“…with a smile that glow’d/ Celestial rosie red, Loves proper hue,/“*

* from Book viii of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

(Islam Issa, in New Statesman of 19.10.2017:

“There’s no confirmed publication date for Paradise Lost, but it’s been recorded that on the 10 October 1667, John Denham MP – also a poet – went into the House of Commons “one Morning with a Sheet, Wet from the Press, in his hand”. He was asked, “What have you there, Sir John?”, to which he replied, “Part of the Noblest Poem that ever was Wrote in Any Language, or in Any Age”. He continued to the session of Parliament on that day clutching Paradise Lost. For all we know, he may even have read it during the session (his equivalent to playing Candy Crush). Unlike Milton, this MP was a committed royalist, yet he’s probably the first person in recorded history to note how celebrated this poem would become.”)

Image: No 17, Red Lion Square. From November 1856 to spring 1859, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones lived in the first-floor rooms.

“The Red Lion Square regime began breaking up that summer. Burne-Jones had been unwell and was virtually kidnapped by his friend Val Prinsep’s mother, the determined Mrs Prinsep, and taken to recuperate in the luxury of Little Holland House in Kensington. Morris disapproved of this, disliking the ambience of fashionable culture in a household where G. F. Watts and Tennyson were habitues, and where “the very strawberries that stood in little crimson hills upon the tables were larger and riper than others”. Already there were signs of the political divergences which later put a strain on his friendship with Burne-Jones. Morris himself was spending a great deal of time in Oxford. After his return from France, Red Lion Square was given up and the only remaining link was Red Lion Mary who stayed on as housekeeper to Morris’s successor, an Oxford acquaintance said to look like Byron. Red Lion Mary continued embroidering for Morris until she eventually married and left service.

Records for this period are sparse, but it seems likely that Morris was busy through the autumn and the winter with the finding of a site for the building that became Red House.”

Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Five: Red Lion Square 1856-59

“Magnusson described without irony how Morris was obviously deep in thought one evening as he prepared the dinner in one of the farmhouse kitchens. Magnusson asked the reason. Morris answered “with that inexpressibly sweet smile that transfigured his face when he was intensely delighted, “I was dreaming of my love-nest at home”.”…

…From Iceland he gathered strength for a return…

…Morris sat straight down and wrote “in huge excitement”, telling Janey how often he had thought of the sweet fresh garden at Kelmscott with her and the little ones in it and how he had wished her happy. Rossetti is not mentioned…”

Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Nine: Iceland 1871

“…In his poem Love is Enough the figure of Love appears as “clad as a Maker of Pictured Cloths”. This is no accident: colour in Morris’s writing is the symbol of desire, the root of sensuality, gratification, wholeness. In a sense colour is love.

…Blue has a special place in Morris’s colour spectrum. In his poems and his novels it is the sign of happiness, of holidays. Blue was the colour of his working shirts. One of his ambitions at Leek was the recapture of a reliable indigo. He did not achieve this until he got to Merton Abbey. But all through the years at Leek Morris was a walking Jumbly, his hands dyed an Edward Lear-like blue. His friends in London, who responded to his bulletins from the dye vats with shouts of patronising laughter, found the idea of his blueness irresistible.”

Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Eleven: Leek 1875-78

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