“A drawer full of Guggums…”

It was well known within their circle of friends that Lizzie and Gabriel referred to each other by the pet name of  Guggums. Ford Madox Brown mentioned this curious nickname and Rossetti’s obsessive drawing of his beloved Guggums.

“Called on Dante Rossetti.  Saw Miss Siddal, looking thinner and more deathlike and more beautiful and more ragged than ever; a real artist, a woman without parallel for many a long year.  Gabriel as usual diffuse and inconsequent in his work.  Drawing wonderful and lovely Guggums one after another, each one a fresh charm, each one stamped with immortality, and his picture never advancing.”

In another entry, Ford Madox Brown said that Rossetti showed him “a drawer full of ‘Guggums’, God knows how many, but not bad work, I should say, for the six years he had known her; it is like a monomania with him.  Many of them are matchless in beauty, however, and one day will be worth large sums.”


9 responses to ““A drawer full of Guggums…””

  1. I know Lizzie firsthand. I had an amazing connection with her and Gabe in the early 1970s. One of the strangest, yet fascinating times of my life. I was majoring in Life Drawing at ASU at the time when a friend loaned me a PRB book of pix. I fell in love with Rossetti’s paintings and started to copy them. I had the drawings on my walls in my home. A few days later I could smell the sweet scent of Jasmine and Apricot. I felt a presence and saw footsteps in the carpeting. My girlfriend and I held a seance and Elizabeth presented herself. After about 3 gatherings I began to see her. She would walk into the room and sit next to me. She was fascinated with my work and wanted me to meet her husband, Gabe. I met Dante’ soon after. He gave me drawing lessons in my sleep improving my grades from Cs to As. So many more things happened in the course of several months…I cant write it all here. She is still close to my heart and I have a painting I did while under her spell on my bedroom wall to this day. This is pulling up many tears. Please write me if you want more.
    Robert rsampler@juno.com

  2. Robert, I hadn’t seen this until today. Just curious about where you live. Are you in the UK or the states, or someplace else? Thanks~~

  3. “Gabriel as usual diffuse and inconsequent in his work. Drawing wonderful and lovely Guggums one after another, each one a fresh charm, each one stamped with immortality, and his picture never advancing.” Ford Madox Brown–

    Typical. Gabriel was very similar then, despite his late-Taurus birthdate, to his persona now, which is full-blown in character, though early in its calendar phase, Gemini. Meaning, to me, that he was more Gemini, even then, than he was Taurus.

  4. Hi!
    Thank you for the info and all. But I’ve got a question in fact. Not being English I can’t figure out the meaning of this nickname “Guggums”. No dictionary is of help! Pray, what possibly could it mean back then? Or nothing at all, I wonder? Was the word Rossetti’s creation then?
    It seems now the word for teddy bears or pets. But back then?
    I’d be greatly thankful in advance for any explanation.

  5. hi,

    great and interesting site!
    i would guess the nickname is just lovers ‘baby talk’
    not meaning anything other than playful secret intimacy.
    anyway, i think this is waht it means.


  6. Hi, I am currently researching and writing about Siddal’s life and wonder where was this extract by Ford Madox Brown published. I am really interested in quoting this in my essay (also the whole webside). Thank you!!



    1. It’s quoted from Bown’s diary, published as Diary of Ford Madox Brown (edited by Virginia Surtees, 1981).

  7. Andrea Harding Avatar
    Andrea Harding

    Perusing Jan Marsh’s “Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood”, she writes “Certainly the two couples
    were close. (Emma and Maddox Brown – Gabriel Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal) A plausible
    explanation of the name ‘Guggums’ in mutual use by Lizzie and Gabriel from 1853 onwards may be that it derived from little Cathy’s (Brown’s daughter) early attempts at ‘Gabriel’, adopted by him and Lizzie as lovers’ mock baby talk. Brown himself was the only other contemporary to use it and on one occasion himself referred to his friend (Gabriel) as ‘Gaggy’. Brown 185.

  8. […] Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Elizabeth Siddal Seated at an Easel (1852; National Gallery of Sweden); and two sketches by Rossetti c/o http://lizziesiddal.com/portal/a-drawer-full-of-guggums/ […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *