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William Morris By Elizabeth Luther Cary Characters: 40568

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

In the autumn of 1876, just after the publication of Sigurd the Volsung, Morris took his first dip in the ocean of public affairs, the waves of which were presently almost to submerge him. He was forty-two years of age, and had thus far managed to keep well within the range of his individual interests and away from the political and social questions that none the less stirred in his mind from time to time, and pricked him to random assertions that he would have nothing to do with them, that his business was with dreams, and that he would remain "the idle singer of an empty day." He was roused to action, however, by the barbarous massacre on the part of the Mussulman soldiery of men, women, and children in Bulgaria, the news of which moved the heart of England to a frenzy of indignation. When Russia intervened, the possibility that England might take up arms on the side of Turkey in order to erect a barrier against Russian aggression was intolerable to him, and he wrote to the Daily News in eloquent protestation. "I who am writing this," he said, with a just appreciation of his ordinary attitude toward political matters, "am one of a large class of men-quiet men, who usually go about their own business, heeding public matters less than they ought, and afraid to speak in such a huge concourse as the English nation, however much they may feel, but who are now stung into bitterness by thinking how helpless they are in a public matter that touches them so closely." "I appeal," he continued, "to the workingmen, and pray them to look to it that if this shame falls upon them they will certainly remember it and be burdened by it when their day clears for them and they attain all and more than all they are now striving for." Again in the spring of 1877, when war seemed imminent, Morris appealed "to the workingmen of England," issuing a manifesto which was practically his first Socialist document and heralded the long series of lectures and addresses, poems, articles, and treatises, presently to take the place of romances and epics in his literary life. After declaring that the people who were bringing on the war were "greedy gamblers on the Stock Exchange, idle officers of the army and navy (poor fellows!), worn-out mockers of the clubs, desperate purveyors of exciting war-news for the comfortable breakfast-tables of those who have nothing to lose by war, and lastly, in the place of honour, the Tory Rump, that we fools, weary of peace, reason, and justice, chose at the last election to represent us," he added a passage that reads like the outcome of many a heated discussion with brethren of his own social class.

"Workingmen of England, one word of warning yet," he said: "I doubt if you know the bitterness of hatred against freedom and progress that lies at the hearts of a certain part of the richer classes in this country; their newspapers veil it in a kind of decent language, but do but hear them talking amongst themselves, as I have often, and I know not whether scorn or anger would prevail in you at their folly and insolence. These men cannot speak of your order, of its aims, of its leaders, without a sneer or an insult; these men, if they had the power (may England perish rather!) would thwart your just aspirations, would silence you, would deliver you bound hand and foot forever to irresponsible capital. Fellow-citizens, look to it, and if you have any wrongs to be redressed, if you cherish your most worthy hope of raising your whole order peacefully and solidly, if you thirst for leisure and knowledge, if you long to lessen these inequalities which have been our stumbling-block since the beginning of the world, then cast aside sloth and cry out against an Unjust War, and urge us of the middle classes to do no less."

Picture by Rossetti in which the Children's Faces

are Portraits of May Morris

By this time he was treasurer of the Eastern Question Association, and working with all his might against the principles of the war party in England, contributing to the general agitation the political ballad called Wake, London Lads! which was sung with much enthusiasm at one of the meetings to the appropriate air, The Hardy Norseman's Home of Yore, and was afterwards freely distributed in the form of a leaflet among the mechanics of London. It was during this period of political activity that J. R. Green wrote of him to E. A. Freeman: "I rejoiced to see the poet Morris-whom Oliphant setteth even above you for his un-Latinisms-brought to grief by being prayed to draw up a circular on certain Eastern matters, and gravelled to find 'English words.' I insidiously persuaded him that the literary committee had fixed on him to write one of a series of pamphlets which Gladstone wants brought out for the public enlightenment, and that the subject assigned him was 'The Results of the Incidence of Direct Taxation on the Christian Rayah,' but that he was forbidden to speak of the 'onfall of straight geld,' or other such 'English' forms. I left him musing and miserable." Musing and miserable he may well have been at finding that his duty, as he conceived it, was leading him into such unlovely paths, but the English of his polemical writings was unmistakable enough and unconfused by any affectations, Saxon or Latin. In declining to stand for the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford on the occasion of Matthew Arnold's withdrawal from it, he had confessed to a peculiar inaptitude for expressing himself except in the one way in which his gift lay, and it was true that his mind was singularly inept outside its natural course. He had not a reasoning mind. His opinions, dictated as they were chiefly by sentiment, were not worked out by the careful processes dear to genuine thinkers. But he was before all things a believer. No man was ever more certain of the absolute rectitude of his views, and by this sincerity of conviction they were driven home to his public. He was so eager to make others feel as he felt that he spent his utmost skill upon the delivery of his message, using the simple and downright phrases that could be understood by the least cultivated of his hearers. It was impossible to listen to him, says one of his friends, not a convert to his views, without for the time at least agreeing with him. Thus he conquered the "peculiar inaptitude" of which he speaks by the force of his great integrity, and although he complained that "the cursed words" went to water between his fingers, they accomplished their object.

