"A Guest in the Future: News from Nowhere."

by Norman Talbot

Norman Talbot, "A Guest in the Future: News from Nowhere." Socialism and the Literary Artistry of William Morris, eds. Florence S. Boos and Carole G. Silver. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1990. 38–60.

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          William Morris was the first great English man of letters to declare himself a Communist, and to devote his extraordinary talents to changing the hearts and minds of his countrymen in preparation for the revolution. This study of News from Nowhere, while acknowledging the book's honorable membership in the category of utopian fiction, is concerned with another and profounder aspect of its achievement, its use of the narrator-protagonist.
          In 1887 Morris had written Nupkins Awakened, the first English example of agitprop.[1] Influenced by medieval pageant-drama, the play has obvious weaknesses and genuine strengths. The heroine's two big set-piece speeches have a plain eloquence akin to the slightly earlier time-travel novella A Dream of John Ball, and the exuberant farce of the trial scene of the first act is still enjoyable. In several aspects, including the necessary placing of the revolution proper between the two acts, the play has an illuminating kinship with News. [2] Not the least of these aspects are the consciously Dickensian title (or subtitle, since it was staged as The Tables Turned, or Nupkins Awakened) and the paradoxically sympathetic presentation of Nupkins in the second act. The revolution complete, Nupkins wanders England's green and pleasant land, still enmeshed in his assumptions about security, power, and property, a useless lackey in a world with no employment for lackeys. This elderly alien represents a link between the images of Scrooge amid Christmas cheer and William Guest and Ellen's grandfather amid the renewed innocence of Nowhere. A recent descendant is the Beggar-man, in Tirin's play of that name, in Ursula K. Le Guin's "ambiguous utopia" The Dispossessed. [3]
          Nupkins Awakened shows most of the limitations of agitprop. Such plays have a palpable design upon us and our convictions, and depend on the collective and assenting responses of a crowd. Thus it has a rather repulsive clarity, because it fulfills precisely its explicit tendencies and possibilities. Such work becomes almost lifeless to the reader, who has no fellows to join in communal assent or resolution.
          Morris was also well acquainted with the other extreme of literary affect, since his reputation was made by The Life and Death of Jason and The Earthly Paradise. These expansive works were accepted as balm for weary minds, to console and entertain those enervated by commercial and social strivings (and their unconscious accompaniment of self-disgust). News from Nowhere makes explicit both the opposed principles, agitprop and consolation, in its rich and vigorous treatment of the protagonist and the consequent responses of its audience.
          It may seem, to very traditional literary critics, a dubious matter to generalize about how the audience of a book responds to it. However, the exercise is illuminating, not only in terms of propaganda effects but also the implied, encoded or specifically putative reader, invoked and evoked by the text. [4] The reader of News is a socialist, one of the tiny band of subscribers to Commonweal, and no author can have had a clearer idea of his specific audience, nor they of him. The encoded reader knows a substantial amount about Morris, relishes the open secret that the narrator and protagonist is Morris, and regards him, literally, as a comrade.
          It is impossible to get to the energy-core of News without recognizing its author's special availability. Far from being "extra-literary," his presence has an obvious influence on the text. Nor, though it does cater to the pleasure of unsophisticated readers, is the effect of this influence necessarily a simple one. By definition, a utopia is an extreme form of fictional lying, of projected opinion and emotion, what is called a "wish-fulfillment," which means a synthesis of the principles of agitprop and consolation. Morris delights in this amphibious form of fiction, and in making a totally honest, vulnerable journey out of it. The sublime frustration of wish-fulfillment in News, addressed like the whole of the frame-tale to socialists weary of strife and division, consoles and enheartens them as a "happy ending" could not. Guest is back among us, more resolute than ever.
          It is no part of this essay's purpose to evaluate sources, but there can be no doubt that Bellamy's Looking Backward was an immediate stimulus to News. [5] Morris's important review of the book in 1889, in Commonweal of course, makes not only the adverse points about a mechanistic world that any reader of Morris would expect, but also some profound points about how to read utopias. The only safe way to do so, he says," is to consider it as the expression of the temperament of the author"; Bellamy's temperament is "the unmixed modern one, unhistoric and unartistic." The review is intensely aware of the implied reader as well as the concealed author, and of how dangerous for naive readers the wrong utopia can be, whether or not they feel themselves to be identifiable as the implied reader. If the vision displeases them, such readers may accept the work as prophecy and turn away from many good and valuable tasks, disheartened. If the vision pleases them, on the other hand, they may accept the work as a conclusive statement of facts and rule for action, thus warping their own faith and actions by accepting "all its necessary errors and fallacies (which such a book must abound in)."
          It is clear that Morris distinguished between prophetic vision, which is true in its own terms, and prediction, true in external terms. In News he therefore lays out his own vision as a personal story on a highly personal map. The map is reassuring and recognitive for the implied reader, but it also insists on the subjectivity of the journey. The enduring vitality of News is partly due to our knowledge that Guest is "really" Morris, and partly to the resultant confidence that we can identify-and choose whether or not to be identified with-his experiences and reactions.
          The first chapter of News offers a small maze of misleadings, none of them capable of bewildering such old friends and perceptive socialists as us, the encoded readership. The storyteller quotes a "friend" who relates what happened to somebody else again, a fellow member of the Socialist League. Since there are as many opinions in the League as there are members, it is amusing, but by no means difficult, to work out which one would have "finished by roaring out very loud, and damning all the rest for fools" (p. 3). The friend says the roarer is "a man whom he knows very well indeed," and proves it by making genial, confident fun of him, exactly as one laughs at oneself.
          The blurring of friend into roarer is accomplished by well-placed and half-ambiguous "he" pronouns, until they can overtly become one, in the last sentence of the chapter:

But, says he, I think it would be better if I told them [the adventures] in the first person, as if it were I myself who had gone through them; which, indeed, will be the easier and the more natural to me since I understand the feelings and desires of the comrade of whom I am telling better than anyone else in the world does. (p. 5)

