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William Morris

William Morris by George Frederic Watts, 1870
Born 24 March 1834(1834-03-24)
Died 3 October 1896 (aged 62)
Nationality English
Occupation Artist
Known for designing beautiful, natural wallpaper
William Morris self-portrait, 1856.

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, artist, writer, socialist and Marxist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. His best-known works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Earthly Paradise (1868–1870), A Dream of John Ball and the utopian News from Nowhere. He was an important figure in the emergence of socialism in Britain, founding the Socialist League in 1884, but breaking with the movement over goals and methods by the end of that decade. He devoted much of the rest of his life to the Kelmscott Press, which he founded in 1891. The 1896 Kelmscott edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is considered a masterpiece of book design.

Born in Walthamstow in East London, Morris was educated at Marlborough and Exeter College, Oxford. In 1856, he became an apprentice to Gothic revival architect G. E. Street. That same year he founded the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, an outlet for his poetry and a forum for development of his theories of hand-craftsmanship in the decorative arts. In 1861, Morris founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones, and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century. His chief contribution to the arts was as a designer of repeating patterns for wallpapers and textiles, many based on a close observation of nature. He was also a major contributor to the resurgence of traditional textile arts and methods of production.




Early life and education

William Morris was born in Walthamstow on 24 March 1834, the third child and the eldest son of William Morris, a partner in the firm of Sanderson & Co., bill brokers in the City of London. His mother was Emma Morris née Shelton, daughter of Joseph Shelton, a teacher of music in Worcester.[1] As a child Morris was delicate but studious. He learned to read early, and by the time he was four years old he was familiar with most of the Waverley novels. When he was six the family moved to Woodford Hall, where new opportunities for an out-of-door life brought the boy health and vigour. He rode about Epping Forest, sometimes in a toy suit of armour, where he became a close observer of animal nature and was able to recognize any bird upon the wing.[2][3]

Morris's painting La belle Iseult, also inaccurately called Queen Guenevere, is his only surviving easel painting, now in the Tate Gallery.

At the same time he continued to read whatever came in his way and was particularly attracted by the stories in the Arabian Nights and by the designs in Gerard's Herbal. He studied with his sisters' governess until he was nine, when he was sent to a school at Walthamstow. In 1842, his sister Isabella was born. She grew to be the churchwoman who oversaw the revival of the Deaconess Order in the Anglican Communion.[4] In his thirteenth year their father died, leaving the family well-to-do. The home at Woodford was broken up, as being unnecessarily large, and in 1848 the family relocated to Water House and William Morris entered Marlborough School, where his father had bought him a nomination. Morris was at the school for three years, but gained little from attending it beyond a taste for architecture, fostered by the school library, and an attraction towards the Anglo-Catholic movement.[5] He made but slow progress in school work and at Christmas 1851 was removed and sent to live as a private pupil with the Rev. F. B. Guy, Assistant Master at Forest School and later Canon of St. Alban's, for a year to prepare him for University.[2][6] Forest School still houses many correspondence from Morris in their archives, and the School boasts a Morris stained glass window in the Chapel.

Oxford, apprenticeship, and artistic influences

In June 1852 Morris entered Exeter College, Oxford, though since the college was full, he was unable to go into residence until January 1853. At Exeter, Morris met Edward Burne-Jones, also a first year undergraduate, who became his life-long friend and collaborator. Morris also joined a Birmingham group at Pembroke College, known among themselves as the "Brotherhood" and to historians as the "Pembroke set".[2][7] Together, they read theology, ecclesiastical history, and medieval poetry; studied art, and during the long vacations visited English churches and the Continental cathedrals. They became strongly influenced by the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, John Ruskin's essay "The Nature of Gothic" from the second volume of The Stones of Venice, Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Morris began to adopt Ruskin's philosophy of rejecting the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture in favour of a return to hand-craftsmanship, raising artisans to the status of artists, creating art that should be affordable and hand-made, with no hierarchy of artistic mediums.[2]

Moreover, Morris began at this time to write poetry and many of his first pieces, afterwards destroyed, were held by sound judges to be equal to anything else he ever worked on. Both Morris and Burne-Jones had come to Oxford with the intention of taking holy orders, but as they felt their way, both decided their energies were best spent on social reform. Morris decided to become an architect and for the better propagation of the views of the new brotherhood a magazine was at the same time projected, which was to make a specialty of social articles, besides poems and short stories. At the beginning of 1856 the two schemes came to a head together. Morris, having passed his finals in the previous term, was entered as a pupil at the office of George Edmund Street, one of the leading English Gothic revival architects who had his headquarters in Oxford as architect to the diocese;[1] and on New Year's Day the first issue of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine appeared. The expenses of publishing were borne entirely by Morris, but he resigned the formal editorship after the first issue. Many distinguished compositions appeared in its pages, but it gradually languished and was given up after a year's experiment. The chief immediate result was the friendship between Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a contributor.[2]

In Street’s office Morris formed an intimate and lifelong friendship with the senior clerk, Philip Webb, which had an important influence over the development taken by English domestic architecture during the next generation. He worked in Street’s office for nine months, first at Oxford and afterwards in London when Street removed there in the autumn.[1] Morris worked hard both in and out of office hours at architecture and painting, and he studied architectural drawing under Webb.[8] Rossetti persuaded him that he was better suited for a painter, and after a while he devoted himself exclusively to that branch of art. That summer the two friends visited Oxford and finding the new Oxford Union debating-hall under construction, pursued a commission to paint the upper walls with scenes from Le Morte d'Arthur and to decorate the roof between the open timbers. Seven artists were recruited, among them Valentine Prinsep and Arthur Hughes,[9] and the work was hastily begun. Morris worked with feverish energy and on finishing the portion assigned to him, proceeded to decorate the roof. The frescoes, done too soon and too fast, began to fade at once and are now barely decipherable.

Marriage and family

Rossetti had recruited two sisters, Bessie and Jane Burden, as models for the Oxford Union murals, and Morris was smitten with Jane from the start.[10] They became engaged in 1858 and married at St Michael at the Northgate, Oxford, on 26 April 1859, settling temporarily at 41 Great Ormond Street, London. Morris's only surviving painting in oils is of Jane Burden as La Belle Iseult. William and Jane had two daughters, Jane Alice (Jenny), born January 1861, who developed epilepsy in her teens, and Mary (May) (March 1862–1938), who became the editor of her father's works, a prominent socialist, and an accomplished designer and craftswoman.[11]

Although of humble origins and unschooled in her youth,[10] Jane Morris underwent a remarkable self-education after her marriage. A striking beauty, she mixed freely with the Pre-Raphaelites and posed many times for Rossetti, with whom Jane sustained a long affair. The Morrises' initial happiness together did not survive the first ten years of their marriage, but divorce was unthinkable, and they remained together until Morris's death.[11]

Red House

Red House, Bexleyheath

For several years after his marriage Morris was absorbed in two connected occupations: the building and decoration of a house for himself and Jane, and the foundation of a firm of decorators who were also artists, with the view of reinstating decoration, down to its smallest details, as one of the fine arts. Meanwhile he was slowly abandoning painting; none of his paintings are dated later than 1862.[1]

Red House at Bexleyheath in Kent, so named when the use of red brick without stucco was still unusual in domestic architecture, was built for Morris to designs by Webb; it was Webb's first building as an independent architect[12] Red House featured ceiling paintings by Morris, wall-hangings designed by Morris and worked by himself and Jane; furniture painted by Morris and Rossetti, and wall-paintings and stained- and painted glass designed by Burne-Jones.[12] However it contained no wallpaper, printed or woven fabrics, or carpets by the firm, these being manufactured from 1864, 1868 and 1875 respectively.

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.

In 1861, the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.(later described by Nicholas Pevsner as the 'beginning of a new era in Western art ')[13] was founded with Morris, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb as partners, together with Charles Faulkner and P. P. Marshall, the former of whom was a member of the Oxford Brotherhood, and the latter a friend of Brown and Rossetti.[1] The prospectus set forth that the firm would undertake carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), and carpets.[2] The decoration of churches was from the first an important part of the business. On its non-ecclesiastical side it gradually was extended to include, besides painted windows and mural decoration, furniture, metal and glass wares, cloth and paper wall-hangings, embroideries, jewellery, woven and knotted carpets, silk damasks, and tapestries. The first headquarters of the firm were at 8 Red Lion Square.

The work shown by the firm at the 1862 International Exhibition attracted much notice, and from 1866 began to make a profit. In the autumn of 1864, a severe illness obliged Morris to choose between giving up his home at Red House in Kent and giving up his work in London. With great reluctance he gave up Red House, and in 1865 established himself under the same roof with his workshops, now relocated to Queen Square, Bloomsbury.[1]

An important commission of 1867[14] was the "green dining room" at the South Kensington Museum (now the Morris Room of the Victoria and Albert), featuring stained glass windows and panel figures by Burne-Jones, panels with branches of fruit or flowers by Morris, and olive branches and a frieze by Philip Webb.

Although already the firms paid manager, in 1874 Morris wished to take sole control of the now profitable firm, but, unsurprisingly, had to buy out other shareholders. This venture into capitalism was a severe test of friendship with Rossetti and Ford Maddox Brown. Throughout his life, Morris continued as principal owner and design director, although the company changed names. Its most famous incarnation was as Morris & Co. The firm's designs are still sold today under licenses given to Sanderson and Sons (which markets the "Morris & Co." brand) and Liberty of London.

Kelmscott Manor

In 1869, Morris and Rossetti rented a country house, Kelmscott Manor at Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, as a summer retreat, but it soon became a retreat for Rossetti and Jane Morris to have a long-lasting and complicated liaison. The two spent summers there, with the Morris children, while Morris himself traveled to Iceland in 1871 and 1873. Kelmscott Manor remained an important retreat and symbol of simple country life for Morris in later years. It was the model for "the old house by the Thames" in Morris's News from Nowhere.[15]


In the 1870s, Morris had begun to take an active interest in politics. He became treasurer of the National Liberal League in 1879; but after the Irish coercive measures of 1881, he finally abandoned the Liberal Party and advanced into socialist politics.

In January 1883, Morris was enrolled among the members of the Democratic Federation, forerunner of the Social Democratic Federation. Over the next two years, Morris and party founder Henry Hyndman worked together as the best-known leaders of the fledgling organisation.[16] For the rest of the decade, his creative efforts sprang from his socialist politics.

In March 1883 he gave an address at Manchester on "Art, Wealth and Riches"; in May he was elected upon the executive of the federation. In September he wrote the first of his "Chants for Socialists." About the same time he shocked the authorities by pleading in University Hall for the wholesale support of socialism among the undergraduates at Oxford. Nevertheless, the federation began to weaken. At the franchise meeting in Hyde Park in 1884 it was unable to get a hearing.

Morris had not yet lost heart. Internal dissensions in 1884 led to the Morris's foundation of the breakaway Socialist League, and in February 1885 a new organ, Commonweal, began to print Morris's rallying-songs. It was also during this period that Morris wrote his best-known prose works, A Dream of John Ball and the utopian News from Nowhere.

After the Trafalgar Square riots in February 1886, the League became caught up in a debate between those who believed in working through Parliament and with the existing union movement (alongside preparing and propagandising for revolutionary transformation) and an anarchist-influenced section who did not, a debate that distanced it from the growing working-class Labour movement of the decade. Morris played peacemaker but sided with the anti-Parliamentarians, who won control of the League at the expense of the departure of the 'orthodox' Marxist group.

From 1887, anarchists began to outnumber socialists in the Socialist League.[17] The 3rd Annual Conference of the League, held in London on 29 May 1887 marked the change, with a majority of the 24 branch delegates voting in favor of an anarchist-sponsored resolution declaring that "This conference endorses the policy of abstention from parliamentary action, hitherto pursued by the League, and sees no sufficient reason for altering it."[18]

William Morris (right) with artist Edward Burne-Jones, 1890.

In August 1888, Eleanor Marx and her partner, Edward Aveling, exited the Socialist League, followed by a number of other socialists from both the pro- and anti-parliamentary factions. The Socialist League was left to the dominant anarchists, with whom Morris had allied himself.

By 1889, the anarchist wing had completely captured the organisation. William Morris was stripped of the editorship of Commonweal in favor of Frank Kitz, an anarchist workman. Morris was left to foot the ongoing operating deficit of the publication, approximately £4 per week[19] — this at a time when £150 per year was the average annual family income in the kingdom.[20] By the autumn of 1890, Morris had had enough and he, too, withdrew from the Socialist League.

The following years have been described as a time of disillusionment for Morris, but he continued to write articles and give public lectures in active support of the Socialist cause. Morris himself being perhaps the greatest British representative of what has come to be called libertarian socialism. Liberated from internal factional struggles, he retracted his anti-Parliamentary position and worked for Socialist unity, giving his last public lecture in January 1896 on the subject of "One Socialist Party."[2]

Historic preservation

Although Morris never became a practising architect, his interest in architecture continued throughout his life. In 1877 he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (sometimes known as "Anti-Scrape"), which sprang into being as a practical protest against a scheme for restoring and reviving Tewkesbury Abbey.[2][21] His preservation work resulted indirectly in the founding of the National Trust. Combined with the inspiration of John Ruskin — in particular his essay "The Nature of Gothic" — architecture played an important symbolic part in Morris's approach to socialism.

Later years

In his later years, Morris returned to the paramount interests of his life, art and literature. When his business was enlarged in 1881 by the establishment of a tapestry industry at Merton Abbey Mills, in Surrey, Morris found yet another means for expressing the medievalism that inspired all his work, whether on paper or at the loom. He then added another to his many activities; he assumed a direct interest in typography. In the early seventies he had devoted much attention to the arts of manuscript illumination and calligraphy. He himself wrote several manuscripts, with illuminations of his own devising. From this to attempts to beautify the art of modern printing was but a short step. The House of the Wolfings, printed in 1889 at the Chiswick Press, was the first essay in this direction; and in the same year, in The Roots of the Mountains, he carried his theory a step further. Some fifteen months later he added a private printing-press to his multifarious occupations and started upon the first volume issued from the Kelmscott Press. For the last few years of his life this new interest remained the absorbing one.[2]

After his departure from the Socialist League, Morris divided his time between the Firm, then relocated to Merton Abbey,[22] Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, the Kelmscott Press, and Kelmscott Manor. At his death at Kelmscott House in 1896 he was interred in the Kelmscott village churchyard.


William Morris was a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, essays, and translations of ancient and medieval texts. His first poems were published when he was 24 years old, and he was polishing his final novel, The Sundering Flood, at the time of his death. His daughter May's edition of Morris's Collected Works (1910–1915) runs to 24 volumes, and two more were published in 1936.[23]


Morris began publishing poetry and short stories in 1856 through the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which he founded with his friends and financed while at university. His first volume, The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), was the first book of Pre-Raphaelite poetry to be published.[23] The dark poems, set in a sombre world of violence, were coolly received by the critics, and he was discouraged from publishing more for a number of years. "The Haystack in the Floods", one of the poems in that collection, is probably now one of his better-known poems. It is a grimly realistic piece set during the Hundred Years War in which the doomed lovers Jehane and Robert have a last parting in a convincingly portrayed rain-swept countryside.[23] One early minor poem was "Masters in this Hall" (1860), a Christmas carol written to an old French tune.[24] Another Christmas-themed poem is "The Snow in the Street", adapted from "The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon" in The Earthly Paradise.[25]

When he returned to poetry in the late 1860s it was with The Life and Death of Jason,[26] which was published with great success in 1867.[23] Jason was followed by The Earthly Paradise, a huge collection of poems loosely bound together in what he called a leather strapbound book. The theme was of a group of medieval wanderers who set out to search for a land of everlasting life; after much disillusion, they discover a surviving colony of Greeks with whom they exchange stories. The collection brought him almost immediate fame and popularity (all of his books thereafter were published as "by the author of The Earthly Paradise").[23] The last-written stories in the collection are retellings of Icelandic sagas. From then until his Socialist period Morris's fascination with the ancient Germanic and Norse peoples dominated his writing. Together with his Icelandic friend Eiríkr Magnússon he was the first to translate many of the Icelandic sagas into English, and his own epic retelling of the story of Sigurd the Volsung was his favourite among his poems.[1] Due to his wide poetic acclaim, Morris was quietly approached with an offer of the Poet Laureateship after the death of Tennyson in 1892, but declined.


Morris had met Eirikr Magnússon in 1868, and together they began to learn the Icelandic language. Morris published translations of The Saga of Gunnlaug Worm-Tongue and Grettis Saga in 1869, and the Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs in 1870. An additional volume was published under the title of Three Northern Love Stories in 1873.[1][23]

In the mid-1870s, Morris's leisure was mainly occupied by work as a scribe and illuminator; to this period belong, among other works, two manuscripts of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with illustrations by Burne-Jones. He was for some time engaged in the production of a magnificent folio manuscript of Virgil's Aeneid, and in the course of that work had begun to translate the poem into English verse. The manuscript was finally laid aside for the translation, and the Eneids of Virgil was published in November 1875. Morris also translated large numbers of medieval and classical works, including Homer's Odyssey in 1887.

