Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials.◦
Life of William Morris.
This story is by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). Though he contributed only a few pieces
to The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine,
Burne-Jones was one of the most important members of the
brotherhood. He brought William Morris together with
Fulford, Dixon, Price, and Macdonald, all of whom he had known at
King Edward’s School, and, at least at first, was enthusiastic about the prospect of the group producing a magazine. In
September, 1855 he wrote to a friend, “We have such a deal to
tell people, such a deal of scolding to administer, so many fights to wage
and opposition to encounter that our spirits are quite rising with the
emergency” (Memorials, 121). A few months into the magazine's run, however,
Burne-Jones's energy began to wane. Fulford complained that he and Morris
could not get him to write, and by August he was so caught up with painting,
and with Rossetti, that he wrote “The Mag. is going to
smash—let it go!” (Mackail 108).
“The Cousins” was written expressly for the magazine, toward the end of 1855,
and was well-received by the rest of the brotherhood. Burne-Jones read it to
the rest of the group, and Dixon reports “We were all as if dumb
at the end of it. I felt the commanding beauty and delicate phrasing, and
also the goodness of heart that the writing shewed” (Memorials 125). It is the most optimistic
of the three tales published in January.
The story begins with the narrator encountering three incarnations of London's social
distress, which foreshadow his father's death and his consequent ruin, both financial
and marital. These opening pages are the only hint at politics in the January issue,
but, unlike later essays like Cormell Price and Charles Faulkner's
“Unhealthy Employments,” and
Price's “Young men in the Present
Age,” are not explicit calls for reform. Burne-Jones uses poverty and
alcoholism only as mirrors for internal suffering, and the real focus of the story is
on the narrator's downfall and his ultimate reunion with Gertrude.
First printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, 1856.