|Emma West as Lizzie and Tom Bateman as Rossetti in rehersal for Lizzie Siddal|
You know me, I loathe assumption. Most of the ten years it took me to write Stunner was spent saying 'No, she wasn't a cockney,' and 'No, she wasn't an illiterate prostitute! She could read!' However, when you are reading about someone for the first time you have to wade through the conclusions of others before you can afford to make your own. For example, think about a short summary of Siddal's life. It's bound to involve a bath-tub and an early death, these are unavoidable points in her life. Possibly your summary involves painting, poetry, possibly infidelity and sadness. Does it involve her laughing and chasing around the Red House? Does it involve being sponsored by the leading art critic of the day? Does it involve her finding out her artworks will appear in America? How many of those later points appear in the 'fictional' depictions of her?
|Gug in a Tub from Desperate Romantics|
|Yes, yes, very nice...|
|Elizabeth Siddal Painting at an Easel (1850s) D G Rossetti|
|Elizabeth Siddal D G Rossetti|
|Regina Cordium D G Rossetti|
|To say Rossetti painted this from her corpse is|
far more interesting than saying he used existing sketches
|Rossetti discovers his perfect model, as seen in Look and Learn|
|Elizabeth Siddal (photo)|
Anyway, back to Lizzie. For some reason we are stuck with the epithet 'tragic' when describing her life but that lessens her because it makes her appear helpless. The majority of her life was not tinged with tragedy, in fact proportionately more of her life was spent in victory than in sorrow. She spent one afternoon in a bath tub but this dominates our vision of her. I wonder if the tragedy of Elizabeth Siddal is that we can't let her be happy.