Saturday, November 26, 2016

Charlotte Bronte Lecture with Nick Holland

Charlotte Brontë Lecture- Nick Holland

18:30 - 21:00, 07 December 2016
At BLG/05- Bronte Lecture Theaters
How did Charlotte overcome the prejudices of her time? What were the demons that drove Charlotte on, and that nearly destroyed her? Did she really burn a successor to 'Wuthering Heights' and suppress the publication of Anne's greatest novel for ten years, and if so why? We'll take a look at why Charlotte Brontë was such an important writer then, and why she remains so today.

For further information contact Simon Crump-University of Huddersfield:
Tel: 01484 473897
Cost for students: £0.0
Cost for seniors: £0.0
Cost for adults: £0.0

Charlotte Brontë was born two hundred years ago, and is now one of Britain's most loved novelists, but has the enduring success of 'Jane Eyre', 'Shirley' and 'Villette' created a mythology that obscures the real genius behind these works?

History Press author and biographer Nick Holland will reveal the flesh and blood woman, who in tandem with her sisters Emily and Anne crafted timeless novels out of a secluded obscurity. Were the Brontë sisters always a happy family unit? How did Charlotte overcome the prejudices of her time? What were the demons that drove Charlotte on, and that nearly destroyed her? Did she really burn a successor to 'Wuthering Heights' and suppress the publication of Anne's greatest novel for ten years, and if so why? We'll take a look at why Charlotte Brontë was such an important writer then, and why she remains so today.

Nick Holland graduated from the University of Huddersfield in 1992, and is now a professional writer. His biography of the youngest Brontë sister, 'In Search Of Anne Brontë', was released by The History Press to critical acclaim in March 2016. Roger Lewis of the Mail On Sunday called it: “An excellent book filled with passion and pathos”. Nick is a member of The Brontë Society and runs the website Future releases include a new paperback edition of 'In Search of Anne Brontë' (The History Press, May 2017) and 'Emily Brontë: A Life in Twenty Poems' (The History Press, 2018).

Part of the Literature Public Lecture Series

To purchase tickets for this event,  Eventbrite

In Search of Anne Bronte by Nick Holland can be purchased worldwide. 
For more information contact his UK publishers,  The History Press


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Blessed Damozel by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882)

The Blessed Damozel by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) 
Oil on Canvas,  Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University.

The Blessed Damozel by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The blessed damozel leaned out
       From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
       Of waters stilled at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
       And the stars in her hair were seven.
Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
       No wrought flowers did adorn,
But a white rose of Mary's gift,
       For service meetly worn;
Her hair that lay along her back
       Was yellow like ripe corn.
Herseemed she scarce had been a day
       One of God's choristers; 

The wonder was not yet quite gone
       From that still look of hers;
Albeit, to them she left, her day
       Had counted as ten years.
(To one, it is ten years of years.
        . . . Yet now, and in this place,
Surely she leaned o'er me — her hair
       Fell all about my face. . . .
Nothing: the autumn-fall of leaves.
       The whole year sets apace.)
It was the rampart of God's house
       That she was standing on;
By God built over the sheer depth
       The which is Space begun;
So high, that looking downward thence
       She scarce could see the sun.
It lies in Heaven, across the flood
       Of ether, as a bridge.
Beneath, the tides of day and night
       With flame and darkness ridge
The void, as low as where this earth
       Spins like a fretful midge. 

Around her, lovers, newly met
       'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
Spoke evermore among themselves
       Their heart-remembered names;
And the souls mounting up to God
       Went by her like thin flames.
And still she bowed herself and stooped
       Out of the circling charm;
Until her bosom must have made
       The bar she leaned on warm,
And the lilies lay as if asleep
       Along her bended arm.
From the fixed place of Heaven she saw
       Time like a pulse shake fierce
Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
       Within the gulf to pierce
Its path; and now she spoke as when
       The stars sang in their spheres.
The sun was gone now; the curled moon
       Was like a little feather
Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
       She spoke through the still weather. 

