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Title: William Morris - Poet, Craftsman, Socialist
Author: Cary, Elizabeth Luther
Language: English
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[Illustration: _William Morris_]







  Published, October, 1902
  Reprinted, June, 1903; December, 1905

  The Knickerbocker Press, New York


The personal life of William Morris is already known to us through Mr.
Mackail's admirable biography as fully, probably, as we shall ever know
it. My own endeavour has been to present a picture of Morris's busy career
perhaps not less vivid for the absence of much detail, and showing only
the man and his work as they appeared to the outer public.

I have used as a basis for my narrative, the volumes by Mr. Mackail;
_William Morris, his Art, his Writings, and his Public Life_, by Aymer
Vallance; _The Books of William Morris_, by H. Buxton Forman; numerous
articles in periodicals, and Morris's own varied works.

I wish to express my indebtedness to Mr. Bulkley of 42 East 14th Street,
New York City, for permission to reproduce a number of Morris patterns in
his possession, notably a fragment of the St. James's wall-paper.

Much material for the letter-press and for the illustrations I have
obtained through the Boston Public Library. The _Froissart_ pages were
found there and most of the Kelmscott publications from which I have

volume of Mr. Morris issued by the Kelmscott Press, under the title of _A
Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press_. To
the Cockerell bibliography have been added a few notes of my own.

E. L. C.

BROOKLYN, Sept. 10, 1902.


  CHAPTER                                               PAGE

     I.--BOYHOOD                                           1

    II.--OXFORD LIFE                                      21

   III.--FROM ROSSETTI TO THE RED HOUSE                   46

    IV.--MORRIS AND COMPANY                               69

     V.--FROM THE RED HOUSE TO KELMSCOTT                  96

    VI.--POETRY                                          114

   VII.--PUBLIC LIFE AND SOCIALISM                       146

  VIII.--PUBLIC LIFE AND SOCIALISM (_Continued_)         174


     X.--THE KELMSCOTT PRESS                             219

    XI.--LATER WRITINGS                                  239

   XII.--THE END                                         255

         BIBLIOGRAPHY                                    269

         INDEX                                           291



  _William Morris_                                        _Frontispiece_
      _From Life._

  _Title-page of "The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine"_               _32_

  _Portrait of Rossetti_                                            _36_
      _By Watts._

  _Illustration by Rossetti to "The Lady of Shalott" in the
  Moxon "Tennyson." The Head of Launcelot is a Portrait of
  Morris_                                                           _42_

  _Portrait of Jane Burden (Mrs. Morris)_                           _58_
      _By Rossetti_

  _Wall-Paper and Cotton-Print Designs_                             _60_

    _"Acanthus" Wall-Paper_

    _"Pimpernel" Wall-Paper_

    _"African Marigold" Cotton-Print_

      _"These designs must not be taken as exact as to colour
      afterwards used, Mr. Morris using the colours to his
      hand and afterwards superintending the actual colouring
      in the course of manufacture, in most cases many
      experimental trials being made before the desired
      colouring was actually decided upon."_

      _Reproduced from examples obtained by courtesy of Mr.
      A. E. Bulkley._

  _The Morris designs in this book were reproduced by permission
  of Messrs. Morris & Company._

  _"The Strawberry Thief" Design for Cotton-Print_                  _66_

  _Tulip Design for Axminster Carpet_                               _70_

  _Peacock Design for Coarse Wool Hangings_                         _72_

  _Painted Wall Decoration Designed by Morris_                      _76_

  _Painted Wall Decoration Designed by Morris_                      _80_

  _Design for St. James's Palace Wall-Paper_                        _82_
      _Reproduced from sample obtained through courtesy of Mr.

  _Early Design for Morris Wall-Paper "Daisy and Columbine"_        _84_

  _Chrysanthemum Design for Wall-Paper_                             _84_

  _Anemone Pattern for Silk and Wool Curtain Material_              _88_

  _Portion of Hammersmith Carpet_                                   _90_

  _Secretary Designed by the Morris Co._                            _94_
      _In possession of Mr. Bulkley._

  _Sofa Designed by the Morris Co._                                 _94_
      _In possession of Mr. Bulkley._

  _Illustration by Burne-Jones for Projected Edition of "The
  Earthly Paradise," Cut on Wood by Morris Himself_                 _98_

  _Kelmscott Manor House. Two views_                               _100_

  _Design by Rossetti for Window Executed by Morris & Co.
  ("The Parable of the Vineyard")_                                 _110_

  _Design by Rossetti for Stained-Glass Window Executed by
  the Morris Co. ("The Parable of the Vineyard")_                  _110_

  _Morris's Bed, with Hangings Designed by Himself and
  Embroidered by his Daughter_                                     _114_

  _Kelmscott Manor House from the Orchard_                         _118_

  _Portrait of Edward Burne-Jones_                                 _120_
      _By Watts._

  _William Morris_                                                 _130_

  _Picture by Rossetti in which the Children's Faces are
  Portraits of May Morris_                                         _148_

  _Honeysuckle Design for Linen_                                   _162_

  _Washing Cloth at the Merton Abbey Works_                        _174_

  _Merton Abbey Works_                                             _174_

  _Portrait of Mrs. Morris_                                        _200_
      _By Rossetti._

  _Study of Mrs. Morris_                                           _216_
      _Made by Rossetti for picture called "The Day Dream."_

  _Kelmscott Types_                                                _220_

  _Page from Kelmscott "Chaucer." Illustration by
  Burne-Jones. Border and Initial Letter by Morris_                _222_

  _Title-page of the Kelmscott "Chaucer"_                          _224_

  _The Smaller Kelmscott Press-Mark_                               _228_

  _The Larger Kelmscott Press-Mark_                                _228_

  _Drawing by Morris of the Letter "h" for Kelmscott Type,
  with Notes and Corrections_                                      _228_

  _Specimen Page from the Kelmscott "Froissart"_                   _234_
      _Projected Edition_



There is, perhaps, no single work by William Morris that stands out as a
masterpiece in evidence of his individual genius. He was not impelled to
give peculiar expression to his own personality. His writing was seldom
emotionally autobiographic as Rossetti's always was, his painting and
designing were not the expression of a personal mood as was the case with
Burne-Jones. But no one of his special time and group gave himself more
fully or more freely for others. No one contributed more generously to the
public pleasure and enlightenment. No one tried with more persistent
effort first to create and then to satisfy a taste for the possible best
in the lives and homes of the people. He worked toward this end in so many
directions that a lesser energy than his must have been dissipated and a
weaker purpose rendered impotent. His tremendous vitality saved him from
the most humiliating of failures, the failure to make good extravagant
promise. He never lost sight of the result in the endeavour, and his
discontent with existing mediocrity was neither formless nor empty. It was
the motive power of all his labour; he was always trying to make
everything "something different from what it was," and this instinct was,
alike for strength and weakness, says his chief biographer, "of the very
essence of his nature." To tell the story of his life is to write down the
record of dreams made real, of nebulous theories brought swiftly to the
test of experiment, of the spirit of the distant past reincarnated in the
present. But, as with most natures of similar mould, the man was greater
than any part of his work, and even greater than the sum of it all. He
remains one of the not-to-be-forgotten figures of the nineteenth century,
so interesting was he, so impressive, so simple-hearted, so nearly
adequate to the great tasks he set himself, so well beloved by his
companions, so useful, despite his blunders, to society at large.

The unity that held together his manifold forms of expression was
maintained through the different periods of his life, making him a "whole
man" to a more than usual degree. From the earliest recorded incidents of
his childhood we gain an impression not unlike that made by his latest
years, and by all the interval between. The very opposite of Rossetti,
with whose "school" he has been so long and so mistakenly identified, his
nature was as single as his accomplishment was complex, and the only means
by which it is possible to get a just idea of both the former and the
latter is to regard him as a man of one preoccupation amounting to an
obsession, the reconstruction of social and industrial life according to
an ideal based upon the more poetic aspects of the Middle Ages. From first
to last the early English world, the English world of the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries, was the world to which he belonged. "Born out of his
due time," in truth, he began almost from his birth to accumulate
associations with the time to which he should have been native and whose
far off splendour lured him constantly back toward it.

The third of nine children, he was born at Walthamstow, in Essex, England,
on the 24th of March, 1834. On the Morris side he came of Welsh ancestry,
a fact accounting perhaps for the mingled gloom and romance of his
temperament. His father was a discount broker in opulent circumstances,
and his mother was descended from a family of prosperous merchants and
landed proprietors. On the maternal side a strong talent for music
existed, but in the Morris family no more artistic quality can be traced
than a devotion to general excellence, to which William Morris certainly
fell heir. For a time he was a sickly child, and used the opportunity to
advance his reading, being "already deep in the Waverley novels" when four
years old, and having gone through these and many others before he was

In 1840 the family removed to Woodford Hall, a house belonging to the
Georgian period, standing in about fifty acres of park, on the road from
London to Epping, and here Morris led an outdoor life with the result of
rapidly establishing his health, steeping mind and sense in the sights and
sounds of nature dear to him forever after, and gaining intimate
acquaintance with the romantic and mediæval surroundings by which his
whole career was to be influenced. The county of Essex was well adapted to
feed his prodigious appetite for antiquities. Its churches, in numbers of
which Norman masonry is to be found, its ancient brasses (that of the
schoolboy Thomas Heron being among many others within easy reach of
Woodford), and its tapestry-hung houses, all stimulated his inborn love of
the Middle Ages and started him fairly on that path through the thirteenth
century which he followed deviously as long as he lived. Even in his own
home, we are told, certain of the habits of mediæval England persisted,
such as the brewing of beer, the meal of cakes and ale at "high prime,"
the keeping of Twelfth Night, and other such festivals. The places he
lived in counted for much with him always, and the impressions of this
childish period remained, like all his later impressions, keen and
permanent. Toward the end of his life he printed at the Kelmscott Press
the carol _Good King Wenceslas_, which begins with a lusty freshness:

  Good King Wenceslas look'd out,
    On the feast of Stephen,
  When the snow lay round about,
    Deep and crisp and even.
  Brightly shone the moon that night,
    Though the frost was cruel,
  When a poor man came in sight
    Gath'ring winter fuel.

"The legend itself," he comments, "is a pleasing and genuine one, and the
Christmas-like quality of it, recalling the times of my boyhood, appeals
to me at least as a memory of past days."

Beside angling, shooting, and riding, he very early occupied much of his
time with visits to the old churches, a pursuit of which he was never to
weary, studying their monuments and accumulating an amount of genuine
erudition concerning them quite out of proportion to his rather moderate
accomplishment along the ordinary lines of study. At an age when Scott was
scouring his native heath in search of Border ballads and antiquities,
this almost equally precocious boy was collecting rubbings from ancient
inscriptions, and picturing to himself, as he wandered about the region of
his home on foot or on horseback, the lovely face of England as it looked
in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. In one of the earliest of the
boyish romances that appeared in the _Oxford and Cambridge Magazine_, he
imagines himself the master-mason of a church built more than six
centuries before, and which has vanished from the face of the earth with
nothing to indicate its existence save earth-covered ruins "heaving the
yellow corn into glorious waves." His description of the carving on the
bas-reliefs of the west front and on the tombs shows with what loving
intensity he has studied the most minute details of the work of the
ancient builders in whose footsteps he would have rejoiced much to tread.
How far his family sympathised with his tastes it is impossible to say,
but probably not deeply. We have few hints of the personal side of his
home-life; we know that a visit to Canterbury Cathedral with his father
was among the indelible experiences of his first decade, and that he
possessed among his toys a little suit of armour in which he rode about
the park after the manner of a Froissart knight, and that is about all we
do know until we hear of the strong disapproval of his mother and one of
his sisters for the career that finally diverted his interest from the
Church for which they had designed him.

His formal education began when he was sent at the age of nine to a
preparatory school kept by a couple of maiden ladies. There he remained
until the death of his father in 1847. In February, 1848, he went to
Marlborough College, a nomination to which his father had purchased for
him. The best that can be said for this school seems to be that it was
situated in a part of England ideally suited to a boy of archæological
tastes, and was provided with an excellent archæological and architectural
library. Here his eager mind browsed on the literature of English Gothic,
and his restless feet carried him far afield among pre-Celtic barrows,
stone circles, and Roman villas. Savernake Forest was close at hand and
he spent many of his holidays within it. It was doubtless the familiarity
with all aspects of the woods, due to his pilgrimages through Savernake
and Epping Forests and the long roving days idled away among their
shadows, that gave rise to the allusions in his books--early and late--to
woodland life. The passage through the thick wood and the coming at last
to the place where the trees thin out and the light begins to shimmer
through them is a constantly recurring figure of his verse and of his
prose. Frequently the important scene of a romance or of a long poem is
laid in a wildwood, as in the story entitled _The Wood beyond the World_,
or in _Goldilocks and Goldilocks_, the concluding poem of the volume of
_Poems by the Way_, in which the great grey boles of the trees, the
bramble bush, the "woodlawn clear," and the cherished oaks are as vivid as
the human actors in the drama. His heroes seldom fail of being deft
woodsmen, able to thread the tangle of underbrush by blind paths, and
observant of all the common sights and sounds of the woodland, rabbits
scuttling out of the grass, adders sunning themselves on stones in the
cleared spaces, wild swine running grunting toward close covert, hart and
hind bounding across the way. They know the musty savour of water dipped
from a forest brook, they know how to go straight to the yew sticks that
quarter best for bow-staves, they know the feeling of the boggy moss under
their feet, and the sound of the "iron wind" through the branches in the
depth of winter; there is no detail of wild wood life of which they are
ignorant. This intimacy with Nature in her most secluded moments, in her
shyest and most mysterious aspect, forms an element of inexpressible charm
in the lovely backgrounds against which Morris delighted to place his
visionary figures. He never tired of combining the impressions stored away
in his mind on his boyish rambles into pictures the delicate beauty of
which can hardly be overestimated.

While he was at school, his already highly developed imagination found an
outlet in constant fable-making, his tales of knights and fairies and
miraculous adventures having a considerable popularity among his comrades,
with whom, however, he himself was not especially popular, making friends
with them only in a superficial fashion. Judging from the autobiographic
fragments occasionally found in his work, he was a boy of many moods, most
of them tinged with the self-conscious melancholy of his early poetry.
Sentiment was strong with him, and a peculiar reticence or detachment of
temperament kept him independent of others during his school years, and
apparently uninfluenced by the tastes or opinions of those about him, if
we except the case of his Anglo-Catholic proclivities, which obviously
were fed by the tendencies of the school, but which, so far from diverting
him from the general scheme of his individual interests, fitted into them
and served him as another link between the present and the much preferred

Outwardly he can hardly have seemed the typical dreamer he has described
himself as being. Beautiful of feature, of sturdy build, with a shouting
voice, extraordinary muscular strength, and a gusty temper, he impressed
himself upon his comrades chiefly by his impetuosity in the energetic game
of singlestick, by the surplus vigour that led him at times to punch his
own head with all his might to "take it out of himself," and by the
vehemence and enthusiasm of his argumentative talk.

He was little of a student along the orthodox lines, and Marlborough
College was not calculated to increase his respect--never undue--for
pedagogic methods. A letter written when he was sixteen to his eldest and
favourite sister reflects quite fully his pre-occupations. It has none of
the genuine wit and literary tone of the juvenile letter written by
Stevenson to his father, presenting his claims for reimbursements. It
shows no such zest for bookish pursuits as Rossetti's letters, written at
the same age, reveal. But it is entirely free from the shallow flippancy
that frequently characterises the correspondence of a young man's second
decade--that characterised Lowell's, for example, to an almost painful
degree; nor has it a shade of the self-magnification to which any amount
of flippancy is preferable. It is straightforward and boyish, and
remarkable only as showing the thorough and intelligent method with which
its writer followed up whatever commanded his interest. Commencing with
the description of an anthem sung at Easter by the trained choir of
Blore's Chapel connected with his school, he passes on to an account of
his archæological investigations, giving after his characteristic fashion
all the small details necessary to enable his correspondent to form a
definite picture of the places he had visited. After he had made one
pilgrimage to the Druidical circle and Roman entrenchment at Avebury, he
had learned of the peculiar method of placing the stones which, from the
dislocated condition of the ruins, had not been obvious to him. Therefore
he had returned on the following day to study it out and fix the original
arrangement firmly in his imagination, and, at the time of writing the
letter, was able to explain it quite clearly, a result, derived from the
expenditure of two holidays, that was completely satisfactory to him. He
winds up with a purely boyish plea for a "good large cake" and some
biscuit in addition to a cheese that had been promised him, and for paper
and postage stamps and his silkworm eggs and a pen box to be sent him from

At school he was "always thinking about home," and when the family moved
again to Walthamstow, within a short distance of his first home, and to a
house boasting a moat and a wooded island, he was eagerly responsive to
the poetic suggestions conveyed by these romantic accessories. When at
the end of 1851 he left school to prepare under a private tutor for
Oxford, he renewed his early familiarity with Epping Forest and spent most
of his holidays among the trees that had not apparently changed since the
time of Edward the Confessor. The great age of the wood and its peculiarly
English character made a profound impression upon him, and it is easy to
imagine the fury with which he must have received the suggestion, made
forty years later by Mr. Alfred Wallace, that in place of "a hideous
assemblage of stunted mop-like pollards rising from a thicket of scrubby
bushes," North American trees should be planted and a part of the forest
made into an "almost exact copy" of North American woodland. Indeed, a
suppressed but unmistakable fury breathes from the letters written to the
_Daily Chronicle_, as late as 1895, regarding the tree-felling that was
going on ruthlessly in the forest, destroying its native character and
individual charm. These letters, curiously recalling those written half a
century before concerning boyish excursions through the same region, are
well worth quoting here, where properly they belong, as they are inspired
by the earliest of the associations and ideals cherished by Morris to the
end of his life. They are fine examples of his own native character in
argument, his humbly didactic tone early caught from Ruskin and never
relinquished, his militant irony, his willingness to fortify his position
by painstaking investigation, his moral attitude toward matters artistic,
his superb rightness of taste in the special problem under discussion.
They show also how closely his memory had held through his manifold
interests the details that had appealed to him in his boyhood. The first
letter is dated April 23rd, and addressed to the editor of the _Daily

    "SIR: I venture to ask you to allow me a few words on the subject of
    the present treatment of Epping Forest. I was born and bred in its
    neighbourhood (Walthamstow and Woodford), and when I was a boy and
    young man I knew it yard by yard from Wanstead to the Theydons, and
    from Hale End to the Fairlop Oak. In those days it had no worse foes
    than the gravel stealer and the rolling-fence maker, and was always
    interesting and often very beautiful. From what I can hear it is years
    since the greater part of it has been destroyed, and I fear, Sir, that
    in spite of your late optimistic note on the subject, what is left of
    it now runs the danger of further ruin.

    "The special character of it was derived from the fact that by far the
    greater part was a wood of hornbeams, a tree not common save in Essex
    and Herts. It was certainly the biggest hornbeam wood in these
    islands, and I suppose in the world. The said hornbeams were all
    pollards, being shrouded every four or six years, and were
    interspersed in many places with holly thickets, and the result was a
    very curious and characteristic wood, such as can be seen nowhere
    else. And I submit that no treatment of it can be tolerable which does
    not maintain this hornbeam wood intact.

    "But the hornbeam, though an interesting tree to an artist and
    reasonable person, is no favourite with the landscape gardener, and I
    very much fear that the intention of the authorities is to clear the
    forest of native trees, and to plant vile weeds like deodars and
    outlandish conifers instead. We are told that a committee of 'experts'
    has been formed to sit in judgment on Epping Forest; but, Sir, I
    decline to be gagged by the word 'expert,' and I call on the public
    generally to take the same position. An 'expert' may be a very
    dangerous person, because he is likely to narrow his views to the
    particular business (usually a commercial one) which he represents. In
    this case, for instance, we do not want to be under the thumb of
    either a wood bailiff whose business is to grow timber for the market,
    or of a botanist whose business is to collect specimens for a
    botanical garden; or of a landscape gardener whose business is to
    vulgarise a garden or landscape to the utmost extent that his patron's
    purse will allow of. What we want is reasonable men of real artistic
    taste to take into consideration what the essential needs of the case
    are, and to advise accordingly. Now it seems to me that the
    authorities who have Epping Forest in hand may have two intentions as
    to it. First, they may intend to landscape-garden it, or turn it into
    golf grounds (and I very much fear that even the latter nuisance may
    be in their minds); or second, they may really think it necessary (as
    you suggest) to thin the hornbeams, so as to give them a better chance
    of growing. The first alternative we Londoners should protest against
    to the utmost, for if it be carried out then Epping Forest is turned
    into a mere place of vulgarity, is destroyed in fact.

    "As to the second, to put our minds at rest, we ought to be assured
    that the cleared spaces would be planted again, and that almost wholly
    with hornbeam. And, further, the greatest possible care should be
    taken that not a single tree should be felled unless it is necessary
    for the growth of its fellows. Because, mind you, with comparatively
    small trees, the really beautiful effect of them can only be got by
    their standing as close together as the emergencies of growth will
    allow. We want a thicket, not a park, from Epping Forest.

    "In short, a great and practically irreparable mistake will be made
    if, under the shelter of the opinion of 'experts,' from mere
    carelessness and thoughtlessness, we let the matter slip out of the
    hands of the thoughtful part of the public; the essential character of
    one of the greatest ornaments of London will disappear, and no one
    will have even a sample left to show what the great north-eastern
    forest was like. I am, Sir, yours obediently,


    "Kelmscott House, Hammersmith."

The second letter is written two or three weeks later, and shows Morris as
characteristically prompt and thorough in action as he is positive in

    "Yesterday," he says, "I carried out my intention of visiting Epping
    Forest. I went to Loughton first, and saw the work that had been done
    about Clay Road, thence to Monk Wood, thence to Theydon Woods, and
    thence to the part about the Chingford Hotel, passing by Fair Mead
    Bottom and lastly to Bury Wood and the wood on the other side of the
    road thereby.

    "I can verify closely your representative's account of the doings on
    the Clay Road, which is an ugly scar originally made by the lord of
    the manor when he contemplated handing over to the builder a part of
    what he thought was his property. The fellings here seem to me all
    pure damage to the forest, and in fact were quite unaccountable to me,
    and would surely be so to any unprejudiced person. I cannot see what
    could be pleaded for them either on the side of utility or taste.

    "About Monk Wood there had been much, and I should say excessive,
    felling of trees apparently quite sound. This is a very beautiful
    spot, and I was informed that the trees there had not been polled for
    a period long before the acquisition of the forest for the public; and
    nothing could be more interesting and romantic than the effect of the
    long poles of the hornbeams rising from the trunks and seen against
    the mass of the wood behind. This wood should be guarded most
    jealously as a treasure of beauty so near to 'the Wen.' In the Theydon
    Woods, which are mainly of beech, a great deal of felling has gone on,
    to my mind quite unnecessary, and therefore harmful. On the road
    between the Wake Arms and the King's Oak Hotel there has been again
    much felling, obviously destructive.

    "In Bury Wood (by Sewardstone Green) we saw the trunks of a great
    number of oak trees (not pollards), all of them sound, and a great
    number were yet standing in the wood marked for felling, which,
    however, we heard had been saved by a majority of the committee of
    experts. I can only say that it would have been a very great
    misfortune if they had been lost; in almost every case where the
    stumps of the felled trees showed there seemed to have been no reason
    for their destruction. The wood on the other side of the road to Bury
    Wood, called in the map Woodman's Glade, has not suffered from
    felling, and stands as an object lesson to show how unnecessary such
    felling is. It is one of the thickest parts of the forest, and looks
    in all respects like such woods were forty years ago, the growth of
    the heads of the hornbeams being but slow; but there is no difficulty
    in getting through it in all directions, and it has a peculiar charm
    of its own not to be found in any other forest; in short, it is
    thoroughly _characteristic_. I should mention that the whole of these
    woods are composed of pollard hornbeams and 'spear'--_i.e._,

    "I am compelled to say from what I saw in a long day's inspection,
    that, though no doubt acting with the best intentions, the management
    of the forest is going on the wrong tack; it is making war on the
    natural aspect of the forest, which the Act of Parliament that
    conferred it on the nation expressly stipulated was to be retained.
    The tendency of all these fellings is on the one hand to turn over
    London forest into a park, which would be more or less like other
    parks, and on the other hand to grow sizable trees, as if for the
    timber market. I must beg to be allowed a short quotation here from an
    excellent little guidebook to the forest by Mr. Edward North Buxton,
    verderer of the forest (Sanford, 1885). He says, p. 38: 'In the drier
    parts of the forest beeches to a great extent take the place of oaks.
    These "spear" trees will make fine timber for future generations,
    provided they receive timely attention by being _relieved of the
    competing growth of the unpicturesque hornbeam pollards_. Throughout
    the wood between Chingford and High Beech, _this has been recently
    done_, to the great advantage of the finer trees.'

    "The italics are mine, and I ask, Sir, if we want any further evidence
    than this of one of the verderers as to the tendency of the fellings.
    Mr. Buxton declares in so many words that he wants to change the
    special character of the forest; to take away this strange,
    unexampled, and most romantic wood, and leave us nothing but a
    commonplace instead. I entirely deny his right to do so in the teeth
    of the Act of Parliament. I assert, as I did in my former letter, that
    the hornbeams are the most important trees in the forest, since they
    give it its special character. At the same time I would not encourage
    the hornbeams at the expense of the beeches, any more than I would the
    beeches at the expense of the hornbeams. I would leave them all to
    nature, which is not so niggard after all, even on Epping Forest
    gravel, as _e. g._, one can see in places where forest fires have
    denuded spaces, and where in a short time birches spring up self-sown.

    "The committee of the Common Council has now had Epping Forest in hand
    for seventeen years, and has, I am told, in that time felled 100,000
    trees. I think the public may now fairly ask for a rest on behalf of
    the woods, which, if the present system of felling goes on, will be
    ruined as a natural forest; and it is good and useful to make the
    claim at once, when, in spite of all disfigurements, the northern part
    of the forest, from Sewardstone Green to beyond Epping, is still left
    to us, not to be surpassed in interest by any other wood near a great
    capital. I am, Sir, yours obediently,


These letters emphasise in a single instance what the close student of
Morris will find emphasised at every turn in his career,--the persistent
and strong influence over him of the tastes and occupations of his
boyhood. Unless this is kept constantly in mind, it is easy to fall into
the common error of regarding the various activities into which he threw
himself as separate and dissociated instead of seeing them as they were,
component parts of a perfectly simple purpose and unalterable ideal. With
most men who are on the whole true to the analogy of the chambered
nautilus and cast off the outworn shell of their successive phases of
individuality as the seasons roll, the effect of early environment and
tendency may easily be exaggerated, but Morris grew in the fashion of his
beloved oaks, keeping the rings by which his advance in experience was
marked; at the end all were visible. His education began and continued
largely outside the domain of books and away from masters. His wanderings
in the depths of the quaint and beautiful forest, his intimate
acquaintance with the nature of Gothic architecture, his familiarity with
Scott, his prompt adoption of Ruskin, all these formed the foundation on
which he was to build his own theory of life, and all were his before he
went up to Oxford. They prepared him for the many-sided profession, if
profession it can be called, which was to absorb and at last to exhaust
his mighty energy. It was the tangible surface of the world that most
inspired him in boyhood and in maturity. Loving so much even as a child
its aspects, its lights and shadows, the forms of trees and birds and
beasts, the changes of season, the lives of men living close to "the kind
soil" and in touch with it through hearty manual labour, it was but a step
to the occupations that finally engrossed him. He never got so far away
from the visions of his youth as to forget them. In one form or another he
was constantly trying to embody them that others might see them with his
eyes and worship them with his devotion. "The spirit of the new days, of
our days," says the old man in _News from Nowhere_, "was to be delight in
the life of the world, intense and almost overweening love of the very
skin and surface of the earth on which man dwells."



Like the majority of the students who went up to Oxford in the fifties,
Morris matriculated with the definite intention of taking holy orders.
Unlike the majority, he was impelled not only by the sensuous beauty of
ritualistic worship, to which, however, no one could have been more keenly
alive than he, but by a genuine enthusiasm for a life devoted to high
purposes. A fine buoyant desire to better existing conditions and sweep as
much evil as possible off the face of the earth early inspired him. His
mind turned toward the conventual life as that which combined the mediæval
suggestions always alluring to him with the moral beauty of holiness. He
planned a "Crusade and Holy Warfare against the Age," sang plain song at
daily morning service, read masses of mediæval chronicles and
ecclesiastical Latin poetry, and hovered just this side of the Roman
Communion. Had the ecclesiology of the University been supported at that
time by an inward and spiritual grace sufficient to hold the heart of
youth to a sustained allegiance, there is little doubt that Morris would
have thrown himself ardently into the religious path. But Oxford had
become an indolent and indifferent mother to her children. The storm of
feeling aroused by the Tractarian movement had died down and the reaction
from it was evident. At Balliol Jowett's energy had made its mark, but at
Exeter, where Morris was, the educational system deserved (and received)
the contempt of an ambitious boy with an unusually large supply of
stored-up intellectual force seeking outlet and guidance. Nor was the
social life more stimulating to moral activity. The abuses recorded in
1852 by the University Commission were in essence so shameful that in the
light of that famous report "the sweet city with her dreaming spires"
seems to have only the beauty of the daughter of Helios, under whose
enchantments men were turned to swine for loving her. The clean mind and
honest nature of Morris revolted from the excesses that went on about him.
He wrote to his mother two years after his matriculation, defending the
proposition that his Oxford education had not been thrown away: "If by
living here and seeing evil and sin in its foulest and coarsest forms, as
one does day by day, I have learned to hate any form of sin and to wish to
fight against it, is not this well too?" It is proof of his purity of
taste and strength of will that, despite his ample means, the wanton
extravagance of the typical undergraduate had for him no allurement. It is
certain that he was never seen at those dinners which were pronounced by
an official censor "a curse and a disgrace to a place of Christian
education," and as certainly he played no part in the mad carnivals at
which novices were initiated into a curriculum of vice. Yet he could not
indeed say with any truth what Gibbon had said a hundred years before,
that the time he spent at Oxford was the most idle and unprofitable of his
whole life. If he felt, as Gibbon did, that his formal studies were
"equally devoid of profit and pleasure," and if he found nothing
ridiculous in Ruskin's bitter complaint that Oxford taught him all the
Latin and Greek that he would learn, but did not teach him that
fritillaries grew in Iffley meadow, he did find a little band of helpful
associates. With these he realised the priceless advantages which Mr.
Bagehot says cannot be got outside a college and which he sums up as found
"in the books that all read because all like; in what all talk of because
all are interested; in the argumentative walk or disputatious lounge; in
the impact of fresh thought on fresh thought, of hot thought on hot
thought; in mirth and refutation, in ridicule and laughter." The first of
the few strong personal attachments in the life of Morris dates from his
first day at Oxford. At the end of January, 1853, he went up for his
matriculation, and beside him at the examination in the Hall sat
Burne-Jones, who within a week of their formal entrance to the college
became his intimate. The friendship thus spontaneously formed on the verge
of manhood lasted until Morris died. In their studies, in their truant
reading, in their later aims and work, the two, diametrically as they
differed in aspect and in temperament and in quality of mind, were
sympathetic and dear companions. Together they joined a group of other
happily gifted men--Fulford, Faulkner, Dixon, Cormell Price, and
Macdonald--who met in one another's rooms for the disputatious lounge over
the exuberant ideals by which they were in common inspired. Tennyson,
Keats, and Shelley, Shakespeare, Ruskin, Carlyle, Kingsley, Thackeray,
Dickens, and Miss Yonge were the gods and half gods of their young and
passionate enthusiasm. The last, curiously enough, was an influence as
potent as any. The hero of her novel of 1853, _The Heir of Redclyffe_, was
the pattern chosen by Morris, according to Mr. Mackail's account, to build
himself upon. Singular as it seems to-day that any marked impression
should have been made upon an even fairly well-trained mind by a writer of
such slight literary quality, it is true that the author of _The Daisy
Chain_ counted among her devoted readers men of brilliant and dominant
intellectual power. She had the lucky touch to kindle in young minds that
fire of sympathy with which they greet whatever shows them their own
world, their age, themselves as they best like to see them. To Morris in
particular the young heir of Redclyffe made the appeal of a congenial
temperament in a position similar to his own. Like Morris, he was
headstrong and passionate, given to excessive bursts of rage and to
repentances not less excessive; like Morris, he united to his natural
pride an unnatural and slightly obtrusive humility; like Morris, he was
rich and beautiful, generous and lovable. It was no great wonder that
Morris, poring with his characteristic absorption over the pleasant pages
on which Guy Morville's chivalrous life is portrayed, said as Dromio to
Dromio, "Methinks you are my glass and not my brother; I see by you I am a
sweet-faced youth."

Mr. Mackail notes with an accent of surprise that Kingsley was much more
widely read than Newman, thinking the choice a curious one in the case of
passionate Anglo-Catholics. So far as Morris was concerned, however, there
was little enough to relish in Newman's subtle theology and relentless
logic. The man to whom religion as a mere sentiment was "a dream and a
mockery" could hardly appeal to one to whom all life was a sentiment.
Kingsley, on the other hand, although he was anti-Catholic in temper, and
disposed to overthrow the illusions by which such romanticists as Scott,
such dreamers as Fouqué, had surrounded the Middle Ages, picturing their
coarse and barbarous side with harsh realism, was happy in rendering the
charms of outdoor life and bold adventure, and the songs of the Crusaders
in his _Saint's Tragedy_ must have gone farther toward winning Morris than
pages of Newman's reasoning devotion.

Gradually the monastic ideal faded before the brightness of art and
literature and the life of the world as these became more and more
impressed upon Morris's consciousness. To live in the spirit and in the
region of purely intellectual interests could not have been his choice
after the passing of the first fanatic impulse of youth to dedicate itself
to what is difficult, ignorant of the joy of choosing. Many influences
united to determine the precise form into which he should shape the future
that for all practical purposes was under his control. His interest in
pictorial art was stimulated by Burne-Jones, who was already making
fantastic little drawings, and studies of flowers and foliage. Of great
art he knew nothing until he spent the Long Vacation of 1854 in travelling
through Belgium and Northern France, where he saw Van Eyck and Memling,
who at once became to him, as they were to Rossetti, masters of
incontestable supremacy. On this trip he saw also the beautiful churches
of Amiens, Beauvais, and Chartres, which in his unbridled expansiveness of
phrase he called "the grandest, the most beautiful, the kindest, and most
loving of all the buildings that the earth has ever borne." The following
year he repeated the experience, with Burne-Jones and Fulford for
companions. This time the journey was to have been made on foot from
motives of economy, as Burne-Jones was poor and Morris embraced the habits
of poverty when in his company with unaffected delicacy of feeling. At
Amiens, however, Morris went lame, and, "after filling the streets with
imprecations on all boot-makers," bought a pair of gay carpet slippers in
which to continue the trip. These proved not to serve the purpose, and the
travellers were obliged to reach Chartres by the usual methods of
conveyance, Morris arguing with fury and futility in favour of skirting
Paris, "even by two days' journey, so as not to see the streets of it."
They had with them one book, _Keats_, and their minds were filled with the
poetic ideas of art as the expression of man's pleasure in his toil, and
of beauty as the natural and necessary accompaniment of productive labour,
which Ruskin had been preaching in _The Stones of Venice_ and in the
Edinburgh lectures. By this time they had become acquainted with the work
of the Pre-Raphaelites, and Burne-Jones had announced that of all men who
lived on earth the one he wanted to see was Rossetti. Morris had used his
spare time, of which we may imagine he had a considerable amount, in the
study of mediæval design as the splendid manuscripts in the Bodleian
Library illustrate it. An architectural newspaper also formed part of his
regular reading outside of his studies. Thus primed for definite action,
on this holiday filled with stimulating interests and the delicious
freedom of roaming quite at will with the best of companions through the
sweet fertile country of Northern France, Morris put quite aside all aims
that had not directly to do with art. He and Burne-Jones, walking late one
night on the quays of Havre, discussed their plans. Both gave up once and
for all the idea of taking orders; both decided to leave Oxford as
quickly as they could; both were to be artists, Burne-Jones a painter and
Morris an architect.

Although Morris was never to become a practising architect, this choice of
a profession at the beginning of his career is both characteristic and
significant. Buildings, as we have seen, had interested him from his
childhood. His favourite excursions, long and short, had been to the
region of churches. In the art of building he saw the means of elevating
all the tastes of man. Architecture meant to him "the art of creating a
building with all the appliances fit for carrying on a dignified and happy
life." It seemed to him even at the outset, before the word "socialism"
had come into his vocabulary, incredible that people living in pleasant
homes and engaged in making and using these appliances of which he speaks,
should lead lives other than dignified and happy. It was much more in
accordance with his ideal of a vocation, a ministry to man, that he should
contribute to the daily material comfort and pleasure of the world, that
he should make places good for the body to live in and fair for the eye to
rest upon, and therefore soothing to the soul, than that he should
construct abstract spiritual mansions of which he could at best form but a
vague conception. It was, then, with a certain sense of dedication, an
exchange of method without a change of spirit, that he gave up the thought
of holy orders and turned to the thought of furthering the good of
mankind by working toward the beauty and order of the visible world.

From the point of view of his later interests as a decorator of houses, he
was showing the utmost wisdom in beginning with the framework, which must
exist before any decoration can be applied. "I have spoken of the popular
arts," he says himself, in one of his lectures, "but they might all be
summed up in that one word Architecture; they are all parts of that great
whole, and the art of house-building begins it all. If we did not know how
to dye or to weave; if we had neither gold nor silver nor silk, and no
pigments to paint with but half a dozen ochres and umbers, we might yet
frame a worthy art that would lead to everything, if we had but timber,
stone and lime, and a few cutting tools to make these common things not
only shelter us from wind and weather but also express the thoughts and
aspirations that stir in us. Architecture would lead us to all the arts,
as it did with the earlier men; but if we despise it and take no note of
how we are housed, the other arts will have a hard time of it indeed."

And again: "A true architectural work," he says, "is a building duly
provided with all the necessary furniture, decorated with all due
ornament, according to the use, quality, and dignity of the building, from
mere mouldings or abstract lines to the great epical works of sculpture
and painting, which except as decorations of the nobler form of such
buildings cannot be produced at all. So looked upon, a work of
architecture is a harmonious, co-operative work of art, inclusive of all
the serious arts--those which are not engaged in the production of mere
toys or ephemeral prettinesses."

Morris communicated his momentous decision to his family as soon as it was
made, and they received it with amazement and distress. While their origin
was not especially aristocratic, their tastes ran toward the symbols of
aristocracy. When Morris was nine years old, his father obtained a grant
of arms from the Heralds' College, and the son had no small liking for the
bearings assigned--bearings which included a horse's head erased argent
between three horseshoes. The horse's head he introduced on the tiles and
glass of the house he built for himself in later years, and he was in the
habit of making a yearly pilgrimage to the famous White Horse of the
Berkshire Downs, connecting it in some obscure way with his ancestry. In
England, during the fifties, nothing was less calculated to appeal to an
aristocratic tendency than any form of art considered as a profession. In
_The Newcomes_ Mr. Honeyman remarks with bland dignity to his aspiring
young relative; "My dear Clive, there are degrees in society which we must
respect. You surely cannot think of being a professional artist." In much
this spirit, apparently, Mrs. Morris received her son's announcement,
conveyed in a long and affectionate letter stating in detail the motives
that had led him to his resolution. After defending his chosen profession
at some length, calling it with characteristic avoidance of pompous
phraseology, "a useful trade," he dwells upon the moderation of his hopes
and expectations. He does not hope "to be great at all in anything," but
thinks he may look forward to reasonable happiness in his work. It will be
grievous to his pride and self-will, he says, to have to do just as he is
told for three long years, but "good for it, too," and he looks forward
with little delight to the drudgery of learning a new trade, but is pretty
confident of success, and is happy in being able to pay "the premium and
all that" without laying any fresh burden of expense upon his mother.
Finally he proposes taking as his master George Edmund Street, who was
living in Oxford as architect of the diocese, and whose enthusiasm for the
thirteenth century could hardly have failed to claim the sympathy of
Morris. Certainly it seemed precisely the fitting opportunity that
offered. There could have been no better moment for him to follow the
advice he so frequently gave to others--to turn his back upon an ugly age,
choose the epoch that suited him best, and identify himself with that.
Gothic to the core, he had come to Oxford, not, as Mr. Day has suggested,
to catch the infection of mediævalism abroad there, but to assimilate and
thrive upon all the influences to which his independently mediæval spirit
was acutely susceptible. Scott, Pugin, Shaw, Viollet-le-Duc, had broken
the way through popular prejudice, and Street was engaged at the time
Morris went to him in the work of restoring ancient churches and designing
Gothic buildings. "Restoration" had not then so evil a sound to Morris as
it later came to have. Some thirty years after, he was to say: "No man or
no body of men, however learned they may be in ancient art, whatever skill
in design or love of beauty they may have, can persuade, or bribe, or
force our workmen of to-day to do their work in the same way as the
workmen of King Edward I. did theirs. Wake up Theodoric the Goth from his
sleep of centuries and place him on the throne of Italy, turn our modern
House of Commons into the Witenagemote (or Meeting of the Wise Men) of
King Alfred the Great!--no less a feat is the restoration of an ancient
building." In 1855, however, he had not fully arrived at this conviction.
It was then the period of "fresh hope and partial insight" which,
regarding it retrospectively, he says, "produced many interesting
buildings and other works of art, and afforded a pleasant time indeed to
the hopeful but very small minority engaged in it, in spite of all
vexations and disappointments." There seemed no reason to suppose that,
helped as he was by his predilections and by his environment, he could not
become the master-builder of the house beautiful that constantly haunted
his imagination.

He was not to begin at once, however. In deference to his mother's wish he
went through his final term, passed in the Final Schools without
difficulty, and, together with his companions--The Brotherhood as they
now called themselves,--gave distinction to his last year at the
University, where despite all drawbacks he had been aboundingly happy, by
founding the since famous little _Oxford and Cambridge Magazine_.


Like the Pre-Raphaelite _Germ_, this periodical aimed at an unusually high
standard. It was printed at the Chiswick Press with some pretensions to
typographical beauty. Each number had upon its title-page an ornamental
heading designed by one of Charles Whittingham's daughters and engraved by
Mary Byfield. On the green wrappers the name of the magazine was printed
in the old-fashioned type which the Chiswick Press was the first to
revive, and although, unlike _The Germ_, it was not illustrated,
photographs of Woolner's medallions of Carlyle and Tennyson were mounted
to bind with it and sold at a shilling apiece to subscribers. The price of
each number was also a shilling, and twelve monthly numbers appeared,
making it thrice as long lived as its prototype, _The Germ_. The financial
responsibility, says Mr. Mackail, was undertaken wholly by Morris, and he
at first attempted the general control. This he was soon glad to
relinquish, paying a salary of a hundred pounds a year to his editor. The
title, which in full read _The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, Conducted by
Members of the Two Universities_, indicates rather more co-operation than
existed, the magazine being conducted entirely by Oxford men and fully
two-thirds written by them. The tone of the contributions was to be
impeccable. "It is unanimously agreed," wrote Price, "that there is to be
no shewing off, no quips, no sneers, no lampooning in our Magazine."
Politics were to be almost eschewed, "Tales, Poetry, friendly Critiques,
and social articles" making up the body of the text.

First among the contributors in quantity and regularity of supply was
Morris. During his second year at the University he had discovered that he
could write poetry, and had communicated the fact to his companions
without loss of time. Canon Dixon, recalling the very thrilling occasion
of his reading his first poem to the group gathered in the old Exeter
rooms occupied by Burne-Jones, affirms that he reached his perfection at
once, that nothing could have been altered for the better, and also quotes
him as saying, "Well, if this is poetry, it is very easy to write." He was
not one to let a capability fust in him unused. Poetry and prose, equally
easy to him, poured after this from his pen, giving expression with some
confusion and incoherence to his boyish raptures over the things he best
loved and most thought about. During the twelve months of the magazine's
life he contributed to it five poems, eight prose tales, a review of
Browning's _Men and Women_, and two special articles, one on a couple of
engravings by Alfred Bethel and one on the Cathedral at Amiens. In all
this early work, filled with superabundant imagery, self-conscious,
sensuous, unsubstantial, pictorial, we have Morris the writer as he was
at the beginning and much as he was again at the end. His first strange
little romances pass before the eyes as his late ones do, like strips of
beautiful fabric, deeply dyed with colours both dim and rich, and printed
with faintly outlined figures in postures illustrating the dreamy events
of dreamy lives. Many of the pages echo with the sound of trumpets and the
clash of arms, but the echo is from so far away that the heart of the
reader declines to leap. Passionate emotions are portrayed in passionate
language. Men and women love and die with wild adventure. Splendid
sacrifices are made, and dark revenges taken. But the effect is of
marionettes, admirably costumed and ingeniously managed yet inevitably
suggesting artifice and failing to suggest life. Nevertheless Morris wrote
in the fashion commonly supposed to impart vitality if nothing else to
composition. He sat up late of nights, after the manner of young writers,
and let his words stand as they fell hot and unpremeditated on the page.
The labour of learning the art, as his favourite, Keats, learned it, by
indefatigable practice in finding the perfect word, the one exquisite
phrase, was quite outside his method. As long as he lived, he preferred
rewriting to revising a manuscript. The austerity of mind that leads to
impatience of superfluous colour or tone, and that dreads as the plague
superfluous sentiment, was foreign to him, nor did he ever acquire it as
even the Epicurean temperament may do by ardent self-restraint. In most
of the romances and poems the scene is laid somewhat vaguely but
unmistakably in the Middle Ages. We rarely surprise the young writer in a
date, but the atmosphere is that of the thirteenth century though with
many thirteenth-century characteristics left out. The incidents appeal to
what Bagehot calls "that kind of boyish fancy which idolises mediæval
society as the 'fighting time.'" The distinction lies in the fertility and
beauty of the descriptions. On nearly every page is some passage that has
the quality of a picture. In _The Hollow Land_, in _Gertha's Lovers_, in
_Svend and his Brethren_, and especially in the article on the Amiens
Cathedral, are exquisite landscapes and backgrounds against which the
personages group themselves with perfect fittingness. "I must paint Gertha
before I die," said Burne-Jones, after Morris himself was dead, recalling
the charm of this story which was written in his company, under the
willows by the riverside. "The opening and the closing sentences always
invited me in an indescribable way, but the motive _par excellence_ was
that of Gertha after death, in the chapter entitled 'What Edith the
Handmaiden Saw from the War Saddle,' where the beautiful queen lies on the
battle-field with the blue speedwell about her pale face, while a soft
wind rustles the sunset-lit aspens overhead."

