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   Chapter 9 LITERATURE OF THE SOCIALIST PERIOD.

William Morris By Elizabeth Luther Cary Characters: 37103

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Despite the large amount of time and comparatively unproductive thought given by Morris to his Socialism, the period of his greatest activity in this direction was not without result in the field of pure literature. The years from 1884 to 1890 were crowded with pamphlets, leaflets, newspaper articles, manifestoes, and treatises, all with the one object-the making of Socialists. Many of these were more or less works of art-but of art in fetters; in the main they bore sad witness to the havoc made in the ?sthetic life of their author by his propagandising policy, and in their deadly dulness betrayed the unwillingness of his mind to labour in a field so foreign to it. Not even the overwhelming tasks imposed upon him sufficed, however, to subdue entirely his restless imagination. From time to time in the arid desert of his writings for "the cause" a poem of romance appeared of a quality to show that the sap still ran in the products of his mind. Between the first issue of The Commonweal and the inauguration of the Kelmscott Press he wrote in the following order: The Pilgrims of Hope, A Dream of John Ball, The House of the Wolfings, The Roots of the Mountains, and News from Nowhere.

Each is interesting as throwing a varied yet steady light upon his mental processes, and the first is especially interesting despite its conspicuous defects, as one of the very few examples of its author's style when treating a subject belonging to the actual present, not to the past or future. In it the reader leaves dreamland and is confronted by modern problems and situations set forth in plain modern English. A garden is no longer a garth, a dwelling-place is no longer a stead, the writer no longer wots and meseems. So violent a change in vocabulary could hardly be accomplished with entire success; at all events it was not, and much of the phraseology is an affliction to the ear, showing a peculiarly deficient taste in the use of a style uninspired by medi?val tradition. Yet, withal, The Pilgrims of Hope is touched with life, as many of Morris's more artful compositions are not. The old bottles will not always serve for the new wine, Lowell warns us, and there is a noticeably quickening element in this wine poured from the bottle of the day. It is mentioned in Mr. Mackail's biography that Morris once began to write a modern novel, but left it unfinished. The fabric of The Pilgrims of Hope is that of a modern novel, and the characters and incidents are such as Morris might easily have found in his daily path. A country couple leading a life of peaceful simplicity go down to London, and among the sordid influences of the town become converts to Socialism. Much that follows may be considered a record of Morris's personal experience. The husband in the poem tries, as Morris tried, to learn the grounds of the Socialist faith, and takes up, as he did, the burden of spreading it among an indifferent people. The following description might very well have been culled from the diary kept by Morris during a part of his period of militant Socialism, but it must be confessed that the balance of poetic charm is all in favour of the account in the diary.

I read day after day

Whatever books I could handle, and heard about and about

What talk was going amongst them; and I burned up doubt after doubt,

Until it befell at last that to others I needs must speak

(Indeed, they pressed me to that while yet I was weaker than weak).

So I began the business, and in street-corners I spake

To knots of men. Indeed, that made my very heart ache,

So hopeless it seemed, for some stood by like men of wood.

And some, though fain to listen, but a few words understood;

And some but hooted and jeered: but whiles across some I came

Who were keen and eager to hear; as in dry flax the flame

So the quick thought flickered amongst them: and that indeed was a feast.

So about the streets I went, and the work on my hands increased;

And to say the very truth, betwixt the smooth and the rough

It was work, and hope went with it, and I liked it well enough.

A similar passage, also showing the style at its worst, renders the actual scene encountered by Morris at many a lecture, and contains a careful portrait of himself as he appeared in his own eyes on such occasions. For the sake of its accuracy its touch of self-consciousness may well be forgiven. Not a conceited man, and curiously averse to mirrors, Morris was not in the habit of using their psychological counterparts, and it is impossible to surprise him in the act of posing to himself in becoming attitudes. There is, therefore, no irritation to the mind in his occasional frank assumption of interest in himself as a feature of the landscape, so to speak. Here he is on the Socialist platform as the Pilgrim of Hope beholds him, the Pilgrim explaining how it happened that he got upon his track.

