Sunday, July 25, 2021

Found (For A Picture) painting and sonnet by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Found A Study for the Woman's Head - Woman's Head With Eyes Open. Hair Straight, Unlike In The Finished Study. Birmingham Museum. 1853-1857.

Study in for Found, black and brown ink and wash with white heightening on paper. Signed with monogram DGR and dated 1853, Birmingham Museum. 

 Was Elizabeth Siddal the original model for Rossetti’s painting, ‘Found’? 

These two drawings look very much like Lizzie dated 1853 Birmingham Museum.

Rossettis poem Found (for a picture) dates 1848-1881 from Sonnets and Fragments by DGR (bound manuscript Volume). Princeton University.

In the end, the model in his oil painting of Found was Fanny Cornforth his housekeeper. 

Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was Designed 1853; begun 1859; unfinished, oil on canvas, Delaware Art Museum, USA

Found  (For a Picture.) By Dante Gabriel Rossetti 

“There is a budding morrow in midnight:”—

So sang our Keats, our English nightingale.

And here, as lamps across the bridge turn pale

In London's smokeless resurrection-light,

Dark breaks to dawn. But o'er the deadly blight

Of love deflowered & sorrow of none avail

Which makes this man gasp and this woman quail,

Can day with from darkness ever again unite take flight ever again grow light?

Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge,

10Under one mantle sheltered 'neath the hedge

In gloaming courtship? And alas O God! to-day

He does but only knows he holds her;— and but what part

Life Can life now can take? She cries in her own locked heart,— in her shut heart

“Leave me—I do not know you—go away!”

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rossetti's Portraits: Upcoming exhibition at The Holburne Museum 24 September 2021 to 9 January 2022


Blue Silk Dress (Jane Morris), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1868 © Society of Antiquaries of London: Kelmscott Manor

Rossetti’s Portraits features some of his most iconic artworks, including The Blue Silk Dress (Jane Morris), 1868, which reveal the artist at the height of his creative powers, alongside his less well-known, but equally compelling early drawings of friends, family and fellow Pre-Raphaelite artists. The exhibition also explores the artist’s intimate relationship with his muses and their influence on his depiction of beauty.  Extract from Holburne Museum website

I have been working on Mrs. Morris's portrait and have nearly finished it. I think it is better than the run of my doings. Dante Gabriel Rossetti letter to Alice Boyd of 24 July 1868.

Combining paintings, drawings, and photography from across the artist’s career, including some of his most celebrated and accomplished works, Rossetti’s Portraits opens with drawings of his early social circle, including members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood during the early 1850s. Extract from The Holburn Museum website.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrait of William Holman Hunt was sketched on the morning of 12th April 1853

As young artists starting their careers, ambitious to ‘make it’ in the art world, the Pre-Raphaelites frequently practised drawing each other to improve their observational skills, as well as saving money on models. These drawings were often created out of mutual affection and were exchanged as gifts. Rossetti’s portrait of William Holman Hunt was sketched on the morning of 12th April 1853 as one of several portraits created by the group to send out to Thomas Woolner, a Pre-Raphaelite sculptor who had emigrated to Australia to try his luck on that continent.  Extract from The Holburne Museum website

The Blue Bower by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1865
The sitter is Fanny Cornforth, Rossetti's housekeeper and mistress.
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Cornforth is the focus of one of Rossetti’s masterpieces, The Blue Bower (1865, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts), a painting infused with symbolism relating to the sitter. The blue cornflowers refer to her surname, while the passion flowers suggest her fiery nature. Indeed, the work has the feel of a character study; Cornforth commands the spectator’s gaze, as if to challenge their observation of her beauty.  Extract from The Holburne Museum website.

Elizabeth Siddal drawn by Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
May 1854, in Hastings, V&A

The next section features a selection of intimate and poignant drawings from the 1850s of the artist’s wife and pupil, Elizabeth Siddal (1829–1862), showing the many facets of their relationship as a couple, as artistic peers, and as artist and model.

