The Widow's House by the Great Water

Early Draft of The Water of the Wondrous Isles

edited by Helen A. Timo


"The Widow's House by the Great Water": A Literary Enigma

In the last years of my father's life his mind teemed with all kinds of romantic imagery, fleetingly expressed in beginnings of talcs which, though but the gleanings of the harvested field, I would oot have altogether unt asted. To print them or quote from them, Iadmit, is like putting to paper a changing dream with its wayward unfinished adven ture that leads but to awakening and the grey of dawn. It ispossible that all the fragments did not allow of working out, but their broken lights, the half-explored pathways whose promise of new wonder ends in the half-filled page, have the tantalizing charm familiar to all dreamers, and in each there is some variety of inven tion, some new setting of the old tale of love and marvel-bunting, a new grouping of the per­ sonages. (XVII:xxv)

To anyone familiar with the world of Morris's late romances, May Morris's comments cann0t fail to be intriguing. All exploration of the manuscripts in the May Morris Bequest at the British Library docs indeed reveal the existence of a collection of unfinished prose romances, most of which arc alluded to by May Morris in her introductions. These i nclude "Giles of the Loog Frank; "Kilian of the Closes; "Tbe Folk of the Mountain Door; "The Story of Dcsiderius; "King Peacock" and the brief opening of a tale about "the Wasted Land" which begins: "I have beard say that there was once a fair house built by the side of a forest wherein dwelt a lady, and bow that in this house there were no men, but a great many damsels..." (XVll:xviij).2 All these fragments deserve attention and merit publkati on, but  particularly

1 References to the Collected  Works of  William Morris, introd. May Morris, 24 vols. (London: Longmans, 1910-15) are given parentheticall in the text by volume and page number.

2 These unfinished tales  arc described by May Morris in XVII:xviij-ix and xxv-xxxvij.

[5] intriguing is an unfinished tale of considerable length entitled 'The Widow's House by the Great Water ."
"The Widow's House by the Great Water,' which forms B.L. Add. MS. 45324, fols. 1-47, is manifestly an early version of the tale which was finally published in 1897 as The Water of the Wondrous Isles. According to May Morris (XX: vj), 'Tbe Widow's House" was "superseded" by The Water of the Wondrous Isles and she gives an account of the history of the evolution of the published tale. Referring to entries in the diary of Sir Sydney Cockerell for the year 1895, she suggests chat "The Widow's House" was the first version of a romance which Morris then recast in verse on February 4th.3 Cockerell's diary records the beginning of yet another version of the tale in prose and verse February 8th. This is presumedly the version May Morris is referring Lo when she talks of the next stage "of mixed prose and verse" and, since she tells us that "after the first dozen pages, the few snatches of verse are struck out, and prose substituted ...' (XX:xviij-ix), this may well be the main draft of The Water on which some of the published version is based.4

Despite her rather dismissive reference to "The Widow's House,' May Morris does give a brief synopsis of the plot (X.X:xvij-xviij) which she prefaces with the comment that it contains 'a few of the ideas of the published tale...floating about in an unse11led condition, amid a great deal of matter that the writer rejected" (XX:xvij). It is amusing to note May Morris's use of the word "floating" in view of the subject matter of the stories under discussion! It is open to question, however, whether she is right to see "The Widow's House" as nothing more than a false start to what was to be a more successful story. A brief consideration of what the two versions of the story have in common and how they differ should mal<e it easier ro decide the matter. As to the date of composition of "The Widow's House," there is, to my knowledge, no specific evidence about this, other than the fact chat it must obviously pre-date the start of the verse version on February 4th, 1895.The similarity of style and setting, however, suggest that it was not wri1ten so very

3 This version, which had already become "The Water of the Wondrous Isles,' still exists as B.L.Add .MS 45325, fols. 1-17.

