Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology

Lynda Palazzo

Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology

Cross-Currents in Religion and Culture General Editors: Elisabeth Jay, Senior Research Fellow, Westminster College, Oxford David Jasper, Professor in Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow The study of theology and religion nowadays calls upon a wide range of interdisciplinary skills and cultural perspectives to illuminate the concerns at the heart of religious faith. Books in this new series will variously explore the contributions made by literature, philosophy and science in forming our historical and contemporary understanding of religious issues and theological perspectives. Published titles: Harold Fisch NEW STORIES FOR OLD Biblical Patterns in the Novel Susan VanZanten Gallagher and M. D. Walhout (editors) LITERATURE AND THE RENEWAL OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE Philip Leonard (editor) TRAJECTORIES OF MYSTICISM IN THEORY AND LITERATURE Lynda Palazzo CHRISTINA ROSSETTI’S FEMINIST THEOLOGY Eric Ziolkowski EVIL CHILDREN IN RELIGION, LITERATURE, AND ART Lambert Zuidervaart and Henry Luttikhuizen (editors) THE ARTS, COMMUNITY AND CULTURAL DEMOCRACY

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Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Lynda Palazzo .

Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. First published in 2002 by PALGRAVE Houndmills. London W1P 0LP. 2. 1950– Christina Rossetti’s feminist theology / Lynda Palazzo. Rossetti. 5. Christina Georgina. 1830–1894 – Views on feminism. Wiltshire .Y. copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. Title. I. cm. ISBN 0–333–92033–3 hardback This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. 90 Tottenham Court Road. 1830–1894 – Religion. Christina Georgina. II. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Designs and Patents Act 1988. Martin’s Press LLC Scholarly and Reference Division and Palgrave Publishers Ltd (formerly Macmillan Press Ltd). Basingstoke. copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright. No reproduction. Rossetti. Designs and Patents Act 1988. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Palazzo. Chippenham. 3. 6. or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.8–dc21 10 11 9 10 8 09 7 6 08 07 5 06 4 05 3 04 2 03 1 02 2001056127 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe Ltd. – (Cross-currents in religion and culture) Includes bibliographical references and index. Feminist theology – England – History – 19th century. Hampshire RG21 6XS and 175 Fifth Avenue. New York. Feminism in literature.© Lynda Palazzo 2002 All rights reserved. Theology in literature. 4. 7. 10010 Companies and representatives throughout the world PALGRAVE is the new global academic imprint of St. Cross-currents in religion and culture (Palgrave (Firm)) PR5238 . Lynda. p. N. Women and literature – England – History – 19th century. The author has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright.P35 2002 821’. ISBN 0–333–92033–3 1. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced. Feminism and literature – England – History – 19th century.

To My Parents .

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Contents Preface Introduction 1 Early Poetry. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 3 Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 4 Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 5 The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 6 Conclusion Notes Select Bibliography Index vii . Including Goblin Market and Maude ix xi 1 31 57 85 111 139 143 157 163 2 Later Poetry.

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the publication of the Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti. Tennyson’s Victorian Devotional Poetry (1981). and ending. with the contextual approach of A. Diane D’Amico’s recent study Faith. not used simply as a gloss to her poetry. interest in her theology has grown steadily and includes her devotional texts. The Face of the Deep. Rossetti’s literary and creative skill has ix . edited by David A. Gender and Time (1999). Stanwood (1998). but one that is startlingly modern. Harrison’s Christina Rossetti in Context (1988) and.H. is to study Rossetti’s devotional texts as volumes. featuring in literary histories of the Oxford Movement such as R.Preface Christina Rossetti published six volumes of devotional prose during her lifetime. devoted to commentary on the Book of Revelation. however. importantly. Rossetti should take her place with other Victorian women who struggled to make their voices heard in a society that considered them unfit to study theology or preach in church. and it needs to be added to the rich and varied history of religion in nineteenth-century England. they have been neglected in the study of nineteenthcentury theology. and its use has uncovered in Rossetti’s devotional writings not only a valid and consistent theological orientation. with a substantial volume.B. Annus Domini. Kent and P. Rossetti’s work needs to be revalued as theology. Chapman’s Faith and Revolt: Studies in the Literary Influence of the Oxford Movement (1970) and G. More recently. each with a specific structure and argument. They have long been out of print and are practically inaccessible today. during the last years of her life. and each with a theological message to convey. Her devotional poetry has fared better. Furthermore. Although these were very popular in her day and widely used even by the clergy. accords them an important place in Rossetti scholarship and makes the important connection between faith and gender.G. beginning with a prayer book. The revaluation of women’s theology by today’s feminist theologians seemed a useful place to start in the choice of supportive theoretical material. although using Rossetti’s devotional works mainly to support discussions of her poems. What has not yet been done.

x Preface added to her reading an awareness of the scriptures as text and as the production of the limited consciousness of a (male) writer. Her own volumes function as extensions of this text. I have simply chosen a few aspects of her theology which I have found meaningful. My approach does not assume to be the only access to Rossetti’s devotional prose. . Her writing is so rich and varied that there is scope for a great diversity of studies. restating to her own generation and in particular to her own gender the lessons she discovers there. and followed them through to her last volume. The Face of the Deep. and it is hoped that this volume will promote greater interest in her works.

which ‘moves on the tide of ever-increasing participation of being’. ‘have stolen daughters from their mothers and mothers from their daughters’. spawned in the human imagination and sustained as plausible by patriarchy. Her consequent publication of Beyond God the Father. If God in ‘his’ heaven is a father ruling ‘his’ people. Patriarchal religions.Introduction On 14 November 1971 the feminist theologian Mary Daly staged a walk-out from Memorial Church. She speaks about an experience of ‘sacred space’ alternative to the Church. in determining the social and cultural fabric of Western society: The symbol of father god. the xi . ‘a communal phenomenon of sisterhood’ which ‘even without conscious attention to the church … is in conflict with it’. Her form of radical feminism even ‘comes close to suggesting that male sexism is the original sin and that woman – or a particular kind of unreconstructed elemental woman – is the new.2 Daly’s challenge exposed in a radical way the potency of the dominant patriarchal symbolism of Christianity. has in turn rendered service to this type of society by making its mechanisms for the oppression of women appear right and fitting. has had implications which few feminist theologians have been able to ignore. thus publicly demonstrating her exodus from ‘androcentric’ Christianity. rendering them ‘spiritual exiles’. then it is in the ‘nature’ of things and according to divine plan and the order of the universe that society be male dominated.4 Consideration of the causal connection between established religion and social structures is especially valuable in the study of the Victorian period. itself a product of patriarchy. Daly formulates a post-Christian religious position which builds on a specifically female spirituality. a ritual source of life and healing. redeemed creation’. she claims.1 which advocates a post-Christian feminist position. where two widespread religious revivals. Harvard after preaching there.3 Because she considers Christianity fundamentally flawed by its male symbolism.

in Beyond God the Father: Take the snake. She exposes the salvific impotence of these symbols and eventually formulates what she considers important factors in the definition of woman’s spirituality. moral weakness and role in the Fall. author and editor of The Woman’s Bible. Thus the bottom falls out of the whole Christian theology. the Tractarian Movement brought with it a renewed emphasis on woman’s sinfulness. as making no mention of the healing and comforting power and the pardoning grace in the Holy Eucharist’. which required the advent of a male saviour to redeem humanity. and in particular of feminist christological inquiry. only to trap them inexorably within pre-existing. no everlasting punishment – hence no need of a saviour. evaluating its relevance in terms of herself and her identity as a woman. and that of other feminist theologians. lie in the nineteenth century. the fruit tree and the woman from the tableau. In this period of upheaval and realignment. Yet his teaching was possibly the most powerful . women in particular were the victims of a moral and social ethic which exalted their spirituality and domestic virtues.9 sees no gender bias in his preaching on sin.5 Daly’s work. no Inferno.7 In England. Here is the reason why in all the biblical researches and higher criticisms. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. however. and even Pusey himself. who in his impassioned defence of his Tracts on Holy Baptism in the face of accusations of doom and gloom admits: ‘my statement was imperfect. and we have no fall. no frowning Judge. the scholars never touch on the position of women. Daly’s work strikes at the central symbolism of Christianity. stereotyped patriarchal roles and moral categories.xii Introduction Evangelical Movement and the Tractarians. coincided with a phase of social and scientific consolidation.6 She quotes the American. Studies of the Oxford Movement8 tend to omit the gender implications of Tractarian doctrine. reminds us that there is another dimension to the damage inflicted on women by a patriarchal religious system. and that is a condition of profound spiritual suffering and alienation from traditional conceptions of God and customary practices of worship. Of particular relevance to our study is her recognition that the historical roots of modern feminist approaches to the problem of gender in Christianity.

He focuses time and again on the role of Eve in the Fall and her consequent legacy of corruption. You destroyed so easily God’s image. she spread her sin to whom she could …’10 He echoes the teaching of the early Church Fathers. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that [forbidden] tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant to attack. ‘as the first fruit of her sin. In the words of Elizabeth Johnson. took on the threefold corruption ‘of which the Apostle speaks’ and then infected her husband: ‘When the woman saw that the tree was good for food’ (this is the lust of the flesh) ‘and that it was pleasant to the eyes’. man.) ‘and a tree to be desired to make one wise’. And do you think about adorning yourself …?11 Eve’s sin is balanced by the salvific potential of a male redeemer. (here is the ‘pride of life’. ‘Women’s physical embodiment becomes a prison that shuts them off from God. He has taught her what is the true source of her beauty and her dignity. locking the female into an ontologically predetermined position of revealed moral inferiority. death – even the Son of God had to die. (this was the lust of the eye. except as mediated through the christic male’.12 Back into parish sermons come the scripture-based limitations on women’s authority and the doctrine of subordination. Not by usurping what does not belong to her. Because Christ was a male. In the words of Bishop Wordsworth: St Paul has taught Woman where her strength lies.Introduction xiii single influence of his time on public attitudes towards the morality of women.) she took of the fruit and ‘did eat’. renewing their distorted claims of the innate sinfulness of womankind: And do you know that you are [each] an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. Eve. not by casting off the mark . woman cannot truly become Christ-like. and. but can only imitate the receptiveness and docility of the Virgin. On account of your desert – that is. he claims.

xiv Introduction

of her derivative being and subordinate authority, can she hope to retain the place which God has given her in creation … . Her true strength is in loyal submission; her true power is in tender love and dutiful obedience.13 In Reclaiming Myths of Power: Women Writers and the Victorian Spiritual Crisis, Ruth Jenkins describes how the denial of sacred authority to women led to a movement ‘that attempted to resurrect the female aspects of God’, and prophesied even ‘a female messiah, tapping the historic privilege Christianity had given the oppressed to challenge the world’.14 Florence Nightingale, for example, borrowing from the Old Testament prophetic tradition, revised the incarnation to include female oppression and called on potential female prophets to herald the coming of a new Christ, ‘perhaps a female Christ’.15 She turned away from organised religion, accusing the Church of England of distorting the character of God, and ultimately found her own ‘liberation theology’16 in the sacred call to nursing. Another ‘foremother of contemporary Christian feminism’,17 J. Ellice Hopkins, also finding spiritual relief in re-enacting the redeeming role of Christ, reclaimed female sacrality through the bond of sisterhood in her work among London’s prostitutes. Although excluded by the Church from priestly activity, she was able to ‘undermine the male monopoly on the administration of the sacred’ by identifying personally with Christ in her mission to rescue desecrated womanhood. As our understanding grows of the problems facing women in the acceptance of male-dominated Christianity more ‘foremothers’ will be discovered, living out their faith in alternative spiritual epicentres, working out patterns of female redemption which the patriarchal Church has obscured, and which their daughters have ever painfully to reinvent.

1
Early Poetry, Including Goblin Market and Maude

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Eccles. 1:2 Did Christina Rossetti, despite her acute, and at times subversive, poetic intelligence remain passive in her acceptance of her religion? Even her latest biographers assume this was the case, taking their direction from her brother William Michael Rossetti’s biased account of her Christianity: The dominating element in her daily life – and perhaps the one which makes it hardest for us in the twentieth century to feel close to her – was religion; religion of an old-fashioned rigidity that turned life into a bitter and constant struggle for spiritual perfection, that elevated Duty and renunciation above all, that circumscribed and directed her daily ways.1 Rossetti, accused on Bell’s publication of Christina Rossetti’s biography of being ‘a main performer in Mr. Bell’s book’,2 unwittingly perhaps proceeds in his Memoir to be the main instrument obscuring Rossetti’s theology. He makes much of what he calls her ‘overscrupulosity’, which has ‘the full practical bearings of a defect’, making her ‘shut up her mind to almost all things save the Bible, and the admonitions and ministrations of priests’. Whatever his reasons were for turning away from Christianity and therefore disliking his sister’s theological activity, the effect of his words has been to transfer his own
1

2 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology

attitude of intolerance onto her. If we look more closely at his claim, for example, that ‘to ponder for herself whether a thing was true or not ceased to be part of her intellect’, because ‘the only question was whether or not it conformed to the Bible, as viewed by AngloCatholicism’, we see that far from having a closed mind, she was pondering deeply questions of accepted versus biblical truths, Tractarian biblical interpretation as opposed to popular myth. We glimpse, too, that Rossetti tended to dislike priests in their role as guardians of the national morality: ‘while she had an intense reverence for the priestly function, she cared next to nothing about hierarchical distinctions: anything which assimilated the clerical order to a “learned profession” forming part of the British constitution left her indifferent, or rather inimical’ (ibid.). It is no wonder, given such a lack of comprehension on the part of her favourite brother, and perhaps the rest of her family, that she became extremely reticent in questions of faith, and rarely referred to religion in letters to her family or others. For the critic in search of guidelines to her theology, one finds in her early years virtually nothing apart from her poetry, and it has been widely assumed that she accepted the teaching of Pusey and the other great Tractarians, writing poetry in the wake of Keble until finally consolidating an imitative Tractarian position in her devotional prose. Recent studies of her later prose volumes, however, have shown that Rossetti was actively concerned with controversial issues in her theology including questions of gender, and was particularly concerned with methods of biblical interpretation which give women meaningful access to the scriptures in a way comparable to the work of Stanton in America.3 These studies suggest that, by the end of her life, Rossetti was engaged in the critique of theological practice, was not the passive religious figure so often presented and was particularly concerned with the problems women encountered in their relationship with Christianity. She appeared to be moving towards a position that is similar to that of modern feminist theology in its attempt to identify the ways in which women are able to relate to a fundamentally male religion. Prompted, then, by what would seem a startling and somewhat unlikely reversal in the poet’s later attitude, if the accepted critical position of her early theological passivity is correct, this chapter begins with a re-examination of Rossetti’s formative years at Christ Church and her poetry of that time, bearing in mind those questions

Her confirmation into the Anglican Church finally took place in 1846 after a period of great spiritual difficulty. Christ Church.Early Poetry. Although it is possible that in 1846. and although she would have moderated her views in deference to the orthodoxy of her beloved mother and sister. Rev. under a fervent disciple of Pusey. especially when she found some aspects of the teaching unacceptable. One thing is clear. the time of writing ‘The Martyr’. as she wrote to her brother Dante Gabriel when he was suffering a similar crisis of faith: I want to assure you that. assumes that Rossetti directed no criticism at Pusey or his stifling doctrines. Including Goblin Market and Maude 3 of female spiritual empowerment and re-imaging of the biblical text which become central concerns in her later years. but felt forced by fear of rejection or by peer pressure to accept them. Whilst this may be true. by challenge and by strongly held views on all sides. I have (more or less) heretofore gone through the same . however. Jan Marsh. from the evidence of much of her poetry of the later 1840s she in fact became increasingly critical of those very doctrines which are said to have been the mainstay of her religious thought. in an otherwise perceptive biography. Such was the zeal of Dodsworth6 and the mounting hysteria at Christ Church in the wake of Pusey’s pioneering sisters that the young Rossetti suffered a spiritual crisis leading to severe physical collapse. despite the steady faith of the other women in her family. Unpublished remarks suggest the origin of her breakdown in ‘a kind of religious mania’. Albany Street.7 and this is generally assumed to be her way of participating in the widespread spiritual hysteria which erupted at Christ Church at that time. however harassed by memory or anxiety you may be. Not only did Rossetti’s early religious upbringing take place during the later days of the Oxford Movement when bitter dissensions had arisen and the exodus to Rome was at its peak. it could also suggest that she was reacting against an overload of external religious pressure. Rossetti was in thrall to the hysteria which was then sweeping through Christ Church. it is unlikely that the young Rossetti was as passive as she is portrayed in most critical accounts of her religion. Dodsworth. but it took place within one of the most active Tractarian parishes in London.5 but she undervalues the young poet’s grasp of theological issues. She did not have an easy passage into religious maturity.4 She was surrounded by controversy.

And a dim glory like a veil Hovered about his head. but her experience of the extremes of Tractarianism was to sow multiple seeds of dissatisfaction and doubt in her mind. inherited perhaps from her mother Frances’s untroubled evangelical piety. she was ‘marked for life by exposure to Puseyite thought’9 and her naturally warm and outgoing personality became silent and introspective. ‘Repining’ (1847). Rossetti was forced at a very early age to rethink her own spirituality and struggle painfully towards the re-imagining and re-imaging of God in terms which spoke from her own life and experience. is met by a cruel religious indoctrination at the hands of a Porphyro figure: His cheek was white but hardly pale. rendered haunting and sensual by the ‘throbbing music’ of Keats’ nightingale.10 .8 So Rossetti was finally received into the Church. and shone Through the whole room till night was gone. gives an idea of her understanding of the sub-text of Tractarian fervour and its effect on the young. Rossetti’s first major poem of this time. The poem holds up to the scrutiny of her readers the way in which young girls were caught and held fast in the grip of a religious extremism which not only deprived them of their natural physical vitality.4 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology ordeal. and so the undefined longing of the young girl at the beginning of the poem. and relief inexpressible. Not yet in command of a language with which to contest theological issues. As Marsh suggests. but trapped them precisely through that which the poem defines as a feminine strength – spirituality. and then I have found help in confession and absolution and spiritual counsel. the first time was of course in my youth before my general confession. but nothing would do. A natural and spontaneous love of Christ. Twice in my life I tried to suffice myself with measures short of this. keeping them docile and obedient as they strove for salvation. It is possible that such a profound change came about because the excesses of Pusey’s followers provoked a terrible ambiguity in her response to his Tractarian God. and a Church that demanded woman’s total submission in both body and soul. became haunted by the spectre of a harsh. cruel Father God. Rossetti used the language of late Romanticism. I have borne myself till I became unbearable to myself.

Early Poetry. This interpretation would place Rossetti herself in the position of the abject maiden. and the shocked reader is witness to the brutality involved in her final capitulation: She knelt down in her agony. To die and be no more. families are burnt alive and the groans of dying soldiers fill the air as they are picked over by carrion crows. said she: ‘My heart’s prayer putteth me to shame. Rossetti here has captured the severity characteristic of Pusey’s insistence on renunciation. Let me return to whence I came. The girl does not understand the suffering she sees and wishes to return to the wholesomeness and joy of her own world: What is this thing? Thus hurriedly To pass into eternity: To leave the earth so full of mirth. it is enough’. Rossetti’s emphasis is on physical corruption: Ghastly corpses of men and horses That met death at a thousand sources Cold limbs and putrefying flesh. Thou who for love’s sake didst reprove. her senses heightened by the thought of the delights to come. Let us go hence. following the long-awaited lover and guide. However. ‘O Lord. to cease. sailors drown. but it is generally assumed that her poem is an uncritical acceptance of Pusey’s version of the doctrine. the poet distances herself from this in her . the guide ‘answers not’ to the girl’s urgent questions. Instead. To lose the profit of our mirth. Having numbness that is not peace. Including Goblin Market and Maude 5 The young soul. is shocked by horror upon horror of Rossetti’s own repeated versions of the ‘vanity of vanities’ theme so beloved of Pusey and his followers: a village is crushed under an avalanche. Forgive me for the sake of love’.

Jerome. believing still. An adolescent girl’s longings. The inspiration to revive sisterhoods within the Anglican Church came directly from the more austere figures of the Early Church. are easily directed towards the passions of martyrdom. obliged to leave behind her personal clothes. Although the lure of active involvement in sisterhoods led to the increased participation of women in church life. what puissance then? Women were mighty as strong men – Some knelt in prayer. Resigned into a righteous will. these institutions were little more than an attempt to channel and disarm what might otherwise develop into a challenge to the male hierarchy. Bowing beneath the chastening rod. Lost to the world. ‘which might otherwise … go off in some irregular way. sisterhoods became a way of controlling woman’s religious zeal.14 Rossetti notes in her poem High Church Anglicanism’s insistence that for women with spiritual fulfilment comes the necessity for an often brutal stripping away of specifically female attributes.12 As Pusey himself admitted. Faced with the prospect of a fiery death. her ornaments and her earthly affection. The suffering protagonist of ‘The Convent Threshold’ (1858).11 Young as she is. as martyrs: What was man’s strength. but found of God. even more so when society denies her a place in the active world where she may find fulfilment.6 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology exploration of women’s spiritual needs by suggesting that the attraction for women of this doctrine is its emphasis on their spiritual strength. Rossetti’s great poem on the psychology of sisterhoods.13 and he cannot hide his satisfaction that in some cases women have preferred sisterhood to marriage. has been trapped into believing that her salvation requires the renunciation of her physical . and brought with it the misogynist tradition of such figures as St. half-sexual. or go over to Rome’. the women in the burning city demonstrate their spiritual superiority. half-spiritual. whose work profoundly influenced Pusey. however unwitting it may have been on Pusey’s part. either real or imagined. Rossetti has grasped the fact that the movement to promote sisterhoods is in fact an exploitation of women’s spirituality.15 In the most obvious instance we see the novice entering the convent.

wander through Rossetti’s poetry of this time. Philip. especially in his sisterhoods. he told Maria. . ‘if it is worth anything must be contrary to the world’s system’. and isolates them from their sisters: For a woman to develop in spirituality. for the excessive discipline which he meted out to his offspring (in his will Philip forbade his own children to be entrusted to the care of Pusey). Including Goblin Market and Maude 7 identity and wakens from agonising dreams to find her femininity destroyed: My face was pinched. A few women even died. becoming ‘manly’ and thus other than women rather than continuing in solidarity with them. work against the grain of her gender rather than with it. But the cost of such worldly abstention was high. and in his own life constantly battled with feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing.18 Pusey’s calls for the mortification of the flesh. finding salvation at last only in the positive female spirituality of Goblin Market. to that extent she also cut herself off from the community of women.17 We see the tormented sister. In his 1835 Tract on baptism Pusey emphasised the gravity of postbaptismal sin. ‘worn out … by the cramped mental life. grey-haired and in decline.16 Grace Jantzen notes the way the ‘sisterhood’ of the convent strips women of their womanhood. had serious consequences for many of the young women under his spiritual guidance.Early Poetry. His adherence to a regime of wordly renunciation was so strict that he seriously jeopardised the mental and physical health of his own family. she must put off womanliness. my hair was grey. His wife Maria and their children were literally starving. as a result of a poor diet and excessive fasting: Even when strongly criticised by his elder brother. Pusey remained adamant. And frozen blood was on the sill Where stifling in my struggle I lay.19 Pusey himself. ‘Our system’. and the bodily austerities’. And it is important to note that to whatever extent she was able to succeed in this male-defined spiritual enterprise.

Sisterhoods were an ideal way to render Eve barren and harmless. where the woman’s fertility and her role in procreation are identified with the ‘lower’ life of the body and allied with the sinful ‘world’. is not only incompatible with the idea of a sacramental universe so dear to Tractarian thought.21 Keble understandably declined.22 To become holy. In Pusey’s teaching. women must reject the ‘cupiscences’ of Eve. in which the body is the enemy. he wrote to Keble begging him to send suggestions for further penance. ‘Of course blunders were made. through which we fell in Eve. ‘some penitential rules for myself’. which was alien to women’s experience despite the establishment of sisterhoods. Rossetti’s early battle against many of the doctrines handed down by the Tractarians suggests otherwise. when Pusey was so sick and weak that he was unable to carry out physical penance. women become accomplices of ‘the material world. There seems to be a hatred of nature itself and particularly of the power of the female body which shares nature’s capacity for reproduction.20 There comes a point when such severity against the human body becomes a symptom of something different. not even ‘resume the haircloth’. and she seemed well aware too of the gender implications of Pusey’s version of the doctrine of renunciation. Rossetti was aware of the controversies surrounding the sisterhoods. and his subsequent letters to Pusey convey his suspicion of self-indulgence. Excessive mortification of the body such as Pusey practised seems to be a selfinflicted martydom. some about health. an attitude Rossetti sums up in her ‘vanity of vanities’ poems. through the figure of Eve. A poem written in .8 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology writing in 1879 admitted. and the negative imaging of the feminine worried her. the scapegoat. grave’. It seemed at the time. that the Anglican Church was being ‘feminised’ and that women were being allowed increasing power in the Church. but makes a monster out of our physical relationship with the rest of creation. and wherein we conquered in our Head … the desire of the flesh. Self-enforced withdrawal from the world and punishment of the flesh. Her poetry of the time shows her understanding of the unspoken moral evaluation of male and female. During an illness in the autumn of 1846. and vainglory’. At the age of 19 she had recognised the fundamentally male conception of God in her religion. its pomps and tinsel vanities’ because ‘all which is in the world ministers to those three cupiscences. the desire of the eyes. perhaps.

the word ‘she’ finally appears in stanza 11 with triumphant power and vitality. as lust. The female earth flourishes. not even the misogynist loathing of the preacher manifest in the words ‘fattened’ and ‘swallowed’ can hide the triumph of the earth. As in ‘Repining’. The speaker. she is always at a distance. the (male) preacher has rejected nature. leaving the reader to judge. and all Her pleasant trees lusty and tall. emphasises the masculine language used to convey the ‘vanity of vanities’ theme: ‘Man walks in a vain shadow’. and the natural processes of generation. Including Goblin Market and Maude 9 1849. I said: Yea vanity of vanities. taking the position of ‘the preacher’ of Ecclesiastes.49–51) In sudden contrast to this sterility.Early Poetry. On the other hand. greed and decay. the poem ends with a direct challenge to the doctrine of renunciation. however. ‘A Testimony’. came to his ‘vanity of vanities’ conclusion through over-indulgence and . The preacher’s people are misled and society suffers. His maidens ‘cease to sing’ and his young men are ‘very sad’. She has been outcast. like the grotesque male figure in the dream ‘The Convent Threshold’. ‘Our fathers went. appears initially to endorse the doctrine of renunciation. To drive home its message against such misogyny. we pass away’ (p. birth and death are seen as abominations. despite the disgust apparent in the preacher’s words: The earth is fattened with our dead: She swallows more and does not cease: Therefore her wine and oil increase And her sheaves are not numbered: Therefore her plants are green. 78). suggesting that the preacher. (ll. All creation is barren and human endeavour is worthless: All things are vanity. A common critical mistake is to see Rossetti herself as having adopted the stance of the preacher in the poem. and so late take rest? Our labour is not good. Why should we hasten to arise So early. On the one hand.

Her short novel Maude. secretive (she hides her poems from her mother). The second poem. she has created her own martyrdom in ‘hated life’. however. but languid and preoccupied to a painful degree’ (30). and the oppressive religious teaching she has received. she finds it much harder in prose.23 written at much the same time as ‘A Testimony’. as the call to renounce ‘the world’ echoes in her mind. The story was written around a sequence of poems. pale. seems to be on the brink of a decline. and finally a condemnation. records the confusion that arises when this strictly enforced renunciation of worldly . a medium which does not lend itself so easily to the tensions and ambiguities of her position. She finally confesses her spiritual distress to her cousin Agnes by means of two poems. Although confirmed. with ‘an expression not exactly of pain. Maude Foster. which as we have seen has become a leitmotif when Rossetti refers to the renunciation of worldly vanities: ‘Weaned from the world’. as Maude calls it (p. A glimpse at one of her poems explains her religious position. dragging ‘the heavy chain whose every link galls to the bone’ (30).10 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology satiety: ‘He had all riches from his birth. she declines good works and refuses to attend her parish church. and we are told by William Rossetti (it would seem sensible to trust his testimony here) that ‘they were all written without any intention of inserting them in any tale – except only the first two of the trio of bouts-rimes sonnets’. Andrews with its rich choral tradition. hampered as a story perhaps by the theological and metaphorical status of her characters.25 inspired and uplifted by the beauty of its service. a young poet. / And pleasures till he tired of them’.24 The advantage of this method of composition is that Rossetti’s positioning of her own poems at vital points in the story gives us a guide to her interpretation of them and their relationship to the central event of the text: Maude’s anxiety about the conflict between a spontaneous love of nature and its beauty. which never allows them to become fully credible as protagonists. preferring instead St. 53). Inspired by images of martyred saints. But even there she is haunted by guilt. The first poem in the volume states the ‘vanity of vanities’ theme. which form the heart of the debate. Whilst Rossetti is able to articulate in poetry her misgivings about the religion which has been handed down to her. which show her progression from unquestioning acceptance of renunciation to a critique of it. labours to convey her anxiety.

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pleasures clashes with Maude’s delight in the sensuous beauty of church vestments and music: I ask my heart with sad questioning: ‘What lov’st thou here?’ and my heart answers me: ‘Within the shadows of this sanctuary To watch and pray is a most blessed thing’. To watch and pray, false heart? It is not so: Vanity enters with thee, and thy love Soars not to heaven, but grovelleth below. (51) The heart’s instinctive movement towards the beauty of colour and harmony is brutally checked in a manner reminiscent of ‘Repining’, and the voice that interrupts seems no longer to be the sad questioning voice of the speaker, nor that of her heart, but an external voice which condemns her of complicity with the world. In his introduction to the first publication of Maude William Rossetti indignantly exclaims: ‘I cannot see that the much-reprehended Maude commits a single serious fault from title page to finish’.26 For once he is right, but he has missed the point, as have many of the later critics of Maude. The novel is not criticising Maude at all, but rather, through her suffering, exposing the extremism of a religious position that denies the beauty of the natural world or of human efforts to reproduce it. There is a close affinity between the ideals of the early Pre-Raphaelite Movement and the Oxford Movement’s claim in their appreciation of the beauty of nature, understood through typology and symbol, both seeking out ‘the deep spiritual significance of common things’.27 Their use of ceremony and church vestments proclaimed the importance of outward manifestation of spiritual truth. So the voice that forbids any delight in the symbolic robes or music at St. Andrews betrays the ideals of the two movements, both of which played a central role in Rossetti’s early life. Pusey’s insistence on the evil of the world, which ‘we must not love, nor the things in it’, and his condemnation of those who ‘are called in scripture by the name of “the world” which they love’,28 is singled out in Maude as inconsistent with Rossetti’s understanding and love of the natural world.29 If the things of this world are symbols and sacraments of God’s kingdom, why should we shun them? If we turn away from

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nature, how can we hear God ‘speaking to us through all which he made very good’? The starkly gendered aspect of Pusey’s evil ‘world’ is not lost on Rossetti. Maude eventually submits to the Eucharist, having been forced to confess the whole in a chance meeting with Mr. Paulson. She does enjoy some measure of relief, but it is only temporary. The poem ‘Symbols’, which comes at a crucial point in the novel when Maude is on her death-bed, brings back in full force a point of bitter dissatisfaction with the Church and its gender-biased theology. Dolores Rosenblum, in her use of ‘Symbols’ as a starting point for feminist discussion of Rossetti’s poetry, correctly identifies the rose and egg as ‘archetypal symbols of female sexuality’.30 Whilst her approach is valuable, the theological implications of the symbols need to be examined also: I watched a rosebud very long Brought on by dew and sun and shower, Waiting to see the perfect flower: Then, when I thought it should be strong, It opened at the matin hour And fell at evensong. I watched a nest from day to day, A green nest full of pleasant shade, Wherein three speckled eggs were laid: But when they should have hatched in May, The two old birds had grown afraid Or tired, and flew away. Then in my wrath I broke the bough That I had tended so with care, Hoping its scent would fill the air; I crushed the eggs, not heeding how Their ancient promise had been fair: I would have vengeance now. But the dead branch spoke from the sod, And the eggs answered me again: Because we failed dost thou complain? Is thy wrath just? And what if God,

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Who waiteth for thy fruits in vain, Should also take the rod? (p. 77) The rose points to the rose of Sharon, the beautiful female image from The Song of Songs, in which delight in physical beauty and sensuality becomes a celebration of God. ‘I am the Rose of Sharon’, Agnes tells Maude, as she explains the meaning of the emblems in her embroidery. More important still, the egg, which is a symbol of the female role in the creation of new life, is also the popular symbol for Christ’s rising from the dead at Easter. Rosenblum dismisses the theological content of the poem as ‘prim didacticism’, a ‘miniature sermon in verse’, but the full horror of the speaker’s position becomes clear only when the poem is considered theologically. The speaker is caught between justifiable anger at the stunting effect of unfulfilled female expectations (the egg and the rose) and a God (in the case of the poet herself, a God whom she loves) who endorses such injustice. Furthermore, the male symbol of God’s vengeance, ‘the rod’, threatens to become an instrument of further punishment if she acts out her frustration. The damaged female symbols, the rose and egg (and here one cannot help thinking of the pinched, grey face of the nun in ‘The Convent Threshold’) can only reiterate the repressive teachings which they have internalised. The destruction of the symbols is doubly tragic: not only are the beauty of the physical world and the female potential for creating new life rejected as sources of our understanding of God, but the potential link between woman and Christ in the symbol of the egg is lost through fear or complacency. The neglect of female symbols and the absolute power given to the male symbols in Christianity are the result of male ‘hegemony over the externalisation process, itself a linguistically mediated phenomenon’.31 Women’s internalisation of the very values which lead to their oppression serves to perpetuate the system, as the damaged rose and eggs themselves threaten the speaker with God’s anger if she complains. In the novel Maude gives a copy of the poem to her cousin Agnes, a firm upholder of Tractarian values, but Agnes is horrified by Maude’s doubts, reminds her of the gravity of an unrepentant death-bed and eventually suppresses most of the evidence of the young poet’s testimony. When Maude dies, a lock of her hair is laid by Agnes, almost as a trophy, beside a lock of hair from their friend Magdalen, who has renounced the world and entered a sisterhood.

Rev. Burrows. although anger and a sense of alienation remained with her. above all. who became a lifelong friend of Rossetti. and his place was taken by Rev. herbs. Mary is close to the natural world. . as she seems to confirm the image of the satisfied wife and mother. the figure of Christ the bridegroom. who ‘droned in sweetness like a fattened bee’ (29). The figure of Mary is the one that contains the germ of Rossetti’s future theology.32 But Rossetti is attracted by the potential of the domestic metaphor to integrate natural beauty. with its cats. the Book of Proverbs: By day she woos me. cousins and friends. Of all the sisters. Agnes chooses poems to her own taste only. and will point the way towards a feminist vindication of the natural world and of the female body. it is important to remember this when reading poems such as ‘The World’ (1854). with its loathsome Medusa-like figure. Dodsworth eventually went over to the Roman Church in 1850 after growing disagreements with Pusey. like that in the poem ‘A Triad’. if not exactly Christ-like. and destroys the rest. Not only does this poem highlight the hypocrisy of the male attitude towards that most hated figure of Victorian respectablity. for example. even before her friendship with the feminist Barbara Bodichon and other members of the Portfolio Society34 began. with fig-leaves at the corners’ (40) for her church. Mary. but it traces the figure to its scriptural source. Gender awareness in the social sphere and a recognition of injustice towards women are very much a part of Rossetti’s poetry over the next ten years. the prostitute. ‘a sofa-pillow worked in glowing shades of wool and silk’ (59). her beautiful embroidery. soft. Although Mary does not write poetry. creative potential and. even a pig. ‘vineleaves and grapes.33 who. She inspires Maude to return to embroidery in order to fashion a present for her wedding. exceeding fair: But all night as the moon so changeth she: Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy. suggests the name of a fine religious poet. Herbert. it is only Mary who has Maude’s ‘unique’ (61) legacy.14 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology The other sister. Perhaps we owe to this kindly clergyman her continued attendance of the Anglican Church. and its newborn babies (32) and will eventually become the ideal wife of Mr. dogs. tends to be overlooked in accounts of the novel. its flowers and gardens. rabbits. which the dying girl is most anxious should reach Mary safely. she embroiders designs of flowers.

take hold on hell? (p. Burrows was most probably drawn into the debate35 and Rossetti herself later took up the call. and in January of that year an article had appeared in The Times which renewed the debate on fallen women. Is this a friend indeed. or to fashion into speech’. the moment a woman had any kind of sexual experience outside marriage she was transformed into an object of loathing: ‘In one hour daughter. A very monster void of love and prayer. becomes temptress herself. It is too horrid to look upon. wife. the very name of which they dare not utter. in the announcement of plans for a penitentiary (which was to become St. By day she woos me to the outer air. sweet flowers. Till my feet. Including Goblin Market and Maude 15 And subtle serpents gliding in her hair. hath become the thing from which the fondest shrink. Rossetti was not chasing after the ‘hidden. despite her introduction to Rossetti’s connection with the Portfolio group. the rest a reptile’. leprous enemy within’. By day she stands a lie: by night she stands In all the naked horror of the truth.37 Eve the tempted. With pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands. The subject of the prostitute inspired savage attacks on the very nature of womankind. is simply inadequate. and in a request for assistance. for example.36 but rather accusing the enemy without. and full satiety: But thro’ the night a beast she grins at me. Ripe fruits. sister. 76) The poem was written in June 1854. Rev. Jan Marsh. Mary Magdelene. that I should sell My soul to her. the common interpretation. which sees the poem as a manifestation of somataphobic self-loathing in the style of Pusey.38 The apparent legitimacy of such attacks comes from the traditional model of man’s relationship .Early Poetry. Highgate). to the popular mind. Whilst society frequently turned a blind eye to a man who frequented a prostitute or seduced a young girl. with the complicity (or at the very least the apathy) of the Church. give her my life and youth. Given its date of composition and Rossetti’s continuing interest in the lot of fallen women. in her ironic treatment of a male mentality that defined woman as ‘that great gilded snake – a cherub’s face. cloven too. remains reluctant to accord Rossetti any place in their campaign for social reform.

domestic woman. subjugated and dreaded “abysmal” side of man’. (Prov. as we have seen in Pusey’s establishment of sisterhoods. The origins of Rossetti’s demonic woman in ‘The World’ lie in the ‘strange woman’ of Proverbs. where the dualism of God (superior)/man (inferior) is imposed on the relationship between the sexes: man becomes the superior being and woman the inferior being. as it bears out the tensions in Maude and the anger of ‘The World’. as Rossetti points out.40 who lures unwary young men to hell: For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb. and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood. religious status and spiritual superiority to the very fact of being female. her steps take hold on hell. Her feet go down to death. through a literal misreading of the Old Testament. submissive angel of the house. to be vilified and marginalised. was transferred to the demonic ‘world’ figure of the prostitute.16 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology to God. The nineteenth century channelled this potential threat to the religious supremacy of the male into either a passionless. but at this point it is helpful to consider what may be an unwitting testimony to her spiritual suffering. ‘the symbol of the repressed. centred on the capacity for devotion. has forced on all women the application of prostitute or virtuous. in effect. Although their execution is primitive (they . into a virginal nun.41 Her pictures show a gendered representation of the breaking down of the sacramental universe which was the basis for Keble’s volume. the power deriving from her femininity. sharp as a two-edged sword.39 William Wilberforce’s legacy of evangelical theology in the eighteenth century had left an exalted view of Christian femininity. The feared sexual potential of woman. giving. In the absence of any direct statements from Rossetti herself it is difficult to form a precise picture of her transition to an understanding of her own spiritual predicament. or. 5: 3–5) Much of the imagery used in conveying loathing of fallen women is scriptural in origin. During the late 1840s or early 1850s Rossetti was reading Maria’s copy of Keble’s The Christian Year and sketching rough illustrations to the poems. self-sacrifice and motherhood. Ignoring the metaphorical status of the woman figures in Proverbs – the harlot (wordly wisdom) as opposed to the virtuous woman (divine wisdom) – the popular mind.

in the case of the central figure who is painting another woman or child. however. She fixes on a few words of the epigraph from Isaiah 59: ‘your iniquities have separated between you and your God’. configurations occur which depict in a most literal way the breaking down of continuity between women and the divine. in her serpent-like female figure. More disturbing still is her illustration of Keble’s ‘Fifth Sunday after Epiphany’. and the young Rossetti has captured the essence of Victorian notions of sin centred on a prostitute’s degradation. are absorbed in total communion with nature and are participating untroubled in the reading. the sin / Before the mercy seat be thrown’.Early Poetry. and sing. Without a language which links them directly to God. drawing instead a grotesque Medusa figure with a serpent’s tail. At the outset. the shame. see and. painting of and listening to an imanent divine world. withdrawal and death. The illustration is provoking in its literal depiction of women’s spiritual despair. re-image. women . Rossetti focuses on the line ‘Then let the grief. Three female figures surround the cross in attitudes of supplication. / For ever rise. 22)42 Rossetti’s female figures. his understanding is deferred to ‘The region “very far away”’ of the afterlife. Where Keble’s speaker strives in vain to hear from nature ‘What to her own she deigns to tell’. The flood of hope which lights up the conclusion of Keble’s poem in his reference to the loving relationship between Christ and His Father is absent from Rossetti’s illustration. Including Goblin Market and Maude 17 were not likely to have been thought of as material for publication) these pictures show a marked continuity with her religious poetry of the time. but her literal rendition of ‘between the porch and altar weep’ shows an Old Testament altar and the women kneeling before it emaciated or dying. paint or hear traces of the divine in the natural world around him. Around the title of Keble’s poem for the Fourth Sunday in Advent Rossetti has drawn three female figures which show a contrasting attitude to the speaker of the poem. and shine’ (p. ignoring the comforting message of Keble’s poem which promises salvation for those who reject the world. obscuring the body of Christ on the cross. on the other hand. when finally we may ‘with that inward Music fraught. suggesting the exclusion of a daughter. ‘nature’s own’. already hear. Rossetti’s women. and although an unshaded area around the cross indicates that the saviour is still there. where Keble’s speaker regrets his inability to read. In later illustrations. the monstrous figure stands as a barrier between the dying women and Christ. In response to Keble’s ‘Ash Wednesday’.

