Life of William Blake (1880), Volume 1/Chapters 16—18


A NEW LIFE, 1799—1800, [ÆT. 42—43.]

About this time (1800) the ever-friendly Flaxman gave Blake an introduction which had important consequences; involving a sudden change of residence and mode of life. This was in recommending him to Hayley, 'poet,' country gentleman, friend and future biographer of Cowper; in which last capacity the world alone remembers him. Then, though few went to see his plays, or read his laboured Life of Milton, he retained a traditional reputation on the strength of almost his first poem,—still his magnum opus, after nearly twenty years had passed since its appearence,—the Triumphs of Temper. He held, in fact, an honoured place in contemporary literature; his society eagerly sought and obtained, by lovers of letters; to mere ordinary squires and neighbours sparingly accorded; to the majority point-blank refused. His name continued to be held in esteem among a slow-going portion of the world, long after his literary ware had ceased to be marketable. People of distinction and 'position in society,' princesses of the blood, and others, when visiting Bognor, would, even many years later, go out of their way to see him, as if he had been a Wordsworth.

Between Flaxman and the Hermit of Eartham, as the book-loving squire delighted to subscribe himself, friendly relations had, for some twenty years, subsisted. During three of these, Hayley's acknowledged son (he had no legitimate children), Thomas Alphonso, had been an articled pupil of the sculptor's. Early in 1798, beginnings of curvature of the spine had necessitated a return from Flaxman's roof into Sussex. There, after two years' more suffering, he died of the accumulated maladies engendered in a weakly constitution by sedentary habits; a victim of forcing, I suspect.

In 1799, the author of the Triumphs of Temper was seeing through the press one of his long Poetical Essays, as smooth and tedious as the rest, on Sculpture; in the form of 'Epistles to Flaxman.' It was published in 1800, with three trivial illustrations. Two of these are engraved by Blake: The Death of Demosthenes, after a bald outline by Hayley junior, whom the father easily persuaded himself into believing, as well as styling, his 'youthful Phidias;' and a portrait of the 'young sculptor,' after a medallion by his master, Flaxman, the drawing of which was furnished Blake by Howard; the combined result being indifferent. This was the occasion of Blake's first coming into direct personal communication with Hayley, to whom he submitted an impression of the plate of The Death of Demosthenes, which 'has been approved,' he writes, February 18th, 1800, 'by Mr. Flaxman;' adding his hopes that the young sculptor 'will soon be well enough to make hundreds of designs both for the engraver and the sculptor.'

On April 25th, 1800, the long intermittent tragedy of Cowper's life came to an end, amid dark and heavy clouds: the last years of suffering having been smoothed by a pension obtained through Hayley's intercession. A week later died Hayley's hapless son. And our poor bard had to solace himself in his own way, by inditing sonnets to his child's memory, 'on his pillow,' at four o'clock in the morning; a daily sonnet or two soon swelling into MS. volumes.

Blake, to whom death ever seemed but as 'the going out of one room into another,' was, of all men, one who could offer consolation as sincere as his sympathy. On hearing the sorrowful news he wrote at once the following characteristic letter:—

Dear Sir,

I am very sorry for your immense loss, which is a repetition of what all feel in this valley of misery and happiness mixed. I send the shadow of the departed angel, and hope the likeness is improved. The lips I have again lessened as you advise and done a good many other softenings to the whole. 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 regions of my imagination; I hear his advice and even now write from his dictate. Forgive me for expressing to you my enthusiasm which I wish all to partake of, since it is to me a source of immortal joy, even in this world. By it I am the companion of angels. May you continue to be so more and more; and to be more and more persuaded that every mortal loss is an immortal gain. The ruins of Time build mansions in Eternity.

I have also sent a proof of Pericles for your remarks, thanking you for the kindness with which you express them, and feeling heartily your grief with a brother's sympathy.

I remain,
Dear Sir,
Your humble servant,
William Blake.

Lambeth, May 6th, 1800.

The Pericles in question is an outline engraving of a medallion in the Townly collection which forms the frontispiece to Hayley's Essay on Sculpture.

'The shadow of the departed angel,' here spoken of, may possibly be the sepia drawing, which subsequently passed into the hands of Mr. George Smith, and was by him bound up in a volume of Blakiana containing many other items of great interest. At the sale of that gentleman's library, at Christie's, April, 1880, this volume fetched £66.

As further consolation, Hayley resolved on ample memoirs of son and friend. To the biography of Cowper he was ultimately urged by Lady Hesketh herself. During one of his frequent flying visits to town, and his friends the Meyers, at Kew, in June, 1800, and while he, nothing loth, was being coaxed to the task of writing Cowper's life, the idea was mooted of helping a deserving artist, by the employment of Blake to engrave the illustrations of the projected quarto. And in the same breath followed the proposal for the artist to come and live at Felpham that, during the book's progress, he might be near 'that highly respected hermit,' as Smith styles the squire; a generous, if hot-headed hermit, who thought to push Blake's fortunes, by introducing him to his numerous well-connected friends. All Hayley's projects were hurried into execution in the very hey-day of conception, or as speedily abandoned. Blake at once fell in with this scheme, encouraged perhaps by the prospect of a patron. And his friend Mr. Butts rejoiced aloud, deeming his protégé's fortune made.

A copy of the Triumphs of Temper (tenth edition), illustrated by Stothard, which had belonged to the poet's son, and was now given to Blake, contains evidence,—in verse of course,—of Hayley's esteem for him. Perhaps the fact can palliate our insertion of rhymes so guiltless of sense otherwise. It is Smith who is answerable for having preserved them:—

Accept, my gentle visionary Blake,
Whose thoughts are fanciful and kindly mild;
Accept, and fondly keep for friendship's sake,
This favoured vision, my poetic child!

Rich in more grace than fancy ever won,
To thy most tender mind this book will be.
For it belonged to my departed son;
So from an angel it descends to thee.
W. H. July, 1800.

After seven productive years in Lambeth, the modest house in Hercules Buildings was exchanged for a cottage by the sea, where Blake spent three years; the only portion of his life passed in the country. He was now in his forty-third year, Hayley in his fifty-seventh. In August, Blake went down to Felpham to look at his future home, and secure a house; which he did at an annual rent of twenty pounds: not being provided with one rent-free by Hayley, as some supposed,—a kind of patronage which would have ill-suited the artist's independent spirit. The poet was not even his landlord, owning, in fact, no property in the village beyond what he had bought to build his house on. Blake's cottage belonged to the landlord of the Fox Inn.

Hayley, whose forte was not economy nor prudent conduct of any kind, had, by ill-judged generosities and lavish expenditure, seriously incumbered the handsome estate inherited from his father. Felpham, his present retreat, lay some six miles off the patrimonial 'paradise,' as he, for once, not hyperbolically styled it,—romantic Eartham, a peaceful, sequestered spot among the wooded hills stretching southward from the Sussex Downs; a hamlet made up of some dozen widely-scattered cottages, a farm-house or two, a primitive little antique church, and the comfortable modern 'great house,' lying high, in the centre of lovely sheltered gardens and grounds, commanding wide, varied views of purple vale and gleaming sea. At Felpham, during the latter years of his son's life, he had built a marine cottage, planned to his own fancy, whither to retire and retrench, while he let his place at Eartham. It was a cottage with an embattled turret; with a library fitted up with busts and pictures; a 'covered way for equestrian exercise,' and a well-laid-out garden; all as a first step in the new plans of economy. His son passed the painful close of his ill-starred existence in it; and here Hayley himself had now definitely taken up his abode. He continued there till his death in 1820; long before which he had sold Eartham to Huskisson, the statesman; whose widow continued to inhabit it for many years.

On the eve of removing from Lambeth, in the middle of September, was written the following characteristic letter from Mrs. Blake to Mrs. Flaxman,—the 'dear Nancy' of the sculptor. I am indebted for a copy of it to the courtesy of Mrs. Flaxman's sister, the late Miss Denman. Characteristic, I mean, of Blake; for though the wife be the nominal inditer, the husband is obviously the author. The very hand-writing can hardly be distinguished from his. The verses with which it concludes may, in their artless spiritual simplicity, almost rank with the Songs of Innocence and Experience.

From Mrs. Blake to Mrs. Flaxman.

'My dearest Friend,

I hope you will not think we could forget your services to us, or any way neglect to love and remember with affection even the hem of your garment. We indeed presume on your kindness in neglecting to have called on you since my husband's first return from Felpham. We have been incessantly busy in our great removal; but can never think of going without first paying our proper duty to you and Mr. Flaxman. We intend to call on Sunday afternoon in Hampstead, to take farewell; all things being now nearly completed for our setting forth on Tuesday morning. It is only sixty miles and Lambeth one hundred; for the terrible desert of London was between. My husband has been obliged to finish several things necessary to be finished before our migration. The swallows call us, fleeting past our window at this moment. O! how we delight in talking of the pleasure we shall have in preparing you a summer bower at Felpham. And we not only talk, but behold! the angels of our journey have inspired a song to you:—

To my dear Friend, Mrs. Anna Flaxman.

This song to the flower of Flaxman's joy;
To the blossom of hope, for a sweet decoy;
Do all that you can and all that you may,
To entice him to Felpham and far away.

Away to sweet Felpham, for Heaven is there;
The ladder of Angels descends through the air,
On the turret its spiral does softly descend,
Through the village then winds, at my cot it does end.

You stand in the village and look up to heaven;
The precious stairs glitter in flight seventy-seven;
And my brother is there; and my friend and thine
Descend and ascend with the bread and the wine.

The bread of sweet thought and the wine of delight
Feed the village of Felpham by day and by night;
And at his own door the bless'd hermit does stand,
Dispensing unceasing to all the wide land.
W. Blake.

'Receive my and my husband's love and affection, and believe me to be yours affectionately,

'Catherine Blake.'

'H. B. Lambeth, 14 Sept. 1800.'

