August 27


From Kelmscot House in Hammersmith on this day in 1894 William Morris wrote to his intimate friend, the architect Philip Webb, about the books being produced by his famous Kelmscot Press, at the same time getting in his usual little dig at Americans:

“My dear Fellow

“A traveller once entered a western hotel in America & went up to the clerk in his box (as the custom is in that country) and ordered chicken for his dinner: the clerk, without any trouble in his face, put his hand into his desk, and drew out a derringer, wherewith he covered the new-comer and said in a clam historic voice: Stranger, you will not have chicken; you will have hash.

“This story you seem to have forgotten. So I will apply it and say that you will have the Kelmscot books as they come out. In short you will have hash because it would upset me very much if you did not have a share in my ‘larx.’

“As to the Olaf Saga I had forgotten what you had had; chiefly I think because I did not prize the big-paper copies much. They were done in the days of ignorance, before the Kelmscot Press was, though hard on the time when it began.

“You see as to all these matters I do the books mainly for you and one or two others; the public does not really care about them a damn–which is stale. But I tell you I want you to have them & finally you shall.”

When Philip Webb gave all of his Kelmscot Press presentation copies to Trinity College, Cambridge, a printed copy of this letter was inserted in every volume of the collection.

Leave a Reply