Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Wight Weekend: Scandal!

I have to admit that in my role of Gossip-Mongeress-in-chief, here at The Kissed Mouth, I am often party to some delicious rumours.  So-and-so used to lock his daughter in the cupboard when she became 'trying', So-and-so spent far too much time with little girls, and the suchlike, but usually it is not verifiable with plain, cold facts.  Imagine my delight when I was contacted with not only a scandalous tale, but with evidence...

I must thank Stephen Chambers for contacting me with this story because it has answered a little mystery for me - why would a young man with everything going for him suddenly up and leave the country?  Allow me to elaborate...

Time, Death and Judgement Cecil Edwin Schott
Born in January of 1868, Cecil Edwin Schott was the second son born to John Bernard Schott and his wife Maria.  He was born the same year his elder brother, Bernard, died aged 2, and was followed by siblings Frederick in 1870 and Amy in 1872.  Only he and Frederick survived infancy, and went to live with their father after his divorce and remarriage in 1879 (we'll draw a veil over what order that happened in and anyway his mother had bigamously married a publican by that point anyway.)

Fanny Cornforth (1874) D G Rossetti
The woman who was to be 11 year old Cecil's step-mother was Sarah Hughes, or the model formerly known as Fanny Cornforth. Told by Rossetti to make her own way in the world as he could no longer support her, Fanny used her savings to buy a public house called The Rose Inn with John Bernard Schott, who she then married.  John Bernard had experience in the hospitality industry as he had run a bar connected to a theatre, possibly where Fanny had met him.  He moved Cecil and Frederick in with him and his new bride and they set up home together.

Young Cecil showed some artistic promise.  Fostered by his step mother's former lover, Rossetti, he finally found an place in the studio of George Frederick Watts.

Hope (1886) G F Watts and Cecil Schott
Cecil went to work for Watts in the 1880s as a studio assistant, working on replicas of popular works such as Hope (above).  Cecil would start the copy and Watts would complete it, enabling the artist to carry out more work.  Cecil painted at least two portraits of Watts which were included in the 1905 biography of the artist by Emilie Barrington and was developing into a fine artist and depended upon by his employer.

The Briary, Bedbury Lane, Freshwater, Isle of Wight
Sadly, Watts' home burnt down mid 20th century, hence inset picture
G F Watts so enjoyed visiting his friends Alfred Tennyson and the Prinsep family, including Julia Margaret Cameron, on the Isle of Wight that he had The Briary built just down the lane from Tennyson's home, Farringford, in 1873.  The house became home to the painter, his wife Ellen Terry (during their short lived marriage) and various members of the Prinsep family, as they came and went from London.  When he started working for Watts, Cecil too travelled to the island, to continue his work and progress his career.

So far so good.  He was working for one of England's most respected artists in the company of the poet laureate and the influential, artistic Prinseps.  A member of the Prinsep family, Blanche Clogstoun, was taken under Watts' wing and he gave her the Briary on her marriage in the 1880s but it seems he still used the house with its three studios while he was on the Wight.  So, young Cecil was moving among the artistic elite, which makes the following revelation both surprising and rather saddening.

Pallance Road, Northwood, Isle of Wight
On the 30th September 1896, a 59 year old shipwright and his wife Mary were asleep in their home, Comfort Cottage, Pallance Road, Northwood on the north west side of the Isle of Wight, around thirteen miles away from the glittering social circle of Freshwater.  That night, a man broke into their cottage and stole £14, the equivalent of around £800 now.  Three days later, the police arrested Cecil.

The case came to trial on 21st October, when Cecil Edwin Schott, whose profession was listed as artist, pleaded guilty to housebreaking and larceny and received 3 months hard labour.  After being released from prison in early 1897, he made arrangements for emigration and left Southampton bound for South Africa on 27th March 1897.  Scandal and shame obviously made it unthinkable that he could return to the Briary, Watts and his circle.

