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The real voice of Elizabeth Siddall

Elizabeth Siddall was an important and influential artist and poet during the 19th century, but did her published poems reflect her own words? After discovering that the published editions were heavily edited by her brother-in-law, the University’s Dr Serena Trowbridge set out to rediscover Siddall’s own poetic voice.

Handwritten poetry n fountain pen

Researcher

Dr Serena Trowbridge

Research background

Dr Trowbridge has held an interest in the poetry of Elizabeth Siddall for 20 years, ever since discovering that the very few published poems she had published were heavily edited by her brother-in-law, William Michael Rossetti. Siddall is best known as the wife and muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Dr Trowbridge’s work reasserts the value of her small but significant body of poetry, published for the first time in an edition based on her own manuscripts, which are held at the Ashmolean Museum’s archive.

Aims of research

The research aimed to offer a taste of Siddall’s own poetic voice, without the muting and restraining hand of W M Rossetti. Her work is little-known, apart from a few highly-edited works in anthologies, and was Dr Trowbridge’s intention that her popularity as a historical figure would be augmented by an enhanced understanding of her creative work.

Method of research

The book includes a substantial introduction and otherwise consists of 20 poems which Dr Trowbridge transcribed from the Ashmolean manuscripts. These poems have annotations for additional explanation.

Outcomes

The book provides the first academic edition of Siddall’s poetry, and the first taken directly from Siddall’s own manuscripts. The poems consequently read very differently, sometimes less polished, but with a more authentic and immediate female voice. This provides a fresh insight into Siddall’s poetry and will provide fertile ground for new interpretations of her work.