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Brian Morris, Baron Morris


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Brian Morris, Baron Morris
Brian Robert Morris, Baron Morris of Castle Morris, (1930 - April 30, 2001), was a British poet, critic and professor of literature. He became the Labour Party's deputy chief whip and education spokesman in the House of Lords.

Born and educated in Cardiff, Morris went on, after national service with the Welsh Regiment, to read English at Worcester College, Oxford. He stayed on at Oxford as a tutor in Old and Middle English while doing his doctorate on John Cleveland, the Cavalier poet.

His major promotion came in 1971 when he began his decade as professor of English literature at Sheffield University, in succession to William Empson. From 1964 to 1986, he was general editor of the New Mermaid dramatists, and from 1974 to 1982 of the New Arden Shakespeare. He also edited the poems of Cleveland and the plays of John Ford, while using his acquired administrative skills on the board of the National Portrait Gallery. These skills were fully tested when, in 1980, he was named principal of what was then St David's University College, the smallest and most endangered part of the University of Wales.

In 1990, Morris was made a life peer with the title Baron Morris of Castle Morris, of St Dogmaels in the County of Dyfed, expanding his name - to distinguish it from an earlier Baron Morris - by adding "of Castle Morris", a small and largely insignificant hamlet between Fishguard and St David's. He justified his appointment to the unelected body by pointing out "Manchester United football team isn't chosen by popular vote".

A brilliant and respected speech writer, his speeches in the house were sprinkled with quotations from Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Juvenal and Alexander Pope. When Morris reminded the Tories of the saying "Whom God wishes to destroy, he first sends mad," he delivered it first in the original Latin.

Morris never forgot his Welsh roots, and whilst he never was a fluent speaker of the Welsh language, he fought tirelessly for its legal status in the nation.

Later in his political career, Morris was marginalised within the Labour Party for being too 'Old Labour' by supporters of the new party leader Tony Blair, and his Centre-Right politics.

Morris died aged 70 from leukaemia in 2001.


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