Scope and Contents
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.
Biographical / Historical
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 Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti. Both of her brothers were well known writers and Dante was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Christina was one of the most important English female poets of her day, especially known for her works of fantasy, children's poems and religious poetry.
Christina was a devout Christian, sustained throughout her life by her religious faith, especially during the difficult time following her father's death in 1854. It was also her religious devotion that motivated her to become a companion to her mother following her father's death. Her faith also deeply in fluenced her poetry. 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.
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.