The Works of Christina Rossetti

Early writings

Rossetti wrote creatively from an early age:

  • At 17, she had composed enough poems for her grandfather to print a small volume of her work, entitled Verses, on his home press
  • At the age of 19, she was writing for the Pre-Raphaelite journal, The Germ and beginning to establish her literary reputation
  • At this time, she wrote under the pseudonym, Ellen Alleyn. Created by her brother, Dante Gabriel, this pseudonym gave her the anonymity and protection she desired in the early stages of her career


Goblin Market and Other Poems, 1862

Rossetti’s first volume, Goblin Market and Other Poems was published in 1862:

  • It was divided into two sections, non-devotional and devotional poetry
  • Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti illustrated it
  • This collection secured Christina Rossetti’s reputation
  • In addition to its famous title poem, Goblin Market, it includes A Birthday, Up-hill and The Convent Threshold. Also included are two poems about fallen women, Cousin Kate and Maude Clare, ( see Social / political background > The Status of women).

A Prince’s Progress and Other Poems, 1866

Rossetti published her second volume, A Prince’s Progress and Other Poems, four years after her first. Included in this are:

  • Several semi-political poems such as A Royal Princess and The Iniquity of the Fathers Upon the Children
  • Numerous poems about lost love and the pain of memory
  • A collection of devotional pieces.

Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book, 1872

When Rossetti was 42, she published Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book:

  • This reflects Rossetti’s own memories of her childhood experiences
  • She uses an appreciation of the natural world and its works to teach young children some necessary lessons about human mortality and life.

A Pageant and Other Poems, 1881

A Pageant and Other Poems, published in 1881, includes the sonnet sequences Monna Innominata and Later Life. In these, Rossetti explores:

  • How individual identity is created and shaped
  • How love is formed and developed
  • The problems that face the female writer.

The sequences demonstrate Rossetti’s familiarity with the writings of Dante (see The Life and Times of Christina Rossetti > Birth, upbringing and education > More on Dante) and Petrarch.

More on Petrarch: Francesco Petrarca, known in English as Petrarch, was born in 1304 and died in 1374. He was an Italian scholar and poet. He is famous for developing the sonnet. Called Petrarchan sonnets, the sonnets he created are divided into an octet (8 lines), usually rhyming abba abba and a sestet (6 lines) which often rhymes cde cde. The ideas in the octet change or develop in the sestet and this change is called a 'volta' or leap. Rossetti chooses to use this model of the sonnet throughout her writings.

Verses, 1893

Rossetti’s final volume, Verses, published when she was 63, contains the devotional poems she had previously included in three of her books of devotional prose, Time Flies, Called to be Saints and The Face of the Deep. In Verses, these poems are grouped together under seven headings. One, entitled Some Feasts and Fasts, contains a selection of poems written to celebrate feast days in the Church calendar. The final section, New Jerusalem and its Citizens, contains poems which look forward to the splendours and comfort in heaven to which the Bible alludes.


Short stories

Rossetti published two books of short stories during her writing career:

  • Commonplace was a book for adults, exploring themes such as sisterhood, rivalry, jealousy and insecurity
  • Speaking Likenesses was written for children and seeks to impart some moral lessons.

Devotional Prose

Between 1874 and 1893, Rossetti produced six volumes of devotional prose. Five were published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

The subject matter of these religious writings includes themes such as:

  • Celebrating the lives and faith of famous Christians (known as the saints) through history
  • Reflections on the different times and seasons of the church year such as Advent, Christmas, Lent etc. (known as the liturgical calendar)
  • The role of the Apostolic Church (i.e. tracing how the church should echo the principles established by Jesus’ first disciples, known as the apostles).

Rossetti’s aim

Rossetti’s aim was to build up the faith of other Christians and so she used her devotional prose to reflect upon verses from the Bible, trying to make clear their meaning. Her books include:

  • The Face of the Deep: A devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1892.
  • Time Flies: A Reading Diary. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1885.
  • Letter and Spirit: Notes on the Commandments. London and Brighton: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1883.
  • Called to Be Saints, The Minor Festivals Devotionally Studied. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1881.
  • Seek and Find: A Double Series of Short Studies of the Benedicite. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1879.
  • Annus Domini: A Prayer for Each Day of the Year. London: James Parker & Co, 1874.