Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Dante Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal
Author: WMR
Date of publication: 1903 May
Publisher: The Burlington Magazine for Connoiseurs, The Savile Publishing Company, Limited, 14, New Burlington Street, W.
Edition: 1st

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

Transcription Gap: pages 1-272 (not by DGR)
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HAVING been invited to say

something about the five

designs of Miss Siddal by

Rossetti, here reproduced

(by kind permission of their

present owner, Mr. Harold

Hartley), I make this the opportunity for

writing a brief monograph of the woman

who bore so large a part in the painter's

earlier life. I have before now written

and edited various details concerning her,

and shall have to repeat myself to some

extent; but those details did not form a

consecutive unity, and I think she is well

entitled to something in the nature of

express biographic record. Her life was

short, and her performances restricted in

both quantity and development; but they

were far from undeserving of notice, even

apart from that relation which she bore

to Dante Rossetti, and in a very minor

degree to other leaders in the “Præra-

phaelite” movement. I need hardly say

that I myself knew her and remember her

very well. ¶ I may begin by mentioning

that the correct spelling of the surname

appears to be Siddall: but Dante Rossetti

constantly wrote Siddal, and I follow his

practice. Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal was the

daughter of a Sheffield cutler, and was born

in or about 1834; as my brother was born

in May 1828, she was some six years his

junior. The family came to London—New-

ington Butts or its neighbourhood; this, I

take it, was before the birth of Elizabeth.

I do not know when the father died; it

must have been prior to the time when

Elizabeth was known in any artistic circle.

The mother survived, along with three sons

and three daughters; one or more of the

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sons continued the cutlery business. Eliza-

beth received an ordinary education, con-

formable to her condition in life; she be-

came an assistant or apprentice in a bonnet

shop in Cranbourne Alley, then a very well-

known line of shops close to Leicester

Square. ¶ In Elizabeth Siddal's constitu-

tion there was a consumptive taint. This

may, I suppose, have come from the father;

for the mother was a healthy woman, living

on till past ninety. Two sons and two

daughters are still alive, or were so very

recently. Almost the only anecdote that I

have heard of Elizabeth's early life, before

she came into my circle, is that “she had

read Tennyson, having first come to know

something about him by finding one or two

of his poems on a piece of paper which she

brought home to her mother, wrapped

round a pat of butter.” ¶ Elizabeth was

truly a beautiful girl; tall, with a stately

throat and fine carriage, pink and white

complexion, and massive straight coppery-

golden hair. Her large greenish-blue eyes,

large-lidded, were peculiarly noticeable. I

need not, however, here say much about

her appearance, as the designs of Dante

Rossetti speak for it better than I could do.

One could not have seen a woman in whose

whole demeanour maidenly and feminine

purity was more markedly apparent. She

maintained an attitude of reserve, self-con-

trolling and alien from approach. Without

being prudish, and along with a decided

inclination to order her mode of life ac-

cording to her own liking, whether con-

formable or not to the views of the British

matron, she was certainly distant. Her talk

was, in my experience, scanty; slight and

scattered, with some amusing turns, and
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No.3. Vol.1.—May 1903

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little to seize hold upon—little clue to her

real self or to anything determinate. I

never perceived her to have any religion;

but a perusal of some of her few poems may

fairly lead to the inference that she was not

wanting in a devotional habit of feeling.

¶ The Præraphaelite Brotherhood, or P. R. B.,

was formed towards September 1848—the

principal painter-members being William

Holman-Hunt, John Everett Millais, and

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A leading doctrine

with the Præraphaelites (and I think a very

sound one) was that it is highly inexpedient

for a painter, occupied with an ideal or

poetical subject, to portray his personages

from the ordinary hired models; and that

on the contrary he ought to look out for

living people who, by refinement of cha-

racter and aspect, may be supposed to have

some affinity with those personages—and,

when he has found such people to paint

from, he ought, with substantial though

not slavish fidelity, to represent them as

they are. This plan would secure (1) some

general conformity between the painter's

idea of his personages and the individuals

from whom he pictures them; and (2) a

lifelike treatment of a living countenance,

with its precious personal vitality, and

nuances of mould and character—things

which it is difficult or impossible to obtain

from “inner consciousness,” but which na-

ture supplies in lavish superabundance. In

other words, the artist had to furnish the

conception; nature had to furnish the

model; but this must not be a model ob-

viously unresembling. ¶ Walter Howell

Deverell was a young painter of promising

gifts, and a very handsome one: he was not

a P.R.B., but was much associated with the

members of the Brotherhood, and with

none of them more than with Rossetti. He

was a son of the secretary to the Govern-

ment School of Design at Somerset House,

which in the course of years developed in-

to the Department of Science and Art. One

day, which may have been in the latter part

of 1849, he accompanied his mother to a

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bonnet-shop in Cranbourne Alley. Looking

from the shop through an open door into

a back room, he saw a very young woman

working with the needle: it was Elizabeth

Siddal. Deverell was at this time beginning

a well-sized picture from Shakespeare's

“Twelfth Night” —the scene where the

Duke Orsino, along with Viola habited as

a page, and the Jester, is listening to some

music. Deverell wanted to get a model for

Viola, and it struck him that here was a

very suitable damsel for his purpose—and,

indeed, he could not have chosen better.