Prose romances

In the last nine years of his life, Morris wrote a series of imaginative fictions usually referred to as the "prose romances".[27] These novels — including The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World's End — have been credited as important milestones in the history of fantasy fiction, because, while other writers wrote of foreign lands, or of dream worlds, or the future (as Morris did in News from Nowhere), Morris's works were the first to be set in an entirely invented fantasy world.[28]

These were attempts to revive the genre of medieval romance, and not wholly successful, partly because he eschewed many literary techniques from later eras.[29] In particular, the plots of the novels are heavily driven by coincidence; while many things just happened in the romances, the novels are still weakened by the dependence on it.[30] Nevertheless, large subgenres of the field of fantasy have sprung from the romance genre, but indirectly, through their writers' imitation of William Morris.[31] The Wood Beyond the World is considered to have heavily influenced C. S. Lewis' Narnia series, while J. R. R. Tolkien was inspired by Morris's reconstructions of early Germanic life in The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains. (The young Tolkien attempted a retelling of the story of Kullervo from the Kalevala in the style of The House of the Wolfings.[32]) James Joyce also drew inspiration from his work.[33]


Cabbage and vine tapestry, 1879

Furnishing textiles were an important offering of the firm in all its incarnations. By 1883, Morris wrote "Almost all the designs we use for surface decoration, wallpapers, textiles, and the like, I design myself. I have had to learn the theory and to some extent the practice of weaving, dyeing and textile printing: all of which I must admit has given me and still gives me a great deal of enjoyment."[34]

Morris's preference for flat use of line and colour and abhorrence of "realistic" three-dimensional shading was marked; in this he followed the propositions of Owen Jones as set out in his 'The Grammar of Ornament' of 1856, a copy of which Morris owned. Writing on tapestry weaving, Morris said:

As in all wall-decoration, the first thing to be considered in the designing of Tapestry is the force, purity, and elegance of the silhouette of the objects represented, and nothing vague or indeterminate is admissible. But special excellences can be expected from it. Depth of tone, richness of colour, and exquisite gradation of tints are easily to be obtained in Tapestry; and it also demands that crispness and abundance of beautiful detail which was the especial characteristic of fully developed Mediæval Art. - Of the Revival of Design and Handicraft

It is likely that much of Morris's preference for medieval textiles was formed — or crystallised — during his brief apprenticeship with G. E. Street. Street had co-written a book on Ecclesiastical Embroidery in 1848, and was a staunch advocate of abandoning faddish woolen work on canvas in favour of more expressive embroidery techniques based on Opus Anglicanum, a surface embroidery technique popular in medieval England.[35]


Morris taught himself embroidery, working with wool on a frame custom-built from an old example, and once he had mastered the technique he trained his wife Jane and her sister Bessie Burden and others to execute designs to his specifications. "Embroideries of all kinds" were offered through Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. catalogues, and church embroidery became and remained an important line of business for its successor companies into the twentieth century.[36] By the 1870s, the firm was offering both designs for embroideries and finished works. Following in Street's footsteps, Morris became active in the growing movement to return originality and mastery of technique to embroidery, and was one of the first designers associated with the Royal School of Art Needlework with its aim to "restore Ornamental Needlework for secular purposes to the high place it once held among decorative arts."[37]

Printed and woven textiles

Design for "Tulip and Willow" indigo-discharge wood-block printed fabric, 1873

Morris's first repeating pattern for wallpaper is dated 1862, but was not manufactured until 1864. All his wallpaper designs were manufactured for him by Jeffrey & Co, a commercial wallpaper maker. In 1868 he designed his first pattern specifically for fabric printing. As in so many other areas that interested him, Morris chose to work with the ancient technique of hand woodblock printing in preference to the roller printing which had almost completely replaced it for commercial uses.

Morris took up the practical art of dyeing as a necessary adjunct of his manufacturing business. He spent much of his time at Staffordshire dye works mastering the processes of that art and making experiments in the revival of old or discovery of new methods. One result of these experiments was to reinstate indigo dyeing as a practical industry and generally to renew the use of those vegetable dyes, like madder, which had been driven almost out of use by the anilines. Dyeing of wools, silks, and cottons was the necessary preliminary to what he had much at heart, the production of woven and printed fabrics of the highest excellence; and the period of incessant work at the dye-vat (1875–76) was followed by a period during which he was absorbed in the production of textiles (1877–78), and more especially in the revival of carpet-weaving as a fine art.[1][38] However, his first carpet designs of 1875, were made for him industrially by commercial firms using machinery.

Morris's patterns for woven textiles, some of which were also machine made under ordinary commercial conditions, included intricate double-woven furnishing fabrics in which two sets of warps and wefts are interlinked to create complex gradations of colour and texture.[39] His textile designs are still popular today, sometimes recoloured for modern sensibilities, but also in the original colourways.


Morris long dreamed of weaving tapestries in the medieval manner, which he called "the noblest of the weaving arts." In September 1879 he finished his first solo effort, a small piece called "Cabbage and Vine".[40][41] Shortly thereafter Morris trained his employee John Henry Dearle in the technique, setting up a tapestry loom at Queen Square and later a large tapestry works at Merton Abbey.

The Kelmscott Press

Trademark of the Kelmscott Press

In January 1891, Morris founded the Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith, London, in order to produce books by traditional methods, using, as far as possible, the printing technology and typographical style of the fifteenth century. In this he was reflecting the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement, and responding to the mechanization and mass-production of contemporary book-production methods and to the rise of lithography, particularly those lithographic prints designed to look like woodcuts.

He designed two typefaces based on fifteenth-century models, the Roman "Golden" type (inspired by the type of the early Venetian printer Nicolaus Jenson) and the black letter "Troy" type; a third type, the "Chaucer" was a smaller version of the Troy type. He also designed floriated borders and initials for the books, drawing inspiration from incunabula and their woodcut illustrations. Selection of paper and ink, and concerns for the overall integration of type and decorations on the page, made the Kelmscott Press the most famous of the private presses of the Arts and Crafts movement, and the main inspiration for what became known as the "Private Press Movement". It operated until 1898, producing more than 18,000 copies of 53 different works, comprising 69 volumes, and inspired numerous other private presses, notably the Vale Press, Caradoc Press, Ashendene Press and Doves Press.[42]


Kelmscott Manor depicted in the frontispiece to the 1893 Kelmscott Press edition of News from Nowhere.

Among the works issued by the Kelmscott Press were:[42][43][44]

  • William Morris, The Story of the Glittering Plain (1891)
  • William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere and other Poems (1892)
  • William Morris, A Dream of John Ball and A King's Lesson (1892)
  • Raoul Lafevre, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye (1892)
  • William Shakespeare, The Poems (1893)
  • William Morris, News from Nowhere (1893)
  • William Caxton (trans.), The History of Reynard the Foxe (1893)
  • William Caxton (trans.), The Order of Chivalry (1893)
  • Guilelmus, Archbishop of Tyrel, The History of Geoffrey of Boloyne (1893)
  • Sir Thomas More, Utopia (1893)
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sonnets and Lyrical Poems (1893)
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ballads and Narrative Poems (1893)
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Hand and Soul (1894)
  • Wilhelm Meinhold, Sidonia the Sorceress (1894)
  • William Morris, The Story of the Glittering Plain (1894)
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon (1894)
  • An American Memorial to Keats (1895)
  • Sir Percyvelle of Gales (1895)
  • William Morris, The Life and Death of Jason (1895)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Works (called the Kelmscott Chaucer) (1896)
  • William Morris, The Earthly Paradise (1896)
  • Sir Ysumbrace (1897)
  • William Morris, The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs (1898)

The Kelmscott Press edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, with decorations by Morris and illustrations by Burne-Jones, is sometimes counted among the most beautiful books ever produced. Full-scale facsimiles of the Kelmscott Chaucer were published by the Basilisk Press in 1974 and by the Folio Society in 2002. More modest facsimiles were published by World Publishing in 1964 and Omega Books in 1985.

Morris family tombstone at Kelmscott, designed by Philip Webb



Three years after his death, Morris's biographer John William Mackail (the husband of Burne-Jones's daughter Margaret and so a member of his immediate circle) summed up his career for the Dictionary of National Biography in a quote that is markedly prescient in its assessment:

The fame of Morris during his life was probably somewhat obscured by the variety of his accomplishments. In all his work after he reached mature life there is a marked absence of extravagance, of display, of superficial cleverness or effectiveness, and an equally marked sense of composition and subordination. Thus his poetry is singularly devoid of striking lines or phrases, and his wall-papers and chintzes only reveal their full excellence by the lastingness of the satisfaction they give. His genius as a pattern-designer is allowed by all qualified judges to have been unequalled. This, if anything, he himself regarded as his specific profession; it was under the designation of "designer" that he enrolled himself in the socialist ranks and claimed a position as one of the working class. And it is the quality of design which, together with a certain fluent ease, distinguishes his work in literature as well as in industrial art. It is yet too early to forecast what permanent place he may hold among English poets. "The Defence of Guenevere" had a deep influence on a limited audience. With "Jason" and the "Earthly Paradise" he attained a wide popularity: and these poems, appearing as they did at a time when the poetic art in England seemed narrowing into mere labour on a thrice-ploughed field, not only gave a new scope, range, and flexibility to English rhymed verse, but recovered for narrative poetry a place among the foremost kinds of the art. A certain diffuseness of style may seem to be against their permanent life, so far as it is not compensated by a uniform wholesomeness and sweetness which indeed marks all Morris’s work. In "Sigurd the Volsung" Morris appears to have aimed higher than in his other poems, but not to have reached his aim with the same certainty; and his own return afterwards from epic to romance may indicate that the latter was the ground on which he was most at home. The prose romances of his later years have so far proved less popular in themselves than in the dilutions they have suggested to other writers. Here as elsewhere Morris’s great effect was to stimulate the artistic sense and initiate movements. So likewise it was with his political and social work. Much of it was not practical in the ordinary sense; but it was based on principles and directed towards ideals which have had a wide and profound influence over thought and practice.[1]

From a later perspective, Stansky concludes that:

Morris's views on the environment, on preserving what is of value in both the natural and "built" worlds, on decentralising bloated government, are as significant now as they were in Morris's own time, or even more so. Earlier in the twentieth century, much of his thinking, particularly its political side, was dismissed as sheer romanticism. After the Second World War, it appeared that modernisation, centralisation, industrialism, rationalism – all the faceless movements of the time – were in control and would take care of the world. Today, when we have a keen sense of the shambles of their efforts, the suggestions which Morris made in his designs, his writings, his actions and his politics have new power and relevance.[45]

Today, Morris's poetry is little-read. His fantasy romances languished out of print for decades until their rediscovery amid the great fantasy revival of the late 1960s following the phenomenal success of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. But his textile and wallpaper designs remain a staple of the Arts and Crafts Revival of the turn of the 21st century, and the reproduction of Morris designs as fabric, wrapping paper, and craft kits of all sorts is testament to the enduring appeal of his work. The William Morris Societies in Britain, the US, and Canada are active in preserving Morris's work and ideas.

