This newsgathering brilliance meant Morris was considered likely to become influential and he was awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship scholarship, which allowed him to study International Relations at Chicago for a year. He did not enjoy the course and took the car (which came with the scholarship) and drove around America, “falling in love with it”. His first book came from this, but what changed his life, and made him the writer she has since become, was Venice, published in 1960. It followed his second visit to the city, which he first saw in 1945, when he was sent by his commanding officer to help run the requisitioned motorboats in Venice.
“The city was half-empty and had a curious melancholy that I found immensely attractive. It is what keeps me coming back to certain places, like Trieste, places on the end of one thing and the beginning of another.”
This interest in melancholy and decline led Morris to start a history of the decline of the British Empire, which grew into the Pax Britannia trilogy, research for which took her all over the world – to India, for example, where she found beauty in the crumbling bungalows of long lost imperial administrators.
Full story at The Telegraph