Her voice was like the voice of the stars
       Had when they sang together.
(Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird's song,
       Strove not her accents there,
Fain to be hearkened? When those bells
       Possessed the mid-day air,
Strove not her steps to reach my side
       Down all the echoing stair?)
'I wish that he were come to me,
       For he will come,' she said.
       Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd?
Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
       And shall I feel afraid?
'When round his head the aureole clings,
       And he is clothed in white,
I'll take his hand and go with him
       To the deep wells of light;
As unto a stream we will step down,
       And bathe there in God's sight.
'We two will stand beside that shrine,
       Occult, withheld, untrod, 

Whose lamps are stirred continually
       With prayer sent up to God;
And see our old prayers, granted, melt
       Each like a little cloud.
'We two will lie i' the shadow of
       That living mystic tree
Within whose secret growth the Dove
       Is sometimes felt to be,
While every leaf that His plumes touch
       Saith His Name audibly.
'And I myself will teach to him,
       I myself, lying so,
The songs I sing here; which his voice
       Shall pause in, hushed and slow,
And find some knowledge at each pause,
       Or some new thing to know.'
(Alas! We two, we two, thou say'st!
       Yea, one wast thou with me
That once of old. But shall God lift
       To endless unity
       Was but its love for thee?) 

'We two,' she said, 'will seek the groves
       Where the lady Mary is,
With her five handmaidens, whose names
       Are five sweet symphonies,
Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
       Margaret and Rosalys.
'Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
       And foreheads garlanded;
Into the fine cloth white like flame
       Weaving the golden thread,
To fashion the birth-robes for them
       Who are just born, being dead.
'He shall fear, haply, and be dumb:
       Then will I lay my cheek
To his, and tell about our love,
       Not once abashed or weak:
And the dear Mother will approve
       My pride, and let me speak.
'Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
       To him round whom all souls
Kneel, the clear-ranged unnumbered heads
       Bowed with their aureoles: 

And angels meeting us shall sing
       To their citherns and citoles.
'There will I ask of Christ the Lord
       Thus much for him and me: —
Only to live as once on earth
       With Love, — only to be,
As then awhile, for ever now
       Together, I and he.'
She gazed and listened and then said,
       Less sad of speech than mild, —
'All this is when he comes.' She ceased.
       The light thrilled towards her, fill'd
With angels in strong level flight.
       Her eyes prayed, and she smil'd.
(I saw her smile.) But soon their path
       Was vague in distant spheres:
And then she cast her arms along
       The golden barriers,
And laid her face between her hands,
       And wept. (I heard her tears.) 
 Study for "The Blessed Damozel" (First Sketch for Background by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British (London, England 1828 - 1882 Birchington-on-Sea, England). Drawing, 1876. Harvard Art Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Inscription: lower center, black chalk, in artist's hand: "Around her, lovers, newly met / 'Mid deathless love's acclaims, / Spoke evermore among themselves / Their rapturous new names." / First sketch for background of picture "THE BLESSED DAMOZEL" 
 Gift of the artist to Mrs. William Morris; her daughter May Morris; her sale, Hobbs and Chambers, at Kelmscott Manor, July 19, 1939, no. 309; acquired at that sale through Martin Birnbaum by Grenville L. Winthrop, July 1939; his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Love and the greatest of this is love...

The Wizard by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1896 – 1898, oil on canvas, Birmingham Museum, UK
This picture may have begun as early as 1891, although Burne-Jones's account books list him as working on it beginning in 1896. There is some association with Shakespeare's Tempest, the older man reveals an image of a shipwreck to the young girl, in his convex mirror, although Burne-Jones referred to it as his 'Maiden and Necromancer picture' (see Lago, p. 84). It is believed that the wizard himself is the artist in his younger years, and the young girl was modeled by Frances Graham Horner, daughter of his primary patron since the 1860s, William Graham, and as a result, is often biographically interpreted. Two compositional studies for this picture exist, both in Private Collections; sold at Christie's in 1970 and 1971, respectively. 

You see May, it is these things of the soul that are real, and the only real things in the universe---and the little hidden chamber in my heart where you only can come is more real than your little bedroom---if you can believe it---I will furnish it for you---such a couch for your tired soul to lie on, and music there shall be always, soft and low, and little talks when you are refreshed---news of the outer world---when you are rested and can sit up and stand I'll open a little magic window and you shall choose what land you will see and what time in the world---you shall see Babylon being built if you like---or the Greeks coming into Greece---or the North Sea tossing and full of ships, or the piety of ancient France, plaintive notes of ancient Ireland, kings of Samarcand, Nibelungen terrors---all I have raked with greedy hands into my treasure house since I was a mean wretched looking object of ten till now---into that room with the magical window none has entrance but you. (May and Amy: A True Story of Family, Forbidden Love, and the Secret Lives of May Gaskell, Her Daughter Amy, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones by Josceline Dimbleby, pg. 384)

