Monday, January 4, 2016

"I live in a hole here, but God has a beautiful mansion for me elsewhere."

The Blake Archive
     "It has to be remembered that Blake was almost completely forgotten at the time of his death in a tiny two-room apartment in Fountain Court, a narrow alley off the Strand in London, in 1827.  He had sold less than thirty copies of the Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794).  Of the great illuminated Prophetic Books, The French Revolution (1791) had never been published for fear of prosecution, only four copies of Milton (1804/1810) were printed in his lifetime, and only five of his tortured, apocalyptic masterwork Jerusalem (1810/1810), of which just two fully colored originals now remain.
     "Blake had been mocked in a notorious obituary in Leigh Hunt's liberal newspaper the Examiner as 'an unfortunate lunatic.'  Both Wordsworth and Southey thought Blake was 'perfectly mad,' and even Coleridgewho was exceptional in having read the Songs in a rare copy, thought Blake was gifted but deeply eccentric.  The author of 'Kubla Khan' wrote:  'You perhaps smile at my calling another poet a mystic; but verily I am in the very mire of commonplace common sense compared with Mr Blake, apo- or rather ana-calyptic poet and painter.' . . .
". . . [Damrosch] remarks that Blake could lean out of the window of his last tiny lodgings in Fountain Court and just glimpse the river Thames, sometimes 'like a bar of gold.'  He adds Blake's comment:  'I live in a hole here, but God has a beautiful mansion for me elsewhere.'"

     Richard Holmes, "The greatness of William Blake," reviewing Eternity's sunrise:  the imaginative world of William Blake, by Leo Damrosch (and other books), The New York review of books 62, no. 19 (December 3, 2015):  72, 73 (71-73).

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