Morris, William (1834-1896), English poet, designer, and socialist reformer, who, in an increasingly industrialized age, urged a return to medieval traditions of design, craftsmanship, and community. He was the prime figure in the formation of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Morris was born in Walthamstow, Essex, on March 24, 1834. He was educated at Oxford University and briefly apprenticed to an architect. He was one of the founders of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in 1857. The magazine survived for only one year, but through it Morris became friendly with the English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1858 his Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems was published and, although it attracted almost no attention at the time, it has since become regarded as a minor classic of Victorian poetry. Except for these literary endeavours, Morris devoted most of his time to architecture and painting. In 1861 he formed a decorating firm in partnership with Rossetti, the painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and other Pre-Raphaelite painters. The firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., designed and manufactured decorations such as carvings, metalwork, stained glass, and carpets. These products were noted for their good design and fine workmanship, and directly inspired the Arts and Crafts Movement, which sought to restore honest craftsmanship to the design of everyday objects. The influence of this movement extended throughout Europe and the United States and contributed to the development of the Art Nouveau style.

In his numerous and varied writings, Morris excelled in verse translations from classic and medieval sources. Among these were the epic The Earthly Paradise (1868-1870), much in the manner of the great Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer; The Aeneid of Virgil (1875); and The Odyssey of Homer (1887), in the metrical style of the English dramatist and classical translator George Chapman. In 1868, Morris met the Icelandic scholar Eirikr Magnússon and began avidly to study Icelandic and translate the sagas. From materials gathered during two trips to Iceland, Morris wrote Three Northern Love Songs (1875) and the epic Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs (1876). His first novel, The Novel on Blue Paper, written in 1872 but not published until 1982, reflected the unhappiness of his personal life at that time.

Morris became increasingly active in politics but without losing interest in art and letters. In 1884 he helped to establish the Socialist League, editing and contributing to its organ, the Commonweal. He described a fictitious socialist commonwealth in England in A Dream of John Ball (1886-1887) and News from Nowhere (1890). He established the Kelmscott Press in 1890, and, using his own designs for the type and ornamental letters, he issued editions of the classics and of his own works, notably The

Kelmscott Chaucer (1896). Morris died in London on October 3, 1896.

The work of Morris, both in poetry and in the applied arts, is characterized by an emphasis on decorative elements, especially on those that he thought to be characteristic of the art of the Middle Ages. His designs for books and wallpaper recall the precision and elegance of illuminated manuscripts, and his poems and epics treat medieval themes with a rich imagery and a simplicity of diction derived from the ancient epics and sagas. In his political writings, he attempted to reverse the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution by proposing a form of society in which people could enjoy craftsmanship and simplicity of expression.

Per-medjed Designs