Today we have the awesome Máire Claremont guesting with us!
The Beautiful and the Damned or why I am in love with the Victorians:
The Victorian Era is one of severe contrast. Absolute morality and propriety was demanded of its middle and upper class women and yet we saw a time when prostitution reached its greatest heights in England. Domesticity was the be all and end all but there was a wild passion brewing underneath all those rules, just waiting to break free. Unfortunately, for women, that wildness pretty much led to death or doom.
Some of my absolutely favorite artists are the Pre-Raphaelites. Dante Gabriel Rosetti and John Millais are genius. Their use of color is brimming with vitality verging on magic. However, its the way they depict women that I find so fascinating. There is a tortured beauty to their subjects, an unattainable otherworldliness as if they wanted their women to be so much more than just made of clay. In fact, they wanted them to be angels. It was a great deal to ask and sometimes their real life models didn’t fare very well.
For instance, Elizabeth Siddal is the face of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Just about all the artists painted her. Rosetti used her many, many times and married her. She was his muse, his angel, and she crumpled under the pressure. Elizabeth Siddal, a artistic genius in her own right, came from a middle class family. She had worked in a hat shop before being discovered but once involved with Rosetti she began the most dangerous affair of her life. . . An affair with laudanum. Her tragic overdose deeply influenced my writing of women in this period and specifically scenes in Lady in Red. Laudanum was so easy to obtain and it helped women to achieve the Victorian ideals of placidity, paleness, and lack of appetite. One could indeed become an unmovable angel. . . If one didn’t die.
Another of the models, Effie Gray, had been married to one of the most influential men of his generation, John Ruskin. It should have been a great marriage. Instead, it was a nightmare. Ruskin refused to consummate the marriage, citing concern for Effie’s health and sanity and a desire to preserve her beauty. Ruskin had a fascination for young girls, was apparently horrified by Effie’s pubic hair, actually tried to convince Effie that she was mentally unstable, and insisted he was completely in the right. Effie had a very near miss of the madhouse. Ruskin didn’t push and allowed her to sue for an annulment. She then married John Millais who made Elizabeth Siddal famous in his painting Ophelia. Effie also modeled for him. While Effie escaped the lunatic asylum or addiction, her sister wasn’t quite so fortunate. Also, made famous by Millais, Sophie was perhaps too intimate with her brother-in-law or the pressures of Victorian society were too much. She developed anorexia and became ill. Anorexia was a common Victorian disorder, categorized under forms of hysteria. Many women resorted to starvation to avoid an appearance of appetite then synonymous with desire and of course, it also assisted in stopping the “less attractive” bodily functions, something many Victorian women desired. At her family’s wish, Millais had her committed. Tragically, Sophie didn’t survive her battle with anorexia.
These women were beautiful and the muse of genius, yet the Victorian era attempted to or succeeded in crushing them. There was little recourse for them. Help was virtually non existent. And so, I find myself drawn to this period, giving my heroines the hope and chance at escape that so often eluded their real life counter parts.
Bio: 2011 Golden Heart winner Máire Claremont first fell in love with Mr. Rochester, not Mr. Darcy. Drawn to his dark snark, she longed to find a tortured hero of her own… until she realized the ramifications of Mr. Rochester locking his frst wife up in his attic. Discovering the errors of her ways, Máire now looks for a real-life Darcy and creates deliciously dark heroes on the page. Oh, and she wants everyone to know her name is pronounced Moira. Her parents just had to give her an Irish Gaelic name.
As you see, I just had to include her bio with what she sent because we both have that name thing. 😀