Sunday, 14 September 2014

Coming Soon to a Cinema Near You...

You know how it is - you're minding your own business on a Friday afternoon, posting a picture of a wombat, making plans for the weekend, and then this happens...

Yes, finally a release date, a poster and a trailer for the much-anticipated, long-awaited film about Effie Gray and her ill-fated relationship with John Ruskin. Having waited what seems like forever for the film to be released, suffering many delays and deferrals and watching as Emma Thompson, writer and star, fought valiantly through the courts, finally it will be here in October.  So why aren't I delighted?

Effie Gray Thomas Richmond
For starters, of course I am looking forward to seeing the film.  It's about the Pre-Raphaelites, for goodness sake, and so it would be churlish and counterproductive of me to not want to see a film about the thing I love.  It is also jam-packed with splendid acting talent and comes to us from the hands of Emma Thompson who is marvellous in everything she does.  I'm sure I will enjoy it because on that score I enjoyed Desperate Romantics.  Nice costumes, everyone acting their socks off, all splendid.  I'm also sure the story will be gripping.  Mind you, that might be the problem...

Dakota Fanning as Effie, and I want her gloves.

Sometimes the problem with a really good story is that it tells you more about the audience than the people involved in the story.  What we know for sure, for absolute certain, is that John Ruskin married Euphemia Gray and then five years later their marriage was annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.  They both agree (separately) that the reason that the relationship was not consummated was because Ruskin found her 'person' disgusting.  Nothing to do with public hair, menstruation, little girls, little boys, big boys or anything.  Therefore I trust that Emma Thompson has not got a scene in the film where Effie disrobes on her wedding night only for Ruskin to start screaming 'LADY PARTS! LADY PARTS! THE HORROR!' (much in the same way that I trusted that Fanny Cornforth wouldn't be cracking walnuts with her teeth in Desperate Romantics)...

Dakota Fanning and Greg Wise as Mr and Mrs Ruskin
Another universally acknowledged 'fact' is that she was around 9 years old and he was 107.  Well, again, does make a lot of sense because he liked little girls didn't he?  And all Victorian men preferred infant wives who were merely decorative or playthings for their disgusting lusts etc etc.  Actually at the time of the marriage Effie was 20 (or nearly so) and Ruskin was nine years older.  Greg Wise, a marvellous, talented actor, is around twenty years older than the part he is playing.  He is basically playing the older, more familiar Ruskin: beardy old Victorian who looks grumpy all the time.  Even lovely Tom Hollander was over 40 when he played Ruskin in Desperate Romantics.  Why are we unable to see a younger actor take the role?  Would it make it too complicated for audiences to see, for example, Rupert Friend, rather handsome and age-appropriate as Ruskin?  It certainly isn't as punchy a story - two adults marry without knowing each other properly and find out they drastically don't get along.  The husband refuses to have sex with a woman who wasn't what he believed she was.  Woman is left alone with nothing to do trapped in unhappy marriage.  They get marriage annulled.  I'm not sure I'd go and see a film about that.  However, is it okay to always assume the woman is always the victim?  Does there need to be a clear-cut 'victim' and 'culprit' in every situation?

The Victorians, much like us, love to apportion blame and back in the good old days all the blame would obviously be heaped on the woman.  That is rubbish for all involved and so I don't blame Team Effie to want some payback, after all in order to get the marriage annulled she had to go through some god-awful tests and risk utter ruin for something that wasn't her fault really.  But then I'm not convinced it was Ruskin's fault either.  However, for ever more it has become his fault, eternally the fault of the old, weird, gay pedophile who could not bare his wife's pubic hair.  That is some hatchet job.

Tom Sturridge as Millais
Also, what seemed to enrage others on Friday (I was too busy wailing over the age of Ruskin) was that Millais looks exactly like an identi-kit Rossetti, all Byronic and moody.  On a side note, the actor Tom Sturridge is exactly the right age to play Ruskin.  Oh, the irony!

