Christina Rossetti: Celebrating Her Natal Day

To-day’s your natal day;
Sweet flowers I bring:

“A Vision of Fiammetta (detail)” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

In April 1842, the English poet Christina Georgina Rossetti, at the age of eleven, penned those opening lines to a poem actually written for her mother’s birthday.

Christina Rossetti and her Mother Frances Rossetti, 7th October 1863, by Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll)

 

Christina is the subject of my work-in-progress next novel and today is the 188th anniversary of her birth, December 5, 1830.

She was part of a remarkable family of English-Italian scholars, artists, and poets, her older brother being Dante Gabriel Rossetti, founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

I thought I’d share a little excerpt from my novel that’s in its very early stages of creation. The following is from the first chapter, describing the intimacy between brother and sister, who, as children, were very similar in temperament and interests. They were called “the two storms”, while their sister Maria and brother William were called ‘the two calms”.

From a photograph by Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carol)

In adulthood Gabriel’s hand revered and mocked her, in childhood it held hers on their long walks through the park and zoo, and sometimes even farther to the poor folks’ heights of London named prettily and nostalgically Primrose Hill. For children who didn’t mind being blown about, the broad meadowed mound was a welcome contrast to the grime and gridlock of the city. It offered the chase, not for wolves or boars or deer, but, as a Tutor King must have also enjoyed, the benefits of fresh air, exercise, escape, and a sense of being on top of the world.
Copyright © 2018 by DM Denton

 

Sing, that in thy song I may
Dream myself once more a child

from Maud by Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti as a child, by William Bell

 

Happy Birthday, Christina Rossetti

 

©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.

What we shall be like and what and where we shall be

It was November 24, 1834. Emily Brontë was sixteen, her youngest sister Anne fourteen, when they wrote the first of their diary papers (this one jointly, although it is thought the majority of it was Emily’s doing, noting the use of the pronoun “I”, the references to Anne, the run-on sentences and spelling errors, and the sudden slip from reality into fantasy: Gondal).

These are the kind of tidbits from the past that inspire my writing the most, coming, as they do, out of everyday, intimate moments in time, very ordinary and uneventful, but, also, extraordinary, revealing, and, certainly in this case, poignant considering these two adolescent girls living in the moment with such innocent hopes for the future … that never came.

I fed Rainbow, Diamond, Snowflake Jasper pheasent alias this morning Branwell went down to Mr Drivers and brought news that Sir Robert peel was going to be invited to stand for Leeds Anne and I have been peeling Apples for Charlotte to make an apple pudding and for Aunts [illegible] and apple Charlotte said she made puddings perfectly and she was of a quick but lim[i]ted Intellect Taby said just now come Anne pillopatate (i.e. pill a potato) Aunt has come into the Kitchen just now and said where are your feet Anne Anne answered on the floor Aunt papa opened the parlour Door and gave Branwell a Letter saying here Branwell read this and show it to your Aunt and Charlotte – The Gondals are discovering the interior of Gaaldine Sally mosley is washing in the back- Kitchin
It is past Twelve o’clock Anne and I have not tidied ourselves, done our bed work or done our lessons and we want to go out to play We are going to have for Dinner Boiled Beef, Turnips, potato’s and applepudding the Kitchin is in a very untidy state Anne and I have not Done our music exercise which consists of b majer Taby said on my putting a pen in her face Ya pitter pottering there instead of pilling a potate I answered O Dear, O Dear, O Dear I will derictly with that I get up, take a Knife and begin pilling (finished pilling the potatos papa going to walk Mr Sunderland expected
Anne and I say I wonder what we shall be like and what we shall be and where we shall be if all goes well in the year 1874 – in which year I shall be in my 57th year Anne will be going in her 55th year Branwell will be going in his 58th year And Charlotte in her 59th year hoping we shall all be well at that time we close our paper
Emily and Anne November the 24 1834

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you purchased your copy of Without the Veil Between: Anne Brontë, A Fine and Subtle Spiriyet? Have you read it or is it on your TBR list? I’m running a contest for anyone who posts a review on Amazon and/Goodreads and/their blog before December 31, 2018. Follow link or click on image below for more details.

