Monday, 22 October 2018

May Morris and the Mouse


Mary Anne Sloane, May Morris correcting proofs. WMG

 Not quite on cue but seasonally close, in October 1910 May Morris described her typical day at autumnal Kelmscott Manor, when editing her edition of William Morris’s Collected Works

I do most of the house keeping –coming down in the morning with a key-basket, seeing the cook and the gardener and so forth, sometimes making a special dish for Mother (Nature intended me for  a cook and housekeeper and I resent the perversity of things  that have so thwarted that intention). Then I settle to work in the Tapestry-room,  These are my Father’s rooms – in the E wing of the house … very quiet and isolated from the rest of the house.  Mother doesn’t get up till late , and I work through the morning, with a little girl who comes to copy things.   Such a light, gay room, with great mullioned windows – in spite of the Samson tapestry, whose grimness has faded to a  pleasant harmony of blue and golden browns – a very lovely Persian carpet on the floor – I remember our getting it in Venice: the puzzlement of the Italian dealer at my Father’s vehement ways!  He was told by an Italian-speaking friend that he was a “grande poeta” and that soothed the gentleman, tho’ I don’t think it led him to take anything off the account –otherwise!
Mother and I lunch together, and she goes to rest, and I work on, not going out much beyond the garden – a wander by the river or in the churchyard at sunset sometimes.  We sit in the parlour at tea and for the evening – a delightful room white panelled, airy and roomy; somehow, tho’ not very large.  There are jewels of Persian rugs  about the floor, a painted settle of Red House days on one side; opposite, my Father’s portrait, and his own Iseult picture, D.G.R.’s drawings of “Jenny and May”.  And we are lighted not by globes of electric light, but by modest candles in branches of old Sheffield plate.  I occasionally play Bach and Handel on a little old piano, but generally settle by proof-reading.  After dinner we play a dreadful game called Patience.
Kelmscott Manor White parlour today
 Then, as she finished her letter
Do you know what happened then!  I felt something wriggle nearly at my waist, and Good Heavens, there was a huge mouse inside my clothes!  Now a truly sensitive woman would have screamed, but I didn't want to waken the house!
 

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