Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Lizzie's Hair - February 1862 - University of Delaware Online Exhibition of Lock of Hair with Rossetti's Note

 "Beautiful deep-red hair that fell in soft heavy wings" -  Georgiana Burne Jones on Elizabeth Siddal's hair.   

DG Rossetti Regina Cordium 1860
 Lizzie's Wedding portrait - Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth Siddal Plaiting her Hair- DG Rossetti 
- CC-NY-NC-ND 3.0 unported

Following Lizzie's sad death from a laudanum overdose on 11th February, 1862 , Rossetti was distraught.  Grieving he clipped a lock of  the "dear" copper  hair , he had sketched and painted profusely, and placed it in a folded sheet of paper marked" Lizzie's hair February 1862".

To assuage his feelings of guilt, he placed the only manuscript of his unpublished poetry alongside her in the coffin.  Lizzie was  reportedly pregnant at the time of her death. Seven years later in 1869 , regretting his previous impulse,  Rossetti arranged the notorious exhumation of his late wife's remains at Highgate cemetry  to retrieve his poetry.  According to reports of those present at the exhumation, Lizzie's gleaming hair had grown and filled the coffin  adding to the myth of Elizabeth Siddal.  No wonder then , that her hair is described as iconic and possibly “ the most famous hair of the 19th century”.

After Rossetti's death, his niece gave the lock of Lizzie's hair to an American scholar. It is now at the University of Delaware . Lizzie's lock of hair, and Rossetti's handwritten note can be viewed in the online exhibition  from the Victorian Passions collection at  the University of Delaware:

Friday, 28 August 2015

Rossetti - On the BBC

 Andrew Graham-Dixon's documentary  Rossetti- Sex , Drugs and Oil Paint (2003) is  still available from the BBC archives ( at time of writing)

Elizabeth Siddal
Examining Rossetti's art, relationships and psychological traits, it considers his view of female beauty . Known for a pre-occupation with a pretty face  and  a flaming head of hair, Rossetti's art after 1860 became virtually solely devoted to representations of a  single female face.

The documentary shows how Rossetti's love life and its complications provided the background for his changing interpretation of female beauty; early  maidenly depictions - personified by his wife Elizabeth Siddal- transforming to  more sensuous portrayals of later loves such as Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris.

Bocca Baciata ( model Fanny Cornforth )
Prosperine (  model Jane Morris)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

National Portrait Gallery London : Janey Morris Pre-Raphaelite Muse- Centenary Exhibition until 11 May 2014

Rossetti's great love Jane Morris inspired some of his most famous paintings. With her cascading hair and soulful eyes she came to define a certain Pre-Raphaelite type . After meeting the Morrises in the late 1860's,  Henry James wrote : It's hard to say whether she's a grand synthesis of all Pre Raphaelite pictures ever made - or they a " keen analysis" of her - whether she's an original or a copy . In either case, she is a wonder"

For more information click on link :


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Red House Pre-Raphaelite Mural Unveiled


Described as a "mural of international importance", the National Trust  recently unveiled  a full 6ft by 8 ft Pre-Raphaelite work  discovered behind  a wardrobe in  William Morris' old house, The Red House, Bexley Heath, South East London .

Thought to have been the combined work of the Pre-Raphaelites : Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal and Ford Madox Brown, the mural was painted  between 1860 to 1865 just after the recently married Morris moved into the house he commissioned from the architect Philip Webb.

The National Trust Red House website ( updated 19.8.2013) states :
The painting, designed for what had been Morris and his wife Jane’s bedroom, depicts Biblical characters: the figures of Adam and Eve (with the serpent), Noah (holding a miniature ark), Rachel and Jacob (with a ladder) and is designed to resemble a hanging tapestry with the illusion of folds.

We don't know for certain which artist painted which figure, and further research and analysis will be undertaken. Experts have based their initial thoughts on the styles of each artist along with other details known about their connections to Morris.

Jan Marsh, author and President of the William Morris Society, said: 'The concept of the overall design was almost certainly by Morris. Our initial thoughts are that the figure of Jacob was by Morris, Rachel possibly by Elizabeth Siddal, Noah by Madox Brown. But who painted Adam and Eve? Maybe Rossetti or Burne-Jones?' 

