Gilchrist on Blake: The Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist (Flamingo Classic Biographies)
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LIVES THAT NEVER GROW OLD Part of a radical new series - edited by Richard Holmes - that recovers the great classical tradition of English biography. Gilchrist's 'The Life of William Blake' is a biographical masterpiece, still thrilling to read and vividly alive. This was the first biography of William Blake ever written, at a time when the great visionary poet and painter was generally forgotten, ridiculed or dismissed as insane. Wonderfully vivid and outspoken (one chapter is entitled 'Mad or Not Mad'), it was based on revealing interviews with many of Blake's surviving friends. Blake conversed with spirits, saw angels in trees, and sunbathed naked with his wife 'like Adam and Eve'. Gilchrist adds detailed descriptions of Blake's beliefs and working methods, an account of his trial for high treason and fascinating evocations of the places in London, Kent and Sussex where he lived. The book ultimately transformed and enhanced Blake's reputation.
will show that the Venetian finesse in art can never be united with the majesty of colouring necessary to historical beauty, and in a letter to the Rev. Mr Gilpin, author of a work on Picturesque Scenery, he says thus: – ‘It may be worth consideration whether the epithet picturesque is not applicable to the excellences of the inferior schools rather than to the higher. The works of Michael Angelo, Raphael, &c. appear to me to have nothing of it: whereas Rubens and the Venetian painters may almost
perspective view of the whole monument and a separate one of the effigy, accompanies it. In Part I. (1786) are similar ‘Portraits’ of Queen Philippa, of Edward III. &c. From Basire, Blake could only acquire the mechanical part of Art, even of the engraver’s art; for Basire had little more to communicate. But that part he learned thoroughly and well. Basire’s acquirements as an engraver were of a solid though not a fascinating kind. The scholar always retained a loyal feeling towards his old
accident) in the few last hours of his life.’ November 22d, 1801. ‘Did I tell you that our excellent Blake has wished to have Lawrence’s original drawing to copy, in his second engraving; and that our good Lady Hesketh is so gracious as to send it?’ The engravings to the Life of Cowper – the first issue in two volumes quarto (they were omitted in the subsequent octavo edition) – are not of that elaborate character the necessity of their being executed under the ‘biographer’s own eye’ might have
babe below, as he lies and sports with his dread comrade in this perilous nest, – the blood-stained cranny in the rocks, – is a noble and eloquent figure. It was subsequendy reproduced in the duodecimo edition, but without either of the vignettes. In one of these, the eagle is swooping down on the child in its cradle outside the mother’s cottage. In the other, the liberated little one is standing upon the dead eagle among the mountains. Both have a domestic simplicity of sentiment, and both are
of Time and Space. Whither we will not attempt to follow him, but conclude our gleanings from the ‘Prophetic Books’ with the following sweet reminiscence of life at Felpham which occurs in the Second Book of Mi/ton; and with the quaint and pretty lines apropos of which Blake introduces the idealized view of his cottage. Thou hearest the nightingale begin the song of spring; The lark, sitting upon his earthy bed, just as the morn Appears, listens silent; then, springing from the waving