Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti-1877

Christina Georgina Rossetti (December 5, 1830 – December 29, 1894), one of the most enduring of Victorian poets,  was born in London, the youngest of four artistic and literary siblings. Best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember, and the lyrics to the popular Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Lord Tennyson praised her work and she was hailed as the natural successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Christina’s poetry and prose reflected her pensive, passionate, devotional, and, at times, playful personality.

She used lyricism and symbolism to contemplate themes like earthly and divine love, nature, death, gender and sexuality, and drew inspiration from the Bible, folk stories and the lives of the saints.


Early life and family

Christina’s father, Gabriele Rossetti, escaped post-Napoleonic Italy to find political asylum and a career as a Dante scholar in England. Her intensely religious mother, Frances Polidori, was English born, the daughter of an Italian expatriate. Christina, her sister and two brothers — the most famous being the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti—grew up in a happy, loving home in London’s Fitzroy square, a gathering place for the city’s Italian refugees, among them scholars, painters, poets, and revolutionaries. The Rossetti children were exposed to discussions of politics, literature, and art, and were all avid readers and writers, educated at home by their mother.


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By the age of sixteen Christina had written more than fifty poems, experimenting with sonnets, hymns and ballads. Her first published poems appeared in the Athenaeum, a prestigious literary magazine, and under the pen-name “Ellen Alleyne”, she contributed to The Germ, a periodical of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. When she sent a number of new poems to Blackwood’s Magazine, she declared her commitment to writing poetry, for her “not a mechanism, but an impulse and reality” and “directed to what is right and true”, contradicting her brother William’s “Memoir” that asserted her poetry was spontaneous and unrevised, and casting her as a pious introverted woman who was unconcerned with worldly achievement. In actuality, for most of her life, she was fully devoted to her writing and not adverse to receiving recognition for it.


Christina Rossetti

You might also like: Poetic Quotes by Christina Rossetti


Deeply devout

Christina’s tranquil beauty made her an ideal model for Dante Gabriel’s first completed oil painting, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, and his depiction of the AnnunciationEcce Ancilla Domini. Although a vivacious child, she matured into a quiet young woman deeply devoted to her Anglican faith and suffered depression throughout her life. She remained unmarried, turning down three marriage proposals—to the artist James Collinson, the linguist Charles Cayley and the painter John Brett—due to religious differences.


Illness and death

At the age of 42 she was diagnosed with Graves Disease, a thyroid condition that at one point brought her near death, but she rallied and continued to write, mostly devotional and children’s pieces. She died from a reoccurrence of breast cancer on December 29, 1894, at the age of nearly 64, and is buried in Highgate Cemetery in north London.


More about Christina Rossetti on this site

Major Works

Poetry Collections

  • Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862)
  • The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems (1866)
  • Speaking Likenesses (1874)
  • Pageant and Other Poems (1881)
  • New Poems (1896)

Fiction and nonfiction

  • Commonplace and Other Stories (1870)
  • Called to Be Saints  (1881)
  • The Face of the Deep (1893)
  • Time Flies: A Reading Diary (1885)

More Information

Read and Listen Online


Contributed by DM (Diane) Denton, a native of Western New York, a writer and artist inspired by music, nature, and the contradictions of the human and creative spirit. Her historical fiction A House Near Luccoli, which is set in 17th century Genoa and imagines an intimacy with the charismatic composer Alessandro Stradella, and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled, which takes place in late Restoration England, were published by All Things That Matter Press, as were her Kindle short stories, The Snow White Gift and The Library Next Door. Diane has done the artwork for both her novels’ book covers, and published an illustrated poetry flower journal, A Friendship with Flowers. Visit her on the web at at DM Denton Author & Artist and  BardessMDenton.

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2 Responses to “Christina Rossetti”

  1. Thank you Diane for this wonderful article about my favourite poet.
    I am quite surprised to know Christina never married, as she understood all aspects of love perfectly.
    To think I used to walk through Highgate Cemetery each day to school in the 1950s, and probably passed her resting place. But at the age of 13 I would not have known then that I would so love her poetry.
    Thank you also for all the links. I really enjoyed reading this …. Rosy

    • You’re so very welcome, Rosy! Thank YOU for coming over and taking the time to read and for your engaging comment.

      As far as Christina’s understanding of the aspects of love, I look forward to exploring that further as I write my fiction about her, but at this point I believe her feelings were intense and her heart devoted, albeit it in the end more to divine than earthly love. Regarding Charles Cayley, the scholarly translator of Dante – who offered the second marriage proposal she refused because he didn’t share the religious faith so important to her – her brother William wrote ‘Although she would not be his wife, no woman ever loved a man more deeply or more constantly.’ It seems they remained lifelong friends and when Cayley died he left many treasured possessions to her. In her world and aesthetic sensibilities, the joys, disappointments, pain and even commitment of loving could exist outside the framework of marriage and sexual experience.

      It is strange how sometimes we are connected to a place and its relevance doesn’t always reveal itself until later. I love that you walked through Highgate Cemetery as a teenager and ended up loving Christina Rossetti’s poetry!

      I wrote the bio, but Nava, the owner of this site found the links and quotes, which I have been enjoying, too! Best regards, Diane

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