William Blake

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William Blake
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{{other people}}{{pp-pc1}}{{short description|English poet and artist}}{{Use British English|date=October 2013}}{{Use dmy dates|date=November 2017}}

| birth_place = Soho, London, Englanddf=yes08175728}}Charing Cross, London, EnglandBLAKE & LONDONPUBLISHER=THE BLAKE SOCIETY DATE=28 MARCH 2008, | occupation = Poet, painter, printmakerCatherine Blake>1782}}| movement = Romanticism| genre = Visionary, poetrySongs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Vala, or The Four Zoas>The Four Zoas, ''(Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, (Milton: A Poem in Two Books>Milton)'', "And did those feet in ancient time"| signature = William Blake signature.svg}}William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. What he called his prophetic works were said by 20th-century critic Northrop Frye to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language".Frye, Northrop and Denham, Robert D. Collected Works of Northrop Frye. 2006, pp 11–12. His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced".WEB, Jones, Jonathan, Blake's heaven, The Guardian, UK,weblink 25 April 2005, In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.WEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink 4 December 2002, BBC – Great Britons – Top 100, Internet Archive, 12 April 2013, While he lived in London his entire life, except for three years spent in Felpham,Thomas, Edward. A Literary Pilgrim in England. 1917, p. 3. he produced a diverse and symbolically rich œuvre, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God"Yeats, W. B. The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats. 2007, p. 85. or "human existence itself".Wilson, Mona. The Life of William Blake. The Nonesuch Press, 1927. p. 167.Although Blake was considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, he is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of the Romantic movement and as "Pre-Romantic".The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge. 2004, p. 351. A committed Christian who was hostile to the Church of England (indeed, to almost all forms of organised religion), Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American Revolutions.Blake, William. Blake's "America, a Prophecy"; And, "Europe, a Prophecy". 1984, p. 2. Though later he rejected many of these political beliefs, he maintained an amiable relationship with the political activist Thomas Paine; he was also influenced by thinkers such as Emanuel Swedenborg.WEB, Kazin, Alfred, 1997, An Introduction to William Blake,weblink 23 September 2006, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 26 September 2006, dmy-all, Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th-century scholar William Michael Rossetti characterised him as a "glorious luminary",Blake, William and Rossetti, William Michael. The Poetical Works of William Blake: Lyrical and Miscellaneous. 1890, p. xi. and "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors".Blake, William and Rossetti, William Michael. The Poetical Works of William Blake: Lyrical and Miscellaneous. 1890, p. xiii.

Early life

(File:WilliamBlake'sHouse.jpg|thumb|upright|left|28 Broad Street (now Broadwick Street) in an illustration of 1912. Blake was born here and lived here until he was 25. The house was demolished in 1965.WEB,weblink Blake & London, The Blake Society, 18 January 2013, )William Blake was born on 28 November 1757 at 28 Broad Street (now Broadwick St.) in Soho, London. He was the third of seven children,WEB,weblink William Blake, William, Blake, 3 April 1999, William Blake, 18 November 2017, Bentley, Gerald Eades and Bentley Jr., G. William Blake: The Critical Heritage. 1995, pp. 34–5. two of whom died in infancy. Blake's father, James, was a hosier. He attended school only long enough to learn reading and writing, leaving at the age of ten, and was otherwise educated at home by his mother Catherine Blake (née Wright).BOOK, Raine, Kathleen, World of Art: William Blake, Thames & Hudson, 1970, 0-500-20107-2,weblink Even though the Blakes were English Dissenters,The Stranger From Paradise: A Biography of William Blake, Bentley (2001) William was baptised on 11 December at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London.BOOK, Wilson, Mona, The Life of William Blake, 1978, Granada Publishing Limited, London, 0-586-08297-2, 2, 3rd, The Bible was an early and profound influence on Blake, and remained a source of inspiration throughout his life.Blake started engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities purchased for him by his father, a practice that was preferred to actual drawing. Within these drawings Blake found his first exposure to classical forms through the work of Raphael, Michelangelo, Maarten van Heemskerck and Albrecht Dürer. The number of prints and bound books that James and Catherine were able to purchase for young William suggests that the Blakes enjoyed, at least for a time, a comfortable wealth. When William was ten years old, his parents knew enough of his headstrong temperament that he was not sent to school but instead enrolled in drawing classes at Pars's drawing school in the Strand.BOOK, Wilson, Mona, The Life of William Blake, 1978, Granada Publishing Limited, London, 0-586-08297-2, 3, 3rd, He read avidly on subjects of his own choosing. During this period, Blake made explorations into poetry; his early work displays knowledge of Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser, and the Psalms.

Apprenticeship to Basire

File:William Blake - Sconfitta - Frontispiece to The Song of Los.jpg|thumb|right|The archetype of the Creator is a familiar image in Blake's work. Here, the demiurgic figure Urizen prays before the world he has forged. The Song of Los is the third in a series of illuminated books painted by Blake and his wife, collectively known as the Continental PropheciesContinental PropheciesOn 4 August 1772, Blake was apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great Queen Street, at the sum of £52.10, for a term of seven years. At the end of the term, aged 21, he became a professional engraver. No record survives of any serious disagreement or conflict between the two during the period of Blake's apprenticeship, but Peter Ackroyd's biography notes that Blake later added Basire's name to a list of artistic adversaries – and then crossed it out.43, Blake, Peter Ackroyd, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995. This aside, Basire's style of line-engraving was of a kind held at the time to be old-fashioned compared to the flashier stipple or mezzotint styles.Blake, William. The Poems of William Blake. 1893, p. xix. It has been speculated that Blake's instruction in this outmoded form may have been detrimental to his acquiring of work or recognition in later life.After two years, Basire sent his apprentice to copy images from the Gothic churches in London (perhaps to settle a quarrel between Blake and James Parker, his fellow apprentice). His experiences in Westminster Abbey helped form his artistic style and ideas. The Abbey of his day was decorated with suits of armour, painted funeral effigies and varicoloured waxworks. Ackroyd notes that "...the most immediate [impression] would have been of faded brightness and colour".44, Blake, Ackroyd This close study of the Gothic (which he saw as the "living form") left clear traces in his style.BOOK, Wilson, Mona, The Life of William Blake, 1978, Granada Publishing Limited, London, 0-586-08297-2, 5, 3rd, In the long afternoons Blake spent sketching in the Abbey, he was occasionally interrupted by boys from Westminster School, who were allowed in the Abbey. They teased him and one tormented him so much that Blake knocked the boy off a scaffold to the ground, "upon which he fell with terrific Violence".Blake, William and Tatham, Frederick. The Letters of William Blake: Together with a Life. 1906, p. 7. After Blake complained to the Dean, the schoolboys' privilege was withdrawn. Blake claimed that he experienced visions in the Abbey. He saw Christ with his Apostles and a great procession of monks and priests, and heard their chant.

Royal Academy

On 8 October 1779, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, near the Strand.WEB,weblink Jerusalem!: The Real Life of William Blake, Tobias, Churton, Tobias Churton, 16 April 2015, Watkins Media, 18 November 2017, Google Books, While the terms of his study required no payment, he was expected to supply his own materials throughout the six-year period. There, he rebelled against what he regarded as the unfinished style of fashionable painters such as Rubens, championed by the school's first president, Joshua Reynolds. Over time, Blake came to detest Reynolds' attitude towards art, especially his pursuit of "general truth" and "general beauty". Reynolds wrote in his Discourses that the "disposition to abstractions, to generalising and classification, is the great glory of the human mind"; Blake responded, in marginalia to his personal copy, that "To Generalize is to be an Idiot; To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit".E691. All quotations from Blake's writings are from BOOK, Erdman, David V, The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, 2nd, 0-385-15213-2,weblink yes, dmy-all, Subsequent references follow the convention of providing plate and line numbers where appropriate, followed by "E" and the page number from Erdman, and correspond to Blake's often unconventional spelling and punctuation. Blake also disliked Reynolds' apparent humility, which he held to be a form of hypocrisy. Against Reynolds' fashionable oil painting, Blake preferred the Classical precision of his early influences, Michelangelo and Raphael.David Bindman suggests that Blake's antagonism towards Reynolds arose not so much from the president's opinions (like Blake, Reynolds held history painting to be of greater value than landscape and portraiture), but rather "against his hypocrisy in not putting his ideals into practice."Bindman, D. "Blake as a Painter" in The Cambridge Companion to William Blake, ed. Morris Eaves. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 86. Certainly Blake was not averse to exhibiting at the Royal Academy, submitting works on six occasions between 1780 and 1808.Blake became a friend of John Flaxman, Thomas Stothard and George Cumberland during his first year at the Royal Academy. They shared radical views, with Stothard and Cumberland joining the Society for Constitutional Information.Ackroyd, Peter, Blake, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995, pp. 69–76.