          Our own shrewdness in perceiving this as a mere autobiographical fantasy, an obviously suspect wish-fulfillment, cajoles us into building an intimate portrait of the "I" whose lifestyle, tastes, and expectations present Nowhere. We can tell ourselves to relax and enjoy the story because we "understand the feelings and desires" of our comrade very well. Our expanded self-esteem paradoxically encourages us to share the hopes and fears of the narrator: a professional novelist might deceive us, but not good old unsubtle William Morris!
          Our world of division, disappointment and spiritual discontent (not unmixed with guilt) is left behind for an unpretentious dream whose motive power is a prayer: "If I could but see a day of it; if I could but see it!" (p. 2). Like many a dreamer, our narrator is partly objective about what he sees and seeks to understand, but his subjective responses are so convincing, so literally lifelike, that they actually increase the believability of the dream. The most convincing aspect of the encoded reader's induced ad hominem logic is the knowledge that this Nowhere is precisely what the dreamer needs. That is, it is the wish-fulfillment we immediately suspected when the frame-narrator who says "says a friend" disappears.
          Nothing much is going on in Nowhere. As in our world, if Guest had begun by ordering Dick to "take me to your leader" there could have been no response. He has arrived at the easiest, most idyllic time of the year, in a luxuriously fine June at the hay harvest, so that he can contribute nothing obvious to the world that he enters. There are no great people and events. Nobody needs him-as far as they know.
          He needs them, of course. The human dimension, the individual as measure, is the only way of testing a society; indeed, it defines society. After the withering away of the state, social authority and personal freedom are no longer antithetical but synthesized. Guest wants to know, intellectually, how this synthesis came about, since most people where he came from couldn't believe in its inevitability. Even Guest can't do so, which is why he needs the epoch of rest this new "reality" offers. And that is why that "reality" is so convincing to us.
          Nowhere's first delight is physical and sensory, but the physique and senses are those of Morris. They tell him that this is a utopia thoroughly worth living in. His incomprehension of the waterman not only enables us to laugh a little but also tells us that this world will be difficult to contribute to. Guest needs this epoch, not as an earnest of personal rewards but because he claims to be angrier, more frustrated, even more discouraged than fellow Leaguers, and therefore temperamentally more vulnerable than his reader. When he returns to being William Morris, refreshed and wholehearted, he refreshes and enheartens his reader.
          If the greatest poverty is not to live in the physical world, as Stevens says, Morris is the wealthiest man in history. He offers the phenomena of being alive with clarity, simplicity, and directness; authenticity is guaranteed by humor and sensory alertness. The book is designed to enliven the reader's awareness of the world we already have, as well as the one it might become.
          The emotions are not skilled workers, however, so intensity is a mixed blessing. In Nowhere one form of competition still degenerates into conflict: sexual desire can ravage even paradise. In other respects human fellowship is supreme: commodities are made when someone wants to make them or needs them, and external nature and social imagination can be identified one with the other. But sex is neither a commodity nor merely an objective natural fact. Apart from this, alienation is rare, and few things can obstruct the joy of being alive, the satisfaction of contributing oneself to the folk. Even the occasional naysayer, who mistrusts everything the rest like, is free to do so and can even be a stimulating element. Ellen's grandfather, for example, is one reason why she (unlike most of those around her) realizes that the world's and humanity's beauty may stand in need of defense.
          The epoch of rest grew out of bad times, culminating in a very bloody revolution and a difficult period of physical and social remaking. Times and challenges just as grievous may be ahead-though no one seriously expects them. In any case, sufficient unto the day is the good thereof; the folk take no thought for the morrow except to plan the next festival and anticipate the next winter. Neither beauty nor work is taken for granted; the former is the object of a thousand endeavors, conspicuous or humble, while the latter is savored and saved up. The lifestyle of Nowhere, and those who live it, are a dream come true.
          Well, of course they are a dream come true. Those are the only terms in which we could accept them. We are encouraged to accept not only specific Morrisian wish-fulfillments but also the Morrisian locations where they become evident. We read News knowingly, as Morris's book, and every detail is potentially ironic.
          The term is meant literally; we are offered two recognitions at once: "how beautiful and sensible" is immediately joined by "how exactly right for poor old Morris!" The reader becomes a co-conspirator with Nowhere, anticipating how it will next ratify and clarify the narrator's wildest dreams. As soon as the winter of his discontent is invaded by a feeling of simple pleasure, we can predict that winter will be transformed into glorious summer. What the narrator believes in principle unfolds before him in fact, to his astonishment; we are a jump ahead, less astonished, and able to nod patronizingly." Obvious wish-fulfillment," we mutter, just as we are meant to. Behind the stalking-horse of his lovably unthreatening personality, Morris controls our every response.
          We know, then, who Guest really is, where he lives (we've probably attended a meeting in the old coachhouse) and what he believes in. Nothing he hopes for will surprise us. Every correlation delights and privileges us; perhaps especially, as among those commemorated, we are touched to see the plaque in the Guest house (which part of our mind accepts as Morris's Kelmscott House, so that Guest-Hall equals Morris-Hall): "Guests and neighbours, on the site of this Guest-Hall once stood the lecture-room of the Hammersmith Socialists. Drink a glass to the memory! May 1962." [6]
          The frisson of the autobiographical utopia is there, but it has become the reader's frisson. Where we expect to see Morris's name we see our own. All Guest's supposed "wandering," quite unlike that of any other utopian viewpoint character, is as locatively perfect and inevitable as this; his journey must follow his longing, and the reader recognizes every step. Guest determinedly collects "objective" history, but we instantly correlate it with his personal history. The enduring vitality of the book is not in its ideas alone but in the structuring self that lives them and is identified with them. Instead of a stock wandering enquirer we have a dreamer fulfilled, exploring with delight all that fulfills him. . . . And losing it.
          The poignancy of the love affair with Ellen, so unlike the sentimental "love interest" in predecessors like Looking Backward, A Crystal Age and Erewhon, leads us to the final pages in which the frame-tale rather than the dream is fulfilled, and the dreamer is emptied of narrative hope. The law of the conservation of fictional energy, it seems, is that whatever wishes you have put into your fantasy must be taken out at the end. Indeed, to write a fantasy to escape self-knowledge is like taking an express train to escape from railway lines.