 Love Among the Ruins by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, oil on canvas,  23 Apr 1894 (signed and dated), Wightwick Manor Natinal Trust

The title of this painting is taken from Robert Browning’s poem of 1855. However, it is not a direct illustration of the text, but instead a rather more elusive allegory, typical of the artist. The setting was possibly influenced by a fifteenth-century Venetian text called the ‘Hypnerotomachia Poliphili’. The romantic story was illustrated with woodcuts, some of which show lovers seated amongst fallen pillars and stones. The lover is believed to be Gaetano Meo or Alesaandro di Marco who were favourite models for artists in the late Victorian period. The female, although probably the model Antonia Caiva, alludes to Burne-Jones’s great love, Maria Zambaco, with whom he had a tumultuous affair twenty years previously. 

Love is enough by William Morris, (1834 – 1896)

Love is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming there under,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder
And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass’d over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

 Sonnet Xxxii: The First Time - Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The first time that the sun rose on thine oath
To love me, I looked forward to the moon
To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon
And quickly tied to make a lasting troth.
Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;
And, looking on myself, I seemed not one
For such man's love!--more like an out-of-tune
Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth
To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste,
Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note.
I did not wrong myself so, but I placed
A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float
'Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced,--
And great souls, at one stroke, may do and doat.  

The Lovers by William Powell Frith

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnett 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Dedicated to the man I love. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

A review of The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the Brighton Lanes. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.

Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living - now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois's muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. 

But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality when Beauvois suspected a love affair between Leda and her leading man. A horrific accident left Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century - until Ed Peters finds her and hears the secrets of her past, resulting in a climax more haunting than any to be found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.

Paperback, 360 pages
Expected publication: November 3rd 2016 by Orion
Title:  The Last Days of Leda Grey

Theda Bara

Since, The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox is soon to be published it makes my review a bit difficult. I cannot go into as much detail as I want to. It will be hard to hold myself back but understand in order for the reader to completely get lost in this gorgeous story, I must refrain from gushing. It will be a first for me!~   

 Theda Bara

 'Leda Grey' is told from the male perspective of journalist, Ed Peters who in 1976 walks into a shop to look around when he sees an old photograph of a silent film actress. He falls instantly in love with this coal black eyed, raven haired beauty. When the store owner tells him that Leda Grey is still alive and living nearby in a cliff-top house called, White Cliff he is off in a shot to find his enchantress.  

There is much more to the store owner and his relationship with recluse, Leda Grey. As for Ed Peters, well, his curiosity to find this beauty, now old, grey haired and withered by time, will change both their lives forever. 

 Theda Bara

What I just adored about this story was meeting old recluse Leda Grey.  What must have happened during this young, teenage girl's short film career to result in her locking herself away for years? Why would a young woman choose to live alone, isolated in her crumbling abode with rarely any human contact instead of venturing out into the real world? Even with the past of a brief acting career, some secrets should be left alone undisturbed only to be viewed on celluloid or on a movie screen in a crowded movie house stinking of stale oiled buttered popcorn with nothing but the echoes of the hum of the projector running upstairs in a locked room. 

 Theda Bara in The She Devil, 1918

Author, Essie Fox has done something truly impossible. She has taken the persona of a well-known movie actress, transported her back into 1976 aged and mentally effusive. Having three male counterparts, one an old ghostly lover, Charles Beauvois to tell aspects of her film career.  It is brilliant I tell you.  Also, Leda Grey herself unlocks her past secrets through clues hidden within her silent films made with Charles Beauvois. Journalist, Ed Peters is along for the ride as he pieces together this once beautiful woman's hidden past. Now, what is discovered and what occurs is beautifully written through journalistic interviews between Ed Peters and Leda Grey. 

The Last Days of Leda Grey is Essie Fox's best written work yet!  I cannot convey this enough how much I fell in love with her characters, the setting, the music of the nineteen seventies, her descriptions, her words, the story is ethereal in nature, Gothic in tone and dripping with gorgeous prose.   

