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William Morris: A Life for Our Time [Paperback]

Fiona MacCarthy
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
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Book Description

5 Aug 2010

Since his death in 1896, William Morris has come to be regarded as one of the giants of the nineteenth century. But his genius was so many-sided and so profound that its full extent has rarely been grasped. Many people may find it hard to believe that the greatest English designer of his time, possibly of all time, could also be internationally renowned as a founder of the socialist movement, and could have been ranked as a poet together with Tennyson and Browning.

With penetrating insight, Fiona MacCarthy has managed to encompass all the different facets of Morris's complex character, shedding light on his immense creative powers as artist and designer of furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, stained glass, tapestry and books, and as a poet, novelist and translator; his psychology and his emotional life; his frenetic activities as polemicist and reformer; and his remarkable circle of friends, literary, artistic and political.

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William Morris: A Life for Our Time + The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination
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Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571255590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571255597
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

With her widely acclaimed book Eric Gill, published in 1989, Fiona MacCarthy established herself as one of the leading writers of biography in Britain. This was followed by William Morris (1994), which won several literary awards including the Wolfson History Prize and was described by A.S. Byatt as 'one of the finest biographies ever published in this country.' Byron: Life and Legend (2002) was described as 'one of the great literary biographies of our time' by Mark Bostridge in the Independent on Sunday. Fiona MacCarthy writes regularly for the Guardian and lives in Derbyshire.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multifarious Morris 9 Oct 2003
Fiona MacCarthy has excelled herself with this biography of William Morris. You could hardly ask for a greater wealth of material; clearly her research has been painstaking. But over and above the mere technicalities of being accurate and chronological, Fiona has created a very enjoyable read which quickly gets you very involved with the subject's often extremely complex life. The detail is prodigious, but never amounts to mere padding; on the contrary, it gives one an intimate picture of a passionate, industrious, inventive and vulnerable man whose numerous interests and enthusiasms invariably left him with too few hours in each day. If you thought you knew Morris, think again - there was so much more to the man than most would have surmised. I found the writing on his Icelandic preoccupations and his poetry particularly interesting, but there's social and sexual politics aplenty for those in need of them. Congratulations Fiona on an excellent book, one that I cannot imagine ever being eclipsed. A very worthwhile purchase.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars detailed, informative and very readable 15 Jun 2011
By loppy
I really enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end, even though I thought I was only interested in certain aspects of Morris' life. The comprehensive but readable coverage sets his achievements into the context of his life and times, and his personality is sympathetically portrayed, including in relationship to his wife and the developments in their marriage.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
As with her other biographies, Fiona MacCarthy researches her subject thoroughly and exhaustively. She writes, as always, in an elegant and literate style. She is a joy to read and here she shows such evident enthusiasm for that
colourful Pre-Raphaelite artist, William Morris, and his extraordinary artistic collaboration and lifelong friendship with Edward Burne-Jones.

She has also written a highly praised biography of Burne-Jones, thus pulling off a triumphant duo of works on two remarkable Pre-Raphaelite artists. Now she should tackle Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I would be fascinated to see what she makes of that maverick Pre-Raphaelite.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Detailed Work!! 1 Aug 2013
By Onora
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
High commendation is owed to MacCarthy for her research into all aspects of the life of William Morris. Firstly, there are twenty chapters which chronicle his places of residence such as Red Lion Square 1859-65, Kelmscott House 1879--81, Merton Abbey 1881-83 etc. Included are detailed descriptions of his trip to Northern France, Iceland and Norway. MacCarthy informs us of Morris's family life. He married Janey Burden who also had an affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti who with Holman Hunt founded the first phase of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Morris had two daughters May and Jenny who suffered from epilepsy. The most interesting aspect of the book for me is how detailed an account MacCarthy provides of Morris at work and his creativity. He was highly skilled in stained glasswork, tapestries, wallpapers and furnishings. In fact he would have been what is now referred to as an interior decorator. Many commissions were carried out from Morris, Marshall, Faulkner &Co. The downside of the book for me was the portion devoted to Morris's political life. He was to say the least an enthusiast Democratic Socialist. In 1884, he launched the Democratic Federation's magazine 'Justice' to which he regularly contributed. To many his socialism would have been deemed contradictory to the products he created which could only be afforded by the higher echelons of society. In other words, his products were not accessible to the ordinary working man.
However, wallpapers and stained glass were not Morris's only skills, he was an expert in Icelandic literature and he also wrote poetry and novels. An earthly Paradise is one of Morris's novels and extracts from his poetry and novels are included in the book.
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