Biography of William Morris

William Morris is a famous Victorian author, artist, and socialist.

Morris was born in England in 1834 to a wealthy family. In his early life, he trained as an architect and artist, and befriended many artists of the Pre-Raphaelite school during his time at Oxford. He married Jane Burden in 1859 and they moved into a house called "Red House" in 1860, which Morris designed and furnished with the help of friend and artist Philip Webb. After the passion and success Morris and Webb found in decorating Red House, they decided to start a company specializing in domestic furnishings. Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was established in 1861, producing materials for interior design such as embroidery, tableware and furniture, stained glass and tiles, and wallpaper. The company was extremely successful and influential.

Throughout this time, and in the following years in which Morris took full control of the company, moved to a manor in Oxfordshire, and made multiple trips to Iceland, Morris was also successful in his writing. He wrote in a variety of styles including epic poetry, translation, and novels ranging from utopian fantasy fiction to romance. His best known works include Earthly Paradise, A Dream of John Ball, and News from Nowhere.

Besides being an important figure in Victorian design and literature, Morris was also central to the rise of socialist thought in Britain. He was a member of the Social Democratic Federation in the early 1880's, and along with other members, split off to form the Socialist League in 1884. He broke ties with the organization in 1890 when the group began supporting anarchism over socialism.

In 1891 he founded the Kelmscott Press, a publisher of limited-edition books, and he spent much of his energy on this endeavor until his death in 1896.


Study Guides on Works by William Morris