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Amanda Palmer and the beauty that is dressing differently.

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I like to think of Amanda Palmer as a type of Queen of the Misfits. She represents to a lot of people myself included a sort of mother hen sort of character to this feeling that perhaps we don’t have to be ‘normal’. From the day, we are born we are taught that being different is bad seemingly drilled into that there is only one true way to be. Amanda Palmer is refreshing in why she is happy to be so unique.

As this is unlikely fashion stars I won’t talk about Amanda Palmer personally but I will instead be talking about her choices in clothing and why she is a good study for this.

Push the limits of what is deemed acceptable.amanda

When I say this, I am firstly just talking about fashion. Secondly there is still limits of what is considered acceptable. Screaming down George St, Sydney naked yelling out “I am Mr Puddlewinkle” is going to get you arrested. Being naked in public is still seen as being wrong.

My point is that pushing the limits of what social deems as fashionable and what you want to be is always a good idea. Amanda Palmer’s outfits are a mix of circus and 1920s flappers. I say this in a loving way. The outfits that women in that period wore was clothing that was often beautiful and pushing the sexuality.

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This brings me to my second important message and wear clothing that makes you feel beautiful. Recently I have been reading a book about fast fashion and the issues that it causes in society. This idea of clothing as being disposable and quickly abandoned makes me cringe a little bit. I feel that clothing is a huge part of our identity and how it is shown to the world, for clothing to be disposable then I feel we lose that connection. Our clothing should last longer than weeks, to me some of my favourite dresses hold enormous memories and last a great deal. So strong is this that when I finish wearing them I hope to repurpose them into pillows or something similar.

Amanda Palmer’s clothing are reminiscent of clothing as artworks, of lace and embroidery that cascades down the backs of dresses. Of corsets and the spending time to get dressed in something beautiful. Of course, in saying this, I want in no way to go back to time when getting dressed would take hours but wearing pieces that are feminine and flowy is a wonderful way to dress up.

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Amanda Palmer may dress up more than most but finding a beautiful outfit that feel special is a wonderful feeling. If you don’t want to feel feminine of course there are many beautiful extras that add something special to an outfit like a tie or even a lapel pin. Don’t be afraid to wear something that is beautiful and wonderful in this way.

Dressing is about more than looking slim. 

I have always considered Amanda Palmer as being quite slim and so this is in no way about weight. Instead this is about wearing clothing that is more than simply about making you look smaller than you are. There is a push in fashion that fashion is about slender people, that anyone outside of this view is either wrong or a problem. This creates a society that only ever wears clothing that makes them look smaller no matter the weight that they begin at. We are more than our weight just as we are more than how we appear to be in clothing. Instead I would like to say how we feel in an outfit is important, if we want to wear a beautiful silk dress that may look our hips bigger than wear it anyway. If you feel confident in it than no one is going to notice that you look just that little bit bigger.

Amanda Palmer recounted a story in her autobiography “The Art of Asking” (2014) that once she had created a music video with her previous record company. It was here that she said she had a wonderful day creating the music video to be given a damaging comment about how she looked at times in the video. She argued that if she had a wonderful day than why did it matter that at times she looked happy not perfect? I would argue that Amanda Palmer is the rawest when she happy enjoying her music. Of the pictures, I found of her it was these ones where she looked the most content and as a result in her clothing choices.

Amanda Palmer and her wonderful style shows that she is a great example of being who we want to be. That as we are multifaceted people with a variety of different wonderful qualities so should our choices. Be as wonderful as fashion is all the choices that we have in society show that we can dress the way we desire to, we weren’t meant to be the same so why do we let our fashion choices be?
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Conclusion

In conclusion Amanda Palmer is to some people a controversial person, she has at times done things that have upset people. She also on the other side brings a great deal of joy. Amanda Palmer love her or leave her she does show us that there is always a chance for us to one day create art as well. That one day we might too be known for the things we love. Amanda Palmer has managed to change the face of how music can be distributed, changing the idea that a record deal is the only way. She also comes across as strong in her choices, she wears the outfits she ways to with her head held high, something I think all of us needs to consider. We can be different if we want to, the world needs people to be happy with themselves. There is only one you after all.

References 






 

Why did she get a book deal? When people get book deals because they are “famous”.

Why did she get a book deal? When people get book deals because they are “famous”.

