TOPSY1

THESE two volumes, supplementary to the sixteen issued over twenty years ago, complete the publication of William Morris's writings. Except Ruskin, no writer of the Victorian age has been so loyally served and so carefully laid up for posterity. Whether the time has come for a decisive valuation of his work is, perhaps, to be doubted. More than sixty years ago a sharp-eyed critic, writing of the Germ and the earliest pre-Raphaelite poetry, had occasion to speak also of Morris's Jason. He quoted the lines:

Meanwhile, all men spoke hotly of the quest,
And healths they drank to many an honoured man
Until the moon sank and the stars waxed wan,
And from the east faint yellow light outshone,
O'er the Greek sea, so many years agone:

and added the comment: 'No one can deny the magic. But it will not last. At least, in well-regulated minds it will not.' Possibly I have an ill-regulated mind, but I own that criticism of this kind, which calls up the image of a governess bidding her young charges not to be fanciful, irritates me. I find it simpler, and really more illuminating, to say that The Earthly Paradise appeared in four volumes between 1868 and 1870, and that it had been reprinted seven times before I read it, all one July, in an enchantment such as no other book has ever cast on me, except, when I was a child, the Morte Darthur, and, later, the Odyssey. First of April poetry, if you like, as Bagehot said of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Still, April comes but once a year, and why should we neglect its blessings while they are with us, or despise them when October is drawing near?

Christ guard the Hollow Land,
All the sweet spring-tide!

The criticism of poetry is not my trade, but this much, I think, one can say with confidence, that, like Byron, Morris is a poet

____________________
1
William Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist, by May Morris.

-178-

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Victorian Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Victorian Centenary 13
  • The Age of Tennyson 46
  • Eyes and No Eyes 70
  • Thackeray 74
  • Mr and Mrs Dickens 79
  • The Schoolman in Downing Street1the Two Mr Gladstones, by G. T. Garratt. 82
  • Mr Gladstone 90
  • The Happy Family 110
  • The Greatest Victorian 116
  • The Mercian Sibyl 129
  • The Victorian Noon-Time 133
  • Sophist and Swashbuckler 142
  • The Faith of The Grandfathers 146
  • Tempus Actum 153
  • B. A. Kohnfeldt 158
  • Katherine Stanley And John Russell 162
  • Maitland 173
  • Topsy 178
  • The New Cortegiano 183
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