[Illustration: _Portrait of Rossetti_

_By Watts_]

To his genius for evoking a scene from memory or imagination with a grace
and delicacy missing in the designs he was later to make with tools more
rebellious than words, Morris added a singular ability to convey to
his readers the most significant quality of what he admired, to impress
them with the feature that had most impressed him. The fancy for gold,
inspired perhaps by study of mediæval illumination, runs like a glittering
thread through the story of _Svend and his Brethren_. Cissela's gold hair,
her crown of gold, the golden ring she breaks with her lover, the gold
cloth over which she walks across the trampled battle-field, the samite of
purple wrought with gold stars, the golden letters on the
sword-blade,--all these recur like so many bright accents from which the
attention cannot escape. Again, in the description of Amiens Cathedral, we
get from simple verbal repetition the effect of massive modelling, the
sense of weight in the design as Morris felt it in one of the sculptured
figures of the niches: "A stately figure with a king's crown on his head,
and hair falling in three waves over his shoulders; a very kingly face
looking straight onward; a great jewelled collar falling heavily to his
elbows: his right hand holding a heavy sceptre formed of many budding
flowers, and his left just touching in front the folds of his raiment that
falls heavily, very heavily to the ground over his feet. Saul, King of
Israel." In another passage describing with minute detail the figures of
the Virgin and Child, a similar emphasis is laid on the quality of
restfulness. "The two figures are very full of rest; everything about them
expresses it from the broad forehead of the Virgin, to the resting of the
feet of the Child (who is almost self-balanced) in the fold of the robe
that she holds gently, to the falling of the quiet lines of her robe over
her feet, to the resting of its folds between them." And if the effect to
be rendered is one of colour, a touch of finer eloquence is added to this
somewhat crude method. The final passage of the account of the great
Cathedral is a genuine triumph of poetic observation, carrying the fancy
of the reader lightly over the silvery loveliness of the picture as it lay
before the boy enraptured by it: "And now, farewell to the church that I
love, to the carved temple-mountain that rises so high above the
water-meadows of the Somme, above the grey roofs of the good town.
Farewell to the sweep of the arches, up from the bronze bishops lying at
the west end, up to the belt of solemn windows, where, through the painted
glass, the light comes solemnly. Farewell to the cavernous porches of the
west front, so grey under the fading August sun, grey with the
wind-storms, grey with the rain-storms, grey with the beat of many days'
sun, from sunrise to sunset; showing white sometimes, too, when the sun
strikes it strongly; snowy-white, sometimes, when the moon is on it, and
the shadows growing blacker; but grey now, fretted into deeper grey,
fretted into black by the mitres of the bishops, by the solemn covered
heads of the prophets, by the company of the risen, and the long robes of
the judgment-angels by hell-mouth and its flames gaping there, and the
devils that feed it; by the saved souls and the crowning angels; by the
presence of the Judge, and by the roses growing above them all forever."

The review of Browning's _Men and Women_, then recently published, is more
valuable as testifying to the impression produced by Browning upon his
young contemporary, than for any especial illumination it throws upon the
poems themselves. Browning was popular with the students of Oxford long
before he gained his wider audience, and although Morris did not follow
him far in his investigation of the human soul and came heartily to
dislike "his constant dwelling on sin and probing of the secrets of the
heart," he placed him at the time of writing his criticism "high among the
poets of all time" and he "hardly knew whether first or second in our
own," and his defence of him, bristling with ejaculations, and couched in
boyish phrases, shows in part a more than boyish divination. "It does not
help poems much to _solve_ them," he says, after what, in truth, is a
somewhat disastrous attempt to interpret the meaning of _Women and Roses_,
"because there are in poems so many exquisitely small and delicate turns
of thought running through their music, and along with it, that cannot be
done into prose, any more than the infinite variety of form, and shadow,
and colour in a great picture can be rendered by a coloured woodcut." It
was "a bitter thing" to him to see the way in which the poet had been
received by "almost everybody," and he assured his little world that what
the critics called obscurity in Browning's poems resulted from depth of
thought and greatness of subject on the poet's part, and on his readers'
part, "from their shallower brains and more bounded knowledge," if not
indeed from "mere wanton ignorance and idleness," and to this kind of
obscurity one had little right to object. It was the first tilt in the
lists, the beginning of the long combat against the Philistines upon which
Morris entered with high resolve and firm conviction, which he lustily
enjoyed, and in which despite many a broken lance he bore himself as a
bold and skilful knight.

In the little tale called _The Hollow Land_, written for the magazine just
before it "went to smash," to use Burne-Jones's expressive phrase, an
amusingly significant sentence occurs: "Then I tried to learn painting,"
says the hero, "till I thought I should die, but at last learned through
very much pain and grief." Here it is not difficult to recognise an
autobiographic touch. Painting was already beginning to beckon Morris away
from the profession he had so recently chosen. At the end of 1855, during
the Christmas vacation, and just before Morris entered Street's office,
Burne-Jones had made a visit to London, where at a monthly meeting at the
Working Men's College he for the first time saw Rossetti, and later heard
him rend in pieces the opinions of those who differed with him, and
stoutly support his infrangible theory that all men should be painters.
How ready Burne-Jones was to yield himself to this potent influence, how
promptly Rossetti's vivid and original temperament acted upon his admirer,
is clear from the latter's description, written many years after, of the
first encounter--the young undergraduate sitting half-frightened,
embarrassed and worshipping, among strangers, eating thick bread and
butter, and listening to speeches about the progress of the college, until
the entrance of his idol, whose sensitive, gentle, indolent face, with its
flickering of humour and the fire of genius, entirely satisfied his poetic
imagination. The great qualities of Rossetti in those days revealed
themselves in his face, and his imperious will and keen intellect were no
less obvious in his talk. Burne-Jones returned to Oxford with the idea of
dedicating himself to art more than ever firmly fixed in his mind.
Rossetti had approved the drawings which he had brought to him for
consideration, and had pronounced the seven months still to elapse before
he could take his degree time too valuable to waste outside of art,
counselling him to fling the University and all its works behind him and
begin painting at once. With mingled delight and terror Burne-Jones, in
spite of small means and weak health, followed his leader, who, however
rash to advise, was not one to neglect his charge, and who worked loyally
to bring him through with triumph, criticising, teaching, approving,
encouraging without stint, and presently, after his own inimitable
fashion, bringing patrons to him, bidding them buy, which obediently they

It was inevitable that Morris should be stirred to emulation by this step
on the part of his friend. After Burne-Jones went to London to begin
painting under Rossetti's direction, Morris spent nearly all his Sundays
with him at his lodgings in Chelsea. These holidays were full of
excitement. It was a glorious little world that opened out under
Rossetti's enthusiastic, dogmatic, and continuous talk and argument.
Morris was deeply impressed by his notion that everyone should be a
painter, and after Street moved his office to London and Morris and
Burne-Jones took lodgings together, the former tried the characteristic
experiment of combining painting with architecture, attempting to get six
hours a day at his drawing in addition to his office work. It is
interesting to find him writing at this juncture that he cannot enter into
politico-social subjects with any interest, that things are in a muddle
and that he has no power to set them right in the smallest degree, that
_his_ work is the embodiment of dreams in one form or another. What
Rossetti thought of his two disciples is seen in a letter written by him
to William Allingham in December, 1856, when Morris had been nearly a year
with Street. He found both "wonders after their kind." "Jones is doing
designs which quite put one to shame," he wrote, "so full are they of
everything--Aurora Leighs of art. He will take the lead in no time."
Morris he deemed "one of the finest little fellows alive--with a touch of
the incoherent, but a real man," and "in all illumination and work of
that kind" he considered him quite unrivalled by anything modern that he
knew. With a guide thus confident and inspiring, it is not strange that
Morris presently yielded to the spell, and renounced architecture to
pursue painting as an end and aim in itself, although, like the hero of
his romance, he learned with much pain and grief.


Rossetti's service to Morris is difficult to estimate. For a brief period
his influence over him was supreme. Perhaps in the work and temper of this
Italian, Morris saw more deeply into the heart of the mediæval world than
all his churches and illuminated manuscripts could help him to see. At all
events, he was for the time close to genius and dominated by it. His
devotion to his master partook of the violence inseparable from his
temperament. He was soon ready to say, when Burne-Jones complained that he
worked better in Rossetti's manner than in his own: "I have got beyond
that; I want to imitate Gabriel as much as I can." But he was never to be
for very long under any personal influence. Nor could he be persuaded by
the most brilliant eloquence in the world that good could be got out of
doing what he did not enjoy; and he never enjoyed any labour that required
long patience and persistent concentration of effort. Without being
fickle, his mind was so restless as to produce the effect of fickleness
and to preclude the possibility of his doing really great work. While he
was trying, under Rossetti's stimulating but peremptory rule, to master a
painter's methods he became gloomy and despondent. "How long Rossetti's
daily influence might have kept him labouring at what he could not do,"
writes Mr. Mackail with a tinge of bitterness, "when there was work all
round that he could do, on the whole, better than any man living, it is
needless to inquire." But that Rossetti did manage to keep him for a
couple of years at the study of painting cannot be counted a misfortune.
Probably that experience, together with his brief term under Street, did
as much as anything to save his design from mediocrity and imitativeness.
He did not make himself an architect, and he never learned to draw
anything that remotely resembled the actual structure of the human form,
but he must have gained through his study some knowledge of the inviolable
laws of art that he could not have gained by passive observation however
keen, or by sympathy however ardent. Rossetti can hardly have been the
best master for him. His own nature was too undisciplined, and he had as
few of the academic virtues as any man on record of the same technical
ability. But his was the supreme faculty of rousing enthusiasm. It may be
doubted whether any other painter in England could have kept Morris at the
appointed and impossible task for so long a time. It is easy to imagine
how the impatient spirit of the latter rebelled against the slow process
of learning to draw the human figure in its complicated and subtle beauty
of construction and surface. The fact that he stopped so far short of
satisfactory accomplishment seems to account for many of the defects to be
found in his later designs, which at their best were never to be entirely
beautiful, though full of zest and freedom. His tendency to drop any
branch of his work as soon as it became tedious to him, to turn to
something else, kept his creative impulse continually fresh and effective;
but kept him also from achieving the penetrating distinction of artistic
self-possession. Whatever helped him in any degree toward this
self-possession, whatever he got in the way of discipline of mind and
hand, should be acknowledged by his admirers with gratitude, and it is but
just to recognise in Rossetti the one man who seems to have kept the
prodigious impetuosity of Morris down without promptly losing hold upon
his interest. Add to this the clear vision of a romantic ideal which all
who worked with Rossetti were privileged to share, and the constant
inspiration of the drama of sentiment and emotion rendered in his colour
and line and in his exotic treatment of form, and we must own that nowhere
else could Morris have found such food for an imagination already
quickened by influences reaching it from a remote time and an alien world.
Nowhere else could he have come so close to the concealed mysteries of the
human soul, despite the disillusionment he was bound to feel in daily
contact with a character as contradictory as it was compelling.



Although a blight of discouragement seems to have fallen upon Morris under
Rossetti's tuition, there were some blithe compensations. Not the least of
these was the fitting up of the rooms at 17 Red Lion Square where he and
Burne-Jones took quarters. "Topsy and I live together," wrote Burne-Jones,
"in the quaintest room in all London, hung with brasses of old knights and
drawings of Albert Dürer." For the furniture, Morris, who, Rossetti said,
was "bent on doing the magnificent," made designs to be carried out in
deal by a carpenter of the neighbourhood. Everything was very large and
heavy, intensely mediæval, and doubtless rather ugly in an honest fashion,
but in the end it was furniture to be coveted, for it offered great spaces
for decoration, and Rossetti as well as Morris and Burne-Jones painted on
it subjects from Chaucer and Dante and the Arthurian stories. The panels
of a cupboard glowed with Rossetti's beautiful pictures representing Dante
and Beatrice meeting in Florence and meeting in Paradise, and on the wide
backs of the chairs he painted scenes from some of the poems Morris had
written. The wardrobe was decorated by Burne-Jones with paintings from
_The Prioress's Tale_. On the walls of the room were hung, no doubt, the
several water-colours bought from Rossetti, to the lovely names of which
Morris promptly wrote ballads. An owl was co-tenant with the young
artists, and they were served and also criticised by a housemaid of
literary ambitions. In this highly individual apartment, where, curiously
enough, Rossetti and his friend Deverell had had their studio together
five or six years before, life was not all labour and striving. There
were, moreover, holidays spent at the Zoölogical Gardens, evenings at the
theatre, night-long sessions in Rossetti's rooms, and excursions on the
Thames. One of the latter is vividly described in Dr. Birkbeck Hill's
_Letters of Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham_, giving a joyous
picture of Morris at the mercy of his ungovernable temper. The party,
consisting of Hill, Morris, and Faulkner, had started out to row down the
Thames from Oxford to a London suburb. By the time they had reached Henley
they had spent all their money except enough for Faulkner's return ticket
to Oxford, where he was to attend a college meeting. For this he departed,
promising to bring back a supply of money in the evening. "The weather was
unusually hot," writes Dr. Hill, "Morris and I sauntered along the
river-side. I have not forgotten the longing glances he cast on a large
basket of strawberries. He had always been so plentifully supplied with
money that he bore with far greater impatience than I did this privation.
At last the shadows had grown long and the heat was more bearable. We went
with light hearts to the railway station to meet our comrade. 'Well,
Faulkner,' cried out Morris, cheerfully, 'how much money have you
brought?' Our friend gave a start. 'Good heavens,' he replied, 'I forgot
all about it.' Morris thrust both his hands into his long dark curly hair,
tugged at it wildly, ground his teeth, swore like a trooper, and stamped
up and down the platform--in fact, behaved just like Sinbad's captain when
he found that his ship was driving upon the rocks. His outbursts of rage,
I hasten to say, were always harmless. They left no sullenness behind, and
as each rapidly passed away he was ready to join in a hearty laugh at it.
Faulkner, who was not the most patient of men, noticed that passengers,
station-master, porters, engine-driver, and stoker were all gazing in
astonishment. He, too, lost his temper, and, though in a far lower key,
stormed back. Morris soon quieted down, and a council of war was held. He
fortunately had a gold watch-chain on which he raised enough to pay all
needful expenses. I remember well how the rest of our journey we rowed by
many a tavern on the bank as effectually constrained as ever was Ulysses
not to listen to its siren call. It was through no earthly paradise that
the young poet and artist passed on the afternoon of our last day." When
they landed they had just a penny among them, and were still some six or
seven miles from their destination, so they were obliged to hire a cab and
trust to good fortune for not coming to a turnpike gate before arriving at
Red Lion Square.

About this time also Rossetti and Morris made an excursion to Oxford for
the purpose of visiting Benjamin Woodward, the architect and Rossetti's
friend. Mr. Woodward had recently erected a building for the Oxford Union,
a society composed of past and present members of the University. In
exhibiting the building to Rossetti it was suggested that the blank
stretch of wall which ran around the top of the Debating Room afforded an
admirable opportunity for decoration, and Rossetti with prompt enthusiasm
evolved a plan for a coöperative enterprise. He and Morris, with several
other willing spirits,--Burne-Jones, of course, Arthur Hughes, Valentine
Prinsep, Spencer Stanhope, and J. Hungerford Pollen,--were to go up to
Oxford in a body. Each was to choose a subject from the _Morte d'Arthur_,
and execute it to the best of his ability on the walls of the Debating
Room. The whole affair was to be a matter of a few weeks. The artists
offered their services for nothing; their expenses (which turned out to be
as free as their offer) were to be paid by the Union. It is easy to
imagine the ensuing bustle and ardour. Rossetti eagerly managing, Morris
delighted with the charmingly mediæval situation,--a few humble painters
working together piously, without hope of glory or thought of gain,--the
others following their leader with lamb-like docility. Had their knowledge
of methods been equal to their zeal, the walls of the Debating Room must
have become the loveliest of realised visions and the delight of many
generations. The young workmen sat for each other, Morris, Burne-Jones,
and Rossetti all possessing fine paintable heads. They clambered up and
down endless ladders to gain a satisfactory view of their performance, and
attacked the most stupendous difficulties with patience and ingenuity. The
faces in the subject undertaken by Burne-Jones were painted, for example,
in three planes at right angles to one another, owing to the projection of
a string-course of bricks straight across the space to be filled by the
heads of the figures. Some studies by Rossetti have been preserved, and
show that his part at least of the decoration was conceived in a fresh
poetic spirit, with fulness and quaintness of expression and suggestion.
But the congenial band had entered upon their labours with a carelessness
that can only be described as wanton. Not one of them knew how to paint in
tempera, and the new damp walls were smeared over with a thin coat of
white lime wash laid upon the bare bricks as sole preparation for a sort
of water-colour painting that blossomed like a flower under the gifted
hands of the artists, and faded almost as soon away. The effect at the
time was so brilliant as to make the walls, according to Mr. Coventry
Patmore's contemporaneous testimony, "look like the margin of an
illuminated manuscript," but in the course of a few months the colours had
sunk into the sponge-like surface to such an extent that the designs were
already dim and indistinguishable.

Morris, with characteristic promptness, was the first on the field, and
his picture was finished in advance of any of the others. He was, however,
no better instructed than his companions in the special requirements of
his material, and presently all that was left of his painting was the head
of his brave knight peering over the tops of multitudinous sunflowers. The
decoration of the ceiling was also assigned to him, and he made his design
for it in a single day. Later, in 1875, he repainted it, but most of the
art of this merry period has receded into complete oblivion. The stay in
Oxford lengthened into months as complications increased, and finally the
enterprise was abandoned with the work unfinished. It had led, however, to
an event of paramount importance to Morris, and of considerable importance
to Rossetti--the meeting with Miss Burden, who was to figure in so many of
Rossetti's symbolic pictures, and who became the wife of Morris. Her
remarkable beauty had attracted the attention of the young men one night
at the little Oxford theatre. "My brother was the first to observe her,"
writes William Rossetti; "her face was at once tragic, mystic, passionate,
calm, beautiful, and gracious--a face for a sculptor and a face for a
painter--a face solitary in England, and not at all like that of an
English woman, but rather of an Ionian Greek." In Rossetti's portrait of
her at eighteen, painted shortly after this meeting, we see the grave,
unusual features almost precisely as they are drawn with words in a poem
by Morris, entitled _Praise of My Lady_, which Mr. Mackail says was
written during a visit to the Manchester Exhibition of 1857, but which
assuredly is no earlier than the date of his acquaintance with Jane
Burden. The description, Pre-Raphaelite in its detail, runs through the
first half of the poem:

  My Lady seems of ivory
  Forehead, straight nose, and cheeks that be
  Hollow'd a little mournfully.
                Beata mea Domina!

  Her forehead, overshadow'd much
  By bows of hair, has a wave such
  As God was good to make for me.
                Beata mea Domina!

  Not greatly long my lady's hair,
  Nor yet with yellow color fair,
  But thick and crisped wonderfully;
                Beata mea Domina!

  Heavy to make the pale face sad,
  And dark, but dead as though it had
  Been forged by God most wonderfully;
                Beata mea Domina!

  Of some strange metal, thread by thread,
  To stand out from my lady's head,
  Not moving much to tangle me.
                Beata mea Domina!

  Beneath her brows the lids fall slow,
  The lashes a clear shadow throw
  Where I would wish my lips to be.
                Beata mea Domina!

  Her great eyes, standing far apart,
  Draw up some memory from her heart,
  And gaze out very mournfully;
                Beata mea Domina!

  So beautiful and kind they are,
  But most times looking out afar,
  Waiting for something, not for me.
                Beata mea Domina!

  I wonder if the lashes long
  Are those that do her bright eyes wrong,
  For always half tears seem to be.
                Beata mea Domina!

  Lurking below the underlid,
  Darkening the place where they lie hid--
  If they should rise and flow for me!
                Beata mea Domina!

  Her full lips being made to kiss,
  Curl'd up and pensive each one is;
  This makes me faint to stand and see.
                Beata mea Domina!

It was the force of this attraction that kept Morris long at Oxford after
Rossetti and Burne-Jones had returned to London, leaving the walls of the
Oxford Union to their sad fate. But it was no love in idleness for him,
rather a time of many beginnings. He was carving in stone, modelling in
clay, making designs for stained glass windows, even "doing worsted
work," in Rossetti's contemptuous phrase for his efforts at reviving the
lost art of embroidery, with a frame made from an old model and wools dyed
especially for him. Most of all he was writing poetry, the proper
occupation of a lover so æsthetically endowed. Early in 1858 he had _The
Defence of Guenevere_, a collection of thirty poems, ready to bring out.
Save for a slim little pamphlet entitled _Sir Galahad: A Christmas
Mystery_, the contents of which were included in it, it was his first
volume and, like Swinburne's _Rosamond_ published two years later, it was
dedicated to Rossetti.

In this youthful, fantastic, emotional poetry we get the very essence of
the writer's early spirit without the strange shadow of foreboding, the
constant sense of swiftly passing time, that comes into the poetry of his
maturity. Technically, the poems could hardly be more picturesquely
defective than they are. The one giving the volume its name is nearly
unintelligible in parts, even when the reader is aware of the incidents of
Guenevere's story, and prepared to interpret the hysterical ravings of a
woman overcome by sorrow, shame, and love.

But no poems, except Rossetti's own, have so suggested romantic art in
strange shapes and unbridled colour. They, too, like the wall-paintings of
that early and unrivalled time, resemble the margins of an illuminated
manuscript, reminding one of nothing in nature, but flashing the richness
of mediæval symbolism upon the imagination in more or less awkward forms.
If Morris could not "imitate Gabriel" in his pictures, he could at least
imitate Gabriel's pictures in his poems. From the _Beata Beatrix_, from
the _Ghirlandata_, from the _Proserpine_, from almost any of Rossetti's
paintings of women, these curious and affected lines, for example, might
have been gleaned:

  See through my long throat how the words go up
    In ripples to my mouth; how in my hand
  The shadow lies like wine within a cup
    Of marvellously colour'd gold.

In _The Eve of Crecy_ we have the glitter of gold and the splendour of
material things, rendered with a childish abandon, as in the prose

  Gold on her head and gold on her feet,
  And gold where the hems of her kirtle meet,
  And a golden girdle round my sweet;--
        Ah! qu'elle est belle, La Marguerite.

  Yet even now it is good to think

         *       *       *       *       *

  Of Margaret sitting glorious there,
  In glory of gold and glory of hair,
  And glory of glorious face most fair;
        Ah! qu'elle est belle, La Marguerite.

The full hues that had for the decorators of mediæval missals a religious
significance recur again and again in lines that have much more to do with
earth than with heaven, and show less concern with the human soul than
with the human heart. Damozels hold scarlet lilies such as Maiden
Margaret bears "on the great church walls;" ladies walk in their gardens
clad in white and scarlet; the vision of Christ appears to Galahad "with
raiment half blood-red, half white as snow"; angels appear clad in white
with scarlet wings; scarlet is the predominating colour throughout, if we
except gold, which serves as background and ornament to everything. Next
to scarlet comes green, which Morris was later to call "the workaday
colour," and we find occasional patches of blue and of grey in painted
boats and in hangings. The following stanza shows a favourite method of
emphasising the prevailing colour of a poem:

            The water slips,
  The red-bill'd heron dips,
  Sweet kisses on red lips,
  Alas! the red rust grips,
  And the blood-red dagger rips,
  Yet, O knight, come to me!

For pure incoherence, the quality that Rossetti discerned in Morris at
their first meeting, the song from which this stanza is taken is
unsurpassed. Yet an emotional effect is gained in it. What we chiefly miss
in the little craft sailing under such vivid colours, is that
"deep-grasping keel of reason" which, Lowell says, "alone can steady and
give direction" to verse. Excitable and impatient, in pursuit of a vague
ideal, gifted with the power to bring out the pictorial quality of
detached scenes, but without a fine metrical sense, and averse to lucid
statement, the young poet introduced himself to the world as a symbolist
in the modern acceptation of the word. One of his poems, _Rapunzel_, has
been said to forecast Maeterlinck's manner and spirit, and the general
characteristics of the poem--a fairy tale somewhat too "grown-up" in
treatment--certainly suggest the comparison. In all this work physical
characteristics play an important part. Long hands with "tenderly shadowed
fingers," "long lips" that "cleave" to the fingers they kiss, lips "damp
with tears," that "shudder with a kiss," lips "like a curved sword," warm
arms, long, fair arms, lithe arms, twining arms, broad fair eyelids, long
necks, and unlimited hair, form an equipment somewhat dangerous for a poet
with anything short of genius to sustain him. For themes Morris had gone
chiefly to the Arthurian stories and to the chronicles of Froissart. His
style, he himself thought, was more like Browning's than anyone else's,
though the difference that lay between him and Browning even at the
beginning forbade any essential likeness. Browning's effort was always to
render an idea which was perfectly clear in his own mind. His volubility
and obscurity and roughness frequently arose from his over-eagerness to
express his idea in a variety of ways, leading him to break off with half
statements and begin afresh, to throw out imperfect suggestions and follow
them with others equally imperfect. But all his stutterings and broken
sentences failed to disguise the fact that an intellectual conception
underlay the turbulent method, giving substance and life to the poem
however much it might lack grace and form. With Morris the intellectual
conception was as weak as with Browning it was strong, and apparently
existed chiefly to give an excuse for the pictures following one another
in rapid succession through every poem, short or long, dramatic or lyric,
of both his youth and maturity. In this early volume there was, to be
sure, an obvious effort toward rendering psychological effects. Most of
the longer poems are miniature dramas with a march toward some great event
in the lives of the actors. The author observes the dramatic requirement
of sinking himself in the identity of his characters. Knights are slain
and ladies die of love and witch-bound maidens are rescued by their
princes without the sounding of a personal note on the part of their
creator. And in two instances, _Sir Peter Harpdon's End_ and _The Haystack
in the Floods_, there is ruddy human blood in the tortured beings whose
extremity moves the reader with a genuine emotion. In these two poems the
voice might indeed be the voice of Browning, though the hand is still
unmistakably the hand of Morris. In the main, however, the appeal that is
made is to the imagination concerned with the visible aspect of
brilliantly coloured objects and with the delirious expression of
overwrought feelings.

[Illustration: _Portrait of Jane Burden (Mrs. Morris)_

_By Rossetti_]

One defect, calculated to interfere with a warm reception of the volume on
the part of the general public, Morris shared with Browning, possessing
even more than Browning the merit attending it. Familiarity with the
art and literature of the Middle Ages made it natural for him to preserve
the thin new wine of his youthful poetry in the old bottles of the defunct
past, using motives and scenes and accessories alien to our modern life,
and only dimly understood by the modern reader. The true spirit of that
past it is hardly necessary to say he did not revive,--no writer has ever
revived the true spirit of any age antecedent to his own,--and Morris,
with his remarkable faculty for eliminating from his mental conceptions
whatever did not please his taste, was wholly unfitted by temperament,
however well fitted by his acquirements, to carry through successfully a
task so tremendous.

_The Defence of Guenevere_ was received by the public without enthusiasm.
About half an edition of five hundred copies was sold and given away, and
the remainder lingered for a dozen years or more until the publication of
_The Earthly Paradise_ stimulated the interest of readers in the previous
work of its author.

Whatever disappointment Morris may have felt must soon have given way to
the excitement of the plunge he now made into a new life and the most
intense personal interests. On the twenty-sixth of April, 1859, he was
married to Jane Burden, and after a brief interval of travel he began to
build the beautiful house which he then supposed would be his home for the
rest of his days.

His personal attractiveness at this time was keenly felt by his
companions. He had been "making himself," as the phrase is, since his
childhood, and if Stevenson's dictum--to know what you like is the
beginning of wisdom and of old age--be applied to him he can never have
been wholly ignorant or a child. Knowledge of what he liked, and even more
definitely of what he did not like, was his earliest as well as his most
notable acquirement. But he was a boy, too, in his excessive restless
vitality, and hitherto with all his enthusiasms he had been a somewhat
cold boy. Just now he was beginning to "take a fancy for the human," as
one of his friends put it. He was connecting his vague schemes and
ambitions with a personal and practical enterprise. His ideals dropped
from a region always too rare for them to an atmosphere of activities and
interests in which the vast general public could breathe as easily as he.
In building his new home to his fancy he was unconsciously laying the
corner-stones of the many homes throughout England into which his
influence was afterward to enter. He was just twenty-five, filled with
energy, generous impulse, honesty, and kindness. The bourgeois touch which
his biographer declares was inherent in his nature was far from obvious as
yet. Society for its own sake he liked little, and was not above getting
out of unwelcome invitations by subterfuge, if fair means would not avail.
He affected a Bohemian carelessness in dress, and his hair was uniformly
wild. His language was generally forcible, often violent, always
expressive. He lived in the company of his intimates and cared for nothing
beyond the range of his fixed interests. The remark made long after--"Do
you suppose that I should see anything in Rome that I can't see in
Whitechapel?"--was perfectly indicative of his mood toward everything that
failed to arouse his intellectual curiosity. But the places and things
that did arouse it were never tawdry or valueless, and his reasons for
caring for them, of which he was always remarkably prolific, were such as
appeal strongly to the mind in which homely associations hold a constant
place. It must be an out and out classicist who fails to detect in himself
a pulsation of sympathy in response to the wail which Morris once sent
home from Verona: "Yes, and even in these magnificent and wonderful towns
I long rather for the heap of grey stones with a grey roof that we call a
house north-away."



(_Reproduced from examples obtained by courtesy of Mr. A. E. Bulkley_)]

His first house, in which he took unlimited delight, was not, however, a
heap of grey stones, but a structure of brick, its name, the Red House,
indicating its striking and then unusual colour. Its architect was Philip
Webb, who had been an associate of Morris during the brief period passed
in Mr. Street's office. Situated not far from London, on the outskirts of
the village of Upton and in the midst of a pleasant orchard, whose trees
dropped their fruit into its windows, the Red House wore an emphatically
Gothic aspect. It was L-shaped, with numerous irregularities of plan, and
entirely without frippery of applied ornament. Its great sloping roof, the
pointed arches of its doorways, the deep simple porches, the large hall,
with its long table in place of an entrance alley the open-timbered roof
over the staircase, the panelled screen dividing the great hall from a
lesser one,--all these were characteristic of the old English house before
the day of Italian invasion, while the mobile Gothic style, adapting
itself readily to individual needs, prevailed. It stood among the old and
gnarled trees, only two stories in height, but with an effect of rambling
spaciousness and hospitality, and the garden that lay close to it was as
individual and old-fashioned as itself. Morris prided himself, Mr. Mackail
tells us, on his knowledge of gardening, and his advice to the Birmingham
Society of Artists in one of the lectures of his later years shows how
thoughtfully he considered the subject. As he always acted so far as he
could upon his theories, we may be fairly sure that the Red House garden
was planned in conformity with the ideal place sketched in this lecture,
and may assume in it a profusion of single flowers mixed to avoid great
masses of colour, among them the old columbine, where the clustering doves
are unmistakable and distinct, the old china aster, the single snowdrop,
and the sunflower, these planted in little squares, divided from each
other by grassy walks, and hedged in by wild rose or sweet-briar
trellises. We may be sure the place contained no curiosities from the
jungle or tropical waste, that everything was excluded which was not
native to the English soil, and that ferns and brakes from the woodland
were not enticed from the place of their origin to take away the
characteristic domestic look of a spot that ought to seem "like a part of
the house." "It will be a key to right thinking about gardens," says
Morris, "if you consider in what kind of places a garden is most desired.
In a very beautiful country, especially if it be mountainous, we can do
without it well enough, whereas in a flat and dull country we crave after
it, and there it is often the very making of the homestead; while in great
towns, gardens both private and public are positive necessities if the
citizens are to live reasonable and healthy lives in body and mind."

Passing from this first necessity of reasonable and healthy living through
the rose-masked doorway into the Red House itself, we find it equally
suggestive of its master's personal tastes and beliefs. For everything
Morris had his persuasive reason. His windows had small leaded panes of
glass, because the large windows found "in most decent houses or what are
so called," let in a flood of light "in a haphazard and ill-considered
way," which the indwellers are "forced to obscure again by shutters,
blinds, curtains, screens, heavy upholsteries, and such other nuisances."
By all means, therefore, fill the window with moderate-sized panes of
glass set in solid sash bars--"we shall then at all events feel as if we
were indoors on a cold day"--as if we had a roof over our heads. The fact
that small windows were used in mediæval times and must therefore of
necessity be superior is not brought forward in this argument, and the
charm of the reasoning is not marred by any reminder of the actual
conditions of which small heavily leaded windows are a survival--such as
the fortress style of building belonging to a warlike time, and the great
costliness of glass, and the inability to support large panes by leads.

Morris could always be trusted to support his fundamental liking for a
thing by a host of assurances as to its sensible merits and practical
advantages, but the mere fact that he liked it was quite sufficient for
his own satisfaction of mind. When one of his comrades once suggested to
him that personal feeling ought not to count for too much, and that not
liking a thing did not make it bad, he replied: "Oh, don't it though! What
we don't like _is_ bad." And he had a fashion which must have produced an
irritating effect upon some of his hearers, of declaring that the people
who did not hold his ideas must be unhealthy either in body or mind or
both. Certainly the aspect of the Red House suggested health within its
walls. With a slight stretch of imagination one could argue from its
furnishings that its master was a northerner, a middle-class man, the
admirer of a rough age, a sturdy art, a plain habit of life; that he was a
worker whose dreams tormented him to speedy and vigorous action, a
creature whose vitality was too great even for his strong frame and
physical power. He liked a massive chair, and well he might, for one of
his amusements was to twist his legs about it in such a way that a lightly
built affair must instantly succumb. He liked a floor that he could stamp
on with impunity; he liked a table on which he could pound with his fists
without danger to its equilibrium. In the Red House these requirements
were fully met. In the lecture called _The Beauty of Life_ is an account
of the fittings "necessary to the sitting-room of a healthy person."
Beside the table that will "keep steady when you work upon it," and the
chairs "that you can move about," the good floor, and the small carpet
"which can be bundled out of the room in two minutes," there must be "a
bookcase with a great many books in it," a bench "that you can sit or lie
upon," a cupboard with drawers, and, "unless either the bookcase or the
cupboard be very beautiful with painting or carving," pictures or
engravings on the wall, "or else the wall itself must be ornamented with
some beautiful and restful pattern," then a vase or two, and fireplaces as
unlike as possible to "the modern mean, miserable, and showy affairs,
plastered about with wretched sham ornament, trumpery of cast iron, and
brass and polished steel, and what not--offensive to look at and a
nuisance to clean." To these necessaries, "unless we are musical and need
a piano, in which case as far as beauty is concerned we are in a bad way,"
we can add very little without "troubling ourselves, and hindering our
work, our thought, and our rest."

In accordance with these opinions, but with a fulness and richness of
ornament not suggested by the simplicity of their expression, the pleasant
building at Upton gradually took on great beauty and individuality. The
walls were hung with embroidered fabrics worked by Mrs. Morris and her
friends, or painted by Burne-Jones, who, undeterred by the Oxford episode,
started an elaborate series of mural decorations in illustration of the
wonderful adventures of Sire Degravant, the hero of an ancient romance.
Another series of scenes from the War of Troy was started for the walls of
the staircase, and although both schemes were abandoned, enough was done
to give an effect of splendour to the rooms. Up to the large drawing-room
came the ponderous and mighty settle which had cost so many expletives in
the course of its adjustment to the old room in Red Lion Square, and which
was now embellished by a balcony at the top to which a stairway led up.
All minor accessories were thoughtfully considered and for the most part
designed by Morris or by friends pressed into service at his eager demand.
He found little to content him in the articles of commerce on sale at the
orthodox shops in the early sixties. "In looking at an old house," he says
in one of his books, "we please ourselves by thinking of all the
generations of men that have passed through it, remembering how it has
received their joy and borne their sorrow and not even their folly has
left sourness on it; and in looking at a new house if built as it
should be, we feel a pleasure in thinking how he who built it has left a
piece of his soul behind him to greet the newcomers one after another,
long after he is gone." Such an impress he left upon the Red House, so
that no one passing it or even hearing of it can fail to think of it as
belonging to William Morris, whoever may have the fortune to live in it
hereafter, and fall heir to the associations with which he invested it.


During the time of building and furnishing he was exuberantly happy and
wholly in his element. Turning constantly from one thing to another, yet
keeping along the line of his united interests, giving his magnificent
energy free scope in doing and accomplishing, seeing grow into visible
form the theories and tastes so dear to his heart, letting out his
enthusiasms and carrying others along on their current, setting a
practical example in what he believed to be of the deepest importance by
requiring for himself artistic handicraft, acting out a vigorous protest
against the mechanical arts and the shams of the commercial world,--all
this was meat and drink to him, and out of it grew an enterprise
representing what to the public has been probably the most valuable side
of his many-sided career, the establishment of a firm engaged in various
forms of decorative art. At about this time he adopted, after the fashion
of the master-workman of the Middle Ages, a device or legend expressive in
one way or another of his aim. He chose the one used by Van Eyck, "Als
ich kanne,"--if I can,--and distributed it in French translation and in
English over his house, on windows and tiles and in tapestry hangings. The
modesty of the words was no doubt as sincere in his case as in the case of
the old Flemish painter who excelled all his contemporaries, but the
extent to which he could and did in the new business on which he was about
to enter has been the wonder of his followers.



The formation of the firm of "Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Company," as
it was first called, appears to have been highly incidental in character,
despite the assertion of Morris himself in a letter to his old tutor, that
he had long meant to be a decorator, and to that end mainly had built his
fine house. "One evening a lot of us were together," says Rossetti, in the
account given by Mr. Watts-Dunton, "and we got to talking about the way in
which artists did all kinds of things in olden times, designed every kind
of decoration and most kinds of furniture, and someone suggested--as a
joke more than anything else--that we should each put down five pounds and
form a company. Fivers were blossoms of a rare growth among us in those
days, and I won't swear that the table bristled with fivers. Anyhow the
firm was formed, but of course there was no deed or anything of that kind.
In fact it was a mere playing at business, and Morris was elected manager,
not because we ever dreamed he would turn out a man of business, but
because he was the only one among us who had both time and money to spare.
We had no idea whatever of commercial success, but it succeeded almost in
our own despite."

In the mind of Morris it doubtless promised to be the sort of association
about which he was constantly dreaming; a group of intelligent craftsmen
interested in making the details of daily life as full as possible of
beauty, each man fitted to his task and loving it, each in his way a
master-workman of the guild, counting his craft honourable and spending
his best thought and labour on it. There was ground enough for faith in
the artistic if not in the commercial outcome of the enterprise. The
associates, beside Morris, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones, were Madox-Brown,
then an artist of established reputation, Webb, the architect of the Red
House, who was also a designer of furniture and ornament; Peter Paul
Marshall, to whom Mr. William Rossetti ascribes the first suggestion of
the formation of the firm, a "capable artist" although an amateur; and
Charles Faulkner of the Oxford group, who had followed his mates to London
unable to endure the loneliness of Oxford without them. They proposed to
open what Rossetti called "an actual shop," and sell whatever their united
talent produced. "We are not intending to compete with ----'s costly
rubbish or anything of that sort," Rossetti wrote to his friend Allingham,
"but to give real good taste at the price as far as possible of ordinary


In the Spring of 1861, premises were taken over a jeweller's shop at 8 Red
Lion Square. Two floors and a part of the basement were used by the firm,
and about a dozen men and boys were presently employed. There were regular
weekly meetings carried on with the boisterousness of youth and high
spirits, but with thorough efficiency, nevertheless, where plans that were
to modify and influence the household decoration of all England were gaily
formed and put into practice.

The prospectus, in which Mr. Mackail discerns Rossetti's "slashing hand
and imperious accent," was not entirely calculated to mollify rival
decorators, calling attention to the fact that attempts at decorative art
up to that time had been crude and fragmentary, and emphasising the want
of some one place where work of "a genuine and beautiful character could
be obtained." The new firm pledged itself to execute in a business-like

"I. Mural Decoration, either in Pictures or in Pattern Work, or merely in
the arrangement of Colours, as applied to dwelling-houses, churches, or
public buildings.

"II. Carving generally, as applied to Architecture.

"III. Stained Glass, especially with reference to its harmony with Mural

"IV. Metal Work in all its branches, including jewellery.

"V. Furniture, either depending for its beauty on its own design, on the
application of materials hitherto overlooked, or on its conjunction with
Figure and Pattern Painting. Under this head is included Embroidery of all
kinds, Stamped Leather, and ornamental work in other such materials,
besides every article necessary for domestic use."

Clearly this was not the usual thing, nor was the business conducted in
the usual way. According to Mr. William Rossetti, the young reformers
adopted a tone of "something very like dictatorial irony" toward their
customers, permitting no compromise, and laying down the law without
concession to individual taste or want of taste. You could have things
such as the firm chose them to be or you could go without them.

The finance of the company began, Mr. Mackail says, with a call of one
pound per share and a loan of a hundred pounds from Mrs. Morris of Leyton.
In 1862 a further call of nineteen pounds a share was made on the
partners, raising the paid-up capital to one hundred and forty pounds,
which "was never increased until the dissolution of the firm in 1874." A
few hundred pounds additional were loaned by Morris and his mother. Each
piece of work contributed by any member of the firm was paid for at the
time, and Morris as general manager received a salary of a hundred and
fifty pounds a year.


It is obvious that with this slender financial basis the business required
the utmost energy, industry, skill, and talent to keep it from being
promptly wrecked on the very uncertain coast of public opinion. During
the first year all the members of the firm were active, although even at
the first Morris led the rest. A stimulus was provided by the
International Exhibition of 1862, whither they sent examples of their
work, at the cost, wrote Faulkner, of "more tribulation and swearing to
Topsy than three exhibitions will be worth." The exhibits attracted
attention, and were awarded medals, in the case of the stained glass, "for
artistic qualities of colour and design," and in the case of the
furniture, hangings, and so forth, for the "closeness with which the style
of the Middle Ages was rendered." It happened that the chief work in
stained glass in the exhibit of the firm consisted of a set of windows
designed by Rossetti, and giving, according to a Belgian critic, "an
impression of colour, dazzling and magnificent, velvety and harmonious,
resembling the Flemish stained glass windows decorating the Gothic
cathedrals." Thus, fortunately, the first appearance of the firm was
distinguished by the splendour which Rossetti alone among the group of
workers could achieve, but his interest and activity shortly flagged and
were absorbed in his individual work outside the company.

At first, despite the lordly prospectus, there were occasional blunders.
Dr. Birkbeck Hill tells of a study table and an arm-chair, neither one of
which was so thorough a piece of workmanship as the firm would have turned
out later on, and Mr. Hughes remembers a sofa with a long bar beneath
projecting six inches at each end so that it tripped up anyone who
hastily went round it. These, however, were blunders of a kind soon
remedied by experience. So long as the associates kept up their enthusiasm
there were among them ample skill to grapple with technicalities, and
ample artistic faculty to defy all ordinary competition. Whoever dropped
behind from time to time in this most essential quality of enthusiasm it
was never Morris, and all accounts agree in attributing to his energy and
industry and unutterable zest the success of the novel and interesting
experiment. "He is the only man I have known," said Rossetti once, "who
beats every other man at his own game." The men he had to beat at this
game of decoration were for the most part unworthy foes. Decorative art
was at a low ebb in the early Victorian age, the age of antimacassars,
stucco, and veneer. From this cheap vulgarity and pretentiousness Morris
turned back--as he was wont to do on every occasion that offered
excuse--to the thirteenth century as the purest fount of English
tradition, where, if anywhere, could be found models showing logical
principles of construction and genuine workmanship. His companions either
caught from him the infection of the mediæval attitude or were already in
sympathy with it, and the work of the firm took on an emphatically Gothic
aspect from the beginning. How great or how important a part each member
played in the sum of the production is very difficult to estimate owing to
the coöperative plan by which several artists frequently united in
executing one and the same piece of work. Sometimes Burne-Jones would
draw the figures, Webb the birds, and Morris the foliage for a piece of
drapery or wall-paper. Again portions of separate designs would be used
over and over in different combinations for different places. This free
coöperation, this moving about within the limits of a general plan, suited
the restless spirit of Morris, and chimed also with his profound
admiration for the way in which the mediæval works of art were brought
about, no one man standing high above the others or trying to preserve his
name and the fame of his performance. Working for the pleasure of the work
was of the very essence of his philosophy, and nothing could be more
unjust than the sneers from time to time launched at him because his
venture proved a commercial triumph. Perhaps it would be going too far to
say that money-getting was never in his mind, but there is no question
that it was never first in his mind, and never in the slightest degree
crowded his desire to put forth sincere, fine work, worth its price to the
last detail, and worthy of praise and liking without regard to its price.
There was not the slightest suggestion of pose or sham of any kind in his
thought when he wrote, as he often did, against the greed of gain and in
praise of the kind of labour that may be delighted in without regard to
pounds and pence. He could say quite faithfully that he shared the
humility of the early craftsmen, of whom he speaks with reverence.

"In most sober earnest," he says in one of his lectures, "when we hear it
said, as it often is said, that extra money payment is necessary under all
circumstances to produce great works of art, and that men of special
talent will not use those talents without being bribed by mere gross
material advantages, we, I say, shall know what to reply. We can appeal to
the witness of those lovely works still left to us, whose unknown, unnamed
creators were content to give them to the world, with little more extra
wages than what their pleasure in their work and their sense of usefulness
in it might bestow on them." There is no room for doubt that he approached
his work in precisely the spirit here described by him. He was willing to
exercise his faculties on the humblest undertakings, with no other aim
than to make a common thing pleasant to look upon and agreeable to use.
Half a century ago "craft" was not the fashionable word for the kind of
work with which the firm chiefly concerned itself, and in doing the
greater part of what he did Morris was merely writing himself down, in the
language of the general public, an artisan. Conforming to the truest of
principles he raised his work by getting under it. Nothing was too
laborious or too lowly for him. Pride of position was unknown to him in
any sense that would prevent him from indulging in manual labour. His real
pride lay in making something which he considered beautiful take the place
of something ugly in the world. If it were a fabric to be made lovely with
long disused or unfamiliar dyes, his hands were in the vat. If tapestry
were to be woven, he was at the loom by dawn. In his workman's blouse,
steeped in indigo, and with his hair outstanding wildly, he was in the
habit of presenting himself cheerfully at the houses of his friends,
relying upon his native dignity to save appearances, or, to speak more
truly, not thinking of appearances at all, but entirely happy in his rôle
of workman, though frankly desirous that the business should prosper
beyond all danger of the "smash" that would, he owned, "be a terrible
nuisance." "I have not time on my hands," he said, "to be ruined and get
really poor." It was to the peculiar union of the ideal and the practical
in his nature that his success in the fields on which he ventured is due.