"When the crisis in the East was past," says Mr. Mackail, "it left Morris thoroughly in touch with the Radical leaders of the working class in London, and well acquainted with the social and economic ideas which, under the influence of widening education and of the international movement among the working classes, were beginning to transform their political creed from an individualist Radicalism into a more or less definite doctrine of State Socialism." This contact was sufficient to kindle into activity the ideas implanted in his own mind during his college days. Carlyle had then thundered forth his amazing anathemas against modern civilisation and had declaimed that Gurth born thrall of Cedric, with a brass collar round his neck, was happy in comparison with the poor of to-day enjoying their "liberty to die by starvation," no displeasing gospel to a young medi?valist; while Ruskin had preached with vociferous eloquence the doctrine that happiness in labour is the end and aim of life. From the beginning of his work in decorative art Morris had shown the influence of these beliefs in peace. He was now to let them lead him into war.

Before he wrote himself down a Socialist, however, he set on foot a movement not so important in the eyes of the public, but much more characteristic of his personal mission in the world of life and art. He had long before learned from Ruskin that the so-called restoration of public monuments meant "the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed." Whatever his feeling may have been concerning the destructive restoration, of which he must have seen manifold examples before this period of his middle age, he seems to have awakened rather suddenly to the necessity of taking some active measure to check the ravages of the restorer. Goaded, finally, by the sight of alterations going on in one of the beautiful parish churches near Kelmscott, he conceived the idea of forming a society of protest. Early in 1877 the impending fate of the Abbey Church at Tewkesbury, under the devastating hands of Sir Gilbert Scott, prompted him to put the idea at once before the public, and he wrote to the Athen?um a letter in which he went straight to the heart of his subject with clearness and simplicity.

"My eye just now caught the word 'restoration' in the morning paper," he wrote, "and on looking closer, I saw that this time it is nothing less than the Minster of Tewkesbury that is to be destroyed by Sir Gilbert Scott. Is it altogether too late to do something to save it,-it and whatever else of beautiful and historical is still left us on the sites of the ancient buildings we were once so famous for? Would it not be of some use once for all, and with the least delay possible, to set on foot an association for the purpose of watching over and protecting these relics which, scanty as they are now become, are still wonderful treasures, all the more priceless in this age of the world, when the newly-invented study of living history is the chief joy of so many of our lives?

"Your paper has so steadily and courageously opposed itself to these acts of barbarism which the modern architect, parson, and squire call 'restoration,' that it would be waste of words here to enlarge on the ruin that has been wrought by their hands; but, for the saving of what is left, I think I may write you a word of encouragement, and say that you by no means stand alone in the matter, and that there are many thoughtful people who would be glad to sacrifice time, money, and comfort in defence of those ancient monuments; besides, though I admit that the architects are, with very few exceptions, hopeless, because interest, habit, and an ignorance yet grosser, bind them; still there must be many people whose ignorance is accidental rather than inveterate, whose good sense could surely be touched if it were clearly put to them that they were destroying what they, or more surely still, their sons and sons' sons would one day fervently long for, and which no wealth or energy could ever buy again for them.

"What I wish for, therefore, is that an association should be set on foot to keep a watch on old monuments, to protest against all 'restoration' that means more than keeping out wind and weather, and, by all means, literary and other, to awaken a feeling that our ancient buildings are not mere ecclesiastical toys, but sacred monuments of the nation's growth and hope."

