Sunday, October 18, 2009

Case of the Disappearing Lorri

Due to losing a variety of hard drives, new computers, time spent writing, reading, travelling, playing...well, any old excuse really...I lost/forgot my blogspot and need to do a little catching up.
Research is half the fun when it comes to writing a book and my study of Dante Gabriel Rossetti has led me into some wonderful places. At the Ashmolean I was able to look at some of his work, read Lizzie Siddal's scraps of poetry and study her delicate, thoughtful drawings and paintings. At the Bodleian, I immersed myself in Holman Hunt's and John Ruskin's correspondence as well as many other intriguing Victorian letters and diaries. It's dipping into another world. And a world that is nothing like the recent BBC effort on the Pre-Raphaelites which showed them as boozing, womanizing fools. As some wit at the Pre-Raphaelite Society put it, the series should have been called 'carry on bonking up the easel'.

Poor Rossetti would have turned in his grave. He was hyper-sensitive to a degree and hated any criticism. In fact it was due to his long running altercation with a critic called Thomas Maitland (his real name was Robert Buchanan and he had attacked Rossetti before) who wrote a damning piece about him called 'The Fleshly School of Poetry'. In this lengthy, vitriolic, below the belt piece of journalism, Buchanan accused Rossetti, Swinburne and William Morris and their poetry as 'the mere fiddledeedeeing of empty heads and hollow hearts.'
Rossetti, nerves already strained by illness and tragic events,began to fall apart at this attack. Sadly, rather than ignore the matter and forget it, he was roused to such rage and vengefulness that he attacked Maitland back with a riposte entitled 'The Stealthy School of Criticism.'

Never a good idea. Eventually the whole thing blew out of proportion in Rossetti's mind and led to his increased drinking, sleeplessness and chloral taking. Yet in his youth he was a serious man, never drank at all, was scholarly and intellectual. He was not a womaniser by any means. His two great and idealised loves, Lizzie Siddal and Jane Morris, were by no means prostitutes that he or his friends had picked up from the streets nor were ever treated as such. It is so sad that modern writers feel they can twist a dead person's reputation to suit their own dramatic purposes and the expectations, attiudes and prurient curiosity of the time. But I suppose there's nothing new in that. It's just sad.
Photo of D.G. Rossetti

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