Christina Rossetti: A Portrait with Background

Christina Rossetti: A Portrait with Background

Christina Rossetti: A Portrait with Background

Christina Rossetti: A Portrait with Background

Excerpt

In 1832 a milkman paid his morning call on a small shabby house in London. The address was 38 Charlotte Street, near Portland Place. It had once been a rather fashionable neighborhood; Samuel Rogers, the banker poet, had lived there and the houses when new had worn an air of fresh, bright Regency elegance. But the neighborhood had sunk, the atmosphere was now one of genteel poverty, or of poverty that had long given up any pretensions to being anything else but poverty. The milkman had noticed Number 38: foreigners lived there -- Italians -- and the atmosphere was respectable and yet very odd. Even the children seemed "different," and today they were more peculiar than ever. There, in the long dark corridor, a hazel-eyed boy of about four was sitting before a hobbyhorse and carefully sketching it. The milkman was enchanted at seeing what he called "a baby making a picture" and told the story to neighbors who somehow recorded it for posterity. He may have made some comment to the baby's mother, a tall handsome fair-haired woman, who carried herself with a calm dignity that gave her the air of a great lady who had only dropped in on a visit to that small shabby house. She might have been mistaken for an English- woman, so tall and fair and quietly poised -- but no, the milkman might have noticed there was something Italian about her eyes, something un-English in that carefully held-in emotional inten-

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