William Morris

William Morris

Early Life 3

Family 3

Precocious talent 3

Woodford Hall 1840 4

Academy for Young Gentlemen 1843 4

Water House 1848 4

Marlborough College 1848-50 5

Exeter College, Oxford 1853-6 6

The Birmingham Set 6

1856-9 8

Architectural Apprenticeship with Street 8

Architecture abandoned 8

Oxford Union 9

London 9

Gets married 1857-9 9

Progress of the marriage 10

Writing 11

The Red House 1859-65 11

Building it 11

Life in the Red House 11

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, 1861 12

London International Exhibition, 1862 13

Personal Unhappiness 1866 14

Poetry 15

1865-1875 15

Kelmscott Manor and Iceland, 1871-8 15

Morris & Co 1875 16

Sigurd the Volsung 1876 17

Wallpaper Shop 1877 17

Kemscott House 1879 18

Ancient Buildings 18

Tapestries 19

Political Activism 1880-1890 19

Merton Abbey Mills 19

The Marriage staggers on 20

Discontent with Liberalism 20

Socialism 20

SDF 1883 21

Socialist League 1884 22

Conflict with authority 23

Hammersmith Socialist Society 1890 24

Later writing 24

Later Years 25

Kelmscott Press 25

Decline in Health 26

Funeral 26

Legacy 26

Arts and Crafts Movement 27

Avant Gardism 27

Eric Gill 27

Tolkien and Rowling 27

Festival of Britain 28

Architecture 28

William Morris Society 28

Plagiarism 29

Bibliography 29

Appendix 1: Pygmalion and Galatea 29

Early Life


William Morris was an English textile designer, poet, novelist, (1,6) translator, (1) and socialist activist. (1,2) Born in (1,2) Elm House (7,8) Walthamstow, (1,3) [OR] Waltamstow (9) a village (11,12) on the southern edge of Epping Forest, (11) above the Lea Valley (12) in Essex (1,2) comfortably close to London, (12) England, (1,3) on 24th March (4,5) 1834 (3,4) into a large, (5,7) wealthy (1,5) middle-class family. (1,7) His father, (13) a partner in the Sanderson & Co. firm, bill brokers in the City of London, (14) was able to provide an upper-middle-class lifestyle for his family because of a shrewd investment in a Devonshire mine. (13) He was the third (6,8) child of William and Emma (6,7) (nee Shelton) (7,9) Morris. (6,7) His mother was a descendent of a wealthy family from Worcester. (8,14) He was the third (9,12) of nine children (and the oldest son1) (12,13) of his parents. (9,12) His two (9) [OR] three (8) [OR] one (14) elder siblings died in infancy (6,9), hence effectively he was the eldest child in the family. (9) [OR] Their first-born child Charles died at four days old, but was followed by twin girls, Emma and Henrietta. (8) He also had a younger sister named Isabella. (6) [OR] William and Emma had eight children2 in total, who survived until adulthood. (7) [OR] After William was born, his mother gave girth3 to six more children. (8) Morris’s family belonged to the Evangelical branch of the Church of England — they practiced what he would later refer to as a “rich establishmentarian Puritanism,” which, even as a boy, he found distasteful. (12)

Precocious talent

Morris spent most of his childhood at home: (8,14) kept largely housebound at Elm House by his mother. (14) He was a child prodigy. (6,9) He learned to read from a very early age. (6,9) His natural ability in reading and writing (7) gave him a keen interest in the English language. (6) It was during this period that he developed a passion for literature (6,8) and, as many young gentlemen of his day were, all things mediaeval: (12) he had devoured many novels by the age of four, (6,9) including most of (9) Walter Scott’s (10,12) Waverley novels. (9,12) [OR] at age four he began to read Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels, and he had finished them all by the time he was nine. (12) He read books as obscure as The Arabian Nights and John Gerard’s Herball, (6,9) and was particularly influenced by them. (9) His doting father presented him with a pony and a miniature suit of armour, and, in the character of a diminutive knight-errant, he went off on long quests into the depths of Epping Forest. (12) He was rather a solitary child, close only to his sister Emma, and even in childhood was possessed of a romantic attachment to forests and gardens and flowers and birds which, with his interest in mediaevalism, would recur in his art, his poetry, and his fiction for the rest of his life. (12)

Woodford Hall 1840

William Senior’s success with the brokers’ firm led to (7) the family moving, in 1840 to Woodford Hall in Essex. (7,8) It was an estate on 50 acres of land in which he fished and gardened. (8) By all accounts, Morris enjoyed an idyllic, (7) privileged (10) childhood growing up in the countryside, playing with his siblings. (7) He was spoiled by everyone, and was rather temperamental, as he would be for the rest of his life: he would throw his dinner out of the window if he did not approve of the manner in which it had been prepared. (12) He had had an early interest in both nature and storytelling, (7) and an affinity with landscape, buildings and historical romance. (10) Time spent exploring local parkland, forest and churches, helped Morris develop this early (10) interest in the wildlife and flowers surrounding him, (7,10) His love of the natural world would have a growing influence on his work. (7)

Academy for Young Gentlemen 1843

Morris was privately educated from the age of (7,8) 9 (8,14) [OR] 13. (7) Morris was sent to Misses Arundale’s Academy for Young Gentlemen, a preparatory school nearby to their home. (8,14) At first he rode there on his pony each day. (14) He eventually boarded at the school, an experience he later claimed to have disliked. (8,14)

Water House 1848

William Morris Snr’s died unexpectedly young in 1847, (7,8) [OR] late 19474. (6) From this point, the family relied upon continued income from the copper mines (8,14) at Devon Great Consols. (14) They sold Woodford Hall (14) and in 1848 (9) they moved again, to the Water House (7,8) in Walthamstow, (7) a small property which was easier and cheaper to maintain. (8) At the age of 13 (9) [OR] at twenty-one (12) William was left with a lot of wealth. (6,9) He had an annual income of £900, quite a tidy sum in those days, (12) large enough to mean he would never need to earn an income. (10) He therefore had no economic problems (6,10) in receiving (6) the best education possible. (5,6)

Marlborough College 1848-50

In February (14) 1848 (8,14) at age 13 (11) [OR] 14 (12) he began his studies at Marlborough (6,8) [OR] Marlborogh (7) College (6,8) in Wiltshire. (8,14) This was another experience which set poorly with the young man. (8) He didn’t particularly enjoy school, (5,6) because he was intensely homesick and was often bullied by the other kids, (8,14) He gained a reputation as an eccentric, and was nicknamed “Crab”. (14) Morris’ friends nicknamed him “Topsy” after a character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. (14) A schoolfellow described him at this time as “a thick-set, strong-looking boy, with a high colour and black curly hair, good-natured and kind, but with a fearful temper’. (11) As with most prodigies, (6) William Morris wasn’t interested in the academic learning. (6,9) [OR] He was well educated. (5) [OR] he did not learn a great deal. (12) He despised his time there; he said he was bored (14) and “learned next to nothing, (11, 13) …for indeed next to nothing was taught.” (11) As in later life, he learned only what he wanted to learn. (11) Shirking his schoolwork, Morris spent his time reading, following his own interests, and exploring the landscape surrounding the school, including medieval churches and Neolithic monuments. (13) Surviving letters from this period, written when Morris was as young as fourteen, reveal a deep love and critical (13) appreciation (9,13) only (9) of architecture. (9,13) [OR] of the medieval arts (5) developed a taste for architecture. (9) The school was Anglican (8,12) Morris developed an enthusiastic attraction towards the Anglo-Catholic movement and its Romanticist aesthetic. (14) Morris was confirmed into the faith in 1849 by the Bishop of Salisbury. (8,14) At one time he planned on becoming a clergyman until he came upon the writings of John Ruskin, (5,7) Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Kingsley. (7) Morris adopted 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. (14) After two (8) [OR] three (9) years (8,9) he was removed from Marlborough (6,8) due to his lack of interest in the school’s curriculum. (6) [OR] After a riot occured at Marlborough in 1851 (it was rather a boisterous place). (12) At Christmas 1851, Morris was removed from the school and returned to Water House. (14) After school he went to Oxford. (10) [OR] He was privately tutored (8,14) at home (12,14) [OR] at another nearby institution (8) [OR] by Rev. (9,14) Frederick (14) B. Guy, (9,14) an Assistant Master at the nearby Forest School. (14) Guy prepared him for Exeter College, (9) [OR] focused on learning architecture, and poetry. (6) He also had precociously strong opinions on design. (10) On a family trip to London in 1851, Morris (then aged 16) demonstrated his loyalty to craft principles by refusing to enter the Great Exhibition – which championed Machine Age design – on the grounds of taste. (10)