Diane Denton has narrated, through Anne’s sensibility, the cruelest yet most beautiful part of this remarkable family’s story.
~ Recommendation on Without the Veil Between’s Facebook page

 

 

©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.

“Fluctuations”

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

Fluctuations

What though the Sun had left my sky;
To save me from despair
The blessed Moon arose on high,
And shone serenely there.

I watched her, with a tearful gaze,
Rise slowly o’er the hill,
While through the dim horizon’s haze
Her light gleamed faint and chill.

I thought such wan and lifeless beams
Could ne’er my heart repay
For the bright sun’s most transient gleams
That cheered me through the day:

But, as above that mist’s control
She rose, and brighter shone,
I felt her light upon my soul;
But now–that light is gone!

Thick vapours snatched her from my sight,
And I was darkling left,
All in the cold and gloomy night,
Of light and hope bereft:

Until, methought, a little star
Shone forth with trembling ray,
To cheer me with its light afar–
But that, too, passed away.

Anon, an earthly meteor blazed
The gloomy darkness through;
I smiled, yet trembled while I gazed–
But that soon vanished too!

And darker, drearier fell the night
Upon my spirit then;–
But what is that faint struggling light?
Is it the Moon again?

Kind Heaven! increase that silvery gleam
And bid these clouds depart,
And let her soft celestial beam
Restore my fainting heart!

~ Anne Brontë

The candle Anne was writing by had almost burnt down. She wanted to finish the letter to Lily and get up early to post it in Thorpe Underwood village before Mary knew she was gone. She had heard Mrs. Robinson mention that she, the girls, and young Edmund were going to Great Ouseburn and the Greenhows for lunch and riding. Anne half expected to be asked along as there had been talk of her teaching their young children. The invitation never came and it seemed tomorrow, a schooling day, might be a full one off for Anne, another hint her employment with the Robinsons was nearing its end.

The nine verses of Fluctuations took up most of the inside of the letter to be folded, sealed, and stamped without an envelope. She scratched the remainder of it vertically across what was already written, like Charlotte, never one to be brief, often did. Anne smiled to think of her oldest living sister and her well-meaning verging on oppression. Lily had reminded Anne how private even casual acquaintances, those who didn’t know anyone she did and were unrelated to her past or future, were akin to that other side of solitude, not censorious but releasing. They were like shooting stars and meteors appearing and disappearing, brightening and lightening moments otherwise rendered bleak and burdened by inescapable bonds and unbearable losses.

On impulse Anne reached for her Book of Common Prayer, opening it to the blank back of its inside cover and wrote “sick of mankind and its disgusting ways”, causing injury to her prayer book and merciful nature.

~ from Without the Veil Between, Anne Bronte: A Fine and Subtle Spirit

‘Sick of mankind and their disgusting ways’
written in the back of Anne Brontë’s prayer book.’ It is enlarged here – need a magnifying glass to read it in its original form. Biographer Winifred Gerin wrote: ‘It was meant for no eyes but hers . . .’

 

©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.

 

Contest! Review “Without the Veil Between” and Enter to Win!

Have you read, are you reading,

or are you planning on reading

 Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine & Subtle Spirit?

Would you like to win a lovely, limited edition prize?

go to: Contest! Review “Without the Veil Between” and Enter to Win!

Review Contest Image

Please note in comments on this post or the linked page
that you have written and posted a review and where.
Or contact me to let me know.
Thank you in advance!

Holly2

The holidays are coming! Have some Brontë aficionados on your gift list?

Just a reminder that there are prints, notecards, and other items created from the artwork from Without the Veil Between
that are available for purchase.

For more information, click here.

Sunday Short: Thought here, smiles there; perfection lies betwixt

I just had to share this charming little poem by Christina Rossetti, which I came across in my research for my novel about the Victorian poetess. It was written, when Christina was about fourteen, for Elizabeth Read who was one of the girls her older sister Maria was governess to. Christina met “Bessie” when she went to visit her sister while the Reads of Finsbury Pavement, Islington, London were summering in the country. Although Bessie was a couple of years younger, she and Christina became fast friends.

This friendship came at a particularly lonely and gloomy time—the tunneling years—for the adolescent Christina, as she was mostly isolated at home in London with her ailing, nearly sightless, cantankerous father Gabrielle Rossetti (once a vibrant, charming, cheerful man). While her oldest brother Dante Gabriel pursued his art studies, her mother, sister, and brother William were forced to go out to work to make up for the severe drop in income the family experienced when its patriarch became sick.

