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made it necessary to them that I should be hid in a corner. It never was supposed that a copy could be better than an original, or near so good, till a few years ago it became the interest of certain envious knaves. The lavish praise I have received from all quarters for invention and drawing has generally been accompanied by this : “He can conceive but he cannot execute." This absurd assertion has done me, and may still do me the greatest mischief. I call for public protection against the villains. I am, like others, just equal in invention, and execution of my work. I, in my own defence, challenge comparison with the finest engravings, and defy the most critical judge to make the comparison honestly, asserting in my own defence that this print is the finest that has been done, or is likely to be done when drawing, the foundation, is condemned, and absurd nonsense about dots and lozenges made to occupy the attention to the neglect of all true art. I defy any man to cut cleaner strokes than I do, or rougher, when I please, and apart that he who thinks he can engrave or paint without being a master of drawing is a fool. Painting is drawing on canvas and engraving is drawing on copper, and nothing else, and he who draws best must be the best artist, and to this I subscribe my name as a public duty.
So we come in connected sentences to the end of the manifesto. Valuable as it is, its great purpose, that of vindicating the characteristics of the imaginative style in art as against the false idea that smoothness is necessarily “finish,” has long ago been fully served. Every student now knows only too well that smoothness is often merely obliteration, and often leaves his own work timidly rough lest it should appear foolishly smooth.
But in reading the statement that one man cannot take up another man's beginnings and improve them we are led astray, if we forget that this can only be true when the continuer is incapable of receiving the true impulse from the work which he handles. Should he catch the intention and work forward in the same spirit, then, supposing his capacities not inferior to those of the "original inventor” he will do just as well as the inventor himself would were he to resume labour on a design that he had put aside in past years, and forgotten so completely, that he had to re-invent whatever of its development was not indicated in the plan. But when the continuer is superior to the beginner, then,as was the case when Shakespeare re-wrote old plays for the stage, he will simply put to the best artistic purpose an opportunity which his predecessors left half used.
But the “advertisement” of the Canterbury Pilgrims did
not stop here. The Anecdotes of Artists referred to in the announcement of its publication “this day” are yet to come.
These were probably added after he had finished and signed it. One isolated“ dictum” is to be found on p. 45, twenty pages later than the close of the signed “advertise
There is the same science in Lebrun or Rubens, or even Vanloo, that there is in Raphael or Michael Angelo, but not the same genius. Science is soon got, the other never.
“Let a man who has made a drawing go on, and he will produce a picture, or painting, but if he chooses to have it
before he has spoiled it, he will do a better thing." Then on p. 47, after many epigrams and the above two isolated sentences, we get at last to what Blake seems to have imagined could be called “ Anecdotes of Artists."
They say there is no straight line in nature. This is a lie, like all they say, for there is every line in nature. But I will tell them what there is not in nature. An even tint is not in nature. It produces heaviness. Nature's shadows are ever varying, and a ruled sky that is quite even can never produce a natural sky. The same with every object in a picture. Its
this? You may rage, but what I say I will prove by such practice, and have already done so, that you will rage to your own distraction. Woollett I knew very intimately by his intimacy with Basire, and I knew him to be one of the most ignorant fellows that I ever knew. A machine is not a man, nor a work; it is destructive of humanity and of art. The word Machination. ...1
Delicate hands and heads will never appear,
While Titiau, etc. ... as in the Book of Moonlight. Woollett, I know, did not know how to grind his graver : I know this. He has often proved his ignorance before me at Basire's by laughing at Basire's knife-tools, and ridiculing the form of Basire's graver till Basire was quite dashed and out of conceit with what he himself knew. But his ignorance had a contrary effect upon me. Englishmen have been so used to journeymen's undecided bungling that they cannot bear the firmness of a master's touch. 2 Every line is the line of beauty. It is only funible and bungle which cannot draw a line. This only is ugliness. But that is not a line which doubts and
hesitates in the midst of its course. 49 and Everlasting Gospel, and the epigram on Fuseli, “ The only man
50 I ever knew," etc.
1 In the MS. the sentence about machination and the quotation from the Book of Moonlight (a lost work of Blake's) are broken as here printed.
52 Everlasting Gospel above. On lower half:- In this plate
Mr. B. has resumed the style with which he set out in life, of which Heath and Stothard were the awkward Imitators at that time. It is the style of Albert Dürer and the old engravers, which cannot be imitated by any one who does not understand drawing, and which, according to Heath, Stothard, Flaxman,
and even Romney, spoils an engraver ; for each of these men 53, has repeatedly asserted this absurdity to me in condemnation of upper my work, and approbation of Heath's lame imitation, Stothard part being such a fool as to suppose that his blundering blurs can be
made out and delineated by any engraver who knows how to
cut dots and lozenges, equally well with those little prints 54,? which I engraved after him twenty years ago, by which he upper got his reputation as a draughtsman. Flaxman cannot deny part that one of his very first monuments he did I gratuitously
designed for him. How much of his Homer and Dante he will allow to be mine I do not know, as he went far enough off to publish them, even to Italy, but the public will know; and at the same time he was blasting my character to Machlin my employer, as Machlin told me at the time.
The manner in which my character has been blasted these lower thirty years both as an Artist and as a Man may be seen particu
larly in a Sunday paper called the Examiner, published in Beaufort's Buildings, and the manner in which I have rooted out the nest of villains will be seen in a poem concerning my three years' Herculean labours at Felpham, which I shall soon publish. Secret calumny and open professions of friendship are common enough all the world over, but have never been so good an occasion of poetic imagery. When a base man means to be your enemy, he always begins first with being your friend. We all know that editors of newspapers trouble their heads very little about art and science, and that they are always paid for what they put in on those ungracious subjects.