Look, you don't need me to tell you to go and see it, it will be wonderful entertainment and no doubt a feast for the eyes.  I'd love to see more Pre-Raphaelite films, so let's make this one a success as I'm sure it will be.  However, you are all smart people who read and question accepted biography, don't forget to remind people that the film is just entertainment.  After all, the last time I saw Fanny Cornforth on screen, she was a nut spitting, illiterate cockney prostitute...

Oh yes, Ophelia on the poster?  Really?

Effie Gray is out in the UK in October and you can have a look at the trailer here.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Knit One, Purl One

This post is dedicated to one of my oldest friends, Helen, who is by far the finest knitter I know.  I love to knit almost as much as I love to write and have been at it almost as long.  It keeps my fingers and mind busy when they need to be, relieving stress and providing hats.  Every year I knit a Christmas hat, last year's being this one...

Yes, we have matching hats.  I regret nothing.  Well, yesterday I started a new hat (both cables and lacework, get me) and it got me thinking about Victorian images of knitting...

A Girl in Costume Knitting (1893) Ralph Hedley
Last week I was told I was 'old-fashioned' for knitting, yet hip people knit apparently.  Search for 'celebrity knitters' and all manner of fancy types are clicking sticks, look!

Christina Hendricks!
Keifer!  Okay, this one might be made up...
While it is hip to handicraft, there is still a lingering suspicion that only old ladies knit and it certainly isn't something worthy of capturing in art.  Mercifully the Victorians did not feel the same way.

A Girl Knitting Giovanni Segantini
In nineteenth century art, knitting has meaning.  Knitting is industry, keeping girls who tend sheep even busier than they already are.  Knitting is supplementary work, a useful womanly craft that serves a purpose.  This young lady in the meadow can make socks or a hat while she tends the flock that provides the wool.

Girl Knitting (1874) William Harris Weatherhead
There are a peathora of young, working class women, fitting in this extra task among their other everyday routine.  Sometimes the girl is outside, sometimes she is in a domestic scene, turning a heel of a sock.  Often the hour is late and possibly knitting is the only task that can be managed in such poor light.

Interior, Woman Knitting (1880) Alfred Provis
Here is a woman in a darkened room, needles in hand, knitting while her child creeps in to the room.  Everyone should be asleep, the cat, the child, and the woman still works.

There are also images of not-so-poor women, needles in hands, wool in pretty colours.

Sunbeam Gustav Wentzel
Many of these women are older, knitting in their leisure hours.  This is not supplemental work, this is frivolous, deer-hat knitting for women who buy their wool rather than spin it from their own sheep.

Portrait of my Mother (1902) Jean Pierre Laurens
This is a gorgeous image and not the only 'mother' image I found.  Older women, comfortable and middle class, knit to pass hours and remain useful.  Painted by her son, this woman creates something, possibly for him.  What use has she now?  She has raised her children, successfully, so what will she do now?  Not a widow by the look of that vivid red, but knitting in black like a foreshadow of her future.  I like to think of this as a counterpoint to Whistler's mother, vibrant and busy even though she does not need to be either.

Artist's Mother Knitting in a Flat in Paris Albert Ranny Chewett
This is probably what most people would think of when they hear the title 'Mother, knitting', a rather more polite version of Giles' Granny, seated by a window with some pink wool, probably knitting something for a grandchild.  This one reminds me of my granny, the one who taught me to knit.  She was about four feet eleven, always wore a pinny and could do something to your little finger that could make a grown man cry in seconds.  Jolly good role model all round.

Family Group (1919) Robert Sivell
Knitting also has another meaning in art, possibly linked to the first.  Looking at the paintings of younger women knitting, I think knitting is linked to virtue.  I suppose if your hands are busy with needles they aren't busy with anything else.  Look at the family group above, and you'll notice we have a spare woman.  While two of the younger women are on their feet, the third sits and knits, the only one who has a focus.  The fractured gaze of the group, disconnected and alone, is not present in the 'spare' girl.  It's as if she's wandered in from another picture, looking for somewhere to have a sit down and a quick knit.  Industry will save her in the bleak, post-war world.  While the others wonder what they will do, how they will recover, who they will marry, the third girl is getting on with her sock.