Little is known of his movements after that.  The William Fehr collectionof the Iziko Museum in South Africa has one picture (which you can view here) of a fish market painted in 1898, but his career does not seem to have reached the heights it could have achieved if he had remained on the right side of the law under Watts.  It certainly answers the question as to why Cecil Schott suddenly left his brother and step mother for South Africa but there are so many questions his actions raise. Did he know that the shipwright had that much money in his cottage?  What did he need the money for?  His father had died in 1891 and left Fanny at the mercy of her sister-in-law Rosa Villiers who was notoriously tight with the purse strings.  Was Cecil stealing for Fanny or was he drunk and opportunistic?  Whatever the motivation, it seems such a pity that he threw away his opportunity with Watts on a single criminal act.

I'll be back tomorrow with the second part of my Wight Weekend, and my unladylike pursuit of Tennyson....

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Visual Tennyson

This is an almost impossible blogpost because of the sheer scale of it, but bear with me.  I want to talk to you about Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites...

The Lady of Shalott (1905) William Holman Hunt
Being a lover of Victorian, and specifically Pre-Raphaelite, art, I cannot fail to notice that this chap had a massive influence on the artistic output of an artistic movement.  In terms of writers, the Bible and the Works of Shakespeare account for a large portion of the paintings produced from the inception of the Brotherhood in 1849 until the final works of Waterhouse after the First World War, but Tennyson is not only an equal to them but was also their contemporary, actually out-living the artist who portrayed him in this little sketch...

Alfred Tennyson reading Maud (1855) D G Rossetti
This was on the front cover of my first collected Tennyson and I was struck by the awkwardness of the image.  I was more used to seeing Tennyson like this...

My favourite official portrait of Tennyson
In the 'official' photographs of him, he looks appropriate (and extremely attractive).  The curl of his moustache, the wonderful scroll of his collar and billow of his cloak.  He looks like a man in command of both his facial hair and the English language.  In Rossetti's sketch, I was intrigued by the way he clasped his ankle as he read.  It looked uncomfortable, unconscience.  I cannot decide whether I find the pose self-comforting or else so involved in his work that he is unaware that he is doing it.  Either way, I find it enchantingly human and not what you would expect from the Genius of Victorian Poetry (TM).  Maybe the intimacy that Rossetti captured in his sketch of Tennyson is why the Pre-Raphaelites felt such a connection to his verse and why it inspired such tremedous works.

The Palace of Art (from 1857 poems) D G Rossetti
Any talk of Tennyson and Pre-Raphaelites needs to start with the Moxon Tennyson.  In some ways, it is no coincidence that Tennyson reached the top of his poetic career just as the Pre-Raphaelites formed their brotherhood.  Tennyson was named Laureate in 1850, succeeding William Wordsworth and it could be argued that his royal role put an onus on him to produce appropriate verse for occasions such as the arrival of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to England. The more wayward, romantic visions of his younger days could have been folded in to the mass of his later works but they found the perfect partnership in the wayward romantic art of the young Brothers.

Mariana (1851) J E Millais
Mariana (from 1857 poems) J E Millais
Millais produced not only one of the first Pre-Raphaelite paintings based on Tennyson, but then repeated the subject in a different way for the Moxon edition of Tennyson's poems in 1857.  I think it was this edition of his poems that sealed everyone's fate.  It's not that the Pre-Raphaelites were the only ones illustrating, although they produced over half the illustrations (30, as opposed to 24 from the more traditional artists) but their work was groundbreaking.  Compare Rossetti's finale image from The Lady of Shalott with this one from Ode of Memory by Thomas Creswick...

Lady of Shalott
Ode to Memory
As a collection, the Pre-Raphaelite Brothers produced illustrations for the poems that were claustrophobic in the tightness of their focus and visually dense.  The faded, ragged edges of traditional illustration, as typified here by Creswick have been replaced by a bordered box.  The action may go on beyond the edges, but we are left in no doubt that this is the moment we should be looking at.  Looking back to the posts I did on Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale's illustrations of Tennyson, then you can see how much she owes to the Brothers and their work in 1857.

