When we think of William Morris today, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the wallpaper to which he lends his name. And why not? “Strawberry Thief,” “African Marigold,” “Willow,” “Windrush”—the designs of Morris & Co., most of which are still commercially available, are among the glories of interior decoration, ranking with Iznik tiles of the sixteenth century for their combination of sumptuousness and restraint. But Morris had a mind-boggling range of interests and talents, and a level of energy to match.

Morris was a prominent figure on the artistic and literary scene in London when Yeats was getting his start, and the poet might have had Morris in mind when he wrote, “Some burn damp faggots, others may consume/ The entire combustible world in one small room . . . ” Another great Victorian, Thomas...


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