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William Morris By Elizabeth Luther Cary Characters: 32510

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Although a blight of discouragement seems to have fallen upon Morris under Rossetti's tuition, there were some blithe compensations. Not the least of these was the fitting up of the rooms at 17 Red Lion Square where he and Burne-Jones took quarters. "Topsy and I live together," wrote Burne-Jones, "in the quaintest room in all London, hung with brasses of old knights and drawings of Albert Dürer." For the furniture, Morris, who, Rossetti said, was "bent on doing the magnificent," made designs to be carried out in deal by a carpenter of the neighbourhood. Everything was very large and heavy, intensely medi?val, and doubtless rather ugly in an honest fashion, but in the end it was furniture to be coveted, for it offered great spaces for decoration, and Rossetti as well as Morris and Burne-Jones painted on it subjects from Chaucer and Dante and the Arthurian stories. The panels of a cupboard glowed with Rossetti's beautiful pictures representing Dante and Beatrice meeting in Florence and meeting in Paradise, and on the wide backs of the chairs he painted scenes from some of the poems Morris had written. The wardrobe was decorated by Burne-Jones with paintings from The Prioress's Tale. On the walls of the room were hung, no doubt, the several water-colours bought from Rossetti, to the lovely names of which Morris promptly wrote ballads. An owl was co-tenant with the young artists, and they were served and also criticised by a housemaid of literary ambitions. In this highly individual apartment, where, curiously enough, Rossetti and his friend Deverell had had their studio together five or six years before, life was not all labour and striving. There were, moreover, holidays spent at the Zo?logical Gardens, evenings at the theatre, night-long sessions in Rossetti's rooms, and excursions on the Thames. One of the latter is vividly described in Dr. Birkbeck Hill's Letters of Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham, giving a joyous picture of Morris at the mercy of his ungovernable temper. The party, consisting of Hill, Morris, and Faulkner, had started out to row down the Thames from Oxford to a London suburb. By the time they had reached Henley they had spent all their money except enough for Faulkner's return ticket to Oxford, where he was to attend a college meeting. For this he departed, promising to bring back a supply of money in the evening. "The weather was unusually hot," writes Dr. Hill, "Morris and I sauntered along the river-side. I have not forgotten the longing glances he cast on a large basket of strawberries. He had always been so plentifully supplied with money that he bore with far greater impatience than I did this privation. At last the shadows had grown long and the heat was more bearable. We went with light hearts to the railway station to meet our comrade. 'Well, Faulkner,' cried out Morris, cheerfully, 'how much money have you brought?' Our friend gave a start. 'Good heavens,' he replied, 'I forgot all about it.' Morris thrust both his hands into his long dark curly hair, tugged at it wildly, ground his teeth, swore like a trooper, and stamped up and down the platform-in fact, behaved just like Sinbad's captain when he found that his ship was driving upon the rocks. His outbursts of rage, I hasten to say, were always harmless. They left no sullenness behind, and as each rapidly passed away he was ready to join in a hearty laugh at it. Faulkner, who was not the most patient of men, noticed that passengers, station-master, porters, engine-driver, and stoker were all gazing in astonishment. He, too, lost his temper, and, though in a far lower key, stormed back. Morris soon quieted down, and a council of war was held. He fortunately had a gold watch-chain on which he raised enough to pay all needful expenses. I remember well how the rest of our journey we rowed by many a tavern on the bank as effectually constrained as ever was Ulysses not to listen to its siren call. It was through no earthly paradise that the young poet and artist passed on the afternoon of our last day." When they landed they had just a penny among them, and were still some six or seven miles from their destination, so they were obliged to hire a cab and trust to good fortune for not coming to a turnpike gate before arriving at Red Lion Square.