Famous for posing in John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-52, Tate), Siddal modelled for several Pre-Raphaelite artists before sitting exclusively for Rossetti from 1852 onwards. Alongside her work as a model, Siddal pursued her own artistic interests and was the only woman to exhibit at the 1857 Pre-Raphaelite display at Russell Place. Rossetti made a series of beautifully intimate studies of her carrying out everyday tasks and the works displayed at the Holburne allow visitors to see the daily life that ‘Lizzie’ and Rossetti shared together. Siddal frequently suffered from ill-health and a drawing he made of her during a stay in Hastings where they had gone for her to recuperate from the latest bout of illness features in the show. Siddal died tragically in 1862 aged only 32.  Extract from The Holburne Museum. 

For more information about the exhibition, The Holburne Museum

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A review of Muse - A Victorian love story by Kristin Lundberg

 Muse is now streaming online as part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival in the United Kingdom until July 18th.  The link to the fringe website will appear at the end of this review. To watch this beautiful play starring the playwright herself, Kristin Lundberg as Elizabeth Siddal with the brilliant Greg Pragel as Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Based on a true story and set in 19th century England, this Victorian romance opens with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a painter of sensuality -- famed for founding the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which revolutionized fine art -- remembering Elizabeth Siddal, his model, his MUSE...his greatest passion. What follows is a kaleidoscope of memories - both passionate and painful.

Siddal was chosen as the model for John Millais famous painting of Shakespeare's “Ophelia” and, at the insistence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she became the embodiment of grace and beauty being immortalized in paintings and living a life that not even she could have dreamt of.

Through Rossetti’s story, we follow his journey working with the brotherhood of artists as they produce canvases reminiscent of medieval paintings. MUSE embodies the explosive struggles of his relationship with Lizzie, his muse, his model and later, his artistic competitor.

I am Dante Gabriel Rossetti, I am Dante Gabriel Rossetti...

Are you aware of how terrifying it is to lose complete joy and focus over what one knows so well?

You have scorched every partition in my brain with your beauty. Your image is always there.  Why can't I paint it?
My muse. My idyllic angel. 
I never wished for you to be left alone. 
You were my everything. You were my Aphrodite. 

Please forgive me.  I beg of you. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti tells his love story in narrative flashbacks emoting moments of rage, agony, tragedy, guilt, and remorse on stage. Greg Pragel as Rossetti shares  funny and charming moments with muse, Elizabeth Siddal played by Kristin Lundberg. Rossetti paints her in various literature and poetic scenes on canvas. They spend a lot of time together and eventually having so much in common painter/teacher to muse/student inevitably become girlfriend and boyfriend. It sounds childish I know but you must remember that Rossetti and Siddal were real human beings and their story is one of love, lust, art, and tragedy. 

As with artistic couples, Greg Pragel and Kristin Lundberg flesh out the human flaws, weaknesses, and characteristics of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal. At the time of their meeting, Rossetti was the established painter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Although, he struggled with acceptance from his brethren and counterparts as well as his own insecurities. What he found in his love, his muse, his Beatrice, was a more than equal partner and artist in her own right. Go Lizzie! You see, as their relationship flourished, so did Elizabeth Siddal's talent for drawing and painting. I don't want to give anything away but let's just say that Rossetti's fragile ego took a bit of a hit, poor guy. 

They don't understand. The other models. 
They don't understand. About art. 
 I see shapes and colors in poetry. They see nothing. 
They shame me for it. Painting Tennyson's words in fantastical imagery. 

Mrs. Tozer found a sketch which I thought I had hidden. She tore it up in front of me. Every rip was a tear to my heart. 

It's exhausting. Fighting for what you love. 
Fighting for what you know. 
When no one believes who you are and can't stand what you're bound to become. 

When Greg Pragel and Kristin Lundberg are on stage together they portray the characters of  Rossetti and Siddal with such humor between them its wonderful. Their conversations are so enchanting. You have captured the real people as you envision them as couple, artist and muse. 

I am reminded once more of how fragile life can be. Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived and breathed his passions and in the end he lost himself to the tragedy of what was to befall Elizabeth Siddal.  As for Elizabeth, she always knew she was talented, she always knew she wanted to be more than noticed for her beauty. What I don't believe she may have realized was that her life was to be terribly brief. 