The labour of preparation and the excitement of eager anticipation proved almost too much for the affectionate and devoted Kate. September 16th, a few days before they started, Blake writes to Hayley, 'My dear and too careful and over-joyous woman has exhausted her strength... Eartham will be my first temple and altar; my wife is like a flame of many colours of precious jewels whenever she hears it named.'

A letter from Blake's own hand to Flaxman, penned immediately after arrival in Sussex, has been put into print by our excellent friend Smith. This very physiognomic composition, lucid enough to all who know Blake, needlessly puzzled Allan Cunningham. It does not, to my mind, separate, as he maintains, into two distinct parts of strongly contrasted spirit; nor does it betoken that irreconcilable discord of faculties he imagines. The mingling of sound sagacity with the utmost licence of imagination showed itself at every hour of Blake's life. He would, at any moment, speak as he here writes, and was not a mere sensible mortal in the morning, and a wild visionary in the evening. Visionary glories floated before his eyes even while he stooped over the toilsome copper-plate. There was no pause or hiatus in the life-long wedding of spiritual and earthly things in his daily course; no giving the reins to imagination at one time more than other.

And if immortality, if eternity, mean something, if they imply a pre-existence as well as a post-mortal one, that which startles the practical mind in this letter is not so wholly mad; especially if we make due allowance for the dialect, the unwonted phraseology (most very original men have their phraseology), which long custom had made familiar and anything but extravagant to him, or to those who have read themselves into Blake's writing and design; a dialect so full of trope and metaphor, dealt with as if they were literal, not symbolic facts.

'Dear Sculptor of Eternity

'We are safe arrived at our cottage, which is more beautiful than I thought it, and more convenient. It is a perfect model for cottages, and I think for palaces of magnificence, only enlarging not altering its proportions, and adding ornaments and not principles. Nothing can be more grand than its simplicity and usefulness. Simple without intricacy, it seems to be the spontaneous expression of humanity, congenial to the wants of man. No other formed house can ever please me so well, nor shall I ever be persuaded, I believe, that it can be improved either in beauty or use.

'Mr. Hayley received us with his usual brotherly affection. I have begun to work. 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, and their forms more distinctly seen; and my cottage is also a shadow of their houses. My wife and sister are both well, courting Neptune for an embrace.

'Our journey was very pleasant; and though we had a great deal of luggage, no grumbling. All was cheerfulness and good humour on the road, and yet we could not arrive at our cottage before half-past eleven at night, owing to the necessary shifting of our luggage from one chaise to another; for we had seven different chaises, and as many different drivers. We set out between six and seven in the morning of Thursday, with sixteen heavy boxes and portfolios full of prints.

'And now begins a new life, because another covering of earth is shaken off. I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my brain are studies and chambers filled with books and pictures of old, which I wrote and painted in ages of eternity before my mortal life; and those works are the delight and study of archangels. Why then should I be anxious about the riches or fame of mortality? The Lord our Father will do for us and with us according to His Divine will, for our good.

'You, O dear Flaxman! are a sublime archangel—my friend and companion from eternity. In the Divine bosom is our dwelling-place. I look back into the regions of reminiscence, and behold our ancient days before this earth appeared in its vegetated mortality to my mortal vegetated eyes. I see our houses of eternity which can never be separated, though our mortal vehicles should stand at the remotest corners of heaven from each other.

'Farewell, my best friend! Remember me and my wife in love and friendship to our dear Mrs. Flaxman, whom we ardently desire to entertain beneath our thatched roof of rusted gold. And believe me for ever to remain your grateful and affectionate

''William Blake.'

'Felpham, Sept. 21st, 1800.
Sunday morning.'


From this letter it appears the squire's method of travelling by post-chaise was adopted by the painter. His sister, nearly seven years younger than himself, made one in the party and in Blake's family during his residence at Felpham.

Blake also wrote, during this time, at frequent intervals, to Mr. Butts, letters which in their full and frank utterance show that this steady and almost life-long buyer of his works was a sympathetic friend as well as a constant patron.

The first of these letters, after describing the journey and the cottage in words almost identical with those used in the letter to Flaxman just quoted, continues:—

[Date of Post-mark, Sept. 23, 1800,]

Dear Friend of my Angel's,

****** The villagers of Felpham are not mere rustics; they are polite and modest. Meat is cheaper than in London; but the sweet air and the voices of winds, trees, and birds, and the odours of the happy ground, make it a dwelling for immortals. Work will go on here with God-speed. A roller and two harrows lie before my window. I met a plough on my first going out at my gate the first morning after my arrival, and the ploughboy said to the ploughman, 'Father, the gate is open.' I have begun to work, and find that I can work with greater pleasure than ever, hoping soon to give you a proof that Felpham is propitious to the arts.

God bless you! I shall wish for you on Tuesday evening as usual. Pray, give my and my wife's and sister's love and respects to Mrs. Butts. Accept them yourself, and believe me for ever

Your affectionate and obliged friend,

William Blake.

My sister will be in town in a week, and bring with her your account, and whatever else I can finish.

Direct to me—

Blake, Felpham, near Chichester,


Belonging also to early days at Felpham is the following:—

Felpham, Oct. 2, 1800.

Friend of Religion and Order,

I thank you for your very beautiful and encouraging verses, which I account a crown of laurels, and I also thank you for your reprehension of follies by me fostered. Your prediction will, I hope, be fulfilled in me, and in future I am the determined advocate of religion and humility—the two bands of society. Having been so full of the business of settling the sticks and feathers of my nest, I have not got any forwarder with the Three Maries, or with any other of your commissions; but hope, now I have commenced a new life of industry, to do credit to that new life by improved works. Receive from me a return of verses, such as Felpham produces by me, though not such as she produces by her eldest son. However, such as they are, I cannot resist the temptation to send them to you:—

To my friend Butts I write
My first vision of light,
On the yellow sands sitting.
The sun was emitting
His glorious beams
From Heaven's high streams
Over sea, over land;
My eyes did expand
Into regions of air,
Away from all care;
Into regions of fire,
Remote from desire:
The light of the morning,
Heaven's mountains adorning.
In particles bright.
The jewels of light
Distinct shone and clear.
Amazed, and in fear,
I each particle gazed,
Astonish'd, amazed;
For each was a man
Human-formed. Swift I ran.
For they beckon'd to me,
Remote by the sea,
Saying: 'Each grain of sand,
Every stone on the land,
Each rock and each hill.
Each fountain and rill,
Each herb and each tree,
Mountain, hill, earth, and sea,
Cloud, meteor, and star,
Are men seen afar.'
I stood in the streams
Of heaven's bright beams,
And saw Felpham sweet
Beneath my bright feet,
In soft female charms;
And in her fair arms
My shadow I knew,
And my wife's shadow too,
And my sister and friend.
We like infants descend
In our shadows on earth,
Like a weak mortal birth.
My eyes more and more.
Like a sea without shore,
Continue expanding,
The heavens commanding,
Till the jewels of light,
Heavenly men beaming bright,
Appeared as one man,
Who complacent began
My limbs to infold
In his beams of bright gold;
Like dross purged away,
All my mire and my clay.
Soft consumed in delight.
In his bosom sun-bright
I remain'd. Soft he smil'd,
And I heard his voice mild,
Saying: 'This is my fold,
O thou ram, horn'd with gold,
Who awakest from sleep
On the sides of the deep.
On the mountains around
The roarings resound
Of the lion and wolf,
The loud sea and deep gulf.
These are guards of my fold,
thou ram, horn'd with gold!'
And the voice faded mild,
I remain'd as a child;
All I ever had known,
Before me bright shone:
I saw you and your wife
By the fountains of life.
Such the vision to me
Appear'd on the sea.

Mrs. Butts will, I hope, excuse my not having finished the portrait, I wait for less hurried moments. Our cottage looks more and more beautiful. And though the weather is wet, the air is very mild, much milder than it was in London when we came away. Chichester is a very handsome city, seven miles from us. We can get most conveniences there. The country is not so destitute of accommodations to our wants as I expected it would be. We have had but little time for viewing the country, but what we have seen is most beautiful; and the people are genuine Saxons, handsomer than the people about London. Mrs. Butts will excuse the following lines:—


Wife of the friend of those I most revere,
Receive this tribute from a harp sincere;
Go on in virtuous seed-sowing on mould
Of human vegetation, and behold
Your harvest springing to eternal life.
Parent of youthful minds, and happy wife!

W. B.

I am for ever yours,

William Blake.

'I have begun to work,' Blake writes; on the plates to a ballad of Hayley's, that is:—Little Tom the Sailor, written and printed for a charitable purpose. The project had been set going in Hayley's fervid head by an account his friend Rose the barrister gave of the boy's heroism and the mother's misfortunes, as celebrated in the poem. Hayley was at once to write a ballad, Blake to illustrate and engrave it, and the broadsheet to be sold for the widow's benefit to the poet's friends, or any who would join in helping the 'necessities of a meritorious woman;' in which the brochure, says Hayley's Memoirs, proved successful.

The poem, like some others of Hayley's, has simplicity, and perhaps even a touch of sweetness. At any rate, it is brief. If its author had not been cursed with the fatal facility of words and numbers, he might have done better things. A tinge of Blake-like feeling seems to have passed for once into the smooth verse of the poet of Eartham. The ballad was written 22nd September, 1800; Blake's broadsheet bears date October 5th. Both verse and designs, of which there are two, one at the head, the other at the foot of the page, are executed on metal—pewter, it is said—the designs being graver work, in the same manner as on wood, the ballad and imprint bitten in with acid. The impressions were printed off by himself and Mrs. Blake:—'Printed for and sold by the Widow Spicer of Folkstone, for the benefit of her orphans.' The sheet is now exceedingly scarce, as broadsheets always become, even when far more widely circulated than this could ever have been. I have come across but two or three copies.

