Somewhere I have a facsimile of the Kelmscott Chaucer I’ve never managed to put any time into. I start with it, grow frustrated at the heft, switch to my Penguin Middle English edition, remember I like Boccaccio better, pull down my lovely and mostly unread Mondadori Meridiani edition, remember how limping my old Italian is when it isn’t Dante, and reshelve everything in failure. Maybe this quote from a letter of Edward Burne-Jones – where I read myself as part of the problem – will help next time.
I have just finished my Chaucer work and in May I hope the book will see the light. I hope sincerely it will be all the age does not want – I have omitted nothing I could think of to obstruct the onward march of the world. The designs are carved in wood … the lines as thick as I could get them. I have done all I can to impede progress — you will always bear me witness that I have not faltered — and that having put my hand to the plough I invariably look back.