Theda Bara film

To purchase your copy of The Last Days of Leda Grey in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

If you live in the U.S., and want to buy The Last Days of Leda Grey visit,  Book Depository


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Visiting Kate Keown and May Prinsep: Sitters to Julia Margaret Cameron: Swann Galleries Auction

Swann Galleries is a small auction gallery on the Upper East Side of New York City. On Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 two photographs by nineteenth-century photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron will be included in this auction, Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks, an auction featuring examples of the medium from its inception in the early nineteenth century through contemporary works.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Swann Galleries yesterday on my lunch break at work before the gallery closed. I expected to see  Kate Keown's albumen print by Mrs. Cameron. However, I was happily surprised to see May Prinsep dressed as Cenci staring right back at me. Well, we meet again future, Lady Tennyson! 
        From Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks catalogue.

Portrait of Kate Keown. Circular albumen print, the image measuring 11 3/8 inches (28.9 cm.) in diameter, the mount 20 3/4x16 7/8 inches (52.7x42.9 cm.), with a gilt rule and an embossed Colnaghi stamp on mount recto. 1866

Estimate $50,000 - 75,000

From the Neikrug Gallery, New York, New York; to Frances and Donald Werner, New York, circa 1975.

A stunning print by Cameron in a scarce circular format. Cameron's circular prints were known as "tondos" (from the Italian rotondo or "round") and reference both Renaissance work and the Pre-Raphaelite paintings of her contemporaries.

This poetic work was the one of the first "life-sized heads" Cameron executed with a new larger-format camera and trimmed to the circular shape. Although Cameron's pictorial style continued to embody an inherent romanticism, this enlarged print size allowed her to render a subject more dramatically and pursue an investigation of the effects of sculptural lighting on her subject's faces. Her reliance on soft focus, intimate perspective, and slight movement imbue these portraits with startling life and spiritual resonance. She wrote in 1866, "I have just been engaged in that which Mr. Watts has always been urging me to do. A Series of Life sized heads--they are not only from the Life, but to the Life, and startle the eye with wonder & delight." (Cox 64-65).

In Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs (J. Paul Getty Museum, cat. no. 875), scholar Julian Cox locates a carte-des-visite version of this portrait, a reduced albumen print in the Isle of Wight County Council Miniature Album, a print at the Yale University Beinecke Library, and a large-format print in the Gilman Collection (which is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
A Study of the Cenci. Albumen print, 
the image measuring 14 1/4x11 5/8 inches (36.2x29.5 cm.), 
flush mounted to the original board. 1870

Estimate $3,000 - 4,500

From the Neikrug Gallery, New York, New York; to Frances and Donald Werner, New York, in 1975.

Interesting to note that the gallery does not include any mention of the sitter by name.
She was May Prinsep a niece, on her father's side, of photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron.

To learn more about the young woman posing as Cenci, you can read my article on, May Prinsep Tennyson

 Guido Reni painting the portrait of Beatrice Cenci at prayer in prison
by Achille Leonardi (Italian, 1800-1870)
Oil on Canvas

Cameron based the pose, drapery, and sad expression of her model on a painting attributed to Guido Reni. The subject is the 16th-century Italian noblewoman Beatrice Cenci who was executed for arranging the murder of her abusive father. One review admired Cameron’s soft rendering of ‘the pensive sweetness of the expression of the original picture’ while another mocked her for claiming to have photographed a historical figure ‘from the life’. (Victoria and Albert Museum)

When in Rome, in 1819, a friend put into our hands the old manuscript account of the story of The Cenci. We visited the Colonna and Doria palaces, where the portraits of Beatrice were to be found; and her beauty cast the reflection of its own grace over her appalling story.
--Mrs. Percy Shelley

Julia Margaret Cameron often directed female models to represent tragic heroines whose sorrow made them beautiful. Cameron composed this image around the sitter's downcast eyes and scrolling hair--which spills out from under a turban. Cameron's niece, May Prinsep, plays the role of Beatrice, the central figure of Percy Bysshe Shelley's play, The Cenci (1819). Prinsep's sorrowful expression conveys the character's resignation to her fate.

Beatrice Cenci, the daughter of a Roman count, lived in Florence during the late 1500s. After Beatrice conspired with her mother and brother to have her father killed, the trial brought to light his cruelty, which included an attempt to rape her. Although the story won public sympathy, the family was nonetheless executed. Cameron was fascinated by this true story and made several photographic studies based on it  (Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California). 

To learn more about the entire auction and photographers, Swann Gallery