          The meeting with the waterman is where Guest's consciousness enters Nowhere, as his body is rather briefly baptized in the new Thames. With vigorous directness that meeting drowns the assumptions of the class society to which Morris and his implied reader have become forcibly habituated. Guest seems to be a confused, illogical old eccentric to Dick and a trembling, half-adoring, half panic-stricken alien to himself. But what does he seem to us?
          As guests in his longings, which have begotten a world superficially alien to him but which we already know to be his own, self-projected, we watch Morris turn into Guest with fascination and sympathy. Yet we also smile, because we see into the nature of things in Nowhere far more quickly than Guest. This is the inbuilt privilege of the spectator and the core of dramatic irony.
          Dick is the first and representative Nowherian, casually nonintellectual but obviously on the best of terms with art, craft, and high culture as well as with his muscles and their proper uses. In this first meeting he makes a score of benevolent assumptions about Guest that must be accepted with mingled bewilderment and gratitude. He is also utopia's agent in identifying, in a naive and unthreatening way, many of the assumptions about the nature of human community that Guest is soon glad to abandon. We, in turn, see Guest's assumptions from the outside while employing his bad guesses and specific mistakes to test our exploratory skills, without losing faith in him or ceasing to respect his unique relationship with the world of Nowhere, so we soon become eager for Dick to respect and accept him, too.
          Dick later develops a fascinating relationship with the idea of spiritual childhood, of being born again, but in these early pages Nowhere calls forth distinct child-aspects of Guest, which are urgently needed since his own time has aged him (as he begins to realize) unnaturally fast. A shocking question about his age is engendered by a conceptual discussion about his birthplace near Epping Forest, but subconsciously by the smell of balm: "Its strong, sweet smell brought back to my mind my very early days in the kitchen-garden at Woodford, and the large blue plums which grew on the wall behind the sweet-herb patch-a connection of memories which all boys will see at once" (p. 17). The smell-taste stimulus (long before Proust) brings back intense and protective delight in the physical world, which leads to his incautious reminiscence. This naive time traveler needs our amused sympathy as well as that of the Nowherians.
          Without self-conscious commentary, Morris continually lays himself open to our understanding, so that Guest can be seen binocularly, as unique and "real" as well as representative of us, those who live in the prerevolutionary world. It is impossible to suspect Morris of bad authorial faith when he is overtly so much less shrewd than we, so we travel gladly into London and history as his allies, while also imaginatively receiving him into his kingdom and longing to explain it all to him. We cling gratefully to the rules of politeness to elderly and confused strangers, as Guest does, while noting for his benefit that a public and communal society involves more respect for privacy than a bourgeois and divided one.
          When Dick takes him to visit Old Hammond, we are amused by our ability to infer that the elderly sage of Bloomsbury may be Morris's own grandson; if so, Dick is also a descendant of his guest, being Hammond's great-grandson. Subliminally, we may wonder if the whole of this blessed society is not descended directly from Morris as well as from the socialist faith of the author and his small band of allies, that is, from the implied reader of News. Just as Dick guides Guest through the physical byways of redeemed London and the Thames Valley with truly filial devotion, so Hammond guides him through the intervening centuries to the when of Nowhere.
          Both journeys are necessarily internal, too, quests for the self and its purposes. At Hammersmith Guest-Morris has found motifs from his own work on the frieze of the Guest-Hall, and quotations from his works in the sleeping-room. The mixture of gruffness and coyness with which these are presented amuses the implied reader (because such a response is intensely Morrisian) as much as the comic self-portrait of the first chapter:

The subjects I recognised at once, and indeed was very particularly familiar with them. (pp. 13-14)

. . . the pale but pure-coloured figures painted on the plaster of the wall, with verses written underneath them which I knew somewhat over-well. (p. 141)

So, the reader acquainted with Morris may murmur, Morris is the forefather of this whole society he is dreaming of, and has at last got the recognition he deserves.
          When the journey up the Thames begins, we know that Morris knows every reach of the river and we feel certain the destination must be either Oxford or his beloved Kelmscott. However, as with our other geographical expectations, we are inexact: what Guest recognizes is not the Thames that Morris knew, but what the Thames should have been. A Platonist might say the Thames is transformed into its true self. If the inward power of the narrative is derived from the sense of the narrator coming home to himself, we wonder, is some similar transformation about to work upon him?
          At the narrative level, Guest knows Dick longest among the Nowherians, and undoubtedly learns from him. Dick's alliance of art, craft, and uninhibited muscle-stretching has already been mentioned, but his combination of instinctive tact and good temper with emotional vulnerability and the capacity for righteous indignation does much to prevent Nowherians from seeming either tedious or effete. Dick's furious disgust in reaction to the question about prisons is striking, but so, in a general context of summer luxury, is the strong emphasis upon his passion and his past emotional failure. His relationship with Clara has been stormy, full of misunderstanding and pain, sexual incompatibility and jealousy, though with Guest as catalyst it promises better days.
          In parallel, and implying Dick's representative stature, a manslaughter has occurred near Reading, and the whole community is still recovering. Guest witnesses the effect Ellen has upon the males who meet her and learns that nothing can prevent the turmoils of romantic love and sexual longing, even when all economic and class-based obstacles are removed.
          This aspect of Nowhere contrasts radiantly with the bland, etiolated love experienced in Looking Backward, where every family is of the upper-middle classes, knowing and speaking to nobody; in that world Edith can only offer a sickly, obsessive love, miraculously answered by Julian's entry from the past. In Morris's work, what Guest learns from Dick, as the admirably normative Nowherian, is a subtler matter.


          Guest has entered a society of humans no longer alienated from the totality of that society, from their work, or from external nature. In spite of the long expositions by Old Hammond, these people may be in danger of alienation from their own history, and it is not clear from Dick's relationship with Clara whether individuals in Nowhere are much better at avoiding alienation from themselves and from individual lovers than the rest of us are. This submerged theme, of potential alienation even within an earthly paradise, contrasts in the Bloomsbury chapters with the historical ballast, and offers itself as an antithesis, intelligible through folk mythology.
          Guest has begun to think of Nowhere as a golden age, but such an age cannot exist either at the beginning or the end of history. It is, rather, always at an angle to history, and always within the imagination of humanity. The childhood of the race occurs many times, and for Morris as for Engels it echoes earlier states. [7] The innocence and openness, the happy physicality of Nowhere, and especially the ability of most individuals to submerge self-consciousness in work and social responses, signals this as a childhood of the race, and the Bloomsbury chapters link this matter to the questions raised by an art-life dichotomy.
          Old Hammond has emphasized that Nowhere's attitude to work is that of an artist, but his description is also applicable to an engrossed child:

"All work now is pleasurable: either because of the hope of gain in honour and wealth with which the work is done, which causes pleasurable excitement, even when the actual work is not pleasant; or else it has grown into a pleasurable habit, as is the case with what you may call mechanical work; and lastly (and most of our work is of this kind) because there is conscious sensuous pleasure in the work itself: it is done, that is, by artists." (p. 92)

It is not clear what is meant by "wealth" in this sentence (we can be sure it does not mean "riches"), but the boyish self-satisfaction with which Dick regards his metalwork and anticipates his mowing and road mending exemplifies the third and second clauses.
          The child, born in travail but now deeply enchanted by learning, work, and play alike, is part of the deep structure of News. Leading Guest to dinner in the Bloomsbury Market Hall, Clara takes his hand "as an affectionate child would" (p. 99), leaving her reconciled ex-husband and her dear counselor Hammond to follow "as they pleased." As so often in Morris, the body-language introduces the art-language. Guest looks at the murals in the hall: "I saw at a, glance that their subjects were taken from queer old-world myths and imaginations which in yesterday's world only about half a dozen people in the country knew anything about" (p. 100).