4 The draft now forms B.L. Add. MS. 45322, fols. 1-443. B.L. Add. MS. 45323, fols. 1-201forms the printer's copy which brea ks off at the end of Chapter XIV in the Fourth Part. R. Flower, in bis article "The Willia m Morris Manuscripts" British Museum Quanerly, 14 (1940), 8-12, gives the date of the start of composition of the first draft as 4th February, 1895 but gives no evidence to explain why be differs in this both from May Morris and from the British Library Catalogue itself.

[6] long before the final version of The Water. A date in January of 1895 is therefore suggested as likely.
''Tho Widow's House by the Great Water· is written in black ink on white, blue-lined paper. The handwriting is that of Morris's later years: it is very clear and decorative aod shows the influence of bis interest in cal­ ligraphy and printing. The ornamental capital letters which open paragraphs imitate those of a medieval manuscript. After a slightly hesitant opening, the story proceeds confidently with only minor deletions and a clear sense of style and pauerning. Beginning (like all the best story-tellers) with the words
"once upon a time," Morris tells of a widow and her daughter who live in a modest dwelling "on the shore of a great water" (fol 1).The woman's husband is dead and she and her daughter have to work to maintain themselves, but they are not in the destitute state in which we find the child Birdalone and her mother, Audrey, at the start of The Water. Birdalonc's mother tells the sinister witch-wife whom she met at Utterbay that she and her child have been virrually starving ever since her husband died. She is easily tricked  in this desperate state and robbed of her daughter.

Joan, the widow of the earlier tale, has, by luck or judgement, managed to hold on to her child, Katherine, and bring her up in relative prosperity. She is far better circumstanced than the poor widow of Uttcrhay. In fact, she seems to be almost as wealthy as the witch·wife who kidnaps Birdalone in the published talc, for her house is situatcd in a virtually identical spot to that described in Chapter II of The Water.

Now this house stood on the shore of a great water so that there was nought betwixt save a narrow wale of greensward and a strand of pebbles. That water was not of the sea, but, was sweet: nevertheless so great it was, that when one looked up it, that is to say westward, the southern shore presently melted away into the air & the water, and it was like looking out over the ocean. (fol. 1)

lo the description of the setting of the witch-wife's house, the basic ideas are much the same:

...before the sun was set, came they to the shore of a great water, and thence was no more land to be seen before them than ii it had been the main sea itself, though this was a sweet water....
Now the ending or the wood left a fair green plain betwixt it and the water, whiles more than a furlong across, whiles much less....But the place whereas they came from out the wood was of the widest, and there it was a broad bight of greensward of the fashion of the moon seven nights old....Through the widest of this meadow ran a clear [7] stream winding down to the lake, and beside a lap of the said stream, two bow-shots from the water, was a knoll, whereon stood, amidst of a potherb garden, a liule house strongly framed of timber. (XX:6)

Morris's choice of vocabulary in his prose romances bas sometimes been criticized as too archaic and decorative to be readily comprehensible. However, a comparison of these two descriptions of what is basically the same scene shows that when Morris worked on a passage of descriptive writing, be did not so much increase the number of "decorative" adjectives employed as seek to create a more exact, well-defined picture for his reader. In the passage as it was finally published in The Water, Morris omits the archaic 'wale' (a sixteenth-century word of Old English derivation, which was applied to a ridge or raised line in a textile fabric) in favour of a much more precise description of the'green plain" with its distinctive half-moon shape.
Birdalone, the protagonist of The Water, whose very name confirms that Morris can be most economical in hls use of adjectives, grows up in total seclusion, seeing no one but her harsh mistress. This is a complete departure from the situation in "The Widow's House· in which the heroine and her mother have several helpful neighbors. As all these neighbors seem to be male, Katherine is far mere conversant with what are referred to as "the longings of carles" (fol. 23) than Birdalone is when she first arrives at the Castle of the Quest. The widow's neighbours include a community of "Black" (Dominican?) Monks ('the father.of S Peters (sic) cell"), a woodman and his son, and a fisherman and his son. They are a sufficiently mixed bunch to provide our heroine with varied learning experiences about the opposite sex and this seems to be their main function in the story. It goes without saying that all these men, high and low, fisherman and prelate, are besotted with Katherine, for she is one or those girls whom Morris in his younger days might have called a "stunner". In a passage in the manuscript which Morris deleted, Katherine is described with relish:

