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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

William Morris (1834-1896), Poet, craftsman and socialist

Designer, author, and visionary socialist; born 24 March 1834, in Walthamstow, eldest surviving son of ten children of City financier. Educated Marlborough College 1848–51 and Exeter College, Oxford 1853, where met Edward Burne-Jones; married Jane Burden 1859, lived at Red House, Kent 1860–65; Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (‘the Firm’) founded 1861; wrote The Earthly Paradise (1868–70); took Kelmscott Manor, Glos. 1871 (jointly with Dante Gabriel Rossetti until 1874); the Firm dissolved and re-established as Morris & Co., with Morris as single owner, 1875, and Merton Abbey works started 1881; first secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings 1877; founder member Socialist League 1885 and delegate at the International Socialist Congress in Paris 1889; left Socialist League and founded Hammersmith Socialist Society 1890 (wrote Joint Manifesto of English Socialists with George Bernard Shaw 1893); founded Kelmscott Press 1891, for which designed three typefaces; contributed to and directed the publications list until 1896, the year of the great Kelmscott Chaucer and of his death, quickened by exhaustion, at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith, on 3 October 1896. [1]

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. [2]

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. [3]

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 … [4]

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. [5]

Carol Blackett-Ord

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 top

Arscott 2008
Arscott, C., William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: Interlacings, New Haven and London, 2008.

Beerbohm 1904
Beerbohm, M., The Poets’ Corner, London, 1904.

Beerbohm 1943
Beerbohm, M., The Poets’ Corner, [London, 1904] enlarged ed., 1943.

Beerbohm 1922
Beerbohm, M., Rossetti and His Circle, London, 1922.

Beerbohm 1987
Beerbohm, M., Rossetti and His Circle, [London, 1922] repr. with additions, New Haven and London, 1987.

Bills & Webb 2007
Bills, M., and D. Webb, eds, Victorian Artists in Photographs: [The World of G.F. Watts]. Selections from the Rob Dickins Collection, exh. cat., Watts Gallery, Compton, 2007.

Blunt 1964
Blunt, W., Sydney Cockerell, London, 1964.

Blunt 1975
Blunt, W., England’s Michaelangelo: A Biography of George Frederic Watts, O.M., R.A., London, 1975.

Bradley 1978
Bradley, I., William Morris and His World, London, 1978.

Burne-Jones 1904
Burne-Jones, G., Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, 2 vols, London, 1904.

Chesterton 1904
Chesterton, G.K., G.F. Watts, London, 1904.

Christian 2011
Christian, J., Edward Burne-Jones the Hidden Humourist, London, 2011

Cormack 2015
Cormack, P., Arts & Crafts Stained Glass, New Haven and London, 2015.

Crane 1907
Crane, W., An Artist’s Reminiscences, London, 1907.

Cruise 2011
Cruise, C., Pre-Raphaelite Drawing, London, 2011 (to accompany exh. The Poetry of Drawing: Pre-Raphaelite Designs, Studies and Watercolours, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2011).

Denker 1995
Denker, E., In Pursuit of the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, 1995.

Dufty 1977
Dufty, A.R., Kelmscott Illustrated Guide, Kelmscott, 1977.

Elliott 2000
Elliott, D.B., Charles Fairfax Murray the Unknown Pre-Raphaelite, Lewes, 2000.

Gallatin 1913a
Gallatin, A.E., The Portraits and Caricatures of James McNeill Whistler: An Iconography, with twenty examples, ten hitherto unpublished, London and New York, 1913.

Gallatin 1918
Gallatin, A.E., Portraits of Whistler: A Critical Study and an Iconography, London and New York, 1918.

Gere 1994
Gere, J.A., Pre-Raphaelite Drawings in the British Museum, London, 1994.

Gillington [1912]
Gillington, M.C., A Day with William Morris (Days with the Poets series), London, [1912].

Godwin & Godwin 1947
Godwin, E., and S. Godwin, Warrior Bard: The Life of William Morris, London, 1947.

Gould 2004
Gould, V.F., G.F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian, London, 2004.

Gregory 2006
Gregory, B., A History of the Artists Rifles 1859–1947, Barnsley, S. Yorkshire, 2006.

Grey 1949
Grey, L.E., William Morris, London, 1949.

Hall 1997
Hall, N.J., Max Beerbohm Caricatures, New Haven and London, 1997.

Harrington 2011
Harrington, P., Nicolas Bentley Drew the Pictures, exh. cat., Peter Harrington Gallery, London, 2011.

Harrison & Waters 1989
Harrison, M., and B. Waters, Burne-Jones, 2nd ed., London, 1989.

Hart-Davis 1972
Hart-Davis, R., A Catalogue of the Caricatures of Max Beerbohm, London, 1972.

Henderson 1967
Henderson, P., William Morris: His Life, Work and Friends, London, 1967 [rev. ed. 1986].

Hillier 1975
Hillier, B., Victorian Studio Photographs from the Collections of Studio Bassano and Elliott & Fry, London, London, 1975.

Houfe 1995
Houfe, S., The Work of Charles Samuel Keene, Aldershot, Hants, 1995.

Kelvin 1984, 1987, 1996
Kelvin, N., ed., Collected Letters of William Morris, 3 vols, Princeton, 1984, 1987, 1996.

