In 1855 Rossetti wrote to Holman Hunt about the design for the painting he would return to throughout his life, yet be unable to complete before his death in 1882:
The picture is Found (Plate 7), and in 1881 Rossetti completed the sonnet of the same title. Where Chapter 1 examined the intertextual relations between Found / “Found” and Rossetti’s sonnets on “Mary’s Girlhood,” this analysis will read Rossetti’s painting and sonnet as they relate to the urban environment, situating these texts within the discourse of the Victorian novel and the narrative of the fallen woman.1 Having suggested in the previous chapters that Rossetti continuously interrogates notions of looking and movement, particularly of women, this chapter will turn to one of the most problematic aspects of his work, that which deals with identifiably contemporary Victorian subjects. The final line from this quotation provides the point of departure for this discussion. Rossetti’s tacit acknowledgment of the possibility the girl will do “herself a hurt” situates this painting and sonnet pair within the discourse of suicide that proliferated in Victorian novels as well as the popular presses. While the provenance of this unfinished painting as well as its symbolism has been discussed by several critics, this chapter will seek to locate Rossetti’s contemporary work within the discourses
of written and visual representations of fallen women, prostitution, and suicide so recognizable to the Victorian reading public from cheap periodical presses and novels.2 Given the relative rarity of urban subjects in Rossetti’s oeuvre, these texts take on extra significance in determining the relationship between his work and conventional representations of women in urban space in Victorian visual and written culture. Reading Rossetti’s urban texts through and against popular fictional representations of these narratives, this chapter will examine the ways in which his work adapts the recognizable tropes associated with them while problematizing the assumptions surrounding the representation of prostitution and the fallen woman in Victorian culture.3 To project or locate Rossetti’s texts within discourses where we would not normally expect to find them, as I noted in the Introduction, is to suggest a deeper engagement with those discourses than has perhaps been realized.