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Thread: Blake, or Angels in Peckham

  1. #16
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    Blake's dark religious roots

    by Emma Turner
    BBC News Online, Nottingham



    A grant of 110,000 will fund research into Blake's religious heritage
    A new name is being added to a list of the East Midlands' famous literary sons.
    Previously, poet Lord Byron and novelist D H Lawrence topped the list, but now Romantic poet William Blake has joined them.

    He is considered the quintessential Cockney poet, but a team at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) have traced his roots back to a village in north Nottinghamshire.

    Blake (1757 - 1827) is probably most famous for writing the words to the hymn Jerusalem.

    'National figure'

    A letter of application to the Moravian Church - a radical Christian sect - written by his mother Catherine Wright, has revealed she was born in Walkeringham, near Retford.

    Blake's mother was assumed to have been a Londoner until Dr Keri Davies - research fellow at NTU - discovered the document in the Moravian Church archive, based in Muswell Hill in London.

    As a result, the university's Faculty of Humanities has been awarded a 110,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Board for a two-year investigation into Blake's lineage.

    Professor David Worrall, who is leading the research, believes the East Midlands connection is a significant discovery.

    He said: "What is important for this region is that the work of this great national figure - whose work has such an important role in our national identity - comes from a starting point in this obscure part of Nottinghamshire and a little-known religion."

    The Moravian Church arrived in England from Eastern Europe in the early 18th century before continuing its missionary work in the North American colonies.

    Catherine left the congregation after the death of her first husband, Thomas Armitage, and married James Blake, William's father, a year later.

    Dr Davies believes Catherine's Moravian connection would have influenced the way she brought up her children, with the church's strong emphasis on parents educating their children at home.

    Blake himself wrote: "Thank God I never was sent to school, to be flogd into following the style of a fool. "

    Blake's Roots


    The parallels between the Moravian hymns and Blake's Songs of Innocence - with references to lambs and tigers - have previously been highlighted by scholars.

    Blake's work, which became part of the wider movement of Romanticism in late 18th and early 19th century European culture, is filled with religious visions.

    Dr Davies said: "We are interested in how the Moravian connection links Blake with high European culture - the Moravian churches were famed for their music, their hymn-singing, their devotional paintings.

    "But we are also interested in the way Blake's mother's country origins link the poet with a world of rural tradition that has been largely ignored, while Peter Ackroyd's description of Blake as 'Cockney visionary' has held sway."

    The tiny village on the North Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire border may seem an unlikely site for a radical religious sect, but nearby Epworth in Lincolnshire was the birthplace of John and Charles Wesley, the leaders of the Methodist movement.

    John Wesley was himself a member of the Moravian church in the early 1740s. In a sense we have brought him back to his proper home


    Professor Worrall believes Blake may have been strongly influenced by his mother's Nottinghamshire roots.

    "I had assumed all my working life that Blake talked like a Cockney, but now we can begin to think of him as a man who may even have spoken with the remnants of a Nottinghamshire accent.

    "In a sense we have brought him back to his proper home."

  2. #17
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    interesting, thanks for posting that....
    (but y'know, 'proper home' my arse, he only ever left london for about 6 months in his life and hated the experience)

    i read 'the pursuit of the millenium' for the first time a few months ago, and the quotations from the ranters and the movement of the free spirit could have been straight from blake, i thought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by luka
    i saw a complete illuminated books for 30 in the tate. i was tempted but the reproductions are pretty small, despite the pages being fairly big. dunno why that is. you need a magnifying glass to read the text.
    Is that the Thames & Hudson one? I'm pretty sure the reproductions are full size. I've got it, but I find it a lot easier to just look at the pictures and follow the text in the Penguin Complete Works.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by WOEBOT
    did you read that peter ackroyd blake book. i get slightly weary of the way he's single-handedly commandered "London" as a subject (Hawksmoor, Dickens etc ad infinitum) though i suppose its a good thing.
    I enjoyed Ackroyd's book, but it has had a disproportionate influence in producing a certain image of Blake.
    Ackroyd has a strange profile, hasn't he, both and insider and outsider, feeding off underground currents (Sinclair, Hawksmoor, Dee etc) but copping million quid advances at the same time. I was very disappointed by his book on London (and the TV spinoff). Saw him interviewing the great US poet John Ashbery at the Tate a few years ago - quite the eccentric.

