William Blake November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) was an English poet,
painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake's work
is now considered seminal in the history of both poetry and the visual arts.
William Blake November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) was an English
poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake's
work is now considered seminal in the history of both poetry and the visual
arts. Blake's prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to
its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual
artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest
artist Britain has ever produced". Although he only once travelled any farther
than a day's walk outside London over the course of his life, his creative
vision engendered a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced
'imagination' as "the body of God", or "Human existence itself".
Considered mad for his idiosyncratic views by contemporaries, later criticism
regards Blake highly for his expressiveness and creativity, as well as the
philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and
poetry have been characterized as part of both the Romantic movement and
"Pre-Romantic", for its largely having appeared in the 18th century. Reverent
of the Bible but hostile to the established Church, Blake was influenced by the
ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by
such thinkers as Jacob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg.
Despite these known influences, the originality and singularity of Blake's work
make him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti
characterised Blake as a "glorious luminary," and "a man not forestalled by
predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known
or readily surmisable successors."
The archetype of the Creator is a familiar image in Blake's work. Here,
the demiurgic figure Urizen prays before the world he has forged. The Song
of Los is the third in a series of illuminated books painted by Blake and
his wife, collectively known as the Continental Prophecies.
William Blake was born in 28A Broad Street, Golden Square, London, England on
28 November 1757, to a middle-class family. He was the third of 7
children, two of whom died in infancy. Blake's father, James, was a
hosier. William never attended school, and was educated at home by his
mother. The Blakes were Dissenters, and are believed to have belonged to the
Moravian Church. The Bible was an early and profound influence on Blake, and
would remain a source of inspiration throughout his life.
Blake began engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities purchased for him
by his father, a practice that was then preferred to actual drawing. Within
these drawings Blake found his first exposure to classical forms, through the
work of Raphael, Michelangelo, Marten Heemskerk and Albrecht Dürer. His parents
knew enough of his headstrong temperament that he was not sent to school but was
instead enrolled in drawing classes. He read avidly on subjects of his own
choosing. During this period, Blake was also making explorations into poetry;
his early work displays knowledge of Ben Jonson and Edmund Spenser.
On 4 August 1772, Blake became apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great
Queen Street, for the term of seven years. At the end of this period, at the
age of 21, he was to become a professional engraver. No record survives of any
serious disagreement or conflict between the two during the period of Blake's
apprenticeship. However, Peter Ackroyd's biography notes that Blake was later to
add Basire's name to a list of artistic adversaries—and then cross it out.
This aside, Basire's style of engraving was of a kind held to be old-fashioned
at the time, and Blake's instruction in this outmoded form may have been
detrimental to his acquiring of work or recognition in later life.
After two years Basire sent his apprentice to copy images from the Gothic
churches in London (it is possible that this task was set in order to break up a
quarrel between Blake and James Parker, his fellow apprentice), and his
experiences in Westminster Abbey contributed to the formation of his artistic
style and ideas; the Abbey of his day was decorated with suits of armour,
painted funeral effigies and varicoloured waxworks. Ackroyd notes that "the most
immediate [impression] would have been of faded brightness and colour". In
the long afternoons Blake spent sketching in the Abbey, he was occasionally
interrupted by the boys of Westminster School, one of whom "tormented" Blake so
much one afternoon that he knocked the boy off a scaffold to the ground, "upon
which he fell with terrific Violence". Blake beheld more visions in the
Abbey, of a great procession of monks and priests, while he heard "the chant of
plain-song and chorale".
In 1778, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, near
the Strand. While the terms of his study required no payment, he was expected to
supply his own materials throughout the six-year period. There, he rebelled
against what he regarded as the unfinished style of fashionable painters such as
Rubens, championed by the school's first president, Joshua Reynolds. Over time,
Blake came to detest Reynolds' attitude toward art, especially his pursuit of
"general truth" and "general beauty". Reynolds wrote in his Discourses that the
"disposition to abstractions, to generalizing and classification, is the great
glory of the human mind"; Blake responded, in marginalia to his personal copy,
that "To Generalize is to be an Idiot; To Particularize is the Alone Distinction
of Merit". Blake also disliked Reynolds' apparent humility, which he held
to be a form of hypocrisy. Against Reynolds' fashionable oil painting, Blake
preferred the Classical precision of his early influences, Michelangelo and
Blake's first biographer Alexander Gilchrist records that in June 1780, Blake
was walking towards Basire's shop in Great Queen Street when he was swept up by
a rampaging mob that stormed Newgate Prison in London. They attacked the
prison gates with shovels and pickaxes, set the building ablaze, and released
the prisoners inside. Blake was reportedly in the front rank of the mob during
this attack. These riots, in response to a parliamentary bill revoking sanctions
against Roman Catholicism, later came to be known as the Gordon Riots; they
provoked a flurry of legislation from the government of George III, as well as
the creation of the first police force.