So he asked his mother to obtain from the

shop-mistress permission for her assistant to

sit to him. The permission was granted, and

the Viola was painted, and is a very fair

likeness of Miss Siddal at that early date.

Soon afterwards Deverell drew another Viola

from her, in an etching for The Germ. Ros-

setti sat to his friend for the head of the

Jester in the oil picture, and it was probably

in the studio of Deverell that he first met

his future wife. The picture was exhibited

in 1850. It belonged at one time to William

Bell Scott, the painter and poet; afterwards

to a lady in Wales, who, dying, left it under

trusteeship. ¶ Rossetti saw that Deverell

had secured a very eligible model for his

Viola, and that the same model would suit

himself extremely well for a Dante's Bea-

trice or something else. She consented to

sit to him, and he painted from her a num-

ber of times; the first coloured example

seems to have been his little water-colour

named Rossovestita, 1850. I shall not here

dwell upon other instances, but leave this

over for a list before I conclude. To fall in

love with Elizabeth Siddal was a very easy

performance, and Dante Gabriel transacted

it at an early date—I suppose before 1850

was far advanced. She sat also to Holman-

Hunt and to Millais—not I think to any-

one else. Her head appears in Holman-

Hunt's pictures of the Christian Missionary

persecuted by the Druids
, 1850, and of

Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus,

1851; and in Millais's Ophelia, 1852. Of
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Transcribed Note (page 277):


Rossetti and



these three versions of her face, the Ophelia

is the truest likeness, and is indeed a close

one, only that the peculiar poise of the head

thwarts the resemblance to some extent.

¶ At what precise date Dante and Elizabeth

were definitely engaged I am not able to

say: it may probably have been before the

end of 1851, and I presume that about the

same time she finally gave up any attend-

ance in the bonnet-shop. The name Eliza-

beth was never on Dante's lips, but Lizzie

or Liz; or fully as often Guggums, Guggum,

or Gug. Mrs. Hueffer, the younger daughter

of Ford Madox Brown, tells an amusing

anecdote how, when she was a small child

in 1854, she saw Rossetti at his easel in her

father's house, uttering momently, in the

absence of the beloved one, “Guggum,

Guggum.” Lizzie was continually in Ros-

setti's studio, 14, Chatham Place, Black-

friars, tête-à-tête. Sometimes she was sitting

to him, but they were often together with-

out any intention or pretence of a sitting;

as time advanced she was frequently also

drawing or painting there for her own be-

hoof. This may have begun some consider-

able while before July 1854; but it seems

to have been only about that date that Ros-

setti thought expressly that she would do

well to turn to professional account the gifts

for art which, though not cultivated up to

the regulated standard, she manifestly pos-

sessed and clearly exemplified. After a while

“Guggum” became so much of a settled in-

stitution in the Chatham Place chambers

that other people understood that they were

not wanted there in and out—and I may

include myself in this category. The

reader will understand that this continual

association of an engaged couple, while

it may have gone beyond the conven-

tional fence-line, had nothing in it suspi-

cious or ambiguous, or conjectured by any

one to be so. They chose to be together

because of mutual attachment, and because

Dante was constantly drawing from Gug-

gum, and she designing under his tuition.

He was an unconventional man, and she, if

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not so originally, became an unconventional

woman. As Algernon Swinburne, who

knew her well in after years, once said in

print, but with a different reference: “It is

impossible that even the reptile rancour, the

omnivorous malignity, of Iago himself, could

have dreamed of trying to cast a slur on the

memory of that incomparable lady whose

maiden name was Siddal and whose married

name was Rossetti.” Dante was also occa-

sionally, but I think seldom, in the house

where Lizzie lived: “her native crib, which

I was glad to find comfortable,” as he termed

it, with his usual proclivity towards the

slangy in diction. ¶ Nothing, I suppose,

was more distant from Miss Siddal's ideas

in her earlier girlhood than the notion of

drawing or painting; but, under incite-

ment from Rossetti, she began towards the

close of 1852. The first design of hers which

I find mentioned was from Wordsworth's

We are Seven, January 1853. In 1853–4

she painted a portrait of herself—the most

competent piece of execution that she ever

produced, an excellent and graceful likeness,

and truly good: it is her very self. This

work remains in my possession, and there

are few things I should be sorrier to lose.