His surprise surprises his companions. Hammond says,

          "I don't see why you should be surprised; everybody knows the tales; and they are graceful and pleasant subjects, not too tragic for a place where people mostly eat and drink and amuse themselves, and yet full of incident."
          I smiled and said: "Well, I scarcely expected to find record of the Seven Swans and the King of the Golden Mountain and Faithful Henry and such curious pleasant imaginings as Jacob Grimm got together from the childhood of the world, barely lingering even in his time: I should have thought you would have forgotten such childishness by this time." (p. 100)
          The reader is invited to disapprove of this backhanded version of a pleasurable recognition. Dick is surprised too, and a little insulted:           "What do you mean, Guest? I think them very beautiful, I mean not only the pictures but the stories; and when we were children we used to imagine them going on in every wood-end, by the bight of every stream: every house in the fields was the Fairyland King's House to us. Don't you remember, Clara?"
          "Yes," she said: and it seemed to me as if a slight cloud came over her fair face. (pp. 100-101)
It is not surprising that Clara should feel some regret for the innocent past, having been long estranged from her husband and childhood sweetheart. Perhaps she also thinks of the shadow this estrangement may have cast upon their daughters' upbringing. She may even feel some guilt because the childhood bond has not endured. An alternative reading suggests, however, that the separation may have been partially caused by Dick's persisting naiveté, his lack of adult forethought (even when a parent), along with related and half-perceived inadequacies, unresolved aspects of the childhood bond, as well as by her own response to another man.
          Morris does not insist upon any interpretation of the renewed bond between Clara and Dick, and we could not believe in any attempt by Guest to analyze it. Through the typical Nowherian blend of openness and reticence, we may perhaps detect that Clara is still wary, suspecting the lack of some edge, of some unchildlike complexity or tension that has not yet developed in their relationship. After dinner she returns to the subject of the pictures:           "How is it that though we are so interested with our life for the most part, yet when people take to writing poems or painting pictures they seldom deal with our modern life, or if they do, take good care to make their poems or pictures unlike that life? Are we not good enough to paint ourselves? How is it that we find the dreadful times of the past so interesting to us-in pictures and poetry?" (pp. 101-2)           Hammond's reply argues that artists have always done this, even in the nineteenth century (Guest's presence forces him to refer to that terminal period of tory-capitalist anarchy) when the critics disapproved. However, Dick's naive reply is more apt:           "Well," said Dick," surely it is but natural to like these things strange: just as when we were children, as I said just now, we used to pretend to be so-and-so in such-and-such a place. That's what these pictures and poems do: and why shouldn't they?"
          "Thou hast hit it, Dick," quoth old Hammond; "it is the child-like part of us that produces works of imagination. When we are children time passes so slow with us that we seem to have time for everything."
          He sighed, and then smiled and said: "At least let us rejoice that we have got back our childhood again. I drink to the days that are!" (p. 102)
Guest feels alienated from their childlikeness, and confuses it with childishness. Hammond's cordial toast stretches him out over the gulf of his own self-knowledge:           "Second childhood," said I in a low voice and then blushed at my double rudeness, and hoped that he hadn't heard. But he had, and turned to me smiling and said: "Yes, why not? And for my part, I hope it will last long: and that the world's next period of wise and unhappy manhood, if that should happen, will speedily lead us to a third childhood: if indeed this be not our third. Meantime, my friend, you must know that we are too happy, both individually and collectively, to trouble ourselves about what is to come hereafter."
          "Well, for my part," said Clara," I wish we were interesting enough to be written or painted about." (pp. 102-3)
Clara is in the presence of a writer who does indeed find them interesting-more interesting than his own disastrous times-and this is more satisfactory as a reply than Dick's loverlike flattery.
          After the awkward silence in which they contemplate the problem of being both happy and interesting, Dick courteously invites Guest to choose one of several ways to spend the evening, to be entertained. in context, Guest's reaction seems very adult, very alien:           I did not by any means want to be 'amused' just then; and also I rather felt as if the old man, with his knowledge of past times and even a kind of inverted sympathy for them caused by his active hatred of them, was as it were a blanket for me against the cold of this very new world, where I was, so to say, stripped bare of every habitual thought and way of acting, and I did not want to leave him too soon. (p. 103)           So the older folk are left together, Guest seeking a comforter because old people do feel the cold to which happy children are oblivious. History does not, however, prevent his feeling a further chill when the lovers return and Dick responds to him as "a being from another planet," which is Hammond's convention to cover the fact that he has guessed when Guest has come from. Dick's imagination is vigorous and appropriate: "I was half suspecting as I was listening to the Welshmen yonder that you would presently be vanishing away from us, and began to picture my kinsman sitting in the hall staring at nothing and finding that he had been talking a while past to nobody" (p. 135).
          Without consciously intending to, Dick has frightened Guest. But he has also begun to intuit Guest's nature; he adds later that meeting Guest has helped him to understand Dickens better. The most apt connection here is with Arthur Clennam, who dismisses himself as a spiritless "nobody," too old and used up to belong in the lover-world of the childlike (and childish) Pet Meagles. The protagonist's painful awareness of the age-gap and the ebbing of his vital forces is as important here as in Little Dorrit, and later this alienated protagonist also meets youth, love, and beauty by the Thames.
          Hammond's sly reply to Dick is really an attempt at prophecy for Guest, so, as with other children listening to the subtleties of grown-ups, Dick does not understand it:           "Don't be afraid, Dick. In any case, I have not been talking to thin air; nor indeed to this new friend of ours only. Who knows that I may not have been talking to many people? For perhaps our guest may some day go back to the people he has come from, and may take a message from us which may bear fruit for them, and consequently for us." (p. 135)           Although his responses are beautifully understated, Hammond in this chapter has become certain of Guest's origin in the prerevolutionary past. He seems also to have recognized that he and Guest are parts of a time-loop by means of which his own record of the revolution is helping to create it; therefore he is in a sense begetting himself and his world, as in many of the paradoxes of time travel. Guest must return, bearing witness, or there will not have been a Nowhere to return from.
          This chapter is rich with the illogical awarenesses that contrast most effectively with Hammond's lengthy and rationalistic historical exegesis. Clara, too, receives implications from the darkened hall and the darker history that has been evoked there. She senses that Guest is also Ghost, mainly because she has toyed with the idea that he might renew his youth by immersion in the childlike commonweal:

