The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems, 1858
The Life and Death of Jason, 1867
The Earthly Paradise, 1868-1870 (3 volumes)
Love Is Enough: Or, The Freeing of Pharamond, 1872
The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs, 1876
Chants for Socialists, 1884, 1885
The Pilgrims of Hope, 1885-1886
Poems by the Way, 1891
Three Northern Love Stories, and Other Tales, 1873 (with Eiríkr Magnússon)
The Aeneids of Virgil, 1875
The Odyssey of Homer, 1887
The Tale of Beowulf, 1895
A Dream of John Ball, 1888
A Tale of the House of the Wolfings, 1888
News from Nowhere, 1890
The Roots of the Mountains, 1890
The Story of the Glittering Plain, 1890
The Wood Beyond the World, 1894
Child Christopher and Goldilond the Fair, 1895
The Well at the World’s End, 1896
The Water of the Wondrous Isles, 1897
The Sundering Flood, 1897
Hopes and Fears for Art, 1882
The Manifesto of the Socialist League, 1885
Signs of Change, 1888
Statement of Principles of the Hammersmith Socialist Society, 1890
Manifesto of English Socialists, 1893 (with H. M. Hyndman and George Bernard Shaw)
Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome, 1893 (with E. Belfort Bax)
Williams Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist, 1936 (May Morris, editor)
The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends, 1950 (Philip Henderson, editor)
Icelandic Journals by William Morris, 1969
The Unpublished Lectures of William Morris, 1969 (Eugene D. LeMire, editor)
William Morris’s Socialist Diary, 1982 (Florence Boos, editor)
The Collected Letters of William Morris, 1984-1987 (4 volumes; Norman Kelvin, editor)
The Collected Works of William Morris, 1910-1915, 1966 (24 volumes; May Morris, editor)
The artist, poet, manufacturer, and socialist William Morris was the eldest son and third child of a bill-broker father and a music-teacher mother. As a boy he freely ranged through the primeval Epping Forest adjacent to his home and thus fed his romantic imagination and sharpened his naturally keen powers of observation. His formal education began at a neighborhood private school and terminated in 1856, after four years at Exeter College, Oxford. At Oxford he formed a lifelong friendship with the painter Edward Burne-Jones. For almost a year after his graduation, Morris served as an apprentice in an architect’s office. He then turned to painting and, in partnership with Burne-Jones, established a studio in London.
At Oxford, Morris had been one of the originators of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, and to it he had contributed poems, essays, and tales. He continued to write poetry and in 1858 published The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems. Despite its excellence, Morris’s poetry always was a supplement to his regular work of drawing, painting (in both oils and watercolors), modeling, illuminating, and designing. In 1857 he became acquainted with Jane Burden, whom he married in April, 1859. After his wedding Morris gradually abandoned painting (his latest pictures are dated 1862) and concentrated on reestablishing designing and decoration as one of the five arts. He supervised the building of his own home, Red House, in which his theory of decoration was freely applied, and he formed a manufacturing and decorating firm which continued until 1874. In addition to decorating churches, the firm dealt in furniture, jewelry, carpets, tapestries, and the like.
After several years of virtual inactivity as a poet, Morris in 1867 published the epic The Life and Death of Jason. Twenty-five intricately and beautifully connected narrative poems, modeled after a work by Geoffrey Chaucer and known as The Earthly Paradise, were published in three volumes in 1868-1870. Becoming interested in both the Icelandic sagas and in moral, social, and political doctrine, Morris sought new ways of artistic expression and turned increasingly to the Middle Ages as his symbol of the essentials to which the practice of both life and art must return so that new beginnings may be made. During this period he translated the Icelandic Three Northern Love Songs as Three Northern Love Stories, and Other Tales, translated Virgil’s Aeneid as The Aeneids of Virgil, and composed his longest poem, The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs.
In accord with his theory, Morris taught himself the trade of dying wools, silks, and cottons, and he became active in the Democratic Federation and later in the Socialist League. He lectured extensively and published several volumes of addresses and other prose writings, A Dream of John Ball being the most remarkable of these. Finally, because an immediate socialist revolution was not forthcoming, he resolved that socialists must educate people toward the achievement of such a revolution in the distant future. To depict his ideal, Morris turned again to the remote past and produced numerous romances such as The Well at the World’s End. Meanwhile, however, he produced his masterpiece of Utopian fiction, News from Nowhere, a romantic pastoral of future communism.
Among other activities of his later life was the establishing of the Kelmscott Press in 1890 to revive the art of fine printing. Publications of this press included a famous 1896 edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s works with engravings designed by Burne-Jones, as well as several of Morris’s own writings. In 1895 Morris’s health began to decline, and he died on October 3, 1896. In literature, as in his amazingly numerous other endeavors (both aesthetic and social), the great effect of William Morris was to arouse the artistic sense and to initiate new beginnings.