'Jan Marsh's book is the best researched and fullest biography of Rossetti we have yet had.' Fiona MacCarthy, New York Review of Books
'Although never formally part of the Pre-Raphaelite poetic school, which included her brother Gabriel, William Morris, and Algernon Swinburne, Christina Rossetti has always been linked to it. [Jan Marsh] gives full attention to both the individual and her unique variety of fantastic and devotional poetry... Marsh delineates an appealing person while examining her adolescent nervous breakdown, abortive engagement to a lapsed Catholic painter, frustrated love for an absentminded scholar, and relationships with her devout but hearty sister, Maria, and with her brothers... The author's steady, sympathetic course through Rossetti's divided life enables readers to delve into the intense and original self most fully expressed in her poetry.' Kirkus Review
Reclusive, melancholy poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) waged ``a lifelong struggle with feminist desires'' and attempted to reconcile ambition and autonomy with the Victorian ideal of womanhood, in Marsh's analysis. Rossetti, who believed herself descended from Petrarch's Laura (a claim with little if any foundation), campaigned against cruelty to animals, and her volunteer work with prostitutes at Highgate penitentiary inspired her allegorical poem Goblin Market. Marsh (The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood) illuminates Rossetti's sibling rivalry with her flamboyant brother, painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and shows how the despair and paranoia of their invalid father, Gabriele, an embittered Italian exile-poet-librettist-professor, helped trigger Christina's adolescent breakdown, which left her with a lifelong tendency to guilt and self-castigation. Quoting extensively from the poetry, Marsh unlocks Rossetti's intense inner life in an engrossing, nuanced biography. She also explores the poet's fanciful tales and devotional writings to uncover her private battle with grief and preoccupation with death. Photos.