          "Kinsman, I don't like this: something or another troubles me, and I feel as if something untoward were going to happen. You have been talking of past miseries to the guest, and have been living in past unhappy times, and it is in the air all round us, and makes us feel as if we were longing for something we cannot have." (p. 136) She has picked up from Guest his own fears about having to return to his own dark century, since he literally lives (as she says the conversation has metaphorically made both older men live) "in past unhappy times." What he is longing for is what she has, a life worth living and a community worth living in.
          Hammond gently warns Clara to go on living in the present, but he cannot deny the aura that surrounds Guest. He asks, with some subtlety," Do you remember anything like that, Guest, in the country from which you come?" Guest understands him perfectly, as few commentators have, and replies," Yes, when I was a happy child on a sunny holiday, and had everything I could think of." It is Clara's specific feeling he is being asked about, not some general impression that utopia is nice; he recognizes her percipience, like Dick's more conceptual response, as partaking of the happy child's vague awareness of the vulnerability of its happiness. This echoes neatly the simpler child-response Guest had caught on smelling balm at Hammersmith, and foreshadows Ellen's acceptance of her vocation.
          The Bloomsbury section of the story ends with another and even more specific prophecy in Hammond's reply:           " So it is," said he." You remember just now you twitted me with living in the second childhood of the world. You will find it a happy world to live in: you will be happy there-for a while."
          Again I did not like his scarcely veiled threat, and was beginning to trouble myself with trying to remember how I had got amongst this curious people. (p. 136)
This "threat," really a valuable foreshadowing, is reiterated on their parting, before being swamped by Dick's determined effort to reestablish present and active life as the true topic of concern. His "boisterous" comments on the physical challenge of the hay harvest (which he regards much as a second-row forward regards the annual match against the Old Boys' fifteen) are not stupid, but represent a strenuous attempt to change the subject. This soon turns into a clumsily erotic celebration of how beautiful Clara will be when her arms are tanned to contrast with the whiteness of her less public parts. Hard outdoor work, he adds optimistically, will also get "some of those strange discontented whims" out of her head. Fortunately, the reverse happens: Dick gets some strange discontented whims of his own into his head (or admits their presence there), and is all the better for them.
          Guest delights in this world of strong, warm-hearted children, but the greater his commitment to them the subtler his self-consciousness becomes. At Hammersmith he loves the story-telling at night, "as if we had belonged to a time long passed, when books were scarce and the art of reading somewhat rare" (p. 140). His going to bed is a climax of contentment, set off against the inveterate shadow that must fall behind the joys of Morris: Here I could enjoy everything without an after-thought of the injustice and miserable toil which made my leisure; the ignorance and dulness of life which went to make my keen appreciation of history; the tyranny and the struggle full of fear and mishap which went to make up my romance. The only weight I had upon my heart was a vague fear as it grew toward bedtime concerning the place where I should wake tomorrow: but I choked that down. (p. 141) Bedtime and waking are the times when the edge of the dream is nearest to consciousness, but the "over-night apprehension" helps to fix Hammond's predictions in the reader's awareness even as it and they are banished from Guest's.
          Delightfully, as the journey up the Thames begins, Guest feels some measure of childhood response come back to him. This occurs first because of the clothes made for him: "I dressed speedily, in a suit of blue laid ready for me, so handsome that I quite blushed when I got into it, feeling as I did so that excited pleasure of anticipation of a holiday, which, well remembered as it was, I had not felt since I was a boy, newly come home for the summer holidays" (p. 141). His renewed delight is sharpened for us by his memory of how haymaking had looked in the nineteenth century, but as far as his conscious mind is concerned he merely longs to forget all that.
          The rush of sexual responsiveness appropriate to summer hayfields is one reason for Guest's renewal. He has to remind himself that a woman as lovely as Annie is bound to have a lover of her own age, and he is fascinated by Clara's open pleasure in Dick's beautiful body. Thus it is partly sex that kindles his love of (and 'self-acceptance' amid) the summer greenery: "I almost felt my youth come back to me, as if I were on one of those water excursions I used to enjoy so much in those days when I was too happy to think that there could be much amiss anywhere" (p. 144).
          Along the Thames, Arthur Clennam's response was one of humiliatingly muted desire, where Guest's is one of developing desire. The visit to Hampton Court reminds us of Little Dorrit, just as Boffin had reminded us of Our Mutual Friend, and both are very much Thames-side books-though not more so than News. But nothing in Dickens is so redolent of sexual consciousness and response as Guest's journey up the Thames. Even in his "three's-a-crowd" alertness Guest thoroughly enjoys this aspect, and is taught by Dick's unselfconsciousness and Clara's erotic awareness not to turn his emotions away from their sexual course, as the Victorian nineteenth century had tried to do:           She looked at him fondly, and I could tell that she was seeing him in her mind's eye showing his splendid form at its best amidst the rhymed strokes of the scythes: and she looked down at her own pretty feet with a half sigh, as though she were contrasting her slight woman's beauty with his man's beauty; as women will when they are really in love. (p. 145)           It is no wonder, since he is learning a lesson in healthy sensuality from Clara and Dick, and since he has met the even more definitively beautiful Ellen, that Guest does not say much about the power-barges and other technological aspects of the England through which he is passing. That would have been bad art, divorcing us from Guest's feelings, the reawakening desires of youth, at this crucial moment when he can love both the Thames and Ellen most poignantly.
          Insensitive critics who expect prediction instead of prophecy, high-tech guesswork about solar batteries or fusion cells instead of the felt life of Guest's dream, never give any reason why Guest should dream about such things. Indeed, he has a deep-seated anxiety not to be told, which matches his underlying prejudice for low-level technology (mills and looms rather than power units), his emotional state, and his natural wariness, as a time traveler, about giving himself away. I took good care not to ask any questions about them, as I knew well enough both that I should never be able to understand how they were worked, and that in attempting to do so I should betray myself, or get into some complication impossible to explain: so I merely said,
          "Yes, of course I understand." (p. 162)
Dick and Clara do not teach Guest anything specific to the future except its abiding kinship with childhood and sexual desire. The wisdom of history comes from Old Hammond. The crucial enlightenment comes in the Thames journey, through Ellen, and links with both the present-wisdom of the lovers and the past-wisdom of Hammond to develop authentic future-wisdom.


