The Book

Although spanning a wide network of friends and family, ancestors and descendants, inlaws and outlaws, artists and artisans, the heart of "All My Darlings" is the nuclear unit of George and Mary Ann Macirone. This is a brief introduction to the family.

The above picture of George was taken around 1855 and is the only one that survives. Adored by his wife and children, he was both traditional patriarch and radical eccentric. Indeed, if he didn’t mould the others in his image, their life choices were fashioned in response to his struggles. A brilliant, restless, troubled polymath, his character may be triangulated from the poles of his profound love for his family and the illness with which he struggled his entire adult life.

The picture of Mary Ann in later life was painted by the talented Emily. Like many Victorian women, Mary Ann was defined by her marriage. However, this takes nothing away from her sharp intellect, nor the considerable business acumen she displayed at the height of her husband’s problems. She was deeply religious and possessed of a profound social conscience – qualities she passed on to all her children.

Another of Emily’s portraits shows her elder sister Clara as a student at the Royal Academy of Music. At a time of limited professional opportunities for women, Clara was nonetheless the Macirones’ main breadwinner; a truly gifted musician whose work and reputation survive to this day. Perhaps her greatest legacy, however, was the family itself. Without her diligence and ingenuity (at heartbreaking personal cost), they would surely have faced bankruptcy.

This portrait of Emily at the age of 21 by a fellow artist is the only picture that remains. Six years younger than Clara, Emily was a capable painter and, if she never quite matched her sister’s achievements, she was often in demand as a portraitist. Bright, warm and attractive, Emily was the family’s most enthusiastic correspondent and her letters are unfailingly funny and engaging.

Seven years younger than Emily, 13 than Clara, George Augustus was very much the baby of the family and, in a male-dominated society, it was his welfare and prospects that preoccupied his sisters. Another of Emily's pictures shows him in his uniform for Christ’s Hospital, the Bluecoat School. A likeable boy, ever eager to please, he grew into a pious, somewhat earnest man, touched by tragedy, whose religious convictions would throw the family into crisis …