Swinburne and Morris were always on good terms, though the passage given below may have led Swinburne to note in his ‘Changes of Aspect’ (as Cecil Y. Lang truly remarks, ‘the work of a disgruntled, old man’) that ‘Morris could hardly swim a stroke without support from Chaucer’—hardly a fair statement. Indeed The Earthly Paradise is partly inspired by a variety of literary sources, not particularly by Chaucer.
From J. W. Mackail’s Life of William Morris (1899), ii, 74: As to the poem [Tristram of Lyonesse], I have made two or three attempts to read it, but have failed, not being in the mood, I suppose: nothing would lay hold of me at all. This is doubtless my own fault, since it certainly did seem very fine. But, to confess and be hanged, you know I never could really sympathize with Swinburne’s work; it always seemed to me to be founded on literature, not on nature. In saying this I really cannot accuse myself of any jealousy on the subject, as I think also you will not. Now I believe that Swinburne’s sympathy with literature is most genuine and complete; and it is a pleasure to hear him talk about it, which he does in the best vein possible; he is most steadily enthusiastic about it…. In these days…nothing can take serious hold of people, or should do so, but that which is rooted deepest in reality and is quite at first hand.