Notable collections and house museums

Main Entrance to Kelmscott Manor

A number of galleries and museums house important collections of Morris's work and decorative items commissioned from Morris & Co. The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, England, is a public museum devoted to Morris' life, work and influence. There are permanent displays of printed, woven and embroidered fabrics, rugs, carpets, wallpapers, furniture, stained glass and painted tiles by Morris and his associates. In April 2007, The Guardian newspaper reported that funding for the Gallery was threatened by cost cutting by the London borough of Waltham Forest. A campaign to avoid the reduction in opening times and dismissal of key staff is underway.[46] The former "green dining room" at the Victoria and Albert Museum is now its "Morris Room". The V&A's British Galleries house other decorative works by Morris and his associates.[47]

Wightwick Manor in the West Midlands, England, is a notable example of the Morris & Co. style, with original Morris wallpapers and fabrics, De Morgan tiles, and Pre-Raphaelite works of art, managed by the National Trust. Standen in West Sussex, England, was designed by Webb between 1892 and 1894 and decorated with Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers. Morris's homes Red House and Kelmscott Manor have been preserved. Red House was acquired by the National Trust in 2003 and is open to the public by advanced reservation. Kelmscott Manor is owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London and is open to the public.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California acquired the collection of Morris materials amassed by Sanford and Helen Berger in 1999. The collection includes stained glass, wallpaper, textiles, embroidery, drawings, ceramics, more than 2000 books, original woodblocks, and the complete archives of both Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. and Morris & Co.[48] These materials formed the foundation for the 2002 exhibition William Morris: Creating the Useful and the Beautiful and 2003 exhibition The Beauty of Life: William Morris and the Art of Design and accompanying publication.[49]


A fountain located in Bexleyheath town centre, named the Morris Fountain, was created in his honour and unveiled on the anniversary of his birth. Also in Bexleyheath, Morris' home Red House was opened up to the public by the National Trust in 2004. Also, Walthamstow Central tube station has William Morris inspired motifs (by Julia Black) in regularly spaced alcoves along the platform walls.

Literary works

Poetry, fiction, and essays


  • Grettis Saga: The Story of Grettir the Strong with Eiríkr Magnússon (1869)
  • The Saga of Gunnlaug the Worm-tongue and Rafn the Skald with Eiríkr Magnússon (1869)
  • Völsung Saga: The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs, with Certain Songs from the Elder Edda with Eiríkr Magnússon (1870) (from the Volsunga saga)
  • Three Northern Love Stories, and Other Tales with Eiríkr Magnússon (1875)
  • The Odyssey of Homer Done into English Verse (1887)
  • The Aeneids of Virgil Done into English (1876)
  • Of King Florus and the Fair Jehane (1893)
  • The Tale of Beowulf Done out of the Old English Tongue (1895)
  • Old French Romances Done into English (1896)


Morris & Co. stained glass

Morris & Co. textiles

Decorative objects

Kelmscott Press

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dictionary of National Biography, 1901, "William Morris"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911, "William Morris"
  3. ^ J. W. Mackail, Life of William Morris, p. 3–8
  4. ^ Robinson, Elizabeth (1924). Deaconess Gilmore. London: S.P.C.K.. pp. 53. 
  5. ^ Morris's authorized biographer, John William Mackail, states that Morris left Marlborough "a committed Anglo-Catholic." See J. W. Mackail, Life of William Morris, p. 17
  6. ^ J. W. Mackail, Life of William Morris, p. 25
  7. ^ Parry, William Morris, p. 90
  8. ^ Watkinson, Ray, "Painting" in Parry, William Morris, p. 90
  9. ^ Watkinson, Ray, "Painting" in Parry, William Morris, p. 93
  10. ^ a b Parry, William Morris, p. 14-16
  11. ^ a b Daly, Pre-Raphaelites in Love, p. 340-341, 402-404
  12. ^ a b Parry, "Domestic Decoration." In William Morris, p. 136–137
  13. ^ Pevsner, Nicholas Pioneers of Modern Design (1936)
  14. ^ Charles Harvey and Jon Press, "The Businessman." in Parry, William Morris, p. 49-50
  15. ^ Todd, Pre-Raphaelites at Home, p. 123–130
  16. ^ G.D.H. Cole, A History of Socialist Thought: Volume II: Marxism and Anarchism, 1850-1890. London: Macmillan & Co., 1954; pg. 398.
  17. ^ Beer, A History of British Socialism, vol. 2, pg. 256.
  18. ^ Marx-Engels Collected Works: Volume 48. New York: International Publishers, 2001; pg. 538, fn. 95.
  19. ^ Beer, A History of British Socialism, vol. 2, pg. 256.
  20. ^ Clayton, The Rise and Decline of Socialism in Great Britain, pg. 44.
  21. ^ Thompson, E. P. (1976). William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. New York: Pantheon. pp. 228. ISBN 0394733207. "The Society, which Morris dubbed 'Anti-Scrape'..." 
  22. ^ William Morris Society. "Merton Abbey". Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f Faulkner, Peter, "The Writer". In Parry, William Morris, p. 44-45
  24. ^ "The words were written for the old French carol tune shortly before 1860 by Morris, who was in Street's office with Edmund Sedding (architect and compiler of carols, brother of the more famous J. D. Sedding; he died early, in 1868). Sedding had obtained the tune from the organist at Chartres Cathedral, and he published the words and tune in his Antient Christmas Carols, 1860." – The Oxford Book of Carols, 1928, p. 277.
  25. ^ Set to music by composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams. The Oxford Book of Carols, 1928, p. 406.
  26. ^ Full text, with illustrations, at "The Life and Death of Jason". Morris Online Edition. 1867. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  27. ^ Faulkner, Peter, "The Writer". In Parry, William Morris, p. 47
  28. ^ Lin Carter, ed. Kingdoms of Sorcery, p. 39 Doubleday and Company Garden City, NY, 1976.
  29. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy, p. 46. ISBN 0-87054-076-9
  30. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers, p. 40.
  31. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers, p. 26.
  32. ^ Hammond and Scull, The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, p. 816.
  33. ^ Hero, Stephen, "Morris and James Joyce," The Journal of William Morris Studies, 6.3 (Summer 1985): 36, p. 11.
  34. ^ Quoted in Waggoner, DianeThe Beauty of Life: William Morris & the Art of Design.
  35. ^ Parry, William Morris Textiles, pp. 10–11.
  36. ^ Parry, William Morris Textiles, pp. 16–17.
  37. ^ Quoted in Parry, William Morris Textiles, pp. 18–19.
  38. ^ Parry, William Morris Textiles, pp. 36–46.
  39. ^ Waggoner, The Beauty of Life, p. 54.
  40. ^ Parry, William Morris Textiles, pp. 103–104.
  41. ^ Waggoner, The Beauty of Life, p. 86.
  42. ^ a b Fiell and Fiell (1999), William Morris pp. 160–165.
  43. ^ Dreyfus, John, "The Kelmscott Press". In Parry, William Morris (1996) pp. 310–345.
  44. ^ "William Morris and the Kelmscott Press". Retrieved 2008-08-22.  See also Peterson.
  45. ^ Stansky (1983) p. 89.
  46. ^ "News from Waltham Forest". The Guardian. 2007-04-21.,,2062448,00.html. 
  47. ^ "William Morris at the Victoria and Albert Museum". Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  48. ^ "Crafts Cornered", Los Angeles Times, 15 December 1999, p. F1.
  49. ^ "Huntington Library: "William Morris: Creating the Useful and the Beautiful"". Retrieved 2008-08-22. 


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
This article also incorporates text from the Dictionary of National Biography, supplemental volume 3 (1901), a publication now in the public domain.

