Project Two: Biography

William Morris 1834–1896

My findings and revisions as I attempt to capture the life of William Morris in a written account. (Most recent revisions are at the bottom)
Photograph of Topsy

In researching Morris thus far, I have quickly come to realize the immensity of the task it would be to include all aspects of his extraordinary life. It has taken me much time and research to understand the amount of him that I do, and I would like to express this information in a way that makes it easy for others to learn as well. Through my writing attempts and alterations, I hope to portray the essence of Morris — which is so interesting and peculiar and served as such a great influence to his artistic pursuits. I feel somewhat ineligible, at my current state, to venture in encapsulating the brilliance of Morris’ investments, especially compared to the agents of my sources, some of whom have spent 5+ years studying Morris and traveling to the prominent venues that substantiated so much of his passion. Still, I am confident that I may be able to illustrate Topsy’s immeasurable contributions through an interpretation that aims to expose nuances of his experience and character — which are ultimately the core impulsions behind the entirety of his efforts.

Some of the sources I’m using

2/15/16 | Draft 1:

William Morris, born March 24, 1834 in Walthamstow, East London, was a ‘British gentleman’ of extraordinary talent. Through the course of his life, he has been a writer, designer, poet, typographer, artist, social activist, and environmentalist, among other pursuits. In his 62 years, Morris has written over 90 books, illuminated ancient manuscripts, recovered practices of medieval arts, opened his own printing press, founded the society for the protection of ancient buildings, established the socialist league, and produced everything from furniture to wallpaper for his personal company, all while maintaining his status as the most prominent poet of his day.

To himself, however, Morris was just a man who followed his interests — which all could be derived from his one main determination: to make the world a more beautiful place.

Growing up, Morris was a ‘delicate but studious’ child. He was raised into a wealthy, middle class family, and enjoyed exploring the family property on his pony. From visiting the countryside and spending time at local prehistoric sites, Morris quickly gained great passion for nature — admiring birds, flowers, and trees, which would later affect his interests in art.

At the age of 18, Morris entered Oxford University, planning to study theology and eventually wanting to become a high-church Anglican clergyman. It was here that he met another undergraduate, Edward Burne-Jones, who would become his life-long friend and collaborator. Both Morris and Burne-Jones came to the college with the intention of devoting their lives to the church, but soon gained a greater passion for medieval values of art and society. The two students shared an ‘attitude to life’ and became interested in the medieval history that rejected their current society’s values of Victorian industrial capitalism. Morris viewed these values as ‘corrective’ to the problems of their modern world.

With Burne-Jones, he joined a group of undergraduates from Pembroke College, who called themselves “the Brotherhood”, after the “pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” — a romanticist group of painters and poets that greatly inspired their own artistic pursuits. Together, the Brotherhood held meetings to read theology, study ecclesiastical history, recite medieval poetry, and visit ancient cathedrals, admiring the art and architecture. The group was strongly influenced by Romanticist writing and philosophy, which inspired Morris to start writing more poetry himself. He adopted one of his idols’ (John Ruskin) philosophy of “rejecting the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture in favor of a return to hand-craftsmanship”. Through his years at Oxford, Morris fell further in love with medieval art, architecture, and ideals of a communal life. On a trip to northern France with Burne-Jones, Morris was astonished by the beauty of ancient cathedrals, and the two friends decided to dedicate themselves to ‘a life of art’. Morris decided he would become an architect. During this time, he also started a magazine for social articles, poems, and short stories, called the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine.

Morris began an apprenticeship with an English Gothic revival architect, focusing on architectural drawing, under the supervision of another student, Philip Webb, who would also become one of his good friends. However, after meeting and becoming inspired by pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Morris was persuaded to quit his career in architecture and become a painter instead. Together, Morris, Burne-Jones, and Rosetti were commissioned to paint murals and decorate roofs of Union buildings in Oxford. Morris began creating illuminated manuscripts and embroidered hangings, and designed his own furniture for the flat he shared with Burne-Jones. In 1857 he met Jane Burden, who was a model for him and Rosetti. ‘Janey’ was from a poor, working class background, and to Morris, she represented the pre-Raphaelite ideal image of beauty. In 1859, they were married.

