First published in 1994, Portraits to the Wall by Rose Collis is an internationally acclaimed celebration of lesbian lives often concealed by history.
It rediscovered the lives and loves, consorts and concerns, passions and politics of a diverse range of British and European women:
The long-suffering monarch Queen Anne
The eccentric suffragist and composer Dame Ethel Smyth, who wrote the suffragette song, March of the Women
The formidable Eve Balfour, founder of the Soil Association and nicknamed “The Compost Queen”
Selma Lagerlof, the first woman ever to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Maureen Colquhoun, the first out lesbian MP
Mercedes De Acosta, ‘Spanish Lothario’, lover of Garbo and Dietrich
Edy Craig, actress, writer, feminist and daughter of Ellen Terry
Rosa Bonheur, celebrated artist who obtained a special license to wear ‘male’ attire
Frances Power Cobbe, writer, suffragist, founder of the National Anti-Vivisection Society
Catherina Linck, the last woman in Europe executed for being a lesbian after her ‘marriage’ to her lover, Catherina Muhlhahn
This new paperback edition includes the entire original text, and also features a new Preface, plus reviews and new cover.
Price £9.99, now available as POD paperback from Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y9lngwwr
And as a Kindle book – free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, or £1.99: https://tinyurl.com/y4bsslb9
From the new Preface:
‘TWENTY-FIVE YEARS since I wrote about it in Portraits to the Wall, the relationship between Queen Anne and her female courtiers became the subject of The Favourite, the acclaimed film starring Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz which garnered multiple Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations and awards.
In 1988, I was one of the few journalists to give column space to a book about a hitherto obscure wealthy lesbian of the manor, who had chronicled the minutiae of her daily life and loves, in four million words’ worth of coded diaries, translated by Helena Whitbread. Of course, now everyone knows her as ‘Gentleman Jack’ — but back then, only a few of us paid much attention to Anne Lister. In point of fact, some sceptics even believed that the diaries were a hoax. Such was the level of awareness of, and interest in, lesbians in history at that time.
As I outlined in the original preface, in 1994, the mainstream media has become a bit obsessed with ‘lipstick lesbians’, regarding it as an unknown phenomenon that they had discovered. In 1994, we were still in the ‘pre-Ellen’ era; the lesbian cultural icons in 1994 were kd lang, Camille Paglia, Sandra Bernhardt and Jeanette Winterson; there were no out lesbian politicians in the UK. Diva magazine was launched, the film of the moment was Go Fish, the UK ‘Lesbian Avengers’ were out recruiting and Channel 4 was still commissioning programmes like Out on Tuesday and Dyke TV.’
PRAISE FOR PORTRAITS TO THE WALL:
‘Well written, accessible and enjoyable.’
The Pink Paper
‘Wonderfully entertaining… ably covers its topics with lively recreations of personal drama… Rose Collis lends timeliness to these biographies that bring the past forcefully, and enjoyably, into the present.’
Lambda Book Report, NY
‘…written with a wonderfully light touch, and brims with contemporary comments that put the histories into a meaningful context… absolutely compulsive… Words fail me.
If I was allowed to recommend just one book in thie whole universe about lesbians, this would be it. Fuck Brookside, give Rose Collis her own soap immediately. The woman has a gift.’
‘…an enlightening book — a useful tool for both committed historians and those with an idle interest in the affairs of the past.’
‘…lighthearted, readable account of memorable lesbians. Collis is at her best when she touches on contemporary injustices.’
Barney Bardsley, Tribune
‘Irresistible and garrulous, Portraits to the Wall provides fascinating insights into the lives of a once-scandalous group of women.’
International Gay & Lesbian Review
‘Hugely entertaining and informative… immaculately researched, delightfully written…’
The Women’s Book Club
‘A quickstep, spicy feminist chronicle, told with intriguing real life detail. Highly recommended.’