Monday, 10 October 2011

Morris and Son

In ‘The Man Born to be King’, the King remarks: ‘Though I had hoped to have a son/To help me get the day’s work done’ (Earthly Paradise, I, p.118). In ‘The Son of Croesus’, the wood-dwellers declare: ‘Dost thou not know, O King, how men will strive/That they, when dead, still in their sons may live?’ (EP, II, p.150). Georgiana Burne-Jones once applied this motif to William Morris himself, who of course had only daughters. She wrote to Sydney Cockerell: ‘Have you ever tried to imagine a son of Morris? I have tried to try, and failed!’ (MacCarthy, p.192).

Dombey and Son, Morris and Son: what Morris did not get in life, he bequeathed himself in fiction. For by making old Hammond in News from Nowhere the grandson of William Guest, the visitor to utopia (who is the Morris-surrogate in that text), which thereby also makes the hyper-athletic Dick Hammond Guest’s great-greatgrandson, Morris endows himself with the sturdy male progeny he did not achieve in life itself. And since Dick and Clara themselves have two children, this Morris lineage clearly continues well on into the 22nd century utopian future (if at the cost of a certain narcissism in his utopia).

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