The Purple Stocking J J Shannon
My favourite picture of knitting has to be this one.  So gorgeous, and reminiscent of Gotch's enthroned mini-princesses, knitting in the round with her royal-purple wool.  Delightful.

The Knitting Lesson Pierre Jacques Dierckx
Little girls knitting is conversely about being a wife and a virgin,or at least virtuous.  This old lady preps the little girls in a good wifely craft so that in the future they can knit for their husbands and children, but in the meantime it will give their idle hands something to do so that the devil doesn't.  It's true that I commit far less sins when I'm turning a heel of a sock, mind you my language is often appalling.

Gentle Persuasion Edward Portielje
For a very graphic example of this, we have Portielje's would-be seducer trying to get past five needles.  She's let her knitting drop a little, that ball of wool is now rolling around on the floor and so I'm worried that she's going to follow it.  She'll be sorry if she drops any stitches but not half as sorry as she'll be with a baby out of wedlock.

The Dreamer (1887) Anna Louisa Swynnerton
Mostly knitting is a solitary pleasure, something women do on their own and I think it's no coincidence that a female artist understood the link between knitting and thinking.  I knit to control my galloping mind but rather than filling my head with knit-one-purl-one, I get room to dream, comfortable in the knowledge that my hands are making something useful.  This woman is dreaming of something or someone (note no wedding ring), but her hands keep busy, masking her thoughts.  Knitting gives women the space to think unnoticed, a mask of domesticity behind which to shelter a tumble-mind of wonder and decision.

Hortus Inclusus (1898) Joseph Southall
In conclusion, a woman who is knitting is thinking and making.  Past and present, knitting is a pleasure that pays back with warm and comforting things.  When I knit I like the connection to my handcrafting ancestors, but I also like the continuation of something low-tech in a hi-tech present.  Yes I can buy a hat, probably even a hat with little felted antlers, but I like creating something beautiful, in beautiful colours and in wonderful yarns, that is mine and mine alone and a little work of art.

If you are a knitter, then you need Ravelry in your life (go here).  It's amazing, like Facebook for crafters, with thousands of patterns and wonderful advice.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Pick and a Pasty

Here is part two of my holiday, and it was one of the unexpected highlights.  A shocking fact is that Mr Walker doesn't want to spend every waking hour at Victorian art museums.  I know, and I married him.  In fact, there are times when he wants to visit somewhere else.  That's how we ended up at Geevor Tin Mine...

Actually, I was happy to visit a tin mine museum due to a family history of Cornish miners, plus Mr Walker's Grandpa was a coal miner in the Midlands, so it seemed appropriate to be heading underground.  Having spent the day before in the Eden Project with probably every single person in Cornwall (to say it was jam packed seems an understatement), the large, airy space and peace of the mining museum was a blessed relief, and the collections were amazing.  My favourite object had to be this picture...

This lovely lady was 17 year old Elizabeth Hill Chappel, who was married to Henry Chappel.  Shortly after their marriage, Henry went to work in the gold mines in Bolivia.  He wrote regularly, enclosing small amounts of gold, but then all of a sudden the letters stopped.  I would assume Elizabeth feared the worst until Henry returned two years later to discover that someone had been stealing his letters and the gold he had been sending.

Anyway, this got me thinking about Victorian images of mining.  I suppose it would be easy to have a romanticised image of the profession, such as this handsome chap on our left: big strapping men, with big strapping mustaches, swinging all manner of heavy instruments underground, probably bare chested.  Goodness.

However, these days it's hard to get away from the truth, especially here in the Walker household. Grandpa Paddy Walker, the miner, was involved in the 1956 accident at his West Mindland's pit which cost many men their lives.  Paddy was trapped by some lengths of timber which created a 'teepee' over him and saved his life.  Unsurprisingly he was a hard father, but by all accounts a great Grandpa and I'll never forget him crawling on the floor, aged almost 90, after Lily-Rose, his great granddaughter.

