Friday 30 November 2007

Birdalone's Many Kisses

How many kisses does the dynamic heroine Birdalone receive in Morris's late romance The Water of the Wondrous Isles?

This is surely a question worthy of the literary quizzes in John Sutherland's popular So You Think You Know ... series (volumes out so far on Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen). But in fact it has already been answered for us in a little piece in Analysis 52 (18th December 1897), p.549; and the tally is an impressive 105, according to that count.

Has anyone ever doublechecked this figure? Dr Philippa Bennett, whose fine PhD on the concept of wonder in the late romances will one day surely appear as an important monograph, raises another moot issue: how many of those 105 kisses does Birdalone actually enjoy (as opposed to endure)?

And when will we finally get a So You Think You Know William Morris volume to tuck in our friends' Christmas stockings ... ?

Wednesday 28 November 2007

'Commonweal' on John Ruskin

On 15th September 1892 Sydney Cockerell noted in his diary that after attending a meeting of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings he had supper with William Morris and Philip Webb and there was 'talk about Munera Pulveris, etc'. One aches for that 'etc' to have been expanded, feeling that here we might have got a more detailed exposition of Morris's views of Ruskin's social thinking than we find elsewhere in his writings.

What we can usefully turn to, however, for some hints in this direction is a series of four articles which Thomas Shore contributed to 'Commonweal' in June to September 1886. Titled 'Ruskin as a Revolutionary Preacher' and amounting to almost 9000 words in all, Shore's articles constitute the paper's most sustained engagement with Ruskin's social thought; and given Morris's role as editor, we may assume that he was in at least broad agreement with Shore's detailed exposition and critique of Ruskin here.

'Ruskin as a Revolutionary Preacher' has now been reprinted for the first time since its original publication 121 years ago. Parts 1 and 2, with a brief introduction by myself, appear in the 'Ruskin Review and Bulletin', vol 3 no 3, 2007, pp.3-16, and Parts 3 and 4, again with a short introduction, will appear in vol 4, no 1, forthcoming shortly. The 'Ruskin Review and Bulletin' is published by the Lancaster University Ruskin Programme and further details can be found through its website.