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    Chapter 10

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    Chapter 10
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    I cannot remember who first brought me to the old stable beside
    Kelmscott House, William Morris' house at Hammersmith, & to the
    debates held there upon Sunday evenings by the socialist League. I
    was soon of the little group who had supper with Morris
    afterwards. I met at these suppers very constantly Walter Crane,
    Emery Walker presently, in association with Cobden Sanderson, the
    printer of many fine books, and less constantly Bernard Shaw and
    Cockerell, now of the museum of Cambridge, and perhaps but once or
    twice Hyndman the socialist and the anarchist Prince Krapotkin.
    There too one always met certain more or less educated workmen,
    rough of speech and manner, with a conviction to meet every turn.
    I was told by one of them, on a night when I had done perhaps more
    than my share of the talking, that I had talked more nonsense in
    one evening than he had heard in the whole course of his past
    life. I had merely preferred Parnell, then at the height of his
    career, to Michael Davitt who had wrecked his Irish influence by
    international politics. We sat round a long unpolished and
    unpainted trestle table of new wood in a room where hung
    Rossetti's 'Pomegranate,' a portrait of Mrs. Morris, and where one
    wall and part of the ceiling were covered by a great Persian
    carpet. Morris had said somewhere or other that carpets were meant
    for people who took their shoes off when they entered a house, and
    were most in place upon a tent floor. I was a little disappointed
    in the house, for Morris was an old man content at last to gather
    beautiful things rather than to arrange a beautiful house. I saw
    the drawing-room once or twice and there alone all my sense of
    decoration, founded upon the background of Rossetti's pictures,
    was satisfied by a big cupboard painted with a scene from Chaucer
    by Burne Jones, but even there were objects, perhaps a chair or a
    little table, that seemed accidental, bought hurriedly perhaps,
    and with little thought, to make wife or daughter comfortable. I
    had read as a boy in books belonging to my father, the third
    volume of 'The Earthly Paradise' and 'The Defence of Guinevere,'
    which pleased me less, but had not opened either for a long time.
    'The man who never laughed again' had seemed the most wonderful of
    tales till my father had accused me of preferring Morris to Keats,
    got angry about it and put me altogether out of countenance. He
    had spoiled my pleasure, for now I questioned while I read and at
    last ceased to read; nor had Morris written as yet those prose
    romances that became, after his death, so great a joy that they
    were the only books I was ever to read slowly that I might not
    come too quickly to the end. It was now Morris himself that
    stirred my interest, and I took to him first because of some
    little tricks of speech and body that reminded me of my old
    grandfather in Sligo, but soon discovered his spontaneity and joy
    and made him my chief of men. To-day I do not set his poetry very
    high, but for an odd altogether wonderful line, or thought; and
    yet, if some angel offered me the choice, I would choose to live
    his life, poetry and all, rather than my own or any other man's. A
    reproduction of his portrait by Watts hangs over my mantlepiece
    with Henley's, and those of other friends. Its grave wide-open
    eyes, like the eyes of some dreaming beast, remind me of the open
    eyes of Titian's' Ariosto,' while the broad vigorous body suggests
    a mind that has no need of the intellect to remain sane, though it
    give itself to every phantasy, the dreamer of the middle ages. It
    is 'the fool of fairy ... wide and wild as a hill,' the resolute
    European image that yet half remembers Buddha's motionless
    meditation, and has no trait in common with the wavering, lean
    image of hungry speculation, that cannot but fill the mind's eye
    because of certain famous Hamlets of our stage. Shakespeare
    himself foreshadowed a symbolic change, that shows a change in the
    whole temperament of the world, for though he called his Hamlet
    'fat, and scant of breath,' he thrust between his fingers agile
    rapier and dagger.

    The dream world of Morris was as much the antithesis of daily life
    as with other men of genius, but he was never conscious of the
    antithesis and so knew nothing of intellectual suffering. His
    intellect, unexhausted by speculation or casuistry, was wholly at
    the service of hand and eye, and whatever he pleased he did with
    an unheard of ease and simplicity, and if style and vocabulary
    were at times monotonous, he could not have made them otherwise
    without ceasing to be himself. Instead of the language of Chaucer
    and Shakespeare, its warp fresh from field and market, if the woof
    were learned, his age offered him a speech, exhausted from
    abstraction, that only returned to its full vitality when written
    learnedly and slowly. The roots of his antithetical dream were
    visible enough: a never idle man of great physical strength and
    extremely irascible--did he not fling a badly baked plum pudding
    through the window upon Xmas Day?--a man more joyous than any
    intellectual man of our world, called himself 'the idle singer of
    an empty day' created new forms of melancholy, and faint persons,
    like the knights & ladies of Burne Jones, who are never, no, not
    once in forty volumes, put out of temper. A blunderer, who had
    said to the only unconverted man at a socialist picnic in Dublin,
    to prove that equality came easy, 'I was brought up a gentleman
    and now, as you can see, associate with all sorts,' and left
    wounds thereby that rankled after twenty years, a man of whom I
    have heard it said 'He is always afraid that he is doing something
    wrong, and generally is,' wrote long stories with apparently no
    other object than that his persons might show one another, through
    situations of poignant difficulty, the most exquisite tact.

    He did not project, like Henley or like Wilde, an image of
    himself, because, having all his imagination set on making and
    doing, he had little self-knowledge. He imagined instead new
    conditions of making and doing; and, in the teeth of those
    scientific generalisations that cowed my boyhood, I can see some
    like imagining in every great change, believing that the first
    flying fish leaped, not because it sought 'adaptation' to the air,
    but out of horror of the sea.
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