In less than a month the association was formed under the title of the "Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings," abbreviated by Morris to the "Anti-Scrape Society," in cheerful reference to the pernicious scraping and pointing indulged in by the restorers. Morris was made secretary of the Society, and, as long as he lived, worked loyally in its behalf, giving, in addition to time and money, the labour, which to him was grievous, of lecturing for it. He wrote a prospectus that was translated into French, German, Italian, and Dutch, and among the more important of his protests were those against the demolition of some of the most beautiful portions of St. Mark's at Venice, and the "bedizening" of the interior of Westminster Abbey.

For the sentiment which inspired him, the inextinguishable love in his heart toward every example however humble of the art he reverenced, we may turn to one of the most eloquently reasonable passages of his numerous lectures. Closing his account of pattern designing with a reference to the creation of modern or Gothic art, he says: "Never until the time of that death or cataleptic sleep of the so-called Renaissance did it forget its origin, or fail altogether in fulfilling its mission of turning the ancient curse of labour into something more like a blessing."

"As to the way in which it did its work," he continues, "as I have no time, so also I have but little need to speak, since there is none of us but has seen and felt some portion of the glory which it left behind, but has shared some portion of that most kind gift it gave the world; for even in this our turbulent island, the home of rough and homely men, so far away from the centres of art and thought which I have been speaking of, did simple folk labour for those that shall come after them. Here in the land we yet love they built their homes and temples; if not so majestically as many peoples have done, yet in such sweet accord with the familiar nature amidst which they dwelt, that when by some happy chance we come across the work they wrought, untouched by any but natural change, it fills us with a satisfying untroubled happiness that few things else could bring us. Must our necessities destroy, must our restless ambition mar, the sources of this innocent pleasure, which rich and poor may share alike-this communion with the very hearts of the departed men? Must we sweep away these touching memories of our stout forefathers and their troublous days that won our present peace and liberties?

"If our necessities compel us to it, I say we are an unhappy people; if our vanity lure us into it, I say we are a foolish and light-minded people, who have not the wits to take a little trouble to avoid spoiling our own goods. Our own goods? Yes, the goods of the people of England, now and in time to come: we who are now alive are but life-renters of them. Any of us who pretend to any culture know well that in destroying or injuring one of these buildings we are destroying the pleasure, the culture-in a word, the humanity-of unborn generations. It is speaking very mildly to say that we have no right to do this for our temporary convenience. It is speaking too mildly. I say any such destruction is an act of brutal dishonesty.... It is in the interest of living art and living history that I oppose 'restoration.' What history can there be in a building bedaubed with ornament, which cannot at best be anything but a hopeless and lifeless imitation of the hope and vigour of the earlier world? As to the art that is concerned in it, a strange folly it seems to me for us who live among these bricken masses of hideousness, to waste the energies of our short lives in feebly trying to add new beauty to what is already beautiful. Is that all the surgery we have for the curing of England's spreading sore? Don't let us vex ourselves to cure the antepenultimate blunders of the world, but fall to on our own blunders. Let us leave the dead alone, and, ourselves living, build for the living and those that shall live. Meantime, my plea for our Society is this, that since it is disputed whether restoration be good or not, and since we are confessedly living in a time when architecture has come on the one hand to Jerry building, and on the other to experimental designing (good, very good experiments some of them), let us take breath and wait; let us sedulously repair our ancient buildings, and watch every stone of them as if they were built of jewels (as indeed they are), but otherwise let the dispute rest till we have once more learned architecture, till we once more have among us a reasonable, noble, and universally used style. Then let the dispute be settled. I am not afraid of the issue. If that day ever comes, we shall know what beauty, romance, and history mean, and the technical meaning of the word 'restoration' will be forgotten.

"Is not this a reasonable plea? It means prudence. If the buildings are not worth anything they are not worth restoring; if they are worth anything they are at least worth treating with common sense and prudence.

"Come now, I invite you to support the most prudent Society in all England."

It is easy to understand from such examples as this how Morris gained his popularity as a lecturer. In the printed sentences you read the eager, persuasive accent, so convincing because so convinced. On the platform he stood, say his friends, like a conqueror, stalwart and sturdy, his good grey eyes flashing or twinkling, his voice deepening with feeling, his gesture and speech sudden and spontaneous, his aspect that of an insurgent, a fighter against custom and orthodoxy.

