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Christina and the Sid

Penelope Fitzgerald, 18 March 1982

Christina RossettiA Divided Life 
by Georgina Battiscombe.
Constable, 233 pp., £9.50, May 1981, 0 09 461950 6
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The Golden Veil 
by Paddy Kitchen.
Hamish Hamilton, 286 pp., £7.95, May 1981, 0 241 10584 6
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The Little Holland House Album 
by Edward Burne-Jones and John Christian.
Dalrymple Press, 39 pp., £38, April 1981, 0 9507301 0 6
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... Christina Rossetti wrote ‘If I had words’ and ‘I took my heart in my hand’ and ‘If he would come today, today’ and ‘What would I give for a heart of flesh to warm me through’ and: I bent by my own burden, must Enter my heart of dust. Her poetry she described as ‘a genuine “lyric cry”, and such I will back against all skilled labour ...


John Bayley, 24 March 1994

Christina RossettiA Biography 
by Frances Thomas.
Virago, 448 pp., £9.99, February 1994, 1 85381 681 7
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... life. For her, too, love-regret could be an absorbing and solitary game. Not so, one feels, for Christina Rossetti, whose love poems may equally be sphinxes without any real secret, and yet with no hint of fantasy or teasing. They are always grave and unselfconscious, impersonal, calm both with sorrow and with belief. Those heavy-lidded Italian eyes ...

Undone, Defiled, Defaced

Jacqueline Rose, 19 October 1995

Christina RossettiA Literary Biography 
by Jan Marsh.
Cape, 634 pp., £25, December 1994, 0 224 03585 1
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... forms of gratifying and/or punishing themselves. The union of Frances Polidori and Gabriele Rossetti, parents to Maria, William, Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was by all accounts harmonious, affectionate, enduring. Eccentric, not without drama (he was a poet and revolutionary in exile from Italy), it ...

A Year upon the Sofa

Dinah Birch, 8 May 1997

Eve’s Renegades: Victorian Anti-Feminist Women Novelists 
by Valerie Sanders.
Macmillan, 249 pp., £42.50, September 1996, 0 333 59563 7
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... to scorn his heart,’ sniffed Charlotte in a letter to Elizabeth Gaskell. ‘Woman must obey,’ Christina Rossetti wrote in 1879. ‘Her office is to be man’s helpmeet.’ These are not popular sentiments in the 1990s. Yet no one would wish to deny the intelligence, courage or reforming imagination of these women. Valerie Sanders approaches her ...


Martin Monahan, 8 October 2015

... Safe in his excavated gallery Christina Rossetti Lady Lassetter sits at her mirror; presented as a woodland frieze in May, her drapery is appliquéd with specimens of British botany. On the dresser’s marbled top a signed invitation can explain this flowered and zoomorphic frock, designed to be a favourite verse sartorialised ...


Denis Donoghue: Karlin’s collection of Victorian verse, 4 June 1998

The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Danny Karlin.
Allen Lane, 851 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780713990492
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... But in the second or antinomian tradition, ‘Coleridge of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, and Rossetti in all his writings, made what Arnold has called that “morbid effort”, that search for “perfection of thought and feeling, and to unite this to perfection of form”, sought this new, pure beauty, and suffered in their lives because of it.’ Yeats ...

Hug me, kiss me

Penelope Fitzgerald, 6 October 1994

Such Devoted Sisters: An Anthology of Stories 
edited by Shena Mackay.
Virago, 330 pp., £6.99, August 1994, 1 85381 755 4
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When the World Was Steady 
by Claire Messud.
Granta, 270 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 14 014099 9
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... which doesn’t change, the book isn’t chronologically arranged, and the earliest piece, Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’, comes last of all. Placed there, it seems like a magical explanation of all that goes before. Christina Rossetti herself said that her poem was not to be taken as an ...

Collapse of the Sofa Cushions

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 24 March 1994

Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics 
by Isobel Armstrong.
Routledge, 545 pp., £35, October 1993, 0 415 03016 1
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The Woman Reader: 1837-1914 
by Kate Flint.
Oxford, 366 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 19 811719 1
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... looseness to cover everything from Browning’s dramatic monologues and the religious lyrics of Christina Rossetti to Arthur Clough’s The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich(1848), James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night (1874) and Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts (1904-8). Though she has been considerably influenced by recent theorising, both linguistic and ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... forgets Beckett, and fixes his attention on Philip Larkin, Hardy, Swift, Coleridge, Sydney Smith, Christina Rossetti or another. I can’t believe that he chose to deliver these Clarendon Lectures as a hodge-podge. It is more probable that he observed the impressionism that Beckett ascribed to Proust: ‘By his impressionism I mean his non-logical ...

Might-have-beens must die

Peter Howarth: Christina Rossetti’s Games, 1 July 2021

New Selected Poems 
by Christina Rossetti, edited by Rachel Mann.
Carcanet, 240 pp., £12.99, March 2020, 978 1 78410 906 6
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... is salvation or a suburban mansion, the game of life is there to be won, and won on your own.Christina Rossetti’s poems dwell on those who are unable to play. Lives are ‘void and brief/And tedious in the barren dusk’ or have been misspent and regretted. Souls are unreachable and unregarded: ‘living unloved’, her Sappho hopes only ‘to die ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... of my contemporaries’), George Herbert, Vaughan, Crabbe, Hopkins, Whitman, Campion, Morris, Christina Rossetti, John Crowe Ransom, Wyndham Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Stevie Smith. I would think a life of diverse affections could be made upon such affiliations. But Grigson seems to need to be enraged or disgusted, too. Else why would he go to the ...

At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: Van Gogh, 1 August 2019

... moreover, were good at providing spiritual resources. Van Gogh had a particular fondness for Christina Rossetti, for Keats’s ‘To Autumn’ and for Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. There was an interplay between metropolitan modernity and ‘noble and healthy sentiment’ that was peculiar to England, he suggested in letters to a Dutch ...

Tennyson’s Text

Danny Karlin, 12 November 1987

The Poems of Tennyson 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Longman, 662 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 582 49239 4
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Tennyson’s ‘Maud’: A Definitive Edition 
edited by Susan Shatto.
Athlone, 296 pp., £28, August 1986, 0 485 11294 9
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The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Vol.2: 1851-1870 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 585 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 19 812691 3
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The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 654 pp., £15.95, June 1987, 0 19 214154 6
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... masterpieces’ printed in full, the others being FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Hunting of the Snark’. (The list has attracted comment: it is clearly polemical, and reviewers who objected to ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ as lightweight were exposing the very prejudice its ...

Gnawed by rats, burnt at Oxford

Claire Tomalin, 10 October 1991

G.H. Lewes: A Life 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 369 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 19 812827 4
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... father, Swynfen Jervis, was a country gentleman, a Radical MP and scholar; both Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti knew the family, where their father had also been a tutor. Agnes was the eldest child; she lost her mother young and had two stepmothers. Rossetti, a boy of 12 when he knew her, admired her looks and her ...

Paulin’s People

Edward Said, 9 April 1992

Minotaur: Poetry and the Nation State 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 298 pp., £15.99, January 1992, 0 571 16308 4
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... of their politics – their engagements with Irish matters, for instance, or, in the case of Christina Rossetti, her ‘indirect ... objection to Tennyson’s style’ and the ‘peculiar conjunction’ there ‘of military, industrial, and masculine sexual values’. This works brilliantly as explication de texte in an entirely classical sense. But ...

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