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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multifarious Morris
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...
Published on 9 Oct 2003 by Alan Raymond

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mountains of research
I really admired the amount of work that had obviously gone into this biography. I really enjoyed the chapters on Morris's early life, but there was almost too much detail in some areas. I wanted to know more about his family, the lives of his brothers and sisters and his relationship with his mother, but I skipped over some of the details of his travels. I think that...
Published on 30 Jan 2012 by KAW


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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
This review is from: William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiona MacCarthy's Biography of William Morris is a Triumph, 16 Jan 2012
This review is from: William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and thorough account, 6 May 2012
This review is from: William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Paperback)
This is a definitive and thorough biography of Morris, written by an expert. I learned so much about Morris that I didn't know - I really don't think any aspect of his life and work has been overlooked. The only downside for me was that there was probably more detail about his political activity than I needed, so this was my least favourite part of the book. However, this is purely because I am mainly interested in Morris for his literary and artistic endeavours, and is not a criticism of the book - others might well be more interested in the political aspect of his life than they are in his artistic collaborations, for example. I particularly enjoyed learning more about his relationships with Burne-Jones and Rossetti, as well as the complex trajectory of his career. A hard act for any future biographers to follow!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mountains of research, 30 Jan 2012
This review is from: William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Paperback)
I really admired the amount of work that had obviously gone into this biography. I really enjoyed the chapters on Morris's early life, but there was almost too much detail in some areas. I wanted to know more about his family, the lives of his brothers and sisters and his relationship with his mother, but I skipped over some of the details of his travels. I think that this is probably due to my own personal interests I like to hear more about people than places.
His socialist activities have been neglected by other biographers and it was interesting to read more about them, but for me there was more than I needed to hear about his politics. I always get cross when biographers wonder about something and then admit that there is no evidence one way or the other. There isn't much of that in this book, but it does creep in especially when the author speculates about Morris's marital relations, his attitude to his impending marriage and his honeymoon. The worst example I felt was when the author talks about a women quite unrelated to the story in hand, Molly the grandaughter of one of Morris's clients who apparently talks in her diary about "nights of wonderful love" and then refers to Morris's wife Janey: "Wonderful for Molly. But how had it been for Janey? It is impossible to say."(p188) If it is impossible to say why say anything? If need be why not say what the speculation of their contemporaries and later writers was and leave it at that?
All in all I found this well written, very well researched, but a bit heavy going.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Detailed Work!!, 1 Aug 2013
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This review is from: William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Paperback)
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. There are a great deal of photos of Morris, his family and associates such as Philip Webb the architect and Edward Burne-Jones the artist with whom Morris sometimes worked on stained glass. In fact MacCarthy has provided colour photos of the exterior and interior of Red House at Blexleyheath in Kent, this was designed by Philip Webb as a wedding gift for Morris on his wedding to Janey Burden. Furthermore, the reader is treated to full colour photos of stained glass windows as well as beautifully illustrated pages from The Story of Hen Thorir which was a collection of Icelandic stories written by Morris. There are also photos of different fabrics and tapestries designed by Morris which is what I look for in any book about any of the Pre-Raphaelites. Throughout the book there are many humourous little sketches by Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti usually at Morris's expense. A highly recommended read and for me painstaking research is always appreciated.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 20 May 2012
This is a very scholarly and well written biography but at times I did find it a little heavy going. Particularly interesting is that Morris wrote poetry, as well as the intricacies of his relationships with those in his circle.
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William Morris: A Life for Our Time
William Morris: A Life for Our Time by Fiona MacCarthy (Paperback - 5 Aug 2010)
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