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William Blake

Blake’s Margins: An Interpretive Study of the Annotations by Hazard Adam (McFarland) Known for his prophetic and imaginative works of poetry, painting, and printmaking, William Blake was also a prolific reader and annotator of other writers' works. This is the first work of criticism to consider Blake's annotations in their entirety, and it covers such topics as art, poetry, theology, madness and philosophy, as well as the authors Lavater, Swedenborg, Bacon, Spurzheim, Berkeley, and Wordsworth, among others.

Excerpt: I have written this commentary on Blake's annotations less for scholars well acquainted with Blake's writings and art than for people who want to learn more about Blake's thought and for students in the early stages of study of his work. We have no idea how many books Blake may have annotated. Eleven have survived to find places in libraries in England and the United States. One other, Spurzheim's Observations on the Deranged Manifestations of the Mind, is lost; but Edwin J. Ellis and William Butler Yeats transcribed Blake's annotations for their edition of Blake's writings published in 1893. Blake's annotations to Wordsworth's poem The Excursion were not made in a book, but instead on four separate sheets still in existence. Thus we have thirteen surviving sets of annotations made by Blake. It is likely that he annotated other books, whether his or those of acquaintances. Indeed, he wrote in the annotations we have that he had read and annotated Edmund Burke on the sublime and the beautiful, John Locke on human understanding, and Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning. It was not unusual in Blake's time for people to annotate books lent to them or presented to them for that purpose. Blake's annotations to Wordsworth's poems were of the latter sort. Often it seems that Blake thought he was writing them not merely for acquaintances but for a larger audience. It turns out that he was right about this.

Almost everyone who has written on Blake has quoted from his annotations, and some have depended heavily on them for their own arguments. Much of what we think we know of Blake's thought has its source in them. The earliest surviving annotations were made in a book published in 1788 and read by Blake in that year. Blake was then 31 years old. He made his last surviving annotations in 1827 not long before his death in the same year. The annotations thus cover thirty-nine years of his working life, over which time he developed and expressed his views on many things. The books he annotated took up a variety of subjects — religious, philosophical, economic, psychological, artistic, poetic, and historical. The annotations provide us with a sense not only of what he was thinking at various times in his life, but also of the breadth of his curiosity and interests as well as ways he reacted to the writings of others. They give us considerable insight into his character and personality over time. Blake read with enthusiasm. He interpreted. He complained, often brilliantly. He praised, and he criticized, often harshly. He could praise and then criticize. He marked without comment passages to remember or those he especially admired. He underlined. He edited, sometimes crossing out and emending, sometimes to express views opposite to those of the writer. He sometimes provided a "preface" of his own.

Blake was fundamentally self-educated. We know that he attended Henry Parrs's Drawing School, was apprenticed to the engraver James Basire, and studied at the Royal Academy of Art; but he had no formal education in the usual sense. We know from his writings, his visual art, and the reports of others that he read widely. His own library, as much as we know of it, was eclectic. In my last chapter, I attempt briefly to give some idea of the range of his reading.

I have taken up the annotations in the order in which they appear in David V. Erdman's The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. The books are presented there in the order in which Erdman thought Blake annotated them, and I have no reason to disagree with his decisions, even though some of them are speculative.

Recent scholars have often depended on Erdman's edition, in which annotations are usually preceded by brief passages to which Blake seems to be responding. Often, however, it is the whole text to which an annotation responds, or it is the drift of an argument over a considerable space. I havean> sought to provide a better sense of the context of Blake's remarks than is possible in an edition such as Erdman's, or, for that matter, any edition likely to be produced.

There has not been much written that directly and exclusively deals with the annotations. Morton D. Paley has written two informative articles on the annotations to Watson's Apology for the Bible and Thornton's The Lord's Prayer, and, as the reader will see, I am in their debt. His essay on Blake and Swedenborg, though with more general intent than mine, also deals with the annotations. Thomas McFarland has written "Synecdochic Structure in Blake's Marginalia." There are facsimile editions of Lavater's Aphorisms on Man and Watson's Apology, both with Blake's annotations. They have helpful introductions by R. J. Shroyer and G. Ingli James, respectively.

