Gilchrist on Blake: The Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist (Flamingo Classic Biographies)
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LIVES THAT NEVER GROW OLD Part of a radical new series - edited by Richard Holmes - that recovers the great classical tradition of English biography. Gilchrist's 'The Life of William Blake' is a biographical masterpiece, still thrilling to read and vividly alive. This was the first biography of William Blake ever written, at a time when the great visionary poet and painter was generally forgotten, ridiculed or dismissed as insane. Wonderfully vivid and outspoken (one chapter is entitled 'Mad or Not Mad'), it was based on revealing interviews with many of Blake's surviving friends. Blake conversed with spirits, saw angels in trees, and sunbathed naked with his wife 'like Adam and Eve'. Gilchrist adds detailed descriptions of Blake's beliefs and working methods, an account of his trial for high treason and fascinating evocations of the places in London, Kent and Sussex where he lived. The book ultimately transformed and enhanced Blake's reputation.
ground (mentally) of any kind; although indeed, James – for the most part an humble matter-of-fact man – had his spiritual and visionary side too; would at times talk Swedenborg, talk of seeing Abraham and Moses, and to outsiders seem like his gifted brother ‘a bit mad’ – a mild madman instead of a wild and stormy. On his father’s death, Blake, who found Design yield no income, Engraving but a scanty one, returned from Green Street, Leicester Fields, to familiar Broad Street. At No. 27, next
Shame is Pride’s cloak. Excess of sorrow laughs: excess of joy weeps. The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. The fox condemns the trap, not himself. Joys impregnate, sorrows bring forth. Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. The selfish smiling fool and the sullen frowning fool shall be both
spirit of most volcanic nature whom we hear of so frequently throughout the ‘Prophetic Books,’ seems (for a too positive assertion were unwise) to represent the wild energies of nature, and more especially of man: the ‘natural man’ in a state of permanent revolt and protest against the tyranny of Urizen, Theotormon, &c. Of the illustrations, two are separate pictures occupying the full page; the rest surround and blend with the text in the usual manner; and if they have not all the beauty, they
morning! I weep on the verge Of non-entity: how wide the abyss Between Ahania and thee! I cannot touch his hand, Nor weep on his knees, nor hear His voice and bow, nor see his eyes And joy, nor hear his footsteps and My heart leap at the lovely sound! I cannot kiss the place Whereon his bright feet have trod. But I wander on the rocks With hard necessity. While intent on the composition and execution of these mystic books, Blake did not neglect the humble task-work which secured him a
Blake impress. The head of Cowper I remember as one of the most interesting, and the accompanying vignette, with its hint of landscape, in which appears Cowper’s favourite dog, as being in Blake’s best manner. I know not into whose hands the other five passed from Mr Toovey’s. Booksellers are nervously afraid of giving one too much information. Our next excerpts from Hayley’s garrulous letters date after Johnson’s visit to Felpham. February 3d, 1802. [Hayley to Johnson, as before.] ‘Here is