Friday, 22 March 2013

William Morris's birthday

-  179 on Sunday 24 March
At 4.00pm  a blue plaque is being re-unveiled on Walthamstow Fire Station, close to his childhood home, followed by tea and songs at his next home now the William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park.
It was then a different place, as his daughter wrote: a 'middle class world on the edge of London’  where he was "was brought up in an atmosphere of intelligent housekeeping of the old style – home-made beer and bread, real butter and real cream … and the best of everything for home consumption bought carefully at special shops who knew their customers personally … there were well-stocked gardens and orchards, horses and cows and pigs and poultry  … the place a model of the self-supporting unit of country life, without pretence of fashion…"

Here, Morris, who greatly enjoyed his food, fondly recalled
"Everyday fare in such an English home: the creams and wine-jellies and syllabubs, the pleasant home-made wines, the sweet-cured hams, the fine desserts of peaches from sunny walls and filberts from the nut-walks…"

But this world 
"Seemed to trouble little about the industrial struggle raging outside their quiet round … anything that ruffled the fair surface of that lake of prosperity and its creeds and loyalties was naturally viewed with uneasiness.  The Chartists were ruffians. Christian socialists were not true Christians... Despite the men of thought and vision who were wearing their hearts out over the problems of the changing world, the prosperous had no touch of the historic sense that could enable them to look back into the past nor to foresee the future; the present was solid reality, the world of change was not their world.  ‘The poor you have always with you’ explained most of the misery they encountered."

The reason William Morris is still so inspirational today, in his hometown and around the globe, is just this historic sense linking past and future.  Because he became such an eloquent  campaigner for a better, fairer, greener,  simpler, enjoyable world under socialist principles, we forget that he came into British public life only in his 40s – firstly with the heritage cause, preserving the best of the historic environment, and secondly against military intervention overseas.
The first Afghan campaign of 1840 was a disastrous painful memory, but Britain in the 1870s about to send the Army abroad once again.   In his appeal To The Workingmen of England,  William Morris attacked  Unjust War and its proponents:
"Let us look at these saviours of England's honour ... Do you know them? - Greedy gamblers on the Stock Exchange, idle officers of the army and navy (poor fellows!), desperate purveyors of exciting war-news for the comfortable breakfast tables of those who have nothing to lose by war, and lastly, in place of honour, the Tory [government]  that we fools, weary of peace, reason, justice, chose at the last election to 'represent' us!
0 shame and double shame, if we march under such a leadership as this, in an unjust war against a people who are not our enemies … against freedom, against nature, against the hope of the world."

A good reason to celebrate William Morris and his birthday.
[On this occasion, incidentally, Stop the War protests succeeded....]

PS.   another reason to celebrate:   the William Morris Gallery has just [4 June 2013]  been awarded the NAF Art Fund 'Museum of the Year' prize of  £100k   ! 
a big tribute to the activities as well as the building and displays renovation

No comments:

Post a Comment