Since exhumations are all the rage right now, I thought I’d share my favorite: Elizabeth Siddal, artist and model to the Pre-Raphaelites.
Siddal died of a laudanum overdose at the age of 32 in 1862 in London. Her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, left a journal containing the only copies of many of his poems in her coffin, tucking it away in her famous red hair.
Rossetti, drug- and alcohol-addled by the end of the 1860s, became obsessed with retrieving those poems so that he could publish them. Or, it seems, Rossetti’s agent, the slightly (or totally) shady Charles Augustus Howell, became obsessed with this. In any case, Howell exhumed her coffin in the middle of the night at Highgate Cemetery.
Howell reported back to Rossetti that she was remarkably well preserved and still beautiful. Whether this was actually true or not, the manuscript didn’t make it out so well preserved. A worm had burrowed through the entire book, leaving behind a big old wormhole.
More here and here.
Image: Siddal as “Ophelia,” by John Everett Millais, 1852, via Wikipedia/Google Art Project.