Page:The letters of William Blake (1906).djvu/86

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32
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE

whether he did not injure it, to which he replied with his usual fun: "Oh! I took good care of that!" He was a subject often of much internal perturbation and over-anxiety, for he has spoilt as much work (which every artist knows is not only easy, but common) by over-labour as would take some a whole life of ordinary industry to accomplish. Mrs. Blake has been heard to say that she never saw him, except when in conversation or reading, with his hands idle; he scarcely ever mused upon what he had done. Some men muse and call it thinking, but Blake was a hard worker; his thought was only for action, as a man plans a house, or a general consults his map and arranges his forces for a battle. His mental acquirements were incredible; he had read almost everything in whatsoever language, which language he always taught himself. His conversation, therefore, was highly interesting, and never could one converse on any subject with him, but they would gain something quite as new as noble from his eccentric and elastic mind. It is a remarkable fact that among the volumes bequeathed by Mrs. Blake to the author of this sketch, the most thumbed from use are his Bible and those books in other languages. He was very fond of Ovid, especially the Fasti. He read Dante when he was past sixty, although before he never knew a word of Italian, and