Friday, November 27, 2020

Virginia Woolf reflects on Christina Rossetti and Annie Thackeray Ritchie from Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary

 

Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford
platinum print, July, 1902


What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking  through them.

Christina Rossetti by Lewis Carroll
albumen print, 7 October 1863
National Portrait Gallery

1918
Monday, August 4th

Christina (Rossetti) has the great distinction of being a born poet, as she seems to have known very well herself. But if I were bringing a case against God she is one of the first witnesses I should call. It is melancholy reading. First she starved herself of love, which meant also life; then of poetry in deference to what she thought her religion demanded. There were two good suitors. The first indeed had his peculiarities. He had a conscience.She could only marry a particular shade of Christian. He could only stay that shade for a few months at a time. Finally he developed Roman Catholicism and was lost. Worse still was the case of Mr. Collins a really delightful scholar an unworldly recluse a single-minded worshiper of Christina, who could never be brought into the fold at all. On this account she could only visit him affectionately in his lodgings, which she did to the end of her life. Poetry was castrated too. she would set herself to do the psalms into verse; and to make all her poetry subservient to the Christian doctrines. Consequently, as I think, she  starved into austere emaciation a very fine original gift, which only wanted licence to take to itself a far finer form than, shall we say Mrs. Browning's. She wrote very easily; in a spontaneous childlike kind of way one imagines, as is the case generally with a true gift; still underdeveloped. She has the natural singing power. She thinks too. She has fancy. One could say she is profane enough to guess, have been ribald and witty. And, as a reward for all her sacrifices, she died in terror, uncertain of salvation. I confess though that I have only turned her poetry over, making way inevitably to the ones I knew already.

Anne Thackeray Ritchie
Daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray
Albumen print taken by Julia Margaret Cameron
Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, 1867


1919
Wednesday, March 5th

But oh, dear, what a lot I've got to read! The entire works of Mr. James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, so as to compare them to the entire works of Dickens and Mrs. Gaskell; besides that George Eliot; and finally Hardy. And I've just done Aunt Anny on a really liberal scale. Yes, since I wrote last she has died, a week ago today to be precise, at Freshwater, and was buried up at Hampstead yesterday, where six or seven years ago we saw Richmond buried in a yellow fog. I suppose my feeling for her is half moonshine, or rather half reflected from other feelings. Father cared for her, she goes down the last, almost of that old nineteenth century Hyde Park Gate world. Unlike most old ladies she showed very little anxiety to see one; felt, I sometimes think, a little painfully at the sight of us, as if we'd gone far off and recalled unhappiness, which she never liked to dwell on. Also, unlike most old Aunts she had the wits to feel how sharply we differed on current questions; and this, perhaps, gave her a sense, hardly existing with her usual circle, of age, obsoleteness, extinction. For myself though she need have had no anxieties on this head, since I admired her sincerely; but still the generations certainly look very different ways. Two or perhaps three years ago L. and I went to see her, found her much diminished in size,wearing a feather boa round her neck and seated alone in a drawing room almost the copy, on a smaller scale, of the old drawing room; the same subdued pleasant air of the eighteenth century and old  portraits and old china. She had our tea waiting for us. Her manner was a little distant, and more than a little melancholy. I asked her about father, and she said how those young men laughed in a "loud melancholy way" and how their generation was a very happy one, but selfish; and how ours seemed to her fine but very terrible; but we hadn't any writers such as they had, "Some of them have just a touch of that quality; Bernard Shaw has; but only a touch. The pleasant thing was to know them all us ordinary people, not great men" And then a story of Carlyle and father; Carlyle saying he'd as soon wash his face in a dirty puddle as write journalism. She put her hand down, I remember, into a bag or box standing beside the fire, and said she had a novel, three quarters written, but couldn't finish it. Nor do I suppose it ever was finished; but I've said all I can say, dressing it up a trifle rosily, in The Times tomorrow. I have written to Hester, but how I doubt the sincerity of my own emotion!



