The Germ was a magazine established in 1850 at the beginning of the Pre-Raphaelite movement by its founding members Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and, editor and ‘historian’ of the movement, William Michael Rossetti. Born out of an idea of D G Rossetti’s, the magazine sought to circulate the creative work and radical ideas of the Pre-Raphaelites as expressed in poetry, literature and art. In their own words, printed at the end of each issue, their mission was:
With a view to obtain the thoughts of Artists, upon Nature as evolved in Art […] this Periodical has been established. Thus, then, it is not open to the conflicting opinions of all who handle the brush and palette, nor is it restricted to actual practitioners; but is intended to enunciate the principles of those who, in the true spirit of Art, enforce a rigid adherence to the simplicity of Nature either in Art or Poetry […].
Each issue included an engraving, poetry and historical or critical essays (on subjects, for example, such as early Italian artists, whom the group emulated). After two numbers, the magazine’s title was changed to the more literal Art and Poetry: Being Thoughts towards Nature Conducted Principally by Artists. In spite of D G Rossetti’s ambitions and enthusiasm, however, the magazine sold poorly. It was forced to close down after four numbers (January, February, March and April 1850), although the Pre-Raphaelite circle continued to develop.
Christina Rossetti’s involvement
The Germ provides us with an insight into Christina Rossetti’s early poetic career during her late teens. The magazine published seven of Rossetti’s poems across three numbers, including ‘Dream Land’ and ‘An End’. Although published under the pseudonym ‘Ellen Alleyn’, Rossetti’s identity was undoubtedly known among her fellow all-male contributors.