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William Morris
by [?]

There has been a sad degeneracy among William Morris chairs; still, good ones can be obtained, nearly as excellent as the one in which I rested at Kelmscott House–broad, deep, massive, upholstered with curled hair, and covered with leather that would delight a bookbinder. Such a chair can be used a generation and then passed on to the heirs.

Furnishing of churches and chapels led naturally to the making of stained-glass windows, and hardly a large city of Christendom but has an example of the Morris work.

Morris managed to hold that erratic genius, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in line and direct his efforts, which of itself was a feat worthy of record. He made a fortune for Rossetti, who was a child in this world’s affairs, and he also made a fortune for himself and every man connected with the concern.

Burne-Jones stood by the ship manfully, and proved his good sense by never interfering with the master’s plans, or asking foolish, quibbling questions–showing faith on all occasions.

The Morris designs for wall-paper, tapestry, cretonnes and carpets are now the property of the world, but to say just which is a William Morris design and which a Burne-Jones is an impossibility, for these two strong men worked together as one being with two heads and four hands. At one time, I find the firm of Morris and Company had three thousand hands at work in its various manufactories, the work in most instances being done by hand after the manner of the olden time. William Morris was an avowed socialist long before so many men began to grow fond of calling themselves Christian Socialists. Morris was too practical not to know that the time is not ripe for life on a communal basis, but in his heart was a high and holy ideal that he has partially explained in his books, “A Dream of John Ball” and “News From Nowhere,” and more fully in many lectures. His sympathy was ever with the workingman and those who grind fordone at the wheel of labor. To better the condition of the toiler was his sincere desire. But socialism to him was more of an emotion than a well-worked-out plan of life. He believed that men should replace competition by Co-operation. He used to say: “I’m going your way, so let us go hand in hand. You help me and I’ll help you. We shall not be here very long, for soon, Death, the kind old nurse, will come and rock us all to sleep–let us help one another while we may.” And that is about the extent of the socialism of William Morris.

There is one criticism that has been constantly brought against Morris, and although he answered this criticism a thousand times during his life, it still springs fresh–put forth by little men who congratulate themselves on having scored a point.

They ask in orotund, “How could William Morris expect to benefit society at large, when all of the products he manufactured were so high in price that only the rich could buy them?”

Socialism, according to William Morris, does not consider it desirable to supply cheap stuff to anybody. The socialist aims to make every manufactured article of the best quality possible. It is not how cheap can this be made, but how good. Make it as excellent as it can be made to serve its end. Then sell it at a price that affords something more than a bare subsistence to the workmen who put their lives into its making. In this way you raise the status of the worker–you pay him for his labor and give him an interest and pride in the product. Cheap products make cheap men. The first thought of socialism is for the worker who makes the thing, not the man who buys it.

Work is for the worker.

What becomes of the product of your work, and how the world receives it, matters little. But how you do it is everything. We are what we are on account of the thoughts we have thought and the things we have done. As a muscle grows strong only through use, so does every attribute of the mind, and every quality of the soul take on new strength through exercise. And on the other hand, as a muscle not used atrophies and dies, so will the faculties of the spirit die through disuse.