Jane Morris to Wilfred Scraven Blunt.

By Peter Faulkner

Printed: 1986

Publisher: University of Exeter.

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 16 × 22 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 16 x 22 x 2

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In the original dustsheet. Black cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

 Hard Back.  Now a scarce book.

Jan Marsh is a British writer and curator who is an expert on the Victorian period and particularly the Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris. Marsh is president of the William Morris Society, a trustee of the William Morris Gallery and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


Jane Morris (née Burden; 19 October 1839 – 26 January 1914) was an English embroiderer in the Arts and Crafts movement and artists’ model who embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty. She was a model and muse to her husband William Morris and to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her sister was embroiderer and teacher Elizabeth Burden.

Jane Burden was born in Oxford, the daughter of a stableman, Robert Burden, and his wife Ann Maizey, who was a domestic servant or a laundress. At the time of her birth, her parents were living at St Helen’s Passage, in the parish of St Peter-in-the-East, off Holywell Street in Oxford which has since been marked with a blue plaque. Her mother Ann was illiterate and probably came to Oxford as a domestic servant. Little is known of Jane Burden’s childhood, but it was certainly poor.

In October 1857, Burden and her sister Elizabeth, known as Bessie, attended a performance of the Drury Lane Theatre Company in Oxford. Jane Burden was noticed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones who were members of a group of artists painting the Oxford Union murals, based on Arthurian tales. Struck by her beauty, they asked her to model for them. Burden sat mostly for Rossetti as a model for Queen Guinevere and afterwards for William Morris, who was working on an easel painting, La Belle Iseult, now in the Tate Gallery. During this period, Morris fell in love with Burden and they became engaged, though by her own admission she was not in love with Morris.

She became a skilled needlewoman, self-taught in ancient embroidery techniques, and later became renowned for her own embroideries.

Jane married William Morris at St Michael at the Northgate in Oxford on 26 April 1859. After the marriage, the Morrises moved to the quasi-medieval Red House in Bexleyheath, Kent. While living there, they had two daughters, Jane Alice “Jenny,” born 17 January 1861, and Mary “May” born 25 March 1862, who later edited her father’s works.] They moved to 26 Queen Square in London, which they shared with the design firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., and later bought Kelmscott House in Hammersmith as their main residence. Although Jane, her daughters Jenny and May, and her sister Bessie all supervised and embroidered for Morris & Co., credit for the designs were given to William Morris himself “in the interests of commercial success.” The three embroidered panels depicting the illustrious women of Chaucer and Tennyson’s writing now at Castle Howard were produced by Jane and Bessie in the 1880s.

In 1871, William Morris and Rossetti took out a joint tenancy on Kelmscott Manor on the Gloucestershire–Oxfordshire–Wiltshire borders. William Morris went to Iceland, leaving his wife and Rossetti to furnish the house and spend the summer there. Jane Morris had become closely attached to Rossetti and became a favourite muse of his. Their romantic relationship is reputed to have started in the late 1860s and lasted, on differing levels, until his death in 1882. They shared a deep emotional connection, and she inspired Rossetti to write poetry and create some of his best paintings. Her discovery of his dependence on chloral hydrate, which was taken for insomnia, eventually led her to distance herself from him, although they stayed in touch until he died in 1882.

In 1883, Jane Morris met the poet and political activist Wilfrid Scawen Blunt at a house party given by her close friend, Rosalind Howard (later Countess of Carlisle). There appears to have been an immediate attraction between them. By 1887 at the latest, they had become lovers. Their sexual relationship continued until 1894 and they remained close friends until her death. A few months before her death, she bought Kelmscott Manor to secure it for her daughters’ future. However, she did not return to the house after having purchased it. Jane Morris died on 26 January 1914, while staying at 5 Brock Street in Bath. She is buried in the churchyard of St. George’s Church in Kelmscott.


Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (17 August 1840 – 10 September 1922), sometimes spelt Wilfred, was an English poet and writer. He and his wife Lady Anne Blunt travelled in the Middle East and were instrumental in preserving the Arabian horse bloodlines through their farm, the Crabbet Arabian Stud. He was best known for his poetry, which appeared in a collected edition in 1914, and also wrote political essays and polemics. He became additionally known for strongly anti-imperialist views that were still uncommon in his time.

