Monday, 28 November 2011

Prepare to be Corrupted!

Brace yourself.

I rarely have the pleasure of reading a contemporary description of a painting without being familiar with it, but today I read an attack on a work I wasn’t overly conversant with, described as ‘one of those allegorical designs which usually suggest something unwholesome in sentiment…’ (The Times, 1872). Unwholesome? Count me in! You know I like a good dose of corruption. Going further, the Athenaeum pointed out the ‘unmanliness’ ruining the sentiment and both papers had suspicions that the central figure was a corrupting deviation on classical form. Hurrah. Let’s have it then!

Autumn Love or Love in Autumn (1866)
Oh. Hang on, I’ll try that again…

Is it just me, or is everyone else underwhelmingly uncorrupted. I expected to immediately fall on my back and roll naked on an animal fur, at the very least. As it is, it’s just a Simeon Solomon picture. No offence, Simeon, but you’ve not corrupted me. Then again, I wonder if you ever really wanted to.

The Sleepers and the One who Watcheth (1870)
Love Among the Ruins Edward Burne-Jones
I love Simeon Solomon’s work. Recently, Mr Walker hung The Sleepers and the One who Watcheth (1870) in our bedroom, so the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning is that gorgeous painting. The painting shows a couple sleeping, while an angel watches over them, their faces all beautiful and peaceful. Although his figures are androgynous (but arguably no more than Burne-Jones), I think the figure in the middle is a woman, the figure on the right is a man, and the figure on the left is an angel, so mind your own business. I also suspect the figure on the right is Gaetano Meo, who modelled for Solomon frequently and was discovered by him playing a harp on the streets of London. He also posed for Burne-Jones’ Love Among the Ruins and Dante’s Dream by Rossetti. If I was less professional I would shout ‘Nom Nom Nom’ and giggle like a schoolgirl, and I wouldn’t be the only one as William Blake Richmond called him ‘the beautiful boy’. So what’s so awful about Love in Autumn?

Self Portrait (1859)
It was fine before 1870. Solomon, youngest of a family of artists, showed unusual and precious talent, devoting considerable time to illustrating religious and classical scenes. As his fame grew, his closeness with artists such as Rossetti and Burne-Jones had considerable influence on his work. I was surprised at how much Rossetti contributed as inspiration, until I saw this painting…

Poetry (1864)
It has a slightly lighter touch, but Poetry of 1864 reminds me of Rossetti’s pictures of Jane Morris, such as The Blue Silk Dress. The young lady has the look of Jane Morris, but it has been suggested that Jane sat for Simeon during this period. Some of his female figures do bear a remarkable resemblance to her, not least his famous images of Sappho. 
Habeat (1865)
Look at the variety of women on show in Habeat! (1865) – the golden-haired, thumbs down woman reminds me of a Sandy’s maiden, especially his women who seem to take sexual pleasure in the misery of others, for example Proud Maisie or Medea.

I think it is a shame that modern critics do not hail Simeon’s female portraits as heartily as his male ones, as they are equally as gorgeous. Take for example the different women in A Prelude by Bach (1868).

The lady in blue reminds me so much of Rossetti's Penelope.  Contemporary critics saw it as a pretty piece, nothing more, but modern readings note the two women embracing in the background as a symbol of the artist’s own same-sex desire. Now, I’m not saying that’s untrue, but plenty of other artists showed girly action without being gay, so I’m a little dubious. What is true is that the critics picked on the languid beauty of the male figures, and began to hint at an ‘unmanly’ quality to his work. Similar criticisms were understandably levelled at Burne-Jones, whose art most closely resembled Solomon’s style, so why did the mud stick to Simeon and not to Ned?

Love Amongst the Schoolboys (1865)
Well, the most obvious answer is that Simeon was gay, and not only that, he gathered patrons who were also gay. His work for Oscar Browning, patron and close friend, was open in its sexuality, such as Love amongst the Schoolboys (1865) and Eton Schoolboys (1867), and determinedly private in their subject, but Solomon’s behaviour had begun to attract attention. His trip to Paris in 1870 was more like a flee, avoiding the trouble that was beginning to follow him. If there were rumours of homosexuality beginning to circulate, his art was seen as proof and the criticism came thick and fast. In 1871, Simeon took a pasting in Robert Buchanan’s Fleshly School of Poetry, along with Rossetti and his other followers. The criticism levelled at Love in Autumn may well have been more knowing than it appeared. A main objection seemed to be that Solomon had chosen a young man to portray Love, rather than a chubby cherub, which Love 'obviously' looks like. There is a sneering hint that Solomon and his patrons would much rather look at the semi-clad young Love (who wouldn’t?) than a fat baby with a bow and arrow, and for that they are obviously ‘unwholesome’. Oddly, the same criticism isn’t levelled at John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope for his painting Love Betrayed where Love is a rather nice looking young man, if a little doomed. Mind your step…