The Miner (c.1900) French School
On the whole, there are not as many images of Victorian miners and mining as I expected, although what there is strikes me as interesting.  I wonder if it was because it was underground, unknown unless you ventured down yourself, therefore not easily observed from a safe distance.

The Miners (1878) George Henry Boughton
Maybe the art buying public didn't go for images of men doing a grubby, necessary job underground, so the images are like this one, in the open air, with healthy, ruddy cheeked men swinging their enormous picks and hammers at rock.  These pair have a young lady watching, with a toddler.  I'm going to guess that the baby is her sister and she is deciding which of the fine young mining men she is going to marry.  I hope she has brought enough pasties for everyone.

Going Home (1889) Ralph Headley
From pictures like this you would be forgiven for thinking that mining was a reasonably clean and healthy occupation.  I especially like the blue socks and blue hat.  I tend to think of blue when I think of Cornwall, all that sky and sea, and the shade used in this picture is beautiful.  I wonder if they are meant to be father and son?  The wonderful assistant we spoke to at Geevor said that there was a proud tradition among the mining families in Cornwall that sons followed fathers in to the pit.  This contrasted with coal mining where, like the Walkers, you didn't really want to have your son follow you underground.  Maybe that was a sentiment from the twentieth century where there were finally felt to be choices.  It certainly wasn't because the job was safer in Cornwall - we read in awe of how they mined right out beneath the sea, following a seam.

If I can just wander off the point for a moment, a famous Victorian miner has to be M'darling Clementine's father, who was involved in the 1849 Californian gold rush (hence 'a 49er').  I hadn't really thought about how odd the lyrics of this song from the c.1860s are, but they are rather funny.  Poor old Clem has enormous feet, falls over a splinter of wood and drowns because her beloved can't swim.  He can, however, get over her loss by kissing her sister.  Hmmm, all very Victorian I'm sure.

Fossickers (1893) Walter Withers
There are images of nineteenth century miners all over the world, for example this picture of Fossicker, or gold miners, from Australia.  Possibly the term 'Fossicker' gives another hint of another reason why images of mining were not prevalent. One 1850s definition of 'fossicker' is a troublesome person, and so perhaps the side of mining and panning that could result in riches was seen as morally problematic.  Maybe that's why Clementine was drowned, as a punishment to her get-rich-quick dad.

In a way, painted images of Victorian mining are almost unnecessary as J C Burrows was commissioned to take photographs underground in 1890.  These were published in the book Mongst Mines and Miners: Underground Scenes by Flashlight which was used as a guidebook to the industry towards the end of the century.  The stark images are unblinking in their honesty, and the scenes seem precarious, dirty, cramped and hard.  There is nothing easy here and none of them will get rich from their hard work.

Miners at rest, with pasty lunch
Next time you are enjoying a Cornish pasty, think of the miners.  The pasty was made with its rolled edge so the miners could hold that bit with their grubby hands and eat the rest.  And they are delicious.  I bought a lovely book about Cornish food and festivals just so I can bake marvellous pasties at home. I'm grateful that we don't have to go down a mine to eat them.

To visit the wonderful Geevor Tin Mine, see their website (here) for details.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Wish You Were Here...

Hello Chums! I typed this for you from holiday down in Cornwall but couldn't post it as the wifi was useless. It’s been a long, hard summer of much working and not much relaxing and finally I got to be away from it all with Mr Walker, Little Miss Walker and Mrs Walker Senior (my mother in law)...

As I type, I am sat in the conservatory of a rather nifty bungalow in St Agnes, a small village on the north coast of Cornwall…

A Bay of the North Cornish Coast (1889-92) Arthur Hughes
Yes, it’s a bit like that around here.  Yesterday was splendid weather but today it’s rather more overcast.  However, as some of you will remember, Miss Walker has albinism, so bright sunshine is not necessarily our best weather.  Overcast rather suits us better.  Today we have been to Newquay Zoo and Jamaica Inn.  I did not fall for the charms of a reckless wrecker with brooding charm and swarthy looks.  I did however have a nice pasty which is probably a better choice for a woman of my age.

