A Vision of Beauty: Chapter 8

A Biography of Julia Prinsep Stephen by Marion Dell.

© CC BY-NC-SA unless otherwise stated; image copyrights are listed in the credits and they are not licensed for re-use.

Julia, the daughter at home

More new beginnings (c.1864–1866)

1. Julia, 1864, an early photograph by her Aunt Julia Margaret Cameron.

Julia, now 17, became the daughter at home after the marriages of her sisters, Adeline Vaughan and Mary Fisher. She inherited the role previously filled by them as her mother’s close companion and support.

Her father John Jackson still had his busy practice in Hanover Square and spent much of his time there and at the Oriental Club. Mia and Julia preferred the ambience of Little Holland House, where significant changes were taking place.

The Little Holland House Circle – The new art of Photography

While Watts and the painters continued to dominate cultural life at Little Holland House, several members of the Circle embraced the new art of Photography. Charles Somers-Cocks, Oscar Gernsheim Rejlander, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Julia Margaret Cameron were some of the earliest photographers. 

 2-4. Left: A double self-portrait by Oscar Rejlander c.1871. Rejlander experimented with montage photography. Middle: Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) photographed by Oscar Rejlander, c.1863. Right: Julia Margaret Cameron photographed by her son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, c.1873.

 The Mia Album 

On 7 July 1863 Julia Margaret Cameron gave her sister a very special present for her forty-fifth birthday. It was a photograph album, then a great novelty, expensively bound in green leather with the name MIA in brass letters on the cover. It was inscribed For my best beloved sister Mia: An Album of Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron. With a blessing on the New Years and the old1 It marked a new beginning in art and a change of direction in Julia Margaret Cameron’s work as an increasingly confident photographer. The story has long been that, as she wrote herself in Annals of a Glasshouse, she began photography in December 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera for her birthday, but the Mia album pre-dates this.2

5-6. Left: A reproduction of the green leather cover of The Mia Album with initials in brass lettering.3 Right: The dedication ‘For my best beloved sister Mia: An Album of Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron. With a blessing on the New Years and the old.’

The album was only partly filled, with many empty pages. Over the next ten years Julia Margaret would continue to send photographs to Mia, usually with inscriptions and instructions where to place them, so that the sisters would gradually collaborate in filling it with seventy images. The layout was, typically of Julia Margaret, idiosyncratic. It was designed in two parts. At the front were mostly photographs of Mia’s closest family and friends, almost all by Julia Margaret. The album could then be inverted and reversed to display a selection of photographs by friends and colleagues such as Oscar Rejlander, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), and Charles Somers-Cocks. Some were photographs of paintings and drawings, often by Watts. There were also tableaux of daily life at Dimbola, Julia Margaret’s home on the Isle of Wight; mythical and literary subjects posed by models in costume; and photographs of Julia Margaret’s male heroes and friends: Alfred Tennyson, Henry Taylor, George Frederic Watts and others. 

The album was intended to be a keepsake for Mia, destined to become a family heirloom. It was also a carefully edited family history, telling a story of Julia Margaret and Mia, and their close family, as they saw themselves and as they wanted to be seen. It was designed to uphold the profound Christian beliefs of the Pattle sisters, especially about the sanctity of marriage and the primacy of family. It presented the Pattle sisters as loving mothers and the wives of successful men.

It included only ‘beautiful’ memories; absent was anything which did not fit that narrative. In including portraits of celebrity friends such as Tennyson and Watts, and the work of other photographers such as Oscar Rejlander, it also placed the sisters in their perceived place at the centre of artistic society.

7-10. Top left: ‘My Ewen’s Bride of the 18th of November 1869’, Julia Margaret Cameron. Bottom left: ‘H. Thoby Prinsep’ 1865. Julia Margaret Cameron. Top right:. Devotion’ c.1865. Archie Cameron, Julia Margaret’s grandson with her maid, Mary Hillier. Julia Margaret Cameron. Bottom right: ‘Mrs Cameron Receives a Bow from Her Son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron’ c.1863–65. Oscar Rejlander.

