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thin becomes very marked if they look too much at their own work, and not enough at that of other people. Their own feeblest parts have a power of so affecting their minds through their own pictures as to hypnotise them into exaggeration of error. They then become “mannered,” to use the technical term. This, of course, is one of the worst forms of that “ generalisation” against which Blake thought he had fought
inst which Blake houdhat he had fought successfully, because his work contained, too often, a harassing want of sequence in its scheme of light, and trusted only to that “real effect" which is the “making out of parts." Yet he would have been the first to know that real impressiveness in poetry, the literary correlative of real effect in art, depends more on the making out of sequences of emphasis.
Recently at Felpham he had tried to rub up his nerves into vitality by going over all his old drawings, and by looking at the prints after the old masters that he had bought when a boy. It did him some good, because he was able to go into the subject with a fresh zest. “Another covering of earth is removed ” was the way in which he spoke of the liberation of some of the forces of his mind that had been fretted away by the struggles and distractions of London.
At that time, as the effects of his consideration of such artistic material as he possessed ripened within him, he wrote a long artistic letter to Butts on Nov. 22, 1802. It has been here only passingly referred to. It is chiefly about artistic technicalities and full of self-praise. Blake has stupefied himself into an incapacity to see beyond his own portfolios. With the letter about the Truchsessian Gallery before us it is a shock to go back and read in this one: “ There is nothing in the art which our painters do that I can confess myself ignorant of.” This is nothing less than an Irish bull. The making such a confession could only be possible after it had ceased to be true. He goes on: “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.”
Considering how intensely eager Blake was to learn from any one from whom he could take anything without falling into subjection, and considering the Truchsessian letter itself, this is too sad to be amusing. The staggerings of a halfstarved man who is too hungry to walk straight are not a joke. Blake's artistic sympathies were starving. His violent scorn when rebuked or when asked to revise his prosody is
so well known that it tends to hide from us his remarkable teachability in art.
Yet this never ceased to be evident all through his life, from the days when he became so warm a partisan of Basire and so staunch an upholder of the despised beauties of Gothic sculpture-supposed then to be only a fit subject of consideration for antiquaries, and not for artists — through the time when he gave “copy for ever” as his prescription for learning art, and (against Sir Joshua himself) said that “slavish” copying is the only kind that has true merit, to the present moment when we find in May 4, 1804, in the letter of that date (only referred to as yet in the terrible list of Blake's errands for Hayley): “I sincerely thank you for Falconer, an admirable poet, and the admirable prints to it by Fettler. Whether you intended it or not, they have given me some excellent hints in engraving; his manner of working is what I shall endeavour to adopt in many points.”
Blake had become worried by the contest between his visions and his pursuits at Felpham. He did some small portraits there, of which we have no knowledge, as well as Hayley's work. He says in his letter of July 6, 1807, to Butts: “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.”
This sentence is of value in helping to distinguish Blake from another artist of the same name whose strong point was pictorial memory, who used to paint portraits from a vision of his sitters sitting in the empty chair in which they had sat during the first day's sketch only, so powerful was his faculty of calling up by association the features of any one who had once been seen in a particular place with particular surroundings. He overworked this faculty, and is said to have died in an asylum, where he spent many years. The popular press has reprinted allusions to this man from time to time under the idea that he was William Blake, of the Prophetic Poems. This error must be the less blamed that even the catalogue of the Print Room in the British Museum does not appear to have discovered the difference between our Blake and another namesake who was connected with a well-known benevolent institution.
The feeling of “glory” that Blake felt after seeing the Truchsessian collection was due to the fact that elation seems like power to any one who feels it, particularly to an artist. It produces a kind of concentration mingled with impulse, and concentration and impulse together are, of course, the two parents of the child that we call Art, Imagination being its soul-not born of either. Each particular and detailed feeling of artistic sympathy-it is difficult to remember with sufficient persistence and care-arouses a particular elation, and brings a particular concentration to the artistic mind, just as, if we may illustrate the circumstances or “ laws” of increased by the pathology of destroyed power, the illness called “scrivener's palsy” kills the writing power of a man's fingers when their power of holding or lifting any other article than a pen may be undiminished.
