Elizabeth Siddal’s Death, Described by William Bell Scott

Published in Autobiographical Notes of the Life of William Bell Scott (New York, Harper & Brothers 1892)

The auguries of happiness from his marriage, entertained some of Rossetti’s friends, were frightfully dispelled. For myself, knowing Gabriel better than his brother did, though from the outside, I knew marriage was not a tie he had become able to bear. His former bachelor habit of working till 9 P.M., then rushing out to dine at a restaurant, was continued; Mrs Siddal Rossetti, little accustomed to the cares and habits of domestic life, willingly conforming. She had become a genius in art, imitating her husband’s inventions in water-colours in a way I clearly saw to be damaging to the peculiarities of his own works, though her uneducated performances were at once praised by him immoderately. After her death we heard nothing from Gabriel or from any of his family, till he wanted me to be again his banker to enable him to leave Chatham Place, where he had not slept since the sad event. He then after a temporary abode in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, took the Chelsea house, 16 Cheyne Walk, where he remained and began a professional success which increased through all the rest of his career.

The return for a moment to the great trial of his life. In ignorance of the main circumstances, and in obedience to a desire to comfort him, on receipt of his letter about leaving Blackfriars I ventured to tell him I never thought him fitted for a Benedict; but even to this he replied nothing, thought long after his mental prostration had subsided, and his MS. Book of poems was buried with her, I had to listen, alas, too much to the painful narrative. On the eventful night they had dined as usual at a cafe-restaurant; he had returned home with her, advised her to go to bed, and unheedingly taken himself out again. On his next and final home-coming he had to grope about for a light, and called to her without receiving a reply. What was said or done at the inquest I know not.

Contributed by Gary Attlesey.


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