It was not long after the formation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings that he began to show himself a rebel in more than words against existing social laws. The steps by which he reached his membership in the Democratic Federation in the year 1883 are not very easily traced. Comments on the distressing gulf between rich and poor and on the conditions under which the modern workingman did his task became more frequent in his letters and addresses. His mind seemed to be gradually adjusting itself to the thought that the only hope for obtaining ideal conditions in which-this was always the ultimate goal-art might be constantly associated with handicraft, was perhaps to let art go for the time being, and upset society and all its conventions in preparation for a new earth. "Art must go under," he wrote in one of his private letters "where or however it may come up again." But it was always the fate of art that concerned him. He never really understood what Socialism technically and economically speaking meant. He read its books with labour and sorrow, and struggled with its theories in support of his antagonism to the commercial methods of modern business, but he gained no firm grasp of any underlying political principle. In most of his later addresses he talked pure sentiment concerning social questions, characteristically declaring it to be the purest reason. His avowed belief was that "workmen should be artists and artists workmen," and this, he felt, could only be attained under the freest conditions. A workman should not be clothed in shabby garments, should not be wretchedly housed, overworked, or underfed. But neither will it profit him much if he wear good clothes, and keep short hours, and eat wholesome food, and contribute to the ugliness of the wares turned out by commerce. The idea that a man works only to earn leisure in which he does no work was shocking to him as it had been to Ruskin. Pleasant work to do, leisure for other work of a different pleasantness, this was what the workingman really wanted if only he knew it. It was clear to Morris that he himself worked "not the least in the world for the sake of earning leisure by it," but "partly driven by the fear of starvation and disgrace," and partly because he loved the work itself; and while he was ready to confess that he spent a part of his leisure "as a dog does" in contemplation, and liked it well enough, he also spent part of it in work which gave him as much pleasure as his bread-earning work, neither more nor less. Obviously if there are men with whom such is not the case it is because they have not the right kind of work to do, and are not doing it in the right way, and it is equally obvious that the wrong work and the wrong way of doing it are forced upon them. Left to themselves they are bound to do what pleases them and what will please others of right minds. The ideal handicraftsman developing under an ideal social order "shall put his own individual intelligence and enthusiasm into the goods he fashions. So far from his labour being 'divided,' which is the technical phrase for his always doing one minute piece of work and never being allowed to think of any other, so far from that, he must know all about the ware he is making and its relation to similar wares; he must have a natural aptitude for his work so strong that no education can force him away from his special bent. He must be allowed to think of what he is doing and to vary his work as the circumsta

nces of it vary, and his own moods. He must be forever stirring to make the piece he is at work at better than the last. He must refuse at anybody's bidding to turn out, I won't say a bad, but even an indifferent piece of work, whatever the public want or think they want. He must have a voice, and a voice worth listening to in the whole affair."

This attitude is almost identical with that of Ruskin. To see how the theories of master and pupil coincide one has only to read The Stones of Venice and compare with the passage quoted above the famous chapter on The Nature of the Gothic.

"It is verily this degradation of the operative into a machine," says Ruskin, "which, more than any other evil of the times, is leading the mass of the nations everywhere into vain, incoherent, destructive struggling for a freedom of which they cannot explain the nature to themselves. Their universal outcry against wealth and against nobility is not forced from them either by the pressure of famine or the sting of mortified pride. These do much, and have done much in all ages; but the foundations of society were never yet shaken as they are at this day. It is not that men are ill-fed, but that they have no pleasure in the work by which they make their bread, and therefore look to wealth as the only means of pleasure. It is not that men are pained by the scorn of the upper classes, but they cannot endure their own; for they feel that the kind of labour to which they are condemned is verily a degrading one, and makes them less than men.... We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the great civilised invention of the division of labour; only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men-divided into mere segments of men-broken into small fragments and crumbs of life, so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin, or the head of a nail.... And the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all in very deed for this,-that we manufacture everything there except men.... And all the evil to which that cry is urging our myriads can be met only ... by a right understanding on the part of all classes, of what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them and making them happy; by a determined sacrifice of such convenience, or beauty, or cheapness as is to be got only by the degradation of the workman." But Ruskin was altogether too much of an aristocrat, too much of an egoist, to root out classes. We can hardly imagine him preaching as Morris finally came to preach a revolution which should make it impossible for him to condescend. He could devote seven thousand pounds of his own money to establishing a St. George Society, but it would probably never have occurred to him to head a riot in Trafalgar Square.