Despite Gilchrist's insistence that Blake was "forced" to accompany the crowd,
some biographers have argued that he accompanied it impulsively, or supported it
as a revolutionary act. In contrast, Jerome McGann argues that the riots were
reactionary, and that events would have provoked "disgust" in Blake.
and early career
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (1786)
In 1782, Blake met John Flaxman, who was to become his patron, and Catherine
Boucher, who was to become his wife. At the time, Blake was recovering from a
relationship that had culminated in a refusal of his marriage proposal. Telling
Catherine and her parents the story, she expressed her sympathy, whereupon Blake
asked her, "Do you pity me?" To Catherine's affirmative response he responded,
"Then I love you." Blake married Catherine – who was five years his junior – on
18 August 1782 in St. Mary's Church, Battersea. Illiterate, Catherine signed her
wedding contract with an 'X'. Later, in addition to teaching Catherine to read
and write, Blake trained her as an engraver; throughout his life she would prove
an invaluable aid to him, helping to print his illuminated works and maintaining
his spirits throughout numerous misfortunes.
At this time George Cumberland, one of the founders of the National Gallery,
became an admirer of Blake's work. Blake's first collection of poems, Poetical
Sketches, was published circa 1783. After his father's death, William and his
brother Robert opened a print shop in 1784, and began working with radical
publisher Joseph Johnson. Johnson's house was a place of meeting for some of the
leading intellectual dissidents of the time in England: Joseph Priestley,
scientist; Richard Price, philosopher; John Henry Fuseli; Mary
Wollstonecraft, an early feminist; and Thomas Paine, American revolutionary.
Along with William Wordsworth and William Godwin, Blake had great hopes for the
American and French revolution and wore a Phrygian cap in solidarity with the
French revolutionaries, but despaired with the rise of Robespierre and the Reign
of Terror in the French revolution.
Blake illustrated Original Stories from Real Life (1788; 1791) by Mary
Wollstonecraft. They seem to have shared some views on sexual equality and the
institution of marriage, but there is no evidence proving without doubt that
they actually met. In 1793's Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake condemned
the cruel absurdity of enforced chastity and marriage without love and defended
the right of women to complete self-fulfillment.
Blake's Newton (1795) demonstrates his opposition to the
"single-vision" of scientific materialism: Newton fixes his eye on a
compass (recalling Proverbs 8:27, an important passage for Milton to write
upon a scroll which seems to project from his own head.
In 1788, at the age of 31, Blake began to experiment with relief etching, a
method he would use to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and of
course his poems, including his longer 'prophecies' and his masterpiece the
"Bible." The process is also referred to as illuminated printing, and final
products as illuminated books or prints. Illuminated printing involved writing
the text of the poems on copper plates with pens and brushes, using an
acid-resistant medium. Illustrations could appear alongside words in the manner
of earlier illuminated manuscripts. He then etched the plates in acid in order
to dissolve away the untreated copper and leave the design standing in relief
(hence the name).
This is a reversal of the normal method of etching, where the lines of the
design are exposed to the acid, and the plate printed by the intaglio method.
Relief etching, which Blake invented, later became an important commercial
printing method. The pages printed from these plates then had to be hand-coloured
in water colours and stitched together to make up a volume. Blake used
illuminated printing for most of his well-known works, including Songs of
Innocence and Experience, The Book of Thel, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and
Blake's marriage to Catherine remained a close and devoted one until his
death. There were early problems such as Catherine's illiteracy and the couple's
failure to produce children. Gilchrist refers to "stormy times"
in the early years of the marriage. Some biographers have suggested that
Blake tried to bring a concubine into the marriage bed in accordance with the
beliefs of the Swedenborgian Society,  but other scholars have dismissed
these theories as conjecture.  Blake taught Catherine to write, and she
helped him to colour his printed poems.
