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Blake in Our Time

Blake in Our Time: Essays in Honour of G.E. Bentley, Jr.

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Blake in Our Time
    Book Description:

    Blake in Our Timeexplores the work of British poet and artist William Blake in the context of the material culture of his era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8711-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations with Permissions
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction: Blake in Our Time – Minute Particulars
    (pp. 3-16)

    In exploring the material and cultural contexts of the work of the English poet, printmaker, and painter William Blake, contributors toBlake in Our Timecelebrate the irresistible force that has shaped what is now the most productive field of inquiry in Blake studies. More than fifty years ago, G.E. Bentley Jr almost single-handedly shifted the focus of Blake criticism from formalism and symbolism to the ‘Minute Particulars’ of Blake’s life and work, right down to the metals and papers of his ‘books … arranged in libraries.’ The biographical, bibliographic, and chalcographic foundations established by Bentley support the pillars of...

  7. Colour Plates, Section One
    (pp. None)

    • 1 Collecting Blake
      (pp. 19-34)

      John Keats’sPoemsof 1817 is a rare and valuable book. What would be the scholarly consequences if eight copies were destroyed? A major loss for their owners, but little if any impact on our access to and understanding of Keats’s poetry. There are enough copies of this letterpress book to suffer some losses. What would be the scholarly consequences if eight copies of William Blake’sThe Marriage of Heaven and Hellwere consumed by flames? We would have only one complete copy left. We would lose Blake’s own variants in inking, printing, and colouring found in nine complete copies...

    • 2 Two Fake Blakes Revisited; One Dew-Smith Revealed
      (pp. 35-78)

      An undetected forgery is an original. I recall realizing so in 1975, not in any ontological or philosophical sense, but in the most practical circumstances. I was a curatorial assistant at the Museum of the City of New York working on an exhibition of nineteenth-century paper toys, from pull-tab books to optical and pre-cinematic devices, like zoetrope strips and phenakistoscope discs, to toy theatres, ‘pantins’ (jumping jacks), and constructions. Constructions were printed on large sheets, first as etchings and later as chromolithographs, and their many parts had to be cut out, like paper dolls, and assembled. Constructed, such toys are...

    • 3 Blake’s Painting Materials, Technical Art History, and the Legacy of G.E. Bentley Jr
      (pp. 79-92)

      Studies of artists’ materials and technical art history open a door to the understanding of an artist’s creativity and personality when they are linked to the working method and chosen lifestyle of an artist. This open door is a good point of entry to art collections, particularly for those who have no training in art history: it makes a high level of artistic skill comprehensible, and therefore more accessible and admirable. This door can also lead art historians, who are rarely practising artists, into new understanding of artists’ intent and the ways in which the aging of art materials can...


    • 4 New Light on the Mathews: Flaxman and Blake’s Early Gothicism
      (pp. 95-104)

      An account of the Reverend Anthony Stephen Mathew and his wife Harriet and their patronage of William Blake and John Flaxman was published by G.E. Bentley Jr in April 1958 inNotes and Queries.¹ The relationship between the two patrons and the two artists was of enormous importance to both Blake’s and Flaxman’s early careers. The Mathews were almost certainly responsible with Flaxman for the publication of Blake’sPoetical Sketches, and John Thomas Smith recounts tantalizingly that at one of Mrs Mathew’s ‘most agreeable conversaziones’ he had ‘often heard him [Blake] read and sing several of his poems. He was...

    • 5 ‘a Ladys Book’: Blake’s Engravings for Hayley’s The Triumphs of Temper
      (pp. 105-130)

      In a letter to Thomas Butts of 10 January 1803, Blake discusses his deteriorating relationship with William Hayley. Blake’s frustration with his Sussex patron was centred on the engraving commissions he was then working on for Hayley: ‘my unhappiness has arisen from a source which if explored too narrowly might hurt my pecuniary circumstances.’¹ This comment is prefaced by a more direct reference to the source of his unhappiness: ‘As my dependence is on Engraving at present & particularly on the Engravings I have in hand for Mr H. & I find on all hands great objections to my doing any thing...

