Juanita Miller brought the Pre-Raphaelites to Oakland, the City I was born in during a shower of stars.
What I discovered was a pamphlet announcing Joaquin Miller Day. A musical drama was performed at the Woodminster Amphitheater on September 24, 1944. There was going to be the planting of memorial redwood trees around the equestrian statue of Joaquin Miller. On stage was a replica of the studio and garden used by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Holman Hunt. The Poet, Christina Rossetti was played by Jeanne Jardin. Elizabeth Siddal Hunt’s model and muse is played by Helen Kraum. Carmencita Sanchez and her Mexican dancers, performed. In Scene Two we have the Bonaparte and Queen Victoria.
Yesterday I received in the mail a book I ordered on E-Bay. I quickly scanned it to see if their were any illustrations or photographs. Then, I found it, what amounts to my personal Holy Grail. Joaquin Miller dedicated his book of poems ‘Songs of The Sun-Land’ to the Rossetti family that includes Gariel, Michael, and, Christine. Gabriel was a artist and poet, Michael, a publisher, and Christine, a poet.
“TO THE ROSSETTIS”
There is controversy over this dedication. Michael is against it. He is critical of Miller’s poems that takes the reader to the Holy Land. Joaquin is describing a personal relationship with the Savior that reminds me of how Bohemians and Hippies would view Jesus, he a Nature Boy of sorts.
Gabriel, who had Joaquin over to his house for dinner, where he met several members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood seems to address his brother’s objections in a letter, and gives a tentative go ahead. He talks about Miller sending him a photograph of himself and bids him to say a word or two at the bottom of it, that does not exist. This photo may be the famous one taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is better known as Lewis Carrol the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. If Joaquin had glued this portrait to a piece of paper, then we might have seen it on the dedication page.
What is going on here is extremely profound. Miller has exported his vision and lifestyle to the England, where he wrote Song of the Sierras, and now he is importing to America a cultural brand that contains Grail and Arthurian subject matter that was at the epicenter of the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The Rossettis may not have been too happy with Miller attaching himself to their star because the British are very protective of their culture. I wish I could say the same thing about the University of Oregon that is about to tear down homes that were once in the city limits of Fairmount, the city founded by Joaquin’s brother, George Miller.
The homes the Miller brothers lived in are registered and protected as Monuments. There is a Joaquin Miller State Park near Florence that was founded by George who also promoted the Winnemucca to the Sea Highway. There needs to be a Monument for George. I suggest the homes on Columbia Terrace be spared, and this city block declared a National Monument. I have suggested these homes be used to house homeless Vets going to college, but now I see a Free College on this site due to the student loan crisis.
This college will teach alternatives to prospective students of the UofO, such as having parents of students purchase a home in Eugene. In many cases a mortgage is cheaper than rent. Teaching your children how to get a job rather then attend college, will produce more home ownership that the UofO who promises jobs – that don’t exist!
The Miller Brothers were born on a farm near Coburg. They went into the world and achieved much. They are a cultural icon too Oregon and California. On page ten of the prelude, we read;
“By unnamed rivers of the Oregon north’
That roll dark-heaved into turbulent hills,
I have made my home….The Wild heart thrills
With memories fierce, and world storms forth.”
I once read that many college students didn’t know there was a Oregon, and if they did, they didn’t know where it is. The Rossettis more than likely read these words. Did they go to a globe to see where Joaquin and George live?
How many students at the UofO know who the Miller brothers were, and the Brotherhood.
“When Joaquin Miller left DC, most sources agree that he gave his cabin to a friend, who in turn gave it to the Sierra Club. Then in 1913 the cabin was carefully disassembled at the urging of the California State Association and moved to its current location in Rock Creek Park, near the intersection of Beach Drive and Military Road, where it is now the property of the National Park Service. By and by, another Miller found inspiration in the cabin. From 1931 through the 1950’s, Pherne Miller, Joaquin’s niece, leased the cabin from the Parks Department, and there she gave art classes and sold soft drinks and candy.”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (/ˈdænti ˈɡeɪbriəl rəˈzɛti/; 12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882) was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.