It must be admitted, however, that while his soul and vigour found vent in
his designing and in the journeyman work--"delightful work, hard for the
body and easy for the mind"--at which he was so ready to lend a hand, his
artistic product lacked somewhat in the qualities that come from the
exercise of the higher intellectual gifts. It was more than an attempt to
revive old Gothic forms; it was an adoption of old forms with an infusion
of modern spirit; but it missed the native and personal character of work
growing out of contemporaneous conditions and tastes. Imaginative
craftsman as he was, Morris was never quite an artist in the strict sense
of the word. He had a fine sense of colour and, within certain limits, a
right feeling for pattern; but his invention was too exuberant for
repose, and he displayed in the greater part of his work an ornamental
luxuriance that destroyed dignity and simplicity of effect. He did not
like the restraints of art, and he seems to have been incapable of
entering the sphere of abstract thought in which the principles governing
great art are found. "No schools of art," he says with his superbly
inaccurate generalisation, "have ever been contented to use abstract lines
and forms and colours--that is, lines and so forth without any meaning."
Such ornament he deemed "outlandish." He wanted his patterns, especially
his wall-paper patterns, to remind people of pleasant scenes: "of the
close vine trellis that keeps out the sun by the Nile side; or of the wild
woods and their streams with the dogs panting beside them; or of the
swallows sweeping above the garden boughs toward the house eaves where
their nestlings are, while the sun breaks the clouds on them; or of the
many-flowered summer meadows of Picardy,"--all very charming things to
think about, but as really pertinent to wall-paper designing as the
pleasant memory of a hard road with a fast horse speeding over it would be
to the designing of a carpet. He preached the closest observation of
nature and the most delicate understanding of it before attempting
conventionalisation, but he did not hesitate to break all the laws of
nature in his designs when he happened to want to do so. He did not
hesitate, as Mr. Day has said, to make an acorn grow from two stalks or to
give a lily five petals. Fitness in ornament was one of his fundamental
principles, and he made his designs for the place in which they were to be
seen and with direct reference to the limitations of opportunities of that
place. It was never his way to turn a wall-paper loose on the market for
any chance purchaser. He must know, if possible, something of the walls to
which the design was to be applied and of the room in which it was to
live, and he then adapted his design to his idea of what was required.
This idea, however, was commonly much influenced by certain pre-conceived
theories. He believed, for example, that there should be a sense of
mystery in every pattern designed. This mystery he tried to get, not by
masking the geometrical structure upon which a recurring pattern must be
based, but by covering the ground equably and richly, so that the observer
may not "be able to read the whole thing at once." Thus many of his
designs are so over-elaborated as to give the effect of restlessness,
whereas "rest" was the word oftenest on his lips in connection with
domestic art. In common with most designers who derive their ideals from
mediæval sources, he was less impressed by the tranquillity gained from
calm clean spaces, the measure, order, and stateliness brought about by
the simple relation of abstract lines, the repose of the rhythmical play
of mass in perfect proportion, undisturbed by decorative detail, than by
the charm of highly vitalised imagery. But though he erred on the side of
luxuriance--while preaching simplicity--he never allowed his design to
sink into vulgarity or petty picturesqueness. He might be intricate but he
was not vague. "Run any risk of failure rather than involve yourself in a
tangle of poor weak lines that people can't make out," he says. "Definite
form bounded by firm outline is a necessity for all ornament. You ought
always to go for positive patterns when they may be had." They might
always be had from him. And it is due to his positive quality, his
uncompromising certainty of the rightness of the thing that he is doing,
that even when he is most imitative he gives an impression of originality,
and is in fact original in the sense that he has thought out for himself
the methods and motives of the ancient art by which he is consciously and
intentionally influenced.


Finish, it need hardly be said, was not prized by him. It was one of his
assumptions that "the better is the enemy of the good," and he preferred
the roughness of incompleteness to the suavity of perfect workmanship. He
dreaded the suggestion of the machine that lurks in the polished surface
and the perfect curve. Nor did he at any time believe in the subdivision
of labour by which a workman learns to do one thing with the utmost
efficiency, holding that no workman could enjoy such specialised work, and
therefore, of course, could not through it give pleasure to others. The
following is the creed which, according to his "compact with himself,"
he made it a duty to repeat when he and his fellow-men came together to
discuss art:

"We ought to get to understand the value of intelligent work, the work of
men's hands guided by their brains, and to take that, though it be rough,
rather than the unintelligent work of machines or slaves though it be
delicate; to refuse altogether to use machine-made work unless where the
nature of the thing compels it, or where the machine does what mere human
suffering would otherwise have to do; to have a high standard of
excellence in wares and not to accept make-shifts for the real thing, but
rather to go without--to have no ornament merely for fashion's sake, but
only because we really think it beautiful, otherwise to go without it; not
to live in an ugly and squalid place (such as London) for the sake of mere
excitement or the like, but only because our duties bind us to it--to
treat the natural beauty of the earth as a holy thing not to be rashly
dealt with for any consideration; to treat with the utmost care whatever
of architecture and the like is left us of the times of art."


(_Reproduced by courtesy of Mr. Bulkley_)]

Wall-papers were among the earliest staple products of the firm in Red
Lion Square, although Morris always regarded them in the light of a
compromise; an altogether unsatisfactory substitute for the hand-painting,
or tapestry or silk or printed cotton hangings, which he considered the
proper covering for the bare walls which, of course, no one not in "an
unhealthy state of mind and probably of body also" could endure to leave
bare. The first to be designed, the _Trellis_ paper, was the combined work
of Morris and Webb, the former being responsible for the rose-trellis
intended, we may suppose, to bring with it pleasant recollections of
gardens in June and inspired by his own sweet garden at Upton, the latter
for the birds that cling to the lattice or dart upward among the heavily
thorned stems. In the early papers the designs were very simple and
direct, often more quaint than beautiful, as in the case of the well-known
_Daisy_ paper, and depending greatly on the colouring for the
attractiveness they possessed. Later came such intricate patterns as the
_Pimpernel_, the _Acanthus_, so elaborate as to require a double set of
blocks and no less than thirty-two printings, and the paper designed for
St. James's Palace, as large and magnificent as the environment in which
it was to be placed demanded. It is quite obvious from these designs that
Morris did not regard his wall-hangings as backgrounds but as decorations
in themselves. As a matter of fact he did not fancy pictures for his
walls. After his early burst of enthusiasm over Rossetti's paintings he
bought few pictures if any, and they do not seem ever to have entered into
his schemes of decoration. The wall of a room was always important to him,
and despite his discontent with paper coverings for it, he was anxious to
have such coverings as ornamental as possible, admitting them to be useful
"as things go," and treating them in considerable detail in his lectures
on the decorative arts. He advised making up for the poverty of the
material by great thoughtfulness in the design: "The more and the more
mysteriously you interweave your sprays and stems, the better for your
purpose, as the whole thing has to be pasted flat upon a wall and the cost
of all this intricacy will but come out of your own brain and hand."
Concerning colour he was equally specific. In his lecture
characteristically called _Making the Best of It_, in which with an accent
of discouragement he endeavours to show his audience how at the time of
his speaking to make a middle-class home "endurable," he lays down certain
rules which indicate at one and the same time his mastery of his subject
and the incommunicability of right taste in this direction, although many
of his ideas may be pondered to great advantage by even the mind untrained
in colour schemes. He begins with his usual preliminary statement as to
the health of those who disagree with him. "Though we may each have our
special preferences," he says, "among the main colours, which we shall do
quite right to indulge, it is a sign of disease in an artist to have a
prejudice against any particular colour, though such prejudices are common
and violent enough among people imperfectly educated in art, or with
naturally dull perceptions of it. Still colours have their ways in
decoration, so to say, both positively in themselves, and relatively to
each man's way of using them. So I may be excused for setting down some
things I seem to have noticed about these ways." After thus establishing
friendly relations with his audience, he instructs them that yellow is a
colour to be used sparingly and in connection with "gleaming materials"
such as silk; that red to be at its finest must be deep and full and
between crimson and scarlet; that purple no one in his senses would think
of using bright and in masses, and that the best shade of it tends toward
russet; green, he continues, must seldom be used both bright and strong.
"On the other hand," he adds, "do not fall into the trap of a dingy,
bilious-looking yellow-green, a colour to which I have a special and
personal hatred, because (if you will excuse my mentioning personal
matters) I have been supposed to have somewhat brought it into vogue."
Dingy colours were abhorred by him in all cases, and his patience with
those customers who demanded them was extremely limited. Blue was his
"holiday colour," and "if you duly guard against getting it cold if it
tend toward red, or rank if it tends toward green," you "need not be much
afraid of its brightness."



From his hatred of mechanical methods grew his preferences among the
lesser arts. He once complained that he never could see any scene "with a
frame as it were around it," and the less necessity there was for bounding
and limiting his design the happier he was in making it. Embroidery he
loved, for here the worker had an almost absolutely free hand. There was
no "excuse" in embroidery for anything short of striking beauty. "It is
not worth doing," he said, "unless it is either very copious and rich,
or very delicate--or both. For such an art nothing patchy or scrappy, or
half-starved should be done." Tapestry-weaving stood next in freedom of
method, and this was not only a favourite art with him, but one which he
carried to an extraordinary degree of perfection, he and Burne-Jones
combining their designs to produce results coming nearer to the old Arras
effects than to the work of modern weavers. In tapestry-weaving Morris
used the _haute lisse_ or "high loom," the weaver holding apart with his
left hand the threads of the warp which stands upright before him as with
his right hand he works his bobbins in and out, seeing the picture he is
making in a mirror placed on the other side of the loom. The interest of
Morris in the weaving craft is said to have been first awakened by the
sight of a man in the street selling toy models of weaving machines, one
of which he promptly bought for experimental purposes. It was many years
before he could find a full-sized loom of the kind he wanted, which had
become obsolete or nearly so, and which was the only style of loom he
would consider using as it was most like the looms on which the splendid
fabrics of mediæval times had been woven. By such difficulties he was
rarely baffled. In the case of his tapestries the method he proposed to
revive had died out in Cromwell's time and there was no working model
which could be used as a guide. But there was an old French official
handbook that came in his way, from which he was able to pick up the
details of the craft and this sufficed. His personal familiarity with his
process is apparent in his various discussions of it. He speaks with the
authority of a workman whose hand has held the tool. This practical and
positive knowledge saved him from the sentimentalism into which his
theories might otherwise have led him. He designed his patterns fully
aware of the way in which they were going to behave in the process of
application. When in 1882 he was called upon to give evidence before the
Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the subject of technical
instruction, he urged the necessity of this working-knowledge on the part
of every designer. "I think it essential," he said, "that a designer
should learn the practical way of carrying out the work for which he
designs; he ought to be able to weave himself." In all his talk about art
he tried to tell people how to do only the things he himself had done, in
which he differed widely and wholesomely from his master Ruskin whose
teachings were so often on his lips. The activity of his hand was a needed
and to a great extent an effective check upon the activity of his
sentiment. But--like Ruskin here--he found it hard to stay long away from
the moral or emotional significance of the art he was discussing. The art
that speaks to the mind he did not completely understand. The art that
speaks to the senses he abundantly explained. The amazingly ingenious
point of view from which he defends his preoccupation with what he has
named "the lesser arts" is displayed in the following passage, beginning
with the almost inevitable formula:

"A healthy and sane person being asked with what kind of art he would
clothe his walls, might well answer, 'with the best art,' and so end the
question. Yet out on it! So complex is human life, that even this
seemingly most reasonable answer may turn out to be little better than an
evasion. For I suppose the best art to be the pictured representation of
men's imaginings: what they have thought has happened to the world before
their time, or what they deem they have seen with the eyes of the body or
the soul; and the imaginings thus represented are always beautiful indeed,
but oftenest stirring to men's passions and aspirations and not seldom
sorrowful or even terrible.

"Stories that tell of men's aspirations for more than material life can
give them, their struggle for the future welfare of the race, their
unselfish love, their unrequited service; things like this are the
subjects for the best art; in such subjects there is hope surely, yet the
aspect of them is likely to be sorrowful enough: defeat, the seed of
victory, and death, the seed of life, will be shown on the face of most of

"Take note, too, that in the best art all these solemn and awful things
are expressed clearly and without any vagueness, with such life and power
that they impress the beholder so deeply that he is brought face to face
with the very scenes, and lives among them for a time: so raising his life
above the daily tangle of small things that wearies him to the level of
the heroism which they represent. This is the best art, and who can deny
that it is good for us all that it should be at hand to stir the emotions;
yet its very greatness makes it a thing to be handled carefully, for we
cannot always be having our emotions deeply stirred: that wearies us body
and soul; and man, an animal that longs for rest like other animals,
defends himself against that weariness by hardening his heart and refusing
to be moved every hour of the day by tragic emotions,--nay, even by beauty
that claims his attention overmuch. Such callousness is bad, both for the
arts and our own selves, and therefore it is not so good to have the best
art forever under our eyes, though it is abundantly good that we should be
able to get at it from time to time.

"Meantime, I cannot allow that it is good for any hour of the day to be
wholly stripped of life and beauty, therefore we must provide ourselves
with lesser (I will not say worse) art with which to surround our common
work-a-day or restful times; and for those times I think it will be enough
for us to clothe our daily and domestic walls with ornament that reminds
us of the outward face of the earth, of the innocent love of animals, or
man passing his days between work and rest as he does. I say with ornament
that reminds us of these things and sets our minds and memories at work
easily creating them; because scientific representation of them would
again involve us in the problems of hard fact and the troubles of life,
and so once more destroy our rest for us."


Was ever a craftsman of the ancient guilds so at pains to make clear the
propriety and usefulness of his wood-carving or enamelling or niello! Like
the early workman, however, he moved with marvellous facility from one
branch of his art to another. From wall-papers it was but a step to cotton
prints which in a way were the playthings of a mind at leisure. They might
be as gay as one chose to make them, and "could not well go wrong so long
as they avoided commonplace and kept somewhat on the daylight side of
nightmare." From the weaving of hangings to the weaving of carpets was a
step as easily taken, and when the impulse seized him to carry on the
great but dying art of Persia in this direction, Morris so effectively
applied himself to mastering the conditions under which the beautiful
Eastern carpets were brought to their perfection as to produce at least
one example--that called _The Buller's Wood Carpet_--that fairly competes
with the splendour of its prototypes. Stained glass for a time baffled
him. "His was not the temperament," says one of his critics, "patiently to
study the chemistry of glass colour; or to prove by long experiment the
dependence to be placed upon a flux." Although many windows were made by
the firm, the larger number of them designed by Burne-Jones, Morris being
responsible for the colour, he never seemed to forget that he had come
near to being worsted in his fight with the technical difficulties of this
most difficult art, and economised his enthusiasm for it accordingly.
Hand-painted tiles, however, which he was the first to introduce into
England, were favourites with him, and in them he perpetuated some of his
attempts at drawing the human figure. Furniture, though an important
feature of the work undertaken by the firm, did not appeal to him, and he
left it to his associates. His experiments in vegetable dyes produced
interesting results, although here also his technical knowledge was not
entirely adequate to his task. In connection with his textile work he
early felt the imperative necessity of having finer colours than the
market offered. To get them as he wanted them he was obliged to go back as
far as Pliny, but this was a small matter to one whose mind was always
ready to provide him with an Aladdin's carpet. Back to Pliny he went to
learn old methods, and in addition he called to his aid ancient herbals
and French books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, finally
setting up his own vats and becks and very literally plunging in. At first
he complained of "looking such a beast," but his enthusiasm soon overcame
this rather remarkable display of concern for his personal appearance, and
he wrote most joyously of working in sabots and blouse in the dye-house
"pretty much all day long." Out of his vats came the blue of his
indigo, the red of his madder, the yellow of weld or Persian berry, the
rich brown of walnut juice, making beautiful combinations, which, when
they faded, changed into paler tints of the same colour and were not
unpleasant to look upon. The aniline dyes, which in 1860 were the latest
wonder of science, and in a very crude stage of their development, called
out his most picturesque invective. Each colour was hideous in itself,
crude, livid, cheap, and loathed by every person of taste, the "foul blot
of the capitalist dyer." In brief, the invention supposed to be for the
benefit of an art "the very existence of which depends upon its producing
beauty" was "on the road; and very far advanced on it, towards destroying
all beauty in the art." The only thing to do was to turn one's back on the
chemical dyes, relegate them to a museum of scientific curiosities, and go
back "if not to the days of the Pharaohs yet at least to those of
Tintoret." It was highly characteristic of him that he chose the remedy of
"going back" in place of progressing with the new material as far as


His work with silks and with wools was naturally greatly enriched by his
use of his own full, soft and brilliant colours, and his personal
attention to the art of dyeing counted for so much that one of his most
accomplished pupils in embroidery is quoted by Mr. Mackail as saying that
she promptly felt the difference when Morris ceased to dye with his own
hands, that the colours became more monotonous and prosy and the very
lustre of the silk was less beautiful. It is, however, difficult to
impress yourself upon the public precisely as you are, whatever vigour
your personality may have. Morris, with his intense love of bright full
hues, has come down as the promoter of the so-called "æsthetic" dulness of
colour, and his name has been especially associated with the peacock blue
and the "sage-green" to which he had an especial aversion. It was one of
his doctrines that a room should be kept cheerful in tone, and how happily
he could carry out this doctrine is seen in more than one of the rooms
decorated by the firm. A visitor to Stanmore Hall, for example, has noted
the delicate tones of the painted ceilings as looking like embroidery on
old white silk, giving a bright yet light and aërial effect, and forming
with the woodwork of untouched oak an impression of delightful gayety.

That Morris made himself a master of so many crafts and grappled even so
successfully as he did with the technical difficulties involved would be
somewhat remarkable had he attempted none of the other undertakings in
which he gained for himself a name to be remembered. His eagerness to
express his ideals in a practical form led him on indefinitely. To the
very last a new world to conquer roused his spirit and made him tingle to
be off. For a man with the trace of the plodder in him such a career would
have been an impossible one, but Morris went blithely from craft to craft
by a series of leaps and bounds. He stayed with each just long enough to
understand its working principles and to make himself efficient to teach
others its peculiar virtues and demands, and he then passed on. "Each
separate enterprise on which he entered," says one of his biographers,
"seems for a time to have moved him to extraordinary energy. He thought it
out, installed it, set it going, designed for it, trained men and women in
the work to be done, and then by degrees, as the work began to run
smoothly and could be trusted to go on without him, his interest became
less active: a new idea generated in his mind, or an old one burst into
bud, and his energies burst out afresh in some new doing." As time went on
he had less and less practically to do with the firm of which he was the
head and of which he continued to the end to be the consulting adviser. He
gathered about him coöperators who not only were sympathetic with his
methods but absorbed his style. His distinction as a designer was neither
so great nor so personal that it could not to a considerable degree be
communicated, and this accounts for the enduring quality of his influence
which has been handed down to us through others without too much
subtracted from it, with many of the characteristics most to be cherished
still present. Greater decorators have existed, indeed, but it may be
questioned if anyone has been quite so inspiriting; has had the matter
quite so much at heart. He persuaded the multitude from the intensity of
his own conviction, and he persuaded them on the whole toward good things
and toward beauty. He made other men's ideas his own but he adopted them
body and soul. He followed his own fashion, inveighing with vigour and
frequently with logic against nearly all the fashions of his time. It is
not surprising that he himself became the great fashion of the nineteenth
century in matters of decoration. And this certainly was what he wanted,
in the sense of wanting everyone in England to see as he did the
possibilities of household art and to share in furthering them by turning
their backs upon the sham art with which the commercial world was largely
occupied. But he made no effort toward gaining the patronage of those
unwilling to admit that what he disliked was intolerable. His was never a
conciliatory policy. The following passage from his lecture on _The Lesser
Arts_ reveals his attitude in his own phrasing:

"People say to me often enough: If you want to make your art succeed and
flourish, you must make it the fashion: a phrase which I confess annoys
me: for they mean by it that I should spend one day over my work to two
days in trying to convince rich, and supposed influential people, that
they care very much for what they really do not care in the least, so that
it may happen according to the proverb: _Bell-wether took the leap and we
all went over_; well, such advisers are right if they are content with the
thing lasting but a little while: say till you can make a little money, if
you don't get pinched by the door shutting too quickly: otherwise they are
wrong: the people they are thinking of have too many strings to their
bow, and can turn their backs too easily on a thing that fails, for it to
be safe work trusting to their whims: it is not their fault, they cannot
help it, but they have no chance of spending time enough over the arts to
know anything practical of them, and they must of necessity be in the
hands of those who spend their time in pushing fashion this way and that
for their own advantage.


(_Reproduced by courtesy of Mr. Bulkley_)]


(_Reproduced by courtesy of Mr. Bulkley_)]

"Sirs, there is no help to be got out of these latter, or those who let
themselves be led by them: the only real help for the decorative arts must
come from those who work in them: nor must they be led, they must lead.

"You whose hands make those things that should be works of art, you must
all be artists, and good artists too, before the public at large can take
real interest in such things; and when you have become so, I promise you
that you shall lead the fashion; fashion shall follow your hands
obediently enough."



While Morris was developing the industries of the firm with essential
steadiness, despite the rapid transitions from one pursuit to another, he
was going through a variety of personal experiences, some of which
involved his disappointment in deeply cherished plans. For one thing, and
this perhaps the most grievous, he was obliged to give up the Red House
upon which so much joyous labour had been spent. Several causes
contributed to the unhappy necessity, chief among them an attack of
rheumatic fever that made him sensitive to the bleak winds which the
exposed situation of the building invited. The distance between London and
Upton became also a serious matter after his illness, as he found it
almost impossible to make the daily journeys required by his attention to
the business. Several compromises were thought of, the most enticing being
the removal of the works from Red Lion Square to Upton, and the addition
of a wing to the Red House for Burne-Jones and his family; but in the end
the beautiful house was sold, Morris, after leaving it, never again
setting eyes upon it.


The first move was to Queen Square, London, where Morris and the business
became house-mates in the autumn of 1865, remaining together there, with
more or less interruption, for seven years. Queen Square is in Bloomsbury,
not far from the British Museum, and a part of the ugly London
middle-class region for which Morris had so little liking, but as a place
to carry on the rapidly increasing work of the firm it possessed great
advantages. The number of the house was 26, and adjacent buildings and
grounds were used for the workshops. At this time Mr. George Warrington
Taylor was made business manager for the company, and Morris gained by his
accession much valuable time, not only for designing and experimenting,
but for the literary work that again began to claim his attention. He was
still, however, a familiar figure in "the shop," acting as salesman,
showman, designer, or manual labourer. His aspect as he strode along the
streets of the dull neighbourhood must have been refreshing. Those who
knew him have repeatedly described him as the image of a sea-captain in
general appearance. He wore habitually a suit of navy-blue serge cut in
nautical fashion, and his manner was bluff and hearty as that of the
proverbial seaman. Mr. Mackail gives a breezy picture of him in his
workman's blouse, hatless, with his ruddy complexion and rocking walk,
bound for the Faulkners' house where once upon a time a new maid took him
for the butcher. To have seen him in these days was to have seen one of
his own ideal workmen out of _News from Nowhere_. As a master of men he
seems to have been singularly successful, despite the temper which led him
at times to commit acts of positive violence. His splendid zest for work
must have been stimulating and to a degree contagious. Merely to be in the
company of one who thought hearty manual labour so interesting and so
pleasant and so heartily to be desired by everyone, must have had its
vivifying effect. He was stating the simple truth when he said that he
should die of despair and weariness if his daily work were taken from him
unless he could at once make something else his daily work, and he is
constantly drawing persuasive pictures of the charm of the various
handicrafts--that of weaving for example, his description of which would
invite the most discontented mind. He does not call the weaver's craft a
dull one: "If he be set to doing things which are worth doing--to watch
the web growing day by day almost magically, in anticipation of the time
when it is to be taken out and one can see it on the right side in all its
well-schemed beauty--to make something beautiful that will last out of a
few threads of silk and wool, seems to me not an unpleasant way of earning
one's livelihood, so long only as one lives and works in a pleasant place,
with work-day not too long, and a book or two to be got at." His own
weavers were some of them boys trained in the shop from a condition of
absolute ignorance of drawing and of the craft to such an efficiency as
enabled them to weave the Stanmore tapestry, one panel of which took two
years to the making, and which was of the utmost elaboration and
magnificence of design. The exigencies of the business presently made it
necessary to devote the whole of the premises in Queen Square to the work
going on there, and the Morris family removed in 1872 to a small house
between Hammersmith and Turnham Green, near Chiswick Lane, Morris
retaining a couple of rooms in the Queen Square house for his use when
busy there. Even the extended quarters soon proved insufficient, however,
and in 1877 rooms were taken in Oxford Street for showing and selling the
work of the firm, the manufacturing departments being still ensconced in
Queen Square. In 1881 these also were transferred to more suitable
premises. The dyeing and cotton-printing demanded workshops by the side of
some stream of clear water "fit to dye with," and after much search Morris
found an ideal situation on the banks of the little Wandle River, near
Wimbledon. There were the ruins of Merton Abbey where the Barons once gave
their famous answer "Nolumus leges Angliæ mutari," and there manufactures
had been carried on for centuries. In the long low-roofed worksheds on the
river's bank his workmen could move about in ample space, practising
ancient methods of dyeing, printing, and weaving, seven miles from Charing
Cross. It is anything but a typical manufactory that has been depicted by
visitors to the Merton Abbey works. We read of an old walled garden gay
with old-fashioned flowers and shrubs, of the swift little Wandle River
rushing along between the buildings, its trout leaping under the windows,
a water-wheel revolving at ease, hanks of yarn, fresh from the vats,
drying in the pure air, calico lying "clearing" on the meadow grass in an
enclosure made by young poplar trees, a sunlit picture of peaceful work
carried on by unharried workers among surroundings of fresh and wholesome
charm. Women and men were both employed, some of them old and not all of
them competent, but none of them overworked or underpaid. Though Morris
had somewhat scant courtesy of manner toward those who worked for and with
him, he had at least the undeviating desire to promote their welfare. If
he expected work of his work-people, as certainly he did, he expected it
only under the most healthful and agreeable conditions. Judging others by
himself, he could not conceive anyone as happy in idleness, but neither
did he expect anyone to be happy without leisure. In his own business he
proved what the nineteenth century found hard to believe, that honest,
thorough, and artistic workmanship, accomplished under reasonable
exactions by people enjoying their occupation, could be combined with
commercial prosperity. That the products of such labour could not be
bought by the poorer classes was due, he argued, to a social order wrong
at the root. The time when art could be made "by the people and for the
people, as a happiness to the maker and the user," was a far-off dream.

[Illustration: _Kelmscott Manor House_]

Shortly before Morris abandoned Queen Square as a place of residence, he
discovered for himself a "heaven on earth," in which he could spend his
vacations from town, and free himself from the contamination of London
streets. This was Kelmscott Manor House, which he rented--at first jointly
with Rossetti--in 1871, and in which he took infinite satisfaction for the
remainder of his life. The beautiful old place was in its way as
characteristic of him and of his tastes as the Red House had been, and has
become intimately associated with him in the minds of all who knew him
during his later years, his passion for places investing those for which
he cared with a sentiment not to be ignored or slighted in making up the
sum of his interests. For a couple of years Rossetti was an inmate of
Kelmscott Manor, and through his letters many vivid glimpses of it are
obtained. The village of Kelmscott was at the time no more than a hamlet
containing a hundred and seventeen people, and situated two and a half
miles from the nearest town, Lechlade, to whose churchyard Shelley lent
distinction by writing a poem there. The nearest station-town was
Farringdon, so far off that the carrier who brought railway parcels to the
occupants of the Manor charged six shillings and sixpence for each trip.
"Thus," writes Rossetti, who was chronically short of money, "a good deal
of inconvenience tempers the attractions of the place." Nothing, however,
unless the presence of Rossetti, who was "unromantically discontented"
there, tempered them for Morris. In an article for _The Quest_ for
November, 1895, he describes the house in the most minute detail,
accentuating its charms with a touch of comment for each that falls like a
caress. The roofs are covered with the beautiful stone slates of the
district, "the most lovely covering which a roof can have." The
"battering" or leaning back of the walls is by no means a defect but a
beauty, "taking from the building a rigidity which otherwise would mar
it," and the stout studded partitions of the entrance passage are "very
agreeable to anyone who does not want cabinet work to supplant carpentry."
To the building of it all must have gone, he thinks, "some thin thread of
tradition, a half-anxious sense of the delight of meadow and acre and wood
and river, a certain amount (not too much, let us hope) of common-sense, a
liking for making materials serve one's turn, and perhaps at bottom some
little grain of sentiment." And from Rossetti we hear of the primitive
Kelmscott church "looking just as one fancies chapels in the _Mort
d'Arthur_," of clouds of starlings sinking in the copses "clamourous like
mill-waters at wild play," of "mustering rooks innumerable," of a
"delicious" garden and meadows leading to the river brink, of apple
blossoms and marigolds and arrow-heads and white lilies "divinely
lovely," of an island by the boat-house rich in wild periwinkles, and of
many another exquisite aspect of a place whose unvexed quietness was
nevertheless powerless to soothe the turmoil of that tormented soul.

[Illustration: _Kelmscott Manor House_]

To realise fully how Morris himself felt toward it, one must turn to his
description in _News from Nowhere_. There he is supposed to see it through
the kindly mist of time, returning to it from a regenerate and beautified
world, and his problem is to write of it with the penetrating eloquence
and melancholy associated with remembered happiness. It is supremely
characteristic of him that he could perfectly strike this note while still
living in hale activity upon the spot he is to praise with the tenderness
of reminiscence. The great virtue of his temperament lay in this peculiar
intensity of realisation. He needed neither loss nor change to spur his
sensibility and awaken his recognition of the worth or special quality of
what he loved. Vital as few men are, he seems, nevertheless, always to
have dwelt in sight of death and to have grasped life as though the next
moment he was to be torn from it. The burden of the song which Ogier the
Dane hears on a fair May morning:

  Kiss me love! for who knoweth
  What thing cometh after death?

so often quoted in evidence of his fainting and dejected spirit, embodies
indeed the sentiment of his attitude toward the pleasures and
satisfactions to be drawn from the visible and perishable world, but does
not hint at the energy with which he seized those pleasures, the
sturdiness with which he filled himself with those satisfactions. When
_News from Nowhere_ was written, Morris had lived the better part of
twenty years in close relation with the Kelmscott house, but custom had
not staled for him its infinite variety. This is what he writes of it and
of its surroundings in his romance of _An Epoch of Rest_: He and his
companions have approached it by way of the river.

"Presently we saw before us a bank of elm trees, which told us of a house
amidst them. In a few minutes we had passed through a deep eddying pool
into the sharp stream that ran from the ford, and beached our craft on a
tiny strand of limestone gravel, and stepped ashore.

"Mounting on the cart-road that ran along the river some feet above the
water, I looked round about me. The river came down through a wide meadow
on my left, which was grey now with the ripened seeding grasses; the
gleaming water was lost presently by a turn of the bank, but over the
meadow I could see the gables of a building where I knew the lock must be.
A low wooded ridge bounded the river-plain to the south and south-east,
whence we had come, and a few low houses lay about its feet and up its
slope. I turned a little to my right and through the hawthorn sprays and
long shoots of the wild roses could see the flat country spreading out
far away under the sun of the calm evening, till something that might be
called hills with a look of sheep pastures about them bounded it with a
soft blue line. Before one, the elm boughs still hid most of what houses
there might be in this river-side dwelling of men; but to the right of the
cart-road a few grey buildings of the simplest kind showed here and there.

"I had a mind to say that I did not know the way thither, and that the
river-side dwellers should lead: but almost without my will my feet moved
on along the road they knew. The raised way led us into a little field
bounded by a backwater of the river on one side: on the right hand we
could see a cluster of small houses and barns and a wall partly overgrown
with ivy, over which a few grey gables showed. The village road ended in
the shallow of the aforesaid backwater. We crossed the road, and again
almost without my will my hand raised the latch of a door in the wall, and
we stood presently on a stone path which led up to the old house to which
fate in the shape of Dick had so strangely brought me in this world of
men. My companion gave a sigh of pleased surprise and enjoyment, nor did I
wonder, for the garden between the wall and the house was redolent of the
June flowers, and the roses were rolling over one another with that
delicious superabundance of small well-tended gardens which at first sight
takes away all thought from the beholder save that of beauty. The
blackbirds were singing their loudest, the doves were cooing on the
roof-ridge, the rooks in the high elm trees beyond were garrulous among
the young leaves, and the swifts wheeled, whining, about the gables. And
the house itself was a fit guardian for all the beauty of this heart of

"Once again Ellen echoed my thoughts as she said: 'Yes, friend, this is
what I came out to see; this many-gabled old house built by the simple
country-folk of the long-past times, regardless of all the turmoil that
was going on in cities and courts, is lovely still amidst all the beauty
which these latter days have created; and I do not wonder at our friends
'tending it so carefully and making much of it. It seems to me as if it
had waited for these happy days, and held in it the gathered crumbs of
happiness of the confused and turbulent past.'

"She led me up close to the house and laid her shapely sun-browned hand
and arm upon the lichened wall as if to embrace it, and cried out: 'O me!
O me! How I love the earth and the seasons and weather, and all the things
that deal with it and all that grows out of it,--as this has done!'

"We went in and found no soul in any room as we wandered from room to
room--from the rose-covered porch to the strange and quaint garrets
amongst the great timbers of the roof, where of old time the tillers and
herdsmen of the manor slept, but which a-nights seemed now, by the small
size of the beds, and the litter of useless and disregarded
matters--bunches of dying flowers, feathers of birds, shells of
starling's eggs, caddis worms in mugs and the like,--seemed to be
inhabited for the time by children.

"Everywhere there was but little furniture, and that only the most
necessary, and of the simplest forms. The extravagant love of ornament
which I had noted in this people elsewhere, seemed here to have given
place to the feeling that the house itself and its associations was the
ornament of the country life amidst which it had been left stranded from
old times, and that to reornament it would but take away its use as a
piece of natural beauty.

"We sat down at last in a room over the wall which Ellen had caressed, and
which was still hung with old tapestry, originally of no artistic value,
but now faded into pleasant grey tones which harmonised thoroughly well
with the quiet of the place, and which would have been ill supplanted by
brighter and more striking decoration.

"I asked a few questions of Ellen as we sat there, but scarcely listened
to her answers, and presently became silent, and then scarce conscious of
anything but that I was there in that old room, the doves crooning from
the roofs of the barn and dovecot beyond the window opposite."

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1878 Morris took a London house on the Upper Mall, Hammersmith, which
he occupied alternately with Kelmscott Manor. This place, which Mr.
Mackail describes as "ugly without being mean," was also on the banks of
the river, and Morris gained much satisfaction from the thought that the
water flowing by it had come in its due course past the beloved Kelmscott
garden. A somewhat inconvenient touch of sentiment caused him to give his
Hammersmith home the name of "Kelmscott House" in compliment to the home
actually situated at Kelmscott, the latter being distinguished by the
title of "Manor," a title that seems to belong to it by courtesy alone.

From the great fondness felt by Morris for these places on which he
lavished his art until they spoke more eloquently than his words of the
aims and theories so dear to him, the domesticity of his life would
naturally be inferred. Nor was he an eager traveller judged by modern
standards. Nevertheless, he managed to find time for some extended trips
just as he found time for everything that came in his way with an appeal
to his liking. The most important of these was a voyage to Iceland, made
in company with Faulkner and two other friends during the summer of 1871,
just after the acquisition of Kelmscott Manor, in which he left Rossetti.
His mind was ripe for the experience. He had already published
translations from the Icelandic sagas made in collaboration with Mr.
Magnusson, and his interest in the bracing Northern literature was
reaching its height. Long years after, Rossetti said of him, "There goes
the last of the Vikings!" and his mood in visiting Iceland was not unlike
that of a modernised Viking returning to his home. Thoughts of the
country's great past were constantly with him. The boiling geysers, the
conventional attraction for tourists who "never heard the names of Sigurd
and Brunhild, of Njal, or Gunnar, or Grettir, or Gisli, or Gudrun," were a
source of irritation to him. His pilgrimages to the homes of the ancient
traditions were the episodes of his journey worth thinking about, and
about them he thought much and vigorously, seeing in imagination the
figures of the old heroes going about summer and winter, attending to
their haymaking and fishing and live stock, eating almost the same food
and living on the same ground as the less imposing Norsemen of the
present. "Lord!" he writes, "what littleness and helplessness has taken
the place of the old passion and violence that had place here once--and
all is unforgotten; so that one has no power to pass it by unnoticed." His
two months spent among the scenes of the greater sagas left him with an
intense impression of a land stern and terrible, of toothed rocks and
black slopes and desolate green, a land that intensified his melancholy by
its suggestion of short-lived glory and early death, and intensified also
his enjoyment of life by the sense of adventure, the rugged riding, and
the fresh keen air. One of the important events of the trip was the
exploration of the great cave at Surts-hellir, and twenty years after,
many of its incidents were embodied in the book called _The Story of the
Glittering Plain_, wherein Hallblithe and the three Seekers make their
way through the stony tangle of the wilderness seeing "nought save the wan
rocks under the sun."

Two years later he made a still more adventurous journey across the arid
tableland occupying the central portion of Iceland and across the northern
mountains to the sea. It was highly characteristic of him that for the
time he yielded himself utterly to the influence of the strange and awful
land upon his imagination, and that for years afterward his writing was
flooded by the impressions that continually swept back upon his mind as he
reverted to these experiences. Mr. Mackail gives an amusing instance of
the way in which the interest uppermost with him became an obsession
leading to the most childlike extravagances. During a holiday tour in
Belgium he came to a place where neither French nor English was spoken. He
therefore "made a desperate effort at making himself understood by
haranguing the amazed inn-keeper in Icelandic." His first visit to Italy,
made between the first and second visits to Iceland, took faint hold upon
him, nor was the second Italian journey, made some years later, and marked
by a troublesome attack of gout, notably successful. He was a man of the
North as surely as Rossetti was a man of the South, and it would have been
a renaissance indeed that could have turned him into a Florentine or a



During this middle period of his life, at the height of his great
activity, an event occurred involving the element of tragedy, if the
breaking of friendships be accounted tragic. In 1875 the firm was
dissolved. Following Mr. Mackail's account of the circumstances that led
to the dissolution, we find that the business had become one in which
Morris supplied practically all the capital, invention, and control. It
was also the chief source of his income. On the other hand, his partners
might find themselves at any time seriously involved in the liabilities of
a business which was rapidly extending. Hence the desirability of the
dissolution and reconstitution of the firm. But in connection with this
step an embarrassing situation arose. Under the original instrument, each
partner had equal rights in the assets of the firm. After the first year
or two the profits had never been divided, and the six partners of Morris,
for the hundred and twenty pounds by which they were represented in the
contributed capital at the beginning, had now claims on the business for
some seven or eight thousand pounds. If these claims were insisted upon,
Morris would be placed in a position of considerable financial difficulty.
Burne-Jones, Webb, and Faulkner refused to accept any consideration. "The
other three," says Mr. Mackail, "stood on the strict letter of their legal
rights." Naturally the relations between Morris and the latter became
grievously strained, and with Rossetti the break was absolute and
irremediable. In passing out of Morris's life, as he then did, he
certainly left it more serene, but with him went also the vivifying
influence of his genius. In considering the very unfortunate part played
by him in the conflict among the members of the firm, it is fair to give a
certain weight to details emphasised in Mr. William Rossetti's account as
modifying--to a slight degree, it is true, but still modifying--the sordid
aspect of Rossetti's action. Madox Brown, who was one of the partners
wishing not to forego their legal rights, was getting on in years and was
a comparatively poor man. He had always counted on the firm "as an
important eventual accession to his professional earnings." No one
familiar with Rossetti's character can doubt that a desire to stand by his
old friend and teacher in such a matter would have a strong influence with
him. To his brother's mind, his attitude was throughout "one of
conciliation," with the wish "to adjust contending claims had that but
been possible." "He himself," says Mr. William Rossetti, "retired from the
firm without desiring any compensation for his own benefit. A sum was,
however, assigned to him. He laid it apart for the eventual advantage of a
member of the Morris family, but, ere his death, circumstances had induced
him to trench upon it not a little." It is easy to imagine circumstances
trenching upon any sum of money under Rossetti's direct control, and in
the absence of any testimony the reader acquainted with his prodigal
disposition may very well be pardoned for doubting whether any member of
the Morris family became appreciably the richer for his impulse.
Nevertheless, it is a reasonable conclusion that he was not actuated by a
sordid motive in opposing the essentially just claim made by Morris, but
was to his own mind acting in accordance with the demands of a friendship
older and closer than that between him and Morris. It must be noted,
however, that a reconciliation was effected in the course of time between
Morris and Madox Brown, while in Rossetti's case the wound never healed.
The outcome of the negotiations was that Madox Brown was bought out,
"receiving a handsome sum," says Mr. William Rossetti, and the business
went on under the sole management and proprietorship of Morris.

In addition to the annoyance and real trouble of mind caused Morris by
these transactions, he had the further anxiety at about this time of a
breakdown of a serious and permanent nature in the health of his eldest
daughter. This he took deeply to heart, losing spirits to a marked degree,
but nothing human had power to stay his fertile brain and busy hand.



Intent as he was upon the artistic success of his work in decoration, and
ardent in giving time and thought to achieving this success, Morris was
far from excluding poetry from the sum of his occupations. The five years
following his marriage (1859-1864), indeed, were barren of any important
literary work. He had planned, somewhat anticipating the large scale of
his later verse, a cycle of twelve poems on the Trojan War, but he
completed only six of the twelve, and the project was presently abandoned.
After the Red House was sold, however, and he was back in London with the
time on his hands saved from the daily journey, he began at once to make
poetry of a form entirely different from anything he had previously
written. The little sheaf of poems contained in his early volume had been
put together by the hand of a boy. The poem published in June, 1867, under
the title _The Life and Death of Jason_, was the work of a man in full
possession of his faculty. It was simple, certain, musical, and
predestined to speedy popularity, even Tennyson, with whom Morris was
not a favourite, liking the Jason. It flowed with sustained if monotonous
sweetness through seventeen books in rhymed pentameter, occasionally
broken by octosyllabic songs. Although published as a separate poem, on
account of the length to which it ran, apparently almost in despite of its
author's will, it had been intended to form part of the series called _The
Earthly Paradise_, the first division of which followed it in 1868. This
ambitious work was suggested by Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_, and consists
of no fewer than twenty-four long narrative poems, set in a framework of
delicate descriptive verse containing passages that are the very flower of
Morris's poetic charm. The scheme of the arrangement is interesting. A
little band of Greeks, "the seed of the Ionian race," are found living
upon a nameless island in a distant sea. Hither at the end of the
fourteenth century--the time of Chaucer--come certain wanderers of
Germanic, Norse, and Celtic blood who have set out on a voyage in search
of a land that is free from death, driven from their homes by the
pestilence sweeping over them. Hospitably received, the wanderers spend
their time upon the island entertaining their hosts with the legends
current in their day throughout Western Europe, and in turn are
entertained with the Hellenic legends which have followed the line of
living Greek tradition and are told by the fourteenth-century islanders in
the mediæval form and manner proper to them at that time. Among the
wanderers are a Breton and a Suabian, and the sources from which the
stories are drawn have a wide range. They were at first, indeed, intended
to represent the whole stock of the world's legends, but this field was
too vast for even the great facility of Morris, and much was set aside. At
the end we find _The Lovers of Gudrun_, taken from the Laxdæla Saga of
Iceland, and bearing witness in the grimness of its tragedy and the
fierceness of its Northern spirit to the powerful influence of the
Icelandic literature upon the mind of Morris. It is the only story in the
collection which has dominated his dreamy mediævalism and struck fire from
his pen.

[Illustration: _Morris's Bed, with Hangings designed by himself and
embroidered by his Daughter_]

In _The Earthly Paradise_ we have all the qualities that make its author
dear to most of his readers. The mind is steeped in the beauty of imagery,
and content to have emotion and thought lulled by the long, melancholy
swing of lines that seem like the echo of great poetry without its living
voice. Such poetry is what Morris wished his decorations to be--the
"lesser art" that brings repose from the quickening of soul with which a
masterpiece is greeted. The spirit revealed through the fluent murmur of
the melodious words is very true to him and lies at the root of all his
efforts toward making life fair to the eyes and soothing to the heart. The
"unimpassioned grief," the plaintive longing with which he regarded the
fleeting and unsatisfying aspects of a world so beautiful and so
sorrowful, never found more exquisite expression than in passage after
passage of this pellucid and lovely verse. The flight from death and the
seeking after eternal life on this material globe constitute a theme that
had for him a singular fitness. No one could have rendered with more
sensitive appreciation the mood of men who set their life at an unmeasured
price. No one could have expressed the dread of dying with more poetic
sympathy. The preludes to the stories told on the island are poems
addressed to the months of the changing year, and not one is free from the
grievous suggestion of loss or the weary burden of fear and dejection.
Read without the intervening narratives, they wrap the mind in an
atmosphere of foreboding. There is no welcome unaccompanied by the shadow
of farewell. There is no leaping of the heart to meet sunshine and fair
weather without its corresponding faintness of shrinking from the clouds
and darkness certain to follow. With a brave determination to seize
exultation on the wing, he cries to March:

  Yea, welcome March! and though I die ere June,
  Yet for the hope of life I give thee praise,
  Striving to swell the burden of the tune
  That even now I hear thy brown birds raise,
  Unmindful of the past or coming days;
  Who sing: "O joy! a new year is begun:
  What happiness to look upon the sun!"

But what follows? The sure reminder of the silence that shall come after
the singing:

    Ah, what begetteth all this storm of bliss
  But Death himself, who crying solemnly,
  E'en from the heart of sweet Forgetfulness,
  Bids us "Rejoice, lest pleasureless ye die.
  Within a little time must ye go by.
  Stretch forth your open hands, and while ye live
  Take all the gifts that Death and Life may give."

And in the stanzas for October, written, Mr. Mackail tells us, in memory
of a happy autumn holiday, we have the most poignant note of which he was

  Come down, O Love; may not our hands still meet,
  Since still we live to-day, forgetting June,
  Forgetting May, deeming October sweet--
  --O hearken, hearken! through the afternoon,
  The grey tower sings a strange old tinkling tune!
  Sweet, sweet, and sad, the toiling year's last breath,
  Too satiate of life to strive with death.

  And we too--will it not be soft and kind,
  That rest from life, from patience and from pain;
  That rest from bliss we know not when we find;
  That rest from Love which ne'er the end can gain?--
  Hark, how the tune swells, that erewhile did wane?
  Look up, Love!--ah, cling close and never move!
  How can I have enough of life and love?

June, the high tide of the year, he selects as the fitting month in which
to tell of something sad:

  Sad, because though a glorious end it tells,
  Yet on the end of glorious life it dwells.

In February he asks:

  Shalt thou not hope for joy new born again,
  Since no grief ever born can ever die
  Through changeless change of seasons passing by?

[Illustration: _Kelmscott Manor House from the Orchard_]

Thus across the charming images of French romance, Hellenic legend, and
Norse drama, falls the suggestion of his own personality, and it is due to
this pervading personal mood or sentiment that _The Earthly Paradise_ has
a power to stir the imagination almost wholly lacking to his later work.
It cannot be said that even here he is able to awaken a strong emotion.
But the human element is felt. A warm intelligence of sympathy creeps in
among dreams and shadows, the reader is aware of a living presence near
him and responds to the appeal of human weakness and depression. It is
because Morris in the languid cadences of _The Earthly Paradise_ spoke
with his own voice and took his readers into the confidence of his
hopeless thoughts, that the book will remain for the multitude the chief
among his works, the only one that portrays for us in its most
characteristic form the inmost quality of his temperament. Nor does he
seem to have had for any other book of his making quite the intimate
affection he so frankly bestowed upon this. The final stanzas in which the
well-known message is sent to "my Master, Geoffrey Chaucer," confide the
autobiographic vein in which it was written. Says the Book of its maker:

  I have beheld him tremble oft enough
  At things he could not choose but trust to me,
  Although he knew the world was wise and rough:
  And never did he fail to let me see
  His love,--his folly and faithlessness, maybe;
  And still in turn I gave him voice to pray
  Such prayers as cling about an empty day.

  Thou, keen-eyed, reading me, mayst read him through,
  For surely little is there left behind;
  No power great deeds unnameable to do;
  No knowledge for which words he may not find;
  No love of things as vague as autumn wind--
  Earth of the earth lies hidden by my clay,
  The idle singer of an empty day.