Figure thought to be by Elizabeth Siddal
 The reference to a figure by  Elizabeth Siddal's is possibly based on a letter she wrote to Rossetti while working at the Red House in  summer 1861: "If you can come down here on Saturday evening, I shall be very glad indeed"..."I want you to do something to the figure I have been trying to paint on the wall. But I fear it must all come out for I am too blind and sick to see what I am about"

Following the birth of a stillborn girl in May 1861 Lizzie's health had declined and she was  left suffering severe depression. She stayed again later at the Red House  in October 1861 while Rossetti was working in Yorkshire, but by now acting erratically she left hurriedly to return home causing Rossetti to write to his mother I am out here painting a portrait, and left Lizzie staying with the Morrises. Now she writes me that she has left them in a hurry, making me very uneasy.....,

For more on the Red House discovery, see the video on the National Trust Red House website or on the link below.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Beata Beatrix

Rossetti's striking memorial picture to Lizzie , Beata Beatrix was completed in 1870, the year after Rossetti arranged  Lizzie's exhumation  to retrieve the manuscript of poetry he had buried with her .

 Beata Beatrix is often considered as a show of devotion or cathartic expression of  Rossetti's grief  but some scholars have suggested that this interpretation is part of the romantic myth around the Siddal/Rossetti relationship promoted by his brother William. Jan  Marsh  has described it as a "memorial picture' which 'in feeling and general iconography ... accords with Victorian funerary practice'.  The finished work proved popular and Rossetti  produced six copies.

It has been suggested that Beata Beatrix may well have been based on a re-working of a previous sketch  by Rossetti ( click on link) started, possibly in 1850's well  before her death.

According to one contemporary Bessie Rayner Parkes , the finished painting did not look like Lizzie.  'The expression of Beatrice was not hers,' , 'and when I look at the famous Beatrice in the National Gallery, I feel puzzled by the manner in which the artist took the head and shoulders of a remarkably retiring English girl, with whom I was perfectly familiar, and transfused them with an expression in which I could recognize nothing of the moral nature of Miss Siddal.' 

 The Tate Gallery (London) website provides the following information on Beata Beatrix::
It has a hazy, transcendental quality, giving the sensation of a dream or vision, and is filled with symbolic references. Rossetti intended to represent her, not at the moment of death, but transformed by a 'sudden spiritual transfiguration' (Rossetti, in a letter of 1873, quoted in Wilson, p.86). She is posed in an attitude of ecstasy, with her hands before her and her lips parted, as if she is about to receive Communion. According to Rossetti's friend F.G. Stephens, the grey and green of her dress signify 'the colours of hope and sorrow as well as of love and life' Source Tate Gallery

DG Rossetti Beata Beatrix 1864-70

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Elizabeth Siddal Poem: The Lust of the Eyes

As the star model  and muse of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and feted for her beauty, a disillusioned  Lizzie, no doubt disenchanted with Rossetti,  reflects bitterly  in her poem The Lust of The Eyes on how beauty only inspires fleeting transient  love

Eager to expand beyond being a model and  become an artist herself,   Rossetti  lamenting the impact of her ill-health on her talent wrote in a letter in July 1854 : "How truly she may say, ‘No man cared for my soul". She repeats that sentiment here.

The Lust of The Eyes

I care not for my Lady’s soul
Though I worship before her smile;
I care not where be my Lady’s goal
When her beauty shall lose its wile.

Low sit I down at my Lady’s feet
Gazing through her wild eyes
Smiling to think how my love will fleet
When their starlike beauty dies.

I care not if my Lady pray
To our Father which is in Heaven
But for joy my heart’s quick pulses play
For to me her love is given.

Then who shall close my Lady’s eyes
And who shall fold her hands?
Will any hearken if she cries
Up to the unknown lands

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Bill Bryson: Elizabeth Siddal and Fowler'sSolution.

Elizabeth Siddal and  Dr Fowler's Solution

In his book At Home, Bill Bryson refers to the subject of Elizabeth Siddal's health and 
death :

Well into the nineteenth century , many women drank a concoction called Fowler's Solution, which was really just diluted arsenic, to improve their complexions. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's wife, Elizabeth Siddal ( who is best remembered as the model for the drowned Ophelia in the painting by John Everett Millais), was a devoted swallower of the stuff and it almost certainly contributed to her early death in 1862 (Page545)

By the time of her death aged 32 from a laudanum overdose ( tincture of opium in  alcohol), Rossetti's wife,  Elizabeth (Lizzie ) Siddal, was a heavy user of laudanum.  In Victorian England  laudanum, despite being highly addictive,  was used widely as pain relief for all ailments from toothache to stomach cramps as well as a tranquilliser.

