Wednesday, 26 July 2017

William Morris's Tennyson Obituary

One of the founding impulses of this blog way back in 2007 was a sense of the unfinishedness of Morris’s oeuvre, both literary and political – the former entailing further creative writing on our part, the latter new projects of social involvement.  However, I’ve perhaps lost sight of that literary unfinishedness in recent years, so a minor example comes opportunely to hand to remind me of it. On 7 October 1892, the day after Tennyson’s death, Morris wrote to George Bernard Shaw: ‘Just think if I were still Editor of Commonweal I should have had to write something about Tennyson.  As it is I needn’t and flatly, as you have guessed, I won’t’ (Kelvin, III, 453).

Well, he won’t, but we could.  Would it be worth an effort at drafting this Tennyson obituary that never happened?  We have the three articles on Tennyson which William Fulford contributed to the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1856 to give us a pretty good idea of what Morris and his set made of his verse in those early days.  But what of the later, socialist Morris?  Can we speculate and set out at some length how his views of Tennyson might have developed?  And if we accept Norman Kelvin’s editorial suggestion here that ‘Apparently Shaw wanted to interview Morris about Tennyson’, we might even cast our creative writing project into that particular format, which will require us to ventriloquise the nimble wit of Shaw’s questions as well as the ponderous content of Morris’s answers.

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