The engravings are vigorous and effective, in an unpretending, rude style. The designs have all Blake's characteristic directness and naïveté. At the foot we see the future widow leaving her humble cottage to seek her sick husband, and turning her head wistfully round as she steps forth on her way; her little son rocking the cradle within. Around stretches a landscape in the typical style of Poussin,—wood, and winding path, and solemn distant downs. It is a grand and simple composition. The engraving at the head of the sheet represents the sailor-boy aloft on the shrouds, climbing to the top-mast, the embodied spirit of his father bursting with extended arms from the midst of the storm-cloud and forked lightnings. This picture also is full of high feeling.

To those disposed to judge a work of art vulgarly by what the eye merely can see, instead of by the emotions aroused, it may look like gross exaggeration to speak of grandeur in so rude and slight a work. But the kindled imagination of the artist can speak eloquently through few and simple strokes? and with them kindle imagination in others. This is more than the most skilful piece of mere artistic handicraft can do, which as it does not come from, neither can it appeal to, the mind. Hence we venture to claim for these designs, a place among the genuinely great in kind, though not in degree, of excellence. In truth, there are very few works by Blake for which thus much, at least, cannot be claimed.


POET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. 1800— 1801. [ÆT. 43—44.]

Blake's life at Felpham was a happy one. In Hayley he had a kind and friendly neighbour; notwithstanding disparity of social position and wider discrepancies of training and mental character. Hayley, the valued friend of Gibbon in one generation, of Cowper in the next, whose reputation, like many another reputation then and since, was for a time in excess of his literary deservings, has since been, even from a literary point of view, just as disproportionately despised,—sneered at with excess of rigour. By Allan Cunningham he is never mentioned, in connexion with Blake or Romney, but to be injuriously spoken of, and the worst construction put upon his motives. This he does, swayed by the gratuitous assertions of Romney's too acrimonious son, and giving the rein to one of those unmeasured dislikes the stalwart Scot was prone to take into his head; witness his distorted portrait of the amiable, urbane Sir Joshua.

As a poet, Hayley was no worse, if little better, than his compeers; Cowper and Burns standing of course apart. One must judge him not as a literary man, but as a literary country gentleman; an amateur, whose words flowed a thousand times faster than his thoughts. His Life of Cowper was one of the earliest and best examples in that modern school of biography wherein authentic letters form the basis, and the hero draws his own portrait. Mason's Life of Gray was the first, but not an unexceptionable one; Mason being at the pains of mutilating and otherwise doctoring Gray's lively scholarly gossip. Hayley's own part in the Life of Cowper is well and gracefully written, in the smooth style,—in a style, which is something.

If Hayley was always romancing, as it were, which his position in life allowed; always living in a fool's paradise of ever-dispelled, ever-renewed self-deceptions about the commonest trifles; seeing all men and things athwart a fog of amiability; it was not in the main a worse world than common, and sometimes it was a useful life to others. The pension his bustling energy obtained for Cowper outweighs many an absurdity and inanity. He was surely an endurable specimen, for variety's sake, among corn-law and game-preserving squires. A sincere, if conventional love of literature, independence of the great world, and indifference to worldly distinctions, are, after all, not criminal foibles. Pertinacious, wrongheaded, and often foolish in his actions; weakly greedy of applause, as ready to lavish it; prone to exaggeration of word or thought; without reticence: he was also an agreeable companion, really kind-hearted and generous; though vanity mixed itself with all he did; for ever going out of his way to befriend some one, to set in motion some well-intended, ill-considered scheme. For Blake,—let us remember, to the hermit's honour,—Hayley continued to entertain unfeigned respect. And the self-tutored, wilful visionary must have been a startling phenomenon to so conventional a mind. During the artist's residence at Felpham his literary friend was constantly on the alert to advance his fortunes.

Another source of happiness for Blake at Felpham was the natural beauty which surrounded him, and which the transplanted Londoner keenly enjoyed. 'A cottage which is more beautiful than I had thought it, and more convenient; a perfect model for cottages,' Blake had written of his new home on his first arrival. It is still standing, and is on the southern or seaward side of the village. It is really a cottage; a long, shallow, white-faced house, one room deep, containing but six in all,—small and cosy; three on the ground-floor, opening one into another, and three above. Its latticed windows look to the front; at back the thatched roof comes sweeping down almost to the ground. A thatched wooden verandah, which runs the whole length of the house, forming a covered way, paved with red brick, shelters the lower rooms from a southern sun; a little too much so at times, as the present tenant (a coast-guardsman) complains. The entrance is at the end of this verandah, out of the narrow lane leading from the village to the sea. In front lies the slip of garden (there is none at back), inclosed by a low, flint wall. In front of that again is a private way, shaded with evergreens, to the neighbouring large red brick mansion, surrounded by ample gardens, in which Cyril Jackson, Dean of Christ Church and Tutor to George IV. once lived. Beyond, corn-fields stretch down to the sea, which is but a few furlongs distant, and almost on the same level,—the coast here being low and crumbling. To the right are scattered one or two labourers' humble cottages, with their gardens and patches of corn-field. Further seaward are two windmills standing conspicuously on a tongue of land which shuts off adjacent Bognor from sight. The hideous buildings now to be descried in that direction were not extant in Blake's time. His upper or bedroom windows commanded a glorious view of the far-stretching sea, with many a white sail gleaming at sunset in the distance, on its way betwixt the Downs and the chops of the Channel. The wide and gentle bay is terminated westward by Selsea Bill, above which the cloud-like Isle of Wight is commonly visible; eastward by Worthing and the high cliff of Beechy Head beyond. Often, in after years, Blake would speak with enthusiasm of the shifting lights on the sea he had watched from those windows. In fine weather the waves come rippling in to the gently shelving, sandy beach, but when rough, with so much force as to eat away huge mouthfuls of the low, fertile coast. Middleton Church and signal-house, on a point of land a mile or so eastward, have disappeared bodily since Blake's time. The village, a large but compact one, spreading along two or three winding roads, still wears much the same aspect it must have done then; rustic, pleasant, and (as yet) unspoiled by the close vicinity of a 'genteel' watering-place. It includes a few tolerably commodious marine residences of the last century, and several picturesque old thatched cottages. The church has within the last few years been restored, all but its fine western tower of perpendicular date. Excellent in proportion, strikingly picturesque in hue and outline, this tower is at once well preserved and in good state for the artist. It is a landmark for many miles, rising above the thick foliage which in the distance hides yet distinguishes the village from the surrounding flats. Several epitaphs of Hayley's,—in the composition of which species of poetry, it may perhaps be still conceded, he was happy,—are to be met with in the church and adjoining graveyard.

A few steps up the winding lane, by the old Fox Inn, brought Blake to the postern-like gate of his patron's house, in the centre of the village; a plain white house, of little architectural pretension (but for its turret) and less beauty. It stands at one corner of the garden which Hayley had carefully inclosed with high walls for privacy's sake. The lofty turret commanded some remarkable views, of the sea in one direction, of the adjacent levels and great part of the South Downs in another. For walks, Blake had the pleasant sands which stretch below the shingle, or an upper path along the coast on one hand; the Downs eight or nine miles distant rising in undulating solemn clouds on the other. These were the great natural features, ever the same, yet ever varying with shifting lights and tones and hues. The walks inland, within a range of five or six miles, are tame and monotonous, though in summer pleasant, with corn and pasture, shady lane, fair old homestead, and humble early English village church. One especially pleasant summer-walk is that by footpath to the village of Walberton, some five miles northward. Bognor was not then ugly and repulsive as great part of it is now. At all events, there were none of those ghastly blocks of untenanted, unfinished houses, dreary monuments of building infatuation, which lower upon the traveller and put him out of heart as he approaches from Felpham, looking like so many builders' night-mares; erections that bespeak an almost brutish absence of natural instincts for the beautiful or expressive in construction. It was only some nine years previous to Blake's residence in Sussex that Sir Richard Hotham, the retired hatter, had set Bognor going as a fashionable watering-place. He had found it a sequestered hamlet of smugglers. The 'retired and beautiful village of Hothamton,' as it was for a time called, included then but fifty houses, Hothampton Place, viz. and those which form now the eastern section of Bognor, visited or tenanted only by a select and aristocratic few.

By the sounding shore, visionary conversations were held with many a majestic shadow from the Past—Moses and the Prophets, Homer, Dante, Milton: 'All,' said Blake, when questioned on these appearances, 'all majestic shadows, grey but luminous, and superior to the common height of men.' Sometimes his wife accompanied him, seeing and hearing nothing, but fully believing in what he saw. By the sea, or pacing the pretty slip of garden in front of his house, many fanciful sights were witnessed by the speculative eyes. The following highly imaginative little scene was transacted there. It is related by Allan Cunningham. 'Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam?' he once said to a lady who happened to sit by him in company. 'Never, sir,' was the answer. 'I have!' said Blake, 'but not before last night. I was walking alone in my garden; there was great stillness among the branches and flowers, and more than common sweetness in the air; I heard a low and pleasant sound, and I knew not whence it came. At last I saw the broad leaf of a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of creatures, of the size and colour of green and grey grass-hoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared. It was a fairy funeral!'

Among the engravings executed by Blake's industrious hands during his first year at Felpham, I make note of a fine one of Michael Angelo, at the end of the first edition (in quarto) of Fuseli's famous Lectures on Painting,—the first three, delivered at the Academy in March 1801, published in May. It is an interesting and characteristic full-length portrait. The great Florentine is standing, looking out on the world with intent, searching gaze, the Coliseum in the background. This and the circular plate on the title-page of the same volume, well engraved by F. Legat, were both designed by Fuseli himself. Grand and suggestive, in a dim allegoric way, is this drooping female figure, seated on the earth, her crossed arms flung down in expressive abandon, the face bowed between them and hidden by her streaming hair. This is a design I could swear to as Blake's whether 'adopted' by Fuseli or not.

