Get access

Christina Rossetti's Later Life: A Double Sonnet of Sonnets (1881): Exploring the Fearfulness of Forgiveness


  • Elizabeth Ludlow

Correspondence: English, University of Birmingham. Email:


In Later Life: A Double Sonnet of Sonnets, Christina Rossetti models a posture of fearfulness in the face of God's unique prerogative to forgive. Throughout, she deploys the dialogic properties of the sonnet sequence to engender recognition of the relational basis of existence. Unpacking its psalm-inflected exploration of the interior journey of sin, shame and redemption, this article details Later Life's affinity with the poetics of George Herbert and John Donne. It also proposes that Later Life anticipates Karl Barth's Reformation-inflected emphasis on the shattering recognition that ‘Through the forgiveness of sins… there is reflected in this human self-consciousness a consciousness of a wholly different self’ (532).