Saturday, May 15, 2010


All right, help me here. In Jan Marsh's biography of Christina Rossetti we find, pleasingly enough, that in 1890 Rossetti was given Emily Dickinson's Poems, and admired them, writing that Dickinson “had a wonderfully Blakean gift, but therewithal a startling recklessness of poetic ways and means.”

Now, Christina Rossetti was nothing if not exact. I mean, case in point, could you say anything apter about Dickinson than that she had “a startling recklessness of poetic ways and means?”

But – but – Blakean? Rossetti knew Blake's poetry: she was part of the circle that revived him from obscurity. But Blake was still an odd, little-read poet in 1890 – by no means a byword. So presumably she meant something specific by calling Dickinson “Blakean,” but I've been pondering ten minutes without getting even a glimmer of what. I can hardly conceive of two poets more different in temper, style, approach, and subject matter. What can Rossetti have meant?

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