New idealisations of Julia

11. In the Mia Album ‘Julia Jackson’ c.1865–1866, Julia Margaret Cameron.

The Mia album also marked a new chapter in stories about Julia. She had already been constructed by Marochetti as the beautiful young victim, the Princess Elizabeth.4 Now her mother and her aunt colluded in another idealisation of her. Julia was her aunt’s favourite subject. Sixteen of the initial photographs in the album are of her, and her portraits compose fifteen pages of the completed album – many more than any other sitter. Julia Margaret and Mia were very selective, collaborating in creating a version of Julia as virginal, decorous and dignified. Photographs which did not fit this version were deliberately omitted. These included the many which Cameron took of her after her marriage in 1867. Excluded, most significantly, were those of her taken between 1865 and 1867 with loose hair, which would later be labelled ‘dionysiac’ by her granddaughter Angelica Garnett.5

The photographs are all albumen silver prints from glass plate negatives. Many more prints could be taken from the same plates so copies of the same portraits could be given to other people and appear in different collections. One of these was the album which Julia Margaret gave to her other sister Virginia Somers-Cocks later the same year, inscribed For My Beloved Sister Virginia (Photographs of my own printing) with every fond Xmas wish from Julia Margaret Cameron. Xmas Eve 1863.6 It includes some of the same images as the album for Mia, showing the close bonds between the sisters. Like the Mia album it is also a carefully curated visual family history. 

12. Not in the Mia Album: ‘Julia Jackson’, 1867. Julia Margaret Cameron.

In 1864 Julia Margaret compiled another joyfully eccentric, personalised, album this time for her young friend Anny Thackeray. This would have been particularly significant as Anny’s beloved father, William Thackeray, had died only a few months previously, leaving her and her sister Minny effectively orphaned.7 Knowing Anny’s reputation for being accident prone, Julia Margaret playfully inscribed this album, ‘Fatal to photographs are cups of tea and coffee, candles and lamps, and children’s fingers’.8

Julia Margaret, and other photographers, celebrated beauty but sitters often looked very stilted and mournful. They were forbidden to smile because of the need to sit completely still for the long period needed for an exposure. Such plaintive expressions, seen to extremes in some images of Julia’s sister, Mary Fisher and her aunt Julia Margaret, led to Leonard Woolf later satirising the Pattle sisters’ famed beauty as ‘dying duck loveliness’.9

13-14. Left: ‘Mary Fisher’ c.1864. Julia Margaret Cameron. Right: Julia Margaret Cameron c.1852. Reproduction of a study for her portrait by G. F. Watts.

The rising generation at Little Holland House and Freshwater: Julia’s cousins and friends

Little Holland House was ‘an early example of communal living. Pattles and miscellaneous lame ducks came when they liked and stayed as long as they liked’.10 Watts was not the only invalid taken in and nursed by Sara and her sisters. Edward Burne-Jones had spent the summer of 1858 convalescing there. Numbers of children whose parents were in India or who were orphaned were collected into the warm environment.

The second generation was growing up at Little Holland House and Julia always had a ready circle of cousins and friends of about her own age to keep her company.11 Nearly all her cousins had, like her, been born in India and were well-travelled. They were used to a peripatetic lifestyle and were often looked after by grandparents, aunts and uncles rather than their own parents. They were only too ready to share visits and entertainments. 

The boys were mostly away at school, often Eton or training for the Indian Civil Service at Haileybury, so were not as often there as their sisters. Many of the girls inherited the Pattle beauty and were soon dragooned into sitting for the artists and photographers. 

Sara and Thoby’s sons Henry and Arthur Prinsep, older than Julia, were already in India with the East India Company, but their other son Valentine was an accomplished artist, studying with Watts. He had already exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1862. Alice Prinsep was the same age as Julia but was already married.

Click to enlarge
15. ‘Alice Prinsep’ portrait by G. F. Watts, 1860.

In 1861, aged just 16, Alice Prinsep had married the son of a banking family, Charles Gurney, and with him became part of the Prince of Wales’ very racy Marlborough House Set. She was still often at Little Holland House and a favourite model for Watts. Also then living at Little Holland House was Thoby and Sara’s adopted daughter, the orphaned May Prinsep, daughter of Thoby’s older brother Charles, who had been Advocate General of Calcutta. Isabel and Adeline Somers-Cocks were also frequently at Little Holland House, and favourite models, but they were being destined by their mother, Virginia, for a life in aristocratic high society rather than artistic bohemia. They became debutantes, presented to the Queen. The Prince of Wales attended their coming out balls.

Also popular was the beautiful Virginia Dalrymple just a little younger than Julia. She was painted by Watts in sumptuous aesthetic dress.

16-17. Left, ‘Portrait of a Sybil’ (May Prinsep), 1870. Julia Margaret Cameron. Right, Virginia Dalrymple in her green dress, 1872. This dress was exhibited for some years next to her portrait by G. F. Watts at the Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, and is still in family possession. 
18-19. Left, William Bayley’ c.1860-63. Oscar Rejlander. Right, Isabel Somers-Cocks’ c.1860. One of several photographs by Oscar Rejlander of Isabel. and her sister Adeline, grouped together in the Mia Album. 
20. ‘Val and Arthur Prinsep, Henry Herschel Hay and Charles Hay Cameron, and unknown boy, c.1860.’ Unknown photographer, possibly Lord Somers.
21. Julia Margaret Cameron and her daughter Juley who married Charles Norman at Little Holland House. Unknown photographer, c.1858.