Gordon Riots

Blake's first biographer, Alexander Gilchrist, records that in June 1780 Blake was walking towards Basire's shop in Great Queen Street when he was swept up by a rampaging mob that stormed Newgate Prison.Gilchrist, A., The Life of William Blake, London, 1842, p. 30. The mob attacked the prison gates with shovels and pickaxes, set the building ablaze, and released the prisoners inside. Blake was reportedly in the front rank of the mob during the attack. The riots, in response to a parliamentary bill revoking sanctions against Roman Catholicism, became known as the Gordon Riots and provoked a flurry of legislation from the government of George III, and the creation of the first police force.(File:Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake. c.1786.jpg|thumb|left|Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (1786))

Marriage and early career

Blake met Catherine Boucher in 1782 when he was recovering from a relationship that had culminated in a refusal of his marriage proposal. He recounted the story of his heartbreak for Catherine and her parents, after which he asked Catherine, "Do you pity me?" When she responded affirmatively, he declared, "Then I love you." Blake married Catherine – who was five years his junior – on 18 August 1782 in St Mary's Church, Battersea. Illiterate, Catherine signed her wedding contract with an X. The original wedding certificate may be viewed at the church, where a commemorative stained-glass window was installed between 1976 and 1982.WEB,weblink St. Mary's Church Parish website, St Mary's Modern Stained Glass, Later, in addition to teaching Catherine to read and write, Blake trained her as an engraver. Throughout his life she proved an invaluable aid, helping to print his illuminated works and maintaining his spirits throughout numerous misfortunes.Blake's first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, was printed around 1783.Reproduction of 1783 edition: Tate Publishing, London, {{ISBN|978-1-85437-768-5}} After his father's death, Blake and former fellow apprentice James Parker opened a print shop in 1784, and began working with radical publisher Joseph Johnson.Ackroyd, Peter, Blake, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995, p. 96 Johnson's house was a meeting-place for some leading English intellectual dissidents of the time: theologian and scientist Joseph Priestley, philosopher Richard Price, artist John Henry Fuseli,Biographies of William Blake and Henry Fuseli, retrieved on 31 May 2007. early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and English revolutionary Thomas Paine. Along with William Wordsworth and William Godwin, Blake had great hopes for the French and American revolutions and wore a Phrygian cap in solidarity with the French revolutionaries, but despaired with the rise of Robespierre and the Reign of Terror in France. In 1784 Blake composed his unfinished manuscript An Island in the Moon.Blake illustrated Original Stories from Real Life (2nd edition, 1791) by Mary Wollstonecraft. They seem to have shared some views on sexual equality and the institution of marriage, but there is no evidence proving that they met. In 1793's Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake condemned the cruel absurdity of enforced chastity and marriage without love and defended the right of women to complete self-fulfilment.From 1790 to 1800, William Blake lived in North Lambeth, London, at 13 Hercules Buildings, Hercules Road.WEB,weblink Blake's Residencies, William Blake Society, The property was demolished in 1918, but the site is now marked with a plaque.WEB,weblink Blake Hercules Road, Open Plaques, There is a series of 70 mosaics commemorating Blake in the nearby railway tunnels of Waterloo Station.WEB,weblink William Blake, South Bank Mosaic Project, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 21 August 2014, dmy-all, NEWS,weblink Putting Blake back on Lambeth's streets, Putting Blake back on Lambeth's streets, 9 June 2009, 25 November 2014, The mosaics largely reproduce illustrations from Blake's illuminated books, The Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and the prophetic books.

Relief etching

In 1788, aged 31, Blake experimented with relief etching, a method he used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and poems. The process is also referred to as illuminated printing, and the finished products as illuminated books or prints. Illuminated printing involved writing the text of the poems on copper plates with pens and brushes, using an acid-resistant medium. Illustrations could appear alongside words in the manner of earlier illuminated manuscripts. He then etched the plates in acid to dissolve the untreated copper and leave the design standing in relief (hence the name).This is a reversal of the usual method of etching, where the lines of the design are exposed to the acid, and the plate printed by the intaglio method. Relief etching (which Blake referred to as "stereotype" in The Ghost of Abel) was intended as a means for producing his illuminated books more quickly than via intaglio. Stereotype, a process invented in 1725, consisted of making a metal cast from a wood engraving, but Blake's innovation was, as described above, very different. The pages printed from these plates were hand-coloured in water colours and stitched together to form a volume. Blake used illuminated printing for most of his well-known works, including Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Book of Thel, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Jerusalem.Viscomi, J. Blake and the Idea of the Book. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993; Phillips, M. William Blake: The Creation of the Songs, London: The British Library, 2000.


Although Blake has become better known for his relief etching, his commercial work largely consisted of intaglio engraving, the standard process of engraving in the 18th century in which the artist incised an image into the copper plate, a complex and laborious process, with plates taking months or years to complete, but as Blake's contemporary, John Boydell, realised, such engraving offered a "missing link with commerce", enabling artists to connect with a mass audience and became an immensely important activity by the end of the 18th century.Eaves, Morris. The Counter Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992. pp. 68–9.Blake employed intaglio engraving in his own work, such as for the illustrations of the Book of Job, completed just before his death. Most critical work has concentrated on Blake's relief etching as a technique because it is the most innovative aspect of his art, but a 2009 study drew attention to Blake's surviving plates, including those for the Book of Job: they demonstrate that he made frequent use of a technique known as "repoussage", a means of obliterating mistakes by hammering them out by hitting the back of the plate. Such techniques, typical of engraving work of the time, are very different to the much faster and fluid way of drawing on a plate that Blake employed for his relief etching, and indicates why the engravings took so long to complete.Sung, Mei-Ying. William Blake and the Art of Engraving. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2009.

Later life and career

File:William Blake House in Felpham.JPG|thumb|right|The cottage in FelphamFelphamBlake's marriage to Catherine was close and devoted until his death. Blake taught Catherine to write, and she helped him colour his printed poems.Bentley, G. E, Blake Records, p 341 Gilchrist refers to "stormy times" in the early years of the marriage.Gilchrist, Life of William Blake, 1863, p. 316 Some biographers have suggested that Blake tried to bring a concubine into the marriage bed in accordance with the beliefs of the more radical branches of the Swedenborgian Society,Schuchard, MK, Why Mrs Blake Cried, Century, 2006, p. 3 but other scholars have dismissed these theories as conjecture.Ackroyd, Peter, Blake, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995, p. 82In his Dictionary, Samuel Foster Damon suggests that Catherine may have had a stillborn daughter for which The Book of Thel is an elegy. That is how he rationalizes the Book's unusual ending, but notes that he is speculating.Damon, Samuel Foster (1988). A Blake Dictionary