About this time also Rossetti and Morris made an excursion to Oxford for the purpose of visiting Benjamin Woodward, the architect and Rossetti's friend. Mr. Woodward had recently erected a building for the Oxford Union, a society composed of past and present members of the University. In exhibiting the building to Rossetti it was suggested that the blank stretch of wall which ran around the top of the Debating Room afforded an admirable opportunity for decoration, and Rossetti with prompt enthusiasm evolved a plan for a co?perative enterprise. He and Morris, with several other willing spirits,-Burne-Jones, of course, Arthur Hughes, Valentine Prinsep, Spencer Stanhope, and J. Hungerford Pollen,-were to go up to Oxford in a body. Each was to choose a subject from the Morte d'Arthur, and execute it to the best of his ability on the walls of the Debating Room. The whole affair was to be a matter of a few weeks. The artists offered their services for nothing; their expenses (which turned out to be as free as their offer) were to be paid by the Union. It is easy to imagine the ensuing bustle and ardour. Rossetti eagerly managing, Morris delighted with the charmingly medi?val situation,-a few humble painters working together piously, without hope of glory or thought of gain,-the others following their leader with lamb-like docility. Had their knowledge of methods been equal to their zeal, the walls of the Debating Room must have become the loveliest of realised visions and the delight of many generations. The young workmen sat for each other, Morris, Burne-Jones, and Rossetti all possessing fine paintable heads. They clambered up and down endless ladders to gain a satisfactory view of their performance, and attacked the most stupendous difficulties with patience and ingenuity. The faces in the subject undertaken by Burne-Jones were painted, for example, in three planes at right angles to one another, owing to the projection of a string-course of bricks straight across the space to be filled by the heads of the figures. Some studies by Rossetti have been preserved, and show that his part at least of the decoration was conceived in a fresh poetic spirit, with fulness and quaintness of expression and suggestion. But the congenial band had entered upon their labours with a carelessness that can only be described as wanton. Not one of them knew how to paint in tempera, and the new damp walls were smeared over with a thin coat of white lime wash laid upon the bare bricks as sole preparation for a sort of water-colour painting that blossomed like a flower under the gifted hands of the artists, and faded almost as soon away. The effect at the time was so brilliant as to make the walls, according to Mr. Coventry Patmore's contemporaneous testimony, "look like the margin of an illuminated manuscript," but in the course of a few months the colours had sunk into the sponge-like surface to such an extent that the designs were already dim and indistinguishable.

Morris, with characteristic promptness, was the first on the field, and his picture was finished in advance of any of the others. He was, however, no better instructed than his companions in the special requirements of his material, and presently all that was left of his painting was the head of his brave knight peering over the tops of multitudinous sunflowers. The decoration of the ceiling was also assigned to him, and he made his design for it in a single day. Later, in 1875, he repainted it, but most of the art of this merry period has receded into complete oblivion. The stay in Oxford lengthened into months as complications increased, and finally the enterprise was abandoned with the work unfinished. It had led, however, to an event of paramount importance to Morris, and of considerable importance to Rossetti-the meeting with Miss Burden, who was to figure in so many of Rossetti's symbolic pictures, and who became the wife of Morris. Her remarkable beauty had attracted the attention of the young men one night at the little Oxford theatre. "My brother was the first to observe her," writes William Rossetti; "her face was at once tragic, mystic, passionate, calm, beautiful, and gracious-a face for a sculptor and a face for a painter-a face solitary in England, and not at all like that of an English woman, but rather of an Ionian Greek." In Rossetti's portrait of her at eighteen, painted shortly after this meeting, we see the grave, unusual features almost precisely as they are drawn with words in a poem by Morris, entitled Praise of My Lady, which Mr. Mackail says was written during a visit to the Manchester Exhibition of 1857, but which assuredly is no earlier than the date of his acquaintance with Jane Burden. The description, Pre-Raphaelite in its detail, runs through the first half of the poem:

My Lady seems of ivory

Forehead, straight nose, and cheeks that be

Hollow'd a little mournfully.

Beata mea Domina!

Her forehead, overshadow'd much

By bows of hair, has a wave such

As God was good to make for me.

Beata mea Domina!

Not greatly long my lady's hair,

Nor yet with yellow color fair,

But thick and crisped wonderfully;

Beata mea Domina!

Heavy to make the pale face sad,

And dark, but dead as though it had

Been forged by God most wonderfully;

Beata mea Domina!

Of some strange metal, thread by thread,

To stand out from my lady's head,

Not moving much to tangle me.

Beata mea Domina!

Beneath her brows the lids fall slow,

The lashes a clear shadow throw

Where I would wish my lips to be.

Beata mea Domina!

Her great eyes, standing far apart,

Draw up some memory from her heart,

And gaze out very mournfully;

Beata mea Domina!

So beautiful and kind they are,

But most times looking out afar,

Waiting for something, not for me.

Beata mea Domina!

I wonder if the lashes long

Are those that do her bright eyes wrong,

For always half tears seem to be.

Beata mea Domina!

