The Eddas and the Volsunga Saga first became known outside Iceland in the 19th century. As knowledge of them spread there was an excited realization that many of the personalities and events they referred to did not come from Icelandic or Norse history, but from the Europe of the dark ages. The death of Attila the Hun ('Atli' in the saga), the 5th century defeat of the Burgundians and their king Gundahar ('Gunnar'), the death of Eormenric ('Jormunrek') king of the Goths - all were real, documented events, miraculously preserved in the saga through oral transmission. Scholars - including all the early marxists - pored over both the Volsunga saga and the Eddas searching for clues to germanic pre-history. The combination of rea... (From: Marxists.org.) My attention has been called to a letter from the vicar of Stratford-on-Avon appearing in your issue of July 28, and appealing for funds generally towards the completion of the restoration. In this letter occurs the following sentence:- `Under the stalls sufficient of the ancient reredos has been found to make Mr. Garner think he can give us a drawing of what it was when the church was built. We shall hope, then, that somebody will provide the funds to erect a copy of it in the old place.'
I am glad that the vicar talks about a `copy' of the reredos, and not a `restoration' of it; but may I ask why a copy of it should be `erected in the old place'? Will not every fresh piece of modern work make `the old place' (the church, I mean) look les... (From: Marxists.org.) SOCIALISM, as a social and political system, depends altogether upon the history of mankind for a record of its growth in the past, and bases its future upon a knowledge of that history in so far as it can be accurately traced up to the present time. The groundwork of the whole theory is, that from the earliest period of their existence human beings have been guided by the power they possessed over the forces of nature to supply the wants arising as individual members of any society.
Thus Socialism rests upon political economy in its widest sense - that is, upon the manner in which wealth is produced and distributed by those who form part of society at a given time. Slavery, for instance, arose when men had reached such a point in the prog... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “Sweaters and Sweaters” Commonweal, Vol 4, No. 132, 21 July 1888, p.225-226;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
No. 1.- MATCHES BY THE FACTORY DRILL
The London Trades’ Council having taken up the strike of the match girls, it did at any rate go on long enough to force the attention of even the stupidest of the capitalist class, and the girls have at least gained something out of the struggle; and surely nobody but the cruelest as well as the stupidest of bourgeois will grudge them that small gain. For the rest, like other strikes, it is a necessary incident in the war of capital and labor; whatever may be the fate of any particular strike, the whole mass of strikes forms one side of this great war: if there were ... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “Talk and Art” Commonweal, Vol 4, No. 154, 22 December 1888, p.404;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The Art Congress (or whatever is the proper name for it) at which I assisted last week, may easily be made a mark at which to shoot shafts of ridicule. The crowds of lion-worshiping ladies, the many worthy artists set up to speak about an art which is above all things a matter of the instructed eye and deft hand; and many of them into the bargain but poor speakers, in all senses of the word (small blame to them for that same, since above all things their craft is of doing). The bands of idle busy-bodies; the stock phrases bandied about by people who, if questioned about them, would have been able to give but a sorry acco... (From: Marxists.org.) Just before the prorogation the Earl of Wemyss and March got up in his place in the House of Lords and flourished a sort of revolutionary symbol in the faces of his meager but distinguished audience. The symbol, or let me call it paper banner, was Justice, not the French journal of that name but the lively organ of the English Socialists. “Look at this and tremble,” was the meaning conveyed by his lordship’s attitude and brief speech. Some people define English Socialism to be, among other things, “an attempt to make grand dukes and people of that sort” live on three hundred a year—and work eight hours a day even for that! But on looking at the program of the Socialists, what I find is a proposal for &ldq... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “The Ten Commandments” Commonweal, Vol 2, No. 46, 27 November 1886, p.276;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Among the articles in the ‘Mall Pall Gazette’ occur some that express sad trouble about the ten commandments. These are always of a peculiar character, so that it is safe to assume that they are written by one person; and that person’s function seems to be to repress the excesses of those contributors to the journal who are Socialistic in tendency. It is not the business of the Commonweal to criticize literature, so we may leave the style of the above-said contributor alone; but his anxiety as to the fate of the ten commandments in a future state of society, which is shared, doubtless, by many we... (From: Marxists.org.) Mr. WILLIAM MORRIS, called in; and Examined. Mr. Dick Peddie.
