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151 Reviews painting is also intriguing.As part of the critical return to Ford and his milieu, this book opens an important window, offering new readings of Ford as a major modernist and of his links to some of his provocative contemporaries. More broadly, it makes a useful statement about the problematic, vital contact between authors’ lived experiences and aesthetic pursuits. K ath ry n Holla n d Oxford University • The Letters of Christina Rossetti: Volume 4,1887–1894 edited by Antony H. Harrison; pp. 464. Charlottesville: University ofVirginia Press, 2004. $70.00 cloth. This volume completes a project begun two decades ago. When as a biographer I pursued my own search for Christina Rossetti’s scattered correspondence ,Antony Harrison was always generous in sharing his knowledge, but it would have been so wonderful to have had the present edition (Volume 1 appeared in 1997), which collects every known autograph letter. Those in Volume 4 chart the eight years of Rossetti’s life from 1887, the year after her mother’s death, to her own at the end of 1894—a total of 602 letters, plus a further forty-three undatable items, two letters announcing her death, and seventeen newly discovered letters that belong in the earlier volumes: a grand total of 664. The editing is exemplary, with a few exceptions, some of which Linda Marshall noted in her review article in the Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies (15, Fall 2006).Some other errors are worth recording in the interests of accuracy.Letter 1485 is not mistakenly addressed to Rose Hake under her maiden name, but to Rose’s unmarried sister.The “deplored”St.M.M.negative in letter 1633 is plainly the photo of D. G. Rossetti’s drawing of Mary Magdalene annotated in letter 1584. Dante Gabriel never lived at Greenwich; Lucy Rossetti was a professional, not an amateur, artist. And why is a letter to Fred Shields about an anti-Pasteur petition printed as an annotation to letter 1546 and not in its own right? Overall, the volume brings us as close as we can get to the experiences of these last years.The period chronicles a melancholy sequence of events, not all due to Rossetti’s age—she passed 60 only at the end of 1890—with deaths among family and friends and always her own ill-health, including a mastectomy in 1892 and the cancer’s recurrence a year or so later. She sought to be resolutely uncomplaining, admonishing both her correspondent and herself by quoting Romans 9:20: “What then? The sweeter after this stripped earth will be the shady rest of Paradise” (letter 1847; page 260). victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 152 As Harrison stresses in the introduction, Rossetti’s reputation for reclusiveness is somewhat belied by the evidence of visits from a relatively large group of acquaintances. She graciously received callers while refusing reciprocal obligations with a courtesy that resembles cunning. But in every deeper sense she was reclusive, being, as she wrote, “tenacious of my obscurity” (letter 1979; page 340). This was partly well-founded caution: at the outset of her career she had been mortified by the flirtatious response to juvenile works in Verses (1847), and to the end she refused interviews and feared “paragraphs” or personal mentions in the literary press. Beyond that, she also concealed almost every inner feeling. When working on her biography, I marvelled at her epistolary skill in filling notepaper with gracious salutation and complimentary close, without saying anything in between. Sometimes, she almost boasts of this vacuity.“Only think of the difference in our material for correspondence . . . I doing nothing!” she told Amelia Heimann (letter 1571; page 82).To many she implied that she was fully occupied (as indeed she was) in caring for the two invalid aunts. But this was protective camouflage. As Harrison writes, the letters contain no revelations, no “winter secrets” now disclosed: in correspondence as in poetry, Rossetti did“wear a mask.” In this, the letters resemble her verse, often simple-seeming but seldom quite straightforward, curiously resistant to “decoding.” Posterity, which is no respecter of privacy, finds this frustrating, and also intriguing, because during these years, and during...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 151-153
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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