Connecting the Connections


Detail of 'The Beguiling of Merlin'

I suppose it all started with my re-reading of Possession last fall, though I didn’t know it at the time. My cover of Possession features a painting by Edward Burne-Jones called ‘The Beguiling of Merlin’. I didn’t know it was by Burne-Jones as I was reading the novel, but the painting sank into my consciousness through the month I was immersed in the book.

Burne-Jones & Morris

Later, in December, I started to form an interest in William Morris, who was a great friend of Burne-Jones’s, a fellow artist and collaborator. Burne-Jones designed the stained glass their company produced and Morris contributed the borders.


Edward Burne-Jones with Angela Thirkell on the right.

Then, I developed an interest in Angela Thirkell through reading the enthusiastic reviews of her books by Katrina and Claire. I came across an autobiography written by her called Three Houses that I instantly purchased because it mentioned William Morris and her mother’s cousin Rudyard Kipling. This charming book details her memories of the three houses that were such a big part of her childhood. It turns out that Thirkell was the granddaughter of Burne-Jones and two of his homes, North End House and The Grange, played a significant part in her life while she was growing up.

The Attempted Suicide of La Belle Isoude by Burne-Jones

After I finished reading Three Houses, I started reading The Glass Painter’s Daughter by Rachel Hore (recommended by Florence) and, lo and behold! Edward Burne-Jones is also mentioned in this book. The main character runs a stained-glass business and discovers that her company contracted with Burne-Jones for a church window design in the 1880’s.

Next, I was looking at a copy of the Wall Street Journal that we were recycling at work and came across a review for a new book about Burne-Jones’s life. The Last Pre-Raphaelite by Fiona MacCarthy has just been published and I am tempted to order a copy as I feel Burne-Jones has come into my sphere for a reason.

And finally, I was reminded of a scene in one of my favorite films, An Education, where the main characters attend an art auction and the painting they bid on is by ….. you guessed it, Edward Burne-Jones!

I love when these connections happen. Does this happen to you? Do you feel that fate is pointing you in a particular direction when certain people or things start popping up wherever you go? Or do you think that these connections are just the inevitable coincidences that curious people encounter in their lives?

What have you been led to discover lately?


8 thoughts on “Connecting the Connections

  1. Greetings, fellow Burnes-Jones admirer! I’ve been ogling Fiona MacCarthy’s biography ever since it came out but it’s still too expensive for me at the moment, unfortunately.
    I hope you enjoy The Glass Painter’s Daughter: it’s not grand literature but I liked it and I thought the theme of angels was interestingly explored in it.


    1. Glad to hear that someone else is a EBJ fan! I never knew much about him ’til now, but I am really enjoying learning all about his life. I can’t afford the MacCarthy book right now, either, so I just have it waiting on my Amazon wish list. Maybe it can be a birthday gift… I do like The Glass Painter’s Daughter, thanks for recommending it!


  2. I know exactly what you mean about connections, and I love tracing the patterns, seeing how one book led to another. As soon as I saw Burne-Jones, I wondered if it had led to you to Thirkell. Have you read her novels as well? completely addictive!


    1. I love discovering these connections – such a fun part of life! I haven’t read Thirkell’s novels yet, but will get to them some day soon because they sound so good.


  3. I love it when things like this happen – serendipity! I can’t help thinking that there’s a message in it all somehow. Thanks for the mention. Burne-Jones also designed the glass for a church near me in Kirkcaldy. Angela Mackail Thirkell’s brother was the author Denis Mackail who amongst other things wrote a biography of JM Barrie of Peter Pan fame. Barrie was Angela’s godfather – how lucky was she?! I’ve just finished her book Ankle Deep, another goodie. I’ll have to get Three Houses.


    1. Thirkell had quite the circle of acquaintances and friends, didn’t she? I like to think that there is a message in serendipity, as well – can it just be random? I don’t think so!


  4. Oh yes, we were just discussing these connections in my book group the other day. I’d like to read Angela Thirkall. Lovely picture of her as a child with EBJ.


  5. Oooh, that must have been an interesting discussion, Nicola!
    Yes, I love this picture of her with her grandfather. According to her book, he absolutely doted on her!


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