As Morris began his family, he decided he wanted to design and produce all of the items for his home. Webb helped with the architecture, and Burne-Jones, Rosetti, and Morris collaborated to make furniture, and paint murals on the walls and ceilings. They designed embroideries for each room and experimented with new means of production. Morris created his home to be “medieval in spirit”, and called it the “Red House” due to its red tiles and bricks.

During this time, Morris also founded a decorative arts company with six partners called: Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. “The Firm” were ‘practitioners of artistic crafts’ who worked on reforming attitudes of production to return to medieval methods of craftsmanship. They created furniture, architectural sculptures, metalwork, stained glass windows, murals, and more. Morris slowly abandoned his painting and instead turned to wallpaper design.

He published a few poems before his most significant one The Earthly Paradise, which established Morris’ reputation as a major poet. Soon after, he became known as a public figure in Britain and local celebrity.

Morris began traveling, and became strongly influenced by the Icelandic Independence Movement.

After a falling out with Rosetti, the firm officially disbanded and Morris took on sole control of the company, renaming it Morris & Co. He gained a greater interest in the process of textile dyeing, and worked to end the use of aniline dyes in exchange for the revival of organic ones.

He observed and became disgusted with poor living conditions and pollution from industrialism, and he decided to become politically active — associating with British liberalism. Yet, he soon turned from liberal radicalism and devoted himself to the socialist cause instead.

Morris founded the Socialist League to establish a strong socialist movement, until he felt forced to leave, having been alienated by the organization’s growing values of anarchism.

As the work of his company continued to expand, Morris’ influence on the British artistic community became more evident. He was elected to the position of ‘Master’ to the Art Workers’ Guild, and as President of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Morris refocused his attention on his original attempts, such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He kept publishing poetry and began his printing press, the Kelmscott Press, which was devoted to the production of books Morris thought to be beautiful. Before publishing his first work, Morris made sure that he had mastered the printing techniques, and that the press had supply of hand-made paper for production. Within the last decade of his life, he published 66 volumes with his press, which went on to later publish 23 of his own novels.

As his health began to decline, Morris spent his last years traveling with his daughter Jennie, once again admiring architecture of churches in France. On October 3rd, 1896, William Morris died of Tuberculosis.

First Draft Reflection

For my first draft, I wanted to just get down the important information, in effort to figure out which aspects I will need to eventually include in my account. I think it serves as a good starting point and, after re-reading, I definitely see many parts I’ve left out. This approach ends up going through Morris’ life, from the points of birth to death, in a chronological circumstance of reporting the events of his duration. This structure in itself seems quick to lose interest and leaves the reader unsatisfied in understanding the depth of each quest.

I’ve been writing my drafts on google Docs so to easily keep track of revisions and make comments on certain areas.

After reviewing my first draft, I felt as though a reader could leave with an impression of some of Morris’ work, however, would not have a genuine understanding of him as a person, which is important in realizing the true meaning of his contributions. There are many peculiarities that make Morris unique and I would like to include them going forward.

2/22/16 Draft 2:

In my second draft, I attempt to make a more interesting ‘initiation’ of Morris so that the reader can perceive his character with greater detail and understanding. I also try to more clearly depict the timeline of the story with the addition of secondary titles to distinct sections.

‘Vile pigs! Wicked fools!’ You can nearly hear Morris remonstrating, enormous and booming, fitfully pulling out the hairs one by one from his ‘great prophetic beard’. The gallant Victorian would be responding to the human degradation and capitalist indulgence that bolsters the culture of our modern world.

