I’ve been thinking of writing a talk, perhaps for delivery one day in the Kelmscott coach house, which would be entitled ‘Some Reflections on William Guest in News from Nowhere’, and which would attempt to answer a series of questions about Morris’s utopian narrator that have always interested and puzzled me. But before I do so, I thought I’d share my thirteen questions and canvass the opinions of readers of this blog. Are there other issues which you think should be addressed about William Guest? If so, please post them via the Comments facility below and perhaps we’ll arrive at a collective sense of what intrigues us about this strange and memorable Morrisian character.
1.Why does he behave so oddly at the political meeting that opens the book?
2.What do we learn (or what can we infer) of his social background?
3.Is he or isn’t he William Morris?
4.Why, when he arrives in Nowhere, does he choose the surname ‘Guest’?
5.Why doesn’t he just tell the Nowherians that he has come from another time instead of being so evasive about this?
6.Why is he 56 years old? What is the textual function or necessity of this fact?
7.Is he really old Hammond’s grandfather, and how much does it matter if he is?
8.Is it really his own literary works and visual image that he sees spread around Nowhere?
9.Does he actually grow younger rowing up the Thames?
10.How many times does he go swimming in the book?
11.Did he ever really have a chance of a relationship with Ellen?
12.Would he have done better with any of the other women in the book?
13.Why does he have to go back to the 1890s, and how will he get on when he returns there?
I look forward to your thoughts!