Christina Rossetti Context

  • Created by: eva
  • Created on: 15-01-18 15:00


The Rossetti family had a pattern of literary talent:

•Father, Gabriele Rossetti – an Italian, a poet and translator, living in exile.

•Mother, Frances – an Italian-English woman, very keen Christian and a shining example to her children (they all loved her and looked up to her).

•Grandfather – a translator.

•Uncle John Polidori – doctor and writer (he wrote a famous Gothic story called The Vampyre).

•Older sister Maria Francesca Rossetti – wrote a commentary on the Italian poet Dante (her brother) and later became a nun.

•Older brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti – famous Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet.

•Older brother William Michael Rossetti – critic, biographer and editor

Although her religious temperament was closer to her mother's, she inherited many of her artistic tendencies from her father. 

Christina Rossetti’s father had been Secretary in the Department of Public Instruction at Rome.

After the downfall of Napoleon, Gabriele Rossetti who was condemned for his share in political plots, found himself in danger of not only losing his freedom but his life. 

After remaining for several months in hiding, he managed to escape from Naples in disguise. 

He arrived in England in February, 1824, poor as most refugees, but soon found employment as a teacher of Italian. 

In 1826 he married Frances Mary Larima Polidori, whose father, Gaetano Polidori, was also a political refugee.


Rossetti was a reserved and quiet young woman who, when she was 17, refused the proposal of James Collinson, who was a painter – however this engagement ended because Collinson reverted to Roman Catholicism. This shows Rossetti’s religion was seen as more important than her relationships.

From the early 1860’s, Rossetti was in love with Charles Cayley, who also worked in translating poetry. She was again held back by her religion, when she declined his proposal despite him loving her as well- due to him being agnostic. They remained close friends until his death, which suggests that religion only limited her romantic relationships, not her social circle.


•Rossetti’s third proposal was from painter John Brett- who she also declined. This time however, she was never in love with him in the first place. She wrote the poem ‘No Thank You John’ to describe the experience- the poem’s final line is 

•‘Here’s friendship for you if you like; but love, /No, thank you, John.’

Marriage in the 1800s

•Due to Christina never accepted any proposals she never married. In1857 she suffered a major religious crisis, which could have been partly due to her proposals being doomed due to difference in religion.

•In the 19th century, there was a shortage of eligible men for marriage despite the idea of a housewife being a woman’s life goal. This was due to the mortality rate being much higher for men, conscription to the army and high emigration figures for the mid 19th century. 

•A woman’s wealth was passed to her husband after marriage, so this could have also played a part in Christina’s rejections- a want…


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