Upcoming Read: Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle by Frances Winwar

I was not seeking it out but it found me. I have always had a passion for Pre-Raphaelite art and the artists of the Brotherhood.  When I came across this fascinating award-winning book, I almost fell off my chair!  I quickly searched online and found  an affordable copy that will hopefully arrive soon. I can't wait to read it, see how accurate or inaccurate it is and share it with all of you!

If anyone has read it, please contact me at kimmymuses@gmail.com and tell me your thoughts, or just leave a comment below and I will share it here.

 Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle by Frances Winwar won a $5,000 prize by the Atlantic Monthly and LItttle Brown and Company 'for the most interesting unpublished work (not fiction)'.   It is a biographical narrative including The Rossetti's influence on fellow artists such as, Millais, Ruskin, Swinburne, Holman-Hunt, and William Morris.
  •   Hardcover: 413 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (1933)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000855BEM
  Author Biography

Frances Winwar was born Francesca Vinciguerra born on May 3, 1900 in Taormina, Sicily, Italy. She was an Italian-American biographer, translator, and fiction writer. The daughter of a singer in Italy, her family came to the United States in 1907 when she was seven years old. She grew up in New York City, attending Hunter College and Columbia University.

By the age of 18, she spoke three languages: English, Italian, and French. She never finished her studies. In 1918, at the age of 18, she published her first piece of poetry in a then radical socialist magazine, The Masses.

In 1923, she published a literary essay on Giovanni Verga in Freeman that was noticed by many periodicals; during that year the New York World hired her as a staff book reviewer, and she became  a contributor to the New York Times, the New Republic, and the Saturday Review of Literature.

She wrote her first book, The Ardent Flame, in 1927, based on the story of thirteenth-century lovers Paolo and Francesca. The following year she published Golden Round, set in the same period, and in 1929 she published Pagan Interval, a romantic fantasy.

Her publisher asked her to change her name because it was too long so she changed it to Winwar, a literal translation of Vinciguerra.
Frances then wrote a series of biographies: Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle (1933); The Romantic Rebels, about John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron;  Farewell the Banner (1938) on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and Wordsworth's sister; American Giant: Walt Whitman and His Times (1941), and Oscar Wilde and the Yellow 'Nineties. In The Life of the Heart (1945), on the life of George Sand, she wrote about Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, and Louis Napoléon, and the book became the most successful of all her works. The Saint and the Devil; The Story of Joan of Arc and Gilles deRais (1948); The Land and People of Italy (1951); Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo (1953), Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada (1954) and Haunted Palace (1959), about Edgar Allan Poe; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Conscience of an Era (1961) followed.

Frances was a terrific translator: she translated two cantos of Dante's Divine Comedy; Charles Baudelaire’s poems; and the most acclaimed, Boccaccio's Decameron. She loved music, so she also translated Verdi's Simon Boccanegra; Rossini's Il signor Bruschino;and Verdi's Don Carlo.
She was an outspoken opponent of Italian Fascism, the only Italian American besides Pietro di Donato to speak at the Second American Writers Congress in 1937, where her paper "Literature under Fascism" vehemently condemned Fascist repression and its effects on literature in the country of her birth, asserting that "The dark Seicento [i.e., the seventeenth century, a time of decline and unrest] has come again over intellectual Italy" (Canistraro and Meyers, p. 269, American National Biography).

In 1923, with a group of visual artists, she founded the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in Manhattan where free or very inexpensive art classes were offered to less fortunate students. In 1949, she wrote Ruotolo: A Man and Artist, dedicated to the school’s director, sculptor and poet Onorio Ruotolo.

Frances had a very tumultuous romantic life: she married writer Victor J. Jerome in the twenties; after a divorce, in 1925, she married Bernard D. N. Grebanier, a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College. After a new divorce, in 1943 she married mystery writer Richard Wilson Webb. After him, she married Dr. Francis Lazenby, a scholar from the University of Notre Dame.

She died on July 24, 1985, at her home in New York City.


Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberly,

What a varied life Francesca led. I wonder why her marriages never lasted?
She certainly attracted some influential looking men.
I hope you enjoy reading this book or dipping into it as a reference.

Happy reading

Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin,

She sounds like such an interesting woman. I thought the same thing about her marriage. It could have been for varied reasons. I will definitely use it as a reference.
I'm waiting for your book, The Gordian Knot to arrive...