  • Carpenter, Humphrey, Tolkien: A Biography, New York, Ballantine Books, 1977, ISBN 0-04-928037-6
  • Coote, Stephen, William Morris: His Life and Work, Smithmark Publishers, 1995, ISBN 1-85833-479-9
  • Daly, Gay, Pre-Raphaelites in Love, New York, Ticknor & Fields, 1989, ISBN 0-89919-450-8
  • de Camp, L. Sprague, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy, ISBN 0-87054-076-9
  • Fairclough, Oliver and Emmeline Leary, Textiles by William Morris and Morris & Co. 1861–1940, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 1981, ISBN 0-89860-065-0
  • Fiell, Charlotte and Peter, William Morris Cologne, Taschen, 1999 ISBN 3-8228-6617-2.
  • Hammond, Wayne and Christina Scull, The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, ISBN 978-0-618-39113-4
  • Kelvin Norman ed. The Collected Letters of William Morris Princeton University Press 1985 ISBN 978 069 1065014
  • Mackail, J. W., The Life of William Morris in two volumes, London, New York and Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co., 1899
  • Mackail, J. W., "William Morris," in The Dictionary of National Biography. Supp. vol. 3 (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1901), p. 197–203, reproduced at the William Morris Society
  • Parry, Linda, "Textiles", in The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by Wiliam Morris and his Circle in Canadian Collections, edited by Katharine A. Lochnan, Douglas E. Schoenherr, and Carole Silver, Key Porter Books, 1993, ISBN 1-55013-450-7
  • Parry, Linda, ed., William Morris, Abrams, 1996, ISBN 0-8109-4282-8
  • Parry, Linda, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement: A Sourcebook, New York, Portland House, 1989 ISBN 0-517-69260-0
  • Parry, Linda, William Morris Textiles, New York, Viking Press, 1983, ISBN 0-670-77074-4
  • Parry, Linda, Textiles of the Arts & Crafts Movement, Thames and Hudson, revised edition 2005, ISBN 0-500-28536-5
  • Stansky, Peter (1983). William Morris. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019287571X. 
  • Peterson, William S., A bibliography of the Kelmscott Press. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984. ISBN 0-19-818199-X
  • Peterson, William S., The Kelmscott Press: a history of William Morris's typographical adventure. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-812887-8
  • Thompson, E.P. (2nd edition, 1976) William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, Pantheon, ISBN 0-394-73320-7
  • Todd, Pamela, Pre-Raphaelites at Home, New York: Watson-Guptill, 2001. ISBN 0-8230-4285-5
  • Waggoner, Diane, The Beauty of Life: William Morris & the Art of Design, Thames and Hudson, 2003, ISBN 0-500-28434-2

Further reading

  • Arscott, Caroline. William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: Interlacings, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press (Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), 2008). ISBN 978-0-300-14093-4
  • Freudenheim, Leslie. Building with Nature: Inspiration for the Arts & Crafts Home (Gibbs Smith 2005 ) ISBN 978-1-58685-463-8.
  • Goodway, David. Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow: Left Libertarian Thought and English Writers From William Morris to Colin Ward (2006).
  • MacCarthy, Fiona (1994). William Morris: A Life For Our Time. London: Faber. ISBN 0571174957. 
  • Marsh, Jan (2005). William Morris and Red House: A Collaboration Between Architect and Owner. National Trust Books. ISBN 9781905400010. 
  • Pinkney, Tony. William Morris in Oxford: The Campaigning Years, 1879–1895 (2007).
  • Robinson, Duncan (1982). William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and the Kelmscott Chaucer. London: Gordon Fraser. 
  • Watkinson, Ray (1990). William Morris as Designer. London: Trefoil Books. ISBN 0862940400. 

External links




Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on...

William Morris (1834-03-241896-10-03) was a British artist, writer, printer and socialist.



I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.
Beauty, which is what is meant by art, using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life.
  • If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
    • "The Beauty of Life," a lecture before the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of Design (1880-02-19), later published in Hopes and Fears for Art: Five Lectures Delivered in Birmingham, London, and Nottingham, 1878 - 1881 (1882)
  • Beauty, which is what is meant by art, using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life.
    • The Beauty of Life (1880)
  • The greatest foe to art is luxury, art cannot live in its atmosphere.
    • The Beauty of Life (1880)
  • Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy palace amid the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings?
    So I say, if you cannot learn to love real art; at least learn to hate sham art and reject it. It is not because the wretched thing is so ugly and silly and useless that I ask you to cast it from you; it is much more because these are but the outward symbols of the poison that lies within them; look through them and see all that has gone to their fashioning, and you will see how vain labour, and sorrow, and disgrace have been their companions from the first — and all this for trifles that no man really needs!
  • So long as the system of competition in the production and exchange of the means of life goes on, the degradation of the arts will go on; and if that system is to last for ever, then art is doomed, and will surely die; that is to say, civilization will die.
    • "Art Under Plutocracy" (1883)
  • What shall I say concerning its mastery of and its waste of mechanical power, its commonwealth so poor, its enemies of the commonwealth so rich, its stupendous organization — for the misery of life! Its contempt of simple pleasures which everyone could enjoy but for its folly? Its eyeless vulgarity which has destroyed art, the one certain solace of labour? All this I felt then as now, but I did not know why it was so. The hope of the past times was gone, the struggles of mankind for many ages had produced nothing but this sordid, aimless, ugly confusion.
    • Why I Am A Socialist (1884)
  • I love art, and I love history, but it is living art and living history that I love... It is in the interest of living art and living history that I oppose so-called restoration. What history can there be in a building bedaubed with ornament, which cannot at the best be anything but a hopeless and lifeless imitation of the hope and vigour of the earlier world?
    • "The History of Pattern-Designing" lecture (1882) The Collected Works of William Morris (1910 - 1915) Vol. 22
  • With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on.
    • As quoted in William Morris & Red House (2005) by Jan Marsh, p. 65
  • Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips,
    Think but one thought of me up in the stars.
    • "Summer Dawn"
  • Wert thou more fickle than the restless sea,
    Still should I love thee, knowing thee for such.
    • Life and Death of Jason, Book ix, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The majesty
    That from man's soul looks through his eager eyes.
    • Life and Death of Jason, Book xiii, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Now such an one for daughter Creon had
    As maketh wise men fools and young men mad.
    • Life and Death of Jason, Book xvii, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • O thrush, your song is passing sweet
    But never a song that you have sung,
    Is half so sweet as thrushes sang
    When my dear Love and I were young.
    • Other Days, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • From out the throng and stress of lies,
    From out the painful noise of sighs,
    One voice of comfort seems to rise:
    "It is the meaner part that dies."
    • "Comfort"
I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.

The Earthly Paradise (1868-70)

  • Masters, I have to tell a tale of woe,
    A tale of folly and of wasted life,
    Hope against hope, the bitter dregs of strife,
    Ending, where all things end, in death at last.
    • Prologue.
  • Slayer of the Winter, art thou here again?
    O welcome, thou that bring'st the Summer nigh!
    The bitter wind makes not thy victory vain,
    Nor will we mock thee for thy faint blue sky.
    • March.
  • Rejoice, lest pleasureless ye die.
    Within a little time must ye go by.
    Stretch forth your open hands, and while ye live
    Take all the gifts that Death and Life may give!
    • March.
  • Forgetfulness of grief I yet may gain;
    In some wise may come ending to my pain;
    It may be yet the Gods will have me glad!
    Yet, Love, I would that thee and pain I had!
    • The Death of Paris.
  • Earth, left silent by the wind of night,
    Seems shrunken 'neath the gray unmeasured height.
    • December.
  • Late February days; and now, at last,
    Might you have thought that Winter's woe was past;
    So fair the sky was and so soft the air.
    • February.
  • A world made to be lost,—
    A bitter life 'twixt pain and nothing tost.
    • The Hill of Venus.
  • To happy folk
    All heaviest words no more of meaning bear
    Than far-off bells saddening the Summer air.
    • The Hill of Venus.
  • But boundless risk must pay for boundless gain.
    • The Wanderers. Compare: "Naught venture, naught have", Thomas Tusser.


  • Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
    I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
    Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
    Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
    Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
    Or hope again for aught that I can say,
    The idle singer of an empty day.
  • The heavy trouble, the bewildering care
    That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,
    These idle verses have no power to bear;
    So let em sing of names rememberèd,
    Because they, living not, can ne'er be dead,
    Or long time take their memory quite away
    From us poor singers of an empty day.
  • Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
    Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
    Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
    Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
    Telling a tale not too importunate
    To those who in the sleepy region stay,
    Lulled by the singer of an empty day.
  • Folk say, a wizard to a northern king
    At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,
    That through one window men beheld the spring,
    And through another saw the summer glow,
    And through a third the fruited vines a-row,
    While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,
    Piped the drear wind of that December day.
    So with this Earthly Paradise it is,
    If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
    Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
    Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
    Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
    Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
    Not the poor singer of an empty day.

