From The Archives: William De Morgan, Creature Creator

This post is part of our From The Archives blog series

Our archive contains hundreds of letters and other correspondence, many of them detailing fairly humdrum everyday goings-on, some of them portraying Mrs Stirling's tireless efforts to obtain some of Evelyn's paintings, and occasionally we'll find a fascinating gem that will elicit a chuckle. This one from our archive definitely falls in the latter category. 

(Click to enlarge)

This letter from William De Morgan dates from 1877, and is written to a young family member – it is hard to decipher whether it is a niece or cousin, as it is signed ‘Your Affectionate Cousin, or Uncle, William’.  The letter reads:


'My dear little Fanny!

Thank you so very much for the nice letter you sent me – I am so glad you went to the Zoological Gardens. Did you see this beast that I have drawn here?


[turn over]


This is the rest of him – he is too big for one page. His name is the Apodidraskiotomos, because he can run away so fast, but they call him Bob for short. He has no boots except on his hind hind hind legs.

How glad we ought to be that there is a nice Zoological Gardens for us to go to! and such wonderful things there – Once on a time they had a sea-anemone who could laugh –  – he  was just like this

But one day he laughed quite round to the other side and his top came off


Give my love to Papa and Mamma, and write me some more letters, and I am

Your Affectionate Cousin, or Uncle, William


The whimsical sketches are wonderful and very reminiscent of the strange beasts we see featured on William's ceramics. This letter gives a fantastic peek at William’s humour and playful personality. It is such a treat to come across an impromptu sketch of William's and see how they compare to the careful, practiced designs of his ceramics. 

Emma Coleman, Museum Officer