William Morris, born March 24, 1834 in Walthamstow, East London, was a British vanguard of tremendous passion and extraordinary talent. Through the course of his life, he has been a writer, designer, poet, typographer, artist, social activist, and environmentalist, among other pursuits. Over his 62 years, Morris has written over 90 books, illuminated ancient manuscripts, recovered practices of medieval arts, opened his own printing press, founded the society for the protection of ancient buildings, established the socialist league, and produced everything from painted furniture to stained glass windows for his personal company, all while maintaining his status as the most prominent poet of his day. The outright immensity in range of his ventures transmits a depiction almost suspicious in nature.

To himself, however, Morris was just a man in pursuit of his convictions — all of which could be derived from his inmost determination: to make the world a more beautiful place.

Morris established a bearing of peculiarity and esteem through his detachment from existent frameworks of conformity. He remained hopeful and open-minded in his attempts to see life as a comprehensive whole, and steadily constructed grand perceptions for a more noble future.

The lofty poet had a vision of society in which it would be ‘a fine and fortunate experience to live in’. He aspired to promote fulfillment and hope, and to reconstitute the destructive conventions of his modern civilization with the provision of more ‘equitable and humane social structures’.

IN THE BEGINNING

From his early days in Walthamstow, William Morris was driven by his natural love of beauty. Growing up, he was a ‘delicate but studious’ child, intrigued by ‘lovely ancient literature’ and captivated by the mystery of his Welsh lineage. He was raised into a wealthy, middle class family, and enjoyed exploring nearby property on his pony. From visiting the countryside and spending time at local prehistoric sites, Morris quickly gained a great passion for nature — admiring birds, flowers, and trees, which would later affect his interests in art.

At the age of 18, Morris entered Oxford University, planning to study theology with the intention of eventually becoming a high-church Anglican clergyman. It was here that he met Edward Burne-Jones, another undergraduate, who would come to be his lifelong friend and collaborator. Both Morris and Burne-Jones arrived at the college expecting to devote their lives to the church, but soon gained a greater passion for medieval values of art and society. The two students shared an ‘attitude to life’ and became interested in the medieval history that rejected their current society’s values of Victorian industrial capitalism. Morris viewed the archaic principles as ‘corrective’ to the problems of their modern world.

A “LIFE OF ART”

With Burne-Jones, Morris joined a group of undergraduates from Pembroke College, who called themselves “the Brotherhood”, after the “pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” — a romanticist group of painters and poets that greatly inspired their own artistic pursuits. Together, the Brotherhood held meetings to read theology, study ecclesiastical history, recite medieval poetry, and visit ancient cathedrals, admiring the variety of art and architecture. The group was strongly influenced by Romanticist writing and philosophy, which inspired Morris to start writing more poetry himself. He adopted one of his idols’ (John Ruskin) philosophy of “rejecting the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture in favor of a return to hand-craftsmanship”. Through his years at Oxford, Morris fell further in love with medieval art, architecture, and ideals of a communal life. On a trip to northern France with Burne-Jones, Morris, bewildered by the beauty of ancient cathedrals, decided to dedicate himself to ‘a life of art’. He resolved to become an architect. During this time, the burgeoning dreamer also decided to start what he would call the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, which would contain social articles, poems, and short stories.

Morris began an apprenticeship with an English Gothic revival architect, focusing on architectural drawing, under the supervision of another student, Philip Webb, with whom he would also come to be good friends. However, after meeting and becoming inspired by pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Morris was persuaded to quit his career in architecture and become a painter instead. Together, Morris, Burne-Jones, and Rosetti were commissioned to paint murals and decorate roofs of Union buildings in Oxford. Morris began creating illuminated manuscripts and embroidered hangings, and designed his own furniture for the flat he shared with Burne-Jones. In 1857 he met Jane Burden, who modeled for him and Rosetti. ‘Janey’ was from a poor, working class background, and to Morris and his friends, she represented the pre-Raphaelite ideal image of beauty. In 1859, they were married.

As Morris began his family, he decided he wanted to design and produce all of the items for his home. Webb helped with the architecture, and Burne-Jones, Rosetti, and Morris collaborated to make furniture, and paint murals on the walls and ceilings. They designed embroideries for each room and experimented with new means of production. Morris created his home to be “medieval in spirit”, and called it the “Red House” due to its exterior of red tiles and bricks.