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A review of The Glass House by Jody Cooksley

 

What is a life without Art and Beauty? Not one that Julia chooses to live. And so she searches the world for both, discovering happiness through the lens of a camera. 

A fictional account of pioneer photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, and her extraordinary quest to find her own creative voice, The Glass House brings an exceptional photographer to life. 

From the depths of despair, with her relationships strained and having been humiliated by the artists she has given a home to, Julia rises to fame, photographing and befriending many of the days most famous literary, artistic, political and scientific celebrities. But to succeed as a female photographer, she must take on the Victorian patriarchy, the art world and, ultimately, her own family. And the doubts are not all from others. As Julia's uneasy relationship with fame grows into a fear that the camera has taken part of her soul, her search leads her full circle, back to India, in her lifelong quest for peace and beauty. A poignant, elegant and richly detailed debut.

PaperbackFirst290 pages

Published October 5th 2020 by Cinnamon Press
Original Title  The Glass House    
ISBN13    9781788649117  

      
Julia Margaret Cameron holding her daughter, Julia, 1845
Science Museum group collection

Her face, though plain, was delightful in its earnest animation and she cut a striking figure in her flowing garments as she walked, her head bent in thought as though she did not expect a single eye to appraise her and would not notice if it did. 


The Glass House a debut novel by author Jody Cooksley is a wonderful endeavor to tell a story of a strong, fiery natured independent woman who would become a prominent photographer in her own right responsible for soft focus photography. I admire the author's ambition to attempt to cover the years 1822 through to 1874 of this photographer's life in The Glass House.  However, stated in the afterword, the author explains how she, "has taken a great deal of liberty with their careful facts". Unfortunately, because I am somewhat familiar with Julia Margaret Cameron's life, although not difficult to google, some of the liberties include:  keeping Julia's father, James Pattle, alive by two years; he died September 1845 and it is captured in the chapter, 1848 Calcutta, where father gives daughter, Julia, financial advice as to making a move with her husband. This is a real life part of her life but her father would've had to make a ghostly visit to give this advice.  There are a few more 'liberties' that I won't go into here. 

Instead of chapter numbers there is a year and geographical location which provides a clever chronological timeline.  I enjoyed The Glass House immensely overall. I loved how the author retold the Pattle family story with sisters: Julia, Sarah, and Virginia mainly. She meets mentor and lifelong friend John Herschel, who introduces her to her soon to be husband Charles Hay Cameron in Calcutta. When Julia and husband Charles move to Kensington and Putney, you meet poet Alfred Tennyson and his wife Emily and painter G.F. Watts at Little Holland House where sister Sarah lives with husband Thoby. Such fun reading scenes of artists painting and discussing their works of art in really nice dialogue scenes. 

It wasn't until Part II of The Glass House that the author brings to life scenes of Julia Margaret Cameron asking famous friends, Tennyson, Carlyle, Rossetti to sit for her so she could set their image eternally. Some of Julia's 'famous' maids immortalized are found in The Glass House, Mary Hillier, Mary Ryan, May Prinsep. The problem I had was the author included too many well known artists in so many chapters that after awhile I felt an overload in reading the novel and I love these artists! For readers who are not familiar with Julia Margaret Cameron and her 'menagerie' one could be overwhelmed with it all. 

All of the important aspects of the life of photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron are reinvented within the pages of The Glass House by Jody Cooksley. Finding this novel was a delicious surprise. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about a free spirited woman whose desire was to capture Art and Beauty in all its forms and Julia Margaret Cameron definitely succeeded.  

NOTE THE GLASS HOUSE on the right behind the maids.
The Idylls of the Village or The Idols of the Village, Oscar Gustaf Rejlander possibly in collaboration with Julia Margaret Cameron, c. 1863, albumen print. Museum no. PH.261-1982 @ Victoria and Albert Museum, London


The Glass House by Jody Cooksley is available worldwide on Amazon and wherever books are sold. 











