Friday, August 30, 2013

Maud Sambourne

Maud daughter of the Punch cartoonist Lionel Sambourne

in August 1896,  was staying at Buscot Park. In a letter to her mother, she described how Alexander Henderson took her to visit Kelmscott. She was nor impressed, finding the house 'lovely for its oldness but oh! so artistic and grubby'. May Morris was the only one at home, and Maud 'stared at Miss Morris
and wondered why she dressed in such a sloppy way with no stays'.

Broadway Tower

Near Kelmscott, Cram Price had his holiday home at Broadway Tower. The
Morrises, Burne-Joneses and Charles and Kare Faulkner were all frequent visitors
to the Tower, and it became in many ways an extension of the life at Kelmscott
with the Morrises providing supplies and bedding from Kelmscott for Price's
The Morrises' first recorded visit was on 4 September 1876 and there
were several visits in 1877 and 1878 when Price lost the lease of the Tower

Love is Enough

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

William Morris's study in Klmscott House, London

An Embroidered Altar Frontal, executed by Miss May Morris, designed by Mr. Philip Webb

An Embroidered Altar Frontal, executed by Miss May Morris, designed by Mr. Philip Webb.—The work is carried out with floss silk in bright colours and gold thread, both background and pattern being embroidered. The five crosses, that are placed at regular intervals between the vine leaves, are couched in gold passing upon a silvery silk ground.

Henry Halliday Sparling (1860–1924)

by George Charles Beresford
sepia-toned platinotype, 1 August 1919

May and Henry married 14 June 1890 at FulhamRegister Office. The marriage broke down in 1894 as a result of her affair with a former lover, playwright George Bernard Shaw. The Sparlings were divorced in 1898 and May resumed her maiden name.

There were no children which is interesting. 

Anna Oscara Steffen (née Von Sydon); Halliday Sparling; May Morris; Gustaf Steffen
by Unknown photographer
bromide print, circa 1892-1893

Henry Halliday Sparling to Mr. J.E. Sadler, January 2, 1893.
Advertising list of Kelmscott Press services, 1892.
In his typewritten letter to Mr. Sadler of Oxford, Henry Halliday Sparling refers to the list of Kelmscott Press books.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Kelmscott lovers books

We know Jane urged their publication in her husband's press but why did William agree ?

Jane's Keepsake book

showing Tennyson

There are a number of resources about Jane that imho have been neglected. Only recently has attention been paid to her needlework (difficult as most are unsigned) and I would love to see a facsimile of her Keepsake book which is in the British Library (Add. 45351C). I found another entry she noted:

PROUD word you never spoke, but you will speak 
Four not exempt from pride some future day. 
Resting on one white hand a warm wet cheek, 
  Over my open volume you will say, 
  'This man loved me'—then rise and trip away.         5

Walter Savage Landor

Sir Emery Walker whole-plate glass negatives, May 1898

by Sir Emery Walker
whole-plate glass negatives, May 1898
Given by Emery Walker Ltd, 1956

Jane died in Bath in 1914


They come from a session near the end of Jane's life by Sir Emery Walker. I asked the NPG for several years to scan this last session and blow me they have but without bothering to tell me. I pointed out there would be a lot of interest in Jane next year for her centenary. Anyway glad they're done now.

also see:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jane's character

Jan Marsh describes Jane as “a quietly assured wife and mother who also played her part in the business, executing and supervising embroidery commissions [. . .]. Quiet in company, she nevertheless had a marked taste for jokes, tall tales, ghost stories and extraordinary dreams, and sensitive sympathy when required, succeeding socially as both hostess and guest, without any desire to shame” (Dante Gabriel Rossetti )

Jane Morris by Sir Emery Walker, whole-plate glass negative, May 1898

Saturday, August 24, 2013

another one of Jane Morris's bedrooms. Note the piano.

thanks Kimberly

Jane Morris's room at Kelmscott House. Not the Rossetti's on the wall over the fireplace!

thanks Kimberly Eve for finding this

Jane and the Wombat

On September 10, 1869, Dante Gabriel Rossetti sketches the picture above, calling it: Parted Love; or, The Wombat. A day later, he wrote the following letter to his lover, Jane Morris (nee Burden), the wife of his friend and student, William Morris:
What do you think? I have got a Wombat at Chelsea, come the other day, whose portraits (by Dunn) I enclose.
Your affectionate,
D. Gabriel. R

Oh! how the family affections combat
Within this heart; and each hour flings a bomb at
my burning soul; neither from owl nor from bat
can peace be gained, until I clasp my Wombat!