Written at great speed, one day being marked by a product of seven hundred
lines, the last of _The Earthly Paradise_ was in the hands of the printers
by the end of 1870, and Morris was free for his Icelandic journey and new

[Illustration: _Portrait of Edward Burne-Jones_

_By Watts_]

He was no sooner home from Iceland than he set to work upon a curious
literary experiment--a dramatic poem of very complicated construction,
called _Love is Enough, or the Freeing of Pharamond: A Morality_, the
intricate metrical design of which is interestingly explained by Mr.
Mackail. Rossetti and Coventry Patmore both spoke in terms of enthusiasm
of its unusual beauty. The story is that of a king, Pharamond, who has
been gallant on the field and wise on the throne, but is haunted by
visions of an ideal love sapping his energy and driving peace from his
heart. He deserts his people, and with his henchman, Oliver, wanders
through the world until he encounters Azalais, a low-born maiden, who
satisfies his dream. He returns to find that his people have become
estranged from him and he abdicates at once, to retire into obscurity with
his love. There has been an obvious struggle on the part of the poet
to obtain a strong emotional effect, and certain passages have indeed the
"passionate lyric quality" ascribed to them by Rossetti; but as a drama it
hardly carries conviction. The songs written to be sung between the scenes
have nevertheless much of the haunting beauty soon to be lost from his
work, and of these the following is a felicitous example:

  Love is enough: it grew up without heeding
      In the days when ye knew not its name nor its measure,
      And its leaflets untrodden by the light feet of pleasure
  Had no boast of the blossom, no sign of the seeding,
      As the morning and evening passed over its treasure.

  And what do ye say then?--that Spring long departed
      Has brought forth no child to the softness and showers;
      That we slept and we dreamed through the Summer of flowers;
  We dreamed of the Winter, and waking dead-hearted
      Found Winter upon us and waste of dull hours.

  Nay, Spring was o'er happy and knew not the reason,
      And Summer dreamed sadly, for she thought all was ended
      In her fulness of wealth that might not be amended,
  But this is the harvest and the garnering season,
      And the leaf and the blossom in the ripe fruit are blended.

  It sprang without sowing, it grew without heeding,
      Ye knew not its name and ye knew not its measure,
      Ye noted it not 'mid your hope and your pleasure;
  There was pain in its blossom, despair in its seeding,
      But daylong your bosom now nurseth its treasure.

Although Morris planned a beautifully decorated edition of the poem which
was highly valued by him, its failure to impress itself upon the public
was no great grief to him, and he put it cheerfully out of mind to devote
himself to translation and to Icelandic literature.

The surprising task to which he first turned was a verse translation of
Virgil's _Æneid_, in which he attempted to give the closest possible
rendering of the Latin and to emphasise the romantic side of Virgil's
genius. He followed with an almost word-for-word accuracy the lines and
periods of the original using, and he threw over the poem a glamour of
romance, but Mr. Mackail says truly that he had taken his life in his
hands in essaying a classic subject with his inadequate training and
unclassic taste. The same authority, who on this subject, certainly, is
not to be disputed by the lay reader, considers the result a success from
Morris's own point of view, declaring that he "vindicated the claim of the
romantic school to a joint ownership with the classicists in the poem
which is not only the crowning achievement of classical Latin, but the
fountain-head of romanticism in European literature." The opposing critics
are fairly represented by Mr. Andrew Lang, who, in this case as in many
another, is an ideal intermediary between scholar and general reader.

"There is no more literal verse-translation of any classic poem in
English," he says, "but Mr. Morris's manner and method appear to me to be
mistaken. Virgil's great charm is his perfection of style and the
exquisite harmony of his numbers. These are not represented by the
singularly rude measures and archaistic language of Mr. Morris. Like Mr.
Morris, Virgil was a learned antiquarian, and perhaps very accomplished
scholars may detect traces of voluntary archaism in his language and
style. But these, if they exist, certainly do not thrust themselves on the
notice of most readers of the _Æneid_. Mr. Morris's phrases would almost
seem uncouth in a rendering of Ennius. For example, take

                    'manet alta mente repostum
  Judicium Paridis, spretæque injuria formæ.'

This is rendered in a prose version by a fine and versatile scholar, 'deep
in her soul lies stored the judgment of Paris, the insult of her slighted
beauty.' Mr. Morris translates:

                    'her inmost heart still sorely did enfold
  That grief of body set at naught by Paris' doomful deed.'

Can anything be much less Virgilian? Is it even intelligible without the
Latin? What modern poet would naturally speak of 'grief of body set at
naught,' or call the judgment of Paris 'Paris' doomful deed'? Then 'manet
alta mente repostum' is strangely rendered by 'her inmost heart still
sorely did enfold.' This is an example of the translation at its worst,
but defects of the sort illustrated are so common as to leave an
impression of wilful ruggedness, and even obscurity, than which what can
be less like Virgil? Where Virgil describes the death of Troilus, 'et
versa pulvis inscribitus hasta' ('and his reversed spear scores the
dust'), Mr. Morris has 'his wrested spear a-writing in the dust,' and
Troilus has just been 'a-fleeing weaponless.' Our doomful deed, is that to
be a-translating thus is to write with wrested pen, and to give a
rendering of Virgil as unsatisfactory as it is technically literal. In
short, Mr. Morris's _Æneid_ seems on a par with Mr. Browning's
_Agamemnon_. But this," Mr. Lang is careful to add, "is a purely personal
verdict: better scholars and better critics have expressed a far higher
opinion of Mr. Morris's translation of Virgil."

Mr. Lang's whimsical despair over the affectations of language which
abound in the translation of the _Æneid_ with less pertinence than in many
other writings of Morris where also they abound, recalls the remonstrance
that Stevenson could not resist writing out in the form of a letter
although it was never sent on its mission. Acknowledging his debt to
Morris for many "unforgettable poems," the younger writer and more
accomplished student of language protests against the indiscriminate use
of the word _whereas_ in the translations from the sagas. "For surely,
Master," he says, "that tongue that we write, and that you have
illustrated so nobly, is yet alive. She has her rights and laws, and is
our mother, our queen, and our instrument. Now in that living tongue,
_where_ has one sense, _whereas_ another."

The translation of the _Æneid_ was published under the title of _The
Æneids_, in the autumn of 1875. Morris had written a good part of it in
the course of his trips back and forth on the Underground Railway, using
for these first drafts a stiff-covered copybook, which was his constant
companion. In the summer of the same year he had brought out a volume of
the translations from the Icelandic which he was making in collaboration
with Mr. Magnusson, calling it _Three Northern Love-Stories and Other
Tales_. He had still, he declared "but few converts to Saga-ism," and he
regarded his translating from the Icelandic as a pure luxury, adopting it
for a Sunday amusement. During the winter of 1875-76, however, he was
embarked on a cognate enterprise of the utmost importance to him, although
he thought, and with truth, that his public would be indifferent to it.
This was the epic poem which he called _The Story of Sigurd the Volsung_,
based on the Volsunga Saga, the story of the great Northern heroes told
and re-told from generation to generation, polished and perfected until
the final form, in which it preserves the traditions of the people who
cherish it, is the noblest attained in the Icelandic legends. Morris had
published a prose translation of the saga in 1870, and the following
passage from his preface shows how deeply his emotions were stirred by his

"As to the literary quality of this work we might say much," he writes,
"but we think we may well trust the reader of poetic insight to break
through whatever entanglement of strange manners or unused element may at
first trouble him, and to meet the nature and beauty with which it is
filled: we cannot doubt that such a reader will be intensely touched by
finding amidst all its wildness and remoteness such startling realism,
such subtlety, such close sympathy with all the passions that may move
himself to-day. In conclusion, we must again say how strange it seems to
us, that this Volsung Tale, which is in fact an unversified poem, should
never before have been translated into English. For this is the Great
Story of the North, which should be to all our race what the tale of Troy
was to the Greeks--to all our race first, and afterwards, when the change
of the world has made our race nothing more than a name of what has
been--a story too--then should it be to those that come after us no less
than the Tale of Troy has been to us."

In the course of the following six years, during which he was constantly
increasing his intimacy with the literature of the North, an impulse not
unlike that which tempted Tennyson toward the _Idylls of the King_ led him
to try the winning of a wider audience for the tale of great deeds and
elemental passions by which he himself had been so much inspired. In the
prose translation he had given the Volsunga Saga to the public as it had
been created for an earlier public of more savage tastes and fiercer
tendencies. Now he proposed to divest it of some of the childish and ugly
details that formed a stumbling block to the modern reader (though
plausible and interesting enough to those for whom they were invented),
and to add to the "unversified poem" rhyme and metre, emphasising the
essential points and such characteristics of the actors as most appealed
to him. A comparison of the saga with the poem will show that in his
effort to preserve the heroic character of the antique conception by
accentuating everything pleasing, leaving out much of the rudeness and
cruelty, and adorning it with copious descriptive passages, he robs the
story of a great part of the wild life stirring in its ancient forms, and
more or less confuses and involves it. The modern poem really requires for
its right understanding a mind more instructed in its subject than the
prose translation of the old saga, and readers to whom the latter is
unfamiliar may find a plain outline of the story not superfluous.

In the translation, the origin of the noble Volsung race, of which Sigurd
is the flower and crown, is traced to Sigi, called the son of Odin, and
sent out from his father's land for killing a thrall. He is fortunate in
war, marries a noble wife, and rules over the land of the Huns. His son is
named Rerir. Volsung is the son of Rerir, and thus the great-grandson of
Odin himself. He marries the daughter of a giant, and the ten sons and one
daughter of this union are strong in sinew and huge in size, the Volsung
race having the fame of being "great men and high-minded and far above the
most of men both in cunning and in prowess and all things high and
mighty." Volsung becomes in his turn king over Hunland, and builds for
himself a noble Hall in the centre of which grows an oak-tree whose limbs
"blossom fair out over the roof of the hall," and the trunk of which is
called Branstock.

The poem opens with the description of a wedding-feast held in this Hall
for Signy, King Volsung's daughter, who has been sought in marriage by
Siggeir, King of the Goths, a smaller and meaner race than the Volsungs.
Signy is not content with her fate, but her father has deemed the match to
be a wise one, and, eminent in filial obedience as in all things else, she
yields. From this point for some distance saga and poem march together
save for certain minor changes intended to increase Signy's charm. During
the feasting a one-eyed stranger enters the Hall and thrusts his sword up
to its hilt into the tree-trunk, saying that who should draw the sword
from the trunk should have it for his own and find it the best he had ever
borne in his hand. This, of course, is Odin. Siggeir tries to draw the
sword, and after him his nobles, and then the sons of King Volsung, but
none succeeds until Sigmund, the twin of Signy, draws it lightly forth as
an easy task. Siggeir is wroth and offers to buy the sword for thrice its
weight in gold, but Sigmund will not part with it, and Siggeir sets sail
for home in dudgeon, though concealing his feelings from the Volsungs and
inviting them cordially to visit him in Gothland. Signy reads the future,
and implores her father to undo the marriage and let Siggeir depart
without her. (In the poem Morris has her offer herself as a sacrifice if
her father will but remain in his kingdom and decline Siggeir's
invitation.) King Volsung, however, insists on keeping his troth, and
Signy and Siggeir depart, followed in due time by King Volsung and his
sons and nobles in response to Siggeir's request. What Signy prophesied
comes to pass and King Volsung falls at the hands of the Goths while his
ten sons are taken captive. Now Signy prays her husband that her brothers
be put for a time in the stocks, since home to her mind comes "the saw
that says _Sweet to eye while seen_." Siggeir is delighted to consent
though he deems her "mad and witless" to wish longer suffering for her
brothers. Here the poem departs from the original in that Morris puts the
idea of the stocks into the mind of Siggeir in answer to Signy's
suggestion that her brothers be spared for a little time. Sigmund and the
rest of the brothers are taken to the wildwood, and a beam is placed on
their feet, and night by night for nine nights a she-wolf comes to devour
one of them. (In the poem Morris hastens matters somewhat by having two
wolves appear each night to despatch the brothers two at a time.) Each
morning Signy sends a messenger to the wildwood who brings back the woeful
news. Finally she thinks of a ruse, and on the tenth night the messenger
is sent to smear the face of Sigmund, now the sole remaining brother, with
honey, putting some also into his mouth. When the wolf comes she licks his
face, and then puts her tongue into his mouth to get the last delicious
drop. Sigmund promptly closes his teeth upon her tongue and in the
struggle that ensues Sigmund's bonds are burst and the wolf escapes,
leaving her tongue between his teeth. This incident was probably not
sufficiently heroic to please Morris, and in the poem no mention is made
of Signy's clever device, Sigmund gaining his freedom in a more dignified
fashion and the details being slurred over lightly, with a vague and
general allusion to snapping "with greedy teeth." Sigmund dwells in the
wildwood in hiding, and Signy sends to him in turn her two sons by King
Siggeir, that he may test their fitness to help avenge the fate of her
family. Here again Morris mitigates the stern temper of Signy for a more
womanly type. In the saga when Signy finds that the boys are not stout
enough of heart to accomplish her purpose she bids Sigmund kill them at
once: "Why should such as they live longer?" In the poem, however, when
Signy sends her son to Sigmund he is delivered with the diplomatic message
that if his heart avail not he may "wend the ways of his fate," and when
it is found that his heart does not avail, he is returned in safety to his
mother, Sigmund awaiting the slow coming of the competent one.

[Illustration: _William Morris_

_From painting by Watts_]

The story of the birth of Sinfjotli, in whose veins runs unmixed the blood
of the Volsungs, is given a certain dignity not accorded it in Wagner's
familiar version of the legend as Mr. Buxton Forman, Morris's most devoted
critic, has pointed out, but true to the account in the original saga. The
saga is followed, also, in the burning of Siggeir's Hall by Sigmund
and Sinfjotli, but the Signy who kisses her brother in "soft and sweet"
farewell certainly fails to recall to the mind the vengeful creature of
the original. Sigmund returns to the Hall of the Volsungs with Sinfjotli,
and marries Borghild. Presently Sinfjotli sails abroad with the brother of
Queen Borghild, Gudrod by name, and kills him for reason--as given in the
translation--of their rivalry in loving "an exceeding fair woman." In the
poem, however, Morris records a shabby trick played upon Sinfjotli by
Gudrod in the dividing of their spoils of battle, making this the cause of
the duel in which Gudrod was killed. Sinfjotli returns to his home with
the news of Gudrod's death, and Borghild in revenge poisons him. Sigmund
then sends her away and takes for his wife fair Hiordis, meeting his death
at the hand of Odin himself, who appears to him in battle and shatters the
sword he had drawn in his youth from the Volsung Branstock. As he lies
dying he tells Hiordis that she must take good care of their child, who is
to carry on the Volsung tradition, and must guard well the shards of
Odin's sword for him. Then comes the carrying away of Hiordis by a
sea-king to his kingdom in Denmark, and here ends, rightly speaking, the
epic of Sigmund's career, which, as Mr. Mackail has said, is a separate
story neither subordinate to nor coherent with the later epic of Sigurd,
but which Morris could not forbear uniting to it. Sigurd the Volsung, the
golden-haired, the shining one, the symbol of the sun, is born of Hiordis
in the home of King Elf, and fostered by Regin, an aged man and "deft in
every cunning save the dealings of the sword." When Sigurd has grown to be
a boy of high mind and stout heart, Regin urges him to ask of King Elf a
horse. This he does, and is sent to choose one for himself. He chooses the
best horse in the world and names him, Greyfell in the poem, Grani in the
prose. Regin now presses him to attack Fafnir the "ling-worm," or dragon,
who guards a vast hoard of treasure in the desert. According to the saga,
Sigurd is not ashamed to own to a slight hesitation in attacking a
creature of whose size and malignity he has heard much, but in the poem he
is ready for the deed, merely hinting that "the wary foot is the surest
and the hasty oft turns back." Thereupon follows the tale of the treasure
told by Regin with great directness in the prose, and with much
circumlocution in the poem.

When Sigurd learns that Fafnir is the brother of Regin, and is keeping him
out of his share of treasure belonging to them both, on which, however, a
curse is laid, he pities Regin, and promises that if he will make him a
sword worthy of the deed he will kill Fafnir for him. This Regin attempts
to do and fails until Sigurd brings him the shards of Odin's mighty sword,
his inheritance from his father Sigmund. With a sword forged from the
shards and named by him "the Wrath," Sigurd sets out on Greyfell,
accompanied by Regin, to attack the dragon. The description in the poem of
the ride across the desert is rich in the fruits of Morris's own
experience, and reflects very closely his impressions of the mournful
place of "short-lived eagerness and glory." Sigurd and Regin ride to the

                      ... and huge were the mountains grown
  And the floor of heaven was mingled with that tossing world of stone;
  And they rode till the moon was forgotten and the sun was waxen low,
  And they tarried not though he perished, and the world grew dark below.
  Then they rode a mighty desert, a glimmering place and wide,
  And into a narrow pass high-walled on either side
  By the blackness of the mountains, and barred aback and in face
  By the empty night of the shadow; a windless silent place:
  But the white moon shone o'erhead mid the small sharp stars and pale,
  And each as a man alone they rode on the highway of bale.

  So ever they wended upward, and the midnight hour was o'er,
  And the stars grew pale and paler, and failed from the heaven's floor,
  And the moon was a long while dead, but where was the promise of day?
  No change came over the darkness, no streak of the dawning grey;
  No sound of the wind's uprising adown the night there ran:
  It was blind as the Gaping Gulf ere the first of the worlds began.

The fight with the dragon, the roasting of the dragon's heart, the tasting
of the blood by Sigurd, and his instant knowledge of the hearts of men and
beasts and of the speech of birds, follow with close adherence of poem to
saga, the most marked divergence being the substitution of eagles for the
woodpeckers who sing to Sigurd of his future. Through his new
accomplishment Sigurd is able to read Regin's heart, and sees therein a
traitorous intent, therefore he kills Regin, loads Greyfell with the
treasure, and rides to the mountain where Brynhild, the warrior maiden
struck with slumber by Odin in punishment for disobedience to him, is
lying in her armour guarded by flames. Sigurd wins through the fire, and
awakens her, and they hold loving converse together on the mountain,
Brynhild teaching him wisdom in runes and in the saga, bringing him beer
in a beaker, "the drink of love," although in the poem this hospitable
ceremony is omitted. After a time they part, plighting troth, and later,
when they meet at the home of Brynhild in Lymdale, they again exchange
vows of faith.

Then Sigurd rides to a realm south of the Rhine, where dwell the Niblung
brothers with their sister Gudrun and their fierce-hearted mother,
Grimhild, who brews for Sigurd a philter that makes him forget the vows he
exchanged with Brynhild and become enamoured of Gudrun. Completely under
the power of the charm, he weds the latter and undertakes to woo and win
Brynhild for her brother Gunnar. This he does by assuming Gunnar's
semblance, and riding once more through the fire that guards Brynhild,
reminding her of her oath to marry whomever should perform this feat, and
returning to his own form after gaining her promise for Gunnar. This ruse
is made known to Brynhild (after she has wedded Gunnar) by Gudrun, who is
not averse to marring the peace of the greatest of women, and Brynhild
makes the air ring with her wailing over the woeful fact that Gudrun has
the braver man for her husband. In the saga she is a very outspoken lady
and in a wild temper, and even in the poem her grief fails in noble and
dignified expression. At her instigation Sigurd is killed by Gunnar and
his brethren. The vengeance brings no happiness, however, and Brynhild
pierces her breast with a sword that she and Sigurd may lie on one funeral
pyre! Lovers of Wagner opera will remember that the story as there told
ends with this climax, but Morris carries it on to Gudrun's marriage with
King Atli, Brynhild's brother, and to the struggle between him and the
Niblungs for the fatal treasure, which results in the murder of the
Niblungs (Gudrun's brothers) and the irrevocable loss of the treasure.
Although Gudrun has approved Atli's deed, she finds she can no longer
abide with him after it has been accomplished, and accordingly sets fire
to his house and throws herself into the sea. Morris omits the grewsome
incident of the supper prepared for Atli by Gudrun from the roasted hearts
of their children whom she had killed, and also leaves out the subsequent
account of the bringing ashore of Gudrun and the wedding and slaying of
Swanhild, her daughter by Sigurd.

To the poetic and symbolic elements of this strange old saga, Morris has
been abundantly sensitive. The curse attending the desire for gold, which
is the pointed moral of the saga, is brought out, not dramatically, but
by allusions and suggestions, not always apparent at a casual reading. The
conception of Sigurd as the sun-god destroying the powers of darkness and
illuminating a shadowy world is constantly hinted at, as when he threatens
Regin with the light he sheds on good and ill, and when Regin, looking
toward him as he sits on Greyfell, sees that the light of his presence
blazes as the glory of the sun. The heroism of Sigurd, his rôle as the
ideal lover and warrior and spiritual saviour of his race, is perhaps
over-emphasised. As King Arthur certainly lost in interest by Tennyson's
re-creation of him, so Sigurd is more lovely and fair and golden and
glorious in the poem than in the saga, and considerably less human and
attractive withal. In fact, none of the characters in the poem--all so
intensely alive to Morris himself--lives in quite a like degree for his
readers. His power to probe beneath externals and rouse emotions of
spiritual force was curiously limited. There are indications in his
biography that his business with crafts and "word-spinning," as he called
it, served him as a kind of armour, protecting him from the wounds of
feelings too poignant to handle freely, too deadly to invite. We read of
his agony of apprehension, for example, when in Iceland he did not hear
from his home for a considerable period. "Why does not one drop down or
faint or do something of that sort when it comes to the uttermost in such
matters!" he exclaims. But in his writing it is mainly the surface of the
earth and the surface of the mind with which he deals. It is in the nature
of his genius, says one of his most accomplished critics, to dispense with
those deeper thoughts of life which for Chaucer and for Shakespeare were
"the very air breathed by the persons living in their verse."
Nevertheless, his service to English literature, in translating the
Northern sagas as none but a poet could have translated them, was very
great, and his _Story of Sigurd_ is in many respects a splendid
performance. In writing it he endeavoured to infuse into his style the
energy and passion of the literature from which he drew his material, and
to brace it with the sturdy fibre of the Icelandic tongue. His efforts to
de-Latinise his sentences had already lent his translations a vigour
lacking in his earlier work. He had captured something of the Northern
freshness corresponding very truly to his external aspect if not to the
workings of his brain. The chief defect from which his story of Sigurd
suffers lies in the extreme garrulity of the narrative. A single passage,
set by the side of the translation, will suffice to show the manner in
which a direct statement is smothered and amplified until the reader's
brain is dull with repetition, and the episode or description is extended
to three or four times its original length. Thus in the saga we are told
that after Sigurd had eaten of the dragon's heart "he leapt on his horse
and rode along the trail of the worm Fafnir, and so right unto his
abiding-place; and he found it open, and beheld all the doors and the
gear of them that they were wrought of iron; yea, and all the beams of the
house; and it was dug down deep into the earth: there found Sigurd gold
exceeding plenteous, and the sword Rotti; and thence he took the Helm of
Awe, and the Gold Byrny, and many things fair and good. So much gold he
found there, that he thought verily that scarce might two horses, or three
belike, bear it thence. So he took all the gold and laid it in two great
chests, and set them on the horse Grani, and took the reins of him, but
nowise will he stir, neither will he abide smiting. Then Sigurd knows the
mind of the horse, and leaps on the back of him, and smites spurs into
him, and off the horse goes even as if he were unladen."

From this comparatively unvarnished tale Morris evolves the following:

  Now Sigurd eats of the heart that once in the Dwarf-king lay,
  The hoard of the wisdom begrudged, the might of the earlier day.
  Then wise of heart was he waxen, but longing in him grew
  To sow the seed he had gotten, and till the field he knew.
  So he leapeth aback of Greyfell, and rideth the desert bare,
  And the hollow slot of Fafnir that led to the Serpent's lair.
  Then long he rode adown it, and the ernes flew overhead,
  And tidings great and glorious of that Treasure of old they said,
  So far o'er the waste he wended, and when the night was come
  He saw the earth-old dwelling, the dread Gold-wallowers home.
  On the skirts of the Heath it was builded by a tumbled stony bent;
  High went that house to the heavens, down 'neath the earth it went,
  Of unwrought iron fashioned for the heart of a greedy king:
  'Twas a mountain, blind without, and within was its plenishing
  But the Hoard of Andvari the ancient, and the sleeping Curse unseen,
  The Gold of the Gods that spared not and the greedy that have been.
  Through the door strode Sigurd the Volsung, and the grey moon and the
  Fell in on the tawny gold-heaps of the ancient hapless Hoard:
  Gold gear of hosts unburied, and the coin of cities dead,
  Great spoil of the ages of battle, lay there on the Serpent's bed:
  Huge blocks from mid-earth quarried, where none but the Dwarfs have
  Wide sands of the golden rivers no foot of man may find,
  Lay 'neath the spoils of the mighty and the ruddy rings of yore:
  But amidst was the Helm of Aweing that the Fear of earth-folk bore,
  And there gleamed a wonder beside it, the Hauberk all of gold,
  Whose like is not in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told:
  There Sigurd seeth moreover Andvari's Ring of Gain,
  The hope of Loki's finger, the Ransom's utmost grain;
  For it shone on the midmost gold-heap like the first star set in the
  In the yellow space of even when the moon-rise draweth anigh.
  Then laughed the Son of Sigmund, and stooped to the golden land,
  And gathered that first of the harvest and set it on his hand;
  And he did on the Helm of Aweing, and the Hauberk all of gold,--
  Whose like is not in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told:
  Then he praised the day of the Volsungs amid the yellow light,
  And he set his hand to the labour and put forth his kingly might;
  He dragged forth gold to the moon, on the desert's face he laid
  The innermost earth's adornment, and rings for the nameless made;
  He toiled and loaded Greyfell, and the cloudy war-steed shone,
  And the gear of Sigurd rattled in the flood of moonlight wan;
  There he toiled and loaded Greyfell, and the Volsung's armour rang
  'Mid the yellow bed of the Serpent--but without the eagles sang:

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! let the gold shine free and clear!
  For what hath the Son of the Volsungs the ancient Curse to fear?

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for thy tale is well begun,
  And the world shall be good and gladdened by the Gold lit up by the sun.

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! and gladden all thine heart!
  For the world shall make thee merry ere thou and she depart.

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for the ways go green below,
  Go green to the dwelling of Kings, and the halls that the Queen-folk

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for what is there bides by the way,
  Save the joy of folk to awaken, and the dawn of the merry day?

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for the strife awaits thine hand
  And a plenteous war-field's reaping, and the praise of many a land.

  "Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! but how shall storehouse hold
  That glory of thy winning and the tidings to be told?"

  Now the moon was dead and the star-worlds were great on the heavenly
  When the steed was fully laden; then Sigurd taketh the rein
  And turns to the ruined rock-wall that the lair was built beneath,
  For there he deemed was the gate and the door of the Glittering Heath,
  But not a whit moved Greyfell for aught that the King might do;
  Then Sigurd pondered awhile, till the heart of the beast he knew,
  And clad in all his war-gear he leaped to the saddle-stead,
  And with pride and mirth neighed Greyfell and tossed aloft his head,
  And sprang unspurred o'er the waste, and light and swift he went,
  And breasted the broken rampart, the stony tumbled bent;
  And over the brow he clomb, and there beyond was the world,
  A place of many mountains and great crags together hurled.
  So down to the west he wendeth, and goeth swift and light,
  And the stars are beginning to wane, and the day is mingled with night;
  For full fain was the sun to arise and look on the Gold set free,
  And the Dwarf-wrought rings of the Treasure and the gifts from the floor
      of the sea.

Beautiful and full of poetic spirit and suggestion as this phraseology is,
a reader may be forgiven if it recalls the reply of Hamlet when asked by
Polonius what it is he reads. Compared with the swift dramatic method
employed by Wagner to make the heroes and heroines of this same saga live
for our time, it must be admitted that the latter drives home with the
greater energy and conviction. Morris himself, however, was "not much
interested" in anything Wagner did, looking upon it "as nothing short of
desecration to bring such a tremendous and world-wide subject under the
gaslights of an opera, the most rococo and degraded of all forms of art."

To the group of translations and adaptations already described must be
added one other ambitious effort which belongs to it, properly speaking,
although separated from it in time by more than ten years. In 1887 Morris
published a translation of the _Odyssey_, written in anapæstic couplets,
and rendered as literally as by the prose crib of which he made frank use.
Mr. Watts-Dunton finds in this translation the Homeric eagerness, although
the Homeric dignity is lacking. The majority of competent critics were
against it, however, nor is a high degree of classical training necessary
to perceive in it an incoherence and clumsiness of diction impossible to
associate with the lucid images of the Greeks. Compare, for example,
Morris's account of the recognition of Ulysses by Argus with Bryant's
limpid rendering of the same episode, and the tortured style of the former
is obvious at once. Bryant's translation reads:

                            There lay
  Argus, devoured with vermin. As he saw
  Ulysses drawing near, he wagged his tail
  And dropped his ears, but found that he could come
  No nearer to his master. Seeing this
  Ulysses wiped away a tear unmark'd
  By the good swineherd whom he questioned thus:
    "Eumæus, this I marvel at,--this dog
  That lies upon the dunghill, beautiful
  In form, but whether in the chase as fleet
  As he is fairly shaped I cannot tell.
  Worthless, perchance, as house-dogs often are
  Whose masters keep them for the sake of show."

  And thus, Eumæus, thou didst make reply:

    "The dog belongs to one who died afar.
  Had he the power of limb which once he had
  For feats of hunting when Ulysses sailed
  For Troy and left him, thou wouldst be amazed
  Both at his swiftness and his strength. No beast
  In the thick forest depths which once he saw,
  Or even tracked by footprints, could escape.
  And now he is a sufferer, since his lord
  Has perished far from his own land. No more
  The careless women heed the creature's wants;
  For, when the master is no longer near,
  The servants cease from their appointed tasks,
  And on the day that one becomes a slave
  The Thunderer, Jove takes half his worth away."

    He spake, and, entering that fair dwelling-place,
  Passed through to where the illustrious suitors sat,
  While over Argus the black night of death
  Came suddenly as soon as he had seen
  Ulysses, absent now for twenty years.

And here is the description by Morris of the infinitely touching scene:

  There then did the woodhound Argus all full of ticks abide;
  But now so soon as he noted Odysseus drawing anear
  He wagged his tail, and fawning he laid down either ear,
  But had no might to drag him nigher from where he lay
  To his master, who beheld him and wiped a tear away
  That he lightly hid from Eumæus, unto whom he spake and said:

  "Eumæus, much I marvel at the dog on the dung-heap laid;
  Fair-shapen is his body, but nought I know indeed
  If unto this his fairness he hath good running speed,
  Or is but like unto some--men's table-dogs I mean,
  Which but because of their fairness lords cherish to be seen."

  Then thou, O swineherd Eumæus, didst speak and answer thus:

  "Yea, this is the hound of the man that hath died aloof from us;
  And if yet to do and to look on he were even such an one
  As Odysseus left behind him when to Troy he gat him gone
  Then wouldest thou wonder beholding his speed and hardihood,
  For no monster that he followed through the depths of the tangled wood
  Would he blench from, and well he wotted of their trail and where it
  But now ill he hath, since his master in an alien land is dead,
  And no care of him have the women, that are heedless here and light;
  Since thralls whenso they are missing their masters' rule and might.
  No longer are they willing to do the thing that should be;
  For Zeus, the loud-voiced, taketh half a man's valiancy
  Whenso the day of thralldom hath hold of him at last."

  So saying into the homestead of the happy place he passed
  And straight to the hall he wended 'mid the Wooers overbold.
  But the murky doom of the death-day of Argus now took hold
  When he had looked on Odysseus in this the twentieth year.

The decade between the publication of _The Earthly Paradise_ and _Sigurd
the Volsung_ had been one of sustained literary effort varied, as we have
seen, but hardly interrupted by the work in decoration. The latter Morris
called his "bread-and-cheese work," the former his "pleasure work of
books." The time had not yet come for a complete union between the two,
although it was foreshadowed by the illuminated manuscripts made for
friends during these years. A selection from his own poems, a translation
of the _Eyrbyggja Saga_, a copy of Fitzgerald's _Rubaiyat of Omar
Khayyam_, and the _Æneid_ of Virgil were among the works that Morris
undertook to transcribe with his own hand on vellum, with decorative
margins with results of great beauty. He had now long been happy in work
calling out all this enthusiasm, but the world was going on without, to
use his own words, "beautiful and strange and dreadful and worshipful."
He was approaching the time when his conscience would no longer let him
rest in the thought that he was "not born to set the crooked straight."



In the autumn of 1876, just after the publication of _Sigurd the Volsung_,
Morris took his first dip in the ocean of public affairs, the waves of
which were presently almost to submerge him. He was forty-two years of
age, and had thus far managed to keep well within the range of his
individual interests and away from the political and social questions that
none the less stirred in his mind from time to time, and pricked him to
random assertions that he would have nothing to do with them, that his
business was with dreams, and that he would remain "the idle singer of an
empty day." He was roused to action, however, by the barbarous massacre on
the part of the Mussulman soldiery of men, women, and children in
Bulgaria, the news of which moved the heart of England to a frenzy of
indignation. When Russia intervened, the possibility that England might
take up arms on the side of Turkey in order to erect a barrier against
Russian aggression was intolerable to him, and he wrote to the _Daily
News_ in eloquent protestation. "I who am writing this," he said, with a
just appreciation of his ordinary attitude toward political matters, "am
one of a large class of men--quiet men, who usually go about their own
business, heeding public matters less than they ought, and afraid to speak
in such a huge concourse as the English nation, however much they may
feel, but who are now stung into bitterness by thinking how helpless they
are in a public matter that touches them so closely." "I appeal," he
continued, "to the workingmen, and pray them to look to it that if this
shame falls upon them they will certainly remember it and be burdened by
it when their day clears for them and they attain all and more than all
they are now striving for." Again in the spring of 1877, when war seemed
imminent, Morris appealed "to the workingmen of England," issuing a
manifesto which was practically his first Socialist document and heralded
the long series of lectures and addresses, poems, articles, and treatises,
presently to take the place of romances and epics in his literary life.
After declaring that the people who were bringing on the war were "greedy
gamblers on the Stock Exchange, idle officers of the army and navy (poor
fellows!), worn-out mockers of the clubs, desperate purveyors of exciting
war-news for the comfortable breakfast-tables of those who have nothing to
lose by war, and lastly, in the place of honour, the Tory Rump, that we
fools, weary of peace, reason, and justice, chose at the last election to
represent us," he added a passage that reads like the outcome of many a
heated discussion with brethren of his own social class.

"Workingmen of England, one word of warning yet," he said: "I doubt if you
know the bitterness of hatred against freedom and progress that lies at
the hearts of a certain part of the richer classes in this country; their
newspapers veil it in a kind of decent language, but do but hear them
talking amongst themselves, as I have often, and I know not whether scorn
or anger would prevail in you at their folly and insolence. These men
cannot speak of your order, of its aims, of its leaders, without a sneer
or an insult; these men, if they had the power (may England perish
rather!) would thwart your just aspirations, would silence you, would
deliver you bound hand and foot forever to irresponsible capital.
Fellow-citizens, look to it, and if you have any wrongs to be redressed,
if you cherish your most worthy hope of raising your whole order
peacefully and solidly, if you thirst for leisure and knowledge, if you
long to lessen these inequalities which have been our stumbling-block
since the beginning of the world, then cast aside sloth and cry out
against an Unjust War, and urge us of the middle classes to do no less."

[Illustration: _Picture by Rossetti in which the Children's Faces are
Portraits of May Morris_]

By this time he was treasurer of the Eastern Question Association, and
working with all his might against the principles of the war party in
England, contributing to the general agitation the political ballad called
_Wake, London Lads!_ which was sung with much enthusiasm at one of the
meetings to the appropriate air, _The Hardy Norseman's Home of Yore_, and
was afterwards freely distributed in the form of a leaflet among the
mechanics of London. It was during this period of political activity that
J. R. Green wrote of him to E. A. Freeman: "I rejoiced to see the poet
Morris--whom Oliphant setteth even above you for his un-Latinisms--brought
to grief by being prayed to draw up a circular on certain Eastern matters,
and gravelled to find 'English words.' I insidiously persuaded him that
the literary committee had fixed on him to write one of a series of
pamphlets which Gladstone wants brought out for the public enlightenment,
and that the subject assigned him was 'The Results of the Incidence of
Direct Taxation on the Christian Rayah,' but that he was forbidden to
speak of the 'onfall of straight geld,' or other such 'English' forms. I
left him musing and miserable." Musing and miserable he may well have been
at finding that his duty, as he conceived it, was leading him into such
unlovely paths, but the English of his polemical writings was unmistakable
enough and unconfused by any affectations, Saxon or Latin. In declining to
stand for the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford on the occasion of Matthew
Arnold's withdrawal from it, he had confessed to a peculiar inaptitude for
expressing himself except in the one way in which his gift lay, and it was
true that his mind was singularly inept outside its natural course. He had
not a reasoning mind. His opinions, dictated as they were chiefly by
sentiment, were not worked out by the careful processes dear to genuine
thinkers. But he was before all things a believer. No man was ever more
certain of the absolute rectitude of his views, and by this sincerity of
conviction they were driven home to his public. He was so eager to make
others feel as he felt that he spent his utmost skill upon the delivery of
his message, using the simple and downright phrases that could be
understood by the least cultivated of his hearers. It was impossible to
listen to him, says one of his friends, not a convert to his views,
without for the time at least agreeing with him. Thus he conquered the
"peculiar inaptitude" of which he speaks by the force of his great
integrity, and although he complained that "the cursed words" went to
water between his fingers, they accomplished their object.

"When the crisis in the East was past," says Mr. Mackail, "it left Morris
thoroughly in touch with the Radical leaders of the working class in
London, and well acquainted with the social and economic ideas which,
under the influence of widening education and of the international
movement among the working classes, were beginning to transform their
political creed from an individualist Radicalism into a more or less
definite doctrine of State Socialism." This contact was sufficient to
kindle into activity the ideas implanted in his own mind during his
college days. Carlyle had then thundered forth his amazing anathemas
against modern civilisation and had declaimed that Gurth born thrall of
Cedric, with a brass collar round his neck, was happy in comparison with
the poor of to-day enjoying their "liberty to die by starvation," no
displeasing gospel to a young mediævalist; while Ruskin had preached with
vociferous eloquence the doctrine that happiness in labour is the end and
aim of life. From the beginning of his work in decorative art Morris had
shown the influence of these beliefs in peace. He was now to let them lead
him into war.

Before he wrote himself down a Socialist, however, he set on foot a
movement not so important in the eyes of the public, but much more
characteristic of his personal mission in the world of life and art. He
had long before learned from Ruskin that the so-called restoration of
public monuments meant "the most total destruction which a building can
suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a
destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed."
Whatever his feeling may have been concerning the destructive restoration,
of which he must have seen manifold examples before this period of his
middle age, he seems to have awakened rather suddenly to the necessity of
taking some active measure to check the ravages of the restorer. Goaded,
finally, by the sight of alterations going on in one of the beautiful
parish churches near Kelmscott, he conceived the idea of forming a society
of protest. Early in 1877 the impending fate of the Abbey Church at
Tewkesbury, under the devastating hands of Sir Gilbert Scott, prompted him
to put the idea at once before the public, and he wrote to the _Athenæum_
a letter in which he went straight to the heart of his subject with
clearness and simplicity.

"My eye just now caught the word 'restoration' in the morning paper," he
wrote, "and on looking closer, I saw that this time it is nothing less
than the Minster of Tewkesbury that is to be destroyed by Sir Gilbert
Scott. Is it altogether too late to do something to save it,--it and
whatever else of beautiful and historical is still left us on the sites of
the ancient buildings we were once so famous for? Would it not be of some
use once for all, and with the least delay possible, to set on foot an
association for the purpose of watching over and protecting these relics
which, scanty as they are now become, are still wonderful treasures, all
the more priceless in this age of the world, when the newly-invented study
of living history is the chief joy of so many of our lives?

"Your paper has so steadily and courageously opposed itself to these acts
of barbarism which the modern architect, parson, and squire call
'restoration,' that it would be waste of words here to enlarge on the ruin
that has been wrought by their hands; but, for the saving of what is left,
I think I may write you a word of encouragement, and say that you by no
means stand alone in the matter, and that there are many thoughtful
people who would be glad to sacrifice time, money, and comfort in defence
of those ancient monuments; besides, though I admit that the architects
are, with very few exceptions, hopeless, because interest, habit, and an
ignorance yet grosser, bind them; still there must be many people whose
ignorance is accidental rather than inveterate, whose good sense could
surely be touched if it were clearly put to them that they were destroying
what they, or more surely still, their sons and sons' sons would one day
fervently long for, and which no wealth or energy could ever buy again for

"What I wish for, therefore, is that an association should be set on foot
to keep a watch on old monuments, to protest against all 'restoration'
that means more than keeping out wind and weather, and, by all means,
literary and other, to awaken a feeling that our ancient buildings are not
mere ecclesiastical toys, but sacred monuments of the nation's growth and

In less than a month the association was formed under the title of the
"Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings," abbreviated by Morris to
the "Anti-Scrape Society," in cheerful reference to the pernicious
scraping and pointing indulged in by the restorers. Morris was made
secretary of the Society, and, as long as he lived, worked loyally in its
behalf, giving, in addition to time and money, the labour, which to him
was grievous, of lecturing for it. He wrote a prospectus that was
translated into French, German, Italian, and Dutch, and among the more
important of his protests were those against the demolition of some of the
most beautiful portions of St. Mark's at Venice, and the "bedizening" of
the interior of Westminster Abbey.

For the sentiment which inspired him, the inextinguishable love in his
heart toward every example however humble of the art he reverenced, we may
turn to one of the most eloquently reasonable passages of his numerous
lectures. Closing his account of pattern designing with a reference to the
creation of modern or Gothic art, he says: "Never until the time of that
death or cataleptic sleep of the so-called Renaissance did it forget its
origin, or fail altogether in fulfilling its mission of turning the
ancient curse of labour into something more like a blessing."

"As to the way in which it did its work," he continues, "as I have no
time, so also I have but little need to speak, since there is none of us
but has seen and felt some portion of the glory which it left behind, but
has shared some portion of that most kind gift it gave the world; for even
in this our turbulent island, the home of rough and homely men, so far
away from the centres of art and thought which I have been speaking of,
did simple folk labour for those that shall come after them. Here in the
land we yet love they built their homes and temples; if not so
majestically as many peoples have done, yet in such sweet accord with the
familiar nature amidst which they dwelt, that when by some happy chance
we come across the work they wrought, untouched by any but natural change,
it fills us with a satisfying untroubled happiness that few things else
could bring us. Must our necessities destroy, must our restless ambition
mar, the sources of this innocent pleasure, which rich and poor may share
alike--this communion with the very hearts of the departed men? Must we
sweep away these touching memories of our stout forefathers and their
troublous days that won our present peace and liberties?

"If our necessities compel us to it, I say we are an unhappy people; if
our vanity lure us into it, I say we are a foolish and light-minded
people, who have not the wits to take a little trouble to avoid spoiling
our own goods. Our own goods? Yes, the goods of the people of England, now
and in time to come: we who are now alive are but life-renters of them.
Any of us who pretend to any culture know well that in destroying or
injuring one of these buildings we are destroying the pleasure, the
culture--in a word, the humanity--of unborn generations. It is speaking
very mildly to say that we have no right to do this for our temporary
convenience. It is speaking too mildly. I say any such destruction is an
act of brutal dishonesty.... It is in the interest of living art and
living history that I oppose 'restoration.' What history can there be in a
building bedaubed with ornament, which cannot at best be anything but a
hopeless and lifeless imitation of the hope and vigour of the earlier
world? As to the art that is concerned in it, a strange folly it seems to
me for us who live among these bricken masses of hideousness, to waste the
energies of our short lives in feebly trying to add new beauty to what is
already beautiful. Is that all the surgery we have for the curing of
England's spreading sore? Don't let us vex ourselves to cure the
antepenultimate blunders of the world, but fall to on our own blunders.
Let us leave the dead alone, and, ourselves living, build for the living
and those that shall live. Meantime, my plea for our Society is this, that
since it is disputed whether restoration be good or not, and since we are
confessedly living in a time when architecture has come on the one hand to
Jerry building, and on the other to experimental designing (good, very
good experiments some of them), let us take breath and wait; let us
sedulously repair our ancient buildings, and watch every stone of them as
if they were built of jewels (as indeed they are), but otherwise let the
dispute rest till we have once more learned architecture, till we once
more have among us a reasonable, noble, and universally used style. Then
let the dispute be settled. I am not afraid of the issue. If that day ever
comes, we shall know what beauty, romance, and history mean, and the
technical meaning of the word 'restoration' will be forgotten.

"Is not this a reasonable plea? It means prudence. If the buildings are
not worth anything they are not worth restoring; if they are worth
anything they are at least worth treating with common sense and prudence.

"Come now, I invite you to support the most prudent Society in all

It is easy to understand from such examples as this how Morris gained his
popularity as a lecturer. In the printed sentences you read the eager,
persuasive accent, so convincing because so convinced. On the platform he
stood, say his friends, like a conqueror, stalwart and sturdy, his good
grey eyes flashing or twinkling, his voice deepening with feeling, his
gesture and speech sudden and spontaneous, his aspect that of an
insurgent, a fighter against custom and orthodoxy.

It was not long after the formation of the Society for the Protection of
Ancient Buildings that he began to show himself a rebel in more than words
against existing social laws. The steps by which he reached his membership
in the Democratic Federation in the year 1883 are not very easily traced.
Comments on the distressing gulf between rich and poor and on the
conditions under which the modern workingman did his task became more
frequent in his letters and addresses. His mind seemed to be gradually
adjusting itself to the thought that the only hope for obtaining ideal
conditions in which--this was always the ultimate goal--art might be
constantly associated with handicraft, was perhaps to let art go for the
time being, and upset society and all its conventions in preparation for a
new earth. "Art must go under," he wrote in one of his private letters
"where or however it may come up again." But it was always the fate of art
that concerned him. He never really understood what Socialism technically
and economically speaking meant. He read its books with labour and sorrow,
and struggled with its theories in support of his antagonism to the
commercial methods of modern business, but he gained no firm grasp of any
underlying political principle. In most of his later addresses he talked
pure sentiment concerning social questions, characteristically declaring
it to be the purest reason. His avowed belief was that "workmen should be
artists and artists workmen," and this, he felt, could only be attained
under the freest conditions. A workman should not be clothed in shabby
garments, should not be wretchedly housed, overworked, or underfed. But
neither will it profit him much if he wear good clothes, and keep short
hours, and eat wholesome food, and contribute to the ugliness of the wares
turned out by commerce. The idea that a man works only to earn leisure in
which he does no work was shocking to him as it had been to Ruskin.
Pleasant work to do, leisure for other work of a different pleasantness,
this was what the workingman really wanted if only he knew it. It was
clear to Morris that he himself worked "not the least in the world for the
sake of earning leisure by it," but "partly driven by the fear of
starvation and disgrace," and partly because he loved the work itself;
and while he was ready to confess that he spent a part of his leisure "as
a dog does" in contemplation, and liked it well enough, he also spent part
of it in work which gave him as much pleasure as his bread-earning work,
neither more nor less. Obviously if there are men with whom such is not
the case it is because they have not the right kind of work to do, and are
not doing it in the right way, and it is equally obvious that the wrong
work and the wrong way of doing it are forced upon them. Left to
themselves they are bound to do what pleases them and what will please
others of right minds. The ideal handicraftsman developing under an ideal
social order "shall put his own individual intelligence and enthusiasm
into the goods he fashions. So far from his labour being 'divided,' which
is the technical phrase for his always doing one minute piece of work and
never being allowed to think of any other, so far from that, he must know
all about the ware he is making and its relation to similar wares; he must
have a natural aptitude for his work so strong that no education can force
him away from his special bent. He must be allowed to think of what he is
doing and to vary his work as the circumstances of it vary, and his own
moods. He must be forever stirring to make the piece he is at work at
better than the last. He must refuse at anybody's bidding to turn out, I
won't say a bad, but even an indifferent piece of work, whatever the
public want or think they want. He must have a voice, and a voice worth
listening to in the whole affair."