          Ellen is the most effective image of liberated womanhood in News, although she has not Clara's relish for the male as sex-object, nor any conscious drive for dominance. Mistress Philippa, of the Obstinate Refusers, has the necessities of art to force her to influence others, and we are free to imagine Ellen, inspired by her strange male muse, also becoming a woman of conscious power. If she feels that humanity is in danger of falling back out of Nowhere into bad old ways, this will give her a mission such as she has been seeking. It will also account for the intensity of her attraction to Guest, and for the physical world of midsummer England which others might perhaps be tempted to think invulnerable, as Hammond prefers to.
          Where almost every woman is attractive, Ellen stands out; she even tests the newly reforged bond between Dick and Clara. This is not a merely decorative glamour, but enables the issues of the Bloomsbury chapters to be summarized and ratified. In dispute with her grandfather, loving and exuberant as she is, she sets stern limits on the authority of fiction. She points to the lovers as Nowhere's books, which provides an exuberant answer to Clara's wish that "we were interesting enough to be written . . . about." After all, like the rest of us, Clara cannot know that she is in fact a character in a book!
          The next stage of her attack on fiction indicts specifically such novels as Little Dorrit, as well as novels in general:

          "As for your books, they were well enough for times when intelligent people had but little else in which they could take pleasure, and when they must needs supplement the sordid miseries of their own lives with imaginations of the lives of other people. But I say flatly that in spite of all their cleverness and vigour, and capacity for story-telling, there is something loathsome about them. Some of them, indeed, do here and there show some feeling for those whom the history-books call 'poor' and of the misery of whose lives we have some inkling; but presently they give it up, and towards the end of the story we must be contented to see the hero and heroine living happily in an island of bliss on other people's troubles." (p. 159) Certainly the remainder of Ellen's description embraces far inferior fictions, but the presence of Dickens in the imagination of Nowhere is well established. Significantly, Guest goes to sleep that night with the pleasure of the evening Ellen adorns quite extinguishing the fear he had felt the night before, that he would wake up back in the century of Dickens and Morris.
          Dick and Clara, next morning, together reaccept the child-wonder of folk tale, this time without any forebodings from Clara, and they do it by watching Ellen: "Doesn't it all look like one of those very stories out of Grimm that we were talking about up in Bloomsbury? Here are we two lovers wandering about the world, and we have come to a fairy garden, and there is the fairy herself amidst of it: I wonder what she will do for us."
          Said Clara demurely, but not stiffly: "Is she a good fairy, Dick?" (p. 155)
Of course Dick says she is, but Guest notices that the story has omitted all reference to himself. With offhand precision Dick remedies the omission, saying that Guest has the "cap of invisibility," the Tarnhelm, and is "seeing everything, yourself invisible."
          Clara is naturally very conscious of Ellen's beauty, and has dressed like her as far as possible-a very naive way of coping with a potential rival. In the same way, though less consciously, Ellen puts on the intellectual dress of Guest in offering her grumbling grandfather her home-truths about life in the glamorous past. Guest is "much moved," and haunted by Ellen's wild beauty as the three travelers re-embark. Clara, too, remains aware of her influence, and is consequently very affectionate toward Dick. This relieves Guest (he assumes because of his fatherly attitude to the lovers). He reasons that Dick could not have welcomed such caresses if "at all entangled by the fairy." As the reader realizes, Guest is himself "entangled."
          What Guest has experienced, and what gives him a "keen pang" on leaving Ellen, is not just beauty but a response to visionary power. Since his vision has brought him to her, it is a thrill to encounter in her an equivalent vision. She is drawn to the elderly, haggard stranger too, and makes him her muse. However, the reader is aware, consciously or unconsciously, that Guest is also the author, so the evocation of Ellen is of his muse, in a perfectly reciprocal irony that does not depreciate either term, or deny the erotic nature of their attraction.
          Thus Ellen rows after Guest, determined to stay with him, anticipates and absorbs his ideas and perspectives, and at the same time attracts and inspires him. As in Shelley's allegory of the poet's imagination, "Alastor," Ellen's "voice was as the voice of his own soul,/ Heard in the calm of thought." But since the dream has created the dreamer's soul-mate, it cannot allow their total union, any more than Epipsychidion can allow the total mutual annihilation of the poet and Emily. Such a union would sentimentalize the dream-frame and trivialize the doubleness of the reader's response to Morris and Guest. In fact, it would also depreciate the air of hard-earned wisdom that balances the book's sweet-tempered delight.
          As Guest comes closer to the fateful return to his own time (a necessary element in all utopias, or how could they be written?) and the inevitable loss of personal wholeness such as he feels in the love of Ellen, two processes reach their climax. The first is the joy itself, the delight that for once involves no guilty privilege; it entails both love and a reborn sense of being usable, the narrative expression of which is his being allowed to row and his teaching Ellen about the past and the Thames. The second is the personal division and alienation that adds poignancy and courage to that joy, and becomes yet another test of the man who had lain down to dream.
          In fairness to the dream-aspect of News, it must be admitted that not only Ellen but all the significant characters have a resemblance to Guest and Morris, especially in their negative characteristics. For example, if Old Hammond is like Guest as an aged, eccentric and anomalous man, fascinated enough by the past he hates to be almost a living museum, he is distinct in his quietly benevolent support of Clara in her marital tangles, and in his total identification with the young society around him. To Hammond, but never to Guest, Nowhere is "we."
          Dick resembles his great-great-great-grandfather in his gruff bewilderment about sex and women, his seeking for consolation for such troubles in good hard work, his glib no-nonsense attitude toward high art, and his devotion to community. He is dissimilar in his ability to forget himself, even as he takes a naive pride in his body and its purposes.
          Ellen's grandfather, the old grumbler, is so deeply wrong in underestimating his own day as to revere the surviving art of a much inferior time. Yet what he loves Guest also appreciates, and might even accept as one of the best things to be said about a bad Empire. What the grumbler does not admit is that Nowherians who "like" their world can also appreciate Thackeray. Still, the grumbler is secretly happy, using his grumbling to tease and test the beautiful people around him.
          Ellen has a special relationship to Guest. As muse, she is full of knowledge, passion, and wisdom, accepting a vocation to chasten and toughen a future that might otherwise forget the past. Her passion might be that of an isolated Cassandra, except that she is determined to inherit Hammond's function at a more affirmative level, striving always to express her love of the physical world. Among the benefits of a soul-bond with Guest is her eschewing of Hammond's temptation to praise Nowherians for being "too happy . . . to trouble ourselves about what's to come hereafter" (pp. 102-3). She is tender with the anomalous and cross-grained aspects of humanity rather than sponsoring conformity, because she knows there are seeds of wisdom even in the wrong-headed, and all are worth loving. She will link Guest's past to Nowhere's future, as the healer links illness with health in preventive medicine, striving to understand both. As pupil and lover, she is both protector and purpose for Guest.
          Old Hammond and his great-grandson are clearly contrasting figures; while the latter finds the past puzzling, repulsive, and (after the Renaissance) eventually boring, the former is ratified by the fullness of his recognition of Guest's temporal aura, as it were. Still, despite the human interest of the Bloomsbury chapters, Hammond's historical account is the least dramatic part of News, and to confuse "news" with history, as readers concentrating on those chapters have done, is a serious error.
          That is not to say that history does not matter, but instead that the book is written in the right order. It is from history that Ellen will learn to prevent a repetition of history: "Who knows? Happy as we are, times may alter; we may be bitten with some impulse towards change, and many things may seem too wonderful for us to resist, too exciting not to catch at, if we do not know they are but phases of what has been before; and withal ruinous, deceitful, and sordid" (p. 198).
          Indeed, if Guest is her muse, he is the equivalent of Clio, not of Erato, and he is very conscious that, however arousing her beauty and however intimately they know themselves to be linked, she cannot regard him primarily as a sexual lover. As his imagination becomes keener and healthier, he introduces her to aspects of the Upper Thames without even needing to name them (so closely can he identify them with their ideal forms in his other role, as wish-fulfilling author). What more inspiring gift can a muse offer than one's own country?
          They are both lovers of the place, as well as of each other. Ellen utilizes the ominous or deathlike elements in Guest and takes the brunt of those shadow-powers as they gather for his life's climacteric around his beloved Kelmscott manor and village. Her undirected prayer that she might but say or show how she loves "the earth and the growth of it and the life of it," is the author's too, and through him it is granted.
          Again this is achieved by a double or ironic effect. Ellen is confirmed by meeting Guest to be a healer of spiritual blindness; she will teach her children, and those of all Nowhere, to become vigilant against all signs of law, organization and mechanism, the beginnings of anti-ecological brutalism or power- and profit-seeking exploitation, the first symptoms of cant, ambition, or progress. In this sense she becomes the inheritor and purpose of Guest's time in Nowhere.
          Guest's loss has an opposite effect: he has left the hideous travesty of London and the Thames, and discovered the true London and Thames. He has been carried along the currents of history to hear of the best and worst of times, forward in time and back through mounting social, erotic, and natural delight, toward the source of himself. Yet at the climacteric, when he reaches the locus amoenus, the sacred central place from which he should be reborn, his own renewal cannot take place.
          At the personal level, the wish-fulfillment's climax might have been in the bed at Kelmscott with Ellen. But even if it had to be purely social, it ought to have taken place at the tables of the folk, especially since they are in Kelmscott church. Both are forbidden. Guest was never more than a guest of the community of Nowhere, and suddenly the Tarnhelm that Dick had evoked descends upon him. He sees faces that have forgotten him, or for whom he never was. He becomes unstuck in time, in a "disaster long expected," encounters the travesty of a countryman who represents his own time, and a black cloud sweeps to meet him," like a nightmare of my childish days," which is precisely where the energy of the whole vision had come from. This reestablished dream-frame possesses both a fierce precision and a genuine plangency, as Guest is dismantled from the consciousness of his own creation, the children of his own longing. He even reads Ellen's last conscious glance toward him as explaining that "you cannot be of us ... our happiness even would weary you" (p. 210).
          All utopias, not just ironically insulated ones like Lemuel Gulliver visited, must remain at a distance, always lost as soon as emotionally accepted, or how could they still be Nowhere? And Guest has, after all, contributed to the community that seemed to have everything. He has not only inspired his soul-maiden, Ellen, but also offered a temporal gift to much less sensitive spirits.
          In that beautiful and poignant last chapter, he bathes for the second time in the Thames in the company of Dick, the quintessential Nowherian. Dick has guided the time-spirit without much apparent danger to his own serene world view, though we know his serenity is not unshakable. Now he introduces the final time-transaction with an amazing but convincing reflection. First, he comments that it is in autumn that one "almost believes in death"-and the reader may reflect that one definition of childhood is that time of life before one imaginatively accepts one's own mortality. Guest feels that Nowherians are "like children" about the phenomena of the seasons, sympathizing with their gains and losses (as if Ruskin had never isolated "the pathetic fallacy"!). Now he suggests that Dick should respond as keenly to winter and its trouble and pain as to the summer luxury now all about them. Dick replies that he does so, but as a worker within the seasons rather than a spectator merely appreciating them. Like other aspects of News, this chimes with a discussion in The Dispossessed, when Shevek admires the beauty of the long view of Urras but Takver says she would rather be fully involved in the phenomena of life, however messy and unglamorous. [8]
          For the first time, Dick becomes introspective rather than merely thoughtful: "One thing seems strange to me . . . that I must needs trouble myself about the winter and its scantness, in the midst of summer abundance. If it hadn't happened to me before, I should have thought it was your doing, guest; that you had thrown a kind of evil charm over me" (p. 207). The charm has indeed been cast, though by Guest's presence rather than his will, and it is a most valuable rather than an evil one. Dick cannot dismiss now what he had previously pushed out of his mind, because he has had to put it into words. The inertia of a Golden Age such as that described by the Greeks is vulnerable to many corruptions, and time-consciousness gives resilience even to an epoch of rest.
          When Guest returns to the world of William Morris, passing on to his contemporary and later readers something of his own longings and warm-hearted striving, he also leaves behind a better, tougher Nowhere. Human endeavor can improve even utopia.