For indeed it was not only that she was as straight as an arrow, as well-knit as the ten-year oak sapling in the close set coppice; as supple as the willow-branch in the wind; it was not only that her chin was round and her lips full & red, her eyes grey and open, her hair sort waving & silky-golden brown: nay nor that she was fashioned, face and body, & limbs, as fine & delicate as might be: but she was to boot gentle & winning & alluring of all her ways, and yet withal stately &. proud.... (fol. 3)

[8] This is plainly the first version of the description of Birdalone given by Habundia when she offers to be the maiden's "mirror " (XX:16·18}. As with the description of the house on the shore of the Great Water, the pub­ lished version is far more detailed than its predecessor. It is worthwhile noting in passing that to Morris, particularly in the fiction of the 1890's, feminine beauty is always synonymous with robust physical health. (See the remarks on sickly Victorian ladies and their "hour-glass figures" in Chapter VI of News from Nowhere.) It also requires some integrity of character. Morris seems to assume that beauty and goodness will generally go together (in the world of his romances at least!) The witch-wife's younger sister in The Water is physically beautiful, due to daily draughts of the Water of Might. However, Hugh, the Green Knight, is not taken in. He notes that while she "might have been called  a fair woman, as to her shaping; she bas a face 'heavy, yet bard-looking, with thin lips and somewhat flagging cheeks, a face stupid, but proud and cruel' (XX:221 22).

When "The Widow's House' opens, Katherine "had seen her twentieth winter" (fol. 5). She bas had an easy childhood, for Joan dotes on her and does all the hard work around the house herself (a state of affairs which the enigmatic 'spaewife,' who visits them later, disapproves of). Katherine's childhood has some of the features of Birdalone's. She roams the wood and is closely atuned to the rhythms of the natural world. However, Katherine has more personal freedom and fewer worries.While Birdalone spends her childhood barefoot and ill-clad, Katherine has good clothes and footwear. Her mother even does her long hair for her, as though she were her daughter's "tire-woman." Although she bas reached the age of twenty, we are told that Katherine is not discontented with her life spent fishing, hunting and talking to any chance wayfarers. Indeed, why should she yearn to leave so comfortable a home for the uncertainties of the outside world? She is not driven like Birdalone to flee from an increasingly unbearable subservience to another's will. In view of the fact that one of the features of the story which Morris changes most had to do with the circumstances of the heroine's upbringing, one wonders if he felt that anyone raised in such security, free from any real hardship or unpleasantness, would really have developed the strength of character and self-reliance to undergo the trials which he had it in mind for his heroine to undergo.

The three Black Monks on their island have no real parallel in The Water, unless it be the hapless Leonard, the Chaplain of the Castle of the Quest, who prevails upon the castellan, Sir Amyeris, to show Birdalone some hospitality. He is described as "a younger man than the others, it might be of [9] five and thirty winters, and he was fair of favour" (XX:105). Leonard is well­educated and a1tractive, and yet there is something in Morris's portrait of him that suggests be is not to be taken seriously and is inadequate in some way. This is most noticeable during the episode where he helps Birdalone to ride off on her own to the Black Valley of Greywethers without telling the castelan, who has orders to confine her to the Castle of the Quest.  Leonard is "bookish" rather than active and energetic. He teaches Birdalonc to read and to write beautifully, but when something "important" is toward, he is impatiently brushed aside by Sir Amyeris who declares: "Thou shalt be put downstairs, priest, if thou hold not thy peace" (XX:187).