This is how it befell: a workman of mine had heard

Some bitter speech in my mouth, and he took me up at the word,

And said: "Come over to-morrow to our Radical spouting-place;

For there, if we hear nothing new, at least we shall see a new face;

He is one of those Communist chaps, and 'tis like that you two may agree."

So we went, and the street was as dull and as common as aught you could see.

Dull and dirty the room. Just over the chairman's chair

Was a bust, a Quaker's face with nose cocked up in the air.

There were common prints on the walls of the heads of the party fray,

And Mazzini dark and lean amidst them gone astray.

Some thirty men we were of the kind that I knew full well,

Listless, rubbed down to the type of our easy-going hell.

My heart sank down as I entered, and wearily there I sat

While the chairman strove to end his maunder of this and that.

And partly shy he seemed, and partly indeed ashamed

Of the grizzled man beside him as his name to us he named;

He rose, thickset and short, and dressed in shabby blue,

And even as he began it seemed as though I knew

The thing he was going to say, though I never heard it before.

He spoke, were it well, were it ill, as though a message he bore.

A word that he could not refrain from many a million of men.

Nor aught seemed the sordid room and the few that were listening then

Save the hall of the labouring earth and the world which was to be,

Bitter to many the message, but sweet indeed unto me,

And every soul rejoicing in the sweet and bitter of life:

Of peace and good-will he told, and I knew that in faith he spake,

But his words were my very thoughts, and I saw the battle awake,

And I followed from end to end! and triumph grew in my heart

As he called on each that heard him to arise and play his part

In the tale of the new-told gospel, lest as slaves they should live and die.

He ceased, and I thought the hearers would rise up with one cry,

And bid him straight enroll them; but they, they applauded indeed,

For the man was grown full eager, and had made them hearken and heed.

But they sat and made no sign, and two of the glibber kind

Stood up to jeer and to carp his fiery words to blind.

I did not listen to them, but failed not his voice to hear

When he rose to answer the carpers, striving to make more clear

That which was clear already; not overwell, I knew

He answered the sneers and the silence, so hot and eager he grew;

But my hope full well he answered, and when he called again

On men to band together lest they live and die in vain,

In fear lest he should escape me, I rose ere the meeting was done,

And gave him my name and my faith-and I was the only one.

He smiled as he heard the jeers, and there was a shake of the hand,

He spoke like a friend long known; and lo! I was one of the band.

There is nothing impressive in such rhyming save its message, the form costing little trouble and awakening little interest. Here, obviously, Morris, like Dante, would rather his readers should find his doctrine sweet than his verses. Parts of the poem are, however, upon a much higher plane of accomplishment. The first section, called The Message of the March Wind, contains exquisite images and moves to a fresh elastic measure; a world both real and lovely being evoked by the opening stanzas:

Fair now is the springtide, now earth lies beholding

With the eyes of a lover the face of the sun;

Long lasteth the daylight, and hope is enfolding

The green-growing acres with increase begun.

Now sweet, sweet it is through the land to be straying

'Mid the birds and the blossoms and the beasts of the fields;

Love mingles with love and no evil is weighing

On thy heart or mine, where all sorrow is healed.

From township to township, o'er down and by tillage

Fair, far have we wandered and long was the day,

But now cometh eve at the end of the village,

Where o'er the grey wall the church riseth grey.

There is wind in the twilight; in the white road before us

The straw from the ox-yard is blowing about;

The moon's rim is rising, a star glitters o'er us,

And the vane on the spire-top is swinging in doubt.

Down there dips the highway, toward the bridge crossing over

The brook that runs on to the Thames and the sea.

Draw closer, my sweet, we are lover and lover;

This eve art thou given to gladness and me.

In the course of the poem the Pilgrims are called to Paris by the voice of the Revolution, and there the wife is killed. Interwoven with the main incidents is the domestic tragedy most familiar to fiction, the alienation of the wife's affections by one of the husband's friends. Morris in his treatment of this situation shows a peculiarly fine and tender quality, sufficiently rare in life itself and seldom to be found in pictures of life. He preserves the dignity of his unhappy characters by a delicate sincerity in their attitude toward one another and by an immeasurable gentleness and self-forgetfulness on the part of the one most wronged. A similar situation in News from Nowhere is made trivial and consequently revolting by the impression it gives that it was created to illustrate a theory. In no place does The Pilgrims of Hope give such an impression. It is a drawing from life, clumsy and summary enough in outline, yet firm and expressive of the thing seen, and with power to convey a genuine emotion.

