I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Visionary Upholsterer

The Visionary Upholsterer

David Askew
William Morris: A Life for Our Time, by Fiona MacCarthy, Faber and Faber, 780 pp, £20.00, ISBN: 978-0571255597 News from Nowhere, Or, an Epoch of Rest: Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance, by William Morris, edited by David Leopold, Oxford University Press, 207 pp, £7.99, ISBN: 978-0199539192 Walter Crane once said that the multi-talented William Morris (1834-1896) had been six different people. And Morris crammed all six into a relatively short life. He was one of the, if not the, most significant English socialist thinkers of his time and a central figure in the history of the early English socialist movement. Although he was one of the leading poets of his day, his politics prevented him from becoming poet laureate on the death of Tennyson. He has some claim to be the greatest pattern designer ever. He was certainly an influential interior designer, and an accomplished artist-cum-craftsman in such diverse areas as wallpaper, tapestry, and carpets. He was involved in the Gothic revival in, for example, stained glass. In textiles, he was both a weaver and a dyer – he was interested in production as well as design, and in a production that utilised natural (vegetable) rather than artificial (chemical) dyes – and so both the technical and the aesthetic aspects of his work are of interest. He was a businessman and manufacturer, and founded a successful company, Morris & Co. He combined his publishing and entrepreneurial expertise to become one of the most important private printers of the modern era. He was a noted translator, and has some claims to being the foremost nineteenth century translator of the Icelandic sagas. The scale of his achievements is impressive. In his own time, he was famous as a poet and infamous as a socialist – “as a Socialist I stink in people’s nostrils”, he once said. Posterity has been much kinder to his art than to his poems, and today he is best known for his accomplishments in the decorative arts and design. Morris was a tremendous worker: Edward Carpenter noted as “characteristic” of him that “his chief recreation was only another kind of work”. He was also incredibly versatile. As a designer, he worked in areas such as stained glass, wallpaper, textiles, and the Kelmscott Press. He sometimes wrote as many as eight hundred lines of verse in a single day, and once declared, “If a chap can’t compose…

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