I wasn’t surprised when Kim Kardashian released that ridiculous selfie book, there is a strange celebrity cult around the Kardashian’s that have never interested me too much. There is a sense that when a person who is famous without any discernible talent that it is imminently unfair when they publish a book. I say that in this instance that the book was awful because the concept behind the book sounded unsellable to me. As someone who reads a great deal and hopes to one day write a novel the argument that a person could post a book based on their self-Instagram shots is troubling and I am not the only one it seems.It is taking a great deal to not roll my eyes at even the cover to that book. 2b17bd2400000578-0-image-m-2_1438698515154

I believe that the idea stems from the fact that we expect writers to ‘deserve’ their books. We want to think that a book gets published because a person is talented. It is I think the same idea of what we are taught in school, that to work hard means that you are rewarded as such. We want to think that the musician that has spent years training to become a famous singer. That the writer not only has talent but has been furiously writing for the last four years to get published. The sad thing is that talent doesn’t always mean that you are rewarded as such.

The truth is that we want to believe that talent is the only thing that is stopping us from also be famous. I am not a psychologist and I am not trying to be at all. What I do believe is that this belief comes from when we were children, back then we were told that working hard was enough. As adults however, we learn that the truth is anything but.

Which brings me to my next point, I read today that the womchewbaca_mom_fb_livean who uploaded a video of herself happily playing about in a Chewbacca mask got a book deal. The woman’s name is Candace Payne and she is a 37-year-old mother from Texas.  I personally was surprised as she became an internet sensation that became quite popular but then vanished just as quickly. There is a frightening thing about celebrity is that it can change people’s lives way too quickly and then leave when the world changes their mind. I am surprised because generally those sort of viral videos doesn’t really have the staying power to get a book deal on this. Though Harambe is still being mentioned so maybe I am glaringly wrong.

What prompted me to write this is in response to the comments that surrounded this announcement, people were angry. Why were they angry? They were angry because it changes how we were told as children. I am a child of the nineties, we are labelled as being used to participation medals and being told that we are extremely special. While I can argue that this is a product of most generations and positive based reinforcement is proven method in deal with children. All the preparation in the world can’t prepare us for the power and dynamics around fame. It doesn’t mean that we average people will always receive a reward for our troubles.

The truth is that the Chewbacca mother did not post the video because she expected a book deal, instead she took the little fame she has and followed it through. While we may not want to admit it, we too would take the same opportunity. I hope for her sake that I am not correct but I expect that the book will probably not sell the numbers that the book sellers expect of it.  A few years ago I bought the autobiography of the lead singer of the band Gossip for a $1 at the local bookshop. Consider that Gossip’s youtube channel has at least one music video with over twenty-two million views and they were on the throw out bin, I wonder what will happen with the Chewbacca mum when people forget. While you could say that well this doesn’t show popularity, Gossip was a popular band for years much longer than Chewbacca mum has. The truth is that there will always be people that are given book deals when they don’t deserve it.

I have two degrees and yet there are people in high positions that don’t even have degree. The truth is that instead of getting angry at someone getting a publishing deal like this think of the writers that deserve the place they have.

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Neil Gaiman’s recent book has continued to sell out as soon as it comes into a book store. For a man in his fifties who has had lasting power as a writer even he is flabbergasted at the desire for his book. This story makes me happy as he deserves this, he has worked hard for many years writing book after book. He is kind to his fans and often will sign books in a bookstore and leave them so that the often struggling independent book sellers to make them more desirable. I heard a story once that when bad things happen to look for the good people. I think that we need to care less about the people that got something that they didn’t deserve and more about the people that got something they did. I want to one day write a book that gets published and I hope I get this because I deserve it.

In the meantime, I started this so I can remember to love writing again, writing is about more than words on a page. Writing is about enjoying the process of it, it’s about the excitement of creating something that you made. I am not an artist but I imagine that it’s the same thing that they feel when they create an artwork. Please don’t be sad that someone got something you didn’t because I do believe that hard work is always going to lead to a positive result. Even if it is not the one we wanted.  At least I want to believe that because otherwise what would the point of doing anything be? Maybe being famous isn’t important but just having at least someone enjoying our work. Remember why you want to write and then it’s less important who got their first.

 

That’s Dame to you- Dame Maggie Smith.

That’s Dame to you- Dame Maggie Smith.

maggie-smith-movies-6513bb1b00d453efa46c36fa29b751f1-large-1239620Maggie Smith is one of those actors that I think can reflect the person when they admit the first thing that saw them in. Often this argument is used for actors like Tim Curry or the late great Alan Rickman that due to the large number of popular movies they have been in, that some people believe that a person’s first exposure of their movies says something about them. Maggie Smith I feel is like that and I personally have a huge connection to her as an actress due to Harry Potter. I find that she is one of those actors though that has been in so many movies that people have a connection to each role.