It probably wasn’t a huge surprise when Simeon got arrested with George Roberts doing something naughty in a public loo, although he escaped prison, unlike the unfortunate Mr Roberts. His sentence of 18 months hard labour was reduced to police supervision, but he was ruined and fled London for Devon. The following year, he was caught again, this time in Paris, and this time served three months in prison. He lived another thirty years, but no longer could be openly welcomed by his old friends, plus his behaviour became erratic due to alcohol abuse, however his talent ensures that he is never forgotten or unappreciated, even in his own lifetime. Astonishing, if you consider the weight of prejudice against homosexuality, people continued to trumpet the beauty of Simeon’s work. The Dalziel Brothers used six of his pictures in their Bible Gallery, Five of his paintings appeared in the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1887, and Sidney Trefussis Whiteford published an article on Simeon in 1892 entitled ‘A Half-Forgotten Genius’, which led to further offers of work for the artist. Even the inclusion of his paintings among Oscar Wilde’s possessions did not seem to dampen public desire to see his work, and three years after his death, in 1908, Julia Ellsworth Ford published a monograph on his work.

Today, Simeon Solomon is heralded as a gay pioneer, subversively promoting the beauty of men during a period devoted to the female aesthetic. I love the fact that he could infuse a male figure with the same languid beauty as the women, but I worry that his personal circumstances overshadow is genius. By concentrating on his treatment of men, his equally exceptional pictures of women are largely ignored. The way I look at it is this: I think his brilliant portrayal of men isn’t to do with his sexuality as much as it is to do with his talent as an artist. Sometimes I feel that modern biography is often a case of making the story fit the ending. If you didn’t know that Simeon was gay, would you guess from his art? Maybe you’d guess, but look again at Burne-Jones or Leighton and think if the same judgement can be made of them. Maybe we could also celebrate Simeon Solomon for things he had a choice in: his bravery, his uncompromising use of art and his talent for gentle beauty.

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that every morning?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Could’ve been Millias

So, there was this artist. He started off all Pre-Raphaelite in the 1850s until he found a groove painting slightly more saccharine pictures of pretty girls and children, one of which became a famous soap advert. Who am I talking about? George Dunlop Leslie, of course, or Almost-Millais Leslie as I like to think of him. He could have been a contender, and in my opinion, on occasions, he was unbeatable…

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you George did anything better than Ophelia as that would be blasphemy on a grand scale. When he started out, George Dunlop Leslie had definitely leanings towards the Pre-Raphaelite in his style and subject.

Matilda - Dante, Purgatorio, Canto 28 'For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands' - Psalm XCII, 4 (1860)
Oh, you know how I love a catchy title. Although slightly awkward, I think this painting shows a lot of promise and is a bit Arthur Hughes-y. The perspective is beautiful, with the group of figures seen on the other side of the river, and I love the use of colour at once both strong and muted.
He exhibited every year at the Royal Academy from 1859 onwards, becoming an ARA in 1868 and an RA in 1876, and his work changed to more mainstream subjects, as his wish was ‘to paint pictures from the sunny side of English domestic life'. Take for example this…

The Goldfish Seller
When I saw it, I immediately thought of the Millais portrait of the two young girls with the large glass goldfish bowl. Leslie’s use of the water and glass to distort the shape of the fish is gorgeous, look especially at the bowl in the seller’s hand. I find it interesting that the man kneels before them to show the bowls, in an almost ‘courtly’ way, with the lady in the porch viewing him in a cool but benevolent manner. I want her lace sleeves, by the way.

