For today’s entry in Gothic Week I have chosen a bit of a unique topic. I want to look at how Bram Stoker may have been inspired by Lizzie Siddal when he wrote the character of Lucy in Dracula. It has been said that Stoker was living in London (when he moved from Dublin, years after the exhumation), and near the cemetery where Siddal was exhumed. He would have likely known about this morbid event.
It became gossip around the city that Rossetti had chosen to have his wive’s body exhumed to get a book of poetry he had buried with her back. The myth of the exhumation is that the man who Rossetti had charged with completing this task found that Lizzie had not decayed, and her vivid red hair had continued to grow after death.
When they opened her coffin they found her as beautiful as ever, and her hair had grown so long that it filled the coffin. She was enveloped within her lovely fiery locks! This story was likely made up to make Rossetti feel less guilty for having his wife’s grave exhumed. At this time, during the Victorian period, this act was considered more than morbid! It was considered a cardinal sin, one did not dig up the dead for no good reason. By Victorian standards regaining a book of poetry was not a good enough reason to dig up a grave!
As it was very likely that Stoker knew of this tale, and of the story of Lizzie and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In fact, he had notes about their relationship in his materials for the writing of Dracula. There are obvious connections between Lucy and Lizzie, and between Lizzie and the supernatural. Lizzie was certainly a believer, and as an artist during a time of great scientific advancements, it is unsurprising that she would prefer to look at the more spiritual side of things. When Lizzie had a miscarriage she became more depressed than ever before. In her insanity she relied ever more on laudanum and even rocked the empty cradle of her daughter. She claimed to actually hear the baby crying, and while this could be drugs or insanity, it could have also been a mother really feeling the ghostly presence of her dead daughter! If anyone would have been able to make this connection it seems that a woman who lived her life by her own rules, and flouted the strict Victorian society would be the one. A second way that Lizzie was connected to the supernatural was that Rossetti claimed to have been haunted by her ghost for many years. This could have been guilt over not treating her right in life, or over exhuming her body. He even performed seances in hopes of communicating with his dead wife! I think it is highly likely that Lizzie would have haunted the man that she loved. Certainly that story of her not aging in the coffin is the pinnacle of her supernatural connections.
Lizzie and Lucy share the personality traits of rebellion, loving to be the center of attention, and having men fighting over them. Lizzie enthralled the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and they all fought over who got to paint her when. It was Rossetti that she fell in love with, and whose muse she became. Similarly Lucy has three men who want to marry her and has to make a decision over who she truly loved. Lucy ended up being the one turned into a vampire, likely because she was someone who flouted convention, much like Lizzie had in real life! In all, there are many ways that this character is connected to Lizzie. I truly feel that Bram Stoker was inspired by the story of this tragic artist when he wrote this particular character!
I hope you have enjoyed this analysis of Lizzie Siddal and Lucy from Dracula. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is from the Francis Ford Coppola Dracula. It is my favorite costume in the film, Lucy’s orange seduction dress, and as a bonus Lucy is a redhead in this film, as Lizzie was in life! I found the image on https://www.giantbomb.com/lucy-westenra/3005-12824/.
- Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites by Lucinda Hawksley
- Dracula by Bram Stoker