In Dr Suzanne Fagence Cooper’s (Ap 88) latest biography, How We Might Live: At Home with Jane and William Morris, she explores the lives and legacies of Jane and William Morris, taking us inside two lives of unparalleled creative artistry.
William Morris wrote ‘The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.’
As a designer, poet and activist, Morris (1834-1896) was a towering figure in the Victorian art world. His homes became showcases for art, and gathering places for writers and radicals. And yet Jane (1839-1914), his wife and partner in this creative home-making has all too often been overlooked. Dr Cooper’s new joint biography brings her life and work into clearer focus, exploring her skills as an embroiderer, hostess, and as a skilled model for painters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
How We Might Live begins at the green edges of London, in William’s childhood home, and moves through the cobbled streets of Oxford, then out to a peaceful backwater of the Thames at Kelmscott Manor. At every stage, we see how Jane and William tried to create refuges from the polluted, industrialised environment of Victorian England, and shared this with the world through their interior design company, Morris & Co.
After reading history the University of Oxford, Dr Cooper spent 12 years as a Research Fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum, co-curating the V&A’s major exhibition ‘The Victorian Vision.’ She is an Honorary Research Fellow at York University, and has consulted for many films and TV programmes. With a particular interest in the history of women, her published work includes numerous articles on Victorian art, design and society. Explore more of Dr Cooper’s work via her website, Suzanne Fagence Cooper
‘How we might live: At Home with Jane and William Morris’ by Suzanne Fagence Cooper, was published by Quercus, June 2022.