A very bold and impressive move made by Director, Jay Michaels was juxtaposing Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Greg Pragel) on stage going about his life while Lizzie Siddal is away in France with Ruskin. Kristin Lundberg as Lizzie Siddal enters the theatre from the rear talking and interacting with the audience.

Kristin Lundberg has written a beautiful love story. Muse is filled with such humor and even though there is sadness it is tinged with poetry and painting. Who knows maybe that's exactly what Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal were hoping for! 

NOTE:  The photograph is really Dante Gabriel Rossetti as is the image of Elizabeth Siddal.  The text next to both, in red font,  are from Muse written by Kristin Lundberg. 

YOU HAVE FIVE DAYS LEFT. Please do not miss this opportunity to watch, Muse, streamed online for a very affordable ticket price,  Ludlow Fringe Box Office

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A brand new biography about the woman known as the mother of Virginia Woolf: Julia Prinsep Stephen (7 February 1846-5 May 1895)

This is just a quick post filled with details about a biography I am currently reading. You cannot buy it online in book or even kindle or ebook form. Hopefully, in future.  However, read the details below to find out how to read this fantastic biography online for yourself!  I am reading every chapter as slowly as possible because I don't want it to end...

I WILL PROVIDE THE LINK BELOW TO MARION DELL'S WEBSITE, so you can read the biography at will. 

Image taken from website, The Elusive Julia Prinsep Stephen
care of Marion Dell

 So, who was Julia Prinsep Stephen besides being called, 'The mother of Virginia Woolf' (and also Vanessa Bell)?  Dr. Marion Dell, Vice-Chairman of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain has written a brand new biography where you can learn as much about her life as you would like. Dr. Dell's stunning and impeccable research has brought Julia Stephen refreshingly to life; so much so, you would swear she is standing in front of you narrating her life story herself. 

Of course, there was more to Julia Prinsep Stephen then her famous children (or child). Her lineage dates back to not only the Prinseps but also the Pattles of Calcutta. Her aunt was photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron and she lived during a time of great poets i.e. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and authors as Henry James and Charles Dickens. William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair bears a very important connection and mention but you'll have to read Dr. Dell's biography to find out more...

Book cover created by Dr. Marion Dell. 
Image taken from her website, The Elusive Julia Prinsep Stephen

There are several sections and tabs on the website filled with all kinds of background information to the author, Dr. Marion Dell as well as her previous books which are Bloomsbury and Virginia Woolf related.  Marion has been uploading several chapters at a time under the Biography tab on her website. So far, the first four chapters are available to read. Take a poke around and I really hope you like what you find. 

To read, A Vision of Beauty by Marion Dell,  The Elusive Julia Prinsep Stephen

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Mrs. William Makepeace Thackeray, Isabella Gethin Shawe (December 5, 1816-January 11, 1894)

I wish I was rich sometimes but if with riches comes such a joy of the world as to make one forgetful of the ties of nature may I ever remain as I am. (Letter 389 From Mrs. Thackeray, 1839).

Watercolor of Mrs. William Makepeace Thackeray (Isabella Gethin Shawe) painted in 1836 by her husband and author, William Makepeace Thackeray.
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Merrick Shawe by Samuel Andrews, 1800.

William Makepeace Thackeray and his wife, Isabella Gethin Shawe were both born five years apart in Calcutta, British India. Her father, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Merrick Shawe married Isabella Creagh Shawe of the Parish of Donerail in County Cork, Ireland on 9 December 1813. Soon afterwards, he left his home at Est Lodge in Galway, Ireland, to work as Military Secretary to Marquis of Wellesley in India where they settled until his death at sea on 11 April, 1826. He was forty six years old. Leaving behind five children, his wife soon realized his savings and pension was not enough to remain. So, she  returned to her family home, Donerail in County Cork, Ireland where she would remain until her death in December 1871 at 81 years old.