This attitude is almost identical with that of Ruskin. To see how the
theories of master and pupil coincide one has only to read _The Stones of
Venice_ and compare with the passage quoted above the famous chapter on
_The Nature of the Gothic_.

"It is verily this degradation of the operative into a machine," says
Ruskin, "which, more than any other evil of the times, is leading the mass
of the nations everywhere into vain, incoherent, destructive struggling
for a freedom of which they cannot explain the nature to themselves. Their
universal outcry against wealth and against nobility is not forced from
them either by the pressure of famine or the sting of mortified pride.
These do much, and have done much in all ages; but the foundations of
society were never yet shaken as they are at this day. It is not that men
are ill-fed, but that they have no pleasure in the work by which they make
their bread, and therefore look to wealth as the only means of pleasure.
It is not that men are pained by the scorn of the upper classes, but they
cannot endure their own; for they feel that the kind of labour to which
they are condemned is verily a degrading one, and makes them less than
men.... We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the great
civilised invention of the division of labour; only we give it a false
name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the
men--divided into mere segments of men--broken into small fragments and
crumbs of life, so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left
in a man is not enough to make a pin or a nail, but exhausts itself in
making the point of a pin, or the head of a nail.... And the great cry
that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace
blast, is all in very deed for this,--that we manufacture everything there
except men.... And all the evil to which that cry is urging our myriads
can be met only ... by a right understanding on the part of all classes,
of what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them and making them
happy; by a determined sacrifice of such convenience, or beauty, or
cheapness as is to be got only by the degradation of the workman." But
Ruskin was altogether too much of an aristocrat, too much of an egoist, to
root out classes. We can hardly imagine him preaching as Morris finally
came to preach a revolution which should make it impossible for him to
condescend. He could devote seven thousand pounds of his own money to
establishing a St. George Society, but it would probably never have
occurred to him to head a riot in Trafalgar Square.

When Morris, under the influence of old theories and new associations,
came to consider not only the desirability but the possibility of
establishing a social order in which men could work quite happily and art
could get loose from handcuffs welded and locked by commercialism, it was
a necessity of his temperament that he should turn his back on halfway
methods and urge drastic reforms. His way was not the way of compromise,
and he seriously believed that if "civilisation" could be swept out of the
path by a revolution which should destroy all class distinctions and all
machinery and machine-made goods, which should do away with commercialism
and strip the world to its bare bones, so that men could start afresh, all
equal and all freed from the superfluities of life, there would grow up a
charming communism in which kind hearts would take the place of coronets,
and cheerful labour the place of hopeless toil. We find him writing in a
private letter--madly, yet with the downright force that kindled where it
struck--that he has "faith more than a grain of mustard seed in the future
history of civilisation," that he now knows it to be doomed to
destruction, and that it is a consolation and joy to him to think of
barbarism once more flooding the world, "and real feelings and passions,
however rudimentary, taking the place of our wretched hypocrisies." It was
thus he thought, or felt, about the new field of labour upon which he was
entering, and it is from this point of view that he must be defended
against the slurs that have been cast at him as a "Capitalist-Socialist."
He did not ignore the ideal of renunciation which had tempted him in his
youth, and which he again thought of in his middle age--though less
tempted, perhaps. But he reasoned, logically enough, that for one man or a
few men to divide his or their wealth with the poor would not advance
the world by a furlong or a foot toward the state of things which he had
at heart to bring about. It might raise the beneficiaries a little higher
in the ranks--in other words, bring them a little closer to the dangerous
middle-class, from which came the worst of their troubles, and it might
also have the effect of making them a trifle more content with existing
conditions. Neither effect was desirable in his eyes. A divine discontent
to be spread throughout all classes was the end and aim of such Socialism
as he accepted. Nothing could be done except through the antagonism of
classes, which seemed in itself to provide a remedy. In _News from
Nowhere_, his best known Socialistic romance, the name of which was
perhaps suggested by Kingsley's Utopian and anagrammatic _Erewhon_, he
puts into the mouth of an old man who is himself a survival from the days
of "class slavery," a description of the imaginary change to an ideal
Communism. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, it is assumed, a
federation of labour made it possible for the workmen or "slaves" to
establish from time to time important strikes that would sometimes stop an
industry altogether for a while, and to impose upon their "masters" other
restrictions that seriously interfered with the systematic conduct of
commerce. The resulting "bad times" reached a crisis in the year 1952,
when the "Combined Workers" determined upon the bold step of demanding a
practical reversal of classes, by which they should have the management
of the whole natural resources of the country, together with the machinery
for using them. The upper classes resisting, riots ensued, then the "Great
Strike." "The railways did not run," the old man recalls; "the telegraph
wires were unserved; flesh, fish, and green stuff brought to market was
allowed to lie there still packed and perishing; the thousands of
middle-class families, who were utterly dependent for the next meal on the
workers, made frantic efforts through their more energetic members to
cater for the needs of the day, and amongst those of them who could not
throw off the fear of what was to follow, there was, I am told, a certain
enjoyment of this unexpected picnic--a forecast of the days to come in
which all labour grew pleasant." Out of all this came civil war, with
destruction of wares and machinery and also the destruction of the spirit
of commercialism. With the removal of the spur of competition it is
admitted that there was a temporary danger of making men dull by giving
them too much time for thought or idle musing. How was this danger
overcome? By a growing interest in art, to be sure. The people, all
workmen now, and providing very simply for their simple needs, "no longer
driven desperately to painful and terrible overwork," began to wish to
make the work they had in hand as attractive as possible, and rudely and
awkwardly to ornament the wares they produced. "Thus at last and by slow
degrees," the old man concludes, "we got pleasure into our work; then we
became conscious of that pleasure, and cultivated it, and took care that
we had our fill of it, and then all was gained and we were happy."


There is little here to charm the logically constructive mind, acquainted
with human nature, and in the lectures setting forth in more detail and
with more attempt at practical teaching the methods by which society could
be enlightened and raised to his standard of excellence, Morris boldly
invites the scorn of the political economist by the wholly visionary
character of his pathetically "reasonable" views. Nevertheless, he was not
without an instinct for distinguishing social evils and suggesting right
remedies. Strip his doctrines of their exaggerated conclusions from false
premises, and it is possible to find in them the seeds of many reforms
that have come about to the inestimable benefit of the modern world. In
his lecture on _Useful Work versus Useless Toil_, the very title of which
is a flash of genius, he advocates the kind of education that is directed
toward finding out what different people are fit for, and helping them
along the road which they are inclined to take. He would have young people
taught "such handicrafts as they had a turn for as a part of their
education, the discipline of their minds and bodies; and adults would also
have opportunities of learning in the same schools." He preaches the
necessity of agreeable surroundings, claiming that science duly applied
would get rid of the smoke, stench, and noise of factories, and that
factories and buildings in which work is carried on should be made decent,
convenient, and beautiful, while workers should be given opportunities of
living in quiet country homes, in small towns, or in industrial colleges,
instead of being obliged to "pig together" in close city quarters. Not one
of these considerations is ignored by the organisations now endeavouring
in the name of civilisation to raise the standard of the community. Manual
training schools, free kindergartens, health protective associations,
model tenement societies, have all arisen to meet in their own ways the
needs to which Morris was so keenly alive. It was not the word reform,
however, but the word revolution, that he constantly reiterated, and
declined to relinquish in favour of any milder term. His friend William
Clarke has summed up in a single paragraph the substance of many
conversations held with him on the subject of social progress. "Existing
society is, he thinks, gradually, but with increasing momentum,
disintegrating through its own rottenness. The capitalist system of
production is breaking down fast and is compelled to exploit new regions
in Africa and other parts, where, he thinks, its term will be short.
Economically, socially, morally, politically, religiously, civilisation is
becoming bankrupt. Meanwhile it is for the Socialist to take advantage of
this disintegration by spreading discontent, by preaching economic
truths, and by any kind of demonstration which may harass the authorities
and develop among the people an _esprit de corps_. By these means the
people will, in some way or other, be ready to take up the industry of the
world when the capitalist class is no longer able to direct or control

The expression "in some way or other" very well indicates the essential
vagueness underlying Morris's definite speech. He had no idea of the means
by which the people could be educated to the assumption of unfamiliar
control. The utmost that he could suggest was that they should be awakened
to the beauty of life as he saw it in his dreams. This beauty he
continually set before them in phrases as simple and as eloquent as he
could make them. Nor did he shirk the responsibilities raised by his
extreme point of view. Nothing testifies more truly to his fidelity of
nature and devotion to his ideal than his readiness to put aside the
pursuits he loved with his whole heart and take up activities detested by
him for many years of that gifted, interesting life of his, in the hope of
bringing about, for people whom he really cared for only in the mass, who
did not understand him and whom he did not very well understand, an order
of things which should in time, but not in his time, make them--so he
thought--quite happy. The extent to which he renounced was not slight.

Now indeed was the time when his friends might justly lament that he was
being kept labouring at what he could not do, with work all round that he
could do so well. First he joined the Democratic Federation and was
promptly put on its executive committee. We find him writing that it is
naturally harder to understand the subject of Socialism in detail as he
gets alongside of it, and that he often gets beaten in argument even when
he knows he is right, which only drives him to more desperate attempts to
justify his theories by the study of other people's arguments. While he
was a member of the Federation (a definitely Socialist body at the time)
he delivered a lecture at Oxford with the effect of rousing consternation
in the University despite the fact that he had taken pains to inform the
authorities of his position as an active Socialist. They did not
understand the extent of his activity, and when he wound up an agreeable
talk by frankly appealing to the undergraduates of the Russell Club, at
whose invitation he was speaking, to join the Democratic Federation, the
Master of University was brought to his feet to explain that nothing of
the kind had been foreseen when Mr. Morris was asked to express there "his
opinion on art under a democracy."

Besides his lecturing, which went on in London, or at Manchester, Leeds,
Blackburn, Leicester, Glasgow, and anywhere else where a hopeful
opportunity afforded, he was writing for the weekly paper of the
Federation, the little sheet called _Justice_, and also writing pamphlets
for distribution among the people. The measures urged in _Justice_ for
immediate adoption as remedies for the evils of existing society were:

Free Compulsory Education for all classes, together with the provision of
at least one wholesome meal a day in each school.

Eight Hours or less to be the normal Working day in all trades.

Cumulative Taxation upon all incomes above a fixed minimum not exceeding
£300 a year.

State Appropriation of Railways, with or without compensation.

The Establishment of National Banks, which shall absorb all private
institutions that derive a profit from operations in money or credit.

Rapid Extinction of the National Debt.

Nationalisation of the Land and organisation of agricultural and
industrial armies under State control on Coöperative principles.

The objects of the Federation were: "To unite the various Associations of
Democrats and Workers throughout Great Britain and Ireland for the purpose
of securing equal rights for all, and forming a permanent centre of
organisation; to agitate for the ultimate adoption of the programme of the
Federation; to aid all Social and political movements in the direction of
these reforms." Morris believed himself to be in full sympathy with the
fundamental principles of the Federation, and faithfully resented the
assumption of a kindly intentioned critic who stated that his imperfect
sympathy with them must in charity be supposed. To the implication that he
cared only for art and not for the other side of the social questions he
had been writing about, he responded: "Much as I love art and ornament, I
value it chiefly as a token of the happiness of the people, and I would
rather it were all swept away from the world than that the mass of the
people should suffer oppression"; but he continued with the familiar
challenge, opportunity to utter which was seldom lost, "At the same time,
Sir, I will beg you earnestly to consider if my contention is not true,
that genuine Art is always an expression of pleasure in Labour?" In
explaining his point of view to the public before whom he placed his
little collection of Socialist lectures, he expressed his conviction that
all the ugliness and vulgarity of civilisation, which his own work had
forced him to look upon with grief and pain are "but the outward
expression of the innate moral baseness into which we are forced by our
present form of society." The ethical and practical sides of the problem
he was trying to face honestly, grew up in his mind as he dwelt upon its
artistic side, and he made noble efforts to evolve schemes of practical
expediency. In his reasonableness he went so far as to admit the possible
usefulness of machinery in the new order toward which he was directing the
attention of his followers; but he is swift to add, "for the consolation
of the artists," that this usefulness will probably be but temporary;
that a state of social order would lead, at first, perhaps, to a great
development of machinery for really useful purposes, "because people will
still be anxious about getting through the work necessary to holding
society together"; but after a while they will find that there is not so
much work to do as they expected and will have leisure to reconsider the
whole subject, and then "if it seems to them that a certain industry would
be carried on more pleasantly as regards the worker, and more effectually
as regards the goods, by using hand-work rather than machinery they will
certainly get rid of their machinery, because it will be possible for them
to do so." "It isn't possible now," he adds; "we are not at liberty to do
so; we are slaves to the monsters we have created. And I have a kind of
hope that the very elaboration of machinery in a society whose purpose is
not the multiplication of labour, as it now is, but the carrying on of a
pleasant life, as it would be under social order,--that the elaboration of
machinery, I say, will lead to the simplification of life, and so once
more to the limitation of machinery."

Although the discussion of methods and external forms was entirely foreign
to Morris's habit of mind, he was not averse to discussing the history of
society. He was not much more an historian than he was an economist in the
strict sense. He ignored, idealised, and blackened at will, always
perfectly certain that he was setting forth the contrast between the past
and the present in its true light; but his delight in the mediæval past,
which was the only past to which he gave much attention, lends to his
pictures of it a charm most appealing to those who have not too prodding a
prejudice in favour of historical accuracy. He is at his best when he
breaks from his grapple with the subject of the commercial classes and
their development to evoke the visions which neither history nor economics
could obscure in his mind. "Not seldom I please myself with trying to
realise the face of mediæval England," he says to the motley audience
gathering at a street corner or in some dingy little hall or shed to
listen to him, "the many chases and great woods, the stretches of common
tillage and common pasture quite unenclosed; the rough husbandry of the
tilled parts, the unimproved breeds of cattle, sheep, and swine;
especially the latter, so lank and long and lathy, looking so strange to
us; the strings of packhorses along the bridle-roads; of the scantiness of
the wheel-roads, scarce any except those left by the Romans, and those
made from monastery to monastery; the scarcity of bridges, and people
using ferries instead, or fords where they could; the little towns, well
bechurched, often walled; the villages just where they are now (except for
those that have nothing but the church left to tell of them), but better
and more populous; their churches, some big and handsome, some small and
curious, but all crowded with altars and furniture, and gay with pictures
and ornament; the many religious houses, with their glorious architecture;
the beautiful manor-houses, some of them castles once, and survivals from
an earlier period; some new and elegant; some out of all proportion small
for the importance of their lords. How strange it would be to us if we
could be landed in fourteenth-century England; unless we saw the crest of
some familiar hill like that which yet bears upon it a symbol of an
English tribe, and from which, looking down on the plain where Alfred was
born, I once had many such ponderings, we should not know into what
country of the world we were come: the name is left, scarce a thing



By the latter part of 1884 the political agitations and internal
differences in the Federation, now called The Social Democratic
Federation, became so violent as to force Morris to leave the association
in which he had had no desire to be a leader, but had been unable to keep
the position of acquiescent follower. In his connection with this and
other public organisations, the underlying gentleness and real humility of
his nature was clearly to be seen. He learned patience through his
conflict with unsympathetic minds. From the weary experience of working in
constant intercourse with men whose temper and practice and many of whose
theories were directly antagonistic to his own, although identified with
them in the public mind by a common responsibility, he learned to subdue
those elements of his temperament that worked against the success of what
he had most loyally at heart. From self-confidence, a critical habit, an
overbearing positiveness of assertion, he passed to comparative
reticence, tolerance, even docility. To his equals it was painful to see
ignorant men assign to him his task, but he never failed to comply
instantly with their orders.

[Illustration: MERTON ABBEY WORKS]


It could not, however, have been an education in which he could take
conscious pleasure, and at this juncture he doubtless would have been
happy indeed could he have gone quietly back to the weaving and dyeing and
writing of poetry with which his new preoccupation had seriously
interfered. His conscience, however, was too deeply involved to permit a
desertion, which would, he said, be dastardly. The question now constantly
in his mind was how he would have felt against the system under which he
lived had he himself been poor. He was convinced that he would have found
it unendurable. Therefore, with a longing glance at his chintz bleaching
in the sunlight and pure air of Merton Abbey, he put his shoulder to the
wheel again, and, gathering together a few of his sympathisers,
inaugurated a new party, the Socialist League, with the famous little
_Commonweal_ for its organ, a monthly paper now the joy of collectors on
account of the beautiful headings of Walter Crane and the remarkable
quality of the contributions by Morris himself. In this new society, for
which he was primarily responsible, Morris found his work redoubled. He
was editor of the _Commonweal_ as well as contributor to it. He continued
his lecturing, often under the most depressing conditions, speaking to
small and indifferent audiences in small and miserable quarters. At
Hammersmith he instituted a branch of the League in the room previously
given up to his carpet-weaving, and there he gave Sunday evening
addresses. On Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings he spoke at the
outdoor meetings which were to be the insidious foes of his health, and
which more than once brought him into personal notoriety of a disagreeable

The first of these occasions was on the 21st of September, 1885, when a
number of people were arrested for gathering together that Sunday morning
at the corner of Dod Street and Burdett Road against orders from the
authorities to the effect that meetings at that place--a favourite spot
with open-air speakers--must be stopped. Morris, with other members of the
League, was present in court when the prisoners were brought up, and
joined in the hisses and cries of "Shame!" when one prisoner was sentenced
to two months' hard labour and the others were fined. Morris was arrested,
subjected to a little questioning from the magistrate, and dismissed. The
following Sunday another meeting, comprising many thousands of people, was
held on the forbidden corner; nothing occurred, and they dispersed
victoriously. The next year a Sunday-morning meeting in a street off
Edgeware Road was interfered with by the police, and Morris was summoned
to the police court and fined a shilling and costs for the offence of
obstructing the highway.

Out of these experiences resulted, we may very well imagine, the farce
entitled: _The Tables Turned; or, Nupkins Awakened_, given at an
entertainment in the Hall of the Socialist League, at Farringdon Road, on
October 15, 1887. Copies of it are still in existence--sorry little
pamphlets in blue wrappers, bearing no kinship to the aristocratic
products of the Kelmscott Press so soon to follow, but extremely
entertaining as showing Morris in his least conventional and most
aggressive public mood. As the pamphlet is quite rare, a brief description
of its contents is not, perhaps, superfluous, although its literary merit
amounts to as little as possible considering its authorship. It opens with
a scene in a court of justice, Justice Nupkins presiding, in which a Mr.
La-di-da is found guilty of swindling and of robbing the widow and the
orphan. He is sentenced to imprisonment for the space of one calendar
month. Next Mary Pinch, a poor woman (the part was taken by Morris's
daughter May), is accused of stealing three loaves of bread, and, after
absurd and contradictory testimony by witnesses for the prosecution
(constables and sergeants), is sentenced to eighteen months of hard
labour. Next, John Freeman, a Socialist, is accused of conspiracy,
sedition, and obstruction of the highway. The Archbishop of Canterbury
(this rôle enacted by Morris), Lord Tennyson, and Professor Tyndall are
called as witnesses and give testimony, the manner and speech of the
renowned originals being somewhat rudely parodied. After contradictory
evidence by these witnesses and the former ones, the prisoner is sentenced
to six years' penal servitude with a fine of one hundred pounds, his
offence having been an open-air speech advocating the principles of
Socialism. As his sentence is pronounced the _Marseillaise_ is heard, and
a Socialist ensign enters with news that the Revolution has begun.

It is in the second part that the tables are turned upon Nupkins. The
scene this time is laid in the fields near a country village, with a copse
close by. The time is after the Revolution. Justice Nupkins is found
skulking in the copse, half mad with fear at the reversal of social
conditions, his past cruelty giving him small reason to hope for gentle
treatment at the hands of the former "lower classes," who are now running
affairs to suit themselves. He meets Mary Pinch, who pities his deplorable
aspect and invites him to her house, now a pleasant and prosperous home.
He cannot believe in the sincerity of her apparent kindness, and flees
from her in a panic, only to meet other of his former victims who further
alarm him by pretending to arrest him and give him a mock trial, during
which he thinks he is to be sentenced to death. He learns at last that
under the beautiful new order he is free to do what he pleases, and may
dig potatoes and earn his own living by such tilling of the soil. The
citizens dance about him singing the following words to the tune of the

  What's this that the days and the days have done?
  Man's lordship over man hath gone.

  How fares it, then, with high and low?
  Equal on earth they thrive and grow.
            Bright is the sun for everyone;
            Dance we, dance we the Carmagnole.

  How deal ye, then, with pleasure and pain?
  Alike we share and bear the twain.

  And what's the craft whereby ye live?
  Earth and man's work to all men give.

  How crown ye excellence of worth?
  With leave to serve all men on earth.

  What gain that lordship's past and done?
  World's wealth for all and everyone.

This somewhat childlike but not too bland revenge on the powers of the law
met with an enthusiastic reception at the Hall of the Socialist League;
Mr. Bernard Shaw, who was present, declaring that there had been no such
successful "first night" within living memory.

The year 1887 was marked, however, by events much more serious than the
acting of a little farce. On the 13th of November,--"Bloody Sunday" it was
called,--the efforts of the Government to check open-air speaking
culminated in an organised riot on the part of the Socialists in alliance
with the extreme Radicals. Sir Charles Warren had prohibited by
proclamation the holding of any meeting in Trafalgar Square,--a meeting
having been announced to take place there to protest against the Irish
policy of the Government. Thereupon it was agreed by the Socialist League,
the Social Democratic Federation, the Irish National League, and certain
Radical clubs that their members should assemble at various centres and
march toward Trafalgar Square. Morris put himself at the head of the
Clerkenwell contingent, first delivering a short speech mounted on a cart
in company with Mrs. Besant and others. He declared that wherever it was
attempted to put down free speech it was a bounden duty to resist the
attempt by every possible means, and told his audience that he thought
their business was to get to the Square by some means or other; that he
intended to do his best to get there, whatever the consequences might be,
and that they must press on like orderly people and good citizens. Thus
pressing on, with flags flying and bands playing, they were met at the
Bloomsbury end of St. Martin's Lane by the police, mounted and on foot,
who charged in among them, striking right and left, and causing complete
disorder in the ranks. The triumph of law and order over the various
columns of the demonstrators was soon complete, and the outcome consisted
of the arrest of three hundred men or more (many of whom were sent to
prison and a few condemned to penal servitude) and the killing of three.
The first to die was Alfred Linnell, for whom a public funeral was
given--great masses of men marching in perfect and solemn order to Bow
Cemetery, where he was buried, the service at the grave being read by the
light of a lantern. Such an event would inevitably stir Morris to
sympathetic rage, and the dirge written by him to be sung as poor Linnell
was buried has an inflammatory sound despite the obvious effort at

  We asked them for a life of toilsome earning,
    They bade us bide their leisure for our bread;
  We craved to speak to tell our woful learning,
    We came back speechless, bearing back our dead!

Thus time was spent. Sometimes Morris was heading processions "with the
face of a Crusader," says Joseph Pennell, describing one occasion on which
he led a crowd, "among the red flags, singing with all his might the
_Marseillaise_"--into Westminster Abbey to attend the Sunday services.
Sometimes he was bailing out his friends who had been "run in" by the
police. Sometimes he was tramping, whatever the weather, at the head of
the workless workers of Hammersmith to interview the Guardians of the
Poor. Sometimes he was delivering his lectures among woful hovels in
tumbledown sheds to a score or so of people of whose comprehension he felt
most doubtful. Always he was preaching "Education toward Revolution," but
with an ever-increasing consciousness that a vast amount of education was
needed before revolution could be effectively reforming. His imagination
had formed great ideals and had pictured those ideals in triumphant
practice, but his practical sense was sufficient to show him the futility
of unintelligent action. He had spent much money, not in profit-sharing
among his workmen (although this obtained to a certain extent in his
business), but in bearing the various and heavy expenses imposed by the
publication of the organs of Socialism, which he supported almost as
largely by his purse as by his pen, and by a thousand other needs of the
cause to which in 1882 he had also sacrificed the greater part of his
valuable library. He had spent much time, which, to one so deeply
interested in pursuits for which any one life is far too short, meant
infinitely more than the expenditure of money or the relinquishing of
property that, after all, may be got back again. And he had worked against
the grain with all sorts and conditions of companions, from whom he was as
widely separated as the east is from the west--never more widely than when
he was marching by their side toward a goal that neither could see
clearly. He was now longing more and more to get back to his own life and
away from a life so foreign. As he had said in the first flush of his
enthusiasm, "Art must go under," he was now prepared "to see all organised
Socialism run into the sand for a while." It is not surprising that he
"somehow did not seem to care much" when the Socialist League became
disintegrated and insolvent. He had done his best for it, but its
strongest members had drifted away from it, the executive control had been
gained by a group of Anarchists, and Morris had been by these deposed
from the editorship of the _Commonweal_. Before the society reached its
lowest depths he resigned, giving expression in the _Commonweal_ for the
15th of November, 1890, to his feeling in the form it then took toward the
movement which so long had carried him out of his course and kept him in
turbulent waters. This movement had then been going on for about seven
years. Those concerned in it had made, he thought, "about as many mistakes
as any other party in a similar space of time." When he first joined it he
hoped that some leaders would turn up among the workingmen who "would push
aside all middle-class help and become great historical figures." This
hope he had pretty well relinquished. In the beginning there had been
little said about anything save the great ideals of Socialism, but as the
Socialist idea had become more and more impressed upon the epoch a
somewhat vulgarised and partial realisation of these ideals had pressed
upon the friends of the cause. They began to think of methods, and mostly
of "methods of impatience," as Morris from his ripened and moderated point
of view now designated them. "There are two tendencies in this matter of
methods," he said; "on the one hand is our old acquaintance, palliation,
elevated now into vastly greater importance than it used to have, because
of the growing discontent, and the obvious advance of Socialism; on the
other is the method of partial, necessarily futile, inconsequent revolt,
or riot rather, against the authorities, who are our absolute masters, and
can easily put it down.

"With both these methods I disagree; and that the more because the
palliatives have to be clamoured for, and the riots carried out by men who
do not know what Socialism is, and have no idea what their next step is to
be, if, contrary to all calculation, they should happen to be successful.
Therefore, at the best, our masters would be our masters still, because
there would be nothing to take their place. _We are not ready for such a
change as that!_" The time was favourable, he thought, for preaching the
simple principles of Socialism regardless of the policy of the passing
hour, nor was any more active work desirable. "I say, for us _to make
Socialists_," he concluded, "is _the_ business at present, and at present
I do not think we can have any other useful business. Those who are not
really Socialists--who are Trades Unionists, disturbance-breeders, or what
not--will do what they are impelled to do, and we cannot help it. At the
worst there will be some good in what they do; but we need not and cannot
heartily work with them, when we know that their methods are beside the
right way.

"Our business, I repeat, is the making of Socialists, _i.e._, convincing
people that Socialism is good for them and is possible. When we have
enough people of that way of thinking, _they_ will find out what action is
necessary for putting their principles in practice. Therefore, I say,
make Socialists. We Socialists can do nothing else that is useful."

This was practically the end of militant Socialism for Morris. Together
with a handful of his true followers and sympathisers he did organise or
reorganise under very simple rules a little society named the Hammersmith
Socialist Society, which took the place of the Hammersmith Branch of the
Socialist League. The manifesto explained that the separation had been
made because the members of the new society did not hold the Anarchistic
views of the majority of the old society's members, and would be likely to
waste in bickering time "which should be spent in attacking capitalism."
The business of the Hammersmith Society was to spread the principles of
Socialism, the method so warmly recommended by Morris in his _Commonweal_
article. But it was obvious that his interest was no longer keen in even
this passive mode of advancing the cause for which he had laboured so long
and, on the whole, so thanklessly. He set himself dutifully to work at
writing the manifesto, but complained, "I would so much rather go on with
my Saga work."

It cannot be said, however, that he was inconsistent. He had gone into
militant Socialism as he went into everything, with a superabundant energy
that must work itself off in activity. But there was more vehemence than
narrowness in his partisanship. When his party forsook the principles for
the sake of which he had joined it, he forsook the party. He learned of
human nature much that was discouraging during his efforts to make many of
his fellows work together in harmony, but he brought out of the fiery
experience an unharmed ideal. And among the clashing of creeds and the
warring of minds he played the part of peacemaker to an extent remarkable
in so impulsive a nature. "It seemed as though he wanted to have all his
own way," says one of his acquaintances, "yet put him in the chair at a
meeting and he was as patient as the mildest of us." His inmost belief was
much the same at the end as at the beginning,--matured by study and
tempered by practical failures, but holding to the fundamental idea that
art is the great source of pleasure in human life as well as pleasure's
best result, and must be made possible for everyone to practise with a
free mind and a body unwearied by hopeless toil. The letter to the _Daily
Chronicle_ of the 10th of November, 1893, on "Help for the Miners, the
Deeper Meaning of the Struggle," sounds the familiar note as positively as
ever, and contains all that is required to represent the creed of his
later years. "I hold firmly to the opinion," he says in this letter, "that
all worthy schools of art must be in the future, as they have been in the
past, the outcome of the aspirations of the people towards the beauty and
true pleasure of life. And, further, now that democracy is building up a
new order, which is slowly emerging from the confusion of the commercial
period, these aspirations of the people towards beauty can only be born
from a condition of practical equality, of economical condition amongst
the whole population. Lastly, I am so confident that this equality will be
gained that I am prepared to accept, as a consequence of the process of
that gain, the apparent disappearance of what art is now left us, because
I am sure that that will be but a temporary loss, to be followed by a
genuine new birth of art which will be the spontaneous expression of the
pleasure of life innate in the whole people. This, I say, is the art which
I look forward to, not as a vague dream, but as a practical certainty,
founded on the general well-being of the people. It is true that the
blossom of it I shall not see; therefore I may be excused if, in common
with other artists, I try to express myself through the art of to-day,
which seems to us to be only a survival of the organic art of the past, in
which the people shared, whatever the other drawbacks of their condition
might have been.... Yet if we shall not (those of us who are as old as I
am) see the New Art, the expression of the general pleasure of life, we
are even now seeing the seed of it beginning to germinate. For if genuine
art be impossible without the help of the useful classes, how can these
turn their attention to it if they are living amidst sordid cares which
press upon them day in, day out? The first step, therefore, towards the
new birth of art must be a definite rise in the condition of the workers;
their livelihood must (to say the least of it) be less niggardly and less
precarious, and their hours of labour shorter; and this improvement must
be a general one and confirmed against the chances of the market by
legislation. But, again, this change for the better can only be realised
by the efforts of the workers themselves. 'By us, and not for us,' must be
their motto.... What these staunch miners have been doing in the face of
such tremendous odds other workmen can and will do; and when life is
easier and fuller of pleasure people will have time to look around them
and find out what they desire in the matter of art, and will also have
time to compass their desires."

Just why Morris with his extreme independence stopped short of Anarchism
is difficult to see unless it be attributed to an instinct for order
inherited from the sturdy stock to which he belonged. The necessity of a
public rule of action was always, however, quite clear to him. He
contended that you have a right to do as you like so long as you do not
interfere with your neighbour's right to do as he likes, a contention
which not even a fairly conservative mind finds very difficult to uphold:
he was not willing to admit the right of an individual to act
"unsocially." Indeed all the charm of his pictures of the ideal life
derives from the atmosphere of loving-kindness and mutual helpfulness with
which he surrounds them. The Golden Rule was always in his mind as he
built up in his imagination his Paradise on earth. He possessed the
optimism of the kind-hearted, the faith in his fellow men that made him
sure of their right acting could they only start afresh with a field clear
of injury and abuse. He never dreamed in all his dreaming that these would
again grow up and destroy the beautiful fabric of his new Society, so
bright and unspotted in his mind. Of course there would be a social
conscience "which, being social, is common to every man." Without that
there could be no society; and "Man without society is not only impossible
but inconceivable." Thus he argued and thus he believed. His militant
Socialism had, while it lasted, a very dangerous side. His Socialist
"principles" are easily torn to ribbons by the political economist in
possession of facts showing the increasing prosperity of the working
classes and their increasing interest under existing conditions in the
arts and in education; but regarding his views merely as representing one
aspect of his impressive personality, it is easy to find them attractive.
To quote what the _Pall Mall Gazette_ said of the Sunday evenings at the
Hammersmith Hall, "They are patches of bright colour in the great drab,
dreary, dull, and dirty world." They bring with them such thoughts as
Arnold had of the repose that has fled "for ever the course of the river
of Time." The spirit breathed through them in strong contrast to the
spirit of many of his co-workers, ennobles all efforts toward true reform,
diffuses the love of humanity among a cold people, and makes for the
innocent and exquisite happiness which our human nature is so apt
paradoxically to deny us. In Morris's world we should all be very happy if
we were like Morris. He was not very happy in our world, yet perhaps he
managed to get out of it as much of the joy of doing as it can be made to
yield to any one man. His Socialism, from one point of view, was certainly
a tremendous failure, but no other side of his life visible to the public
at large showed so plainly his moral virtues, his generosity, his
sincerity, his power of self-sacrifice, his effort toward self-control. It
was significant that when, with a last rally of his forces to active work
for the cause, he joined in a concerted effort to unite all Socialists
into a single party, he was chosen as the best man for the purpose, all
the societies having "a deep regard and respect for him." It is even more
significant that his own employees in his large business also esteemed him
highly, feeling the sincerity with which he tried to make his practices
accord with his theories. If his business was a successful one it was not
because he tried to get from his workmen the utmost he could claim in time
and labour. The eight-hour working-day was in practice in the Merton
factory, and the wages paid were the highest known in the trade. He was
free from the self-complacency that gives to justice the name of charity,
and he was not distinguished for civility toward the people under his
direction, but he was, they said in their emphatic and expressive
vernacular, "the sort of bloke you always could depend upon."

Toward the end of his activity for the cause of Socialism he became
connected with a society which perhaps would not have existed without his
influence, although he was not directly responsible for its formation.
This was the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society [founded in 1888], the
aims of which were described by one of its members in the following words:
"To assert the possibilities of Art in design, applied even to the least
pretentious purpose and in every kind of handicraft; to protest against
the absolute subjection of Art in its applied form to the interests of
that extravagant waste of human energy which is called economic
production; to claim for the artist or handicraftsman, whose identity it
has been the rule to hide and whose artistic impulse it has been the
custom to curb (until he was really in danger of becoming, in fact as in
name, a mere hand), some recognition and some measure of appreciation; to
try and discover whether the public cared at all, or could be brought to
care, for the Art which, good or bad, is continually under their eyes; and
whether there might not be, in association with manufacture, or apart from
it, if that were out of the question, some scope for handicraft, some hope
for Art."

Morris's point of view is apparent in these aims, and the society was
composed chiefly of young men who, says Mr. Mackail, "without following
his principles to their logical issues or joining any Socialist
organisation, were profoundly permeated with his ideas on their most
fruitful side,--that of the regeneration, by continued and combined
individual effort, of the decaying arts of life." The Art Workers' Guild,
dating from 1884, was the source from which the new society sprang, the
immediate purpose of the latter being to get the work of men who combined
art with handicraft before the public by means of exhibitions, the
committees of the Royal Academy and kindred associations refusing to
accept examples of applied art for the exhibitions which they devoted to
what they called "fine art proper." Mr. Mackail calls attention to the
fact that Morris at this stage of his life was so thoroughly imbued with
the idea that the general public were ignorant of and indifferent to
decorative art, as to feel more sceptical of the success of the
exhibitions than was justified by their outcome. He lent his aid, however,
with his customary energy, guaranteeing a considerable sum of money, and
contributing some valuable papers and lectures, the exhibitions being
combined with instruction by acknowledged masters of handicraft. In 1891
he was elected President of the Society, holding that office until the
time of his death, when he was succeeded by Walter Crane. He was a member
of the Art Workers' Guild as well, and was elected Master of the Guild in
1892. He also belonged to the Bibliographical Society formed in that year,
and in 1894 was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
The societies were all directly concerned with questions in which Morris
had all his life been interested, and his connection with them was not
only natural but almost inevitable. He was not a man to whom public
business made a strong appeal. He undertook it with reluctance and
relinquished it with delight. Nor did he care for the labels of
distinction for which most men, even among the greatly distinguished, have
a measure of regard. He was, however, gratified when, in 1882, he was
unanimously elected Honorary Fellow of Exeter College at Oxford, an honour
which is rarely conferred, and is generally reserved, says Mr. Mackail,
"for old members who have attained the highest official rank in their



Despite the large amount of time and comparatively unproductive thought
given by Morris to his Socialism, the period of his greatest activity in
this direction was not without result in the field of pure literature. The
years from 1884 to 1890 were crowded with pamphlets, leaflets, newspaper
articles, manifestoes, and treatises, all with the one object--the making
of Socialists. Many of these were more or less works of art--but of art in
fetters; in the main they bore sad witness to the havoc made in the
æsthetic life of their author by his propagandising policy, and in their
deadly dulness betrayed the unwillingness of his mind to labour in a field
so foreign to it. Not even the overwhelming tasks imposed upon him
sufficed, however, to subdue entirely his restless imagination. From time
to time in the arid desert of his writings for "the cause" a poem of
romance appeared of a quality to show that the sap still ran in the
products of his mind. Between the first issue of _The Commonweal_ and the
inauguration of the Kelmscott Press he wrote in the following order: _The
Pilgrims of Hope_, _A Dream of John Ball_, _The House of the Wolfings_,
_The Roots of the Mountains_, and _News from Nowhere_.

Each is interesting as throwing a varied yet steady light upon his mental
processes, and the first is especially interesting despite its conspicuous
defects, as one of the very few examples of its author's style when
treating a subject belonging to the actual present, not to the past or
future. In it the reader leaves dreamland and is confronted by modern
problems and situations set forth in plain modern English. A garden is no
longer a garth, a dwelling-place is no longer a stead, the writer no
longer wots and meseems. So violent a change in vocabulary could hardly be
accomplished with entire success; at all events it was not, and much of
the phraseology is an affliction to the ear, showing a peculiarly
deficient taste in the use of a style uninspired by mediæval tradition.
Yet, withal, _The Pilgrims of Hope_ is touched with life, as many of
Morris's more artful compositions are not. The old bottles will not always
serve for the new wine, Lowell warns us, and there is a noticeably
quickening element in this wine poured from the bottle of the day. It is
mentioned in Mr. Mackail's biography that Morris once began to write a
modern novel, but left it unfinished. The fabric of _The Pilgrims of Hope_
is that of a modern novel, and the characters and incidents are such as
Morris might easily have found in his daily path. A country couple leading
a life of peaceful simplicity go down to London, and among the sordid
influences of the town become converts to Socialism. Much that follows may
be considered a record of Morris's personal experience. The husband in the
poem tries, as Morris tried, to learn the grounds of the Socialist faith,
and takes up, as he did, the burden of spreading it among an indifferent
people. The following description might very well have been culled from
the diary kept by Morris during a part of his period of militant
Socialism, but it must be confessed that the balance of poetic charm is
all in favour of the account in the diary.

                          I read day after day
  Whatever books I could handle, and heard about and about
  What talk was going amongst them; and I burned up doubt after doubt,
  Until it befell at last that to others I needs must speak
  (Indeed, they pressed me to that while yet I was weaker than weak).
  So I began the business, and in street-corners I spake
  To knots of men. Indeed, that made my very heart ache,
  So hopeless it seemed, for some stood by like men of wood.
  And some, though fain to listen, but a few words understood;
  And some but hooted and jeered: but whiles across some I came
  Who were keen and eager to hear; as in dry flax the flame
  So the quick thought flickered amongst them: and that indeed was a
  So about the streets I went, and the work on my hands increased;
  And to say the very truth, betwixt the smooth and the rough
  It was work, and hope went with it, and I liked it well enough.

A similar passage, also showing the style at its worst, renders the actual
scene encountered by Morris at many a lecture, and contains a careful
portrait of himself as he appeared in his own eyes on such occasions. For
the sake of its accuracy its touch of self-consciousness may well be
forgiven. Not a conceited man, and curiously averse to mirrors, Morris was
not in the habit of using their psychological counterparts, and it is
impossible to surprise him in the act of posing to himself in becoming
attitudes. There is, therefore, no irritation to the mind in his
occasional frank assumption of interest in himself as a feature of the
landscape, so to speak. Here he is on the Socialist platform as the
Pilgrim of Hope beholds him, the Pilgrim explaining how it happened that
he got upon his track.

  This is how it befell: a workman of mine had heard
  Some bitter speech in my mouth, and he took me up at the word,
  And said: "Come over to-morrow to our Radical spouting-place;
  For there, if we hear nothing new, at least we shall see a new face;
  He is one of those Communist chaps, and 'tis like that you two may
  So we went, and the street was as dull and as common as aught you
      could see.
  Dull and dirty the room. Just over the chairman's chair
  Was a bust, a Quaker's face with nose cocked up in the air.
  There were common prints on the walls of the heads of the party fray,
  And Mazzini dark and lean amidst them gone astray.
  Some thirty men we were of the kind that I knew full well,
  Listless, rubbed down to the type of our easy-going hell.
  My heart sank down as I entered, and wearily there I sat
  While the chairman strove to end his maunder of this and that.

  And partly shy he seemed, and partly indeed ashamed
  Of the grizzled man beside him as his name to us he named;
  He rose, thickset and short, and dressed in shabby blue,
  And even as he began it seemed as though I knew
  The thing he was going to say, though I never heard it before.
  He spoke, were it well, were it ill, as though a message he bore.
  A word that he could not refrain from many a million of men.
  Nor aught seemed the sordid room and the few that were listening then
  Save the hall of the labouring earth and the world which was to be,
  Bitter to many the message, but sweet indeed unto me,
  And every soul rejoicing in the sweet and bitter of life:
  Of peace and good-will he told, and I knew that in faith he spake,
  But his words were my very thoughts, and I saw the battle awake,
  And I followed from end to end! and triumph grew in my heart
  As he called on each that heard him to arise and play his part
  In the tale of the new-told gospel, lest as slaves they should live and

  He ceased, and I thought the hearers would rise up with one cry,
  And bid him straight enroll them; but they, they applauded indeed,
  For the man was grown full eager, and had made them hearken and heed.
  But they sat and made no sign, and two of the glibber kind
  Stood up to jeer and to carp his fiery words to blind.

  I did not listen to them, but failed not his voice to hear
  When he rose to answer the carpers, striving to make more clear
  That which was clear already; not overwell, I knew
  He answered the sneers and the silence, so hot and eager he grew;
  But my hope full well he answered, and when he called again
  On men to band together lest they live and die in vain,
  In fear lest he should escape me, I rose ere the meeting was done,
  And gave him my name and my faith--and I was the only one.
  He smiled as he heard the jeers, and there was a shake of the hand,
  He spoke like a friend long known; and lo! I was one of the band.

There is nothing impressive in such rhyming save its message, the form
costing little trouble and awakening little interest. Here, obviously,
Morris, like Dante, would rather his readers should find his doctrine
sweet than his verses. Parts of the poem are, however, upon a much higher
plane of accomplishment. The first section, called _The Message of the
March Wind_, contains exquisite images and moves to a fresh elastic
measure; a world both real and lovely being evoked by the opening stanzas:

  Fair now is the springtide, now earth lies beholding
    With the eyes of a lover the face of the sun;
  Long lasteth the daylight, and hope is enfolding
    The green-growing acres with increase begun.

  Now sweet, sweet it is through the land to be straying
    'Mid the birds and the blossoms and the beasts of the fields;
  Love mingles with love and no evil is weighing
    On thy heart or mine, where all sorrow is healed.

  From township to township, o'er down and by tillage
    Fair, far have we wandered and long was the day,
  But now cometh eve at the end of the village,
    Where o'er the grey wall the church riseth grey.

  There is wind in the twilight; in the white road before us
    The straw from the ox-yard is blowing about;
  The moon's rim is rising, a star glitters o'er us,
    And the vane on the spire-top is swinging in doubt.

  Down there dips the highway, toward the bridge crossing over
    The brook that runs on to the Thames and the sea.
  Draw closer, my sweet, we are lover and lover;
    This eve art thou given to gladness and me.

In the course of the poem the Pilgrims are called to Paris by the voice of
the Revolution, and there the wife is killed. Interwoven with the main
incidents is the domestic tragedy most familiar to fiction, the alienation
of the wife's affections by one of the husband's friends. Morris in his
treatment of this situation shows a peculiarly fine and tender quality,
sufficiently rare in life itself and seldom to be found in pictures of
life. He preserves the dignity of his unhappy characters by a delicate
sincerity in their attitude toward one another and by an immeasurable
gentleness and self-forgetfulness on the part of the one most wronged. A
similar situation in _News from Nowhere_ is made trivial and consequently
revolting by the impression it gives that it was created to illustrate a
theory. In no place does _The Pilgrims of Hope_ give such an impression.
It is a drawing from life, clumsy and summary enough in outline, yet
firm and expressive of the thing seen, and with power to convey a genuine

[Illustration: _Portrait of Mrs. Morris_

_By Rossetti_]

_The Pilgrims of Hope_ appeared serially in _The Commonweal_ during
1885-1886. It was soon followed by a romance called _The Dream of John
Ball_. This subject with its mediæval setting suited Morris well, and was
treated by him in his ripest and strongest vein. Although the story opens
in a lightly facetious manner, never a particularly happy one with him,
its tone as it proceeds is that of subdued and stately pathos. The writer
dreams himself in a village of Kent, where men are hanging upon the words
of that poor tutor of Oxford, the "Mad Priest," preaching the equality of
gentle and villein on the text

  When Adam dalf, and Eve span
  Who was thanne a gentilman?

Apparently the dream is the result of a mournfully retrospective mood. The
dreamer hears the plain and stirring speech of John Ball, listens to his
eager appeal to the men of Kent that they help their brethren of Essex
cast off the yoke placed upon them by bailiff and lord, and to his
prophecies that in the days to come, when they are free from masters, "man
shall help man, and the saints in heaven shall be glad, because men no
more fear each other ... and fellowship shall be established in heaven and
on the earth." But knowledge of the later time penetrates the dream, and
the dreamer ponders "how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing
that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it
comes it turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight
for what they meant under another name." At this time Morris was realising
in some bitterness of heart that the thing for which he had fought was
turning out to be not what he had meant, and the talk between John Ball
and the dreamer concerning the future, of which the latter can reveal the
secret, is eloquent of sober and noble resignation. The reformer of the
earlier age receives with serenity the assurance that his sacrifice will
count only as failure in the eyes of the coming generations, since with it
goes the further assurance that men will continue to seek a remedy for
their wrongs. But we read in the conception the author's foreboding that
his own efforts toward the reconstitution of society are also doomed. The
dreamer meditates, with an insight born of personal experience and
disappointment, upon the darkness of our vision and the difficulty of
directing our steps toward our actual goal. Morris obviously traced in
John Ball's action a parallel to his own. What happened to the one was
what might happen to the other. The hope that inspired the one was the
same as inspired the other. The mistakes of the one were akin to the
mistakes of the other. Thus, this prose romance, of all that Morris wrote,
is warmest and most personal. The historical setting is an aid, not an
obstacle, to the imagination. The pathos of the real life touched upon,
the knowledge that the hopeful spirit of the preacher was once alive in
the land, and that the response of the men of Kent was given in truth and
with the might of angry, living hearts, lends a certain solidity and
vitality to the figures and inspires Morris to a sturdier treatment of his
material than legends could force from him. Had some of the marvellous
activity that later went toward the making of purely imaginary situations
and characters been spent upon realising for us the individual lives of
more of the mediæval workers and thinkers, so vivid to Morris and so dim
to most of us, the result might not have been history, but it would have
been literature of a rare and felicitous type.

