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his brethren, an artist of some note, employed him frequently in drawing the portraits of those who appeared to him in visions. The most propitious time for those "angel-visits" was from nine at night till five in the morning; and so docile were his spiritual sitters, that they appeared at the wish of his friends. Sometimes, however, the shape which he desired to draw was long in appearing, and he sat with his pencil and paper ready and his eyes idly roaming in vacancy; all at once the vision came upon him, and he began to work like one possessed.
He was requested to draw the likeness of Sir William Wallace—the eye of Blake sparkled, for he admired heroes. "William Wallace!" he exclaimed, "I see him now—there, there, how noble he looks —reach me my things'." Having drawn for some time, with the same care of hand and steadiness of eye, as if a living sitter had been before him, Blake stopped suddenly, and said, " 1 cannot fmish him— Edward the First has stepped in between him and me." "That's lucky," said, his friend," for I want the portrait of Edward too." Blake took another sheet of paper, and sketched the features of Plantagenet: upon which his majesty politely vanished, and the artist finished the head of Wallace. "And pray, sir," said a gentleman, who heard Blake's friend tell his story, "was Sir William Wallace an heroic-looking man 1 And what sort of personage was Edward?" The answer was: "There they are, sir, both framed and hariging on the wall behind you, judge for yourself." "I looked," says my informant, " and saw two warlike heads of the size of common life. That of Wallace was noble and heroic, that of Edward stern and bloody. The first had the front of a god, the latter the aspect of a demon."
The friend who obliged me with these anecdotes, on observing the interest which I took in the subject, said, " I know much about Blake—I was his companion for nine years. I have sat beside him from ten at night till three in the morning', sometimes slumbering and sometimes waking, but Blake never slept; he sat with a pencil and paper drawing portraits of those whom I most desired to see. I will show you, sir, some of these works." He took out a large book filled with drawings, opened it, and continued, " Observe the poetic fervour of that face —it is Pindar, as he stood a conqueror in the Olympic games. And this lovely creature is Corinna, who conquered in poetry in the same place. That lady is Lais, the courtesan; with the impudence which is part of her profession, she stepped in between Blake and Corinna, and he was obliged to paint her to get her away. There! that is a face of a different stamp—can you conjecture who he is V "Some scoundrel, I should think, sir." "There now—that is a strong proof of the accuracy of Blake—he is a scoundrel indeed! The very individual taskmaster whom Moses slew in Egypt. And who is this now —only imagine who this is V "Other than a good one, I doubt, sir." "You are right, it is the Devil; he resembles, and this is remarkable, two men who shall be nameless; one is a great lawyer, and the other—I wish I durst name him—is a suborner of false witnesses. This other head now 1—this speaks for itself—it is the head of Herod; how like an eminent officer in the army!"
He closed the book, and taking out a small panel from a private drawer, said, " This is the last which I shall show you; but it is the greatest curiosity of all. Only look at the splendour of the colouring and the original character of the thing!" "I see," said I, " a naked figure with a strong body and a short neck, with burning eyes which long for moisture, and a face worthy of a murderer, holding a bloody cup in its clawed hands, out of which it seems eager to drink. I never saw any shape so strange, nor did I ever see any colouring so curiously splendid—a kind of glistening green and dusky gold, beautifully varnished. But what in the world is it V "It is a ghost, sir—the ghost of a flea—a spiritualization of the thing!" "He saw this in a vision then," I said. "I 'll tell you all about it, sir. I called on him one evening, and found Blake more than usually excited. He told me he had seen a wonderful thing—the ghost of a flea! And did you make a drawing of him? I inquired. No, indeed, said he, I wish I had, but I shall, if he appears again! He looked earnestly into a corner of the room, and then said, here he is—reach me my things—I shall keep my eye on him. There he comes! his eager tongue whisking out of his mouth, a cup in his hand to hold blood, and covered with a scaly skin of gold and green;—as he described him so he drew him."
