Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I slombred in a slepying

Since undergraduate days I’ve always loved the works of the medieval Gawain-poet (in fact, I owe my marriage to them, but that’s another story), so I am intrigued by one of David Leopold’s footnotes to his edition of News from Nowhere. Noting that old Hammond appears to be William Guest’s grandson, Leopold remarks: ‘In making his authoritative guide a descendant there is perhaps an echo of Pearl (Morris was certainly familiar with medieval dream-poetry)’ (p.195). Well, yes, he clearly knew Piers Plowman with its opening dream-vision in the Malvern hills, though I can’t actually recall any reference to the Gawain-poet's Pearl in Morris's voluminous writings.

However, the beautifully elegiac Pearl does turn up in Jane Morris’s correspondence, for on 15 June 1908 we find her writing to Sydney Cockerell: ‘Thank you so much for the “Pearl”. I like it exceedingly and wonder that I never came across it before’, which the editors learnedly inform us is a reference to Israel Gollancz’s 1891 edition Pearl, an English Poem of the 14th Century with a Modern Rendering (p.412). Whether this remark helps or hinders Leopold’s interesting speculation about the influence of Pearl on News from Nowhere, I can’t say; perhaps it’s just neutral in that respect.

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