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have had to accept that their relationship with the divine is mediated by the male religious consciousness and its interpretation of femaleness. The women figures are dying because they are denied direct access to the saving light of the cross. One of Rossetti’s poems of January 1856, ‘Shut Out’, conveys in words the import of the illustration, that women have been denied spiritual tokens which allow them to identify with the divine: The door was shut. I looked between Its iron bars; and saw it lie, My garden, mine, beneath the sky, Pied with all flowers bedewed and green: From bough to bough the song-birds crossed, From flower to flower the moths and bees; With all its nests and stately trees It had been mine, and it was lost. A shadowless spirit kept the gate, Blank and unchanging like the grave. I peering thro’ said: “Let me have Some buds to cheer my outcast state’. He answered not, ‘Or give me, then, But one small twig from shrub or tree; And bid my home remember me Until I come to it again’. The spirit was silent; but he took Mortar and stone to build a wall; He left no loophole great or small Thro’ which my straining eyes might look: So now I sit here quite alone Blinded with tears; nor grieve for that, For nought is left worth looking at Since my delightful land is gone. A violet bed is budding near, Wherein a lark has made her nest: And good they are, but not the best; And dear they are, but not so dear.

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Bewildered by the loss of the garden of Eden and longing for her home, Eve is devastated when her request for a token from it is refused, and as punishment for her request she is denied even the glimpse she had. The original title of the poem, ‘What happened to me’, suggests the importance of the poem to Rossetti herself, and helps us understand why, in her later poems, she needs to seek out images of womankind which can re-establish the links between Eve and her garden. The composition of ‘Shut Out’, perhaps in its unequivocal recognition of her spiritual need, enabled Rossetti to move forward and, by the end of 1856, she had ‘discovered’ the powerful figure of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs, the counterpart to the despised prostitute metaphor of the ‘strange woman’. In her long poem ‘The Lowest Room’ she reconsiders her options, depicting on the one hand the dwindling femininity of the woman who aspires to a ‘male’ conception of God, but on the other recognising the potential for female spiritual empowerment represented by the figure of wisdom. With her development of the latter she began to reclaim the feminine in an emerging ideal of woman’s spirituality which looks forward to Goblin Market and beyond. The two sisters in ‘The Lowest Room’, who are engaged in an argument about the merits of the age of Homer, support two contrasting theological positions. The preacher of Ecclesiastes with his ‘vanity of vanities’ informs the thinking of the older sister, who longs for a life of passion, of achievement in the male world, where she can show her mental and spiritual strength. She renounces the common things of the world, refusing to participate in the activities of her sister, who during the conversation is engaged in embroidery, and agonises because she cannot relive the heroic ‘golden days’ of Homer. Thwarted in her desire, she resorts to a martyrdom of her own, embracing renunciation and defending her position by quoting the preacher of Ecclesiastes:

Vanity of vanities he preached Of all he found, of all he sought: Vanity of vanities, the gist Of all the words he taught. (p. 205)

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Taking our critical and theological bearings from a poem like ‘A Testimony’, we see that by introducing the renunciation theme, the elder sister has allied herself with the sterility of a world which has rejected the feminine, her faded femininity the price she has to pay to exercise her mental and spiritual strength in the heroic martyrdom of Pusey’s self-denial. In terms of her own womanhood, however, she has lost her place in the spiritual order; she has lost the special way in which femininity reflects the face of God, the way woman in her active ability to create and nurture is able to link nature and the infinity of God. The elder sister is consequently no longer able to see God in His creation and can only look back, or forward to life after death, ‘When all deep secrets shall be shown’. The figure of the elder sister, with her striking, passionate renunciation, has been seen as a model for Rossetti herself, the stance of passive resistance becoming the position of strength from which she subverts the conventions she sees around her. There is no doubt that the position is strongly represented in her poetry, and certainly held a great deal of attraction for Rossetti the poet, but in her theology she recognises the spiritual sterility of the stance, and in ‘The Lowest Room’ we see her searching the scriptures for a figure who can better satisfy her spiritual need. For fear of enslavement by the ‘strange woman’ of Proverbs, High Church theology rejected the feminine identity of wisdom; Rossetti brings it back in the figure of the younger sister who is modelled on the virtuous woman of Prov. 31:10–21: She is the tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; And happy is every one that retaineth her. (Prov. 3:18) Get wisdom, get understanding Forget it not, neither decline from the words of my mouth: Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee; Love her, and she shall keep thee; (Prov. 4:5–6) Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; And call understanding thy kinswoman: (Prov. 7:4)

she is attempting to reconstruct a feminine God-language. she is productive in the domestic sphere (she embroiders as she speaks). the Rossetti of the Benedicite. Her function in the poem is to rebuke her elder sister’s attitude of martyrdom and her use of ‘vanity of vanities’ as a motto: ‘One is here’. Sandra Gubar’s depiction of Rossetti as one of the ‘great nineteenth-century women singers of renunciation as necessity’s highest and noblest virtue’. the lover of wild flowers and spiders. locked into a stance of passionate destitution from which she is able only to subvert existing conventions. has worked against it in that such an approach .249–52) Most important of all. but holds up the literal in a renewed configuration in order to restore the power of the metaphor.43 which has to a certain extent inspired this critical tendency. ‘Yea Greater than Solomon’. the younger sister murmurs. by using metaphors. Most like a vine which full of fruit Doth cling and lean and climb towards heaven While earth still binds its root. The figure of the younger sister is the key to understanding the later Rossetti. which tends to see her in biographical and literary terms as an isolated. to interpret the domestic situation literally in her poetry would be to echo the Victorian misreading of Proverbs. Here she is not writing a poem about Victorian domesticity or of domesticity versus participation in the male world of action and commerce. she is closely linked to Christ. going against mainstream Rossetti criticism. in effect. preferably scriptural ones. she is in harmony with nature. My rejection of the renunciatory female figure as the crucial symbol in the critical appreciation of Rossetti’s work is. She has revalued the literal. ll. 205. certainly. Including Goblin Market and Maude 21 The sensuously beautiful younger sister thrives as the elder sister declines.Early Poetry. reader of the amber and onyx stone. with which to debate woman’s relationship with God. withdrawn and ultimately frustrated woman. Rather. as her ‘fleshing out’ in Victorian terms of the virtuous woman shows. ll. her choice of flowers from the garden ‘intuitively wise’ (p. God’s blessed husbandry. so does she: She thrives. (p. 207. the natural world and the divine.212) and as wisdom spans earth and heaven. although it has done much to bring Rossetti’s work to the attention of feminists and to postmodern sensibility.

however. not only for her poetic possibilities.48 It is not necessary to reject the figure of feminine renunciation. as we have seen. still gets bogged down in the theme of ‘hope deferred’. Rossetti continues to use her. Rosenblum. by its reassertion of the spiritual authority of woman’s activity in all spheres through the authority and dignity of wisdom. especially in their relationship with a male redeemer. has trouble seeing Rossetti’s theology as anything more important than ‘didacticism’. We learn that the domestic sphere is used in Proverbs as a central metaphor to present the political and economic centre of Israel after the loss of the monarchy. She must not.45 More recent criticism. Gubar attempts to make sense of Rossetti’s theology in her discussion of Goblin Market and quite rightly centres on the role of Lizzie. who ‘like a female saviour. Gubar’s legacy of disappointment has been a stumbling block to later critics who draw on her work. which gains strength in Rossetti’s theology as she begins to participate in work for and amongst women. and the utopian ‘“distant place” of the Christian afterlife … to which woman’s desire is displaced in much of Rossetti’s poetry’. but as recurring symbol of women’s suffering and spiritual endurance.22 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology cannot profitably illuminate the Rossetti of the devotional works. of Goblin Market especially.49 So rather than signal submission and inferiority. as we will see. Here feminist theology can help in our understanding of Rossetti’s work. Those poems which present us with a wisdom-figure can be interpreted with this reversal in mind. be allowed to obscure the empowering figure of feminine wisdom. Recent feminist christological enquiry has also ‘rediscovered’ the figure . Rossetti’s development of this figure becomes the foundation of much of her later devotional writing. Furthermore. but is unable to get past her disappointment that ‘the redeemed Eden into which Lizzie leads Laura turns out to be a heaven of domesticity’. Modern feminist critique of Christianity also provides a terminology with which to discuss the spiritual difficulties experienced by Victorian women in their encounter with the male bias of Christianity.46 Thus Goblin Market itself and its triumphant conclusion can never attain more than the status of ‘improved domesticity’. the domestic scene can be considered a sign of solidarity and hope for the future.47 and the consequent weakening of its feminist authority leaves it open to the sort of male voyeuristic abuse that focuses on the erotic possibilities of the sisters’ relationship. negotiates with the Goblins (as Christ did with Satan44) and offers herself to be eaten and drunk in a womanly holy communion’.

In ‘The Lowest Room’ the close link between the younger sister and Christ rests uneasily between an emerging idea of the sister having a Christ-like function herself (the vine) and the necessary secondary position she has to assume in marriage. The vision is strikingly portrayed and is the forerunner of some of Rossetti’s most powerful devotional poetry. and more recently reclaimed sources such as early Jewish wisdom theology. . In ‘From House to Home’. Before examining Goblin Market. In a dream vision. as we shall see. have been revalued for their testimony to female sacrality and as pointers to the absence of gender exclusivity in early pre-Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and work. which suggests the poem as a link between Rossetti’s early ‘wisdom’ figures and the entirely female representation of Christ in Goblin Market. Rossetti attempts to solve this problem by conflating the figure of the redemptive sister and Christ and dismissing the male figure altogether. the swooning female speaker sees the embodiment of feminine suffering as a woman sustained between earth and heaven. Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.Early Poetry. it is worth examining a ‘bridging’ poem. from which it appears Rossetti derived her sister figure. In order to reproduce the suffering of Christ in a female figure Rossetti has used the female martyr of her earlier poems. in favour of a liberation christology in which the feminine becomes source of redemptive healing. fruit.50 The Old Testament source of wisdom teaching. one that links it to her earlier wisdom figures and possibly the last major poem she wrote before her voluntary work at the St. it indicates a revolutionary rejection of the dominant atonement theology of the Tractarians. rather. who. although able to wean the lost soul from earth-bound nature to God. Including Goblin Market and Maude 23 of Wisdom/Sophia as a centre of renewal and healing made available to humankind through the incarnation of Christ. is unable to re-establish contact with the goodness of the created world which she has left: the flowers. who strengthens her with an apocalyptic vision of heavenly rewards for her renunciation and suffering. however. but as an answer to the need for a living and active spirituality is unsatisfying.51 ‘From House to Home’ shows her still struggling in her attempts to work out an understanding of the way womankind can participate in redemption. despite the suggestion (as in Maude) that the husband represents the arrival of Christ as the fulfilment of wisdom. Rossetti’s use of a domestic figuration therefore need not disappoint. Mary Magdalene Penitentiary began in 1859.

J. Like Rossetti she found spiritual inspiration and fulfilment working at a penitentiary similar to Highgate. Mary Magdalene Penitentiary on Highgate Hill. Her severe criticism of the Church and championing of fallen women give us an insight into the motivation of penitentiary sisters and in terms of Rossetti’s poetic and spiritual development. she followed with interest the purchasing and naming of the St. and continued until 1870 when failing health made it inadvisable. Rossetti’s attention had been drawn to the plight of the prostitute in 1854. in need of an activity in which she could directly express her faith. Burrows was one of the clergy on the management council of the Home and there was a constant appeal for money (annual reports show a donation by William Rossetti in 1857. Rev. The emphasis at Highgate. (She was diagnosed as suffering from Graves’ disease in 1871. together with the rest of the congregation of Christ Church. sin-debased creature – a victim to man’s brutal requirements – is.53 and although public opinion may have condemned the prostitute in abstract terms. and restoring a wholeness to the poet’s vision of feminine spirituality as a two-way bridge between the realities of everyday life in the world and God’s kingdom. weary. an outspoken activist against moral lethargy in the Church of England in matters of woman’s rights. and probably. ‘perhaps paid on his sister’s behalf’52) and woman helpers.54 Sensitised as she already was to the spiritual problems faced by Christian women and the oppression of their minds and bodies.) We do not have an account by Rossetti herself of her penitentiary work. but we do have the testimony of a contemporary.55 . in the sight of our most holy God. it was inevitable that Rossetti should be drawn to the penitentiary movement. was on spiritual instruction and training in domestic work. The experience of Highgate was instrumental in drawing her away from the self-absorbed martyr figure. as at the other London penitentiaries which were established in large numbers at this time. the ideal of sisterhood runs through many appeals for assistance: ‘that poor. provides a helpful context for the reading of Goblin Market as a manifestation of spiritual solidarity towards the inmates of Highgate penitentiary. your sister’. Ellice Hopkins. By the summer of 1859 she was closely involved in the work at Highgate. outwardly-hardened. perhaps because discussion of their work by the sisters was actively discouraged.24 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology frogs and caterpillars which Rossetti loved.

and so Hopkins envisages sisterhood as a ‘spiritual collective’ in which women rescue-workers. ‘there is no friend like a sister’. This climate of reassertion of female spirituality is the context in which Goblin Market should be read if its theology is to be understood. the ‘fountain of life. requiring spiritual salvation.56 The defilement of women’s bodies by men is seen as a spiritual offence. D’Amico is slow in moving away from Pusey’s condemnation of the flesh and consequently she interprets the poem as a warning against worldly pleasures and the ‘impossibility of ever finding full satisfaction by attempting to satisfy the body’. Also to be revised is the reading of Goblin Market as an affirmation of the Tractarian doctrine of renunciation. and love. it is evil perpetrated by men upon women. not one of capitulation to an inhibiting social reality.57 She . in ‘an act of heroic sacrificial love’. the spiritual power of female domestic ritual subverting the power of the Church. as a statement of female spiritual strength and empowerment. Churches. The rescue-worker. ‘by turning the home into a symbol and space for female sacrality which operates independently of the male sacred space – the church’. Such a context validates the conclusion of the poem. On leaving the brothel and entering the penitentiary the prostitute would cross into a femaledominated sphere of spiritual regeneration through participating in a series of ritual domestic duties. No longer obscured by the overworked theme of ‘hope deferred’. would enter brothels ‘where the regular cycle of night and day was broken’. Like Daly’s ‘communal phenomenon of sisterhood’. and attempt to rescue prostitutes amidst manic laughter and jeering. who so ably place the poem in its Highgate context. By treating the redemption of prostitutes in this way we see Hopkins subverting traditional separate sphere ideology.Early Poetry. in the woman-dominated penitentiary we see an alternative spiritual sphere to that of the Church. should ‘cease to look supinely on [women’s] desecration … a deadliest evil’ which destroys the true purpose of womanhood. furthermore. she claims. the sisters’ sacred space of female spirituality in Goblin Market may be seen as a position of strength. Prostitution is a spiritual evil. assumes the priestly function by re-enacting the resurrecting role of Christ. Including Goblin Market and Maude 25 Hopkins stresses the sacrality of the task of redeeming the prostitute. operating within an exclusively female space. and purity to the world’. which mars the interpretation of both Marsh and D’Amico. and the portrayal of a female Christ demolishing the gender exclusivity of the sacred.

and there is no threat whatsoever of punishment to any of the maidens should they look at them or eat their fruit. is closely associated with illicit sexual experience (we have the example of poor Jeanie) and is . her feminine beauty and vitality dry up. paradoxically. Contentment thus comes. therefore. then.42) stems from the wisdom and vocabulary of collective sisterhood. prepare (and presumably also eat) rich. the location of a female spiritual home.E. the poem is remarkable for the absence of allusions to any kind of female sin. and Lizzie at least sings ‘for the mere bright day’s delight’ (16). through Lizzie. guilt or atonement. causes a repeat of the fall of Eve as Laura gives in to its attraction (Dante Gabriel’s woodcut of the scene turns a goblin’s tail into a lurking serpent). is the fruit? It is described in sensuous Pre-Raphaelite detail. the vengeful Old Testament God and the guilty Eve haunts Rossetti’s spiritual development until the end of her life. Nowhere in the poem is blame attached to pleasure of any kind. and a source. Both sisters sleep comfortably in a ‘curtained bed’. What. locating the sisters’ idyllic life (from which Laura is lost and to which she is eventually restored) in asceticism or self-denial simply does not answer. As with J. and the authority of the warning ‘We must not look at goblin men’ (l. recognise the closeness of the text ‘in both form and content’ to ‘the Wisdom literature of Proverbs and the apocryphal Ecclesiasticus’.58 Whilst it is true that the shadow of atonement theology. the ascetic soul triumphs over desire. Marsh’s interpretation is similar: ‘By denying gratification. The idyllic nature which surrounds the two girls is an Eden from which even the theological language of Adam has been banished. and she is no longer able to participate in the maidens’ activities. cakes with ‘churned butter.26 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology does. We are told that ‘Her tree of life drooped from the root’ (18). Suggestions of sin and evil lie exclusively in the goblins. It is from this that Rossetti takes her spiritual vocabulary. In fact. the ritual nature of domestic duties in the poem suggests the affirmation of female identity in doing and in being. The domestic life of the sisters is instead a development of Rossetti’s emerging wisdom figuration: the heritage of the younger sister in ‘The Lowest Room’. whipped up cream’. from self-denial’. is a fall from sisterhood. of spiritual and physical redemption. Laura’s fall. only a warning that ‘their evil gifts would harm us’ (12). Hopkins. nourishing food. for its time. however. and is no longer in thrall to the senses.

Laura is also the dying woman of Rossetti’s illustrations in Keble’s Christian Year and the grieving Eve in ‘Shut Out’. and Rossetti . the fruit has multiple associations and the poem itself is dense with intertextual allusions. unsexed nun. allows her to continue living and writing within the tradition of the Church without sacrificing her integrity as an active worker against woman’s oppression. to accept the moral stereotype imposed by a patriarchal society: angel or devil. In the context of Rossetti’s work at Highgate. not least Daly herself in her anti-Christian phase. as in Goblin Market. the fall into prostitution is also to accept Victorian man’s valuation of the female self. Once the traditional ontological guilt of Eve is removed. and includes more than a hint that male gender oppression be interpreted as original sin. Magdalen a barren. both of whom were able to see themselves only from a male perspective: Maude a thwarted Keats. ‘a cherub’s face. Through the deception of the goblins. however. Including Goblin Market and Maude 27 located at the point of intersection between an evil male goblin world and the female wholeness of the maidens’ activity. but for our purpose of theological enquiry its interest lies in the effect it has on Laura. there is real difficulty in accepting the efficacy of a male saviour who would thus seem to be participating in such oppression.Early Poetry. the rest a reptile’. as a consequence. she has been tricked into surrendering control over her womanhood. Once she allows herself to be exposed to the sensuous attraction of the luscious fruit and eats it. symbol of her womanhood. becoming a re-interpretation of herself in the male mind as she greedily sucks the fruit. Rossetti’s capacity to envisage a ‘female saviour’ from within Christian theology. frustrated spiritually and broken physically.59 By yielding a lock of her hair. the gender duality of redemption falls away. she becomes the erotic creature of the later Pre-Raphaelite painting. Dante Gabriel’s ‘Jenny’. Rossetti has radically rewritten the fall of Eve in terms of the social and spiritual abuse of women which she sees around her. Laura also becomes as dead to her physical and spiritual self as Magdalene and Maude. This has led to the rejection of Christianity by many feminists. she moves into a sphere dominated by the duplicitous morality of the goblins. the plaything of the male imagination: ‘not as she is but as she fills his dream’. and is no longer able to participate in the life-giving female activities within the matrix of sisterhood. which are unambiguously male. Clearly.60 If woman’s suffering has its source in gender oppression by men.

fruitfulness. Rossetti re-images Christ through the actions of Lizzie. compassion. Held her hands and squeezed their fruits Against her mouth to make her eat. moved by compassion for the dying Laura who has withered away under the spell of the evil fruit. (ll. Lizzie. Barking. When she refuses.398–407) Lizzie stands firm. suffering and spiritual authority (‘From House to Home’) – and so Lizzie is able to bring about the reversal of Laura’s physical and spiritual subjection and dependency in relation to the goblins. in this case women. natural images of fruitfulness and virginity proclaiming the strength of her womanhood. Lizzie therefore is Christ inasmuch as she is a manifestation of those aspects of the redeemer which are directly needed in the salvation of Laura – those which Rossetti associates with her wisdom figures: activity. Clawed her with their nails. Tore her gown and soiled her stocking. Stamped upon her tender feet. mewing. they use violence against her in a symbolic rape. and they are powerless against her. vitality. mocking. body and soul. disappearing without trace but leaving fruit pulp and juice on her body.28 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology can restore Christ’s liberating role to the oppressed. hissing. Elbowed and jostled her. the goblins will not allow her to take the fruit away – their only interest is to claim another victim – and insist she eat it on the spot. because gender difference is subordinate to Christ’s redeeming function. which she is able to take back to Laura. Twitched her hair out by the roots. . suggesting the physical abuse many of the women at Highgate must have experienced: Lashing their tails They trod and hustled her. and heal her. in the context of the life-giving wholeness of the wisdom metaphor which she has used in previous poems as an antidote to spiritual sterility and physical decline. It no longer matters whether Christ is a man or woman. love (‘The Lowest Room’). Of course. sets out to save her by obtaining for her another taste of the goblin fruit for which she longs.

hence the sensual and erotic language of Lizzie’s celebration of the Eucharistic feast. The validity of Jesus’ teaching for women.Early Poetry. grinding his teeth and foaming at the mouth. lies not in the sense that to be weak is to be Christ-like (although it does not exclude such a parallel) which. the feminine image of Christ surrounded by young children in Mark 10:13–16. Laura falls down senseless and awakens the next morning restored to life. suck my juices Squeezed from goblin fruits for you. In the incident of Mark’s . in celebrating the triumph of Lizzie and her act of sisterly redemption. of daughters and of women. strengthens her emphasis on spiritual and redemptive sisterhood. health and the fruitfulness associated with the sisterhood of wisdom. Including Goblin Market and Maude 29 Taken from the hands of the goblins. Laura. it speaks to women. The conclusion of the poem. Through her body womankind has been offended and through her body she must be healed. Never mind my bruises. who wallowed. Given by Lizzie. which is needed to heal her desecrated female sexuality: She cried ‘Laura’. it recognises their experiences. the powerless and disenfranchised. or the boy with the dumb spirit of Mark 9:17–29. as we have seen. To continue the parallel with Mark’s Gospel. which the conclusion promotes. the fruit brings death. Hug me. (ll. it restores life. particularly the casting out of demons. love me. when brought to bear on Laura’s calling of the little ones.464–74) The effect the fruit has on Laura calls to mind Christ’s acts of healing recorded in the Gospels. traps women in a subordinate position. Like the boy. but because it is specifically directed towards the liberation of the defenceless. of children. proclaims Christ as sister and friend of the vulnerable. make much of me: For your sake I have braved the glen And had to do with goblin merchant men’. Laura’s leaping and writhing is reminiscent of the demon-possessed man of the tombs in Mark 5:1–20. Goblin pulp and goblin dew. ‘Did you miss me? Come and kiss me. drink me. up the garden. kiss me. Eat me. pining away until Jesus cast out the demon.

Through identification with the figure of wisdom which validates women’s experience. To cheer one on the tedious way. To lift one if one totters down.’ . and taking the children in his arms proclaimed his affinity with them.30 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Gospel Jesus was angry when his disciples denied children direct access to him. Laura and Lizzie pass on the message of sisterhood: ‘For there is no friend like a sister In calm or stormy weather. ‘for of such is the kingdom of God’ (Mark 10:14). and Christ her guide and friend. To fetch one if one goes astray. To strengthen whilst one stands. With their children gathered around them. Rossetti claims the gospel as her own.

Her protagonist. they today shall eat and live. breaks out of her confinement and rushes to certain death. take all I have to give. She is seen to share the indignation of the Circle against the oppression of women. It shall bruise thy head. and thou shalt bruise His heel. I. to whom she sent the forerunner of The Prince’s Progress. Genesis 3:15 During the period when she was writing and publishing Goblin Market.2 Later Poetry. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini I will put enmity between thee and the woman. In ‘A Royal Princess’ especially. (103–4) 31 . she also sent ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ and ‘A Royal Princess’. the exploitation of prostitutes and of working-class women and to press for a greater role for all women in the shaping of society and the alleviation of suffering. and between thy seed and her Seed. Rossetti was particularly close to the Langham Place Circle of feminists and kept up her contributions to the Portfolio Society. She echoes the words of Esther who saves her people: They shall take all to buy them bread. perish. To Bessie Parker’s newly formed English Woman’s Journal. if I perish. ‘The Prince who arrived too late’. and was rewarded with a note in the journal on the publication of Goblin Market. a pampered and docile subject of patriarchal oppression. to give all her jewels to the starving mob who have besieged the palace of her tyrant father. Rossetti shows her sympathy for their cause.

Yet despite a continuing sensitivity towards gender injustice. The emphasis on women’s philanthropic activity in The English Woman’s Journal fits in well with what we know of Rossetti’s sympathies and there seems not to have been any active campaign for woman’s suffrage which might have come in conflict with her religious beliefs. as Hero learns not to see herself in terms of men’s approval. Sharing as she did with the group a sense of outrage at the treatment of women. placing them in a female ‘fairyland’. dropping out of the Portfolio Society and most probably also discontinuing her work at the penitentiary. and although there seems to have been no outright break in her relationship with Bessie Parkes and Barbara Bodichon.32 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology The feminist Victoria Magazine. whose launch she attended. Her point is helpful in our discussion of Rossetti’s feminism in explaining how difficult it was for women working for women’s . must be asked. son-in-law and daughter.3 Yet Rossetti remained aloof. In her discussion of Victorian feminism Barbara Caine stresses the diversity of approach exhibited by feminists in the nineteenth century. are used for spiritual healing and renewal. and one suspects that she saw these journals simply as vehicles for publishing her poetry. helped perhaps by Barbara Bodichon’s reports of feminist theological controversy in America. never saw her work as akin to theirs. It may well be the influence of these feminists which inspired the daring reworking of Christian doctrine that we saw in Goblin Market. Victoria Magazine.2 a short story which retrieves the treasures of the goblin world. and apart from a general feeling of sisterhood in alleviating the suffering of women. Rossetti did not hesitate to send a poem to the journal’s successor. The English Woman’s Journal had failed because of financial problems. by 1864 Rossetti was seeing less of her feminist friends. The resources of the glittering Pre-Raphaelite world. ‘Hero’. ultimately resolving the different elements of the tale into a trinity of father. rather than being a source of destruction as in Goblin Market. the question why Rossetti did not work more closely with the Langham Place Circle. or indeed liaise more fully with any of the intellectual circles where women’s issues were coming to the fore.1 At about the same time as Goblin Market Rossetti wrote its similarly daring counterpart in prose. benefited from her poem ‘LEL’. returning wiser to ‘man-side’. who could not save’ (209). to a father who in turn recognises that he has failed his daughter: ‘I.

addressing women of similar social outlook. pouring scorn on those who. She had to court the goodwill of publishers and had to tread warily to avoid offending her brother William. and ‘eat off his own head.6 There would certainly have been a clash there. approaching middle age and almost entirely dependent on the charity of her brother: No human being has a right to be idle.Later Poetry. Some of the sweeping generalisations in the book must have been hurtful to an unmarried woman. Rossetti belonged to a different world. ‘spend their lives in ministering to the little fancies and whims of a father or mother’. A glance at Barbara Bodichon’s feminist manifesto Women and Work shows how far she was from the life of financial struggle into which Rossetti was born. and who by ‘wasting their lives in such trivial duties … weaken their own intellects and hearts’. Rossetti was particularly vulnerable in that she did not have the firm social or financial backing which many suffragists enjoyed. Not only did Rossetti’s work tend towards the re-valuation of woman’s everyday experiences. In short.4 It was harder than we realise to see a common thread running through one’s work and that of possible rivals. and women tended to articulate reform from within their own set of values and assumptions. but the . alternatively reassured or threatened by co-workers in a situation where ‘the wrong move or the wrong approach would be disastrous. but must have been conscious of themselves as a burden on William. no human being must use the earth as a stable. Bodichon also betrays her distaste for the homely duties of everyday life. ‘Have I eaten my head off today?’5 The Rossetti women were very thrifty and dressed plainly. out of childish obedience. especially after his marriage. Bodichon was writing from a position of social and financial privilege. In the early days the woman’s movement was by no means unified.’ … It is a good thing to ask ourselves daily the question. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 33 rights to see each other as part of a common movement. William seems largely to have ignored (or chosen to ignore) her association with the Langham Place Circle and she would certainly have embarrassed him had she taken a public stance on the Woman Question. setting back the whole feminist cause irremediably’. on whose kindness she and her mother depended.

Rossetti’s understanding is perhaps further-reaching than . pettish. Eccentricity is not forgiven in the poor. Accepting serfdom. which is that women must do what men do. The woman also. with prejudice against women particularly marked in the Church. Rossetti could only have been offended by Bodichon’s descriptions of ‘faded’ women of thirty-five. and perhaps most importantly. She recognises the warped religious images of womankind which society has internalised and therefore searches for affirmations of sisterhood which will give women power to change oppressive structures. otherwise she drops At once below the dignity of man.34 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology poet’s care for her beloved mother and aunts was a duty she took seriously. and struggling to earn what she could from her writing. Her agenda contrasts sharply with the central message of Women and Work. There is no head-on collision with religious authorities – indeed she avoids confrontation of any kind. Bodichon quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her Preface: The honest. Rossetti makes no such assumption. she is socially bound and dependent on others whose goodwill she must cultivate. dried up. she must equal man in the workplace. ‘getting meagre. peevish’ because they haven’t had a chance to learn a trade such as watch-making. earnest man must stand and work. ‘because it is a Christian country’. and if woman wants to achieve equality. or risk dropping below them. she assumes that there will be equality in the workplace and that the equality of women with men had already been established in England. although Bodichon is right when she states unequivocally that money is power. Here lies the fundamental difference in outlook between the two reformers. Lastly. The assumption here is that worth depends on capacity for production. whose structures and language exclude women’s experience. she loves her family and friends and at all costs wishes to avoid embarrassing them. Her aim therefore is transformation rather than the appropriation of male privileges. Such an assumption was far from true. Furthermore. but works patiently from within. Finally. sallow. She is faced with a religion dominated by patriarchy. Unable because of bad health to earn her living as a governess.

She often has to articulate new ideas from within Victorian ideals of womanhood and can so easily be seen to have internalised the oppressive values of her society. – One can discern the origin of Rossetti’s interest in the lot of fallen women through Burrows’ care for and appreciation of his parishioners. 16–17) points out. maintaining society’s responsibility for addressing the issue. his language is tinged with sentimentality: The sweet sister. in 1874. Burrows. it must be by the reversal of the deeply ingrained assumption of their moral inferiority and by a triumphant assertion of the value of womanhood. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 35 this. Rev.W. even suggesting the complacency of many parish churches8 and considering the inmates of a penitentiary as ‘probably far less guilty than many out of it’. . and two clergymen are prominent in her biographies: Rev. dignified even in poverty. honoured in old age. R. a friend since his taking over of Christ Church in 1850. but although he obviously admired and supported woman’s efforts in ‘doing the work of the ancient deaconesses’ in sisterhoods. Because it stresses ‘difference’ rather than claiming ‘equality’7 Rossetti’s feminism can easily be overlooked by the modern critic.Later Poetry. a High Church friend of the Rossettis’ good friends. the Scotts. Annus Domini. the type of purity to brothers. with the recognition that if women are to establish their own authority. rather than simply by going out to work. the supporting wife. fallen women in particular. Although Rossetti’s emphasis on the moral superiority of women was probably derived from evangelical notions of woman’s purity and came through her mother. they would not have been able to speak to their contemporaries at all’. the head of a household. But as Barbara Caine (pp. and Dr. Rossetti did have opportunities to discuss religious matters within her church circle. and chaplain to a London Sisterhood. ‘had these mid-Victorian feminists not accepted and addressed the ideal of womanhood articulated in Victorian domestic ideology. Burrows appears to have had a considerable influence on her in his fair-minded attitude towards women. who wrote the foreword to her first devotional volume. Littledale. however. His high esteem of womankind mirrors the evangelical idolisation of woman’s purity. the mother of children. In a sermon to raise money for the Oxford Female Penitentiary he stressed the fundamental innocence of many women who had been duped into prostitution. the Christian matron.

that she was created in the image of God. however. Littledale had listened with sympathy to women’s grievances in theological matters. Annus Domini. would have done little to instil confidence in a woman writer. is to be her ideal. Jan Marsh attributes to Littledale’s encouragement Rossetti’s first steps in devotional writing.36 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology which is evident in his little history of Christ Church. as of man. Littledale’s volume on women’s religious education. and to the blurring of important issues in an attempt to assimilate women’s protests into an unchanged patriarchal structure. Rossetti’s ideas and those of other woman activists in religious matters may well have been Littledale’s inspiration for the volume.11 Although it is more likely to have been Burrows who encouraged Rossetti to publish her theological reflections. she sought Littledale’s approval for her first publication.9 He was a High Churchman. In contrast to what would seem the attitude of most well-known High Church figures. but there is an absence of intellectual challenge in his writing and it was most probably Littledale. He encouraged both Rossetti sisters in their work. although apparently dedicated to the religious emancipation of women. a controversialist by nature. testifies to the lack of real understanding on the part of the Church (and of Littledale himself) of women’s religious alienation. even with one of the more enlightened theologians of the time. therefore. but The Religious Education of Women. Conformity to that image. who roused Rossetti to more daring theological discussion. for we read of woman. not to the blurred and defaced impression of it left faintly traceable on man’s battered soul. His accounts of their problems in the first part of his essay ring true to the testimony we have of the period and could have come from Rossetti herself. but rejected the excesses of the movement. A glimpse at Littledale’s writing gives us an idea of the difficulties Rossetti must have faced in religious discussion. despite his sincere attempt to be helpful. She quotes from his 1874 publication The Religious Education of Women: Woman as well as man must look up directly to her creator. so . as he strongly supported improved religious teaching for women.10 and was thus in a position to assuage much of the anger generated in the young Rossetti by Dodsworth and Pusey’s extremism.

she for God in him’. which is in the ascendant amongst us … . I cannot but think that the exact contrary is the truth. he claims. noting the scriptural figure of wisdom. it is precisely the feminine way of regarding theology. As Marsh has noted. An oppressive religious education for women which deprives them as women of ‘wholesome and harmonious development’. as we have seen. is a ‘deliberate effort to counteract the purpose of God’. and just’. is mentioned only in her domestic role. like the noble portrait in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs’. stripping a prospective convent sister of ties of affection and of possessions is repressive and ‘is an effort to crush out the affections and the ties of association’. he accuses as immoral the doctrine encapsulated in Milton’s ‘He for God only. wise. he claims. and have set the masculine aspect of Christianity too exclusively and persistently forward. ‘Women’. and the devotional books I have examined. ‘such as have had capacity trained into practical efficiency and decisiveness. and that by all schools alike. The shibboleths may vary in accent. as it would remove that fussy and frivolous nature ‘in which women often jar against the sensitive nerves of men’. ‘should be strong.Later Poetry. and the real plea of women is distorted so that once more women are put in their place: One of the most ardent female champions of women’s rights has said that it is high time that the woman’s side of religion should be heard from the pulpit. and one does long for the mighty bass of a masculine theology. The broad fact is that a negative and unprogressive faith is usually taught. he becomes increasingly caught up in efforts to convince the male reader that women would be far pleasanter if they were better educated spiritually. true. Begging the lady’s pardon.12 Furthermore. and not the masculine. As Littledale’s argument unfolds. that men have too long had the monopoly. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 37 similar are they to the legacy of spiritual suffering in her writing up to this time. but they are all pitched in the treble cleff. liberal. seeing femininity also as a part of the image of God: ‘If we limit her. it is because we have first limited Him’. The figure of divine wisdom. and. What promises to be a document on women’s religious emancipation is ultimately oppressive because Littledale is fearful of the feminine . To me. however. judging from the sermons I have heard and read. in themselves necessary to avoid ‘selfism’ and to promote ‘altruism’.

