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circle, as he read bits of The Island in the Moon to her, which we can guess, though we have no certain knowledge, was written to amuse her while she was regaining her bodily strength after the illness that cost her her hopes of maternity.
When the literary joke had done its work, and had given place to the composition of the Songs of Innocence, Blake may have also written the long rigmarole about The Passions, in which he tells of the emulousness of his own character, very unkindly calling it envy. Now also he must have written the poems Mary and William Bond. Writing the Island had restored to him his poetic faculty, and while the cause of these poems was not much earlier, the time when he ceased to have leisure or taste to attend to that kind of composition was not much later than the winter of 1783-84. Further allusions to the same incidents are to be found in the poem Vala, but the style is now altogether changed, and the allusions are much more difficult to recognise, being now woven closely into the myth, and coloured with the artistic meaning of the surrounding symbolism.
The only difficulty which any reader will have in making up his mind to accept Mary and William Bond as rhymed reminiscence, thinly masked, comes from the fact that “Mary” is, in these poems, not merely Blake's wife, but the lyrical and emotional side of his genius, and he is not merely writing about Catherine, but also about this part of his own nature. This is so strikingly evident that the present writer admits having thought-and said until but lately that "Mary” was only Blake's poetic nature and not a human being at all,-his Emanation, to use the term he adopted, and made so well known. Los is partly the twin brother, and in a sort of way the mythic husband of Enitharmon, who is, in the great dream, the Emanation of a being called Urthona, who was an aspect of Los. Enitharmon herself is described as "the vegetated mortal life of Los,—his emanation, yet his wife until the sleep of death is past," in Jerusalem, page 14, line 13. And Los becomes “one" with Blake himself in Milton, page 20, line 12.
“Enitharmon” is not "Mary” merely, but belongs to another order of writing and another period, yet what is said of her partly applies to “ Mary,” who was both a woman and a symbol.
It will be noticed that in the verses about “ Mary” there are lines
Why was I not born with a different face?
which occur, hardly changed, as part of a short poem written in a letter about ten years later, in which Blake laments over the difference between himself and the people about him. It is given with the title “ A Cry” in the Chatto and Windus Poetical Works of William Blake. “Mary” might, therefore, have been only an aspect of his own mind.
But at the period of the incident from which the poem Mary sprang, Blake was not yet come to the analysing frame of mind which would have made it at all likely that he should have so written about his artistic or poetic frame of mind; and even if he had, there was absolutely nothing in the world of dreams, or in that of common fact, which could have caused him to write in exactly this manner about his poetry or his emotions, while there was all the material ready to hand for such reference to what he had just learned of society, of beauty, of envy, of jealousy, of love, and of pity, through his married experiences. It was still part of his poetic habit to so treat personal recollection, and when he wrote these lines he was just at the right distance from the experiences,—not too far and not too near so to treat them. In Broken Love he returns to them from farther off, and in a different vein. Nearly twenty years had gone by.
Hardly were these poems written, and probably while The Island in the Moon was in progress—for this would account for the suddenness of its stopping—when a change came in the current of Blake's life. His father died, and was buried in Bunhill Fields, July 4, 1784. Mr. Blake's opposition to his son's marriage with Catherine Bouchier, and his absence from the ceremony itself, had produced a final estrangement between them that was never healed. Blake was not at his father's deathbed.
We cannot even be sure that he did not write the book of Tiriel shortly after. In this poem fathers are first held up before us as the natural enemies of their children until a more advanced senility reduces them in their turn to a childish state. It dates between 1783 and 1788. That is all that we can learn with any certainty from its contents, but its paper, even without a dated watermark, is enough to place it earlier than 1790.
HOW ROBERT CAME AND WENT
THE MS. of The Island in the Moon is written on two halfquires of paper, whose watermark has only the letters G. R., but no date. The outside sheet of the first portion of it is lost. This deprives us of the title-page, which may have borne a date, and also of the last page but one of the MS. itself, in whose dialogue a gap will be noticed. The second half-quire, containing at its beginning the broken final page, was otherwise left nearly blank, as the MS. was abruptly dropped. But it seems to have lain beside Blake for a time, while he was being annoyed by a conversation about some list or catalogue of effects, to which he could only give a divided and forced attention, for this second half-quire has been turned over, and on the back are two slight scribbles representing the lion lying down by the lamb, and a number of horses' heads scattered about, almost repeating one another. Blake's own name is repeated twice near the top, and is smudged out while wet, and a number of letters n and u, written large in a copy-book hand, spread themselves vaguely among the horses' heads, the full word “numeration” being in the middle of the page. This suggests that the MS. was lying on the table the very day on which James came to talk business with William about cataloguing and dividing their father's personal estate.