In 1869 Blunt married Lady Anne Noel, daughter of the Earl of Lovelace and Ada Lovelace, and granddaughter of Lord Byron. Together the Blunts travelled through Spain, Algeria, Egypt, the Syrian Desert, and extensively in the Middle East and India. Based upon pure-blooded Arabian horses they obtained in Egypt and the Nejd, they co-founded Crabbet Arabian Stud. They later bought a property near Cairo named Sheykh Obeyd to house their horse-breeding operation in Egypt.

As an adult Blunt became an atheist, though he underwent episodes of faith. His writings and some of his friendships show he gained a serious interest in Islam and became immersed in its reformist strands. Blunt had supposedly become a convert to Islam under the influence of al-Afghani. He agreed before he died to see a priest, Fr Vincent McNabb, and receive Communion, so fulfilling a prediction of Sir William Henry Gregory, as recalled by his wife: “You will see Wilfrid will die with the wafer in his mouth.”

In 1882, Blunt championed the cause of Urabi Pasha, which led to him being barred from Egypt for four years. Blunt was generally anti-imperialist as a matter of belief. His support for Irish independence led to imprisonment in 1888 for chairing an anti-eviction meeting in County Galway that had been banned by the Chief Secretary, Arthur Balfour. He was held in Galway Prison, then at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Blunt’s three attempts to enter Parliament were unsuccessful. He stood as a “Tory Democrat ” supporting Irish Home Rule at Camberwell North in 1885 and as a Liberal at Kiddermister in 1886, where he lost by 285 votes. While in prison in Ireland, he contested a Deptford by-election in 1888, but lost by 275 votes.

His most memorable line of poetry on the subject comes from Satan Absolved (1899), where the devil, answering a Kiplingesque remark by God, snaps back: “The white man’s burden, Lord, is the burden of his cash.” Here, Elizabeth Longford wrote, “Blunt stood Rudyard Kipling’s familiar concept on its head, arguing that the imperialists’ burden is not their moral responsibility for the colonised peoples, but their urge to make money out of them.” Edward Said mentions Blunt by name when describing late 19th and early 20th century Orientalist authors: “[he] believed his vision of things Oriental was individual, self-created out of some intensely personal encounter with the Orient, Islam, or the Arabs” and “expressed general contempt for official knowledge held about the East.” Notably, Said marked Blunt as exceptional in not exhibiting most other Orientalists’ “final…traditional Western hostility to and fear of the Orient.”

Wilfrid and Lady Anne’s only child to reach maturity was Judith Blunt-Lytton, 16th Baroness Wentworth, later known as Lady Wentworth. She was married in Cairo when she was an adult, but in 1904 she relocated permanently to the Crabbet Park Estate.

Wilfrid had mistresses, including long-term relations with a courtesan, Catherine “Skittles” Walters, and a Pre-Raphaelite beauty, Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris. Eventually he moved another mistress, Dorothy Carleton, into his home. This triggered Lady Anne’s legal separation from him in 1906. At the time, Lady Anne signed a Deed of Partition drawn up by Wilfrid, under terms unfavourable to Lady Anne, whereby she kept the Crabbet Park property, where their daughter Judith lived, and half the horses, while Blunt took Caxtons Farm, also known as Newbuildings, and the rest of the stock. Always struggling with financial concerns and chemical dependency issues, Wilfrid sold off numerous horses to pay debts and constantly attempted to obtain additional assets. Lady Anne left the management of her properties to Judith and spent many months of each year in Egypt at the Sheykh Obeyd estate, moving there permanently in 1915.

Due primarily to Wilfrid’s manœuvring to disinherit Judith and obtain the entire Crabbet property for himself, Judith and her mother were estranged at the time of Lady Anne’s death in 1917. As a result, Lady Anne’s share of the Crabbet Stud passed to Judith’s daughters, under the oversight of an independent trustee. Blunt filed a lawsuit soon afterwards. Ownership of the Arabian horses went back and forth between the estates of father and daughter in subsequent years. Blunt sold more horses to pay off debts and shot at least four in an attempt to spite his daughter, an action which led to intervention of the trustee of the estate with a court injunction to prevent him from further “dissipating the assets” of the estate. The suit was settled in favour of the granddaughters in 1920 and Judith bought their share from the trustee, combining it with her own and reuniting the stud. Father and daughter briefly were reconciled shortly before Wilfrid Scawen Blunt’s death in 1922, but his promise to rewrite his will to restore Judith’s inheritance was not kept.

Blunt was a friend of Winston Churchill, aiding him in a 1906 biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, Blunt having befriended him years earlier in 1883 at a chess tournament.

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