Lurking below the underlid,

Darkening the place where they lie hid-

If they should rise and flow for me!

Beata mea Domina!

Her full lips being made to kiss,

Curl'd up and pensive each one is;

This makes me faint to stand and see.

Beata mea Domina!

It was the force of this attraction that kept Morris long at Oxford after Rossetti and Burne-Jones had returned to London, leaving the walls of the Oxford Union to their sad fate. But it was no love in idleness for him, rather a time of many beginnings. He was carving in stone, modelling in clay, making designs for stained glass windows, even "doing worsted work," in Rossetti's contemptuous phrase for his efforts at reviving the lost art of embroidery, with a frame made from an old model and wools dyed especially for him. Most of all he was writing poetry, the proper occupation of a lover so ?sthetically endowed. Early in 1858 he had The Defence of Guenevere, a collection of thirty poems, ready to bring out. Save for a slim little pamphlet entitled Sir Galahad: A Christmas Mystery, the contents of which were included in it, it was his first volume and, like Swinburne's Rosamond published two years later, it was dedicated to Rossetti.

In this youthful, fantastic, emotional poetry we get the very essence of the writer's early spirit without the strange shadow of foreboding, the constant sense of swiftly passing time, that comes into the poetry of his maturity. Technically, the poems could hardly be more picturesquely defective than they are. The one giving the volume its name is nearly unintelligible in parts, even when the reader is aware of the incidents of Guenevere's story, and prepared to interpret the hysterical ravings of a woman overcome by sorrow, shame, and love.

But no poems, except Rossetti's own, have so suggested romantic art in strange shapes and unbridled colour. They, too, like the wall-paintings of that early and unrivalled time, resemble the margins of an illuminated manuscript, reminding one of nothing in nature, but flashing the richness of medi?val symbolism upon the imagination in more or less awkward forms. If Morris could not "imitate Gabriel" in his pictures, he could at least imitate Gabriel's pictures in his poems. From the Beata Beatrix, from the Ghirlandata, from the Proserpine, from almost any of Rossetti's paintings of women, these curious and affected lines, for example, might have been gleaned:

See through my long throat how the words go up

In ripples to my mouth; how in my hand

The shadow lies like wine within a cup

Of marvellously colour'd gold.

In The Eve of Crecy we have the glitter of gold and the splendour of material things, rendered with a childish abandon, as in the prose romances:

Gold on her head and gold on her feet,

And gold where the hems of her kirtle meet,

And a golden girdle round my sweet;-

Ah! qu'elle est belle, La Marguerite.

Yet even now it is good to think


Of Margaret sitting glorious there,

In glory of gold and glory of hair,

And glory of glorious face most fair;

Ah! qu'elle est belle, La Marguerite.

The full hues that had for the decorators of medi?val missals a religious significance recur again and again in lines that have much more to do with earth than with heaven, and show less concern with the human soul than with the human heart. Damozels hold scarlet lilies such as Maiden Margaret bears "on the great church walls;" ladies walk in their gardens clad in white and scarlet; the vision of Christ appears to Galahad "with raiment half blood-red, half white as snow"; angels appear clad in white with scarlet wings; scarlet is the predominating colour throughout, if we except gold, which serves as background and ornament to everything. Next to scarlet comes green, which Morris was later to call "the workaday colour," and we find occasional patches of blue and of grey in painted boats and in hangings. The following stanza shows a favourite method of emphasising the prevailing colour of a poem:

The water slips,

The red-bill'd heron dips,

Sweet kisses on red lips,

Alas! the red rust grips,

And the blood-red dagger rips,

Yet, O knight, come to me!

For pure incoherence, the quality that Rossetti discerned in Morris at their first meeting, the song from which this stanza is taken is unsurpassed. Yet an emotional effect is gained in it. What we chiefly miss in the little craft sailing under such vivid colours, is that "deep-grasping keel of reason" which, Lowell says, "alone can steady and give direction" to verse. Excitable and impatient, in pursuit of a vague ideal, gifted with the power to bring out the pictorial quality of detached scenes, but without a fine metrical sense, and averse to lucid statement, the young poet introduced himself to the world as a symbolist in the modern acceptation of the word. One of his poems, Rapunzel, has been said to forecast Maeterlinck's manner and spirit, and the general characteristics of the poem-a fairy tale somewhat too "grown-up" in treatment-certainly suggest the comparison. In all this work physical characteristics play an important part. Long hands with "tenderly shadowed fingers," "long lips" that "cleave" to the fingers they kiss, lips "damp with tears," that "shudder with a kiss," lips "like a curved sword," warm arms, long, fair arms, lithe arms, twining arms, broad fair eyelids, long necks, and unlimited hair, form an equipment somewhat dangerous for a poet with anything short of genius to sustain him. For themes Morris had gone chiefly to the Arthurian stories and to the chronicles of Froissart. His style, he himself thought, was more like Browning's than anyone else's, though the difference that lay between him and Browning even at the beginning forbade any essential likeness. Browning's effort was always to render an idea which was perfectly clear in his own mind. His volubi