It was around the same time that Morris founded his decorative arts company with six other partners, called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. “The Firm” were ‘practitioners of artistic crafts’ who worked on reforming attitudes of production to return to medieval methods of craftsmanship. They created furniture, architectural sculptures, metalwork, stained glass windows, murals, and more. Morris slowly abandoned his painting and instead turned to wallpaper design.

Still practicing his poetry, Morris soon became proficient in the artistry of words as well. He held a fluency that created tales of enchantment — surrealist sequences in a ‘curiously archaic tone’. He published a modest quantity of poems before his most significant one The Earthly Paradise, which established Morris’ reputation as a major poet. Soon after, he became known as a public figure in Britain and local celebrity.

EVOLVING INTERESTS AND POLITICS

Morris began traveling, and soon became strongly influenced by the Icelandic Independence Movement. After a falling out with Rosetti, the firm officially disbanded and Morris took on sole control of the company, renaming it Morris & Co. He gained a greater interest in the process of textile dyeing, and worked to end the use of aniline dyes in exchange for the revival of organic ones.

He became disgusted with what he observed of poor living conditions and pollution from industrialism, and he decided to become politically active — associating with British liberalism. Yet, he soon turned from the liberal radicalism and devoted himself to the socialist cause instead. Morris founded the Socialist League in the hopes of establishing a strong socialist movement, until he felt forced to leave, having been alienated by the organization’s growing values of anarchism.

RETURN TO THE ARTS

As the work of his company continued to expand, Morris’ influence on the British artistic community became more evident. He was elected to the position of ‘Master’ to the Art Workers’ Guild, and as President of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Morris refocused his attention on his original attempts, such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He kept publishing poetry and began his printing press, the Kelmscott Press, which was devoted to the production of books Morris thought to be beautiful. Before publishing his first work, Morris made sure that he had mastered the printing techniques, and that the press had supply of handmade paper for production. Within the last decade of his life, he published 66 volumes at Kelmscott, which went on to later publish 23 of his own novels.

As his health began to decline, Morris spent his last years traveling with his daughter Jennie, once again admiring architecture of churches in France. On October 3rd, 1896, William Morris died of Tuberculosis.

• remains a constant and abiding aspiration (concl)

  • impact

Second Draft Reflection

I am overall happy with the changes I’ve made and the more personal aspects I’ve chosen to include, especially in the opening. However, I know I maintain most of the same issues as the first draft, since I have kept much of the paper the same. Bettina, Faith, and Steven’s comments were definitely helpful in reinforcing areas in which my biography could improve. From their standpoint, I can see that my introduction is definitely stronger in attracting the reader than the rest of the writing, and I would like to incorporate this style throughout. Their responses also confirm the necessity of more information. I’ll need to go more in depth in explaining each of Morris’ pursuits. One of Steven’s comments stood out to me as a major area for improvement, of which I hadn’t yet been aware.

A quite comprehensive piece, good job Nina. However, when you told me about him, it seems negative social perception is a big part of his life, especially from his friend. Adding this will help me see a fuller Morris.

I realize that I am not really portraying Morris at all. I understand his evolution very well, from the ‘bookish’, ‘solitary’, ‘gloomy’ child to the tremendous, outraged, and misunderstood character of disheveled display, who is ridiculed by his supposed friends and utterly confounded by societal compositions. I know certain things about him such as the seaman’s jacket he wore that caused firemen on the street to salute him in confusion as a distinguished sea captain, his mass of curly hair and expressive lips (which were apparently his most prominent feature), his immature outbursts at things so little as Christmas pudding he didn’t like (which he hurled down the stairs), his apparent superhuman strength, gained during ‘fits of rage’ which allowed him to bite almost entirely through window frames, dent plaster walls with the force of his head, and lift heavy weights with his teeth. I understand the nature of his relationships — his idol Rosetti, who he revered so far as to imagine his presence in the bedroom while he lay with his wife, viewed and treated Morris almost like one of the animals in his outdoor collection, of which he examined and abused, intrigued by their gruesome savagery. His wife Janey, confessed to have never loved Morris, and left him for this very Rosetti, who would later dedicate a large portion of his life to humiliating Morris. As an artist, he was often actually ashamed of his work, feeling the quality never sufficient, and many times he wished for no one to see it at all.

