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At any rate, it is brief. If its author had not been cursed with the fatal facility of words and numbers, he might have done better things. A tinge of Blake-like feeling seems to have passed for once into the smooth verse of the poet of Eartham. The ballad was written 22nd September, ; Blake's broadsheet bears date October 5th. Both verse and designs, of which there are two, one at the head, the other at the foot of the page, are executed on metal—pewter, it is said—the designs being graver work, in the same manner as on wood, the ballad and imprint bitten in with acid.
The impressions were printed off by himself and Mrs. Blake:—'Printed for and sold by the Widow Spicer of Folkstone, for the benefit of her orphans. I have come across but two or three copies. The engravings are vigorous and effective, in an unpretending, rude style. At the foot we see the future widow leaving her humble cottage to seek her sick husband, and turning her head wistfully round as she steps forth on her way; her little son rocking the cradle within. Around stretches a landscape in the typical style of Poussin,—wood, and winding path, and solemn distant downs.
It is a grand and simple composition. The engraving at the head of the sheet represents the sailor-boy aloft on the shrouds, climbing to the top-mast, the embodied spirit of his father bursting with extended arms from the midst of the storm-cloud and forked lightnings. This picture also is full of high feeling.
But the kindled imagination of the artist can speak eloquently through few and simple strokes? This is more than the most skilful piece of mere artistic handicraft can do, which as it does not come from, neither can it appeal to, the mind. Hence we venture to claim for these designs, a place among the genuinely great in kind, though not in degree, of excellence. In truth, there are very few works by Blake for which thus much, at least, cannot be claimed.
Blake's life at Felpham was a happy one. In Hayley he had a kind and friendly neighbour; notwithstanding disparity of social position and wider discrepancies of training and mental character. Hayley, the valued friend of Gibbon in one generation, of Cowper in the next, whose reputation, like many another reputation then and since, was for a time in excess of his literary deservings, has since been, even from a literary point of view, just as disproportionately despised,—sneered at with excess of rigour. By Allan Cunningham he is never mentioned, in connexion with Blake or Romney, but to be injuriously spoken of, and the worst construction put upon his motives.
This he does, swayed by the gratuitous assertions of Romney's too acrimonious son, and giving the rein to one of those unmeasured dislikes the stalwart Scot was prone to take into his head; witness his distorted portrait of the amiable, urbane Sir Joshua. As a poet, Hayley was no worse, if little better, than his compeers; Cowper and Burns standing of course apart.
One must judge him not as a literary man, but as a literary country gentleman; an amateur, whose words flowed a thousand times faster than his thoughts. His Life of Cowper was one of the earliest and best examples in that modern school of biography wherein authentic letters form the basis, and the hero draws his own portrait. Hayley's own part in the Life of Cowper is well and gracefully written, in the smooth style,—in a style, which is something.
If Hayley was always romancing, as it were, which his position in life allowed; always living in a fool's paradise of ever-dispelled, ever-renewed self-deceptions about the commonest trifles; seeing all men and things athwart a fog of amiability; it was not in the main a worse world than common, and sometimes it was a useful life to others. The pension his bustling energy obtained for Cowper outweighs many an absurdity and inanity. He was surely an endurable specimen, for variety's sake, among corn-law and game-preserving squires.
A sincere, if conventional love of literature, independence of the great world, and indifference to worldly distinctions, are, after all, not criminal foibles. Pertinacious, wrongheaded, and often foolish in his actions; weakly greedy of applause, as ready to lavish it; prone to exaggeration of word or thought; without reticence: he was also an agreeable companion, really kind-hearted and generous; though vanity mixed itself with all he did; for ever going out of his way to befriend some one, to set in motion some well-intended, ill-considered scheme.
For Blake,—let us remember, to the hermit's honour,—Hayley continued to entertain unfeigned respect. And the self-tutored, wilful visionary must have been a startling phenomenon to so conventional a mind. During the artist's residence at Felpham his literary friend was constantly on the alert to advance his fortunes. Another source of happiness for Blake at Felpham was the natural beauty which surrounded him, and which the transplanted Londoner keenly enjoyed.
