Christina Rossetti :

by Marsh, Jan,
Published by : Jonathan Cape, (London :) Physical details: 634p.,[16]p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 25cm. ISBN:0224035851 :. Year: 1994
Item type Current location Call number Copy number Status Date due
Books Books British Council Library
821.8 (Browse shelf) 1 Available

Bibliography: p609-616. - Includes index.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Marsh, an English authority on writers and artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, focuses here on Christina Rossetti, a talented, creative woman of Victorian England. Overshadowed by her artistic brother, Dante Gabriel, uncompromising in her religious belief of the submissive role of women, and faithful to her filial duties, Rossetti wrote poetry throughout her life as a means of self-expression. Marsh makes use of letters, diaries, and other previously unavailable source materials to show how Rossetti's verse was a response to the people and events that shaped her life. In doing so, however, Marsh occasionally makes broad interpretive assumptions that bring a new depth to the traditional view of Rossetti as a minor religious poet. Although Marsh's storytelling is often slow-moving and the explications forced, the work is a well-researched and scholarly study of a talented woman whose literary contributions deserve renewed attention.‘Denise Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Reclusive, melancholy poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) waged ``a lifelong struggle with feminist desires'' and attempted to reconcile ambition and autonomy with the Victorian ideal of womanhood, in Marsh's analysis. Rossetti, who believed herself descended from Petrarch's Laura (a claim with little if any foundation), campaigned against cruelty to animals, and her volunteer work with prostitutes at Highgate penitentiary inspired her allegorical poem Goblin Market. Marsh (The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood) illuminates Rossetti's sibling rivalry with her flamboyant brother, painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and shows how the despair and paranoia of their invalid father, Gabriele, an embittered Italian exile-poet-librettist-professor, helped trigger Christina's adolescent breakdown, which left her with a lifelong tendency to guilt and self-castigation. Quoting extensively from the poetry, Marsh unlocks Rossetti's intense inner life in an engrossing, nuanced biography. She also explores the poet's fanciful tales and devotional writings to uncover her private battle with grief and preoccupation with death. Photos. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


As she does in her earlier studies of Pre-Raphaelites, e.g., Pre-Raphaelite Women (CH, May'88), Marsh here builds on strong foundations of pertinent primary and secondary documents, which she assimilates with authoritative control and considerable verve. The all-too-familiar solemn, reclusive, exceedingly religious Christina (who earlier scholars have revealed as harboring intense, repressed passions for several men) appears here as a wholly human (and humane), temperamental, humorous woman in daily life (especially in her early years) and a dedicated author of considerable artistic accomplishment. Here, too, the reader finds a female poet who is given just dues in terms of a tradition of Victorian poetry by women, from E.B. Browning onward. Brother William Rosetti's long-honored reticences in his many chronicles of his family and friends, which kept Christina's true stature from emerging, are here replaced with considered views of individuals' personal lives and artistic endeavors. Some readers will not like the psychoanalytic approach to Christina's writings, but it is illuminating. All collections. B. F. Fisher IV; University of Mississippi

Booklist Review

Literary biography at its best accounts for why a particular person produced the writing by which we know that individual. Alternatively, good literary biography may tell the story of the circumstances despite which a person created great literature. Then, there are literary biographies like Marsh's of Christina Rossetti, very arguably the greatest female poet of the nineteenth century. Marsh lays out the life exhaustively, showing Christina interacting with her own brilliant family and the radical English artistic intelligentsia with whom her protean but finally less talented brother Dante Gabriel acquainted her. This is all serviceable for more exciting interpretative biographies to come, but Marsh does not make of it either good literary biography or literary biography at its best. To her credit, she enlivens the adequately written text with frequent quoting from her subject's art. (Reviewed July 1995)067083517XRay Olson

Kirkus Book Review

An adept survey of the outwardly placid, internally conflicted life of an English counterpart to Emily Dickinson. Although never formally part of the Pre-Raphaelite poetic school, which included her brother Gabriel (better known to posterity as Dante Gabriel Rossetti), William Morris, and Algernon Swinburne, Christina Rossetti has always been linked to it. Marsh (The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, not reviewed) gives full attention to both the individual and her unique variety of fantastic and devotional poetry. With her Victorian popularity, Rossetti gained a reputation for High Anglican religiosity and sepulchral melancholy, but Marsh finds her beliefs more complex and even detects a sense of humor. Though Rossetti makes a less interesting subject than the flamboyant Gabriel, Marsh delineates an appealing person while examining her adolescent nervous breakdown, abortive engagement to a lapsed Catholic painter, frustrated love for an absentminded scholar, and relationships with her devout but hearty sister, Maria, and with her brothers, Gabriel and William, toward whom she felt both supportive and competitive. The author gives an intelligent interpretation of Rossetti's poetry and its development. Analyzing Rossetti's most famous poem, the sensuous, enigmatic allegory of temptation and sisterhood ``Goblin Market,'' Marsh argues convincingly that it was inspired by her work at a reformatory for young prostitutes. More hypothetically, she gives a provocative reading of Rossetti's early nightmare poems to suggest the possibility of sexual abuse by her invalid father, while admitting that there is no evidence for this speculation. Despite Marsh's occasional attempts to update Rossetti's spirit to fit current feminist molds, the writer remains firmly of her time. The author's steady, sympathetic course through Rossetti's divided life enables readers to delve into the intense and original self most fully expressed in her poetry. (16 pages b&w photos and illustrations, not seen)

There are no comments for this item.

Log in to your account to post a comment.