2095. Do you attend here at the request of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings? - Yes.
2096. And you are therefore able to state generally the views of that society with regard to the proposed building. Would you kindly state shortly the objections which you entertain to what is proposed to be done according to Mr. Pearson's plan? - Our views are very simple. It simply comes to this, that from our point of view the taking down of the old Law Courts has exposed the actual side or flank of the Hall, which seems to us to be a very valuable piece of architecture, that is looking at it from the artistic point of view; and it has also exposed the remains of Rufus' wal... (From: Marxists.org.) My eye just now caught the word `restoration' in the morning paper, and, on looking closer, I saw that this time it is nothing less than the Minster of Tewkesbury that is to be destroyed by Sir Gilbert Scott. Is it altogether too late to do something to save it - it and whatever else beautiful or historical is still left us on the sites of the ancient buildings we were once so famous for? Would it not be of some use once for all, and with the least delay possible, to set on foot an association for the purpose of watching over and protecting these relics, which, scanty as they are now become, are still wonderful treasures, all the more priceless in this age of the world, when the newly-invented study of living history is the chief joy of so ... (From: Marxists.org.) The subject I have to speak on is a sufficiently wide one, and I can do little more than hint at points of interest in it for your further thought and consideration; all the more as I think I shall be right in supposing that, except for anyone actually engaged in the manufacture of textiles who may be present, you, in common with most educated people at the present day, have very little idea as to how a piece of cloth is made, and not much as to the characteristic differences between the manufactures of diverse periods. However, one limitation to my subject I will at once state: I am going to treat it as an artist and archaeologist, not as a manufacturer, as we call it; that is, I shall be considering the wares in question from the point of... (From: Marxists.org.) There are several ways of ornamenting a woven cloth: (1) real tapestry, (2) carpet-weaving, (3) mechanical weaving, (4) printing or painting, and (5) embroidery. There has been no improvement (indeed, as to the main processes, no change) in the manufacture of the wares in all these branches since the fourteenth century, as far as the wares themselves are concerned; whatever improvements have been introduced have been purely commercial, and have had to do merely with reducing the cost of production; nay, more, the commercial improvements have on the whole been decidedly injurious to the quality of the wares themselves.
The noblest of the weaving arts is Tapestry, in which there is nothing mechanical: it may be looked upon as a mosaic of pie... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “Thoughts on Education under Capitalism” Commonweal, Vol 4, No. 129, 30 June 1888, p.204-205;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The other day I heard Mr Charles Leland (better known as Hans Breitman) speak on the teaching of the ‘minor arts’ (we wont trouble for the present as to what they are) and he told us he was engaged in carrying out a plan (in America) by which all children should be taught these arts and so gain an interest in handicrafts which he thought, and I heartily agree with him, would be a great gain to the art and consequently to the happiness of people generally. Mr Leland said that he had been engaged in this work of educating children’s hands for many years, and he expected success t... (From: Marxists.org.) Mr. William Morris, at the New Islington Hall, Manchester, on Sunday, in connection with the Ancoats Recreation Committee, delivered an address on "Town and Country." Mr. Charles Rowley presided. Mr. Morris, after a reference to the differences of town and country life under the Romans, dealt with the gradual development of differences with regard to similar life in England. About the middle of the 18th century, London, he said, became more decidedly than before the center of England, and there was not, as hitherto, a mere distinction between the town and the country side, but between London and the rest of the country, town and all. Then began what real difference there was in town and country life. Beyond that there was a further developm... (From: Marxists.org.) Town and country are generally put in a kind of contrast, but we will see what kind of a contrast there has been, is, and may be between them; how far that contrast is desirable or necessary, or whether it may not be possible in the long run to make the town a part of the country and the country a part of the towns. I think I may assume that, on the one hand, there is nobody here so abnormally made as not to take a pleasure in green fields, and trees, and rivers, and mountains, the beings, human and otherwise, that inhabit those scenes, and in a word, the general beauty and incident of nature: and that, on the other, we all of us find human intercourse necessary to us, and even the excitement of those forms of it which can only be had where... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “Trial by Judge v. Trial by Jury” Commonweal, Vol 5, No. 188, 17 August 1889, p.257;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The Maybrick case, of which we have been hearing so much, does not differ in essence from most other trials for murder. A man is killed; there is a certain amount of presumptive evidence against such and such a person; a coroner’s jury find that this person is guilty of the murder. The presumptive evidence is after long delay brought before the Criminal Court; which delay, be it remarked, tends very much to increase the difficulty in getting at the truth, as lies and falsities have time to grow round the original kernel of fact, and make a regular problem for the solution of the professional dealer... (From: Marxists.org.) Allow me to add my thanks also to you for your straightforward attack on the cant which assumes that a public body having the administration of charities has but one mandate, to wit, the increase of its money at the expense of every other consideration.
