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nim, and that he was in want. Several friends, and artists among the number, aided him a little, in a delicate way, by purchasing his works, of which he had many copies. He sold many of his " Songs of Innocence," and also of " Urizen," and he wrought incessantly upon what he counted his masterpiece, the " Jerusalem," tinting and adorning it, with the hope that his favourite would find a purchaser. No one, however, was found ready to lay out twentyfive guineas on a work which no one could have any hope of comprehending; and this disappointment sank to the old man's heart.
He had now reached his seventy-first year, and the strength of nature was fast yielding. Yet he was to the last cheerful and contented. "I glory," he said, " in dying, and have no grief but in leaving you, Katharine; we have lived happy, and we have lived long; we have been ever together, but we shall be divided soon. Why should I fear death? nor do 1 fear it. I have endeavoured to live as Christ commands, and have sought to worship God truly—in jny own house, when I was not seen of men." He grew weaker and weaker—he could no longer sit upright; and was laid in his bed, with no one to watch over him, save his wife, who, feeble and old herself, required help in such a touching duty.
The Ancient of Days was such a favourite with Blake, that three days before his death, he sat bolstered up in bed, and tinted it with his choicest colours and in his happiest style. He touched and retouched it—held it at arm's length, and then threw t from him, exclaiming, "There! that will do! I cannot mend it." He saw his wife in tears—she felt this was to be the last of his works—" Stay, Kate !" cried Blake, " keep just as you are—I will draw your portrait—for you have ever been an angel to me"—she obeyed, and the dying artist made a fine likeness.
The very joyfulness with which this singular man welcomed the coming of death, made his dying moments intensely mournful. He lay chanting songs, and the verses and the music were both the offspring of the moment. He lamented that he could no longer commit those inspirations, as he called them, to paper. "Kate," he said, "lama changing man —I always rose and wrote down my thoughts, whether it rained, snowed, or shone, and you arose too and sat beside me—this can be no longer." He died on the 12th of August, 1828, without any visible pain—his wife, who sat watching him, did not perceive when he ceased breathing.
William Blake was of low stature and slender make, with a high, pallid forehead, and eyes large, dark, and expressive. His temper was touchy, and when moved, he spoke with an indignant eloquence, which commanded respect. His voice, in general, was-low and musical, his manners gentle and unassuming, his conversation a singular mixture of knowledge and enthusiasm. His whole life was one of labour and privation,—he had never tasted the luxury of that independence which comes from professional profit. This untoward fortune he endured with unshaken equanimity—offering himself, in imagination, as a martyr in the great cause of poetic art; pitying some of his more fortunate brethren for their inordinate love of gain; and not doubting that whatever he might have won in gold by adopting other methods would have been a poor compensation for the ultimate loss of fame. Under this agreeable delusion, he lived all his life—he was satisfied when his graver gained him a guinea a week—the greater the present denial, the surer the glory hereafter.
Though he was the companion of Flaxman and Fuseli, and sometimes their pupil, he never attained that professional skill, without which all genius is bestowed in vain. He was his own teacher chiefly; and self-instruction, the parent occasionally of great beauties, seldom fails to produce great deformities. He was a most splendid tinter, but no colourist, and his works were all of small dimensions, and therefore confined to the cabinet and the portfolio. His happiest flights, as well as his wildest, are thus likely to remain shut up from the world. If we look at the man through his best and most intelligible works, we shall find that he who could produce the Songs of Innocence and Experience, the Gates of Paradise, and the Inventions for Job, was the possessor of very lofty faculties, with no common skill in art, and moreover that, both in thought and mode of treatment, he was a decided original. But should we, shutting our eyes to the merits of those works, determine to weigh his worth by his Urezin, his Prophecies of Europe and America, and his Jerusalem, our conclusion would be very unfavourable; we would say that, with much freedom of composition and boldness of posture, he was unmeaning, mystical, and extravagant, and that his original mode of working out his conceptions was little better than a brilliant way of animating absurdity. An overflow of imagination is a failing uncommon in this age, and has generally received of late little quarter from the critical portion of mankind. Yet imagination is the life and spirit of all great works of genius and taste; and, indeed, without it, the head thinks, and the hand labours in vain. Ten thousand authors and artists rise to the proper, the graceful, and the beautiful, for ten who ascend into "the heaven of invention." A work—whether from poet or painter—conceived in the fiery ecstasy of imagination, lives through every limb; while one elaborated out by skill and taste only will look, in comparison, like a withered and sapless tree beside one green and flourishing. Blake's misfortune was that of possessing this precious gift in excess. His fancy overmastered him—until he at length confounded " the mind's eye" with the corporeal organ, and dreamed himself out of the sympathies of actual life.
His method of colouring was a secret which he kept to himself, or confided only to his wife; he believed that it was revealed in a vision, and that he was bound in honour to conceal it from the world. "His modes of preparing his grounds," says Smith, in his Supplement to the Life of Nollekens," an laying them over his panels for painting, mixing his colours, and manner of working, were those which he considered to have been practised by the early fresco painters, whose productions still remain in many instances vividly and permanently fresh. His ground was a mixture of whiting and carpenter's glue, which he passed over several times in the coatings; his colours he ground himself, and also united with them the same sort of glue, but in a much weaker state. He would, in the course of painting a picture, pass a very thin transparent wash of glue-water over the whole of the parts he had worked upon, and then proceed with his finishing. He had many secret modes of working, both as a colourist and an engraver. His method of eating away the plain copper, and leaving the lines of his subjects and his words as stereotype, is, in my mind, perfectly orignal. Mrs. Blake is in possession of the secret, and she ought to receive something considerable for its communication, as I am quite certain it may be used to advantage, both to artists and literary characters in general. The affection and fortitude of this woman entitle her to much respect. She shared her husband's lot without a murmur, set her heart solely upon his fame, and soothed him in those hours of misgiving and despondency which are not unknown to the strongest intellects. She still lives to lament the loss of Blake—and fed it."
JOHN OPPY (or OPIE)
W*s born in the parish of St. Agnes, about seven miles from the town of Truro in Cornwall, in 1761. His father and grandfather were carpenters; his mother was descended from the ancient family of Tonkin, in the same district, but whose chief claim to distinction arises from a county history, which one of her relatives wrote, and which remains unfinished, as well as unpublished, in the hands of Lord De Dunstanville. Of his mother's claim to high provincial descent he was either ignorant or disdainful; for his widow—a name of some note in litera• ture—confesses that she was made acquainted with it for the first time by a brief sketch of his character, published after his death by Mr. Prince Hoare.
He appears to have been regarded among his rustic companions as a kind of parochial wonder from his early years. At the age of twelve he had mastered Euclid, and was considered so skilful in arithmetic and penmanship, that he commenced an evening school for the instruction of the peasants of the parish of St. Agnes. His father—a blunt mechanic—seems to have misunderstood all these indications of mental superiority, and wished lum to leave the pen for the plane and the saw; and it would appear that his paternal desires were for some time obeyed, for John accompanied, at least, his father to his work: but this was when he was very young, and it seems probable that he disliked the business, since his father had to chastise him for making ludicrous drawings with red chalk on the deals which were planed up for use.