Mr. Blake the hosier probably died intestate. If he made a will, the provisions of it left something in common between the brothers, for not long afterwards we find Blake agreeing with Lavater that you do not truly know a man till you have divided an inheritance with him. “ Numeration” must have preceded such division.
In Gilchrist's Life of Blake we are not told of this, but we learn that “the second son James, a year and a half William's senior, continued to live with the widow Catherine, and succeeded in the hosier's business.” In the first paragraph of that biography (which begins with the second chapter, the first being preliminary) we are mistakenly told that William was the second son, a statement in which earlier authorities, deceived by the omission of John's name from the family conversations, agree. Most of Blake's friends simply had never heard of his brother John at all. Catherine was the name of Blake's mother as well as of his wife.
That some money was divided among the brothers is evident in another way, for Blake immediately left his house, 23 Green Street, Leicester Fields, and took No. 27 Broad Street, next door to what was now his brother's place of business. He opened a print-shop here in partnership with an elder apprentice of Basire's named Parker, who is said to have been by six or seven years his senior. J. T. Smith (“Nollekens” Smith), one of the “envious" guests of Mrs. Mathews, who did not follow Blake with unqualified admiration, says (in his Book for a Rainy Day) that Mrs. Mathews found the money for this partnership. This has a look of gossip and exaggeration on the face of it, though there may have been some portion of truth in the story. Mrs. Mathews may have continued to help and encourage Blake after the trouble over the uncorrected poetical sketches had cooled her husband's affection for him. Parker must have contributed; but if none of the capital came from the home stock it is difficult to understand why the shop was established next door to James in a house not built for a shop at all, and why James used to “ pester" William with “bread-and-cheese advice," as we are told by Smith that he did. There was also some sort of business arrangement made by which Robert, the youngest son, was given to William as an apprentice and lodged in his house. This was not done on payment of a sum for articles, perhaps, but that James considered it to be business we need not doubt. There was a quid pro quo of some sort.
Blake was morbid about money, and it was very difficult to make him understand that it is, of all subjects, the one where egotism is especially forbidden, even though competition may be admitted. Like many proud, generous, egotistic people, Blake had not the least idea that his egotism was a particularly unpermissible form of selfishness. He, in later life, told Mr. Robinson that the offer of money used to make him turn pale. No doubt it did, but we should rather have had the fact from any lips but his own. That
he had come and so he was the
he had an exaggerated fear of being degraded by money transactions, and so grew to hate money, is known and is easy to understand. He was the grandson of one spendthrift, and the brother of another. He was the son of a careful man of business, and the brother of another. He had in his blood the most irritable impatience of seeming to be a bargainer or a grasper, with the strictest ideas of probity. We can never forget that he lived in poverty and did not die in debt. What this meant to a man of his temperament and his powers must always be a thing to be wondered at, and admired at least as much as his art and poetry. He was an exceedingly hard worker. Between the termination of his apprenticeship to Basire in 1778 and his father's death in 1784 he had done a good deal of work. Much of it inust have been distributed into books and portfolios, from which it has slowly vanished; but the industrious compilers of Gilchrist's Life have recorded enough to vindicate Blake's character as a man of toil as well as a man of genius.
The titles include, first, those designed and engraved by Blake:
King Edward and Queen Eleanor (no date), a composition with more than a score of figures. The size is not given in the catalogue; but putting together the two fragments, on which Blake afterwards wrote part of Vala, Night VII, it must have measured about 18 inches by 10. The figures are grouped in an old-fashioned theatrical style, like the last tableau of a Shakespearian act, and all highly shaded as well as the wall and floor. The shading over the wall spaces only of this represented many days of work.
Morning, or Glad Day (1780).— At this the list of works both designed and engraved by Blake ends, till it is resumed in 1791 with the plates to Mary Wollstonecraft's Tales for Children. There is such a striking difference of style between the King Edward and the Glad Day, that many others after Blake's own designs must have come between that are now lost. Those engraved from other people's compositions do not account for the change of manner. Of these there are mentioned
The Joseph of Arimathea (10 x 5} in.).
Asia and Africa (after Stothard), a frontispiece to a System of Geography, 1779.