is unworkable as a redeemer for women and so is doomed to failure. and their accusatory ‘Too late. in terms of Victorian manhood or priesthood. In a later article Dawn Henwood goes further in recognising more specifically the theological significance of the poem. which she considers first as a response to Dante Gabriel and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. and rejoices like a strong man to run a race’. who comes ‘out of his chamber. and second. In her account of Rossetti’s typological hermeneutics Linda Peterson has correctly identified the relationship between her two major poems.482). too late’ (l. and of their passing this hermeneutic tradition to their daughters’ seen ‘as a pair of which The Prince’s Progress comprises the other half’. and is unable to grasp the true nature of women’s objection to the male bias of Christianity. equating it with inferiority and weakness. by limiting the theological scope of the two poems. a ‘male Christ’ however.13 Her commentary on the presentation of the tardy prince as a Christ-figure is particularly good: ‘He is like the bridegroom of the New Testament parable of the ten virgins (Matt. and its origin in spiritual desolation and hopelessness: In this version of Christ coming to claim his Church for his own. 25:5) who wait while he tarries’. owe as much to her intellectual and spiritual loneliness as they do to her perception of her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s tardy marriage to Lizzie Siddall. What he sees as ‘the feminine way of regarding theology’ is simply a projection of the way the male-dominated Church would like women to relate to theology. In the .38 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology in theology. She misses in particular the Victorian resurgence of theological misogyny and the consequent salvific impotence of the male figure. with Goblin Market. and like the bridegroom of Psalm 19:5. as subversion of ‘the gender divisions to which Victorians were so prone’ in their biblical hermeneutics. The desolation and despair which underlie Rossetti’s next major poem. neither a worthy Bridegroom or a worthy Bride is to be found. as we saw in Goblin Market. she is unable to do justice to Rossetti’s writing as criticism of patriarchal Christianity itself. She is able to image woman as Christ the liberator and redeemer. both as priest and as redeemer. She also identifies a ‘community of women’. The Prince’s Progress. However. which ‘narrates a tale of women acting christologically to save other women. Her jokes about her ‘reverse of the Sleeping Beauty’ in the writing of ‘The Prince who arrived too late’ belie the seriousness of the poem’s accusation against ‘the mighty bass of a masculine theology’.

they fail. in the revelation that the Prince is making excuses for himself. When the Prince and Princess fail to fulfil their roles. but a central Christian myth is gravely undermined. then he quite turned back: For courtesy’s sake he could not lack To redeem his own royal pledge Ahead too the windy heaven lowered black With a fire-cloven edge. Lay and laughed and talked to the maid. But the Victorian reader would immediately recognise the milkmaid as an evil temptress. the representation of the milkmaid is compared with Goblin Market’s reworking of the Fall and Rossetti’s refusal to contemplate a sinful Eve. then a wry smile.85–90) The subtext of despair emerges clearly only when. The narrator even raises in her audience if not a laugh.14 Henwood confirms Joan Rees’s disclosure of ‘“a nightmare” quality underlying the surface allegory of traditional readings’. not only are gendered roles de-stabilised. and our own study of Rossetti’s developing theological awareness identifies more clearly this sub-text of horror. Henwood sees subversion in the Prince’s ‘interpretive blindness’ (87) in not recognising the milkmaid with her ‘shining serpent coils’ (l. in effect. (ll. are patriarchal readings. He half turned away. Given the poem’s inescapable mythical context. rather than the Prince. we realise. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 39 shifting symbolic ground of this poem.94) as a representative of evil. . its closing funeral lament gives voice. to fulfil Biblical prophecy. becomes the serpent as we watch: So he stretched his length in the apple-tree shade. Rossetti knows her audience: Loth to stay. yet to leave her slack. ‘Traditional readings’.Later Poetry. Take. a Miltonic Eve leading Adam astray. the scapegoat herself. darkest spiritual despair. are after all no more than the tools of oppression. Rossetti finds. the milkmaid episode. she risks utter despair in finding that they. Far more than a courtship hangs in the balance of a poem so charged with sacred relevance. like the rest of the trappings of Christianity. to the deepest. for example. In The Prince’s Progress Eve (in the form of the milkmaid). There is no subversion here. for example. and if she probes them further.

it never applies to him and because the patriarchal ego has the safety net of Eve’s sin and the general inferiority of women to fall back on. The buds gone on to blow.507–8). The warm south wind would have awaked To melt the snow. Despite the rejoicing of her attendants that she has gone on to claim her royal crown. because. like satire. as we have seen. Her attendants are reiterating the suffocating illusion that they have been taught: recompense in death for suffering on earth. has been recognised as a poem of outrage against social hypocrisy. One way forward is the acceptance of ascetic suffering and the ‘crown’ of heroic martyrdom. Rossetti is trapped by a deeply internalised gender prejudice. lest anyone recognise the true loss. From an accusation of social hypocrisy. but it fits in here as a cry of disillusionment and anger against the Church and a Christianity which blights an innocent life. There is always a ‘wicked milkmaid’ to blame. But Rossetti has categorically rejected that barren road.40 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Who twisted her hair in a cunning braid And writhed it in shining serpent-coils. Another poem of the period. (ll. And held him a day and night fast laid In her subtle toils. There is nothing redemptive about this kind of suffering. Like the Princess in her poem. that she would have brought fruitfulness and life to a sterile world: The frozen fountain would have leaped. the Princess in death must ‘wear a veil to shroud her face / And the want graven there’ (ll. ‘The Iniquity of the Fathers Upon the Children’. and drives a wedge between mother and daughter. despite its illusory glory. The poem is spoken from the point of view of an illegitimate daughter whose mother (‘My Lady at the Hall’) can never acknowledge her because of the taint of illegitimacy. which the attendants are holding out to the Princess. She must be hidden.91–6) Laughing at the Prince’s laziness or stupidity is not threatening to the male reader. ‘the .

there is a similarity between their work and Rossetti’s cautious but determined reassessment of Eve. and Tertullian’s ‘You are the devil’s gateway… . And sundry sleepers nod: It may be so. but her work also differs from that .Later Poetry.15 It is unlikely that she had access to the work of American women such as Sarah Grimke or Eliza Farnham in their defence of Eve. Load me with shame that’s hers. (ll. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 41 decent world’ whispering and pointing fingers. the poem moves to accuse the Church of complacency: ‘All equal before God’ – Our Rector has it so. and would have been referred to the scriptures if she had doubts about the interpretation of the Fall. And sometimes at my prayer Kneeling in sight of Heaven I almost curse him still: Why did he set his snare To catch at unaware My mother’s foolish youth. ‘Tomorrow He may save’. Rossetti battles with the legacy of Genesis 3. Her need differs sharply from that of her social reformer friends who are fighting for equal rights in the workplace. Nevertheless. I know All are not equal here. only here the ‘daughter of Eve’ is (‘almost’) cursing in turn: But I could almost curse My Father for his pains. On account of your desert. the speaker concludes – but he probably won’t. even the Son of God had to die’.501–5) It finally locates the violence perpetrated by the father on the mother within the scope of Genesis 3. A lifelong lie for truth? The vengeful God of ‘Symbols’ has returned to threaten with his ‘rod’. And her with something worse. Again and again. that is death.

the words of Genesis still stand: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food. We saw her early frustration with the Tractarian fervour of Christ Church. through a revaluation of her own relationship with key women in the text. Catherine Booth. Rossetti never insists on a priest-like role in the Church. and begins to rebuild her relationship with Christ on a firmer foundation than before. Rossetti is faced with the redemptive inefficacy for women of this patriarchal religion. (Gen. asserts woman’s right to preach. The confidence that it is possible to have a ‘female saviour’ in terms of women’s supporting sisterhoods shines through Goblin Market. Albany Street. and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. overcome by grief at the death of her son at the hands of Cain: While I sit at the door Sick to gaze within Mine eye weepeth sore For sorrow and sin: As a tree my sin stands To darken all lands. the speaker in Rossetti’s poem.1–7) . But the fact is that Jesus was a man and Christianity has become a patriarchal religion. (ll. for example. and her dislike of convent life. she needs to work out her relationship to it and to judge what she sees there. and that it was a delight to the eyes. and he did eat. 3:6) Eve. With ‘Eve’ (1865) she faces the biblical text head on. In a way. In the poem she does not deny Eve’s sin. she took of the fruit thereof. her problem is far more serious because her quarrel is with Christianity itself. which the Bible appears to state unequivocally? Rossetti’s attention turns to scripture itself to try and understand. takes upon herself the blame for bringing death to her race. and she gave also unto her husband with her. Like the Americans. Death is the fruit it bore. and did eat.42 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology of others working in organised religion. How can a woman achieve the salvation of Christ when divided from Him by a gender barrier? Must woman be forever ‘shut out’ of full participation in theological matters because of her moral inferiority.

husband. nurturing and giving life she made an error of judgement: ‘The Tree of Life was ours’. Rossetti’s definition of evil reappears in a similar form in some modern feminist studies. my brother. and this similarity is worth looking at in more detail because in her study of Eve. All her children will die. not another. is able to dwell on the consequences of the fall to her as a woman: ‘I. but none other: (ll. I.Later Poetry. in that she did not deliberately set out to disobey. Miserable Eve!’ (ll. This experience is .26–35) The most striking aspect of Eve’s understanding of her action is that it is not a sin. accept responsibility for Adam’s act of disobedience: Hadst thou but said me nay. Rossetti begins to move forward with confidence to revalue the physical world: Women’s relational way of being in the world typically creates in them a deep vulnerability to being rendered desolate when suffering visits those whom they love and care about. in carrying out her activities of tending. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 43 She does not. rather. sad mother Of all who must live. I might have pined away. however. but through the negation of her role as life-giver. not because she is cursed by God. lover. ‘I chose the tree of death’. and all creation grieves with her.18–21) And having thus separated her action from his. I. Plucked bitterest fruit to give My friend. Eve. run over. Adam. Like Rachel weeping for her children. she grieves. Who but I should grieve? – Cain hath slain his brother: Of all who must die mother. – O wanton eyes. The consequence of her error brings great grief to her.

more tied to the body and therefore morally inferior. commenting on ‘her desire … to see Eve in terms of life. condemned to writhe in the dust for his part in the Fall: Only the serpent in the dust Wriggling and crawling. Eve’s sorrow is a vital step out of the drugged lethargy imposed on the Princess of The Prince’s Progress.44 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology so powerful that feminist theorists are using it to rewrite the definition of evil. and view the situation from a distance. and suggesting that the serpent knew Eve to be the more powerful figure of the two because her feminine nature was further from his own than that of Adam. because in her grief she becomes God-like.16 Such a definition of evil is empowering to woman. The narrative comment at the end of the poem allows the reader to withdraw from contemplation of Eve and her grief. Grinned an evil grin and thrust His tongue out with its fork.67–70) The evil force working against creation is identified as male. echoing God’s sorrow at the destruction of His creation. and helplessness. Whereas in the history of Western thought a preponderance of definitions of evil has concentrated on human disobedience to divine law and thus on ‘sin’. the eye discerns the serpent. To . not death’. but also in its legitimisation of her anger and protest. Moving away from the shared grief of Eve’s creatures. some feminist ethical analysis now argues that women’s experience identifies the most fundamental evil to be the phenomenological conditions of pain. (ll. not only in its redefinition of woman as image of a suffering God. linking Adam rather than Eve with the serpent. separation. and it is even more liberating for the Victorian woman because her emotional reactions. commonly held to be stronger than those of men (and often termed ‘hysteria’17) were seen as an indication that she was less rational than man. In her discussion of the poem D’Amico refers to Rossetti’s unpublished notes on Exodus 1:22.18 Rossetti writes: There seems to be a sense in which from the Fall downwards the penalty of death has been made on man and life on woman.

Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 45 Eve: ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. Rossetti produced a poem which. Thus ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of the unclean? Not one’. more than any other of hers. sweet and clear and musical’. a vital point in Rossetti’s later discussions of language. the stable becomes the locus of the early physical relationship of the infant Christ with the natural world. In her endeavour to establish the Christ-likeness of woman. a poem which reverses the grief of ‘Eve’. claims once and for all the acceptability of womanhood to Christ. in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children:’ to Adam: ‘Unto dust shalt thou return’. the physical and. Satan corrupted Eve with his speech. in the context of a desolate winter landscape.19 Rossetti’s focus on the tongue of the serpent is also to be found in ‘Eve’.17–24) . and presented to the American periodical Scribner’s Monthly. Enough for Him whom angels Fall down before. would darkly set forth the same immutable fact: (All this I write down craving pity and pardon of God for Xt’s sake if I err). The mere name Eve was ‘the mother of all living’. where it was advertised as ‘a little poem … wise in a sort of child-wisdom.20 The poem reconstructs the birth of Christ. contributing no more than the nourishment. transmitting her own humanity. and with his mother: Enough for Him whom cherubim Worship night and day. A breastful of milk And a mangerful of hay. ‘A Christmas Carol’ was written in 1871. The ox and ass and camel Which adore. the mother receptive. May it so be that in this distinction is hidden the true key which supercedes any need of an ‘Immaculate Conception’. the mother.Later Poetry. style so to say. development. emphasising the immediate. rather later than ‘Eve’. (ll. Thus dead Adam must be the father of a dead child: the Living God the Father of the Living Son. that from the father alone is derived the stock and essence of the child. or it may be (?) of the living one. The father active.

and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head. She is reasserting woman’s role in re-establishing life for all humanity. Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to . and the female body in particular. Sojourner Truth. and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman. Because thou hast done this. God’s words to Eve are seen as a prophecy rather than a curse: And the Lord God said unto the serpent. but she is given the chance to reverse the evil he brought into the world. in order to counteract revulsion towards the body in general. Mary comes alive as a woman: loving. nurturing and giving birth. In surrendering her name. and above every beast of the field. Eve was tricked by the serpent. but as the poem suggests. Moreover. But Rossetti is claiming more than acceptability. which we saw was exaggerated in the Tractarian revival of the tradition of the Church Fathers. (ll. there is a special physical and emotional closeness which women are able to share with Him: But only His mother In her maiden bliss Worshipped the Beloved With a kiss. and thou shalt bruise his heel. not only is womankind and her physical body established as acceptable to Christ.29–32) Physical acceptability was needed in Victorian times.46 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology The poem does not mention Mary by name. upon thy belly shalt thou go. (Gen. sharing in the restoration of life in the birth of Christ. because she has become representative of all womankind after Eve. more than perhaps is recognised today. 3:14–16) Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza uses a speech promoting woman’s suffrage from an African-American woman and former slave. cursed art thou above all cattle. to illustrate a similar affirmation of feminist christology: That little man in black there say a woman can’t have as much rights as a man cause Christ wasn’t a woman.

failed to protect his wife: Had Adam tenderly reproved his wife. By the time she wrote her first major religious text.C. she had established this authority. on the one hand. On the other hand. Annus Domini is a small . and the authority to speak and practise theology as full members of the Church.21 In highlighting the woman’s role in the birth of Christ. but she had more in common with E. had no excuse for disobeying God and. and endeavoured to lead her to repentance instead of sharing her guilt. Stanton than with Sojourner Truth or the suffragists because. I should be much more ready to accord to man the superiority which he claims. rather than use theology directly for social reform. but that nevertheless remains within a Christian doctrinal framework. together women ought to be able to turn it rightside up again. it appears to me that to say the least. on the other hand. her aim was to transform doctrinal concepts within theology itself. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 47 do with him! If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down. articulating a theology that is valid and liberating for women. and laid claim as a woman to full participation in her Christian heritage. but as things stand disclosed by the sacred historian.22 Other American women too were working to defend the actions of Eve and reinterpret God’s words to Eve as prophecy. In Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838). Adam. all alone. Sarah Grimke explains that Eve was not able to discern evil as she had never met an evil being before. ‘points out. Rossetti saw sisterhood as liberating and her friendship with the Langham Place Circle testified to her general acceptance of woman’s liberation.Later Poetry.23 As we have seen in Goblin Market. that the incarnation of Christ must be correctly understood as the collaboration of God and a woman. for all his claims of superiority. Annus Domini. Sojourner Truth. She based her christology on the experience of women. She also sought to establish an equal space for women within the historical unfolding of Christianity. there was as much weakness exhibited by Adam as by Eve. she stresses that redemption from sinful structures can be experienced only when women come together and organize for turning the “world rightside up” again’.

destroy in us. and it is one which. Thou Who has bruised the serpent’s head.26 . 3:15 I will put enmity between thee and the woman. strength to overcome him. and between thy seed and her Seed. Seed of the woman’. It shall bruise thy head. O Lord Jesus Christ. one for every day of the year. as we have seen. Eve is the one ‘who fully represents humanity. born through her agency. and specifically as prefiguring Mary from whom the human Jesus would be born’. deliver the prey from between his teeth. and. and for the death he brought in. Presented in this way. for his kingdom. the relationship between the scriptural quotations and the prayers is vital.25 The prayers of Annus Domini have been greatly neglected in critical evaluations of Rossetti’s work. was used by the early mystic Hildegard of Bingen to establish the place of women in the created order. and Rossetti’s first prayer asserts woman’s place in the development of the faith. Seed of the woman. The danger in analysing Rossetti’s religious works lies in ignoring the theological understanding which informs them.24 ‘Christ. Amen. There is a close link here between Eve’s error and Mary’s role as mother of Christ. and although the density of allusions underlying each prayer here may vary. and woman is in her turn empowered by this relationship to request the healing promised and the reversal from the kingdom of death to one of life. It establishes the genealogy of Christ as descended from Eve. without overturning the traditional typological interpretation. claims the fulfilment of God’s prophecy of Gen. bid his captives go free. Moreover. 3:15: 1 Gen.48 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology collection of prayers. as Grace Janzen points out. the power of that old serpent the devil. set up Thy kingdom. Give us courage to resist him. Rossetti takes great care in the opening pages of each of her prose works to establish a theological foundation for her operations. bring Thou in life everlasting. woman has greater authority than man to deliver the prayer. I entreat Thee. perhaps because they are seen simply as repetitions of popular scriptural quotations. has power over the serpent. and thou shalt bruise His heel. partly as the mother of all living.

is able to see herself as part of Christian history. The speaker. because if. as descendant of Eve. ‘with that holy patriarch by prayer to hold Thee . and that where Thou art there may also Thy servants be. she is primarily engaged in establishing woman’s place in scripture. As her confidence grows. our exceeding great Reward. who has just refused a substantial reward from the King of Sodom for rescuing Lot. men and women. who in the introductory poem is unable to take her place in the line of patriarchs. Because of his integrity and his action of turning away from material wealth. and through the close identification with Christ. But for the moment. through Christ. but she always does so with care so as not to mislead the unwary reader. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 49 The second prayer develops the ideas of the first. I pray Thee. 16:1 I am thy Shield. she will begin to take more ‘liberties’ with scripture. Rossetti appears to be delighting in the free play of her reasoning powers as she operates on the scriptural text. and thy exceeding great Reward. is able to share a similar place to that of Abraham in the history of Israel. in order to make ‘God’s Face of Mercy shine again’. make. It would be a mistake to see this second prayer simply as a call to renounce earthly treasures in favour of heavenly riches: 2 Gen. her ‘seed’. and in a manner applicable to all her readers. earth and her treasures exceeding small in our eyes: that we may long for Thee most of all. Amen. and labour to obtain Thee first of all. The speaker of this prayer begins by claiming Jesus as her reward. The passage from Genesis states the promise of God to Abraham.Later Poetry. Abraham is granted a greater gift. Prayers 3–6 make similar claims for participation in the inheritance of Isaac and Jacob. O Lord Jesus Christ. unlike Abraham. the Christian prefers material reward. she is effectively turning away from Christ and will therefore fail to gain his promise of salvation. As much as in the satisfaction of claiming woman’s authority. ‘fainting’ from the agony of trying to make her voice heard. The prayer still functions of course as a call to turn away from earthly riches and is applicable to all Christians. as we shall see. His seed will inherit the kingdom. to be patriarch and father of God’s people.

The intensity of her social criticism against the Church itself. In their simplest form the prayers in the Old Testament section depend upon typological transference through Christ the anti-type. from which Rossetti takes the introductory quotation. but certain aspects of Rossetti’s delivery transform the structure from within. Christ. to applicability in the contemporary world: Ps. or forgotten … . which is transformed into joy by the kindness and healing power of God. and whatever portion thou allottest to us. I entreat Thee. 31:12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. O Lord Jesus Christ. when Thy Providences are dark to our eyes strengthen our faith. 24. through His resurrection. for . and the speaker. 6) Christ. depicts the psychology of intense suffering and persecution. as is so often characteristic of women who claim spiritual authority from within patriarchal Christianity. give us grace to say. (56) Psalm 31:12. makes the healing power of God available to all people. through her invocation. The introductory quotation from prayer no. (no. through his own suffering. in these prayers becomes the way of naming the unnameable. which is often well hidden behind apparent self-blame. past and future. and her prayers push at the limits of traditional Christian doctrine. It is enough.50 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology fast’. becomes the channel through which this comfort may reach the unloved and wronged of her own generation. the source of wisdom. or little loved. her agenda is revolutionary. Who wast forgotten as a dead man out of mind. real fears of overpresumption: I entreat Thee. Christ is the authority through whom the speaker both judges her society and makes supplication for those who are outcast or excluded. betraying. The formula is not an unusual one for prayers of this kind. to all persons who in this world feel themselves neglected. shew forth Thy loving kindness. suggests that whilst Rossetti is writing within an established formula. of approaching ‘the unapproachable Majesty’ of God (7).

27 Rossetti’s christological transactions utilise the process of ‘naming’ (a familiar technique in Christian worship). give to us to taste of Thy Sweetness. not only in terms of reinstating the ‘viewpoint of Eve’. The quotation refers to King Saul’s lies. from the gates of hell and the bottomless pit. choosing names that meet her own needs and those of her society. From the ‘naming’ of a female Christ in Goblin Market. so is my Beloved among the sons. but constantly strain against traditional use of biblical terminology. but in her recognition of the relativity of religious language – as Sallie McFague calls it. recontextualising in terms of her own concerns. I entreat Thee. that He should repent. the poems document a revolutionary change in traditional attitudes to the biblical text. insinuates that whilst ‘The strength of Israel’ will not lie. ‘the interpretive context’. from coldness and lukewarmness. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 51 example. Thy holy Church militant from backslidings and errors. which replaces the ‘goblin fruit’ offered by the serpent: Song of Sol. Prayer 102 names Christ as the new fruit made available to Eve. from dead faith and dead works. however. from laxity and superstition. and the reclaiming of woman’s wholeness and acceptability to Christ ‘seed of the woman’ in her first prayer. Amen. O Lord Jesus Christ. O Lord Jesus Christ. Strength of Israel. Who art as the Apple Tree among the trees of the wood. 2:3 As the Apple Tree among the trees of the wood. and together with ‘bottomless pit’. The extension of her earlier concerns may be seen clearly. Rossetti finds freedom to move within the scriptures. for which he was utterly rejected by God and dethroned. ‘coldness and lukewarmness’ from Revelation contain dire warnings to the Church in Laodicea. for example in the continuation of the Genesis theme. suggest hell as the destiny of the Victorian Church if it does not change. keep. Beside their value as social commentary of the period. the Church does: 1 Sam. that eating we may .Later Poetry. 15:29 The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man.

I pray Thee. its Fruit all perfect. Rossetti’s ‘Son’ strains at the limitations of the traditional use of the word in Christian worship – the male child born of Mary. Amen. in their franker acceptance of bodiliness and sexuality … and in their choice of metaphors and themes that reinforce integration rather than separation of body and soul. all souls may long after Thee. and drinking we may yet be thirsty. Be Thou formed in every heart: that in each one of us the Almighty father may behold Thee.52 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology yet be hungry. Flower of our stock. to worship and adore. flower and fruit. 9:6 She shall bring forth a Son. Christ is named a number of times in the prayers as wisdom. the figure of wisdom was a key to Rossetti’s understanding of our relationship to the physical world in its emphasis on wholeness and continuity between God and creation. Here the Son becomes root. becomes a bond of joy in our relationship with others. O Lord Jesus Christ. and be well pleased. and its Sweetness beyond all sweetness. Root of our life. Rossetti’s use of a quotation from The Song of Songs brings physical delight to bear in our relationship with Christ. these women. to love and delight in Thee. O God. 121. that cleaving to Thee they may attract others also to Thee: until as the hart desireth the water brooks. and one of the most beautiful of her prayers. As the Father hath given Thee unto us. into Thy servants. is dedicated to Christ as the perfection of God’s love for His creation: Matt. the Son given unto us. As we saw in Chapter 1. although holding us fast like the “goblin fruit”. Infuse of Thy Sweetness. I beseech Thee. teach us. The similarity between Rossetti and other women mystics such as Julian of Norwich is quite striking in their ability to relate to the physical Jesus: In their greater appreciation of the physical universe. grant us to give back to Him through Thee all we are and all we have. even while fixed in their . Amen. where Christ’s ‘Sweetness’. Isa. Prayer 170. and the process of physical birth and growth is echoed in spiritual birth as Christ is ‘formed in every heart’. and thou shalt call His Name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.

31 But ‘lofty ideas’. the similarity stems from a shared need to secure an alternative access to the scriptures given woman’s exclusion from theology. ‘Son’ is recognised as part of human experience (the child of Mary). become idolatrous or irrelevant. distance religious language ever further away from women’s experience and from the experience of any others . Rossetti draws attention to the metaphorical nature of biblical language. we may all nurture Christ in our hearts and return the fruits of this gift to God. it will become irrelevant. ‘unnameable’. for we will absolutize one tradition of images for God.F. In her process of ‘naming’. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 53 time and ecclesiastical structure. Littledale recommended Bible-reading for women as an antidote to the ‘pettiness’ of their minds. a gift which is. beyond human comprehension. developed a strand of spirituality whose principle of integration is a significant alternative to the dualist thinking which rendered spirituality in effect a male prerogative. as with the loss of religious context. It will become idolatrous. for the experiences of many people will not be included within the canonized tradition.28 Rather than a conscious imitation on Rossetti’s part. and like this growing and developing embryo. our religious language will. (In a way Christ Himself represents the gift of metaphor.29 and it is significant that all the prayers are addressed to Him. In her discussion of the importance of a metaphoric theology McFague describes the danger of losing relativity in scriptural language: If we lose sight of the relativity and plurality of the interpretive context. The growth of a child within the womb is like a plant putting out roots.30 In this prayer Rossetti has taken the human dimension of ‘Son’ from within the experience of woman. and for those battling to recognise God’s gift of grace in their own lives it may mean nothing at all. flowers and fruit. but is also a means of describing God’s gift of Himself to humankind. in the hope that it would ‘fill with lofty ideas minds which scarcely ever come in contact with good secular literature’. whatever these might be (Littledale does not specify).Later Poetry. R. as God Himself.) But Christ the ‘Son’ can become so tied to its sacred context that its meaning shrinks. as she did in ‘A Christmas Carol’.

such as in her poem ‘Despised and Rejected’ (except that here it is the speaker who risks being shut out) with suggestions of physical banging on the door. I knock: O Lord. it is worth noting here how she uses metaphor to grasp the imagination of the reader. learning have traditionally been denied women. Prayer 212 centres on Christ the ‘Door’. let us in. I ask. to seek. the Door. who is pulled between the physical object and the concept to which it points. to knock. into Thy peace. calling on the ‘Wisdom and Knowledge’ of God. while Thou mayest be found. send none away empty. or apparent facts of science. science. It is no wonder that Rossetti. and have served as a means of degradation and oppression. Rossetti’s theology develops in two directions. or wit and learning of misbelievers’ (234) Reason. Although we shall discuss the implications of Rossetti’s use of metaphor and her relation to Tractarian doctrine in later chapters. one radically feminist. As we have seen. The last urgent request interrupts the complacency of what risks becoming a dead metaphor and brings the imagination once again to the physical reality of a door. O Lord Jesus Christ. also provides a means of making the scriptures live in the mind of the general reader. to reverse the image of woman inherited from the English Church. into Paradise with Thee. while Thou wilt open to us. ‘miscalled reason.32 The practice of naming. I seek.54 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology who have had little or no contact with ‘good secular literature’. give us all grace to ask. I cry unto Thee. and find pasture. which then gives way to the elaborate rhetoric of The Book of Common Prayer and the language of corporate worship. Amen. the ‘is’ and ‘is not’:33 John 10:9 I am the Door: by Me if any man enter in. and to establish the validity of woman’s . Now while Thou wilt bestow. The prayer sets up the dramatic situation of a cry for entry. into Thy Kingdom. expanding the meanings of her text to encompass female religious power. condemns as ‘subtleties of Satan’. whilst satisfying as a means of reversing Adam’s prerogative in naming the world. and her treatment is specifically aimed at producing tension between the two poles of meaning. and shall go in and out. he shall be saved.

Rossetti is unimpressed by Littledale’s ‘lofty ideas’. revising and realigning it. and we note her eye does not miss ‘those who sinned with them’. life-giving force in contrast to the rational. As we have seen. So also its anti-social thrust. and so too is the impact it would have had on its contemporaries. . a door or an apple tree creates tension as it draws away from a sacred referent and involves the imagination in processes of re-identification and re-alignment as it struggles to achieve a focus between the two. true science and true intellect come from divine wisdom as manifest in Christ. at times her anger and desire for re-identification match those of modern radicals such as Daly. As a result of her need to reinterpret the scriptures in this way. The inflexibility of the symbol gives way to metaphor. to revalue the female body and to embrace the despised ‘emotionalism’ of women as an intuitive. The first leads her to expanding visions of the interdependence of all creation. and ‘miscalled reason’. and the second to ever-closer scrutiny of the sacred text. ‘scientific’ and ultimately destructive male.34 but having made the choice to remain a Christian. Her wisdom figures lead her to highlight the ‘life-creating’ qualities of the feminine. She names the world anew with images that often break down traditional barriers between conventional religious language and the everyday experiences of women. she also makes available to theology the resources of the contemporary literary world and her own poetic skill. as in Rossetti’s Prayer 141. is surrounded by the swirling debris of human mortality. Christ’s ‘Counsel’ (Prayer 58). which ‘standeth for ever’. spared the usual classical and religious indoctrination often imposed on theologians. which links Christ to thieves: a social outcast. but through the multifaceted figure of Christ makes them live again in the popular imagination. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 55 experience in Christian theology. however. she uses her understanding of language and of poetry. For this work of renewal. she is constrained (but also empowered) by the traditional Christian paradigm and has to work within it.Later Poetry. The physical reality of a seed. which risks being swept away with a broom on the Day of Judgement. so much the better. If the broom is taken from Isaiah 14:23. answering the widespread need for an accessible theology. descended from ‘fallen women’. expanding. A little of the strangeness of the Bible is restored. true reason. She does not attack the central symbols of Christianity.

and by her own avowed obedience to the Church. This description in the introduction is from Burrows himself. whilst helpful in a general way. Pusey especially was horrified by the liberal attitude to Bible-reading and blamed it for the widespread religious doubt of his time: ‘If they become bewildered’. has perpetuated the impression that the prayers are subjective.56 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Her distance from the Tractarians here needs to be stressed. Nowhere does Rossetti describe her prayers as ‘a result of meditation and as an example of the way in which that exercise should issue in worship’. sentimental and ultimately harmless. Burrows’ warning of the limitation of the prayers as being always ‘addressed to the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity’ also misses Rossetti’s quiet but firm re-instatement of Christ’s centrality in our understanding of the word of God. which would not normally have been considered to participate in anything unorthodox. Burrows’ qualified approval of the volume has dominated critical appreciation of its content to the present day. proceeds to renew and revitalise the scriptures.37 or inward and outward imaginative flow. But whilst such authorisation allowed her a certain amount of freedom to write on religious matters. – they who inculcate the use of ‘Private judgement’ or they who would restrain it? They who enjoin obedience to the Church which has the succession from the Apostles. She bypasses clerical authority in her introductory quotation from Job 9:15. he argued in a letter of defence to the Archbishop of Canterbury. unrecognised by theological ‘authority’ but beloved and understood by a vast number of Victorian readers. in Annus Domini manifest in Burrows’ foreword. and her own claim through Christ to interpret the word as woman and as wordsmith. His observation. ‘who should bear the blame. but in his comment he manages to convey the sense that her volume is simply derivative and of no consequence. . or they who set the individual’s judgement as to Holy Scripture above the authority of the Church?’35 Rossetti was to a certain extent shielded from such criticism36 by the tradition of women’s devotional tracts. it also limited the possibilities of their interpretation which she could put forward. ‘I would make supplication to my Judge’. and although nominally disclaiming originality. Few indeed are the critical descriptions of the work which do not contain the words ‘meditation’.

Job 28:20–1 Rossetti’s next work of devotional prose. although not published until 1881 was written before 1876. the divine creative principle which draws all to God. teaching and. Rossetti takes biblical characters for development. reversing the process of suffering and death through identification with the life-giving power of Christ. the fulfilment of wisdom. ultimately. with St. itself given meaning by the event of Christ. Called to Be Saints. choosing ‘the nineteen saints commemorated by name in our Book of Common Prayer. p. illustrated and described in botanical detail. and in it we can see Rossetti continue to construct her own theological models.3 Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living. This not only serves as an emblem or 57 . with All Saints’ (from the section entitled ‘The Key to my Book’. There is much similarity in their underlying theological understanding. loving. which flow in and out through the margins of the text as a mirror to her discourse. This parable of human endeavour and triumph is interpreted and held together by a close relationship with the rest of physical creation. Rossetti paints a portrait of Christ’s friends as social beings: living. Each saint is linked to a semi-precious stone and a wild flower. With due regard for the inspired text and its sacred associations. following close on the heels of Annus Domini. xiii). As a development of the naming activity of the earlier volume. Michael and his cloud of All Angels. with the Holy Innocents neither named nor numbered.

cannot be to thee an object of approbation or the contrary.5 Rossetti . in the city she uttereth her words’. and inquiring its origin. or similitude’. and understand that whatever reaches thee by the bodily senses. But where Keble and Williams cautiously approach nature’s abundance. she crieth in the chief place of concourse. central to Keble’s sacramental universe. is St.3 He quotes Proverbs. So that whatsoever delights thee in the body. except thou hast within thee certain laws of beauty to which thou mayest refer whatever seems outwardly fair to thee. ‘she will show herself to them cheerfully in the way.58 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology analogy. Rossetti has come far from the barrenness of a religion of negation and denial. which ever way thou turnest thyself. hinting at powers and virtues half-understood and now forgotten.2 For Isaac Williams also.1 and this is true not only of the beautiful binding and illustrations. in the openings of the gates. touching and teaching us. but also of its vision of divine wisdom at the heart of a universe rich in analogy and symbol.e. In Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti. Wisdom is at the centre of much of the Tractarian enterprise. recalls thee by the very forms of those external things. ‘hidden wisdom’ shines forth from parable. she uttereth her voice in the streets. Kent and Stanwood describe the volume as ‘a particularly splendid example’ of Tractarian publishing. and allures thee by the bodily senses. thou mayest perceive to be according to certain numbers. analogy and from ‘dark and difficult sayings. and meet them with every kind of Providence:’ i. mayest return into thyself. Augustine’s explanation of wisdom’s appeal to the soul through the senses: Consider whether this be not what is written concerning wisdom. for example. hurrying on to Keble’s ‘Poetical. who was ‘Wisdom itself’. and when thou slippest back to external things. she speaks to thee by certain traces which she hath impressed upon her works. but becomes a miniature world parallel to our own. conveying instruction by a kind of metaphor. rejecting the sterility which she identifies with ‘vanity of vanities’ she has embraced the virtues of life-giving wisdom. ‘Wisdom crieth without.4 and is careful to make explicit the link between wisdom and the life-force presented in Christ. Moral and Mystical phases or aspects of this visible world … considered the one great and effectual safeguard against such idolising of the material world’.

1). the power to make all things green again. (7:17–22). as Rossetti quotes in her preface. and prophets’ (7:27). even the wisdom that hath been hidden. ‘our sons may grow up as the young plants: and … our daughters may be as the polished corners of the temple’ (Psalm 144:12). and prefaced her book with 1 Cor. 1 Corinthians is steeped in the tradition of personified wisdom.6 It is no accident that Rossetti chose her title from 1 Corinthians. for since she knows she can therefore teach skills and crafts. they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor. Hers too the power to enlighten. (1 Cor. and the knowledge of the structure of the world and the activity of its elements: the cycles of the seasons and the stars.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 59 delights in the vision of cosmic order. her understanding of wisdom closer to that of the twentieth-century appreciation of the creative power of Wisdom/Sophia: The power to arrange the universe harmoniously is hers: ‘she reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other. 2:7–8) Wisdom is the life-force which sweeps away the ‘vanity of vanities’ of humanity without God. when. 3:9: ‘ye are God’s husbandry’. it is the ‘new song’ of God’s kingdom. and she orders all things well’ (8. 1:22) We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery. the varieties of animals. We have seen in Chapters 1 and 2 Rossetti’s rejection of the mortification of the flesh as a way to holiness and her move away from a strict application of the doctrine of atonement. this renewing energy profoundly affects human beings in their relation to divine mystery. with Paul’s testament to the relationship between the wisdom of the Old Testament and Christ: We preach Christ crucified … the power of God and the wisdom of God. renewing and revitalising. which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it. Recreative agency. Another significant reaction . weaving them round with a web of kinship: ‘in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God.

presumably concerning the world of everyday comings and goings. theological understanding becomes the privilege of the learned few. beyond what he that beholdeth Him can receive’. therefore. However. the learned who desire the true wisdom of Christ should keep aloof from these things. the deeper treasures of divine Wisdom. she rejects the way Williams twists the figure of wisdom around to demonstrate the exclusivity of spiritual understanding. Bishop Butler has remarked. is her new formulation of the role of wisdom in our understanding of the scriptures. of Christianity having become publically acceptable to the world.9 Williams’ use of ‘the school of Christ’ betrays the fact that he is thinking in terms of priestly exclusivity. that it may be questioned. contrary to our Lord’s . through a strange twist of logic. or to that wisdom. whereby ‘The Word … hath different forms. it would speak of this temporal wisdom. in his reasoning wisdom becomes a means of repressing the natural vitality of its own creation. but to the heavenly-minded it would open the higher meaning. She accepts the principle of inspiration which Williams derives from Origen. as Christ’s was humiliated on the cross. To him.10 Furthermore. and being manifested unto no one.7 and we shall see in The Face of the Deep how she makes use of it in her own exegesis. If the unlearned have only temporal wisdom at their disposal. as by the veil. whether it was most intended as applicable to prudence in our temporal affairs. who was a beginner.8 For the Tractarians. the higher sense would be to him a secret. which is purely religious and heavenly. where ‘the want of comprehension [is] indeed a fault in the moral understanding of the hearer’.60 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology against the application of Tractarian doctrine. and later in the tract we see his impatience at the ‘indiscriminate distribution of Bibles and religious publications’. So physical abuse and suffering become ends in themselves. so much so that they should humiliate their bodies. and the prerequisite of holiness: The apparent paradox which we witness. concealed under the other. ultimately bound to both the former. or who had not yet entered into the school of Christ. and her consequent refusal to accept the doctrine of reserve in the form outlined by Williams. the male priesthood: For of this whole description in the Book of Proverbs. appearing unto each beholder in the way beneficial to him.

(The Key to My Book. God and human perception ‘serve almost as a . 1:13: If one say. but allows entry to alternative ways of validating scriptural material. Yes: so long as with David our musings are on God’s work. and all alike without basis. I frankly answer. defending her emphasis on the saints by echoing the words of the apostle in 1 Cor. in case she has gone too far: ‘And whereinsoever I err I ask pardon of mine own Master to Whom I stand or fall. and in Called to Be Saints claims authority of authorship ultimately from St. and that if I have fancied this another may fancy that. she is searching out the cracks and flaws in contemporary theology and using them to establish her own freedom of interpretation: But if one object that many of my suggestions are exploded superstitions or mere freaks of fancy without basis of truth. (xiv) In much the same way as she makes use of the work of the Tractarians. acknowledging no judge but God and her reader. By claiming authority in this way she is able not only to make her lack of theological sophistication irrelevant. till the whole posse of idle thinkers puts forth each his fresh fancy. building on the foundations of ‘the wise master builder’ who himself built on the solid foundation of Christ. ‘Was Paul crucified for you?’ I answer that I desire to follow St. Harrison claims that her vision of nature. can only be accounted for by its having been put forward without its distinguishing characteristic. Rossetti also uses Ruskin.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 61 express declarations. In effect.11 Although constantly haunted by the possibility of error. xiv) She claims authority as a follower of Paul. Paul himself. Rossetti rejects outright the notion of scriptural commentary as a priestly preserve. As in Annus Domini she circumvents ecclesiastical authority through justification by faith (favoured by the Tractarians themselves). A.H. Paul not otherwise than as he bade us thus follow Christ. p. the humiliation of the natural man … There is no giving glory to God without this humiliation of the creature. particularly her male reader. and of my brother lest I offend him’.