Julia Margaret Cameron’s daughter, Juley, was already married but also came to Little Holland House and to visit Julia and Mia at Hendon, often with her daughter Charlotte. The Cameron boys were frequently photographed by her. Eugene, the eldest son had gone into the Royal Artillery, but the four younger boys, nearer in age to Julia, were often at Little Holland House and photographed by their mother and her friends. They were destined to take over from their father running the family coffee estates in what was then Ceylon. 

22-24. Top left, ‘Charlotte Norman’ c.1860. Oscar Rejlander. Bottom left, ‘Henry Herschel Hay Cameron at Charter House’. Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864. Right: ‘My Cameron Clan’ in the Mia Album. Charles, Ewen, Hardinge and Henry Hay Cameron (left to right), the four youngest of the five sons of Julia and Charles Hay Cameron. Oscar Rejlander c.1863-65.

Newcomers: Kate and Ellen Terry

25. G. F. Watts ‘The Terry Sisters’. A portrait of Kate and Ellen Terry, 1862-63.

Julia must have been particularly fascinated by two young women who began coming to Little Holland House at this time. Kate and Ellen Terry were from a theatrical family, and though Kate was only two years older than Julia, and Ellen a year younger, they were already well-experienced, talented actresses in touring companies. In 1862 Kate was the acclaimed leading lady in Friends and Foes at the St James’s Theatre in London, and brought by a friend and drama critic, Tom Taylor, to have her portrait painted by Watts. Though the portrait was initially intended to be only of Kate, with Ellen coming to the studio as her chaperone, Watts decided to paint them both. They were dressed in dramatic, flowing, aesthetic dress and draped in an Indian, paisley-pattern shawl.

It was Ellen who immediately caught Watts’ attention. He claimed that he wanted to ‘save’ the girl from the temptations of a life on the stage, and the dubious reputation which actresses had at the time, apparently oblivious to the fact that artists’ models often had the same reputation. He discussed his plan with scandalised friends. His student, Roddam Spencer Stanhope, suggested that Ellen’s ‘beauty and her unprotected position much troubled his chivalrous nature.’12 He considered adopting her, but wrote to a friend, Lady Constance Leslie, that he was ‘determined to remove the youngest from the temptations of the abominations of the stage, give her an education and, if she continues to have the affection she now feels for me, marry her.’13

26. G. F. Watts ‘Choosing’, a portrait of Ellen Terry in her wedding dress, 1864. 

In February 1864, Watts, then 46, astounded everyone by marrying the sixteen-year-old actress. Ellen remembered that, 

The day of my wedding it was very cold. Like most women I always remember what I was wearing on the important occasions of my life. On that day I wore a brown silk gown which had been designed by Holman Hunt, and a quilted white bonnet with a sprig of orange-blossom, and I was wrapped in a beautiful Indian shawl.14

Watts was clearly overwhelmed by Ellen’s beauty as seen in the stunning aesthetic portrait he painted of her in her wedding dress but with, for a bride, scandalously loose flowing hair. He titled it Choosing.

Nicholas Tromans interprets the ambivalence in the portrait:

Terry’s choice between the noble and the sensual paths is the theme of Watts’ great portrait of her, a painting so utterly beautiful that it must have distressed the artist as much as it has charmed later generations. Terry’s face is turned up towards some luscious red camellias – notorious as one of the symbols used by la dame aux camélias in Dumas’s novel (aka Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata) to signal to her lovers – which tempt her away from the modest but sweetly scented violets in her hand.15

Watts’ second wife, Mary, later recorded the same version of Watts’ motivation in her Annals. Other gossips suggested that the union had been engineered by Sara Prinsep, a notorious marriage broker. Sara’s granddaughter Laura Troubridge later recorded that ‘Mrs. Prinsep, that impulsive creature, was the good fairy who brought about the match’,16 but if so it is odd that she did not attend the wedding ceremony. Watts continued to live at Little Holland House bringing his new bride. He was still relatively poor and neither he nor Ellen were interested in domesticity and homemaking. 

27. ‘Sadness’. A portrait of Ellen Terry taken in the Tennyson’s bathroom at Farringford, 1864.  Julia Margaret Cameron.