lity and obscurity and roughness frequently arose from his over-eagerness to express his idea in a variety of ways, leading him to break off with half statements and begin afresh, to throw out imperfect suggestions and follow them with others equally imperfect. But all his stutterings and broken sentences failed to disguise the fact that an intellectual conception underlay the turbulent method, giving substance and life to the poem however much it might lack grace and form. With Morris the intellectual conception was as weak as with Browning it was strong, and apparently existed chiefly to give an excuse for the pictures following one another in rapid succession through every poem, short or long, dramatic or lyric, of both his youth and maturity. In this early volume there was, to be sure, an obvious effort toward rendering psychological effects. Most of the longer poems are miniature dramas with a march toward some great event in the lives of the actors. The author observes the dramatic requirement of sinking himself in the identity of his characters. Knights are slain and ladies die of love and witch-bound maidens are rescued by their princes without the sounding of a personal note on the part of their creator. And in two instances, Sir Peter Harpdon's End and The Haystack in the Floods, there is ruddy human blood in the tortured beings whose extremity moves the reader with a genuine emotion. In these two poems the voice might indeed be the voice of Browning, though the hand is still unmistakably the hand of Morris. In the main, however, the appeal that is made is to the imagination concerned with the visible aspect of brilliantly coloured objects and with the delirious expression of overwrought feelings.

Portrait of Jane Burden (Mrs. Morris)

By Rossetti

One defect, calculated to interfere with a warm reception of the volume on the part of the general public, Morris shared with Browning, possessing even more than Browning the merit attending it. Familiarity with the art and literature of the Middle Ages made it natural for him to preserve the thin new wine of his youthful poetry in the old bottles of the defunct past, using motives and scenes and accessories alien to our modern life, and only dimly understood by the modern reader. The true spirit of that past it is hardly necessary to say he did not revive,-no writer has ever revived the true spirit of any age antecedent to his own,-and Morris, with his remarkable faculty for eliminating from his mental conceptions whatever did not please his taste, was wholly unfitted by temperament, however well fitted by his acquirements, to carry through successfully a task so tremendous.

The Defence of Guenevere was received by the public without enthusiasm. About half an edition of five hundred copies was sold and given away, and the remainder lingered for a dozen years or more until the publication of The Earthly Paradise stimulated the interest of readers in the previous work of its author.

Whatever disappointment Morris may have felt must soon have given way to the excitement of the plunge he now made into a new life and the most intense personal interests. On the twenty-sixth of April, 1859, he was married to Jane Burden, and after a brief interval of travel he began to build the beautiful house which he then supposed would be his home for the rest of his days.

His personal attractiveness at this time was keenly felt by his companions. He had been "making himself," as the phrase is, since his childhood, and if Stevenson's dictum-to know what you like is the beginning of wisdom and of old age-be applied to him he can never have been wholly ignorant or a child. Knowledge of what he liked, and even more definitely of what he did not like, was his earliest as well as his most notable acquirement. But he was a boy, too, in his excessive restless vitality, and hitherto with all his enthusiasms he had been a somewhat cold boy. Just now he was beginning to "take a fancy for the human," as one of his friends put it. He was connecting his vague schemes and ambitions with a personal and practical enterprise. His ideals dropped from a region always too rare for them to an atmosphere of activities and interests in which the vast general public could breathe as easily as he. In building his new home to his fancy he was unconsciously laying the corner-stones of the many homes throughout England into which his influence was afterward to enter. He was just twenty-five, filled with energy, generous impulse, honesty, and kindness. The bourgeois touch which his biographer declares was inherent in his nature was far from obvious as yet. Society for its own sake he liked little, and was not above getting out of unwelcome invitations by subterfuge, if fair means would not avail. He affected a Bohemian carelessness in dress, and his hair was uniformly wild. His language was generally forcible, often violent, always expressive. He lived in the company of his intimates and cared for nothing beyond the range of his fixed interests. The remark made long after-"Do you suppose that I should see anything in Rome that I can't see in Whitechapel?"-was perfectly indicative of his mood toward everything that failed to arouse his intellectual curiosity. But the places and things that did arouse it were never tawdry or valueless, and his reasons for caring for them, of which he was always remarkably prolific, were such as appeal strongly to the mind in which homely associations hold a constant place. It must be an out and out classicist who fails to detect in himself a pulsation of sympathy in response to the wail which Morris once sent home from Verona: "Yes, and even in these magnificent and wonderful towns I long rather for the heap of grey stones with a grey roof that we call a house north-away."