Mrs. Thackeray as illustrated in Vanity Fair as Becky Sharpe

Petite, redheaded, spitfire, Isabella Shawe spent most of her life between her parents home in Cork, Ireland and her grandparents home in Paris, France where she was known for her beautiful singing voice and piano playing. Her mother would always make her sing and play for guests at the parties of family friend Mrs. Crow, the wife of a newspaper magnet. One night in 1835,  she met a young man named William who was in Paris eking out a meager living 'sketching' females along the Rue des Beaux Arts. He was immediately smitten with the diminutive young girl. They kept up a writing relationship when in January 1836, William's friend, Henry Reeve wrote to William's mother, Mrs. Carmichael, 'He has fallen in love and talks of being married in less than twenty years! What is there so affecting a matrimony! I dined yesterday with his object, who is a nice, simple, girlish girl.'  As the months went by and their correspondence continued, Isabella's mother interfered in the relationship, hiding some of William's letters in an attempt to break them up because she didn't approve of him. He had no money, was not a student, worked at a newspaper yet had no direction in life. He would gather in the many bars around Paris with his buddies talking about women, art and literature. His future mother-in-law was not happy about his occupation and hobbies. However, what she neglected to see was how her daughter's love would transform William for the better, giving him direction and confidence; at least for a little while! 

William Makepeace Thackeray, 1830s

For as I sit here alone I grow thoughtful & querulous, and discontented because I cannot have what I most want — you — your little red-polled ghost pursues me everywhere, the phantoms of some of your songs are always in my ears — but melancholy & pale as ghosts should be 5 and of mornings I wake very early and toss about in my bed & think of you — Letter from William Makepeace Thackeray to Isabella Shawe, 1836.

During their brief courtship, William showed the engagement ring to his friends who said it looked more like a mourning ring than an engagement ring. He gave Isabella this diamond ring set between two opals. Sadly, there are no surviving letters from Isabella to William so we don't know her reaction or feelings during this exciting time; we only have William's letters to his mother. 

Illustration from Vanity Fair

As was recorded in the parish records at the British Embassy in Paris, France, where the couple were married on 20 August, 1836, 

William Makepeace Thackeray of the Parish of St. John Paddington, in the County of Middlesex Batchelor and Isabella Gethin Shawe of the Parish of Donerail in the County of Cork Spinster and the minor was married in this house with the consent of her mother Isabella Creagh Shawe this twentieth day of August in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six by me M. H. Luscombe, Bishop and Chaplain. This marriage was solemnized between us William Makepeace Thackeray, Isabella Gethin Shawe, in the presence of V. Spencer, Isabella Creagh Shawe, Senior, J.W. Lemaire. 

A portrait of Isabella and daughter, Anny Thackeray ca 1837 by William Makepeace Thackeray

The first two years of marriage (1836-38) were the happiest the couple would have; especially with the birth of first born daughter, Anne Isabella Thackeray, named after both mothers, on 9 June 1837. She was a chubby, happy, active baby. 'Anny' as she was called would be the only sibling to live through to old age. Anne would marry her cousin Richmond Ritchie seventeen years her junior. She would publish several novels moving to the Isle of Wight. She had a wonderful relationship with her niece Adeline Stephens better known as Virginia Woolf. 
Several months later, Isabella was pregnant with a baby girl named after her sister, Jane. She gave birth to Jane Thackeray on 2 July, 1838 and on 14 March 1839 she passed on. However, for unknown reasons, baby Jane Thackeray died at eight months old. William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote a letter to his mother, Mrs. Carmichael Smyth:

and now I would be almost sorry — no that is not true — but I would not ask to have the dear little Jane back again and subject her to the degradation of life and pain. O God watch over us too, and as we may think that Your Great heart yearns towards the innocent charms of these little infants, let us try and think that it will have tenderness for us likewise who have been innocent once, and have, in the midst of corruption, some remembrances of good still. Sometimes I fancy that at the judgement time the little one would come out and put away the sword of the angry angel I think her love for us and her beautiful purity would melt the Devil himself — Nonsense, you know what I mean. We have sent to Heaven a little angel who came from us & loved us and God will understand her language & visit us mildly (Letter from William Makepeace Thackeray to Mrs. Carmichael-Smyth, March 1839).