Soon after the wedding the couple stayed at the Tennyson’s home, Farringford, on the Isle of Wight. Here Ellen was photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron in the bathroom. It is a remarkably modern looking pose, very un-Victorian, again emphasising her sensual beauty, but titled Sadness.

However the marriage was doomed to failure. Laura Troubridge suggested that Sara Prinsep’s spells ‘too hastily woven about these two lives, went astray’, but Sara’s behaviour may have also had something to do with it. She was said to have treated Ellen more like a naughty child than a young married woman, though ‘Dear Ellen herself speaks of Granny’s kindness.’17 The couple separated later the same year they were married. Ellen returned to her parents and chose the stage as her life-long career. However, they did not divorce until 1877 and remained on good terms with each other. 

Marriage proposals

28. Thomas Woolner, c.1865. Unknown photographer.

Thoughts of marriage seem to have been in the air at Little Holland House. In 1864, Julia, then 18, received at least two proposals from artists who were frequently there. One was from the sculptor and poet, Thomas Woolner, who had long admired her beauty. Five years earlier Emily Tennyson had told Julia Margaret Cameron that ‘Words fail Mr. Woolner, all eloquent as he is, when he speaks of the Pattle sisters, especially of the beautiful Mrs. Jackson and her three beautiful daughters.’18 Julia immediately turned him down, as did another young lady, Fanny Waugh. Thomas was seemingly determined to find a wife and in September that year married Fanny’s sister, Edith Waugh. 

Julia’s other proposal was from William Holman Hunt, the Pre-Raphaelite painter. Julia also turned this down but managed to stay friends with both these suitors for the rest of her life. William Holman Hunt asked her to be godmother to his child.

29-30. Left, Julia, drawing by Holman Hunt. Date unknown. Self-portrait by William Holman Hunt, c.1867.

Moving to the Isle of Wight: ‘Little Holland House on Sea’

More things were beginning to change. Tennyson and his family were firmly established at Farringford, on the Isle of Wight. They had rented the beautiful house and extensive grounds for some time while also living on the mainland, but eventually bought it as their permanent home.

31. Farringford, the home of the Tennysons, photographed by Frank Mason Good, c.1865.
32-33. Left, Emily Tennyson at Farringford’ c.1862-3. G. F. Watts. Right, ‘Alfred Tennyson’ 1858. G. F. Watts.
34. ‘Freshwater Bay from Farringford’. A watercolour by Helen Allingham.

In 1860 while Charles Cameron was still in Ceylon managing their coffee estates, Julia Margaret Cameron bought two cottages in Terrace Lane next to the Farringford estate and overlooking Freshwater Bay. When her husband returned to England, the Camerons used one as a holiday home and had visitors to stay in the other. These cottages were later connected by a large central tower to form their home, Dimbola, named after one of their coffee estates in Ceylon. 

35-36. Left, Dimbola c.1871. Unknown photographer. Right, Charles Hay Cameron, photographed by his wife, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864. 

The following year they bought another cottage nearby, The Porch, which was also used to accommodate their many visitors. The celebrity circle was moving from Little Holland House to Freshwater. Edward Lear, visiting in October 1864 wrote that ‘Pattledom has taken entire possession of the place – Camerons and Prinseps building everywhere.’19 Dimbola was taking on ‘the character of a Little Holland House-on Sea.’20

Mia and Julia – new horizons and expanding families

Mia Jackson, with Julia as her companion and support, continued their peripatetic cosmopolitan lifestyle. They too went to Freshwater accompanied by John Jackson. They mostly spent time at spas and health resorts as well as visiting Julia’s French grandmother, Thérèse de L’Étang and other friends and relatives in Paris. For Julia it would have been a pleasant, easy life, staying in hotels or with friends. Though Julia was her mother’s support and gentle companion, Mia also had maids and nurses for the day-to-day care of an invalid. Julia’s days would be full of excursions, parties and gossip.

37. Julia Margaret Cameron ‘Herbert Fisher’, 1864.

In 1862 and in 1863 they were again in Dieppe.

When they were at home in Hendon they had many visitors and were occupied with their increasing family. Mary Fisher and her children often stayed with them when Herbert Fisher was away at Sandringham in attendance on the Prince of Wales. In 1864 Julia and Mia visited Switzerland and Italy. In April that year they stayed with Julia Cameron’s daughter Juley Norman for the birth of her second baby Adeline and went again to Freshwater. In the summer they went to Switzerland and Italy. On their return Mary went to stay with them and Herbert wrote that,

My wife is at Hendon. You will be glad to hear that Mrs. Jackson is certainty much better than she was when she went abroad in the summer, though still far from strong. The climate of Florence agreed with her better than any other and she enjoyed the place so much. They brought back a good many new Photos from the pictures, but all very disappointing, or most of them. I don’t know why they don’t succeed better – They spent a long time at S Moritz in the Ober Engadin and dropped down to Italy by Le Prese which seems to be a nice little place, and where they also stayed some time.