When Morris, under the influence of old theories and new associations, came to consider not only the desirability but the possibility of establishing a social order in which men could work quite happily and art could get loose from handcuffs welded and locked by commercialism, it was a necessity of his temperament that he should turn his back on halfway methods and urge drastic reforms. His way was not the way of compromise, and he seriously believed that if "civilisation" could be swept out of the path by a revolution which should destroy all class distinctions and all machinery and machine-made goods, which should do away with commercialism and strip the world to its bare bones, so that men could start afresh, all equal and all freed from the superfluities of life, there would grow up a charming communism in which kind hearts would take the place of coronets, and cheerful labour the place of hopeless toil. We find him writing in a private letter-madly, yet with the downright force that kindled where it struck-that he has "faith more than a grain of mustard seed in the future history of civilisation," that he now knows it to be doomed to destruction, and that it is a consolation and joy to him to think of barbarism once more flooding the world, "and real feelings and passions, however rudimentary, taking the place of our wretched hypocrisies." It was thus he thought, or felt, about the new field of labour upon which he was entering, and it is from this point of view that he must be defended against the slurs that have been cast at him as a "Capitalist-Socialist." He did not ignore the ideal of renunciation which had tempted him in his youth, and which he again thought of in his middle age-though less tempted, perhaps. But he reasoned, logically enough, that for one man or a few men to divide his or their wealth with the poor would not advance the world by a furlong or a foot toward the state of things which he had at heart to bring about. It might raise the beneficiaries a little higher in the ranks-in other words, bring them a little closer to the dangerous middle-class, from which came the worst of their troubles, and it might also have the effect of making them a trifle more content with existing conditions. Neither effect was desirable in his eyes. A divine discontent to be spread throughout all classes was the end and aim of such Socialism as he accepted. Nothing could be done except through the antagonism of classes, which seemed in itself to provide a remedy. In News from Nowhere, his best known Socialistic romance, the name of which was perhaps suggested by Kingsley's Utopian and anagrammatic Erewhon, he puts into the mouth of an old man who is himself a survival from the days of "class slavery," a description of the imaginary change to an ideal Communism. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, it is assumed, a federation of labour made it possible for the workmen or "slaves" to establish from time to time important strikes that would sometimes stop an industry altogether for a while, and to impose upon their "masters" other restrictions that seriously interfered with the systematic conduct of commerce. The resulting "bad times" reached a crisis in the year 1952, when the "Combined Workers" determined upon the bold step of demanding a practical reversal of classes, by which they should have the management of the whole natural resources of the country, together with the machinery for using them. The upper classes resisting, riots ensued, then the "Great Strike." "The railways did not run," the old man recalls; "the telegraph wires were unserved; flesh, fish, and green stuff brought to market was allowed to lie there still packed and perishing; the thousands of middle-class families, who were utterly dependent for the next meal on the workers, made frantic efforts through their more energetic members to cater for the needs of the day, and amongst those of them who could not throw off the fear of what was to follow, there was, I am told, a certain enjoyment of this unexpected picnic-a forecast of the days to come in which all labour grew pleasant." Out of all this came civil war, with destruction of wares and machinery and also the destruction of the spirit of commercialism. With the removal of the spur of competition it is admitted that there was a temporary danger of making men dull by giving them too much time for thought or idle musing. How was this danger overcome? By a growing interest in art, to be sure. The people, all workmen now, and providing very simply for their simple needs, "no longer driven desperately to painful and terrible overwork," began to wish to make the work they had in hand as attractive as possible, and rudely and awkwardly to ornament the wares they produced. "Thus at last and by slow degrees," the old man concludes, "we got pleasure into our work; then we became conscious of that pleasure, and cultivated it, and took care that we had our fill of it, and then all was gained and we were happy."