The Lady of the Land

  • It happened once, some men of Italy
    Midst the Greek Islands went a sea-roving,
    And much good fortune had they on the sea:
    Of many a man they had the ransoming,
    And many a chain they gat and goodly thing;
    And midst their voyage to an isle they came,
    Whereof my story keepeth not the name.
  • One was there who left all his friends behind;
    Who going inland ever more and more,
    And being left quite alone, at last did find
    A lonely valley sheltered from the wind,
    Wherein, amidst an ancient cypress wood,
    A long-deserted ruined castle stood.
  • Noble the house was, nor seemed built for war,
    But rather like the work of other days,
    When men, in better peace than now they are,
    Had leisure on the world around to gaze,
    And noted well the past times' changing ways;
    And fair with sculptured stories it was wrought,
    By lapse of time unto dim ruin brought.
  • But taking note of these things, at the last
    The mariner beneath the gateway passed.
    And there a lovely cloistered court he found,
    A fountain in the mist o'erthrown and dry,
    And in the cloister briers twining round
    The slender shafts; the wondrous imagery
    Outworn by more than many years gone by;
    Because the country people, in their fear
    Of wizardry, had wrought destruction here,
    And piteously these fair things had been maimed;
    There stood great Jove, lacking his head of might;
    Here was the archer, swift Apollo, lamed;
    The shapely limbs of Venus hid from sight
    By weeds and shards; Diana's ankles light
    Bound with the cable of some coasting ship;
    And rusty nails through Helen's maddening lip.
  • And there he saw a door within the wall,
    Well-hinged, close shut; nor was there in that place
    Another on its hinges, therefore he
    Stood there and pondered for a little space
    And thought: "Perchance some marvel I shall see,
    For surely here some dweller there must be,
    Because this door seems whole and new and sound,
    While nought but ruin I can see around."
  • No pillager or wrecker had been there;
    It seemed that time had passed on otherwhere,
    Nor laid a finger on this hidden place
    Rich with the wealth of some forgotten race.
  • The wanderer trembled when he saw all this,
    Because he deemed by magic it was wrought;
    Yet in his heart a longing for some bliss
    Whereof the hard and changing world knows nought,
    Arose and urged him on, and dimmed the thought
    That there perchance some devil lurked to slay
    The heedless wanderer from the light of day
  • Upon the floor uncounted medals lay
    Like things of little value; here and there
    Stood golden caldrons, that might well outweigh
    The biggest midst an emperor's copper-ware,
    And golden cups were set on tables fair,
    Themselves of gold; and in all hollow things
    Were stored great gems, worthy the crowns of kings.
  • And then the image, that well-nigh erased
    Over the castle-gate he did behold,
    Above a door well wrought in coloured gold
    Again he saw; a naked girl with wings
    Enfolded in a serpent's scaly rings.
  • There sat a woman, whose wet tresses rolled
    On to the floor in waves of gleaming gold,
    Cast back from such a form as, erewhile shown
    To one poor shepherd, lighted up Troy town.
  • "Alas, alas! another day gone by,
    Another day and no soul come," she said;
    "Another year, and still I am not dead!"
    And with that word once more her head she raised,
    And on the trembling man with great eyes gazed.
  • "What man art thou that thus hast wandered here,
    And found this lonely chamber where I dwell?
    Beware, beware! for I have many a spell;
    If greed of power and gold have led thee on,
    Not lightly shall this untold wealth be won.
    But if thou com'st here knowing of my tale,
    In hope to bear away my body fair,
    Stout must thine heart be, nor shall that avail
    If thou a wicked soul in thee dost bear;
    So once again I bid thee to beware,
    Because no base man things like this may see,
    And live thereafter long and happily."
  • From those thy words, I deem from some distress
    By deeds of mine thy dear life I might save;
    O then, delay not! if one ever gave
    His life to any, mine I give to thee;
    Come, tell me what the price of love must be?
    Swift death, to be with thee a day and night
    And with the earliest dawning to be slain?
    Or better, a long year of great delight,
    And many years of misery and pain?
    Or worse, and this poor hour for all my gain?
    A sorry merchant am I on this day,
    E'en as thou willest so must I obey.
  • "God grant indeed thy words are not for nought!
    Then shalt thou save me, since for many a day
    To such a dreadful life I have been brought:
    Nor will I spare with all my heart to pay
    What man soever takes my grief away;
    Ah! I will love thee, if thou lovest me
    But well enough my saviour now to be.
  • A queen I was, what Gods I knew I loved,
    And nothing evil was there in my thought,
    And yet by love my wretched heart was moved
    Until to utter ruin I was brought!
    Alas! thou sayest our gods were vain and nought,
    Wait, wait, till thou hast heard this tale of mine,
    Then shalt thou think them devilish or divine.
  • For Queen Diana did my body change
    Into a fork-tongued dragon flesh and fell,
    And through the island nightly do I range,
    Or in the green sea mate with monsters strange,
    When in the middle of the moonlit night
    The sleepy mariner I do affright.
  • Drowsy I lie, no folk at my command,
    Who once was called the Lady of the Land;
    Who might have bought a kingdom with a kiss,
    Yea, half the world with such a sight as this.
  • "Wilt thou not save me? once in every year
    This rightful form of mine that thou dost see
    By favour of the Goddess have I here
    From sunrise unto sunset given me,
    That some brave man may end my misery.
    And thou — art thou not brave? can thy heart fail,
    Whose eyes e'en now are weeping at my tale?
  • Then listen! when this day is overpast,
    A fearful monster shall I be again,
    And thou mayst be my saviour at the last,
    Unless, once more, thy words are nought and vain.
    If thou of love and sovereignty art fain,
    Come thou next morn, and when thou seest here
    A hideous dragon, have thereof no fear,
    But take the loathsome head up in thine hands
    And kiss it, and be master presently
    Of twice the wealth that is in all the lands
    From Cathay to the head of Italy;
    And master also, if it pleaseth thee,
    Of all thou praisest as so fresh and bright,
    Of what thou callest crown of all delight.
    Ah! with what joy then shall I see again
    The sunlight on the green grass and the trees,
    And hear the clatter of the summer rain,
    And see the joyous folk beyond the seas.
    Ah, me! to hold my child upon my knees
    After the weeping of unkindly tears
    And all the wrongs of these four hundred years.
    Go now, go quick! leave this grey heap of stone;
    And from thy glad heart think upon thy way,
    How I shall love thee — yea, love thee alone,
    That bringest me from dark death unto day;
    For this shall be thy wages and thy pay;
    Unheard-of wealth, unheard-of love is near,
    If thou hast heart a little dread to bear.
  • "Ah! wilt ve me then without one kiss,
    To slay the very seeds of fear and doubt,
    That glad to-morrow may bring certain bliss?
    Hast thou forgotten how love lives by this,
    The memory of some hopeful close embrace,
    Low whispered words within some lonely place?"
  • So on he went, and on the way he thought
    Of all the glorious things of yesterday,
    Nought of the price whereat they must be bought,
    But ever to himself did softly say
    "No roaming now, my wars are passed away,
    No long dull days devoid of happiness,
    When such a love my yearning heart shall bless."
  • A fearful thing stood at the cloister's end
    And eyed him for a while, then 'gan to wend
    Adown the cloisters, and began again
    That rattling, and the moan like fiends in pain.
    And as it came on towards him, with its teeth
    The body of a slain goat did it tear,
    The blood whereof in its hot jaws did seethe,
    And on its tongue he saw the smoking hair;
    Then his heart sank, and standing trembling there,
    Throughout his mind wild thoughts and fearful ran:
    "Some fiend she was," he said, "thman."
    Yet he abode her still, although his blood
    Curdled within him: the thing dropped the goat,
    And creeping on, came close to where he stood,
    And raised its head to him and wrinkled throat.
    Then he cried out and wildly at her smote,
    Shutting his eyes, and turned and from the place
    Ran swiftly, with a white and ghastly face.
  • Meanwhile the dragon, seeing him clean gone,
    Followed him not, but crying horribly,
    Caught up within her jaws a block of stone
    And ground it into powder, then turned she,
    With cries that folk could hear far out at sea,
    And reached the treasure set apart of old,
    To brood above the hidden heaps of gold.

Love is Enough (1872)

Love is Enough; or, The Freeing of Pharamond, a morality (1872)

Song I : Though the World Be A-Waning

  • Love is enough: though the World be a-waning
    And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
    Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
    The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
    Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
    And this day draw a veil over all deeds passed over,
    Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
    The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
    These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

Song II: Have No Thought for Tomorrow

  • Love is enough: have no thought for to-morrow
    If ye lie down this even in rest from your pain,
    Ye who have paid for your bliss with great sorrow...
  • Till again shall the change come, and words your lips say not
    Your hearts make all plain in the best wise they would
    And the world ye thought waning is glorious and good...
  • The wind is not helpless for any man's need,
    Nor falleth the rain but for thistle and weed.
  • O surely this morning all sorrow is hidden,
    All battle is hushed for this even at least;
    And no one this noontide may hunger, unbidden
    To the flowers and the singing and the joy of your feast
    Where silent ye sit midst the world's tale increased.
  • Lo, the lovers unloved that draw nigh for your blessing!
    For your tale makes the dreaming whereby yet they live
    The dreams of the day with their hopes of redressing,
    The dreams of the night with the kisses they give,
    The dreams of the dawn wherein death and hope strive.
  • Ah, what shall we say then, but that earth threatened often
    Shall live on for ever that such things may be,
    That the dry seed shall quicken, the hard earth shall soften,
    And the spring-bearing birds flutter north o'er the sea,
    That earth's garden may bloom round my love's feet and me?