Portrait of Mrs. Morris

By Rossetti

The Pilgrims of Hope appeared serially in The Commonweal during 1885-1886. It was soon followed by a romance called The Dream of John Ball. This subject with its medi?val setting suited Morris well, and was treated by him in his ripest and strongest vein. Although the story opens in a lightly facetious manner, never a particularly happy one with him, its tone as it proceeds is that of subdued and stately pathos. The writer dreams himself in a village of Kent, where men are hanging upon the words of that poor tutor of Oxford, the "Mad Priest," preaching the equality of gentle and villein on the text

When Adam dalf, and Eve span

Who was thanne a gentilman?

Apparently the dream is the result of a mournfully retrospective mood. The dreamer hears the plain and stirring speech of John Ball, listens to his eager appeal to the men of Kent that they help their brethren of Essex cast off the yoke placed upon them by bailiff and lord, and to his prophecies that in the days to come, when they are free from masters, "man shall help man, and the saints in heaven shall be glad, because men no more fear each other ... and fellowship shall be established in heaven and on the earth." But knowledge of the later time penetrates the dream, and the dreamer ponders "how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes it turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name." At this time Morris was realising in some bitterness of heart that the thing for which he had fought was turning out to be not what he had meant, and the talk between John Ball and the dreamer concerning the future, of which the latter can reveal the secret, is eloquent of sober and noble resignation. The reformer of the earlier age receives with serenity the assurance that his sacrifice will count only as failure in the eyes of the coming generations, since with it goes the further assurance that men will continue to seek a remedy for their wrongs. But we read in the conception the author's foreboding that his own efforts toward the reconstitution of society are also doomed. The dreamer meditates, with an insight born of personal experience and disappointment, upon the darkness of our vision and the difficulty of directing our steps toward our actual goal. Morris obviously traced in John Ball's action a parallel to his own. What happened to the one was what might happen to the other. The hope that inspired the one was the same as inspired the other. The mistakes of the one were akin to the mistakes of the other. Thus, this prose romance, of all that Morris wrote, is warmest and most personal. The historical setting is an aid, not an obstacle, to the imagination. The pathos of the real life touched upon, the knowledge that the hopeful spirit of the preacher was once alive in the land, and that the response of the men of Kent was given in truth and with the might of angry, living hearts, lends a certain solidity and vitality to the figures and inspires Morris to a sturdier treatment of his material than legends could force from him. Had some of the marvellous activity that later went toward the making of purely imaginary situations and characters been spent upon realising for us the individual lives of more of the medi?val workers and thinkers, so vivid to Morris and so dim to most of us, the result might not have been history, but it would have been literature of a rare and felicitous type.

In April, 1888, The Dream of John Ball was reprinted from The Commonweal in one volume, together with a short story based on the life of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, and called A King's Lesson. This also had appeared in The Commonweal under the title of "An Old Story Retold."

Hard upon this little volume followed The House of the Wolfings, a war-story of the early Middle Ages, and significant as forming, with its immediate successor, a link between old interests and new, marking its author's return to the writing of pure romance, and also his first awakening to an active interest in the typography of his books. The subject is derived from the ancient literature, half myth, half history, in which he had long been steeped, but in its treatment lurks a suggestion of the great moral excitement of the Socialist campaign. Thiodulf, the hero, beloved by a goddess, is the war-duke of a Gothic host and, on the verge of battle with Roman legionaries, is deceived into wearing a hauberk wrought by the dwarfs, the peculiar quality of which lies in its power to preserve the wearer's life at the cost of defeat for his army. Learning of this, Thiodulf removes the magic armour in time to gain his victory, but in the moment of triumph he is killed. His exaltation of mood in thus renouncing life suggests a spiritual ambition different from that commonly associated with the gods and heroes of the early world, and conveys the message by which Morris was at once burdened and inspired: that individual life may cheerfully be sacrificed if the life of the many is saved or elevated thereby. How far a war-duke of the Goths would have felt the compensatory sense that he was gaining immortality through the effect of his deeds on the destiny of his people was probably not in his mind. He himself, despite his constitutional horror of death, would perhaps not have been sorry at this time to lay off his hauberk if he could have been certain of the victory. Throughout the history of Thiodulf runs an elevated ethical intention absent from Morris's later romances. The dignity and seriousness of the women, the nobility of the men, the social unity of the Marksmen, and the high standard of thought and action maintained by them as a community place the interest on a high plane. The shadow of an idealised Socialism intensifies the relations of the characters to one another, and the reader familiar with the course of the author's life interprets the narrative as an expression of personal feeling and moral conviction not without pathos in its contrast to the actual world in which Morris was moving and in which he found what he conceived to be his duty so repugnant to his tastes.

