Elizabeth Siddal: Personal Life,  Uncategorized

Lizzie’s Early Years

One of the aspects of Lizzie Siddal: Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel that I found compelling was the anecdotal account of Lizzie’s early years and family life. I admire Lucinda Hawksley’s work and I think she’s written a well rounded account of the life of Elizabeth Siddal.

I decided that for the purposes of this site, it might be a fun project to track down what information I could find regarding Lizzie’s early years (mentioned in Hawksley’s book) online. Sadly, it’s not very much. But here’s what little I found:

Lizzie’s red hair:

It’s well acknowledged that in Victorian ages, red hair was considered quite unlucky (see page 2 of Hawksley’s book, in the chapter entitled The Red-Haired Model.) I wanted to find any links I could regarding superstitions of red hair in both the Victorian era and before. What I found is not specific to the time period I am interested in, but is still pertinent:

Red hair folklore

Red hair was unfashionable  even considered unlucky. As Hawksley mentions, Judas Iscariot reportedly had red hair (thus representing betrayal). The belief that red hair was unlucky dates back to the Egyptians. In the twenty-first century, superstitions such as these seem like nonsense. But these beliefs where deep-seated and passed on from generation to generation. As children, we sometimes willingly believe what our parents and grandparents tell us without question, especially in a time period without extensive education or access to information. Did superstitions about redheads have an affect on Lizzie’s perception of herself?

What else shapes us in our early years? That which occupies our parents.  Lizzie’s father was obsessed with the numerous lawsuits he waged in order to prove that he was the right owner of Crossdaggers, in the Derbyshire village of Hope. Lizzie grew up with the belief that the family deserved more, had fallen from more, and would some day be restored to their former glory. Suit after suit took place until Lizzie’s sister Clara burnt her father’s papers relevant to the case in an effort to spare the family from more law suits.

So, I’d like to take a look at this family business that would have had an impact on Lizzie’s youth. But I’m not sure which one it is. I know it is in Derbyshire, in the village of Hope. What I’ve found so far is this:

Hawksley refers to it as “Crossdaggers, a family business, in the Derbyshire village of Hope.” A Google search of “Crossdaggers Hope Hall Deryshire” turns up The Cross Daggers Inn. Their main site is here

Also, in the footnote, Hawksley mentions that locals refer to the place as Old Hall…so it could be:

Old Hall Inn, Hope, Derbyshire

The Old Hall Inn (same as above but different pics and more info)

Info about Hope, Derbyshire

Old Hall, Derbyshire (found via google search “Old Hall Derbyshire”)

I don’t know if any of these are the right hall, or if the business even still exists. All I know is that, according to what I’ve read, this was important to Lizzie’s father and, I can only assume, important to her as well.

Lizzie’s father is often described as:

a cutler (defined by wikipedia as one who makes cutlery)

an optician

an ironmonger

At one point in her childhood, the Siddall family landlord was James Greenacre, who later murdered and dismembered his fiancee. Executed Newgate 1837 , Curiosities of Street Literature, James Greenacre, murderer, The Edgware Road Murderer, Lithograph of James Greenacre


One Comment

  • Elaine Williams

    Dickens gave the villain Fagin, red hair and Sir Henry Irving played Shylock with red hair. Both are Jewish characters; Shylock is referred to as the Levantine. Swinburne was also a redhead; wasn’t that one of the things that he and Lizzie had in common? It appears that maybe red hair was not in fashion during the nineteenth century. However in an earlier age (the sixteenth century) Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake were both possessors of red hair. Elizabeth’s popularity and iconic status would have made red hair fashionable.

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