Letters of William Blake
1 [To Willey Reveley]
[On or after 18 October 1791]
Mr Blakes Compts to M r Reveley tho full of work [as Mr R said he should be by then [tho] the plates were put in hand] he is glad to embrace the offer of engraving such beautiful things. & will do what he can by the end of January
2 [To] G[eorge] Cumberland Esqr, Bishopsgate near Egham, Surrey
Lambeth, 6 Decembr 1795 [Postmark: 10 December]
Dear Sir I congratulate you not on any atchievement. because I know. that the Genius that produces. these Designs can execute them in any manner. notwithstanding the pretended Philosophy which teaches that Execution is the power of One & Invention of Another--Locke says it i[s the] same faculty that Invents Judges, & I say he who can Invent can Execute.
[Begin Page 700] As to laying on the Wax it is as follows
Take a cake of Virgins wax <([if it can be found][if such be]< I dont know what animal produces it>)> & stroke it regularly over the surface of a warm Plate. (the Plate must be warm enough to melt the Wax as it passes over) then immediately draw a feather over it & you will get all even surface which when cold will recieve any impression minutely
Note The danger is in not covering the Plate All over
Now You will I hope shew all the family of Antique Borers, that Peace & Plenty & Domestic Happiness is the Source of Sublime Art, & prove to the Abstract Philosophers--that Enjoyment & not Abstinence is the food of Intellect.
Yours sincerely WILL BLAKE
Health to Mrs Cumberland & Family
The pressure necessary to roll off the lines is the same as when you print, or not quite so great. I have not been able to send a proof of the bath tho I have done the corrections. my paper not being in order.
3 [To George Cumberland]
Lambeth 23 Decembr 1796 a Merry Christmas Dear Cumberland
I have lately had some pricks of conscience on account of not acknowledging your friendship to me [before] immediately on the reciet of your. beautiful book. I have likewise had by me all the summer 6 Plates which you desired me to get made for you. they have laid on my shelf. without speaking to tell me whose they were or that they were [ there] at all & it was some time (when I found them) before I could divine whence they came or whither they were bound or whether they were to lie there to eternity. I have now sent them to you to be transmuted, thou real Alchymist!
Go on Go on. such works as yours Nature & Providence the Eternal Parents demand from their children how few produce them in such perfection how Nature smiles on them. how Providence rewards them. How all your Brethren say, The sound of his harp & his flute heard from his secret forest chears us to the labours of life. & we plow & reap forgetting our labour
Let us see you sometimes as well as sometimes hear from you & let us often See your Works
Compliments to Mr Cumberland & Family
Yours in head & heart WILL BLAKE
4 [To The Revd. Dr. Trusler]
Hercules Buildgs Lambeth
Augst 16. 1799
Revd Sir I find more & more that my Style of Designing is a Species by itself. & in this which I send you have been compelld by my Genius or Angel to follow where he led if I were to act otherwise it would not fulfill the purpose for which alone I live. which is in conjunction with such men as my friend Cumberland to renew the lost Art of the Greeks
I attempted every morning for a fortnight together to follow your Dictate. but when I found my attempts were in vain. resolvd to shew an independence which I know will please an Author better than slavishly following the track of another however admirable that track may be At any rate my Excuse must be: I could not do otherwise, it was out of my power!
I know I begged of you to give me your Ideas & promised to build on them here I counted without my host I now find my mistake
The Design I have Sent. Is
A Father taking leave of his Wife & Child. Is watchd by Two Fiends incarnate. with intention that when his back is turned they will murder the mother & her infant--If this is not Malevolence with a vengeance I have never seen it on Earth. & if you approve of this I have no doubt of giving you Benevolence with Equal Vigor. as also Pride & Humility. but cannot previ- ously describe in words what I mean to Design for fear I should Evaporate [some of m] the Spirit of my Invention. But I hope that none of my Designs will be destitute of Infinite Particulars which will present themselves to the Contemplator. And tho I call them Mine I know that they are not Mine being of the same opinion with Milton when he says That the Muse visits his Slumbers & awakes & governs his Song when Morn purples The East. & being also in the predicament of that prophet who says I cannot go beyond the command of the Lord to speak good or bad
If you approve of my Manner & it is agreeable to you. I would rather Paint Pictures in oil of the same dimensions than make Drawings. & on the same terms. by this means you will have a number of Cabinet pictures. which I flatter myself will not be unworthy of a Scholar of Rembrant & Teniers. whom I have Studied no less than Rafael & Michael angelo--Please to send me your orders respecting this & In my next Effort I promise more Expedition
I am Revd Sir Your very humble servt WILL m BLAKE