Rewilding Morris: Wilderness and the Wild in the Last Romances

Authored by: Phillippa Bennett

The Routledge Companion to William Morris

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9780415347433
eBook ISBN: 9781315229416
Adobe ISBN:


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In William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890), Old Hammond describes England as ‘a garden, where nothing is wasted and nothing is spoilt’. His companion Guest, a time traveller from the nineteenth century who has already been entertained with a brief tour of twenty-second-century London, questions this description. ‘One thing, it seems to me, does not go with your word of “garden” for this country’, he observes; ‘you have spoken of wastes and forests, and I myself have seen the beginnings of your Middlesex and Essex forest. Why do you keep such things in a garden? And isn’t it very wasteful to do so?’ The explanation Old Hammond offers is that, as a society, Nowherians ‘like these pieces of wild nature and can afford them, so we have them; let alone that as to the forests, we need a great deal of timber, and suppose that our sons and sons’ sons will do the like.’ 1 The wild thus has its place in Nowhere, serving both an aesthetic and a practical function. It meets, as Paul Meier observes, ‘a dominating and impelling human need to draw from nature the means of existence as well as visual pleasure and healthy well-being’. 2 Living in an age in which, Morris claimed, ‘if the air and the sunlight and the rain could have been bottled up and monopolized for the profit of the individual it would have been’, it is no surprise that his vision of the future is one in which humanity has found a more appreciative and constructive engagement with the natural world. 3

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