William Morris?

Tony Regit

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William Morris is often cited as influencing modern fantasy, and I was wondering if there were fantasy writers over the past century who stated that Morris was an influence -- or at least that they read him? Oscar Wilde, E.R. Eddison, W.B. Yeats, Tolkien and Lewis all cited him as influences, but I haven't come across direct references to him in interviews or essays by other fantasy authors. I'd be curious if anyone had any sources for his direct influence (rather than the "inventor of secondary worlds" tag that is often used since Lin Carter).
 

The Big Peat

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To the best of my knowledge - and I write blog articles detailing fantasy authors' influences so while I could be wrong I've genuinely looked for answers to this sort of question - no. At least not influenced. Read, probably, but people rarely mention every author they've read.
 

Dave

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Before he joined the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris was a Pre-Raphaelite, which had first begun earlier as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. One founding member was Christina Rossetti (who later wrote Goblin Market,) although she probably left this avant-garde movement to return to Catholicism before he joined it.

I don't know much else about the literary ideas of these people, and only slightly more about their ideas about art, architecture and textiles, but they all knew of each other, would meet in loose associations, and shared their ideas. However, this from Wikipedia:

the brotherhood's early doctrines, as defined by William Michael Rossetti, were expressed in four declarations:

  1. to have genuine ideas to express;
  2. to study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  3. to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote; and
  4. most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Also this from Wikipedia:

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery has a world-renowned collection of works by Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites that, some claim, strongly influenced the young J. R. R. Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with influences taken from the same mythological scenes portrayed by the Pre-Raphaelites. Tolkien considered his own group of school friends and artistic associates, the so-called TCBS, as a group in the vein of the Pre-Raphaelites.

 

BAYLOR

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The Well at the End of World. That's the only book ive read by him . It's a great book and one of the finest fantasy novels ive ever read. :cool:
 

Dave

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I never knew that William Morris wrote anything. I'm surprised that he had the time.

Again from Wikipedia:
Although the novel is relatively obscure by today's standards, it has had a significant influence on many notable fantasy authors. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien both seem to have found inspiration in The Well at the World's End: ancient tables of stone, "King Gandolf," a "King Peter," and a quick, white horse named "Silverfax," an obvious inspiration for "Shadowfax," are only a few. Lewis was sufficiently enamoured with Morris that he wrote an essay on that author, first read to an undergraduate society at Oxford University called the Martlets and later published in the collection of essays called Rehabilitations.

"Gandolf", "Silverfax" and "King Peter"! (y)

Rehabilitations and other Essays Lewis, C. S.. London, Oxford University Press (UK) Height 8 5/8" (1939) first printing

It is available from the usual second hand booksellers for about $25. The table of contents shows that William Morris is the subject of the second essay.

Shelley, Dryden, and Mr. Eliot
William Morris
The idea of an "English school."--Our English syllabus
High and low brows
The alliterative metre
Bluspels and flalansferes: a semantic nightmare
Variation in Shakespeare and others
Christianity and literature.

The essay "The Alliterative Metre" includes a mention of an unpublished text by J.R.R. Tolkien.
 

Extollager

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It's possible that Sebastian Evans was influenced by Morris when Evans translated the Perlesvaus as The High History of the Holy Graal. You can read about that book in the posting below and some subsequent ones. This takes us to a work published more than a century ago, but hope it's OK to mention it. I think there's a fair chance it would interest readers who like Morris, but I realize I'm getting away from the original posting.

 

Fiberglass Cyborg

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I'm aware that he did write fantasy fiction, but it doesn't seem to have been reprinted much. I think it's more a case of him influencing a few key early 20th century writers who turned out to be massively influential in their turn.
 

BAYLOR

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I'm aware that he did write fantasy fiction, but it doesn't seem to have been reprinted much. I think it's more a case of him influencing a few key early 20th century writers who turned out to be massively influential in their turn.

The Balantine Adult Fantasy series of the late 1960's early. 70 repented The Well at the End of the World and his other fantasy works
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I have always been drawn to his work as an artist and designer (an interest shared with my youngest daughter, who is very craft-y but not at all literary)—as well as some of the other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts and Crafts movement in general, but somehow, though I did try reading some of his fantasy back in the 1970s, I never felt a real connection with his writing. He was writing about things that should have interested me—that did interest me deeply in other writers and other contexts—but there was something about his style or his approach that put me off. In general, I am not put off by difficult prose—if I have loved books by writers like Peake and Eddison, why should the challenges of Morris's medieval-style prose dismay me?—but I think it was the emotional tone, or rather the lack of this, that made his prose seem not worth the effort to me. His writing felt too dry for my personal taste.

Which is something that has always made me feel rather sad, since I would have liked to love his writing, his artistic talents were so prodigious and I admire his dedication to his whole aesthetic philosophy.
 

Toby Frost

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I've not read any Morris, but a while ago I heard a BBC adaptation of his Socialist SF novel News From Nowhere. It was gentle and rural and rather didactic, if I remember rightly. Interesting ideas, but not a lot of plot.
 

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