38. Julia Margaret Cameron 
‘Mrs Herbert Fisher with Herbert A.L. Fisher’ c.1865.

Herbert thought that it would have been better for Mia’s health if they had stayed abroad and spent the winter in Italy, but they returned to find that,

Mrs Cameron is photographing more furiously and I fear recklessly than ever. She has taken now to Madonnas and subjects of various kinds and is often very successful – but will attain to finish of execution.21

Not surprisingly in such a large family, there were many births. The number of Julia’s cousins, nieces and nephews was increasing rapidly. In 1863, Julia’s niece Florence Fisher was born in Kensington. In 1865 her nephews Herbert Fisher and William Vaughan were born. In 1866 Arthur Fisher and Millicent Vaughan were also born.

Sadly there were also deaths. In January 1866 Julia’s French grandmother, almost 100 years old,22 died in Paris. The story told by her descendant James Beadle was that,

39. ‘Madame Thérèse de L’Étang.’ Unknown painter.

The old ideas survived with Mme. De l’Étang in the old house at Versailles where she had her circle and her mild card-playing every night. One evening, when being dressed for her little party, she leaned back in her chair, said to the faithful Annette, ‘I am tired,’ and died. Had she lived another four months she would have reached her century.23

She was buried at Versailles. She had been such a great part of Julia’s life – always there influencing her looks and her behaviour, helping in her education and upbringing, giving her French style and chic, and her French language. Mia was devastated. She went to Malvern to recuperate, accompanied for some of the time by Julia. In April Herbert Fisher wrote that, 

Julia has returned to Malvern, where I think that Mrs. Jackson is likely to remain for some time; not that the place has as yet done her any good, but she is determined to give it a fair trial, and in her present condition anything is better than moving about. Dr Johnson speaks hopefully of her recovery, but she is in a pitiable state at present, and has been now for several months.

Two days later he wrote, 

Mrs Jackson is becoming tired of Malvern, but I hope that she will remain there for the present though as far as the water-cure goes, she might be anywhere else, as she is not considered strong enough to bear the treatment, & is merely living en pension at Mr Johnson’s, with the benefit of his attendance.24

Julia’s friendship with Anny (1837-1919) and Minny (1840-1875) Thackeray

Julia’s friendship with Anny and Minny Thackeray developed during this time and was to last throughout their lives. They were older than her; Anny by 9 years and Minny by 6 years, but the way they dressed made them look almost a generation older. Their conventional Victorian crinolines and restrictive corsets emphasise by contrast just how liberating were the fashions which Julia and her sisters wore.

40-41. left, Annie and Minny Thackeray aged c.16 and 14 in 1854. Studio photograph. Right, Mary and Julia Jackson aged c.16 and 12, 1857-58. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall. 

At this time the Thackeray sisters were living with their father in his grand house Kensington Gardens. All three were often at Little Holland House but they also had a circle of friends which included many journalists and theatrical people especially Dickens, and often put on amateur theatricals together. One such was for the housewarming at 2 Palace Green, Kensington in February 1862. Julia’s cousin Juley Norman (née Cameron) was one of the cast, and their great-grandmother Thérèse de L’Étang came over from Versailles especially to see the production. The sudden death of Thackeray on Christmas Eve 1863 brought an abrupt end to the Thackeray sisters’ comfortable lives and left them distraught. Julia Margaret Cameron took them under her wing, inviting them to Freshwater to recuperate. 

42. Leslie Stephen 1862, studio portrait. Unknown photographer.

They were also becoming well acquainted with Leslie Stephen, a well-known critic, writer, biographer and alpinist. They had met in Zermatt in the spring of 1866 and on many other occasions with family and friends. 

