The Book of Sonnet Sequences

By Houston Peterson | Go to book overview

XII -- CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI
[ 1830-1894]

IN CHILDHOOD Christina Rossetti followed her mother into the upper regions of the Church of England and remained there, with occasional regrets, perhaps, until the end. She was a tender, intense, affectionate person, but above all, she was devout, in the narrow and the wide sense of the word. According to her brother, William Michael, the one serious flaw in her beautiful and admirable character was over-scrupulosity which "shut up her mind to almost all things save the Bible, and the admonitions and administrations of priests. To ponder for herself whether a thing was true or not ceased to be a part of her intellect. The only question was whether or not it conformed to the Bible, as viewed by Anglo-Catholicism." It was this rigidity which underlay the barren melancholy of her verse and the pathetic confessions which so often broke through.

Go from me, summer friends, and tarry not; I am no summer friend, but wintry cold, A silly sheep benighted from the fold, A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.

There seem to have been only two marked episodes in her extremely secluded life. When she was seventeen James Collinson, a minor member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, fell in love with her; but shortly before meeting her he had passed from the Church of England to Catholicism, and for that reason she refused his offer of marriage. Then he reverted to the English Church and was accepted by Miss Rossetti. Once more he changed his mind, returned to the Catholic fold and she cancelled the engagement. "But he had struck a staggering blow at Christina Rossetti's peace of mind on the very threshold

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