Many people are so foolish as to think they can wound lower M. Fuseli over my shoulder. They will find themselves part mistaken : they could not wound even Mr. Barry so.
A certain portrait painter said to me in a boasting way: “Since I have practised painting I have lost all idea of drawing." Such a man must know that I looked upon him with contempt. He did not care for this any more than West did,
who hesitated and equivocated with me on the same subject, at 55, which time he asserted that Woollett's prints are superior to Ever- Basire's, because they had more labour and care. Now this is lasting contrary to truth. Woollett did not know how to put so much Gospel labour into a head or a foot as Basire did. He did not know to end. how to draw the leaf of a tree. All his study was clean
strokes and mossy tints. How then should he be able to make i The two upper parts of these pages were written consecutively. The middle was occupied by drawings, and by a late portion of the Everlasting Gospel written after the prose. The lower portions were also written consecutively, and now follow.
2 Begun in 1808. Criticised Blake August 1808, and September 1809.
use of either labour or care, unless the labour or care of imbecility? The life's labour of mental weakness scarcely equals one hour of the labour of ordinary capacity, like the full gallop of the gouty man to the ordinary walk of youth and health. I allow that there is such a thing as high-finished ignorance, as there may be a fool or a knave in an embroidered coat. But I say that the embroidery of the ignorant finisher is not like a coat made by another, but is an emanation from ignorance itself, and its finding is like its master-the life's la bour of five hundred idiots, for he never does the work himself.
What is called the English style of engraving, such as it proceeded from the toilets of Woollett and Strange, for their's were fribble's tvilets, can never produce character and expression. I knew the men intimately from their intimacy with Basire, my master, and knew them both to be heavy lumps of cunning and ignorance, as their works show to all the continent, who laugh at the contemptible pretences of Englishmen to improve art before they even know the first beginnings of art. I hope this print will redeem my country from this coxcomb situation, and show that it is only some Englishmen, and not all, who are thus ridiculous in their pretences. Advertisements in the newspapers are no proof of popular approbation, but rather the contrary. A man who pretends to improve fine art does not know what fine art is. Ye English engravers must come down from your high flights. Ye must condescend to study Marc Antonio and Albert Dürer. Ye must begin before you attempt to finish or improve; and when you have begun you will know better than to think of improving what cannot be improved.
It is very true what you have said for these thirty years : I am mad, or else you are so. Both of us cannot be in our right senses. Posterity will judge by our works. Woollett's and Strange's works are like those of Titian and Correggio, the life's labour of ignorant journeymen, suited to the purposes of commerce, for commerce cannot endure individual merit; its insatiable maw must be fed by what all can do equally well ; at least it is so in England, as I have found to my cost these forty years. Commerce is so far from being beneficial to arts or empires that it is destructive of both, as all their history shows, for the above reason of individual merit being its great hatred. Empires flourish until they become cominercial, and then they are scattered abroad to the four winds.
I do not pretend to paint better than Raphael or Michael Angelo, or Julio Romano, or Albert Dürer, but I do pretend to paint finer than Rubens, or Rembrandt, or Titian, or Correggio. I do not pretend to engrave finer than Albert Dürer, but I do pretend to engrave finer than Strange, Woollett, Wall, or Bartolozzi, and all because I understood drawing which they understood not.
1 Such prints as Woollett and Strange produce will do for those who choose to purchase the life's labourof ignorance and imbecility
in preference to the inspired moments of genius and inspiration. 58 2 Woollett's best works were etched by Jack Brown. Woollett again etched very ill himself. Strange's prints were, when I knew
1 Sideways-later. 2 Between lines, written to connect the sideways sentence of 57 with that of 58.
him, all done by Aliamet and his French journeymen, whose names I forget. 1 The Cottagers and Jocund Peasants, the Views in Kew Gardens, the Diana and Actron, and, in short, all that are called Woollett's were etched by Jack Brown, and in Woollett's works the etching is all, even though a single leaf of a tree is never correct.
In this manner the English public has been imposed upon, under the impression that engraving and painting are somewhat else besides drawing. Painting is drawing on canvas, and engraving is drawing on copper, and nothing else, and he who pretends to be either painter or engraver without drawing is an impostor. We may be clever as pugilists, but as artists we are, and have long been, the contempt of the continent. Gravelot once said to my master Basire : “De English may be very clever in deir own opinions, but dey do not draw de draw."
2 Men think they can copy nature as correctly as I copy imagination. This they will find impossible ; and all the copies or pretended copies of nature, from Rembrandt to Reynolds, prove that nature becomes, to its victim, nothing but blots and blurs. Why are copies of nature incorrect while copies of imagination
are correct? This is manifest to all. 59 3 Resentment for personal injuries has had some share in this again public address, but love to my art, and zeal for my country a
much greater. 1 Sideways. ? At the top of p. 60, apparently continuing what is at the top of p. 59.
3 This occupies the lower part of page 59. It was apparently intended as the last sentence of the pamphlet, and was almost certainly the last written. The corresponding portion of p. 60, that lies opposite as the book opens, is occupied with a quotation from Bell's Weekly Messenger, dated Aug. 1811. The manifesto begins on the next p. 61, over leaf.