This attitude is in tune with the violent anti-clericalism which is evident in Morris's work as early as the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine romances (1856). In Lindenborg Pool, for example, the young Morris, who had but recently turned his back on Holy Orders, dabbles with considerable delight in an unholy tale based on a story in Thorpe's Northen Mythology (1851-52), in which an unfortunate priest is tricked into giving the last rites to a large pig. Morris always avoided discussing his views on religion, as both W. B. Yeats and J. Bruce Glasier attest.6 He transferred his allegiance to socialism as a more practical and vibrant faith. However, he remained expert on and intrigued by the trappings of religion and, in the "medieval" world of his late prose romances, the Church obviously had to play a part, though usually one opposed by the "natural" religion, the worship of the earth, which is expressed by Ellen in News from Nowhere.

It is necessary to explain the ambiguity of Morris's attitude to the Church, for it seems likely that Katherine's relationship with one of the Black Monks was to form an important theme in "The Widow's House". A common feature of both the unpublished romance and The Water is tbe idea of a priest who is tormented by an intense physical desire which he cannot either control or satisfy.  On the island of Black Monks, as well as the elderly (and foolish)

5 There is more anti-clericalism in The Well at the World's End (1895} where "the vicar appointed by the Fathers of the Thorn to serve the church of the Little Plain and the chapel of St. Anthony yonder in the wood...' (XVII:113) is tormented with desire for the Lady of Abundance. Earlier, in Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair (1895) a black canon at Greenharbour castle looks on the heroine "with lustful eyes" and offers her "ease and surcease of pain" if she will submit to his desires (XVI1:191}.

6 Sec Yeats' Autobiographies (London: Macmillian, 1926), p. 183 and Glasier's William Moms and the Early Days of the Socialist Movement (London: Longman's Green, 1921}, p. 164.

[10] Father Eleutberius and the sour Father Paul is the rather more appealing Father Aloys,  a "young man exceeding fair" (fol. 6).7 Father Aloys is even more besotted with Katherine than Leonard is with Birdalone. When in extremis, be resorts to tearing about the woods in a frenzy and rolling about on the grass in a desperate anempt to bring his feelings under control. Compared to this, Leonard's meek depression when Birdalooe rejects him seems very mild! Indeed, at this point in the text, Father Aloys seems to have far more in common with Arthur, the Black Squire of The Water, who literally loses his wits when Birdalone leaves him and is later discovered in Evilshaw, dressed in skins and playing the harp in a Tristrarn-like state of distraction. This parallel seems to confirm that Aloys was destined to become Katherine's lover at some point in the story. The connection between Arthur and Aloys seems even closer when we hear of the former giving out that he "would enter into religion" and going off on his own (XX: 347). However, Morris seems to have had second thoughts about his heroine loving a priest. Like Sir Amyeris, Morris had little time for priests unless, like John Ball, they had the sense to be involved in popular uprisings rather than hopeless love affairs.

Like Father Aloys, Peter, the fisherman, and his appropriately named son, Grim, are obsessed with tbe widow's daughter. The biblically named Peter is clearly worried about his son, for Grim is the stern, silent, brooding type. Giles and Hubert, the woodmen, on the other band, are more sanguine and good-natured, always behaving with a keen awareness of Katherine's feelings, whatever their own may be. Nonetheless, it is small wonder that, with all these admirers, Katherine begins to feel rather harrassed. The only one of them for whom she feels any decided preference is the handsome and interesting Father Aloys but "fear of what might bcfall mastered the feeble stirrings of desire in her..." (fol.9). As the story progresses, she patently stands in need of some good advice, which she duly receives in the form or three "spaedoms" coming from  three mysterious strangers. These episodes alternate with two contrasted declarations of love, one from Hubert forester and the other from young Grim fisherman. Whether Morris intended Katherine to receive a third declaration of love from Father Aloys is unclear.

Amiable Hubert takes Katherine hunting in the greenwood and uses this occasion Lo LeU her his feelings for her.  She rejects him in some distress,

7 Morris initially calls him Brother Aloys, but promotes him after a while, rather as he decides Lo make Arthur, the Black Squire or The Water into a knight.

