Why I love William Morris

If you missed our Docent Becky Fawcett’s lecture on William Morris here is a snippet of what you missed!  Please don’t forget to check out our next lecture on Science Fiction in the 19th Century on Friday October 21st at 11am.

There are many reasons to love William Morris.  He was a Victorian of renown: a lover of nature, quality workmanship, and medieval times. His work reflects these three loves.  He produced fabrics, textiles, paintings, books, and furniture of great beauty and functionality.

In the Hunter House Victorian Museum we have rooms wallpapered with his patterns of leaves, flowers, and birds.  The parlor displays a lovely period reproduction of his wallpaper as does the gentleman’s bedroom with my personal favorite of leaves and blue birds.

parlor-wall-paper

(Wallpaper from the front parlor of the Hunter House)

wall-paper-2

(The ceiling of the back bedchamber of the Hunter House)

In the doctor’s office there resides a Morris chair, a recliner that he invented and made in books written during the 1920’s and 30’s you can find references to characters sitting in a Morris chair.

chair-doctors-room

(A Morris chair from the doctor’s office in the Hunter House)

I remember reading an article which told of William Morris being the first to display peacock feathers in his home.  The British, and then the Americans, quickly copied this man of talents in decorative arts, including the wealthy Hunter family with their feathers in the parlor.  This tale may be a myth, but it is one I believe.

Now I will share some reasons for my fascination with William Morris: Morris and his Pre-Raphaelite brethren adored medieval times: its Gothic architecture, and love pathos in Sir Walter Scott’s and Mallory’s stories of King Arthur and Camelot.  Chaucer’s stories and illuminated manuscripts plus the fonts used in those times fascinated Morris and his friends.

Tragically, his very life paralleled the Arthur saga.  Among the Pre-Raphaelites was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a marvelous painter and poet whom Morris developed a deep friendship.  Rossetti spotted a beautiful girl among the spectators at one of their events, a poor, but lovely girl named Jane Burden.  Her parents agreed to let her model for the painters.  When Morris saw Jane, he was immediately smitten.  Rossetti was a suave, charming man while Morris was awkward with a mancap of red hair that earned him the nickname ‘Topsy’.  What Morris had in his favor that Rossetti lacked was wealth.  It is not known for sure that Jane was seeking security, and that was why she chose Morris, but for whatever reason Morris proposed and she accepted.  They had five wonderful years of marriage resulting in two daughters.

‘Arthur’ and ‘Guinevere’ were enjoying ‘Camelot’ when who should move in (literally) but ‘Sir Lancelot’- er, Rossetti, the tempter in paradise.  Jane and Rossetti had an affair that lasted many years and caused poor Morris much grief.  But, just like King Arthur, he continued to love his ‘Guinevere’ and spent much time in Iceland to escape his pain.

How can one NOT love such a man!  And this is just one of my reasons.

Which room in the Hunter House has your favorite wallpaper?

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