It is really a cottage; a long, shallow, white-faced house, one room deep, containing but six in all,—small and cosy; three on the ground-floor, opening one into another, and three above. Its latticed windows look to the front; at back the thatched roof comes sweeping down almost to the ground. A thatched wooden verandah, which runs the whole length of the house, forming a covered way, paved with red brick, shelters the lower rooms from a southern sun; a little too much so at times, as the present tenant a coast-guardsman complains.
The entrance is at the end of this verandah, out of the narrow lane leading from the village to the sea. In front lies the slip of garden there is none at back , inclosed by a low, flint wall. In front of that again is a private way, shaded with evergreens, to the neighbouring large red brick mansion, surrounded by ample gardens, in which Cyril Jackson, Dean of Christ Church and Tutor to George IV.
Beyond, corn-fields stretch down to the sea, which is but a few furlongs distant, and almost on the same level,—the coast here being low and crumbling. To the right are scattered one or two labourers' humble cottages, with their gardens and patches of corn-field. Further seaward are two windmills standing conspicuously on a tongue of land which shuts off adjacent Bognor from sight.
The hideous buildings now to be descried in that direction were not extant in Blake's time. His upper or bedroom windows commanded a glorious view of the far-stretching sea, with many a white sail gleaming at sunset in the distance, on its way betwixt the Downs and the chops of the Channel. The wide and gentle bay is terminated westward by Selsea Bill, above which the cloud-like Isle of Wight is commonly visible; eastward by Worthing and the high cliff of Beechy Head beyond.
Often, in after years, Blake would speak with enthusiasm of the shifting lights on the sea he had watched from those windows. Middleton Church and signal-house, on a point of land a mile or so eastward, have disappeared bodily since Blake's time. The village, a large but compact one, spreading along two or three winding roads, still wears much the same aspect it must have done then; rustic, pleasant, and as yet unspoiled by the close vicinity of a 'genteel' watering-place.
It includes a few tolerably commodious marine residences of the last century, and several picturesque old thatched cottages. The church has within the last few years been restored, all but its fine western tower of perpendicular date. Excellent in proportion, strikingly picturesque in hue and outline, this tower is at once well preserved and in good state for the artist. It is a landmark for many miles, rising above the thick foliage which in the distance hides yet distinguishes the village from the surrounding flats. Several epitaphs of Hayley's,—in the composition of which species of poetry, it may perhaps be still conceded, he was happy,—are to be met with in the church and adjoining graveyard.
A few steps up the winding lane, by the old Fox Inn, brought Blake to the postern-like gate of his patron's house, in the centre of the village; a plain white house, of little architectural pretension but for its turret and less beauty. It stands at one corner of the garden which Hayley had carefully inclosed with high walls for privacy's sake.
The lofty turret commanded some remarkable views, of the sea in one direction, of the adjacent levels and great part of the South Downs in another. For walks, Blake had the pleasant sands which stretch below the shingle, or an upper path along the coast on one hand; the Downs eight or nine miles distant rising in undulating solemn clouds on the other. These were the great natural features, ever the same, yet ever varying with shifting lights and tones and hues.
One especially pleasant summer-walk is that by footpath to the village of Walberton, some five miles northward. Bognor was not then ugly and repulsive as great part of it is now. At all events, there were none of those ghastly blocks of untenanted, unfinished houses, dreary monuments of building infatuation, which lower upon the traveller and put him out of heart as he approaches from Felpham, looking like so many builders' night-mares; erections that bespeak an almost brutish absence of natural instincts for the beautiful or expressive in construction.
It was only some nine years previous to Blake's residence in Sussex that Sir Richard Hotham, the retired hatter, had set Bognor going as a fashionable watering-place. He had found it a sequestered hamlet of smugglers. The 'retired and beautiful village of Hothamton,' as it was for a time called, included then but fifty houses, Hothampton Place, viz. By the sounding shore, visionary conversations were held with many a majestic shadow from the Past—Moses and the Prophets, Homer, Dante, Milton: 'All,' said Blake, when questioned on these appearances, 'all majestic shadows, grey but luminous, and superior to the common height of men.