Exeter College, Oxford 1853-6

In 1853 (3,7) [OR] 1852 (8,9) he matriculated (7) at Exeter College (2,3) Oxford University, (1,2) to read Classics (1) [OR] theology, (3,6) [OR] history and architecture, (8) [OR] ecclesiastical history, art and (9) medieval poetry (6,9) [OR] to study for the Church (10) planning to become a priest in line with his mother’s wishes, (13) [OR] with vague notions of becoming a High-Church Anglican clergyman. (12) Once again, he was displeased with the experience, because he found the classes, and the way in which they were taught, boring. (8) At Exeter College, (3,9) [OR] after university (10) his fate as a creative was sealed (13) when he met (3,9) fellow student (13) Edward (5,9) Jones, (11) [OR] Burne-Jones (3,9) later the painter (10,11) who was to become one of the era’s most famous (10,12) Pre-Raphaelite artists, (12) and designer (11) and Morris’s life-long friend. (10,11) Within less than a year, his outlook on life had changed drastically: his reading in the library shifted from religious matters to history and ecclesiastical architecture, and eventually to the art criticism of John Ruskin. (13) This attitude was compounded by his reading of Thomas Carlyle’s book Past and Present (1843), in which Carlyle championed Medieval values as a corrective to the problems of Victorian society. (14) Under this influence, Morris’s dislike of contemporary capitalism grew, and he came to be influenced by the work of Christian socialists Charles Kingsley and Frederick Denison Maurice. (14)

The Birmingham Set

Soon, he discovered his lifelong passion for writing poetry, and Edward Burne-Jones, a budding artist and designer with whom he would remain friends for the rest of his life. (13) Burne-Jones introduced him to a group of students who became known as ‘The Set’ or ‘The Brotherhood’, (10) [OR] the Birmingham Set. (1,4) It included the mathematician Charles Faulkner and the poet Richard Watson Dixon, with shared interests in theology, medievalism, and the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson. (13) They enjoyed romantic stories of medieval chivalry and self-sacrifice (10,12) from an idealized Middle Ages. (12) They fell heavily under the influence of Tennyson’s Arthurian poems, (12) Carlyle’s (10,12) ‘Past and Present’, and (12) Ruskin’s (10,12) ‘The Stones of Venice’. (12) They also read books by contemporary reformers such as Charles Kingsley. (10) Both Morris and Burne-Jones were influenced by the Romanticist milieu and the Anglo-Catholic movement, (11,14) and decided to (14) [OR] it was assumed that they would (11) become clergymen (11,14) in order to found a monastery where they could live a life of chastity and dedication to artistic pursuit, akin to that of the contemporary Nazarene movement. (14) Ruskin was influential in the architectural world and inspired Morris to get his degree in architecture instead of entering the church (5) [suggesting that it was Ruskin’s artistic opinions which moved him, [OR] it was the social commentaries of Ruskin which dissuaded him from entering the church. (7) Belonging to this group gave Morris an awareness of the deep divisions in contemporary society, and sparked his interest in trying to create an alternative to the dehumanising industrial systems that produced poor-quality, ‘unnatural’ objects. (10) He came under the strong influence of medievalism. (1,5) He liked medieval poetry, (3,6) and the writings of Augustus Welby Pugin. (3) Nevertheless, it was the writings of (3,11) art critic (11) John Ruskin (3,11) on the social and moral basis of architecture (particularly the chapter “On the Nature of Gothic” in The Stones of Venice) that came to Morris “with the force of a revelation. (11) In 1855 Morris came of age and inherited the first instalment of his annual income of £900. (12) He made an architectural (10) trip (5,10) to Belgium (5,11) and France with Burne-Jones (5,10) and his friend G.E. Street confirmed his appreciation of medieval art. (5) They made a walking tour of the great Gothic cathedrals of Northern France. (12) That was where he first saw the 15th-century paintings of Hans Memling and Jan and Hubert Van Eyck and the cathedrals of Amiens, Chartres, and Rouen, and they confirmed Morris in his love of medieval art. (11) As time went on Morris became increasingly critical of Anglican doctrine and the idea of entering the clergy faded. (14) Both he and Burne-Jones realised that they were more committed to art than the Church. (10,12) In summer 1854, Morris travelled to Belgium to look at Medieval paintings, and in July 1855 went with Burne-Jones and Fulford across northern France, visiting Medieval churches and cathedrals. (14) It was on this trip that he and Burne-Jones committed themselves to “a life of art”. (14) He appreciated the chivalric values of the Middle Ages and the pre-capitalist communities. (8) Already possessed by the feeling that he had been “born out of his due time,” he fell in love with mediaeval art and architecture and with the mediaeval ideals of chivalry and of the communal life. (12) He became heavily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite paintings; (9) which sought to emulate the intense details and colours of medieval art, in addition to well-made, unique crafts and poetry. (5) it was at Rossetti’s urging that William began to paint but he soon turned to crafts (3) [OR] to writing poetry (2,9) which was heavily indebted to the work of Tennyson, Keats, Browning, and, most of all, his beloved Chaucer. (12) Morris left Oxford at the end of the year, (12) graduating with a BA. (8) On graduating in 1856, Burne-Jones went to work as a painter and designer of stained-glass, (13) while Morris set out as an architect, (1,7) a change of direction that was badly received by his family, (12,13) who believed that he should have entered either commerce or the clergy. (14)


Architectural Apprenticeship with Street

Despite his creative pursuits (9) he trained as an architect, (1,7) and in 1856 (2,12) after passing his exams, (9) he began his career as an intern at the (6,8) Oxford (11) [OR] London (13) office (6,8) of the George Edmund Street. (6) [OR] of George Edmund Street, (8,9) the era’s leading Neo-Gothic (10,11) architect. (9,10) Following his passions nonetheless, Morris started an apprenticeship. (13) Burne-Jones had come under the influence of the older Dante Gabriel Rossetti, already the leader of the fledgling Pre-Raphaelite movement. (12) Morris, too made the acquaintance of Rossetti, (1,3) a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. (13) This close-knit group, established by Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais in 1948, had actually disbanded two years previously. (13) But the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic on British art would radiate across the following decades, thanks in part to the new creative triumvirate forged by the meeting of Rossetti, Morris, and Burne-Jones. (13) Rossetti did not think very highly of Morris’s work, but another youthful phenomenon, Charles Algernon Swinburne, himself an undergraduate at the time, encouraged Morris to consider having his poems published. (12) Morris soon relocated to Street’s London office, in August 1856 moving into a flat in Bloomsbury, Central London with Burne-Jones, an area perhaps chosen for its avant-garde associations. (14) Morris was fascinated by London but dismayed at its pollution and rapid expansion into neighbouring countryside, describing it as “the spreading sore”. (14) It was in Street’s that he met (9,10) the senior clerk, Philipp (9) [OR] Philip (10) Webb. (9,10) They became lifelong friends. (10) Morris showed little talent for architecture and spent most of his time (10) setting up Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, a vehicle both for his own writing (2,10) and that of other members of The Brotherhood. (10) He financed its first 12 monthly issues. (11) Many of his early poems appeared in it. (2,11) Two years later they were reprinted in his remarkable first published work, The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems. (11) Early influences on him also included Ruskin, Carlyle, (2) and the Pre-Raphaelite, (1,2) artists Edward Burne-Jones (1,3) and the painter and poet (11) Dante Gabriel (1,3) Rosetti. (2) [OR] Rossetti. (1,3) Morris was swept up in a wave of artistic creativity, in the company of artists whose work focused on nature, and the romantic chivalry of the medieval past. (13) These ideals were ones that Morris himself had championed since his childhood, and at last he found himself in company where he was free to explore them. (13)

Architecture abandoned

He grew tired of architecture, (5,8) and his apprenticeship. (8) Encouraged by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, (5,7) before the end of the year (12) Morris (5,7) left Street’s office after only eight months (10) and abandoned his architectural career. (5,7) Rossetti and his group encouraged Morris to publish his poems and become an artist. (5,7) He began painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style. (13) He threw himself into the bohemian lifestyle of the group, painting long-haired medieval women in natural landscapes similar to those found in Rossetti’s watercolors – though Morris’s paintings never received quite the same critical acclaim as those of his Pre-Raphaelite peers. (13) This was the beginning of a remarkable career spanning several disciplines – artist, author, craftsman, and social activist. (7) It was observed “how decisive he was: how accurate, without any effort or formality: what an extraordinary power of observation lay at the base of many of his casual or incidental remarks.” (11)