A Cornish Fishwife (1904) Flora Macdonald Reid
Yes, something like that.  Okay, maybe not that old, but I have a really nasty cold so I feel about 108.  Bad things happen to my sinuses when I have colds because I spent so many years working in close contact with office equipment.  Revolting.  I need a holiday.  Which is handy…

A Cornish Holiday Dorothea Sharp
Smashing!  No doubt in the next couple of days I will be gambling along the beach, fishing in rock pools, herding ducks with a stick… Okay, scrap the last one unless it’s compulsory.  I will also be eating more pasties.  And fudge.  And cream teas.  Oh heavens, this holiday may kill me…

A Cornish Idyll (1902) Walter Langley
I will be visiting a bit of art while I’m here.  We have St Ives and Penlee House on our ‘to do’ list.  I’m especially looking forward to Penlee House because it is stuffed full of miserable images of Cornish Fishermen’s widows, sobbing as the dawn breaks on another morning of drowned husbands and no fish.  Lovely.  This Walter Langley is rather more jolly though.  Give it time and he’ll be drowned too.  Something to look forward to, artistically speaking.

Cornish Miner (1885) Frederick Thomas Penson
My Cornish forebears weren’t fishermen actually, they were tin miners.  They cleared off to Peru in Georgian times after one member of the ‘Cocking’ family married Mr Champion and became Mrs Cocking Champion.  Dear me, the shame.

A Fish Sale on A Cornish Beach (1885) Stanhope Alexander Forbes
I also want to eat fish pie while I’m here.  I love fish pie.  I need to find the recipe for Ford Madox Brown’s favourite Cornish food, something called Thunder and Lightning. This was a dish made with garlic, treacle and pilchards.  Another reason to move to Peru, possible. 

Cornish Girl with a Basket of Primroses (1888) Frederick Millar
I haven’t been to Cornwall in years, possibly not since I was around Miss Walker’s age.  Tomorrow we’re off to visit a rather newer addition to Cornwall’s Tourist offer, the Eden Project.  For those who have never heard of this marvellous place, it is a 35-acre plant laboratory under great domes that show you global gardens and different ecosystems.  It looks amazing.

Cornish Solitude James H C Millar
Most of all, I’m looking forward to getting away from work and stress, if only for a week and having a bit of a sit down and sleep in away from everything.    Mind you, I have brought my computer with me, hence why I am able to write this, so technically I’ve brought all of you on holiday with me.  That’s okay, there is plenty of room and plenty of pasties.  If you will excuse me, I’m off to have a nap before I embark on some more relaxing.  This holiday lark is hard work you know….

On the Cornish Coast (1880) John Brett
Don't eat all my pasties while I'm asleep...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Splendid Island of Doctor Geof

As some of you will know, I have just spent the better part of the last week at WorldCon, a massive Science Fiction convention held at the ExCel in London.  This was a work thing, I was promoting the virtues of English Heritage's lovely database of research reports (50 years of information now free to download!), but I had the pleasure of having a stand opposite the Island of Doctor Geof...

Calling Doctor Geof an artist seems inadequate as he has an entire world of bonkers mayhem around him.  His smutty, steampunk jollity is both gorgeous and hilarious, full of corsets, bustles and a proper obsession with tea.  Over on his website The Island of Doctor Geof you can see some of his work and buy his art and his fabulous patches, of which I purchased a splendid amount because they were so funny.

The lovely Doctor also drew my portrait on my warrant card for the First Tea Company...

How can you resist any identity card that reads 'This card certifies that the bearer requires a nice hot cup of tea please'?  and my rank is 'Dark Chocolate Digestiveer, 1st class'.  Thoroughly civilised.