At the inquest into her death, Rossetti declared it was not usual for his wife to take 100 drops a time, requiring it to sleep , eat or soothe her nerves.   I'm not sure if it is on record anywhere how much Fowler's solution Lizzie took, but as a popular remedy for a host of health complaints as well as use as a tonic and complexion improver, it could have been  a sizeable amount,  It was so popular some individuals  were said to have  built up to taking as much as 250mgs a week. Even without taking Fowler's solution , the average Victorian was exposed to high levels of arsenic in everyday life as it was widely used as a dye in everything from wallpaper to ballgowns, and even used in soaps.

Although known both for its toxic and medicinal effects since ancient times, Dr Thomas Fowler introduced arsenic into  modern medicine with his work :Medical Reports of the Effect of Arsenic in the Cure of Agues, Remitting Fevers and Periodic Headaches published in 1786. Dr Fowler's solution contained the equivalent of 10 mg of arsenic trioxide per cubic centimetre - a 1 per cent weight-for-volume solution dissolved in potassium carbonate solution flavoured with lavender extract to prevent misuse. Widely used in the nineteenth century for a number of medical conditions including eventual treatment for malaria and syphilis, its use spread beyond the purely medicinal and it became popular as a supposed aphrodisiac and tonic. Its use was said to help the circulation , assist weight gain and confer a fresh complexion in women.

Assuming that Lizzie, particular as a model,  took  a fair amount of Fowler's solution either as a complexion improver or as a tonic for her health, could it have  been a culprit in her ill health ? Noted side effects of chronic arsenic toxicity include capillary fragility leading to flushed cheeks. Interestingly many contempories  praised Lizzie's translucent complexion noting her " pink and white complexion" or "rosy" cheeks  (however  laudanum use could also cause flushing). Other specified chronic arsenic toxicity side effects include gastro-intestinal pain, vomiting and neuropathy .

 The first indications of Lizzie's ill health appeared in Rossetti's letters from 1853 onwards and refer to severe bouts of  gastric pain, vomiting , inability to keep down food and  lack of appetite. Assuming that by this date Lizzie's laudanum intake was restricted, and in the absence of any other malady, it could be possible that these symptons were indicative of arsenic toxicity. After such bouts of sickness  Lizzie would improve temporarily , but  the episodes of gastric pain, and vomiting  became more frequent,  her weight loss more noticeable and her overall condition continued to worsen.  Given the lack of any specific diagnosis  it is fair to consider continual over-dosing of arsenic based products as a possible cause of her ill-health exacerbated by her intake of laudanum.

During the 12 years or so she was with Rossetti, there was no agreed medical diagnosis of the  source or causes of her illness.  His brother William Michael Rossetti stated that she suffered from neuralgia and phthsis ( often considered as consumption). Dr Acland who examined her in in 1855 did not find anything  wrong with her lungs and suggested a more psychosomatic cause: " mental power long pent up and lately overtaxed". Another doctor noted curvature of the spine.

In conclusion it can only be speculation as to the impact of arsenic and Fowler's solution on Lizzie's health. Despite their knowledge of the toxic effects of too much arsenic , the Victorians used it liberally and were exposed to it so much that  it use has  been implicated in the widespread poisoning and ill-health of Victorians generally, including Charles Darwin Within this context then it seems feasible to assume that , irrespective of any other medical conditions Lizzie suffered from and her subsequent  laudanum addiction,  arsenic toxicity, particularly if she was a liberal user of Fowler's solution, could have played part in her ill health.

Saturday, 6 April 2013



The following article transcribed from the West Australian 28th September, 1928 illustrates how the story of Lizzie and Rossetti continued to fascinate after both their deaths. Sir Hall Caine's original recollections published in 1883, the year after Rossetti's death , had avoided any mention of suicide and Rossetti's feelings of guilt over Lizzie's knowledge of his love for Jane Morris.

Transcribed (from The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Friday 28 September 1928.


