Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/50

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[1773—78.
LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

published till 1786 and 1796. The Antiquaries were alive and stirring then; and enthusiastic John Carter was laying the foundations in English Archæology on which better-known men have since built. In the Sepulchral Monuments, vol. I, pt. 2 (1796), occurs a capital engraving as to drawing and feeling, 'Portrait of Queen Philippa from her Monument,' with the inscription Basire delineavit et sculpsit; for which, as in many other cases, we may safely read 'W. Blake.' In fact, Stothard often used to mention this drawing as Blake's, and with praise. The engraving is in Blake's forcible manner of decisively contrasted light and shade, but simple and monotonous manipulation. It is to a large scale, and gives the head and shoulders merely. Another plate, with a perspective view of the whole monument and a separate one of the effigy, accompanies it. In Part I. (1786), are similar 'Portraits' of Queen Philippa, of Edward III. &c.

From Basire, Blake could only acquire the mechanical part of Art, even of the engraver's art; for Basire had little more to communicate. But that part he learned thoroughly and well. Basire's acquirements as an engraver were of a solid though not a fascinating kind. The scholar always retained a loyal feeling towards his old master; and would stoutly defend him and his style against that of more attractive and famous hands,—Strange, Woollett, Bartolozzi. Their ascendency, indeed, led to no little public injustice being done throughout, to Blake's own sterling style of engraving: a circumstance which intensified the artist's aversion to the men. In a MS. descriptive Advertisement (1810) printed in Vol. II. with the title Public Address, relating to the engraving of his own Canterbury Pilgrimage, Blake expresses his contempt for them very candidly—and intemperately perhaps. There too, he records the impression made on him personally, when as a boy he used to see some of them in Basire's studio. 'Woollett,' he writes, 'I knew very intimately by his intimacy with Basire, and knew him to be one of the most ignorant fellows I ever met.