    • 6 More on Blake’s (and Bentley’s) ‘White Collar Maecenas’: Thomas Butts, His Wife’s Family of Artisans, and the Methodist Withams of St Bartholomew the Great
      (pp. 131-164)

      In 1956, an impossibly young G.E. Bentley Jr, just finishing his DPhil at the University of Oxford, made his first appearance in a major scholarly journal with a landmark article on Blake’s most important patron, Thomas Butts.¹ In this witty, fact-packed exposition of Butts’s family history, his career as a clerk in the office of the Commissary General of Musters (downgraded from the family legend of Muster Master General), and his dealings with Blake, Bentley set the standard for his life’s work on subjects about which ‘little is known,’ and ‘some of what is known is untrue.’² Indeed, Bentley’s shrewd...

    • 7 ‘Went to see Blake – also to Surgeons college’: Blake and George Cumberland’s Pocketbooks
      (pp. 165-200)

      G.E. Bentley Jr is best known for his pioneering biographical and bibliographical research concerning the life and work of William Blake. However, over the past fifty years Bentley’s research has regularly travelled beyond Blake, and has resulted in a series of publications concerned with members of Blake’s circle, throwing much needed light on the figures themselves as well as their relations with the poet-painter. These figures include Blake’s fellow apprentice and business partner James Parker, his patron Thomas Butts, and the engraver and entrepreneur Robert Hartley Cromek.¹ As Keri Davies has observed, members of Blake’s circle while ‘not in the...

    • 8 George Richmond, Blake’s True Heir?
      (pp. 201-212)

      This famous account by Samuel Palmer of Blake’s illustrations to Dr R.J. Thornton’s edition of 1818 ofThe Pastorals of Virgil … Adapted for Scholars¹ reflects the inspiration behind Blake’s influence on the visual arts well into the twentieth century, if not beyond.² This began with the ‘Ancients,’ the group of young artists who gathered around Samuel Palmer (1805–81) in Shoreham, Kent.³ The main figures besides Palmer were Edward Calvert (1799–1883) and George Richmond (1809–96).⁴ John Linnell (1792–1882) presided over the group in an avuncular role and was to become Palmer’s father-in-law. Their engravings, ink drawings,...


    • 9 William Blake and Chichester
      (pp. 215-232)

      Scholars agree that the city of Chichester, which John Keats first visited for about four days in January 1818, deeply affected Keats’s imagination. InThe Eve of St. Mark, Walter Jackson Bate declares, ‘He is obviously thinking of Chichester’ and Aileen Ward remarks on the effect onThe Eve of St. Agnesof ‘A prosperous city of graceful Georgian houses … full of reminders of its medieval past – the old walls which still enclosed the town, the eight-sided Gothic cross which marked the central square, the ancient buildings which lined the cobblestoned streets around the twelfth-century cathedral.’¹ Curiously, no...

    • 10 William Blake and the Straw Paper Manufactory at Millbank
      (pp. 233-261)

      It is sometimes alleged that, as a Londoner, Blake could not have witnessed at first hand the heavy manufacturing plants of the Industrial Revolution, and that his ‘Satanic mills’ refer merely to the over-rational, self-constricting cast of mind of Blake’s detested authoritarian figure Urizen. For Damon, Blake’s ‘dark Satanic Mills’ signify ‘the philosophy under which all England was suffering,’ and the Mill ‘symbolizes Aristotelian logic, the basis of dogmatism.’¹ Similarly, Ferber suggests that ‘Blake was probably not referring to factories when he wrote’ of dark Satanic Mills, while Stevenson insists that ‘the phrase refers not so much to the mills...

  11. Epilogue: A Memorable Fancy
    (pp. 262-264)

    One of my favourite passages in Blake is this parable of the two classes of men, the Prolific and the Devouring, in the printing house in hell, inThe Marriage of Heaven and Hell(plates 16–17):

    The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence and now seem to live in it in chains, are in truth the causes of its life & the sources of all activity, but the chains are the cunning of weak and tame minds which have power to resist energy, according to the proverb, the weak in courage is strong in cunning.

    Thus one...

  12. Appendix: William Blake in Toronto: The Bentley Collection at Victoria University Library
    (pp. 265-272)
  13. Colour Plates, Section Two
    (pp. None)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 273-284)
  15. Contributors
    (pp. 285-288)
  16. Index
    (pp. 289-300)