In 1800, Blake moved to a cottage at Felpham, in Sussex (now West Sussex), to take up a job illustrating the works of William Hayley, a minor poet. It was in this cottage that Blake began (Milton: A Poem in Two Books|Milton) (the title page is dated 1804, but Blake continued to work on it until 1808). The preface to this work includes a poem beginning "And did those feet in ancient time", which became the words for the anthem "Jerusalem". Over time, Blake began to resent his new patron, believing that Hayley was uninterested in true artistry, and preoccupied with "the meer drudgery of business" (E724). Blake's disenchantment with Hayley has been speculated to have influenced Milton: a Poem, in which Blake wrote that "Corporeal Friends are Spiritual Enemies". (4:26, E98)Blake's trouble with authority came to a head in August 1803, when he was involved in a physical altercation with a soldier, John Schofield.Wright, Thomas. Life of William Blake. 2003, p. 131. Blake was charged not only with assault, but with uttering seditious and treasonable expressions against the king. Schofield claimed that Blake had exclaimed "Damn the king. The soldiers are all slaves."WEB,weblink The Gothic Life of William Blake: 1757–1827,, 18 November 2017, Blake was cleared in the Chichester assizes of the charges. According to a report in the Sussex county paper, "[T]he invented character of [the evidence] was ... so obvious that an acquittal resulted".BOOK, Lucas, E.V., E. V. Lucas, Highways and byways in Sussex,weblink Macmillan, United States, 1904, ASIN B-0008-5GBS-C, Schofield was later depicted wearing "mind forged manacles" in an illustration to Jerusalem.Peterfreund, Stuart, The Din of the City in Blake's Prophetic Books, ELH – Volume 64, Number 1, Spring 1997, pp. 99–130

Return to London

File:William Blake by John Flaxman c1804.jpg|thumb|right| Sketch of Blake from circa 1804 by John FlaxmanJohn FlaxmanBlake returned to London in 1804 and began to write and illustrate Jerusalem (1804–20), his most ambitious work. Having conceived the idea of portraying the characters in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Blake approached the dealer Robert Cromek, with a view to marketing an engraving. Knowing Blake was too eccentric to produce a popular work, Cromek promptly commissioned Blake's friend Thomas Stothard to execute the concept. When Blake learned he had been cheated, he broke off contact with Stothard. He set up an independent exhibition in his brother's haberdashery shop at 27 Broad Street in Soho. The exhibition was designed to market his own version of the Canterbury illustration (titled The Canterbury Pilgrims), along with other works. As a result, he wrote his Descriptive Catalogue (1809), which contains what Anthony Blunt called a "brilliant analysis" of Chaucer and is regularly anthologised as a classic of Chaucer criticism.Blunt, Anthony, The Art of William Blake, p 77 It also contained detailed explanations of his other paintings. The exhibition was very poorly attended, selling none of the temperas or watercolours. Its only review, in The Examiner, was hostile.Peter Ackroyd, "Genius spurned: Blake's doomed exhibition is back", The Times Saturday Review, 4 April 2009File:William Blake 003.jpg|thumb|left|Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun (1805) is one of a series of illustrations of Revelation 12.]]Also around this time (circa 1808), Blake gave vigorous expression of his views on art in an extensive series of polemical annotations to the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds, denouncing the Royal Academy as a fraud and proclaiming, "To Generalize is to be an Idiot".Lorenz Eitner, ed., Neoclassicism and Romanticism, 1750–1850: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (New York: Harper & Row/Icon Editions, 1989), p. 121.In 1818, he was introduced by George Cumberland's son to a young artist named John Linnell.Bentley, G.E., The Stranger from Paradise, Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 366–367 A blue plaque commemorates Blake and Linnell at Old Wyldes' at North End, Hampstead.WEB,weblink BLAKE, WILLIAM (1757–1827) & LINNELL, JOHN (1792–1882), English Heritage, 5 August 2012, Through Linnell he met Samuel Palmer, who belonged to a group of artists who called themselves the Shoreham Ancients. The group shared Blake's rejection of modern trends and his belief in a spiritual and artistic New Age. Aged 65, Blake began work on illustrations for the Book of Job, later admired by Ruskin, who compared Blake favourably to Rembrandt, and by Vaughan Williams, who based his ballet on a selection of the illustrations.In later life Blake began to sell a great number of his works, particularly his Bible illustrations, to Thomas Butts, a patron who saw Blake more as a friend than a man whose work held artistic merit; this was typical of the opinions held of Blake throughout his life.

Dante's Divine Comedy

File:Blake Dante Hell XII.jpg|thumb|William Blake's image of the MinotaurMinotaurFile:James S De Ville 1776-1846 Head of William Blake - Plaster cast - Sept 1823 Fitzwilliam Museum2.jpg|thumb|"Head of William Blake" by James De Ville. Life mask taken in plaster cast in September 1823, Fitzwilliam MuseumFitzwilliam MuseumThe commission for Dante's Divine Comedy came to Blake in 1826 through Linnell, with the aim of producing a series of engravings. Blake's death in 1827 cut short the enterprise, and only a handful of watercolours were completed, with only seven of the engravings arriving at proof form. Even so, they have earned praise:
'[T]he Dante watercolours are among Blake's richest achievements, engaging fully with the problem of illustrating a poem of this complexity. The mastery of watercolour has reached an even higher level than before, and is used to extraordinary effect in differentiating the atmosphere of the three states of being in the poem'.Bindman, David. "Blake as a Painter" in The Cambridge Companion to William Blake, Morris Eaves (ed.), Cambridge, 2003, p. 106
File:Blake Dante Hell V.jpg|thumb|left|Blake's The Lovers' Whirlwind illustrates Hell in Canto V of Dante's Inferno ]]Blake's illustrations of the poem are not merely accompanying works, but rather seem to critically revise, or furnish commentary on, certain spiritual or moral aspects of the text.Because the project was never completed, Blake's intent may be obscured. Some indicators bolster the impression that Blake's illustrations in their totality would take issue with the text they accompany: In the margin of Homer Bearing the Sword and His Companions, Blake notes, "Every thing in Dantes Comedia shews That for Tyrannical Purposes he has made This World the Foundation of All & the Goddess Nature & not the Holy Ghost." Blake seems to dissent from Dante's admiration of the poetic works of ancient Greece, and from the apparent glee with which Dante allots punishments in Hell (as evidenced by the grim humour of the cantos).At the same time, Blake shared Dante's distrust of materialism and the corruptive nature of power, and clearly relished the opportunity to represent the atmosphere and imagery of Dante's work pictorially. Even as he seemed to be near death, Blake's central preoccupation was his feverish work on the illustrations to Dante's Inferno; he is said to have spent one of the very last shillings he possessed on a pencil to continue sketching.Blake Records, p. 341


