Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/52

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[1773—78.
LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

house in Great Queen Street, in which Blake passed seven years of his youth; whither Gough, Tyson, and many another enthusiastic dignified antiquary, in knee-breeches and powdered wig, so often bent their steps to have a chat with their favourite engraver. Its door has opened to good company in its time, to engravers, painters, men of letters, celebrated men of all kinds. Just now we saw Goldsmith enter. When Blake was an apprentice, the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn Fields, though already antique, was a stately and decorous one, through which the tide of fashionable life still swayed on daily errands of pleasure or business. The house can yet be identified as No. 31, one of two occupied by Messrs. Corben and Son, the coach-builders, which firm, or rather their predecessors, in Basire's time occupied only No. 30. It stands on the northern side of the street, opposite—to the west or Drury Lane-ward of—Freemasons' Tavern; almost exactly opposite New Yard and the noticeable ancient house at one side of that yard, with the stately Corinthian pilasters in well wrought brick. Basire's is itself a seventeenth century house refaced early in the Georgian era, the parapet then put up half hiding the old dormer windows of the third story. Originally, it must either have been part of a larger mansion, or one of a uniformly-built series, having continuous horizontal brick mouldings; as remnants of the same on its neighbours testify. Outside, it remains pretty much as it must have looked in Blake's time; old-fashioned people having (Heaven be praised!) tenanted it ever since the first James Basire and after him his widow ended their days there. With its green paint, old casements quiet old-fashioned shop-window, and freedom from the abomination of desolation (stucco), it retains an old-world genuine aspect, rare in London's oldest neighbourhoods, and not at war with the memories which cling around the place.