Hecate, 1795. Blake's vision of Hecate, Greek goddess of black
magic and the underworld
In 1800, Blake moved to a cottage at Felpham in Sussex (now West Sussex) to
take up a job illustrating the works of William Hayley, a minor poet. It was in
this cottage that Blake wrote Milton: a Poem (published between 1805 and 1808).
The preface to this work includes a poem beginning "And did those feet in
ancient time", which became the words for the anthem, "Jerusalem". Over time,
Blake came to resent his new patron, coming to believe that Hayley was
disinterested in true artistry, and preoccupied with "the meer drudgery of
business". Blake's disenchantment with Hayley has been speculated to have
influenced Milton: a Poem, in which Blake wrote that "Corporeal Friends are
Spiritual Enemies" (3:26).
Blake's trouble with authority came to a head in August 1803, when he was
involved in a physical altercation with a soldier called John Schofield.
Blake was charged not only with assault, but also with uttering seditious and
treasonable expressions against the King. Schofield claimed that Blake had
exclaimed, "Damn the king. The soldiers are all slaves." Blake would be
cleared in the Chichester assizes of the charges. According to a report in the
Sussex county paper, "The invented character of [the evidence] was ... so
obvious that an acquittal resulted." Schofield was later depicted wearing
"mind forged manacles" in an illustration to Jerusalem.
Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun
(1805) is one of a series of illustrations of Revelation 12.
Blake returned to London in 1804 and began to write and illustrate Jerusalem
(1804–1820), his most ambitious work. Having conceived the idea of portraying
the characters in Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims, Blake approached the dealer
Robert Cromek, with a view to marketing an engraving. Knowing that Blake was too
eccentric to produce a popular work, Cromek promptly commissioned Thomas
Stothard to execute the concept. When Blake learned that he had been cheated, he
broke off contact with Stothard, formerly a friend. He also set up an
independent exhibition in his brother's shop, designed to market his own version
of the Chaucer illustration, along with other works. As a result he wrote his
Descriptive Catalogue (1809), which contains what Anthony Blunt has called a
"brilliant analysis" of Chaucer. It is regularly anthologised as a classic of
Chaucer criticism. It also contained detailed explanations of his other
He was introduced by George Cumberland to a young artist named John Linnell.
Through Linnell he met Samuel Palmer, who belonged to a group of artists who
called themselves the Shoreham Ancients. This group shared Blake's rejection of
modern trends and his belief in a spiritual and artistic New Age. At the age of
65 Blake began work on illustrations for the Book of Job. These works were later
admired by Ruskin, who compared Blake favourably to Rembrandt, and by Vaughan
Williams, who based his ballet Job: A Masque for Dancing on a selection of the
Later in his life Blake began to sell a great number of his works, particularly
his Bible illustrations, to Thomas Butts, a patron who saw Blake more as a
friend than a man whose work held artistic merit; this was typical of the
opinions held of Blake throughout his life.
The commission for Dante's Inferno came to Blake in 1826 through
Linnell, with the ultimate aim of producing a series of engravings. Blake's
death in 1827 would cut short the enterprise, and only a handful of the
watercolours were completed, with only seven of the engravings arriving at proof
form. Even so, they have evoked praise:
'[T]he Dante watercolours are among Blake's richest achievements, engaging
fully with the problem of illustrating a poem of this complexity. The mastery
of watercolour has reached an even higher level than before, and is used to
extraordinary effect in differentiating the atmosphere of the three states of
being in the poem'.
Blake's The Lovers' Whirlwind illustrates Hell in Canto V of
Blake's illustrations of the poem are not merely accompanying works, but
rather seem to critically revise, or furnish commentary on, certain spiritual or
moral aspects of the text. In illustrating Paradise Lost, for instance, Blake
seemed intent on revising Milton's focus on Satan as the central figure of the
epic; for example, in Satan Watching the Endearments of Adam and Eve (1808),
Satan occupies an isolated position at the picture's top, with Adam and Eve
centered below. As if to emphasise the effects of the juxtaposition, Blake has
shown Adam and Eve caught in an embrace, whereas Satan may only onanistically
caress the serpent, whose identity he is close to assuming.