[11] as she is genuinely fond of him in a sisterly way. He takes his dismissal very well and does not pester her further.  Grim the fisherman, however, is much less easily disposed of. He takes our heroine fishing and, whilst they are having a rather tense lunch on a convenient reef, he makes his inner torment all too plain. This scene has a comic element which Morris was surely not unaware of. Grim starts weeping over his lunch, trying to get up the courage to speak of bis love, and Katherine feels wretched. However, he too must be rejected. He does not take his dismissal as equably as Hubert, but rants and raves and threatens, with a fine touch of melodrama, to drown himself if she will not have him. Fortunately, the unhappy pair arc interrupted by a mysterious old man who just happens to be passing the reef in his boat and who finds their awkwardness comic enough. The old man proves to be the last  of  the  enigmatic beings  who  "spae" Katherine's  "weird."   The  first "•spaedom" comes from a sinister, well-dressed woman of about forty, wearing a fetching jewelled circlet. She seems at first glance to be uncomfortably akin to Birdalone's witch-wife, but despite this she docs no harm to Joan or her daughter. She tells Katherine's "weird", which involves the girl becoming "a baron's wife and a King's wife" and finally a queen (fol. 16). She leaves the girl a sapphire ring.

The second, and much the most interesting, fortune-teller is a creature who is plainly a first version of Habundia. She wears a transparent or translucent garment which "scarce changed the colour of her fair flesh, so thin and fine was the web thereof ...." The only decoration is "a gay garland of gold & silk flowers" (fol. 24) about her middle.8 Like the figure of the wood­mother in The Water, the nameless lady of "The Widow's House" seems to be derived from Morris's reading of Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (1835) in which there is a discussion of "the legend of a domina Abundia or dame habonde," supplied by the French authorities of the the Middle Ages."9 She also appears as "Abondanza," wearing a gold-embroidered green garment and a

8 This outfit is remarkably similar to the diaphanous gown of silky grey material, also embroidered with flowers about 1be middle, worn by the Lady of The Wood Beyond the World (1894) wheo she is ben t on seducing Golden Walter (XVI1:64). Perhaps this is why Morris decided against dressing Habundia in this style in her final incarnation in The Waler. Her nakedness is more honest and in tune with the natural world around her. All suggestion of the seductress bas been removed.

9 Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, trans. James Steven Stal­ lybrass, 4th ed., vol. I. (London:Bell, 1882), p.286.

[12] wreath of flowers while bearing a cornucopia, in Cesare Ripa's lconologia, of which Morris had an illustrated  1669 edition.11  Katherine offers to show the Habunrua figure the way out of the wood and it is noteworthy that, unlike Habuodia, this lady initially bears no resemblance to Katherine. It is only after the girl had hidden her  face in the grass that her companion turns into an image of herself.12 Katherine tells her new friend everything about herself and the people she knows but most significantly she tells her the most secret of her thoughts:

... how she loved to be at Mass in the church on thc isle when the sun shone bright and all was clear to  sec (since the windows were not right wide) and bow fair father [sic) Aloys looked as he went  past  her  clad  in his mass-hackle; and again how many things he had told her, as they walked together whiles amidst the woodland thickets; and those not only of goodly and pious matters, but of the ways of the world, and stories of time past, both long ago, and but of late. (fol. 28)

When they reached the road, Katberine falls asleep and wakes to find her double turned back into a glittering faerie creature again. Before leaving, the lady also tells Katherine's 'weird' but it is not a promising one, being "of shame & grief and sore need and terror and shame & grief and misery..." (fol. 30). She gives the girl a small iron ring, which seems to indicate that Katherine is not to look to her for predictions of worldly pomp and wealth.

The final "weird·spaeman' is the old man in black who sails up to the reef on which Katherine is trying to deal with the distraught Grim. The Jailer remembers his manners sufficiently to offer to take the old man to lodge with the Black Monks but the traveller proves to be another disliker of priests, declaring intriguingly: 'Nay I will not go to the priests unless needs must: I love them not much, & maybe they would love me less still if they were to

10 Sec Cesare Ripa, lconologia, introd. Stephen Orgel, Renaissance and the Gods, [Vol. 21] (New York: Garland, 1976), pp.12.  Rpt. from Padua ed. of 1611.

