Friday 10 April 2009

Canadian Aesthetics Journal: Morris Issue

A special issue of the electronic journal Canadian Aesthetics Journal/Revue Canadienne D’Esthétique (AE) on William Morris has just gone online (vol 15, Fall 2008). It is edited by Michelle Weinroth and contains:

David Mabb: Introduction to Rhythm 69

David Mabb: Rhythm 69 Slideshow

Colin Darke: David Mabb’s Rhythm 69

Michaela Braesel: William Morris and “Authenticity”

Tony Pinkney: News from Nowhere, Modernism, Postmodernism

Phillippa Bennett: A Legacy of “Great Wonders”: The Last Romances of William Morris and the Kelmscott Press

John T. F. Lang: Excerpt from John Lang’s doctoral dissertation: “Art and Life in Nineteenth-Century England: The Theory and Practice of William Morris”

Michelle Weinroth: William Morris’s Philosophy of Art

See the journal’s website at:

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Police Violence 1887/2009

If William Morris would have been interested in Slavoj Zizek’s recent ‘Idea of Communism’ conference (see entry for 22 March), so too would he have had a sickening sense of déjà vu as he watched the police handling of the April 1st G20 demonstrations in London.

Today’s main editorial in the Guardian newspaper, in the course of a reflection on ‘violent deaths at police hands during London street protests’, makes just such a link between Morris's experiences in the late 1880s and our own in 2009:

‘the names of some of the victims – Alfred Linnell in the pitched battles with the unemployed in 1887, Kevin Gately and Blair Peach during the anti-Nazi protests of the 1970s – are still remembered. To these we may have to add the name of Ian Tomlinson, who died in the City of London during the G20 demonstrations a week ago. Mr Tomlinson, who was not taking part in the protests, died from a heart attack. However, according to numerous witnesses and to new video evidence which the Guardian is preparing to pass to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, he also died shortly after being struck and knocked to the ground by Metropolitan police officers’ (p.30).

Morris acted as a pall-bearer for Linnell’s coffin, spoke eloquently at the funeral, and composed a ‘Death Song’ which was sold as a one penny pamphlet to raise money for Linnell’s orphans. Let us hope that some contemporary poet can rise as adequately to the challenge of Mr Tomlinson’s untimely death.

Sunday 5 April 2009

Festival of Unfinished Works: Part 2

The finishing of incomplete Morris texts (see blog entry for 03.03.09) could perhaps be extended to speculatively drafting our own versions of works which we know Morris to have produced, but of which no trace whatsoever now remains.

For example, on the cairn on the top of Kaldidalur on his 1871 Iceland trip our hero left a small literary offering under one of the stones, as was the custom for travellers. ‘We do not know what he wrote,’ Fiona MacCarthy informs us, ‘But he did not feel he had acquitted himself well’ (p.301). Is there a Morris scholar bold enough to have a go at reconstructing what that scrap of prose or verse might possibly have been?

Another such instance would be the entertaining story that Morris, plumply perched on the family rocking-horse, told to the young Rudyard Kipling and the Burne-Jones children: ‘slowly surging back and forth while the poor beast creaked, he told us a tale full of fascinating horrors, about a man who was condemned to bad dreams. One of them took the shape of a cow’s tail waving from a heap of dried fish’ (cited MacCarthy, p.399). Would it be possible to draft a plausible version of this tall tale?

And, finally, if we could only reconstruct the eerie story-to-end-all-stories that Burne-Jones warned his guests about in Red Lion Square! For ‘he who tells that story often goes mad in the telling of it, and he who hears it always does’ (MacCarthy, p.124).