Oxford Union

In 1857 (12) Morris, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones returned to Oxford5 (13) and Rossetti enrolled him among the band of friends who were decorating the walls of the Oxford Union (10,11) Library. (13) [OR] ‘a roof’ (9) with scenes from Arthurian legend based on Le Morte D’Arthur (9,11) by the 15th-century English writer Sir Thomas Malory. (11) They are now largely destroyed. (12)


He eventually moved to London where he met writers and artists such as Robert Browning, Arthur Hughes and Ford Maddox Brown. (8) From 1856 to 1859 (11) Morris shared a studio with Burne-Jones (11,12) already embarked on his career as an artist (12) in London’s Red Lion Square, (11,12) for which he designed, according to Rossetti, “some intensely medieval furniture.” (11)

Gets married 1857-9

Figure 1 Jane Burden was the model for this


While working in Oxford (10,13) in October (14) 1857 (8,13) Morris had had a (5,10) chance (10) meeting (5,10) at a theatre performance (14) with (5,10) one of Rossetti’s models, (12,13) Jane Burden, (1,6) the beautiful, (11,13) enigmatic (11) working-class (12,13) daughter of a local stableman, (10,11) He was twenty-five, and she was eighteen. (12) Morris fell in love with her. (6,13) Rossetti was also smitten with her. (14) Her striking looks were to make her (10) a model of idealised beauty for members of the Pre-Raphaelite group (5,10) for the next 30 years. (10) Jane and Elizabeth Siddal were the Pre-Raphaelite ideals of beauty. (12) She posed for Morris’ only surviving easel painting, Le Belle Iseult, or Queen Guenevere, in 1858. (5,11) Morris entered into a relationship with her and they were engaged in spring 1858. (14) In the midst of an uncomfortable courtship he continued to write poetry: (12) his first book of poetry, (8) The Defence of Guenevere (8,12) appeared in 1858. (12) [OR] in March 1857. (8) It did not sell well and the reviews were lacking. (8) [OR] He started writing in 1867. (6,7) It would be eight years until he published another volume. (8) They became engaged in 1858. (8) Consciously flouting the rules of class, (10) in 1857 (6) [OR] April 26th 1858, (9) [OR] April (8) 1859 (8,10) he married (1,6) her. (1,6) They were married in a low-key ceremony held at St Michael at the North Gate church in Oxford on 26 April 1859, before honeymooning in Bruges, Belgium, and settling temporarily at 41 Great Ormond Street, London. (14) Rossetti married Lizzie Siddall. (12)

Progress of the marriage

Both Jane and Lizzie came from working-class backgrounds, and both were traumatized by the fact that they had to play Galatea to the Pygmalions6 portrayed by their aristocratic young husbands. (12) After his marriage (11) Morris and Jane moved to Upton, ten miles from central London. (8) Lizzie committed suicide in 1861 after two years of marriage to Rossetti. (12) The marriage of Jane and William (6,11) was a very difficult one (12) and proved a source of unhappiness to both. (6,11) [OR] The first few (12) [OR] 10 (9) years of their marriage were relatively (12) [OR] extremely (9) happy, and saw the birth of two daughters, Jenny and May. (12) They had two daughters from the marriage (6,8) Jane Alice (6) [OR] Jenny (11,12) born in 1861 (11) and Mary (6)[OR] May, (11,12) born in 1862. (11) One of them developed epilepsy during her teens. (9) These years saw Morris drift away from painting. (6,8) He was unable to realize the style, or develop his skills to, the level he wanted. (8) The last of his paintings is dated no later than 1862. (9)


Morris appears at this time, in the memoirs of the painter Val Prinsep, as “a short square man with spectacles and a vast mop of dark hair.” (11) He began focusing on architectural works, so he did not begin writing fantasy early on in his career. (6) He found time to produce (2) non-fiction (6) literary works. (2) His creative imagination was leading him beyond painting. (13) He was interested in how the aesthetics and ethics of the Pre-Raphaelites – a love of nature, medieval aesthetics and Gothic architecture, a hatred of mechanization – might be applied across a wide range of artforms and applied crafts. (13) At the same time, the artist yearned for a home outside the city in which he could raise a family. (13) These ambitions converged in the design of “Red House”, completed in 1860 in collaboration with the Gothic architect Philip Webb. (13)

The Red House 1859-65

Building it

He also developed close friendship with (1,5) the Neo-Gothic (1) architect Philip Webb. (1,3) whom he had originally met in Street’s office (9,10) Morris wanted to realise the idea of a craft-based artistic community that he and Burne-Jones had been talking about since they were students. (10) In 1860 (12) Morris commissioned Webb to build a house for him and his new bride (5,10) [OR] Following his marriage, he concentrated on building a house for his wife and himself. (9) This would be the famous (12) Red House (1,3) in Bexleyheath (3,11) in South London, (12) [OR] in rural (10) Kent. (1,10) (so called because it was built of red brick when the fashion was for stucco villas). (11) designed by Webb and Morris (1) [OR] by Webb for Morris (3,7) as a family home. (1,7) It was intended to be ‘medieval in spirit’ and, eventually, able to accommodate more than one family. (10) It is an architectural masterpiece, encapsulating what became known as the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. (13) Its sloping gabled roofs, painted brick fireplaces, and rambling cottage garden epitomized the new paradigm of beauty which the Pre-Raphaelites had defined in their paintings, but realized those ideals in three dimensions: this, in a nutshell, defined the Arts and Crafts philosophy. (13) He was a practising painter (2,6) between 1857 and 62. (2)

Life in the Red House

Morris and Jane moved into Red House (10) Morris lived there from 1859 (1,7) [OR] 1860 (10,13) [OR] 1861 (5,12) to 1865. (7,11) Situated close to London, Red House would become the country get-away of Morris’s artistic acquaintances for the next five years. (13) The five years spent at Red House (11,13) were the happiest of Morris’s life. (11) After the house was built, (13) unhappy with what was on offer commercially, (10) Morris and his friends (5,10) spent the next two years (10) furnishing and decorating the interior with help from members of their (5,10) wider Pre-Raphaelite (13) artistic circle. (5,10) They did it in properly mediaeval fashion, building all (12) [OR] many of (5,10) the furnishings, (10,12) Burne-Jones (13) designing stained glass windows, (10,12) while Morris created the (13) painted murals, (10,12) with help from Rossetti. (13) They wove tapestries and designed textiles. (12) Around this time, Morris began to focus his attention on the wallpaper and textile designs which made him famous, some of which still survive in the house. (13) In this way they established, through creative collaboration, many of the principles of Arts-and-Crafts interior design. (13)

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, 1861

Figure 2: Morris Wallpaper designs


The group experienced (5,10) ‘joy in collective labour’ (10) doing up the (5,10) furnishings and appointments in the (3,5) Red House and not long after its completion, (5) the idea came to them of founding an association of “fine art workmen,” (11) They decided to create their own company. (1,5) In April (11) 1861, (1,3) their pleasure induced (3,5) Morris, (1,3) and his friends (10) Edward (5) Burne-Jones, (1,5) Ford Madox Brown (5,11) Rossetti, Webb, and others (1,5) such as Charles (5) Faulkner (5,6) and P. P. (5) Marshall, (5,6) to found, (1,3) a decorative arts (1) [OR] an architecture (6) firm (1,6) called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co (1,3) It had premises in Red Lion Square. (11) Known as The Firm, (5,13) it was a group of like-minded (7) artists and craftsmen (7,8) in an art and design company that championed hand-craftsmanship and traditional techniques with a strongly medievalist aesthetic. (13) the group used their love of all things medieval to create home furnishings. (5) Everything was to be crated7 by hand, a principle that set the company (10) firmly against the mainstream focus on (7,10) what they regarded as the shoddy practises of much of the (7) industrialised ‘progress’. (7,10) For additional staff, they employed boys from the Industrial Home for Destitute Boys in Euston, central London, many of whom were trained as apprentices. (14) At first they specialised in the kind of wall paintings and embroidered hangings that had been produced for Red House. (10) They created everything from (5) stained glass (5,6) to carpets, (5,9) printed (9) fabrics (7,9) furniture (7) carvings, (6,9) interior designs, stained glass work, tapestries (6,7) metal-works, embroideries (9) and later, (5,7) In 1862 (12) produced wallpaper (5,7) designed by Morris. (12) Its designs were inspired by English gardens and hedgerows. (10) Morris’s first wallpaper designs, “Trellis,” “Daisy,” and “Fruit,” or “Pomegranate,” belong to 1862–64; he did not arrive at his mature style until 10 years later, with the “Jasmine” and “Marigold” papers. (11) To make them, he researched and revived historical printing and dyeing methods. (10) All the wallpapers were handmade, and designing them would be something Morris would continue to do throughout his career. (5) He used a woodblock technique instead of roller printing, which was contemporary at the time. (5) This insistence on establishing a ‘from scratch’ understanding of process was to become a hallmark of Morris’s career. (10) This was the first of many enormously influential wallpapers for the Company. (12) Although in its first few years the company didn’t make much money, it did win a series of commissions to decorate newly built churches, and became well known for work in stained glass. (10)

