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Christina Rossetti

Author added by: Engelbrecht
Last updated by: Engelbrecht


Christina Rossetti

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Full Name: Christina Georgina Rossetti
Born: December 5, 1830
London, England
Died: December 29, 1894
London, England
Occupation: Writer
Nationality: British
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Biography

Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She is perhaps most famous for writing the poem Goblin Market. She was born in London, to Gabriele Rossetti, a poet and a political exile from Vasto, Abruzzo, and Frances Polidori, the sister of Lord Byron's friend and physician, John William Polidori. She had two brothers and a sister: Dante Gabriel, who became an influential artist and poet and was one of the three founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and William Michael and Maria who both became writers.

Rossetti began writing down and dating her poems from 1842, mostly imitating her favoured poets. From 1847 she began experimenting with verse forms such as sonnets, hymns and ballads; drawing narratives from the Bible, folk tales and the lives of the saints. Her early pieces often feature meditations on death and loss, in the Romantic tradition. She published her first two poems ("Death's Chill Between" and "Heart's Chill Between"), which appeared in the Athenaeum, in 1848 when she was 18. Under the pen-name "Ellen Alleyne", she contributed to the literary magazine, The Germ, published by the Pre-Raphaelites from January - April 1850 and edited by her brother William. This marked the beginning of her public career.

Her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. It received widespread critical praise, establishing her as the foremost female poet of the time. Hopkins, Swinburne and Tennyson lauded her work. and with the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1861 Rossetti was hailed as her natural successor. The title poem is one of Rossetti's best known works. Although it is ostensibly about two sisters' misadventures with goblins, critics have interpreted the piece in a variety of ways: seeing it as an allegory about temptation and salvation; a commentary on Victorian gender roles and female agency; and a work about erotic desire and social redemption. Rossetti was a volunteer worker from 1859 to 1870 at the St. Mary Magdalene "house of charity" in Highgate, a refuge for former prostitutes and it is suggested Goblin Market may have been inspired by the "fallen women" she came to know. There are parallels with Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner given both poems' religious themes of temptation, sin and redemption by vicarious suffering.

Rossetti continued to write and publish for the rest of her life, primarily focusing on devotional writing and children's poetry. In 1892, Rossetti wrote The Face of the Deep, a book of devotional prose, and oversaw the production of a new and enlarged edition of Sing-Song, published in 1893. Her circle of friends and correspondents included Whistler, Swinburne, F.M. Brown, and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll).

In the later decades of her life, Rossetti suffered from Graves' Disease, diagnosed in 1872 suffering a nearly fatal attack in the early 1870s. In 1893, she developed breast cancer and though the tumour was removed, she suffered a recurrence in September 1894. She died in Bloomsbury on 29 December 1894 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.

Christina Rossetti has often been called the greatest Victorian woman poet, but her poetry is increasingly being recognized as among the most beautiful and innovative of the period by either sex.


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