Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/42

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CHAPTER III.

ENGRAVER'S APPRENTICE, 1771—78. [ÆT. 14—21.]

The preliminary charges of launching Blake in the career of a Painter, were too onerous for the paternal pocket; involving for one thing, a heavy premium to some leading artist for instruction under his own roof, then the only attainable, always the only adequate training. The investment, moreover, would not after all be certain of assuring daily bread for the future. English engravers were then taking that high place they are now doing little to maintain. Apprenticeship to one would secure, with some degree of artistic education, the cunning right hand which can always keep want at arm's length: a thing artist and littérateur have often had cause to envy in the skilled artizan. The consideration was not without weight in the eyes of an honest shopkeeper, to whose understanding the prosaic craft would more practically address itself than the vague abstractions of Art, or those shadowy promises of Fame, on which alone a mere artist had too often to feed. Thus it was decided for the future designer, that he should enter the, to him, enchanted domain of Art by a back door, as it were  He is not to be dandled into a Painter, but painfully to win his way to an outside place. Daily through life, he will have to marry his shining dreams to the humblest, most irksome realities of a virtually artizan life. Already it had been decreed that an inspired Poet should be endowed with barely grammar enough to compose with schoolboy accuracy.