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4.6 out of 5 stars14
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 9 October 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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on 15 June 2011
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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on 30 January 2012
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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on 16 January 2012
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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on 6 May 2012
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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on 27 March 2015
This was an extremely interesting and in-depth exploration of William Morris's life. I really enjoyed reading it and learnt a lot, not just about Morris's life, but also about the lives of many other interesting people of that time.
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on 15 February 2015
Very well researched but more of an acedemic piece than one for a lighter read. Interesting insight into a very well known but actually not well known figure. I was interested in his politics and his interest in the environment. A man before his time. However poor assessment of his mental health I feel. Fiona McCarthy should have consulted more with mental health professionals on this.
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on 8 April 2015
Hard to get into but if you have an interest and want to know more about William Morris and his work its a good place to start.
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on 10 February 2016
A superb book -full of interest but also easy to read
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on 6 April 2016
Pleased with book.
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