Other early designs are—a pen-and-ink

drawing of Pippa and the Women of Loose

, from Browning's drama; a water-

colour of the Ladies' Lament, from the

ballad of Sir Patrick Spens; two water-

colours from Tennyson, St. Agnes' Eve and

Lady Clare; a spectral subject, water-

colour, The Haunted Tree. All these are

in my hands, except the Patrick Spens,

which belongs to Mr. Watts-Dunton. There

was an idea that she, along with Rossetti,

would illustrate a ballad-book compiled by

William Allingham. This project lapsed;

but she produced (May 1854) a design of

Clerk Saunders, which afterwards she de-

veloped into a water-colour, about her com-

pletest thing except the portrait. It was

purchased by the American scholar Pro-

fessor Eliot Norton; later on in 1869 Ros-

setti got it back, and it is now in the fine
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collection of Mr. Fairfax Murray. “It even

surprised me,” Rossetti wrote to Professor

Norton, “by its great merit of feeling and

execution.” By 1854 she had also produced

designs of Rossetti's Sister Helen, The Na-

, The Lass of Lochroyan, and The

Gay Gos-hawk—the latter two for the

Ballad-book. Two water-colours, La Belle

Dame Sans Merci, and the old design of

We are Seven, were in hand at the begin-

ning of 1855. There was also a design, pen-

and-ink, of Two Lovers seated al fresco, and

singing to the music of two dark Malay-

looking women, while a little girl listens.

This properly belonged by gift to Alling-

ham, but got sold inadvertently to Ruskin.

She made some designs to be executed in

carving in Trinity College, Dublin, a build-

ing carried out by Benjamin Woodward

(the architect of the Oxford Museum). One

of the designs represented “an angel with

some children and all manner of other

things,” and it was supposed to be in situ in

1855, but I see it stated that no such work

is now traceable there. She began late in

1856 an oil-picture from one of the ballad-

subjects, probably The Lass of Lochroyan.

This I think is not now extant, but there is

a water-colour of it. ¶ The total of designs

made by Lizzie, coloured and uncoloured,

was somewhat considerable, allowing for the

short duration of her artistic activity. I

question whether she produced much at a

date later than 1857; but she certainly pro-

duced something after as well as before her

marriage—she was at work at the end of

November 1860, and probably later. In

January 1862 the drawing-room at 14 Chat-

ham Place was entirely hung round with

her water-colours of poetic subjects; and

there must at that time have been several

others in the possession of Ruskin, and not

of him alone. This drawing-room was pa-

pered from a design made by Rossetti; trees

standing the whole height of the wall, con-

ventionally treated, with stems and fruit of

Venetian red, and leaves black, and with

yellow stars within a white ring: “the ef-

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fect of the whole,” he said, “will be rather

sombre, but I think rich also.” As to the

quality of her work, it may be admitted at

once that she never attained to anything

like masterliness-her portrait shows more

competence than other productions; and in

the present day, when vigorous brush-work

and calculated “values” are more thought

of than inventiveness or sentiment, her per-

formances would secure little beyond a sneer

first, a glance afterwards, and a silent pass-

ing by. But in those early "Præraphaelite"

days, and in the Præraphaelite environment,

which was small, and ringed round by

hostile forces, things were estimated dif-

ferently. The first question which my bro-

ther would have put to an aspirant is,

“Have you an idea in your head?” This

would have been followed by other ques-

tions, such as: “Is it an idea which can

be expressed in the shape of a design? Can

you express it with refinement, and with

a sentiment of nature, even if not with

searching realism?” He must have put

these queries to Miss Siddal practically,

if not vivâ voce; and he found the re-

sponse on her part such as to qualify her to

begin, with a good prospect of her pro-

gressing. She had much facility of inven-

tion and composition, with eminent purity

of feeling, dignified simplicity, and grace;

little mastery of form, whether in the hu-

man figure or in drapery and other materials;

a right intention in colouring, though neither

rich nor deep. Her designs resembled those

of Dante Rossetti at the same date: he had

his defects, and she had the deficiencies of

those defects. He guided her with the ut-

most attention, but I doubt whether he ever

required her to study drawing with rigorous

patience and apply herself to the realizing

of realities. It should be added that her

health was so constantly shaky, and often

so extremely bad, that she was really not

well capable of going through the toils of

a thorough artist-student. ¶ Ruskin made

himself personally known to Rossetti in

April 1854, by calling at his studio: he had
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Rossetti and



some little while before seen and praised

some of the painter's works. He struck

up a close friendship with my brother, and

undertook to buy, in a general way, what-

ever the latter might have to offer him from

time to time: the prices to be paid were

not lavish, but they were such as Rossetti,

at that stage of his practice and repute, was

highly pleased to accept. Through Rossetti,

Ruskin knew Miss Siddal before the end of

1854. He took the greatest pleasure in her

art-work, present and prospective. She

visited at his house, with Rossetti, in April

1855. He “said she was a noble, glorious

creature, and his father said that by her look

and manner she might have been a countess.”