12 Some aspects of Ruskin’s theory must have held a certain attraction for her as a co-inheritor of developments at Oxford in the 1830s. but from the back a swarming. women were similarly imaged as temples built over sewers. In Thealogy and Embodiment Melissa Raphael traces a connection between fear of natural change and fear of women’s bodies as representative of chaos and destruction: The patriarchal fear that women are too ‘naturally’ chaotic to be contained even by their subordination to men. Like the excessive self-loathing of Pusey. and linked to the ebb and flow of the natural world. In a way similar to the excesses of Dante Gabriel’s later paintings. decay and death. In ascetic patriarchal religions the beauty of female flesh is a hallucination.62 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology summary of the central tenet of Ruskin’s moral and sacramental theory of art in Modern Painters. In the patristic period. In fact. and ‘unable to assimilate the world of process.13 It is true that both are striving to ‘reinstate a lost synthesis’14 between humanity and the natural world. and that their organic materiality will ‘go off’ regardless of religious law. Ruskin’s horror seems ultimately to be fear of the human body. crawling mass of reptilian. Ruskin’s art cannot face the realities of the actual physical world. His vision is unable to embrace the cyclical processes of degeneration and rebirth. a vaginal trap which opens onto the pit of death. his innocence can conceive natural change only as a child’s nightmare’. In this earlier poem the apparent confidence of her . Ruskin is forced to reject change where Rossetti can encompass it. despite the theological origin of his aesthetic principles.15 In this context one can better understand the young Rossetti’s anger and frustration. was graphically illustrated in medieval Christendom when nature was represented by the duplicitous Frau Welt: a beautifully dressed woman from the front. there is an underlying decadence in his work which Rossetti would never have accepted. in his own words ‘those obscene processes and prurient apparitions’ connected with ‘digestive and reproductive operations’. its processes of reproduction. but Rossetti is using the language of contemporary aesthetics without necessarily agreeing with Ruskin. and they both share a reverence for the beauty of nature which appeals ‘to our moral nature in its purity and perfection’. Guided by the pleasure principle. and the dreadful ambiguity of her early poems such as ‘The World’. maggoty uncleanness … . for example.

is also seen as continuous with the life-force of Christ. Rossetti stresses the similarity between mother and son: ‘Who infinitely excelling her. And slept and woke there night and morn. the mother of Christ. the root which ‘shoot[s] up into every virtue’ (Key. as it were.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 63 ironic portrayal of man’s fear of the ‘strange woman’ is haunted by a lifetime of patriarchal indoctrination. but here her physical perfection. Through acceptance of her identity as a woman and her claim to ‘the positive moral value of female bodiliness’16 so vividly portrayed in poems such as ‘A Christmas Carol’. gather simples and try out their lessons: I will adorn the shrines of Christ’s friends with flowers. xvi) Although the chronological order of her volume is determined by the order of saints’ days in the ecclesiastical year (a necessary precaution to make her volume an acceptable Tractarian publication). a vital force already present at the Annunciation. (p. the Tree of Life burgeoned towards bringing us forth food and medicine’ (p. But the Rossetti of Called to Be Saints has broken away from the deadly Tractarian inheritance of physical mortification and fear of the body. . yet in her showed forth a measure of His own likeness’. she is able instead to contemplate growth and change. p. xv): I will. at the theological and chronological centre of Called to Be Saints lies the coming of Christ. Mary. who bore the Rose She bore the rose and felt its thorn. All loveliness new-born Took on her bosom its repose. and her ‘love of connectedness’ with the physical universe is celebrated in Called to Be Saints by the tapestry of nature she weaves through the lives of the saints. following Christ. We saw her bodily perfection and the life-giving potential of the female body in such poems as ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1871). is therefore placed at the forefront of the theological action. (p. ‘the consummated splendour of created loveliness’. 180) and makes explicit the connection between Mary’s womanhood and Christ: Herself a rose. when ‘the dormant Sap stirred in the Root of Jesse. 174). 137). and plant a garden round their hallowed graves. (p. she rejects any suggestion of ‘the humiliation of the creature’.

seems a miniature world held in the hollow of a hand. Sister. Rossetti is working to establish the importance of . sweeter. Christ’s mirror she of grace and love. Of beauty and of life and death: By hope and love and faith Transfigured to His likeness. this. Jesus saith. far Than she or others are: The Sun of Righteousness her Son. with proportioned pace He led her steps through good and ill. 102) Rossetti’s vision. whiter. Mother’.64 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Lily herself. again brings her close to the great female mystics of the medieval period in their appreciation of the importance of the female body in the doctrine of incarnation. she the rill: Her goodness to fulfil And gladness. He was the Fountain. The former in a vision sees humanity in the centre of the world. Sister. The violet is given as Mary’s companion flower and its properties further illustrate her life-giving role as mother. ‘Dove. In her womanly perfection Mary carries the life-giving. lying in the palm of my hand’. the source of life: The petals having dropped away. surrounded by the fingers of a five-pointed calyx. nurturing properties of wisdom fulfilled in Christ. She gracious. which links physical motherhood and God’s care for the world. which itself lies safe within the womb of God17 and the latter describes how in a vision she sees the world ‘no bigger than a hazelnut. (p. She was His morning star. the seed-vessel matures. Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich both have a cosmic vision of the fragile world held in the palm of God’s hand.18 Like these two mystics. Spouse. Spouse. He essential Grace. and the involvement and proximity of the female body to Christ. and exhibits the figure of a somewhat irregularly-modelled globe. and he names her likeness: ‘Dove. Mother’. she bore the one Fair Lily.

who gives life to Christ. She uses local wild flowers and herbs. leads her to Mary. whose seed will bruise the serpent’s head. ‘the sure utterance of inspiration being supplemented by the uncertain voice of tradition’ (p. Despite the importance she accords Mary. Thomas she adds a twin sister. Rossetti is careful not to allow her to usurp the role of Christ: ‘She is Christ’s gate through which He once came to seek and save us’. lest ‘the consummated splendour of created loveliness … blind us to the peerless loveliness of the creator’ (p. who in their turn become extensions of His revitalising power. ‘the Wisdom of God’ (p. Rossetti builds up a sense of the character of each saint. ‘by combining the doctrine of creation with the doctrine of incarnation’. But Christ. we discern her. 25). Then were the wilderness and the solitary place glad for Him. rather than those of Palestine: I even think that a flower familiar to the eye and dear to the heart may often succeed in conveying a more pointed lesson than could be understood from another more remote if more eloquent. 136).19 Rossetti’s revaluation of the role of Eve. inspired by Christ’s power to bring life: By him … did our Lord go forth as fire into fields of barren snow which yet are portions of God’s own harvest-field of the whole earth. (p. ‘mother of all living’. and the relationship with Christ that has inspired each one to carry on His work. Andrew. in fact any conjecture or suggestion that adds to the imaginative appeal of the text and helps bring the saint before our eyes. is ours as inspiration and friend. the seed. the first saint in her volume. whom the saint . We see St. but dimly as withdrawn within the secret places of the stairs’. 4) As she works through each section. She takes her study of each saint initially from scripture in a section headed ‘The Sacred Text’ and then broadens her discussion to include legend. touching the lives of the apostles and martyrs and their communities. Mary has been withdrawn from us: ‘we catch sight of her. she tells us. (p. then did the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose. Lysia. tradition. ‘but Christ is our open door’.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 65 women in Christian theology. 363). Her perfection is not ours to view. xviii) Curious and vivid details handed down through popular legend engage the imagination of her reader. but hidden as in the clefts of the rock. For example to St.

20 .66 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology forsook ‘for the love of Christ’ (p. and an emotional dimension added to wellknown scriptural incidents. shows a very human hesitation as he weighs up the five loaves and two fishes against a multitude of five thousand: ‘but what are they among so many?’ (p. and with their community. ‘swallowed up in a golden glory of bloom which blazes back full against the full blazing sun’ (p. St. 22) and his section ends with a quotation from 1 Corinthians 15:38: ‘God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him. the ‘mother of thousands of millions’. ‘laboured more abundantly than they all’ (p. and to every seed his own body’ (p. 113). in her search for a feminist spirituality: Our intelligence does not set us apart from nature. but by locating the quotation in a section on a flower. The direction in which her thought is moving is compatible with the more recent understanding of our interdependence with the forces of nature. can communicate their wisdom to us if we are willing to listen. 22). He is flanked by gorse. rivers and mountains. Peter. she is moving closer to a position like that of Carol Christ in Rebirth of the Goddess. Andrew. but rather is an expression of the intelligence that exists within nature. being the youngest of the apostles. from a close relationship with his parents. where in late summer the leaves and thorns are overtaken by the flower. Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 15 concerns the fate of the human body after death. St. the ‘large-hearted’. 129). she is expanding St. ‘is said never again unmoved to have heard the cock crow: and we are told that his cheeks became furrowed by tears’ (p. for example. 27). Physical suffering is often described in detail. St. This last quotation from scripture is indicative of the direction her theology is taking. St. but is seen as an equal shoot of God’s planting. From simply ‘reading the book of nature’ in the manner of the Tractarians. (p. Paul. Paul’s parable. He is given a daisy as companion plant. St. cheered and solaced in his imprisonment by a loving community of the Early Church. Rossetti also tries to flesh out their specific relationship with Christ. The natural world is no longer the unequal participant of St. Paul’s difficult discourse on the resurrection of the body to encompass an even more inclusive participation of plant and seed in the event of Christ’s redemption of the world. becomes especially beloved of Christ. joining late. As each saint is made special either from biblical account or from folk-lore in her volume. 319). 5). Stones and trees. John.

and here she extends this concern in order to re-image scripture itself. as Christ is intimately involved in His creation.21 Rossetti has rejected the old dualist principle which haunted Pusey. The use of the imagination in the practice of scriptural interpretation is certainly not new. Pusey. is corrupt and corrupting. Soul and body are intimately connected. take attention away from the figure of Jesus or minimise the historical importance of His earthly mission. Another implication of such a vision of Christ is that any division between soul and body falls away. Attracted by the idea of a community of saints. Jesus walks . We have seen her use the imagination in the process of re-imaging established religious symbols. one senses. In fact.22 By emphasising detail in the description of Christ’s friends. to re-order and re-interpret through the freedom brought about by the transforming properties of the imaginative process. physical bodies: ‘the saints … in themselves rather lead away from Him. where the body. as not representing the essentially female life-forces which she ascribes to the Goddess. A note is appropriate here on Rossetti’s use of the imagination to immerse the reader in ‘living’ scriptural communities.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 67 Carol Christ’s vision has made necessary her rejection of Christianity as limited and patriarchal. he shies away from it and from any kind of imaginative involvement with scriptural heroes as once living. the exact opposite is true because once the incarnation is seen in terms of the advent of the physical force of life-giving wisdom into the world. breathing. His earthly life and the life of His followers become our own access to wisdom’s fulfilment. but in modern feminist theology it has become a means through which scripture can be transformed. This is not to undervalue the incarnation. does not have to reject the figure of Christ as male because the cosmic significance of His coming far outweighs the transcribed physical manifestation of Jesus of Nazareth. by resting in the creature’. and even ‘inventing’ it through the use of folk-wisdom where no details are found in scripture. liberated from patriarchal appropriation: When the imagination wanders freely into a scene … constraints fall away. tied to ‘the world’. longed for a unity which he was unable to allow himself. Rossetti. on the other hand. Called to Be Saints demands active imaginative response to once living people. In their place come an intimacy and immediacy which visit and heal our most distorted images and understandings.

and not a sheep.24 In her poem ‘Good Friday’ she uses empathy to bring her reader face to face with the bare and awful reality of Christ’s crucifixion: Am I a stone. Lastly. where the transcendent world is seen as continuous with the presence of God within the physical universe. comes into our home. Seek and Find. . we choose to follow the Lord and walk the way of Calvary. Shaw traces this ‘astonishing empathy’ to ‘a combination of Dallas’ Christian existentialism and ‘a staid. is our brother. their link with nature is not broken: We bloom among the blooming flowers. And yet not weep? Such is the horror of the scene that the speaker is unable to take it in: ‘numbed and dazed. or of the natural world without the intervention of Christ himself. That I can stand. In her section on the Holy Innocents.23 This dramatic involvement has been noted in Rossetti’s devotional poetry. beneath Thy cross. We sing among the singing birds. The gospels are peopled with our own friends and enemies. The response of the murdered infants is to reassure their mothers that despite the violence done to their bodies. as if entranced. Rossetti calls attention to grieving motherhood.D. and perhaps most importantly for the understanding of the theology of Rossetti’s next volume. more conservative Tractarian doctrine of Reserve’. our friend. To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss. our lover.68 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology in our landscape. she counts “drop by drop” the blood that oozes from the cross’. This intimate participation in the material world of the scriptures becomes characteristic of all of her later volumes. to Rachel weeping for her dead children and refusing to be comforted. with the location of Christ as vital centre of the cosmos comes a strong affirmation of immanence. We stand at the foot of the cross and wait in the garden for resurrection. O Christ. and W. The speaker is unable to join in the grief of those around her.

say. Seek and Find: A Double Series of Short Studies of the Benedicite (1879). she looks forward to the spirituality of ecofeminism. that is ever renewing life in new creative forms out of the very processes of death’. but her dealings with nature are very different from those of. And closer than our Mother’s arm. is at times so subtle that it could almost pass unnoticed. essential holiness of all creation which Rossetti claims here is the key to understanding her next volume. on the other hand. to live again in a heaven of natural beauty.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 69 Wisdom we have who wanted words: Here morning knows not evening hours. ‘knowing ourselves as an integral part of a Great Matrix of Being. whose influence she acknowledges in her preface to Seek and Find. The independent. liberates the natural world from a position of servility and commodity for the use of mankind (that is not to say that they do not ever serve humanity) to full participation in a cosmic order springing to life in Christ the fulfilment of wisdom. In one sense. 109) To die is to return to oneness with the natural world. 110) The shift of emphasis in Rossetti’s dealings with nature away from the Tractarian idea of a symbolic world which is there for us to ‘read’.26 Rossetti. All’s rainbow here without the showers. He tells his reader that ‘it is the very purpose of objects in visible Nature to suggest to us the invisible as we contemplate them’. Isaac Williams. Is there the Love that keeps us warm And broods above our happy nest. . (p. Although she never rejects the Tractarian assertion that we can learn from creation by analogy and symbol. 23:37: And softer than our Mother’s breast. (p. she accords each aspect of the physical world its own independent function in relation to God.25 The poem ends with a scriptural reference to the maternal God of Matt. but more importantly. Rossetti is giving a feminist theological answer to the Romantic quest for immortality.

F.R. (as ‘Treasure Trove’28) although it was published later in the year. as I know neither Hebrew nor Greek. derivative and faintly domestic. Any textual elucidations. the methods and models of her theological ‘masters’. Isaac Williams. They were in fact looking for ‘accredited writers’ and ‘celebrated Novel-Writers’ by the end of that year (Anthony Trollope was a particular prize). She could not afford to be inventive. ends the note with a subtle but pointed attack on scholarship itself: ‘valuable alternative readings’ are ‘simply based’ on unremarkable translations and ‘ordinary’ Bibles. many valuable alternative readings being found in the Margin of an ordinary Reference Bible. Littledale was active in the Tract Committee of the SPCK and no doubt encouraged her to present her manuscript to the SPCK General Literature Committee. when I have consulted a Harmony it has been that of the late Rev. She has established the volume’s Tractarian credentials. almost ruthlessly.70 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Seek and Find Compared to the previous volume.27 but Rossetti it seems did not fall into this category as her work was initially declined.G. guarded almost. C. ‘A Harmony on First Corinthians XIII’.29 in the journal New and Old. and the confident defence of her interpretation we saw in Called to Be Saints is replaced by a terse Prefatory Note: In writing the following pages. are simply based upon some translation. no poetry. and her recognition that if she wanted her devotional work published she would have to fit into an acceptable category for women religious writers: non-threatening. R. So she used. and declared her lack of scholarship but. apparently lacking spontaneity and variety. To a certain extent the bleakness and formal austerity of the text can be explained by Macmillan’s rejection of her previous volume. Her old friend Rev. She had recently published a short work. in a way which becomes typical of the volume. which she explained in the preface to have been a recommended Lenten exercise (possibly by Littledale himself) and Seek and Find . There are no illustrations. Seek and Find is much more tightly constructed and formulaic. which she did in March 1879.

earth bring forth grass … O ye Wells. Make the men sit down. and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1. God’s Creatures God saw everything that He had made. and. Jesus therefore. birds or wells. which include (together with the larger bodies like sun and moon) the more humble aspects of nature: rain.30 the apocryphal ‘Song of the Three Children’ which exhorts all spheres of divine and natural creatures to praise God. being wearied with His journey sat thus on the well (St. behold it was very good (Gen. So the men sat down. 1:31) Christ’s Servants The Word was God. in number about five thousand (St.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 71 repeats the same formula in its introductory harmony: The Praise-Givers are O all ye works of the Lord. wells and all green things. Now there was much grass in the place. John 4:6) Jacob’s well was there. humanity taking its place amongst the praisegivers. The harmony she constructs takes account of the equality between all creatures manifest in the Benedicite. Rossetti is still able to scan the whole of creation. in Seek and Find. . bless ye the Lord: Praise Him and magnify Him for ever. through her use of the Benedicite. Let the upon the Earth etc. and in a similar way to her use of plants and stones in Called to Be Saints. etc. and although it does not deny a natural order. 3) Nevertheless. foregrounds unexpected aspects of the scriptural text such as grass. This close focus disorients and forces the reader to re-image the scene: The Praise-Givers are God’s Creatures Christ’s Servants Jesus said. John 4:6) O all ye Green Things God said. All things were made by Him. … I will make the wilderness a pool of water. dew.

the second tells of its creation and the third paints a picture of Jesus involved in physical transaction with it. as a woman writer of devotional prose. In the first example here the reader is forced to take account of the contact the bodies of the listeners have with the texture of the grass. The reason for such subterfuge would be her violation of the ban on a woman’s practice of theology. her deprecation of her own scholarship. reads a little like a Sunday School lesson – What do we know about angels? What lessons can we learn from them? Westerholme suggests that two levels of meaning emerge.72 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology The first column (a verse from the Benedicite) names the creature. which would include the literal reading of her disclaimers.32 Her section on angels. for example. and anything that looked unorthodox would not have been published at all. everyday things was of great importance to her readership. in its self-conscious adherence to Keble. saying ‘what she had to say in order to be read’. ‘the Poetical. as Joel Westerholme puts it. and finally the ‘authentic records’ which are ‘Holy Scripture and the consent of ecclesiastical writers’. and so a bond of physical affinity is established between the consciousness of the reader and the events of the Bible. carrying out the recommendations of male theologians and spelling out moral lessons in the way she has been taught. Rossetti is doing what is expected of her. the symbolic or analogical. her proclaimed horror of originality. although they might seem alien to the modern reader who is suspicious of what one might call Victorian sentimentality. The two series of commentaries which follow show Rossetti roughly following the formula of Keble’s Tract 89. Moral and Mystical’31 aspects of nature. which he explains as the imaginative (through speculation or personal association). or in the second.35 But Rossetti’s simple observations and accounts of the natural world are not just an overlay of pious words designed to disguise her true message. Rossetti’s devotional writing was soon so much in demand that the SPCK had published . the one a ‘printed equivalent of teaching catechism’. Furthermore. and addressed the current thirst for accessible religious texts after the controversies of the 1850s and 1860s. Jesus sitting down and perhaps running his hands over the rough wall of the well. the first of the praise-givers.33 and the other a partially hidden engagement ‘in serious and scholarly biblical interpretation’. some of Rossetti’s theology would have earned her the same treatment (or worse) as that of the unfortunate Jowett34 had it been stated directly. The focus on simple.36 in fact.

the everyday. but she also ‘cries aloud in the street’ (Prov. She reveals the divine presence in the ordinary. Rossetti seems to be making excessive use of the ‘building blocks’ of Tractarian theology. a concept which would have been alien to the Tractarians.38 a theology which is never overtly threatening to the status quo because it is constantly understated (in Rossetti’s protestations of inferiority or challenges which are quickly withdrawn) and frequently ‘canonised’ by references to ecclesiastical authority. 1:20). wisdom does convey instruction through the scriptures. or for tracing reflections of already held doctrinal beliefs. feel. In doing so. the simple ‘What are the characteristics of angels?’ (p. or the seemingly derivative nature of its theology. and becoming oversentimental in her observation of nature. see God everywhere. and no reservation of understanding for the select few. For Rossetti.37 Rossetti takes Keble’s vision of nature as sacrament to its logical conclusion: all that surrounds us is holy. her Harmony is derived from Williams. not only in specific sacred objects or rituals. As we saw. in those things closest to us. she combines the sacramental view of the natural world with an understanding of wisdom’s role in revelation. in the sort of questions a child would ask as she looks with wonder at the world.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 73 the rejected Called to Be Saints by 1881. which touch and surround us every day. the insignificant. but where the Tractarians would recommend the study of nature simply for relief. using Tractarian . Rather than looking at two levels of meaning as Westerholme does. We should be wary of dismissing her work because of its apparent excess of Victorian piety. We may touch. Rossetti is forming her theology from our everyday experience as physical beings. which implies the devaluation of Rossetti’s surface narrative. for the outpouring of intense feeling. through a process of reversal. 29). An ‘alternative theology’ emerges from the study of an alternative text. So we see Rossetti. it is necessary to see the accumulation of physical details. but the defamiliarising effect of close focus and physical familiarity is her own. in order to create theological meaning: ‘Today is the day of small things (see Zech. 17) or ‘let us for a moment dwell on the firmament’ (p. in fact. no more or no less than those objects which patriarchal theology has set aside as holy. she speaks from everywhere that daily life takes place. 4:10)’ (p. There can be no distinction between temporal wisdom and divine wisdom. 23) as part of the overall theological discourse: the embracing of the small things in nature.

and wisdom becomes both a freely available key to God’s presence in the physical world. who ‘rereads. to the Hebrew vision of creation dancing with joy in praise to its creator. recognising and retrieving from the work of the Tractarians the creative power and authority of wisdom. and its relevance to developments in ecofeminism may be seen from a comparison with Ruether’s revaluation of Hebrew thought: The modern stress … on biblical theology as desacralising nature has ignored the remarkable sense of nature as animate typical of Hebrew thought. to add to her re-imaging of Christ. in his doctrine of reserve where revelation is reserved for the elect) is reversed. do not have to be rejected outright. 34). although she may exploit current religious terminology. The freshness of her approach. Seek and Find is thus able to open a new discourse of God the creator. The feminist theologian can still access them by a process of unravelling and re-weaving to regain a truer picture.74 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology terminology and method in the wisdom-discourse which informs much of her discussion. a similar revaluation of God the creator. This process of retrieval is important in the development of feminist theology because it means that patriarchal texts. rewrites and reverses the androcentric concept of the sacred. So. and the source of her own inspiration and authority as a woman interpreting the scriptures. here we see.40 As we have seen. not animate in the sense of filled with gods. but animate with personalised energy as creatures of a God who interacts with . including the scriptures as presently constructed. we see her working from within to transform what she sees. the exclusivity of divine wisdom claimed by Williams (for example. deciphering and digesting them – precisely because the patriarchal defamation of female sacrality is the clue to its feminist power’. She goes back to the Old Testament. She expends energy on patriarchal texts – catching (them out). ‘the giver.39 It is not Rossetti’s aim only to establish women’s right to preach the gospel. through the process of retrieval. even in her early work she has problems with the gender bias of Christianity itself and in the way it is practised. a process Raphael sees exemplified in the work of Mary Daly. In the first half of this chapter we saw her revaluation of Christ as the fulfilment of wisdom. and to replace the angry Father-God of early poems like ‘Symbols’. cheerer of life’ (p. cherisher.

Behold the fear of the Lord. James (i. that is wisdom. Paul might have been exalted above measure through abundance of revelation (2 Cor.5) prescribes for us a remedy: ‘If any of you lack wisdom. according to their ability to receive it. NRSV)41 The first series: Creation Although the work has no introduction. Job 28:20–8 The writer of the Book of Job refuses to accept Job’s suffering as a punishment for sin and seeks an explanation. Her wisdom-text this time is Job. Rossetti’s first commentary. and He knoweth the place thereof. and upbraideth not. is freely available to all who ask and enables the wise to discern God in His creation. watering its furrows abundantly. but the God of the whirlwind allows for no explanation of His judgements. To this inaccessibility Rossetti responds with the wisdom of the New Testament. the meadows deck themselves with grain. the meadows clothe themselves with flocks. God understandeth the way thereof.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 75 them in mutual rejoicing. using the revelation wisdom accords to claim authority for her own work as commentator on the scriptures: ‘If even St. as so often in her writing. 13) Wisdom. lays down the theological framework for the volume. and it shall be given him’. let us thank . (p. Rossetti goes further. 12:7). let him ask of God. and to depart from evil is under-standing. St. In Psalm 65 God visits the earth in rain showers. available to all through Christ: If at the very outset we lack wisdom. 12–13. Creation: Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living. we learn. albeit only partially. And unto man He said. introduced at the beginning of the first of her two series. that giveth to all men liberally. they shout and sing together for joy (vv. and the hills gird themselves with joy.

Life essential of imparted life. The ‘master student’. or plants. Rossetti’s use of the words ‘frailty’ and ‘ignorance’ disarm the judgemental reader and divert attention from the claim Rossetti is making. 112). even those that appear destructive or stand at the limit of scientific discovery. 8) ‘for not that which cometh from without defileth a man. Wisdom is free to all (we only have to ask). as in the Parable of the Talents. where ‘Beauty essential is the archetype of imparted beauty.76 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology God that we in our present frailty know not any more than His Wisdom reveals to us’ (p. but that which proceedeth from within. (Luke 19:12–26) the worth of the action ‘depends on the fidelity of the servants. But it needs no Solomon to enter into the inexhaustible cheerfulness of “all green things”. which would have been acceptable in theological discussion. Paul. the language of Ruskin’s Typical Beauty42 to explain God’s presence in creation. ‘was King Solomon the Wise. 15) and in order to find this God-given ‘natural function’ she draws on everyday experience and scripture which. which is. to be following in the footsteps of St. as in Called to Be Saints. and consequently as regards visible creation in reference to ourselves’ (p. and Rossetti begins by exploring the meaning of ‘praise’. was ‘written … for our instruction as regards ourselves. of imparted goodness’ (p. for example. 110. and although hers is not ‘abundance of revelation’. we are told. and they shall teach thee’ ( Job 12:7. a little child can delight in a flower. How can the natural elements. an expression which we may fairly interpret as including the whole vegetable creation. 15). 96). rather than on the amount of the trust’ (p. p. and Rossetti uses her poetic skill to describe the beauties of the natural world. She borrows. 14). Humankind needs to listen and learn from the rest of creation: ‘Ask now the beasts. Central to the listening process is imaginative perception of the physical aspects of creation. Goodness essential. (See Mark 7:14–23)’ (pp. birds and finally human beings ‘praise’ the Lord? The act of praise is the fulfilment of the natural function of each (‘every obedient creature. 15). may by and for that act render praise to God’. whatever its particular act of obedience whether in judgement or in mercy. she claims. Her technique . She also uses the language of contemporary aesthetics. The Benedicite has as its central vision the whole of creation united in praise of its creator. a speechless baby can notice one’ (p. 107).

xi.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 77 is the same as we saw in the harmony at the beginning and she takes care to emphasise the link between our everyday comings and goings and the world of the scriptures: ‘Without adverting to spiritual analogies. a mere natural well has about it something religious if we make it “memoria technica” recalling to our minds many a merciful providence of olden times’ (p. she accepted woman’s right to determine the fate of a nation. and it certainly does seem that she supported the move to oppose woman’s suffrage. the authority of wisdom which Rossetti claims enables her to speak out with renewed power as a woman and through affinity with the life-giving force of Wisdom. although we do not know the circumstances surrounding the inclusion of her name. by whom she is stayed. her assumption of servility her ultimate means of control. Paul’s example and “magnify mine office” (Rom. With similar ambiguities in this volume Rossetti tackles the scriptural passages dealing with the subordination of women. sees the section as an example of ‘the woman’s movement coming in conflict with her Christian beliefs’. however. as a letter to Augusta Webster confirms. Her section on the sun and moon has been quoted as proof of her anti-suffrage stance. although apparently stating woman’s subordinate position in fact turn the balance of power round. it claims women’s superior power.43 Rossetti added her name to an anti-suffrage appeal in 1889. In principle. 30). will copy St. another to .45 The poem is so fraught with ambiguities that.46 But it is one thing to make claims for her own writing. in fact. Meek compliances veil her might. Diane D’Amico. in her discussion of the poem ‘A Helpmeet for Him’. Him she stays.44 This letter and her poem ‘A Helpmeet for Him’. rather than suggesting feminine weakness. being a woman. In her sun and moon section she begins with the observation that the world in which we live has gradations of greater and less. exceeding that of a man. revising received hierarchies of power. but for her own part as an exegete she will overturn them: ‘I. But apart from the opportunity to use her poetic gift to show the beauties of nature.13)’ (p. and claim even greater authority and power for women: Her strength with weakness is overlaid. for example. 105). with a power base.

11: 3. (p. (p. and behold. Her office is to be man’s helpmeet: and concerning Christ God saith. He was among His own ‘as he that serveth’ (I St. and she shows the continuity of woman’s exercise of comfort and nurture with the nature of God Himself: And well may she glory. lxxxix. St. which because . inasmuch as one of the tenderest of divine promises takes (so to say) the feminine form: ‘As one whom his mother comforteth.45.26) is no more than a mirror reflecting the sun’s radiance: now careful observation leads towards the hypothesis that she also may exhibit inherent luminosity. 31) She does not seem to be saying anything new. like Christ. I Tim. in fact. (p. 21. If woman’s lot because of her inferior physical strength is to serve. so will I comfort you’ (Is. comparing women’s subservience with the humble position of Christ was one way of keeping suffering women quiet.78 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology meet the scriptures head on. ii. it is because.19). the woman the glory of the man’) by comparing them to outdated scientific discoveries: It used to be popularly supposed that ‘the moon walking in brightness’ (Job xxxi. Luke xxii. 31) She disposes of unacceptable New Testament strictures like 1 Cor. lxvi. She begins by comparing the power of women to the ‘proud waves’ of Job 38:11.11. Her wealth of scriptural references threatens to overwhelm the reader but she needs the references to ‘canonise’ her text. 12. ‘I have laid help upon One that is mighty’ (Gen. Ps. Her logic is relentless. overlaying her strength with weakness in the service of humanity: He came not to be ministered unto but to minister. makes it imperative that she at least try to explain God’s imposition of such limitations on woman. St.7. 31) Yet Rossetti’s acceptance of God the beneficent creator. 22. Peter iii. Mark x. ii. But she is also claiming the power of Christ. it was very good’). 7 (‘The man is the head of the woman.13).47 at one with the elemental forces of chaos. she has assumed this position. merging the role of Christ and the role of women.27).18. and of the essential goodness of creation (‘God saw everything that He had made.

iii. we can take comfort from the fact that He has power to reverse them. 33) and once we recognise that the sun ‘is truly no more than our fellow creature in the worship and praise of our common creator’ it can then also become a symbol of God.7–14). we need to persist in our supplication to Him: One said to Jacob. and prevailed (Gen. and Israel was saved (Exod. enclosing a leaflet in a letter to Dante Gabriel in 1875: ‘I used to believe with you that chloroform was so largely used as to do away with the horror of vivisection … but a friend has so urged the subject upon me. The Lord said to Moses. 34). If at the moment it seems that His ordinances are unfair. From this position of authority Rossetti also lambasts those who would abuse the natural world. 33). We have the promise that ‘He doth not willingly afflict the children of men’ (Lam.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 79 of their power must be limited and controlled. Our limited understanding of the apparent unfairness of His laws ‘will be adequate when we come to realise them as Job (40:19) was instructed to estimate behemoth: ‘He that made him can make His sword approach unto him’ (p. for we are all one (Gal.48 . xxxii. Her anger against vivisection is well known and she actively petitioned against it. At this point Rossetti does not explain the scriptural reference directly. the sun being in truth of inconsiderable bulk when compared with many of them’ (p. but now the advent of Christ brings a new promise: ‘there is neither male nor female. but her next section. cheerer of life’ (p.28)’ (p. xxxii. ‘the giver. that I have felt compelled to do what little I could to gain help against what (I now fear) is cruelty of revolting magnitude’. cherisher. 32). 34:7). (p.24–30). ‘Let me go:’ but Jacob denied Him except He blessed him. 3:33) but ‘He will by no means clear the guilty’ (Ex. God the creator has set these limits which we can no more understand than could Job. It was not His purpose to inflict suffering on women. He can reverse all natural law. on God’s power over the universe. Nevertheless. Just as God through various miracles in the Old Testament could suspend planetary law and make the sun stand still. and those who have caused it will not go unpunished. 35) So it is merely to our limited sight ‘that the sun obliterates the stars. and has sent me so many printed documents alleging and apparently establishing the contrary. demonstrates her meaning through analogy. ‘Let me alone:’ yet Moses let Him not alone.

38. and the fish of the sea will declare to you.28–32: ‘inventors of evil things … unmerciful’).): if we honestly weigh the claims of all our sentient fellow-creatures. 115) Again. and they will teach you. … much more may not life wantonly destroyed and nerves without pity agonised enter a prevalent appeal against men who do such things or take pleasure in them? (See Rom. attempting to ‘define the limits of all they are and all they are not’. and they will tell you. not for abuse. if the Holy Land emptied of inhabitants enjoyed a compensation for those Sabbaths whereof lawlessness had deprived her. I think we shall forbear to adopt some pretty fashions in dress. and to follow up some scientific problems. (12:7–10 NRSV)49 . i. There follows an angry outburst against animal cruelty and the exploitation of animals for research or for fashion: One thing however is absolutely clear: they are entrusted to man’s sovereignty for use.80 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology In her section on ‘whales and all that move in the waters’. in dramatic contrast to the theology of universal human dominion. If land may cry out and furrows complain against a tyrannical owner ( Job xxxi. God weighed the claims of the ‘much cattle’ of Nineveh. we see a similarity with recent anger against the abuse of the natural world. (p. as well as of the human infants (Jonah iv. Rosemary Radford Ruether also uses the book of Job to accuse a theology which allows the domination of nature: The book of Job. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing. she cautions against pretending to understand completely the natural world and its creatures. Ask the plants of the earth. proclaims a message of human limits over other creatures and God’s direct relations with realms of nature with which humans have no knowledge or contact: Ask the animals and they will teach you. The birds of the air. xi. and their relation to God. 39).

himself a freeman of the sacred commonwealth. and her recognition that the abuse of nature is closely bound to the despising of the feminine. Eph.6. 146) Only from within this world and its creatures will we learn through obedience and humility to find the next: ‘All creation begins by enforcing a negative lesson: “The depth saith. . brought a curse. 7) is framed so strikingly on the model of ‘the first commandment with promise’ (Ex. allowing the world around us to speak to us and fill us with longing. xx. the root (p. We need to open ourselves to the beauties of all nature. Particularly striking here is Rossetti’s emphasis on the feminine quality of God the creator. Solomon’s attitude. then elsewhere’. and we should be inspired to follow His example: The Divine injunction. 120) When she finally comes to the place of humanity amongst the praise-givers. itself in independent relationship with the creator. like a mother bird. touching a sitting mother-bird (Deut. vi. (p. sanctifies and blesses human tenderness towards the dumb creation. xxii.12. with its dependent promise. Rossetti returns to the value we need to place on the natural world. it was the wisdom-craving Queen of Sheba. satiety followed by rejection of the world as ‘vanity of vanities’. was open to this desire: It was not the wise king. The Queen of Sheba. rather than Solomon. God’s relationship with His creation is tender and nurturing.2. 159). (p. not a blessing. it surely also authorises and invites. through Christ.1–9). who standing without and gazing as an alien upon the beloved nation became overwhelmed by the glories and felicities of their lot (Kings x. 3). It is not in me:” nevertheless in that negative is latent an affirmative: Not in me. as we have seen. that while it quickens our perception of the honour due in all cases to the parental character. The ‘elsewhere’ to which nature points is to God.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 81 Rossetti used the same lines from Job to explain the purpose of her study. Nature is not a commodity to be consumed and despised.

or in sympathy with him. between earth and heaven. xxviii. and ‘take pains to consider the heaven that now is’ (p. Mark xv. wind or windfall or budding bough. 261–2). groans. 170). 184): The heaven above His head became as brass (Deut. but each creature of time bears witness to things which concern eternity. 186) the natural world. involved in the curse of man’s guilt and sometimes directed by his will. In her second series.17). (p.82 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology The second series: Redemption Adam’s disobedience caused creation to become separated from the source of life. unstrung. He infuses it with new life as its Root (pp. has become for humanity an access point through which we can see to follow Him: Thus common things continually at hand. viii. gives us the key to much of that mystery of misery which environs us on our right hand and on our left’ (p. St.22): “Cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Gen. Rossetti begins by explaining how Christ came to rescue a world which had become barren and lifeless through turning away from God: ‘Irresponsible nature. iii. for rather than give rest to the sole of His foot she sent up a lifeless tree whereon He should hang between earth and heaven.34). all faints. is intimately bound to our life on earth. enfeebled. 204) . either ‘in judgement upon man. Jude’s (v. through Christ. and now. hid as it were her face from her Maker’ (p. and as our only way to God is through Him. dramatically illustrates His role as life-giver – physically joined to a dying creation. Christ. fails. plucked up by the roots’. and the earth under Him as iron incapable of fecundity. and cross our path under aspects at once familiar and transfigured. travails in pain together (Rom. and preach to our spirits while they serve our bodies: till not prophets alone and sons of prophets. 171) The dreadful image of Christ hanging nailed to a dead tree. twice dead. one like the awful tree of St. 177).12) prophetic epistle: ‘Without fruit. we need to concern ourselves with the world in which we live. then. all is disjointed. Now abiding ‘safe and blessed within the will of God’ (p. (p. acquire a sacred association.23. and without speech or language makes its voice heard.

we shall demean ourselves charitably. but a necessity.30–2) who flocked after the poet and ignored the prophet’ (p. but says to each one of us. Christ who ‘bought with a great price His right to re-quicken us’ (p. loving. diligent. decorously according to our station. 44) (p. we shall go in advance of those whom we require to labour with us. 327). inferences. we shall reflect honour on those from whom we derive honour. Let us imitate the practical example of that virtuous woman who ‘is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet’ (Prov. 326)). lest we be numbered amongst ‘those who. may be fascinating.Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 83 Although she is using the language of the great Tractarians. 217) charms and inspires us to copy Him in active service: Christ holds up before our mental eyes Himself in all the loveliness of His perfect Beneficence: and when He has charmed our heart through our eyes He rests not satisfied with our idle admiration or inoperative love. 41. shall make answer. From within the physical world. Rossetti formulates in practical terms the daily behaviour of a lover of wisdom: Symbols. out of the abundance of our heart our mouth will speak wisdom. standing on the left hand at the bar of judgement.50 . unless we make them to ourselves as words of the wise which are as goads (Eccles.10–31): and copying her we shall become trustworthy. (p. 223) She returns to Romans 1:20 at the close of the volume. xxv. kindness will govern our tongue.11). which itself is not limited to traditional sacred objects but surrounds us completely. but ends with a warning that seeking God in the natural world is not simply to enjoy a pastime (‘like the listeners to Ezekiel (xxxiii. and justice our enactments. xii. prudent. It is not an exercise in Romantic sentimentality. ‘Go and do thou likewise’. The exclusivity and privilege of a line of male prophets has been replaced by free access to the sacred. Taking on the role of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. she is claiming far more for the natural world than they ever did. xxxi. parables. ‘Lord when saw we Thee?’(Matt. must be barren. analogies.

