The Germ of a New Year

The Rossetti clan met the New Year of 1850 with excitement and trepidation over a risky venture: a periodical put out by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to circulate its work and ideas through poetry, prose, and art. At first all offerings were anonymous but on the second printing the names of the authors and artists were admitted, except for the only female contributor, Christina Rossetti.

“Who was there?”

     “Everyone, I think. All the official PRB set, as well as Maddox Brown, Cave Thomas, Deverell swiveling his chair the entire evening, Hancock repeating ‘Guardami ben, ben son Beatrice’ to goad Gabriel, and too much coffee drunk.

     “At least they settled on a name.”

     Thoughts Towards Nature?” Christina hoped. “I like its simplicity.”

     “No.”

     “Oh, dear. They didn’t choose The PRB Journal?”

     “No. And not The Scroll, The Harbinger, The Seed, The Sower, First Thoughts, The Truth-Seeker, or The Acorn.”

     “What then?

     “Guess.”

     She did, remembering Gabriel’s preference, and liked it, almost as much as her first choice, after all, just an elaboration on it: The Germ: Thoughts Towards Nature in Poetry, Literature, and Art.

Excerpt from The Dove Upon Her Branch, A Novel Portrait of Christina Rossetti Copyright © 2023 by DM Denton

Illustration by Holman Hunt to Thomas Woolner‘s poem “My Beautiful Lady”, published in The Germ, 1850

Ellen Alleyn appeared and disappeared through her words, warbling melodically and melancholically, a songbird heard but never seen except perched on a page, and then by so few. Her engagement in life was meant to be sweet and safe, a natural movement from branch to branch towards the inclination of nesting. Instead, she was senselessly shot down by naïve expectations, which the afterlife would relentlessly look back on as bad judgment.  

It is an empty name I long for; to a name why should I give the peace of all the days I have to live.    

     It was a name Gabriel invented after the first printing of The Germ, so, when it was decided not to risk presenting further issues as the work of one, Christina, unlike the other six male contributors, could continue to conceal her identity. She should have argued she wasn’t afraid of owning her poems, that it might be what she needed to do to grow stronger as a writer. From far away in wintry Wiltshire, where she was visiting Aunt Charlotte, a disagreement with Gabriel, via letters he was unlikely to answer, was unwinnable.

     Christina was at home for the New Year’s Eve delivery of fifty copies of the first issue to Charlotte Street by the printer, George Tupper. Throughout that last day of 1849, its contributors arrived. Papa was delighted with the complicated company, while Mama panicked at the lingering of so many hungry, thirsty men eager for a new decade and the wild ride of rebellion. She sent Betsey to the shops with the week’s allowance for food, Gabriel convincing her that the success of the magazine would repay her hospitality and “make a little starvation worth it.”

Excerpt from The Dove Upon Her Branch, A Novel Portrait of Christina Rossetti Copyright © 2023 by DM Denton

Cover Art Copyright © 2023 by DM Denton

I meet the New Year in anticipation of my upcoming

The Dove Upon Her Branch, A Novel Portrait of Christina Rossetti.

I invite you to sign up for email notification of its publication

by

Wishing you a beautiful and bountiful, loving and peaceful 2023!

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

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