Rossetti’s art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats. His later poetry was characterised by the complex interlinking of thought and feeling, especially in his sonnet sequence The House of Life. Poetry and image are closely entwined in Rossetti’s work; he frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures, spanning from The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877), while also creating art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti, his sister.
The son of émigré Italian scholar Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti and his wife Frances Polidori, Rossetti was born in London, and named Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti. His family and friends called him Gabriel, but in publications he put the name Dante first (in honour of Dante Alighieri). He was the brother of poet Christina Rossetti, critic William Michael Rossetti, and author Maria Francesca Rossetti.
His visions of Arthurian romance and medieval design also inspired William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Neither Burne-Jones nor Morris knew Rossetti, but were much influenced by his works, and met him by recruiting him as a contributor to their Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which Morris founded in 1856 to promote his ideas about art and poetry.
In February 1857, Rossetti wrote to William Bell Scott:
Two young men, projectors of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, have recently come up to town from Oxford, and are now very intimate friends of mine. Their names are Morris and Jones. They have turned artists instead of taking up any other career to which the university generally leads, and both are men of real genius. Jones’s designs are marvels of finish and imaginative detail, unequalled by anything unless perhaps Albert Dürer’s finest works.
In 1861, Rossetti became a founding partner in the decorative arts firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Morris, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall. Rossetti contributed designs for stained glass and other decorative objects.
Gabriele Rossetti, a well-known Italian patriot and Dante – scholar, was one of the leaders of the Carbonari (the red shirted resistance movement at Naples),which he inflamed with his patriotic songs. Jailed and sentenced to death by the French oppressors, he was rescued with the help of an English Admiral, smuggled to Malta and then to London. There he married a lady of Italian origin, but English birth, then finished his later years a professor at London University. He was visited, while in Exile, by Guiseppe Mazzini and other Italian revolutionaries.
Tradition has it that the “Rossetti” name of the family came into being with Maria Rossi who married Nicola Della Guardia. It is not known whether they were at odds with the rest of the family or if her maiden name, or the red hair color of their offsprings, or both prompted them to call their children the “Rossettis” meaning “little red ones”. During the many years of political turmoil and upheavals, so many events went unrecorded, or their documentation were lost or destroyed. As a general rule most information and dates prior to about 1750 are mainly legendary data handed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next one.
Miller went to England, where he was celebrated as a frontier oddity. There, in May 1871, Miller published Songs of the Sierras, the book which finalized his nickname as the “Poet of the Sierras”. It was well received by the British press and members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Michael Rossetti.
While in England, he was one of the few Americans invited into the Savage Club along with Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The younger Hawthorne referred to Miller as “a licensed libertine” but admitted to finding him “charming, amiable, and harmless”. Rather abruptly, Miller left England in September 1871 and landed in New York. At the encouragement of family, he made his way to Easton, Pennsylvania to visit his dying brother before returning to Oregon; his father died shortly thereafter. Miller eventually settled in California, where he grew fruit and published his poems and other works.
In 1886, Miller published The Destruction of Gotham, a book which was one of the earliest to depict a prostitute as a heroine. That year, he moved to Oakland, California, and built a home for himself he called “The Hights”. He remained there until his death in 1913.
Japanese poet Yone Noguchi came to The Hights in 1894 and spent the next four years there as an unpaid laborer in exchange for room and board. While living there, he published his first book, Seen or Unseen; or, Monologues of a Homeless Snail (1897). Though he referred to Miller as “the most natural man”, Noguchi reflected on those years as his most difficult in the United States and later fictionalized his experience in The American Diary of a Japanese Girl.