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    can't remember who published it. the pictures are in colour but they're the size of postage stamps.

    i read half the first chapter of ackroyd's biography. seemed 'de-libinising# to use a kpukism. i don't think he's very talednted
    i'd like to read yeats' book on blake.

  6. #21
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    Default ackroyd not all bad

    ackroyd is a great populiser - Hawksmoor is a tidied up version of Sinclair's poem Lud Heat for example but i don't think we should dismiss his work so flippantly - a judgement made on a cursroy reading of a chapter is hardly enough.
    His work on 'cockney visionanaries' is interesting and if you read his original speech is far more challenging than maybe the oddball tv version we got for his London programme - a travesty of an interesting book.
    his blake may well have become a standardised version in schools etc but i would claim that blake is just the kind of writer who cannot sit comfortably in a box for long - he resists any attempt t co-opt him into any one reading - back to my quote from an earlier -"i must create my own system or be enslav'd to another mans" - any reading of blake is about engaging with that sysytem in all its ornery awkwardness, its difficulties and contradictions.
    people want to talk about the political blake and it is clear that this is what makes him engagingly modern - the republican who wore the red cap of the french revolution before it turned bloody but again he is cussedly contradictiry - he would seem to be influenced by Paine but he states he is no fan, more profit i think can be made in his relationship to Wesley and Walton - the dissenter who dissents from the dissenters, so to speak.
    it is interesting how the establishment attempts to co-opt him into the fold through the adoption of Jerusalem - look again at the words, it is not jingoistic but a blatant damnation of industrailisation and a song of rage not celebration.

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    i've got a lovely bound editon of songs of innocence made by the tate and the london folio company ages ago. original plates on one side and poem in type on the other. ace. he's not a great artist but he's a great poet and his art is instantly recognisable.
    the ep thompson book that talks about blake is the making of the english working class, smashing.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by luka
    i'd like to read yeats' book on blake.
    Its out from Routledge in their Classics series with an introduction by Tom Paulin. Its basically Yeats' choice of Blake's poetry with a biographical sketch - not hugely fascinating, though the latter is where Yeats makes his infamous and completely erroneous claim that Blake was of Irish extraction. There was also a three volume edition that he did with Edwin Ellis which has more commentary though its hard to say which bits are Yeats and which are Ellis.

    So much in Yeats comes from Blake and he is a phrase-maker of at least an equal power. Shame about the crazed authoritarianism ('what is democracy - muck in the yard').

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    it'll be the one with ellis then. i saw kathleen raine talking about it, saying how good it was, and it sounds quite nutty as well, yeats in 'a vision' mode.

    as for ackroyd, i think he's a mediocrity, let's just agree to differ, although a whole chapter is more than enough to judge a book by, even more so if its the first chapter.

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    some good blake on the web here, also excellent indexed maps of 18th C London

  11. #26
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    Book of Thel 1879

    ripped & posted by rewch

  12. #27
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    cheers'en ya zul...produced by blake between 1789 & 1818...fifteen complete copies known...hand-coloured

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    Default matthew prior

    was reading a poetry anthology last night - the new english book of verse (not all of it , obviously) when i came upon this poem by prior - i know nothing about him,does anybody out there?
    the interesting thing is this anthology is chronological and this poem is published in 1717, some 75 ish years before Experience - is it a coincidence or did blake know about this and was therefore parodying it, or what:

    A True Maid

    NO, no; for my virginity,
    When I lose that, says Rose, I'll die:
    Behind the elms last night, cried Dick,
    Rose, were you not extremely sick?

    Matthew Prior

  14. #29
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    Apparently Sam Taylor-Wood is making a film about Blake with Ray Winston as William.

  15. #30
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    that isn't funny.

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