Lady Clare Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale
Moving forward from the illustrations, Tennyson's verse became an endless source of inspiration for the movement.  The shared interest in Arthurian romances obviously led to some cross-over work, from the established figures like Merlin and Guinevere to figures added by the poet to the legend.  I'll come to her in a moment...

The Beguiling of Merlin Edward Burne-Jones
The visual language of Arthurian romance was taken by the Pre-Raphaelites and moulded into something less chaste, less masculine-centric as guided by Tennyson.  The women were given equal billing turning something like the illustration below, one of the traditional ones for the 1857 poems by Daniel Maclise, into ultimately something more sexual, as expressed by Khnopff's Vivien...

A somewhat camp King Arthur by Maclise
Vivien Fernand Khnopff
Obviously I can't talk about Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson with talking about the Lady of Shalott.  It now seems impossible to think about Pre-Raphaelites, Tennyson, Lancelot or British Art without this painting by J W Waterhouse...

The Lady of Shalott (1888) J W Waterhouse
Rivalling Ophelia as the nation's favourite picture, The Lady of Shalott has provided inspiration for many, many artists to the point where it would probably be quicker to list who didn't have a go at the poor woman either feeling 'half sick of shadows' or having a naughty peek out of the window then snuffing it in a boat.  I could spend more than one blogpost talking about images of The Lady of Shalott and I will at some point, but we still have loads to cover, so on we go.  See, I told you this was probably impossible...

In his lifetime, a defining work for Tennyson professionally and personally was In Memoriam, a lengthy piece of love and loss, written after the death of Tennyson's best friend and adopted by Queen Victoria as the soundtrack to her grief-stricken years.  For want of a better phrase, Tennyson's poem taps into the 'grief tourism' of Victorian England, with improving mortality rates for the middle and higher classes.  While Tennyson's grief was intense and expressive, you too can wallow in misery without having to lose anyone yourself, as shown in this image...

Never Morning Wore to Evening But Some Heart Did Break (1894) Walter Langley
Whilst Langley isn't Pre-Raphaelite, he borrowed from Tennyson to express the grief and hopelessness of existence for the unlucky for the interest of the less unlucky.  Mind you, it wasn't only images that drew from In Memoriam...

Little Speedwell's Darling Blue (1892) J E Millais
Apart from being a work from Millais more cloying period, Little Speedwell is taken from section 82 of the poem, but the subject matter of Millais' work seems out of character with the introspection of the verse.  Possibly Millais intended the title to be a tribute to the poet in the year he died.  It's almost as unlikely a Tennysonian painting as this one...

The White Owl (1856) William J Webbe
This is a rather famous picture, having been found in someone's broom cupboard or the suchlike in recent years, and is startlingly realistic.  What I didn't realise was that it's subtitle 'Alone and warming his five wits, / The white owl in the belfry sits' was a quote from 'The Owl' by Tennyson.  That is an impressive owl.

No conversation about visual interpretations of Tennyson's work can not include the work of his neighbour, Julia Margaret Cameron.  It was his work that drove her dreamy images, his words that materialised as her glass-house visions.

So Now I Think my Time is Near (illustration to 'The May Queen') (1875) J M Cameron
Elaine Julia Margaret Cameron
Acres has been written on the relationship between Cameron and her good friend Tennyson, but she harnesses the power of his verse in her misty pictures like no-one else.  The heroines of the poems find form in Cameron's family, friends and servants, reflecting the Pre-Raphaelite concern of using real people as models, and despite the restrictions of photography at that time, she manages to convey the emotions of the poems.  Look at the resignation on the May Queen's face, or the quiet longing on Elaine's.

