is one herself. Her desire to address such a subject can be linked to her work for the House of Charity, an institution located in Highgate which was devoted to the rescue of prostitutes and unmarried mothers. She also broadened her poetry with "A Royal Princess" which dealt with starvation, inequality, and poverty. This appearred in an 1863 anthology published for the relief of victims of the Lancashire cotton famine.
Later in her career Rossetti abandoned such overtly political subjects and claimed that "It is not in me, and therefore it will never come out of me, to turn to politics or philanthropy with Mrs. Browning." In 1871 she wrote two poems about the war between France and Germany, and claimed they derived from sympathy, not political bias.
In 1883 she was asked to write a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but declined because Robert Browning did not appear to want to cooperate actively. She did accept a commision to write on Anne Radcliffe, and was excited by the idea of writing about one of her influences as a child. Unfortunately she was forced to give up the plan because she could not gather enough material to write a history that would give her subject credit.
Last modified 1991