Isabella is pregnant again with her third baby and gives birth to daughter, Harriet Marian Thackeray on 27 May, 1840 nicknamed, "Minnie". She would grow up to marry Leslie Stephen having miscarried twice finally giving birth prematurely the third time to daughter, Laura Makepeace Stephen weighing just three pounds. Laura may have been what is now called, autistic. Her parents put her in Priory Hospital where she remained until her death in 1945. For Harriet, she was pregnant again, suffered from complications and passed away from eclampsia (apoplexy) on November 28, 1875 the same thing that her mother would pass away from. It was after the birth of Minnie that her depression began to take shape affecting her husband, William mostly.  According to, The Psychiatric Case History of Isabella Shawe Thackeray and her doctor, Stanley Cobb; here is his diagnosis:

In discussing the cause of this mental breakdown the fact that the patient’s mother had periods of depression after her children were born is probably important. Although mild depressions are common enough during the nursing period, there is abundant evidence that Mrs. Shawe was unstable and difficult. So if blame is to be placed, it may well begin with putting it on the egg, with stressful environment as secondary. Life before her marriage was not easy for Isabella Shawe, and the year of engagement to Thackeray had stormy passages with the mother, who wished to break up the match, and with the lover as mentioned above. Then the four years of marriage, though happy, brought heavy physical burdens — three pregnancies in quick succession. Added to this were all the adjustments to marriage and the grief over losing a child. There is no evidence that Thackeray himself was a cause of trouble; in fact, he seems to have made a positive contribution towards happiness.

The diagnosis is schizophrenia, of a type that often begins with depression and ideas of unworthiness a few weeks after childbirth. 2 Some of these patients get well spontaneously in a few months and the diagnosis of a “post-puerperal depression” is made. Others seem to drift into a permanent state of apathy and live the rest of their lives in an unreal world of fantasy, with gradual mental deterioration. Such was the fate of Mrs. Thackeray.

 Stanley Cobb, M.D. 

According to census' 1871-1891, Isabella Gethin Shawe  Thackeray was placed in care at Eden Lodge, Leigh, Essex, United Kingdom. Her husband made sure she was being cared for at the home of friends of his, in this case, Henry and Emma Thompson. She passed away there on 11 January 1894 at the age of seventy-seven from eclampsia (apoplexy) with her first born daughter, Anne Thackeray Ritchie present at her bedside.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Nevada Museum of Art: Current U.S. exhibition: Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement

For Pre-Raphelite art fans living in the United States, specifically, in Nevada, grab your mask and get over to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada to see this gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite art exhibition!

Here are some details from the museum website along with links below: 

Victorian Radicals:
From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement


In the second half of the nineteenth century, a group of iconoclastic creators pushed against industrialization to enlighten humanity with their revolutionary take on beauty. Drawn from the collection of the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom, Victorian Radicals brings together more than 145 paintings, works on paper, and decorative objects—many of which have never been exhibited outside the U.K.—to illuminate this dynamic period of British art. 

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the champions of the Arts & Crafts Movement offered a radical vision of art and society inspired by pre-Renaissance culture. Works by pioneering artists Ford Madox Brown, Kate Elizabeth Bunce, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and others, represent the response of Britain’s first modern art movement to the industrialization of the period.  

Artists and designers explored vital concerns of their time—the relationship between art and nature, religious themes, questions of class and gender identity, the value of the handmade versus machine production, and the search for beauty in an age of industry. 

This is the final opportunity to see this unparalleled exhibition before it leaves the West Coast.   

Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement is organized by the American Federation of Arts and Birmingham Museums Trust. The national tour is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding provided by Clare McKeon and the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation.

160 West Liberty, Reno, Nevada 89501


Here is the link to, Nevada Museum of Art

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A review of The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters— Anne, Emily, and Charlotte—are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They’re also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.
Tabby says it’s bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumoBook Depositoryr attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they’ve been lured right into it…

Feb 16, 2021ISBN 9780593099155
The Diabolical Bones is terrific fun to read. Page turning chapters filled with everything Bronte lovers could imagine. For instance, the entire Bronte family sat around the dinner table even brother Branwell and papa Rev. Bronte himself. Wonderful humorous conversations between sisters and brother as well as devotion and protection over their beloved papa Bronte.
The Diabolical Bones is an enthralling mystery where the moors hold secrets carried upon the wind for the Bronte sisters to solve.  Old wives tales, folklore, religion and witchcraft hold clues to help solve this mystery of the bones of a dead child found up a chimney and so much more.
What I love most about these books is you get to read a wonderful mystery wrapped up in the charm of the Bronte family. What more could you ask for?
I can’t wait for the next adventure!
Thank you to Berkley Books and Netgalley for my review copy.
To purchase in the United States, Book Depository 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