London International Exhibition, 1862

Business really took off (5,6) in 1862 when they exhibited (5,9) stained glass, furniture, and embroideries (11) at the (5,9) Great London (5) International (9,11) Exhibition (5,9) at South Kensington. (11) The firm fast became highly fashionable (7,9) and much in demand (7,9) [OR] quite popular. (5,8) Many commissions came in to decorate churches, (5,11) since new ones were being built and others were being remodelled. (5) This led to commissions to decorate the new churches then being built by G. F. Bodley, notably St. Martin’s-on-the-Hill at Scarborough. (11) The apogee of the firm’s decorative work is the magnificent series of stained-glass windows designed during the next decade by Burne-Jones for Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge, the ceiling being painted by Morris and Webb. (11) The designs for these windows came to Morris uncoloured, and it was he who chose the colours and put in the lead lines. (11) He also designed many other windows himself, for both domestic and ecclesiastical use. (11) The Firm’s medieval styles were popular, especially for the stained-glass. (5) The Firm set up offices in London, (13) and within four years the company began making huge profits. (9,13)

Personal Unhappiness 1866

Figure 3: Jane Morris painted by Rossetti


Morris’s personal fortunes now took a turn for the worst8. (13) His marriage was disintegrating. (13) Though he had lived happily with Jane and their two daughters at Red House for a time (11,13) Burden would later admit, however, that (14) she never loved Morris. (6,14) Within a few years of their marriage, in 1865, playing Guenevere this time (12) and in spite of Morris’ ‘deep and lasting friendship’ with Rossetti (9) Jane embarked upon a long (12,13) affair with Rossetti, (6,9) who often painted her. (14) It is unknown if their affair was ever sexual, although by this point other members of the group were noticing Rossetti and Janey’s closeness. (14) By the late 1860s gossip regarding their affair had spread about London, where they were regularly seen spending time together. (14) Morris’ biographer Fiona MacCarthy argued that it was likely that Morris had learned of and accepted the existence of their affair by 1870. (14) This permanently strained Morris’s relationship not only with Jane herself but also with the man who had been first one of his heroes and then one of his closest friends. (12) Once the affair between his wife and Rossetti was underway, Morris, buried himself in his work with the firm, and withdrew, in an emotional sense, into his poetry. (12) In spite of the affair the couple never separated, (6,9) because divorce was inconceivable at the time, so they lived together until his death. (9) The greater part of the Red House had been given over to the firm’s workshops. (11) Morris had always wanted the firm to be based at Red House (10) but this was an arrangement that, combined with her husband’s boisterous manners and Rossetti’s infatuation with her, (11) reduced Jane to a state of neurotic invalidism: (11,12) she was moody and frequently ill. (12) The practical restrictions of a small, rural workshop (10) (as well as the death of Burne-Jones’s young son) (10,14) and its being inconveniently far from the Firm’s headquarters in London (13,14) meant that the idea of a medieval-style craft-based community was abandoned. (10) By 1864, Morris had become increasingly tired of life at Red House, (14) and in 1865 (1,7) after a serious attack of rheumatic fever, brought on by overwork, (11) he sold the Red House (1,7) and with his family (10) relocated to Bloomsbury, in central London, (1,7) the same building to which the Firm had moved its base of operations earlier in the summer. (14)


Morris took solace in hard work and metered verse, and by the 1860s he had become one of the most famous poets in England. (13) As a poet, Morris first achieved fame and success with the romantic narrative ‘The Life and Death of Jason’ (1867) (11,12) but its themes and remoteness reflect the emotional isolation he felt amidst the wreckage of his marriage. (11,12) In August 1867 the Morrises holidayed in Southwold, Suffolk, while in the summer of 1869 Morris took his wife to Bad Ems in Rhineland-Palatinate, central Germany, where it was hoped that the local health waters would aid her ailments. (14) During this period, Morris was also working on The Earthly Paradise, (4,8) (1868–70), a series of (11,12) four (12) narrative (11) poems (11,12) [OR] an epic poem (10,12) based on classical and medieval sources. (11) It was published in 1861. (12) [OR] it was written at Kelmscott after 1871. (8) It had an anti-industrial message that established Morris as one of the foremost poets of his day. (10) Its best parts are the introductory poems on the months, in which Morris reveals his personal unhappiness. (11)


At Victoria and Albert Museum

In 1867 (6) They were asked to decorate (5,10) a green (6) dining room (5,6) [OR] the café (10) at the South Kensington Museum, (5,6) which is now known as (5) the Victoria and Albert Museum. (5,10) Morris would go on to be a long-time supporter of the Museum, even assisting in the acquisition of a few objects. (5) William Morris started writing poetry and non-fiction works. (6) He produced the exquisitely illuminated ‘A Book of Verse’, telling once more of hopeless love and dedicated to Georgina Burne-Jones, in 1870. (11) He was best known in his lifetime as a poet, achieving success with the publication of his epic poems and novels, namely (4) In 1868, too, Morris began to study Icelandic with Eirikr Magnusson, and in 1869, collaborating with Magnusson, he published his first translations from the Icelandic, The Saga of Gunnlaug Worm-tongue and The Story of Grettir the Strong. (12) He was greatly influenced by visits to Iceland with Magnússon. (4) By 1870, Morris had become a public figure in Britain, resulting in repeated press requests for photographs, which he despised. (14)

Kelmscott Manor and Iceland, 1871-8

By early summer 1871, Morris began to search for a house outside London where his children could spend time away from the city’s pollution. (14) In 1871 Morris rented [OR] Morris and (11) strangely enough, (13) Rossetti took a joint lease on an Elizabethan manor house, (11,13) and despite the friction which existed between them, became joint tenants of (12) the rural retreat of Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire. (4,7) It has been surmised that Morris reluctantly allowed Rossetti to join them at Kelmscott for his wife’s sake. (13) Morris adored the building, which was constructed circa 1570, and would spend much time in the local countryside. (14) Morris divided his time between London and Kelmscott, however when Rossetti was there he would not spend more than three days at a time at the latter. (14) 1871 Morris paid his first visit to Iceland, (11,12) with Faulkner, W.H. Evans, and Magnússon, (14) leaving his wife and Rossetti in possession. (12,13) The journal he kept of his travels contains some of his most vigorous descriptive writing. (11) 1872 brought the publication of Morris’s ‘Love is Enough’. (12) In 1873 Morris visited Northern Italy with Burne-Jones, (12) and made a second trip to Iceland. (11,12) In spite of the remarkably magnanimous gesture (13) which the shared tenancy of Kelmscott represented, (11) it was never a success. (11,13) The domestic situation created tension between the pair, (11,13) Rossetti was unhappy, and eventually suffered a mental breakdown. (14) After the final breakdown of his health, (11) and an acrimonious falling out in July 1874, when Morris dissolved ‘The Firm’. (14) Rossetti eventually left (11,13) for good (11) in 1874, (11,13) to Morris’s great relief9. (11) He tired of his family home in Queen Square, deciding to obtain a new house in London. (14) Although retaining a personal bedroom and study at Queen Square, he relocated his family to Horrington House in Turnham Green Road, West London, in January 1873. (14)