Hayley, desiring the artist's worldly advancement, introduced him to many of the neighbouring gentry; among them Lord Egremont of Petworth, Lord Bathurst of Lavant, Mrs. Poole; and obtained him commissions for miniatures. Some of which, reports Hayley, 'that singularly industrious man who applied himself to various branches of the art' and 'had wonderful talents for original design' executed 'very happily.' Blake, indefatigable in toil, would also, at his craft of engraving, honestly execute for bread whatever was set him, good or bad. Humble as the task was, for so imaginative a man, of tracing servilely, line by line, other men's conceptions, he would patiently and imperturbably work at a design, however inferior to his own, though with an obvious and natural absence of enthusiasm. Blake's docility, however, had a limit. He was wont to say he had refused but one commission in his life,—to paint a set of handscreens for a lady of quality, one of the great people to whom Hayley had introduced him; that he declined! For Lady Bathurst it was, I think,—the Bathursts had then a seat near Lavant, which subsequently, like most other estates in the neighbourhood, was absorbed by the Duke of Richmond. Blake taught for a time in her family, and was admired by them. The proposal was, I believe, that he should be engaged at a regular annual salary for tuition and services such as the above; as painter in ordinary, in fact, to this noble family. Besides bestirring himself to obtain Blake commissions, Hayley did what his means would allow to furnish employment himself. The interior of his new villa was fitted up in a manner bespeaking the cultivated man of letters and taste,—thanks, in great part, to his friendly relations with such artists as Flaxman and Romney,—was adorned with busts, statues, and pictures. Among the latter were interesting portraits of distinguished contemporaries and friends, and of the Hermit himself; all from Romney's hand, and originally painted for the library at Eartham. There was one of Gibbon, sitting and conversing; there were others, in crayons, of Cowper, Charlotte Smith, Anna Seward, Madame de Genlis; above all, there were fine studies of Lady Hamilton in various fancy characters, as Cassandra, Andromeda, Cecilia, Sensibility, &c. When, twenty years earlier, Hayley had built himself, at Eartham, a large and handsome room, specially to contain his fine collection of books in many languages, Flaxman had superintended the sculptured ornaments, and had modelled for it busts of the poet and his friend Romney. The new library at Felpham, Blake, during his residence in Sussex, decorated with temperas:—eighteen heads of the poets, life size, some accompanied by appropriate subsidiary compositions. Among them were Shakespeare, Homer, Camoens, Sir Philip Sidney, Cowper, Hayley himself (encircled by cooing doves). Within twenty years after Hayley's death, the marine villa passed, by sale, from the hands of his cousin and heir, Captain Godfrey, to strangers. The place was dismantled and the effects sold. Among other things, these temperas, so interesting in their original position, were dispersed. Like most of Blake's 'temperas' and 'frescoes,' they are blistered and cracked, and have not been improved by exposure to dust and gas; but they bear the unmistakable Blake impress. The head of Cowper I remember as one of the most interesting, and the accompanying vignette, with its hint of landscape, in which appears Cowper's favourite dog, as being in Blake's best manner. They are all now in the possession of Mr. William Russell.

During the execution of this congenial task Blake reports progress, in joyous mood, to Hayley, then absent on a visit to friends:—

Dear Sir,

Absorbed by the poets Milton, Homer, Camoens, Ercilla, Ariosto, and Spenser, whose physiognomies have been my delightful study. Little Tom has been of late unattended to, and my wife's illness not being quite gone off she has not printed any more since you went to London. But we can muster a few in colours and some in black which I hope will be no less favour'd tho' they are rough like rough sailors. We mean to begin printing again to-morrow. Time flies very fast and very merrily. I sometimes try to be miserable that I may do more work, but find it is a foolish experiment. Happinesses have wings and wheels; miseries are leaden legged and their whole employment is to clip the wings and to take off the wheels of our chariots. We determine, therefore, to be happy and do all that we can, tho' not all that we would. Our dear friend Flaxman is the theme of my emulation in this of industry, as well as in other virtues and merits. Gladly I hear of his full health and spirits. Happy son of the Immortal Phidias, his lot is truly glorious, and mine no less happy in his friendship and in that of his friends. Our cottage is surrounded by the same guardians you left with us; they keep off every wind. We hear the west howl at a distance, the south bounds on high over our thatch, and smiling on our cottage says, 'You lay too low for my anger to injure.' As to the east and north I believe they cannot get past the turret.

My wife joins with me in duty and affection to you. Please to remember us both in love to Mr. and Mrs. Flaxman, and

Believe me to be your affectionate,

Enthusiastic, hope-fostered visionary,

William Blake.

Felpham, 26th November, 1800.

Next in date comes a letter to Mr. Butts which betokens still the same unclouded horizon:—

My dear Sir,

The necessary application to my duty, as well to my old as new friends, has prevented me from that respect I owe in particular to you. And your accustomed forgiveness of my want of dexterity in certain points emboldens me to hope that forgiveness to be continued to me a little longer, when I shall be enabled to throw off all obstructions to success.

Mr. Hayley acts like a prince. I am at complete ease. But I wish to do my duty, especially to you, who were the precursor of my present fortune. I never will send you a picture unworthy of my present proficiency. I soon shall send you several. My present engagements are in miniature-painting. Miniature has become a goddess in my eyes, and my friends in Sussex say that I excel in the pursuit. I have a great many orders, and they multiply.

Now, let me entreat you to give me orders to furnish every accommodation in my power to receive you and Mrs. Butts. I know, my cottage is too narrow for your ease and comfort. We have one room in which we could make a bed to lodge you both; and if this is sufficient, it is at your service. But as beds and rooms and accommodations are easily procured by one on the spot, permit me to offer my service in either way; either in my cottage, or in a lodging in the village, as is most agreeable to you, if you and Mrs. Butts should think Bognor a pleasant relief from business in the summer. It will give me the utmost delight to do my best.

Sussex is certainly a happy place, and Felpham in particular is the sweetest spot on earth; at least it is so to me and my good wife, who desires her kindest love to Mrs. Butts and yourself. Accept mine also, and believe me to remain

Your devoted

William Blake.

Felpham, May 10, 1801.


WORKING HOURS. LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1801—1803. [ÆT, 44-46.]

In the latter part of 1801 Hayley began spinning a series of Ballads on Anecdotes relating to Animals, of very different merit from Little Tom the Sailor of the previous year; empty productions, long-winded, bald, devoid of every poetic virtue save simplicity,—in the unhappy sense of utter insipidity. What must the author of the Songs of Innocence have thought of them? On these Ballads hung a project, as usual with Hayley. They were to be illustrated by Blake, printed by another protégé, Seagrave, a Chichester book-seller, and published for the artist's sole benefit; in realising which they were fated to have but ill success. Our hermit sincerely believed in contributing verse of his he was giving money's worth; in that serene faith meaning as generously as when handing over tangible coin.

During the progress of the Life of Cowper, and of the Ballads, the letters of Hayley to the Rev. John Johnson supply glimpses, here and there, of Blake, at his engraving, or in familiar intercourse with his patron; and they supply more than glimpses of the writer himself, in his accustomed undress of easy, slip-shod vanity and amiability. This Johnson was Cowper's cousin, his right-hand man in latter years, and faithful guardian ultimately. The letters are entombed in Hayley's Memoirs of himself and his son, edited or, at all events, seen through the press, by the amiable clergyman in 1823.

'Our good Blake,' scribbles the artist's patron, one hot day in August, 1801, 'is actually in labour with a young lion. 'The new born cub will probably kiss your hands in a week or two. The Lion is his third Ballad,' (none are yet printed) 'and we hope his plate to it will surpass its predecessors. Apropos of this good, warm-hearted artist. He has a great wish that you should prevail on Cowper's dear Rose' (Mrs. Anne Bodham, a cousin of the poet on the mother's side, and the correspondent who sent him that picture of his mother which elicited the poem we all know so well) 'to send her portrait of the beloved bard, by Abbott, to Felpham, that Blake may engrave it for the Milton we meditate; which we devote (you know) to the sublime purpose of raising a monument suited to the dignity of the dear bard, in the metropolis; if the public show proper spirit (as I am persuaded it will) on that occasion—a point that we shall put to the test, in publishing the Life.'

The portrait of Cowper, by Abbot, the Academician,—a very prosaic one,—was not, I presume, sent to Felpham; for it was never engraved by Blake. A print of it, by one W. C. Edwards, forms the frontispiece to Vol. I. of The Private Correspondence of Cowper, edited by Johnson in 1824. The scheme here referred to was that of an edition of Cowper's unfinished Commentary on Paradise Lost, and MS. translations of Milton's Latin and Italian poetry, together with Hayley's previously published, lengthy Life of Milton. The whole was to be in three quarto volumes, 'decorated with engravings,' by Blake, after designs by Flaxman: the proceeds to go towards a London monument to Cowper, from Flaxman's chisel. The project, like so many from the same brain, had to be abandoned for one of later birth:—a single quarto, illustrated by Flaxman, of Cowper's Translations and Notes on Milton, for the proposed 'benefit,' as usual, of somebody,—this time of 'an orphan godson of the poet,' which in 1808 actually did take shape; followed in 1810, by a 'neat pocket edition,' for the emolument of Cowper's kinsman, Johnson.

September 3, 1801: (Hayley to Johnson again) * * * 'The good Blake is finishing, very happily, the plate of the poet's mother. He salutes you affectionately.' October 1, 1801: 'October, you see, is arrived, and you, my dear Johnny, will arrive, I trust, before half this pleasant month shall pass away; for we want you as a faithful coadjutor in the turret, more than I can express. I say we, for the warm-hearted indefatigable Blake works daily by my side, on the intended decorations of our biography. Engraving, of all human works, appears to require the largest portion of patience; and he happily possesses more of that inestimable virtue than I ever saw united before to an imagination so lively and so prolific. Come, and criticise what we have done! Come, and assist us to do more! I want you in a double capacity,—as an excellent scribe, and as an infallible fountain of intelligence for all the latter days of our dear bard.'

