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William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary Paperback – November, 1988


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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 829 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford Univ Pr (November 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804715092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804715096
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,886,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Two impressive figures, William Morris as subject and E. P. Thompson as author, are conjoined in this immense biographical-historical-critical study.”  —Peter Stansky, New York Times


“An absorbing biographical study. . . . A glittering quarry of marvelous quotes from Morris and others, many taken from heretofore inaccessible or unpublished sources.”  Walter Arnold, Saturday Review


"Thompson’s is the first biography to do justice to Morris’s political thought and so assemble the man whole. . . . It is not only the standard biography of Morris; it makes us realize, as no other writer has done, how completely admirable a man this Victorian was—how consistent and honest to himself and others, how incapable of cruelty or jargon and, above all, how free."  —Robert Hughes, Time magazine


"The massive text of this volume, which revolutionized Morris studies and outraged conservative (and purely literary) specialists, compels the reader to take on complicated matters bit by bit, almost day to day, sinking into Morris' life, letters, and milieu. Reading the book can be overwhelming but will be rewarding, not only for the subject but also for the author himself, as we read him through the study of his favorite romantic." —www.RainTaxi.com
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

E. P. Thompson was an English historian, socialist, and author of Making of the English Working Class. Peter Linebaugh is a social historian and a professor at the University of Toledo. He is the author of London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century. He lives in Toledo, Ohio.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Siciliano VINE VOICE on January 28, 2009
Format: Unknown Binding
"History has remembered the kings and warriors because they destroyed; Art has remembered the people because they created."
William Morris

William Morris sits atop the house of history like a weathervane turning against the prevailing winds rather than with them.

One of the earliest British socialists, he abhorred modernity. An entrepreneurial spirit of manifold passions, he preferred the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

To the manor born (1834), cultivated as an effete poet with other rich and eccentric boys (Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti)of the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" at Oxford, Morris spent his middle- and old-age calling for revolution from street corners in working class districts of London.

This essay is derived from a book written long ago, 1955 to be exact, by E.P. Thompson entitled, "William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary," purchased for a mere $2.95 at Labyrinth Books.

A citizen of Victorian England's roaring industrial empire, Morris could not abide by the times and spent his youth fancying life in the olden days; crafting poems in the style of Lord Alfred Tennyson, replete with knights errant and creamy damsels making loving in limpid streambeds.

The society he loathed lauded him, blessed him with the poet's special fame, and validated the writings through which he sought to escape contemporary surroundings.

His Medievalism, Thompson wrote, was typical of the late-Romantic period in mid-nineteenth century England, an impulsive revolt against the Railway Age that hailed an older society of values finer than profit and capital utility.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on October 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Roughly two-thirds of the book's main text (762 pages) are devoted to the last thirteen years of Morris' life, with 210 pages - a quarter of the book - given to a massively detailed account of the six and a half years from 1884 to 1890 in which Morris was involved with the Socialist League.

Before that he had been preoccupied with other things - with the Firm he had established in 1861 to produce craft-produced furniture, tapestry, stained glass, tiles, and all manner of household articles. He had written about the philosophy behind this work: his disgust with mass-production and how this damaged the dignity of labour, with inauthentic gothicism, inauthentic "restoration" of ancient buildings, and with vulgarity ("shoddiness") of design. At this stage his hatred of the market was for the debasement for which it was responsible.

He was also a prolific poet, and Thompson, who has a fine eye for literary criticism, analyzes (and sits in judgment on) much of this at length. He also discusses at length the writings, for example, of Keats, Ruskin, Carlyle and other authors who influenced Morris. We also have a good deal about the Pre-Raphaelites, to whom he was very close in his early years and with one of whom, Burne-Jones, he worked in close friendship and partnership throughout his life. Morris was rather unhappily married to Jane Burden, who had modelled for most of the other pre-Raphaelites. There is a touching account of Morris' reactions when his wife had an affaire with Rossetti.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By loce_the_wizard VINE VOICE on January 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
To chronicle the life of William Morris, his biographer, E.P. Thompson, purposely reminds the reader that the English Romantic period in literature strongly influenced Morris, from his childhood on. Tracing the steps of Morris' formal education, he documents how Morris was deeply affected by his studies of medieval art and literature and deeply influenced by the writings of both Carlyle and Ruskin, influences that had repercussions for the direction of Morris's artistic and political life.
Thompson worked from a treasure trove of material: letters, public documents, articles about William Morris, and, of course, the vast collection of literary works and political articles and speeches that Morris published.

He shows Morris as being at odds with Victorian sensibilities, both as an artist and political reformer, all tempered to some degree, by his illusory yearning for an ideal love, a yearning that doomed any hope of true happiness in his marriage to Jane Burden but made him an ardent reformer striving to bring about more equality for his fellow man.

Thompson chronicles specific incidents, such as Morris infamous arrest under false charges, with reams of details and viewpoints. This technique, while thorough, does not make for easy or quick reading. This biography is heavily weighted toward Morris's activities as a socialist reformer, and at times Thompson's commentary on Morris's literary output seems unduly colored by these socialist beliefs. This argument may be valid, as Thompson notes about Morris: "He looked upon the history of arts, not---as did many of his contemporaries---as the record of individual geniuses, each "inspired" and each influencing each other, but as part of wider social processes.
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