Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Wedding Anniversary William and Jane Morris!

May Morris standing at the gate on the grounds outside Kelmscott Manor

William and Jane Morris were married on April 26, 1859, at St.Michael’s Church, Oxford. They traveled on honeymoon to France and Belgium. 

In reading through, ‘The Collected Letters of Jane Morris’ I was constantly taking notes of Jane Morris’s references while scouring the bibliography with a fine tooth comb. For someone like myself who has not read ‘everything’ Pre-Raphaelite, I was delighted to come upon two references from friend’s of The Morris’ themselves, a Mr. John Bruce Glasier and Charles Rowley who both wrote books and newspaper articles describing in great detail their meetings with The Morris’.  

Since it is the wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Morris, I thought by sharing some of these ‘reminiscences’ it would shed some light on who they were as a couple. 

 ‘On my arrival at Kelmscott House, Morris immediately came from his study on the ground floor, and after welcoming me cordially, took me up to my bedroom on one of the upper floors, and leaving me there for a few moments returned to introduce me to the ‘inhabitants.’ ‘Here is our Scotchman, but he hasn’t come  in kilts nor brought bagpipes with him,’ said he to Mrs. Morris, who was seated on the famous settle which stood out from the fireplace, doing some embroidery work. She rose and greeted me. I had, of course, heard of her great beauty, and had seen her portrait in some of the reproductions of Rossetti’s pictures, but I confess I felt rather awed as she stood up tall before me, draped in one simple white gown which fell from her shoulders down to her feet. She looked a veritable Astarte-a being, as I thought, who did not quite belong to our common mortal mould. After greeting me she resumed her embroidery and listened with amusement to Morris’ playful chaff.

It’s lucky for us,’ continued Morris, ‘that Glasier is not a stickler for the ancient customs of his country; for in my young days we were told that Scotchmen ate nothing but porridge, drank nothing but whisky, and sang one another to sleep with the Psalms of David.’

He pursued this playful vein for a little, giving Mrs. Morris an exaggerated account of some of his experiences in Scotland of the ‘wild ways of the Picts.’ Mrs. Morris glanced at me occasionally, as if to assure me that she was not being taken in by his stories. ‘He is quite naughty sometimes,’ was her only remark. He then showed us an old book he had just bought, containing a diary, cooking receipts, and domestic accounts of some Squire’s lady of the sixteenth century, and read with amusing comments some of the items. 

While listening to him I was scanning with great interest the furnishings of the room. I had observed on entering its large size, its five windows looking over the Thames, and the simplicity and beauty of its furnishings. I experienced, as every visitor I am sure must have done, a delightful sense of garden-like freshness and bloom in the room. Noticing my interest in the things about me, Morris briefly described some of them. The handsome  canopied settle on which Mrs. Morris was sitting was, he said, one of the earliest productions of the firm of Morris & Company, and the highly decorated wardrobe at the end of the room with painted figures was painted by Burne-Jones, and was his wedding gift to Morris. 

 Jane Morris's settle 1890s

 Jenny, the eldest daughter, now came in, and we were served with a cup of tea, after which Morris took me downstairs to the library to have a smoke and talk about League business before supper.

May Morris now arrived. I was greatly interested to meet her; I had heard so much about her beauty and her activities in the movement. She resembled her mother, I thought, more than her father in face, and was strikingly handsome. Her manner was quiet, and she was, I observed, inclined rather to ask questions or listen than to offer opinions of her own. She worked at a piece of embroidery as she sat with us. 

Then came friends, including Emery Walker, the well-known engraver, an intimate friend and secretary of the Hammersmith Branch of the League, Philip Webb, the architect, and Tarleton, a leading member of the branch, and we went into the dining-room for supper.

