Places: News from Nowhere

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: News from Nowhere: Or, An Epoch of Rest, Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance, 1891

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Utopian

Time of work: Late nineteenth century; twenty-first century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedGuest house

Guest News from Nowherehouse. Home of the narrator, William Guest, in London’s Hammersmith district, where Morris himself lived in a late eighteenth century brick Georgian town house that he called Kelmscott House. Guest’s house stands on the very site of Morris’s house, which Morris regarded as merely a convenient place in which to live and store his belongings. Guest’s home echoes Morris’s own taste in architecture and ornamentation. However, in the novel the surrounding area is greatly changed for the better: The nearby River Thames is cleaner, all signs of industry are removed, and Hammersmith Bridge has been replaced by something similar to the old London Bridge.


*London. After Guest awakens in the twenty-first century, he visits central London with Dick Hammond, the weaver, and compares the future city with the London of his own time. Most of the nineteenth century buildings with which Guest was familiar in his own time have been replaced by buildings that are more beautiful. These buildings embrace the best qualities of Morris’s favorite architectural styles, including the Gothic and the Byzantine. Public buildings are designed according to function and there are fewer of them–mostly meetinghouses, market halls, and guest houses for a population that is remarkably mobile. At the same time, much of London has reverted to woodlands and pastures, and Guest learns that this is true for all of England. Many towns have disappeared altogether, particularly those concerned primarily with manufacturing.

Many old London streets have disappeared, but the main roads still exist, among them Piccadilly, which has become a short street of shops with Italian-style arcades, close to elegant houses, each with a garden. The Houses of Parliament, however, are now known as the Dung Market, reflecting Morris’s own strong distaste for the work carried out by nineteenth century British architects, such as George Gilbert Scott and Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Trafalgar Square, however, has become an orchard and Covent Garden once more lives up to its name. The British Museum survives, although some people would like to see it pulled down, a notion that others reject because of the historical importance of the collections contained in it.

*River Thames

*River Thames (tehmz). River running through London up which Guest agrees to travel with Dick to a haymaking in Oxfordshire. This further enables Morris to draw comparisons between his present and the future. Guest sees further examples of areas that have reverted to their original, natural states, with fewer houses and more woods and parklands, which are used for recreation. Grand houses such as Hampton Court have become guest houses, and many churches are regularly used for purposes other than worship.

The travelers stay at guest houses and in the homes of private individuals who without exception welcome them. As the journey continues, Guest sees the Thames valley as Morris recalled it, before the rapid expansion of towns began during the late nineteenth century. Villages retain their distinct character while towns have shrunk in size. The new houses now being built are designed to fit harmoniously into the landscape.

*Kelmscott Manor

*Kelmscott Manor. Oxfordshire estate at which Guest’s journey and the novel end. This is the only building in the novel that seems to be entirely unchanged in its appearance since the nineteenth century. The house is modeled on the real Kelmscott Manor that Morris jointly leased with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. To Morris, the house was a haven from the world for which he felt so much distaste. It is significant that once this haven is reached in what is revealed to be Guest’s dream, Guest cannot remain there but must awaken.

BibliographyAho, Gary L. William Morris: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985. A comprehensive guide to studies about William Morris through 1982, with numerous references to News from Nowhere.Faulkner, Peter. Against the Age: An Introduction to William Morris. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1980. A concise discussion of the multifaceted work of William Morris. Places News from Nowhere in the context of Morris’ other writings and activities.Kirchhoff, Frederick. William Morris. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A study of William Morris that concentrates on his literary works. News from Nowhere is discussed in the context of Morris’ socialism.Lindsay, Jack. William Morris: His Life and Work. London: Constable, 1975. A thorough and readable biography of William Morris.Silver, Carole. The Romance of William Morris. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1982. A study of Morris’ prose romances; includes a chapter on News from Nowhere.
Categories: Places