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William Morris
by [?]

William Morris was a giant in physical strength and a giant in intellect. His nature was intensely masculine, in that he could plan and act without thought of precedent. Never was a man more emancipated from the trammels of convention and custom than William Morris.

Kelmscott House at Hammersmith is in an ebb-tide district where once wealth and fashion held sway; but now the vicinity is given over to factories, tenement-houses and all that train of evil and vice that follows in the wake of faded gentility.

At Hammersmith you will see spacious old mansions used as warehouses; others as boarding-houses; still others converted into dance-halls with beer-gardens in the rear, where once bloomed and blossomed milady’s flowerbeds.

The broad stone steps and wide hallways and iron fences, with glimpses now and then of ancient doorplates or more ancient knockers, tell of generations lost in the maze of oblivion.

Just why William Morris, the poet and lover of harmony, should have selected this locality for a home is quite beyond the average ken. Certainly it mystified the fashionable literary world of London, with whom he never kept goose-step, but that still kept track of him–for fashion has a way of patronizing genius–and some of his old friends wrote him asking where Hammersmith was, and others expressed doubts as to its existence. I had no difficulty in taking the right train for Hammersmith, but once there no one seemed to have ever heard of the Kelmscott Press. When I inquired, grave misgivings seemed to arise as to whether the press I referred to was a cider-press, a wine-press or a press for “cracklings.”

Finally I discovered a man–a workingman–whose face beamed at the mention of William Morris. Later I found that if a man knew William Morris, his heart throbbed at the mention of his name, and he at once grew voluble and confidential and friendly. It was the “Open Sesame,” And if a person did not know William Morris, he simply didn’t, and that was all there was about it.

But the man I met knew “Th’ Ole Man,” which was the affectionate title used by all the hundreds and thousands who worked with William Morris. And to prove that he knew him, when I asked that he should direct me to the Upper Mall, he simply insisted on going with me. Moreover, he told a needless lie and declared he was on the way there, although when we met he was headed in the other direction. By a devious walk of half a mile we reached the high iron fence of Kelmscott House. We arrived amid a florid description of the Icelandic Sagas as told by my new-found friend and interpreted by Th’ Ole Man. My friend had not read the Sagas, but still he did not hesitate to recommend them; and so we passed through the wide-open gates and up the stone walk to the entrance of Kelmscott House. On the threshold we met F.S. Ellis and Emery Walker, who addressed my companion as “Tom.” I knew Mr. Ellis slightly, and also had met Mr. Walker, who works Rembrandt miracles with a camera.

Mr. Ellis was deep in seeing the famous “Chaucer” through the press, and Mr. Walker had a print to show, so we turned aside, passed a great pile of paper in crates that cluttered the hallway, and entered the library. There, leaning over the long, oaken table, in shirt-sleeves, was the master. Who could mistake that great, shaggy head, the tangled beard, and frank, open-eyed look of boyish animation?

The man was sixty and more, but there was no appearance of age in eye, complexion, form or gesture–only the whitened hair! He greeted me as if we had always known each other, and Ellis and piles of Chaucer proof led straight to old Professor Child of Harvard, whose work Ellis criticized and Morris upheld. They fell into a hot argument, which was even continued as we walked across the street to the Doves Bindery.