Born in London on December 5th 1830 Christina Rossitti was the youngest of four children of Italian exile Gabriele Rossitti and Frances Polidri. Gabriele was himself a poet (1783-1854) and was brought up anti-Roman Catholic, the whole family being devout (Tractarian) Anglican Church.
Christina’s elder brother Dante studied art and is renowned for his paintings and poetry. Dante’s ‘The Childhood of Mary Virgin (1849)’ Christina was the model for this work appearing a meek virgin being very shy. She lived a suffocating life and was only to reveal her true self in her writings.
In 1842 Christina produced various poems and in 1850 she used a pseudonym Ellen Alleyne to write seven poems for the Journal “The Germ” founded by her oldest brother William Michael an art critic. It was William and Danti who started the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Christina was then eighteen. The brotherhood aimed at producing work of innovative style and sincere feelings, Christina being the only female member. A fellow member of the Brotherhood James Collinson became a suitor for Christina as she sat for a portrait, James asked her to marry him, but she was shocked being so shy. However James converted to the Roman Catholic Church so she turned him down. After which James abandoned painting devoting his life to God and Prayer. Christina was devastated in losing him as a friend and wrote of regret and her barren life. A year later James returned to his artistic career. Another suitor emerged, Charles Bagot Cayby he was also rejected on religious grounds.
Christina lived a partly reclusive life with her mother. Writing amongst other works verses for children ‘Goblin Market’ and also the words of the song ‘In the Bleak mid winter’ In 1880 Christina suffered from Graves Disease a Thyroid disorder which made her an invalid, though she continued to write ballads. In 1891 she developed cancer, an operation prolonged her life until she died on 19th December 1894. She is buried with her mother and father in Highgate Cemetery, London. Ten years later her brother William edited all her works.
Quotations of Christina: -
‘Silence is more musical than any song’
‘Spring is when life’s alive in everything’
Poem ‘Remember me’ being her most famous.
375 Words. Joyce Gale.
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Thanks for giving us this bio on Christina Rossiti in "A Victorian Poet". I have read Dante's poems but didn't know he had a sister. I love the song "In the bleak mid winter" which I hear from time to time on the Arts programme (TV). Your essay was very enlightening.