You may have noticed that this blog deals with Harry Potter a great deal, as I am in my early twenties I was a child when the Harry Potter books were released. Harry Potter was to me a world that was just so beautifully magical, I have loved to this very day. I am not sure if it was the fact that as a child I was surrounded by adults but I tend to come back to it a great deal. Maggie Smith was a fixture of all of the movies playing Professor McGonagall, a part I can’t see being played by anyone else. 20-pictures-of-young-maggie-smith-u1With the way that Hollywood often does remakes I doubt that the current Harry Potter movies with be the only ones to ever exist though I hope they don’t because I couldn’t see another actor as McGonagall. Maggie Smith, who is now eighty-two, has had a lengthy career as an actor beginning at the age of seventeen in 1952 playing Viola in Twelfth Night.

 

Be confident in what you are wearing.

I wasn’t hit with the acting bug personally, writing was always more of a favourite as you are probably starting to see. I imagine that a large part of being an actor is having to be confident even when you feel pretty ridiculous. Maggie Smith is one that gets into her character whole heartily and this confidence is one that all of us should consider.pd3552232_film-h_2688550b

This comes down to considering the way that we wear our clothing, are we just wearing an outfit or are using it an extension of who we are. I do think at times we limit our creativity because it’s easier to dress the same way as everyone else. We buy work clothes that are the same in every colour because it is just easier that way. This is difficult when there are uniforms to wear for work but when you are free to wear what you want, don’t feel the same constraints. I am also a big believer in confidence at every size.

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a muumuu

Just because someone is bigger doesn’t mean that the only clothing they get is a shapeless tee shirt and pant combos or muumuus. Sadly, there are people that believe that clothing should be this way, that being overweight means you don’t deserve the same options, it is sad how many people think this way. Compared to the past though there are a great deal more shops that cater to bigger sizes at the moment so it is possible to dress a great deal better.

 

Confidence is important when dressing, don’t ever feel that you can’t wear what you want to. Within reason though of course- most jobs won’t let you wear a Batman outfit to work, but it’s the little touches that can make a uniform feel a bit better. Wearing a headband or wearing a little flower in your hair can be enough to make you feel an individual even in the most boring outfit.

maggie-smith2Be careful with make-up.

I remember years ago I was at the markets and saw a magazine that said never wear blue eyeshadow on the front. At that stage I was about fourteen and experimenting with eyeshadows. I don’t think that you should ever feel that you can’t wear blue eyeshadow, I don’t want to go against my earlier point but consider your choices. Maggie Smith has always worn make-up that give her a natural look. Her make-up in regards to her acting should be considered differently. I didn’t live through the eighties but it seems that the choices in fashions affected everyone who lived during that time. My own mother had a purse that was the exact shape of a chicken, this I don’t believe was the norm but a quirk distinctly my mother. This purse I feel highlights the sort of bright fashions that were extremely popular. My point is that what is fashionable at that time doesn’t always create a timeless quality and the same goes for make-up. Make-up fashions that are more extreme, like huge batwing eyes, don’t always suit the middle of the day. Some lipsticks don’t always go well with certain complexions and it’s something that you learn with make-up. Maggie Smith found what worked for her and kept going with it through most of her fashions, she chose the understated look which works. Make-up works well when you are not only confident but works with your natural skin tones and find a good comfort. I have in recent years decided only to wear make-up for special occasions or when I want to, sometimes this is to do with money as make-up is expensive but I do enjoy wearing it when I do. Make-up can be an extra expression but only if you want it to be.

Maggie Smith is one of those actors that has been uncompromising about the acting; she is devoted to her craft. Maggie Smith is an amazing actress and I hope that she continues to act for many years to come, she is truly one of my most favourite actresses and she presence makes me smile every time I watch Downton Abbey. Remember to always dress the way you want; be confident in everything that you do.

References

https://unlikelyfashionstars.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/885b0-maggie-smith2.jpg

https://cloudpix.co/movies-maggie-smith-1239620.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/maggie-smith-real-lady-van-nobody-will-ever-understand-ended/

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Why Underground is a show you really need to check out.