More recently, H. J. Jackson has written an interesting book on reading and publishing in the romantic period, and she has emphasized marginalia. Her brief discussion of Blake is excellent on his usually methodical use of annotation as "step-by-step refutation" (158). She declares, "In the context of reading practices of the period, Blake is hardly eccentric at all. He talked back to his books and, like certain other readers, he took steps to disseminate his opinion in a form of manuscript publication" (170). If this was not a way of reaching more than a very few readers in his day, it certainly became successful in the latter part of the twentieth century. Jackson offers fine brief discussions of Blake's annotations to Bacon (159-61), Watson (161, 164-6), and Reynolds (166-9), and she quite correctly remarks, "The effect of Blake's system of annotation was to make manuscript marginalia an integral part of the book and thus publish his quarrel with the author as the book circulated" (169)./p>

The one book addressed to the annotations, though a little over half of the book passes before the annotations are discussed, has aims quite different from mine. This is The Torn Book: UnReading William Blake's Marginalia by Jason Allen Snart.t It is a textual study, narrowly conceived to emphasize the materiality of texts and virtually to ignore what Snart calls the "content" and I call the thought of Blake's annotations. He writes, "I am less interested in what Blake writes in the margins than by the fact that he writes them there at all" (111). His aim is to establish a material basis for reading: "It is the question surrounding how annotations exist on the page that matters for the present study, and what implications these have for our reading of the annotations and for our reading of other moments in Blake" (130). It is clear that the material context for Blake's engraved writings is important for a reading of his poems, but Snart's book, to my mind, does not demonstrate how the materiality of the annotations functions to affect the thought we draw from them, though it does lead us to take note of the rhetoric. Jackson has rightly pointed to the "layout and visual effect of his notes" (169). Blake's aim here was to be rhetorically persuasive. Snart's book, it seems to me, is an example of how notions of textuality and indeterminateness of meaning, emphasized in deconstruction and postmodernism generally, have found their way into academic textual studies, with the usual time lag and occasional oversimplification that have always occurred when philosophical notions have finally influenced literary criticism and theory. Still, at the level on which he is deliberately writing, Snart makes a number of interesting observations.

What I have done will perhaps not satisfy those for whom only their own inspection of the books would be adequate. Recourse may be had to the two facsimile editions, but they offer at best only moderately successful reproductions of the annotations. In some other cases, the original is in a deteriorated condition, and in certain places the annotations are difficult or impossible any longer to read. Erdman recovered some of these, and some that were available to him are now virtually unreadable. We depend today on his transcriptions. That they have lost their materiality is no reason to ignore them.

In the chapters that follow, I have tried to give attention to the larger intellectual contexts of the books and Blake's remarks. I hope that without prolixity I have selected what will most profit the reader.

In the writings about Blake in his time and sometimes since, a number of false ideas about him or ideas with little or no foundation in fact have appeared and have been repeated: that he was as innocent as the children of his poems, that he was insane, that he had Muggletonian forebears, that he wanted to introduce a concubine into his household, that he was socially isolated. It is true that Blake was untutored (except for his having attended drawing school). He had no formal education. In later life, he declared himself opposed to it. Henry Crabb Robinson reports that he said, "There is no use in education. It is the great sin. It is eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the fault of Plato. He knew of nothing but the virtues and vices, and good and evil:* Robinson also tells us, "Nor would he admit that any education should be attempted, except that of the cultivation of the imagination and fine arts" (308). He rejected what he thought of as formal education's coercive discipline:

Thank God I never was sent to school
To be flog'd into following the Style of Fool.

He must have held these view at least from early in his career, as his poem "The School Boy," placed in Songs of Experience, spoken by a child, seems to show. He was, however, an avid and eclectic reader and in his later years a student, probably self-taught, of Greek, Hebrew, and Italian. Our sources for knowledge of Blake's reading are, of course, his own writings and the reports and scholarship of others. In addition, there are the many books to which he contributed designs and/or engravings. Of these he may have read little or much. What follows here is a brief effort to give a general idea of the scope of Blake's reading. It is not meant to mention all of Blake's books.

Almost fifty years ago, Sir Geoffrey Keynes reported on the seventeen and perhaps nineteen volumes that still exist and were then known to have been owned by Blake.* They are, in addition to the books he annotated, Johann Joachim Winckelmann's Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks, 1765, translated by Henry Fuseli; The Tragedies of Aeschylus, 1779, translated by R. Palmer; Thomas Chatterton's Poems by Thomas Rowley, 1778; John and Charles Wesley's Hymns for the Nation in 1782; James Barry's An Account of a Series of Pictures in the Great Room of the Society of Arts, Manufacture, and Commerce at the Adelphi, 1783; Horace Walpole's Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England, 1792; Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry, 1765; and Chapman's Homer, 1616. Keynes also mentions Works of Peter Pindar and Young's Night Thoughts, though he had not himself examined these volumes. In any case, we know that Blake had read the latter, for which he had made illustrations. In his biography of Blake,t G. E. Bentley, Jr., mentions books Blake is known to have bought: Joseph Hallett, Jr.'s, Free and Impartial Study of the Holy Scripture recommended, 1729; Jacob Duché's Discourses on Various Subjects, in addition to the Wesleys' book mentioned above. He lists as probable The Works of Jacob Behmen (Boehme), 1764, translated by William Law; perhaps works by Paracelsus and Cornelius Agrippa. Behmen, Paracelsus, and Agrippa were certainly known to Blake.