Hayley, whose sight was often weak, availed himself of Blake's help, too, as amanuensis, and in other ways during the progress of the Life. Blake had thus opportunity to form a judgment of Hayley's mode of dealing with his material; he was not greatly impressed by its candour and fidelity.

September 11th, 1801, Blake writes two letters to Mr. Butts:—

Dear Sir,

I hope you will continue to excuse my want of steady perseverance, by which want I am still your debtor, and you so much my creditor; but such as I can be, I will. I can be grateful, and I can soon send some of your designs which I have nearly completed. In the meantime, by my sister's hands, I transmit to Mrs. Butts an attempt at your likeness, which I hope she, who is the best judge, will think like. Time flies faster (as seems to me here) than in London. I labour incessantly, I accomplish not one-half of what I intend, because my abstract folly hurries me often away while I am at work, carrying me over mountains and valleys, which are not real, into a land of abstraction where spectres of the dead wander. This I endeavour to prevent; I, with my whole might, chain my feet to the world of duty and reality. But in vain! the faster I bind, the better is the ballast; for I, so far from being bound down, take the world with me in my flights, and often it seems lighter than a ball of wool rolled by the wind. Bacon and Newton would prescribe ways of making the world heavier to me, and Pitt would prescribe distress for a medicinal potion. But as none on earth can give me mental distress, and I know that all distress inflicted by Heaven is a mercy, a fig for all corporeal! Such distress is my mock and scorn. Alas! wretched, happy, ineffectual labourer of Time's moments that I am! who shall deliver me from this spirit of abstraction and improvidence? Such, my dear Sir, is the truth of my state, and I tell it you in palliation of my seeming neglect of your most pleasant orders. But I have not neglected them; and yet a year is rolled over, and only now I approach the prospect of sending you some, which you may expect soon. I should have sent them by my sister; but, as the coach goes three times a week to London, and they will arrive as safe as with her, I shall have an opportunity of enclosing several together which are not yet completed. I thank you again and again for your generous forbearance, of which I have need; and now I must express my wishes to see you at Felpham, and to show you Mr. Hayley's library, which is still unfinished, but is in a finishing way and looks well. I ought also to mention my extreme disappointment at Mr. Johnson's forgetfulness, who appointed to call on you but did not. He is also a happy abstract, known by all his friends as the most innocent forgetter of his own interests. He is nephew to the late Mr. Cowper, the poet. You would like him much, I continue painting miniatures, and I improve more and more, as all my friends tell me. But my principal labour at this time is engraving plates for Cowper's Life, a work of magnitude, which Mr. Hayley is now labouring at with all his matchless industry, and which will be a most valuable acquisition to literature, not only on account of Mr. Hayley's composition, but also as it will contain letters of Cowper to his friends—perhaps, or rather certainly, the very best letters that ever were published.

My wife joins with me in love to you and Mrs. Butts, hoping that her joy is now increased, and yours also, in an increase of family and of health and happiness.

I remain, dear Sir,

Ever yours sincerely,

William Blake.

Felpham Cottage, of cottages the prettiest,
September 11, 1801.

Next time I have the happiness to see you, I am determined to paint another portrait of you from life in my best manner, for memory will not do in such minute operations; for I have now discovered that without nature before the painter's eye, he can never produce anything in the walks of natural painting. Historical designing is one thing, and portrait-painting another, and they are as distinct as any two arts can be. Happy would that man be who could unite them!

P.S.—Please to remember our best respects to Mr. Birch, and tell him that Felpham men are the mildest of the human race. If it is the will of Providence, they shall be the wisest. We hope that he will, next summer, joke us face to face.

God bless you all!

November 8th, 1801: (Hayley to Johnson again) * * * 'And now let me congratulate you on having travelled so well through the Odyssey!' (an edition of Cowper's Homer, with the translator's final touches, which the clergyman was bringing out). ' Blake and I read every evening that copy of the Iliad which your namesake' (the bookseller)' of St. Paul's was so good as to send me; comparing it with the first edition, and with the Greek, as we proceed. We shall be glad to see the Odyssey also, as soon as it is visible.'

This and other passages in the correspondence show the familiar intimacy which had been established between the literary gentleman and the artist. The latter evidently spent much of his time, and most of his working hours, in Hayley's library, in free companionship with its owner; which in the case of so proud and sensitive a man as Blake can only have been due to much delicacy and genial courtesy on the part of his host; whose manners, indeed, were those of a polished gentleman of the old school. We can, for a moment, see the oddly assorted pair; both visionaries, but in how different a sense! the urbane amateur seeing nothing as it really was; the painter seeing only, so to speak, the unseen: the first with a mind full of literary conventions, swiftly writing without thought; the other, with a head just as full of originalities,—right or wrong,—patiently busying his hands at his irksome craft, while his spirit wandered through the invisible world.

November 18th, 1801.—Hayley writes to Johnson from the house of his friend, Mrs. Poole: 'Your warm-hearted letter (that has met me this instant in the apartments of our benevolent Paulina, at Lavant) has delighted us all so much (by all, I mean Paulina, Blake, and myself) that I seize a pen, while the coffee is coming to the table, to tell you with what cordial pleasure we shall expect you and your young pupil. If my Epitaph' (on Mrs. Unwin) 'delighted you, believe me, your affectionate reception of it has afforded me equal delight. I have been a great scribbler of Epitaphs in the last month, and as you are so kindly partial to my monumental verses, I will transcribe for you even in the bustle of this morning, a recent Epitaph on your humble old friend, my good William, who closed his height of cheerful and affectionate existence (near eighty) this day fortnight, in the great house at Eartham, where Blake and I had the mournful gratification of attending him (by accident) in the few last hours of his life.'

November 22nd, 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 led us to expect. One is after that portrait of Cowper, by Romney, in crayons, made during the poet's own visit to Eartham in 1792; which drew forth the graceful, half sad, half sportive sonnet, concluding with so skilful an antithesis of friendly hyperbole in complimenting his painter and host. A correct copy as to likeness, the engraving gives no hint of the refinement of Romney's art. In so mannered, level a piece of workmanship, industry of hand is more visible than of mind. Another is after the stiff, Lely-like portrait of Cowper's mother, by D. Heins, which suggested the poet's beautiful lines. In Vol. II, we have a good rendering of young Lawrence's clever, characteristic sketch of Cowper; and, at the end, a group of pretty, pastoral designs from Blake's own hand. The subjects are that familiar household toy, 'the weather house,' described in The Task; and Cowper's tame hares. These vignettes are executed in a light, delicate style, very unusual with Blake.

In January, 1802, Cowper's cousin paid the promised visit, and brought with him the wished-for anecdotes of the poet's last days. Hayley, with friendly zeal, had urged Blake to attempt the only lucrative walk of art in those days—portraiture; and during Johnson's stay, the artist executed a miniature of him, which Hayley mentions as particularly successful. It would be an interesting one to see, for its painter's sake, and for the subject—the faithful kinsman and attendant with whom The Letters of Cowper have put on friendly terms all lovers of that loveable poet, the fine-witted, heaven-stricken man.

Before the second winter was over, unmistakable signs began to appear that neither the smiling cottage nor the friendly Hayley were all they had at first seemed. The dampness of a house placed upon the earth without cellarage, on a low shore too, between the Downs and the sea, seriously affected Blake's health for a time, and caused his Kate severe ague and rheumatism, which lasted even after her return to the dryness of London.

And no less baneful to the inner life was constant intercourse with the well-meaning literary squire. It was not possible for the ardent and exalted nature of Blake, to whom poetry and design were the highest expression of religion, to breathe freely in an atmosphere of elegant trivialities and shallow sentiment. So early as January 10th, 1802, he writes to Mr. Butts:—

Dear Sir,

Your very kind and affectionate letter, and the many kind things you have said in it, called upon me for an immediate answer. But it found my wife and myself so ill, and my wife so very ill, that till now I have not been able to do this duty. The ague and rheumatism have been almost her constant enemies, which she has combated in vain almost ever since we have been here; and her sickness is always my sorrow, of course. But what you tell me about your sight afflicted me not a little, and that about your health, in another part of your letter, makes me entreat you to take due care of both. It is a part of our duty to God and man to take due care of His gifts; and though we ought not think more highly of ourselves, yet we ought to think as highly of ourselves as immortals ought to think.

When I came down here, I was more sanguine than I am at present; but it was because I was ignorant of many things which have since occurred, and chiefly the unhealthiness of the place. Yet I do not repent of coming on a thousand accounts; and Mr. H., I doubt not, will do ultimately all that both he and I wish—that is, to lift me out of difficulty. But this is no easy matter to a man who, having spiritual enemies of such formidable magnitude, cannot expect to want natural hidden ones.

Your approbation of my pictures is a multitude to me, and I doubt not that all your kind wishes in my behalf shall in due time be fulfilled. Your kind offer of pecuniary assistance I can only thank you for at present, because I have enough to serve my present purpose here. Our expenses are small, and our income, from our incessant labour, fully adequate to these at present. I am now engaged in engraving six small plates for a new edition of Mr. Hayley's Triumphs of Temper, from drawings by Maria Flaxman, sister to my friend the sculptor. And it seems that other things will follow in course, if I do but copy these well. But patience! If great things do not turn out, it is because such things depend on the spiritual and not on the natural world; and if it was fit for me, I doubt not that I should be employed in greater things; and when it is proper, my talents shall be properly exercised in public, as I hope they are now in private. For, till then, I leave no stone unturned, and no path unexplored that leads to improvement in my beloved arts. One thing of real consequence I have accomplished by coming into the country, which is to me consolation enough: namely, I have re-collected all my scattered thoughts on art, and resumed my primitive and original ways of execution, in both painting and engraving, which in the confusion of London I had very much lost and obliterated from my mind. But whatever becomes of my labours, I would rather that they should be preserved in your greenhouse (not, as you mistakenly call it, dunghill) than in the cold gallery of fashion. The sun may yet shine, and then they will be brought into open air.