By the sea, or pacing the pretty slip of garden in front of his house, many fanciful sights were witnessed by the speculative eyes. The following highly imaginative little scene was transacted there. It is related by Allan Cunningham. At last I saw the broad leaf of a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of creatures, of the size and colour of green and grey grass-hoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared.
It was a fairy funeral! Among the engravings executed by Blake's industrious hands during his first year at Felpham, I make note of a fine one of Michael Angelo, at the end of the first edition in quarto of Fuseli 's famous Lectures on Painting ,—the first three, delivered at the Academy in March , published in May. It is an interesting and characteristic full-length portrait. The great Florentine is standing, looking out on the world with intent, searching gaze, the Coliseum in the background. This and the circular plate on the title-page of the same volume, well engraved by F.
Legat, were both designed by Fuseli himself. Grand and suggestive, in a dim allegoric way, is this drooping female figure, seated on the earth, her crossed arms flung down in expressive abandon , the face bowed between them and hidden by her streaming hair. This is a design I could swear to as Blake's whether 'adopted' by Fuseli or not. Hayley, desiring the artist's worldly advancement, introduced him to many of the neighbouring gentry; among them Lord Egremont of Petworth, Lord Bathurst of Lavant, Mrs.
Poole; and obtained him commissions for miniatures. Some of which, reports Hayley, 'that singularly industrious man who applied himself to various branches of the art' and 'had wonderful talents for original design' executed 'very happily. Humble as the task was, for so imaginative a man, of tracing servilely, line by line, other men's conceptions, he would patiently and imperturbably work at a design, however inferior to his own, though with an obvious and natural absence of enthusiasm.
Blake's docility, however, had a limit. For Lady Bathurst it was, I think,—the Bathursts had then a seat near Lavant, which subsequently, like most other estates in the neighbourhood, was absorbed by the Duke of Richmond. Blake taught for a time in her family, and was admired by them. The proposal was, I believe, that he should be engaged at a regular annual salary for tuition and services such as the above; as painter in ordinary, in fact, to this noble family. Besides bestirring himself to obtain Blake commissions, Hayley did what his means would allow to furnish employment himself.
The interior of his new villa was fitted up in a manner bespeaking the cultivated man of letters and taste,—thanks, in great part, to his friendly relations with such artists as Flaxman and Romney,—was adorned with busts, statues, and pictures. Among the latter were interesting portraits of distinguished contemporaries and friends, and of the Hermit himself; all from Romney's hand, and originally painted for the library at Eartham. When, twenty years earlier, Hayley had built himself, at Eartham, a large and handsome room, specially to contain his fine collection of books in many languages, Flaxman had superintended the sculptured ornaments, and had modelled for it busts of the poet and his friend Romney.
The new library at Felpham, Blake, during his residence in Sussex, decorated with temperas:—eighteen heads of the poets, life size, some accompanied by appropriate subsidiary compositions. The place was dismantled and the effects sold. Among other things, these temperas, so interesting in their original position, were dispersed. Like most of Blake's 'temperas' and 'frescoes,' they are blistered and cracked, and have not been improved by exposure to dust and gas; but they bear the unmistakable Blake impress.
The head of Cowper I remember as one of the most interesting, and the accompanying vignette, with its hint of landscape, in which appears Cowper's favourite dog, as being in Blake's best manner. They are all now in the possession of Mr. William Russell. During the execution of this congenial task Blake reports progress, in joyous mood, to Hayley, then absent on a visit to friends:—. Absorbed by the poets Milton, Homer, Camoens, Ercilla, Ariosto, and Spenser, whose physiognomies have been my delightful study. Little Tom has been of late unattended to, and my wife's illness not being quite gone off she has not printed any more since you went to London.
But we can muster a few in colours and some in black which I hope will be no less favour'd tho' they are rough like rough sailors. We mean to begin printing again to-morrow. Time flies very fast and very merrily. I sometimes try to be miserable that I may do more work, but find it is a foolish experiment. Happinesses have wings and wheels; miseries are leaden legged and their whole employment is to clip the wings and to take off the wheels of our chariots.
We determine, therefore, to be happy and do all that we can, tho' not all that we would. Our dear friend Flaxman is the theme of my emulation in this of industry, as well as in other virtues and merits. Gladly I hear of his full health and spirits. Happy son of the Immortal Phidias, his lot is truly glorious, and mine no less happy in his friendship and in that of his friends.