Bentley also notes that in An Island in the Moon Blake quotes from Joseph Addison's Cato, James Hervey's Theron and Aspasio and Meditations, Henry Wotton's Reliquae Wottonianae, William Sherlock's Practical Discourse on Death, Edward Young's Night Thoughts, Pliny, and Robert South (26n).

Among poets to whom Blake alludes are Pindar, Corinna, Ovid, Virgil, Chaucer, Tasso, Ariosto, Spenser, Camoens, Orcilla, Hervey, Pope, Prior, Dryden, Macpherson (Ossian), Klopstock, Goethe, Cowper, Churchill, Gray, Barbould, and Byron. In addition to these he owned the books of the following: Chapman's Homer, Cowper's Homer. Cary's translation of Dante, Vellutello's Dante, Milton, Young, Blair, Chatterton (Rowley), Hayley, Shenstone, Falconer, Gay, Hurdis, and Wordsworth. For some of these he did designs, engravings, or woodcuts.

He mentions several of Shakespeare's plays: Richard III, Henry IV, Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest. For many of these he did illustrations. Other dramatists he mentions are Addison, Aeschylus, whose Tragedies he owned, and Otway.

Among writers of narrative prose whom he mentions by name (or books by them) are Bunyan, Rousseau, Voltaire, Goethe, Wollstonecraft, Defoe, Richardson, and Bage. His knowledge of Arthurian legend no doubt came from Malory.

We know he read books of art, literary criticism, and aesthetics: Edward Bysshe's Art of English Poetry, Cennino Cennini's Trattato della Pittura, Benvenuto Cellini's Trattato dell' Oreficeria, Fuseli's Lectures on Painting, Rees's Cyclopaedia, Edmund Burke on the sublime and the beautiful, George Cumberland's Thoughts on Outline, Sculpture, and the System, Charles N. Tatham's Three Designs for the National Monument..., Raphael's designs. These he had at some time owned. He mentions Dr. Johnson, though no specific work, and William Gilpin on picturesque scenery.

He was familiar with or knew of the work of philosophers: Pythagoras, Democritus, Epicurus, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Descartes, and Hume. He owned books by Bacon, Berkeley, and Locke.

Among historical works, he owned William Gordon's History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America, Hay's The History of Chichester, and Stednian's Narrative of the slave revolt in Surinam, for which he did engravings.

He owned two books of hymns by the Wesley brothers and Joseph Thomas's Religious Emblems in addition to having much knowledge of the Bible, and he did commercial engravings for The Protestant Family Bible and The Royal Universal Family Bible. Among his commercial engravings are works on mathematics, medicine, including surgery, botany, geography, physiognomy, and archeology as well as poems, prose fiction, and drama. He seems to have read Newton.

As we know from the annotations, Blake was an avid critic and commentator, and I have little doubt that if he did not annotate he spoke his mind to others about what he read. It is a shame that the annotations he claims to have made to Burke's Philosophical Inquiry, Locke's An Essay on Human Understanding, and Bacon's Advancement of Learning are presumably lost, for they might have told us much more about his philosophical and aesthetic views.

William Blake and Religion: A New Critical View by Magnus Ankarsjö (McFarland) Over the last ten years the field of Blake studies has profited from new discoveries about Blake's life and work. This book examines the effect that Blake's mother's recently discovered Moravianism has had on our understanding of his poetry, and gives special attention to Moravianism and Swedenborgianism and their relation to his sexual politics. This is accomplished by a close reading of Blake's poetry, which examines in detail the subjects of religion, sex, and the attempted colonization of Africa by a Swedenborgian utopian group.

For almost two centuries William Blake has been considered a Romantic eccentric. This commonplace, standardized conception of him has by now lost contact with all serious scholarship. The commonly accepted view of Blake has even gone so far as to almost assume the anecdotal status of a popular legend. But, through new research and important discoveries, this image can now be thrown in the dustbin. There is little doubt that our image of Blake is undergoing drastic, permanent changes at the moment, embracing the progress of the open-minded scholarship that has become a natural part of Blake studies over the last ten years or so.

Not only must our overall impression of Blake change, but the very details making up this image also must change. In particular, I have in mind recently-much-debated issues like Blake's view of sexuality and his portrayal of women, his potential proto-feminist ideas, his promulgation of a utopian society, and his religious orientation. In all these areas the standard picture of Blake has been contested by a number of scholars in the last few years. It is the argument of this book that the stereotyped image of Blake must be changed even more.