In June that year he was one of many invited to Anny’s grand birthday picnic at Abinger Hatch near Dorking in Surrey. Anny recorded, 

Picnic very great success. Mrs Sartoris, Leighton Val [Prinsep] Julia Jackson Leslie Herman [Merivale] &ct &ct. Made up my mind that Leslie was very serious & he really cared about Minnie. Lunch at the Inn tea under the great trees – carts to the station – Mrs Sartoris singing.25

Leslie Stephen was indeed very serious and on 4 December he and Minny Thackeray were engaged. This picnic was also probably the first time that Julia had met Leslie Stephen, the man destined to become her second husband. Towards the end of his life he wrote of this meeting and especially the effect on him of Julia’s beauty, again idealising her:

I do not know certainly when I saw her first: but the first time at which I remember to have seen her was at that picnic of 1866 of which I have already spoken. I remember standing on the little green before the inn at Abinger Hatch. I was talking to Jeanie Senior […] Julia was standing near us among a little group of girls. ‘What do you think of Julia Jackson?’ asked Mrs. Senior. I forget the words of my reply, but the substance was, she is the most beautiful girl I ever saw. My sister tells me that she was impressed at the same time and place and remembers that Julia was in white with blue flowers in her hat. I do not remember that I spoke to her. I saw and remembered her, as I might have seen and remembered the Sistine Madonna or any other representation of superlative beauty.26

43 Herbert Duckworth (undated).
Unknown photographer.

What Julia’s response to Leslie was at this time is not recorded. Her attention was already elsewhere, focused on the handsome young lawyer she had been meeting, Herbert Duckworth.

Another new home – Saxonbury Lodge

The most momentous changes for Julia were towards the end of 1866. John Jackson finally decided to retire and closed his practice in Hanover Square. He began to look for a larger home for the family outside of London. He settled on Saxonbury, a beautiful house in the village of Frant in East Sussex on the border with Kent. 

44. The Jacksons’ home, Saxonbury Lodge, c.1835. Engraving by William Westall of a drawing by Thomas Henwood.

It was an ideal location, close enough to get to London easily if they wanted to, but near the fashionable spa town of Tunbridge Wells, which appealed to Mia. It was also a place where many Anglo-Indians retired to and they had many acquaintances in the area. They looked forward to a comfortable retirement among family and friends. They were visited there by Julia’s sister Mary, with husband Herbert Fisher and their children. Herbert recorded that the Jacksons had settled in well. 

The situation is very high, and somewhat exposed, but with a beautiful view, and though the soil is provokingly damp, (not being clay) Mrs. Jackson is, I think, quite satisfied with the place, and she certainly is much better, though still obliged to lead an invalid life, and they are going to take a long lease of it. We are two miles and ½ from Tunbridge W. a very nice distance, and if you know the country, you will remember that there is an abundance of pretty rides and drives.27

Julia did not live there for long. In February 1867 she was engaged to Herbert Duckworth and in May they were married. It would be the start of a very happy new chapter for her.

From: A Vision of Beauty: A Biography of Julia Prinsep Stephen by Marion Dell. © CC BY-NC-SA unless otherwise stated; image copyrights are listed in the credits and they are not licensed for re-use.


I am indebted to the late Mary Bennett for giving me transcripts she had made from Herbert Fisher’s letters to Mrs Clough, in family possession.

I am very grateful to Ceri Sugg, Library Archivist at Eton College, Windsor, for information on Anny Thackeray Ritchie and for permission to quote from and reproduce items from the Eton College Archive. I was delighted to be invited to see the excellent exhibition A Victorian Legacy: Anne Thackeray Ritchie Life and Writings in March 2022.

I am grateful to Donal Connan for bringing the beautiful portrait of Mme Thérèse de L’Étang in the Bonhams’ sale to my attention.

