I’ve been researching a book on the Arts and Crafts movement for a while. William Morris is one of the ‘big names’ who fascinates me more the more that I read about him.
He gave speeches about art, work, nature, socialism and the future. He was skilled at embroidery, created beautiful books through Kelmscott Press, illuminated manuscripts, ran a magazine, experimented with dyes, created beautiful wallpaper and textile designs, wrote books and poems, translated Icelandic sagas, tried painting and architecture, did tapestry, designed furniture and stained glass windows, and tried his hardest to change the world with activism galore.
He was widely travelled, writing many letters to his wife and children, and passionate about nature and art. He founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings which is still active today.
He owes a lot to his daughter, May, for preserving his memory: she edited his (substantial) collected works, as well as helping keep Kelmscott Manor as it was in his day. His wife Jane also tried to keep his memory alive, commissioning buildings to honour him.
William Morris may not have achieved all he wanted to but he certainly left his mark on the world.
As the late, great Terry Pratchett said, “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.” Here are some of my favourite William Morris quotes (photos from his garden at Kelmscott Manor)
“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
“I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”
“We shall not be happy unless we live like good animals, unless we enjoy the exercise of the ordinary functions of life: eating, sleeping, loving, walking, running, swimming, riding, sailing.”
“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created.”
“The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.”
“It took me years to understand that words are often as important as experience, because words make experience last.”
“To do nothing but grumble and not to act – that is throwing away one’s life.”
“With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on.”
“A good way to rid one’s self of a sense of discomfort is to do something. That uneasy, dissatisfied feeling is actual force vibrating out of order; it may be turned to practical account by giving proper expression to its creative character.”
“I want a real revolution, a real change in society: society, a great organic mass of well-regulated forces used for the bringing-about a happy life for all.”
He really is. My book is about his wife, Jane and daughter, May as they’ve been ignored much more than he has and did great things too, but he really was remarkable.
William Morris is one of my heroes a remarkable person in many ways.