There is little here to charm the logically constructive mind, acquainted with human nature, and in the lectures setting forth in more detail and with more attempt at practical teaching the methods by which society could be enlightened and raised to his standard of excellence, Morris boldly invites the scorn of the political economist by the wholly visionary character of his pathetically "reasonable" views. Nevertheless, he was not without an instinct for distinguishing social evils and suggesting right remedies. Strip his doctrines of their exaggerated conclusions from false premises, and it is possible to find in them the seeds of many reforms that have come about to the inestimable benefit of the modern world. In his lecture on Useful Work versus Useless Toil, the very title of which is a flash of genius, he advocates the kind of education that is directed toward finding out what different people are fit for, and helping them along the road which they are inclined to take. He would have young people taught "such handicrafts as they had a turn for as a part of their education, the discipline of their minds and bodies; and adults would also have opportunities of learning in the same schools." He preaches the necessity of agreeable surroundings, claiming that science duly applied would get rid of the smoke, stench, and noise of factories, and that factories and buildings in which work is carried on should be made decent, convenient, and beautiful, while workers should be given opportunities of living in quiet country homes, in small towns, or in industrial colleges, instead of being obliged to "pig together" in close city quarters. Not one of these considerations is ignored by the organisations now endeavouring in the name of civilisation to raise the standard of the community. Manual training schools, free kindergartens, health protective associations, model tenement societies, have all arisen to meet in their own ways the needs to which Morris was so keenly alive. It was not the word reform, however, but the word revolution, that he constantly reiterated, and declined to relinquish in favour of any milder term. His friend William Clarke has summed up in a single paragraph the substance of many conversations held with him on the subject of social progress. "Existing society is, he thinks, gradually, but with increasing momentum, disintegrating through its own rottenness. The capitalist system of production is breaking down fast and is compelled to exploit new regions in Africa and other parts, where, he thinks, its term will be short. Economically, socially, morally, politically, religiously, civilisation is becoming bankrupt. Meanwhile it is for the Socialist to take advantage of this disintegration by spreading discontent, by preaching economic truths, and by any kind of demonstration which may harass the authorities and develop among the people an esprit de corps. By these means the people will, in some way or other, be ready to take up the industry of the world when the capitalist class is no longer able to direct or control it."

The expression "in some way or other" very well indicates the essential vagueness underlying Morris's definite speech. He had no idea of the means by which the people could be educated to the assumption of unfamiliar control. The utmost that he could suggest was that they should be awakened to the beauty of life as he saw it in his dreams. This beauty he continually set before them in phrases as simple and as eloquent as he could make them. Nor did he shirk the responsibilities raised by his extreme point of view. Nothing testifies more truly to his fidelity of nature and devotion to his ideal than his readiness to put aside the pursuits he loved with his whole heart and take up activities detested by him for many years of that gifted, interesting life of his, in the hope of bringing about, for people whom he really cared for only in the mass, who did not understand him and whom he did not very well understand, an order of things which should in time, but not in his time, make them-so he thought-quite happy. The extent to which he renounced was not slight.

Now indeed was the time when his friends might justly lament that he was being kept labouring at what he could not do, with work all round that he could do so well. First he joined the Democratic Federation and was promptly put on its executive committee. We find him writing that it is naturally harder to understand the subject of Socialism in detail as he gets alongside of it, and that he often gets beaten in argument even when he knows he is right, which only drives him to more desperate attempts to justify his theories by the study of other people's arguments. While he was a member of the Federation (a definitely Socialist body at the time) he delivered a lecture at Oxford with the effect of rousing consternation in the University despite the fact that he had taken pains to inform the authorities of his position as an active Socialist. They did not understand the extent of his activity, and when he wound up an agreeable talk by frankly appealing to the undergraduates of the Russell Club, at whose invitation he was speaking, to join the Democratic Federation, the Master of University was brought to his feet to explain that nothing of the kind had been foreseen when Mr. Morris was asked to express there "his opinion on art under a democracy."

Besides his lecturing, which went on in London, or at Manchester, Leeds, Blackburn, Leicester, Glasgow, and anywhere else where a hopeful opportunity afforded, he was writing for the weekly paper of the Federation, the little sheet called Justice, and also writing pamphlets for distribution among the people. The measures urged in Justice for immediate adoption as remedies for the evils of existing society were:

Free Compulsory Education for all classes, together with the provision of at least one wholesome meal a day in each school.

Eight Hours or less to be the normal Working day in all trades.

Cumulative Taxation upon all incomes above a fixed minimum not exceeding £300 a year.

State Appropriation of Railways, with or without compensation.

The Establishment of National Banks, which shall absorb all private institutions that derive a profit from operations in money or credit.

Rapid Extinction of the National Debt.