Morris & Co 1875

In 1874, Morris wanted to take sole control of the firm and had to acquire the other shareholders in the process. (9) In March (14) 1875 Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company (12,13) (which Morris, all along, had been financing) (12) was dissolved. (12,13) In 1875, he paid £1000 each in compensation to Rossetti, Brown, and Marshall, although the other partners waived their claims to financial compensation. (14) In 1875, he assumed total control of the company, (3,7) becoming sole proprietor (12) and director of the renamed and restructured (10) Morris & Co; (3,7) it subsequently traded until 1940, its longevity a testament to the success of Morris’s designs. (7,13) This accomplished, he resigned his directorship of the Devon Great Consols, selling his remaining shares in the company. (14) In 1875 Morris also began his revolutionary experiments with vegetable dyes. (11) Morris and Co. produced furniture, stained glass windows, utilitarian objects of metal and ceramics, wallpaper, textiles, jewelry, etc. (3) Burne-Jones and Webb continued to produce designs for it in future. (14) The William Morris philosophy behind this business was to propagate his idea of art and put his ideas for social reform into practice. (3) He wanted to make aesthetically satisfying and beautifully crafted things available to as many people as possible for use in all possible areas of everyday life. (3) Over the next decade he continued to design at an impressive rate, adding at least 32 printed fabrics, 23 woven fabrics and 21 wallpapers – as well as more designs for carpets and rugs, embroidery and tapestry – to the company’s range of goods. (10) Living and working in this industrial environment, he gained a personal understanding of production and the lives of the proletariat, and was disgusted by the poor living conditions of workers and the pollution caused by industry; these factors greatly influenced his political views. (14)

Sigurd the Volsung 1876

While at Kemscott, (8) although by now increasingly involved in leftist politics, (12) he spent time translating the Icelandic sagas with Magnússon. (4,8) In 1876 (6,9) [OR] 1870 (12) he wrote (6,9) [OR] translated (12) [OR] published (12) a 10,000 line poem (6,9) The Story of the Volsungs. (12) [OR] ‘The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of Niblungs’. (6,9) A sterner spirit than the tearful ‘Earthly Paradise’ informs this his principal poetic achievement. (11) It arose from his prolonged study of the sagas (medieval prose narratives) which he had read in the original Old Norse. (11) Although not as widely read as his other works, (6,9) the poem was heartily received by critics and eminent personalities including George Bernard Shaw (6,9) and T.E. Lawrence. (9) In 1877 Morris gave his first public lecture, “The Decorative Arts” (later called “The Lesser Arts”).

Wallpaper Shop 1877

All of his wallpapers were sold in (10) the shop that Morris opened at (10,14) No. 449 (14) Oxford Street in 1877 (10,14) in a fashionable space that offered a new kind of ‘all under one roof’ retail experience. (10) Morris & Co obtained new staff who were able to improve its professionalism; as a result, sales increased and its popularity grew. (14) Several of his friends and acquaintances, including his daughter May Morris, took up his mantle in the field of craft and design, while his work also resonated internationally, inspiring the development of Art Nouveau in France, as well as the North-American Arts and Crafts Movement. (13) He expanded the stylistic repertoire of floral wallpaper and fabric designs to an unprecedented degree, a mercurial inventiveness on which the commercial success of the company rested. (13) Throwing himself into the theory and practicalities of the design process, he spent many hours learning how to print woodblocks and weave tapestries. (13) By 1880, Morris & Co. had become a household name, having become very popular with Britain’s upper and middle classes. (14) The Firm was obtaining increasing numbers of commissions from aristocrats, wealthy industrialists, and provincial entrepreneurs, with Morris furnishing parts of St James’s Palace and the chapel at Eaton Hall. (14) As a result of his growing sympathy for the working-classes and poor, Morris felt personally conflicted in serving the interests of these individuals, privately describing it as “ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich”. (14) Although the company was liquidated in 1940, the British fabric and wallpaper manufacturer Sanderson & Sons purchased the design licenses, and so Morris’s designs are still sold under his name today. (13)

Kemscott House 1879

Towards the end of his career, he began to focus increasingly on his writing. (10) He and his family moved his London home to Kemscott10 (8,12) House, (11) renting an 18th-century mansion on Upper Mall (14) in Hammersmith (11,12) West London, (13,14) affectionately (13) named after their country house in Oxfordshire (11,13) in 1878 (8,12) [OR] April (14) 1879. (11,13) He retained a main home in London11. (4) He re-decorated it according to his own taste. (14)

Ancient Buildings

Morris has gone down in history as the iconic figure who changed the face of ancient buildings conservation in the United Kingdom. (9) Favouring medieval, artisanal techniques of dyeing and printing, his passion for the art of the past was also expressed through his co-founding of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which protested against the restoration of historical buildings using modern methods. (13) In 1876, Morris visited Burford Church in Oxfordshire, where he was appalled at the restoration conducted by his old mentor, G.E. Street. (14) He recognised that these programs of architectural restoration led to the destruction or major alteration of genuinely old features in order to replace them with “sham old” features, something which appalled him. (14) In 1877 (2,7) Morris co-founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (2,6) and served as its secretary. (2) He gave his first public lecture, on “The Decorative Arts.” (12) The Society campaigned against the damage caused by Victorian architectural ‘restoration’ (7,11) in the cathedrals and parish churches of Great Britain. (11) For this the environmentalists and preservationists of today owe an enormous debt to him. (12) The society remains active today, and the ideas underpinning it, (13) characterized by Morris as “anti-scrape” (13,14) are now widely accepted. (13) Kelmscott House is the current home of the William Morris Society. (7) Turning SPAB’s attention abroad, in Autumn 1879 Morris launched a campaign to protect St Mark’s Basilica in Venice from restoration, garnering a petition with 2000 signatures, among whom were Disraeli, Gladstone, and Ruskin. (14)


While at Kemscott Morris began to experiment with tapestries. (12) Apart from writing and designing, Morris was extremely fond of medieval tapestries. (9) In 1879, he finished his first tapestry solo works titled, ‘Cabbage and Vine’. (9)

Political Activism 1880-1890

This was also a time of increased social consciousness for Morris. (13) He was a social and moral critic. (2,12) His views on craftsmanship, and his opposition to modern industrial methods, had already drawn him towards progressive causes. (13) In the 1870s, (9,12) he became increasingly disillusioned with parliamentary politics as a means of ending class division. (10) His two visits to Iceland profoundly influenced him, in particular in his growing leftist opinions; he would comment that these trips made him realise that “the most grinding poverty is a trifling evil compared with the inequality of classes.” (14) He became politically active in this period. (14) From about 1875, (9) he started to take an active interest in politics. (9,12) [OR] ‘In 1874 he founded a Socialist League in Hammersmith (13) [OR] this was in 1890. (2,8) He associated with the radicalist current within British liberalism. (14) He joined the Eastern Question Association (EQA) and was appointed the group’s treasurer in November 1876. (14) EQA had been founded by campaigners associated with the centre-left Liberal Party who opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s alliance with the Ottoman Empire; the Association highlighted the Ottoman massacre of Bulgarians and feared that the alliance would lead Disraeli to join the Ottomans in going to war with the Russian Empire. (14) Morris took an active role in the EQA campaign, authoring the lyrics for the song “Wake, London Lads!” to be sung at a rally against military intervention. (14) Morris eventually became disillusioned with the EQA, describing it as being “full of wretched little personalities”. (14) He nevertheless joined, the National Liberal League, becoming their treasurer; He made a new commitment — to increasingly radical political activity — which would dominate the rest of his life, though in some ways it was only an extension of his belief that things were not as they should be. (12) He made a concerted attempt to resolve the enormous disparity between things as they were and as he believed they could and should be. (12) In the summer of 1879 (14) he became a member of (9,12) a regrouping of predominantly working-class EQA activists (14) the ‘National Liberal League’. (9,12) A year later (12) he became its treasurer. (12,14) The group remained small and politically ineffective, with (14) Morris resigning as treasurer (12,14) in late 1881, (14) [OR] two years later (12) shortly before the group’s collapse. (14)

Merton Abbey Mills

By the summer of (14) 1881 he had built up enough capital to acquire (10,11) larger premises at (11) Merton Abbey Mills, a textile factory in south London. (10,11) This allowed him to bring all the company’s workshops together in one place, and to have closer control over production. (10) Moving his workshops to the site, the premises were used for weaving, dyeing, and creating stained glass; within three years, 100 craftsmen would be employed there. (14) It produced the finest printed and woven fabrics, carpets, and tapestries, exploiting Morris’s work on vegetable dyes. (11) Working conditions at the Abbey were better than at most Victorian factories. (14) However, despite Morris’s ideals, there was little opportunity for the workers to display their own individual creativity. (14) Morris had initiated a system of profit sharing among the Firm’s upper clerks, however this did not include the majority of workers, who were instead employed on a piecework basis. (14) His ideal of a socially responsible business failed. (3) Morris was aware that, in retaining the division between employer and employed, the company failed to live up to his own egalitarian ideals, but defended this, asserting that it was impossible to run a socialist company within a competitive capitalist economy. (14)

