De Morgan, William, 1839-1917

Alternative names
Birth 1839-11-16
Death 1917-01-15

Biographical notes:

British author.

From the description of Letter to Mr. Ellis [manuscript], 1912 December 20. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647861106

English ceramic artist and novelist.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Chelsea, to Professor Lyon Phelps, 1909 July 6. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270517683

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [London], to S.C. Cockerell, [n.d., received 1907 Aug. 22]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270522479

William Frend De Morgan (1839-1917), English potter and novelist, abandoned his ceramic work and began writing novels in 1905, among them Joseph Vance (1907) and Alice-for-Short (1908).

From the description of William De Morgan collection, [ca. 1890-1917]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702138331

The artist and author William De Morgan was born on November 16, 1839, the son of Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871), a professor of mathematics at University College, London, and his wife Sophia Frend (1809-1892). De Morgan attended the University College School, London, and the college, after which he studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools from 1859 to 1862. During the 1860s he met the artists William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, who likely influenced him to turn to the decorative arts: by 1872 De Morgan was living near them in Chelsea and had begun his career as one of the most successful and prominent practitioners of the arts and crafts movement in Britain, known for his innovations in the design and technology of glazes for pottery and tiles. His workshop closed in 1907.

De Morgan began a second career as a novelist while in his sixties. His first book, Joseph Vance: an Ill-Written Autobiography (1906) was a best-seller, which encouraged him to continue writing. His other novels followed in quick succession: Alice-for-Short (1907), Somehow Good (1908), It Never Can Happen Again (1909), An Affair of Dishonour (1909), A Likely Story (1911), and When Ghost Meets Ghost (1914). Two more titles, The Old Madhouse (1917) and The Old Man's Youth (1921), were published posthumously.

In 1887 De Morgan married the painter Evelyn Pickering (1855-1919) and the couple settled in Chelsea at 1, The Vale, Kings Road, where they lived until moving to 127 Church Street in 1910. From the early 1890s through 1914 the De Morgans spent each winter in Florence, Italy, where William De Morgan wrote most of his novels. He died in his home in Chelsea on January 15, 1917.

From the guide to the William De Morgan collection, 1886-1913, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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  • Authors, English--20th century--Archives
  • Painting, British--20th century
  • Authors, English
  • Pre--Raphaelites
  • Dwellings--History--19th century
  • English literature--20th century
  • Painting, British--19th century
  • Glazes
  • Luster-ware


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  • Great Britain (as recorded)