During the 1870s, Watts-Dunton met Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne, advising Rossetti about a stolen check and helping Swinburne get out of a blackmail situation with his publisher John Camden Hotten. He also helped Swinburne with his alcoholism by getting him out of London and moved into a house called, ‘The Pines,’ where Watts-Dunton took over guardianship of the poet until his death in 1909.
Max Beerbohm wrote a humorous account of his stay at ‘The Pines’ called, “No. 2 The Pines,” published in And Even Now (1920). After a long bachelorhood, Watts-Dunton at the age of seventy-three, married twenty-nine-year old Clara Reich in 1905, having first met her when she was a sixteen year old school girl. She moved into ‘The Pines’ and wrote her biographical account published in 1922, a few years after her husband’s death. It is an affectionate account of daily life which gives opposite impression of Edmund Gosse’s 1917 biography of Swinburne that Watts-Dunton says deprived the poet of his freedom and diminished his creativity. Mrs. Watts-Dunton squashed rumors that had been swirling for years that they were such an unhappily married couple stuck in a marriage of convenience. You can read an account of the couple’s mutual devotion in Thomas Hake and Arthur Compton-Rickett’s biography.
ink and wash, National Portrait Gallery
Date painted: c.1896/1898, National Trust