Elizabeth Siddal and the Pre-Raphaelites,  william michael rossetti

William Micheal Rossetti on Elizabeth Siddal

or indeed nothing.

All this while Miss Siddal’s health was extremely delicate—at times wofully bad. One recurring symptom was want of appetite and inability to retain food on the stomach. She went to a number of health
resorts: Hastings, Bath, Matlock, Clevedon. The most important expedition was in the autumn of 1855, when she journeyed to Nice, passing through Paris: this last was the place that seemed to suit her the
best of all. At Nice in December she had weather “as warm as the best English May,”but the improvement to her health, after a somewhat prolonged sojourn, did not turn out to be considerable. She was accompanied in this instance by a Mrs. Kincaid, a married lady related to my mother, but
of whom we did not know very much; but they had, I think, separated before the experiment at Nice came to a conclusion. Between Ruskin’s subvention and funds supplied by my brother Miss Siddal was kept
while abroad free from money straits: a sum of £80 was in her hands, partly at the date of starting and partly soon afterwards.
Rossetti made a rather long stay with Miss Siddal at Matlock, where she tried the hydropathic cure: this may, I think, have been in the later months of 1857 and the earlier of 1858. It appears to me—but I
speak with uncertainty—that during the rest of 1858 and the whole of 1859 he did
not see her so constantly as in preceding years. For this, apart from anything savouring of neglectfulness on his part, there may have been various causes, dubious for me to estimate at the present distance of time. Her own ill-health would have been partly accountable for such a result; and, again, the fact that Rossetti, increasingly employed as a painter, had by this time some other sitters for his pictures—Miss Burden (Mrs. Morris), Mrs. Crabb (stage name Miss Herbert), and two whose heads appear respectively in the Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee and in Bocca Baciata.

WMR’s account of how Lizzie and Gabriel came to be married, complete with portions of Gabriel’s communications with his mother, WMR, and Ford Madox Brown announcing the nuptials:

In April I 860 Miss Siddal was staying at Hastings, and was desperately ill. She may possibly in some previous instances have been equally brought down: more so she cannot have been, for she seemed now at
the very gates of the tomb. Dante Rossetti joined her at this place; and some expressions in his letters may be worth quoting (I condense ad libitum):— To his mother, April 13, 1860: “I write you this word to
say that Lizzie and I are going to be married at last, in as few days as possible. Like all the important things I ever meant to do— to fulfil duty or secure happiness—this one has been deferred almost beyond possibility. I have hardly deserved that Lizzie should still consent to it, but she has done so, and I trust I may still have time to prove my thankfulness to her. The constantly failing state of her health is a terrible anxiety in deed.”
To myself, April 17: “You will be grieved to hear that poor dear Lizzie’s health has been in such a broken and failing state for the last few days as to render me more miserable than I can possibly say. She gets no nourishment, and what can be reasonably hoped when this is added to her dreadful state of health in other respects? If I were to lose her now, I do not know what effect it might have on my mind, added to the responsibility of much work, commissioned and already paid for, which still has to be done. The ordinary licence we already have, and I still trust to God we may be
enabled to use it. If not, I should have so much to grieve for, and (what is worse) so
much to reproach myself with, that I do not know how it might end for me.”
To
Madox Brown, April 22: “I have been, almost without respite, since I saw you, in the most agonizing anxiety about poor dear Lizzie’s health. Indeed, it has been that kind of pain which one can never remember at its full, as she has seemed ready to die daily and more than once a day. Since
yesterday there has certainly been a reaction for the better. It makes me feel as if I had been dug out of a vault, so many times lately has it seemed to me that she could never lift her head again.”

He does not dwell on their marriage for long, for soon we have the sad accounts of their stillborn daughter and that of Lizzie’s demise:

The last instance, only a few days before her death, was for a head of the Princess in the subject called St. George and the Princess Sabra  Ill-health did not induce her to seclude herself beyond what was actually necessary: every now and then she stayed on a visit in the house of the
Madox Browns near Highgate Rise, or in that which the Morrises had been building at Upton, near Bexley. In May 1861 she was confined of a stillborn female infant;her recovery was rapid enough. In all cases
she was, as her

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One Comment

  • mark stevens

    Fascinating article,thanks for bringing it to our attention.Anything that adds to my knowledge of this wonderful woman is so gratefully received.

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