In this instance, because the project was never completed, Blake's intent may
itself be obscured. Some indicators, however, bolster the impression that
Blake's illustrations in their totality would themselves take issue with the
text they accompany: In the margin of Homer Bearing the Sword and His
Companions, Blake notes, "Every thing in Dantes Comedia shews That for
Tyrannical Purposes he has made This World the Foundation of All & the Goddess
Nature & not the Holy Ghost." Blake seems to dissent from Dante's admiration of
the poetic works of the ancient Greeks, and from the apparent glee with which
Dante allots punishments in Hell (as evidenced by the grim humour of the
At the same time, Blake shared Dante's distrust of materialism and the
corruptive nature of power, and clearly relished the opportunity to represent
the atmosphere and imagery of Dante's work pictorially. Even as he seemed to
near death, Blake's central preoccupation was his feverish work on the
illustrations to Dante's Inferno; he is said to have spent one of the very last
shillings he possessed on a pencil to continue sketching.
Monument near Blake's unmarked grave in London
On the day of his death, Blake worked relentlessly on his Dante series.
Eventually, it is reported, he ceased working and turned to his wife, who was in
tears by his bedside. Beholding her, Blake is said to have cried, "Stay Kate!
Keep just as you are – I will draw your portrait – for you have ever been an
angel to me." Having completed this portrait (now lost), Blake laid down his
tools and began to sing hymns and verses. At six that evening, after promising
his wife that he would be with her always, Blake died. Gilchrist reports that a
female lodger in the same house, present at his expiration, said, "I have been
at the death, not of a man, but of a blessed angel."
Since 1965, the exact location of William Blake's grave had been lost and
forgotten, while gravestones were taken away to create a new lawn. Nowadays,
William Blake’s grave is commemorated by a stone that reads 'near by lie the
remains of William Blake and his wife Catherine Sophia'. This memorial stone is
situated approximately 20 metres away from William Blake’s grave. The actual
spot of Blake’s grave is not marked. However, members the group Friends of
William Blake have rediscovered the location of Blake's grave and intend to
place a permanent memorial at the site.
George Richmond gives the following account of Blake's death in a letter to
He died ... in a most glorious manner. He said He was going to that Country
he had all His life wished to see & expressed Himself Happy, hoping for
Salvation through Jesus Christ — Just before he died His Countenance became
fair. His eyes Brighten'd and he burst out Singing of the things he saw in
Catherine paid for Blake's funeral with money lent to her by Linnell. He was
buried five days after his death – on the eve of his forty-fifth wedding
anniversary – at the Dissenter's burial ground in Bunhill Fields, where his
parents were also interred. Present at the ceremonies were Catherine, Edward
Calvert, George Richmond, Frederick Tatham and John Linnell. Following Blake's
death, Catherine moved into Tatham's house as a housekeeper. During this period,
she believed she was regularly visited by Blake's spirit. She continued selling
his illuminated works and paintings, but would entertain no business transaction
without first "consulting Mr. Blake". On the day of her own death, in
October 1831, she was as calm and cheerful as her husband, and called out to him
"as if he were only in the next room, to say she was coming to him, and it would
not be long now".
On her death, Blake's manuscripts were inherited by Frederick Tatham, who burned
several of those which he deemed heretical or too politically radical. Tatham
had become an Irvingite, one of the many fundamentalist movements of the 19th
century, and was severely opposed to any work that smacked of blasphemy.
Sexual imagery in a number of Blake's drawings was also erased by John Linnell.
Blake is now recognised as a saint in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. The Blake
Prize for Religious Art was established in his honour in Australia in 1949. In
1957 a memorial was erected in Westminster Abbey, in memory of him and his wife.
Although Blake's attacks on conventional religion were shocking in his own
day, his rejection of religiosity was not a rejection of religion per se.
His view of orthodoxy is evident in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a
series of texts written in imitation of Biblical prophecy. Therein, Blake lists
several Proverbs of Hell, amongst which are the following:
Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the
priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.
