William Morris was born on March 24, 1834, in the village of Walthamstow, a few miles northeast of London. His father was a well-to-do broker who maintained a household characterized by old-fashioned self-sufficiency. Morris’s early life was centered in his family, who encouraged his tastes for literature and the medieval period. At the University of Oxford, which he entered in 1853, he developed close ties with Edward Burne-Jones and a group of friends (“the Brotherhood”) who shared these interests. The year after Morris left Oxford, the Brotherhood undertook the publication of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, which Morris financed and, for a while, edited, and to which he was a regular contributor. In the same year, he apprenticed himself to the architect G. E. Street, but, following the example of Burne-Jones, who was determined to become an artist, he gave up architecture after a few months in Street’s office and became a disciple of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Under the spell of Rossetti, Morris joined in the artist’s project to paint scenes from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485) on the interior walls of the Oxford Union. Lingering in the congenial atmosphere of the university, he wrote most of the poems he later published in The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems, and paid court to Jane Burden, a hauntingly beautiful woman whom Rossetti had persuaded to sit for him as a model. Morris and Burden were married in 1859 and established themselves at Red House, near Upton, ten miles south of London. The house, of considerable architectural interest, had been designed for them by Morris’s friend Philip Webb. Morris himself took an active role in planning the interiors of Red House, and this concern led to the establishment of a firm—Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company (later, Morris and Company)—dedicated to the improvement of...
(The entire section is 788 words.)