hristina Rossetti has often been considered as a "reclusive poet" [Norton 873-874] or a "chaste Victorian 'spinster'" [Norton 876]. Looking at the way she uses the spousal imagery in her devotional poems (an imagery which was also used by nuns referring to Jesus as their husband) one can understand how scholars justified their point of view. If one looks at her life from today's perspective, it is hard to understand her motivations to refuse the men she loved (and who proposed to her and finally to renounce all men) for the better love of God. At best, one would describe her life as tragic — at worst, one would picture her as a secluded, starry-eyed, ivory-towered spinster. None of this would do her justice.

Unlike Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who lived a virtually secluded life until she eloped with Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti spent her youth among the most innovative group of artists of her era, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. As she watched the group unfold, the financial support of her grandfather enabled her to start a literary career. And as her most famous poem "Goblin Market" shows, she was by no means ignorant of the ways of the world. Her poems express the same sensuality that the pictures of the Pre-Raphaelites do.

However, being at close contact with artists naturally led to being a model for them. The experience of being turned into an object, must have made her realise the position women really had in those days. At a time when the whole English society was transformed by developments in technology and science, many people clung to their religion for strength. Among these was Christina Rossetti. After being disillusioned in love twice, she turned to the one man who would never disappoint her: Jesus Christ.

The real tragedy of her life is that her experiences made her lose hope in the world she lived in. Thus disillusioned she turned to look forward to the life after death, a notion she expresses skilfully in "An Immurata Sister":

Men work and think, but women feel;
And so (for I'm a woman, I)
And so I should be glad to die,
And cease from impotence of zeal,
And cease from hope, and cease from dread,
And cease from yearnings without gain,
And cease from all this world of pain,
And be at peace among the dead. [380]

As Jan Marsh concludes, "The combination of emotional pain and literary talent gave her life and work a unique quality. As both a woman and a writer she deserves rememberance" [568].

Last modified 15 March 2007