Tennyson and Morris.
[KELMSCOTT PRESS] Alfred, Lord TENNYSON. Maud, a Monodrama. [Printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith … Published by Macmillan & Co.]., 1893.
8vo., original limp vellum binding, lettered in gilt to spine; original green silk ties, housed in original custom slip-case; uncut edges, some unopened; pp. [xiv], 69, [ix]; half-title, printed title with elaborate decorative woodcut border verso to face opening leaf of verse with 12-line opening initial and elaborate decorative woodcut border; Part I - III of Tennyson's verse in Golden Type, stanza numbers in red throughout, 2 large 10-line decorative woodcut initials with woodcut marginal decoration to open each part, 20 6-line decorative woodcut initials with woodcut marginal decoration throughout, final leaf of verse with colophon verso; vellum very lightly spotted and splayed, as is common; slipcase rubbed to edges and with some marks and shelfwear; internally exceptionally clean. A beautifully scarce edition, particularly with ties and slipcase intact.
One of 500 copies on hand made paper. The woodcut borders were specially designed for this book, which is the first of the Kelmscott octavo books with a woodcut title.
Maud, Tennyson’s tragic dramatic poem, is told from the perspective of the narrator, the unnamed lover of Maud. He kills her brother in a duel and must flee to France where he later learns that his love, Maud, has died, probably of a broken heart. The distressed poet loses his sanity and imagines he is dead. In the last part, his sanity is restored and he leaves to fight in the Crimean War.
Morris had always been a fan of Tennyson, with Burne-Jones’s earliest recollections of his first term at University being Morris "reading aloud The Lady of Shalott in the curious half-chanting voice, with immense stress laid on the rhymes, which always remained his method of reading poetry, whether his own or that of others". Morris was approached by Macmillan to print the five hundred copies of the poem during January 1893. It was very unusual for him to print on behalf of another publisher, and it is not clear why Macmillan asked him to do so. Morris suggested that Macmillan might consider including other poems with ‘Maud’, as he “would sooner have printed them Tennyson’s first volume, which is all I ever cared for in his poems". He was, however, overruled, and the volume was published later that year. The woodcut borders were most likely designed Charles Keates, a close acquaintence.
Peter Faulkner, Morris Society.