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two were incorporated. In this third edition of 1821 the illustrations were increased to as many as two hundred and thirty, including these from Blake's hand.
And hereby hangs a tale. Blake made twenty drawings to illustrate the Pastorals of Phillips, introduced by Thornton into his 'course' of Virgil reading. From these he executed seventeen wood blocks, the first he had ever cut, and, as they will prove, the last. The rough, unconventional work of a mere 'prentice hand to the art of wood engraving, they are in effect vigorous and artist-like, recalling the doings of Albert Dürer and the early masters, whose aim was to give ideas, not pretty language. When he sent in these seventeen, the publishers, unused to so daring a style, were taken aback, and declared this man must do no more ;' nay, were for having all he had done re-cut by one of their regular hands. The very engravers received them with derision, crying out in the words of the critic, “This will never do.' Blake's merits, seldom wholly hidden from his artist contemporaries, were always impenetrably dark to the book and print selling genus.
Dr. Thornton had, in his various undertakings, been munificent to artists to an extent which, as we have said, brought him to poverty. But he had himself no knowledge of art, and, despite kind intentions, was disposed to take his publishers' view. However, it fortunately happened that meeting one day several artists at Mr. Aders' table, Lawrence, James Ward, Linnell, and others,-conversation fell on the Virgil. All present expressed warm admiration of Blake's art, and of those designs and woodcuts in particular. By such competent authority reassured, if also puzzled, the good Doctor began to think there must be more in them than he and his publishers could discern. The contemplated sacrifice of the blocks already cut was averted. The three other designs, however, had been engraved by another, nameless hand : those illustrative of the three comparisons' in the last stanza but one of Phillips' Pastoral.
Wretched, jejune caricatures of the beautiful originals they proved, scarce any trace of Blake being left.
To conciliate the outraged arts, Dr. Thornton introduced the designs with an apology. The illustrations of this English Pastoral
are by the famous BLAKE, the illustrator of Young's Night Thoughts, ' and Blair's Grave; who designed and engraved them himself. * This is mentioned as they display less of art than of genius, and * are much admired by some eminent painters.
One of the designs engraved by Blake was re-cut among the engravers, who scrupled not, by way of showing what it ought to have been, to smooth down and conventionalize the design itself; reducing a poetic, typical composition to mere commonplace, 'to meet the public taste.' This as an earnest of what had been contemplated for the whole series. The amendment was not adopted by Thornton. Both versions may be seen in the Athenæum for January 21st, 1843; where, in the course of a very intelligent article on the true principles of wood engraving, they are introduced, with other cuts from Holbein, &c. to illustrate the writer's just argument: that “amid all drawbacks there exists a power in * the work of the man of genius which no one but himself can
utter fully;' and that there is an authentic manifestation of · feeling in an author's own work, which endears it to all who can ' sympathize with art, and reconciles all its defects. Blake's rude ' work, adds the critic, utterly without pretension, too, as an
engraving, the merest attempt of a fresh apprentice, is a work of 'genius; whilst the latter'—the doctored cut-'is but a piece of • smooth, tame inechanism.'
The more these remarkable designs are seen, the more power do they exert over the mind. With few lines, and the simplest, rudest hints of natural objects, they appeal to the imagination direct, not the memory; setting before us condensed, typical ideas. Strange to think of Blake, shut up in dingy, gardenless South Molton Street,
designing such pastorals ! His mind must have been impregnated with rural images, enabling him, without immediate reference to Nature, to throw off these beautiful suggestions, so pastoral in feeling, of Arcadian shepherds and their flocks, under the broad setting sun or tranquil moon. As Thornton's purpose was to give his young readers pictured images of his author's words, the designs accompany the poem literally, and line for line. Thenot addresses Colinet, who leans lonesome against a tree, crook in hand, and sheep beside, and so on.
The original designs, in sepia, are of much delicacy and grace. Their expression and drawing are a little distorted in the transference to wood, even under Blake's own hands. The blocks, moreover, proved in the first instance too wide for the page and were, irrespective of the composition, summarily cut down to the requisite size by the publishers. They are now, together with the drawings, in the possession of Mr. Linnell, who has kindly permitted impressions from three of them to be taken for the present work.