You know me, I'm a practitioner of what might be described as pouring gentle, jolly sauciness over what passes for knowledge and so I enjoy meeting others who brighten our lives with their talent and humour.  Anyone who produces posers that entreat you to 'Kill your Velocity, not an Air-Kraken!' is a bit of a genius in my world and welcome to stay.

If you fancy a bit of Dr Geof's splendid madness, he is part of the Longitude Punk'd exhibit at the Royal Observatory in Grenwich which runs until January next year.  He also is responsible for the Fantastical Steampunk Tea Museum under the Cutty Sark, which is open until the end of September.  Details of both exhibitions can be found on the Royal Museums Greenwich website here.

There is something magical about meeting people who are on exactly the same sort of off-kilter, bonkers wavelength as yourself when you least expect it, and one of the joys of running this page is that I get the pleasure of telling others about them.  If you are not easily offended and love a bit of saucy, tea-drinking, thoroughly English, made-up Victoriania, then take a trip to Doctor Geof's Island.  I guarantee you will like it there.

Plus he gave me a biscuit.  I'm anyone's for a biscuit.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Woman, Red in Tooth (and Claw)

There is a parental truth, universally acknowledged, that nobody likes a biter.  Most children go through phases of boisterous play-fighting, even the odd kerfuffle in the school playground, but if your child is a biter, then a special sort of hell awaits you. Lily has only once bitten another child.  She was around three years old and I was escorted into a separate room to be given the grave news that my child had bitten one of her fellow schoolmates.  Turns out the little girl who got bitten had been poking Lily in the mouth, just to see what would happen.  As it was, both parties learnt a valuable lesson, but I remember the shame I was required to feel as the mother of a biter. 

I am sharing this shameful family secret with you for a reason and that reason is a pair of beautiful pictures by Anthony Frederick Sandys...

Love's Shadow

Proud Maisie
If  he would come today...(detail)
Both images date from the late 1860s, around the time when Sandys was most influenced by Rossetti.  The images are of his common-law wife, Mary Emma Jones, and in both pictures she is biting something.  Starting with Proud Maisie, the title refers to the poem 'The Pride of Youth' by Sir Walter Scott, where Maisie, eager for her wedding day, questions a robin about her future. He replies that she will be carried to a church by six strong men and the sexton would make her wedding bed.  He's talking about her death, the payment for her pride.  Maisie is eager but haughty which means the love, or indeed lust, she yearns for will be denied by her own foolishness.  She frustrates herself by being too much involved in herself.  The glorious mane of hair goes back in her own mouth and is bitten both as a sign of frustration but also an acknowledgment of her own desirability which she feels none are worthy of besides herself.  It has similarities to the illustration Sandys made for The Argosy (1866) (the image is entitled 'If he would come today'), for a poem about a woman frustrated by her lover's absence.  There is a hint of a snake consuming its own tail about her consumption of her hair, hinting that she will destroy herself by her actions.

Love's Shadow (detail)
In Love's Shadow, the woman bites on a posy of flowers consisting mainly of forget-me-nots or violets.  In preparatory drawings, she bites on honeysuckle, symbolising the bond of love, but the tiny blue flowers imply watchfulness and fear in love.  Presumably she has been given the flowers by her lover, but she bites them.  If her lover wished to remain unforgotten, something in the bared teeth and scowl makes the viewer wonder if the flowers are ironic, that it is the woman who fears being forgotten.  The small flowers of promised affection are greeted not with kisses but with a rather brazen snarl.  Here in her expression is love's shadow, the dark cast of love, inconstant in size, without form, but existent and rather feminine.  Love's shadow is feral, animalistic, female lust.

Eve (1896) Lucien Levy-Dhurmer
Animals bite people, in fact the very first biter was the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  Actually, no, that serpent didn't do the biting at all. The very first naughty biter was a woman.  Granted, she bit a piece of fruit, but it was forbidden fruit and she knew she wasn't allowed it.  Just like Sandys' girl, her bite was one of desire but her frustration was alleviated by her bite.  Her bite also resulted in disaster.  Women's desire damns mankind! The Daily Mail were right all along...