In March of this year John Ruskin (as Ros-

setti wrote) “saw and bought on the spot

every scrap of design hitherto produced by

Miss Siddal. He declared that they were

far better than mine, or almost than any-

one's, and seemed quite wild with delight

at getting them. He is going to have them

splendidly mounted, and bound together in

gold.” The price which Dante Gabriel

named for the lot was certainly modest, £25:

Ruskin made it £30. In May of this same

year Ruskin settled £150 per annum on Miss

Siddal, taking, up to that value, any works

which she might produce. This arrange-

ment held good, if I am not mistaken, up

to 1857, but was then allowed to lapse, with

reluctance on the generous writer's part,

upon the ground that the state of her health

did not admit of her meeting her share in

the engagement in a continuous and ade-

quate manner. Ruskin called Miss Siddal

Ida (from Tennyson's “Princess”), and

befriended her to the utmost of his power

in various ways—getting her to visit Ox-

ford, and place herself under the advice of

Dr. Acland who pronounced (and I fancy

with a good deal of truth) that the essence

of her malady was “mental power long pent

up and lately overtaxed.” It is too clear,

however, that the germs of consumption

were present, with neuralgia, and (accord-

ing to one opinion) curvature of the spine.

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One result of Ruskin's admiration of

Miss Siddal's designs was that Tennyson

and his wife heard of the matter at the time

when the well-known “Illustrated Tenny-

son” was in preparation; and they both

“wished her exceedingly to join” in the

work: “Mrs. Tennyson wrote immediately

to Moxon about it, declaring that she had

rather pay for Miss Siddal's designs herself

than not have them in the book.” Her

drawings, reasonably controlled by Rossetti,

would really have been a credit to the under-

taking; but, whatever the reason, she was

not enlisted by Moxon. Perhaps he thought

the fastidiousness of Rossetti over his wood-

blocks was quite enough without being re-

inforced by that of an unknown female ally.

¶ I hardly think that Miss Siddal ever exhibit-

ed any of her paintings or drawings, except

in the summer of 1857, when a small semi-

public collection was got together by various

artists in Russell Place, Fitzroy Square.

People came to call this “the Præraphael-

ite Exhibition,” although no such name

was put forward by the exhibiting artists.

Miss Siddal sent Clerk Saunders, Sketches

from Browning and Tennyson, We are Seven,

The Haunted Tree, and a Study of a Head

(I think her own portrait). Madox Brown,

Holman-Hunt, Millais, Rossetti, C. Allston

Collins, William Davis, Arthur Hughes,

Windus, Joseph Wolf, Boyce, and some

others, were contributors. Clerk Saunders

was also included in an American Exhibi-

tion of British Art, New York, in the same

year, 1857. ¶ Rossetti made Miss Siddal

known to several friends of his, all of whom

treated her with the utmost cordiality or

even affection: William and Mary Howitt,

and their daughter Anna Mary (then a

painter of whom high hopes were enter-

tained); Miss Barbara Leigh Smith (Mrs.

Bodichon); Miss Bessie Parkes (Madame

Belloc); William Allingham; the sculptor,

Alexander Munro; Madox Brown and his

family. Mrs. Brown, who had previously

had some knowledge of Mrs. Siddal, natur-

ally became very intimate with Lizzie. At
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a later date there were Burne-Jones, William

Morris, and Alexander Gilchrist, and their

respective wives. In Paris, in the autumn

of 1855, she met for a few minutes Robert

Browning: and Rossetti showed him the

design from “Pippa Passes,” with which the

poet “was delighted beyond measure.” My

mother did not meet Lizzie in person until

April 1855: between that date and the time

when my brother's marriage took place,

they encountered from time to time, not fre-

quently. Dante Gabriel had at one period a

fancy that Christina was not well affected to

the unparagoned Guggum: in this there was

in fact next to nothing, or indeed nothing.

¶ All this while Miss Siddal's health was

extremely delicate—at times wofully bad.

One recurring symptom was want of ap-

petite and inability to retain food on the

stomach. She went to a number of health

resorts: Hastings, Bath, Matlock, Cleve-

don. The most important expedition was

in the autumn of 1855, when she journeyed

to Nice, passing through Paris: this last

was the place that seemed to suit her the

best of all. At Nice in December she had

weather “as warm as the best English May,”

but the improvement to her health, after a

somewhat prolonged sojourn, did not turn

out to be considerable. She was accom-

panied in this instance by a Mrs. Kincaid,

a married lady related to my mother, but

of whom we did not know very much;

but they had, I think, separated before the

experiment at Nice came to a conclusion.

Between Ruskin's subvention and funds sup-

plied by my brother Miss Siddal was kept

while abroad free from money straits: a

sum of £80 was in her hands, partly at the

date of starting and partly soon afterwards.

¶ Rossetti made a rather long stay with

Miss Siddal at Matlock, where she tried the

hydropathic cure: this may, I think, have

been in the later months of 1857 and the

earlier of 1858. It appears to me—but I

speak with uncertainty—that during the

rest of 1858 and the whole of 1859 he did

not see her so constantly as in preceding

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years. For this, apart from anything savour-

ing of neglectfulness on his part, there may

have been various causes, dubious for me

to estimate at the present distance of time.

Her own ill-health would have been partly

accountable for such a result; and, again,

the fact that Rossetti, increasingly employed

as a painter, had by this time some other

sitters for his pictures—Miss Burden (Mrs.