 

I came across Underground by accident browsing through Stan one afternoon. Like half of the world now I often watch television by glancing up from my phone screen. It’s not that my mobile is really that interesting it is more that it has become a crutch for me. So when Underground came on I found myself for the first time in ages putting away the phone and watching one of the most engaging television shows I have ever seen in my life.

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Often television shows can have issues with the idea of high stakes. Game of thrones did this really well in the first season when we *SPOILER ALERT* saw Ned Stark the main character gets executed, it was at this point that we realised that any of the characters could die at any time. I will be honest that my interest Game of thrones has sort of tampered off in recent years, mainly due to the lack of streaming options in Australia combined with the high prices of the DVDs has meant by the time you can get it in Australia  spoilers have already appeared online. I have also found Game of thrones just isn’t as strong as earlier seasons were.

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Elizabeth is the one driving.

Underground really gets you invested in the characters not just the main characters that escape the plantation (this really isn’t a spoiler it’s called Underground) but also the background characters as well. Elizabeth a white woman that agrees with her husband to start helping slaves trying to escape is a really good example of this. Elizabeth is interesting as she begins the series as being this very stereotypical women of the time, who was desperate to have a child. I expected her I think to be very similar to Suzanna Macon the wife of the Slave owner. While Suzanna would also surprise me in episodes, Elizabeth began to shock me with just the strength that she portrayed in season one. At the end of the season she just became this amazing female character.

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Suzanna Macon is at the front with her husband and Ernestine at the back.

Underground is unique is that we see not only the slaves and their horrible lives but also the reasoning of the villains. There really is a sense that everyone in the plot feels like that they are right, and the way that they justify this is done in really exciting ways. One really good example of this without giving any details away is a conversation with two characters that have the same father, one is a slave the other is a white slave owner. A large part of this is due to the strength of the cast that portray these characters. A really important mention needs to be Amirah Vann who plays the slave Ernestine who is really conflicted in her status as a slave but also with her sense of accepting it as being their way of life. Every scene that Ernestine is in you can see her thoughts elegantly portrayed across her face, as a slave she has to keep her emotions in check but you still see them. I truly can’t think of a bad actor in the series because even the child actors do a strong job. It’s hard to find a cast like this, it reminds me of Boardwalk Empire and the very jarring character of Lucy Danziger, the actress and I am not going into this by criticizing people to extremes but did not I feel play a strong part. I was relieved if I am honest when she left the show.

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Ernestine

Underground had me eagerly watching the series consistently, while there were times the action got a bit ridiculous for the most part it was amazingly done. For many television shows the most action occurs when the villains and the heroes are together. While shows like Game of thrones gets around this by having characters that are rich and often talk to each other with a series of snipes with Underground this was harder. In Underground when these clashes happen it means that the runaways who are already at a lower status are at a disadvantage straight away, for them to then escape when caught got a little over the top but was still entertaining. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One *SPOILER* Harry, Ron and Hermione get caught and are brought to the Malfoy manor. Here it looks like this will be the end of the story as Voldermort had been summoned which meant that they would all get killed. Of course because they are the heroes of the movie they do escape. Underground does this a few times but does allow characters to get injured and die so it doesn’t lose this momentum.

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Underground really made me think of the lives of slaves and how horrific this history is while also reinforcing the human desire to just be free. Underground does a strong point of presenting slaving through the many different ways that the issue with considered in the time period which I felt created a much stronger story. It would be too easy to highlight the slave owners as being just evil and the slaves as being good but it was the characters in the middle that were the most interesting to me.

Underground season one is available at the moment on Stan in Australia. I don’t think that the series has been released on DVD in Australia.

 

Valentine’s day considered through Luna Lovegood (written by an expert on dating as I have a boyfriend)

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Valentine’s day has never been that important to me after I got into a relationship, it felt like I had already won the race. Why would I need flowers and chocolates when I have someone to love me every day? Before meeting my boyfriend at nearly twenty-one Valentine’s day was a bit of a disappointment, one year I went to lunch with my best friend and my mum which did make it an amazing day but other than that it just seemed to exist. I picked Luna Lovegood for this as she is a dreamer, happy and different to the already bizarre word that is the wizarding world. To the dreamers out there I hope you enjoy your Valentine’s day.

 

The best Romance is when it’s something that appeals to you personally.

Luna Lovegood spent the books doing what she wanted to do. She dressed differently to the very medieval style clothing that wizards wore. It seems that while we never do see Luna getting married that she got married in a wedding dress made of rainbows, spangles and a tiara of silver unicorn horns. I suspect that this was highlighted in Pottermore which I started but just couldn’t finish. This dress is very Luna and shows how important it is to be comfortable over social conventions.

