Other literary forms
William Morris’s first publication was a series of short prose romances and a review of Robert Browning’s Men and Women (1855) in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine (1856). Except for his translations of several Icelandic sagas and his journal of two expeditions to Iceland (1871, 1873), Morris wrote no significant prose until 1877, when he began his career as a public lecturer. Some of his lectures were published as pamphlets; those he considered the more important were collected in Hopes and Fears for Art (1882) and Signs of Change: Seven Lectures Delivered on Various Occasions (1888). Other lectures appear in The Collected Works of William Morris (1910-1915, 1956; May Morris, editor); William Morris: Artist, Writer, Socialist (1936; May Morris, editor); and The Unpublished Lectures of William Morris (1969; Eugene D. LeMire, editor). During this period he also contributed to the Socialist journal Commonweal, which he edited from 1885 until 1890 and in which he published two utopian dream-visions: A Dream of John Ball (1888) and News from Nowhere: Or, An Epoch of Rest, Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance (1891). Icelandic Journals by William Morris (1969) are an important supplement to the Norse stories in The Earthly Paradise and The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs and, less directly, to Love Is Enough, written the year after his first visit to Iceland. His Socialist prose, both fiction and nonfiction, provides a necessary context for the Chants for Socialists and The Pilgrims of Hope, and should be of interest to anyone concerned with the relationship between the aesthetic earthly paradise of his poetry and the political earthly paradise of his socialism.
Morris’s Utopian fiction is closely related to the series of prose romances he wrote during the last dozen years of his life: The House of the Wolfings (1888), The Roots of the Mountains (1890), The Story of the Glittering Plain (1891), The Wood Beyond the World (1894), The Well at the World’s End (1896), The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1897), and The Sundering Flood (1897). It is in these works that the thematic concerns of his earlier poetry reach their final development.
A selection of Morris’s letters appears in The Letters of William Morris to His Family and Friends (1950; Philip Henderson, editor). The complete edition of his letters, edited by Norman Kelvin, has been published under the title The Collected Letters of William Morris (1984-1987).