The dining-room (the ceiling two floors high) lit up with large candles on brass or copper candlesticks (Morris used candles only in the house-he detested gaslight) was magnificently grand in its glow of colour derived from the Morris Acanthus wallpaper, and a great gorgeous Persian carpet hung up like a canopy on one side of the room. Opposite, over the fireplace, was Rossetti’s noble portrait of Mrs. Morris, and on one side of the large window crayon drawings by Rossetti of Jenny and May Morris. There were one or two other Rossetti crayon drawings on the wall. These,  I think, were the only pictures on the walls, so far as I observed, anywhere in the house, other than the Durer and a few other engraving sand sketches in the entrance and library, for Morris did not ‘believe in’ making houses look like art galleries. The decorations of a room should be part of their needful architectural furnishings only.

So we seated ourselves on either side of the huge grey oaken dinging-table, with Morris at the head, who saw to it that we partook liberally of the feast, while he enticed us into his happy mood with amusing chat and stories, addressing one or other of us in turn, so as to share the conversation round. Mrs. Morris rarely spoke, but Morris constantly referred his remarks to her with gentle courtesy and affection. ‘

Morris and the rest of our male selves sat up till midnight in the library, chatting over the events of the day and considering how to improve the propaganda work of the League. When the others had gone, Morris proposed that he should accompany me to my bedroom and read a bit of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ to me before going to sleep. ‘It will get the nasty taste of to-day’s squabbling out of our minds,’ he said. Needless to say I welcomed the proposal gladly, not dreaming what a tempestuous experience it was going to bring upon me.

Closing the bedroom door, and seating himself by the large candle on the dressing=table, Morris began turning over the leaves of the book in order to select a chapter to begin with. Having fixed upon a page, he was about to start off reading when he said abruptly: ‘By the way, I forgot to ask you about your visit to the New Gallery Exhibition yesterday afternoon. What did you think of the Burne-Jones’ pictures?

Then the heavens burst open, and lightning and thunder fell upon me. Hardly had I completed my sentence than Morris was on his feet, storming words upon me that shook the room. His eyes flamed as with actual fire, his shaggy mane rose like a burning crest, his whiskers and moustache bristled out like pine needles.

I was seated on the edge of the bed, and was too astounded at first to comprehend what he said, or what had aroused his extraordinary passion. He poured forth an amazing torrent of invective against the whole age. ‘Art forsooth!’ he cried, ‘where the hell is it? Where the hell are the people who know or care a damn about it? This infernal civilization has no capacity to understand either nature or art. People have no eyes to see, no ears to hear. The only thing they understand I show to enslave their fellows or be enslaved by them grubbing a life lower than that of the brutes. 

In this strain he continued for I don’t know how long, flashing his wrath in my face, and moving round the room like a caged lion. For a time I felt as though I had in some way merited his terrible outburst, but I remember recovering my wits and sitting back in the bed. But I believe he was for the time being oblivious of me except that I was one of mankind. I was not the object of it. Eventually there was a tap at the bedroom door, and it was opened slightly from the outside, and a voice expostulated: ‘Really, the whole house is awakened. What is the matter? Do speak more quietly and let us get to sleep.’

This interruption acted as an exorcism. Morris quieted down as suddenly as he flared up. He lifted ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ which he had tossed on the bed in the course of his fulmination, and making a turn round the room, he offered me his hand in a most friendly manner, remarking simply: ‘I have been going it a bit loudly-don’t you think? I hope I have not upset you I didn’t mean to do that and that you will have a sound sleep. Good night and good luck.’

Next morning he came again to waken me at seven o’clock, and was as cheery and charming as man could be. Later on in the drawing room I prostrated myself before Mrs. Morris, pleading: ‘Forgive him I was really not the culprit, though it seems most unchivalrous on my part to say so.’ 