But you have so generously and openly desired that I will divide my griefs with you that I cannot hide what it has now become my duty to explain. My unhappiness has arisen from a source which, if explored too narrowly, might hurt my pecuniary circumstances; as my dependence is on engraving at present, and particularly on the engravings I have in hand for Mr. H.: and I find on all hands great objections to my doing anything but the mere drudgery of business, and intimations that, if I do not confine myself to this, I shall not live. This has always pursued me. You will understand by this the source of all my uneasiness. This from Johnson and Fuseli brought me down here, and this from Mr. H. will bring me back again. For that I cannot live without doing my duty to lay up treasures in heaven is certain and determined, and to this I have long made up my mind. And why this should be made an objection to me, while drunkenness, lewdness, gluttony, and even idleness itself, do not hurt other men, let Satan himself explain. The thing I have most at heart—more than life, or all that seems to make life comfortable without—is the interest of true religion and science. And whenever anything appears to affect that interest (especially if I myself omit any duty to my station as a soldier of Christ), it gives me the greatest of torments. I am not ashamed, afraid, or averse to tell you what ought to be told—that I am under the direction of messengers from heaven, daily and nightly. But the nature of such things is not, as some suppose, without trouble or care. Temptations are on the right hand and on the left. Behind, the sea of time and space roars and follows swiftly. He who keeps not right onwards is lost; and if our footsteps slide in clay, how can we do otherwise than fear and tremble? But I should not have troubled you with this account of my spiritual state, unless it had been necessary in explaining the actual cause of my uneasiness, into which you are so kind as to inquire: for I never obtrude such things on others unless questioned, and then I never disguise the truth. But if we fear to do the dictates of our angels, and tremble at the tasks set before us; if we refuse to do spiritual acts because of natural fears or natural desires, who can describe the dismal torments of such a state!—I too well remember the threats I heard!—'If you, who are organized by Divine Providence for spiritual communion, refuse, and bury your talent in the earth, even though you should want natural bread,—sorrow and desperation pursue you through life, and after death shame and confusion of face to eternity. Every one in eternity will leave you, aghast at the man who was crowned with glory and honour by his brethren, and betrayed their cause to their enemies. You will be called the base Judas who betrayed his friend!'—Such words would make any stout man tremble, and how then could I be at ease? But I am now no longer in that state, and now go on again with my task, fearless, though my path is difficult. I have no fear of stumbling while I keep it.

My wife desires her kindest love to Mrs. Butts, and I have permitted her to send it to you also. We often wish that we could unite again in society, and hope that the time is not distant when we shall do so, being determined not to remain another winter here, but to return to London.

I hear a Voice you cannot hear, that says I must not stay,
I see a Hand you cannot see, that beckons me away.

Naked we came here—naked of natural things—and naked we shall return: but while clothed with the Divine mercy, we are richly clothed in spiritual, and suffer all the rest gladly. Pray, give my love to Mrs. Butts and your family.

I am yours sincerely,

William Blake.

P.S.—Your obliging proposal of exhibiting my two pictures likewise calls for my thanks; I will finish the others, and then we shall judge of the matter with certainty.

Our next excerpts from Hayley's garrulous letters date after Johnson's visit to Felpham.

February 3rd, 1802. [Hayley to Johnson, as before.] * * * 'Here is instantaneously a title-page for thee' (the new edition of Cowper's Homer), 'and a Greek motto, which I and Blake, who is just become a Grecian, and literally learning the language, consider as a happy hit! * * * The new 'Grecian greets you affectionately.'

Blake, who had a natural aptitude for acquiring knowledge, little cultivated in youth, was always willing to apply himself to the vocabulary of a language, for the purpose of reading a great original author. He would declare that he learnt French, sufficient to read it, in a few weeks. By-and-by, at sixty years of age, he will set to learning Italian, in order to read Dante.

The references, in our next extract, to Cowper's monumental tablet at East Dereham, then under discussion, and Blake a party to it, are sufficiently amusing, surely, to warrant our staying to smile over the same. Consider what 'the Design' actually erected is. An oblong piece of marble, bearing an inscription, with a sculptured 'Holy Bible' on end at top; another marble volume, lettered 'The Task,' leaning against it; and a palm leaf inclined over the whole, as the redeeming line of beauty. Chaste and simple!

February 25th, 1802. ' I thank you heartily for your pleasant letter, and I am going to affiard you, I hope, very high gratification in the prospect of our overcoming all the prejudices of our good Lady Hesketh against simple and graceful ornaments for the tomb of our beloved bard. I entreated her to suspend her decision till I had time to send for the simply elegant sketches that I expected from Flaxman. When these sketches reached me, I was not myself perfectly pleased with the shape of the lyre introduced by the sculptor, and presumptuously have tried myself to out-design my dear Flaxman himself, on this most animating occasion. I formed, therefore, a device of the Bible upright supporting The Task, with a laurel leaf and Palms, such as I send you, neatly copied by our kind Blake, I have sent other copies of the same to her ladyship and to Flaxman; requesting the latter to tell me frankly how he likes my design, and for what sum he can execute the said design, with the background,—a firm slab of dove-coloured marble, and the rest white. If her ladyship and Flaxman are as much pleased with my idea as the good Blake and Paulina of Lavant are, all our difficulties on this grand monumental contention will end most happily. Tell me how you, my dear Johnny, like my device. To enable you to judge fairly, even against myself, I desired the kind Blake to add for you, under the copy of my design, a copy of Flaxman's also, with the lyre whose shape displeases me.'

In the sequel the Lyre was eliminated, and the amateur's emendation, in the main, adhered to; The Task, however, being made to prop the Bible, instead of vice versâ as, at first, the Hermit heedlessly suggests.

March 11th, 1802. * * * 'The kind, indefatigable Blake salutes you cordially, and begs a little fresh news from the spiritual world'; an allusion to some feeble joke of Hayley's on Johnson's timorous awe of the public, which the latter makes believe to think has slain the bashful parson.

The Life of Cowper,—commenced January, 1801, finished the following January,—was, this March,- in the hand of. Seagrave, whom the author had, 'for the credit of his native city,' induced reluctant Johnson to accept as printer. The four copper-plates were entirely printed off by Blake and his wife at his own press, a very good one for that day, having cost 40/. when new—a heavy sum for him. From March to December, Hayley, after beginning the Memoir of his son, was busy getting his two quartos through the press.

The issue of The Ballads was not commenced till June; they were in quarto numbers, three engravings to each—a frontispiece and two vignettes. The first was The Elephant. A Series of Ballads. Number 1. The Elephant. Ballad the First. Chichester: printed by J. Seagrave, and sold by him and P. Humphry; and by R. H. Evans, Pall Mall, London, for W. Blake, Felphain, 1802.

In May we hear, through Hayley, of illness:—

May 16th, 1802. * * * 'You will feel anxious when I tell you that both my good Blakes have been confined to their bed a week by a severe fever. Thank heaven! they are both revived, and he is at this moment by my side, representing, on copper, an Adam, of his own, surrounded by animals, as a frontispiece to the projected ballads': a frontispiece which appeared in the first number.

In June, healthfully restored, 'our alert Blake,' scribbles Hayley, one 'Monday afternoon' June 22th, 1802, 'is preparing, con spirito, to launch his Eagle, with a lively hope 'of seeing him superior to The Elephant, and

'Sailing with supreme dominion
Through the azure deep of air.

Lady Hesketh has received and patronised his Elephant with the most obliging benignity, and we hope soon to hear that the gentle and noble beast arrived safe at Dereham, and finds favour with the good folks of your county. The ingenious maker of elephants and eagles, who is working at this instant on the latter, salutes you with kindest remembrance.'

A few days later, July 1st, 1802, The Eagle was published, forming No. II. of The Ballads. The frontispiece is one of the finest designs in the series. The frantic mother, kneeling on the topmost verge of the over-hanging crag amid the clouds, who stretches fourth passionate, outspread arms over her smiling 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 subsequently 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 good in drawing.

Between September, 1802, and January, 1804, occurs an unlucky hiatus in the printed letters of Hayley to Johnson; and we catch no further glimpses of the artist by that flickering rushlight.

The third number of The Ballads,—The Lion,—appeared in 1802: after which they were discontinued; the encouragement being too slender to pay for mere printing in so expensive a form. Though Phillips' name was added on the title-page, and copies perhaps consigned to him, the book can hardly be said to have been published, as matters were managed down at Felpham and Chichester. Had it been efificently made known, the illustrations ought to have commanded some favour with the public. The style of design and engraving, careful and finished, is, for once, not of a kind to repel the ordinary gazer; and the themes are quite within popular comprehension, though their treatment be unusually refined. I here speak of the quarto edition. The whole fifteen windy ballads were, three years later, printed in duodecimo by Seagrave, for Phillips of London, the aim still being to benefit the artist, and still proving ineffectual. Of this edition more hereafter.

November 15th, 1802, died Hayley's old friend Romney, after a sad and lengthened twilight of his faculties; which solemn event set Hayley 'composing an epitaph before the 'dawn of day,' and revolving in his mind pious intent of further biographic toil, in which Blake was to help. This autumn, too, died Blake's old master, Basire.

Here again, happily, two more of the precious budget of letters to Mr. Butts bring us face to face with the real Blake instead of Blake as seen through the blinking mental vision of the amiable Hermit.

Felpham, Nov. 22, 1802.

Dear Sir,

My brother tells me that he fears you are offended with me. I fear so too, because there appears some reason why you might be so. But when you have heard me out, you will not be so.

