‘If the worst comes to the worst, she was woman and sister’, that says it all. Obviously, if you put it like that it sounds startling or maybe shocking. Everybody who reads this title will want to know the reason for my decision or maybe they ask me: ‘what made you do it?’. So, as a woman of principles based on feminism and with aims in life, as fas as possible, I am going to express what I feel deep inside after reading Christina Rossetti. After all, as the English poet Thomas Gray said, ‘Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn’.

When I finished my first paper some days ago, it left me with a bitter aftertaste. I had read several poems written by Christina Rossetti and I decided  that time to concentrate all my feelings expressing what had alarmed me and it was the contradiction between her life and her poetry. I realized that Christina Rossetti’s personality got further away from her society, from her house, from her morals instilled, etc. showing in her poetry her hidden yearnings, her burning thoughts and words.

I noticed that this author disguised her true personality and yearnings in verses and this was the title for my previous paper. This far everything was right and I looked for hours the different reasons why she didn’t express herself just as she was. Without any doubt, this was by Victorian morals and the education which she had received at home by her mother. Women weren’t out of place in the Victorian era and they were controlled by men.

‘Alone by day, alone by night, alone days without end’…’Once to speak before the world, rend bare my heart and show the lesson I have learned which is death, is life, to know. I, if I perish, perish; in the name og God I go.’ (A Royal Princess). Related with the education which she received we find these verses in her poetry. Christina, as  the princess’s real desire, she wants the self-expression which paternal feudalism denied her. Her admitted ‘goal’ is ‘once to speak before the world’.

Moreover, a deep religiousness was mixed up in Christina Rossetti and this took her to suffer a repressed sexuality because of her unsuccessful engagements with James Collinson and Charles Cayley; as we can appreciate in her most famous work: Goblin Market. And as if that wasn’t enough, she had to swallow her feminist ideals and she never had the occasion to throw them to society. It was her dream but ‘fortunately’, everything was sorted out in her poems.

‘Better dream than weep’ (The Prince Progress), so she dreamt her feminist goals. Christina was against to the conception of a woman seen as an object as In an Artist’s Studio: ‘ Not as she is, but as she fills his dream’.

I carried out this work but as I have said before there was any detail which was escaping my notice. I switched on my laptop and I kept looking at her poems again and again. It was impossible that the strength which she showed in her poetry wouldn’t have been published and more famous in her era. Beginning with the context and due to Christina Rossetti spent her youth among the most innovative group of artists of her era, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, I was about searching  characteristics of this movement. They emphasized in the medieval atmosphere and settings, in the appreciation of the world’s physical beauty and expression in lush images, in worries with interiority and the depiction of the inner life of the mind, in moral and religious subjects and love. It is remarkable Christina’s poetry likewise depicts love without happiness; love which is often painful, unfulfilled, challenging ad always wronged at the hand of man.

These themes weren’t completely unknown to me, Christina Rossetti’s poetry had the same components; so the question wasn’t a minute to appear: if Christina had the same features than the Pre-Raphaelitism Brotherhood’s poetry, why was she never part of them?

I went on looking for this and in many sources she was closely relationed with this movement but in fact she was not considered as a part of it. I didn’t understand either why Christina Rossetti was supposedly excluded by her religion because the first members of the brotherhood produced sacramental works.

I had a feeling that somebody tackled in this issue. There was a ‘black hand’ in her life, not only were the Victorian morals which deprived her of freedom of speech, but also somebody wanted to take out a possible prominence. Who was working against her? I wondered. Who knows! But I started to go into the members of this Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and as it happens one of her brother was the founder and the other the editor from its magazine:The Germ. Christina Rossetti wrote in this magazine several times but… where was her name? She was not Christina, she was Ellen Alleyne. A female pseudonym didn’t expect to hide that the author of the poem was a woman, so it hid an identity, a surname to be exact:  Rossetti. I had caught with the crucial point. The aim was Rossetti’s family.

I wondered, if her brothers were the people responsible for The Germ, why they didn’t include their sister on it? Their ‘dear’ sister was not useful here because they had a prestige which they didn’t want to lose.

Some were the disdainful gestures towards their sister’s poetry but they knew Christina Rossetti’s poetry was good and touching and if it was published with her name, their sister would outshine them.

Christina and Gabriel had in common in their poetry the cultivation states of mind as in Monna Innominata written by Christina: ‘My hope hangs waning, waxing, like a moon between the heavenly days on which we meet: Ah me, but where are now the songs I sang, when life was sweet because you call’d them sweet?’ …’ Brighter than sunniest day that ever shone, in happy dreams your smile makes day of night.’

Christina Rossetti was seen as a shy woman, as a reclusive poet or even as a chaste Victorian spinster. But these type of  adjectives didn’t characterize her at all. Like a ‘singing bird’ (A Birthday) she wanted to be and she finished feeling herself as being ‘the yesterday’ without any opportunity of being present or future. Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti turned her into a Virgin painted to his own advantage and his ‘major favour’ to her was looking for a pseudonym. Anyway, I think after reading her poetry she was a fine woman. So, her brother, specially Dante Gabriel, overshadowed her in life but time after, she has won the reputation which she deserves. But, without any doubt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti held the winning cards and he diminished the spread of her success.

‘I shall not see the shadows’ (Song) Christina said as a yearning, maybe referring to her brother.

‘ Remember me when I am gone away, gone far away into the silent land’ (Remember). I would remain with this verse because it was her last wish: not being forgotten. Since my point of view, she deserves to be unforgettable because she was a true artist and as a woman I feel a glow of pride and satisfaction for it. As far as possible, she fought through her verses, her unique way of expressing herself, against male chauvinism.

Gabriel once said to Christina, “You may be a singing-bird; but you dress like a pew-opener.” I agree with him up to a point but I would change the word ‘dress’ by the word ‘wear’. She was inside like a bird singing for freedom, for feminism, for sexuality and for poetry but she didn’t dress as she wanted, she wore outside the criterions imposed by her society and by her famous brother; if the worst comes to the worst, she was woman and sister.

Immerse you more in her poetry clicking the different pictures at random, time is of the essence!:

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