(Reproduced from examples obtained by courtesy of Mr. A. E. Bulkley)

His first house, in which he took unlimited delight, was not, however, a heap of grey stones, but a structure of brick, its name, the Red House, indicating its striking and then unusual colour. Its architect was Philip Webb, who had been an associate of Morris during the brief period passed in Mr. Street's office. Situated not far from London, on the outskirts of the village of Upton and in the midst of a pleasant orchard, whose trees dropped their fruit into its windows, the Red House wore an emphatically Gothic aspect. It was L-shaped, with numerous irregularities of plan, and entirely without frippery of applied ornament. Its great sloping roof, the pointed arches of its doorways, the deep simple porches, the large hall, with its long table in place of an entrance alley the open-timbered roof over the staircase, the panelled screen dividing the great hall from a lesser one,-all these were characteristic of the old English house before the day of Italian invasion, while the mobile Gothic style, adapting itself readily to individual needs, prevailed. It stood among the old and gnarled trees, only two stories in height, but with an effect of rambling spaciousness and hospitality, and the garden that lay close to it was as individual and old-fashioned as itself. Morris prided himself, Mr. Mackail tells us, on his knowledge of gardening, and his advice to the Birmingham Society of Artists in one of the lectures of his later years shows how thoughtfully he considered the subject. As he always acted so far as he could upon his theories, we may be fairly sure that the Red House garden was planned in conformity with the ideal place sketched in this lecture, and may assume in it a profusion of single flowers mixed to avoid great masses of colour, among them the old columbine, where the clustering doves are unmistakable and distinct, the old china aster, the single snowdrop, and the sunflower, these planted in little squares, divided from each other by grassy walks, and hedged in by wild rose or sweet-briar trellises. We may be sure the place contained no curiosities from the jungle or tropical waste, that everything was excluded which was not native to the English soil, and that ferns and brakes from the woodland were not enticed from the place of their origin to take away the characteristic domestic look of a spot that ought to seem "like a part of the house." "It will be a key to right thinking about gardens," says Morris, "if you consider in what kind of places a garden is most desired. In a very beautiful country, especially if it be mountainous, we can do without it well enough, whereas in a flat and dull country we crave after it, and there it is often the very making of the homestead; while in great towns, gardens both private and public are positive necessities if the citizens are to live reasonable and healthy lives in body and mind."

Passing from this first necessity of reasonable and healthy living through the rose-masked doorway into the Red House itself, we find it equally suggestive of its master's personal tastes and beliefs. For everything Morris had his persuasive reason. His windows had small leaded panes of glass, because the large windows found "in most decent houses or what are so called," let in a flood of light "in a haphazard and ill-considered way," which the indwellers are "forced to obscure again by shutters, blinds, curtains, screens, heavy upholsteries, and such other nuisances." By all means, therefore, fill the window with moderate-sized panes of glass set in solid sash bars-"we shall then at all events feel as if we were indoors on a cold day"-as if we had a roof over our heads. The fact that small windows were used in medi?val times and must therefore of necessity be superior is not brought forward in this argument, and the charm of the reasoning is not marred by any reminder of the actual conditions of which small heavily leaded windows are a survival-such as the fortress style of building belonging to a warlike time, and the great costliness of glass, and the inability to support large panes by leads.