I have now given two years to the intense study of those parts of the art which relate to light and shade and colour, and am convinced that either my understanding is incapable of comprehending the beauties of colouring, or the pictures which I painted for you are equal in every part of the art, and superior in one, to anything that has been done since the age of Raphael. All Sir J. Reynolds' Discourses to the Royal Academy 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 excellencies 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 be said to have nothing else. Perhaps picturesque is somewhat synonymous to the word taste, which we should think improperly applied to Homer or Milton, but very well to Prior or Pope. I suspect that the application of these words is to excellences of an inferior order, and which are incompatible with the grand style. You are certainly right in saying that variety of tints and forms is picturesque; but it must be remembered, on the other hand, that the reverse of this (uniformity of colour and a long continuation of lines) produces grandeur.So says Sir Joshua, and so say I; for I have now proved that the parts of the art which I neglected to display, in those little pictures and drawings which I had the pleasure and profit to do for you, are incompatible with the designs. There is nothing in the art which our painters do that I can confess myself ignorant of. I also know and understand, and can assuredly affirm, that the works I have done for you are equal to the Caracci or Raphael (and I am now some years older than Raphael was when he died). I say they are equal to Caracci or Raphael, or else I am blind, stupid, ignorant, and incapable, in two years' study, to understand those things which a boarding-school miss can comprehend in a fortnight. Be assured, my dear friend, that there is not one touch in those drawings and pictures but what came from my head and my heart in unison that I am proud of being their author, and grateful to you my employer; and that I look upon you as the chief of my friends whom I would endeavour to please, because you, among all men, have enabled me to produce these things. I would not send you a drawing or a picture till I had again reconsidered my notions of art, and had put myself back as if I was a learner. I have proved that I am right and shall now go on with the vigour I was, in my childhood, famous for. But I do not pretend to be perfect; yet, if my works have faults, Caracci's, Correggio's, and Raphael's have faults also. Let me observe that the yellow-leather flesh of old men, the ill-drawn and ugly young women, and above all, the daubed black and yellow shadows that are found in most fine, ay, and the finest pictures, I altogether reject as ruinous to effect, though connoisseurs may think otherwise.

Let me also notice that Caracci's pictures are not like Correggio's, nor Correggio's like Raphael's; and, if neither of them was to be encouraged till he did like any of the others, he must die without encouragement. My pictures are unlike any of these painters, and I would have them to be so. I think the manner I adopt more perfect than any other. No doubt they thought the same of theirs. You will be tempted to think that, as I improve, the pictures, &c. that I did for you are not what I would now wish them to be. On this I beg to say that they are what I intended them, and that I know I never shall do better; for, if I were to do them over again, they would lose as much as they gained, because they were done in the heat of my spirit.

But you will justly inquire why I have not written all this time to you. I answer I have been very unhappy, and could not think of troubling you about it, or any of my real friends (I have written many letters to you which I burned and did not send). And why I have not before now finished the miniature I promised to Mrs. Butts? I answer I have not, till now, in any degree pleased myself, and now I must entreat you to excuse faults, for portrait-painting is the direct contrary to designing and historical painting, in every respect. If you have not nature before you for every touch, you cannot paint portrait; and if you have nature before you at all, you cannot paint history. It was Michael Angelo's opinion and is mine. Pray give my wife's love with mine to Mrs. Butts. Assure her that it cannot be long before I have the pleasure of painting from you in person, and then that she may expect a likeness. But now I have done all I could, and know she will forgive any failure in consideration of the endeavour. And now let me finish with assuring you that, though I have been very unhappy, I am so no longer. I am again emerged into the light of day; I still and shall to eternity embrace Christianity, and adore Him who is the express image of God; but I have travelled through perils and darkness not unlike a champion. I have conquered and shall go on conquering. Nothing can withstand the fury of my course among the stars of God and in the abysses of the accuser. My enthusiasm is still what it was, only enlarged and confirmed.

I now send two pictures, and hope you will approve of them. I have inclosed the account of money received and work done, which I ought long ago to have sent you. Pray forgive errors in omission of this kind. I am incapable of many attentions which it is my duty to observe towards you, through multitude of employment, and through hope of soon seeing you again. I often omit to inquire of you, but pray let me now hear how you do, and of the welfare of your family.

Accept my sincere love and respect.

I remain yours sincerely,

William Blake.

A piece of seaweed serves for barometer, and gets wet and dry as the weather gets so.

Dear Sir,

After I had finished my letter, I found that I had not said half what I intended to say, and in particular I wish to ask you what subject you choose to be painted on the remaining canvas which I brought down with me (for there were three), and to tell you that several of the drawings were in great forwardness. You will see by the inclosed account that the remaining number of drawings which you gave me orders for is eighteen. I will finish these with all possible expedition, if indeed I have not tired you, or, as it is politely called, bored you too much already; or, if you would rather cry out, Enough, off, off! Tell me in a letter of forgiveness if you were offended, and of accustomed friendship if you were not. But I will bore you more with some verses which my wife desires me to copy out and send you with her kind love and respect. They were composed above a twelvemonth ago, while walking from Felpham to Lavant, to meet my sister:—

With happiness stretched across the hills,
In a cloud that dewy sweetness distils.
With a blue sky spread over with wings.
And a mild sun that mounts and sings;
With trees and fields, full of fairy elves.
And little devils who fight for themselves.
Remembering the verses that Hayley sung
When my heart knock'd against the root of my tongue,
With angels planted in hawthorn bowers,
And God Himself in the passing hours;
With silver angels across my way.
And golden demons that none can stay;
With my father hovering upon the wind,
And my brother Robert just behind,
And my brother John, the evil one.
In a black cloud making his moan;
Though dead, they appear upon my path,
Notwithstanding my terrible wrath:
They beg, they entreat, they drop their tears,
Fill'd full of hopes, fill'd full of fears;
With a thousand angels upon the wind.
Pouring disconsolate from behind
To drive them off, and before my way
A frowning Thistle implores my stay.
What to others a trifle appears
Fills me full of smiles or tears;
For double the vision my eyes do see,
And a double vision is always with me.
W^ith my inward eye, 'tis an old man grey;
With my outward, a thistle across my way.
'If thou goest back,' the Thistle said,
'Thou art to endless woe betray'd;
'For here does Theotormon lower,
'And here is Enitharmon's bower,
'And Los the Terrible thus hath sworn,
'Because thou backward dost return,
'Poverty, envy, old age, and fear,
'Shall bring thy wife upon a bier.
'And Butts shall give what Fuseli gave,
'A dark black rock, and a gloomy cave.'
I struck the thistle with my foot.
And broke him up from his delving root;
'Must the duties of life each other cross?
'Must every joy be dung and dross?
'Must my dear Butts feel cold neglect
'Because I give Hayley his due respect?
'Must Flaxman look upon me as wild,
'And all my friends be with doubts beguil'd?
'Must my wife live in my sister's bane,
'Or my sister survive on my Love's pain?
'The curses of Los, the terrible shade,
'And his dismal terrors make m^e afraid.'

So I spoke, and struck in my wrath
The old man weltering upon my path.
Then Los appeared in all his power:
In the sun he appeared, descending before
My face in fierce flames; in my double sight,
'Twas outward a sun,—inward, Los in his might.
'My hands are labour'd day and night,
'And ease comes never in my sight.
'My wife has no indulgence given,
'Except what comes to her from heaven.
'We eat little, we drink less;
'This earth breeds not our happiness.
'Another sun feeds our life's streams;
'We are not warmed with thy beams.
'Thou measui-est not the time to me,
'Nor yet the space that I do see:
'My mind is not with thy light array'd;
'Thy terrors shall not make me afraid.'

When I had my defiance given,
The sun stood trembling in heaven;
The moon, that glow'd remote below,
Became leprous and white as snow;
And every soul of man on the earth
Felt affliction, and sorrow, and sickness, and dearth.
Los flam'd in my path, and the sun was hot
With the bows of my mind and the arrows of thought:
My bowstring fierce with ardour breathes.
My arrows glow in their golden sheaves;
My brother and father march before,
The heavens drop with human gore.

Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
'Tis fourfold in my supreme delight.
And threefold in soft Beulah's night.
And twofold always. May God us keep
From single vision, and Newton's sleep!

I also enclose you some ballads by Mr. Hayley, with prints to them by your humble servant. I should have sent them before now, but could not get anything done for you to please myself; for I do assure you that I have truly studied the two little pictures I now send, and do not repent of the time I have spent upon them.

God bless you! Yours, W. B.

Next year, in an extract from Hayley's Diary, we again get sight of Blake for a moment:—26th and 29th of March, 1803—'Read the death of Klopstock in the newspaper of the day, and looked into his Messiah, both the original and the translation. Read Klopstock into English to Blake, and translated the opening of his third canto, where he speaks of his own death.' Hayley was at this time trying to learn German, 'finding that it contained a poem on the Four Ages of Woman,' of which he, 'for some time, made it a rule to translate a few lines' daily; finding also, by the arrival of presentation copies in the alien tongue, that three of his own works had been translated into German: the Eassy on Old Maids, the Life of Milton, and the Triumphs of Temper. O Time! eater of man and books, what has become of these translations?

The next two letters to Mr. Butts show Blake's determination of returning to London to have been already taken. In his art, in truth, Blake would not barter independence, or the exercise of his imaginative faculty for patronage or money. This residence at Felpham, under poet Hayley's protection, might have proved a turning-point in his life. Had he complied with Hayley's evident wishes, and set himself, as a miniature painter, to please patrons, he might have climbed to fortune and fame. It was a 'choice of Hercules' for him once again. But he had made his choice in boyhood, and adhered to it in age. Few are so perseveringly brave. Many who, in early life, elect as he had done, falter and waver in after years: perchance too late to win that worldly success for which they have learned to hanker. He saw there was presented to him this choice of paths and that longer stay was perilous to the imaginative faculty he prized above all earthly good. He feared being tempted to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage; feared to become a trader in art; and that the Visions would forsake him. He even began to think they were forsaking him. 'The Visions were angry with me at Felpham,' he would afterwards say.

