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Book Reviews tently, after each one of Oscar's and Bosie's frequent quarrels, Wilde turns to Ross, who does not reveal the existence of the EpÃ-stola to Douglas until after the death of its author. The matter is convoluted, but Borland supplies an excellent exposition. Wilde, wisely, named Ross his literary executor, a function he dutifully fulfilled. And on 30 November 1900, when Wilde lay dying in a cheap Parisian hotel, Ross determined his friend was finally serious about his spiritual destiny. He called in an Irish priest to administer the sacraments of Baptism and Extreme Unction. Dedicated to his friend's memory, he commissioned a tomb for Wilde at Père Lachaise. Today, just as he had carefully planned, Robbie's ashes lay in a special chamber in the tomb below a majestic though somewhat grotesque figure executed by Jacob Epstein. Ross, as Borland presents him, is possibly a bit too charming, too witty, too generous, and ultra-loyal; yet there is no denying that he surmounted much of the pettiness, the intrigue, the viciousness that plays such a large part in the Wilde story. Certainly Ross was not "the foulest and most filthy beast drawing the breath of life" that Douglas charged. Nor was he the degenerate wretch intent upon "spreading Wilde's doctrines among the cheap public" that T. W H. Crossland claimed. Borland has carefully delineated how Ross could attract such venom and yet have always remained Wilde's Devoted Friend. "Love is all very well in its way," Ross once wrote, "but friendship is much higher. I know of nothing in the world that is finer or rarer." Borland's portrait of Robert Ross is fully irradiated by the triumph of friendship and loyalty over the impediments of jealousy and malice. G. A. Cevasco St. John's University William Morris Frederick Kirchhoff. William Morris: The Construction of a Male Self 1856-1872. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1990. xv + 248 pp. $29.95 THIS IS an intriguing and intelligent study that increases our understanding of William Morris both in terms of his writings, most particularly his poetry, but also his personality and the making of the complex and varied figure he became. The dates of Kirchhoffs study 343 ELT: VOLUME 34:3, 1991 precede the main concern oÃ- ELT, but Morris was such an important figure in the last sixteen years of his life—from 1880 to 1896—that an understanding of what went into his making—his "construction"—is important and useful. And indeed this study also considers briefly his life before 1856, the year of his first publications in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. Discussing his early life, Kirchhoff has interesting points to make not only about Morris's relationship with his mother and his intense closeness to his elder sister, Emma, but also with his father, who died when Morris was only thirteen. It was his father who supplied apart from much else the considerable wherewithal that enabled Morris to lead the life he did at Oxford and after, allowing him to explore various options for a career, and to subsidize the magazine that published his friends and himself. What has been less emphasized and which Kirchhoff rightly sees as important was his father's more general influence, such as in having introduced him to Canterbury cathedral where "the gates of Heaven had been opened to me." There was a combination of pretension and medieval romanticism when his father secured a grant of arms from the College of Heralds. Long before his political stage Morris was imbued with that backward looking romanticism that would lead to a desire to create a more fulfilling world for everyone, not simply those who could afford it. What is particularly interesting in this study is the ways Kirchhoff works out the development of his personality, through inner turmoil, in the direction of a concern for the outer world. This is an ambitious book that attempts to combine biographical, literary, and psychoanalytical approaches to Morris. The creation of the sense of himself and his body achieved some sort of integration in the 1870s. He could then move on to his great period of creativity as an...


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pp. 343-346
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