Sunday, 18 March 2012

How to Take Morris Forwards

I’ve just finished Martin Crick’s History of the William Morris Society 1955-2005, a wonderfully researched volume which makes an always instructive and at times quite gripping read. Since it’s surely the fullest account of Society activities up to 2005 that we’re ever going to get, it might be worth highlighting his conclusions at the end of the book.

1. Despite the Society’s announced intention to explore the contemporary relevance of Morris, “it is in this area that I would suggest the Society has been least successful”. Apart from certain issues of the Journal and one or two Kelmscott lectures, Crick writes, “one searches in vain for attempts to assess Morris’s work or thought in relation to contemporary concerns” (p.220), although he does then concede that there have been events addressing issues such as work or the environment from a Morrisian perspective.

2. “There has been little discussion of his political legacy ... surveys of the membership have suggested that there is considerable interest in his political activities and their relevance to the present day ... one might suggest that if the Society wants to expand its membership it should pay more attention to contemporary debates and Morris’s relevance to them” (p.221).

3. “Links with Further and Higher Education are practically non-existent...” (p.222).

So there you are: Martin Crick’s words, not mine. It may be that the Morris Society has remedied these lacunae - the contemporary, politics, post-18 education - since 2005 or it may be that these are valuable recommendations to which it now needs to give due weight.