Only a short post this week, as promised, because I’ve spent a fair chunk of the last week eating chocolate and playing with Playmobil, and the cats are demanding that I return to my spot on the sofa.
But I thought I’d take a few moments to introduce you to one of my favourite birthday presents: Morris Does Horace.
When asked by my long-suffering family what I wanted for my birthday, as you can imagine I had quite a long list. It’s not that I’m acquisitive, you understand – it’s just… actually yes, I am shockingly acquisitive. As an old teacher of mine used to say, pobody’s nerfect.
One of the things at the top of my list (which my parents very kindly bought for me despite the logistical challenges of lockdown and the shop being shut) was a little set of books produced by the Bodleian Library: a facsimile of William Morris’ illuminated edition of Horace’s Odes. It’s adorable and fabulous and ridiculously over-the-top.
This has never really been published as a proper book, because Morris didn’t finish it; he got distracted and moved on to something else. Book illumination was more a hobby for him than a commercial project; he made these books by hand for his friends and family, and apparently he found it relaxing. So there are lots of pages that are almost but not quite done; and quite a few which he only just started.
I may have mentioned once or twice how much I love Horace… but I may not have mentioned how much I love Morris too. I could go on at length about that, but as I said, the cats need me… so here’s just one example. Let me take you on a tour of my bathroom.
(Didn’t expect that, did you?)
When I first moved into my fixer-upper of a house, the bathroom needed a complete remodel – new floor, ceiling, walls, the full works. And I got to design it from scratch. The most impressive room I could think of to take as a model was the Morris Tea Room at the V&A, a room which I’d seen for the first time not long before.
(It has been said that I have delusions of grandeur. I think this is wrong – if and when I finally inherit a castle, my taste will be entirely appropriate.)
So I got out my paintbox.
Granted, the finished product is not up to William Morris’ usual standard. I was working within certain constraints which Morris didn’t have (like a shoe-string budget and the need to incorporate plumbing), and Burne-Jones wasn’t available to do my stained glass. Also I included glitter. But I think it’s fair to claim that my bathroom is Morris-esque (or should that be Morrisish? Morrissey doesn’t work, I’m afraid…).
You see now why a William Morris edition of Horace holds such an attraction for me – the combination of my favourite poet and my favourite designer is irresistible. Also there are those tantalisingly unfinished pages… I’m absolutely itching to finish them myself! But I’ve promised my parents that I won’t colour in my birthday present – at least not yet…
This week from around the Classical Internet
(Just a few links this week. For daily links, do check out the Rogue Classicist’s Thelxinoe posts.)
Buried monkeys – The Smithsonian Magazine
British Museum’s purchased ‘loot’ – The Telegraph
5,000-year-old paint palette – Daily Sabah
The Sherlock Holmes of archaeology – The Telegraph
Scholar’s notes on the Rosetta Stone – The Guardian
This week’s Comfort Classics
Comment and opinion
Thera: the island with many names – Kosmos Society
The mystery of Cleopatra’s burial – Grunge
The Romans and exams – The Spectator
Reading Hippolytus online – Sententiae Antiquae
An Aeneid playlist – Mixed up in Classics
Rocket man – Sphinx
Podcasts, video and other media
Flaminius and Hannibal – The Layman’s Historian
Sparta and the Macedonian phalanx – Ancient Warfare
Mycenaean chariots – Ancient World Magazine
Petronius and werewolves – Creepy Classics
Partial Spartacus – Roman Emperors: Totalus Rankium
The philosophers of ancient Greece – Dan Snow’s History Hit