In April, 1888, _The Dream of John Ball_ was reprinted from _The
Commonweal_ in one volume, together with a short story based on the life
of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, and called _A King's Lesson_. This
also had appeared in _The Commonweal_ under the title of "An Old Story

Hard upon this little volume followed _The House of the Wolfings_, a
war-story of the early Middle Ages, and significant as forming, with its
immediate successor, a link between old interests and new, marking its
author's return to the writing of pure romance, and also his first
awakening to an active interest in the typography of his books. The
subject is derived from the ancient literature, half myth, half history,
in which he had long been steeped, but in its treatment lurks a suggestion
of the great moral excitement of the Socialist campaign. Thiodulf, the
hero, beloved by a goddess, is the war-duke of a Gothic host and, on the
verge of battle with Roman legionaries, is deceived into wearing a hauberk
wrought by the dwarfs, the peculiar quality of which lies in its power to
preserve the wearer's life at the cost of defeat for his army. Learning of
this, Thiodulf removes the magic armour in time to gain his victory, but
in the moment of triumph he is killed. His exaltation of mood in thus
renouncing life suggests a spiritual ambition different from that commonly
associated with the gods and heroes of the early world, and conveys the
message by which Morris was at once burdened and inspired: that individual
life may cheerfully be sacrificed if the life of the many is saved or
elevated thereby. How far a war-duke of the Goths would have felt the
compensatory sense that he was gaining immortality through the effect of
his deeds on the destiny of his people was probably not in his mind. He
himself, despite his constitutional horror of death, would perhaps not
have been sorry at this time to lay off his hauberk if he could have been
certain of the victory. Throughout the history of Thiodulf runs an
elevated ethical intention absent from Morris's later romances. The
dignity and seriousness of the women, the nobility of the men, the social
unity of the Marksmen, and the high standard of thought and action
maintained by them as a community place the interest on a high plane. The
shadow of an idealised Socialism intensifies the relations of the
characters to one another, and the reader familiar with the course of the
author's life interprets the narrative as an expression of personal
feeling and moral conviction not without pathos in its contrast to the
actual world in which Morris was moving and in which he found what he
conceived to be his duty so repugnant to his tastes.

Indirectly the book was to open the way for his escape by filling his mind
with an enthusiasm along the natural line of his gifts, a zest for further
accomplishment in the field he loved that was not to be withstood. It was
printed at the Chiswick Press, and owing to a new interest in fine
printing due to his intercourse with Mr. Emery Walker, Morris chose for it
a quaint and little-known fount of type cut by Howard half a century
before, and gave much attention to the details of its appearance. With all
his familiarity with mediæval books, and his delight in illustration and
illumination, he was still ignorant of the art of spacing and type
designing. He had characteristically concentrated his attention on the
special feature in which he was interested,--in the case of the old books,
the woodcuts and ornaments,--and had passed over even the most marked
characteristics which later were to absorb his whole attention. An
anecdote told by Mr. Buxton Forman shows the extent to which he
subordinated all other questions to the now supreme problem of a handsome
page, and also the adaptability of his mind, never at a loss to meet an
emergency. Mr. Forman had run across him at the Chiswick Press, whither
he had repaired to settle some final points concerning his title-page.
Presently down came the proof of the page. "It did not read quite as now,"
says Mr. Forman; "the difference, I think, was in the fourth and fifth
lines where the words stood 'written in prose and verse by William
Morris.' Now unhappily the words and the type did not so accord as to come
up to Morris's standard of decorativeness. The line wanted tightening up;
there was a three-cornered consultation between the Author, the Manager,
and myself. The word _in_ was to be inserted--'written in prose and in
verse'--to gain the necessary fulness of line. I mildly protested that the
former reading was the better sense and that it should not be sacrificed
to avoid a slight excess of white that no one would notice. 'Ha!' said
Morris, 'now what would you say if I told you that the verses on the
title-page were written just to fill up the great white lower half? Well,
that was what happened!'" The verses thus produced to fill a purely
decorative need were the following, as delicate and filled with tender
sentiment as any written by Morris under the most genuine inspiration--if
one may assume that any inspiration was more genuine with him than the
spur of a problem in decoration:

  Whiles in the early winter eve
  We pass amid the gathering night
  Some homestead that we had to leave
  Years past; and see its candles bright
  Shine in the room beside the door
  Where we were merry years agone
  But now must never enter more,
  As still the dark road drives us on.
  E'en so the world of men may turn
  At even of some hurried day
  And see the ancient glimmer burn
  Across the waste that hath no way;
  Then with that faint light in its eyes
  Awhile I bid it linger near
  And nurse in wavering memories
  The bitter-sweet of days that were.

In glee over the fine appearance of _The House of the Wolfings_ as it came
from the press, Morris passed on to his next book, _The Roots of the
Mountains_, also a romance suggesting the saga literature, but without the
mythological element. The setting hints at history without belonging to
any especial time or place. The plan is quite complicated in incident, and
the love-story involved has a modern tinge. Gold-mane, a chieftain of
Burgdale, is betrothed to a damsel somewhat prematurely named the Bride.
By a magic spell he is drawn through the woods to the Shadowy Vale where
he meets a daughter of the Kindred of the Wolf, called Sunbeam, with whom
he falls in love. It is a touch characteristic of Morris that makes
Gold-mane in describing his old love to the new loyally give the former
all the credit of her charm. "Each day she groweth fairer," he says to the
maiden who is already her rival in his affections; "there is no man's son
and no daughter of woman that does not love her; yea, the very beasts of
field and fold love her." Presently an alliance is formed between the men
of Burgdale and the Kindred of the Wolf for the purpose of attacking their
common enemy, the Dusky Men, who belong to a race of Huns. Attached to the
allied forces is a band of Amazons, and the two brave ladies, the Sunbeam
and the Bride, show themselves valorous in battle. The attack on the Dusky
Men is victorious, and peace returns to the valleys. In the meantime
Gold-mane has firmly, though with gentle words, told the Bride of his
intention of breaking his pledge to her, and the Sunbeam's brother,
Folkmight, has been moved by compassion and finally by love for the
deserted maiden, who consents to be his wife. It is quite in accord with
the ideal established by Morris in his works of fiction, as indeed in his
life, that sincerity takes the leading place among the virtues of his
characters. It requires a certain defiance of the conventional modern mood
to tolerate Gold-mane, the deserter, as he deals out cold comfort to the
Bride, yet the downright frankness of all these people is a quality so
native to their author as to pierce their unreality and give them the
touch of nature without which they would be made wholly of dreams.

_The Roots of the Mountains_ was written rapidly and issued with unrelaxed
attention to typographical problems. Its title-page was made even more
satisfactory than that of its predecessor, and the device of introducing a
little poem to fill up the ugly white space in the centre was again
employed. The lines in this case have nothing to do with the contents of
the book, though forced into a relation with the author's purpose of
providing "rest" for the reader. They were, in fact, founded upon an
incident of a railway trip when the train passed through meadows in which
hay-making was going on. Mr. Emery Walker was with Morris, and as they saw
the hay-cocks defrauded by the summer breeze he exclaimed, "A subject for
your title-page!" "Aye," said Morris, and jotted it down in his manuscript

_The Roots of the Mountains_ was a favourite with Morris, and he planned
for it an edition on Whatman paper and bound in two patterns of Morris and
Company's chintz. Some of the paper ordered for this edition was left
over, and eventually was used by Morris for the first little post-quarto
catalogues and prospectuses printed at Hammersmith. Thus the book formed a
material link between the Chiswick Press and the Kelmscott Press.

Before the establishment of the latter, however, Morris gave one more book
to Socialism. His _News from Nowhere_ was the last of his works to appear
in _The Commonweal_ and was almost immediately reprinted from its pages by
an American publisher. It is an account of the civilised world as it might
be made, according to Morris's belief, by the application of his
principles of Socialism to life in general and in particular. In 1889 he
had reviewed for _The Commonweal_ Mr. Bellamy's _Looking Backward_, with
how much approbation may readily be imagined. As an expression of the
temperament of its author he considered it interesting, but as a
reconstructive theory unsafe and misleading. "I believe," he said, "that
the ideal of the future does not point to the lessening of man's energy by
the reduction of _labour_ to a minimum, but rather to the reduction of
_pain in labour_ to a minimum so small that it will cease to be pain; a
gain to humanity which can only be dreamed of till men are more completely
equal than Mr. Bellamy's Utopia would allow them to be, but which will
most assuredly come about when men are really equal in condition; although
it is probable that much of our so-called 'refinement,' our luxury,--in
short, our civilisation,--will have to be sacrificed to it." Early in 1890
appeared the first instalment of _News from Nowhere_, in which Morris set
himself the task of correcting the impression produced by Mr. Bellamy's
views of the future by substituting his own picture of a reconstructed
society, from which all the machinery that in _Looking Backward_ was
brought to so high a degree of efficiency is banished, and the natural
energies of man are employed to his complete satisfaction. Homer's
_Odyssey_, which Morris at this time was translating by way of refreshment
and amusement, may well have served as a partial inspiration for the
brilliant, delicate descriptions of handicrafts practised by the
art-loving people of Nowhere. We read in both of lovely embroideries; of
fine woven stuffs, soft and pliant in texture, and deeply dyed in rich
forgotten colours of antiquity; of the quaint elaboration and charm of
metals wrought into intricate designs; of all beautiful ornament to be
gained from the zeal of skilled and sensitive fingers. The image is before
us in _News from Nowhere_ of a life as busy and as bright as that of the
ancient Greeks, whose cunning hands could do everything save divide use
from beauty. As a natural consequence of happy labour, the inhabitants of
Nowhere have also the superb health and personal beauty of the Greeks.
Their women of forty and fifty have smooth skins and fresh colour, bright
eyes and a free walk. Their men have no knowledge of wrinkles and grey
hairs. Everywhere is the freshness and sparkle of the morning. The
pleasant homes nestle in peaceful security among the lavish fruits of the
earth. The water of the Thames flows clean and clear between its banks;
the fragrance of flowers pervades the pages and suggests a perpetual
summer; athletic sports are mingled with athletic occupations. There is
little studying. History is sad and often shameful--why then study it?
Knowledge of geography is not important; it comes to those who care to
travel. Languages one naturally picks up from intercourse with the people
of other countries. Political economy? When one practises good fellowship
what need of theories? Mathematics? They would wrinkle the brow; moreover,
one learns all that is necessary of them by building houses and bridges
and putting things together in the right way. It is not surprising that
in this buoyant life filled with active interests, the religion of which
is good-will and mutual helpfulness, the thought of death is not a welcome
one. A dweller in Nowhere admits that in the autumn he almost believes in
death; but no one entertains such a belief longer than he must. Thus we
get in this fair idyll the purely visible side of the society depicted.
The depths of the human heart and of the human soul are left unsounded. To
have what they desire, what is claimed by their hands, by their eyes, by
their senses, is the aim of the people. Renunciation, like mathematics,
would wrinkle the brow. Arbitrary restraint is not to be considered.
Nothing is binding, neither marriage vow nor labour contract, or, to speak
more precisely, neither marriage vow nor contract for labour exists. The
people live, as we are told, as some of the so-called savages in the South
Seas really do live,--in a state of interdependence so perfect that if an
individual lays down an obligation the community takes it up. For the
fading of life, for the death that may not delay till autumn to thrust
itself upon the attention, for the development of spiritual strength to
meet an enemy against whom art and beauty will not avail, for the battle
with those temptations of the flesh that are not averted by health and
comeliness, no provision is made. The author's philosophy is that work,
under pleasant conditions will do away with all the evils of both soul and

As a document for active Socialists _News from Nowhere_ is not effective.
Absolutely without any basis of economic generalisation, it is merely the
fabric of a vision. At the time of writing it Morris was cutting the last
threads that bound him to conventional Socialist bodies. He was making
ready to live again, so far as modernity would let him, the life he loved.
"No work that cannot be done with pleasure in the doing is worth doing,"
was a maxim counted by him of the first importance, and assuredly he had
not found pleasure in the management of Socialist organisations. His last
Socialist book rings with the joy of his release. On its title-page it
appears as _Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance_, and it is interesting
to see how he regarded the original _Utopia_, to Ralph Robinson's
translation of which he wrote a preface, issuing it from his own press in
1893. His interpretation of Sir Thomas More's attitude is not the
conventional one, and is inspired chiefly by his own attitude toward the
great social question which he continued to ponder, insisting still upon
his hope for a new earth.

"Ralph Robinson's translation of More's _Utopia_," he says, "would not
need any foreword if it were to be looked upon merely as a beautiful book
embodying the curious fancies of a great writer and thinker of the period
of the Renaissance. No doubt till within the last few years it has been
considered by the moderns as nothing more serious than a charming literary
exercise, spiced with the interest given to it by the allusions to the
history of the time, and by our knowledge of the career of its author. But
the change of ideas concerning 'the best state of a publique weale,' which
I will venture to say is the great event of the end of this century, has
thrown a fresh light upon the book; so that now to some it seems not so
much a regret for days which might have been, as (in its essence) a
prediction of a state of society which will be. In short this work of the
scholar and Catholic, of the man who resisted what has seemed to most the
progressive movement of his own time, has in our days become a Socialist
tract familiar to the meetings and debating rooms of the political party
which was but lately like 'the cloud as big as a man's hand.' Doubtless
the _Utopia_ is a necessary part of a Socialist's library; yet it seems to
me that its value as a book for the study of sociology is rather historic
than prophetic, and that we Socialists should look upon it as a link
between the surviving Communism of the Middle Ages (become hopeless in
More's time, and doomed to be soon wholly effaced by the advancing wave of
Commercial Bureaucracy), and the hopeful and practical progressive
movement of to-day. In fact I think More must be looked upon rather as the
last of the old than the first of the new.

"Apart from what was yet alive in him of mediæval Communist tradition, the
spirit of association, which amongst other things produced the Gilds, and
which was strong in the mediæval Catholic Church itself, other influences
were at work to make him take up his parable against the new spirit of his
age. The action of the period of transition from mediæval to commercial
society, with all its brutalities, was before his eyes; and though he was
not alone in his time in condemning the injustice and cruelty of the
revolution which destroyed the peasant life of England and turned it into
a grazing farm for the moneyed gentry; creating withal at one stroke the
propertyless wage-earner and the masterless vagrant (hodie 'pauper'), yet
he saw deeper into its root-causes than many other men of his own day, and
left us little to add to his views on this point except a reasonable hope
that those 'causes' will yield to a better form of society before long.

"Moreover the spirit of the Renaissance, itself the intellectual side of
the very movement which he strove against, was strong in him, and
doubtless helped to create his Utopia by means of the contrast which it
put before his eyes of the ideal free nations of the ancients, and the
sordid welter of the struggle for power in the days of dying feudalism, of
which he himself was a witness. This Renaissance enthusiasm has supplanted
in him the chivalry feeling of the age just passing away. To him war is no
longer a delight of the well-born, but rather an ugly necessity to be
carried on, if so it must be, by ugly means. Hunting and hawking are no
longer the choice pleasures of knight and lady, but are jeered at by him
as foolish and unreasonable pieces of butchery; his pleasures are in the
main the reasonable ones of learning and music. With all this, his
imaginations of the past he must needs read into his ideal vision,
together with his own experiences of his time and people. Not only are
there bond slaves and a king, and priests almost adored, and cruel
punishments for the breach of marriage contract, in that happy island, but
there is throughout an atmosphere of asceticism which has a curiously
blended savour of Cato the Censor and a mediæval monk.

"On the subject of war, on capital punishment, the responsibility to the
public of kings and other official personages, and such-like matters, More
speaks words that would not be out of place in the mouth of an
eighteenth-century Jacobin, and at first sight this seems rather to show
sympathy with what is now mere Whigism than with Communism; but it must be
remembered that opinions which have become (in words) the mere commonplace
of ordinary bourgeoise politicians were then looked on as a piece of
startlingly new and advanced thought, and do not put him on the same plane
with the mere radical life of the last generation.

[Illustration: _Study of Mrs. Morris_

_Made by Rossetti for pictures called "The Day Dream"_]

"In More, then, are met together the man naturally sympathetic with the
Communistic side of mediæval society, the protestor against the ugly
brutality of the earliest period of commercialism, the enthusiast of the
Renaissance, ever looking toward his idealised ancient society as the type
and example of all really intelligent human life; the man tinged with
the asceticism at once of the classical philosopher and of the monk, an
asceticism, indeed, which he puts forward not so much as a duty but rather
as a kind of stern adornment of life. These are, we may say, the moods of
the man who created _Utopia_ for us; and all are tempered and harmonised
by a sensitive clearness and delicate beauty of style, which make the book
a living work of art.

"But lastly, we Socialists cannot forget that these qualities and
excellences meet to produce a steady expression of the longing for a
society of equality of condition; a society in which the individual man
can scarcely conceive of his existence apart from the commonwealth of
which he forms a portion. This, which is the essence of his book, is the
essence also of the struggle in which we are engaged. Though, doubtless,
it was the pressure of circumstances in his own days that made More what
he was, yet that pressure forced him to give us, not a vision of the
triumph of the new-born capitalistic society, the element in which lived
the new learning and the freedom of thought of his epoch, but a picture
(his own indeed, not ours) of the real New Birth which many men before him
had desired; and which now indeed we may well hope is drawing near to
realisation, though after such a long series of events which at the time
of their happening seemed to nullify his hopes completely."[1]

Morris's own hope was never completely nullified; nor was he ever
indifferent to the questions which for nearly a decade had absorbed his
energy. But there was to be little more writing for the sake of Socialism,
save as some public incident called out a public letter. What he had done
covered a wide field. Beside the works already mentioned he had
collaborated with Mr. E. Belfort Bax in a history of the growth and
outcome of Socialism, first published in the _Commonweal_ under the title
of _Socialism from the Root Up_, had written a series of poems called
_Chants for Socialists_, and a series of lectures for "the cause" later
published as _Signs of Change_, and had produced numerous short addresses
to be scattered abroad in the form of penny leaflets that must have been
typographical eyesores to him even before the rise of his enthusiasm for
typography of the finer sort. In addition his bibliographer has to take
into account any number of ephemeral contributions to the press and
"forewords" as he liked to call them, to the works of others, a feature
rarely present in his own books. In the spring of 1890 he wrote the
romance entitled, _The Story of the Glittering Plain_ for the _English
Illustrated Magazine_. When it was brought out in book form the following
year, it was printed at his own press.



Although Morris turned with what seemed a sudden inspiration to the study
of typography, it was, as we have already seen, no less than his other
occupations a direct outcome of his early tastes. As long before as 1866
he had planned a folio edition of _The Earthly Paradise_ with woodcut
illustrations to be designed by Burne-Jones, and printed in a more or less
mediæval fashion. Burne-Jones made a large number of drawings for the
projected edition, and some thirty-five of those intended for the story of
Cupid and Psyche were cut on wood by Morris himself. Specimen pages were
set up, but the result was not technically satisfying and the idea was
allowed to drop. Later, as we have seen, he had in mind an illustrated and
sumptuous edition of _Love is Enough_, which also came to nothing,
although a number of marginal decorations were drawn and engraved for it.
After that, however, he apparently had been content to have his books
printed in the usual way on machine-made paper with the modern effeminate
type, without further remonstrance than emphatic denunciation of modern
methods in printing as in other handicrafts. About 1888 or 1889, his
Hammersmith neighbour, Mr. Emery Walker, whose love of fine printing was
combined with practical knowledge of methods and processes, awakened in
him a desire for conquest in this field also. He began again collecting
mediæval books, this time with the purpose of studying their type and
form. Among his acquisitions were a copy of Leonard of Arezzo's _History
of Florence_, printed by Jacobus Rubens in 1476, in a Roman type, and a
copy of Jensen's _Pliny_ of the same year. Parts of these books Morris had
enlarged by the hated process of photography, which in this case aided and
abetted him to some purpose. He could thus study the individual letters
and master the underlying principles of their design. He then proceeded to
design a fount of type for himself with the aim of producing letters fine
and generous in form, solid in line, without "preposterous thicks and
thins," and not compressed laterally, "as all later type has grown to be
owing to commercial exigencies." After he had drawn his letters on a large
scale he had them reduced by photography to the working size and revised
them carefully before submitting them to the typecutter. How minute was
his attention to detail is shown in the little reproduction of one of his
corrected letters with the accompanying notes. This first type of his,
having been founded on the old Roman letters, is of course Roman in
character and is very clear and beautiful in form. The strong broad
letters designed on "something like a square" make easy reading, and there
is nothing about the appearance of the attractive page to suggest
archaism. The fount, consisting of eighty-one designs including stops,
figures, and tied letters, was completed about the beginning of 1891, and
on the 12th of January in that year, a cottage was taken at number 16
Upper Mall, near the Kelmscott House, a compositor and a pressman were
engaged, and the Kelmscott Press began its career. The new type, which
Morris called the "regenerate" or "Jenson-Morris" type, received its
formal name, "Golden type," from Caxton's _Golden Legend_, which Morris
had intended to reprint as the first work of the Press, and which was
undertaken as soon as _The Glittering Plain_ was out of the way. Caxton's
first edition of 1483 was borrowed from the Cambridge University Library
for the purpose and transcribed for the Press by the daughter of Morris's
old friend and publisher, F. S. Ellis. No paper in the market was good
enough for the great venture, and Morris took down to Mr. Batchelor at
Little Chart a model dating back to the fifteenth century and had
especially designed from it an unbleached linen paper, thin and tough, and
somewhat transparent, made on wire moulds woven by hand for the sake of
the slight irregularities thus caused in the texture, and "pleasing not
only to the eye, but to the hand also; having something of the clean crisp
quality of a new bank-note." For the three different sizes Morris
designed three watermarks, an apple, a daisy, and a perch with a spray in
its mouth. To print his strong type upon this handmade paper it was
necessary to dampen the latter and use a hand-press, the ink being applied
by pelt balls, insuring an equable covering of the surface of the type and
a rich black impression. The quality of the ink was naturally of great
importance and Morris yearned to manufacture his own, but for the time
contented himself with some that he procured from Hanover and with which
he produced excellent results. One of his happiest convictions in regard
to his materials was that heavy paper was entirely unfit for small books.

[Illustration: KELMSCOTT TYPES]

Concerning spacing and the placing of the matter on the page he had
pronounced theories derived from his study of ancient books, but directed
by his own sound taste. He held that there should be no more white space
between the words than just clearly cuts them off from one another, and
that "leads" (strips of metal used to increase the space between the lines
of type) should be sparingly employed. The two pages of a book, facing
each other as it is opened, should be considered a unit, the edge of the
margin that is bound in should be the smallest of the four edges, the top
should be somewhat wider, and the front edge wider still, and the tail
widest of all. The respective measurements of the most important of the
Kelmscott books are, one inch for the inner margin, one and
three-eighths inches for the head margin, two and three-quarter inches
for the fore edge, and four inches for the tail. "I go so far as to say,"
wrote Morris, "that any book in which the page is properly put on the
paper is tolerable to look at, however poor the type may be (always so
long as there is no 'ornament' which may spoil the whole thing), whereas
any book in which the page is wrongly set on the paper is intolerable to
look at, however good the type and ornaments may be."


_The Golden Legend_, with its ornamented borders, its handsome initials,
its woodcuts, and its twelve hundred and eighty-six pages, kept the one
press busy until the middle of September, 1892. Before it was completed
Morris had designed another fount of type greatly more pleasing to him
than the first. This was called the Troy type from Caxton's _Historyes of
Troye_, the first book to be issued in its larger size, and was the
outcome of careful study of the beautiful types of Peter Schoeffer of
Mainz, Gunther Zainer of Augsburg, and Anthony Koburger of Nuremberg. It
was Gothic in character, but Morris strove to redeem it from the charge of
unreadableness by using the short form of the small _s_, by diminishing
the number of tied letters, and abolishing the abbreviations to be found
in mediæval books. How far he succeeded is a disputed question, certainly
not so far as to make it as easy reading for modern eyes as the Golden
type. As time went on, however, the use of the Golden type at the
Kelmscott Press became less and less frequent, giving place in the case of
most of the more important books to either the Troy type or the Chaucer
type, the latter being similar to the former, save that it is Great Pica
instead of Primer size.

Morris's success in the mechanical application of his theories was
surprising, or would have been surprising had he not constantly proven his
genius for success. Mr. De Vinne quotes a prominent American typefounder
as declaring after a close scrutiny of his cuts of type that he had
triumphantly passed the pitfalls that beset all tyros and had made types
that in lining, fitting, and adjustment show the skill of the expert. "A
printer of the old school may dislike many of his mannerisms of
composition and make-up," adds Mr. De Vinne, "but he will cheerfully admit
that his types and decorations and initials are in admirable accord: that
the evenness of colour he maintains on his rough paper is remarkable, and
that his registry of black with red is unexceptionable. No one can examine
a book made by Morris without the conviction that it shows the hand of a


Upon the artistic side it was natural that he should excel. His long
practice in and love of design, his close study of the best models, and
his exacting taste were promising of extraordinary results. None the less
there is perhaps more room for criticism of his book decoration than of
his plain bookmaking. He was convinced, as one would expect him to be,
that modern methods of illustrating and decorating a book were entirely
wrong, and he argued with indisputable logic for the unity of impression
to be gained from ornaments and pictures forming part of the page, in
other words, being made in line as readily printed as the type itself and
corresponding to it in size and degree of blackness. He argued that the
ornament to be ornament must submit to certain limitations and become
"architectural," and also that it should be used with exuberance or
restraint according to the matter of the book decorated. Thus "a work on
differential calculus," he says, "a medical work, a dictionary, a
collection of a statesman's speeches, or a treatise on manures, such
books, though they might be handsomely and well printed, would scarcely
receive ornament with the same exuberance as a volume of lyrical poems, or
a standard classic, or such like. A work on Art, I think, bears less of
ornament than any other kind of book (_non bis in idem_ is a good motto);
again, a book that _must_ have _illustrations_, more or less utilitarian,
should, I think, have no actual _ornament_ at all, because the ornament
and the illustration must almost certainly fight." He designed all his
ornaments with his own hand, from the minute leaves and flowers which took
the place of periods on his page, to the full-page borders, titles, and
elaborate initials. He drew with a brush, on a sheet of paper from the
Press marked with ruled lines, showing the exact position to be occupied
by the design. "It was most usual during the last few years of his life,"
says Mr. Vallance, "to find him thus engaged, with his Indian ink and
Chinese white in little saucers before him upon the table, its boards bare
of any cloth covering, but littered with books and papers and sheets of
MS. He did not place any value on the original drawings, regarding them as
just temporary instruments, only fit, as soon as engraved, to be thrown
away." Time and trouble counted for nothing with him in gaining the
desired result. But though his ornament was always handsome, and
occasionally exquisite, he not infrequently overloaded his page with it,
and--preaching vigorously the necessity of restraint--allowed his fancy to
lead him into garrulous profusion. Despite his mediæval proclivities, his
designs for the borders of his pages are intensely modern. Compare them
with the early books by which they were inspired, and their flowing
elaboration, so free from unexpectedness, so impersonal, so inexpressive,
suggests the fatal defect of all imitative work and fails in distinction.
But he was individual enough in temper if not in execution, and he brooked
no conventional restriction that interfered with his doing what pleased
him. For example, the notion of making the border ornaments agree in
spirit with the subject matter of the page was not to be entertained for a
moment when he had in mind a fine design of grapes hanging ripe from their
vines and a page of Chaucer's description of April to adorn.

During the life of the Kelmscott Press, a period of some half dozen years,
Morris made six hundred and forty-four designs. The illustrations proper,
all of them woodcuts harmonising in their strong black line with the
ornaments and type, were made, with few exceptions, by Burne-Jones. His
designs were nearly always drawn in pencil, a medium in which his most
characteristic effects were obtained. They were then redrawn in ink by
another hand, revised by Burne-Jones, and finally transferred to the block
again by that useful Cinderella of the Kelmscott Press, photography. It is
obvious that the Kelmscott books, whatever fault may be found with them,
could not be other than remarkable creations with Morris and Burne-Jones
uniting their gifts to make each of them such a picture-book as Morris
declared at the height of his ardour was "one of the very worthiest things
toward the production of which reasonable men should strive."

The list of works selected to be issued from the Press is interesting,
indicating as it does a line of taste somewhat narrow and tangential to
the popular taste of the time. Before the three volumes of _The Golden
Legend_ ("the Interminable" it was called) were out of his hands, Morris
had bought a second large press and had engaged more workmen with an idea
in mind of printing all his own works beginning with _Sigurd the Volsung_.
He had already, during 1891, printed in addition to _The Glittering
Plain_, a volume of his collected verse entitled _Poems by the Way_, the
final long poem of which, _Goldilocks and Goldilocks_, he wrote on the
spur of the moment, after the book was set up in type, to "plump it out a
bit" as it seemed rather scant. During the following year, before the
appearance of _The Golden Legend_, were issued a volume of poems by
Wilfrid Blunt, who was one of his personal friends; the chapter from
Ruskin's _Stones of Venice_ on "The Nature of the Gothic," with which he
had such early and such close associations, and two more of his own works,
_The Defence of Guenevere_ and _The Dream of John Ball_. In the case of
the four books written by himself he issued in addition to the paper
copies a few on vellum. All these early books were small quartos and bound
in vellum covers. Immediately following _The Golden Legend_ came the
_Historyes of Troye_, two volumes in the new type, Mackail's _Biblia
Innocentium_, and Caxton's _Reynarde the Foxe_ in large quarto size and
printed in the Troy type. The year 1893 began with a comparatively modern
book, Shakespeare's _Poems_, followed in rapid succession by Caxton's
translation of _The Order of Chivalry_, in one volume with _The Ordination
of Knighthood_, translated by Morris himself from a twelfth-century French
poem; Cavendish's _Life of Cardinal Wolsey_; Caxton's history of Godefrey
of Boloyne; Ralph Robinson's translation of Sir Thomas More's _Utopia_;
Tennyson's _Maud_; a lecture by Morris on _Gothic Architecture_,
forty-five copies of which he printed on vellum; and Lady Wilde's
translation of _Sidonia the Sorceress_ from the German of William
Meinhold, a book for which both Morris and Rossetti had a positive
passion, Morris considering it without a rival of its kind, and an almost
faultless reproduction of the life of the past. The year ended with two
volumes of Rossetti's _Ballads and Narrative Poems_, and _The Tale of King
Florus and Fair Jehane_, translated by Morris from the French of a little
volume that forty years before had served to introduce him to mediæval
French romance and had been treasured by him ever since.




"After this continuous torrent of production," says Mr. Mackail, "the
Press for a time slackened off a little," but the output in 1894 consisted
of ten books as against the eleven of the previous year. The first was a
large quarto edition of _The Glittering Plain_, printed this time in the
Troy type and illustrated with twenty-three pictures by Walter Crane. Next
came another little volume of mediæval romance, the story of _Amis and
Amile_, translated in a day and a quarter; and after this, Keats's

In July of the same year the bust of Keats, executed by the American
sculptor, Miss Anne Whitney, was unveiled in the Parish Church of
Hampstead, the first memorial to Keats on English ground. The scheme for
such a memorial had been promoted in America, Lowell being one of the
earliest to encourage it, and a little notice of the ceremony was printed
at the Kelmscott Press with the card of invitation. Swinburne's _Atalanta
in Calydon_ followed _Keats_ in a large quarto edition. Next came the
third volume of the French romances containing _The Tale of the Emperor
Constans_ and _The History of Oversea_. At this point Morris returned
again to the printing of his own works, and the next book to be issued
from the Press was _The Wood beyond the World_, with a lovely frontispiece
by Burne-Jones representing "the Maid," the heroine of the romance, and
one of the most charming of the visionary women created by Morris. _The
Book of Wisdom and Lies_, a Georgian story-book of the eighteenth century,
written by Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, and translated by Oliver Wardrop, was
the next stranger to come from the Press, and after it was issued the
first of a set of Shelley's _Poems_. A rhymed version of _The Penitential
Psalms_ found in a manuscript of _The Hours of Our Lady_, written in the
fifteenth century, followed it, and _The Epistola de Contemptu Mundi_, a
letter in Italian by Savonarola, the autograph original of which belonged
to Mr. Fairfax Murray, completed the list of this prolific year. The year
1895 produced only five volumes, the first of them the _Tale of Beowulf_,
which Morris with characteristic daring had translated into verse by the
aid of a prose translation made for him by Mr. A. J. Wyatt. Not himself an
Anglo-Saxon scholar, Morris was unable to give such a rendering of this
chief epic of the Germanic races as would appeal to the scholarly mind,
and his zeal for literal translation led him to employ a phraseology
nothing short of outlandish. At the end of the book he printed a list of
"words not commonly used now," but his constructions were even more
obstructive than his uncommon words. In the following passage, for
example, which opens the section describing the coming of Beowulf to the
land of the Danes, only the word "nithing" is defined in the index, yet
certainly the average reader may be expected to pause for the meaning:

  So care that was time-long the kinsman of Healfdene
  Still seethed without ceasing, nor might the wise warrior
  Wend otherwhere woe, for o'er strong was the strife
  All loathly so longsome late laid on the people,
  Need-wrack and grim nithing, of night-bales the greatest.

Morris himself found his interest wane before the work was completed, but
he made a handsome quarto volume of it, with fine marginal decorations,
and an exceptionally well-designed title-page. A reprint of _Syr
Percyvelle of Gales_ after the edition printed by J. O. Halliwell from the
MS. in the library of Lincoln Cathedral, a large quarto edition of _The
Life and Death of Jason_; two 16mo volumes of a new romance entitled,
_Child Christopher and Goldilands the Fair_; and Rossetti's _Hand and
Soul_, reprinted from the _Germ_, brought the Press to its great year
1896. This year was to see the completion of the folio _Chaucer_, which
since early in 1892 had been in preparation, and had filled the heart of
Morris with anxiety, anticipation, and joy. Before it came from the press
three other books were issued. Herrick's _Poems_ came first. Then a
selection of thirteen poems from Coleridge, "a muddle-brained
metaphysician, who by some strange freak of fortune turned out a few real
poems amongst the dreary flood of inanity which was his wont!"

The poems chosen were, _Christabel_, _Kubla Khan_, _The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner_, _Love_, _A Fragment of a Sexton's Tale_, _The Ballad of
the Dark Ladie_, _Names_, _Youth and Age_, _The Improvisatore_, _Work
without Hope_, _The Garden of Boccaccio_, _The Knight's Tomb_, and _Alice
du Clos_. The first four were the only ones, however, concerning which
Morris would own to feeling any interest. The Coleridge volume was
followed by the large quarto edition of Morris's latest romance, _The Well
at the World's End_ in two volumes, and then appeared the _Chaucer_, the
mere printing of which had occupied a year and nine months. The first two
copies were brought home from the binders on the second of June, in a
season of "lots of sun" and plentiful apple-blossoms, during which Morris
was beginning to realise that the end of his delight in seasons and in
books was fast approaching.

Mr. Ellis has declared the Kelmscott _Chaucer_ to be, "for typography,
ornament, and illustration combined, the grandest book that has been
issued from the press since the invention of typography." Morris lavished
upon it the utmost wealth of his invention. The drawing of the title-page
alone occupied a fortnight, and the splendid initial letters were each an
elaborate work of art. The ornament indeed was too profuse to be wholly
satisfactory, especially as much of it was repeated; nevertheless, the
book was one of great magnificence and the glee with which Morris beheld
it is not to be wondered at. The Chaucer type had been specially designed
for it, and Burne-Jones had made for it eighty-seven drawings, while
Morris himself designed for it the white pigskin binding with silver
clasps, executed at the Doves Bindery for those purchasers who desired
their elaborate and costly volume in a more suitable garb than the
ordinary half holland covers which gave it the appearance of a silken
garment under a calico apron.

During the remainder of the year 1896 the Press issued the first volumes
of the Kelmscott edition of _The Earthly Paradise_, a volume of Latin
poems (_Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis_), the first Kelmscott book to be
printed in three colours, the quotation heading each stanza being in red,
the initial letter in pale blue, and the remaining text in black: _The
Floure and the Leafe_ and _The Shepherde's Calender_. Before _The
Shepherde's Calender_ reached its completion, however, Morris was dead,
and the subsequent work of the Press was merely the clearing up of a few
books already advertised. The first of these to appear was the prose
romance by Morris entitled _The Water of the Wondrous Isles_: this was
issued on the first day of April, 1897, with borders and ornaments
designed entirely by Morris save for a couple of initial words completed
from his unfinished designs by R. Catterson-Smith. To this year belong
also the two trial pages made for the intended folio edition of
_Froissart_, the heraldic borders of which far surpass any of the
_Chaucer_ ornaments, and the two old English romances, _Sire Degravaunt_
and _Syr Ysambrace_. In 1898 came a large quarto volume of German
woodcuts, and three more works by Morris, a small folio edition of _Sigurd
the Volsung_, which was to have been a large folio with twenty-five
woodcuts by Burne-Jones; _The Sundering Flood_, the last romance written
by Morris, and a large quarto edition of _Love is Enough_. These were
followed by a "Note" written by Morris himself on his aims in starting the
Kelmscott Press, accompanied with facts concerning the Press, and an
annotated list of all the books there printed, compiled by Mr. S. C.
Cockerell, who, since July, 1894, had been secretary to the Press. This
was the end.[2]

[Illustration: _Specimen Page from the Kelmscott "Froissart"_

(_Projected Edition_)]

Although Morris not only neglected commercial considerations in printing
his books, lavishing their price many times over in valuable time and
labour and the actual expenditure of money to secure some inconspicuous
detail; but defied commercial methods openly in the character of his type,
the quality of his materials, and the slowness of his processes, the
Kelmscott Press testified, as most of his enterprises did testify, to the
practical worth of his ideals. Quite content to make just enough by his
books to continue printing them in the most conscientious and desirable
way he knew, he gradually obtained from them a considerable profit. The
Press had early been moved to quarters larger than the first occupied
by it, and three presses were kept busy. By the end of 1892 Morris had
become his own publisher, and after that time all the Kelmscott books were
published by him except in cases of special arrangement. A few copies,
usually less than a dozen, of nearly all the books were printed on vellum
and sold at a proportionately higher price than the paper copies. The
volumes were bound either in vellum or half holland, these temporary and
unsatisfactory covers probably having been chosen on account of the
strength and slow-drying qualities of the ink used, a note to the
prospectus of the _Chaucer_ stating that the book would not be fit for
ordinary full binding with the usual pressure for at least a year after
its issue. The issue prices charged for the books were not low, but
certainly not exorbitant when time, labour, and expense of producing them
are taken into consideration. They were prizes for the collector from the
beginning, the impossibility of duplicating them and the small editions
sent out giving them a charm and a value not easily to be resisted, and
Morris himself and his trustees adopted measures tending to protect the
collector's interests. After the death of Morris all the woodblocks for
initials, ornaments, and illustrations were sent to the British Museum and
were accepted, with the condition that they should not be reproduced or
printed from for the space of one hundred years. The electrotypes were
destroyed. The matter was talked over with Morris during his lifetime and
he sanctioned this course on the part of the trustees, its aim being to
keep the series of the Kelmscott Press "a thing apart and to prevent the
designs becoming stale by repetition." While there is a fair ground for
the criticism frequently made that a man urging the necessity of art for
the people showed inconsistency by withdrawing from their reach art which
he could control and deemed valuable, it must be remembered that in his
mind the great result to be obtained was the stirring up the people to
making art for themselves. Morris rightly counted the joy to be gained
from making a beautiful thing as far higher than the joy to be gained from
seeing one. He was never in favour of making a work of art "common" by
reproducing or servilely imitating it. He had shown the printers of books
his idea of the way they should manage their craft, now let them develop
it themselves along the lines pointed out for them. And whether he was or
was not consistent in allowing the works of the Kelmscott Press to be cut
off from any possibility of a large circulation, his was the temperament
to feel all the delight to be won from exclusive ownership. He had the
true collector's passion for possession. If he was bargaining for a book,
says his biographer, he would carry on the negotiation with the book
tucked tightly under his arm, as if it might run away. His collection of
old painted books gave him the keenest emotions before and after his
acquisition of them. Of one, which finally proved unattainable, he wrote,
"_Such_ a book! _my_ eyes! and I am beating my brains to see if I can find
any thread of an intrigue to begin upon, so as to creep and crawl toward
the possession of it." It is no matter for wonder if in imagination he
beheld the love of bibliophiles for his own works upon which he had so
ardently spent his energies, and was gratified by the prevision.

Whether the Kelmscott books will increase or decrease in money value as
time goes on is a question that stirs interest in book-buying circles.
They have already had their rise and ebb to a certain extent, and the
prices brought by the copies owned by Mr. Ellis at the sale of his library
after his death indicate that a steady level of interest has been reached
among collectors for the time being at least; only five of the copies
printed on paper exceeding prices previously paid for them. The
presentation copy on vellum of the great _Chaucer_ brought five hundred
and ten pounds, certainly a remarkable sum for a modern book, under any
conditions, and nearly a hundred pounds more than the highest price which
Morris himself up to the summer of 1894 had ever paid for even a
fourteenth-century book. The paper copy of the _Chaucer_ sold at the Ellis
sale for one hundred and twelve pounds and a paper copy in ordinary
binding sold in America in 1902 for $650, while a paper copy in the
special pigskin binding brought $950 the same year. The issue price for
the four hundred and twenty-five paper copies was twenty pounds apiece,
and for the eight copies on vellum offered for sale out of the thirteen
printed, a hundred and twenty guineas apiece. The posthumous edition of
_Sigurd the Volsung_, the paper copies of which were issued at six guineas
apiece, brought at the Ellis sale twenty-six pounds. _News from Nowhere_,
issued at two guineas, has never yet brought a higher price than the five
pounds, fifteen shillings paid for it in 1899, while Keats's _Poems_
issued at one pound, ten shillings, rose as high as twenty-seven pounds,
ten shillings, also in 1899. As a general measure of the advance in the
Kelmscott books since the death of Morris, it may be noted that the series
owned by Mr. Ellis, excluding duplicates, and including a presentation
copy of _Jason_ and two fine bindings for the paper and the vellum
_Chaucer_, represented a gross issue price of six hundred and twelve
pounds, ten shillings, and realised two thousand, three hundred and
sixty-seven pounds, two shillings. For one decade of the life of a modern
series that is a great record, and it would be a rash prophet who should
venture to predict future values.



The writings of Morris's later years consist, as we have seen, chiefly of
prose romances. The little group beginning with _The House of the
Wolfings_ and ending with _The Sundering Flood_ were written with no
polemical or proselytising intention, with merely his old delight in
storytelling and in depicting the beauty of the external world and the
kindness of men and maids. Curiosity had never played any great part in
his mental equipment; he cared little to know or speculate further than
the visible and tangible surface of life. "The skin of the world" was
sufficient for him, and in these later romances all that is beautiful and
winning has chiefly to do with the skin of the world presented in its
spring-time freshness. The background of nature is always exquisite. With
the landscape of the North, which had made its indelible impression upon
him, he mingled the scenes--"the dear scenes" he would have called
them--of his childhood and the fairer portions of the Thames shore as he
had long and intimately known them; and in his books, as in his familiar
letters, he constantly speaks of the weather and the seasons as matters of
keen importance in the sum of daily happiness. Thus, whatever we miss from
his romances, we gain, what is missing from the majority of modern books,
familiarity with the true aspect of the outdoor world. We have the
constant sense of ample sky and pleasant air, and green woods and cool
waters. The mountains are near us, and often the ocean, and the freedom of
a genuine wildwood that is no enchanted forest or ideal vision.
Inexpressibly charming are such pictures as those of Elfhild (in _The
Sundering Flood_) piping to her sheep and dancing on the bank of the
river, on the bright mid-April day, whose sun dazzles her eyes with its
brilliant shining; and of Birdalone (in _The Water of the Wondrous Isles_)
embroidering her gown and smock in the wood of Evilshaw. What could be
more expressive of lovely open-air peace than this description? "Who was
glad now but Birdalone; she grew red with new pleasure, and knelt down and
kissed the witch's hand, and then went her way to the wood with her
precious lading, and wrought there under her oak-tree day after day, and
all days, either there, or in the house when the weather was foul. That
was in the middle of March, when all birds were singing, and the young
leaves showing on the hawthorns, so that there were pale green clouds, as
it were, betwixt the great grey boles of oak and sweet-chestnut; and by
the lake the meadow-saffron new-thrust-up was opening its blossom; and
March wore and April, and still she was at work happily when now it was
later May, and the harebells were in full bloom down the bent before her
... and still she wrought on at her gown and her smock, and it was
well-nigh done. She had broidered the said gown with roses and lilies, and
a tall tree springing up from amidmost the hem of the skirt, and a hart on
either side thereof, face to face of each other. And the smock she had
sewn daintily at the hems and the bosom with fair knots and buds. It was
now past the middle of June hot and bright weather."