File:Finsbury bunhill blake 1.jpg|thumb|upright|right|Headstone in Bunhill FieldsBunhill FieldsFile:Bunhill Blake 2018.jpg|thumb|upright|right|Ledger stoneLedger stoneBlake's last years were spent at Fountain Court off the Strand (the property was demolished in the 1880s, when the Savoy Hotel was built). On the day of his death (12 August 1827), Blake worked relentlessly on his Dante series. Eventually, it is reported, he ceased working and turned to his wife, who was in tears by his bedside. Beholding her, Blake is said to have cried, "Stay Kate! Keep just as you are – I will draw your portrait – for you have ever been an angel to me." Having completed this portrait (now lost), Blake laid down his tools and began to sing hymns and verses.Ackroyd, Blake, 389 At six that evening, after promising his wife that he would be with her always, Blake died. Gilchrist reports that a female lodger in the house, present at his expiration, said, "I have been at the death, not of a man, but of a blessed angel."Gilchrist, The Life of William Blake, London, 1863, 405George Richmond gives the following account of Blake's death in a letter to Samuel Palmer:Catherine paid for Blake's funeral with money lent to her by Linnell. Blake's body was buried in a plot shared with others, five days after his death – on the eve of his 45th wedding anniversary – at the Dissenter's burial ground in Bunhill Fields, in what is today the London Borough of Islington.NEWS, Kennedy, Maev, Burial ground of Bunyan, Defoe and Blake earns protected status,weblink 21 January 2015, The Guardian, 22 February 2011, JOURNAL, Davies, Peter, December 2018, A Mosaic Marvel on Lambeth's Streets, The London Magazine, December/January 2019, 43–47, His parents' bodies were buried in the same graveyard. Present at the ceremonies were Catherine, Edward Calvert, George Richmond, Frederick Tatham and John Linnell. Following Blake's death, Catherine moved into Tatham's house as a housekeeper. She believed she was regularly visited by Blake's spirit. She continued selling his illuminated works and paintings, but entertained no business transaction without first "consulting Mr. Blake".Ackroyd, Blake, 390 On the day of her death, in October 1831, she was as calm and cheerful as her husband, and called out to him "as if he were only in the next room, to say she was coming to him, and it would not be long now".Blake Records, p. 410On her death, longtime acquaintance Frederick Tatham took possession of Blake's works and continued selling them. Tatham later joined the fundamentalist Irvingite church and under the influence of conservative members of that church burned manuscripts that he deemed heretical.Ackroyd, Blake, p. 391 The exact number of destroyed manuscripts is unknown, but shortly before his death Blake told a friend he had written "twenty tragedies as long as Macbeth", none of which survive.Davis, p. 164 Another acquaintance, William Michael Rossetti, also burned works by Blake that he considered lacking in quality,Gerald Eades Bentley, Martin K. Nurmi. A Blake Bibliography: Annotated Lists of Works, Studies, and Blakeana. University of Minnesota Press, 1964. pp.41-42. and John Linnell erased sexual imagery from a number of Blake's drawings.Marsha Keith Schuchard, Why Mrs Blake Cried: Swedenborg, Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision, pp. 1–20 At the same time, some works not intended for publication were preserved by friends, such as his notebook and An Island in the Moon.Blake's grave is commemorated by two stones. The first was a stone that reads "Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757–1827 and his wife Catherine Sophia 1762–1831". The memorial stone is situated approximately {{convert|20|m}} away from the actual grave, which was not marked until 12 August 2018. For years since 1965, the exact location of William Blake's grave had been lost and forgotten. The area had been damaged in the Second World War; gravestones were removed and a garden was created. The memorial stone, indicating that the burial sites are "nearby", was listed as a Grade II listed structure in 2011.{{NHLE|num=1396493 |desc=Monument to William and Catherine Sophia Blake, Central Broadwalk|date=21 February 2011||accessdate=11 August 2018}}WEB,weblink How amateur sleuths finally tracked down the burial place of William Blake, The Guardian, 11 August 2018, 11 August 2018, A Portuguese couple, Carol and Luis Garrido, rediscovered the exact burial location after 14 years of investigatory work, and the Blake Society organised a permanent memorial slab, which was unveiled at a public ceremony at the site on 12 August 2018.WEB,weblink William Blake's final stop on the road to Jerusalem is recognised at last, The Times, 23 July 2018, 11 August 2018, (12 Aug 2018). Iron Maiden frontman joins hundreds at unveiling of William Blake gravestone. The new stone is inscribed "Here lies William Blake 1757–1827 Poet Artist Prophet" above a verse from his poem Jerusalem.Blake is recognised as a saint in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. The Blake Prize for Religious Art was established in his honour in Australia in 1949. In 1957 a memorial to Blake and his wife was erected in Westminster Abbey.WEB, Tate UK, William Blake's London,weblink 26 August 2006, Another memorial lies in St James's Church, Piccadilly, where he was baptised.File:A memorial to William Blake in St James's Church, Piccadilly.jpg|thumb|A memorial to William Blake in St James's Church, PiccadillySt James's Church, PiccadillyAt the time of Blake's death, he had sold fewer than 30 copies of Songs of Innocence and of Experience.NEWS,weblink The Radical Sex and Spiritual Life of William Blake, 2015-11-29, Flavorwire, 2017-12-07, en-US,


Blake was not active in any well-established political party. His poetry consistently embodies an attitude of rebellion against the abuse of class power as documented in David Erdman's large study (Blake: Prophet Against Empire|Blake: Prophet Against Empire: A Poet's Interpretation of the History of His Own Times). Blake was concerned about senseless wars and the blighting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Much of his poetry recounts in symbolic allegory the effects of the French and American revolutions. Erdman claims Blake was disillusioned with them, believing they had simply replaced monarchy with irresponsible mercantilism and notes Blake was deeply opposed to slavery, and believes some of his poems read primarily as championing "free love" have had their anti-slavery implications short-changed.Erdman William Blake: Prophet Against Empire p. 228 A more recent (and very short) study, William Blake: Visionary Anarchist by Peter Marshall (1988), classified Blake and his contemporary William Godwin as forerunners of modern anarchism.BOOK, Marshall, Peter, William Blake: Visionary Anarchist, Freedom Press, 1 January 1994, Revised, 0-900384-77-8, British Marxist historian E. P. Thompson's last finished work, (Witness Against the Beast|Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law) (1993), shows how far he was inspired by dissident religious ideas rooted in the thinking of the most radical opponents of the monarchy during the English Civil War.

Development of his views

Because Blake's later poetry contains a private mythology with complex symbolism, his late work has been less published than his earlier more accessible work. The Vintage anthology of Blake edited by Patti Smith focuses heavily on the earlier work, as do many critical studies such as William Blake by D. G. Gillham.The earlier work is primarily rebellious in character and can be seen as a protest against dogmatic religion especially notable in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which the figure represented by the "Devil" is virtually a hero rebelling against an imposter authoritarian deity. In later works, such as Milton and Jerusalem, Blake carves a distinctive vision of a humanity redeemed by self-sacrifice and forgiveness, while retaining his earlier negative attitude towards what he felt was the rigid and morbid authoritarianism of traditional religion. Not all readers of Blake agree upon how much continuity exists between Blake's earlier and later works.Psychoanalyst June Singer has written that Blake's late work displayed a development of the ideas first introduced in his earlier works, namely, the humanitarian goal of achieving personal wholeness of body and spirit. The final section of the expanded edition of her Blake study The Unholy Bible suggests the later works are the "Bible of Hell" promised in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Regarding Blake's final poem "Jerusalem", she writes: "The promise of the divine in man, made in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is at last fulfilled."The Unholy Bible, June Singer, p. 229.John Middleton Murry notes discontinuity between Marriage and the late works, in that while the early Blake focused on a "sheer negative opposition between Energy and Reason", the later Blake emphasised the notions of self-sacrifice and forgiveness as the road to interior wholeness. This renunciation of the sharper dualism of Marriage of Heaven and Hell is evidenced in particular by the humanisation of the character of Urizen in the later works. Murry characterises the later Blake as having found "mutual understanding" and "mutual forgiveness".William Blake, Murry, p. 168.