Song III: It Grew Up Without Heeding

Love is enough: it grew up without heeding
In the days when ye knew not its name nor its measure,
And its leaflets untrodden by the light feet of pleasure
Had no boast of the blossom, no sign of the seeding,
As the morning and evening passed over its treasure.
  • Love is enough: it grew up without heeding
    In the days when ye knew not its name nor its measure,
    And its leaflets untrodden by the light feet of pleasure
    Had no boast of the blossom, no sign of the seeding,
    As the morning and evening passed over its treasure.
  • And what do ye say then? — That Spring long departed
    Has brought forth no child to the softness and showers;
    — That we slept and we dreamed through the Summer of flowers;
    We dreamed of the Winter, and waking dead-hearted
    Found Winter upon us and waste of dull hours.
  • Nay, Spring was o'er-happy and knew not the reason,
    And Summer dreamed sadly, for she thought all was ended
    In her fulness of wealth that might not be amended;
    But this is the harvest and the garnering season,
    And the leaf and the blossom in the ripe fruit are blended.
  • It sprang without sowing, it grew without heeding,
    Ye knew not its name and ye knew not its measure,
    Ye noted it not mid your hope and your pleasure;
    There was pain in its blossom, despair in its seeding,
    But daylong your bosom now nurseth its treasure.

Song IV: Draw Near and Behold Me

  • Love is enough: draw near and behold me
    Ye who pass by the way to your rest and your laughter,
    And are full of the hope of the dawn coming after;
    For the strong of the world have bought me and sold me
    And my house is all wasted from threshold to rafter.
    — Pass by me, and hearken, and think of me not!
  • Ye know not how void is your hope and your living:
    Depart with your helping lest yet ye undo me!
    Ye know not that at nightfall she draweth near to me,
    There is soft speech between us and words of forgiving
    Till in dead of the midnight her kisses thrill through me.
    — Pass by me and harken, and waken me not!
  • Wherewith will ye buy it, ye rich who behold me?
    Draw out from your coffers your rest and your laughter,
    And the fair gilded hope of the dawn coming after!
    Nay this I sell not, — though ye bought me and sold me, —
    For your house stored with such things from threshold to rafter.
    — Pass by me, I hearken, and think of you not!

Song V: Through the Trouble and Tangle

  • Love is enough: through the trouble and tangle
    From yesterday's dawning to yesterday's night
    I sought through the vales where the prisoned winds wrangle,
    Till, wearied and bleeding, at end of the light
    I met him, and we wrestled, and great was my might.
  • And the Shadow of the Night and not Love was departed;
    I was sore, I was weary, yet Love lived to seek;
    So I scaled the dark mountains, and wandered sad-hearted
    Over wearier wastes, where e'en sunlight was bleak,
    With no rest of the night for my soul waxen weak.
  • With no rest of the night; for I waked mid a story
    Of a land wherein Love is the light and the lord,
    Where my tale shall be heard, and my wounds gain a glory,
    And my tears be a treasure to add to the hoard
    Of pleasure laid up for his people's reward.

Song VI: Cherish Life that Abideth

  • Love is enough: cherish life that abideth,
    Lest ye die ere ye know him, and curse and misname him;
    For who knows in what ruin of all hope he hideth,
    On what wings of the terror of darkness he rideth?

    And what is the joy of man's life that ye blame him
    For his bliss grown a sword, and his rest grown a fire?
  • Live on, for Love liveth, and earth shall be shaken
    By the wind of his wings on the triumphing morning,
    When the dead, and their deeds that die not shall awaken,
    And the world's tale shall sound in your trumpet of warning,
    And the sun smite the banner called Scorn of the Scorning,
    And dead pain ye shall trample, dead fruitless desire,
    As ye wend to pluck out the new world from the fire.

Song VII: Dawn Talks to Day

  • Dawn talks to Day
    Over dew-gleaming flowers,
    Night flies away
    Till the resting of hours:
    Fresh are thy feet
    And with dreams thine eyes glistening,
    Thy still lips are sweet
    Though the world is a-listening.
    O Love, set a word in my mouth for our meeting,
    Cast thine arms round about me to stay my heart's beating!
    O fresh day, O fair day, O long day made ours!
  • Morn shall meet noon
    While the flower-stems yet move,
    Though the wind dieth soon
    And the clouds fade above.
    Loved lips are thine
    As I tremble and hearken;
    Bright thine eyes shine,
    Though the leaves thy brow darken.
    O Love, kiss me into silence, lest no word avail me,
    Stay my head with thy bosom lest breath and life fail me!
    O sweet day, O rich day, made long for our love!
  • Let us speak, love, together some words of our story,
    That our lips as they part may remember the glory!
    O soft day, O calm day, made clear for our sake!
  • Eve shall kiss night,
    And the leaves stir like rain
    As the wind stealeth light
    O'er the grass of the plain.
    Unseen are thine eyes
    Mid the dreamy night's sleeping,
    And on my mouth there lies
    The dear rain of thy weeping.

Song VIII: While Ye Deemed Him A-Sleeping

  • Love is enough: while ye deemed him a-sleeping,
    There were signs of his coming and sounds of his feet;
    His touch it was that would bring you to weeping,
    When the summer was deepest and music most sweet...
  • All wonder of pleasure, all doubt of desire,
    All blindness, are ended, and no more ye feel
    If your feet treat his flowers or the flames of his fire,
    If your breast meet his balms or the edge of his steel.
    Change is come, and past over, no more strife, no more learning:
    Now your lips and your forehead are sealed with his seal,
    Look backward and smile at the thorns and the burning.
    — Sweet rest, O my soul, and no fear of returning!

Song IX: Ho Ye Who Seek Saving

  • Love is enough: ho ye who seek saving,
    Go no further; come hither; there have been who have found it,
    And these know the House of Fulfilment of Craving;
    These know the Cup with the roses around it;
    These know the World's Wound and the balm that hath bound it:
    Cry out, the World heedeth not, 'Love, lead us home!'
  • O hearken the words of his voice of compassion:
    'Come cling round about me, ye faithful who sicken
    Of the weary unrest and the world's passing fashions!
    As the rain in mid-morning your troubles shall thicken,
    But surely within you some Godhead doth quicken,
    As ye cry to me heeding, and leading you home.
  • 'Come — pain ye shall have, and be blind to the ending!
    Come — fear ye shall have, mid the sky's overcasting!
    Come — change ye shall have, for far are ye wending!
    Come — no crown ye shall have for your thirst and your fasting,
    But the kissed lips of Love and fair life everlasting!
    Cry out, for one heedeth, who leadeth you home!'

The Decorative Arts (1877)

"The Decorative Arts: Their Relation to Modern Life and Progress" (1877) Morris's first public lecture, later published as "The Lesser Arts" in Hopes and Fears for Art (1882)
  • To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use, that is one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make, that is the other use of it.
    Does not our subject look important enough now? I say that without these arts, our rest would be vacant and uninteresting, our labour mere endurance, mere wearing away of body and mind.
  • When we can get beyond that smoky world, there, out in the country we may still see the works of our fathers yet alive amidst the very nature they were wrought into, and of which they are so completely a part: for there indeed if anywhere, in the English country, in the days when people cared about such things, was there a full sympathy between the works of man, and the land they were made for: — the land is a little land; too much shut up within the narrow seas, as it seems, to have much space for swelling into hugeness: there are no great wastes overwhelming in their dreariness, no great solitudes of forests, no terrible untrodden mountain-walls: all is measured, mingled, varied, gliding easily one thing into another: little rivers, little plains, swelling, speedily- changing uplands, all beset with handsome orderly trees; little hills, little mountains, netted over with the walls of sheep- walks: all is little; yet not foolish and blank, but serious rather, and abundant of meaning for such as choose to seek it: it is neither prison nor palace, but a decent home.
  • I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.

Art and Socialism (1884)

On line text at
  • It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be of itself pleasant to do; and which should be done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious.
  • Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.