Morris), Mrs. Crabb (stage name Miss Her-

bert), and two whose heads appear respec-

tively in the Mary Magdalene at the Door

of Simon the Pharisee
and in Bocca Baciata.

In April I 860 Miss Siddal was staying at

Hastings, and was desperately ill. She may

possibly in some previous instances have

been equally brought down: more so she

cannot have been, for she seemed now at

the very gates of the tomb. Dante Rossetti

joined her at this place; and some expres-

sions in his letters may be worth quoting

(I condense ad libitum):—¶ To his mother,

April 13, 1860: “I write you this word to

say that Lizzie and I are going to be married

at last, in as few days as possible. Like all

the important things I ever meant to do—

to fulfil duty or secure happiness—this one

has been deferred almost beyond possibility.

I have hardly deserved that Lizzie should

still consent to it, but she has done so, and

I trust I may still have time to prove my

thankfulness to her. The constantly failing

state of her health is a terrible anxiety in-

deed.” To myself, April 17: “You will

be grieved to hear that poor dear Lizzie's

health has been in such a broken and failing

state for the last few days as to render me

more miserable than I can possibly say. She

gets no nourishment, and what can be reason-

ably hoped when this is added to her dread-

ful state of health in other respects? If I

were to lose her now, I do not know what

effect it might have on my mind, added to

the responsibility of much work, commis-

sioned and already paid for, which still has

to be done. The ordinary licence we already

have, and I still trust to God we may be

enabled to use it. If not, I should have so
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Rossetti and



much to grieve for, and (what is worse) so

much to reproach myself with, that I do

not know how it might end for me.” To

Madox Brown, April 22: “I have been,

almost without respite, since I saw you,

in the most agonizing anxiety about poor

dear Lizzie's health. Indeed, it has been

that kind of pain which one can never re-

member at its full, as she has seemed ready

to die daily and more than once a day. Since

yesterday there has certainly been a reaction

for the better. It makes me feel as if I had

been dug out of a vault, so many times lately

has it seemed to me that she could never lift

her head again.” ¶ Black as things had

been looking, Miss Siddal did so far revive

as to be able, on May 23, 1860, to attend

at St. Clement's Church, Hastings, where

the marriage rites were performed by the

Rev. T. Nightingale. The bride and bride-

groom went off at once to Folkestone, and

thence to Boulogne and Paris. At Boulogne

she made acquaintance with a married couple

advancing in years, Signor C. P. Maenza

and his wife, who had been very attentive

and affectionate to Dante Gabriel in 1843

and 1844, when he was received into their

house to keep his health and stamina up to

the mark. Maenza was known to my father,

being, like himself, one of the numerous re-

fugees from governmental tyranny in Italy :

he subsisted in Boulogne chiefly by teaching

drawing. He was a rapid and telling sketcher

of all sorts of bits of landscape and seascape,

with fisher-folk, boats, and so on. I still

possess several of his drawings of this class,

which, without showing artistic faculty of

any exalted order, are cleverly dashed or

touched off: I have more than once heard

my brother say, and truly say, “I know I

couldn't have done them.” Lizzie took a

warm liking to this most worthy Italian,

and Rossetti made a pencil study of his head,

now in the Art Gallery of Cardiff. ¶ Ros-

setti and his bride spent most of their honey-

moon in Paris: one thing that he did there

in part was the design named How They

Met Themselves
—two medieval lovers in

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a forest meeting their own wraiths; another

was the Dr. Johnson and the Methodistical

Young Ladies at the Mitre Tavern
. Pretty

soon they were back in London, staying

on in the chambers at Chatham Place, con-

siderably enlarged by opening a communi-

cation into the adjoining house, and they

also occupied for a while part of a house in

Downshire Hill, Hampstead. There is a

pleasing anecdote of the day when they re-

turned from France to London, showing the

impulsive generosity and good-nature which

were characteristic of Dante Rossetti, and

also evincing that his wife was quite willing

to second him when occasion arose. As he

was returning, he saw in a newspaper that a

friendly chum of his bachelor days—hardly

to be called a friend in the fuller sense of

the word—was just dead, leaving a widow

and two children. This was Robert (or Bob)