To this end, my book will include documentation of the most crucial discoveries of recent scholarly work. To a large extent the findings and new ideas concern Blake's view of gender, equality, the female and sexuality. The more open-minded interpretation of these issues of the last couple of decades has rubbed off on naturally connected areas. The importance of the way earlier predominantly conservative views of gender and sexuality in Blake, promoted by certain commentators, has been refuted and proved wrong cannot be underestimated. The impact has been pervasive, and today it is not possible to be a serious Blake scholar without bearing these changes in mind.

It is only logical, then, to begin with some words about the shift from the idea of Blake as a sexist person hostile to women to viewing him as one of the most radical voices for equality between the sexes and an avid admirer of women as human and sexual beings. As every Blake scholar knows, an irrevocable paradigm (as it seemed) was set in the early 1980s by two hugely influential articles in the same issue of the Blake Illustrated Quarterly, "Blake's Portrayal of Women" by Anne Mellor and "Desire Gratified and Ungratified: William Blake and Sexuality" by Alicia Ostriker. These two essays initiated the mostly negative tone in regard to the impression of Blake's female metaphor, and for quite some time commentators seemed to follow suit, accepting and reiterating the views as a fait accompli without bothering to look further into the matter.' Admittedly, Ostriker took a more nuanced approach, not seeing Blake's treatment of gender as wholly negative, offering valuable new insights on the way. Unfortunately, in all her subsequent work on the poet, Mellor has persevered in her view of Blake as an irreversible sexist. Basically, she has stuck to her central tenet of "Blake's consistently sexist portrayal of women" (148).

It was not until Helen Bruder's pivotal study, William Blake and the Daughters ofAlbion, appeared in 1997 that this issue took a new and healthier direction. Tristanne Connolly usefully reviews the debate, accentuating the formerly dominant critical divide:

Gender has been a tortured topic in Blake studies, until recently stymied by the division between critics who see Blake offering an ideal, liberating vision of equality between the sexes, and those who consider that vision to be fundamentally misogynistic [viii].

In my opinion, it is not an exaggeration to say that William Blake and the Daughters of Albion is one of the most important books on Blake ever to emerge. It is a pioneering study that has inspired several more daring works, my own included. Possibly the biggest feat of Bruder's book is that not for a minute does she hesitate to take issue with the male-oriented patriarchal tradition of Blake studies. In a long, commendable survey of Blake criticism up to the time of the publication of the book, Bruder scatters praise and rebuttal. She does not try to hide her dislike for the predominantly stagnant and conservative stance of male-centered Blake scholarship, and rightly so. Hence, the most important achievement of Bruder's work is her reading of Blake from a positive feminist position —a first in Blake studies. As Andrew Lincoln puts it:

Bruder's Blake emerges as a "proto-feminist" influenced by an awareness of Wollstonecraft's observations on the oppression of women — a view anticipated by some other writers. But the wider issues raised in Bruder's study have yet to be addressed satisfactorily by Blake scholars [231].

Elsewhere, in a distinct way, Bruder has recently expressed her view that Blake "contested so thoroughly the premises of oppressive dominant ideologies that he must be adjudged a radical and prescient sexual thinker" ("Blake and Gender Studies," 135). It is one of the premises of my study that we simply have to concur with Bruder's position here.

William Blake and the Daughters of Albion takes a contextual new historicist approach and investigates Blake's gender utopia in the light of contemporary feminist thinkers such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Haysn According to Bruder, seen in the light of those feminist writers and the sexual politics of the time, one can read Blake as a feminist:

Blake is of value to feminism not because he maintained an exemplary and unwavering feminist commitment but rather because he took sexual power seriously and engaged with many of the contemporary discourses and contexts in which it was being exercised or resisted [36].

The reception of Bruder's book among Blake scholars has been overwhelmingly positive.' This goes to show that it was a much needed work which filled a void in Blake studies. Bruder herself is more modest about her achievement, and in her illuminating essay "Blake and Gender Studies," included in Nicholas Williams's edition of Palgrave Advances in Blake Studies, she starts by praising Irene Tayler for kick-starting Blake feminist studies:

Irene Tayler's "The Woman Scaly" (1973) initiated feminist studies of Blake by confronting head on Blake's troubling concept of "female will," which had habitually been viewed as the essence of Blakean female psychology end either valued as insight or (more rarely) condemned as misogyny. The article broke new ground with the observation that "female will" is not an aspect of essential sexual character but, rather, describes strategies used by the oppressed to gain covert power which are gendered female because women so often find themselves in this position [132].

