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The Letters of William Blake

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The Letters of

William Blake

together with His Life

by

F. Tatham

Edited by

A. G. B. Russell

THE LETTERS OF WILLIAM BLAKE

The Letters of William Blake (1906) frontispiece.png

WILLIAM BLAKE

THE LETTERS OF

WILLIAM BLAKE

TOGETHER WITH A LIFE BY
FREDERICK TATHAM

EDITED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS
WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES

BY

ARCHIBALD G. B. RUSSELL


WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS


NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1906

To M.

"LES DIEUX SONT CEUX QUI NE DOUTENT JAMAIS"

PREFACE

THE "Life of Blake," by Frederick Tatham, now for the first time published, has been printed verbatim and in full from the original manuscript, which was prefixed by its author to a coloured copy of Blake's Jerusalem and bound up with it. The volume is now the property of Captain Archibald Stirling, and it is by his most courteous permission that the editor has been able to avail himself, on the present occasion, of this valuable biography.

The series of Blake's letters has been made as complete as possible; and though the editor is indeed aware of several omissions, he has some knowledge, in almost every case, of the contents of those which he has been unable to trace, and is confident that, at anyrate of all those which have been known to exist, none of any serious moment are absent. The letters, too, have been edited, wherever it has been possible, from the originals, and especial attention has been given to the accuracy of the text. In both Life and Letters, however, the punctuation, the spelling, and the use of capitals have (except in the case of the poems which occur in the letters) been brought, as far as possible, into conformity with the modern practice, as it was felt that any attempt (even if it had been possible to make it throughout) to reproduce the originals in these respects would only be a source of irritation and confusion to the majority of readers.

A certain number of letters from Blake's friends and acquaintances have been added to the collection, wherever they have seemed to give it greater coherence, or to shed new light upon his life and character; and for this purpose extracts have often been sufficient.

The notes are intended partly to clear up any allusions to events or persons which might present difficulties to the reader, and partly to connect the letters with Blake's other writings, and to explain the ideas which they embody in reference to the whole of his work. They have been made as brief and serviceable as possible.

The illustrations have been carefully chosen in regard to the text.

The editor wishes to express his most grateful thanks to the owner of the Life, and all owners of unpublished letters, for courteously placing them at his disposal; and to Messrs. Macmillan & Co. for their very kind permission (given through his friend Mr. George A. Macmillan) to print the letters to Linnell and several of those to Hayley from the second edition of Gilchrist's Life of Blake, as well as to all those who have so generously contributed towards the illustrations of the book. His thanks also are especially due to his friend Mr. W. Graham Robertson for much kind help, and above all for his gift of the beautiful sketch of Blake's Cottage; and to his friend Mr. E. R. D. Maclagan for invaluable advice.

CONTENTS

PAGE
List of Illustrations XV
Introduction XVII
Life of Blake by Frederick Tatham 1
Letters 51
Index 233

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

Portrait

Frontispiece
From a cast of Blake's head, made when he was about fifty years old, by Deville, the phrenologist.

The Ancient of Days, with the Compasses, striking the first Circle of the Earth

34
From the example of this print (now in the Whitworth Institute, Manchester), which was coloured by Blake on his deathbed for Frederick Tatham.

Catherine Blake, Wife of the Artist

44
From a pencil drawing by George Richmond, made after a drawing from life by Frederick Tatham.

Facsimile of a Letter

56
From Blake to George Cumberland, dated 23rd December 1796.

The Vision of Jacob's Ladder

73
From the original watercolour drawing by Blake, in the possession of W. Graham Robertson, Esq.

Blake's Cottage at Felpham

74
From a pen-and-ink drawing by W. Graham Robertson.

Little Tom the Sailor

85
From a broadside, designed and executed by Blake.

Thomas Butts, Muster Master General, his Wife, and Son

90
From miniatures by Blake.

The Horse

184
From a print, illustrating the seventh of Hayley's Ballads founded on Anecdotes relating to Animals (1805), designed and engraved by Blake.

A Vision of the Last Judgment

199
From the original watercolour drawing by Blake, at Petworth.

Paolo and Francesca, with the Whirlwind of Lovers

219
From an engraving by Blake, illustrating Dante's Inferno, c. v, l. 142.

The Union of Jerusalem with God

222
From p. 99 of the coloured copy of Blake's Jerusalem, in the possession of Captain Archibald Stirling.