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Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddall
Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddall

A Fictional Portrayal of a Dynamic Relationship
(c) 1999 by Issa Beatty and Stefani Clements


Introduction

Elizabeth Siddall (1829-1862) was working in a bonnet-shop when she was "discovered" by one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's fellow artists. She began sitting for Dante Gabriel soon after they met; their relationship blossomed from there. While they were together, Dante Gabriel pushed Elizabeth to write and paint. Before her death, she had created over 100 works, mostly paintings and drawings. Some of her art was exhibited, and Elizabeth and Dante Gabriel collaborated on illustration for other writers' works. Her poetry, however, was not seen by many outside of the circle of Pre-Raphaelites until after her death. It is unclear why her writings were not as well known as her art; Dante Gabriel often worked as her agent sending her work to publishers and other artists. Her poetry was her means to express her emotions towards Dante Gabriel and their complicated relationship, but they also were a vehicle for discussing her own views of masculinity and femininity and how society's views affected her. Below I will focus on her poetry, using a fictional journal entry to explore her possible influences and intentions in her writing.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), sister of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, lived much of her life in the shadow of her family name. Her poetry, while a clear window to her thoughts, was mostly circulated through her brother's fellow artists; very little was published during her lifetime. Her brother constantly urged her to publish, and even took the initiative to show her work to others outside of his circle. This resulted in frequent suggestions to alter titles and even the bodies of her poems; sometimes she complied, though often she did not. Her feelings toward her brother's fiancee and eventual wife, Elizabeth Siddall, are cloudy at best; in the following fictional journal entries, I have attempted to recreate those mixed feelings. By studying the chronology of her life and the lives of Siddall and Dante Gabriel, then juxtaposing them to poetry and letters involving the trio, I have concluded that Christina felt no real animosity toward her brother's lover; rather, she feel sympathy as time wears on; she is a spectator to their romance and watches it crumble, ending in Lizzie's death in 1862 of a laudanum overdose. Christina relates to Lizzie as someone who also feels the weight of being correlated to Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Elizabeth Siddall

Christina Rossetti


Dante Gabriel Rossetti

To our Works Consulted list

This project as been a part of English 337: Victorian Sexualities taught by Dr. James Diedrick of Albion College.

Drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

These works are a fictional representation as interpreted by the author.
(c) 1999 by Stefani Clements and Issa Beatty

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