List of entries |  Feedback 
  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
William Morris

Designer, poet, entrepreneur and socialist whose high seriousness about the importance of art and whose vision of a pre-industrial utopia owe much to the influence of *Ruskin. At Oxford he made a life-long friend of *Burne-Jones, who later designed for Morris's various enterprises. The first of these, founded in 1861 and developing into Morris & Co. (which lasted until 1940), produced embroideries, wallpapers, stained glass, textiles of all kinds and furniture.

All were made to a high standard of craftsmanship and cost too much for the ordinary people whom Morris liked to think of as his market; but the strong and simple designs (notably Morris's own floral wallpapers and textiles) survived to become in the late 20C a familiar feature in many British homes. Morris's publishing venture, the *Kelmscott Press, was equally far removed from everyday pockets. The natural successor of his enterprises in these various fields was the *Arts and Crafts movement.

In 1859 he married Jane Burden, whose shock of hair, palely severe features and Cupid's bow of a mouth feature in dozens of paintings by Dante Gabriel *Rossetti; Morris's only known oil painting is also a portrait of her (Queen Guinevere Tate Gallery). The couple lived first in the Red House, at Bexleyheath in Kent, built for them in a simple medieval style by Philip Webb (1831–1915). In 1871 they settled at Kelmscott Manor, a 16C stone manor house on the Thames upstream from Oxford; Morris later borrowed the name for an 18C redbrick house on the Thames at Hammersmith, his London home from 1878, calling it Kelmscott House.

His best-known work of poetry, The Earthly Paradise (4 parts, 1868–70), links 12 medieval and 12 classical stories in a dream-like escape from the horrors of Victorian industrial society. In the 1880s Morris tried to alleviate those horrors by campaigning in the streets on behalf of socialism, even forming his own Socialist League in 1884, but *Bloody Sunday in 1887 brought disillusion with active politics. His childhood home in Walthamstow, to the northeast of London, is kept as a museum.

A  B-BL  BO-BX  C-CH  CI-CX  D  E  F  G  H  IJK  L  M  NO  P  QR  S-SL  SM-SX  T  UV  WXYZ