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William Morris Society in the United States
NewsletterOctober 1989

The American branch of the William Morris Society has planned a full program of activities for this year's MLA Convention, to be held 26-30 December in Washington, DC. The first session, 'William Morris and the Power of Fantasy', will take place on Friday, 29 December, from 3.30-4.45 p.m. in the Vermont room of the Sheraton Hotel. There will be three papers, 'Morris and Fairy Lore' by Carole Silver, '"Of Habundia's Kin": Nature, History, and the Poetic Romances of William Morris' by Jeffrey Skablow, and 'Morris, Ernst Bloch, and Fantasy/Utopia' by Tony Pinkney. Norman Kelvin, the editor of Morris's Letters, will act as respondent. Afterwards the Society will sponsor a cash bar in the same location.

On Saturday, 30 December, we will hold our annual business meeting from 10.15-11.30 a.m., again at the Sheraton but in the Eisenhower room. 'Morris and Women', the second academic panel, will follow from 12 noon to 1.15 p.m. The speakers will be: Norman Kelvin, on women in Morris's later letters and prose romances; Julia Atkins, on 'The Ionides Family'; Nina Auerbach, 'Must Guenevere Grovel" From the dramatic monologue to pictorial theatre'; and Holly Dworkin, 'A Design of One's Own: William Morris and Women.'

The Society has also arranged for a special event to precede the Friday afternoon session

followed by
East Building, National Gallery of Art
1 p.m., Friday, 29 December 1989
advance reservations required

Luncheon in the private staff 'refectory' will be followed by a visit to the prints and drawings department. where we will have the opportunity of seeing the Gallery's small but growing collection of Victorian drawings--works by Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Leigh&endash;ton, Ruskin, and Beardsley. There should be no difficulty in returning in time for the 3.30 session, since the Sheraton is just a ten minute ride on the metro Red Line from Judiciary Square station, located two and a half blocks from the National Gallery. Members who are not attending the MLA meeting will be especially welcome.

Since seating in the 'refectory' is limited, we can have a maximum of 20 in the group. Advance reservations are necessary. If you want to attend please get in touch with Mark Samuels Lasner by 1 December. You will then receive details of where to meet at 1 p.m. There is no cost (who says there isn't such a thing as a 'free lunch'?)

Work is progressing on Helen Timo's edition of Morris's The Widow's House by the Great River, to be published by the American branch of the Society. Some copies will be shipped to Kelmscott House for sale in England. The January Newsletter will have details of price and availability.

It seems that, at long last, the powers that be in the scholarly world of art history have recognized the existence of the Pre-Raphaelites. At many colleges and universities (there are exceptions, a few) it is understood that England produced no art worth mentioning after the death of Turner; that is, if English painting is mentioned at all. Now, in what may be a 'sign of change', the College Art Association, at its annual meeting in New York, 15-17 February 1990, will have a session on 'Pre-Raphaelite Art in its Historic Context'. The papers and speakers (a number of whom are Society members) are as follows: 'The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy to Symbolism: A Focus on Artists in the Rosicrucian Circle', Susan Casteras (Yale Center for British Art); 'The Pre-Raphaelites and the Problem of Manliness', Herbert Sussman (Northeastern University); 'Burne-Jones: Mannerist in an Age of Modernism', Liana Cheney (University of Lowell); 'The Meaning of Renaissance Christian Prototypes in Simeon Solomon's Early Hebrew Pictures', Norman Kleeblatt (The Jewish Museum); and 'Aubrey Beardsley: The Last Pre-Raphaelite', Gail Weinberg. Alicia Faxon, of Simmons College, will chair the session. Details of time and place will be announced in the January Newsletter: it is excepted that, as with the MLA convention, one may attend a single session without paying a registration fee.

In November 1896, only a month after Morris's death, Frank Colebrook delivered a lecture, 'William Morris: Master Printer,' to the students at the printing school of St. Bride Foundation, London. Colebrook's talk, first published in the special 'Morris Memorial Number' of The Printing Times and Lithographer (of which Colebrook was editor), was recently and simultaneously rediscovered by Society members John Walsdorf and William S. Peterson. It has now been reprinted as William Morris: Master-Printer, edited and introduced by Peterson, and produced under Walsdorf's sponsorship, by the Yellow Barn Press of Council Bluffs, Iowa. This is not only a handsome publication--155 copies bound in cloth backed boards with three wood engravings by John De Pol--but a most interesting one; drawing on interviews with Morris's associates Emery Walker and W. H. Bowden, Colebrook was able to give a quite detailed picture of the actual operations of the Kelmscott Press. As Peterson comments in his introduction, 'this is one of the most balanced, nonpartisan appraisals of Morris as a printer that I have ever read.' Copies are available (price $55.00) from a number of booksellers, including The Colophon Book Shop, Epping, NH, and Oak Knoll Books, Newark, DE.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti is about to receive the highest honor available to artists in our society--the big, expensive art book. Alicia Faxon's Rossetti, due out from Abbeville Press, New York by the time you read this, runs to nearly 260 pages in an 11 x 13 inch format. The price is $85.00, but it is certainly worth it. There are 265 illustrations (140 of them in color), surely a record for any Victorian painter. More importantly, the text, unlike so many similarly priced volumes, is not mere padding. Faxon, an art historian and head of the art department at Simmons College, has provided a detailed and well-considered commentary, with particular emphasis on the iconography of Rossetti's often intricately symbolic works. Her work is, in fact, the most lengthy study of Rossetti as an artist since Marillier's pioneer volume of 1899. As one would expect she gives considerable information about William Morris and Jane Morris, and the book reproduces several portraits of them and of their daughters. Family reminiscences from Rossetti's great-grandniece, Helen Guglielmini, are an unusual and unexpected feature.