And only less delightful than these glimpses of the natural world are the
recurring portraits of half-grown boys and girls, all different and all
lovable. The sweetness of adolescent beauty had for Morris an irresistible
appeal, and while his characters have little of the psychological charm
inseparable in real life from dawning qualities and undeveloped
potentialities, they are as lovely as the morning in the brightness of
hair, the slimness of form, the freedom of gesture with which he endows
them. The shapely brown hands and feet of Ursula, her ruddy colour, her
slender sturdiness, and brave young laugh are attractions as potent as the
more delicate charm of Birdalone's serious eyes and thin face, or
Elfhild's flower-like head and tender playfulness; and all these heroines
are alike in a fine capability for useful toil and pride in it. When the
old carle says to Birdalone, "It will be no such hard life for thee, for I
have still some work in me, and thou mayst do something in spite of thy
slender and delicate fashion," she replies with merry laughter, "Forsooth,
good sire, I might do somewhat more than something; for I am deft in all
such work as here ye need; so fear not but I should earn my livelihood,
and that with joy." Ursula also knows all the craft of needlework, and all
the manners of the fields, and finds nothing in work to weary her; and
even in the Maid of _The Wood beyond the World_, with her magic power to
revive flowers by the touch of her fingers, is felt the preferable human
power to make comfort and pleasantness by the right performance of plain

Nearly if not quite equal to Morris's expression of love for the beauty of
nature and of fair humanity is his expression of the love for beautiful
handicraft, to which his whole life and all his writings alike testify.
Whatever is omitted from his stories of love and adventure, he never omits
to familiarise his readers with the ornament lavished upon buildings and
garments and countless accessories; hardly a dozen pages of any one of the
romances may be turned before the description of some piece of artistic
workmanship is met. Osberne's knife in _The Sundering Flood_ is early
introduced to the reader as "a goodly weapon, carven with quaintnesses
about the heft, the blade inlaid with runes done in gold and the sheath
of silver," and the gifts he sends to Elfhild across the flood are "an
ouch or chain or arm-ring" fashioned "quaintly and finely," or "fair
windowed shoon, and broidered hosen and dainty smocks, and silken
kerchiefs"; much is made of his holiday raiment of scarlet and gold, of
his flowered green coat, and of the fine gear of gold and green for which
Elfhild changes her grey cloak. In _The Story of the Glittering Plain_,
filled as it is with the sterner spirit of the sagas, there is still room
for much detail concerning the carven panelling of the shut-bed, in which
was pictured "fair groves and gardens, with flowery grass and fruited
trees all about," and "fair women abiding therein, and lovely young men
and warriors, and strange beasts and many marvels, and the ending of wrath
and beginning of pleasure, and the crowning of love," and for the account
of the painted book, "covered outside with gold and gems" and painted
within with woods and castles, "and burning mountains, and the wall of the
world, and kings upon their thrones, and fair women and warriors, all most
lovely to behold." As for the fair Birdalone, her pleasure in fine stuffs
and rich embroideries is unsurpassed in the annals of womankind. The
wood-wife with canny knowledge of her tastes brings her the fairy web,
declaring that if she dare wear it she shall presently be clad as goodly
as she can wish. Birdalone can be trusted to don any attire that meets her
fancy (and to doff it as willingly, for she has a startling habit not
uncommon with Morris's heroines of stripping off her garments to let the
winds of heaven play upon her unimpeded). The wood-wife places the raiment
she has brought on Birdalone's outstretched arms, "and it was as if the
sunbeam had thrust through the close leafage of the oak, and made its
shadow nought a space about Birdalone, so gleamed and glowed in shifty
brightness the broidery of the gown; and Birdalone let it fall to earth,
and passed over her hands and arms the fine smock sewed in yellow and
white silk, so that the web thereof seemed of mingled cream and curd; and
she looked on the shoon that lay beside the gown, that were done so nicely
and finely that the work was as the feather-robe of a beauteous bird,
whereof one scarce can say whether it be bright or grey, thousand-hued or
all simple of colour. Birdalone quivered for joy of all the fair things,
and crowed in her speech as she knelt before Habundia to thank her." Thus
Morris carried into his "pleasure-work of books" the "bread-and-butter
work" of which he was hardly less fond.

But in the deeper realities of life with which even romantic fiction may
deal, and must deal if it is to lay hold of the modern imagination, these
romances are poor. Not one of his characters is developed by circumstance
into a fully equipped human being thoroughly alive to the intellectual and
moral as to the physical and emotional world. His men and women are
eternally young and, with the physical freshness of youth, have also the
crude, unrounded, unfinished, unmoulded character of youth. They have all
drunk of the Well at the World's End, and the scars of experience have
disappeared, leaving a blank surface. The range of their emotions and
passions is as simple and narrow as with children, and life as the great
story-tellers understand it is not shown by the chronicle of their days.
In many of the romances, it is true, the introduction of legendary and
unreal persons and incidents relieves the writer from all obligation to
make his account more lifelike than a fairy-tale; but Morris is never
content to make a fairy-tale pure and simple. Marvellous adventures told
directly as to a child are not within his method. One of his critics has
described _The Water of the Wondrous Isles_ as a three-volume novel in the
environment of a fairy-tale, and the phrase perfectly characterises it. A
sentimental atmosphere surrounds his figures, and suggests languor and
soft moods not to be tolerated by the writer of true fairy-tales, for
while love is certainly not alien to even the purest type of the latter,
with its witch and its princess and its cruel step-mother and rescuing
prince, it is not love as Morris depicts it any more than it is love as
Dante or Shakespeare depicts it. In Morris's stories the lovers are
neither frankly symbolic creatures of the imagination whose loves are
secondary to their heroic or miraculous achievements, and who apparently
exist only to give a reason for the machinery of witchcraft, nor are
they, like the lovers of the great novels, endowed with thoughtful minds
and spiritual qualities. They are too sophisticated not to be more
complex. The modern taste is unsympathetic to their endless kissing and
"fawning" and "clipping," nor would ancient taste have welcomed their
refinements of kindness toward each other or the lack of zest in their
adventures. Morris seems to have tried somewhat, as in the case of his
handicrafts, to start with the traditions of the Middle Ages and to infuse
into them a modern spirit that should make them legitimate successors and
not mere imitations of the well-beloved mediæval types. That he did not
entirely succeed was the fault not so much of his method as of his
deficient insight into human nature. He could not create what he had never
closely investigated.

When we read his prose romances, their framework gives many a clue to
their ancestry, but it is an ancestry so remote from the interest of the
general reader as to puzzle more than charm in its influence upon the
modern product. In _The House of the Wolfings_, _The Roots of the
Mountains_, and especially _The Glittering Plain_, we have more or less
modernised sagas, obviously derived from the Icelandic literature of which
he had been drinking deep. The hero of _The Glittering Plain_ is as
valorous a youth and as given to brave adventures as the great Sigurd, the
environment is Norse, and so are the names of the characters--Sea-eagle,
Long-hoary, Grey Goose of the Ravagers, and Puny Fox. Other words and
phrases also drawn from the "word-hoard" of the Icelandic tongue are
sprinkled over the pages. We find "nithing-stake" and byrny, and bight,
spoke-shave and ness and watchet, sley and ashlar and ghyll, used as
expressions of familiar parlance. The characters give each other "the sele
of the day," retire to shut-beds at night, and look "sorry and sad and
fell" when fortune goes against them. They wander in garths and call each
other faring-fellow and they yea-say and nay-say and wot and wend. It is
not altogether surprising to find some of Morris's most loyal followers
admitting that they can make nothing of books written in this archaic

In the subsequent romances the comparative sturdiness imparted by the
writings of the North gives place to a mildness and grace suggestive of
those early French romances the charm of which Morris had always keenly
felt. We still have much the same vocabulary and more or less use of the
same magic arts, "skin-changing" holding its own as a favourite method of
overcoming otherwise insuperable difficulties; but we have more of the
love motive and a clearer endeavour to portray the relations of the
characters to each other. In all, however, the French and Scandinavian
influences are so mingled with each other and with the element provided by
Morris alone, and so fused by his fluent prolix style, as to produce a
result somewhat different from anything else in literature, with a
character and interest personal to itself, and difficult to imitate in
essence, although wofully lending itself to parody. The subject never
seems important. There is no sense that the writer was spurred to
expression by the pressure of an irresistible message or sentiment. We
feel that anything may have started this copious flow of words, and that
there is no logical end to them. The title of _The Well at the World's
End_ was taken from an old Scottish ballad called by that name which
Morris had never read, but the title of which struck his fancy, and the
book reads as though it had grown without plan from the fanciful,
meaningless title.

Of these later romances, _The Glittering Plain_ is the most saga-like, and
_The Water of the Wondrous Isles_ is most permeated by the romantic spirit
of the Arthurian legends and their kin. Despite all defects, the latter
has a bright bejewelled aspect that pleases the fancy although it does not
deeply enlist the imagination. The story is leisurely and wandering. The
heroine, Birdalone, some of whose characteristics have already been
mentioned, is stolen in her infancy from her home near a town called
Utterhay, by a witch-wife who brings her up on the edge of a wood called
Evilshaw and teaches her to milk and plough and sow and reap and bake and
shoot deer in the forest. When she is seventeen years of age she meets in
the forest Habundia, a fairy woman, who gives her a magic ring by which
she may make herself invisible and a lock of hair by burning a bit of
which she may summon her in time of need. Birdalone soon after escapes
from the witch-wife in a magic boat, and passes through fabulous scenes to
enchanted islands, where she finds friends and enemies. Three maidens,
Atra, Viridis, and Aurea, save her from the latter, and send her forth to
find for them their lovers. While on her quest she travels to various
isles,--the Isle of the Young and the Old, the Isle of the Queens, the
Isle of the Kings, and the Isle of Nothing,--which afford opportunity for
strange pictures and quaint conceits but have nothing to do with the
narrative. When Birdalone finds the lovers of her friends, the Golden
Knight, the Green Knight, and Arthur the Black Squire, called the Three
Champions, they are charmed by her beauty and friendliness, and she
immediately falls in love with the Black Squire, betrothed of Atra.[3] The
Black Squire returns her prompt affection, but has grace to show himself
moody and downcast at the thought of breaking faith with his lady.
Presently the Three Champions go their ways to find the three maidens who
were kind to Birdalone and who are kept on the Isle of Increase Unsought
by a witch, sister to Birdalone's early guardian, and Birdalone, weary of
waiting for their return, fares forth to meet adventures and lovers in
plenty. To all the brave knights and youths who take their turn at wooing
her she is pitiful and gentle after her fashion, and thanks them kindly,
and praises them and suffers them to kiss her for their comfort, and deems
them "fair and lovely and sweet," but keeps her preference for the Black
Squire. Now, when the Three Champions come back with their ladies and find
Birdalone fled there is much distress among them, and the knights set
forth to find her. Meeting with her, they are set upon by the bad Red
Knight, into whose custody she has recently been thrown, and Baudoin, the
Golden Knight, is killed. Returning with this bad news to the three
ladies, the two remaining knights, who have rescued Birdalone and killed
the Red Knight, decide to ride back into the latter's domain and make war
upon his followers. In the meantime Atra has learned that the Black Squire
has transferred his affections from her to Birdalone, and does not attempt
to dissemble her grief thereat, none of Morris's characters being gifted
in the art of dissimulation, particularly where love is concerned.
Birdalone, departing from the course which Morris elsewhere is most
inclined to sanction, decides to renounce in Atra's favour, and betakes
herself to the town of Greenford, where she is received into the
broiderers' guild and works with a woman who turns out to be her own
mother, from whom she was stolen by the witch. With her she lives for five
years, when sickness slays Audrey, the mother, and Birdalone can no
longer resist the temptation to seek her love, the Black Squire, again. So
she makes her way once more through marvellous adventures into the old
forest of Evilshaw, where she comes again upon her fairy friend Habundia,
by whose aid she finds the Black Squire. The latter has met with
misfortunes and is lost in the forest, where he falls ill. Birdalone
nurses him back to health, and they decide that whether Atra be dead or
alive they will have no more parting from one another. They are soon to be
put to the test, as in the wood they come upon Atra and their other
friends, who have set out to seek them, being anxious for their welfare,
and who have been overcome by caitiffs and bound and held prisoners.
Arthur and Birdalone rescue them, and all these friends make up their
minds to go together and dwell in Utterhay for the rest of their lives.
Aurea finds another lover in place of the Golden Knight she has lost, but
Atra is faithful in heart to the Black Squire, though able to bear with
philosophy his union with Birdalone. Thus they live happily ever after.
Upon this skeleton of mingled reality and dream Morris built his general
idea of happy love. The tale might easily be twisted into an allegory,
since all the creatures of his imagination stand for either the
satisfactions or dissatisfactions of the visible world, but nothing is
more certain than that he meant no such interpretations to be put upon it.
When one of his critics assumed an allegorical intention in the story
called _The Wood Beyond the World_, he was moved to public refutation,
writing to the _Spectator_: "It is meant to be a tale pure and simple,
with nothing didactic about it. If I have to write or speak on social
problems, I always try to be as direct as I possibly can." The truth of
this is best known by those who most faithfully have followed his
writings, and it is entirely vain to try to squeeze from his "tales" any
ethical virtue beyond their frank expression of his singularly simple
temperament. Nevertheless, like the rest of his work, they reveal in some
degree his way of regarding the moral world. As we have seen, Birdalone
has her impulse toward renunciation, and for a brief interval one feels
that the story possibly may be allowed to run along the conventional lines
laid down by the civilised human race for the greatest good of the
greatest number. This, however, would have been wholly alien to the
writer's temper, and there is no shock to those familiar with this temper
in finding that in the end the hero and heroine eat their cake and have
it. Renunciation on the side of the unbeloved is effected with grace and
nobility, but it is made clear that it is a question of accepting the
inevitable in as lofty a spirit as possible. It is perhaps the most
obvious moral characteristic of Morris's types in general, that they are
no more prone than children to do what they dislike unless circumstance
forces them to it. If we were to argue from his romances alone we could
almost imagine him contending that what one dislikes in conduct is wrong,
just as he did contend that what one dislikes in art is bad. But if his
men and women do not willingly renounce, at least they do not exult. The
sight of unhappiness pains them. For stern self-denial he substitutes the
softer virtues of amiability and sweetness of temper. A high level of
kindliness and tenderness takes the place of more compelling and
formidable emotions. "Kind," indeed, is one of the adjectives of which one
soonest wearies when confined to his vocabulary, and "dear," is another.
We read of "dear feet and legs," of dear and kind kisses, of kind
wheedling looks, of kind and dear maidens, and dear and kind lads, and
everyone is kind and dear who is not evil and cruel. What Morris's
romances preach, if they preach anything, is: that we should get from life
all the enjoyment possible, hurting others as little as may be consistent
with our own happiness, but claiming the satisfaction of all honest
desires; that, in thus satisfying ourselves, we should keep toward those
about us a kind and pleasant countenance and a consideration for their
pain even when our duty toward ourselves forces us to inflict it. It is a
narrow and exclusive teaching, and ill adapted to foster freedom of mind
and spirit. It is a teaching that provides no breastplate for the buffets
of fortune, and sets before one no ideal of intellectual or spiritual life
the attainment of which would bring pleasure austere and exquisite. There
is no stimulus and no sting in the love depicted. Even its ardour is
checked and wasted by its dallying with the external charms that seem to
veil rather than to reveal the spirit within the flesh. It is the essence
of immaturity. But while we gain from the observation of Morris's
childlike characters, playing in a world that knows no conventions and
consequently no shame, a foreboding of the weariness that would attend
such a life as he plans for them, we are conscious also that he is trying
characteristically, to go back to the beginning, and to start humanity
aright and afresh; to show us fine and healthy sons of Adam and daughters
of Eve, "living," to use his own words, "in the enjoyment of animal life
at least, happy therefore, and beautiful according to the beauty of their
race." He sets them among the surroundings he loves, gives them the
education he values, and leaves them with us--the blithe children of a new
world, whose maturity he is content not to forecast. With such health of
body, he seems to say, and such innocence of heart, what noble
commonwealth may not arise, what glory may not enter into civilisation?



The end with Morris seemed to come suddenly, although for months and even
for years there had been warnings of its approach. He had enjoyed--and
greatly enjoyed--unusual strength and vitality up to almost his sixtieth
year. The seeds of gout were in his constitution, and from attacks of this
disease he occasionally suffered, but not until the one occurring in the
spring of 1891, just as the Kelmscott Press was getting under way, did
they give reason for alarm. At that time other complications were
discovered and he was told that he must consider himself an invalid. After
this, as we have seen, he plunged with rapture into new undertakings
involving the use of all his faculties, and carried them on with no
apparent lessening of intellectual vigour. But he had too long overtaxed
his physical frame by his extraordinary labours, and especially by his
activity in the cause of Socialism, which had led him out in all weathers
and under the most adverse conditions. By the beginning of 1895 he began
to show plainly the weakness that had been gaining on him, and to admit
it, though still keeping busy at his various occupations. His increasing
illness brought home to him the thought of that final check upon his
activities which he had always found so difficult to conceive. "If," he
said, "it merely means that I am to be laid up for a little while, it
doesn't so much matter, you know; but if I am to be caged up here for
months, and then it is to be the end of all things, I shouldn't like it at
all. This has been a jolly world to me and I find plenty to do in it."

As the folio _Chaucer_ advanced through the Press, he grew impatient, no
doubt fearing that he would not see its completion, and it is pleasant to
read of his gratification when a completed copy reached him, bound in the
cover designed by himself. Late in July, 1896, by the recommendation of
his physician he took a sea voyage, going to Norway for the bracing
influences of its air and associations. No benefit was gained, however,
and on his return a congestion of one lung set in that proved unyielding,
while his general weakness was such that he was unable to cross the
threshold of his room. We find him responding to an old friend who had
urged him to try the effect of the pure air of Swainslow, that this was
the case and he could not come, but was "absolutely delighted to find
another beautiful place which is still in its untouched loveliness." Up
to the last he did a little work, dictating the final passage of _The
Sundering Flood_ less than a month before his death, which occurred in his
home at Hammersmith on the morning of the 3rd of October, 1896. He died
without apparent suffering, and surrounded by his friends. He had lived
almost sixty-three years in the "jolly world" wherein he had found so much
to do, but he left the impression of having been cut down in the flower of
his life.

His burial was in keeping with those tastes and preferences that had meant
so much to him. The strong oak coffin in which he was laid was of an
ancient, simple shape, with handles of wrought iron, and the pall that
covered it was a strip of rich Anatolian velvet from his own collection of
textiles. He was carried from Lechlade station to the little Kelmscott
church in an open hay-cart, cheerful in colour, with bright red wheels,
and festooned with vines, alder, and bulrushes. The bearers and the
drivers of the country waggons in which his friends followed him to his
grave were farmers of the neighbourhood clad in their moleskins, people
who had lost, said one of them, "a dear good friend in Master Morris." The
hearse, with its bright decorations and the little group of mourners wound
their way along pleasant country roads, beaten upon by a storm of unusual
fury. "The north-west wind bent trees and bushes," writes one of those who
were present, "turning the leaves of the bird maples back upon their
footstalks, making them look like poplars, and the rain beat on the
straggling hedges, the lurid fruit, such as only grows in rural
England,--the fruit of privet with ripe hips and haws; the foliage of the
Guelder roses hung on the bushes; along the road a line of slabs of stone
extended, reminding one of Portugal; ragweed and loosestrife, with rank
hemp agrimony, were standing dry and dead, like reeds beside a lake, and
in the rain and wind the yokels stood at the cross-roads, or at the
openings of the bridle-paths."

In _News from Nowhere_ Morris describes Kelmscott Church, with its little
aisle divided from the nave by three round arches, its windows, "mostly of
the graceful Oxfordshire fourteenth-century type," and the interior
trimmed with flowers for a village merrymaking. On the day of his burial,
by a curious coincidence it was trimmed with fruits of the harvest in
preparation for the autumn festival. The service was read by an old
schoolfellow and friend, and Morris was left to his rest "from patience
and from pain" in the place he had best loved and to which in his final
weakness he had longed to return.

In regarding Morris through the medium of his work it is difficult to gain
a coherent impression. He turned one side and another to the world with
such rapidity of succession as to give a sense of kaleidoscopic change.
What new combination of colour and form his activities would take was
always impossible to forecast. And the thing that he was doing seemed to
him at the time the one thing in the world that was worth doing, the one
thing that "a reasonable and healthy man" would make it his pleasure to
do. Yet, as we have seen, all these pursuits taken up by him with so much
zest and laid down by him with such suddenness, fitted harmoniously and
accurately into the plan of his life, which, with the decade of militant
Socialism deducted, presented a smooth and even surface, unbroken by any
violent change of circumstance or method or motive. He has been described
by nearly all who have written of him as "a rebel," and a rebel he was in
the true Quixotic sense, his lance in rest to charge at any moment against
any windmill of convention that might offend him. A friend who was once
talking with him about a forthcoming election to the London School Board,
expressing a hope that the progressive party would win,--"Well," said
Morris, striding up and down, "I am not sure that a clerical victory would
not be a good thing. I was educated at Marlborough under clerical masters,
and I naturally rebelled against them. Had they been advanced men, my
spirit of rebellion would probably have led me to conservatism merely as a
protest. One naturally defies authority, and it may be well that the
London School Board should be controlled by Anglican parsons, in order
that the young rebels in the schools may grow up to defy and hate church
authority." His own "natural" defiance of authority entailed what seems to
the ordinary toiler in harness a waste of his extraordinary gifts. His
work was most of it in the experimental stage when he left it. He was too
content to point the road without following to the end his own direction.
"He did not learn a trade in the natural way, from those who knew, and
seek then to better the teaching of his masters," says one of his
fellow-workers in arts and crafts, "but, acknowledging no master, except
perhaps the ancients, he would worry it out always for himself. He had a
wonderful knack of learning that way."[4] He had a wonderful knack also of
persuading himself that there was no other to learn, and Goldsmith's
criticism of Burke--that he spent much of his time "cutting blocks with a
razor"--has been happily applied to him. But it is doubtful whether he
would have made as strong an impression on his generation as he did if he
had devoted his time to one branch of art and worked along conventional
lines. His greatest gift was not so much the ability to produce art,
artistic though he was in faculty and feeling, as it was the ability to
make people see the difference between the kind of beauty to which his
eyes were open and the ugliness commonly preferred to it. Nothing is so
convincing as to see a man accomplish with his own hands what he has
declared possible for anyone to accomplish. Morris's continual
illustration of his theories was perhaps more useful in awakening interest
in just the matters which he had at heart than any more patient pursuit of
an ideal less readily achieved. He had the habit when listening to
questions and criticisms after his lectures of tracing charming rapid
designs on paper. On a large scale that is what he did throughout his
life: lecture people about the way to make things, and by way of proving
his point, turn off delightful examples of the things he describes. "It is
very easy" he seems to say; "watch me for a moment, and we will then pass

Considered superficially, he appeared the very prince of paradox. Art was
a word continually on his lips, the future and fortunes of art were
constantly in his mind, yet for the greatest art of the world he had few
words, and the most passing interest. The names of Raphael and Leonardo,
Giotto, Dürer, Rembrandt, Velasquez, were seldom if ever on his lips. Art
had for him an almost single meaning, namely, the beauty produced by
humble workers as an every-day occurrence and for every day's enjoyment,
art by the people and for the people. So individual that he will never be
forgotten by those who have once seen him and heard his voice raised in
its inevitable protest, he nevertheless preached a kind of communism in
which any high degree of individuality must have been submerged.

His preferences among books, as might be assumed, were clearly marked, and
a list of his favourite authors contains many contrasts. Once asked to
contribute to the _Pall Mall Gazette_ his opinions on "the best hundred
books," he complied by naming those which, he said, had most profoundly
impressed him, excluding all which he considered merely as tools and not
as works of art. True to himself, he starts the list with books "of the
kind Mazzini calls Bibles," books which are "in no sense the work of
individuals, but have grown up from the very hearts of the people." Among
these are "the Hebrew Bible (excluding some twice-done parts and some
pieces of mere Jewish ecclesiasticism), _Homer_, _Hesiod_, _The Edda_
(including some of the other early old Norse romantic genealogical poems),
_Beowulf_, _Kalevale_, _Shahnameh_, _Mahabharata_, collections of folk
tales headed by Grimm and the Norse ones, Irish and Welsh traditional

After these "Bibles" follow the "_real_ ancient imaginative works:
_Herodotus_, _Plato_, _Æschylus_, _Sophocles_, _Aristophanes_,
_Theocritus_, _Lucretius_, _Catullus_." The greater part of the Latins
were esteemed "_sham_ classics." "I suppose," says Morris in his character
of reasonable man, "that they have some good literary qualities; but I
cannot help thinking that it is difficult to find out how much. I suspect
superstition and authority have influenced our estimate of them till it
has become a mere matter of convention. Of course I admit the
archæological value of some of them, especially _Virgil_ and _Ovid_."

Next in importance to the Latin masterpieces he puts mediæval poetry,
Anglo-Saxon lyrical pieces (like the _Ruin_ and the _Exile_), Dante,
Chaucer, _Piers Plowman_, _Nibelungenlied_, the Danish and Scotch-English
Border Ballads, _Omar Khayyam_, "though I don't know how much of the charm
of this lovely poem," he says, "is due to Fitzgerald, the translator";
other Arab and Persian poetry, _Reynard the Fox_, and a few of the best
rhymed romances. Mediæval story books follow, the _Morte d'Arthur_, _The
Thousand and One Nights_, Boccaccio's _Decameron_, and the _Mabinogion_.
After these, "modern poets" up to his own generation, "Shakespeare, Blake
(the part of him which a mortal can understand), Coleridge, Shelley,
Keats, Byron." German he could not read, so he left out German
masterpieces. Milton he left out on account of his union of "cold
classicalism with Puritanism" ("the two things which I hate most in the
world," he said).

_Pilgrim's Progress_ heads the department of modern fiction, in which is
also included _Robinson Crusoe_, _Möll Flanders_, _Colonel Jack_, _Captain
Singleton_, _Voyage Round the World_, Scott's novels, "except the one or
two which he wrote when he was hardly alive," the novels of the elder
Dumas (the "good" ones), Victor Hugo, Dickens, and George Borrow. The list
concludes with certain unclassified works, Ruskin, Carlyle, the _Utopia_,
and Grimm's _Teutonic Mythology_. It may safely be assumed that no other
list sent in by the "best judges" who responded to Mr. Stead's request in
the least resembled this one, which was compiled with high sincerity and
represented Morris quite fairly on the bookish side of his mind. Mr.
Mackail mentions also among the volumes oftenest in his hands and "imposed
upon his friends unflinchingly" Surtees's famous _Mr. Jorrocks_, and
records that he considered _Huckleberry Finn_ America's masterpiece. For
the Uncle Remus stories he had also a peculiar fondness, and for one of
his cotton prints he designed what he called a "Brer Rabbit pattern."

The perversity that one marks in Morris beneath--or, perhaps, on the
surface of--his essential seriousness, the tendency to whim and paradox so
freely noted by his critics, may be attributed to his extraordinarily
childlike spirit. His lack of restraint, his dislike of subtlety, his love
of spontaneity, his inability to conform to conventions, his hatred of
gloom, austerity, and introspection, his readiness to throw himself into
enjoyment of the smallest subject that happened to come within the range
of his interest, his unflagging vigour, his unjaded humour, all qualities
copiously commented upon by his friends, testify to the youthfulness of
his temperament, which was like that of a child, also in a certain
apparently unpremeditated reticence, an inability to reveal itself fully
or satisfactorily to even his closest intimates. What is most attractive
and appealing in him is doubtless due to his freedom from artificialities
and from the sophistries that ordinarily come with age, but what is
noblest in him, and most impressive in the effect produced by his
accomplishment, is due to a quality of which a child is and should be
ignorant, a sense of personal responsibility. Without this he would have
been a pitiful figure, disoriented, and inharmonious with the world into
which he was born. It was his persistent unwearying effort to set the
crooked straight by example as well as by precept, and in defiance of a
certain paradoxical mental languor that flowed by the side of his energy
and impulse, which made him an influence to be counted with among the many
conflicting influences of his generation. While he counselled he produced,
while he preached he laboured. Declaring that work could and should be
lovely, he demonstrated in his own life how intensely one man loved it. He
fought for the principle of art with the ardour other men have shown in
fighting for the principle of political liberty. He held himself bound to
justify his theories in his own action, and while it would be absurd to
claim for him complete consistency and freedom from error in even this, it
certainly guided him safely past the quicksands of empty and inflated
rhetoric by which the expressed philosophy of his own great masters is
marred. It will be remembered by those who share his admiration for
Dickens that when the proprietor of Dotheboys Hall wished to teach his
pupils to spell "window" he had them clean one. The effectiveness of such
a method is deeper than the satire, and Morris was its most convincing
exponent. What he learned out of books he tried at once to put into
practice. He had the highest ideal of service:

  How crown ye excellence of worth?
  With leave to serve all men on earth,

and nothing deflected him from his efforts thus to serve in his own
person the most crying needs of humanity as he conceived them.

Pretentiousness was his least defect. No priggish sense of virtue
interfered with his consecration to what he believed were the highest
interests of his fellow-men. The cant of the moralist was absolutely
unused by him, and he was innocent of any intention to improve the morals
of his companions. Get them happy, he thought, with a faith little less
than magnificent, get them happy and they will be good. Nor was he guilty
of æsthetic priggishness. Art was the concern of his mind and the desire
of his heart, but it was by no means his meat and drink. He liked good
food, and was proud of his connoisseurship in matters of cookery, and
wines. Few things pleased him better than himself to take the cook's place
and prove his practical skill. When asked for his opinions on the subject
of temperance, he replied that so far as his own experience went he found
his victuals dull without something to drink, and that tea and coffee were
not fit liquors to be taken with food. He smoked his briarwood pipe with
much satisfaction. In his daily habits he was thoroughly, aggressively
human, and in nothing more so than in his candid admiration of the work of
his own hands, a feeling in which there was no fatuity.

His biographer comments on the singular element of impersonality in his
nature, speaking of him as moving among men and women "isolated,
self-centred, almost empty of love or hatred," and quotes his most
intimate friend's extreme statement that he lived "absolutely without the
need of man or woman." In this idea of him those who knew him best seemed
to agree, but from his own letters as represented in the biography, a
stranger to him gains a different impression. His letters to his invalid
daughter are in themselves sufficient to evoke in the mind of the reader
an image of unlimited and poignant tenderness impossible to associate with
the aloofness and lack of keen personal sympathy said to be characteristic
of him. He did not give himself readily or rashly to intense feelings; but
he seemed to feel within himself capacity for emotions of force so violent
as to be destructive. When his friend Faulkner was stricken with paralysis
and other trouble came upon the family, we find him writing: "It is such a
grievous business altogether that, rightly or wrongly, I try not to think
of it too much lest I should give way altogether, and make an end of what
small use there may be in my life." Leaving out the case of Rossetti,
there is no record of his having relinquished any friendship of
importance, nor did he weary of constant intercourse with his friends. His
habit of breakfasting with Burne-Jones on Sunday mornings and dining with
him on Wednesdays was unbroken for many years. "The last three Sundays of
his life," says this oldest and closest friend, "I went to him."

Loyalty, sincerity, simplicity, and earnestness, these are the qualities
conspicuous in the fabric of his life. His influence upon his generation,
so far as it may now be observed, has been definite but diffused. It may
be doubted whether he would not have been best pleased to have it so, to
know that his name will live chiefly as that of one who stimulated others
toward art production of and interest in beautiful handiwork. But the last
word to be said about him is that he was greater than his work.


1. _The Story of the Glittering Plain. Which has been also called The Land
of Living Men or The Acre of the Undying._ Written by WILLIAM MORRIS.
Small 4to. Golden type. Border 1. 200 paper copies at two guineas, and 6
on vellum. Dated April 4, issued May 8, 1891. Sold by Reeves & Turner.
Bound in stiff vellum with wash leather ties.[6]

    This book was set up from Nos. 81-84 of _The English Illustrated
    Magazine_, in which it first appeared; some of the chapter headings
    were rearranged, and a few small corrections were made in the text. A
    trial page, the first printed at the Kelmscott Press, was struck off
    on January 31, 1891, but the first sheet was not printed until about a
    month later.[7] The border was designed in January of the same year,
    and engraved by W. H. Hooper. Mr. Morris had four of the vellum copies
    bound in green vellum, three of which he gave to friends. Only two
    copies on vellum were sold, at twelve and fifteen guineas. This was
    the only book with wash leather ties. All the other vellum bound books
    have silk ties, except _Shelley's Poems_ and _Hand and Soul_, which
    have no ties.

2. _Poems by the Way._ Written by WILLIAM MORRIS. Small 4to. Golden type.
In black and red. Border 1. 300 paper copies at two guineas, thirteen on
vellum at about twelve guineas. Dated September 24, issued October 20,
1891. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum.

    This was the first book printed at the Kelmscott Press in two colours,
    and the first book in which the smaller printer's mark appeared. After
    _The Glittering Plain_ was finished, at the beginning of April, no
    printing was done until May 11th. In the meanwhile the compositors
    were busy setting up the early sheets of _The Golden Legend_. The
    printing of _Poems by the Way_, which its author first thought of
    calling _Flores Atramenti_, was not begun until July. The poems in it
    were written at various times. In the manuscript, _Hafburg and Signy_
    is dated February 4, 1870; _Hildebrand and Hillilel_, March 1, 1871;
    and _Love's Reward_, Kelmscott, April 21, 1871. _Meeting in Winter_ is
    a song from _The Story of Orpheus_ an unpublished poem intended for
    the _Earthly Paradise_. The last poem in the book, _Goldilocks and
    Goldilooks_, was written on May 20, 1891, for the purpose of adding to
    the bulk of the volume, which was then being prepared. A few of the
    vellum covers were stained at Merton red, yellow, indigo, and dark
    green, but the experiment was not successful.[8]

3. _The Love-Lyrics and Songs of Proteus, by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, with
the Love Sonnets of Proteus, by the same author, now reprinted in their
full text with many sonnets omitted from the earlier editions._ London,
MDCCCXCII. Small 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Border 1. 300 paper
copies at two guineas, none on vellum. Dated January 26, issued February
27, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum.

    This is the only book in which the initials are printed in red. This
    was done by the author's wish.

4. _The Nature of Gothic, a Chapter of the Stones of Venice._ By JOHN
RUSKIN. With a preface by William Morris. Small 4to. Golden type. Border
1. Diagrams in text. 500 paper copies at thirty shillings, none on vellum.
Dated in preface, February 15, issued March 22, 1892. Published by George
Allen. Bound in stiff vellum.

    This chapter of the Stones of Venice, which Ruskin always considered
    the most important in the book, was first printed separately, in 1854,
    as a sixpenny pamphlet. Mr. Morris paid more than one tribute to it in
    _Hopes and Fears for Art_. Of him Ruskin said, in 1887, "Morris is
    beaten gold."

5. _The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Small
4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 2 and 1. 300 paper copies at
two guineas, 10 on vellum at about twelve guineas. Dated April 2, issued
May 19, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book was set up from a copy of the edition published by Reeves &
    Turner in 1880, the only alteration, except a few corrections, being
    in the eleventh line of _Summer Dawn_.[9] It is divided into three
    parts, the poems suggested by Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_, the poems
    inspired by Froissart's _Chronicles_, and poems on various subjects.
    The two first sections have borders, and the last has a half border.
    The first sheet was printed on February 17, 1892. It was the first
    book bound in limp vellum, and the only one of which the title was
    inscribed by hand on the back.

6. _A Dream of John Ball and a King's Lesson._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Small
4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 3a, 4, and 2. With a woodcut
designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 300 paper copies at thirty shillings, 11
on vellum at ten guineas. Dated May 13, issued September 24, 1892. Sold by
Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.

    This was set up with a few alterations from a copy of Reeves &
    Turner's third edition, and the printing was begun on April 4, 1892.
    The frontispiece was redrawn from that to the first edition, and
    engraved on wood by W. H. Hooper, who engraved all Sir E.
    Burne-Jones's designs for the Kelmscott Press, except those for _The
    Wood Beyond the World_ and _The Life and Death of Jason_. The
    inscription below the figures,[10] and the narrow border, were
    designed by Mr. Morris and engraved with the picture on one block,
    which was afterwards used on a leaflet printed for the Ancoats
    Brotherhood in February, 1894.

7. _The Golden Legend._ By JACOBUS DE VORAGINE. Translated by William
Caxton. Edited by F. S. Ellis. 3 vols. Large 4to. Golden type. Borders 5a,
5, 6a and 7. Woodcut title and two woodcuts designed by Sir E.
Burne-Jones. 500 copies at five guineas, none on vellum. Dated September
12, issued November 3, 1892. Published by Bernard Quaritch. Bound in half
Holland, with paper labels printed in the Troy type.

    In July, 1890, when only a few letters of the Golden type had been
    cut, Mr. Morris bought a copy of this book, printed by Wynkyn de Worde
    in 1527. He soon afterwards determined to print it, and on September
    11th entered into a formal agreement with Mr. Quaritch for its
    publication. It was only an unforeseen difficulty about the size of
    the first stock of paper that led to _The Golden Legend_ not being the
    first book put in hand. It was set up from a transcript of Caxton's
    first edition, lent by the Syndics of the Cambridge University Library
    for the purpose. A trial page was got out in March, 1891, and fifty
    pages were in type by May 11th, the day on which the first sheet was
    printed. The first volume was finished, with the exception of the
    illustrations and the preliminary matter, in October, 1891. The two
    illustrations and the title (which was the first woodcut title
    designed by Mr. Morris) were not engraved until June and August, 1892,
    when the third volume was approaching completion. About half a dozen
    impressions of the illustrations were pulled on vellum. A slip asking
    owners of the book not to have it bound with pressure, nor to have the
    edges cut instead of merely trimmed, was inserted in each copy.

8. _The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye._ By RAOUL LEFEVRE. Translated
by William Caxton. Edited by H. Halliday Sparling. 2 vols. Large 4to. Troy
type, with table of chapters and glossary in Chaucer type. In black and
red. Borders 5a, 5, and 8. Woodcut title. 300 paper copies at nine
guineas, 5 on vellum at eighty pounds. Dated October 14, issued November
24, 1892. Published by Bernard Quaritch. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book, begun in February, 1892, is the first book printed in Troy
    type, and the first in which Chaucer type appears. It is a reprint of
    the first book printed in English. It had long been a favourite with
    William Morris, who designed a great quantity of initials and
    ornaments for it, and wrote the following note for Mr. Quaritch's
    catalogue: "As to the matter of the book, it makes a thoroughly
    amusing story, instinct with mediæval thought and manners. For though
    written at the end of the Middle Ages and dealing with classical
    mythology, it has in it no token of the coming Renaissance, but is
    purely mediæval. It is the last issue of that story of Troy which
    through the whole of the Middle Ages had such a hold on men's
    imaginations; the story built up from a rumour of the Cyclic Poets, of
    the heroic City of Troy, defended by Priam and his gallant sons, led
    by Hector the Preux Chevalier, and beset by the violent and brutal
    Greeks, who were looked on as the necessary machinery for bringing
    about the undeniable tragedy of the fall of the City. Surely this is
    well worth reading, if only as a piece of undiluted mediævalism." 2000
    copies of a 4to announcement, with specimen pages, were printed at the
    Kelmscott Press in December, 1892, for distribution by the

9. _Biblia Innocentium: Being the Story of God's Chosen People before the
Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ upon Earth._ Written anew for children, by
J. W. MACKAIL, Sometime Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. 8vo. Border 2.
200 on paper at a guinea, none on vellum. Dated October 22, issued
December 9, 1892. Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in stiff vellum.

    This was the last book issued in stiff vellum except _Hand and Soul_,
    and the last with untrimmed edges. It was the first book printed in

10. _The History of Reynard the Foxe._ By WILLIAM CAXTON. Reprinted from
his edition of 1481. Edited by H. Halliday Sparling. Large 4to. Troy type,
with Glossary in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 5a and 7. Woodcut
title. 300 on paper at three guineas, 10 on vellum at fifteen guineas.
Dated December 15, 1892, issued January 25, 1893. Published by Bernard
Quaritch. Bound in limp vellum.

    About this book, which was first announced as in the press in the list
    dated July, 1892, William Morris wrote the following note for Mr.
    Quaritch's catalogue: "This translation of Caxton's is one of the very
    best of his works as to style; and being translated from a kindred
    tongue is delightful as mere language. In its rude joviality, and
    simple and direct delineation of character, it is a thoroughly good
    representative of the famous ancient Beast Epic." The edges of this
    book, and of all subsequent books, were trimmed in accordance with the
    invariable practice of the early printers. Mr. Morris much preferred
    the trimmed edges.

11. _The Poems of William Shakespeare_, printed after the original copies
of _Venus and Adonis_, 1593. _The Rape of Lucrece_, 1594. _Sonnets_, 1609.
_The Lover's Complaint._ Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black
and red. Borders 1 and 2. 500 paper copies at twenty-five shillings, 10 on
vellum at ten guineas. Dated January 17, issued February 13, 1893. Sold by
Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.

    A trial page of this book was set up on November 1, 1892. Though the
    number was large, this has become one of the rarest books issued from
    the Press.[12]

12. _News from Nowhere: or, An Epoch of Rest, Being Some Chapters from a
Utopian Romance._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red.
Borders 9a and 4, and a woodcut engraved by W. H. Hooper from a design by
C. M. Gere. 300 on paper at two guineas, 10 on vellum at ten guineas.
Dated November 22, 1892, issued March 24, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner.
Bound in limp vellum.

    The text of this book was printed before Shakespeare's _Poems and
    Sonnets_, but it was kept back for the frontispiece, which is a
    picture of the old manor-house in the village of Kelmscott by the
    upper Thames, from which the Press took its name. It was set up from a
    copy of one of Reeves & Turner's editions, and in reading it for the
    press the author made a few slight corrections. It was the last book
    except the _Savonarola_ (No. 31) in which he used the old paragraph
    mark [Illustration], which was discarded in favour of the leaves,
    which had already been used in the two large 4to books printed in the
    Troy type.

13. _The Order of Chivalry._ Translated from the French by William Caxton
and reprinted from his edition of 1484. Edited by F. S. Ellis. And
_L'Ordene de Chevalerie_, with translation by William Morris. Small 4to.
Chaucer type, in black and red. Borders 9a and 4, and a woodcut designed
by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 10 on vellum
at ten guineas. _The Order of Chivalry_ dated November 10, 1892,
_L'Ordene de Chevalerie_ dated February 24, 1893, issued April 12, 1893.
Sold by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.

    This was the last book printed in small 4to. The last section is in
    8vo. It was the first book printed in the Chaucer type. The reprint
    from Caxton was finished while _News from Nowhere_ was in the press,
    and before Shakespeare's _Poems and Sonnets_ was begun. The French
    poem and its translation were added as an afterthought, and have a
    separate colophon. Some of the three-line initials which were designed
    for _The Well at the World's End_ are used in the French poem, and
    this is their first appearance. The translation was begun on December
    3, 1892, and the border round the frontispiece was designed on
    February 13, 1893.

14. _The Life of Thomas Woolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York._ Written by
GEORGE CAVENDISH. Edited by F. S. Ellis from the author's autograph MS.
8vo. Golden type. Border 1. 250 on paper at two guineas, 6 on vellum at
ten guineas. Dated March 30, issued May 3, 1893. Sold by Reeves & Turner.
Bound in limp vellum.

15. _The History of Godefrey of Boloyne and of the Conquest of
Iherusalem._ Reprinted from Caxton's edition of 1841. Edited by H.
Halliday Sparling. Large 4to. Troy type, with list of chapter headings and
glossary in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 5a and 5, and woodcut
title. 300 on paper at six guineas, 6 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated
April 27, issued May 24, 1893. Published by William Morris at the
Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

    This was the fifth and last of the Caxton reprints, with many new
    ornaments and initials, and a new printer's mark. It was first
    announced as in the press in the list dated December, 1892. It was the
    first book published and sold at the Kelmscott Press. An announcement
    and order form, with two different specimen pages, was printed at the
    Press, besides a special invoice. A few copies were bound in half
    holland, not for sale.

16. _Utopia._ Written by SIR THOMAS MORE. A reprint of the second edition
of Ralph Robinson's translation, with a foreword by William Morris.[13]
Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Chaucer type, with the reprinted title in Troy
type. In black and red. Borders 4 and 2. 300 on paper at thirty shillings,
8 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated August 4, issued September 8, 1893. Sold
by Reeves & Turner. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book was first announced as in the press in the list dated May
    20, 1893.

17. _Maud, A Monodrama._ By ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON. 8vo. Golden type. In
black and red. Borders 10a and 10, and woodcut title. 500 on paper at two
guineas, 5 on vellum, not for sale. Dated August 11, issued September 30,
1893. Published by Macmillan & Co. Bound in limp vellum.

    The borders were specially designed for this book. They were both used
    again in the Keats, and one of them appears in _The Saundering Flood_.
    It is the first of the 8vo books with a woodcut title.

18. _Gothic Architecture: A Lecture for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition
Society._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. 16mo. Golden type. In black and red. 1500 on
paper at two shillings and sixpence, 45 on vellum at ten and fifteen
shillings. Bound in half holland.

    This lecture was set up at Hammersmith and printed at the New Gallery
    during the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in October and November, 1893.
    The first copies were ready on October 21st and the book was twice
    reprinted before the Exhibition closed. It was the first book printed
    in 16mo. The four-line initials used in it appear here for the first
    time. The vellum copies were sold during the Exhibition at ten
    shillings, and the price was subsequently raised to fifteen

19. _Sidonia the Sorceress._ By WILLIAM MEINHOLD. Translated by Francesca
Speranza, Lady Wilde. Large 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Border 8.
300 paper copies at four guineas, 10 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated
September 15, issued November 1, 1893. Published by William Morris. Bound
in limp vellum.

    Before the publication of this book a large 4to announcement and order
    form was issued, with a specimen page and an interesting description
    of the book and its author, written and signed by William Morris. Some
    copies were bound in half holland not for sale.

20. _Ballads and Narrative Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti._ 8vo. Golden
type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and woodcut title. 310 on paper
at two guineas, 6 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated October 14, issued in
November, 1893. Published by Ellis & Elvey. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book was announced as in preparation in the list of August 1,

21. _The Tale of King Florus and the Fair Jehane._ Translated by William
Morris from the French of the 13th century. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black
and red. Borders 11a and 11, and woodcut title. 350 on paper at seven
shillings and sixpence, 15 on vellum at thirty shillings. Dated December
16, issued December 28, 1893. Published by William Morris. Bound in half

    This story, like the three other translations with which it is
    uniform, was taken from a little volume called _Nouvelles Françoises
    en prose du XIIIe siècle_, Paris, Jannet, 1856. They were first
    announced as in preparation under the heading _French Tales_ in the
    list dated May 20, 1893. Eighty-five copies of _King Florus_ were
    bought by J. & M. L. Tregaskis, who had them bound in all parts of the
    world. These are now in the Rylands Library at Manchester.

22. _The Story of the Glittering Plain. Which has been also called The
Land of Living Men or The Acre of the Undying._ Written by WILLIAM MORRIS.
Large 4to. Troy type, with list of chapters in Chaucer type. In black and
red. Borders 12a and 12, 23 designs by Walter Crane, engraved by A.
Leverett, and a woodcut title. 250 on paper at five guineas, 7 on vellum
at twenty pounds. Dated January 13, issued February 17, 1894. Published by
William Morris. Bound in limp vellum. Neither the borders in this book nor
six out of the seven frames round the illustrations appear in any other
book. The seventh is used round the second picture in _Love is Enough_. A
few copies were bound in half holland.

23. _Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile._ _Done out of the ancient French
by_ WILLIAM MORRIS. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 11a and
11, and woodcut title. 500 on paper at seven shillings and sixpence, 15 on
vellum at thirty shillings. Dated March 13th, issued April 4, 1894.
Published by William Morris. Bound in half holland.[15]

    A poem entitled _Amys and Amillion_, founded on this story, was
    originally to have appeared in the second volume of the _Earthly
    Paradise_, but, like some other poems announced at the same time, it
    was not included in the book.

20a. _Sonnets and Lyrical Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti._ 8vo. Golden
type. In black and red. Borders 1a and 1, and woodcut title. 310 on paper
at two guineas, 6 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated February 20, issued
April 21, 1894. Published by Ellis & Elvey. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book is uniform with No. 20, to which it forms a sequel. Both
    volumes were read for the press by Mr. W. M. Rossetti.

24. _The Poems of John Keats._ Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In
black and red. Borders 10a and 10, and woodcut title. 300 on paper at
thirty shillings, 7 on vellum at nine guineas. Dated March 7, issued May
8, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    This is now (January, 1898) the most sought after of all the smaller
    Kelmscott Press books. It was announced as in preparation in the lists
    of May 27 and August 1, 1893, and as in the press in that of March 31,
    1894, when the woodcut title still remained to be printed.[16]

25. _Atalanta in Calydon: A Tragedy._ By ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE. Large
4to. Troy type, with argument and _dramatis personæ_ in Chaucer type; the
dedication and quotation from Euripides in Greek type designed by Selwyn
Image. In black and red. Borders 5a and 5, and woodcut title. 250 on paper
at two guineas, 8 on vellum at twelve guineas. Dated May 4, issued July
24, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    In the vellum copies of this book the colophon is not on the
    eighty-second page as in the paper copies, but on the following page.