              
    
                                                





Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review of Portrait of a Muse by Andrew Gailey

 

Frances Graham, Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Dream

The first biography of Frances Graham, the muse of leading Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones for the last 25 years of his life. Her life is a study in power – artistic, social, political, familial, sexual – and fascinating for being played out from a perennial position of weakness. The tale of a remarkable woman living in an age on the cusp of modernity. 

‘You haunt me everywhere.’ So wrote Edward Burne-Jones to Frances Graham, his muse for the last 25 triumphant years of his life: ‘I haven’t a corner of my life or my thoughts where you are not’.  He drew her obsessively, included her in some of his most famous paintings, and showered her with gifts. Even when she betrayed him to marry, he would return to her.  To him ’all the romance and beauty of my life means you.’ This is the first biography of his muse. 

What makes a muse? The word conjures up for the artist a human cocoon of sexual allure and worship: part inspiration, part lover and protector. Yet however beguiling, demanding and volatile a muse could be, it remained a life surrendered to the art of another. In Victorian England this was especially so with the hierarchies between the sexes so firmly entrenched. The life of a muse to a Pre-Raphaelite artist was no different: Ruskin and Effie Gray, Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal, both powerfully destructive relationships that ended respectively in divorce and death. The one who survived was Frances Graham. She had a restless, irrepressible intelligence, able to mix at her small dinners politicians and aristocrats with writers, artists and the up and coming, be they Oscar Wilde or Albert Einstein. In time, she became the confidante of three government ministers, including Asquith, the Liberal leader.

ISBN: 9781913394479
ISBN-10: 1913394476  
Format: Hardcover 
Language: English 
Published: 20th September 2020
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press Ltd. 

The Wizard by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Birmingham Museum, UK, 1896/98

All my life I have known him and admired him, when I was fifteen we used to see much of him and he was the first man of genius I had ever met and that flung open the world. {Frances Graham}



Andrew Gailey has done such a beautiful job on, Portrait of a Muse. As a biography, it is a life to death retelling of the muse of Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir Edward Burne-Jones.  Bringing a muse out of the shadows into the spotlight is no mean feat. Anyone familiar with Burne-Jones's paintings undoubtedly has seen Frances Graham who later became Lady Horner when she married Jack Horner and lived a long life until 1940. It is quite an accomplishment researching and detailing Frances's life; although growing up in a wealthy family, having a father who was a patron of the arts and very good friends with a few of the Pre-Raphaelite painters including Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Andrew Gailey tells a charming story of a young teenaged Frances going with her father to visit 'Gabriel's' home in Cheyne Walk while her father conversed with him in his studio about upcoming requests and possibilities.  

The reader will get to know Frances very well as she grows up; her personality and passion for art matching her father's, while her mother's a total opposite not liking art at all. Frances was twelve when her father's friendship with Burn-Jones began. William Graham, M.P., regarded Burne-Jones highly as a painter and artist. Burne-Jones was always around the house and he noticed Frances right away never letting on until she was around fifteen years old. She sat for him several times while he drew, sketched, and then painted her throughout his life.  Edward Burne-Jones would have been a married man, a father and in his forties.  According to Frances, 

When I was about 18 or 19, Edward Burne-Jones, who was about 40, and living a quiet life, became my friend and poured into my lucky lap all the treasures one of the most wonderful minds that was ever created.