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Our cottage is surrounded by the same guardians you left with us; they keep off every wind. We hear the west howl at a distance, the south bounds on high over our thatch, and smiling on our cottage says, 'You lay too low for my anger to injure. My wife joins with me in duty and affection to you. Please to remember us both in love to Mr. Flaxman, and. Felpham , 26 th November , The necessary application to my duty, as well to my old as new friends, has prevented me from that respect I owe in particular to you. And your accustomed forgiveness of my want of dexterity in certain points emboldens me to hope that forgiveness to be continued to me a little longer, when I shall be enabled to throw off all obstructions to success.
Hayley acts like a prince. I am at complete ease. But I wish to do my duty, especially to you, who were the precursor of my present fortune. I never will send you a picture unworthy of my present proficiency.naygedathebley.gq/ubicar-un-celular-por-gps-gratis.php
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I soon shall send you several. My present engagements are in miniature-painting. Miniature has become a goddess in my eyes, and my friends in Sussex say that I excel in the pursuit. I have a great many orders, and they multiply. Now, let me entreat you to give me orders to furnish every accommodation in my power to receive you and Mrs.
I know, my cottage is too narrow for your ease and comfort. We have one room in which we could make a bed to lodge you both; and if this is sufficient, it is at your service. But as beds and rooms and accommodations are easily procured by one on the spot, permit me to offer my service in either way; either in my cottage, or in a lodging in the village, as is most agreeable to you, if you and Mrs.
Butts should think Bognor a pleasant relief from business in the summer. It will give me the utmost delight to do my best. Sussex is certainly a happy place, and Felpham in particular is the sweetest spot on earth; at least it is so to me and my good wife, who desires her kindest love to Mrs. Butts and yourself. Accept mine also, and believe me to remain. In the latter part of Hayley began spinning a series of Ballads on Anecdotes relating to Animals , of very different merit from Little Tom the Sailor of the previous year; empty productions, long-winded, bald, devoid of every poetic virtue save simplicity,—in the unhappy sense of utter insipidity.
What must the author of the Songs of Innocence have thought of them? On these Ballads hung a project, as usual with Hayley. Our hermit sincerely believed in contributing verse of his he was giving money's worth; in that serene faith meaning as generously as when handing over tangible coin. John Johnson supply glimpses, here and there, of Blake, at his engraving, or in familiar intercourse with his patron; and they supply more than glimpses of the writer himself, in his accustomed undress of easy, slip-shod vanity and amiability.
This Johnson was Cowper's cousin, his right-hand man in latter years, and faithful guardian ultimately. The Lion is his third Ballad,' none are yet printed 'and we hope his plate to it will surpass its predecessors. Apropos of this good, warm-hearted artist. He has a great wish that you should prevail on Cowper's dear Rose' Mrs.
Anne Bodham, a cousin of the poet on the mother's side, and the correspondent who sent him that picture of his mother which elicited the poem we all know so well 'to send her portrait of the beloved bard, by Abbott, to Felpham, that Blake may engrave it for the Milton we meditate; which we devote you know to the sublime purpose of raising a monument suited to the dignity of the dear bard, in the metropolis; if the public show proper spirit as I am persuaded it will on that occasion—a point that we shall put to the test, in publishing the Life.
The portrait of Cowper, by Abbot, the Academician,—a very prosaic one,—was not, I presume, sent to Felpham; for it was never engraved by Blake. A print of it, by one W. Edwards, forms the frontispiece to Vol. The whole was to be in three quarto volumes, 'decorated with engravings,' by Blake, after designs by Flaxman: the proceeds to go towards a London monument to Cowper, from Flaxman's chisel.
He salutes you affectionately. I say we, for the warm-hearted indefatigable Blake works daily by my side, on the intended decorations of our biography. Engraving, of all human works, appears to require the largest portion of patience; and he happily possesses more of that inestimable virtue than I ever saw united before to an imagination so lively and so prolific. Come, and criticise what we have done! Come, and assist us to do more! I want you in a double capacity,—as an excellent scribe, and as an infallible fountain of intelligence for all the latter days of our dear bard.
