Books: The Gothic Socialist

WILLIAM MORRIS, HIS LIFE, WORK AND FRIENDS by Philip Henderson. 388 pages. McGraw-Hill. $9.95.

Karl Marx was very rude about people like William Morris, the poet, artist-craftsman and social revolutionary. "Christian Socialism," he wrote in the Communist Manifesto, "is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat."

It was an unfair, but not altogether untrue summary of Morris' lifelong attempt to replant some of the virtues of medieval Christendom into the sooty soil of 19th century England.

Morris' new biography, written with sympathetic irony, draws on J. W. Mackail's exhaustive work of 1899 and adds psychological material...

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