I must thank Stephen Chambers for contacting me with this story because it has answered a little mystery for me - why would a young man with everything going for him suddenly up and leave the country? Allow me to elaborate...
|Time, Death and Judgement Cecil Edwin Schott|
|Fanny Cornforth (1874) D G Rossetti|
Young Cecil showed some artistic promise. Fostered by his step mother's former lover, Rossetti, he finally found an place in the studio of George Frederick Watts.
|Hope (1886) G F Watts and Cecil Schott|
|The Briary, Bedbury Lane, Freshwater, Isle of Wight|
Sadly, Watts' home burnt down mid 20th century, hence inset picture
So far so good. He was working for one of England's most respected artists in the company of the poet laureate and the influential, artistic Prinseps. A member of the Prinsep family, Blanche Clogstoun, was taken under Watts' wing and he gave her the Briary on her marriage in the 1880s but it seems he still used the house with its three studios while he was on the Wight. So, young Cecil was moving among the artistic elite, which makes the following revelation both surprising and rather saddening.
|Pallance Road, Northwood, Isle of Wight|
The case came to trial on 21st October, when Cecil Edwin Schott, whose profession was listed as artist, pleaded guilty to housebreaking and larceny and received 3 months hard labour. After being released from prison in early 1897, he made arrangements for emigration and left Southampton bound for South Africa on 27th March 1897. Scandal and shame obviously made it unthinkable that he could return to the Briary, Watts and his circle.
Little is known of his movements after that. The William Fehr collectionof the Iziko Museum in South Africa has one picture (which you can view here) of a fish market painted in 1898, but his career does not seem to have reached the heights it could have achieved if he had remained on the right side of the law under Watts. It certainly answers the question as to why Cecil Schott suddenly left his brother and step mother for South Africa but there are so many questions his actions raise. Did he know that the shipwright had that much money in his cottage? What did he need the money for? His father had died in 1891 and left Fanny at the mercy of her sister-in-law Rosa Villiers who was notoriously tight with the purse strings. Was Cecil stealing for Fanny or was he drunk and opportunistic? Whatever the motivation, it seems such a pity that he threw away his opportunity with Watts on a single criminal act.
I'll be back tomorrow with the second part of my Wight Weekend, and my unladylike pursuit of Tennyson....