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Next Talk: 'The Earthly Paradises of William Morris' a Royal Institute of Philosophy talk given by Chris Bainbridge on Tuesday 08 January 2019


                              Chris Bainbridge



William Morris (1834-96) was a poet, craftsman, environmentalist, and maker of fine books. His influence is still strong today. There can hardly be a middle class home in Britain that doesn’t have a Morris pattern, on curtains, wallpaper, chairs, carpets, even dresses and shirts. He wrote of several “earthly paradises”, including an epic poem of that name, influenced by Norse sagas and medieval legends. But I want to focus on “News from Nowhere”, a “utopian romance” published at the end of the 1880s, when Morris was a committed revolutionary socialist. A thinly disguised Morris goes to sleep in his Hammersmith home and wakes up in the same place in 2102. The influences of Plato, Thomas More and Karl Marx are very strong, but there are also shades of lighter works such as Three Men in a Boat, Wind in the Willows and even Mills and Boon, with some surprising descriptions of places that will be very familiar to Barnes people. News from Nowhere has been called the only English utopia since Thomas More that qualifies as literature. I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the ideas expressed in it, and assess their relevance today.