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Famous beds: William Morris

Updated Tuesday 8th September 1998

William Morris was moved to poetry by his bed:

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William Morris' bed Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University The bed is an early seventeenth-century four-poster which was only ornamented by the hangings from 1891. The curtains are designed by Morris's youngest daughter, May Morris.

Records still survive showing that the embroidery took 35 weeks to complete and Morris was charged £29. They were exhibited at the Arts & Craft Exhibition of 1893. The bed cover was designed by May but Morris's wife worked on the cover itself – she signs it “Si Je Puis” (If I Can), Jane Morris.

Poem for the bed at Kelmscott

The poem on the valance was written by William Morris:

The wind's on the wold
And the night is a-cold,
And Thames runs chill
'Twixt mead and hill.
But kind and dear
Is the old house here
And my heart is warm
'Midst winter's harm.
Rest then and rest,
And think of the best
'Twixt summer and spring,
When all birds sing
In the town of the tree,
And ye in me
And scarce dare move,
Lest earth and its love
Should fade away
Ere the full of the day.
I am old and have seen
Many things that have been;
Both grief and peace
And wane and increase
No tale I tell
Of ill or well,
But this I say:
Night treadeth on day,
And for worst or best
Right good is rest.

Kelmscott Manor

Kelmscott Manor Creative commons image Icon Edward And Caroline under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license

William Morris had always yearned for a house in the country. Since the mid-1860s, his wife Jane was having an affair with his very close friend, the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

By 1871, this was becoming something of a public scandal in Morris’ social circle. A shared house, away from the gossip of London, offered a solution and a joint lease was arranged between Morris and Rossetti. Jane bought the freehold after Morris died in 1896 and his youngest daughter May lived there until her death in 1939.

Take it further

A Life For Our Time
Fiona MacCarthy, William Morris

A Biographical Story 1839-1938
Jan Marsh, Jane and May Morris

Art and Kelmscott
Antiquaries Occasional Paper, edited by Linda Parry

Exhibition Catalogue
William Morris Gallery, May Morris 1862-1938

William Morris Gallery

Kelmscott Manor can be found a couple of miles due east of Lechlade and stands in the south west corner of Oxfordshire.

 

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