John Ruskin considered Leslie a great painter of gentle domestic scenes (that’ll learn you to run off with his wife, Millais) and thought his pictures displayed the ‘sweet quality of English girlhood’. Let’s not dwell on that too much, but you can see what he means…

The Daughters of Eve (1883)
Yes, it’s a bit sickly and pretty, but look at the little girl in the background, all in white. If she isn’t an aesthetic metaphor waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. Much like Millais, an awful lot of his work featured children, especially girls and often family. Possibly one of his most famous pictures now is this one…

Alice in Wonderland
Here is Alice Leslie, daughter of the artist, with, presumably, her mother, and she is listening to the story of Alice in Wonderland, and she is dressed in traditional 'Alice' clothes and imagining herself in Wonderland. It’s an interesting picture as you would not guess the title from the painting, but once you know the title the different meanings become apparent. Is the Wonderland in her head, the world of imagination, or does it refer to being safe and warm with a loving parent? Or both? I find the doll strange and its position slightly jarring – why is it not with Alice? Why is it cast aside in such a pronouced manner? Does it represent Alice asleep? I could go on like this forever…

Leslie’s capturing of the sweet quality of English girlhood (yes, that gives me the shivers too) made him an obvious candidate to produce a cutesy soap advert. Move over Bubbles….

This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes
Oh, Lordy, but ignoring the soapy princess for a moment, look at the still life of the basin on the table. Isn’t it gorgeous? Again the colours are beautiful, the teal apron against the russet dress is deep without looking suspiciously dirt-friendly, and contrast nicely with the clean white of the bowl. I’d buy this soap, look how clean that child is. Lily-Rose is rarely that clean, she usually has chocolate or pen up her face, but don’t we all?

Later in his life, Leslie seems to have had moments of Pre-Raphaelitism again. I was surprised when I found out that the following came from 1904…

In the Wizard's Garden (1904)
This reminds me so much of early Pre-Raphaelite stuff, a bit Burne-Jones in subject, possibly with a bit of Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale thrown in for good measure. Look at her dress - that is a fabulous shade of red. I have no idea what is going on – is she being held prisoner? Is she his daughter? The wizard seems to be a dark figure, not very sympathetic, whereas she is giving us her best bambi-eyes. The garden looks bleak and autumnal, possibly reflecting the wizard, whereas the girl looks out of place, in need of rescue. It is an ambiguous picture, but a beautiful one.

Faith (1858)
The Nut Brown Maid

So what have I learnt from hanging out with George Dunlop Leslie? Well, his work is beautiful, whether or not you like the subject matter. His use of colour in paintings such as Faith or The Nut Brown Maid is exquisite, and he seems to be able to handle different palettes of colour with equal ease. Look at the slap-your-face red and green of Faith as opposed to the muted brown and dark teal of The Nut Brown Maid

I find a lot of parallels between his work and Millais’. Compare Millais’ Cinderella and Leslie’s Her First Place

Cinderella J E Millais
Her First Place

It’s tempting to say Leslie was paying homage to the pose of Cinderella with the young maid, to suggest that young girls were used inappropriately in our houses. Obviously my heart belongs to Millais in so many ways (that little red hat!) but Leslie’s light touch with colour and detail lifts this picture from being yet another Victorian domestic interior. Plus she has the sweet quality of English girlhood (God, I can’t stop it now…).

Mollie, 'In silence I stood, your unkindness to hear...' (1882)
Sally in our Alley (1882)

 To sum up, I think there will come a day when Leslie is regarded as highly as Millais, especially Millais’ later work, and rightly so. A part of me wonders if Millais reputation will end up depending solely on his few years of Pre-Raphaelite output, because I think Leslie deserves at least as much regard for his later work. 

Plus, he painted the Queen. Hurrah!

Queen Victoria George Dunlop Leslie and James Hayllar

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Tale of Two Illustrations

You must be tired of me saying this, but I'm still hard at work on Stunner 2.0 and this week I managed to get the last of my illustrations sorted.  Two of these have never been published before, so obviously I'm most excited about having them in my book. 

Firstly, I have the pleasure of using this image from the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut....

This is a rather glorious pencil, pen and ink sketch of Fanny from the late 1860s, possibly 1867, showing her looking sultry and glorious.  I love the fact that she is wearing her signature earrings, and looks at her 'Stunner' best.  If this does indeed date from after the advent of Alexa and Jane, the picture lends weight to the argument that Rossetti didn't just cast Fanny aside or cease to find her attractive, she remained a part of his art, and for that reason I wanted this little-seen picture to be part of my book.

