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William Frend de Morgan
(1839–1917)


Biographical

A potter, and novelist, William studied at the Royal Academy Schools, and he started as a designer of tiles and stained glass. He had become close friends with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, who had probably encouraged him him to work in this field. William then developed an interest in pottery. In around 1872 he built a kiln at Chelsea, and devoted himself to decorating tiles, pots, dishes, etc.. He was by training a painter, and so his interest was principally in the glaze rather than the form of the pottery itself. Most of the designs were from his own imagination, inspired by Renaissance techniques or by 15th-16th century Islamic decoration, according to his personal interpretation. He turned out glazed ware in beautiful blues and greens which won him much praise in artistic circles, but overall, he made little money. William had married Evelyn Pickering, and they began to spend winters at Florence from 1892. This made it difficult to run the pottery business, and William was by now experiencing financial losses. Compounded by ill-health, the pottery business was eventually closed in 1907. Just before his pottery business began to wind down, William, by then sixty-five years of age, began to write a story in a somewhat whimsical Dickenson manner. Encouraged by his wife to continue, he completed the work and the resulting novel, Jose Vance, was published in 1906, and became a best seller. He continued to write in Florence, and his subsequent books attained considerable success, although the whole experience left him somewhat perplexed, but at the same time, delighted. By 1914 William and Evelyn returned to London permanently, and William continued to write. They lived at Chelsea for the rest of their lives.

Place of birth: London
Place of death: Chelsea, London 
Place of burial: Brookwood cemetery, Surrey

Son of Augustus De Morgan and Sophia Frend. He married Evelyn Pickering in 1887, and had no issue.


 

 

Sources

1.
J.O. Thorne. Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 2nd rev. edn. London: W. & R. Chambers Harrap, 1923.
2. Matthew, H. C., B. Harrison et al. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004-2018.
 

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