For Luna wearing what she wanted at her wedding makes it all the most romantic for me. A big part of Valentine’s day for me is not buying flowers and chocolates because you feel you should but buying what really reflects your partner’s personality. For me I would love to snuggle on the lounge and watch a show together and to end it by making a special dinner for my darling boyfriend. You might want a fancy dinner and a bouquet bigger than your head but for many of us a tailored present is so much nicer. I wouldn’t say no to flowers though, just maybe my favourite flowers like gerberas or those coloured roses that have become popular (I’m not that resolved on the low maintenance options).

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Don’t compare yourselves to others.

Recently I went out for lunch with two friends from school. One of my friends is in a long term relationship with his fiancé and the two have been together for nearly four years. My other friend has been with her boyfriend for a few months. Me and the engaged friend was taking about how different it is when you have been together for years, that it’s less dropping off their lunch and surprise flowers but that it’s better in most ways as you know each other so much more. My point is that relationships evolve and most of the time for the better. While I do miss those first few months at times when things were all extremely new, those feeling fade quickly.

Other people’s relationships aren’t meant to be the same as yours, we are all quite unique and I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s what causes problems for people’s relationships is when they compare it to other people. It can get to a point that they can’t see the positives of their relationship anymore which effectively kills it.

Luna Lovegood didn’t allow herself to be compared to others. During Quidditch matches she would wear a hat that depicted the house that she was supporting. For Gryffindor she wore a lion’s hat that when she tapped the hat with her wand it would roar. Luna never compared herself to others, if she had she wouldn’t have worn the hat.fan-art-luna-lovegood-21200578-500-273

Consider the things to be grateful for,

Valentine’s day is a good day to look at your partner and think of the ways that they make you happy. A really specially Valentine’s present could be a jar with slips of paper reciting all the things you love about your partner. Once when I was studying for exams by boyfriend gave me a chocolate box with little slips of paper on what he loved about me. I ended up eating the chocolates but I kept the paper list because it was so special.

I like that Valentine’s day in that it’s one day a year when we are forced to no longer be complacent in our relationships. I believe that being in relationship is nodh_luna_lovegood_in_yellow_dress_01t taking your partner for granted. I was recently told to pick your partner every day and I think that is a sweet idea, to wake up and chose to be with them. So make an effort, think of what they would like to do and do that, think of things that you both enjoy to do together. If your partner hates football than don’t pick a football match for that day.

If your single, then thinking of things that you are grateful for is a good exercise. Being single is never a bad thing, it just means that you aren’t in a relationship at this time, so use the day to do something you love. If you would love to try skydiving then resolve to book it, make the day about you.

Luna highlighted this by always putting in an effort to her friends, while at times Harry might have been a bit complacent in his
friendships Luna always made sure that she put that effort in. Luna was a loyal person that never took her friends for granted which is a good lesson for all of us.

Enjoy your Valentine’s day everyone whether your single or in a relationship.luna-lovegood-with-harry-potter-luna-lovegood-21703324-423-500

References

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Luna_Lovegood

 

The Muse of Art (1)- Elizabeth Siddal

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Elizabeth Siddal could never have imagined that her life would lead to her almost drowned in a bathtub while being painted by Sir John Everett Millais. It was hard to be the muse to painters in 1852, to be seen as important for the work but not existing outside art. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood was created in 1848 to create Art that was going back to what they thought were Medieval Sensibilities and paint what they thought were worthy subjects such as the bible or Shakespeare (Millais was creating his downed Ophelia painting).

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John Everett Millais’ Ophelia 

Elizabeth Siddal reminds me a great deal of Sybil Vane from A Picture of Dorian Gray an actress that impresses the main character Dorian. It is her performance in the theatre that makes her a prize to him but when she falls in love with him instead she loses her strength as a performer. Disguised that she is no longer acting the way that he expected Dorian rejects her which leads her to kill herself. It is here that he recounts a famous selfishness by saying that for fifteen minutes he was distraught at her death but then was recovered. The reason that this fictional death reminds me of Elizabeth Siddal is that while these women existed outside of the relationship when it develops they are expected  to drop everything in return. While Dorian wanted her to still be an amazing actress there is a sense that this is no longer the case for her, that these women only exist in their connection to men such as Dorian, rich and powerful. This is highlighted for Elizabeth Siddal who was expected to suffer for the beauty of Art.