269) and to be given an explanation of the theological mystery of God the Spirit. then. 3 This prophesy delivered about seven centuries before the commencement of its plenary fulfilment (St. she broaches the subject through the section on wells. 268). renewer of life. and out of all the millions of the human family making wise unto salvation one solitary sinful woman (St. in its first series explores God the Creator. 2:11. (p. referring back to the passage quoted in her harmony. This confidence pervades her next volume. and in its second continues the discourse of Christ. and no doubt mindful of the scriptural warning that ‘whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness’ (Mark 3:29). She revises the story in a gender-sensitive way. rather than as more traditionally considered. Although careful to acknowledge the gravity of a discourse ‘touching the deepest things of God’ (p. 267) Rossetti gives a passing nod to 1 Tim. but the seriousness of Rossetti’s discussion of the mystery of the Spirit suggests that she is thinking deeply on the matter.84 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Seek and Find.2. The third person of the Trinity is mentioned only briefly. On a second occasion our Lord vouchsafed to declare to a larger audience what appears to be the same Theological mystery which He had once revealed to her singly. . God is my salvation … Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. where Jesus sits on the wall of Jacob’s well and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. but then contradicts the ban on women’s testimony both by her reference to Job (see above) and through the testimony of the Samaritan woman herself. xii. John iv. In her Redemption series. giving greatest importance to the revelation of theological mystery to a woman. to the Gentiles: Wells Behold. Luke ii. an exploration of the operation of the Spirit through Old and New Testament law.5–26).11) leads our thoughts to Christ seated on Jacob’s Well. Letter and Spirit. Is. 12. her point is made with confidence: a woman was the first to be offered ‘living water’ (p.

Marsh sees Rossetti as ‘assuming the mantle of Victorian sage’. for instance. ‘the letter killeth. in St. as we can see. On this basis of symbol and analogy grew Keble’s claim of a sacramental universe. and in particular we see her working from the position of her revaluation of the material world. And addeth learning to his lips. O Israel. as we 85 . but it is a mistake to see the volume as intellectually distinct from the volumes that preceded it. or to neglect its underlying theology in favour of its social criticism. Her title Letter and Spirit refers to a debate over the interpretation of scripture. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6. Ruskin and Arnold. Rossetti’s warnings. and berating her age for its Godlessness.2 following in the footsteps of Carlyle. 8). but the spirit giveth life’. Prov. come from the new theology she has been developing in her last two volumes at least. which is as early as the history of interpretation itself.4 Letter and Spirit and Time Flies Letter and Spirit The heart of the wise instructeth his mouth. 16:23 Rossetti was by now an established writer of devotional texts1 and began her discussion with the confidence of a preacher as she stated the law: ‘Hear. in fact. The lord Our God is one Lord’ (p. expanded by Rossetti.3 The Tractarians inherited the allegorical frame of mind (through their study of Origen and the Church Fathers) which favoured the ‘spiritual’ rather than the ‘literal’ interpretation of the scriptures. In a way this is true.

the First would remain: yet to fulfil that Second is man’s only mode of making sure that he observes the First. derives from it authority and honour. nor can these two which God has joined together be put practically asunder. the Second. renewed by the life-giving Spirit of Christ. Like Called to Be Saints. love of God and love of neighbour. “We love Him. Letter and Spirit begins with a harmony. because He first loved us”’ (pp. setting up numerous possibilities for diversity whilst containing all within a central unity. source. in whom is manifest the union of flesh and spirit. Rossetti emphasised the reality of daily life. Where the Tractarians refused to negotiate the material reality of the scriptures – here I am using ‘letter’ in terms of the literal-historical sense which has developed over the last few centuries and which is popular today4 – and reacted in anger against the liberal interpretations of Jowett and the essayists. in the mediating role between God and the reality of living in the world. the first four relate directly to our relationship with God. 14–15). uniting the spiritual (our relationship with God) and the physical/social realities of life (our everyday dealings with our neighbour and our world). the spiritual centre of the law. The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament ‘appear under the similitude of a numerous offspring of the Two united and indivisible Commandments’. as she re-centres the debate in terms of the spirit of wisdom which claims every part of our life. and whilst all of them relate to human behaviour in the world. our relationship with the rest of the world is firmly bound to our love of God. made after its likeness. and the rest to our dealings with our neighbour. The vision of unity which we saw in the last two of her volumes becomes her means of healing the duality of ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’. and Rossetti uses the connection between the two Great Commandments of Mark 12:28–30 and Matthew 22 to align and cement the two spheres of Christian duty. root. Although recognising the primacy of the First Commandment. Although Rossetti moves away from close reference to Proverbs and Job in her study of the commandments. the figure of wisdom is never far away.86 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology saw in Seek and Find. to a cosmic vision of all creatures praising God. The importance of Rossetti’s harmony is that she can trace the relationship of all the commandments to the first ‘great’ commandment. in a pattern . both our own and that of biblical communities. she stresses the indissoluble union between the two: ‘the First is the head. Even could the Second be abolished. Through Christ.

the Divine Father being our foe. Other significant points emerge as Rossetti considers the Trinity in relation to the law. 12) Here we see. 11). and therefore secondary. The unity of the ‘One Lord’ is the first and most important aspect of the ‘great’ commandment and it follows that such unity is not exclusive to Christianity. her claim that it falls under the power of the ‘boundless licence of imagination’ leads her to the possibility of human error: ‘opposite errors invite us. but to shelter us from His enmity.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 87 which reflects the unity and multiplicity of the cosmos in Seek and Find: ‘within this unity is bound up the entire multitude of our duties. to view in fact even if not avowedly the Three Persons as Three Gods leads towards arraying them in opposition to each other: till we feel towards the Divine Son as if He alone was our Friend. producing in our vain imaginations a “Trinity in dis-Unity”’ (p. however insignificant. Every small detail of our daily actions. 9). but could exclusive Oneness have any fellow-feeling with such as we are? An ever-renewed multitude who stray like sheep and need a shepherd. Yet the Trinity is important as it tells us about God’s relationship towards us: But for the Ever Blessed Trinity man might seem to stand for ever aloof from the sympathy of his Maker: absolute Oneness may. the reflection of the battle Rossetti had in the early days of her theological understanding. 8). as if Christ had not only to rescue us from the righteous wrath of His Father. 8) of the Trinity is raised from this unity. but it is universally accessible to all who believe in a spiritual centre. On the other hand. is indissolubly linked to our duty to God. who from evening to morning are made an end of yet not done with. I think. out of this one supreme commandment have to be developed all the details of every one of our unnumbered obligations’ (p. Rossetti’s relief and comfort in this discovery is evident: ‘Let us thank God that this main point of knowledge we hold in common with so vast a number of our dear human brothers and sisters’ (p. Following from this is the observation that the ‘Christian verity’ (p. and her painful move . who die away like foliage and need renewal. and well will it be for us if trembling between them our magnet yet points aright … and we yet set them not practically one against another. (p. Whilst anxious not to undermine the value of the Trinity.

is always the unity of God. itself an echo of God’s multiplicity of forms: ‘For if … God is not to be called like His creature. but this apparently not the same point. suggesting that Adam caused Eve to fall through his irresponsible manipulation of language: Adam and Eve illustrate two sorts of defection (1 Tim. and loving Him ‘with heart. Eve. but that creature is like Him because expressive of His Archetypal attribute. however.5 The Trinity becomes more the promise of a God who has very special links with His creation. through the logical application of the principles of a sacramental universe. of lapses in obedience to the First Commandment to give a lengthy response to the hated 1 Timothy 2. hers partly of judgement. and consequently everything we are or do. a . must be directed towards it. mind and strength’ (p. 13). expanding endlessly the possibilities of recognising and naming God. We have seen her anger in her last volume over the treatment of unreasoning creation.88 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology away from the angry vengeful father figure. nevertheless both proved fatal. 2:14). It is in no degree at variance with the Sacred Record to picture to ourselves Eve. but in her selfdeprecating way. Eve made a mistake. and in doing so not only reversing the traditional condemnation of Eve. Rossetti thus has a theological basis for the freedom she claims in re-imaging God. soul. was created sinless: each had a specially vulnerable point. Rossetti’s re-examination of the law reinforces a theological stance which is becoming increasingly critical of her own society and of the futile theological controversies which left the average churchgoer perplexed and confused. that first and typical woman. however seemingly irrelevant or diverse. and at its centre is the difference between simply obeying the letter and having no other Gods. for example. ‘being deceived’ she was in the transgression: Adam made no mistake: his was an error of will. 15). equally with Adam. but in Letter and Spirit her anger is more specifically directed and more severe. as indulging quite innocently sundry refined tastes and aspirations. Closely bound to this diversity. it suggests itself that for every aspect of creation there must exist the corresponding Divine Archetype’ (p. a castle-building spirit (if so it may be called).6 She takes the occasion. whose grace is simply typical. The First Great Commandment dominates her volume. the diversity in unity of the Three Persons reaching out to embrace the whole of creation.

he might have argued the point forever and gained no vantage. Eve is the teacher. but already he had scored an ally weightier than a score of arguments. through . the fall. With Eve the serpent discussed a question of conduct. listens and instructs. she lends an ear to all petitions from all petitioners. and talked her over to his own side: with Adam. not Eve. by different routes. ‘lest ye’. the pioneer. Eve was guilty of ‘blameless infirmity’. so far as it appears. for God had said to the man ‘ … in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die:’ but such tenderness of spirit seems even lovely in the great first mother of mankind. or it may be that Adam had modified the form. it is the explaining away. Rossetti openly contradicts 1 Timothy 2:12: ‘I permit not a woman to teach. Adam’s ‘watering down’ of God’s commandments is at the heart of the criticism in Letter and Spirit. that is. in misunderstanding God’s order. Eve may not have argued at all: she offered Adam a share of her good fortune. (p. if it devolved on him to declare the tremendous fact to his second self. but since the initial command was given to Adam. ‘Possibly’. Possibly a trace of blameless infirmity transpires in the wording of her answer. and having hold of her husband’s heart. to rectify misapprehension: ‘unto the pure all things are pure’. nor to have dominion over a man’. who like personified wisdom. Adam and Eve reached their goal. Eve. Eve preferred various prospects to God’s will: Adam seems to have preferred one person to God: Eve diverted her ‘mind’ and Adam his ‘heart’ from God Almighty. and she never suspects even the serpent. iii). Both courses led to one common result. bold and direct in her aim. led astray by sentiment and earthly affection. the more intellectually powerful of the two. there is more than a hint that he modified the instructions. and leads humanity towards understanding.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 89 feminine boldness and directness of aim combined with a no less feminine guessiness as to means. Her very virtues may have opened the door to temptation. turned it in her hand as the rivers of water. rather than the full severity of ‘thou shalt surely die’. to one common ruin (Gen. By birthright gracious and accessible. in the exercise of her intellectual and moral potential was the victim of deception. Rossetti admits. giving Eve a vague linguistic construction implying only possible consequences. She desires to instruct ignorance. 18) Adam. was the one tied to the body. ‘lest ye die’.

lest already we be breaking the first commandment’ (pp. by any means require us to sell all. 29–30). differences of rank. our duties lie within the decorous bounds of our station. we are assured.90 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology tricks of interpretation. as a preliminary stress laid on what it does not enjoin can make it act as a sedative. of circumstances. nay. and ‘withering’ irony see her at odds with ‘a (probably) male reading of the passage’. It does not. but deviates from the spiritual understanding which comes with obedience to the First Commandment: ‘Is our most urgent temptation that which inclines us to do too much. in its practical form). Rossetti had little patience with the religious controversies of her time and the disputes over interpretation of the scriptures. thankfully. 27) taken in contemporary interpretations of scripture. or that which lulls us to do too little. not overstepping the limits of our vocation: therefore let us give what we can afford. The Young Ruler. “with all the strength”. we must not judge him in such a case.7 which not only lacks common sense (wisdom. brings us into continual collision with that modern civilised standard of good breeding and good taste that bids us avoid extremes’ (p. and paring our intention accordingly. or to do nothing? … When we detect ourselves calculating how little will clear us from breach of any commandment. Joel Westerholme singles out her criticism of a popular reading of Mark 10:17–27: Who has not seen the incident of the Young Ruler … utilized as a check to extravagant zeal? So far. Rossetti echoes wisdom’s claim to plain speaking (Prov. ‘our neighbour’. was invited to sell all in spite of his great possessions. are Providentially ordained. a pleasure or a luxury it may well be to sacrifice at the call of charity. cheerfully. 8:9). shall do well in all simplicity to perform them soberly. (pp. and are not lightly to be set aside. we shall (I think) have grounds for searching deeper. who are bound by simple every-day duties. we must view it not as his penalty but rather as his privilege: only we ourselves. 20). of position. indeed. 19). and insists that there is ‘no room for two opinions as to whether the Lord meant what He had plainly said’ (p. may be called upon to do so. that is. of the severity of God’s law: ‘To do anything whatsoever. She is scathing in her opinion of the ‘prudent precautions’ (p. even to serve God. which she . therefore we must never suppose it impossible that that vague personage. 28–9) Rossetti’s ‘powerful sarcasm’.

but she sees words as symbols. … I have heard it suggested that Joshua himself understood the relations of the sun to earth. 85) Rossetti has in mind. grasping. the controversies sparked by the publication of Essays and Reviews. ‘Clear up the astronomy of Joshua’s miracle. & the moon stayed’. rather than serving as a moral guide in everyday life. I believe. when instead of learning the lesson plainly set down for us in Holy Writ we protrude mental feelers in all direction above. as she had. two years before. Sun. A mist bred rather from oversight than from insight has. Must a pedestal be included within the measurement of Nebuchadnezzar’s “golden image”?’ (pp. but had had the page rejected by her publishers: We read in the Book of Joshua (10:12–14) how that hero spake to the Lord & ‘said in the sight of Israel. (p. Those whose attention is held exclusively by the form or presentation of God’s message instead of the message itself break the second commandment: It is. of course. Fix the botany of Jonah’s gourd. a genuine though not a glaring breach of the Second Commandment. & thou. obscured to some apprehensions the sun of the miracle. beneath. And the sun stood still. stand thou still upon Gibeon. clinging to every particular except the main point. The mind is waylaid by the physical truth or falsity of the scriptures: ‘What was the precise architecture of Noah’s Ark?’ Rossetti asks her reader with contempt.9 Rossetti is not attempting to devalue the words of the scriptures. I suppose. ‘sooner or later the symbol . around it. attempted to publish a detailed comment on it in Seek and Find. in the valley of Ajalon. 86–7). Moon. Joshua’s miracle must have exasperated her. The scriptures were becoming a vehicle for the display of contrasting viewpoints in the Church of England. As in Romans 1:18–23. and such disputes over their surface value display a reluctance to come to terms with the Divine message to which they lead.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 91 saw as attempts to evade the responsibility of acting on them.8 and possibly the Colenso affair as well. but judged the moment inopportune for conveying such information to his hearers: but I own that except for a pious & reverent aim this solution appears to me as valueless as the original difficulty.

Paul may well have had strong views on remaining virginal. 90–1). ‘reversed the process of creation. and here she is talking about our duties towards God and neighbour. . how she may please her husband’ (pp. Adam made excuses in his effort ‘to shelter himself at the expense of Eve’. but Rossetti is using the figures as illustration. Nature worshipped under diverse aspects exacts under each aspect her victims. 77–8). showing that sin ‘by which the strong inflict vicarious suffering on the weak’ (p. 72). Irresponsible use of language in the same way leads to confusion. Rossetti warns. at first among foolish and ignorant apprehensions. If one were to cling too exclusively to either commandment. afterwards the wise themselves become taken in their own craftiness’ (p. ‘Man’. and making gods after his own likeness adored himself in them’ (p. as ‘men made originally capable of discriminating truth from falsehood’ become unable to recognise honesty and truth. or rather. and the need to keep a balance between our physical and spiritual natures. in the same way as the worship of the natural world becomes the appropriation of nature. 84). 7:34. robbing it of its own relationship to God. man’s consciousness of guilt invests her with a punitive energy backed by a will to punish greater than he can bear’ (p. ‘Such errors’. 85). 74). ‘avenge themselves.10 Rossetti illustrates the difference between the two Commandments. that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world. 77). The misappropriation of language is abuse: abuse of language itself and abuse of other people through language. She compares the misuse of language to sensuality and idolatry. 38: ‘The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord. Contemporary interpretations of the Fall still attempt to evade responsibility: ‘the question of mortal sin shrinks into the background while we moot such points as the primitive status of the serpent: did he stand somehow upright? Did he fly? What did he originally eat? How did he articulate?’ (p. St. Rossetti spells out the importance of our living in the world. and stamping it with the likeness of man. In a passage which has often been quoted out of context and incorrectly used to show her views on marriage. This irresponsibility will ‘strike at the root of human society and tend towards the bringing of social chaos’ (pp. In her explanation of the relationship between the First and Second Great Commandment. she claims.92 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology supersedes that which it symbolises. in terms of 1 Cor.

Brilliant yet empty plays on language may seem to shine. so did language desert our Lord: Almost the last sound of human speech that (so far as we can suppose) reached our Redeemer’s dying ears was a misinterpretation: ‘Behold. words need to be backed by an eternal light. like the essential quality of God. as in 1 Cor. Speech and interpretation are no less involved in sin than human actions. 154). and our own speech. In her study of the Third Commandment and its ‘parallel’ the Ninth. Rossetti makes it clear that spoken words also carry the responsibility of actions: ‘unenlightened man would probably hold himself guiltless. the testimony of Holy Scripture is (I think) clearly and preponderantly on the contrary side’ (pp. Just as the natural world turned away from life at the cross. but ‘there is a phosphorescence which indicates death and corruption’ (p. He calleth Elias’. or tinkling symbol’ (p. Words have a special sanctity as vehicle for God-talk: through them we can name God. 153) Letter without Spirit becomes. 13. the wife to worship and serve the creature more than the creator. or at least lightly absolved. Hence there is a direct relationship between our involvement in a universe which speaks of God. 13. Like the rest of the natural world. self centred. is idolatry. by weighing and sifting the characteristic temptation of each vocation: the Virgin tends to become narrow. praise Him and call on His name. which shines through his creation. ‘sounding brass. Yet on the whole. (p. the gracious harmony between the two would be destroyed: And we may trace no less clearly the correspondence (if I may call it so) of these two ‘holy estates’ with the First and Second Commandments. 150). but not before returning to the vision of a universe which turns . speculating or dabbling with words alone without reference to moral or spiritual significance. Rossetti ends her study of the law with a Harmony on part of 1 Cor.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 93 she explains. in matters of mere speech … . but to remain on the surface of language. 94) To become lost in spiritual meanings to the exclusion of all else is narrow and limiting. (p. 126–7).

hagiography. Prov. a publication with which she had . (p. God’s gift to humanity through the birth and death of Christ. clarifying in particular Christ’s role in making possible the language of symbol. Time Flies. that ‘Scrupulous Christians … too often resemble translations of the letter in defiance of the spirit’ (p. and Rossetti traces Christ’s role in leading us from ‘surface history’. distinguishable while indivisible. yet of which one moving along its vaster orbit with a dominant sweep encompasses and entails the other’ (pp. prayer. From language itself. 163–4). 165. Time Flies Her children arise up.94 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology in harmony with God’s purpose for us: ‘that circle of the Divine Will into which the circle of human obedience fits … to each other as the First Great and Second Like Commandments are also to each other. In the opening pages she describes the just combination of Letter and Spirit as ‘poetic’ and suggests. anecdote and autobiography. The keeping of the Sabbath Day is an opportunity to ‘sit loose to the world’ and to synchronise our hearts with ‘the Divine scheme of universal harmony’ (pp. The central theme of Time Flies is the birth and growth of the Spirit. as in the earlier volume. the other with suffering. and she traces a parallel between Christ’s physical and spiritual life: He was just eight days old when He shed the first drops of His Blood: thus (in a sense) He began His spiritual life. in the manner of Hone’s Every-Day Book. 2). and Rossetti provides a section of prose or poetry for each day of the year. 13). 1) The book is a journey into spiritual understanding. Her entry for 1 January begins with the Feast of the Circumcision. in this volume Rossetti moves to embrace the language of everyday actions. as the outer and inner edge of a wheel-tire revolving in indissoluble union. expands further the discourse on language and symbol. in a synthesis of poetry. organised in the form of day-to-day advice on Christian conduct. 31:28 Rossetti’s next volume. towards the ‘mystery of eternity’ (p. 166). His natural and His spiritual life began one with privation. and call her blessed.

if Thou art He We sought for patiently. extraordinary little sketches and occasional tracts of journal’. In turning to the experience of everyday life in a Christian community. Rossetti has correctly read the Victorian need for an accessible theology. In Letter and Spirit from Matt. a ‘writing book’ of ‘original compositions … pet extracts. She has stressed in all her work the need to focus on the small. Faith and theological understanding are worth nothing unless carried forward into every detail of daily life. Maude: the locked diary of the protagonist. Maude herself dies in the story. 150). the tone at all times open and friendly. and it must have been with great satisfaction – if Rossetti had ever seen herself in the character of Maude – that she now presented in Time Flies such a personal account of her experiences and beliefs. she repeats in Letter and Spirit. the simple. ‘Over and over again the lesson is brought home to us how tongues of angels and miracleworking faith are bestowed on some few. Rossetti has found a medium of expression which exactly fits her needs. especially in form: prose flows into poetry. hidden and ultimately destroyed at the end of the story. The variety of form in her volume is reminiscent of the ideas represented in her early novel. knowing that she had a public eager for her next volume. even those who have neither call nor eloquence as teachers’ (p. and warns that too much attention to formality and hierarchy will blind us to the simplicity and humility of Christ’s message: ‘Lord Babe. The manuscript of Maude lay hidden in a drawer during Rossetti’s lifetime.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 95 been familiar as a child. ‘this our day is the day of small things’. anecdote into prayer. Where is Thy court? Hither may prophecy and star resort. The poem for 6 January hails the coming of Christ as the fulfilment of humanity’s need for concrete symbol. and one which presents even difficult concept in a form accessible to everyone. she concluded: ‘Works preach at least as powerfully as words. while of all of us without exception charity is required’. As in her other devotional texts. the theological foundations are laid in the early sections. without fulfilling her poetic vocation. Characteristic of Time Flies is a newfound confidence. one which turns away from controversy and complex argument. 16. . and a public responsive to her message. and this form of sermon all can deliver.

Thou sole omnipotence. Confronted with the poverty and hardship of a stable. Lord. Here the wise men have difficulty fitting the incongruous sight of a helpless baby into the stern reasoning of prophecy. 5.’ – ‘Then. addressing the multitude in Luke 12:56: ‘Ye hypocrites. the fulfilment of prophecy.’ (p. of all kings King. righteous man: This Infant of a span Is He man sought for since the world began. which lies revealed in the physical presence of Christ. too base a thing For Thee.’ – ‘Bow down and worship. Low lying desolate?’ – ‘Bow down and worship. but how is it that ye know not how to interpret this time?’ The answer to mankind’s need for tangible form lies revealed in the Christ-Child.’ ‘Lord Babe. . One is reminded of the impatience of Christ Himself. The answer to their question is not given in logical argument or ritual. they do not understand. ye know how to interpret the face of the earth and the heaven. notably the carol beginning ‘In the bleak mid winter’. despite Thy youth I hold Thee of a truth Both Good and Great: But wherefore dost Thou keep so mean a state.’ ‘Wherefore to Thee I offer frankincense. with its emphasis on the physical closeness of Christ to his mother. accept my gold. they are simply directed towards the Christ Child. stanzas 1–2) The excessively formal language of the first three stanzas of the poem presents a striking contrast to the warmth and tenderness of Rossetti’s Christmas carols. Who bids all draw near. The second stanza points out why such an identity is necessary: ‘The Lord our God is here/Approachable’. The speaker’s blunt answers betray a mounting irritation and impatience: the sages’ need to question and to probe risks missing the answer. the gift of gold pointing to His acceptance of an earthly identity. righteous seer: The Lord our God is here Approachable.96 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Men heed not their report.

which Christ has made possible. bringing with them a lamb. even the humblest creature. 69). but He has also endowed our natural forms with His own power of symbol: And lo! The bird of love. encouraged by her stillness. a Dove Flutters and cooes above: And Dove and Lamb and Babe agree in love: – Come. humanity stands together with the rest of the physical world in the worship of Christ. and God loves us’ (p. may be seen to tell of God’s love. to a language free from the constraints of ceremony. She tells of a small incident near a pond.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 97 The tense dialogue of the first three stanzas gives way. as I was at that moment. and all creation may share in this unity of love and praise. 6) The old language of prophecy has now been replaced by the new language of revelation through symbol. be conscious of some small secret fount of pleasure: a bubble. I hope so and I think so: for we and all creatures alike are in God’s hand. of Christ incarnate in the symbolic mode. all creation. This recognition of the involvement of Christ in the creation of symbol. as she sat and watched them: ‘Many (I hope) whom we pity as even wretched. all mankind. . the innocent likeness of this King Whom stars and seraphs sing (p. As in Seek and Find. Come worship Christ together. and in which all creation. the symbol of Christ as sacrificial lamb: And lo! From wintry fold Good will doth bring A Lamb. may in reality. perhaps. because not only has He deigned to take on our human nature. hither. where the wild creatures emerged. allows Rossetti a new freedom to transpose the message of the scriptures into the language of the natural world and into that of our every day comings and goings. Rossetti attempts to describe the joy she experiences in moments of particular closeness to the natural world. come. as shepherds enter. Christ Himself as human child stands with other representatives of the natural world. in the fourth. yet lit by a dancing rainbow.

Like the light of a prism. The forms of everyday experience are transformed. because ‘we need something grosser. and ‘always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible. As we saw in Seek and Find. in response to a quotation from Lev. home to the Holy Nation. Ask now … the fowls of the air. nature has a specific relationship with God. and I shall fill it”. yet they gaped on unabashed and unwearied … I might well have recalled (though I did not) that familiar verse of the Psalm: “Open thy mouth wide. we may not dominate or abuse it. and while it enunciates the whole. less overwhelming than he does now’ (p. Rossetti’s circles of duty and obedience which encompass all creation and unite it to God’s Will are not appropriated and divorced from the natural world to become abstract theology for use in the pulpit. Rather than following Keble.12 For Rossetti the ‘heavenly symbol’ is firmly rooted in the physical world. less awe-striking. The harmony of symbol is an echo of the harmony which should exist between soul and body. because it . ‘who with well-placed blind confidence … sat ready and adapted to be fed. but to partake … of the nature of sacraments’. heaven would be ‘over spiritual for us’. ‘Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths’: Viewed in reference to each other. For her entry of 8 April she compares the body to the Holy Land. 26:34. where the symbol is characterised ‘above all by the translucence of the eternal through and in the temporal’. rather like Keble’s sacramental universe. and they shall tell thee’ (p. The sharp focus characteristic of Seek and Find runs again through Rossetti’s descriptions of the natural world.98 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology As in her former volumes. and her parables of nature.11 But unlike Keble’s vision of nature. 41–2). Christ Himself in the flesh would appear ‘more winningly accessible. of which it is the representative’. where they are ‘clothed with so splendid a radiance that they appear to be no longer symbols. Rossetti uses the symbol in the Coleridgean sense. 73). and even though we may learn from it. scripture springs to life as we observe the world around us. 47). something more familiar and more within the range of our experience’ (pp. No visible agency did I discern at the moment. it was the nation that sanctified the land rather than the land the nation: and this. ‘however dense or however translucent’ it is ‘equally an appreciable body’. For 6 March she describes a nest of still blind nestlings. like the two wheels of the First and Second Great Commandments moving together. abides itself as a living part in that Unity.

Jerome. she tells us in her next entry. lifeless. 189). Israel oftentimes and widely desecrated their hallowed dwelling-place. living. the Feast of St. Jerome’s strength in overcoming self ‘occasionally ran … into ruggedness. The least and last of things That soar on quivering wings. As we saw in Seek and Find. They. (p. she hints at the Tractarian excesses of renunciation and their tendency to abuse the body in order to ‘overcome the natural man’. but belongs just as much to its other creatures however small. Eyes of small birds and insects small: Morn after summer morn. but it was not the human body only that Rossetti saw as suffering man’s defilement. emptied of them. wronged creature will not in some fashion rise up in the . St. Rossetti believed in the resurrection of the body (p. will be nothing compared to the fright we shall feel at the anger of God if we hurt even the smallest creature: ‘It is quite certain that no day will ever come when even the smallest. 128) The fright she once felt on being startled by a frog. It was so in theory. 67) In her entry for 30 September. Are made to look on flowers. 88). she like the body. unseemliness. most grotesque. In practice. weakest. They were like the soul. she. here again her anger is kindled against humanity’s abuse of the natural world. whilst filled with them became defiled with their defilements. asperity. she spoke out against human cruelty. Have just as clear a right As Queens or Kings. (p. were the nobler element. The sweet rose on her thorn Opens her bosom to them all.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 99 appertains to the higher and not to the lower element to consecrate its fellow. Nature is created not only for mankind to enjoy. in the field of controversy’ (p. Her poem for 5 July may be seen as a declaration of animal (and insect) rights: Innocent eyes not ours. recovered her passive proper sanctity. Or crawl on grass blades out of sight.

only to find it ‘half-eaten and good for nothing’ (pp. Whistling the waggoner strode on. animal or inanimate nature. A waggoner has just squashed an adventurous frog under his wheels: Unconscious of the carnage done. Her comic poem for 7 July accuses humanity of ignoring the suffering inflicted on animals. possibly for a new edition of her volume. human. Greed grudges their morsel to hedgerow . Blaise. 129). In an unpublished note. and urges. 130) Abuse of anything. Our love draws out their love. (p. Whistling (it may have happened so) ‘A Froggy would a-wooing go:’ A hypothetic frog trolled he Obtuse to a reality. but do not give the ‘actual’ world a second glance. our sympathy their sympathy. It is no trivial boon to be loved by any love capable creature whatever its degree: a dog’s fidelity through life until & beyond death shames many a human friend and lover’. becomes a parable of sharing the earth’s resources with the rest of earth’s creatures: ‘why should not they have their share in strawberries?’ But man. O rich and poor.100 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Judgement with us to condemn us. ‘let us reflect on our duties & privileges towards dumb animals. stirs her to anger despite the thin veneer of humour to her anecdotes.13 The well-known strawberry incident from Rossetti’s childhood in which the two young Rossetti girls wait for a strawberry to ripen. 136–7). and so frighten us effectively once for all’ (p. Rossetti adds more to her account of St. The hypothetic frog alone Is the one frog we dwell upon. We pay lip-service to the natural world. alas! finds it convenient here to snap off a right and there to chip away a due. The uninteresting actual frog. Such oversights beset us all: The mangled frog abides incog. O great and small.

91). 11). Hence spirituality is an intrinsic dimension of human consciousness and is not separate from the body … . shelter and clothing. or the rejected wife of St. ‘to fulfil that Second [Commandment] is man’s only mode of making sure that he observes the First’ (p. we realise that we need food. and idleness robs the provident hare of his winter haystack. often domestic detail. An important characteristic of Rossetti’s thinking about the Spirit is her insistence that we can be sure of its presence only when we are in active engagement with the world around us. Because we are physical beings. but we cannot gaze on God directly: ‘even the eagle gazes not upon the sun. 100). As she said in Letter and Spirit. real or imaginative.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 101 birds. 14). 137–8) We see in Time Flies Rossetti’s theology of daily experience and of the natural world remain firmly rooted to the physical. to the home and to the hedgerow. We work. to fulfil our spiritual journey through our physical one and every small detail of our lives is significant. such as St. from another that we must determine our identity as creatures not only of our immediate habitat but of the . from another that some sort of relationship among people. or soul. of sisters and of small details concerning the life or death of the saints. Hillary (p. such as in the lives of saints. Augustine’s reputed ‘arrogant and unbrotherly attitude’ (p. except under shelter of a special optical guard’ (p. animals and the Earth is necessary. It is helpful here to turn briefly to a modern comparison to show how Rossetti’s vision foreshadows the holistic nature of recent feminist definitions of woman’s spirituality. The life of the spirit. It is true that physical beauty as opposed to that divine radiance is only a shadow-caster rather than the light-giver. As in Called to Be Saints we hear of wives. ‘And what will ye do in the end thereof?’ (pp. From one perspective. refers merely to the function of the mind. and spirituality is a way of being in the world: In truth. Rossetti claims. we need to discern and develop the spiritual with and through our bodies. there is nothing ‘mystical’ or ‘other worldly’ about spirituality. and science pares away at the living creature bodily. Here soul and body are seen as one. or where such a close identification with location or circumstance is not possible. We benefit from the physical world around us if we seek the Spirit through it. she adds curious.

xiii. But how about the second clause? Left to myself. it is the tree of life. her sister Maria. as we see in the dedication of the volume. and indeed her wisdom and love shines through Rossetti’s homilies.14 Time Flies is dedicated to Rossetti’s mother. Typical of Time . its theology learnt from the wisdom of the little circle of women at the heart of the Rossetti family: maternal aunts. (p. and from whose example many virtues. And if it suffices to slake a world’s desire. 23) Maria is also a strong presence in Time Flies. and above all her mother. from another that the subtle. with a line from Proverbs 31:28. the heart’s desire. 80–1) Christ.12 We feel or fancy ourselves quite at home in the first clause of this proverb. ‘Her children rise up and call her blessed’. is already present in this world. once pointed out the Cross of Christ Crucified as that Tree of Life which satisfied the world’s heartsick hope. (pp. But one from whose words I ought to have imbibed much wisdom. One lesson from 27 April suggests Frances Rossetti’s encouragement and advice not to renounce this world in a fit of despair: April 28 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh. and the working out of our salvation must be here: A life of hope deferred too often is A life of wasted opportunities. whether or not we have deeply and keenly experienced the heart sickness of which it speaks. whose desire sufficeth it not to slake. Her mother is frequently associated with the figure of wisdom. I at any rate might never have caught its most blessed meaning.102 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology world and the universe. Incidents unremarkable in themselves become focal points of giving and receiving spiritual gifts. Prov. again teaching lessons of wisdom and love. suprarational reaches of mind can reveal the true nature of being.

(p. Love is all happiness. the former the ‘good unobtrusive Christian’ of 12 October. Thus in her lips was the law of kindness. This was a new light to me. Another time. 151). whose words suggest a practical way to deal with criticism we feel is unwarranted (p. a friend appealed to her not to be alienated from her regard: and she answered that goodness wheresoever found she thought she loved more than ever. she claims. Wisdom rooted in love instructed her how to give a right answer. Rossetti is not simply suggesting the transference of women’s wisdom from one generation to the next. She is not insisting that women’s lives must remain tied to children and home. The pragmatism of Rossetti’s message would have been particularly empowering to the Victorian woman. 34) Her Aunts Charlotte and Eliza15 are present also. and recognises the abuse which women have suffered by being limited in this way. ‘there is scarcely a greater help to one’s own running than to lend a hand to a halting brother or sister’ (p. extending the circle to include men also because. the latter the ‘exemplary Christian’ of 4 December.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 103 Flies is the overflow of message into spontaneous poetry or prayer. love is all beauty. Love is the only everlasting duty. the reassurance that ‘there is no friend like a sister’. Love is the crown of flaxen heads and hoary. The volume is the fulfilment of Rossetti’s early appeals to sisterhood. from Goblin Market. 232). She echoes the same advice in Time Flies. And love is chronicled in endless story And kindles endless glory. stemming from the kinds of experiences that made up the greater part of her life. often on the theme of love: February 17 One whom I knew intimately and whose memory I revere once in my hearing remarked that unless we love people we cannot understand them. but is drawing on the wisdom accumulated through years . after she had taken a decisive step in religion. but doing it.

in nurturing and caring. in Women and Spirituality. men. And equally the weak the strong: woman ‘the weaker vessel’. the relatedness of all women – their relatedness in suffering and oppression. spells out the power of sisterhood to foster spiritual strength: Sisterhood can be both a powerful experience and an equally powerful symbol of the togetherness. Authentically lived experience rooted and grounded in wholeness and greater reality radiates power. The male (rather than humanity) needs the help of angels and of women. Rossetti herself claims that of a woman. or else to weakness: in either case to helpfulness. of a large continuous life web and rhythm of which the individual pattern forms an integral part. man. ‘We that are strong’.16 . writes St. though it should not inflate any. 57) Rossetti plays on the double meaning of ‘men’. her emphasis on ‘We’ suggesting at least parity. (p. to care for others and for the environment. the power of spiritual energy and strength. This.104 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology of caring. Woman’s spiritual strength. Although relatively weak physically. For every human creature may lay claim to strength. is manifest in her ability to foster community. Whilst St. We must ask what resources women possess to live an authentic existence and find the strength to create a more caring community. as we see in the volume. in joy and ecstasy. We behold the strong appointed to help the weak: Angels who ‘excel in strength’. may fairly buoy us all up. proceeding to state a duty of the strong. Modern feminist definitions of spirituality sound remarkably similar to Rossetti’s examples. Ursula King. often a feature of her most subversive passages. Paul. she is spiritually strong: In common parlance Strong and Weak are merely relative terms: thus the ‘strong’ of one sentence will be the ‘weak’ of another. Paul claims the strength of a man. We who are weak may study the resources of the weak. Sisterhood has the potential of widening out into larger circles of community. for example. in giving birth and life. or even superiority.

18 . and not read and enjoyed by women only.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 105 Possibly the most significant aspect of all in Rossetti’s theological work is that her devotional volumes were extensively read. There is also women’s attention to detail. They are not qualities unique to women but women. They were much loved and became extremely popular. the faithfulness to the daily round of duties which ensure personal and social wellbeing and make the smooth running of ever so many activities in the world possible and bearable. the adaptability to people and their personal needs. and ultimately of wisdom. There is perhaps first and foremost the immense resource of suffering as a source of strength to overcome adversity and affliction. but she clearly believed that as a woman. the tears. the immense labour in bringing new life into the world and attending with equally immense patience to its slow and imperceptible growth. she had a very specific spiritual message to convey. patient encouragement and recognition. Again. And her message did in fact reach and was valued by her reader. of pacifying. have often developed and embodied these qualities to an unusual degree. of insight. There is the strength of an encouraging smile and the gentle touch of love. of comfort. emotional and psychic attributes and abilities. These are the roots for women’s resources of compassion. by the very nature of their traditional tasks and experience and by the social pressures and constraints put upon them. sister and daughter at the heart of family and community life. the caring concern and understanding of others. there is evidence that her influence was so widespread that her theology found its way into the pulpit. There are the pain. warmth. Peace. the experience of generous selfless giving.17 Rossetti’s tendency to view men and women in separate spheres may be inimical to some. Then there is women’s power of listening. joy and harmony are all fruits of the spirit found in people of spiritual power and presence. of soothing and healing many a wound and settling many a quarrel and dispute. to the minutiae of life. love. the agony. Ursula King’s description of women’s spiritual resources seems to mirror Rossetti’s offering of her own resources in Time Flies: These are resources primarily linked to woman’s biological.

