Saturday, 4 December 2010

Morning Chat with Mr Morris

Oh dear, one always finishes writing a book too early! No sooner has one got the first copies back from the printer, gleaming, glossy and reeking so delightfully of printers’ ink, than one discovers – if one has continued reading around the same subject or field – some crucial fact which should have gone into the volume, and which would perhaps have involved wholesale reinterpretation of one’s conclusions had it done so.

So it has proved, to some extent, with my book of Morris interviews, We Met Morris: Interviews with William Morris, 1885-96 (Spire Books, 2005). Because some time after it was published I happened upon a reference to another Morris interview which should ideally have gone into the collection in the first place. Darn, drat, grinding of teeth! On investigation it turned out that the additional interview didn’t involve any radical reinterpretation of earlier findings, thank goodness, but it would certainly have been nice to have it in the collection for the sake of historical completeness.

It is an interview or ‘chat’ with Morris conducted by R. Ponsonby Staples and published in The New Budget under the title ‘Morning Chats with William Morris’ (2 October 1895, p.24). Staples arrives at Kelmscott House to sketch Morris and his surroundings, and chats with him in a rather desultory way as he does so about such topics as the Catholic Church, Russian politics and literature, racial identity among Jews and native Americans, contemporary painting and the railway system. On the latter, Morris ends with a splendid suggestion: ‘Well, with the railways, I would go further than that Zone system you would like tried in Ireland; they ought to be quite free!’

I can’t now put this interview in my We Met Morris collection, alas, but I have made it available on my Lancaster University website entry. So if you want to read it, please go to this (decidedly unwieldy) address:


Kate said...

Thank you so much for the link; it's wonderful to be able to get a glimpse of the great man in this manner. I confess I've not read your book so must now endeavour to seek it out post haste!

Tony Pinkney said...

Dear Kit and Kaboodle, thanks for the comment. Yes, do by all means read the interviews book. Morris comes across in a very lively and unbuttoned way to the various interlocutors across the whole range of his interests (politics, tapestry, book production, art in general). Some nice evocations of Kelmscott House and Hammersmith there too.