A daughter's tribute to her mother: Christina Rossetti in her own words to her mother Frances Rossetti (nee Polidori)


Mother and Daughter posed together, Frances Rossetti and daughter Christina Rossetti by Charles Dodgson,  albumen print, 7 October 1863, NPG

A beautiful tribute to her mother in Christina Rossetti's own handwriting:

Sonnets are full of love, and this our tome

So full of sonnets:  so here now shall be

A sonnet and a love - sonnet from me

To my first love, my Mother, on whose knee

I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;

Whose heart is still my heart’s most quiet home,

Whose service is my special dignity,

And she my loadstar while I go and come.

And so because you love me, and because

I love you Mother, i have woven a wreath

Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:

In you not fourscore years can dim the flame

Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws

Of time and change and mortal life and death.

The above was from a two page undated letter by Christina Rossetti to her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Housed and Archived as part of Christina Rossetti's papers at Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas. 

A tribute to my mother as tomorrow is the anniversary of her passing.
As long as there is still breath in me, you will never be forgotten.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Moxon Tennyson: A Landmark in Victorian Illustration-Series in Victorian Studies by Simon Cooke


ISBN 978-0-8214-2426-1
Retail price: $80.00
Release date: January 2021
81 illus. · 254 pages · 7 × 10 in

The Lady of Shalott by William Holman-Hunt

Engraved by the Dalziels /J. Thompson, 1857, Wood engraving

A new perspective on a book that transformed Victorian illustration into a stand-alone art.

Edward Moxon’s 1857 edition of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Poems dramatically redefined the relationship between images and words in print. Cooke’s study, the first book to address the subject in over 120 years, presents a sweeping analysis of the illustrators and the complex and challenging ways in which they interpreted Tennyson’s poetry. This book considers the volume’s historical context, examining in detail the roles of publisher, engravers, and binding designer, as well as the material difficulties of printing its fine illustrations, which recreate the effects of painting. Arranged thematically and reproducing all the original images, the chapters present a detailed reappraisal of the original volume and the distinctive culture that produced it.

Simon Cooke is the editor for book illustration and design on Victorian Web. He is the author of Illustrated Periodicals of the 1860s and coeditor of two collections of essays. He has published on Victorian book art, Gothic, Sensationalism, and the Pre-Raphaelites.

I've been reading my review copy from publishers Ohio University Press. It's a beautiful edition and seeing the gorgeous illustrations from all the illustrators not just the well-known Pre-Raphaelite painters has reminded me of the beauty of Tennyson's poems. It makes me want to sit down and read his beautiful words over and over again.

Stay tuned for my upcoming review.  I just wanted to post this for anyone who might want to request  a review copy or purchase it. Please know that it is expensive though.

If you are in the United Kingdom,  Waterstones

If you are in the United States,  Ohio University Press

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Dead City by Christina Rossetti: Living in a time of pandemic?


Christina Rossetti by Lewis Carroll,
October 7, 1863, NPG

The genius of the family. She was the Dante of our family. 
Christina, was the daughter of what was noblest in our father 
and beautiful in our mother. 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti speaks of his sister.

In 1847 poetess, Christina Rossetti believed to be inspired by the story of Zobeide in The Arabian Nights, wrote, The Dead City; a first person singular allegory where a woman narrates her walk through an abandoned city as she makes her way to a dinner already laid out on a table. The poet warns the reader of the dangers of 'urban materialism' in a consumer culture gone awry almost pleading for the need for spiritual awakening.  

As we live in the beginning of 2021, one hundred and seventy four years after The Dead City was written, I can see parallels to the detriment of urban living. Thus, resulting in the concrete, grey, desolation of city sidewalks deserted of humans where a light shines upon tents leading the way to a dinner meal already prepared atop a table.  Think of the tents that surround individual tables outside of restaurants across our pandemic cities around the world. I wanted to share this poem with you. Read it again. Read it for the first time. Grab your copy of, The Goblin Market and other poems sitting on your shelf right now, snuggle up with your tea or coffee in your favorite recliner or sofa and see if you don't see echoes of our Covid pandemic world.  