Indirectly the book was to open the way for his escape by filling his mind with an enthusiasm along the natural line of his gifts, a zest for further accomplishment in the field he loved that was not to be withstood. It was printed at the Chiswick Press, and owing to a new interest in fine printing due to his intercourse with Mr. Emery Walker, Morris chose for it a quaint and little-known fount of type cut by Howard half a century before, and gave much attention to the details of its appearance. With all his familiarity with medi?val books, and his delight in illustration and illumination, he was still ignorant of the art of spacing and type designing. He had characteristically concentrated his attention on the special feature in which he was interested,-in the case of the old books, the woodcuts and ornaments,-and had passed over even the most marked characteristics which later were to absorb his whole attention. An anecdote told by Mr. Buxton Forman shows the extent to which he subordinated all other questions to the now supreme problem of a handsome page, and also the adaptability of his mind, never at a loss to meet an emergency. Mr. Forman had run across him at the Chiswick Press, whither he had repaired to settle some final points concerning his title-page. Presently down came the proof of the page. "It did not read quite as now," says Mr. Forman; "the difference, I think, was in the fourth and fifth lines where the words stood 'written in prose and verse by William Morris.' Now unhappily the words and the type did not so accord as to come up to Morris's standard of decorativeness. The line wanted tightening up; there was a three-cornered consultation between the Author, the Manager, and myself. The word in was to be inserted-'written in prose and in verse'-to gain the necessary fulness of line. I

mildly protested that the former reading was the better sense and that it should not be sacrificed to avoid a slight excess of white that no one would notice. 'Ha!' said Morris, 'now what would you say if I told you that the verses on the title-page were written just to fill up the great white lower half? Well, that was what happened!'" The verses thus produced to fill a purely decorative need were the following, as delicate and filled with tender sentiment as any written by Morris under the most genuine inspiration-if one may assume that any inspiration was more genuine with him than the spur of a problem in decoration:

Whiles in the early winter eve

We pass amid the gathering night

Some homestead that we had to leave

Years past; and see its candles bright

Shine in the room beside the door

Where we were merry years agone

But now must never enter more,

As still the dark road drives us on.

E'en so the world of men may turn

At even of some hurried day

And see the ancient glimmer burn

Across the waste that hath no way;

Then with that faint light in its eyes

Awhile I bid it linger near

And nurse in wavering memories

The bitter-sweet of days that were.

In glee over the fine appearance of The House of the Wolfings as it came from the press, Morris passed on to his next book, The Roots of the Mountains, also a romance suggesting the saga literature, but without the mythological element. The setting hints at history without belonging to any especial time or place. The plan is quite complicated in incident, and the love-story involved has a modern tinge. Gold-mane, a chieftain of Burgdale, is betrothed to a damsel somewhat prematurely named the Bride. By a magic spell he is drawn through the woods to the Shadowy Vale where he meets a daughter of the Kindred of the Wolf, called Sunbeam, with whom he falls in love. It is a touch characteristic of Morris that makes Gold-mane in describing his old love to the new loyally give the former all the credit of her charm. "Each day she groweth fairer," he says to the maiden who is already her rival in his affections; "there is no man's son and no daughter of woman that does not love her; yea, the very beasts of field and fold love her." Presently an alliance is formed between the men of Burgdale and the Kindred of the Wolf for the purpose of attacking their common enemy, the Dusky Men, who belong to a race of Huns. Attached to the allied forces is a band of Amazons, and the two brave ladies, the Sunbeam and the Bride, show themselves valorous in battle. The attack on the Dusky Men is victorious, and peace returns to the valleys. In the meantime Gold-mane has firmly, though with gentle words, told the Bride of his intention of breaking his pledge to her, and the Sunbeam's brother, Folkmight, has been moved by compassion and finally by love for the deserted maiden, who consents to be his wife. It is quite in accord with the ideal established by Morris in his works of fiction, as indeed in his life, that sincerity takes the leading place among the virtues of his characters. It requires a certain defiance of the conventional modern mood to tolerate Gold-mane, the deserter, as he deals out cold comfort to the Bride, yet the downright frankness of all these people is a quality so native to their author as to pierce their unreality and give them the touch of nature without which they would be made wholly of dreams.

