This site is a journey.
These humble smatterings of html, css, and pixels exist for those of us who have been captivated by Elizabeth Siddal –delighted zealots compelled to search, to read, to follow paths in the hopes that we will get a truer sense of her.
I started this journey alone, but over the past sixteen years of this online project, I am grateful to have discovered fellow travelers.
Through her art, poetry, and the Pre-Raphaelite works she appears in, Elizabeth Siddal still has the power to captivate. The story of her life and struggles beckons to us across time, pulling us into her thrall.
Like many, I first discovered her through the tale of her exhumation and my reaction was a mixture of shock, outrage, and fascination.
When I read this fragment of one of her poems, my curiosity became something else entirely. Something deeper.
Dim phantoms of an unknown illA Year and A Day, Elizabeth Siddal
Float through my tired brain;
The unformed visions of my life
Pass by in ghostly train;
The imagery of dim phantoms, the idea of this woman’s struggle and her “tired brain” reached across a century and gripped my heart. I don’t know if I had ever before felt such compassion for someone so long dead.
All these years of compiling information about her life and I am just now realizing that she has become, to use her words, my own dim phantom.
Describing the writing of her book Possession, A.S. Byatt said “I had been thinking about such a novel for at least 15 years, and it had changed a great deal in my head during that time. Unlike anything else I have written, it began with the title. I was sitting in the old round reading room in the British Museum, watching the great Coleridge scholar Kathleen Coburn pacing round and round the circular catalogue, and I realised that she had dedicated all her life to this dead man. And then I thought “Does he possess her, or does she possess him?” And then I thought there could be a novel, Possession, about the relations between the living and the dead. It would be a kind of daemonic tale of haunting.” (via the Guardian, here)
My pursuit of Lizzie Siddal happily and unequivocally possesses me. That, in turn, has led me down an endless rabbit hole of all Pre-Raphaelite art and artists.
For that, I am grateful.