As Bruder, importantly, goes on, "Her article, then, prepared the way for analysis of his [Blake's] extraordinary insights into the motivated social construction of gender identity and an account of feminist writing after Tayler shows how this crucial subject forced its way, albeit slowly, up the critical agenda" (132).

However, Bruder's own book seems to have set the stone in motion, and in the wake of her study there have appeared a number of stimulating works on this issue. One of the most convincing studies is Tristanne Connolly's William Blake and the Body, which provides another valid commentary on Blake's gender utopia. In this ambitious and competent book Connolly maintains an overall refreshingly positive view of Blake's treatment of gender. However, like most other commentators, she does not perform an altogether positive reading of Blake's female characters and traces some inclusions of sexism throughout Blake's oeuvre. Neither does Connolly see male and female as finally reconciled in Blake's poetry, something which is surely the ultimate crux of the debate over the last few decades, and a major reason for the ensuing critical divide. In spite of all her good ambition, she sees Blake's gender vision as based on male sexual identity, and claims, "I feel disappointed in Blake, because he makes a conscientious effort toward gender inclusiveness, and to a certain extent succeeds, but not completely. He does not go far enough" (xi). But a stimulating, informative and sometimes thought-provoking reading is provided by Connolly's book all the same.

A very special case in the Blake and gender issue, and one which is not possible to place in either of these two main critical strands, is the work of Christopher Hobson.' In Blake and Homosexuality he argues that several passages in Blake's poems and many of their illustrations have homosexual, even homoerotic, content. It is Hobson's view that by revising his idealization of male heterosexuality, Blake rejects the traditionally anti-homosexual attitude of English radicalism, thus developing a less male-centered idea of gender. He believes that it is fully plausible that Blake advocates an encouragement of sexually deviant expressions. Hobson claims that "Blake's homosexual references, relatively infrequent yet appearing at crucial points in his narratives, constitute [...] a clue to the direction of his thought" (Hobson, xii). Thus, in accordance with his Christian humanism and much in line with his supportive stance of, for instance, women and slaves, Blake expresses support to homosexuals as an oppressed minority. By discussing several examples in Blake, Hobson effectively argues for this position.

Even more crucially, and inextricably linked to these sexual/gender issues, Blake studies of all sorts can now benefit from Keri Davies and Marsha Keith chuchard's pioneering achievement in establishing the Moravian background of Blake's mother.' These discoveries undeniably have a great impact on readings of Blake's ideas on sex, gender and feminism, since the relation between the sexes was one of the key issues for the Moravians, as much as for the other main influence on Blake's religious outlook, the Swedenborgians. It is one of the aims of my book to take advantage of these findings and appropriately apply them to my readings of Blake's poems. Through this I will by example be able to emphasize the need to conform and adjust to the new discoveries.

Briefly put, Keith Schuchard and Davies, with helpful assistance, have recovered and discovered vital information in the records of the Moravian Church archive at Muswell Hill, London. Through an entry in the Marriage Register of the Mayfair Chapel for December 1746, Davies established that the maiden name of Blake's mother was Wright, and that her first marriage was to Thomas Armitage, and not Harmitage, as previously suggested by E. P. Thompson in his influential study Witness Against the Beast. By a thorough examination of the Moravian archive, Keri Davies has managed to trace and establish the birthplace of Catherine Wright to the small north Nottinghamshire village of Walkeringham, where she was raised in a family with Moravian beliefs. These new findings rather belatedly complement and verify William Muir's unique nineteenth-century claim, first put forward in Mark Schorer's 1946 study William Blake: The Politics of Vision, that Blake's parents attended Moravian services at their Fetter Lane church, before moving on to become adherents to Swedenborg. Until now this crucial claim has been ignored by scholars, with the exception of Schorer who attributes, wrongly as far as we know now, a Moravian influence to Blake's father. So Blake's early religious influences were most likely a mixture of Moravinism, Swedenborgianism and the Church of England, as Schuchard hints:

Thus, it is possible that the nineteenth-century tradition that Blake learned Swedenborgianism "at his father's knee" is accurate, but it was a Swedenborgianism developed out of earlier Moravian themes ["The 'Secret' and the 'Gift"' 210].

