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Big Books

Penelope Fitzgerald

15 September 1988
William MorrisAn Approach to the Poetry 
by J.M.S. Tompkins.
Cecil Woolf, 368 pp., £20, May 1988, 0 900821 84 1
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... As a schoolboy, Rudyard Kipling used to stay in North End Road, Fulham with his aunt and uncle, the Burne-Joneses. One evening WilliamMorris came into the nursery and, finding the children under the table and nobody else about, climbed on to the rocking-horse and slowly surging back and forth while the poor beast creaked, he told us a ...

In Walthamstow

Rosemary Hill: William Morris

13 September 2012
... The WilliamMorris Gallery in Walthamstow was reopened on 2 August by Chris Robbins, leader of Waltham Forest Council, who pronounced its refurbishment ‘truly stunning’. He said how ‘extremely proud’ he and his ...
23 February 1995
William MorrisA Life for Our Time 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 780 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 571 14250 8
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... behind the great figures of Modernist English literature, radical reactionaries to a man (Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis) though not, as it happens, to a Bloomsbury woman. The advent of WilliamMorris was the point where this ambiguous lineage finally joined the modern world. Morris was of course quite as much a neo-medievalist as Carlyle or Ruskin; but his achievement was to take the ...

Character Building

Peter Campbell

9 June 1994
Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernity 
by Jerome McGann.
Princeton, 196 pp., £25, July 1993, 0 691 06985 9
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Letters from the People 
by Lee Friedlander.
Cape, 96 pp., £75, August 1993, 9780224032957
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Margins and Marginality 
by Evelyn Tribble.
Virginia, 194 pp., $35, December 1993, 0 8139 1472 8
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... Books, too, have a body language. But does the way they are physically presented impinge in any significant way on the texts they contain? Jerome McGann reckons that the private press movement (WilliamMorris and his followers) was an agent in the rise of Modernist poetry, and goes on to make large claims for the ability of poetry in the Modernist tradition to unknot linguistic and philosophical ...
18 September 1997
Rare Spirit: A Life of William​ De Morgan 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... William De Morgan’s Life, death and reputation form a curious episode in the history of taste. He died, in 1917, a famous Edwardian novelist, and was almost forgotten. Nearly half a century later he was ...

Deal of the Century

David Thomson: As Ovitz Tells It

7 March 2019
Who Is Michael Ovitz? 
by Michael Ovitz.
W.H. Allen, 372 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 7535 5336 7
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... and the agents guessed that the stars would be incapable of looking after themselves financially. So they levered their way in and started to ask for more – much more. The key figures were WilliamMorris and Abe Lastfogel (who together formed the WilliamMorris Agency), Phil Berg, Myron Selznick (who found Vivien Leigh for his brother David), Leland Hayward and, most significant, Lew Wasserman ...

At the V&A

T.J. Clark: ‘The Cult of Beauty’

19 May 2011
... of to obstruct the onward march of the world … I have done all I can to impede progress … having put my hand to the plough I invariably look back.’ Or: ‘Every Sunday morning you may think of Morris and me together – he reads a book to me and I make drawings for a big Virgil he is writing – it is to be wonderful and put an end to printing.’ In the V&A you can stand looking at a gold page ...

Living the Life

Andrew O’Hagan

5 October 2016
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency 
by James Andrew Miller.
Custom House, 703 pp., £20, August 2016, 978 0 06 244137 9
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... days torturing people he likes (but says he hates) in order to gain benefits for individuals he hates (but says he loves). In Some Like It Hot, the talent booker, Mr Poliakoff, is on the phone to the WilliamMorris Agency. Standing in his office are Jerry and Joe – Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis – a bass and a saxophone player. Jerry tries to persuade Poliakoff to give them the job – three weeks in ...


