, a labor of love

Stephanie E. Chatfield
Detail of Elizabeth Siddal in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting The Blue Closet.
Lizzie’s features are clearly seen in Rossetti’s illustration King Arthur and the Weeping Queens (detail), created for Moxon’s Tennyson, specifically Tennyson’s poem The Palace of Art.
My well-worn and loved copy of Possession, a treasured friend since 1993.
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 eighteen 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 ill

Float through my tired brain;

The unformed visions of my life

Pass by in ghostly train; 

A Year and A Day, Elizabeth Siddal

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 PossessionA.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.

Thank you for your continued support and friendship,

32 thoughts on “, a labor of love”

  1. Hello
    There was a very nice oil painting of Lizzie which came up for sale at christies in London many years ago which I would have liked to have purchased.
    I never had the money but reconized how important it was so told the Tate that they would be wise to try and buy it.
    I am sorry to say they decined and it went for about £14,000 if I remember right.
    A few months later I was chatting to a person whos husband was the director of the Wilmington art Gallery in the U.S.A about this painting, she said yes I know of this painting of Lizze we purchased it and were very happy to aquire it.

  2. I first encountered the Pre Raphaelites through watching Desperate Romantics and by buying the book. Lizzie Siddal certainly has had some influence on contempory art. I read that the 60’s Hippy movement was believed to be inspired by her and the PRB. At present I am half way through reading Lucinda Hawkesley’s book about her.
    I will continue to log onto your website.

  3. I recently came across a newspaper clipping from 2005 about
    a painting discovered in Red House of William and Jane Morris.
    Does anyone know where there is an image of it? Thanks!!

  4. I read with interest Lisa Ellen’s note about a painting of William & Janey discovered in Red House. I’ve visited Red House several times over the past few years and very recently become a volunteer. There are images to be found of them around the house but I have the sense that the painting that is being referred to is the one that was discovered hidden in a wardrobe. This was reputedly painted by Elizabeth Siddal and is unfortunately in need of restoration so I doubt whether there is a satisfactory image available.
    I seem to remember being told that on one of her visits to Red House she wrote a letter to Rossetti asking for his advice on a painting she was working on at the house. I am there this Sunday and I will of course make enquiries for Ms Ellen and post a comment next week.


    • Thank you! A friend of mine posted an article about the wardrobe on my facebook page about a year ago. It spurred an interesting conversation in our facebook comments and I just spent roughly an hour trying to find it, but wading through old FB posts is not as easy as I thought it would be.
      Lisa Ellen, I apologize that I didn’t answer your comment in a timely fashion! My schedule over the summer has been complete chaos, but things are finally returning to normal!


  5. Lisa Ellen & Stephanie

    No joy I’m afraid, unfortunately I was unable to establish such a picture at Red house. I mentioned the subject to the house manager and two to the tour guides, but none were able to confirm a discovery of a painting as was suggested in the newspaper clipping.

    If you are interested in Red House (Burne-Jones described it as the ‘most beautifullest place on earth’ – I’m not sure about the grammar?) there are some nice photos that have been recently posted on the National Trust photo library web site:

    I didn’t see an image of the wardrobe picture on the site but if you would like me to take a photo next time I’m at Red house, please let me know.

    Warmest Regards


  6. Hi
    for years in my family theres been talk of a connection with lizzie
    my mothers maiden name was Siddall they are from Earl Masrshall rd in sheffield the girls in the family all look a litle like lizzie
    is there any connection

  7. Hi,

    I am new to these pages and to the life of Siddal. If I was to buy one book on Siddal (to start with!) which biography would people suggest as the best?



    • A good book to start with would be Lucinda Hawksley’s biography of Elizabeth Siddal. It’s excellent.
      After that, Jan Marsh’s The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal is a good book to have. It’s not a straightforward biography about Lizzie, but a look at how Elizabeth Siddal has been written about by different generations of art historians and authors.
      Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (also by Jan Marsh) is also a wonderful book to have and it is my favorite Pre-Raphaelite biography. It’s not just about Elizabeth Siddal, but all the women involved with the Pre-Raphaelite circle.

  8. Hello. Would you know whether there is a book of poems written by Elizabeth Siddal available to purchase? Also, are any of her own works of art available to view at any art galleries or museums in the U.K.?

    Thanking you in anticipation.

  9. Hi,

    recently I bought a book – by M. Atwood – “alias Grace”. The content and plot very excellent – but my attraction always returned back to the book cover. I said to myself – I must and will have once a “re-print” of this picture. Today I found “on chance” – while visiting wikipedia her name “Elizabeth Siddal. I was actually engaged doing research about chaos-theory. But I´m glad, I found her name.



  10. The readers of this site may be interested to know that this year, on the 150th anniversary of her death, Red House is planning a partial restoration of the Elizabeth Siddal wall painting.


  11. Hi Stephanie and Steve,

    Thanks for looking into the mystery painting at Redhouse. I have not come back to this site for a while but was grateful for your interest in the question. I’ll dig up that article and see if there are any more specifics.