The new biographical facts about Blake naturally have urgent implications for the way we read his poetry and interpret his art. For one thing, stemming from a Moravian family meant that equality was a natural everyday ingredient in the Blake household in a way that was not the case for the ordinary Londoner. Equality between the sexes was something that the Moravian church tradition strived for as far as was possible. chuchard tells us that "their more daring followers experimented with uninhibited sexual behaviour, egalitarian social relations, mystical meditation, and alchemical transmutation" ("The 'Secret' and the `Gift,— 211). Quite intriguingly, the most sexually experimental and creative period of the London Moravians, the "Sifting Time" between 1743 and 1753, roughly coincides with the years that Blake's mother Catherine and her first husband Thomas Armitage and possibly her future husband James's brother, John Blake, were at the peak of their activity in the congregation, as Schuchard further indicates: "During the years of the Armitage-Blake attendance, the Moravians participated in Zinzendorf's sexual and spiritual experiments, which produced the most creative and controversial period in the history of their church" (Schuchard, Mrs Blake, 31).

Tightly connected to the fact that Blake is of a Moravian family, and also noted by Davies, is the issue of dissent versus conformity with the Church of England. The Moravians were somewhere in-between, or, rather, both. Significantly, this can also be claimed about the Swedenborgians. Hence, to what degree Blake's religious outlook was radical is more uncertain than most commentators have previously believed, and therefore his biography, and his art and poetry, now have to be reassessed. As Davies concludes:

For Blake scholars, the discovery of the Armitage and Blake documents in the Moravian archives at Muswell Hill opens up a new frontier in Blake studies. The old simplifications will no longer work; modern scholarship of Blake now needs to be repositioned within a very different cultural and religious background ["The Lost Moravian History of William Blake's Family," 25].

Clearly, the dissenting connection, if we still call it that, suggests an unusual acceptance of unorthodox, not traditionally patriarchal Christian, beliefs of greater equality between the sexes. Most crucial, however, is the exceptional open-mindedness that surrounded Blake in his early years, which doubtlessly made him more willing to accept new radical ideas, such as feminism, gender equality and an open-minded attitude to sexuality, at a more mature age.

Blakeans are fully aware of the fact that there is precious little known for certain about Blake's life, so it is after all not altogether surprising that all the many, often quite dubious, stories have become an unluckily cemented part of Blake scholarship, taken for granted for too long and by too many people. It is only with the progressive research in the last ten years or so that this has changed for the better. All these new discoveries contribute to the possibility that Blake studies could take new and healthier turns in the near future. Or, rather, from now on we all must conform to the new, important findings when we write about or teach Blake. There is little doubt that our picture of Blake is undergoing drastic and groundbreaking changes at the moment.

It is my suggestion that the early, twisted conception of Blake has helped to cement other faulty ideas about him. This is an unhealthy position for Blake studies to be in, and it is no great surprise that a number of long-lived critical fallacies have been created ever since Blake entered the academic world with the help of T. S. Eliot, in the wake of Yeats, Ellis and S. Foster Damon's pioneering work at the beginning of the twentieth century. Robert Rix makes a similar assumption in the conclusion of his recent often useful study William Blake and the Cultures of Radical Christianity, which mainly centers on Blake's relation to Swedenborgianism:

[T]he nature and direction of Blake's art is best understood in relation to particular cultures of dissenting or radical Christianity. Blake's ideas belonged to certain cultural traditions and religious strands which have not survived well into modern times. Perhaps for this reason, they have inhabited only the fringes of scholarly interest [155].

The most serious misinterpretation of Blake was in fact established less than two decades ago by a famous and important contemporary commentator, namely the great historian E. P. Thompson. In his widely acclaimed 1992 study Witness Against the Beast, he most alluringly argued that Blake was raised in a Muggletonian family and environment. This has now been convincingly proved wrong by the discoveries by Keri Davies and Marsha Keith Schuchard that Blake's mother was of Moravian background and was a devoted and active member of the Fetter Lane society of this church.' Nonetheless, people still tend to take Thompson's scholarly authority as a guarantee for the correctness of the Muggletonian argument and, recently, I have myself come across a couple of academic colleagues knowledgeable about Blake, who refer to this as being the latest important fact about him. With obvious fascination they have referred to Thompson's study as one of great interest and importance. I agree that Witness in many ways is still an interesting book, but unfortunately its main argument is completely wrong. I also have to agree that the study is still of some importance since it was Thompson who discovered that Blake's mother had been married once before she married James Blake. So we have to give Thompson this credit; he was in fact the one to put Davies and Schuchard on the right track. Unfortunately this does not make the Muggletonian argument any less incorrect, and it is now high time that we stop referring to it. Blake was not raised a Muggletonian —he was a Moravian.