The Roots of the Mountains was written rapidly and issued with unrelaxed attention to typographical problems. Its title-page was made even more satisfactory than that of its predecessor, and the device of introducing a little poem to fill up the ugly white space in the centre was again employed. The lines in this case have nothing to do with the contents of the book, though forced into a relation with the author's purpose of providing "rest" for the reader. They were, in fact, founded upon an incident of a railway trip when the train passed through meadows in which hay-making was going on. Mr. Emery Walker was with Morris, and as they saw the hay-cocks defrauded by the summer breeze he exclaimed, "A subject for your title-page!" "Aye," said Morris, and jotted it down in his manuscript book.

The Roots of the Mountains was a favourite with Morris, and he planned for it an edition on Whatman paper and bound in two patterns of Morris and Company's chintz. Some of the paper ordered for this edition was left over, and eventually was used by Morris for the first little post-quarto catalogues and prospectuses printed at Hammersmith. Thus the book formed a material link between the Chiswick Press and the Kelmscott Press.

Before the establishment of the latter, however, Morris gave one more book to Socialism. His News from Nowhere was the last of his works to appear in The Commonweal and was almost immediately reprinted from its pages by an American publisher. It is an account of the civilised world as it might be made, according to Morris's belief, by the application of his principles of Socialism to life in general and in particular. In 1889 he had reviewed for The Commonweal Mr. Bellamy's Looking Backward, with how much approbation may readily be imagined. As an expression of the temperament of its author he considered it interesting, but as a reconstructive theory unsafe and misleading. "I believe," he said, "that the ideal of the future does not point to the lessening of man's energy by the reduction of labour to a minimum, but rather to the reduction of pain in labour to a minimum so small that it will cease to be pain; a gain to humanity which can only be dreamed of till men are more completely equal than Mr. Bellamy's Utopia would allow them to be, but which will most assuredly come about when men are really equal in condition; although it is probable that much of our so-called 'refinement,' our luxury,-in short, our civilisation,-will have to be sacrificed to it." Early in 1890 appeared the first instalment of News from Nowhere, in which Morris set himself the task of correcting the impression produced by Mr. Bellamy's views of the future by substituting his own picture of a reconstructed society, from which all the machinery that in Looking Backward was brought to so high a degree of efficiency is banished, and the natural energies of man are employed to his complete satisfaction. Homer's Odyssey, which Morris at this time was translating by way of refreshment and amusement, may well have served as a partial inspiration for the brilliant, delicate descriptions of handicrafts practised by the art-loving people of Nowhere. We read in both of lovely embroideries; of fine woven stuffs, soft and pliant in texture, and deeply dyed in rich forgotten colours of antiquity; of the quaint elaboration and charm of metals wrought into intricate designs; of all beautiful ornament to be gained from the zeal of skilled and sensitive fingers. The image is before us in News from Nowhere of a life as busy and as bright as that of the ancient Greeks, whose cunning hands could do everything save divide use from beauty. As a natural consequence of happy labour, the inhabitants of Nowhere have also the superb health and personal beauty of the Greeks. Their women of forty and fifty have smooth skins and fresh colour, bright eyes and a free walk. Their men have no knowledge of wrinkles and grey hairs. Everywhere is the freshness and sparkle of the morning. The pleasant homes nestle in peaceful security among the lavish fruits of the earth. The water of the Thames flows clean and clear between its banks; the fragrance of flowers pervades the pages and suggests a perpetual summer; athletic sports are mingled with athletic occupations. There is little studying. History is sad and often shameful-why then study it? Knowledge of geography is not important; it comes to those who care to travel. Languages one naturally picks up from intercourse with the people of other countries. Political economy? When one practises good fellowship what need of theories? Mathematics? They would wrinkle the brow; moreover, one learns all that is necessary of them by building houses and bridges and putting things together in the right way. It is not surprising that in this buoyant life filled with active interests, the religion of which is good-will and mutual helpfulness, the thought of death is not a welcome one. A dweller in Nowhere admits that in the autumn he almost believes in death; but no one entertains such a belief longer than he must. Thus we get in this fair idyll the purely visible side of the society depicted. The depths of the human heart and of the human soul are left unsounded. To have what they desire, what is claimed by their hands, by their eyes, by their senses, is the aim of the people. Renunciation, like mathematics, would wrinkle the brow. Arbitrary restraint is not to be considered. Nothing is binding, neither marriage vow nor labour contract, or, to speak more precisely, neither marriage vow nor contract for labour exists. The people live, as we are told, as some of the so-called savages in the South Seas really do live,-in a state of interdependence so perfect that if an individual lays down an obligation the community takes it up. For the fading of life, for the death that may not delay till autumn to thrust itself upon the attention, for the development of spiritual strength to meet an enemy against whom art and beauty will not avail, for the battle with those temptations of the flesh that are not averted by health and comeliness, no provision is made. The author's philosophy is that work, under pleasant conditions will do away with all the evils of both soul and body.

