Scandinavian Elements in the Works of William Morris
A thesis submitted to the Division of Modern Languages, Harvard University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Karl O. E. Anderson
In Three Volumes
As Sir Oliver Elton points out in his excellent essay on William Morris in his Survey of English Literature: 1780-1880,
Altogether the spell of Iceland, along with that of Chaucer, was the most potent that Morris ever felt. It coloured his mental landscape and his ideals; gave him the matter for his greatest poem; shaped a good deal of his diction; and led him to translate some of the best of the prose epics: a gift to English readers which is by no means yet outworn, and which entitles him, as a helpmate of genius, to his place near the scholars and pioneers, like Gudbrandr Vigfússon and Sophus Bugge, who were basing the edifice of Northing studies.1
That the Old Norse sagas had an extremely significant influence upon Morris both as a man and as a writer has long been realized. In addition to innumerable general accounts of this matter that have appeared in biographies and critical discussions of Morris and in literary histories of the second half of the nineteenth century, at least twelve detailed investigations of particular aspects of this question have been published. A number of phases of Morris’s Norse work, however, have not been carefully examined, and many of those that have been given minute consideration have not, as I shall show in the following pages,2
1 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920), IV, 42.
2 These twelve special investigations I have discussed in detail at the proper points in my chronological survey of Morris’s Scandinavian work, indicating in my comments on each study its scope and results and calling attention whenever necessary to inaccurate or misleading statements. Thus, for an account of Heinrich Bartels, William Morris, The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs. Eine Studie über das Verhältnis des Epos zu den Quellen (Münster, 1906), see below, pp. 235-243; for Arthur Biber, Studien zu William Morris’ Prose Romances (Greifswald, 1907), see below, pp. 305-335, passim;
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manuscript material available in order to determine as definitely as possible what his principles of translation were. It is in the hope of satisfying these needs – in part, at least – that I have undertaken the present investigation.
I have been able to complete my work only because of the generous assistance I have received from a variety of sources. First of all I must acknowledge my gratitude to Professor Paul R. Lieder of Smith College, who not only first suggested this topic to me and gave me valuable advice derived from his own researches in Anglo-Scandinavian literary relations, but also most generously put at my disposal his manuscript of the Morris-Magnússon rendering of the Sigurðar saga Jórsalafara, Eysteines[?] ok Olafs, on which the main part of my study of Morris’s style of translation in Chapter IV is based. Even greater, however, is my indebtedness to Professor F. Stanton Cawley, for it has been under his patient and competent guidance that the investigation has been carried on; it was he, moreover, who taught me what I know about Old Norse, and who first introduced me to the literature of medieval Scandinavia. From Professor Francis P. Magoun, Jr., also, I have received many fruitful suggestions and much encouragement, his interest in Old Norse being surpassed only by his enthusiasm for Old and Middle English. Finally I wish to express my thanks to Professor Halldor Hermannsson of Cornell University, especially for the help he gave me in solving various problems that arose during the final stages of my research, after I had begun teaching at Cornell.
During the academic year 1933 to 1934 my work was materially aided by the grant of a Rogers Travelling Fellowship from Harvard University; the opportunities afforded me by this award to meet relatives and friends of Morris and to examine the manuscript material which is now deposited in public and private libraries in England have enabled me to make my account of Morris’s Scandinavian studies much more complete than it would otherwise have been. Of those who helped me in England I am especially indebted, first, for personal reminiscences, to Morris’s daughter, the late Miss May Morris, and to such friends of Morris and his collaborator Eiríkr Magnússon as Professor John W. Mackail, Professor H. Munro Chadwick, Mr. A. J. Wyatt, and Miss Anna Paues, and secondly, for their very kind permission to examine Morris and Magnússon manuscripts in their possession, to Miss May Morris, Sir Sydney Cockerell, Miss Dorothy Walker, and the authorities of the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Library of the University of Cambridge, the Brotherton Library in Leeds, and the City Museum and Art Gallery in Birmingham.
Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to the officials of the Boston Public Library and the Cornell University Library, but especially to the officers and attendants of the Harvard College Library, where the bulk of my research has been carried on.
I – THE BEGINNINGS OF MORRIS’S INTEREST IN THE HISTORY AND LITERATURE OF EARLY SCANDINAVIA: 1834-1870
Morris’s early interest in the Middle Ages, 1. – His introduction to Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, 2. – His acquaintance with Scandinavian tales of Fouqué, 4. – “The Lindenborg Pool,” 6. – Norse allusions in The Defence of Guenevere, 10. – Early work on The Earthly Paradise, 13. – Scandinavian references in first Prologue to The Earthly Paradise, 17. – Norse influence more marked in second Prologue, 25. – Scandinavian allusions in rest of Volume I of The Earthly Paradise, 35. – Morris’s meeting with Magnússon, 39. – Morris’s knowledge of Scandinavia at this time, 43. – First sagas read with Magnússon, 47. – “The Saga of Gunnlaug” published in 1869, 52. – Next saga studied apparently the Laxdæla, 53. – Grettis saga translation published in April, 1869, 56. – Part III of The Earthly Paradise appeared in December, 1869; 64. – Influence of Morris’s Scandinavian studies apparent in change in the character of the poems, 64. – Norse allusions in “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” 67. – “The Lovers of Gudrun,” 88. – Translation of Völsunga saga published in April, 1870, 110. – “The Fostering of Aslaug” another result of Morris’s interest in early Scandinavian literature, 120. – The unpublished “Wooing of Swanhild” also a Norse work, 127. – Another fragment, “In Arthur’s House,” shows traces of Scandinavian influence, 135.