The poem was written to accompany a package of stamps (one hundred humble servants … their livery of red and black) Christina had saved for Bessie’s collection.

It immediately warmed my heart with its simple, gentle, clever expression of affection and support of one young woman for another, especially when both may well have needed it most. You need to look beyond that dreary house, and Bessie can only benefit from acquaintance with you—I have Maria write to Christina in my novel.

The pure, generous, uncomplicated expression of friendship Christina gave to another girl made me think how the bonds between women come early. They are not always preserved, too often interrupted and put aside, but, hopefully, are eventually valued again.

With the past and present in mind, I say: “They should be. They must be!”

To My Friend Elizabeth
by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Sweetest Elizabeth, accept I pray
These lowly stamps I send in homage true;
One hundred humble servants in their way
Are not to be despised, though poor to view.
Their livery of red and black, nor gay,
Nor sober all, is typical of you,
In whom are gravity and gladness mixed.
Thought here, smiles there; perfection lies betwixt.

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti – detail of the Bower Meadow

 

©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.

Without The Veil Between, An Interview With DM Denton — Anne Brontë

Thank you to Brontë scholar and biographer Nick Holland for interviewing me on his blog.

Loved Nick’s questions! Please go over to annebronte.org for my answers to:
♦“You’ve become noted for your historical fiction, but what made you pick Anne Brontë for a subject?”
♦The book’s title is ‘Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit’. What was the inspiration for the title?
♦The book features your own illustrations. Did Anne Brontë’s drawing skills inspire you, as well as her writing skills?
♦Your book looks at Anne Brontë’s time at Thorp Green Hall and at her relationship with William Weightman. Do you think she loved Weightman and did he love her?
♦What is your favourite Anne Brontë poem and why?
♦What message does Anne have for people today?
♦Your book has, quite rightly, had some great reviews – do you think you’ll return to the Brontë family for future books?
♦What do you think Anne and her sisters would have thought of the worldwide fame they’ve achieved two hundred years after their births?
♦What are you working on at the moment?

 

Without The Veil Between, An Interview With DM Denton — Anne Brontë

Earlier in the week I marked World Sight Day by looking at Patrick Brontë’s sight saving operation, and the impact it had on the Brontës, but today’s post is something different – an interview with DM Denton, the American author of acclaimed novel ‘Without The Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine And Subtle Spirit’.

There have been several attempts down the years to portray members of the Brontë family in a fictional form, and it can be a dangerous undertaking as I feel you really have to have a love of the family to be able to pull it off. Thankfully, Diane Denton certainly has that…

Read entire interview
via Without The Veil Between, An Interview With DM Denton — Anne Brontë

Saturday – Sunday Shorts: Colette’s Taste for Life

“Everything that astonished me when I was young astonishes me even more today. The time will never come for me when there are no more discoveries to make. Every morning the world is as new again and I will not cease to flower except through death.”
Colette

With a new movie out about a writer I have long idolized, the French author and actress Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, 1873–1954, I thought I would offer some quotes from this unique, witty, courageous, sensual realist who undoubtedly had—to echo the title of a book about Colette by Yvonne Mitchell—”a taste for life”.

Colette in her dance hall days

Colette is most famous for her novella Gigi, (1944), but to fully appreciate her talent, personality, heart, and spirit, you must be adventurous and delve further into her repertoire to truly discover the delicacy, humor, and wisdom of her narrative and poetic voice, which, besides being “largely concerned with the pains and pleasures of love, [is] remarkable for [its] command of sensual description.” To quote further from the online Encyclopedia Britannica entry by Kathleen Kuiper: “Her greatest strength as a writer is an exact sensory evocation of sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and colours of her world.”

I actually got the idea for the illustration included in my kindle short The Library Next Door from this photograph of Colette as a young woman.

“It is the image in the mind that links us to our lost treasures; but it is the loss that shapes the image, gathers the flowers, weaves the garland.”
Colette, My Mother’s House & Sido

Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door

“I went to collect the few personal belongings which…I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.”
Colette

“By associating with the cat, one only risks becoming richer.”
Colette

©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.