In the new excitement caused by seeing better pictures than he had ever been able to study before, Blake felt that some “ fibre” of his strength was invigorated which had all along been weak. Industry, he bad hoped, would have strengthened it. Of course industry only helps concentration by gradually weeding out, through the automatic impulses acquired by habit, the results of distraction from habits of imagination caused by consciously directed efforts to improve.
Blake, who had less power to analyse, while he had a great deal more analysable material in him than most men, was naturally enough continually falling into surprises about himself. He alternated these with childish misstatements of a self-critical character. That this should be the case with so great a genius and so hasty a judge was inevitable. It need not delay us by any necessity for heart-searching when we find ourselves obliged to disagree with him on some points.
The passages about the “friends” who were surprised at his labours not having improved him refers evidently to friends “ in eternity” (in imagination, that is).
In December 1804, still feeling the ground to be firm under his feet, and his position with Hayley that of a friend, Blake writes for more money. We gather that Hayley has succeeded in representing the taking from him, which now occurred, of the prospect of engraving ten more plates for the Life of Romney, as due to the fact that he evidently has not the time to undertake so much work before the book should be in the binder's hands. All references to other subjects but the portrait and The Shipwreck have vanished, but a cordial tone has not vanished. Blake is, of course, secretly conscious of giving some of his time to Jerusalem, whose plates are progressing. He dares not say a word about this to Hayley. There would be a quarrel at once. Meantime he lives as frugally as he can. We notice that the last time he has had money from Hayley is in October. It is acknowledged on October 23: “I have received your kind letter, with the note to Mr. Payne, and have had the cash from him.” This was the time when Blake's household expenses were reduced (as Cromek will tell soon) to ten shillings a week, and when in the verses “I rose up at the dawn of day” Blake protests with his visions for not letting him pray for riches. The allusion to his visionary companions here is under the title “mental friends.” They were not the hallucinatory presences that deceive a madman.
The present letter (December 18, 1804) begins by speaking of proofs enclosed and of Flaxman's approval of them, and of his advice, “which he gives with all the warmth of friendship both to you and me." Blake adds: “The labour I have used on these two plates has left me without any resource but that of applying to you. I am again in want of ten pounds; hope that the size and neatness of my plate of The Shipwreck will plead for me the excuse for troubling you
before it can be properly finished, though Flaxman has already pronounced it so.”
To show Hayley that he is not being overcharged, Blake presently adds : “ The price Mr. Johnson gives for the plates of Fuseli's Shakespeare, the concluding numbers of which I now send, is twenty-five guineas each. On comparing them with mine of The Shipwreck you will perceive that I have done my duty and put forth my whole strength.”
He then speaks of other books sent by Hayley, or promised, and winds up:
My wife joins me in wishing you a merry Christmas. Remembering our happy Christmas at lovely Felpham, our spirits still seem to hover round our beautiful cottage and round the lovely Forest. I say seem, but am persuaded that distance is nothing but a phantasy. We are often sitting by our cottage fire, and often we think we hear your voice calling at the gate. Surely these things are real and eternal in our eternal minds, and can never pass away. My wife continues well, thanks to Mr. Birch's Electrical Magic, which she has discontinued these three months.-I remain, your much robbed
We see in Mrs. Blake's treatment another source of spending besides the copper-plates for Jerusalem and Milton. It must have been exceedingly true now that, as Blake said, “we eat little, we drink less."
Mr. Rose, the barrister who had defended Blake, died at this time, or “got before me into the Celestial City," as Blake wrote, adding: “I also have but a few more mountains to pass ere I hear the bells ring and the trumpets sound to welcome my arrival.” As a piece of Blake's consistency, if no more, it is nice to find that, after writing like this when in health, he died in the same mood—about twenty years later --rejoicing and singing aloud.
Blake's next letters are about the futile publication of Hayley's ballads that were written to give him something to illustrate, and presented to him. He has done most of the plates now. The price, to be paid by Philips, who is publishing the book, is to be twenty guineas each for the engravings. Blake asks him what the verses are worth, but Philips, with many polite messages to Hayley, will not put a price on them. He says that the value of the copyright must be estimated when they see what the sale of the work is. As a matter of fact, it turned out a commercial failure. One of the plates, the horse, was afterwards lost by Blake, and then found. In a letter dated June 4, 1805, he rejoices at the finding because he is in need of money again, and if the plate had remained
im what twenty guind by Philipdone most