‘Since we have had a grandchild in the house ... ’: I first quoted these words of Raymond Williams, from his volume of writings on television, back in 1989 when I edited a memorial issue of our Oxford journal News from Nowhere on him and his work. Now that I have my own first grandchild – a beautiful granddaughter, in fact – I shall be turning with interest to earlier attempts to make William Morris’s writings accessible to children. I already have a copy of the 1913 Tales from the Earthly Paradise by W.J. Glover, in which, as he remarks in the Preface, ‘From [Morris’s] twenty-four stories twelve have been selected and here rendered for children, largely in Morris’s own words, and it is hoped, in such a way that later they will turn with interest to The Earthly Paradise, the work of a distinguished poet’. The book also contains twelve full-page colour illustrations by Isabel Bonus to sweeten the reading experience.
Will W.J. Glover’s 1913 prose style still work for children a century later? I intend to come to a decision about this well before my new granddaughter reaches an age where she wants stories from her grandfather, and, if Glover's versions don’t seem to do the job any longer, may have a go at making my own in the hope that they might serve the early twenty-first century better. And why only these twelve stories out of the full twenty-four, I wonder? What was Glover’s principle of selection here and is it still justified, or could there perhaps be a second volume of the other dozen tales too? And then the thought arises of whether Morris’s other writings mightn’t be adapted for children too. His late romances would seem a rich potential field here, and perhaps some of the political writings might be amenable to conversion as well. Since my granddaughter Clodagh Sumiko is currently only three days old, I have a good long while to explore what suddenly seems a whole new field of Morris scholarship which this blog has hitherto neglected.