William Morris

On Machinery, as reported in the press


Mr. William Morris lectured on "Machinery" at Kelmscote House, Hammersmith, on Sunday evening. It was not to be expected that the poet and the handicraftsman should look with a very favourable eye on that important part of the modern social system, but he indulged in no denunciations of special machines. On the contrary, he admitted that machines might have a place in the socialistic society of the future, but he believes that this society would not be so much in bondage with machinery as we are at present. He said, however, that what are called labour-saving machines ought rather to be styled profit-grinding, as their action did not lessen the hours of labour for the worker. He holds that any good done by machinery is largely reinstated by its other effects. If it has bettered man's material condition, it has also increased his desires. If it has increased the facilities for obtaining knowledge it has injured power of imagination. It has destroyed all pleasure in his labour in the ordinary producer of wares. It has also increased the tendency to manufacture makeshifts, common goods, and rubbish of all sorts. Among machines, Mr. Morris includes a good many things not usually put under that head, among others the European capital city, where nine-tenths of the population is ground down for the manufacture of the "superior person" - the intellectual dilettante, This machine Mr. Morris heartily hates, but there is no probability that either he or those who think with him will deprive us of our railways, at least till some other satisfactory mode of locomotion is invented. He would not, however , run them through the prettiest part of Derbyshire, nor, he says, make South Lancashire a hell for the production of wares. He conceives of a society which will be able to indulge in a little inconvenience for the sake of beauty.


On Machinery (as reported in the press)


  1. Sunday 18th August, 1889, to a meeting at Kelmscott House.


Pall Mall Gazette , Monday 19 August 1889, p.4

This is a previously unrecorded talk. It was widely reported at the time but using identical text: there seems to have been only one reporter present.

Transcription, HTML and notes

Graham Seaman, July 2020.

The William Morris Internet Archive : Works