As to the Trinity Almshouses, looking at the beauty and charm of the buildings and their immediate surroundings, and the reproach they throw on us for the squalor of the outside world of East London; and looking also at the pleasure and decency of life which they confer on the present inmates, I can think of nothing which (mutatis mutandis) fits the case better than the lines of Omar Khayyam.-
I often wonder what the vintners buy
One half so precious as the goods they sell.
We must... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “A Triple Alliance” Commonweal, Vol 4, No. 112, 3 March 1888, p.68;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The struggle for the elementary right of freedom of speech, of which the events of Bloody Sunday formed such a dramatic episode, is taking a new development. The police onslaught of November 13th, and the subsequent reactionary tyranny of the Government, came as a surprise on the genuine Radicals who took part in the proceedings of that disastrous and shameful day: and it can hardly be doubted that the orthodox Liberals were also surprised at it; but their surprise took the form of striking them dumb as well as deedless. Comment has been made in these columns on the dastardliness of their behavior, which, all things cons... (From: Marxists.org.) I have been asked to give you the Socialist view of the Labor Question. Now in some ways that is a difficult matter to deal with - far beyond my individual capacities - and would also be a long business; yet in another way, as a matter of principle, it is not difficult to understand or long to tell of, and does not need previous study or acquaintance with the works of specialists or philosophers. Indeed, if it did, it would not be a political subject, and I hope to show you that it is preeminently political in the sense in which I should use the word; that is to say, it is a matter which concerns everyone, and had to do with the practical everyday relations of his life, and that not only as an individual, but as a member of a body corporate... (From: Marxists.org.) Ouida's article on the ugliness of London does, as you suggest, call for remarks from those who care at all for the real pleasure of life for themselves and others. But the subject is so wide that to begin with I had better limit it; for, as has been often said, London is not a town, but a country covered with houses. Now, the London which presents itself to Ouida is not the London of the matchmakers and dock-laborers in the East, or of the brickmakers and gas-workers of the west; she is not thinking of the slums beyond Bethnal-green, or those of Fulham and Latimer-road, but of the shops and dwellings of the bourgeoisie, middle and upper (for England has no aristocracy). Of this well-to-do London, therefore, I will say a few words.
And fir... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: Commonweal, Vol I, No. 4, May 1885, pp. 37 (Supplement);
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
For our purpose of considering the relations of labor to industrial art, the wares made at the present day, the articles made for the market that is, may be divided into two classes — those that have some pretensions to be considered ornamental, and those that have not. The latter, I suppose, is much the larger class; but at any rate the important thing to remember is that there is this difference. Now it seems to me necessary to understand that everything made by man must be either ugly or beautiful. Neutrality is impossible in man’s handiwork. But in times past, before the commercial age, it did not follow that a piece of handiwo... (From: Marxists.org.) Most people who profess Liberal opinions doubtless please themselves by thinking that the reign of absolutism is at an end in this country, that for us kings are done with, since the live image or puppet of a so-called constitutional Monarchy is capable of performing no more dreadful function than that of boring itself and all those with whom it comes into contact, and of providing a constant center of hypocrisy and corruption for the rich classes, if indeed any thing could make that corruption worse which seems now rapidly approaching its climax, and carrying us on toward revolution.
Nevertheless though the old kingship may be dead, at least in England, we may perhaps have in these latter days fashioned a new kingship, not the less danger... (From: Marxists.org.) Source: “Under an Elm-Tree; or, Thoughts in the Country-Side” Commonweal, Vol 5, No. 182, 6 July 1889, p.212-213;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Midsummer in the country — here you may walk between the fields and hedges that are as it were one huge nosegay for you, redolent of bean-flowers and clover and sweet hay and elder-blossom. The cottage gardens are bright with flowers, the cottages themselves mostly models of architecture in their way. Above them towers here and there the architecture proper of days bygone, when every craftsman was an artist and brought definite intelligence to bear upon his work. Man in the past, nature in the present, seem to be bent on pleasing you and making all things delightful to your sen... (From: Marxists.org.) William Morris
TO THE WORKING-MEN OF ENGLAND.
Friends and fellow-citizens:–
there is danger of war; bestir yourselves to face that danger. If you go to sleep, saying we do not understand it, and the danger is far away you may wake and find the evil fallen upon you, for even now it is at the door. Take heed in time and consider it well, for a hard matter it will be for most of us to bear war taxes, war prices, war losses of wealth and work, and friends and kindred; we shall pay heavily, and you, friends of the working classes, will pay the heaviest.