We must also interrogate the meaning and the connotations of the (perhaps too) commonly used term "radical." This term is used somewhat vaguely, sloppily and even carelessly and this may naturally lead to all sorts of premises and conclusions— not least with such a unique artist and personality as William Blake. When discussing and analyzing Blake and his works we must make clear that we use words like "radical" in their correct, or at least commonly defined, understanding. Hence, we must ask ourselves, can we label the Moravians radical? Can we call Swedenborg and his followers radical? Can we use the term for any other person or group of people in Blake's immediate environment, for instance the familiar circle of artists and intellectuals around the publisher and bookseller Joseph Johnson? Was Blake's friend, the "first" feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, radical? It is my hope that through the discussion in this book the issue of radicalism shall at least become clearer.'

These important matters will be thoroughly discussed in my book. I will begin by outlining the historical background of the Moravians and the Swedenborgians, and also the Unitarians, since this was the largest nonconformist congregation at that time and, more significantly, many of the people that Blake socialized with in the most radical and formative years in the 1780s and 90s belonged to this creed. In the first chapter dealing with Blake I will assess his poetic oeuvre in the light of the new discoveries pertaining to religious ideas and symbols. The emphasis will be on poems hitherto often neglected by critics, such as the Notebook poems and The Pickering Manuscript. I will then move on in the next chapter to apply what has been discussed above to the theme of sexuality, with the same preference to rarely discussed poems. Sex and religion must be considered cornerstones of Blake's art and poetry, and are used to create his ultimate vision of a utopian society and existence. In the main, this is a figment of the imagination, so to speak, and as we know, to Blake all reality is mental, but for at least one short period of his life this took practi cal proportions in the form of a Swedenborgian colonial venture, which had the slave-trade as one significant component. This will be the subject of my fourth chapter. Finally, I will conclude by looking into the future of Blake studies, indicating roads still not taken.

This book has attempted, firstly, to enlighten the many important discoveries in Blake studies in recent years and, secondly, to use these new findings in the investigation of some appropriate poems in Blake's oeuvre. Aided by Keri Davies's and Marsha Keith Schuchard's crucial discoveries of the Moravian background of Blake's mother, I hope to have demonstrated a more profound Moravian influence on Blake's art and poetry than formerly recognized by scholars. I also hope to have shown a greater overall dependence on Swedenborgian features throughout Blake's complete work.

So, it is now established that Blake's family background was, at least on his mother's side, Moravian and that at some point there was a large input of Swedenborgian ideas in his immediate environment that came to deeply and continuously influence him. How, then, will these fundamental and compelling facts in turn influence us as Blake scholars, students, readers and enthusiasts?

To begin with, a great number of Blakean commonplaces, anecdotes and critical fallacies can now either be definitely dismissed or revaluated. The most important naturally concerns Blake's religious orientation. As I have demonstrated, he neither was of a very radical belief, nor was he a genuine dissenter. That his orientation indeed was of a particular mixture is another matter. Furthermore, and perhaps as importantly, we can now say that Blake was not a sexist. Rather, the central tenets of his religious mixture influenced him to strive for greater equality and an overall improved appreciation in society for women.

Secondly, a few other premises can now be corroborated, at best supported by new pioneering documentation. Linked to the above, Blake's sexual politics were in fact even more radical than previously believed, and definitely constituted the most radical component in his work and everyday life. Through many of his illustrations and several of his poems we have assumed that he extolled nudity, the male and female genitals and the sexual act itself. In the unique basic notions of the Moravians and the Swedenborgians about these issues we now`have very good support that this was indeed the case.

Thirdly, Blake studies can now be focused on fully worthwhile and productive issues. Even though the Moravian background of Blake's mother is now established, there are a lot of blind spots still to explore. While the fact about Blake's mother is an invaluable piece of information, it also raises new questions: what was the religious orientation of Blake's father? Was he also from a Moravian family? Is it correct to presume, analogously, that like Catherine's first husband Tomas Armitage he was of Moravian descent? What other connections to a Moravian surrounding were there in Blake's family? When, how and from where did Swedenborgianism enter his family? Was Blake's father James perhaps a Swedenborgian? Did Blake then naturally mix the Moravianism of his mother with the Swedenborgianism of his father?

What will the future of Blake studies look like then? Naturally, the focus should be linked to these questions and the number one priority must be to further verify and substantiate Blake's Moravian background, building on the breakthrough with the archival evidence of his mother's birthplace. This does not seem a too intimidating and wholly impossible task, given the vital lead we now have. It certainly should be possible to find out more about Blake's father, and Keri Davies, for one, is already searching various archives to make a similar breakthrough.

The Swedenborgian influence also needs further and more thorough investigation. There are many intriguing connections to various fascinating persons, particularly the ones taking part in the 1789 meeting at East Cheap. Danish Blake scholar Robert Rix has just published a full-length study focused mainly on Blake and Swedenborg, William Blake and the Culture of Radical Christianity, and I will myself pursue this line of investigation by searching archives and collections in Sweden, among other places. Presumably, due to language difficulties, these have not been properly analyzed before.

