William Morris

Art and Labour (MIA introduction)

Morris used this talk in different ways over the ten-year span from 1884 to 1894. It was first delivered to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in April of 1884. The manuscript for this version survives (in Yale University Library), and was later used as the basis for the article Relations of Art to Labour, published in 1890 by the Co-operative Society. The Co-operative Society, however, did not print the political conclusions of the talk.

Morris seems to have found the first version too long for his regular talks, and soon replaced the first, more historical section, with a shorter introduction. This also survives as a separate manuscript (in the British Library). He gave this shorter version of the talk five times during the autumn of 1884, including once at Preston under the alternate title A Socialist's View of Art and Labour.

The next major outing for the talk was in December 1884 at Glasgow, with an audience numbering in the thousands. For this Morris rewrote the whole talk, shortening and simplifying it. The manuscript for this third version is also in the British Library, and was reprinted in Eugene LeMire's collection of Morris's unpublished lectures. Morris repeated the new version in Bristol in 1885, and possibly one final time in London in 1886 (the talk was advertised but there is no record of it being given).

Morris gave one final version of the talk eight years later, to graduating lithographers at the Guild of Lithographic Artists. The only records of this are relatively short newspaper reports, from which it appears to be a fourth variant.

Bibliographical Note


Art and Labour


  1. Versions 1 and 2
    1. 1 April 1884: before the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society at the Philosophical Hall, Leeds
    2. 18 May 1884: to the Marylebone Branch of the DF at 95 Hampstead Road, Hampstead
    3. 17 August 1884: before the Hammersmith Branch of the SDF at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith
    4. 14 September 1884: to the Sheffield Secular Society
    5. 21 September 1884: at a meeting sponsored by the Ancoats Recreation Committee at the New Islington Hall, Ancoats, Manchester
    6. 22 October 1884: As "A Socialist's View of Art and Labour" to the Eclectic Society at the Percy St. Unitarian Chapel, Preston
    7. 16 November 1884: at a meeting sponsored by the Newcastle Branch of the SDF in the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle
  2. Version 3
    1. 14 December 1884: before the Sunday Society at St Andrew's Hall, Glasgow to an audience of around 3,000
    2. 3 March 1885: at a meeting sponsored by the Bristol Branch of the SL at the Bristol Museum and Library
    3. 12 May 1886: at a meeting sponsored by the Clerkenwell (Central) Branch of the SL at Farringdon Road, London
  3. Version 4
    1. 26 February 1894: to the Guild of Lithographic Artists in Clerkenwell, London

Publication history


The text by Alan Bacon gives a detailed history of the talk, which these notes are based on, but does not include the 1894 delivery. This is currently only known from newspaper reports but appears to have been based on a largely rewritten text.


Graham Seaman for MIA

Last edited

July 2020