Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections
Part I: Description
Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Collection Number: M 11
Copyright © 2001 by Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Total Boxes: 4
Linear Feet: 1.0
Gift of Frederick E. Maser and Mary Louise Jarden Maser, 2000.
Ownership & Literary Rights
The Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection is the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.
Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research.
CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI (1830-1894)
Born on December 5, 1830, the English poet Christina Rossetti was the youngest child of Gabriele Rossetti and sister to both Dante Gabriel Rossetti, well known poet, painter and founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and William Michael Rossetti, English art critic, literary editor, and man of letters. As one of the most important English women poets, she became known for her works of fantasy, poems for children, and religious poetry.
Christina was a devout Christian, sustained throughout her life by her religious faith, especially during the difficult times following her father's death in 1854 and the onset of a prolonged illness in 1871. Her particular attachment to the Anglican High Church caused her to break off her engagement to Pre-Raphaelite artist James Collinson in 1850 when he became a Roman Catholic, and later in 1864 to reject Charles Bagot Cayley for similar reasons. It was also her religious devotion that became the motivating force behind her life work of companionship to her mother following her father's death and, most importantly, writing poetry.
A first volume of her Verses, printed in 1847 by her grandfather on his private press, provided early evidence of her poetic talent. In 1850, Christina contributed seven poems under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne to The Germ, the journal of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founded by her brother along with artists John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. The collections Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862) and The Prince's Progress and Other Poems (1866), both illustrated by brother Dante Gabriel, contain what is undoubtedly her best work and established her as one of the finest poets of her day. Also acclaimed for her poetry and songs for children, she published Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book in 1872, which merits high regard among nineteenth century children's literature.
In 1871, Christina was stricken with the thyroid disorder Graves' disease, marring her appearance, leaving her an invalid, and causing her to live the last fifteen years of her life as a recluse in her home. Ever supported by her religious faith, she continued to write, releasing a collection of poems in 1875 and A Pageant and Other Poems in 1881. Her work, however, became increasingly religious in nature, often melancholic and obsessed with death, and she began concentrating primarily on writing devotional material, such as Time Flies (1885), a highly personal diary of mixed verse and prose. In 1891, she developed cancer and died in London on December 29, 1894. New Poems, containing previously unprinted and uncollected poems, was published posthumously in 1896 by her brother William Michael Rossetti.
For additional information about Christina Rossetti, see, among other publications:
Battiscombe, Georgina. Christina Rossetti: A Divided Life. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.
Bell, Mackenzie. Christina Rossetti: A Biographical and Critical Study. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1898.
Charles, Edna Kotin. Christina Rossetti: Critical Perspectives, 1862-1982. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1985.
Harrison, Antony H. Christina Rossetti in Context. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
Jones, Kathleen. Learning Not To Be First: The Life of Christina Rossetti. Moreton-in-Marsh: Windrush Press, 1991.
Kent, David A., ed. The Achievement of Christina Rossetti. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.
Mayberry, Katherine J. Christina Rossetti and the Poetry of Discovery. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
Packer, Lona Mosk. Christina Rossetti. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.
Rosenblum, Dolores. Christina Rossetti: The Poetry of Endurance. Carbondale: Southern University Press, 1986.
Rossetti, Christina Georgina. The Letters of Christina Rossetti. Ed. Antony H. Harrison. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.
DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION
Origin of the Maser Collection
The Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection was assembled by Frederick E. and Mary Louise Jarden Maser over a period of several years by acquiring individual pieces as well as small groups of items from various dealers. The collection was donated to Bryn Mawr College Library in stages, the first group coming in 1990 and the remainder in 2000. In honor of the initial gift, an exhibition was held by the college in 1990-91, An accompanying publication, Christina Rossetti in the Maser Collection: Including a Group of Christina's Letters, with essays by the Masers and a foreword by Bryn Mawr College's Director of Libraries, James Tanis, appeared in 1991.
Organization of the Collection
The collection is organized into two series: Correspondence, and Other Materials.
Series I, Correspondence is organized into three sub-series: Outgoing Correspondence, Incoming Correspondence, and Third Party Correspondence. Each sub-series is arranged alphabetically. Outgoing Correspondence constitutes the main portion of the series and includes letters to friends, family, clergymen, fellow writers, and others regarding her writing and her social and business activities. The most letters to any one individual are to her close friend, Caroline M. Gemmer. Almost all of the letters, which cover the period from 1853 to 1894, are handwritten and signed by Rossetti; however, many are not dated.
The Incoming Correspondence consists of four letters from Mackenzie Bell—her biographer—and one envelope from an unidentified person. One of the Bell letters, dated April 1894, offers his condolences for the death of Mrs. William Rossetti and expresses concern for Christina's health. The lengthiest of the four is unfortunately almost unreadable, but appears to contain a discussion of Dante.
Third Party Correspondence also contains several letters from Mackenzie Bell to various people in reference to the life and letters of Christina Rossetti. In addition, there are numerous letters from both of her brothers, Dante Gabriel and William Michael Rossetti, two from her sister, Maria Francesca Rossetti, and a letter written in Italian in the early 1820s from Gabriele Rossetti, Christina's father, to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy, Admiral Moore and his wife. The latter contains a poem as well as Exultation of Malta: a Birthday Song, written in honor of Admiral and Lady Moore's first-born son.
Series II, Other Materials is arranged into three sub-series: Writings, Materials of Mackenzie Bell, and Other. Writings contains two poems by Christina Rossetti, "In the bleak mid-winter . . . " and "Good Friday," tipped into an 1850 edition of The Germ, as well as a lecture written by William Michael Rossetti on the wives of British poets.
Materials of Mackenzie Bell is further divided into two sub-series: Christina Georgina Rossetti Materials, and Non-Christina Georgina Rossetti Materials. The former is primarily material related to Bell's book, Christina Rossetti: A Biographical and Critical Study, including transcriptions of letters from Christina to Mrs. Gemmer, lists of illustrations for the book, and research notes on her life and letters. Non-Christina Georgina Rossetti Materials is organized into Letters and Other Materials.
The third sub-series, Other, contains a fragment of Christina Rossetti's handwriting, her calling card, her signature, a receipt signed by her, and a photograph of her by Elliott & Fry. In addition, there is a check from Dante Gabriel Rossetti with the signature cut out, a photograph of an unidentified woman by Elliot & Fry, and a copy of the T. Carlyle poem "Today," transcribed, signed, and dated by Maria Francesca Rossetti.
The Christina Georgina Rossetti Collection includes an extensive selection of rare books, also assembled and given to Bryn Mawr College Library by the Masers.
PART I: Collection Description
PART II: Box and Folder List
Processing and description by Linda Leeuwrik.
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