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from Amsterdam to London, in August 1771, and died at No. 26, Great Bath Street, Coldbath Fields, on the 29th of March, 1772.' This Mr. Allingham pleasantly suggests, in a note to his delightful collection of lyrical poems, Nightingale Valley (1860), in which (at last) occur a specimen or two of Blake's verse. The coincidence is not a trivial one. Of all modern men the engraver's apprentice was to grow up the likest to Emanuel Swedenborg; already by constitutional temperament and endowment was so: in faculty for theosophic dreaming, for the seeing of visions while broad awake, and in matter of fact hold of spiritual things. To savan and to artist alike, while yet on earth, the Heavens were opened. By Swedenborg's theologic writings, the first English editions of some of which appeared during Blake's manhood, the latter was considerably influenced; but in no slavish spirit. These writings, in common with those of Jacob Boehmen, and of the other select mystics of the world, had natural affinities to Blake's mind, and were eagerly assimilated. But he hardly became a proselyte or 'Swedenborgian' proper; though his friend Flaxman did. In another twenty years we shall find him freely and—as true believers may think-heretically criticising the Swedish seer from the spiritualist, not the rationalist point of view: as being a Divine Teacher, whose truths however were 'not new,' and whose falsehoods were all old.
Among the leading engravings turned out by Basire, during the early part of Blake's apprenticeship, may be instanced in 1772, one after B. Wilson (not Richard), Lady Stanhope as the Fair Penitent, (her rôle in certain amateur theatricals by the Quality); and in 1774, The Field of the Cloth of Gold and Interview of the two Kings, after a copy for the Society of Antiquaries by little Edwards' of Anecdote fame, from the celebrated picture at Windsor. The latter print was celebrated for one thing, if no other, as the largest ever engraved up to that time on one plate-copper, let us remember,— being some 47 inches by 27; and paper had to be made on purpose for it.
Two years passed over smoothly enough,' writes Malkin, 'till two other apprentices were added to the establishment, who completely destroyed its harmony.' Basire said of Blake, he was too simple and they too cunning. He, lending I suppose a too credulous ear to their tales, declined to take part with his master against his fellow-apprentices;' and was therefore sent out of harm's way into Westminster Abbey and the various old churches in and near London, to make drawings from the monuments and buildings Basire was employed by Gough the antiquary to engrave: 'a circumstance he always mentioned with gratitude to Basire.' The solitary study of authentic English history in stone was far more to the studious lad's mind than the disorderly wrangling of mutinous comrades. It is significant of his character, even at this early date, for zeal, industry, and moral correctness, that he could be trusted month after month, year after year, unwatched, to do his duty by his master in so independent an employment.
The task was singularly adapted to foster the romantic turn of his imagination, and to strengthen his natural affinities for the spiritual in art. It kindled a fervent love of Gothic,—itself an originality then,—which lasted his life, and exerted enduring influences on his habits of feeling and study ; forbidding, once for all, if such a thing had ever been possible to Blake, the pursuit of fashionable models, modern excellencies, technic and superficial, or of any but the antiquated essentials and symbolic language of imaginative art.
From this time forward, from 1773 that is, the then 'neglected works of art, called Gothic monuments,' were for years his daily companions. The warmer months were devoted to zealous sketching, from every point of view, of the Tombs in the Abbey ; the enthusiastic artist ‘frequently standing on the monument and viewing the figures from the top. Careful drawings were made of the regal forms, which for five centuries had lain in mute majesty,-
once amid the daily presence of reverent priest and muttered mass, since in awful solitude,—around the lovely Chapel of the Confessor: the austere sweetness of Queen Eleanor, the dignity of Philippa, the noble grandeur of Edward the Third, the gracious stateliness of Richard the Second and his Queen. Then, came drawings of the glorious effigy of Aymer de Valence, and of the beautiful though mutilated figures which surround his altar-tomb ; drawings, in fact, of all the mediæval tombs. He pored over all with a reverent good faith, which, in the age of Stuart and Revett, taught the simple student things our Pugins and Scotts had to learn near a century later. The heads he considered as portraits,' — not unnaturally, their sculptors showing no overt sign of idiocy ;' and all the ornaments appeared as miracles of art to his gothicized imagination, as they have appeared to other imaginations since. He discovered for himself then, or later, the important part once subserved by Colour in the sculptured building, the living help it had rendered to the once radiant Temple of God,—now a bleached dishonoured skeleton.
