Life of William Blake (1880), Volume 1

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Life of William Blake, Volume 1  (1880) 
Alexander Gilchrist, Anne Gilchrist
For works with similar titles, see Life of William Blake.

LIFE

OF

WILLIAM BLAKE.


VOL. I.

I assert for myself that I do not behold the outward creation, and that to me it is hindrance and not action. "What!" it will be questioned, "when the sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea?" Oh! no, no! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host, crying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!" I question not my corporeal eye any more than I would question a window concerning a sight. I look through it and not with it.—Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgment.

Life of William Blake (1880), volume 1, Linnell frontispiece.png

Fac-simile of a Portrait on Ivory

Painted from life by John Linnell, 1827.

Engraved by C. H. Jeens.

LIFE

OF

WILLIAM BLAKE

WITH SELECTIONS FROM HIS POEMS AND OTHER WRITINGS

BY

ALEXANDER GILCHRIST

OF THE MIDDLE TEMPLE, BARRISTER-AT-LAW
AUTHOR OF "THE LIFE OF WILLIAM ETTY, R.A."


A NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION

ILLUSTRATED FROM BLAKE'S OWN WORKS

WITH ADDITIONAL LETTERS AND A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR



IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. I.



London

MACMILLAN AND CO.

1880

The Right of Translation is Reserved

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.


In 1878 thirty-four autograph letters from William Blake to Hayley were sold by Messrs. Sotheby and Wilkinson. Thanks to the courtesy of the gentlemen into whose possession a large proportion of the letters ultimately passed,—Mr. Frederick Locker and Mr. Alexander Macmillan,—these, and a few more obtained from the same source (one by the British Museum and the others by Mr. Kirby), are now incorporated in the Biography, and carry on the narrative of Blake's life during the two years immediately succeeding his return from Felpham. In the same way the letters to Mr. Butts, generously placed in my hands by his grandson, Captain Butts, just before the appearance of the first edition, and there printed in Vol. II., are now put in their place, making the Felpham chapters mainly autobiographical.

The two friends whose labour of love wrought so largely to give completeness to the first issue of this book have revised and, especially in the case of the Annotated Catalogue, brought up to date their work; whilst another friend, Mr. Frederic J. Shields, out of the same warmth of admiration for Blake's genius and character, has freely rendered precious service with pen and pencil further to enrich the new edition. He has supplied a vigorous translation into words of the more pregnant among the large and important series of Designs by Blake to Young's Night Thoughts, which has lately come to light, and is now in the possession of Mr. Bain, of the Haymarket—the series of which a very small portion only was engraved by Blake for Edwards's edition of 1797. Mr. Shields has also drawn, from original pencil sketches by Blake, two new portraits of Mrs. Blake and the head of Blake by himself, which was somewhat roughly given in the first edition. Lastly, he has adapted a fairy design of Blake's own to the cover.

From America has come help in the shape of some admirable examples of engraver's work, four of which are from designs by Blake never before reproduced, and two are from the Grave. These were executed to illustrate an article on Blake, by Mr. Horace Scudder, in Scribner's Magazine, June, 1880; and to the courtesy of Messrs. Scribner & Co., of New York, we are indebted for the use of the blocks.

Of additional illustrations there remain to be specified a newly discovered design to Hamlet (from a copy of the Second Folio Shakespeare containing also several other designs by Blake, and now in possession of Mr. Macmillan); another plate from the Jerusalem; the Phillips portrait of Blake, which Schiavonetti engraved for Blair's Grave; a view of Blake's Cottage at Felpham and of his Work Room and Death Room in Fountain Court, both drawn by Herbert H. Gilchrist; and, last not least, the Inventions to the Book of Job executed anew by the recently discovered photo-intaglio process.

In Vol. II. will also now be found an Essay on Blake, by James Smetham, republished (by permission) from the London Quarterly Review. Its fine qualities and its inaccessibility will, I feel assured, make it welcome here as an important accession to a work which aims to gather to a focus all the light that can be shed on Blake and on the creations of his genius.


Keats Corner, Well Road, Hampstead,
Oct. 10, 1880.

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.


One short word of sorrowful significance which has had to be inserted in the title-page, while it acquaints the reader with the peculiar circumstances under which this Biography comes before him, seems also to require a few words about its final preparation for the press; the more so as the time which has elapsed since the Life of Blake was first announced might otherwise lead to a wrong inference respecting the state in which it was left by the beloved author when he was seized, in the full tide of health and work and happy life, with the fever which, in five days, carried him hence. The Life was then substantially complete; and the first eight chapters were already printed. The main services, therefore, which the Work has received from other hands—and great they are—appear in the Second Part and in the Appendix: in the choice and arrangement of a large collection of Blake's unpublished and hitherto almost equally inaccessible published Writings, together with introductory remarks to each Section; and in a thorough and probably exhaustive Annotated Catalogue of his Pictorial Works. The first of these services—the editorship, in a word, of the Selections—has been performed by Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti; the second by his brother, Mr. William Rossetti. To both of these friends, admiration of Blake's genius and regard for the memory of his biographer have made their labour so truly a labour of love that they do not suffer me to dwell on the rare quality or extent of the obligation.