In 1992, a hundred years after his death, I think it is no accident that they used art to express his written word and that it was the works of the artists he influenced so much.  The works of Burne-Jones (The Beguiling of Merlin), Arthur Hughes (April Love, inspired by Tennyson's 'The Miller's Daughter'), Waterhouse (The Lady of Shalott) and Rossetti (Mariana) are now so linked with the poems that gave spring to them it's impossible to untangle them from each other.  The further we get from his Laureate, the harder it is to separate Tennyson from visual imagery he inspired. The Lady of Shalott regularly comes in the top five favourite British paintings in polls and no doubt provides the Tate with a fair amount of income from people who may not be familiar with the poem.  He is the father of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and it is a credit to him that his written word has such power that it can still inspire people who have never read a word of it.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Meet My Main Character!

In a marvellous cross-website escapade, I have been 'tagged' by Kris Waldherr, author and illustrator, to talk about the main character of my novel, A Curl of Copper and Pearl.  Here we go then...

1. What is the name of your main character? Is she fictional or a historical person?

My main character is Alice 'Alexa' Wilding, Pre-Raphaelite model and Dante Gabriel Rossetti's muse from 1865 until his death.  She was definitely a real person, look!

Alexa Wilding in the 1870s
However, I have fictionalised parts of her story as the book is not only about her life but also about the lives of those she knew.  Alexa is the means in which we observe Rossetti and the decline of his life and so some aspects of her life, such as the children she had in the 1870s were not included, in order to keep the story focused.

2. When and where is the story set?

We meet Alexa in 1865.  She lives in the Newgate area of London which was famous for meat and murderers, being home to the prison and the market.  

Newgate Market in 19th century
We follow her through the 1870s, to Kelmscott in Gloucestershire and Bognor on the South coast, following Rossetti's perilous love life to which Alexa was a silent observer.  Alexa was present at some of the most tumultuous years of Rossetti's life and I wanted her to be a pair of fresh eyes, viewing the goings-on without all the baggage we now bring to the stories.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Sibylla Palmifera Henry Treffry Dunn

I think the main conflict is that everything in Alexa's new exciting life is given to her by the men who adore her.  She knows there is an inherent instability in her position as mistress and model and she has to learn the skills to protect her lifestyle and those she loves.  I think there is also a part of Alexa who can't move beyond her former life as a girl from the backside of St Paul's Cathedral who smells like pig meat.  However high she moves up in the world, she is still the same girl, just cleaner.

She cares for the people who she sees as saving her from her old life and she is willing to do anything to help them, even endanger her own life.  Similarly, there is very little that she won't do to maintain her position and she definitely feels a tension within herself over what she is willing to put herself through for money.

Alexa Wilding 1865
5. What is the personal goal of the character?

When we meet her, she has no idea of a goal in her life.  She wants to get through the day, through the season's sewing and go home.  She wants to marry, to move out of Warwick Lane like her friend has, but she can't see how it would be possible as she works all the time.

Her dreams grow slowly as she gets to know Rossetti and his friend George Boyce, but they start as small as cheese and the occasional bath.  She has no frame of reference for the things they start to give to her and so her dreams are usually playing catch-up to her life.

She is placed in a totally unbelievable position of having her own home, nice things, money and time to herself.  She really wants to keep hold of all of that while trying to hold onto her friends and escape her former life, especially when she is reminded by a relative exactly where she comes from.

Monna Vanna 1865
6. Tell me about the title, what is the significance of it?

 To start with, the book was called 'How She Fills His Dreams', taken from the Christina Rossetti poem about the artist's model.  For the same reason, I also considered 'One Face' because Alexa is arguably Rossetti's one face, especially from the later period of his life and art.  However, I wanted something that captured the dream-like, artistic quality of the story and so focused on the detail of her hair and skin.  I also wanted to echo the famous pearl hairclip, worn by Alexa in Monna Vanna.  I also like the fact that it rhymes within itself, something becoming beautiful or revealing its beauty.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?
It's published and available from Amazon here (UK) and here (USA)

The next author whose main characters you will meet:
Robert Stephen Parry, over at Endymion at Night, author of Virgin and the Crab, The Arrow Chest,  Wildish and upcoming novels Elizabeth and The Hours Before.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Public Nudity, But Not Mine

It is certainly hot today.  I have retreated into the front room, onto the sofa with the computer, to wait for it to cool down.  Then I have to do some gardening again.  What I shan't be doing this afternoon is wearing a lot of clothing, rather like this lady...