Friday, August 23, 2013

William Morris. Earthly Paradise. Boston: Reeves and Turner, 1890

The gold design that appears on this green binding of the Earthly Paradisewas designed by William Morris in 1890. This copy was inscribed by Morris to his wife's sister, Elizabeth Burden. The intricate flower and leaf design was later reproduced with a red background for the 1900 edition by Longmans.

Earthly Paradise, 1890

Inscription by William Morris to his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Burden (1842-unknown). "To Elizabeth Burden from her affectionate Brother, William Morris, Christmas, 1890."

May note

Jenny detail, date unknown



 It is thought that they intended to create 12 embroideries of famous women to decorate the dining room, but just seven were completed. Only six of these were known - three at Castle Howard and three at Morris's summer home Kelmscott Manor - until July 7 when a seventh turned up in the 709-lot sale at Shapes (15% buyer's premium) of Edinburgh.

The 3ft 101/2in by 15in (1.2m x 39cm) unfinished and unframed wool embroidered panel was attributed to Bessie Burden and depicted Aphrodite wearing only a halo and a floral waistband, her hair cascading down almost to her feet.

Shapes consulted The William Morris Society who were able to provide the information on the panel from pre-Raphaelite biographer Jan Marsh and Arts and Crafts textiles specialist Linda Parry. It emerged that the figure of Aphrodite was known only from a painting at Kelmscott.

When the Morris family moved out of Red House in 1865 the panels were dispersed among Jan Morris, Bessie Burden, Kate Faulkner and Georgiana Burne-Jones. 

Her Father's Daughter: May Morris

An exhibition from the archives of Morris & Co. showing the work and influence of William Morris's daughter, May, accompanied by a textile trail through the house.
More Information: Standen office, 01342 323029,

A major part of this exhibition will be on the first floor of the house which has no wheelchair access

Monday, August 19, 2013

Portrait of Jane Morris 1873

I've always thought this portrait of Jane in the 1879's by Rossetti a bit odd. But someone pointed out to me but was unusual even then to show other people's wives in a shift and off the shoulder!

Jane Morris again

I don't think Jane's contribution to Rosssetti have also been recognised. She made this dress for example and shopped with Rossetti for jewels and accessories. I also can't prove but suspect she had a lot of input to the poses.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jane Morris at work

In the early biographies of William Morris Jane (and May's) contribution to Morris & Co, was virtually ignored. Only recently is this view starting to be re-appraised.

Jane Morris was actively involved in many of her husband's endeavours. In addition to her contributions to the firm, which continued until his death, she worked for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the 1882 Icelandic Famine Relief Committee, and later the Kelmscott Press. 

William Morris collected works

May produced 24 volumes of her Father's collected works between 1910 and 1915 and two later volumes in the 20's. May was not a natural academic (preferring practical things), though Jenny was before the epilepsy. It is known now that May took a lot f help and advice from friends like John Quinn but it has only been recognised recently that Jane also helped; Jane made a substantial contribution to May Morris's edition The Collected Works of William Morris. She assisted her daughter with dating and identifying manuscripts as well as providing her with material for use in the introductions, including reminiscences of Morris; she also reviewed drafts of all the introductions to the volumes, corrected errors, and offered suggestions for improvements.

the introductions can be bought separately

Friday, August 16, 2013

Embroidered dress

c. 1900

William Morris Gallery

Embroidered Cloak

c. 1897-8

William Morris Gallery

Italian Vlla

Courtyard of an Italian villa

c. 1885, watercolour



tiara, silver set with pearls, opals and garnets

c. 1905

Museum of Wales


necklace with gold chain with garnet and beaten gold leaf drops
c. 1905

Museum of Wales

Embroidered picture

Canvas, embroidered with silk

designed by Philip Webb ?
Bequeathed by May Morris

This is an example of a small, square design for cushion covers and fire screens. It was available from the Morris & Co. shop as a finished embroidery or kit to complete at home. Such designs were an inexpensive means of acquiring William Morris's work, and many examples have survived.
May Morris embroidered this picture.