Religious views

{{original research|section|date=November 2017}}File:Europe a Prophecy, copy D, object 1 (Bentley 1, Erdman i, Keynes i) British Museum.jpg|thumb|right|Blake's Ancient of Days. The "Ancient of Days" is described in Chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel. This image depicts Copy D of the illustration currently held at the British Museum.WEB,weblink Europe a Prophecy, copy D, object 1 (Bentley 1, Erdman i, Keynes i) "Europe a Prophecy", Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, William Blake ArchiveWilliam Blake ArchiveAlthough Blake's attacks on conventional religion were shocking in his own day, his rejection of religiosity was not a rejection of religion per se. His view of orthodoxy is evident in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Therein, Blake lists several Proverbs of Hell, among which are the following:
  • Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
  • As the {{Sic|catterpillar}} chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys. (8.21, 9.55, E36)
In The Everlasting Gospel, Blake does not present Jesus as a philosopher or traditional messianic figure, but as a supremely creative being, above dogma, logic and even morality:If he had been Antichrist Creeping Jesus,He'd have done anything to please us:Gone sneaking into SynagoguesAnd not us'd the Elders & Priests like Dogs,But humble as a Lamb or Ass,Obey'd himself to Caiaphas.God wants not Man to Humble himself (55–61, E519–20)For Blake, Jesus symbolises the vital relationship and unity between divinity and humanity: "All had originally one language, and one religion: this was the religion of Jesus, the everlasting Gospel. Antiquity preaches the Gospel of Jesus." (Descriptive Catalogue, Plate 39, E543)Blake designed his own mythology, which appears largely in his prophetic books. Within these he describes a number of characters, including "Urizen", "Enitharmon", "Bromion" and "Luvah". His mythology seems to have a basis in the Bible as well as Greek and Norse mythology,"a personal mythology parallel to the Old Testament and Greek mythology"; Bonnefoy, Yves. Roman and European Mythologies. 1992, p. 265."Then comes the question of how he read some of his other essential sources, Ovid's Metamorphosis, for instance, or the Prose Edda, and how he related their symbolism to his own."; Fry, Northrop. "Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake". 1947, p 11. and it accompanies his ideas about the everlasting Gospel.{| class="toccolours" style="float:right; margin-left:1em; margin-right:1em; font-size:85%; background:#eee; color:black; width:23em; max-width:25%;" cellspacing="5""I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's.I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create." Words uttered by Los in Blake's Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion.One of Blake's strongest objections to orthodox Christianity is that he felt it encouraged the suppression of natural desires and discouraged earthly joy. In A Vision of the Last Judgment, Blake says that:File:William Blake 006.jpg|thumb|The Night of Enitharmon's Joy, 1795; Blake's vision of HecateHecateHis words concerning religion in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul. 2. That Energy, called Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, called Good, is alone from the Soul. 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. 2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. 3. Energy is Eternal Delight. (Plate 4, E34)
File:Blake-Abel.jpg|thumb|right|The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve, c. 1825. Watercolour on wood.]]Blake does not subscribe to the notion of a body distinct from the soul that must submit to the rule of the soul, but sees the body as an extension of the soul, derived from the "discernment" of the senses. Thus, the emphasis orthodoxy places upon the denial of bodily urges is a dualistic error born of misapprehension of the relationship between body and soul. Elsewhere, he describes Satan as the "state of error", and as beyond salvation.BOOK, Damon, Samuel Foster, A Blake Dictionary (Revised Edition), 1988, Brown University Press, 358, 0-87451-436-3, Blake opposed the sophistry of theological thought that excuses pain, admits evil and apologises for injustice. He abhorred self-denial,Makdisi, Saree. William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s. 2003, pp. 226–7. which he associated with religious repression and particularly sexual repression:Altizer, Thomas J. J. The New Apocalypse: The Radical Christian Vision of William Blake. 2000, p. 18.Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.He who desires but acts not breeds (wikt:pestilence|pestilence). (7.4–5, E35)He saw the concept of "sin" as a trap to bind men's desires (the briars of Garden of Love), and believed that restraint in obedience to a moral code imposed from the outside was against the spirit of life:Abstinence sows sand all overThe ruddy limbs & flaming hairBut Desire GratifiedPlants fruits & beauty there. (E474)He did not hold with the doctrine of God as Lord, an entity separate from and superior to mankind;BOOK, Blake, Gerald Eades Bentley, William Blake: The Critical Heritage, 1975, Routledge & K. Paul, London, 30, 0-7100-8234-7, this is shown clearly in his words about Jesus Christ: "He is the only God ... and so am I, and so are you." A telling phrase in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is "men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast".

Enlightenment philosophy

Blake had a complex relationship with Enlightenment philosophy. His championing of the imagination as the most important element of human existence ran contrary to Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and empiricism.MAGAZINE,weblink William Blake: Visions and Verses, Galvin, Humanities, Rachel, 25, 3, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2004, Due to his visionary religious beliefs, he opposed the Newtonian view of the universe. This mindset is reflected in an excerpt from Blake's Jerusalem:File:Newton-WilliamBlake.jpg|thumb|right|Blake's Newton (1795) demonstrates his opposition to the "single-vision" of scientific materialism: Newton fixes his eye on a compass (recalling Proverbs 8:27, an important passage for (John Milton|Milton]])Baker-Smith, Dominic. Between Dream and Nature: Essays on Utopia and Dystopia. 1987, p. 163. to write upon a scroll that seems to project from his own head.Kaiser, Christopher B. Creational Theology and the History of Physical Science. 1997, p. 328.)I turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of EuropeAnd there behold the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages direWashd by the Water-wheels of Newton. black the clothIn heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel WorksOf many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannicMoving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden: whichWheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace. (15.14–20, E159)Blake believed the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, which depict the naturalistic fall of light upon objects, were products entirely of the "vegetative eye", and he saw Locke and Newton as "the true progenitors of Sir Joshua Reynolds' aesthetic".*BOOK, Ackroyd, Peter, Blake, 1995, Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 1-85619-278-4, 285, The popular taste in the England of that time for such paintings was satisfied with mezzotints, prints produced by a process that created an image from thousands of tiny dots upon the page. Blake saw an analogy between this and Newton's particle theory of light.BOOK
, Essick
, Robert N.
, William Blake, Printmaker
, Princeton University Press
, 1980
, Princeton, NJ
, 248
, Accordingly, Blake never used the technique, opting rather to develop a method of engraving purely in fluid line, insisting that:
It has been supposed that, despite his opposition to Enlightenment principles, Blake arrived at a linear aesthetic that was in many ways more similar to the Neoclassical engravings of John Flaxman than to the works of the Romantics, with whom he is often classified.BOOK, Blake's Human Form Divine, Mellor, Anne, University of California Press, 1974, 0-520-02065-0, Berkeley, CA, 119–120, "Blake imitated Flaxman's austere, simple mode of pure outline engraving. Blake's engravings for Cumberland's _Thoughts on Outline_ clearly demonstrate Blake's competency in and preference for this purely linear engraving style.", Google Books, However, Blake's relationship with Flaxman seems to have grown more distant after Blake's return from Felpham, and there are surviving letters between Flaxman and Hayley wherein Flaxman speaks ill of Blake's theories of art.G.E. Bentley, The Stranger in Paradise, "Drunk on Intellectual Vision" pp500, Yale University Press, 2001 Blake further criticized Flaxman's styles and theories of art in his responses to criticism made against his print of Chaucer's Caunterbury Pilgrims in 1810.Erdman, David ed. The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, Yale Anchor Press


File:William Blake Lot and His Daughters Butlin 381.jpg|thumb|Blake's Lot and His Daughters, Huntington LibraryHuntington Library