LONDON, . Sept; 26.Sir Hall Caine's
long-expected recollections of D. G. Rossetti
reveals that. the painter and poet
fell in love with the woman who later became
the wife of William Morris. Rossetti was engaged to
Elizabeth Siddall and married her within two years.
Mrs Rossetti divined the secret of her husband's
hidden love and, Sir Hall Caine affirms.
poisoned herself with laudanum, leaving
Rossetti a letter which he destroyed.
Twenty years later during a midnight
journey from Cumberland to London,
Rossetti unburdened his.soul to young Hall
Caine, saying that his wife's message left
a scar on his heart which was never healed

When Rossetti buried his manuscript
poems in his wife's coffin. Sir Hall Caine
says, Rossetti meant, 'these were inspired
by you. If I wronged you by losing my
love for you the poems shall go to the.
grave with' you.'

The ghost of Elizabeth Siddall, the
writer states, haunted Rossetti's later days
and caused Rossetti's hermit like life
arid his taking chloral, often; three times
a day.

Sir Hall Caine does not say that Rossettti
ever told Mrs. Morris the fact that
he loved her. Elizabeth Siddall thus lives
in his poems whereas his love for Mrs Morris .,
lives, in his .pictures.'

Monday, 25 March 2013

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862)

Elizabeth Siddal

Ophelia  John Everatt Millais 
Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829-62)  Pre-Raphaelite muse, model and artist is best known as the model for Ophelia by  John Everett Millais and  her anguished relationship with the key Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artist- poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti . The sad circumstances of her early death from a laudanum overdose and her subsequent exhumation adding to the mystique of her story.

Discovered by chance working in a milliners shop,  feted for her beauty by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood , she became the star  face of early Pre-Raphaelite art . Falling in love with her Rossetti declared "he had found his destiny"  As  his prized "Guggums" her beauty inspired his art and poetry, and she in turn  became his pupil developing into an artist in her own right. 

Over the course of ten years  their relationship  was dogged by her increasing ill-health and  developing drug addiction, his  philandering and reluctance to marry leading to estrangement. After a virtual  two year separation  finding her seriously ill ,Rossetti  married her.  Their marriage was to last less than 2 years. After giving birth to a still born child, she was to die tragically herself a few months after following an overdose of laudanum , with rumours of a suicide note being burnt.

DG Rossetti ESiddal 1854

In the most celebratory  acts connected with his name, Rossetti in his grief  buried his unpublished manuscript of poetry with her only to  exhume her  body seven years later for their retrieval. The descriptions of the beauty of Lizzie's corpse from the bystanders present adding to the folklore associated with her. Haunted to the last by  his own guilt for her overdose and the exhumation, Rossetti's  reputation has been tainted ever since.

Their  story  has been subject of rumour , controversy and conjecture, Rossetti often being portrayed as the culprit whose bachelor lifestyle, inability to commit and womanising caused heartache and drove her illness and addiction or conversely  Lizzie  presented as a needy woman who used her  illness to manipulate Rossetti into marrying her when he no longer loved her.


Elizabeth ( known as Lizzie) Eleanor Siddall  (changing the spelling later to Siddal  probably at Rossetti's request) was born in 7 Charles Street,  Hatton Gardens, London the daughter of a Sheffield  cutler and ironmonger on July 25 1829. Not much is known about her early life. Although working class, her father  had aspirations towards gentility. Convinced that they had been unjustly disinherited from property and an aristocratic title , he took the case to court

A female contemporary recalled Lizzie as having "eyes were a kind of luminous golden brown agate-colour, slender, elegant figure, tall for those days, beautiful deep-red hair that fell in soft heavy wings ... She did not talk happily, (was) excited and melancholy, though with much humour and tenderness."

Rossetti's brother, William, wrote that she was "a most beautiful creature with an air between dignity and greatness; tall, finely formed with a lofty neck and regular yet somewhat uncommon features; greenish-blue unsparkling eyes, brilliant complexion and a lavish heavy wealth of copper-golden hair .She had a modest self-respect and a disdainful reserve.

Other recollections of her attest to  a lively wit and a sharp sense of humour.