As a document for active Socialists News from Nowhere is not effective. Absolutely without any basis of economic generalisation, it is merely the fabric of a vision. At the time of writing it Morris was cutting the last threads that bound him to conventional Socialist bodies. He was making ready to live again, so far as modernity would let him, the life he loved. "No work that cannot be done with pleasure in the doing is worth doing," was a maxim counted by him of the first importance, and assuredly he had not found pleasure in the management of Socialist organisations. His last Socialist book rings with the joy of his release. On its title-page it appears as Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance, and it is interesting to see how he regarded the original Utopia, to Ralph Robinson's translation of which he wrote a preface, issuing it from his own press in 1893. His interpretation of Sir Thomas More's attitude is not the conventional one, and is inspired chiefly by his own attitude toward the great social question which he continued to ponder, insisting still upon his hope for a new earth.

"Ralph Robinson's translation of More's Utopia," he says, "would not need any foreword if it were to be looked upon merely as a beautiful book embodying the curious fancies of a great writer and thinker of the period of the Renaissance. No doubt till within the last few years it has been considered by the moderns as nothing more serious than a charming literary exercise, spiced with the interest given to it by the allusions to the history of the time, and by our knowledge of the career of its author. But the change of ideas concerning 'the best state of a publique weale,' which I will venture to say is the great event of the end of this century, has thrown a fresh light upon the book; so that now to some it seems not so much a regret for days which might have been, as (in its essence) a prediction of a state of society which will be. In short this work of the scholar and Catholic, of the man who resisted what has seemed to most the progressive movement of his own time, has in our days become a Socialist tract familiar to the meetings and debating rooms of the political party which was but lately like 'the cloud as big as a man's hand.' Doubtless the Utopia is a necessary part of a Socialist's library; yet it seems to me that its value as a book for the study of sociology is rather historic than prophetic, and that we Socialists should look upon it as a link between the surviving Communism of the Middle Ages (become hopeless in More's time, and doomed to be soon wholly effaced by the advancing wave of Commercial Bureaucracy), and the hopeful and practical progressive movement of to-day. In fact I think More must be looked upon rather as the last of the old than the first of the new.

"Apart from what was yet alive in him of medi?val Communist tradition, the spirit of association, which amongst other things produced the Gilds, and which was strong in the medi?val Catholic Church itself, other influences were at work to make him take up his parable against the new spirit of his age. The action of the period of transition from medi?val to commercial society, with all its brutalities, was before his eyes; and though he was not alone in his time in condemning the injustice and cruelty of the revolution which destroyed the peasant life of England and turned it into a grazing farm for the moneyed gentry; creating withal at one stroke the propertyless wage-earner and the masterless vagrant (hodie 'pauper'), yet he saw deeper into its root-causes than many other men of his own day, and left us little to add to his views on this point except a reasonable hope that those 'causes' will yield to a better form of society before long.