I was so torn reading, Portrait of a Muse, fully knowing that I would discover further details about the human side of Edward Burne-Jones. I am well aware of two of his affairs (or friendships) but Frances makes it three. According to his circle of friends he had a very sensitive and emotional side to his personality; getting 'infatuated' early on with young girls who struck his fancy. His surviving letters tell in his own words his 'attachment' and his desire to bring his fantasy world to life regardless of how his wife, Georgiana (Georgie) felt about it. Sadly, she was well aware of his 'friendships'. My heart just broke for her. The muses are equally at fault.  Burne-Jones wrote to Frances,

For you fit me through and through and only to look at you is to live splendidly.  Oh dear one, you are so deep in my life that you are a part of the air I breathe-are you jealous of my surroundings? You said yourself that triangular company was perplexing and anxious work. And often I thought of you-for it was as if you and I at the end of life were chatting together over the past.

I would highly recommend, Portrait of a Muse, to any art lover who enjoys reading about beautiful paintings, beautiful people, and the comings and goings of artists during their lives. Frances Graham led a very full life having married, had children, even naming one son Edward. It was a pleasure getting to know her.  

Thank you to Wilmington Square Books An imprint of Bitter Lemon Press for their beautiful hardcover edition to review. 

Portrait of a Muse by Andrew Gailey is available worldwide at online retail stores. 



 




Saturday, October 24, 2020

My article on the life of Julia Stephen is featured on the blog of Journal of Victorian Culture

 I have been very blessed to have a few of my articles featured and published online in various magazines and journal blogs lately. As a passionate lover of all things Victorian era and nineteenth century, who through my independent research, it feels as if the beginning of my dreams are coming true. 


You can read my article on the life of Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen,    Journal of Victorian Culture

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come! 


Saturday, October 10, 2020

My review of Talland House by Maggie Humm

 

Royal Academy, London 1919: Lily has put her student days in St. Ives, Cornwall, behind her—a time when her substitute mother, Mrs. Ramsay, seemingly disliked Lily’s portrait of her and Louis Grier, her tutor, never seduced her as she hoped he would. In the years since, she’s been a suffragette and a nurse in WWI, and now she’s a successful artist with a painting displayed at the Royal Academy. Then Louis appears at the exhibition with the news that Mrs. Ramsay has died under suspicious circumstances. Talking to Louis, Lily realizes two things: 1) she must find out more about her beloved Mrs. Ramsay’s death (and her sometimes-violent husband, Mr. Ramsay), and 2) She still loves Louis.

Set between 1900 and 1919 in picturesque Cornwall and war-blasted London, Talland House takes Lily Briscoe from the pages of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and tells her story outside the confines of Woolf’s novel—as a student in 1900, as a young woman becoming a professional artist, her loves and friendships, mourning her dead mother, and solving the mystery of her friend Mrs. Ramsay’s sudden death. Talland House is both a story for our present time, exploring the tensions women experience between their public careers and private loves, and a story of a specific moment in our past—a time when women first began to be truly independent.

Paperback352 Pages / Published: 03/09/2020Publisher:  She Writes Press



Closing her bedroom door, Lily felt her eyes moisten, thinking about the portrait. Here she was again, held in the aura of Mrs.Ramsay, not wanting to escape. Yet if she completed the painting, she would be free from her, and her mother, too, or at least they’d not be so continually present, if lives could be contained within a frame, a perspective, a brushstroke. 
Grief is not a prerequisite for reading, Talland House by Maggie Humm; neither is Virginia Woolf’s, To The Lighthouse for that matter. The reader does not have to suffer parental loss to identify with Lily Briscoe’s character or friendship with Mrs.Ramsay which triggers reminders of her own deceased mother. Even though Lily is mourning her dead mother during her visit to Cornwall, it is her surprising brief friendship with Mrs.Ramsay that pulls Lily out of her sadness, that is until her unexpected death which leaves Lily with an unfinished portrait painting of Mrs.Ramsay to complete. 
I felt as if I was meeting Lily for the first time. She was free spirited and carefree when painting as a part of her group while in St.Ives. The juxtaposition when she would visit Talland House and her conversations with Mrs.Ramsay were fascinating. 
The novel itself is filled with wonderful art scenes as Lily Briscoe becomes a professional artist. I really enjoyed Lily and Louis possible love story carrying through to London, World War I between 1914-1918. Nothing is predictable in Talland House; not the parental themes of death and grief, not the love story and especially not the constant friendship between Lily and Emily. Talland House is an absolutely beautifully written refreshing story of love, life and grief. 
Thank you to She Writes Press for my gorgeous paperback review copy. 
Talland House by Maggie Humm is available now online in bookstores nationwide.






