FOUR ROSSETTIS: A Victorian Biography by Stanley Weintraub

FOUR ROSSETTIS: A Victorian Biography

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Weintraub, who has explored this epoch in Whistler (1974) and Beardsley (1967), smoothly chronicles the lives of the four children born between 1827 and 1830 to a freethinking Italian political refugee and his devout Italian-English wife. The eldest, the pious governess and tutor Maria, produced a number of devotional writings and a study of Dante's world-view. The youngest, Christina, retreated early into a chronic invalidism from which she quietly pursued her own discoveries in love and pain, in a poetic voice as pointed and reticent as an oboe. The younger boy, William, is perhaps the hero of the Rossetti story: industrious critic and editor, respectable civil servant, indefatigable family breadwinner and publicist. As for Gabriel--intermittently supported by William and a generous aunt--Weintraub records a lively history of advances on never-completed paintings, imperiously unpaid bills, and elaborate scorn for public exhibition--rewarded by constantly increasing esteem and demand as a painter. Gabriel the menagerie-collector surrounded by wombats and armadillos at 16 Cheyne Walk; Gabriel the piously protesting widower secretly exhuming the famous manuscript of poems from his wife's grave; Gabriel the unabashed lover of William Morris' wife; Gabriel the broken paranoiac in a final fog of alcohol and chloral hydrate--there is enough fever and outrage here for all four Rossettis. Weintraub has aimed at a sprightly narrative of biographical fact rather than any systematic critical evaluation; he achieves it with elan if at times with a certain coy condescension. Literate, useful, and pleasing.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1976
Publisher: Weybright & Talley/McKay