To the Life itself one addition has been made,—that of a Supplementary Chapter, in fulfilment of the Author's plan. He left a memorandum to the effect that he intended writing such a chapter, and a list of the topics to be handled there, but nothing more. This also Mr. D. G. Rossetti has carried into execution; and that the same hand has filled in some blank pages in the Chapter on the Inventions to the Book of Job the discerning reader will scarcely need to be told.

The only other insertions remaining to be particularized are the accounts of such of Blake's Writings as it was decided not to reprint in the Second Part; chiefly of the class he called Prophecies. I could heartily wish the difficult problem presented by these strange Books had been more successfully grappled with, or indeed grappled with at all. Hardly anything has been now attempted beyond bringing together a few readable extracts. But however small may be the literary value of the Europe, America, Jerusalem, &c., they are at least psychologically curious and important; and should the opportunity arise, I hope to see these gaps filled in with workmanship which shall better correspond with that of the rest of the fabric. In speaking of the Designs which accompany the Poems in question, I was not left wholly without valued aid.

To Mr. Samuel Palmer and Mr. William Haines, to Mr. Linnell and other of Blake's surviving friends, and to the possessors of his works, grateful acknowledgments of the services rendered are due, in various ways, by each and all to enhance the completeness of the following record of the fruitful life and lahours of William Blake. In my dear husband's name, therefore, I sincerely thank these gentlemen.



May 15th, 1863,
Brookbank, near Haslemere.

CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.


BIOGRAPHY.


CHAPTER I.
PAGE
Preliminary 1
 
CHAPTER II.
Childhood 5
 
CHAPTER III.
Engraver's Apprentice 12
 
CHAPTER IV.
A Boy's Poems 23
 
CHAPTER V.
Student and Lover 28
 
CHAPTER VI.
Introduction to the Polite World 43
 
CHAPTER VII.
Struggle and Sorrow 51
 
CHAPTER VIII.
Meditation: Notes on Lavater 61
 
CHAPTER IX.
Poems of Manhood: Songs of Innocence 68
 
CHAPTER X.
Books of Prophecy: Thel, Marriage of Heaven and Hell 76
 
CHAPTER XI.
Bookseller Johnson's 89
 
CHAPTER XII.
The Gates of Paradise, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, The 'America' 98
 
CHAPTER XIII.
The Songs of Experience 116
 
CHAPTER XIV.
Productive Years : Europe, Urizen, The Song of Los, Ahania 124
 
CHAPTER XV.
At Work for the Publishers 134
 
CHAPTER XVI.
A New Life 142
 
CHAPTER XVII.
Poet Hayley and Felpham 156
 
CHAPTER XVIII.
Working Hours: Letters to Butts 165
 
CHAPTER XIX.
Trial for Sedition 190
 
CHAPTER XX.
South Molton Street: Letters to Hayley 201
 
CHAPTER XXI.
The Jerusalem and the Milton 226
 
CHAPTER XXII.
A Keen Employer 246
 
CHAPTER XXIII.
Gleams of Patronage 256
 
CHAPTER XXIV.
The Designs to Blair 265
 
CHAPTER XXV.
Appeal to the Public 273
 
CHAPTER XXVI.
Engraver Cromek 283
 
CHAPTER XXVII.
Years of Deepening Neglect 291
 
CHAPTER XXVIII.
John Varley and the Visionary Heads 298
 
CHAPTER XXIX.
Opinions: Notes on Reynolds 305
 
CHAPTER XXX.
Designs to Phillips's Pastorals 317
 
CHAPTER XXXI.
Fountain Court 321
 
CHAPTER XXXII.
Inventions to the Book of Job 327
 
CHAPTER XXXIII.
Hampstead; and Youthful Disciples 337
 
CHAPTER XXXIV.
Personal Details 348
 
CHAPTER XXXV.
Mad or not Mad 362
 
CHAPTER XXXVI.
Declining Health; Designs to Dante; Mr. Crabb Robinson's Reminiscences; Notes on Wordsworth 375
 
CHAPTER XXXVII.
Last Days 403
 
CHAPTER XXXVIII.
Posthumous 407
 
CHAPTER XXXIX.
Supplementary 413

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


VOLUME I.
  Drawn by Engraved by Page

Portrait of Blake, from a miniature painted in 1827

John Linnell C. H. Jeens Frontispiece

From America

Blake W. J. Linton Title-page to Biography

From Illustrations of the Book of Job

Blake W. J. Linton 1

Glad Day. Block lent by Messrs. Scribner & Co.

