Christina Georgina Rossetti was born on December 5, 1830 in London, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti; her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti also became a poet and a painter. Rossetti’s first poems were written in 1842 and printed in her grandfather’s private press. In 1850, under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne, she contributed seven poems to the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ, which had been founded by her brother, William Michael, and his friends.
Rossetti is best known for her ballads and her mystic, religious lyrics; and her poetry is marked by symbolism and intense feeling. Rossetti’s best-known work, Goblin Market and Other Poems (Macmillan and Co.), was published in 1862. The collection established Rossetti as a significant voice in Victorian poetry. The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems (Macmillan and Co.), appeared in 1866 followed by Sing-Song (George Routledge and Sons), a collection of verse for children, in 1872 (with illustrations by Arthur Hughes).
By the 1880s, recurrent bouts of Graves’ disease ended Rossetti’s attempts to work as a governess. While the illness restricted her social life, she continued to write poems, compiled in later works such as A Pageant and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1881). Rossetti also wrote religious prose works, such as Seek and Find: A Double Series of Short Studies of the Benedicite (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Pott, Young, & Co., 1879); Called To Be Saints (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and E. & J. R. Young & Co., 1881) and The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and E. & J. R. Young & Co., 1892).
In 1891, Rossetti developed cancer, of which she died in London on December 29, 1894. William Michael, edited her collected works in 1904, but her three-volume Complete Poems were published by Louisiana State University Press between 1979 and 1990.