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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
William Morris and the Legendary

Morris and his family continued to use the Manor whenever they could for the rest of his life, and he renamed his house in London, also on the Thames, as Kelmscott House. At the Manor he could pursue his favourite relaxation of angling, and enjoy the fine Oxfordshire countryside which inspired the design of many of the patterns which we still enjoy today.

A Morris print
One of Morris's designs
© William Morris Gallery, London
At the conclusion of his Utopian novel, 'News from Nowhere' the narrator and the heroine Ellen come to a beautiful house on the Thames, clearly based on the Manor, and Ellen speaks of "this many-gabled old house built by simple country-folk in long-past time". For her - as for Morris - it is "lovely still", and holds "the gathered crumbs of happiness of the confused and turbulent past".

Come the revolution

By that time, Morris’s life had taken a momentous turn into politics. As he grew older, Morris became increasingly aware of how the industrial system was creating an urban world of exploitation and pollution, in which the poor were living in utter deprivation in the midst of spectacular wealth. He read and was inspired by Karl Marx’s 'Capital' and identified with his writings, at least those that were translated into English or French. In 1883 he affirmed he was a revolutionary.

He was in close contact with his politically sympathetic peers and regularly exchanged ideas and philosophical thoughts with the like of Henry Hyndman who shared Marx’s thoughts of anti-capitalism. The situation seemed to Morris so desperate that only revolution could bring about, in his own words, "The Society of Equals” of which he dreamed, and to that end, he devoted enormous personal energy to become a celebrated figure in the Socialist movement.

Words: Peter Faulkner

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