In The Everlasting Gospel, Blake does not present Jesus as a
philosopher or traditional messianic figure but as a supremely creative being,
above dogma, logic and even morality:
If he had been Antichrist, Creeping Jesus,
He'd have done anything to please us:
Gone sneaking into the Synagogues
And not used the Elders & Priests like Dogs,
But humble as a Lamb or an Ass,
Obey himself to Caiaphas.
God wants not man to humble himself
Jesus, for Blake, symbolises the vital relationship and unity between
divinity and humanity: "[A]ll had originally one language and one religion: this
was the religion of Jesus, the everlasting Gospel. Antiquity preaches the Gospel
Blake designed his own mythology, which appears largely in his prophetic
books. Within these Blake describes a number of characters, including 'Urizen',
'Enitharmon', 'Bromion' and 'Luvah'. This mythology seems to have a basis in the
Bible and in Greek mythology, and it accompanies his ideas about the everlasting
"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by
another Man's. I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create."
Words uttered by Los in Blake's Jerusalem:
The Emanation of the Giant Albion.
One of Blake's strongest objections to orthodox Christianity is that he felt
it encouraged the suppression of natural desires and discouraged earthly joy. In
A Vision of the Last Judgement, Blake says that:
Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have curbed & govern'd their
Passions or have No Passions, but because they have Cultivated their
Understandings. The Treasures of Heaven are not Negations of Passion, but
Realities of Intellect, from which all the Passions Emanate Uncurbed in
their Eternal Glory.
One may also note his words concerning religion in The Marriage of Heaven
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason,
call'd Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a
portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the
bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.
The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve, c. 1825. Watercolour on
Blake does not subscribe to the notion of a distinct body from the soul, and
which must submit to the rule of soul, but rather sees body as an extension of
soul derived from the 'discernment' of the senses. Thus, the emphasis orthodoxy
places upon the denial of bodily urges is a dualistic error born of
misapprehension of the relationship between body and soul; elsewhere, he
describes Satan as the 'State of Error', and as being beyond salvation.
Blake opposed the sophistry of theological thought that excuses pain, admits
evil and apologizes for injustice. He abhorred self-denial, which he associated
with religious repression and particularly with sexual repression: "Prudence is
a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. / He who desires but acts not,
breeds pestilence." He saw the concept of 'sin' as a trap to bind men’s desires
(the briars of Garden of Love), and believed that restraint in obedience
to a moral code imposed from the outside was against the spirit of life:
Abstinence sows sand all over
The ruddy limbs & flaming hair,
But Desire Gratified
Plants fruits & beauty there.
He did not hold with the doctrine of God as Lord, an entity separate from and
superior to mankind; this is shown clearly in his words about Jesus Christ: "He
is the only God ... and so am I, and so are you." A telling phrase in The
Marriage of Heaven and Hell is "men forgot that All deities reside in the
human breast". This is very much in line with his belief in liberty and equality
in society and between the sexes.
Northrop Frye, commenting on Blake's consistency in strongly held views,
notes that Blake "himself says that his notes on [Joshua] Reynolds, written at
fifty, are 'exactly Similar' to those on Locke and Bacon, written when he was
'very Young'. Even phrases and lines of verse will reappear as much as forty
years later. Consistency in maintaining what he believed to be true was itself
one of his leading principles ... Consistency, then, foolish or otherwise, is
one of Blake's chief preoccupations, just as 'self-contradiction' is always one
of his most contemptuous comments".
Blake's "A Negro Hung Alive by the Ribs to a Gallows", an illustration
to J. G. Stedman's Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the
Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796).
Blake abhorred slavery and believed in racial and sexual equality.Several of his poems and paintings express a notion of universal
humanity: "As all men are alike (tho' infinitely various)". In one poem,
narrated by a black child, white and black bodies alike are described as shaded
groves or clouds, which exist only until one learns "to bear the beams of love":
When I from black, and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,
I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear
To lean in joy upon our Father's knee;
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him, and he will then love me.
Blake retained an active interest in social and political events for all his
life, often cloaking social and political statements in mystical allegory. His
views on what he saw as oppression and restriction of rightful freedom extended
to the Church. His spiritual beliefs are evidenced in Songs of Experience
(1794), in which he distinguishes between the Old Testament God, whose
restrictions he rejected, and the New Testament God (Jesus Christ in
Trinitarianism), whom he saw as a positive influence.