The second picture is incredibly special.  Many of you will know the work of Raine Szramski and her marvellous pictures of the Pre-Raphaelites, if not take yourself off to Grace Nuth's blog, The Beautiful Necessity immediately! Anyway, I asked the lovely Raine if I could have a Fanny picture for Stunner. Being a classy lass, she didn't take it the wrong way, and she presented me with this....

 I have obviously pledged my undying love to Raine, and will proudly display her gorgeous picture in the upcoming (really, not long now) re-edition of Stunner: The Fall and Rise of Fanny Cornforth (now with added walnuts).

Adding pictures to Stunner, beyond my own photographs, has been a strange experience.  Part of me wants every single picture of Fanny, but in reality I only had £500 to buy a cover illustration and pictures for inside.  Now, I thought that would get me quite a few, but in reality, when certain museums were charging £250+ for a cover image and the average interior picture was £100, I was beginning to despair.  I have to admit that I ended up getting most of my illustrations from America: from Boston, Delaware and Harvard as well as Lyman Allyn, as they gave me such good rates for their gorgeous art.  Thank you to all of them for their fabulous and friendly service and their generosity.

Really, I'm working on it as we speak...I have a visit to a records office on Saturday, then hopefully the manuscript will be ready for proof-reading...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Confessions of a Saucy Blogger

I was lucky enough to deliver a paper at a Victorian Studies conference in Leeds about six years ago, and my session was handled between me and a charming lady from a University in Taiwan. She gave a thoughtful and clever paper on Lady Audley’s Secret. I showed nudie pictures of Kate Winslet while talking about film and Thomas Hardy. I got all the questions and people stayed behind afterwards to ask me things. The lesson we take from this is nudie Kate Winslet rules. Now, this was a damn shame as the lady from Taiwan’s paper was so amazing, but then I adore the book. The idea of a secret ruling you, controlling you, is compelling, and it absolutely defines the Victorian obsession with appearance. The Victorians feared the hidden shame, the skeletons in the cupboard, the secret, but also it was alluring, dangerous and fascinating. Who knows what people hide and what will happen when the beans are spilled….

Abandoned (1881) James Tissot (used by Penguin for their cover)
Well, I’ve read some shocking things in my time, but never felt the need to sprawl on the hearth rug in horror. I wonder if my blog is ever so scandalous that you just collapse in a heap of striped silk and laptop? Honestly, I would have arranged to fall a little further back from the fire, as you know my preoccupation about random sparks setting my dress aflame. I have a fascination with what art works are picked for book covers (more on that in another post) but I wonder why they picked this for Lady Audley? What has she read, what was in the letter, that would make her collapse? Has she been found out, or has she found out someone else’s secret? As the painting is actually entitled Abandoned then I’m guessing she is reading how her lover has left her. Either that or she had too much gin with her afternoon tea and fell out of her chair. Which of us hasn’t done that?

The Letter (1877) Marcus Stone
Oh, talking of unfortunate letters, this young lady seems to have been found out. I love her tense hand, almost claw-like on her paper, contrasting with his casual hand resting on the table as he reads the document that damns her. This is a picture is definitely two halves, the man reading without any outward sign of hostility or anger. The woman is in an ungainly, desperate pose, obviously where she has attempted to retrieve the letter and failed. If you compare it with Past and Present I by Augustus Egg, the woman seems to be almost as desperate as the cheating wife, but Egg’s husband has a look of shocked betrayal completely unlike the cool consideration of the man in Stone’s painting. He has turned his back on the crouching woman literally and presumably metaphorically, and her future does not look good.  Guillotine for her, I suspect...

So that's what happens when you are found out, but how about those that choose to confess their deep, dark secret?

The Confession Frank Dicksee
I think this must be the most famous of the ‘confessing’ pictures, with the shamefaced man hiding in shadow as he spills all to his lady, who couldn’t be more innocent looking if she had a halo. Really, she’s dressed in glowing white, we get it Frank, she’s innocent. She obviously hasn’t smelt the coffee yet. Come on dear, look at him, he’s not about to tell you he’s bought you a pony now is he?