Once I rambled in a wood
With a careless hardihood,
Heeding not the tangled way;
Labyrinths around me lay,
But for them I never stood.

On, still on, I wandered on,
And the sun above me shone;
And the birds around me winging
With their everlasting singing
Made me feel not quite alone.

In the branches of the trees,
Murmured like the hum of bees
The low sound of happy breezes,
Whose sweet voice that never ceases
Lulls the heart to perfect ease.

Streamlets bubbled all around
On the green and fertile ground,
Thro' the rushes and the grass,
Like a sheet of liquid glass,
With a soft and trickling sound.

And I went, I went on faster,
Contemplating no disaster;
And I plucked ripe blackberries,
But the birds with envious eyes
Came and stole them from their master:

For the birds here were all tame;
Some with bodies like a flame,
Some that glanced the branches thro'
Pure and colourless as dew;
Fearlessly to me they came.

Before me no mortal stood
In the mazes of that wood;
Before me the birds had never
Seen a man, but dwelt for ever
In a happy solitude;

Happy solitude, and blest
With beatitude of rest;
Where the woods are ever vernal,
And the life and joy eternal,
Without Death's or Sorrow's test.

Oh most blessed solitude!
Oh most full beatitude!
Where are quiet without strife,
And imperishable life,
Nothing marred, and all things good.

And the bright sun, life begetting,
Never rising, never setting,
Shining warmly overhead,
Nor too pallid, nor too red,
Lulled me to a sweet forgetting,

Sweet forgetting of the time:
And I listened for no chime
Which might warn me to begone;
But I wandered on, still on,
'Neath the boughs of oak and lime.

Know I not how long I strayed
In the pleasant leafy shade;
But the trees had gradually
Grown more rare, the air more free,
The sun hotter overhead.

Soon the birds no more were seen
Glancing thro' the living green;
And a blight had passed upon
All the trees; and the pale sun
Shone with a strange lurid sheen.

Then a darkness spread around:
I saw nought, I heard no sound;
Solid darkness overhead,
With a trembling cautious tread
Passed I o'er the unseen ground.

But at length a pallid light
Broke upon my searching sight;
A pale solitary ray,
Like a star at dawn of day
Ere the sun is hot and bright.

Towards its faintly glimmering beam
I went on as in a dream;
A strange dream of hope and fear!
And I saw as I drew near
'Twas in truth no planet's gleam;

But a lamp above a gate
Shone in solitary state
O'er a desert drear and cold,
O'er a heap of ruins old,
O'er a scene most desolate.

By that gate I entered lone
A fair city of white stone;
And a lovely light to see
Dawned, and spread most gradually
Till the air grew warm and shone.

Thro' the splendid streets I strayed
In that radiance without shade,
Yet I heard no human sound;
All was still and silent round
As a city of the dead.

All the doors were open wide;
Lattices on every side
In the wind swung to and fro;
Wind that whispered very low:
Go and see the end of pride.

With a fixed determination
Entered I each habitation,
But they all were tenantless;
All was utter loneliness,
All was deathless desolation.

In the noiseless market-place
Was no care-worn busy face;
There were none to buy or sell,
None to listen or to tell,
In this silent emptiness.

Thro' the city on I went
Full of awe and wonderment;
Still the light around me shone,
And I wandered on, still on,
In my great astonishment,

Till at length I reached a place
Where amid an ample space
Rose a palace for a king;
Golden was the turreting,
And of solid gold the base.

The great porch was ivory,
And the steps were ebony;
Diamond and chrysoprase
Set the pillars in a blaze,
Capitalled with jewelry.

None was there to bar my way--
And the breezes seemed to say:
Touch not these, but pass them by,
Pressing onwards: therefore I
Entered in and made no stay.

All around was desolate:
I went on; a silent state
Reigned in each deserted room,
And I hastened thro' the gloom
Till I reached an outer gate.

Soon a shady avenue
Blossom-perfumed, met my view.
Here and there the sun-beams fell
On pure founts, whose sudden swell
Up from marble basins flew.