Lady Godiva (1850) Marshall Claxton
This post came from me finding an image of Lady Godiva and I thought  'I wonder if the Victorians did a lot of pictures of her?' Of course they did!  That should not even be a question because what can be a finer subject for a painting?  You've got boobs, hair and a horse!  What more do you need?  Plus, she was doing it all for the relief in taxation.  What a woman!

Lady Godiva (1897) John Collier
Possibly the best known of all Godiva images has to be Collier's.  I find the modern homages to the Godiva image tend to echo the simplicity of Collier's vision.  Woman, horse, not a lot more.

Modern 'Godiva' with a surprising amount of clothing

Kate Moss in 2001
What I find interesting about Collier's Godiva is that although she has a handful of her hair, it is not obscuring her pink bits in any way at all.  A keynote of the Godiva-look is that she is clothed in her hair.  Collier's lass is not covering anything up.

Lady Godiva (1892) Edmund Blair Leighton
So what's the excuse for all this lady-flesh?  Once upon a time in Coventry, there lived a lady called Godiva who was married to the fabulously named Leofric.  They were a jolly couple, giving lots of money to religious concerns and the suchlike.  However, the legend has it that Leofric was a bit heavy with the taxes.  Lovely Lady Godiva pleaded on behalf of the people of Coventry and her husband said 'I'll lower the taxes when you ride through the town naked!'  I believe that is the very moment that Blair Leighton is showing us.  You can see Godiva thinking 'I do have rather long, thick hair...'

Lady Godiva William Holman Hunt (from the Moxon Tennyson)
So, Lady Godiva, not being easily fobbed off, went to her room and stripped off.  A message was sent around the town that if they fancied having low taxes then everyone ought to go home, shut the curtains and not think about peeking at the nudey lady who was about to trot past.  Obviously.

Lady Godiva Edward Henry Corbould
Godiva Disrobing to Ride Through Coventry (1887) Joseph Henry Sharp
Seemingly a quite popular moment to depict is when Lady G gets her kit off and sneaks off to find a horse.  Sharp shows her modestly covering her right knee (it would be terrible if someone saw that) while tiptoeing off to the stables.  Her lovely white horse is awaiting her with a saddle.  I'm not sure if a saddle is a good thing or not in this situation.  Corbould's Godiva is rather pneumatic, isn't she?  I'm not sure what to make of her jelly-mould boobs, and again, that right knee stays carefully concealed.  Am I missing something?  Is the most erotic part of a lady her right knee?  There is rather a lot of brambles and pointy brickwork in Corbould's scene.  Ouch.

Lady Godiva's Prayer (1865) Edwin Henry Landseer
I notice Landseer's Lady is riding side-saddle on a lovely comfy cloak.  I wonder if her prayer contained lines about not falling off or getting lost or bees.  She's probably hoping that everyone got the message about not peeping too.  I'll come to that...

Lady Godiva (1898) Jules LeFebvre
So here she is, trotting off around Coventry.  In some versions she is being led by a nun which means she can ride around with her hands crossed over her wobbly bits.  I find the images where she is in a cringe of nude-y shame rather irritating.  Come on, if you're going to do it, have a bit of fun with it.  After all no-one is looking and you are getting to ride about the town with no pants on.  That's fun!  If you're really worried, fashion yourself a sort of bikini with your hair because on a health and safety note, you'd be better off holding on to the reins.

There are some rather glorious statues associated with Godiva riding about in Coventry, and I do love a bit of statuary...

Lady Godiva (1861-4) Anne Whitney
Here we have a rather noble lady, getting ready to bare all for tax relief (and who wouldn't?).  If you had to name the subject without the title, I think you would be rather hard-pressed because she really is just a rather thoughtful woman in oldy-worldy dress.  The following one leaves you in no doubt, however...