It was only after the 'William Morris and his Circle' auction that Jos Heller brought to my attention an article by Peter Watson in the London Observer, 14 May 1989. Entitled 'Designs on William Morris' this appeared in the 'Personal Finance' section with the subtitle 'Alternative Investments.' One wonders if Mr. Watson knew something about the prospective bidder who purchased so heavily:

While the rest of the country is moaning on, day after day, about the loss of our 'heritage' to the 'heathens' abroad, keep your own eyes fixed firmly this week on New York. This Friday there is an unrivaled opportunity to sneak some of the stuff back Š
After describing Morris's work at the Kelmscott Press in the last five years of his life ('Mrs. T took twice as long to achieve greatness.') Watson goes on to list some of the sale's highlights, including the Chaucer printed on vellum. The estimate for the rebound copy of the Kelmscott Maud, £420-540, he calls 'as beautiful as the book'--prophecy, since this brought (for this sale) the modest price of $650.00. Of Cobden-Sanderson's Doves Press Watson says 'Few books can be such a pleasure to look at, so satisfying to hold', but the item he himself wants is, surprisingly, 'lot 2239, the first birthday present for Rachel Anne Olive Daniel, daughter of Henry Daniel, founder of the Daniel Press.ŠI wish someone would give me a present like that.'
A further footnote: The Morris and his circle boom continues. At Sotheby's sale of English Literature, Autograph Manuscripts and Documents in late July, the market makers from May were again at play. One of the lots was a series of autograph letters from Burne-Jones to Olive Maxse, a young women who served as his model in the 1880s (she was the daughter of Meredith's friend Frederick Maxse, the dedicatee of Modern Love). Some of the letters were illustrated with Burne-Jones's amusing sketches of people, real--Jane Morris among them--and imaginary. The estimate was £15-20,000, the successful bid, a more than competitive £180,000! (No, I have not mistakenly added a zero.) The next important Pre-Raphaelite 'item', a presentation copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer, is said to be among the books in the Haven O'More collection, to be sold next month by Sotheby's New York. Stay tunedŠ

In a letter printed in the Arts and Leisure section of The Sunday New York Times, 7 May 1989, our member (and former Newsletter editor and chairperson) Gary Aho commented on Paul Goldberger's article on the Eiffel Tower published the previous week:

But along the way he [Goldberger] points out that some French artists and intellectuals denounced the tower from the outset, damning its 'arrogant ironmongery.'

He might also have mentioned some critics from across the channel. William Morris, the British poet, designer and socialist, visited Paris several times immediately after the tower had been completed, and he always dined in its restaurant.

One of his socialist compatriots remarked on this, suggesting that Morris had a high regard for Eiffel's masterpiece. Morris replied, 'No, this is the only place in Paris where I don't have to look at it.'

What Morris had to say of the food served at Eiffel Tower is, apparently, not recorded.

A pair of proof leaves for the Kelmscott Press Froissart, with a calligraphic border drawn in ink by Morris, is one of the items displayed in The Philip Hofer Collection, now on view at the Grolier Club in New York (to 26 November). Lovers of 'the ideal book' and 'the book beautiful' should not miss this exhibition (150 items) drawn from the bequest from its founder to the Harvard library's famed Department of Printing and Graphic Arts. While Morris was not one of Hofer's principal collecting interests he did acquire a number of remarkable pieces of Morrisiana, including several Kelmscott Press books and the copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphilis (1499) which was once the joint property of Morris and Burne-Jones and was, presumably, the inspiration for their never-completed illustrated edition of The Earthly Paradise.

Thomas G. Boss Fine Books has issued its Catalogue One: The Turn of a Century. Morris himself is represented by a fine presentation copy of The Æneid of Virgil (1876)--inscribed to his mother. There are also a number of books about him, among them the now uncommon original edition of H. Buxton Forman's The Books of William Morris (1897) and William Morris, Poet, Craftsman, Socialist (1902) by Elizabeth Luther Cary, with its handsome art nouveau trade binding by Margaret Armstrong. The catalogue is strong in books designed by American followers and imitators of Morris: Will H. Bradley, Bertram Grosvenor Goodie (his edition of E. B. Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese is a direct copy of the Kelmscott style), the Elston Press, and the Roycrofters. British work of the period is, however, not neglected, with examples from the Chiswick, Doves, and Vale presses. I am told that the firm's next offering will be an individually priced collection of books printed on vellum; this contains a number of Kelmscott books, both in original bindings and beautifully rebound. For copies contact: Thomas G. Boss Fine Books, 355 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116, Tel. [617] 421-1880.
Still in the world of books, readers may be interested to learn that the Bibliography Newsletter, founded by Terry Belanger of the Columbia University School of Library Science and in abeyance for several years, has been revived. It is now issued under the editorship of Bryan Johnson, 102 Preston Forest Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060. This is a very useful publication, listing new books (also, as in the past, providing sources for remaindered titles) and giving news of people and events in the book world.



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