Shut up alone with these solemn memorials of far off centuries, —for, during service and in the intervals of visits from strangers, the vergers turned the key on him,—the Spirit of the past became his familiar companion. Sometimes his dreaming eye saw more palpable shapes from the phantom past : once a vision of Christ and the Apostles,' as he used to tell; and I doubt not others. For, as we have seen, the visionary tendency, or faculty, as Blake more truly called it, had early shown itself.
During the progress of Blake's lonely labours in the Abbey, on a bright day in May, 1774, the Society for which, through Basire, he was working, perpetrated, by royal permission, on the very scene of those rapt studies, a highly interesting bit of antiquarian sacrilege: on a more reasonable pretext, and with greater decency, than sometimes distinguish such questionable proceedings. A select company formally and in strict privacy opened the tomb of Edward the First, and found the embalmed body ‘in perfect preservation and sumptuously attired' in ‘robes of royalty, his crown on his head, and two sceptres in his hands. The antiquaries saw face to face the dead conqueror of Scotland ;' had even a fleeting glimpse--for it was straightway re-enclosed in its cerecloths—of his very visage: a recognisable likeness of what it must have been in life. I cannot help hoping that Blake may (unseen) have assisted at the ceremony.
In winter the youth helped to engrave selections from these Abbey Studies, in some cases executing the engraving single-handed. During the evenings, and at over hours, he made drawings from his already teeming Fancy, and from English History. A great number, it is said, were thrown off in such spare hours. There is a scarce engraving of his dated so early as 1773, the second year of his apprenticeship, remarkable as already to some extent evincing in style—as yet, however, heavy rather than majestic—still more in choice of subject, the characteristics of later years. In one corner at top we have the inscription (which sufficiently describes the design), “Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion ;' and at bottom, “engraved by W. Blake, 1773, from an old Italian drawing ;' ' Michael Angelo, Pinxit.' Between these two lines, according to a custom frequent with Blake, is engraved the following characteristic effusion, which reads like an addition of later years :• This' (he is venturing a wild theory as to Joseph), “is One of the
Gothic Artists who built the Cathedrals in what we call the Dark • Ages, wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins ; of whom the · World was not worthy. Such were the Christians in all ages.'
The ʼprentice work as assistant to Basire of these years (1773-78) may be traced under Basire's name in the Archæologia, in some of the engravings of coins, &c., to the Memoirs of Hollis (1780), and in Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments, not published till 1786 and 1796. The Antiquaries were alive and stirring then; and enthusiastic John Carter was laying the foundations in English Archæology on which better-known men have since built. In the Sepulchral Monuments, vol. 1, pt. 2 (1796), occurs a capital engraving as to drawing and feeling, “Portrait of Queen Philippa from her Monument, with the inscription Basire delineavit et sculpsit; for which, as in many other cases, we may safely read ·W. Blake.' In fact, Stothard often used to mention this drawing as Blake's, and with praise. The engraving is in Blake's forcible manner of decisively contrasted light and shade, but simple and monotonous manipulation. It is to a large scale, and gives the head and shoulders merely. Another plate, with a perspective view of the whole monument and a separate one of the effigy, accompanies it. In Part I. (1786), are similar Portraits' of Queen Philippa, of Edward III. &c.
From Basire, Blake could only acquire the mechanical part of Art, even of the engraver's art; for Basire had little more to communicate. But that part he learned thoroughly and well. Basire's acquirements as an engraver were of a solid though not a fascinating kind. The scholar always retained a loyal feeling towards his old master; and would stoutly defend him and his style against that of more attractive and famous hands,-Strange, Woollett, Bartolozzi. Their ascendancy, indeed, led to no little public injustice being done throughout, to Blake's own sterling style of engraving. A circumstance which intensified the artist's aversion to the men. In a MS. descriptive Advertisement (1810) to his own Canterbury Pilgrimage (the engraving not the picture), Blake expresses his contempt for them very candidly—and intemperately perhaps. There too, he records the impression made on him personally, when as a boy he used to see some of them in Basire's studio. · Woollett,' he writes, “I knew very intimately by his intimacy with Basire, and
knew him to be one of the most ignorant fellows I ever met. !A machine is not a man, nor a work of art : it is destructive of