Brough, a comic writer of some cleverness

and acceptance and of limp purse. One of

his publications was a series of verses, “Songs

of the Governing Classes,” with plenty of

point and sting in them: he dedicated the

booklet to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The

bridegroom had, at the moment of re-enter-

ing London, no ready cash: it had all been

spent in Paris, some of it upon trinkets

which Lizzie was wearing. So, as they

hired a cab, they drove round to a pawn-

broker's, where he pledged the trinkets;

they next proceeded to Mrs. Brough's lodg-

ings, where he left the proceeds; and only

then did they take the route to their own

home. I am not sure that I ever heard

these details from my brother—he could

do a kindly act without saying anything

about it: but they have been put into print

ere now on authority which seems perfectly

safe. ¶ Lizzie did not attain to anything

approaching tolerable health during her

wedded life, although it may be that illness

did not assail her again in quite so fierce a

form as had been the case just before her

marriage. She continued designing and

painting to some extent at intervals, and of

course she sat at times to her husband for
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his works. The last instance, only a few days

before her death, was for a head of the

Princess in the subject called St. George

and the Princess Sabra
. Ill-health did not

induce her to seclude herself beyond what

was actually necessary: every now and then

she stayed on a visit in the house of the

Madox Browns near Highgate Rise, or in

that which the Morrises had been building

at Upton, near Bexley. In May 1861

she was confined of a stillborn female infant;

her recovery was rapid enough. In all cases

she was, as her husband wrote, “obstinately

plucky in illness.” The then very youthful

poet, Algernon Swinburne, just at the very

beginning of his shining career, was often

in her company: he delighted in her society,

and she in his. I have already quoted some

words of his, a tribute to her memory: he

went on to speak “of all her marvellous

charms of mind and person—her matchless

grace, loveliness, courage, endurance, wit,

humour, heroism, and sweetness.” Mr.

Swinburne also once wrote something to

me, expressing a wish that it might be pub-

lished at some opportunity. I will here

only cite one sentence, in which he says

that, with a single exception, “I never

knew so brilliant and appreciative a woman

—so quick to see and so keen to enjoy that

rare and delightful fusion of wit, humour,

character-painting, and dramatic poetry—

poetry subdued to dramatic effect—which

is only less wonderful and delightful than

the highest works of genius. She was a

wonderful as well as a most lovable creaߝ

ture." Mr. Swinburne is very well known

to be a munificent praiser: but it would be

childish to imagine that, when an intellect

such as his discerns certain intellectual and

personal merits in another person, nothing

of the sort was really there. Lizzie Rossetti

has more claims than one to sympathetic

and respectful memory: no testimony to

them tells out so impressively as the record

of her from the hand of Algernon Swinburne.

¶ Of her life there is little more for me to

say—only of her death. Her consumptive

Column Break

malady, accompanied by wearing neuralgia,

continued its fatal course, and her days

could at best, to all appearance, have only

been prolonged for some very few years.

For the neuralgia she took, under medical

authority, frequent doses of laudanum—

sometimes as much as 100 drops at a time;

she could not sleep nor take food without it;

stimulants were also in requisition. On

February 10, 1862, she dined at the Sab-

loniére Hotel, Leicester Square, with her

husband and Mr. Swinburne; it was no

uncommon thing for her to go out thus, as

a variation from dining at home. The Ros-

settis returned to Chatham Place about

eight o'clock; she was about to go to bed

at nine, when Dante Gabriel went out

again. He did not re-enter till half-past

eleven, when the room was in darkness, and,

calling to his wife, he received no reply.

He found her in bed, utterly unconscious;

there was a phial on the table by the bed-

side—it had contained laudanum, but was

now empty. Dr. Hutchinson (who had

attended her in her confinement) was called

in, and three other medical men, one of

them the eminent surgeon John Marshall,

well known to Madox Brown and to Ros-

setti. The stomach-pump and other reme-

dies were tried—all without avail. Lizzie

Rossetti expired about a quarter past seven

in the morning of February 11. An in-

quest was held on the 12th at Bridewell

Hospital; I was present, but had no evi-

dence to give. The witnesses, besides Dr.

Hutchinson, were Dante Rossetti, Swin-

burne, and Mrs. Birrell, the housekeeper

for the various Chambers at 14, Chatham

Place. She testified, among other things,

to uniformly affectionate relations between

the husband and wife. There was but one

inference to be formed from the evidence,

namely, that Mrs. Rossetti had, by misad-

venture, taken an overdose of laudanum,

and the jury at once returned a verdict of

accidental death. ¶ She lies buried in

Highgate Cemetery, in the grave where

my father had already been interred; my
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Rossetti and



mother and my sister Christina have joined

them there. Dante Rossetti, as it has often

been recorded, buried in her coffin the mass

of his poems, which had then recently been

announced for publication. He chose to

make this sacrifice to her memory, and for

more than seven years thereafter he was un-

able to bring out the intended volume. At

last, in October 1869, the manuscript was

uncoffined, and the publication ensued.

¶ With the aim of throwing a little light

on Lizzie's character and demeanour, I will

extract here a few sentences from letters

written by Ruskin to Rossetti, and by Ros-

setti to Allingham. ¶ Ruskin.—April 30,

1855:—“My feeling at the first reading

is that it would be best for you to marry,

for the sake of giving Miss Siddal complete

protection and care, and putting an end to

the peculiar sadness, and want of you hardly

know what, that there is in both of you.”

1860.—“It is not possible you should care

much for me, seeing me so seldom. I wish

Lizzie and you liked me enough to—say—

put on a dressing-gown and run in for a

minute rather than not see me. Perhaps

you both like me better than I suppose you

do, but I have no power in general of be-

lieving much in people's caring for me.