I am desirous to quote here or there an illustrative story or a personal reminiscence: am I competent to do so? I may have misunderstood. it is a pity when they gratuitously attempt what under the circumstances they cannot perform… These remarks have. I avow. One perhaps embellished if I have the wit to embellish it. So here once for all I beg my readers to accept such illustrations as no more than I give them for. but elsewhere she does not temper her scruples when it comes to vain controversy. Rossetti found it necessary to defend her theology by disclaiming any learning or qualifications. The main pity is that they do not amend themselves. The first-formed blossom stands like a father encircled by his children. accurate or inaccurate. (pp.106 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology As in her other volumes. vivisection or the abuse of women. This cudweed puts forth a blossom which in its turn puts forth around itself other blossoms. All alike written down in the humble wish to help others by such means as I myself have found helpful. In her entry for 16 March she hints at a superseded patriarchy: The Impious Cudweed. their stock and source. true or false. Her modesty disarms: Scrupulous persons. they are often in the way yet often not at hand. Sometimes paralysed and sometimes fidgeted by conscientiousness. 3–4) Rossetti may humorously refer to ‘scrupulous persons’ as tiresome and ineffective. – a much tried and much trying sort of people. – how can any weed have earned so grim a title? In a very simple manner. as the case may be. Her ‘humility’ is tempered by a clear understanding of what she is actually claiming. looked up to and looked down upon by their fellows. . Next to this. a direct bearing on my own case. Yet my story would point and clench my little essay. in some instances I cannot recall every detail. I may have forgotten. I may never have understood. another marred by my clumsiness.

for so anyone can wear my boots:’ such a remark I once heard made by one of the kindesthearted of my friends. For which loftiness our wise forefathers stigmatised this plant as the Impious Cudweed. through the consideration of her friend’s motives and the effect they may have on someone else. her work held out hope. was a regular churchgoer herself and fully believed in the profound significance of the Eucharist. For women particularly. without the violation of femininity and without the male-dominated power structure they involved. they look down on him. in the healing of spiritual wounds within the church towards the end of the century. she recognised the need for spiritual empowerment for women: the same spiritual fulfilment that was offered women through the convents which had sprung up earlier in the century. She knows also that she is addressing a need. but without the isolation. It is worth quoting in full because it shows her method: the movement from a description of a mundane though friendly interchange of words. and hold their heads high: they overtop their parent: in a figure. she is forming her spiritual lessons from the ground roots up. to a final spiritual truth considered in terms of Christian law: ‘What a good thing my feet are large. At a time when Christians were losing heart and faith. from life within a community. 53–4) Rossetti is conscious that her theology is different and that she is claiming space for it in the male-dominated practice of theology. Rossetti offered the possibility for spiritual development outside the Church and a revaluation of women’s daily activities as source of spiritual wisdom. . in particular in women’s experience. Her entry for 18 February shows her skill at turning even the most humble activity into an opportunity for spiritual growth. or the role of many other women theological writers like her. She was loved by her readers because she understood how theology might be lived in the community. confused by the many bitter controversies in the Anglican Church.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 107 But the blossoms of the second generation lengthen their necks. She never spoke against church worship.19 However. It has its root in personal experience. (pp. The Church today has not even begun to consider her role.

The ‘covetous grasping Christian’. Yet such surely we may find it to be: a key at least in part to the why and the wherefore of some irremediable blemishes. For oftentimes our disadvantage promotes the welfare of others. and the sun (I vividly remember) made a miniature rainbow in my eyelashes. in foresight of her own approaching funeral. loving mourners followed her. and this the wind bore to impregnate the barren tree’ (p. saw nothing attractive in the ‘hood and hatband’ style towards which I evinced some oldfashioned leaning. the depth unceasingly on the suck and gulp’ (p. describing the funeral of her sister: November 7 One of the dearest and most saintly persons I ever knew. as she uttered it. We may not even know when our example may inspire. all turned out in harmony with her holy hope and joy. If really and truly we loved our neighbour as ourself. 35) The volume is full of similar practical advice on how the Christian should think and behave in day-to-day experiences. not as a personal hardship. for example. such aspects of our sorry plight would brighten its gloom and blunt its sting. Personal influence. . large feet in doubly available boots! (p. 158). One year without apparent cause it bore fruit. the November day brightened. 214). but as a helpful possibility. as. a comfort under the depression of lifelong inferiority. If only we could and would estimate every blameless blemish in ourselves. ‘is like a quick-sand: the surface smooth. I do not think she entertained an idea that she was propounding any high or deep or spiritually helpful truth. And at a moment which was sad only for us who had lost her. on the other hand. Flowers covered her.108 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology A quaint remark and humorous. or our weak-point nerves them to endure their own. ‘like a date palm which lived a long while green and barren. Encouragement in the midst of sorrow and bereavement is the message of one of the most moving entries. like rings in a pool of water when a pebble is dropped in. ‘Why make everything as hopeless looking as possible?’ she argued. Wherefore? Because out of sight a remote kindred palm shed its fructifying pollen. so to say. is an important aspect of living in a community. hymns were sung at her grave.

Obedience and love are the two lessons which dominate the last pages. Rossetti claims. not our own. we need to be guided by God’s wisdom. come and teach us the way of understanding’ (p. reaching from one end to another mightily. but we look forward to the Apocalypse and the ending of all time. (p. and sweetly ordering all things. ‘It was a masterstroke of guile’. 180) – not only our own individual time. 242). Obedience is ‘the key of knowledge’ coupled with humility and simplicity. the tone becomes graver and there is an urgency about Rossetti’s homilies. Time flies’ (p.Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 109 I have often thought of that rainbow since. May all who love enjoy cheerful little rainbows at the funerals of their beloved ones. 213) Towards the end of the volume. 237). Like the wise virgins. As the title of her volume tells us. Who cometh out of the Most High. From a Latin anthem ‘O Sapienta’ Rossetti takes the words ‘O Wisdom. . as the Church moves into Advent. ‘time is short and swift and never returns. ‘by which the serpent cajoled Eve into believing disobedience to be the key of knowledge’ (p. and will prevent Eve’s mistake.

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R. 12:1) In the previous chapters we have seen how Rossetti recognised the potential of contemporary developments in Anglican theology and used them in the formulation of her own methods of critical enquiry into the scriptures. Littledale. a woman clothed with the sun. and the moon under her feet. Some earlier attempts at scriptural commentary. had strongly promoted access to the scriptures3 despite the increasing debate on how the scriptures should be read. as we saw as early as Annus Domini where she celebrated the power of metaphor and symbol in the opening up of the text to a multiplicity of reader-based interpretations.F. probably written in preparation for The Face of the Deep. Literal translation had been thoroughly discredited in the wake of the Essays and Reviews controversy. 111 . and the more liberal methods of interpretation which followed (despite Pusey’s violent antagonism) also influenced Rossetti’s work. Although the Tractarians were against ‘indiscriminate Bible reading’2 Rossetti’s close friend.5 The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse And there appeared a great wonder in heaven. but also to the imaginative and inspirational emphasis of Pusey’s arch enemy. In The Face of the Deep.4 show not only her fascination with the figurative power of language. and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. Rev. she found the Tractarian emphasis on emotional and imaginative freedom1 particularly helpful in her need for a woman’s response to a ‘masculine’ text. her last and perhaps most audacious volume. Her method owes much not only to the Tractarian Isaac Williams. Benjamin Jowett. (Rev.

Also the female cast out of sin? Is it so? First. the Bride of Christ. Rossetti follows two or more lines of the biblical text with a commentary. as we saw in the unpublished notes. is evidence of strong convictions. ‘Yet without sin’. which may be several pages in length – the volume is 552 pages of densely packed script – and may take the form of comment. in her use of ‘cast out’. and of the testimony of Jesus Christ. that Eve’s sin had its origin in the sinful flesh of Adam from which she was made. In her unpublished notes on Genesis. poem or prayer. the marginal comment for Genesis 2:22 provokes a response in keeping with her defence of Eve. as we saw in Seek and Find. which God gave unto Him. Eve associated with the Church. The frequent use of underlining (shown here in italics) especially in the last question. but may also indicate a certain amount of fear that she was going too far. she is interested in the relationship between a word and what it signifies. Also consider His parallel with Adam casting in His lot with his lost bride. Although she is aware of the standard typological association. Her focus is on the word ‘builded’ and on the tension between God’s creation of Eve and the physical building of a church. and of all things that he saw. Her musings on the word and her imaginative input then give her access to a whole series of possibilities which she can then interpret in any way she finds meaningful. Often. ‘Is it so?’. This tension between her need for a meaningful response and her fear of overstepping the limit is characteristic of The Face of the Deep.112 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology but also a growing reliance on the inspirational nature of the text itself. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. her focus is on one image or one word: 1. to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass. Throughout the book. . and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: 2. she feels able to comment on any part of the text which speaks to her: Margin ‘builded’ He a woman: opens the whole subject of the Church born & built from our Lord’s side. as we shall see. She ends with the daring suggestion. Who bare record of the word of God. anecdote.

it is appropriated personally in prayer: With time. Rossetti’s emphasis on the activity of the Spirit leads her to the safety of Divine Inspiration. Then finally. through association and analogy. for example. – At the end of 1800 years we are still repeating this ‘shortly’. and pondered them in her heart’. A literal reading of the Bible . who rejected the distortion of Luther’s claim that the words of scripture must be understood literally. It was ‘shortly’ for John. Rather than attempt to define the word and so give it meaning. as the word itself becomes productive in the imagination. of her emphasis on the activity of the Spirit in Time Flies. other scriptural passages which build a circle of reference and relevance around it. Where Newman. and also in keeping with some of the theological developments of her time. by ‘thoughtful reception. and it is still ‘shortly’ for the present generation. perhaps. Rossetti’s use of inspiration owes much to the work of Benjamin Jowett. sees the living community of the Roman Catholic Church as providing authority on the interpretation of symbol. as a broadened concept. kept mysterious intimations vouchsafed to her. Thy gift. herself a marvel. and above all in her development of the doctrine of inspiration – the logical outcome. she admits we have no way of knowing what actual time-value the word carries. 13) Rossetti has still not specifically defined the word. give us also wisdom to redeem the time. It also brings to mind. because it is the word of God. ‘shortly’. we receive the special meaning relevant to our needs. lest our day Of grace be lost. ‘the channel. (p. The justification for her method is contained mainly in her opening chapter. as blessed Mary. 9) The word on which Rossetti focused. and the testimony of Jesus Christ: thus starting in fellowship of patience with that blessed John who owns all Christians as his brethren. For our Lord Jesus’ sake. Amen. However. and are moved to action. not the fountain-head’ of Revelation. she and her readers recognise the urgency of salvation contained in the word.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 113 ‘Things which must shortly come to pass’. initially has a pivotal function and allows her to include herself in an ‘expanded’ text. (p. but through the lateral interplay of symbolic representations.

he writes as a post-Coleridgean. The clear influence of Coleridge on Jowett’s use of symbol is evident in his description of its ‘doubling’ action: The double meaning which is given to our Saviour’s discourse respecting the last things is not that ‘form of eternity’ of which Lord Bacon speaks. From Jowett also Rossetti learnt how to make full use of her literary background in working on the Bible and to work confidently despite her lack of a ‘learned’ theological background. The greater part of his learning is a knowledge of the text itself. and at the same time confirming the validity of individual and personal interpretation: The office of the interpreter is not to add another (meaning). but to recover the original one.114 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology became too often a way of hiding from the challenges of a modern world. John’s eyes. it resembles rather the doubling of an object when seen through glasses placed at different angles. requiring the sense of a poet as well as a critic – demanding much more than learning a degree of original power and intensity of mind. that is. to imagine that he is a disciple of Christ or Paul … . To get inside that world is an effort of thought and imagination. he has no delight in the voluminous literature which has overgrown it. He wants to be able to open his eyes and see or imagine things as they truly are. a few rules guarding against common errors are enough for him. may yet look in with St.6 Rossetti also brings her experience as writer of fiction into play. He has no theory of interpretation. And with his heart as well as his . John. ‘On the Interpretation of Scripture’. In his controversial article on inspiration in Essays and Reviews. of the words as they first struck on the ears or flashed before the eyes of those who heard and read them. in a sense creating an emotional journey through Revelation. with a real interest and not merely a conventional one. she enters his vision and beckons to the reader to participate also: We who have no door set open before us into visible Heaven. He has to transfer himself to another age. His object is to read scripture like any other book. Led by St.5 suggesting ‘commonsense’ rules for interpretation. the meaning.

The imaginative and emotional apprehension of the symbolic is upheld by the scriptural endorsement of analogy: The Son of Sirach observes: ‘All things are double one against another’. so at least I too may deepen awe. nothing overtops. and she is lost in wonder: ‘As children may feel the awe of a storm. Revelation is like a universe stretched out before her. overtopping such height. the beauty of a sunset. it displayed upon its surface varied markings. beseeching. then shall we too be rapt into celestial regions and among harmonies superhuman. alluring. strongly drawn. which we saw her using in Letter and Spirit. (p. it passed from view altogether in a mist. . 146). they apprehend that which nothing underlies. (p. To such an exercise certain minds see. similar to different perspectives of the same object: As when years ago I abode some where within sight of a massive sea rock. wooing. and stir up desire by a contemplation of inevitable. its summit vanished in cloud. encompassing such width. (p. our emotional involvement is part of God’s plan to lead us towards His own beauty: In the Bible God condescends to employ multiform overtures of endearing graciousness. 174) Rossetti is using the language of diversity in unity. Their horizon thereby recedes. time eternity. 192) Revelation is unfolded as a series of symbolic panoramas. 215) Words draw us in through their beauty and imaginative power. I used to see it put on different appearances: it seemed to float baseless on air. nothing encompasses. To them matter suggests the immaterial. transcendent’ (p.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 115 eyes. it fronted me distinct and solid far into the luminous northern summer night. depth is deepened. width widened. – so now this Apocalypse I know to be one congruous. Underlying any measurable depth. momentous. This suggests that everything cognizable by the senses may be utilized as symbol or parable. whole. encouraging. height heightened. ‘One day telleth another: and one day certifieth another’. still appearing many and various while all the time I knew it to be one and the same. harmonious.

at once directing them and guaranteeing their ultimate satisfaction. whose work also utilises the symbolic and imaginative approach and carries with it the authority of the Church Fathers. He works on us by what we can and by what we cannot utter. and promises that one day He will tell us all. Williams’ insistence on Truth as ‘independent of any mere cultivation of the intellect’7 is echoed again and again: ‘Faith alone’. It teaches us to feel how little man is. Rossetti acknowledged his influence in the introduction to Seek and Find. says St. ‘not knowledge. however. seems essential to the miracle’ (p. 19). which comes upon us on the first opening of the Bible. thy quiver and thy bow –’ Her closest model in terms of biblical commentary.3 Perhaps the blind old father was remembering how his handsome son used to look setting off to the chase: ‘take. In particular. I pray thee. He appeals in us to what we can and to what we cannot define. the emphasis on wisdom and (as in Jowett) the blessedness of ignorance was attractive to one who had been denied theological learning: Good for us is this sense of our ignorance. There are many parallels between Williams’ accounts of Genesis and Revelation and The Face of the Deep. He lavishes beauty on the sacred text. We are conscious of feelings inexpressible and as yet insatiable. commenting on the faith of the prophets. and here we see her using his recommended approach of reverend enquiry. except by faith. he is from God and on account of God. (p. Rossetti tells us. is Isaac Williams. it is read. how great is God. It is written. ‘is this for man to know that he himself by himself is nothing.8 . and that whatever he is. ‘All great knowledge’.116 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology We love beauty. thy weapons.’ … This meets us at the very threshold of Revelation. 432) Here the lack of theological learning is a positive advantage. We desire knowledge. But it is not understood. He stirs up such feelings. He tells us much. and the only prerequisite a poetic imagination. Augustine. and being written. together with the search for correspondence and analogy as a means of making the scriptures live in the mind of the reader. Evidence of this kind of imaginative transfer to Biblical times is frequent in the unpublished Genesis notes: XXVI.

he tells us. The incarnational poetics formulated in Letter and Spirit and Time Flies are here applied directly to God’s word.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 117 Backed by the authority of St. The Ethiopian Eunuch did not understand the scriptural passage he was reading. Augustine. Williams assures his readers that the seeming obscurity of the scriptures is an invitation to the study of them. neither search the things that are above thy strength’ – but also carries the reassurance of the ‘self-interpreting text’ of the Protestant reformers. in much the same way. but already had the beginning of illumination ‘his in a measure to enjoy. – Thus well-nigh at the opening of these mysterious Revelations. improve. and are therefore in themselves valuable in that a symbol always partakes of that to which it points. revealing unknowable divine things in forms available to human understanding. even before his father in God preached Christ unto him’ (p. doubtless. either literally or figuratively. Bring we patience to our quest. its divine referent accessible to the imagination of a devout believer through the redemption of Christ and the operation of the Spirit. respond to. (p. ‘to leave many things obscure to invite us to the inquiry’. I think. So. God condescends to teach us somewhat we can learn. and in a way which suits the particular needs of the reader (in this case the female reader as the echo of the Magnificat in the following passage suggests): ‘I am Alpha and Omega’. we find in this title an instance of symbolic language accommodated to human apprehension. Rossetti herself clearly states. then. 12). Such a consideration encourages us. throughout the entire Book. ‘It is the habit of scripture’. and in a way by which we are capable of learning. and she takes advantage of the opportunity to . 23) The words of scripture are symbols in the Romantic definition. and assuredly we shall not be sent empty away. to pursue our study of the Apocalypse. is the theological context of Rossetti’s commentary in The Face of the Deep. This advice comes with a warning not to indulge in speculation – ‘Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee. ignorant as we may be. that those who do not understand the dogma may even in ignorance glean wisdom and instruction from the surface meaning of the words. The words of the text are active participants in the reading process. for any literal acceptation of the phrase seems obviously and utterly inadmissible. This.

But I suffer not a woman to teach’. that he may run that readeth it’: – God helping us. ‘Rossetti’s strategy is to base her authority precisely on her lack of erudition’. 195) The quotation of an unpalatable. love to aid in making us harmless as doves.10 but one must also take into account the value which the Tractarians and post-Tractarians placed on inspiration and faith. and thy mother Eunice’.11 The fact that her work was published regularly shows how well she succeeded in making . followed by ‘and yet’ or ‘but’ in order to introduce her own views. the more her authority grows. and one should be wary of accepting her initial statements without looking closely at her qualifications of them as the above quotation shows. oppressive viewpoint.118 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology practice scriptural interpretation helped rather than hindered by her lack of academic learning. The more Rossetti is humble about her lack of learning and stresses her utter dependence on faith within this tradition. hope.9 In ‘A View from “The Lowest Place”’ Colleen Hobbs is right when she says. we all great and small can and will run. She may in faith ‘investigate’. fear. is typical of Rossetti’s commentaries. To expound prophecy lies of course beyond my power. But the symbolic forms of prophecy being set before all eyes. Yet elsewhere he wrote: ‘I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith … which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois. She has to be extremely careful in what she says and must certainly have known about the ridicule and abuse afforded earlier women theologians. yet ought by promoting faith. thereby sidestepping St. ‘Write the vision. Paul has written: ‘Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. and not within my wish. must be set for some purpose: to investigate them may not make us wise as serpents. Paul’s ban on women’s teaching.The central issue of the Modernist controversy in the Roman Catholic Church in the early years of the twentieth century was exactly this. Her volume is written much later than those of Williams – in 1892 – but the tendency in interpretation towards the end of the century was for even less ‘learned’ scholarship and even greater emphasis on imaginative perception and inspiration. and make it plain upon tables. The Face of the Deep in fact is full of alternative names for what she is doing: St. (p. the symbolical nature of biblical language.

114) Of the ‘synagogue of Satan’ (Rev.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 119 her ideas acceptable to ecclesiastical authority. The wisdom texts. (p. through her womankind has a special relationship with scripture. the simplest person can appropriate and exult in them’. Freed by the emphasis on imagination in scriptural interpretation. and because she is also attempting to formulate a method of interpretation that is distinctly feminine. The ‘harmless as doves’ is. and her familiarity with the role of wisdom in revelation. As we saw in the unpublished notes. every word of scripture is a rich source of wisdom and Rossetti’s claim is that ‘although the Father of lights may still withhold from us knowledge … he will not deny us wisdom’ (p. become her guide. for women. they lied’ (p. grace is our paramount need. as we saw in Chapter 3. The Face of the Deep is remarkable because Rossetti is interpreting the Bible primarily. claiming for . 3:9) she comments. although not exclusively. 23). Rossetti is able to use her experience as a woman: daughter. however. she is also genuinely afraid that she will repeat Eve’s mistake. after all. She is reading consciously for gender. She sets before her readers the role of ‘The Virtuous woman’ of Proverbs who ‘openeth her mouth with wisdom. ‘They asserted what was in their own intention a claim to superiority. Despite evidence of occasional lapses into anger. but also entails much selfdiscipline and responsibility. Such humility has its price. Elsewhere she denies any superiority of one over another in studying the Bible: Yet. developing a way of studying the scriptures which is available exclusively to women. This privilege brings great joy and understanding. in doing so. as we shall see. and at times there are hints of her bitterness at having to assume such a lowly position: ‘The subtlest and profoundest of men cannot explain mysteries. of course. however. 114). Divine grace. She unobtrusively emphasises the role of wisdom in revealing the message of the inspired text and claims that because personified wisdom is female. neither knowledge nor ignorance is of first importance to Bible students. sister and friend. to reassure her male ‘teachers’ that she will not usurp their position of authority although. rather than any human gift. and in her tongue is the law of kindness’. Acquirements and deficiencies sink to one dead level when lacking grace.

associates with kindness: to cultivate kindness is to frequent the society of wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast’: For the special purpose in question. Eve desired knowledge and. is Eve. Her model for the activity of interpretation. both of blue. I should surmise. and of scarlet. most men. and is far more readily accessible … Whoever by loving submission turns intellectual poverty into voluntary spiritual poverty.120 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology all women a special kinship with her: ‘Wisdom. to help her study the words of scripture and to discern wisdom: ‘whatever word be too hard for us. 13:18. he ‘that hath understanding’. 350) Wisdom is Rossetti’s ‘philosopher’s stone’. then. is an immediately practical grace. She claims a direct parallel between Eve’s use of the intellect to search out knowledge and her own desire to study the scriptures. apt to transmute ignorance into wisdom. however. 170). is a grace accessible and available to all. her inheritance from the Tractarians claimed now as her authority and her guide. although not necessarily superior to understanding. and very likely all women. (p. and every wise-hearted man. Wisdom. ‘Here is wisdom. (pp. 405) She calls on Christ. She comments on Rev. as women are traditionally creative and imaginative: Whereas ‘Bezaleel and Aholiab. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goat’s hair’. For the masses Wisdom resides elsewhere. in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary’. Moses (and John) may have had direct visions. excludes. yet vouchsafe to us the wisdom hidden in that word’ (p. but writing about the scriptures is woman’s work. 405). her foremother in enquiry. both ‘Wisdom and the Word’. but allowed . as we saw in Letter and Spirit. and of fine linen. her stepping stone. so wrought: ‘all the women who were wise-hearted did spin with their hands. A clue especially vouchsafed to us women’ (p. has discovered a super-excellent philosopher’s stone. exercised her mind as to theoretic outcomes. and brought that which they had spun. 349. and of purple.

310). did she bring sin and death into the world’ (p. of course. and theorizing on her own responsibility as to physical and intellectual results. She is not deploying ‘subversive strategies’12 but rather. In words reminiscent of her anger against contemporary Bible controversies. Westerholme sees Rossetti as not abiding by the contract she had made. is agreeing to an unwritten contract with her culture and with her Church. not repeat Eve’s mistake. Rossetti claims. Wisdom is. of whom it is expressly stated that he was not deceived. Eve learned the difference between good and evil: So in his turn did Adam. Rossetti explains that Eve was ignoring what she knew to be the true. though not necessarily sundered. (p. 76) and speculated to her cost. She will. 252) ‘Humble ignorance’. the obvious meaning of ‘Thou shalt surely die’. 294). ‘secures the essentials of wisdom’ (p. and may itself sanctify knowledge: Whether any given knowledge will prove profitable or unprofitable is a question by itself. . However beguiled. She ‘courted death by bye-path of knowledge’ (p. ‘ever to write modestly under correction’ (p. gratify my curiosity’ (p. Once she has made a pact as it were with ecclesiastical authority. 177). independent of any debate as to its authenticity. and indulging in speculation. abide by the rules she agreed to. ‘happy … inasmuch as I cannot. knowing that she will be able to claim far more than they perhaps realise. She embraces her ‘Providential’ ignorance. as Westerholme suggests. but engaging ‘in serious and scholarly biblical interpretation. Knowledge and wisdom are quite distinct. 266) and legitimate knowledge may then follow. She may have bursts of anger in The Face and even of self-pity.13 Rossetti did. she claims the rights it brings. however. disregarding the plain obvious meaning of words. She seems to be reinforcing the status quo of gender repression. led on by Satan: ‘Not till she became wise in her own conceit. however. like my mother Eve.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 121 herself to be convinced by the false logic of the serpent. knowledge is not her aim. but what she is actually doing is attempting to force open a crack in the male-dominated biblical studies using the Tractarian emphasis on obedience and faith. What they learned was so far genuine: all the same it proved fatal. assuming a man’s role according to the standards of the time’. Rossetti’s repeats almost obsessively her fear of searching out knowledge in a way that would repeat Eve’s mistake.

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her ‘proud waves’ may ache to burst their bounds, but she can never be sure that those rules were not in fact instituted by God Himself. Hence the tension that is nearly always present in her work. There is no doubt that her final comment in concluding the volume is genuine, especially coming as it does after John’s words of Rev. 22:19. Her half-playful, half-fearful words ‘If I have been overbold in attempting such a work as this, I beg pardon’ (p. 551) are typical of her approach. But she was not interested in ‘a man’s role’ and makes this quite clear. She writes primarily for a female readership (‘we women’) and from the outset of The Face insists on equal participation in the glories revealed. To the command ‘Behold’ of Rev. 1:18 she responds ‘“Behold”, He saith. Who shall behold? Shall St. John and shall not I? I also; because for me no less than for St. John He lived and was dead and is alive for evermore’ (p. 43). Having accepted the ban on a search for ‘knowledge’ (with relief, I imagine, given that she loosely identifies this knowledge with the endless Victorian squabbling over different interpretations) and embraced her identity as daughter of Eve, Rossetti is free to re-invent the form of Biblical commentary as she wishes. She combines prayers, poetry, litanies, scriptural parallels (which to a certain extent replace the quotations from the Church Fathers, which abound in Williams’ work), personal dialogues with Christ, working these into a ‘patchwork of scriptural citations, meditations, admonitions, studies of spiritual climate, and self criticism’14 which to some may not seem to have anything to do with Revelation itself, in her establishment of an alternative, feminist, hermeneutic which responds creatively to the sacred text. She is also free to comment as she wishes on the words of Revelation, inviting her readers to join with her in a ‘pilgrim caravan’, ‘in fellowship of patience with that blessed John who owns all Christians as his brethren’ (p. 9). The work is entitled a ‘devotional commentary’, and in one of her few references to Mary, the mother of Christ, Rossetti outlines a possible feminine approach to the prophecy of Revelation: It suffices not to read or hear the words of this prophecy, except we also ‘keep those things which are written therein’. How keep them? One part in one way, another part in another: the commandments by obedience, the mysteries by thoughtful reception;

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as blessed Mary, herself a marvel, kept mysterious intimations vouchsafed to her, and pondered them in her heart. (p. 12) Any ‘historical coincidences’ Rossetti leaves to ‘the authoritative handling of her teachers’, claiming instead that ‘meditation’ whilst reading the text ‘is lawful to all of us’, and that ‘the eyes that look are the eyes likely to see’ (p. 267). The title of The Face of the Deep proclaims its lowly status, as does Rossetti’s Prefatory Note: If thou canst dive, bring up pearls. If thou canst not dive, collect amber. Though I fail to identify Paradisiacal ‘bdellium’, I still may hope to search out beauties of the ‘onyx stone’. It is simply ‘a surface study’ Rossetti claims elsewhere, and ‘if it incites any to dive deeper than I attain to, it will so far have accomplished a worthy work. My suggestions do not necessarily amount to beliefs; they may be no more than tentative thoughts compatible with acknowledged ignorance’ (p. 365). Meditation on the surface for the ignorant, reading and hearing the words, even if not understanding is well within the tradition of the Church Fathers and endorsed by Williams and stated at the beginning of his own study of Revelation: There is a deeper knowledge often appealed to; but even to the unlearned the very reading and hearing is blessed; the ears catch the sound of unearthly wisdom, and the heart is soothed and sobered. The Divine words are as a healing charm, says Origen, to the soul, though the mind perceived it not.15 Once Rossetti has protected herself against accusations of pride or incompetence by remaining within an acceptable tradition, she is able to write freely, following lines of thought which otherwise might earn her criticism or ridicule. One of her major achievements in interpretation is to examine the text in terms of gender, picking up gender codes within the narrative, and valorising or exposing for criticism those aspects which relate to women. The best known of these is the ‘woman clothed with the sun’ of Rev. 12:1, which Rossetti sees as a central part of the glories of the New Jerusalem, and which, as she points out, holds significance particularly because it is female: ‘I perceive the

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marvel of “a woman” (for such is the figure, whatever may be the signification) appearing at the centre of such concurrent glories’ (p. 371). Rossetti’s comment on the figure is worth quoting in full, because it shows her approach through the ‘self-interpreting’ text, which calls up a response from within the experience of the reader. Then we see her subtle move from the figure as a participant in the apocalyptic vision, to an emblem of woman’s strength in this world: Of this Apocalypse the occult unfulfilled signification will be new; the letter is old. Old, not merely because these eighteen hundred years it has warned us to flee from the wrath to come; but also because each figure appeals to our experience, even when it stands for some object unprecedented or surpassing. A rose might preach beauty and a lily purity to a receptive mind, although the ear had not yet heard tell of the Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valleys. ‘A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars’. – Whatever else may here be hidden, there stands revealed that “great wonder”, weakness made strong and shame swallowed up in celestial glory. For thus the figure is set before our eyes. Through Eve’s lapse, weakness and shame devolved on woman as her characteristics, in a manner special to herself and unlike the corresponding heritage of man. As instinctively we personify the sun and moon as he and she, I trust that there is no harm in my considering that her sun-clothing indicates how in that heaven where St. John in vision beheld her, she will be made equal with men and angels; arrayed in all human virtues, and decked with all communicable Divine graces: whilst the moon under her feet portends that her sometime infirmity of purpose and changeableness of mood have, by preventing, assisting, final grace, become immutable; she has done all and stands; from the lowest place she has gone up higher. As love of his Lord enabled St. Peter to tread the sea, so love of the same Lord sets weak woman immovable on the waves of this troublesome world, triumphantly erect, despite her own frailty, made not ‘like unto a wheel’, amid all the changes and chances of this mortal life. (p. 310) D’Amico sees Rossetti here as ‘looking beyond time to eternity’, when finally women would gain equality,16 but this interpretation

however. That is not to say that she refutes the interpretation of the woman as the Church. published in 1898 . Hobbs suggests as origin for her study the tradition of Christian mysticism with its ‘disruptive. and ‘a feeling which seems implanted in our nature by the Almighty. as I have mentioned elsewhere. to rebel against oppression’. through the evangelical background of her mother.18 which was derived from the prophesies of Revelation. who predictably follows St. and her theology of a female messiah lived on in a milder form well into the century.19 At the beginning of the century Joanna Southcott. had claimed to hear voices proclaiming her the new Saviour. The woman of Revelation becomes a symbol of womankind in the present and her triumph comes while still in the world. but expands to include the Church as mother. It is interesting to note Southcott’s equation of Satan with sexual abuse. and the child who is seen as both Christ and new converts to the faith. a domestic servant. when he was not masquerading as a serpent. empowered by a love of Christ. Rossetti must certainly have been aware of them. and is closely linked to the evangelical tradition. She herself inherited to a certain extent the typical ambiguity towards the role of women (so much a part of the Victorian ‘woman question’) where renunciation of the (female) self happily coexists with a belief in woman’s moral and spiritual power. while the man-child is Christ born in His members’. Her appropriation of the figure as representing woman continues.20 An interesting comparison may be made also with interpretations of the figure in Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible. Satan was castigated as “the liar”. The evangelical revival brought with it some very challenging attitudes towards women and morality and. the “betrayer of women” who. She simply emphasises its female attributes.17 Although there is an affinity with these mystics. Rossetti did not take her interpretation of this figure from Williams. Augustine and who sees the Church ‘as intended by the Woman clothed with the sun. Rossetti’s interpretation. seems to come from a rather different tradition from the Tractarians’. was busy philandering with innocent girls’.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 125 does not take account of the very definite move to the present in the passage. the ‘woman clothed with the sun’. which might explain the complex fusion of theology and sexual abuse in ‘Goblin Market’: ‘In her writings. revisionary power’. Rossetti has even closer links with the millenarian tradition.

It refers. Rome as the Whore of Babylon at least diverted popular attention from the fact of a female representation of the figure. Gage is unable to claim woman’s body. for in Egypt the sun. Gage’s interpretation.126 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology in America. restating the popular interpretation of the Church ‘watched and persecuted by the emissaries of the Papal hierarchy’. was looked upon as masculine. woman here represents the Divinity of the feminine.24 yet although Rossetti never considered joining the Roman Church she remained sympathetic to those who did. ‘largely … to woman. 302). The cup in the woman’s hand contained potions to intoxicate her victims.23 In England. while the moon. It was the custom of that time for public women to have their names on their foreheads. The book for her remains ‘a Secret’. Matilda Joclyn Gage renames the book of Revelation Re-veilings. and sees it as comprehensible only through astrology. admiring their strength of devotion (p. portrays the ultimate triumph of spiritual things over material things-over the body. Stanton herself has little to say about Rev. hatred of Rome reached new heights. and as they represented the abominations of social life.21 Any such astrological interpretation would have been unacceptable to Rossetti. 12:1. was regarded as feminine. they were often . With her feet upon the moon. but Stanton notes it and her reaction to it is one of rejection rather than of retrieval: No one can describe the pomp. however. splendor and magnificence of the Church of Rome. or the male principle. as giver of life. corresponds to and represents. corresponding to and representing the soul. its spirituality as opposed to the materiality of the masculine. her intuition. making it very difficult to locate any social or historical victory for women. but there is a similarity here in the approach of the two women. who see the text as a celebration of woman’s spiritual power. shining by reflected light. her spiritual powers. which man. and because of this limitation. although her attitude towards it is positive.22 The feminine here holds sway over the spiritual only. participates in the soul/body duality which we have seen Rossetti trying to avoid: Clothed with the sun. woman. and all she represents’. she claims. after the succession of leading Anglican figures to Roman Catholicism.

Verily. we need an expurgated edition of the Old and New Testaments before they are fit to be placed in the hands of our youth to be read in the public schools and in theological seminaries. and even motherhood. Unlike Stanton. ‘by warning man against woman has virtually warned woman against herself’ (p. is used to illustrate the most revolting crimes … Why so many different revising committees of bishops and clergymen should have retained this book as holy and inspiring to the ordinary reader is a mystery.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 127 named after cities. to attempt to retrieve the lesson from such a negative figure. on the other hand. exploring the different relationships between the protagonists of the tragedy. 400). The writers of the Bible are prone to make women the standard for all kinds of abominations. knows there is a lesson for woman herself in the text. she tells us. both in the world of the text and in her own. She seems to be reiterating the very victimisation and blatant misogyny which angers modern feminist theologians.25 Although justifiably angry at the way women are represented. because of her appreciation of the inspirational nature of the scriptures. loathsomeness. which should be held most sacred. Rossetti. refusing to let go. forcing it to yield meaningful lessons for the women of her day. she can face the physicality of the Whore. and for the role of motherhood. Her treatment of the Whore tends to embarrass the modern Rossetti critic. therefore. as she seems in this figure to be holding up the female body to be despised as the epitome of sensuality and lust. The strength of her feminist hermeneutic lies in her ability to wrestle with the text. ‘the particular foulness. . degradation. especially if we wish to inspire our children with proper love and respect for the Mothers of the Race. ‘Solomon’. to which a perverse rebellious woman because feminine not masculine is liable’. and placing all in the context of God’s final judgement. and trusts also that it will be appropriate and of genuine value to her and to her readers. It does not seem possible that the Divine John could have painted these dark pictures of the struggle of humanity with the Spirit of Evil. and warning women to beware of themselves. Stanton sees the damage in terms of public profile: these figures could lead to a lack of respect for women. its implications in terms of the abuse of the body from within and from without. She is able.

128 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology In defence of Rossetti. and the construct which she has become after having been abused and made object of male desire and lust for power.26 However. (pp. These sins are not seen as originating from the Whore herself who is presented as the victim. but lust as the misuse of such power. but are located in Rossetti’s own world and the predominantly male artistic circle in which she herself moved. Evil becomes sensual indulgence overlaid with a veneer of sophistication:27 ‘voluptuousness of music. isolated examples of her argument are torn from their context in her commentary. with its potential integrity and strength. 357–8) Rossetti claims the power of the traditional World/Woman figure. We need to ‘strip sin bare’. Rossetti uses her own interpretation of the commandments from Letter and Spirit to define lust. the preference of a tangible object to God. glamour of eloquence. her discourse is considerably weakened when. She constrains though she cannot compel. fascination of gesture. It is clear that for Rossetti this corrupt and corrupting lust comes from without. it becomes her to beware and forbear. and its use and misuse. she tells us. The central part of the discussion of the Whore in The Face of the Deep relates to the power of the female body. Woman is a mighty power for good or for evil. but rather as ‘emblems of female disobedience. as in D’Amico’s study. It becomes . entrancement of the stage. but in this case her attention is on the way these sins are hidden from the eye. Potential for evil. and their surface beauty presented as ‘art’. As before. so that we know it for what it is. potential for good. in favour of a personal appropriation of the figure. The greater the power the greater the potential for misuse: We daughters of Eve may beyond her sons be kept humble by that common voice which makes temptation feminine. to spend herself and be spent for her brethren. D’Amico argues that the harlot figures should not be seen ‘as representative of lust’. 399). seduction of imaginative emotion’ (p. whilst Rossetti certainly does see the Whore as an example of female disobedience. Firmly dismissing the traditional historical reading. Rossetti makes it clear that she is speaking about lust. the sins of the flesh are grouped as idolatry. rapture of poetry. of diverting the mind from God’. but in her treatment of the Whore takes care to distinguish between the Whore’s female self.

Unlike the woman clothed with the sun. she is lifted aloft to the extent of his height. I know not if they see us or can see: But if they see us in our painful day. To each unforgotten memory saith: ‘Learn as we learned in life’s sufficient school. where sin is allowing the ‘serpent’ to exercise power and seduce womankind over again: Wherever the serpent is tolerated there is sure to be dust for his pasture: he finds or he makes a desolate wilderness of what was as the garden of Eden. can cause a barren desert to appear in our eyes as a city of palaces. Although she in turn seduces. Their answer is to be patient. mistress. Fearful in joy and confident in dule’. Only an illusion. Our Sisters gracious in their life and death. after the fashion of a snail and its shell. her stability depends on his. powerless to end it. as we see our foremothers also gaze on the tragedy. The woman and the beast by a foul congruity seem to make up a sort of oneness. Hope as we hoped despite our slips and scathe. but their passive acceptance is unbearable: Our Mothers.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 129 clear as Rossetti’s discourse proceeds that we are in the familiar thematic territory of ‘Eve’ and Goblin Market. She has been deceived into thinking that the ‘barren desert’ is an ‘orchard of fruit’ and has been seduced by the illusion of power held out to her. lovely women pitiful. an orchard of fruits … . 399) The much-hated Whore is a pawn in the obscene power-game of the beast on which she sits. a mirage. Rossetti presents the whole canvas of female suffering. which then loses the power to help her. Walk as we walked much less by sight than faith. Work as we worked in patience of our rule. he is the motor. If she removes. In semblance he is her slave. in reality her master. it is the desperate seduction of the abused prostitute: ‘In the day of her foul attractiveness the lost woman was idol. and there is none to help her’ (p. How looking back to earth from Paradise . 411). (p. plaything: in the day of her decay she becomes a prey. she is cut off by the beast from the natural world.

