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Born in 1865 in Winchester, he was raised by his Aunt following the death of his parents. Initially destined for the Church, Morris left Lancing College and became articled to his uncle’s architectural practice in Reading, later moving to the offices of Martin Brookes in London. As he became more interested in the decorative arts, he was inspired by William Morris and the flourishing Arts and Crafts movement, particularly by the graphics. At the age of twenty-six he was a sub editor on the weekly Black and White journal published by Cassell and Company.
In 1892 he married his second cousin, Alice Marsh, a talented writer of children’s books, and he became art director for the Glasgow publishing firm Blackie & Son in the following year. He became a friend and patron to ‘the four,’ Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Herbert McNair, and the sisters Frances and Margaret MacDonald, and introduced Mackintosh to Walter Blackie, who went on to commission the Hill House.
Morris played a major role in promoting the Glasgow Style through his designs and commissions for book covers for popular titles which were aimed at the mass market. His own designs included architectural frames, geometric abstraction, spare lettering, whiplash lines and stylized flowers and birds - all Glasgow Style motifs. Morris also developed a distinctive and elegant style of lettering. In addition to book covers, he produced designs for page layout, endpapers and title-pages and his design work extended to textiles, interior design and brass metalwork – including some for his home, Dunglass Castle.
Dogged by ill health, he retired in 1909 and died from a cardiac embolism at the age of forty five.