    I recently watched Desperate Romantics and was sort of surprised by the liberties taken with the story historically. I’ve noticed that some of the people writing about Lizzy Siddal and the PRB’s have names that are similar to people connected to those circles at the time – such as Lucinda (Lucy Maddox Brown/ Rossetti) and Franny Moyle (Fanny Cornforth). It made me smile and wonder whether people have “come back” to restore the story!

  12. Thanks so much for this site. I love the story of Elizabeth and her work, and great to find so much on one site. My mother was called Elizabeth Siddall and my daughter also. Sadly my mother has died and never knew the connection, but my daughter looks so like Elizabeth in her portraits. Amazingly, I never realised I was giving my daughter the same name as my mother (who was always called Liz) and all this before I’d ever heard of the original Elizabeth.
    When a cinema usherette saw my daughter’s I.D. recently she gasped ‘You were christened Elizabeth Siddall! Your parents rock!’ Which of course we do (even if we did it all by accident…). Obviously another fan.
    I understand Elizabeth originated from the Sheffield area. My family are from south of Sheffield, so I’ve wondered if there was a family connection anyway.
    Keep up the good work. Allan Siddall

  13. I was very pleased to see a nice site about Lizzie that doesn’t dwell on her eXhumation. I always thought there was a book in the “missing years” and when she was in Sheffield. I visited Highgate in 1998 and asked to see her stone. The ground in the area was covered in snowdrops. I was able to buy two now rare books, 1 from Ruskin museum that contained her poems. But the biggest coup was coming across Roger Lewis and finding he had copies of their limited edition, numbered volume of all her poems, paintings,drawings with her monogram Rossetti did for her. I am letting them go as my art has changed on eBay. I have photos of her stone, too. Thanks!

  14. I wanted to add the information about the mystery painting at Redhouse. It’s supposed to be a painting celebrating the union of William and Jane Morris but no one knew who painted it. Robert Quarm, the curator of Redhouse called it a “remarkable find because it had been hidden from view for so long.” The newspaper article was entitled, Hidden Tribute to an artist’s doomed love is uncovered after 140 years,” by Alan Hamilton and was in the Times. ( . It was written in November of 2005, though! I was so curious which painting it was, but now I’m even more curious about the Lizzy Siddal painting thats being restored for the 150th birthday. Are there images of it anywhere? Or a description?

    Stephanie, i hope you rec’ed the collage.

    And Alan, very interesting about little Lizzy Siddal from South of Sheffield!

  15. Thanks Deborah! I was so delighted to see it and am imagining what it is about. Perhaps a self-portrait done by Lizzie?…….??

    And thanks so much for your warm response to my collage Stephanie. Your websites are a treasure-trove of interesting material. I’m so glad i found them.

  16. Hi. I have stumbled across this site purely by accident. We started a family tree and we have been able to trace our roots back to Lizzie Siddal, we are related by her Grandfather, Christopher, which makes us cousins, so many generations removed.Strangely my uncle (who also happens to work in the Sheffield archieves) was e-mailed by “luck” and our story starts from there. I was intrigued when I read a post by a Allan Siddall, that was also the name of my grandfather! I was thrilled to see your site and read the posts, keep up the great work!!

    • Hi,

      My Grandmother’s maiden name was Siddall and she always told that her family included Lizzie. Some years after she died I started putting together the family tree and on the Siddall side managed to get back to William Siddall born 1801 in Sheffield. He married Rebecca Moxton (or Mott?) , from Derbyshire in Birmingham where they had 4 children. Given the dates, I assume that if there is a connection to Lizzie it will not be a direct one, but does this information ring any bells with anyone? I would love to prove Grandma right.

  17. I hope to visit Higate again this year.last year I was not allowed to see the Rossetti graves. Any news on this?

  18. My husband’s family – Siddall – are from Sheffield. Like Allan Siddall’s daughter two of our son’s daughters bear a strong resemblance to Lizzie. One in particular to Lizzie as depicted in the painting of ‘Ophelia’. It’s intriguing to wonder if there is a family connection. I also wonder if we have a family connection to Allan or Jon.

  19. Lizzie Siddal was my great grandmother’s great aunt. She was also from the Sheffield area. Her name was Ann Ellen Siddall. Would love to hear from any direct family connections and I would love to know more about Christopher – Lizzie’s & my many times removed grandfather. We too have similarities in our family, especially my daughter Fleur who has the most beautiful very long & thick auburn hair!

  20. Great website! I went on to read what’s possible to read of DGR’s letters on Google Books but am left wondering if his mother ever found out about the exhumation before she herself was lowered into that famous grave.

  21. Hi there,

    This site has been INVALUABLE to me, as I ended up doing an entire photography project looking at Elizabeth Siddal’s life/art/poetry and the way it has (or has not) been portrayed.

    Is there any chance I could have the names of the authors of the website and when it was published so I could site it properly?

    Thank you so much!!

  22. Hello Stephanie,

    I’m a fashion journalist at Central Saint Martins and am writing an article on Rosetti and the talented women who existed in his orbit; contributing to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

    Your knowledge on the issue would greatly enrich the article and I’d therefore be incredibly grateful to do a 15 minute interview with you.

    I am working to a tight deadline and would like to write up the article next week. Please can you let me know if this is possible?

    I deeply appreciate how busy you are and thank you for considering my request.

    Kind regards,
    Raegan Rubin

    e: I


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