Knox 2008
Knox, J., Cartoons and Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster, London, 2008.

Lang 1959–62
Lang, C.Y., ed., The Swinburne Letters, 6 vols, New Haven, 1959–62.

Lavery 1940
Lavery, J., The Life of a Painter, London, 1940.

Le Harivel 1983
Le Harivel, A., comp., National Gallery of Ireland: Illustrated Summary Catalogue of Drawings, Watercolours and Miniatures, Dublin, 1983.

Lubbock 1920
Lubbock, P., ed., The Letters of Henry James, 2 vols, London, 1920.

Maas 1984
Maas, J., The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984.

Mancoff 2000
Mancoff, D.N., Jane Morris: The Pre-Raphaelite Model of Beauty, San Francisco, 2000.

McBrinn 2004
McBrinn, J., ‘Morning Chats with William Morris’, The Journal of the William Morris Society, vol.26, no.1, 2004.

MacCarthy 1994
MacCarthy, F., William Morris: A Life for Our Time, London, 1994.

MacCarthy 2004
MacCarthy, F., ‘Morris, William (1834–1896)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; online ed., October 2009.

MacCarthy 2011
MacCarthy, F., The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination, London, 2011.

Mackail 1899
Mackail, J.W., The Life of William Morris, 2 vols, London, 1899.

Mancoff 1998
Mancoff, D., Burne-Jones, San Francisco, 1998.

Marillier 1901
Marillier, H.C., Dante Gabriel Rossetti: An Illustrated Memorial of his Art and Life, [London, 1899] abridged and rev. ed., 1901.

Marsh 1998b
Marsh, J., ‘Rupes Topseia: A New Suggestion’, The Journal of the William Morris Society, vol.12, no.4, Spring 1998, pp.3–6.

Marsh 2003
Marsh, J., ‘John Butler Yeats: Portrait of William Morris’, The Journal of the William Morris Society, vol.25, no.3, 2003, pp.27–9.

Marsh 2005b
Marsh, J., William Morris and Red House, National Trust, 2005.

Massé 1935
Massé, H.J.L.J., The Art-Workers’ Guild 1884–1934, Oxford, 1935.

Mavor 1923
Mavor, J., My Windows on the Street of the World, 2 vols, New York, 1923

Meynell 1947
Meynell, E., Portrait of William Morris, London, 1947.

Morris 1910–15
Morris, M., ed., The Collected Works of William Morris, 24 vols, London, 1910–15.

Morris 1936
Morris, M., ed., William Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist, 2 vols, Oxford, 1936.

NPG CIC 2004
Saywell, D., and J. Simon, National Portrait Gallery: Complete Illustrated Catalogue, NPG, London, 2004 (first edition 1981).

Panayotova 2008
Panayotova, S., I Turned It Into a Palace: Sydney Cockerell and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 2008.

Parry 1996
Parry, L., ed., William Morris, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996.

Peterson 1982
Peterson, W., ed., The Ideal Book, Berkeley, 1982.

Pyle 1997
Pyle, H., Yeats: Portrait of an Artistic Family, London, 1997.

Reynolds 1995
Reynolds, S., William Blake Richmond: An Artist’ Life, Norwich, 1995.

Robinson & Wildman 1980
Robinson, D., and S. Wildman, Morris & Company in Cambridge, exh. cat., Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1980.

Salmon 1996
Salmon, N., The William Morris Chronology, Bristol, 1996.

Sparling 1924
Sparling, H.H., The Kelmscott Press and William Morris, Master Craftsman, London, 1924.

Spielmann 1901
Spielmann, M.H., British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-Day, London, 1901.

Stetz 2007
Stetz, M.D., Facing the Late Victorians: Portraits of Writers and Artists from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, Newark, DE, 2007.

Stirling 1926
Stirling, A.M.W., ed., The Richmond Papers, London, 1926.

Stuttgart 2010
Edward Burne-Jones: The Earthly Paradise, exh. cat., Stattsgalerie Stuttgart and Kunstmuseum Bern: Ostfildern, 2010.

Surtees 1971
Surtees, V., The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882): A Catalogue Raisonné, 2 vols, Oxford, 1971.

Tames 1972
Tames, R., William Morris, Aylesbury, 1972.

Vallance 1909
Vallance, A., William Morris: His Art and Writing, London, 1909.

Waddy 1873
Waddy, F., Cartoon Portraits of Men of the Day, London, 1873.

Walkley 1994
Walkley, G., Artists’ Houses in London 1764–1914, Aldershot, 1994.

Watts 1912
Watts, M.S., George Frederic Watts: The Annals of an Artist’s Life, 3 vols, London, 1912.

Watts 1975
G.F. Watts: The Hall of Fame: Portraits of His Famous Contemporaries, exh. cat., NPG, London, 1975.

Wildman & Christian 1998
Wildman, S., and J. Christian, Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist–Dreamer, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998.

Wiles 1951
Wiles, H.V., William Morris of Walthamstow, Walthamstow, 1951.

Wodzicka 1970
Wodzicka, H., ‘The Emery Walker Photographs at St Bride’s’, The Journal of the William Morris Society, vol.2, no.4, 1970.

Wood 1998
Wood, C., Burne-Jones: The Life and Works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898), London, 1998.

Carol Blackett-Ord