Below is an extract of a letter from Jane Morris written to Rossetti in late 1878. It details the sorry state of the Fairfax Murrays. In 1871 Charles Fairfax Murray went to Italy to paint and study, and returned again on the instruction of Ruskin in 1873 in order to copy the Botticelli frescos in the Sistine Chapel. At the age of 26, in 1875, Murray married a young Italian girl named Angelica Collivichi who was just 16. The below sorry state of affairs Janey describes is three years on, when Angelica was still only 19.

 

Kelmscott House, Upper Mall, Hammersmith

Sunday

My dear Gabriel,

It is true that I began to chirp much too soon as to weather, we have had dreary days since, and no doubt shall have many more, but you know what a babyishly hopeful creature I always am….

I am most sorry to hear about poor Murray, I heard that the 2nd baby was doing well some time ago, his wife appears incapable of taking care either of herself or her children, soon after the last baby was born, Murray wrote to some lady friends of Ned’s in Florence (he had not then left Siena) to be them to come to him, for his baby was dying, and his wife could do nothing for it, when they got there, they found the poor little creature apparently dying of cold, they rubbed it well, and wrapped it in flannel, and in a very short time it began to crow and take its food vigorously. I suppose it succumbed again when lefty to the sole care of the mother – but after all, I think it is a great charm in Murray’s eyes, this entire ignorance and total incapacity on the part of his wife, she loves him, and that is all he cares about, and they can make more babies.

Your affectionate

Janey

Fairfax Murray, Self-Portrait (undated, The Morgan Library Museum)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris, edited by John Bryson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris: Their Correspondence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), p. 85

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