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William Morris

William Morris (1834-1896), author

William Morris, born on March 24, 1834, in Walthamstow near London, was one of the principal founders of the British Arts and Crafts Movement and is best known as a designer of wallpaper and patterned fabrics, a writer of poetry and fiction; and an early founder of the socialist movement in Britain.

Morris's family was wealthy, and he went to Oxford (Exeter College), where he became influenced by John Ruskin and met his life-long friends and collaborators, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, and Philip Webb[?]. He also met his wife, Jane, a working-class woman who was considered by Morris and his friends as the epitome of beauty.

The artistic movement Morris and the others made famous was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They eschewed the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture and favoured a return to hand-crafting and raising craftsmen to the status of artists.

Morris left Oxford to join an architecture firm, but soon found himself drawn more and more to decorative arts. He and Webb built Red House[?] at Bexleyheath in Kent, Morris's wedding gift to Jane. It was here his design ideas began to take physical shape. The brick clocktower in Bexleyheath town centre had, in 1996, a bust of Morris added in an original niche.

In 1861, he founded the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Madox Brown, and Philip Webb. Throughout his life, he continued to work in his own firm, although the firm changed names. Its most famous incarnation was as Morris and Company. His designs are sold today under licences given to Sanderson and Sons and Liberty of London.

In 1877 he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings[?]. His preservation work resulted indirectly in the founding of the National Trust.

Morris and his daughter May were amongst Britain's first socialists, working directly with Marx and Engels to begin the socialist movement. In 1883 he joined the Social Democratic Federation[?], and in 1884 he organised the Socialist League[?]. One of his best known works, News from Nowhere, is a utopian novel describing a socialist society.

Morris and Rossetti rented a country house, Kelmscott Manor[?] near Litchglade[?], as a summer retreat, but it soon became a retreat for Rossetti and Jane Morris to have a long-lasting affair. To escape the discomfort, Morris often travelled to Iceland, where he researched Icelandic legends that later became the basis of poems and novels.

In 1890 he founded the Kelmscott Press[?] in order to improve printing and book design. He designed clear typefaces and decorative borders for them. Amongst book lovers, his edition of The Canterbury Tales is considered one of the most beautiful books ever produced.

William Morris died on October 3, 1896 and was interred in the churchyard at Kelmscott[?] village in Oxfordshire.

Literary Works

  • The Defence of Guinevere, and other Poems (1858)
  • The Life and Death of Jason (1867)
  • The Earthly Paradise (1868-70)
  • Three Northern Love Songs (1875)
  • The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Nibelungs (1876)
  • Love is Enough, or The Freeing of Pharamond (1872)
  • Translation of Virgil's Aeneid (1875)
  • Translation of Homer's Odyssey (1887)

The Morris Societies in both Britain and the US are active in preserving Morris's work and ideas.

External links

e-texts of some of William Morris's works

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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