Poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw's poetic reflections on William Morris's Icelandic Journal, one of the overlooked masterpieces of travel literature
The great Victorian designer and decorative artist William Morris was fascinated by Iceland and wrote a book documenting his travels there. He gets caught up with questions of travel, noting his reaction to the idea of leaving or arriving, to hurry and delay, what it means to dread a place you’ve never been to or to encounter the actuality of a long-held vision. He is sensitive to the emotional landscape of his band of travelers and, above all, continuously analyzing and fixing this “most romantic of all deserts.”
Lavinia Greenlaw follows in his footsteps, and interposes his prose with her own “questions of travel.” The result is a new and composite work that brilliantly explores our conflicted reasons for not staying at home.
About the Author
William Morris (1834–1896) was the foremost English designer of his time, a polemicist and reformer, poet and traveler. He is regarded as one of the myriadminded giants of the nineteenth century, and his graphic and wallpaper designs are still highly popular today.
Lavinia Greenlaw is a poet, novelist, documentary filmmaker, and BBC broadcaster. She studied seventeenth-century art at the Courtauld Institute of Art and was awarded a three-year NESTA Fellowship to pursue her interest in vision, travel, and perception. Her poetry includes Minsk and The Casual Perfect. She is also the author of two novels, Mary George of Allnorthover and An Irresponsible Age: Thoughts of aNight Sea (in collaboration with Gerry Fabian Miller), and the nonfiction book TheImportance of Music to Girls. She is a professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia.
“What an original and haunting book! William Morris’s account of his journey through Iceland is touching, quick, vivid, often very funny, while Lavinia Greenlaw’s spare commentary acts as a kind of brilliant x-ray into the deep structures of travel itself. Combined, they form a work of strange and rare enchantment.” —James Lasdun
“Morris’s journals...are precious and unique because they are so simply and beautifully written with the informed sense of wonder of a deeply learned and sophisticated man. No one except Ruskin has ever put the case for beauty with such vehemence and clarity.” —Ian McQueen, The Guardian
“At a time of endless half-truths and moral shilly-shallying, Morris’s eccentric integrity shines out.” —Fiona MacCarthy
“Greenlaw has brilliantly found a new form for writing about Morris, and for this we can only be grateful.” —Tony Pinkney, William Morris Unbound Blog
“The best book of travel written by an English poet is William Morris’s Icelandic Journal.” —Geoffrey Grigson
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