19th-century "free love" movement

Since his death, William Blake has been claimed by those of various movements who apply his complex and often elusive use of symbolism and allegory to the issues that concern them.Tom Hayes, "William Blake's AndrogYnous EGO-Ideal," ELH, 71(1), 141–165 (2004). In particular, Blake is sometimes considered (along with Mary Wollstonecraft and her husband William Godwin) a forerunner of the 19th-century "free love" movement, a broad reform tradition starting in the 1820s that held that marriage is slavery, and advocated the removal of all state restrictions on sexual activity such as homosexuality, prostitution, and adultery, culminating in the birth control movement of the early 20th century. Blake scholarship was more focused on this theme in the earlier 20th century than today, although it is still mentioned notably by the Blake scholar Magnus Ankarsjö who moderately challenges this interpretation. The 19th-century "free love" movement was not particularly focused on the idea of multiple partners, but did agree with Wollstonecraft that state-sanctioned marriage was "legal prostitution" and monopolistic in character. It has somewhat more in common with early feminist movementsWEB,weblink H-Women – H-Net,, 18 November 2017,weblink" title="">weblink 27 April 2014, yes, dmy-all, (particularly with regard to the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, whom Blake admired).Blake was critical of the marriage laws of his day, and generally railed against traditional Christian notions of chastity as a virtue.WEB,weblink William Blake, 17 November 2017, Poetry Foundation, 18 November 2017, At a time of tremendous strain in his marriage, in part due to Catherine's apparent inability to bear children, he directly advocated bringing a second wife into the house.BOOK, Hamblen, Emily, On the Minor Prophecies of William Blake, 1995, Kessinger Publishing, 10, BOOK, Berger, Pierre, William Blake: Poet and Mystic, 1915, E. P. Dutton & Company, 45, His poetry suggests that external demands for marital fidelity reduce love to mere duty rather than authentic affection, and decries jealousy and egotism as a motive for marriage laws. Poems such as "Why should I be bound to thee, O my lovely Myrtle-tree?" and "Earth's Answer" seem to advocate multiple sexual partners. In his poem "London" he speaks of "the Marriage-Hearse" plagued by "the youthful Harlot's curse", the result alternately of false Prudence and/or Harlotry. Visions of the Daughters of Albion is widely (though not universally) read as a tribute to free love since the relationship between Bromion and Oothoon is held together only by laws and not by love. For Blake, law and love are opposed, and he castigates the "frozen marriage-bed". In Visions, Blake writes:Till she who burns with youth, and knows no fixed lot, is boundIn spells of law to one she loathes? and must she drag the chainOf life in weary lust? (5.21-3, E49)In the 19th century, poet and free love advocate Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote a book on Blake drawing attention to the above motifs in which Blake praises "sacred natural love" that is not bound by another's possessive jealousy, the latter characterised by Blake as a "creeping skeleton".Swinburne p. 260 Swinburne notes how Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell condemns the hypocrisy of the "pale religious letchery" of advocates of traditional norms.Swinburne, p. 249. Another 19th-century free love advocate, Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), was influenced by Blake's mystical emphasis on energy free from external restrictions.Sheila Rowbotham's Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, p. 135.In the early 20th century, Pierre Berger described how Blake's views echo Mary Wollstonecraft's celebration of joyful authentic love rather than love born of duty,Berger pp. 188–190 the former being the true measure of purity.Berger sees Blake's views as most embodied in the Introduction to the collected version of Songs of Innocence and Experience. Irene Langridge notes that "in Blake's mysterious and unorthodox creed the doctrine of free love was something Blake wanted for the edification of 'the soul'."William Blake: a study of his life and art work, by Irene Langridge, pp. 11, 131. Michael Davis's 1977 book William Blake a New Kind of Man suggests that Blake thought jealousy separates man from the divine unity, condemning him to a frozen death.Davis, p. 55.As a theological writer, Blake has a sense of human "fallenness". S. Foster Damon noted that for Blake the major impediments to a free love society were corrupt human nature, not merely the intolerance of society and the jealousy of men, but the inauthentic hypocritical nature of human communication.S. Foster Damon William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols (1924), p. 105. Thomas Wright's 1928 book Life of William Blake (entirely devoted to Blake's doctrine of free love) notes that Blake thinks marriage should in practice afford the joy of love, but notes that in reality it often does not,Wright, p. 57. as a couple's knowledge of being chained often diminishes their joy. Pierre Berger also analyses Blake's early mythological poems such as Ahania as declaring marriage laws to be a consequence of the fallenness of humanity, as these are born from pride and jealousy.Berger, p. 142.Some scholars have noted that Blake's views on "free love" are both qualified and may have undergone shifts and modifications in his late years. Some poems from this period warn of dangers of predatory sexuality such as The Sick Rose. Magnus Ankarsjö notes that while the hero of Visions of the Daughters of Albion is a strong advocate of free love, by the end of the poem she has become more circumspect as her awareness of the dark side of sexuality has grown, crying "Can this be love which drinks another as a sponge drinks water?"Quoted by Ankarsjö on p. 68 of Bring Me My Arrows of Desire and again in his William Blake and Gender Ankarsjö also notes that a major inspiration to Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, similarly developed more circumspect views of sexual freedom late in life. In light of Blake's aforementioned sense of human 'fallenness' Ankarsjö thinks Blake does not fully approve of sensual indulgence merely in defiance of law as exemplified by the female character of Leutha,William Blake and gender (2006) by Magnus Ankarsjö, p. 129. since in the fallen world of experience all love is enchained.Ankarsjö, p. 64 Ankarsjö records Blake as having supported a commune with some sharing of partners, though David Worrall read The Book of Thel as a rejection of the proposal to take concubines espoused by some members of the Swedenborgian church.David Worrall, "Thel in Africa: William Blake and the Post-colonial, Post-Swedenborgian Female Subject", in The Reception of Blake in the Orient, eds. Steve Clark and Masashi Suzuki. London: Continuum, 2006, pp. 17–29.Blake's later writings show a renewed interest in Christianity, and although he radically reinterprets Christian morality in a way that embraces sensual pleasure, there is little of the emphasis on sexual libertarianism found in several of his early poems, and there is advocacy of "self-denial", though such abnegation must be inspired by love rather than through authoritarian compulsion.See intro to Chapter 4 of Jerusalem. Berger (more so than Swinburne) is especially sensitive to a shift in sensibility between the early Blake and the later Blake. Berger believes the young Blake placed too much emphasis on following impulses,Berger, pp. 112, 284 and that the older Blake had a better formed ideal of a true love that sacrifices self. Some celebration of mystical sensuality remains in the late poems (most notably in Blake's denial of the virginity of Jesus's mother). However, the late poems also place a greater emphasis on forgiveness, redemption, and emotional authenticity as a foundation for relationships.


Creative mindset

Northrop Frye, commenting on Blake's consistency in strongly held views, notes Blake "himself says that his notes on [Joshua] Reynolds, written at fifty, are 'exactly Similar' to those on Locke and Bacon, written when he was 'very Young'. Even phrases and lines of verse will reappear as much as forty years later. Consistency in maintaining what he believed to be true was itself one of his leading principles ... Consistency, then, foolish or otherwise, is one of Blake's chief preoccupations, just as 'self-contradiction' is always one of his most contemptuous comments".Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake, 1947, Princeton University PressFile:Blake after John Gabriel Stedman Narrative of a Five Years copy 2 object 2-detail.jpg|thumb|right|Blake's "A Negro Hung Alive by the Ribs to a Gallows", an illustration to J. G. Stedman's Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796)]]Blake abhorred slaveryParker, Lisa Karee, "A World of Our Own: William Blake and Abolition." Thesis, Georgia State University, (pdf, 11 MB) and believed in racial and sexual equality. Several of his poems and paintings express a notion of universal humanity: "As all men are alike (tho' infinitely various)". In one poem, narrated by a black child, white and black bodies alike are described as shaded groves or clouds, which exist only until one learns "to bear the beams of love":When I from black and he from white cloud free,And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear,To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,And be like him and he will then love me. (23-8, E9)Blake retained an active interest in social and political events throughout his life, and social and political statements are often present in his mystical symbolism. His views on what he saw as oppression and restriction of rightful freedom extended to the Church. His spiritual beliefs are evident in Songs of Experience (1794), in which he distinguishes between the Old Testament God, whose restrictions he rejected, and the New Testament God whom he saw as a positive influence.


From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions. The first may have occurred as early as the age of four when, according to one anecdote, the young artist "saw God" when God "put his head to the window", causing Blake to break into screaming.Bentley, Gerald Eades and Bentley Jr., G. William Blake: The Critical Heritage. 1995, pp. 36–7. At the age of eight or ten in Peckham Rye, London, Blake claimed to have seen "a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars." According to Blake's Victorian biographer Gilchrist, he returned home and reported the vision and only escaped being thrashed by his father for telling a lie through the intervention of his mother. Though all evidence suggests that his parents were largely supportive, his mother seems to have been especially so, and several of Blake's early drawings and poems decorated the walls of her chamber.A note of caution, however: Peter Ackroyd recounts that on one occasion "his mother beat him for declaring that he had seen visions", suggesting that, though "he was beaten only once... it became a source of perpetual discontent". Ackroyd, Peter (1995). Blake. London: Sinclair-Stevenson. p. 21-2, {{ISBN|1-85619-278-4}}. On another occasion, Blake watched haymakers at work, and thought he saw angelic figures walking among them.File:William Blake 002.jpg|thumb|right|The Ghost of a Flea, 1819–1820. Having informed painter-astrologer (John Varley (painter)|John Varley]] of his visions of apparitions, Blake was subsequently persuaded to paint one of them.Langridge, Irene. William Blake: A Study of His Life and Art Work. 1904, pp. 48–9. Varley's anecdote of Blake and his vision of the flea's ghost became well-known.)Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and may have inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake's works. God and Christianity constituted the intellectual centre of his writings, from which he drew inspiration. Blake believed he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by the same Archangels. In a letter of condolence to William Hayley, dated 6 May 1800, four days after the death of Hayley's son,BOOK, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of William Haley, ESQ Vol II, Johnson, John, 1823, S. and R. Bentley, Dorset-Street, London, 506,weblink Blake wrote:In a letter to John Flaxman, dated 21 September 1800, Blake wrote:In a letter to Thomas Butts, dated 25 April 1803, Blake wrote:In A Vision of the Last Judgement Blake wrote:Despite seeing angels and God, Blake has also claimed to see Satan on the staircase of his South Molton Street home in London.Aware of Blake's visions, William Wordsworth commented, "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott."WEB, Blake's vision on show, John Ezard,weblink The Guardian, UK, 6 July 2004, 24 March 2008, In a more deferential vein, John William Cousins wrote in A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature that Blake was "a truly pious and loving soul, neglected and misunderstood by the world, but appreciated by an elect few", who "led a cheerful and contented life of poverty illumined by visions and celestial inspirations".BOOK, A Short Biographical Dictionary of English literature, Cousin, John William, 1933, Plain Label Books, 978-1-60303-696-2, 81, Blake's sanity was called into question as recently as the publication of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, whose entry on Blake comments that "the question whether Blake was or was not mad seems likely to remain in dispute, but there can be no doubt whatever that he was at different periods of his life under the influence of illusions for which there are no outward facts to account, and that much of what he wrote is so far wanting in the quality of sanity as to be without a logical coherence".