Lady Godiva Charles Bell Birch
Naked. Hair. Horse.  Could only be that well known woman from Coventry.  It does bring a whole new meaning to being 'sent to Coventry', doesn't it?  Also, can I point out that when I learnt to ride a horse, I wasn't allowed one of those nice boxes to step up into the saddle.  I had to feebly jump up and down until I'd worked up enough momentum to haul myself up.  I guess that is a lot less dignified without jodhpurs on.

Lady Godiva John Thomas

Lady Godiva William Reid Dick
I notice she's side-saddle in both of these.  The Thomas statue is a 19th century vision of the maiden, voluptuous and somewhat ashamed of herself, but the Dick is post Second World War and she is a far more modern looking Miss, athletically stream-lined and looking somewhat not bothered by the whole shenanigans.  I'm riding my horse with my thrups out.  Whatevs.

Lady Godiva (1880) G F Watts
Having won the argument by stripping off, Godiva seems to have trotted back and collapsed in a shame-heap into the arms of her servants, all of whom seem to be getting an eyeful.  Obviously she hadn't been entirely clear in the memo she sent out about not peaking at her while riding.  She should have added 'Also, you are not allowed a gawp while I'm falling off my horse when I get back.'

Hurrah for Godiva, a proper Victorian style heroine - she did something philanthropic but she got her boobs out at the same time so it's okay for us all to have a good old look at her and admire her virtue.  That leads me to wonder about the missing piece of the story:  the legend says that one man ignored the request to not look and he drilled a hole in his shutters so he could have a look at Godiva as she rode past.  Sadly for him, that was the last thing he saw because he was struck blind (according to some stories) or struck dead (according to some others).  That man was called Peeping Tom, from whence we get the phrase.  I had a good old troll around the internet and I couldn't find Victorian images of Tom and I wondered why because that is a fairly dramatic twist in the story.  It also reinforces the punishment of sin and all that malarkey that the Victorians would have loved.  Then I got to wondering if, in fact, we are meant to be Peeping Tom?  Certainly, images of a man being struck blind for looking at the same naked lady as we're all gawping at might give one cause to feel uncomfortable, so it explains why possibly there aren't the same levels of images of him as there are other parts of the Godiva story.  Also, we are indeed the chaps staring at Godiva's rather nice assets, so we should watch ourselves.  It is a handy way of reminding us that we are not the virtuous creatures we might imagine we are.

Godiva (close up) John Thomas
So, hurrah for Godiva and her firm stance on taxation.  I think in these days of austerity, we would all merrily do far worse for a chance of a bit of money back.  In fact, I found this rather fabulous poster for a modern day Godiva and her horse, who has found a novel way of raising money for 'good' causes....

And you get to keep your shoes on! Hurrah for tax relief!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Lily-Laden Garden Goddesses

In a flurry of good humour brought about by the lovely Spring weather we have been experiencing, I finally got around to renovating the front garden this week.  I am now, no doubt, crippled for life due to some enthusiastic digging.  However, I do have a love of growing things, inherited from my father, and currently the floor of our warm conservatory is a nursery for my many and varied baby lavender bushes, grown from seed.  As I lay in the hot bath after toiling in the fields (or front garden, if you must be accurate), I got to thinking about Victorian images of gardening…

A Garden (1869) Albert Moore
This is how I like to see myself as I gamble around in the garden.  I am the epitomy of elegance in something drapey and not at all a sturdy middle-aged woman in what amounts to outdoor pyjamas or an ill-fitting sundress that shows off my operation scars.  I love the pale light of Moore, but it does give you a rather chilly-looking garden. Her flowers look a little bit spindle-y, not that I’m judging.  Okay, I am judging, but then when I was a child I used to enter the flower-arranging show locally so I have some expertise in flowers.  I’m not boasting but I came second with my animal made out of vegetables. I know, I am a woman of many talents.

