Page:Life of William Blake 2, Gilchrist.djvu/463

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MEMOIR

OF

ALEXANDER GILCHRIST.

Seventeen years have elapsed since the Life of Blake first came before the public; nineteen since its author laid down the pen never again to resume it. During the interval this sole product of his mature powers, which was greeted on its first appearance with a cordial welcome from those whose praise would have been most dear to him, but made way slowly with the general public, has steadily increased in reputation. Whilst his children have been growing up to manhood and womanhood, this fruit of his brain has taken root and thriven in a sunny, if somewhat secluded, nook of the garden of literature. If, then, I could briefly sketch a faithful portrait of Blake's biographer, the attempt would need no apology; for if the work be of interest, so is the worker. A biographer necessarily offers himself as the mirror in which his hero is reflected; and we judge all the better of the truth and adequacy of the image by a closer acquaintance with the medium through which it comes to us.

Alexander Gilchrist, youngest but one of seven children, was born at Newington Green on the 25th of April, 1828, a few months after Blake's death. His father, James Gilchrist, though early lost to him, remained through life an object of such tender love and veneration as few fathers have the happiness of becoming to their children; so that it is hardly