Dr. Thornton found further employment for Blake in etchings, scattered through the two volumes of 1821, from antique busts : Theocritus, Virgil, Augustus, Agrippa, Julius Cæsar, Epicurus ; task-work Blake well and honestly performed. A drawing of his, from Poussin's Polypheme, was put into Byfield's hands to engrave; which the latter did, poorly enough. As for the rest of the two hundred and thirty cuts, though executed by some of the best wood engravers of the time, they are, with the exception of one or two by Bewick and Thurston, of singularly laughable calibre. The designers obviously thought they could not be too puerile in addressing boys. The old, rude woodcuts to Croxall's Æsop are respectable works of art, compared with these. It is a curious practical satire on the opinion of Blake the engravers had, that the book, which has become scarce, is seldom looked at now but for Blake's slight share in it.
AFTER seventeen years in South Molton Street, Blake, in 1821, migrated to No. 3, Fountain Court, Strand,—a house kept by a brother-in-law named Baines. It was his final change of residence. Here, as in South Molton Street, his lodgings were not a 'garret,' as Allan Cunningham, with metaphorical flourish, describes them, but now, as before, in the best part—the first floor-of a respectable house. Fountain Court, unknown by name, perhaps, to many who yet often pass it on their way through a great London artery, is a court lying a little out of the Strand, between it and the river, and approached by a dark narrow opening, or inclined plane, at the corner of Simpson's Tavern, and nearly opposite Exeter Hall. At one corner of the court, nearest the Strand, stands the Coal Hole Tavern, once the haunt of Edmund Kean and his Wolf Club' of claquers, still in Blake's time a resort of the Thespian race; not then promoted to the less admirable notoriety it has, in our days, enjoyed. Now the shrill tinkle of a dilapidated piano, accompaniment to a series of tawdry poses plastiques, wakes the nocturnal echoes, making night hideous in the quiet court where the poet and visionary once lived and designed the Inventions to Job.
An old-fashioned respectable court in 1821, as other similar streets in that neighbourhood still are—its red-brick houses with overhanging cornices, dating from the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century-it is silent and sordid now; having, like all Blake's abodes, suffered a decline of fortune. No. 3, then a clean red-brick house, is now a dirty stuccoed one, let out, as are all in the court, in single rooms to the labouring poor. That which was Blake's front room was lately in the market at four and sixpence a week, as an assiduous inquirer found. The whole place wears that inexpressibly forlorn, squalid look houses used for a lower purpose than the one for which they were built always assume. There is an ancient timber and brick gateway under a lofty old house hard by ; and a few traces yet linger here and there, in bits of wall, &c. of the old Savoy Palace, destroyed to make way for the approaches to Waterloo Bridge, which had been opened just four years when Blake first came to the court.
Those capable of feeling the beauty of Blake's design were, if anything, fewer at this period than they had ever been. Among these few numbered a man who was hereafter to acquire a sombre and terrible notoriety,—Thomas Griffiths Wainwright ; the lively magazine writer, fine-art critic, artist, man of pleasure, companion of poets and philosophers, and future murderer, secret poisoner of confidential friend and trustful sister. This was the Janus Weathercock of The London Magazine ; the light-hearted Janus' of Charles Lamb. To the other anomalies of this unhappy man's career may be added the fact of his intimacy with William Blake, whom he assisted by buying two or three of his expensive illustrated books, One among the best of the Songs of Innocence and Experience I have seen formerly belonged to Wainwright. Blake entertained, as did Lamb, Procter, and others of The London coterie, a kindness for him and his works.
For this spiritual voluptuary, with the greedy senses, soft coat, and tiger heart, painted and exhibited as well as wrote. I trace him at the Academy in 1821,- Subject from Undine, ch. 6; in 1822 (year of Wilkie's Chelsea Pensioners), Paris in the Chamber of Helen ; and in 1825, First Idea of a Scene from Der Freyschütz, and a Sketch from Gerusalemme Liberata—both sketches, it is worth notice, as