The Confession John Collier
I actually prefer this ‘confessing’ picture as I can’t quite settle on who is confessing what to whom. The man’s face is more visible than the woman’s, she is cloaked in shadow, but neither of them look like the obvious guilty party. The woman is wearing white, but that contrasts with the shadows she leans into. I love the little touch of the poker by the side of the fire. Any moment, one of them is going to sprawl on the hearth rug in shock, I bet. However, I wouldn’t like to put money on which one…

A Confession William Warrener
On the whole, the majority of confessing in Victorian times seems to have been an all female affair, with women spilling the beans wholesale to each other. Sometimes it was a grim affair, like Warrener’s miserable cottage interior. The mother is obviously thinking ‘I should have known she’d be trouble when she painted her clogs red…’

The Secret (1867) James Tissot
Sometimes it seems to be a frilly, giggly affair, like with these two. My goodness there is a lot of accessories involved in confessing a secret. I think the lady in black is saying ‘Yes! I admit it! ‘Twas I that ate the last of the pink macaroons! Oh, and I’m sleeping with your husband.’ Shortly after this was painted, the lady in white gave the other a shove into the river.

A Confession Erik Werenskiold
Oh, Lordy, Granny does not look pleased. Maybe her granddaughter has told her something heartbreaking, something terrible and sad, or possibly Granny’s just thinking ‘I hope she gets to the point quickly as I’m missing Strictly Come Dancing…’

The Confession Alexander Novoskoltsev
This possibly can be filed under ‘Wrong’. I’m not sure what Cherry Ripe is confessing to Rasputin, but the whole scene makes me uncomfortable. Nice frock though.

The Sinner John Collier
Now, that’s better. I like the thought that all her naughtiness has made it hard for her to drag herself into the confessional. In fact, she looks exhausted. Wow, she has been misbehaving...

So, gentle reader, maybe it’s better not to divulge your deep, dark secrets, but then it might not be better to be found out. Actually, it’s probably better not to do the naughty deeds in the first place. Unless you want some nice clothes.

As for me, I have no deep, dark secrets at all.

Damn, found me out! I am ruined...*faints onto the heath rug*

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Alas Poor Walter...

Poor Walter Deverell.  Scarcely known or mentioned in Pre-Raphaelite writings and missed entirely in Desperate Bromantics (as I am now calling it), the brief flame of Walter's talent was well and truly snuffed by not only his short life but also his omission from the cannon of Pre-Raphaelite art.  It could have been so different for lovely Walter, so what went wrong?

Walter Deverell (1853) William Holman Hunt

Partly it's due to the fact that Walter never made 'Brother'.  He declined full membership, despite being very close to the other Brothers, due to his appointment as assistant master at the Government School of Design which he felt may be jeopardised by being a member of a revolutionary group.  It was rumoured that he was to have replaced James Collinson in 1850, but it was never to be.  Similar to others who were present at the early days of the Brotherhood, he was both a painter and a model, sitting for figures in the works of Holman Hunt, Millais and Madox Brown.

Claudio and Isabella William Holman Hunt

Walter's face can be seen in the expressive features of Hunt's Claudio, being denied by his sister the key to his freedom, her virginity.  I love the awkwardness of his long legs and pointy shoes (even more pointy in the sketch) and the petulant expression on Claudio's face.  Equally as wicked is Isabella's brother in Millais' Isabella, and Deverell's face can be spied at the back beyond hot Fred Stephens.

Walter Deverell, at the back of the picture.  How apt.
Born in Charlottesville in 1827, his family moved back to England after his Father left his brief post as tutor at the University of Virginia.  He met Rossetti in 1845 at Sass's Drawing School and the two became firm friends, sharing rooms in Red Lion Square in 1851.  Look, there is a plaque commemorating it:

Oh, sorry Walter, they missed you off...
Rather cruelly, I have a book that says his most important contribution to art was his discovery of Lizzie Siddal in a hat shop. Well, now, that's fighting talk.  Anyway, he used Lizzie for his model in Twelfth Night, a painting which says a lot about the situation between Walter, Lizzie and Rossetti...

Twelfth Night (1850) Walter Deverell
On the left, Lizzie as Viola (who is dressed as a boy) looks adoringly at Duke Orsino (looking remarkably like Walter) while Rossetti plays the fool.  I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it...This is the first of Lizzie Siddal's many appearances in paintings, and it seems appropriate that the gentleman who discovered her got to paint her first.  This is certainly his most famous picture, and often the only one of his works shown, mainly due to its overt Pre-Raphaelite pedigree.  It would be easy to see him as a one-trick pony, but I personally love The Grey Parrot of 1852 and A Pet of 1850 far more than Twelfth Night.