. a theme for prayer. Rossetti draws her reader’s attention to the fact that the fate of the beast which carries the woman has been omitted. and that ‘the substance of this present vision seems authoritatively displaced’ (p. the ‘painful day’ that even the speaker suffers. Whilst the end of the woman ‘is made abundantly clear’. To be of one mind with God is universal knowledge in embryo’ (p. Ignorance by virtue of good will takes rank as part of obedience. like the Whore. merges in the poem with the oppression of womankind in general. Ultimately. 13:14. is an image which is derived from man and which has been created out of the beast itself. 15: ‘Can this image be a diverse presentment of the woman? So much in the kingdom of darkness seems an awful mockery of the Divine Kingdom. not a bait for curiosity. Rossetti’s quotation of the words of St. 404). 401).130 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Do tears not gather in those loving eyes? – Ah. and looking at Revelation as a constructed text. it is not a woman but a perversion. her use of the words spells out. The Whore. She ends her discourse on the figure by briefly distancing herself from the ‘meaning’. as we have seen so far. a male fantasy. but she in fact very cleverly subverts the common usage. as they have been traditionally used to point out the derivative nature of womankind. that I think the image and woman assume a possible interchangeableness when we recall St. Paul’s sentence: “A man … is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man”’. with her refusal to condemn the Whore. Rossetti points to a male image of the sea beast in Rev. Taken out of context. Rossetti is not afraid of demolishing commonly held interpretations of the scriptural text. the Whore and what she stands for do not need to be seen as female at all: ‘The “woman” who now of a sudden we encounter: have we under a different aspect already met her?’ (p. happy eyes! Whose tears are wiped away Whether or not you bear to look on me. 401) The plight of women seduced and betrayed. Rossetti’s burning question is ‘Why?’ Why has God allowed this to happen? What is the ‘Mystery’ which is written on the forehead of the Whore? At this point Rossetti finds herself trapped by the limits she has imposed on her study: ‘A revealed unexplained mystery is (as it were) my Tree of Knowledge accessible whilst forbidden. 403). Paul may seem to uphold woman’s submission. (p. Whilst she does not allow herself to question God’s motives.

Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. and her ability to recover its message for her own time and gender. where the writers of The Woman’s Bible could not.31 The ‘erotic tension’ in the destruction of the Whore. for example. recognises the importance of imaginative participation. subjecthood. we learn also.30 ‘The Apocalypse’. however. ‘the ultimate misogynist fantasy’. and Rossetti makes it clear how easy it is for a woman to become enmeshed in the seduction of men’s adulation.28 Revelation itself. In her study of Revelation Schüssler Fiorenza emphasises the value of a literary approach: ‘Exegetes and theologians still have to discover what artists have long understood: the strength of the language and composition of Revelation lies not in its theological argumentation or historical information but in its evocative power inviting imaginative participation’. a victim for dismemberment’. which we have seen is fundamental to Rossetti’s method.29 Rossetti is able to transcend the limited male perspective of the text. belonging to a particular time and culture. ‘the interpreter’s agency. stance and perspective’. and which carries lessons beyond the limitation of time. reflecting the assumptions and limitations of its day. The destruction of the Whore may then be seen as a warning against an oppressive slavery in which women become objects of male desire. allows her the freedom of interpretation which makes sense of the figure. For Rossetti. she argues. foreshadows the work of feminist reconstructionist hermeneutics. seeing the Whore as a tragic example of the abuse of woman’s body. is seen as a message of death to the affirmation of female desire. Just as Rossetti is able to locate the images of the text in her own time. still acting as a barrier to their acceptance of the text. . Stanton’s recoil from the use in Revelation of women figures to illustrate all kinds of abominations is also present in the work of more recent feminist theologians. Mary Daly sees Revelation as unrecoverable because of its negative portrayal of women and finds the Whore ‘a scapegoat. She can see how the Whore functions as a male parody of women: what women could become if they allow themselves to be drawn into the male fantasy. the ability to see Revelation as a constructed text. ‘must be understood as a poetic-rhetorical construction of an alternative symbolic universe that “fits” its historical-rhetorical situation’. Schussler Fiorenza emphasises the importance of the reading subject.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 131 Rossetti’s ability to see Revelation as a text. ‘is not a safe space for women’. contextuality.

‘Babylon is fallen’. He can paint her face. we women claim no more than equality with our brethren in head and heart: whilst as to physical force. and sinned. recognising in her feminine power his greatest prize.132 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology Rossetti’s anger. is the refusal to use force. Women reject violence: And I think that in these days of women’s self assertion and avowed rivalry with men. Satan directed his attack through Eve. 357–8) In a rare direct reference to women’s rights. but her force of persuasion through mind or body is great and necessitates corresponding self-control. which has produced a brutal society. we scout it as unworthy to arbitrate between the opposed camps. (pp. Is cast down. for women’. however. 357). Men on their side do not scout physical force. and we see the route of Babylon as a deadly re-enactment of the deception of Eve: ‘For Satan is the showman of her goodly show: he who can himself appear as an angel of light understands how to inflate her scale. and to ‘work mightily through weakness’ (p. but let it be. I do well to bear in mind that in a contest no stronger proof of superiority can be given on either side than the not bringing into action all available force. Though she be cast down. The greater power they hold should call forth greater responsibility. (p. 409). saith the angel: he saith not. and tire her head. have erred. Women must use their gifts responsibly and not ‘tempt’ for evil. and the prize of a vain victory’ (p. and set her on a wall and at a window. and said: ‘Many also have perished. and so Rossetti’s celebration of woman’s power concludes with a strong warning against its abuse: In the Bible the word tempt (or its derivatives) is used in a good or in an evil sense. The wisest of three wrote: ‘Women are strongest’. tint her mists and bubbles with prismatic colours. is directed not only towards men. Rossetti suggests that the oppression of woman is a result of the male abuse of physical power. Woman’s power may not consist of physical strength. she hath undermined herself. like that of Christ. A woman’s strength. as the goal of a vain race. according to the agent or to the object aimed at. but also against those women who exploit the power of their own body in this way. I suppose. hide her thorns under roses and her worms under silk. 410) . yet is the impulse of her casting down in herself. As yet.

with the female Church. acquirer. not only highlighting the physical violence inflicted on women. in the ‘white stone’ of Rev. with garments rolled in blood scarlet as her array. what then.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 133 She describes the role of men and women in her own society. whose gorgeous array has rags for neighbours! (pp. The right hand is labourer. There are lefthanded people. She finds an opening. Rules admit of and are proved by exceptions. sensual excess foul as her cup. but is chains and fetters like her bravery of gold and pearls and precious stones. enervating luxury. Rossetti’s study searches out spaces which leave room for personal identification with Christ. but has little independence. whose left woman. whose merchants are princes and whose dealings crooked. ‘which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it’. which reigneth over the kings of the earth’. A saint . The right hand runs the risks. whose packed storehouses stand amid bare homes. is she? She seems to include or invite all which tempts man at his earthly proudest and mightiest: ambition shedding blood as water. 422) Apart from a fresh look at the more controversial figures in Revelation. or with the feminine nature of God. in one sense equal. – ‘Without controversy’ who then. except (a material exception) that in the mutual relations of the twain it is in some ways far more liable to undergo than to inflict hurt. licence that is not liberty. Woe to her dupes! … … Alas England full of luxuries and thronged by stinted poor. for example. but also the possibility that roles may one day be reversed: Society may be personified as a human figure whose right hand is man. and there may arise a left-handed society! (p. in another sense unequal. achiever: the left hand helps. and her discourse shifts entirely to the feminine. as she herself sits inert on her scarlet beast. and is more apt at carrying than at executing. 410) Rossetti does not exclude the possibility of the establishment of a more just society dominated by women32 and ends her discourse on the Whore of Babylon with a direct attack on the evils of Victorian Britain: ‘The woman … is that great city. 2:17. 411. to be cut (for instance) than to cut. fights the battles: the left hand abides in comparative quiet and safety.

136). and which as regards all others will pass man’s or angels’ understanding’ (p. heavenly soul by name. which she sees as playing a central part in the triumph of Revelation. Another example coincides with Rossetti’s emphasis on the feminine nature of God: ‘while Thou art our loving Father to correct us. such passages are deliberate in their use of the feminine. … the childless who make themselves nursing mothers of Christ’s little ones are true mothers in Israel. 73). as once He called “Mary” in an earthly garden. neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah.134 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology today ‘will recognise not herself … but in the beatified life it shall be otherwise. Many women attain their heart’s desire: many attain it not. 12:2 suggests to Rossetti the Church as a mother. and what that one soul is to Him. who might grant or might deny. She attempts to achieve a balance between the two sexes. Although few and far between. weaves for himself (still more obviously weaves for herself) a white garment’ (p. Adam’s inferior ‘naming’ of woman. a woman’s dependence on a man for motherhood is surpassed: Eve. 138). the corruptible for the incorruptible: ‘Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken. (p. and thy land shall be married’. When Christ shall call each happy. the representative woman. Rossetti suggests. a ‘love-name known to both and endeared to each. as it were a name (I mean) expressive of what He was and is to that one soul. 312) She further emphasises the feminine nature of the Church. and as before sees specific relevance in her presentation as a woman: ‘I perceive . although there is no doubt where her emphasis lies: ‘Whoso clothes the poor. and will no more question her own designation than did those primitive creatures whom the first Adam named in the inferior Paradise’. is overruled by the name which Christ holds concealed. received as part of her sentence ‘desire’: the assigned object of her desire being such that satisfaction must depend not on herself but on one stronger than she. Thou art still as our mother to comfort us’ (p. then each will perceive herself to be that which He calls her. and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee. The birth of the child in Rev. and she hints that in ‘holy Church’ as mother. Yet are these latter no losers if they exchange desire for aspiration.

She finally quotes from Proverbs 31:31. before linking herself and her reader to the ‘one fair unbroken web’ (p. Rossetti continues to the New. Beds of weariness. The bride of Rev. Rebekah. so all that is feminine of the Church. all souls being led to Christ in her volume are types of early biblical women characterised by special qualities of love: Eve. His mother: Elizabeth.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 135 the marvel of “a woman” (for such is the figure. whatever may be the signification) appearing at the centre of such concurrent glories’ (p. leper colonies. Rachel. orphanages. 21:2 Rossetti is able to make much of the New Jerusalem’s identity as bride of Christ. rescue homes. hospital wards. and ‘as the daughters of Zelophehad were espoused by their near kinsmen. the woman of Samaria to whom ‘He announced Himself as Messiah’. Why then break off our parallel with the galaxy of holy maids and matrons memorialised in the Old Testament. whose glory ‘was her worship of His unseen Presence’. 371). in likeness His sister. including all ‘nursing Fathers and nursing Mothers’ of the Church. After a lengthy list of women from the Old Testament. and reminds her reader that ‘Her perfections are thy birthright. where men have failed: As everything that is masculine is or should be typical of Christ. The image of the bride continues into the present. haunts of starvation. adding a passing comment that women are continuing true to the type. 434) New Testament women had the privilege of a direct relationship with Christ. and Rossetti joyfully abandons any figurative meaning for an elaboration of imaginative and emotional detail: Mary. in union His spouse’. 19:7 allows her to bring to the forefront the women of the Bible. “My sister. 436). (p. thou art . ‘Give her of the fruit of her hands’. with the charity work women continued to do in the Victorian Church. coming forth ‘from the thousand battle-fields of the fierce fight of her afflictions. and not carry it further by help of their sister saints in the Gospel. When the New Jerusalem descends in Rev. My spouse”’ (p. 433). fires of martyrdom. and the many others whom he loved. ‘in tenderness His dove. healed or consoled. in these and such as these did she set up mirrors whereby to fashion herself after Christ’s likeness’. and because the Church is seen as feminine. so to blessed souls Christ deigns to say.

she makes it familiar and homely. (p.136 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology what she was. Her next words are bitter indeed: ‘Not Holy Jerusalem but obscene Babylon flaunts forth under the figure of a woman’ (p. which despite this carries a divine message. and if it please Thee say unto us. As before. The curiosity of Eve brought sin into the world and death by sin. equivocal. Curiosity may have seduced Lot’s wife into looking back. and doubly likely to facilitate a fall when to . 481). The closing chapters of The Face of the Deep show a renewed fear that in giving her own interpretation to the divine text she has repeated Eve’s sin: Curiosity though it be not a sin forms a highway for sin. These two instances suggest Curiosity as a feminine weak point inviting temptation. 497). the city of the Great King: thus repelling mortal frailty from any sensual. Rossetti’s observation carries an understanding of the text as an imperfect construction. 498). with recognizable features and amiabilities of a home’ with Christ ‘that Great Householder Whose house is the universe’ (p. the joy seems to fade from her description of New Jerusalem. show us what Thou wilt. as with her discussion of the Whore of Babylon. Show us not what would hide Thee: hide not what would reveal Thee. “It is I”. unworthy image of transcendent spiritual truths which demand purged hearts for their contemplation. she can only fall back on faith and the limits she has set for her enquiry: ‘Lord Jesus. Say unto us. “Be not afraid”’ (p. With this observation. 497) Whilst superficially her lines appear to consent to the notion of the unworthiness of a woman’s body to represent ‘transcendent spiritual truths’. Hide from us what Thou wilt. given the image of a city. but nevertheless. purged lips for their utterance. the joy of the whole earth. there is a bitter note to Rossetti’s discussion of the Holy City: ‘The Bride’ appears not under the semblance of a woman. whereupon she became a pillar of salt. Her words here strongly suggest that she holds the male writers of the text unable to achieve the purity of heart necessary to describe anything but an ‘unworthy image’ of New Jerusalem. that above all else we may prefer Thee. ‘a genuine home. what she is thou mayest become’ (p. but as a ‘great city’ beautiful for situation. 497). that we may fall back on Thee. However.

22:10 the book is left unsealed. who. In Rev. powers. and Lot’s wife take her own way behind her husband’s back. Rossetti draws attention once more to the urgency of the message. 520) The sharing of theology and biblical interpretation between the sexes which these two cases suggest seems reasonable enough. my own inherent evil is what I have to cope with. I beg pardon’. Thus we see Eve assume the initiative with Adam. leaving me already all alone face to face with my Judge. 532). I am summoned to wrestle on my own scale against principalities. The Face of the Deep ends with a parting comment which shows Rossetti’s real fear that she herself has overstepped the line: ‘If I have been overbold in attempting such a work as this. rulers of the darkness of this world. and can now never be shut: ‘Our eyes we can open or shut. neither is it mine adversary that magnifieth himself against me: it is I. it is I who undo. defile. not primarily any other. That tremendous endowment of Free Will which can even say nay to God Almighty. Nothing outside myself can destroy me by main force and in my own despite: so that as regards my salvation the abstract mystery of evil concerns me not practically. but inward within myself: it is not mine enemy that doeth me this dishonour. Rossetti’s words tell us. Thus the universe seems to stand aside. True. but the opened book never can we shut. but there is sadness in Rossetti’s depiction of Lot’s wife. but none of these can crush me unless I simultaneously undermine my own citadel. must work out her salvation on her own. out of sight. 531). (p. spiritual wickedness in high places.The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse 137 indulge it woman affects independence. 490) As her volume draws to a close. Whom it cannot instruct it must judge’ (p. it is not another. at once and for ever as utterly alone with Him as I can be at the last day when set before His Tribunal. . is able tenfold to say nay to the strong man armed. (p. Despite the fact that ‘no insight or profundity of mortal man ever has been adequate to the full exploration of this Apocalypse’ its message ‘is as clear as day: “Worship God”’ (p. There is an echo of Lot’s isolation in the desolation of some of Rossetti’s observations at the end of the book: I pursuing my own evil from point to point find that it leads me not outward amid a host of foes laid against me. deface myself.

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anguish and want with satisfaction and satiety. Sisters and friends share joys and sorrows alike. The Face of the Deep.1 Yet she remains remarkably true to the vision of many of her early poems: of Goblin Market itself. which. grows stronger as Rossetti gains confidence in the development of her own theology. mainly by women. To cheer one on the tedious way. when with the publication of Goblin Market she was hailed ‘High Priestess of PreRaphaelitism’ and the ‘Jael who led their (Pre-Raphaelite) hosts to victory’. from the wholeness and sense of relatedness of all things. or her early novel Maude. To strengthen whilst one stands. although initially located in marginal figures. of mental anguish 139 . all within small cameos of daily life and communal transactions. To lift one if one totters down. Rossetti has come a long way from her early Pre-Raphaelite days. but also of poems like ‘The Lowest Room’. To fetch one if one goes astray.562–7) By the time she writes her last volume. like Mary in Maude. barren landscapes alternate with wholesome or luscious fruit. (ll. gardens blossom and blow. Her later devotional prose springs from this web of women’s experience.6 Conclusion For there is no friend like a sister In calm or stormy weather. A stumbling block in the appreciation of Rossetti’s devotional texts has long been the critical preference (at least as far as Rossetti’s work is concerned) for the negative values of renunciation.

even those not of the Anglican faith. But we also need to recognise that Rossetti has. Modern developments in feminist theology have done much to highlight the importance of women’s experience. can assist. as in the pattern in both Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus. ‘used as a norm for or judge of any theology insofar as that theology tries to limit woman’s abilities and roles by caricaturing women or by stereotyping them or by setting forth plain falsehood about women as truth’. for example. and later in assimilating the wholeness and harmony associated with the figure. She is able not only to revalue women’s religious and spiritual experience. so to speak. For the literary critic it becomes hard to follow and appreciate these developments. and the damage done by theological stereotypes. Rossetti offers in the form of a Christian fairy tale an experienced woman speaking to daughters’. Here theology.140 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology and of frustrated women figures dwindling or locking themselves away from the world in horror. Long-held beliefs about the nature of womankind are held up against woman’s own feelings of self. Rossetti is able to construct a new world vision in her theology and to speak with a new authority. looks beyond this stereotype and is able to recognise it as both cause and effect of a repressive theology which denies the relevance of woman’s experience. feminist theology provides a ground map and a critical vocabulary. or in ‘The Lowest Room’. in the sense that she is able to remove the figure of wisdom from its limited context as subject of a father–son pep-talk. Her early wisdom-figures. where ‘Instead of having a wise man of the world speak to a “son”. but also to restore a wholeness and homeliness to the spiritual understanding of many individual Christians. D’Amico in particular comes close to identifying Rossetti’s reliance on the figure of wisdom. In allowing wisdom herself to speak through sisters and friends in her work. in Goblin Market. Rossetti’s constant reference to the book of Proverbs has been noted. on the other hand. ‘deconstructed’ the wisdom texts.2 D’Amico has correctly identified the inversion of form.3 In the study of Rossetti’s theology. and particularly feminist theology. may be recognised as representations . Rossetti’s vision. especially when in her writing established forms break down and become secondary to religious experience. In her discussion of Goblin Market she suggests that the last lines of Laura’s advice to the children gathered around her ‘recall in both form and content the wisdom literature of Proverbs and the apocryphal Ecclesiasticus’.

Conclusion 141 of positive femininity and spiritual strength. a repressive patriarchal theology which has rejected physical matter as feminine and unclean is also rejecting Christ who was so intimately linked both to the physical world and to His mother. Language is subject to the law just as actions are. Similarly. past and present also in unity through the study of the saints as once living people involved in their own communities. as is a love of God which is not manifested in love of neighbour.5 As in Rossetti’s work the ‘letter’ of scripture points us towards living communities and is seen as a record of the spirit moving through the realities of their daily lives. Spiritual life grows out of daily interaction with one another in the world. In Time Flies small homely rituals become opportunities for learning wisdom in our relationships with one another and the rest of the material world. creating a female space for her women readers within their practice of Christianity.4 From this position of strength are developed the parallel yet interlocking universes of nature and humanity we see in Called to Be Saints. making humans the norm and crown of creation in a way that diminishes the other beings in the community of creation’. ‘a spirituality that locates the spirit/soul within the body. where the plain obvious meaning of words as they relate to physical realities or living communities. that is. working outward from the central unity of God – even language itself. Language also becomes the focus of her scrutiny in Letter and Spirit. so the focus of her theology becomes the life of the spirit in her own daily experience. rather than. All things are connected. From here also Rossetti constructs the harmonious and unified vision of all creation united in praise of God that we see in Seek and Find. of charging the words of scripture with new contemporary meaning. has been manipulated or misrepresented. In Annus Domini Rossetti recognises the potential of renaming God in terms of personal experience. Spirit without the concrete reality of the letter is meaningless. Misuse of language has characterised a male theology. through wisdom’s mediating role in our relationship with God and his creation we see emerge her criticism of ‘humanocentrism. which speaks to women also because derived from the realities of their lives. as opposite to it’. as in the Cartesian dualism. and spiritual lessons are not learnt in isolation. They often . but language is also a meeting point with God. We appeal to God through prayer. Similarly. Rossetti’s idea of spirit can be likened to Melissa Raphael’s thealogy. and through language God is revealed in the scriptures.

the wordsmith of empty words. and the greed and corruption which produces an ever widening gap of rich and poor. (The Face of the Deep. now abandoned. The Face of the Deep. allows her to interpret one of the most challenging books of scripture from her own particular place of wisdom and experience. p. In the degradation of Babylon we glimpse the glittering but corrupt world of London’s high society and its victims: the prostitute. Dreadful were it simply to be shut up with self in the darkness of a grave-like solitude. Rossetti holds up the Holy City of Revelation and ‘the Tree of Life. the vain. contributing her own wisdom and that of her foremothers. springing out of the earth toward Thee. once fêted. aunts and sisters. 550) It is notable that although Rossetti has taken much of the material of Time Flies from her interaction with her mother. which represents to us Jesus’ (p. revive our drooping souls as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. 549): O Thou Who art as the light of the morning when the sun riseth. Her final volume. she does not use the word ‘sisterhood’ or any other word which would mark the volume as a record only of feminine experience. the wilfully foul from the holy city. a teacher and an interpreter within the community of Christians. Against this spiritual desolation. overdressed society belle.142 Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Theology spring unawares from the frustrations and challenges of community life. (p. In faith and humility she searches for lessons which speak to her own gender or to her own time. Worse than any suffering through weakness or through error is a self imposed separation from God and from the rest of humanity: The wilfully dead sever themselves from the Tree of Life. confident that God’s message will be revealed in a form suitable for herself and her readers. even a morning without clouds. taking her place as a woman. but is searching out lessons in all areas of daily life. 550) . She is not simply substituting female experience for male.

1970). 153. In Barbara J. 47. 169–193. Owen Chadwick. For a more detailed introduction to feminist christological enquiry. Oxford Apostles (London: Faber. 5. Jenkins. ed. James Bristol (Parker: Oxford. G. Sophia’s Prophet. For example. 1996) p. 1992) p. p. 1973). 27. 12. Gender and Christian Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Anglican Attitudes: A Study of Victorian Religious Controversies (London: Collins. 133. 8. Mary Daly. 9. SHE WHO IS: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad. 1966). Beyond God the Father p. The Mind of The Oxford Movement (London: Adam and Charles Black. 1996). ‘The Danger of Riches: Seek God First and Ye Shall Have All’. Alison E. Bishop of Lincoln. 2. pp. and Religious Controversies of the Nineteenth Century (London: Collins. Reclaiming Myths of Power: Women Writers and the Victorian Spiritual Crisis (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Pusey is commenting here on Gen. Christian Womanhood and Christian Sovereignty: A Sermon (London: Rivington.O. See Ruth Y. Two Sermons Preached in the Parish Church of St. 1995). Cockshut. 43–4.J. Quoted also in Grace Jantzen Power. 7. ‘The Significance of Mary Daly’s Thought for Feminist Theology’. 1842) p. 60. Daly. After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation. 1959). 1970). Jesus – Miriam’s Child. Wordsworth 143 . 149 and 161. Beyond God the Father. 3.Notes Introduction 1.). 13. 1993). Jesus – Miriam’s Child. 3: 6. 13. Faith and Revolt (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Chapman. 1995). Tertullian (AD 202). Faber. Rivington. 1850) p. MacHaffie (ed. Mungo Press. Quoted also in Fiorenza. see Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. 75. in Talking it Over: Perspectives on Women and Religion. 29. 1995). for a more detailed overview of Daly’s post-Christian theology. 1954). R. Chr. 1884) pp. Pusey. 10. for an excellent introduction to the attempts of Victorian women to reclaim spiritual authority. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 6. 4. 11. Jasper and Alastair Hunter (Glasgow: Trinity St. 1993–1995 ed. p. Wordsworth. ‘A Letter to His Grace The Archbishop of Canterbury’ (London: Parker. A. Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology (London: SCM Press. 1960). pp. Readings in her Story: Women in Christian Tradition (Minneapolis: Augsberg Fortress. 69. 20–1. Daly. Beyond God the Father (Boston: Beacon Press. Elizabeth Johnson. See Sue Waslin. and The Victorian Church (London: Adam and Charles Black. pp. 164.

2 December 1881. See Joel Westerholme. Rossetti (London: Macmillan. 8. ‘J. Jenkins. I Tim. Melissa Raphael. 7. 1 Pet. RuthY. 1979) p. 16:34. p. 12. ‘A Medical Comment on Christina Rossetti’. Cassandra (New York: Westbury. 11. Reclaiming Myths of Power (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. 466. Victorian Newsletter No. 1995). ed. 3:19 to support his argument. Women and the Church of England from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (London: SPCK. W. 92 (Fall 1997). 84 (Fall 1993). Victorian Newsletter. 15. became a Roman Catholic layman and published pamphlets attacking his old friend Pusey. 1994). during the 1840s. 2.1904). 9–10. pp.144 Notes 14. Marsh. 5. pp.’ John O’Waller. ‘I Will Magnify Mine Office: Christina Rossetti’s Authoritative Voice in Her Devotional Prose’. 12. Rossetti (London: Brown Langham.M. p. p. and Lynda Palazzo. pp. and who in the wake of the Gorham Case controversy at the end of 1850 resigned his curacy. Christina Rossetti. F. ‘The Poet and the Bible: Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Hermeneutics’. ‘Dodsworth (1798–1861) is deservedly best known as a follower of Pusey and Newman who. 1994). pp. 17. James A. Christina Rossetti: A Bibliography (Hanley Swan: SelfPublishing Association.13 (September 1996). 73 (1969). Chapter 5. 1994). conducted at Christ Church one of the most distinctively High Church ecclesiastical programs in London. 1 Cor. Kohl. Ellice Hopkins: The Construction of a Recent Spiritual Feminist Foremother’. lxviii. Reclaiming Myths of Power. 94. no. pp. 53. 52. 4. 1908). 11. x. 3:4. The Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti. 9. 157. 9.’ Sean Gill. 63. p. No. Cited in Marsh. lv. 64. Christina Rossetti. ‘The inspiration for the revival of religious orders came from the Early Church. Letter to DGR. Frances Thomas. uses 1 Cor. 2:11 and Eccles. Jenkins. 16. 10. Dodsworth was to go over to Rome in 1850. 11. 12. . 3. 6. ‘Christ’s Second Coming: Christina Rossetti and the Premillenialist William Dodsworth’. Christina Rossetti: A Literary Biography (London: Jonathan Cape. Nightingale. The Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti. with Memoir and Notes by W. 26. Including Goblin Market and Maude 1. 423. Notes and Queries (1968) p. The Family Letters of Christina Georgina Rossetti with Some Supplementary Letters and Appendices. 93. ‘Jerome. p. Jan Marsh. The Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti. and the mysoginist tradition of the Fathers with its adulation of submissive virginal femininity was incorporated into the ideal of sisterhood life – as was the emphasis upon the authority of an exclusively male priesthood. 21:10.M. p. 9. Hopkins’ recognition of her sacred mission amongst prostitutes is vital in our understanding of the theological importance of Rossetti’s Goblin Market. Bulletin of the New York Public Library. 1 Early Poetry. Feminist Theology.

1995). B. Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford between AD 1859 and 1872 (Oxford: Parker. R. According to him. p. Rosenblum. 96. p. The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. Mrs. 136. ‘Oxford and the Pre-Raphaelites from the Perspective of Nature and Symbol’. p. 28. Pusey. 398 and 396. From now on page numbers from Crump will be given in the main text. 21. deploring it even when it was expressed within marriage (which he referred to as “vomit”). 27. ‘The World. 29. David W. Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford between AD 1859 and 1872 (Oxford: Parker. p. Perry Butler (London: SPCK. 23. Maude: Prose and Verse. pp. Denison. 1983). 1897. Gender and Christian Mysticism Jantzen describes their state as that of ‘honorary men’. rpt. p. 1983). H. 396. Maude. E. found in Keith Denison. p. sermon XVI. Crump (London. p. 16. arguably one of the most misogynist of all the patristic writers was also most preoccupied with woman’s sexuality. Christina Rossetti: The Poetry of Endurance (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 223. (London: Longman Green. Pusey Rediscovered. Letter to E. told by her sister. The well-read copy of Keble’s Christian Year would suggest that she was familiar with the idea of a sacramental universe.). having renounced the supposed weakness and corruption of female flesh and put on the Christ-like state of maleness.F. an Ever-living Enemy’. ‘Dr Pusey’. Richards. Gender and Christian Mysticism. p. Pusey Rediscovered (London: SPCK. a knotted whip used to strike the shoulders.Notes 145 13. Jantzen. 14. An account of the death of Jane Ellacombe. 18. In ibid. Forrester. In Power. E. ed. Preface to 1897 edition of Maude (new edn. 15. p. ‘The World. pp. 11. Maude. Crump. 80. p. 396. 1872). Vol. Power. Diana Apostolos-Cappadona. Hamden: Archon Books. 31. 3. Her relationship to Keble’s ideas will be discussed in a later chapter. JPRS 2 (1) (1981). 26. Liddon. Welland. 20. R. Power. Notes.T. . 24. 21 and 22. The Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey. 1976). 1845. 79). Liddon. an Ever-Living Enemy’.. 399. Pusey.B. vol. 221. ‘Dr Pusey’s Marriage’. 1884). p. 1872) sermon xvi. 4 vols. Gender and Christian Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “women with child offer a revolting spectacle”’ (Grace Jantzen.P. 99. A hint that Rossetti was trying to express more than the final text actually contains can be seen in the scraps of writing remaining after attempts at erasure on the manuscript. ‘Dr Pusey as Confessor and Spiritual Director’. p. such as ‘The language is so against us’. 30. D. in Perry Butler (ed. an inmate of the Park Village Sisterhood. 54). ed. 1986). the sisters also submitted to the ‘discipline’. 17.W. 53–4. 89.W. 1979). 25. p. 6. 23. Apart from ritual fasting and the wearing of sackcloth. 19. 22. 3.

p. Elizabeth Helsinger. 1865). Vol. 37. 1979).W. Our Fallen Sisters: The Great Social Evil (London: E. Harrison’s reading of the poem as presented by ‘a specifically male self-inquisitor trying to resist an archetypal Eve figure who is an agent. J. in D’Amico. H. in The Enduring Conflict of Christ with Sin that is in the World (Oxford: John Henry and James Parker. p. no. See D’Amico. 38. 43. A. A.H. The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven: Yale University Press. 40. p. 1864). was one of the Tractarians’ favourite poets. Rosemary Ruether. 1 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.H. eds. Gubar. The Christian Year (London: Macmillan. ‘The Conflict with Impurity’. 155.146 Notes 31. 45. 46. H. 74. in principle at least. She also notes that ‘In Proverbs. is more accurate in its perception of Rossetti’s ironic social comment. Gender and Discourse in Victorian Literature and Art. 35. 566). An odd assertion to make about Christ’s attitude towards evil. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language (London: SCM Press. ‘Consumer Power and the Utopia of Desire: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market’. p. 566 and 367. Janet Galligani Casey. ELH 58 (1991) p. if not a specter. 91. 36. 39. Christian Remembrances (January 1849). 1992). George Herbert. Harrison and Beverly Taylor (Northern Illinois University Press. JPRS 1(2) (1891). in ‘The Significance of Mary Daly’s Thought for Feminist Theology’. we also find a counterpart to Rossetti’s world-woman – the figure of Wisdom’ (p. 34. 32. John Armstrong. 41. Judge. Rossetti’s association with the Society and members of the Langham Place Circle of feminists would suggest that she supported their cause. Gilbert and S. pp. but this is not the case in Maude or in ‘The Lowest Room’. 564. p. 44. The Letters of Christina Rossetti. 1874). 47. 29. p. Victorian Newsletter 72 (Fall 1987). 1 (1991). p. 926. ‘A Possible Source for Christina Rossetti’s “World-woman”’. Harrison suggests 1858 or 1859 as the date of her first meeting with Barbara Bodichon. 36–42. 148. ‘The Church and Her Female Penitents’. of Satan’. Christina Rossetti: A Literary Biography. Marshall. 174 quoting Daly. ‘Equal Before God’. 1997). 126–8. 33. in Sallie MacFague. ‘The Potential of Sisterhood: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market’. VP. 134. p. In ‘A Triad’ the women are guilty of ‘soulless love’. Burrows. pp. 1982). D’Amico. which suggests a severe limitation in Gubar’s understanding of Christian theology. 1988). pp. Christina Rossetti in Context (Brighton: The Harvester Press. Keble. S. 1975). Waslin. Gubar ultimately dismisses the whole concept of a female Christ as ‘didacticism’ (The Madwoman in the Attic. . 127). A. ‘Christina Rossetti’s Christian Year: Comfort for “the weary heart”’. although it is probable that she was a corresponding member of the Portfolio Society even earlier. 33. 42. New Woman–New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation (New York: Crossroad. whose work Rossetti is known to have admired. vol.

has reached a similar conclusion: ‘In the poem she subverts Christian allegory in order to allow women to participate equally in the positive roles of Christian mythology: they are not limited to being Eve figures. pp. Antony Harrison and Beverly Taylor (Northern Illinois University Press. 13. W. 232) can be seen in Joseph Bristow’s ‘“No Friend Like a Sister”?: Christina Rossetti’s Female Kin’. and may even go so far as to become Christ figures’ (p. and Time (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. eds. 1904). pp. 57. Melissa Raphael. in Marsh. In her article on the work of Hopkins (FT. A full discussion of the latest developments in the study of Wisdom/ Sophia would be out of place here. 91) Melissa Raphael notes that domestic work was possibly just as enslaving as prostitution. Marsh. 60. but an accessible account may be found in Schüssler Fiorenza’s Jesus – Miriam’s Child. ‘In an Artist’s Studio’. ‘From House to Home’ was composed on 19 November 1858. p. 233. September 1996. . 67–83. 33 (1995). 1860. vol. Feminist Theology. 54. No. 32 (1994). no. 84. i. and establishes the link with Goblin Market in ‘“Equal Before God”: Christina Rossetti and the Fallen Women of Highgate Penitentiary’. Janet Galligani Casey in her article ‘The Potential of Sisterhood’. ‘J. 56. Marsh.Notes 147 48. 51. 49. Diane D’Amico gives a detailed account of the activities which Rossetti would have been engaged in at Highgate. 330. p. 218. Jesus – Miriam’s Child. 9). The Poetical Works. p. 75). Sophia’s Prophet. 13–14. Vol. 233–48. 220. 50. Jan Marsh further develops the connection in ‘Christina Rossetti’s Vocation: The Importance of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market’. see Marsh. Gender and Discourse in Victorian Poetry and Art. 1999). to be sure. 55. p. 59. pp. Christina Rossetti. ‘The change from a monarchic. but an “improved” domesticity in which the woman’s role as nurturer achieves dignity and respect’ (p. 13 (September 1996). I take the date of Rossetti’s voluntary work from Marsh. p. 257–81. 52. 87. through her comparison with Nightingale’s Cassandra. Casey is unable to envisage anything more than a literal interpretation of the domestic metaphor at the end of the poem: ‘a domestic reality. pp.’ Schüssler Fiorenza. VP. Christina Rossetti. A recent example of this critical abuse (besides the abuse of the poem in Playboy. 53. can achieve new dignity as Mary/Martha figures. 75). p. centrally administrated society to a society oriented towards the needs and interests of families and extended households was positively expressed in the image of the ideal Israelite woman in Proverbs 31 and in praise of Woman Wisdom who builds her cosmic house (Prov. pp. 69 and 82. pp. Victorian Poetry. Ellice Hopkins: The Construction of a Recent Spiritual Feminist Foremother’. Gender. 134. Sophia’s Prophet. p. The Magdalen’s Friend vol.M. ed. 228. Rossetti (London: Macmillan. p. 83. However. Christina Rossetti: Faith. Diane D’Amico. Christina Rossetti. 58. Christina Rossetti. 89. 1992).

