Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris and the muse of Rossetti still exercises a fascination that never seems to fade. Starting as the daughter of a lowly groom in Oxford her story is so fascinating that new books retelling are produced every few years. Jan Marsh has written her definitive biography and with Frank Sharp discovered 500 letters most of which have not been published before.
In good time to coincide with the Tate exhibition (which features a number of Rossetti's paintings of her) the letters reveal a much more complex character than has often been portrayed. She helped her husband, loved and worried about her children (particularly the epileptic Jenny) and had strong views that help bring her alive as more than Rossetti's vision of her or the limp invalid who married just for the money. The extensive notes reflect new research on her and those around her and the colour plates have been well chosen.
Its hard to see how this book could be superseded and combined with Fiona MacCarthy's biographies of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones throws new light on these leading lights of the pre raphaelites and their environment.