I've a little more faith in Lizzie than in

you—because, though she don't see me, her

bride's kiss was so full and queenly-kind.”

Rossetti.—July 24,1854:—“I wish, and she

wishes, that something should be done by

her to make a beginning, and set her mind

a little at ease about her pursuit of art;

and we both think that this, more than

anything, would be likely to have a good

effect on her health. It seems hard to me

when I look at her sometimes, working or

too ill to work; and think how many,

without one tithe of her genius or great-

ness of spirit, have granted them abundant

health and opportunity to labour through

the little they can or will do, while perhaps

her soul is never to bloom nor her bright

hair to fade; but, after hardly escaping from

degradation and corruption, all she might

Column Break

have been must sink out again unprofitably

in that dark house where she was born.

How truly she may say, ‘No man cared for

my soul.’ I do not mean to make myself

an exception; for how long I have known

her, and not thought of this till so late—

perhaps too late!” November 29, 1860.

—“Indeed, and of course, my wife does

draw still. Her last designs would, I am

sure, surprise and delight you, and I hope

she is going to do better than ever now. I

feel surer every time she works that she

has real genius—none of your make-believe

—in conception and colour; and, if she can

only add a little more of the precision in

carrying-out which it so much needs health

and strength to attain, she will, I am sure,

paint such pictures as no woman has painted

yet. But it is no use hoping for too much."

¶ Elizabeth Siddal developed a genuine

faculty for verse as well as for painting—

both assuredly under the stress of Rossetti's

prompting. Mr. Swinburne, in writing to

me, expressed the quality of her verse with

equal intuition and precision. “Watts

[Theodore Watts-Dunton] greatly admires

her poem [“A Year and a Day”], which is

as new to me as to him; I need not add

that I agree with him. There is the same

note of originality in discipleship which

distinguishes her work in art—Gabriel's

influence and example not more perceptible

than her own independence and freshness

of inspiration.” The amount of verse which

she produced was, I take it, very small;

certainlywhat remains in my hands is scanty.

In two of my publications I have printed

nine specimens. Since then I have de-

ciphered six others scrappily jotted down,

and I may one of these days publish all the

six. I here extract one of them:—

  • O silent wood, I enter thee
  • With a heart so full of misery,
  • For all the voices from the trees
  • And the ferns that cling about my knees.
  • In thy darkest shadow let me sit,
  • When the grey owls about thee flit;
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  • There I will ask of thee a boon,
  • That I may not faint, or die, or swoon.
  • Gazing through the gloom like one
  • 10Whose life and hopes are also done,
  • Frozen like a thing of stone,
  • I sit in thy shadow—but not alone.
  • Can God bring back the day when we two stood
  • Beneath the clinging trees in that dark wood?
¶ When Christina Rossetti was putting to-

gether in 1865 her volume “The Prince's

Progress and other Poems,” she raised a sug-

gestion that she might perhaps include two

or three specimens of Lizzie's verse, giving,

of course, the authoress's name. Christina

then, for the first time, read the composi-

tions sent to her by Dante Gabriel, and she

wrote, “How full of beauty they are, but

how painful!” She thought them “almost

too hopelessly sad for publication en masse.”

The poetry of Christina herself has often

been arraigned for excessive melancholy,

though not, I think, quite accurately, for

what it really exhibits is in the main re-

nunciation—a disregard for the beauties and

allurements of this world, in the effort to

scale a steeper path, and in the light of a

higher hope. The proposed printing of

Lizzie's poems did not come to effect—

probably both Dante and Christina agreed

in thinking it better that they should remain

in manuscript for the present. ¶ I will

now come to the drawings by Dante Ros-

setti which form our illustrations. For a

series of years, of which 1854 may be taken

as the centre, he made a more than copious

set of drawings of Miss Siddal; very gene-

rally representing her as she actually was

and looked, only occasionally treating her

figure as a study of action antecedent to

some painting. When those sketches had

become numerous, and no doubt littery (for

Dante Gabriel's studio was not a model of

orderly neatness), a friend of his, Lady Dal-

rymple, presented him with a large hand-

some volume into which they could be col-

lected; and collected they were, and formed

for years a great attraction to visitors in his

Column Break

studio. Some of them were given away

or otherwise dispersed from time to time;

a considerable number still remained at the

date of my brother's death in 1882. Here

is the testimony which Madox Brown, in

his diary of October 6, 1854, bore to the

quality of these drawings:—“Called on

Dante Rossetti. Saw Miss Siddal, looking

thinner and more deathlike and more beau-

tiful and more ragged than ever; a real

artist, a woman without parallel for many

a long year. Gabriel, as usual, diffuse and

inconsequent in his work. Drawing won-

derful and lovely Guggums one after an-

other, each one a fresh charm, each one

stamped with immortality.” Here also is

the testimony of Ruskin, in a letter ad-

dressed to my brother, September 4, 1860:

