William Morris Archive

David Latham 

“The Story of Aristomenes” is an uncompleted tale for which there are three manuscripts and an excerpt published by Morris in 1876. The earliest draft (e1) is an untitled fragment of six folios from an oblong notebook measuring four inches long and six inches wide. The six folios are unpaginated, unlined, and written in pencil on recto and verso. Sidney Cockerell, Morris’s secretary, has written at the top of the first folio: “Part of the story of Aristomenes.” Included in the same notebook is a draft of “The Burghers’ Battle,” a poem published in Poems by the Way in 1891, and a draft of “A Prologue in Verse” for his translation of The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs published in May 1870. The manuscript e1 is located in the Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, Ms. file (Morris, W.) Works B.

The next manuscript (e2) is an untitled draft of 22 folios written in ink on recto and verso. They are paginated 1-44. Folios 1-6, 8, 16-22 are on blue paper with 34 horizontal aqua lines and are watermarked “J. Allen & Sons Superfine 1870.” Folio 7 is imprinted “Pappins & Cotto London.” Folios 9-15 are on white paper with 34 horizontal aqua lines and are unwatermarked. In the top right corner of folio 1, Morris has written “Begun June 25th” to which May Morris has added “1870?” in pencil.

The tale is written without attention to the aqua lines, with a range of 40 to 50 lines of verse per page. After some drawings on the first folio, there are only three other instances of doodling. The manuscript is located in the British Library, London, from the May Morris Bequest, Add. MS. 45308.

The 73 folios of the fair copy (e3) are written in ink on recto only. They are on white paper with 34 horizontal aqua lines, unwatermarked. The manuscript was given to Watts-Dutton as a gift in April 1876. It is located in the British Library, from the collection of Thomas J. Wise, Ashley 4902. It is incorrectly dated “1868” by Wise: “Originally intended for ‘The Earthly Paradise’ by William Morris 1868.”

Morris published “The First Foray of Aristomenes” (e4) in The Athenaeum, 13 May 1876. Wise issued in about 1894 a spurious edition of this episode as a privately printed pamphlet, dated 1876, included with “The Two Sides of the River” and “Hapless Love.”

The three drafts and the published excerpt are collated with the edition of the poem May Morris published in The Collected Works of William Morris in 1915 (CW).

The source for this tale is the Periegesis by Pausanias, written during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180). Pausanius writes a traveller’s account of his tour of Greece in which he tells the legends and describes the antiquities of the places he visits.

The copy-text for this edition is e3.