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).

1 comment:

Elrond said...

Some more traditional Morris scholars have also shown an enthusiasm for completing their hero's unfinished works. For example, in his 'Notes on Morris's Walking Tour in France' John Purkis wrote: 'In 1856 Morris published "The Churches of North France: 1: Shadows of Amiens' in the February number of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. The series of articles was never completed; but it could be'.