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ELT 38:4 1995 William Morris Political Writings: Contributions to 'Justice'and 'Commonweal', 18831890 . Willmm Morris. Nicholas Salmon, ed. Bristol: Thoemess Press, 1994. xlviii + 668 pp. Cloth £60.00 Paper £16.75 ALL OF THE MAJOR BIOGRAPHERS of William Morris (J. W. Mackail, Philip Henderson, E. P. Thompson, Paul Thompson, Paul Meier, Peter Stansky, and most recently Fiona MacCarthy) have variously noted and emphasized the importance of Morris's literary work for the two most prominent British socialist papers during the 1880s. Yet, as Nicholas Salmon asserts in his perceptive introduction (which provides the frame of reference for this work), the 484 articles and verse which Morris contributed to Justice and Commonweal constitute some of the "least well-known" of his literary productions. These signed contributions included not only "dialogues, lectures, and numerous essays on contemporary politics," but poetry (Chants for Socmlists, 1884, and the verse tale, The Pilgrims of Hope, 1885) and such prose and utopian fiction as A Dream of John Ball (1888) and News From Nowhere (1890), before they were produced in book form by Morris's Kelmscott Press. Chants for Socialists was published in four issues of Justice (1884); The Pilgrims of Hope in eleven issues of Commonweal (1885 and 1886); A Dream of John Ball in eleven parts of Commonweal (1886 and 1887); and News From Nowhere in forty-five weekly issues of Commonweal (1890). In addition to these publications, several of Morris's poems were published in Commonweal during 18881890 (for example, the untitled verses on 21 April 1888; "All for the Cause," 16 March 1889; "A Death Song," 23 November 1889) and some of Morris's essays on art and literature (such as, "Art or No Art? Who Shall Settle It?" Justice, 15 March 1884). Although none of Morris's major verse and prose fiction contributions are reproduced in this volume, which reprints an important selection of Morris's political articles that in themselves attest to his literary skill, the work also provides in an Appendix a comprehensive list of all of Morris's publications in Justice and Commonweal from 1884 (not 1883, as the title of the book states) through 1890. Of the almost 500 contributions , only thirty-four were published in Justice between January 1884 and January 1885. Morris terminated his association with Justice, the organ of H. M. Hyndman's Social Democratic Federation, when he and other left-wing 534 BOOK REVIEWS Marxist socialists broke with the autocratic Hyndman and the S.DF. in early 1885. They immediately established the Socialist League and, with Morris's funds, launched its attractive publication, Commonweal. Unfortunately, from its beginning the Socialist League was riven by dissension between the Marxists and the anarchists and by mid-1889 Morris found himself increasingly isolated in the organization as it became dominated by the anarchists. Salmon notes that it was Morris's conflict with the anarchists which inspired him to write the novel, News From Nowhere, and that it "may also have influenced the later romances such as The Water of the Wondrous Isles and The Wood Beyond the World where he portrayed worlds where the absence of social control had made possible some of the more fanciful notions like the return to nature and free love." Salmon is also convinced that another major reason why Morris wrote News From Nowhere was "his increasing antagonism to schemes of centralized state socialism," especially after he had read Edward Bellamy's "utepian fiction," Looking Backward and published a critical review of the book in Commonweal (June 1889). Morris, declares Salmon, was devastated as the anarchists, having taken over the Socialist League, began to transform Com monweal into their mouthpiece . Nevertheless, despite this parlous state of affairs, he remained the proprietor of Commonweal and continued to finance its publication "in order to ensure that News from Nowhere was published in its entirety" in the paper before he severed himself from the League and Commonweal at the end of 1890. Without the support of Morris, the journal expired and the demise of the Socialist League followed thereafter . Dr. Salmon (a specialist on the career and work of Morris), the William Morris Society, and the Thoemess Press are to be commended for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 534-535
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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