London: Privately printed at G. Polidori's…, 1847. Item #05302
A Fine Association Copy of Christina Rossetti's First Book Privately Printed by her Grandfather
Inscribed by Christina Rossetti to her Aunt E.H. Polidori
The Bibliographer Charles Plumtre Johnson's Copy
ROSSETTI, Christina G. Verses by Christina G. Rossetti Dedicated to her Mother. London: Privately printed at G. Polidori's…, 1847.
First edition of the author's rare first book, comprising poems written when she was between twelve and sixteen years of age, and printed at the private press of her grandfather: inscribed by Christina Rossetti to her aunt, Eliza Harriet Polidori.
Inscribed on front blank "E.H. Polidori / from Christina Rossetti / July 1847."
Small octavo (6 1/4 x 3 7/8 inches; 159 x 98 mm.). [iv], 66, [2, blank] pp.
A superb exhibition binding by Zaehnsdorf ca. 1900. Full green morocco, covers with an elaborate floral decoration in gilt with red morocco inlays. Spine with five raised bands elaborately gilt with red morocco floral inlays and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt-ruled board edges, decorative gilt turn-ins, tan morocco liners and endleaves, all edges gilt. Joints expertly and invisibly repaired. Publishers blue patterned cloth wrappers bound in. With the engraved bookplate of Charles Plumptre Johnson on verso of front endpaper and the armorial bookplate of Dr. Samuel L. Sieger on first blank leaf. Housed in a full dark green morocco clamshell case, spine with five raised bands decorated and lettered in gilt in compartments. A spectacular and highly important copy in a beautiful 'Exhibition' binding.
This collection, dedicated to her mother, consists of 42 poems (40 in English and two in Italian), a significant achievement for a sixteen year old and Christina Rossetti's formal literary debut. Printed by her maternal grandfather at his own private press in Park Village East (on the northern corner of Regent's Park), in his preface (entitled 'A Few Words to the Reader'). Gaetano Polidori confirms that Christina's first composition (printed on p.17) was written on her mother's birthday in April 1842. This was originally copied out in a large copperplate hand on penciled lines that were then erased, and presented to her mother with a posy. 'The Dead City' holds premier place, followed by 'The Water Spirit's Song', the mermaid fantasy of 1844, and several poems celebrating the rose which Christina adopted as her emblem. While Verses was a gesture of grand-fatherly indulgence, it also marked Christina's formal literary début, and was distributed outside the immediate family. (Marsh pp.32-41, 72-76; Hayward 267).
Page 55-56 are in the corrected state: dated 1847 at the end; stanza 5, line 1 reads "And now that thou art gone"; stanza 5, line 3 reads "And see the clouds"; stanza 6, line 1 reads '"Yes, oftentimes I sit beneath it now"; stanza 8, lines 1-2 have quotation marks; stanza 8, line 1 ends with a semi-colon.
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) lived with her mother's two sisters Charlotte Polidori (1802 -1890) and Eliza Polidori (1809-1893) after the death of her parents in 1853, first at 45 Upper Albany Street, London (now 166 Albany Street) and then from 1876 at 30 Torrington Square, London until her death in 1894.
Eliza Harriet Polidori (1809-1893). "Polidori’s parents never quite recovered; his mother was an invalid for most of her life and his father, although long-lived, refused to talk about him. He left two brothers and three sisters, one of whom, Frances, married Gabriel Rossetti, the Neapolitan poet. Their children included the painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the poet, Christina Rossetti. As an aside, Frances’ sister, Eliza, was the only Polidori to make it to Sicily when she stopped at Messina en route to the Crimea, where she acted as one of Florence Nightingale’s nurses. Eliza Polidori, later managed the stores at the Barrack Hospital at Scutari. Christina applied to accompany her aunt to Scutari but was rejected as too young. "Aunt Eliza had a reputation as a formidable character - Dante Gabriel Rossetti referred to her as his “maniac aunt” in a letter to William Bell Scott of 7th December 1854. At that time she had just enlisted to join Florence Nightingale's nursing corps in the Crimea." (Fredeman, Correspondence, pp. 54 &72).
"Verses, containing some of Rossetti’s earliest poetry, gives an interesting and valuable look into the early mind and craft of a young poet. The first poem is titled “The Dead City.” This poem foreshadows techniques and topics that Christina Rossetti would later pursue in Goblin Market (1862). The poem, written in first-person singular, tells the story of an assumedly young female narrator traveling through the labyrinth of a seemingly abandoned, or “dead” city in a dream vision of sorts. Eventually, the narrator encounters a type of mausoleum of a dinner laid out on a lavish table. During this scene, the narrator describes the foods laid on the table in a near litany of fruits:
Grapes were hanging overhead,
Purple, pale, and ruby-red;
And in panniers all around
Yellow melons shone, fresh found,
With the dew upon them spread.
And the apricot and pear
And the pulpy fig were there;
Cherries and dark mulberries,
Bunchy currants, strawberries,
And the lemon wan and fair. (lines 186-195 - page 7.)
The lines sampled above are just two of the many stanzas included in this litany. This discourse is remarkably similar to the litany of fruits given by the Goblin Men in Rossetti’s later poem, Goblin Market.
‘Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
All ripe together… (lines 3-15)
Both the early and original printings of these poems, in Verses and in Goblin Market and Other Poems provide valuable insight into Christina Rossetti’s development as a poet as well as the effects of specific images on the interpretation of a poem." (Chelsea Lee, https://blogs.baylor.edu).
Fredeman 44.2; Hayward 267; Ashley IV, p. 99; Tinker 1784; CBEL III, 497; CBEL (3) IV, 659; Marsh pp. 32-41, 72-76.