Effie in Venice

Publisher /date: Vanguard Press, 1965
pages: 354
genre: letters

alternate title(s): Effie in Venice

This was one of the first books I “sought out”; having found it online — I drove to get it at a shop periodically visited in New Hampshire. These letters made me fall in love with Effie Gray, and I was quickly looking for the two additional books Lutyens edited on the subject: Millais and the Ruskins (1967), which advances the story; and The Ruskins and the Grays (1972), which tells the backstory. Strangely, Lutyens seems closer to Effie in the earlier books; handling Ruskin and his parents with lighter gloves in the last of the trio.

Effie is a forgotten woman of the past, overshadowed by her two husbands — John Ruskin (from whom she obtained an annulment) and John Everett Millais. Millais painted several portraits of Effie, all of which are well worth tracking down. All these items bring Effie Gray back to life.

In this book, Lutyens presents the letters with little editorial interruption. The endpapers reproduce an original letter, with its crossed writing. Wonderful to see. Thanks to the internet, you can even find some of the family photographs.

The dissolution of the Ruskin marriage is, of course, the background of the 1995 play The Countess. Wikipedia notes that Emma Thompson is producing a film (with Dakota Fanning) called Effie. Greg Wise is cast as John Ruskin; Tom Sturridge as John Millais. Julie Walters as Mrs Ruskin. Effie is due out in Summer 2012. My, the films are busy: IMDB has a (rumored) Keira Knightley film called Untouched in pre-production for 2013. There was also a 2009 series, Desperate Romantics.

Read the book before seeing any movies (or plays)!