Thursday, 1 August 2013

Lucia Joyce and Margaret Morris

James Joyce’s daughter Lucia had aspirations to be an avantgarde dancer before the mental health problems which so devastated her life set in (she spent her last 31 years in an asylum in Northampton). In pursuit of this goal, she took dance lessons in Paris from late 1925 onwards with Margaret Morris. ‘Lucia could not have found a better teacher’, her biographer Carol Loeb Shloss writes, and continues: ‘In her native England, Morris based her work in a studio and a club in Chelsea ... As the granddaughter of William Morris, she had a high visibility in the arts’ (p.125). Hold your horses, one interjects at this point: William Morris didn’t have any granddaughters, or grandsons for that matter – both of his own daughters having remained childless.

So what is going on here? Is this is a simple scholarly error in a book that is otherwise careful and accurate? Could Margaret Morris herself have floated the notion of being Morris’s granddaughter as a way of attaining visibility in English and French artistic circles? Was she perhaps actually a grand-niece of Morris, second-generation offspring of one of those copious Morris siblings whose family trees my friend Dorothy Coles was assiduously researching? In which case, there would be some genuine family connection, which has then got inaccurately blurred to being a granddaughter, which is palpably wrong. Someone with more time on their hands than I have might do a little digging here.


Buntworthy said...

Maybe it's possible that William Morris had another child, extra-maritally, and that could be the parent of Margaret Morris.

Tony Pinkney said...

Thanks for the radical suggestion! I suppose that's a logical possibility, at least, although I don't believe there's any documentary evidence for it. But perhaps the attraction of the 56-year-old William Guest for the 20-year-old Ellen in 'News from Nowhere' is an index of the sexual temptaion Morris might occasionally have felt, or been subjected to (or both), on his far-flung socialist lecturing tours.