Around 1849-50 while working  in a milliners shop run  in Cranborne Alley off Leceister Square, she was discovered by chance by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Walter Deverill ( according to some reports William Allingham the poet discovered her and suggested  her as potential model to  Deverill ) Not conventionally beautiful by Victorian standards, she became feted by the Pre-Raphaelites for her beauty. Deverill boasted   of the "stupendously beautiful creature...magnificently tall with a lovely figure and a face of the most delicate and finished modelling"

After Deverill's mother had visited the family's shop and lodging , just off the Old Kent Road , to reassure them, Lizzie embarked on her career as a model  posing for Deverill as the figure of Viola in Twelfth Night, Unable to paint the exact shade of her hair , Deverill asked assistance from his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti  modelling as the Jester for the same work. Through Deverill Lizzie was introduced to the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and modelled in addition  for William Holman Hunt , Rossetti and John Everett Millais

John Everett Millais Ophelia 1851-2
Within two years  Millais would make her the face of early  Pre-Raphaelitism in one of the most iconic of all Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Ophelia.

 Required to spend hours in a heavy brocade dress in a bath full of water depicting Ophelia near to suicide she became seriously ill when  candles keeping the water warm went out on one occasion.  Her concerned  parents were obliged to call a doctor and angrily threatened to sue Millais for £50  who duly paid. Although she recovered, her health was possibly affected for the rest of her life due to this episode. Considered to be an excellent likeness of Lizzie, Ophelia was exhibited at the Royal Academy to great critical acclaim. One critic's comment  her most lovely countenance, there is an Innocence, disturbed by Insanity and a sort of Enjoyment strangely blended with lineaments of woe". After 1852 , at Rossetti's  request,  Lizzie modelled exclusively  for Rossetti being  his principal  model up to 1858.


Gabriel Dante Rossetti

DG Rossetti Self Portrait 1847
Born in London in 12 May 1828,  aspiring poet and artist Gabriel Dante Rossetti was the son of a celebrated Italian scholar and from a well educated and  gifted family. His sister was the poet Christina Rossetti.  With William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais  he was one of the key members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, essentially a youthful anti-establishment art society dedicated to reforming contemporary art , espousing the ideals of early renaissance art and in making art "true to nature" 

Described variously as charismatic, gregarious, and impetuous, he also had a reputation for being deliberately provocative and hurtful as well as being capable of great charm and wit. Often described as short he was 5" 8" with strong Italian looks developing a reputation as a womaniser.  Sharing his father's passion for the 14th century Florentine poet Dante Alighieira and his great platonic love and muse Beatrice, he chose to be known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Apparently taken with Lizzie on meeting her , he described her by the phrase he coined  as " a stunner" . According to his brother he fell "deeply and profusely " in love with her, and they became engaged in 1851, although not formally .

In an Artist's Studio

"One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:"
Christina Rossetti 1854

After 1852, she agreed to his request to model for him exclusively, virtually moving into his studio 14 Chatham Place, Blackfriars. As she also became his pupil at the same time it provided a convenient excuse for them to be together. Said to have been  totally wrapped up and absorbed with each other,they were described by one friend at this time as" Adam and Eve in Paradise"  Calling her Guggums , Gug, Sid and Dove  (She called him Gug) ,he sketched her compulsively . His sketches and drawings of  her  often depicting her as pensive and introspective  are said to have numbered in thousands and  were described by one contemporary as giving her 
DG Rossetti Elizabeth Siddal 1855
"unworldly simplicity and purity of aspect" The artist Ford Madox Brown noted in his diary that Rossetti showed him "a drawer full of 'Guggums', is like a monomania with him". 

She is looking lovelier than ever..... I, made sketches of her dear head with iris stuck in her dear hair "  May 1854 (Rossetti visiting Lizzie convalescing in Hastings)

Under his tutelage she developed her skills in art and poetry even collaborating together on some works. Extremely proud of her work,  he labelled her" a creative genuis"  introducing her to his friend , the eminent Victorian art critic John Ruskin.  Ruskin  bought up her entire collection for £30 ,and thereafter in 1855 offered her £150 a year on the basis he could have first refusal of her paintings. Her work was exhibited in the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of 1857.

Her Health

DG Rossetti Miss Elizabeth Siddal 
From 1853  Lizzie began to suffer from increasing   recurrent  bouts of ill health which left her in pain, bedridden, vomiting  and unable to eat . Taking ever greater amounts of the opiate tranquilliser laudanum , she built up an addiction to add to her problems 

 Her illness was not specifically diagnosed. One doctor noted curvature of the spine on one occasion , and  another .‘mental power long pent up and lately overtaxed”    Rossetti's biographer, his brother, stated she suffered from neuralgia and phthisis ( a type of tuberculosis). Other suggestions have included anorexia, and recently  Bill Bryson ( At Home) suggested Fowler's Solution( a  diluted arsenic compound)  popularly taken at the time  for the complexion. Whatever the reason for her ill health, her laudanum use worsened her mental and physical condition overall.