The Marriage staggers on

Meanwhile Janey’s relationship with Rossetti had continued through a correspondence and occasional visits, although she found him extremely paranoid and was upset by his addiction to chloral. (14) She last saw him in 1881, and he died in April the following year. (14) Morris described his mixed feelings toward his deceased friend by stating that he had “some of the very greatest qualities of genius, most of them indeed; what a great man he would have been but for the arrogant misanthropy which marred his work, and killed him before his time”. (14) In August 1883, Janey would be introduced to the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, with whom she embarked on a second affair, which Morris might have been aware of. (14)

Discontent with Liberalism

Morris’ discontent with the British liberal movement grew following the election of the Liberal Party’s William Ewart Gladstone to the Premiership in 1880. (14) Morris was particularly angered that Gladstone’s government did not reverse the Disraeli regime’s occupation of the Transvaal, introduced the Coercion Bill, and oversaw the Bombardment of Alexandria. (14) Morris later related that while he had once believed that “one might further real Socialistic progress by doing what one could on the lines of ordinary middle-class Radicalism”, following Gladstone’s election he came to realise “that Radicalism is on the wrong line, so to say, and will never develop into anything more than Radicalism: in fact that it is made for and by the middle classes and will always be under the control of rich capitalists”. (14) In January 1881 Morris was involved in the establishment of the Radical Union, an amalgam of radical working-class groups which hoped to rival the Liberals, and became a member of its executive committee. (14)


In the 1880s, (6,7) having witnessed stark class inequalities across Europe, and becoming more well-versed in contemporary politics, (13) he became increasingly inclined towards socialism, (6,7) which came more and more to seem to be the only way to resolve the problems — poverty, unemployment, the death of art, the growing gap between the upper and lower Classes — which he saw as being the pervasive legacy, in Victorian society, of the ongoing Industrial Revolution.(12) In this period, British socialism was a small, fledgling and vaguely defined movement, with only a few hundred adherents. (14) His first collection of lectures, (11) Hopes and Fears for Art, appeared in 1882. (9,11) Morris played a significant role in propagating the early socialist movement in Britain. (1,2) Morris began to read voraciously on the subject of socialism, including Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, Alfred Russel Wallace’s Land Nationalisation. (14) It was during this time he read Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’,(9,12) (in a French translation, since it had not been translated into English and since his German was not very good). (12) He said that Marx’s economic analysis of capitalism gave him “agonies of confusion on the brain”. (14) It greatly influenced his ideologies (9) though he preferred the writings of William Cobbett and Sergius Stepniak, and he also read the critique of socialism produced by John Stuart Mill. (14) He made frequent street-corner speeches and went on marches, but his fame protected him against the sanctions of a disapproving establishment. (10) Increasingly, Morris began to leave matters at Merton Abbey in charge of his assistant Henry Dearle and other senior members of the firm, including his daughter, May. (10) He did however continue his interest in tapestry, and for the last five years of his life was involved with Burne-Jones and Dearle on the design of a set of panels based on the Search for the Holy Grail. (10) In 1883 Morris was made an honorary fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. (12) In November 1883 he was invited to speak at University College, Oxford, on the subject of “Democracy and Art” and there began espousing socialism; this shocked and embarrassed many members of staff, earning national press coverage. (14) His socialist activism led to him seeing far less of Burne-Jones, with whom he had strong political differences; although once a republican, Burne-Jones had become increasingly conservative, and felt that the DF were exploiting Morris for his talents and influence. (14)

SDF 1883

Britain’s first socialist party, the Democratic Federation (DF), had been founded in 1881 by Henry Hyndman, an adherent of the socio-political ideology of Marxism, with Morris joining the DF in January 1883. (14) Also in 1883 (7) [OR] 1884 (11) he joined (4,7) [OR] was made a member of (9) [OR] Henry Mayers Hyndman’s (11) Democratic Federation (7,8) (soon to be renamed (7) the Social Democratic Federation (S.D.F.)) (4,7) In May 1883, Morris was appointed to the DF’s executive, and was soon elected to the position of treasurer. (14) Does it seem odd that these two events — Morris’s acceptance of an honorary degree at Oxford, and the declaration that he was a Marxist — occurred during the same year? What, if anything does this conjunction reveal about Victorian attitudes? (12) He began tireless tours of industrial areas to spread the gospel of socialism. (11) By 1884, (9) he had embraced Marxism (4,7) fervently (8) and became a committed revolutionary socialist activist. (4,7) With other DF members, he travelled to Blackburn, Lancashire in February 1884 amid the great cotton strike, where he lectured on socialism to the strikers. (14) The following month he marched in a central London demonstration commemorating the first anniversary of Marx’s death and the thirteenth anniversary of the Paris Commune. (14) He helped author their manifesto, Socialism Made Plain, in which they demanded improved housing for workers, free compulsory education for all children, free school meals, an eight-hour working day, the abolition of national debt, nationalisation of land, banks, and railways, and the organisation of agriculture and industry under state control and co-operative principles. (14) Some of his DF comrades found it difficult to reconcile his socialist values with his position as proprietor of the Firm, although he was widely admired as a man of integrity. (14) The DF began publishing a weekly newspaper, Justice, which soon faced financial losses that Morris covered. (14) Morris also regularly contributed articles to the newspaper, in doing so befriending another contributor, George Bernard Shaw. (14) While Morris devoted much time to trying to convert his friends to the cause, of Morris’ circle of artistic comrades, only Webb and Faulkner fully embraced socialism, while Swinburne expressed his sympathy with it. (14) In 1884 the DF renamed itself the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and underwent an internal reorganisation. (14) However, the group was facing an internal schism between those (such as Hyndman), who argued for a parliamentary path toward socialism, and those (like Morris) who deemed the Houses of Parliament intrinsically corrupt and capitalist. (14) Personal issues between Morris and Hyndman were exacerbated by their attitude to British foreign policy; Morris was staunchly anti-imperialist while Hyndman expressed patriotic sentiment encouraging some foreign intervention. (14) The division between the two groups developed into open conflict, with the majority of activists sharing Morris’ position. (14) In December 1884 Morris and his supporters – most notably Ernest Belfort Bax and Edward Aveling – left the SDF; the first major schism of the British socialist movement. (14) He grew to become weary of the (9,11) autocratic Hyndman (11) Democratic Federation (9,11) and in December (7) 1884, (4,7) with the support of Friedrich Engels, Morris and eight out of the ten members of the executive of the (S.D.F.) (7) resigned. (7,8)

Socialist League 1884

He formed the Socialist League, (2,4) with its own publication, The Commonweal. (9,11) His creative energies grew manifold, influenced by socialist politics. (9) By 1884 he was actively writing on socialism (12) and lecturing on street corners in England and Scotland. (9,12) Like his undergraduate hero John Ruskin, Morris’s political views were inseparable from his aesthetics. (13) He believed that art should be produced and enjoyed by all; that the products of artistic labor should be offered back to the working classes. (13) this explains the title of ‘Art and Socialism’ written in 1884. (12) In that year he also wrote (with Hyndman) ‘A Summary of the Principles of Socialism’. (12) Bax taught Morris more about Marxism, and introduced him to Marx’s collaborator, Friedrich Engels; Engels thought Morris honest but lacking in practical skills to aid the proletariat revolution. (14) Morris remained in contact with other sectors of London’s far left community, being a regular at the socialist International Club in Shoreditch, East London, however he avoided the recently created Fabian Society, deeming it too middle-class. (14) Although a Marxist, (14) he was also influenced by anarchism. (4,7) He befriended prominent anarchist activists Stepniak and Peter Kropotkin, and came to be influenced by their anarchist views, to the extent that biographer Fiona MacCarthy described his approach as being “Marxism with visionary libertarianism”. (14) From 1887 (2) he was a public lecturer (1,2) on art, architecture (2) and socialism, (2,9) actively advocating and (9) writing extensively on it. (3,9) His writings reflect his quest for a social utopia. (3) In 1885, he authored ‘Useful Work versus Useless Toil’ and ‘Chants for Socialists’. (9,12) Also in 1885 he edited the Socialist League’s journal, Commonweal. (12) These later writings were heavily influenced by the critic John Ruskin, whose work spoke on the aesthetics of architecture. (8) Morris adopted a number of Ruskin’s philosophies towards the industrial and decorative arts. (8)

