Winner of the Wolfson History Prize, and described by A.S.Byatt as 'one of the finest biographies ever published', this is Fiona MacCarthy's magisterial biography of William Morris, legendary designer and father of the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement.
'Thrilling, absorbing and majestic.' Independent
'Wonderfully ambitious ... The definitive Morris biography.' Sunday Times
'Delicious and intelligent, full of shining detail and mysteries respected.' Daily Telegraph
'Oh, the careful detail of this marvellous book! . . . A model of scholarly biography'. New Statesman
Since his death in 1896, William Morris has been celebrated as a giant of the Victorian era. But his genius was so multifaceted and so profound that its full extent has rarely been grasped. Many people may find it hard to believe that the greatest English designer of his time - possibly of all time - could also be internationally renowned as a founder of the socialist movement, and ranked as a poet with Tennyson and Browning.
In her definitive biography - insightful, comprehensive, addictively readable - the award-winning Fiona MacCarthy gives us a richly detailed portrait of Morris's complex character for the first time, shedding light on his immense creative powers as artist and designer of furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, stained glass, tapestry, and books; his role as a poet, novelist and translator; on his psychology and his emotional life; his frenetic activities as polemicist and reformer; and his remarkable circle of friends, literary, artistic and political, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. It is a masterpiece of biographical art.
An accomplished and original designer of textiles and furniture, books and typefaces, a socialist activist, poet and novelist (News from Nowhere), Morris (1834- 1896) had a ``magpie mind'' that sought expression in any number of media. MacCarthy (Eric Gill, a prize-winning biography of the sculptor), illuminates the paradoxes that shaped Morris's ``painfully heroic progress through life.'' Morris was a manufacturer of lush housewares who rejected his father as a ``capitalist villain''; an astringent critic of Victorian England who nearly became its poet laureate; a man both worldly and naive, stymied by his wife's affair with the charismatic Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Morris emerges in vivid snapshots as vital, protean and compassionate. This is the biography of a temperament--of a burgeoning reaction against late Victorian bourgeois complacency--that Morris shared with his friend painter Edward Burne-Jones, Rossetti, George Bernard Shaw and others. It also is shaped by interesting extended discussions--of the period's architecture, politics and literature--that sometimes distract from the account of the life they purportedly illuminate. Erudite, lavishly illustrated, including 24 pages of color, and absorbing, this is of interest for the amateur as well as the professional student of Victorian England.