Despite taking a number of trips to convalesce ( going away to France for over 7 months on one occasion) her health continued to deteriorateThe toll her illness took on her looks is noted by the artist Ford Madox Brown in a diary entry 1855: "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."

Rossetti's philandering with other women  further strained the relationship. Notorious for his womanising, the most significant was his affair with  model Annie Miller,  the fiance of close friend and fellow  Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood artist, William Holman Hunt. The affair led to a temporary rupture between Lizzie and Rossetti in  1856 with Lizzie reportedly throwing Rossetti's sketches of Annie out and telling Ford Madox Brown's wife Emma that "Rossetti had transferred his affections to Annie Miller and does nothing , but talk of her.... He is mad past care"  .  

Why Does He Not Marry Her? 

After five years together Rossetti's continued reluctance to marry compounded her misery . His friends were puzzled . In 1855, Ford Madox Brown noted." She is a stunner and no mistake. Rossetti once told me that, when he first saw her, he felt his destiny was defined. Why does he not marry her?"  Considered lovers,  growing older, ill and a loss of reputation added to her insecurity. John Ruskin  urged Rossetti to act  " it would be best for you to marry, for the sake of giving Miss Siddal complete protection and care, and putting an end to the peculiar sadness, and want of you hardly know what, that there is in both of you" (30 April 1855).

Numerous reasons have been cited for Rossetti's reluctance and ambivalence to commit: her ill-health, her class and status, disapproval of by his family (kept away from his family, she only met his mother once during their  so- called engagement), his own disinclination, or  lack of   money or other women. 

 William Bell Scott  suggests that Rossetti's intentions may not have been serious. He  recounted the following while visiting Rossetti one evening::" I found myself in the romantic dusk of the apartment face to face with Rossetti and a lady whom I did not recognise, and could scarcely see. He did not introduce her; she rose to go. I made a little bow, which she did not acknowledge ; and she left. This was Miss Siddal. Why he did not introduce me to her I cannot say.... I had not yet heard of such a person as Miss Siddal. Perhaps Rossetti was already beginning to revise his intention of marriage : an even way of life the most unlikely possible to suit his late development."  As part of this late development, William Bell Scott noted the other women who came into Rosseti's "orbit" and their "overpowering attractions" most notably Fanny Cornforth. 

With Lizzie's distress palpable, Rossetti was torn and felt honour bound to marry making rash promises only to postpone  leaving her mortified and furious. On one occasion in 1856 promising marriage and a trip to Algeria, and again  once he had received payment for some work only to receive the due payment for nothing to happen. Later in 1857 after another  promise he borrowed ten pounds from Ford Madox Brown to buy the marriage licence only to spend it on something else . His friend Brown noted  " he does not know his own mind for one day"  

DG Rossetti Jane Morris 1857


After these empty promises with Rossetti's reluctance obvious and his affections waning,  the relationship was in meltdown.Lizzie appeared to need to escape.She refused all further money from her patron John Ruskin and left London to convalesce in Derbyshire in 1857 . By this stage, despite some visits by Rossetti at the end of this year when she became ill again, their engagement was effectively over . At this time  busy in Oxford with his colleague William Morris painting murals for the Oxford Union,  Rossetti encountered  another stunner 17 year old Jane Burden, an ostler's daughter at the theatre . 

Both he and Morris  fell in love with her . Jane accepted Morris' proposal and they married in 1859.  Rossetti never lost or hid his love for Jane thereafter
 and would immortalise her in his work. Later at the end of his life he would tell the the author Sir Hall Caine later that he had fallen in love with Jane, but did not pursue it at the time due to his relationship with Lizzie. 

Bocca Baciata ( The Kissed Mouth)
DG Rossetti 1859
Model Fanny Cornforth
Leaving Lizzie in Matlock early 1858, Rossetti sealed his rejection of her emphatically by embarking on a  long-term relationship with  Fanny Cornforth  (real name Sarah Cox) whom according to some reports he had first met in 1856.  Reputedly a former prostitute, his liaison with her triggered a dramatic erotically charged change  in his art and poetry.  Bocca Baciata ,  for which she modelled , was the first of his  famed overtly sensuous depictions  of beautiful women . Fanny would remain with him for the rest of his life as mistress or friend.