I like how Steven puts it: ‘to see a fuller Morris’. As I approach my next revisions, I really want to keep this in mind. I want to portray Morris’ life through more of a ‘story’ style, and try to give the readers as great an understanding as possible of Morris himself, along with his perceptions of the world. I think this will make the biography much more engaging and provide a fuller picture of Morris’ approach to what he saw in life (and how he addressed certain awarenesses through his work).

Working towards Draft #3

On my google Doc, I’ve begun to separate my previous biography draft into further sections to make a clearer storyline and allow room for details. I’ve also started to color code information as to aspects that are most important, necessary, and personal interjections to include. For now I’ve decided on the following sections:

  • [Introduction]
  • “In the Beginning”
  • “Early Influence”
  • “A Life Of Art”
  • “Evolving Interests”
  • “Political Progression”
  • “Return to the Arts”

It still follows chronological order, but will include more reference to time period and hopefully, go more in depth with a ‘story’ approach to each section.

Third Attempt: 2/29/2016 (-3/15)

This revision will attempt to address the somewhat vague (or nonexistent) previous depictions of aspects of Morris’ life.

‘Vile pigs! Wicked fools!’ You can nearly hear Morris remonstrating, enormous and booming, fitfully pulling out the hairs one by one from his ‘great prophetic beard’. The gallant Victorian would be responding to the human degradation and capitalist indulgence that bolsters the culture of our modern world.

William Morris, born March 24, 1834 in Walthamstow, East London, was a British vanguard of tremendous passion and extraordinary talent. Through the course of his life, he has been a writer, designer, poet, typographer, artist, social activist, and environmentalist, among other pursuits. Over his 62 years, Morris has written over 90 books, illuminated ancient manuscripts, recovered practices of medieval arts, opened his own printing press, founded the society for the protection of ancient buildings, established the socialist league, and produced everything from painted furniture to stained glass windows for his personal company, all while maintaining his status as the most prominent poet of his day. The outright immensity in range of his ventures transmits a depiction almost suspicious in nature.

To himself, however, Morris was just a man in pursuit of his convictions — all of which could be derived from his inmost determination: to make the world a more beautiful place.

Morris established a bearing of peculiarity and esteem through his detachment from existent frameworks of conformity. He remained hopeful and open-minded in his attempts to see life as a comprehensive whole, and steadily constructed grand perceptions for a more noble future.

The lofty poet had a vision of society in which it would be ‘a fine and fortunate experience to live in’. He aspired to promote fulfillment and hope, and to reconstitute the destructive conventions of his modern civilization with the provision of more ‘equitable and humane social structures’.

IN THE BEGINNING

Walthamstow 1834-(thru Marlborough)

In the Epping Forest of Walthamstow, London, the summer’s light, brilliant and glistening, irradiates the forest — composing a splendor of which, in the breach of the shadows, one could witness the warble of crested skylarks and soft crinkles of foliage beneath the feet of passing critters. Perched upon his pony and vested in a very vital suit of toy armor, this is how a young William Morris saw the world. He was ‘bookish and reticent’, tending to spend his boyhood exploring every fern, flower, and creature native to the domain of his family’s estate. By the side of his Shetland, Morris would investigate the delicacies of his beloved forest and its local abandoned churches. In the winter, he read Chaucer and ancient fables by the wide set windows of his parents’ Elm House. Delicate and studious, he was exceptionally intrigued by ‘lovely ancient literature’ and captivated by the mystery of his Welsh lineage. Despite the company of his seven siblings, Morris was withdrawn — a ‘solitary’ child.