          Although News is influenced by several writers, like Jeffrey and Bellamy, who overtly discuss the future of humanity, Charles Dickens seems to be the major literary presence. Indeed, a socialist Dickens would have been Morris's ideal reading. Scrooge, the isolated old man upon whom A Christmas Carol focuses, probably inspired some of Morris's physical contrasts between alien and child-like community joys, for instance, as well as making a spectacular journey into the darkest of Victorian futures.
          Certain aspects of Dickens's nobody-figures, especially Clennam in Little Dorrit and Rokesmith and Headstone in Our Mutual Friend, walk the Thames beside Guest. More subtly, the complexities of the first-person narrator as protagonist, of which Dickens was abidingly conscious and to which he committed substantial amounts of autobiographical material, seem to have taught Morris a good deal. Like David Copperfield, Guest uses himself up in a Kuenstlerroman about how he came to write the tale, and like David he is by no means prepared to guarantee that he is the hero of it.
          Pip and Esther Summerson are examples of Dickensian narrators whose stories use them up in a more dangerous sense. The shadows that gather around Guest's identity as he looks in on the feast in Kelmscott Church are less like Scrooge's temporary isolation from other people's Christmases than like those shadows that begin to shroud Pip's early identity when he realizes that Biddy and Joe have attained a family status he must not look to have. Beginning as Bildungsroman of a muted kind, Esther's and Pip's stories evolve into retrospectives of wearied contentment and accepted social duty, tales that bear testimony to a past chaos of feeling. Pip and Esther are not divided from their true loves by the gulfs of time and the ironies of art, as Guest is, but they have striven devotedly "to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and happiness," a goal Ellen's final look presents to Guest. From the distance of Nowhere, Guest has gone into as complete a death-and as brave and selfless a death so that others may live-as Sydney Carton.
          Beside this sober Dickensian self-acceptance can be placed Morris's specific human faith as a socialist-for Esther could otherwise never have used a phrase like "the new day." Guest's journey into the future is also into the past, seeking the true childhood of the race, from which renewal comes. Old Hammond suspects that Nowhere is the third childhood rather than the second, probably in honor of the finest aspects of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Dickens would have responded more to Jesus' use of "born again," as a necessary re-start before we can enter the Kingdom, but for a revolutionary socialist the new day is an equivalent kind of death for individual life-habits as well as for power-greed and social division.
          Morris may not have accepted the mythical Golden Age preexisting society, but he did revere the High Barbaric or heroic age as admirable, courageous, and communal. [9] Like Old Hammond in News, Morris and Bax, in their "Socialism from the Root Up," also give full honor to the medieval period's vestiges of communism and the vigorous popular arts and crafts associated with them. [10]
          This is not to agree with James Redmond, who asserts with his usual casual disregard of evidence that Morris "looked back to the fourteenth century as an epoch of rest, when there had been beauty in the daily lives of Englishmen whose nineteenth-century descendants were blighted by the squalor of capitalist industrialism" (p. xiv).
          Undoubtedly, there are superficial and conceptual similarities between the fourteenth century and Nowherian concepts of art and community, for example, but Morris was a distinguished and perceptive cultural historian. He knew far too much about the period ever to believe it "an epoch of rest," any more than he could have believed that High Barbarism was communally equitable or its devotees likely to be as thrilled with horror by a single manslaughter as the inhabitants of Nowhere's Thames Valley were. [11]
          These two periods do, however, offer societal childhoods analogous to that of post-revolutionary Nowhere. Human societies can at times spring into intense and admirable life, and these childhoods are similar to each other, though never in the sense that one spring is identical with all other springs. Dick sees life and nature like a Heroic Age warrior, to a limited extent, and he dresses and designs metalwork rather as a fourteenth-century craftsman would, but he himself is not like either.
          Morris was far ahead of his socialist contemporaries in at least this aspect of sociocultural theory. He did not accept that history had proceeded or would proceed by straight-line "developments," either the "historical inevitability" of naive social optimism or , for that matter, the "progress" of the naive capitalist meliorist, or any "natural decadence," either from a naively imagined Golden Age or by analogy with the seasonal cycle. Morris and Bax were the first socialists to posit a cyclic theory of historical change, recognizing the repetition of principles in a context of wide and vital variation. The analogies they employ offer powerful links between diverse periods, but they also illuminate contrasts and discontinuities. It is this cyclic sensitivity that Ellen's wisdom will develop into an invaluable instrument, as distinct from Dick's response to the seasons and Hammond's historical "long view," as from the assumptions about social decadence posited half-seriously by her grandfather.
          What Guest has lost to stimulate this gift is considerable. He has understood the fulfillment of human history according to Hammond, the energies of free humanity exemplified by the wild beauty of Ellen and the confident, active openness of all her folk, and the simplicity of a community reconciled in work, in play, and even sometimes in sexual love. And having understood the community that results, he must depart from it, never to return.
          He has also lost something more personal, his own created place and his soul-mate in one (which entails losing his childhood and his achieved self in one). In Nowhere his work and faith and life are valued-except by name-and make perfect heroic sense. In Nowhere his young and passionate muse is grateful and supportive; she understands him, often, even before he speaks. In Nowhere his love of Ellen, mankind, and the Thames Valley makes him a kind of genius loci. As the pair row the Upper Thames, names fall away and the places are offered to Ellen as if new-created-as if Guest is creating them! It is not surprising that as the value of the experience increases, so his forebodings increase, until he is expelled from the locus amoenus, the heart of his paradise.
          As we, along with the original reader of News, still encoded in the text, share Guest's loving and humble discovery and become guests in Nowhere, we also share Nowhere's sympathetic and protective attitude to Guest-and to the author so amusingly visible behind him. Morris has invited us to laugh at him, especially in the opening pages, but his presence is also highly purposeful. The integrity of News becomes so much a matter of the reader's own concern, as a co-enthusiast with Morris, that the failure and return of Guest guarantees the triumph of both the book and Nowhere itself, for which our imaginations are all working.