"Moreover the spirit of the Renaissance, itself the intellectual side of the very movement which he strove against, was strong in him, and doubtless helped to create his Utopia by means of the contrast which it put before his eyes of the ideal free nations of the ancients, and the sordid welter of the struggle for power in the days of dying feudalism, of which he himself was a witness. This Renaissance enthusiasm has supplanted in him the chivalry feeling of the age just passing away. To him war is no longer a delight of the well-born, but rather an ugly necessity to be carried on, if so it must be, by ugly means. Hunting and hawking are no longer the choice pleasures of knight and lady, but are jeered at by him as foolish and unreasonable pieces of butchery; his pleasures are in the main the reasonable ones of learning and music. With all this, his imaginations of the past he must needs read into his ideal vision, together with his own experiences of his time and people. Not only are there bond slaves and a king, and priests almost adored, and cruel punishments for the breach of marriage contract, in that happy island, but there is throughout an atmosphere of asceticism which has a curiously blended savour of Cato the Censor and a medi?val monk.

"On the subject of war, on capital punishment, the responsibility to the public of kings and other official personages, and such-like matters, More speaks words that would not be out of place in the mouth of an eighteenth-century Jacobin, and at first sight this seems rather to show sympathy with what is now mere Whigism than with Communism; but it must be remembered that opinions which have become (in words) the mere commonplace of ordinary bourgeoise politicians were then looked on as a piece of startlingly new and advanced thought, and do not put him on the same plane with the mere radical life of the last generation.

Study of Mrs. Morris

Made by Rossetti for pictures called "The Day Dream"

"In More, then, are met together the man naturally sympathetic with the Communistic side of medi?val society, the protestor against the ugly brutality of the earliest period of commercialism, the enthusiast of the Renaissance, ever looking toward his idealised ancient society as the type and example of all really intelligent human life; the man tinged with the asceticism at once of the classical philosopher and of the monk, an asceticism, indeed, which he puts forward not so much as a duty but rather as a kind of stern adornment of life. These are, we may say, the moods of the man who created Utopia for us; and all are tempered and harmonised by a sensitive clearness and delicate beauty of style, which make the book a living work of art.

"But lastly, we Socialists cannot forget that these qualities and excellences meet to produce a steady expression of the longing for a society of equality of condition; a society in which the individual man can scarcely conceive of his existence apart from the commonwealth of which he forms a portion. This, which is the essence of his book, is the essence also of the struggle in which we are engaged. Though, doubtless, it was the pressure of circumstances in his own days that made More what he was, yet that pressure forced him to give us, not a vision of the triumph of the new-born capitalistic society, the element in which lived the new learning and the freedom of thought of his epoch, but a picture (his own indeed, not ours) of the real New Birth which many men before him had desired; and which now indeed we may well hope is drawing near to realisation, though after such a long series of events which at the time of their happening seemed to nullify his hopes completely."[1]

Morris's own hope was never completely nullified; nor was he ever indifferent to the questions which for nearly a decade had absorbed his energy. But there was to be little more writing for the sake of Socialism, save as some public incident called out a public letter. What he had done covered a wide field. Beside the works already mentioned he had collaborated with Mr. E. Belfort Bax in a history of the growth and outcome of Socialism, first published in the Commonweal under the title of Socialism from the Root Up, had written a series of poems called Chants for Socialists, and a series of lectures for "the cause" later published as Signs of Change, and had produced numerous short addresses to be scattered abroad in the form of penny leaflets that must have been typographical eyesores to him even before the rise of his enthusiasm for typography of the finer sort. In addition his bibliographer has to take into account any number of ephemeral contributions to the press and "forewords" as he liked to call them, to the works of others, a feature rarely present in his own books. In the spring of 1890 he wrote the romance entitled, The Story of the Glittering Plain for the English Illustrated Magazine. When it was brought out in book form the following year, it was printed at his own press.

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