Cultural influence

File:William Blake3.jpg|thumb|left|William Blake's portrait in profile, by John Linnell. This larger version was painted to be engraved as the frontispiece of Alexander Gilchrist's Life of Blake (1863).]]Blake's work was neglected for a generation after his death and almost forgotten by the time Alexander Gilchrist began work on his biography in the 1860s. The publication of the Life of William Blake rapidly transformed Blake's reputation, in particular as he was taken up by Pre-Raphaelites and associated figures, in particular Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne. In the twentieth century, however, Blake's work was fully appreciated and his influence increased. Important early and mid twentieth-century scholars involved in enhancing Blake's standing in literary and artistic circles included S. Foster Damon, Geoffrey Keynes, Northrop Frye, David V. Erdman and G. E. Bentley Jr.While Blake had a significant role to play in the art and poetry of figures such as Rossetti, it was during the Modernist period that this work began to influence a wider set of writers and artists. William Butler Yeats, who edited an edition of Blake's collected works in 1893, drew on him for poetic and philosophical ideas,Hazard Adams. Blake and Yeats: The Contrary Vision, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1955. while British surrealist art in particular drew on Blake's conceptions of non-mimetic, visionary practice in the painting of artists such as Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland.Shirley Dent and Jason Whittaker. Radical Blake: Influence and Afterlife from 1827. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002. His poetry came into use by a number of British classical composers such as Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who set his works. Modern British composer John Tavener set several of Blake's poems, including The Lamb (as the 1982 work "The Lamb") and The Tyger.Many such as June Singer have argued that Blake's thoughts on human nature greatly anticipate and parallel the thinking of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. In Jung's own words: "Blake [is] a tantalizing study, since he compiled a lot of half or undigested knowledge in his fantasies. According to my ideas they are an artistic production rather than an authentic representation of unconscious processes."Jung and William Blake. weblink. Retrieved 6 March 2015.WEB,weblink Letter to Nanavutty, 11 Nov 1948, quoted by Hiles, David. Jung, William Blake and our answer to Job 2001.,, De Montfort University, 13 December 2009, Similarly, although less popularly, Diana Hume George claimed that Blake can be seen as a precursor to the ideas of Sigmund Freud.Diana Hume George. Blake and Freud. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980.Blake had an enormous influence on the beat poets of the 1950s and the counterculture of the 1960s, frequently being cited by such seminal figures as beat poet Allen Ginsberg, songwriters Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison,weblink" title="">, How much did Jim Morrison know about William Blake Retrieved 16 September 2011 Van Morrison,Neil Spencer, Into the Mystic, Visions of paradise to words of wisdom... an homage to the written work of William Blake. The Guardian, October 2000, Retrieved 16 September 2011Robert Palmer,"The Pop Life" NY Times, March 1985, Retrieved 16 September 2011 and English writer Aldous Huxley. Much of the central conceit of Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials is rooted in the world of Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Canadian music composer Kathleen Yearwood is one of many contemporary musicians that have set Blake's poems to music. After World War II, Blake's role in popular culture came to the fore in a variety of areas such as popular music, film, and the graphic novel, leading Edward Larrissy to assert that "Blake is the Romantic writer who has exerted the most powerful influence on the twentieth century."Edward Larrissy. Blake and Modern Literature. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2006. p. 1.


File:William Blake's birthplace marker, Soho.jpg|thumb|right|Memorial marking Blake's birthplace in Soho, City of WestminsterCity of WestminsterMajor recent exhibitions focusing on William Blake include:
  • The Ashmolean Museum's (Oxford) exhibition William Blake: Apprentice and Master, open from December 2014 until March 2015, examined William Blake's formation as an artist, as well as his influence on young artist-printmakers who gathered around him in the last years of his life.WEB, Ashmolean Museum,weblink Ashmolean website, 29 October 2014,
  • The National Gallery of Victoria's exhibition William Blake in summer 2014 showcased the Gallery's collection of works by William Blake which includes spectacular watercolours, single prints and illustrated books.WEB, NGV William Blake Exhibition,weblink NGV website, 29 October 2014, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 29 October 2014, dmy-all,
  • The Morgan Library & Museum exhibition William Blake's World: "A New Heaven Is Begun", open from September 2009 until January 2010, included more than 100 watercolours, prints, and illuminated books of poetry.WEB, Morgan Library William Blake Exhibition,weblink Morgan Library website, 29 October 2014,
  • An exhibition at Tate Britain in 2007–2008, William Blake, coincided with the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of William Blake's birth and included Blake works from the Gallery's permanent collection, but also private loans of recently discovered works which had never before been exhibited.WEB, Tate William Blake Exhibition Themes,weblink Tate website, 29 October 2014,
  • The Scottish National Gallery 2007 exhibition William Blake coincided with the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of William Blake's birth and featured all of the Gallery's works associated with Blake.WEB, National Galleries Scotland William Blake Exhibition,weblink NGS website, 29 October 2014,
  • An exhibition at Tate Britain in 2000–2001, William Blake, displayed the full range of William Blake's art and poetry, together with contextual materials, arranged in four sections: One of the Gothic Artists; The Furnace of Lambeth's Vale; Chambers of the Imagination; Many Formidable Works.WEB, Tate William Blake Exhibition Themes,weblink Tate website, 29 October 2014,
  • In 2016 the world's first William Blake antique bookstore and art gallery opened in San Francisco as a satellite of the Bay area John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller.WEB,weblink Evil Renderings of a Distempered Mind – November 10, 2016 – SF Weekly, 10 November 2016, WEB,weblink The Bay Area Reporter Online – William Blake, artist in Paradise,
  • A major exhibition on Blake is planned at Tate Britain in London for the autumn of 2019.WEB,weblink William Blake: The Artist, Exhibition, Tate Britain, London: 11 September 2019 2 February 2020, Divento, en-us, 2019-06-05, weblink