Blake   29

Plague. From a Water-colour Drawing

Blake W. J. Linton 54

Infant Joy. From Songs of Innocence. Block lent by Messrs. Scribner & Co.

Blake J. F. Jungling 68

Nebuchadnezzar. From Pencil-Drawing in Rossetti's MS. Note-book

Blake W. J. Linton 88

Illustration for Wollstonecraft's Tales for Children. From the original Drawing

Blake W. J. Linton 90

From Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Blake W. J. Linton 97, 103

Gates of Paradise. Eight Plates. Facsimiles

Blake W. J. Linton 98, 100, 102

From America

Blake W. J. Linton 108, 110

From Europe

Blake W. J. Linton 124, 126

Elijah in the Chariot of Fire. From a Colour-printed Design. (See Vol. II., p. 209. No. 23.) Block lent by Messrs. Scribner & Co.

Blake   128

Young burying Narcissa (?) India-ink Drawing. Block lent by Messrs. Scribner and Co.

Blake J. Hellawell 134

"Are glad when they can find the Grave." From the MS. Note-book. (See Vol, II, p. 259. No. 27 F)

Blake W. J. Linton 141

From Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Blake W. J. Linton 155

Blake's Cottage at Felpham. Photo-Intaglio

Herbert H. Gilchrist Typographic Etching Co. 150

From the MS. Note-book

Blake W. J. Linton 225

Vala Hyle, Skofeld. From Jerusalem

Blake Typographic Etching Co. 230

Border from Jerusalem

Blake W. J. Linton 232, 233, 234

Full-page ,, ,,

Blake W. J. Linton 226

 ,, ,, ,,

Blake W. J. Linton 236

 ,, ,, ,,

Blake W. J. Linton 238

 ,, ,, ,,

Blake W. J. Linton 240

Tail- and Head-pieces from Jerusalem

Blake W. J. Linton 27, 50, 51, 115, 264

Portions of Pages from the same

Blake W. J. Linton 239, 240

From Milton.—Blake's Cottage at Felpham

Blake W. J. Linton 245

Death's Door. From Blair's Grave. Block lent by Messrs. Scribner & Co.

Blake   269

Counsellor, King, Warrior, Mother and Child in the Tomb. From the same. Block lent by Messrs. Scribner & Co.

Blake   270

Design from Hamlet. From Water-colour Drawing

Blake J. D. Cooper 272

Visionary Heads. From Pencil Drawings

Blake W. J. Linton 299

From the same.—The Man who built the Pyramids, Edward I., William Wallace, Edward III

Blake W. J. Linton 300

Ghost of a Flea

Blake W. J. Linton 303

The Accusers of Theft, Adultery, Murder

Blake W. J. Linton 304

Designs to Phillips's Pastorals, Blake's own Wood-blocks

Blake Blake 320

Plan of Blake's Room in Fountain Court

F. J. Shields   322

Behemoth and Leviathan. From the Illustrations to Job

Blake W. J. Linton 336

Blake's Work-room and Death-room

Herbert H. Gilchrist Typographic Etching Co. 348

Catherine Blake. From a Pencil-Drawing by her Husband, (Photo-Intaglio)

F. J. Shields Typographic Etching Co. 361

Catherine and William Blake. From Pencil-outline in MS. Note-book. (Photo-Intaglio)

F. J. Shields Typographic Etching Co. 374

The Circle of the Traitors. From Dante

Blake W. J. Linton 377

Mr. Cumberland's Card-plate.

Blake W. J. Linton 399

From Design for Blair's Grave

Blake W. J. Linton 406

Mrs. Blake in Age

Tatham. W. J. Linton 412
 
 
VOLUME II.
  Drawn by Engraved by Page

Portrait of Blake. By T. Phillips, R. A., Etched by Schiavonetti for Blair's Grave. Photo-Intaglio

  Typographic Etching Co. Frontispiece

Design from Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Blake W. J. Linton Title-page to Selections

Canterbury Pilgrimage (reduced). The Heads under it are Facsimiles

Blake W. J. Linton 144

Illustrations of the Book of Job. Twenty-one Photo-Intaglios

  Typographic Etching Co. 204

Songs of Innocence. Seven of the Original Plates

    204

Songs of Experience. Nine of the Original Plates

    204

Tail-piece. From Vision of the Daughters of Albion

    376


The design on the cover is adapted, by Mr. Frederic J. Shields, from a rough sketch in Blake's MS. Note-book, for a picture which was exhibited some years ago at Manchester, but did not find its way to the Burlington Fine Art Club Exhibition of Blake's works. The angelic figure on the back of the volume is from one of the designs to Young's Night Thoughts.

Life of William Blake (1880), volume 1, second title.png