We’ve been celebrating all kinds of topics in horror over at The Midnight Society with themed months. February of this year is dedicated to the theme of love and death, and what better way to explore it by commemorating the anniversary of Lizzie Siddal’s passing.
The post initially went live on February 11, a hundred and fifty five years after the fact.
Gaining notoriety in death rather than while she lived and worked as a model for a handful of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, the legend that surrounds her would feed the lore and legend tripping of Highgate Cemetery West in later years. You can read about some of that here, if you rifle through the Highgate Vampire archives. Highgate West, being a central location in the story I’ve been toiling over for three years, is a bit of a big deal, and an even bigger obsession for me.
Imagine Disneyland, but with dilapidated gravestones: that’s basically how I treat the place whenever I’m in London.
They get super angry if you try to sneak in a GoPro to videotape any of it… Not that I’ve ever done that.
No. Totally not.
This story happens by lamplight, under a copse of trees and at the top of a steep hill, predictably under the cover of night when only the most nefarious deeds are done. It’s October and the ground is frosted, but there are men at work with spades and shovels, digging into the soil with some ardour, awaiting that telltale sound of metal striking a coffin.
If you’ve ever dug up a grave yourself, I’m certain you’d know it: the timber of the strike changes as the wood buckles, and then splinters. It’s an extra bit of give beneath the tool — the result of the grave being undisturbed, underground, for several years. Seven, to be precise.
What I’ve always found compelling about Lizzie Siddal’s story — beyond the obvious tragedy of her laudanum overdose and her whole crappy existence thanks to her good-for-nothing philandering husband — was how it becomes super easy to draw parallels between her life and the stories of the characters she depicted in art: Beatrice of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet — both, which, I should probably mention, were part of my school curriculum before I fell into design. (Have I never mentioned that? The “Once upon a time I thought I wanted to be a lawyer so I studied Liberal Arts?” Yeah, that. Short-lived. I’m much more well-rounded as far as a classical education goes as a result, but still: what was I thinking? I hate arguing. Zero confrontational skills: fold up like an origami panda and then I lie there, making blerp noises and hoping that no one’s paying attention. I really did love the literature bits, though.)
Thank gawd I decided to study something lucrative instead.
I compiled a little piece about Lizzie’s unfortunate demise and the sordid business of her exhumation, which you an download as a PDF for free here, or read live at The Midnight Society where it was originally posted on February 11, 2017.
Lizzie Siddal: Research
As an added bonus, have some links. I compiled my research for the article and chucked it into my database just for fun.