Elizabeth Siddal in 1860
Elizabeth Siddal was an artists’ model, poet and artist who was painted and drawn extensively by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Upon her death, her husband Dante Gabriel Rossetti, overcome with grief, enclosed in Elizabeth’s coffin a small journal containing the only copies he had of his many poems. He purportedly slid the book into Elizabeth’s red hair. She was then interred at Highgate Cemetery in London. Before publishing his newer poems he became obsessed with retrieving the poems he had slipped into Elizabeth’s hair. Rossetti and his agent, the notorious Charles Augustus Howell, applied to the Home Secretary for an order to have her coffin exhumed to retrieve the manuscript. This was done in the dead of night so as to avoid public curiosity and attention, and Rossetti was not present. Howell reported to Rossetti that her corpse was remarkably well preserved and her delicate beauty intact. Her hair was said to have continued to grow after death so that the coffin was filled with her flowing coppery hair.