Short Book on William Morris

One of the programmes on the BBC Radio 4 series on the history of British Socialism Present by Anne McElvoy was, naturally, on William Morris, the great British artist, writer – he translated a number of Icelandic sagas, and is regarded as one of the founder of modern genre Fantasy – and social activist and revolutionary Socialist, William Morris.

If you don’t have the time or patience for a full scale biography of Morris, but want to know a bit more about him, I can recommend Peter Stansky’s William Morris (Oxford: OUP 1983). It was published as part of OUP’s ‘Past Masters’ series of short biographies of the great figures of the past, like Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Darwin, and so on. It’s only 96 pages, including index. The chapters are as follows:

1. Youth
2. Oxford
3. Red House and the Firm
4. Poetry and Early Politics
5 The 1880s
6 Last Years

There’s also a section for further reading. The blurb for it on the back cover runs

William Morris was one of the great figures of the Victorian age; an artist and craftsman and a successful writer of romances. He was also an ardent socialist and leader of the labour movement. His concern for the place of art in society, and his analysis of that society’s discontent, place Morris as a thinker in the company of Marx and Ruskin. Peter Stansky presents, in the context of his age, and in all his engaging multiplicity, the life and personality of a man whom a contemporary perceptively described as ‘The Earthly Paradox’.

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3 Responses to “Short Book on William Morris”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Thanks Beastie just in that arena now for some suffrage embroidery… as Morris delved into the fray – embroidery craft should also be art – it played a tiny part in ‘elevating’ the working class womans way of earning money for herself.

    • Beastrabban Says:

      That’s interesting. Morris did have some very unusual views on women for his time. He’s been accused of sexism and misogyny, of course, but that was very much standard in Victorian society. According to Stansky book, Morris thought women weren’t as good at art as men, but he believed that they were better at mathematics and science. This is almost the complete opposite of the traditional view, which sees women as very much worse at maths and science than blokes.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Yes, there are contradictions, even with the artistic working partnership with his wife, in the revisiting of her work she is now being recognised as the tour de force in some of their craft which at the time was not promoted…

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