Elizabeth Siddall was born in 1829 later she would shorten her name to Siddal. She was working class and so found work as an assistant to a milliner. It was here that in 1849 Elizabeth Siddal’s life would change when Walter Deverell happened to walk in and ask her employer if she could model for him.

It was Dante Rossetti who would become the most captivated by Elizabeth for her beauty drawing her image consistently they would marry in 1860 after a nearly decade relationship that was on and off. It is always difficult to truly understand a different person’s relationship, what is normal really? It is obvious though that they had a great deal of attraction or love for one another it is possible to see that Rossetti was possibly quite absent to her affections in that time.

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A frightening thing can occur with artists is that the muse only occurs within this space and they can be seen as little more than their connection to the Art. It doesn’t always occur this way, for example Leonard Cohen wrote when his muse died not that long before he would that “And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t have to say anything more about that because you know all about that” there is a tenderness in the way that Leonard says his goodbye to his muse, the way that he views her as an entire person. It feels less of a goodbye to the muse but to a person. Elizabeth wouldn’t have this fate as seen after her death when Rossetti would disturb her resting place to retrieve his poems that he had flung into the coffin.

Elizabeth in these times began the create Art herself, I am not an Artist but there is a haunting quality to the self-portraits that she would make of herself it was like the eyes are darkened giving them this quality. I wonder how she was feeling in this time to be painted by these men that valued art above all else. As a writer I can see the appeal that takes hold of these Artists, I myself write this in a type of frenzy so important it feels to discuss the lost potential of Elizabeth dead at the young age of thirty-two. The point is that Elizabeth was talented and it is ashamed that she is greatly remembered as the model than as a creative person in her own right. When she had separated from Dante it seems that she even attended an Art school in Sheffield which shows her commitment of her own art.

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Elizabeth’s self Portrait

It seems that Elizabeth spent many of those ten years trying desperately to gain Rossetti’s affections especially when he became infatuated with a different model Annie Miller who was involved with William Holman Hunt (a man with a very impressive beard). It seems that Rossetti would go between being attentive when she was ill to being absent again. There are arguments that she may have pretended to be sick to get his attention but as she was also becoming addicted to laudanum and had become weakened due to nearly dying modelling Ophelia it seems that she was actually quite sick at this time. As his muse she was always trying for his affections and her illness was only one way he seemed to be attentive. The idea of the dying beautiful woman would be highlighted in many artistic works such as Edgar Allan Poe which is quite frightening in retrospect, that women on the edge of death are weak and more appealing.  It was in 1860 that is seems that her family believed that she was dying, it was here that they would be married after all those years in partnership.

It was after this marriage that is became particularly tragic, in a time when women and childbirth was a dangerous and risky thing that often led to the death of either the mother or the child and in many cases both it leaves the question on how did women deal with these deaths? To lose child after child and continue to have more in the hope that these will survive must have had damaging effects to a great number of women. It seems that already dealing with problems in her new marriage Elizabeth couldn’t cope when she lost their daughter to stillborn.

According to Lucinda Hawksley, Elizabeth was changed with the loss of her child, that she would sit in the drawing room and sit staring at the fire, if there wasn’t a fire she would stare into space. On one visits by Ned and Georgie, Burn- Jones it seems that Lizzie was in her room alone staring at the empty cradle gently rocking it. As they walked into the room she told them to be quiet so that they didn’t wake the baby. In her grief had Elizabeth created a child that she didn’t have? It sounds like she had. Georgie would find it sad but in his arrogance her husband would call it being melodramatic, there was a distance in that time between child rearing and men. Georgia who was pregnant could see the connection to herself, there was a possibility that she too could become mad in infant grief and while Rossetti was kind in that he never did lock up his wife as so many men did when they had mental issues. For the problems of their relationship he did allow her to grieve he could have moved all the babies stuff and pretended that the child never existed.

When she fell pregnant again it’s hard to consider what her mental state may have been but the fact is that Elizabeth was becoming more and more addicted. What is known is that she dined with the poet Algernon Swinburne and Rossetti. It seems that she went home while Rossetti continued on to an engagement at the Working Men’s College. When he returned he found her in a coma due to a Laudanum overdose, he summoned a doctor and then summed three more when that Doctor said he could not save her. She would die in the early hours of February 11, 1862.

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Rossetti painted this after her death.