Ten Icelandic, Danish and Swedish ballads translated during this period, 147. – Ballad renderings apparently prepared by Morris alone, 158. – Ballad translations on the whole very satisfactory, 172. – Translation of Friðþjófs saga appeared in 1871, 175. – Illuminated manuscripts show that Morris had turned Kormáks saga into English by the end of 1871, 180. – Had also begun Heimskringla rendering in 1871, 182. – By end of 1873 he had read the Víglundar saga, the Heðins saga ok Högna, the Hróa þáttr heimska, and the þorsteins þáttr
stangarhöggs, 184. – By February, 1894, he had translated Hænsa, 184. - By February, 1894, he had translated Hænsa-þóris saga, the Bandamanna saga, and the Hávarðar saga Isfirðings, 184. – Halldórs þáttr Snorrasonar turned into English by end of 1874, 187. – Vápnfirðinga saga also read at this time, 188. – Other sagas may also have been translated in the early 1870’s, 189. – Three Northern Love Stories published in June, 1875, 192. – Journals of trips to Iceland in 1871 and 1873 reveal wide acquaintance with Old Norse sagas, 196. – Three short poems, “Iceland First Seen,” “Gunnar’s Howe above the House at Lithend,” and an unnamed fragment dealing with Gunnar and Njal, were inspired by trips to Iceland, 202. – Three other short Scandinavian poems, “The Raven and the King’s Daughter,” “Of the Wooing of Hallbiorn the Strong,” and “The King of Denmark’s Sons,” apparently written during this period, 206. – Fragments of other original poems also show Scandinavian influence, 217. – Most important of these is “Anthony,” 219. – Sigurd the Volsung, longest original work on a Scandinavian theme, appeared in 1876, 233.
Morris’s interest in public affairs early in this period, 268. – Traces of his Scandinavian studies in these activities, 269. – Beginning of his work as a lecturer, 271. – Norse allusions in his early lectures, 271. – Morris’s entry into Democratic Federation, 276. – Scandinavian references in lectures on Socialism, 280. – Few Norse allusions in A Dream of John Ball, 284. – Lectures, 287. – Morris’s return to literature in the late 1880’s, 304. – First prose romance, The House of theWolfings (1888), reveals a decided Scandinavian influence, 304. –Numerous Norse allusions in second romance, The Roots of the Mountains, also, 319. – A few scattered references to early Scandinavia in News from Nowhere, 335. – The Story of the Glittering Plain, although a pure romance, contains many Norse elements, 338. – Translation work resumed in 1890, 343. – First volume of The Saga Library published early in 1891, 349. – Second volume issued in fall of 1891, 356. – many short poems on Scandinavian themes in Poems by the Way (1891), 358. – Volumes III, IV, and V of The Saga Library, which appeared in 1893, 1894, and 1895, are devoted to Heimskringla translation, 360. – The Wood Beyond the World shows slight Scandinavian influence, 367. – More Norse allusions in next romance, Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, 368. – A few Scandinavian elements in The Well at the World’s End, 373. – The water of the
Wondrous Isles, published in 1897 after Morris’s death, a pure romance, 375. – The Sundering Flood, however, shows decided Scandinavian influence, 376. – Also a few Norse allusions in fragments of prose romances, 383.
PART I: METHODS USED BY MORRIS AND MAGNÚSSON IN PREPARING THEIR TRANSLATIONS 391
PART II: MORRIS AS A MATURE TRANSLATOR OF OLD NORSE 397
Analysis of changes made by Morris in the prose of Magnússon’s draft in the holograph manuscript of their rendering of the Sigurðar saga Jórsalafara, Eysteins ok Olafs indicates Morris’s principles of translation, 397. – Sixty per cent of alterations made for the sake of greater exactness, 400. – Fourteen per cent of revisions give language of translation a tone of simplicity and an archaic coloring, 444. – Eight per cent of changes improve quality of English, 461. – Twenty-two alterations are concerned with the form of proper nouns, 466. – The motives for 190 revisions are obscure, 469. – Changes Morris made in Magnússon’s translation of the “vísur” fall into the same groups, 475. – Revisions that Magnússon made in his own work and alterations Morris made in his own rendering throw further light on the aims of the two translators, 489. – Changes made in the proofreading are also interesting, 498. –
PART III: MORRIS AS AN EARLY TRANSLATOR OF OLD NORSE 512
Alterations Morris made in his 1868-1869 rendering of the Eyrbyggja saga when he published it in 1891 indicate the changes his style of translation underwent, 512. – Different methods of rendering the “vísur,” 525. – Morris’s treatment of Magnússon’s revisions in Grettis saga manuscript reveal Morris’s confidence in himself as a translator, 529.
PART IV: MORRIS’S STYLE OF TRANSLATION IN HIS ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS 539
PART V: AN EVALUATION OF MORRIS’S STYLE OF TRANSLATION 553
PART VI: THE INFLUENCE OF MORRIS’S SAGA-TRANSLATING ON THE DICTION OF HIS ORIGINAL WORKS 582