During the English Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris was one of the most influential Pre-Raphaelite artists, textile designers, and writers of his time. As an author and medievalist, he contributed to the development of the modern fantasy genre, which has influenced contemporary authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. ‘News from Nowhere’ and ‘The Well at the World’s End’ are two of his most well-known works. He also helped to revitalize traditional fabric arts and production methods. Morris’s name has gone down in history as the iconic figure who changed the face of ancient building conservation in the United Kingdom. He was one of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. ‘A Dream of John Ball’ and ‘The Earthly Paradise’ are two of his best-known works. He was a key figure in the birth of socialism in the United Kingdom, founding the Socialist League before leaving due to differences in goals and means. He spent much of his later life working for the Kelmscott Press, which specialized in the production of illuminated print books.
Childhood and Adolescence
William Morris was born in Waltamstow, England, on March 24, 1834, to William Morris and Emma Morris Shelton. He was his parents’ third child, but because his two older siblings had died in infancy, he was effectively the family’s eldest child.
He was a very studious child who began learning to read at a young age. He was a child prodigy by the age of four, having read most of the Waverly novels.
‘Arabian Nights’ stories and the designs in ‘Gerard’s Herbal’ had a big influence on him. His father died when he was 13 years old, leaving a large inheritance.
Morris moved with his family to Marlborough College in 1848, where he studied for three years. He never showed much interest in academics while he was here, preferring instead to focus on architecture. He was expelled from this school in the end.
He was sent to Rev. F. B. Guy for tutoring, who prepared him for Exeter College, Oxford, which he attended in 1852. Along with his friend Edward Burne-Jones, he studied theology, ecclesiastical history, medieval poetry, and art.
He was heavily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite paintings during his college years, and he also began to write poetry. Despite his creative interests, he chose to pursue a career as an architect.
Career of William
He interned as a student at the office of George Edmund Street, a leading architect, after passing his exams. Philipp Webb, the senior clerk, became a lifelong friend of his there.
During this time, he also took up art and dedicated himself to working on an art commission, which required him to decorate a roof with several other artists, depicting one of the scenes from ‘Le Morte D’Arthur.’ Following his marriage, he focused on constructing a home for himself and his wife.
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was formed in 1861 with the help of other artists. Carving, stained glass, paper-hangings, carpets, metal-work, embroideries, tapestries, and printed fabrics would be assumed by the firm.
He gradually lost interest in painting after his marriage, and the last of his paintings are dated no later than 1862. The firm’s work was displayed at the 1862 International Exhibition the same year, and the company began making huge profits just four years later.
In 1867, he was tasked with decorating the South Kensington Museum’s ‘green dining room.’ Stained glass windows, panel figures, olive branches, and a frieze were among the works.
Morris wanted to take sole control of the company in 1874, so he had to buy out the other shareholders. Around this time, he began to take an active interest in politics, and he soon joined the ‘National Liberal League.’
In 1876, he wrote one of his most famous poems, ‘The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs,’ a 10,000-line poem.
Morris was a huge fan of medieval tapestries, in addition to writing and designing. He completed his first tapestry solo work, ‘Cabbage and Vine,’ in 1879.
He published ‘Hopes and Fears of Art’ in 1882. He became a member of the Democratic Federation the following year, and his creative energies multiplied during this time, influenced by socialist politics. During this time, he read Marx’s ‘Das Kapital,’ which had a significant impact on his ideologies.
He was actively advocating for socialism, writing about it, and lecturing on street corners in England and Scotland by 1884. He published ‘Art and Socialism’ and ‘A Summary of the Principles of Socialism’ in the same year. He grew tired of the Democratic Federation and resigned, forming the ‘Socialist League’ in its place.
‘Useful Work versus Useless Toil’ and ‘Chants for Socialists’ were published in 1885. He also edited the journal of the Socialist League, ‘Commonweal,’ and was arrested in connection with a ‘free speech demonstration.’
In 1888, he published a series of lectures titled “Signs of Change.” In the same year, he published ‘The House of the Wolfings,’ his first novel in the ‘prose-romance’ genre, as well as ‘A Dream of John Ball.’
He left the Socialist League in 1889 and founded the ‘Hammersmith Socialist Society’ with his followers, followed by the ‘Kelmscott Press’ in Hammersmith two years later.
‘The Story of the Glittering Plain,’ published by Kelmscott Press in 1891, was his fantasy novel. He published ‘The Wood Beyond the World,’ a prose fantasy, in 1894, which is considered one of his best works to this day.
‘Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair,’ ‘The Sundering Flood,’ and ‘The Well at the World’s End’ are among his most recent works.
Major Projects of William
In 1876, he wrote ‘The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs,’ a 10,000-line poem. Critics and notable figures such as George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence were enthusiastic about the poem.
Despite the fact that it was never widely read, it is widely regarded as one of his greatest works, inspiring contemporary fantasy writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Kevin Crossley-Holland.
‘The Wood Beyond the World,’ published by Kelmscott Press in 1894, is considered one of the most important works of ‘fantasy literature.’ Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series reissued the novel, which is thought to be one of the few works to inspire modern-day fantasy novels.
Personal History and Legacy
He married Jane Burden on April 26, 1858, after falling in love with her. They had two daughters, one of whom was diagnosed with epilepsy in her adolescence. Morris’ friend, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had a long affair with his wife.
For the first ten years of their marriage, Jane and Morris were extremely happy together, but because divorce was unthinkable at the time, they stayed together until Morris’ death.
He died in London on October 3, 1896, at the age of 62. The ‘Art Gallery of South Australia,’ which houses a number of his furnishings and art works, is one of the galleries and museums that houses important collections of Morris’s work. Other galleries in California include ‘The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.’
In Bexleyheath’s town center, there is a monument known as the ‘Morris Fountain.’ At Loughborough University, there is also a hall of residence named after him.
Estimated Net Worth
William C Morris has a net worth of at least $77.7 million dollars as of November 14, 2019. William Morris owns over 258,008 units of Tri-Continental stock worth over $1,520,534 and has sold TY stock worth over $76,135,394 in the last 19 years.
Tennyson, a well-known textile designer, architect, poet, and writer, was offered poet laureateship after his death, but he declined.