A Thing of Beauty

William Morris Card (1024x735)

I was tidying my study recently, and came across the pile of cards from my birthday a couple of months back. There are some I keep, and others I recycle.

I paused over this one, and took a ‘moement‘ to re-read the information on the back. It is curious that William Morris has popped up on my radar a few times lately. My interior decorator friend loves his textile designs; another friend in England just sold her house built in the Arts and Crafts style; and most recently, I went to an author’s talk given by Australian writer Kate Forsyth. Her latest book, Beauty in Thorns, isset amongst the passions and scandals of the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and poets”. One of the characters is William Morris’ wife, Jane Burden, who was an artist’s model, and had a long-standing affair with Rossetti.

If that sounds as if I know a lot about the Pre-Raphaelites and art in general, then please don’t be deceived. I simply sat in rapt attention to Kate Forsyth’s talk. However, if Agnes Ashe has time to comment, I am sure she will have much of value to say, so be sure to watch out for that!

It is the quote, attributed to Morris, with which I can identify: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” You will see from Agnes’ “About” page that she also draws inspiration from this quote.

As I wrote of in my last post, we’ve reached a stage in life when many friends are facing the need to seriously downsize their lives, and make a judgement call about what possessions will serve them going forward. Luckily for me, I trained myself out of hoarding when I was still in my late teens. It was imposed on me as a matter of survival then, so I can well understand how people accumulate. Especially if you have been raised in austerity, you hate to see anything go to waste, and when life becomes more affluent it is very easy to hang on to everything that comes your way.

This is not a post about how to declutter! There are dozens of sites on the internet that will tell you how to do that. One habit I have formed though, is to go through the house every so often, and if I haven’t used an item in the last year it goes on to another life, usually the charity shop. Similarly, I don’t keep anything for “special events” that are only likely to see the light of day once or twice in a year. If I own it, I use it, and if it gets broken, well, that was meant to be. I enjoyed it in the meantime.

However, such a utilitarian approach could make life very grey, and I love to be surrounded by colour and beauty. So there are those special things whose only purpose is to enrich the soul, and the fabulous thing about not having clutter, is that those objects get to stand out and be appreciated.

I do allow myself one other luxury. In the top of one wardrobe, there is a line of boxes for holding miscellaneous bibs and bobs, such as computer bits, or cables, or mementos, or travel keepsakes. One of the boxes is very special. It contains letters I have received over the years, and greeting cards which have touched me.

So, in case you’re wondering, this one is a keeper. In fact, I might even find a little frame for it, and put it in my study as a reminder that even a workplace should contain things of beauty.

Footnote:  The card came from an Australian company called Moements, and you can find their website here.  I’d not heard of them before. Their range looks delightful, and reasonably priced.

19 thoughts on “A Thing of Beauty

  1. Having so recently sold the family house of 10 acres and four sheds and 70 years of accumulated books and tools and old coats and moved into a single room single bed I found it was necessary to be drastic in my throwing away of everything. So all I really kept was a small collection of books and CDs. The rest I gave away or trashed or let her have them. “Declutter” means getting rid of clutter. What do you call ‘getting rid of everything you haven’t got room to keep’?

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  2. Ah yes the one and only William Morris. I suppose for us in the 21st century his very practical take on the Arts and Crafts Movement is more in tune with our tastes than Ruskin’s rather intellectual version of art and design. Of course Morris was very concerned with how people actually lived and worked during the times of the Industrial Revolution and he sets out his picturesque, utopian ideas in his book ‘News from Nowhere’. I often wonder what he would have made of our world. I think he would have approved of Steve Job’s drive to fuse intuitive functionality with clean, streamlined, designer tech though I am not sure he would have embraced giant, worldwide corporations.

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    • I lived in England/Europe for four years in the late 70s and wrote loads of letters and had loads of replies. When I was coming back to Australia I threw them out, rather than pay freight. Now I really, really regret that – because most of those people have passed. I would love to revisit what they wrote to me, and I am sure their children and grand-children would have got a kick out of reading what was said about them. Who writes letters these days? Printing off emails is not the same thing, and silly anyway. So I keep the special, special cards. xx


  3. Although a great fan of Morris, I have always been ambivalent about that quotation. I have a few ugly, useless, things given as presents by significant people – and I don’t think he was thinking of that kind of beauty. Excellent post, Gwen. wish my computer bits and bobs were so ordered 🙂

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    • Ah yes. That is definitely a challenge. The way I work that one out, is by deciding what the giver had in mind. Was it a gift with love and meaning, or a “duty” present. Mercifully, most of my friends give me lovely items; and over the years they restrained themselves, knowing we are apartment dwellers. The crystal given as wedding presents is very precious to me, so I make sure it gets used every time we have a crowd around. However, there is one cupboard for the grandkids first pottery attempt, etc, etc; and in some cases I am offering such curios back to them as they get older and it falls into the category that they can show off to their friends. Again, because space is limited, I have to be organised where I put things – but my photos!!! Oh Lordy, if only I had your perseverance with them.

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  4. Decluttering – a depressing thought and tedious activity ;o( – but always a good thing! Between Hermanus and my next stop Durban or Mozambique (??) need to get down to ONE SUITCASE – ha – will that be possible???? The card is very beautiful!

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    • Just catching up with your last couple of posts now. You are travelling light – you don’t really have a choice while you are on the move so much. After living in the UK for four years I only sent two suitcases home. The one regret is that I dumped all the letters that had been sent to me. Many from special people who are no longer with us.


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