Christina Rossetti Biography

Unfortunately time caught up with me and I didn’t get to weave together all my notes into a proper biography, but below you will find some key information I’d recorded as bullet points. Use this as a quick entry level overview of her life and then head over to excellent The Poetry Foundation Biography.


Dec 1830-1894

  • Artistic father (Gabriele) and fanatically religious mother (Frances) – taken traits from both. Youngest child – two brothers – Dante Gabrielle, William – one sister – Maria.
  • 1848 engaged to James Collinson (Pre-Raphaelite movement), but ended after he converted to Catholicism.
  • Retiring life, only worked for one year (1853) when attempting to support the family when her father was ill – tuberculosis(set up a school with her mum). Others worked – sister became a governess, William at Excise Office, Dante a student at Art college – and she grew up fairly isolated from this time on. At 14 she dropped out of school as she had a nervous breakdown, at which time she embraced religion.
  • Illnesses recurring – angina (chest/heart pains can lead to heart attacks) or tuberculosis (coughing blood, night sweats, weight loss).
  • 1860s in love with Charles Cayley, but would not marry him as he too had reverted to Catholicism. Also John Brett proposed, but she refused.
  • Began as devout evangelical (born again, close adherence to bible text, Jesus saved us by dying on the cross, sharing and conversion) CoE, but in 1840s drawn to Tractarianism. Made sacrifices of things she loved to prove devotions – chess. Blocked out anti-religious parts of texts; abhorred nudity in art; would not see plays with Pagan themes; Sister becomes a nun.
  • Lived the rest of her life as a spinster and living at home. Lived vicariously through her brother’s friends. From 1870s struggled with neuralgia (nerve problems) and emotionally effected by brother’s illness, 1872 (mental breakdown related to criticism of work). Her life quiet and not a lot of writing after brother’s death in 1882 and she died of cancer in 1894.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

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