Wednesday, March 6th, 2013...9:30 am

You’ve Got Mail: Two Unpublished Letters by William Morris

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Houghton Library recently acquired two autograph letters written by William Morris (1834-1896) the English designer, author, visionary socialist and proprietor of the Kelmscott Press. These letters are especially appealing because they are both hitherto unknown and unpublished, and addressed to an individual not known to have corresponded with Morris until these letters surfaced at auction in London in October. The letters are addressed to T. F. Walker and are dated 25 January and 11 May 1886. They concern arrangements for a speaking engagement for Morris at the Baskerville Hall in Birmingham that had to be postponed from January to May. Morris arranges to stay with Walker and encourages him to subscribe to his socialist newspaper, Commonweal.

William Morris, ALS to T. F. Walker, 11 May 1886 (recto). Autograph File M.

On 17 May 1886 Morris delivered one of his prepared speeches on “The Political Outlook” which did not draw as large a crowd as he had first hoped. He was naturally disappointed and wrote to his wife afterwards that “it was a wretchedly wet night” and that “there was a counter attraction in the building in the form of the Performing Fleas.”

The standard edition of the letters of William Morris is Norman Kelvin’s five-volume The Collected letters of William Morris. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984-1996. These two letters have been added to the Houghton Library Autograph file: M and were acquired through the Louis J. Appell, Jr. Fund for British Civilization.

William Morris, ALS to T. F. Walker, 11 May 1886 (verso). Autograph File M.

This post is part of a feature on the Houghton Library blog, “You’ve Got Mail,” based on letters in Houghton Library. A Houghton staff member selects a letter from the diverse collections in the Library and puts that letter into context. All posts associated with this series may be viewed by clicking on the You’veGotMail tag.

[Thanks to William Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library, for contributing this post.]

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