From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions. The earliest of
these visions may have occurred as early as the age of four when, according to
one anecdote, the young artist "saw God" when God "put his head to the window",
causing Blake to break into screaming. At the age of eight or ten in Peckham
Rye, London, Blake claimed to have seen "a tree filled with angels, bright
angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars." According to Blake's
Victorian biographer Gilchrist, he returned home and reported this vision, and
he only escaped being thrashed by his father for telling a lie through the
intervention of his mother. Though all evidence suggests that his parents were
largely supportive, his mother seems to have been especially so, and several of
Blake's early drawings and poems decorated the walls of her chamber. On another
occasion, Blake watched haymakers at work, and thought he saw angelic figures
walking among them.
The Ghost of a Flea, 1819-1820. Having informed
painter-astrologer John Varley of his visions of apparitions, Blake was
subsequently persuaded to paint one of them. Varley's anecdote of Blake
and his vision of the flea's ghost became well-known.
Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often
associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and therefore may have
inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious
concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake's works. God and Christianity
constituted the intellectual centre of his writings, from which he drew
inspiration. In addition, Blake believed that he was personally instructed and
encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were
actively read and enjoyed by those same Archangels. In a letter to William
Hayley, dated May 6, 1800, Blake writes:
I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they
were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and
with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my
remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now
write from his dictate.
In a letter to John Flaxman, dated September 21, 1800, Blake writes:
[The town of] Felpham is a sweet place for Study, because it is more
spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates; her
windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are
more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen; & my Cottage is
also a Shadow of their houses. My Wife & Sister are both well, courting
Neptune for an embrace... I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could
well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers filled with books & pictures
of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; &
those works are the delight & Study of Archangels.
In a letter to Thomas Butts, dated April 25, 1803, Blake writes:
Now I may say to you, what perhaps I should not dare to say to anyone else:
That I can alone carry on my visionary studies in London unannoy'd, & that I
may converse with my friends in Eternity, See Visions, Dream Dreams & prophecy
& speak Parables unobserv'd & at liberty from the Doubts of other Mortals;
perhaps Doubts proceeding from Kindness, but Doubts are always pernicious,
Especially when we Doubt our Friends.
In A Vision of the Last Judgement Blake writes:
Error is Created. Truth is Eternal. Error, or Creation, will be Burned up,
& then, & not till Then, Truth or Eternity will appear. It is Burnt up the
Moment Men cease to behold it. I assert for My Self that I do not behold the
outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance & not Action; it is as the Dirt
upon my feet, No part of Me. "What," it will be Question'd, "When the Sun
rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?" Oh no, no,
I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy,
is the Lord God Almighty.' I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any
more than I would Question a Window concerning Sight. I look thro' it & not
William Wordsworth remarked, "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad,
but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than
the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott."
D.C.Williams (1899-1983) said that Blake was a romantic with a critical view
on the world, he maintained that Blake's Songs of Innocence were made as
a view of an ideal, somewhat Utopian view whereas he used the Songs of
Experience in order to show the suffering and loss posed by the nature of
society and the world of his time.
In addition to his influence on writers and artists, Blake's role as a
song-writer and as an exponent of sexual and imaginative freedom have made
him an influential figure in popular culture, especially since the 1960s.
Far more than any other canonical writer, his work has influenced and been
adapted by popular musicians including Billy Bragg, Emerson, Lake & Palmer,
Mike Westbrook, U2, Van Morrison, Nick Drake, Jah Wobble, Tangerine
Dream, Bruce Dickinson, David Axelrod, Mark E. Smith, Kathleen Yearwood and
Ulver. Folk musicians have also adapted his work, and figures such as Bob
Dylan and Allen Ginsberg have been influenced by him. The genre of the
graphic novel traces its origins to Blake's etched songs and Prophetic
Books. Abstract painter Ronnie Landfield dedicated a painting to Blake
 in the late 1960s. Children's author Maurice Sendak and exponents such
as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Robert Crumb, and J.M. DeMatteis have all
cited Blake as one of their major inspirations.
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