Selected Papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010
Fresh Light on Christina Rossetti and George Herbert: William Baker
Fresh Light on Christina Rossetti and George Herbert William Baker Northern Illinois University The influence of the great seventeenth-century devotional poet George Herbert (1593-1633) upon the poetry of Christina Rossetti (1930-1894) has not gone unnoticed. Contemporary reviewers of her work noted similarities. For instance a reviewer in the Eclectic Review, n.s. 2 in June 1862 reacting to Goblin Market and Other Poems, published in March 1862 by Macmillan, drew attention to “the manner of Herbert” in some of Rossetti’s’ devotional lyrics (p. 494). Edmund Gosse’s influential essay in his Critical Kit-Kats published the year of her death when Christina Rossetti’s critical reputation was in its ascendancy, referred to her as “a sister” of Herbert and the “poetic inheritor” of Herbert and other seventeenth-century devotional poets (p. 156). Indeed, William Robertson Nicoll in his Bookman review for March 1898 of Mackenzie Bell’s Christina Rossetti: A Biographical and Critical Study placed her “higher” than Donne or Herbert and others in the expression of “religious sentiment” (p. 74). However, George Saintsbury in his A Short History of English Literature, also published in 1898 observes of Herbert: “As a poet he is certainly not the equal of either Crashaw or Vaughan, and in his own quiet fashion he has in the present century been equalled by Keble and surpassed by Miss Christina Rossetti.” Saintsbury adding that Herbert “very seldom transports … his is an equable merit, a soothing and healthful pleasure” – shades of Saintsbury the wine critic – “rather than the dazzling excellence, the contagious rapture,...
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