These stories are scarcely credible, yet there can be no doubt of their accuracy. Another friend, on whose veracity I have the fullest dependence, called one evening on Blake, and found him sitting with a pencil and a panel, drawing a portrait with all the seeming anxiety of a man who is conscious that he has got a fastidious sitter; he looked and drew, and drew and looked, yet no living soul was visible. "Disturb me not," said he, in a whisper, " I have one sitting to me." "Sitting to you!" exclaimed his astonished visiter, " where is he, and what is he ?— I see no one." "But I see him, sir," answered Blake, haughtily, " there he is, his name is Lot; you may read of him in the Scripture. He is sitting for his portrait."
Had he always thought so idly, and wrought on such visionary matters, this memoir would have been the story of a madman, instead of the life of a man of genius, some of whose works are wov*hyof any age or nation. Even while he was indulging in these laughable fancies, and seeing visions at the reques' of his friends, he conceived, and drew, and engraved one of the noblest of all his productions—the Invert tions for the Book of Job. He accomplished this series in a small room, which served him for kitchen, bedchamber, and study, where he had no other companion but his faithful Katharine, and no larger income than some seventeen or eighteen shillings a week. Of these Inventfons, as the artist loved to call them, there are twenty-one, representing the man of Uz sustaining his dignity amid the inflictions of Satan, the reproaches of his friends, and the insults of his wife. It was in such things that Blake shone; the Scripture overawed his imagination, and he was too devout to attempt aught beyond a literal imbodying of the majestic scene. He goes step by step with the narrative; always simple, and often sublime; never wandering from the subject, nor overlaying the text with the weight of his own exuberant fancy.
The passages imbodied will show with what lofty themes he presumed to grapple. 1. Thus did Job continually. 2. The Almighty watches the good man's household. 3. Satan receiving power over Job. 4. The wind from the wilderness destroying Job's children. 5. And I alone am escaped to tell thee. 6. Satan smiting Job with sore biles. 7. Job's friends comforting him. 8. Let the day perish wherein I was born. 9. Then a spirit passed before my face. 10. Job laughed to scorn by his friends. 11. With dreams upon my bed thou scarest me; thou affrightest me with visions. 12. I am young and ye are old, wherefore I was afraid. IS- Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. 14. When the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy. 15. Behold now Behemoth, which I made with thee. 16. Thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked. 17. 1 have heard thee with the hearing of my ear, but now my eye rejoiceth in thee. 18. Also the Lord accepted Job. 19. Every one also gave him a piece of money. 20. There were not found women faiier than the daughters of Job. 21. So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.
While employed on these remarkable productions, he was made sensible that the little approbation which the world had ever bestowed on him was fast leaving him. The waywardness of his fancy, and the peculiar execution of his compositions, were alike unadapted for popularity; the demand for his works lessened yearly from the time that he exhibited his Canterbury Pilgrimage; and he could hardly procure sufficient to sustain life, when old age was creeping upon him. Yet, poverty-stricken as he was, his cheerfulness never forsook him; he uttered no complaint; he contracted no debt, and continued to the last manly and independent. It is the fashion to praise genius when it is gone to the grave; the fashion is cheap and convenient. Of the existence of Blake few men of taste could be ignorant; of his great merits multitudes knew, nor was his extreme poverty any secret. Yet he was reduced—one of the ornaments of the age—to a miserable garret and a crust of bread, and would have perished from want, had not some friends, neither wealthy nor powerful, averted this disgrace from coming upon our country. One of these gentlemen, Mr. Linnel, employed Blake to engrave his Inventions of the Book of Job; by this he earned money enough to keep him living—for the good old man still laboured with all the ardour of the days of his youth, and with skill equal to his enthusiasm. These engravings are very rare, very beautiful, and very peculiar. They are in the earlier fashion of workmanship, and bear no resemblance whatever to the polished and graceful style which now prevails. I have never seen a tinted copy, nor am I sure that tinting would accord with the extreme simplicity of the designs, and the mode in which they are handled. The Songs of Innocence and these Inventions for Job are the happiest of Blake's