Hayley, whose sight was often weak, availed himself of Blake's help, too, as amanuensis, and in other ways during the progress of the Life. Blake had thus opportunity to form a judgment of Hayley's mode of dealing with his material; he was not greatly impressed by its candour and fidelity. I hope you will continue to excuse my want of steady perseverance, by which want I am still your debtor, and you so much my creditor; but such as I can be, I will.
I can be grateful, and I can soon send some of your designs which I have nearly completed. In the meantime, by my sister's hands, I transmit to Mrs. Butts an attempt at your likeness, which I hope she, who is the best judge, will think like. Time flies faster as seems to me here than in London. This I endeavour to prevent; I, with my whole might, chain my feet to the world of duty and reality.
But in vain! Bacon and Newton would prescribe ways of making the world heavier to me, and Pitt would prescribe distress for a medicinal potion. But as none on earth can give me mental distress, and I know that all distress inflicted by Heaven is a mercy, a fig for all corporeal! Such distress is my mock and scorn. Such, my dear Sir, is the truth of my state, and I tell it you in palliation of my seeming neglect of your most pleasant orders.
But I have not neglected them; and yet a year is rolled over, and only now I approach the prospect of sending you some, which you may expect soon. I should have sent them by my sister; but, as the coach goes three times a week to London, and they will arrive as safe as with her, I shall have an opportunity of enclosing several together which are not yet completed.
I thank you again and again for your generous forbearance, of which I have need; and now I must express my wishes to see you at Felpham, and to show you Mr. Hayley's library, which is still unfinished, but is in a finishing way and looks well. I ought also to mention my extreme disappointment at Mr. Johnson's forgetfulness, who appointed to call on you but did not. He is also a happy abstract, known by all his friends as the most innocent forgetter of his own interests.
He is nephew to the late Mr. Cowper, the poet. You would like him much, I continue painting miniatures, and I improve more and more, as all my friends tell me. But my principal labour at this time is engraving plates for Cowper's Life , a work of magnitude, which Mr. Hayley is now labouring at with all his matchless industry, and which will be a most valuable acquisition to literature, not only on account of Mr.
Hayley's composition, but also as it will contain letters of Cowper to his friends—perhaps, or rather certainly, the very best letters that ever were published. My wife joins with me in love to you and Mrs. Butts, hoping that her joy is now increased, and yours also, in an increase of family and of health and happiness. Next time I have the happiness to see you, I am determined to paint another portrait of you from life in my best manner, for memory will not do in such minute operations; for I have now discovered that without nature before the painter's eye, he can never produce anything in the walks of natural painting.
Historical designing is one thing, and portrait-painting another, and they are as distinct as any two arts can be. Happy would that man be who could unite them! Birch, and tell him that Felpham men are the mildest of the human race. If it is the will of Providence, they shall be the wisest. We hope that he will, next summer, joke us face to face. Paul's was so good as to send me; comparing it with the first edition, and with the Greek, as we proceed.
We shall be glad to see the Odyssey also, as soon as it is visible. This and other passages in the correspondence show the familiar intimacy which had been established between the literary gentleman and the artist. The latter evidently spent much of his time, and most of his working hours, in Hayley's library, in free companionship with its owner; which in the case of so proud and sensitive a man as Blake can only have been due to much delicacy and genial courtesy on the part of his host; whose manners, indeed, were those of a polished gentleman of the old school.
We can, for a moment, see the oddly assorted pair; both visionaries, but in how different a sense!
November 18 th , Poole: 'Your warm-hearted letter that has met me this instant in the apartments of our benevolent Paulina, at Lavant has delighted us all so much by all , I mean Paulina, Blake, and myself that I seize a pen, while the coffee is coming to the table, to tell you with what cordial pleasure we shall expect you and your young pupil. If my Epitaph' on Mrs.
Unwin 'delighted you, believe me, your affectionate reception of it has afforded me equal delight. I have been a great scribbler of Epitaphs in the last month, and as you are so kindly partial to my monumental verses, I will transcribe for you even in the bustle of this morning, a recent Epitaph on your humble old friend, my good William, who closed his height of cheerful and affectionate existence near eighty this day fortnight, in the great house at Eartham, where Blake and I had the mournful gratification of attending him by accident in the few last hours of his life.