As I said to begin with, biting is more often associated with children.  A child who bites another child is a problem but there are images of proffered biting that give one pause for thought.

Give Me A Bite (1863) Henri Geoffroy
The little girl holds a jam tart in her hand while two boys look on covetously.   The girl looks fearful and unwilling to share her treat with the boys, one of whom is worryingly bigger than she is.  I think we can all tell how that will end.  The fact that she is dressed in glowing white, that her treat is ruby red, all point towards a deeper meaning.  It could be as simple as her love the boys wish to share in, but by the use of the word 'bite' in the title it seems rather more basic than that.  They want to take a bite of something that will destroy the whole.  She is right to hang on to it and not just give it away.

Giving a Bite William Mulready
A slightly stranger affair is this image by Mulready where a young man carrying water jugs is allowed a bite of something from the hands of another young man.  Seeing as the picture has Italianate overtones I'm going with mozzarella cheese, as the substance seems to be white.  The water carrier bends to bite the cheese in a vulnerable pose - why was he not handed some cheese to taste?  His body-language seems submissive and he is watched by the others, except the two animals, the dog and the monkey.  The dog seems to belong to the water carrier, and he is looking uncertainly but with curiosity at the monkey, dressed in red.  This monkey is tame, but by threat of the whip, just behind its owner.  Monkeys often stand for lust and more specifically man's lustful side, this monkey, dressed as a human, is kept in check by force, made to behave.  His natural state is held in submission and he is not really a person, but an animal in masquerade.  Maybe the same can be said of our water carrier, his appetites held in check by another.

Mauvais Sujet (1863) Ford Madox Brown
Rolling all our bad-girl Biblical stereotypes into one, Ford Madox Brown gives us Mary, the bad girl, biting her apple and looking naughty.  An unruly school girl, her hair wild and her earlobes dripping with red gems, this is a bad penny who is baring her teeth and biting that apple right in front of us.  For goodness sake, it doesn't get more blatant than that.  Images of bad children in Victorian England are predictably plentiful, but images of bad girls often have a sexual tinge with the misbehaving madam ripping her clothes or being provocative and Lolita-esque.  Images that promoted the idea of childhood sexuality confirmed widely held notions that girls held innate sexual knowledge, burgeoning and threatening to spill out.  This must have been a comfort to suitors and parents who rushed pubescent brides into marriage.  If girls are to display sexuality then it might as well be put to good use and be tamed by a husband.  When female sexuality is left unchecked, then all hell breaks lose...

The Vampire Philip Burne-Jones
The Vampire (1895) Edvard Munch
Despite the archetypal vampire being male, visual interpretations of the creature in Victorian England were very much female: Ravenous women falling upon unsuspecting, helpless men and consuming their blood when they least expect it, when they are at their weakest. I don't believe it's a coincidence that the couples above are in intimate settings.  Burne-Jones shows very explicitly a woman attacking her victim in their bed, and Munch's victim is curled against a semi-naked woman who is bending to bite him.  The female vampire bites and consumes men in a manner that is tied very obviously to sexuality.  The women and their rampant, unequal sexuality weakens the men and is something monstrous. The woman who bites, who consumes will leave you reduced and you will beg her to do it.  As men, you understand the appetite, you have the more 'natural' consumption, but the images of female vampires warn you that a woman who wants sex is unnatural, destructive, something to fear.  

The underlining message in these images is that a woman who bites unbidden is a thing of no control.  Her teeth close around things she desires as well as the shallow place-holders for her desire.  She bites apples, flowers, her hair and when she has the chance she bites men and draws from them their very life.  The sexual aspect of consumption is explicit in female vampires - she will draw her man into her in a perversion of the natural order of things, in an act of pure destruction without any hope of reproduction.  A woman that bites destroys her chance to fulfill her natural role in the world.  Woman as dominant destroyer is unnatural, yet hold an allure due to the promise of unbridled sexuality.  Far better that women receive the destruction, that their sexuality is slight and appropriate, and that they be grateful for the attention.  

Remember, no-one likes a biter.