The Surrogate is a developmental novel about the life of an extraordinary woman, painting model and actress, who lived in late Victorian England. The England of great social change, emancipation of women and rise of the modern and war industry. The England of the turn of the century into the 20th century.

The Surrogate thus spans less than forty years, from 1859 to 1899, and is about the youth and success of Ada Alice Pullan (1859-1899), who became known as the actress Dorothy Dene.  

It is a novel about the life of Dorothy, a beautiful actress and painter's model in late Victorian England. She lived and worked mainly in Kensington in London and was the favourite model of the painter Frederic Leighton, president of the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts. But Dorothy was much more than that. The writer embarked on a quest into Dorothy's life, enchanted as she was by the mystery of this young woman, she went past the important places in Dorothy's life, visited houses, theatres and studios, even became a part-time Victorian and, in a way, melted more and more with Dorothy. What was it that Dorothy had to tell her and why did she force herself into this journey? Is it true that Dorothy was the model for George Bernard Shaw's Eliza Doolittle in his play Pygmalion, was she the real 'My Fair Lady'? The Surrogate is a story about beauty and decay, love, sexuality, art and mores in the late Victorian circle of London artists.

"Flaming June" in de originele lijst

 The idea for The Surrogate arose when I saw a painting depicted that intrigued me (Flaming June by Frederic Leighton). After some research, I ran into the discussion of which woman modeled, Dorothy Dene (Ada Alice Pullan) or the unknown Mary Elizabeth Lloyd. My attention was initially drawn to the unknown of the two, Mary. From there, I began to delve into her life and her surroundings. But while exploring the life of this Mary Elizabeth, it proved impossible for me to avoid Dorothy Dene. This woman was perhaps the most important model the great painter Frederic Leighton, president of the Royal Academy of Arts and a famous actress in the last decade of nineteenth-century London. So in the end, she became my protagonist.

THE SURROGATE tells of Dorothy's ambitions, triumphs, loves, disappointments and tragedy and is set in the years 1876 to 1893. Dorothy, one of the most beautiful women in England, never married and never became the famous actress she so fervently hoped to become. Dorothy, outside the 'limelight' was like a mother to her sisters and brothers and made sure they escaped poverty. But she paid a high price for this. She was a veritable 'my fair lady' to the painter she so often posed for.

Anna A. Ros
Middelburg, Netherlands, Fall 2016