November 22 nd , The engravings to the Life of Cowper —the first issue in two volumes quarto they were omitted in the subsequent octavo edition —are not of that elaborate character the necessity of their being executed under the 'biographer's own eye' might have led us to expect. One is after that portrait of Cowper, by Romney, in crayons, made during the poet's own visit to Eartham in ; which drew forth the graceful, half sad, half sportive sonnet, concluding with so skilful an antithesis of friendly hyperbole in complimenting his painter and host.
In so mannered, level a piece of workmanship, industry of hand is more visible than of mind. Another is after the stiff, Lely-like portrait of Cowper's mother, by D. Heins, which suggested the poet's beautiful lines. In Vol. II, we have a good rendering of young Lawrence's clever, characteristic sketch of Cowper; and, at the end, a group of pretty, pastoral designs from Blake's own hand.
The subjects are that familiar household toy, 'the weather house,' described in The Task ; and Cowper's tame hares. These vignettes are executed in a light, delicate style, very unusual with Blake. In January, , Cowper's cousin paid the promised visit, and brought with him the wished-for anecdotes of the poet's last days.
Hayley, with friendly zeal, had urged Blake to attempt the only lucrative walk of art in those days—portraiture; and during Johnson's stay, the artist executed a miniature of him, which Hayley mentions as particularly successful. It would be an interesting one to see, for its painter's sake, and for the subject—the faithful kinsman and attendant with whom The Letters of Cowper have put on friendly terms all lovers of that loveable poet, the fine-witted, heaven-stricken man.
Before the second winter was over, unmistakable signs began to appear that neither the smiling cottage nor the friendly Hayley were all they had at first seemed. The dampness of a house placed upon the earth without cellarage, on a low shore too, between the Downs and the sea, seriously affected Blake's health for a time, and caused his Kate severe ague and rheumatism, which lasted even after her return to the dryness of London.
And no less baneful to the inner life was constant intercourse with the well-meaning literary squire. So early as January 10th, , he writes to Mr. Your very kind and affectionate letter, and the many kind things you have said in it, called upon me for an immediate answer. But it found my wife and myself so ill, and my wife so very ill, that till now I have not been able to do this duty.
The ague and rheumatism have been almost her constant enemies, which she has combated in vain almost ever since we have been here; and her sickness is always my sorrow, of course. But what you tell me about your sight afflicted me not a little, and that about your health, in another part of your letter, makes me entreat you to take due care of both.
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It is a part of our duty to God and man to take due care of His gifts; and though we ought not think more highly of ourselves, yet we ought to think as highly of ourselves as immortals ought to think. When I came down here, I was more sanguine than I am at present; but it was because I was ignorant of many things which have since occurred, and chiefly the unhealthiness of the place.
Yet I do not repent of coming on a thousand accounts; and Mr. But this is no easy matter to a man who, having spiritual enemies of such formidable magnitude, cannot expect to want natural hidden ones. Your approbation of my pictures is a multitude to me, and I doubt not that all your kind wishes in my behalf shall in due time be fulfilled. Your kind offer of pecuniary assistance I can only thank you for at present, because I have enough to serve my present purpose here. Our expenses are small, and our income, from our incessant labour, fully adequate to these at present.
I am now engaged in engraving six small plates for a new edition of Mr.
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Hayley's Triumphs of Temper , from drawings by Maria Flaxman , sister to my friend the sculptor. And it seems that other things will follow in course, if I do but copy these well. But patience! If great things do not turn out, it is because such things depend on the spiritual and not on the natural world; and if it was fit for me, I doubt not that I should be employed in greater things; and when it is proper, my talents shall be properly exercised in public, as I hope they are now in private.
For, till then, I leave no stone unturned, and no path unexplored that leads to improvement in my beloved arts. But whatever becomes of my labours, I would rather that they should be preserved in your greenhouse not, as you mistakenly call it, dunghill than in the cold gallery of fashion. The sun may yet shine, and then they will be brought into open air.
