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Wonderlands

The Last Romances of William Morris

Series:

Phillippa Bennett

William Morris’s last romances are strikingly original stories written in his final years, but they remain relatively neglected in both Morris studies and nineteenth-century literary studies. This book provides a full-length critical account of these works and their essential role in promoting the continuing importance of Morris’s ideas.
Approaching these romances through the concept of wonder, this book provides a new way of understanding their relevance to his writings on art and architecture, nature and the environment, and politics and Socialism. It establishes the integral connection between the romances and Morris’s diverse cultural, social and political interests and activities, suggesting ways in which we might understand these tales as a culmination of Morris’s thought and practice. Through a comprehensive analysis of these remarkable narratives, this book makes a significant contribution to both work on William Morris and to nineteenth-century studies more generally.
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Introduction: The Reclamation of Wonder

Extract

← xii | 1 → INTRODUCTION

The Reclamation of Wonder

Fairly written was that book, and there were many pictures therein, of the meaning of which Ralph knew not; but amongst them was the image of the fair woman whom he had holpen at the want-ways of the wood, and but four days ago was that, yet it seemed long and long to him. The book told not much about the Well at the World’s End, but much it told of a certain woman whom no man that saw her could forbear to love … and how she liveth yet, and is become the servant of the Well to entangle the seekers in her love and keep them from drinking thereof …1

‘I have begun another story, but do not intend to hurry it’, William Morris wrote to his wife, Jane, in October 1889: ‘I must have a story to write now as long as I live’.2 The story he was beginning to write was most probably The Story of the Glittering Plain (1891), the first in a series of remarkable narratives written in the last seven years of his life.3 It was followed by The Wood Beyond the World (1894), Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair (1895), The Well at the World’s End (1896), and the posthumously ← 1 | 2 → published The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1897) and The Sundering Flood (1897). Usually described now as prose romances, Morris himself generally referred to these works in his...

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