Conflict with authority

As the British socialist movement grew it faced increased opposition from the establishment, with police frequently arresting and intimidating activists. (14) Morris was passionate in denouncing the “bullying and hectoring” that he felt socialists faced from the police, and on one occasion was arrested after fighting back against a police officer; a magistrate dismissed the charges. (14) The Black Monday riots of February 1886 led to increased political repression against left-wing agitators, and in July Morris was arrested and fined for public obstruction while preaching socialism on the streets. (14) On the infamous (12) “Bloody Sunday”, November 13th, 1887, (11,12) he led a banned demonstration to London’s Trafalgar Square with the playwright George Bernard Shaw at his side. (11) The police, (11,12) supported by troops, (11) violently (12) cleared the square of demonstrators. (11,12) (11) They detained Morris, (9,12) who was deeply saddened (12) but treated with kid gloves. (11) He published a series of lectures titled, ‘Signs of Change’, in 1888. (9,12 In the same year, he wrote ‘The House of the Wolfings’—which was his first work in the ‘prose-romance’ category. (9,12) He wrote several popular books related to his cause (6,13) including ‘Art and Socialism’ and ‘A Summary of Principles of Socialism’. (6) His two finest romances, (11) ‘A Dream of John Ball’ (9,11) (1886–87), (11) [OR] 1888. (4,9) In 1889 Morris attended the Second International Conference of Socialists at Paris, and (12) in 1889 (11,12) [OR] 1890 (13) his great News From Nowhere began to appear. (11,12) It was a utopian socialist fantasy travelogue. (13) It was an idyllic vision of a socialist rural utopia, and appeared (11) serially (12) in the Socialist League’s journal, ‘Commonweal’. (9,11) He was president of the Birmingham Society of Arts and master of the Art Workers Guild. (2) He declined a position as a poetry professor at Oxford. (2) In June 1889, Morris traveled to Paris as the League’s delegate to the International Socialist Working Men’s Congress, where his international standing was recognised by being chosen as English spokesman by the Congress committee. (14) The Second International emerged from the Congress, although Morris was distraught at its chaotic and disorganised proceedings. (14) At the League’s Fourth Conference in May 1888, factional divisions became increasingly apparent between Morris’ anti-parliamentary socialists, the parliamentary socialists, and the anarchists; the Bloomsbury Branch were expelled for supporting parliamentary action. (14) Under the leadership of Charles Mowbray, the League’s anarchist wing were growing and called on the League to embrace violent action in trying to overthrow the capitalist system. (14) By autumn 1889 the anarchists had taken over the League’s executive committee and Morris was stripped of the editorship of Commonweal in favour of the anarchist Frank Kitz. (14) This alienated Morris from the League, which had also become a financial burden for him; he had been subsidising its activities with £500 a year, a very large sum of money at the time. (14) By the autumn of (14) 1890, (12,14) he broke with the Socialist League (4,7) due to differences in goals and means. (9,14) With his disciples, he founded the Hammersmith Socialist Society. (12)

Hammersmith Socialist Society 1890

In 1889, (9) [OR] in the later part of (8) 1890 (2,8) Morris’s Coach House at Kelmscott House (7) [OR] the coach house next door to Kelmscott House, (11) became the meeting place of (7) the Hammersmith Socialist (2,7) League, (7) [OR] Society, (2,7(!)) of which Morris was a founding member, (2,9) along with his disciples (9) in the Hammersmith branch of the Socialist League. (7) The Society held weekly lectures as well as open-air meetings in different parts of London. (11) Speakers such as Peter Kropotkin, (7) George Bernard Shaw (7,8) and many other socialist pioneers lectured, usually followed by a rigorous (7) debate led by Morris. (7,8)

Later writing

He published the poems and novels (8) which would become his most popular. (8,10) He wrote his ‘Utopian News from Nowhere’ (4,6) in 1890. (4,7) Infused with his socialist ideas and romantic utopianism, this book offers Morris’s vision of a simple world in which art or ‘work-pleasure’ is demanded of and enjoyed by all. (10) In 1891 he turned down the Poet Laureateship offered to him after the death of Tennyson. (10,12) He disliked its associations with the monarchy and political establishment; instead the position went to Alfred Austin. (14) (Again, given the fact that this was the highest honor which could be bestowed upon a poet — the laureate becomes, technically, a member of the Royal Household — and given the fact that a few years earlier Morris, who had not mellowed in the meantime, had been questioned in court for breaking a policeman’s helmet during the trial of some fellow Socialists, what does this tell us about Victorian attitudes concerning politics and class?) (12)

Later Years

Kelmscott Press

He had long enjoyed creating intricately illustrated volumes of stories and myths, and he decided to set up a press which would produce beautiful illustrated books inspired by medieval ecclesiastical manuscripts. (13) In 1890, (2) [OR] 1891, (4,7) shortly (8) [OR] 5 years (4,6) before his death, (4,6) he founded (2,7) the last of his many creative ventures, (13) the Kelmscott Press, (2,7) Hammersmith, (2,9) with the printer and type designer Emery Walker as typographic adviser. (11) From that point onwards until his death in 1896, he divided his time between Kelmscott Press, his design work, and his socialist activism. (13) Coming to oppose factionalism within the socialist movement, he sought to rebuild his relationship with the SDF, appearing as a guest lecturer at some of their events, and supporting SDF candidate George Lansbury when he stood in the Wandsworth by-election of February 1894. (14) In 1893 the Hammersmith Socialist Society co-founded the Joint Committee of Socialist Bodies with representatives of the SDF and Fabian Society; Morris helped draw up its “Manifesto of English Socialists”. (14) The Kelmscott Press aimed to publish limited-edition, (4,7) illuminated-style (4,9) illustrated (7,8) printed books, a cause to which he devoted his final years. (4,7) The books the Press produced – eventually, a total of (10,11) 53 titles in (11) 66 volumes, (10,11) were printed and bound in a medieval style, with Morris designing their typefaces, initial letters and borders. (10) Morris designed three type styles for his press: Golden type, modelled on that of Nicolas Jenson, the 15th-century French printer; Troy type, a gothic font on the model of the early German printers of the 15th century; and Chaucer type, a smaller variant of Troy, in which The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer was printed during the last years of Morris’s life. (11) Most of the other Kelmscott books were plain and simple, for Morris observed that 15th-century books were “always beautiful by force of the mere typography.” (11) In 1891, (6,9) he released his first work of fiction, (6) a fantasy novel (9) ‘The Story of the Glittering (6,9) Pain’ (6) [OR] Plain, published by Kelmscott Press. (9) This was a highly influential work and is counted among one of the best he ever produced. (6) In 1894 (9,12) he became reconciled with the Social Democratic Federation, (12) and wrote ‘Wood Beyond the World’. (6,9) It was a prose fantasy, (9,12) published by Kelmscott Press, (9) and is regarded as one of his finest works (9,12) till date. (9) As an author and medievalist (9) he helped to establish the modern fantasy genre (1,9) that went on to inspire contemporary fantasy authors of today12 including J.R.R.Tolkien, Kevin Crossley-Holland and J.K.Rowling. (9) The novel was reissued by Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series and is believed to be one of the few works that has gone on to inspire modern-day fantasy novels. (9)

Decline in Health

He grew increasingly ill and solitary. (8) In December 1894 he was devastated upon learning of his mother’s death; she had been 90 years old. (14) He had developed gout and started to exhibit signs of epilepsy. (8) By 1895 he was completely confined to his home at Kelmscott Manor. (8) In 1896 (4,6) he wrote the fantasy romance ‘The Well at the World’s End’. (4,7) [OR]The Well at World’s Ends’. (6) His later works include ‘Child Christopher’ and ‘Goldilind the Fair’. (9) The most famous of the Kelmscott Press’ books is (10) The Kelmscott Chaucer, (7) an illustrated edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, (10) designed by Morris himself and illustrated by Burne-Jones, (12) which was published in 1896, (10,12) a few months before Morris’s death. (7,10) One of the greatest examples of the art of the printed book, ‘Chaucer’ is the most ornate of the Kelmscott publications. (11) At the time of his death, he was preparing the final draft of ‘The Sundering Flood’. (6,9) A sea voyage to Norway in the summer of 1896 failed to revive Morris’s flagging energies: (11,14) his physical condition deteriorated and he began experiencing hallucinations. (14) Returning to Kelmscott House, he became a complete invalid, being visited by friends and family. (14) At the age of 62 (6,9) worn out by his various activities, (2,11) he died, (2,4) in London, (9) of tuberculosis (8,14) on 3rd (4,6) [OR] 4th (14) October 1896. (4,6)