An historical marker for his birthplace was unveiled October 10, 1915, on U.S. 27 north of Liberty in Union County, Indiana. Joaquin Miller Cabin is located in Washington, DC. The Hights, the Oakland home Miller built at the end of his life, is currently known as the Joaquin Miller House and is part of Joaquin Miller Park. He planted the surrounding trees and he personally built, on the eminence to the north, his own funeral pyre and monuments dedicated to Moses, General John C. Frémont, and the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Japanese poet Yone Noguchi began his literary career while living in the cabin adjoining Millers’ during the latter half of the 1890s. The Hights was purchased by the city of Oakland in 1919 and can be found in Joaquin Miller Park. It is now a designated California Historical Landmark. Miller Middle School and Joaquin Miller Elementary School in Burbank, Calif., were also named after him.
People in London were fascinated by the frontiersman poet, the Byron of the Rockies, the Wild West poet. According to Marberry’s biography of Miller, Miss Lily Langtry exhibited the curiosity common among Londoners as she related her understanding of Joaquin: “He had lived a life adventuresome….He ran away from school to mine for gold, he had been adopted by the Indians, imprisoned for some imaginary offence, had escaped from jail by the aid of an Indian girl, swam a river with her to freedom, and married her—all before twenty.” He loved an audience, and good whiskey. He dressed the part, complete with spurs and sombrero, when the mood struck him, and of course, his famous bear skin. And while in London, Joaquin Miller managed to publish several volumes of his own poetry, one, Songs of the Sierras, to critical acclaim.
Some American writers who joined Joaquin in London found his habits pompous and unnerving. Even some London critics refused to yield to the intrigue of his posing. However, Miller seemed to weather most criticism, as tenaciously as Columbus in his poem. He did not give up hope. He sailed on! Miller clearly enjoyed the voyage, despite its perils. Others’ disdain for his self-promotion was not sufficient to tip his boat. Songs of the Sierras sold very well in England.
Even writers who were generally friendly with Miller could not overlook his unconventional habits and unlikely fame, however. Mark Twain wrote of Miller’s behavior in London:
He was affecting the picturesque and untamed costume of the wild Sierras at the time, to the charmed astonishment of conventional London. He and Trollope talked all the time, and both at the same time. Trollope pouring forth a smooth and limpid and sparkling stream of faultless English, and Joaquin discharging into it his muddy and tumultuous mountain torrent—well there was never anything just like it except the Whirlpool Rapids under Niagara Falls (Marberry 135).
Brett Harte, who first met Joaquin Miler as a young writer in San Francisco, tended to be jealous and disparaging, and even Walt Whitman championed and defended by Miller and a kind friend to Joaquin throughout his life, was said to have admitted in 1881, “Miller never did quite the work I expected him to do” (Marberry 145).
When Joaquin Miller left DC, most sources agree that he gave his cabin to a friend, who in turn gave it to the Sierra Club. Then in 1913 the cabin was carefully disassembled at the urging of the California State Association and moved to its current location in Rock Creek Park, near the intersection of Beach Drive and Military Road, where it is now the property of the National Park Service. By and by, another Miller found inspiration in the cabin. From 1931 through the 1950’s, Pherne Miller, Joaquin’s niece, leased the cabin from the Parks Department, and there she gave art classes and sold soft drinks and candy.
Today Joaquin Miller’s Washington Cabin is tightly sealed and in need of some repair. Nonetheless, Tuesday evenings in June and July at 7:30 PM, it is the site of a long-lived poetry reading series. The Joaquin Miller Cabin Reading Series begins its 33rd year this summer. Poetry by the cabin lives on! Gathered at picnic tables and in camp chairs beside the cabin, audiences gather to listen to local and nationally-known poets read their word. The reading series—developed and sustained by the literary non-profit, The Word Works, and nurtured especially by The Word Works president, Karren Alenier and its beloved host, the late Jacklyn Potter—is a fitting tribute to the man whose imagination championed exploration and whose legendary tales and exploits brought the West to the East. I like to imagine him standing in the doorway, listening, proud of the good fortune his handy-work has brought the nation’s capital, and perhaps hatching a plan to crash the reception and sell another authentic bearskin rug.