With a new mistress in tow  and possibly other relationships,  Rossetti did not appear to have any further contact with Lizzie. Fanny Cornforth,  Annie Miller and the actress Ruth Herbert were now the models for his work. Not mentioned  in any of  his letters or in  any contemporary memoirs very little is known about Lizzie or her whereabouts  from mid 1858 to 1860 . Now aged 29 and ill, and last seen by him in Matlock, Derbyshire,   Henrietta Garnett in Wives and Stunners suggests a sad scenario that probably without funds  "she had crawled back to her parents house in Southward and stayed there quietly"  


DG Rossetti -Elizabeth Siddal 1860
 In April  1860 after a virtual two year estrangement she was to re-enter Rossetti's life in a dramatic fashion. Alerted  possibly by Ruskin who had received a letter from her family that she was in Hastings, desperately ill ,  Rossetti  decided to visit her and took everyone by surprise by suddenly announcing his forthcoming marriage.

Finding her in a serious condition and wretched at their old lodgings in Hastings, he was appalled. Addicted to laudanum, emaciated, bedridden ,vomiting and unable to eat , she seemed to him at the point of death. He decided to make good his promise to marry her .  Overcome  and conscience stricken,  he informed his mother:" 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".

To his brother he revealed his feelings of guilt writing: "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."
DG Rossetti Regina Cordium 1860
 Lizzie's Wedding portrait

 Needing to postpone the wedding day as she was too ill to walk down the aisle, they married on 23 May 1860 in St Clement's Church, Hastings, England. No family members or wedding guests were present. After the wedding they honeymooned in Paris.

Back in London, she continued frail and ill throughout their marriage constantly taking laudanum "and other stimulants" .Too ill to work on her own, she managed to colloborate with Rossetti on the Red House project, the home of William and Jane Morris; by some accounts witnessing and made miserable by Rossetti's open feelings for Jane Morris.

Given his  previous reluctance to marry , Jan Marsh writes that Rossetti proved an "uxorious husband"  however conflicting accounts exist on the subject of his fidelity as the marriage progressed particular in respect of his relationship with Fanny Cornforth, his mistress before his marriage and after Lizzie's death who still modelled for him.  Nevertheless Lizzie needed his company, Georgiana Burne Jones noted "Gabriel’s presence seemed needed to set her jarring nerves straight, for her whole manner changed when he came into the room."  

Shortly after marriage,  overjoyed to become pregnant but still  taking laudanum for morning sickness, she gave  birth to a stillborn baby girl in May 1861 left suffering from severe post natal depression..Georgiana Burne- Jones recalled a sad incident while visiting them.  "We found her sitting in a low chair with the childless cradle on the floor beside her and ..she cried with a kind of soft wildness as we came in, "Hush.., you'll wake it".  Tragically Lizzie was to die herself within several months.

The evening of 10th February, 1862 after having been out to dinner accompanied by the poet Swinburne, they returned home around 8 o'clock, and Rossetti advised her to go to bed and went out again. It is not exactly clear as to where he went, possibly the Working Men's College where he  normally taught on that day but there was speculation that they had argued and that he had later visited Fanny Cornforth 

According to Rossetti on returning home late about 11.30 p.m. he was unable to rouse her and finding an empty phial  of laudanum by her bedside, he summoned a doctor and friends immediately. Although a stomach pump was used , they were unable to save her .She died at 7.20 a.m. the following morning on  11th February from a massive overdose of laudanum  pregnant at the time. 

Unable to accept what had happened, Rossetti summoned four doctors to verify death. Thereafter still convinced she was in coma. Rossetti's brother recalled "a moment of great agitation, when my brother, standing by the corpse, was crying out, “Oh Lizzie, Lizzie, come back to me!”on the second or third day after death Lizzie looked still lovelier than before, and Dante almost refused to believe that she was really dead—it might be a mere trance consequent upon the laudanum. He insisted that Mr. Marshall should be called in to decide" 

The coroner ruled the death as accidental despite rumours of a suicide note which had been destroyed;  suicide preventing a Christian burial. At the inquest Rossetti confirmed that it was normal for his wife to take up to  100 drops of laudanum at one time stating that she took it in order to eat or sooth her nerves. Later, as suspected , the existence of a suicide note , pinned to her nightdress, did emerge. Rossetti had shown the note which included the plea to take care of  Harryher brother )to his close friend Ford Madox Brown who had advised it should be burnt.  Later in 1928 the author Hall Caine confirmed that Rossetti admitted to him the existence of a suicide note and his guilt over it. In a biography published in 1949 Rossetti's niece, and Ford Madox Brown's grandaughter, Helen Angeli Rossetti confirmed the existence of the suicide note, and visits to her father from Lizzie's brother Harry to collect money.