Rossetti in his grief continued to paint Elizabeth because truly I don’t believe that he intended to be the source of her pain for many years. There was love there but he was careless, a man that valued himself over everything else which accounts for his absolutely disrespectful treatment of Elizabeth in death. I should point out that I don’t believe in disrespecting the death, I particularly am against the profit that has occurred from real events such as Amityville horror and the exorcism of Emily Rose both making money off people’s tragedies, in both cases young people were murdered and reverence should be given. Sometimes I believe people are so ready to think of supernatural elements that they forget the person that died for that. Elizabeth is an example of this, as Rossetti who in grief would throw his manuscript of poems into the grave with her. He would seven years after her death get her exhumed to retrieve these poems for publishing. It was here that the story of her hair flowing out of the grave would be immortalised. Once more in death Elizabeth would be seen as simply her appearance when she was so much more than that.

“I watch the shadows gather round my heart,

I live to know that she is gone

Gone gone for ever, like the tender dove

That left the Art alone. “- Elizabeth Siddal (Rossetti).

 

References

http://www.thewrap.com/leonard-cohen-so-long-marianne-letter-to-muse-predicted-death/

http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com/pre-raphaelite-marriages-dante-gabriel-rossetti-and-elizabeth-siddal/

http://lizziesiddal.com/portal/category/lizzies-death-and-exhumation/

http://www.eighthsquare.com/esiddal.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Picture_of_Dorian_Gray

 

A Woman on the Edge of Madness (1): Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot

NPG Ax140865; Vivienne ('Vivien') Eliot (nÈe Haigh-Wood) by Lady Ottoline Morrell

Vivienne Haigh- Wood Eliot was born on the 28th May 1888.  As with many women in the past she has been overshadowed by her famous husband, the writer T.S. Eliot. Eliot would like other women who have suffered the same fate would attempt to erase her entirely from history (Hatsheput is an example of this). There is something tragic in seeing how being married to Eliot would impact Haigh- Wood’s life. To see the way that Vivienne an intelligent woman who worshiped her husband’s talent would end up being committed to an asylum in 1938.

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Haigh-Wood met Eliot in 1915 at Oxford. It would not be an understatement to say that the marriage wasn’t an easy one, that Eliot who was twenty-six (he may have been a virgin) and Haigh-Wood weren’t really meant to be a couple. It seems that both Eliot and Haigh- Wood would play off it each other, causing their already existing personality traits to be worse. One of the biggest issues seems to be when they discovered they sexually weren’t compatible which really probably wasn’t that unusual for that time. This led Haigh-Wood to start an affair with Bertrand Russell. I will get back to their marriage but I think it is important to first discuss the historical background to issues that Vivienne had existingly.

Vivienne who called herself Haigh- Wood was plagued with a series of different health problems and to connect it to her life later isn’t unreasonable. Haigh- Wood had tuberculous as a child which led to her having a series of operations as a child. It was said that she had so many operations that she had no memory of her life before she was seven. While this is unfortunate her issues with her menstruation now days which would be helped through doctor’s intervention wasn’t the case in this time which lead to her treatment in ‘hysteria’.

Hysteria and the treatment of what was often medical illnesses in women is horrifying to consider now. To see the way that a woman’s needs and body would be used against them to lead to a hysterectomy or sent to an insane asylum is shocking. Hysteria historically goes back to the Ancient Greeks and from that period till the 1950s would play a large part in the misunderstanding of women’s bodies. Plato in Timaeus argued that

“the uterus is sad and unfortunate when it does not join with the male and does not give rise to a new birth, and Aristotle and Hippocrates were of the same opinion”.

Now for me this is quite a concept to decipher as it highlights the layers associated with women. The idea that women are simply to have children and the belief that our very bodies are against us from the beginning is disturbing. It can be argued that this highlights that women’s bodies are frightening to the men of this time, that through their inability to understand the complexities of menstruation that they wanted to supress it. Women already have issues with seeming to be ‘hysterical’ of being seen as the ‘farer sex’, considering the actual difficulties of birth how women could be seen as weak seems preposterous.

It was Hippocrates in the 5th century BC who actually created the term hysteria as he believed that the uterus would move around the body and cause problems.  He believed that the uterus is prone to get sick because women psychologically are cold and wet compared to the hot dry and warm male body. That sex and procreation leads to the woman’s canal being ‘widened’ and so cause the uterus to not wander. This highlights the difficulties of understanding what to do with the woman that doesn’t have children in this time. If women are seen as only useful for procreation, then how can they exist outside of it? This issue of control through mental illness is a troubling one that will be continued to be addressed in the other cases in this series.