The Grey Parrot
A Pet

They both may carry a 'women as caged birds' message but the colours in both are gorgeous, especially the muted tones of The Grey Parrot. The same can be said of Eustatia from 1853.

The woman has an air of mystery, all that is visible is her face and her hand, clutching a handkerchief.  Her expression is vaguely teasing and proud, in conflict with the presence of the hankie, which hints at sadness.  She doesn't look sad, she looks like she will break your heart and stomp on the pieces.

Deverell was by all account a pleasant looking young man, and jolly, flirty company.  For me, the essential portrait of him has to be the figure in Ford Madox Brown's Chaucer at the Court of Edward III:

Deverell and lady-friend....
Poor Walter had a promising start to his career, and his work The Irish Vagrants gained much praise, even though Hunt complained that Walter had fallen for the fashion of 'dwelling on the miseries of the poor, the friendless and the fallen' (which is rich coming from the painter of The Light of the World).

The Irish Vagrants (1853)
All in all, Walter's painting career lasted around five or six years before he died of Brights Disease, a terrible kidney illness, abandoned by his troubled family and fading in a small house in Chelsea.  Apparently, he was working on the cheerily titled The Doctor's Last Visit and Young Children watching a Funeral before his death, which hints at his state of mind.  Had he lived, it has been written that he may have outshined Millais, and achieved mainstream success without diminishing romantic and poetic qualities.  However, poor Walter died and all we know him for now is a handful of paintings and a fortuitous visit to a hatshop.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Fanny Hot-Spots and Aching Limbs

Yesterday was spent in a grand tour of sites of Fanny Cornforth's life and other Pre-Raphaelite hot-spots for Stunner's second edition.  I was ably assisted in this venture by Miss Stephanie 'Stealth' Holman (Resting Ninja who used to wrestle white tigers for diamonds).  She collected me from Waterloo and off we went on a whistle-stop, crippling tour of the following places...

1. St John the Evangelist Church, Lambeth

On August 11 1860, Sarah Cox, spinster of the parish, and Timothy Hughes, drunk, gorgeous engineer married, and lived happily ever after.  Okay, the last bit isn't true, but this is definitely where they married.  It is suggested that Fanny dashed off to the alter with Mr Hughes after Rossetti married Lizzie, and his finer qualities seem to have been lost in the mists of history, so I think it is appropriate to make some up, seeing as all we remember Tim Hughes for is being a drunken incubus, which doesn't seem fair.  As part of my 'extensive research', I can categorically say that Mr Timothy Hughes was a world-class lamb-juggler and founder member of the world's first boy band, with Isumbard Kingdom Brunel and Charles Dickens...okay, okay, but what I do know if that he was allegedly the model for the boy David on the left wing of The Seed of David triptych.

So we know he was possibly fine looking.  Anyway, the marriage lasted until Hughes' death in 1872, when he was 42, but the couple only seem to have lived together for a short while, with Hughes being discarded as soon as Fanny could leap back into Rossetti's bed. However, what Mr Hughes did give us is Fanny's surname.  I think it is more than likely she called herself 'Cornforth' after Timothy's Step-Father, George Cornforth. Anyway, back onto the tube and off to the next location!

2. 81 Drayton Gardens, Kensington

This is a view from the lane behind the property as the front of the building had been messed about with in about 1902 (the date is based on a plaque on the opposite building which had also been converted to flats), but in this rather splendid building Fanny lived with her second husband John Schott and his son Frederick in the 1880s and 1890s.  It's a beautiful, leafy area and the house is enormous.  Life for Fanny at this point was easy, her money plentiful due to her actions after Rossetti's death, which led us to this rather lovely building...

3. 1a Old Bond Street
Mmmm, Mappin and Webb...Also, home in 1882/3 to Fanny's tribute to Rossetti, 'The Rossetti Gallery', set up after his death, in competition with the Royal Academy and Burlington Fine Arts Club's memorial exhibitions.  Incidentally, this building is only just down the road from the Royal Academy, so close you can spit into it from here.  And she probably did.

