Christina Georgina Rossetti was born in London, UK, on December 5, 1830, to Gabriele and Frances Rossetti.
“An exceptionally brilliant family” is how one biographer describes them … her father was a professor of Italian at King’s College, London; her brothers achieved fame in the world of art, and Christina shone brightly in literary circles. Christina is described as one of England’s most important nineteenth-century women poets.
She was educated at home, by her mother, and took an interest in poetry. She is described as “deeply religious and serious minded”. In 1848 she became engaged to James Collinson, one of the minor Pre-Raphaelite brethren with whom her brother kept company. However this engagement was terminated when Collinson turned to Roman Catholicism.
More than a decade later she held affection for one Charles Cayley but would not consent to marry him because he was not a Christian.
She gave us playing chess, as an act of devotion to God, since she enjoyed it so much, especially winning at chess.
It is said that “much of her poetry has a wistful, spiritual quality but displays a high level of technical ability and sincerity”.
Some of her hymns are still sung today … Love came down at Christmas… and None other Lamb, none other Name, none other hope in Heaven or earth or sea …
Strikingly beautiful, Christina was used as a model by Holman Hunt when he was painting his masterpiece, “The Light of the World” – “Christina sat for the eyes and the brow of the head of Christ” (Great Christians, page 472).
In 1871 a “terribly disabling disease” (neuralgia) robbed her of that outward beauty. Nevertheless her spirit remained in tune with her God and more spiritual gems came from her pen, such as this favourite:
What shall I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him – give my heart.
She was much troubled by her brother, Dante’s, breakdown in 1872 and following his death in 1882 she lived a retiring life. However in the 1870’s she worked for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Miss Rossetti died of cancer on 19 December, 1894.
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com