‘Christina Rossetti and The English Woman’s Journal’. Victorian Feminists (Oxford. She discusses amongst others Sarah Grimke. 6. 7. 1 (Spring 1997). 91. 4.’ The Conflict with Impurity (London: Parker. 160. 8. Bodichon. 95. Yet from the extravagances of party his natural fairness of mind made him recoil. and exerts weight in vestries and poor-house management. 20. 19. 1864). 417. Christina Rossetti. Littledale. 43. Henry William Burrows: Memorials (London: Kegan Paul. 25. 1853) and Eliza Farnham. 92. Barbara Caine. pp. p. ‘He was a High Churchman. Woman’s Record (New York. 16 and 17. Diane D’Amico. 12. Feminist Studies. pp. 1992) p. 93. In England Catherine Booth had also recently published her Female Ministry: or Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel in pamphlet form. 95. pp.’ Elizabeth Wordsworth. 1887). 1879). 9. An account of feminist theological activity in America and in Britain can be found in Elizabeth Helsinger et al. A good summary of the debate may be found in Caine. Woman and Her Era (New York. ‘There are towns in which the worst of trades has become a vested interest. Marsh. pp. Barbara Bodichon. 48 and 6. later to republish it in Papers on Practical Religion (London. 1865). 3. p. 1983) vol. II (Social Issues). No. 10–15.. 13. pp. 9. the translation of the Old and New Testaments. 35. Sarah Josepha Hale. p. p. 2. Julia Evelina Smith. 12. . Women and Work (London: Bosworth and Harrison. 33–4. 32 (Autumn–Winter 1994). 20–4. Dawn Henwood. 220 and 223. 14. Published in 1870 in Commonplace. never an advanced Ritualist. but avowedly and decidedly belonging to the school of the movement which began with the Oxford Tracts. ‘Deconstructing Equality-versusDifference: Or the Uses of Post-structuralist Theory for Feminism’. 1874). Women and Work. pp. 7. begun in 1853 and published in 1876. 165–211. Vol. 11. JPRS (New Series) (1994). ‘Christian Allegory and Subversive Poetics: Christina Rossetti’s Prince’s Progress Re-examined’. 1857). Victorian Poetry. Linda Peterson. 1838). pp. The Religious Education. Including The Prince’s Progress and Annus Domini 1. Victorian Feminists. 14 (1988). 5. King and Co. 14.. 10. 231–6. On the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (Boston. Caine cites Joan Scott. quoting from The Religious Education of Women (London: Henry S. p. The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America 1837–1883 (New York: Garland. ‘The Half-Century of Christ Church.148 Notes 2 Later Poetry. 1894) p. 2 vols. Albany Street’ (London: Skeffington. ‘Restoring the Book: The Typological Hermeneutics of Christina Rossetti and the PRB’. VP Vol.

p. McFague says of Daly: ‘it verges on madness at times’ (Metaphorical Theology. in Brown. 28. (London: Parker. and sees Rossetti as simply ‘choosing texts on which to hook her collects’. 32. 1982). 59. p.Notes 149 15. fond of becoming a nurse in hospitals. Quoted in Jantzen. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language (London: SCM Press. 1999). As already mentioned. in Jesus–Miriam’s Child (p. 399. Selected Prose. 33. The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America 1837–1883. p. Epilepsy and Hysteria in Females (1866). . 1842).M. 259. Christina Rossetti. Littledale. 1991). 27. Vol. Taken from Marsh. Johnson. p. p. Jantzen. p. Jantzen. 32. 30. 22. who was especially hounded by Pusey himself. Power. p. ‘A Letter to His Grace The Archbishop of Canterbury’ (London: Parker Rivington. See also the study of symbol in Time Flies. 1963). Fiorenza. “sisters of charity”. 18. McFague. p. 37. Marsh. 58) quotes the whole speech. 41–2. Marsh. Diane D’Amico. 224. Black Sister: Poetry by Black American Women. Gender and Christian Mysticism. Gender and Christian Mysticism. Clitoridectomy was thought to be an effective way of curing a certain kind of ‘insanity’ which attacked a young woman at the onset of puberty. 47. p. 24. II. 26. 17. Rossetti later angrily attacked science for the cruelty of vivisection. to facilitate a feminist interpretation of the scriptures. 414. 1996). and Helsinger et al. pp. Quoted from L. 29. 36. Metaphorical Theology. 130. for example. One has only to think of the fate of Benjamin Jowett. p. has overlooked this point. 197. 31. p.. science had already become an instrument for perpetuating the idea of woman’s emotional nature and her tendency towards depravity. Helsinger. p. Vol. 1874). SHE WHO IS: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroads. 24f. p. Power. 21. especially in relation to the use of metaphor. ‘Curing “Insanity” through Clitoridectomy’. For an account of the study of hermeneutics. 16. or other pursuits of a like nature’. Christina Rossetti. Jesus – Miriam’s Child. ed. 3. 35. 1981). 124. II. Gender and Christian Mysticism. Marsh. 170. from Erlene Stetson. 1740– 1980 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.. Fiorenza. Christina Rossetti. Isaac Baker Brown. 25. The Religious Education of Women. 374. 19. Packer. 23. The Revelatory Text (New York: Harper. 20. p. p. On the Curability of Certain Forms of Insanity. p. Christina Rossetti: Faith Gender and Time (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. Power. Elizabeth A. p. Sallie McFague. 228. Kent and Stanwood. 172. 413. The Woman Question. see Sandra Schneider. 159). Christina Rossetti (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 330. and which manifested itself through ‘the patient desiring to escape from home. 34.

p.). in Nature and The Victorian Imagination eds. 28. 257 and 391. p. p. Edmund College and James Walsh. Power. I. 23. ‘Heretical or Necessity?: The Relationship between Imagination and Transforming Theology’. p. 5. 20. vol. Gender and Christian Mysticism. Thealogy and Embodiment (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 1996). Quoted in Jantzen. 16. Repr. Crisp. Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality (Reading. pp. in On Reserve. In Rossetti’s Seek and Find we find the exact opposite. 1995). p. p. Elizabeth Johnson’s summary of the power of Sophia. p. 146. Matthew Fox (Santa Fe. Christina Rossetti in Context (Brighton: Harvester Press. 25. Showings. Knoepflmacher and Tennyson (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1987) p. Quoted in Jantzen. 246. Tract 89 in Tracts for the Times. 1991). The Way of Ignatius Loyola: Contemporary Approaches to The Spiritual Exercises (London: SPCK. 1900). 11. 1977) pp. IV.150 Notes 3 Called to Be Saints and Seek and Find 1. Keble is quoting from de Libero Arbitrio II. 135. 17. The Articles Treated on in Tract 90 Reconsidered and their Interpretation Vindicated (Oxford: J. p. pp. Power. Jantzen. She Who Is. Christ. Gender and Christian Mysticism. tom.36. 18 (September 1998). On Reserve. Origen. 19. p. Harrison. Tract 80 in Tracts for the Times. 23. 13. London: Rivington. in P. 225. 21. Parker. 15. Modern Painters. 10. p. On Reserve. 6. 282. 1868). 1996). 3. Quoted in Beth R. 18. 127. VI (London: Parker & Co. 153. 62. A. 1998) p. 7. p. 31. On Reserve. Feminist Theology. 1997). Thealogy and Embodiment. 1978). 8. Carol P. Byrne.H. 30. 183. On Reserve in Communicating Religious Knowledge. 2. Martin’s Press. Book of Divine Works with Letters and Songs. p. 5 vols (London: George Allen. Raphael. 239. Mass. vol. 89. All creation – including humanity – glorifies God through the fulfilment of its natural function. Frederick Kirchoff. vol. New Mexico: Bear and Co. Ruskin. On the Mysticism. p. 22. 17–27 (20). Power. Classics of Western Spirituality (London: SPCK. trans.: Addison-Wesley. On Reserve. p. Melissa Raphael.. Comment.Matt. 69. 14. . 1988). St. L. p. J. p. 21. 9.41. 76 and 79. ed. 4. p. 228. ‘The Spiritual Exercises: A Process and a Text’. 1849). On Reserve. On the Mysticism Attributed to the Early Father of the Church. 28 (from Proverbs 1: 20–1). in SHE WHO IS: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad. 12. from the Wisdom of Solomon. 3. Sheldrake (ed. Johnson. ‘A Science against Sciences’.xii. Gender and Christian Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.H. No. p. (New York: St. p.

19: 4 (1981). 25. ‘“I Magnify Mine Office”: Christina Rossetti’s Authoritative Voice in her Devotional Prose’. 28. Child Chaplin’s Benedicite: or. (London: John Murray. 29. After the publication of Essays and Reviews (1860). 30. 27. 148). 35. or indeed of the New Testament. 325. The doctrine of the verbal infallibility of the whole Bible. Minutes of the GLC 28 November 1879 (p. The Song of the Three Children. Knoepflmacher New York: Humanities Press. Minutes of the GLC 14 March 1879 (p. p. and its message seemed confusing and at times morally unacceptable: It was impossible with perfect honesty to defend every tittle contained in the Bible. and introduced by U. in Phases of Faith (London:1881 rpt. 32. 1866). Joel Westerholme. PhD. 13. Rosemary R. Introducing Redemption in Christian Feminism (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. is demonstrably false. A literal reading became impossible in the light of modern scientific knowledge. for the ordinary reader there was serious confusion about how the Bible was to be read. p. 1970). Bishop Colenso became an even more controversial figure for his Preface to the Pentateuch. which advocated a more liberal approach to the interpretation of scripture.Notes 151 24. 146. VN 88 (Fall 1995). 65. VN (Fall 1993). xvii). 182). Like the fate of Nightingale’s Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truths. 1998). edn. 2 vols. ‘Projection and Empathy in Victorian Poetry’. p. Keble. 64. ‘The Prose Works of Christina Rossetti’. Although Bible reading was generally encouraged. Ruether. University of Durham. Reclaiming Myths of Power. 1861). Palazzo. which even Jowett himself declined to edit. 15. 33. Frances William Newman. and a passage of Rossetti’s original manuscript for Seek and Find which shows evidence of his influence was rejected by the SPCK. ch. ‘No graver slur could attach to my book than would be a reputation for prevalent originality’ (Called to Be Saints.C. yet every now and then it became hard to deny that God is represented as giving actual sanction to that which we now call sinful … . See L. pp. 17–26. . See also L. pp. See Mary Arseneau and Jan Marsh. The Beginning of the Book of Genesis with Notes and Reflections (London: Rivington. On the Mysticism. pp. p. 37. Victorian Poetry. Palazzo. Shaw. 324. 31. 5. ‘Intertextuality and Intratextuality: The Full Text of Christina Rossetti’s “Harmony on First Corinthians XIII” Restored’. 120. 36. Thesis. Most of the points which give moral offence in the book of Genesis I had been used to explain away by the doctrine of progress. ‘The Prose Works of Christina Rossetti’. 1992. p. Rossetti may have made use of G. Unpubl.D. W.C. p. Benjamin Jowett. 26. author of ‘On the Interpretation of Scripture’ was singled out for particularly harsh treatment by Pusey. 34.

VP 35:2 (Summer 1997). p. and thus familiar. 48. 42.’ Thealogy and Embodiment. 2. p. Greta Gaard (Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. There is evidence also that Rossetti was studying the other texts of the Apocrypha also. abusive and patriarchal. 45. 194. See Westerholme. quoting for example. See Harrison. VN (Spring 1994). p.P. uses the same lines from Job (Thealogy and Embodiment. p. 1992). Christina Rossetti. Thealogy and Embodiment. ‘The apocryphal “Song of the Three Children”. As we saw in Westerholme’s claim. Marsh. Raphael quotes from Gyn/ Ecology.152 Notes 37. (pp. 41. p. 504. p. God and the Nations (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 13). 1995). 39. 50. 40. A romanticised view of nature has been seen by ecofeminists as sinister. 2. pp. 38. p. R. 155) and from Tobit (p. Crump (3 vols. Douglas John Hall and Rosemary Radford Ruether. 112). 47. has a curious place within the Anglican community. 25. for example. 35. p.’s are only right and reasonable’. pp. Robert Kachur limits Rossetti’s achievement in a similar way: ‘Rossetti and her sectarian counterparts use inherited Tractarian doctrines to suggest that it is “male” biblical exegesis – not the Bible per se – which hinders women’s own attempts to become interpreters of the Word’. Christina Rossetti. from The Wisdom of Solomon (see p. Mackenzie Bell. The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti. included as an alternative text within Morning Prayer. . Perhaps such an ambiguous text could be a woman’s text to Rossetti’s Anglican audience’ (Westerholme. Raphael. 15. ed. See Chaia Heller. Raphael. For a concise and accessible discussion of the origins of the debate. p. God and the Nations. 87. 1993). see Tibor Fabiny. 433–5) for an account of the campaign against vivisection. 46. Ecofeminism: Women. 1979). 26–9. M. vol. 3. 219–42. 43. Rossetti shares with recent feminists her comparison of female power with the chaotic forces of the cosmos.) (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 4 Letter and Spirit and Time Flies 1. Letter to Dante Gabriel. ‘… women M. 169. 88. Rossetti’s work is now being considered by the Tract Committee (see her title-page). p. From the General Literature Committee of the SPCK. See Marsh Christina Rossetti. September 1875. 49. 279). pp. Animals. for a discussion of Rossetti’s use of Ruskin’s work. Christina Rossetti in Context. ‘For the Love of Nature: Ecology and the Cult of the Romantic’. ‘I Will Magnify Mine Office’. ‘Christina Rossetti’s “Helpmeet”’. 47. 124. ‘I Will Magnify Mine Office’. p.W. 29–36. ed. 23. but not believed as authoritative as the ancient texts surrounding it. 44. p. ‘Religious feminists celebrate the mediation of the divine presence by ordinary natural things as opposed to special sanctified objects which have been set apart from daily life. Nature. The Lion and The Lamb (London: Macmillan.

My own copy of The Face of the Deep also shows evidence of having been used in the preparation of sermons. . ‘Today historical critics emphasise what they understand to be the “literal” at the expense of the spiritual sense’. 29. 20. Marsh sees Rossetti as ‘celebrating spinsterhood over wifehood’ in this passage. 12. From the original manuscript of ‘Treasure Trove’ in The Fitzwilliam Museum. The Victorian Church. which he saw as an attack on the authority of the Bible and showed much animosity towards Benjamin Jowett. Christina Rossetti: Faith. ed. sees the figures as ‘Rossetti’s questioning of the Victorian celebration of marriage’.K. 1982). contains a record of Rossetti’s own marginal annotations. Gender and Time. 10. 1999). A useful account of Rossetti’s ideas concerning the Eucharist can be found in D’Amico. p. Lay Sermons. p. p. 77–8. Kent and Stanwood comment on the ‘caustic shrewdness’ which was noted by A. she explicitly named the paternal God as one to be feared and appeased’ (Christina Rossetti. pp. pp. Here. King. 8. pp. Marsh singles out this passage for similar reasons: ‘This was a surprising but revealing admission of having appealed to Christ while cowering from God. 507. n. See Owen Chadwick. Kent and P. 14. Troxell Collection. 1998). Quoted in Ursula King. 231. trans. Stanwood (New York: St. 15. G.J. p. 2 vols (Oxford: 1912). ‘I Will Magnify Mine Office’. David A. Women and Spirituality. p. 30. aligning herself as his victim. 395n. on the other hand. which took account of modern developments in science. ‘The Statesman’s Manual’. and promoted a more liberal interpretation. 1970). 1972). vol. pleading for intercession. Westerholme. folder 27. E. 2. 266. pp. Reprinted in Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti. p. See Christina Rossetti. D’Amico. Gender and Time (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 77–100. 6. p. p. See Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti (New York: St. Women and Spirituality. 17. 18. p. 16. in Christina Rossetti: Faith. Cambridge. 5. Martin’s Press. Pusey in particular was angry at the publication of the volume. 13. xv. 7. Women and Spirituality: Voices of Protest and Promise (London: Macmillan. p. 148n). ed. Charlene Spretnack. D’Amico’s copy of Time Flies appears to have been used by a Methodist Minister (Christina Rossetti.181. 90. 507). White (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti. pp. 1989). p. The Politics of Women’s Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power within the Feminist Movement (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday & Co. 9. Martin’s Press.. p. 60. The collection of essays published in Essays and Reviews in 1860 challenged the literal interpretation of the Bible. King. 392–3. 92–3. The Lion and The Lamb. Francis. 16. 480.Notes 153 4. Part II (London: Adam & Charles Black. 11. 1998). Simcox in his review in The Academy (9 June 1883). By permission of the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum to whom rights in this publication are assigned. R. 19. Lectures on Poetry.

2. The notes on Exodus can be found in L. R. 98. with Notes and Reflections (London: Rivington. and elasticity of feeling” which Newman later defined as vital elements of the Tractarian ethos. Victorian Poetry. 330) suggests a time immediately before Seek and Find. 65. Morgan (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. Victorian Sages and Cultural Discourse.’ Peter Benedict Nockles. 8. Unpublished PhD Thesis. . Appendix A. 73 (1969). ‘On the Interpretation of Scripture’. 7. Isaac Williams. ‘Christina Rossetti and the Sage Discourse of High Anglicanism’. in Essays and Reviews (London: J. 1990).154 Notes 5 The Face of the Deep 1. 6. 3. pp. p. pp. pp. pp. 140.M. but not only is the method of commentary virtually identical to that in The Face of the Deep. Westerholme. 414–15. 416. The Achievement of Christina Rossetti (Ithaca. pp. 345. 1970). Christina Rossetti: Faith. 1. ‘That “heart religion”. See Palazzo unpublished PhD Thesis. 60–1. p. 3. 137. 246. p. 1983). Stanwood. 95. 9. Harrison. G. repr. Gregg International. 12. 15. See Palazzo unpublished PhD Thesis. Barbara Taylor describes some of the abuse these women had to suffer in Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the Nineteenth Century (London: Virago. 87 (Gen. Vol. Unpublished PhD Thesis. 16. For a discussion of the influence of Coleridge on Rossetti’s work. pp. ‘I Will Magnify Mine Office’. 11. pp. Chapman. Colleen Hobbs. 6. 13. I am indebted to Mrs. See ‘Christ’s Second Coming: Christina Rossetti and the Premillennialist William Dodsworth’. ed. 1860. The Mind of the Oxford Movement (London: Adam and Charles Black. ‘Christina Rossetti’s Devotional Prose’. ‘A View from “The Lowest Place”’. and pp. 1970). 22:13). ‘A View from “The Lowest Place”: Christina Rossetti’s Devotional Prose’. Joan Rossetti for the notes on Genesis and also to Professor Diane D’Amico for help in tracing their whereabouts. D’Amico.H. The Beginning of the Book of Genesis.W. 197–8. See Palazzo. Thais E. Apocalypse. Faith and Revolt: Studies in the Literary Influence of the Oxford Movement (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 14. P. 1849). 2. 62–5. A. p. 338. Tract 80. pp. 1994). 121–4. 32 (1994). 14. 18. Hobbs. 5. 1970). 10. Bulletin of the New York Public Library. p. but some ideas from the notes appear almost unchanged in her commentary on Revelation: p. 1987). 223. 377 (Gen. p. Packer (p. 463 (Gen. 5. ch. 8:9) and p. p. The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship 1760–1857 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker & Son. Packer’s biography of Rossetti. 5. 465–82. Hobbs is quoting from Dorothee Soelle. Gender and Time. 4. “play of mind. Benjamin Jowett. 17. see Palazzo. 384. p. NY: Cornell University Press. 49:31).

Stanton. See L. 15–20. Eve and the New Jerusalem. p. Gender and Time. Elizabeth Cady Stanton The Woman’s Bible (Seattle: Coalition Task Force on Women and Religion. 1990). 30. 13. Feminist Theology No. p. 1850). JPRS. p. D’Amico. Sexism and God-Talk: Towards a Feminist Theology (London: SCM Press. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. 183. 182–3. 1992). 18 (May 1988). Swinburne respectively. 26:2 (September 1988). Sir Edmund Gosse and A. 31. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. 22. Bodies and Thealogy: Some Questions’. 105. 6 Conclusion 1. Daly. 3. 125. 23. 1985). 67. Taylor. and for women MPs. the wording of the document was ambiguous. p. Revelation: Vision of a Just World (Minneapolis: Fortress. p. The Woman’s Bible. 66. p. 22. 32. Eve and the New Jerusalem. 128. 80. Stanton. Stanton. Gyn-Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Boston: Beacon. 176. Christina Rossetti: Faith. 20. pp. 28. 2. p.Notes 155 19. Christina Rossetti. pp. Rossetti had long been aware of the sensual excess which lay behind the wholesome veneer of Pre-Raphaelitism. 130–1. ‘Ritual. 29. Unisa English Studies. in Mackenzie Bell. 4. 25. Daly. It is no wonder. 26. ch. M. Rosemary Radford Ruether. 7:2 (May 1987). p. In Feminist Theology/Christian Theology: In Search of Method (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. There is a touch of hysteria in Bishop Wordsworth’s Is the Church of Rome the Babylon of the Book of Revelation? (London: Rivington. and ‘Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”: The Sensual Imagination’. 11. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgement (Philadelphia: Fortress. 164. M. 184. that she objected to an emancipation which she felt would destroy woman’s power. 5. 1898). Pamela Dickey Young. 1974). Rossetti was in fact for votes for women. D’Amico. D’Amico. 94–6. 3. p. 20. ‘Women’s Experience as Source and Norm of Theology’. Palazzo. The Woman’s Bible. 1983). pp. 1991). Christina Rossetti. 21. 82. p. ‘Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”: Representations of the Poetic’. p. p. Taylor. 24. Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press.C. Kathleen McPhillips. Christina Rossetti: A Biographical and Critical Study (London: Thomas Burleigh. p. 27. The Woman’s Bible. pp. D’Amico points out that although Rossetti signed a petition against woman’s suffrage. 1990). . then.

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Caine.W. 1887. ‘Heretical or Necessity?: The Relationship Between Imagination and Transforming Theology’. Chadwick. R. Victorian Newsletter No. S. ‘Intertextuality and Intratextuality: The Full Text of Christina Rossetti’s “Harmony on First Corinthians XIII” Restored’. London: Adam & Charles Black. Crump. Christ.W. Reading. 88 (Fall 1995) pp. Vol. Carol P. Diane. Religious Controversies in the Nineteenth Century. 126–8. London: Collins. H. Butler. Feminist Theology No. 1983. The Victorian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 2:1 (1981) pp. Coleridge. Lay Sermons. Chapman. Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 1:2 (1981) pp.J. A. Anglican Attitudes: A Study of Religious Controversies. H. 19 (September 1998) pp. 1970. Chadwick. 1865. London: Skeffington. London: Collins. London 1897. Mary. Burrows. London: SPCK. 1865. 1976.O.O. Perry (ed. 157 . Burrows. London: Adam & Charles Black. 99–118. The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti. I. Mass. White. D’Amico. Beth. Janet Galligani. R. Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality. Victorian Feminists.J. 17–26. ‘Oxford and the Pre-Raphaelites from the Perspective of Nature and Symbol’. Howden: Archon Books. ‘The Potential of Sisterhood: Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”’. 1959. 90–110. 1970. London: Parker. R. Barbara. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.T. R. 1966.Select Bibliography Apostolos-Capadona. 1972. Jan.W.: Addison-Wesley.W. A. 63–77. Cockshut. 1997.W. D’Amico. The Conflict with Impurity. Burrows. Maude: Prose and Verse. Diane. Crump. rpt. Ed. ‘A Possible Source for Christina Rossetti’s “World-woman”’. H. Pusey Rediscovered. Victorian Poetry 99:1 (1991) pp.). Albany Street’. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. The Enduring Conflict of Christ with Sin that Is in the World. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. and Marsh. Crisp. The Mind of the Oxford Movement. 1970. ‘Christina Rossetti and The English Woman’s Journal’ Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies (New Series) 1994. O. O. ‘The Half-Century of Christ Church. 1979. Oxford: John Henry and James Parker. Faith and Revolt: Studies in the Literary Influence of the Oxford Movement. Cockshut. Casey. Diana. Arseneau.J. 1992.

Dawn. Elizabeth Schüssler. London: SPCK. Beyond God the Father. Fiorenza. 25–9. 1993. G. Helsinger Elizabeth. II Social Issues. Elizabeth Schüssler.H. Hobbs. 1994. I.H. 36–42. Victorian Poetry 32 (1994) pp. 1979. Oxford Apostles. S. London: SCM Press. Boston: Beacon. New York: Garland. 1997. Helsinger. Gill. Daly. and Time. and Ruether. and Taylor. Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology. Elizabeth et al. 1995. Greta. Nature. Christina Rossetti: Faith. Johnson. Glasgow: Trinity St. Gender. Vol. SHE WHO IS: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. S. Christina Rossetti in Context. Victorian Newsletter (Spring 1994) pp. Gender and Christian Mysticism. A. 1995. Gyn-Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgement. The Letters of Christina Rossetti. Diane. 1996. 1991. Douglas John. Vol. Reclaiming Myths of Power: Women Writers and the Victorian Spiritual Crisis. ‘Christina Rossetti’s Christian Year: Comfort for “the weary heart”’. 1985.158 Select Bibliography D’Amico. New York: Crossroads. . Henwood. ‘Consumer Power and the Utopia of Desire: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market’. Diane. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Mungo Press. Jesus – Miriam’s Child. Victorian Newsletter 72 (Fall 1987) pp. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Women and the Church of England from the Eighteenth Century to the Present. God and the Nations. Gaard. Hall. Fabiny. (ed. Gilbert. ‘Christian Allegory and Subversive Poetics: Christina Rossetti’s Prince’s Progress Re-examined’. Tibor. Animals. Elisabeth A. ‘A View from the “Lowest Place”: Christina Rossetti’s Devotional Prose’. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 83–94. 1991. Coleen. 1995. D’Amico. New Haven: Yale University Press. Sean. London: Faber. Northern Illinois University Press. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Fiorenza. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jantzen.H. Alastair eds. Daly. Grace. B. Rosemary Radford. Victorian Poetry 35:1 (Spring 1997) pp. 1995. Fiorenza. Philadelphia: Fortress. Faber. Revelation: Visions of a Just World. 1983. 1992. Mary. and Gubar. ELH 58. A. 1996. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. London: Macmillan. Diane. Harrison. Brighton: The Harvester Press. Mary. Power. The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America 1837–1883. Harrison. Elizabeth Schüssler. Harrison. 1954. 1973. D’Amico. 1988. Alison E. Ruth Y. Jasper. ‘Christina Rossetti’s “Helpmeet”’. The Madwoman in the Attic. Minneapolis: Fortress. The Lion and the Lamb. 1999. and Hunter. Talking it Over: Perspectives on Women and Religion. Boston: Beacon Press. eds. 409–28. A. 1992. Gender and Discourse in Victorian Literature and Art.) Ecofeminism: Women. 1990. Jenkins.

JPRS 7:2.Select Bibliography 159 Jowett. John. 1998. ‘The Poet and the Bible: Christina Rossetti’s Feminist Hermeneutics’. Gregg International. MacFague.P. Feminist Theology. New York: Westbury. 1857. 1989. (ed. ‘Christina Rossetti’s Vocation: The Importance of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market’. 465–82. No. King & Co. On the Mysticism Attributed to the Early Fathers of the Church. Palazzo. Keble. 1979. Readings in Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition.R. Palazzo. Marsh. David A. 1860. The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship 1760–1857. Morgan. O’Waller. Knoepflmacher. MacFague. Christina Rossetti. London: Longman Green. May 1987. Lectures on Poetry. 4 vols. 1977. Nockles. May 1988. Kent. Nature and the Victorian Imagination. ‘Christ’s Second Coming: Christina Rossetti and the Premillenialist William Dodsworth’. The Christian Year. Women and Spirituality: Voices of Protest and Promise. Christina Rossetti: A Literary Biography. H. London: Henry S. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. R. P. Judge. 1874. 1994. Oxford: 1912. The Religious Education of Women. Berkeley: University of California Press.) 1868. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Women and Work. 18.W. Keble. Marshall. Francis. L. Ursula.K. ‘On the Interpretation of Scripture’. Barbara.B.B. 1884. U. Packer. ‘Repositioning the Female Christian Reader: Christina Rossetti as Tractarian Hermeneut in The Face of the Deep’. 2 vols. Kachur. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. London: Macmillan. Our Fallen Sisters: The Great Social Evil. Liddon. 1874. Martin’s Press. Bulletin of The New York Public Library. Tract 89 in Tracts for the Times. MacHaffie. Lynda.). Florence. King. Lynda. VI. ‘Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”: Representations of the Poetic’. London: J. Cassandra. Jan. 1992. Marsh. Victorian Sages and Cultural Discourse. P. Essays and Reviews. 1864. Victorian Newsletter No. Rpt. (repr. 1982. A. . New York: St. 1970. 73 (1969) pp. H. Summer 1997. G. Keble. Vol. London: Bosworth and Harrison. Leigh Smith (Bodichon).C. Littledale. Benjamin. 1990. London: SCM Press. London: Macmillan. and Stanwood. VP 35:2. E. Barbara J. Robert M. 1994. London: SCM Press. Trans. 92 (Fall 1997) pp. The Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey. ‘Ritual. Parker & Son. John. S. Minneapolis: Ausberg Fortress. Bodies and Thealogy: Some Questions’. 1963. 6–9. Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti. Nightingale. London: Parker and Co. Rpt.G. Thais E. London: E. and Tennyson. 1994. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. VP 32. Models of God in Religious Language. Jan. eds. John. Kathleen. McPhillips. London: Jonathan Cape. S.M. 1982.

The Family Letters of Christina Georgina Rossetti with Some Supplementary Letters and Appendices. Feminist Theology No. Melissa. Sexism and God-Talk: Towards a Feminist Theology. W. 1879. Raphael. Tina. 1885. 13 (September 1996). Ruether. Peterson. The Articles Treated on in Tract 90 Reconsidered and their Interpretation Vindicted. Pusey. Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford between AD 1859 and 1872. Rossetti. Rossetti. with Memoir and Notes by W.M. pp. E. Rosemary Radford. Modern Painters. Pippin. Schneider. 1900. Sandra. Christina. Maude: Prose and Verse ed. Rossetti. 1992.B. ‘A Letter to His Grace The Archbishop of Canterbury. 1908.). London: SPCK. Rossetti.’ London: Parker. Pusey.’ London: Parker Rivington. Annus Domini. 1842.B. Oxford: Parker. London: SPCK. John. London: Macmillan. E. London. Christina. Rossetti. The Revelatory Text. Linda. 1976. Letter and Spirit. Lynda. Melissa. Christina Rossetti: The Poetry of Endurance. 1982. London: F. Ellice Hopkins: The Construction of a Recent Spiritual feminist Foremother’. Called to be Saints. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. The Politics Women’s Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power within the Feminist Movement. Christina. W. London: SPCK. 1983. The Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti.B.B. Louiseville: Westminster/John Knox Press. ‘Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market: The Sensual Imagination’. Christina.M. 5 vols. 26:2. Oxford: Parker. Christina. London: Parker. 1874. New York: Anchor/Doubleday. New York: Crossroad. New Woman-New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation. London: Brown Langham. Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John. Introducing Redemption in Christian Feminism. 1892. London: SCM Press. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. E. New York: Harper. Crump. E. James. (ed. Rossetti. 1879. Rossetti. W. Rosenblum. 1975. London: Rivington. Two Sermons Preached in the Parish Church of St. Christina. Unisa English Studies. Pusey. The Face of the Deep. Seek and Find. Christina. Rossetti. Charlene. Pusey. Rossetti. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Christina. London: George Allen. 1849.S. 1996. 1881.D. 1986. 1904. VP 19:4. Ruskin. Rossetti. 1842. London: SPCK. 1981. London: SPCK. 1887. Christina. Ruether. ‘A Letter to His Grace The Archbishop of Canterbury. D.B. Rivington. 1998. Victorian Poetry 32 (Autumn–Winter 1994) pp. Ellis. Rosemary R. Rosemary Radford. Rossetti. Ruether. Raphael. ‘Projection and Empathy in Victorian Poetry’. 209–27. ‘J. Shaw. 1883. 73–95. Time Flies. Bristol.160 Select Bibliography Palazzo. 1991. . Commonplace and Other Stories. Hamden: Archon Books. 1850. Spretnack. 1872. September 1988. Pusey. Thealogy and Embodiment: The-Post Patriarchal Reconstruction of Female Sacrality. rpt. R. ‘Restoring the Book: The Typological Hermeneutics of Christina Rossetti and the PRB’. E.

The Apocalypse. Elizabeth Cady. 1852. Henry William Burrows: Memorials. London: Francis and John Rivington. Williams. Isaac. Isaac. London: Rivington. Young. Thomas. Joel. Frances. 11–17. . 1990. After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation. The Woman’s Bible. Barbara. London: Virago Press. Hanley Swan: Self Publishing Association. Elizabeth. Tract 80 Tracts for the Times. 1983. Seattle: Coalition Task Force on Women and Religion. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.Select Bibliography 161 Stanton. Victorian Newsletter No. repr. Minneapolis: Fortress. Van Leeuwen. with Notes and Reflections. Christian Womanhood and Christian Sovereignty: A Sermon. Williams. On Reserve in Communicating Religious Knowledge. Williams. Feminist Theology/Christian Theology: In Search of Method. Mary Steward. Wordsworth. 1861. Isaac. ‘I Will Magnify Mine Office: Christina Rossetti’s Authoritative Voice in Her Devotional Prose’. Pamela Dickey. London: Rivington. 1894. Taylor. 1974. The Beginning of the Book of Genesis. London: Kegan Paul. Wordsworth. with Notes and Reflections. Christina Rossetti: A Bibliography. Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the Nineteenth Century. 84 (Fall 1993) pp. 1884. Westerholme. Chr. 1993. 1992.

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Albany Street. 1 Benedicite. 14. 81 Fall.Index analogy. 91 Coleridge. 120 tree of Life. 107–8 see also sisterhood D’Amico. 35. 35–6 Christ. 32–5 Booth. 26. 64 Hopkins. 69 English Woman’s Journal. 65. 27 Church Fathers. 114 Esther. 98. xii n6. 42 Burrows. xiii. 39–51. 23 male. 82 Dodsworth. 129 Exodus.. 38. 74. Rev. 42 gift of symbol. 31 Evangelical Movement. 66. William. xii–xiii. 23. Mackenzie. xii Eve.T. 15. 126 Genesis. 82. Sandra. 124. xii. 13. 41–2. 47 Gubar. 24.W. 115 see also symbol Anglican sisterhoods. 95–7 incarnation. Diane. 128. 27. whore of. 57–8. doctrine of. 24–6 Hobbs. A. 136. Catherine. 23. 66–7 Christian Year. 41 fallen woman. 22. 136. 121. Barbara. 25. 21 Harlot. 35 Christ centre of cosmos. 48. 42 redemption. 39. 26–7. 61–2 Henwood. 93 2 Corinthians. Sarah. 15. 16 see also prostitute Harrison. 19.. 142 Christ Church. 25. 46. 112. 70. J. 32. 79. 131 Gage. 27 see also penitentiary Hildegard of Bingen. 9. Matilda Joclyn. xiii. 19. 142 see also Harlot Bell. 25. 92. Elizabeth Schüssler. S. 55 see also prostitute Fiorenza. 2.. 61. 81. 132. 38–9 Highgate. 118. 109. 46. 114 community. Carol P. xiv. 25 the fulfilment of wisdom. 14 see also Christ Church Ecclesiastes. J. 55. 78. Coleen. 111. 140 Daly. The. xii. Dawn. 120. 99–101 see also vivisection atonement. 131 Deuteronomy. 112–16 Grimke. 26–9. 85. 8. 41. 35.. 44. 123 Colenso.. 48. 125 163 . H. 126–33. 3. Mary. xi. 46. 56 see also Christ Church 1 Corinthians. 24. 6–8 animal rights. 59 see also Tractarian Babylon. 49. 16–18. 85 Caine. 44.H. 71 see also Seek and Find Bodichon. 26. 78. 3. 82 resurrection. Ellice. 27. 88–9. 68 female.W. 31 Essays and Reviews. xii. 65. 59. Barbara. Rev. 74. 26. 83 ecofeminism. The. 91. 79. 116.

Linda. 78. 67. 44 ‘Repining’. 63–5. 92–3. 75–6. 52. 36 Mary. 141 Maude. Dolores. 20 sisterhoods. John. 6 Tract on Baptism. 15. 62. 113 Isaiah. Martin. 60. 95. 55. Florence. Benjamin. 72–3. 31 ‘A Testimony’.164 Index imagination. 80 Johnson. 70. 48 Job. 77. 14 Annus Domini. 37 Modernist controversy. doctrine of. xiii. 68 ‘Hero’. 111. 2–3.. misuse of. 141 Littledale. Elizabeth. 140 Psalms. 137 Luther. 25 see also fallen woman Proverbs. 58. 16. 5. 62. xii. 135 McFague. 14. R. 38–40. 7. 81 Lamentations. 77 ‘A Royal Princess’. The. 101. 8. 37. 74 Romans. 76. 24. 16. 57–69. 47–56. 3. 7 Pusey. Ursula. 80. Melissa. 78. 7. 45–6. 72. 139 reserve. 139–40 ‘Good Friday’. 32 ‘LEL’. 53. 32. 22 Rossetti. 48. xi Pre-Raphaelite Movement. 21. 63 ‘A Helpmeet for Him’. 11. 28. 141 ‘From House to Home’. 53 metaphor. 22. 83. 125 Milton. 128. 98 Pusey. 31. 3. 53–5 Millenarian. 35. I. 27. 3. 69 Rosenblum. 58 King. 67. 71. 118 Newman. Grace. 11 see also Tractarian Parker. xii. 135. 35–8. 4. 54 renunciation. 28 Goblin Market. 10–14. 111 renunciation. 119. 2. 26. 25. 14. 45. 91 Romanticism. 79 Langham Place Circle. 11 . Jan. 85–94. 23. 50. 95. 98 Kent. 61. 20 ‘A Triad’. 51. 47. 31 Called to Be Saints. 88 Religious Education of Women. 31 post-Christian feminism. Christina ‘A Christmas Carol’. 85 Oxford Movement. 71. 11. 120. 12. 59. The. 104–5 Kings. 56–7. 15. 13. 141 ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’. The. 53. 82. 4. 68 retrieval. John Henry. 64 Keble. 51. 56. xiv Origen. 9–10. 4–6. David. 7 Raphael. 91 Jowett. 117. Bessie. 78 Jantzen. 38 prostitute. 36–8 re-naming. 35 Peterson. 35. mother of Christ. 17. doctrine of. 113–14 Julian of Norwich. 111 Lot. 32–3 language. 25. 59 n6. 38 Portfolio Society. 26. Edward B. 102. 113 Nightingale. 113 Marsh. 8. 39. Maria. 67 inspiration. 52. Sallie. 20–3. 83. 80 Joshua..F. 55. 22–31. 90. 85. 125. 15. 4. 58. 60. 141 re-imaging. 122–3. 139 Prince’s Progress. 63 n16 Jonah. 32 Letter and Spirit. 32 penitentiary.

82. Bishop C. 19–21. 26. 115. 95 St. Paul. 55. 77. 32 Webster. 73. 127 Song of Solomon. 78. Mark. 61. 114. 104. 51 Southcott. William Bell. 78 St. 25 sacramental universe. 104–5. 40–1 ‘The Lowest Room’. 24. 84. 102 Rossetti. 12. The. 76. 1. 58. 29. 46 Solomon. Frances. 68 Sheba. 66 St. xii. 13 The Face of the Deep. 125–7. 79 vanity of vanities. Mary Magdalene. 38 ‘The World’. 90 St. 123 Wisdom. 62. 21. 66. 121 Williams. 87–8 vivisection. 68–84. 98. 52. 90. 14–16. 38. 117 St. 60. 35. John. 56–61. Peter. Sandra. 91. 8–10. 19. Maria. xii. 84. Matthew. 97. 80 Ruskin. Dante Gabriel. Queen of. 84. 35 Shaw. 142 social criticism. 81. Joanna. 84. 33 Ruether. 41 Tractarian. 30 78. 76 1 Samuel. The. 33–5 Woman Question. 98. 28. 111–37. 122 St. 118 Trinity. 142 Sojourner Truth. 84 St. 99 St. 120. 102 n14 St. 5. 73. Joel. The. 18–19 ‘Symbols’. 141 ‘Shut Out’. 6. 113. 111. 25–7. 9. 85–6. 140 Woman and Work. Jerome. 20–3. Highgate. 83. 109. 4. 60. 65 Stanton. Rosemary Radford.Index 165 Rossetti. 76. 103–4. 130 St. 11.. xiii . Charlene. 141 Rossetti. 118. 81 sisterhood. 86. 59 Victoria Magazine. 78. Augustine. 135 Schneider. 2. xi. 112. 7. 66. 86. Elizabeth Cady. 83.D. 69. 131 Wordsworth. 139–40 ‘The Martyr’. 6–7. 125–7. 73. 70 spiritual strength. 58–61. Thomas. 88 Tertullian. 94–109. 113. 115. 133. Christina – continued Seek and Find. 125 SPCK. 116. W. 60. 73–6. 15. 117 1 Timothy. 54 n33 Scott. 131 Stanwood. 37. 108. 33–5 Woman’s Bible. William Michael. 69. 72. 27. 50. Andrew. 62 Time Flies. 61. 51 sacrality. 111. John. woman of. 62 Rossetti. 58 suffrage. 58. Isaac. 85 Samaria. Augusta. 69. 77 Westerholme. 23–4 St. 101. 102 Rossetti. 117. 31. xii. 107 Spretnack. 66. 142 ‘The Iniquity of the Fathers Upon the Children’. Luke. 65. P.. 77 symbol. 116. 3 ‘The Prince who arrived too late’. 86.. 10. 26.G. 3. 74 ‘The Convent Threshold’.

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