- William Morris - Beyond the World [Biography]
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William Morris

"I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few or freedom for a few."

William Morris was born in Walthamstow, Essex, on 24 March, 1834. He was educated at the University of Oxford and briefly apprenticed to an architect. He was one of the founders of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1857. The magazine endured for only one year, but through it Morris became friendly with the English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1858 his Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems was published, and although it attracted almost no attention at the time, it has since become regarded as a minor classic of Victorian poetry. Except for these literary endeavours, Morris devoted most of his time to architecture and painting.

In 1861 he formed a decorating firm in partnership with Rossetti, the painter Edward Burne-Jones and other Pre-Raphaelite painters. The firm designed and manufactured decorations such as carvings, metalwork, stained glass, and carpeting. These products were noted for their fine workmanship and natural beauty, and directly inspired the Arts and Crafts movement, which sought to reinvest everyday objects with these qualities. The influence of this movement extended throughout Europe and the United States for generations, and fathered the Art Nouveau style.

In his numerous and varied writings, Morris excelled in verse translations from classic and medieval sources. Among these were The Earthly Paradise (1868-70), much in the manner of the great Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer; The Aeneid of Virgil (1875); and The Odyssey (1887), in the metrical style of the English dramatist and classical translator George Chapman. From materials gathered during two trips to Iceland, Morris wrote Three Northern Love Songs (1875) and the epic Sigurd the Volsung (1875).

Morris became increasingly active in politics but without losing interest in art and letters. In 1884 he helped to establish the Socialist League, editing and contributing to its organ the Commonweal. He described a fictitious socialist commonwealth in England in A Dream of John Ball (1888) and News from Nowhere (1891). In his political writings, he attempted to correct the dehumanising effects of the Industrial Revolution by proposing a form of society in which people could enjoy craftsmanship and simplicity of expression

He established the Kelmscott Press in 1890, and, using his own designs for the type and ornamental letters, he issued editions of the classics and of his own works, notably The Kelmscott Chaucer (1896).

William Morris died in London on 3 October, 1896.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


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