[1]. "Agitprop," from the Russian agitatsiya and the Latin propaganda, is a dramatic style of social protest expressing Marxist values, especially characteristic of street theater.

[2]. News from Nowhere, hereafter called News, was first published in the Socialist League's-which meant Morris's-periodical Commonweal, January-October 1890. Quotations are from The Collected Works of William Morris, ed. May Morris, 24 vols. (London: Longmans, 1910-1915), vol. 16; subsequent parenthetical in-text page references are to this edition.

[3]. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (New York: Avon, 1974), 47.

[4]. The Implied Reader is the title of a study by Wolfgang Iser (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).

[5]. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, published in 1888, was read eagerly by many socialists, including many of Morris's friends. Although James Redmond (introduction to News from Nowhere [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970]) says Morris reviewed it "very unfavourably" in January 1889, the review actually appeared in Commonweal on 22 June 1889, p. 195. However, it was certainly unfavorable.

[6]. P. 16. The plaque is already there, although Hammersmith has not yet become Nowhere.

[7]. See the final section of this study. Engels expounds his view of human history in The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, trans. Alec West (1884; reprint, New York: International Publishers, 1972), which borrows heavily from Lewis Morgan, Ancient Society (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1877).

[8]. Le Guin, The Dispossessed, 153-54.

[9]. See note 5. For Morris, "heroic age" denoted the worlds of tales like the Iliad and Odyssey, the Volsungasaga, Beowulf and the Kalevala. Historically, the Goths who resisted Rome, and Bronze Age cultures all over Europe, merited the epithet.

[10]. "Socialism from the Root Up" was first published in Commonweal in 1887 and [was] later presented in book form as Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1893). The meticulous discussion by Paul Meier in William Morris: The Marxist Dreamer, trans. Frederick Gubb, 2 vols. (Sussex: Harvester Press, 1978), emphasizes the originality and quality of Morris's perspective.

[11]. Morris's first three major prose fictions are a preparation in this as in other ways for News, his fourth. In A Dream of John Ball he explores his limited kinship with fourteenth-century radicals, then in The House of the Wolfings (1889) and The Roots of the Mountains (1890) he tests the social worlds of earlier and later heroic age peoples. All three are, however, war-focused stories.


This text was scanned, OCRed, and proofread from the original source by Thomas J. Tobin. This document was created by the William Morris Society with the kind permission of the University of Missouri Press. For permission to use this document, in whole or in part, for any purpose except educational, please contact the University of Missouri Press.

Reprinted from Socialism and the Literary Artistry of William Morris, edited by Florence S. Boos and Carole G. Silver, by permission of the University of Missouri Press. Copyright © 1990 by the Curators of the University of Missouri.