Over 20 years ago, when I was doing an MA, I came across some poems by Elizabeth Siddall (1829-1862). I spent a lot of time reading them and thinking about them, and decided I’d like to produce an academic edition. Today, that book has been published with Victorian Secrets and I am SO excited! It’s available on Amazon here.
Siddall’s poetry was something she kept to herself. She is, of course, much better known as the Pre-Raphaelite muse, model for Millais’s Ophelia and wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and increasingly the significance of her paintings has also been recognised. Her poems were less acknowledged, however. Her brother-in-law, William Michael Rossetti, became the keeper of the Pre-Raphaelite flame and published her poems in magazines such as the Burlington in the early 20th century, but he edited them, tidying them up, altering punctuation, changing words and omitting stanzas. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years in the archives at the Ashmolean working with Siddall’s awful handwriting, trying to reconstruct the poems as she wrote them. The book also includes fragments not previously published. The effect is much less polished than published poetry usually is, but I think it offers her authentic voice, a voice which is usually overshadowed by her face in the many paintings of her. The poems are few, but they are significant. The book also includes notes on each poem, and an introduction that indicates some of the wider context in which we might read Siddall’s poetry, considering her as a poet in her own right rather than just as a beautiful adjunct to Pre-Raphaelitism.
I’m having a launch party on September 28th at the Birmingham & Midland Institute in central Birmingham, which is free to attend and all are welcome. Details available here – do come and celebrate with me!