He was given an elaborate funeral after his death. (8) His corpse was carried from Hammersmith to Paddington station, and then transported to Kelmscott. (8) He was buried in (2,8) the churchyard of St. George’s Church, (8) Kelmscott, (2,8) beneath a simple gravestone designed by Webb. (11)


He died a highly popular literary figure, and is regarded as one of the most influential literary figures of the 19th Century. (6) His artistic and poetic skill, along with the radical new ethos on art and society that he espoused, sent shockwaves through the worlds of art, architecture, design, poetry, and political thought. (13) Morris is now regarded as a modern and visionary thinker, though he turned away from what he called “the dull squalor of civilization” to romance, myth, and epic. (11) Following Ruskin, Morris defined beauty in art as the result of man’s pleasure in his work and asked, “Unless people care about carrying on their business without making the world hideous, how can they care about Art?” (11) He was a revolutionary force in Victorian Britain: his work as an artist, designer, craftsman, writer and socialist dramatically changed the fashions and ideologies of the era. (7)

Arts and Crafts Movement

The legacy of William Morris is as extensive as it is difficult to trace. (13) His most obvious impact was on the Arts and Crafts Movement, of which he is generally considered a founding father. (13) Morris was a man of far ranging creativity and knowledge, (7,10) an artist, (8) textile designer (2,8) and writer. (8) He was committed to the renewal of (1,3) traditional British textile (1,9) arts (1,3) and methods of production. (1,9) He wanted to link the applied and fine arts as practised by the medieval crafts guilds. (3) His designs in things like furniture and fabrics contributed to [OR] he was the founder of (3) [OR] one of the founders of (5) [OR] associated with (1,2) [OR] one of the most significant figures in (7,8) the British (3) [OR] English (8) Arts and Crafts Movement. (2,3) Morris here championed a principle of handmade production that didn’t chime with the Victorian era’s focus on industrial ‘progress’, but was consistent with his tendency to fight the consensus. (10) He (3,5) and his contemporaries (5) criticised industrial mass production (3,5) and the low quality of factory-produced wares, (3) preferring handcrafted and unique items. (5) He said “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” (10) It changed Victorian taste (2,3) but his rejection of mechanical mass production made his objects so expensive that only very well-off could afford to acquire them. (3)

Avant Gardism

The William Morris aesthetic exerted an enormous influence on “Art nouveau/Jugendstil” in Europe and even on early Modernism. (3) The early-twentieth-century heyday of the artistic avant-garde was in a very real sense preceded by the utopian collectivism of Morris’s ventures. (13) Many contemporary artists still look back to Morris as an inspirational figure. (13) Jeremy Deller and David Mabb, for example, have both commented on how Morris’s work contrasts with and compliments13 the production methods and political ethos of much twentieth-century art. (13)

Eric Gill

His ideal of collaborative, artisanal community, exemplified by ‘The Firm’ and the construction of Red House, would inspire artists across the next century. (13) Eric Gill would soon set up his own Catholic arts circle in Sussex, carrying forwards Morris’s ideals of combining beauty and function through design and decorative lettering. (13)

Tolkien and Rowling

He is also considered to have been instrumental in developing the fantasy fiction genre of the modern period. (6) He was a prolific writer and an artist whose works have influenced greats like J. R. R. Tolkien. (6) Posthumously two prose fantasies, The Water of the Wondrous Isles and The Sundering Flood, were published, (12) but he has been best known for his designs: (4,10) such as ‘Willow Bough’ and ‘Strawberry Thief’, (10) but his wallpapers and textiles are only part of the story. (10) Through developing many other products and working on interiors14 schemes, Morris also mastered many other areas of design – as well as finding time to be a social activist and celebrated author. (10) He is recognised as one of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain. (4)

Festival of Britain

Some decades later, the 1951 Festival of Britain took inspiration from Morris’s socialist beliefs, and from his sense of the role of the community in artistic production, introducing these principles to a new generation of creatives including Terence Conran and Lucienne Day. (13)


The unity of architecture and decoration embodied in Red House also had an irrevocable effect on architectural philosophy across the coming decades, fundamentally influencing the way in which buildings were conceived and designed. (13) Charles Rennie Mackintosh would expand on Morris’s ideas by devising each of his buildings as a ‘total work of art’, in which décor, furniture, and architectural elements all fitted around each other. (13) Even Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius, architects who produced sleek and refined modernist masterpieces, freely admitted the impact of Morris’s work on their early development. (13) Morris’s thoughts on the relationship between country and city, meanwhile, and how the two might be combined, can be sensed in the socially egalitarian concept of the Garden City, borne out in early-twentieth-century project such as Welwyn Garden City. (13)

William Morris Society

The William Morris Society founded in 1955 is devoted to his legacy, while multiple biographies and studies of his work have been published. (4) Many of the buildings associated with his life are open to visitors, much of his work can be found in art galleries and museums, and his designs are still in production. (4) To Morris, art included the whole man-made environment. (11) In his own time William Morris was most widely known as the author of The Earthly Paradise and for his designs for wallpapers, textiles, and carpets. (11) Since the mid-20th century Morris has been celebrated as a designer and craftsman. (11) Future generations may esteem him more as a social and moral critic, a pioneer of the society of equality. (11) [OR] his Socialist ideals were doomed to failure. (6)


4 seems to be a copy of 1 – no (1,4) allowed.

Suspicious similarity between 1 and 7



  1. https://www.biographies.net/people/en/william_morris
  2. https://www.poemhunter.com/william-morris/biography/
  3. http://www.morris-william.com/
  4. Wikipedia intro
  5. https://study.com/academy/lesson/artist-william-morris-biography-paintings.html
  6. https://www.sunsigns.org/famousbirthdays/d/profile/william-morris/
  7. https://williammorrissociety.org/about-william-morris/
  8. https://poemanalysis.com/biography-of-william-morris/
  9. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/william-morris-3212.php
  10. https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/introducing-william-morris
  11. https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Morris-British-artist-and-author
  12. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/morris/wmbio.html
  13. https://www.theartstory.org/artist-morris-william-life-and-legacy.htm
  14. Wikipedia

Appendix 1: Pygmalion and Galatea

Pygmalion was a talented Greek sculptor from Cyprus. After becoming disgusted by some local prostitutes, he lost all interest in women and avoided their company completely. Pygmalion saw women as flawed creatures and vowed never to waste any moment of his life with them. He dedicated himself to his work and soon created Galatea, a beautiful stature of a woman out of ivory. Ironically, the masterpiece of his life was this statue of a woman. Perhaps he sought to correct in marble the flaws he saw in women of flesh and blood. Whatever the case, Pygmalion worked so long and with such inspiration on the statue of Galatea, that it became more beautiful than any woman that had ever lived or been carved in stone. As he finished the statue’s features, they became exquisitely lovely, and he found himself applying the strokes of hammer and chisel with increasing affection. When his chisel finally stopped ringing, there stood before him a woman of such perfection that Pygmalion, who had professed his disdain of all females, fell deeply in love. He would bring it gifts, caress it, kiss it and talk to it every day. He brought it gifts he thought women would enjoy, such as pretty seashells, beads, songbirds, baubles and flowers. He would dress the statue in fine clothing, and put rings on her fingers, necklaces around her neck and even earrings. However, what irony that he who had scorned women should fall in love with a woman who could never love him in return!

1 Second son if we count the one who died at a few days old (8)

2with their four young children’ also stated by (7)

3 sic

4 Sic

5 An error because of the earlier error of not knowing that the Architect Street had an Oxford Office.

7 Sic -‘created’

8 Sic – ‘worse’

9 Wikipedia on Rossetti says “In 1874, Morris reorganised his decorative arts firm, cutting Rossetti out of the business, and the polite fiction that both men were in residence with Jane at Kelmscott could not be maintained.”

10 sic

11 But this is in London!

12 Whether ‘contemporary’ and ‘of today’ sit coherently together is doubtful.

13 Sic – ‘complements’

14 sic


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