Now you are probably wondering why this is important to the story of Haigh-Wood but this background is important to seeing why she faced imprisonment in this way, as a woman she didn’t show the traits she should have, she didn’t have children and already was being treated for Hysteria. Hysteria was a fake disease that now would have been anything from menstrual problems, to epilepsy to depression and anxiety. Haigh- Wood had extreme issues with menstruation with extreme times between her cycles and issues with flow that would led her to taking sheets from hotel rooms to wash. It is not unreasonable to see these issues could have led to her mood swings. I am not a doctor but having seen the effects on people with these problems and how it causes hormones to be out of whack in a large way makes seeing her problems in a new light.

As with most of history it’s hard to see why Haigh-Wood was placed in a mental institution as Carole Seymour Jones argues she was definitely not mad. What is madness though? Is it rattling against the bars of the mental institution? I think that now days there is no sense in the term ‘mad’ it’s simply a blanket term for a whole host of mental disorders which now have more awareness and help available then in those days.

Haigh- Wood seems to have been a victim of her time, to have the symptoms of hysteria in that time meant that she was already at risk of being deemed insane, to add to this is the knowledge that Haigh- Wood had an affair soon into the relationship. In no way is this trying to defend Haigh-Wood at all. Haigh- Wood was human and made mistakes as one, that doesn’t mean that she loses the right to be remembered.  It seems that the marriage was an unhappy one that continued to be so in front of other people. The Woolf’s (Virginia and Leonard) who had significant issues of their own would be brought into the disagreements. They would side with Eliot in this.  It seems that by having an affair Haigh-Wood would highlight the issue of women’s sexuality, that women who strayed from the general belief of women being chaste were then ‘whores’ the worst thing a woman can be. Eliot had begun to see his wife as being ‘the whore’ which intensified his anger towards her. Haigh-Wood from her own issues and this infidelity wasn’t the demur woman that women were expected to be and that would lead to her downfall.

vivienne_haigh-wood_eliot_by_lady_ottoline_morrell

So how does a smart woman get committed to a mental institution when she wasn’t meant to be there? Firstly, it seems that T.S. Eliot may have wanted to get his wife out of the way. After their separation in 1932 where Eliot went to teach in the United States it seems that she began more and more desperate to see her husband. She would show up at his office at Faber and Faber to the point that the receptionist had a special sign to warn him. Most of her friends abandoned her and she became more and more desperate, one example of this was seen when she joined the British Fascists but political ideology really isn’t an indication of mental instability in itself.
The first time in 1935 that Eliot tried to get her committed the doctors refused to sign the order as the Doctors argued there was no mental disorder. This highlights that there were sinister motives. It seems that Haigh-Wood realised her husband’s intentions as she tried to escape her husband by taking on a false name. It wouldn’t be enough as in 1938 new doctors came and committed her to Northumberland House, Finsbury Park. Vivienne Haigh-Wood would die here in 1947. Her brother when he visited her after her commitment to the mental institute would remark later in 1980 that “ It was only when I saw Vivie in the asylum for the last time I realised I had done something very wrong,” he told Michael Hastings, author of Tom and Viv, in 1980. “She was as sane as I was. What Tom and I did was wrong. I did everything Tom told me to.”vivienne_haigh-wood_eliot_us_passport_photograph_1920_cropped

In a fitting end it would seem that in a last act of power Vivienne Haigh -Wood would leave her papers to the Bodieian Library in Oxford to preserve the record of her marriage to Eliot, so that people would know the truth of the relationship. “The truth will all come out, if not in our life, then after it”. To think of Haigh-Wood being so utterly helpless in the shadow of a powerful man highlights the strength she saw in words. Words had committed her but she would believe words would set her free. This blog post is about considering the woman behind the man, to think of women who were unfairly put into a psychiatric hospital. While history seems to have been written by the victors the fact that these arguments are happening shows that Vivienne Haigh-Wood won’t be forgotten. By all means enjoy T.S. Eliot but consider the woman he locked away, just like Mr Rochester.

Let us remember those ‘mad women’ in the attics of famous men.

For further reading: Painted Shadow by Carole Seymour-Jones.

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/not-crazy-after-all-these-years/165448.article

http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/arts-and-entertainment/books/t-s-eliot-and-the-powerful-influence-of-vivien-haighwood-20150204-135vbq

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/21/books/the-hollow-man-and-his-wife.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_hysteria

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480686/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivienne_Haigh-Wood_Eliot

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/09/30/the-women-come-and-go