Morris, William

Scope and Content

A holograph letter, 1877, by William Morris to an unidentified recipient.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Morris was born on 24 March 1834 at Elm House, Walthamstow, London. Morris received his education at Marlborough College, 1848-1851, and Exeter College, Oxford, 1853-1855, where he originally intended to take holy orders. While studying at Oxford Morris became interested in social criticism and medieval art. On leaving university Morris began work at the architectural office of G. E. Street. By 1856 Morris abandoned architecture as a career to become an artist. He painted the Oxford Union frescoes which set in place his career as a designer and established the Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company, renamed Morris and Company in 1876. In 1862 he designed his famous textiles and wallpaper for the company. Morris also wrote poetry and prose. His first volume of poetry, The Defence of Guenevere appeared in 1858 and the poem which established his reputation as a poet, The Earthly Paradise was published between 1868-1870. Morris became involved in national politics. In 1876 he became treasurer of the Eastern Question Association and in 1879, a year after the Morris family moved to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, he became treasurer of the National Liberal League. In 1883 Morris was made an honorary fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. That year he joined H. M. Hyndman's Socialist Democratic Federation. In 1884 Morris published Art and Socialism with Hyndman and after disagreements with Hyndman, Morris left to form the Socialist League and later the Hammersmith Socialist Society. He became editor of the Socialist Society's journal, Commonweal in 1885. In the 1880s and 1890s Morris lectured and wrote widely on socialism. In 1890 Morris founded the Kelmscott Press at premises near his Hammersmith home. Morris designed typefaces for the company and printed sixty-six volumes. Morris died at Kelmscott House on 3 October 1896.

Access Information

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Other Finding Aids

University of London Library, The Sterling library: a catalogue of the printed books and literary manuscripts collected by Sir Louis Sterling and presented by him to the University of London , Cambridge, (1954).

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

The British Library, London, holds correspondence, literary manuscripts and papers, 1853-1896 (Ref: Add MSS 37297-37498, 45298-353, 45407-12, 45891-94; M/1009; Ashely A230, 4902; RP1355; Eg MS 2866), letters to Sir Philip Burne-Jones, 2nd Bt, (Ref: Add MS 52708), letters to Joseph Lane, 1887-1889 (Ref: Add MS 46345), and letters to George Bernard Shaw, 1884-1896 (Ref: Add MS 50541); the William Morris Gallery, London, has letters, designs, drawings and other manuscripts, 1848-1896; the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, contains correspondence, notebook and literary manuscripts, [1879-1896], and letters to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, 1885-1896; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, holds miscellaneous letters, travel journals and literary manuscripts, 1868-1871; the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, has literary manuscripts, [1870-1876] (Ref: MSS Eng misc c143, 265, d265-68, e233, g59; Lat class e38), letters, postcards and notes to Leightons, 1874-1895 (Ref: MS Johnson e3), letters to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1857-78 (Ref: MS Facs d274), and letters to Messrs Whittingham and Leighton, 1889-1894 (Ref: MSS Eng hist c283-90; misc c275, 341, d289-90, e252-54; poet c25; th c59; French e21; Lat misc c67, d75; th c18); the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam, holds miscellaneous letters and manuscripts, and correspondence with Andreas Scheu, 1883-1895; the Society of Antiquaries of London contains calligraphic fragments and notebooks, including correspondence of May Morris, [1868-1938] (Ref: MS 984), and papers relating to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, 1877-1878 (Ref: MS 832); Hammersmith and Fulham Archives and Local History centre, London, hold letters and papers relating to Morris and Co, 1862-1898, letters and printed material relating to Morris, 1895-1948 (Ref: DD/341), and papers of the Trustees and executors of Morris, 1896-1928 (Ref: DD/926); The King's School, Canterbury, has literary manuscripts; the Brotherton Library, Leeds University, contains a manuscript translation of the Heimskringla; Castle Howard, York, holds letters to George James Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, 1867-1899 (Ref: C91); Houghton library, Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA, has letters to Robert Thomson (Ref: MS Eng 798); Staffordshire Record Office contains letters to Sir Thomas Wardle, 1875-1877, 1896; the library of Congress Manuscripts Division, Washington, USA, holds correspondence of Morris and Co with James Abbott McNeill Whistler (Ref: NUC MS 66-1446); the British Library of Political and Economic Science, London, has letters relating to the Social Democratic Federation (Ref: Coll misc 522); the Huntington Library, California, USA, contains letters and literary manuscripts, 1860-1896; the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, California, USA, has letters, 1884-1890; the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, London, contains letters, 1878-1881 (Ref: William Morris MSS); the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, University of Texas at Austin, holds papers.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.