William Morris

Art and Socialism (as reported in Justice)


On Wednesday, the 23rd, Mr. Morris delivered an address on "Art and Socialism," at the Secularist Hall, Leicester, Mr. Wright, the President of the Secular Society, occupying the chair.

The address was well received by a full audience, which in the main was middle-class. All the more definitely socialistic parts were heartily applauded by a portion of the audience. The prevailing idea throughout the address was that popular art, or the pleasure of life, is neglected in modern civilisation, and that refinement is injured by the loss on the one hand, while on the other labour is deprived of all attractiveness that this condition of want of art is essential to the present system of manufacturing for profit, and that true refinement and pleasure in work can only be attained by a social revolution which should abolish all classes.

The lecturer ended with a direct appeal to support the Democratic Federation as the only body in England which puts forward constructive socialism as its programme.

The Chairman invited discussions, and a few questions were put as to what means the Democratic Federation would use for bringing about the change: whether it would not be necessary to educate people before agitation was begun; and who was to do the dirty work of the world under a socialised state of society? One of the audience, a working man, said that he feared if the workman tried to make his work light his employer would soon make it heavy for him and prevent his taking any pleasure in it.

The chairman moved a vote of thanks, which was seconded by Mr. Hopps, who, however, treated the lecture as a literary feat, and did not agree with its conclusions. A gentleman. who stood up to support the vote, repudiated with some indignation the idea that the lecturer was not fully in earnest. The lecturer, in replying to the vote of thanks, complained of being treated as merely a poet, and said that he should consider that he insulted an audience by speaking to them merely to tickle their ears, that he intended to give expression to practical views on Socialism, which he looked upon as a cause to be supported with his whole heart.

Bibliographical Note


Art and Socialism (as reported by Justice)


Justice, Saturday 02 February 1884, p. 7


The text of the lecture was later printed as a pamphlet.