‘Oh, I know it was not your fault, you don’t need to tell me,’ she said, and added half-reproachfully, looking at her husband: ‘I knew when I heard him boasting last night of his good behavior at the Conference that somebody would have to pay for it.’ Morris looked a bit shamefaced, but affected not to acknowledge his delinquency, and appealed to me that we were merely having ‘a little chat over art matters.’ His daughter Jenny said, ‘Oh, you wicked, good father,’ and put her arms round his neck.’ (William Morris and the early days of the socialist movement by John Bruce Glasier, Longmans, Green, and Co.,London, 1921,Chapter VI 'First Visit to Kelmscott House,' pgs, 45-53)

This final brief little reminiscent excerpt was included in ‘The Collected Letters of Jane Morris’ but originally written as an article in Manchester Evening Chronicle (1912) by Charles Rowley. It describes the tenderness and unspoken understanding between William and Jane Morris. I’d like to end with this lovely observation from a friend, 

‘Once at Kelmscott, a number of us had been lounging and larking in the orchard. After a while Morris slipped off, and soon afterwards we saw him in a summer bower bowed in his wife’s lap having his head cropped. What a subject for a picture flashed upon me-such a man and such a woman.’  (The Collected Letters of Jane Morris edited by Frank C. Sharp and Jan Marsh, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK, 2012, pg. 12)

For further reading, here is the link to one of the sources I quoted extensively from above, William Morris and the early days of the socialist movement by John B. Glasier,  

 William Morris and the early days of the socialist movement by John Bruce Glasier, Longmans, Green, and Co.,London, 1921,Chapter VI 'First Visit to Kelmscott House,' pgs, 45-53.

 The Collected Letters of Jane Morris edited by Frank C. Sharp and Jan Marsh, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK, 2012, pg. 12.

Charles Rowley, 'A great Poet and Artist: Mr. Charles Rowley on the Gifts of William Morris'. Manchester Evening Chronicle. 9 April 1912.
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Monday, April 22, 2013

In Celebration of William Shakespeare on his birthday (April 23, 1564-1616)

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief 

 That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love! 

 O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold: 'tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, 

 Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven 

 Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

She speaks.
O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven 

 Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

Juliet. O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?  
 Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

[Aside.] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy: 

 Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name.
What's in a name? That which we call a rose 

 By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name, which is no part of thee, 

 Take all myself.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Research Led Me Here...(Jane Morris, The Howards & Tennyson)

While reading The Collected Letters of Jane Morris, I found it interesting getting to know Jane Morris much better and shedding some light on such an elusive woman. In her letters written within the year 1870, she mentions close friends George and Rosalind Howard. I'm not familiar with either of them but two things stood out to me: George (James) Howard was the 9th Earl of Carlisle and painted a portrait of Jane and William Morris' daughters Jenny and May Morris. Also, another residence was mentioned Naworth Castle.

As usual, I did some digging and thanks to modern technology and International archives, I found some photos of The Howards along with a very close personal friend, Alfred Tennyson!  A photograph of him I have never seen before. I'll add the link as well later on in the post. 

GEORGE HOWARD, 9TH DUKE OF CARLISLE AND HIS WIFE ROSALIND outside Castle Howard, Photograph housed at Sothebys

George James Howard (1843-1911), later 9th Earl of Carlisle, was Liberal MP for East Cumberland 1879-80 and 1881-5. He gave Morris & Co. several important commissions. An artist who exhibited at the Dudley, Grosvenor and New Galleries Howard was also a trustee of the National Gallery. (Collected Letters, pg. 43)

Rosalind Frances Howard (1845-1921), daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley. In 1864 she married the Hon. George Howard, heir to the Earldom of Carlisle. The Howards had eleven children: five daughters,Mary Cecilia, Elizabeth (who died in infancy), Dorothy and Aurea and six sons, Charles, Hubert, Christopher, Oliver, Geoffrey and Michael. Jane Morris met the Howards in 1870 and they remained friends throughout Jane Morris' life. Rosalind was an ardent Liberal and active in Women's Suffrage, Irish Home Rule and Temperance organizations. In a memoir her daughter Dorothy (later Lady Henley) describes frequent instances of her mother's tyrannical and difficult behaviour. However, Jane Morris seems always to have enjoyed warm relations with Rosalind. (Collected Letters, pg. 41-42)