But you have so generously and openly desired that I will divide my griefs with you that I cannot hide what it has now become my duty to explain. My unhappiness has arisen from a source which, if explored too narrowly, might hurt my pecuniary circumstances; as my dependence is on engraving at present, and particularly on the engravings I have in hand for Mr. This has always pursued me. You will understand by this the source of all my uneasiness.
This from Johnson and Fuseli brought me down here, and this from Mr. For that I cannot live without doing my duty to lay up treasures in heaven is certain and determined, and to this I have long made up my mind. And why this should be made an objection to me, while drunkenness, lewdness, gluttony, and even idleness itself, do not hurt other men, let Satan himself explain. The thing I have most at heart—more than life, or all that seems to make life comfortable without—is the interest of true religion and science.
And whenever anything appears to affect that interest especially if I myself omit any duty to my station as a soldier of Christ , it gives me the greatest of torments. I am not ashamed, afraid, or averse to tell you what ought to be told—that I am under the direction of messengers from heaven, daily and nightly.
But the nature of such things is not, as some suppose, without trouble or care. Temptations are on the right hand and on the left. Behind, the sea of time and space roars and follows swiftly. He who keeps not right onwards is lost; and if our footsteps slide in clay, how can we do otherwise than fear and tremble? But I should not have troubled you with this account of my spiritual state, unless it had been necessary in explaining the actual cause of my uneasiness, into which you are so kind as to inquire: for I never obtrude such things on others unless questioned, and then I never disguise the truth.
Every one in eternity will leave you, aghast at the man who was crowned with glory and honour by his brethren, and betrayed their cause to their enemies. You will be called the base Judas who betrayed his friend! But I am now no longer in that state, and now go on again with my task, fearless, though my path is difficult. I have no fear of stumbling while I keep it. My wife desires her kindest love to Mrs. Butts, and I have permitted her to send it to you also. We often wish that we could unite again in society, and hope that the time is not distant when we shall do so, being determined not to remain another winter here, but to return to London.
I hear a Voice you cannot hear, that says I must not stay, I see a Hand you cannot see, that beckons me away. Naked we came here—naked of natural things—and naked we shall return: but while clothed with the Divine mercy, we are richly clothed in spiritual, and suffer all the rest gladly. Pray, give my love to Mrs. Butts and your family. February 3 rd , He would declare that he learnt French, sufficient to read it, in a few weeks. By-and-by, at sixty years of age, he will set to learning Italian, in order to read Dante. The references, in our next extract, to Cowper's monumental tablet at East Dereham, then under discussion, and Blake a party to it, are sufficiently amusing, surely, to warrant our staying to smile over the same.
Consider what 'the Design' actually erected is. An oblong piece of marble, bearing an inscription, with a sculptured 'Holy Bible' on end at top; another marble volume, lettered 'The Task,' leaning against it; and a palm leaf inclined over the whole, as the redeeming line of beauty. Chaste and simple! February 25 th , I entreated her to suspend her decision till I had time to send for the simply elegant sketches that I expected from Flaxman. When these sketches reached me, I was not myself perfectly pleased with the shape of the lyre introduced by the sculptor, and presumptuously have tried myself to out-design my dear Flaxman himself, on this most animating occasion.
I formed, therefore, a device of the Bible upright supporting The Task , with a laurel leaf and Palms , such as I send you, neatly copied by our kind Blake, I have sent other copies of the same to her ladyship and to Flaxman; requesting the latter to tell me frankly how he likes my design, and for what sum he can execute the said design, with the background,—a firm slab of dove-coloured marble, and the rest white. Tell me how you , my dear Johnny, like my device. To enable you to judge fairly, even against myself, I desired the kind Blake to add for you, under the copy of my design, a copy of Flaxman's also, with the lyre whose shape displeases me.
March 11 th , The Life of Cowper ,—commenced January, , finished the following January,—was, this March,- in the hand of. Seagrave, whom the author had, 'for the credit of his native city,' induced reluctant Johnson to accept as printer. From March to December, Hayley, after beginning the Memoir of his son, was busy getting his two quartos through the press. The issue of The Ballads was not commenced till June; they were in quarto numbers, three engravings to each—a frontispiece and two vignettes. The first was The Elephant. A Series of Ballads. Number 1. The Elephant. Ballad the First.
Chichester: printed by J. Seagrave, and sold by him and P. Humphry; and by R. Evans, Pall Mall, London, for W. Blake, Felphain, May 16th, Thank heaven! In June, healthfully restored, 'our alert Blake,' scribbles Hayley, one ' Monday afternoon' June 22 th , , 'is preparing, con spirito , to launch his Eagle , with a lively hope 'of seeing him superior to The Elephant , and. Lady Hesketh has received and patronised his Elephant with the most obliging benignity, and we hope soon to hear that the gentle and noble beast arrived safe at Dereham, and finds favour with the good folks of your county.
The ingenious maker of elephants and eagles, who is working at this instant on the latter, salutes you with kindest remembrance. A few days later, July 1st, , The Eagle was published, forming No. The frontispiece is one of the finest designs in the series. The frantic mother, kneeling on the topmost verge of the over-hanging crag amid the clouds, who stretches fourth passionate, outspread arms over her smiling babe below, as he lies and sports with his dread comrade in this perilous nest,—the blood-stained cranny in the rocks,—is a noble and eloquent figure.
It was subsequently reproduced in the duodecimo edition, but without either of the vignettes. In one of these, the eagle is swooping down on the child in its cradle outside the mother's cottage. In the other, the liberated little one is standing upon the dead eagle among the mountains. Both have a domestic simplicity of sentiment, and both are good in drawing. Between September, , and January, , occurs an unlucky hiatus in the printed letters of Hayley to Johnson; and we catch no further glimpses of the artist by that flickering rushlight.
Though Phillips' name was added on the title-page, and copies perhaps consigned to him, the book can hardly be said to have been published, as matters were managed down at Felpham and Chichester. Had it been efificently made known, the illustrations ought to have commanded some favour with the public. The style of design and engraving, careful and finished, is, for once, not of a kind to repel the ordinary gazer; and the themes are quite within popular comprehension, though their treatment be unusually refined.
I here speak of the quarto edition. The whole fifteen windy ballads were, three years later, printed in duodecimo by Seagrave, for Phillips of London, the aim still being to benefit the artist, and still proving ineffectual.
Of this edition more hereafter. November 15th, , died Hayley's old friend Romney, after a sad and lengthened twilight of his faculties; which solemn event set Hayley 'composing an epitaph before the 'dawn of day,' and revolving in his mind pious intent of further biographic toil, in which Blake was to help.
This autumn, too, died Blake's old master, Basire. Here again, happily, two more of the precious budget of letters to Mr. Butts bring us face to face with the real Blake instead of Blake as seen through the blinking mental vision of the amiable Hermit. My brother tells me that he fears you are offended with me. I fear so too, because there appears some reason why you might be so. But when you have heard me out, you will not be so.
All Sir J. Reynolds' Discourses to the Royal Academy will show that the Venetian finesse in art can never be united with the majesty of colouring necessary to historical beauty; and in a letter to the Rev. Gilpin, author of a work on Picturesque Scenery, he says thus:—'It may be worth consideration whether the epithet picturesque is not applicable to the excellencies of the inferior schools rather than to the higher. Whereas Rubens and the Venetian painters may almost be said to have nothing else.
Perhaps picturesque is somewhat synonymous to the word taste , which we should think improperly applied to Homer or Milton, but very well to Prior or Pope. I suspect that the application of these words is to excellences of an inferior order, and which are incompatible with the grand style.
You are certainly right in saying that variety of tints and forms is picturesque; but it must be remembered, on the other hand, that the reverse of this uniformity of colour and a long continuation of lines produces grandeur. So says Sir Joshua, and so say I; for I have now proved that the parts of the art which I neglected to display, in those little pictures and drawings which I had the pleasure and profit to do for you, are incompatible with the designs.
There is nothing in the art which our painters do that I can confess myself ignorant of. I also know and understand, and can assuredly affirm, that the works I have done for you are equal to the Caracci or Raphael and I am now some years older than Raphael was when he died. I say they are equal to Caracci or Raphael, or else I am blind, stupid, ignorant, and incapable, in two years' study, to understand those things which a boarding-school miss can comprehend in a fortnight.
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