26. _The Tale of the Emperor Coustans and of Over Sea._ Done out of
ancient French by WILLIAM MORRIS. 16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red.
Borders 11a and 11, both twice, and two woodcut titles. 525 on paper at
seven shillings and sixpence, 20 on vellum at two guineas. Dated August
30, issued September 26, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in half

    The first of these stories, which was the source of _The Man Born to
    be King_ in _The Earthly Paradise_, was announced as in preparation in
    the list of March 31, 1894.

27. _The Wood Beyond the World._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. 8vo. Chaucer type. In
black and red. Borders 13a and 13, and a frontispiece designed by Sir E.
Burne-Jones, and engraved on wood by W. Spielmeyer. 350 on paper at two
guineas, 8 on vellum at ten guineas. Dated May 30, issued October 16,
1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    The borders in this book, as well as the ten half borders, are here
    used for the first time. It was first announced as in the press in the
    list of March 31, 1894. Another edition was published by Lawrence &
    Bullen in 1895.

28. _The Book of Wisdom and Lies. A Book of Traditional Stories from
Georgia and Asia._ Translated by Oliver Wardrop from the original of
Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 4a and
4, and woodcut title. 250 on paper at two guineas, none on vellum.
Finished September 20, issued October 29, 1894. Published by Bernard
Quaritch. Bound in limp vellum.

    The arms of Georgia, consisting of the Holy Coat, appear in the
    woodcut title of this book.[17]

29. _The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley._ Volume 1. Edited by F.
S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. Borders 1a and 1, and woodcut title. 250 on
paper at twenty-five shillings, 6 on vellum at eight guineas. Not dated,
issued November 29, 1894. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp
vellum without ties.

    Red ink is not used in this volume, though it is used in the second
    volume, and more sparingly in the third. Some of the half borders
    designed for _The Wood Beyond the World_ reappear before the longer
    poems. The Shelley was first announced as in the press in the list of
    March 31, 1894.[18]

30. _Psalmi Penitentiales. An English rhymed version of the Seven
Penitential Psalms._ Edited by F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black
and red. 300 on paper at seven shillings and sixpence, 12 on vellum at
three guineas. Dated November 15, issued December 10, 1894. Published by
William Morris. Bound in half holland.

    These verses were taken from a manuscript Book of Hours, written at
    Gloucester in the first half of the fifteenth century, but the Rev.
    Professor Skeat has pointed out that the scribe must have copied them
    from an older manuscript, as they are in the Kentish dialect of about
    a century earlier. The half border on p. 34 appears for the first time
    in this book.

31. _Epistolade Contemptumundi di Frate Hieronymo da Ferrara Dellordinede
Frati Predicatori la Quale Manda ad Elena Buonaccorsi Sua Madre._ Per
CONSOLARLA DELLA MORTE DEL FRATELLO, _Suo Zio_. Edited by Charles Fairfax
Murray from the original autograph letter. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black
and red. Border 1. Woodcut on title designed by C. F. Murray and engraved
by W. H. Hooper. 150 on paper and 6 on vellum. Dated November 30, ready
December 12, 1894. Bound in half holland.

    This little book was printed for Mr. C. Fairfax Murray, the owner of
    the manuscript, and was not for sale in the ordinary way. The colophon
    is in Italian, and the printer's mark is in red.

32. _The Tale of Beowulf._ Done out of the old English tongue by WILLIAM
MORRIS and A. J. WYATT. Large 4to. Troy type, with argument, side-notes,
list of persons and places, and glossary in Chaucer type. In black and
red. Borders 14a and 14, and woodcut title. 300 on paper at two guineas, 8
on vellum at ten pounds. Dated January 10, issued February 2, 1895.
Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    The borders in this book were only used once again, in the Jason. A
    note to the reader printed on a slip in the Golden type was inserted
    in each copy. _Beowulf_ was first announced as in preparation in the
    list of May 20, 1893. The verse translation was begun by Mr. Morris,
    with the aid of Mr. Wyatt's careful paraphrase of the text, on
    February 21, 1893, and finished on April 10, 1894, but the argument
    was not written by Mr. Morris until December 10, 1894.

33. _Syr Perecyvelle of Gales._ Overseen by F. S. Ellis, after the edition
edited by J. O. Halliwell from the Thornton MS. in the Library of Lincoln
Cathedral. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 13a and 13, and a
woodcut designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at fifteen shillings,
8 on vellum four guineas. Dated February 16, issued May 2, 1895. Published
by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    This is the first of the series to which _Sire Degrevaunt and Syr
    Isumbrace_ belong. They were all reprinted from the Camden Society's
    volume of 1844, which was a favourite with Mr. Morris from his Oxford
    days. _Syr Perecyvelle_ was first announced in the list of December 1,
    1894. The shoulder-notes were added by Mr. Morris.

34. _The Life and Death of Jason_, A Poem by WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to.
Troy type, with a few words in Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 14a
and 14, and two woodcuts designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones and engraved on
wood by W. Spielmeyer. 200 on paper at five guineas, 6 on vellum at twenty
guineas. Dated May 25, issued July 5, 1895. Published by William Morris.
Bound in limp vellum.

    This book, announced as in the press in the list of April 21, 1894,
    proceeded slowly, as several other books, notably the Chaucer, were
    being printed at the same time. The text, which had been corrected for
    the second edition of 1868, and for the edition of 1882, was again
    revised by the author. The line fillings on the last page were cut on
    metal for the book, and cast like type.

29a. _The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley._ Volume 11. Edited by F.
S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. 250 on paper at twenty-five
shillings, 6 on vellum at eight guineas. Not dated, issued March 25, 1895.
Published by William Morris, Bound in limp vellum without ties.

35. _Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. 2 vols.
16mo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 15a and 15, and woodcut
title. 600 on paper at fifteen shillings, 12 on vellum at four guineas.
Dated July 25, issued September 25, 1895. Published by William Morris.
Bound in half holland, with labels printed in the Golden type.

    The borders designed for this book were only used once again, in _Hand
    and Soul_. The plot of the story was suggested by that of Havelok the
    Dane, printed by the Early English Text Society.

29b. _The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley._ Volume III. Edited by
F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. 250 on paper at
twenty-five shillings, 6 on vellum at eight guineas. Dated August 21,
issued October 28, 1895. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum
without ties.

36. _Hand and Soul._ By DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI. Reprinted from _The Germ_,
for Messrs. Way & Williams, of Chicago. 16mo. Golden type. In black and
red. Borders 15a and 15, and woodcut title. 300 paper copies and 11 vellum
copies for America. 225 paper copies for sale in England at ten shillings,
and 10 on vellum at thirty shillings. Dated October 24, issued December
12, 1895. Bound in stiff vellum, without ties.

    This was the only 16mo book bound in vellum. The English and American
    copies have a slightly different colophon. The shoulder-notes were
    added by Mr. Morris.

37. _Poems Chosen out of the Works of Robert Herrick._ Edited by F. S.
Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and woodcut
title. 250 on paper at thirty shillings, 8 on vellum at eight guineas.
Dated November 21, 1895, issued February 6, 1896. Published by William
Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book was first announced as in preparation in the list of
    December 1, 1894, and as in the press in that of July 1, 1895.

38. _Poems Chosen out of the Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge._ Edited by
F. S. Ellis. 8vo. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 13a and 13. 300
on paper at a guinea, 8 on vellum at five guineas. Dated February 5,
issued April 12, 1896. Published by William Morris. Bound in limp

    This book contains thirteen poems. It was first announced as in
    preparation in the list of December 1, 1894, and as in the press in
    that of November 26, 1895. It is the last of the series to which
    Tennyson's _Maud_, and the poems of Rossetti, Keats, Shelley, and
    Herrick belong.

39. _The Well at the World's End._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to. Double
columns. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 16a, 16, 17a, 17, 18a,
18, 19a, 19, and four woodcuts designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 350 on
paper at five guineas, 8 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated March 2,
issued June 4, 1896. Sold by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

    This book, delayed for various reasons, was longer on hand than any
    other. It appears in no less than twelve lists, from that of December,
    1892, to that of November 26, 1895, as "in the press." Trial pages,
    including one in a single column, were ready as early as September,
    1892, and the printing began on December 16th, of that year. The
    edition of _The Well at the World's End_, published by Longmans, was
    then being printed from the author's manuscript at the Chiswick Press,
    and the Kelmscott Press edition was set up from the sheets of that
    edition, which, though not issued until October, 1896, was finished in
    1894. The eight borders and the six different ornaments between the
    columns appear here for the first time, but are used again in _The
    Water of the Wondrous Isles_, with the exception of two borders.

40. _The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer._ Edited by F. S. Ellis. Folio. Chaucer
type, with headings to the longer poems in Troy type. In black and red.
Borders 20a to 26, woodcut title, and eighty-seven woodcut illustrations
designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 425 on paper at twenty pounds, 13 on
vellum at 120 guineas. Dated May 8, issued June 26, 1896. Published by
William Morris. Bound in half holland.

    The history of this book, which is by far the most important
    achievement of the Kelmscott Press, is as follows:

    As far back as June 11, 1891, Mr. Morris spoke of printing a Chaucer
    with a black-letter fount, which he hoped to design. Four months
    later, when most of the Troy type was designed and cut, he expressed
    his intention to use it first on John Ball, and then on a Chaucer,
    and perhaps a _Gesta Romanorum_. By January 1, 1892, the Troy type was
    delivered, and early in that month two trial pages, one from _The
    Cook's Tale_ and one from _Sir Thopas_, the latter in double columns,
    were got out. It then became evident that the type was too large for a
    Chaucer, and Mr. Morris decided to have it re-cut in the size known as
    pica. By the end of June he was thus in possession of the type which,
    in the list issued in December, 1892, he named the Chaucer type. In
    July, 1892, another trial page, a passage from _The Knight's Tale_, in
    double columns of fifty-eight lines, was got out, and found to be
    satisfactory. The idea of the Chaucer as it now exists, with
    illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, then took definite shape.

    In a proof of the first list, dated April, 1892, there is an
    announcement of the book as in preparation, in black-letter, large
    quarto, but this was struck out, and does not appear in the list as
    printed in May, nor yet in the July list. In that for December, 1892,
    it is announced for the first time as to be in Chaucer type "with
    about sixty designs by E. Burne-Jones." The next list, dated March 9,
    1893, states that it will be a folio, and that it is in the press, by
    which was meant that a few pages were in type. In the list dated
    August 1, 1893, the probable price is given as twenty pounds. The next
    four lists contain no fresh information, but on August 17, 1894, nine
    days after the first sheet was printed, a notice was sent to the trade
    that there would be 325 copies at twenty pounds, and about sixty
    woodcut designs by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Three months later it was
    decided to increase the number of illustrations to upwards of seventy,
    and to print another 100 copies of the book. A circular letter was
    sent to the subscribers on November 14th, stating this, and giving
    them an opportunity of cancelling their orders. Orders were not
    withdrawn, the extra copies were immediately taken up, and the list
    for December 1, 1894, which is the first containing full particulars,
    announces that all paper copies are sold.[20]

    Mr. Morris began designing his first folio border on February 1, 1893,
    but was dissatisfied with the design and did not finish it. Three days
    later he began the vine border for the first page, and finished it in
    about a week, together with the initial word "Whan," the two lines of
    heading, and the frame for the first picture, and Mr. Hooper engraved
    the whole of these on one block. The first picture was engraved at
    about the same time. A specimen of the first page (differing slightly
    from the same page as it appears in the book) was shown at the Arts
    and Crafts Exhibition in October and November, 1893, and was issued to
    a few leading booksellers, but it was not until August 8, 1894, that
    the first sheet was printed at 14, Upper Mall. On January 8, 1895,
    another press was started at 21, Upper Mall, and from that time two
    presses were almost exclusively at work on the Chaucer. By September
    10th, the last page of _The Romaunt of the Rose_ was printed. In the
    middle of February, 1896, Mr. Morris began designing the title. It was
    finished on the 27th of the same month and engraved by Mr. Hooper in
    March. On May 8th, a year and nine months after the printing of the
    first sheet, the book was completed. On June 2nd, the first two copies
    were delivered to Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Mr. Morris. Mr. Morris's
    copy is now at Exeter College, Oxford, with other books printed at the
    Kelmscott Press.

    Besides the eighty-seven illustrations designed by Sir Edward
    Burne-Jones, and engraved by W. H. Hooper, the Chaucer contains a
    woodcut title, fourteen large borders, eighteen different frames
    around the illustrations, and twenty-six large initial words designed
    for the book by William Morris. Many of these were engraved by C. E.
    Keats, and others by W. H. Hooper and W. Spielmeyer.

    In February, 1896, a notice was issued respecting special bindings, of
    which Mr. Morris intended to design four.

    Two of these were to have been executed under Mr. Cobden-Sanderson's
    direction at the Doves Bindery, and two by Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.
    But the only design that he was able to complete was for a full white
    pigskin binding, which has now been carried out at the Doves Bindery
    on forty-eight copies, including two on vellum.[21]

41. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume I. _Prologue: The
Wanderers._ March: _Atalanta's Race. The Man Born to be King._ Medium
4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 27a, 27, 28a, and 28, and
woodcut title. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 6 on vellum at seven
guineas. Dated May 7, issued July 24, 1896. Published by William Morris.
Bound in limp vellum.

    This was the first book printed on the paper with the apple
    water-mark. The seven other volumes followed it at intervals of a few
    months. None of the ten borders used in the _Earthly Paradise_ appear
    in any other book. The four different half-borders round the poems to
    the months are also not used elsewhere. The first border was designed
    in June, 1895.

42. _Laudes Beatæ Mariæ Virginis._ Latin poems taken from a Psalter
written in England about A.D. 1220. Edited by S. C. Cockerell. Large 4to.
Troy type. In black, red, and blue. 250 on paper at ten shillings, 10 on
vellum at two guineas. Dated July 7, issued August 7, 1896. Published by
William Morris. Bound in half holland.

    This was the first book printed at the Kelmscott Press in three
    colours.[22] The manuscript from which the poems were taken was one of
    the most beautiful of the English books in Mr. Morris's possession,
    both as regards writing and ornament. No author's name is given to the
    poems, but after this book was issued the Rev. E. S. Dewick pointed
    out that they had already been printed at Tegernsee in 1579, in a 16mo
    volume in which they are ascribed to Stephen Langton. A note to this
    effect was printed in the Chaucer type in December 28, 1896, and
    distributed to the subscribers.

41a. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume II. April: _The
Doom of King Acrisius. The Proud King._ Medium 4to. Golden type. In black
and red. Borders 29a, 29, 28a, and 28. 225 on paper at thirty shillings, 6
on vellum at seven guineas. Dated June 24, issued September 17, 1896.
Published by William Morris. Bound in limp vellum.

43. _The Floure and the Leafe, and The Boke of Cupide, God of Love, or The
Cuckow and the Nightingale._ Edited by F. S. Ellis. Medium 4to. Troy type,
with note and colophon in Chaucer type. In black and red. 300 on paper at
ten shillings, 10 on vellum at two guineas. Dated August 21, issued
November 2, 1896. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.

    Two of the initial words from the Chaucer are used in this book, one
    at the beginning of each poem. These poems were formerly attributed to
    Chaucer, but recent scholarship has proved that _The Floure and the
    Leafe_ is much later than Chaucer, and that _The Cuckow and the
    Nightingale_ was written by Sir Thomas Clanvowe about A.D. 1405-10.

44. _The Shepheardes Calender: Conteyning Twelve Aeglogues, Proportionable
to the Twelve Monethes._ By EDMUND SPENCER. Edited by F. S. Ellis. Medium
4to. Golden type. In black and red. With twelve full page illustrations by
A. J. Gaskin. 225 on paper at a guinea, 6 on vellum at three guineas.
Dated October 14, issued November 26, 1896. Published at the Kelmscott
Press. Bound in half holland.

    The illustrations in this book were printed from process blocks by
    Walker & Boutall. By an oversight, the names of author, editor, and
    artist were omitted from the colophon.

41b. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume III. May: _The
Story of Cupid and Psyche. The Writing on the Image._ June: _The Love of
Alcestis. The Lady of the Land._ Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and
red. Borders 30a, 30, 27a, 27, 28a, 28, 29a, and 29. 225 on paper at
thirty shillings, 6 on vellum at seven guineas. Dated August 24, issued
December 5, 1896. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

41c. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume IV. July: _The Son
of Croesus. The Watching of the Falcon._ August: _Pygmalion and the Image.
Ogier the Dane._ Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 31a,
31, 29a, 29, 28a, 28, 30a, and 30. Dated November 25, 1896, issued
January 22, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

41d. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume V. September. _The
Death of Paris. The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon._ October:
_The Story of Acontius and Cydippe. The Man Who Never Laughed Again._
Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red. Borders 29a, 29, 27a, 27, 28a,
28, 31a, and 31. Finished December 24, 1896, issued March 9, 1897.
Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

41e. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume VI. November: _The
Story of Rhodope. The Lovers of Gudrun._ Medium 4to. Golden type. In black
and red. Borders 27a, 27, 30a, and 30. Finished February 18, issued May
11, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

41f. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume VII. December: _The
Golden Apples. The Fostering of Aslaug._ January: _Bellerophon at Argos.
The Ring Given to Venus._ Medium 4to. Golden type. In black and red.
Borders 29a, 29, 31a, 31, 30a, 30, 27a, and 27. Finished March 17, issued
July 29, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

45. _The Water of the Wondrous Isles._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Large 4to.
Chaucer type, in double columns, with a few lines in Troy type at the end
of each of the seven parts. In black and red. Borders 16a, 17a, 18a, 19,
and 19a. 250 on paper at three guineas, 6 on vellum at twelve guineas.
Dated April 1, issued July 29, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press.
Bound in limp vellum.

    Unlike _The Well at the World's End_, with which it is mainly uniform,
    this book has red shoulder-notes and no illustrations. Mr. Morris
    began the story in verse on February 4, 1895. A few days later he
    began it afresh in alternate prose and verse; but he was again
    dissatisfied, and finally began it a third time in prose alone, as it
    now stands. It was first announced as in the press in the list of June
    1, 1896, at which date the early chapters were in type, although they
    were not printed until about a month later. The designs for the
    initial words "Whilom" and "Empty" were begun by William Morris
    shortly before his death, and were finished by R. Catterson-Smith.
    Another edition was published by Longmans on October 1, 1897.

41g. _The Earthly Paradise._ By WILLIAM MORRIS. Volume VIII. February:
_Bellerophon in Lycia. The Hill of Venus. Epilogue. L'Envoi._ Medium 4to.
Golden type. In black and red. Borders 28a, 28, 29a, and 29. Finished
June 10, issued September 27, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press.
Bound in limp vellum.

    The colophon of this final volume of _The Earthly Paradise_ contains
    the following note: "The borders in this edition of _The Earthly
    Paradise_ were designed by William Morris, except those on page 4 of
    Volumes ii., iii., and iv., afterwards repeated, which were designed
    to match the opposite borders, under William Morris's direction, by R.
    Catterson-Smith, who also finished the initial words 'Whilom' and
    'Empty' for _The Water of the Wondrous Isles_. All the other letters,
    borders, title-pages, and ornaments used at the Kelmscott Press,
    except the Greek type in _Atalanta in Calydon_, were designed by
    William Morris."

46. Two trial pages of the projected edition of Lord Berners's Translation
of Froissart's Chronicles. Folio. Chaucer type, with heading in Troy type.
In black and red. Border 32, containing the shields of France, the Empire,
and England, and a half-border containing those of Reginald, Lord Cobham,
Sir John Chandos, and Sir Walter Manny. 160 on vellum at a guinea, none on
paper. Dated September, issued October 7, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott
Press. Not bound.

    It was the intention of Mr. Morris to make this edition of what was
    since his college days almost his favourite book a worthy companion to
    the Chaucer. It was to have been in two volumes folio, with new cusped
    initials and heraldic ornament throughout. Each volume was to have had
    a large frontispiece designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones; the subject
    of the first was to have been St. George, that of the second Fame. A
    trial page was set up in the Troy type soon after it came from the
    foundry, in January, 1892. Early in 1893 trial pages were set up in
    the Chaucer type, and in the list for March 9th of that year the book
    is erroneously stated to be in the press. In the three following lists
    it is announced as in preparation. In the list dated December 1, 1893,
    and in the three next lists, it is again announced as in the press,
    and the number to be printed is given as 150. Meanwhile the printing
    of the Chaucer had been begun, and as it was not feasible to carry on
    two folios at the same time, the Froissart again comes under the
    heading "in preparation" in the lists from December 1, 1894, to June
    1, 1896. In the prospectus of _The Shepheardes Calender_, dated
    November 12, 1896, it is announced as abandoned. At that time about
    thirty-four pages were in type, but no sheet had been printed. Before
    the type was broken up, on December 24, 1896, thirty-two copies of
    sixteen of these pages were printed and given as a memento to personal
    friends of the poet and printer whose death now made the completion of
    the book impossible. This suggested the idea of printing two pages for
    wider distribution. The half-border had been engraved in April, 1894,
    by W. Spielmeyer, but the large border only existed as a drawing. It
    was engraved with great skill and spirit by C. E. Keates, and the two
    pages were printed by Stephen Mowlem, with the help of an apprentice,
    in a manner worthy of the designs.

47. _Sire Degrevaunt._ Edited by F. S. Ellis after the edition printed by
J. O. Halliwell. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 1a and 1,
and a woodcut designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at fifteen
shillings, 8 on vellum at four guineas. Dated March 14, 1896, issued
November 12, 1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half

    This book, subjects from which were painted by Sir Edward Burne-Jones
    on the walls of the Red House, Upton, Bexley Heath, many years ago,
    was always a favourite with Mr. Morris. The frontispiece was not
    printed until October, 1897, eighteen months after the text was

48. _Syr Ysambrace._ Edited by F. S. Ellis after the edition printed by J.
O. Halliwell from the MS, in the Library of Lincoln Cathedral, with some
corrections. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Borders 4a and 4, and a
woodcut designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 350 on paper at twelve
shillings, 8 on vellum at four guineas. Dated July 14, issued November 11,
1897. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.

    This is the third and last of the reprints from the Camden Society's
    volume of Thornton Romances. The text was all set up and partly
    printed by June, 1896, at which time it was intended to include _Sir
    Eglamour_ in the same volume.

49. _Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century. Being thirty-five
reproductions from books that were in the library of the late William
Morris._ Edited, with a list of the principal woodcut books in that
library, by S. C. Cockerell. Large 4to. Golden type. In red and black. 225
on paper at thirty shillings, 8 on vellum at five guineas. Dated December
15, 1897, issued January 6, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound
in half holland.

    Of these thirty-five reproductions twenty-nine were all that were done
    of a series chosen by Mr. Morris to illustrate a catalogue of his
    library, and the other six were prepared by him for an article in the
    fourth number of _Bibliographical_ part of which is reprinted as an
    introduction to the book. The process blocks (with one exception) were
    made by Walker & Boutall, and are of the same size as the original

50. _The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs._ By
WILLIAM MORRIS. Small folio. Chaucer type, with title and headings to the
four books in Troy type. In black and red. Borders 33a and 33, and two
illustrations designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and engraved by W. H.
Hooper. 160 on paper at six guineas, 6 on vellum at twenty guineas. Dated
January 19, issued February 25, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press.
Bound in limp vellum, with blue silk ties.

    The two borders used in this book were almost the last that Mr. Morris
    designed. They were intended for an edition of _The Hill of Venus_,
    which was to have been written in prose by him and illustrated by Sir
    Edward Burne-Jones. The foliage was suggested by the ornament in two
    Psalters of the last half of the thirteenth century in the library at
    Kelmscott House. The initial A at the beginning of the third book was
    designed in March, 1893, for the Froissart, and does not appear

    An edition of _Sigurd the Volsung_, which Mr. Morris justly considered
    his masterpiece, was contemplated early in the history of the
    Kelmscott Press. An announcement appears in a proof of the first list,
    dated April, 1892, but it was excluded from the list as issued in May.
    It did not reappear until the list of November 26, 1895, in which, the
    Chaucer being near its completion, _Sigurd_ comes under the heading
    "in preparation," as a folio in Troy type, "with about twenty-five
    illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones." In the list of June 1, 1896,
    it is finally announced as "In the press," the number of illustrations
    is increased to forty, and other particulars are given. Four borders
    had then been designed for it, two of which were used on pages 470 and
    471 of the Chaucer. The other two have not been used, though one of
    them has been engraved. Two pages only were in type, thirty-two copies
    of which were struck off on January 11, 1897, and given to friends,
    with the sixteen pages of Froissart mentioned above.

51. _The Sundering Flood._ Written by WILLIAM MORRIS. Overseen for the
press by May Morris. 8vo. Chaucer type. In black and red. Border 10, and a
map. 300 on paper at two guineas. Dated November 15, 1897, issued February
25, 1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.

    This was the last romance by William Morris. He began to write it on
    December 21, 1895, and dictated the final words on September 8, 1896.
    The map pasted into the cover was drawn by H. Cribb for Walker &
    Boutall, who prepared the block. In the edition that Longmans are
    about to issue the bands of robbers called in the Kelmscott edition
    Red and Black Skinners appear correctly as Red and Black Skimmers. The
    name was probably suggested by that of the pirates called "escumours
    of the sea" on page 154 of _Godfrey of Boloyne_.

52. _Love is Enough, or the Freeing of Pharamond; A Morality._ Written by
William Morris. Large 4to. Troy type, with stage directions in Chaucer
type. In black, red, and blue. Borders 6a and 7, and two illustrations
designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 300 on paper at two guineas, 8 on
vellum at ten guineas. Dated December 11, 1897, issued March 24, 1898.
Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in limp vellum.

    This was the second book printed in three colours at the Kelmscott
    Press. As explained in the colophon, the final picture was not
    designed for this particular edition.

53. _A Note by William Morris on his Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press.
Together with a Short Description of the Press_, by S. C. COCKERELL. And
an Annotated List of the Books Printed Thereat. Octavo. Golden type, with
five pages in the Troy and Chaucer types. In black and red. Borders 4a and
4, and a woodcut designed by Sir E. Burne-Jones. 525 on paper at ten
shillings, 12 on vellum at two guineas. Dated March 4, issued March 24,
1898. Published at the Kelmscott Press. Bound in half holland.

Various Lists, Leaflets, and Announcements Printed at the Kelmscott Press:

Eighteen lists of the books printed or in preparation at the Kelmscott
Press were issued to booksellers and subscribers. The dates of these are
May, July, and December, 1892; March 9, May 20, May 27, August 1, and
December 1, 1893; March 31, April 21, July 2, October 1 (a leaflet), and
December 1, 1894; July 1 and November 26, 1895; June 1, 1896; February 16
and July 28, 1897. The three lists for 1892, and some copies of that for
March 9, 1893, were printed on Whatman paper, the last of the stock bought
for the first edition of _The Roots of the Mountains_. Besides these,
twenty-nine announcements, relating mainly to individual books, were
issued; and eight leaflets, containing extracts from the lists, were
printed for distribution by Messrs. Morris & Co. The following items, as
having a more permanent interest than most of these announcements, merit a
full description:

1. Two forms of invitation to the annual gatherings of the Hammersmith
Socialist Society on January 30, 1892, and February 11, 1893. Golden type.

2. A four-page leaflet for the Ancoats Brotherhood, with the frontispiece
from the Kelmscott Press edition of _A Dream of John Ball_ on the first
page. March, 189 Golden type. 2500 copies.

3. An address to Sir Lowthian Bell, Bart., from his employees, dated 30th
June, 1894. Eight pages. Golden type. 250 on paper and 2 on vellum.

4. A leaflet, with fly-leaf, headed _An American Memorial to Keats_,
together with a form of invitation to the unveiling of his bust in
Hampstead Parish Church on July 16, 1894. Golden type. 750 copies.

5. A slip giving the text of a memorial tablet to Dr. Thomas Sadler, for
distribution at the unveiling of it in Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead.
November, 1894. Golden type. 450 copies.

6. Scholarship certificates for the technical Education Board of the
London County Council, printed in the oblong borders designed for the
pictures in Chaucer's Works. One of these borders was not used in the
book, and this is its only appearance. The first certificate was printed
in November, 1894, and was followed in January, 1896, by eleven
certificates; in January, 1897, by six certificates; and in February,
1898, by eleven certificates, all differently worded. Golden type. The
numbers varied from 12 to 2500 copies.

7. Programmes of the Kelmscott Press annual _Wayzgoose_ for the years
1892-95. These were printed without supervision from Mr. Morris.

8. Specimen showing the three types used at the Press for insertion in the
first edition of Strange's _Alphabets_ March, 1895. 2000 ordinary copies
and 60 on large paper.

9. Cards for Associates of the Deaconess Institution for the Diocese of
Rochester. One side of this card is printed in Chaucer type; on the other
there is a prayer in the Troy type enclosed in a small border which was
not used elsewhere. It was designed for the illustrations of a projected
edition of _The House of the Wolfings_, April, 1897. 250 copies.



  _Æneid, The_, 122-124, 144

  _Æschylus_, 262

  _Agamemnon_, Browning's, 124

  Allingham, William, 42, 48, 70

  Amiens Cathedral, article on, by Morris, 34, 36-39

  _Amis and Amile_, translation by Morris, 229

  Archbishop of Canterbury, 177

  Aristophanes, 262

  Arnold, Matthew, 149

  Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, The, 191

  Art Worker's Guild, The, 192

  _Atalanta in Calydon_, Swinburne's, 229

  _Athenæum, The_, 152


  Bagehot, Walter, quoted, 36

  _Ballads and Narrative Poems_, Rossetti's, 229

  Batchelor, Mr., 221

  Bax, E. Belfort, 218

  _Beata Beatrix_, picture by Rossetti, 55

  _Beauty of Life, The_, Morris's lecture on, 65

  Belgium, 110

  _Beowulf, The Tale of_, 230, 231, 262

  Besant, Mrs., 180

  Bethel, Alfred, article on, by Morris, 34

  Bible, the, 262

  _Biblia Innocentium_, Mackail's, 228

  Bibliographical Society, The, 192

  Birkbeck Hill, Dr., 47, 73

  Birmingham Society of Artists, lecture to, 62

  Blackburn, 168

  Blake, William, 263

  "Bloody Sunday," 179

  Boccaccio, 263

  _Book of Wisdom and Lies, The_, 230

  Borrow, George, 263

  British Museum, the woodblocks of Kelmscott Press in possession of, 235

  Brown, Madox, 113

  Browning, Robert, his poems, 37, 39, 40, 57-59

  Bryant, William Cullen, his translation of _The Odyssey_ compared with
      Morris's translation, 142

  Bulgaria, 146

  Burne-Jones, Edward, 1;
    his first meeting with Morris, 23, 24;
    the beginning of his art, 26;
    his trip with Morris and Fulford through Northern France, 26, 27;
    his decision to leave college and study art, 27;
    his admiration for Rossetti, 26, 27 _et seq._

  Bury Wood, 15, 16

  Byron, 236


  Cambridge University Library, 221

  Canterbury Cathedral, Morris's early visit to, 6

  _Canterbury Tales, The_, 115

  _Captain Singleton_, 263

  Carlyle, Thomas, 24, 150, 263

  _Carmagnole, The_, song, 178

  Carpets, 89

  Catterson-Smith, R., 233

  Catullus, 262

  _Chants for Socialists_, 218

  Chartres, 27

  Chaucer, 115, 116, 119, 137, 231-234, 237, 238, 256, 262

  Chaucer type, the, 224

  _Child Christopher and Goldilands the Fair_, 231

  Chingford Hotel, 15

  Chiswick Press, the, 33, 205, 206

  Clarke, William, 166

  Clay Road, 15

  Cockerell, S. C., 234

  Coleridge's _Poems_, selection from, by Morris, 232, 263

  _Colonel Jack_, 263

  Colour, Morris's opinions on, 83, 84, 92

  _Commonweal, The_, organ of the Socialist League, 175, 183, 185, 195,
      201, 203, 209, 210, 218

  Crane, Walter, 175, 192, 229


  _Daily Chronicle, The_, Morris's letters to, concerning Epping Forest,
    letter by Morris on Socialism, 186-189

  _Daily News, The_, quotation from, 146-148

  _Daisy Chain, The_, its influence on Morris, 24

  Dante, 262

  Day, Lewis, 31, 78

  _Defence of Guenevere, The_, 54, 59, 228

  Democratic Federation, the, 157, 168, 170, 174, 180

  De Vinne, Th., on the Kelmscott Press, 224

  Dickens, Charles, 263

  Dixon, Canon, 34

  _Dream of John Ball, A_, 195, 201-203, 228

  Dumas, Alexandre, 263

  Dürer, 261

  Dyes, Morris's preferences in, 91


  _Earthly Paradise, The_, 59, 115, 116-120, 144, 219, 233

  Eastern Question Association, The, 148

  _Edda, The_, 262

  Ellis, F. S., 221-232, 237

  _English Illustrated Magazine, The_, 218

  _Epistola de Contemptu Mundi_, 230

  Epping Forest, Morris's early familiarity with, 7, 11;
    his letters concerning its destruction, 11-18

  _Erewhon_, Kingsley's, 163

  _Eve of Crecy_, poem by Morris, 55

  Exeter College, 193

  _Exile, The_, 262

  _Eyrbyggja Saga, The_, 144


  Fair Mead Bottom, 15

  Farringdon Road, 101, 177

  Faulkner, Charles, 47, 70, 73, 108, 111, 263

  _Floure and the Leafe, The_, 233

  Forman, Buxton, 205, 206

  Freeman, E. A., 149

  Froissart, 57, 233


  _Germ, The_, 33

  _Gertha's Lovers_, 36

  _Ghirlandata, The_, picture by Rossetti, 55

  Giotto, 261

  Gisli, 109

  Glasgow, 168

  _Glittering Plain, The_, 221, 229, 246, 248

  Godefrey of Boloyne, Caxton's history of, 228

  _Golden Legend_, Caxton's, 221, 223, 227, 228

  Golden type, the, 221

  _Goldilocks and Goldilocks_, 7, 228

  _Good King Wenceslas_, ballad printed at the Kelmscott Press, 4, 5

  _Gothic Architecture_, lecture by Morris, 228

  Green, J. R., 149

  Grettir, 109

  Grimm, 263

  Gudrun, 109


  Hammersmith, 97, 107, 108, 176, 181, 257

  Hammersmith Socialist Society, The, 185, 189

  _Hand and Soul_, Rossetti's, 231

  _Hardy Norseman's Home of Yore_, 149

  Havre, 27

  _Heir of Redclyffe, The_, 24

  Herodotus, 262

  Herrick's _Poems_, 231

  Hesiod, 262

  High Beach, 17

  _History of Florence_, Arezzo's, 220

  _History of Oversea_, translated by Morris, 230

  _Historyes of Troye_, Caxton's, 223, 228

  _Hollow Land, The_, 36, 40

  Homer, 262

  Hornbeams, Morris's liking for, 13

  _House of the Wolfings, The_, 195, 203-205, 207, 239, 246

  _Huckleberry Finn_, 263

  Hughes, Arthur, 49

  Hugo, Victor, 263


  Iceland, Morris's first voyage to, 108-110;
    second voyage, 110

  _Idylls of the King_, Tennyson's, 126, 136

  Irish National League, The, 180


  _Jorrocks, Mr._, 263

  _Justice_, organ of the Democratic Federation, 168, 169


  Kalevala, 262

  Keats, John, 24, 27, 34, 229, 238, 263

  Kelmscott Church, 258

  Kelmscott House, 108, 221

  Kelmscott Books, prices of, 238

  Kelmscott Manor House, 101-108

  Kelmscott Press, The, 177, 219-239, 255

  _King's Lesson, A_, 203

  Kingsley, Charles, 24, 25

  Koburger, Anthony, 223


  Lang, Andrew, 122-124

  _Laudes Beatæ Mariæ Virginis_, 233

  _Laxdæla Saga, The_, 116

  Lechlade, 101

  Leeds, 168

  Leicester, 168

  Leonardo, 261

  _Lesser Arts, The_, lecture by Morris on, 94

  _Life and Death of Jason, The_, 114, 231, 238

  _Life of Cardinal Wolsey_, Cavendish's, 228

  Linnell, Alfred, 180, 181

  _Looking Backward_, Bellamy's, 209

  Loughton, 15

  _Love is Enough_, 120-122, 219, 234

  _Lovers of Gudrun, The_, 116

  Lowell, J. R., quoted, 57, 229

  Lucretius, 262


  _Mabinogion_, 263

  Mackail, Mr., 24, 33, 62, 71, 97, 110, 111, 120, 122, 150, 191, 193,
      229, 263

  Maeterlinck, Morris compared to, 57

  Madox-Brown, Ford, 70

  Magnusson, Mr., 108, 125

  _Mahabbarata_, 262

  _Making the Best of It_, lecture by Morris on house-decoration, 83

  Manchester, 168

  Marlborough College, Morris a student in, 6, 9

  Marshall, Peter Paul, 70

  _Maud_, Tennyson's, 228

  Meinhold, William, 229

  _Men and Women_, Browning's, reviewed by Morris, 34, 39

  Merton Abbey, 175, 190

  Milton, 263

  _Moll Flanders_, 263

  Monk Wood, 15

  Morris, May (Mrs. Sparling), daughter of Wm. Morris, 177

  Morris, Mrs., wife of William Morris, 51, 53, 59, 66

  Morris and Co., 69;
    formation of the firm, 69;
    prospectus of, 71, 72;
    dissolution of, 111-113

  _Morte d'Arthur_, painting from, at Oxford Union, 49, 263

  Murray, Fairfax, 230


  _Nature of the Gothic, The_, 160, 228

  _Newcomes, The_, quotation from, 30

  Newman, Jno., 25

  _News from Nowhere_, 98, 102;
    quotation from, 103-107, 163-165, 195, 200, 209-212, 213, 238, 258

  _Nibelungen Lied_, 262

  Njal, 109


  _Odyssey, The_, 142-144, 210

  _Old Story Retold, An_, see _A King's Lesson_

  _Omar Khayyam_, 262

  Orbeliani, Sulkhan-Saba, 230

  _Order of Chivalry, The_, Caxton's translation of, 228

  _Ordination of Knighthood_, Morris's translation of, 228

  Ovid, 262

  Oxford, 191;
    Morris's life at, 1-29;
    abuses at, 22-23, 31, 41, 168, 193

  _Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, The_, 33

  Oxford Union, paintings for, 49-52, 54


  _Pall-Mall Gazette, The_, 189, 261

  Paper used at Kelmscott Press, 222

  Patmore, Coventry, on Oxford Union paintings, 52, 120

  _Penitential Psalms, The_, 230

  Pennell, Joseph, 181

  _Percyvelle of Gales, Syr_, 231

  _Piers Plowman_, 262

  _Pilgrims of Hope, The_, poem by Morris, 195-201

  _Pilgrim's Progress_, 263

  Plato, 262

  _Pliny_, Jensen's 220

  _Poems_, Keats's, 229

  _Poems_, Shakespeare's, 228

  _Poems by the Way_, 7, 227

  Pollen, J. Hungerford, 49

  _Praise of My Lady_, poem by Morris, 52, 53

  _Prinsep_, Valentine, 49

  _Prioress's Tale, The_, Burne-Jones's paintings from, 47

  Professorship of Poetry at Oxford, Morris declines, 149

  _Proserpine_, picture by Rossetti, 54

  Pugin, 31


  Queen Square, Morris's residence in, 97, 101

  _Quest, The_, article by Morris in, 102


  Raphael, 261

  _Rapunzel_, poem by Morris, 57

  Red Lion Square, 46, 71, 81

  Red House, The, 61-68, 96, 97, 101, 114

  Rembrandt, 261

  Restoration of ancient buildings, 32

  _Reynard the Fox_, 263

  _Robinson Crusoe_, 263

  Robinson, Ralph, 213, 228

  Rome, 61

  _Roots of the Mountains, The_, 195, 207-209, 246

  _Rosamond_, Swinburne's, 54

  Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 1, 9, 27;
    Morris's first meeting with, 40-42;
    his service to Morris, 43-46;
    at Oxford, 49-51;
    and Jane Burden, 51;
    _The Defence of Guenevere_ dedicated to, 54, 55;
    his part in the formation of the firm "Morris, Marshall, Faulkner,
      & Co.," 69-74;
    at Kelmscott, 101-103, 108;
    his attitude respecting the dissolution of the firm, 111-113;
    his _Hand and Soul_, 231

  Rossetti, William, 70, 112, 113

  _Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The_, 144

  Rubens, Jacobus, 220

  _Ruin, The_, 262

  Ruskin, 19, 23, 24, 27, 151, 160, 263


  St. Mark's Cathedral, 154

  Savernake Forest, Morris's early familiarity with, 7

  Savonarola, 230

  Schoeffer, Peter, 223

  Scott, Gilbert, 31, 152

  Scott, Walter, 5, 19, 263

  _Shahnameh_, 262

  Shakespeare, 24, 137

  Shaw, Bernard, on _Nupkins Awakened_, 31, 179

  Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 24, 101, 230, 263

  _Shepherde's Calender, The_, 233

  _Sidonia the Sorceress_, Lady Wilde's, 228

  _Signs of Change_, lectures by Morris, 218

  Sigurd, 109

  _Sir Galahad_, 54

  _Sire Degravaunt_, 66, 234

  Socialism, 162-218

  _Socialism from the Root Up_, book by Morris and Bax, 218

  Socialist League, The, 175-177, 180, 182, 185

  Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, The, 153, 157

  Society of Antiquaries, 192

  Sophocles, 262

  _Spectator, The_, letter from Morris in, 252

  Stanhope, Spencer, 49

  Stanmore Tapestry, The, 99

  Stead, William, 263

  Stevenson, Robert Louis, his letter to his father, 9, 124

  _Stones of Venice, The_, 27, 160, 228

  _Story of the Glittering Plain, The_, 109, 218, 227, 243

  _Story of Sigur the Volsung, The_, 125-142, 144, 146, 227, 234, 238

  Street, George Edmund, 31, 42, 63

  _Sundering Flood, The_, 234, 239, 240, 242, 257

  Surts-hellir, cave at, 109

  _Svend and his Brethren_, 36, 37

  Swainslow, 256

  Swinburne, A. C., 229

  _Syr Ysambrace_, 234


  _Tables Turned, The; or, Nupkins Awakened_, farce by Morris, 177

  _Tale of the Emperor Constans, The_, translated by Morris, 230

  _Tale of King Florus and Fair Tehane_, translated by Morris, 227

  Taylor, George Warrington, Morris's business manager, 97

  Tennyson, Alfred, 24, 177

  _Teutonic Mythology_, 263

  Tewkesbury, restoration of the Abbey Church at, 152

  Thackeray, William M., 24

  Theocritus, 262

  _Thousand and One Nights, The_, 263

  _Three Northern Love-Stories and Other Tales_, translations by
      Morris, 125

  Trafalgar Square, 161, 179-181

  Troy Type, The, 223, 225

  Tyndall, Prof., 177


  _Uncle Remus_, 263

  Upton, Morris's residence at, 62, 96

  _Useful Work versus Useless Toil_, lecture by Morris, 165

  _Utopia_, More's, 213-217, 228, 263


  Van Eyck, his motto chosen by Morris, 68

  Velasquez, 261

  Verona, 61

  Viollet-le-Duc, 31

  Virgil, 122-124, 262

  _Volsunga Saga, The_, 125

  _Voyage Round the World_, 263


  Wagner, Richard, 135, 141

  _Wake, London Lads!_ ballad by Morris, 148

  Walker, Emery, 22, 205, 209

  Wall-papers, 81-83

  Wallace, Alfred, his suggestion that Epping Forest be planted with
      North American trees, 11

  Walthamstow, 3, 10

  Wardrop, Oliver, 230

  Warren, Sir Charles, 179

  _Water of the Wondrous Isles, The_, 233, 240, 245, 248-251

  Watts-Dunton, Theodore, 69

  Waverley Novels, the, Morris's early fondness for, 3

  Weaving, 85, 86

  Webb, Philip, architect of the Red House, 61, 70, 75, 82, 111

  _Well at the World's End, The_, 232, 245, 248

  Westminster Abbey, 154, 181

  White Horse, The, 30

  Whitney, Miss Anne, 229

  Whittingham, Charles, 33

  Wilde, Lady, 228

  _Women and Roses_, Browning's, 39

  _Wood beyond the World, The_, Morris's, 7, 230, 242, 252

  Woodford Hall, home of the Morrises, 3

  Working Men's College, Burne-Jones's visit to, 40

  Wyatt, A. J., 230


  Yonge, Miss, 24


  Zainer, Gunther, 223

Messrs. MORRIS & COMPANY have appointed as their general agent Mr. A. E.
Bulkley of 42 East 14th St., New York City, and he will be pleased to give
all information respecting the various fabrics, etc., designed by the late
Mr. Morris and sold by MORRIS & COMPANY. These may also be obtained of Mr.
A. H. Davenport, 96-98 Washington St., Boston.


[1] When the _Utopia_ appeared with this introduction an Eton master who
had ordered forty copies in advance, intending the books to be used as
prizes for the boys in his school, withdrew his order, Young England not
being allowed at that time to keep such Socialistic company.

[2] The trustees are now publishing the remainder of Morris's own works in
the type of the Kelmscott Press, though without the ornaments, that a
uniform edition may be had.

[3] The reader here is expected to note the correspondence between the
names of the ladies and the titles of their lovers, and the same
correspondence is carried out in the colour of the ladies' garments and
the armour of the knights.

[4] Lewis F. Day.

[5] This bibliography is reprinted, with certain slight additions, from
the bibliography prepared by S. C. Cockerell for the monograph entitled,
"A Note by William Morris on his Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press."

[6] At the Ellis Sale (1901) a presentation vellum copy brought £114.

[7] The first sheet was printed on the 2d of March, the last on the 4th of

[8] At the Ellis Sale a presentation vellum copy brought £60.

[9] In this line as it originally stood, "dawn" was the rhyme provided for
"corn." In the new line the rhyme for corn is "daylight new-born;" but Mr.
Buxton Forman writes that Morris was wont to declare that "No South
Englishman makes any difference in ordinary talk between dawn and morn for

[10] "When Adam dalf and Eve span, who was thanne the gentleman."

[11] This book realised at the Ellis Sale £8.5s. for the paper copy, and
£61 in vellum. Since its publication it has sold as low as £2.15s. for
paper copies, and £29 for vellum.

[12] Mr. Ellis's presentation copy sold for £91.

[13] This "foreword" is a socialist document occupying pp. III to VIII.

[14] At the Ellis Sale a copy on vellum (not presentation) brought £9.10s.

[15] This story Morris said he translated in a day and a quarter.

[16] At the Ellis Sale a paper copy brought £25.10s., while in 1900 one
brought £27.5s.

[17] Mr. Vallance says, "This is noteworthy as being the sole instance of
a heraldic device among the _published_ designs of William Morris."

[18] In the list of Dec. 1st, 1894, the 2d and 3d volumes are announced to
follow "early in the New Year." The third volume did not, however, appear
until the autumn of 1895.

[19] Dull red silk ties. Gold lettering on back.

[20] Also that 7 of the 8 vellum copies have been subscribed for.

[21] In the prospectus the price for full white tooled pigskin binding
executed under Mr. Cobden-Sanderson's direction is given at £13.

[22] The quotations heading each stanza are in red, the initial letters
pale blue, the remaining text in black.

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use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.