Picture credits

  1. Julia Jackson, 1864. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program. https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/58864/julia-margaret-cameron-julia-jackson-profile-british-1864/ (accessed 17/03/22)
  2. Double self-portrait ‘Rejlander introduces Rejlander the Volunteer’, c.1871. From the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. XRP1505 – RPS collection (accessed 17/03/22)
  3. Portrait of Lewis Carroll by Oscar Rejlander, c.1863. Public Domain courtesy The Met, New York, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Sam Salz Foundation Gift, 2005, Accession Number: 2005.100.757. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/285656 (accessed 02/04/22)
  4. Julia Margaret Cameron, c.1873. National Portrait Gallery, London. Licensed for Creative Commons usage. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?search=ap&npgno=P696&eDate=&lDate= (accessed 02/04/22)
  5. Cover of ‘A Victorian Album’. Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  6. Copy of the Mia Album dedication. From ‘A Victorian Album’, Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  7. My Ewen’s Bride (The Mia Album, 46). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Licensed for Creative Commons usage. Accession no. RPS.1239-2017. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1433642/dora-as-the-bride-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret/ (accessed 24/03/22)
  8. H. Thoby Prinsep (The Mia Album, 45). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Licensed for Creative Commons usage. Accession no. 205-1969. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1097727/henry-thoby-prinsep-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret/ (accessed 24/03/22)
  9. Devotion (The Mia Album, 12). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Licensed for Creative Commons usage. Accession no. 45154. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O98922/devotion-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret/ (accessed 24/03/22)
  10. Mrs Cameron Receives a Bow from Her Son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron (The Mia Album, 7). From ‘A Victorian Album’, Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  11. Julia Jackson (The Mia Album, 37). Art Institute of Chicago, Harriot A. Fox Endowment 1970.838. CCO Public Domain. https://www.artic.edu/artworks/34837/julia-jackson (accessed 19/05/22)
  12. Julia Jackson, 1867. Art Institute of Chicago, Harriot A. Fox Endowment 1968.227. CCO Public Domain. https://www.artic.edu/artworks/29230/julia-jackson (accessed 19/05/22)
  13. Mary Fisher (a version of this image is 18 in The Mia Album). Art Institute of Chicago, The Mary and Leigh Block Endowment Fund 1998.274, CCO Public Domain. https://www.artic.edu/artworks/150115/mrs-herbert-fisher (accessed 19/05/22)
  14. Julia Margaret Cameron: (The Mia Album, 62). From ‘A Victorian Album’, Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  15. Alice Prinsep. Private collection. 
  16. Portrait of a Sybil (May Prinsep). © National Portrait Gallery licensed for use CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.  https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp86999/mary-emily-may-prinsep (accessed 24/03/22)
  17. Virginia Dalrymple. © The Watts Gallery Trust.
  18. William Bayley (The Mia Album, 105). From ‘A Victorian Album’, Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  19. Isabel Somers-Cocks (The Mia Album, 68). From ‘A Victorian Album’, Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  20. Val and Arthur Prinsep, Henry Herschel Hay and Charles Hay Cameron, and unknown boy (The Mia Album, 91). From ‘A Victorian Album’, Ed. Graham Ovenden, Secker & Warburg Limited, London 1973.
  21. Julia Margaret Cameron and her daughter Juley. http://www.artnet.com/artists/julia-margaret-cameron/mrs-cameron-julie-rxq_pmdCgXK3qcD6WB6R0Q2 (accessed 23/06/22)
  22. Charlotte Norman. https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Charlotte-Norman/8C989A4E2CE778F5 (accessed 02/06/22)
  23. Henry Herschel Hay Cameron (The Mia Album, 41). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O228488/henry-herschel-hay-cameron-of-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret/ (accessed 19/05/22)
  24. ‘My Cameron Clan’ (The Mia Album, 60). © National Portrait Gallery licensed for use CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  25. The Terry Sisters.  https://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_164642/George-Frederick-Watts/The-Terry-Sisters (accessed 08/08/21)
  26.  ‘Choosing’. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O228488/henry-herschel-hay-cameron-of-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret/ (accessed 19/05/22)
  27. ‘Sadness’.  Julia Margaret Cameron. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O140856/guy-little-theatrical-photographs-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret/ (accessed 02/06/22)
  28. Thomas Woolner. National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia. https://www.portrait.gov.au/portraits/2009.137/thomas-woolner/14750/ (accessed 02/06/22)
  29. Julia. William Holman Hunt. Private Collection.
  30. William Holman Hunt. Self-portrait in the Gallerie degli Uffizi.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Holman_Hunt_-_Selfportrait.jpg (accessed 19/05/22)
  31. Farringford, the home of the Tennysons. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/farringford-the-residence-of-a-tennyson-esq-d-c-l-freshwater-isle-of-wight-frank-mason-good/fQEZHqE7vys1Fg?hl=en
  32. Emily Tennyson. The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery) – licensed for non-commercial use. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/emily-tennyson-18131896-wife-of-alfred-tennyson-82131# (accessed 02/06/22)
  33. Alfred Tennyson. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ngv.vic.gov.au%2Fexplore%2Fcollection%2Fwork%2F4462%2F&psig=AOvVaw35QVfQvBEjNUF1LIuH4nwO&ust=1654261035847000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAkQjRxqFwoTCLiu7t3ojvgCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAI(accessed 02/06/22)
  34. Freshwater Bay from Farringford. From The Homes of Tennyson illustrated by Helen Allingham published by A&C Black, London, 1905.
  35. Dimbola. Unknown photographer. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Camerons%27_house,_Dimbola_Lodge.jpg (accessed 02/06/22)
  36. Charles Hay Cameron. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.  © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XZ.186.78. https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/object/104G0J (accessed 02/06/22)
  37. Herbert William Fisher. Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPGx18003). https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?email=&form=cc&mkey=mw162774 (accessed 02/06/22)
  38. Mrs Herbert Fisher with Herbert A. L. Fisher (The Mia Album 2). Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865.
  39. Madame Thérèse de L’Étang. Unknown artist. https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/11642/lot/177A/?category=list (accessed 02/06/22)
  40. Annie and Minny Thackeray.  Unknown photographer. ©Eton College Collections MS 430 01 05 01.
  41. Mary and Julia Jackson. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program. Julia Margaret Cameron included this photograph in her ‘Signor’ album. Mrs Cameron pencilled the image with the names ‘Adeline’ and ‘Julia’, but the image is believed to be of Mary and Julia.  © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XZ.186.78. https://britishphotohistory.ning.com/profiles/blogs/identification-photographs-c-late-1850s-early-1860s (accessed 02/06/22)
  42. Leslie Stephen, 1862. Unknown photographer. Reproduction of plate 35c from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album. Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts. https://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/rarebook/exhibitions/images/stephen/large35c.jpg (accessed 02/06/22)
  43. Herbert Duckworth. Unknown photographer, possibly Oscar Rejlander. Reproduction of plate 34g from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album. Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts. https://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/rarebook/exhibitions/stephen/34g.htm (accessed 02/06/22)
  44. Saxonbury Lodge, Frant. Taken from The History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Sussex by Thomas Horsfield published by Baxter, Sussex Press, Lewes, 1835.