3. 96 Jermyn Street

Mr Schott, a bandleader from Edinburgh, was a gentleman of many talents and one of them was making money.  He and Fanny ran the Rose Tavern for many years, which now is Harvie and Hudson, gentleman's outfitter and general shop of couthness.  I visited Harvie and Hudson when I published Stunner the first time and they showed me the beautiful tiled hallway, but on my return yesterday I was sad to see the sign had been removed.  A picture of the sign appears in Stunner; it was a metal sign with tiny roses on the edges, possibly left from when it was the Rose Tavern.  All that remains now are the roses in the plasterwork.

4. 9 Kilmarsh Road, Hammersmith

In 1901, this was home to Emily M Squire, a widowed dressmaker, and her children, and their lodger, Sarah Schott.  Fanny (or Sarah Schott) as she was known by this point, had lost not only her husband, but also her stepson Fred, and her money was dwindling.  It was from here she was taken by her sister-in-law Rosa Villiers, off to Hove and it has been presumed she died there in 1905, but no proof has been found.  Yes, I'm working on that too...

5. The Argyll Room, 8 Great Windmill Street

I really wanted to see the building that was the Argyll Rooms, where Fanny would meet Boyce and Rossetti, but of course it no longer exists.  Down a very narrow alley we found the site, just south of Soho, and although a lot of the buildings had been hacked about in various eras, there was a sense of a grand, yet slightly seedy meeting place.

 Talking of seedy....

6. 24 Dean Street, Soho

I loved walking through Soho.  My favourite bit has to be Walker's Court, which seems to consist of lots of live sex shows and porn shops.  Makes me proud.  Anyway, when Fanny was being a lady of ill-repute, she lived at 24 Dean Street, which is now part of the very grand and not at all seedy Marx Restaurant.  Why 'Marx'?  Because....

I think Karl moved out when Fanny moved in.  Fancy a bit of company, Comrade? Obviously not.

The only place I couldn't take a picture of was 14 Tenison Street, Lambeth, which doesn't really exist anymore, it's now a whopping great big IMAX.

While I was up in the big smoke, it was too irresistible not to take a few other Pre-Raphaelite images.  Partly I wanted some images to work from for my book about Alexa Wilding and partly there was one special place I wanted to visit...

Alexa Wilding Picture 1: 23 Warwick Lane, St Faith-under-St Paul

No, I wasn't expecting to see this exactly, but I really should have put the words 'St Paul's Cathedral' and 'Second World War' together, as this is what Warwick Lane looked like in the 1940s....

So, really I shouldn't have been surprised by the very new buildings lining Warwick Lane.  I wasn't expecting that many police though.  Blimey.  Anyway, sorry Alexa, no joy there.  How about your home in Kensington?

Alexa Wilding Picture 2: 33 Redcliffe Road, Kensington
Not far from Fanny's home in Drayton Gardens is the leafy and gorgeous Redcliffe Road.  How exactly did Alexa, daughter of a butchery family from Newgate afford to buy a house down here?

Well, how delightful!  So, which one is 33?  As we walked down the road, we gasped and sighed at the lovely Victorian villas, until we reached 33...

Rats.  Stupid bombing, I was beginning to take it personally. To be fair, there was one other house missing from the row, more than likely the victim of sticks of bombs picking off individual houses. However, her place would have looked a little like the one on the opposite side of the road...

Mmmm, pretty, and very posh.  Makes you wonder how a lass on a pound a week could afford to buy it...

So Stealth and I rambled all over London, using a combination of map and Miss Holman's ability to know location by where she had been very drunk (she's such a louche influence, which is why I love her) and our final destination was this rather unimpressive house in a Square by Bloomsbury...

Fairly typical of many houses in that area, and quite unremarkable until I tell you that I was stood in Red Lion Square, and that white plaque on the wall?  Have a look....

How could I not visit?  Astonishing to think that Miss Holman and I were stood outside the house where Rossetti, Morris, and Burne-Jones (and Walter Deverell) lived, back when things weren't utterly messed up for them all, before death, deceit, adultery and other crimes against each other loosened the bonds of brotherhood. 

We sat in the garden in the middle of the square and enjoyed the peace, while Miss Holman rubbed her ankle and I rubbed my neck, both of which were agony by this point.  We suffered for their art, and for your entertainment, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Fanny Cornforth and Karl Marx, who'd have thought it?