Robert Bernard Martin

4 April 1985
The Collected Letters of William Morris. Vol. I: 1848-1880 
edited by Norman Kelvin.
Princeton, 626 pp., £50.30, April 1984, 0 691 06501 2
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... When he first heard of WilliamMorris’s death, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt wrote in his diary, ‘He is the most wonderful man I have known,’ then added more equivocally: ‘unique in this, that he had no thought for anything or person ...

On Jews Walk

Andrew Saint: Eleanor Marx’s Blue Plaque

9 October 2008
... as if from a Veronese balcony. Through some mishap all four speakers were men. The only one with the spunk to sport a red tie and whip up the faithful turned out to be Peter Cormack, formerly of the WilliamMorris Gallery. Cormack reminded us not just of Eleanor’s friendship with Morris but of the continuing corruption of capitalism. After him, Robert Griffiths of the CPB (the ‘G’ got lost some ...

Why can’t he be loved?

Benjamin Kunkel: Houellebecq

20 October 2011
The Map and the Territory 
by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Gavin Bowd.
Heinemann, 291 pp., £17.99, September 2011, 978 0 434 02141 3
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... Michel Houellebecq’ – a drunken misanthrope with the fondness for Thai prostitutes we might expect from the author of Plateforme (2001), and a less expected enthusiasm for the writings of WilliamMorris – becomes the victim of an extravagantly gruesome murder. The Map and the Territory therefore carries out a kind of double self-annihilation: the imagined slaying of the writer called ...

At the David Parr House

Eleanor Birne: There are two histories here

7 November 2019
... Street​ in Cambridge, just off the appealingly scruffy Mill Road, is a narrow street of Victorian terraced houses. In the 1980s my secondary school English teacher lived there: he would drive his Morris Minor out to our village to tell us about books and music and more books. In my mind, Gwydir Street was the sophisticated centre of the urban world. Walk down it now, past the old Dewdrop Inn (a ...


Rosemary Hill

5 December 1991
Gertrude Jekyll 
by Sally Festing.
Viking, 323 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 670 82788 6
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People’s Parks 
by Hazel Conway.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £49.50, August 1991, 0 521 39070 2
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The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day 
edited by Monique Mosser and Georges Teyssot.
Thames and Hudson, 543 pp., £45, May 1991, 0 500 01511 2
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... The woods around London offered some curious sights in the 1840s. To the north in Epping Forest the infant WilliamMorris could be seen riding out in a toy suit of armour, while down in Surrey, in the Tillingbourne Valley, little Gertrude Jekyll was learning to make gunpowder. In the event it was Morris who became the ...
29 November 2001
In Ruins 
by Christopher Woodward.
Chatto, 280 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 9780701168964
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... untouched and, clumsily done, led to the arena becoming an embarrassing lake for some years. By the time Thomas Hardy arrived in the city, already trained as an architect whose sympathies lay with WilliamMorris (‘we are only trustees for those who come after’), the rebuilding of Rome, now the confident capital of Italy, had torn away the ancient fabric, leaving no space for accretions, whether of ...

How to be Green

Mary Douglas

13 September 1990
A Green Manifesto for the 1990s 
by Penny Kemp and Derek Wall.
Penguin, 212 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 14 013272 4
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Social Philosophy and Ecological Scarcity 
by Keekok Lee.
Routledge, 425 pp., £40, September 1989, 0 415 03220 2
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Mother Country 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 261 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15453 0
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Blueprint for a Green Economy 
by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward Barbier.
Earthscan, 192 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 1 85383 066 6
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TheFate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon 
by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 366 pp., £16.95, November 1989, 0 86091 261 2
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Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Barrie and Jenkins, 250 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7126 3489 4
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... good public transport are high priorities. In a diversified countryside with local jobs and cultural opportunities, we will be less tempted to travel at all. The attractive vision explicitly recalls WilliamMorris’s Utopia. With a good laugh at the well-known weaknesses of economic indicators, the authors call for new indicators of economic success and failure. Green policy will abolish unemployment ...

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