William (1834) Morris (1834 - 1896)

Lot 178: MORRIS, William (1834-1896). The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems, London: Bell and


March 3, 2004
London, United Kingdom

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Description: MORRIS, William (1834-1896). The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems, London: Bell and Daldy, 1858.

8° (171 x 102mm). Woodcut vignette on half-title and title. Original brown cloth, gilt-lettered spine, brown glazed endpapers (mottled and discoloured, front inner hinges split), morocco-backed green case. Provenance: presentation copy to John Ruskin (half-title inscribed: 'John Ruskin from his friend the author') -- purchased from George Bates, London, 6 February 1939, £7.10.

FIRST EDITION OF MORRIS'S FIRST BOOK, INSCRIBED TO JOHN RUSKIN. The inscription to his spiritual mentor is one which the fledgling author must have written with great devotion and pride. At Oxford he was known to read Ruskin out loud 'in the mighty singing voice that was chanting more than reading. He declaimed from The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice. He almost hurled these words towards his audience, defying them to remain unimpressed by Ruskin's descriptions of the slave ship or his eloquent defence of Turner's skies.' Morris's biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, emphasises that, though he did not remain an uncritical disciple, 'Morris always insisted that Ruskin came at the right time and that he was the prime mover in the turning of the tide away from a blind faith in materialist progress and towards a perception of the damage to society this implied' (William Morris: A Life of Our Time, 1994, pp. 69-70).
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