But wait, that's not Annie, as we discussed here. I began to wonder about Annie, and if I knew her at all. One thing I have learnt from my years with Fanny is that you should always question what you are told and who tells you. There is a lot of repeating of stories in this business, there is a lot of taking people's word for it. However, you and I both know that people lie, people tell big lies and little lies because what they don't want you to know is the truth. So, what is the truth about Annie Miller?
|Desperate Romantics. Not a bad portrayal of Annie, actually. I know, who knew?|
Right away I use 'presumed' and 'common knowledge'. We know neither of these things for sure, we have no photos, we have no trustworthy written testimony, all we have is hearsay and stories that are used to embellish William Holman Hunt's biography. It's a wonder that Annie didn't crack nuts between her teeth. What we do know is that Annie Miller was beautiful. We can assume fairly safely that she didn't have access to education because of poverty, we can assume that she possibly wasn't the cleanest woman on earth, who was? The only thing that is putting me off time travel is the smell, really I'm guessing they all smelt rank. One thing we do know is that Annie was beautiful, because among the biographers who painted her as a slutty harpy it was suggested that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. We can tell this from the portrait Hunt did of her, Il Dolce Far Niente...
|Ill Dolce Far Niente (1866) William Holman Hunt|
|Morning Prayer (1860s) William Holman Hunt|
|Lady Godiva (Moxon Tennyson)|
|Woman in Yellow D G Rossetti|
We know that Rossetti thoughts she was beautiful as he used her as a model incessantly while Hunt was away. It apparently drove Elizabeth mad, but arguably it might not have been a purely sexual jealousy, it might have been something deeper, something that threatened her persona as Rossetti's muse, Rossetti's true artistic vision.
|Annie Miller (1860s)|
|Annie Miller (1860)|
|Woman with Harp|
My God, I could go on and on, there are loads of Rossetti sketches, and they are beautiful. She's all flowing hair and slightly gypsy-ish gorgeousness. Images of Fanny from this time are quite similar, loose-haired, big-throated women, and they suit the vision that Rossetti was working at this time. By the way, Hunt did not forbid Annie from sitting for Rossetti at this time. He loved Rossetti, but left his name off the list of endorsed artists that Annie should sit for. While this is a strong indication that Hunt was a little uncomfortable with leaving anything in the room with Rossetti (I wouldn't leave a plastic pot plant with the man), he didn't say a definite no. He should of, as Rossetti is reported to have said 'Hunt stole my subject, so now I shall steal his model.' Well, that's what he is reported to have said, but then Hunt had used Lizzie as a model before, mainly due to Rossetti's persuasion, and Found stalled for many reasons, not least that the artist wasn't overly convinced of the message. Anyway, it's generally acknowledged (based on nothing) that Rossetti slept with her, and not only him, but also George Boyce, who also used her as a model...
|Annie Miller (1854) George Price Boyce|
While I'm here I'll also mention Millais. No-one ever says 'Oh, that Millais, he painted Annie a few times, he must have been sleeping with her!'
|Waiting J E Millais|
|Annie Miller J E Millais|
I think Millais' depictions of Annie look like the remaining examples we have of Hunt's portraits of her, without the loose hair and presumed loose morals of Rossetti. Is it just me, or does everyone who touches Rossetti come away a little tainted? Anyway, I digress, again.
Hunt ditched Annie, after all his friends said what a wanton slutbag she was (even though Hunt was the subject of a story in Household Words in 1858 about how he had seduced Emma the country lass in The Hireling Shepherd) and she became too hot to handle, running up debts which she left him responsible for. He planned to send her to Australia. She sought the advice of Lord Ranelagh and met his cousin, Thomas Ranelagh Thomson, an officer in the Royal East Middlesex Milia. Where Lord Ranelagh was there for fun, his cousin married Miss Miller, and that tends to be all we know about Annie Miller as she finally left Hunt's life forever.
|Annie Miller (1860s)|
But this is me talking, well typing. Do you really think I'm going to leave it at that, believing William Holman Hunt? Not a chance. I wanted to know what happened to Annie, so I did a little digging (there is a graveyard involved, so can I point out that I mean that metaphorically).
Annie and Thomas Thomson married on 23rd July 1863 at St Pancras Parish Church, and they lived in Hampstead, where little Annie Helen was born on 11 October 1866. They moved to 75 Oxford Gardens in Kensington by the time of the 1881 census, where they employed a cook, a housemaid and a parlour maid. By the end of the century, they were living on the south coast, settling in Shoreham by Sea.
|6 Western Road, Shoreham by Sea, home of the Thomson family|
The intrepid Miss Holman (no relation of Mr Hunt, well, maybe no relation, I'll let you know) and I found her grave in Shoreham, unmarked but in plot B.19.7, next to James and Isabelle Slaughter, who were helpful enough to have a stone...
|Annie's on the right...|
|Annie and Thomas are buried towards the back, centre. Note the lack of stones all round...|