And what shall we buy at this heavy price? Will it be glory and wealth and peace for those that come after us?
Alas! no; for those are the gains of a just war; bu... (From: Marxists.org.) The above title may strike some of my readers as strange. It is assumed by most people nowadays that all work is useful, and by most well-to-do people that all work is desirable. Most people, well-to-do or not, believe that, even when a man is doing work which appears to be useless, he is earning his livelihood by it - he is "employed," as the phrase goes; and most of those who are well-to-do cheer on the happy worker with congratulations and praises, if he is only "industrious" enough and deprives himself of all pleasure and holidays in the sacred cause of labor. In short, it has become an article of the creed of modern morality that all labor is good in itself - a convenient belief to those who live on the labor of others. But as to those... (From: Marxists.org.) The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has just received a letter from Cav. Paravicini, the distinguished Milanese antiquary, in which he gives a list of the ancient buildings in and near Milan, which during the past year have been destroyed or completely falsified by an ignorant system of so-called `restoration'. The fine old medieval towers of the Porta Ticinese have been pulled down, for the sake of rebuilding them on a fresh site. The high altar of S. Ambrogio has been moved from its original position, slightly oblique to the axis of the church - a position characteristic of the high altars of early Lombardic churches. It is now proposed to destroy Bramante's noble portico on the north side of S. Ambrogio, the only pretext ... (From: Marxists.org.) My attention has been called to an angry article in your current number under the heading: `Why "Blackguards"?' There is a good deal of matter in it which is personal to myself; but I do not think it right to trouble the public with any private grievance, when I have in my mind a crying public one. To speak frankly, I wish to use the opportunity afforded me by your article for calling the attention of your readers to a great public scandal. The words of mine quoted in the article in question were written under the influence of the grief and indignation which I felt, and am feeling, incommon with all those who understand the beauty of the art of the past, and its value to history, at the manner in which the public bodies at our older Univers... (From: Marxists.org.) I have just read your too true article on the vulgarization of Oxford, and I wish to ask if it is too late to appeal to the mercy of the `Dons' to spare the few specimens of ancient town architecture which they have not yet had time to destroy, such, for example, as the little plaster houses in front of Trinity College or the beautiful houses left on the north side of Holywell Street. These are in their way as important as themore majestic buildings to which all the world makes pilgrimage. Oxford thirty years ago, when I first knew it, was full of these treasures; but Oxford `culture,' cynically contemptuous of the knowledge which it does not know, and steeped to the lips in the commercialism of the day, has made a clean sweep of most of th... (From: Marxists.org.) Few of the public have seen the full text of this song, written by William Morris, author of the "Earthly Paradise". In the days of the late Empire in France, Walter Savage Landor and Mr. A. C. Swinburne supplied one or two political songs. The Poet Laureate also supplied two or three. As it is seldom that any poet nowadays takes interest in public affairs, Mr. Morris's song is worth quoting. It had the distinction of being sung by seven thousand voices at Exeter Hall. As the music halls of London have long resounded with war doggerel in favor of the Turks, such as "Here stands a Poet" and "We don't want to fight",1 it is only fair that a song on the other side–which is not doggerel–should be heard.
Wake, London Lads, wake, bo... (From: Marxists.org.) South Salford Branch
On Sunday, March 11th we had our old comrade William Morris with us. In the morning at Trafford Bridge he delivered an interesting and instructive address, which was listened to by an enormous crowd. A strong wind prevailed, and thus militated against effective out-door speaking, the the "Grand Old Man" of the Socialist movement had previously stipulated that he should address one meeting outside, and he was evidently determined to stick to his arrangements and defy the elements. The highly successful meeting will doubtless afford him some compensation for his kindly sacrifice.
In the afternoon comrade Morris addressed a public meeting in the large Free Trade Hall, Manchaster. There was a large attendance, the hall ... (From: Marxists.org.) Herewith they were come to a little thorp where the way sundered, for the highway went on to Whitwall, and a byway turned off to Swevenham. Thereby was a poor hostel, where they stayed and rested for the night, because evening was at hand. So when those four had eaten and drunk there together, Ralph spoke and said: "Michael-a-dale, thou art for Swevenham to-morrow?" "Yea, lord," said Michael, "belike I shall yet find kindred there; and I call to thy mind that I craved of thee to lead me to Swevenham as payment for all if I had done aught for thy service."
"Sooth is that," said Ralph, "thou shalt go with my good-will; and, as I deem, thou shalt not lack company betwixt here and Swevenham, whereas our dear friend here, the friend of thy fath... (From: Marxists.org.)