April 25, 1803.

My dear Sir,

I write in haste, having received a pressing letter from my Brother. I intended to have sent the Picture of the Riposo, which is nearly finished much to my satisfaction, but not quite. You shall have it soon. I now send the four numbers for Mr. Birch with best respects to him. The reason the Ballads have been suspended is the pressure of other business, but they will go on again soon.

Accept of my thanks for your kind and heartening letter. You have faith in the endeavours of me, your weak brother and fellow-disciple; how great must be your faith in our Divine Master! You are to me a lesson of humility, while you exalt me by such distinguishing commendations. I know that you see certain merits in me, which, by God's grace, shall be made fully apparent and perfect in Eternity. In the meantime I must not bury the talents in the earth, but do my endeavour to live to the glory of our Lord and Saviour; and I am also grateful to the kind hand that endeavours to lift me out of despondency, even if it lifts me too high.

And now, my dear Sir, congratulate me on my return to London with the full approbation of Mr. Hayley and with promise. But alas! now I may say to you—what perhaps I should not dare to say to any one else—that I can alone carry on my visionary studies in London unannoyed, and that I may converse with my friends in Eternity, see visions, dream dreams, and prophecy and speak parables, unobserved, and at liberty from the doubts of other mortals: perhaps doubts proceeding from kindness; but doubts are always pernicious, especially when we doubt our friends. Christ is very decided on this point: ' He who is not with me is against me.' There is no medium or middle state; and if a man is the enemy of my spiritual life while he pretends to be the friend of my corporeal, he is a real enemy; but the man may be the friend of my spiritual life while he seems the enemy of my corporeal, though not vice versâ.

What is very pleasant, every one who hears of my going to London again applauds it as the only course for the interest of all concerned in my works; observing that I ought not to be away from the opportunities London affords of seeing fine pictures, and the various improvements in works of art going on in London.

But none can know the spiritual acts of my three years' slumber on the banks of Ocean, unless he has seen them in the spirit, or unless he should read my long Poem[1] descriptive of those acts; for I have in these years composed an immense number of verses on one grand theme, similar to Homer's Iliad or Milton's Paradise Lost; the persons and machinery entirely new to the' inhabitants of earth (some of the persons excepted). I have written this Poem from immediate dictation, twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time, without premeditation, and even against my will. The time it has taken in writing was thus rendered non-existent, and an immense Poem exists which seems to be the labour of a long life, all produced without labour or study. I mention this to show you what I think the grand reason of my being brought down here.

I have a thousand and ten thousand things to say to you. My heart is full of futurity. I perceive that the sore travail which has been given me these three years leads to glory and honour. I rejoice and tremble: ' I am fearfully and wonderfully made.' I had been reading the CXXXIX. Psalm a little before your letter arrived. I take your advice. I see the face of my Heavenly Father: He lays His hand upon my head, and gives a blessing to all my work. Why should I be troubled? Why should my heart and flesh cry out? I will go on in the strength of the Lord; through Hell will I sing forth His praises: that the dragons of the deep may praise Him, and that those who dwell in darkness, and in the sea coasts may be gathered into His kingdom. Excuse my, perhaps, too great enthusiasm. Please to accept of and give our loves to Mrs. Butts and your amiable family, and believe me

Ever yours affectionately,

William Blake.

Felpham, July 6, 1803.

Dear Sir,

I send you the Riposo, which I hope you will think my best picture, in many respects. It represents the Holy Family in Egypt, guarded in their repose from those fiends, the Egyptian gods. And though not directly taken from a Poem of Milton's (for till I had designed it Milton's Poem did not come into my thoughts), yet it is very similar to his Hymn on the Nativity, which you will find among his smaller Poems, and will read with great delight. I have given, in the background, a building, which may be supposed the ruin of a part of Nimrod's Tower, which I conjecture to have spread over many countries; for he ought to be reckoned of the Giant brood.

I have now on the stocks the following drawings for you:—1. Jephthah sacrificing his Daughter; 2. Ruth and her Mother-in-law and Sister; 3. The Three Maries at the Sepulchre; 4. The Death of Joseph; 5. The Death of the Virgin Mary; 6. St. Paul Preaching; and 7. The Angel of the Divine Presence clothing Adam and Eve with Coats of Skin.

These are all in great forwardness, and I am satisfied that I improve very much, and shall continue to do so while I live, which is a blessing I can never be too thankful for both to God and man.

We look forward every day with pleasure toward our meeting again in London with those whom we have learned to value by absence no less perhaps than we did by presence; for recollection often surpasses everything. Indeed, the prospect of returning to our friends is supremely delightful. Then, I am determined that Mrs. Butts shall have a good likeness of you, if I have hands and eyes left; for I am become a likeness-taker, and succeed admirably well. But this is not to be achieved without the original sitting before you for every touch, all likenesses from memory being necessarily very, very defective; but Nature and Fancy are two things, and can never be joined, neither ought any one to attempt it, for it is idolatry, and destroys the Soul.

I ought to tell you that Mr. H. is quite agreeable to our return, and that there is all the appearance in the world of our being fully employed in engraving for his projected works, particularly Cowper's Milton— a work now on foot by subscription, and I understand that the subscription goes on briskly. This work is to be a very elegant one, and to consist of all Milton's Poems with Cowper's Notes, and translations by Cowper from Milton's Latin and Italian Poems. These works will be ornamented with engravings from designs by Romney, Flaxman, and your humble servant, and to be engraved also by the last-mentioned. The profits of the work are intended to be appropriated to erect a monument to the memory of Cowper in St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey. Such is the project; and Mr. Addington and Mr. Pitt are both among the subscribers, which are already numerous and of the first rank. The price of the work is six guineas. Thus I hope that all our three years' trouble ends in goodluck at last, and shall be forgot by my affections, and only remembered by my understanding, to be a memento in time to come, and to speak to future generations by a sublime allegory, which is now perfectly completed into a grand Poem. I may praise it, since I dare not pretend to be any other than the secretary; the authors are in Eternity. I consider it as the grandest Poem that this world contains. Allegory addressed to the intellectual powers, while it is altogether hidden from the corporeal understanding, is my definition of the most sublime Poetry. It is also somewhat in the same manner defined by Plato. This Poem shall, by Divine assistance, be progressively printed and ornamented with prints, and given to the Public. But of this work I take care to say little to Mr. H., since he is as much averse to my Poetry as he is to a chapter in the Bible. He knows that I have writ it, for I have shown it to him, and he has read part by his own desire, and has looked with sufficient contempt to enhance my opinion of it. But I do not wish to imitate by seeming too obstinate in poetic pursuits. But if all the world should set their faces against this, I have orders to set my face like a flint (Ezekiel iii. 8) against their faces, and my forehead against their foreheads.

As to Mr. H., I feel myself at liberty to say as follows upon this ticklish subject. I regard fashion in Poetry as little as I do in Painting: so, if both Poets and Painters should alternately dislike (but I know the majority of them will not), I am not to regard it at all. But Mr. H. approves of my Designs as little as he does of my Poems, and I have been forced to insist on his leaving me, in both, to my own self-will; for I am determined to be no longer pestered with his genteel ignorance and polite disapprobation. I know myself both Poet and Painter, and it is not his affected contempt that can move to anything but a more assiduous pursuit of both arts. Indeed, by my late firmness, I have brought down his affected loftiness, and he begins to think I have some genius: as if genius and assurance were the same thing! But his imbecile attempts to depress me only deserve laughter. I say thus much to you, knowing that you will not make a bad use of it. But it is a fact too true that, if I had only depended on mortal things, both myself and my wife must have been lost. I shall leave every one in this country astonished at my patience and forbearance of injuries upon injuries; and I do assure you that, if I could have returned to London a month after my arrival here, I should have done so. But I was commanded by my spiritual friends to bear all and be silent, and to go through all without murmuring, and, in fine, [to] hope till my three years should be almost accomplished; at which time I was set at liberty to remonstrate against former conduct, and to demand justice and truth; which I have done in so effectual a manner that my antagonist is silenced completely, and I have compelled what should have been of freedom—my just right as an artist and as a man. And if any attempt should be made to refuse me this, I am inflexible, and will relinquish any engagement of designing at all, unless altogether left to my own judgment, as you, my dear friend, have always left me; for which I shall never cease to honour and respect you.

When we meet, I will perfectly describe to you my conduct and the conduct of others towards me, and you will see that I have laboured hard indeed, and have been borne on angels' wings. Till we meet I beg of God our Saviour to be with you and me, and yours and mine. Pray give my and my wife's love to Mrs. Butts and family, and believe me to remain

Yours in truth and sincerity,

William Blake.

At the latter end of 1803, Hayley, prompted by the unexpected success of Cowper's Life, began preparing a third volume of Additional Letters, with 'desultory' remarks of his own on letter-writing. The volume was finished and published by the spring of 1804, Blake executing for it two tame engravings of tame subjects. One is from a drawing by a Francis Stone, of the chancel of East Dereham Church,—Cowper's burial-place; the other an etching of the mural tablet in the same chancel, as designed by Flaxman and Hayley.

Among other journeywork at this date, I may mention engravings finished May 1803, after six original designs by Maria Flaxman (the sculptor's sister), to the Triumphs of Temper,—the thirteenth edition, not published until 1807. These amateur designs, aiming at an idealized domesticity, are expressive and beautiful in the Flaxman-Stothard manner; abound in grace of line, elegance of composition, and other artist-like virtues of a now obsolete sort. The engravings are interesting to admirers of Blake, though monotonous and devoid of ordinary charms, smoothness and finish.

Uncommissioned work was also, as we have seen, in course of production now. I mean the illustrated 'prophecies' in the old class which will next year issue from Blake's private press: Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion, very grandly designed, if very mistily written; also Milton, a Poem in two Books. Of these, more hereafter.

  1. (The Jerusalem.)