What does Marcella look like?

Aldous Raeburn writes to Edward Hallam,

"Do you remember the Ghirlandajo frescoes in Santa Maria Novella; or the side groups in Andrea's frescos at the Annunziata? Among them, among the beautiful tall women of them, there are, I am sure, noble, freely-poised, suggestive heads like hers--hair, black wavy hair, folded like hers in large simple lines, and faces with the same long, subtle curves."

Ghirlandaio's frescoes at Santa Maria Novella:

Birth of the Virgin:
Birth of St. John the Baptist:

Andrea's frescoes at the Annunziata:

Aldous also reports, "I am told that Burne-Jones drew her several times while she was in London, with delight."

Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98) was associated with both the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts movement. The women in his drawings and paintings have traits like those Aldous ascribes to the Renaissance painters: tall and noble, with "long, subtle curves." Some Burne-Jones figures Ward might have had in mind include the following:

Portrait of Maria Zambaco




The Golden Stairs




Marcella's "aesthetic" dress (with thanks to Penny L. Richards):

In Book I, Chapter 7 (page 96), we are told that Marcella's dress is "generally of the ample 'aesthetic' type, and gave her a good deal of trouble out of doors. Marcella wore 'art serges' and velveteens . . . ."

The following sites help clarify 1890s "aesthetic" or "artistic" dress of reform.

A website from an exhibit called "Reforming Fashion, 1850-1914: Politics, Health, and Art" that ran April 13 - December 16, 2000 presented by the Historic CostumeCollection, Geraldine Schottenstein Wing, The Ohio State University:


A page by Kristin Chancey illustrating her master's thesis project, "The Corset Controversy and Feminine Identity in the Late Victorian Era":


(The main page of this project has a great Punch cartoon on Aesthetic Dress):


A page called "The Aesthetic Dress Movement," which explains the Aesthetic fashion, the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, the embroidery motifs, and the preferred fabrics and dyes. Particularly useful is the image from the Liberty catalog.


Marcella's District Nurse Uniform

Marcella's nursing uniform uniform probably resembled some of those at the following site:

A pictorial history of nurses and midwives uniforms in the UK:


The Setting of Marcella

Hampden House, the house upon which Mellor Park was based, as it looks today. When the Wards stayed there in the summer of 1889, the house had fallen into disrepair. See Book I, chapter 3, on the friendship between the real John Hampden and an ancestor of the fictional Marcella.


Stocks, the Ward's home near the site of Marcella's murder. The house itself does not play a role in the novel, though its landscape does. Today, it is a hotel and country club. While Mary Ward would probably be horrified, she would certainly be relieved that the house has passed out of the hands of the head of the UK Playboy Magazine Operation, a man who threw wild parties and who used Stocks as a "Training School for Bunny Girls"


London in the 1890s

Marcella completes her training in a hospital that Ward calls St. Edward's Hospital, but is probably St. Thomas' Hospital, the hospital where her sister-in-law, Gertrude Ward, was trained.

In London, Marcella lives in a place called "Brown's Buildings." This is probably based on Peabody buildings, a series of model buildings designed to provide housing for the working class. These buildings provided larger, more sanitary accommodation than standard slum housing, but the rent was too high for the poorest urban dwellers. The buildings were frequently criticized for their stark, depressing appearance. The building pictured is in a different region of London than that in which Marcella is said to live, but probably looks much like the building Ward envisioned:


In Book 3, Chapter 10, Aldous comes upon Marcella in a slum district near Drury Lane, described as a "black street." The term "black street" refers to Charles Booth's 1889 map of London, which color coded the streets by the degree of poverty:


Politics in Marcella:

The Fabians (a.k.a. "Venturists," in the novel):


Other links for Marcella:

Nursing History:


Straw Plaiting:


The Game Laws: