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Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture

Edited by Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker Also by Steve Clark BLAKE IN THE NINETIES (with David Worrall) BLAKE, N

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Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture Edited by

Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker

Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture

Also by Steve Clark BLAKE IN THE NINETIES (with David Worrall) BLAKE, NATION AND EMPIRE (with David Worrall) HISTORICISING BLAKE (with David Worrall) THE RECEPTION OF BLAKE IN THE ORIENT (with Masashi Suzuki)

Also by Jason Whittaker WILLIAM BLAKE AND THE MYTHS OF BRITAIN RADICAL BLAKE: Influence and Afterlife from 1827 (with Shirley Dent)

Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture Edited by Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker

Selection, editorial matter and Introduction © Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker 2007 Individual chapters © the contributors 2007 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The authors have asserted their rights to be identified as the authors of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published 2007 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS and 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 Companies and representatives throughout the world PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin’s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan® is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN-13 978–0–230–00844–1 hardback ISBN-10 0–230–00844–5 hardback This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Blake, modernity, and popular culture / edited by Steven Clark and Jason Whittaker. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978–0–230–00844–1 (cloth) ISBN-10: 0–230–00844–5 (cloth) 1. Blake, William, 1757–1827–Influence. 2. Blake, William, 1757–1827– Appreciation. 3. Modernism (Literature) 4. Influence (Literary, artistic, etc.) 5. Popular culture–History–20th century. 6. Popular culture–History– 19th century. 7. Blake, William, 1757–1827–knowledge–Popular culture. 8. Popular culture–Great Britain–History–18th century. 9. Popular culture– Great Britain–History–19th century. I. Clark, S. H. (Steven H.), 1957– II. Whittaker, Jason, 1969– PR4148.I52B63 2007 821'.1–dc22 10 16

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Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham and Eastbourne

Contents Acknowledgements

vii

Notes on the Contributors

viii

Introduction: Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker

1

1 Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Blake’s Night Thoughts G. A. Rosso

12

2 Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs David Worrall

26

3 Emanations and Negations of Blake in Victorian Art Criticism Colin Trodd

39

4 ‘Esoteric Blakists’ and the ‘Weak Brethren’: how Blake Lovers Kept the Popular out Shirley Dent

57

5 Blake: Between Romanticism and Modernism Edward Larrissy

69

6 ‘There is no Competition’: Eliot on Blake, Blake in Eliot Steve Clark

78

7 Children of Albion: Blake and Contemporary British Poetry James Keery

100

8 Queer Bedfellows: William Blake and Derek Jarman Mark Douglas

113

9 ‘This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular Friend’: Diabolic Friendships and Oppositional Interrogation in Blake and Rushdie Matt Green

127

10 Friendly Enemies: A Dialogical Encounter between William Blake and Angela Carter Christopher Ranger

v

140

vi Contents

11 Blake beyond Postmodernity Mark Lussier

151

12 What is it Like to be a Blake? Psychiatry, Drugs and the Doors of Perception Wayne Glausser

163

13 The Silence of the Lamb and the Tyger: Harris and Blake, Good and Evil Michelle Gompf

179

14 From Hell: Blake and Evil in Popular Culture Jason Whittaker

192

15 Fit Audience tho Many: Pullman’s Blake and the Anxiety of Popularity Susan Matthews

205

Bibliography

221

Index

234

Acknowledgements This book originated in a conference at St Mary’s College, Twickenham, entitled ‘Blake and the Popular’, and the editors would like to express their gratitude to the College, as well as to David Punter and the Centre for Romantic Studies, Bristol for support in helping that event go ahead. We would like to thank Tristanne Connolly, Paula Kennedy, Helen Craine and Christabel Scaife for their help and advice during editing, but most of all we would like to thank Shirley Dent, who came up with the original idea for the conference and has, as ever, poured in ideas and suggestions for Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture.

vii

Notes on the Contributors Steve Clark is currently Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo. His other publications include Historicizing Blake (1994), Blake in the 90s (1999) and Blake, Nation and Empire (2006) (all co-edited with David Worrall), and The Reception of Blake in the Orient (2006) (co-edited with Masashi Suzuki). Shirley Dent is press officer for the Institute of Ideas, the Battle of Ideas and development editor of Culture Wars, the reviews website of the Institute of Ideas. She is the co-author (with Jason Whittaker) of Radical Blake: Afterlife and Influence from 1827 (2002), and has written on the critic and editor Anne Gilchrist for the collection Women Read William Blake (2006). Mark Douglas is senior lecturer in Film Studies at University College, Falmouth. He has published essays on Derek Jarman, Shakespearean adaptation for the screen and has research interests in literature and film. He is currently collaborating on a research project on artists on film. Wayne Glausser is Chair of English at DePauw University, Indiana. He has published several essays, mainly in two areas – English literature and philosophy of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; and American fiction and popular culture of the twentieth century – and in 1998, he published Locke and Blake: A Conversation across the Eighteenth Century (1998). Michelle Leigh Gompf received her PhD in 2001 from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Division of Language and Literature at Concord University, Athens, WV, and is currently working on a book-length exploration of Harris’s use of Blake and Blake’s concept of good and evil. Matthew J. A. Green is Lecturer in Modern English Literature and Director of the Centre for the Study of Byron and Romanticism at the University of Nottingham. His most recent works includes articles on Blake and enlightenment, as well as a longer study, Visionary Materialism viii

Notes on the Contributors ix

in the Early Works of William Blake: The Intersection of Enthusiasm and Empiricism (2005). He is general editor of Working with English: Medieval and Modern Language, Literature and Drama, an online journal promoting research in the field of English studies. James Keery teaches English at Fred Longworth High School, Tyldesley. Carcanet published his That Stranger, The Blues in 1996 and his new edition of Burns Singer’s Collected Poems in 2001. He is currently preparing papers on J. H. Prynne (for Jacket), on the Apocalypse (for PN Review) and on Poetry (London) for the Modernist Magazines Project. Edward Larrissy is Professor of English Literature and Head of School at the University of Leeds. His work centres on Romantic poetry (mainly Blake) and twentieth-century poetry. His books include Romanticism and Postmodernism (1999), Yeats the Poet (1995) and Blake and Modern Literature (2006). Mark Lussier is an Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University, and his book Romantic Dynamics: The Poetics of Physicality was published in 1999. His essays on William Blake have appeared in numerous journals, including, most recently, ‘Blake and Science Studies’ in Palgrave Advances: William Blake Studies. His current booklength research project is provionally entitled Colonial Counterflows: Orientalism, Romanticism, and the Emergence of Buddhism in NineteenthCentury Europe. Susan Matthews is Senior Lecturer in English at Roehampton University. Her main interests are Blake, women’s writing of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the literature of sensibility. Her current project is on ‘William Blake and the Feminization of Culture’. She is interested in the ways in which Blake’s writing reflects the tensions of his commercial work, which brings him into contact with the polite and with the power of women as consumers. Christopher Ranger received his PhD from Essex University. His thesis, ‘Friendly Enemies: Blake, Bakhtin, Feminism’, focuses on the dialogical relationships between Blake and a range of other writers. He teaches at Canon Palmer Catholic School, London. G. A. Rosso teaches English at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT. He has written and co-edited several books and essays

x Notes on the Contributors

on Blake, including Blake’s Prophetic Workshop: A Study of The Four Zoas (1993), Blake, Politics and History (1998) and ‘The Religion of Empire: Blake’s Rahab in its Biblical Contexts’, in Alexander Gourlay (ed.), Prophetic Character: Essays on William Blake in Honor of John E. Grant (2002). Colin Trodd teaches art history at the University of Manchester. He has co-edited Victorian Culture and the Idea of the Grotesque (1999), Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century (1999), Governing Cultures (2000), Representations of G. F. Watts (2004) and Civilised Painting? (2005), a Special Issue of Visual Culture in Britain. He is currently completing Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World 1830–1930. He currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Victorian Culture. Jason Whittaker lectures in English with Media Studies at University College, Falmouth. He has published various papers on Blake and on digital and new media studies. His books include William Blake and the Myths of Britain (1999) and Radical Blake: Influence and Afterlife from 1827 (2002, with Shirley Dent). David Worrall is Professor of English at Nottingham Trent University and is currently Vice-President of the British Association for Romantic Studies. He is editor of The Urizen Books (1995) and co-editor (with Steve Clark) of Historicizing Blake (1994), Blake in the 90s (1999) and Blake, Nation and Empire (2006). He is also the author of Theatric Revolution: Drama, Censorhip and Romantic Period Subcultures, 1774–1832 (2006).

Introduction: Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker

When William Blake died on 12 August 1827, he left behind him, in the words of his most recent biographer, G. E. Bentley, a ‘fading shadow’. While Bentley notes that the number of obituary notices that appeared were ‘more … than might have been expected’ (BR 465), those expectations were very low. Although Blake was a minor footnote in the established histories of British literature and art, it is not true, as Richard Holmes (2004) has remarked, that by the time of his death ‘he was already a forgotten man’; indeed, plenty of nascent biographers were keen to use the deathbed scene of this obscure engraver, painter and sometime poet to establish their visions of a reinvigorated sentimental aesthetic and to serve as the foundation for their own future reputations. Allan Cunningham ventriloquised Blake thus in his 1830 Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects: ‘Why should I fear death? Nor do I fear it, I have endeavoured to live as Christ commands, and have sought to worship God truly – in my own house, when I was not seen of men’ (cited in BR 654–5). The author of Jerusalem might have approved, although it is hard to imagine the diabolic engraver of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell being quite as complacent. Despite the regular appearance of numerous articles on Blake’s influence, particularly in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, full-length studies are few and far between. Deborah Dorfmann’s informative and valuable Blake in the Nineteenth Century (1967) is confined, of course, to the simpler task of outlining Blake’s reputation before the explosion of self-professed followers in the twentieth century. Robert Bertholf and Annette Levitt’s William Blake and the Moderns (1982) extends the temporal reach of Blake’s influence, but concentrates on a very traditional high cultural genealogy. The book that offers a wider consideration of 1

2 Steve Clark and Jason Whitaker

Blake’s cultural impact is Shirley Dent and Jason Whittaker’s Radical Blake: Influence and Afterlife (2002), which drew on and extended the emerging body of work concerned with Blake’s influence on areas such as film, political philosophy and popular music as well as more conventional literary studies. A more recent and detailed study of Blake’s impact on literature is Edward Larrissy’s Blake and Modern Literature (2006). What is perhaps so unusual about Blake is that the influence of his work is often much more visible than that of other writers and artists. All scholars devoted to a particular author wish to plead a special case for their subject, but there remains something slightly odd about Blake’s incorporation into the canon, a process that began with Alexander Gilchrist’s biography of the pictor ignotus, published in 1863 with help from the Rossettis and Swinburne, and which achieved a great leap forward with Blake’s adoption by modernist poets – most notably W. B. Yeats – and important work by critics and scholars in the twentieth century such as S. Foster Damon, Northrop Frye, David Erdman and G. E. Bentley. Their labour, and that of many other critics and writers, has secured Blake’s position as an artist and writer, and so elevated it that the London printmaker has, predictably enough, been subjected to a critical backlash for his religious, political and sexual views. Yet while Blake is often studied as one of the big six of Romanticism, anyone who reads his work, particularly if they move beyond the pastoral lyrics of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, cannot help but note its strangeness. Blake was by no means the first oddball to occupy a quiet recess in the pantheon: John Bunyan, Christopher Smart, even that linchpin of theories around the anxiety of influence, John Milton, read bizarrely. It is Blake, however, who is most often interpreted as the emblem of the unorthodox imagination and, as Schuchard (2006) has indicated, he was more firmly situated in the esoteric, erotic and apocalyptic counterculture of the Enlightenment than most. Much of our appreciation of Blake’s strangeness comes from his artistic talents: an engraver by training, a painter by inclination, not only have his illuminated manuscripts provided a more material environment for his literary vision than can be attained by most writers, but his other paintings and prints, such as the magnificent large colour print of Newton, have inspired generations of writers and artists. Again, this is not to imply that Blake’s inspiration on artists is unique: countless illustrations of the works of Shakespeare and Milton indicate otherwise, and Blake’s own illuminations of figures such as Orc and Urizen tend to block out later interpretations – the original is all too

Introduction 3

visible, especially when reproduction technologies emerge later in the twentieth century providing cheap and easy access. Such mechanical reproductions may lack the aura of Blake’s illuminated manuscripts, but the importance of these cannot be underestimated for extending the reach of his reception. The particular danger of this special pleading for Blake is that it settles on a series of convenient antinomies that have been viewed with suspicion for at least the past three decades: alternative versus mainstream, high versus popular culture, individual versus society. One can exaggerate Blake’s cultural isolation during his lifetime; obviously there was relative decline and neglect between 1806 and 1818 – what Bentley refers to as Blake’s period of ‘independence and obscurity’ – but in the late 1780s Blake could easily be viewed as a rising talent with a profitable business that attracted the attention of London’s middle class (including potential sponsorship for a grand tour in 1784 as well as a nomination for the post of royal drawing master in 1787) and, during the 1790s, as historicist scholars such as David Worrall and Jon Mee have demonstrated, Blake was strongly involved in the radical and feverish currents of metropolitan life during the French Revolution. As G. A. Rosso argues in chapter 1, ‘Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Blake’s Illustrations to Night Thoughts’, the consensus that Blake withdrew from radical politics to embrace a more apolitical version of Christianity is not necessarily borne out by closer examination of texts such as Vala: or the Four Zoas and the genesis of that text in the illustrations to Young’s Night Thoughts. Blake’s illustrations to these, along with those for Blair’s The Grave, demonstrate that Blake was strongly allied to popular culture at the turn of the nineteenth century, whatever we think of such texts now. What is more, in the 1820s Blake returned strongly to the cultural fold via his associations with artists such as John Linnell, Samuel Palmer and John Varley, and if his reputation was founded on anecdotes such as the apparition of visionary heads, on one level at least there was a public willing to accord a role, however limited, to this eccentric artist. In a different fashion, David Worrall’s ‘Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs’ (chapter 2) demonstrates how much the activity of William and Catherine Blake could be affected by their residence in the heart of London’s theatrical and radical press industries. Despite the invocation of ‘Visionary forms dramatic’ at the close of Jerusalem (98:28 E 257), the possible influence of theatre on Blake has previously been almost entirely neglected. This was a popular intersection between high culture and mass audiences, particularly through the phenomenon

4 Steve Clark and Jason Whitaker

of portraiture, which brought the cult of celebrity to a wider public. The significance of that public during the eighteenth century as part of an emerging public sphere has, of course, become increasingly common in English literary and cultural studies, but in the past decade its role during Blake’s lifetime has been examined much more closely by a number of critics and theorists. For John Brewer (2004), the visibility of the private lives of politicians during the 1770s constituted a proto-mass media, which in turn, during Blake’s life, linked into improvements in transport and communications that allowed a national press network to flourish, bringing with it a sense of accountability to a community geographically dispersed and not personally known. Of course, this eighteenth-century public sphere was still considered primarily as part of a Hanoverian political culture which was the prerogative of an elite aristocratic culture, but an infrastructure was beginning to emerge that would, given the impetus of technological innovations throughout the nineteenth century, acquire its own momentum with unpredictable consequences. Yet we should be cautious of rushing to the conclusion that the radical culture of the 1790s was, in James Epstein’s words, creating ‘an autonomous and distinctly working-class or plebeian “public sphere”’ (1994, 150). Rather, in terms of Foucauldian regulation and transgression, Kevin Gilmartin (1996) suggests that as the government adopted the techniques and organisation of the London Corresponding Society to promote a loyalist counter-revolutionary public sphere of greater longevity and political effectiveness, the popular press of the early nineteenth century was as much stimulated by pro-Establishment ambitions as (following E. P. Thompson) the emergence of a radicalised English working class. More recently, Ian Haywood (2004) rightly notes how the French and American Revolutions encouraged mass participation in culture as well as politics in the late eighteenth century, but also provides ample documentation of how the radical press of the 1820s mutated into the mass circulation ‘yellow press’ of the Victorian period, something much closer to the modern mass media. There are, then, two contradictory senses of modernity: one stemming from the Enlightenment discourse on human rights; the other based on a society constructed around mass circulation and consumerism. Any simplistic view of popular culture that posits implicit resistance to elite culture is, of course, to be viewed sceptically: from their inception, mass popular media were compromised. The term ‘popular’ may be regarded as a median (between high and mass culture) or even

Introduction 5

palimpsestic term. At the negative extreme, it links to critiques of mass culture in British, American and continental traditions as intrinsically debasing – a term preserved, though reversed, in the postmodern celebration of the dispersal of the aura of the artwork and residual elitist pretensions. Mass culture is both the culture of the masses (hence antielitist, democratic, oppositional) and culture presupposing techniques of mass production (hence ideological, manipulative, alienating). It is rarely used before the late nineteenth century, with the development of the yellow press and advertising, but a case can be made for expanding the category to include almanacs, chapbooks, ballad-sheets, handbills – crossovers on the boundaries of literacy. In such a context, proto-mass culture seems to presuppose an antithesis with elite culture but that itself is difficult to sustain in the context of the 1790s, where a text such as Volney’s Ruins of Empire achieved wide dissemination. By the late nineteenth century, another industrial revolution based on the inclusion of a greater percentage of society in consumer culture, as well as new techniques and inventions, underlay the invention of the modern mass media, bringing with it widespread literacy that inspired fear and loathing as well as utopian aspirations founded on democratic inclusion (Brantlinger, 1998). Early accounts of such developments, notably those of Walter Benjamin, alternated between these extremes, for if the easy equation of popular culture and opposition is suspect, so too are those models of mass culture that view it as imposed from above, and therefore a form of false consciousness. Who, for example, originates mass culture? How can leaders be exempted from its processes of formation? How can one account for the turbulence and resistance that characterise nineteenth-century working-class history? Therefore an emphasis on cracks, fissures, competing sites of appropriation becomes attractive in discussion on the reception and mass dissemination of a figure such as Blake. Blake criticism has tended to speak of dissenting, antinomian or a variety of questionable synonyms assumed to presuppose radical tendencies (such as enthusiasm) rather than in terms of popular or mass culture in contradistinction to elite formations. It should be noted, to borrow Raymond Williams’ terms, that mass culture is often technologically innovative and so emergent, whereas practices and representations deemed working-class may often be categorised as residual in so far as they merge with a sentimental ideal of folk sensibility, as preserving traditions unable to manifest themselves in the mainstream public sphere. This is where the slippage occurs between a potentially loyalist popular culture and one seen as necessarily oppositional. One could

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very easily see the connection between tavern culture and the London Corresponding Society in the 1790s, but it is hard to see how practices such as bull-baiting and cockfighting, equally constitutive of the plebeian public sphere, were radical. However, the more plausible origins of a modern British mass media in the Regency press, particularly during the Queen Caroline affair, indicate its future volatile relations with both oppositional causes and elite formations (both for the opposition and the elite establishment): much of the radical press that had emerged from the 1790s onwards metamorphosed into more general muckraking, gradually becoming the yellow press of the early Victorian era, more concerned with the scandals surrounding mistresses and divorce proceedings than with ideological conflicts. The ready trade in such titles also indicated the materialisation of a recognisable consumer society, the defining features of which – crowds, commodities, urbanism and new technologies of reproduction – became established between the 1820s and 1855, when Gautier referred to this experience as la modernité, a phrase used more famously by Charles Baudelaire in his Le Peintre de la vie moderne. The concept of the Modern pre-dates the Romantic in the Ancient versus Modern debates of the late seventeenth century (which were redefined as classic versus Romantic in the later nineteenth century). Modernism emerges as a reaction to the Romanticism of the nineteenth century, but modernity comes first as a recognition of the contemporary as irrevocably different, leading to those familiar traits that Charles Taylor (1992) calls the ‘epiphanies of modernism’: the growing importance of the individual, the dominance of instrumental reason and ultimate control of our disciplined bodies by the state. The relation of modernity to modernism is itself vexed. The latter movement includes both celebration of the machine and new technologies (Futurism, Vorticism) and an oppositional strand stemming from Romantic critiques of industrialisation (Eliot, Lawrence). Blake is both eminently compatible with its genealogy in French Symbolism (Symons, after all, writes books on The Symbolist Movement in Literature [1899] and on William Blake [1907]) and immediately vulnerable to its critiques of Romanticism as, following T. E. Hulme’s gibe, ‘spilt religion’. The antithesis between modernity and modernism, as well as between high modernism and popular culture, may be seen as retrospective constructs: these manifestations are much more porous than proponents or detractors of its subsequent academic canonisation have acknowledged. Modernism, following on from the biographical potboilers of the nineteenth century, lays the foundations for the reception of Blake in

Introduction 7

the twentieth century, but there has been a proliferation of Blakes since the Second World War which could, rather loosely, be termed postmodern. (Blake has an afterlife outside the academy, but is often cited as attracting the most specialist and pedantic of criticism as part of the nebulous but persistent Blake industry.) Blake was seized upon by Nelson Hilton and others as an example of a poststructuralist writer whose complex prophetic works deconstructed any sure ideological meaning, but postmodern appropriations of Blake tend to appear across a wide cultural spectrum, for example in a tendency to playfulness and a debunking of monolithic aesthetic values in the work of Chris Ofili and other artists of the BritArt trends during the 1990s. It is paradoxical that a writer and artist so determined to control every aspect of his work (a product of the ‘egotistical sublime’ every bit as Romantic and individualistic as that which Keats detected in Wordsworth) should lend himself to such varied assimilation. The Blakean style is immediately recognisable as a brand name – or even a logo for a certain intimation of visionary (or pseudo-visionary) poetics – and one that thus has a peculiar relationship with the logic of late capitalism. Ironically, the emergence of a Blakean ‘brand’ may be oddly closer to the spirit of Blake’s enterprise than many writers drawing on literary affinities, even where these are deeply felt, as in the case of Rossetti, Swinburne, Yeats, Ginsberg or Lawrence. For writers working after the Second World War, Angela Carter or Salman Rushdie among them, the problem for this postmodern Blake is that they wish to use him as a playful, iconoclastic figure of subversion, yet he must also remain a writer who retains sufficient individuality and authority to repay more traditional forms of homage. In terms of his reception, Blake can be thought of as a self-constituting and individualistic Romantic imagination or as a composite product of intersecting discourses. The first would support traditional, primarily literary, theories of influence, transmission and reception; the second a depsychologised model of circulation, proliferation, competing attempts at appropriation. The two are by no means mutually exclusive: Blake’s texts, both literary and pictorial, cannot be segregated from narratives, indeed mythologies, of the life generated almost from the day of his death, itself a complex and ambiguous tableau of genius neglected and faith redeemed. The recuperation of Blake did not begin with Alexander Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake, ‘Pictor Ignotus’ (published by Macmillan in 1863 and reprinted in two volumes in 1880), but it did see the beginnings of a Blake industry which was to mythologise as well as popularise the engraver’s life. Gilchrist’s biography, completed by his wife, Anne, who

8 Steve Clark and Jason Whitaker

was also to prove influential in developing a public taste for the works of Walt Whitman, was aided to press by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his brother, William Michael, the Pre-Raphaelite painter having been given a great deal of additional material by another Blake collector, John Clarke Strange. Algernon Charles Swinburne was to publish his own appreciation of Blake five years later, and these works did much to revive interest in Blake in the second half of the nineteenth century. As Colin Trodd observes in chapter 3, ‘Emanations and Negations of Blake in Victorian Art Criticism’, the critical practices of Swinburne and the Rossettis were used in part to transport ‘private’ designs into ‘public’ ideas. Yet even before the ‘discovery’ of Blake’s paintings at the Burlington Fine Art Club in 1876, Blake was increasingly being considered by the public – one that, ironically, considering his role in the twentieth century as arch-dissenter, focused on his commercial publication. Shirley Dent’s ‘“Esoteric Blakists” and the “Weak Brethren”: How Blake Lovers Kept the Popular out’ (chapter 4) offers a polemic complement to Trodd’s essay, arguing that the assiduous promotion of Blake’s works by an initiated brotherhood of aesthetes ultimately served to confirm their superior sensitivity and refinement. The late nineteenth century was an important period of transition for Blake, a time when he finally became popular. Yet, although this is often seen as a result of changing public taste, the reasons for this transition are much more embedded in the cultural logic of late Victorian society. Blake did not necessarily wish to be obscure during his lifetime, indeed he initially conceived his illuminated books as a commercial scheme, but the intense laboriousness of creating his almost medieval manuscripts – most gloriously evident in copy E of Jerusalem, the only coloured version of Blake’s final epic, painted by hand – precluded a wide market. Technological limitations rather than ideological eccentricity converted Blake’s public ideas into private ideas, and indeed for half a century after his death the artist was most widely recognised in precisely those commercial works that had successfully engaged with the technical constraints of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century book publishing, the illustrations to Edward Young’s Night Thoughts and Robert Blair’s The Grave. The conditions of modernity of the late Victorian period enabled the popularity of Blake’s other, more peculiarly visionary work. The explosion of mass media in the 1880s required new technologies of reproduction to enable capitalist consumerism of new texts: the growth of lithographic and eventually photographic reproduction techniques are the basis of Blake’s reputation in the twentieth century – and, ironi-

Introduction 9

cally, expose him to a series of shifting oppositions with the popular. The very mechanical reproduction that enables so many followers of Blake to appreciate his works is in danger of decomposing the aura of his original invention. Blake’s (sometimes problematic) appropriation by modernism is the subject of Edward Larrissy’s ‘Blake: Between Romanticism and Modernism’ (chapter 5), beginning with the threevolume edition of Blake’s work produced by Edwin Ellis and W. B. Yeats, but notably influential in the poetry and criticism of W. H. Auden. For Auden (as for Joyce and André Breton, though not for Yeats), Blake was the Romantic who provided a strangely anti-Romantic link to the Modernist movement. At the same time, as Larrissy points out, ‘Romanticism’ as we know it had barely come into being before the arrival of ‘Modernism’, and rather than simply being seen as an antidote to Romantic badness, Blake is an example of how the Romantic artist was being defined during the early years of the twentieth century. Steve Clark’s ‘“There is no Competition”: Eliot on Blake, Blake in Eliot’ (chapter 6) examines more closely the assumed antithesis between Blake and that Modernist poet of the twentieth century who has become something of a hate figure in Blake studies. The negative construction of Eliot, argues Clark, is based on a highly selective retrospective reading of Eliot’s criticism, particularly as his more favourable 1927 essay, ‘The Mysticism of Blake’, is often overlooked compared with the more hostile remarks made in The Sacred Wood. As well as exploring the points of rapprochement between the two poets, both positive and negative, Clark’s essay demonstrates how Blake could be used as cultural capital in the struggle between Modernism and the contemporary popular culture of such forms as cartoons, thrillers and the music-hall, but also that the boundaries between Eliot and these manifestations of popular culture are much more porous than first appears. James Keery, in ‘Children of Albion: Blake and Contemporary British Poetry’ (chapter 7), takes the publication of Michael Horovitz’s Children of Albion, Poems in the Underground in Britain in 1969 as a starting point for considering the ways in which popular culture and Modernism have interacted. Iain Sinclair and J. H. Prynne drew on Blake to provide apocalyptic ecstasies in opposition to the Movement orthodoxies that had developed during the 1950s. From poetry to painting and film, Blake’s unorthodox contribution to oppositional politics is the subject of Mark Douglas’s ‘Queer Bedfellow: William Blake and Derek Jarman’ (chapter 8), which also attempts to move beyond the impressionistic comparisons drawn between the two, exploring instead how Jarman

10 Steve Clark and Jason Whitaker

used Blake to orient his own encounter with nationalist politics and the meanings of Englishness. Matt Green’s ‘“This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular Friend”: Diabolic Friendships and Oppositional Interrogation in Blake and Rushdie’ (chapter 9) and Christopher Ranger’s ‘Friendly Enemies: Blake and Angela Carter’ (chapter 10) both deal with writers who have readily mixed elements of low and high culture in their postmodern work. Green opens up the manner in which Rushdie utilises Blake’s sense of the prophetic as a foil for the divine encounters of his increasingly delusional protagonist, Gibreel, indicating Blake’s posthumous role as an iconoclast railing against the mythologies that underpin political tyranny and religious oppression. For Ranger, the connections between Blake and Carter are initially much more difficult: Carter was fascinated by Blake’s revolutionary project, yet despised much of his sexual politics. Allusions to Blake abound in Carter’s writing, but Ranger is more concerned with the relationship between sexual and political liberation, and with the polarisation of reason and imagination in the texts of both writers. Moreover, Blake’s ability to combine political commitment with irony and generic parody provides Carter with a model for her own assault on the ‘social fictions’ of her day. The tensions raised by the simultaneous adoption of Blake as a brand and his championship by no-logo, anti-capitalist adherents inform ‘Blake beyond Postmodernity’ (chapter 11), by Mark Lussier, a wideranging reflection on Blake’s influence on contemporary culture. While the overt influence of Blake has apparently waned since its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, when Blake was often explicitly invoked as a rebel by writers and artists, Lussier argues that the appearance of Blakean imagery in a number of recent texts as varied as Nike ads, popular physics texts and pulp fiction and cinema demonstrates some of the means by which Blake’s influence filters into popular culture. Academic studies of Blake have tended to neglect the phenomenon of how the rippling presence of Blake infiltrates any number of para-literary and popular texts. The definition of Blake may be more problematic than ever, precisely because the strong image of the artist defined by Victorian and early modernist culture has begun to disintegrate, but the visions of Blake are, if anything, more widespread than ever. The modernist tension between elitist high culture and popular culture, supposedly erased or dismissed by postmodernism, takes on new forms in the reception of Blake during the mid-twentieth century, particularly as he is taken up by oppositional or counter-cultural

Introduction 11

figures. Wayne Glausser’s ‘What is it Like to be a Blake? Psychiatry, Drugs and the Doors of Perception’ (chapter 12) argues that many writers who attempt to ‘get inside’ Blake’s mental world through hallucinogens or diagnostic speculation oversimplify Blake in the process of identifying his visionary essence. Beginning with Aldous Huxley and following psychological and psychiatric speculation in the work of Kay R. Jamison and Huston Smith, Glausser suggests that the tendency is to treat Blake’s unusual perception as a matter of pathology rather than inspiration. The final chapters of this volume indicate the ways in which some of the old certainties of divergence between modernist hostility to popular culture and a counter-cultural celebration of anything antagonistic to the old elite have begun to break down. Michelle Gompf, in ‘The Silence of the Lamb and the Tyger: Harris and Blake, Good and Evil’ (chapter 13), discusses one of the most avowedly popular representations of Blakean ideas in recent years in the books of Thomas Harris, who uses Blake references, both explicit and implicit, verbal and visual, to underline and emphasise a particular philosophy regarding Good and Evil, namely that the two are intertwined and coexist. The popular perception of Blake as a demonic advocate is explored from a slightly different angle in Jason Whittaker’s ‘From Hell: Blake and Evil in Popular Culture’ (chapter 14), which concentrates particularly on the graphical novels of Alan Moore, the absurd fiction of J. G. Ballard and Michael Dibdin’s thriller Dark Spectre to indicate some of the ways in which Blake is often used as a means to explain a peculiarly perverse form of evil, an intelligent psychopathy, that also has as its real target the institutional hypocrisy of moral law. Finally, Susan Matthews, in ‘Fit Audience tho Many’ (chapter 15), assesses how the heterodox use of Blake in Philip Pulman’s trilogy for children, His Dark Materials, with its shifting parameters of popular and elite culture, can illuminate comparable tensions in the reception of his work in his own time. Writing to Dr Trusler on 16 August 1799, Blake says of his works, ‘And tho I call them Mine I know they are not Mine’ (E 701). In this volume we hope to have explored both some of their diverse and unpredictable trajectories and the broader issues of the relation of elite and popular culture posed by their reception history.

1 Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Blake’s Night Thoughts G. A. Rosso

Nor Man alone, his breathing Bust expires; His Tomb is mortal; Empires die: Where, now, The Roman? Greek? They stalk, an empty Name! Yet few regard them in this useful Light; Tho’ Half our Learning is their Epitaph. Edward Young, Night Thoughts Blake’s Night Thoughts illustrations relate in complex and dynamic ways to several contemporary contexts of the popular which help illuminate important aspects of Blake’s designs, especially the political dimension of his apocalyptic theology. One context is the widespread popularity of Young’s poem itself, which accounts for the interest of Blake and his publisher, Richard Edwards, in a project that could tap into the lucrative art market of the period. Edwards sought to capitalise on Young’s reputation as well as the commercial success of the bookseller trade opened up by John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery and its rivals.1 While the combination of religious piety and graveyard melancholy contributed most to the popularity of Young’s poem and to Edwards’ interest in it, Blake responded deeply and positively to its eschatological critique of imperial ambition, developing it in his own, more radical directions. Blake drew in part on the radical millenarian subculture of the 1790s, a second context, which reached its heyday in 1795, the year of the Richard Brothers controversy.2 The radical millenarians were not ‘popular’ in terms of a mass following: they were a relatively small faction within the ‘complex and heterogeneous network of forces and tendencies’ that comprised 1790s radicalism and reform (Makdisi 2003, 12

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 13

20–1). But recent scholarship (Mee 1992, 1998, 2002; Thompson 1993; Worrall 1999) confirms that Blake shared the populist stance and vocabulary, the enthusiastic rhetoric and antinomian principles, of many radical millenarians. My essay builds on this scholarship, but claims that while Blake applies the pressure of radical millenarianism to Young’s more orthodox eschatology, he also develops Young’s antiimperial stance in ways that sharpen the radicals’ critique of church and state into a more pointed attack on the British Empire. Blake did not directly address a radical millenarian audience: watercolours were not popular culture like prints and handbills, although Blake was a printmaker by trade. His immediate audience was probably painters and engravers such as William Sharp, an advocate of Brothers and, like James Gillray, Blake straddled both the popular and polite spheres (Donald, 29, 36–43, 162–6). This claim brings us to a third context of the popular, the genre of Anglo-Indian history paintings then in vogue, depicting English victories on the Asian subcontinent. This context forms part of the larger colonial history and culture of the era, which saw dramatic shifts generated by the American and French Revolutions and the rise of the anti-slavery movement. Between 1776 and 1815, the British Empire was undergoing a major realignment, moving its central locus of operation from North America and the West Indies to the East, primarily to India, although Canada and key Caribbean islands as well as Mediterranean and coastal African commercial and military bases remained crucial to its overall strategic and commercial designs. Blake was aware of the transatlantic theatre of imperial action, as shown in his continental prophecies and the Stedman engravings. At least one Night Thoughts design, NT508, shows his knowledge of Britain’s activity in the East and of the art that supported it. Popular demand for this art was created by the Anglo-Mysore wars which dominated British–Indian relations from 1767 to 1799. These wars were costly and prolonged, factors that curbed the ‘jingoistic exuberance among the public at large’ after the Seven Years War (Archer, 419). But patriotic fervor was revived in the early 1790s by the news that Charles Cornwallis, Governor-General in India, had reached Seringapatam, the Mysorian stronghold, and forced the leader, Tipu Sultan, to negotiate a treaty. This treaty stipulated that Tipu hand over two of his sons as hostages, an episode that inspired a score of paintings in the 1790s, most of them prominently featuring elephants. In these paintings, the elephant often functions as a symbol of imperial power and ceremony. In the design to NT508, Blake counters this symbolism by portraying the

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fall of the British Empire in an image of Satan hurled headlong with an elephant into the bottomless pit, where he (they?) will be bound in chains at the millennium. Blake’s awareness of popular millenarianism, coupled with his knowledge of imperial history and art, enables him to radicalise Young’s critique of empire in Night Thoughts (see Mitchell 1982, 22–3). Yet, while Blake returns Young to his biblical sources in order to activate latent meanings (see Grant 1970, 307), he does so through a sympathetic critique in which he both reliably and ironically illustrates Young’s text. Admittedly, Young’s otherworldly eschatology is politically conservative, and throughout his life he ingratiated himself, often in terms of the obsequious preferment hunter, to figures in positions of power. Blake could see as well as anyone that Young’s apocalyptic passages, while critical of empire, are invariably contained by the pious latitudinarian rhetoric of the Anglican clergyman. But Blake also discerns in him a judgement against empire that, while it derives from a tradition of otherworldly Christian eschatology, he intensifies and historicises for his own immediate political purposes. Blake incorporated images of regicide and imperial humiliation into his Night Thoughts that, while they had no discernible political effect, demonstrate an affinity with the most radical millenarians of his day. Mee and John Barrell show that designs from the Book of Daniel illustrating the fall of the Babylonian kings Belshazzar (NT60) and Nebuchadnezzar (NT299) were freighted with political meaning, especially following George III’s illness in 1788 when the image of Nebuchadnezzar circulated as a cipher for the deranged king. Brothers’ interpretation of George III as Daniel’s lion with eagle’s wings (a symbol of Babylon) gave ‘renewed vigour’ to this identification (Daniel 7:4; Mee 1998, 108; Barrell 2000, 544–7). But in addition to these designs, Blake drew some 24 illustrations across the nine nights in which royal figures are cast in a critical light or subjected to judgement, usually in relation to an apocalyptic text.3 These designs are concentrated in Nights VI–IX, which present Young’s critique of ambition, especially imperial ambition. Nights VI and VII in particular contain ten, that is nearly half, of the anti-monarchy designs; these Nights form two parts of the section titled ‘The Infidel Reclaimed’ which disputes the glory of worldly riches and ambition. Edwards may have been less anxious about these designs, as Young intends his critique to improve monarchs morally by refocusing their ambition on otherworldly concerns. But the concentration of Young’s criticism in these Nights, matched by the predominance of Blake’s anti-monarchical

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 15

images in them, suggests a correlation, however much Blake develops Young for his own purposes. This development culminates in the colossal title-page to Night VIII (which features the harlot and dragon of Revelation) and in the papal caricatures that follow (NT349, 396), examples of popular religious images that serve as a bridge to the sequence of designs illustrating Young’s apocalypse in Night IX. The watercolours in these later Nights are anticipated in Night I by the most revolutionary of the designs, NT20 (p. 8 of the engraved version), which portrays Death wielding a dart and killing two kings. In the context of the hysteria that followed the regicide in France and the mob attack on George III’s coach in 1795, a year of food riots and intense anti-government agitation, this design is perhaps the most explicitly seditious image in Blake’s entire canon (see Barrell 2000, ch. 14; Emsley). In the engraved print, Death holds his dart aloft as he tramples on the necks of two monarchs: one wears a crown while the other’s crown has toppled to the side. But while close in spirit to popular millenarian prints advocating regicide, Blake’s design adheres closely to the passage in Young: ‘Death! Great proprietor of all! ‘tis thine / To tread out empire, and to quench the stars’ (I:203–4).4 This design is a faithful illustration of the text, whose warning about empire grows out of Young’s personal experience with suffering and death. This design illustrates the analogies in the text between domestic, imperial and cosmic realms: Each Moment has its Sickle, emulous Of Time’s enormous Scythe, whose ample Sweep Strikes Empires from the root; each Moment plays His little Weapon in the narrower sphere Of sweet domestic Comfort, and cuts down The fairest bloom of sublunary Bliss (I:192–7) Young domesticates the political import of the anti-empire image. Referring to the recent and unexpected deaths of his wife, step-daughter and her husband (the ostensible events that called forth the poem), he asks Death, whose great tasks are to tread out empire and tear down the stars, why he must exhaust his ‘partial Quiver on a Mark so mean? … Insatiate Archer! Could not One suffice? / Thy shaft flew thrice, and thrice my Peace was slain’ (I:204–12). Blake also focuses on the cosmological import of the image, but he politicises Young’s

16 Tony Rosso

theology by injecting the urgent millenarian energy of 1795 into the design. NT20 thus anticipates the merging of anti-empire and apocalyptic themes which reaches a crescendo in designs to Nights VIII and IX, particularly in NT425, in which the ‘Insatiate Archer’ returns with his massive bow and arrow to lay the mighty low at the Last Judgment. The critique of imperial ambition in Nights VI–VII provides further occasion for Blake to loosen Young’s eschatology from the constraints of Anglican tradition. Opening Night VI with reflections on his wife’s death, Young consoles himself with rationalist proofs of immortality, at times enlivening the theological argument with passages of lyrical ‘enthusiasm’ (VI:99–109). From here he shifts into a sustained critique of ambition, arguing that where immortality rules ‘Pomp Imperial begs an Alms of Peace’ (VI:146). He equates temporal ambition with avarice (l.221), says ‘Great Ill is an Atcheivement of great Pow’rs’ (l.277) and laments the bloodshed of Christian princes (ll. 357–61), concluding by defining a great leader as one who subordinates empire to ethics. To be sure, Young does not directly oppose empire: ‘That Prince, and that alone, is truly Great, / Who draws the Sword reluctant, gladly sheaths; / On Empire builds what Empire far outweighs’ (VI:362–4). His narrator even praises Britain’s ‘wide Dominions ravish’d from the Deep’ (l.777), its trans-oceanic commerce and ‘naval Thunders’, ‘Britannia’s Voice! That awes the World to peace’ (ll. 791–2). But this encomium to Britain’s imperium pelagi (‘empire of the sea’) is an enticement that the narrator urges Lorenzo, his worldly foil, to resist. He does so by placing this empire panegyric within the context of the second temptation scene (on the kingdoms) from Paradise Regained (2:298–4:211). In Milton’s scene, the Son rebuts Satan’s imperial offering: ‘Thou neither dost persuade me to seek wealth / For Empire’s sake, nor Empire to affect / For glory’s sake by all thy argument’ (3:44–6). In similar vein Young responds to the reason why he has raised these themes: ‘To flatter thy grand Foibles, I confess,’ the narrator says; ‘These are Ambition’s works; and These are great; / But This, the Least Immortal souls can do; / Transcend them all. – But what can These transcend?’ (ll. 808–11). The question is rhetorical but it apparently inspires Blake, who draws the transcendent perspective on NT261, a version of the temptation scene from Milton’s poem. The design portrays an exasperated Satan hovering above the inlaid text, his right arm and index finger pointing alongside the text to the ‘loaded Seas’ below; on a mountain ledge Jesus calmly but firmly resists the offer, as he does in Blake’s Paradise Regained illustrations (B 544 7).

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 17

The question also inspires Blake’s illustrations of the resurrection which close Night VI and open Night VII. These designs span volumes 1 and 2 in the watercolour edition, showing that at crucial junctures – frontispieces and title-pages, opening and closing pages – Blake foregrounds his reworking of Young’s eschatology. In the above example, Blake suggests that Jesus’ power to resist Satan’s temptation at the end of Night VI foreshadows his victory over the grave at the resurrection, visualised on NT263–5. These designs – the final page of Night VI and the frontispiece and title-page to volume 2 – recall the frontispiece to the entire work (NT1) in which an energetically ascendant Jesus parts the clouds at the Second Coming. Blake is responding to a fundamental theme in Young rather than illustrating a specific passage. But in combination with other framing pictures, NT1 helps place the two most celebrated Night Thoughts designs, the title-pages to Nights III and VIII (NT78 and 345), clearly in relation to Young’s own eschatological critique of empire. Blake in turn situates Young’s eschatology within the volatile political moment of 1795 when the British state faced what Barrell calls ‘a new kind of political crisis’, one in which the Pitt government ‘was fighting a war on two fronts, against a republican abroad and a small but highly organized network of popular radical ‘army’ societies at home’ (2000, 29). In response, the counter-revolution concentrated on an alliance of church and crown that grew closer during the war as part of an effort to refurbish the image of royalty in the wake of the French Revolution and Reign of Terror (Colley, 204–17; Bayly 1989, 109–15). Blake captures this alliance in his set of anti-papal designs concentrated mainly in Night VIII. NT345 is the most celebrated of these designs, and its great power and originality have led critics to isolate it from the Night Thoughts context. But this design not only climaxes the textual and visual critique of imperial ambition in Nights VI and VII, it also generates the papal caricatures that follow in Night VIII (NT349, 396), especially NT349, which exposes the state-church’s support of Britain’s oceanic empire. In addition to serving this important structural function, NT345 embodies the conjunction of millenarian themes and anti-empire eschatology which forms an important aspect of Blake’s Night Thoughts project. The mid-1790s context can account in part for the expression of doomed melancholy on the face of the Babylon harlot and for the grotesque visages on the quartet of dragon heads below her, as distinct from the trio of human heads in the left margin above the pope, ‘the central head in this apparatus’ (Grant 1990, 101). As a symbol of Rome,

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the harlot was idolised for her power and wealth, which John interprets as drawn from the blood of her victims: by painting the harlot’s cup red, Blake highlights this vampiric aspect of his source. Revelation also states that a key to the harlot’s ‘mystery’ is that the dragon’s heads will turn on her and ‘eat her flesh’ (17:16), revealing a self-destructive division within the empire. Thus, in NT345 Blake keenly delineates the symbolic components of empire, exposing not only its mysteriously alluring and lurid power, but also its impending doom. This note of doom resonates with the crisis of the British imperial state in 1795, the date on the Night VIII title-page. Two other iconographic sources can help establish the specific historicity of NT345: Albrecht Dürer’s The Whore of Babylon and James Gillray’s The Prophet of the Hebrews, a satirical print by Richard Brothers. Dürer historicised the Book of Revelation in the context of the German Reformation and provided the model for the Lutheran September Bible (1522), whose Apocalypse designs were the first to symbolise the Roman pontiff as Antichrist, crowning the Babylon harlot with a tiara (Carey, 145). The vision may refer to the mid-decade war of the Pitt ministry and the judicial and military wings of the Anglican state against popular radicalism and French republicanism. The Gillray print can help make this point. Appearing on 5 March 1795, the day after Brothers’ arrest, it depicts Brothers as a crazed sans-culotte treading on the seven-headed dragon, whose heads include a crowned king and a tiara-ed pope: the pope looks up in horror as Brothers’ right foot crushes his throat, as Death does to the kings in NT20. Gillray foregrounds the dire implications of Brothers’ prophecy by depicting Babylon as London burning, with St Paul’s Cathedral engulfed in flames, its toppling orb-and-cross spire echoing the headgear of Blake’s central dragon head (also in NT396). Gillray illustrates Brothers’ threat to the British Empire by showing two ships sinking below his outstretched right hand, his left holding the Book of Revelation as blood drips into the sea from the rouge-bonneted sun. Gillray, however, visualises clearly what the state-church imperium should do to Brothers and the revolutionary millenarians: the ‘Gate of Jerusalem’ is the triple gallows. Blake reverses the reactionary import of Gillray’s print by exposing the fear of imminent doom in the figureheads of empire. To counter Gillray’s propaganda, Blake returns to the image of Death’s dart from NT20. He illustrates John’s judgement against the harlot from Revelation 17:16 through the image of the pointed dart at the end of the dragon’s tail, aimed directly at the harlot sitting on the far right

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 19

(judge) head of the dragon. However, between the dart and the harlot lies the title-page insert with ‘Virtue’s Apology’ inscribed in the centre. Blake here targets Young’s apologetics as part of his critique; he returns Young to his more radical biblical source, the Book of Revelation, which exposes the alliance of church and state, of commerce and war, in the composite figure of the Babylon harlot-dragon. Blake clearly draws the word ‘Mystery’ on the woman’s forehead in order to emphasise her identity as John’s harlot, particularly her ideological function, the deification of imperial power. In contrast to the sexual grotesqueness of Dürer’s harlot, Blake’s alluring harlot stays closer to the political meaning of Revelation. Since the cult of emperor worship was enforced throughout the Roman Empire, John connects the dragon of Roman military power with the harlot of religious coercion, forging them into a two-fold symbol of oppression. As with Rome, Britain needs the seduction and deceit of the harlot’s religion and wealth to make empire desirable. But in so far as Britain’s imperial dominance is justified as ‘virtuous’ by its own state-church establishment, Blake shows it as doomed as John’s harlot to self-destruction. The design on NT349 is important in this regard as it turns the traditional anti-Catholic animus of Protestant millenarianism into a more specific critique of Anglican collusion with Britain’s sea-borne empire. As in NT345, Young’s text plays a minimal role in this manoeuvre, although Young could be as anti-papist as any British Protestant of the time. In NT349, and its companion designs NT396 and NT91, Blake displays his attraction to popular anti-papal religious imagery. In the text, Young continues to subordinate temporal ambition to the endtime ‘at hand’, comparing ‘Time’s Ambitions’ to the bubbles swallowed by Leviathan (VIII:34–9). Significantly developing Young’s offhand allusion to the biblical dragon, Blake draws a scaly pontiff carrying a crosier as he directs the mission of the sea beast bubbling up from the deeps to the ocean surface. Blake has the pontiff ride the beast to signal his identity with the Babylon harlot on the Night VIII title-page. Though lacking the orb-and-cross emblem of the state–church alliance atop his headgear, the figure also resembles the central dragon head in NT345, the cloven-hoofed pope in NT396 and the papal figure of NT91, which depicts a pontiff with Lucifer in hell, citing Isaiah 14 (a popular prophecy against another king of Babylon). NT91 echoes other millenarian designs from Blake’s work in 1794–6 – particularly the colour print Lucifer and the Pope in Hell (B 287, 349) – and its central figure is nearly identical with the papal caricature in Europe [12(14)]. In NT91, the papal figure wears a red robe whose colours reflect the

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flames rising on the right of the inlaid text; Young equates Lucifer with the Roman Church and Blake duly places him in hell. Beyond Young, however, Blake borrows from seventeenth-century polemical prints that equate the pope with the typological King of Babylon (Bindman 713). Blake shares this historicising move with radical millenarians of his day, who identify British despotism with the autocracy of papal Rome. But while Blake draws on traditional northern Protestant imagery to critique the papacy, his focus in NT349 is not simply on the Roman or the English state church but on Britain’s transatlantic empire. Blake’s pontiff not only sits astride the dragon but, more importantly, rides him under water, exposing the submerged bond of religion and empire as satanic. We should note that radical millenarians such as Brothers and Richard Lee also registered their ambivalence towards the British Empire. After his arrest in 1795, Brothers wrote to Pitt and George III warning them that without his counsel, ‘death will take place on thousands; London falls, and the British empire sinks, never – never to rise any more’ (1795, 21). And, in contrary mode, Lee displays an acerbic anti-empire wit in his poem ‘The Crown a Bauble’, where he takes on the mock-persona of an emperor: O! did my vast Dominions stretch As far as Ocean rolls, And could my pompous Mandates reach Th’ Extreme of both the Poles; Did my large Revenues flow in From India’s richest Veins … The shining Bauble, from my Brow I’d tear with high Disdain! (ll. 9–14, 21–2)5 Lee’s focus here, and in his work in general, as with other radical millenarians, is on abuses by the English monarchy and the Anglican Church. And Brothers was deranged: he preserved a role for the British Empire in his utopian future, offering his only parliamentary supporter, Nathaniel Brassy Halhed, the Governor-Generalship of India and Pitt the Board of Control (Barrell 2000, 523). Thus, while Blake shares with the radicals an anti-Catholic bias and the historical strategy that associates British monarchy with the papacy, his knowledge of western imperial tradition, and of Young’s place within it, enables him

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 21

to redirect attention towards the collusion of crown and church with British imperialism. Blake’s treatment of the papal figure in Europe can buttress this point: in the text that accompanies the design, Albion’s Angel sees Urizen ‘on the Atlantic’ with his brazen book that ‘Kings & Priests had copied on Earth / Expanded from North to South’ (E 11:2–5). Visually, as Erdman asserts, the papal figure may be ‘King George himself’ disguised as ‘pope of the established church’ (1974, 169); but textually, the plate illustrates a key image in Revelation 13:3–4, the great red dragon’s transfer of power to the beast from the sea, symbolic of Satan’s conferral of imperial power on Rome. In this and other anti-papal designs, Blake reinterprets traditional Protestant iconography, returning to its biblical sources in an effort to expose the complicity of Albion’s church with Britain’s global dominion. Although textual evidence in Young for the anti-papal designs is minimal, it is crucial for the final design we will consider: NT508. On a page in which Young delivers his boldest criticism of empire, including Britain within his remarks, Blake responds with his most inventive anti-imperialist design in the series. Young delivers his judgement, couched in the rhetoric of quotation, from a transcendent mount in eternity: Call’d here Elijah, in his flaming Car? Past by you the good Enoch, on his Road To those fair Fields, whence Lucifer was hurl’d …? O! that the Fiend had lodg’d on some broad Orb Athwart his Way; nor reach’d his present Home; Then blacken’d Earth with Footsteps foul’d in Hell, Nor wash’d in Ocean, as from Rome he past To Britain’s Ilse; too, too, conspicuous There! (IX:1848–59) Young is stating that Britain is Rome’s satanic heir. This passage is his sharpest condemnation of empire, a reversal of his earlier translatio imperii or westerning-of-empire theme in Imperium Pelagi (1730). It calls forth a clever and contextually rich design in which Blake depicts Satan-Lucifer driven from heaven by lightning, carrying a staff or sceptre in his right hand and a shield clasped to his left arm, which appears to be in the mouth of an elephant falling with him into hell or the bottomless pit. The elephant, a popular symbol of British rule in Asia, is a stroke of inventive genius, enabling Blake to develop the

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millenarian theme of Satan’s fall through an illustration of Young’s most critical page. Blake’s imagery draws on popular demand for Anglo-India history paintings which was generated in part by Cornwallis’s defeat of Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam in 1792. All the major paintings of this event, specifically of Cornwallis’s treaty with Tipu, include elephants spatially positioned to emphasise the pageantry of imperial conquest and benevolence: Mather Brown’s Lord Cornwallis receiving the Sons of Tippoo (1793); Henry Singleton’s Lord Cornwallis receiving the sons of Tipu Sultan as hostages and an identically titled painting by George Carter (Archer, figures 335 and 194); Robert Home’s Lord Cornwallis receiving the sons of Tipu Sultan as hostages, Seringapatam, 25 February 1792 (Archer 1979, figure 213); and Arthur William Devis’s Lord Cornwallis receiving the Sons of Tippoo (Bayly 1990, figure 11). The paintings by Brown and Singleton were praised for idealising Cornwallis and the young Muslim hostages and for creating Roman parallels of British ‘benevolence in conquest’ (Bayly, 154). Blake counters this rhetoric in his design to NT508 by visually identifying Lucifer with the elephant and creating a rich texture of biblical citations on the satanic nature and millennial demise of empire. First, the design recalls the allusion to Isaiah’s prophecy against the king of Babylon (14:3–23), illustrated on NT91 and in Lucifer and the Pope in Hell. The text reads in part: ‘Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming … Thy pomp is brought down to the grave’ (14:9, 11). Pomp is an especially salient motif in Young’s critique of imperial ambition (VI:146; IX:176–204). In addition, NT508 depicts Lucifer falling into hell with a sceptre or staff in his right hand, cut off at either end by the bottom and left margins, and a lightning bolt flashing behind and across his body, details that appear in Isaiah 14: ‘How hath the oppressor ceased! The golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers’ (14:4–5). Isaiah taunts the king in mythological terms – ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer’ (14:12) – which Christian writers reinterpret as a typological prefiguration of Satan’s fall. In the Gospel of Luke, for example, the lightning image is introduced by Jesus when he declares to his followers after they cast out devils: ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven’ (Luke 10:17). Another image of lightning attends an eschatological announcement in Matthew when Jesus proclaims that Antichrist will be exposed at the Second Coming: ‘For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man’ (Matt. 24:27). Blake aligns these biblical

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 23

texts by drawing Satan in a pose that inverts the posture of Jesus in NT1: both figures part clouds in open-armed gestures, but Satan is inverted, his power reversed by the ascending power of Blake’s Jesus. In Revelation Satan is not only ‘cast out’ of heaven (12:7) at the first coming, but ‘cast … into the bottomless pit’ at the second (20:3; Isa 14:15). Also, in Revelation Satan ‘the dragon’ symbolises ancient Rome, while in NT508 he represents Britain’s satanic inheritance of the Roman Empire, a connection emphasised in Young’s text. Thus, the elephant falling with Lucifer suggests that the British Raj is as doomed as Rome. The signature event of all versions of millenarianism, the casting of Satan into the pit and the advent of millennial rule, is given a decisively anti-imperialist turn in Blake’s design. The merging of Satan and the elephant indicates the allusive range of Blake’s pictorial strategy, one that places Young’s text, popular imperial iconography and radical millenarianism on the same page. Although the elephant most immediately symbolises the imperial pomp of Anglo-British rule, Blake’s depicts it shedding a tear, representing the sorrow of conquered India and perhaps his sympathy with it. The elephant is a reluctant companion as Satan thrusts his right arm into its jaw, pulling the creature down with him by its ivory tusks. The elephant’s fate, however, is visually bound to Satan’s, making it more centrally symbolic than in previous depictions in Blake’s work. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell the elephant makes a (textual) appearance with Britain’s imperial armies. In ‘A Song of Liberty’ a revolutionary figure rises in flames and causes ‘the jealous king’ to fall from his heavenly throne above the Atlantic: ‘Down rushd beating his wings in vain the jealous king; his grey brow’d counsellors, thunderous warriors, curl’d veterans, among helms, and shields, and chariots horses, elephants …’ (25:15). In 1794–95 Blake produced three copies of The Marriage, a work that helps contextualise NT508, for in this design Blake illustrates not just Young’s reference to Lucifer falling to Britain’s isle but a prophecy of the British Empire’s (‘eastern’) doom. In the ‘Song’ the ‘son of fire in his eastern cloud’ (emphasis added) burns the king out of his dens, liberates his ‘horses’ (and elephants) and proclaims: ‘Empire is no more’ (25:18–20). While the Atlantic dominions are the specific focus of prophetic doom in The Marriage, Blake’s design on NT508 resonates with a wide range of visual and verbal texts and contexts to deliver a revolutionary message about the satanic nature and impending fall of Britain’s universal empire. The overall thrust of the designs we have surveyed combines the urgency of popular millenarianism with the scope of Young’s empire

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critique to vary and extend the eschatology of both. Blake’s antimonarchy designs are featured in Nights VI–VII in which Young critiques imperial ambition, but they also culminate in, and contextualise, the extraordinary title-page to Night VIII, NT345. This singularly brilliant design is rooted in the visual-verbal context of these Nights, particularly as part of volume 2 of the watercolour edition in which the frontispiece and title-pages (NT264–5) carry forward the eschatological theme of key pages in volume 1 – NT1, NT38, NT78. But it also introduces the papal caricatures of Night VIII, NT349 and NT396 (echoing NT91), which indicate not only Blake’s anti-Catholic tendency but his effort, in common with the radical millenarians of his day, to update traditional Protestant polemic against Rome as a critique of the Anglican monarchy and church. On the evidence of NT349 and its relation to NT345 and the other papal caricatures, Blake in turn seeks to transform this popular religious tradition by adding the crucial component of the sea. These designs thus express the convergence of radical millenarian themes and anti-empire imagery that characterises the apocalyptic theology of Blake’s Night Thoughts. The correlation between Young’s text and Blake’s designs is conveyed most compellingly by NT508, which turns Young’s critique of Britain as Rome’s satanic heir into an attack on the British Raj in India. The multiple dimensions of this and other designs, revealed through Young’s text and in relation to contemporary political and artistic contexts, show that Blake is making a statement about monarchy in its alliance with empire and not just with state religion. Ultimately, Blake’s Night Thoughts illustrations present a varied and complex dynamic of meaning. An important aspect of this dynamic involves Blake’s creative engagement with Young’s eschatology in relation to popular millenarian prints and British imperial paintings in the mid-1790s.

Notes 1. Beginning in 1795, Blake drew 537 watercolours for Edwards in two years to serve as the basis for a deluxe four-volume engraved edition of Young’s poem. In 1797 the first volume was published, comprising the first four of nine Nights with 43 engravings by Blake, but Edwards did not send out copies for review and abandoned the project without issuing further volumes (Grant et al., 3). No more than 200 copies of the engraved edition and only 20 copies of the two-volume watercolour edition were sold. Edwards soon after took a sinecure in the Vice Admiralty Court in Minorca, provided by the Earl Spenser, who was given a coloured copy of Blake’s Night Thoughts (Bentley 2004, 161–72). Thus, Blake’s designs were known to only a small group of collectors, fellow artists and engravers, and an empire man.

Popular Millenarianism and Empire in Night Thoughts 25 2. In 1792 Brothers developed a following by writing apocalyptic pamphlets declaring he was ‘prince of the Hebrews’ and ‘nephew of the Almighty’ and that George III would lose his throne for the war against France. He was arrested in 1795 and confined in an asylum until 1806 (see Mee 1992; Barrell 2000, ch. 15). 3. For Night VI, see NT229, 233, 240, 249, 251, 262; Night VII: 279, 291, 299, 327; Night VIII: 345; and Night IX: 424–37, 451–2, 463, 537. Unless otherwise noted, all citations to Blake’s Night Thoughts illustrations are to the Complete Edition edited by Grant et al. 1980. 4. Quotations from Night Thoughts are to the Cornford edition, cited by ‘Night’ in Roman numerals followed by Cornford’s line numbers. 5. In The Death of Despotism, a four-page pamphlet with no publishing information. The poem also appeared under the title ‘The Baubles of Courts’ in Lee’s Songs from the Rocks.

2 Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs David Worrall

When William and Catherine Blake moved to 3 Fountain Court, Strand, sometime in 1821, far from entering a London area suitable for a quiet semi-retirement, they found themselves relocated to the very centre of the capital’s theatreland and radical press industries.1 This chapter examines the Blakes’ close physical proximity to a vigorous and rapidly changing local culture. Angus Whitehead’s recent essay has considerably enlarged our understanding of the circumstances surrounding their occupation of the Fountain Court premises, not least in bringing to light that their landlord, Henry Banes, made William a legatee (78–9). This essay extends Whitehead’s findings by arguing that their new premises at the eastern end of the Strand brought them tantalisingly close to London’s latest developments and to a subterranean culture of poetry, music and song. Perhaps the most tangible evidence of the proximity of the encounter between Blake’s image-making and the local popular culture of the Strand comes in the appropriation in 1822 by the radical William Benbow of Blake’s stipple engraving with mezzotint, ‘Mrs. Q.,’ after Jean François Marie Huet-Villiers (Worrall 1998). Whitehead’s identification of ‘Mrs. Q.’s’ publisher, J. or I. Barrow, with the John Barrow who had acted as witness to Henry Banes’s will now brings Fountain Court, Barrow and Blake into much sharper focus. Benbow’s use of ‘Mrs. Q.’ as the frontispiece for Edward Eglantine (pseud.), Memoirs of the Life of the Celebrated MRS Q— … Embellished With A Striking Likeness (1822) is the only known use of one of Blake’s images by a contemporary radical pressman. According to a Home Office spy, Benbow had ‘lately taken [William] Cobbett’s Shop in the Strand’ in July 1820, perhaps only six months before the Blakes moved there.2 But whatever the ultimate transmission route, the connections between Blake, Barrow and Benbow had served their purpose. 26

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The area in which the Blakes now resided had undergone enormous transformations, changes which decisively affected its character, social demography and connections with the capital’s cultural life, with the industries associated with the theatre dominating the local economy in the environs defined by the north bank of the present-day Waterloo Bridge and taking in Fountain Court. However, not only was Somerset House (the home of the Royal Academy throughout this period) within a few hundred metres of the theatres of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, by 1783 a substantial number of Academicians were living and working in the vicinity of Covent Garden (Pointon, 41). The Royal Academicians and the acting profession were highly convergent in employing similar methods to maintain their social influence and ensure continued access to affluent patrons. Holger Hoock’s The King’s Artists: The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture, 1760–1840 (2003) has drawn attention to the importance of both formal and informal dining in fostering links with likely patrons and their intermediaries (218). What has not been noticed before is the degree of social reciprocity between the two professions. On John Philip Kemble’s retirement from the stage in 1817, a lavish dinner was held in his honour where the courtesy of the Royal Academy invitations was reciprocated. Although London’s principal actors and managers were nowhere near as institutionally or professionally organised as the Academicians, it is not difficult to discern how much the acting profession valued and imitated their colleagues in the visual arts. A number of Royal Academicians attended Kemble’s dinner and made elaborate contributions to the celebrations, including a specially inscribed medal worn by the organising committee throughout the meal. Blake’s long-time friend John Flaxman (who also attended that evening) had designed a classical presentation vase for the occasion.3 Other guests included the important patron of painting the Earl of Egremont and the painters, sculptors or Royal Academicians Benjamin Robert Haydon, Francis Leggatt Chantrey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Benjamin West, J. M. W. Turner and Robert Smirke as well as the architect John Soane, all sharing their tables (rather incongruously) with the clown Joseph Grimaldi and the comedians Charles Mathews and John Liston (Kemble, 47–52). Of those present, apart from the long-term support Blake enjoyed from Flaxman’s advocacy, the Earl of Egremont was already a Blake patron, having commissioned a notable version of A Vision of the Last Judgment (pen and watercolour over pencil, Petworth House, 1808) while Sir Thomas Lawrence, whom Blake had met at a dinner party at least as early as 1818, went on to

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purchase copies of ‘The Dream of Queen Katherine’ and ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’, having taken a liking to the Butts’ commissions for those works. In April 1826, when Blake was living at Fountain Court, Lawrence also purchased a proof set of Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job engravings (Bentley 2001, 349–50). In February 1827, shortly before Blake’s death in an unsuccessful round of salesmanship on the artist’s behalf, John Linnell offered the Paradise Regained drawings to Chantrey and to Lawrence. (Both declined the purchase [Bentley 358].) Like the annual Royal Academy exhibitions, Kemble’s retirement dinner was carefully engineered not only to celebrate the social status of the theatre but also to facilitate useful interactions between practitioners and influential potential patrons. Although Blake was never firmly established within the social perimeters of either of these circles, it is quite clear that, in so far as painters relied on good connections with actors and dramatists, so too networks of a commercially oriented sociability linked the established painters to those, like Blake and Linnell, who operated intermittently on their outermost fringes. Living in close proximity to the theatre, not too far from the residences of many Royal Academicians and their principal exhibition space at Somerset House, there were obvious advantages to someone like Blake to live there, particularly if he was by then assisted professionally by Linnell, who moved much more easily among such distinctive coteries. The Blakes’ location at Fountain Court in the heart of the theatre district would be a structural factor in their lives and will be returned to in this essay. This burgeoning of a popular interest in drama was intimately connected not only with the mass movement of people but also with the printing presses serving the theatres, the theatregoers and the visitors drawn to their performances. An early indication of this interest was Egerton’s Theatrical Remembrancer (1788) which, as has long been recognised, carried one of the earliest notices of Blake’s unfinished drama ‘King Edward the Third’, printed in Poetical Sketches (1783; in Egerton, 258). Egerton’s project catered for a public enthusiastic to collate, tabulate and record all new pieces of dramatic writing wherever they occurred, and to buy the book in which this information was printed. Blake’s interest in drama and theatre was probably, at best, intermittent. But in his old age he was taken by his friends John Linnell and John Varley to Drury Lane to see Sheridan’s Pizarro (1799) and Dirce or The Fatal Urn; he also went to the less obvious and less accessible venue of the West London Theatre, Tottenham Street, north-west of Covent

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Garden. The West London Theatre which Blake visited in 1821 was characteristic of how new theatres were gradually emerging, seeking to circumvent, by performing dramas with music, the hegemony of the Royal theatres in Covent Garden and Drury Lane with their monopoly in London of the spoken word. A possible reason for The West London’s safe passage was that the venue had once been strongly associated with the amateur dramatics of the Prince Regent’s Pic-Nic Club, the subject of two James Gillray prints, Dilettanti Theatricals; – or – a Peep at the Green Room (1803) and Blowing up the Pic Nic’s [sic] (Godfrey, cat. no. 187, 188). Although Gillray’s prints satirised the anger of the patentees at this infringement of their monopoly (with the additional irony of a royal prince infringing a royal patent), no doubt the Prince Regent’s association later helped established a precedent for the use of the building. Since the early 1800s, however, the playhouse had fallen on hard times, changing its name to The Regency Theatre (an obvious attempt to exploit past associations) and later The Regency Theatre of Variety, a venue playing such pieces as John Kerr’s Presumptive Guilt, Or The Fiery Ordeal; A Grand Melo Dramatic Spectacle In Three Acts (1818). Blake went to The West London to see what The Times called ‘a cutdown edition’ of John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee’s Oedipus: A Tragedy (1679). This was probably a version emphasising the piece’s unexpected burletta-like qualities, such as the first act opening where ‘The Curtain rises to a plaintive Tune’ or with Dryden and Lee’s original ‘Song to Apollo’ possibly burlesqued or substituted with something more racy to tie it more firmly to the Epilogue’s clue that the play had featured ‘Charm! Song! and Show! a Murder and a Ghost!’3 A review in The Drama; or, Theatrical Pocket Magazine notes that it had been ‘ostentatiously’ billed ‘for the last 2 months’ as a great rarity as if it were an authentic translation of the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles. While Blake would certainly have been aware that John Flaxman had made designs (engraved by Thomas Piroli) for Compositions from the Tragedies of Aeschylus (1795), it is not inconceivable that, like many others, he went in the expectation of an historic reconstruction. The popularity of these entertainments, as well as the crowds they drew to the Fountain Court area nearer to the central playhouses of the Strand area, where the Olympic, Adelphi, Covent Garden and Drury Lane were located, had a marked effect on their surroundings. Across the road from Fountain Court, less than 500 metres away, was the playhouse known as the Sans Pareil (which in the 1810s changed its name to the Adelphi Theatre), a tall terraced playhouse which stands to this day.

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In the Strand, the principal thoroughfare traversing the frontage of Fountain Court and almost directly across the road from the Adelphi Theatre, by 1819 a tavern called The Coal-Hole had become part of a fugitive series of London private theatres, a louche category of playhouse strongly associated with disorder and financial irregularity (The Critics Budget, or, a Peep into the Amateur Green Room [1819], cited in Beaudry, 22–3). While a Victorian public house of that name still stands in the Strand close to the site of the original building, a glimpse at the area’s past is provided by the 1763 Old Bailey case of Thomas Powell, landlord of the ‘Unicorn Ale-house, in Fountain-court, in the Strand’, who had ill-advisedly fallen asleep ‘in my own tap-room’, when there were ‘divers coal heavers, and others, to the number of about twenty, in the house’ and had been robbed.4 The presence of the coal heavers provides a tantalising link to an account given by the editors of a late nineteenth-century history of music hall, who noted that, although the origin of The Coal-Hole title ‘is now lost in the mist of obscurity … it is surmised that it arose from the contiguity of the coal wharves, which at one time existed in its vicinity’ (Stuart and Parks, 21). Theatres were prodigious consumers of energy for heating and lighting – the theatre manager of a small provincial theatre in Lincoln complained in 1809 that lighting costs were £10 a week (Robertson, 7). It is quite possible that the Fountain Court area coal wharves chiefly supplied the two Royal theatres at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, a short haul up Bow Street. However, by the late 1820s, the position had changed. Remarkably, by 1820 the London East End Royalty Theatre (then called the East London Theatre), Tower Hamlets had its own gasworks which, when the playhouse was sold, was offered for sale as either a separate or a combined going concern. The Coal-Hole area developed into a tavern and entertainment location which Blake would have known. A decade later, The Coal-Hole appears to have reverted to its tavern origins to become one of the best known of the ‘song-and-supper’ clubs popular from the 1820s. Although The Coal-Hole ceased to be a private theatre, its ‘song-and-supper’ incarnation attracted not only the celebrated actor Edmund Kean, but also Charles Sloman, star of the Victorian music hall (music hall being the descendant of these clubs). As well as Sloman, then at the very beginning of his career, The Coal-Hole regularly featured (perhaps conferring on them some valuable measure of selfesteem) more obscure singers such as the ageing Joe Wells, whose renditions were chiefly remembered at the end of the century for their ‘coarseness and vulgarity’ (Stuart and Parks, 23). Like the playwright

Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs 31

Theodore Edward Hook, author of the anti-Methodist (heavily censored) Killing No Murder (1809), Charles Sloman used the venue to exercise his theatrical skills in improvising verses or songs. More mysteriously, Charles Stuart and A. J. Parks, early historians of the music hall, writing about the Coal-Hole at the end of the nineteenth century, recalled ‘An eccentric old character named Ben Mills [who] … used to sing an amusing ditty called “Billy Nuts, the Poet”’. Although the song is now lost, it is tantalising to speculate whether ‘Billy Nuts’ was a reference to William Blake, an allusion born not only of Blake’s local residence but of his reputation for madness (23). This transition of The Coal-Hole from tavern to private theatre and onwards to an incarnation as a ‘song-and-supper’ club of the later 1820s tells us much about the vitality and complexity of late Georgian London sociability and its connections with the personnel and intricate textualities of contemporary theatre. Someone who moved with ease between both worlds was the journalist and playwright Pierce Egan, who said that he balanced his drunkenness at Offley’s Cyder Cellar in King Street, Covent Garden with visits to picture galleries, to ‘make amends for it’ – an obvious allusion to the nearby Royal Academy rooms at Somerset House (Egan, 47). In another coincidence of these promiscuous cultures of printmaking and the press, Angus Whitehead has discovered that, at the death of the engraver and high-class print colourer Theodore Lane in 1828, Egan identified him as having been an apprentice of John Barrow’s at his Battle Bridge premises near St Pancras, the publication location of Blake’s ‘Mrs. Q.’. Egan’s text for Lane’s 36 etchings and woodcuts illustrating The Life of an Actor (1825) once again figures the intricate continuities stressed throughout this essay between Fountain Court, Regency pressmen, the acting profession and a vigorous local popular culture (Whitehead, 94). As print colourer and engraver, it is evident from Lane’s print the ‘House of Call for Actors’ that he and Egan were very familiar with the contemporary popularity of acting. At the Harp and O.P. (‘Opposite Prompter’) or P.S. (‘Prompt Side’) taverns (the latter also called Kean’s Head) in Russell Court, near Drury Lane, Egan recalled elaborate hoaxes played on ‘stagestruck’ youths who were brought to the tavern under the impression that they were being ‘formally introduced to the … proprietor of a country theatre’ and then duped into getting on a table to recite Shakespeare (Egan 27). Their fooling, at the very least, is an indicator of the popularity of actors and acting among members of the public who were eager, and gullible enough, to throng into the Strand environs in the hope of seeing John

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Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean or one of the other celebrated actors of the period. They were places, quite literally, of social upheaval and moral irreverence. The ‘song-and-supper’ clubs even spawned their own art-form, the improvisatore performance. This involved improvising songs composed on the spot. The most famous of the improvisators was the loyalist playwright Theodore Edward Hook, who usually performed at Offley’s, one of whose songs is recorded in Renton Nicholson’s Autobiography of a Fast Man (1863, 70–3). Nicholson’s reference (datable to the early 1830s) to George Ruthven of Bow Street, whom he describes as an ‘inveterate’ gambler, is particularly striking (88). Whether Nicholson knew it or not, Ruthven was a government informer and infiltrator whose operational name was ‘George Williams’.5 Ruthven’s presence provides conclusive evidence of the interchange between an official culture which persisted in the surveillance of working-class life and the semi-theatricalised revelry of the Strand area ‘song-and-suppers’, all within a teeming culture of print and song. From the late 1820s onwards, fugitive, pornographic, pocketsized song-books emanated from these clubs, with titles such as The Nobby Songster, A Prime Collection as now Singing at Offleys Cider Cellar: Coal Hole &c. and printed by William West of Wych Street. Around that time too, Jacob Beuler sang at similar haunts and published his song collection Bob Logic’s Memoranda: an Original Budget of Staves, Nightly Chaunted by Kiddy Coves, Knights of the Darkey, &.c&c. at every Free and Easy Throughout the metropolis, by Way of Prelude to The Sprees of ‘Life in London’ with its long and intricate expeditions into ‘flash’ language (a ‘kiddy’ is a thief; a ‘darkey’ a darkened lantern used by burglars). The significance of this boisterous, popular, oral culture was not only that its centres were in close proximity to Fountain Court but also that modern critical commentators have consistently returned to examine the role of oral poetic forms in Blake’s verse. The role of ‘orality in writing’ (Pierce, 449–70) in Blake’s verse provides a useful concept with which to negotiate the presence of this persistent aspect of Blake’s relief etched works. One can only speculate whether the elderly Blake joined in with any of the raucous late-night revelries of improvised song and verse at the nearby Coal-Hole, O.P. or P.S. taverns. However, there is no doubting the esteem in which Edmund Kean was held in the period from the late 1810s to the early 1820s and how this must have quite visibly rejuvenated the atmosphere of the Fountain Court area. Thirty years later the theatrical enthusiast William Robson, author of The Old Play-goer (1854), recollected with disdain that ‘Kean’s

Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs 33

person was mean … He wanted finish … study; his mind was not cultivated … [he] was a vulgar actor.’ In particular, Robson derided how ‘Kean … [could] keep the denizens of the Coal-hole in a roar’ (112–13, 117). The sort of plebeian qualities present in the Strand pressman William Benbow, who famously pirated Byron’s Cain: A Mystery from his Castle Street, Leicester Square, premises in 1822 – the same year as his pirating of Blake’s ‘Mrs. Q.’ image – were replicated nightly in Kean’s antics at the Coal-Hole. Benbow’s activities originating in the Strand included politicking on a national scale. With Kean descending into wanton drunkenness (‘I always take a “shag” before the play begins’), his dominance over the Coal-Hole involved ever more plebeian brawls in some of London’s most deprived and destitute locations (‘Kean got into [a] row last night in St. Giles [off Oxford Street], had his clothes torn off, was taken to the watch house, let out, slept in the neighbourhood, got scratched in the fray’ [Nelson and Cross, 16, 51]). While his sometime near-neighbour Benbow’s response to Byron’s Cain was to pirate it, Blake’s was the equally unorthodox route of producing a two-plate relief-etched illuminated book, The Ghost of Abel / A Revelation in the Visions of Jehovah Seen by William Blake (c. 1822). Again, within the vibrant print culture of the area, Benbow’s The Rambler’s Magazine; or Fashionable Emporium of Polite Literature (1822, 395) provided an equally individual response, finding a common atheism abounding in ‘Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall; Lord Byron, in his Cain, and other works; Lawrence, in his Lectures’, the last a reference to the ‘vitality’ debate championed by the surgeon Sir William Lawrence (1783–1867). In this rapidly changing world, one can only speculate whether Blake would have been aghast at the sort of promiscuities recollected by the emigrant actor Joe Cowell, who remembered that ‘the mob must ever have their idol … the privilege of calling them, behind their backs, “Old Sall Siddons” … they must meet them at the Harp … or the Coal-hole’ and be able to call them familiarly ‘“Charley [Benjamin] Incledon” or “Neddy Kean,” or they were not content’ (Cowell, 46). In this setting, song-making and semi-public performance became increasingly dominant. From the late 1820s, William West, whose toy-theatre prints will be discussed below, had the dubious sideline of producing and selling discreet, pocket-sized (32 mo), salacious song-books, often with crude hand-coloured and etched frontispieces, such as The Gentleman’s Spicey Songster (c. 1841), The Flash Songster and Cockchafer, A choice selection of flash, frisky, and funny songs (c. 1836), The Rambler’s Flash Songster, Nothing But Out And

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Outers, Adapted For Gentlemen Only (c.1838), The Libertine Songster and The Nobby Songster, A Prime Collection (c.1842). A popular songwriter such as Jacob Beuler, whose works were regularly featured at Vauxhall Gardens and The Royal Coburg, mirrored this taste more openly in his tour-de-force, ‘The Chapter of Cocks; Or, Cocky Cock, the Cocksmith, of Cock-lane, and the Coquetting Cock-eyed Maid at the Cock Public House. A Cockney Ditty’ (34–5). These were all indirect spin-offs of the era of two Regency gamblers, Tom and Jerry, and were sung – perhaps even composed – in the nearby West End theatrical drinking dens visited by actors and theatregoers alike, haunts such as Offley’s Cider Cellar in King Street, and The Coal-Hole. With songs such as ‘Mother H’s Knocking Shop’, ‘I am a Smutty Chimney Sweep’, ‘The Wig and the Pole’, ‘The Female Tobacconist’ (the pun being on ‘shag’ tobacco), ‘The Nice Old Gentleman’ and ‘A Rum-un to look at, but a Good-un to go’, this was a very different world from the traditional image of late Georgian or early Victorian children playing by the fireside. In many of them, such as The Nobby Songster, A Prime Collection as now Singing at Offleys Cider Cellar: Coal Hole &c., available from William West’s shop in Wych Street, opposite The Olympic Theatre just off the Strand near the site of the present day Aldwych Theatre and ex-BBC premises at Bush House, the Coal-Hole is specifically mentioned. The risqué titles hint at the dubious goings-on in this anarchic area and the disruptive effects it had on contemporary attitudes to class, conduct and decorum. According to some commentators, Lord Byron himself sometimes frequented The Coal-Hole and Offley’s Cyder Cellar, a recollection which, if true, would place its hey-day even earlier than is being argued for in this essay, but suggestive of the continuing connection between poetry and boisterous entertainment (Haddon, 5). Although any direct relationship between Blake and the riotous (if nearby) Coal-Hole must remain conjectural, there can be little doubt of his links to popular song. More genteel, but no less significant, were the complex networks of practices of song-making, publishing and technologies of graphic reproduction connecting several individuals within Blake’s circle of friends towards the end of his life. Keri Davies has drawn attention to Alexander Gilchrist’s anecdote about Blake becoming tearful whilst listening to Mrs Linnell singing the Scottish border ballad ‘O Nancy’s hair is yellow as gowd’ at their Hampstead residence, an event which presumably occurred during an excursion from Fountain Court. Through careful detective work, Davies has traced the ballad’s dissemination via The Scottish Minstrel: A Selection from the Vocal Melodies of Scotland Ancient & Modern Arranged for the Piano Forte

Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs 35

(Edinburgh, c. 1824), a six-volume work carrying vignettes etched by the painter, engraver and publisher William Home Lizars. Not only was Lizars known to the Linnells and John Flaxman, there is a strong probability – perhaps entirely unknown to Blake – that Lizars experimented with a method of stereotype relief etching which he sampled in the socalled ‘Third Edition’ of J. G. Lockhart’s Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1819). As Davies concludes, the frontispiece, ‘engraved in alto relievo’, to Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk is the only known example of printing from a relief etching process, as used in the illuminated books, to have occurred during Blake’s lifetime. In other words, the picture of Blake which emerges is of him embracing aspects of local popular culture but partaking of it in a quite distinctive, separate social environment. Not least, with Lizars having adopted Blake’s relief etching or stereotype method, it is extremely significant that the poet’s Ghost of Abel, itself a response to Byron’s and Benbow’s atheism, should have declared on its second plate ‘1822 W Blakes Original Stereotype was 1788’ (2: 30, E 272), making it a remarkable intervention, defensive or assertive, into the controversies over belief and reproductive print technologies which surrounded him. Lizars’ relief-etched stereotyping and its appropriation (or independent replication) typify much of the vibrancy of the contemporary print culture. Close to the Olympic Theatre in Wych Street (between the present-day Drury Lane and Aldwych) where he had moved from an Exeter Street location even nearer Fountain Court, from 1823 William West’s business in toy theatres, as well as the texts and prints to accompany them, provided a significant output of etchings (Speaight, 10–11). Although toy theatres may appear to be consignable only to the category of ‘juvenile drama’ (West’s preferred description for the genre), their presence indicates a more substantial taste for theatricality, one that extended to both parents as well as their children. George Speaight’s History of the English Toy Theatre 1828–33 (1946), captured, almost as it disappeared on the eve of the television age, the final vestiges of the Georgian and Victorian children’s pastime of wooden or cardboard theatres peopled by cut-out characters snipped from larger prints. West’s premises at the Theatrical Print Warehouse, 57 Wych Street, Strand, placed him and his wares not only directly opposite the Olympic Theatre in the same thoroughfare, but also hard by Drury Lane. West employed a number of artists and etchers, including George and Isaac Robert Cruikshank and William and Henry Heath. An attempt to link the name of William Henry Brooke, who signed some of his etchings ‘W. B.’, to William Blake was seriously

36 David Worrall

entertained during the first half of the twentieth century, but there can be little doubt that West, Hodgson and the other toy theatre printmakers considerably added to the need for etchers and colourers, and that West in particular supplemented this trade by vending the locally performed songs arising from Offley’s Cyder Cellar or the Coal-Hole (Stone, 41). The scale of the printmaking industry following the theatres should not be underestimated. Even the poorly received burlesque of Dryden and Lee’s Oedipus: A Tragedy which, as we have seen, Blake and Linnell went to see was followed by a toy theatre print of ‘Mr. Huntley as Oedipus / Performed at the West London Theatre’, issued from Duke Street, Soho.7 Thanks to the likes of West in Wych Street and Benbow in the Strand, there was no shortage of different classes of etching work in the immediate vicinity of Fountain Court – or even for the provision of new images, as the ‘Mrs. Q.’ appropriation suggests. Indeed, as Mei-Ying Sung (2006) has pointed out with reference to the growth of a substantial Midlands English manufacturing industry in transfer printing from engraved copper plates onto ceramics, a trade which sometimes employed London-based designers and copper plate suppliers, there was not even any absolute national decline in the early nineteenth-century English engraving trade. Blake’s inability, or decision not to capitalise on this growing market – to which he had been introduced as early as 1784 by John Flaxman – can be characterised as a determination not to court the popular. Examined from a consideration of the overall economic and cultural conditions of the Fountain Court area, and taking into account the vitality of both its radical and theatrical press, it is possible to conceive of Blake’s response to his sense of the burgeoning presence of plebeian or popular entertainments, from theatricals to tavern singing, as a decision to modulate into a set of quite specific artistic and economic choices about the future path of his career. Given the divisions and casualisations of the engraving and etching trade described by Morris Eaves (1992), Blake’s response to the prolific, boisterous – and occasionally even pirating – methods of the print and printmaking industry which surrounded him in the environs of Fountain Court, finds him making very rational decisions. If the crude etching and rough hand-colouring of the theatrical prints and salacious song collections were coming to dominate the local market, then the appropriate response was the course he took, that is, to take advantage of his experience with the repertoire of engraving skills taught to him by Basire and perfected over a lifetime and to withdraw from etching. With the 100 plates of Jerusalem

Blake in Theatreland: Fountain Court and its Environs 37

certainly completed by 1820, and with the single relief-etched plate of On Homer’s Poetry [&] On Virgil and the two relief-etched plates of The Ghost of Abel completed by 1821–2 shortly after he moved to Fountain Court, it made sense for Blake to turn to the much more skilful art of engraving when he engaged on the long-term project of Illustrations of the Book of Job, which was not completed until 1825 and published in 1826. By establishing his difference, Blake could hope to find what we now call a ‘niche market’, since the skills barriers to entry were set very high. Responding to a print market now borne along by etching, and being visibly and even audibly aware of the social, cultural and political changes so proximate to where he was living, Blake chose to emphasise how distinctive his engraving skills were in comparison to the etching dominating the rest of the marketplace. Given the laborious, exacting and elaborated way in which he worked on the 22 plates of Job, together with the setbacks and revisions betrayed in the hard evidence of repoussage on the back of the Job copper plates now archived in the British Museum, it seems clear that Blake wished to define his mastery of the art as being quite distinctive from the economically dominant process of etching (Sung 2005). In other words, Blake’s ultimate response to the proliferation of a popular, even plebeian, local culture was to reinvent himself as a virtuoso of the exacting skills of engraving. It was a response that capitalised on a lifetime of experience and which he knew could not be easily replicated by others. Far from being a quiet retreat, or even a removal into obscurity, Fountain Court brought Blake closer to the Royal Academy’s exhibition rooms, the spiralling interests in theatre and popular song almost audible from the Coal-Hole if not the Adelphi or Olympic Theatre, yet it spurred him to reassess and recalculate where his own skills lay in relation to this swiftly changing popular culture. Rejecting the path of The Nobby Songster … as now Singing at Offleys Cider Cellar: Coal Hole &c., Blake chose to illustrate the Book of Job.

Notes 1. The Blakes had moved to 3 Fountain Court, Strand in 1821. Blake’s comment that although ‘I live in a hole here … God has a beautiful mansion for me elsewhere’ comes from Gilchrist’s biography, quoted BR 753; Angus Whitehead, ‘William Blake’s Last Residence: No. 3 Fountain Court, Strand, George Richmond’s Plan and an Unrecorded Letter to John Linnell’, British Art Journal 6:1 (2005) pp. 21–30.

38 David Worrall 2. National Archives, P[ublic] R[ecord] O[ffice], Kew, H[ome] O[ffice] 20/14.22. 3. This episode in Blake’s life and The Times review are documented in Bentley (2001) 385; John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee, Oedipus: A Tragedy. As it is Acted at His Highness the Duke’s Theatre (1679), 1, 22, 80. Parts of The Times review appear to have been pirated in The Drama; or, Theatrical Pocket Magazine. For January [sic] (1822), 100. 4. Christopher Cormack, theft, 7 December 1763, The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, Ref. T17631207-37. 5. For an example of his infiltration of a political society, see PRO Treasury Solicitor 11/204/875 (ii) fol. 899, 18 Dec 1816. See also Worrall (1992), 104. 6. PRO HO 40/14. 63, 22 July 1820. 7. ‘Mr. Huntley as Oedipus / Performed at the West London Theatre / 13 Nov 1821 Jameson 13 Duke St’, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

3 Emanations and Negations of Blake in Victorian Art Criticism Colin Trodd

On the fly-leaf of Alexander Gilchrist’s seminal The Life of William Blake (1863), we find these lines from Browning’s Pictor Ignotus: The sanctuary’s gloom at least shall ward vain tongues from where my pictures stand apart Browning’s poem is a kind of extirpative monologue in which the unnamed painter appears to imagine the conditions in which experience spills into and replenishes art to create a benign fullness of presence, a perfect expression of aesthetic life. And yet this image of graceful and harmonious completion is forced into place and momentarily glimpsed through the thicket of fragments at work in the self-cancelling structure of a poem where the operations of consciousness intrude into the work to block the flow of cohesive action and narration. Its subject does not develop; instead it is enmeshed in the problem of the relationship between conception and execution, as the increasingly nervous and rebarbative thoughts of the artist enter into and become the subject of the poem. Its monological nature is analogous to a condition of creative life where the artist is imprisoned by the images of freedom he imagines – or where the associative plentitude of imaginative life sustains the illusion that to think ideas into being is to produce art, or the conditions for the production of a total art work. In other words, the poem battles to make the unknown painter something more than an unknowable subject. It is also a poem about the stultifying conditions in which artists surrender their independence because of coercive commercial and academic pressures. In lieu of a discerning public, the artist is obliged to become popular, to satisfy the requirements of those who 39

40 Colin Trodd

… buy and sell our pictures, take and give, Count them for garniture and household-stuff, And where they live needs must our pictures live And see their faces, listen to their daily prate The true artist, then, shrinks from this space of material encasement with its ‘endless cloisters’ to confirm his identification with the possibility of an art rich in lived experience. Meanwhile, anticipating the appearance of these productive energies the artist is buffered by consciousness; here at least his work will become the monumental production of an inner world, a private place where conception and execution melt into a fertile imagery at once deliquescent and exalted, bodily and aesthetic. Browning uses the tension between order and disorder, action and thought, to explore how the monologue form might express the idea of the spiritual identity of the individual creator becoming available to an audience. Yet, in reality, Pictor Ignotus generates a structural equivalent of the experience of isolation and alienation, and it does so by creating a slippery framework in which the only place where the artist can perfect himself is outside the poem. Artistic thoughts do not form themselves into a system of theoretic elaboration, for as the poem ‘advances’ it becomes a bundle of signs pointing to an unalienable realm it cannot occupy. Nor is it the case that artistic identity is a condition of settled presence, for what seems to be the abyss of inwardness is forever in the process of becoming the true subject of representation. Tellingly, nature is swallowed by consciousness. Punished or praised, Blake comes into focus in Victorian art criticism as a celebrated example of the emergence of a particular development in modern culture: the appearance of the artist who is (too) close to his vision. For his admirers, Blake makes the enjoyment of the sensuous freedom of consciousness the subject of his art; for his critics, his productions confirm an inability to be self-critical and to acknowledge that the function of art is to act as a bridge between experience and nature. Accordingly, articulations of Blake tend to oscillate between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ versions of the Pictor Ignotus as commentators model Blakean identity in terms of an ‘aberrant’ or ‘emancipatory’ sensorium, noting that, like Browning’s painter, he would rather live linked with his pictures forever than go to heaven.

Composing Blake Blake’s presence in Victorian visual culture was determined by a relatively modest body of images: the Songs of Innocence and of Experience,

Emanations and Negations of Blake in Victorian Art Criticism 41

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Book of Job interested those critics, collectors and commentators concerned with his pictorial achievements; the paintings and the large colour prints were generally less well known.1 These relief etchings and engravings were taken to emphasise or embody the key determinants of Blake’s genius: temperament and originality, or their conflation in an expressive and sensuous art where referents leak into a pictorial ground of air and light instead of forming a compositional universe made in and by techniques and technologies producing spatial clarity. Despite this fascination with the ‘enchanted’ nature of Blake’s pictorial style, his main Victorian advocates – Gilchrist, the Rossetti brothers, A. C. Swinburne and, somewhat later, Arthur Symons – tended to stress Blake’s powers of invention rather than his mastery of a specific medium. The embodiment of creative energy, his designs seemed to speak of some unfathomable depth of experience; his aesthetic caught between the struggle to overcome compositional formulas and the need to refashion notions of figural presence (Swinburne, 191, 307; see also RB 150–5). These commentators attempted to popularise a positive image of Blake against a cultural background where he was seen as an obscure and unreliable figure, an artist hostile to the foundation and reproduction of rules of pictorial composition derived from the sense-based, self-testing systems taught at the Royal Academy. Gilchrist, the Rossettis, Swinburne and Symons seize on the idea that Blake pictures a world teeming with life because his images represent the thronging physical world of his consciousness. They set out to make him popular by revealing that his is an art of physical perception. In each case, Blake is identified in terms of the conflict between the need to invent a form of art that is original and the desire to find a type of expression that makes this art intelligible. Gilchrist invites his readers to appreciate the visual character of an art ‘never imitative, but the expression of ideas pure and simple’; and Swinburne refers to Blake’s desire to liberate art from ‘barren symbols’ and ‘mendacious idols’ (Gilchrist 1907, 140; Swinburne, 3). Therefore, they present Blake’s art as the embodiment of conceptual energy rather than the result of the allegorical codifications produced by analytical consciousness in the form of academic art theory. This position offered the prospect of defining Blake as modern: it allowed writers to emphasise the capacity of his art to invoke and eliminate customary conceptions of pictorial order; and, at the same time, it encouraged the belief, expressed by the art critic F. T. Palgrave, that Blake lived ‘apart from chronology’ (Palgrave, 17). What concerns all these writers – and this is particularly evident in Gilchrist – is the status of an oeuvre where works fail to resolve

42 Colin Trodd

themselves into a unity, and the nature of an artistic career where creativity exceeds the capacity of criticism to capture, codify or explain its expression, development and organisation. In this view, Blake’s modernity is Janus-like: it inspires a pattern of Homeric labour where the artist becomes heroic because he overcomes academic mimesis to call attention to the material identity of the image; and yet this concern with the ground, surface and medium creates what are pictorially unstable forms. In other words, the fear remains that in looking at his images the viewer encounters the conditions for their critical exhaustion or destruction as sources of sensory knowledge.2 In contrast to these forceful pronouncements, other critics expressed less sanguine readings of Blake and his work. Perhaps the most intriguing were made in the 1860s and 1870s, in response to three key events in the public emergence of Blake as a significant presence in British art: Gilchrist’s widely reviewed biography (1863), Swinburne’s polemical essay (1867) and the Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of his paintings, colour prints and relief etchings (1876) (Scott; BFAC). Both Gilchrist and Swinburne acknowledged the deleterious nature of Blake’s isolation from significant, extensive and persistent patronal networks in their accounts of his creative life, but other commentators tended to address this aspect of his cultural identity in two ways. In the first, the Ruskinian conception of Blake, his art is characterised as the projection of aesthetic failure, a condition of creative life where the fragmented self is unable to perceive a unity external to itself. The ‘warped power’ of Blake’s art must be recognised and rejected, Ruskin argues, for it generates a self-devouring imagination unable to express any sense of concrete, lived experience or record the true order of things (Ruskin, ‘The Cestus of Aglaia’, vol. 19, 133). The second response to Blake’s isolation, as found in essays by the art critic J. B. Atkinson and the literary commentators H. G. Hewlett and Oswald Crawfurd, indirectly draws on Ruskin’s claim that Blake’s art replaces compositional coherence with pictorial vitality. In addition, however, they all stress that individual works are the physical deposits of a mind deformed by addiction to stimuli. This finds its clearest expression in accounts of Blake’s executive skills, particularly the assertion that his images lack compositional sophistication or refinement. Accordingly, Blake’s art becomes a strange confection of the primitive and the modern because of its inability to protect the critical integrity of representation from the fantastical and anarchic forces that would deny any real contact between the subject and the world.

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By the 1860s and 1870s, then, the question of Blake’s artistic and social isolation had become a subject of fascination for critics, and many of them associated this with his apparent popularity in those self-enclosing groupings known as Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism. However, the idea that Blake would become popular because his art defeated every attempt to make it reveal a coherent identity did trouble many figures outside the Gilchrist–Rossetti–Swinburne loop. As we will see, Atkinson and Hewlett, as well as the poets Francis Thompson and Coventry Patmore, were extremely anxious about the nature of Blake’s art, its relationship to a coterie culture, and the possibility that his works would be able to breed a condition of aesthetic desire, or the endless desirability of desire, through the ‘worship’ of their sensational qualities or effects. Tellingly, in their explanations of the BFAC Exhibition, Blake comes back to life in an art where bodily values overcome critical truth to generate a public as infantile as he is. This conquest-conversion model was but one response to the issue of Blake’s relationship with a ‘belated’ (elite) public formed in and through accounts of the emergence and development of the idea of the specialised nature of aesthetic knowledge. Yet these issues, of such interest to many of Blake’s Victorian commentators, have not attracted much attention from art historians, despite the fact that matters relating to patronal systems and processes, and their capacity to engender debates concerning artistic fellowships and cultural groupings, continue to be central to accounts of nineteenth-century British art. As will become apparent when James Smetham’s account of Blake is discussed, by the 1860s and 1870s it was possible to create an image in which he was both admired and feared. Of course, what might be called Blake’s dual identity can be traced back to contemporary encounters with his art. Indeed, the tension between Blake’s ‘individualism’ and his claim to embody an exalted form of image-making is central to nineteenthcentury debates about his value as a painter, designer and engraver. During Blake’s lifetime critics tended to find in his works inscriptions of his own identity, an identity that aspired to the gnomic and the popular. The literary critic Robert Hunt associated the manner and content of his images with an imagination governed by haptic intensity rather than conventions of visual mimesis (Hunt, 605). For instance, in his treatment of the body, Blake was taken to efface the pictorial logic and assertoric force of classical form by representing the ‘furious and distorted beings of an extravagant imagination’ (605). His fate, this argument contends, is to be unaware of his ironic plight: trapped within a demotic rhetoric of the body, which finds no

44 Colin Trodd

audience for itself, his art translates the beautiful into the ludicrous and thus the spectator is confronted with the irrational exuberance of ‘style’ rather than the rationalising forms and methods of ‘authentic’ academic art. Here, then, is the problem. Blake, it is assumed, wants his art to be public or communal, but this aim is constricted because his images conflate sensation and experience – they make expression a manifestation of the pure inwardness of the subject. Such observations would remain at the centre of anti-Blakean discourse where it is alleged Blake cannot examine the formal, critical and technical processes of composition, signification and representation. It is certainly the case that through his claim on the expressive intensity or physicality of the body Blake tends to disturb the tradition of Renaissance humanism, which, in the wake of Alberti, stressed the function of the human form as the central organising and governing principle of pictorial construction and discursive control. Nor is Blake drawn to Lessing’s counter-argument which, rejecting the belief that images are painted stories, proclaims that the highest and purest form of pictorial unity occurs when the artist expresses a significant moment before the culmination of a specific event (see Mitchell 1986). Apart from Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites, many Victorian art critics reproduced Albertian and Lessingesque dicta during their investigations into the conceptual identity of pictorial expression (Olmsted). Nor should we forget that within Reynoldsian art theory, the dominant system of academic pedagogy throughout this period, beauty is equated with central form, which is itself an abstraction from common nature; as synthesising formula the beautiful is a governing principle of critical judgement (Reynolds, 146–7; see also Barrell 1986, 69–162). For critics associated with these formulations of aesthetic experience and knowledge, Blake’s art was capricious and quixotic at the level of representation: it simply failed to make itself legible, being more fascinated with showing things than in telling an audience what they meant. Such apparent inability to order, organise or select forms to create rational compositions was equated with the contamination of polite culture by popular culture. The implication is that Blake could not adapt his designs to the requirements of academic culture because he celebrates individual invention above critical knowledge of visual form, an attitude expressed during his lifetime by the Royal Academician Joseph Farington, who wrote: ‘He does not employ [invention] … to give novelty and decoration to regular conceptions; but the whole of his aim is to produce singular shapes & odd combinations’ (151).

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These matters, concerned with the pictorial expression of taste, find an outlet in those later forms of art criticism dealing with the relationship between the nature of Blakean vision and Blake’s expression of freedom. This reaches its zenith in the dicta provided by major modernist critics such as Roger Fry and D. S. MacColl, for whom Blake’s ungovernable and irritating visual kineticism – compositional, bodily and gestural – confirms his incapacity to realise a coherent conceptual and social space in which an audience might be addressed.3 Such ideas were particularly prevalent in the 1860s and 1870s, where Blake is fantasised as the oxymoronic hero of a catastrophic failure that might, perversely enough, create the conditions for his emergence as a popular figure or cultural hero. This anxiety – that the modern artist has the opportunity to transform his critical failure into a form of selfadvertising uniqueness – is caught in Francis Thompson’s response to the Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition: ‘It was nearly all utter rubbish … [Blake] does not seem to have been made, but only to have assumed a sort of voluntary madness of freedom from convention in order to make himself original’ (217). Instead of attempting to collaborate with a public, Thompson’s Blake wants to be autonomous and to find some way of standing out from a cultural landscape populated by individuals, but this pursuit of individualism is not accompanied by any interactional or interpersonal coherence. Blake creates himself by denying the conditions in which he might be related to, or communicate with, others. Therefore, Thompson’s patrician disdain is directed at the self-mythologising activities of a cultural agent who desperately seeks a distinct persona in an overcrowded art market. If, as we will see, Swinburne’s Blake contributes to his ultimate failure by being in conflict with his desire to create, then Thompson’s Blake never achieves the condition of self-discovery because he is trapped by his desire to exchange the creative integrity and critical independence of art for a set of gestures, traces and acts within which the artist’s presence is embodied. Thus the significance of the terms ‘original’ and ‘originality’: they are signs of the worthless animation of a subject so self-enclosed that the primary function of his art is to attract and incarnate the impersonal desires of the multitude. In other words, it is because Blake’s art ‘imitates’ the illusion of freedom that Blake is unable to exercise any real independence or authority. By displaying this concern with expression-as-identity his work alienates itself from the conditions in which art participates in understanding the world as a realm of knowledge. For Thompson, and others of his ilk, Blake’s art is always disreputable because it is seen to exceed the

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idea of a universal sensuous ground that guarantees any possible codification of art and its experience.

Making Blake modern Behind many of the competing claims concerning Blakean identity lies a model of cultural practice based on the relationship between artistic freedom and patronal customs. Accordingly, some of the major Victorian readings of Blake’s worth as an artist are implicated in this narrative system, although their outcomes are somewhat different, for reasons which should become apparent. It is not my purpose in this essay to identify Blake as inherently radical or conservative, but I do want to suggest that the conceptual machinery within which his identity was articulated was effectively multi-coded. It would be easy to trace the development of Blakean criticism in which the negative value of ‘extravagance’ is converted into the positive value of ‘freedom’ and ‘freedom’ is subsequently incorporated into an image of political liberty or revolutionary energy; but this would be to ignore the fact that at every stage of the process opposing values were still in play. One notable example of this development concerns the subject of Blake’s social and cultural representation. Thus even when Blake is associated with the isolation of authentic art from a common public culture, this vision invariably connects his individualism to a fantasy about artistic fellowship, a vision of a patronal brotherhood among anti-academic, nonconformist artists. Two examples of this process, in which the writer imagines an experiential community of creators, are worthy of attention. The first source is Bernard Barton’s sonnet To Mr. Linnell, of Bayswater: Patron and friend of him who had but few Of either, justly worthy of the name, To smooth his rough and thorny path to fame; Methinks with honest pride thou must review That best of patronage, which took the hue And form of friendship, by its generous aim, To save our age and country from the shame Which from neglected genius must accrue! Nor wealth nor power the wretched garret sought, Where he, the gifted artist, toil’d for bread, T’was thine the balm of sympathy to shed, To soothe his wounded feelings while he wrought

Emanations and Negations of Blake in Victorian Art Criticism 47

Bright forms of fancy, images of thought, Or held high converse with the glorious dead. (in Story, 194) Barton, writing in 1830 in response to Allan Cunningham’s ‘William Blake’, published in the same year, is alluding to Linnell’s role as patron of Blake’s designs to the Book of Job, which, in addition to the Songs of Innocence and the designs to The Grave and Night Thoughts, formed the basis of his reputation as an artist during the years following his death. Barton imagines a frugal, heroic artist supported by altruistic as opposed to commercial patronage, and this panegyric to the cooperative activity of exemplary artworker-citizens modifies Cunningham’s ambivalent reading of Blake, where he is a selfcreated ‘outsider’ in a tradition of national art based on the empiricalentrepreneurial model of Hogarth and Wilkie (143–88). Like Cunningham, Barton stresses what Samuel Palmer would call the ‘ennobled poverty’ of Blake’s work-home; however, unlike Cunningham, Barton is not overtly suspicious of Blake’s imagination (Gilchrist 1907, 317). In contrast, Cunningham’s Blake is a strange combination of economic prudence and fantastical excess; as the artist misrepresents freedom as ‘an overflow of imagination’, he ‘dreamed himself out of the sympathies of actual life’. Thus his ‘unmeaning, mystical and extravagant’ art degenerates into a condition of anti-social infantilism or social narcissism at odds with the values of civil society (Cunningham, 169). The claim that Blake’s manic individualism conflicts with the interests, needs, social customs and patronal networks of liberalism will become a notable theme in Victorian criticism. Barton, of course, avoids confronting the issue of the lawfulness of Blake’s imagination by subordinating the nature of Blake’s thoughts to a vision of domesticity in which Linnell, his cultural benefactor and fellow artist, is able to redeem his isolation. Linnell, we might we say, exposes Blake’s homely identity to the world because he is fantasised as the convergence of two figures: the national artist and a national public, whose union promotes art by transforming Blake’s private domain into a lost public space of enlightened patronage, the true ground of cultural unity obscured by the meanness of art commerce and its institutionalising logic, as embodied by the machinations of the Royal Academy (see Solkin, Barlow and Trodd, Hoock, and Trodd for recent accounts of the Royal Academy during this period).

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Half-patriarch, half-prophet, Barton’s Blake is a hero of individualism made strong in and through physical and mental struggle. His figuration of Blake through a Jobian persona of redemptive suffering, one that is the nexus of inspirational vision and patronal custom, is developed and extended by James Smetham, the Victorian painter and poet. Near the end of his lengthy essay-review of Gilchrist’s Life, published in the London Quarterly Review (1869), he produces this remarkable vision: If we might have our wish, we would select some accessible but far removed quiet vale where Corinthian capitals could never intrude. Here we would have built a strong … simple building of one long chamber, lighted from above. This chamber should be divided into niches. In each niche, and of the size of life, there should be done in fresco in low tones of simple, deep colour, one of these grand designs [from The Book of Job] inlaid in a broad gold flat, which should be incised in deep brown lines with the sub-signification of Blake’s Marginalia.They should be executed by men well paid by the Government – men like G. F. Watts … D.G. Rossetti… Madox Brown … Burne-Jones, and W. B. Scott. At the inner end of this hall of power there should be a marble statue of Blake by Woolner – His looks commercing with the skies, His rapt soul sitting in his eyes. (265) Reborn as an inspirational presence, Blake emerges as a universal subject involved in the reorganisation of the British art world. Here, like the miraculous play of illumination and darkness in the Job designs, Blake is a semi-cloaked figure. His genius, Smetham implies, is to provide the conditions for his apotheosis: he makes and completes himself because his identity is absorbed into the figure of Job, the inspired witness of pain and vision, submission and mastery. Transforming affliction and alienation into spiritual homeliness, his life becomes the source of freedom, the projection of self and vision through the creative agency of the imagination. To this image of the admirable and godly artist-priest, Smetham adds more features. In this imaginary chamber Blake empties himself into his Job engravings, which are then redesigned as paintings. Nowhere in Smetham’s description do we get any real sense of the artistic identity or quality of Blake’s works; miraculously detached from his imagination, they are the necessary forms by which he is transformed from a

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compulsively self-destructive creator into an authentic and completed human personality, a universal artist-worker. In the Job designs, then, Smetham discovers a collective image in which Blake can be cured of a hyperbolic art whose compositions and characters seek to dominate the audience. This transformation in status from ruin to monument is accompanied by an emphasis on the luminary nature of an environment saturated in gold, flames and top lighting. Blake is enlivened by a divine spiritus, the luminous substance sent by God to bring heat and love to this marble statue. Smetham imagines this spiritus releasing the energeia Blake was unable to realise in his life; it is by recognising the light of God that Blake will finally become universal through incorporation into the realm of social action and communal life. Drawn to this sparkling phototropic realm his legatees will follow him by working to reveal the universal character of his Job, of transmuting it into a perfect art world, which is to say a sacred and protective precinct or numen. In Smetham’s view, Blake is a good exemplar of a model society for his representation will exist in a sphere dedicated to the cultivation of the mind, something advanced by the dedicated industry of his followers. This magical creation of his living presence, rather than his representation in those forms of action associated with the practical realm, is what concerns Smetham. Again, monumentality and intimacy are the attributes of a figure at once artwork and environment. So distance and proximity are crucial terms in a narrative where Smetham imagines correcting Blake’s isolation from the body of art by hiding him in a place where he is reunited with his true character. As a result, Smetham’s wondrous chamber transforms Blake into an effigy of art, a ceremonial body in its purest form, an immense being whose stature invokes the strength and power of God. And yet, at the same time, Blake is the embodiment of the modern artist lost in his solitude, the unknown hero whose sanctified space brings into being an equally lonely body of admirers. Blake has advocates rather than a public, and they visit this lonely shrine to pay homage to their patron saint of inspiration. Here a fraternity of artists, craftsmen and masons create a home for Blake in a cloistered sanctuary at once sensuous thought and foundational structure. Their glorious monument to his character becomes a popular shelter for his lonely sentinels. In short, in remembering Blake, Smetham imagines a conduit for the production of a truly national artistic consciousness, a claim found elsewhere in rather more prosaic accounts of the value of history painting as a marker of public culture.

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Of course, at one level Smetham’s vision is no more than the fantasy of artistic plenitude in which one ‘failed’ nonconformist artist is imagined by a latecomer whose failure is even more catastrophic and all-consuming. In imagining his Blakean chamber Smetham is imagining for himself an ideal vision of a social and cultural intimacy based on artistic fellowship, a surrogate family of creators at the centre of which Blake bodies forth freedom in the form of a prelapsarian Blakean Brotherhood. Accordingly, Blakean identity reveals itself as patronal power: Rossetti, Watts, Burne-Jones, Madox Brown, Scott and Woolner become public artists because they are members of Blake’s divine body.4 Just as the Blake imagined by Smetham is a sacrificial figure whose death leads to the rebirth of national art, so the Woolner statue is to be emblematic of his status as a divine gift of fertility: his generative powers enable contemporary artists to assemble as an association of equals rather than a school at the head of which is a ‘king’. However, this fantasy of democracy is opposed by the underlying structure of Smetham’s narrative, which is essentially authoritarian. Blake’s followers are the elect, but unbelievers, denied access to the Blakean shrine, are outcasts from this temple of brotherly love. Smetham’s Blake is iconic rather than iconoclastic: a Methodist Urizen or cultural Pantocrator, he is the source of artistic codes designed to separate lawful worshippers from ignorant sinners. Here Blakean identity is ritualised through legalistic imagery, although the figuration of freedom and imprisonment is religious rather than social, and so Blake becomes a sacral object in this mysterious sanctum. There are, I must acknowledge, three aspects of Smetham’s important text I have yet to explain, all of which can be approached through Lessing’s famous essay on the Laocöon. First, it is clear that Smetham wants to associate Woolner’s sculpture of Blake with the idea of the beautiful body of the state; his vision assumes a mirroring of perfection in which the government employs Woolner and other artists to delineate Blake as a clarified and unified form who enables members of the civic body to discover the conditions of their mutual affiliation, affection and integration. Secondly, unlike Lessing, for whom the serpent is an aberrant, atavistic and libidinal figure – a trace of the residual power of totemic forms within classical culture – Smetham’s serpent confirms Blake’s status as an eternal body, the hierophant of universal and divine knowledge. In this way he detaches Blake from any significant connection with the idolatrous populism or folkloric ritual. Thirdly, Smetham’s characterisation of this environment as a place where designs incorporate words into monumental images is extremely

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significant. Here we should note how the textualised shapes imagined by Smetham differ from Blake’s version of the Laocöon, a design of which he made around 1818. In Blake’s image the inscriptions form a snake-like scroll of words hovering over and threatening the heads of the Priest and his sons, becoming part of the design by simultaneously embodying and resisting its points of stress. Neither graphic nor discursive signs contribute to a continuous architectural or sculptural space – they battle with each other to define compositional power and identity. Where Blake’s kinetic words ‘degrade’ the image by compressing the energies it embodies, Smetham’s vision indicates a more stable relationship between inscription and design in a chamber-reliquary offering both aesthetic and moral pleasure. Smetham associates Blake with the Laocöon by making him overcome bodily pain, to become the figure of Job, the Everyman artist. Unlike his so-called ‘deformed’ designs, the Job images resemble the Laocöon in their capacity to control and shape gestures in accordance with a system of representation which is at once expressive and measured. Here Smetham concurs with earlier Swedenborgian commentators, in that he desires to find somewhere in Blake’s creations evidence of a vision which transcends what J. J. G. Wilkinson called ‘hideous forms [whose] lurid hellish colouring, exhale a very unpleasant sphere’ (30). Indeed, like Wilkinson, Smetham wants to discover in his work a reading of art – a figuration of the body – that is not pagan or primitive; a vision of the human form overcoming pain and suffering. In this way Smetham composes a set of episodes or scenes where he imagines himself as the editor-author of a project in which Blake is translated back into the ‘original’ state of the worker-artist by the cultural holism of communal labour linking him to his followers. This process of critical lamentation, of engraving Blake into an artistic environment devoted to the nobility of cultural labour as inspiration, allows Smetham to design a vision of Blake where suffering is a condition of creative fellowship – something remote from the unfortunate social circumstances in which the real Blake composed his extravagant designs. In this account we get close to Blake when he is transformed into an artwork, when he becomes a unified body available for contemplation in the ‘natural’ surroundings of a protective vale. Thus this imaginary improvement of the real Blake is identified as a process of improving access to his archetypal body, to reproduce an identity it will be impossible to replace or challenge, and to demonstrate his unattainable superiority by wrapping him in the social love of the public through the agency of a coalition of admiring artists. Clearly, such fantasies should

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be seen as a response to the anti-Blakean assertion that many of Blake’s images seek to enmesh their audience in their non-traditional compositional and pictorial structures; this is most evident in those writings where Blake is addressed as the self-seducing purveyor of extravagant, deforming or ludicrous forms at once sensational, inchoate and grotesque and where the connoisseur of aesthetic pleasure is resituated in the vaporous and oscillating atmosphere of physicalised designs.

Popular pictures or vendable values? We have witnessed Smetham’s conflation of the public for Blake’s work with disciples or votaries for whom he is a cultural idol. Unlike the equivocal nature of Blake’s art, Smetham’s imaginary chamber is a lawful space, a sanctified realm carrying Blake away from division and fragmentation into the unified body of art completed by those followers dedicated to recording and realising him in the identity to which he aspired. Blake, then, is recreated to dwell in a place more social than institutional; but now his imaginary presence generates the conditions for artists to establish a consoling refuge in a private palace devoted to securing the public freedom of art. His fecundity creates the conditions in which he can be remade, and his remaking is the foundational event in the production of a new body of national art. Blake collaborates in his rebirth by making himself available as an identity subject to allegorical personification and civic remembrance. Finally, then, he becomes one with his art when his art becomes an ideal habitation, a combination of art chamber, public art project and monument to a national school of art. Needless to say, other commentators treat Smetham’s vision of the marriage of Blakean identity and patronal culture rather differently during this period. Atkinson, Crawfurd, Hewlett, Patmore and J. A. Froude are more apt to identify Blakean energy as a form of psychological tyranny, in which his art bears down on his audience in order to imprison its members before his extravagant display of psycho-physiology forms. Crawfurd is prompted by the belief that Blake would entangle his audience in the distorted logic of an imagination ‘unable to assess facts’ (469); and Hewlett is disturbed by the ‘monomania’ of a despotic Blake cult whereby the delusions of an ‘esoteric circle’ destroy the ‘social fabrics’ from which public freedoms are made (783, 759). In both cases Blake’s art actively seeks to transform a rational public into a mass of idolatrous worshippers; and these

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writers share Patmore’s opinion that Blake is a symbol of the fusion of a primitive fascination with sensational images and a contemporary fashion to reduce the artist to a cultic identity. So instead of being a painter facing his public, here Blake is a fetish of the marketplace, a wasteful and unproductive power. Elsewhere, in a letter to W. M. Rossetti, Carlyle’s biographer, Froude, complains that Blake’s art does no more than represent the ‘prodigal carelessness of nature’ (in Rossetti 1905, 15). These ideas support Ruskin’s response to Blake. It follows that Blake’s modernity is problematic, disturbing and unpredictable. His social isolation and cultural dislocation, indicative of an inability to connect expression and fact, confirm multiple layers of illness. For such writers, Blake’s art is not evaluated but diagnosed; he is a victim of an aberrant biochemistry. Consequently, his paintings are the outcome of an unhealthy combination of imaginative power and an inability to select, order or arrange the materials of external reality or to synthesise them into an aesthetic unity of any kind. Here to be modern is to embody a sickness to which other bodies (critics and painters) want to belong, a psychological bonding centred on personal ‘freedom’ and ‘democratic’ individualism at the expense of public culture and historical life. As we have seen, Smetham imagines his Blake statue as an emblem of an ethical subject, and every aspect of his Blakean sanctuary suggests he is seeking to counter the well-established image of Blake’s art as capricious, wasteful or excessive. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s supplementary chapter in Gilchrist’s Life offers the most detailed contrast to this reading. In addition to identifying Blake as a forerunner of the PreRaphaelites through his ‘prismatic system of colour’, in which tints are ‘laid on side by side’, Rossetti refers to the ability of his designs to evoke ‘the mingling of organic substances, the gradual development and perpetual transfusion of life’ (Gilchrist 1907, 392–3). For Rossetti, the primitive is not an arrested stage of development, and therefore suspect as a model of knowledge, but an ineluctable element in the experience of social, cultural and natural phenomena. Blake’s images embody freedom because they incorporate its experience into the forms they depict: their physicality generates dialectical processes in which forces and objects struggle to emerge from saturated fields or planes of colour. Gilchrist equates Blake’s sinuous compositions with the ‘force power’ of nature, and Rossetti is attracted to this endless mobility of energy as it passes through bodies. Blake’s gliding and enclosed forms are signs of an enchanted art rather than the antitypes dismissed by Hewlett and Atkinson as ‘infantile’, ‘grotesque’ and

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‘incoherent’. Yet Rossetti’s Blake remains resolutely two-dimensional: he sees and admires the mixture of geometric and floral motifs, symmetrical arabesques and flowing, rhythmic forms. This emphasis on decoration and ornamentation is extended to include Blake’s treatment of light, colour and linear perspective. Far from being signs of an arbitrary or abortive aesthetic, Rossetti equates these pictorial modulations with what he calls ‘abundance’ and ‘fullness’ (Gilchrist 1907, 391). Blake, he implies, designs an internally consistent world where the flat surface acts as a lattice, an elemental arrangement for the distribution of symmetrical bodies, thus highlighting the non-illusionistic character of his work. At the same time, because he equates the pictorial character of the image with the dynamic of organic growth, he is particularly interested in those parts of the composition that are no longer differentiated but integrated into a mosaic of forms. Energy and design are crucial terms for Rossetti, as they allow him to see Blake’s images in terms of achieved surface pattern rather than failed spatial illusion. It is Blake’s desire to conjoin the individual and the communal by equating the body with the conservation and expansion of force that Swinburne and Symons address. To be sure, in addition to repeating the Rossettian model, where Blake’s designs transmit life through the annihilation of differentiated forms, Swinburne and Symons associate Blake with a post-pantheistic Aestheticism, a condition where energy exceeds all controlling or governing powers. For Swinburne, Blake’s kineticist designs offer a radical account of pleasure and freedom; for Symons, they invoke a Nietzschean condition of thinking through the body. In addition, both writers stress Blake’s ability to internalise the idea of the audience by making his readers and viewers recognise something of themselves in restless works, which are now claimed to reveal the nature of consciousness, an exuberant becoming of clashing impulses, needs and powers. Where earlier private collectors like Isaac D’Israeli and T. F. Dibdin had seen in Blake’s works the fantastical emanations of a wild, irregular and over-individualised imagination, Swinburne and Symons are drawn to what they characterise as the remarkable survival of elementary forces compressed into literary and pictorial expression. Symons argues that Blake ‘creates life’ and that ‘every detail is seen with intensity, and with equal intensity. No one detail is subordinated to another, every inch of his surface is equally important to him’. For Swinburne, Blake is a compound of the physiological and psychological, an expressive Everyman whose work transforms bodily energy into epiphanic form. Exuberant rather than wasteful, his art is implicated in libidinal processes involving the acqui-

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sition and expenditure of energy. Swinburne, therefore, imagines the possibility of a bio-community generated from this cycle of consumption and discharge, the perpetual activity by which Blake’s imagination transforms the images it represents. Blake is always about to become a Whitmanesque artist who almost establishes a new patronal culture based on the transmission and reception of instinctual forces, a recuperative figure who bodies forth a new public from the fugitive joys of his own body. In Swinburne we see a vision where Blake’s art is etherealising itself, forcing itself from the gross weight of matter to exist in a self-contained aesthetic sphere of delicate, disincarnate colour. He discovers this enflamed quality in the illustrations to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, America, The Book of Thel, The First Book of Urizen and Jerusalem. Yet, Blake must remain a nascent modern subject for, in the last instance, the Prophetic Books are of limited heuristic value, and Blake becomes self-cancelling as ‘fierce dim figures threaten and complain, mingle and divide, struggle and embrace as human friends or foes’. This relentlessly active and oceanic art is somehow trapped by its production of pulverised or intangible subjects that reform as ‘fruitless’ bodies (290, 307). At this ultimate level of expression, then, Blake is not transgressive enough for Swinburne, his idea of pleasure too conventional and his sense of self-generating power too weak to free himself from authorised formulations and judgements of beauty and legibility. In a sense Swinburne’s reading loops back to a conservative like J. B. Atkinson, for whom Blake ‘incites but disappoints’ (67). In both cases the spontaneity of Blake’s art is equated with the endless search for freedom in which the peculiar interests of the self block any lasting reconciliation of the artist with a wider group of interests or significant body of subjects. For the majority of radical and conservative Victorian commentators Blake is identified as a figure of freedom, but his sense of freedom is always imperfect, always failing to transform itself from the condition of artistic failure. Freedom is either self-consuming enthusiasm which fails to appreciate the social organisation of character and custom, or the valorisation of self-expression, the dramatisation of a process of self-struggle striving to incorporate the spiritual into the material. Blake seems to escape this cycle of emancipation and imprisonment when Barton and Smetham fantasise him as the lawful source of an imaginary and unknowable new dispensation for British art. But these processes are themselves based on the principle of liberation from a condition of artistic thraldom. Here the epic emptiness of the ‘public’

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is imagined as the endpoint of a project in which the solution to the problem of Blake’s art is to finalise his meaning by detaching him from its full and complete articulation. Once more condemned to be vivid rather than comprehensive, now the habitual imbalance of his art is rectified by the healthy and vigorous forces of the critic who identifies and isolates what is alive in Blake’s images in order to reveal their absolute identity, an identity deformed by Blake himself.

Notes 1. See also Dorfman (1969) and Bentley (1975) for further valuable details on the subject of articulations of Blake in Victorian culture. However, it should be noted that as these books are concerned with his literary reputation they offer a limited discussion of matters relating to visual culture. 2. Although they do not examine Blake’s appearance in Victorian art criticism, the most comprehensive accounts of his pictorial productions remain W. J. T. Mitchell, Blake’s Composite Art (1978), Morris Eaves, Blake’s Theory of Art (1982), Robert N. Essick, William Blake and the Language of Adam (1989), Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book (1993) and Christopher Heppner’s Reading Blake’s Designs (1995). 3. For further important modernist encounters with Blake’s pictorial work, see MacColl (1902), 47, and Meier-Graefe (1907), vol. 2, 187–8. 4. For Rossetti, see Prettejohn (2000) and McGann (2000); for Burne-Jones, see Corbett (2001) and Lutchmansingh (1989); for Scott, see Usherwood (1989); for Madox Brown, see Bendiner (1997); for Watts, see Trodd and Brown (2004); for Woolner, see Barlow (1999). Of this highly interesting group of artists Watts was considered the most Blakean. One of his many Edwardian biographers referred to ‘a life without any parallel in the annals of British art. That of William Blake comes nearest to it, and we find the same remarkable poetical imagination, the same love of biblical story, the same mystical outlook and half-vision of things unseen by ordinary eyes’ (Dibdin 1923, 83).

4 ‘Esoteric Blakists’ and the ‘Weak Brethren’: How Blake Lovers Kept the Popular out Shirley Dent

Diehard devotees of Blake, people Swinburne coined ‘esoteric Blakists’ (Swinburne 1959, II, 348), present us with a conundrum. These Blake lovers, Swinburne chief amongst them in many ways, have often been vigorous champions of the poet-artist and pointed the way towards critical understanding and appreciation of the poet. At the same time they have have exercised a damaging influence over critical reception and understanding of him. Blake has all too often been co-opted as sign, seal and stamp of Blake lovers’ innate super-sensitivity and superior, albeit left field, refinement of feeling and understanding. To get Blake is to get bohemia: Swinburne’s spirited defence of art for art’s sake in William Blake: A Critical Essay in which he casts morality out of art – ‘Art is not like fire or water, a good servant and bad master … Handmaid of religion, exponent of duty, servant of fact, pioneer of morality, she cannot in any way become; she would be none of these things though you were to bray her in a mortar’ (1867, 90) – has been very much a template for subcultural and ‘boho’ appropriations and readings of Blake, from Aleister Crowley to Chris Ofili. I will argue in this essay that this sense of special readers for a special poet takes hold in the major mid-nineteenth-century revival of Blake and is a defining feature of Alexander Gilchrist’s The Life of William Blake and Algernon Charles Swinburne’s William Blake: A Critical Essay. In a nutshell, the Victorian Blake revival as we know it – Gilchrist’s Life and Swinburne’s Critical Essay – had little to do with encouraging a popular understanding of Blake and ironically set in train a pop culture misconception of Blake as a poet best suited to sub- and countercultures, a hallmark of the esoteric and obscure. This essay seeks to reinterrogate Blake’s rediscovery via the Gilchrist/ Pre-Raphaelite enterprise circle. In particular, the paradox of that 57

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rediscovery will be made explicit and re-examined: namely, that the mid-nineteenth-century Blake revival as it is generally understood as a Gilchrist/Pre-Raphaelite enterprise gives cultural visibility to Blake, undoubtedly helping him to register significantly on the radar of Victorian culture-vultures, while at the same time placing his work almost out of reach of all but an elite. However, the way in which lesser-known poets and critics such as Joseph Skipsey and James Thomson interpret and present his work suggests a reception history that is not predetermined by an opposition between an empathetic aesthetic minority and ignorant multitude. This re-examination is important because the pattern of appropriation established in the midVictorian era continues into both present-day academic and popular reception of Blake. There are then important lessons to be learnt from the lesser-known revivalists of Blake. At the outset I think it is wise to make clear that this is not an argument for an easy-access Blake or a Blake-for-beginners approach to popularising one of our most enduring and enigmatic poet-artists. All Blake scholars know that Blake is a difficult poet and artist, and that we have all benefited from superb scholarship that has thrown light on everything from the historical context and reference of the works to the tricky hermeneutics of the prophetic books. Serious study of Blake is and always has been a minority interest and none of us should be ashamed of that: the popular success of exhibitions such as that at Tate Britain in 2000 is due in large part to such scholarship. Where I want to focus this argument is not on Blake dumbed down but on Blake lovers’ failure to meet the challenge of Blake. What is that challenge and wherein lies the failure? Steven M. Lane’s (1999) assertion that Blake ‘was exclusive in the extreme’; that, even though some of his poems and designs have wide audience appeal, there has never been a ‘common reader’, hints that Blake wasn’t his own best publicist or populariser. This is undoubtedly true, as anybody who has read Jerusalem knows. It is fair to say that Blake did not see his work as part of a popularity contest and his despair that a public audience would ever ‘get it’ could bubble up, as it does from time to time in the Public Address. Blake was not afraid to challenge his readers, indeed he wanted the reader to ‘get it’, but by the time of Jerusalem experience had taught him that those who did were few and far between. When Blake addresses himself to the public at the start of Jerusalem there is a real sense that he knows that in displaying his ‘Giant forms to the Public’ his hope that ‘Therefore I print, nor vain my types shall be’ (E 145) might turn out to be exactly that: in vain. Blake is looking for

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no common reader but for a reader – whoever that may be – who will enter into the ideas of the poem. Blake does not necessarily know where that reader will come from or who they will be. This is important. It is very different to pursue an elusive reader who might appreciate Blake’s self-created system through their own efforts of understanding from prescribing an exclusive readership that has an innate sympathy for the work. The latter position is where Gilchrist’s Life starts and where Swinburne ends. Swinburne puts the case most boldly and baldly when he berates his fellow revivalists for publishing Tiriel: It should have been preserved, certainly, but strictly for the inspection of esoteric Blakists – never to be exposed to the eyes of Saducees, neophytes, weak brethren, – worshippers in the court of the Gentiles; whose faith may (not improbably) be shaken by its perusal, and their poor souls in consequence eternally lost; which result I do think you were bound in common Blakian charity (He would have said Christian, but I won’t) to take into consideration. Speaking from the severely orthodox (not to say High Church or even Ultramontane) point of view which I humbly presume the first (apostolic or patristic) commentator on Jerusalem has a right to take, I cannot but say I would rather this book had remained in the Apocrypha than been inscribed in the canon – that is, in the roll of those books ‘which whosoever believeth not, without doubt’ etc. etc. (Letter to William Michael Rossetti, 30 October 1874, in Swinburne 1959, vol. II, 348) Notwithstanding Swinburne’s energy and insight as a critic of Blake, his arrogance here is staggering. The ‘etc. etc.’ at the end, a tongue-incheek play on his priestly pomposity, does not diminish the fact that he is advocating an editorial approach that does not trust the judgement of ordinary readers when confronted by unadulterated Blake. Even as a joke, what is striking is the sense of religious initiation into an appreciation of Blake, couched in terms of doctrine and priesthood. This might be taken as one of Swinburne’s idiosyncratic moments of critical drama, part of the joke. But Swinburne is not the only Victorian to pose as a priestly protector of Blake’s work, keeping the riff-raff out, as Colin Trodd’s quote from James Smetham in his essay in this volume shows, with Smetham veering between the bureaucratic and the sacred, with life tickets requiring examination by a ‘Blake commission’. However Swinburne and Smetham, evangelical in their passion for Blake, are simply proselytising the cult of the privileged reader that the

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Gilchrist/Pre-Raphalite coterie had already established, albeit with their own esoteric twists and turns. Before examining in more detail the Gilchrist/Pre-Raphaelite establishment of the elite reader of Blake, it is important to highlight that there was another string to the nineteenthcentury Blake revival that struck a far more populist note. The pit-poet Joseph Skipsey edited Blake’s works for The Canterbury Poets series in 1885. Sabine Haass (1985) describes the market for The Canterbury Poets series as newly literate readers, found somewhere between unskilled workers and the middle class, and notes that the series played an important part in the popularisation of classical English literature. Skipsey evokes Swinburne’s interpretation of Blake in his introduction to The Canterbury Poets edition of Blake: ‘Mr. Swinburne appears to be able to penetrate and to bring to light the most precious jewels of meaning from passages in those books, which otherwise are, to my weaker sight, as dark as a coal-pit whose intense gloom is unillumined even by the dim light of the Davy lamp’ (31). What is evident here is that rather than dumbing down in a popular edition, the pit-poet who learnt to read in the darkness of the mine is pointing his readers in the direction of critical enlightenment. What is striking about the Blake ‘popularisers’ is that they do not seek to break down the temple of high-culture Blake that Swinburne and others strive to create; rather, they want to open up that temple to the ‘common people’ (Wilkinson 1851, xii–xiii). James John Garth Wilkinson, a Swedenborgian who edited and wrote the preface to the first printed edition of the Songs of Innocence (1839) and who was best known for the bizarre but popular work of physiology, The Human Body, saw printing as opening the door for the masses to undiminished literary richness: The means of making the poor man a proprietor of books, lay in the glorious new art that clothed all literature in a bodily frame of surpassing beauty and usefulness, and placed it in the hands of the common people in a form that before the invention of printing the greatest kings would have envied; and which even Virgil and Cicero would not have disdained as the material pedestal of their immortality. This art, simpler and more universal than writing, was not lower, but immeasurably higher than its predecessor, whose services were for the noble and learned. (1851, xii–xiii) In contrast to Wilkinson’s ‘universal art’ perspective, the Gilchrist/ Rossetti circle makes an argument for elite empathy with Blake. Their

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stall is laid out clearly and early in The Life of William Blake. To appreciate Blake, we are told, ‘one must almost be born with a sympathy for it’ (1863, 2). The majority of people, it is clear, will not, and possibly are not capable of, experiencing that spark of aesthetic awe on encountering Blake: At Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, among the select thousand water-colour drawings, hung two modestly tinted designs by Blake, of few inches in size: one The Dream of Queen Catherine, another Oberon and Titania asleep on a Lily. Both are remarkable displays of imaginative power, and finished examples in the artist’s peculiar manner. Both were unnoticed in the crowd, attracting few gazers, fewer admirers. For one needs to be read in Blake, to have familiarized oneself with his unsophisticated, archaic yet spiritual ‘manner’ – a style sui generis as no other artist’s ever was – to sympathize with, or even understand, the equally individual strain of thought of which it is the vehicle. (Gilchrist 1863, 2) This passage, which comes right at the start of Gilchrist’s Life, flags up recognition as being at the heart of the Blake revival with the presumption that most are naturally too philistine to partake in this recognition. Gilchrist’s Life tells us that Blake’s eccentric genius is not recognised by most and it takes a spiritually attuned individual to recognise the gem before them, to enter into a special empathy with Blake’s work. The Life is full of these moments of quiet refuge from the rough and tumble of the world. Nostalgia for artisans living quaint lives in the turmoil of London – ‘old-fashioned people having (Heaven be praised!) tenanted it ever since the first James Basire and after him his widow ended their days there’ (22) – is a foil for what Gilchrist describes as the overwhelming, undifferentiated ‘surging’ mob: That evening, the artist happened to be walking in a route chosen by one of the mobs at large, whose course lay from Justice Hyde’s house near Leicester Fields, for the destruction of which less than an hour had sufficed, through Long Acre, past the quiet house of Blake’s old master, engraver Basire, in Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and down Holborn, bound for Newgate. Suddenly, he encountered the advancing wave of triumphant Blackguardism, and was forced (for from such a great surging mob there is no disentanglement) to go along in the very front rank, and witness the storm

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and burning of the fortress-like prison, and release of its three hundred inmates. (35) This has always struck me as a peculiarly disingenuous description on Gilchrist’s part, whatever it tells us, as Erdman and Bentley point out, about Blake’s potentially active role in the riot if we read between the lines. The way Gilchrist relates it, Blake just happens to get himself caught up in the front ranks of the Gordon Riots, carried along by a surging (and implicit in the description if not so in reality), unthinking mob. Blake is portrayed as an accidental hero of history, forced out of his cocoon of artistic sensitivity in time to witness the burning of Newgate. The popular, the public, is presented as a dangerous but necessary force that swallows Blake up and pops him out at the very forefront of history. What Blake needs, Gilchrist’s Life so often suggests, is more people like us, sensitive individuals who recognise Blake’s worth ‘far from the madding crowd’. Blake is cast throughout as the pictor ignotus, in need of a particular sort of recognition. Fear not, is the message of Gilchrist’s life, for another sort of recognition is at hand: elite empathy with Blake by the privileged few. The depth and intensity of this criticism by empathy is clearly seen in Anne Gilchrist’s memoir of her husband Alexander in the 1880 edition of The Life of William Blake. The task that Gilchrist’s Life is engaged in is not objective criticism of a difficult poet and artist but an emotional synergy that is simply not achievable by the majority of people: He desired always to treat his subject exhaustively; as a critic to enter into close companionship with his author or painter; to stand hand in hand with him, seeing the same horizon, listening, pondering, absorbing. No subtlest shade of meaning, no shifting hue of beauty should escape him or his reader if he could help it. (‘Memoir’, in Gilchrist 1880, II, 369) While there is something admirable in this critical-devotion-to-thepoint-of-absorption, there is also something indulgent and self-serving about it. The message seems almost to be that ‘I, the critic, am become Blake’. There is undoubtedly a sincere interest and appreciation of Blake, not only in Gilchrist’s biography but in most of the critical writing on Blake by the Pre-Raphaelites. However, this appreciation is often a retreat into a solipsistic celebration of individual communion

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with Blake and his work, a critical stance that leads the commentator to disavow the popular per se as Dante Gabriel Rossetti does when commenting on the two Chimney Sweeper poems in Gilchrist’s Life: For instance, there is no comparison between the first Chimney Sweep, which touches with such perfect simplicity the true pathetic chord of its subject, and the second, tinged merely with the common-places of social discord. (1863, II, 25) Rossetti’s commentary in the second volume of Gilchrist’s Life hammers home the idea of the eccentric creative, unsullied by ‘the common-places of social discord’. The poet is a conduit of creativity standing apart from the world. This is the poet as the beautiful soul, where the eccentric individual is placed at the heart of the universe, a true ‘unacknowledged legislator’. In each style of the art of a period, and more especially the poetic style, there is often some one central derivative man, to whom personally, if not to the care of the world, it is important that his creative power should be held to be his own, and that his ideas and slowly perfected materials should not be caught up before he has them ready for his own use. (II, 25) I have no problem with the idea that artists in some way transcend their time through their work: that is what makes art universal. However, what Rossetti is pointing to is not a reaching out or even over-reaching on the poet’s part to say something that he feels must be said or expressed. It is a pointing inwards, a belief in individual creativity per se rather than what is created, where the ‘central derivative man’ labours on his ‘slowly perfected materials’. What really matters is an empathy with the creative outsider rather than judging the work by any universal standard. This idea of special sympathy runs throughout the Pre-Raphaelite notion of what it means to be a poet. But it goes further, bearing on ideas of what it is to be an editor and critic too. It is the very thing that William Michael Rossetti praises Swinburne for, noting that ‘In all the roll of poets, we certainly know of none who has given such signal proof of his power to enter re-creative, not imitative, sympathy into so many poetic models of style and form, so diverse and high, to search their recesses, and extract their essential aroma’ (1866, 33–4).

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It is worth pausing here to consider how the emphasis on empathy is expressed in criticism and commentary on Blake by the Victorians in general. Notably, not every nineteenth-century critic or appreciator of Blake had quite such an earnest approach to how a reader’s absorption in an artist’s work might play out. This is particularly seen in nineteenth-century parodies of Blake’s work. Parody crops up early in nineteenth-century appreciation of Blake, a pipe-obsessed autograph of the ‘Introduction’ to Songs of Innocence and of Experience in the leaf of copy E was recorded in the Sotheby’s sale catalogue of 1852. G. E. Bentley tells us that the chief effort of the parodist seems to have been to work some form of the word ‘pipe’ into each line (1964, 419). As Vivian Mercier points out, this playfulness in parodying Blake was not without its high culture pretensions, John Todhunter translating Blake’s ‘The Fly’ ‘into eleven lines of Catullan hendecasyllabic under the hauckneyed but appropriate title “Carpe Diem”’ (32). Other parodies’ playfulness is undercut by a sly menace, a subtle shaking up of any cosy reading of the ‘elite’ Blake: Spider! Spider! hid from sight Til some hapless fly alight What fore-thoughtful brain and eye Fashion’d thy web’s nice symmetry (Linton, 61–2) Rather than the awesome omnipotent power of the tyger we are presented with the well-thought-out and executed trap of the spider. This is the small guy spinning a well-connected web and winning, rather than metaphysical musing about the big picture. This is parody packing a punch above its weight. More often, however, this sort of earthy interpretation of Blake gives way to a romanticised and idealised ideal of the radical outsider: the Pre-Raphaelite coterie were not alone in their obfuscation of critical commentary with mystical musings about special sensitivities and relationships. Joseph Skipsey, whom we might expect to have a grittier grasp on criticism, describes critical perception in the most fanciful of terms: ‘for it is in the nature of things that the seer may see further than he thinks; that the singer may sing more than he knows; that in short, the poet’s work may awaken and arouse the mind of the reader to the perception of a star-like galaxy’ (Prefatory notice, p. 32). Even in its most political manifestations, such as the use of Blake in American abolitionist journals, understanding of Blake is

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presented as a fanciful empathy, a spiritual challenge to the hardheaded business of politics. The abolitionist Moncure Conway wrote: It is an incident to which I have lately recurred with enhanced interest, that the first time I ever heard the name William Blake mentioned, was on the occasion of the friends of Thomas Paine in a city of the Far West, to celebrate the anniversary of his birth. He was there named with honour as a faithful friend of Paine, whom he rescued from his political pursuers; but no one in the meeting seemed to have any further association with Blake. Immediately after the disciple who made this allusion, there arose a ‘spiritualist’, who proceeded to announce that the work of Paine was good but negative; he was but the wild-honey-fed precursor of the higher religion; he prepared the way for the new revelation of Spirits. So close did Paine and Blake come to each other again, without personal recognition, in the New World where each had projected his visions. (216–17) Even James Thomson, the poet-laureate of secularism best known for The City of Dreadful Night and who wrote an important mid-century essay on Blake, is celebrated by his biographer as being peculiarly ‘receptive’ to the point that his writing ‘might almost pass as written by Blake’ (Salt, 316–17). But there is an important difference between the Pre-Raphaelites and these lesser-known Victorian Blake lovers. The Pre-Raphaelites are predatory and proprietary in their love of Blake. They talk about ‘our Blake’ and feel that their special relationship with him gives them unique dispensation as editors and critics. It is a problematic conflation of the creative and the critical that has farreaching consequences. Dante Gabriel Rossetti is notoriously guilty of ‘shaking up’ Blake’s verse in Gilchrist’s Life with what Mark Greenberg has called his ‘freewheeling editorial practices’ (252). As we can see from Swinburne’s railing against ‘weak brethren’, this is not just overzealousness, but the nineteenth-century equivalent of dumbing down for the public’s own good. The Pre-Raphaelites felt that not only could they choose what is good for the public to know of Blake, they had a duty to make that choice. How different from Skipsey, who talks of expanding the imagination of the reader, of arousing something in the reader, whoever that reader may be. How different from James Thomson, who, despite his own tendency towards the obscure, sees the task of the editor as preserving for the public as a whole the works

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of a great poet and who takes the Pre-Raphaelites to task for failing in this respect: But if the above interlineal points mark omissions, the omitted passages should be re-instated in the next edition: the whole of this Song, as it stands in Blake’s earliest Volume or in manuscript, should be given at any rate in the Appendix if not the body of work. For this Chant belongs to the whole British people: it is one of the most precious among the heirlooms bequeathed to us by our forefathers; it is a national jewel of such magnificence that no one man, however honest and skilful, can be trusted to cut it and set it in accordance with his private opinion. (110) However, it is Richard Herne Shepherd who takes apart the rank snobpaternalism of the Pre-Raphaelites in his preface to the 1874 edition of Blake’s works which he edited for Pickering. Before closing our remarks, we must say a final word respecting the principle adopted by Mr. Rossetti in his reprint of some of these poems in the second Volume of Gilchrist’s ‘Life of Blake.’ Once for all, while rendering due homage to his genius and rare critical perception, as well as to the great services he has rendered to the fame of Blake, we must firmly protest against the dangerous precedent he has established of tampering with his author’s text. Much ruggedness of metre and crudeness of expression he has doubtless removed or toned down by this process; but however delicately and tastefully done, we contend that the doing of it was unwarrantable – nay, that it destroys to a certain extent the historical values of the poems. It was the growth of this mischievous system which prevented the readers of the eighteenth century from enjoying a pure text of Shakespeare; which to this day, in nine editions out of ten, gives a corrupt and mutilated text of such writers as Bunyan, Walton and De Foe, and which spoilt some of the finest hymns in our language. For where is the process, once admitted as legitimate, to stop? It is not every emandator who possesses the taste and judgement of Mr. Rossetti and in a case like the present one, where the original edition is almost inaccessible as a check, what protection has the reader against the caprice or vanity of an editor who does not adhere religiously to his author’s text? Mr. Rossetti (though sanctioned by Mr. Swinburne) has no more right to alter William Blake’s

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poems than Mr. Millais would have to paint out some obnoxious detail of mediaevalism in a work of Giotto or Cimabue; or Mr. Leighton to improve some flaw in the flesh-colour of Correggio. (Preface, xiii–xiv) While wanting to give Gilchrist, Rossetti and Swinburne due credit for their work in reviving the reputation and fortunes of Blake, the real tone of Richard Herne Shepherd will brook no tolerance of their highhanded editorial meddling. Rossetti’s tampering with Blake’s works is not just a tidying up of manuscript errors. It is a concerted effort to sugar-coat Blake for consumption by a popular culture that could not be trusted to stomach the strangeness and difficulty of Blake’s works in their raw state. The Pre-Raphaelite revival makes Blake palatable for public consumption. At the same time, the Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts suggest an elusive and exclusive circle of ‘esoteric Blakists’ whose innate and superior sensibilities mean they can be trusted to gorge themselves on the real thing without the risk of critical or aesthetic indigestion. The message where Blake and popular appreciation is concerned is, and ever has been, published and be damned. Blake unadulterated is good enough for us, the public. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell may never make it into the bestseller list, but what of it? The point is to present the challenge of Blake rather than to prescribe the readership of Blake. The cultural elite needs to champion what is the best in art and literature rather than fretting – as the Pre-Raphaelites do – that the audience may simply not be up to the job. I cannot help but think it is this failure – the failure to believe that difficult work should challenge everyone and everyone should have access to the best art and the most challenging art – that got us into such a pickle with the recent discovery and future sale of The Grave watercolours. ‘Philistine’ was a term bandied around in the media when the export ban was finally lifted and the 19 watercolours were put up for sale individually at Sotheby’s, New York. Now, of course, it is philistine and distasteful that the integrity of such a work of art is steamrollered by commercial concerns. But we do need to stop and ask ourselves, who is calling whom a philistine here? It is no good for the British art establishment to call ‘foul’ when they have so far strayed from that basic principle of ‘challenge all with the best’. Part of the problem in championing Blake is not that he is not popular enough but that he is not accessible enough. These strange works – Blake’s most popular in his lifetime and throughout the nineteenth century – can

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appear to contemporary taste as both grotesque and gaudy in their body-soul literalism. What Arts Council boxes on diversity and social inclusion can The Grave tick? Not many. But should that matter? It is no defence of Blake to say he speaks specifically to this or that audience. Blake’s greatness lies in that odd, often faulty and failed vision that sought to speak to readers beyond his own time and place about universal and transcendent ideas and themes. This is why the ‘dark days for Blake’ media headlines of disgust at Blake’s works leaving these shores are both ludicrous and entirely to the point. The Financial Times report on the sale of the watercolours commented: ‘They’re being allowed to go quietly. Not a drum is heard, not a funeral note. They were on show for just three days at Sotheby’s in London but with no fanfares; only someone already in the know would have found their way through to an inner gallery on the first floor at Bond Street, where 19 of William Blake’s 20 watercolours illustrating Robert Blair’s The Grave (an uncannily resonant title these days) could be seen together for perhaps the last time in this country’ (Eyres 2006). At the same time as England is called on to mourn the leaving of England of Blake’s genius in The Grave watercolours, the watercolours are seen only by those in the know. Where was the demand by Blake scholars – the people who should lead the public art agenda around Blake – to show these works publicly so that as many people as possible could see them before they were packed up for the sale in the US? Why wasn’t the Sotheby’s exhibit heralded as such a chance, an opportunity to show clearly that public appreciation of Blake demands access to his most challenging and difficult work. A hint of that misguided Pre-Raphaelite idea of ‘our Blake’ is clearly detectable in that inner gallery, in the know, goodbye to Blake in Bond Steet. The case is this. Blake isn’t our Blake, in either the popular or any other sense. No art that is truly great can remain ‘ours’ for very long: it is its greatness that transcends time and place – from the shores of Felpham in the early nineteenth-century to a Bond Street gallery at the beginning of the twenty-first – that makes it universal. Great art is for everyman, not just art heritage lovers. Blake is there for the taking. From the Pre-Raphaelites on, the real distortion of Blake’s reputation has not come from popular culture but from the cultural elite’s lack of confidence that we can still understand and explore those brilliant, difficult and often frustrating works on their own terms.

5 Blake: Between Romanticism and Modernism Edward Larrissy

Blake is the Romantic writer who has exerted the most powerful influence on the twentieth century. Indeed, the more one looks into the matter, the more surprised one may be by the extent and pervasiveness of that influence. On the one hand, he is now regarded as one of the great canonical literary artists of the Romantic period, and he is rightly seen in relation to then current modes, such as the sublime. On the other, Blake’s popularity may have much to do with qualities that are supposed to differentiate him from other Romantics. In any case, if he were without any ado to be an example of Romantic influence, we would need a clear, essential idea of what Romanticism is – or was – and we do not. This chapter attempts to offer an account of Blake’s after-life which shows that he was central in the retrospective construction of a Romanticism that was acceptable to the twentieth century, and that this centrality is continuing into the twenty-first century. In the process, it will seek to be sensitive to the theoretical difficulties involved in describing canon formation. The greatest tribute paid to Blake at the end of the nineteenth century was the three-volume annotated edition, with lithographic reproductions of a fair number of the illustrations, by Edwin Ellis and W. B. Yeats. This edition benefited from the knowledge they shared of occult philosophies. However much their own interests have to be seen in the context of a late nineteenth-century fad for the occult, they are, despite eccentricities, to a significant degree illuminating about Blake, whose own knowledge can partly be explained by the eclecticism of antinomian Protestantism. One needs, though, to be clear that an interest in ‘occult’ Blake, while it may take a form we should find unbalanced in terms understanding his work, does not set Yeats’s interest apart from other Modernists. On the contrary, Leon Surette has 69

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shown in The Birth of Modernism (1994) how important an interest in occult philosophy was, not just to Yeats, but also to Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot – and that means to their most significant works as well. In any case, Blake’s conviction that ‘Without Contraries is no Progression’, which itself has some of its roots in philosophical alchemy, has left its mark everywhere on Yeats’s poetry and his esoteric writings. It is customary to compare Yeats’s juxtaposition of ‘The Song of the Happy Shepherd’ and ‘The Sad Shepherd’, at the beginning of the Crossways grouping, with the pairs of poems in Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Indeed, one of the notable things about Yeats’s shepherds is the gulf that separates their states of mind. The Happy Shepherd laments the passing of a world where dreams fed poetry and its replacement by modernity. But he is confident that telling one’s story into an echoharbouring shell will bring comfort. The Sad Shepherd takes the advice, but it doesn’t work for him: Then he sang softly nigh the pearly rim; But the sad dweller by the sea-ways lone Changed all he sang to inarticulate moan Among her wildering whirls, forgetting him. (Yeats 1970, 9) If one should be tempted to adduce Spenser or Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’ or ‘Il Penseroso’ as better sources, one should first ponder Yeats’s other contraries: ‘The Rose of Peace’ and ‘The Rose of Battle’; Self and Soul; Hic and Ille (even though the proximate source here is William Morris’s ‘Hapless Love’); He and She; Aherne and Robartes – or whole volumes: The Tower versus The Winding Stair – the former representing a proud, bitter, masculine assertiveness; the latter something inward, ruminative, which Yeats thought of as more ‘feminine’. Then, of course, there are moon and sun in A Vision, the great symbolic antinomies which represent what he sometimes calls Subjectivity and Objectivity. These two are indebted to Blake’s Energy and Reason, and to later formulations like Imagination and Nature. But the indebtedness is no mere borrowing of scaffolding: Yeats’s tinctures are not just opposites; they move in opposite directions, as do Blake’s contraries in his poem ‘The Mental Traveller’. Unlikely as it might seem, Yeats also thinks of his use of Irish mythology and romance in relation to Blake’s half-invented mythology. The explanation is this: Blake could not work with an overused

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classical system, and also needed to root his mythology in what he knew. So he created his own system and saw visions of its personages among the stones of Clerkenwell or the fields ‘from Islington to Marybone; Near mournful, ever-weeping Paddington’. Yeats, on the other hand, could revive a mythology that was not overused and that had the merit of being rooted by tradition in the hills, lakes, coppices and bogs of Sligo and Galway: The host is riding from Knocknarea And over the grave of Clooth-na-Bare; Caoilte tossing his burning hair, And Niamh calling Away, come away … (55) Yeats’s plays about Ireland, not least those that dramatise the Ulster cycle, must in part be seen in the light of Blakean archetypes and Blakean psychomachia. Nor are stylistic matters immune from influence, however unlike Blake Yeats may seem. The poems of the 1890s must be seen not just in relation to Symbolism, or the influence of William Morris’s poetry, but also in relation to that view of Blake – very influential from the 1890s and into the 1930s – which sees his lyric poetry in terms of symbolist suggestiveness and musicality: compare, for instance, the views of Yeats’s friend Arthur Symons, author of The Symbolist Movement in Literature and of an introduction to William Blake. By an apparent paradox, when Yeats becomes dissatisfied with the style of his 1890s poetry, he speaks in terms of a desire for firmer form, outline and energy, which suggests that he was attempting to rectify a mistaken interpretation of Blake and orient his own new style to those many utterances of Blake which praise definiteness. In this respect, Yeats’s attitude replicates the general trend of responses to Blake. Blake’s first influence is as a proto-symbolist. As Symbolism is surpassed by more radical aesthetic measures, which prize greater directness, Blake is co-opted to this movement too, and this is how he appears to Auden. In later years, Yeats was to proclaim that ‘Measurement began our might’ – the might of Western art. This sounds a trifle like Urizen, Blake’s tyrannical patriarchal deity, half false Jehovah, half ironhearted Jupiter, who divides and measures the universe. Yet Blake depicts a sublime as well as an erring figure, and Yeats’s proclamations can be seen as deriving from his life-long dialogue with his mentor. As

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age descends on him, Yeats sees himself as one of Blake’s old men: in particular, the tattered coat on a stick in ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ is a direct reference to this image, one of Blake’s designs for Blair’s Grave. Or this is what the old man is, ‘unless soul clap its hands and sing and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress’. So, the soul grows young as the body grows old: contraries moving in opposite directions again. Clapping also derives from Blake – from his story about how, when his brother Robert died, he saw his soul rising from his body, clapping its hands. I referred earlier to the way in which the 1890s could see Blake’s technique in his lyrics in relation to Symbolism. There is a tradition of seeing Blake’s meanings as ineffable. Arthur Quiller-Couch, in On the Art of Reading (1920), implies that Blake’s poetry provides examples of the way in which true poetry is apprehended rather than comprehended (35). It is illuminating to note that ‘Q’ sees Celtic poetry as apprehended poetry par excellence, for this sheds further light on Yeats’s valuation of Blake, and may help to explain why he expressed the conviction that Blake’s family came from Galway, on no discernible evidence. The reducto ad absurdum of apprehended Blake, though, is to be found in A. E. Housman’s 1933 lecture, The Name and Nature of Poetry: For me the most poetical of all poets is Blake. I find his lyrical note as beautiful as Shakespeare’s and more beautiful than anyone else’s; and I call him more poetical than Shakespeare, even though Shakespeare has so much more poetry, because poetry in him preponderates more than in Shakespeare over everything else, and instead of being confounded in a great river can be drunk pure from a slender channel of its own. Shakespeare is rich in thought, and his meaning has power of itself to move us, even if the poetry were not there: Blake’s meaning is often unimportant or virtually non-existent, so that we can listen with all our hearing to his celestial tune. (40) The effect such a view might have on the interpretation of a reasonably clear use of Symbolism by Blake can be illustrated from Housman’s eccentric handling of Blake’s brief lyric ‘To the Accuser who is the God of this World’: It purports to be theology: what theological sense, if any, it may have, I cannot imagine and feel no wish to learn: it is pure and

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self-existent poetry, which leaves no room in me for anything besides. (45) As it happens, this is a good example of the extremes to which such an attitude might be taken, since the symbolism of the poem is not obscure. This false god remains the ‘Son of Morn’ (i.e. Lucifer) in ‘weary Night’s decline’ (i.e. fallen). He appears in a vision to the traveller (or pilgrim) when that traveller is ‘lost’ or deluded. He is Christian’s vision of Apollyon. In the lecture Housman described good poetry as interfering with shaving, because it caused the skin to bristle. It is also the one that hints at how to get a poem started: Having drunk a pint of beer at luncheon – beer is a sedative to the brain, and my afternoons are the least intellectual portion of my life – I would go out for a walk of two or three hours. As I went along, thinking of nothing in particular only looking at things around me and following the progress of the seasons, there would flow into my mind, with sudden and unaccountable emotion, sometimes a line or two of verse, sometimes a whole stanza at once, accompanied, not preceded, by a vague notion of the poem which they were destined to form a part of. (49) The inadequacy of this account makes one far more aware of how necessary and understandable were the efforts of Richards and Empson, contemporaneously in train in the Cambridge of Housman’s day. Housman’s lecture, however, is in part a reaction to those efforts. It is a pity that such ideas, which linger in popular theories of literature, should have helped slightly to tarnish by association the work of poets of exacting rigour such as Charles Baudelaire and Stephane Mallarmé. Whatever one may think of Housman’s jejune theorising, it may serve to underline the fact that, as much as anything, Blake in the early twentieth century, and just before, is considered an arresting aesthetic phenomenon, one that is hard to categorise, and this is true for more sophisticated critics than Housman, and equally true – if not more so – for comment on his graphic art. Roger Fry canonised Blake’s paintings for Bloomsbury and the art world and introduced him to their Elysium, where Giotto as much as Cézanne is praised for line, form and the relationship between masses of colour.

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In an article for the Burlington Magazine (1904) on ‘Three Pictures in Tempera by William Blake’, Fry (1961) fastens onto Blake’s anti-illusionism in some characteristically equivocal formulations: Blake’s art is a test case for our theories of aesthetics. It boldly makes the plea for art that is a language for conveying impassioned thought and feeling, which takes up the objects of sense as a means to this end, owing them no allegiance and accepting from them only the service that they can render for this purpose …. The theory that art appeals solely by the associated ideas of the natural objects it imitates is easily refuted when we consider music and architecture. … But in pictorial art the fallacy that nature is the mistress instead of the servant seems almost ineradicable … (174–5) The equivocation is to be found in the phrase ‘conveying impassioned thought and feeling’. This might appear to imply that the subject-matter of painting is still entertained, albeit in an ancillary role. In practice, Fry thinks only of what he calls ‘form’. Thus Blake is enlisted in the service of that critical spirit which was preparing the taste which would accept abstraction. While Housman could scarcely be said to be doing the same thing, he looks a little like Fry if you contrast the view of Blake offered by our own critical consensus – something not far from E. P. Thompson’s perhaps. The early twentieth century values something ardent, forceful, suggestive and eloquent in Blake’s aesthetic, and while there is no shortage of those who do understand that Blake had something to say, it is perhaps the perceived aesthetic qualities of this work that were decisive in raising the estimatation in which he was held. For W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice by the 1930s, references to Blake are taken for granted. Sometimes they are the more telling simply by virtue of the fact that they are not self-conscious – like MacNeice’s epitome of the relationship between Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants in Autumn Journal XVI, ‘one read black, where the other read white’, which he does not even bother to attribute to Blake. MacNeice’s account of Yeats shows an easy understanding of the relationship to Blake, one that it is harder for contemporary specialists to muster. It is from Spender, though, that my favourite anecdote derives, the famous scene from World within World when the hearties at Oxford decide to break up the rooms of the newly arrived aesthete:

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I was sitting in a chair reading Blake when about a dozen of them trooped in, equipped with buckets and other clanking instruments of room-breakers and throwers-into-rivers. I could not decide on the most suitable way of receiving them, so I went on reading, very conscious of course that I was reading poetry. They were embarrassed as I. They stood about in an awkward semi-circle. One of them said: ‘What’s the big idea Spender?’ For reply I read aloud a few lines of Blake. I achieved the result: they simply changed their minds and left the room, shrugging their shoulders as though to indicate that I was too crazy for their treatment. (34) Yet Blake’s influence on Spender seems comparatively insignificant compared to that which he exerted on Auden. I have already referred to Blake’s habit of trying to haunt the best company, and this turns out to be the case with Auden too. Blake is essential to the working out of the socio-political-psychoanalytic theory of the Airman: the neurotic, homosexual outsider, surreptitiously undermining society from within, while at the same time renouncing the impossible task of trying to understand infection by the enemy, the forces of repression; bourgeois morality and the capitalist system. One must accept that infection will occur – as Auden says in The Orators, ‘The power of the enemy is a function of our resistance …. Conquest can only proceed by absorption of, i.e. infection by, the conquered’ (72). These remarks can be glossed by Auden’s discussion of T. E. Lawrence: ‘Only by the continuous annihilations of the self by the Identity, to use Blake’s terminology, will it bring us the freedom we wish for, or, in T. E. Lawrence’s own phrase, “Happiness comes in absorption”’ (cited in DavenportHines, 144). Now the broad outlines of the The Orators do owe something to the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which it resembles in its dramatisation of opposed contrary principles, its impromptu and irreverent mythologising, its proffer of proverbs and outrageous aphorisms and its blend of prose and verse. But Auden’s comments are more learned in Blake studies than these broad outlines would suggest. The idea of accepting infection by the system to which one is opposed is strongly Blakean. (Blake calls it striving with systems to redeem individuals from these systems.) It explains why Blake will employ terms derived from René Descartes or Isaac Newton in the services of his own, anti-rationalist ideas. But one has to be quite well versed in Blake, including the more challenging later works, before one grasps this idea. Interestingly, the phrase ‘continuous annihilations of the self by the

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Identity’ derives from the later Prophetic Books, not from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: it contrasts the closed and tyrannical ‘Selfhood’, as Blake called it, with the openness and creativity of true human Identity. Sometimes the hardened self, as in Blake, is depicted as a father who accuses, as in this parody of a school hymn from The Orators: Not, father, further do prolong Our necessary defeat; Spare us the numbing zero-hour, The desert-long retreat. … but look! to us Your loosened angers come Against your accusations Though ready wit devise, Nor magic countersigns prevail Nor airy sacrifice. (100) Since we must acquiesce in the sickness caused by the father, there is even an ambiguity as to whether the first lines are addressed to a ‘Not father’ – similar to Blake’s Nobodaddy. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell remained a key text for Auden, and, as with Yeats, rethinking his own beliefs required rethinking rather than rejecting Blake. From May to September 1939, disenchanted with the political infatuation of a low, dishonest decade, and increasingly sympathetic to Christianity, he enlists Blake in his revisionism, labouring at a prose work, the Prolific and the Devourer, the title of which is one of the contraries from Blake’s Marriage. (For Blake, the Prolific are the Artists who produce, while the Devourers are reasoners and theorisers who are parasitic on the conception produced by the imagination, by the Prolific.) Auden makes the Prolific the artist and the Devourer the politician – a suggestion of the disillusionment to which I referred. The work is peppered with Blakeisms: ‘There are two and only two philosophies of life, the true and the false.’ Or, ‘There are not “good” and “evil” existences … everything that is is holy … Evil is not an existence but a state of disharmony between existences.’ ‘“Hell” is a state of being one may leave at any time. Worship of Jesus in churches has

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made him into a “false idol”’, and so on (Auden 2002, 409–58). Once Auden’s conversion was complete, he came to regard the thinkers he admired in the 1930s as preparing the way: what ‘Blake, Lawrence, Freud and Marx’ have to say is ‘implicit in the Christian doctrine of the nature of man’ (Pike, 39). Of the four figures mentioned, there is one who falls outside the customary purview of contemporary courses on Modernism, and it is not Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth or Shelley, but Blake. But note the assumption that Blake would naturally be a guiding light to any middle-class intellectual of his generation. That would certainly include Aldous Huxley, whose interest long pre-dates The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. The reasons for his admiration were similar to Auden’s: Man according to Blake is simply a succession of states. Good and Evil can be predicated only of states, not of individuals, who in fact do not exist . … It is the end of personality in the old sense of the word. Eyeless in Gaza This remark, with its hint of impersonality, is telling about the reasons for Blake’s success in the 1930s. Auden has been seen, understandably, as ‘The Anti-Romantic Modern’ (Blair, 11–34). Blake seemed to offer an impersonal account of the structure of the psyche and, by this time, is also free from the taint of symbolist vagueness which had been one of the qualities that made him seem like a father of the avant-garde in the latter years of the nineteenth century. Not bad going for a poet not one of whose poems was included in the first edition of Palgrave (1861), although, of course, it was not achieved without opposition.

Note 1. W. B. Yeats, The Poems: A New Edition, ed. Richard J. Finneran, 2nd edn (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989), 9. Subsequent references are given as YP, followed by a page number, in parenthesis in the main text.

6 ‘There is no Competition’: Eliot on Blake, Blake in Eliot Steve Clark

I How unpleasant to meet Mr Eliot! With his features of clerical cut, And his brow so grim And his mouth so prim And his conversation so nicely Restricted to What Precisely And If and Perhaps and But. How unpleasant to meet Mr Eliot!1 Probably the majority of contemporary Blake critics would wholeheartedly endorse these sentiments about a writer who has become something of a hate figure in recent years: even the usually courteous and urbane Northrop Frye is moved to describe Eliot’s ideas as ‘fantastic and repellent’ (1963, 10). This is partly owing to the continuing impact of specific negative judgements, partly to commitment to an AngloCatholic royalist politics that has gone terminally out of fashion (though when was it ever in?), and partly to the promotion, in both poetry and criticism, of an ideal of elite culture which is now widely regarded as oppressive. Eliot’s evaluation has continued to set the agenda for preference of early over late Blake (particularly in Britain, where it has tended to be absorbed by criticism of a supposedly antagonistic political orientation). His remarks are far more ambiguous in their original expository contexts than their frequent citation might suggest; and their prominence owes at least as much to the contingencies of publishing history 78

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as to any theoretical consistency. The antithesis customarily assumed between Blake and Eliot is very much a retrospective and, to a certain degree, arbitrary construct. The essay ‘William Blake’ (originally entitled ‘The Naked Man’) in The Sacred Wood can be seen as a partly plagiarised self-diagnosis of the situation of the early twentieth-century American artist.2 The complexity of Eliot’s response may be better approached through a little-known review essay of 1927, ‘The Mysticism of Blake’, and through analysis of ‘East Coker’ as partial homage and reparation to a great if problematic precursor. In terms of specifically literary influence, the quatrain form of Poems 1920 is at least as much indebted to Blake as to Theophile Gautier; the ‘Unreal city’ of The Waste Land (CP 62) owes much to a flâneur tradition that can be traced to Blake’s ‘London’; and the symbolic geography formulated in the later prophecies permeates the bleak topography of the Four Quartets of ‘the gloomy hills of London, Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney, / Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate’ (CP 174). The infamous statement (‘classicist in literature, royalist in politics and Anglican in religion’ [1928]) is comparatively late and cannot be retrospectively mapped onto Eliot’s most productive period (approximately 1917–22). One might argue that the classicism was never more than a rhetorical chimera: Eliot was formed by and continued to be steeped in mid- and late nineteenth-century romanticism – Tennyson, Browning, Swinburne, Rossetti through to the minor 1890s poets, such as Davidson, Dowson and Symons. It is difficult to know precisely what royalism might have entailed for an early twentieth-century modernist intellectual beyond such quixotic gestures as wearing a white buttonhole flower (and hearing mass) on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth; even The Criterion remained a comparatively open house, willing to accommodate the sociology of Karl Mannheim (Ackroyd 1984, 167; see also Goldie; Harding). As for Anglicanism, it may be plausibly argued that Eliot, whatever his later overt theological commitments to Anglo-Catholicism, could never shake off the residual and rancid inheritance of American Puritanism (Jay, 11–31). The idea of Blake as a popular writer is of comparatively recent provenance. For Gilchrist ‘the unusual notes’ were ‘appealing to but one class and that a small one’, and the late nineteenth-century studies that proliferated in the wake of his classic biography emphasise issues of psychological quirkiness, madness and sanity, and the power of eidetic vision, rather any notional artisanal solidarity (Gilchrist, 27). The initial complaints concerning an excessive idiosyncrasy of

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invention, and subsequent reservations about cosseting academic exegesis, are both nicely captured in Eliot’s remark that ‘it is impossible to regard him as a naïf, a wild man, a wild pet for the supercultivated’ (SW, 151). The charge that navigating the prophecies requires a lifetime’s endeavour may be counterbalanced by noting, as Larrissy points out elsewhere in this volume, the widespread use of his work by critics such Quiller-Couch and Housman to exemplify an ideal of pure and immediately accessible poetry. Eliot’s own work can be linked to the carnivalesque aspects of Modernism, displaying hospitality to a wide spectrum of popular culture: cartoons, thrillers, music hall. Poems 1920 offers a series of satirical cartoons, which, for all their pseudo-erudition, ‘attains its effects [as with Marlowe] by something not unlike caricature’ (SW, 125); Sweeney Agonistes utilises Broadway lyrics and jazz rhythms; the encomium to the music-hall audience in ‘Marie Lloyd’ is perhaps the most unequivocal of Eliot’s essayistic tributes. In 1927, the year of his conversion and of ‘The Mysticism of Blake’, Eliot found time to review 24 crime novels (Sigg; Chinitz; Jaidka). Eliot’s sensibility remains in many respects American: one can defer to the ‘mind of Europe’ only if one has the option of disengaging from it (SW 158). For Henry James, Eliot argued, ‘the current’ of English literature ‘hardly matters’ in comparison to the cosmopolitan ideal: ‘It is the final perfection, the consummation of an American to become not an Englishman, but a European – something which no born European, no person of European nationality can become’ (HJ, 854). This is exemplified first by the French Symbolists, then Dante, finally perhaps Virgil: in each case, what is most important is the lack of allegiance to an English tradition primarily identified with the Protestant-Romantic inheritance of Milton and Blake.3 Points of rapprochement can also be found between Blake and Eliot not only in their broadly symbolist aesthetics but also through the negative case made against the latter in recent criticism on the grounds of anti-Semitism and misogyny. The polemic against Eliot’s anti-Semitism is now too familiar to need rehearsing in detail (see, for example, Julius). What is less frequently commented on is Blake’s absorption of Paine’s anti-Semitic stance in the 1790s: ‘he only denies that God conversd with Murderers & Revengers such as the Jews were. & of course he holds that the Jews conversed with their own [state religion] which they calld God & so were liars as Christ says’ (E 615). This is further supplemented by the exhortation in the 1820s: ‘Take up the Cross O Israel & follow Jesus’ (pl. 27 E 174). Jerusalem adopts

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the rallying-call of the London Society for the Conversion of the Jews, formed in 1809 but given fresh impetus in the 1820s by Henry Drummond, sponsor of the Albury Court conferences, and based on the theology of Edward Irving, in which concern for ‘the gathering and the avenging of the Jews’ coexists with the conviction that ‘God could not convert the Jewish people, because they were in the last stage of the heart’s ossification, their faculties engrossed and imbruted, and their consciences seared as with a red-hot iron’. Blake’s apparent philo-Semitism thus comes with a sting in the tail. The ‘Return of Israel’ is the necessary prelude for the ‘Saviour’ to become ‘apparent on the Earth as the Prophets had foretold’ (pl. 27 E 174), at which point the Jews themselves will be called to account for earlier crimes: ‘wherefore did Christ come was it not to abolish the Jewish imposture’ (E 614). One should also bear in mind Karen Shabetai’s contention, in the most thorough examination of this issue, that Deism may serve as ‘a codeword for Judaism’, bringing about an unexpected conjunction with Eliot’s notorious remark that ‘reasons of race and religion combine to make any large numbers of freethinking Jews undesirable’.4 It is tempting to juxtapose Eliot’s recoil from the ‘good old hearty female stench’ in the original drafts to The Waste Land (1971, 39) and the traumas of his first marriage, with the lifelong fidelity of William and Catherine Blake. Yet there is a strong undercurrent of neoplatonic animus against the ‘sexual machine’ of both male and female bodies in the later prophecies (Jerusalem 39:25 E 185). Enitharmon’s ‘The joy of woman is the Death of her most best beloved’ (E 317) suggests that female pleasure literally destroys her lover, and it is repeatedly insisted ‘no one can consummate Female bliss in Los’s World without / Becoming a Generated Mortal, a Vegetating Death’ (Jerusalem 69:30–1 E 221). Even in the famous early polemics of behalf of ‘Gratified Desire’ (E 466), there is plenty of equivocation: Thel’s refuses to enter the ‘grave plot’ of human sexuality (6: 9 E 6); Oothon shows distaste for the ‘abhorred birth of cherubs’ (5: 28 E 48); and a more general unease is apparent concerning ‘generation’, the entire process of biological reproduction. In addition, both Blake and Eliot may be seen as articulating a pathology of male childlessness. ‘Children’s voices in the orchard’ in ‘New Hampshire’ induces the lament, ‘Today grieves, tomorrow grieves’ (CP, 138); similarly the ‘laughter’ in the rose garden in ‘Burnt Norton’ is the prelude to ultimate exclusion: ‘Go, said the bird, for the leaves are full of children’ (CP, 172). This in turn recalls the infinitely poignant and peculiarly elegiac note of Blake’s ‘Nurse’s

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Song’ (E 15), delivered from but not therefore exclusive to a feminine persona: When the voices of children are heard on the green And laughing is heard on the hill, My heart is at rest within my breast And every thing else is still Then come home my children, the sun is gone down And the dews of night arise Come come leave off play, and let us away Till the morning appears in the skies (E 15) * I now wish to look in greater detail at Eliot’s critical responses to Blake in 1920 and 1927, and conclude by looking at his attempted rapprochement with his precursor in ‘East Coker’.

II Linda Shires, in the only detailed study of the composition of The Sacred Wood, stresses ‘just how precariously the book 1920 version had been achieved’ (Shires, 229). It was first proposed to the American publisher Alfred A. Knopf, in August 1918, as a ‘collection of verse and prose’ containing ‘several essays from the New Statesman and the Little Review and a good deal from the Egoist and two essays which Poetry in Chicago want me to write on the French poets’ (SL, 238 [on Rimbaud and Corbière, neither completed]). Eliot confessed to John Quinn, who dealt with negotiations on his behalf (6 January 1919): I am not at all proud of the book – the prose part consists of articles written under high pressure in the overworked, distracted existence of the last two years. But it is important to me that it should be published for private reasons. I am coming to America to visit my family within this summer or autumn, and I should particularly like it to have it appear first. (SL, 266) Eliot specifically wished to placate the ‘strong family opposition’ to his marriage and decision to live in England; but a more general inference

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can be drawn. His original intention was clearly to publish the book in the United States for an American audience. In May 1919, Eliot expressed to Quinn his wish to add ‘two or three other essays … better than anything in the manuscript’ from ‘the rejuvenated Athenaeuem’ which ‘are longer and better than any of those for the Egoist’ (SL, 296). When informed that his poems, but not his prose, had been accepted by Knopf, he approached Harriet Weaver (5 June 1919), wishing to ‘propose an entirely new book which would take some time to prepare’ (SL, 300): the first attempt to secure English publication. The following month (9 July 1919), Eliot sent Quinn a selection of articles ‘of what I consider the best of those I have been contributing to the Athenaeum’: these included ‘A Sceptical Patrician’, on Henry Adams; an ‘Elizabethan article … because of the American interest in War poets’; and an ‘article on American literature’, which ‘seemed to me appropriate’ (SL, 313). I do not wish to speculate on the possible contents of the earliest version, but the second, prepared between January 1918 and May 1919, would certainly have included ‘In Memory of Henry James’, ‘The Hawthorne Aspect’ and ‘A Sceptical Patrician’. An ‘essay on American literature’ is also mentioned, which presumably emerged from Eliot’s extension lectures on American literature, possibly on Emerson and Thoreau; though it may have been an expansion of material in ‘American Literature’.5 * I now wish to consider how the reception of ‘William Blake’ might have been altered if it had been published in its original context, alongside essays on James, Hawthorne and Adams.

III The Arts insist that a man shall dispose of all that he has, even of his family tree, and follow art alone. For they require that a man be not a member of a family or of a coterie, but simply and solely himself. (SW, 32) In The Sacred Wood, Eliot’s agile, worldly voice cannot lay claim to this high and idealistic vocation, but nevertheless reinstates it through its anti-type. William Blake offers both a mirror and an inversion of his

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own career in terms of ‘the several stages of his poetic development’, displaying the ‘peculiar honesty’ that allows the ‘unpleasantness of great poetry’ (SW, 151). Eliot’s own ‘early poems’ (e.g. ‘Circe’s Palace’ [CP, 598]) ‘show what the poems of a boy of genius ought to show, immense power of assimilation’; not ‘crude attempts to do something beyond the boy’s capacity’, but ‘quite mature and successful attempts to do something quite small’, with an ‘affinity with the very best work of his own [i.e. nineteenth] century’ (SW, 152). Blake’s gift of ‘exact statement’ produces ‘the poetry of a language which has undergone the discipline of prose’; his verse somewhat anachronistically heeds Pound’s dictum that poetry should be at least as well written as prose and offers a proto-imagist form of composition: ‘he has an idea (a feeling, an image); he develops it by accretion or expansion, alters his verse often and hesitates over the final choice’ (SW, 153). Most importantly, Blake is an ‘innocent’, whose ‘mind unclouded by current opinions’ exemplifes ‘the eternal struggle of art against education’: being early apprenticed to a manual occupation, he was not compelled to acquire any other education in literature than he wanted, or to acquire it for any other reason than he wanted it; and that being a humble engraver, he had no journalistic-social career open to him. There was, that is to say, nothing to distract him from his interests or to corrupt those interests: neither the ambitions of parents or wife, nor the standards of society, nor the temptations of success; nor was he exposed to imitation of himself or of anyone else. (SW, 152) Hence Blake represents an inverted self-portrait of the harassed and self-doubting reviewer, continuously subject to the temptations and distractions of a ‘journalistic-social career’. In the original review article ‘The Naked Man’ (Athenaeum 4681 [16 January 1920], 72–3), Eliot’s initial pledge to ‘define his limitations’ is restricted to a single reservation: ‘it is only when the ideas become more automatic, come more freely and are less manipulated that we begin to suspect their origin, to suspect that they spring from a shallower source’ (SW, 152). When the essay was revised for book publication, three paragraphs were added. Blake is now said to ‘attach more importance’ to his own philosophy ‘than an artist should’, which ‘makes him eccentric’ and ‘inclined to formlessness’. In this respect, his

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work is curiously reminiscent of ‘the most dangerous tendency of American versifiers’ which ‘is towards eccentricity and formlessness’.6 If ‘one remarks about the Puritan mythology a historical thinness’, this is a tradition to which Eliot himself rather than Blake belongs, ‘the reader with Calvinism in his bones and witch-hanging (not witch-hunting) on his conscience’ (ALAL, 52), intimately familiar with the way ‘Puritanism itself became repulsive only when it appeared as the survival of a restraint after the feelings which it restrained had gone’ (SW, 134). Eliot finds in Nathaniel Hawthorne a ‘very acute historical sense’ of the American ‘colonial history’, in which a ‘burden of self-improvement’ produces a debilitating introspection (SP, 361; HA, 861), and where the only dimension possible in which to ‘expand was the past, his present being so narrowly barren’ (HA, 862–3). Yet this position also permits a more emancipated and even rapaciously consumerist attitude to the ‘dead poets, his ancestors’: ‘Mr Pound proceeds by acquiring the entire past, and when the entire past is acquired, the constituents fall into place, and the present is revealed’ [1919, 1065]). It is continually insisted that literature must be more effective, more up-to-date: as Philip Larkin puts it, ‘a view of poetry which is almost mechanistic, that every poem must include all previous poems, in the same way that a Ford Zephyr has somewhere in it a Ford T Model’ (1964, 73). Hence the incessant appeals to the craft of the practitioner: ‘Coleridge is writing as a professional with his eye upon the technique’ (SW, 19). Formalism can be understood not as a form of disengagement but precisely as a reflection of worldly criteria in its effort to establish art as an autonomous yet economically highly valued sphere of activity (Menand). The ‘certain meanness of culture’ discerned in Blake similarly duplicates Eliot’s 1919 characterisation of the environment of ‘American Literature’: ‘Their world was thin. It was not complex enough. Worst of all it was second-hand, it was not original and self-dependent – it was a shadow’ (AL, 237). As for ‘large but insufficiently furnished apartments filled by heavy conversation’, whether or not this applies to Milton, it is surely apt for the typically unspecified location of Eliot’s own dramatic monologues (as in the original epigraph to The Waste Land: ‘He do the Police in Many Voices’). When Blake’s thought is disparaged as ‘an ingenious piece of homemade furniture’ (SW, 156), it is Emerson who springs to mind. In the same quintessentially American tradition of ‘homemade’ worlds, there may be placed Eliot himself, who, like Ivan Turgenev in Paris, a ‘perfect example of the benefits of transplantation; there was nothing lost by it’, occupied ‘a

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position which he literally made for himself, and indeed may almost be said to have invented’ (1917, 167). If with Blake ‘perhaps the circumstances required him to fabricate, perhaps the poet required the philosopher and mythologist’ (ASG 16), the same is true of Eliot’s historical fabulation of the ‘dissociation of sensibility’ and the ‘mind of Europe’ (SW 158). He constructs his own tradition, and in so doing, invents himself.

IV The strictures on the prophecies added to Eliot’s essay belong to a tradition already well established: as early as 1897 Yeats was rebuking critics who ‘dismiss them with shallow remarks about their formlessness, which we all know so well and chatter about their unintelligibility’ (1970, 282). With Eliot, bearing in mind the financial and emotional pressures to which the harassed reviewer was subject in 1919, it should be no surprise that his essay should be permeated by the text under review: Charles Gardner’s William Blake the Man (1919). Bentley’s dismissal of this as no more than a ‘pedestrian biography’ is perhaps unfair: Gardner’s extensive exposition of ‘Swedenborg’s influence’ as the ‘greatest and most lasting on Blake’s mind’ (55 [55–80]) lies behind Eliot’s remark: ‘To him there was no more reason why Swedenborg should be absurd than Locke. He accepted Swedenborg and eventually rejected him for reasons of his own’; and on closer inspection, the famous closing paragraphs of Eliot’s essay prove to be a close and highly derivative reworking of Gardner’s conclusion: The truth is that Blake was not a great thinker still less a systembuilder. He ought to have found the best Christian system while he was still young and kept to it. Then he could have lived his life vision within coherent bounds. Clear sharp dogma, like outline in art, would have given rest to his mind, substance to his vision and saved him from the waste of pouring out a torrent of incoherent sayings containing scraps of gnosticism, theosophy, rosicrucianism, and almost every heresy under the sun … The master-mind who could have given him a better system than his own and to whom he was beginning to listen was Dante … We may hazard the guess that he would have reached the Catholic form of Christianity, having thrown overboard his private symbolism on the way, and they he would have produced great long poems of crystalline clearness

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which would have placed him by the side of the master poets of the ages. (192–3) This comes nearly a decade before Eliot’s own conversion and classic exposition of Dante: in Poems 1920, ‘The Hippopotamus’ and ‘Mr Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service’ seem closer to a facetious blasphemy by a lapsed Puritan. Gardner’s polemic against the Protestant-Romantic tradition originates in an argument for the essentially Catholic trajectory of Blake’s work. Eliot’s limiting judgements have had such wide circulation that it is worth recalling the opening gambits of his essay. Here Blake is unhesitatingly classified as ‘great poetry’ and placed in a pantheon alongside ‘Homer and Aeschylus and Dante and Villon … Shakespeare – and … Montaigne and … Spinoza’. The quality of ‘peculiar honesty, which in a world too frightened to be honest is peculiarly terrifying’ is diametrically opposed to Eliot’s careerist temporising; Blake’s isolation serves as an indictment of the culture which ‘conspires’ against him. For an example of the ‘morbid or abnormal or perverse’ in Eliot’s own poetry of the period one need look no further than ‘History has many cunning passages’ (in ‘Gerontion’ [CP, 38]), which may certainly be seen to ‘exemplify the sickness of an epoch or a fashion’. The ‘extraordinary labour of simplification’ which enables Blake to ‘exhibit the essential sickness or strength of the human soul’ is contrasted with what Eliot’s implicit self-indictment for the ‘acquisition of impersonal ideas which obscure what we really are and feel, what we really and what really excites our interest’. In the Clark lectures, whose central thesis on poetry and philosophy would seem to require some consideration of Blake, there are only a few asides, but even here the implicit valuation is extremely high: ‘What happens to a poet who has an original philosophy? Does he not become the victim of those who want their philosophy cheap and without thought and is he not like Blake perpetually a riddle to those who seriously would estimate his greatness as a poet’ (1993, 224). As a thought experiment it is interesting to speculate on how the ‘estimate of [Blake’s] greatness as a poet’ might have been altered if the later assessment, ‘The Mysticism of Blake’ (Athenaeum, 17 September 1927) had been included in Selected Essays in place of, or alongside, ‘The Naked Man’ (a title dropped in order to disguise the review origins of the essay). This is more clearly a response to specific books, presumably issued for the centenary of Blake’s death, though Eliot does not

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mention the anniversary: Poetry and Prose of William Blake (ed. Geoffrey Keynes); The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (facsimile); Mona Wilson, The Life of William Blake; Max Plowman, An Introduction to the Study of Blake; Pencil Drawings of William Blake (ed. Geoffrey Keynes); and Helen C. White, The Mysticism of William Blake. The simple cost of the volumes under consideration should give pause for thought. At 12s 6d, Keynes can hardly be considered ‘extremely cheap’, as Eliot claims (a collection of the drawings at 35 shillings are said to be ‘also … extremely cheap’). No comment is passed on the cost of Wilson’s ‘genuine biography, not trying to write history and criticism at once’ at £2 5s, except perhaps obliquely: ‘in consequence this is a book which will keep its value’. The lower production values of Plowman’s Dent introduction (at 4s 6d clearly designed for a wider audience) elicit a degree of condescension. At this stage Blake is still very much a luxury item; while the proliferation of largely biographically-oriented potboilers over the preceding 30 years indicates widespread curiosity if not fascination, the proletarian perspective has at this point quite simply been priced out of the market. ‘If we have not yet made up our minds about Blake, we have no longer any excuse for not doing so’: the customarily feline and elusive ‘we’ with which Eliot opens may be seen as addressing an elite minority of Anglo-Catholic royalists, yet even the equivocation undercuts the close of the earlier essay and returns to the open-mindedness of ‘riddle’. ‘This volume [by Keynes] will introduce many readers to parts of Blake’s work which are previously almost unknown.’ Among the latter Eliot himself might perhaps be included: on the basis of the extremely limited citation in the Clark lectures and elsewhere, one might reasonably infer that he had not previously read the prophecies beyond the extracts included in Yeats’s Muses Library selection and Sampson’s Oxford edition. There are generous tributes to the prose, marginalia and letters, notably for the previously unavailable An Island in the Moon, and particularly high praise for The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as ‘one of his most amazing works, a book equal in importance to Thus Spake Zarathustra’. There is also particular emphasis on Blake as the ‘producer of his own works’: ‘other men have painted and written but with Blake the two activities were almost one’. That is one reason why Blake is so difficult a subject: the critic of Blake should be highly skilled in the technique of verse and prose

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and the technique of drawing and design and colour (which is why I approach him with diffidence). ‘Diffidence’ hardly captures the tone of the earlier essay, but here Eliot prefigures the modern critical commonplace that ‘No one who has read and looked at it in this new edition will want to read it in any other’. The issue of text and design is nowhere mentioned in 1920: the assessment made is exclusively of Blake as writer. Furthermore Eliot pre-dates a now routine categorisation of Blake by half a century – ‘It is a book which all libraries and all individual enthusiasts ought to possess’ – and the term is far from automatically pejorative Nor is that Mr Plowman too enthusiastic; one cannot be too enthusiastic. But in this book enthusiasm itself is the theme, instead of being (as it should be) a steady glow illuminating the merest statement of fact. Enthusiasm should inspire statement; in Mr Plowman’s book it takes the place of statement. At the very least ‘enthusiasm’ has a legitimate function to ‘inspire’ and could be seen as an indispensable component of the creative process. Plowman certainly is unapologetic in his contention that ‘all that is of real value in Blake can only be obtained by the individual through the exercise of his own imagination in direct contact with Blake’s written words’ (10). Eliot offers only two, unsatisfactory cavils to support his strictures: in response to the claim that ‘Blake freed Western art from slavish adherence to nature’, some consideration is requested of his relation to recent traditions of French art, to which he can be related immediately through common dependence on Swedenborgian correspondences. The formulation ‘When Blake took for his province the human soul he found in it a world wholly unmapped and uncharted’ comes very close to the earlier insistence on Blake’s ‘profound interest in human emotions and profound knowledge of them’ in The Sacred Wood: Eliot’s query as to the potential tautology of mapping and charting may be rebuffed simply enough: one refers to land, the other to sea. It seems fair to cite an example of Plowman’s prose: Q: Why is Blake like the underground? A: Because he is most enjoyable when he comes to the surface.

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Blake becomes a subterranean poet because he could not belong on the surface. There was congestion of the traffic with traditional ideas and many banal and useless effigies stood in the way. He did not mind going out of sight so long as he could control his own routes, his object being always to arrive. Many have denied Blake goes anywhere except around the Inner Circle, but there have always been old ladies from the country who have not dared to trust themselves to the lifts of Blake’s symbols, have fallen asleep on the journey. But Blake had a terminus and many stations on the way, and just as the Underground offers town-dwellers opportunities for exercise in the country, so Blake carries his readers beyond the boundaries of the mundane shell more surely and more quickly than any other English poet. We may prefer the town; that is, we may prefer the order and disorder of the visible to the apparent disorder of the invisible for there is always a chance that we may get stuck in the tunnel and then Blake is no joke to anyone. But while it remains true that he is most enjoyable when he emerges into the daylight of recognisable country, he remains about as valuable as the Underground station would be without the railway if we are content to walk around him picking out the non-symbolic plums. Every inch of his route is the result of hard boring through the dark clay and rock beneath our feet, and although old ladies may doubt it, the whole labyrinth is illuminated by the light of a superb intelligence. This jocular conceit pays homage to Blake’s modernity as well as playfully evoking the difficulties of negotiating his work: Eliot’s ‘traditional ideas’ have become ‘congestion of the traffic … with many banal and useless effigies stood in the way’. For Eliot, Plowman’s ‘disappointing book … might better be called “Preface to an Introduction to an Introduction”’. This recessive element is common to much classic Blake criticism, notably Frye’s: in terms of the proliferation of possible contexts, as Denis Saurat remarks, ‘The more we study and the more persuaded we become that there was not one absurdity in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century that Blake did not know’ (59). Eliot’s initial voracity should be noted: ‘I turned from page to page hungrily, always hoping finally to be introduced but’ – introducing a somewhat querulous note of social hierarchy – ‘the introduction never came off’: ‘If we must choose between the popular style of Mr Plowman and the university style of Miss White we plump for the latter.’ The criteria underlying the 1920 strictures are now rescinded in favour of another set of reservations: ‘I am not sure there is any such thing as mystical poetry. Mysticism after all and whatever we think of

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it is a whole-time job; and so is poetry.’ The bathetic ‘whole-time job’ recalls the earlier ethos of professionalism. (Though why can’t Blake job-share poetry and mysticism as well as text and design?) Eliot had himself earlier remarked with regard to Blake’s quatrains, ‘Such professionalism is art’s hard work on style with singleness of purpose’. It is perhaps predictable that the ‘last canto of the Paradiso’ is invoked as an Arnoldian touchstone of mystical poetry, but the status of the other two examples remains unclear: ‘Wordsworth’s great ode’ as ‘simply great poetry based on a fallacy’ may be related to Eliot’s later evocations of childhood (as intimations of transience rather than immortality), but the praise of Herbert Crashaw’s ‘Hymne’ to St Theresa as ‘a supreme instance of the erotic-devotional’ is difficult to reconcile with his vow of chastity made in the same year. The tone suddenly lurches into gratuitous insult: ‘Blake was not even a first-rate visionary; his visions have a certain illiteracy about them like those of Swedenborg’. The judgement can scarcely be considered ‘without prejudice’. The resolutely non-juring Blake is sneered at as a version of ‘the Rev Mr Vale Morgan in the Sunday paper a few years ago’, a figure more reminiscent of Eliot’s own editorial pontifications in The Criterion and at times near-farcical sermonising in The Rock: ‘But every son would have his motor cycle, / And daughters ride away on casual pillions’ (CP, 153). ‘Was he then a great philosopher? No he did not know enough’, echoes Arnold’s famous indictment of the Romantics, but also contradicts Eliot’s earlier charge of Blake being ‘too much occupied with ideas’: He made a Universe; and very few people can do that. But the fact that the gift is rare does not make it necessarily valuable. It is not any one man’s business to make a Universe; and what any one man can make in this way is not, in the end, so good or so useful as the ordinary Universe which we all make together. This espousal of the ‘ordinary Universe’ conveniently overlooks both Eliot’s earlier symbolist poetics and commitment to Bradleyan idealism: ‘In brief regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul’ (note to The Waste Land 411: CP, 80). And to do what Blake did requires two things which are not good things. All of these commentators … have told us that Blake was

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completely alone and that he was deficient in humility, or exceeding in pride. Now Isolation is not conducive to correct thinking; and Pride (or lack of Humility) is as we know one of the chief theological sins. Blake is philosophically an autodidact amateur; theologically a heretic. The coercive (if traditionally Catholic) insistence on a single ‘correct thinking’ offers no support for the contention that the relation between Humility and Pride is necessarily symmetrical. Eliot himself had previously alluded to Thus Spake Zaruthustra, and the Nietzschean indictment of Christianity as slave morality is echoed in both the essay ‘Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Shakespeare’ and the fourth tempter’s speeches in Murder in the Cathedral (CP, 252–6). ‘Autodidact amateur’ again appears to refer to an incongruous ethic: precisely what would constitute professionalism in a mystic? As for ‘theologically a heretic’, on the basis of Eliot’s later argument in After Strange Gods, every major modern author appears to be in thrall to some variant of debased Protestantism. But this does not mean that we can afford to ignore the Prophetical Books as poetry and confine our interest to the Songs. Mr Keynes and the Nonesuch Press have made these terrible epics as readable as possible and we ought to read them. Blake was not one man in the songs and another in the Books; the genius and inspiration are continuous. This goes against the orthodoxy that Eliot helped institute and perpetuate, though the precise import of ‘terrible’ is difficult to gauge: whether embarrassing or sublime, or perhaps both at once. The Books are full of poetry and of fine poetry. But they show very clearly that genius and inspiration are not enough for a poet. He must have education by which I do not mean erudition but a kind of mental and moral discipline. The great poet even the greatest – knows his own limitations and works within them. It was Goethe who best stated the truth. The poet also knows that it is no good in writing poetry to try and be anything but a poet. It is difficult to see what could exemplify ‘mental and moral discipline’ (as well as ‘genius and inspiration’) better than Blake’s attention to ‘only the essential’.7 I now wish to examine Eliot’s later poetic acknowledgement of this in ‘East Coker’.

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V Eliot was more susceptible to influence by younger writers than his reputation as a critic would suggest. Murder in the Cathedral offers an Audenesque ‘hungry hawk’ who ‘will only soar and hover, circling lower, / Waiting excuse, pretence, opportunity’ (CP, 246). As Faber publisher, Eliot started cultivating neo-Romantic writers such as George Barker and Henry Treece from the late 1930s onwards; the impact of their work is immediately evident in the lyric second sections of Four Quartets. A sequence preoccupied with the relation of the eternal to the present moment has innumerable romantic antecedents. ‘East Coker’, according to Eliot himself in a letter to Richard Aldington, was a conscious attempt at reconciliation with the tradition of Blake and Yeats (cited in Ackroyd 1984, 255). ‘And the deep lane insists on the direction / Into the village’ (CP, 177): this is a move into historical time, the Somerset location from which Eliot’s forbears departed to America, but also perhaps to another hamlet, Felpham, and the realm of Blakean pastoral: In that open field If you do not come too close, if you do not come to close On a summer midnight, you can hear the music Of the weak pipe and the little drum And see them dancing around the bonfire The association of man and woman In dausingne, signifying matrimonie … (CP, 177–8) Eliot’s dance becomes explicitly a courtship ritual rather than a display of childish ‘sports’ but Blake’s poem, ‘The Ecchoing Green’, has its own peculiarly intense nostalgia: Such such were the joys When we all girls & boys In our youth-time were seen On the Ecchoing Green. (E 8) An idealised past is evoked from which the present narrator is necessarily exiled: ‘Ecchoing’ signifies estrangement rather than proximity, the encroachment of mortality onto the ‘darkening Green’. This scarcely compares to Eliot’s notorious finale, however:

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The time of the coupling of man and woman And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling. Eating and drinking. Dung and death. (CP, 178) The sense of historical retrospection is tinged with both American agrarian conservatism and the blood-and-soil mysticism of Charles Peguy’s Action Française, and arguably also with some rather more sinister contemporary concepts of Volk and homeland. Houses live and die: there is a time for building And a time for living and a time for generation. (CP, 177) The use of ‘house’ for dynasty and ‘generation’ for reproduction is respectively Yeatsian and Blakean, but the emphasis falls with gratuitous brutality on ‘the weakness of the changing body’ (CP, 173) rather than its capacity for delight or happiness. The section closes with ‘In my beginning’ (biological? epistemological? theological?) and moves into somewhat opaque interrogative mode: What is late November doing With the disturbance of the spring And creatures of the summer heat, And snowdrops writhing under feet And hollyhocks that aim too high Red into grey and tumble down Late roses filled with early snow ‘Disturbance’, ‘heat’ and ‘writhing’ take up the reproductive imperative of the previous lines, here oxymoronically fused (if not annulled) by ‘late November’ and the ‘early snow’ which prefigures the glacial epiphany of ‘Midwinter spring’ of ‘Little Gidding’ (CP, 191). The second half of the lyric hints at ‘Mental fight’ and ‘Chariots of Fire’ in ‘triumphal cars’ battling in ‘constellated wars’ that culminate in a purgatorial and apocalyptic finale: Thunder rolled by the rolling stars Simulates triumphal cars

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Deployed in constellated wars Scorpion fights against the Sun Until the Sun and Moon go down Comets weep and Leonids fly Hunt the heavens and the plains Whirled in a vortex that shall bring The world to the destructive fire Which burns before the ice-cap reigns. (CP, 178–9) A Blakean ‘vortex’ swallows up the ‘Sun and Moon’, thus fulfilling the prediction of ‘Auguries of Innocence’ that ‘If the Sun & Moon should doubt / They’d immediately Go out’ (E 492), and so inaugurates an era in which ‘the ice-cap reigns’. The passage may seem undermined by the subsequent deflationary move: ‘That was a way of putting it – not very satisfactory: / A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion’ (CP, 179). This ‘poetical fashion’ far from being ‘worn-out’ is a highly contemporary idiom whose ‘destructive fire’ is elsewhere explicitly linked to the Blitz. The ‘wisdom of age’, however, has itself proved deceptive, merely ‘the knowledge of dead secrets’: There is, it seems to us, At best, only a limited value In the knowledge derived from experience. For the pattern is new at every moment And every moment is a new and shocking Valuation of all we have been. (CP, 179) This may be contrasted with the encounter with the ‘familiar compound ghost’ in ‘Little Gidding’, with its ‘rending pain of re-enactment / Of all that you have done, and been’ (CP, 194–6). There the ‘sudden look of some dead master’ was primarily that of Dante, fused with Mallarmé (‘To purify the dialect of the tribe’) and Yeats (‘the conscious impotence of rage at human folly’). Here the precepts are couched in explicitly Blakean terms: ‘only a limited value / In the knowledge derived from experience’ and ‘every moment’ as ‘a new and shocking valuation of all we have been’. Or as Milton puts it,

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This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination. (40: 35–7 E 142) Eliot’s 1927 essay noted ‘the immense difference between the various types of mysticism’ and his concluding lines seem to restate that verdict (arguably as dependent on Berger and White as the 1920 essay was on Gardner). The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless. (CP, 179) This may appear to invite the retort of ‘the Self righteousness / In all its Hypocritic turpitude’ (38: 43–4: E 139). The third section gives further exposition to Eliot’s own variant of ‘All that can be annihilated must be annihilated’ (40: 30: E 142). I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. (CP, 180) This seems to be a rerun of ‘darkness’ in ‘Burnt Norton’ as a means to ‘purify the soul / emptying the sensual with deprivation / Cleansing affection from the temporal’ (CP, 173–4). Here, however, there is a specific location – ‘Or as when an underground train in the tube stops too long between stations’ (which it is tempting to link to Plowman’s earlier question – ‘Why is Blake like the underground?’) – which introduces a series of overt allusions to Milton: Whisper of running streams and winter lightning The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy

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Not lost but requiring pointing to the agony Of death and birth. (CP, 180) Just in this Moment when the morning odours rise abroad And first from the Wild Thyme stands a Fountain in a rock Of crystal flowing into two Streams, one flows through Golgonooza And thro Beulah to Eden beneath Los’s western Wall The other flows thro the Aeriel Void & all the Churches Meeting again in Golgonooza beyond Satans Seat The Wild Thyme is Los’s Messenger to Eden, a mighty Demon … (35: 48–54: E 136) In both passages, the ‘Wild Thyme’ serves as ‘Los’s Messenger to Eden’; Blake’s ‘two streams’ exude the ‘whisper of running streams’; Ololon’s descent (‘but as the / Flash of lightning but more quick’ [36: 18–19 E 137]) is alluded to in ‘winter lightning’; and the Blakes’ ‘Cottage Garden’ in Felpham has become the residence of ‘laughter’. After an elaborate theological conceit of ‘Adam’s curse’ and ‘the whole earth’ as ‘our hospital / Endowed by the ruined millionaire’ (CP, 181–2), the final section returns to pay homage to Blake: And so each venture Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate With shabby equipment always deteriorating In the general mess of imprecision of feeling, Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer By strength and submission, has already been discovered Once or twice, or several times by men whom one cannot hope To emulate – but there is no competition – There is only the fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss. For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. (CP 182)

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The vocabulary – ‘raids’, ‘squads’, ‘equipment’, even ‘mess’ – refers to the military situation after Dunkirk: ‘the fight to recover what has been lost … under conditions / That seem unpropitious’. Yet its very faltering stoicism recalls by inversion a mode of ‘Mental Fight’ as ‘strength’ rather than ‘submission’. Similarly, ‘imprecision of feeling / Undisciplined squads of emotion’ evokes Blake’s gift for ‘exact statement’ and ‘extraordinary labour of simplification’, which can exhibit ‘the essential strength or sickness of the human soul’. And what there is to conquer By strength and submission, has already been discovered Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope To emulate – but there is no competition … (CP, 182) Or as Blake puts it in his annotations to Wordsworth, ‘I cannot think that real Poets have any competition None are greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven it is so in Poetry’ (E 665). For those of us who persist, as one of Ashbery’s titles puts it, in ‘Loving Mad Tom’ as a writer, this is perhaps the optimum conclusion.

Notes 1. The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1969), 136–37; hereafter CP. 2. ‘The Naked Man’ (Athenaeum 4681 [16 January 1920]), 72–3; revised and enlarged in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry & Criticism (London: Methuen: 1920 2nd edn. rev. 1928), hereafter SW; also in Selected Essays (London: Faber and Faber, 1932; 3rd edn. rev 1951), hereafter SE. 3. ‘In Memory of Henry James’, Egoist (5.1 January 1918), 1–2; reprinted in The Shock of Recognition, ed. Edmund Wilson (New York: Doubleday, 1943), 854–8; hereafter HJ. 4. Karen Shabeti, in ‘The Question of Blake’s Hostility to the Jews’, ELH 63 (1996) 139–62, notes that the issue of anti-Semitism has been allowed to ‘fly in under critical radar’ (139): for example, in the annotations to Watson, ‘the Jewish scriptures which are only an Example of the wickedness and deceit of the Jews and were written as an Example of the possibility of Human Beastliness in all its branches’ (E 614). The Collected Writings of Edward Irving, 5 vols (London: Alexander Strahan and Co., 1865), 1: 181–6, I: 89). For Eliot’s comment, see After Strange Gods (London: Faber and Faber/Harcourt Brace & Co., 1934), 20; hereafter ASG. 5. ‘The Hawthorne Aspect’, The Little Review 5.4 (August 1918) 47–53; hereafter HA; ‘A Sceptical Patrician’, Athenaeum 4647 (23 May 1919) 361–2;

Eliot on Blake, Blake in Eliot 99 hereafter SP; ‘American Literature’, Athenaeum 4643 (25 April 1919) 236–7; hereafter AL. 6. ‘American Literature and the American Language’ (St Louis: Washington University Studies, 1953); reprinted in To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 43–60 (59); hereafter ALAL. 7. The invocation of Goethe, who in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism is said to have dabbled in ‘both philosophy and poetry and made no great success of either’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1964, 99) does not instil confidence given the later aside – ‘I can’t stand his stuff’ (cited in Ackroyd 1984, 316) – and the fact that the 1955 essay ‘Goethe as the Sage’ (in Of Poetry and Poets [London: Faber and Faber, 1957, 207–27]) contains no direct quotation from his work in over 9000 words.

7 Children of Albion: Blake and Contemporary British Poetry James Keery

1969 saw the publication of Children of Albion: Poetry of the ‘Underground’ in Britain, with the engraving known as ‘Glad Day’ on the cover. It seems never to have occurred to its editor that Blake’s ‘children of Albion’ are villains (first introduced in Jerusalem, 1.5, E 146). The critics, for their part, concentrated on the contents and the anthology was actually killed off. Other Penguin anthologies have been repackaged as Modern Classics, but Children of Albion hasn’t been reprinted and is current only as derisive shorthand for the pop poetry of the 1960s. It is true that Michael Horovitz’s ‘Blakean cornucopia of “afterwords”’ gives hostages to fortune and the poems reflect a sentimental image of Blake. Children of the Future Age might have been a more appropriate title – Blake’s proleptic invocation of the ‘permissive society’ guaranteed him star status, and there is, after all, a community of feeling between ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ and the ‘summer of love’. Sadly, none of the proclamations of ‘Love, sweet love’ is at all memorable, unless perhaps Adrian Mitchell’s ‘Lullaby for William Blake’ – ‘Blakehead, babyhead, / High as a satellite on sunflower seeds’ (Horovitz, 219). The Albert Hall Festival and the events of ’68 might also have had their Blakean aspects, but the political poetry, such as by Tom McGrath, is dire: ‘My personal realities / Against your politicalities, / cocks against the bomb’ (201). Many contributors enjoyed ephemeral reputations and a few remain popular performers. But the most significant group, together with a number of like-minded writers not included, attracted little attention at the time, and less, if anything, for the next twenty years, until the publication in 1987 of Crozier and Longville’s A Various Art. The anthologies have only four contributors in common – Andrew Crozier, 100

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David Chaloner, John James and Roy Fisher – but a case can be made for considering A Various Art as Children of Albion Vol. II – or, more seriously, as the authentic anthology of the 1960s – and 1970s – ‘Underground’. It is an austere book – no contributors’ notes, not even dates of birth (nor, in two cases, of death), never mind a ‘Blakean cornucopia of afterwords’. In fact the editors’ foreword makes an understandable – if unconvincing – attempt to reverse the signposts: We do not refer to the 1960s in order to invoke the spirit of a regretted golden age. Nor do we assert the claims of some speculative counter-culture, alternative or underground, an Albion in place of England, perhaps … no claim is advanced here for the existence of anything amounting to a school. (Crozier and Longville, 13) Nevertheless, the Cambridge School has acquired a recognisable identity since 1969, when most of the seventeen contributors were as active as Horovitz’s four. Amongst their innumerable small presses are Iain Sinclair’s Albion Village and Nigel Wheale’s Infernal Methods, the latter named after Blake’s description of his own technique in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. A Various Art also reopens communications with the apocalyptic poetry of the 1940s. It is customary to use the term ‘apocalyptic’ in a pejorative sense, but rehabilitation of this poetry is now overdue. I intend to use the term to denote poetry, written during and since the 1940s, in the mode of visionary modernism, on the ‘grander themes’ proscribed by the Movement critics of the 1950s; and in particular on the theme of (im)mortality (Kingsley Amis, in Enright, 17). Blake never uses the word ‘apocalypse’, aptly chosen by Harold Bloom to epitomise his art, but ‘immortal’ rivals ‘dire’, ‘direful’, ‘loud’ and ‘louder’ for his fondest favour. Writers in the Movement tradition tend to be forthright in their contempt for two entire decades, the 1940s and the 1960s; and, as in Larkin’s case, for ‘asses like Blake’ (1992, 294). Yet the poetic springs of the Movement itself can be traced back to the impassioned criticism of F. R. Leavis (whose most heartfelt polemic was entitled Nor Shall My Sword) and ultimately to Romanticism itself. A Various Art is a fusion of apocalyptic sublimity with the principled intelligence of the Movement. I intend to look at two of the contributors: Iain Sinclair and J. H. Prynne, respectively the villain and the hero of A Various Art. Both derive inspiration directly from Blake.

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One of the things I do appreciate about Sinclair is his schadenfreude – his exploitation of the true Blakean character of the ‘children of Albion’. He concentrates on just those aspects of Slayd, Hand, Kotope and Co. that associate them with the Krays, Jack the Ripper and Ratcliffe Highway, scene of the grisly murder celebrated by Thomas De Quincey and shown on maps of Blake’s London. In Lud Heat, acknowledged inspiration of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, Sinclair loses no opportunity to bring Blake into the reckoning: Lautreamont warns that ‘the weight of an obelisk stifles the spread of madness’. Hawksmoor risks an obelisk over the grave of William Blake … What cosmic order does he affront, or do we affront, by raking over these old wound paths in the Year of the Tiger? (1995, 37) Madness is the least of Sinclair’s insinuations: The sunspot code has been activated, the radio message of the Ripper … With a taste of metal, the iron of Los … malarial blood heat … Blake’s ‘sulphur sun’ … life is a disease … Hyle is straining his collar … Disease is the means of inter-galactic mutation … Cancer is star memory … Blake himself suffered when he took his outings upon these local hills: pain begins at the Angel. (108–11) These obsessions are given freer play in Suicide Bridge, a Blakean family romance, with episodes named after Kotope, Hand & Hyle, Slade, Hutton, Skofeld and Coban, and walk-on, walk-off parts for Lawrence, Mao, Jung, Hawking and ‘Peachey, the hit man’ (with shades of Sweeney and Princess Volupine): Kotope in his wife’s bedroom, black anger, the son’s knocking at the door; volvuline domestic arrangements Peachey revenges himself, he will not die (74) ‘A man’s worst Enemies are those / Of his own House and Family’ (Jerusalem, ‘To the Jews’, E 171). Might therebe some value, after all, in Sinclair’s insistence on what really is disturbing, even repellent, in

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Blake? He can justly point to the prophecies as a source of sinister inspiration, from ‘storgous appetite’ to the ‘mournful form, double, hermaphroditic’ of the Covering Cherub, ultimately Rahab, the ‘dragon red & hidden harlot’ (Jerusalem 75.20 E 231). Bold and disconcerting as it is, however, his claim to Blake must be disputed. What is manifest in Suicide Bridge is a species of nostalgia for precisely what appalled and terrified Blake. Anyone who mixes Blake and the Krays on apparently equal terms has a case to answer. The Blake of Sinclair’s imagination was a true poet and of Kotope’s party without knowing it. I cannot take Sinclair seriously as an apocalyptic poet, but I find myself compelled to admiration of the prose fiction into which his energies have flowed since Suicide Bridge, culminating in the classic novel Downriver. His prose has always been more alive than his verse, but recognising his strengths, and cutting his losses, the poet has turned satirical novelist with astonishing success. Overwrought poetry is parodically redeemed as fastidious comic prose: the ‘meat décor’ of an early poem becomes ‘visceral chutney’ (1991, 291); and a ‘crusted necropolis’ makes way for ‘the deconsecrated ziggurat of the Sugar Factory’ (252). Blake is still a constant presence, from textual traces (‘Mehetabel Road, Hackney’) to extensive quotations, but it is impossible to get a moralistic purchase.1 All accusations have been forestalled by the narrator, who speaks of ‘Blakean awaydays’ and ‘“all-ticket” amputations’, and perfectly parodies the hard-boiled style: He had the hunch something big – millennial palpitation, Zoa shifting – was going down … I knew what the Isle of Dogs meant … identified by Blake with the Dogs of Leutha … The island has always been shunned or exploited for its dark potential. (267–9) Well, Blake is exploited for his dark potential with a vengeance, but how can you hold it against ‘a logorrheic tour-guide’ like this? They staked the heart of the Ratcliffe Highway vampire. Simple insurance, lady. No snivelling about miscarriages of justice after three good black Thames tides. Bring it back, I say. The corpses looked like cuttlefish. And had about as much to say for themselves. (44) Radon Daughters might also be entitled Visions of the Daughters of J. H. Prynne. It derives its title from the ‘radon seed’ in Prynne’s finest

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poem, ‘Treatment in the Field’ (216). Sinclair can still turn a mean sentence: ‘Anthony backed off to trundle a knee-high angel, by the wing tips, to a favoured position near the door’ (1998, 38). The gym instructor ‘passing out the steroid milkshakes’; the Cambridge bookshops ‘shot to hell’, ‘gazumped by multinational charities’; and the ‘wallies from the sticks who used hair-gel to keep their ears back’ and are all wickedly observed (108, 238, 338). Sinclair’s friends and projects are again indulgently savaged, notably his own Paladin anthology of ‘rogue angels’, Future Exiles: 3 London Poets: Hinton loved literature … He would go anywhere to snort it. Even here. Even this: the introduction of a combo of lesser figures, rivals, subterraneans backing timidly into the footlights. Traumatised trench vermin. A trio of future exiles, clapped-out headbangers who had made their reputations in days when poetry was still on the agenda – when grants were there for the taking, and primary schools clamoured for beards and tin whistles … Deleted, utterly. (169) Pulped, to be precise, by Paladin. Blake is still a constant presence. Swedenborg is described as ‘Samson shorn by the Churches’ (Milton 22.50, E 117). An intriguingly oxymoronic response – ‘Andi trembled for this maggot tenderness’ – is illuminated by Blake’s image of ‘the tender maggot, emblem of immortality’ (1998, 167; Four Zoas, 136.32, E 404). A painting of ‘Blake’s Los entering London’ is executed by a psychotic with a palette knife; and a ‘forerunner of apocalypse’ pays ‘homage to William Blake’ as he awaits a ‘revelation’ of the meaning of the novel – which turns out to have been predetermined by the ‘legendary’ Simon Undark, alias ‘the conscience of England’, a weird caricature of Prynne (352, 142, 237). The book is constructed around three sacred mounds in Oxford, Cambridge and London, a triangulation derived from Blake’s Milton: ‘In Lambeths vales, in Cambridge & in Oxford, places of thought’ (Milton 13.142, E 107). What becomes obscurely apparent is that not only these three locations but also the three main characters are analogues of a single ‘intelligencer’, alias Prynne (1998, 219). The English Intelligencer was a short-lived but brilliant organ of the Cambridge School which preceded Grosseteste Review, and in which, one by one, half of The White Stones, Prynne’s best-known collection, originally appeared. Prynne was the presiding spirit. ‘Undark and the room (books, town, mount) were a single entity’ (1998, 251); and so, on the

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model of the unforgettable ‘sixfold Miltonic female’ (E133), is the sixfold Prynnean angel of Sinclair’s novel. Undark is Prynne a mile off. There are oval windows everywhere, and several quotations from The Oval Window, Prynne’s finest collection of the 1980s. Prynne, too, is ‘Famous for being unknown … A beacon of darkness’; and even, reputedly, in a Will Selfish phrase, as ‘the most intelligent entity on the island’ (183–4). Yet the figure actually described as ‘the intelligencer’ is not Undark but the sinister London policeman, Drage-Bell; whilst the Newdigate prize-winning Oxford poet ‘Germy’ Hinton bears a mangled parody of Prynne’s Christian name, Jeremy (219, 180). A number of clues reinforce the equivalence. Drage-Bell is described as ‘The pre-transformation Jekyll’ (219); whilst ‘Book Three: Drage-Bell’s Library’ begins with the pertinent question, ‘Was it the same man?’ (317). Prynne is fellow-librarian of Caius College; and, at one point, ‘Undark’ and ‘the intelligencer’ are wilfully confused: He attempted to read Undark’s vices in the stains on the sheet. Couldn’t be done. Like imagining Drage-Bell’s habits … Like finding the intelligencer dining à deux. (How many children had Simon Undark?) (250) ‘None’, the reader might be tempted to shudder. It’s part of the strange joke that this answer would be wrong. Prynne’s ‘Acquisition of Love’ is a beautiful apocalyptic meditation on his own children (Prynne, 111). At any rate, Undark’s obsession with ‘Anticipations of apocalypse’ and ‘the solecism of death’, with the ‘immortality that was rightfully his’ and ‘Fame’, which is merely ‘oblivion postponed’, is shared by Prynne and by Blake (Sinclair 1998, 184, 348, 243). The White Stones takes its name from the Book of Revelation: ‘To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone’. In ‘Star Damage at Home’, ‘the white stone’ appears in the singular as an explicitly hermetic trope: Each one drawn in by promise recalled, just as the day itself unlocks the white stone. (108)

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The mysterious ‘white stone’ is a famous enigma, of which numerous interpretations have been suggested, most concerning ancient customs, such as giving guests or members a stone tablet which serves as a pass. On enrolment in the Royal Academy Schools in 1799, Blake was ‘given an ivory ticket of admission for a period of six years’ (Ackroyd 1995, 63). According to Northrop Frye, ‘the “white stone” … is a symbol of spiritual victory’ – though his quotation is directly from Revelation, not from Blake (Frye, 253). However, ‘the white rock’ of Albion’s bed – and the chalk cliffs of ‘Albion’s ancient Druid rocky shore’ (E171) – are amongst the primary meanings of Prynne’s title. As with Sinclair, Blake is a constant presence in Prynne’s writing, from single phrases, such as ‘unacted desire’ in ‘Song in Sight of the World’ (76), to the quotation of whole passages verbatim. Prynne’s erudition and allusiveness are as obvious as his notorious but overstated resistance to interpretation – another point of affinity with Blake. It was Swinburne – as passionate about high seas as about Blake’s poetry – who recommended ‘a blind header into the midst of this sea of words’ as the best way to form ‘a material notion of chaos’. Even more alarmingly, the theory has been advanced that Prynne’s intention in referring simultaneously to ‘the auricular nerves’, to Revelation, to topical politics and to an extraordinary range of other discourses is the systematic cancellation of any meaning at all and of ‘meaning’ itself (Mengham, 205–9). This is a poet who had rushed into print about Israeli action in Jenin by the end of April 2002. There are, admittedly, some heavy seas of words. In ‘The Kirghiz Disasters’, which addresses ‘the first principles / of life’, Prynne alludes to the metaphysical moment in Blake’s Milton when the larks at heaven’s gate ‘touch their pinions, tip tip’, with an extra ‘tip’ for good measure (Prynne, 158; E 136). Yet the highlight of a bewildering poem is the ironic couplet: ‘What else is there: the captain orders the sight / of land to be erased from the log, as well he might’ (156). A rhyming allegory of the brilliant recalcitrance of much of this particular collection, Brass, but the captain’s orders are not always carried out. Much of Prynne’s ‘Song’ is well within ‘Sight of the World’. Peter Ackroyd remarks that ‘English Blake’ might just as well have described himself as ‘London Blake’ (1995, 92). Prynne is another Londoner, from Bromley in one of the ‘vales of Kent’; and Blake’s lyric ‘London’ is one of the touchstones of his poetry. The ‘stern bard’ in America might almost be Prynne: The stern bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song: enraged he swung His harp aloft sounding, then dashed its shining frame against

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A ruin’d pillar in glittring fragments: silent he turned away, And wandered down the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings. (2.18, E 52) The first collected edition of Prynne’s Poems ends on a similar note of mortification – ‘sick and nonplussed / by the thought of less / you say stuff it’ (310). Yet the solemn biblical ‘harp’ and ‘pillar’ are amongst his favourite tropes. The final proverb of Hell, ‘Enough, or too much!’ (E38) – or is it Blake’s own ironic comment? – prompts one of Prynne’s more exuberant variations: ‘Nearly too much is, well, nowhere near enough’ (307). The ‘harp’ appears in ‘Moon Poem’, alongside an estranging but beautiful trope of ‘the white stone’: These are psalms for the harp and the shining stone: the negligence and still passion of night. (53) The ‘shining / stone’ is the moon, but also the mysterious ‘the white stone’ itself. Numerous other images in The White Stones – of ‘hope in columns’, ‘a loved side of the temple’ and ‘a pillar to fortune’ – invoke an apocalyptic city not built with hands (43, 39, 50). One poem is entitled ‘The Holy City’ and another ‘The Western Gate’, an allusion to Boehme and Revelation, but also an exact quotation from Jerusalem, in which ‘The western gate fourfold is closed’ (13.6, E 156). The city takes as many guises in Prynne as in Blake and Revelation – indeed Prynne more than once aligns both sources, as in News of Warring Clans, in which ‘Cosmetic universals’ are ‘floating like the oil upon / the chartered streams of Babylon’ (280–1). ‘London’ is again invoked in ‘Numbers in Time of Trouble’, which begins with a modest ‘first (and preliminary) proposal’ to ‘come off’ the ‘time standard’, as Britain came off the Gold Standard in 1931: in Prynne as often in Blake, an economic phenomenon functions as a metaphor of immortality: ‘So, we could come off that standard … Break the charter, lift / the harlot’s curse’ (17). To ‘Break the charter’ and ‘lift / the harlot’s curse’ would be to enter ‘the Spiritual Fourfold / London’ (Jerusalem 53: 18–19 E203) of Golgonooza. ‘Numbers in Time of Trouble’ is a disturbing poem, more reminiscent of Swift than of Blake. By contrast, ‘East-South-East’ is the narrative of an encounter with an angelic figure, in an eternal moment of slowmotion lightning, steeped in Revelation, in Bunyan and in Blake:

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East-South-East And so it is the figure, gleaming on the path, the person who shines in the torrents of fresh rain. That rushing sound is already lifted as if being carried over, taken so slowly that the rate is birth. Struck into birth, into lightning and so slow the touch not at all wild … (137) The ‘rushing sound’ may have been lifted from Blake’s ‘Fair Elenor’, but the cottage at Felpham, and moment of the simultaneous narratives of Milton, are rather more to the point. The ‘Shining One’ later in the poem might have stepped straight out of Revelation, clothed in white ‘raiment’, though he did not, he stepped straight out of Pilgrim’s Progress: So I saw that, as they went on, there met them two men in raiment that shone like gold, also their faces shone as the light … The talk they had with the Shining Ones was about the glory of the place … (Bunyan, 167–70) The setting of ‘East-South-East’ in Bunyan territory also sounds like Bunyan’s Beulah, where pilgrims, in Prynne’s phrase, ‘may stay & receive wine’: ‘in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven … Here they had no want of corn and wine …’ (166). Blake’s ‘Beulah’ is a combination of Bunyan’s ‘Beulah’ and the predominantly feminine ‘House Beautiful’ (68). Citing Bunyan, W. H. Stevenson refers to ‘Blake’s Shining Ones’, though the phrase occurs nowhere in his poetry (542). The ‘Shining Ones’ is a pronominal variant of ‘the Shining Men’, Bunyan’s usual periphrasis for ‘angels’. There are no ‘Shining Women’, which gives a polemical twist to the description of Thel (attributively, by herself) as ‘this shining woman’, at the same time intensifying the pathos of her lament with ironic intimations of immortality: But Thel delights in these no more, because I fade away; And all shall say, ‘without a use this shining woman liv’d – Or did she only live to be at death the food of worms?’ (13.21, E 5)

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In ‘A New Tax on the Counter-Earth’, Blake’s ‘vision of the lamentation of Beulah’ is turned to mordantly satirical effect: First, e’er the morning breaks, joy opens in the flowery bosoms, Joy even to tears, which the sun rising dries; first the wild thyme And meadow-sweet, downy & soft waving among the reeds, Light springing on the air, lead the sweet dance. A dream in sepia and eau-de-nil ascends from the ground as a great wish for calm. And the wish is green in season, hazy like meadow-sweet, downy & soft waving among the reeds, the cabinet of Mr Heath. Precious vacancy pales in this studious form, the stupid slow down & become wise with inertia, and instantly the prospect of money is solemnised to the great landscape. It actually glows like a stream of evening sun … And here the dream prevails, announced by Lord Cromer: his warnings of crisis revert to hillside and the market town … We become who he is … Who he is tells us that what he says need not be true, in the dream to come it will not happen. (172) Governor of the Bank of England, Lord Cromer was, according to Denis Healey, ‘rich in the unpleasantness of the City of London and offensive to the detriment of the cause he argued’. In 1964, with a fiveseat majority, the prime minister, Harold Wilson, sent him packing. With the election of a Conservative administration headed by Edward Heath in 1970, the year before Brass was published, Cromer was back in business, his influence compared – ‘We become / who he is’ – to the Urizenic creation and the fall of Los: ‘He became what he beheld’ (Four Zoas 53.24, E 336). In this deceptively peaceful ‘millennial landscape’, the epiphanic image-complex of ‘East-South-East’ is spliced with another quotation from Blake: The nature of infinity is this: that everything has its Own vortex, & when once a traveller through Eternity

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Has passed that vortex, he perceives it roll backward behind His path, into a globe itself enfolding like a sun Or like a moon, or like a universe of starry majesty … (Milton 15.21–5, E 109) Whether partial or temporary they release gratitude, the moment of joy self-induced as desire turned back into a globe itself enfolding like a sun, or like a moon, or like a universe of starry majesty. ‘The spot was the one which he loved best in all the world.’ And such affection curdles the effort to be just, the absolute perception spreads calm into the air and the air works like a sea. The horizon is lit with the rightness of wayward sentiment, cash as a principle of nature. And cheap at the price. (Prynne, 173) ‘Then the possible seems / a paltry art’ is another allusion to Milton: To cast aside from poetry all that is not inspiration, That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of madness Cast on the inspired by the tame high finisher of paltry blots Indefinite, or paltry rhymes, or paltry harmonies; Who creep into state government like a caterpillar to destroy … (Milton 41.7–11, E 142) … just as Lord Cromer was in the habit of doing. Yet, for all the sarcasms of this brilliant poem, to which the dreamer-protagonist is by no means immune, he is clearly also a ‘traveller through Eternity’, an analogue of Christian, Milton, Los, Blake, ‘the Shining One’ of ‘EastSouth-East’ and Prynne himself. So is the protagonist of ‘Star Damage at Home’: That some star … should burn with fierce heat, explode its fierce & unbearable song, blacken the calm it comes near. A song like a glowing rivet strikes

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out of the circle, we must make room for the celestial victim; it is amongst us and fallen with hissing fury into the ground … (108–9) The ‘song’ of Los the blacksmith might well be compared to a ‘glowing rivet’ – in The Book of Urizen, he ‘bound every change / With rivets of iron and brass’ (8.11–12, E 74). As a projection of Blake himself, Los is given to ‘violent’ rages as well as inspired creativity and is liable to ‘blacken’ whatever he ‘comes near’. To ‘live in compulsion’ is to be ‘at [h]ome’, as the title has it, in extremity and inspiration. Prynne is, I think, as Blake was. He can express the poignant wish ‘to be warm and tired / without some impossible flame in the heart’; but the ‘flame in the heart’ is his element, as in that magnificent insistence that ‘We must have the damage by which / the stars burn in their courses’ (89). The allusion to the war-song of Deborah highlights the Urizenic quality of Prynne’s tirade (Judges 5.20). Like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, ‘Star Damage’ has ‘all the fury of a spiritual existence’, (MHH pl.19 E41) with much of Urizen’s tragic combination of complicity and commitment: All futurity Seems teeming with endless destruction, never to be repelled: Desperate remorse swallows the present in a quenchless rage. (Four Zoas 101.30–2, E 374) Compare ‘The Ideal Star-Fighter’, another poem from Brass: What more can be done … We cannot support that total of displaced fear, we have already induced moral mutation in the species. The permeated spectra of hatred dominate all the wavebands, algal to hominid. (166) Brass has been read as an attack on the Urizenic aspects of contemporary England. Such an oversimplification fails to register the extent to which Prynne is himself a ‘rogue angel’, an implicated protagonist of

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the ‘damaged visions’ he beholds. I would argue that Prynne identifies with Urizen, and that Brass is his own edition of Urizen’s ‘book / Of eternal brass’: He could not take their fetters off, for they grew out from the soul, Nor could he quench the fires, for they flamed out from the heart, Nor could he calm the elements, because himself was subject. (Four Zoas 71.11–13, E 348) Blake is speaking of himself as well as of Urizen, just as at the climax of Jerusalem it is ‘bright beaming Urizen’ who takes the ‘breathing bow of carved gold’ (Jerusalem 97: 7–8) from the prefatory lyric to Milton. Indeed, in this sense, I would advance the polemical conclusion that Blake was a true poet, and of Urizen’s party without knowing it.

Note 1. ‘Estrild, Mehetabel & Ragan, lovely daughters of Albion’, Jerusalem 5.44, E 148. ‘Chesham Arms, [15] Mehetabel Road, Hackney’ is an authentic London pub and address (E9 6DU). The road may have been named after Mehetabel Wright, poet and sister of John and Charles Wesley, rather than the daughter of Albion or the Edomite queen (Genesis 36:39).

8 Queer Bedfellows: William Blake and Derek Jarman Mark Douglas

‘All revolutionaries are in many ways traditional …’ (Blunt, 10) The association of Derek Jarman with the work and legacy of William Blake has been frequently noted in both scholarship and popular commentary.1 More often than not, such commentary takes the form of brief critical observation or poetic meditation on the affinities connecting Jarman with Blake. However, it is not the goal of this chapter to furnish the complete catalogue of Blake/Jarman references and citations in print. Rather, my aims are critically to explore a range of the latter perspectives and to elaborate a fuller, more detailed analysis of the ways in which Jarman appropriates Blake as an artist and radical, located in a tradition of cultural dissent. Critical insight into characteristic modes of popular and scholarly discourses linking Jarman and Blake is facilitated by sample commentaries from Roger Cook, John Roberts, Gray Watson and Tilda Swinton. First, following Jarman’s death from AIDS in February 1994, Cook’s eulogy, published in the obituary pages of Art Monthly, evoked Blake’s engraving Glad Day as a symbol for the deceased artist, filmmaker and gay activist: When I think of Derek I think of William Blake’s fiery youthful giant Albion, incandescent with energy as represented in Blake’s engraving known as Glad Day or The Dance of Albion. Like Blake, he identified the ecstasy of human sexuality with freedom and protested its bondage. It was this that made him so passionate and open. (Cook, 34) 113

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Similarly, Roberts’ interpretation of the visionary themes of Jarman’s GBH painting series exhibited in 1984 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, identified their source in Blake’s mythic iconography and visual composition. For Roberts the dark tones and apocalyptic mood of the canvasses, their ‘passionate indignation’, resembles ‘in spirit … Blake’s images of Urizen or John Martin’s visions of hell bursting the banks of the living’ (Roberts, 38). This comparative judgement is followed by an apposite passage from Blake’s prophetic book America: Over the hills, the vales, the cities, rage the red flames fierce; The Heavens melted from north to south; and Urizen, who sat Above all heavens, in thunders wrap’d, emerg’d his leprous head (16.1–3, E 57) Roberts’ contextual interpretation of the GBH paintings is suggestive rather than sustained, but is not different in tenor from the more developed argument proffered by Gray Watson in a perceptive contribution to the book that accompanied the posthumous retrospective exhibition Derek Jarman: A Portrait at the Barbican Gallery, London (1996). Watson observed: Perhaps the feature of Blake’s vision which was most crucial for Jarman, and was in fact a key to much of his work, was the personification of England as the giant Albion, the original (androgynous) Cosmic Man, an image of perfection and completeness, who is fallen (broken) and must be redeemed (re-membered). Albion, in his fallen state, was the subject of the 1984 painting series ‘GBH’, as well as of the films Jubilee, The Last of England and Imagining October. (Watson, 44) More recently, in August 2002, Tilda Swinton (Jarman intimate and film collaborator) evoked the Jarman/Blake affinity before an audience at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Swinton revealed that what she ‘treasured’ about Jarman’s film work was its critical relationship to corporate aesthetics, that it offered a physic to the malady of generic British film production, an ‘antidote … to the mirrorball of the marketable’. She affirms that what she values about his exploration of the ‘raw and dusty and inarticulate’ is the recovery of things hidden or lost, such as when we find ‘that loose corner where we might prise up

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the carpet and uncover the rich slates of something we might recognise as spirit underneath’. This aesthetic of excavation and recovery is, Swinton avers, also characteristic of (among others) Powell and Pressburger, Pasolini and Rossellini, Blake and Caravaggio (Swinton, 14–16). It is significant that each of these commentators is associative or metaphorical rather than precise or analytical in delineating the terms of Jarman’s appropriation of Blake, although, as Christopher Hobson (2000) has shown, Blake’s work demonstrates ‘a substantial interest in homosexuality’ (xi). What emerges with Cook is the evocative value of Blake’s engraving Glad Day which is said to symbolise Jarman’s ecstatic attitude to human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, as well as his public refusal of the repressive institutions, practices and hypocrisies of heterosexual culture (‘heterosoc’ England). The representation of what might be called, following Gayle Rubin, ‘outlaw sexualities’ in Jarman’s early films was provocative and heterogeneous, and included the sadomasochistic motifs of his first feature Sebastiane (1976), the notorious ‘snuff’ sequence of Jubilee (1978) and the libidinally charged, rough-trade milieu of Caravaggio (1986). Later, following his diagnosis as HIV-positive in 1986, Jarman’s treatment of sexuality becomes overtly politicised. Hence, the anti-homophobic annotations to the published script of Edward II (1991), an illustrated book dedicated to ‘the repeal of all anti-gay laws, particularly Section 28’.2 This text is punctuated by slogans from comic injunction – ‘save queer children from straight parents’ (24) – to carnivalesque invective: ‘You Say Don’t Fuck, We Say Fuck You’ (114). Roberts’ exhibition review offers another perspective on Jarman and Blake by shifting the critical gaze away from Cook’s picturing of Jarman-as-artist in the guise of ‘Blake’s fiery youthful giant Albion’ to the exploration of the GBH painting series. Nevertheless, while Roberts stresses the affective intensities of the paintings, he also, like Cook, illustrates the temper of the artist, ‘Jarman’s passionate indignation’, by dint of comparison with Blake. Just as Blake the man is inextricable from his work in popular aesthetic reception, so the biographical imperative provides the lynchpin to the critical response to Jarman’s richly inventive and multidisciplinary work in painting and design, film, writing and gardening. As noted above, Swinton’s keynote speech at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, published as ‘Letter to an Angel’ in the Guardian, locates Jarman in the company of Blake because of a shared practice of cultural excavation and visionary aesthetics. Both are committed in

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Swinton’s terms to the revelation of what she calls ‘spirit’ obscured or covered over by the banal commodities of everyday life, here a carpet. However, it is also significant that while Swinton’s speech acknowledges Jarman’s cultural concerns with refashioning the cinematic discourse of Englishness, she positions him beyond the limits of a narrow national field of influences and passions. Instead, Jarman is located in an expansive European aesthetic and cultural context that includes Blake, British and Italian filmmakers as well as the early baroque artist Caravaggio. To some degree, Swinton’s argument here is adjacent to Colin MacCabe’s reflections on Jarman’s film as a practice of ‘postnational’ European cinema. For MacCabe, the importance of Jarman’s adaptations of The Tempest (1979) and Edward II is that they ‘enable us to understand something of the specificity of European film’ by putting the question of the nation-state ‘within a global context which emphasises the local and the international’. MacCabe continues: It is no accident that Jarman never hesitates to stress his cultural conservatism, for what he returns to, again and again, are the founding myths of Englishness. Jarman, it could be argued, is trying to rescue, from underneath the monument of the nation, the last ethnic minority – the English. It is exactly the release of buried ethnicities which constitutes the reality and risks of European culture and politics today … [and] in so far that European film-makers make films that are specifically European, those films will focus on the reality of national identities and the possibilities that are contained in their transgression. (MacCabe, 114–15) Like Swinton, MacCabe evaluates Jarman’s films in terms of a cultural task of ‘rescue’ and ‘release’, but shifts the language of the metaphor from domestic iconography, Swinton’s ‘rich slates’ obscured by carpet, to the state’s erection of monumental identities which bury and repress other, transgressive ways of performing English identity. What, then, explains this widely affirmed Blakean afterimage in the cultural texts of Derek Jarman? Hobson aside, it is by no means obvious that Jarman and Blake make comfortable bedfellows. Whereas Jarman’s anti-establishment politics are shaped by a peculiarly complex and elite English structure of feeling, a queer cultural conservatism, Blake’s cultural radicalism is born of an earlier and entirely different class formation: the antinomian, dissenting traditions and revolutionary Jacobinism of late eighteenth-century artisan London. Moreover,

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while there are important references to Blake in Jarman’s writing (we will explore some of these in a detailed manner later), Blake is not subjected to film treatment in the way that Caravaggio is. In the former, Jarman saw a queer artist whose painterly inventiveness with light and shadow prefigured the dramatic painting-in-light of the cinema, whereas Blake reviled ‘that infernal machine called Chiaro Oscuro’ (E 547), decrying the falsity of its aesthetic: Such art of losing the outlines … loses all character, and leaves what some people call expression; but this is a false notion of expression; expression cannot exist without character as its stamina; and neither character nor its expression can exist without firm and determinate outline. (E 549) Michelangelo not Caravaggio was Blake’s Renaissance mentor, providing the model for his early engraving Joseph of Arimathea among The Rocks of Albion (1773) and for numerous pieces throughout his oeuvre, such as the notably Michelangelesque figures of the elements Water, Earth, Air and Fire from The Gates of Paradise engravings (1793). While Jarman clearly recognised the influences of Michelangelo on Blake’s visual art, the significance of this influence is not without ambiguity for him. Jarman’s notebooks and journals are, in part, an attempt to trace a gay genealogy across Western history and the arts and in this context Michelangelo is unfavourably contrasted with Leonardo da Vinci. The former is satirised for his composition of ‘muscle men’ and women whose bodies are ‘scrambled with weightlifters on steroids’, even while his tortured sexuality and bad object choices are identified as the creative source, the erotic motive that animates his art: Michelangelo … was one of those Queers who fall for straight boys – a self-inflicted loneliness which he displaced with guilt and love of God. … The self-hatred of the flayed self-portrait in the Last Judgment – a deeply troubled spiritual journey to self-denial, and one of the greatest masterpieces. (Jarman 1995, 98) And a masterpiece that, as is well known, stands behind the original watercolour and subsequent reworkings of Blake’s own Vision of the Last Judgement (1808).

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It would be wrong to conclude from the evidence adduced here that Jarman was ambivalent about Blake. On the contrary, Blake is acknowledged as major influence by Jarman himself and, as we have seen, this is echoed by Jarman’s commentators and admirers alike. Nevertheless, the evidence also warns us that we cannot simply read the latter’s work as if it were merely a pastiche or simple imitation of former. In this regard, Watson’s interpretative schema, quoted above, which renders Blake’s ‘personification of England as the giant Albion’ the touchstone for much of Jarman’s work overstates the case for influence. In fact, MacCabe is much closer to the mark when he argues that ‘for Jarman the investigation of what it is to be English is inseparable from a reworking of the controlling myths of the English Renaissance’ (MacCabe, 109). Nevertheless, one of the richest veins of Blakean ideas and motifs in Jarman’s work is to be found in his notebooks and journals, especially when these are augmented by material derived from the interview transcripts. Amongst the more prominent treatments of Blake is to cast him in the role of the emblematic artist, whose work forms part of an enduring genealogy: ‘I am working in a long tradition of artists looking back from their own times and using the past to get over their ideas – think of Blake’s Dream of Albion or Shakespeare and the history plays’ (1986, 3–4). Jarman’s conceptualisation of tradition is given here in specifically national terms and conjoins the exemplary Blake and Shakespeare, the cultural radical and the culturally revered, in terms of how each mobilises ‘the past’ in order to articulate or communicate ideas about the present. Shakespeare’s history plays are political texts that look backwards in order to consolidate the Tudor dynastic myth, and in so doing become, as Jarman noted in conversation with Simon Field and Michael O’Pray, central to the English tradition: ‘Elizabethan England is our cultural Arcadia, as Shakespeare is the essential pivot of our culture’ (49). Like Blake, Jarman had an active imaginative apprehension of the national past and its cultural traditions and for both, in Jarman’s words, ‘The present is filled by echoes of past’ (1995, 57). Jarman develops this point in the interview with Field and O’Pray, arguing that ‘ideologists’, commencing with Nicolas Poussin, continuing with the Pre-Raphaelites and culminating in the late twentieth-century British heritage filmmakers, work to ‘reconstruct the past with the look of the past’. This method is, he avers, ‘archaeological’ in the way it visualises the past and contrasts sharply with his own anti-historicism which is grounded in a rival tradition ‘in which the past is always contempo-

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rary, in the sense that the past is always the present’ (Field and O’Pray, 55). That is, Jarman understands the past as neither classical ideal nor source of nostalgia but as contemporary in so far as it is oriented to the present and interpreted as the locus of continuing tradition and cultural innovation. For example, Jubilee counters the historicism of the ideologists, their ‘archaeological’ method, by experimenting with chronology and temporal frames. The film juxtaposes the evocative Tudor mise-en-scène of the opening sequence, a scene set in the garden of Dr John Dee’s house at Mortlake, with representation of the urban present as a postmodern wasteland. In this sense, Jarman’s method is explicable in the terms provided by Benjamin, who critiques the linear temporal model of historicism on the basis that it constructs ‘the “eternal” image of the past’, presents the historical process as ‘the sequence of events like the beads of a rosary’ and fails to grasp past–present relations as a ‘constellation’ that ‘blasts open the continuum of history’ (Benjamin, 254–5). Jubilee’s critique of the ‘No Future’ nihilism of 1970s punk culture is captured in the figure of the punk historian, ‘England’s glory’ Amyl Nitrate (Jordan), for whom cultural mediation, ‘Films, books, pictures … art’, has been superseded by immediate ‘desire’ (Jarman 1996, 48). Amyl’s rejection of art in the name of desire forecloses on Jarman’s own aesthetic apprehension of the past as contemporary and is revealed to be complicit with the malignant forces of postmodern cultural capitalism embodied in the character of the media baron, ‘the sinister impresario of mediocrity’, Borgia Ginz: This is the generation who grew up and forgot to lead their lives. They were so busy watching my endless movie. … The media became their only reality and I owned their world of flickering shadows. BBC, TUC, ATV, ABC, ITV, CIA, CBA, NFT, MGM, KGB, C of E. You name it, I bought them all and rearranged the alphabet. Without me they don’t exist. (1996, 56–7) Jarman’s appropriation of Blake as a cultural dissident whose imagination is ‘backward-looking’ receives further critical clarification in the context of – or better, contest with – the conservative-nationalist appropriation of Blake by the ‘British Film Renaissance’ director Hugh Hudson in Chariots of Fire (1981). This period film, a biopic set in the privileged environs of Cambridge in the 1920s and based on the male rivalry and subsequent bonding between two runners, Harold

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Abrahams and Eric Liddell, provided a spur to British film production by providing an aesthetic formula for box office success, the heritage genre. Jarman was deeply critical of the so-called ‘British Film Renaissance’ and the facile pictorialist camera style and aesthetic ideology of the heritage film. Accordingly, alluding to Chariots of Fire, Jarman writes in The Last of England, ‘Your product, some muscular Christianism and jingo, crypto-faggy Cambridge stuff set to William Blake’s “Jerusalem” – a minor poet who wrote this popular football hymn’ (1987, 112). The conspicuous failures of historical understanding and cultural imagination satirised here, where the revolutionary rhetoric of Blake’s great vision ‘Jerusalem’ is turned to reactionary ends, where the heritage spectacle displaces the actually existing social conflict of the early Thatcher era, is typical of a conservative-nationalist tradition of Little Englander misreadings of Blake. It is precisely in these terms that the BBC broadcast ‘Jerusalem’ as coda to the Conservative prime minister Stanley Baldwin’s announcement of the collapse of the General Strike in 1926. By contrast, Jarman’s use of ‘Jerusalem’ in Jubilee is parodic and transgressive: in a disco-styled remix, it is the profane accompaniment to a grotesque dance-cum-orgy involving Christ and his disciples staged in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral, now ironically renamed ‘the Palace of Heavenly Delight’. Jarman’s metaphor of tradition as the backward glance is further elaborated in his moving journal Modern Nature (1994). Here he conjures the legendary vision of ‘Mr. and Mrs. William Blake playing Adam and Eve nude in their London garden’ and correlates his own cultural preoccupations with those of Blake and William Morris: ‘Blake and William Morris … all of them look backward over their shoulders – to a Paradise on earth. And all of them are at odds with the world around them. I feel this strongly’ (25). Jarman makes a closely allied point in the interview with Field and O’Pray when he evokes the mythic dimensions of English national identity: the ‘whole myth of Camelot, Blake, Tennyson – you can go through all the English artists – there’s that dream of Arcadia’ (49). Now there are several revealing points worth exploring here. The epiphanic image of the naked Blakes in the guise of the prelapsarian Adam and Eve is explicitly thematised as spontaneous play and celebrated for its pleasures of open sexuality. This paradise strongly appealed to Jarman, who had always been passionate about gardening, and named one of his allegorical films The Garden (1990) and fashioned his celebrated garden at Prospect Cottage on the stony shore at Dungeness in the shadow of the nuclear power station. Jarman, the self-styled ‘Green film-maker’ (Field and O’Pray,

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49), associates the colour green with play and games in Chroma, his meditation on colour, and cites Blake’s bucolic song of pleasure and repose ‘Ecchoing Green’ in that context: All games are played on the green. Games chart the soul, on the green of the terrestial stage. The cricketers played on the village green. Green in politics. Green in peace. I shuffle the cards on the green baize table. And under the green lamp shades I pick up a billiard cue. Such, such were the joys, When we all girls and boys In our youth time were seen On the ecchoing green. (1995, 74) The iconography of the garden-as-paradise is also glimpsed in the simple design of the engraving Blake’s Cottage at Felpham (1809–10), an illustration from the second book of Milton depicting Blake in rapturous angelic conversation in his Sussex garden. Catherine Blake captured the ecstatic response of these transplanted Londoners to the pastoral setting of Felpham in a letter of September 1800: Away to Sweet Felpham for Heaven is there [;] The Ladder of Angels descends thro the air [;] On the Turret its spiral does softly descend [,] Thro the village then winds [,] at My Cot does it end. … The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight Feeds the Village of Felpham by day & by night. … (cited in Bentley 2001, 211) It is also significant that in the above citation from Modern Nature, Jarman triangulates his aesthetics with those of Blake and Morris. All three shared a passion for medieval art, the art of the illuminated manuscript and linear gothic form. Commenting on Virgil in 1820, Blake theorises ‘Grecian is Mathematical Form: Gothic is living form, Mathematical Form is eternal in the Reasoning Memory: Living Form is Eternal Existence’ (E 270). For Jarman, in a more lyrical, less abstract passage:

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The Middle Ages set you adrift in an ocean of ideas which glow like phosphorescent plankton on its moody surface. It is another time where the clocks ticks slowly with no end, but the millennium. A clock of days not seconds in which an illuminator had time on his hands. (1995, 48) Morris’s romantic utopianism was also formed by his study of medieval art, literature and culture. It is not that Morris’s politics was driven by nostalgia, by a desire to return to pre-capitalist forms of culture and society; instead, his reconstruction of medieval art-forms was intended to posit an alternative structure of feeling to those based on the capitalist production and exchange relations prevailing in the second half of the nineteenth century. Morris, like Blake before him and Jarman after, denounced the commercial destruction of the English countryside and the ways in which specialisation and the division of labour are antithetical to their multidisciplinary approaches to cultural creativity. For Morris, as long as the system of capitalist production and exchange continued, so too would the degradation of the arts: our civilization is passing like a blight, daily growing heavier and more poisonous, over the whole face of the country, so that every change is sure to be a change for the worse in its outward aspect. So then it comes to this, that not only are the minds of great artists narrowed and their sympathies frozen by their isolation, not only has co-operative art come to a standstill, but the very food on which both the greater and lesser art subsists is being destroyed; the well of art is poisoned at its spring. (Morris, 65) Further, as Makdisi has argued, Blake’s reiterative aesthetic practice was antithetical to the logic of standardised commodity production. Blake was an artisan: whose livelihood and aesthetic values were being challenged … by the rise of commodity-based consumer culture with whose economy his own bizarre works were ultimately incompatible. And he may have had a sense that a society increasingly oriented towards the production of intermeasurable things – a logic of production repudiated in his own highly differentiated artworks – would ultimately

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turn all its members into equally homogeneous and intermeasurable units, and perhaps even into things themselves. It is against this industrial logic of commodification, the reification of both objects and of subjects, that I believe Blake based his own understanding of freedom. (2003a, 131) Jarman’s identification with Blake and Morris is, then, affirmed in terms of an idea about the past as cultural resource to be used by the artist. Jarman’s creative world is historical in the sense that Blake’s is, as Whittaker has persuasively proposed in William Blake and the Myths of Britain. Whittaker argues that Blake deploys early modern antiquarian discourse and medieval mythic history in an attempt to construct ‘a complex version of history which looks both forwards and backwards simultaneously, from origins to apocalypse’ (36). Now, while Jarman’s films do not work with the same materials and sources as Blake’s, they do share a complexity of historical vision. Further, Jarman’s early paintings, such as Avebury Series No. 4 (1973) and the related super 8 short film A Journey to Avebury (1971), evidence his imaginative engagement with the mythic geography of ancient Britain. Avebury Series No. 4 assembles the standing stones on an abstract white pictorial space bisected by red, blue and black lines. The painting emphasises the enigmatic monumentality of the megaliths by casting them on a neutral white panel in a manner reminiscent of the surrealists René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico. However, the key antecedent for Jarman’s modernist approach to the painting of the Avebury stones is the work of Paul Nash. Nash shared Jarman’s passionate admiration for Blake and he too creatively responded to the Avebury menhirs. For Nash, the stones stand ‘as symbols of their antiquity, as hallowed remnants of an almost unknown civilisation’ (Smiles, 31) and their ancient ritualistic significance infuses many of his important paintings such as Equivalents for the Megaliths (1935) and Landscape of the Megaliths (1937). Smiles’ observation that Nash unlocked the ‘imaginative potential’ of the Avebury stone circle, ‘finding in the traces of a vanished culture the means to produce emphatically modern artistic statements’ (32), is as relevant to Jarman’s creative treatment of Avebury in painting and film. Something of the complexity of Blake’s vision of history is suggested by the Glad Day engraving(s). We have already seen how, for Roger Cook, the engraving stands as an emblem or image symbolically

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associated with Jarman. Cook’s emphasis is on the incandescence of the design, the ecstatic energy of the representation of sexuality: the point for Cook is to link Jarman and Blake in terms of their celebration of sexuality and critique of social institutions that seek to police it (the church, the state, and so on). But this design, which Blake repeatedly reworked from an original etching of 1780, also reminds us, as Blunt has suggested, of a signature feature of Blake’s art, his ability to compound ‘reminiscences of other and sometimes relatively trivial paintings or engravings’, absorbing them so completely that ‘when he reproduced them that they bear the full stamp of originality’ (10). Blake’s habitual practice of reworking and transforming inherited images in either visual or literary form parallels Jarman’s work. Blunt’s conception of Blake’s traditionalism is represented in terms of the active shaping, innovative aesthetics of the palimpsest. Jarman’s films are certainly traditional in the sense that particular texts rework canonical works ranging from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1979) and The Sonnets in The Angelic Conversation (1985) to Marlowe’s Edward II (1991). However, the creative dynamics of tradition and innovation that Blunt discerns in Blake’s variant Glad Day designs finds an analogue in Jarman’s conception of his own aesthetics, which he vividly captures in a horticultural metaphor of decay and fertilisation: ‘Everything falls to the ground like dead leaves, making a rich compost, Greek statues are pulverised for lime, Roman wall paintings decay and fertilise, others grow out of them. Imaging is preconscious’ (1987, 40). This organic trope can be illustrated with an example from Jarman’s film The Last of England (1987). This anti-narrative film is structured, Jarman suggests, as ‘dream allegory’ (188). The film is apocalyptic in mood, projecting a post-industrial brownfield landscape, a desolate London in which the filmmaker moves recording or, to borrow Blake’s language, marking ‘in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe’ (E 26). Among the lonely and isolated figures so marked in the film, a group of refugees sit on a quayside. In this anonymous place of embarkation, each sits alone with eyes directed to the ground, waiting under the threat of a gun held by sinister but ambiguously rendered terrorists. Jarman has explained how he changed the original working title of the film, ‘Victorian Values’, to The Last of England when in postproduction he saw ‘strange coincidences’ between Ford Madox Brown’s painting of that title ‘of the emigrants leaving the white cliffs behind for a life in the new world’ and details in his film’s refugee sequence. ‘There is’, Jarman particularly notes, ‘a girl with a plaid scarf who

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echoes the girl with a shawl in the picture’ (190–1). This recognition of how the film text is multilayered and composite, drawing its dream-like iconography as much from unconscious sources as from conscious contrivance, suggests an aesthetic affinity with Blake as described by Blunt who, we remember, is said to have absorbed images ‘so completely and gave them such a strong personal form when he reproduced them that they bear the full stamp of originality’. In this regard, both Blake and Jarman create aesthetic texts shaped by tradition, but tradition understood dynamically, as a forming a palimpsest, in which the new text is written over the traces of other, earlier texts. Aesthetic activity for Blake and Jarman, then, is transformative rather than imitative; their reconstructions of the past are a disavowal of nostalgia, a critique of the reified image of the historicists; instead, they work to emancipate the past so that it speaks to the defining ideological and aesthetic concerns of the present. * In this essay, I have presented a number of critical perspectives on Jarman’s appropriation of Blake and shown how popular interpretations of the Blake/Jarman affinity typically rely on biographical constructions of Jarman as the romantic inheritor of Blake’s legacy. While much of what is proposed in such accounts is illuminating, too often it focuses attention away from Jarman’s work to discussion of his life, character and celebrity. By contrast, I have examined how Jarman’s uses of Blake are rooted in a conception of tradition and innovation that is antithetical to both the baleful historicism of British heritage cinema and the Little Englander politics of the conservative-nationalist right. Instead, Jarman complicates past/present relations by insisting on their simultaneity and dialogical reciprocity. In this sense, Jarman is indeed the inheritor of William Blake and the visionary aesthetics of the ‘Auguries of Innocence’: To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour (E 490)

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Notes 1. Recent illuminating, although brief, scholarly discussions of Jarman’s appropriation of Blake may be found O’Pray (1996), Peake (1999), Douglas (2000), and Dent and Whittaker (2002). 2. Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prohibited local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality or gay and lesbian ‘pretended family relationships’, and prevented LEA expenditure on educational materials and projects perceived to promote gay and lesbian lifestyles. This homophobic legislation was repealed on 18 November 2003.

9 ‘This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular Friend’: Diabolic Friendships and Oppositional Interrogation in Blake and Rushdie Matt Green

So the Angel said: thy phantasy has imposed upon me & thou oughtest to be ashamed. I answerd: we impose on one another, & it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics. Opposition is true Friendship. (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 20 E 42) ‘Opposition is true Friendship’: this aphorism, with which William Blake concludes the penultimate ‘Fancy’ in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, infuses the playful but nevertheless problematic ontology of the preceding narrative with a hitherto unanticipated messianic potential. While Blake’s fictional exchanges and escapades with the Swedenborgian angel represent a humorously reflexive satire, the political thrust of The Marriage as a whole, particularly given its production at the height of the Revolution Controversy, imbues the text’s humour with much more serious political undertones. The dialogue that concludes the fancy under consideration, in which Blake and the Angel guide each other through their respective visions of heaven and hell (17–20; E 41–2), foregrounds a tension throughout The Marriage that arises from the attempt to articulate a political perspective capable of challenging existing systems of thought without producing a discourse that is itself ossified and totalising. The text leaves unanswered the question of how the belief in progression through contraries, expressed 127

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in plate 3 (E 34), can be related to the apocalyptic politics declared in the first person on plate 14: ‘this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method’ (E 39).1 Nevertheless, the conjunction of opposition and friendship on plate 20 seems to heal the split between dialectic and partisanship across the work and, at the same time, transforms the author’s belligerent handling of the Angel, on the preceding plates, into an act of kindness, even of love. This transformative and loving opposition operates at a level outside the narrative, redeeming the representation of the Angel’s actions and words, and also functions inside the narration, redeeming the actions of the narrator, who here appears as the author’s incarnation within the text. In so doing, it reclaims the ‘time’ that the ‘I’ of the narrator, of this fictional Blake, laments as having been ‘lost’ in ‘converse’. This time is recovered through the retroactive projection of a saving grace onto the mutual imposition that has come before (see Larrissy, 199 for an exploration of this ‘imposition’). Unless ‘Opposition’ can be valued in its own right as ‘Friendship’, such imposition is at best a complete breakdown in communication and at worst a two-fold deception. The repercussions of such a proliferation of falsehood extend to the foundations of Eternity itself, which for Blake is imaginatively constructed through the sincere communication of self and other.2 The question, therefore, becomes: how can one transform the imposition of one’s own phantasy from an act of deception into a process of jointly negotiated redemption? How, in other words, does Blake invite us to think of opposition as not just an act of communication and kindness, but as a process of recreation, rebirth and renewal? It is precisely these sorts of questions, and the interrogation of moral and political absolutes that they imply, which connect The Marriage and Salman Rusdhdie’s The Satanic Verses. Although the evangelism and nationalism in later works like Jerusalem would no doubt be anathema to Rushdie, and although The Satanic Verses is the only one of his fictional works that refers directly to Blake, The Marriage clearly exerts a sustained influence on the novel as a whole. Rushdie himself lists The Marriage as a seminal text in the development of the oppositional standpoint presented in The Satanic Verses (1991, 43), placing special emphasis on a shared investment in the interrogation of existing religious and political economies, together with the dichotomous thinking that supports them. While the invocation of Blake, which occurs alongside an insistence that the Qur’an was also a major influence, undoubtedly works to validate the authorship and publication of the novel in light of the subsequent controversy, Rushdie’s references to

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incidents, aphorisms and images from across The Marriage (304–5, 318) indicate a reasonable familiarity with that text (Suter, 63). Of particular significance in the novel’s exploration of the human condition is the notion of transgression, of crossing boundaries between the human and the divine, the angelic and the demonic (73-4). Not coincidentally, visual and verbal images of entrances and exits abound in Blake’s works, and the door appears on plate 14 of The Marriage where it represents the local and personal site of redemption: ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite’ (E 39). It is undoubtedly significant that Blake represents the senses as ‘doors’ rather than ‘windows’, which would be more appropriate to the metaphor of cleansing. The mixed metaphor, itself a degenerate and heterogeneous figure of speech, ascribes a certain liminal status to perception that suggests the possibility of an alternative visitation or even an intrusion into the self by the other. This is hardly surprising on a plate that not only deals with the transformation of existence, but, as suggested above, also appears to partake in the imposition of a partisan ‘phantasy’. In what follows, it will be suggested that the shared belief in the reality of phantasy, of the imaginative basis of human existence, together with a mutual emphasis on the importance of the imagination in the self’s response to the other, forges a hitherto unacknowledged link between Rushdie’s and Blake’s work. ‘The dream is part of our very essence’, Rushdie writes, noting that ‘we can dream versions of ourselves’ and that ‘waking as well as sleeping, our response to the world is essentially imaginative: that is, picture-making’ (1991, 377–8). He highlights the importance of adopting an active and oppositional comportment in this world of imagination during his discussion of the ‘Hindu idea of maya, the veil of illusion’, a concept not far removed from the description of what Blake declares ‘A vision of the Eternal Now’ (E 592) in Henry Fuseli’s translation of Johann Lavater’s Aphorisms on Man. The blending of myth, fantasy, realism and history within not only the Satanic Verses, but across Rushdie’s corpus bears both formal and thematic similarities to Blake’s own mythopœic enterprises, which reach their apex in Jerusalem’s integration of biography, history, religion, philosophy and myth. Far from being an isolated incident, the representation of reality as the mutual imposition of phantasy on plate 20 of The Marriage (E 42) implies an ontology that is central to Blake’s early work. This perspective combines a commitment to the unity of body and soul with a concomitant belief that cultural and intellectual productions have a direct impact on human

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physiology. Not only do Blake’s promises of ‘an improvement of sensual enjoyment’ hinge on the ability of his illuminated works to alter the organs of sense (The Marriage 14; E 39), but throughout works such as ‘The Human Abstract’ and The [First] Book of Urizen we are repeatedly reminded of the negative impact that modes of thought can have on the physical structure of the human body. This sense of the extent to which ideology can affect the physical and mental aspects of the self may well have been something that Blake picked up through a combination of the empiricism of John Locke, the associationist psychology of David Hartley and Joseph Priestley as well Lavater’s scattered remarks on the degeneration of the human form in his Essays on Physiognomy.3 For all of its negative potential, however, this interrelationship of external form and internal essence offers the best hope for humanity’s improvement and it becomes bound up in Blake’s early thoughts on the generative and redemptive capacities of the Poetic Genius (E 39). The Poetic Genius can be regarded as the first stage in his development of a fully-fledged concept of the imagination, yet even at this early stage we can see Blake grappling with those relationships – the link between self and other, the particular and the universal, the body and soul – that will be revisited throughout his entire body of work. In the early tractates, All Religions Are One and No Natural Religion, Blake develops an empirical tenet – ‘the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences’ (All Religions; E 1) – into a description of the Poetic Genius that grafts the enthusiastic and visionary impulses of Blake’s radical Protestant inheritance onto an epistemology more commonly associated with scientific and philosophical enlightenment. Not only is the divine source the ‘true Man’, which gives shape to both individual human bodies and sacred texts, but as that which allows for the acquisition of new knowledge it is closely connected to the ‘Poetic or Prophetic character’ that provides the impetus for philosophical and scientific progress (All Religions; E 1–2; No Natural Religion [b]; E 3). Moreover, as a refinement of Swedenborg’s discourse on the ‘spiritual idea’ throughout Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, an expansion on the first two aphorisms in Lavater and a concerted response to the works of Locke, Newton and Bacon, the Poetic Genius as a concept makes manifest a dynamic and indeed oppositional response to his cultural inheritance. Certainly, the protection offered to Rushdie by a government towards which his writing was openly hostile highlights clear differences in his historical context and Blake’s, although such government action was itself complicated by relations with Iran. Nevertheless, the

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fact that the fatwa was issued and its implications for Rushdie’s personal safety cannot be overlooked in discussions on the oppositional aesthetics of both writers. Blake, as even a scant knowledge of his biography indicates, was familiar with the risks involved in engaging in sustained bouts of mental and corporeal conflict. The turbulent relations implied in his letters suggest that not only could opponents become friends, but that friends were liable to be treated as opponents; Blake established a garrulous reputation, with anecdotes concerning what G. E. Bentley describes as his ‘fiery sensibility’ abundant throughout Blake biographies (2001, 125). Moreover, Blake’s well-documented altercation with Private Schofield in 1803–4, as a result of which he could have been found guilty of treason and hanged (Bentley 2001, 251–66), demonstrates that his reputation for impulsiveness, propagated by early biographers such as Tatham, has considerable basis in fact. Moreover, while this potentially fatal encounter highlights the hazards of Blake’s celebrated tendency to act on impulse rather than reason, it should not obscure the risks that Blake, like Rushdie after him, took in printing and circulating work that combined political and religious discourses in a manner that could be deemed not only offensive, but indeed seditious (see Worrall 1999). Nevertheless, the redemptive quality of conflict is celebrated throughout The Marriage in contrast to the stagnation of submission or reconciliation. ‘Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained’, we read on plate 5; while on plate 16 we are forewarned that there are ‘two classes of men’ who ‘are always upon earth, & they should be enemies; whoever tries to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence’ (16–17; E 40). The virtue of friendship is not passive acceptance but active engagement, and Blake reminds us that Christ, the example par excellence of forgiveness and sacrifice, ‘says I came not to send Peace but a Sword’. That said, such division is messianic only in so far as it furthers a productive exchange between self and other. Nowhere is this lesson communicated more forcefully than in The [First] Book of Urizen in which the separation of Urizen from the Eternal community inaugurates the fall from Eternity, precipitating the division of time and space, the rending of Los from his side and the rupturing of Los’s masculine and feminine aspects (3, 6, 18.10; E 70, 74, 78). This fragmentation of existence sets up a three-fold set of oppositions – imagination versus reason, masculine versus feminine, Eternity versus creation – and in order to achieve redemption, the fallen individual must, as Otto (2000, 19) convincingly argues, ‘open the closed world of the self to others’.

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Similar issues are to be found in The Satanic Verses, which, as Suter notes, presents a ‘highly nuanced story about the ambiguity of good and evil immanent within humanity’ (63). Like The Marriage it presents the opposition of contraries as not only a source of conflict, but also a constituent feature of redemption. Rushdie’s text begins in an appropriately Blakean fashion when two of the main characters, Saladin Chamcha and Gibreel Farishta, begin a fall that is also a rebirth. As the novel progresses, Chamcha and Gibreel increasingly find themselves imbricated in a Manichean power struggle in which Chamcha plays the part of a devil, whilst Gibreel assumes the identity of an archangel. Ultimately, however, it is Gibreel’s decision not to kill his opponent when he has the opportunity to do so that facilitates Chamcha’s final movement towards personal redemption. Moreover, in the opening pages of the novel, these opponents and erstwhile friends find their moral and physical identities conflated and confused as they plummet towards earth, ‘Gibreelsaladin Farishtachamcha, condemned to this endless but also ending angelicdevilish fall’.4 The ethical uncertainty enveloping the identities of Chamcha and Gibreel persists throughout the text, undermining traditional dualistic moral categories and rendering it, in Keith Booker’s words, ‘ultimately impossible to decide who is the “good guy” and who is the “bad guy”’ (245). When the police come to arrest him, Chamcha begins a Kafkaesque metamorphosis into a half-human, half-animal monster. At his temples ‘two new, goaty, unarguable horns’ begin to grow, his legs grow ‘uncommonly wide and powerful, as well as hairy’, his feet become ‘cloven hoofs’ and his phallus becomes ‘greatly enlarged and embarrassingly erect’ (141, 157). Gibreel’s changes, on the other hand, seem to take him in the other direction along the hierarchy of being and in the same moment that his counterpart develops horns ‘it became clear to everyone there that a pale, golden light … was in fact streaming softly outwards from a point immediately behind his head’ (141–2). Chamcha quite literally becomes a devil incarnate and Gibreel succumbs to delusions of grandeur, identifying himself with his namesake, the archangel. As Angel and Devil, their embrace at the beginning represents something akin to the embrace of the two figures in the lower half of the titlepage to The Marriage; while we may identify these figures as contraries, David Erdman notes that ‘to call them angel and devil … may be to fall into an error like those corrected … on Plate 4’, a likelihood strengthened by the fact that ‘where there is a halo … they share it’ (1974, 98). Gibreel’s halo likewise has an uncertain ontological status, for when Chamcha beholds Gibreel after the latter has been

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complicit in his arrest, ‘there wasn’t any light shining around the bastard’s head’ (142). The transformations of Chamcha and Gibreel provide a fictional embodiment of the horrifying possibilities implicit in the act of positing an imaginative basis for reality and they can thus be related to images such as the Tree of Mystery, depicted in ‘The Human Abstract’ and The Book of Ahania, as well as by the ‘mind-forg’d manacles’ in ‘London’ (l. 7; E 27). Indeed, Blake’s sense that mental constructs can have devastating physiological effects is well known and forms part of a cultural legacy expressed, consciously or not, through Rushdie’s remark that while ‘dreaming is our gift; it may also be our tragic flaw’ (‘In God We Trust’, 378) and the transmutations in The Satanic Verses prove to be ideologically motivated. It is no coincidence that Chamcha, who allows himself to be repeatedly positioned in the role of a heavily stereotyped other, finds himself turned into a monster: ‘they have the power of description’, he is told by a fellow immigrant, ‘and we succumb to the pictures they construct’ (168). The changes undergone by Gibreel, on the other hand, reflect an excessive egoism, which Blake, like Rushdie, associates with angels who ‘have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise’ (The Marriage, 21; E 42). To put this distinction in slightly different terms, Gibreel ‘has wished to remain … continuous’ and therefore to retain a self that ‘we may describe as “true”’, while Chamcha ‘is a creature of selected discontinuities, a willing re-invention’ and thus not only false, but indeed potentially ‘evil’ (SV, 427). However, in a move that re-enacts Blake’s suspicion of fixity and interrogates the dominance of moral categories, The Satanic Verses suggests that our sympathies and aspirations should lie with Chamcha. Unable to escape his delusions of grandeur, Gibreel finds himself cracking under the weight of his continuous self: ‘I told you a long time back,’ Gibreel Farishta quietly said, ‘that if I thought the sickness would never leave me … I would not be able to bear up to it.’ Then, very quickly, before Salahuddin could move a finger, Gibreel put the barrel of the gun into his own mouth; and pulled the trigger; and was free. (546) In a gentle contrast to Gibreel’s embrace of death, Chamcha is able to overcome his self-contempt and reclaim his identity by entering into a loving relationship with another human being:

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‘Come along,’ Zeenat Vakil’s voice said …. [I]n spite of all his wrong-doing, weakness, guilt – in spite of his humanity – he was getting another chance … ‘My place,’ Zeeny offered. ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’ ‘I’m coming,’ he answered her, and turned away from the view. (547) Chamcha’s life-history is itself constituted by a process of oppositional imposition that embodies the migrant experience in which ‘our own false descriptions counter the falsehoods invented about us, concealing for reasons of security our secret selves’ (49). As the ‘our’ and ‘us’ here indicate, this experience is most intense for the migrant, but as Sourayan Mookerjea notes, ‘the migrant’s experience is an intensified … version of a universal one’ (117). Whilst Mookerjea’s remarks refer specifically to experiences of temporality, to the ‘experience of loss’ generated by the ‘pastness of the past’, Rushdie makes it clear that the labours of self-creation are an essential component of what it means to be human: ‘not only the need to be believed in, but to believe in another’ or in other words, ‘Love’ (SV, 49). In its final fancy, The Marriage evokes similar notions of identityformation and transformation. The fictional Blake is again present, as is a religious Angel, but this time there is a Devil as well. Angel and Devil are engaged in a heated dialogue concerning divine immanence. The Devil has the last word: When he had spoken: I beheld the Angel who stretched out his arms embracing the flame of fire & he was consumed and arose as Elijah. Note. This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular friend: we often read the Bible together in its infernal or diabolical sense[.] (23–4; E 43–4) Notably, the Devil succeeds where Blake the narrator has failed, transforming the Angel through conversation. Opposition here proves itself as friendship, effecting a messianic metamorphosis. But is this process of conversion really as desirable as we are led to believe? For all its emphasis on opposition and the necessity of contraries, The Marriage appears to end with the promise of a totalising discourse that demonstrates the negative attributes of self-closure and imposition (Williams, 217). At issue here is the distinction between a perspective that entirely embraces plurality and difference of opinion, a view that

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maxims such as ‘Without Contraries is no progression’ would seem to endorse, and one that privileges certain values above others, that ‘Energy is Eternal Delight’, for example (The Marriage, 3, 4; E 34). This ambivalence between the advocacy of particular values on the one hand, and a commitment to exchange and difference on the other, becomes particularly apparent in the preface to Milton and dedications in Jerusalem, which clearly and, moreover, evangelically articulate and promote specific cultural and political manifestos. The promotion of ‘Mental War’ as the contrary of ‘Corporeal War’ in Milton’s preface indicates a commitment to the active engagement of opposites even as it presents a call to arms in support of Blake’s aesthetic and political causes. Similar tensions are evident in all four dedications in Jerusalem, which advocate forgiveness, annihilation of selfhood and inclusiveness, whilst at the same time seeking to exclude the Deists and seeming to efface difference by reducing all religions to an originary Christianity. This difficulty crops up again in Rushdie’s work, particularly in so far as the attempt to advocate plurality is frustrated by the very act of advocacy itself. The realm of phantasy may well be a place of comfort and possibility, but, if Rushdie and Blake are to be believed, there is no escape. The Satanic Verses does not mention remarks made in The Marriage concerning the ‘firm perswasion’ directly, but it does refer to the Fancy in which they occur. The following paragraph concludes a passage in which Gibreel discovers a copy of The Marriage belonging to his lover, Allie Cone. His attention is initially attracted to some of the juicier proverbs of hell and drawn to a photograph of Allie’s dead sister which he finds between the leaves. Eventually, however, he comes to the Fancy in question: I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover’d the infinite in every thing. He riffled on through the book, and replaced Elena Cone next to the image of the Regenerated Man, sitting naked and splay-legged on a hill with the sun shining out of his rear end. I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise. (305) The fact that it is Gibreel who quotes Blake is significant. Not only does he embody the vanity of Blake’s angels, but in his failure to recognise himself as one of their number he demonstrates an equally angelic tendency to misreading. Gibreel, the lapsed Muslim who devours pork and engages in raucous, insatiable sex, may well quote Blake ‘with a

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wicked grin’ (304), but it is Chamcha with his capric phallus and penchant for transformation who makes manifest the proverb that ‘The lust of the goat is the bounty of God’ (The Marriage, 8; E 36). For all his transgression, Gibreel remains rooted in the narrow bounds of Blake’s caverned man, and despite the outward intensity of his relationship with Allie, ‘there were still closed doors between them … each kept secret a dangerous ghost’ (304). It is this secrecy, born of a potent concoction of fear, vanity and disbelief, which forces Gibreel to play Othello to Chamcha’s Iago. Moreover, it is precisely Gibreel’s selfsatisfied arrogance in the face of Chamcha’s prolonged suffering that drives the latter to seek revenge. For Gibreel, seeing the ‘infinite in every thing’ translates into a megalomaniacal vision of himself as an avenging angel, a perception underpinned in very Blakean fashion by a combination of guilt, centred on the suicide and infanticide committed by his former lover, Rekha Merchant, and sexual jealousy. The grandeur of such self-imposition, however, stands in stark opposition to the vision he encounters when he comes face to face with God, that is, with ‘Ooparvala … The Fellow Upstairs’, though there is some suggestion that it might actually be ‘the other One … Neechayvala, the Guy from Underneath’: For Blake’s Isaiah, God had simply been an immanence, an incorporeal indignation; but Gibreel’s vision of the Supreme Being was not abstract in the least. He saw, sitting on the bed, a man of about the same age as himself, of medium height, fairly heavily built, with salt-and-pepper beard cropped close to the line of the jaw. What struck him most was that the apparition was balding, seemed to suffer from dandruff and wore glasses. This was not the Almighty he had expected. (318) Blake’s Isaiah here operates as a contrary view of divinity with which to oppose Gibreel’s vision of God as a ‘myopic scrivener’ eager to ‘mobilize the traditional apparatus of divine rage’ (319). On the surface, Isaiah’s ‘voice of indignation’ (12; E 38) appears preferable to Gibreel’s irascible and shortsighted deity. However, The Marriage also expresses an awareness that even the Poetic Genius and ‘firm perswasion’, the necessaries of political resistance and liberation, can themselves be turned into instruments of political and cultural oppression: ‘it was this. that our great poet King David desired so fervently & invokes so pathetically, saying by this he conquers enemies & governs

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kingdoms’ (13; E 39). These comments made by Ezekiel in response to Isaiah’s account of prophecy suggest that the poet who cares not for consequences, may end up reinventing existing systems of oppression. The problem then, for Blake as for Rushdie, is two-fold: how can an author maintain an oppositional stance, whilst insisting on the importance of alterity and difference? And, given a ‘firm perswasion’ in the essentially imaginative foundations of existence, how can writers attempt to change minds without either wasting their time or imposing on their readership? One strategy that seeks to address both questions involves the conjunction of a particular style of first-person narration and a representation of authorship that disrupts monolithic notions of textual authority. Blake and Rushdie both conjure a devilish perspective in order to efface traditional moral dichotomies, disrupting totalitarianism and orthodoxy by deploying narrators who revel in the role of the adversarial outsider. However, what is often overlooked is that a key aspect of such narrators is their patent unreliability. Taking the voice of the devil entirely at face value is a mistake few are likely to make. Even if that voice sounds remarkably reliable in its proximity to a position with which we may identify the author, even if we no longer believe in the devil’s actual existence and even before the first word is spoken, the satanic voice proclaims itself as biased and untrustworthy. By virtue of its essentially adversarial nature, such a voice demands to be treated with suspicion: I’m saying nothing. Don’t ask me to clear things up one way or the other; the time for revelations is long gone. The rules of Creation are pretty clear: you set things up … and then you let them roll …. Don’t think I haven’t wanted to butt in; I have, plenty of times. And once, it’s true, I did. I … spoke to the superstar, Gibreel. Ooparvala or Neechayvala he wanted to know, and I didn’t enlighten him. (409) In true duplicitous fashion, this refusal to clarify makes it clear that not only is the narrator deeply implicated in the events of the story, but he is indeed the God that Gibreel meets. This ‘fact’ further effaces the distinction between fiction and reality by conflating the voice that speaks to Gibreel and the one that addresses the reader. Matters are further complicated because not only is Gibreel’s God incarnated within a form that bears a striking resemblance to Salman Rushdie, but, as Mookerjea notes, this visual allusion ‘presupposes our familiarity with photographs of Rushdie’ and ‘works because the historical author …

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has become an abstract immanence: a sign already circulating in the global media’ (111). Rushdie’s representation of himself as the narrator-God thus belies the false distinction between immanence and incarnation. The very existence of Gibreel’s ‘myopic scrivener’ is not only predicated on the iterability of the authorial image, but also depends on the author’s ability to reflect on his own role as a particular locus of discursive (and, in Blakean terms, divine) authority. At this point it is worth revisiting Williams’ concerns over the apparent effacement of difference that results from the transformation of Angel into Devil in the final Fancy of The Marriage. The first point to note is uncontroversial. For Blake the twin processes of reading and producing inspired texts are themselves constituted by a sensitivity to points of narrative disruption and disjuncture; that is, by the pursuit of radical difference and a willingness to incorporate alterity. It is also worth pausing briefly to consider what it might mean to be Blake’s ‘particular friend’. As I have already suggested, Blake’s accounts and those of his contemporaries would seem to indicate that for him friendship was anything but a passive affair in which difference was exchanged for identification, harmony or even mutual comfort. In addition to this, however, the very presence of Blake as a participant within the text implies a certain splitting of the self in which Blake the author becomes dissociated from Blake the character/narrator. The decision to place his own voice in dialogic relation with others requires a certain degree of reflexivity, a critical distance that enables the self to view itself as other. Moreover, the playful tone throughout much of The Marriage hints at a voice that refuses to take itself too seriously. Our narrator is one who will interrupt the recitation of proverbs with the declaration, ‘Enough! or Too much’ (10; E 38), and, recounting the conversation with Isaiah and Ezekiel, appears compelled to ‘confess’ his ‘own conviction’ (13; E 39). To a large extent, both Blake and Rushdie can circumvent the seemingly inevitable production of a totalising discourse not only by embedding an ironic distance in such depictions, but, more importantly, by representing themselves as characters embroiled in a complex web of interpersonal relationships. That said, the ascription of a fundamentally imaginative basis to reality imbues the authorial role with a power to affect its readers that is often masked within current discussions of postmodernism. The promotion of tolerance and plurality as positive social values need not prevent authors and readers from regarding some discourses as more desirable than others. In a world where the enactment of such values remains under threat, Blake’s maxim that

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‘One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression’ retains its sense of urgency (The Marriage, 24; E 44). There is a fine line between an imposition that is redemptive and one that is oppressive, but perhaps here too Blake’s example may prove illuminating. On one of the blank pages at the back of the first volume of Lavater’s Aphorisms on Man, Blake writes: I hope no one will call what I have written cavilling because he may think my remarks of small consequence For I write from the warmth of my heart. & cannot resist the impulse I feel to rectify what I think false in a book I love so much. & approve so generally[.] (224; E 600) In this response to the words of a spiritual friend whom he will never meet, Blake exemplifies the comportment demanded of each of us by a text such as Rushdie’s, enacting a leap of faith in which the ultimate risk is that the other we seek to embrace may turn out to be yet another version of ourselves, dandruff, myopia and all.

Notes 1. This ambivalence, which can be described as a commitment to plurality (however limited) on the one hand, and the advocacy of a firm political persuasion on the other, occurs throughout the works from the early 1790s. It is perhaps most notable in The [First] Book of Urizen, where Urizen’s ‘books formd of metals’ present a parody of Blake’s own copper plates (4; E 71), in Visions of the Daughters of Albion, in which Oothoon’s proclamations of ‘Love! free as the mountain wind!’ manifests itself through the ‘silken nets and traps of adamant’ (7; E 50), and Europe a Prophecy, which begins with the poet’s capture of a fairy who sings of the shortcomings experienced by cavern’d man (iii; E 60). 2. See Otto (1991) on dialogue and alterity. 3. Lavater’s comments on the interconnection between appearance and cultural practice occurs in the 16th Fragment of Essays on Physiognomy, vol. 1, trans. Henry Hunter (London: John Murray, 1789). For more on the possible impact of Hartley, Priestley and Locke on Blake’s ideas about ideology, see my Visionary Materialism in the Early Works of William Blake: The Intersection of Enthusiasm and Empiricism, esp. 56–61, 160–1. 4. The Satanic Verses, 5; hereafter SV.

10 Friendly Enemies: A Dialogical Encounter between William Blake and Angela Carter Christopher Ranger

William Blake’s popularity among women writers and critics probably owes as much to his radicalism, which has long attracted intellectuals on the left, as it does to his intermittent, and at times acute, acknowledgement of the social and cultural difficulties confronting women at the end of the eighteenth century. Whilst his oeuvre provides reason to consider him more an enemy of feminism than a friend, the openendedness of his writing and art creates an opportunity for dialogue, for agreement and dissent, which has been taken up by many women writers. Motives for reference or allusion can range from the wish to align oneself with a respected forbear, to the desire to provoke as a prelude to critique. Angela Carter’s relationship to Blake encompasses these poles in that she both admired him while questioning many of his beliefs.1 ‘When I was a girl’, she once recalled, ‘I thought that everything Blake said was holy, but now I am older and have seen more of life, I treat his aphorisms with the affectionate scepticism appropriate to the exhortations of a man who claimed to have seen a fairy’s funeral’ (1991, x). If this strikes us as flippant and reductive, it nevertheless captures the combative tone often used by both writers. Blake is evidently less a revered father-figure for Carter, more a fellow traveller from whom a few tricks might be learnt. They had similar methods of going about their literary business, reappropriating popular genres to critique the cultural mainstream, encouraging us to rethink our assumptions through new readings of old texts. In this sense, they might be described as friendly enemies of one another and of the cultural tradition with which they engaged at different historical points. In the course of her longest statement about her own writing practice published in 1983, Carter draws a comparison between the revolutionary periods of the 1790s and the 1960s: 140

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towards the end of that decade there was a brief period of public philosophical awareness that occurs only very occasionally in human history; when, truly, it felt like Year One, that all that was holy was in the process of being profaned and we were attempting to grapple with the real relations between human beings… . Furthermore, at a very unpretentious level, we were truly asking ourselves questions about the nature of reality. Most of us may not have come up with very startling answers and some of us scared ourselves good and proper and retreated into cul-de-sacs of infantile mysticism; false prophets, loonies and charlatans freely roamed the streets. But even so, I can date to that time and to some of those debates and to that sense of heightened awareness of the society around me in the summer of 1968, my own questioning of the nature of my reality as a woman. How that social fiction of my femininity was created, by means outside my control, and palmed off on me as the real thing. This investigation of the social fictions that regulate our lives – what Blake called the ‘mind forg’d manacles’ – is what I’ve concerned myself with consciously ever since that time. (1998, 37–8) Carter’s double retrospection – a harking back to two revolutionary conjunctures at a time of extreme counter-radicalism in Britain – provides an essential context for her own project and the starting point for my articulation of two writers and their work. It could be argued that the position of an artist with left-wing sympathies during the 1970s and 1980s was not dissimilar to that of one of a radical persuasion in the 1790s. Blake and Carter were profoundly affected by events across the Channel early in their writing careers. Blake was 31 in July 1789 when the Bastille was stormed, the year in which he published the Songs of Innocence. At the time of the May ’68 uprising in Paris, Carter was 28, having just published her third novel, Several Perceptions. Both witnessed a determined backlash against ‘revolutionary’ ideas in England (from 1793 and 1979 onwards). Their works are riven by the optimism that stems from a sense of what might be achieved (‘What is now proved, was once only imagin’d’) and the pessimism that comes from seeing those hopes dashed. Their unconventional views and choice of genres meant that they remained on the margins of the literary establishment, enjoying no more than moderate commercial success during their lifetimes. But in response to their own unfashionability, both found a self-assured insouciance in the face of orthodoxy,

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be it literary, religious, political, patriarchal or, indeed, feminist – doubtless a contributing factor in their continuing popularity. Neither writer sought obscurity: Blake’s eye was on the main chance, at least in the early part of his career, and Carter’s early and late success evinces her appeal to a mainstream audience. She is undeniably a literary writer – which partly explains the explosion of academic interest in her work since her death – but she drew inspiration from a wider range of sources. She was fascinated by the theatrical and especially by the cinematic, the myth-making operations of which dominate The Passion of New Eve. A keen reader of science fiction, gothic and fantasy, her own work has been – and should be – seen as participating in these genres. Carter tended not to distinguish between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, as she explained to John Haffenden: ‘I think I must have started very early on to regard the whole of western European culture as a kind of folklore …. I’m a rather booksy person, but I do tend to regard all aspects of culture as coming in on the same level’ (85). Towards the end of the 1970s, Carter became interested in folk-tales, leading to her revisions of Perrault and de Beaumont in The Bloody Chamber and to two Virago collections of fairy tales. Just as Blake’s writing takes on popular forms without assuming identity with them, Carter’s fictions engage with popular culture without becoming instances of it. In addition to the general coincidences of circumstance, Blake’s work is a frequent source of allusion in Carter’s fiction. The headquarters of the militant feminist group in The Passion of New Eve (1977) is called Beulah, ironically name-checking Blake’s vision of a paradisiacal, yet limited realm of ideal union between the sexes. Carter’s Beulah is also ‘a place where contrarieties are equally true’, but the women who inhabit this shadow world are bent on the destruction of men; their chosen name infers that they remain contingent on the patriarchy they challenge, just as the females who seek rest in Blake’s Beulah are emanations of their male counterparts. In ‘The Erl-King’ (1979), Carter takes Blake’s song of lost liberty, ‘How sweet I roamed from field to field’, as the basis for an allegory of sexual entrapment. The performing tigers in Nights at the Circus (1984) are distinctly un-Blakean in their observance of human custom, but in the Siberian section of the novel they vanish into broken mirrors to be replaced by ‘authentic, fearfully symmetric tigers burning as brightly as those who had been lost’ (249). This is part of the comedic resolution of the novel, in which a number of issues posed by the circus are ‘set right’ in the course of the narrative.

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Allusions abound in Carter’s fiction, however: an impressive depth and breadth of reference is an oft-remarked feature of her writing, and a similar number of references could be found to Milton, Swift, Keats, Mary Shelley or W. B. Yeats. But Blake’s politics and his style were also important, as Lorna Sage points out: ‘Blake, along with de Sade (both great guerrillas of the Age of Enlightenment), was a favourite source, because of his radical irony and the parodic authority of his devil’s aphorisms’ (1994, 12). Indeed, Carter’s Blake is mainly the Blake of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and of the Songs of Innocence and of Experience. His ability to combine irony with political commitment in these texts provides a model for Carter’s assault on the ‘social fictions’ of her day. The Marriage is a key text because of its irreverence in the face of august authority and for the ways in which it dismantles and reconfigures binary oppositions. Like Blake, Carter revitalises old genres, using parody and irony to avoid slipping into dogmatic assertion. Moreover, Blake’s belief in the power of imagination and desire to transform the world, maintaining an open-ended and utopian optimism in dark times, is also important for Carter: ‘Utopianism, always the only rational stance’, she comments in ‘Anger in a Black Landscape’, an essay at once wry and serious (49). In saying all this, I do not wish to obscure the profound differences existing between two artistic and intellectual standpoints separated by culture, outlook and about two hundred years. Religion, and particularly Christianity, is a consistent target of Carter’s work. Many of her novels and stories, such as The Magic Toyshop (1967), The Passion of New Eve and ‘The Bloody Chamber’ (1979), offer rewritings of the Fall, challenging the primacy and privileged position of the Biblical text. When asked whether she felt the need to be anti-God, she replied: ‘Oh yes! It’s like being a feminist, you have to keep the flag flying. Atheism is a very rigorous system of disbelief, and one should keep proclaiming it. One ought not to be furtive about it’ (57). Her fiction answers to Jonathan Culler’s demand (201–2) for a critical examination of the complicity of literary studies and religion, challenging the sexism inherent in many Christian doctrines and espousing a sceptical approach. Carter’s (and Culler’s) position would seem to mark an unambiguous rejection of a Christian mythopoesis such as Blake’s, a division easily explicable by recourse to the Enlightenment/counterEnlightenment opposition implied in the quotation. We may be surprised, however, to find Culler’s words also chiming with Blake’s, despite ideological differences that could hardly be more pronounced. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell subjects the Bible to a dangerously

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irreverent logic, refusing to privilege it above other narratives and suggesting new interpretations. Genesis is rewritten in The First Book of Urizen (1794), evincing Blake’s customary attitude to scripture as neither sacred nor beyond supplement. Setting out to ‘create a system’, lest he be ‘enslaved by another Man’s’, he resorts to poetic imagination and narrative to try to counteract both metaphysical abstraction and mechanistic reasoning, using myth to challenge both religious and secular orthodoxies. The radical questioning of church and state and of social norms that we find in Blake is not incompatible with the central impulse of critique in Enlightenment thinking, nor is his implicit goal of loosening the ‘mind-forg’d manacles’ that shore up such institutions and customs. His sympathies with the rationalist and deist Tom Paine testify to a dialogical engagement with the political and intellectual debates of his day, counterbalancing the anti-Enlightenment sentiments of verses such as ‘Mock on Mock on Voltaire Rousseau’. It is unsurprising, therefore, to find Carter recalling the eighth line of ‘London’ in attempting to elucidate her own artistic aims. Blake never lost the solid grasp of material conditions he learned from a lifetime spent as a jobbing engraver, proving a powerful adversary of ‘the social fictions that regulate our lives’, although he trenchantly privileged the inner world of imagination over that of material ‘reality’. Carter – who made every distinction between fantasy and reality – had little time for the Blake who had seen angels in a tree on Peckham Rye: ‘I think people do know what is real and what isn’t’, she told John Haffenden. Nevertheless, Carter accepts the significance of the imagination in shaping as well as reflecting our experience of reality – ‘there’s a materiality to imaginative life and imaginative experience which should be taken quite seriously’ – that leads in both cases to the attempted demystification of social relationships (Haffenden, 85). While she saw herself as a demythologiser in the mould of Barthes, she was also prepared – as Barthes recommends – to use myth in her attempt to undermine it. One of Blake’s deceptively simple oppositions, that of innocence and experience, exercised Carter throughout her writing career. It is there in The Magic Toyshop in the contrast between the safety of the parental home from which Melanie is forced out, and the horrors of Uncle Philip’s to which she goes; it is there in Nights at the Circus (1984) in the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ brothels encountered by Fevvers;2 but it appears most clearly in the retelling of fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber (1979). The stories deal with many of the same themes as Blake’s Songs of

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Innocence and Experience – the relationship between adult and child, sexual awakening, entrapment and freedom. They also share a common ancestry in children’s didactic literature: the fairy tale and the children’s hymn were both adopted by educationalists in the eighteenth century as a means of inculcating socially acceptable values in the young. In response, Blake and Carter engage in an external parodic appropriation of these genres, and an internal parodic examination of their own constructions. As is well known, the songs of Innocence satirise the conventional morality of works such as Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs, at the same time providing celebratory images of human relations untroubled by original sin and overbearing paternalism. Songs of Experience qualifies the optimism of Innocence, whilst being forced to submit its own tenets to the utopian logic of the earlier volume. In The Bloody Chamber, Carter reveals the patriarchal bias on which the tales of Perrault and de Beaumont are constructed, while attempting to wrest them free from their earlier inscriptions. As Sally Keenan observes: ‘simultaneously exposing the structures of power manifest in our most conventional narratives of gender relations, she transforms those stories into images of erotic experience from the perspective of heterosexual women, reimagining the heroines as active agents in their own sexual development’ (136). Thus, Red Riding Hood need not be terrified and consumed by a hirsute and predatory masculinity; Beauty need not accept the patriarchal logic that transforms her into an object of exchange: there are other options. Just as the Songs parody one another, so different versions of the same events are juxtaposed in The Bloody Chamber as a means of questioning further the claims of any text – itself included – to be either unprecedented or definitive. The stories interact with and counteract each other, asserting, qualifying and restating. Blake and Carter invite their readers to think critically for themselves, denying the validity of what Mikhail Bakhtin calls ‘the authoritative word’ – or, more properly, the ‘authoritarian’ word – casting doubt on the moral, ontological and epistemological certainties of their host discourses, and claiming ‘parodic authority’ for their own way of seeing things. If the Songs of Innocence provides a vision of a world in which children are not subjected to repressive moral codes enforced by adult guardians, there is also a strong suggestion that this may involve illusion and constraint, however comforting. ‘Infant Joy’, for example, holds these meanings in tension, appearing on the one hand as a simple celebration of new life untainted by the doctrine of original sin, and on the other, as a suspect instance of adult ventriloquism.

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Conversely, Songs of Experience constitutes a demystification of social conditions at the end of the eighteenth century. Yet the coruscating social criticism contained in many of the poems may only be of strategic and finally limited value. As Edward Larrissy (1985) has pointed out in his discussion of ‘London’, the repetitions of ‘mark’ – with its meanings of ‘to notice’ and ‘to inscribe upon’ – and of ‘every’ indicates that the speaker’s pessimism colours ‘every’ thing he sees (47). Henceforth, critique may not always be the most powerful weapon available to the radical social commentator: the version of ‘Holy Thursday’ in Experience is not more liberating and enabling for being more ‘realistic’, while the deliberate naivety of the Innocence version finds hope and inspiration. Heather Glen has argued that, with Innocence, ‘Blake by-passes “protest” and offers something much more radical: a refusal to accept the terms of the dominant culture, either by agreement or opposition’ (146). The Songs of Innocence sustains a sense of possibility that is crucial to Blake’s project, while Experience explores the depths of alienation excluded in the earlier volume. The proliferation of readings within and across the two parts of the text, only gestured towards here, show by turns Blake’s constructive and critical sides, and evince his engagement with the question of how best to encourage social transformation. This question also preoccupied Carter, particularly during the later stages of her career when she wrote the so-called more celebratory novels, Nights at the Circus and Wise Children. Yet the tension between critique and affirmation is nowhere more evident than in the two versions of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale from The Bloody Chamber (1979). At first glance, ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ appears to be a fairly conventional rendering of the story. Outside her kitchen window, the hedgerow glistened as if the snow possessed a light of its own; when the sky darkened towards evening, an unearthly, reflected pallor remained behind upon the winter’s landscape, while still the soft flakes floated down. This lovely girl, whose skin possesses that same, inner light so you would have thought she, too, was made all of snow, pauses in her chores in the mean kitchen to look out at the country road. Nothing has passed that way all day; the road is white and unmarked as a spilled bolt of bridal satin. (41) That last simile of the opening paragraph tells us exactly where the story is going and the plot develops in the expected way: Beauty’s

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father becomes indebted to Mr Lyon, who demands a meeting with his daughter. The conflict is only resolved by marriage once the beast has been revealed as a man. Carter berates the anthropomorphisation of beasts in Blake and in Western discourse as a whole in the essay ‘Little Lamb, Get Lost’, written at around the same time as The Bloody Chamber: ‘it is one of the more insinuatingly baleful effects of Judeo-Christianity that we can’t treat the beasts as, in any sense, equals, but persist in projecting on them either our own beastliness or our fantasies of innocence’ (1998, 306–7). This is Carter at her most forthrightly materialist and funniest, pulling Blake’s flights of fancy up short: ‘What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry’, from the picture, Walt Disney, it would seem. But, of course, he is not talking about tigers at all. He is talking about something blind, furious, instinctual, intuitive, savage and right. If Blake’s placid and didactic horses are delegates from the Fabian Society of the superego, his tiger is the representative of the unrepressed subconscious, even the id, possibly the mob storming the Bastille. Of course, all this is patently unfair to real tigers (and, indeed, to the mob, whom I see more as Houyhnhnms). Tigers are no more savagely in tune with chaos than the rest of us. (1998, 306–7) Blake’s tigers and Swift’s horses nevertheless provide consistent points of reference in Carter’s fiction. Blake himself might have had the Houyhnhnms in mind when he wrote that ‘The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction’, and this in turn provides the starting point for Carter’s second stab at ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The heroine of ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ favours horses over humans and other beasts, valuing exactly what the ‘Proverb of Hell’ polemically rejects: ‘noblest of creatures, such wounded sensitivity in their wise eyes, such rational restraint of energy at their high-strung hindquarters’ (62). This particular Beast is also a descendant of Blake’s tygers: his mask has ‘too much formal symmetry to be entirely human’, the girl remarking on the ‘annihilating vehemence of his eyes, like twin suns’ (64).3 Like the speaker of ‘The Tyger’ and the heroine of the first story, this Beauty projects her fears onto the animal, although she realises that they have more to do with her own preoccupations: ‘nursery fears made flesh and sinew; earliest and most archaic of fears, fear of devourment. The beast

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and his carnivorous bed of bone and I, white, shaking, raw, approaching him as if offering, in myself, the key to a peaceable kingdom in which his appetite need not be my extinction’ (67). The tiger in the story is a real tiger – like Leonora Carrington’s hyena in ‘The Débutante’, anthologised by Carter in Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (1986) – a tiger that acts as a reproach to human expectations of both animals and of themselves (22–4). As Rushdie (1996) observes, however: ‘it is Carter’s genius … to make the fable of Beauty and the Beast a metaphor for all the myriad yearnings and dangers of sexual relations’ (xii). Carter’s beast is real, and yet he cannot completely evade his signification. Across the two versions of the story, the lamb and the tiger/lion figure an opposition between sexual innocence and experience, between ignorance and wisdom. Confronted with Mr Lyon’s difference, Beauty involuntarily locates herself in the role of passive victim: How strange he was. She found his bewildering difference from herself almost intolerable; its presence choked her. There seemed a heavy, soundless pressure upon her in his house, as if it lay under water, and when she saw the great paws lying on the arm of his chair, she thought: they are the death of any tender herbivore. And such a one she felt herself to be, Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial. (45) Conversely, the heroine of ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ reacts furiously to being manoeuvred into the same spot: ‘and they lie to you and cheat you, innkeepers, coachmen, everybody. God, how they fleeced us!’ (53). This ‘Beauty’ lives in the world of experience: like several songs of Experience, ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ is set in a barren, ‘southern clime’, not to be confused with ‘the blessed plot where the lion lies down with the lamb’ (51). In contrast, ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ has something of a winter wonderland feel that could be construed as false consciousness. The story unfolds in terms that invite a Marxist analysis: the economic relationship between father and prospective husband is concealed behind a ‘magically reciprocal scale’ that Beauty fails to grasp. There is nothing magical about the handover of Beauty in the second story. She tells us frankly: ‘You must not think my father valued me at less than a king’s ransom; but, at no more than a king’s ransom’ (54). The experience of being gambled for, lost and won defines the end of childhood: ‘Now my own skin was my sole capital in the world and today I’d make my first investment’ (56). This worldliness, edged with cynicism,

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starkly distinguishes ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ from ‘Mr Lyon’, imitating a similar break between Innocence and Experience. Yet it would be a mistake to pigeonhole the stories as ‘innocent’ and ‘experienced’ versions of the same narrative. Like several of Carter’s fictions, ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ offers a profane revision of Genesis, in which the sequence of the Fall is run back on itself towards a kind of innocence. Adam is absent from this Eden, and Eve appears to have more in common with the Beast than with men who would deny women access to discourse: I was a young girl, a virgin, and therefore men denied me rationality just as they denied it to all those who were not exactly like themselves, in all their unreason. If I could see not one single soul in that wilderness of desolation all around me, then the six of us – mounts and riders, both – could boast amongst us not one soul, either, since all the best religions in the world state categorically that not beasts nor women were equipped with the flimsy, insubstantial things when the good Lord opened the gates of Eden and let Eve and her familiars tumble out. Understand, then, that though I would not say I privately engaged in metaphysical speculation as we rode through the reedy approaches to the river, I certainly meditated on the nature of my own state, how I had been bought and sold, passed from hand to hand. (63) ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ concludes with the resumption of order in the familiar shape of marriage, but this only thinly disguises an otherwise ironic conclusion. Having shown increasing signs of petulance and vanity, Beauty is emotionally blackmailed into wedlock with an ailing beast, who turns out to be nothing more exotic than a moaning man. The implication may be that Mr and Mrs Lyon are a perfect match, while the only character to truly benefit is the old spaniel that dozes off in the last line, having passed on the troublesome burden of caring for her master. ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, on the other hand, offers a Blakean transformation of sexual relations. The Beast wishes to see Beauty naked; when she persistently refuses, the Beast shows himself without his human disguise. At this, Beauty also disrobes and feels ‘at liberty’ for the first time in her life. When she is invited to return to her feckless father, she confronts the beast again, this time without fear, and is transformed

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into a tiger herself. The girl’s metamorphosis symbolises the recognition and gratification of her desire, a liberation made possible by the very difference of the beast, who uses and abuses the economic and hierarchical system of patriarchy – dismantling the master’s house with his own tools, if you like. In Blake’s terms, the tiger is not necessarily an embodiment of evil, uncontrollable energy; it can also be a creative spirit misapprehended by blinkered observers. As the heroine of Carter’s story observes: ‘The tiger will never lie down with the lamb; he acknowledges no pact which is not reciprocal. The lamb must learn to run with the tigers’ (64). In an essay entitled ‘When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision’, Adrienne Rich suggests that Carter revisits the stories of the past in order to challenge the assumptions that are so ingrained in them as to appear almost invisible, natural. She once described her writing as ‘applied linguistics’, distancing herself from Shelley’s grand claims for the author, focusing instead on the idea that writing is ‘part of the slow process of decolonising our language and our basic habits of thought’.4 But she also celebrated those stories, acknowledging their continued power to enchant the world, to inspire as well as confine. Persistently adopting this ambivalent stance, she made her most profound tribute to another (re-)visionary artist.

Notes 1. A number of critics have remarked on the links between Blake and Carter, although only Dent and Whittaker have given them extensive consideration (2002, 136–42). See also Jordan (1998), Keenan (1997) and Sage (1994). 2. I am grateful to Sally Keenan for pointing this out to me. 3. Note also the parallels with ‘The Little Girl Lost’ and ‘The Little Girl Found’ in Experience: Carter’s heroine shares with Lyca a pragmatic attitude towards her parent(s) and both texts end with the human characters overcoming their fears of (sexual) devourment. 4. She continues: ‘It has nothing at all to do with being a “legislator of mankind” or anything like that; it is to do with the creation of a means of expression for an infinitely greater variety of experience than has been possible heretofore, to say things for which no language previously existed’. Carter, Shaking a Leg (42).

11 Blake beyond Postmodernity Mark Lussier

There is, then, an incommensurability between popular narrative pragmatics, which provides immediate legitimation, and the language game known to the West as the question of legitimacy – or rather, legitimacy as referent in the game of inquiry. (Lyotard 1984, 23)

Preludium For at least two reasons, Jean-François Lyotard’s recognition of the ‘incommensurability between popular narrative pragmatics [and] the question of legitimacy’ as a symptom of the postmodern condition affords an appropriate perspective for this essay’s cartographic pursuit of Blakean influence across diverse forms of contemporary semiotic expression. First, Lyotard’s view of ‘incommensurability’ provides a widened context for the essays published in this volume, since both conference and collection explore and contest the concept itself. Second, my reception of this tension between a popular narrative base and a legitimising structure of semiotic authority provided the impetus for this work. This essay, then, seeks to extend the type of analysis of ‘reception’ performed in Shirley Dent and Jason Whittaker’s Radical Blake and actually provides, through an independent stream of information, confirmation of their discovery of a ‘rich and vital’ tradition of ‘appropriations and misappropriations’ of Blake’s verbal and visual works (RB, 8, 6). And yet, even the transatlantic triumph of the recent Blake exhibition and the explosion of exemplary critical studies confront a contradiction, an apparent waning of academic and educational interest in the protean printer, painter, poet and prophet in spite of his broad popular appeal. 151

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Several years ago, Alan Richardson presented preliminary findings from a cognitive analysis comparing numerous Romantic anthologies across the twentieth century.1 The data suggested that canonical construction only supported a ‘big five’ hypothesis, since Blake’s poetic presence, following a slow emergence, began to undergo a critical erasure during the anthology boom of the 1990s. Richardson’s study used cognitive techniques to map ebbs and flows within Romantic Studies, although the specific instrument was yoked to textual horses of instruction (anthologies in the broad yet none the less limited sphere of a university setting). To supplement Richardson’s efforts and extend its implications, I would argue that the instrument reveals more about the instructional (and therefore critical) construction of Romanticism than it does the cultural reception of Blake’s protean productivity. Phrased differently, the observer (critic) constructs the experiment (literary history), defines the instrument (cognitive analysis) and sets the parameters of observation (academic anthologies), thereby becoming implicated in the results (see also Lyotard 1991, 239). The cognitive approach registers Blake’s periodic power when measured against the other male poets, and the implication is that Blake has begun a slow slide into critical erasure within secondary and postsecondary education. The following critical response to the exhibition mounted at the Tate Gallery, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2001) can help gloss the situation addressed in this critical excursion fairly precisely. Michael Kimmelman (in the New York Times) seemingly confirms Richardson’s results, lamenting that the exhibition, on its arrival in the US, unveiled ‘the state of American education whereby Blake is now so poorly read and his art so nearly unknown’ that the poet/printer disappears from the cultural gaze (29). Yet the reviewer also evokes some of the other layers of cultural reception pursued in this essay when he notes that ‘you can’t help noticing how he [Blake] has suffered in recent decades – or benefited, depending on your orientation – from association with a long line of colorful admirers’: From the Age of Aquarius or New Age, he has come to serve as the patron saint of innumerable self-styled eccentrics, disgruntled and unpublished authors, flower children, fans of psychedelia, Jungians, Freudians, alternate lifestyle advocates, occultists, spiritualists, nudists, animal lovers, socialists and teenagers of the sort who read Herman Hesse. (B 29)

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Perhaps the reviewer has in mind those William Blake Tarot decks sold in crystal shops in Sedona, Arizona, but I have more in mind the premiere issue of Hellboy, a contemporary comic (and movie) that evokes a dark and dangerous element through Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ as controlling aesthetic commitment. Yet in spite of the very presence of a major exhibition dedicated to his work, the reviewer voices independent support for Richardson’s outcome that Blake has begun to undergo an eclipse in the academic sphere of Romantic Studies while invoking the broader cultural appeal of the quirky and ‘dangerous’ Blake of popular culture, a data-stream beyond the parameters of the cognitive study. Of course, Blake’s partial decline within the cognitive model actually results from a test environment too narrowly conceived to register the flow of influence across a broad range of cultural forms. In fact, when measured within a very different and enriched textual environment (advertising, cinema, comic books, non-fiction prose, pulp fiction and dedicated websites), Blake’s influence ripples well beyond academic confines to circulate in a vortex of semiotic (in)formation in the dense core of postmodernity. The circulation of ‘Blake’ within these popular ‘texts’ of Romantic ideology assures the lasting relevance of the poetprophet to postmodernism, and this essay seeks to bring into view this other semiotic territory of Blakean influence, one invisible to the critical gaze established in a cognitive study of anthologies but visible within a wider test group of multimedia cultural citation. These and related issues motivate the mapping herein pursued. The initial section traces a nexus of connections flowing through Blake into cultural layers of r(e)presentation (verbal and visual appropriations and citations), where Blake borrowings span broad economic, symbolic and ideological strata, from marginal (comic books) to empowered (advertising) forms of expression, although at the outset one must recognise that these categories are themselves unstable and shifting. The succeeding sections consider the appropriation of Blake’s images and words as a major or minor plot device within modern and contemporary fiction and cinema, as well as other Blakean cultural references in music and advertising.

The Blake of pop culture As was recognised long ago, Blake’s poetry and images exerted a broad counter-cultural influence during the period of the Beats and across the 1960s. Allen Ginsburg, who published an insightful little book on Blake (entitled Your Reason and Blake’s System) and produced a record album of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, perhaps best represents

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Blake’s evocative function as a crucial predecessor for counter-cultural critique of ‘master signifiers’ (see Bracher, 22–40). As Ginsberg argues: Blake’s books are useful now as explorations of the same problems we have, somewhat related to the revolutionary fervor of the sixties in America and a subsequent so-called ‘disillusionment.’ So actually Blake is up to date in the psychology of wrath vs. pity, compassion vs. anger, that runs through all of his work and is visible for our own decade as well as his. (279) The multi-vectored influence Blake exerts on Ginsberg circulated to other ‘Beat’ writers and subsequently to even wider segments of the popular imagination. Of course, the spread of Blakean influence remains enigmatic and provocative, functioning as a type of poetic shorthand for altered states of consciousness, opposition to normative cultural formation and phenomenological views of mind and matter. How does Blake’s influence spread? A partial answer can be gleaned in the circulation of literal citations and references as they pass into symbolic forms within the counter-culture itself. For example, when Aldous Huxley sought a title for his classic narrative of a psychedelic experience, The Doors of Perception, he borrowed an aphorism from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which he positioned as an epigrammatic portal of entry into the work: ‘if the doors of perception were cleans’d everything would appear to man as it is: infinite’ (E 29). Huxley’s widely disseminated book foregrounds Blake’s ‘ability to render, in words or (somewhat less successfully) in line and colour, some hint at least of a not excessively uncommon experience’ (46). Huxley’s work proved enormously popular, and Jim Morrison, prompted by course work at UCLA coupled with a reading of Huxley, borrowed from the same aphorism to name his legendary band The Doors. Furthermore, when seeking more literal traces of Morrison’s engagement with Blake, one need look no further than ‘End of the Night’, a song on the first album that quotes a couplet from Blake’s oft-cited ‘Auguries of Innocence’: ‘Some are born to sweet delight/ Some are born to the endless night.’ Yet these texts arguably remain identified with a ‘counter-’ or contestatory stance relative to the controlling culture, especially when placed in the context of immediate appearance during the late 1960s. Since Blake’s omnipresent emergence in the 1960s, the level of appropriation has widened considerably, now circulating within the most empowered cultural ‘text’ of postmodernism (advertising). Consider another appropria-

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tion of longer duration yet with relevance for this discussion, Blake’s prefatory poem from Milton (‘And Did those Feet’), which achieved hymnal status in the Church of England long after Blake’s death. As Douglas’s essay in this volume suggests, the poem has exerted broad cultural influence within both high culture (i.e. a hymn) and low culture (i.e. a football song), has been adopted by polarised political parties, and has become a cultural monument in its own right. Moving closer to our own milieu, the same poetic plea for a nation shaped by imagination and prophetic vision functions as the titular portal of entry for the film Chariots of Fire (whose opening scene is set in a church during a funeral, where a children’s choir sings the poem-cum-hymn). The same song also made an energetic rock appearance on the visionary album ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ by Emerson, Lake and Palmer in the 1970s. While the latter seemingly retains the ‘counter-thrust’ of initial appropriation (rock rebellion), the former points towards widening ripples of influence for Blake, one capable of crossover to a still larger segment of consumer culture (the cinematic economy imaged through the Academy awards). As a knowledgeable colleague pointed out when reviewing this section of the essay, the pattern of appropriation itself is even more complicated still, since bands like The Doors or Emerson, Lake and Palmer (and their products in perpetuity) themselves exist(ed) within segments of a general economy capable of exercising economic power and thereby exerting influence as culturally empowered texts, which points to the inherent complexities at work when attempting to trace influence across several layers of cultural discourses. Remaining momentarily with the widening range of musical interpretations, the appropriation of Blake continues unabated, with the National Chorus of Iceland recently producing a version of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, the techno-rock group Tangerine Dream including an electronic version of ‘The Tyger’ on a recent CD collection, and the rock band Ulver offering a fully realised musical interpretation on their CD ‘Themes from William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. Most recently, after a seminar taught on ‘William Blake and Psychoanalysis’, one of my students gave me a three-CD set arranged by William Blocom of Blake’s Songs. And when undertaking an internet search for other musical appropriations and citations (the broader Google search ‘William Blake, Poet’ generated 3,650,000 hits), versions of Blake’s works appear in music as diverse as the compilation ‘Heroic Songs’, Jah Wobble’s ‘Inspiration of William Blake’ and Ornello D’Urbano’s ‘Visions of William Blake’. While the spread of Blake in contemporary music confirms ongoing influence within one layer of culture, a fitting development in light of

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Blake’s musical impulses, another level of such influence emanates within the primary art-form of postmodernity itself, with Blake manifesting capital power within advertising, although in hindsight such appropriations could have been predicted given the vast visual dimensions of Blake’s artistic and literary works and the resources available through the world wide web.

Blake and advertising Blake’s art, especially his biblical paintings and engravings, have long attracted book advertisers, who constantly press the watercolours into the service of visual promotion as cover art.2 Turning to the theology shelf in my library, two examples immediately presented themselves: World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present (1971) appropriates the justly famous ‘God Creating Adam’ and Joseph Blenkinsopp’s A History of Prophecy in Israel (1983) employs a detail from the stunning watercolour ‘The Death of Ezekiel’s Wife’. Clearly, the particular objects of appropriation function in ‘legitimate’ ways as vehicles for the evocation of a type of content at the core of Western self-construction, yet they simultaneously restrict the free play often crafted into such images (‘God Creating Adam’ being a prime example), achieving through commodification a delegitimisation of Blake’s rather strong re-reading (deconstruction) of those traditions. A similar approach/ avoidance advertising conundrum will be encountered ater when briefly critiquing Blake’s use as cover art for theoretical physics books.3 Moving more firmly within a postmodern context and one of its more empowered art-forms might help clarify the concerns here. In one poster of Michael Jordan, while the wingspan of Jordan dominates the visual field, the restricted verbal field (centred at the poster’s foot) asserts the Blakean proverb that ‘no bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings’ (E 36). Of course, the bold letters spelling ‘WINGS’ evoke a constant presence in the visual field of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Human figures in poses approximating that which Jordan assumes appear at the foot of plates 3 and 4 and at the head of plate 14, while ‘wings’ as a verbal and visual flourish define a steady state of textual concern. Although one might view the juxtaposition of Blake’s devilish proverb with perhaps the most image-conscious athlete of our time, somewhat counter-intuitively, a similar, more recent, juxtaposition can be found on the world wide web, where Blake’s dangerous ‘tyger’ has been domesticated by association with the media-conscious golf professional, Tiger Woods (‘Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright’).

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Not surprisingly, Blake’s appropriation by the engines of advertising is not restricted to American or English poplar culture, but has emerged in Italy as well, as an advertisement for Frau shoes demonstrates. The page provides a four-layered spatial arrangement, and in the third layer (reading top to bottom) – one obviously dedicated to the body – the viewer can barely discern the phrase ‘L’Eterno corpo dell’ uomo e’ l’immaginazione’. The page identifies the author as ‘W. Blake,’ and most Romanticists would recognise this borrowing from the Laocöon design: ‘The Eternal Body of Man is the Imagination’. Strangely enough, only a year later, the Italian design journal La Casa e I Suoi Colori reproduced Blake’s ‘The Ancient of Days’ image to evoke a move towards intense oranges in contemporary fashion and design trends. Further confirmations of this ‘use’-value approach to Blakean cultural citation could be extended ad infinitum, although my most recent sighting was on the packaging for Glorious Gardens’ Smoothing Hand Lotion, which offered another Blake proverb to the constant gardener: ‘To create a little flower is the labour of ages’. Such images and evocations indicate that Blakean influence has crept from a counterculture presence to become embedded in consumer culture, or rather that the counterculture has become the consumer culture of postmodernity, a conclusion similar to that arrived at in David Harvey’s analysis of postmodernity (62). The spectrum of desire addressed in Blake’s verbal and visual works, the poet’s relentless attacks on a culture defined by consumption, and his dispersal through manifold forms of popular culture position Blake, strangely enough, precisely within postmodernity. Given that most historians of the postmodern posit its emergence in the post-Second World War period (the period that gave rise to the Blake industry itself), one might be tempted to argue that ‘William Blake’ is a symptom of the postmodern condition itself.4 Obviously, venal appropriation for advertising, for publicity, economises Blakean energies into a marketing tool. While such corporate consumption fails to evoke darker aspects of the poet’s visionary universe, the dangerous and radical Blake as a contradiction whose work pursues mental war against all forms of cultural hegemony remain encoded within subsequent imagistic deployments.

Cinematic and fictive pulp W. J. T. Mitchell (1982) long ago prophesied the eventual resurgence of this darker aspect of the painter/poet/prophet under the rubric ‘the dangerous Blake’:

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[W]here we have seen some twenty years of attempts to justify Blake as a great formal artist, we will now see a kind of criticism that tends to deface the monument we have erected. Everything suggests to me that we are about to rediscover the dangerous Blake, the angry, flawed, Blake, the crank who knew and repeated just about every bit of nonsense ever thought in the eighteenth century; Blake, the ingrate, the sexist, the madman, the religious fanatic, the tyrannical husband, the second-rate draughtsman. (410–11) Indeed, the emergence of this ‘dangerous Blake’ aptly describes the nature of appropriation at work in pulp fiction and pulp cinema, where Blake’s citational presence figures rebellion against authority and loss of sanity at the margins of culture. Such uses of Blake pre-exist Mitchell’s prophetic prediction for the appearance of a Blake beyond the margins of cultural normality, extending backwards to modernist works like Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth or Thomas Wolff’s short story ‘Child by Tiger’. Closer in time but still prior to Mitchell’s prophetic pronouncement, Colin Wilson’s The Glass Cage tracks a serial killer who writes lines of Blake’s poetry above the bodies of his victims. When the Blakean presence in contemporary fiction is extended cinematically, the impact Blake exerts broadens into eddies of culture more difficult to track with precision, given the triumph of technologies of visual reproduction. Indeed, the following sequence of cinematic appropriations, spanning the last 50 years and arising (on occasion) from literary works, supports such a conclusion yet suggests the strange range of Blake’s appeal for filmmakers. In a classic of the film noir genre, the 1947 film Body and Soul, starring John Garfield, quotes Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ as the film opens, and these poetic lines of force become something of a leitmotif for the film’s presentation of an individual (a boxer) struggling to achieve humanity within the tyranny of a corrupt ‘system’.5 In a 1982 film that appropriates the film noir genre yet filters its appropriation through the force-field of postmodernity, the futuristic, apocalyptic Bladerunner (released the same year as Mitchell’s essay), the android replicant Roy Batty returns to Earth to seek his maker (the head of the Tyrell Corporation) and to secure an extension of his engineered five-year life-span. The textual source for the film, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, presents the plight of engineered slaves designed to die in colonial expansion, and the cinematic replicant links his revolt to a mythic one familiar to most Romantic scholars – that of Orc, Blake’s spirit of revolution in history. When Roy Batty first emerges as a real (versus symbolic) presence, a

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cinematic passage from darkness into the narrative light, his words are drawn from plate 11 of America, A Prophecy: Fiery the Angels rose, & as they rose deep thunder roll’d Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc[.] (55.11.1–2, E 55) Predictably, once the film contextualises the rebellion of this sentient being via Orc, a circle of violence envelops most of the characters. However, the film also follows Blake’s resolution of the Orc cycle; although hunted throughout the film by the policeman Decker, the replicant, at the film’s end, saves his persecutor’s life even as his own energies die, enacting a Promethean-like renunciation that renders even an enemy’s life holy. Blake’s presence in one of the master-texts of postmodernity, I would argue, confirms his continued relevance for any discussion of the human condition, whether postmodern or neo-primitive. Few would dispute that Jim Jarmusch’s provocative mid-1990s film Dead Man offers the most sophisticated and extended evocation of a ‘dangerous Blake’, which projects the manifest madness of Blake to the margins of the mythic West, an appropriation allowing Jarmusch to explore Blake’s mythic concerns in a parallel mythic space. The film narrates the western journey of the plaid-clad accountant Will Blake, who travels to the town of Machine to assume a post following his parents’ deaths. Repulsed by his supposed employer, the industrialist John Dickenson, Will Blake encounters and embraces Thel, a former prostitute, who dies saving Blake from a former lover’s jealous rage. Wrongly accused of Thel’s murder and mortally wounded by a bullet of jealousy, Blake escapes into the wilderness, where he meets an outcast Native American – Nobody – and begins to kill his pursuers. Nobody (the character within/the audience without) believes Will Blake to be the dead English poet of the same name (and who utters the source of the title – ‘You really are a dead man’) and continually quotes lines of poetry from Blake. Of the films discussed here, Dead Man most overtly cites Blake’s work as inspirational source, and Blake’s vision pervades the time (mythic time), space (Machine vs. wilderness), characters (Blake, Thel, Nobody) and crisis (the torments of love and jealousy) of the film. Of course, a wilderness beyond the space of industrial exploitation clearly intersects Blake’s concern for the mechanisation of society and its individuals through the Industrial Revolution, rendering them ‘Machines’ in a clockwork cosmos unconditioned by creative consciousness.

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Beyond postmodernity Another area where Blake has tended to be appropriated by pop culture (if the somewhat more esoteric end) is that of scientific popularisation. Blake’s verbal and visual works have both been pressed into the service of scientists seeking a sufficiently robust symbolic language capable of imaging esoteric insights into the fuzzy realms of relativistic physics and quantum mechanics, for example Ian Stewart and Martin Golubitsky’s Fearful Symmetry: Is God a Geometer? and as cover art for Michael Redman’s From Physics to Metaphysics, something I have covered in more detail elsewhere (Lussier 2005). Perhaps of greater importance for the twenty-first century, Blake’s work has emerged at the crux of debate concerning contemporary reactions against scientism and positivism, where the ‘flight from science and reason’ witnessed within the humanities has been characterised by the phrase ‘higher superstition’ (Gross and Levitt, 177). Such patterns suggest that the problematic ‘third culture’ evoked by John Brockman (in a book of the same title) as an antidote to the ‘two cultures’ dichotomy of C. P. Snow only promotes further fragmentation, resulting in an alienation of mind and matter counter to the ‘spirit’ of contemporary physics and its drive for wholeness (Lussier 1996). This wholeness or founding symmetry, a prominent feature of all contemporary physical theory, has remained a steady state of concern for Blake studies, and is likely to remain so, since it forms just one of the bridges between this poet and the concerns of a new age. Indeed, Blake’s understanding of ‘fearful symmetry’, like Shelley’s concept of ‘perfect symmetry’, resonates well with the exploration of material symmetries in a broad range of the sciences. A similar symmetrical bridge undergirds Blake’s endeavour to overcome classic dualisms founded on the division of psyche and physis by extending mental processes into material forms, a position given voice near the conclusion to Jerusalem:

All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. All Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality And I heard the Name of their Emanations they are named Jerusalem. (258–9.99.1–5)

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Blake concludes his epic efforts by returning to the founding symmetry of a communicative, signifying cosmos in dialogic exchange with creative consciousness, where perceptual experience achieves ‘planetary’ extension into the heart of matter itself. Of course, Blake had pursued a similar direction a decade earlier, in the Song of Experience ‘Earth’s Answer’, which links capital exploitation of the planet as raw material for consumption to culture’s phallocratic political unconscious, a stance taken in our own time by deep ecologists and ecofeminists (see Wolfson, 16–19). Returning to this discussion’s opening concern – Blake’s continued relevance for a new century – Blake’s presence within semiosis across a spectrum of cultural forms (experimental cinema, underground comics, pulp advertising, pulp fiction) has arguably intensified rather than abated, since Blake’s position that we ‘Build the Universe Stupendous / Mental Forms Creating’ has analogues within a wide range of cultural discourses but especially within physical theory. After all, most agree that over the next century, science as a practice and ideology will extend its control over individual lives, challenging the interrogative ground of the humanities in the process through a demonising rhetoric founded on neo-utilitarian arguments. Yet our own critical discourse within the humanities has often demonised science too (Lussier 1999, 42). Blake, however, does not thoroughly dismiss the sciences, or even his worst intellectual foes, Bacon, Newton and Descartes. After all, readers tend to forget that, towards the conclusion of his most complicated epic, Vala, or The Four Zoas, ‘Bacon & Newton & Locke’ collaborate with his own select visionary company of ‘Chaucer & Shakespeare & Milton’ to ‘converse in visionary forms dramatic’ in pursuit of a ‘Sweet Science’ capable of returning all to the primordial state of knowledge. Of particular significance, the citational presence of Blake within the theoretical physics, then, points to a bridge across the disciplinary divides of the academy and of the culture. Rather than reinscribe the polar opposition between the sciences and the humanities resident in reactionary texts emerging from the pragmatic layer of scientific discourse (represented by Higher Superstition The Flight from Reason and Science, The Third Culture, or Fashionable Nonsense), a new approach – what I have elsewhere termed a ‘physical criticism’ – provides a dialogic path out of the polarised positions taken in both camps. This approach requires looking beyond the laboratories of our own disciplines and would aspire, to appropriate from Blake’s Jerusalem, a ‘primeval’ state of knowledge characterised by ‘Wisdom, Art, and

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Science’ (E 146). Perhaps it is best to allow two physicists the last words on this issue, since, like Blake, they argue for a restoration of spirit to equations of materiality: The study of physical reality should only take us perpetually closer to that horizon of knowledge where the sum of beings is not and cannot be Being … As William Blake suggested in the age of Newton, the ‘bounded is loathed by its possessor,’ and what loathing we would surely feel if we had discovered that the meaning of meaning was only ourselves. (Kafatos and Nadeau, 188) The transgression of boundaries at the core of Blake’s creative energies, whether mental or material, overcomes ‘Con-Fusion’ while promoting ‘Con-Science’ (the hyphens are Blake’s own).

Notes 1. Alan Richardson, unpublished conference paper, North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, 1997. 2. I too am guilty of using Blake as cover art on Romantic Dynamics (1999), having decided that a plate detail from Milton best captured the thrust of the approach. 3. Jameson (1992) gives voice precisely to this tension, when he argues that ‘the rhetoric of the market has been a fundamental and central component of this ideological struggle, this struggle for the legitimation or delegitimation of left discourse’ (263). 4. While I here take a step beyond Edward Larrissy’s argument in Romanticism and Postmodernism (1999), I find persuasive his sense that Blake’s grappling with systems (i.e. ‘how avoid the limitations of influence as imposed and thus redeem influence as creative’ [10]) intersects master tropes of postmodernity. 5. I thank Eric Wilson for pointing to this modernist connection

12 What is it Like to be a Blake? Psychiatry, Drugs and the Doors of Perception Wayne Glausser

The study of William Blake by professionals has become so complex that now only amateurs are apt to take on an innocent, risky question like the following: What are we to make of Blake’s claim that he had visions? Was he simply trying to mystify an ordinary perceptual and imaginative process, or should he be understood more literally? And if so, what meaning can plausibly be attached to the experiences he called visions? Should they be considered genuine spiritual intervention? An unusual brain chemistry wired to produce LSD-like effects spontaneously? A mental disorder conducive to hallucination and delusion? In this essay I reflect on the work of three amateurs who have attempted to get inside Blake’s mental world through diagnostic speculation or pharmaceutical imitation. Each discussion has a refreshing vigour to it; certainly all three produce ideas that any student of Blake should find thought-provoking. And yet, from my point of view, in each case the writer misreads Blake in the process of trying to identify his visionary essence. At the start it might be useful to situate these discussions along an axis of possible explanations. At one extreme would be the most sceptical explanation, something like the following: Blake did not really have any elevated or freakish gift of perception. When he wrote of cleansing the doors of perception and seeing the infinite that is hidden to ordinary minds, he was urging a different mode of ordinary perception in which people shake off inhibiting categories and ideologically manipulated assumptions. This is a comfortable position for many scholars who appreciate the secular, critical Blake and downplay or marginalise the claims of daemonic inspiration. At the other extreme would be the least sceptical explanation: Blake’s visions came directly from God or from appropriate intermediaries – angels, his dead brother 163

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Robert or John Milton. This is not an explanation much in evidence within professional Blake scholarship, but it is the simplest answer and an easy one to justify. The sceptical explanation is the one I was taught, and for the most part the one I pass on to students when they ask. The unsceptical explanation is one that I have never been inclined to take seriously, but ever since my younger sister joined a cult near San Diego and began reporting frequent visions of God, I cannot turn it away with quite the same detachment. The three discussions at issue here can be located in the ample middle space between my customary literary approach and my sister’s enthusiasm. For Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, Blake’s visions are symptoms of what she diagnoses as manicdepressive illness. Blake’s unusual perception becomes fundamentally a matter of pathology rather than inspiration. Jamison is careful not to devalue the art produced by Blake and other poets afflicted with the illness, but she demystifies their romantic afflatus and speculates on how the attendant suffering might be relieved without much diminishment of the art. Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception treats Blake’s visions as evidence of an unusual neurophysiological condition – a sort of ‘bypass’ around the normal brain’s ‘reducing valve.’ It is a state of consciousness that Huxley can achieve only by means of an experiment with mescaline. Although he pays attention to some of the dangers implicit in this sort of perception, for the most part he regards it as a great advantage, a channel to sublimity available only to the most exalted artists. The third writer, the religion scholar Huston Smith, appears to be continuing along the same path as Huxley, but there are important differences. In his recent collection of essays, Cleansing the Doors of Perception, Smith uses Blake as a model of a human being plugged into the ‘sacred unconscious’. This is a state of grace that can sometimes be mimicked by the ‘entheogenic’ drugs (LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, etc.), but cannot be reduced to a simple matter of neurochemical causality. Smith reveres Blake’s visionary power as the secret of beatitude; Huxley admires it as the perceptual foundation of genius in art; Jamison diagnoses it as a dangerous if seductive flaw in the brain’s machinery. For all of them, Blake’s perception operates under a process so different from normal consciousness that it can only be explained as or approximated by a chemically altered state. In this sense, all three discussions create an abnormal Blake, albeit within different frameworks of value. Jamison explores the connections between manic-depressive illness and artistic genius. She concludes that great poets and artists suffer

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from the illness in much greater numbers than the general population. In one section of Touched with Fire, she constructs an elaborate diagnostic chart of 36 British and Irish writers born between 1705 and 1805 (63–71). For each – beginning with Samuel Johnson and including John Keats near the end – Jamison tracks five categories: recurrent depression, manic-depressive illness, psychotic features, confinement in an asylum and suicide. A few cases of obvious, well-documented madness ring up black marks for ‘definite’ trouble. Christopher Smart, William Cowper and John Clare show manic-depressive illness and psychotic features, and all were confined to an asylum. Many others are marked for lesser troubles – Johnson for depression, Wordsworth for possible depression, Keats for probable cyclothymia (a milder version of manic-depressive illness). The poets who receive no marks at all tend to be lesser lights (Samuel Rogers, Robert Southey). For Blake, Jamison gives the same diagnosis as for Smart, Cowper and Clare, except that Blake was never confined to an asylum. She provides the following commentary to accompany the marks for manic-depressive illness and psychotic features: Hallucinations and delusions from an early age. Periods of exaltation and grandiosity, as well as periods that he described as ‘a deep pit of melancholy – melancholy without any real reason.’ Excessive irritability and attacks of rage, suspiciousness, and paranoia. Little information about family history although one brother, who spoke of visions of Moses and Abraham, was described as ‘a bit mad’. (64) Later in the book, Jamison quotes approvingly from a 1915 article in which Dr Herbert Norman argues for a similar diagnosis: ‘There is not a doubt that the boundary which separates sanity from insanity has been crossed,’ Norman concludes. Blake showed symptoms of ‘undue excitability and impulsive violence, of hallucinations of sight and hearing, and delusions of persecution’ (in Jamison, 93). Norman and to a lesser extent Jamison structure their thinking Urizenically. Norman draws a clear boundary between sanity and insanity, and wishes that Blake could have remained on the side of sanity. Jamison is more circumspect. She would like to liberate manic depressives from their sufferings, but notes that some afflicted poets, when they have been effectively medicated with lithium, experience a diminution of their creative powers. In general, though, she is optimistic about the prospect of healing the artist without squelching the

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art. With Blake specifically, she concludes, ‘Seeing Blake as someone who suffered from an occasionally problematic illness … may not explain all or even most of who he was. But, surely, it does explain some’ (95). This is more subtly Urizenic than Norman, but it is still Urizenic. Jamison implies that the ‘problematic’ elements of Blake’s identity might be separated from the other elements, which would leave him still a poet and artist, but a healthy one. It is a theory that never worked for Urizen, and can never be tested for Blake. But it is possible to evaluate Jamison’s diagnostic synopsis, to see how well it measures up to what we know about Blake. If we leave aside for a moment the key question of hallucination, there are other parts of the diagnosis that need attention. Jamison refers to ‘attacks of rage, suspiciousness, and paranoia’. Here she implies one of the six subtypes of delusional disorder registered in psychiatric manuals, the ‘persecutory type’: This subtype applies when the central theme of the delusion involves the person’s belief that he or she is being conspired against, cheated, spied on, followed, poisoned or drugged, maliciously maligned, harassed, or obstructed in the pursuit of long-term goals. … Individuals with persecutory delusions are often resentful and angry and may resort to violence against those they believe are hurting them. (APA, 298) In general terms, a delusion is defined by psychiatrists as ‘a false personal belief based on incorrect inference about external reality’ (293). Were Blake’s beliefs about persecution mainly false or true? It is hard to give a simple answer. Certainly, he thought that people had ‘maliciously maligned’ him, ‘cheated’ him and ‘conspired against’ him. As to the first, he had good reason to feel maliciously maligned. For example, the Hunt brothers’ review of his 1809 exhibition treated contemptuously the art he laboured over. His anger over mainstream English reception should be seen more as reasonable disappointment than a symptom of chemical disorder. Things are more complicated with Blake’s belief that people had cheated him. The most notable case would be a dispute over a picture of Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims. Blake believed that a friend had taken his idea for the work and given it to another artist, who produced a very successful painting before Blake finished his own. Blake became extremely upset over the supposed treachery of friends, and the incident aggravated his professional alienation over the next decade or so. Scholars disagree about where

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blame should lie, however, which makes it difficult to say whether Blake’s anger should be judged reasonable or pathological. Although early biographers were quick to take Blake’s side, some recent scholars have been inclined to doubt parts of his account, and implicitly to question his emotional stability during these difficult years.1 Finally, in the matter of people conspiring against Blake, those who read his ventings in a private notebook might find it plausible to diagnose a version of paranoia. He accused several people, including generous friends like John Flaxman, of conspiring to obstruct the professional recognition he deserved. Still, it does not seem fair to dismiss Blake’s belief of persecution as essentially a symptom of delusional disorder. After all, he was brought to trial for sedition based on the accusations of a soldier who probably lied about some of the evidence. (Blake pushed the soldier out of his garden in Felpham; if this is the ‘impulsive violence’ cited by Norman and Jamison, it is not compelling evidence.) In a larger sense, it is easy to justify Blake’s sense of political and economic persecution. He wrote at length of the ideological webs that preserve inequalities and nurture false consciousness. For readers who have come to appreciate Blake as the ‘prophet against empire’, Jamison’s notation about ‘excessive irritability … suspiciousness, and paranoia’ will seem myopic in its diagnostic focus. Jamison also quotes Blake’s self-diagnosis of depression: he has experienced ‘a deep pit of melancholy – melancholy without any real reason’. This sounds like a plain enough piece of evidence, and it strengthens the case for a mood disorder. But again, one should be careful to interpret the remark in context. Blake wrote this letter and others like it over a period of three or four very stressful years. He was about to leave for Felpham, where William Hayley meant to help Blake find a broader audience and a better living. During much of this period, he was struggling with very mixed feelings about the course of his professional life. He needed the work and coveted public recognition, but he was also deeply engaged in his own visionary projects. In the letter about the ‘deep pit of melancholy’ he was writing to George Cumberland, a friend and patron who was trying to help him make a living with more practical commissions. Although Blake’s self-diagnosis seems like persuasive evidence, he was using a familiar category of Enlightenment medicine – melancholy, ‘a Disease which God keep you from & all good men’ (E 706) – to excuse neglect of friends and a lack of productivity on projects that he secretly disdained. We should be careful, in other words, about accepting Blake’s self-diagnosis as prima facie evidence of a neurochemical disorder.

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When Jamison cites ‘periods of exaltation and grandiosity’ she is evidently referring to another one of the six types of delusional disorder. The ‘grandiose type’ applies when the central theme of the delusion is the conviction of having some great (but unrecognized) talent or insight or having made some important discovery. Less commonly, the individual may have the delusion of having a special relationship with a prominent person (e. g., an adviser to the President) or being a prominent person. Grandiose delusions may have a religious content (e.g., the person believes that he or she has a special message from a deity). (APA, 297) When Jamison cites grandiosity as a symptom of Blake’s manic elevations, the description matches well with evidence from his writings and biographical records. Again, though, we need to ask how ‘false’ Blake’s belief about his exceptional status was. After a century of posthumous appreciation and interpretive analysis, it seems fair to say that he really did have a ‘great (but unrecognized) talent’; this was no delusion. Now, as to the matter of having ‘a special relationship with a prominent person’ and ‘a special message from a deity’, Blake certainly claimed to have visionary conversations with prophets and artists, as well as access to various muses that could be considered divine or semi-divine. But would Jamison diagnose, say, John Milton as similarly delusional? Milton invoked divine muses and brought ‘a special message from a deity’. The symptom of divine inspiration is persuasive as pathology only when the claims of revelation do not fit within the set of religious beliefs considered normal by a particular interpretive community. For a Romantic scholar like me, who has assimilated Blake’s unorthodox spirituality, the diagnosis seems unfair. But at the same time I treat my sister’s special messages from God as evidence of delusion – or at any rate, an illusion conditioned by a charismatic leader whose beliefs I do not respect. Besides delusions, Jamison diagnoses hallucinations: Blake had ‘hallucinations … from an early age’. According to a standard psychiatric definition, ‘a hallucination is an event that is experienced as a sensory perception … but, in fact, is not real’ (Noll, 152). It would be easy enough to challenge the psychiatrist’s use of terms like ‘fact’ and ‘real’ from a Romantic or poststructuralist perspective, but for the sake of argument it seems more helpful to let the definition stand as an index of psychiatric common sense. What did Blake ‘hallucinate’ at an early age, and how does Jamison know the perception was ‘not real’? Bentley summarises the available reports:

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From his earliest childhood Blake saw visions. When he was four years old, God put his head to the window and set the child screaming, and once ‘his mother beat him for running in and saying that he saw the Prophet Ezekiel under a Tree in the Fields.’ Later, when he was eight or ten, one day as he was walking on Peckham Rye … he saw ‘a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars.’ When he told this story at home, it was ‘only through his mother’s intercession [that he escaped] a thrashing from his honest father, for telling a lie.’ Another time, on a summer morning he saw ‘the hay-makers at work, and amid them angelic figures walking’. (2001, 19–20) Jamison wants to call these visions hallucinations. The first thing to notice about Blake’s hallucinations is how mellow and cheerful most of them are. Except for the first one with God at the window, they seem like pastoral scenes of cosmic harmony: not just angels but angels in trees, or walking companionably with haymakers; even Ezekiel’s presence is tempered by a ‘tree in the fields’. These early hallucinations show humans blending seamlessly with the natural and the supernatural. The effect resembles some of the designs for Songs of Innocence, such as ‘Infant Joy’, with a flower cradling a mother, child and angel. Of course, there is nothing in the definition of a hallucination that would exclude cheerful pastoral scenes, even though the word has a distinctly pejorative connotation (which is why Huxley and Smith dislike the term hallucinogen). Jamison’s diagnosis cannot be proved wrong in its own terms. But it is possible to think of different interpretive frameworks that would diminish or eliminate the pathological implications. For example, if one believes that God manifests himself in visions, these hallucinations become signs of Blake’s special election to prophecy. Or, from a more pragmatic psychological perspective, they could be read as attention-seeking devices: young William knows his parents will react strongly to reports of angels. (There is evidence that he felt slighted by his parents’ preferential attention to a brother.) The non-pathological explanation that has dominated traditional literary discussion invokes the idea of Romantic imagination. What poets like Blake do, to put the idea simply, is express a renovated perception of the world to people whose senses have been dulled by habit and common sense. A brief passage from A Vision of the Last Judgment has become a hallmark of this traditional approach to Romantic imagination: ‘“What,” it

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will be Questioned, “When the Sun rises, do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?” O no no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would question a Window concerning a Sight: I look thro it & not with it’ (E 565–6). What should we call this episode of perception? It might be diagnosed as a hallucination, akin to the angels young Blake saw from time to time in the fields. A hallucination is an event in which the subject sees or hears something that is not there for any normal people nearby. But the label does not ring true here, even if it technically fits the definition. The sunrise to which he refers is a common object of perception; in this passage, he navigates in good control between the supposedly normal perceptual world (sunrise) and the world of imagination (heavenly host). So hallucination seems more misleading than helpful. Perhaps delusion would be applicable, since delusions are ‘pathological distortions of normal ideation’ (Noll, 152). The problem with this definition, however, is that it holds value only within the discursive framework of psychiatry. Translate it into the language of literary Romanticism and it becomes something very different: perhaps ‘imaginative refigurations of the disenchanted sensorium’ rather than ‘pathological distortions of normal ideation’. From a Blakean perspective, people who see a sunrise and think of money (‘somewhat like a Guinea’) are the ones exhibiting pathological distortion. Huxley and Smith are more inclined to idealise than to pathologise the deviation from normal perception they associate with Blake. Both reflect at length on what it would mean to cleanse the doors of perception. But such deference to Blake does not guarantee in either case a theory of his visionary powers that is likely to please careful students of his work. Huxley’s position in The Doors of Perception is more or less the opposite of Jamison’s position in Touched with Fire. Jamison saw Blake as someone who, like herself, suffered with a mental disorder, a condition that he could not remedy but she can now treat with medication. Huxley saw Blake as someone who, unlike himself, possessed an uncanny visionary power, a state of mind that Huxley can acquire temporarily by taking mescaline. He posits that minds like Blake’s ‘belong to a different species and inhabit a radically alien universe’ (13). He takes mescaline as an experiment to see whether the drug ‘would admit me, at least for a few hours, into the kind of inner world described by Blake’ (14). There’s an odd sort of condescension here, for all the praise; Huxley implies that Blake’s genius is something freakish that

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can be put on like a mask for a few hours by a credentialled intellectual, evaluated, then set aside for the normal business of life. Late in the book, he reassures readers that mescaline ‘is completely innocuous’ because its effects ‘will wear off after eight to ten hours’ (54). He wants to enter Blake’s world but only as a visitor. Huxley takes his title from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite’ – and refers to Blake several times during his account of the mescaline trip. Like many other intellectuals from the golden age of psychedelia, he drew heavily on Blake as he tried to interpret what was happening in his altered state. Humphrey Osmond (1957), for example, who coined the term ‘psychedelic’ (originally spelled ‘psychodelic’ but wisely tweaked to get rid of ‘psycho’) saw a new humanity moving towards ‘fourfold vision’. The ethnomycologist Gordon Wasson (1961), speculating that hallucinogenic mushrooms inspired the first glimmer of religious consciousness, refers to his primal visionary ‘seeing infinity in a grain of sand’. Wasson mangles the quotation from ‘Auguries of Innocence’, but the allusion is unmistakeable. Huxley alludes to the same lines when he writes of discovering ‘Eternity in a flower’. Huxley’s version also distorts the original Blake: he has misremembered or rearranged the poem’s opening tropes: To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour (E 490) Huxley’s allusion to Blake goes unmarked here, as happens on a few other occasions in The Doors of Perception. In one passage he reports something like Blake’s vision of the sunrise as the heavenly host: the chair legs in front of him ‘were St. Michael and all angels’ (28). Marked or unmarked, his debt to Blake is considerable. Huxley’s mescaline perceptions emerge from neither tabula rasa nor cosmic ‘Mind at Large’, but from a mind prepared to see what Blake saw. However, during Huxley’s visit to Blake’s world, he slips away from Blake in interesting ways. He consistently uses ‘mystery’ with positive connotations to convey a deep truth about the nature of existence. ‘For the artist as for the mescaline taker draperies are living hieroglyphs that stand in some peculiarly expressive way for the unfathomable

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mystery of pure being’ (33). Later, looking at a row of houses, he feels in touch with ‘all the meaning and the mystery of existence’ (61). In fact, he relies on the vatic resonance of this word to conclude The Doors of Perception: the person who returns from the mescaline experience will be ‘humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend’ (79). Huxley’s reverence for mystery sounds suitably Romantic, but it is not the Romanticism of Blake. Blake consistently uses ‘mystery’ and ‘mysterious’ in a pejorative sense. He suggests that mystery is a pernicious construction by religious and secular authorities intent on keeping subject humans humble and intimidated. In various passages he associates mystery with the calculated concealment of truth, a false religion that spreads its ‘dismal shade’ over the fallen world (‘The Human Abstract’). In ‘A Little Boy Lost’ the priest ends up burning the title character, ‘One who sets reason up for judge / Of our most holy Mystery’ (E 29). More specifically, Blake did not care for the idea sketched in Huxley’s conclusion that words strive in vain to convey the ‘unfathomable Mystery’ of being. In one of his annotations to Joshua Reynolds, he writes, ‘The fault is not in Words, but in Things. Locke’s opinions of Words & their Fallaciousness are Artful Opinions & Fallacious also’ (E 659). Blake, unlike Huxley, never relied on mystery as an existential black box. Mystery is a convenient shortcut to sublimity for those who are only visiting the visionary world. Even more telling within Huxley’s account are moments of suspiciously Urizenic thinking. For example, he separates ‘perception’ from ‘will’ and asserts that mescaline greatly improves the former at the expense of the latter (25). He goes on to worry about the incompatibility of ‘cleansed perception’ and ‘proper concern for human relations … to say nothing of charity and practical compassion’ (40). ‘Mescaline opens up the way of Mary, but shuts the door on that of Martha. It gives access to contemplation – but to a contemplation that is incompatible with action and even with the will to action’ (41). Most contemporary Blake scholars resist the sort of thinking implied here: that the visionary who saw a world in a grain of sand could not at the same time be practical and politically engaged. Another Urizenic theme surfaces in a few passages when Huxley writes of his mind as something separate from and superior to his body. This version of Urizenic dualism comes out explicitly when ‘the investigator suggested a walk in the garden. I was willing; and though my body seemed to have dissociated itself almost completely from my

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mind … I found myself able to get up, open the French windows and walk out with only a minimum of hesitation’ (52). Here the ‘I’ of mental control is clearly distinct from the objectified body. Later, when they come back inside the house, ‘A meal had been prepared. Somebody, who was not yet identical with myself, fell to with ravenous appetite’ (60). In this second passage, the ‘somebody’ eating is implicitly a lower, animal-like entity which the higher self of Huxley’s mind balks at re-entering. Perhaps the most significant Urizenic gesture in The Doors of Perception has to do with what he calls the ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ of visionary perception. Huxley is not comfortable with the underlying message of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, despite the fact that he draws on that work for his title metaphor. Blake calls for a difficult but desirable marriage of contrary states that can be named figuratively with the traditional destinations of the afterlife. Religious and philosophical systems have often tried to separate the hellish from the heavenly and eliminate the former; according to Blake, this sort of Urizenic organisation has ruinous psychological, political and religious consequences. Huxley evaluates mescaline perception using Urizenic tactics, as he distinguishes between the heaven of good trips and the hell of bad ones. He imagines that it may be possible to invent ‘the ideal drug’ eventually, one that delivers only the heavenly experiences and does not last ‘for an inconveniently long time’ (66). As Huxley approaches the subject of heavenly versus hellish visions, he shapes an analogy between the mescaline experience and schizophrenia – thus adopting, if only by analogy, the pathological model of Jamison. (Huxley’s interest in pathology makes sense: his host for the mescaline trip was a psychiatrist, Humphrey Osmond, who was studying the connections between hallucinogens and schizophrenia.) ‘Most takers of mescaline experience only the heavenly part of schizophrenia,’ he says, with hell coming mainly to those ‘who suffer from periodical depressions or a chronic anxiety’ (54) – in other words, the sort of people Jamison studies. Huxley recalls a friend whose schizophrenia could produce ‘a paradise of cleansed perception’, but eventually ‘there was only the horror’ of its hellish opposite (54). In Huxley’s mescaline trip, a heavenly one, he does describe one glimpse of hell. The world’s rich profusion of meanings becomes ‘almost terrifying’ for a moment, and he feels himself ‘on the brink of panic’ (55). He later explains this moment as his ordinary mind registering fear over the loss of its ‘cosy world of symbols’: ‘The literature of religious experience abounds in reference to the pains and terrors overwhelming those who have come,

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too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the mysterium tremendum’ (55). But he quickly deflects the dark side of apocalypse and resumes his paradise of cleansed perception. The difference between him and his schizophrenic friend lies not in the nature of their visions, but in Huxley’s comfort at knowing he is only visiting the visionary world, and will return in a few hours to normality – neither heaven nor hell. When Huston Smith experimented with psilocybin in 1962, he experienced both a greater inspiration than Huxley did and a greater fear. The inspiration was powerful enough to change the quality of his religious life: I have explained how it enlarged my understanding of God, by affording me the only powerful experience I have had of his personal nature. I had known and firmly believed that God is love and that none of love’s nuances could be absent from his infinite nature; but that God loves me, and I him, in the concrete way that human beings love individually … that relation with God I had never before had. … From somewhere between six weeks and three months (I should judge) I really was a better person. (105) Smith is ready to call this experience a theophany and the drug that occasioned it an ‘entheogen’. He rejects ‘hallucinogen’ for its root meaning of false perception and ‘psychedelic’ for its association with the recreational pleasures of hippies. The name he gives to psilocybin, mescaline and LSD conveys how deeply he was impressed by their transfiguring potential. It is curious, then, that Smith at the same time fears these drugs much more palpably than Huxley does. He describes his experience in 1962 not as ‘pleasurable’: ‘the accurate words are “significance” and “terror”’ (12). Near the end of Cleansing the Doors of Perception, he confesses that he has ‘no desire’ to take such a drug again: ‘If I am honest I have to say that I am afraid of the entheogens’ (130). Smith more vividly than Huxley engages the terror that accompanies the elation of visionary experience. Like Huxley, he explains the problem in terms of mind–body dualism, with the fear emerging as a reaction against the newly empowered mind: Whence, then, the terror? In part, from my sense of the utter freedom of the psyche and its dominion over the body. I was aware

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of my body, laid out on the couch as if on an undertaker’s slab, cool and slightly moist. But I also had the sense that it would reactivate only if my spirit chose to reenter it. Should it so choose? There seemed to be no clear reason for it to do so. Moreover, could it reconnect if I willed it to? We have it on good authority that no man can see God and live – the sight would be too much for the body to withstand, like plugging a toaster into a power line. (12) Smith’s dualism has more pathos and complexity than Huxley’s. Huxley felt a mild disdain for the creature eating a meal, but the ‘I’ of mental identity remained composed and in control. Smith’s identity stands outside not only the body but the spirit as well: he refers to both as ‘it’. He does not describe the vague third party that stands apart, except with the pronoun ‘I.’ He fears that he may no longer control the moribund body on the undertaker’s slab or the transfigured spirit that has seen God. The ‘I’ that lingers as a spectator trembles over their incompatibility. In this passage and many others, Smith shows a decided affinity for Platonism. This is the style of thinking that undergirds his Urizenic tendencies: as he tries to sort out the validity of visions that emerge from use of entheogenic drugs, he posits various Platonic distinctions between pure essences and lower bodily manifestations. For example, in his chapter ‘The Sacred Unconscious’ he describes the characteristics of a person who has become fully ‘realized’: ‘Basically she lives in the unvarying presence of the numinous. This does not mean that she is excited or “hyped”; her condition has nothing to do with adrenaline flow or manic states that call for depressive ones to balance the emotional account’ (75). In effect, this is his response to scientists like Jamison, who argue for significant causal overlap between manicdepressive illness and visionary powers. Smith will have none of it – the ideal state of sacredness ‘has nothing to do with’ chemical fluctuations. He pays respectful attention to neurochemical theories of altered consciousness that both Jamison and Huxley rely on, but he resists the causal authority of merely physical explanation: entheogens lead to theophany ‘for reasons that no one understands’ (78). In other essays he distinguished between a theophany that occurs spontaneously and one that comes about through the use of a drug. Although a drug experience, under the right conditions, can very closely resemble those visions ‘that occur spontaneously’ (20), it is clearly the latter sort that Smith most values. The purest religious visions somehow bypass the

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bodily medium. Hence Smith feels disdain for the popular psychedelia of the 1960s, ‘when recreational use of the drug took over’ and displaced the serious business of theophany (xvi). Even the most valuable drug-induced visions lack the staying power of their spontaneous counterparts, and are likely to become ‘religious surrogates’ instead of the real thing (31). Smith’s Platonism comes out most forthrightly at the end of Cleansing the Doors of Perception, with the following climactic speculation: I believe that when ‘set and setting’ are rightly aligned, the basic message of the entheogens – that there is another Reality that puts this one in the shade – is true. There is no way that the prevailing view of the human self (which depicts it as an organism in an environment that has evolved purposelessly through naturalistic causes only) can accept that claim, which means that its Procrustean anthropology must go. That it will go has been the critical (as distinct from the constructive) burden of all my writing, for it rests on assumptions that are too arbitrary to escape scrutiny indefinitely. (133) Although he expresses the first part a bit oddly – as if ‘the entheogens’ were an impersonal agent, some sort of otherworldly intelligence bringing a secret message to mere mortals – the rest is heartfelt Platonism, with capital R Reality trumping the lower world of shadows. In many ways it seems that Smith’s thinking is the most Blakean of the three writers I have addressed: he argues against the prevailing assumptions of reductive science; he relies on faith as a resource that reason will never be able to explain; and his conclusion has a nice prophetic verve. I wish to argue, however, that Smith’s version of the doors of perception strays significantly from the original. He uses plate 14 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell to endorse his Platonic shortcut. For him, cleansing the doors of perception brings a vision of deep truth, which is also the ‘basic message of the entheogens – that there is another Reality that puts this one in the shade’. He misses the complexity of the full passage from Marriage: The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have learned from Hell. For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation

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will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul, is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern (E 39) Although Blake begins with the earth ready to be consumed and superseded by another reality, this event is announced almost too blandly to be the real climax. The passage slides from Platonic apocalypse towards the sensory and secular. Indeed, the last sentence with its ‘cavern’ subtly indicts the Platonic rendering of the temporal world as a cave. The cave of shadows is a persuasive trope only for those who ignore or misunderstand one of the Proverbs of Hell that precede plate 14: ‘Eternity is in love with the productions of Time’ (E 36). Furthermore, Smith rewrites the metaphor from plate 14 which he borrows for his title. In his book’s most important chapter, ‘The Sacred Unconscious’, he gives particular attention to the doors of perception as an expression of what it means to become ‘fully realized’ – that is, to reach the inmost or sacred layer of our minds: Blake’s formulation of the alternative to this self-centered outlook (which I draw upon for the title of this book) has become classic. ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’ The fully realized human being is one whose doors of perception have been cleansed – I have myself referred to these doors as windows and envisioned them as successive layers of our unconscious minds. … But the deepest layer, I have suggested, is really a no-layer, for – being a glass door ajar, or a mirror that discloses other things rather than itself – it effectively isn’t there. (74–5) I would guess, in passing, that Blake would not have liked all this talk of unconscious layers: it sounds too mysterious. (Smith, like Huxley, uses ‘mystery’ as an honourable term to designate a staple of genuine

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religion.) But, more to the point, Smith does not seem comfortable with the metaphor he borrows for his title. He quotes it, but immediately rewrites it. He turns the doors into windows, then into windowed doors ajar, and finally into mirrors. The mirror image strays the furthest from Blake and from the usual depiction of Romantic imagination. But Smith’s other revisions are closer to the original: I suspect that most readers of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell register the verb ‘cleansed’ as the central trope and tacitly revise doors into windows. Does it matter? I think it does, and that Smith’s revision provides an important clue about his simplified version of Blake. There are good reasons that the doors are not windows. First of all, cleansing the windows of perception would be more obvious, and closer to cliché – especially if it evokes the cliché about eyes being windows on the soul. Platonists like Smith may find windows a more suitable vehicle for the sacred because they are less substantial as material objects, almost self-erasing. Or if the windows are not invisible they could be in churches, stained with images of traditional piety, and similarly pointing beyond themselves to the realm of spirit. Doors are more ordinary, earthly, pedestrian. They do not lend themselves as readily to transfiguration. When Smith allows the doors at all, he refashions them as windows (‘a glass door’); additionally, he sidesteps the metaphor of cleansing and substitutes the more obvious one of opening a door: ‘a glass door ajar’. I have always liked the quirkiness of Blake’s own metaphor, which invites but then subverts clichés about cleaning windows and opening doors. The clichés imply that the process of perceptual renewal is easy enough – something that can be written down as a formula, passed along as a method or dosed out as a prescription. Although Jim Morrison also chose to rewrite Blake’s doors, at least The Doors’ version imagined a struggle: breaking on through, not opening up.

Note 1. For the most careful challenge to the prevailing opinion, see Aileen Ward (1989). Bentley’s discussion presents the more typical perspective, blaming Cromek the entrepreneur for shady dealings with a vulnerable Blake (2001, 291–304).

13 The Silence of the Lamb and the Tyger: Harris and Blake, Good and Evil Michelle Gompf

It would be difficult for anyone reading Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon to miss the references to William Blake; after all, Harris takes the title of the novel from Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun. Francis Dolarhyde, the serial killer dubbed the ‘Tooth Fairy’, obsesses over this painting, hears the dragon speak to him and has the dragon tattooed on his back. In Red Dragon, Harris explicitly and repeatedly establishes a link with Blake, leading readers to wonder how the link is being used, and eventually see the dramatic similarities between Harris’s and Blake’s concept of Good and Evil. With this connection in mind when beginning Silence of the Lambs, the continued focus on the nature of Good and Evil becomes clear, even though this novel contains no explicit references to Blake. When turning to Hannibal the connection is clearly established, but only to underscore it and remind readers that Harris explicitly references Blake, describing a print of Ancient of Days owned by a character in this novel. Harris uses these Blake references, both explicit and implicit, to underline and emphasise a particular philosophy regarding Good and Evil, namely that the two are intertwined and coexist, and that it is foolish to try to see them simply as opposing binaries. Most reviewers of and essays about the first ‘Hannibal Lecter’ novel, Red Dragon, mention the references to Blake, describing Dolarhyde’s obsession with Blake and the power he derives from the Red Dragon in his ‘becoming’. However, most do not discuss or attempt to explain why Harris chose Blake rather than another artist. One exception is Nicholas Williams’ ‘Eating Blake, or an Essay on Taste: the Case of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon’ (1999), which explores why Harris chose 179

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Blake, focusing on what the choice reveals about the interplay between high and low art. Few have focused on Blake connections in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, save an article about the film version of Hannibal and how the cinematographer and editor drew on Blake’s lighting for the film.1 No sustained study of the Blakean ties running through the trilogy exists. Since Harris reveals his conception of Good and Evil through references to Blake, an understanding of Blake’s own conception of Good and Evil is necessary. Most obviously, in his early works, Songs of Innocence and Experience and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake reveals how Good and Evil, innocence and experience, heaven and hell, are interconnected and how it is a rational error of mankind to see them as distinct. To look at just one example from the Songs that connects to an image in Red Dragon, consider the companion poems ‘The Lamb’ and ‘The Tyger’. In ‘The Lamb’ the speaker questions the Lamb about who made him and then answers that it was Jesus (‘He is called by thy name, / For he calls himself a Lamb’; ll. 13–14, E 9). The Jesus/God presented here is a ‘meek’ and ‘mild’ one. In ‘The Tyger’ the speaker questions the tyger about his creation but gives no answer, only wonders ‘Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’ (l. 20, E 25). The questions emphasise the tyger’s fierceness. Is the God of Good also the God of Evil? Critical consensus is that Blake’s answer is yes, God made both the Lamb and the Tyger. To support this reading of Good and Evil existing in the same creature and being created by the same Force, the visual image of the tyger reveals neither an angry nor a wrathful creature. On the contrary, the tyger clearly does not have a fire in its eyes, but instead a blank stare, soft padded feet and a smile revealing no fangs. The tyger is no fiercer than the lamb. The same God made both Good and Evil, and Good and Evil exist in all things. As Blake says in several works, ‘Everything that Lives is Holy’ – even the tyger. Blake expresses this belief in the mixture of Good and Evil not just in the poems; some of the most explicit statements come in his marginalia and notebooks. Many are contained in A Vision of the Last Judgment, including one of the most explicit, a later addition, ‘’ (563). In an annotation to a paragraph in Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell in which Swedenborg discusses the various Hells that exist underneath our world, Blake says ‘under every Good is a hell. i.e. hell is the outward or external of heaven’ (E 602, original emphasis). Both passages clearly reveal that where Good exists, so must Evil (and vice versa) even if it is

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not immediately visible. Interestingly, in his annotations to Lavater, Blake says that two contraries (Good and Evil) cannot spring from one essence. In reply to Lavater’s aphorism 489, he writes: Man is a twofold being. one part capable of evil & the other capable of good that which is capable of good is not also capable of evil. but that which is capable of evil is also capable of good. this aphorism seems to consider man as simple & yet capable of evil. now both good & evil cannot exist in a simple being. for thus 2 contraries would. spring from one essence which is impossible. but if man is considered as only evil. & god only good. how then is regeneration effected which turns the evil to good. by casting out the evil. by the good. (E 594) Does Blake believe that Good and Evil can exist in one person? What Blake means is that each human consists of two separate parts – Good and Evil; he opposes this concept to one in which each human is both Good and Evil existing in one part, or where humans are only Evil and God is only Good. The two contraries exist in separate parts within each human, both being necessary for regeneration/reunification. Since humans are fallen and live in the generative world, they necessarily contain these contraries; however, these contraries are also a path to ultimate reunification and regeneration into a ‘higher’ state. Through the struggle of the two parts, the Good and Evil, each human recognises the manifold nature of existence, increasing vision and awareness, leading him or her away from a simplistic view of humanity. This increase of vision opens the doors of perception, and makes each individual an active participant in regeneration through his or her struggle either to reconcile both parts of his or her nature, or to cast out the Evil through the Good. Without these two halves in struggle, individuals would not actively participate in their regeneration, but would instead, mistakenly, wait passively for that which will not happen without their own participation. The mistake Blake corrects in this marginal comment is one that characters in and readers of Harris’s novels have committed as well, that of considering humans as simple, and Good and Evil as opposing binaries. For Blake, then, Good and Evil coexist and a fine line, often crossed, lies between the two. Harris uses Blake’s conception as a theme running through the Hannibal Lecter books. For Harris there are no heroes or villains. Hannibal Lecter, the cannibal psychiatrist serial

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killer, is appealing. Sophisticated and polite, he enjoys classical music and good food and art, often appearing more attractive than some of his hunters or captors, who are often dull and rude. The agents Will Graham in Red Dragon and Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal are able to track serial killers in part because they can track and connect with Lecter. They can track Lecter not because they are his opposite, but because they can identify with him and understand him. They recognise both the Good and Evil aspects of themselves, which allows them better vision with which to track and pursue serial killers, including Lecter. While Lecter, the most explicit embodiment of the coexistence of Good and Evil, rarely appears in Red Dragon, the explicit connections to Blake revealed in the title and the tattoo are obvious. The novel, however, also contains a scene with a sleeping tiger which alludes to ‘The Tyger’, and Harris uses lines from Blake’s ‘The Divine Image’ and ‘A Divine Image’ as epigraphs. These verses reveal that humanity is the source of both Mercy and Cruelty, Pity and Jealousy, Love and Terror, Peace and Secrecy; and each individual is capable of all sets of contraries – indeed, without Cruelty there is no need for Pity or Love. These verses serve as the epigraphs not only to this novel, but also to the entire trilogy. The first explicit Blake reference in Red Dragon comes as Dolarhyde looks at his copy of the painting: ‘The picture had stunned him the first time he saw it. Never before had he seen anything that approached his graphic thought. He felt that Blake must have peeked in his ear and seen the Red Dragon’ (1981, 71–2). Harris often reminds the reader of the massive dragon from the painting tattooed on Dolarhyde’s back. Throughout the novel Dolarhyde fixates on the painting and even hears the Dragon speak to him. Eventually, in order to silence the Dragon, Dolarhyde travels to New York, gains access to the original – and eats it. The painting, though, is not the only connection to Blake; Dolarhyde’s handwriting is ‘a fine copperplate script – not unlike William Blake’s’ (88). A more telling connection involving a tiger occurs later when Dolarhyde starts dating a blind woman, Reba McClane. Dolarhyde at first watches a report about this tiger with a toothache on the news: ‘Rocked back in his recliner, looking along his own powerful torso at the screen, Dolarhyde saw the great tiger stretched unconscious on a heavy work table. … Dolarhyde watched them calmly working between the jaws of the tiger’s terrible striped face’ (240). Given the muscular nature of both, as well as the toothache of the tiger and

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Dolarhyde’s cleft palate, dentures and tabloid nickname, ‘The Tooth Fairy’, Harris creates a connection between Dolarhyde and the tiger. If he who made the lamb made the tiger, he also made Dolarhyde. When Dolarhyde takes Reba to visit the tiger while it is sedated Harris provides yet another detailed description of both its power and vulnerability, as she touches a paw and then a claw, feeling both its soft fur and its muscles and teeth. The tiger, in its vulnerable sedated state, is both proof of something great and wonderful and a warning of the destructive power of this force as well, like Dolarhyde or Lecter. In the next scene, Harris places Dolarhyde in a similar situation to that of the tiger in the zoo as Reba thinks of Dolarhyde’s shyness and feels for his lips, finding his clenched teeth before she can kiss him. She feels both his vulnerability and his power, just as she did with the tiger. Dolarhyde is not the only character who illustrates the interplay of Good and Evil though; it exists in Will Graham too who, as he moves through the victims’ houses, can imagine the movements of the killer, going beyond what the police reports list. Graham, the agent who captured Lecter originally, also is one of the few who understands him, as will Clarice Starling later. Graham recognises that just as he has a ‘criminal mind’ that allows him to visualise the killer’s movements and motivations, Lecter is, in some way, normal (41). As Graham talks with a detective who asks about Lecter being crazy, Graham responds, ‘He did it because he liked it. Still does. Dr. Lecter is not crazy, in any common way we think of being crazy. He did some hideous things because he enjoyed them. But he can function perfectly when he wants’ (49). Graham admits that he captured Lecter because he just knew he was the killer, even though he ‘still couldn’t think of the reason’ (51). Now when he goes to visit Lecter, he is afraid of feeling Lecter’s madness in his own head. Lecter, however, recognises and acknowledges their connection and wants Graham to admit it, admit the connection of Good and Evil. As Graham leaves, Lecter tells him, ‘“The reason you caught me is that we’re just alike”’ (62; original emphasis). Lecter not only recognises the interplay of Good and Evil, he also realises that they come from the same source, that Evil can be natural and that God also commits evil acts, causes suffering. He explains human nature to Graham, saying: ‘We don’t invent our natures … they’re issued to us along with our lungs and pancreas and everything else. Why fight it?’ (259). Lecter’s philosophy here echoes Blake’s statements about Good and Evil found in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. On plate 4 of Marriage Blake claims that one of the Bible’s errors is

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considering ‘That Energy, calld Evil, is alone from the Body’ when, in fact, ‘Energy is the only life’ and ‘Energy is Eternal Delight’ (E 34). So, Good and Evil are not separate and, in fact, Evil is positive, an active energy. Evil is not only an aspect of life, like our various organs, but can also be a delight. Lecter reflects this Blakean belief when tells Graham that when the latter had to shoot a suspect and killed him, he was not depressed because of the act but ‘because killing him felt so good’ (259; original emphasis). Lecter then asks, ‘Why shouldn’t it feel good? It must feel good to God – He does it all the time, and are we not made in his image?’ (259). All of the explicit references to Blake, and the melding of Good and Evil, come to a head in the last pages of the book when Graham reflects on a visit to Shiloh, in Tennessee, the site of a civil war battle in which 23,746 men died. He remembers the trip and his reaction: He had thought Shiloh haunted, its beauty sinister like flags. Now, drifting between memory and narcotic sleep, he saw that Shiloh was not sinister; it was indifferent. Beautiful Shiloh could witness anything. Its unforgivable beauty simply underscored the indifference of nature, the Green Machine. The loveliness of Shiloh mocked our plight….In the Green Machine there is no mercy; we make mercy, manufacture it in the parts that have overgrown our basic reptile brain. There is no murder. We make murder, and it matters only to us. Graham knew too well that he contained all the elements to make murder; perhaps mercy too. … He wondered if, in the great body of humankind, in the minds of men set on civilization, the vicious urges we control in ourselves and the dark instinctive knowledge of those urges function like the crippled virus the body arms against. He wondered if old, awful urges are the virus that makes vaccine. (339; original emphasis) Here, at the end of the novel, Harris emphasises that humanity can be both Good and Evil, that Evil urges are necessary in order to be Good since Evil works as a vaccine to combat further Evil. This ending resonates with the ideas discussed earlier in Blake’s annotation to Lavater in which he emphasised that man contains both Good and Evil in order to facilitate regeneration through the struggle between Good and Evil. Unfortunately, readers such as Winder have overlooked this ending, and choose to categorise this and the subsequent novels as being about the simplistic struggle of Good individual against Evil indi-

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vidual, instead of an exploration of the Good and Evil in everyone, which Harris continues in the Silence of the Lambs. Silence does not explicitly reference Blake, and yet it too reveals a belief in the mixture of Good and Evil in nature and in each individual. If read immediately after reading Red Dragon it is impossible not to recognise the theme. Yet many readers repeat the mistakes of characters in the novel who insist on seeing the division and finding an easy explanation of why Lecter is evil. If Good and Evil are indeed separate and cannot cooperate or mingle, why is Clarice Starling able to solve the Buffalo Bill killings only with the help of both the FBI agent Jack Crawford and the killer Hannibal Lecter? She cannot succeed without input and support from each. On a more mundane level, Harris continually reminds readers of Lecter’s sophistication and politeness, particularly compared to the head of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Chilton, whom Starling can easily identify as a clumsy fool and a tacky showman. While Red Dragon contains an explicit reference to a tiger that embodies both Good and Evil, vulnerability and power, Silence of the Lambs obviously contains a direct reference to lambs. The lambs in this novel are used traditionally as a symbol of innocence. Starling wanted to save the innocent lambs from slaughter just as she now wishes to save Jame Gumb’s victims. Interestingly, something as innocent as lambs introduces Starling to Evil and destruction. Without the desire to preserve the Good, she has no need to encounter Evil. For her, Evil does operate as the vaccine that Will Graham speculated it was; it helps to combat further Evil. While the lamb remains essentially an image of innocence, the Death’s-head Moths raised by Gumb embody both Good and Evil. When Starling visits the Smithsonian and sees one Harris describes it as being both ‘wonderful and terrible to see’ (1988, 239). Its design is exquisite and yet strikes fear in those who see it. The moth resembles Lecter with his elegant sophistication and frightening power. Lecter does not look for an explanation of his Evil but recognises it as a part of himself, just as the design is part of the moth. In his first meeting with Starling she wants to know what happened to him to make him a killer. He says, ‘Nothing happened to me … I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism’ (19; original emphasis). When he asks if she can stand to say he is Evil, she says he is destructive and for her it is the same thing. For Starling, then, destruction equals Evil; therefore,

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destruction cannot be caused by a good force. Starling’s belief leads Lecter, in a moment reminiscent of his telling Graham in Red Dragon that killing feels good to God, to discuss his own understanding of destruction, particularly ‘Acts of God’: ‘I collect church collapses, recreationally. Did you see the recent one in Sicily? Marvelous! The facade fell on sixty-five grandmothers at a special Mass. Was that evil? If so, who did it? If He’s up there, He just loves it. … Typhoid and swans – it all comes from the same place’ (19). Here Lecter essentially asks, ‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’ and responds with an emphatic, Yes! Lecter recognises, as Blake stated in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, that sometimes destruction is caused by a good force and can have a positive outcome. Blake states on plate 14 that ‘first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul, is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid’ (E 39). Through the painful burning away of false surfaces, true vision is revealed. Unlike Blake, Lecter does not suggest that God causes these destructive acts in order to increase vision, but he does recognise their origin in a good source. As Lecter and Starling spend more time with each other, Lecter notices an undercurrent and wonders how she manages her rage, for beneath her analytical mind lies contained rage. Lecter notices this complexity; and perhaps that is why he is drawn to her and wants to ‘give Jame Gumb’ to her (157). Perhaps he sees within her the capability of realising the coexistence of Good and Evil within him at least if not within all things. Something, after all, leads Lecter to cooperate (however enigmatically) with Graham, Starling and to some extent Barney, but to avoid or deliberately confound those like Chilton. There must be some difference between them that leads Lecter to respond in such different ways. His recognition of the possibility of Starling understanding him and the coexistence of Good and Evil in individuals and nature leads to a deepening of their relationship and his respect for her. He will never harm her, and she, recognising his complexity, knows this to be true. Lecter, however, is not kind to Starling only, but also to his nurse Barney, who is able to survive longer around Lecter than anyone else and reappears in Hannibal. Both Barney and Starling understand him better than the trained psychiatrists do and recognise his capacity for kindness, which protects them from his cruelty. Silence of the Lambs ends with Lecter, now escaped, sending a thank you note and tip to Barney and then writing to Starling. He wishes to maintain a correspondence with her and ends the note by talking

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about how he can see Orion outside his window. He then adds, ‘But I expect you can see it too. Some of our stars are the same’ (337). This connection between them reveals that, even if they appear to be opposites, they have a commonality. This moment underscores their relationship which will be emphasised, to the chagrin of some readers, in Hannibal. Hannibal begins with Starling killing five people in a botched drug raid, including the leader of the gang, a woman holding her baby. Starling must wash the woman’s HIV-positive blood off the child. And thus Harris begins with the hero, the character associated with lambs, with blood on her hands. The connections to Blake are more explicit here than in Silence. When Starling receives a letter from Lecter she notices his ‘fine copperplate hand’, similar to Dolarhyde’s in Red Dragon, which in turn was compared to Blake’s (1999, 29). Here, as in the other books, Lecter and Starling both appear more sophisticated and civilised than the other supposedly ‘good’ characters who make clumsy passes at Starling, insult her or actively work against her. The most explicit connection to Blake is Mason Verger’s copy of The Ancient of Days. Harris makes a point of naming and describing it: ‘A seating area in the corner of Mason Verger’s chamber was severely lit from above. A passable print of William Blake’s “The Ancient of Days” hung above the couch – God measuring with his calipers. The picture was draped with black to commemorate the recent passing of the Verger patriarch. The rest of the room was dark’ (56). Clearly, Harris wants the reader to be aware of both the image and of Blake. In Blake’s mythology Urizen in part causes the fall into Generation and separation. In his attempt to help humanity by providing boundaries and laws, rationality, he further separates individuals from each other and creates binaries. Urizen uses his calipers to measure out laws and provide order; however, these laws lead only to separation and ironically the breaking of laws since, as Blake states in ‘The Proverbs of Hell’, ‘Prisons are built with stones of Law’ (l. 21, E 36). This print in Verger’s room is telling as Verger himself is a bizarre mixture of Good and Evil. He thanks God for his encounter with Lecter, in which he became horribly disfigured but survived, and asks Starling if she has accepted Jesus, if she has faith. While he outwardly is the most religious of the characters and works with the FBI to capture Lecter, he also plots Lecter’s horrible torture and death and continues to molest small children. Like Urizen, he views himself as devout while he ultimately is destructive.

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In order to help him find Lecter, Mason Verger has hired Barney. In her own hunt for Lecter, Starling too meets Barney and asks him how he survived, knowing that it was more than just being civil. Barney responds, explicitly stating the idea of coexisting Good and Evil: ‘Dr. Lecter had perfect manners, not stiff, but easy and elegant. I was working on some correspondence courses and he shared his mind with me. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t kill me any second if he got the chance – one quality in a person doesn’t rule out any other quality. They can exist side by side, good and terrible’ (87; original emphasis). Starling begins to grow more aware of this coexistence and also grows to be more like Lecter in some ways. After meeting a dowdy nurse to gather more information about Lecter, ‘[s]he knew she was weary of something. Maybe it was tackiness, worse than tackiness, style-lessness maybe … . Maybe she was hungry for some style’ (71). The only character who can provide her with style and relieve her of tackiness is Lecter. Perhaps she begins to recognise, even if only subconsciously, his appeal. When she stands in his now long empty cell at the closed Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, she thinks, ‘Death and danger do not have to come with trappings. They can come to you in the sweet breath of your beloved’ (79). While she does not yet accept him as her beloved, she is beginning to see the intricate connection between the beautiful and the dangerous. Lecter too sees beauty and danger in Starling when he calls her ‘the honey in the lion’ (184). He may be attracted most to this complexity in her and be aware that she is open to embracing it as well. She realises his attraction to her when she attempts to track him through his tastes: she lists what he likes and includes herself in the list. She also recognises his importance, the necessity of his continued existence, when she tells Ardelia, her roommate, that she would ‘like to see him beat the needle. If he can do that, and he’s put in an institution, there’s enough academic interest in him to keep his treatment pretty good … Can’t waste a man that’s crazy enough to tell the truth’ (128). Perhaps the truth she has heard him telling is that of human nature, of what Lecter witnesses in himself and those around him. He is, after all, someone who visits the exhibit of Atrocious Torture Instruments in Florence to watch the crowd, knowing that ‘the essence of the worst … is not found in the Iron Maiden or the whetted edge; Elemental Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd’ (128). Here Lecter ponders the ugliness of the crowd, while in the earlier novels he speculates and lectures on the cruelty and ugliness of God. In this last novel it is Mason Verger who speculates about the nature of ‘Acts of God’ and

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suffering, thinking ‘God’s choices in inflicting suffering are not satisfactory to us, nor are they understandable, unless innocence offends Him’ (99). Lecter himself had an encounter with God’s inflicting suffering on the innocent. Like Blake’s corrosive fires which will lead to a cleansing of perception and the correction of the errors of the Bible and Religion, this encounter leads to Lecter’s heightened awareness of the nature of God. In 1944, after the Eastern Front collapsed, when deserters staying at a hunting lodge had run out of meat, they ate his sister, Mischa. He prayed to see her again, only to discover some of her baby teeth in a pile of soldiers’ excreta. Harris writes: ‘since this partial answer to his own prayer, Hannibal Lecter had not been bothered by any considerations of deity, other than to recognize how his own modest predations paled beside those of God, who is in irony matchless, and in wanton malice beyond measure’ (256). Some critics have claimed that this memory of Mischa serves as an explanation for Lecter’s evil behaviour. Robert Winder (1999) states that Lecter is now ‘just another crazed avenger’ and Kristina Bross (2001) that ‘here his twisted ways are explained by childhood trauma’. Many other readers are disappointed in this memory because they feel it taints Lecter’s pure Evil, providing him with a reason for his actions. However, Harris did not intend for Lecter to be pure Evil. Harris does not offer this up as the cause of Lecter’s Evil or madness but instead as the incident in Lecter’s life when he became aware of the human face of Evil and the cruel nature of God. This realisation in turn allowed him to express both sides of himself instead of pretending to be wholly Good. After all, if God is not wholly Good, why should humans be? While readers – and in fact, Blake – may not agree with Lecter’s conclusion that he too can now act on his evil/destructive nature as God does, he clearly shares Blake’s belief that destruction can come from both good and evil causes. Both those who accept that this incident caused his behavior and those that view him as an example of pure Evil that this memory taints mirror the fault of the majority of those who attempt to capture Lecter: they look for the simple answer, the easy explanation of why he behaves as he does, and ignore any complexities. For example, while Dr Doemling and Krendler, an agent for the Justice Department, try to tell Verger that Lecter wants to degrade Starling and eventually watch her suffer and die, that he will exploit all he knows about her to do this while pretending to be her friend, Barney knows better the complexities of the man and says, ‘He admires and respects her courage and her discipline. He says himself he’s got no plans to come around. One

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thing he does not do is lie’ (1999, 277). Dr Doemling, however, continues to insist on seeing only one side and responds that Barney’s opinion is an example of ‘tabloid thinking’ and that Lecter ‘does not have emotions like admiration or respect’ (277). Like Barney, Starling recognises Lecter’s sincerity and acknowledges and accepts his admiration, respect and even vulnerability. In Silence the lambs were established as the traditional figure of innocence. Because of her desire to protect the lambs, the innocent, from slaughter Starling joined the FBI and began her contact with all things evil. However, in Hannibal Lecter himself becomes like a lamb to her. Harris writes, ‘but she could not abide the thought of Dr. Lecter tortured to death; she shied from it as she had from the slaughter of the lambs and the horses so long ago’ (397). Lecter the killer is not the tiger here, but the lamb. Just as she once attempted to save the lambs, so she attempts to save Lecter, only to be saved by him. The last section of the novel is truly a marriage of heaven and hell as Lecter literally carries Starling away with him. She has been hit by tranquilliser darts, and as Lecter administers stimulant antidotes slowly and cares for her, providing teas and baths, he also hypnotises her to discover more about her childhood and her father. Eventually, the drug wears off, the hypnotism ends and she freely chooses to stay. As she once recognised Lecter’s ability to tell the truth and admired it, she now speaks the truth, allowing herself to be free with him and not try to hide any particular facet of herself. She hears herself speaking to him and ‘[t]he things she told Dr. Lecter were often surprising to her, sometimes distasteful to a normal sensibility, but what she said was always true’ (447). The novel ends with Starling having been cured by Lecter; he makes her confront her father’s memory, freely experience all of her emotions regarding her father and reconcile herself to his memory. In turn she helps Lecter realise that he can maintain his sister’s memory within him and does not need to fight against it. He no longer has to be afraid of that painful memory. This novel’s, and the trilogy’s, ending with the union of Starling and Lecter, embodies a literal marrying of Innocence and Experience, but one that is quite complex, for it is not Starling who is innocent and Lecter who is experienced, but instead each is both. This ending has left many readers and critics unsatisfied, calling it, for example, a ‘betrayal of a dubious feminist heroine’ (Bross 2001). This reaction implies that it is betrayal not only because the heroine runs off with the villain, but also because the independent female is united with a

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male. This criticism echoes those levelled at Blake’s myth of the reconciliation of another set of contraries: the Male and his Emanation. Whether one believes that Harris’s union of Starling and Lecter and Blake’s union of Male and Emanation are betrayals of feminist beliefs, the unions themselves reveal a belief in the marriage of contraries, not the continued separation of binaries. The film version, however, does not contain this union, in part so it could avoid viewer dissatisfaction. Many readers, and therefore (it was assumed) many viewers, could not accept that Starling would voluntarily go off with Lecter. This dissatisfaction does not rise from inadequacies in the novels themselves though, for if read closely enough the growing connection between the two and the coexistence of Good and Evil in those characters who are true to themselves are clear. The dissatisfaction arises in the minds of readers who continue, like Dr Doemling and others, to want to see the world in binaries that cannot be reconciled. For these readers the connection to Blake has been overlooked. Perhaps Harris should have been more explicit, but if the books are read with Blake in mind, following the signposts Harris erected, reading the trilogy in order establishes the connection to Blake, the ending, far from being dissatisfying, instead may even be too explicit a statement of Good and Evil and the complexity of human nature.

Note 1. See, for example, ‘A Pound of Flesh’; www.theasc.com/magazine/feb01/flesh/ pg1.htm. February 2001.

14 From Hell: Blake and Evil in Popular Culture Jason Whittaker

Since his death in 1827, William Blake has often been associated with the devil’s party: Algernon Swinburne (1867) wrote of Blake that ‘he was born and baptised into the church of rebels’ (3), while Georges Bataille (1973) saw the poet as a satanic visionary in whose work ‘evil attains a form of purity’ (9). As one inspiration behind the occult art of Aleister Crowley, the self-styled ‘Great Beast’, and the transformation of Saladin Chamcha into a devil in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the association has been a curiously tenacious one considering Blake’s judgement of himself as a Christian prophet. The source of the connection was, of course, Blake’s early illuminated prophecy The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which he declared that energy, often called evil by the religious, is from the body and ‘Eternal Delight’, while Milton ‘was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it’ (pl. 5, E 35). The Marriage, however, is far from Blake’s last comment on evil, and while he may have celebrated the diabolic in such early texts, Blake is significant in so far as he also displays a strong sense of the satanic. Despite his early remarks on Milton, in later works such as Milton, Jerusalem and The Ghost of Abel, Blake reasserts the satanic as that against which his Christian ethos must fight. By Blake’s diabolism, I mean something closer to Romantic sensibility of daemonism which brings individuals into contact with the divine, in contrast to his later Satanism (itself a word that is, in contrast to the Satanic, rarely used before the Romantic period). The distinction is, frankly, one of convenience and cannot always be maintained. In Romantic Satanism, for example, Peter Schock demonstrates how Blake’s diabolic reading of Paradise Lost was prevalent in the Johnson circle to which Blake had access in the 1790s, and that ‘Blake uses Satan … the vehicle for a 192

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refinement of infernal ethics’, a refinement that also parodied associates of Johnson who had replaced God with reason rather than the Christ of desire. Schock (2003) paraphrases Erdman to suggest that Blake’s later depictions of the conflict against Satan as ‘one of the coded political narratives’ (48) was produced by ‘an increasingly fearful, self-censoring Blake’ (76). Behind this lies the assumption that sedition must be satanic rather than part of a radical and millenarian Christian legacy. On the face of it, then, there is a contradiction between those rebellious souls of popular culture who appeal to the Blake of the devil’s party, and the later, prophetic Blake, writing Jeremiads against Satan and all his works. It is true that opposition exists, but there is also a connection in that Blake’s configuration of the satanic – while completely comprehensible in the nonconformist, even antinomian, traditions in which he worked according to E. P. Thompson (1993) – is at odds with much of the conventional orthodox representation of Satan. In Milton 9: 19–29 (E 103), Blake describes Satan before the Eternal Family in heaven: For Satan flaming with Rintrahs fury hidden beneath his own mildness Accus’d Palamabron before the Assembly of ingratitude! of malice: He created Seven deadly Sins drawing out his infernal scroll, Of Moral laws and cruel punishments upon the clouds of Jehovah To pervert the Divine voice in its entrance to the earth With thunder of war & trumpets sound, with armies of disease Punishments & deaths musterd & number’d; Saying I am God alone There is no other! let all obey my principles of moral individuality I have brought them from the uppermost innermost recesses Of my Eternal Mind, transgressors I will rend off for ever, As now I rend this accursed Family from my covering. Blake here has returned to the Hebrew origins of satan meaning ‘adversary’ or ‘enemy’, but also, as in Job 1:6 and Revelation 12:10, ‘the accuser’ or ‘accuser of the brethren’. The Greek equivalent for accuser, kategoros, is used in John 8:10 and throughout Acts to refer to one who brings a charge against another. The satanic act without parallel, therefore, is the act of accusation, and for Blake this is the basis of sin: again and again in Milton and Jerusalem, Blake attacks moral law, the inscription of man’s sin in stone (almost literally, not merely on the Stones brought down from Sinai by Moses, but also in the ‘druidic’ standing

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stones and circles built in Albion). The law stands in opposition to imagination and forgiveness because, so inscribed, it can never be forgotten. Blake, who described himself as ‘perhaps the most sinful of men’ in his preface to Jerusalem, was profoundly affected by the story of the adulterous woman as related in John 8:1–11, where Christ ironically instructs the scribes and Pharisees who have brought the woman: ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’ (8:7). The imaginative act for Blake is forgiveness of sin, for the alternative is human desolation, as Albion laments in Jerusalem: O Human Imagination O Divine Body I have Crucified I have turned my back upon thee into the Wastes of Moral Law: There Babylon is builded in the Waste, founded in Human desolation. (24:23–5, E 169) At the end of Jerusalem (98:45–50), Blake inveighs against Albion’s Spectre as the Accuser, and we meet this Spectre at the end of Milton as Milton’s shadow, the law of self-righteousness that discovers sin in others. In The Ghost of Abel, he appears as the Spectre of Abel, demanding Cain’s life in fulfilment of the moral law. In this late text (1822 according to Blake’s inscription), Jehovah appears as the voice of forgiveness, a role more typically allocated to Christ. More often, Satan and Jehovah are inextricably entwined in Blake’s art and writing, most dramatically in his engravings for Job, and in the Epilogue to For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, Blake mockingly clarifies Satan’s position in the world: To The Accuser Who is The God of This World Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce And dost not know the Garment from the Man Every Harlot was a Virgin once Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan Tho thou art Worshipd by the Names Divine Of Jesus & Jehovah thou art still The Son of Morn in weary Nights decline The lost Travellers Dream under the Hill (E 269)

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Satan, then, is the accuser of sin who is appealed to as the basis of moral law by the accusers (oi kategoroi) of John 8:10. As such, he is the God of This World, but also a dunce who ‘does not know the Garment from the Man’, that is who mistakes the (often sinful) acts of men and women for the essential nature of the human condition. There is a certain irony in the fact that Blake’s moral vision was so deeply affected by the Johannine text, the provenance of which has been called into question by biblical scholars: John 8:1–11 does not appear in the Codex Vaticanus or the Codex Sinaiticus, and was apparently unknown to Christian commentators before Ambrose and Augustine in the fourth century (Howell-Smith, 13, 60). Considering the fact that scholars such as Thompson, Mee and Worrall have situated Blake within a thriving antinomian and nonconformist culture, it seems apt that the moral vision of the British prophet should be founded on a possibly heretical text, particularly one that appeals so strongly to the divine humanism of forgiveness. The Woman Taken in Adultery was one of the many biblical scenes illustrated by Blake for Thomas Butts around 1805, a period which saw ‘Blake’s most intense reflection on forgiveness’ (Moskal, 32). The clarification in Blake’s thought that seems to have occurred during this period, which saw him break his squeaking trumpet of Satanism in preference for the truly seditious clarion of antinomian Christianity, indicates, as Moskal observes, that it is not conventional ‘transgressions’ that require forgiveness, but rather the offence of accusation born from pride. Evil for Blake becomes the distorted will to power of the God of This World, one who sees himself as free from sin but ready to accuse all others with the Moral Law: against this Blake does not so much denounce sins, as sin itself. Part of the importance of reading Blake is the realisation of such remarkable visions of good in an apparent universe of evil. Or, to restate this observation another way, one of the reasons why Blake is such a profoundly moral writer is because his knowledge of good is clearly framed against the knowledge of evil. Alongside the Lamb we see the Tyger, the Human Abstract confronting the Divine Image. Blake’s moral universe avoids mawkishness and sentimentality, even in the sweetness of innocence, because he recognises within it the power of evil. By the same token, he avoids the despairing cynicism of experience because of his simple experiences of goodness. As Patti Smith has remarked: William Burroughs and I used to talk about this. Burroughs was fond of Blake, and it was just so simple to him. He said that Blake

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just saw what others did not – and that it seemed like a good answer. I mean, Blake was so generous with his angels that even we can look at them now. (Bracewell, 33) It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the value of Blake’s moral universe is recognised by precisely those writers and artists who wish to oppose the God of this World but who also wish to avoid the rebellious posturing of an easily misinterpreted Satanism (a similar dilemma faced by Shelley who, in his Preface to Prometheus Unbound, seemed ‘determined to head off a Satanic reading of his drama’ though also drawing on the plebeian ‘satanic’ revolutionary angers of the day [Schock, 127]). What is at stake in the remaining part of this chapter is how Blake’s critique of the Moral Law influenced a number of writers at the end of the twentieth century. I shall allude to two texts only briefly, the first, Red Dragon, because (as with Satanic Verses) it is the subject of another chapter in this book; the second, The Unlimited Dream Company, because I deal with it in more detail elsewhere (RB 55–60). The Hannibal Lecter trilogy is easily the most influential text in terms of introducing Blakean notions of the nature of Good and Evil to a wider audience. As Michelle Gompf argues, the trilogy as a whole is concerned with the marriage of Good and Evil, perhaps a synthesis similar to Bataille’s hypermorality, beyond conventional notions of Good and Evil. What I would also wish to emphasise at this point, however, is how Dolarhyde’s ‘becoming’ in Red Dragon is an overtly masculinised misreading of Blake. As the Great Red Dragon, Dolarhyde is depressingly enthralled to the all-too-familiar dyad of virgin–harlot, rapacious when murdering the former but subject to the will of the latter: He saw it in a large, full-colour photograph in Time Magazine illustrating a report on the Blake retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London. The Brooklyn Museum had sent The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun to London for the show. Time’s critic said ‘Few demonic images in Western art radiate such a nightmarish sexual energy …’ Dolarhyde didn’t have to read the text to find that out. (1981, 227) Dolarhyde stands, as for the Great Red Dragon, rampant and rapacious over women, whose sexuality makes them as polluted and prostituted

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as his absent mother, given over to crimes punishable by violent deaths, yet his sacrifices are offered on a terrible altar to his grandmother. G. A. Rosso has drawn attention to the use of ‘Dragon Forms’ in Milton and Jerusalem which Blake describes as ‘hermaphroditic’, each containing ‘a harlot (Rahab) within’ (Rosso, 288). If we agree with Moskal’s evaluation of the 1805 watercolour of the woman accused of adultery as an example of Blake’s attitude to ‘the expression of sexuality [as] part of the expression of genius’ (34), then Blake’s terse phrase – ‘Religion hid in War’ (Milton 37:43, E 138) – to describe such Dragon Forms can itself be used to summarise Dolarhyde’s psychosis: his sexuality is repressed by his grandmother’s moral law, distorting into that violence which rejects female love rejected for male domination. The protagonist of J. G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company is as violent in intent as Francis Dolaryde, although Ballard offers that novel’s ambiguous hero, Blake, a visionary epiphany that is quite different from anything ultimately experienced by the Man-Dragon. In The Unlimited Dream Company, which I see as a rewriting of Milton, Ballard charts in typically surrealist fashion the descent of Blake into death, his attempt to escape the hell he finds himself in through energetic murder and rape, and a final redemption through annihilation of self and love. At the beginning of the novel, the psychotic and dysfunctional Blake crash-lands a stolen Cessna in the Thames and finds himself stranded in Ballard’s home suburb of Shepperton: aware that he has a magical, atavistic power in this zone of life-in-death, Blake sadistically devours the opportunity to fulfil his repressed lusts, fill up an almost literal hunger by the sexual assimilation of all the inhabitants of the town by means of which, he believes, he will be able to flee back across the Thames. It is only when Blake ceases to consume others and gives himself up to all the living things of Shepperton, however, that he finally is able to confront his shadow, the drowned pilot that is his own dead body, just as Milton confronts the spectre of Satan at the end of Milton. Until this moment Blake has, as with Dolarhyde in Red Dragon, been in thrall to a destructive, oedipal shadow of desire, to consume his lost mother in order to satisfy the demands of a spectral masculine selfhood. At the conclusion of Ballard’s novel, however, he descends to his couch (as does Albion at the end of Milton) to await a more perfect union with his female emanation. William Blake has, often rightly, been criticised by critics for his own masculinist failings (see Mellor 1997; Tahoer 1973; Fox 1977). At the very least, his attempt to offer a redemptory synthesis of the human condition in the eternal body of Albion fails to offer an equal marriage

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of the sexes. Tristanne Connolly is straightforward in her observation: ‘In Eternity there is no female Will, no separate mirror image of himself or another gender: the female is not and so there is no danger of his desiring her in vain or of failing to control her. She is an emanation of man with no will of her own’ (190). In general, I believe that Blake is guilty as charged: it is his worst blindness at that very moment as he attempts to illuminate his greatest insights into eternal, visionary experience. And yet, if the shadow of that blindness is often so dark it is because Blake also struggled to silhouette the spectral figure of repressed masculine desires, love perverted to violence and hate, and his relative success here is, I think, particularly illuminating for male writers such as Harris and Ballard, as well as the two final texts to be considered in this chapter, Michael Dibdin’s Dark Spectre and Alan Moore’s From Hell. The 1995 novel Dark Spectre is one of the most extensive popular treatments of Blakean ideas and mythologies to have been published in the twentieth century. Dibdin’s novel begins with a small group of university stoner friends, adrift in a sea of 1970s moral relativism and dope, the most important being the novel’s narrator, Phil, and the atheist Sam, who has rejected the values of his Christian fundamentalist parents. One night, drunk and on drugs, they begin an apparently aimless discussion of God’s role in apparently meaningless and vicious incidents, such as the accidental killing by a junkie of her child. Sam attacks the simple notion of God as love, Satan as evil and Manichean, using the classic problem of evil to indicate the rational blindspot of Christianity: if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow terrible events to occur? ‘All I’m saying is that you can’t have it both ways. If God is all-powerful, he could have saved that baby. If he is good and loving, he would have’ (24). The classic answer, derived from St Augustine and St Anselm, takes as its starting point the notion of free will: if we are to be able to choose to love God freely, then he will not always intervene in his creation. But this response has appeared somewhat anodyne to critics for it rather too neatly evades an all-powerful and all-loving God’s responsibility for evil: does there, after all, have to be so much wickedness in the world to test our free will? The same night that the discussion of the problem of evil occurs, Sam takes a huge quantity of mescaline, but the friends soon go their separate ways. When Sam and Phil meet after many years, Phil has settled into his life as an English teacher – only disturbed by the tragic murder of his wife and son – while Sam, after volunteering for

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Vietnam, has discovered a secret that he desires to reveal to a reluctant Phil: ‘I always respected you, Phil. You were different than the others. You’d been in Europe and all. Plus there was that class we took together. That makes a big difference, the fact that you’ve read Blake.’ ‘What’s Blake got to do with it?’… ‘Blake is very important,’ he whispered, as though confiding a great truth.’ (57–8) When Phil finally joins Sam, he discovers a cult in the American north-west run along the lines of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, in which the writings of Blake serve as the revelatory scripture of ‘God’s plan’. Before long, Phil realises that he also is meant to attend lectures on Blake’s works in which inspiration and interpretation are replaced by recitation and memorisation as part of Sam’s desire to mould the wills and desires of the men and women around him. These first encounters force Phil to reconsider his opinion of the Romantic poet and artist: My only previous contact with Blake’s work had been in a class I took at college. Like a lot of people back then, I’d been seduced by the idea that Blake was an acid-head born ahead of his time. All that stuff about seeing the universe in a grain of sand, we’d been there, done that. (167) Phil’s understanding of Blake is glib, facile, the fag-end of 1960s radicalism that appropriated revolutionary insights into pop commodities. Sam’s perception is more radical, less relativistic: ‘In principle, the set-up seemed simple enough. Sam had created a religion using Blake’s work as his bible and casting himself in the role of Los, the prophet’ (172). What Phil does not realise is that Sam’s fundamentalist creed is based on praxis more than doctrine, an action that reveals the Secret, the answer to God’s role in the problem of evil: If God is love, He won’t let anything bad happen to someone real … You understand what it means? It means you can do what the fuck you want! You can beat people, shoot them, burn them, torture them, anything at all! Because if God allows you to do it, the victim

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was never really there in the first place. He was what Blake calls a spectre. An emanation, a mere shadow. ‘Why wilt thou give to her a body whose life is but a shade?’, Jerusalem, chapter twelve, verse one. (256–7) Sam interprets Blake, therefore, as a version of ‘Do what thou wilt’, because an all-loving, all-powerful God will intervene to prevent real evil. As such, his followers must murder a randomly chosen victim (or, as Phil begins to realise with regard to his own wife and son, not so randomly chosen) to experience the force of Sam’s divine revelation for themselves. Those who fail to perform this rite, or who do not believe that Sam is the prophet Los fulfilling the millenarian revelations of William Blake, in turn are shown to be spectres, and are in turn beaten, shot, burnt or tortured, such as the woman who attempted to escape and is raped by Sam’s male acolytes. Indeed, that rape is a key to the real power of Sam’s perverted doctrine. As Phil quickly comes to realise, the women kept by Sam and his men are reduced to the most menial domestic and sexual roles. By confusing spectres and emanations, the female form can never be more than ‘a mere shadow’, and his real secret is as depressingly familiar as Dolarhyde’s virgin–whore complex: men are bound to him by their complicity in his crimes, but even more so in their domination of women. Sam and his men, as Phil comes to realise, have completely denied any personality, any reality to women. It is they who are the dark spectres: I felt unreal, drained of substance, like one of those spectres whose meaning Sam had so totally perverted. What Blake meant, as far as I can recall, is that every one of us has a male and a female component, and that we can only achieve full humanity when the two are commingled. Split from the whole, the male component becomes a ‘spectre’, a reasoning machine spinning abstract theories and arbitrary rules and then enforcing them ruthlessly. The female component similarly degenerates into an ‘emanation’, jealous, moody, nagging, envious. (327) There are problems with this extract – not least of which is Dibdin’s diversion into a rather grating mini-lecture – but his interpretation of the role of the spectre does, I believe, indicate the ways in which a

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number of writers such as Ballard and Harris have understood this Blakean figure as the embodiment of hyper-masculinised evil, love and desire perverted to domination of the female form. Such a reading is, perhaps, rather simplistic (Connolly’s William Blake and the Body offers an extremely useful chapter on the complex interrelations of spectre and emanation in Blake’s texts [155–91]). It is, however, significant that a number of writers have lighted on the idea of the spectre as a powerful emblem to explain the evil that men do. In Dark Spectre, Sam is certain that he has received revelation into Blake’s meaning and yet, according to Phil’s final insight, the serial killer has completely misunderstood Blakean energy as a force to justify any evil rather than the spring of radical good. Such dark misprision of Blake by a psychotic murderer is in part the subject of From Hell, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel based on the Whitechapel murders and the career of Jack the Ripper. Originally published in serial form in 1989 and republished in 1999 with annotations, From Hell was also released as a rather mediocre movie in 2001, which, as it omits all reference to Blake (as well as just about all that made the novel so original and sophisticated), will form no part of this essay. While Alan Moore has demonstrated many times, in titles such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, the ways in which a popular format such as the graphic novel can be used to experiment with avantgarde ideas, the Hughes brothers’ film is, unfortunately, a good example of dumbed-down popular culture.1 Moore and Campbell’s novel, unlike the film, is no whodunit thriller: Sir William Withey Gull is revealed very near the beginning as the Whitechapel murderer, lobotomising Annie Crook and slaughtering her prostitute acquaintances ostensibly on the orders of Queen Victoria and his Masonic peers to protect the reputation of Prince Edward. This ‘theory’ of the identity of Jack the Ripper is hardly new and, as Moore suggests in a second appendix to the novel, is rather irrelevant to his reasons for writing about the Whitechapel murders. Gull is the perfect suspect not merely because his name indicates the ways in which amateur male detectives have been duped into pursuing their own, rather foul obsessions with the violent murder of prostitutes, but also because Gull represents the knot that ties together masculine rationality and violence, as well as class warfare against the lower orders in the pursuit of power. Women, and especially working-class women, are the important subjects of From Hell, and Moore and Campbell spend much of the novel detailing their lives. Gull, by contrast, and the elites through which he

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moves, are hollow, and the text is almost contemptuous of his psychopathology, checking off rather cursorily his childhood obsessions with death, his sexually repressed marriage and his development into an apparently rational scientist. Where Gull becomes most animated is in terms of the private occult ritual that he pursues through the murder of prostitutes, his own real reasons for engaging in such vicious activities. Throughout chapter 4 of From Hell, Gull travels through London with his apprentice, Netley, explaining to him the secret, psycho-geographical significance of London, the arrangement of the city as a druidic ritual ultimately designed to establish the predominance of men and destroy matriarchy. As Gull explains to Netley, ‘Sometimes an act of social magic’s necessary; man’s triumph over woman’s insecure, the dust of history not yet settled’ (ch. 4, 30). As part of his dissertation on the secret geomantic landscape of London, Gull appeals to Blake in the first of the long extracts from the novel dealing with the Romantic artist and poet. Gull explains to Netley that ‘The greater part of London’s story is not writ in words’, citing lines from Visions of the Daughters of Albion as they follow Albion Drive to Broadway Market, Goldsmith’s Row and Hackney Road: ‘Enslaved [sic], the Daughters of Albion weep: a trembling lamentation …’ (ch. 4, 9–13) For Gull, Blake is a transcendental guide, a druidic master revealing secret mysteries that science and reason have failed to uncover, the apparent madness of the eighteenth-century engraver a perfect cover for the spiralling unreason that will show itself in murder. Those murders, violent, brutal and going much further than their ostensible aims to protect the privileges of power, are what Gull perceives to be his ‘great work’, a ‘social magic’ that will not only buttress patriarchy through the spectacle of cruelty against women, but also enable Gull himself to achieve a personal spiritual apotheosis, a literal vision of the future. In chapter 10, following the prolonged and particularly gruesome dismemberment of the last of the Whitechapel victims, Marie Kelly, Gull achieves this vision: he is transported through time to the office at the end of the 1980s that stands in the slums where Kelly was murdered. Yet this apotheosis offers Gull no certain interpretation. As he remarks of the people he sees, ‘No, this is dazzle, but not yet divinity’, and he asks for an explanation of this vision of the ‘last times’ (ch. 10, 21). He decodes his hoped-for visions of heaven as a vision of hell, and yet the only hell that Gull occupies is that which he has helped to create in the tenement slum where he butchered Kelly. As he says to her, ‘I am made ignorant, while you … you are made virtuous’ (ch. 10, 22).

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This is the closest Gull comes to satori. He has mistaken spiritual commands for self-sacrifice as the corporeal order to murder. As is also clear from his tour of London with Netley, Gull has very much misunderstood Blake in other ways. Not only did Blake detest what he saw as the druidic impulse of religion, enforcing power through literal sacrifice, but the line that Gull cites from Visions of the Daughters of Albion is not a celebration of domination over the women of Britain, but an echo of their lamentation. As Helen Bruder has shown us, though Blake’s sexual politics were far from perfect, at many times – particularly during the late 1780s and early 1790s when texts such as Visions were written – Blake was very much concerned with the liberation of women politically, sexually and socially (36). That the Ripper has completely misinterpreted Blake is also made clear in Gull’s final vision at the moment of his death. Travelling through time and space, at one point he is drawn to Blake’s house in Fountain Court: as Gull stands at the top of the stairs, he witnesses Blake enter through a door then run in fear – the only person to see the disembodied spectre as he travels through the city. Later, Gull again encounters Blake, who this time overcomes his fear to draw Gull as the ghost of a flea. As Gull remarks of the finished painting, ‘It is a marvel. Beyond death, he has caught me to the life. Caught me red-handed in the fourfold city’ (ch. 14, 16–17). According to Varley, Blake considered the ghost of a flea to be the reincarnation of those murderers who were made so small because otherwise each one would be ‘a too mighty destroyer’ (BR 352). Gull, in his depraved quest to become more than human, the great man who will dominate woman forever, has sunk to the lowliest of demons, the spectre envisaged by Blake who foolishly assumed that Blake spoke with his voice. Gull, ultimately, is an idiot – and far from a holy one at that – gulled by his own literal failure to match knowledge with love and imagination and corrupted by his pursuit of a power rooted in repressed sexual desire. A common theme across the texts considered here is that they demonstrate a subtle understanding of Blake’s dialectic with evil which recognises a distinction between the diabolic endeavours of revolution, labelled wickedness by supporters of the ‘God of this World’, and the satanic orthodoxies of power that ‘destroy[s] all who do not worship Satan under the Name of God’ (Jerusalem 52: E 201). Ballard’s novel is the most daemonic, celebrating the overthrow of all restriction, and yet even his fiendish Blake realises that he must cast off his own selfishness in order to attain the liberation he truly desires in this rewriting of Milton. Dark Spectre and From Hell are clearer in their

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distinction between radical and repressive energies, those that denounce the evils of this world and those that glory in its power, between the righteous indignation of Jesus and the prophets against the triumphalism of Satan. This distinction is made clear in The Everlasting Gospel, where Blake returns to his early daemonism which restores the diabolical principles of his revolutionary spirits to Christ: Was Jesus Humble or did he Give any Proofs of Humility… This is the Race that Jesus ran Humble to God Haughty to Man Cursing the Rulers before the People Even to the temples highest Steeple (ll.1–2, 63–6, E 519–20)

Note 1. Albert and Allen Hughes, From Hell, Twentieth-Century Fox, 2001.

15 Fit Audience Tho Many: Pullman’s Blake and the Anxiety of Popularity Susan Matthews

Blake buttons In 1807 Thomas Phillips’ portrait of William Blake hung in the ‘AntiRoom’ at the Royal Academy exhibition at Somerset House. It portrays a gentleman artist in frilled shirt, with a strangely abstracted look. Although his portrait occupied a central position, Blake’s identities as artist and as writer were scarcely secure within either London or national culture. Less than three years later, however, this portrait was reproduced in a set of twelve silver buttons to mark the Jubilee of George III’s reign. The other eleven buttons make surprising company for the visionary artist: along with ‘William Blake’, the handsome presentation box provides ‘Queen Charlotte and George III’ together on a button, and single buttons for ‘Edmund Burke’, ‘Horace Walpole’, ‘Nelson’, ‘Wellington’, ‘Pitt, Earl of Chatham’, ‘Charles James Fox’, ‘Wilberforce’, ‘Warren Hastings’, ‘James Watt’ and ‘Adam Smith’. The engraved heads are identified on the buttons and come with buckles carrying the words: ‘Britain Grand Jubilee 1809’ (Epstein and Saffro, 60). According to Epstein and Saffro, the eighteenth century is ‘without doubt the golden age of the button’ (24). From the 1730s onwards, buttons provide personal ornament at relatively small expense. But ornament can also tell stories: the range of techniques (enamel, paint, drawing, ivory, porcelain, silk, reverse painting, silhouette) make it possible to wear not only miniature portraits but tiny reproductions of history paintings. Worn as a set they can create narratives: a French set displays scenes of the nation’s soldiers assisting in the key scenes of the American Revolution (30). A later French set shows revolutionary scenes, including the march to Versailles accompanied by the words of the popular song ‘A ça ira’ (32). In England, Josiah Wedgwood (for 205

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whose catalogue Blake worked) produced neoclassical buttons that popularised the interest in discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii (29). But the Blake button is not part of a revolutionary narrative, nor, we imagine, did Blake want to turn into a button celebrating the royal jubilee. The Everlasting Gospel laments a world in which ‘Poor Spiritual Knowledge is not worth a button’ (E 519). Whilst ‘ornament’ is a strongly positive word for Blake, as for his friend George Cumberland, the ornament that Blake dreams of is on a larger scale: the fresco decorations that he would like to create for ‘Westminster Hall, or the walls of any other great Building’ (E 527). The Blake button upsets the familiar view of Blake as the pictor ignotus of Gilchrist’s subtitle, whose lifetime obscurity was righted long after his death in the slow ascent of his reputation. But it is the Phillips portrait (a conventional representation remaining within the visual languages of its time) rather than work by Blake himself that enters popular, commercial, culture. Blake’s upward glance, together with the story Phillips told of his subject’s conversations with angels, make up an image of the gentle, otherworldly visionary. Worn as a button, Art here supports the work of the Army and Navy by looking politely elsewhere. Philip Pullman’s trilogy for children, His Dark Materials, ends the final volume, The Amber Spyglass (2000), with an acknowledgement of ‘three debts’: to Heinrich von Kleist’s On the Marionette Theatre, to Paradise Lost, and to ‘the works of William Blake’ (550). But to their author’s mild irritation, the novels provide rich pickings for the predatory critic: guides and critical essays (like this one) already abound five years after the completion of the trilogy (Lenz and Scott 2005; Squires 2003). If Pullman’s ‘three debts’ are an attempt to foreclose the game of source-hunting and turn attention back to the creation of original stories, the trilogy nevertheless sets readers off on the track of parallels. As well as Milton and Blake, Michael Dirda expects ‘the astute will pick up echoes of the following’: Christ’s harrowing of Hell, Jewish Kabbala (the legend of the godlike angel Metatron), Gnostic doctrine (dust, our sleeping souls needing to be awakened), the ‘death of God’ controversy, Perelandra, the Oz books (the Wheelers), Wagners’ Ring of the Nibelungs (Siegfried’s mending of the sword), Aeneas, Odysseus and Dante in the Underworld, the Grail legend and the wounded Fisher King, Peter Pan, Wordsworth’s pantheistic ‘Immortality Ode,’ the doctrine of the hidden God and speculation about the plurality of worlds, situational ethics (actions, not people, being good or bad), the cessa-

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tion of miracles, ‘Star Wars,’ colonialist evangelizing, the fetch of British folklore, the 17th-century doctrine of sympathies (for the Gallivespian communication device, the lodestone-resonator), the popular mythology of the Jesuits as ascetic masterminds of realpolitik, superhero comics and even Pullman’s own early novel for adults, Galatea. Fans of science fiction and fantasy may also detect undertones of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, Fritz leiber’s swordand-sorcery tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Jack Vance’s elegant Dying Earth stories.’ (Cited in Squires, 68) When we get this echo, perhaps we are just set loose in the infinite stories of what Blake might call ‘poetic genius’. A theme of the trilogy (in the familiar mode of the postmodern narrative – think of Jeannette Winterson) is the power of story-telling: the heroine Lyra, ‘a practised liar’, is also a practised story-teller: her mind ‘racing ahead through the story she’d told the night before, shaping and cutting and improving and adding: parents dead; family treasure; escape …’ (2000, 307). Pullman happily takes, uses and recombines, but Blake and Blake’s reading of Paradise Lost clearly have a special status. In this sense, Pullman has seemed to many to achieve the seemingly impossible of presenting Blake’s reading of Milton to a mass audience. Pullman’s success is on the scale of other publishing phenomena, of Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code. In December 2003, His Dark Materials came third (after Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice) in the BBC’s ‘Big Read’ competition to find the nation’s favourite book. But whereas Rowling belongs within the genre of popular gothic (and of public school fiction), Pullman alludes explicitly to high culture, incorporating epigraphs from canonical writers, from the Book of Job, Blake, Milton, Keats, Emily Dickinson, in the final novel, The Amber Spyglass (2000; see Matthews, 133). Philip Pullman is currently the president of the London Blake Society and was able to attract an uncharacteristically huge audience to St James’ Piccadilly (the church where Blake was christened) in September 2005 to hear him speak about Blake. What no one mentioned, despite a discussion of the power of the publishing industry, was the contrast between Pullman’s success and Blake’s commercial failure. But is Blake’s commercial failure a worry or a source of pride? To some, Blake’s lack of a contemporary audience is problematic: Jon Mee (1992), for instance, rejects the assumption that the limited circulation of the illuminated books was Blake’s ‘desired goal’ simply because it

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was what he achieved (214). But if the failure of his work to find an audience rankled (as the deletions on plate 3 of Jerusalem might suggest), his works are repeatedly addressed ‘To the Public’ (E 145). Even if Blake addresses a small audience (the ‘fit audience tho’ few’ that Milton expected in Paradise Lost and that Blake quotes at the beginning of the 1809 Descriptive Catalogue [E527]) the projects described in the Catalogue are attempts to address the public on subjects which define the identity of the nation. Which public is Blake thinking of? Blake’s friend Cumberland seems, in his 1796 Thoughts on Outline, to welcome the idea of a popular audience, one which enlarges the previous audience for art. He rejects as a ‘false notion’ the idea that ‘by multiplying impressions, we lessen the value of our original’. The idea that multiplication lessens value is fundamental to the economics of print editioning. Even if large sales increase profit, they also allow the unit price to drop. But Cumberland insists that the ‘eyes of the multitude’ do not reduce value. Looking is not part of the commercial process, though it does depend on opening privilege, turning the private into the public: let us ask what liberal mind has less enjoyment of a fine Arabian horse, because it is exposed to the eyes of the multitude? or, who that feels generously, but considers it as enhancing the value of his parks and grounds, that they afford pleasure and recreation to his neighbours? (36) Blake worked with Cumberland on this book, engraving some of the designs and also teaching him so that he could cut costs and do much of the work himself. Cumberland’s aim is to democratise the process of engraving, to develop a method so easy that anyone can do it. In 1784 he wrote to the European Magazine describing his ‘New Mode of Printing’ and ended with the suggestive comment: ‘The author thinks this mode of printing may be very useful to persons living in the country, or wishing to print very secretly’ (Bentley 1975, 52). Printing ‘very secretly’ is another method of making things public. At the other extreme, in Cumberland’s (and Blake’s) time are those who fear ‘literature made easy’, imagining that the multiplication of books and writers will destroy culture. This is the position that the artist Henry Fuseli, another of Blake’s friends, takes in 1768 when he argues the necessity to limit literature and art if a flood of nonsense is not to obliterate value:

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I wish you would allow me a few remarks on the limits of this epidemick rage of scribbling, and the remedies against that deluge of nonsense which inundates every rank of life. – They are owing entirely to literature made easy. The only effectual means, in my opinion, for preserving its dignity and usefulness to Learning, were, to make it the privilege of Genius. (11–12) Genius is quite a shifty word at this period, and it does not always mean what we now take it to mean, as ‘native intellectual power of an exalted type’ (OED). This sense, not recognised in Johnson’s Dictionary, developed in Germany from the English idea of ‘that particular kind of intellectual power which has the appearance of proceeding from a supernatural inspiration or possession’ and gave rise to the alternative name Genieperiode for the ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement with which Fuseli was associated. ‘Genius’ is a particularly important concept in Fuseli’s Aphorisms on Art, written in the 1780s although not published until much later, in which genius overturns structures of class, patronage and mediocrity. Blake’s twentieth-century readers have more often taken Fuseli’s position than Cumberland’s, and the fear of ‘literature made easy’ is one which Philip Pullman’s ambitious trilogy His Dark Materials can trigger once more. The word ‘genius’ has frequently been used from Gilchrist to Northrop Frye and beyond to distinguish Blake from those around him. In his opening discussion, Gilchrist quotes Wordsworth’s comment that the Songs were ‘undoubtedly the production of insane genius’ (2005, 3). Frye, however, sets the label of ‘genius’ within the culture of the time, ascribing to William Hayley the notion of Blake as the genius who must be managed: ‘Hayley was neither fool nor genius: he was a man of fashionable taste and social intelligence, a patron of the arts and as such a medium between real genius and society. That Blake had genius was clear, and it was the patron’s task, as Hayley conceived it, to direct genius into socially acceptable channels’ (328). Gilchrist and Frye use ‘genius’ in the newer sense we have found in Fuseli: genius is a special quality that lies outside the social. A rather different sense is found in early Blake: the genius that inhabits every hill and river in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is inherent character, the identity of each thing: The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve.

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And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country. placing it under its mental deity. (E 38) This key passage fits the OED’s first sense: ‘The tutelary god or attendant spirit allotted to every person at his birth, to govern his fortunes and determine his character, and finally to conduct him out of the world.’ It would be hard to find a better gloss on Philip Pullman’s ‘dæmon’, the animal self that accompanies and expresses the particular nature of each of his characters. The word Genius appears in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, but then seems to disappear from the vocabulary of Blake’s poetry until its appearance in the Bard’s song of Milton, in the apparently vainglorious boast: The Bard replied. I am Inspired! I know it is Truth! for I Sing According to the inspiration of the Poetic Genius Who is the eternal all-protecting Divine Humanity To whom be Glory & Power & Dominion Evermore Amen (E 107–8) In these words, some readers have heard the crazy voice of the religious fanatic. But if Poetic Genius carries the older sense of genius here, then the meaning is like that of the early tractate and the Bard speaks with a human voice that can access divinity by the means of poetry.

Blake and the esoteric tradition Blake has been imagined as belonging within (or between) many different cultures: in contact with the rational clarity of the Jacobin public sphere, influenced by Swedenborgian and Moravian spirituality, or speaking with ‘the soul-saving rhetoric of lower-class evangelistic Protestantism’ (Johnson, 247). Blake engages with and freely recombines elements of the discourses around him in a way which is not so different after all from Fuseli’s ‘genius’ who ‘discovers new materials of nature, or combines the known with novelty’ (III, 63). Even the difficulty of Blake’s writing which ‘rouzes the faculties to act’ (E 702) thus seems to emerge from popular sources and speak to ‘a Great Majority of Fellow Mortals’ (E 703). This is a slightly different emphasis from those later thinkers who believe that social injustice can only be revealed within an esoteric language. In response to the corruption of language and art in the age of Hitler, Stalin and the Cold War, Theodor

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Adorno and Walter Benjamin saw public discourse as inherently untruthful. Their work, despite its apparent secularity, according to Jeremy Adler, is influenced by their friendship with the major twentieth-century scholar of the Kabbala, Gershom Scholem. But for Adorno, the attempt to preserve the ‘thinking’ quality of art which results in difficulty coincides with an insistence on rejecting marginalisation and on addressing the public (see Williams, 19, 22–3). For other modern readers Blake is an esoteric writer who speaks of a secret knowledge. Marsha Keith Schuchard’s widely disseminated 2006 account belongs strikingly within this tradition. Whether tracing the influence of Swedenborg or of the Moravians, of antiquarians, enthusiasts for Tantric sex, of freemasons, animal magnetists or Rosicrucians, the (sexual) knowledge she discovers in Blake’s work is coded and available only to initiates. It is not so much the sources of knowledge she discovers as the emphasis on secrecy that is striking. Typical of her Blake is an interest in d’Hancarville’s work on ‘encoded phallic symbolism’. Schuchard explains that: When asked why ancient artists could express sexual mysteries that speaker and writers were forbidden to mention, [d’Hancarville] suggested that these portrayals were made by initiated artists, who used an obscure manner that could only be deciphered by fellow adepts. (283) Here too the Kabbala is important, as ‘the esoteric tradition of Jewish mysticism’ which Schuchard sees as a common link between the Moravians with whom Blake’s mother was associated before his birth and many of the other traditions (17). Rather than emphasising the popular transmission of these forms of knowledge as the means by which many ‘autodidact seekers’ sought enlightenment, this account stresses the desire within this tradition to protect secret knowledge. This is in contrast to those who associate difficult language with a politically engaged counter-voice which draws on the popular as against a rational public sphere (e.g. Scrivener 2001). For many academic critics, huge sales are a sign of danger, suggesting ideological complicity. Thus Suman Gupta’s subtle Re- reading Harry Potter finds in the phenomenal success of the series a valuation of ‘unthinking’. Aware as Gupta is of the ‘liberal and anti-fascist veneer in the presentation of magical races as analogous to human races, and wizard racism to human racism’, he finds this ‘undercut under closer scrutiny by an endorsement of a deeper form of racism in the Magic

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world – equivalent to the patronizing, imperial-mission variety of racism of our world’ (160). The popularity of the esoteric in Harry Potter, according to Gupta, suggests that it can speak of desires which support rather than oppose hegemonic assumptions. Gupta reads the popular as ideology: the tale Harry Potter tells of the education of the wizard is of initiation into a body of secret knowledge that must be mastered by long study. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), we discover that Professor Dumbledore ‘“is particularly famous for … the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel”!’(160; emphasis added). Hermione’s researches reveal that Nicolas Flamel is ‘the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone!’(161). Flamel also turns up in Schuchard’s study of Blake: J. A. Tulk, Blake’s Swedenborgian friend, it turns out, translated a French manuscript, the Testament of Nicholas Flamel, and ‘hoped to decipher Flamel’s secret code’ using ‘the Kabbalistic decipherment by Antoine Joseph Pernety, an Avignon Illuminé’ (316). In Schuchard’s work (as in Harry Potter) the road to enlightenment is via secret codes and much study: ‘At Felpham, Blake studied Greek, Latin and Hebrew – the latter especially helpful to his Kabbalistic interpretations of the disintegrating Grand Man.’ On his return to London, Blake ‘resumed his exploration of Oriental mysticism and Yogic meditation techniques, studies he had begun earlier in Lambeth’ (292). Just as Blake could be incorporated into public culture in the guise of the Phillips portrait, looking up at the angels, so Schuchard’s Blake is, for the most part, immune to politics or the public world, concerned instead with his failure to master Tantric sexuality: ‘Tormented by erotic desires, obsessions, fantasies and failures, he transferred his personal problems to the mythic plane’ (278). His final achievement is a private one – a form of marital sexuality that ‘is the true key to spiritual vision’ (334). Schuchard quotes the famous lines ‘I must Create a system, or be enslav’d by another Mans’ to illustrate that Blake finally felt that ‘his explorations of so many theosophical systems – ranging from Moravia to Sweden, Israel, Ethiopia, India and Tartary – could cloud his personal vision’ (315). The places listed here are oddly assorted, belonging to Blake’s time, ours and neither. Pullman’s trilogy reveals an attraction to some of the same kinds of esoteric knowledge as fascinate Schuchard’s Blake. Schuchard, for instance, traces the excitement amongst the London Swedenborgians at the news of the rediscovery of the lost Ethiopian Book of Enoch (271–6). In the last volume of Pullman’s trilogy, the wandering mind of the dying rebel angel Baruch

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calls up fragments of the story of Enoch: ‘Metatron was once Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mehalalel … Enoch had many wives. He was a lover of the flesh … My brother Enoch cast me out, because I …Oh, my dear Balthamos …’ (2000, 65). Pullman deftly creates the illusion of depth here, of stories which link with other stories. But esoteric knowledge is not the point: what Baruch reveals in this allusion is his passionate love for another angel, Balthamos. Pullman’s version takes the story to portray love between men which is rejected by the ‘lover of the flesh’. From an eclectic range of sources, both canonical and non-canonical, Pullman creates stories which need no hidden knowledge for their elucidation. Addressing the London Blake Society, Pullman also took as his text ‘I must Create a system’ and spoke of his need to distance himself imaginatively even from traditions, such as Gnosticism, which he found attractive. The heroine Lyra is portrayed in Northern Lights (1995) as growing up semi-wild in the elite culture of a part-satiric, part-defamiliarised Oxford, a place ruled by ‘ancient etiquette’. But she is formed equally by her friendship with a boy from the ‘gyptian families, who lived in canal-boats’ (1995, 26). Not only through the device of multiple worlds, but through the alteration of tiny details and the invention of words which are both familiar and strange (‘anbaric light’, ‘chocolatl’, ‘naptha lamps’) Pullman creates worlds and stories which bear an oblique relationship to existing myths, histories and beliefs. The ‘gyptians’ are neither gypsies nor Egyptians, but have their own beliefs and social structure, centred, typically for Pullman, on the need for work: ‘On a gyptian boat, there was real work to do, and Ma Costa made sure she did it’ (1995, 111). In the Oxford of the novel, knowledge is associated with mystery and ritual. It is controlled and explained by authority: ‘At the height of the invocation the Intercessor lifted the cloth to reveal in the dimness a glass dome inside which there was something too distant to see, until he pulled a string attached to a shutter above, letting a ray of sunlight through to strike the dome exactly’ (1995, 149). The knowledge that is most important in the novel depends on the work of reading which can be learnt through study. But Lyra’s swift understanding draws also on her ability, the ability of a child, to recall her inner, intuitive knowledge. She learns to read the alethiometer guided by a gyptian leader, Farder Coram: ‘She read it every day, sometimes with Farder Coram and sometimes on her own, and she found that she could sink more and more readily into the calm state in which the symbol-meanings clarified themselves, and those great mountain-ranges touched by sunlight emerged into vision’ (1995, 151).

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Marina Warner has lamented the tendency of the apocalyptic tradition to celebrate the ‘vision of victory for a few, the remnant, the chosen survivors’ (14). But Warner rightly separates Pullman from the exclusivity of this writing. Perhaps his most impressive vision of the multitude is his version of the harrowing of hell in The Amber Spyglass. Visiting the world of the dead, Will and Lyra see ‘adults and children – ghost-people – so many that Lyra couldn’t guess their number’ (310). Cutting a window in the world of the dead, Will frees all the ghosts, not just the chosen few: ‘Will enlarged the window as wide as he could, moving across the grass to left and right, making it big enough for six, seven, eight to walk through abreast, out of the land of the dead.’ Returning from a disembodied world to a world of mortality, a world in which the ghosts will simply evaporate like bubbles in champagne, Pullman insists on material existence. He reworks (and changes) the moment in Milton at which Ololon re-enters the fallen world: O how the Starry Eight rejoic’d to see Ololon descended! And now that a wide road was open to Eternity, By Ololons descent thro Beulah to Los & Enitharmon, For mighty were the multitudes of Ololon, vast the extent Of their great sway, reaching from Ulro to Eternity (E 135) Whereas it is easier to imagine Ololon as an individual girl, she is also ‘multitudes’. ‘To Tirzah’, the Song of Experience which is central to Tristanne Connolly’s reading of Blake’s ambivalence towards the body, belongs to a world of sexual division in which masculinity wants and needs to enforce its separation from the feminine (97). But this separation is one that Milton in Blake’s poem will have to unlearn and which will be healed in the descent of Ololon: simultaneously a single female and multitudes. Pullman’s account stresses the numbers of the ghosts: The first ghosts trembled with hope, and their excitement passed back like a ripple over the long line behind them, young children and aged parents alike looking up and ahead with delight and wonder as the first stars they had seen for centuries shone through into their poor starved eyes. (382)

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There is also an echo here of the vision of liberation in America, the moment which Pullman quotes as epigraph to this chapter: ‘The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning / And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night (E 53). Blake and Pullman both seem to belong to a tradition that wants to make the esoteric into the popular, refusing a split between the spiritual and the bodily.

Popularity and the multitude Blake’s writing is not worried by large numbers and (perhaps until the post-Felpham years) does not seem to define identity in terms of a chosen race, religion or people. Cumberland in 1796 thought that no ‘liberal mind has less enjoyment of a fine Arabian horse, because it is exposed to the eyes of the multitude’ and Blake equally uses the words ‘multitude’ and ‘multitudes’ in significant and positive contexts. Burke, with his famously ‘swinish multitude’ in Reflections, is not the only other writer who sees the multitude as an undifferentiated public which needed to be excluded. Holger Hoock describes how, in the 1760s, the Society of Artists (the predecessor of the Royal Academy) decided on the necessity of charging for exhibitions in order to exclude the ‘multitudes, [who] made access dangerous, and frightened away those whose approbation was most desired’ (cited in Hoock, 206). Equally hostile is Wollstonecraft’s use of the word ‘multitude’ in 1794, in A Historical and Moral View, or Cowper’s Ode, written when he was very young, on reading Sir Charles Grandison where the ‘guardians of mankind’ leave ‘the multitude behind’ (Hayley I.20). Los, however, seems to welcome a dispersal of the self into the crowd. He cries: ‘I divided / To multitude & my multitudes are Children of Care & Labour’ (The Four Zoas E 380). Even if physical reproduction disappears from the later poetry, this only makes it the more possible to see the multitudes of the early nineteenth-century city as ‘Children’. Readers of Blake have often detected not only a dislike of the multiplication of print but also of physical fertility, indeed a dislike of embodiment in all forms. The once prevalent neo-platonic reading of Blake sees his work as celebrating the spiritual at the expense of the bodily, but even those who emphasise the traces of Swedenborgian spirituality have sometimes seen Blake’s writing as hostile to reproduction. And even those readers who find in Blake a valuation of sexuality have tended to see it as a defence of non-reproductive sexuality in response to the ideological emphasis on reproduction at the end of the eighteenth century (see Colley, 240). If Thel is read either as the soul

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that refuses embodiment or as the female who rejects sexuality, Blake can seem to privilege a place without sexuality, reproduction or the body. Helen Bruder influentially read Thel as a ‘luminously womancentred poem’ in that it gives voice to a woman’s refusal to enter the world of reproduction and rejects a cult of maternal self-sacrifice (Bruder, 54). Yet it is hard to maintain this position (at least univocally) in the face of the charity children of the ‘Holy Thursday’ of Innocence, who form a multitude: O what a multitude they seemd these flowers of London town Seated in companies they sit, with radiance all their own The hum of multitudes was there but multitudes of lambs Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands From the point of view of the evangelical, these children, perhaps the product of illicit sexuality, compound the innately fallen nature of the human soul; from the point of view of a writer on the evils of prostitution, they represent an economic and social problem. For Blake they are ‘flowers’ and ‘lambs’. But to refer to them as multitudes, and multitudes with the power of thunder, is also to celebrate fertility and generation. Their song rises ‘like a mighty wind’, an unimaginable sound, unlike familiar music. Their ‘harmonious thunderings’ are hard to categorise as euphony or dissonance. They are ‘thousands’, but they retain their own identities: ‘with radiance all their own’. Hardt and Negri have used the word ‘multitude’ to rethink the meaning of democracy in a globalised world, in opposition to both the ‘people’ as a term which ‘synthesizes or reduces … social differences into one identity’ and to ‘the crowd, the masses and the mob’. According to their definition, the ‘multitude … remains plural and multiple’, yet is unified by a common purpose: The crowd or the mob or the rabble can have social effects – often horribly destructive effects – but cannot act of their own accord. That is why they are so susceptible to external manipulation. The multitude, designates an active social subject, which acts on the basis of what the singularities share in common. (Hardt and Negri, 100) Blake’s first tractate seems to construct a similar sense of infinite variety within a shared identity: ‘As all men are alike in outward form, so (and with the same infinite variety) all are alike in the Poetic Genius’ (E 1).

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His use of the word ‘multitude’ seems to celebrate the simultaneous variety and collectivity of the group. In Jerusalem, ‘We live as One Man; for contracting our infinite senses / We behold multitude; or expanding: we behold as one’ (E 180). Blake’s multitude is not the negatively imagined mob, mass or crowd from whose destructive force literature must be protected. In Pullman’s narrative, the ghosts freed from the world of the dead are liberated from a religious notion of an afterlife very like Blake’s ‘allegorical abode where existence hath never come’ (E 62). They are freed to lose their identities, to dissolve into ‘the night, the starlight, the air’. The children discover that there is no other place: ‘we have to build the republic of heaven where we are, because for us there is no elsewhere’ (382). Pullman’s consciously atheist reading of Christian myth rejects the motif of secret knowledge or of the salvation of the chosen. It is the misguided adults, Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel, who attempt to keep the heroine, Lyra, in a state of innocence. The knowledge the children seek is not the secret knowledge of the initiate but the common knowledge of experience, sexuality and selfconsciousness. The mysterious operation of ‘intercision’ keeps children from difficult knowledge: ‘A quick little operation … and you’re never troubled again’ (1995, 285). Intercision cuts the self from the animal ‘dæmon’ that is Pullman’s most powerful invention in the trilogy. But whereas Hugh Rayment-Pickard’s Christian reading of Pullman interprets the dæmon as the soul, it is crucial that Pullman uses it to suggest soul and sexuality, companion and instinctive self (104). Dæmons, like the animals of the Proverbs of Hell, restore to the human the qualities of instinct, soul and sexual desire: they are not a higher self. Even though Pullman’s writing is not difficult locally – in terms of language or length – it is imaginatively complex in that the meanings of invented terms like ‘intercision’ or the ‘dæmon’ do not fit familiar categories. Schuchard’s Blake, by contrast, defines himself by a little cut. Her study not only associates Blake’s mother and his family culture with the Moravians but argues that this association defines Blake’s work throughout his life. The book stresses their emphasis on ‘bleeding wounds, from the first wound of circumcision to the final wound in [Jesus’] side’ (21). It ends with Blake’s own valuation of circumcision: ‘Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually, / On Circumcision, not on Virginity’, an idea which is seen as derived from ‘the Kabbalistic notion that circumcision of the penis makes possible the beatific vision’ (320). Of course, the identity

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bestowed by circumcision is made rather than born, and Schuchard portrays Moravians as open to other cultures as well as active missionaries. It isn’t the innate identity of Harry Potter’s wizard world. Nor is circumcision, which is associated by Schuchard with sexual pleasure, the same as Pullman’s ‘intercision’. Typical of their time, both Schuchard and Pullman read Blake as valuing sexuality, but sexuality means different things to each. Whereas tantric sex leads in Schuchard’s account to an apparently solitary visionary state (one which may not afford much pleasure to the partner), Pullman’s lovers imagine a loss of self in which, as in The Book of Thel, they will lose individual identities: ‘We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams … And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight …’ (2000, 526). Pullman’s reading of Blake celebrates the physical world and emphasises the embodiment of the material. His ‘axioms’ which he offered as his personal, unscholarly reading of Blake provide a Lucretian sense of the amorous nature of the physical world: Axiom number one: The physical world, this matter of which we are made, is amorous by nature. Matter rejoices in matter, and each atom of it falls in love with other atoms and delights to join up with them to form complex and even more delightful structures: ‘and shew you all alive This world, where every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.’1 Pullman’s slight misquotation of the Preludium to Europe: ‘and shew you all alive / The world, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy’ (E 60) stresses the constantly joyful quality of the material world by exchanging ‘where’ for the possibly intermittent ‘when’ of Blake’s text. The emphasis in this reading of Blake is insistently bodily. According to one of Pullman’s good witches, the church has tried throughout its history ‘to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out’ (1997, 52). The operation feared by the children is also likened to the creation of zombies in African religions (1997, 44). If Pullman’s attack on organised religion is not merely retrospective, then it could be read as a response to the rise of anti-rational belief systems in places as dispersed as America and Africa. Hardt and Negri also discuss the ‘marked increase in reports of occult phenomena and violence, such as witchcraft, Satanism, mon-

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sters, zombies, ritual murder, and the like’ in post-apartheid South Africa. But rather than see this phenomenon as a ‘resurgence of the primitive premodern’, as Pullman’s model of religious oppression might imply, they see it as a symptom of suddenly heightened inequalities of wealth ‘emerging in comparable contexts all over the planet, albeit in a variety of local guises’. Their formulation seems once again like the early Blake tractate, allowing them to see Africa as ‘equally as modern as, yet different from, Europe’ (126). They ascribe a worldwide rise in occult phenomena and violence (in Indonesia, Russia and Latin America) to ‘the icy realities of the imperial hierarchies. Magic and monsters are means to understand in each of these contexts this shared contradictory social situation’ (126). In similar terms, Gupta sees the Harry Potter books as revealing a world in which ‘a steady increase in internecine and international … conflicts indicate a renewed and irrational conviction in innate qualities and chosen-ness’ (163). Pullman’s reading of Blake emphasises the material and the erotic, but is also open to new forms of science. The Blake he uses is the one who is hostile to religion, to ‘the accursed tree of mystery’ and to secrets. Pullman meets Blake’s concept of the anti-rational imagination in his account of the new physics as a form of knowledge open to the infinite whilst rejecting God. Surprisingly, perhaps, Pullman could here be seen as coming full circle to a Swedenborg open to scientific discovery, one rather different from Schuchard’s sexual visionary. The translator of Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell compares the vision of angels to the discoveries of the microscope: ‘all know what a new world of animalcula, invisible before, has been discovered to us by the improved microscope … how much less should the existence of spiritual beings be denied, merely because they come not under the perception of our natural senses?’ (xxii). Bromion makes a similar point in Visions of the Daughters of Albion: knowest thou that trees and fruits flourish upon the earth To gratify senses unknown? trees beasts and birds unknown: Unknown, not unpercievd, spread in the infinite microscope, In places yet unvisited by the voyager. and in worlds Over another kind of seas, and in atmospheres unknown: (E 48) Bromion’s ‘infinite microscope’ seems to be associated still with a limited vision: open to the empiricist discoveries of the microscope yet unable to imagine other kinds or war, or sorrow, or joy. In Milton, the

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microscope and the telescope ‘alter / The ratio of the Spectators Organs but leave Objects untouched’ (E 127). But Pullman’s novels are fascinated by the infinite microscope of the new physics and use this postrationalist science to restore a sense of wonder at the created world, which might otherwise be left denuded by the absence of religion. Pullman’s writing is both open to the infinite and the irrational whilst retaining an insistence on the embodied nature of experience. The inclusive Blake is not the only one: his later writing sometimes seems to need a group to be excluded. Jerusalem separates the Sheep from the Goats: either everything that lives is not holy, or not everything lives. Perhaps there is a sense that the public sphere, after the Jacobin 1790s, is changing. His later writing seems much keener to fix identities (or to construct a system), and does so perhaps through a sense that the public sphere is changing, becoming hostile to his kind of expression. In discussion at the London National Theatre with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pullman has, it seems, to struggle to find points of difference. Whilst Williams marks his identity with the phrase ‘As a religious person’, and Pullman with ‘As an atheist’, the similarities between Williams’ understanding of Christianity and Pullman’s of literature and myth are strong (Pullman et al., 90, 99). Pullman is confident of his ability to speak to a vast audience on subjects like sexuality and religion, in an imagined world which shares his own reading of Blake and his own valuation of the desiring body. If Pullman isn’t exactly in the ‘Anti-room’ (or hiding, like Lyra, in a cupboard) he certainly also isn’t a button.

Note 1. Philip Pullman, email to children’s literature discussion group, 26 October 2005. This is an informal email and Pullman explains that the text of his talk will be published by the Blake Society Newsletter and also ‘in a book of my lectures and essays and other non-fiction, which David Fickling Books will publish’.

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Index Ackroyd, Peter, 102, 106 Adams, Henry, 83 Adorno, Theodor, 211 advertising, 154, 156–7 Aeschylus, 87 Alberti, Leon Battista, 44 Albion, 113–14, 115, 118, 197–8 Amber Spyglass, The, 206, 212–13, 214, 217–18 American abolitionist movement, 64–5 American Revolution, 13, 205 Amis, Kingsley, 101 Anglo-Indian history painting, 13, 22 anti-Catholicism, 17–21, 24 antinomianism and dissent, 5, 69, 116, 193, 195 anti-Semitism, 80–1 Arnold, Matthew, 91 Atkinson, J. B., 42, 43, 52, 53, 55 Auden, W. H., 9, 71, 74, 75–7 Avebury Series, 123 Bacon, Francis, 130 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 145 Ballard, J. G., 11, 196, 198, 203 Banes, Henry, 26 Barrell, John, 14, 17 Barrow, John, 26 Barthes, Roland, 144 Barton, Bernard, 46–8, 55 Basire, James, 61 Bataille, Georges, 192, 196 Baudelaire, Charles, 6, 73 bawdy and obscene songs, 30–4 Beats, the, 153–4 Beaumont, Jean-Marie le prince de, 145 Benbow, William, 26, 33, 35 Benjamin, Walter, 5, 211 Bentley, G.E., 1, 2, 56, 62, 64, 86, 131, 168–9, 178, 208 Bertholf, Robert, 1 Beuler, Jacob, 32

Bindman, David, 20 Bladerunner, 158–9 Blair, Robert, 3 Blake, Catherine, 26, 81, 121 Blake, Robert, 163, 169 Blake, William ‘A Divine Image’, 182 All Religions are One, 130 America, 106–7, 114, 215 Ancient of Days, The, 157, 179, 187 ‘Auguries of Innocence’, 95, 125, 154 Book of Ahania, The, 132 Book of Thel, The, 55, 108, 215–16, 218 ‘The Death of Ezekiel’s Wife’, 156 ‘The Divine Image’, 182 ‘Dream of Queen Katherine’, 28, 61 ‘The Ecchoing Green’, 93, 121 Europe 19 Everlasting Gospel, The, 204, 206 ‘Fair Elenor’, 108 First Book of Urizen, 55, 111, 130, 131, 144 ‘The Fly’, 64 For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, 194 Ghost of Abel, The, 35, 37, 192, 194 ‘Glad Day, or Albion rose’, 100, 113, 115, 123–4 ‘God Creating Adam’, 156 Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun, 179, 182 ‘Holy Thursday’, 146, 216 Illustrations to the Book of Job, 28, 37, 41, 47, 48–9, 51 illustrations to Milton, 16, 28 illustrations to Night Thoughts, 12–24 illustrations to The Grave, 67–8 ‘Infant Joy’, 169 Island in the Moon, An, 88 ‘Jerusalem’, 120, 155

234

Index 235 Jerusalem, 3, 8, 36, 55, 58, 59, 80–1, 100, 102–3, 112, 129, 135, 160, 161, 192, 193, 194, 197, 200, 203, 207, 217, 220 ‘King Edward the Third’, 28 Laocöon, 51 ‘The Lamb’, 180 ‘London’, 106, 107, 146 Lucifer and the Pope in Hell, 19, 22 Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The, 23, 54, 67, 75–6, 88, 101, 107, 111, 127–39, 143–4, 154, 155, 156, 171, 173, 176–7, 178, 180, 183–4, 186, 192, 209–10 ‘The Mental Traveller’, 70 Milton, 95–6, 104, 105, 108, 110, 121, 135, 155, 193, 194, 197, 203, 214, 219–20 ‘Mrs. Q.’, 26, 31, 33, 36, 41 Newton, 2 ‘Nurse’s Song’, 81–2 Oberon and Titania asleep on a Lilly, 61 On Homer’s Poetry [&] On Virgil, 37, 121 Poetical Sketches, 28 Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 2, 40, 60, 64, 70, 141, 143, 144–6, 153, 155, 169, 180, 214, 216 ‘The Human Abstract’, 133 ‘The Tyger’, 147, 153, 155, 180, 182 There is No Natural Religion, 130 Tiriel, 59 ‘To the Accuser who is God of this World’, 72–3 ‘To Tirzah’, 214 Vala, or the Four Zoas, 3, 104, 111, 112, 161, 215 Vision of the Last Judgement, A, 27, 117, 169–70, 180 Visions of the Daughters of Albion, 202, 203, 219 ‘Wise and Foolish Virgins’, 28 Woman Taken in Adultery, The, 195 Blenkinsop, Joseph, 156 Blocom, William, 155 Bloody Chamber, The, 142, 144–5, 146–7

Bloom, Harold, 101 Blunt, Anthony, 124–5 Booker, Keith, 132 Boydell John, 12 Brantlinger, Patrick, 5 Breton, André, 9 Brewer, John, 4 BritArt, 7 British Empire and India, 13, 21–4 Brooke, William Henry, 35–6 Bross, Kristina, 189, 190 Brothers, Richard, 12–13, 18, 20, 25 Brown, Ford Madox, 48, 50, 124–5 Brown, Mather, 22 Browning, Robert, 39–40, 79 Bruder, Helen, 216 Bunyan, John, 2, 66, 107–8 Burke, Edmund, 215 Burlington Fine Art Club, 8, 42, 43, 45 Burne-Jones, Edward, 48, 50 Burroughs, William, 195–6 Byron, George Gordon, Lord, 33, 34, 35 Cain: A Mystery, 33 Campbell, Eddie, 201 Caravagio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 115–16, 117 Carter, Angela, 7, 10, 140–50 Carter, George, 22 Cary, Joyce, 158 Catholicism, 78–9, 86–7, 88; and Anglicanism, 79 Chantrey, Francis Leggatt, 27 Chariots of Fire, 119–20, 154 Children of Albion, 9, 100 Clare, John, 165 Clarke, Steve, 9 Cleansing the Doors of Perception, 164, 174–8 Coal-Hole, the, 30–34, 37 Coleridge, S. T., 85 Colley, Linda, 17, 215 Connolly, Tristanne, 198, 200, 214 Conway, Moncure, 65 Cook, Roger, 113, 123–4 Cornwallis, Charles, 13, 22 counter-culture, 11

236 Index Cowell, Joe, 33 Cowper, William, 165, 215 Crashaw, Herbert, 91 Crawfurd, Oswald, 42, 52 Cromer, Lord, 109, 110 Crowley, Aleister, 57, 192 Crozier, Andrew, 100–1 Cruickshank, Isaac Robert, 35 Culler, Jonathan, 143 Cumberland, George, 167, 206, 208–9, 215 Cunningham, Alan, 1, 47 da Vinci, Leonardo, 117 Damon, S. Foster, 2 Dante, Alighieri, 80, 86, 87, 95 Dark Spectre, 11, 198–201, 203 Davies, Keri, 34–5 de Chirico, Giorgio, 123 De Quincey, Thomas, 102 Dead Man, 159 Dee, John, 119 Defoe, Daniel, 66 Dent, Shirley, 2, 8, 150, 151 Descartes, René, 75 Devis, Arthur William, 22 Dibdin, Michael, 11, 198, 200 Dibdin, T. F., 54 Dick, Philip K., 158 Dickinson, Emily, 207 Dirda, Michael, 206–7 D’Israeli, Isaac, 54 Doors, The, 178 Doors of Perception, The, 154, 164, 170–4 Dorfmann, Deborah, 1, 56 Douglas, Mark, 9 Dowson, Ernest, 79 Drummond, Henry, 81 Dryden, John, 29, 36 Dürer, Albrecht, 17, 19 ‘East Coker’, 79, 82, 92–8 Eaves, Morris, 36, 56 Edwards, Richard, 12 Egan, Pierce, 31 Eglantine, Edward, 26 Egremont, Earl of, 27 elephant imagery, 13, 21–3

Eliot, T. S., 6, 9, 70, 78–99 Ellis, Edwin, 9, 69 Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 155 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 83 Epstein, Diana, 295 Epstein, James, 4 Erdman, David, 2, 21, 62, 132 Essick, Robert, 56 fairy tales, 140, 145 Farrington, Jospeh, 44 feminism, 140–1, 145–50, 191, 197–8 Field, Simon, 118, 120 film, 115–16, 118–19, 154, 158–9, 161, 179–80 Flamel, Nicolas, 212 Flaxman, John, 27, 29, 35, 36, 167 French Revolution, 13, 17, 127, 141, 205 Freud, Sigmund, 77 From Hell, 198, 201–3 Froude, J.A., 52, 53 Fry, Roger, 45, 73–4 Frye, Northrop, 2, 78, 90, 106, 209 Fuseli, Henry, 208–9 Futurism, 6 Gardner, Charles, 86–7, 96 gay/queer culture, 113, 115–16 George III, 14–15, 20, 21, 205 Gilchrist, Alexander, 2, 7, 34, 39, 41, 42, 48, 53, 57, 58, 60, 61–3, 66–7, 79, 206, 208, 209 Gilchrist, Anne, 7–8, 62 Gillray, James, 13, 18–19, 29 Gilmartin, Kevin, 4 Ginsberg, Allen, 7, 153–4 Glausser, Wayne, 11 Glen, Heather, 147 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 98–9 Golubitsky, Martin, 160 Gompf, Michelle, 11, 196 Gordon Riots, 61–2 Grant, John E., 17 Grave, TheI, 3, 8 Green, Matt, 10 Greenberg, Mark, 65 Grimaldi, Joseph, 21 Gupta, Suman, 211–12, 219

Index 237 Haass, Sabine, 60 Haffenden, John, 142, 144 Halhed, Nathaniel Brassy, 20 Hannibal, 179, 180, 182, 186, 187–91 Hardt, Michael, 216, 218 Harris, Thomas, 11, 179–91, 196, 198 Harry Potter series, 211–12, 219 Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 83, 85 Haydon, Benjamin Robert, 27 Hayley, William, 167, 209 Haywood, Ian, 4 Hellboy, 153 Heppner, Christopher, 56 Hewlett, H. G., 42, 43, 52, 53 Hilton, Nelson, 7 His Dark Materials, 11, 206, 209, 212–14 Hobson, Christopher Z., 115, 116 Hogarth, William, 47 Holmes, Richard, 1 Home, Robert, 22 Homer, 87 Hoock, Holger, 27, 215 Hook, Theodore, 31, 32 Horovitz, Michael, 9, 100, 101 Housman, A. E., 72–3, 74, 80 Hudson, Hugh, 119 Hulme, T. E., 6 Hunt, Robert, 43–4, 166 Huxley, Aldous, 11, 77, 154, 164, 169, 170–4, 177 Irving, Edward, 81 Jack the Ripper, 102, 201–3 James, Henry, 80, 83, 98 Jamison, Kay R., 11, 164–70, 173 Jarman, Derek, 9–10, 113–26 Jarmusch, Jim, 159 Johnson, Joseph, 192–3 Johnson, Samuel, 165 Jordan, Michael, 156 Joyce, James, 9 Jubilee, 114, 115, 119, 120 Kean, Edmund, 32, 33 Keats, John, 7, 165, 207

Keenan, Sally, 145, 150 Keery, James, 9 Kemble, John Philip, 27–8, 32 Kerr, John, 29 Keynes, Geoffrey, 88 Kimmelman, Michael, 152 Kleist, Heinrich von, 306 Knopf, Alfred A., 82, 83 Lane, Steven M., 58 Lane, Theodore, 31 Larkin, Philip, 85, 101 Larrissy, Edward, 8, 128, 146, 162 Last of England, The, 114, 120, 124 Lavater, Johann, 129, 130, 138, 181 Lawrence, D. H., 6, 7, 77 Lawrence, T. E., 75 Lawrence, Thomas, 27–8 Lawrence, William, 33 Leavis, F.R., 101 Lecter, Hannibal, 181–91, 196–7 Lee, Nathaniel, 29 Lee, Richard, 20 Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim, 44, 50–1 Levitt, Annette, 1 Life of William Blake, ‘Pictor Ignotus’, 7, 39, 48, 53, 57, 59, 61–3, 66 Linnell, John, 3, 28, 46–7 Lizars, William Home, 35 Locke, John, 86, 130, 172 Lockhart, J. G., 35 London Corresponding Society, 4, 6 London Society for the Conversion of the Jews, 81 LSD, see psychedelics Lussier, Mark, 10 Lyotard, Jean-François, 151 MacCabe, Colin, 116, 118 MacColl, D. S., 45, 56 McGrath, Tom, 100 MacNeice, Louis, 74 Magic Toyshop, The, 143, 144 Magritte, René, 123 Makdisi, Saree, 12, 122–3 Mallarmé, Stephane, 73, 95 Mannheim, Karl, 79 Marlowe, Christopher, 124 Martin, John, 114

238 Index Marx, Karl, 77 mass media 4–5; and technologies of production 8–9, 36–7 Matthews, Susan, 11 Mee, Jon, 3, 13, 14, 195, 207–8 Mercer, Vivian, 64 Metropolitan Museum of Art, 152 Michelangelo, 117 millenarianism, 17–23 Milton, John, 2, 16, 70, 77, 85, 110, 163, 168, 206, 207 misogyny, 80, 81 Mitchell, W. T. J., 56, 157–8 Modernism, 6–7, 8–9, 69–77, 80, 101, 123; and its audience, 43, 49; and popular culture, 9–10, 80; and Romanticism, 9, 69, 77, 79, 91, 93, 101 modernity, 4, 6–8, 40–3; and Modernism, 6–7; and popular culture, 4 Montaigne, Michel de, 87 Mookerjea, Sourayan, 134, 137 Moore, Alan, 11, 201 Moravians, 211, 218 Morris, William, 71, 120, 122–3 Morrison, Jim, 154, 178 Moskal, Jeanne, 195 Movement, 9, 101 music, 154 music hall, 30, 80 ‘The Mysticism of Blake’, 79, 80, 87 Nash, Paul, 123 National Chorus of Iceland, 155 Negri, Antonio, 216, 218 Newton, Isaac, 75, 130 Nicholson, Renton, 32 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 91, 92 Night Thoughts, 3, 8, 12–25 Nights at the Circus, 142, 144, 146 Norman, Herbert, 165–6 Northern Lights, 213 occultism, 69–70, 218–19 Ofili, Chris, 7, 57 O’Pray, Michael, 118, 120 Orators, The, 75–6

Osmond, Humphrey, 171, 173 Otto, Peter, 131, 139 Paine, Thomas, 65, 80, 144 Palgrave, F. T., 41 Palmer, Samuel, 3, 47 Paradise Lost, 206, 207, 208 Paradise Regained, 16 Parks, A. J., 31 Passion of New Eve, The, 142, 143 Patmore, Coventry, 43, 52, 53 patronage, 27–8 Peguy, Charles, 94 Perrault, Charles, 145 Phillips, Thomas, 205 Pierce, John B., 32 pirating and print culture, 33 Piroli, Thomas, 29 Pitt, William, 17, 18, 20 Plowman, Max, 88, 89–90 popular culture, 4–6, 9, 11, 30–7, 39–40, 57–8, 60, 151–62, 179–80, 206–7; and mass culture, 4–6 postmodernism, 7, 10, 151–7 Pound, Ezra, 70, 85 Poussin, Nicolas, 118 Powell, Thomas, 30 Pre-Raphaelites, 8, 44, 58, 60, 62–8, 118 Priestley, Joseph, 130 Prynne, J. H., 9, 101, 104, 105–12 psychedelics, 163, 164, 170–8 psychiatry, 163–70, 171, 173 public sphere, 4 Pullman, Philip, 11, 205–20 Queen Caroline affair, the, 6 Quiller-Couch, Arthur, 72, 80 Quinn, John, 82, 83 Qu’ran, 128 Radon Daughters, 103–5 Rahab, see Whore of Babylon, the Ranger, Christopher, 10 Rayment-Pickard, Hugh, 217 Red Dragon, 179, 182–4, 185, 187, 196–7 Redman, Michael, 160 Reynolds, Joshua, 44, 172

Index 239 Rich, Adrienne, 150 Richardson, Alan, 152 Rimbaud, Arthur, 82 Roberts, John, 113, 114 Robson, William, 32–3 Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 8, 41, 48, 50, 53–4, 63, 65, 66–7, 79 Rossetti, William Michael, 8, 41, 53, 63 Rosso, G. A., 3, 197 Rowling, J. K., 207 Royal Academy, the, 27–8, 31, 37, 41, 47, 106 Rubin, Gayle, 115–17 Rushdie, Salman, 7, 10, 127–39, 148, 192 Ruskin, John, 42, 44, 53 Ruthven, George, 32 Sacred Wood, The, 9, 78, 82–4, 88, 98 Saffro, Millicent, 205 Satanic Verses, The, 128–9, 132–9, 196 Saurat, Denis, 90 Schock, Peter, 192–3 Schuchard, Martha Keith, 2, 211, 212, 217–18, 219 Scott, W. B., 48, 50 Shabetai, Karen, 81, 98 Shakespeare, William, 66, 72, 77, 87, 92, 118, 124 Shaking a Leg, 140–1 Sharp, William, 13 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 77, 150, 160, 196 Shepherd, Richard Herne, 66–7 Sheridan, Richard, 28 Shires, Linda, 82 Silence of the Lambs, 179, 180, 182, 185–7 Sinclair, Iain, 9, 101, 102–5, 106 Singleton, Henry, 22 Skipsey, Joseph, 58, 60, 64, 66 Sloman, Charles, 31 Smart, Christopher, 2, 165 Smetham, James, 43, 48–52, 55, 59 Smirke, Robert, 27 Smith, Huston, 11, 164, 169, 170, 174–8

Smith, Patti, 195–6 Snow, C. P., 160 Soane, John, 27 Sotheby’s sale of The Grave illustrations, 67–8 Speight, George, 35 Spender, Stephen, 74–5 Spenser, Edmund, 70 Spinoza, Baruch, 87 Stedman, John Gabriel, 13 Stevenson, W. H., 108 Stewart, Ian, 160 Strange, John Clarke, 8 Stuart, Charles, 31 Suicide Bridge, 102–3 Sung, Mei-Ying, 36–7 Surette, Leon, 69–70 Swedenborg, Emanuel, 86, 91, 104, 130, 180, 211, 219 Swinburne, A. C., 2, 7, 8, 41, 42, 45, 53, 54–5, 57, 59–60, 63, 66–7, 79, 192 Swinton, Tilda, 113, 114–16 Symbolism, 71–2 Symons, Arthur, 6, 41, 53, 54, 71, 79 Tate Gallery, 152 Tatham, Frederick, 131 Taylor, Charles, 6 Tennyson, Alfred Lord, 79, 120 theatre, 26–37 theoretical physics, 156, 160–2 Thompson, E. P., 4, 13, 74, 193, 195 Thompson, Francis, 43, 45 Thomson, James, 58, 65–6 Thoreau, Henry David, 83 ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, 147–50 Tipu Sultan, 13, 22 Todhunter, John, 64 Tom and Jerry, 34 Touched with Fire, 165–9, 170 Trodd, Colin, 8, 59 Trusler, John, 11 Turgenev, Ivan, 85 Turner, J. M. W., 27 Ulver, 155 Unlimited Dream Company, 196, 197 D’Urbano, Ornello, 155

240 Index Various Art, A, 100–1 Varley, John, 3, 28, 203 Virgil, 80, 121 Viscomi, Joseph, 56 Volney, C. F., 5 Vorticism, 6 Warner, Marina, 214 Wasson, Gordon, 171 Waste Land, The, 79, 81, 85, 91 Watson, Gray, 113, 114, 118 Watts, G. F., 48, 50 Watts, Isaac, 145 Weaver, Harriet, 83 Wedgewood, Josiah, 205–6 Wells, Joe, 30 West, Benjamin, 27 West, William, 33, 34, 35–6 Wheale, Nigel, 101 White, Helen C., 88, 90 White Stones, The, 104, 105–6, 107 Whitehead, Angus, 26, 31 Whitman, Walt, 8

Whittaker, Jason, 2, 11, 123, 150, 151 Whore of Babylon, the, 17–19 Wilkinson, J. J. G., 51, 60 Williams, Nicholas, 179 Williams, Raymond, 5 Williams, Rowan, 220 Wilson, Colin, 158 Wilson, Mona, 88 Winder, Robert, 189 Wobble, Jah, 155 Woff, Thomas, 158 Wollstonecraft, Mary, 215 Woods, Tiger, 156 Woolner, Thomas, 48, 50 Wordsworth, William, 7, 77, 91, 165, 209 Worrall, David, 3, 13, 131, 195 Yeats, W. B., 2, 7, 9, 69–72, 74, 86, 88, 95 yellow press, 3 Young, Edward, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14–25