May 8, 2008

Against The Age

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Notice that ambiguous but quietly uncompromising disjunction. Have nothing that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Does Morris mean that we can retain ugly but useful things? Surely not! And note, too, the subtle acknowledgment that we can know something is useful (by using it) but we can only believe in its beauty.

This pleasant and concise biography of William Morris focuses most strongly on his literary work, but not to the exclusion of his contributions to interior design, printing, stained glass, and politics. Morris seems never to have hesitated to study something he wanted to know, or to pursue expertise he felt he might enjoy or that might benefit his friends and countrymen.