KELMSCOTT PRESS -- MORRIS, William (translator). Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile [colophon:] done out of the ancient French into English, London: Kelmscott Press, 1894. 16, Chaucer type, printed in red and black, 2 woodcut borders and initials, original holland-backed boards. Sparling 23; Tomkinson p.113.
HIGHLY IMPORTANT ASSOCIATION COPY. The second front free endpaper is inscribed 'To M. G[askell] from E. B[urne]-J[ones] April 1894' incorporating a pen-and-ink drawing by Burne-Jones of a rose beneath a shining sun. A 3-page autograph letter on pale blue paper [from Edward Burne-Jones] is attached to the first free endpaper with green silk thread. Headed 'The Grange, 49, North End Road, West Kensington, W.' it reads, 'I send you another little book to play with. It is that famous old story of Amys and Amylior[sic] done into English for the first time by Mr William Morris - and Swinburne says, & perhaps he is right that it is the origin of the saying 'a miss is as good as a mile' but who knoweth. It is very likely - anyhow it's a dear little book & looks lovely for a lady, as is a lady, to hold in her hand and read in the morning of Spring in a garden. So I send it to thee, for whom my friendship is greater far than theirs ever was - & so goodbye for this time most beloved lady.'
There were two Gaskell women associated with Edward Burne-Jones, Amy and Helen May, known as 'May'. Twenty five years his junior, May Gaskell, the recipient of the present copy and the attached letter, first came to The Grange, Burne-Jones's studio in North End Road, at the beginning of 1892. She was introduced to him by Frances Horner, also an intimate friend of the artist's. Her appearance was typical of many of Burne-Jones's models. Delicate and ethereal with "a cloud of hair and slightly hollowed cheeks", she was the last of the young women with whom the artist nurtured a sentimental but platonic relationship. During 1892-93, when Burne-Jones was experiencing a period of ill health, the young Mrs Gaskell became the great confidante and "bright presence" in his life. Writing to her as often as five or six times a day between 1892 and 1895, he told her how she had given him the strength to continue painting despite the extreme illness and depression he felt; she had reached "the root of the well of loneliness that is in me". He destroyed all her letters, but the majority of his to her survive in the British Museum.
Loosely-inserted in the book is a card with Mrs Gaskell's printed address and her autograph description of the book.