William Morris and THE Literature and Socialism of the Commonweal

Authored by: Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

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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William Morris edited, supported, and wrote for the Socialist League’s newspaper Commonweal from 1885 to 1890, and during these years the publication carved out a distinct position within the broader world of late-nineteenth-century socialism. Characterized by its disavowal of party politics, its visionary utopianism, its emphasis on the literary and the aesthetic, and its refusal to view the natural world as detached from human social change, the Commonweal’s particular version of socialism owed much to Morris’s contributions in poetry and prose. This chapter offers an overview of Morris’s major literary writings for the Commonweal, including the serial poem The Pilgrims of Hope and the long prose romances A Dream of John Ball and News from Nowhere. While providing historical background on the Commonweal and synthesizing various critics’ accounts of Morris’s literary achievements within its pages, I will emphasize how Morris’s literary contributions to the journal established the peculiarly expansive, ecologically-minded version of nineteenth-century socialism that defined the Socialist League.

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