George Howard the 9th Earl with his 6 sons, property of Naworth Castle website

Jane Morris Letters to George and Rosalind Howard during the year 1870
(Jenny was nine years old in 1870 and May was eight years old in 1870. At the time the letters were written they were making an extended stay with the Howards at Naworth Castle, Cumberland)

Letter #1

To Rosalind Howard                                                        July 6th 1870 
Dear Ms. Howard
  it is so kind of you taking so much interest in my little ones - they write to me they are so happy, and you do so many things to amuse them -
   Do not trouble to write very often. I am not at all anxious about them. 
They have inherited from their Papa that precious gift of enjoyment
it is a gift and not an acquirement. Are they not merry things? They are
so fond of little children as they call everyone the least mite less than 

  Their Papa talks of coming to fetch them home when the time is up 
- he is hard at work just now and will be so glad of a day or two in the country.

                                                                                      Yours sincerely
                                                                                       Jane Morris 

Letter #2

To Rosalind Howard                                                           Wednesday (late summer 1870)
My dear Mrs. Howard
   I have to return you many thanks for all your kindness to my children 
they seem to have been in Paradise - and they look quite different beings, 
so much stronger and fuller of life - they are not likely to forget you - or 
anyone at Naworth. Jenny begs you will send her a bit of your hair for her

  I am glad my husband made himself agreeable and did not quarrel with
you past forgiveness, as a last shaft - he says he shall be only too delighted
to let the children visit you every year till you are "Lady Carlisle."
  Remember me to your husband and thank him for me too - I shall  
look forward to seeing his portraits of Jenny and May when you return to 
Town in the Autumn. 
                                                                                    Yours affectionately
                                                                                     Jane Morris 

 George Howard, Jenny & May Morris, 1870 (plate II) (Collected Letters of Jane Morris) Housed Society of Antiquaries London Collection

Letter # 3

To George Howard                                                               26 Queen Square
                                                                                         Decb. 19th (1870)

Dear Mr. Howard
  When I came home last week I was delighted to find your little picture 
awaiting me, it is so very like Jenny and May and such a pretty picture
altogether. it was so kind of you to give it to me - it is the only likeness
I have of them so that I prize it all the more, thank you very much for it
and for all your kindness to them in the flesh - May, I believe is writing a
Journal of all their proceedings at Naworth -
  They both send love and join with me in wising you all a happy

                                                                             Yours sincerely
                                                                              Jane Morris

         Lord Tennyson with Rosalind Howard

For information about The Howards, Naworth Castle, to see photos,  Naworth Castle

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Friday, April 12, 2013

The Luminist by David Rocklin: A Review:

Photography comprises the bright, tensile thread in the sweep of The Luminist, drawing tight a narrative that shifts between the prejudices and passions of Victorian England and those of colonial Ceylon. It binds the destinies of Catherine Colebrook, the proper wife of a fading diplomat, who rebels against every convention to chase the romance of science through her lens, and Eligius, an Indian teenager thrust into servitude after his father is killed demanding native rights.

The Luminist is a weave of legend and history, science and art, politics and domesticity that are symphonic themes in the main title, the story of an enduring and forbidden friendship. Catherine and Eligius must each struggle with internal forces that inspire them and societal pressures that command them. Rocklin’s is a bold landscape, against which an intimate drama is poignantly played out. Just in this way, our minds recall in every detail the photo snapped at the moment of pain, while all the lovely scenes seem to run together.

"The thing I do, she thought. May it tie a bit of light to we who come into the world already on the path to departing it. Just a bit of light so we can be seen a little while after we're gone. 

"Now," she said.

They coated the glass with sodium hyposulfite, then bathed it. She felt the burning sink through her skin, running into her blood like groundwater. 

