We know that when they lived at Woodford Hall the young Morris and his brothers would shoot rabbits and wild birds. ‘The redwings and fieldfares which they shot on winter holidays they were allowed to roast for supper’, J.W. Mackail tells us (I, 9). But did they also shoot and cook squirrels, I wonder?
I’m moved to ask the question because of that curious moment late in The Life and Death of Jason (1867) when Jason first visits Glauce in her woodland abode and she offers him refreshments after his day’s hunting: ‘of fair simple flowers ... Your drink shall savour, and your meat shall be/Red-coated squirrels from the beechen tree’ (book XVII). This certainly sounds more to me like a boyhood memory than it does any kind of reference to Apollonius’s Greek original.
If so, then is squirrel-hunting an activity the William Morris Society should be promoting (grey-coated rather than ‘red-coated’ today, of course); and what exactly anyway, I wonder, does squirrel meat taste like?