William Morris

1834 - 1896

H

SEE ALSO    The Pre-Raphaelite Movement

Abbreviations

B - Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
PR - Pre-Raphaelite
R - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

OVERVIEW

Enjoyed an affluent upbringing in London as the son of a stockbroker. His life work impacted literature, design and politics. In literature he experimented with prose, political essay, public lecture and poetry. A description of him by Yeats on pp. 63 and 1071.

TIMELINE

1834

Born

1852

Burne-Jones (B) and Morris meet at Oxford, at Exeter College and are brought together by transient enthusiasm for religion and a more permanent love of medievalism and art. They joined/(formed?) "the Brotherhood" but nothing came of it but their friendship. Morris was nicknamed "Topsy" for his unruly hair and the character in the popular novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin. B known affectionately as "Ned". They were influenced by Tennyson, Browning, Keats, and Ruskin. They were delighted by their discovery of Malory's Morte d'Arthur.1

1854

A letter from B to Morris p. 60.1

1855

B and Morris travel to France together on Morris' money. Morris also wrote verse, B focused on painting only. B meets R after seeing R's illustrations in William Allingham's book of poetry The Maids Of Elfenmere. B attended a drawing class R was holding in London and they struck up a relationship. R encouraged B to leave oxford without a degree and move to London to live for art. Morris graduates from Exeter, moves to London and goes to work for architect George Edmund Street where he would meet Philip Webb. B and Morris' friendship resumes further enlivened by R, Hughes and other P.R.B.1

Through Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris the PR spirit would briefly revive and fluoresce into what came to be termed the Aesthetic Movement.

1856

R, Hughes and Morris among others decorate the Union at Oxford with scenes from their beloved Malory.

1857

The P.R.B. pretty much dissolves.

1858

Morris publishes the poem "The Defense of Guinevere". R began his commission of The Seed of David for teh Llandaff Cathedral, completed in 1864 for which Morris was one of his models.

1859

Morris marries Jane Burden, R's old lover. Burden's dad a stable keeper. It would not be a happy marriage. They move from London to Upton, Kent where he began the course upon which he would remain for the rest of his life. Design of his own furniture and interiors with help from his friends. His house was designed in a Gothic style by his friend Philip Webb. B supplied the designs for the stained glass windows. M designed the wallpaper.1

1860

More or less the aesthetic of the PRB was now left to the devotees of whom B and Morris attained the greatest prominence.1

1861

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.

the first of Morris' interior design companies, created with the assistance including that of R, B, Webb, Madox Brown, Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall. "The revolution in art proposed by the Pre-Raphaelites and propounded by Ruskin was about to give way to a new, more enchantingly decorative age - the dream world incarnated by the Aesthetics." Morris invents a strikingly original system of ornament that the fin de siecle movement Art Nouveau would evolve.1

1862

The new company gained notice at the International Exhibition.

R's wife Siddal dies of an overdose of laudanum. Jane Burden Morris and R grew unreasonably close and she became important to R as a muse and lover. It is also rumored that Mrs. Burne-Jones and William Morris grew in their regard for each other. Meanwhile Edward Burne-Jones had a secret mistress, Maria Zambaco.1

1868

Burne-Jones begins a series of illustrations for Morris' four volume poem, The Earthly Paradise. The edition was never realized.

1871

R became closer to Jane Morris using her in many pencil sketches and as Guinevere in Astarte Syraica (1875) Pandora (1877?) and Proserpine (1877 or 4?). He did also use Fanny Cornforth, but Jane gained a place in his heart next to Siddal.1

Not year specific - Morris grew closer to Georgiana Burne-Jones, possibly as a result of their spouses extra marital affairs. An intimate friendship formed and Morris decorated manuscripts, with her initials emblazoned in his typical style for her and wrote verse about her.1

1874

Morris began dissolving Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. as the principals were loudly complaining of nonpayment. R wrote a scathing satire of the dissolution called The Death of Topsy. Reopened the enterprise under the name Morris & Company and it became famous for its textiles and wallpapers with designs from nature by Morris. Reproductions remain popular today.

1888

Morris' The Dream of John Ball prose romance inspired by socialist politics about the 14th century revolt of Wat Tyler.

 

SOURCES

1)    The Pre-Raphaelites  Inspiration from the Past, Terri Hardin, TODRI Book Publishers, New York, 1996.
2)    Essential William Morris, Iain Zaczek. Introduction by Dr. Claire I.R. O'Mahony. Parragon, 1999. 2001 Ed.