he appears to have called in Chatham Place

without finding any one at home. “I looked

over all the book of sketches at Chatham

Place yesterday. I think Ida should be

very happy to see how much more beauti-

fully, perfectly, and tenderly you draw

when you are drawing her than when you

draw anybody else. She cures you of all

your worst faults when you only look at

her.” ¶ I will take in order the illustra-

tions here supplied. The first I consider

to be the best of all, both as a drawing and

as a likeness; it strongly confirms the accu-

racy of the portrait already mentioned,

which Miss Siddal painted of herself. In

the pencil design the expression is more

than commonly grave, and seems to give

evidence of ill-health; the date is Septem-

ber 1854, nearly the same date as our ex-

tract from Brown's diary. She is seated

“in that armchair which suits your size,”

as Rossetti phrased it in a valentine of about

this period. The second and third in order

are fair likenesses, but in the latter there is

a certain petitesse about the lower part of

the face which detracts from the resem-

blance. The fourth drawing gives the face

truly, yet not very characteristically; the

pose is a pretty one, and counts for more than

the visage. Of the last nearly the
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Rossetti and



same may be said, but the face here, in its

reposeful quiet, presents more of the aspect

which prevailed in Miss Siddal, or even

predominated. These five designs, taken

collectively, may be regarded as marking a

very fair average of the series eulogized by

Brown and by Ruskin. Some were still

better than these; some others slighter or

less observable. It may be remarked that in

all the five the dress is full and loose, without

any trimming or ornament. Two or three

of the other sketches were sent to Professor

Norton at the time when he returned to

Rossetti the water-colour of Clerk Saunders.

There were, I think, at least three care-

ful and very successful drawings done of

Lizzie in her married days: not many more

than that, if we except heads introduced in-

to subject-paintings. ¶ The best list extant

of paintings and drawings by my brother is,

it is well known, that given by Mr. H. C.

Marillier in his sumptuous volume “ Dante

Gabriel Rossetti
,” 1899. I will extract from

it the more important works in which

Elizabeth Siddal's face appears:—1850,

Rossovestita; 1851, Beatrice at a Marriage

Feast Denying her Salutation to Dante

1852, The Meeting of Dante and Beatrice

in Eden
; 1853, Dante Drawing an Angel

in Memory of Beatrice
; 1855, The An-

(Mary washing clothes in a rivu-

let), Paolo and Francesca da Rimini, Dante's

Vision of Rachel and Leah
, The Maids of

; 1856, Passover in the Holy

; 1857, Designs for the Illustrated

Tennyson, The Tune of Seven Towers, The

Blue Closet
, Wedding of St. George; 1858,

A Christmas Carol, Hamlet and Ophelia;

1860, Bonifazio's Mistress, How they met

; 1861, The Rose Garden,

Regina Cordium; 1862, St. George and

the Princess Sabra
; 1863, Beata Beatrix.

Of portraits of Lizzie, Mr. Marillier cata-

logues eleven, but this is a mere trifle as

compared with the actual total. ¶ As to

Miss Siddal's own designs, I may mention,

besides those already specified, Jephthah's

Daughter, The Deposition from the Cross,

Column Break

The Maries at the Sepulchre, The Madonna

and Child with an Angel, Macbeth taking

the Dagger from his Wife who meditates

Suicide, The Lady of Shalott, St. Cecilia,

The Woful Victory. The St. Cecilia was

evidently intended to illustrate Tennyson's

poem The Palace of Art. It is a different

composition from the same subject as treated

by Dante Rossetti, but, like that, it cer-

tainly indicates the death of the saint (a

point which does not appertain to the poem),

and I have no doubt it preceded Rossetti's

design, and therefore this detail of inven-

tion properly belongs to Miss Siddal. The

Woful Victory
is an incident which was to

be introduced into Rossetti's poem The

Bride's Prelude
; that work, however, was

not brought to completion, and the inci-

dent was never put into verse, but it ap-

pears in the published prose argument of

the poem. I must not beguile the reader

into supposing that these designs by Miss

Siddal are works of any developed execu-

tion: some of them are extremely, and all

comparatively, slight. But there is right

thought in all of them, and a right inten-

tion as to how the thought should be con-

veyed in the structure of the composition.

¶ Specimens of Elizabeth Siddal's art are

to be found in four books known to me—

perhaps not in any others. These are

“Tennyson and his Preraphaelite Illustra-

tors,” by G. Somes Layard, 1894; “Dante

Rossetti's Letters to William Allingham,”

edited by Dr. Birkbeck Hill, 1897; “The

English Preraphaelite Painters,” by Percy H.

Bate, 1899; and Marillier's book previously

named, “ Dante Gabriel Rossetti,” 1899.

There is likewise her portrait of herself in

my Memoir of Dante Rossetti published

along with his Family letters, 1895. ¶ I

will conclude this brief account of Eliza-

beth Eleanor Siddal by saying that, with-

out overrating her actual performances in

either painting or poetry, one must fairly

pronounce her to have been a woman of

unusual capacities, and worthy of being

espoused to a painter and poet.
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