WILLIAM MORRIS: Romantic to Revolutionary by E. P. Thompson
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WILLIAM MORRIS: Romantic to Revolutionary

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When this book appeared twenty years ago, it was large and digressive, and dismissed by many critics for its Marxist bias. Now Thompson has pared away the lengthy tangents and much of the Marxist moralizing (""I have simply cut out the fat, most of which was my own callow fat""), as well as corrected details and added a critical chapter on recent Morris scholarship. The result is a large book still but good to have in print again, for it is a classic study of Romanticism and Socialism in England. Thompson wants this subtitle taken seriously: Morris grew up amid the rising reputations of Byron, Keats, and Shelley, and ""Romanticism was bred into his bones and formed his early consciousness."" But as he saw the ""Romantic Revolt"" of art against vulgarity and oppression fade into sentimentality, he ""became a realist and a revolutionary."" Charting Morris' career through his poetry, ideas of art, social criticism, political action and theory, Thompson illumines a wide range of British cultural history, including the Gothic Revival, the Arts and Crafts movement, industrial capitalism, Victorian tastes and manners. He maps this landscape from a distinctly Marxist angle, devoting most attention to the socialist movement of the 1880s, concluding that Morris was ""one of the most original and creative thinkers within the Marxist tradition in England"" and ""a pioneer"" in ideas of how to organize ""social life within a Communist society."" But Thompson is also a first-rate historian with the flame of Romanticism in his breast; hence his book should be prized for its historical synthesis, factual detail, unabashed ideology, and ardor.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1977
ISBN: 1604862432
Publisher: Pantheon