William Morris is one of the most admired figures of the Victorian era. Studies of his Art and his life fill the shelves of libraries. Yet for all this accessibility, an air of uncertainty has always clouded his image. Since Morris’s death, biographers and scholars have portrayed the artist as a victim, bound to an adulterous wife. In Art and Forbidden Fruit, John Le Bourgeois lifts this veil of appearances, and shows the truth about Morris’s life.
In a close analysis of Morris’s poetry and biography, the author asserts the early existence of an emotional attachment between William Morris and his sister Emma, and how she became the principal source of his inspiration. Le Bourgeois follows the paths of Morris the artist and Morris the man, and points out the links between the poet’s love for his sister and his evolution as an artist.
Art and Forbidden Fruit provides a highly original biography of William Morris that offers a new perspective on his life and a fresh interpretation of his art by a specialist.
1. He felt the separation keenly
2. Do you keep your child-love, Brother?
3. Think how long I have worshipped you, looked on the world through your eyes
4. How Sir Palomydes loved La Belle Iseult with exceeding great love out of measure
5. There comes no sleep nor any love; Ah me! I shiver with delight
6. As for me, I choke and grow quite faint to see My lady moving graciously
7. She stayed me, and cried “Brother!” our lips met
8. And think how it be if they were gone not to return
9. They have hopes that they are not conscious of
10. As my twin sister, young of years was she and slender
11. How can I help it, not knowing whether I am on my head or my heels
12. The world goes on, beautiful and strange and dreadful and worshipful
13. Do you know them? – Greedy gamblers on the Stock Exchange
14. They lie in prison for it, work in mines, are exiled, and ruined for it
15. We got pleasure into our work; then we became conscious of that pleasure
16. A childish heart there loved me once, and lo I took his love and cast his love away
Note on Sources
Endorsements and Reviews
John Le Bourgeois ventures a radical reinterpretation of the marriage between William Morris and Jane Burden, whose adulterous relationship to Dante Gabriel Rossetti always has been mediated for us by his poems and paintings devoted to her. Le Bourgeois convincingly suggests that Morris himself was culpable, because of his repressed passion for his sister Emma. … Le Bourgeois’ book is responsible and poignant, and has altered my understanding of this tangled web.
Through an inspired reading of Morris’ poems and letters and from the testimonies of his friends and relatives, Le Bourgeois shows how Morris’ love for his sister was a controlling passion of his life and the inspiration for much of his work. … For the legions of Morris scholars and devotees, this new biography will be of great interest and will generate controversy.
Charles Israel, in The State