The dignity of life, impending loss

Above: Joseph Bazalgette’s Hammersmith Bridge

From a lecture to Hammersmith Socialist Society given by William Morris at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith, on 10th March, 1893:

” “The London County Council, for instance, is not merely a more useful body for the administration of public business than the Metropolitan Board of Works was: it is instinct with a different spirit; and even its general intention to be of use to the citizens and to heed their wishes, has in it a promise of better days, and has already done something to raise the dignity of life in London amongst a certain part of the population, and down to certain classes. Again, who can quarrel with the attempts to relieve the sordidness of civilised town life by the public acquirement of parks and other open spaces, planting of trees, establishment of free libraries and the like? It is sensible and right for the public to push for the attainment of such gains.”…

…As Morris became weaker he gazed at the world around him with a new intensity, defending his familiar landscapes and loved buildings with a fierceness arising from the sense of his impending loss. The twelve mediaeval statues on the spire of St Mary’s Church in Oxford; the fifteenth-century church built in flint on the marshland at Blythburgh in Suffolk; the interior of Peterborough Cathedral; the north-west tower of Chichester; Rouen, the superb cathedral where attempts at restoration would be “much on a level with a fifth form boy’s Latin verses set against a passage of the Aeneid“: these were all campaigns of Morris’s last three years…”

Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Eighteen: Hammersmith, Two: 1893-96

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