The early days of Walthamstow provided the passions that shaped Morris and his central enthusiasms as he began to embark on his personal course. Childhood admiration and an inherent love for beauty granted his sincere appreciation of nature, which would continue to manifest significance through later interests in art and proceed as the driving force behind Morris’ most every pursuance.

EARLY INFLUENCE

A ‘rough and unpolished’ youth, slender and somber eighteen year old William Morris entered Exeter College at Oxford to study theology. “His hair was dark brown and very thick, his nose straight, his eyes hazel-coloured, his mouth exceedingly delicate and beautiful”[1] On the very first day of school, Morris met Edward Burne-Jones, a fellow undergraduate who would later come to be his closest friend and lifelong collaborator.

Both Morris and Burne-Jones arrived at the college with the intention of devoting their lives to the church, aspiring to join the high clergy. But the pair soon gained a greater passion for medieval values of art and society. The two students shared an ‘attitude to life’, miserable in disappointment and disillusion with the idleness of the Oxford culture. They quickly became interested in the medieval history that rejected their current society’s values of Victorian industrial capitalism. Morris viewed the archaic principles as ‘corrective’ to the problems of their modern world, and equipped with a ‘better model’ of social organization.

With Burne-Jones, Morris joined a group of undergraduates from Pembroke College, who called themselves “the Brotherhood”, after the “pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” — a romanticist group of painters and poets that greatly inspired their own artistic pursuits. At nine o’ clock most evenings, the Brotherhood would gather for intense religious and high-minded debate. They held meetings to read theology, study ecclesiastical history, recite medieval poetry, and visit ancient cathedrals, admiring the variety of art and architecture. The group was strongly influenced by Romanticist writing and philosophy, which inspired Morris to start writing more poetry himself. Often he would read the work of one of his idols, John Ruskin, out loud to his friends in his ‘mighty singsong voice’. It was here, that Morris adopted Ruskin’s philosophy of “rejecting the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture in favor of a return to hand-craftsmanship”, which would develop as a major theme through his later work.

“He is full of enthusiasm for things holy and beautiful and true, and, what is rarest, of the most exquisite perception and judgement in them.” (Ned)

In his time at Oxford, Morris became known for his ‘boisterous mad outbursts’ — legendary fits of ferocity derived from a troubled temperament. He would often erupt, his arms ‘whirling wildly’, sometimes to self inflicted blows. Tales of his temper have accumulated, endorsing him of ‘superhuman strength’ from driving his head against the wall hard enough to dent the plaster, ‘biting practically through the woodwork of the window frame’, and lifting heavy weights with his teeth. He became ‘exuberant’ and ‘noisy’ and his passions began to emerge as he fell further in love with medieval art, architecture, and the ideals of a communal life.

On a trip to France with Burne-Jones, Morris, overcome by the beauty of ancient cathedrals, cast aside his duty to the church and decided to dedicate himself to ‘a life of art’. Having come to see architecture as the ‘basis of all arts’, he resolved to become an architect.

A “LIFE OF ART”

Morris started work as an apprentice to a Gothic revival architect, focusing on architectural drawing. He found the work to be banal and tedious, yet, enjoyed the partnership with a fellow student, Philip Webb, with whom he would also come to be good friends.

During this time Morris started the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, his first attempt at publishing, in which he would distribute his own and others’ work in the form of social articles, poems, and short stories. The apprenticeship ended after only a few months, when, having met and becoming inspired by pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Morris was persuaded to quit his career in architecture and become a painter instead.

Rosetti, one of the main contributors to early Pre-Raphaelite art, painted works of the medieval and chivalric themes that resonated with Morris’ own infatuation. Together, Morris, Burne-Jones, and Rosetti were commissioned to paint murals and decorate roofs of Union buildings in Oxford. However, as Morris himself declared, painting too proved to be a short-lived and unsuccessful career. Still devoted to old practices, Morris began creating illuminated manuscripts and embroidered hangings, and designed his own furniture for the flat he shared with Burne-Jones. He continued to concentrate on medieval themes in works of clay, stone carving, illustration, and painting.

