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achievement, most original and characteristic of all his productions. This set of drawings to Job has passed from Mr.Butts' son into the possession of Mr. Monckton Milnes.
It is to the credit of the Royal Academy that, at this conjuncture, Blake, in the year 1822, received from its funds a donation of 251. Collins and Abraham Cooper recommended him for the grant; Baily and Rd. Bone were the movers and seconders of the vote according it. The Forty of that day, as the testimonial in favour of the Grave showed, numbered many who could recognise Blake's high artistic genius.
With no remaining patrons for his design, few to employ him as an engraver, Blake, in age, was on the verge of want. Grim poverty had throughout life stared him in the face. Throughout life he had calmly looked back into her eyes. For him she had no terrors. He would have been in actual want but for one friend, himself an artist, himself not overburthened at that time with the gifts of Fortune ; who had, as other rising artists have—but in 1823 it was a still tougher struggle than in 1860—to toil hard for himself and family at often ungenial task-work. The drawings to Job had been borrowed from Mr. Butts to be shown to such as might seem likely to prove employers. From Mr. Linnell alone they drew a commission. He engaged Blake to execute and engrave a duplicate set. The agreement, recorded in writing in a business-like way, bears date 25th March, 1823. It was such an one as Blake had never set hand to before, nor could have obtained in any other quarter. Blake was to receive 1001. for the designs and copyright, to be paid from time to time; and another 1001. out of the profits. No profits were realized by the engravings, their sale hardly covering expenses. But as the designs and stock of engravings remained with the purchaser, Mr. Linnell subsequently paid over, from time to time, 501. more, making a total of 1501.,—the largest sum Blake had ever received for any one series. The drawings, the remainder of engravings and plates, are still
in the hands of this liberal friend, who discounted, as it were, Blake's bill on posterity, when none else would. While the Job was in progress, Blake received his money in the way handiest to him,-instalments of 21. to 31. a week; sums amply sufficient for all his ordinary wants, thanks to his modest ménage and simple habits. More he would hardly have spent, if he had had it.
The set of drawings made for Mr. Linnell varies much in detail from that for Mr. Butts, and is often finer. The engravings were still further altered ; faces in profile in the drawings are given full view in the prints, and so on. Both sets of designs are very finely drawn, and pure in colour; necessarily very much finer than the prints. No artist can quite reproduce even his own drawings. Much must be lost by the way.
The engravings are the best Blake ever did : vigorous, decisive, and, above all, in a style of expression in keeping with the designs, which the work of no other hand could have been in the case of conceptions so austere and primeval as these. Blake's manner of handling the graver had been advantageously modified since his acquaintance with Mr. Linnell. The latter had called his attention to the works of Albert Dürer, Marc Antonio, and the Italian's contemporary and disciple Bonosoni, a more elegant and facile, if less robust, Marc Antonio. From Bonosoni especially Blake gleaned much, and was led, on first becoming familiar with his work, to express a regret that he had been trained in the Basire school, wherein he had learned to work as a mere engraver, cross-hatching freely. He now became an artist, making every line tell. The results of this change of style are manifest in the engraved Inventions to Job. In them, too, Bonosoni's plan was adopted, of working wholly with the graver and etching nothing; so that the plates lose little by having a few hundred impressions taken off.
These Inventions to the Book of Job, which may be regarded as the works of Blake's own hand, in which he most unreservedly competes
with others—belonging as they do in style to the accepted category of engraved designs—consist of twenty-one subjects on a considerably smaller scale than those in the Grave, each highly wrought in light and shade, and each surrounded by a border of allusive design and inscription, executed in a slighter style than the subject itself. Perhaps this may fairly be pronounced, on the whole, the most remarkable series of etchings on a scriptural theme which has appeared since the days of Albert Dürer and Rembrandt, widely differing, too, from either.
Except the Grave, these designs must be known to a larger circle than any other series by Blake; and yet they are by no means so familiar as to render unnecessary such imperfect reproduction of their intricate beauties as the scheme of this work made possible, or even the still more shadowy presentment of verbal description.
The first among them shows us the patriarch Job worshipping among his family under a mighty oak, surrounded by feeding flocks, range behind range, as far as the distant homestead, in a landscape glorified by setting sun and rising moon. Thus did Job continually,' the leading motto tells us. In the second plate we see the same persons grouped, still full of happiness and thanksgiving. But this is that day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them; and above the happy group we see what they do not see, and know that power is given to Satan over all that Job has. Then in the two next subjects come the workings of that power; the house falling on the slain feasters, and the messengers hurrying one after another to the lonely parents, still with fresh tidings of ruin. The fifth is a wonderful design. Job and his wife still sit side by side, the closer for their misery, and still out of the little left to them give alms to those poorer than themselves. The angels of their love and resignation are ever with them on either side ; but above, again, the unseen Heaven lies open. There sits throned that Almighty figure, filled now with inexpressible pity, almost with compunction. Around Him His angels shrink away in horror; for now the fires which clothe them—the very fires of God—are compressed in the hand of Satan into a phial for the devoted head of Job himself. Job is to be tried to the utmost; only his life is withheld from the tormentor. How this is wrought, and how Job's friends come to visit him in his desolation, are the subjects which follow; and then, in the eighth design, Job at last lifts up his voice, with arms uplifted too, among his crouching shuddering friends, and curses the day when he was born. The next, again, is among the grandest of the series. Eliphaz the Temanite is telling Job of the thing which was secretly brought to him in the visions of the night; and above we are shown the matter of his words, the spirit which passed before his face; all blended in a wondrous partition of light, cloud, and mist of light. After this Job kneels up, and prays his reproachful friends to have pity on him, for the hand of God has touched him. And next-most terrible of allwe see embodied the accusations of torment which Job brings against his Maker: a theme hard to dwell upon, and which needs to be viewed in the awful spirit in which Blake conceived it. But in the following subject there comes at last some sign of soothing change. The sky, till now full of sunset and surging cloud, in which the stones of the ruined home looked as if they were still burning, has here given birth to the large peaceful stars, and under them the young Elihu begins to speak : ‘Lo! all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring forth his soul from the pit.' The expression of Job, as he sits with folded arms, beginning to be reconciled, is full of delicate familiar nature ; while the look of the three unmerciful friends, in their turn reproved, has something in it almost humorous. And then the Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind, dreadful in its resistless force, but full also of awakening life, and rich with lovely clinging spray. Under its influence, Job and his wife kneel and listen, with faces to which the blessing of thankfulness has almost returned. In the next subject it shines forth fully present again, for now God Himself is speaking of