The New International Encyclopædia/Blake, William

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707494The New International Encyclopædia — Blake, William

BLAKE, William (1757-1827). An English engraver and poet. He was born in London November 28, 1757. In 1789 he published Songs of Innocence, followed in 1794 by Songs of Experience, showing the two contrary states of the human soul, with about 60 etchings, remarkable for their peculiar and original manner. The poems were equally singular, but many of them exhibited true pathos. Some marginal designs for Young's Night Thoughts, executed by Blake, were greatly admired by Flaxman. Blake lived in the full belief that he held converse with the spirits of the departed great — with Moses, Homer, Vergil, Dante, and Milton. He published numerous etchings, chiefly of religious and cognate subjects, among the best of which are his Inventions to the Book of Job, and the illustrations of Blair's Grave. He died (August 12, 1827) in poverty and obscurity, with the conviction that he was a martyr to poetic art. The influence of Michelangelo is traceable in his art; but the imagination which produced his bold and often curious designs was peculiarly Blake's own, while in his diction, though at times almost irrational, he was, according to Swinburne, “the single Englishman of supreme and simple poetic genius of his time,” and Charles Lamb regarded him as one of the most extraordinary persons of the age. The facts of Blake's early life are recorded in a book, now rare, written by Dr. Malkin, A Father's Memoirs of his Child (1806). Consult: Gilchrist, Life and Works of William Blake (2d ed. London, 1880); Swinburne, William Blake: A Critical Essay (London, 1808); Poetical Works of William Blake, ed. W. M. Rossetti (London, 1874); and Works, edited with lithographs of the illustrated “Prophetic Books,” and memoir and interpretation, Ellis and Yeats (London, 1893).