A Dream of John Ball (1886)

First printed in The Commonweal (1886-11-13 - 1887-01-22); online text at the University of Virginia
  • When I was journeying (in a dream of the night) down the well-remembered reaches of the Thames betwixt Streatley and Wallingford, where the foothills of the White Horse fall back from the broad stream, I came upon a clear-seen mediæval town standing up with roof and tower and spire within its walls, grey and ancient, but untouched from the days of its builders of old. All this I have seen in the dreams of the night clearer than I can force myself to see them in dreams of the day. So that it would have been nothing new to me the other night to fall into an architectural dream if that were all, and yet I have to tell of things strange and new that befell me after I had fallen asleep.
    • Ch. 1: The Men of Kent
  • Forsooth, ye have heard it said that ye shall do well in this world that in the world to come ye may live happily for ever; do ye well then, and have your reward both on earth and in heaven; for I say to you that earth and heaven are not two but one; and this one is that which ye know, and are each one of you a part of, to wit, the Holy Church, and in each one of you dwelleth the life of the Church, unless ye slay it.
    • Ch. 4: The Voice of John Ball
  • Forsooth, brothers, fellowship is heaven, and lack of fellowship is hell: fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death: and the deeds that ye do upon the earth, it is for fellowship's sake that ye do them, and the life that is in it, that shall live on and on for ever, and each one of you part of it, while many a man's life upon the earth from the earth shall wane.
    Therefore, I bid you not dwell in hell but in heaven, or while ye must, upon earth, which is a part of heaven, and forsooth no foul part.
    • Ch. 4: The Voice of John Ball
  • Forsooth, he that waketh in hell and feeleth his heart fail him, shall have memory of the merry days of earth, and how that when his heart failed him there, he cried on his fellow, were it his wife or his son or his brother or his gossip or his brother sworn in arms, and how that his fellow heard him and came and they mourned together under the sun, till again they laughed together and were but half sorry between them. This shall he think on in hell, and cry on his fellow to help him, and shall find that therein is no help because there is no fellowship, but every man for himself.
    • Ch. 4: The Voice of John Ball
  • I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.
    • Ch. 4: The Voice of John Ball
  • It is for him that is lonely or in prison to dream of fellowship, but for him that is of a fellowship to do and not to dream.
    • Ch. 4: The Voice of John Ball
  • Mastership hath many shifts whereby it striveth to keep itself alive in the world. And now hear a marvel: whereas thou sayest these two times that out of one man ye may get but one man's work, in days to come one man shall do the work of a hundred men —yea, of a thousand or more: and this is the shift of mastership that shall make many masters and many rich men.
    • Ch. 12: Ill Would Change Be At Whiles Were It Not For The Change Beyond The Change
  • To thee, when thou didst try to conceive of them, the ways of the days to come seemed follies scarce to be thought of; yet shall they come to be familiar things, and an order by which every man liveth, ill as he liveth, so that men shall deem of them, that thus it hath been since the beginning of the world, and that thus it shall be while the world endureth... Yet in time shall this also grow old, and doubt shall creep in, because men shall scarce be able to live by that order, and the complaint of the poor shall be hearkened, no longer as a tale not utterly grievous, but as a threat of ruin, and a fear. Then shall these things, which to thee seem follies, and to the men between thee and me mere wisdom and the bond of stability, seem follies once again; yet, whereas men have so long lived by them, they shall cling to them yet from blindness and from fear; and those that see, and that have thus much conquered fear that they are furthering the real time that cometh and not the dream that faileth, these men shall the blind and the fearful mock and missay, and torment and murder: and great and grievous shall be the strife in those days, and many the failures of the wise, and too oft sore shall be the despair of the valiant; and back-sliding, and doubt, and contest between friends and fellows lacking time in the hubbub to understand each other, shall grieve many hearts and hinder the Host of the Fellowship: yet shall all bring about the end, till thy deeming of folly and ours shall be one, and thy hope and our hope; and then — the Day will have come.
    • Ch. 12: Ill Would Change Be At Whiles Were It Not For The Change Beyond The Change

Signs of Change (1888)

Online text at The University of Adelaide

How We Live And How We Might Live

  • The word Revolution, which we Socialists are so often forced to use, has a terrible sound in most people's ears, even when we have explained to them that it does not necessarily mean a change accompanied by riot and all kinds of violence, and cannot mean a change made mechanically and in the teeth of opinion by a group of men who have somehow managed to seize on the executive power for the moment. Even when we explain that we use the word revolution in its etymological sense, and mean by it a change in the basis of society, people are scared at the idea of such a vast change, and beg that you will speak of reform and not revolution. As, however, we Socialists do not at all mean by our word revolution what these worthy people mean by their word reform, I can't help thinking that it would be a mistake to use it, whatever projects we might conceal beneath its harmless envelope. So we will stick to our word, which means a change of the basis of society; it may frighten people, but it will at least warn them that there is something to be frightened about, which will be no less dangerous for being ignored; and also it may encourage some people, and will mean to them at least not a fear, but a hope.
  • Fear and Hope — those are the names of the two great passions which rule the race of man, and with which revolutionists have to deal; to give hope to the many oppressed and fear to the few oppressors, that is our business; if we do the first and give hope to the many, the few must be frightened by their hope; otherwise we do not want to frighten them; it is not revenge we want for poor people, but happiness; indeed, what revenge can be taken for all the thousands of years of the sufferings of the poor?

The Aims of Art

  • Soon there will be nothing left except the lying dreams of history, the miserable wreckage of our museums and picture-galleries, and the carefully guarded interiors of our aesthetic drawing-rooms, unreal and foolish, fitting witnesses of the life of corruption that goes on there, so pinched and meagre and cowardly, with its concealment and ignoring, rather than restraint of, natural longings; which does not forbid the greedy indulgence in them if it can but be decently hidden.
  • I have said as much as that the aim of art was to destroy the curse of labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards energy, and giving to that energy hope of producing something worth its exercise.
    • This has sometimes appeared in paraphrased form as: "The aim of art is to destroy the curse of labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards energy, and giving to that energy hope of producing something worth the exercise."

Useful Work versus Useless Toil

  • I think that to all living things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their energies, and that even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong. But a man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful.
  • Worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the hope of the pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of pleasure in our daily creative skill.
    All other work but this is worthless; it is slaves' work — mere toiling to live, that we may live to toil.

News from Nowhere (1890)

  • Go back again, now you have seen us, and your outward eyes have learned that in spite of all the infallible maxims of your day there is yet a time of rest in store for the world, when mastery has changed into fellowship — but not before. Go back again, then, and while you live you will see all round you people engaged in making others live lives which are not their own, while they themselves care nothing for their own real lives — men who hate life though they fear death. Go back and be the happier for having seen us, for having added a little hope to your struggle. Go on living while you may, striving, with whatsoever pain and labour needs must be, to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and happiness.
  • If others can see it as I have seen it, then it may be called a vision rather than a dream.

Quotes about Morris

  • I cannot help thinking that it does not matter what goes into the Clarion this week, because William Morris is dead. And what socialist will care for any other news this week, beyond that one said fact? He was our best man, and he is dead ...
    It is true that much of his work still lives, and will live. But we have lost him, and, great as was his work, he himself was greater ... he was better than the best. Though his words fell like sword strokes, one always felt that the warrior was stronger than the sword. For Morris was not only a genius, he was a man. Strike at him where you would, he rang true ... he was our best man. We cannot spare him; we cannot replace him. In all England there lives no braver, kinder, honester, cleverer, heartier man than William Morris. He is dead, and we cannot help feeling for a while that nothing else matters.
    • Obituary in the Clarion
  • When I first knew Morris nothing would content him but being a monk, and getting to Rome, and then he must be an architect, and apprenticed himself to Street, and worked for two years, but when I came to London and began to paint he threw it all up, and must paint too, and then he must give it up and make poems, and then he must give it up and make window hangings and pretty things, and when he had achieved that, he must be a poet again, and then after two or three years of Earthly Paradise time, he must learn dyeing, and lived in a vat, and learned weaving, and knew all about looms, and then made more books, and learned tapestry, and then wanted to smash everything up and begin the world anew, and now it is printing he cares for, and to make wonderful rich-looking books — and all things he does splendidly — and if he lives the printing will have an end — but not I hope, before Chaucer and the Morte d'Arthur are done; then he'll do I don't know what, but every minute will be alive.
  • The true prophet of the 20th century
    • Nicholas Pevsner Pioneers of Modern Design (1936)
  • It is Morris... who can properly be called the first English Marxist.
  • William Morris pleaded well for simplicity as the basis of all true art.Let us understand the significance to art of that word 'simplicity' for it is vital to the art of the machine.

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William Morris
File:George Frederic Watts portrait of William Morris 1870
William Morris by George Frederic Watts, 1870
Born 24 March 1834(1834-03-24)
Died 3 October 1896 (aged 62)
Nationality English
Occupation Artist
Known for Arts and Crafts movement
British Socialism

William Morris (24 March 1834 - 3 October 1896) was an English architect, furniture and fabric designer, artist, writer, and socialist. He was born in Walthamstow in East London.

Morris was educated at Marlborough and Exeter College, Oxford. In 1856, he became an apprentice to Gothic revival architect G. E. Street. That year he founded the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine. In 1861, Morris founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones, and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This had a great impact on the decoration of churches and houses in the early 20th century. Morris's major contribution was as a designer of repeating patterns for wallpapers and textiles. This was mainly based on a close observation of nature. He was also a major contributor to the resurgence of traditional textile arts and methods of production.

Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. His best-known works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Earthly Paradise (1868–1870), A Dream of John Ball and the nothing.

william morris desiged his own furniture. he was fustrated because he couldnt find any furntiture he liked, so he decided he wanted to design his own furniture. it was mostly wallpaper designs. it was well nice

Morris was an important person in the emergence of socialism in Great Britain. He founded the Socialist League in 1884. However, he broke with the movement over goals and methods by the end of that decade. He devoted much of the rest of his life to the Kelmscott Press, which he founded in 1891. The 1896 Kelmscott edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is considered a masterpiece of book design.

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