Rosette: His Life and Works

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

Rossetti: his life and works by Evelyn Waugh
Great writers exploring small, not altogether interesting topics yielded another gem.

This time, a troubled author explores why artists are troubled and posits, for perhaps the first time, the idea that being troubled is a necessary condition for artistic genius. This idea is now accepted. Yet I imagine Waugh's hesitant and hedged conclusion from the life of a bohemian (slur) in a Victorian Age was provocative and disquieting to all but the early post-moderns.

A strength of this book is  that it was written a mere forty years after an early death. This enables both a thoughtful review of the immediate biographies, which tend towards the partisan and personal, and direct access to source material. Places and people are readily available. This immediacy lends some subjectivity; the slight bit of distance lends some objectivity. And the fusion makes for a great book.

On the other hand, histories written hundreds of years later are written with a voice-of-god level of certainty and in response to decades of historical decision-making. Thus in mind, future histories with similar distance from events covered are in my radar. 1970s here we come!

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