But the Moravian and the Swedenborgian influences are not the only tracks worth following in the next few years. Several other findings have been made in recent years which will alter our premises to various degrees and will provide great impetus and important starting-points for further research that could prove to be crucial for the elucidation of Blake as a person and artist.

For one thing, Keri Davies has managed to establish that the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century audience reading Blake was larger than previously believed. "Taken together, these new pieces of evidence should compel a revision of the established assumption that Blake lacked any significant contemporary audience," he claims in his article on the first female Blake collector Rebekah Bliss ("Mrs Bliss," 226). By scrutinizing letters between Richard Twiss and Francis Douce, Davies has also found evidence of a more numerous contemporary female readership of Blake, pointing to the collector Bliss. Also, David Worrall has suggested that Blake, at an early stage of the production of his prophetic works, intended these to reach a wider audience than they in fact did. Worrall sees such a potential in the monochrome printings made before Blake started producing the more expensive and elaborate color-printed works in 1794 and 1795. Songs of Innocence and of Experience is another work that, probably more naturally, had this commercial potential in the prevailing political climate.'

As mentioned earlier, David Worrall furthermore suggests a closer bond between Blake and certain Swedenborgian believers, whom Blake is supposed to have encountered at the East Cheap conference. Although he has already started to investigate a few of these relations, notably in the early draft of his essay "Thel in Africa," there is much exciting work to be done here. The prophetess Dorothy Gott is only one of several intriguing personalities to investigate.

Angus Whitehead has in his thorough research of Blake's different addresses managed to unearth many details of our poet's daily life that have never been thought of before. For instance, he has established that Catherine Blake's sister Sarah lived at their last residence at 3 Fountain Court, and was probably a major reason for them moving there. He also suggests that Sarah had a child, Louisa, by her husband, the landlord Henry Banes. This would mean that the Blakes were survived by a niece.'

We must also add to this of course the numerous new facts about Blake's printing, drawing and painting techniques put forth by scholars like Robert Essick, Joseph Viscomi, Michael Phillips and Mei-Ying Sung. Essick and Viscomi have both made invaluable contributions to our understanding of Blake's printing methods and artistic techniques: Essick in William Blake, Printmaker and Viscomi in Blake and the Idea of the Book, to mention a few of their works. Most recently, Viscomi has managed to establish the order of the illuminated books Blake produced in 1795: The Book of Los, The Book of Ahania, The Song of Los ("Blake's 'Annus Mirabilis'"). For highlighting and physically reconstructing the printing presses used by Blake in his time, Michael Phillips must naturally also be mentioned.' And lately Mei-Ying Sung has made important discoveries on the rectos of Blake's Job engravings, suggesting that Blake revised and corrected his work to a greater extent than what has been previously believed.4 All this clearly points forward to the work that needs to be done relating to the designs of Blake; also, the work in this field is facilitated by and must take in the new findings of Blake's family background.

The overarching conclusion of this book is that we can now speak of Blake as a Moravian. His Moravianism is, as we have seen, to an undeterminable extent mixed up with some Swedenborgian and other ideas, but we can safely call him a Moravian.

All the same, my study also points to the need of intense further investigation in this issue. We need to establish to what degree we can say that Blake's religion was radical. What was his attitude and relation to the Church of England? More specifically, we must ask ourselves: How devoted a religious man was Blake? Most factors indicate that Blake was never actively, or in private, a committed adherent to any religious denomination, be it the Church of England or a faith of an antinomian kind. As we know so far, his only alleged immersion was to Swedenborgianism at the East Cheap convention. But since he never again, to our knowledge, participated in any organized Swedenborgian worship or other activity, I would not label him a Swedenborgian. In Blake's case I believe we should rather speak of him as a follower, or more correctly a user and modifier, of some Swedenborgian ideas. Hence, the evidence tells us that Blake's use of and attitude to Swedenborgian ideas is still undecided, but that there is substance enough to call him a Moravian.

The other conclusion of my book is that, with his unusual religious mixture as background and input, the foundation of Blake's thinking is sexuality. We have seen it in his appreciation of the most extreme expressions of a liberal and open-minded attitude towards love and sex. This has been shown in all three chapters on religion, sex and utopian colonies.

But perhaps the most important outcome of this book is that, whatever his religious orientation and view of sex and women, Blake's deeply humanist message is all about love. Love of man and of the divine in man, love of life and the earth that we live upon, of its plants and animals: "Everything that lives is holy." Everything that does not live is holy too. Inevitably then, all is of equal value in God's creation. And of course Blake is an advocate of complete equality of all kinds. 


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