a short-run by her brother William Michael nearly fifty years after it was written, Sisson takes Maude as ‘undoubtedly a selfportrait, and a highly critical one’. It represents a fascinating study of an upper middle-class adolescent girl’s sensibility and, as William Michael notes, even by 1897, Christina’s religiously motivated self-abnegation came over as a little priggish. He says that the ‘worst harm’ Maude seems to have done ‘is that, when she had written a good poem she felt it to be good’. Unsurprisingly, Maude hardly represents the peak of Rossetti’s powers, but it is revealing and earns a reprint here, not least because of its religious seriousness. While biographers such as Frances Thomas and, supremely, Jan Marsh have taken recent biographical studies of Rossetti to the level of fine art, Sisson brought new focus to Rossetti’s poetics through his insistence that ‘with any poet the starting-point, social as well as literary, is worth finding out about’. The facts of Rossetti’s life are well-known. She was born on 5 December 1830, into a prominent Anglo-Italian family. In 1824, her poet-father Gabriele fled the kingdom of Naples for London with a price on his head, and in 1826 he married Frances, daughter of Gaetano Polidori. Polidori was formerly secretary to the poet Alfieri, and father of John, briefly famous as Byron’s physician. Gabriele taught Italian and published, by subscription, a commentary on the Inferno during a period when Dante’s works were relatively unknown. He was appointed Professor of Italian at King’s College, London in 1830/1.
Christina was the youngest of four children. Maria Francesca, who became a nun, was born in 1827, while artsuperstar Dante Gabriel (born at the height of Gabriele’s Dante obsession) was born in 1828. William Michael, career civil servant and Christina’s literary executor, came along in 1829.Of the new-born Christina, her father wrote to her aunts, ‘She is considered to be the very picture of Maria, but more
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