Furthermore, the Pre-Raphaelite movement was not a
solely British phenomenon. Across the Atlantic a ferment
was working among certain young American painters,
authors, and architects who were directly inspired by the
English P.R.B. attack on sterile conservatism. This progres-
sive group in turn denounced what they considered the
slavish adherence to mere tradition. They too became less
polemic, but through the latter half of the nineteenth
century and into our own times they and their followers did
*Two extensions of this term are implicit in this study: first, Ruslcin,
although not a member of the Brotherhood, was so closely associated with
them in the minds of the American Pre-Raphaelites that frequent reference
must be made to him; and, secondly, although the actual P.R.B. organization
existed for little more than five years, investigation of the continuing careers
of its members and of such later associates as William Morris is of course
THE PRE-RAPHAELITE MOVEMENT 5
succeed in exerting an influence on the artistic expression
and even on phases of the economic life of the United
States that cannot be ignored.
Three noteworthy periodicals in this country stemmed
directly from the tenets of Ruskin and the British Brother-
hood. The first journal clearly Pre-Raphaelite in its origin
and sympathies was the Crayon, edited by William James
Stillman, a painting-companion of Ruskin and a close as-
sociate of the whole Rossetti family. This review appeared
in the 1850*5 and conveyed to American readers the heart
of the P.R.B. theories. Another little magazine, the New Path,
was the organ of a superbly self-confident American Brother-
hood known as the “Society for the Advancement of Truth
in Art/’ which centered in New York City in the Civil War
years. Charter members of this group included several young
men of a liberal cast of mind, who were to gain some public
recognition: Clarence King, later the good friend of Henry
Adams, author of Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, and
first Director of the U. S. Geological Survey; Charles Herbert
Moore, subsequently a respected art historian in the Norton
tradition and the first administrator of Harvard’s Fogg
Museum; Clarence Cook, who became editor of the old
Studio-, and two men who made names as architects and
critics, Peter B. Wight, a proponent of the Gothic Revival
in America, and Russell Sturgis, art editor for Scribnefs and
designer of four Gothic buildings for Yale University, A
third American magazine deriving from British sources, in
this case from William Morris and his Arts and Crafts
movement, was the Craftsman, which achieved the impres-
sive circulation of 60,000 before ceasing publication during
the First World War. Its pages gave a comprehensive ac-
count of the American handicrafts revival that flourished
for over two decades and was inspired chiefly by Morris’s
6 THE DARING YOXJNG MEN
“Red House” and the London Arts and Crafts Exhibition.
In a socio-economic direction not only the Arts and
Crafts movement may be largely credited to P.R.B. origins,
but, in its wider ramifications, the founding in this country
of an experimental Utopian community, the ill-fated “Rus-
kin Commonwealth,” which flowered for a few years in
Tennessee and Georgia.
In the more specific field of the visual arts the spirit of
Rossetti and Morris is definitely recognizable in the paint-
ing and stained-glass work of John La Farge and in the
varied products of Louis Tiffany, “the William Morris of
his generation in America.” Richard Watson Gilder of the
Century, who acknowledged Rossetti as his literary god-
father, likewise was linked directly with the liberal art move-
ment through the activities of his artist wife and their “little
salon” in their New York home, “The Studio/’ Several other
less known painters, such as Thomas Charles Farrer, a stu-
dent of Ruskin, and J. Henry Hill, were of the American
Pre-Raphaelite school. The exceptional collections of manu-
scripts, sketches, and paintings made by the late Samuel
Bancroft, Jr., of Wilmington, Delaware, and by Grenville
L. Winthrop, who bequeathed his extensive holdings to the
Fogg Museum of Art, are further evidence of a continuing
American interest in original Pre-Raphaelite materials.
Literary contacts, too, were frequent. Personal associa-
tions, some fugitive but others of lasting significance, were
established between the British P.R.B/S and their American
sympathizers. Thomas Buchanan Read, for example, was
Dante Gabriel Rossettf s first friend among writers from
this country. Joaquin Miller worked his eccentric way to the
dinner-table of “The Master,” as he labeled Rossetti. W. J.
