Monday, 4 July 2011

William Morris Holidays

There have been a good number of Morris-orientated mini-holidays advertised in the quality press and on the internet this year. Dr Anne Anderson will be leading three-day trips entitled ‘At Home with William Morris’ in September and October; these will ‘examine the profound influence of William Morris’ and include tours of Red House and Standen House. You can also explore ‘Pre-Raphaelite Oxford’ in trips during July, September and October; these aim to ‘explore Morris’s life and work in the city of Oxford with visits to Christchurch, Keble, Exeter, and Oxford University Museum’. Or you can join ‘William Morris: A Great Victorian’, with expert talks by Anne Anderson and Peter Cormack, and visits to Kelmscott Manor, Rodmarton Manor and All Saints Church, Selsey.

Now these all look very fascinating and worthwhile, and I might even go on one or two of them myself. But they are not in the end, we have to admit, really William Morris excursions at all. For they are passive, aesthetic and contemplative, while genuine Morris holidays, as modelled for us in News from Nowhere itself, are active and very hands-on indeed. As Dick Hammond informs us, ‘many grown people will go to live in the forests through the summer ... Apart from the other pleasures of it, it gives them a little rough work’. And presumably, like the children in Kensington forest, these adults are also ‘living in tents ... they learn to do things for themselves and get to notice the wild creatures’ (ch.V).

So never mind your learned tours of Standen and the Oxford Museum. Pack a tent in your rucksack, put some dubbin on your walking boots, polish up your binoculars, and head off boldly to the rough places. For that is how you truly have an authentic Morrisian holiday experience!


David Leopold said...

And what about following Morris' own holidays. The tours of French churches, or Iceland by fat pony.

Tony Pinkney said...

Thanks, David. I guess Iceland for Morris was the ideal reconciliation of both kinds of trip. On the one hand, he had all the cultural and literary experiences, visiting the saga-steads and so on; but on the other hand, to get them he had to ride all day, camp out overnight, catch fish to cook, ford dangerous rivers, cross lava-fields, etc. So a nice holistic mix of the rough and the smooth!