11 This edition of the lconologia is recorded in Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge's Catalogue of a Portion of the Valuable Ccllectionof Manuscripts, Early Printed Books, etc. of the Late William Morris of Kelmscott House, Hammersmith (London:  Sotbeby,  Wilkinson  and Hodge,  1898),   p. 87.

12 The doppleganger idea, which is more fully developed in The Water, is also a legacy from German folklore. Morris must have been familiar with Rossetti's treatment of the theme in How They Met Themselves (1851-60).

[13] know all about me" (fol. 40). He therefore goes to stay with Katherine and Joan. On the following morning, as be departs, he asks Katherine to accompany him on bis way into the wood . She asks him to tell her of things
"that verily get done out in the world; for my heart tells me that I shall not dwell here ever" (fol.45). Then he tells her "grievous" tales which are surely meant as some kin d of a warning to her:

...and especially be told her of how a fair lady who was wedded to a good knight was taken in the snare of love with a certain monk, a priest to wit, and how their love was hidden but a little and they were both brought to shame; and of the vengeance which the baron of the lady and her kindred took of the said monk; and of the pennance [sic] of the said lady and the pining of her flesh.  (fol. 46)

When they pause to rest, the old man notices the two dissimilar rings on Katherine's fingers and seems about to give her a third at the point where the manuscript breaks off. His prediction of her future has simply been "that thou shalt be wedded to a good & true carle who shall love thee dearly, and thou him some deal" (fol. 47). It is at this rather uninspiring point that the tale breaks off.  Events usually come in threes in the world of myth and fai rtale and there is much use of the number three in the patterning of the Water where, for example, Aurea, Viridis and Atra are initially paired with Baudoin, Hugh and Arthur. One therefore expects something significant to follow this third spaedom, some clear indication of the direction in which the tale was going to proceed and a hint of when Katherine is going to leave home.

One is left to conclude that Morris had either run out of ideas (which seems unlikely given the fertility of his imagination), or that the plot or characters were developing in a way that be had not intended, or that some aspect of the story which he bad written involved dealing with a subject which he did not wish to deal with. Maybe Morris also felt that the story was not "marvellous" enough. "The Widow's House" is noticeably more prosaic (spaedoms apart) than the tale that was eventually published in 1897. There is no child-snatching, no sinister witch-wife and no Sending Boat which requires blood to get it going. Nor is there the undercurrent of violence and sadism which appears in the witch-wife 's bullying treatment of Birdalone. Katherine has apparently had an untroubled childhood and seems to live with her doting mother in perfect amity. Her world seems free of violence and malice.

On the other hand, given the manner in which its significance is reduced in The Water, the stumbling-block may have been the theme of a [14]relationship between the heroine and a monk or priest. All the indications are that Morris intended there to be some kind of relationship between Katherine and Father Aloys: a forbidden love because of his priestly vows of chastity and also, perhaps, because Katherine was to be married to someone else. Morris seems to have thought better of this theme for some reason and it is made clear in the published romance that Leonard the chaplain does not have a chance of gaining Birdalone's affections.  Birdalone's love of Arthur is impeded, not by priestly vows, but by his prior commitment to another woman. However, there is no obvious reason why Aloys should not have broken his priestly vows and pursued Katherine into the world beyond the Great Water, there to marry her in the fullness of time. Far from regarding such an abandonment of religious vows as wrong, Morris would doubtless have thought much better of Aloys if be had acted in this way.

