Icelandic Journals: Notes on 1871 Journey

by Gary Aho

Sunday, July 9, 1871

‘an old gunboat, long and low’

Here, and continuing for twenty-some lines, is Morris’s fine description of the Diana.  The passage, with its sharp details couched in straight-forward prose, verifies John Purkis’s claim that the Journals have ‘great literary merit,’ so much so that ‘G.D.H. Cole regretted leaving them out of his Nonesuch selection.’   (The Icelandic Jaunt, p. 5)

 ‘huge appetite (please don’t be too much disgusted)’

With Georgie in mind as the primary reader, we here see Morris making fun of himself, and of his reputation as a trencherman.  And the description of this huge breakfast, with nine or ten items, is indeed remarkable, and it leads perfectly into the arch comment on Faulkner’s ‘serious’ contemplation of the array, and his immediate disappearance below decks.  His constitution was not so robust as Morris’s, and this fact becomes a minor theme in the Journals.

‘one amusement was seeing the sailors heave the log’

                        Purkis claims that such passages convey a ‘real feeling of lying about on deck,’ and he draws attention to the similes—‘like a carrot’ and ‘like spun glass’—used to depict the coxswain here at work. (The Icelandic Jaunt, p. 6)