Wednesday, August 24, 2011

6. A delicate wraith

In Oscar Wilde. Recollections by Jean Paul Raymond Charles Ricketts wrote about himself as 'an elderly Englishman who, years ago, had known Oscar Wilde'. Thus he introduced himself as a character in a story about the 1890s. 

Later, Michael Lewis MacLennan, the Canadian dramatist, wrote a play about Ricketts and his lifelong companion, Charles Shannon, Last Romantics. It was first presented in February 2003 by the Necessary Angel Theatre Company and The National Arts Centre, Toronto. The description of Ricketts introduces him as:  'stooped, high reedy voice, flamboyant'.

Ricketts has not yet been turned into a character of a novel or a television series, however, he has made something of an appearance in a detective novel, published in 2002 by Orion Books in London: Fiona Mountain's Pale as the Dead.

The story is about a link between the present and the Pre-Raphaelites. The leading character of the novel is Natasha Blake, an 'ancestor detective', whose research, to quote a review, 'takes us from the Cotswolds and Oxford to Highgate Cemetery and back again', focussing on Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddal, Rossetti's wife who in 1862 took her own life.

The author has the detective reading a book about the Pre-Raphaelite movement: 'She stood up, went to the bookcase and pulled out The Pre-Raphaelite Dream', a book by William Gaunt, most editions of which have appeared under the original title: The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy. She found 'two mentions of Lizzie in a chapter entitled "Flower of Death".' One of the illustrations is of Rossetti's painting 'Beate Beatrix'.

'The text below that illustration read: "Her expression varied in shades of sadness, as if a premonition of early death overshadowed her life," wrote Sharp, whilst Ricketts called her "A delicate wraith, a ghost in the house of the living".' (p. 102).