The Rector’s Garden, Queen of the Lilies (1877) John Atkinson Grimshaw
I rather like this formal garden with its paths and mini-roundabout.  The lass, who I assume is the rector’s daughter, has managed to grow some very impressive lilies.  Thinking about it, possibly she has a man for that and she just gets to swan about being Queen of them.  I’m guessing just out of shot is an elderly gent in a sturdy apron, who tugs his forelock when he sees her. People don’t tug their forelocks anymore do they?  Do people still have forelocks or is it like rickets and poorhouses, stuff that only exists in Victorian theme parks?  Also, tugging your forelock sounds like a euphemism for the sort of thing that gets you arrested in National Trust car parks at night. Moving on…

Hide and Seek in the Garden of Epicurus, Leontium and Turnissa William Stott
This is a lovely shrubbery with lots of gorgeous lilies and the suchlike.  It has to be pointed out that the girls are a bit rubbish at playing hide and seek.  Mind you, Epicurus and co might have a really small garden and that’s the best they can manage, wedged in a border.  They will regret their choice of pastels for outdoor larks.  At least wear something that disguises the mud and grass-stains.  Everyone will know that you have been shoving yourself into the bushes if you insist on doing it in white. 

Thinking about it, maybe I should aim to go a bit more upscale with my garden.  I only have chickens at present, a peacock would be lovely.  I am convinced there is a peacock in the neighbourhood because you can hear it at night, but Mr Walker insists it’s a cat with a problem.

Matilda in the Garden of Delight British School
I would love to think that my patch of uncertain grass and herb beds is a ‘garden of delight’, although again that sounds like a euphemism.  I certainly won’t be inviting any easily startled gentlemen to view my garden of delight, I believe misunderstandings would arise.  Look at the size of that woman’s calla lilies, aren’t they splendid?  It can be speculated that the profusion of lilies in the gardens of these young ladies is a comment on their purity and goodness.  They are reflections of the Madonna herself, their souls as perfect as the white, spotless blooms.  I have a delinquent rosemary bush in my garden.  Make of that what you will.

The Gardener’s Daughter Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale

The Gardener’s Daughter Julia Margaret Cameron
I’ve picked two depictions of a vital moment from Tennyson’s gloriously overblown poem The Gardener’s Daughter.  Our narrator and his friend, Eustace, go in search of the almost mythical beauty of the Gardener’s Daughter, a woman who has slipped into legend as being the measure of all female perfection.  They find her pinning up a rose bush that has been blown by the wind.  She is as wonderful as the descriptions of nature that have preceded the moment she is seen.  Brickdale’s illustration comes from my copy of Tennyson's collected poems and I love the look she is giving us as we gaze upon her floral splendidness.  Cameron’s girl is wonderfully fuzzy and dreamlike.  She is there, a photograph attests to her realness, but the blurring of the rose arch gives the girl an aspect of a vision, a mirage which I think compliments the rather fevered tone of the poem.  If this was the 1960s I would allude to the nature of the ‘trip’ the men take to find this wonderful creature.  Coincidentally, it also reminds me of a still from the film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, again a piece with a hazy sense of fantasy about it.

Woman in a Cabbage Garden (1884) James Fraser Taylor
A Cabbage Garden (1877) Arthur Melville
Okay, back down to earth with something that is a little bit nearer the truth in my case.  As much as I’d like to be the fabled beauty with an errant rose bush, instead I tend to grown things that are edible.  I have always grown herbs and tomatoes, together with chilli plants and potatoes and now strawberries too.  We have an old conference pear tree in the corner of the back garden which is very bountiful and this year we are experimenting with apples too.  I am a little doubtful about how the little apple tree will fare, but take comfort from the fact that should the apple fail to impress, I shall always have an outstanding pear.

Marigolds (1874) D G Rossetti
Right, that’s enough, I’m off to repot my marigolds and take cuttings from various things for fun.  I’ll be back over the weekend with some public nudity.  Splendid.