Full publishing details can be found in the Bibliography, under Resources

Frequent abbreviations in this chapter:

MA:  The Mia Album – Therese Mulligan et al, For my best beloved sister Mia: an album of photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Art Museum, 1994). With a Forward by Therese Mulligan, Introduction by Eugenia Parry Janis, and essays ‘A history of the heart’ by April Watson, and ‘Album photographs on Museum Walls: The Mia Album’ by Joanne Lukitsh.


  1. The Mia album was family owned until 1974 when it was sold to dealers who took it apart in order to sell each photograph separately. Luckily a private collector bought all the images and kept them together. The Hochburg-Mattis Collection was displayed by the University of New Mexico Art Museum in the autumn of 1994. See Therese Mulligan et al For my best beloved Sister Mia: An album of photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron.
  2. The Mia and Virginia albums pre-date what is often claimed to be the beginning of Julia Margaret Cameron’s career in photography, when her daughter gave her a camera for her 48th birthday in December 1863. They show that she was producing, and collaborating in making photographs, earlier. It is now thought she probably began as early as 1860. See S Wolf, Julia Margaret Cameron’s Women 29-31, M Weiss, Julia Margaret Cameron 8-10, and C Ford, Julia Margaret Cameron 35-36.
  3. A reproduction, A Victorian Album: Julia Margaret Cameron and Her Circle, was published in 1975, edited by Graham Ovenden with an introductory essay by Lord David Cecil.
  4. See Chapter 7.
  5. See Foreword.
  6. This album is still owned by the Somers-Cocks family at Eastnor Castle.
  7. Their mother, Isabella, was still alive, but was in an institution because of her mental health.
  8. For research on this album see Joanne Lukitsh, ‘The Thackeray Album: Looking at Julia Margaret Cameron’s gift to her friend Annie Thackeray’ in Dave Oliphant (ed.), Gendered Territory (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).
  9. Leonard Woolf, Sowing (San Diego, New York and London: Harvest/HBJ, 1975) 186..
  10. W. Blunt, England’s Michelangelo 107.
  11. See Select Family Tree no. 10.
  12. Quoted in Bryant GF Watts Portraits 134.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ellen Terry, The Story of My Life, quoted by W. Blunt, 107.
  15. N. TromansThe Art of G.F. Watts, 61.
  16. Laura Troubridge, Memories and Reflections 47.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Quoted in Eliz F Boyd, Bloomsbury Heritage 28.
  19. Quoted in Bryant GF Watts Portraits 138.
  20. Quoted Blunt, 108.
  21. Herbert Fisher letter Dec 10, 1864.
  22. Some records give her age as 97, as her birthday was given as 13 December 1768 on her marriage record. This may not have been accurate as other sources state she was 99, almost one hundred, when she died – a very great age at that time.
  23. The Connoisseur. Vol. LXXII, 1925.
  24. HF Herbert Fisher letters April 8 and April 10, 1866.
  25. Anny Thackeray’s Journal. Quoted John Aplin, The Inheritance of Genius, 188.
  26. Alan Bell (ed.), Mausoleum Book 30-31.
  27. Herbert Fisher letters Nov 20, 1866.