Morris could always be trusted to support his fundamental liking for a thing by a host of assurances as to its sensible merits and practical advantages, but the mere fact that he liked it was quite sufficient for his own satisfaction of mind. When one of his comrades once suggested to him that personal feeling ought not to count for too much, and that not liking a thing did not make it bad, he replied: "Oh, don't it though! What we don't like is bad." And he had a fashion which must have produced an irritating effect upon some of his hearers, of declaring that the people who did not hold his ideas must be unhealthy either in body or mind or both. Certainly the aspect of the Red House suggested health within its walls. With a slight stretch of imagination one could argue from its furnishings that its master was a northerner, a middle-class man, the admirer of a rough age, a sturdy art, a plain habit of life; that he was a worker whose dreams tormented him to speedy and vigorous action, a creature whose vitality was too great even for his strong frame and physical power. He liked a massive chair, and well he might, for one of his amusements was to twist his legs about it in such a way that a lightly built affair must instantly succumb. He liked a floor that he could stamp on with impunity; he liked a table on which he could pound with his fists without danger to its equilibrium. In the Red House these requirements were fully met. In the lecture called The Beauty of Life is an account of the fittings "necessary to the sitting-room of a healthy person." Beside the table that will "keep steady when you work upon it," and the chairs "that you can move about," the good floor, and the small carpet "which can be bundled out of the room in two minutes," there must be "a bookcase with a great many books in it," a bench "that you can sit or lie upon," a cupboard with drawers, and, "unless either the bookcase or the cupboard be very beautiful with painting or carving," pictures or engravings on the wall, "or else the wall itself must be ornamented with some beautiful and restful pattern," then a vase or two, and fireplaces as unlike as possible to "the modern mean, miserable, and showy affairs, plastered about with wretched sham ornament, trumpery of cast iron, and brass and polished steel, and what not-offensive to look at and a nuisance to clean." To these necessaries, "unless we are musical and need a piano, in which case as far as beauty is concerned we are in a bad way," we can add very little without "troubling ourselves, and hindering our work, our thought, and our rest."

In accordance with these opinions, but with a fulness and richness of ornament not suggested by the simplicity of their expression, the pleasant building at Upton gradually took on great beauty and individuality. The walls were hung with embroidered fabrics worked by Mrs. Morris and her friends, or painted by Burne-Jones, who, undeterred by the Oxford episode, started an elaborate series of mural decorations in illustration of the wonderful adventures of Sire Degravant, the hero of an ancient romance. Another series of scenes from the War of Troy was started for the walls of the staircase, and although both schemes were abandoned, enough was done to give an effect of splendour to the rooms. Up to the large drawing-room came the ponderous and mighty settle which had cost so many expletives in the course of its adjustment to the old room in Red Lion Square, and which was now embellished by a balcony at the top to which a stairway led up. All minor accessories were thoughtfully considered and for the most part designed by Morris or by friends pressed into service at his eager demand. He found little to content him in the articles of commerce on sale at the orthodox shops in the early sixties. "In looking at an old house," he says in one of his books, "we please ourselves by thinking of all the generations of men that have passed through it, remembering how it has received their joy and borne their sorrow and not even their folly has left sourness on it; and in looking at a new house if built as it should be, we feel a pleasure in thinking how he who built it has left a piece of his soul behind him to greet the newcomers one after another, long after he is gone." Such an impress he left upon the Red House, so that no one passing it or even hearing of it can fail to think of it as belonging to William Morris, whoever may have the fortune to live in it hereafter, and fall heir to the associations with which he invested it.



During the time of building and furnishing he was exuberantly happy and wholly in his element. Turning constantly from one thing to another, yet keeping along the line of his united interests, giving his magnificent energy free scope in doing and accomplishing, seeing grow into visible form the theories and tastes so dear to his heart, letting out his enthusiasms and carrying others along on their current, setting a practical example in what he believed to be of the deepest importance by requiring for himself artistic handicraft, acting out a vigorous protest against the mechanical arts and the shams of the commercial world,-all this was meat and drink to him, and out of it grew an enterprise representing what to the public has been probably the most valuable side of his many-sided career, the establishment of a firm engaged in various forms of decorative art. At about this time he adopted, after the fashion of the master-workman of the Middle Ages, a device or legend expressive in one way or another of his aim. He chose the one used by Van Eyck, "Als ich kanne,"-if I can,-and distributed it in French translation and in English over his house, on windows and tiles and in tapestry hangings. The modesty of the words was no doubt as sincere in his case as in the case of the old Flemish painter who excelled all his contemporaries, but the extent to which he could and did in the new business on which he was about to enter has been the wonder of his followers.

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