Positioning the plate inside the warren, she lit more candles and  put a mirror next to the light, intensifying it. Julia's image came in a thin cumulus. Haze from the smoking candles came with her, wrapping her glassed face in a gray fog. Her eyes glistened with silver and steel.  Her image did not leave." (page 222)

My Thoughts
The Colebrook Family consists of wife, Catherine who is married to her husband Charles, their daughter Julia and twin sons. Within this subtext alone lies two parallel problems; the marriage of Charles and Catherine Colebrook is a tempestuous one mainly down to Catherine insisting upon choosing her own life path even though her husband is against it and cannot handle it. They are feeling the economic constraints of nineteenth century living. Catherine takes her twin boys, still quite young, one during infancy and one a toddler, and travels alone with them to meet her husband who is living with their teenage daughter, Julia. This is how we meet Catherine, who is not written to gain our sympathy, sometimes, most times, unlikeable, choosing her ‘obsession’ with this new medium called ‘photography’ and putting her own selfish needs first. Somehow, due to David Rocklin’s sublime writing style the reader does not give up on Catherine. We follow her throughout her life beginning in 1836 Ceylon and coming full circle in a house called ‘Dimbola’ on the Isle of Wight in 1902.

Yes, there are many clever and obvious parallels with the life of pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron including place names as locations and even chapter titles i.e. ‘For Life, Dimbola, Pillars of Smoke, Canvases, Mother and Child’, should be familiar as photograph titles of Cameron’s own works. 

The Colebrooks have a second problem, their fifteen year old servant, Eligius harbors a secret crush on their daughter Julia which becomes escalated as rage when Julia is courted by an arrogant English artist. Everything changes and the plot deepens taking the reader to such heights you barely know who to trust, who is telling the truth, whose secret is more dangerous and perilous and what in heavens name is going to happen next! 

I especially loved and appreciated and hoped for an appearance by one of Julia Margaret Cameron’s (and Catherine’s) most notable and favorite friends, and my love, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate. 

"REALLY, CATHERINE, IT'S ENOUGH THAT I'M MADE TO sit stock still for these interminable hours, robed like a dirty monk. Must I stare at that photograph, of all the images I might behold? It's not appropriate and should be put away, out of proper sight."

Catherine smiled at the familiar lament. Lord Tennyson was far from the first to complain at the discomfort caused by the photograph  hanging on the cottage wall. Sin made permanent, he'd dubbed it upon seeing it for the first time, bringing his considerable poetic gifts to bear.

Lord Tennyson was one such patron. A great man, among London's eminent. Yet he was no different in his sensibility regarding the photograph on the wall, and deserved no different response from that which she always gave. 

Touching the image of Eligius and Julia, she said, "this moment shall never be made a secret." 
'Very well. But must I sit much longer?"
"Not long."  (pages 319/20)

Since the cover of The Luminist depicts one of Julia Margaret Cameron's most memorable photographs and a woman who is much loved within Victorian circles...HERE IS MY HISTORICAL SIDE NOTE...
Julia Jackson photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron(British, 1815-1879) in 1867. Albumen print from glass negative. 

"This ethereal image is of an almost bodiless entity, as we might imagine a portrait of the soul or of a psychic state laid bare. The subject is Cameron's namesake and niece, Julia Jackson, at the age of twenty-one and shortly before her marriage to Herbert Duckworth. The more than twenty portraits of Julia are exceptional in the artist's oeuvre, for they do not portray her as a muse, sybil, or saint, but rather as generalized embodiments of unspecified ideals of purity, beauty, and grace.

Three years later, she was a widow and the mother of three children. Her second marriage, in 1878, to the great Victorian intellectual Sir Leslie Stephen, produced the painter Vanessa Bell and the writer Virginia Woolf. In her novel To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf portrayed her mother as the searching, sensitive Mrs. Ramsay, ever suspended in thought. She "bore about with her, she could not help knowing it, the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered." Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, archived not on display

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A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...