Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 9

William Morris
by [?]

Early in the Seventies lithograph-presses began to make chromos that were warranted just as good as oil-paintings, and these were distributed in millions by enterprising newspapers as premiums for subscriptions. Looking over an old file of the “Christian Union” for the year Eighteen Hundred Seventy-one, I chanced upon an editorial wherein it was stated that the end of painting pictures by hand had come, and the writer piously thanked heaven for it–and added, “Art is now within the reach of all.” Furniture, carpets, curtains, pictures and books were being manufactured by machinery, and to glue things together and give them a look of gentility and get them into a house before they fell apart, was the seeming desideratum of all manufacturers.

The editor of the “Christian Union” surely had a basis of truth for his statement; art had received a sudden chill: palettes and brushes could be bought for half-price, and many artists were making five-year contracts with lithographers; while those too old to learn to draw on lithograph-stones saw nothing left for them but to work designs with worsted in perforated cardboard.

To the influence of William Morris does the civilized world owe its salvation from the mad rage and rush for the tawdry and cheap in home decoration. It will not do to say that if William Morris had not called a halt some one else would, nor to cavil by declaring that the inanities of the Plush-Covered Age followed the Era of the Hair-Cloth Sofa. These things are frankly admitted, but the refreshing fact remains that fully one-half the homes of England and America have been influenced by the good taste and vivid personality of one strong, earnest man.

William Morris was the strongest all-round man the century has produced. He was an Artist and a Poet in the broadest and best sense of these much-bandied terms. William Morris could do more things, and do them well, than any other man of either ancient or modern times whom we can name. William Morris was master of six distinct trades. He was a weaver, a blacksmith, a wood-carver, a painter, a dyer and a printer; and he was a musical composer of no mean ability.

Better than all, he was an enthusiastic lover of his race: his heart throbbed for humanity, and believing that society could be reformed only from below, he cast his lot with the toilers, dressed as one of them, and in the companionship of workingmen found a response to his holy zeal which the society of an entailed aristocracy denied.

The man who could influence the entire housekeeping of half a world, and give the kingdom of fashion a list to starboard; who could paint beautiful pictures; compose music; speak four languages; write sublime verse; address a public assemblage effectively; produce plays; resurrect the lost art of making books, books such as were made only in the olden time as a loving, religious service; who lived a clean, wholesome, manly life–beloved by those who knew him best–shall we not call him Master?