(1857) By definition of Rosetti and Morris, the word ‘stunner’ was used to describe a ‘beautiful and covetable girl, woman, or model’. One evening at the theatre, Rosetti spotted such a stunner, beautiful and tall with dark hair. Her name was Jane Burden, and she was the daughter of a poor stable servant. Janey’s ‘darkness’, ‘slender figure’ and ‘melancholic expression’ granted her the status of the ‘ideal image of beauty’ to Morris and his preRaphaelite friends, who idolized women whose essence were ‘dark disobedient, evil, or mad’. [2] She soon became a model for the artists and Morris immediately fell for her. On the back of one of his paintings of Janey, Morris etched, “I cannot paint you but I love you”. To the disappointment of his family who criticized of ‘mixing with people of lower classes’, Morris married Janey in 1859, at a wedding which no one would attend.

As Morris began his family, he decided he wanted to design and produce all of the items for his home. Webb helped with the architecture, and Burne-Jones, Rosetti, and Morris collaborated to make furniture, and paint murals on the walls and ceilings. They designed embroideries for each room and experimented with new means of production. Morris created his home to be “medieval in spirit”, and called it the “Red House” due to its exterior of red tiles and bricks.

Weekends at Red House would entertain regular visits of friends, who joined Morris and Janey in discussions of art and medieval reenactments.

It was around the same time that Morris founded his decorative arts company with six other partners, called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. “The Firm” were ‘practitioners of artistic crafts’ who worked on reforming attitudes of production to return to medieval methods of craftsmanship. They created furniture, architectural sculptures, metalwork, stained glass windows, murals, and more, each with allusion to ‘botanical, mythic, and fairy tale themes’. [2] Aligned to Morris’ own passion, it set out to ‘restore the soul to goods’, which had been debased by processes of industrialization. Morris abandoned his painting and instead turned to wallpaper design.

Still practicing his poetry, Morris soon became proficient in the artistry of words as well. He held a fluency that created tales of enchantment — surrealist sequences in a ‘curiously archaic tone’. He published a modest quantity of poems before his most significant one The Earthly Paradise, which established Morris’ reputation as a major poet. Soon after, he became known as a public figure in Britain and local celebrity.

EVOLVING INTERESTS

Morris began traveling, and soon became strongly influenced by the Icelandic Independence Movement. After a falling out with Rosetti, the firm officially disbanded and Morris took on sole control of the company, renaming it Morris & Co. He gained a greater interest in the process of textile dyeing, and worked to end the use of aniline dyes in exchange for the revival of organic ones.

He became disgusted with what he observed of poor living conditions and pollution from industrialism, and he decided to become politically active — associating with British liberalism. Yet, he soon turned from the liberal radicalism and devoted himself to the socialist cause instead. Morris founded the Socialist League in the hopes of establishing a strong socialist movement, until he felt forced to leave, having been alienated by the organization’s growing values of anarchism.

RETURN TO THE ARTS

As the work of his company continued to expand, Morris’ influence on the British artistic community became more evident. He was elected to the position of ‘Master’ to the Art Workers’ Guild, and as President of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Morris refocused his attention on his original attempts, such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He kept publishing poetry and began his printing press, the Kelmscott Press, which was devoted to the production of books Morris thought to be beautiful.

He continued his early efforts of illuminating manuscripts and designed three typefaces, Golden, Troy, and Chaucer. His books would be embellished with illustrations by Burne-Jones, cut from wood blocks by Morris. Before publishing his first work, Morris made sure that he had mastered the printing techniques, and that the press had supply of handmade paper for production. Within the last decade of his life, he published 66 volumes at Kelmscott, which went on to later publish 23 of his own novels. The shop never made a profit but would surface as an important advocate to the renewal of private presses in Britain.

As his health began to decline, Morris spent his last years traveling with his daughter Jennie, once again admiring architecture of churches in France. On October 3rd, 1896, William Morris died of Tuberculosis.