morris’s works and legacy


Morris wrote constantly and with great variety throughout his life, producing poetry, prose romances, translations, essays, and journalism. His deep love for medieval history and stories and the objects, buildings, and landscapes of the past are common themes throughout his writings, as is a yearning for a more just, equitable, and artistically-minded society.

Morris was well-known as a poet in his lifetime. Some of his earliest poems and prose stories were published in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, a periodical he founded with friends from the University of Oxford. In the 1860s and 1870s, he wrote a number of long narrative poems, including The Earthly Paradise, The Life and Death of Jason, and Love Is Enough. He also wrote many individual shorter poems and lyrics throughout his life.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Morris turned to writing prose romances, drawing inspiration from medieval literature, history, Germanic and Nordic myths and sagas, and his dreams for a better future. Stories such as The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End were precursors to modern fantasy literature, influencing writers such as JRR Tolkien. Today, Morris’s most famous literary work is the utopian prose romance News from Nowhere, which tells the story of a Victorian man transported to a future Socialist England.

Beginning in the 1870s, Morris also wrote extensively on art, design, history, and politics. After becoming a Socialist in the early 1880s, he edited the periodical Commonweal, wrote Socialist commentaries, and also turned his literary attention to the cause, producing works such as News from Nowhere and the lyric collection Chants for Socialists.

Image: William Morris, “Willow Boughs”, wallpaper, 1887. Brooklyn Museum.

William Morris’s Literature

Learn More

Read an in-depth summary of Morris’s writing by scholar Florence Boos: “Morris as Author: Poet, Essayist, Journalist, Translator, and Utopian and Fantasy Writer”

Browse articles in the Journal of William Morris Studies about Morris’s literature and other writings.

Visit the William Morris Archive, a digital scholarly edition of the poetry and selected prose of William Morris.

More resources on Morris’s literature and other writings.

Read more about Morris’s design and political thought.