Sunday, 19 May 2013
Reading Morris at School
On last night’s ‘Archive on 4’ programme on BBC Radio Four, we heard former Conservative MP Jill Knight (b.1923) recalling her schooldays at the King Edward Grammar School for Girls in Birmingham: ‘The English mistress was a keen Fabian and she gave us to study a book called News from Nowhere ... by William Morris. He describes how England will be when the golden age of Socialism has dawned. I read this book and I thought I had never read such utter rubbish in all my life, so I started writing essays and each week I fairly tore it to pieces. So my marks started to get lower and lower, and I thought, well, it’s not my English that’s at fault, it’s my opinion, and I’m not going to change my opinion, and at the end of term I came bottom of English instead of top. I didn’t know anything about these Socialist people or the Conservative people or what, but I decided I was on the other side. Been on the other side ever since’. So Morris’s marvellous utopia clearly doesn’t always have the benign political consequences that we tend to assume it does!