Every tree was fresh and green;
Not a withered leaf was seen
Thro' the veil of flowers and fruit;
Strong and sapful were the root,
The top boughs, and all between.

Vines were climbing everywhere
Full of purple grapes and fair:
And far off I saw the corn
With its heavy head down borne,
By the odour-laden air.

Who shall strip the bending vine?
Who shall tread the press for wine?
Who shall bring the harvest in
When the pallid ears begin
In the sun to glow and shine?

On I went, alone, alone,
Till I saw a tent that shone
With each bright and lustrous hue;
It was trimmed with jewels too,
And with flowers; not one was gone.

Then the breezes whispered me:
Enter in, and look, and see
How for luxury and pride
A great multitude have died:--
And I entered tremblingly.

Lo, a splendid banquet laid
In the cool and pleasant shade.
Mighty tables, every thing
Of sweet Nature's furnishing
That was rich and rare, displayed;

And each strange and luscious cate
Practised Art makes delicate;
With a thousand fair devices
Full of odours and of spices;
And a warm voluptuous state.

All the vessels were of gold
Set with gems of worth untold.
In the midst a fountain rose
Of pure milk, whose rippling flows
In a silver basin rolled.

In green emerald baskets were
Sun-red apples, streaked, and fair;
Here the nectarine and peach
And ripe plum lay, and on each
The bloom rested every where.

Grapes were hanging overhead,
Purple, pale, and ruby-red;
And in panniers all around
Yellow melons shone, fresh found,
With the dew upon them spread.

And the apricot and pear
And the pulpy fig were there;
Cherries and dark mulberries,
Bunchy currants, strawberries,
And the lemon wan and fair.

And unnumbered others too,
Fruits of every size and hue,
Juicy in their ripe perfection,
Cool beneath the cool reflection
Of the curtains' sky blue.

All the floor was strewn with flowers
Fresh from sunshine and from showers,
Roses, lilies, jasmine;
And the ivy ran between
Like a thought in happy hours.

And this feast too lacked no guest
With its warm delicious rest;
With its couches softly sinking,
And its glow, not made for thinking,
But for careless joy at best.

Many banquettes were there,
Wrinkled age, the young, the fair;
In the splendid revelry
Flushing cheek and kindling eye
Told of gladness without care.

Yet no laughter rang around,
Yet they uttered forth no sound;
With the smile upon his face
Each sat moveless in his place,
Silently, as if spell-bound.

The low whispering voice was gone,
And I felt awed and alone.
In my great astonishment
To the feasters up I went--
Lo, they all were turned to stone.

Yea they all were statue-cold,
Men and women, young and old;
With the life-like look and smile
And the flush; and all the while
The hard fingers kept their hold.

Here a little child was sitting
With a merry glance, befitting
Happy age and heedless heart;
There a young man sat apart
With a forward look unweeting.

Nigh them was a maiden fair;
And the ringlets of her hair
Round her slender fingers twined;
And she blushed as she reclined,
Knowing that her love was there.

Here a dead man sat to sup,
In his hand a drinking cup;
Wine cup of the heavy gold,
Human hand stony and cold,
And no life-breath struggling up.

There a mother lay, and smiled
Down upon her infant child;
Happy child and happy mother
Laughing back to one another
With a gladness undefiled.

Here an old man slept, worn out
With the revelry and rout;
Here a strong man sat and gazed
On a girl, whose eyes upraised
No more wandered round about.

And none broke the stillness, none;
I was the sole living one.
And methought that silently
Many seemed to look on me
With strange steadfast eyes that shone.

Full of fear I would have fled;
Full of fear I bent my head,
Shutting out each stony guest:--
When I looked again the feast
And the tent had vanished.

Yes, once more I stood alone
Where the happy sunlight shone
And a gentle wind was sighing,
And the little birds were flying,
And the dreariness was gone.

All these things that I have said
Awed me, and made me afraid.
What was I that I should see
So much hidden mystery?
And I straightway knelt and prayed.

Found (For A Picture) painting and sonnet by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Found A Study for the Woman's Head - Woman's Head With Eyes Open. Hair Straight, Unlike In The Finished Study. Birmingham Museum. 18...