The most enduringly popular of William Morris’s publications, ‘News from Nowhere’ is a utopian novel about an imagined socialist society.
The story described how the semi-autobiographical William Guest falls asleep after a Socialist League meeting and wakes up in a future society based on common ownership. The protagonist is taken on a tour of London where the River Thames in clean enough the bathe in, Kensington has become a beautiful forest, and the Houses of Parliament are a manure market. In this new society there is no private property or monetary system, there are no courts or prisons and romantic relationships are entered -- and left -- freely by men and women on equal terms. Every person that William Guest meets is physically healthy and wearing beautiful, hand-made clothes. Society succeeds because individuals find pleasure in the natural world and in their work. The book provides an insight into Morris’s politics and this belief that all acts by a capitalist government are simply to ‘to protect the rich against the poor’.
First published in serial form in the ‘Commonweal’ journal in 1890, ‘News from Nowhere’ was partly written as a response to ‘Looking Backwards’ by Edward Bellamy. Bellamy’s novel, published in 1888, also describes a protagonist waking up in a future socialist society. However, ‘Looking Backwards’ imagines a socialist future where industry has minimised the amount of work to do, whereas Morris believed in the joy of completing work valuable to society. Morris dreamt of returning to a more organic and pastoral way of life with machinery only employed to reduce the most repetitive and laborious tasks.
After its success in the ‘Commonweal’, ‘News from Nowhere’ was reprinted in book form by Reeves and Turner. It was from this edition, with a few corrections, that the text for the Kelmscott Press edition was produced in 1893. The illustrated frontispiece, designed by Charles March Gere, shows Kelmscott Manor, Morris's country home in Oxfordshire. He named both his house in Hammersmith and the Press itself after this property. This book is one of 300 copies printed on hand-made paper; an additional ten copies were printed on vellum.