Artworks
Christabel
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ldare's picture

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Gothic poem, Christabel, turned into a dreamy portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Based on the epicly long and unfinished poem Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is separated into two parts written three years apart and about a young lady morally and sexually tarnished by black magic and lesbianism. Why is it always about lesbians?

The model for the morally reprehensible Christabel is Cameron's niece, Mary Emily "May" Prinsep, the future second wife of Lord Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Governor-General of Australia, son of notable Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson. I can only hope Mary and Hallam were childhood sweethearts as Cameron and Lord Tennyson the elder were neighbors on the Isle of Wight.

You might be unaware of Coleridge, but you definitely know his good friend Mary Shelley who mentions Coleridge’s Gothic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner twice in Frankenstein. Shelley recalled that when she was a young girl Coleridge would come over to read The Rime and she would hide behind the couch.

The poem was also the influence for the song Cristabel by Texan singer Robert Earl Keen appearing on his 1984 album No Kinda Dancer. Keen takes the Gothic poem and places it in the American South all so he can name-drop his ’62 Chevy.

This photo was part of an art collection donated by Harris Brisbane Dick in addition to the $1,328,257 (about $24.6 million today) he left the museum in his will.