Anne Sebba

Sitting Pretty

Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses

By

Macmillan 315pp £20 order from our bookshop

The story of the disastrous marriage between the beautiful young Effie Gray and John Ruskin, the brilliant but socially maladroit art critic almost a decade her senior, is well known and often dramatised. Apparently, on their wedding night in April 1848, he was so shocked at the sight of a female body, something which hitherto he knew only from pictures in books, that he was unable to consummate the marriage. Painfully, they endured married life for another six miserable years, with Ruskin drawing ever closer to his parents. He wrote to them of his pride in seeing his twenty-something wife shine in society, while regretting that in ten years’ time, once her cheeks had wrinkled, she would no longer sparkle.

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