StiUman, already recognized as the editor of the Crayon,
later displayed talent as an autobiographer and critic, and
THE PRE-RAPHAELITE MOVEMENT 7
added intimate details to the Rossetti canon; and both Still-
man and his beautiful Greek wife, Marie Spartali, were
themselves artists of some ability and served as models for
Dante Gabriel. Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman, Longfellow,
Moncure Conway, and others knew the Pre-Raphaelites in-
dividually, and were concerned with their ideas. Some later
American writers also owe something to the concepts of
Ruskin and the young Brotherhood. The verse of Christina
Rossetti, on the periphery of the group, was among the
models for Sara Teasdale’s poetry. D. G. Rossetti and Morris
had a considerable effect on such diverse figures as Richard
Hovey, Josephine Preston Peabody, and Ezra Pound; while
Vachel Lindsay in his “Gospel of Beauty” expounded much
of the Ruskinian aspiration for the better life.
These Britishers and Americans were, in the main, expo-
nents of the second of the two chief aesthetic attitudes of
the latter half of the nineteenth century. Put simply, one
view held that the effective creation of artistic beauty, in
whatever form, was an adequate and justifiable end in itself
art for the sake of art was enough. But to many sensitive
persons this interpretation seemed too precious, too other-
worldly, too esoteric. Beauty is not a supreme and absolute
value. Art cannot be abstracted from the conditions of art,
but must take its inspiration from its time and place, and
must, in full circle, bear a constructive relationship to its
Although pioneering chronologically, Poe’s dreamworld,
“out of space, out of time/’ demonstrated little visible con-
nection with the American environment; and through its
sensuous vividness and easy intelligibility, it led a reader
smoothly into the convolutions of Walter Pater and Oscar
Wilde. The purity and aloofness of art might be even better
O THE DARING YOUNG MEN
illustrated by the French, with whom the “art for art’s sake”
movement largely began: Flaubert, Gautier, Baudelaire, and
the brothers de Goncourt.
But other writers and artists, sometimes labeled as mere
sociological thinkers, looked about them at the masses of
humanity struggling for a better life or even for mere exist-
ence, and believed that an artist had a moral as well as an
aesthetic duty. To lead the masses the artist must serve the
masses. The majority of mankind laboring under inescapable
pressures must still be awakened to the power of beauty.
And the materialistic proprietors of the new machine-made
wealth must likewise be made to see the artistic and hu-
manitarian light. Victor Hugo and Zola in France; Carlyle,
Ruskin, and Morris in England; Whitman, Emerson, and
many of the later, lesser writers in America saw what they
considered the logical and inevitable link between art and
literature and common, everyday life.
The core of the Pre-Raphaelite attitude, however, was a
more inclusive desire than merely to apply art to society to
bring about visible improvements. The touchstone, if one
well-worn phrase must be selected, was “truth to nature/*
to Nature capitalized. Empty and trite interpretations, de-
liberate manipulations of subject matter to gain meretricious
effects in a word, artistic insincerity, illogicality and dis-
honesty in all their guises and applications these were the
foes of the Pre-Raphaelites on both sides of the Atlantic. And
against them they rode manfully and loudly to battle.
This attitude of the Americans, which is our chief concern
here, is of particular significance when viewed against the
backdrop of its historical period. The low estimate of human
nature and its potential which was inherent in the theologi-
cal determinism of the Puritans had yielded to the optimistic
faith in man and his perfectibility through reason which the
THE PRE-RAPHAELITE MOVEMENT Q
Enlightenment had offered. This “rational” attitude had
found magnificent political expression in “life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness,” and had found brief philosophical
application in Deism, and thereafter in the more organized
concepts of Unitarianism. In the Transcendental mode man
achieved an even nobler level, sharing a spark of the Divine
fire, himself but little lower than the angels. And on a practi-
cal level the rich new continent seemed to stretch out end-
lessly, with equal opportunity and success and satisfaction
for all comers.