Page:The letters of William Blake (1906).djvu/59

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5
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE

and necessary applications were made; but from the huge premium required, he requested, with his characteristic generosity, that his father would not on any account spend so much money on him, as he thought it would be an injustice to his brothers and sisters. He therefore himself proposed engraving as being less expensive, and sufficiently eligible for his future avocations. Of Basire, therefore, for a premium of fifty guineas, he learnt the art of modern engraving. The trammels of this art, which he never till his very last days overcame, he spent money and time to learn, and had it not been for the circumstance of his having frequent quarrels with his fellow apprentices, concerning matters of intellectual argument, he would perhaps never have handled the pencil, and would consequently have been doomed for ever to furrow upon a copper plate monotonous and regular lines, placed at even distances, without genius and without form. These quarrels existing between the three boys, Basire thought he could not do better than to send Blake out drawing; as he was about to engrave a work for the Antiquarian Society, he sent him, therefore, to Westminster Abbey. "There he found a treasure which he knew how to value. He saw the simple and plain road to the style of art at which he aimed, unentangled in the intricate mazes of modern practice. The monuments of kings and queens in