William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English designer, artist, writer and socialist.
He is perhaps best known today for his design work: he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional textile arts and a major influence on the Arts and Crafts movement.
Horrified by the ugliness and soullessness of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism, Morris became a committed socialist. He was a leading figure in the Socialist League (along with Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor), and he believed his art, which valued beauty, craftsmanship and nature over mass-production and consumerism, to be an extension of this.
A prolific poet and prose author, his best known written work is News from Nowhere (1890), a utopian novel depicting the idyllic agrarian society he hoped would be created following a socialist revolution. His pseudo-medieval fantasies, such as The Wood Beyond the World (1894), The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1895), and The Well at the World’s End (1896) were a key influence on both J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
Oh, and he also set up a printing press, translated several Icelandic sagas and founded the movement to protect historic buildings in Britain.
Works by William Morris with their own pages:
Other works by William Morris contain examples of:
- Alliterative Title: The Wood Beyond the World. The Well at the World's End. The Water of the Wondrous Isles.
- Antiquated Linguistics: Morris was fond of using pseudo-medieval English, which can make some of his works a little difficult for modern readers.
- Arcadia: Often feature in his medievalist romances.
- Author Appeal: The Middle Ages, Northern Sagas and nature motifs feature frequently in his work.
- The Dung Ages: Averted. Morris adored the Middle Ages, or rather a romanticized version, which he contrasted with the dirty, ugly cities of Victorian England.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Birdalone, the heroine of The Water of the Wondrous Isles. She spends some time afterwards as an Innocent Fanservice Girl.
- The Hero's Journey: The plot of The Wood Beyond the World.
- The Lost Woods: The Wood Beyond the World, of course.
- The Quest: Both The Well at the World's End and The Water of the Wondrous Isles are long, rambling examples of this.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Romanticism. Oh so very much.
- Time Travel: The Dream of John Ball involves time travel to the peasant’s revolt of 1381.
- World Building: As noted above, his medieval romances were a model for both J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
- Ye Goode Olde Days: Morris liked to paint an idealized image of the Middle Ages.