The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends

The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends

The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends

The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends

Excerpt

The mild blue eyes look out from the well-known portrait by Watts of William Morris at the age of thirty-seven with a calm assurance of power. Their regard is impersonal and remote from the world. The small mouth, with its finely moulded lips, is fringed with rather thin moustaches. It is an extremely sensitive face, epicurean and aristocratic and somewhat sanguine, framed within the abundant curling hair. It was painted, Morris tells us, when he had 'a devil of a cold in the head', and one of the eyes is red-rimmed and watering.

The day after Morris died Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, who came to know him in the second half of his life, wrote in his diary under 4 October, 1896: 'He is the most wonderful man I have ever known, unique in this, that he had no thought for any thing or person, including himself, but only for the work he had in hand. He was not selfish in the sense of seeking his own advantage or pleasure or comfort, but he was too absorbed in his own thoughts to be either openly affectionate or actively kind. I suppose he had a real affection for Burne-Jones; they saw each other constantly and spent their Sunday mornings always together, and I have seen him tender to his daughter Jenny and nice with her and with his wife, but I doubt if he thought of them much when he did not see them, and his life was not arranged in reference to them. To the rest of the world he seemed quite indifferent. . . . He liked to talk to me because I knew how to talk to him, and our fence of words furbished his wit, but I doubt if he would have crossed the street to speak to me. . . . The truth is he would not give an hour of his time to anyone, he held it to be too valuable. Thus, while all the world admired and respected him, I doubt whether he had many friends; they got too little in return to continue their affection. I should say half-a-dozen were all the friends he had. I do not count myself among the number, intimate as I was with him and much as I loved him. It will be a great grief to Jenny, a great break-up for Janey, and a great loss to the world, for he was really our greatest man.'

This account, so remarkably penetrating in some ways, has been much resented by Morris's friends, who have taken it as implying that he cared for no one but himself. But the final verdict of Mackail confirms it.

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