Jan Marsh has suggested that a note .. does not prove that Lizzie meant to die, for she must have known that Gabriel was due back within a couple of hours, and she may well have trusted to him to save her... her behaviour fits more into the pattern of severe addiction .
E Siddal photo circa1860

 Just prior to her burial , Rossetti guiltridden placed the only manuscript copy of his poems awaiting publication in the coffin with Lizzie between her cheek and hair stating"I have often been writing at those poems when Lizzie was ill and suffering, and I might have been attending to her, and now they shall go."

She was buried in the Rossetti family plot in Highgate Cemetry , London on 17th February 1862. After her death Swinburne wrote" I never knew so brilliant and appreciative a woman—so quick to see and so keen to enjoy that rare and deIightful fusion of wit, humour..she was a wonderful as well as a most lovable creature".


By 1863 Rossetti's mistress Fanny Cornforth had taken up residence with him, euphemistically known as his housekeeper. However Lizzie's presence remained with him.  In the decade following her death  he suffered from increasing bouts of melancholia and depression. He told friends that he saw her ghost for two years after her death and held seances trying to contact her to check if she was happy.

Never marrying again, he began an impassioned affair with Jane Morris. As his great love,  principal muse and model from 1865 onwards, his infatuation with her precipitated a major mental and physical collapse in the view of his close friends.

DG Rossetti Beata Beatrix 1870

Working from his sketches and memories , he painted a haunting poetic memorial to Lizzie, Beata Beatrix.

 The painting shows the moment when Beatrice the love of the Italian poet Dante becomes divine after death. Lizzie's death is symbolised by the poppy  the dove is carrying. He also copied six of her poems to be published in a volume of poetry by his sister, Christina Rossetti ( however they were described as too hopelessly sad  to be included) and bought back and collected Lizzie's works of art.

By 1869 now writing love sonnets to Jane Morris, Rossetti regretted his impetuous act of placing his unpublished poems with Lizzie considering himself   to be a poet just as much as an artist. Suffering from eyesight problems and concerned about his ability to paint, he wanted to secure his reputation. 

His friend Charles Howell persuaded him to give him permission to petition the Home Secretary on his behalf for Lizzie's coffin to be exhumed from the family grave. The Home secretary who knew Rossetti, issued the permit.

On 5th October 1869 in Highgate Cemetery the disinterment from the family plot was carried out late at night to avoid publicity without the family's knowledge, Rossetti not attending personally.  In an eerie scene, against a backdrop of lanterns and a bonfire Lizzie's coffin was exhumed and( a wormridden) manuscript retrieved. Howell reported to his wife later that Lizzie's beauty had been preserved through the effects of laudanum and that her red-gold hair had continued to grown now filling the coffin.
DG Rossetti -photo1863
Feeling guilty at the desecration Rossetti justified his action by stating that Lizzie would have approved of it " could she have opened the grave, no other hand would have been needed." His poems  were published in 1870

Becoming increasingly reclusive, Rossetti's final ten years , became known as the chloral years, due to his dependence on the drug, and saw his physical and emotional decline sinking into  ever-greater bouts of paranoia and delusion  on one occasion convinced that a chaffinch was Lizzie's spirit come to warn him.

Mirroring Lizzie, he attempted suicide in 1872 by overdosing on laudanum possibly triggered by a combination of ill health, the emotional consequences of his relationship with Jane Morris and a particularly virulent review of his poetry- having always been neurotic about criticism of his work.

Towards the end of his life, he  regretted the exhumation and in a fit of depression confirmed  to the author Hall Caine  his guilt over a lack of affection leading  Lizzie to overdose. One of his last poems remembered her: 

Ah! then was it all Spring weather?
Nay, but we were young and together.
Ah! dear one, you've been dead so long,—
How long until we meet again,

Haunted to the last , he specifically requested.." Let me not on any account be buried at Highgate" and was buried at Birchington On Sea, near Hastings on 9th April, 1882.