Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue
William Morris (1834-1896), Poet, craftsman and socialist
Burne-Jones wrote of the young Morris:
From the first I knew how different he was from all the men I had ever met. He talked with vehemence and sometimes with violence. I never knew him languid or tired. He was slight in figure in those days; his hair was dark brown and very thick, his nose straight, his eyes hazel-coloured, his mouth exceedingly delicate and beautiful. 
Henry James described Morris to his sister in March 1869:
[Morris] impressed me most agreeably. He is short, burly, corpulent, very careless and unfinished in his dress … He has a very loud voice and a nervous restless manner and a perfectly unaffected and business-like address. His talk indeed is wonderfully to the point and remarkable for clear good sense… He’s an extraordinary example, in short of a delicate sensitive genius and taste, saved by a perfectly healthy body and temper. 
Halliday Sparling (later secretary of the Kelmscott Press and Morris’s son-in-law), on Morris’s creative energy around 1887:
He would be standing at an easel or sitting with a sketchblock in front of him, charcoal, brush or pencil in hand, and all the while would be grumbling Homer’s Greek under his breath … the design coming through in clear unhesitating strokes. Then the note of the grumbling changed, for the turn of the English had come. He was translating the Odyssey at this time and he would prowl about the room, filling and lighting his pipe, halting to add a touch or two at one or other easel, still grumbling, go to his writing-table, snatch up his pen, and write furiously for a while – twenty, fifty, and hundred or more lines, as the case might be … the speed of his hand would gradually slacken, his eye would wander to an easel, a sketchblock, or to some one of the manuscripts in progress, and that would have its turn. There was something well-nigh terrifying to a youthful onlooker in the deliberate ease with which he interchanged so many forms of creative work, taking up each one exactly at the point at which he had laid it aside, and never halting to recapture the thread of his thought … 
The socialist politician Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham
liked the incongruities and eccentricities of the man. He liked his habit of grinding his teeth openly on the platform while waiting for the train at Earl’s Court, of throwing ill-cooked food out of the window, of weeping over a disappointment, of swearing like a trooper, of fidgeting like a child if forced to sit still, of permitting his great mane of hair and beard to bristle and his eyes to flame with actual fire if someone disagreed with him on Burne-Jones’s art, of beating his head against the wall, of biting the furniture, of tearing his tapestries, of pulling down his curtains. 
Footnotesback to top
1) For a detailed online chronology, see The William Morris Internet Archive.
2) Mackail 1899, vol.1, p.35.
3) Lubbock 1920, vol.1, pp.17–18.
4) Sparling 1924, p.7.
5) Lavery 1940, p.90.
Referencesback to topArscott 2008
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