We shall never know exactly why Morris abandoned "The Widow's House by the Great Water" and recast it, after several failed attempts, into another form.  Had he pursued it, the story would in all likelihood have
turned out quite differently from The Water of the Wondrous Isles. The one strikingly original feature that the two tales do have in common is the use of a female protagonist. In Morris's earlier romances the main character, the quester, was always male, though female characters play an increasingly dominant part  in  the action.  Morris was always theoretically egalitarian in his attitude to the relative rights of men and women, though there sometimes seems to be little scope for women who are not beautiful in the world of his prose romances (The ugly women arc usually also evil!). In The Water and its predecessor, Morris, perhaps influenced by his attitude to his now grown-up daughters, accords Katherine and Birdalooc independence, intelligence and as much courage as any Golden Walter or Ralph of Upmeads. That they also have to be breathtakingly lovely can perhaps be excused as a weakness of the decorative artist who was acutely sensitive to ugliness and tried to make everything beautiful if he could. Morris had plainly decided that his next questing character had to be female, but in the "Widow's House" he presents us wth a heroine who is not entirely promising material.

The fundamental reason for Morris's dissatisfaction with the unfinished talc seems to lie in the personality of its heroine. Katherine lacks initiative . Her formative years have been made easy and pleasant and she seems tamely contented with her lot. True it may be uncomfortable to be feverishly desired by all tbe men of her acquain tance, but it might be worse oot to be desired at alll   As Morris slyly comments after bis heroine's [15] rejection of Hubert: "The man was goodly & valiant and kind and fair­spoken, and as befalls with maidens it was somewhat sweet to her that a fair man should look on her with desire so strong'" (fol 23). Katherinc basically enjoys the admiration of Hubert and Grim and more than enjoys the attentions of Aloys, though they may alarm her because of his position and because she responds to them. However, in making his protagonist so universally loved, Morris has made it difficult for her t0 be active and adventure-seeking. The Habundia figure declares of Katherine that "both youth and eagerness stir in thee to go further afield..." (fols. 29-30), but what is to prise Katherine away from mother and admirers? Perhaps only an alarmingly impassioned declaration on the part of Father Aloys would be enough to make her feel that she must get away from him. Moreover, once she is embarked on a quest of some sort (presumably in the boat which the old man had conveniently left behind), is Katherine as wcll-fitted as Birdalone to cope with the perils of the journey? Birdalone may be naked when she sets out, but her upbringing has made her resourceful and self-reliant. Katherine, complete with her quiver and arrows, is not nearly so well-prepared to deal with the perils of the outside world.

Having chosen a woman as his protagonist, Morris clearly thought very hard about the qualities which she would require. Katherine was turning out to be too much like the stereotypical heroine figure, letting things happen to her rather than initiating them. He needed a character who would have the strength and sclf·confidencc of the Maid in Tire Wood Beyond the World or the Lady of Abundance in The Well at the World's End. Perhaps this is how Katherine's more vibrant younge sister, Birdalone, came into existence. Nevertheless, we can still regret that Katherine never left the house by the Great Watcr and journeyed forth in search of her destiny. We can still sigh as the promise of new wonder ends in the half-filled page."


The following pages arc a transcripLioo of B.L.Add . MS. 45324, fols. 1-47 with 1he minimum or necessary editing. My aim throughout has been to maintain a balance between faithfulness to the text and readability. Editorial emendations are clearly marked and used only when their absence might lead to the read er's confusion. [16] Some distortion or the original text is unavoidable when translating a handwritten tale into print. For example, Morris used "decorated" initial letters to indicate the openings or new paragraphs. I have sometimes had to guess at paragraph openings, which have been indented in the usual manner. Morris made frequent use of the the sign P which seems to indicate the need to indent a new paragraph in which direct speech is to appear. However, be does not always use this sign consistently and sometimes his intentions have to be guessed at. For the convenience of the reader, I have added speech marks in the appropriate places although they never appear in Morris's manuscript.

The punctuation, spelling, and the chapter beadings and numbers are Morris's own unless otherwise stated. The beginning of each new folio of the manuscript is indicated in the text by an asterisk above the line. Deleted passages of particular interest are mentioned in the notes. When such passages form an integral part of the narrative which ceases to mal:c sense without them, they are included in the text enclosed in angled brackets.

Question marks in square brackets indicate uncertainly in reading the preceding word. I have added [sic) wherever I have felt it necessary. Any other editorial interpolations are also given in square brackets.