Altar table

designed by Philip Webb for William Morris' sister 
at he Rochester and Southwark Diocesan Deaconess Insititution, a religious community and theological college for women at Clapham Common, London. Isabella Gilmore, the sister of the designer William Morris, was a Deaconess, and commissioned the piece.

The cloth was embroidered by May Morris, William’s daughter


William Morris may serve as another instance of a Victorian middle-class father whose parenting style eschewed detached authoritarianism, and instead combined nurture, play, instruction, lively conversation, and shared interests throughout the lives of his two daughters. May Morris describes her relatively liberated childhood, marked by both intellectual and physical freedom. As children, May and her older sister Jenny fished, punted, climbed trees, and roamed outdoors at will, unconfined by Victorian conventions of feminine dress or demeanour. May’s penchant for climbing the gabled roofs of Kelmscott Manor — or ‘roof-riding’ as she called it — seems to have been a regular activity until one day she found herself stranded, unable to descend, and the gardener was sent ‘post-haste for the longest ladders the village possessed’.7 The Morris girls were given free access to the family library, educated outside the home, and included in social occasions as full participants, as May’s memories of childhood conversations and friendships with famous denizens of the Morris social circle attest. Morris also seems to have had an enlightened view of the role of adult daughters in the home: the social expectation that (unmarried) daughters would serve their fathers’ needs seemed entirely absent from the Morris household and Morris was known to undertake domestic duties at times (he was a keen cook, for instance).

The Morris daughters’ sympathy for their father’s aesthetic and political philosophies, and the circumstances of their later lives, however, complicate this picture in a number of ways. Jenny Morris’s epilepsy — which developed in mid-adolescence and left her a semi-invalid for the rest of her life — struck at the heart of Morris family life, taking a heavy emotional toll on all. For Morris, it meant that he always worked to include Jenny in conversations and correspondence about literature, politics, and art as a means of assuring her of his confidence in her intellectual capacities, despite her illness (much misunderstood in this era, of course) and to compensate for her limited access to the outside world. May Morris’s close collaboration with her father, both in Morris & Co. and socialist organizations, no doubt reflected an emotional dynamic in which passionately shared interests were inextricably bound up with shared affection, but one does not need to be an avowed Freudian to see May’s short-lived marriage to an unprepossessing socialist of her father’s circle as a conflicted — if unconscious — attempt to replace and please her father at the same time. The tone of Morris’s correspondence with his daughters retained a childlike playfulness throughout their lives, despite (or because of?) the complexities of their adult relationships. Letters offering sustained accounts of political events or other weighty concerns were interspersed with affectionate asides to ‘my darling child’ or ‘my dear little May’ and gentle but humorous mocking of friends and associates.9 In her recollections of her father, then, it is not surprising that May Morris emphasized this light-hearted aspect of her father’s character in his dealings with the children. From May, we see glimpses of Morris’s delight in his children and their happiness, very similar to that described by Mamie Dickens of her father. Describing her first trip abroad — when the Morris family, together with the Burne-Jones children, Margaret and Philip, travelled to France — May recalled that, during the train journey, ‘Father smiled across at Mother above the scrambling swarm and said, with his heart in his voice, “It’s worth anything to take the kids a treat, Janey, and see the little rascals enjoying it so.”

Jenny Morris

my post on Jenny

May Morris (previously known as 'Jane Morris') by Edward Burne-Jones 1880's

Rocky Cove by May Morris

bequeathed by Jessie W. Craig, 1950