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Christina Rossetti
by [?]

I thought the back room would answer; but explained that I was an American and was going to remain in London only a short time. Of course the lady knew I was an American: she knew it from my hat and from my foreign accent and–from the red book I had in my hand. And did I know the McIntyres that lived in Michigan?

I evaded the question by asking if she knew the Rossettis who once lived in this house. “Oh, yes; I know Mr. William and Miss Christina. They came here together a year ago, and told me they were born here and that their brother Dante and their sister, too, were born here. I think they were all writin’ folks, weren’t they? Miss Rossetti anyway writes poetry, I know that. One of my boarders gave me one of her books for Christmas. I’ll show it to you. You don’t think seven and six is too much for a room like this, do you?”

I inwardly noted that the ceilings were much lower than those of my room in Russell Square and that the furniture was old and worn and that the room looked out on an army of sooty chimney-pots, but I explained that seven and six seemed a very reasonable price, and that ninepence for breakfast with ham and eggs was cheap enough, provided the eggs were strictly fresh.

So I paid one week’s rent in advance on the spot, and going back to Russell Square told my landlady that I had found friends in another part of the city and would not return for two days. My sojourn at Number Thirty-eight Charlotte Street developed nothing further than the meager satisfaction of sleeping for two nights in the room in which Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born, and making the acquaintance of the worthy ticket-taker, who knew all four of the Rossettis, as they had often passed through his gate.

Professor Rossetti lived for twelve years at Thirty-eight Charlotte Street; he then moved to Number Fifty in the next block, which is a somewhat larger house. It was here that Mazzini used to come. The house had been made over somewhat, and is now used as an office by the Registrar of Vital Statistics. This is the place where Dante Gabriel and a young man named Holman Hunt had a studio, and where another young artist by the name of William Morris came to visit them; and here was born “The Germ,” that queer little chipmunk magazine in which first appeared “Hand and Soul” and “The Blessed Damozel,” written by Dante Gabriel when eighteen, the same age at which Bryant wrote “Thanatopsis.” William Bell Scott used to come here, too. Scott was a great man in his day. He had no hair on his head or face, not even eyebrows. Every follicle had grown aweary and quit. But Mr. Scott was quite vain of the shape of his head, for well he might be, since several choice sonnets had been combed out of it. Sometimes when the wine went round and things grew merry, then sentimental, then confidential, Scott would snatch off his wig to display to the company his fine phrenological development, and tell a story about Nelson, who, too, used to wear a wig just like his, and after every battle would take it off and hand it over to his valet to have the bullets combed out of it.

The elder Rossetti died in this house, and was carried to Christ Church in Woburn Square, and thence to Highgate. His excellent wife waited to see the genius of her children blossom and be acknowledged. She followed thirty years later, and was buried in the same grave with her husband, where, later, Christina was to join them.

Frances Mary Polidori was born at Forty-two Broad Street, Golden Square, the same street in which William Blake was born. I found the street and Golden Square, but could not locate the house. The policeman on the beat declared that no one by the name of Rossetti or Blake was in business thereabouts; and further he never heard of Polly Dory. William Michael Rossetti’s home is one in a row of houses called Saint Edmund’s Terrace. It is near the Saint John’s Road Station, just a step from Regent’s Park, and faces the Middlesex Waterworks. It is a fine old house, built of stone I should judge, stuccoed on the outside. With a well-known critic I called there, and found the master wearing a long dressing-gown that came to his heels, a pair of new carpet slippers and a black plush cap, all so dusty that we guessed the owner had been sifting ashes in the cellar. He was most courteous and polite. He worships at the shrine of Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau, and regards America as the spot from whence must come the world’s intellectual hope. “Great thoughts, like beautiful flowers, are produced by transplantation and the commingling of many elements.” These are his words, and the fact that the Rossetti genius is the result of transplanting need not weigh in the scale as ‘gainst the truth of the remark. Shortly after this call, at an Art Exhibition, I again met William Michael Rossetti. I talked with him some moments–long enough to discover that he was not aware we had ever met. This caused me to be rather less in love with the Rossetti genius than I was before.