Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Beginnings and Endings

In Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie's 'The First Fabians' (1977) we learn that the early Fabian Sydney Olivier, "a great admirer of Morris, would read his work aloud to Margaret [his wife] in the evenings' - to the point, indeed, where 'they named their second child Brunhild after the heroine in Morris's romantic saga "Sigurd the Volsung"' (p.99). Shades of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one can't help thinking, who used to name his children after whichever philosopher he happened to be reading at the time.

A less cheerful, rather more solemn, use of Morris's works was made by the prominent Christian Socialist Henry Scott Holland. For according to the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography', Scott Holland 'died in his house at Christ Church, Oxford, early on a Sunday morning, 17 March 1918, after reciting Wordsworth's "Yarrow Revisited" and having William Morris's "The House of the Wolfings" read to him' (vol 27, p.670). The whole of it, one asks in amazement?

There must be many other instances across the years of Morris's works being used to mark significant 'rites de passage' in his admirers' lives. It would certainly be interesting to draw a chrestomathy of such examples together...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Pulling Pike out of the Thames

Occasionally the William Morris Society has organised boat journeys up the Thames from London to Kelmscott Manor in honour of those Morris and friends made in The Ark in the early 1880s, and which Guest, Dick Hammond and Clara make in 'News from Nowhere'.

However, to truly honour Morris's passion for the Thames, should the Society not also be organising fishing trips around Kelmscott? Here, for instance, is Morris on a piscatorial expedition in February 1877: 'We got a few small perch & 3 pike, Ellis a big one 9 1/2 lbs, at Goblin Reach - he was so happy - Ellis, not the pike'. Or, on an even better day a year or so later, 'Edgar got three smallish pikes: on the other hand Ellis captured a monster under the willow on the Berkshire side of the Old-Weir pool: he weighed 17 lbs'. Morris even on occasion managed to rope his wife into these fishing outings. Writing to his daughter in August 1888 he notes: 'your mother went with me (walking) and my fishing-rod to the infallible hole near Buscot, & sure enough I got 3 perch there'.

So there we are! My suggestion for the next Morris Society expedition is, accordingly, pike fishing at Goblin Reach and the Old-Weir Pool and some serious detective work to establish what Morris meant by his 'infallible hole near Buscot'. The rewards? Monstrous pike every bit as eerie and scary as those celebrated in the famous Ted Hughes poem on the topic.

William Morris Club in Oxford?

According to M.P. Ashley and C.T. Saunders in 'Red Oxford' (2nd edition, 1933), "In 1928 and 1929 members of the Labour Club ran, but as an independent organisation called the William Morris Club, a club room where meals could be obtained. It was situated first in Queen Street, later in the High" (p.43).

Does anybody know more of this Morris Club than just the name? Was it some kind of rallying point for the left in the Oxford University Labour Club, or was it really just a glorified cafe?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007