One evening in March 1869, Henry James visited William and Jane Morris in their rooms over Morris’s London shop. It was, James told his sister Alice, a “long, rich sort of visit, with a strong peculiar flavor of its own”—and not one that he wished to repeat. The peculiar flavor came from the long, strong body of Jane Morris.

“Oh, ma chère, such a wife! Je n’en reviens pas—she haunts me still.” James saw the muse of the age as a ghost, shadowed in the morbid eclipse of art.

A figure cut out of a missal—out of one of Rossetti’s or Hunt’s pictures—to say this gives but a faint idea of her, because when such an image puts on flesh and blood, it is an apparition of fearful and wonderful intensity. It’s hard to say whether...


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