Gabriel Rossetti was a poet and a painter. Perhaps surprisingly, his work (as well as that of his Pre-Raphaelite ‘Brothers’) was inspired by contemporary American writing. When the young Pre-Raphaelite Brothers drew up their mock-serious list of the greatest artists of all time, Americans writers were included: Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
But the Rossettis’ appreciation of American writing had its roots in childhood. When Maria, Gabriel, William and Christina were children, they resisted their religious mother’s best efforts to push them towards the early Victorian era’s tiresome morality tales such as the despised Fairchild Family series, with its shiny-faced children eager to pitch in with the family chores. In fact, the young Rossettis went the other way entirely when they discovered an illustrated collection of horror stories called Legends of Terror in their uncle’s library. These ghoulish delights, entitled things like ‘The Legend of the Bloody Hand’ ‘A Night in the Grave’, ‘The Maniac’s Fate’, were entertaining and frightening in equal measure, and helped inspire Gabriel and Christina’s gothic imaginations
This blog explores the thriving Victorian cities which inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, and were shaped by them in turn. While the Pre-Raphaelites produced poetry and art praising the natural world, most were born and raised in urban environments, and their work retained a cosmopolitan sensibility. Although this blog will sometimes take excursions into the countryside, its focus will remain on city life. If you want more information on images or sources, please get in touch.