Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/38

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8
[1767—70.
LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

To say that Blake was born an artist, is to say of course that as soon as the child's hand could hold a pencil it began to scrawl rough likeness of man or beast, and make timid copies of all the prints he came near. He early began to seek opportunities of educating hand and eye. In default of National Gallery or Museum, for the newly founded British Museum contained as yet little or no sculpture, occasional access might freely be had to the Royal Palaces. Pictures were to be seen also in noblemen's and gentlemen's houses, in the sale-rooms of the elder Langford in Covent Garden, and of the elder Christie: sales exclusively filled as yet with the pictures of the 'old and dark' masters, sometimes genuine, oftener spurious, demand for the same exceeding supply. Of all these chances of gratuitous instruction the boy is said to have sedulously profited: a clear proof other schooling was irregular.

The fact that such attendances were permitted, implies that neither parent was disposed, as so often happens, to thwart the incipient artist's inclination; bad, even for a small trades-man's son, as at that time were an artist's outlooks, unless he were a portrait-painter. In 1767 (three years after Hogarth's death), Blake being then ten years old, was 'put to Mr. Pars drawing-school in the Strand.' This was the preparatory school for juvenile artists then in vogue: preparatory to the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in St. Martin's Lane, of the 'Incorporated Society of Artists,' the Society Hogarth had helped to found. The Royal Academy of intriguing Chambers' and Moser's founding, for which George the Third legislated, came a year later. 'Mr. Pars' drawing-school in the Strand' was located in 'the great room,' subsequently a show-room of the Messrs. Ackermann's—name once familiar to all buyers of prints—in their original house, on the left-hand side of the Strand, as you go city-wards, just at the eastern corner of Castle Court: a house and court demolished when Agar Street and King William Street were made. The school was founded and brought