Illuminated books


The works with * constitute the prophetic books.{{col-break}}

Illustrated by Blake


On Blake

  • JOURNAL, Peter Abbs, Peter Abbs, July 2014, William Blake and the forging of the creative self, The London Magazine, 49–62,
  • Peter Ackroyd (1995). Blake. Sinclair-Stevenson. {{ISBN|1-85619-278-4}}.
  • Donald Ault (1974). Visionary Physics: Blake's Response to Newton. University of Chicago. {{ISBN|0-226-03225-6}}.
  • {{long dash}} (1987). Narrative Unbound: Re-Visioning William Blake's The Four Zoas. Station Hill Press. {{ISBN|1-886449-75-9}}.
  • Stephen C. Behrendt (1992). Reading William Blake. London: Macmillan Press. {{ISBN|0-312-06835-2}} .
  • G.E. Bentley (2001). The Stranger From Paradise: A Biography of William Blake. Yale University Press. {{ISBN|0-300-08939-2}}.
  • {{long dash}} (2006). Blake Records. Second edition. Yale University Press. {{ISBN|0-300-09685-2}}.
  • {{long dash}} (1977). Blake Books. Clarendon Press. {{ISBN|0-19-818151-5}}.
  • {{long dash}} (1995). Blake Books Supplement. Clarendon Press.
  • Harold Bloom (1963). Blake's Apocalypse. Doubleday.
  • Jacob Bronowski (1972). William Blake and the Age of Revolution. Routledge & K. Paul. {{ISBN|0-7100-7277-5}} (hardback), {{ISBN|0-7100-7278-3}} (pbk.)
  • {{long dash}} (1944). William Blake, 1757–1827. A man without a mask. Secker and Warburg, London. Reprints: Penguin 1954; Haskell House 1967.
  • Helen P. Bruder (1997). William Blake and the Daughters of Albion. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, and New York: St. Martin's Press. {{ISBN|0-333-64036-5}}.
  • G. K. Chesterton, William Blake. Duckworth, London, n.d. [1910]. Reprint: House of Stratus, Cornwall, 2008. {{ISBN|0-7551-0032-8}}.
  • Steve Clark and David Worrall, eds (2006). Blake, Nation and Empire. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, and New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Tristanne J. Connolly (2002). William Blake and the Body. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • S. Foster Damon (1979). A Blake Dictionary. Revised edition. University of New England. {{ISBN|0-87451-436-3}}.
  • Michael Davis (1977) William Blake. A new kind of man. University of California, Berkeley.
  • Morris Eaves (1992). The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake. Cornell University Press. {{ISBN|0-8014-2489-5}}.
  • David V. Erdman (1977). (Blake: Prophet Against Empire): A Poet's Interpretation of the History of His Own Times. Princeton University Press. {{ISBN|0-486-26719-9}}.
  • {{long dash}} (1988). The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake. Anchor. {{ISBN|0-385-15213-2}}.
  • R. N. Essick (1980). William Blake: Printmaker. Princeton University Press. {{ISBN|0-691-03954-2}}.
  • {{long dash}} (1989). William Blake and the Language of Adam. Clarendon Press. {{ISBN|0-19-812985-8}}.
  • R. N. Essick & D. Pearce, eds. (1978). Blake in his time. Indiana University Press.
  • Michael Ferber, The Social Vision of William Blake. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1985.
  • Irving Fiske (1951). Bernard Shaw's Debt to William Blake. London: The Shaw Society [19-page pamphlet].
  • Northrop Frye (1947). Fearful Symmetry. Princeton University Press. {{ISBN|0-691-06165-3}}.
  • {{long dash}} ed. (1966). Blake. A collection of critical essays. Prentice-Hall.
  • Alexander Gilchrist, Life and Works of William Blake, (2d ed., London, 1880). Reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009. {{ISBN|978-1-108-01369-7}}.
  • Jean H. Hagstrom, William Blake. Poet and Painter. An introduction to the illuminated verse, University of Chicago, 1964.
  • JOURNAL, Hoeveler, Diane Long, 1979, Blake's Erotic Apocalypse: The Androgynous Ideal in "Jerusalem", Essays in Literature, 6, 1, 29–41, Western Illinois University, PDF, 31 January 2013,weblink To become androgynous, to overcome the flaws inherent in each sex, emerges as the central challenge for all Blake's characters.,
  • Geoffrey Keynes, editor 2nd ed. (1969) Blake Complete Writings. Oxford University Press.
  • James King (1991). William Blake: His Life. St. Martin's Press. {{ISBN|0-312-07572-3}}.
  • Saree Makdisi (2003). William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s. University of Chicago Press.
  • Benjamin Heath Malkin (1806). A Father's Memoirs of his Child Longsmans, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster Row, London. {See : : Arthur Symons, William Blake (1907, 1970) at 307–329.}
  • Peter Marshall (1988). William Blake: Visionary Anarchist. Freedom Press. {{ISBN|0-900384-77-8}}
  • Emma Mason, "Elihu's Spiritual Sensation: William Blake's Illustrations to the Book of Job," in Michael Lieb, Emma Mason and Jonathan Roberts (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible (Oxford, OUP, 2011), 460–475.
  • W. J. T. Mitchell (1978). Blake's Composite Art: A Study of the Illuminated Poetry. Yale University Press. {{ISBN|0-691-01402-7}}.
  • Joseph Natoli (1982, 2016) Twentieth-Century Blake Criticism: Northrop Frye to the Present. New York: Routledge. {{ISBN|978-1-1389-3914-1}}.
  • Victor N. Paananen (1996). William Blake. New York: Twayne Publishers. {{ISBN|0-8057-7053-4}}.
  • Laura Quinney (2010). William Blake on Self and Soul. Harvard University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-674-03524-9}}.
  • Kathleen Raine (1970). William Blake. Oxford University.
  • George Anthony Rosso Jr. (1993). Blake's Prophetic Workshop: A Study of The Four Zoas. Associated University Presses. {{ISBN|0-8387-5240-3}}.
  • Gholam Reza Sabri-Tabrizi (1973). The 'Heaven' and 'Hell' of William Blake. New York: International Publishers.
  • Mark Schorer (1946). William Blake: The Politics of Vision. New York: H. Holt and Co.
  • Basil de Sélincourt (1909). William Blake. London:Duckworth and co..
  • June Singer, The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious (New York: Putnam 1970). Reprinted as: Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious (Nicolas-Hays 1986).
  • Sheila A. Spector (2001). Wonders Divine: the Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Myth. Bucknell Univ. Pr. {{ISBN|978-0838754689}}
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne, William Blake: A Critical Essay. John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, London, 2d. ed., 1868.
  • Arthur Symons, William Blake. A. Constable, London 1907. Reprint: Cooper Square, New York 1970. {Includes documents of contemporaries about Wm. Blake, at 249–433.}
  • E. P. Thompson (1993). Witness Against the Beast Cambridge: Cambridge University Press {{ISBN|0-521-22515-9}}.
  • Joseph Viscomi (1993). Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton University Press). {{ISBN|0-691-06962-X}}.
  • David Weir (2003). Brahma in the West: William Blake and the Oriental Renaissance (SUNY Press).
  • Mona Wilson (1927). The Life of William Blake (London: The Nonesuch Press)
  • Roger Whitson and Jason Whittaker (2012). William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media (London: Routledge) {{ISBN|978-0415-6561-84}}
  • Jason Whittaker (1999). William Blake and the Myths of Britain (London: Macmillan).
  • W. B. Yeats (1903). Ideas of Good and Evil (London and Dublin: A. H. Bullen). {Two essays on Blake at 168–175, 176–225}.
  • A Comparative Study of Three Anti-Slavery Poems Written by William Blake, Hannah More and Marcus Garvey: Black Stereotyping by Jérémie Kroubo Dagnini for GRAAT On-Line, January 2010.
  • W. M. Rossetti, ed., Poetical Works of William Blake, (London, 1874)
  • A. G. B. Russell (1912). Engravings of William Blake.
  • Blake, William, William Blake's Works in Conventional Typography, edited by G. E. Bentley, Jr., 1984. Facsimile ed., Scholars' : Facsimiles & Reprints, {{ISBN|978-0-8201-1388-3}}.



Further reading

  • BOOK, William Blake: His Life, Character, Story, Alfred Thomas, 1893, Swan Sonnenschein & Company,weblink

External links

{{external links|date=February 2019}}{{Sister project links|author=yes|wikt=Blakean|v=no|n=no|b=no}} Profiles Archives
  • The William Blake Archive – A Comprehensive Academic Archive of Blake's works with scans from multiple collections
  • {{Art UK bio}}
  • Single Institution Holdings:

*The G.E. Bentley: William Blake Collection Special Collections | Victoria University Library in the University of Toronto *The G.E. Bentley: William Blake Collection Digital Collections | Victoria University Library in the University of Toronto *William Blake collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin *Links to articles, manuscripts and films relating to William Blake. From the British Library's Discovering Literature website. *William Blake Digital Material From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress
Digital editions and research {{William Blake| state=collapsed}}{{Romanticism| state=collapsed}}{{Authority control}}

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Eastern Philosophy
History of Philosophy
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