Sub Rosa

Christina Rossetti's Illegitimate Voice

in Critical Survey
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‘Under the Rose herewith … I meekly return to you, pruned and rewritten to order’, Christina Rossetti wrote to her brother on 13 March, 1865, responding to Gabriel’s editorial interventions as she prepared her second major volume, The Prince’s Progress, for publication. The poem had been hastily written to fill the gap left in the collection by Gabriel’s rejection of the powerful and ambivalent study of female aspiration and self-abnegation, ‘The Lowest Room’; and while Christina ‘meekly’ agreed to revise the piece with a certain understated irony, she still insisted on her right to write about what was, for both of them, an awkward subject for a woman: illegitimacy. ‘As regards the unpleasant-sided subject, I freely admit it: and if you think the performance coarse or what-not, pray eject it …’.