Nationalisation of the Land and organisation of agricultural and industrial armies under State control on Co?perative principles.

The objects of the Federation were: "To unite the various Associations of Democrats and Workers throughout Great Britain and Ireland for the purpose of securing equal rights for all, and forming a permanent centre of organisation; to agitate for the ultimate adoption of the programme of the Federation; to aid all Social and political movements in the direction of these reforms." Morris believed himself to be in full sympathy with the fundamental principles of the Federation, and faithfully resented the assumption of a kindly intentioned critic who stated that his imperfect sympathy with them must in charity be supposed. To the implication that he cared only for art and not for the other side of the social questions he had been writing about, he responded: "Much as I love art and ornament, I value it chiefly as a token of the happiness of the people, and I would rather it were all swept away from the world than that the mass of the people should suffer oppression"; but he continued with the familiar challenge, opportunity to utter which was seldom lost, "At the same time, Sir, I will beg you earnestly to consider if my contention is not true, that genuine Art is always an expression of pleasure in Labour?" In explaining his point of view to the public before whom he placed his little collection of Socialist lectures, he expressed his conviction that all the ugliness and vulgarity of civilisation, which his own work had forced him to look upon with grief and pain are "but the outward expression of the innate moral baseness into which we are forced by our present form of society." The ethical and practical sides of the problem he was trying to face honestly, grew up in his mind as he dwelt upon its artistic side, and he made noble efforts to evolve schemes of practical expediency. In his reasonableness he went so far as to admit the possible usefulness of machinery in the new order toward which he was directing the attention of his followers; but he is swift to add, "for the consolation of the artists," that this usefulness will probably be but temporary; that a state of social order would lead, at first, perhaps, to a great development of machinery for really useful purposes, "because people will still be anxious about getting through the work necessary to holding society together"; but after a while they will find that there is not so much work to do as they expected and will have leisure to reconsider the whole subject, and then "if it seems to them that a certain industry would be carried on more pleasantly as regards the worker, and more effectually as regards the goods, by using hand-work rather than machinery they will certainly get rid of their machinery, because it will be possible for them to do so." "It isn't possible now," he adds; "we are not at liberty to do so; we are slaves to the monsters we have created. And I have a kind of hope that the very elaboration of machinery in a society whose purpose is not the multiplication of labour, as it now is, but the carrying on of a pleasant life, as it would be under social order,-that the elaboration of machinery, I say, will lead to the simplification of life, and so once more to the limitation of machinery."

Although the discussion of methods and external forms was entirely foreign to Morris's habit of mind, he was not averse to discussing the history of society. He was not much more an historian than he was an economist in the strict sense. He ignored, idealised, and blackened at will, always perfectly certain that he was setting forth the contrast between the past and the present in its true light; but his delight in the medi?val past, which was the only past to which he gave much attention, lends to his pictures of it a charm most appealing to those who have not too prodding a prejudice in favour of historical accuracy. He is at his best when he breaks from his grapple with the subject of the commercial classes and their development to evoke the visions which neither history nor economics could obscure in his mind. "Not seldom I please myself with trying to realise the face of medi?val England," he says to the motley audience gathering at a street corner or in some dingy little hall or shed to listen to him, "the many chases and great woods, the stretches of common tillage and common pasture quite unenclosed; the rough husbandry of the tilled parts, the unimproved breeds of cattle, sheep, and swine; especially the latter, so lank and long and lathy, looking so strange to us; the strings of packhorses along the bridle-roads; of the scantiness of the wheel-roads, scarce any except those left by the Romans, and those made from monastery to monastery; the scarcity of bridges, and people using ferries instead, or fords where they could; the little towns, well bechurched, often walled; the villages just where they are now (except for those that have nothing but the church left to tell of them), but better and more populous; their churches, some big and handsome, some small and curious, but all crowded with altars and furniture, and gay with pictures and ornament; the many religious houses, with their glorious architecture; the beautiful manor-houses, some of them castles once, and survivals from an earlier period; some new and elegant; some out of all proportion small for the importance of their lords. How strange it would be to us if we could be landed in fourteenth-century England; unless we saw the crest of some familiar hill like that which yet bears upon it a symbol of an English tribe, and from which, looking down on the plain where Alfred was born, I once had many such ponderings, we should not know into what country of the world we were come: the name is left, scarce a thing else."

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