Sunday, September 27, 2020

Publication in Headcanon Magazine: A Birthday Between Friends: Charlotte Bronte and Ellen Nussey





 I’m very proud to have my article published in Headcanon Magazine; an online magazine.                 My article, A Birthday Between Friends features the lifelong friendship between Charlotte Bronte and Ellen Nussey. It was featured in Headcanon Magazine and can be found under the critical analysis section in the link below. 

https://headcanonmagazine.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/a-birthday-between-friends-ellen-nussey-and-charlotte-bronte-by-kimberly-eve/



Sunday, August 23, 2020

My review of Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver


1906: A large manor house, Wake's End, sits on the edge of a bleak Fen, just outside the town of Wakenhyrst. It is the home of Edmund Stearn and his family – a historian, scholar and land-owner, he's an upstanding member of the local community. But all is not well at Wake's End. Edmund dominates his family tyrannically, in particular daughter Maud. When Maud's mother dies in childbirth and she's left alone with her strict, disciplinarian father, Maud's isolation drives her to her father's study, where she happens upon his diary. 

During a walk through the local church yard, Edmund spots an eye in the undergrowth. His terror is only briefly abated when he discovers its actually a painting, a 'doom', taken from the church. It's horrifying in its depiction of hell, and Edmund wants nothing more to do with it despite his historical significance. But the doom keeps returning to his mind. The stench of the Fen permeates the house, even with the windows closed. And when he lies awake at night, he hears a scratching sound – like claws on the wooden floor...

Put not your faith in men, she thought. That out there is all you can trust:  that hedge and that wet grass. Those dripping trees.

As if it were happening to someone else, she observed the pieces of her past - Maman, Father, herself - rearranging to make a different pattern.

She saw her childhood peel off and float away like a piece of waterweed in the Lode.

What do you do when a family secret cuts so deep that you bury it inside the deepest recesses of your mind? 

Historian, Edmund Stearne, was translating the book of a fifteenth century mystic named Alice Pyett when disturbing events began happening. His behavior became more erratic than usual; especially after a discovery of a lost medieval painting of a demonic devil figure.

It was his very young daughter Maud who shouldered the brunt of her father’s callous and tyrannical behavior. Upon the sudden death of her mother, Maud’s hatred for her father grows setting the scene for a father daughter relationship filled with violence, destruction and all things demonic and obsessive.

There are twists and turns around every corner. I only wish Mauds brothers Richard and Felix were included in the storyline a bit more. Maud prefers talking to her magpie Chatterpie until she meets Fen folk Jubal and Clem.

Michelle Paver takes the characters Edmund, Maud and her brothers full circle which as a reader I rarely see done in novels regardless of any classification. The author doesn’t leave you hanging with curiosity about certain characters as to reasons for their behavior which I am truly grateful for.

Just read this novel and I swear you won’t be sorry. I couldn’t put it down. I read until my eyes burned from exhaustion. I had to know what Edmunds secret was. I had to know what Maud would do to her father. 

Most intriguing were the chapters from the notebooks of Edmund Stearne. The reader gets to see his thought patterns and you feel like he’s talking to you. 

Wakenhyrst truly is an exceptional gothic themed novel set during the Edwardian era with a subtext of folklore, superstitions, and religious ideology of medieval fifteenth century England.

To purchase the book on  Amazon 






Virginia Woolf reflects on Christina Rossetti and Annie Thackeray Ritchie from Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary

  Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford platinum print, July, 1902 What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit an...