Some information for my English speaking readers.
Dottie was given a chair and Kemp’s wife placed a large cup of tea in front of her. All life seemed to have faded from her face, her eyes were staring at a place way beyond the walls of the library. She just sat there, like a statue. Freddie’s Lachrymae was by no means a true image of mourning, this was much worse. I don’t remember what I said to her, I do remember embracing her. She was stone cold, didn’t react to anything. Her lips formed words but she made no sound. A hand was reaching for mine and once found it was like there was a shivering leaf laying on the back of my hand. I was overwhelmed with compassion, because here sat a woman who had lost the most precious in her life.
from: “Surrogate” by Anna A Ros. A novel about the life of Dorothy Dene.
Surrogate is a novel about the life of Dorothy Dene, a true beauty, actress and sitter for leading painters of her time. Dorothy lived and worked in the late Victorian Era between 1860 and 1900. Living in Kensington for most of her life she was the favorite sitter for Frederic Leighton, at the time the president of the Royal Academy of Arts. But Dorothy was a lot more than that.
The author’s search for Dorothy’s past life guided by a lot of research, travels and dressing up to become almost a Victorian in an effort to understand the life of Dorothy, who’s real name is Ada Alice Pullan, is a story in itself. Anna A Ros became captivated by the mystery surrounding this young woman and visited the places that were significant in her life: houses; theaters; painters studios; archives and museums uncovering the true life of Dorothy Dene. What was it that Dorothy had to tell her? Was Dorothy really the woman that brought George Bernard Shaw to creating the character of Eliza Doolittle for his famous play ‘Pygmalion’? Was Dorothy the real ‘My Fair Lady’ and Leighton her ‘Professor Higgins’?
This novel is all about beautiful women, painters, theatre, love, sex, beauty and decay and life and death in the artists England of the 19th century fin de siècle. But it’s just as much a compelling story of the search for love and the meaning of aging. The decades between 1860 and 1900 are representative for what was to come in the coming century. Victorian England was freeing itself from the grasp of industrial development and religious and social ties. Women were gradually but with perseverance claiming their place in society as equals in that male dominated world. A world in which poverty and richness had developed to parallel universes in society. But the walls in society between the classes crumbled and a few women like Dorothy were able to find a solid place in society for themselves. Sometimes at great personal cost. It was also the world in which carriages were being replaced by cars, ocean liners became what jet airliners are nowadays and technological developments would result in greater strength of the masses. Social change, if not revolution, was visible in the streets and in the arts. It was the time that the old art from the Academy artists was slowly becoming outdated, to become replaced by modern and avant garde art. Dorothy was maybe one of the best examples of that classic beauty that prevailed in the Orientalist and post Pre-Raphaelite art. Styles that were soon about to disappear for decades.
But who was Dorothy really? Was she just another beauty, an actress and sitter or was she much more? Surrogate will reveal the true story of Ada Alice Pullan, the woman behind the stage name Dorothy Dene, the model, the surrogate mother, the lover and the star of the stage if not the painters studio. Much more than just a face on the wall she was a woman of flesh and blood who lived a high life but paid an enormous price for that. In Surrogate she comes back to life.
Surrogate was written between 2012 and 2017. In Dutch, and will hopefully be translated into English in due time. First Dutch publication is expected sometime in 2017.
© 2016 Anna A. Ros